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Daily Press Briefing

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 9, 2009


News that President Obama will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize / Affirmation of the strategy of engagement / the need to work collaboratively and multilaterally to solve the challenges of the world
Secretary Clinton's trip to Europe/Russia / arrives in Zurich tomorrow to witness signing of two protocols moving Turkey and Armenia towards normalization of relations and an open border / will visit London next / have consultations with British Government on high-level issues, including Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan / will visit Ireland / focus on economic and political development in Northern Ireland / will visit Moscow / issues to include START, Iran, North Korea, Middle East peace process / will meet with Lavrov / will travel to Kazan province
Deputy Secretary Steinberg coming back from meeting in Bosnia /convened with Swedish FM Karl Bildt / met with political party leaders / discussed reforms required for NATO and EU membership
George Mitchell remains in Middle East / had meetings with PM Netanyahu, President Peres, and FM Lieberman / will meet with President Abbas and Fayyad

Affirmation not only of strategy, but also the important agenda / committee singled out challenge of nonproliferation / ongoing discussions with Russia on follow-on to START treaty / dialogue with Iran and North Korea / taking collaborative action / problems will not be solved without American leadership, currently demonstrated

Under no illusions / even when formal negotiations begin, it is going to be arduous / will take considerable time / this stage of the process is about finding out if the parties ready to move forward

U.S. government has a long-term commitment to the region / now determining how to best carry out that commitment / how we can best serve our interests in the region / we are looking at the implications of the election results
Secretary will be discussing McChrystal report with UK Prime Minister and Foreign Minister / update them on status of our process / Afghan government, when it emerges from election cycle, may decide to engage in a political dialogue people currently outside the political process / a decision for Afghanistan to make

Dept of State focused on 2009, not on events of 1915 / Secretary, along with FM of Russia, FM of France, Javier Solana, will be in Zurich tomorrow attending signing ceremony US is part of the Minsk process / we have done significant amount of diplomacy on the issue / remain committed to the principles discussed for settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh issue / we remain engaged with all the parties

US position is that Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma should be released / US officials participated in hour-long meeting with ASSK at a government guesthouse in Rangoon / with British Ambassador and Australian charges d'affaires / ASSK is a vitally important figure in the present and future of Burma

We are aware that nongovernmental organizations have invited Amb. Ri Gun to participate in meeting in the US. We have not yet made a decision whether to approve that travel /
Do not have a readout of Amb. Goldberg's recent visit to UAE and Egypt


1:43 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Are we reconvened? I heard – or was there when David briefed Secretary Clinton about two or so weeks ago on his energy strategy, and I said this would be a great briefing. So we’re glad that worked out.

A few – just to pick up a few announcements before taking your questions. Obviously, we at the Department of State woke up this morning with the terrific news of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. The Secretary will depart shortly for the White House for a high-level meeting, and she’ll have the opportunity to congratulate the President personally. And I suspect for your colleagues who will be traveling with her later tonight overseas, she’ll probably have more to say about that personally.

But I think from the Secretary’s standpoint, not only is it well-deserved, the outreach that the President has made in the first now ten months in office, but it’s an affirmation of the strategy of engagement, of the need to work collaboratively and multilaterally to solve the challenges of the world. And I think she recognizes, as the President said, that this is a call to action, and that call to action falls significantly on the shoulders of the Secretary and here at the Department to advance the President’s agenda and confront the challenges of the 21st century. But certainly from our standpoint, we think that this gives us a sense of momentum when the United States has accolades tossed its way rather than shoes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me go through some stuff first. Obviously, on the Secretary’s trip, which begins tonight, she will be in Zurich tomorrow to witness the signing of two protocols moving Turkey and Armenia towards normalization of relations and an open border. She’ll move then to London for consultations on high-level issues with the British Government, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan; then will move to Ireland as part of our continuing commitment to that country and also focus on economic and political development in Northern Ireland; and then finally, as you know, to Russia for some significant discussions on a range of issues, from START to Iran, North Korea, the Middle East peace process. And both Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov will be able to monitor the progress in the bilateral presidential commission and the various working groups that are a part of that. And of course, she’ll have, as you heard yesterday, the opportunity to travel to Kazan for participation in some activities there that will show the – some – what’s happening in that province.

Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg is on his way back from a meeting in Bosnia. It was convened by the Deputy Secretary and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt for a discussion with political party leaders today to outline both the U.S. and EU’s shared concerns over the ongoing reform stalemate. They offered ideas and assistance to help the parties move forward on political and constitutional reforms that are essential if Bosnia hopes for eventual membership in NATO and the EU. And we would expect that there might be another high-level meeting within a couple of weeks.

George Mitchell remains in the Middle East. I can’t say whether he’s had or will have a meeting today with Prime Minister Netanyahu following up on meetings he’s already had in Israel with President Peres and Foreign Minister Lieberman, and he will meet tomorrow with President Abbas.

With that, I will take your questions.

QUESTION: I have two questions. First of all, on your very clever comment about accolades, not shoes, how much of this Nobel Peace Prize do you think is, you know, a kind of award to the President for not being George Bush? I mean, there was so much kind of animosity in the international community because of the last administration that it seems that just the fact that this Administration has offered a new approach around the world is what the award was really about. I mean, I think the President himself recognized that there isn’t a whole lot of actual accomplishment yet about the award, but it’s more about expectations and the fact that this Administration is devising a new course. So how much do you think that this is an indictment of the past administration and an award for not being George Bush?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think I’ll follow the sage advice of Robert Gibbs and say it’s impossible for us to project what the Nobel committee had in mind. I think what is important to us is an affirmation of not only the strategy but also the important agenda. The committee particularly singled out the challenge of nonproliferation. Obviously, it’s been a significant focus of the President, the Secretary, and others in these first 10 months, starting with the Prague speech and continuing with the session at the UN a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, we’re very mindful as the Secretary heads to Russia – we’ve got ongoing discussions with Russia on a follow-on to the START treaty. We obviously are aware that we have important dialogue with Iran and North Korea that’s ongoing. We’re looking ahead to the NPT review conference next year, finding ways to strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty and the global regime. And we know that there’s a very heavy lift here with the United States coming up in terms of the Administration’s desire to see ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And there are other steps as well.

So there is an opportunity here. The tone has changed, but obviously, we recognize that while the tone in the world has changed, the challenges remain. They’re very significant. And I thought the President set the right tone today in terms of looking forward and understanding that there’s a lot that needs to be done, but that as we go through this we’ll need to see collaborative action. The United States can’t solve this problem alone, but these problems will not be solved without the American leadership that we’ve shown in the first 10 months.

QUESTION: I have one more question on Senator Mitchell’s trip.


QUESTION: I’m sorry if you addressed this yesterday. It doesn't sound like things are going very well, maybe not necessarily in terms of the actual talks, but over the long term. Did you see Foreign Minister Lieberman’s comments that there’s not going to be a peace process or a peace deal anytime soon?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll leave it for the foreign minister to --

QUESTION: It doesn't really indicate, though, that the Israelis are kind of negotiating and ready in good faith to --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me say – I mean, these are, obviously, extraordinarily difficult, emotional challenges that we’re dealing with, and they will have to be dealt with through a formal negotiation. And we would expect that that negotiation will take some time and will involve very difficult, complex issues. We’re prepared to work through that. That’s why the President and the Secretary have called for the parties to enter negotiations as soon as possible. It’s why George is in the region as we speak to try to push to that point.

But we’re under no illusions here that even when a formal negotiation begins, it is going to be arduous. It’s going to take a considerable amount of time. How much? Who knows. But this is what this phase in the process is all about, to find out if the parties are, in fact, ready to move forward. Are they ready to make the affirmative commitments up front regarding settlements, regarding incitement? Are the other countries of the region prepared to do their part and provide support in ways that perhaps have been missing through past efforts? So that is part of the ongoing assessment that we’re going through. As the President indicated last month during the General Assembly, the Secretary, when she gets back from this upcoming trip, will work with the Middle East team, assess where we are, and make a report to the President.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, just the fact that the Israelis are saying this before you’re even starting the negotiations, doesn’t that kind of not forebode very well for the actual negotiations once they start?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think no other than Senator Mitchell in his various briefings to you both recently and going back a few months said that whatever posturing that might occur in advance of a negotiation, that’s why you ultimately need to see the negotiation begin.

Jill. Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s all right. Same topic, but if you’re --

QUESTION: Oh, the other topic.

QUESTION: Okay. Just on Mitchell, maybe I misheard you, but I thought you said that he was going to meet with President Abbas tomorrow. Isn’t he meeting with President Abbas today and Fayyad tomorrow?

MR. CROWLEY: If I have – my information was tomorrow. If that’s wrong, we’ll correct it.

QUESTION: Okay, great. And then the other thing is, our Jerusalem bureau believes, I think, that the meeting with President Abbas, assuming it has begun, is supposed to end in about 30 minutes. So if indeed they did meet today, can you try to get us some kind of a readout on both Senator Mitchell’s meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with Abbas?

MR. CROWLEY: I suspect it’s probably better done with the team in the region.

QUESTION: I would suspect so, too --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I understand. I mean –

QUESTION: – but you’re the State Department spokesman --

MR. CROWLEY: I hear you.

QUESTION: -- and (inaudible) asking you about the Middle East --

MR. CROWLEY: I am simply saying that it is unlikely that we’re going to have a readout from Senator Mitchell’s activities before he reports back to the Secretary.

QUESTION: P.J., on the trip by the Secretary, she’s going at a particularly important time, obviously, with the discussions of Afghanistan. Can you tell us a bit how she will be briefing or informing her – the officials with whom she’ll be meeting, in their various stops where she’ll be meeting, telling them what the state of play is. How does she expect to explain what the United States is doing on policy? And I’m –

MR. CROWLEY: Which topic?

QUESTION: On Afghanistan.


QUESTION: Because you – remember the question yesterday from the New Zealand correspondent who pointedly said: We in New Zealand have recommitted, while you are still thinking about it. So what does she do talking to the allies to explain where the Administration is on Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Maybe I’d say, help me out here. I mean, I have heard no U.S. Government official, from the President down to your modest spokesman, say that there’s anything but a long-term commitment to the region and a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re talking about how to best carry out that commitment, how we can best serve our interests and those in the region. But I have heard no one say that we are prepared to walk away from Afghanistan or Pakistan or the region, expressly because it is in our interest.

Now, how will we do that best going forward? That is the purpose of these series of meetings and this broad review. As we have said continually, we’re looking at the situation on the ground. We’re looking at the implications of the election results to be determined here in the next few days. We’re looking how best to make sure that we are coordinating our activities on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. So this is, in fact, part of a long-term commitment. We are in year nine of this effort. And we will continue until we believe that we have done what we’ve got to do, which is to provide a stable – help build a stable government in Afghanistan, until we have helped Pakistan stabilize the situation on its side of the border.

As to how long this will take, who knows.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you answered a question that I actually didn’t ask. What I was asking --

MR. CROWLEY: It was a good answer. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, it was a very long and detailed answer. I do give you credit for that. The question actually was more simple. How can you describe what she is going to do with her interlocutors there to tell them what the state of play is? I mean, will she say kind of what she – what you’re saying? Because we get very little from the Secretary in terms of what the thinking is. Will she let them in on some of her thinking? Will she let them in on President Obama’s thinking? How much can she tell them at this point?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, for example, let’s choose a place on the upcoming trip. She’ll be in London. The United Kingdom has a significant commitment in Afghanistan, as we do. The McChrystal report and assessment have been presented to the NAC in Brussels. So the United Kingdom Government, it’s very familiar with the – with his assessment. And I suspect that they, like us, also continue to assess what was happening in the country and their particular role. So I’m sure that during that – her discussion with the prime minister, with the foreign minister, this will be a significant topic of discussion. And – but as to – I’m sure she will update them on the status of our process. How much depth we’ll go into, I won’t prejudge.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) an issue somewhat related to the trip, but a different issue. As you’ve noted earlier, she’ll be in Zurich tomorrow for the signing of protocols, breaking down some of the barriers between Armenia and Turkey. During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Obama mentioned genocide talking about the events of 1915. As President, he has not. I’m wondering why there’s been a change in language, and I’m wondering whether the relationship with Turkey is such that you just don’t want to use that word.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the President released a statement on April 24. That is a reflection of the Administration’s position. Here at the Department, we are focused on 2009, and that that’s expressly why the Secretary, as will other key figures – the foreign minister of Russia, the foreign minister of France, Javier Solana – and if I’m leaving anybody out, I apologize – they are in – will be in Zurich tomorrow, because they recognize the significance of this step that is being taken by Turkey and Armenia after a lengthy process, but also recognizing that there’s still work to be done, even with the signings tomorrow. I think there’ll be parliamentary debates in both countries.

But to see these two countries advance to where relations can be normalized, borders can be opened, that’s a significant step by both those countries. It’s been supported throughout the process by the United States and the European Union. And this is a significant moment, which is why the Secretary will be there.

QUESTION: And mentioning the word “genocide” would upset the apple cart?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to go beyond the President’s statement.

QUESTION: A couple of quick things. The talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia appear to have fallen apart. And the Azeri – the Azerbaijani leader is – apparently has accused his Armenian counterpart of being unconstructive in talks. Do you have any comment on the breakdown, and is there anything that the Administration hopes to do to try to help them resolve this issue?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we are a part of the Minsk process. We have done a significant amount of diplomacy on this issue. And as the presidents and others said, we are – we remain committed to the basic principles that have been discussed for settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. We will remain engaged with all the parties and those who are interested in the Minsk process. I don’t have a particular comment on where it is right now.

QUESTION: Can I do another quick one?


QUESTION: Aung San Suu Kyi was permitted to leave her home – her house arrest – for the third time in six days. Today, she met with deputy chiefs of mission of the U.S. and Australian embassies and with the ambassador from Britain, who is, I think, representing the European Union, to talk about sanctions. Two things: One, is this a good sign that the regime is allowing her to leave her house arrest; and secondly, what, if anything, can you tell us about how the U.S. diplomat who met her found her, and so on?

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t got a particular readout of the meeting. I think our first point, as always, would be that Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma should be released. In the President’s statement on the Nobel Peace Prize, you’ll notice that he made reference to Aung San Suu Kyi in that statement.

It was a one-hour meeting at the – at a government guesthouse in Rangoon. Present were the U.S. chargés d’affaires, the British ambassador, and the Australian chargés d’affaires. And Aung San Suu Kyi sought the meeting to obtain information about the sanctions policies of the United States, Australia, and the European Union. I think we appreciate the meeting. Certainly, she is a vitally important figure in the present and future of Burma. But in terms of a particular action, we continue to believe that she should be released.

QUESTION: Do you have a date for the next round of talks with the Myanmar parties?

MR. CROWLEY: We have nothing – we expect to have a meeting in the short- to mid-term. I’ve got nothing in particular to announce at this point.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?


QUESTION: On the idea of political prisoners, I mean, you’re unequivocal that all political prisoners in Burma should be released. But I don’t see the same kind of unequivocal comment about all Chinese political prisoners being released or all Egyptian political prisoners. Is it the position of the United States that all political prisoners everywhere should be released, or just in Burma?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a fairly broad statement you’re asking me to make. Certainly, the idea – and it is the policy of the United States – that political prisoners who were put there as part of a process to intimidate or restrict political processes in any country should be released. We certainly favor the idea that those countries that have restrictive political systems need to broaden them, need to make sure that the political systems produce a debate, candidates, and results that meet the needs of those people.

As to a particular situation in this country or that country, I think your question is a little too broad to go beyond that.

QUESTION: How about Egypt? Do you feel that about Egypt?

MR. CROWLEY: We have made significant statements over a very long period of time about the fact that political – the detention of political activists, including someone like Ayman Nour, are not helpful to Egypt’s future.


QUESTION: P.J., just for the record, why does the word Myanmar never cross your lips?

MR. CROWLEY: It is the policy of the United States that we refer to that country as Burma.

QUESTION: And why is that, just so I know?

MR. CROWLEY: It is what it is.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan, if I can go back, is it out of the question that the U.S. may tolerate some role, or any role, for the Taliban in Afghanistan politics?

MR. CROWLEY: I think this is ultimately a decision for the Afghans. When you think about – when you think about insurgencies, and I’ll speak generally, that policing has a role, military activity has a role. But ultimately, you solve insurgencies through political processes and reconciliation. So if going forward, the Afghan Government, when it emerges from the election cycle, chooses to engage in a political dialogue, and that dialogue brings people who are currently outside the political process, if not attacking the political system that exists in Afghanistan, to a position where they will choose to be invested in that process, we think that will be a positive development. But that ultimately will be a decision for Afghanistan to make.

QUESTION: To follow on that. I mean, does that mean that the current Administration would not have the belief that it’s kind of crucial, as the past administration did, to eliminate organizations and regimes that harbor al-Qaida?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, as the President’s made clear, our presence in the region is expressly because al-Qaida poses a threat to the United States and, in fact, has – poses a threat to others around the world as well. And we have – we will make sure that whatever we do in the future, that there will not be a safe haven, whether it’s Afghanistan or anywhere else, that allows a terrorist organization to plot and execute attacks against the United States and against our allies around the world.

Now, this is where you ultimately have to make sure your focus will not be a cookie-cutter approach. There are a wide range of groups within the label “Taliban,” tribal figures that are used to changing sides depending on what is happening at any particular time. It’s one of the reasons why we believe that central to a solution to the current challenge in Afghanistan is a competent, legitimate, effective government. And if that government performs and delivers services to the Afghan people, that reduces the space and reduces the motivation that might provide either explicit or tacit support to various groups that form the umbrella called the Taliban.

So to the extent that Afghanistan wishes to engage in some kind of political process in the future, that tries to peel away support for the insurgency, we think that’s part of a very effective, long-term counterinsurgency strategy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: It is reported that North Korea’s nuclear envoy Ri Gun is visiting U.S. later this month. Can you confirm on that, or did you hear anything about the visit from North Korea?

MR. CROWLEY: Are you referring to – to who?

QUESTION: North Korea’s nuclear envoy, the director general.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take – well, there – if you’re referring to Ri Gun --


MR. CROWLEY: Okay, got it. We’re on the same page. We are aware that nongovernmental organizations have invited Ambassador Ri Gun to participate in meetings in the U.S. We have not yet made a decision whether to approve that travel.

QUESTION: Is this – do you have the names of the organizations? Is this the U.S. committee – the committee on United States National – I cannot remember the name, forgive me. It’s in New York. Do you – anyway, do you have the names of where he might appear if he were given a visa?

MR. CROWLEY: What I have is the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, and the prospective meeting would be held in Los Angeles.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more on North Korea. Ambassador Philip Goldberg recently visited UAE and Egypt, so could you share the outcome of this trip with us, share the (inaudible) readout of this trip? Ambassador Philip Goldberg trip to Egypt and UAE.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have – as a general response, obviously, he continues to consult broadly in terms of implementations of UN security sanctions. I don’t have a particular readout of that meeting.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: The U.S. has been working very hard with partners to fully implement the sanction on North Korea, but there are doubts that – about the real impact of the sanction to North Korea. So could you elaborate the estimate of State Department on the real impact on North Korea of this resolution and the possibility that this resolution will bring North Korea to the Six-Party Talk?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we believe that sanctions implementation has been effective. You’ve had a variety of people in a variety of settings talk about cooperation that we’re receiving from various countries. We’ve had some successful interdiction of cargo that has been moving out of North Korea. So we think they are being successful and that North Korea is feeling the pressure as a result. Now, will that pressure be enough to convince them to come back to the Six-Party process and to reaffirm the commitments they have made to move towards denuclearization? That’s something that we can’t judge at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:12 p.m.)

DPB # 173

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