3:00 P.M. EST
MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. We’re honored to have P.J. Crowley here, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Before we get started, I’d like to remind you to turn off all cell phones and BlackBerrys. And on occasion, I understand we may also be getting some questions from our colleagues in New York. So I’ll pass those to Mr. Crowley as they come in.
So without further ado, P.J.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m looking to see who was at the State Department briefing earlier this afternoon, so you can’t double-dip. (Laughter.)
Having just done about an hour-long briefing primarily on the situation in Libya, I can go back over that again if you wish. The only thing I would report since the State Department briefing of a little bit ago is that earlier this afternoon, the Secretary had a conversation with Chadian President Deby to review both the situation in Libya, which we continue to view with grave concern, but also to get President Deby’s view of the potential that the ongoing violence there can have ripple effects throughout the region.
And the Secretary was very grateful for his perspective, both in terms of what’s happening in Libya, but the potential implications as we seek to resolve the situation in Libya. It’s one of the reasons why we continue to strongly condemn the violence that has occurred in Libya and demand that the bloodshed stop and that the Libyan Government find a means to both engage its citizens and respond to their aspirations.
With that, we’ll open it up for questions. Goyal, you’re in the front row. We’ll give you the first question.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. Thank you very much. My quick question is: As far as events in Libya and around Middle East is concerned, how much you think it’s affecting your mission in Afghanistan? And also, are you – were you ready for all these events suddenly just came out, and from one country to another? Now we don’t know what’s next. So what are you telling your friends (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: When you find out, let us know, will you? (Laughter.) It has not affected what we continue to do in South Asia. We are a global country. We’re a country with both significant interests in the Atlantic, in Europe and the Middle East, and also in the Pacific and in Asia. So we have the ability to focus on more than one part of the world at the same time, and we continue our efforts both with respect to Afghanistan, but also with Pakistan and other countries in the region to try to stabilize that situation there.
At the same time, we do recognize that there is truly history being made day by day, country by country in the Middle East. It is a remarkable set of circumstances to watch. And we have clearly identified with the people of the countries in the region as they stand up and demand more of their governments. We are guided by principles.
For those of you who are regular attendees of the State Department briefing, you’ve heard us talk about this at the State Department, at the White House and others. The President has said it, the Secretary of State has said it, in terms of deploring the violence that we have seen, and at the same time encouraging – or identifying with the universal aspirations and universal rights of people of the world, including the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and to have their views respected by governments and clear in terms of calling for governments to respond to their people and to undertake serious political, economic, and social reform.
That is our message to Egypt, that is our message to Libya, and that is our consistent message throughout these remarkable few weeks.
QUESTION: Any update on Mr. Davis?
MR. CROWLEY: Mr. Davis, I understand, will be back in court tomorrow.
QUESTION: P.J., Mike --
MODERATOR: Before you – excuse me, before you ask your question, can you give your name and news organization?
QUESTION: I was about to do that, thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Mike Kellerman, APTVS*.
MR. CROWLEY: Hello, Mike.
QUESTION: Hello there, P.J. Nice to have you here today. You were just talking about human rights. Why is the United States Government then continuing its military relationship and sending arms to the country of Yemen when that government is attempting to, some people say, brutally oppress its own people?
MR. CROWLEY: Those are not inconsistent. The solution to Yemen is both a security one in terms of helping Yemen deal with various conflicts and a terrorism threat that is a threat to Yemen, as well as being a threat to the West, including the United States. And much of the solution in terms of the security challenge in Yemen that does not remain within the borders of Yemen is, in fact, economic assistance, that we do – we do have counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen to help them deal with extremists that are focused on attacking the West and the United States. The last few terrorism plots against the United States had ties to Yemen.
At the same time, we have stepped up our economic cooperation to Yemen to help build up institutions of government and to help expand opportunity for the people of Yemen. It’s going to be the interaction of these two elements dealing with a clear terrorism threat. I believe in congressional testimony recently, our senior intelligence officials pointed to Yemen as being, perhaps, the most significant concern from a terrorism standpoint to the United States today. That’s very, very compelling, and that itself justifies the ongoing cooperation that we have.
But our message to President Salih and the Government of Yemen is clear: You have to reform, you have to generate greater opportunity. Yemen is the poorest country in the region, and we are there to help Yemen, but there’s clearly things that we want to see that government do and do better.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mina Al-Oraibi --
MR. CROWLEY: Hello, Mina.
QUESTION: -- Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Hi, P.J. I have a couple of questions for you. My first is: To what extent is the balance of not wanting to make this appear like it’s a U.S.-driven movement in the region limiting what you’re actually saying and --
MR. CROWLEY: I can assure you, first of all, it’s not. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But how much are you concerned about not making it appear that way and holding back on your statements and on your actions? And my second question is regarding Iraq. Tomorrow is meant to be a day of protest in Iraq, but already we’ve had several protestors being injured and some have even been killed, especially in Kurdistan of Iraq, so – Kurdistan region.
Are you speaking to Iraqi leaders about this? Are you concerned about the way that some of the protests are being met? Thanks.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, to your first point, it’s a very, very good question. Lots of people think there’s a hidden hand in all of this, and there isn’t. These remarkable events are absolutely indigenous. This dynamic started in Tunisia, and the spark came through the actions starting with one man who sought justice and saw justice denied. And tragically, he set himself on fire, but that was literally the spark that has launched this remarkable period of change.
That said, as the Secretary made clear in her speech in Doha, there has been – there’s been – was lots of tinder that had been building up, underbrush had been building up within the region for years, if not decades, frustration at an inability of ambitious young people to find a job. It is a testament to the region in that an increasingly percentage of the population of these countries, well educated, connected to the world, seeing standards of living in other parts of the world that are higher than theirs, and demanding more. And it has been the inability of governments to generate the kind of social, economic, and political opportunity that has brought the region to this point.
Now there is a remarkable period and remarkable change occurring and remarkable opportunities that are presenting themselves. One of the reasons why Under Secretary Bill Burns is in one part of the region today and Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman is in another part of the region today is to assess not only what has happened to encourage governments that have made public pledges to their people, now you have to follow through. You’ve – say in one case, Bahrain for example, you’ve pledged national dialogue – how are you going to do that?
For a country like Egypt, there is a transition underway. How is that going to occur; what is happening with respect to changes in the constitution; how much dialogue are you having with the opposition, sitting with the opposition and saying, how are you going to organize yourself; and making sure that – and we have expertise that can be helpful to an Egypt going forward in terms of how to generate a political process and how to conduct free, fair, and legitimate elections; how to make sure that those elections that will be forthcoming in the coming months are well monitored, both domestically as well as international observers.
So there’s a lot of work to do now. There are very high expectations in terms of what the protestors and the people now expect. It’s vitally important for these countries to – and these governments to deliver on the promises that they’ve made. And we, the United States, will be prepared to be a partner in this. But all of this is – this is a dynamic that is happening country by country, and the changes that are occurring are absolutely indigenous and not – there are ones that we could have anticipated that would happen at some point, but certainly, I don't think that we expected this dynamic to occur in the way that it has.
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, and in the case of Iraq, certainly we, like the Iraqi Government, are watching what is happening. The – we – there’s a lot of demand on the Iraqi Government. It took a long time to form that government, but now that government is in business, and there is a lot of work to do in Iraq. Now, I think we always have to be careful that there’s a dynamic that’s happening across the region, but the actual circumstances are unique, country by country.
For example, Iraq has been an emerging democracy for years now. They’ve just gone through their second – depending on how you count it – your second or third electoral cycle. The people are getting used to democracy and demanding more of their government. And it’s now time for governments both at the national level and at the regional level to be in a position to respond to what the Iraqi people want to see.
QUESTION: Thank you. David Nikuradze, Georgian television station Rustavi 2, Washington bureau. Secretary Gordon is visiting Georgia. I was wondering if you could give us some more details about this trip, please. What are the main topics your Department of State is focusing its meeting with Georgia side? Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, you also have – Deputy Secretary Steinberg is with him. This is a follow-up to the discussion that Secretary Clinton recently had with the foreign minister of Georgia. It is a – but we – both – it’s bilateral issues, it’s regional issues. I don't have the precise schedule with me, but I believe Deputy Secretary Steinberg is expected to meet with President Saakashvili during the course of the trip to Georgia. But it is on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. Obviously, relations with Russia and developments with respect to Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be among the things discussed, but also how Georgia will relate to Europe going forward and work on reform and the economy, a very wide-ranging discussion.
Yeah. Oh, all right. We’ll go one, two. Go ahead, since you got the microphone.
QUESTION: Okay. Zoltan Mikes of World Business Press Online news agency. I would like to have just a simple question. Don’t you think that –
MR. CROWLEY: There’s no such thing as a simple question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yes, I’m finding that out. Your reaction – the reaction of U.S. is too slow on the events in Libya and is it not understandable in this case? It’s --
MR. CROWLEY: It is a charge that was leveled against the United States in the context of Egypt, and yet you see a very significant transition underway, which is consistent with what President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and others called on the Egyptian Government to do. I think it’s important to recognize that, as I said a moment ago, there is activity going on from Algeria all the way to Oman where people are standing up and demanding things of their government, but what’s happening in each country is very unique. And so we’re looking at a situation in Libya that is highly complex.
If you look at Egypt, for example, you had a significant change at the top – obviously, President Mubarak stepped down. There is an interim government in place, and yet through the work of the Egyptian military, for example, there was and remains positive control of Egypt and a deepening of the bond between the people of Egypt and an institution like the military. It was a stabilizing force during this entire period. That’s not the case in Libya. Libya decided to turn its weapons on its own people. And you see a fracturing or a splintering of Libyan society as a result. And so this is highly complex. We are gravely concerned about what’s happening. The threat of additional violence against the people of Libya is very high. We do not know what the Libyan leadership is going to do.
In the case of Egypt, these are leaders that we know very well. And during the course of the situation, we had daily conversations in multiple channels and had an understanding of what they were trying to do, and we tried to be helpful during this period.
We don’t have that same level of dialogue or level of confidence with the Libyan leadership. We do have relations with Libya, and we do have interlocutors that we are talking to, most significantly Foreign Minister Musa Kusa. But the situation in Libya is much different, and so we have to tailor our words and our actions to what is happening in Libya. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to this.
And because of the complexity of the situation, we are being cautious and measured in our words, but that’s because it is very, very difficult to really fully understand what is happening. But obviously, to the extent – the information that we have seen is very disturbing to us. The President called the actions of the government outrageous yesterday, and we again demand, as the international community is demanding, that the violence against the Libyan people stop, the bloodshed has to cease, and that’s what we expect Libya to do. And obviously, we will have a broader conversation tomorrow, for example, in the Human Rights Council in Geneva as one example of where we’re having this broad-based dialogue consulting with the international community, both in our bilateral relationships with countries who share our concerns about Libya, as well as multilateral settings.
QUESTION: Thank you. What happened at the UN Security Council under North Korean uranium program yesterday must not be satisfactory to the United States. Correct me if I’m wrong. But is there any other option left for the United States to consider to address this important issue, for example, pursuing chairman’s statement?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t know that we would consider the – I mean, the Korea file is open. We have great concerns about Korean actions, both recently and longstanding. We are discussing these issues with countries in the region as well as in the context of the Security Council. Just because at one moment, one step might not be feasible, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to consult on these issues. But clearly, in our demand, which is an international community’s demand that North Korea take affirmative steps to denuclearize, we certainly would strongly believe that uranium enrichment should be part of that discussion, just as other more longstanding activities that North Korea has engaged in. For North Korea to have the kind of normal relations with its neighbors and with the United States that it seeks, then North Korea needs to give up its nuclear programs, all of them.
I’m going to go back and then come back to the front. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Silvia Ayuso from the German Press Agency. My question is on Cuba. The date for the trial for Mr. Gross has been set and this morning, you tweeted you expected a fair trial. My questions would be --
MR. CROWLEY: No, I – we hope for a fair trial. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you have any doubts about the fairness of the trial? Another one would be: Is the U.S. Government going to be somehow present or facilitating for the Gross – Mr. Gross family any kind of assistance with the lawyers or – and third one, you’ve asked for --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me answer that question first. I don’t know how transparent the legal process will be. Under normal circumstances, we would have an official in the courtroom observing the legal process, but I don’t know what the Cuban Government will allow. Alan Gross is a U.S. citizen. We want to see him come home. And throughout his ordeal, we have been providing him the same kind of consular support that we have for any citizen around the world, and that would include making sure that he has access to legal counsel and is being accorded his full rights under host nation law.
QUESTION: If just --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to finish, you’ve asked repeatedly for his immediate release, but he’s facing a 20-year sentence. Should he be (inaudible) to some years, would the U.S. wage any kind of response?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, you’re asking me to look ahead and think beyond something that hasn’t occurred yet. We understand that there will be a trial coming up. We want to see him come home. We don’t think that the activity that he was engaged in constitutes a crime. And we want to bring his case to a close as soon as possible.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. Tolga Tanis from Hurriyet. Could you give us some more detail regarding the trip of Deputy Secretary of – Steinberg and Assistant Secretary Gordon to Armenia and Azerbaijan in turn – because, according to the reports, until now, the main topic with Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in this trip to both countries. And do you have any new roadmap for this issue? Because until now, nothing has worked in the region, in means process or any other issue –
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah – well, no, I mean, we do have a roadmap. We would like to see countries in the region resolve their differences in cases, open borders, and construct more normal relationships. That was one of the reasons why we pressed in Geneva and other places to advance the process forward. We understand over the last year or so that the process has stalled, but part of our – the reason for such a high-level trip is to continue to engage these countries and encourage them to find ways to address the lingering concerns and differences that do exist between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and also involving other countries in the region.
QUESTION: And do you – are you planning to do something to revive the protocol process between (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, we can’t – in these cases, we can’t want something more than the countries themselves, but we certainly will continue to try to find ways to reduce tensions, help move these processes forward. But we understand that right now, these are difficult situations.
QUESTION: Hi, P.J. Dmitry Kirsanov with ITAR-Tass. Listen, I wanted to ask you this broad question on – with regards to Somalia. Did the latest tragic events about the S/V QUEST somehow change the strategic thinking on this problem? Are you still against the creation of some kind of international tribunal or other prosecutional body for the pirates off the coast of Somalia? This is the first part.
And the second part, I mean, high-ranking officials from the – from both the State Department and the Pentagon are out there on the record. They’re saying that the root cause of this problem is on the ground. And it looks to me like almost nothing is being done with regards to this specific thing. Is it about to change?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a – Dimitry, that’s a great question. And first of all, we are shocked and saddened by this loss of life, and we do recognize that other countries have lost citizens in the past year, and past years as well.
I’m not sure it necessarily changes our strategic calculus, per se. We – this is 2011, which means we’re in the 20th year where Somalia has not had a formal national government. And as we have recognized for quite some time, in this vacuum, bad actors are allowed to operate. And in these kinds of political vacuums, whether it’s terrorism or whether it’s crime, they seem to flourish where you don’t have effective governments.
We’ve recognized this challenge for a number of years. We continue to work to build up and support the African Union mission, AMISOM in Somalia, and to try to build up the capabilities of the TFG. But recognizing the difficult situation in Mogadishu, we’ve also engaged leaders in Puntland and Somaliland to try to see how they can be helpful here.
We are concerned that the deaths of the four American citizens, just as the ongoing challenge – we fear that this represents a change in the business model of the pirates. We don’t quite fully understand why they took the lives of the four Americans. But certainly, it’s not one thing. It’s several things. Part of the solution – a major element of the solution to piracy does, in fact, rest on the land as opposed to on the waters. And we are working with the international community to see how we can try to stabilize the situation on land.
But to the extent we do have a fairly significant naval presence, a kind of a remarkable combined task force of vessels, our vessels and those of other countries, and they are having an effect. That said, there’s a lot of water out there, and certainly, as the task force has adjusted its tactics, the pirates are adjusting their tactics as well. But to the extent that we do – are able to interdict these pirates at sea, it is the fundamental responsibility of all governments whose interests are affected by these pirates to see that these individuals are prosecuted.
We have just finished a successful prosecution in this country of a pirate involved in the Maersk incident of a year or so ago. And other countries need to step up. If your flagged vessel is attacked, you should be prepared to prosecute the pirates as a result. If your citizens are injured or killed, you should be prepared to prosecute, because it’s in your national interest to do so. But where some of those are not possible, we have seen, in the case of Kenya and others, that they have been willing to step up at a significant cost and stand up a court to deal with the scourge of piracy. But Kenya can’t do it alone.
And so we will continue to engage countries to see what solutions are, but one of the solutions has to be where governments’ interests are implicated by the pirates, governments – plural, not just Kenya, not just the United States – have to be prepared to prosecute these pirates and send a very clear message to them.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. I just have a couple of questions on a couple of --
MODERATOR: State your name and organization.
MR. CROWLEY: Someone we know.
QUESTION: Tejinder Singh from India Today Group. And the first is Crown Prince Mohammad al-Senussi of Libya has requested international community for help to remove Qadhafi. How do you react to that request?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are consulting broadly as the international community. We will meet tomorrow in the human rights community. There has been one – two meetings within the Security Council, and we will continue consultations in the UN as well. The Secretary, when she goes to Geneva, will have the opportunity to engage a wide range of her counterparts who will be there about next steps.
We have condemned the violence that has occurred, and we have made it clear that the Libyan Government will be held accountable, both in terms of actions that have already been taken, the violence that has already occurred, the fact that it has turned its weapons on its own people, and whatever actions occur in the future. We are evaluating and preparing a range of options for the presidents and what we call the principals. They will be evaluating steps in the coming days. As the Secretary – as the President and Secretary Clinton made clear yesterday, there – all options are on the table. And as decisions are made, we will let you know. But we are taking action, and we are going to put pressure on the Libyan Government that the violence has to stop.
QUESTION: The question was: Will you support the crown prince in his efforts?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, this is not about any one person. This is about the conduct of a government and the relationship between the government and its people. We are going to take some actions. We hope the international community will join in communicating clearly to Libya and taking action against Libya with a single mindedness. We have some things we can do; we have some things that other governments who have a more developed relationship with Libya can do. When decisions are made, we will let you know of the actions that we’ll take. There are – but there are going to be decisions made in the coming days that respond to what we see that has happened in Libya.
QUESTION: Has --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to get – we’ll get into specifics as we make those decisions.
QUESTION: And the second question is on the arrest of Khalid Ali in Texas. I have got details from the Department of Justice. But on the State Department level, are you going to be in touch with Saudi Arabia and the rise of Wahhabism in --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, on the particular case, I will defer to law enforcement. But to the extent there are – all countries are accorded the same rights to consular access to their citizens. That will be our role, if we need to help facilitate the same kind of consular access to the Saudi citizen that we would expect in other contexts of our citizens around the world. We’ll meet our international obligations.
QUESTION: Hello, Antonio Cadiz with La Opinion newspaper. Mr. Crowley, can you give us more details on President Calderon visit next week? And also, how does the State Department see the criticism that President Calderon expressed last week in an interview, where he said that the U.S. is not doing enough in the drug war against cartels?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we addressed that a little bit yesterday in the State Department briefing. I will defer to the White House in terms of the specific objectives of the visit of President Calderon with President Obama. It is a vitally important relationship, one of our leading trading partners, our – one of our neighbors.
But clearly, a major topic of discussion will be the ongoing challenge of transnational criminals and the threat that that poses both to Mexico and to the United States, and to the region more broadly. I’m sure we will review with President Calderon the state of our cooperation. It is unprecedented. When you look at the level of cooperation, there’s hardly a point in history – and I’m not a historian in terms of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, but what we’re doing today in terms of cooperation on both sides of the border, in terms of train – helping to train and equip Mexican forces, how to help Mexico build up institutions, including corrections and justice and other elements, that will be vitally important to fighting this common threat. It is deep, it is significant, and we have great confidence in the efforts that are being done on both sides of the border.
It is a tremendous challenge, and we agree with President Calderon that we have responsibilities on this side of the border as well. We have responsibilities to reduce our national drug demand that is partly responsible for fueling this challenge. We have a responsibility to interdict illegal weapons that flow from this country south of the border and arm and equip these criminals. And we have a responsibility to interdict the flow of cash that enables them to do this. We have taken significant steps on this side of the border to meet those responsibilities, but clearly we do need to do more, and we will do more.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. I have two questions. The first one: You said earlier on – my name is Fouad Arif from the Moroccan News Agency. You said earlier on that the circumstances on the ground are unique and specific, as far as each Arab and every Arab country is concerned. What’s your take on what happened in Morocco and the protests that happened in Morocco last week that were characterized as being largely peaceful by Human Rights Watch?
And my second question: Is the Libyan crown prince one of the Libyan personalities that you are consulting with right now to find a solution to the Libyan crisis?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t point to any conversation that we’ve had with the crown prince in Libya. Our primary interlocutor during the last few days has been Foreign Minister Musa Kusa. We have talked to other officials as well. Regarding the situation in Morocco, as the Secretary made clear in her Doha speech, across the region from North Africa all the way to the Gulf, governments need to recognize the change that is occurring, the fact that people are standing up, they’re demanding reform, and governments need to respond to this reform.
The king has long been a reforming figure in Morocco, and it is vitally important that governments be seen as responding to the aspirations of their people. I think the king is well aware of this and is taking appropriate action.
QUESTION: Thank you. Elcin Poyrazler, Cumhurriyet, Turkish daily. P.J., last week you had some comments about the arrests of journalists and freedom of press in Turkey, as well as the U.S. Ambassador Ricciardone. The reaction from the Turkish Government was immediate, and the government accused you of intervening into domestic affairs. Do you consider the freedom of press to be the domestic issue?
Secondly, interior minister – Turkish interior minister claimed that the – in terms of freedom of press, Turkey is much more advanced than the U.S. Do you agree with this statement? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: More advanced than the U.S.?
QUESTION: Much more advanced. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I should take a poll. I mean, if the Turkish media is broadly profitable, it could well be ahead of some media in this country. I think many journalists in this country are trying to find a business model that is sustainable.
Look, we are very proud of a free and vibrant press in this country. I – with one exception, I can’t recall an instance where, in recent times, journalists have been thrown in jail. So I’ll just end by saying we do identify strongly and support universal rights and principles, which include a free and vibrant press as being a critical pillar in a democracy. We recognize that Turkey has a very strong democracy. Having lived in Turkey, I can attest to the fact that Turkey has a very vibrant and free press. But we do stand by our statements that we are concerned about particular instances where it would appear that journalists in specific cases are being intimidated.
QUESTION: Thank you. Kyoko Yamaguchi from the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper from Japan. My question is about North Korea, kind of a follow-up to P.J.’s question. Wi Sung-lac, South Korean envoy to Six-Party Talks, is in town, and I think he’s meeting with his counterparts today and tomorrow. And before his departure, he said that he wanted to discuss raising the uranium enrichment program issue at the Security Council. But from – what’s clear from yesterday, what happened yesterday is that China would probably – most probably oppose it.
So what do you go – what do you plan to go about this issue? Are you still where you were last December, where you’re trying to convince China to agree to discuss some of the issues at the UN?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think that we have to convince China about the danger of North Korea’s ongoing nuclear activity. We have a shared view that the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear – free of nuclear weapons. The real issue – we have differences over the particular tactics of how to achieve that objective, but that is the reason why we continue our consultations with China, with Japan, with South Korea, with Russia. And we have achieved consensus in the past, and we fully expect that we can achieve consensus in the future.
But the demands of the international community, including the demands of the five participants of the Six-Party process – the demands are very clear. The challenge is how do you get North Korea to meet its international obligations, to follow through on the commitments that it has made, including the 2005 joint statement. That remains the challenge. And we respect that different countries can have different views about how to best accomplish that. But there’s complete agreement on the long-term objective.
But all I can say is from the United States’s standpoint, any effort going forward needs to take into account and needs to include recent revelations regarding North Korea’s uranium enrichment program.
QUESTION: Is the United States ready to discuss the (inaudible) at the Security Council?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we have concerns about the uranium enrichment program, and the Security Council has been a very effective forum in the past in considering the implications of what North Korea has done, and certainly in recent UN Security Council resolutions that we hope will exert the kind of pressure that we want to see on North Korea, to see it change course.
QUESTION: Silvia Pisani from La Nacion in Argentina. And the information is that the foreign minister in Argentina, Mr. Timerman, called the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires to stop discussing the airplane issue. So we would like to know if you are aware of that and if you have any comment on – okay, that they intend to stop the press discussion?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are fully prepared to resolve this issue. We hope we can work with Argentina to resolve this issue. We have made clear all along that we felt that this could easily have been resolved at a lower level, and we remain puzzled as to why we have yet been unable to resolve it. But we remain open to working through this, but – so that remains our view, and we remain engaged with the Government of Argentina on the subject.
QUESTION: And the press – and to not discuss the issue with the press?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m misunderstanding. Is the foreign minister of Argentina giving me advice? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, he’s asking to --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the best way – I mean, I believe you’ll continue asking this as long as the situation is unresolved. It is within Argentina’s power to resolve this issue. We are fully prepared to resolve it. We felt all along it could have been resolved at a lower level at the time that the plane landed to conduct this training exercise. It wasn’t the United States that elevated this issue.
QUESTION: Martha Avila, RCN TV news, Colombia. The Colombian Government is very concerned about non-approval in Congress the Andean preference and FTA. The Colombian Government feels that – mistreated and discriminated by United States. What is your response?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, when the President says in the State of the Union that we continue to support and hope to advance free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, that is a very significant statement. We have followed through in the ensuing weeks. We continue to be fully engaged with the Colombian Government to work through remaining issues. And we hope to complete this process as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Mr. Crowley, Colombia is your best friend. Why President Obama not included our country in his first tour for Latin America?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) The President has a limited amount of time. We are looking forward to his trip to the region. He’s making, if I remember, three stops. It doesn’t mean that – in making three stops on this particular trip, it means that we – that means something about one country versus another. In deciding to come to South America and to Central America, the President is demonstrating our commitment to engage in countries in the region because our relationships are very important and the issues that we are working on together, from security and citizens’ safety to trade to broader issues including global issues like climate change. We are committed to work effectively with the region. We are doing so.
But the President has – when he travels, has a limited time, and we have to make some difficult choices, but I’m sure that the President will be making other trips to the region and will touch other countries that he was not able to touch on this particular trip.
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. My name is John Lydon from (inaudible) and this is a Pan-African magazine based in Paris. I have two question. The first one is: Do you think Qadhafi is a terrorist? And can we have some update about Cote d'Ivoire?
MR. CROWLEY: What about Cote d'Ivoire?
QUESTION: The situation in Cote d'Ivoire.
MR. CROWLEY: Look, Libya was on the state sponsor of terrorism list. It was removed by the last administration from the state sponsor of terrorism list. Now the question is, and our focus is: What is the Government of Libya doing now? We are gravely concerned about what has transpired in terms of not only the violence, but also the use of lethal force against the people of the country. We want to see it stop, and we want to see the bloodshed ended. I’ll leave – we’ll – but we will be assessing what happens going forward. And we are committed to holding the Government of Libya and its leadership fully accountable for the actions that it takes.
On the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, we remain deeply engaged on this. We are very concerned about the ongoing violence on all sides. But the responsibility for this violence rests with the decision of Laurent Gbagbo to ignore the will of the people of Cote d'Ivoire and to step down and recognize the result. But we continue to be fully engaged with ECOWAS, with the African Union, and want to see Mr. Gbagbo step down and the new government have the opportunity to emerge and act on behalf of the people of Cote d'Ivoire.
Thank you very, very much.
# # #