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Daily Press Briefing - December 8

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - December 8

Philip J. Crowley

Assistant Secretary of State
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

December 8, 2009


Secretary and S/E Todd Stern Met with Congressional Leaders to Discuss Climate Issues
Secretary Met Today with Quartet Leader Tony Blair
Secretary Participated in Awards Ceremony for Volunteerism this Morning
Secretary Presided Over Swearing-In of the New CEO MCC, Daniel Yohannes
Secretary Had a Working Lunch with DHS Secretary Napolitano
Secretary will Receive an Update on Cyprus Today by the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Cyprus

Stephen Bosworth Arrived in Pyongyang Today
Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights King is Participating in UN Human Rights Council Review of North Korea Being Held in Geneva/ U.S. Remains Very Concerned About Human Rights in North Korea

A/S Blake is in Sri Lanka Today/ Focusing on Displaced Persons

U/S Burns is in Beijing

Amiri Case/U.S. Has No Information

David Headley Case/U.S. Has a Dialogue with India and Pakistan

U.S. Recognizes the Tragedy of Today's Series of Bombings/U.S. Commends Iraq for Staying Focused on Future

U.S. Aware of E.U. Statement on Jerusalem

Extradition Request of Former President

Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister / Peace Process / Yemen

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START Talks/Objective to Get Follow-on Treaty by End of the Year

U.S. Remains in Very Close with Japanese Government/U.S. Believes Re-Alignment Roadmap is the Best Plan


1:17 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Department of State. I have not been here for a few weeks so I thought it was time to come down and share some time with you.

I’ve got several announcements before we take your questions. Just to kind of run through a very busy day here at the Department involving the Secretary, she started her day with a breakfast with a congressional delegation joined by Special Envoy Todd Stern to update key members of the Senate and House on the – on our various positions as we head into the conference in Copenhagen. I think Todd Stern will be traveling now to Copenhagen in the next day or so.

The Secretary also met with Quartet representative Tony Blair as part of our regular contact with him sharing our ideas on the comprehensive peace in the Middle East, the status of various tracks – political, economic, and security – in building a Palestinian state, and our joint efforts to support President Abbas and the state-building program of Prime Minister Fayyad.

The Secretary gave a number of awards out this morning. The Eleanor Dodson Tragen Award to Mette Beecroft and Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad Awards to Erin Sweeney of Lagos, Nigeria; JanMarie Flattum-Riemers of Jakarta, Indonesia; Lara Center of Luxembourg; Joseph Taylor of Baghdad; Bernadetta Ruch of Dushanbe; and Jan Irene Miller of Panama City, Panama. Obviously a great recognition of the outstanding work being done by members of our State Department family around the world.

She also presided over the swearing-in this morning of Daniel W. Yohannes as the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. And we’re delighted to have him onboard.

She is – let’s see, she just finished a lunch, part of a routine periodic get-together she has with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Obviously, in a variety of ways – border issues, visa policies, and so forth – the activity of the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security intersect.

This afternoon, she will receive an update by the UN Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Cyprus Alexander Downer. He is in the United States to report on the situation in Cyprus to the Security Council, and this is one of a regular consultation that he has with P-5 members.

Stephen Bosworth and the interagency team has arrived in Pyongyang. Not a lot to report. We expect that they probably did have meetings in Pyongyang after they arrived from Seoul earlier today. They’ll have meetings, we expect, tomorrow as well.

I saw you had asked yesterday – this is the first visit by U.S. officials to Pyongyang in just over a year. Chris Hill, I think, was there last October 2008.

Likewise, Ambassador Robert King, our special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is in Geneva today to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of the DPRK. The United States remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea, and Ambassador King is discussing the issue with UN officials and representatives from government and nongovernmental organizations who share our concerns.

Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Bob Blake is in Sri Lanka. This is his first – having been the ambassador to Sri Lanka, this is his first trip to that country as assistant secretary. He will follow up on a range of issues as Sri Lanka moves through this post-conflict phase, focusing on the situation involving displaced persons. About 140,000 remain in various camps. Sri Lanka has started efforts to resettle them, but also he’ll be talking to Sri Lanka about their ongoing reconciliation process.

Under Secretary Bill Burns has arrived in Beijing He’ll have discussions with Chinese officials on a range of global challenges. He’ll also be attending the Bali Democracy Forum on Thursday and meet with Indonesian officials in Jakarta on Friday.

With that, happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: You say that you expect that Bosworth had meetings. Do you know?

MR. CROWLEY: My understanding – we do not know. We don’t expect to have kind of a play-by-play from the team. So they have arrived. We know that. And they – we expect them back in a couple of days. Beyond that, communication between Pyongyang and the outside world is difficult.

QUESTION: Well, if you know they’ve arrived, how do you know that?

MR. CROWLEY: We know they’ve arrived. (Laughter.)


MR. CROWLEY: We dropped them off. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Did they call you?

MR. CROWLEY: Left them on a sidewalk and --

QUESTION: So there’s been no --

MR. CROWLEY: No, we --


MR. CROWLEY: We know – we have enough communication to know they’ve arrived. We do not necessarily know from there who they have met with and we do not actually expect to have communication with the team until they return from Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Well, do you know who they were supposed to meet today?

MR. CROWLEY: We have been promised in our preparatory work with the North Koreans that there would be high-level authoritative interactions with North Korean officials. We have a sense of – going in, we had a sense of who they were going to talk about. I’d rather not – we’ll go through that once they’re out of Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Okay. But – all right. I’m just trying to get – I mean, but they expected to have meetings today, not just tomorrow?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. They expected to have – they were prepared to have meetings today as they – after they arrived. I would say that the primary meetings that we expect on this visit will occur tomorrow.

QUESTION: How did you communication with them? Did they report to you every minute or --

MR. CROWLEY: No In fact, as I was saying, that the team has gone in to Pyongyang and we would not expect to have communication with them until they return to Seoul.

QUESTION: Okay. I have another question. How much the United States concern about North Koreans’ human right issues currently – North Koreans’ human right issues?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we remain very concerned about human rights in North Korea. You’re seeing a variety of reports that the government is cracking down on its citizens over economics. Obviously, you’ve had – because of the ineffective nature of the North Korean economy, you’ve had an evolution over the last few years where, kind of, local markets have emerged. And yet now, you see the government cracking down on those local markets. I mean, for – any successful society has to promote commerce and regular interaction among its citizens and between its citizens and other countries.

This is the challenge for North Korea. Their current posture in the world is unsustainable. They continue to struggle to feed their own people. North Korea claims that they have no political prisoners and yet we know they do. This is a repressive regime, and part of our willingness to interact with North Korea, aside from this particular meeting, but this – just to reinforce, this particular meeting is to see if North Korea is prepared to return to Six-Party Talks and to reaffirm their commitments under the 2005 joint communiqué.

But as we have said, that if they return to Six-Party Talks, there is the opportunity for a robust bilateral dialogue not just with the United States, but with other countries in the Six-Party process. And within that dialogue, we can see and can look at how we could help North Korea end its isolation and have the kinds of normal relationships that we and others have with countries around the world.

But obviously, as long as North Korea continues its repressive policies with respect to its people, it can continue to expect the kind of isolation that it’s currently experiencing.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: It was brought up yesterday that the North Koreans are pushing for a peace treaty sometime within this initial bilateral, and we know that that’s not the purpose of Bosworth’s visit there. But this morning, Jack Pritchard made some comments about his recent trip, and it’s his personal belief that they’re going to stalemate for as long as they can to get as many of these bilateral meetings as possible.

Have you taken that into account? Do you expect anything like that? And how would you deal with that?

MR. CROWLEY: I think without prejudging what’s going on in Pyongyang, should – it would not surprise us if the North Koreans attempt to bring up other issues. And we will make clear to them that should they return to the Six-Party process and should they reaffirm their commitments under the 2005 joint communiqué, then there is available to them a robust channel for bilateral dialogue with which we could discuss a wide range of issues. On the issue of the – of a peace treaty, obviously, the United States is not the only party to that peace treaty. That would have to be done in a multilateral context.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Change of subject, sure.

QUESTION: On Iran, the Iranian foreign minister has accused the U.S. of having, quote, “abducted,” unquote, the Iranian scientist who went missing in Saudi Arabia in May. So the question is: Is Shahram Amiri in U.S. custody?

MR. CROWLEY: I have got no information on that.

QUESTION: A follow-up on yesterday in the David Headley case: As you coordinate with India and Pakistan on the prosecution of the Mumbai attacks and in light of the charges against David Headley, will you be putting additional pressure on Pakistan to get access to the suspects like Zarar Shah and other folks so at least the U.S. can prosecute its cases, much less coordinate with other capitals about the prosecutions?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously – we obviously have a role to play in terms of dialogue with these countries, but issues like that I think would be best addressed to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Iranian --


QUESTION: -- scientist? You have – you are aware of this situation, aren’t you?

MR. CROWLEY: We are aware of the Iranian claims. I have no information.

QUESTION: You’re – okay, because, you know, when you guys go to Iran or you ask Iran for information about missing Americans, i.e., Mr. Levinson, and they say they have no information, you get quite upset about that and you say, well, you should have some information.

So this time, the situation is reversed. You have literally no information? Are you looking into this case?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve got no information I can pass on to you.

QUESTION: Are you looking into it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to say anything else.

QUESTION: Well, okay. Then the next time that you don’t get an answer from the Iranians about Levinson, remember this.


QUESTION: P.J., if I can finish up that, have you asked Saudi Arabia for any information?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not getting into this subject. I’m just not getting into this subject.


QUESTION: P.J., I’m hoping to just get three questions squeezed off if I can. First of all, what is the State --

MR. CROWLEY: Take your time.

QUESTION: What is the State Department’s reaction to the bombings in Iraq today? It seems that every time the Iraqi Government moves forward on the election process, there is some dreadful bombs set off and they seem to get increasingly close to government – important government targets, and this happened again today.

MR. CROWLEY: You’re exactly right. Obviously – and we should obviously recognize the tragedy again today with, I think, more than a hundred Iraqi citizens killed in these series of bombings. There’s no coincidence here. Every time Iraq takes steps forward in its political process, it seems that those who are determined to try to stop this progress in Iraq respond through this kind of violence. They – and we certainly commend Iraq for remaining focused on the future, on the political process which is vitally important to Iraq’s future.

These attacks are directed at specific ministries, or some of them are, as an attempt to undermine the Iraqi Government. And we commend the determination of the government and the Iraqi people that the extremists who are responsible for these attacks are once again trying to see if they can’t incite the kind of sectarian violence that we’ve seen in Iraq in recent years. And Iraq is determined to move forward, and we will continue to work very closely and support them in any way we can.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And the second one was: What is the State Department’s reaction to the – Israel’s complete dismissal of the European Union plan – push to have Jerusalem split into two so that there can be two separate capitals?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think the United States, the EU and others – we certainly recognize the importance of getting back to a negotiation, and we all have our differing views on the emotional and complex issues that are at the heart of this challenge. We are aware of the EU statement, but our position on Jerusalem is clear. And we believe that as a final status issue, it’s – this is best addressed inside a formal negotiation among the parties directly.

QUESTION: Okay. And just finally, if my colleagues will just bear with me, I don’t think you’ll know the answer to this off the top of your head. You might, but we’re just trying to know what the status of the Bolivian Government’s extradition request for former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who is living in the United States – apparently, he is. I could --

MR. CROWLEY: Tell you what; you’re exactly right. You’ve stumped the dummy and – (laughter) – if there’s anything we can provide on that, we will.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: I was looking for, first of all, a readout about the meeting with the Saudi foreign minister yesterday.

MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary spent a little under an hour with Prince Saud. She was joined in that meeting – actually, the Secretary joined the meeting a little bit late because the important meeting with the President and Prime Minister Erdogan ran longer than scheduled. So Prince Saud spent some time with George Mitchell, spent some time with Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman, and then the Secretary joined in. Obviously, they talked about the peace process. They talked about regional issues. I believe the most significant topic of discussion was Yemen.

QUESTION: And just on that in the peace process, in light of Israel’s moratorium on settlements, what is the U.S. asking now for Saudi Arabia to do in terms of Arab gestures and restarting peace talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think our focus of the discussion yesterday, and it remains our focus right now, is to see what we can do to try to encourage the parties, all of them, to move beyond kind of the cul-de-sac that we find ourselves in, and to continue to refocus on the future and see what we can do to get the process moving forward again, and to ultimately convince the parties to enter into a negotiation.

Obviously, for other countries in the region, we continue to encourage them to provide support to President Abbas and to be prepared to take meaningful steps if and when we get to a point where we think that the parties are prepared to consider negotiations. George Mitchell will continue to have, I think, between now and the holidays, regular contacts with a variety of the players. And so that was the context for our meeting yesterday.

QUESTION: Are you changing the sequencing? Because I thought the idea was that you would have gestures anyway. And now you’re talking about if and when there are negotiations, then you might see substantial gestures?

MR. CROWLEY: I would – fair enough, I wouldn’t call them mutually exclusive. I mean, our focus right now is to see if we can get some forward momentum going again. And obviously, a part of achieving momentum going forward and – is to have the region support the parties as they contemplate a return to formal negotiations.

QUESTION: And just one last thing. Do you have a sense of how the Saudi foreign minister took that, and whether he has --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll let my colleagues and friends at the Saudi Embassy characterize his response.

QUESTION: P.J., you’ve described the situation as being in a cul-de-sac. Are you acknowledging --


QUESTION: -- that this is a dead end now?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t say it’s a dead – a cul-de-sac means there’s a path --

QUESTION: It’s exactly the same thing.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, as was --

QUESTION: You can turn around in a cul-de-sac and you can turn around in a dead end, but a cul-de-sac – (laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: You always catch me on my terminology.

QUESTION: Well, you used the word.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have reached a point where there currently is – forward motion is very difficult.

QUESTION: Well, no, if you’re in a cul-de-sac, there’s no forward motion. Is that --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, you – but it’s --

QUESTION: -- is that – are you acknowledging now that this is a failure?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s not a failure. I mean, we – it’s not a failure, because the process isn’t over. The process is ongoing. But clearly, in the aftermath of the Goldstone report, we’ve seen this fairly substantial gap emerge and we’re seeing what we can do to move both sides closer to a decision to enter into negotiations. So to the extent that we’re kind of stuck for the moment, we’re looking at how we can’t encourage both to get back on a track and back to where we can seriously attain formal negotiations.

QUESTION: Does Mitchell have any plans to travel before the –

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that he’s going to travel before the holidays.


QUESTION: Did the Saudi foreign minister ask any specific help from the U.S. regarding their involvement in Yemen?

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t been briefed at the level of detail, so can’t say.

QUESTION: Hi. The Kremlin says that the U.S. arms deals are going to end by the end of December. Can you confirm that? Or can you just give us an update about the talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Try me again?

QUESTION: Kremlin – a Kremlin aide said that the START talks are going to end by the end of December. Can you confirm that? And can you just kind of give us an update about what’s going on?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, in – let’s hope. I mean, that is our – that’s our objective to get a follow-on treaty completed by the end of the year. So if – we are working hard in Geneva as we speak to try to achieve that. And there are still some technical issues that the teams are moving through. And we certainly would – we’ve made progress and we would certainly hope that we can cross the finish line by the end of the year.

QUESTION: Can you update us where you are on the Okinawa base issue? Japanese foreign minister had a statement to the press saying discussions were suspended for the rest of the year.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure that’s exactly what he said. I mean, we remain in very close contact with the Japanese Government, working on these issues. I think Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell has been engaged yesterday, today with Japanese officials on these issues, and we will continue to – our close consultations with Japan as it works through these issues. We believe that the realignment roadmap is the best plan for reducing the burden on Okinawa, while maintaining our alliance capabilities.

QUESTION: Is there any movement on a new P-5+1 meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Oh, wait, I got one more. There’s a – this – an Egyptian human rights group, which is called the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, has put out a report today that accuses the Administration – that says the Administration is not doing enough to promote human rights in the Arab world, and it specifically blames Secretary Clinton – or says that – doesn’t blame her, it says that she failed to address the issue during a meeting – during the meeting in Morocco last month.

Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to sustain a significant human rights dialogue there. It’s a dimension of virtually every contact that we have with representatives of countries in the region and around the world. I think there’s been a suggestion that because a certain word was not in a certain speech, that somehow that means that human rights is not important to the United States.

Human rights are vitally important to the United States. And on that particular trip, the Secretary had a number of occasions, working with specific countries, to raise the issues of governance and human rights that we – that is an essential part of our approach to countries of that region.

I’m not familiar with that particular report. Why don’t you ask us tomorrow? We’ll see if we have it and we’ve had a chance to review it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)


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