Briefing by Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley

Special Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York, NY
September 24, 2009

MR. CROWLEY: I can dutifully report here that we now have the Waldorf-Astoria briefing room and lounge. (Laughter.) Our briefings are always better with beer and wine.

STAFF: Yeah.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we haven’t done this in a couple of days, so let me – this was a very, very lengthy day. And just very quickly run through the Secretary’s day and then we’ll answer whatever questions you have. The Secretary started the day with meetings with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and then had a meeting with the two of them. Obviously, the Secretary herself will be very engaged in issues related to Ireland, Northern Ireland. And the purpose of the meeting was to affirm the ongoing support of the United States for the Irish peace process. Also attending the meeting was the new economic special envoy for Northern Ireland Declan Kelly.

Probably the most significant issue of discussion was to encourage the leaders in their ongoing efforts over the devolution of policing and justice in Northern Ireland as continuing to improve and grow the capacity of self rule in Northern Ireland. At that point, the Secretary moved over to the UN – obviously joined the President while he chaired the high-level meeting on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. And she herself delivered the intervention, which I think we have released, regarding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Obviously, there have been every couple of years meetings on CTBT, and the United States last participated in this conference in 1999. The previous administration chose not to. And I think as the Secretary said in her intervention, we’re pleased to be back.

From there, the Secretary joined the President again in participating in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting. And afterwards, she remarked to President Zardari at the bilateral that the meeting had gone even better than we had hoped. She stopped by to visit with the GCC+3 Foreign Ministers and the P-5+1 Foreign Ministers, talked about our ongoing efforts to encourage Iran to constructively address international concerns about its nuclear program, as we will do in the upcoming October 1 meeting, and encouraged leaders individually and collectively to continue to maintain pressure on Iran to come to that meeting ready to seriously engage.

From there, the Secretary hosted lunch with female heads of state and foreign ministers at the Waldorf. She then attended a meeting of the Quartet, chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting was very, very positive – a very strong response to the President’s speech yesterday on the Israeli and Palestinian situation.

From there, she had a bilateral with the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. They talked about the peace process and ways in which the United States, together with countries in the region, can encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to move as quickly as possible to begin negotiations.

The Secretary had a meeting with the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon. Tajikistan obviously borders Afghanistan, and the Secretary thanked Tajikistan for its very strong support of permitting the transit of – air transit, ground transit of goods destined for Afghanistan. There was a very lengthy meeting about the prospect of Tajikistan’s energy sector and perhaps the ability to export energy to other parts of the region.

The Secretary then had a bilateral meeting with the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. It was three-part meeting. It started off in a fairly large group. You – many of you were over there and saw it at the beginning. After about half an hour, it narrowed down to a small group on the U.S. side. It was the Secretary, Deputy Secretary Jack Lew and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke. And then it finished up with a one-on-one between the Secretary and the President. In that meeting, in the first part of the meeting, the issue was primarily economics.

The Pakistan foreign minister reported on Pakistan’s steps working – to work on its economy as part of its ongoing cooperation with the IMF. There was also a detailed discussion about Pakistan’s energy needs obviously. And that will be an ongoing focus of our efforts with respect to our civilian assistance to Pakistan going forward trying to help the government extend energy to more parts of the country and for more than the average several hours a day that currently many Pakistani residents have electrical power.

The Secretary commented about the status of the legislation that was passed today in the Senate and informed the President we hope to see action in the House next week.

In the – the Secretary said afterwards that in the smaller group, they did talk – they continued to talk about economic issues. We pledged to cooperate more closely with Pakistan on the delivery of aid. Ambassador Robin Raphel was also in the meeting and she is – her focus is going to be better coordination, close collaboration with Pakistan to both identify priorities that Pakistan has and deliver it more effectively.

In fact, they will continue – during the meeting, I think akin of – a theme that you’ve heard in recent times. The Secretary indicated that when you look at the way that aid has been delivered to Pakistan in the recent past, through a couple of intermediaries. She’s looking for ways, in the delivery of aid, to try to cut out the middlemen so that more of this aid, a higher percentage of the aid, ends up improving the situation on the ground, I think it’s part of the frustration that perhaps you’ve heard the Secretary express recently about the nature of our contracting. And this is an indication of her efforts to try to streamline that process so that more aid gets to its intended target.

With that, she – and finally, she is currently meeting with the de facto First Lady of Qatar, the --




MR. CROWLEY: No, it’s Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad. Her Highness is, in our vernacular, the First Lady of Qatar.

With that --

QUESTION: And you recognize her as such? She’s not de facto? (Laughter.) Forgive me if I (inaudible), but to what extent was there discussion of security issues during the Zardari meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I asked the Secretary, Arshad, knowing that that would be exactly the question you would ask. She just said that security issues came up in her one-on-one. And we’ll keep them – since I was not in the room, I can’t really report on what they were.

QUESTION: Why is it necessary to be so very secretive about the security matters?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not being secretive. I was not in that part of the bilateral.

QUESTION: Well, I guess maybe the question is why didn’t it come up in the bigger meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: Why what?

QUESTION: Why didn’t it come up in the larger meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we --

QUESTION: So that you could have plausible deniability and say you don’t know anything about it? (Laughter.) I mean, it honestly seems to be what’s going on here.

MR. CROWLEY: I am quite – no, actually, I --

QUESTION: It’s a major issue out there right now --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: -- and you guys are talking about energy and, you know, what – which is fine and good, but, you know, there was another drone strike today. There’s a debate in Washington about whether you want to – how to proceed. And you guys are pretending it doesn’t exist.

MR. CROWLEY: First of all, I offered at the beginning – or in my analysis that during her one-on-one, security issues were discussed, so no one’s denying that security is an important element of our relationship with Pakistan. Obviously, we are very conscious every day of the – as is the Government of Pakistan – about the security threat within its borders that both threatens Pakistan and threatens the region and the United States. We make no secret of our security cooperation with Pakistan.

However, in terms of helping to assist Pakistan in ways where Pakistan itself can improve not only its security, but also its governance, but also its educational system, the delivery of services to its people – this is a very broad-based relationship. As Richard Holbrooke said earlier today, Pakistan is a – it’s a country of importance to the region, but it’s also – it’s important in the context of Afghanistan, but it’s also important in its own right.

And on the day where you had the Senate pass historic legislation, a five-year funding for civilian assistance to Pakistan, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that our relationship has multiple dimensions. Security is one, but there are other vitally important aspects. I mean, we’re very conscious of the fact that notwithstanding the current – our current relationship, the United States’ reputation in Pakistan is still difficult. And we have to do a better job of showing that we are assisting the Government of Pakistan so it can help its own people.

And the delivery of energy, it was a major issue of discussion because it is vitally important to Pakistan’s future.

QUESTION: So in other words, you don’t want to talk about it because it will make your reputation worse? Not that it could get that much worse, but it will make it worse anyway in Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t talk about it because I wasn’t in that part of the meeting.


QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Foreign Minister Qureshi said that the reason why they got this support today was because their military had been – had proven itself, has been so successful in Swat, and (inaudible), and in other areas. My question, then, was whether a big U.S. military presence, you know, would – has the possibility of succeeding in Afghanistan. He said, well, I can’t talk about that, but I can tell you what happens (inaudible) in Pakistan and he said the fact that they have been so successful is the reason they’re getting all this support.

MR. CROWLEY: Without question. The – Pakistan has struggled with the extremist threat within its borders. And in recent months, the Pakistani military has stepped up and big-time. Richard Holbrooke detailed some of that today, not only in driving back the extremists. During the course of the meeting – I mean, there was discussion about you’ve got a choice of two ways of life within Pakistan. You’ve got the vision for Pakistan’s future espoused by democratic Pakistan. You’ve got a different vision of Pakistan espoused by the Taliban and other extremist elements.

QUESTION: That one’s going to work in Afghanistan, the same – the same thing? I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly the ability of the Afghan Government to similarly, more effectively perform in protecting its own citizens in the delivery of governance and services in building and expanding the capacity of the government, these are going to be critical elements.

And what you’re seeing in Pakistan is significant progress as the government improves its performance, improves its capacity, and clearly, from our standpoint, the – not only the assistance that we have provided to the Pakistan military, but now the assistance that is expanding on the civilian side gives us reason for optimism that clearly Pakistan is heading in the right direction, not to say that it’s out of the woods, it’s not to say that these challenges won’t continue to be difficult. But we can reflect on several crises that Pakistan has faced in recent months, and they’ve weathered them and they continue to progress.

QUESTION: The Quartet. You said they had a very positive reaction to the President’s speech in the meeting today. But in their statement, they point out that they have consistently – that they favor a total freeze in settlement construction, including natural growth. It seems to me that one of the things that is clear following the President’s meetings this week is that the U.S. is unlikely to obtain that. So I’m wondering what was positive about the President’s meeting from the point of view of the Quartet?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I – you’re talking about two different steps in the process. Clearly, if you ultimately resolve the conflict, if you ultimately reach a peace agreement, you will ultimately also solve the challenge of settlements. The real question, as George Mitchell said two days ago – yesterday, yeah – two days ago, the – we have our view, and our view obviously is shared in the Quartet that – of what we believe is the ideal situation to be able to launch negotiations. We haven’t reached that point yet. We’re not going to stop trying. But the President, as he indicated, as George indicated, our view is that it’s time for these – for both sides to enter in negotiations as soon as possible, and we are now in this period of intensive discussions in that direction.

As we said before, ultimately, the decision to go into negotiation will be a decision fundamentally made by the Israeli Government, the Palestinian Authority. They will have to judge is what is offered is ultimately a sufficient political commitment for negotiations to begin. But clearly, we understand that the issue of settlements is vitally important. It’s important to getting to a negotiation, it’s important to getting ultimately to an agreement. We’re not going to stop working on this issue. We certainly haven’t set aside settlements as an issue. And that will be the focus of George Mitchell’s ongoing activity this week, the meetings next week, as we continue to urge the parties to reach negotiations – to enter negotiations as soon as possible.

QUESTION: But you have set aside your calling for a freeze, by the President saying it’s time to enter final status negotiations.

MR. CROWLEY: We do not set any preconditions for negotiations. We will – we recognize the settlements as an important issue. We’re going to continue to talk to the Israelis about settlements. And – but as to what the line is, where you cross that line, then – and both sides agree to begin negotiations, we’ll see where that line ultimately gets drawn.

QUESTION: Do you have a plan, other than freezing settlements, to restart peace negotiations?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, our plan is to get to negotiations as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Yeah, but how is the big question. So I mean, you may not tell us, but do you have a Plan B (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, settlements have always received the greatest attention. It’s not the only thing in the Quartet meeting. There was in fact an appreciation for the efforts that the Israelis have made on the West Bank. Life is very, very different on the West Bank than it was a few months ago. You’ve got a positive trend line in terms of the economy, you’ve got a different feel to the West Bank than happened in the past. So I think – and you’ve got a government that is more confident about itself than it perhaps has been in the recent past. On the – so there are steps that are being taken. Those steps are having a positive effect. By the same token, there’s obviously still work to be done. That’s why the President has asked this intensive work to continue and the Secretary to report back to him in the middle of October.

Go ahead.


QUESTION: No, wait. Can I ask you a question on the Quartet? When did George Mitchell become a member of the Quartet?

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: It seems to me that in the last two and a half years, the Quartet, which was already six individuals as it is, which is not – which is a sextet and not a quartet, has added two members: Tony Blair and George Mitchell now. Should it not be called the octet?

QUESTION: Can we move on to Iran?

QUESTION: No, I want to know when Mitchell – when did Mitchell become a member of the Quartet?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see. You’ve got one, two, three --

QUESTION: How many meetings have they had where he’s been added? You have eight people here at a meeting that’s supposed to be, by definition, four.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Tony Blair is not – when did he become a – when did he – maybe you can take the question. When did Mitchell become a member?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. I mean, you had the United States as a member of the Quartet.

QUESTION: I know, but when did he become a member?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t know that George Mitchell is a member of the Quartet.

QUESTION: Well, it says the Quartet and it lists them all. Anyway --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: -- it’s not that important. I just would like to know.

MR. CROWLEY: You’re right. It is not that important, but I think the Quartet refers to the bodies who are members as opposed to the representatives who are representing those who are members.

QUESTION: You said you wanted to keep this short.


QUESTION: On Iran, are you seriously considering --

MR. CROWLEY: Cranky.

QUESTION: Are you seriously considering --

MR. CROWLEY: You should take out one of the beers in the back. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are there beers? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I finished it.

QUESTION: Are you seriously considering any of these kind offers by Ahmadinejad, for instance, like to buy enriched uranium from the United States or to have Iranian nuclear negotiators sit with Western nuclear negotiators?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it’s safe to say that if Iran has constructive ideas for addressing the concerns that the international community has on its nuclear activities, there are a number of channels available for Iran to submit those ideas. One of those channels will occur next week when we have the P-5+1 meeting.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) those constructive ideas?

MR. CROWLEY: Huh? I’m just saying that if Iran feels it has constructive ideas --

QUESTION: Well, just to comment on some of these ideas, I mean, President Obama put forward his initiatives in his speech and Ahmadinejad put forward his initiatives in his speech.

MR. CROWLEY: Well. I mean, Ahmadinejad said a lot of things in his speech. The real question is what will his representative bring to the P-5+1 on October 1st? What will, ultimately, Iran’s representative bring back to the IAEA? So we – speechifying by the president of Iran is one thing, but it really will be a matter of what kind of substance and seriousness does it bring to its meeting on October 1st.

QUESTION: Sorry, just a clarification – I saw Robin Raphel downstairs. Is she – did you announce previously that she became – that’s already been in place, that she’s going to direct the new civilian aid to Pakistan? Is that her --


QUESTION: Coordinator for civilian aid?


QUESTION: That’s already been there?


QUESTION: Okay. And just separately, could you just comment on the U.S. relationship with Libya now in light of President Qadhafi’s visit here and the way he spoke about the U.S.?


QUESTION: That was a long pause.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to be, you know, coy --

MR. CROWLEY: Our – no, I would say – I guess I would say our relationship is a work in progress.

QUESTION: Was there any contact between the U.S. and Libya about the tent being taken down?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. I believe that has been a civil matter.

QUESTION: Where did he sleep ultimately? In Bedford? Or was he at the mission?

QUESTION: He slept at the mission.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to Libyan authority – my Libyan counterpart to tell you.

QUESTION: And just on Libya, did the U.S. ask --

QUESTION: You’ve got a Libyan counterpart?

QUESTION: Did the U.S. ask him not to attend the serious NPT conversation today at the Security Council and send their ambassador instead?

QUESTION: He was the only one not there.

MR. CROWLEY: Not that I know of, but --

QUESTION: Can you take that?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll ask.

QUESTION: Was Raila Odinga invited and then uninvited to the President’s lunch?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: How would – can you take that question?

MR. CROWLEY: To the President’s lunch?

QUESTION: I understand that he was uninvited, that he got a letter that said “Don’t come.” It was -- Can you take that question?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll ask that.

QUESTION: And are you releasing the names of the 15 Kenyans who are – the U.S. is reviewing their relationship with these 15 Kenyans? There’s some kind of travel restriction possibly on 15 Kenyan officials?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I’ve been in bilat – in a bilat bubble all afternoon, so I --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) today and said there were 15 visas that were being reviewed (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take that question.

QUESTION: We can follow up on the African trip. You guys can --


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PRN: 2009/T12-19