Remarks to the Press

Special Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
March 9, 2010

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Sorry for the unusual schedule today, but Rich Verma and I were hosting the Senate Youth Conference up in the Ben Franklin Room.

To begin, you’ll see a statement this afternoon coming out shortly. Today marks the third – the three-year anniversary of the disappearance of U.S. citizen Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran during a business trip to Kish Island in 2007. Mr. Levinson will remain a priority for the United States until he is reunited with his family. The United States also calls on Iran to resolve the cases of the five American citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran: Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Kian Tajbakhsh, and Reza Taghavi. But we – there’s – in the statement, there is – anyone who has information on Mr. Levinson to contact the State Department or the Levinson family via their website,

The Secretary, after the bilateral this morning with President Preval, had a lunch with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke to talk about global economic issues and how they can influence different foreign policy aspects that we here at the State Department are working on.

Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell has arrived in Kuala Lumpur and he will meet with senior Malaysian Government officials and hold a town hall meeting with American Embassy staff members on March 10th, tomorrow. Then he will move on to Vientiane, where he will meet with senior Lao Government officials and attend the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and also meet with representatives of the Mekong River Commission.

And Scott Gration is currently in Nairobi, where he’s attending the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, Summit on Sudan. Yesterday, he had meetings with the Sudan Troika – Troy --


MR. CROWLEY: Troika, thank you.

QUESTION: It’s also, I think, P.J., it’s “IGAD.”

MR. CROWLEY: IGAD, IGAD. Comprised of Norway, the UK, and the United States – and met with the President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir. He – today, he’s also meeting with Sudanese Second Vice President Ali Osman Taha.

I want to clarify the U.S. position regarding Libya. We are strongly committed to the bilateral U.S.-Libyan relationship, and Secretary Clinton has asked Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman to travel to Tripoli next week for a series of bilateral consultations.

Regarding the personal comments I made last week, I want to provide some context. I responded to a question regarding use of the term “jihad” in the context of relations between Libya and Switzerland. I should have focused solely on our concern about the term “jihad,” which has since been clarified by the Libyan Government. I understand that my personal comments were perceived as a personal attack on the president. As I made clear to Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali when Assistant Secretary Feltman and I called upon him in his office on Friday, these comments do not reflect U.S. policy and were not intended to offend. I apologize if they were taken that way. I regret that my comments have become an obstacle to further progress in our bilateral relationship.

As I told the ambassador, I hope that we can use ongoing dialogue at high levels to continue to advance the U.S.-Libyan relationship. And just to make a point regarding the dispute between Libya and Syria, the United States does not take a position other than to register our concern about two Swiss citizens, one of whom has been released on humanitarian grounds, and we hope that this issue can be resolved as soon as possible.

Finally, you’ve seen the statement released by the Secretary a short time ago regarding the affirmation of the Hillsborough Agreement. Devolution will mark a major milestone in achieving the aspirations of the Good Friday Agreement, and the St. Andrews Agreement will help cement the hard-won gains over the past decade. Obviously, for a milestone like this, a number of players have played significant roles. We, the United States, including Secretary Clinton, have been actively engaged in helping Northern Ireland reach this point, as have a number of officials in the British Government, including not only the Brown government but also the strong support that David Cameron and the Conservative Party have given to the Hillsborough Agreement.

With that, your questions.

QUESTION: A question about Northern Ireland, actually. Can you confirm this Guardian report that Declan Kelly urged former President Bush to make a call to David Cameron last week about the vote?

MR. CROWLEY: He did not. We were not involved in – with the – former President Bush’s phone call.

QUESTION: Were there any contacts by the Administration on this other than the calls by the former president? I mean, was there anything by this Administration to push it one way or the other?

MR. CROWLEY: Clarify, Kirit. Try --

QUESTION: Was there anything from this government that’s actually tried to contact one side or the other to push them on this vote? Not – I know that you said it didn’t involve the former president at all, but --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, yeah. I mean, the Secretary has been engaged with all of the parties. She talked recently to the leading figures in Ireland, including Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, also Reg Empey. So we have been actively engaged, but we did not have anything to do with President Bush’s phone call.

QUESTION: On the Middle East?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Israeli interior ministry announced the committee approval for 1,600 new housing units in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, which falls on the other side of the Green Line, and the interior ministry is saying that this is not in East Jerusalem, but – I mean, that’s a kind of bone of contention whether it’s in East Jerusalem or not, but – I mean, what do you think of the fact that this announcement was made while Biden – while Vice President Biden is there? Mitchell just announced his resumption of talks. I mean, it just seems so provocative right now.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in terms of the Vice President, I’ll defer to --

QUESTION: Well, just the fact that he’s there.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me finish. In terms of the Vice President, I’ll defer to the traveling party. He is there, and your colleagues can check and see if he has any comment on this. We are looking into this report, and so I don’t want to comment specifically until we gain more perspective on exactly what the origins of this particular approval is. We continue to urge all sides to avoid counterproductive and unilateral actions that, intended or not, can be – can undermine trust and make it harder to negotiate – for negotiations to succeed.

QUESTION: Well, but, I mean, you keep urging them to avoid --


QUESTION: -- provocative actions and they keep making announcements while you’re asking them to make – you know what I mean? Regardless of whether Biden’s there or – I mean, it’s just the atmosphere that you’re trying to create is a positive one, and they’re, you know, basically ignoring you and doing whatever they want. I mean, are they setting the right atmosphere for talks right now?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, on that specific issue, I’ll defer comment until we have more on it. Proximity talks have begun. We think this is a positive step. George Mitchell will return to the region next week and he’ll continue the discussion that he had with the leaders over the past couple of days. He is back here in Washington, briefed the Secretary on his trip just prior to the Preval bilateral, and we are hard at work to try to move this process forward.

QUESTION: Well, but you didn’t answer my question. I mean, this is the second day in a row that we’ve been – or, you know, several days that we’ve been talking about Israeli provocative actions just as you’re trying to set the atmosphere for productive talks.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that and I think we’re going to seek further information. We may have more to say once we understand fully what this is about.

QUESTION: And do you have anything more on the substance of how – what they’re going to talk about first and how they’re going to talk – what Mitchell said today to the Secretary?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as he said in his statement yesterday, his talks on Sunday and Monday focused on structure and scope. We’re going to continue to develop our ideas in the coming days and the discussion will continue next week. I think it’s hard for us to kind of characterize a particular agenda for every single meeting. The process is underway and we’re trying to move from parallel talks to direct negotiations as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: You can’t say whether they’re starting with borders? That was one idea that was put out there so that these housing units wouldn’t become as much of a problem.

MR. CROWLEY: Certainly, as we go through this, beginning to work on the substance of these issues, it will be part of the process.

QUESTION: A quick question about the schedule.

QUESTION: So did they agree --

QUESTION: Oh, do you have --

QUESTION: Sorry. Did they agree on the issues that they want to talk about?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re still working through some of the particulars of how this has gone on forward.

QUESTION: Do you have any more clarification about Adam Gadahn? I mean, it really seems very confusing as to what’s going on here. The Pakistanis are insisting that it’s him. Yesterday, you made your comments. I mean, what’s going on?

MR. CROWLEY: The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is in contact with Pakistani authorities and we have no information indicating that an American has been arrested.

QUESTION: A question about the schedule. There was an NSC meeting at 11 o’clock this morning with the President. Can you tell us what that was about? And then there was a – on the schedule, it was a 3 o’clock Homeland Security or something meeting. Can you tell us what that was about also?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe the first meeting was on Haiti and the second meeting is on Homeland Security issues.

QUESTION: I saw the statement by the Embassy in Nigeria, but do you have anything additional to say about the violence?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we express our deep regret at the continued violence and the tragic loss of life in Jos. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and seek constructive means for addressing the continuing cycle of violence in Plateau State. And we also want to see the Nigerian Federal Government ensure that the perpetrators of these acts of violence are brought to justice.

QUESTION: P.J., on the Iraqi elections, what is the U.S. timeframe for thinking about how quickly a coalition government is going to be formed or – and what is the U.S. going to do to help the government be formed?

MR. CROWLEY: Help the government?

QUESTION: Form after these elections.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, these are – this is an Iraqi election and this is an Iraqi process. So certainly, we look forward to working with the new Iraqi Government, but how this unfolds is up to the Iraqis and what – it will – I think it’ll happen on its own timetable.

QUESTION: And you don’t have a sense of what that timetable is at this point?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think maybe, Indira, we should just have the preliminary results first so we – I think --

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if the Iraqis (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: At some point, everybody will have their kind of political handicapping depending on which coalition and how difficult it’ll be to form a majority government. Let’s first get the results.

QUESTION: Have the Iraqi authorities, though, suggested that they think that there might be a government formed within four weeks, or have they given you any indication?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think let’s take it step by step. We had the election. We’re awaiting the results. I think the results will give us some indication of the degree of difficulty of forming a new government. But this is up to the Iraqis to accomplish and it will take as long as it takes.

QUESTION: Do you have an early take on the election laws announced by the Burmese? There seem to be many things that you might take issue with. The regime is going to pick the entire commission and all parties have to reapply to the government and political prisoners, i.e. Aung San Suu Kyi, won’t be able to run, et cetera.

MR. CROWLEY: We are concerned by the Burmese authorities’ unilateral decision to begin releasing the election laws without first engaging in substantive dialogue with the democratic opposition or ethnic minority leaders. We remain skeptical that the elections planned for this year will be credible and we urge the authorities to begin a genuine political dialogue with all stakeholders as a first step towards credible elections.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Japanese Government this morning officially acknowledged the existence of the secret nuclear pacts. Do you have any comment on that? And to follow up, do you expect this, I guess, official acknowledgement to affect the Futenma discussions at all?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, this investigation was a Japanese Government matter. We – I don’t think that it’s going to significantly affect cooperation between the United States and Japan. We understand the special sentiment of the Japanese people with regard to nuclear weapons and we have faithfully honored our obligations under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Can you give us more details on what the Secretary and Bernanke discussed?

MR. CROWLEY: No. It was a one-on-one lunch.

QUESTION: So you didn’t get any kind of readout yourself? Can you tell us what was on the agenda?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think – I mean, clearly, economics are a substantial part of our relations with many countries and communities. I think she was seeking his perspective on global financial trends and with an eye towards how that might influence policy directions in particular parts of the world.

QUESTION: P.J., on the Falkland Islands, how upset were the British by your use of the term “Malvinas” and subsequently the Secretary’s meeting with Kirchner? The reason I ask now is that we’re now hearing that they’re a lot more upset than they acknowledged to us.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as to – well, let’s take them in reverse order. The Secretary had the opportunity to meet with President Kirchner in Buenos Aires last week. It was an excellent meeting. The Secretary made clear our policy position on this dispute, and as she said, we stand ready to help if that’s desired. I think that – we’ve had conversations with our British friends on this issue and I’m not aware of any particular concerns that anybody had.

QUESTION: Could you say what type of help the U.S. might give in this case? There are some – obviously she’s talking about mediation. So what does facilitation mean?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – I mean, let’s be – I don’t think that the Secretary used that phrase.

QUESTION: She said, “facilitate.”

MR. CROWLEY: I think she said, “help,” but – I mean, this is – as we’ve made clear, this is an issue that needs to be resolved between Britain and Argentina. We’re friends of both countries, and as the Secretary said, if we can be helpful, we’re happy to consider that. But I don’t know that that’s necessary.

QUESTION: But no specific ideas on where that help might come and what form it might take?


QUESTION: A question on export licenses. In reference to a specific company, I got a query from someone from another bureau about an export license being put on hold for a defense contract. Does the State Department have a particular hold on all export licenses at the moment? I know you guys are reviewing – you have an interagency review on export controls. Is that affecting the application for export licenses?

MR. CROWLEY: Export licenses writ large?

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s what I’m wondering. I mean, this was in reference to a specific defense contractor, a British defense contractor.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, so, is your question about that specific contractor?

QUESTION: Yes. Can I ask about the (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) No, you’ll say – I got the impression that we were holding --

QUESTION: Well, I’d like to ask about BAE’s application for --


QUESTION: -- an export license being put on hold, and then specifically, is this something that is affecting everybody or just them?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me talk more specifically. I’m not aware of any blanket hold on all export licenses. On March 1st, BAE Systems plc pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to conspiracy involving violations of several U.S. laws, including the Arms Export Control Act. The State Department is studying the judgment and the plea agreement between the Department of Justice and BAE Systems plc, which BAE entered into to settle issues related to violations of the export – Arms Export Control Act.

We are assessing the implications that the plea will have on the statutory debarment and resulting policy of denial. Though no final determinations have been reached, our analysis indicates it would be inappropriate for us to make decisions on pending export applications at this time. But for further information on the plea agreement, I refer you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Can you explain what that means? You said we’re assessing implications the plea will have on the statutory something-something. What was that?

MR. CROWLEY: What this means is only that their applications for export will be delayed if those applications involve BAE Systems plc or any of its subsidiaries.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Anything on the North Korea? Do you have any statement from North Korea or the (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: No change.

QUESTION: No change.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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PRN: 2010/280