Daily Press Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
September 30, 2009
UNSC Chaired By Secretary Clinton / Passing of UN Resolution 1888 on Women and Peace and Security
D/S Steinberg Travel in Asia
President Obama Declares State of Emergency
One American Citizen Confirmed Dead
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
SE Mitchell Meeting with Israeli Delegation today at the Department of State
Tomorrow SE Mitchell will Meet with a Palestinian Delegation
Earthquake in Indonesia
Swiss Consular Officials Met Yesterday with the Three American Hikers Detained in Iran
U.S. Delegation Has Arrived in Geneva
Javier Solana to Chair Tomorrow's P5+1 Meeting
DAS Bisa's Visit to Cuba/Participated in One Day Meeting Regarding the Postal Talks
Conducted Meetings with Cuban Officials / Interactions with Human Rights Advocates and Dissidents
A/S Campbell and DAS Marciel Introductory Meeting with Burmese Officials in NY
U.S. Raised Long Standing Concerns
Peter Galbraith Recalled is a UN Personnel Matter/Up to the UN to Establish a Replacement
U.S. Continues to Urge Pakistan to Investigate the Mumbai Attacks
EU Report on Georgia Conflict / Take Time to Review / Focus on the Future / Abiding by Agreements / Support for Georgia's Territorial Integrity
If Unwilling to Engage with the U.S. and with the Other Parties and Give Up their Nuclear Program, They will Continue to Face Isolation and Sanctions
U.S. Continues to Support UNSC Resolution 1874
No Decision Has Been Made on Bilateral Talks with North Korea
Syrian Deputy FM Met with a Variety of U.S. Officials Yesterday
Part of our Continuing Dialogue with the Syrian Government
Aware of Case Involving Mr. Savoie / Mr. Savoie Has Received a Consular Visit
No New Update on Missing U.S. Diplomat
12:57 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: A special guest appearance with Ian Kelly still in New York and Robert Wood in Geneva. Gordon thought I needed company today.
MR. DUGUID: (Off-mike.)
MR. CROWLEY: Or protection, as it were. (Laughter.)
Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State. A few items before taking your questions. I would certainly call your attention to the intervention provided today at the United Nations by Secretary of State Clinton in promoting a UN Security Council Resolution on Women and Peace in Security, an effort to protect the lives and physical security of all people, but including women, who comprise half of the planet’s population. The resolution decries the use of rape as a tactic of war – obviously a source of tremendous concern to us today as we see the violence in Guinea, which included loss of discipline by military forces there and a significant number of people killed and women raped. But it calls upon the Secretary General to appoint a special representative to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end sexual violence.
And certainly, as President Obama said in his statement today, the United States expresses our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and have been affected by the recent tsunami in the Pacific region. Tragically, a number of people were killed, including one American citizen. Our Embassy in Apia is working to confirm whether other Americans have been affected and to try to help in any way that we can. The President has declared a major disaster for American Samoa.
And certainly, we have not yet heard any requests for assistance from, say, Samoa or Tonga. Secretary Clinton met last week with the Pacific island leaders, and disaster preparations were one of the issues discussed.
Starting right about now here at the Department of State is a meeting between George Mitchell and an Israeli delegation, following up on the discussion and the trilateral meeting last week in New York. There will be a Palestinian delegation that will meet with Senator Mitchell tomorrow.
And finally, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg continues his travels in Asia. He has been in Seoul today, is en route to Tokyo, and has also been to Beijing during this trip, obviously, continuing to consult closely with our partners in the Six-Party process.
With that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you just, for the record, state who Special Envoy Mitchell is meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: For the record, I believe he is meeting with Mike Herzog and Yitzhak Molcho, who are advisors to the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: Can you provide us with any kind of a readout after the meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll see. If I can, I will.
QUESTION: Have you – and last thing on that. Is it fair to say that the Administration has essentially, even though it hasn’t given up on the possibility of getting a package of steps to announce and put together prior to any resumption of negotiations, that its real focus now is on trying to get negotiations started regardless of whether the package is in place or not?
MR. CROWLEY: I would not see those, Arshad, as being mutually exclusive. We continue to work on steps that the Israelis need to take, the Palestinians need to take, others in the region need to take. And again, you’re quite right; we are also interested in getting to negotiations as rapidly as possible, as the President, the Secretary, and George Mitchell emphasized last week.
As to the conditions or steps, obviously, they’re well known. But we haven’t given up on the idea. We haven’t set aside anything. We do believe that the Israelis, Palestinians, and other countries in the region need to take affirmative steps which create the conditions for a successful negotiation.
QUESTION: But is the – just so we’re clear, is the focus now really on trying to get negotiations started regardless of whether you have a package of steps in place?
MR. CROWLEY: No, I would think that the meeting today, the meeting tomorrow, will be to continue to work on those steps that will lead the parties to have the confidence to agree to begin negotiations. Again, I think they are, obviously, part and parcel of the same process.
QUESTION: On the tsunami, do you have any American casualties you can tell us about in non-American Samoa places?
MR. CROWLEY: I really don’t have a whole lot of details. Obviously, I think that authorities there are still trying to assess the damage, including understanding the human toll. So far, I believe we’re aware of one American death from this, but that’s all.
MR. CROWLEY: I believe in American Samoa.
QUESTION: A related question. Any information at all on the situation in Indonesia? There’s another natural disaster there.
MR. CROWLEY: No, I understand that. Haven’t got any current information to pass along.
QUESTION: Did you get any update on what the Swiss learned about the condition of the Americans in detention?
MR. CROWLEY: The meeting did happen yesterday. It did happen in Tehran. Beyond that, there’s not a lot I can say for privacy reasons.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Cuba. This diplomatic reception in Havana, the dissidents were not invited for the first time in many years. Does it mean --
MR. CROWLEY: Can I clarify? The dissidents --
QUESTION: -- it was a diplomat --
MR. CROWLEY: -- were invited --
QUESTION: Cuban dissidents.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: There were none – there were none of them, no. There were not.
MR. CROWLEY: I suppose there’s a question of definition here. But just since you introduced the subject, Deputy Assistant Secretary Bisa Williams, as everyone knows, was in Havana recently to lead a delegation on direct mail service between the United States and Cuba. She took advantage of the opportunity while there to do a number of things, did have meetings with Cuban officials. I would describe these as kind of mechanical meetings, maybe – on very specific issues in our existing relationship, including the functioning of the consulate – or, I’m sorry, not the consulate, the Interests Section in Havana, following up on the migration talks that we had in July, real nuts and bolts working-level things.
But while she was in Cuba, she did have interaction with human rights advocates, members of civil society, dissidents, talking about a variety of issues, both economic and political. She also had the opportunity to travel to western Cuba to see a part of the country that had been severely hit by hurricanes last year.
So if the question – the suggestion was that she did not meet with dissidents in Havana, she did.
QUESTION: No, no, this was not – but since we are now on Ms. Williams, the fact that she stayed much longer --
MR. CROWLEY: She stayed for six days.
QUESTION: -- was this prepared before she went, or it was after she spoke to Cuban officials?
MR. CROWLEY: No, she had planned to stay beyond the mail talk meeting.
QUESTION: Yeah, but what I meant – and maybe you can take the question otherwise – there was a diplomatic reception in the Interests Section. And every year, they invite the dissidents. This time, they did not invite them for the first time in many years, and there were plenty of people of the civil society, people under the regime could see that it’s – the regime approves – they’re as musicians or entertainers or writers or whatever, so many people from the cultural scene and – but no dissidents. And this is the first time in a long time.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I will seek a clarification, but while she was there, she --
QUESTION: No, this has nothing – no, no, this has nothing to do with her. This is --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, okay, okay.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: On an related --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- situation, you said she had planned to stay beyond the talks on – postal talks. So this invitation to extend her stay presumably was worked out ahead of time?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, it’s hard to say. I mean, there was – she had planned to stay beyond the one-day meeting at the same time that there was this kind of organic process where the Cuban Government had some issues to discuss with us; for example, diplomatic notes that had been previously sent to the United States but had not been answered. So I think there was a general agreement that there were benefits on both sides to having these kind of follow-on discussions on very specific, very narrow issues related to our existing relationship.
QUESTION: Right, but that was --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- worked out beforehand.
MR. CROWLEY: I think some of this was worked out beforehand, and perhaps some of this was worked out once she was on the ground.
QUESTION: That doesn’t mean – after all, this relationship --
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t say it changes anything in terms of our relationship with Cuba, but obviously, it’s consistent with the President’s efforts to increase the free flow of information and the interaction between the United States and the Cuban people.
QUESTION: Yeah, can you take my question? One on Burma, the meeting yesterday – how was it yesterday morning in New York? What issue discussed?
MR. CROWLEY: Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell and Deputy Assistant Secretary Scot Marciel did meet yesterday in New York with a Burmese delegation headed by U Thaung, the Burmese minister for science and technology. Burma’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Than Swe, also participated in these discussions. I think we’d characterize it as an introductory meeting – obviously, the first meeting of this kind in many, many years.
And so I think it’s, from our standpoint, the opening stage of an interaction. From our side, we discussed a number of issues, obviously, including the status of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the issue of ethnic conflict and dialogue between the Government of Burma and various ethnic groups within the country. We talked about our concerns about Burma’s relationship with North Korea, our proliferation concerns associated with that. I think it was a cautious beginning and an initial meeting, and will obviously require time and patience as we continue these discussions.
QUESTION: Is there any timeline for these meetings? How long does it go and when is the next meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: The meeting yesterday happened – it lasted a couple of hours, maybe a little bit longer than we had expected.
QUESTION: Two hours?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Both within the UN premises or outside? Was it within the UN premises, that – the United Nations?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe it was at the Waldorf-Astoria.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a second question on that.
QUESTION: Can – are you still on Burma?
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: No, I’m not.
QUESTION: Can you take a Burma for a minute? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yeah, just – when you said that you discussed Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minorities and so on, you raised your longstanding concerns and demands that Aung San Suu Kyi be released, along the --
MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And the same thing on the ethnic minorities, the long – okay.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And then why is it appropriate to talk to the minister of science and technology? Why is this the right person?
MR. CROWLEY: For this meeting, and just to explain a little bit that over time, we’ve received indications from the Burmese that they had an interest in this kind of dialogue. We heard it also from other parties in the region. So – but for this particular meeting, the minister for science and technology was designated as the lead official.
QUESTION: For that – I mean, I realize it’s the – Myanmar’s choice who they want to send to the meeting with you guys. What I don’t get, though, is why you think this is the right person. I mean, does --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m being careful.
MR. CROWLEY: This was the individual that they designated for this first meeting. I’m not suggesting that he will be the interlocutor for future meetings. That’s not – obviously, you’re right. It’s up to the Burmese.
QUESTION: Okay, and then two other things on this. One, when was the – you know, there is a slight propensity to feel as if the world is entirely new. But in fact, Scot Marciel met with Myanmar officials in July. So what’s new here is that it’s at the assistant secretary level from the U.S. side. When was the last time that a U.S. assistant secretary or somebody of a similar rank met with the Myanmar authorities?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a fair question. It might be a matter of decades.
QUESTION: Could you get that?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, if we can.
QUESTION: And then the last question, just to follow up on my colleague’s question was, is there any time now set for when the next such meeting may be – when and where?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. A fair question. I think it’s important to say that this is going to be an extended process. Obviously, this was the first meeting, and it will take some time for both sides to get – figure out what the right frame is, what the right pace is for this. So I would say this is the beginning of a process that we think will take weeks, if not months, to kind of sort through. And then at that point, you’ll have a sense of what might be possible in terms of the kinds of steps that we would hope that Burma will take.
QUESTION: Can you check for us? I mean, you said, “Not to my knowledge.”
QUESTION: Can you check whether or not there is another meeting scheduled?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – I would think that our expectation is that with this first meeting, there will be others. I don’t think one is set at this point. I mean, the meeting happened 22 hours ago, ended 20 hours ago. So I think we’re going to digest the information that we received yesterday. We would expect the Burmese will do the same. And I think – I would expect that there will be future meetings, but I don’t believe that anything has been established yet.
Your second question?
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith has been recalled from UNAMA by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Do you have anything on this? There were differences between him and Kai Eide on the elections process?
MR. CROWLEY: I think I would just call your attention to a statement that has been put out attributable to the Secretary General – or the spokesperson for the Secretary General that he’s decided to recall Peter Galbraith. And this is really a UN personnel matter.
QUESTION: And finally, there was a report in The New York Times about Pakistan doing its own investigation on Mumbai terrorist attack in which LET was found responsible for this. Do you have anything?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we certainly have encouraged and continue to encourage Pakistan to fully investigate the Mumbai attacks, and even more importantly, bring those responsible before their judicial system.
QUESTION: Last week --
QUESTION: Can we go back to –
QUESTION: Last follow-up question. Last week, there was a meeting between India’s and Pakistan’s foreign minister in New York on the sidelines of UN General Assembly. How do you see these meetings in the view of –
MR. CROWLEY: I think we certainly encourage a dialogue between India and Pakistan, two very important countries to the United States.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Peter Galbraith, please?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: You’re going to pass this off as a UN personnel matter? I mean, does the U.S. expect to have a replacement? Does the U.S. disagree with the UN Secretary General’s decision, even though he has a right to do it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well – and obviously, in occupying the position of deputy special representative, it will be up to the UN to establish a replacement.
QUESTION: Yeah. But – well, have you talked to the Secretary General? Has the U.S. Government, the Obama Administration, Ambassador Rice, anyone, had discussions about this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we had interactions last week during the UN with Special Representative Kai Eide. I just don’t know if this came up.
QUESTION: I think just the difference between the two of them was over the recount and whether the Karzai government should be pressed a little bit harder to address some of the concerns about voter fraud. Do you agree with Galbraith that this should have been an issue that the UN should be pushing much harder?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that we agree on the importance of the election and the importance of supporting the work of the electoral bodies in Afghanistan. I don’t know that we have a particular view, other than it needs to be a credible, transparent process that leads to an electoral result that the people of Afghanistan can believe in. That is our focus, and that’s what we think is important to the future of Afghanistan. To the extent that there were tactical differences between the special representative and his deputy over how to get to that place, I think our point is we agree on what the – where the finish line is and hope that the process will lead us there as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: To put it a different way, then, do you think that the UN should be pushing this much harder?
MR. CROWLEY: We ourselves continue to work closely with the electoral bodies to make sure that there is a credible, transparent, effective process. There have been very significant and credible claims of electoral fraud. They are currently being investigated. The electoral bodies have worked out a formula for how to address these concerns.
We think it’s vitally important that the end of this electoral process produce a government that the Afghan people can believe in and can support, and a government that is in a position to begin to deliver more effective services to its people. That’s our bottom line. And we continue to work with the UN, with other countries invested in Afghanistan, to reach that goal.
QUESTION: And I guess my question was just more of how you assess the UN’s push on this so far?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, the international community is responsible for one of these two electoral bodies. It’s a very, very important element of the process. I think we are – we’re confident having worked closely and consulted closely in recent meetings that there is a formula for proceeding to a legitimate result in the elections, and we hope that we get there as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: I just have to alleviate my curiosity and just for the record, could you check and get back to us on whether this did come up in the meeting with Kai Eide? And also, whether the Secretary or Ambassador Rice has discussed this with the Secretary General before today’s announcement?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Lashkar.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve got – are we still on Afghanistan or are we moving to other subjects?
QUESTION: I would like to go back to The New York Times article. I think for folks in the region, the question is that – is U.S. policy focused too much on the wrong border of Pakistan? It’s focused too much on Afghanistan and not on the India side and Kashmir, because the article implies that Lashkar can blow up the whole region.
MR. CROWLEY: The United States, in this region of the world, is focused – understands clearly the importance of Afghanistan, the importance of Pakistan, the importance of India, and the interaction among those countries. I – we have a strategic relationship that is emerging with India. We have a vitally important relationship with Pakistan, are working hard to help Pakistan address the issue of extremism within its borders, and we are likewise very concerned about the cross-border activity between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I think that these – this is kind of an inseparable – you can’t look at peace and stability in South Asia without understanding the vitally important role played by all of these three countries and, obviously, the surrounding republics in Central Asia as well.
It’s one of the reasons why we changed our strategic focus, that you could not look at these countries in isolation. And clearly, we have had discussions with both Pakistan and India on their relationship and how that affects the ability of any of these countries to address the challenges that exist within their respective borders.
So we recognize the importance of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. We recognize the vital importance of a stable relationship between Pakistan and India, and we continue to encourage all of these countries to work constructively together.
QUESTION: P.J., do you have any reflections on the EU report on the Georgia conflict? Some of the highlights were, of course, that Georgia precipitated the conflict and that there was some ethnic cleansing in the disputed areas.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the report was just released today. We will take our time to review it. It’s obviously an independent commission that put out the report. And I think we recognize that all sides made mistakes and miscalculations through the conflict last year. But our focus is on the future and we hope that Georgia and Russia – we expect them both to abide by the agreements that they made under the ceasefire agreements in August and September of last year, and we expect them to live up to those commitments. In the meantime, we continue to express our strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity.
QUESTION: Thank you. North Korea --
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes, then on South Korea. Today, according to North Korea state media, North Korea foreign ministry spokesman said that they totally resent the UN Security Council Resolution 1887 for nuclear-free world and they would not be bound to it at all. What’s your response to it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, North Korea has been a member of the nonproliferation treaty in the past. Our policy remains clear that we believe that the Korean Peninsula should be completely denuclearized. That is the foundation behind our policy and our interaction with other regional powers within the Six-Party process. So North Korea, if they are unwilling to directly engage
with the United States, others within the Six-Party process, if they are unwilling to give up their nuclear program, as they have once themselves committed to do, then they will continue to face isolation and continue to face significant sanctions. So in the meantime, while we await North Korea’s choice as to which path it’s going to choose, we continue to aggressively implement UN Security Council 1874.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. decided whether the bilateral talk with North Korea would helpful for resuming Six-Party Talk or not? Has U.S. decided if bilateral talk with North Korea --
MR. CROWLEY: No, we have made no decision on bilateral talks as of yet.
QUESTION: What are you considering now? I mean, North Korea already invited --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Deputy Secretary Steinberg is in the region. He’s had significant discussions with our partners on our current situation. And if and when we make that decision, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Are you waiting for additional signal from North Korea? I mean, North Korea already invited --
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.
MR. CROWLEY: There is an offer of a bilateral discussion on the table, and we are still evaluating it.
QUESTION: When does Steinberg get back?
MR. CROWLEY: He’ll be back, I believe, tomorrow.
QUESTION: On Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You spoke at some length yesterday about the talks in Geneva. Do you have anything additional you can add about the details, duration, format of the talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Not a lot. It will happen tomorrow. I believe that Mr. Jalili will lead the Iranian delegation. Our delegation has arrived in Geneva. I believe many of your colleagues are there and perhaps have had some discussions with our delegation already today.
As to the format tomorrow, as I said yesterday, it will be largely for Javier Solana to lead that, but would expect the meeting to be – to last just this one day. I think there will be a series of plenary discussions. There will be opportunities for interaction among the participants on the sidelines of these plenaries. And beyond that, we’re just as anxious as you are to get to the meeting itself.
QUESTION: The meeting has provoked a wide discussion about the effectiveness of sanctions in the past against Iran. From where you stand today, have past sanctions been successful in forcing Iran to change its policies?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we have a dual-track strategy which involves both engagement and pressure, including sanctions. We don’t see these as mutually exclusive. In fact, we will continue the kind of engagement that we hope to have tomorrow, and we will continue to aggressively pursue the existing sanctions and are obviously prepared at the end of this process, as the President has said, to consider additional measures if they are warranted.
QUESTION: And just one quick clarification. At the end of the process, does that mean that until this meeting is concluded that the United States has halted consideration of additional sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn't expect a call for sanctions tomorrow night at the end of this meeting. I think we’re looking for a process. As the Secretary and the President have said, we’re going to give this some time. We would hope that this meeting will be followed by other meetings. We would hope that at this particular time Iran will indicate, starting tomorrow, that it’s willing to take practical steps and – that will produce measurable results to address the concerns that we will lay on the table tomorrow. And let’s get to the meeting.
But I think to the extent that we’re going to have one meeting and then make a snap decision on what happens in the future, that’s not the way this is going to work. We’re going to have this meeting tomorrow. We hope that it leads to a process. We hope that Iran will decide to come clean, to open up its facilities, to open up its files, to open up – give us access to those who are working on the nuclear program, so we can address the concerns the international community has.
This obviously will take some time if it works effectively, and we’re going to give it that time. But at the end of the year, as the President has said, we’ll evaluate where we are, progress that has been made, if any, and then we’ll draw some conclusions from that.
QUESTION: Staying with Iran, P.J., Al-Hurra reports that Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki is in Washington today to visit the Iranian Interests Section at the Pakistani Embassy to the United States. Is that true?
MR. CROWLEY: It is true.
QUESTION: When and why did you decide to grant Mr. Mottaki -- or Minister Mottaki permission to come to the United States, to Washington?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t precisely – they made the request, and we have granted the request. It might have been in the last 24 hours.
QUESTION: Are there any plans for Minister Mottaki to meet either with current U.S. officials of any sort or with non-U.S. officials, but there have been people like former – well, Ambassador Pickering, for example, who has been an advocate of sort of track two talks with the Iranians. To your knowledge, is he meeting – Mottaki meeting with any U.S. officials or with other such --
MR. CROWLEY: I want to be very careful. I’m not trying to add to any mystery here. All I can speak of is for the United States Government. There were no plans that he will meet with anyone from the United States Government, and I’m not aware of any plans that he would meet with anyone on behalf of the United States Government.
As to what interactions that he has here, I don’t know. I’d refer you to the Iranians. But they made this specific request. He wanted to visit the Iranian Interests Section at the Pakistani Embassy, and we granted that request.
QUESTION: How long is he here for?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Can you take that for us?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: And then one other one on this. Should we – why should we not regard your decision to allow him to do so as a gesture of a sort, indeed potentially a positive gesture? One reason I ask is that a week ago – well, about 10 days ago now, two weeks, I guess – the Administration gave permission for the Myanmar foreign minister to visit Washington to check in on their Embassy, something he had not done in years. And within a few days, the Administration announced the outcome of its policy review on Burma, and that you are going to go for more, higher-level engagement with officials from that country. Why shouldn’t we see this as another gesture of that sort and a positive gesture toward the Iranians?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we thought it was a straightforward request. We granted it on that basis. I think we’re far more interested in having Iran come tomorrow to Geneva, and we hope that they will be the ones who are offering gestures that they are ready to address the concerns that the international community has.
I wouldn't read too much into this. It was a straightforward request, and we granted it.
QUESTION: Can you check when was the last time an Iranian foreign minister was in Washington? I’m guessing 1978.
MR. CROWLEY: It’s probably been a while.
QUESTION: Can you check for us?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll see if we have that kind of historical knowledge.
QUESTION: On the Geneva talks, once the talks are over, are the political directors going to hang around and compare notes, or are they going to go back to their capitals?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, those are not mutually exclusive. I think they could have a post-game huddle tomorrow. I wouldn't rule that out. I would think that it might take some time to digest a meeting of this nature. It obviously is vitally important. We’re talking about complex issues, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some questions are taken and answered subsequently. So I would think that at this level, there is very regular interaction among the political directors, so whether it happens tomorrow in Geneva or happens in subsequent days, I suspect it could be a combination of the two.
QUESTION: Different topic, okay?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the talks the Syrian deputy foreign minister held yesterday at the State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: I gave you pretty much all I had yesterday, Samir. Yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Miqdad met with a variety of U.S. Government officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, including Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman, including NSC Senior Director Dan Shapiro. There is a possibility of other meetings today. If they happen, we’ll let you know. The one person – just to answer your obvious next question, he did not meet with George Mitchell.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) these meetings, one of the many meetings being held in the past. And how do you assess the outcome of this meeting? Where are we right now in terms of the relationship between the United States and Syria? I mean, those are the details we need to try to find out.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would characterize this as an extension of the steps that we’ve taken earlier this year. We’ve obviously agreed to have a dialogue with Syria. We’ve had a number of visits to Damascus, and this was an opportunity to have interaction here in Washington. So obviously, it’s a part of our continuing dialogue with the Syrian Government, and comparing notes on how we can advance our relationship going forward.
QUESTION: Just on that and George Mitchell, is Mitchell a possibility for the Syrian deputy foreign minister to meet today?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t lead you in that direction. He’s – George has got his own meeting this afternoon.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the American man who got arrested in Japan for abducting his own children? Do you have any information? What’s your understanding of the incident?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re aware of the case involving Mr. Savoie. I think this is an abduction case where two children were wrongfully abducted from the United States to Japan from his – by his ex-wife. It’s not for us to discuss the specifics of the case here. We have had access to – we have paid a consular visit on Mr. Savoie, and we stand ready to help him in any way that we can.
Obviously, this is a very difficult issue. The United States and Japan have an important partnership, but on this particular issue, the issue of abduction, we have different points of view. And we continue to encourage Japan to join with other countries and sign the Hague Convention.
QUESTION: Have you done that directly with Japanese officials in recent days?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, this case just emerged in the last 48 hours, but we have had these kinds of cases with Japan in the past. We have different points of view on how to handle the issues of divorce and child abduction. And we have had conversations with Japan over a number of years on this particular topic.
QUESTION: Do you know if the issue was raised in the meeting, the recent meeting, between Secretary Clinton and --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, since I believe that this case just emerged this week and the meetings were --
QUESTION: No, no, no, not about this case, the – to encourage Japan to (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – I was in one of those meetings. It did not come up.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the diplomat missing in Curacao?
MR. CROWLEY: No, nothing new.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the consular access that the Swiss have to the American hikers? They – so they did indeed meet with all three of them; correct?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. And there’s nothing you can say about their well-being?
MR. CROWLEY: No. Trust me, we kind of pushed this – what can we say, but I mean, you would – it would be useful to check with the families. Obviously, they have been public about this case. We continue to press for follow – we will continue to press for follow-on consular visits. But in terms of – and obviously, we will stay in close contact with the families. But privacy aspects limit our ability to characterize the meeting itself.
QUESTION: Could you say whether they were able to contact their families at all?
MR. CROWLEY: I would be very confident that whatever the Swiss passed on to us, we have in turn passed on to the families.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:36 p.m.)
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