3:00 P.M. EDTMR. BUFFINGTON:
Good afternoon. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. We’re happy to have with us Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley. Just as a reminder, when taking – when asking your questions, please wait to have the mike in your hand and say your name and your media organization, and also turn off your cell phones.
Right now, I’d like to introduce P.J. Crowley.MR. CROWLEY:
Good afternoon. It’s nice to be back, nice to see you all. Some of you we see over at the State Department, others just here, but hope you all had a good summer. But since I was over here last, we have made some changes in the Foreign Press Center here in Washington. We have a brand-new TV studio or redesigned studio in the back. We hope that those of you who do television will take advantage of that in the coming weeks and months. I think we also have in-house wireless. So we’re trying to make the Foreign Press Center a reporting hub for you and a resource that you can use in your reporting about events here in the United States.
Obviously, as you heard a little bit ago at the State Department briefing, we have issued a global Travel Warning because of our concern about what might happen here in the United States on Saturday and the potential ramifications in terms of reaction overseas. It underscores the seriousness with which the United States Government is taking this proposed action by the small religious community in Florida. We certainly continue to condemn the proposed action, hope that the pastor will reconsider.
We also want to make sure that audiences around the world completely understand that this does not represent the views of the vast majority of Americans. We have – we practice religious tolerance, we preach religious tolerance around the world, and we certainly hope that cooler heads will prevail between now and Saturday. But in the meantime, we want to be sure that we express concern to American citizens who may be traveling overseas and potentially caught in international response to this situation.
And likewise, I know there are some European journalists here in the room. We have – just as I was coming over here, the Secretary was completing a call with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. And he – she was talking primarily about ongoing Turkish support for operations in Afghanistan. But I fully expect – I haven’t been given a readout of the call yet – but I fully expect that other broader regional issues were discussed as well.
But with that, I’ll be happy to open it up for questions. MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’ll start right over here.QUESTION:
Hi, Jesus Esquivel from Proceso, Mexico. Secretary Clinton yesterday compared Mexico to Colombia and said that because of the tactics used by the drug cartels – the car bombs and some controls of the Mexican territory, it’s – the cartel (inaudible) more insurgents and – I don’t know what she was trying to say. And later, Under Secretary Valenzuela said it is not correct to compare Mexico to Colombia. And also, today, in an interview with La Opinion, President Obama said Mexico is not Colombia.
What she was trying to say? I mean, who was wrong? (Laughter.) Who was wrong in this case of – she misspoke, or what’s the reason?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, first of all, let’s say that Mexico is not Colombia and vice versa. That said, we can appreciate that what we have seen in Colombia in recent years – the decisive action by the Colombian Government, a democratic government, operating under the rule of law but working with a broad strategy supported by the United States and others in the region – and we have seen that situation turn around. We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the brutality and the violence in Colombia. That’s not to say that the task is finished; this is an ongoing challenge for Colombia, completely supported by the United States.
What the Secretary was reflecting yesterday is the increased brutality being shown by these criminal elements who are challenging authority in Mexico, but by the same token, we are very mindful of the decisive action taken and courageous action taken by the Mexican Government under the leadership of President Calderon. Mexico is fighting back. And we, the United States, have our responsibilities, as we’ve acknowledged, in terms of doing our part both to support Mexico and our part on our side of the border.
But I think the Secretary was just reflecting on the fact that just as we have seen decisive action in other countries in the hemisphere, to fight these challenges to authority, as it happened in Colombia, we are seeing the same kind of decisive action in Mexico and we hope that will continue.QUESTION:
A follow-up?MR. CROWLEY:
Thank you. Ruben Barrera, Notimex, Mexico. Let me pose the same question in a different manner. Let’s say that what Secretary Clinton was talking about was some similarities between Mexico and Colombia. And taking that in consideration, I wonder if – I mean, the U.S. is considering talking with the Mexican authorities to see any change in the assistance that the U.S. is currently offering Mexico, especially considering that not only these criminal gangs are becoming more violent, but they’re becoming more brazen, they are – better equipment, they have a lot of cash to corrupt public official.
So, I mean, does the U.S. plan to keep the same level of assistance or there is any consideration on that to maybe suggest any change?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, first, to be clear, this is a – within the borders of Mexico, this is a challenge for Mexico, just as within the borders of Colombia, this was and is a challenge for the Government of Colombia. So this is an effort led by the Government of Mexico, and we appreciate the significant action that the Mexican Government has taken to combat these criminal elements.
We obviously, through the Merida Initiative, have a program to provide support to Mexico. We’re in a different phase in our Merida Initiative. We have provided specific hardware, if you will, in support of Mexico. We’re transitioning to where much of the aid is now directed at training the forces that are, in fact, on the frontlines combating these criminal elements, day in and day out. We are in continual contact with the Government of Mexico not only to see how we can be supportive of Mexico’s ongoing efforts, but obviously to coordinate our activities, because this is not just a challenge for Mexico. We do understand that this affects other countries in the hemisphere, including the United States.
We are very mindful, as the Secretary reiterated yesterday, that we both are part of the problem and part of the solution. It is the drug demand in the United States that provides the cash that allows these criminal elements to operate. And we are very mindful that some of the weapons that have been seized in the effective action by the Government of Mexico have origins here in the United States. So we do recognize that we have to – we are doing a great deal on our side of the border. We have to do more on our side of the border. This is definitely a shared responsibility. And we’re also, as the Secretary mentioned yesterday, mindful that this is not just a hemispheric challenge and the criminal elements that are a part of this have their fingers in other countries as well.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’re going to go into the back, the gentleman right there. Then we’ll come back forward.QUESTION:
Thank you. Donghui Yu with China Press. The tension between Japan and China is escalating because of the collision around the Diaoyu Island between Chinese fishing boats and Japanese warship. Do you have any comments on this issue? Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, this is a – this is primarily a bilateral issue between China and Japan, and we hope it can be peacefully resolved. MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’ll go off in the back.QUESTION:
Thank you. I’m Ingeborg Eliassen of Norway, and I have a couple of questions on the Middle East negotiations going on now, specifically on the role of Hamas, who are not at the table, still a very big player in Palestinian politics, and noting that the mandate of the president, Mr. Abbas, is shaky.
I wonder what kind of role do you see for Hamas in this year ahead towards a peace agreement that you want? What is your attitude towards the efforts by other players to bridge the divide between Hamas and Fatah? And I wonder how you judge the chances of a lasting peace entered without a broadly empowered Palestinian negotiating team.MR. CROWLEY:
Lots of questions there. (Laughter.) Well, we have said many times that any party in the region, including Hamas, can potentially have a role to play if they accept the principles outlined by the Quartet. They have to recognize Israel, they have to recognize existing agreements, and they have to give up violence.
It is Hamas that has chosen not to accept these principles, and thus, it is Hamas that has decided not to come to the table as part of this process. And tragically, we saw this last week, that just as leaders were coming here to Washington for the re-launch of direct negotiations, Hamas made its true intentions perfectly clear with the attacks on the – in the West Bank. So what we are doing is to build up the capacity of the Palestinian Authority.
We do see dramatic change happening on the West Bank. There is – despite a difficult global economic environment, you are seeing real growth on the West Bank as a result of the stability that improved performance by the Palestinian Authority has given to people who live in that area.
And so there are obviously tangible benefits from those who commit themselves to peace. We believe that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu are committed to this effort. We saw a seriousness of purpose in their discussions last week, not just with us but with each other. We expect that seriousness of purpose to continue next week in the meetings that we’ll have in Egypt and in Jerusalem. So we are going to do everything that we can to support those who are committed to peace, and are prepared to play a constructive role in the region.QUESTION:
Thank you, P.J. Good to see you here. My concern is –MR. CROWLEY:
This is cheating. You get five questions over in the other. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
No, one question. But it might help bring the peace, whatever is going on. Now, we have 9/11 and Eid falling on the same day, which is a very dangerous sign – first time. And you have event in Florida. And this person, who is going to burn, which he said, the Qu’ran, he has more press there than congregation in a church.
Now, my question is, what the role –MR. CROWLEY:
That’s probably true, Goyal.QUESTION:
What role do you think Secretary is playing to bring peace, as far as diplomacy is concerned? If – she has spoken with any Muslim leaders, or if she is getting any calls? So how can we bring peace? Because this is a very dangerous time.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, it is potentially a very dangerous moment. We have taken this claim by this small fringe religious community in Florida very seriously. The Secretary has spoken out on two occasions earlier this week, condemning what the pastor is contemplating. We certainly continue to hope that he will reconsider. And we’re encouraged that a wide range of voices here in the United States – political leaders, religious leaders, civic leaders – are also expressing their concern, and also telling him directly that this is not what America is about.
So we recognize the potential danger, which is why not only have we condemned it strongly, from the President to the Secretary to others, but we have also cautioned Americans who might be traveling around the world at this time. We certainly hope that this unfortunate proposal will not happen on Saturday.QUESTION:
And you have global warning because of this one man?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, that’s – as the Secretary said yesterday, that’s the nature of the world that we live in, that a – one person or a small group of people can have global impact. That is the reality. All we can do is to continue to communicate inside our country that this is the wrong way to commemorate 9/11. You don’t respond to an act of hatred through an act of hatred.
But we also continue to say to the people around the world, particularly people in Muslim-majority countries, that these small number of people, one pastor and maybe as many as 50 members of the congregation, they do not represent America. They do not represent what we stand for. They do not represent our values or our ideals. And we hope that whatever happens, people will take that into account.
In every community around the world, we have our fringe elements, our radical people who think and act outside the mainstream. We don’t judge any country by the acts of one person, and we hope that people will not judge the United States by the acts of one or a small number of people.QUESTION:
Ilhan Tanir from Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish press and (inaudible). I would like to go back to phone conversation you mentioned, sir, between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister.
First of all, there is a public referendum in Turkey this Sunday. Did they talk about this, or do you have any comment on the referendum? And also, U.S. President Obama’s nominee to Turkey Ambassador Ricciardone still waiting for the Congress to reconvene. Has the ambassador or the Secretary talked to Senator Brownback? Or what is the latest update on that? Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
I can’t comment on the phone call. I haven’t had a full readout, so I don’t know if that issue was discussed. We continue to do everything that we can to support the nomination of Frank Ricciardone, one of our ablest diplomats, to be the ambassador in Ankara. We are committed to his confirmation, and we continue to talk to the Senate and the Foreign Relations Committee about this nomination, and we hope that when the Senate reconvenes here next week, that it will bring his nomination up for consideration.QUESTION:
Thank you. Okay. Another follow-up to the Mexico question. You know money talks, in Washington, especially. You said, like you’ve said before, that this is a shared responsibility between the two countries, even though Mexico is the one leading the effort.
And then, to rephrase the question, do you foresee the Secretary or anyone in the Administration coming back to Congress, asking for more aid to Mexico? Because obviously, what’s been offered so far is not making a dent on this war. Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I’m not sure I agree with your assessment. This is a difficult struggle. It is going to take time to resolve and it’s going to take decisive action, not only on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, but in other countries as well. This is a challenge that will take years to resolve.
We believe that our assistance to Mexico is helping Mexico. You see it in the decisive action that – taken by Mexican security and law enforcement officials. We saw, I think, in the past 24 hours, the arrest of those responsible for the deaths of scores of migrants within Mexico. More needs to be done, and we are committed to support Mexico. And in our budget process, we will continue to provide resources under our Merida Initiative.MR. BUFFINGTON:
Okay. We’ll go right there.QUESTION:
Thanks. Ai Awaji from Jiji Press. On North Korea, you are having a round of consultations with other Six-Party members right now, and I am wondering what you expect to happen during the UN General Assembly. Are you expecting a meeting of six parties, five parties, or is there going to be any dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea?
And also, what’s happening inside North Korea right now, the leadership process? Is that going to have any impact on the next step you are taking?MR. CROWLEY:
All good questions. We are having consultations with our partners within the Six-Party process, conscious of the meeting today with Assistant Secretary Campbell and his Japanese counterpart, Mr. Saiki. Ambassador Steve Bosworth and Sung Kim will have further discussions with key allies in the region next week.
I’m not here to make any announcements on the schedule for the UN General Assembly, either the Secretary’s activities or the President’s activities. I’m not sure that there will be meetings constituted in the form of a five-party of the Six-Party Process, but we will have high-level consultations with key allies who have an interest in helping to move North Korea in a different direction. Those meetings will occur during the UN General Assembly, and I’m sure that we’ll talk about a wide range of regional issues, including North Korea.QUESTION:
A follow-up? MR. CROWLEY:
Yes, Keunsam Kim from VOA, nice to meet you, see you here. I also want to ask you about this North Korea issue. With these – all kind of activities, I just want to ask of you, are we going to the direction toward the resumption of the dialogue or the Six-Party Talks? That’s my first question.
And the second question is: Last year Ambassador Bosworth visited Pyongyang to check North Korea’s position before the resumption of Six-Party Talks. So is U.S. Government still open to that possibility, I mean, to have bilateral dialogue with North Korea before the resumption of the talks to check, and I also want to ask the same question that she asked – the leadership process. Thank you. MR. CROWLEY:
The – QUESTION:
The leadership process, its effect on the future of Six-Party Talks. Thanks.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, on what might or might not be happening in North Korea this week, we’re watching as you are to see what unfolds and what the potential significance is. Quite honestly, we don’t know. We don’t know what’s going to happen and we don’t know what the potential significance is.
In terms of resumption of the Six-Party Process, of course we are open to that possibility, but North Korea will have to take some actions and change the status quo before we would consider that fruitful. Again, are we open to bilateral discussions with North Korea? Of course we are. We want to see a fundamental change from where we currently are. We want to see a reduction in tensions in the region. We want to see North Korea play a more constructive role in the region. We want to see North Korea have more constructive relations with others in the neighborhood, including South Korea. We want to see North Korea abide by its international obligations and begin to take affirmative steps in line with the – its 2005 commitments. Those are steps that North Korea has to take. We will be responsive if North Korea begins to move in what we consider to be a constructive direction.MR. BUFFINGTON:
Okay. We’ll go right there.QUESTION:
Narayan Lakshman from The Hindu, India. Regarding President Obama’s trip to India in November, there’s been hope for a big announcement, but so far nothing has materialized. And there are three possible issues.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, this trip is still a couple of months away.QUESTION:
Yes, but it’s what we’re hearing here in D.C., but – so regarding the three possible potential issues, could you explain how the U.S. plans to tackle them? And they are, firstly, the nuclear liability bill, which has not gone the way possibly that the U.S. would have expected. Secondly, the repeated demand from Indian ministers visiting D.C. about the export controls list; a review has been announced, but again, not India specific. And thirdly, India has had long-held anxieties about its own future role in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has not really made any sort of assurances or guarantees in that regard. So is that – how do you see that playing out? (Laughter.)
And finally, a logistical question is: His trip, is it very close to the November election, and if so, is there any risk that it might be canceled?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, tell you what. I’m going to take all questions about the President’s trip to India and put them over here, other than to say that the President looks forward to his trip to India. As we’ve said many times, it is a vitally important relationship to the region and to the world. The world’s oldest democracy and largest democracy should have constructive relations, and we do. And India, as an emerging global player, will be essential to solving challenges in the region, Afghanistan being one, and challenges globally, climate change being one. I’m anticipating a broad agenda, wouldn’t be surprised if some of the issues that you have ticked off are part of that discussion.
Let me center on your comment on Afghanistan. We are pursuing a regional strategy, which is why we have expanded our discussions with other countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and other countries in the region, and we’re not ruling out cooperation with Iran when it comes to Afghanistan. This is a regional challenge and we expect that key countries in the region, including India, will develop their own relationship with Afghanistan. As we’ve said to many countries, this cannot be seen within a zero-sum calculation. So we want to have constructive relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, want to have constructive relations between Afghanistan and India, we want to have constructive relations between Afghanistan and Iran and other countries in the region.QUESTION:
But you acknowledge that there are tensions between that – in constructive relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and --MR. CROWLEY:
Again, we’ve talked about Afghanistan with India, with Pakistan, with other Central Asian republics, and in each case, we’re promoting a regional agenda. We want to see increased commerce among these countries. We believe if you have – if you develop trading relationships, if you develop economic interests, that can have an impact on reducing regional tensions.
So – but again, I’ll defer in terms of the specifics on what will be the key elements of the President’s trip. I won’t rule out that there will be – there’s always deliverables, as we call them, when you have presidential travel to critical countries. I know the agenda is still being developed for his trip.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’ll go right here.QUESTION:
John Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan. P.J., after these latest meetings – U.S.-China meetings in Beijing – some very positive statements came out of both capitals about the bilateral relationship. Could you tell us how the meetings went and what exactly was achieved? Do you now consider the tension in the relationship, as we have seen over the last few months, behind us?
Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, this is a very important relationship. It’s very important to the United States in terms of our bilateral relations with China. It’s also important in terms of regional and global issues. So it is natural that the United States and China should work significantly and constructively on many of the challenges that we face.
It’s hard to see how the world is going to recover economically without decisive action and coordinated action by the United States and China. We do effectively work with China when it come – with respect to North Korea, as one example. We did work intensively and constructively with China in terms of the move towards Iranian sanctions and the adoption of Resolution 1929.
We are now – we’ll be engaging with China in terms of how to effectively implement Resolution 1929. Robert Einhorn will be in the region next week as part of an interagency team to talk to China about both Iran and North Korea and implementation of the respective resolutions regarding these two countries. Now, in this relationship, we do understand that there will periodically be tensions. We will never see every issue in the same way.
But as we’ve seen in the trip this week with Tom Donilon, Larry Summers, Kurt Campbell, that we can sit down, have a frank and candid discussion, help each country understand the perspective of the other, and find ways to work constructively together to resolve both tensions within our bilateral relationship and set an agenda for cooperation on bilateral issues as well as multilateral issues. QUESTION:
P.J., a follow-up on Iran?MR. BUFFINGTON:
Let’s go here.QUESTION:
Hello, I’m Luis Alonso with AP Spanish, and I would like to ask a question about Peru. The Peruvian President Alan Garcia said recently that when he came to Washington a couple of months ago, he discussed with President Obama his desire or his interest of having a larger or bigger U.S. counter – anti-narcotic effort in Peru, and he even mentioned the possibility of having – hosting U.S. troops there. Is such a plan being considered by the U.S., and has there been any official communication with Peru in this regard? Many thanks.MR. CROWLEY:
I’m not familiar with the specifics of the discussion between our respective presidents. It is – Peru is a significant player in the region. We have had significant dialogue both in terms of the president coming here, Secretary Clinton going there. And our agenda is broad. Obviously, counternarcotics is a dimension of our discussions with Peru, but certainly not exclusive to that. But as to the nature of future cooperation, I have no comment at this time.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’ll go to Sonia.QUESTION:
Thank you, Mr. Crowley. Sonia Schott with Globovision Venezuela. Can we jump to Venezuela, actually?MR. CROWLEY:
I had that strong suspicion you were going to go there. QUESTION:
(Laughter.) Assistant Secretary Valenzuela yesterday mentioned that the U.S. considered as a positive sign the improvement in the relation between Colombia and Venezuela. And suddenly, he mentioned also how important the freedom of expression and strong institutions for the U.S. are. So could you please elaborate a little bit more on that? So is the U.S. happy with Venezuela but not that happy? What does that means? Thank you. MR. CROWLEY:
Well, in the context of recent discussions between President Chavez and President Santos, we obviously are encouraged by that dialogue, and it would appear that there has been some easing in tensions. I suspect that one discussion or one meeting by itself does not solve every issue, but we certainly believe that the only way to resolve outstanding issues between Venezuela and Colombia is through the kind of dialogue that the two presidents engaged in, and we hope that that dialogue will continue. We obviously have stated our concerns about events in Venezuela and we will continue to do so. QUESTION:
And what about the --MR. BUFFINGTON:
Hold on for the mike. QUESTION:
Any update on the nomination of the future U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Mr. Larry Palmer? Thank you. MR. CROWLEY:
It is an issue that we continue to discuss, we think, very constructively with the Government of Venezuela. President Chavez has expressed his concerns about our nominee. We still believe that he is an outstanding diplomat and would be a very effective interlocutor, and through the kind of dialogue that he could have with the Venezuelan Government, we believe that he would be an effective ambassador and could, through his presence in Caracas, help us resolve and expand the dialogue between our two countries.
So he is still our nominee. We are still committed to his nomination. We hope that the Senate will confirm him and we hope that Venezuela will understand that we believe he is the right man to help improve relations between Washington and Caracas.QUESTION:
P.J., I wasn’t going to ask a question here, but – it’s Tejinder Singh from TVTN and AHN (ph) – but the news just came in that Iran has identified that they’re releasing very soon Sarah S, one of the hikers, a spokesman from the Iranian mission to the UN has said. And your comments, please?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we’ve heard those reports. We don’t know what Iran is contemplating. We have today reached out to our protecting power, Switzerland, and asked them to approach the Iranian Government to clarify what Iran might be prepared to do.
We believe that the release of the three hikers is long overdue. We have been encouraging Iran for more than a year to release them. We have said many, many times, despite accusations in Tehran, these were three ordinary young Americans who walked across an unmarked border. They’re not spies. They’re not a threat to Tehran. And we would love to see all three of them come back to the United States as soon as possible.QUESTION:
Thank you very much. Sorry, Silvia Ayuso from the German press agency. I would like to ask you a question about Cuba. Today, after all the articles that have been coming out in the Atlantic, and many experts are warning that the U.S. is not reacting fast enough toward the changes that have been occurring in Cuba in the past month, beginning with the release of many prisoners, and that the U.S. is losing an opportunity in that sense. I’m asking myself if you – if the U.S. is finally planning to announce any new measures as the U.S. media advance almost a month ago, and so far we’ve seen nothing on that.MR. CROWLEY:
I have nothing to announce on Cuba. We have, we believe, been involved in a constructive dialogue with Cuba and by agreement with Cuba on a limited set of issues. We have mutual interests in managing issues regarding migration. We continue to look for ways to increase interaction between the American people and the Cuban people. We are prepared to respond to specific steps that Cuba takes. We have been encouraged by Cuba’s recent release of political prisoners. We would like to see all political prisoners in Cuba released. We are very mindful at the same time that we have an American citizen in Cuban custody. We’d like to see him released.
So we are closely monitoring developments in Cuba. We are in – we have narrow discussions with Cuban authorities on areas of mutual interest. We are watching closely to see what – developments in Cuba and we’ll see what happens.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’re going to go over here.QUESTION:
Dmitry Khirsanov with ITAR/TASS. P.J., about a week ago, the Post reported from Bishkek that you extended – the U.S. Government extended one-year lease on Transit Center or Manas Air Base, whichever you prefer. I made – since there was no public announcement on that, I made several calls to the – to both State and Defense Department. For some reason, I never received any answers on that. And it’s not a big deal, but I was just – I’m just curious, if the report was true, why not confirm it? If it’s not true, why not refute it?MR. CROWLEY:
I happen not to know. I’ll take the question. We’ll get back to you.QUESTION:
Okay. Let’s go in the back right here.QUESTION:
Thanks, P.J. Nico Pandi, Jiji Press, Japan. In regards to Iran and the recent IAEA report that came out earlier this week, on Tuesday, at your briefing, you said that you’re still confident that 1929 and sanctions from the U.S., European, Asian allies are having an impact, but that we have to wait and see. And then today, the Iran Policy Institute revealed evidence of this new secret underground nuclear facility in Iran.
I know you can’t speak about intelligence issues, but I was wondering, with this recent unveiling, even though unconfirmed, and then the IAEA report, what is it that you need to see the Administration – State Department needs to see before they say, “Okay, we’ve waited and we’ve seen enough”? Like, what is it that Iran needs to do before we say, “Okay, what we’ve tried is not working; let’s try something else”? Thank you. MR. CROWLEY:
Well, as you know, and we have described many times, a dual-track approach to Iran. We continue to have concerns about Iran’s nuclear aspirations and their ongoing activity, as the IAEA report underscored. Enrichment is ongoing and that is of tremendous concern to us. There’s no justification for the ongoing enrichment. There’s no justification for the secret facilities that have been unearthed before, Qom a year ago being a good example of that.
We’re not in a position to comment on what was announced today. This is a group with a mixed track record in terms of previous announcements, but we will obviously study closely the information that they have put forward today. We are prepared to engage Iran if Iran is prepared to work constructively with the IAEA. They’re prepared to meet the United States and others as part of what we call the P-5+1 process.
But at the same time, we are putting pressure on Iran through both 1929, the UN Security Council Resolution, and national steps that the United States and others have also instituted, and most recently, decisive action by Japan and Korea. So we think the combination of a willingness to engage, plus the pressure that the international community is applying to Iran, is the way to go, and we believe that the pressure that we are applying is, in fact, getting the attention of the leadership.
Now, that hasn’t changed the fundamentals. We are still concerned about ongoing activity. There are many questions that we have about Iran that have gone unanswered. We have been seeking information from Iran for some time that would allow us to answer the questions that we have raised and others have raised, and the questions that are outlined in the most recent IAEA report. So we are hopeful that in the near future, Iran will agree to sit down with the international community in one or more settings and we can have the kind of engagement we’ve been seeking for quite some time.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We’ll go right here, then --QUESTION:
Thank you. China – Yonhap news agency, South Korea – China today expressed opposition to South Korea’s announcement of new sanctions on Iran and called on relevant parties to have more talks, and also – what is your position on that? And are you satisfied with China’s role, cooperation, in imposing sanctions on North Korea and Iran? And finally, I thank you, P.J., for coming here, not to – pardon me – to the State Department. (Laughter.)MR. CROWLEY:
An endorsement. I need to write that down. (Laughter.)
First of all, as we just said, these are not mutually exclusive. We believe that we have made a genuine offer to engage Iran constructively. And it is Iran that we believe needs to come forward and agree to the kind of dialogue that we are seeking. So we’re prepared to talk, just as perhaps China and others have encouraged. It is Iran that has failed to come forward and to engage the international community constructively, and that’s actually why, earlier this year, the UN Security Council, with China’s support, passed Resolution 1929, expressively because Iran was not forthcoming in answering the questions that – and addressing the concerns that China and the United States and others have about its nuclear program and its nuclear aspirations. So we’re fully prepared to support engagement, but in the meantime, we are aggressively implementing Resolution 1929.
As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Einhorn will be in Beijing along with an interagency team to discuss both Iran and North Korea with China, going forward in order to put the kind of pressure on Iran that we think is necessary. We will absolutely need China to fulfill its international obligations under Resolution 1929.MR. BUFFINGTON:
Thank you. Hoda Tawfik from Al Ahram, Egypt.MR. CROWLEY:
How are you?QUESTION:
Thank you. My question is on Middle East. What is the plans after Jerusalem? Would they continue negotiations till the end of the month like the Palestinians said? And also, President Abbas announced or said that he asked the President or the Administration to help so that there will not be a resumption of building and then – and the settlements, so that they – the negotiations will continue.
And another question about Senator Mitchell’s job or mission in Syria: Their coordination with the French, is there an idea or a thought that you start the negotiations, Israeli-Syrian, parallel to the Palestinians?MR. CROWLEY:
A lot of questions there too. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
No, it’s only two questions on one (inaudible). MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I heard more than that, but that’s all right. So do I get to pick the two? (Laughter.)
We are looking forward to meetings next week, first in Sharm el-Sheikh and then in Jerusalem. We are committed to this re-launch of direct negotiations. We believe that this is the only way that the parties – and this is a process led by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. There are difficult decisions that both will confront in the weeks and months ahead. As George Mitchell emphasized last week at the conclusion of the first round of direct talks, both sides, as we go through this process, will have to make very difficult compromises.
We understand that there is a lot of public statements being made, but what will be essential is, when the leaders sit together, they build the kind of trust and confidence that is necessary; they understand what each other’s needs are; and they find ways to work through the difficult issues that are a part of this effort. We’re not going to talk about what we are saying to one side or the other. We’re not going to talk about the specifics of our meetings, either last week or next week.
But as we’ve said publicly, we thought that the – it was very important to get the parties back into direct negotiations; we have been successful in doing so. We believe that they are committed to this, and are taking it seriously. And we look forward to these meetings next week, and beyond next week.
As George Mitchell said, I think also last week, when he was hired by President Obama, his job was to pursue comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And while our immediate focus is on the Israeli-Palestinian track, we are continuing to seek dialogue and solutions on the Israeli-Syrian track and the Israeli-Lebanese track. So we haven’t given up on the other elements. Our ultimate goal is still comprehensive peace in the Middle East.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We have time for one more question.MR. CROWLEY:
Thank you. Thank you very much. My name is Williams Ekanem. I write for Business World newspaper in Nigeria. Let me take you to Africa, and specifically Nigeria.
You know – of course you know everything – yesterday, the timetable for the general – for the common general elections were released, and (inaudible) just made a statement. And often, the U.S. have always said they were – they are looking for credible elections in Nigeria, come next year. So, practically, what is the U.S. Government doing to ensure credible elections, come next year in Nigeria?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, ultimately, the caliber of elections in Nigeria is something that has to be led by Nigeria. We are prepared to support credible elections, free and fair elections, in Nigeria. We are encouraged by the steps that President Jonathan has taken since he took over the presidency.
This will be a difficult challenge. But within the construct of our U.S.-Nigeria bilateral binational commission, we are trying to work in a number of areas to build up the capacity of Nigeria to govern effectively. And obviously, an essential role of the central government is to put forward a credible electoral process that garners the support of the Nigerian people, and is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Nigerian people, all segments of Nigerian society, and is credible internationally.
So, we are committed to help Nigeria. We’re not the only ones who are going to do so. Elections are something that do gain broad international support. So we believe that the United States and others will do everything that we can to help Nigeria, because we understand how important the upcoming elections will be.MR. BUFFINGTON:
We have the last question right there.QUESTION:
Thank you, sir. Zengxin from Caixin Media, China. President Hu Jintao is coming later this month to New York and will meet President Obama. So what kind of main topics do you expect the two leaders will discuss, and what kind of results do you expect?
Sorry, I have a second question.MR. CROWLEY:
Just during this midterm election, do you expect the currency issue will reemerge as a dispute? And what will –MR. CROWLEY:
In our midterm election?QUESTION:
Yeah, yeah. What will – the Obama Administration will be holding a stance this time? Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, given that I do foreign policy and not domestic politics, I have no predictions in terms of the midterm elections.
You’ve had the – many of you have had the opportunity to travel around the United States and will be covering the upcoming elections. You know very well that the economy will play a significant role in the minds of American voters as they vote in the midterm elections.
We believe the Obama Administration has put forward a very significant economic plan, both in terms of trying to stimulate our economy, and the President is out talking to the American people about steps that we need to take to help create an effective, long-term economic recovery. But I won’t make any predictions in terms of what will happen in November other than to say clearly, the economy will be a central issue.
I’ll go back to what I said earlier, that obviously, the United States has and will continue our dialogue with China on global economic issues. The fact that Larry Summers was in Beijing is an indication of the importance that we attach to our economic relationship. I’ll leave it to the Secretary of the Treasury, but obviously, we continue to talk to China about economic issues, including currency issues.
But – and you’re going to try to get me in trouble – I am sure, between ourselves at the State Department and the White House, we’ll be announcing details of the President’s agenda and the Secretary’s agenda for UNGA. There will be some very high-level meetings that will take place.
President Obama and President Hu Jintao do converse on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be surprised if they converse again. And you can expect that in this relationship, we’ll have a combination of bilateral issues to talk about, and we’ll talk about regional and global issues. The issues that we cooperate with China in are fairly well known. I’m sure the next time that President Obama and President Hu Jintao meet, they’ll talk about North Korea, they’ll talk about Iran, they’ll talk about other regional issues. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they also talk about climate change. But these are critical issues.
As the Secretary said in her speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations, we are developing different sets of architecture to address global and regional issues, and we are looking for partners to help solve global issues. Many of the issues that we’ve talked about today – including the economy, including climate change, including regional security – will require cooperation and support, mutual support, between China and the United States. So it will be a significant agenda when the two leaders meet.
Thank you very much.