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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Current Global Events and Issues

FPC Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Public Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
October 7, 2009


Date: 10/07/2009 Location: Washington, D.C. Description: Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Public Affairs, Briefed at the Washington Foreign Press Center on "Current Global Events and Issues." © State Dept Image

3:30 p.m., EDT

Video

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. Before we get started, I just want to remind everybody to, before asking your question, please wait for the mikes to come to you, and also please state your name clearly. And there’s a lot of us here today, so please limit your questions to one question.

I’ll just turn the time over to P.J. Crowley.

MR. CROWLEY: My goodness, a standing room only. Delighted to be back at the Foreign Press Center. I promised you I would come on a regular basis, and we will try to make this as frequent as possible.

Just to start off before answering your questions, this afternoon, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has joined other senior members of the Obama Administration at the White House for the next in a series of meetings reviewing our – not so much our strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan and the region, but obviously to review and assess where we are and review how we can best obtain the objectives that President Obama has laid up from a U.S. standpoint to, obviously, disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and the threat that it poses to the region and to the United States.

And as part of this, obviously, yesterday, you heard from the Secretary and the Pakistani foreign minister when he was here talking about the important strategic partnership that the United States enjoys with Pakistan and our mutual efforts going forward to try to build a sustainable economic development for Pakistan, to enhance the security and safety in the region, and together, to continue to fight militants that pose a threat to Pakistan, the region, and the United States. Took stock of the fact that important legislation has recently passed the United States Congress, the so-called Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, which envisions significantly increased civilian assistance to Pakistan to help build civilian institutions, educational institutions, infrastructure, increased exchanges between Pakistan and the United States, but to really pursue those priorities that are important to the Pakistani people and important to their future.

And the Secretary mentioned that we will have a team led by David Goldwyn, who will be going to Pakistan next week to discuss with Pakistan its energy requirements, how we can perhaps work with Pakistan to extend electricity, for example, to more parts of the country. But all part of the long-term commitment that the United States has to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, and to the region.

And just to finish up before taking your questions, at the end of this week, Secretary Clinton will depart the United States for an important trip to Europe with stops in London, Dublin, Belfast, and Moscow. In London, for example, she will meet with British officials about a range of issues – political, economic, security-related. In Dublin and Belfast, continue our support for the peace process in Ireland and, in particular, work with the governments there in terms of the next step in the process of devolving responsibility of governance to the people of Northern Ireland, a particular focus on judicial and policing issues.

And finally, in Moscow, following up on the July summit in Moscow, and then, obviously, the recent meeting between President Obama and President Medvedev in New York, a series of meetings not only on the urgent security issues that we face in terms of the situation with respect to North Korea, the situation with respect to Iran, energy issues as they affect Europe, but also to hear reports from the various committees that were set up to work on a variety of issues. And obviously, one final one would be to take stock of the ongoing negotiations for a follow-on arms control agreement between Russia and the United States.

But with that, ask your questions. We’ll start there. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. This is Arshad Mahmud from BDNews 24.com in Bangladesh. If you could kindly address the issue of how the – your Administration’s policy toward befriending the Muslims around the world. What is the new strategy of this government? It seems the strategy that you have taken is not working and people are getting more angry, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you have followed The New York Times report the other day, it clearly says that your expanded – the intended expansion of your footprint there is creating a lot of resentment in Pakistan among the officials, and also in Afghanistan. So how do you reconcile this competing forces? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: A very good question. Obviously, we are in the Obama Administration following up with very specific programs, initiatives, policy decisions, regarding – in support of the President’s Cairo address earlier this year. This is obviously a very difficult process, and it’s going to differ country by country, region by region. Muslims around the world are very diverse and they have a variety of attitudes towards the United States. Attitudes in the Middle East might be different than attitudes, for example, in Indonesia or elsewhere in Asia.

I would take slight exception; if you look at some of the recent polling that has come up, actually, perceptions towards the United States, in particular towards policies of the United States, have actually been on the uptick in virtually every country around the world, including those that have predominantly Muslim populations.

But – and in terms of very specific countries, as Secretary Clinton in an interview yesterday with CBS said, our objective in Afghanistan, for example, is not to transform Afghanistan in a way that we might like, but actually to help Afghanistan build institutions, meet the needs of its people. As she said, our plan is to help Afghanistan and then leave.

Next door, in Pakistan, we are trying to work with the government there and try to help the government increase its capacity to deliver for its own people. In the region today, we are working hard to help the people of Indonesia, as we are with the people in the Philippines, deal with the devastating natural disasters that have befallen them in recent days and weeks.

So – and clearly, in the Middle East itself, George Mitchell is in the region today. He will have meetings tomorrow and Friday as we try to work with the parties in the region, other countries in the region, towards a negotiation that we hope will lead to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

It is right for people in the world to expect that, notwithstanding a change in tone and rhetoric, we also have to be seen as adapting our policies. And that’s part of why we, the United State, and we in the Obama Administration, are pursuing a strategy that includes significant engagement all around the world. It is why we sat down last week with Iran and other countries to try to search for a solution to the nuclear challenge that we face in the region.

So I would say that this is going to be an extensive process. The Administration has been in office for barely nine months, and – but I think there is a different environment. There is a more constructive relationship that we have with countries around the world. And this is not just for the United States. You had an important visit by Saudi Arabia to Syria today because we recognize that, ultimately, this is a shared responsibility. We will not solve these challenges alone.

So I would say that we are, in fact, backing up the President’s rhetoric with very specific policies, specific engagement in every part of the world, to try to both identify the challenges that we face in common and search for ways to solve them.

QUESTION: Can you (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hoda Tawfik of Al Ahram newspaper. And, sir, I’m wondering what is the Administration doing regarding what is happening, the events that is happening at the mosque in Jerusalem, in East Jerusalem. And what is – how do you think it is affecting, actually, the target to have like a peace process or negotiations or anything like this? And the policy of the United States has always been that Jerusalem is part of the final status negotiations. So can you please explain a little bit? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, you just stole part of my answer. (Laughter.) The issues of Jerusalem are, in fact, a final status issue. It is why George Mitchell is in the region yet again. It is why the President met in New York with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu and other leaders, searching for the right formula that gets us back to a specific negotiation, and in that negotiation to, in fact, address the core issues at the heart of the ongoing conflict: the status of Jerusalem, the status of refugees, the boundaries of what would be a state of Palestine. These are – we are attacking this with urgency.

What is different here is that this is a commitment that the Obama Administration has made from day one. And the President is putting time into this, Secretary Clinton is putting time into this, George Mitchell is devoting significant time in the region to try to search for that right formula. Are we there yet? No. Obviously, we are trying to create the conditions for that negotiation to begin. We are not there yet. There’s still work to be done. There’s still movement that has – we have to see on the Israeli side, on the Palestinian side – critical support from other countries in the region. So we are, in fact, working that earnestly, and we hope that in the coming days and weeks, we will find the right formula that gets us back to that negotiation.

Within the next couple of – week or so, I think Secretary Clinton, as she was instructed by the President, in mid-October will assess where we are, the activities that we’ve taken, the meetings that we’ve had here in Washington, the meetings that George Mitchell is having this week in the region. And we’ll assess where we are, and she’ll report to the President in the next week or two about where we are and the way forward.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Zaher Imadi, Damascus radio. I wonder if Senator Mitchell is going to be meeting with President Assad during this trip. And my other question is while President Abbas is having so much problem now with a lot of Palestinians from all walks of life in there. He has no support, doesn’t seem to have any support for his presidency after his forgiving Israel, or for the moment in postponing Mr. Goldstone report to be addressed in the United Nations. Many Palestinians see a kind of conspiracy or letdown of their cause at the moment.

While Mr. Abbas is standing alone at this time? Do you still see in him a good partner, a reliable partner for the way ahead in the peace process?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes is the answer to the second question. To your first question, at the present time, I believe Senator Mitchell is in the region to deal with the respective Israeli and Palestinian teams. It’s possible he might make other stops there, but none is scheduled, as far as I know, at this point.

I would disagree with you in terms of how you assess the current situation with President Abbas. There – we believe that his political strength is on the rise. You’re seeing significant economic activity in the West Bank that you have not seen in quite some time, a growth rate of 7 percent or so that may actually rise this year into double digits. You’re seeing a change in the environment, and through his efforts, mediation not only of the United States, but also of others. You’re seeing changes on the ground that – where President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are, in fact, taking reform seriously, improving their capability, improving their performance, and providing important services and security that are vitally important to the Palestinian people. That is certainly in contrast to what you see in Gaza today.

President Abbas is a significant partner in this process. Ultimately, we are working hard and we hope that very soon you’ll see President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, with the support of the region, engaged in this negotiation that will begin to address the core issues and get to where we can end this conflict and reach a durable peace agreement that’ll be in the interest of everyone.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Joyce Karam with Al Hayat newspaper. Good to see you again. My question – you mentioned it in your answer to the first question, the visit of Saudi king to Syria. He arrived a couple of hours ago. I wonder if you can elaborate on your perception of this visit. Do you see it encouraging that Syria might be looking more towards the Arab fold rather than the Iranian one? And where are the U.S.-Syrian relations today?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, we have opened an important dialogue with Syria. Within the last few days, we had a visit by the deputy foreign minister here to Washington. You’ve had visits to Damascus by George Mitchell on a couple of occasions, Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman, NSC Director Dan Shapiro. So we are having important dialogue and we are working on the full range of issues in that relationship.

I think the fact that you have an important Saudi visit to Damascus is representative of the investment that Saudi Arabia has made in peace in the region and, obviously, King Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative. And so I think this is an example of where, in this stage, perhaps unlike where we were back in the 1990s, you have a much more active participation by other countries in the region. This is going to be very important if and when we get to a formal negotiation and begin to work earnestly on the critical issues that we face.

QUESTION: Going back to South Asia, I hope you are aware about the strong anti-U.S. statements coming from the Sri Lankan Government on Secretary Clinton’s remarks at the UN Security Council earlier this month about the use of rape as a tool – war weapon. How do you view the relationship between Sri Lanka and U.S.? Now it’s going down?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t say that. Just to clarify what you mentioned, when the – right at the end of the General Assembly a couple of weeks ago, the Secretary had a very important intervention at the United Nations where the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution for – regarding violence against women and girls in conflict areas.

It follows up on very specific actions that the Secretary has taken – her trip to Africa earlier this summer and her trip to Goma in particular – to highlight the fact that in these conflict areas, the most vulnerable of our population are the ones that bear the brunt of the impact of these conflicts. You saw this – you saw it last week in Guinea, where you had violence perpetrated by members of the military or presidential security forces allied with the junta. And there was systematic rape there as well.

There were some questions raised by the Sri Lankan Government, because in the intervention at the Security Council, the Secretary did, among – in pointing out a number of countries where we’ve had this concern in the past, she mentioned Bosnia, she mentioned Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Government sought to clarify that particular reference.

Melanne Verveer, who is our Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues, sent a letter over the weekend to the Sri Lankan Government, clarifying that the reference that the Secretary made was to very well-documented reports of significant levels of rape that were documented through, I think, 2002 or 2003 in a variety of reports, including State Department reports and also reports done by Amnesty International. At the same time, Ambassador Verveer did clarify that the reference was not specifically to the most recent phase of the tragic conflict in Sri Lanka.

That said, in her letter, Ambassador Verveer indicated that Secretary Clinton has a significant interest in looking to see how the United States can help Sri Lanka move forward. There are a significant level – a significant number of displaced persons still in camps in Sri Lanka. It is vitally important for Sri Lanka to move forward and help to deal with that refugee population and to try to help stabilize that situation. It is very important for the government to expand a dialogue with various ethnic groups to try to help move the country forward, get past – now that the military conflict has ended, find ways to get past and move Sri Lanka forward aggressively.

So I think that there’s an opportunity here for a stronger relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka going forward.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Secretary’s trip to Moscow? May I ask about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Apparently – can you say anything about the Secretary’s program in Moscow, apart from official meetings with President Medvedev and Foreign Minister Lavrov? And do you think that the Secretary will be bringing to Moscow something new – some new offers about Russian participation in the new ABM structure – ABM architecture?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure that in the discussions that Secretary Clinton will have with Foreign Minister Lavrov and other Russian officials, I’m sure that a variety of issues will come up. We have – we value the close cooperation that Russia and the United States have in terms of the current – the way we see the current situation with respect to North Korea – unprecedented cooperation, obviously, important implementation of sanctions now, and I’m sure we will talk about that.

Likewise, we will talk about the evolving situation with respect to Iran. Clearly, Russia along with the United States joined other members of the P-5+1 in terms of the recent meeting in Geneva. We will be looking ahead to an important IAEA inspection of the newly disclosed facility at Qom on October 25. And then, we hope to have a meeting of the P-5+1 and Iran by the end of October.

On European security issues, it wouldn’t surprise me if the issue of missile defense comes up, because, given the recent announcement that the President made in terms of the restructuring of our plans for missile defense in Europe, there is still the opportunity for cooperation between the United States and Russia on this issue.

I think an important issue where the clock is ticking in terms of the ongoing arms control negotiations for a follow-on of the START Treaty, I would expect that to be a major topic of discussion.

And I would expect that energy issues will be a major topic of discussion. But there are also – and I don’t have a list in front of me – but a series of committees that President Obama and President Medvedev set up. One I know is his cultural exchanges, for example. So that there’s been a lot of work done between the two governments since July, and the ministers will be hearing from these committees in terms of the progress made and moving the relationship between the United States and Russia, moving it forward.

QUESTION: Do you think the Secretary will discuss any issues of democracy in Russia and human rights?

MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary, whenever she has a high-level dialogue in Russia, will talk about human rights, the environment in Russia, the issue of our ongoing concern about violence against activists, our ongoing concern about intimidation of the news media. This always comes up.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Thanks. Andrei Sitov from TASS. Thank you for doing this, P.J., and please come back.

MR. CROWLEY: Andrei, nice to see you, as always.

QUESTION: You referred a couple of times to the ministers reviewing the progress of the working group. Does that mean that the representatives of the working group will be also traveling to Moscow and presenting their work there?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I would expect so. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the American side, there are about 20, if I’m not mistaken. Do you expect all of them to be there? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: I tell you what, I’ll take that question because I have not seen a delegation list. But I think one of the purposes of the meeting is to assess the work that has been done – very significant work that has been done on these various committees.

QUESTION: Okay. And another issue that you also referred to, the cooperation in regards to Afghanistan. The Russians opened their airspace to the Americans recently to transport their goods. How well is that program going? And my understanding is there has only been one flight so far. Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I think there is a second flight that might be going on as we speak. (Laughter.) You’re right; there was an agreement on cooperation regarding the transit of goods to Afghanistan. There were some logistical arrangements, which were just clarified last month, and I believe there was a flight that was taking off for Afghanistan today from Germany. And so I think it has – it is progressing.

MODERATOR: Sir, we’ll go to New York. New York, you can go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Okay. Zdenek Fucik, Czech News Agency. The White House confirmed yesterday that the Vice President Joe Biden is going to visit Prague and Warsaw soon. Could you specify the purpose and some details of this visit?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the White House. You’re exactly right; the Vice President will be traveling to Central Europe. He will be traveling to those countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic that were most specifically affected by the recent change in our missile defense. So I think that his trip will obviously be a manifestation of our ongoing – importance of the region, our ongoing partnership with these countries as part of NATO, and perhaps a clarification of the opportunities that do exist with this adjusted missile defense system for close collaboration, research and development, and other opportunities with respect to missile defense, but it’s certainly not constrained there. But the Vice President has made a number of trips to Europe and to both Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. I think this just shows the ongoing commitment that we have for close cooperation with that part of Europe, as part of our NATO alliance.

QUESTION: Ilin Stanev, Capital, Bulgaria. How do you think European allies will react in eventual shift in strategy in Afghanistan towards more anti-terrorists and less anti-insurgency actions?

MR. CROWLEY: I think you’re jumping the gun a little bit. (Laughter.) Part of the assessment is, in fact, not so much the strategy was set by the President back in March, but we promised at that time that we would have an ongoing assessment. And the timing of it, in particular at this point, is based on the emerging election results in Afghanistan. But we have a new commander on the ground who has provided an assessment. We have a new ambassador on the ground who has also provided his thoughts on the way forward in terms of the civilian component of our strategy. And we have intensive – a very deliberate, but intensive process underway.

As to how he will describe it, let’s wait for the President to make some decisions. Clearly, Afghanistan does face an insurgency with respect to the Taliban. And as Secretary Clinton and others have said, they have taken some aggressive tactics recently. There is some concern about the dynamic there. That’s one of the reasons why not only is this election important, but once we see a new government emerge in Afghanistan, it will be vitally important for that government to begin to address its capabilities. That’s why the United States and NATO are committed to help Afghanistan build its own security forces. So ultimately, it won’t be a U.S. solution or an external solution to the challenge of violence in Afghanistan; it will be an Afghan solution. And we are earnestly working and we’ll try to expand and build the capabilities of Afghanistan both on the policing side, on the military side, working to improve the capacity of the Afghan Government both at the national level and the local level.

And then clearly, in the region, we also have a terrorism challenge, and it’s a terrorism challenge that we, the United States, recognize. It affects us. It affects the region. It affects other parts of the world, including Europe. And that’s why we don’t have just an Afghanistan frame to this, we also have a Pakistan frame to this. And in that respect, as Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Qureshi reflected on yesterday, there has been significant progress made there in terms of Pakistan’s willingness to deal with the threat that is not only a threat to the United States and the region, but also a threat to Pakistan itself.

QUESTION: When can we expect the final review to be done? When can we expect the final review of the strategy to be finished?

MR. CROWLEY: That is a decision for the President, but you’ve got intensive meetings going on this week. Today, the focus is on Pakistan. Later in the week, the focus will be on Afghanistan. I don’t think there’s necessarily a timetable here, but I’m sure when we’re done you’ll hear from the President and others.

QUESTION: Rosalind Jordan with Al Jazeera English. Staying with Pakistan, after a lot of back and forth here in Washington, the $7.5 billion aid package is going to Pakistan with strings attached, and some are raising a note that the Pakistani military is raising a lot of objections to these strings, to the insistence that the aid be tied to its efforts to dealing with the Taliban, when, of course, there is the suggestion that some within the Pakistani military and the Pakistani intelligence apparatus have been supporting members of al-Qaida and the Taliban who have been taking refuge in the western homelands.

Have you seen these reports today? Is there concern that this very vocal opposition to what Zardari’s government wants to do, which is to accept this aid, could be a real threat to his continued rule there?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think it is a threat to the civilian government in Pakistan; quite the opposite, I think that, actually, what you’re seeing is a government in Pakistan that is becoming more confident, it is becoming more assertive, it is doing things that are important to the Pakistani people. You’ve had a very significant change in recent months in terms of the understanding that not only the government has but the Pakistani people have in terms of the nature of the threat that is a threat to Pakistan itself. In the recent activity by the military and by the government dealing with the situation in the Swat Valley, you’ve seen significant support by the Pakistani people for that activity.

We are – as part of our long-term commitment to Pakistan and to the region, we are going to provide assistance and we are working very diligently, very closely, with the Pakistani Government. It’s why the Secretary and the foreign minister met yesterday. It’s why the Secretary and President Zardari met in New York. It’s why you had a number of meetings focused on Pakistan during the UN General Assembly on not only making sure that there is proper international support for Pakistan, because we recognize that Pakistan is shouldering a significant burden, and Pakistan’s ability to deal with the challenge that exists within its border s and to help with – be part of a regional solution so that you deal with the threat that expands across borders, that that not only has benefits to those countries in the region, but has benefits beyond the region as well.

We are committed to help. We are committed to work closely with Pakistan. We’re not going to impose U.S. solutions on Pakistani problems. We want to make sure that to the extent we are willing and able to provide assistance, it is working hand-in-glove with Pakistan and addressing those concerns that are very specifically concerns of the Pakistani people and reflect the priorities of the people of Pakistan.

Energy is one of those areas. It doesn't – if you’re facing a challenge of political extremism and terrorism, the first thing that doesn't cross your mind is electricity. And yet, the ability of the Pakistan Government to ultimately deliver for its own people is part of that – part of the antidote to political extremism as people become more confident in their government that the government’s working on their behalf and not against them. That is how you ultimately reduce and eventually erode the support for the kinds of movements that confront Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries.

QUESTION: I am Ana Baron from Clarin, Argentina. I wanted to ask you about the trip of Shannon with the OAS mission to Honduras. As I understand, he was not a member of the mission at the beginning and he was included at the last minute. I was wondering why.

And second is his nomination has been – is pending in Congress for being ambassador to Brazil. Do you think this trip can help him, or is it going to be more difficult after this trip?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I can effectively read tea leaves on the Hill. All I can tell you is that the President and the Secretary of State continue to support the nomination of Tom Shannon to be our next ambassador to Brazil, and the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to be the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. These are two vitally important positions. Our relationship with Brazil and other countries in the region is important; for example, Brazil’s growing importance in terms of the G-20. And so we should have an ambassador there to help to strengthen and deepen the relationship, and we hope that that will happen very quickly.

Meanwhile, Tom Shannon, as the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is doing what we’d expect him to do. Today, you have a very important mission by the Organization of American States to Honduras. The United States has been very supportive of this mission, and it is appropriate that the United States should be a part of this mission. It’s led by Secretary General Insulza. They are on the ground and they will be meeting with a range of parties – the de facto regime, President Zelaya, but also the candidates who have declared for – to be the next president of Honduras, and the business community.

And the message is the same – that this crisis has to be resolved. It’s gone on now for too long. Honduras is facing an important election on November 29th. As the United States and other countries of the region have said, you do not have the conditions in Honduras today that lend themselves to a free and fair election. Those conditions will have to change if we are to have a new government in Honduras that will have the support not only of the people of Honduras, but also the international community.

There are very specific things that Honduras will have to do going forward to change those conditions to give us confidence that the election result is something that we can support. So the United States, being a part of this OAS process, we thought it was very important for the United States to be represented in this delegation, and Tom Shannon is there.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Ruben Barrera Mexican news agency Notimex. The issue – I think that you didn’t answer the question of my colleague, which is basically what change – what change in the few weeks or days that make you guys feel compelled to be part of this mission? Because as she point out, you know, the inclusion of Mr. Shannon in this delegation was something at the last minute. And when you talk --

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t tell you. I mean, I can’t answer that question. I know that Tom is a part of the delegation. As to whether he was a charter member or a late addition, I just don’t know.

QUESTION: And I was wondering, I mean, if this new effort – if this new push by the OAS to resolve this crisis by diplomatic means – are you willing to support fuller action to increase the pressure on the de facto government? And now that you talk the issue of elections, so far, your government has opposed any proposal of the OAS to not accept any results on the upcoming presidential elections regardless who won, unless, as you say, things in the field change – I mean, unless either Zelaya go back to the presidency or Mr. --

QUESTION: Micheletti.

QUESTION: Micheletti. I always think about Goraletti, but no, no, no. Mr. Micheletti is stepped down now, so I mean, what is going to be the position of your government in this issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think our position has been very clearly stated, which is, under current circumstances, we will not support the result – we will not recognize the result of an election under the current conditions. I mean, think of it this way. Until earlier this week, the de facto regime had issued a decree that imposed serious restrictions on civil rights, on media reporting on the ground in Honduras. Under those conditions, you can’t have a free, fair, and legitimate election.

Now, the regime has rescinded the decree, but you still have the constrained environment on the ground in Tegucigalpa. So ultimately, what you’re going to have – what we are going to clearly tell the de facto regime in the meetings over the next day is the very specific things that they have to do that change the conditions on the ground that would lead us to adjust our view of the upcoming election.

Now, the best way to do that is for the de facto regime and President Zelaya to sign the San Jose Accords, as we have made clear. Now – or come to some other mutually agreed solution. Now, within the San Jose Accords, you have many of the ingredients that can lead Honduras out of this crisis – having an environment that allows a free and fair election, making sure that the election is properly administered and monitored by international officials, having a reconciliation process that deals with the current fissure that precipitated this crisis in the first place.

So there are a lot of steps that we’ll have to see in Honduras if we are going to change our view of the current situation, but obviously, the clock is ticking. It is – the election is scheduled for November 29. You can’t just snap your fingers overnight and produce a free and fair election. We’ve seen that clearly in Afghanistan, that this takes an awful lot of work to put together under a difficult environment. So this is – the reason why we continue – we’re there today and the reason why we continue this effort through the OAS is because we recognize that the time is now and the situation is urgent.

Let me take – in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. This is for the Spanish public radio station. What do you expect from the Spanish presidency of the European Union starting on January? Are you going to ask the Spanish prime minister for more troops in Afghanistan when he stops at the White House next Tuesday? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave that to the White House. But clearly, we value the relationship that we have with the EU and the important role that the EU plays in a variety of issues, whether it’s regional security issues, the situation in the Caucasus, whether it’s European partnership with the United States in Afghanistan. The Deputy Secretary of State will leave very shortly for an important mission to Bosnia, where you have an ongoing – increased difficulties there and clearly an area where the EU is heavily invested in finding political – to keep Bosnia moving forward from the Dayton process.

We’ve had very important work within the EU working with – and the United States working together to bring Turkey and Armenia to the cusp of an important normalization in their relationship.

So there are a wide range of issues that I’m sure will be part of the discussion and that the Spanish will provide leadership to as it assumes the presidency of the EU going forward. And needless to say, you obviously had an important development in Europe this week in terms of the Irish vote on the Lisbon treaty. So there’s lots to talk about.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Latin America, same region, Latin America? Back on Latin America, same region, different country. Any update on Venezuela? The ambassadors are back in their positions. Are we moving forward?

MR. CROWLEY: In what way? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: In a good way or in a bad way; I don’t know. There were some protestors most recently tried to raise awareness on the situation down there, these students. And most recently, the Venezuelan president made some jokes regarding any nuclear exchange with Iran. I don’t know, it’s up to you; any comments on that? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Obviously, we would love to see Venezuela, and in particular the Chavez government, play a more constructive role in the region. It has not. Even though our views are somewhat the same with regard to the situation on Honduras, Venezuela is not – Chavez is not particularly focused on advancing the interests of his people. And he’s jetting off to Tehran, he’s jetting off to Moscow; I think he should stay home and build a more constructive government that’s focused on the interests of his own people.

Back in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. Hello, P.J. Mike Kellerman, AP-TBS TV. A quick question about the Secretary’s trip to Moscow. The Russians, as you know, have been vacillating back and forth regarding sanctions, getting on board sanctions with Iran. We hear one thing one day, we hear something else the other day. What will be her goal in regards to getting the Russians finally on board sanctions against Iran if Iran does not, quote/unquote, “cooperate” with this process? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the timing of the visit – we won’t necessarily know how serious Iran is until we see their willingness to cooperate with the IAEA on the facility in Qom. We’ll see what they’re prepared to do in terms of following up on the agreement in principle regarding the shipment of LEU out and then fuel back for its reactor as a confidence-building measure.

Clearly, we – the United States and Russia, I think we see the threat the same. Russia does not – it’s not in Russia’s interest to have a nuclear Iran. It’s not in the United States or the region’s interest to have a nuclear Iran. Likewise, Russia has played a very constructive role with the United States in terms of sanctions as they regard North Korea.

So this is a step-by-step process, and – but the – obviously, there was a very strong statement in New York not only by the Russians as part of the P-5+1, but also a very strong statement by President Medvedev to say that sanctions may not be the best option, but are – but may, in fact, be a necessary option depending on what Iran does. So you have a growing consensus in the international community about the risk posed by Iran on the current trajectory.

This is something where the focal point, the spotlight right now, is on Iran and what it’s prepared to do. If it is prepared to engage seriously in a process that addresses the concerns that the United States has, that Russia has, that others have, then there’s the opportunity for progress. But clearly, if Iran chooses not to engage constructively in this process, then there are potential ramifications, and we’re prepared to take those steps once we see what Iran is going to do.

Go ahead.

MODERATOR: We have time for one final question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take three. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh, really? Okay. Sam Kim from VOA. On North Korea, U.S. got a readout from China about recent meeting between Kim Jong-il and Wen Jiabao. So could you elaborate the State Department’s reaction or position toward Kim Jong-il’s statement that North Korea will be open to Six-Party Talk based on the result of U.S.-North Korea bilateral meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it is a different statement than North Korea has made in recent weeks or months, but we’ll obviously – we’ll see this as we go forward. Clearly, we have indicated a willingness to engage North Korea on a bilateral basis as a mechanism to bring North Korea back to the Six-Party process. And we’ve always recognized that the other members of the Six-Party process have the same opportunity for direct engagement with North Korea, and we are unified in our view that the Six-Party framework is the best mechanism to be able to resolve this.

We’ve made no decisions in terms of a future meeting between the United States and North Korea, but clearly, the intent of any meeting that might take place in the coming weeks would be to test that proposition, whether North Korea is, in fact, willing to come back to the Six-Party process, is willing to meet its obligations to follow on on the commitments that it has already made that leads us towards a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

So as we are going through this process, as we’ve said many, many times, we’ll be guided by what North Korea does, not by what North Korea says.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: You said that the U.S. and North Korea bilateral talks will be coming – I mean held in coming weeks. Is it --

MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t say that. I said --

QUESTION: Okay, in coming weeks. Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: We have made no decision, but if they come about in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Why --

MR. CROWLEY: If is very important.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there a possibility that North Korea and U.S. could have bilateral talks before President Obama visits Korea, China, and Japan next month?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn't put a particular timetable on this. We don’t meet to meet, so clearly, any meeting that we would have we would have to make sure that we are properly prepared for so that we have a successful outcome, which is to lead North Korea back to the Six-Party process. So a lot of mechanics potentially have to be worked out. We will continue to consult closely with our partners in this process. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has left Washington today for an important meeting in Honolulu with the chiefs of mission of the Asia Pacific region. After that meeting, I believe next week he will be in Tokyo, and then Beijing for follow-up discussions. So we will continue to work on this issue among the range of issues that we have with our partners in the region. And we’ll just wait and see.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Frederick Nnoma-Addison, AMIP News. The U.S. and Africa relations – the Administration has engaged the continent pretty actively. Between the President and Secretary Clinton, there have been multiple nation trips. Just two weeks ago, the President met with 25 African heads of state.

Now, as far as policy goes, what is being done differently this time than previous governments, and what is going to be different? What will be a different outcome in this government than others?

MR. CROWLEY: I think what is important is the framework that the President advanced in his speech in Ghana that we seek a partnership with Africa. And I know that’s been said before, but the level of – you’re exactly right; we’ve had an early and active level of engagement with many leaders in Africa, and we expect that to continue.

We’re going to work with Africa, but we are going to work with Africa to see African solutions emerge to African challenges. And a lot of that will be – some of that will be tough rhetoric. In the Secretary’s recent trip, she had some very sharp words to say to African leaders. It’s not for the United States; it’s for those leaders to step up and either advance – serve the interests of their people or get out the way. That was our message when – to the leadership of Guinea yesterday, which is – the junta is not serving the interests of its people. It is best for the junta to step aside and open the door for a process back to elections and back to a responsible, civilian-led government. In a country like Nigeria – vitally important to the future of western Africa – it has to deal with the issue of corruption, it has to take the resources that are there in Nigeria and apply them in the pursuit of what’s the best interests of their countries.

We will also shine a light on countries such as Ghana, such as Cape Verde, that are, in fact – have effective governments working on behalf of their people. We will continue to work closely with our African partners. We recognize that ECOWAS will have an important role to play in terms of trying to solve the challenge in Guinea. So I think it represents an early commitment by the Obama Administration to the future of Africa to try to find – one of the issues that perhaps didn’t get that much attention is the issue of food security that the Secretary advanced in an important meeting with the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York. But we have a food security initiative. Much of that food security initiative will be centered on Africa. How can we work with Africa in terms of helping to produce new seeds that are drought-resistant, that are disease-resistant, that can increase the yield – the crop yield? It’s why the Secretary has placed importance on the role of women in Africa. As she said, 70 percent of the agricultural workers in the world are women. And if you can empower women in these countries, they’re not only going to produce more food for their families, they’ll produce a surplus that perhaps will create new markets.

We’re going to look to see how we can use technology more effectively in Africa so that if you have a farmer who does have food to sell, how can he get that food to market? If he’s got access to information, then he has the ability to find out what’s the fair price for his crop, so that then, all of a sudden, now you have an economy that is growing in the continent.

We will listen carefully to the likes of President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, who says, hey, we’re with you in the partnership, but in terms of the current economic challenge, let’s make sure that there is – continues to have the proper level of support for Africa. Because certainly, Africa didn’t create the economic crisis that we have. But by the same token, we will broaden and deepen our engagement with countries of Africa, because as we address the climate change challenge going forward, we can’t see countries in Africa, just as we can’t see countries in Asia, develop the same way the United States did. We want these countries to advance and develop, but they have to choose a different model – one that is more mindful of the cost of energy and the impact that the use of carbon-based fuels has on the environment.

So it is a much broader, deeper level of engagement. I think we’re having a different conversation with the leaders of Africa than we have in the past.

QUESTION: A question on (inaudible) contractors (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: No. (Laughter.)

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