Remarks to the Press
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
OPERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the presentation, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. To ask a question at that time, please press *1 and record your first and last name. Today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.
I would now like to turn it over to P.J. Crowley. You may begin.
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to what, day seven of Snowmageddon. (Laughter.) But we do have an intrepid band of journalists here in the Press Office at the State Department, and I think a fairly substantial number of journalists on the call.
So I’ll get right to probably the most significant news of the day. We have not yet received confirmation through our Embassy in Port-au-Prince regarding the release of Americans from Haiti. Obviously, if that turns out to be the case, if that’s the judgment of the Haitian court, we will provide whatever support the American citizens need to be able to depart Haiti and return to the United States. But at this point, we have not received any formal confirmation that in fact, they have been released.
QUESTION: Can you talk – can you address any reaction at all to the claims from Iran, various (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s stay on Haiti first and then we’ll --
QUESTION: I beg your pardon, okay.
QUESTION: On Haiti, is it the understanding of the Embassy that if they are released, they will be allowed to leave Haiti? Or is it an understanding that they might be released and to await trial?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, that is a detail that – since we have no information from the Haitian Government, that will be an important question as to what is the judgment of the court and then what are the future legal implications, if any, for our American citizens. So other than standing by and waiting to – waiting for the judgment of the court, I have no other information I can pass on.
QUESTION: Can you give us some idea of what conversations you’ve had in this regard with the Haitian authorities?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, if we’re open for business tomorrow, we hope to bring to you tomorrow afternoon a briefing by Ambassador Ken Merten, who is here in Washington as we speak. And he might be able to provide some perspective on that.
I think we’ve been very careful not to intervene specifically in this case. This is a matter for Haitian authorities to resolve. There are – they have obviously proffered two charges against the American citizens and our role has been simply to monitor the ongoing proceeding, make sure that our citizens were being given their appropriate rights under Haitian law. And I think we’ve been satisfied that – with the overall conduct of this case. So it is – it’s for the Haitian Government to – and the Haitian court to look at the facts in this case and then render its judgment.
QUESTION: Do you feel that former President Clinton’s comments about the case where he said on PBS that he felt that the U.S. and Haitian governments should – I think he used the words, sort of, “work it out” or something to that effect – does that have any – do you think that that might have any complicating factors and – that it looks like they’re being leaned on?
MR. CROWLEY: No, I certainly don’t think that it’ll have any complicating factors. I mean, we’ve – without getting into the specifics of the case, we have had conversations with the Haitian authorities just about their overall capacity, and I think that – to let them know that we were prepared to have discussions with them regarding the disposition of the case if that was their choice, but – so other than offering our assistance to the government.
But I can’t say that that has had any impact on the judge’s determination. I would assume that he has – he’s been very, very active in terms of interviewing the American citizens, ascertaining what they were trying to do, making his own judgment as to their motivations, and then making a fair evaluation of the facts.
QUESTION: One last thing. Have you been given any understanding from the Embassy or the – has the Embassy been – does it have any understanding on the part of the Haitian Government that this will be disposed of this afternoon?
MR. CROWLEY: I – we began hearing these rumors yesterday. The Embassy has been in touch with the Haitian Government, but as yet – and this was as of, say, 10 minutes ago – had not received any formal notifications.
QUESTION: Do you know if there’s any likelihood that they could face charges in the U.S. with the --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I think we have to let the court reach its judgment. There are a variety of options available to the Haitian Government in terms of the disposition of this case. The United States and Haiti, they – we do have an extradition treaty. But let – the first step in this process is for the Haitian court to make a judgment based on its evaluation of the facts, and then from that, if there’s any action for the United States, then we’ll evaluate that once we see what Haiti has done.
QUESTION: And do you think this might lead to the resolution of cases involving other Americans considering the (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I think it – I mean, as you asked a couple of days ago, I believe there are other American citizens in Haiti. Our recollection is that might be drug cases. So, I mean, this is a court of law and we are obviously strong believers in an independent judiciary. That’s why we’ve been very respectful through this process of the Haitian Government and the Haitian judiciary. They have a – theirs is a Napoleonic Code, as I’ve – if I remember, which is slightly different than the U.S. Code. It’s somewhat similar to – say, Louisiana has a Napoleonic Code.
But we’ve been very respectful of the Haitian Government, its prerogatives. Our American citizens do stand charged with potential violations of Haitian law, and it’s – and we think this is an important element of the Haitian Government continuing to exercise its sovereignty over its country, and we think that’s very important.
QUESTION: Can I ask you now about the Iranian president’s claim that they have enriched some uranium to 20 percent? Another personality there, the Atomic Energy Agency chief, saying that if they had to, they could enrich uranium to a hundred percent, just generally.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not a scientist, but I think there are questions about what Iran’s true capability is. They’ve been boasting a lot of things for a number of years. But we do take their words seriously, and to the extent they have indicated that they have begun enriching to 20 percent, this is in violation of successive UN Security Council resolutions and further solidifies the – our impression and that of the international community that Iran’s nuclear intentions are anything but peaceful.
QUESTION: Could you just sort of give us the overall effect, then, of how the day went in Tehran? There was concerns of violent protest and there’s reports of a massive security presence in the streets already. The overall --
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we don’t have a diplomatic presence in Iran, but we do obviously watch Iran very closely. And based on our monitoring of various – of networks, it would appear that Iran has attempted a near-total information blockade. And it is an unprecedented and overwhelming step, using force to intimidate their own people and to restrict freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
It is clear that Iran – the Iranian Government fears its own people. And we’ve seen reports that the phone system has been taken down, text messaging has been taken down, satellite television has been jammed, the internet has been throttled. It’s not about one company; it’s about the access of the Iranian people to information, the ability to communicate, the ability to express their views. And it is a remarkable step by the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further – I know you were asked yesterday about the specifics of Google in Iran and you said you don’t – didn’t have specific information about that. Have you learned anything more about – is Iran trying to interrupt Gmail and so on?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll defer to Google to describe what’s happening on their networks and what they’re seeing. But I think we have strong indications that Iran has tried to restrict access to the internet. And this is not about what outsiders are doing, or are alleged to have doing – be doing.
This is about the fundamental relationship between the Iranian Government and their people. It’s been eight months now since the election and the Iranian people, they are determined. They continue to protest for their rights, which we believe are universal principles – the freedom of assembly, the freedom of – to express their views, as the Secretary outlined in her internet freedom speech, the freedom to connect, to have information that allows people to function and allows people to hold their government to account.
And this continuing intimidation by the Iranian Government is a great concern to us, and we think it shows the increasing bankruptcy of the Iranian regime.
QUESTION: Any chance you have any – are you monitoring any rough numbers of how many people, Iranians were out protesting today? Anything like that assessment (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Very, very hard to – it’s a good question, and since they have tried to restrict reporting, I think probably much of the most significant and best reporting is going to come from you and your colleagues in the coming hours and days. So there would appear to be some information coming out, some video images that are coming out through telephone systems. I mean, they were up a while ago and there were some images that came out that showed significant amounts of protest. But it’s hard to really characterize it because we, like you, are on the outside looking in.
QUESTION: When you talk about the monitoring that appeared to show a near-information – near-total information blockade, was some of that monitoring done by the internet and technological experts here in the State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have people who watch Iran all the time, but we also have advisors to Secretary Clinton who are in touch with the leadership of major emerging media. And it’s that relationship that gives us access to information and additional perspective. Obviously, we’re very cautious because you have to evaluate the credibility of some of these reports, but certainly, what we are aware of is of great concern to us. Why don’t we – all right.
QUESTION: One more, just one more?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: The Secretary is heading off to the Gulf tomorrow and I’m just wondering if – how much of the – her agenda will be Iran out there.
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary is leaving tomorrow afternoon for visits to Doha, Qatar, and Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She’ll have a number of bilateral meetings with leaders in both countries – the Amir, the prime minister and foreign minister in Qatar, as well as the king and foreign minister in Saudi Arabia. She will have the opportunity for outreach programs, as she does whenever she travels in both countries as well.
But clearly, in her – and obviously, in addition, she will have the opportunity to address in Qatar the – make a speech to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum. So I think it’s a broad-based agenda, but certainly, in her bilateral discussions, Iran will be a major topic, as will our consultations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Middle East peace. So I bet – but certainly, Iran will be among those issues discussed.
At this point, Operator, why don’t we go to – and take some questions from the callers.
OPERATOR: Thank you. The first question comes from Sam Kim of Voice of America. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks. My question is about North Korea. North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator is in Beijing to discuss the resumption of Six-Party Talks with Chinese counterparts. Also today, foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan discussed about this issue. So do you see any sign to expect the resumption of the Six-Party Talks in the near future?
MR. CROWLEY: We certainly would like to see such a sign. I’m not aware that we’ve seen one at this point.
QUESTION: And my one other question is: Do you have any plan to have another bilateral dialogue with North Korea to persuade them to get back to the Six-Party Talks at this moment?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as you said in your question, there – our consultations within the Six-Party process are continuing. We are united in our firm belief that the way to resolve these issues is through the Six-Party process. We made that clear in our dialogue with North Korea back in December. Obviously, we expect the Chinese authorities are doing the same today. So we don’t rule out other meetings, but we believe firmly that the next meeting that U.S. representatives and others should have with North Korea is through a formal Six-Party meeting.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Foster Klug, Associated Press. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hey, thanks for doing this again. I wanted to ask about Thailand’s release of the crew that were – that was carrying North Korean guns. Is there disappointment in the Administration at this decision? And then two related ones: Where does this leave the investigation into where those arms were headed? And then finally, does this have any effect on the Administration’s effort to get Viktor Bout extradited? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: An interesting question. We’re grateful to Thailand for having done a detailed investigation of this matter. It did report its findings to the United Nations. As to the release of the crew, I think I’ve seen a report that suggests that the crew is being released to home countries for possible prosecution, so I wouldn’t suggest that this is necessarily the end of the legal road here.
Our position regarding the extradition of Viktor Bout is very clear and I don’t think that this particular case has any bearing on the other.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. I wanted to turn back to Iran for a second. In the protests over the summer, the State Department took some specific actions to aid the flow of information out of Iran, including asking the people from Twitter to halt a scheduled maintenance as to not interrupt that flow. I’m wondering if there are any examples of such State Department actions going on during this protest period. Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Josh, you’re exactly right, but our action last summer was a call to Twitter, and it was actually Twitter that took the action that had the impact on the ground in Iran. Since that time, we’ve spent a lot of time developing a strong relationship with the leaders of these emerging technologies, helped them understand their importance in different parts of the world.
So at this point, really, it is the companies themselves who are – who understand the importance that these technologies have in various places of the world, whether it’s Iran or other places. And at this point, they are taking their own steps. So in this particular case, I’m not aware that we needed to take any particular action.
Clearly, we are monitoring what’s going on. We have great concern that when a government goes to the extraordinary step of taking down its phone network, both landlines and mobile, and when it takes down its satellite television capability, it’s not only jeopardizing its relationships with those who seek a different kind of relationship with government; they’re probably also alienating their supporters as well. But it is a draconian step, and as I said before, it is a remarkable statement today of how significantly the Iranian Government now fears its own people.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Julian Davelo of Haberturk. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. I wanted to ask a follow-up question on Iran. How do you qualify Turkey’s efforts of playing a role with the Iranians on this nuclear issue? The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is expected to pay a visit to Iran for these talks, for the nuclear talk. And how significant is this – is it going to be for you?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we value the role that Turkey plays as a bridge between the West and the region. It is obviously a country – Iran is a neighbor to Turkey, so it has to develop its own relationship. And we will – we are – we have ongoing dialogue with Turkey regarding issues with respect to Iran, also with respect to Syria and efforts more broadly towards peace in the region.
So the Secretary met when she was in London with the Turkish foreign minister. They stay in regular contact together. I am certain that Iran is one of the subjects that they continue to discuss. We may or may not see the situation identically, but we certainly value Turkey’s role in trying to help resolve these issues. And we would simply encourage that we all have to make clear to Iran that the present course that it’s on is not the correct one, and that it needs to address the concerns that the entire international community has about its nuclear programs.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Laura Rozen, the newspaper Politico. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, P.J. The Post is reporting that Iran rejected the American isotope offer. Is that your understanding?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that report is necessarily true. I mean they may have, but I don’t think that there has been anything that has been formally communicated through the -- to us.
QUESTION: Okay. And also, there is a Reuters report that the Chinese foreign ministry spokespeople are making statements that sound more amenable to supporting a UN Security Council resolution on Iran. Have you all noticed a kind of shift back, I guess, towards being more supportive of an international effort to rebuke Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I will let my counterparts in the Chinese Government speak for themselves. We will continue to talk to all members of the P-5+1 as we continue to work to its prospective proposal on sanctions.
QUESTION: Do you expect, out of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting tomorrow, a further resolution on Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Nicholas Kralev, Washington Times. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, P.J. Two quick things. The first one is: Did you have any comment on the European Parliament’s decision today to reject the bank data deal dealing with terrorist financing and all that?
And, secondly, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, has quoted, supposedly on his blog, an item that says that the text of the new post (inaudible) treaty will include a position linking offensive to defensive weapons. The two presidents have talked about this in public, but this will be the first time that an official has indicated there will be a provision in the text of the treaty about the link, and that is viewed by some as a concession to address Russian concerns about missile defense. Thanks.
MR. CROWLEY: I have not seen Ambassador Beyrle’s post, so it’s hard to comment on it. We -- it is possible that treaty language may refer to missile defense. But I can’t do a play-by-play. Rose Gottemoeller and her team are in the late innings in Geneva. And I will defer comment until we actually see the -- we reach the conclusion and see a formal text.
QUESTION: And on Europe, the European Parliament?
MR. CROWLEY: We are disappointed by the result of the vote, and the outcome is a setback for U.S.-EU counter-terrorism cooperation. We think this decision disrupts an important counter-terrorism program.
We have spent some time in recent days at various levels, including through the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Treasury and the Vice President. I have communicated to numerous EU officials, including European Parliament leaders, about the importance of this agreement to our, you know, mutual security.
So, we will need to consider how to proceed from here. There are -- well, what I think is encouraging is that there are many governments in Europe that want to work with us on this program. And we think there is also strong support in the EU Council and the EU Commission. So, we will evaluate its implications and continue to move forward in cooperation with our European counterparts.
QUESTION: So there might be something you can do, despite the setback, to at least -- some part of the program to be able to function?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it is a setback. But that said, this has been an issue that has been subject to ongoing dialogue between the United States and Europe for many, many years. We think it’s a vitally important capability to have. We think it’s had significant results, more than 1,500 reports, and numerous leads to European government authorities. And it’s contributed significantly to our counter-terrorism efforts.
We -- it’s no secret that Europe and the United States approach privacy issues differently. But we will continue to work on this issue because it is that important.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Lalit Ja, Press Trust of India. Your line is open.
MODERATOR: Okay, we will take this one, and then we will come back to the group in the room.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks for doing this. I had a couple of questions for you from South Asia. The first question is on India and Pakistan.
Last week, as you know, India has proposed to Pakistan a two-level dialogue with Pakistan. And news reports coming from Islamabad suggest that Pakistan has accepted that. How do you view the developments going on in South Asia, in view of your operations in Afghanistan?
MR. CROWLEY: We have always encouraged dialogue between Pakistan and India. Of course, this is a decision for both countries to make on their own. But in our various discussions with leaders from Pakistan and India, we have long encouraged them to resume the kind of dialogue that the two countries have had at various times in the past.
QUESTION: And how do you view the improved relations between India and Pakistan is important for your operations in Afghanistan?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, these are two very important countries. They are neighbors. They share a number of important interests – fighting terrorism on the one hand, encouraging trade on the other.
So, I think if we can – to the degree that India and Pakistan can cooperate – can have peaceful dialogue, can develop opportunities between the countries, that can only help in the broader regional context, including, our joint efforts on security in South Asia.
QUESTION: Now, coming to Sri Lanka, as you know, developments in Sri Lanka, the former general and opposition leader (inaudible) and reports are that there will be some court martial against him by the government.
And also, the defense secretary of the country has -- in a statement said yesterday, in effect, that the U.S. had supported him. How do you view the developments there, and what would be your –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the Embassy in Colombo has put out a very strong statement rejecting the claim of U.S. financial support to the opposition candidate in Sri Lanka’s present election. It’s just not true.
We have had discussions with the Sri Lankan ambassador here in Washington regarding General Fonseka, and we urge that any action be undertaken in accordance with Sri Lankan law. And we want to see the Government of Sri Lanka announce the legal basis for his detention.
QUESTION: Are you in touch with the general’s (inaudible) or his family members after his arrest?
MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware that we are. But that’s a better question to ask our Embassy in Colombo.
QUESTION: Then I have one question on Burma, development over the last couple of days. You issued a statement yesterday night on -- after this ruling extending, sentencing the American (inaudible) for three years. How do you think it is going to impact on your ongoing dialogue? You already had two rounds with the Burmese –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I -- as we indicated in our statement, we regret the action taken by Burma. And this will be a subject that will be a part of our ongoing dialogue with Burma. Obviously, we want to see the human rights situation in Burma improve – advancing the rule of law, advancing transparency, in terms of these kinds of cases. And this reinforces that this will be part of our ongoing discussion with Burma in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: Getting back to Afghanistan, a spokesperson today announced that the Peace Jirga will be held in Apfel, something which the U.S. was looking for. How do you view this development?
MR. CROWLEY: Say that again. I didn’t catch the –
QUESTION: A spokesperson of Afghanistan today announced that the Peace Jirga would be held in Apfel.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it was something that President Karzai indicated he was going to pursue when we had the London conference, and we think it is -- it’s obviously a trusted Afghan venue and vehicle for resolving crucial issues that crop up within Afghan society. So we look forward to seeing that meeting take place.
Let’s come back here to the room.
QUESTION: Yes, and finally, one last question. This is about sports. Afghanistan cricket team defeated American U.S. cricket team in Dubai in the Twenty/20 match. Cricket is not very popular here, but it is very popular in Afghanistan. Any comments on that? People are very happy in Afghanistan about this, defeating a U.S. team in cricket.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I am not familiar with the result. But certainly we always are good sports, and congratulate the victors.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Could we just follow up on Afghanistan? The United States is preparing, in a much publicized way, a major military operation in the Helmand Province. And then the reports that President Karzai is making a new outreach to elements of the Taliban. Do you have any reactions to that?
MR. CROWLEY: I will only talk about the latter aspect. This is an Afghan-led process. It was discussed in London. We have our sense of the conditions under which these discussions should take place, and whoever wants to give up violence, lay down their arms, and play a role in the Afghan political process obviously must agree to abide by the Afghan constitution and pursue policies that are supportive of and in the interest of all Afghan citizens.
QUESTION: So the Karzai initiative seems to be playing out. Any departure from that, any new developments?
MR. CROWLEY: I am -- I will defer to the Afghan Government to describe whatever contacts they are having with insurgents. But -- and as to any comment on upcoming operations, we would, of course, not comment on upcoming operations until they take place.
QUESTION: Question on China -- a couple of them, actually. It looks like Beijing has approved a visit to Hong Kong by the USS Nimitz. Does that mean that was formally communicated to you and the State Department? And do you read anything into that approval?
And the second is: The White House has given a date now for the President’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. Do you -- what do you expect that meeting may or may not do for U.S.-China relations?
MR. CROWLEY: Taking the second first, I will defer to my White House colleagues to describe the purpose of the meeting. Obviously, presidents over a number of years have violated – (laughter) – rewind that – have valued their dialogue with the Dalai Lama as an important religious figure and global figure. I know President Obama is looking forward to his discussion with the Dalai Lama, and this is something that is clearly in our interest to do.
Regarding the Nimitz, I am -- I think this is welcome news. We think it’s important, an important part of our outreach and engagement with the Chinese people, but an important dimension of our military-to-military relationship. And beyond that, I will defer to our Pentagon colleagues to talk about the importance of the visit.
QUESTION: China upheld a prison sentence of 11 years against Liu Xiaobo, who was a Charter 08 signatory. Any reaction to that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we regret that they have taken this action. We do not think that he should have been arrested or prosecuted for simply signing his name to a document that we think is fully consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which China is a signatory. And we again call on Chinese authorities to release him.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Any other -- all right, now back to the phones.
OPERATOR: Thank you. The first question comes from Peter Green, Bloomberg News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: I want to ask another question about North Korea. Just to what degree are you coordinating with the United Nations envoy who is holding talks in Pyongyang?
MR. CROWLEY: We do maintain very close contact with the United Nations on issues regarding North Korea. And -- but the UN has its own agenda. Certainly, we are supportive of any dialogue with North Korea that moves them back towards the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up on the Iran/Google thing for a second, are there any other technology companies that have contacted you about issues they have had in Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a hard question. And it infers that we have been in contact with Google. Google has put out its own statement and characterized what’s happening in Iran.
I mean we have an ongoing relationship with these companies. We value that. At various times in the past, we have had delegations of technology entrepreneurs, have traveled around the world, made a couple of trips, for example, to Iraq to help with development there. We are working with these companies in trouble spots around the world, trying to see how we can employ technology to solve local challenges before they become regional conflicts.
So, we do have ongoing interaction with these companies. I am sure today our technology wizards, innovation wizards here at the State Department, have been in touch with their contacts, just to compare notes. It’s kind of a way in which we are able to broadly describe to you what we think is going on in Iran.
So, these are important contacts. We share perspective. And -- but as the Secretary talked about at the (inaudible) freedom speech, we just think that the evolution of the introduction of technology into all parts of the world is going to have a dramatic effect, to create more opportunity, to create better governance through technology. People are able to have access to markets; they are able to have information that allows them to hold their governments to account. And we will continue to promote the availability of and use of technology as a fundamental right that all people around the world have.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much, P.J.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Lou Martinez, ABC News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thanks, P.J. A question about a report in the Miami Herald today about the proposal that’s been made by the U.S. to Haiti regarding setting up a Haiti recovery commission some time over the next 18 months – I guess it would be headed by Prime Minister Preval and by possibly Mr. Clinton.
What is the goal of setting up such a commission, if that proposal has actually gone forward? And what would the Haitian Development Authority, that is also a part of that proposal, seek to do?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll tell you what. I will probably duck this question. And it’s a great question to ask Ambassador Ken Merten tomorrow, when he visits the State Department.
I think we are focused on the long term. We have seen and gone through over the past month, the first phase of this, in terms of bringing emergency relief to the people of Haiti. Now you are seeing a shift into a second phase, where we’re into trying to stabilize the situation in Haiti. The food situation continues to improve. Our major concern right now is shelter, particularly getting people into appropriate shelter before the rainy season starts.
Our concern right now is sanitation in the camps that are being set up. Once we have – but as we are -- stabilize the situation in Haiti, we are obviously very mindful of the long term. We will be working with the Government of Haiti on not only what its needs are -- I don’t think we have a firm date yet set for the UN donor’s conference. It will either be at the end of March or mid-April, somewhere in that time frame.
But as we identify what Haiti’s long-term needs are for recovery and reconstruction, we will also be looking at what is the appropriate mechanism through which we can channel international assistance, finding ways to pool international assistance, so it can have the greatest possible impact on the ground. It’s one of the things that Secretary Clinton is very focused on, is -- if you look back in history, development assistance has generally been siloed. Every country has its own silo, every country has its own area of emphasis. And in many cases, it hasn’t really gotten connected in such a way as to have that kind of synergistic effect.
So we are looking to see how we can reform the delivery of assistance in a crisis situation like Haiti. The thing you mentioned is certainly an option for what kind of mechanism that -- as you can channel international assistance through the Government of Haiti, so that we can apply it to the priorities that Haiti has established, and are supported by the United States and international community.
So -- but why don’t you maybe ask Ken Merten that question tomorrow, see if his answer is similar.
QUESTION: And then specifically about the Bill Clinton aspect, anything?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, President Clinton, as the UN envoy to Haiti, will have an important role to play in not only -- particularly in trying to make sure that we generate the level of assistance, and are able to stagger it and sustain it over many, many years.
So, I think he has shown tremendous skill not only through his own foundation, but working with former President Bush on the tsunami. So he is going to apply that same experience and expertise to the situation in Haiti.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Matt Lee, Associated Press. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, P.J. I thought you said you were going to duck that last question.
QUESTION: Actually, my question was already asked, so I’m done.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. But I’m so glad to hear your voice.
MR. CROWLEY: Tell you what. We will take one or two more, and then we will put everybody out of their misery, so they can go back to shoveling.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Lachlan Carmichael, AFP News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, P.J.
MR. CROWLEY: Hi, Lach.
QUESTION: Just wanted to ask you -- Secretary Clinton, will she meet the Turkish prime minister when she is in Qatar? And will it be about Iran? Because the Turkish foreign minister will be going there later in the week.
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t rule that out. I think the schedule is still being built. I am sure she will have the opportunity while she is there to have some additional pull-asides with other key leaders. So I know that he will be there, and the Secretary values her discussions with him. So I would say it’s probable, but I don’t know that it’s firmed up yet.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Saline Ommensieger, EFE News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. Actually, my question was actually answered. Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Carley Walsh --
MR. CROWLEY: Make this is the last one.
OPERATOR: All right. With Al Jazeera English. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for taking our call here. Al Jazeera English did an interview earlier with Iran’s atomic energy chief, Salehi, who said in the interview, and I quote, “I caution President Obama. Please do not take any wrong step, because any wrong step will emanate consequences that are beyond the imagination of anybody. Do not test Iran.”
So I’m wondering if we might be able to get some reaction from State.
MR. CROWLEY: I would caution that this is -- I know as much as people want to make this a face-off between the United States and Iran, this is a question about Iran and its future relationship with other countries in the region, and other countries around the world.
We all have concerns about Iran’s nuclear programs, its true ambitions. And it is the erratic comments and behavior of Iran that continue to heighten the situation. Iran has been given an opportunity to engage constructively. It has consistently shown that it is unwilling to engage constructively. We haven’t closed the door to engagement. The opportunity is still there to come to the IAEA, and to work on solutions that address Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and also provide opportunities for Iran to pursue the fruits of a peaceful civilian and nuclear program. That is expressly why we put the proposal on the table regarding the Tehran research reactor, because it does produce medical isotopes that are of importance and value to the Iranians.
So if the Iranian Government has the interests of all of its people at heart, then it should be able to come to the table, engage the international community constructively, and find ways to resolve the various issues that separate us.
It is expressly the unwillingness of Iran to engage constructively that brought us here to focus attention on the pressure track. We are doing this in close consultation with our partners in the P-5+1 process, so that if -- it’s not about testing Iran; it’s about making clear to Iran that the international community is determined, and that should Iran continue down the wrongful course that it’s on, there will be consequences, there will be a price to pay.
Thank you very much, everybody. We will hopefully be back in business tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing all of you after much snow and much shoveling. Thanks very much.