Daily Press Briefing - September 17

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Secretary Visited Members of Congress Regarding Refugee Issues/ Met with Deputy Foreign Minister of Qatar/ Meeting Later today with Foreign Minister of Estonia/ Friday's Brookings Speech to Focus on the Issues for Discussion at UNGA
    • Meeting at the Department on Climate Change
    • Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell Arrived in Japan for Meetings
    • Condolences for Afghan and Italian Deaths in Kabul Today
    • Congratulations to the President of the European Commission
    • Independence Day for Chile Tomorrow
    • Terror Strips the People of Somalia a Chance at Peace/ Commend African Union/Burundi/Uganda for Their Continued Support of the TNG
  • CUBA
    • No Readout on Cuban Talks Regarding Mail Delivery
    • Ongoing Dialogue with Dalai Lama
    • No Readout of Today's Talks/ Will Remain in the Region for Further Talks/ U.S. Objective is to Renew Negotiations
    • U.S. Continues to Review the Report/ Concerns with the Content of the Report/ Report Should Not be an Impediment to Returning to Peace Talks/ U.S. Will Work with Its International Partners/ One-Sided Mandate for the Report
    • We Refer Details of the Terrorist Raid to the Indonesian Government/ U.S. Did Not Participate/ A Welcomed Step for Indonesia's Fight Against Terrorism
    • Senior Level Meetings are Underway at NATO HQ/ Czech Republic/ Poland/ U.S. Adapting Plans for Missile Defense in Europe Due to Enhanced Technological Capabilities/ A New Round of Dialogue Underway Regarding Missile Defense/ Under Secretary of State Tauscher Leading the Department Delegation/ Not a Policy Shift/ Opportunities for Cooperation for Future Missile Defense Deployments/ The Approach Allows for a More Integrated Approach Than the Fixed Locations in the Czech Republic and Poland
    • Ministerial Meeting with Russia at UNGA/ Participation with Russia at the October 1 P-5+1 Talks  
  • IRAN
    • IAEA Report/ U.S. Shares Sentiment That Iran Should Return all Americans Held in the Country/ Swiss Ambassador Unable to Meet with American Hikers/ Iran Has Not Granted Access to the American Hikers
    • No Participation Expected by the De Facto Regime at UNGA/ San Jose Process Continues to be the Way Forward
    • Met with Bolivian Counterparts on Drug Reports
    • Assistant Secretary Campbell Will Discuss North Korea with Japanese Counterparts/ U.S. Committed to Six-Party Talks and Enforcing Security Council Resolutions/ U.S. Willing to Engage in a Bilateral Discussion with North Korea in the Context of the Six-Party Talks
    • Meeting with the New Government on North Korea/ Fully Expect Japan to Play an Integral Role in the Six-Party Process
    • Today's Meetings Will Focus on a Range of Broad Issues/ Qatar an Important Ally in the Region
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 17, 2009


1:22 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Department of State. I’ll talk about several things before we get to what I suspect is the issue of the day.

First, talking about the Secretary’s activities today, she was up on the Hill this morning consulting with the ranking member and – chairs and ranking members of judiciary subcommittees regarding a proposed refugee admissions report for FY 2010. She also today has met with the minister of state for foreign affairs of Qatar, part of a regular consultation between U.S. and Qatari officials on a broad range of bilateral and regional issues. I think Mideast process, Iran, and energy – greater challenge of energy security were among the topics discussed.

This afternoon – in fact, we’ll have to end this in about 45 minutes, if not sooner – the Secretary will have a bilateral with His Excellency Urmas Paet, the minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Estonia. I think there will be a camera spray at the top of that meeting. Obviously, they’ll talk about a number of issues such as developments in Afghanistan, the NATO alliance, and bilateral cooperation on cyber and energy security.

Also here at the Department today, this afternoon begins a two-day meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. Leading the effort will be Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, and Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change. This meeting will build on progress made at the leaders meeting in July in L'Aquila, Italy. They’ll focus specifically on areas of mitigation, adaptation, and technology.

Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell has arrived in Japan for consultations with senior members of the new administration. We expect, while he’s there through September 19, he will have a variety of meetings with counterparts in the ministries of foreign affairs and defense, obviously talking about a number of security and regional issues.

We are deeply saddened at the loss of life of the brutal attack in Afghanistan today. And we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims that resulted in – the incident resulted in multiple Afghan and Italian deaths, as well as numerous injuries. But we remain united in our commitment to defeat the extremist elements whose intentions are to destroy the freedom and dignity to which all people are entitled.

We also extend our congratulations to José Manuel Barroso on his election to a second term as president of the European Commission.

And finally before taking your questions, tomorrow we wish to extend a happy birthday to Chile, their 199th anniversary of their independence on September 18.

QUESTION: As long as you’re extending things, do you have anything to extend to the victims of the attack in Somalia, which apparently is being claimed as retaliation for the U.S. airstrike and raid?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t. I can’t speak to the intention of those who might have been responsible, those who continue to conduct acts of terror as they seek to strip the Somali people of an opportunity to determine their own future and achieve lasting peace and stability. We continue to be supportive of the Transitional Federal Government. We reject violence and extremism as a solution to Somalia’s challenges, and we hope that the TFG, as we continue to support it, as do – as does the African Union, that we can help to regain political and economic stability in that country.

Obviously, we commend the ongoing efforts of the governments of Burundi and Uganda and the African Union as they continue to support the TFG in Somalia.


QUESTION: Can you tell us something about those conversations between Cuba and the United States concerning the postal service?

MR. CROWLEY: I actually can’t. Those conversations are going on today. I expect we’ll probably have a better readout, sense of the meetings, tomorrow. I think we talked about that extensively yesterday.

QUESTION: Is there any way you can get us a readout tonight?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll see what we can do. Sure.

QUESTION: P.J., a question on – as far as presidential delegation to India to meet with His Holiness Dalai Lama. Is that something – what’s – first of all, what role Secretary is playing in that delegation? And also, is there something to open the door for Dalai Lama to visit Tibet? (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that that delegation was led by Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President. I believe our Under Secretary Maria Otero was part of the delegation. Obviously, it’s part of our ongoing dialogue with the Dalai Lama. But beyond that, I don’t think I have much to add.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on Senator Mitchell?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe he is in today – I think he started the day in Cairo and was in Amman, I believe is now en route back to Israel, where he’ll have follow-on meetings tomorrow. I have not received any kind of an update today on specific activities.

QUESTION: There is speculation that things are not going well and that the idea of a three-way meeting between the President – between the U.S. President and Netanyahu and Abbas is not – is no longer a possibility for --

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t heard that. Obviously, our objective is to get back to a negotiation, and the process of getting to that point continues.

QUESTION: What about – do you have any further reaction to the Goldstone report? Is it Goldstone or Goldsmith?

MR. CROWLEY: Goldstone.

QUESTION: Goldstone. Yeah. Netanyahu came out today, rejected it; it was a bad thing. Yesterday, Ian had said that you had some concerns. I’m wondering if you are prepared to elaborate on what those concerns are and what you plan to do.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as to the contents of the report, we continue to review it. But I think from our standpoint, let’s remember the underlying causes of the tragedy in Gaza early this year, which was the lack of a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think we do have concerns about the contents of the report. We are beginning to consult with countries represented in the Human Rights Council and to talk about what to do in light of the report.

But I think we should be cautious at this point that the report should not be used as a mechanism to add impediments to getting back to the peace process. It would be a sad irony if this report that is designed to protect human rights gets in the way of the process that we believe will benefit all in the region and ultimately lead to greater and deeper human rights in the Middle East. So we will continue our efforts through the UN, through the Human Rights Council, other national bodies looking forward – not backward – to try to get to a negotiation that leads to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Yesterday, when Ian said – what Ian said was that you had concerns about some of the recommendations and that – you said today that you have concern about the content.

MR. CROWLEY: I would not disagree – differentiate between the two. Different ways of saying the same thing.

QUESTION: Well, can you be more specific about what --

MR. CROWLEY: We have reviewed the report.

QUESTION: -- content you are concerned about.

MR. CROWLEY: We have reviewed the report. There was a one-sided unacceptable mandate for this fact-finding investigation and that mandate was set forth before we joined the Human Rights Council. Now we have a report. We’re going to take a look at it. I’m not going to talk about the substance of the report at this point. But in terms of its recommendations, we will consult with various countries and determine how to take action going forward. But again, our --

QUESTION: I understand you don’t want this to interfere with the peace – attempts to restart the peace process. But I don’t understand why you can’t say what the content is that bothers you.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to – at this point, I’m not prepared to go into the content of the report. We continue to evaluate it. We have some concerns about it. We’re talking to countries about those concerns and about ways to work going forward within the Human Rights Council on this report.

QUESTION: Can you say --


QUESTION: -- whether specifically you have concern about the report’s recommendation that this be referred to the ICC, this report of the council?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to talk about their – specifics of the report. We’re still reviewing it.

QUESTION: Do you think that that would be prolonging this discussion about the report? Is that your concern or --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Do you think that referring it to any of these other bodies would prolong the discussion? Is that your concern?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to talk about it.


QUESTION: P.J., do you have anything to say about the killing by Indonesian forces of a guy who was identified as their top terrorist suspect? And was the United States involved in any way in the pursuit of this guy or will it – and will it be involved in any follow-up?

MR. CROWLEY: The Indonesian National Police raided a suspected terrorist safe house in Solo and Central Java today. As for the specific details, we’ll refer to the Indonesian Government. We did not participate in the operations nor did we provide information that led to the raid. Obviously, this potentially represents a significant step forward for Indonesia in its battle with political extremists.

Yes, Mary Beth.

QUESTION: P.J., on missile defense, when were Poland and Czechoslovakia notified about this new policy, this change? And is there a U.S. team right now? Some high-level officials have gone to Poland to talk to the government there about this.

MR. CROWLEY: A high-level delegation has been today in the Czech Republic, in Poland. They are currently at NATO headquarters briefing the NAC. We’ve had a number of senior-level meetings both within the NATO context, with individual countries as we’ve gone through this review process. Clearly, it is – it’s obviously a shift in the specific components of the missile defense system, the architecture of the missile defense system. But that said, it is – continues our commitment to the security of Europe and our close collaboration with our NATO partners.

There have been some suggestions that we are abandoning missile defense; we’re doing nothing of the kind. As you heard from Secretary Gates and General Cartwright and the President a while ago, obviously we are adapting our plans for missile defense in Europe based on the changing nature of the threat and the advance of technology. The system that we’re putting in place, actually, we believe offers greater opportunity for collaboration, participation as we go forward. It’s a much more flexible, adaptable system. It has the potential for integrating a lot of different elements both in a bilateral context, within a NATO context. The systems that we will be fielding as part of this missile defense architecture – Patriot systems, Aegis systems – are systems that other countries have as well.

QUESTION: Were they just --

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Were they just told yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the President just made a decision, so now, the high-level delegation was informing these countries and NATO about the decision, and part of their message is, obviously, given this shift from a relatively static system to a much more flexible, adaptable system, this is actually the beginning of a different conversation over how countries can participate in this, collaborate, opportunities for research and development going forward.

So this is not the end of something; it’s really the beginning of a new set of dialogue with NATO, with individual countries, and charting out how they may participate in a different scheme.

QUESTION: So the – I’m sorry, the high-level officials, when did they go over?

MR. CROWLEY: They left yesterday.

QUESTION: Left yesterday. And who is – who’s leading that group?

MR. CROWLEY: From the State Department, you have Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher. I think you had Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy.

QUESTION: When were the Russians told?

MR. CROWLEY: The Russians have been told, I would believe, sometime today.


MR. CROWLEY: I do not know. Good question.

QUESTION: As you put it, this policy – sorry – policy shift, are you hoping that it’s going to gain Russia’s cooperation regarding Iran’s nuclear program?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I wouldn’t call it a policy shift. I mean, this is adapting our missile defense plans to a very specific threat and a changing threat. The old architecture was based on the projected emergence of a long-range missile threat that, according to our intelligence, is taking longer to materialize. In the meantime, we’ve seen advances by Iran in terms of short- and mid-level – mid-range missiles. And so we are adapting our missile defense plans to this changing threat and also to the advance – the advancements in technology, a great deal of testing, for example, with the SM-3, the standard missile package.

So we thought that through this effort we can field missile defense more rapidly. We can field it in a more cost-effective manner. This allows for greater collaboration among NATO allies and partners. And it even offers ongoing cooperation with Russia on – this is a shared threat that Russia, the United States, Europe have, and this should not be seen in zero-sum terms.

QUESTION: Besides nuclear program, the missile – I mean, besides missile program, Iran’s nuclear program. Are you see any, you know, more cooperation by Russians regarding Iran’s nuclear program, not missile program?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, on that score, we have a P-5+1 meeting coming up on October 1st. Russia, at the ministerial level, at the political director level, will be part of that. Before the October 1st meeting, there will be the opportunity for a ministerial meeting at – on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

QUESTION: But, the nuclear threat from Iran is still there as the missile --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what’s driving our changes on missile defense is advances in missile technology within Iran. Obviously, we remain concerned about unanswered questions on Iran’s nuclear program, and that’s what will be the heart of the discussion on October 1st.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the nuclear question, actually? AP is reporting an IAEA assessment that it – Iran does have the capability to create a nuclear weapon and is developing a missile system able to carry it. Do you have any comment or reaction to that?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t.

QUESTION: Do you have any new details on the October 1st meeting in terms of a place?

MR. CROWLEY: Not yet. I think those details are still being worked.

QUESTION: There was a suggestion that part of this continental missile system will be moved to southern Europe. Are there any discussions with particular countries on that issue?

MR. CROWLEY: To move it?

QUESTION: To countries in southern Europe – that parts of the system could be moved there. I mean, last year, Bulgarian Government specifically asked for – to host short missile defense systems, for example.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think as we go forward, there’ll be opportunities for cooperation. The benefit of using this kind of regional approach, it can be adapted to a changing threat environment. It can be expanded as technology advances. Over time, when you look at the phasing that the Pentagon has laid out, you’ll be able to cover more territory. And as we go forward, based on our intelligence assessment, where you’ll have to put various components, including radars and missiles, we’ll see. But obviously, in this particular case, it allows us the opportunity to field a capability much more rapidly, several years more rapidly than had been initially envisioned. So we’ll have some on the ground before – or by 2011, and then we’ll expand and adapt the system going forward based on our assessment throughout.

QUESTION: P.J., is this system being coordinated through NATO? I mean, the last system was not. Is that a change?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we are – we – there was some effort after the bilateral negotiations in the previous administration over the initial architecture to try to integrate that into a NATO context. I think what’s useful about this concept, using proven technology and systems that a number of countries already possess or have the opportunity to purchase going forward, is you do have the opportunity for a much more integrated approach to missile defense than was the case with the previous architecture and the fixed sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.

QUESTION: A different Iran topic?


QUESTION: The families – specifically the mothers – of the three Americans who were detained in – by the Iranians have written a letter or are writing a letter to President Ahmadinejad asking him to bring their children with him when he comes to the UN next week. Is this something that you support?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we certainly understand the sentiment behind that letter, and we actually share that sentiment that we believe that these three individuals – and others that are held by Iran – should all be returned without further delay. Yesterday, the Swiss ambassador once again was in contact with Iranian officials and demanded consular access that we have yet to be granted under the Vienna Convention. So, obviously, this is something that remains very important to us. We understand the families; they want their loved ones back. So do we. And we continue to press as hard as we can through the Swiss to get that done.

QUESTION: And what was the response from the Iranians to the Swiss?

MR. CROWLEY: We have not yet been granted consular access, and they have not yet informed us where the hikers are actually located.

QUESTION: Well, have they said no, you can’t, or are they just ignoring the request?

MR. CROWLEY: They have not granted us access, and so we await the opportunity where the Swiss officials can meet with them, make sure that they’re being well taken care of.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, have they come out and said no, you can’t meet with them or no, the Swiss can’t meet with them?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, they haven’t --

QUESTION: Or they just haven’t said yes?

MR. CROWLEY: They haven’t said yes.

QUESTION: But they haven’t said no, though, either? They’re just --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not part of that conversation. It’s a fair question. I don’t know the answer. I mean, we’ve demanded it. They have not yet granted it. And we continue on a regular basis to go in through the Swiss and demand our consular rights.

QUESTION: On Honduras, do you have any update? Because next week we have the United Nations Assembly. I don’t know if it’s going to be Micheletti or Zelaya or who’s going to come, if there’s going to be any (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: I do not expect any participation by the de facto regime. As for the current situation, we welcome the statement that four of the six candidates for president of Honduras made – with President Arias – confirming their support of the San Jose process. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly has returned from the region. He had a number of meetings over several days on the situation in Honduras and other developments in the region. I would expect next week we’ll continue to look for ways to support the San Jose process. I think the Secretary will meet with President Arias during the course of the – on the margins of the UN General Assembly.


QUESTION: Yeah, same region. Bolivian President Morales has taken his country’s listing by the State Department as having failed demonstrably to fight drugs, taken it badly. He says that the U.S. lacks the moral suasion or influence to tell him what to do and that the U.S. is using these drug reports to expand political influence in the region. Anything to say about --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve had a – we’ve had meetings with our Bolivian counterparts and we’ll continue to work with them, and we hope that through this cooperation we can continue to show them how they can improve their performance.


QUESTION: On North Korea, new Japanese foreign minister said that it’s not a good idea to have direct talks with North Korea right now, and he said that it would send the wrong message to them. Do you have any response to that, and are you concerned that the opposition from the new government in Japan might affect your planning to have dialogue with them?

MR. CROWLEY: Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell has arrived in Japan. He will be talking to the new government about a range of issues. I am quite certain that North Korea will be one of those topics of conversation. We are – I think there’s a clear consensus among all of the partners in the Six-Party process – minus one, of course. Our commitment to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, our commitment to the Six-Party process as being the best vehicle to get North Korea to denuclearize, and our commitment to continue to enforce UN Security Council resolutions – I’m sure that we will inform the new government about the variety of discussions we’ve had with our partners and we’ll probably report more when those meetings are finished.

QUESTION: Yesterday, P.J., on this, the Secretary said that all of the other – with the exception of North Korea, everyone agreed on this way to – that one way to get the North Koreans back to the table is for the U.S. to have a – have direct talks with them. Was she referring to – in the case of Japan, when Bosworth was out there and met with the Japanese, that was not this government. Is that your – still your current thinking about the Japanese position?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, that’s one of the reasons why we sought an early meeting with the new Japanese Government to --

QUESTION: In other words, it’s not. You’re not sure yet --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: -- what the Japanese think, and so any things that – any commitments, just like with this Administration’s backing out of missile defense or a specific missile defense plan --

MR. CROWLEY: I would beg to differ. We’re not backing out --

QUESTION: Well, you shifted. So the Japanese --

QUESTION: We are adapting --

QUESTION: The Japanese Government has also shifted.


QUESTION: They say that they’re going to stop the refueling thing for Afghanistan. And now, apparently, the foreign minister says that direct talks are not a good idea. So my question is when Secretary Clinton was speaking about how all of the ally or the five parties – six parties – were all agreed that one way to get the North Koreans back was for U.S. direct talks with them, was she referring to the current Japanese Government or the previous one?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, there is a new Japanese Government in place. We’ve had extensive conversations with the Japanese Government. Obviously, there’s just been a changeover. We are going to compare notes with where we are in the process. We will obviously seek the thinking of the new – any revised thinking that Japan might have on this topic. There – I think there – we do have a broad consensus on a strategy with respect to North Korea. I think we would welcome any thinking that Japan has – any – and we would fully expect that Japan will continue to play an integral and constructive role in the Six-Party process. But let’s have the discussions first, and then we can figure out whether any adaptations in our current thinking are necessary.


QUESTION: What was the purpose of the visit today of the Qatari minister? Was it to brief the Secretary on what Qatar is going to have to host negotiations about Darfur?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s part of a regular dialogue that we have with Qatar. Obviously, it’s one of our close allies in the Gulf region. There are a range of vital interests that we have with Qatar, both in terms of regional and also global issues. Qatar, as one of the leading exporters of natural gas, for example, shares our concerns about energy security, both the issue of supply and demand. And obviously, Qatar has – in the region has a significant interest in the developments with respect to countries like Iraq, countries like Iran. And we have had consultations with Qatar in recent weeks and months regarding our plans for the peace process, and Qatar is one of those countries that we would hope will provide support should we be able to get back into negotiations.

QUESTION: Did they talk about Darfur? How about Darfur?

MR. CROWLEY: Qatar has a great interest in the current situation in Sudan, and I would expect that Africa issues came up as well, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a preview of the Secretary’s speech tomorrow?

MR. CROWLEY: It’ll be a fine speech. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Substantively?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the Secretary – obviously, it’s intended, at Brookings tomorrow morning, to be a preview of the upcoming UN General Assembly. She will touch on our broad objectives for the summit, for UNGA. Obviously, there will be a number – a range of issues that will be the subtext of the Secretary’s activities, the President’s activities. Clearly, nonproliferation, the challenge of proliferation, will be a substantial one. Also, obviously, this – and the situations in Iran and North Korea. I think she’ll touch on efforts that we have in the area of food security, in the area of combating violence against women and girls, obviously the situation in Iran and North Korea. I think she’ll touch on efforts that we have in the area of food security, in the area of combating violence against women and girls. Obviously, the situation in Afghanistan will come up. So I think she’ll touch on our perspective going into these meetings.


QUESTION: I’m sorry. Just a follow-up on my previous question. So you’re still thinking that – you’re still seeking the direct dialogue with North Koreans to get them back to the Six-Party Talks and –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – as we have said, we’re willing to engage in a bilateral discussion if that will help get North Korea back to the process. We have no – made no decisions to do that. We’ll continue our consultations with our regional partners and then make some judgments in the very near future.

I think during the course of UNGA, for example, between the President and the Secretary, we’ll have a chance to talk individually to all of these countries that share our interests in a denuclearized North Korea. And then once we get through UNGA, I think we’ll make some decisions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)