2:45 P.M., EDTMR. CROWLEY:
All right, just to – we don’t get up to New York from Washington all that often. I pledge we will try to do this more often. I know many of you are here to talk about Haiti, but to the extent you have other interests around the world, I will be happy to take your questions.
So the Secretary of State will arrive here in New York in about two hours time – has spent the last day and a half in Canada at a ministerial meeting preparing for the upcoming G-8 leaders summit later in the year. We anticipate that there will be a great deal of discussion in Ottawa on Iran. When you get the leaders you have seen their focus on developing this pressure track and what we need to do in the current weeks to try to convince Iran that there is a consequence for its unwillingness to engage substantively and answer the questions the international community has with regard to its nuclear programs.
This evening in Washington President Obama will host President Sarkozy of France at President Sarkozy’s first visit to the White House since President Obama took office last year. We have a strategic relationship with France, and we anticipate that there will be wide ranging discussion, not only on – with respect to Iran, with respect to the global economic crisis, but also a wide range of enduring issues that we have with France, Haiti being one of them, the Middle East peace process being one of them, as well as some of our efforts in Africa.
I would say, before taking your questions, last evening the Secretary had a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Okada, and they talked about a number of subjects, including the base realignment plan and the new ideas that Japan has recently put forward on that issue, but also the situation with respect to Iran, our mutual concerns about recent developments in Burma. But very cordial, very wide-ranging discussions.
But with that, I would be happy to take whatever questions. Go ahead.QUESTION:
We among the U.N. correspondents – we were told last week by the British ambassador to the United Nations, after the conference call that was held among political directors concerning Iran, that there would likely be one – another such call or meeting – I think call, probably, early this week. Is that scheduled? And if so, when? And if not, why not? MR. CROWLEY:
I would fully expect that both of the directors will stay in close contact in – as they did last week. Bill Burns has been with the Secretary in Ottawa. So if a call did not take place on the margins of that meeting, then I would anticipate there would be one the next few days.QUESTION:
(Inaudible) call in the next few days?MR. CROWLEY:
Without it scheduled?MR. CROWLEY:
We will be in regular contact as to the schedule. But we will tend to put that out when the call takes place.
In Colombia today?MR. CROWLEY:
Hello. Is it working? In Colombia today there have been hostages – one of the hostages is being released. He has been there in the power of the FARC for about 12 years. They say, the FARC say that this is the last humanitarian gesture that they’re willing to do before there’s an actual humanitarian accord to interchange prisoners for soldiers. What do you think this idea could be – could it be helpful for the conflict in Colombia? Or any message of support for the hostages that are being released today?MR. CROWLEY:
That’s hard to say. I think that probably would be a question best answered in Colombia, not here in New York. We have been very supportive of the efforts of President Uribe in recent years in terms of improving the security situation in Colombia.
Obviously, Colombia is heading towards a very important coming election, but we certainly would continue support, dialogue and engagement between the Government of Colombia and some of the armed elements within that country. But as to where that stands, I think I’ll leave that to the Government of Colombia to kind of characterize what this means.
Okay, I have a question concerning the signing of nuclear arms reduction treaty in Prague in the next few weeks.MR. CROWLEY:
Early next month.QUESTION:
I know it is more like a White House thing but still echoed internally there have been a lot of rumors that a part of this event there will be some meetings with Eastern and Central European leaders like on the fringe of this meeting. According to (inaudible) is there any truth to it? And second question, in your view is there any significance that this treaty is going to be signed in Prague or in this region?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I certainly think it’s – we suggested Prague as a venue, because just a year ago, the President laid out his vision and the United States’ commitment to both strengthen the non-proliferation regime around the world but our commitment as one of the major nuclear powers to envision a world and begin to take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons and to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons. And we certainly think that the START agreement is a concrete step in that direction.
In the coming days in Washington, you’ll see the release of the nuclear posture review of a whole of government effort to help people understand what the role of the nuclear deterrent will be in our future security strategy. And then you have upcoming also the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in mid-April which is largely about bringing together a wide – more than 50 leaders to talk about how we continue to keep nuclear technology out of the hands of terrorists and other rogue elements.
I think among all of those, those two opportunities, the President’s trip to Prague and also the Nuclear Security Summit, I would anticipate the President will have a wide range of bilateral meetings as will the Secretary of State. We are currently got through the process of kind of lining up who will – obviously there is many more opportunities than there is time in the day, but I would anticipate that there would be those kinds of meetings. And I’m sure that the central and other European leaders will be a part of that.
How close are you of approving new sanctions against Iran in UN? Do you have a timetable?MR. CROWLEY:
I don’t think we have a specific timetable. We, obviously, attach a great deal of urgency to this. There will be – continue to be the collaboration we were just talking about. We want to make sure that ultimately it is an effective sanctions regime and one that focuses as much as possible on specific institutions that are connected to the government and to the nuclear program. One of those entities we trust will be revolutionary guard corps. We obviously want to have sanctions that send a message to the government but do not increase the hardship on the Iranian people.
So there’s no specific timetable. But I would expect we’ll have a turnover in the Security Council on April 1st I believe. Japan takes over as the presidency of the Council. And we will continue to work at this. And when we’re ready to table a resolution, we’ll work with our partners in the international community and do so.
I would also say that recognizing that in addition to anticipating another round of international sanctions, there are steps that individual countries can take at the national level. So our Congress is evaluating legislation right now that would also put national sanctions on Iranian entities or rather international entities that do business with Iran. Our interest there is to making sure that there’s flexibility so that we can, in fact, work cooperatively with other countries. Because as we’ve seen in the context of North Korea, this is a very good model, very effective and strong sanctions resolution followed by very firm implementation around the world.QUESTION:
A follow-up on that?MR. CROWLEY:
Thanks. Last week, Chancellor Merkel spoke specifically in terms of a vote in April. Is that the goal now? And secondly, the turnover in April, are you anticipating a friendlier leadership?MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, the Secretary hosted a meeting with the president of Gabon last week in anticipation of Gabon’s current leadership of the Security Council. I think it’s – again, it’s not about a specific timetable. It’s not about having a particular country in the chair when this takes place. We want to see this process move forward. We do have a sense of urgency on this. By the same token, we want to make sure that at the end of this it’s an effective resolution and it sends a strong statement on behalf of the international community and that has t he united support of the international community, and this is exactly what happened last summer with respect to North Korea.
So I mean these consultations are very important. They are meaningful. We’ve seen a significant shift in recent months in terms of Russian attitudes towards this. As Secretary Clinton has said, we’ve had intensive conversations with China, and we think that we’re making progress there. And these are two countries that have kind of set attitudes towards sanctions but do recognize that we share the same goal in terms of not seeing an arms race develop in the Middle East. And I think given the combination of our close consultation and then the ongoing unwillingness of Iran to engage – it’s threats of constructing more facilities – the revelation last fall when we were last here in New York about the secret facility in Qom, I think we are making progress in terms of making the case that this is something that the international community has to step up to.
If you can continue a little bit more elaborate on your take on Chinese position?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we have had a number of high level discussions. President Obama has talked to President Hu Jintao multiple times about this. We had a recent trip to China by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Senior Director for Asian Affairs Jeff Bader talked again about this. President Obama yesterday just welcomed a new ambassador from China who presented his credentials yesterday. So now we have the ability to have direct engagement at – in Washington as well. And as we talked about, we have ongoing consultations among political directors. So this is certainly not the only issue that we’re talking to China about, but it is a vitally important one and we think we’re making the case.
Thank you. What’s going on between the U.S. and Israel vis-à-vis the peace process in the Middle East? And is it true that the United States is going to abstain in the case or there is a resolution in the Security Council regarding Israel?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, on your second point, I will follow the leadership of my friend and lawyer, Cheryl Mills, and say since there is no resolution that’s been put forward in the UN, I’m not going to give a hypothetical response to a hypothetical question about a resolution that doesn’t exist.
On the broader issue, we did have intensive conversations last week in Washington at various levels with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation when they came to Washington. The President met twice in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Secretary Clinton had more than an hour one-on-one with him as well as phone calls preceding his arrival in Washington.
There’s a holiday period now in the region, so we are still evaluating where we are. I think the Palestinians and the Israelis are as well. And I would anticipate that once we get through the next week or so and the holiday period George Mitchell will return to the region and will continue direct discussion with Israel and with the Palestinians.
Our message remains the same as it has been for many months – that we want to see an end to the conflict. To get there, we ultimately have to see the parties sit down face-to-face. That’s the only way you’re going to resolve the issues that keep cropping up either directly or indirectly through events in the region. And we – right now we’re focused on the mechanism to get to direct negotiations being these proximity talks. And our message to the Palestinians and the Israelis is you have to take the kind of actions that foster an environment that allow the proximity talks to focus on the substance and then ultimately to direct negotiations, as we did when we condemned the announcement of the 1600 housing units, we thought that was a step in the wrong direction, harmful to the atmosphere, undercuts that sense of trust that is vitally important if we’re going to make progress.
Likewise, we’ve been very direct with the Palestinians in terms of cutting down on incitement. That also creates concern and undercuts our ability to make progress. So this will continue to be our message but we’ll, in light of the discussions that we had last week both with the Israelis and the Palestinians, we’ll pick up these conversations sometime next week.QUESTION:
Do you agree with the term that U.S.-Israeli relations is heading towards – there is something new with the new administration in Washington?MR. CROWLEY:
I – these are issues that every president has wrestled with going back to Lyndon Johnson. There is not something that is fundamentally different now that hasn’t existed with every administration past.
As Secretary Clinton said in her speech at AIPAC last week, we are committed to Israel’s security. And she likewise said that moving forward on the peace process is fundamental to Israel’s long-term security.
We are friends. We are allies. Friends frequently agree on things; friends occasionally disagree on things. We are pressing Israel to be more responsive on these issues, but it hasn’t changed the fundamental nature of our relationship.
One, too. John Ellis, Tokyo Broadcasting.MR. CROWLEY:
With all these nuclear issues that are coming up in the next two months, I was just wondering where are we on Six-Party Talks? Is there any updates? Any windows of opportunity for resumption of the Six-Party Talks?MR. CROWLEY:
We would certainly welcome a decision by North Korea to return to the Six-Party process. We had our own conversation with the North Koreans just before the end of the year with Ambassador Bosworth in Pyongyang. At that point they indicated that they were thinking about it. They’re still thinking about it.
A number of emissaries have gone to Pyongyang in recent weeks. We are interested in returning to the Six-Party process. We’re interested in seeing North Korea take the steps that it signed up to in 2005, affirmative steps towards denuclearization. North Korea wants to have an extensive bilateral discussion with the United States. Other countries want other have their own bilateral discussions with North Korea. Everyone agrees that the best – the only frame for that kind of discussion to continue is for North Korea to make the fundamental decision, return to the Six-Party process, take the kinds of steps that were outlined in the agreement that they signed in 2005, and then there’s a broader range of discussions that become possible.QUESTION:
(Inaudible). I’d like to raise a question which the Nigerian press raised yesterday after meeting the President. It’s a great feeling in Nigeria that the blanket ban kind of action that the United States took after the Abdulmutallab incident physically treated every Nigerian as one because of this, one man despite the fact that his father had actually alerted the American authorities to what was going to happen. The fact that after the incident every Nigerian headed for the United States, whatever they are coming from, have to go through enhanced security screening on behalf of what is considered to be blanket kind of treatment. So now why was that necessary, number one? And number two, what are the prospects? What is the United States expecting from Nigeria to change that situation? And a few months after, have you seen any kind of improvement in the situation?
Then also I wanted to know is it true that the acting president of Nigeria is going to meet President Obama as it has been rumored in the press?MR. CROWLEY:
Let me take the second one first. I’ll defer to my colleagues at the White House on a prospective meeting between President Obama and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. We are trying to find ways to support Nigeria during this very difficult period with the illness to President Yar’Adua. But as to a meeting, I’m not aware of one, but that would be for the White House to announce.
We do understand that in the instanced of Nigeria and other countries that have been most affected by the security actions that came after the Christmas Day incident with the airliner destined for Detroit, all I can say is we are working collaboratively around the world to try to improve security of aviation for everyone. This is not something that the United States has done to any one country or any one people. These are steps that have been taken to improve the global aviation system for everyone because there were not just American citizens on that airplane destined for Detroit.
We do understand that this can create a burden for anyone, Americans, Nigerians, others who travel internationally and to the United States. No one – this is not pleasant for anyone. And we are constantly evaluating the security standards because we do recognize that like it or not aviation remains, notwithstanding the tragic accident – tragic bombings in Moscow, aviation remains one of the, if not the primary target for terrorism around the world. But we are working closely with countries including Nigeria. And as we’ve pledged as we’re able to improve security for global travel, we will continually re-evaluate and, as appropriate, adjust the security steps that have been taken.
Yes.QUESTION: The New York Times
published like two Sundays ago that there was a list of companies that were – that was investigated regarding business with Iran, and one of those companies was Petrobras, the hugest oil company in Brazil. So my next question is does the Department of State have any information regarding business between Petrobras and Iranian companies, because Petrobras has no business at all. And two, how are you working with the Senators and the Representatives for approving legislation punishing companies that do business with Iran?MR. CROWLEY:
On the first point, I read that article, as you did. I’m not sure that that was necessarily a government list, so I can’t really comment on the specific company. It is something that we talked to Brazil about, and when Secretary Clinton was in Brazil earlier this year, she talked to President Lula and Foreign Minister Amorim about it. I would say two things. One is as we continue to work towards prospective sanctions against Iran, it will be incumbent upon all governments as part of the U.N. to effectively enforce those sanctions, and we would expect Brazil, like other countries, to step up to this.
But we are also having a broader conversation with various businesses and industry sectors around the world, because all businesses, they value their reputation and they too can see what is happening in Iran, not only in terms of the prospective instability that might result if we see a nuclear arms race in Iran, but also what Iran is doing to its people, the dynamic we have seen in Iran, regrettably, since the election of last June and the increasing oppression and intimidation that the government is demonstrating against its own people. So we can have this broader conversation, why would you want to put your own reputation at risk by doing business with Iran, and we think that conversation, irrespective of prospective sanctions, is having an effect.QUESTION:
Thank you. I’m also from Brazil. My name is Marilia (ph) from the newspaper for Sao Paulo, but I’m not going to ask you about Brazil, I’m going to ask you about Afghanistan. What were the results of Mr. President’s visit there, and what do you expect to discuss when President Karzai comes here in May? And I would also like to know your position about the debts of the military having been doubled this year. I believe you – something –MR. CROWLEY:
But there is – yes, there is a ramp-up. Not all the 30,000 troops that the President announced in December – they have not yet all arrived yet there, but we will be closing – through the end of the summer. President Obama actually went to Afghanistan first and foremost to thank our troops, and also the troops of many other countries who are there trying to help provide the security necessary for Afghanistan to advance. So that was the primary purpose of his trip. He did have an extensive conversation with President Karzai and members of his cabinet.
We continue to believe that this has to be not just a military strategy and not just focused on security. There is a civilian strategy here. You are see that evident in operations that are going on in and around Marjah, for example, and will be going in and around other places, whereas security forces are able to stabilize, in some cases take back, territory from insurgents, then you have to make sure that between the Afghan Government, supported by the international community, you are coming in and doing many of the same things for Afghanistan that we are talking about in the context of Haiti.
Afghanistan likewise – they have questions about the performance of their government based on past performance, concerns about corruption. They want to make sure that the government, not only at the national level, but at local levels, is doing what needs to be done there to stabilize the situation and to bring opportunity, jobs, resources, food – that is – and part of our civilian strategy is heavily focused on agriculture.
If you listen to Richard Holbrooke, our special representative, he gets enthusiastic about the export of apples and pomegranates and the establishment of a juice factory because if you look back – go back 30 years in Afghanistan’s history, it was the bread basket for south Asia, and that economy has disappeared because of the conflict that Afghanistan has experienced. So as we are able to stabilize the situation, then finding ways to create economic opportunities is vitally important. Secretary Clinton, when she is talking about Afghanistan – many of you have heard her – she will talk always about education and the fact that even today, the job is not done yet.
But even today you have made significant progress on the education front, and today Afghanistan is educating more girls than boys. When international forces first came to Afghanistan in 2001, the education system was just available to boys. So this too is part of that fundamental progress that needs to be made so that the entire population of Afghanistan, men and women, boys and girls, will have a stake in Afghanistan’s future.
So we are adding 30,000 military forces, but we have also added 1,000 civilians. It doesn’t sound like much, 30,000 and 1,000, but in that 1,000, we, the United States, are doing things fundamentally different. You have agricultural experts who are on the ground, you have rule of law experts who are on the ground, we have people in Kabul who are trying to build up Afghan institutions so that they themselves will go in and root out the corruption that everyone is frustrated by.
But this is part of a conversation that we will continue to have with President Karzai. He made some very specific pledges in his inauguration speech in November, and we are going to be working with him to see the implementation of those pledges.QUESTION:
(Inaudible.) I understand there was a time when the U.S. Embassy actually tried to get (inaudible). Do you have any kind of response as to (inaudible)?MR. CROWLEY:
I do think that that is a question for the Nigerian Government, and it is a question that we have. We are concerned about – we were concerned when President Yar’Adua was flown back from Saudi Arabia and there were questions about his ability to govern. I think those questions have, for the moment, been answered. We recognize the acting presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. We are very supportive of him.
It is not for us. It is actually for the Nigerian people. They deserve to know that there is a government in place working on their behalf. Obviously when Secretary Clinton was in Nigeria last August, she was very firm in her discussion with President Yar’Adua and other ministers about rooting out corruption, about making sure that the government was performing better. Nigeria is a significant country, one of the anchors of Africa, and
yet – you see that it is a country that is blessed with considerable resources, and yet it has to import refined petroleum products. It makes no sense. There is no rational basis for that to be occurring, other than you have a number of people in Nigeria who are looking after their own interest and not the broader public interest.
So we are very supportive of effective governance in Nigeria, and we think that that is crucial to making sure that Nigeria remains stable, remains an anchor in that part of Africa, and can play the role not only – play the role it has played regionally, and more broadly in terms of helping to stabilize – and helping Africa advance.
Thank you very much.
# # #