U.S: Daily Press Briefing - January 21, 2011
U.S: Daily Press Briefing - January 21, 2011
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
January 21, 2011
Secretary Clinton Travel to Mexico / Meeting with Foreign Secretary Espinosa in Guanajuato / Joint Cooperation / Merida Initiative / Criminal Organizations
Under Secretary Burns in Istanbul / P-5+1 Talks / Iran's Nuclear Program
Violent Attacks in Iraq / Offer Condolences
Violence in Albania
Consular Functions with U.S. Citizens / Privacy Act Waiver / Respect for Privacy
P-5+1 Talks in Istanbul / Progress / Concerns of International Community / Long Process / Nature of Nuclear Program / Willing to Engage / Sanctions / International Challenge
Concern for Hikers and Robert Levinson
Review of Terrorism Designation of MEK / Under Active Review
Call for Parliament to Convene / Discussions with Afghan Government
Violent Attacks in Iraq / Strengthening Iraqi Institutions
Iraqi Security Forces / Police Training / Transition
President Hu Jintao Visit / Discussion on Regional Issues / Summit
Private Visit by President Rajapaksa
International Humanitarian Law / National Reconciliation / Assistance / Ongoing Process / Engaged with Government
Sanctions / Human Rights / Concerns about People of Burma
Cooperation / Concern over Violence / Committing Resources
Revoking Visas of Haitian Citizens
Elections / Voter Turnout
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
Records of Land Transfers of Ownership and Appropriation
Palestinian Statehood / Continuing Discussions
Peace and Stability / Combat the Scourge of Terrorism
Searches of UN Vehicles
Contracts with the Somali Government
Mail Service with U.S. Suspended
1:41 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Just a couple of things to talk about before taking your questions.
We can formally announce that the Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Mexico at the invitation of Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa on Monday. The Secretary and Secretary Espinosa will meet in Guanajuato to discuss key issues that the United States and Mexico face individually and as partners, including joint cooperation to combat organized crime, strengthening the competitiveness of our two economies, modernizing the border between our two countries, and advancing the global climate change agenda following the Cancun Summit that Secretary Espinosa played a crucial role in.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead, yep.
QUESTION: Can – what’s the name of the place of the meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: Guanajuato.
QUESTION: Can you spell that because it doesn’t appear to be any --
MR. CROWLEY: Any map?
QUESTION: -- any large maps.
MR. CROWLEY: G-u-a-n-a-j-u-a-t-o, Guanajuato.
QUESTION: And why exactly Guanajuato?
MR. CROWLEY: The – I think Secretary Espinosa chose the location.
QUESTION: Okay, for any particular reason?
QUESTION: Security reasons, maybe?
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I think when they last chatted they wanted to have a less formal setting, which was their mutual goal.
QUESTION: Do you mean when they last chatted when they were at a less formal setting in Quebec just a month ago? I guess – the reason I’m asking this question is because what is it – I mean, she just saw Espinosa a month ago. Is there anything that’s prompted this?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, no. And actually I think this came up in their – they had a conversation within the last couple of weeks following up on Cancun and they pledged to get together, and then together they just said let’s perhaps meet at a less formal location.
QUESTION: P.J., so many (inaudible) are saying that maybe U.S. is not providing enough assistance to Mexico in this war on drugs. Is there any possibility that maybe they just analyzed the situation and come out with some other resources?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it’s – resources is part of it, and the United States continues to provide assistance through the Merida Initiative, and certainly we will continue as our joint planning and activity goes forward to see how we can provide the best kind of assistance. We have, at times, provided hardware to Mexico. At times, more recently, we provided increased training. And so our support changes as the needs on both sides of the border change.
The Secretary’s been very clear that we need to do our part on this side of the border, both in terms of stemming the flow of weapons, stemming the flow of money, and dealing with the demand which is at – which is a core element of this challenge. So they – I’m sure they will have the opportunity to assess where we are and continue to work on our common strategy.
QUESTION: With the Obama Administration there was a new strategy applied. Do you think this has been working or maybe that would need to change?
MR. CROWLEY: I think what we have here, though, is an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration. The Calderon government, the Obama Administration have worked very collaboratively over the course of many years. Our cooperation has deepened. The Merida Initiative is a representation of that. But our – it’s a very deep level of mutual support, because we recognize that along the border these are challenges that are not exclusive to Mexico; in fact, not exclusive – these are challenges that go beyond the United States and Mexico. It’s a hemispheric challenge as well, and this comes up in the context of many of our conversations and also other diplomatic conversations across the hemisphere.
QUESTION: Do you think it already reached the point that the violence is becoming a threat to the national security of the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: It is a national security threat. I don’t think that the issue here is whether the stability of our society is at risk. But certainly this is a national security threat, and one of the key elements of sovereignty in any context is a monopoly on the use of violence. And certainly we see that these international criminal organizations – they have assets and weapons and people that certainly can challenge any security force.
QUESTION: P.J. --
QUESTION: Did you mean to say the monopoly on the use of violence or the use of force?
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: You’re meaning – it’s the same context --
MR. CROWLEY: It’s the same context.
QUESTION: You said it in Lebanon with Hezbollah.
MR. CROWLEY: But certainly the --
QUESTION: But you’re not talking about --
MR. CROWLEY: The level of violence that these elements have brought to Mexico and other locations, this is a challenge that’s not exclusive to Mexico or the United States. But certainly it belongs in a national security conversation.
QUESTION: Is that national security threat also includes not only drugs or illegal crossings, but also terrorist threats through that route or area?
MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely. It is in a basket. If you look at transnational threats that confront nation states today, terrorism and drug-fueled violence is a part of that. And in fact, they, in many cases, go hand in hand.
Let me move to just a couple of other things. Under Secretary Bill Burns represented the United States today at the sessions in Istanbul. I believe there’ve been two plenary sessions today with a break for lunch and prayer in between, and these talks will continue tomorrow. We would like to see a meaningful and practical negotiation process emerge with Iran’s nuclear program as a core focus. And as we have consistently made clear, these meetings are an opportunity for Iran to come forward and address matters that are of great concern to the international community, primarily its nuclear program. In answer to a question I would anticipate, as far as I know there have not been any bilateral discussions at this point.
QUESTION: Do you want to go on or do you want --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve just got two more things. We, obviously, continue to watch the situation in Iraq very closely. The string of violent attacks that we’ve observed in recent days, the attacks in Anbar, Diyala, and Karbala were targeted against police recruits, pilgrims, innocent civilians. We offer condolences to the families of the victims of these attacks. The one in Karbala yesterday was especially reprehensible as it targeted Shiite pilgrims practicing their faith. No cause or grievance justifies the murder of innocent people. And we stand in solidity with the people of Iraq in rejecting extremist efforts to foment sectarian intentions and undermine the institutions of Iraqi democracy.
And likewise, we condemn the violence today in Albania. We regret that the demonstration in Tirana was not peaceful and that earlier calls for calm were not heeded. And we note with regret that several deaths and many dozens of injuries have been reported from these clashes. The use of provocative rhetoric and the suggestion or tolerance of any form of violence is a deep disservice to the people of Albania. They deserve better.
QUESTION: P.J., on the P-5+1 talks, what should we read into the fact that the most illuminating information about the meeting today was the menu of the lunch buffet?
MR. CROWLEY: Lunches have a great diplomatic history, Matt.
QUESTION: I’m sure they do, but I mean, did anything get accomplished here?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, they’re not over.
QUESTION: On day one –
MR. CROWLEY: So I mean, I –
QUESTION: -- was anything accomplished, other than having a fine, sumptuous meal of chicken and –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way, Matt. I’m sure, as you look – as we look forward to the weekend of football, you’re giving a halftime analysis. We’re going to wait until the full game has been played and then we’ll report to you as to what has been accomplished and what happens next.
QUESTION: Well, but – seriously, though, has anything been –
MR. CROWLEY: I understand.
QUESTION: Did they get anything done today other than just repeat standard talking points?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll see.
QUESTION: In other words, no. I asked about today, just today.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, put it this way. As we have suggested, we are looking for a process. I have no doubt that everyone’s talking points were read during the course of the meetings today, and it remains to be seen whether Iran will commit itself to a lengthy process and answer the questions that the international community has about the nature of its nuclear programs. We did not envision that the – this whole issue would be resolved in one meeting as there was last month. I don’t know that we expect that the entire issue will be resolved in this meeting in Istanbul despite our best efforts and the encouragement of others, including Turkey. So we’ll wait to see what comes out of this meeting. We finished day one and we’ll have a fuller report tomorrow through Lady Ashton at the conclusion of tomorrow’s session
QUESTION: Okay, but from what you just said, is it fair enough – or you said it remains to be seen whether Iran will agree to this process. So after day one, they have not.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not at – I’m here --
QUESTION: Well, you said it remains to be seen –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m here with you. I’m not in the room down there.
QUESTION: Well, the meeting is over, correct? Day one?
MR. CROWLEY: The plenary sessions for today have –
QUESTION: So after the plenary sessions for today –
MR. CROWLEY: Again –
QUESTION: -- been finished, it remains to be seen –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m going to resist giving you a halftime report.
QUESTION: But you already said it. But you already said it. You said it remains to be seen whether Iran will agree to this process.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, if –
QUESTION: So that means they haven’t agreed yet.
MR. CROWLEY: So, for example, if you want to follow my football analogy, for the NFL, for example, there are 16 games in a season. After the second game, you don’t decide whether a team is in the Super Bowl or not. We would envision that in order to resolve all of the questions regarding Iran’s nuclear program, it is going to take a lengthy process, not one or two meetings, to answer all those questions.
QUESTION: No, I understand that.
MR. CROWLEY: But you asked what will be accomplished in this particular session of what we hope will be a lengthy process, and we’ll let you know when this particular session concludes tomorrow.
QUESTION: Right, but what I thought I understood you to say is it remains to be seen whether Iran will agree to the lengthy – to the process, to another meeting, to another series of meetings. So I’m just – why is it wrong to say that after the first plenary sessions today – and understanding that there are more meetings tomorrow – but that after today, it still remains to be seen whether Iran will agree to this.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and I just said –
QUESTION: Is there something wrong with that?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to read out what happened inside the room from here halfway through this session. Tomorrow, we’ll wait to hear what comes next, what was discussed, what was tabled, what the Iranian reaction was. And then we’ll have a fuller perspective.
QUESTION: But P.J., this approach to say, “We expect a long process” – I mean it almost sounds like you’re setting yourself up for an interminable conversation with Iran, which is what has been happening for now quite a long time. I mean, wouldn’t it be better if in one day they decided to do what the rest of the world wants them to do?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re being sober and realistic here. If we could solve this in a day, we’d be delighted. And understand that it is Iran that has been unwilling or unable for a number of years to answer the basic questions about the nature of its nuclear programs, its enrichment activity, its long-term intent. It is Iran that has failed to meet its international obligations. It is Iran that has failed to cooperate fully with the IAEA. So the onus is on Iran to come forward and say okay, “We will work with you, we’ll answer these questions” We would like to have that response from Iran, and we’ll see how far this meeting goes in meeting those objectives.
QUESTION: Has Under Secretary Burns requested a one-on-one meeting with Jalili?
MR. CROWLEY: We are prepared to engage on other subjects, but all I can report is that such a meeting has not happened at this point.
QUESTION: So it’s been – the Iranians rejected that idea?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m at a disadvantage here. I have not had the opportunity to talk to Bill today, so I – but we are fully prepared to have a conversation with Iran. But whether it will happen remains to be seen.
QUESTION: So what would be the goal of that conversation, the one-on-one?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, if we have that kind of conversation, obviously, among other things, we’ll continue to express concern about the two hikers who remain in custody. We’ll continue to demand information regarding Robert Levinson. So we have a list of issues that we’ll be happy to go through with Iran if such a meeting takes place.
QUESTION: But doesn’t any – it’s a follow-up. Can you share with us this list of preconditions that you have sent from this building to Istanbul for Iran to sit down --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I understand the term “preconditions.” I mean, we want to see Iran come forward and answer the questions. We have made clear --
QUESTION: Yeah, what are the questions? Can you give us --
MR. CROWLEY: -- that Iran has a right to civilian nuclear energy, but with that right comes responsibilities, and it is Iran that has failed to live up to its international obligations. We would like to turn a corner here but obviously, that is incumbent upon Iran to indicate that it’s prepared to move in a different direction. And in the meantime, as we’ve all said all along, we are willing to engage, and our presence in Istanbul is an indication of that, but that we will also continue to pursue pressure and why we continue to fully enact both international and domestic sanctions.
QUESTION: So to understand properly, did you request a one-on-one conversation with Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: We are always willing to engage Iran on various issues.
QUESTION: But this time around, did you ask for a one-on-one conversation?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I – you’re asking a fair question Whether Bill has signaled an interest, we’re open to that kind of a meeting and we’ll see if one happens. Say, go back a year in Geneva, we did have a brief discussion on other subjects. Back in December, that kind of discussion did not take place.
QUESTION: But should the Iranians take your statement as an invitation and contact Bill there?
MR. CROWLEY: The Iranians have a delegation in Istanbul; we have a delegation in Istanbul. But again, all I can report to you is that a bilateral meeting has not yet taken place.
QUESTION: P.J., the British – former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has criticized the U.S. policy towards Iran, saying that since President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Iran continue to support terrorism and work – continue to work against the peace process in the Middle East and continue working on its nuclear program.
MR. CROWLEY: True, true, and true. Okay. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But he criticized the policy, the U.S. policy to engage Iran, and saying that this policy didn’t bear any fruits yet.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have – our strategy is a two-track strategy. We are putting pressure on Iran, as the Secretary has clearly indicated. We think that pressure is having an impact. You’re correct; Iran is not in full compliance with international obligations. Iran remains arguably the leading international state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is undermining the international community’s efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. These are all true. And we are willing to engage Iran to begin to address all of these issues.
So we’re in Istanbul, engaged with Iran to try to see if we can’t resolve the nuclear file. We are perfectly willing to move into other areas. And if we have the opportunity to engage Iran, we’ll continue to express our concerns about other things. But we’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket. We are willing to engage Iran, but we’re realistic, and we are putting international pressure on the Iranian Government at the same time.
QUESTION: P.J., don’t you think, as far as Iran’s nuclear program is concerned, you are giving Iranians more time, and one day, just like in the past – Pakistan – they will come out and they will just say that we have a nuclear program, a nuclear bomb?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s exactly what we’re – why we’re doing what we’re doing, Goyal. We do have a sense of urgency here. The current course that Iran is on is very concerning to us. It continues to have centrifuges which are spinning. It continues to advance its knowledge of nuclear technology. Left unchecked, we do have concerns that Iran may cross a threshold to where it has the potential for a weapons program. This is exactly why we have a delegation in Istanbul today trying to find a way to address our concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons.
But this is a shared international challenge, and it’s also why the international community came together last year, passed Resolution 1929. Sanctions are being applied against Iran. We do believe they’re having an impact. And who knows? Maybe this meeting will create the kind of opening that we want to see, let’s hope, but we’ll find out.
QUESTION: Israelis are very --
QUESTION: On Iran?
QUESTION: I’m sorry, one more just quick.
QUESTION: Or a (inaudible) after that?
QUESTION: Israelis are very concerned and angry at Iran’s nuclear program. What – I mean, what are you talking with Israelis as far as --
MR. CROWLEY: What I am talking to?
QUESTION: To keep them calm as far as – they were threatening to attack Iran’s nuclear program and all that. So where the Israelis --
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: What role Israelis are playing? So --
MR. CROWLEY: You’re – I mean, you’re casting this, I think, Goyal, in too narrow a frame. This is a significant international concern. It was the subject – it is a subject of ongoing discussions that we have with the Israeli Government. It is concern – and part of ongoing discussions that we have with leaders in the Gulf, as the Secretary did in her trip recently to the region. It is a subject that we have discussions with China in the meetings this week between President Obama and President Hu Jintao.
This is an international challenge and it’s – but it’s not about two countries; it’s about two different visions of the world and one in which there’s – there are fewer nuclear weapons and less reliance on nuclear technology, and one where we see one or more arms races that will add tension and unpredictability into the security environment in the future.
QUESTION: Can I just – Iran-related.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Former – well, prominent Democrats like Governor Bill – former Governor Bill Richardson and General Jim Jones and others are recommending that the Administration’s – remove the listing as a terrorist group, the MEK, the Mujaheddin – the People’s Mujaheddin.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Is there anything happening on that front?
MR. CROWLEY: We have been instructed to review that. We are doing that. But the current designation remains in place even as we review the issue.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What’s the level of concern about this call to delay the inauguration of the national assembly?
MR. CROWLEY: In Iraq?
QUESTION: In Iraq.
QUESTION: I thought it was Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I did mean Afghanistan, sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yes, in Afghanistan.
MR. CROWLEY: In Afghanistan, clearly, we support the strong statement released today by the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan. It calls for the parliament to convene as soon as possible. And this remains an issue of discussion between the president and members of parliament.
QUESTION: Yes, but if Karzai is doing this, it has the potential to be a very serious step. I mean, what is the level of concern that this could lead to violence or --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Ambassador Eikenberry and others are in discussion with the Afghan Government. We obviously want to see the political process and the government move forward. There’s no shortage of action for the government to take. We don’t want to see a side turn in this effort. And we’ll – we’re working to try to resolve this, but we’ve made clear, as has the UN, that we believe that parliament should convene as soon as possible. I mean, we hope that this thing will be resolved in the next day or two.
QUESTION: Just back on Lachlan’s MEK question.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: When you said you’ve been instructed to review this, this is a result of the court ruling, right?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, right.
QUESTION: And since then --
MR. CROWLEY: There was a court-ordered review, but the court --
QUESTION: Yeah, but that’s – that was months ago, wasn’t it?
MR. CROWLEY: -- did keep the designation in place.
QUESTION: Exactly. Wasn’t that months ago?
MR. CROWLEY: A few months ago, yeah.
QUESTION: It was certainly last year, wasn’t it?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, it is still under active review.
QUESTION: On Iraq? Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Iraq.
QUESTION: Is it your assessment that the country is headed towards a relapse into civil war, as we have seen in 2006 and 2007?
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, not at all. I mean, these have been tragic attacks. We’ve condemned them strongly. Clearly, the strategy of those responsible is to attack institutions of the government, particularly the police. But I think we are encouraged by the fact that these attacks have failed – if their objective has been to sow tension within Iraqi society, we believe they’re having the opposite effect. The Iraqi people support their government. We’ve seen no evidence that it has increased sectarian tension. I think people across all political and religious segments have condemned these attacks.
QUESTION: So you don’t have any doubt about the Iraqi security force’s ability to assume responsibility for security in Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the fact is they have resumed – assumed full responsibility for security. We continue to have military personnel there to continue the training program. We are in a transition in Iraq, as Vice President Biden made clear in his recent visit there. That transition is going to involve, over time, a shift of responsibility from the military, which is conducting the current training programs, to the State Department. And we will continue to be responsible for the police training once our military contingent leaves at the end of this year.
Iraq is going to need to continue to be mentored, but there’s no question that today, Iraq is responsible for its own security. And notwithstanding these attacks, we believe Iraq is – has taken charge.
QUESTION: Yeah, just to clarify. So the spike in violence has not affected the State Department’s plans in training the police and efforts and programs that they have in place? Have they shifted them, put emphasis elsewhere?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, you look at – at least one of these attacks was at a police recruiting station. So, I mean, I think we have an understanding of what the insurgents are trying to do. They’re trying to weaken the institutions of Iraqi Government, and we do not think they’re going to be successful. But we’ve seen these kinds of attacks before, so I don't think we’re necessarily, unfortunately, surprised by this strategy. But that’s why it’s important to continue these programs, to continue to strengthen Iraqi institutions, continue the training programs to expand the Iraqi capabilities. And – but we – you can look at any kind of trend line in Iraq going back to 2003, and the trend lines on the security front are very, very positive.
QUESTION: P.J., a question on this Gulet Mohamed, the 19-year-old Virginia fellow who was held in Kuwait. I know you’ve said you can’t say much of anything because there’s no privacy waiver. But I wanted to ask, did you actually ask him to sign one or did you give him the opportunity to sign one when he was in Kuwait?
MR. CROWLEY: We performed our consular function. Part of our consular function is to seek an understanding from a U.S. citizen, what information might he or she wish to have released. We – and we did what we would normally do in any case. Obviously, he’s back in the United States now and free to say whatever he wishes.
QUESTION: Right. What is that policy exactly? In other words, if a citizen is in a country and you perform your consular duties, what do you do? Do you say, here, we have a waiver that you can sign or not?
MR. CROWLEY: A Privacy Act Waiver might include whether information can be released to family members or whether information can be released to the public.
QUESTION: P.J., this is a pet peeve of mine. When was the last time that you’re aware of that someone actually did sign a Privacy Act Waiver? (Laughter.) It just seems – it seems to me that in cases like this, you don’t have a Privacy Act Waiver, and yet this person has legal representation, lawyers running around, blabbing all over the place, or their parents are talking. But you – somehow, you guys don’t have a Privacy Act Waiver.
It happened with the two journalists in North Korea. It happened with the seven people who were arrested in Pakistan. It’s happened in this case. It’s happened with the hikers, even though they had a website that their families ran. Can we make sure that your people – they’re actually giving people an opportunity to sign these waivers? Because there’s an awful lot of stuff that’s coming out about that, even though you can’t say anything about it because you don’t have a Privacy Act Waiver.
MR. CROWLEY: I hear you. Believe me.
QUESTION: Well, what’s the answer though?
QUESTION: So --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the answer is that we abide by the law and we respect the privacy of American citizens, who, in some of these cases, may well be in detention without having done anything wrong. But we abide by their wishes.
QUESTION: But, for example, his lawyers are saying the U.S. did not protect him from abuse and torture in Kuwait. And it seems, as Matt is saying, that you’re incapable of answering that allegation.
MR. CROWLEY: It is – we – in some cases, we are unable to answer every suggestion that’s been made in some of these cases. But again, we’re going to respect the privacy of these individuals, who – but – without saying whether we agree with what they say or not.
QUESTION: A follow-up on asked – questions you were asked at the Foreign Press Center yesterday. What role did you see for China in South Asia, and was these issues discussed during President Hu Jintao’s visit here?
MR. CROWLEY: There was a detailed regional discussion. And understand I can’t say specifically what every topic that was part of the discussion between the President, President Obama, and President Hu Jintao together. But a lot of work was done with the respective teams. The joint statement is a reflection not only of what the presidents themselves discussed personally, but also what the presidents endorsed in terms of the policy understandings that we have reached with China in a wide range of issues.
So one of the benefits of this kind of high-level meeting is there is a lot of work that’s done both in the preparation for the summit and then the summit and the endorsement by the leaders of the understandings that are achieved, then help inform our policies going forward. So certainly in this process there was a great deal of discussion on a wide range of regional issues, and it has informed what we’ll be doing right now. For example, in the aftermath of the summit, you’ve got Deputy Secretary Steinberg going back out to the region to follow up on our discussion with our other partners in the Six-Party process. So this gives you an example of the broad sweep of the preparation for this summit. But I’m sure that the President and President Hu Jintao did take note of a broad range of regional developments across the Asia-Pacific region.
QUESTION: How are you working in –
QUESTION: What’s your understanding of the visit of the – or what do you know about the visit to the United States of the president of Sri Lanka?
MR. CROWLEY: He is visiting the United States and it is a private visit.
QUESTION: Is he – does he have any – he has no plans to meet with any U.S. officials?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: I understand he might be in Texas and that Assistant Secretary Blake was there. There was some speculation that the two might meet
MR. CROWLEY: There is no meeting that I’m aware of with the president during his visit. So I – yes, you’re right. I think Assistant Secretary Blake gave a speech at Rice University, but we specifically asked, and there’s no meeting between a U.S. Government official and President Rajapaksa.
QUESTION: Is the Sri Lankan foreign minister with him? And maybe you will meet him or the Secretary will.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, if I’m wrong, we’ll correct the record, but I’m not aware of any meetings associated with his visit.
QUESTION: There have been some calls for him to be investigated or to be looked into or even prosecuted. Is this something that you’re willing to look at?
MR. CROWLEY: Well – and in fact, we have made strong public statements and are supporting what Sri Lanka is doing. It’s a process that is still ongoing. We clearly believe that those who have violated international humanitarian law must be held accountable, and we believe that accountability for alleged crimes is an essential component of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka. There is a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission that has been receiving testimony from hundreds of people. I think its mandate has been extended to June of this year, at which time it will make a report to President Rajapaksa. We would hope that Sri Lanka would continue this effort and take advantage of expertise that exists, for example, within the United Nations and the Secretary General’s Panel for Experts that has volunteered to provide assistance to Sri Lanka as it continues this effort.
QUESTION: Right, but the president and his government have refused the UN any (inaudible) as I understand it, correct?
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. So we –
QUESTION: Well, so why wouldn’t this be an opportunity, if he’s in the United States, to meet with him –
MR. CROWLEY: We will – this is a process that is ongoing. We will continue to encourage Sri Lanka to have a full accounting of what happened at the end of the – during and at the end of this conflict. We think it’s very, very important to Sri Lanka’s future, and we will not hesitate to speak out as this process continues.
QUESTION: Right, well, if it is very, very important to Sri Lanka’s future and you support the UN role in this, why not take the opportunity of a visit of the president to meet with him and to reinforce that position, tell him face to face?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had no trouble communicating our views to the Government of Sri Lanka.
QUESTION: Well, how about this then? Have you –
MR. CROWLEY: I –
QUESTION: Have you sought – have you asked to meet with him?
MR. CROWLEY: We did not; nor did he ask to meet with us.
QUESTION: Well, okay, then can I ask why not ask to meet with him if you feel so strongly that his government should drop its opposition to UN involvement in this panel?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re going to wait and see how this process unfolds, and if it falls short, we will not hesitate to say so.
QUESTION: P.J. –
QUESTION: On the same (inaudible), I had asked you about the Venezuelan opposition members coming here, and you had said you had no details about them last week. And then they spoke at the National Press Club.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I thought we answered that question.
QUESTION: Maybe I was not here.
MR. CROWLEY: If we didn’t, I apologize.
QUESTION: Could you do just one more on Mexico?
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, hold on. Have we – Sri Lanka?
QUESTION: Yes, we have another one.
QUESTION: Your weekend is slipping away. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: It will be kickoff before you know it.
QUESTION: In the United Nations, Secretary General’s special envoy was in Sri Lanka investigating atrocities and human rights violations committed by this president and his government, and also other side, humanitarian issues. And they have – the UN had condemned all these issues as far as this president is concerned. What I’m following what Matt was saying, how come – you knew the president is coming to the U.S.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m sure. So why he was here? I mean, I’m sure he is – must be –
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal. Goyal.
QUESTION: -- for him to come here.
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a private visit. Obviously, we’re aware of the visit. As to the reasons – where he’s going and why he’s here, we’ll defer to the Sri Lankan Government. I’m not aware of any contact with the president this week, but obviously we have our Embassy in Colombo and we continue to be engaged with the Sri Lankan Government on a range of issues.
QUESTION: But P.J. –
MR. CROWLEY: Lalit.
QUESTION: Asian countries has asked for lifting of sanctions against Burma. What do you have to say on that? Are you considering any such pull?
MR. CROWLEY: This is an issue that we regularly discuss with stakeholders, the effectiveness and the impact of our sanctions. Our sanctions are specifically targeted against those most responsible for denying democracy and disregarding human rights in Burma.
We have concerns about the people of Burma, but it is the Burmese regime that is fully responsible for the country’s dire economic situation. They are the ones who have institutionalized corruption and they are the ones who have plundered natural resources. And we maintain sanctions in order to press authorities to take concrete actions to – on issues of core concern to the international community, including democratic reform, release of political prisoners, and initiating a genuine dialogue with the democratic opposition and ethnic minority leaders.
QUESTION: So there’s no move to lift sanctions on Burma?
MR. CROWLEY: At this point, no.
QUESTION: And can you go back to China again? What – how U.S. and China are cooperating with – working with each other on Pakistan to bring stability, economic stability, and produce stability in that country? Do you have --
MR. CROWLEY: We do talk to China about Pakistan. Obviously, they’re neighbors. They’ve got a relationship and a history. And so it is part of our ongoing dialogue with China.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: P.J., on Mexico, I wanted to ask you that – insisting that General McCaffrey, Michael O’Hanlon, The Washington Post, New York Times, too many people is asking why U.S. do not provide any more support to Mexico in this war on drugs compared to Colombia, for example. I would like to ask you, is that a matter of trust, perhaps, as we have seen in the WikiLeaks documents that were released? Is there enough trust in the Mexican Government on those issues?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, depends on – what is your starting point? I think the level of cooperation between Mexico and the United States is at an all-time high. It’s unprecedented. Clearly, we have a different history with Mexico than we have with Colombia, and it – while we have concerns about the impact that this violence and these criminal organizations have across the hemisphere, you’ve got to look at Colombia through one lens and craft mutual solutions in that context. And you have to look at Mexico in its own frame.
And there’s – a fundamental difference is that we share a lengthy border with Mexico, which is different than we do with Colombia. So there are a lot of things that we can do on our own side of the border to affect this, which is a different set of circumstances than in the case of Colombia. So we have greatly expanded our assistance, we have greatly expanded our cooperation. I think the level of trust has increased as we’ve integrated our efforts. And we are committed to this effort and will commit the resources that are necessary to help Mexico succeed.
QUESTION: But at this point, it seems like these efforts have not been very successful. Do you think so? Because we still see the violence --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, this is an ongoing challenge, to be sure, and we are concerned about the level of violence that these elements are bringing to Mexico and to other places around the hemisphere. So it is – there’s no question it’s a challenge. But that said, the commitment of the Calderon government to fight this, working very diligently to fight corruption with its own institutions – we have nothing but great admiration for what the Calderon government is doing.
QUESTION: On Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you revoked visas for Haitian Government officials? There are rumors going on down there that you have.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: How many?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll decline to provide any further details.
MR. CROWLEY: But we have brought authority under Section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to revoke visas. We have taken this action when we believe, for any individual, there’s information that leads us to believe that a visa holder is inadmissible to the United States or otherwise ineligible for a visa.
QUESTION: So --
MR. CROWLEY: So we have taken action against a number of Haitian citizens, and this is something that we will continue to evaluate. Our focus at the present time is in ensuring a free, fair, and credible election process in Haiti.
QUESTION: So can you be more specific? Are these government officials? You said citizens.
MR. CROWLEY: I will just simply say that we – you asked the question, have we revoked some visas of Haitian citizens; we have.
QUESTION: No, no. His question was officials, government officials.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So yes?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Haitian citizens and government officials?
MR. CROWLEY: And government officials.
QUESTION: Or just government officials?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – government officials.
QUESTION: Okay. And there are numerous visas that one can be ineligible for a visa. What specific ones – and I think you can answer this question – is it corruption, is it human rights abuses? What’s the --
MR. CROWLEY: The specific reasons actually are confidential.
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: I’m not asking for the specific reasons for each person, but there are reasons why people are ineligible for a visa. There are broad categories of ineligibility. So what is the category of ineligibility for these people?
MR. CROWLEY: I am going to decline to comment.
QUESTION: Is there some link to elections? Are you saying that they’ve not been cooperating with the elections?
MR. CROWLEY: We obviously continue to be in touch with the Government of Haiti. We want to see the Government of Haiti embrace the recommendations of the OAS verification mission report. We want to see security and stability sustained in Haiti. We want to see the election results reflect the will of the Haitian people. And to the extent that there are individuals who are connected with episodes of violence or corruption. We will not hesitate to take appropriate action.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I thought this was a better seat to ask questions. (Laughter.) Anyway, does the State Department keep record of the amount of land that has been expropriated from the West Bank for settlement or for – to support settlements since 1967?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we have official records. Obviously, there are groups within the region that keep track of these things, and we have an ongoing dialogue with those groups.
QUESTION: But does the State Department have record? Does it keep record of that? It does not keep a record?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’m caught on the term “records.”
QUESTION: I mean, do you keep a count --
MR. CROWLEY: Are we aware of developments --
QUESTION: No, no. That’s not my question. The amount of the land that has been expropriated, do you keep account of that? Do you keep record of that? Do you say that 5 percent has been taken, 1 percent, 2 percent, to support settlement or for settlement activities or to build settlements or for roads and so on? Do you keep account of that?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, again, Said, I don't want to be difficult here. Are – do we keep track of developments on the ground and their potential impact on the viability of a Palestinian state? Yes, we do.
QUESTION: No, do you --
MR. CROWLEY: Do we have specific records of transfers of ownership and appropriation? I don't know that we do.
QUESTION: Maybe I have a bad choice of words. But does the United States Government keep record of how much land has been taken for settlement and settlement activities and to support the settlements since 1967? Somebody must have that record.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I – we pay a great deal of attention to changing circumstances on the ground. It informs our policymaking here at the Department of State. I can’t tell you whether we have detailed records of specific activity. I don't know. I do know that there are groups that do keep records and do monitor developments, and we – and they have conversations with us on a regular basis and inform us of what – how they interpret what is happening on the ground. I can’t say that we keep records, but we are – we have paid very close attention since 1967 to developments on the ground in and around Jerusalem and on the West Bank.
QUESTION: So you depend on different groups rather than your own --
MR. CROWLEY: No. We have – that’s why we have diplomats on the ground. We have our own set of eyes. But we also are engaged with a variety of stakeholders who are monitoring these developments.
QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick follow up. Do you have any comment on the increasingly vocal and emphatic assertion by the Palestinians, Fayyad lately, that they will go and seek independent statehood and recognition by the end of August internationally if not through negotiations.
MR. CROWLEY: We continue our discussions with Palestinian leaders As we’ve indicated, Deputy Special Envoy David Hale will meet tomorrow with Saeb Erekat in Amman to continue these discussions.
QUESTION: Do you expect a change of regime in Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s actually an active election process underway in Haiti. There has been a first round of voting.
QUESTION: Yes. You are canceling the visas --
MR. CROWLEY: The OES has expressed its concern about the preliminary results. We hope that Government of Haiti will respect and embrace the recommendations of the OES verification mission and then move on to a second round of voting where we can see the emergence of a legitimate, respected government in Haiti.
QUESTION: No, but when you are revoking the visas, you are giving a kind of yes to some sort of political angle.
MR. CROWLEY: No, our – we respect the will of the Haitian people. They voted in a first round. There are strong reasons to believe that the results that were announced do not reflect the will of the Haitian people. We want to see those results and the will of the Haitian people respected and have a credible final round of voting that produces a new government that will enact the plan that Haiti has undertaken to rebuild its country.
QUESTION: Any comments on Baby Doc?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't think his visit has worked out quite the way he expected.
QUESTION: A little bit of the thinking of the State Department on Tunisia. When the U.S. was formulating its response, did it feel that there was a dilemma? Because the demonstrators were peaceful, the United States seemed quite supportive of what they were doing, and yet they were revolting against a person who has been strongly with the United States in the war on terror. Did that present a dilemma to the United States in terms of what it should do or how it should handle?
MR. CROWLEY: No, not at all. We don’t think that these things are mutually exclusive. We want to see peaceful and stable countries in the region. We want to see countries that can, in fact, join the international effort to combat the scourge of terrorism that affects us and others. But we want to see the emergence of prosperous democratic governments and societies that produce opportunity for and respect the will of the people. So I don't see a contradiction here at all.
QUESTION: So why wasn’t there any sort of an enthusiastic exuberance to what’s going – what’s happening?
MR. CROWLEY: I think throughout this we have identified with the Tunisian people and encouraged the government to respond to their very valid concerns about political oppression, about corruption and the lack of economic opportunity. It was at the heart of the message the Secretary gave in her speech at the Forum for the Future.
QUESTION: So are you prepared – do you have any kind of preparations? Are you prepared to deal with, let’s say, a snowball effect in the region?
MR. CROWLEY: Said, I’m not sure that I would say that there’s – that necessarily there will be a snowball effect. I do think that there is a compelling story emerging in Tunisia. The government has taken significant steps to open up the political process for opposition parties – releasing prisoners, opening up civil society for media coverage. We want to see those trends continue. And certainly, as the Secretary said to leaders in the region, they have to provide greater economic and political opportunity for their countries and their people, many of whom are young and have great aspirations, and they deserve governments that can help meet those aspirations.
QUESTION: Okay, but these elements of dissatisfaction and so on that existed in Tunisia and led to this revolution, they also exist elsewhere in the region. So why are you not sure that this may be contagious in any way?
MR. CROWLEY: Tunisia – I’m just resisting the idea that Tunisia – whatever has emerged in Tunisia is based on a unique set of circumstances there. There are certainly broad trends that exist in the region from the Gulf to North Africa, and leaders need to find ways to create greater economic and political opportunity for populations that are by and large very, very young. And the Secretary gave a clear and compelling message that the region has to reform itself. And certainly, we would encourage those reforms to continue, country by country, but I’m not sure that every country is going to follow that same path.
QUESTION: P.J., I’ve got a couple of brief ones, really brief ones here. Maybe we can cut this off then.
Ivory Coast, do you have any reaction to Gbagbo ordering searches of UN vehicles?
MR. CROWLEY: Mr. Gbagbo needs to get out of the way.
QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.) That’s straight enough. And then on Somalia, any reaction to the South Korean commando raid that freed the – freed some pirated vessel?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s a great deal of cooperation among countries, and I think this is just an example of that.
QUESTION: All right. And then also on Somalia, do you – does the Department or the Administration have any concern about Erik Prince being involved – an American citizen – along with former Ambassador Prosper and former – basically American citizens, some of whom held official positions before with the – their involvement in Saracen International and what they’re doing in Somalia?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re aware of Saracen’s efforts to obtain contracts in Somalia. We’re aware that Erik Prince may somehow be involved. The United States was not consulted by Saracen, nor is it funding the company, nor have we had any contact with Erik Prince. We are concerned about the lack of transparency regarding Saracen’s funding, its objectives, and its scope. We’ve made those concerns known to appropriate officials within the Transitional Federal Government, the Puntland administration, and the international community.
QUESTION: P.J, just one last quick one. Sorry. The Cuban Government has suspended all mail service with the United States this week – apparently some dispute over security procedures. Do you know anything about that?
MR. CROWLEY: I think it has to do with the – with how countries, on a case by case basis, are working through new regulations that have been put into effect by the TSA in response to the threat late last year coming out of Yemen.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Okay. Have a nice weekend.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)