Daily Press Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
January 11, 2010
Secretary Has Departed for Asia Pacific Region/ Will Give Speech in Honolulu/ Meet with Japanese FM Tomorrow
Dep. Sec. Steinberg Travels to Colombia
Under Sec. Burns Travels to Russia and Spain
Ambassador King Met With ROK Officials and North Korean Defectors/ Travels to Japan
Science Envoys are Traveling to the Middle East/Indonesia/North Africa
Special Envoy Mitchell Traveled to Paris and Brussels for Meetings
Meetings Will Discuss Iran and a Number of Important Issues/ Possible P-5+1 Meeting on this Trip
Unclear What Iran Announced Regarding Suspension of Uranium Enrichment/ Seeking What the Announcement Means
DPRK and the US Reaffirmed the Importance of Six-Party Talks in Meetings Last Month in Pyongyang/ If DPRK Returns to Six-Party Talks Then a Range of Possibilities Open Up/ US Not the Only Party to an Armistice Thus the Importance of the Six-Party Process/ Will Not Pay DPRK to Return to Six-Party Talks/ Amb. King's Remarks on DPRK's Human Rights Record Not a Detriment to Further Talks/ US Wants DPRK to Improve its Dreadful Human Rights Record/ US Wants a Six-Party Meeting to Take Place/ US Not the Only Country to Have Human Rights Concerns with DPRK/
Mitchell Was Not Signaling Any Course of Action Regarding US Loan Guarantees to Israel/ Loan Guarantees a Tool of US Policy/ US Wants a Comprehensive Peace in the Region
Will Take Question on Israel's Announcement of Wall Construction
Please Direct Questions Regarding Meetings in Caracas with US Officials to the Embassy
US Continues to Promote National Reconciliation
US Offers Congratulations to Croatia in Selecting its Third President Since Independence in Free and Fair Elections
Unknown if the Department Has Received a Letter from Sen. Grassley/ The Department Cooperates with DHS on the Evolution of the Visa Security Program/ Department is Seeking to Improve the Visa Process and Will Implement Any Systemic Changes Required
Contracts up for Bid in Afghanistan that Xe is Bidding Upon
Public Support of International Presence in Afghanistan is Significant/ Afghan People Have Been Remarkably Patient During This Mission/ Poll Numbers Do Not Translate Into Support of the Taliban/ No One Wants the Taliban Restored Into Power/ US Will Continue its Efforts in Afghanistan to Build the Afghans Capacity
US Continues to Look for Ways to Support the Yemeni Government/ Encouraged by President Saleh's Comments/ US and Yemen Will Act in Their National Interests in Partnership
WORLD PERCEPTION OF US
Perception of US Much Better in the Last Year/ US is Living Up to the Intent of the Cairo Speech/ US Adapting Policies in Pakistan and Afghanistan to Make Our Policies More Effective
US is Committed to the CPA Process/ Parties in Sudan Must Take Steps Before the Upcoming Election and Referendum/ Concerned by Violence in Sudan
US Welcomes a Careful Review of Legal Proceedings in the Sheikh Issa Decision/ Questions Raised About the Decision/ US Has Talked with UAE about the Case
US Personnel Obtaining Visas Remains an Issue of Concern
US Remains Concerned with Any Violent Extremist Group that Affiliates with Al Qaida/ Outrage Extremist Groups Hold Hostages
1:17 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Just before coming down, I checked weather.com and noted that where we are in the nation’s capital is roughly 31 degrees and the Secretary a short time ago left Washington for Honolulu where it’s 68 degrees. I suppose the operative question is: "Why aren’t the rest of us on the airplane flying to warmer climes?" But the Secretary has departed Washington for her lengthy trip to the Asia Pacific region. Her first stop is in Honolulu where she will give an important speech on the Asian Pacific security architecture and will also meet with the Japanese foreign minister tomorrow.
We have a number of key leaders here at the Department traveling this week. Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg departs Washington this afternoon for Colombia and Peru. He’ll meet, I believe, tomorrow with Colombian President Uribe as the first step in that trip. Under Secretary Bill Burns will travel to Moscow this week on the 13th and the 14th to discuss our bilateral relationship to focus on the ongoing Bilateral Presidential Commission work that is being done, but also will talk about arms control, Iran, North Korea, and economic cooperation. He will then travel on the 15 – or he’ll travel for meetings on the 15th with his EU political counterparts and will also meet with Foreign Minister Moratinos while he’s in Madrid.
Today, Ambassador Robert King, our Special Envoy for North Korea and Human Rights, met with his – the Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, National Security Adviser Kim Sung-hwan, and Minister for Unification Hyun In-taek, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace Ambassador Wi Sung-la – lac, I’m sorry – and Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights Ambassador Jhe Seong-Ho. He also met with North Korean experts and North Korean defector leaders. He emphasized that strong U.S.-Korean coordination is needed on all aspects of North Korean policy, especially human rights. He will be in Tokyo later this week.
I think, as you know, we have a strong commitment for science diplomacy because of the role that science and technology can play in improving lives around the world. A key part of expanding our capacity for science diplomacy is the establishment of the Science Envoys Program, which President Obama announced during a speech – his speech in Cairo. Secretary Clinton announced the first of these science envoys in November, and they have begun their travel abroad.
Yesterday, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dr. Ahmed Zewail began a trip to the Middle East. He is in Egypt now and will be traveling to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Dr. Bruce Alberts, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, will be traveling to Indonesia shortly, and Elias Zerhouni, former NIH director, will be headed for North Africa in February. And over time, we will name additional science envoys from various disciplines to visit different parts of the world.
The science envoys will seek to deepen existing and develop new relationships, and gather input on areas of potential collaboration aimed at addressing common global challenges and realizing shared goals. Although the envoys are private citizens, they will share what they learn on these trips with the U.S. Government, and the relationships they build will reaffirm our renewed commitment to global engagement.
And finally, before taking your questions, George Mitchell arrived in Paris today, had a meeting with Foreign Minister Kouchner, and very shortly will leave Paris for Brussels where he’ll have meetings with the Quartet at the envoy level tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can you go back to Burns on --
QUESTION: Just quickly on that, is that a Quartet meeting or individual meetings with the members of the Quartet?
MR. CROWLEY: It is a Quartet meeting.
QUESTION: At the --
MR. CROWLEY: At the envoy level, all of the --
QUESTION: Thank you. Got it.
QUESTION: Just going back to Bill Burns’s travel --
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Moscow on the 13th and 14th and then where on the 15th?
MR. CROWLEY: Madrid.
QUESTION: And that’s for an EU what?
MR. CROWLEY: He’ll be meeting with EU political directors.
MR. CROWLEY: Stuff. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific than “stuff?”
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it will be --
QUESTION: I mean, is this an Iran-focused meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: I would not – I would certain – be certain that Iran is among the issues that will be discussed, but there’ll be several.
QUESTION: Is that the primary issue, Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t call it an Iran meeting. I think --
QUESTION: I didn’t ask that. I asked if it was the primary issue.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, it will be – there are a number of important issues that we have. That will be one of them.
QUESTION: And why – you know, typically, discussions of Iran at the political director occur in the P-5+1.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: So clearly, the Russians and the Chinese are not going to be here because he’s only meeting with European political directors. Why not – why not include your partners from Russia and China?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I – we – without announcing something from here, because the P-5+1 meetings are normally announced by the UN’s – the EU special representative, I wouldn’t say that these are exclusive, that there may well be a P-5+1 meeting coming up in the very near future as well.
QUESTION: On this trip?
MR. CROWLEY: It could be part of this trip.
QUESTION: And that would be – the subject of that meeting would indeed be Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So --
MR. CROWLEY: So we will continue our dialogue – I mean, I’m just at --
QUESTION: Why is this so hard?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just at a disadvantage. I mean, we – there will be P-5 – I mean, I’m not calling the Madrid meeting an Iran meeting. You called it a Madrid meeting. But while we’re on the subject --
QUESTION: I didn’t call it a Madrid meeting.
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, an Iran meeting, but --
QUESTION: I didn’t call it that. I said was it going to be the primary subject of the meeting and --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Anyway, there will be – there will be --
QUESTION: -- you read the transcript and you’ll see that.
MR. CROWLEY: I would just say there will be a P-5+1 meeting in the coming days and await further information on that from the EU.
QUESTION: So did the --
MR. CROWLEY: I would not say – don’t link it to Madrid.
QUESTION: But here’s my question about that, and that P-5+ meeting – regardless of what are the number of topics that’ll be discussed, it will include some discussion of Iran, correct?
MR. CROWLEY: I would expect if we get together with our EU – I mean, we are casting a net broadly in terms of our consultations with a number of countries on Iran. It’s a very important subject. It’s a very urgent time. So it will come up in our dialogue with a number of countries. I would expect it to be a part of this discussion.
QUESTION: So the Chinese have dropped their resistance to a P-5+1 meeting; is that what you’re saying?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m saying that you should await formal announcements of a P-5+1 meeting with our counterparts from the EU.
QUESTION: And P.J., on Iran, there are all these reports that they have offered and made yet another offer that for the next couple of months, they would stop enrichment. And there’s some other, apparently, overtures from them. What’s the state of play on that? What’s the --
MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s really unclear to us exactly what they’ve announced. We’ve put forward our proposal in good faith on the Tehran research reactor, and thus far, they have been either unwilling or unable to respond to that. So – but on their latest pronouncement today, we just are being very cautious in terms of understanding exactly what they were saying before we respond to it.
QUESTION: So you’re asking for a clarification or --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I think we’re seeking to try to determine exactly what any announcement that came out of Tehran – what it really means. As far as I know, there’s no change on the ground today as far as I know.
QUESTION: On North Korea, reported by North Korean military broadcast this morning, North Korea will not be attending the Six-Party Talks unless United States agree peace treaty with the – North Korea. What is the U.S. position on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think if you go back to the discussions last month that Ambassador Steve Bosworth and Ambassador Sung Kim had in Pyongyang, I think both sides reaffirmed the importance of the Six-Party process and the significance of the September 2005 joint statement. Now if you go down the joint statement, there are a number of elements outlined there. It talks about denuclearization, the establishment of a peace regime, normalization of relations among all of the parties concerned and economic and energy cooperation.
What we’ve made clear is that we are – if North Korea says yes, it comes back to the Six-Party process. If it makes affirmative steps towards denuclearization, then a wide range of other opportunities open up. But the first – the key here is that North Korea has to come back to us, say yes, come back to the Six-Party process, start working on the – its obligations under the joint communiqué – joint statement, and then we are perfectly willing to have other kinds of discussions.
QUESTION: But the North Korea demands peace treaty with the United States before the Six-Party Talks begin. What is the U.S. position? You think the Six-Party is --
MR. CROWLEY: Our position is that we see – we want to see North Korea come back to the Six-Party process. Remember, if you want to have a negotiation regarding an armistice, we are not the only party to that prospective negotiation. So that’s expressly why we think having a multilateral forum like the Six-Party process is important. So right now, the issue before North Korea is saying yes, coming back to the Six-Party process, and then we can begin to march down the list of issues that we have beginning with the nuclear issue.
QUESTION: P.J., on North Korea, the statement also says that they want the U.S. to drop all sanctions, or they want the international community to drop sanctions before they’ll come back to Six-Party Talks. So I’m wondering, is there any possibility of that and --
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve made clear, going back several months, we’re not going to pay North Korea for coming back to the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: So, no, you’re not going to drop sanctions. So do you see anything different --
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- in this? Before they come back, is what I mean.
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: And do you see anything different in this statement, then, other than the tone? They say that they’re politely or whatever the word was – that they’re respectfully asking for this. So the tone seemed much more polite. Is there anything else you see differently?
MR. CROWLEY: We appreciate the fact that we had a constructive conversation with North Korea last month, but the issue in front of North Korea is (inaudible).
QUESTION: Is there any reaction on Israel’s plans to --
QUESTION: Can we stay on North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Another on North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: P.J., they obviously have said this several times before, but the U.S. position has always been since 2005 that any discussion on a peace treaty comes fairly late in the game. There are several things that the North Koreans need to do --
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: -- before – so this is – this is – I think it was phase three, and we are barely at the end of phase one and we now have rolled back. So is it – can – I mean, we were almost at the end of phase one and then things happened since then. My point is this was another administration that came out with it. So is it still the U.S. position that a peace treaty cannot be discussed until, verifiably and irreversibly, the North Koreans have indeed ended their program?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I just outlined some – a sequence here. We want them back in the Six-Party process. We want to see them take affirmative steps towards denuclearization. But with – but once they’re back within the process, once we have confidence that they’re meeting their obligations, then a wide range of other possible discussions open up.
QUESTION: So the point is: North Korea come back to the Six-Party Talks. If you have any issues to discuss, that’s the place to do it; right?
MR. CROWLEY: Precisely.
QUESTION: Okay. And can I – I’m sorry, I have additional – another one on North Korea, especially – actually on Ambassador King’s comments today. He’s saying things like how awful North Korea is and what a terrible place it is. I recall John Bolton was saying those same things a few years ago and he got hammered for potentially being an impediment to negotiations. Do you view talk like this that he engaged in Seoul today as potentially perhaps detrimental to anything that diplomacy might be trying to do?
MR. CROWLEY: Not at all. I mean, we – it’s expressly why we have the human rights envoy. This is not an either/or situation. We want to see denuclearization in North Korea. We want to see North Korea move down a different path, integrate itself into the region, become a more constructive player. But we also want to see North Korea improve its dreadful human rights record, and that is expressly the reason why we have an envoy. He’s in the region. He’s making it clear to North Korea that we place great attention on this human rights agenda, and we’ll continue to press them to improve their performance.
QUESTION: P.J., how many other human rights envoys, specifically for other countries, do we have?
MR. CROWLEY: I have no idea. But --
QUESTION: It’s just kind of interesting that there’s one specifically for North Korea.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we – it’s why we --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) mandated by Congress?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it – so that has existed for a long time?
MR. CROWLEY: It has existed for some time. And I don’t think he’s the first person to occupy this position.
QUESTION: No. In fact, the last person who occupied the position took some pretty – made some pretty strong statements about the – basically the futility of the Six-Party process. Do you think the – (laughter) – that would be Mr. Lefkowitz --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that --
QUESTION: -- as you may remember.
MR. CROWLEY: -- Robert King shares that view.
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: So are you still willing to have another bilateral talks with North Koreans to resume the Six-Party Talks or you’re just waiting for them to say okay, we’re coming back?
MR. CROWLEY: We want to see them say yes, and then set up a meeting, get the process restarted and see what progress can be made.
QUESTION: So are you prepared to reach out to them and say, okay, why don’t we have another bilateral talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think when we left Pyongyang last month, I think it’s our view the ball is in North Korea’s court. We’d like to see them say yes. We’d like to see a Six-Party meeting take place. I won’t predict at this point – there are a number of ways of getting that done.
QUESTION: Have you ever heard back from the Swedes about Mr. Park?
MR. CROWLEY: Not yet.
QUESTION: On Robert King. Ambassador Kim said the United States will raise human rights issues in the Six-Party Talks.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the human rights issues – I mean, and we’re not the only ones that have human rights concerns – South Korea does, Japan does. So I mean, in any kind of relationship that North Korea’s going to have, either with its neighbors or with the United States, human rights is going to be a significant part of that agenda. And to the extent that, at some point in time, once North Korea’s taken the steps that we’ve outlined, if there is a serious discussion about normalization with the United States, we would expect that North Korea – that human rights will continue to be part of that discussion, and I would not be surprised if other countries share our view.
Are we done with North Korea?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) will the United States bring human rights issue to Six-Party Talks?
MR. CROWLEY: I think anyone who’s having a discussion with North Korea will have human rights on that agenda. I’m not ruling anything in or out. I mean, obviously, human rights is a part – is a significant part of any discussion that we’re going to have with North Korea in the future.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: In response to Senator Mitchell’s statement that the U.S. can withhold support and loan guarantees to Israel, the Israeli finance minister has said that we don’t need to use these guarantees, we are doing just fine. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that – I know that Senator Mitchell’s interview with Charlie Rose last week caused some angst in various quarters, perhaps in Israel. Just to clarify this, he wasn’t signaling any particular course of action. He was simply asked a question with a historical context – are there sticks that are available? And I think he mentioned that this is a step that the United States has taken in the past. He wasn’t signaling that this is something that we’re forecasting in the future. But it is a – it obviously is something that we have in our toolbox. It’s not that we’re out here wielding that particular tool at this particular time.
So our focus – the reason why Senator Mitchell is in the region, or in Europe this week, and he will meet with Israeli officials while he’s in Europe, he’ll have other meetings as we go forward, is expressly to continue to push the parties and all who are supporting this process to get the negotiation restarted as quickly as possible where we can – as he outlined in the Charlie Rose interview and in other cases, put all the issues on the table and see if we can move towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. So this was simply George Mitchell commenting on a matter of history.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the plans to build a wall in the Gaza-Egypt border? Israel’s announcement that they will build a wall in the Gaza --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. Not familiar with it.
QUESTION: On Venezuela, I believe there was a meeting between a U.S. official working at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and the Venezuelan foreign ministry. I would like to hear some comments on that. Do you --
MR. CROWLEY: I think that’s probably a very good question to ask our Embassy in Caracas.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. CROWLEY: Yup.
QUESTION: You didn’t mention the trip of Assistant Secretary for Latin America Arturo Valenzuela, who is right now in Chile. What will be the purpose this trip?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, tell you what. I wasn’t aware of that, although he wasn’t in the staff meeting this morning. So I’ll – if we can outline his itinerary, we’ll do so.
QUESTION: Has something to do with the OAS election? Okay.
MR. CROWLEY: If we have some details on his travel, we’ll put those out.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Some comments about in Honduras about the visit of Craig Kelly –
MR. CROWLEY: He was there last week. He’s back.
QUESTION: Yes. Because the comments were from Zelaya, but nothing officially from the U.S. What’s the –
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, that’s not true. We talked in detail last week about Craig Kelly’s trip to Honduras and continuing to work with all sides. He –
QUESTION: But there was a reaction from Micheletti saying that the U.S. is moving in some direction but the Congress is still maintaining the position that he will continue to be in power. Is there any update on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I tell you, I’m not going to do a back-and-forth from the podium. We – Craig Kelly was in Tegucigalpa last week, continued to work with all sides, to consult with all sides. He had a meeting with everyone that you just mentioned and we continue to encourage efforts to promote national reconciliation and we’re – we remain focused on steps that can be taken between now and January 27th.
QUESTION: Croatia yesterday elected its new president, Mr. Ivo Josipovic. He’s an international law expert and a classical music composer. He is a candidate of the opposition Social Democrat party, and he made the fight against corruption the centerpiece of his campaign. Could he expect U.S. support in this efforts and in continuation of reforms toward the creation EU membership?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we offer our congratulations to Croatia on having selected their third president since independence, in free and fair elections yesterday, and we look forward to working with President-elect Josipovic on issues of common interest as Croatia heads into the final stage of accession to the European Union. And in that dialogue between Croatia and the EU, obviously the effective governance is an important element, fighting corruption, cooperating with the international tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, but we look forward to developing a relationship with him.
QUESTION: Follow up, just – could he expect more support from U.S. as a person, because despite excellent relations between U.S. and Croatia, present – actual President Mesic never received invitation to visit United States in his 10 years’ tenure.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I – it’s – we don’t necessarily personalize our relationships.
MR. CROWLEY: We have a relationship with Croatia because it’s vitally important. It’s a NATO ally. We met with the foreign minister of Croatia last month here at the State Department and we will continue our dialogue with Croatia, but we welcome this result.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi. Blackwater in the news again. Do you know what your responsibility would be of Blackwater in Afghanistan as they bid on a contract there? And a secondary question, would – do you know when the temporary –
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t understand your first question.
QUESTION: Say that again.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t understand your first question.
QUESTION: Blackwater is to have – they’re bidding on a role in Afghanistan right now after the controversy of what happened in Iraq. Do you have any response to that or what their responsibilities would be if they were to assume a role in Afghanistan?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know what contract is up for bid that Blackwater/Xe Services would be bidding on.
QUESTION: Okay, they were also offered –
MR. CROWLEY: But that’s – I mean, there was a – there’s a contracting process that’s evolved here, and then companies that are qualified to bid or to provide those particular services are free to do so. I just don’t know whether they are bidding on a particular contract; if you’ve got something more specific, why don’t you see us afterwards.
QUESTION: Okay. And a temporary contract was expanded in their contract in Iraq. Do you know when that ends – their temporary contract?
MR. CROWLEY: On aviation services?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take that question, whether that – whether DynCorp has now assumed that responsibility or it’s still pending. A fair question.
QUESTION: This is on visas. Senator Grassley – I don’t know if you’ve seen it – has sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking for some information about visa security units. And we talked about this a little bit last week, about that DHS only has a certain amount of visa security posts.
MR. CROWLEY: The 14 units in 12 countries.
QUESTION: Fourteen. Well, he’s charging that the reason that there aren’t more visa security units is he says that these have been due to objections and roadblocks from the State Department, specifically that the Ambassador is inhibiting the ability of DHS to carry out its mission in cities like Kuala Lumpur, London, Nairobi, Istanbul, and Kuwait City even though DHS has identified it as needing them.
So my question is: Has the State Department blocked the expansion of the program in these cities and others? Or is it due to a lack of capability on DHS’s part to actually man the posts?
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s step back. First of all, I don’t know that we’ve received the letter yet. We’ll be happy to look at it and respond to Senator Grassley. We have cooperated fully with DHS in terms of the development of the Visa Security Program and the establishment of visa security units. I know of no obstacles that the State Department has put forward to prevent DHS from adding security units to various locations.
QUESTION: So if they wanted to expand in any location, you have no problem with that?
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work with DHS on the evolution of the Visa Security Program.
QUESTION: No, but you don’t have a problem with them expanding into any particular posts?
MR. CROWLEY: Conceptually, no.
QUESTION: And then also, he also raises the issue about how many other foreign nationals are classified as possible terrorists as opposed to actual, I guess, card-carrying terrorists, so that they’re – you know, that perhaps if you’re an actual terrorist, that your visa would be – that your visa would be revoked. And this is what we were talking about with Mr. Abdulmutallab, that he wasn’t classified as an actual terrorist, but rather, a possible terrorist.
And what kind of steps are you taking to ensure that possible terrorists’ visas are watched more closely than people, you know, who aren’t possible terrorists?
MR. CROWLEY: I would only say that in light of what happened on December 25, as the President has said, as the Secretary has said and others, we are looking throughout this process to see how we can improve it. And obviously, we are cooperating fully and will implement any systemic changes that come about. I’m not – I can’t do – can’t exactly go through that from here.
QUESTION: I just had a question for you on Afghanistan – if you have any reaction to the latest poll numbers on the ground there, which show that public criticism of the United States presence there remains high?
MR. CROWLEY: I think public support of the international presence in Afghanistan I think is still significant. I haven’t seen the latest poll numbers per se, but I suppose a couple of things to note there. We are in the ninth year of our presence there in a country that is – that has a particular point of view historically about the presence of foreign elements within its borders.
The Afghan people have been remarkably patient. I think they still welcome the support that they’re receiving from the United States and the international community on this mission, and the importance of international assistance to actually make governance at all levels – national, regional, local – more effective so that that government is serving the needs of the Afghan people.
I think it’s also important that whatever the up-and-down of public polling regarding the international presence there, including the United States, what’s also significant is that if any kind of adjustment in poll numbers does not translate into support for the Taliban, I think – and what we’ve seen in terms of looking at public opinion polling in Afghanistan is that the Taliban remains in the single digits. No one wants to see the Taliban restored to power in Afghanistan. So our challenge, obviously, is to continue to communicate to the Afghan people what we’re doing on their behalf, and certainly, international support for the electoral process. It was a significant step.
Obviously, now, we’re watching closely as the Karzai administration and the parliament put together the key ministers of the national government. We’re going to continue our efforts in Afghanistan, but we also recognize, as the President has outlined, that we need to continue to move as rapidly as possible because clearly, we want, as I’m sure the Afghan people want, to be able to see this transition where functions that may well be done today by the international community – that we’re building up the capacity of the Afghan Government to be able to assume these responsibilities over the next couple of years.
QUESTION: Can I ask a similar question about --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- a related country? And that would be Yemen. How attuned are you to anti-American, anti-Western, or anti-foreign sentiment in Yemen? And do you have any concerns that those feelings will hinder or hurt your attempts to help the Yemeni Government?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we continue to look for ways in which we can support the Yemeni Government on a military basis, on a civilian basis, on an economic basis. And we are encouraged by recent comments by President Salih that he’s determined that Yemen will stand up to the challenge posed by al-Qaida, and we’re prepared to help Yemen in that process.
But obviously, we’re – we continue to be focused on – we’re not running a popularity contest, per se, but clearly, attitudes towards the United States in specific countries is important in almost all countries of the world. During 2009, we were encouraged by the fact that polling numbers of the United States improved significantly since the inauguration of President Obama.
QUESTION: In Yemen?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question.
QUESTION: Well, I’m --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But I’m wondering what the – I mean, I don’t know the answer to that question, but if you have it, that would be --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I think, broadly speaking, the trajectory was quite constructive. Now, it is an important dimension of the partnerships that we are trying to build with any number of countries, Yemen included. But what I was --
QUESTION: Right. But when you specifically talk about Yemen, though, I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- it would be interesting to know that question if polling data did show that. But do you have any concerns that the strong feelings about foreign intervention or foreign presence in Yemen is going to hurt the fight against extremism there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will continue to act in our national interest. Yemen will continue to act in its national interest. We think the partnership is important to both countries in terms of combating extremist elements inside Yemen that pose a danger to that country, pose a danger to the region, and as we saw, has – poses a danger to the United States. Clearly, your ability to sustain a relationship and support over time has to be founded in popular opinion. So it is important, and we will continue to work with the government in Yemen and to explain what we’re doing and what we’re not doing.
But ultimately, as we – whether it’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, this is a shared fight. It’s a shared responsibility. But ultimately, it is the country itself that has to step up and address those extremist elements within its own borders.
QUESTION: But just to follow up on your positive trajectory around the world, I mean, are you citing that because of the President’s speech in Cairo?
MR. CROWLEY: I think if you look at some polling that we’ve done, some polling that other entities such as Pew have done, the fact is that from where we were a couple years ago, the trajectory is positive.
QUESTION: Well, do you think you’re going to be able to sustain that unless you implement the promises that President Obama made during that Cairo speech, for instance?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the President pledged – he outlined a vision for the region and the world. He committed the United States to work constructively with the region and the world. We think we are living up to both the letter, spirit, and intent of his speech, and – but you’re right. This is something that we have to do and have to sustain over time, and where the people of the world see a country that is a willing partner working constructively with governments around the world, making sure that as we act, we’re doing so taking into account what that government wants to do.
That’s one of the reasons why we’ve adapted our program in a country like Pakistan, for example, so that we are making sure that we are – what we are trying to do on behalf of Pakistan actually addresses something that is important to the Pakistani people. And we will continue to try to work as constructively as we can with countries of the world, including Pakistan, including Afghanistan, including Yemen.
QUESTION: I have a question on Sudan. The special envoy said this morning that if the international community doesn’t act, that there’s an urgent need of action in that country, or otherwise they fear massive violence could return.
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if the United States had a – was committed to helping Sudan, if they had a plan of action for the next months there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would go back to Friday when the Secretary of State made a detailed announcement on the anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. In that statement, she made clear we are committed, along with the international community to support the CPA process. But there are fundamental things that the parties inside Sudan need to do. We do have a plan of action working constructively and collectively with countries in the region and with Sudan, all of the parties directly with Sudan. There is a plan of action that gets them to the election in April and to the referendum next January.
Time is of the essence. We are – remain concerned about violence that has – unrest that has happened in Sudan, and we want to make sure that there are no obstacles to making sure that what happens in April, what happens next January reflects the will of the Sudanese people, all of the Sudanese people.
QUESTION: I had a question for you on Abu Dhabi and on a member of the royal family there who had been under charges for torture of an Afghan man. He was acquitted over the weekend, I think. Do you have any reaction to that? I remember that when these charges first came about, the State Department did have some strong remarks.
MR. CROWLEY: The case of Sheik Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan was a case handled by the courts of the United Arab Emirates. We recognize that all members of Emirati society must stand equal before the law, and we remain concerned for the victim of this horrible crime. We would welcome a careful review of the judge’s decision and an assessment of all available legal options to ensure that the demands of justice are fully met in this case, and we will continue to closely monitor it.
QUESTION: It sounds like you don’t think that the actual legal procedures were followed in this case. It sounds like that’s what you’re saying.
MR. CROWLEY: No, I didn’t say that.
QUESTION: Well, it sounds like you’re saying that everybody needs to be treated equally, and then you’re implying that this was not the case this time.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not implying that at all.
QUESTION: Well, we’re – no, no, no. If you’re not implying that, then let’s just ask you: Do you think that this gentleman was treated as equally as any other citizen in an Abu Dhabi court would have been?
MR. CROWLEY: I think ultimately, this has to be something that is resolved inside of the United Arab Emirates for the benefit of all Emirati citizens. We will continue to watch the case carefully, and as I said, we would welcome a careful review of the judge’s decision.
QUESTION: Do you think that the demands of justice were met?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that there are still questions that have been raised by this case. I think it’s important those questions be resolved not so much to satisfy the United States, as to satisfy the citizens of the United Arab Emirates.
QUESTION: What questions? Sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to adjudicate the case from here.
QUESTION: I didn’t ask you to. You said there have been questions that have been raised, and I’m asking what questions.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go. I’m not going to go any further.
QUESTION: P.J., I want to ask you if anybody plans to or has brought this up with the government over there yet?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say that – whether we’ve talked to them about this – the judgment of the case. We have talked to them about the case.
QUESTION: Have you been able to get visas for your officials and contractors for Pakistan?
QUESTION: Sorry, there’s a follow-up.
QUESTION: Hundreds of them were in delay.
MR. CROWLEY: Hang on a second, let --
QUESTION: Have you been able to get visas for your officials and contractors for Pakistan? Hundreds of them were being delayed.
MR. CROWLEY: I think it remains an issue of concern that we are continuing to talk to the Government of Pakistan about.
QUESTION: On the UAE case, is this going to affect at all the implementation of the U.S.-UAE 123 deal? Because that was raised up before this --
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: Several American and international media outlets reported that the al-Qaida in the Maghreb they announced they wanted to execute one of the French detainees. So what’s the American position concerning this case? And also, what’s the overall assessment of the United States of the threat of al-Qaida in the region, also on all the efforts made to curb their proliferation in the area?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we remain concerned about and focused on any group that chooses to ally itself with the al-Qaida network. It is seemingly part of the al-Qaida strategy and probably part of a diffusion of the threat that we see from violent extremism around the world. We are focused on al-Qaida in the Maghreb. We’re focused on al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula. We’re working closely with governments in both locations to try to minimize this threat both to individual countries, but also to the region as a whole. And this is a shared threat. It’s a shared responsibility. It’s an outrage that these groups hold people hostage. And it’s an outrage that at times, they execute them for their political purposes.
And we think, over time, this is expressly why support for al-Qaida globally and locally has diminished since – over the past few years. And we are determined to work constructively with all countries that – in the interest of justice and peace and stability around the world.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:59 p.m.)
DPB # 4
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