3:00 P.M. EST
MR. BUFFINGTON: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. We are happy to have with us Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley with us yet again over here at the FPC.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Yet again. The returning Jeopardy champion, P.J. Crowley. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: All right, Alex, I’ll take Foreign Policy for $200. Good afternoon, and I guess Happy New Year for those of you that I have not seen since last month. I thought I would just start off and bounce around the world just a little bit and then happy to take your questions wherever they will lead.
Clearly, we are very pleased with the ongoing visit to the United States by President Hu Jintao. Today he is meeting with members of Congress and then will head for Chicago, will have the opportunity to visit with both American people and also look at economic cooperation between Chinese and American companies.
One of the areas of significant discussion both in the preparation for his visit and then yesterday in his meetings with President Obama was the situation in North Korea. Clearly, we welcome dialogue between North Korea and South Korea. At the same time, we underscore that it is important for North Korea to take meaningful steps to improve inter-Korean relations.
Another area of significant discussion was the situation with respect to Iran. As you saw in the joint statement by the United States and China yesterday, we are committed to see Iran meet its international obligations. Our delegation, led by Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, has arrived in Istanbul, and I think there might be a dinner that is happening as we speak in anticipation of tomorrow’s meetings. We look forward to those discussions. We want to see a meaningful and practical negotiation process emerge with Iran’s nuclear program as the core issue.
And as we have made clear, this is an opportunity for Iran to come to the table and discuss matters that are of concern to the international community and primarily its nuclear program. We also appreciate the fact that Turkey is willing to host this very important meeting.
As we indicated earlier today, you saw the Secretary in her media availability with Foreign Minister Paet of Estonia. They did have a productive meeting this morning. Afghanistan was one of the most significant issues discussed, but they also spent a great deal of time discussing the situation in Belarus. We are very, very concerned about what has happened since the election in Belarus, the fact the government has detained those who were opposition candidates, they have intimidated family members, including putting at risk the young son of one of the opposition candidates. And we continue our efforts with the European community to make clear to Belarus that its current conduct is outside international norms.
Turning to the Middle East, as Mark Toner indicated a bit ago in the State Department briefing, Deputy Envoy David Hale met today in Jerusalem with Quartet envoys as we prepare for the Quartet meeting early next month in Munich, Germany. He also met separately with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho, continuing the discussions that we had last week here in Washington with both Mr. Molho and Saeb Erekat. David Hale with meet with Saeb Erekat in Amman, Jordan on Saturday. He will also have the opportunity during this trip to meet with Jordanian and Egyptian officials.
We continue to monitor the situation in Lebanon very closely, working with our international partners, including France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, to support the Lebanese people during this period as it follows its constitutional procedures and forms a new government. We want to see a secure and prosperous Lebanon, and we continue to engage both international partners as well as Lebanese officials as they go through this constitutional process. We remain committed to support the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and believe strongly that the work of the tribunal should continue without outside interference.
We are also monitoring unfolding events in Tunisia, and we encourage the national unity government there to prepare for open and inclusive elections to encourage the broadest possible political dialogue. And we’ve consistently called on all sides to remain calm and avoid violence. The people of Tunisia have spoken very clearly. The interim government has taken many steps to begin the process of opening up Tunisian society, releasing prisoners, enabling open media coverage of events. This process, we recognize, is not going to be easy. And we, the United States, stand ready to help Tunisia in any way that we can, and we continue to look at how we can be supportive in terms of technical assistance as Tunisia works to prepare the way for open elections.
In Africa, we are – we supported earlier this week the UN Security Council decision to expand the size of the UN force in Cote d’Ivoire. We remain very, very concerned about the situation there, the failure of Laurent Gbagbo to recognize the election results that he clearly lost and to step down and open up – pave the way for President Ouattara to assume full control of the government.
And finally, in this hemisphere, we continue to engage very strongly in Haiti. The Haitian Government has not yet responded to the OAS verification mission’s report regarding the first round of elections. But it is critically important that Haiti continue with its ongoing election process and continue to take actions that are consistent with the will of the Haitian people. They need to see the emergence of a credible, legitimate government that continue the vital work of rebuilding Haiti.
And we certainly believe very strongly that at this particular time, a very, very important and delicate time in Haiti, the last thing that Haiti needs is distractions, such as we’ve seen with the arrival of Jean-Claude Duvalier and also suggestions about a travel to Haiti by former President Aristide. At this point, Haiti needs to be focused firmly on the future, be allowed to continue to pursue its election process, and should not be dragged into the past.
With that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Before we start, just for the sake of the transcribers and everybody listening to the – or reading the transcript, please remember to say your name clearly and your media organization and wait for the microphone.
We’ll take our first question right up front over here with Mina.
MR. CROWLEY: Hello, Mina.
QUESTION: Hey, P.J. Thank you. I have a couple of questions. My first is: What would it take for you to see the meetings in Istanbul as starting a meaningful process? What does that mean? What are you waiting to see?
My second question is regarding the draft resolution that’s being discussed at the UN for illegal settlement activity in Palestinian territories. The U.S. has clearly indicated it doesn’t support this move. But at the same time, you speak about the importance of ending an era of impunity in Lebanon. And most people in the region are saying, “Isn’t there also a need to call for an era of impunity when there is no response to Israel continuing its illegal activity?” How worried are you about contradiction? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me take the last first. We don’t see a contradiction. Our view on settlements is very clear and unchanged. That said, this is a complex set of issues, and in our view, the only way to resolve these issues are through a negotiated process that leads to an agreement that ends the conflict once and for all.
We do not think that New York is the proper forum to be able to work through all of these issues. And I know that the issue of settlements gets most of the attention. And yet we understand that in order to see the emergence of a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israeli state living side by side, we have to be able to address all of these issues, from Jerusalem to borders to refugees to security and the issue of settlements. Unilateral steps, including declarations from one side that are not supported by both sides, we feel is unhelpful, as the Secretary underscored this morning.
Regarding Iran, we want to see a credible process. We want to see Iran come to the table prepared to answer the questions that the international community has about its nuclear program. We want to see Iran cooperate fully with the IAEA. You’ll recall, in the last couple of weeks, in anticipation of this meeting tomorrow, Iran invited diplomats from some countries to visit its nuclear facilities. That’s not a substitute for meaningful cooperation with the IAEA, answering the questions that the international community, including the United States but not exclusively the United States, has about its nuclear programs. So we want to see a seriousness of purpose. We are prepared to, on the margins of these meetings, discuss other issues. But we really need to see Iran come forward, prepared for a meaningful dialogue on the nuclear issue.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’re going to go right there.
QUESTION: Christina Bergmann, Deustche Welle, German international radio. I have a question about cyber security for the upcoming security conference in Munich. This will be a big topic. So where do you see the major threats? And also, if you had a wish list, what would that be? What can Europe do to enhance cyber security? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we look forward to the meeting. We will have some announcements, particularly in the area of personnel, between now and that meeting. Cyber security is an increasingly important issue. It is important to the United States; it’s important to other countries. As the Secretary indicated in her meeting with her Estonian counterpart today, Estonia is one example of a country that has a great deal of experience on cyber issues, and in fact, is now hosting a Center of Excellence regarding cyber security on behalf of NATO.
This is – it’s very, very important. It’s very technical. I’m probably not the right person to go through all of the technical aspects of this. But it is something that we see as being important. It’s a dimension of our commitment to internet freedom and to be able to have secure technology available to people around the world so they can have a free and secure flow of information that has, obviously, significance in terms of empowering people, including in societies where today, the free flow of information, the ability to express one’s views, are constrained. But this is – it’s something that is cropping up into our day-to-day relations with many, many countries. And establishing stronger international standards will be a critical dimension of this meeting coming up next month.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We can go right up front.
QUESTION: Zoltan Mikes, World Business Press Online news agency. My question is regarding of the WikiLeaks case and it is like – if you have any comment on the steps taken by Attorney General who asked (inaudible) for data of member of parliament of Ireland. What do you think? What does it – with the image of U.S.? And then --
MR. CROWLEY: Let me clarify. When you say Attorney General, is it the United States Attorney General?
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: And what would be your wish for next steps in this course of what would you like to see WikiLeaks, going where?
MR. CROWLEY: A tempting question. (Laughter.) I’m not at liberty to discuss the ongoing investigation. The Attorney General has indicated publicly that we are investigating what is, under our laws, a crime. And understand fully that someone inside the United States Government, with a security clearance and with a commitment to protect sensitive information, classified information, violated that trust and leaked this information to someone or more than one person not authorized to have it.
WikiLeaks has damaged our relations with other countries. It has compromised our ability to have confidential communications with other countries. But most importantly, it has put at risk people who have engaged the United States and our diplomats around the world, particularly in authoritarian societies where it is important for us to understand what’s happening and where information is difficult to obtain. Perspective is important as we try to find ways to open up these societies to the very kinds of civil society activity that we take for granted in a country like ours.
We have, as we have indicated publicly, tried to contact as many of these people – they are civil society activists, they are, in some cases, government officials, they are journalists in some cases. And their – the revelation of their names in the release of these cables has put their careers, and in some cases their lives, at risk. We have, in a very small number of instances, helped these people move to safer locations, sometimes in the same country; in a couple of cases, moved them to different countries. So that is our concern.
There is a temptation to suggest that our investigation of a crime is somehow related and undermines our commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Nonsense. There is no greater advocate for freedom of expression around the world than the United States. There is no greater advocate for freedom of the press anywhere in the world than the United States.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s fine. But understand that the – what WikiLeaks suggests it is promoting is unrealistic. It wants to have transparency everywhere at all times for all kinds of different information. That’s not the way the world works. Diplomacy works most effectively when you can have confidential conversations when needed, interactions among governments in confidence, and what’s important is that those conversations are consistent with our values, our laws. And we believe that the revelations that have happened here certainly support the idea that we – our conduct and diplomacy day in and day out is very much in support of our laws, our values, and our interests. And those laws, values, and interests are shared by many countries around the world.
But whether you’re a government or whether you’re a business, you need to protect vital information. I always use the example of Coca-Cola as one example. They have a secret formula. If it wasn’t for their secret formula, then how do they maintain their competitive advantage versus some other cola that has a different formula? Or if you’re Google, for example, you have an algorithm that you protect because it’s vital to your ability to your search engine, and that’s what gives Google perhaps a competitive advantage over somebody else. If you can’t protect the information that’s vital to your business, then how do you remain competitive?
Likewise, we have daily interactions like this one where we convey our perspective. We are as transparent a society as there exists on earth, and yet the conduct of our diplomacy does not mean that we tell you everything. There are things that we need to protect because in some cases, interests are at stake, and in many, many cases, lives are at stake. So WikiLeaks suggests that there should be no secrets in the world, and I think everyone recognizes that there is information that needs to be protected. And we are not alone in this. We have secrets within our government, and the governments that we interact with have secrets that they protect within their governments. But it is the nature of this day-to-day interaction between the United States and our diplomats and diplomats of other worlds that enables us to cooperate and solve problems together.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Do we have a follow-up in --
MR. CROWLEY: A follow-up.
MR. BUFFINGTON: -- a follow-up in the back?
QUESTION: Yeah, a follow-up quickly.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, Goyal. I emphasize “quickly.” I can see lots of people who want to answer (sic) questions.
QUESTION: I just cannot see you. What I’m asking you is, one, quickly, that as far as WikiLeak is concerned, one, they have just announced that they will be releasing now all the banks’ secrets from around the globe – who has account where, how much money they got and all that.
And the second, as far as this question – our question is concerned, what steps have you taken? I mean, can the global governments that you talk to them or journalists or other people you talk – can they trust you now? Are they – are these vital information now is protected? Let’s say if I have to talk to you, am I protected?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a very good question. And we always want to be judged by our actions. But countries have told us that given that confidential information and perspective that they’ve shared with us that now finds its way into the public space is a violation of trust. And certain countries have cautioned us that they perhaps will be less candid in the future than they have in the past. This is of great concern to us because it is this international cooperation that helps us solve real world challenges.
An example I’ve used before involves the tremendous cooperation that we had among countries in the Middle East – Yemen and Saudi Arabia as an example – together with the cooperation of authorities in Europe, that allow us – allowed us to identify and then intercept bombs put on cargo aircraft that had the potential to kill people in this country. It is that kind of interaction and that sharing of sensitive information that allows us to do everything that we can to mitigate the threat of terrorism, which is a threat to the United States. It’s a threat to Europe, it’s a threat to a range of countries from Yemen to Iraq to other countries in Asia as well. And anything that – steps that undermine this ability to cooperate to solve mutual challenges undermines the diplomatic system that is broadly beneficial not just to our people, but to people throughout the world.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’re going to go ahead and take a question from the New York Foreign Press Center. New York, you can go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. I’m Kamau Cush with New African magazine, UK. On Haiti, will the United States support calls for the prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier? And will the U.S. also support the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s last democratically elected president?
And on Tunisia, moving forward, will the U.S. be less selective in exposing corruption and atrocities in all countries, so as not to be blindsided as we all were when the revolution, so to speak, erupted in Tunisia.
MR. CROWLEY: On the first question, these are ultimately judgments that the government in Haiti must make. Clearly, for the United States, going back a quarter century, the record of Jean-Claude Duvalier is well known. He is – during his rule, there was a repression of the Haitian people, there were violations of human rights, there was corruption within his government. Whatever steps Haiti chooses to take is a matter that is currently before the judiciary within Haiti.
Regarding former President Aristide, we don’t doubt his interest in supporting his people. But this is a very, very important and delicate time for Haiti. Haiti has its hands full dealing with the current ongoing election process. And we do not think that any actions by any individual at this point that can only bring divisiveness to Haitian society is helpful in helping Haiti move forward, expressly because the Haitian people need the emergence of a new government that they believe and have confidence can lead Haiti to a more prosperous future.
Haiti has so much that it needs to do. The international community, including the United States, is already there helping in every way we can. There is a very clear, excellent plan that Haiti has developed to rebuild itself. There is strong international support to help Haiti enact that plan. But that – at the heart of success is a government that can lead Haiti to a brighter future. That’s why this process is so important. And what emerges from this process, the government that emerges in this process, has to be legitimate, has to be credible, and has to reflect the will of the Haitian people.
And that’s why we have concerns for the actions of Mr. Duvalier and potentially the actions of President Aristide. We would – we think that at this particular time, the last thing that Haiti needs is to have former rulers returning to the country.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We can go right here.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, regarding Tunisia, we have long advocated changes in countries in the region. And the Secretary’s compelling remarks last week at the Forum For The Future in Qatar underscore what we have been telling governments publicly and privately in the region for some time, that the status quo is unsustainable, that across the region, you have many, many youth, highly educated, who lack economic opportunity or lack the ability to play a significant role in open political processes in these countries.
So we may not have predicted precisely the time and date of what has unfolded in Tunisia, but certainly, we’re not surprised that, given the fact that such a substantial percentage of the populations of countries across the Middle East and North Africa are young, they’re ambitious, there is a – there is the yearning for a vibrant civil society, greater economic opportunity, greater political opportunity. And it is very important for Tunisia now to take advantage of the opportunity that has presented –is presenting itself. The people of Tunisia have spoken very clearly and very compellingly. The interim government is taking important steps to respond to the will of the people. That process needs to continue.
And I would hope that across the region, other governments and other people are looking carefully at what’s happening in Tunisia and should react not out of fear, but to learn important lessons that are there for Tunisia and try to apply those lessons in opening up space for a greater economic and political opportunity in other countries as well.
QUESTION: I’m Matthew Pace from CBC Radio, Canada.
MR. CROWLEY: Hi.
QUESTION: I’m wondering what you can tell us about the Canadian suspect arrested yesterday on charges of conspiring to kill Americans in Iraq.
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t tell you anything. I’ll be happy to take the question.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Let’s go right here.
QUESTION: Thank you. Sonia Schott, Globovision, Venezuela. Mr. Crowley, most recently, President Chavez addressing the nation sent kind of a friendship message to the U.S. Do you got it? I mean – (laughter) – any update on what’s going on between Venezuela and the U.S. ambassador’s issue? And if there is any possibility to resume dialogue, or what can you tell me? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as you know and as we explained, Secretary Clinton had a brief interaction with President Chavez on the margins of the inauguration of the new president in Brazil on New Year’s Day. We are interested in improved relations with Venezuela. We have ongoing concerns about developments in Venezuela. The Venezuelan people have concerns about difficult trends regarding the Venezuelan economy.
So we are hopeful that over time, relations can improve, dialogue can improve. Unfortunately, some of that dialogue is handicapped by the fact that we do not have an ambassador in Caracas at the present time. We believe that, last year, we nominated an excellent diplomat who could perhaps help to lead us to improved relations, greater dialogue, greater understanding between the United States and Venezuela. As you know very well, Venezuela late last year decided to rescind agrément for Larry Palmer. And as we have made clear at the start of the year, within our political system, ambassadors who are not approved by the last Congress have to be re-nominated. And at this time, we continue to believe that Mr. Palmer is the best candidate to help us improve dialogue between the United States and Venezuela.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We can go for the – yeah, the lady in the gray suit.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Kyoko Yamaguchi with Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. I have a question about North Korea and your conversation with China about how to deal with North Korea. Yesterday’s joint statement seems to be – seemed to have been the first time that China really expressed concern about North Korean nuclear – excuse me, uranium enrichment facility program. And I was wondering, have you had any reaction to that? And also, now that you share this concern, where – how – where do you try to go from here? Do you try to – are you thinking about trying to bring the case up in front of the UN Security Council? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, the joint statement is important, and it underscores the fact that we do have shared concerns about the situation in North Korea. We want to see improvements, reduction in tensions on the Korean Peninsula. We want to see North Korea abide by not only its international obligations, but the very commitments that it made under the 2005 joint statement. A lot of discussion between the U.S. team and the Chinese team leading up to that joint statement, and that’s also a reflection of the ongoing close cooperation and dialogue that we have among China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
And we believe we have a very – a shared understanding of the current situation and we continue to collaborate closely in terms of seeing what we can do to see a reduction of tensions, sending a unified message to North Korea that it needs to cease its provocations, improve its relations with South Korea. Those kinds of steps can, we believe, over time, open the door for resumption of Six-Party dialogue.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’re going to go ahead and take another question from New York. New York, you can go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Thomas Siemienski, Polskie Radio, Poland/France. Mr. Crowley, the relationship between Poland and Russia are getting a little more complicated because of the Russian report about the reasons of the Polish president’s plane crash. Some officials in Poland say an international investigation would be useful in this issue, in this case, maybe with the – with American experts. Could the U.S. Government take in any way part in this investigation? And what’s your comment about this issue with two countries which are both your friends?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, as we’ve said many times, this was a tremendous tragedy for Poland. And it has been fully investigated. This is, at its heart, a matter between Russia and Poland. We understand the sensitivities and the emotions that sorting through these issues can create. I’m not aware that the United States has been asked to provide any particular assistance in the investigation of this accident. But obviously, we are prepared to help in any way that might be – that either Poland or Russia would contemplate. But at this point, it is – we certainly would hope that this – the investigation of this tragedy does not in any way impede improved relations between Russia and Poland.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Okay. Come up front.
QUESTION: Thank you, FPC, and thank you, P.J. I have two questions. My name is Ali Imran from Associated Press of Pakistan. One, on trade issues: Pakistan has been taking – seeking access to U.S. textile market, preferential trade access. Can we report any progress vis-à-vis the bill on reconstruction opportunity zones in the new Congress?
And secondly, as U.S. and its international allies, including Pakistan and additional countries, move toward peace and security efforts, keeping in mind the 2014 deadline that NATO has agreed on handing over security responsibilities to Afghans, are you working on an initiative to promote regional peace in the regional perspective between Pakistan and India so that the regional tensions do not recur and this issue then goes back to the same old position? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: I count at least three topic areas there. On the first, clearly, in helping Pakistan develop and prosper in the future, helping the government grow the economy of Pakistan will be vitally important. There is a security dimension to the challenge represented by the extremism that is a threat to Pakistan and a threat to others. But a great deal of the challenge is in expanding economic opportunity throughout Pakistan, including the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The issue of textiles is an area that we have discussed and continue to discuss with Pakistan. We are supportive of the concept of the ROZs, as they’re called, and continue to have dialogue with the Congress on that issue. But it underscores, again, the importance of having balanced assistance to Pakistan. We have a longstanding military relationship with Pakistan, and we continue to work on how we can best support Pakistan so that it, in turn, can defeat the extremism, which is a threat fundamentally to Pakistan itself as well to other countries in the region and around the world. But we have shifted to improve and expand the civilian assistance to Pakistan, and economic support is a critical aspect of that.
We continue to do everything that we can to support a regional solution to the challenge of Afghanistan. We have encouraged Pakistan to have – develop its own stronger relationship and understandings with Afghanistan. And there have been an increase in dialogue between Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent months, and we continue to encourage that. And in turn, we continue to encourage greater dialogue between Pakistan and India.
So we are doing all of those things. We have an important trilateral meeting coming up next month among the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. And all of these issues, I would expect, will be on the agenda.
MR. BUFFINGTON: I think over here in the purple skirt.
QUESTION: Thank you. P.J., (inaudible) from (inaudible) Turkish daily. The first question is: When is Secretary Clinton going to Turkey and who is going – she’s going to meet? And the second question is: Finally, the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara has arrived in Turkey. As you know, in his nomination process, he was held by the Senator Brownback with the concerns that, in fact, he might not be – he might be too close to the Turkish Government and neglect the opposition in the country. How confident are you he’s going to be an objective ambassador and he’s going to reach out the opposition?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we have hinted to you, early next month, the Secretary will be going to Europe. She will be attending the Furkunde meeting in Germany. And on the margins of the – of that meeting, she will have a Quartet meeting. She will be making other stops in Europe during the course of her trip, and we expect to announce that very soon. In fact, given your question, maybe we’ll try to announce that as quick as we can, but – we’ll have more to say about that, but she will be – have a European trip in the next couple of weeks.
We are encouraged by the arrival of one of our most experienced and excellent diplomats, Frank Ricciardone, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. We had been supporting his nomination throughout the past year and regretted that the Senate did not take action on his nomination. But as a reflection of the importance of the relationship between the United States and Turkey, we did not feel that this was a post that could go without an ambassador for an indefinite period of time. The President, under his authority, made a recess appointment for Mr. Ricciardone, just as he did for ambassadors to the Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, and Syria.
But it’s a reflection of the importance that we attach to the relationship between Turkey and the United States, and the work that we do both on a bilateral basis and the work that we do cooperatively to try to solve challenges, whether it’s Iran on the one hand or Lebanon on the other hand. And he will be an excellent representative for the United States. I expect – he is experienced. He’s been an ambassador before. He’s been in this region before. He has experience directly with Turkey. And I expect he will fully engage the government, the opposition, and, broadly speaking, Turkish society.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Okay. We’re going to right here in the black. Right there.
QUESTION: Yonho Kim with Korean Service Voice of America. South Korea today announced that it has decided to receive – to accept North Korea’s offer to have high-level military talks. My question is: What is your measurement of North Korea being sincere and constructive in the talks that will lead to resumption of Six-Party Talks? And I want to also ask you whether the U.S. is looking for other talks on other issues other than military, the pending issues between the two Koreas before the resumption of Six-Party Talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me try to wrap that up and simply say we welcome dialogue between North and South Korea. We think it’s vitally important to reduce tensions and improve understandings on the Korean Peninsula. And that is one step among a number of steps that would potentially pave the way for a Six-Party dialogue. What can North Korea do? North Korea can continue to lower the temperature in the region. We want to see an end to the string of provocations that North Korea is responsible for in recent months. And we want to see North Korea take some steps to fulfill its obligations under the 2005 joint statement, meaningful steps towards denuclearization.
These and others – as I’ve said many times, we don’t have a definitive list, but we’re looking for clear signs that North Korea is – it will seriously meet its obligations and demonstrates that it’s prepared to have constructive dialogue. We don’t want to call a resumption of the Six-Party process until we are confident that those kinds of discussions will be productive. As we’ve said many, many times, we don’t want to talk to talk. We want to talk to achieve results. And once we have greater confidence that results can be achieved, then that would open the door for a resumption of Six-Party dialogue.
QUESTION: Talks on other issues?
MODERATOR: Wait for the microphone.
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: It’s just my second question.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we want to see inter-Korean dialogue. There are military aspects to this challenge; there are political aspects to this challenge; there are economic aspects to this challenge. So – but certainly, we support inter-Korean dialogue. But these are decisions for North and South – first and foremost for North and South Korea to make.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’re going to go back to New York. New York, you can go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Diego Senior from Caracol Radio in Colombia. I’m wondering if you have – I don’t know if you have been in touch – I don’t think so – with Mr. Gil Kerlikowske. He is the czar against narco traffic in the Obama Administration. He just went to Colombia and he came back and he promised somewhat of a help that he could do with the growing number of former paramilitary members that are coming up as new, independent selves, creating rising murder levels in Columbia. How specifically – because we – I would like to know, we don’t know – how specifically could the U.S. help Colombia in this situation?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I have not been briefed on the results of his specific trip to Columbia. But clearly, this is one area of significant cooperation. We’ve been working with the Government of Columbia for many, many years, both the Santos Administration but obviously previous administrations with President Uribe, President Pastrana and others. It is vitally important to Colombia’s future that it continue to wage this effort to reduce the influence of narco traffickers. It’s crucial to Colombia but it’s also vitally important to the region as a whole. We have pledged and have committed significant support to Colombia’s ongoing efforts and will continue to do so.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Okay. We’re going to go right up here. Let’s go to the gentleman right there. Perfect.
QUESTION: Hi, P.J.
MR. CROWLEY: Hi, Dmitry.
QUESTION: Dmitry (inaudible) with ITAR TASS. On Belarus, in light of what you said about Secretary Clinton and Minister Paet discussing Belarus and in light of the European Parliament decision earlier today to impose travel restrictions and certain other sanctions against Belarus, is the U.S. Government similar decision imminent?
MR. CROWLEY: This is something that we are consulting closely with our counterparts in the European Union. We are very much aware and supportive of steps that the EU is taking. And we are also, in light of our concerns, prepared to take additional steps to restore sanctions that had previously been lifted.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Okay. We’ll go right next to --
QUESTION: Thanks. I’m here with some Swiss newspapers. My name is Renzo Rut. I have a question, a short one actually, about surveillance detection programs for your embassies in other countries, specifically for the UN mission in Geneva. Was there ever such a program for this mission, even though the Swiss Government didn’t give you permission to do that?
MR. CROWLEY: You need to be clear. I’m not sure I understand the question.
QUESTION: There were several newspaper reports in Switzerland in the last couple of days that the U.S. mission for – at the United Nation in Geneva had a – you call it, I think, surveillance detection program in place.
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: And even though you asked the Swiss Government for permission to do that, they didn’t give you the permission, but the program was still in place.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way. I will simply say that we take appropriate steps around the world to protect our embassies. We recognize that around the world, they are inviting targets and in fact have been directly attacked, or attacks have been thwarted in a number of occasions. We take these steps in conjunction with other governments and we do so fully consistent with our laws. I’m just not familiar with any particular dialogue that we’ve had on these issues with the Swiss Government.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’ll come up here, CNN Turk.
QUESTION: Thank you. Aylin Yazan from CNN Turk. It’s about P-5+1 and Iran talks. We know that Turkey won’t be a part in the talks; it’s just a hosting country. But do you see any other possible future role for Turkey in the near future or in the next two days? And is there a Plan B if there will be no solution in the talks? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Turkey has been supportive of this process. And in Secretary Clinton’s discussions with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, he has made clear that Turkey continues to encourage Iran to cooperate, to engage the P-5+1 and cooperate fully with the IAEA. And we think that is exactly the message that Iran needs to continue to hear from Turkey as well as from other countries that are supportive of the P-5+1 process.
Because this isn’t – this is not an issue between the United States and Iran; this is an issue between Iran and the international community. And the issue is Iran’s failure to account for its nuclear program and convince the international community that its program is a peaceful one. So I think that this is an important message that Turkey is sending to Iran, and we hope that Iran will heed that advice.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’ll come right here.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. Hwang from Yonhap News Agency. Do you have any comment on South Korea’s proposal that the United States allow South Korea to develop ballistic missiles with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers from current 300 to counter North Korean missile threats?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a particular comment. We are allies and we have ongoing consultations about the capabilities of our respective militaries, but I won’t comment about a particular system.
QUESTION: Also, what is your position on the North Korean uranium enrichment program? Do you think that should be discussed at the UN Security Council or the Six-Party Talks? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we think that this is a further manifestation of North Korea’s failure to live up to its international obligations. And it was a matter of discussion between the United States and China this week, and we will continue to consult with others who share our concern about that program.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We’re going to hit over there in the back, in the glasses.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Thomas Paggini with Swiss radio. On WikiLeaks, cables released today claim that the implementation of sanctions against a company dealing with Iranian research reactor and the willingness to accept Guantanamo detainees was, from the Swiss part, somehow links – directly linked with a settlement of the UBS case. I was wondering if you had any comment on that and if Switzerland – and if Iran and Guantanamo had something to do with the settlement of the UBS case?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m just not going to engage in any questions about any classified cables released by WikiLeaks.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Right here.
QUESTION: Thanks, P.J. Paul Johnson from Global TV of Canada. Later this year, we’ll be marking the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Usama bin Ladin remains at large. Could you give us a 2011 update on where the effort to capture or kill bin Ladin currently sits on the U.S. list of priorities?
MR. CROWLEY: I – well, I think what is important is that over the course of 10 years, you’ve seen a tremendous expansion in global cooperation by the United States with many other countries because the threat that bin Ladin or al-Qaida, in its various dimensions, represents is not exclusively a threat against the United States.
We remember what happened here in the United States 10 years ago, but across the world, there have been many, many attacks by al-Qaida, the core al-Qaida represented by bin Ladin, by other groups that either have allied themselves with al-Qaida, such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or those who are franchisees and somehow fit under the broader umbrella. This is a global threat. We have expanded our cooperation.
Today at the State Department, there was the first meeting of a global counterterrorism forum that we have put together. I think 24 countries were represented in this meeting. The Secretary had a brief meeting with them. But it is a manifestation of how the United States, Canada, other countries in Europe, other countries in the region, including Africa, have banded together. And we are working very diligently to mitigate and defeat these groups that are responsible for violent attacks against civilians wherever they occur.
And this – and we believe over 10 years, we have had significant successes. Thanks to our international efforts in Afghanistan and also thanks to a very determined effort by the government and military in Pakistan, we have reduced the effectiveness of this core group of bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and others who are presumably holed up in the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
We are very concerned about emerging threats, particularly the threat posed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. We have – recent efforts – the bomber on Christmas Day just over a year ago, the attempt at – to plant bombs on cargo aircraft that I mentioned a little bit earlier, have clear links to Yemen. We are mindful of the attack that occurred in Uganda during the World Cup. So this is a global threat, and we are working hard to try to counteract it wherever it manifests itself.
MR. BUFFINGTON: We have time for maybe one or two questions, but we’ll go to New York. New York, you can go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: I’m Indira Kannan from CNN-IBN and Business Standard in India. My question referenced the U.S.-China joint statement. As you know, the Indian Government was quite critical of the previous U.S.-China joint statement in 2009, which had actually referred to China’s role in South Asia and also its advocating for talks between India and Pakistan.
Now, those references seem to be absent from the most recent joint statement. So my question is: Does that reflect any change in the U.S. Administration’s thinking? And if so, is that in any way a response to the concerns expressed by India to the 2009 joint statement? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: No. There’s no change in the U.S. policy. I think it’s a manifestation of the nature of our discussions here and our – the work that we have ongoing with China. But, no, I wouldn’t read anything else into it.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Okay.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
MR. BUFFINGTON: Thank you for your time.
MR. CROWLEY: Thanks very much.
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