Remarks to the Press
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
QUESTION: Yeah, although I couldn’t stay up for it all.
MR. CROWLEY: I stayed up for it. (Laughter.) A great game, but – so I should make no prognostications on hockey games.
QUESTION: Unlike the unlucky Russians.
MR. CROWLEY: I think I went one for four yesterday.
Anyway, taking a break from our testimony, just one announcement to start, and this may sound a bit odd, but Under Secretary of State William Burns will travel to Brasilia, Brazil on February 26th. During the visit, he will meet with Brazilian senior officials to discuss our growing collaboration with Brazil on a range of bilateral and multilateral issues and help prepare for Secretary Clinton’s visit to Brazil next week. And if you ask – it’s kind of tight to – normally the Under Secretary for Policy will precede the Secretary’s arrival in a region or a country, but his trip was delayed because we had a delay in having our ambassador posted and presenting his credentials in Brazil.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) right? I mean, Burns, the point man on P-5+1?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there – I wouldn’t argue that Iran will be among the major issues we discuss with Brazil. I would expect climate change to be on that list as well. But it is an expanding relationship and there are a number of bilateral issues that he will talk about as well. But clearly, Brazil is an emerging power with growing influence in the region and around the world, and we believe that with that influence comes responsibility. And we will be talking to Brazil about the way forward on Iran.
QUESTION: With (inaudible) the way forward on Iran, I mean, he’s essentially going to be trying to urge them to accept some kind of sanctions resolution at the Security Council (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think – I’m certain that Under Secretary Burns will bring them up to date on the P-5+1 process and so will Secretary Clinton in her meetings with the president and foreign minister next week.
QUESTION: P.J., what do you make – I’m sorry I don’t remember his name – of the Russian politician who just came out yesterday and said we’re not going to go with – I don’t believe in crippling sanctions against Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we believe in effective sanctions. And we are discussing within the P-5+1 countries, and more broadly, the kinds of actions that we think will have the desired effect on the Iranian Government. And as the Secretary has said publicly, one of our main points of focus will be the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which we think is playing an increasing role in Iranian society. So it’s --
QUESTION: P.J., do you think --
MR. CROWLEY: It is not our intent to have crippling sanctions that have a significant impact on the Iranian people. Our actual intent is actually to find ways to pressure the government while protecting the people.
QUESTION: Do you think that sanctions are actually ever effective? I mean, when have they ever worked?
MR. CROWLEY: I would call your attention to the enforcement of Resolution 1874. Hardly a week goes by now where there’s not some announcement of an intercepted airplane here, shipment there, that we think is having an impact on the leadership in North Korea. As Steve Bosworth said today, we believe that at some point, North Korea will come back to the Six-Party process, but that is up to them.
QUESTION: How about Libya?
QUESTION: You can argue that 1874 has worked. I mean, North Korea has, you know, conducted two nuclear tests, resumed, you know, plutonium production (inaudible) that it’s worked. It may be having an effect on the leadership, but it’s not like they’ve become a Jeffersonian democracy and (inaudible) nuclear weapons.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – I mean, the sanctions are aimed at limiting their ability to proliferate technology of concern. It – the sanctions themselves are not going to turn North Korea into a Jeffersonian democracy. I don’t think we’ve ever made that claim.
QUESTION: Why don’t you just say Libya and be done with it?
MR. CROWLEY: Libya and be done with it. (Laughter.) Thank you, Matt.
QUESTION: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Wait, wait.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Darn, I thought I could get out of here. That would have been a record. That would have eclipsed Ian Kelly’s record.
QUESTION: P.J., I’ve been out of town --
MR. CROWLEY: Good news on Ian Kelly, by the way. I think he was reported out by the Foreign Relations Committee, so we hope --
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MR. CROWLEY: We hope to have Ambassador Kelly here very, very soon. We look forward to that.
QUESTION: I’ve been out of it – out of town for a while, and I don’t know if there – has there been any comment on the apparent assassination in Dubai? Is that something the U.S. has weighed in on?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think we’ve weighed in on it. It is being investigated by Dubai authorities.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about what appears to have been the use of foreign passports, forged passports by foreign operatives?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, as a – you probably – the best place to – well – I mean, we have taken steps in recent years to strengthen the security surrounding U.S. passports. Obviously, this has been an area where the United States has talked to other countries. We are very alert to attempts to use forged or stolen passports, and as a major effort to limit the travel of terrorists around the world. So it is something that we have spent a lot of time focused on.
As to – I mean, that obviously is an area that will be investigated and is being investigated by Dubai authorities.
QUESTION: Would you be – would you condemn the use by an intelligence agency of forging passports?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s an assumption behind your question that I can’t address.
QUESTION: Have the Dubai authorities, or the European partners, allies, asked the United States for help in the investigation into --
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: And would you cooperate with Interpol on any of this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – I mean, we have specific responsibilities to – law enforcement would be cooperative if there’s anything that we can do or if we come across any information that we think is useful to the investigation.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you were asked about the Argentine written dispute on the Falklands, and you said you were neutral on the question of sovereignty. Can I ask why you’re neutral on the question of sovereignty? If you recognize the UK administration, why are you neutral on sovereignty?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, to the extent that there is a dispute between Britain and Argentina over the status of the islands – whatever you want to call them – we believe that that should be handled through dialogue.
QUESTION: But why are you neutral on it and why do you say whatever you want to call them (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I mean, our position on neutrality on the competing claims over sovereignty is a longstanding United States position.
QUESTION: On the Falklands? On this specific instance?
MR. CROWLEY: Or the Malvinas, depending on how you see it.
QUESTION: So you’re willing to accept the possibility that they should be called the Malvinas and they should be Argentine?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. We remain neutral, which means we support resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom to find a peaceful solution. We think this can and should be handled through normal diplomatic channels, and we support dialogue.
QUESTION: Why isn’t the Secretary going to Argentina?
MR. CROWLEY: There’s a limit to her available time. I think during --
QUESTION: You could basically throw a rock from Montevideo to (inaudible). (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: She will have a bilateral with the president of Argentina during the trip.
QUESTION: Where? Costa Rica?
MR. CROWLEY: In Uruguay.
QUESTION: So the Argentine president is going to – oh, because he’s --
MR. CROWLEY: For the inauguration.
QUESTION: For the inauguration.
QUESTION: Okay. While we’re still there, is she going to have bilats with Hugo Chavez and Morales and some of those other guys who are going to be down there?
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. If she’s in the same room, is she going to shake hands like the President did with Chavez and, again, some of these guys who were --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I don’t know who’s attending the inauguration.
QUESTION: All of them are.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Chavez?
MR. CROWLEY: You may.
QUESTION: Today, the Venezuelan ambassador sort of said that – he basically made the case that the President and Secretary Clinton made this whole thing about engaging the people that were traditionally enemies or foes or had different opinions or people that you don’t agree with. And that since the President has taken office, his kind of promises of engagement have fallen flat and that actually, relations between the U.S. and Venezuela have gotten worse under the Obama Administration.
MR. CROWLEY: And whose responsibility is that?
QUESTION: I’m just saying that like, your offer of engagement doesn’t apply to people that don’t agree with you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I certainly don’t think that’s true. We have engaged a variety of countries, many of which we do not see eye to eye on a number of issues --
QUESTION: Well, why not Venezuela?
MR. CROWLEY: -- North Korea, Iran. I mean, I’m not ruling out that there could be. I mean, we have an ambassador in Caracas. We have the ability to communicate with Venezuela. But, I mean, there are – this is a – we are pursuing partnerships and common agendas in the region, but this is a two-way street. In order to have dialogue and in order to see where we might have areas where we can constructively engage, that has to be something that both countries are able to do. I mean, I would call --
QUESTION: Like North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I would call attention to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report today that expresses --
QUESTION: That was yesterday.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right – that expresses concern about civil society in Venezuela. The Secretary has had – has done interviews with news organizations that Venezuela and the Chavez government have sought to shut down. So I think we are open --
QUESTION: I’m not saying (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: We are open to the prospect of engagement with any country, but there has to be a willingness to engage constructively on both sides.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, don’t you think that’s a little hypocritical? I mean, where is the constructive --
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: -- engagement from North Korea? Where is the constructive engagement from Iran? I mean, why --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, we – I mean --
QUESTION: Why do you kind of put Venezuela or Cuba up to like other standards --
MR. CROWLEY: And again – well, no --
QUESTION: -- that you’re not holding these other terrorist states that you’re negotiating with?
MR. CROWLEY: Now, hang on a second. You mentioned Cuba. We have restarted migration talks at appropriate levels to deal with areas of specific interest. And as I sit here, I’m not suggesting that there is not dialogue going on between the United States and Venezuela. We do have an economic relationship with Venezuela. We do have an ambassador there. So we are engaged with that country.
But if President Chavez is seeking to have engagement on a higher level, I think we are open to that in theory, but it has to be grounded in a willingness of both countries to play a constructive role in the region. And I think when we look throughout the region, Venezuela is increasingly the outlier and they are playing a less than constructive role in the region. And so one has to have a basis upon which you can have meaningful dialogue.
QUESTION: Back to --
QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry, no, just to push you on that, I mean, where is the constructive dialogue with Iran? I mean, they’re also –
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- you know, have a non – a very unconstructive role in the region.
MR. CROWLEY: But --
QUESTION: I’m just asking why you’re holding Venezuela to a different standard.
MR. CROWLEY: No, hang on a second. We, in fact, reached out to Iran. We had the first contact at a high level in --
QUESTION: Well, why would you reach out to Venezuela?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me finish my answer.
QUESTION: Well, we have an ambassador in Venezuela.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean – thank you, Matt. As I just said, we --
QUESTION: What’s he doing there? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Serving the interests of the United States.
QUESTION: Having lunch. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: But we have attempted to engage Iran. The President made that clear from the outset of his Administration. We did have a meeting in Geneva at a very high level, and it is Iran that has been unwilling to follow up in a constructive way.
Let me repeat what I said again. I think we do have a relationship with Venezuela. We do have diplomatic dialogue with Venezuela. The potential for having dialogue at a higher level is certainly there. Venezuela is a member of the OAS, and we have dialogue with Venezuela there, as we do with every country in the region but one.
But if Chavez wants to have dialogue at a higher level, then the first thing he should do is look in the mirror and see if Venezuela can play a more constructive role in the region, and in doing so, then have a basis upon which that dialogue can be grounded.
QUESTION: Just back to Burns for a second.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Is he just there for one day, just the 26th?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a very quick trip, yes.
QUESTION: Down and back?
MR. CROWLEY: Pretty --
QUESTION: I mean, he’s not even spending the night?
MR. CROWLEY: Good question. I wouldn’t rule out that he’ll spend the night, but it is a down and back.
QUESTION: P.J., there’s been such a series of Taliban being either killed or captured just over the past few weeks, really quite striking. What’s the feeling here – the discussion here at the State Department in terms of how that affects what Secretary Clinton was talking about when she was in London of bringing the Taliban over – potentially bringing them to the other side and working with them? It’s kind of a general question, but I’m just interested in how all of this is affecting your thinking.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, let me make a general point to start, that I think this is expressly the kind of decisive action that we sought in our strategy from the outset, and we have – that has been the basis upon which we have worked with Afghanistan, worked with Pakistan. And I think the – you’re showing the results of the strategy in that clearly, we are making significant gains here. No one’s declaring victory. This still is an adversary of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan that adapts as we do as well.
But as to what conclusions those who are associated with political violence will draw from this, that is expressly why we have included in our strategy the concept of reintegrating those who are currently engaged in the fight, who would be willing to lay down their arms, disassociate themselves from al-Qaida and accept the Afghan constitution or the rule of law in Pakistan.
As to what happens on the reconciliation front, we’re not too far down that road at this point. But – and these will ultimately be decisions made by the Afghan leadership on their side, the Pakistani leadership on their side. But certainly, I think we are encouraged by the broad trends that show the results of Pakistan’s decisive action. I think we are seeing in Marja the early – favorable early returns in terms of the military action there. We’re now moving ahead with being able to bring more civilians into that region and demonstrate to the Afghan people that there are clear benefits to them in the immediate term and the long run.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details on the civilian search, like initial activities that they’re --
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I think we’re just trying to negotiate to bring some people back into the briefing room just to kind of go through precisely where we are. But the – let me make – I don’t have a lot of stuff here, but there are people that have been helping – they’ve been working directly with the military to both plan these actions. Civilians have been already in Marja, and we have teams that are already moving in that direction to work on early economic, agricultural, rule of law projects that can help turn perceptions more favorably towards the Afghan Government. But I – we want to have somebody come down and kind of run you through that whole order of battle.
QUESTION: But have they actually gone to work in Marja or is this --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, there are civilians in Marja and more are coming in every day.
QUESTION: Sticking to the region itself, foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met today in New Delhi for a few hours. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we have long encouraged the restoration of dialogue, it is an important step for Pakistan and India, and we commend the political leadership in both countries. I think it’s the highest-level meeting between India and Pakistan since the tragedy in Mumbai. And we certainly hope that both countries will build on this dialogue in the weeks and months ahead.
QUESTION: Nothing came out of this meeting, though. Both sides are sticking to their (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think what’s important here is that given that there were some events recently where some elements were trying to derail the prospect of this meeting, because they recognize that this has been beneficial to both countries in the past, it was a courageous step to open the door to dialogue again. And we certainly commend the leadership of political courage and making sure that the meeting takes place. Now, the challenge is to build on this going forward.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
QUESTION: P.J., one more, sorry. Last year in the joint statement between the U.S. and China, they said they were going to hold the next round of human rights dialogue in Washington, D.C. in February 2010. Is that being planned or in the works?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question because we’re running out of days in – (laughter) – February 2010.
QUESTION: Can I have a question?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Assad, during his meeting with Ahmadinejad in Damascus, rejected Secretary Clinton’s remarks yesterday that the U.S. asked Syria to move away from Iran and implied that Syria’s alliance with Iran and their resistance won over the U.S. and its allies in the region.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. So what’s the question?
QUESTION: The question: What’s your reaction that he’s rejecting your asking him to move away from Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, as the Secretary reiterated yesterday, we have expressed our concerns directly to President Assad about Syria’s relationship with Iran. I mean, this is ultimately a decision that Syria has to make. But I think as President Assad assesses Syria’s long-term interest, he need only look around the region and recognize that Syria is increasingly an outlier. We want to see Syria play a more constructive role in the region, and one step would be to make clear what Iran needs to do differently, and unfortunately, there was no evidence of that today.
QUESTION: You can only call one country an outlier per day.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, noted. (Laughter.)