Remarks to the Press
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
QUESTION: P.J., excuse me, you said the Iranian woman lives in Europe?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So she physically will not be here?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. I think you’ve seen the media note from George Mitchell that we have begun indirect talks and that he will be returning to the region next week.
Scott Gration leaves today for travel to Nairobi, Kenya and Doha, Qatar. He will be participating in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or the IGAD summit, on Sudan. That will be in Nairobi. And then he will continue his work in Doha with representatives from the Darfuri armed movements to push the Darfur peace process forward.
Kurt Campbell is en route to Singapore. He will arrive today, our time, tomorrow Singaporean time for meetings there. He will depart Singapore on March 9 for Kuala Lumpur.
We send our condolences to the families and friends of those killed in the earthquake in Turkey and to all in the region hit by yet another earthquake – obviously, reports of about 51 people killed and 71 injured.
And finally, we obviously congratulate the people of Iraq on the elections yesterday. An impressive number of people went to the polls. I think some were – the early estimate is in excess of 60 percent. And notwithstanding some early incidents of violence yesterday morning, obviously, the people were not deterred and came out to vote in significant numbers.
With that, happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on this --
MR. CROWLEY: Elise.
QUESTION: -- possible arrest of an American? There are conflicting reports of who this American is – Adam Gadahn – some other guy born in Pennsylvania. Do you – have you been – heard anything from the Pakistanis?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we do not know if – (a) if there was a person arrested and (b) if that person is an American citizen. I think the latest I’ve seen, that people have discouraged the idea that this is Adam Gadahn.
QUESTION: Have you asked? Because there are multiple reports suggesting that the person was born in Pennsylvania, which would (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: We do not yet have confirmation. I’m sure that we are trying to find out.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Secretary’s (inaudible) discussed with prime minister of Greece?
MR. CROWLEY: She will meet with Prime Minister Papandreou in about 30 minutes time. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions of both of them afterwards. I would anticipate it’ll be a wide-ranging discussion, including Afghanistan, Cyprus, the Balkans, and the economic crisis.
QUESTION: Can you tell me – tell us a little bit about what these Mitchell talks are going to look like? I mean, how – is there a form on time limit or is he going to just be sitting over there the whole time or are they going to --
MR. CROWLEY: No. I think – well, he’s coming back here today and he’ll be going back next week. I think this early stage will be a little bit on trying to work on how the process will take place.
QUESTION: Are you still talking about talks? I mean, they’ve --
MR. CROWLEY: No, no. We are – we will be – I think he obviously has talked to both of them. They have agreed to start and will come back next week with some ideas on how these – how the action – how they’ll take place.
QUESTION: So – in other words, that they’ve agreed to start, but when --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: -- he goes back next week, that is not necessarily the commencement, the start of these talks?
MR. CROWLEY: I would – yes, I would think that you could say that the indirect talks are underway and --
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but P.J., if you then – if you put it that way, the indirect talks have been underway since he was appointed, right? I mean, he’s been --
MR. CROWLEY: Fair enough. I mean, I think – I would say not all of these discussions will happen at the leadership level. They will be supplemented by experts who will be able to get into specific detail on these issues. But I think he’s coming back here and will go back in next week and he’ll have substantive discussions with the leaders and – but we’ll see what else happens.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, are they underway at this point or will they not be underway until he goes back next week?
QUESTION: Or will they even be underway when he goes back next week, since you’re still talking about how that might unfold?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, are – both sides have agreed to indirect talks. Now you’ve got – one of your colleagues is saying they’ve already started. One of your – I mean, I’m not --
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, look, look. He will return to the region next week. It’s hard for me to describe what the agenda will be for those next meetings other than that he will come back and will continue these discussions. It’s just hard to – I can’t give you chapter and verse of what he’ll – what his talking points will be for next week.
QUESTION: It sounds like since there’s no agenda, the talks haven’t actually begun.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, you’re asking me to – I mean, if it – whether it quacks or not, I don’t know. I mean, I –
I believe they’ve started. Okay? That – so, I think they’re underway. Now, as to how substantive the discussions were today, George is on his way back. He’ll report to the Secretary.
QUESTION: Can you do us a favor? I mean, can you double-check your – or take that question? Your – you believe that they have started, you believe that they’re underway? Or if your absolutely certain of that, that’s fine. But, “I believe,” is not --
MR. CROWLEY: I am certain.
QUESTION: That they have started?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So what do you make of the disclosure about these 112 new housing units in --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I think we’re just trying to figure out what the --
QUESTION: How hard you want to come down on the Israelis?
MR. CROWLEY: No. If this was a project – if this was a project that has been underway and preceded the moratorium --
QUESTION: Well, Mitchell’s statement says that – appeals to both sides not to take any provocative actions. Is this provocative or not?
MR. CROWLEY: You’re absolutely right, and I’ll – let – we – ask me again tomorrow.
QUESTION: It happened today. It’s news today. It’s not news tomorrow.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand. I understand. I understand that.
QUESTION: Can you give Steinberg a call and find out what he wants to say about this?
QUESTION: There’s a long history of American envoys, up to and including the Secretary of State, going to Israel, announcing progress of one sort or another, getting on the plane and, sometimes before they even get off the ground the Israelis announce additional construction of one sort or another. And it – that’s why, I think, Matt is so interested in a comment about this today.
MR. CROWLEY: And I’m not disputing the point. I’m just simply saying that it’s useful to find out what is the background of this particular project before we comment on it.
QUESTION: Right, but here’s some background: The Vice President is there. Mitchell is there. He just announced these talks. He’s on his way back and they’ve announced these new – they’ve announced these new housing starts.
MR. CROWLEY: And I – the question about “new” is something that we just are double checking.
QUESTION: Can you try to get us an answer today rather than tomorrow?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. I will take that question.
QUESTION: And is there any – I mean, any announcement on any construction of anything? Is today, like, the appropriate day to do that, is I guess is what we’re trying to ask.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s a good question to ask the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, and – you’re the one that are announcing the talks. Does an announcement like this --
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve announced the talks --
QUESTION: Well, but an announcement like this --
MR. CROWLEY: -- and we have announced that, hey, statements or actions which prejudice the outcome of these talks are not helpful.
QUESTION: But you can’t say right now --
MR. CROWLEY: But, again, I will – I’ve already agreed to take the question as to double checking what the details of this particular project is. Let me get the facts before we comment.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: What about Iran sanctions and China? Steinberg – what’s the latest? How’s China looking on that subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Jim has returned. As he characterized last week, we thought they were constructive, but I’m not going to issue a play-by-play from here. Obviously this – the Secretary looks forward to a discussion this afternoon with the Gabonese president as they assume the presidency of the UN Security Council.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, P.J., at all, without getting – going into a play-by-play, but – that the talks were constructive in what regard on Iran or on Google and the internet or on Tibet or – is there any particular area in which they constructive?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, Mr. Steinberg had a discussion on all of those issues. I’d throw climate change in there as well. Did we solve all of the differences regarding Iran in one meeting? We did not.
QUESTION: I know this is coming from the Treasury Department but they did, just about a half hour ago, put out a statement on letting internet providers in Sudan and elsewhere, and Iran. I just wondered if you had any comment on that.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) You have their statement.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm. And?
QUESTION: So, I mean, what are – what’s the significance of doing this, of letting these companies go in --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s – certainly if you look at it as it represents precisely our strategy that the Secretary outlined in her internet freedom speech, we will continue to help people throughout the world with their ability to have a free flow of information and stay in touch with each other. So the license will help people in Iran, Sudan, Cuba use web-based chat services to better keep in touch with each other in the outside world.
QUESTION: Do you fear that this may bring you into conflict with your partners in places like China, who may not be so keen to have people web chatting?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t say it’s directed specifically against one country. We’re working in more than 40 countries to help individuals silenced by oppressive governments. We think that internet freedom is a priority. And obviously, equipping these people with the modern tools of communication and technology is part of the universal principle that we will continue to support.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, but you do or you don’t think that this is going to bring you into conflict with countries whom you regard as oppressive? I mean, I think it’s likely to. Don’t you think that they’re going to be annoyed by this?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re – I mean, we’re pursuing what we think are universal principles and we’ll continue to do that. It’s fully consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that many of these same countries have signed actually.
QUESTION: If the Greeks ask for help are you going to help them? Are you willing to help them?
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s have the meeting first.
QUESTION: On Japan, the foreign ministry is doing an internal review on this U.S.-Japan secret nuclear pact, and it’s going to be concluded this week. Are there any – is there anything that the U.S. expects to come out of that, any specific judgment or any comment on it?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a particular comment at this point.
QUESTION: Six members of the Pakistani parliament who were from FATA they cut short their trip in protest because they said that they were forced to undergo extra security measures at the Washington airport. So, any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we regret that some of them decided to return home. Some of them continued on with their travel. They were subject to the same aviation procedures that many of us have been subjected to on a random basis. I think it was reported in Pakistan that of the 11 parliamentarians that were here on a visitor program, two of them were subject to full body screening. But it just underscores where these are measures that we’ve put in place to protect all people who travel through the global aviation – the transportation system anywhere in the world.
QUESTION: It was random. They weren’t singled out?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, there were 11 in the group, and two of them were subjected to full body.
QUESTION: Can I ask on North Korea? I have a couple of questions. The first one,
Robert Park who – U.S. citizen who was released last Monday from North Korea, there are many reports that he is tortured harshly in North Korea, so because of that he is mentally unstable and he’s in hospital. And some of his friends said that he – even committed suicide (inaudible). So do you have any comment on that? I think it’s serious in case if it’s true.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, he’s – he is a private citizen. We’re grateful to have him back within the United States. I would defer to the Park family if they want to describe his time in North Korea. We obviously have no ability to independently verify any of those reports.
QUESTION: Has there been any investigation from State Department about this allegation that he is tortured in North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say whether we have any – have had, as a government, any kind of debriefing with him. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: And the other thing is on the U.S. Government’s effort to continuously implement sanction on North Korea, do you know that Ambassador Goldberg from Senate and moved to his new position as assistant secretary for research and --
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yeah. So who’s leading that effort now and --
MR. CROWLEY: He has that – he has both the INR portfolio and he remains also in charge of implementation of 1874.
QUESTION: And I wanted to ask is there any (inaudible) North Korea new update on --
MR. CROWLEY: No new update.
QUESTION: Have the Libyans calmed down now?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: You don’t know? Has anything been – has there been any outreach to them?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes? What was that?
MR. CROWLEY: Assistant Secretary Feltman and myself – we had a meeting with the ambassador here in Washington on Friday.
MR. CROWLEY: And we talked about the situation and pledged, as indicated publicly, that we were committed to the relationship and that we would move forward with the ongoing dialogue.
QUESTION: Was there an apology in the --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to characterize a private meeting.
QUESTION: What general role do you expect Biden to play in the indirect talks?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll – I’m not sure. I wouldn’t characterize that there’ll be a role for the Vice President. But I think he’ll have high-level meetings while he’s in the region. But I’ll defer to the White House to describe them.
QUESTION: Has the ambassador dropped his demand for an apology?
MR. CROWLEY: You’re welcome to ask the ambassador.
QUESTION: Don’t – I mean, I’m not – don’t (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Well, okay. Is it resolved? Is the issue resolved? From your point of view is it resolved?
MR. CROWLEY: From our point of view, we’ve said all we’re going to say about it publicly.
MR. CROWLEY: Back to an earlier question, we have discussed this housing project with the Israeli officials. We’ve been informed that this is not a new project. And under the terms of the moratorium Israel announced in November, construction on them can be completed.
QUESTION: You have no objection whatsoever with their going ahead with this project?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it – as I just said, it – on the one hand, it does not violate the moratorium that the Israelis previously announced. On the other hand, this is the kind of thing that both sides have to be cautious about as we move ahead with these parallel talks.
QUESTION: So – but it – going back to Libya, is it – this is over now?
MR. CROWLEY: We think it is.
QUESTION: Just to – sorry, to go back to the Middle East thing or to the construction. You said this is the kind of thing that both sides need to be cautious about even though it fits under the terms of the moratorium. Does that mean that this is the kind of thing that you regard as provocative or potentially provocative and that, therefore, both sides should avoid?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it is – when you’re in talks of this kind, you have to recognize the interests and perceptions of the other side. And both sides should be cautious about actions that might be either misperceived within the region or that might be exploited by those who want to create obstacles to further progress.
QUESTION: Well, does – I mean, you’d rather that they not have done this?
MR. CROWLEY: As I just said – I can just repeat what I just said before, which is we – it does not violate the moratorium. But this is the kind of thing that both sides should be cautious of as we move forward.
Okay, I’ve got to go see the prime minister. We’ll see you upstairs.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: Did she have any bilats on Friday when she – at the UN? Can you let us know?
MR. CROWLEY: Fair question.
QUESTION: Thank you.