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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

FPC Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 13, 2009

Date: 11/13/2009 Location: Washington, DC Description: Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center on "U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East." © State Dept Image
2:00 P.M. EST


Moderator: Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. We’re happy to have with us again Assistant Secretary Crowley. Just as a reminder, please, before asking your question, make sure you have the microphone in your hand before you ask it. And also please state your name clearly, your name and your media organization. I’ll turn the time over to Assistant Secretary Crowley.

MR. CROWLEY: good afternoon, and happy Friday the 13th. (Laughter.) But I hope that it doesn't have any measure of the briefing this afternoon. Always a pleasure to come back to the Foreign Press Center to my international colleagues and to talk about the issues behind the headlines of the day.

Let me start off in Asia, if I can. Obviously, Secretary Clinton continues on her trip to Asia, began the day in the Philippines. And in her first day there yesterday, she had meetings with the Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and President Gloria Arroyo. Today, she had a town hall meeting with students from across the Philippines, also met with veterans laying a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery, and swore in 68 Peace Corps volunteers at the U.S. Embassy. But she has since returned to Singapore, where she will join the President tomorrow for the meeting of APEC leaders. She will also hold a meeting with Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo tomorrow, and obviously will continue with the President as he now continues his trip with Asia.

And with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Tulin Daloglu with the Turkish newspaper Haberturk, sir. A Lebanese government has finally been formed, and I just wonder whether besides Lebanon do you have any other country in the region that you’d like to emphasize for their efforts for this government to be finally formed.

And I also have a, you know, question in regards to Turkey. Philip Gordon was recently in Turkey, and he talked about Turkey’s efforts on the Iranian issue as being useful. Can you please just describe have you defined that useful, what you mean by that? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. I really can’t comment on the first part of your question. Obviously, we support efforts and movements towards democracy around the world, wherever that may be – in the Middle East, in this hemisphere, elsewhere.

Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon has just left Turkey today, had a series of meetings with Turkish officials on a range of issues. And obviously, going back for decades, we have valued both our relationship with Turkey and the importance of Turkey as a pivotal state in the region. Turkey has played a very constructive role in terms of its contacts with other countries in the neighborhood. I think there has been some Turkish initiative recently to bolster its relationship with Iran. We think that’s useful because we think there should be a variety of voices talking to the Iranian Government about its responsibilities and its need to play a more constructive role in the region.

Sometimes the Iranian Government tries to make this about the United States and Iran. It’s about the international community and Iran. That’s why we, as the international community, we await Iran’s formal response regarding its responsibilities of its nuclear program, its response to the proposal that has been put on the table regarding the Tehran research reactor. And if there are other countries that share our concerns that are communicating those concerns to Iran, we certainly hope that Iran will listen.

QUESTION: Turkey is definitely a pivotal country when we are talking about the Iranian issue. But my question is more to the fact that the Turkish prime minister says that the Iranian nuclear weapon program is much more about Western fears and gossip. So when you hear those kind of statements, do you also categorize it as useful? And do you think with those kind of statements, Turkey is playing that pivotal role that you were talking about? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not going to parse particular comments by the Turkish prime minister. He will actually be in Washington here early in December, and we’ll have the opportunity to talk with him about developments in the region. We certainly do not think that the – our concerns about Iran’s nuclear program are a matter of gossip. We think they’re a matter of fact. And in fact, we are – that’s why international inspectors were recently at the newly discovered facility in Qom, and we look forward to the report later this month in terms of what those inspectors have found.

But certainly, we do think that Turkey plays a pivotal role in the region in terms of its relations with Iran, its relations with Iraq, its relations with Syria and other countries in the region. We value that position that Turkey has grown to occupy, and we’ll continue our dialogue with that country.

QUESTION: My name is Suval. I’m from Turkish daily Yeni cag, again. My question is --

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: All with Turkey. Yes, sir. Nowadays, the Turkish Government is harassing to judges, independent judges, even their university professors, they put into jail some journalists without accusation. Before that, as American, we are very concerned about the human rights issues – we issued some statement about the human rights subject. Do we have any concern on latest events in Turkey?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t speak to those particular events. I’m not familiar with recent developments in Turkey. But clearly, human rights is a significant element of our conversation with all countries around the world, and we have had dialogue with Turkey in the past about a variety of issues in terms – the rights and privileges of all of the citizens of Turkey. And we will continue to have that kind of conversation, but I can’t speak on recent developments.

QUESTION: How about these issues? Do you have any concern about (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Hi. Camille El-Hassani from Al Jazeera English Television. Hi. I was wondering – President Sarkozy met with the Syrian president today and talks about possibly restarting dialogue between Israel and Syria. They don’t – it doesn’t look it’s going to be going anywhere. But I wondered, has the U.S. discussed this with Israel – Netanyahu’s most recent, have they discussed the return of the Golan Heights to Syria?

MR. CROWLEY: I can talk – I can’t say on the most recent meeting that President Obama had with Prime Minister Netanyahu, they did talk about a range of issues. But certainly, broadly speaking, we do seek a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And so it would encompass all of the different threads that would include peace between Israel and Syria, a resolution of issues with Lebanon, as well as with the Palestinians. So we hope to work and see progress on all of those fronts, but I can’t really say if this has been a recent topic. But obviously, it is an ongoing element of our discussions with Syria.

QUESTION: My name is Joyce Karam --

MR. CROWLEY: Hello, Joyce.

QUESTION: -- from Al Hayat newspaper. I wanted to ask you about the peace process. How big it’s of a setback not to having resumed negotiations at this point between the Israelis and the Palestinians? I mean, we’re hearing more in town, analysts saying that maybe Washington should back off a little bit now – Tom Freidman is one of them – and review its options before it takes more efforts. Is that – what’s you’re planning for next?

And if I can ask you a second question: Do you think Israel should offer Abbas a total settlement freeze in order to help him politically and maybe run for elections again?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me run through all of those questions. Certainly, we continue our efforts to work collaboratively with the parties and with other countries in the region. We haven’t given up our objective, which is to get the parties back into negotiations as soon as possible, and to begin the earnest work of working on the very specific, complex, and substantive details to arrive at a just resolution, a final agreement, and formation of a Palestinian state.

And obviously, we’ve hit a bumpy road recently for a number of reasons. We are, in fact, at a point where we are assessing where we are, coming up with perhaps some new ideas in terms of how to close the gap that does exist, to get the parties back into – to reengage and get back into negotiations. We’ve had some, obviously, recent meetings here in Washington, taking advantage of the prime minister’s private visit here. And we will have further contacts in the coming days and weeks. I’ve got nothing particular to announce at this point.

At the outset of the Obama Administration, we recognized that the settlement issue is important to everyone in the region, important to Israelis, important to Palestinians, important to other countries in the region. That’s why we have made that a focal point of our discussions with the parties. That said, we have never said that a total settlement freeze should be a precondition to negotiations. And obviously, the President, the Secretary of State, others have communicated directly with the parties that we believe, at this point in time, the best way to move the process forward is, in fact, to resume negotiations as quickly as possible.

And we will continue to have – to do our work with all parties in the coming days and weeks and see if we can’t move towards that point.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. One, two, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mina Al-Oraibi, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Just to follow on the idea of negotiations, do you see that this could be on low level? I mean, we’ve heard quite a few indications that it could be low level rather than the bigger plan of having the two leaders come together or on that level of resuming negotiations. That’s my first question.

And very briefly, my second question is regarding – you said about bridging gaps, you’re looking at new ideas. Can you elaborate a little further what you mean by that? I mean, thinking is going in what direction regarding new ideas? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it’s more an issue of process. We will explore how we can increase the interaction, both directly and indirectly, with all sides, how we can begin to maybe address some of the substantive elements behind or inherent in working towards Middle East peace.

I mean, ultimately, if you get the kind of process going that we would like, you will have a combination of what you just outlined – that you would have high-level meetings when appropriate, you would have negotiators sitting at the table working through issues, you would have technical groups that are working through some of the very particular issues of the kinds of things that perhaps in other parts of the world you take for granted, but the kinds of things that are necessary for – ultimately to have two states living side by side and having the kind of relationship we’d like to see Israel and a Palestinian state have in the future.

So we’re clearly not necessarily at that point yet, but we’re obviously reviewing where we are, what the parties have told us during the Secretary’s recent trip to the region, what we think we can do through a combination of efforts. And it’s not just about the United States. Obviously, we value the conversations that other countries in the region will have with both sides – the role played by Egypt, for example, Jordan, other countries.

And so that was part of the Secretary’s message when she was in the region recently, which is to remind everyone that everyone has a vested interest, everyone has to support these parties as they contemplate very, very difficult decisions that they have to make, both to enter into negotiation, and when they’re in negotiations, how to work through the difficult issues and make the kinds of compromises that will be necessary to achieve Middle East peace.

I promised.

QUESTION: Okay. Hoda Tawfik, Al Haram newspaper.

MR. CROWLEY: How are you?

QUESTION: Thank you. The Palestinians are saying that they asked the United States for a clear plan, like what do you mean about ’67 borders, what do you mean about Jerusalem, not just naming the issues of the final status, but also a plan, an American plan. And now, I heard that Secretary Burns said that the Americans will be in the negotiations with the two parties. What does this mean? Would it be like Camp David or anything? The Egyptian --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, there’s nothing new in what Under Secretary Burns said in his speech earlier this week. I mean, we have always played a facilitative role in trying to achieve Middle East peace. And we would expect, because we are trusted in the way that we are by all sides, that we would continue to offer ourselves to play that role.

I mean, during the Secretary’s trip to the Middle East, she reflected to – in her conversation with President Abbas and her conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu how close we have come in the past, both in terms of Camp David in 2000 and in terms of the Taba discussions in early 2001.

And it is a shame that we could not have crossed the finish line at that point. But obviously, this is something that we do recognize as vitally important to the future of the region. It’s why we have chosen to reengage in the way that we have. And we’re prepared to play the typical role that we have in the past, and do so on a continual basis.

That said, we’re not going to impose a U.S. solution on the parties. We’ve always said that, ultimately, this has to be a decision that the Israeli Government makes on behalf of its people, the Palestinian Authority makes on behalf of its people, supported by other countries in the region. There may come a point in the future where we will offer our ideas on the best way forward. We have, in the past, put forward thoughts on how to break a logjam at a particular time. But ultimately, this has to be an agreement that the Israeli Government feels confident it can make, that the Palestinian Authority feels confident it can make, and that has the kind of support we think is necessary to make that agreement a reality and to see the two-state solution that all sides support.

But we were not signaling that we’re going to necessarily at this point in time impose our – a U.S. plan on parties. But again, this is one of the reasons why we believe it’s important to get in negotiations, because ultimately, outside of negotiations, you can’t solve the issues that we all know that are a part of this process. We think that at this point in time, getting into negotiations is the best way to move forward, and that continues to be our message to the Israelis and the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I’m Hussain Abdul-Hussain with the Kuwait newspaper Al Rai. Five months ago, it was announced that the U.S. would be sending back an ambassador to Syria, but no one has been named yet. Do you think this is a kind of delay? Are there any political reasons behind this delay? And if not, when is the ambassador going back? When is he or she going to be named? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question. We have committed to restore an ambassador to Syria. That is a process that takes some time to work through. Those of you who are here in Washington will recognize that just this week, we finally announced a candidate for the administrator of USAID. It’s taken a fair amount of time to do that. So some of these things do take time. I think there are probably a number of countries where we still await formal nominations for an ambassador, and I don’t think we’re sending any particular signal here. We have to select the right person, and there is a lengthy process of vetting that person, formally nominating, have the Senate have confirmation hearings, and so forth.


QUESTION: Michel Ghandour with Al Hurra Television. I have two questions. First, the Arab League is going to request an urgent UN Security Council meeting to work on establishing a sovereign Palestinian state that is internationally recognized, according to June 4th, 1967 border lines, including East Jerusalem as its capital and within a predetermined time limit and to become a full-fledged UN member. Do you support such a request?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that particular proposal. But I would just say we have a – we’ve had a longstanding view that these issues should be resolved through negotiations, which is why we continue to encourage the parties themselves to enter into those negotiations. And as I just said, we don’t that that solution should be imposed on those parties from the outside. They actually have to be negotiated so that you get the kind of ultimate support from all sides that we think are necessary to achieve peace.

QUESTION: And my second question is that there were some stories that Senator Mitchell is going to resign after the latest setback in the Middle East.

MR. CROWLEY: I think this is a monthly rumor. Let me put it to rest, yet again. Senator Mitchell remains hard at work. He’s committed to this process. And I would expect without saying when that will be, I would expect you’ll see him in the region over the next few weeks continuing our efforts to get the parties back to negotiations.

All the way in the back. Don’t want to discriminate with everyone in front here.


MR. CROWLEY: I’ll --

QUESTION: Okay. Hanan El-Badry, Alkhaleej daily newspaper, (inaudible) daily newspaper, and Ross El-Youssef, the Egyptian as well. I have two questions, one regarding Sudan and one regarding the Islamic world.

Regarding Sudan, we just heard the Sudanese Government agreed to give the American some facilities, including a military base on the Red Sea. Is that true? And if not, can you give us some details regarding the kind of assistance the Sudanese agreed to give the – Washington?

My second question will be regarding –

MR. CROWLEY: I'm sorry. Hold that one.


MR. CROWLEY: I am not – I do not know of any plan where the United States would operate militarily within – at a Sudanese base. I’m just not familiar with that.

QUESTION: Or any kind of security?

MR. CROWLEY: I think what – I mean, we’re looking for some things from Sudan, but we’re looking for very specific support and help from Sudan regarding the North-South process. We obviously continue to want to see Sudan be more constructive in terms of resolving the situation in Darfur. But I know of no plan for the United States to have a military relationship with Sudan.

QUESTION: Neither security – kind of security agreement with Sudanese?

MR. CROWLEY: I think right now our focus in dealing with Sudan is to get them to play a more constructive role in resolving the North-South situation and Darfur.

QUESTION: My second question regarding what’s happened and for – how it seems that there are kind of fear been extended through the Muslim American communities here, which is extended to the Islamic world, especially after many people here call to ban the Muslim American to go to military and also after many congressmen spoke or fixed – I mean, linked the terrorists with Islam itself. Can you address that? And do you think that kind of – or do you believe that kind of fear can affect the message President Obama sent from Cairo?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, first let us say that we obviously have had a tragic incident here at Fort Hood. There’s a legal process going on. There is a suspect in this case, and he is entitled to every legal protection and a fair judicial process going forward. I certainly don’t think that the fact that this – the suspect is of a particular faith should in any way affect the willingness of American citizens, regardless of what their ethnic background or their faith, to want to serve in the United States military. It is a hallmark of the United States military, and I happen to be one who served for 26 years in the U.S. military. Its diversity is unparalleled. Our acceptance of anyone of any rank, any background, their willingness to serve to defend the interests of the United States, and also to serve in the broader interests of the world, as they are currently doing in places – in dangerous places, including Afghanistan and elsewhere.

So obviously, I think we’re all going to take steps back and evaluate how in the world did this happen. And I’m sure that is happening within the Muslim American community here in this country as well. But I also think that we continue to point to how proud we are of Muslim Americans, how well that we as a society have – they’re integrated into broader American society. We continue to think that this is, in fact, a manifestation of the kind of understanding that President Obama was talking about in his Cairo speech.


QUESTION: Yes, Samir Nader with Radio Sawa. How much are you concerned about the war in Yemen to expand into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we are concerned about what is happening at the Saudi-Yemeni border, and we do respect Saudi Arabia’s right to take defensive action. We’ll defer to the two governments as to the detail of their respective military actions. And we’ve seen claims that maybe there are some other nefarious actors, and this we obviously hope to see this issue resolved as rapidly as possible. We’d like to see an end to the hostilities. And we reiterate our concern about the safety of civilian populations. Obviously, this military action is creating damage to civilian infrastructure, and we have concern and want to see relief workers being able to get into that area and provide for the needs of the local population. We, the United States, have thus far provided almost $9 million to help Yemenis displaced by this recent fighting.

QUESTION: Andres Judzik from Perfil, Argentina. I want to ask you a question talking about Mitchell a minute ago. There are other leaders in the world that are giving some attention to Middle East problem in this moment. One is the president of Brazil. Shimon Peres is in Brazil this week on the 20. He’s going to be there with the President Abbas. And Lula has said that he’s interested in participating in this process, and also he will travel to Israel and also he will go to the territories and he will speak with leaders there. Is the U.S. also interested in this opening to other leaders of the world to participate in this negotiating process?

MR. CROWLEY: I certainly think that we, the United States, have played a particular role, special role, over the years. It has never been an exclusive role. We have a variety of countries, whether it – the Contact Group and other same (ph). So I think, generally speaking, we certainly value international support for the search for Middle East peace. And in particular, we recognize that ultimately, should we get to a point where there is a peace agreement, there are going to be significant needs that countries in the region, and particularly the Palestinians, will require as they set up a state, should there be an agreement. And for that, there would be a broad need for support both within the region and from around the world.

So I can’t comment specifically on what the Government of Brazil might do, but I certainly think that we value the fact that the international community would, in ways large and small, support the search for Middle East peace.

QUESTION: No, but talking that Condoleezza Rice went to the region like 40 times in the previous administration, and Mitchell – how many times he have been there, when do you think that it is necessary really to change actors or add more actors into this process?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – I’m certainly not going to project that there should be a competing process. I think that we actually want to get a negotiation started. That negotiation should, in fact, involve primarily, in one particular strand, the Israelis and the Palestinians. And then we have played a special role in that, but certainly, particularly in terms of being able to express direct support for the search for Middle East peace, we certainly would welcome other voices who would encourage the parties to work towards a two-state solution.

One, two.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yasmeen Alamiri from Saudi Press. I actually just wanted to ask, have you solicited from these other voices, mainly countries from in the region, the Arab states, have you asked them to provide any assurances to Abbas that maybe if they back him up, if he will indeed go back and run, or maybe to invest in the seeking of Middle East peace?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, as to the latter stage of your question, the – President Abbas has received a report from his electoral commission about the ability to have elections in January. I’ll leave it to President Abbas to decide, based on that recommendation, whether an election can be held or whether it needs to be postponed.

Certainly, that was a significant message by Secretary Clinton during her interaction with leaders in Abu Dhabi, in Jerusalem, in Cairo, and in Marrakech, that this is a time where we do, in fact, need to support the leaders, support the process. We understand the difficulty that President Abbas has at this moment dealing with what might be described as the post-Goldstone situation. And certainly, we have encouraged countries and leaders to reach out to President Abbas, to other Palestinian leaders, and to encourage them to continue to focus forward and see what they can do to move the process forward.

So we do think this is a particular time where we need to support the leaders as they contemplate difficult decisions, and we also encourage these leaders to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to enter into negotiations as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Was there any (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary had the opportunity during her trip to touch base, as did George Mitchell, with leaders in Egypt, leaders in Jordan, leaders in Saudi Arabia, leaders in Bahrain. I apologize if I’m leaving people out. She talked with King Mohammed VI about this in Morocco. So we touched a wide number of bases during the course of the – of her trip, most of the GCC leaders. And our message was this is a time to encourage the parties to continue to look forward, to move ahead, and to advance the process.

QUESTION: Dena Takuri with Al Jazeera TV. How concerned are you by what appears to be the imminent collapse of the PA? And with that, to what extent does this Administration feel responsible for the troubles that the PA is in, given its high expectations that it put on settlement halts and the softened tone thereafter, and also the pressure it exerted on the PA to back down from Goldstone?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not going to accept the premise behind your question. I’m not sure that there is imminent collapse of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, we continue to be one of the leading supporters of the Palestinian Authority. And not just President Abbas, but obviously the efforts by Prime Minister Fayyad to build the kinds of civilian institutions that will be necessary for a Palestinian state to emerge, and to encourage continued efforts by the Palestinians on the security front, by the Israelis on the – on easing movement in the region, and on all sides to kind of build the kind of economy that will be necessary to give people hope that they can, in fact, invest in Middle East peace. So there are questions about the future, obviously a significant question about elections going forward, and – but we continue to encourage the Palestinian Authority. But ultimately, its future depends – is a decision for the Palestinian people to make.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that the frustration that comes from these failed expectations might lead to new violence?

MR. CROWLEY: That is one of the reasons why we remain very committed to Middle East peace, because we don’t want to see a vacuum emerge. We’ve seen efforts stall in the past, and when they do, there obviously are spoilers in the region who are going to try to take advantage of that. But that is one of the reasons why the Obama Administration, from its outset, reinvested in this, in the efforts for Middle East peace, because we want to see things move forward. We want to see the parties advance in the negotiations. We think that’s the best way to give people hope for the future, resolve the very complex issues that are inherent in this, and ultimately reach an agreement to solution, an end to the conflict and emergence of a state.

QUESTION: Ali Aslan from Turkey’s Zaman newspaper. Turkey obviously wants to take back its role as a mediator between Israel and Syria. But given the diplomatic tension, recent diplomatic tension between Turkey and Israel, how plausible do you think those aspirations are? Does the United States Government support Turkey’s aspirations to act as a mediator again between Israel and Syria? Are you encouraging the Israeli Government to work with Turkey as a mediator?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we certainly have valued Turkey’s role as a mediator in the past. We think it’s been a beneficial process. As to whether that process continues in the future, that really is first and foremost about those three governments to decide. If they choose to reinvest in that process, that obviously will be something that we support.

QUESTION: Dmitri Korsanov of – with ITAR-TASS. I was wondering if I can ask a question not related to the Middle East.

MR. CROWLEY: It’s okay.

QUESTION: Regardless of how fast and smooth the talks in Geneva go, which does not appear to be the case at the moment, we won’t have time to, you know, ratify the treaty instead of START before December the 5th. Could you specify what efforts the Administration is taking to create some kind of bridge authority on that, and whether you support the measure which has already been introduced by Senator Lugar?

MR. CROWLEY: To be honest with you, I’m not sure we ever envisioned that we could complete a follow-on START agreement and get it ratified before the 5th of December. So I think that the process is continuing somewhat as we expected. The teams are back in Geneva. They are hard at work. They are working through the issues. They are complex issues. But we remain confident that the process can be successfully completed.

Clearly, the target that President Obama and President Medvedev have committed to is to try to advance this process and reach an agreement in early December. Obviously, this weekend, the presidents will have a chance to visit again during the APEC meetings, and I’m sure this will be a topic of discussion. But right now, we’re committed, as I think are – is the Russian side to continue to advance this effort, because we believe that it is vitally important to put a new treaty in place. And we’re going to do everything in our power to see that effort completed as quickly as possible.

One, and then two.

QUESTION: Thank you. Rhonda Pense with Atlantic Television News. My question is over the U.S. Attorney General in Manhattan who is seeking forfeiture of hundreds of millions of dollars in assets from the Alavi Foundation. And was the State Department privy to intelligence regarding this investigation? And what do you think how this will affect diplomatic relations with Iran and the nuclear issue? And if this goes south and the Iranian Government is not a front for the Alavi Foundation, what type of message do you think this is going to send to the Muslims?

MR. CROWLEY: Number one, I don’t think we will talk about intelligence. Number two, on particular aspects of that case, I’ll refer you to the U.S. Department of Justice. Number three, I think this shouldn’t affect other issues. We want to see a different kind of relationship between the United States and Iran, between the United States – or between Iran and the international community. If you get to the point where you have a more constructive relationship, actually, some of these issues cease to be issues. But they are – and – but we will continue to enforce U.S. law in the meantime.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Hi. I had two questions. Jim Lowe, Interpress Service. Kind of on – a follow-on on Iran: There’s a big push now to get unilateral sanctions, some with extraterritorial applicability against Iran in the Congress. And the Administration has not taken a clear position on specific legislation. I wondered if you thought this push was timely, or whether you’re kind of waiting till the end of the year, or wouldn’t – would prefer that they be put off till the end of the year.

The second question had to do with settlements. Initially, the United States called the settlements illegal right through the Carter Administration. That changed with Reagan, who called it an obstacle, and that was adopted by subsequent administrations. This Administration has used the word, illegitimate, which seems to suggest, if you take the Latin root, that we’re headed back toward the illegal part under international law. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but what does legitimate with respect – or illegitimate with respect to the settlements mean exactly?

MR. CROWLEY: You are quite right, that we have challenged the legitimacy of settlements. I’m not going to parse the words of the President of the United States and the Secretary of State from this podium. As to Iran and sanctions, we are, in fact, in a period of time where we have put an offer of dialogue forward through the P-5+1 process. We have put on the table in Geneva what we think is an arrangement that meets a critical need that Iran has for nuclear fuel for its reactor, and be – and is – and could serve as an important confidence-building step in terms of interaction between Iran, the United States, and the rest of the international community.

But we also will, as the President has said, at the end of the year, evaluate progress that has been made in our offer of engagement, and will draw some conclusions based on any progress made or lack of progress made at that time. But we obviously have – we – a two-track process where we have a genuine offer to engage Iran out of – in an interest of mutual interest and mutual respect. But at the same time, we will continue to search for ways to apply pressure on Iran.

And we do have a number of tools at our disposal at the present time, and should there be a lack of progress going forward, we would look for additional measures to convince Iran of our seriousness of purpose, the concern that we have about its nuclear ambitions and its behavior in the region, and try to convince Iran that there’s a different path to take.

QUESTION: Do you consider the legislation that’s now moving through Congress to be helpful in terms of providing with that --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to – I mean, we will continue to have interaction with the Congress on whatever steps it might contemplate.

I’ll have to take one more question. We’ll make it here.

QUESTION: Hello, Carolina Escalera with Al Jazeera English. Can you give an update on the latest efforts to repatriate the 215 Guantanamo detainees?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work intensively with various countries around the world to try to resettle detainees that have been cleared for release, and we’re gratified at the cooperation and support that we have received from a variety of countries over the past several months. We are – we remain committed to close Guantanamo.

And obviously, I don’t have a number at the top of my head. There are a number of detainees that are still there. That would include a couple of significant blocks of detainees that we are still trying to determine how we can – where we – what we might be able to do with them. But that effort continues. But obviously, it’s because – we see it – it’s become a much – perhaps more of a challenge than might have been anticipated. But clearly, we are committed to the closure of Guantanamo as soon as we can.

Thank you very much.