Daily Press Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
January 15, 2010
MOU Signed Granting Airport Control / Flights / Augmenting Airport Staff / Indefinite Role
Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Dominican Republic President Fernandez / Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim Call
Secretary Clinton's Trip to Haiti / Press Arrangements
Adoptions of Haitian Children / Aware of Issue / Talking to Homeland Security
President Obama's Pledge of $100 Million
Hotline / Status of Americans / Death of State Department Employee
DART Teams / Coordinated and Combined Approach
Secretary Clinton Meeting with President Preval / Sovereign Nation / National Police Force / MINUSTAH Augmentation / 82nd Airborne
P-5+1 Meeting in New York / Bill Burns Attending / Chinese Not Sending Political Director / Look Forward to Meeting
Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Foreign Minister Yang / Google Announcement / Continue to Talk to Chinese about the Issue / Further Discussions
P-5+1 Process and Iran / Open to Engagement / Consulting Broadly
Refueling Mission in the Indian Ocean / Matter for the New Government to Decide
Important Contributions to Mission in Afghanistan / Shared Interests
4:50 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Very quickly, to just add a little bit of texture. This afternoon, the Haitian Prime Minister Bellerive signed a memorandum of understanding granting airport control to the United States. Flights are now being spaced and congestion has decreased. We hope to reach a capacity of 90 planes a day at the airport in Port-au-Prince. And also we reached an agreement where U.S. physicians who are now on the ground in Haiti will be allowed to treat quake victims, just some of the legal processes that are necessary to make sure that we are able to do the lifesaving work that is before us.
As of mid-afternoon this afternoon, we’ve moved about 107 – 197 American citizens, as the Secretary said, as part of this ongoing evacuation. So by the end of the day, we’ll be – have crossed about a thousand American citizens, either official or private, who have been evacuated out of Haiti and are either on their way back or already back in the United States.
And finally, the Secretary spoke today with Dominican Republic President Fernandez. We’re going to, as we’ve suggested in the last couple of days, use assets within the Dominican Republic to – as a hub to help augment the logistical network that we’re setting up. And she also spoke today with Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim, and during that conversation, in fact, the prospect of an international donors conference did come up and they agreed that this was something that was vitally important.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: On your first point about the airport control, is that indefinite that the U.S. is in control of the airport, or is there a time limit on it? And can you also address the question about press coverage of the Secretary’s trip?
MR. CROWLEY: On your first point, obviously, we will assume this responsibility as long as it’s appropriate, and to the point where the Haitian Government is able and ready to resume that capability. We’re obviously – the Secretary has just made the decision to go a short time ago. We don’t even know the aircraft on which she will go, so we’re working the press arrangements. And I think we’re also in contact with your leadership about how to best do that.
QUESTION: Could you talk a little bit about adoptions of Haitian children? There are about 250, I think, parents who were in line to adopt Haitian children, had specifically identified someone that was in the pipeline. What are you trying to do with these – I think you, apparently had a meeting on Friday with a bunch of international organizations to discuss this. What is the state of play regarding that?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. There are roughly somewhere up to 300 cases that we’re aware of, where there were adoptions that were in some process. We are very aware of the issue. We are talking to the Department of Homeland Security about this, but we have nothing to announce at this point.
QUESTION: Well, can you just talk a little – without anything to announce, can you talk a little bit more in specificity about some of your efforts? Is it true that you met with some international adoptions organizations, and also congressional staffers, apparently, were here? I mean, it’s obviously something they are taking very seriously.
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a good question. I don’t know. But we – it is something that our Consular Affairs people are working through.
QUESTION: Can you take the Bob question?
MR. CROWLEY: All right, hang on. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to go back Bob’s question, can you explain – Bob asked if it was indefinite. And you said, look, we’ll assume this responsibility for as long as necessary, until the Haitian Government can take it up. So it is indefinite – know that the documents that were signed don’t have some kind of a timeline, like three months or six months. It’s sort of open-ended?
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t seen the document, but I – as we’ve said, we – as the Secretary said, we are helping the Government of Haiti in ways that are vitally important to them. The – we’ve augmented the airport staff, those who had manned the airport. Understandably, some were on the job, but many are home dealing with the impact and the aftermath of the earthquake. So it is something that we thought was important. It’s important in the immediate term to be able to flow the supplies that are now coming into the airport, the medical – the equipment, food, water, materials for shelter.
So there – the pace of operations is such that we had a capability that, quite honestly, the Government of Haiti does not currently have. And when we first met with President Preval, this was one of the first priorities that he mentioned is making sure that the airport could be open and used for the vitally important humanitarian work. So, we will take this for a period of time. And at a point in the future, who knows? I mean, these operations go through set phases. You can’t quite predict exactly. We’re reaching the end of the immediate emergency response phase. We’re going to go into a recovery phase. At some point in the future, by mutual agreement, we will turn this responsibility back over to the Haitian Government. That – part of that will be determined by – at what point will the military role transition to other capabilities. So yeah, indefinite’s a pretty good word.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Elise’s question about the adoption.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you please take the question, just because a lot of these cases have now been turned into a kind of a legal limbo with the loss of records in Haiti and things like that? So my understanding was that there are some talks between the two governments. If you can just take it as a taken question.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it is an issue that we’re working within our own government and I just don’t know what more you can say at this point. It is – it will be something that – obviously it’s very important to the families that have been working through the adoption process. We recognize that. We obviously want to be able to bring these children to safety, but there are issues – there are complexities in terms of where they – what their status is in Haiti. And there’s a legal process that we have to work through as part --
QUESTION: It shouldn’t be hard to confirm, though, that there was a meeting here on Friday with a group of international aid – adoption organizations and more than 30 congressional staffers, House Offices of Representatives of people --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, I’ll take the question as to whether there was a meeting on this subject.
QUESTION: Can we get an update on the numbers real quick? Just on --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. Which numbers?
QUESTION: I guess if you can give us a total dollar figure on U.S. aid right now, that would be really helpful, plus casualties, injured --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, any aid figure is really difficult. The President pledged $100 million. I think in terms of the immediate response, it’s probably going to go higher than that. But I don’t think we can really put a specific dollar figure on it at this point.
What other figures?
QUESTION: Just – you gave us – if you have casualties, injured, the status of U.S. officials.
MR. CROWLEY: I have the – the numbers haven’t really changed all that much through the day. I would say we have the hotline that we’ve opened for people, as the Secretary alluded to. We’ve received – we’ve opened about 6,000 cases in terms of people have reported in about with questions about their loved ones. We’ve already been able to resolve about 1,000 of those. So we are actively working both here and in Haiti to try to make sure that we can determine as best we can the status of American citizens in Haiti.
But in terms of fatalities, we have the one State Department employee that we talked about yesterday. We’re aware of five confirmed private citizens who have perished in this. We think that there are, at least that we’re aware of, perhaps up to 15 others who may be presumed dead at this point.
MR. CROWLEY: One-five. One-five.
QUESTION: What did you say? As many as?
MR. CROWLEY: As many as 15 others. But clearly, we recognize that this number is going to go up as the days go along.
QUESTION: In addition to the six first –
MR. CROWLEY: One, five, and 15.
QUESTION: It’s in addition to the six you first confirmed?
MR. CROWLEY: So we have one confirmed official fatality, we have five confirmed private citizens, we have 15 others that we presume at this point, based on information that we have.
QUESTION: And is everybody accounted for among the official U.S. delegations or –
MR. CROWLEY: We still have three unaccounted for.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There is some reporting that China is disinclined to attend the political directors meeting in New York on Saturday. Is that –
MR. CROWLEY: There will be a P-5+1 meeting tomorrow afternoon. We will be sending our political director, Under Secretary Bill Burns. We understand that China will not be sending their political director, but we look forward to the meeting. We think it will be very useful as we continue our consultations with the international community on the situation with respect to Iran and its nuclear ambitions. We look forward to the meeting. And China, I believe, will be represented.
QUESTION: Will be represented?
MR. CROWLEY: Will be represented.
QUESTION: What do you hope to get out of this meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: You know, I think it’s a step in the process. And we haven’t had a P-5+1 meeting – I think this will be the first of the year. It comes at a point where we continue to evaluate where we are with respect to Iran. And as we’ve said many, many times, the door remains open to engagement, but we are looking at ways in which we might be able to apply pressure to Iran, and we’ll continue these consultations both within the P-5+1 process and more broadly. So it is an important step in the process.
QUESTION: And given that the ostensible agreement that was reached in Geneva in October for – regarding the Tehran research reactor, one, are you aware of any sign whatsoever that the Iranians still have any interest in that agreement? And then secondly, on the assumption that you don’t have any such signs, is it fair to say that what you are hoping to get out of the meeting is some kind of an agreement to pursue further sanctions, even if you don’t actually agree on what those might be, tomorrow?
MR. CROWLEY: You mean notwithstanding an Iranian deadline applied to their unacceptable counteroffer to our quite reasonable offer, we’re working this as a process. I wouldn’t – so the meeting tomorrow is useful, important. I wouldn’t expect a particular deliverable out of this meeting, but we are broadly consulting not only within the P-5+1, within the new membership of the Security Council.
And more broadly, on the way forward, we are communicating our concern and the concern of the international community for Iran’s inability or unwillingness to respond to what we consider to be a good faith offer. And we’re just going to continue down this road. It doesn’t preclude that Iran could not come back at some point and express a willingness to engage, but we are disappointed that they have not up to this point. And part of this process, and we think part of the actions that we will continue to discuss as options with our partners, will communicate to Iran that there are consequences for the steps that either has taken or seems unwilling to take.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Haiti for a second?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Just on the search-and-rescue effort, can you kind of explain how these teams choose where they go? I mean, is it based on where they think they’re most likely to find people, larger building – can you explain that a little bit? And then whether you actually have the locations the four American teams right now.
MR. CROWLEY: I think in terms of hour-to-hour operational details, I would defer to the Disaster Assistance Response Team, the DART folks down on the ground in Haiti. It’s hard to characterize it from here. Their work continues. We understand there’s an increasing sense of urgency because you’re – we’re coming to the outer edges of the window where we think that people could still be successfully pulled out of the rubble. We’re going to continue with this effort. We’ve put more search-and-rescue capability on the ground today. So there is an urgency to this.
Since they arrived, working with the assessment team, they’ve been able to reach out, to move out through the city and, through their means, they’ve got dogs, they’ve got other ways in which they can both identify sites that they think – where they think there might be someone alive trapped in the rubble. And based on their analysis, they have – and also reporting that’s coming in from people who have been able to hear voices in the rubble. And they have done their work. And then as more teams have come in internationally from different parts of the world, there’s been this coordinated and combined approach to try to get to as many places as possible and rescue as many of the victims as possible.
QUESTION: Now Japan?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Japan’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean ended today. Do you have any comment about that?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t. Obviously, this has been a matter for the new government to decide. That said, Japan continues to make important contributions to the mission in Afghanistan. The Secretary had a wide-ranging bilateral discussion with the foreign minister in Honolulu earlier this week. We look forward to continuing our joint efforts and shared interests. We will look forward to recognizing the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan security alliance on Tuesday. But this was a decision that Japan made, and obviously we’ve been in consultation them for some time about this and other issues.
QUESTION: President Preval has apparently said that he feels like his national police force is adequate to control the city, and he says that the 82nd Airborne is welcome for support but that he believes the national police should be in the lead. Has that been conveyed to U.S. officials and is there any response?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, President Preval met with the ambassador today. He had a conversation with President Obama as well. As the Secretary said, she’ll be meeting with him tomorrow. We will continue to go through and work with the Government of Haiti. We’ve had many conversations with them since the earthquake. They have communicated to us what they think the priorities are. And we always have to remember here, Haiti is sovereign. And to the extent that they have capabilities and they believe that those capabilities are meeting their own national interest, we are there to support them.
So the Haitian national police force is still functioning. Obviously, like other elements of Haitian society, it has undoubtedly taken a serious hit, based on the events of this week. To the extent that they need to be augmented, you do have MINUSTAH there and they are doing their own augmentation of the security force as they have been for many years. And the 82nd Airborne is there in a humanitarian and a disaster relief role. And that said, they obviously come with capabilities. And to the extent – we have offered those capabilities to the Government of Haiti and we’ll work with them in terms of what they think the appropriate role for the 82nd Airborne is.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: This morning, I think you told us that Secretary Clinton had had a conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang at some point this week, although you didn’t say when, and I think you said you did not know whether the issue of Google came up in that conversation.
MR. CROWLEY: It was – it’s been in the last several days. I can try to place it.
QUESTION: So post the Google announcement on Tuesday, in other words?
MR. CROWLEY: Pre – prior to the announcement.
QUESTION: Okay. Did the topic of Google come up in that conversation?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: Okay. Have you called in – have you had any further contacts with Chinese diplomats in Washington since yesterday’s lunch with the DCM?
MR. CROWLEY: Not yet, no.
QUESTION: Do you plan --
QUESTION: Do you plan to call anybody in? Sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we will continue to talk to China on this issue. It touches on things that are very important to us: internet freedom, network security, and human rights. And we will – as the Secretary said earlier this week, this incident raises serious questions, and we have and will continue to seek answers from China. And we will have further conversations with China, but I’m not aware that there have been any since yesterday.
QUESTION: Yes, you said that there’ll be a demarche and that’s kind of a broad term. Is it – would it be a protest or a complaint or just an inquiry?
MR. CROWLEY: We will have further discussions with China. When those occur, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 5:09 p.m.)
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