State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, December 14, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 14, 2010. 


Secretary Clinton will meet with South African Minister Nkoana-Mashabane / Discussion of Regional Issues / Signing of PEPFAR Partnership Framework
Secretary Clinton will host Annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” Event
Secretary Clinton Tomorrow Morning will host a Town Hall / Release and Discussion of Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
Deputy Secretary Steinberg Departed this Morning Leading a High-level Delegation to Beijing / Assistant Secretary Campbell Unable to Travel with Delegation
Special Envoy Scott Gration Travel to Sudan and Qatar / Gration’s Schedule
Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon will Travel to Geneva for Discussions on Georgia
National Security Council Meeting on Afghan-Pakistan Policy Review Ongoing / Will Leave SRAP Structure / Secretary Clinton and Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Frank Ruggiero will Participate in Meeting / Deputies Feldman and Singh
Condolences Expressed from Leaders from Around the World on the Passing of Richard Holbrooke
Interaction Between Ambassador Holbrooke and his Medical Team in Preparation for his Surgery
The SRAP Structure will Continue / Frank Ruggiero Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Recollections of Holbrooke’s Exchanges with his Medical Team
The Administration will Announce Results of the Review on Thursday / Letters of Condolences / Holbrooke’s Relentless Focus Until his Passing / Legacy of Building a Talented, Effective, Formidable Team / Too Early to Tell What Changes will be Made / Obviously a Change in Personal Approach / No One Can Question Richard Holbrooke’s Determination and Drive
Senator Mitchell Met with President Abbas Today / Meeting within Arab League / Mitchell will make Stops in Brussels and Paris / Pursuit of Framework Agreement / Effort is Focused on Making Progress on Core Issues / European Support is Very Important / Goal Remains to Reach a Framework Agreement within Twelve Months
Issue Concerning Palestinian Peace Activist
New START / In Touch with Senator Reid’s Office / Encouraging Senate to Take Up New START
Reports of Activity at Uranium Processing Sites Remain a Significant area of Concern
U.S. Continues to Encourage President Gbagbo to Step Down / Transition


1:06 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Let me mention several things before taking your questions.

This afternoon, the Secretary will meet with South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. They will discuss regional issues, particularly the upcoming referendum in Sudan, democracy, peacekeeping, and security in and outside the region, as well as collaboration on health and other bilateral priorities enshrined in the U.S-South African strategic dialogue process. The Secretary and Minister Nkoana-Mashabane will sign a PEPFAR Partnership Framework, which again highlights our mutual commitment to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The South African Government has made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and we look forward to deepening our already strong cooperation.

Also this afternoon, the Secretary will host her annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays Event,” honoring the families and loved ones of officers on unaccompanied tours. That will occur in the State – in the Ben Franklin State dining room, and there will be entertainment by the Ballet Theater of Maryland and – performing a scene from The Nutcracker, as well as the Children’s Chorus of Washington and the Military District of Washington.

Tomorrow morning, the Secretary will host a town hall here at the Department to discuss the release of the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which is titled, “Leading through Civilian Power.” She’ll discuss that with State Department employees. I think it’s open to coverage, and then – the town hall will be at 11:15 in the Acheson Auditorium. And then following that tomorrow afternoon, we’ll have a (inaudible) – or a briefing here on the record to kind of go through the particular details. But at the town hall, the Secretary will be joined by USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Director of Policy Planning Ann-Marie Slaughter, and also Under Secretary of Management Pat Kennedy.

Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg left Washington this morning, leading a high-level delegation to Beijing over the next couple of days. The delegation will conduct consultations with senior Chinese officials on bilateral and regional issues, including recent developments on the Korean Peninsula. But while there, Secretary Steinberg and also Senior Director Jeff Bader of the NSS will discuss preparations for President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit to Washington. But just a – kind of a note, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell was planning to travel with this delegation. Unfortunately, he has a serious sinus infection, has not made the trip, but will be returning to Tokyo and Seoul early next year.

Special Envoy Scott Gration is traveling as we speak between Sudan and Qatar. Tonight he will be joined – he will join Joint Chief Mediator of the Darfur peace process Djibril Bassole, and tomorrow he’ll meet with Qatari officials and the mediation team and representatives of the Darfur armed movements and Government of Sudan as we continue to press the parties there to improve conditions on the ground in Darfur.

And we’ll have a travel announcement for you. Phil Gordon, our Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, will travel to Geneva over the next couple of days to represent the United States at the 14th session of the Geneva discussions on Georgia.

Returning to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Secretary – I think the National Security Council meeting to finish the review process on our Afghan and Pakistan policies is still going on as we speak. The Secretary is joined at that meeting by Frank Ruggiero, who in light of Richard Holbrooke’s passing has moved up to be the acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He will lead the SRAP structure that Richard Holbrooke constructed and will really serve as one of his finest legacies, assisted by two deputies, Dan Feldman and Vikram Singh.

As I mentioned, a number of leaders from around the world, from President Zardari, President Karzai, Foreign Minister Qureshi, this morning have expressed their condolences. This morning the Secretary had a brief conversation with the special representative of India, Lambah, following up on a meeting that she had with him and with Richard Holbrooke just in recent days.

I should note that a lot of media coverage this morning about the interaction between Ambassador Holbrooke and his medical team as he was preparing for surgery on Friday, I’ve consulted with a number of folks who were in the room. There was a lengthy exchange with Ambassador Holbrooke and the medical team, probably reflecting Richard’s relentless pursuit of the policy that he had helped to craft and was charged by the President and the Secretary with carrying out. At one point, the medical team said: You’ve got to relax. And Richard said: I can’t relax. I’m worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan. And then after some additional exchanges, the medical team finally said: Well, tell you what. We’ll try to fix this challenge while you’re undergoing surgery. And he said: Yeah, see if you can take care of that, including ending the war.

But certainly, it says two things about Richard Holbrooke in my mind: Number one, he always wanted to make sure he got the last word; and secondly, it just showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion.

Last night, upon learning of his death, I went back and I reread his remarks in September when we hosted here at the State Department a conference on Vietnam for which Richard was one of the keynote speakers. And you could tell in his remarks how the lesson that he took from Vietnam was the need for an integrated approach to a significant challenge, and he certainly incorporated those lessons into his work as the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The SRAP structure that will continue on in his absence combines individuals and experts from across government. It incorporates international partners into the structure. It is expressly the kind of organization that he felt was absent in Vietnam and for which he has built a crack team that will continue the policies that the Administration pursues in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

QUESTION: Just in terms of organizationally, is it anticipated that Frank Ruggiero will become the permanent SRAP or —

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a fair question, Matt. Obviously, we will be looking at that. But he has assumed the acting SRAP responsibility. He is with the Secretary at the White House as we speak. And as to what happens over the long term, I think it’s too early to tell.

QUESTION: Well, when you say we will be looking at that, does that mean that you are looking at candidates or —

MR. CROWLEY: It will be – this is —

QUESTION: — or just the whole idea —

MR. CROWLEY: These are – it’s a fair point. These are decisions to be made in the future.

QUESTION: All right. And then but also organizationally, I mean, is it expected that the organization, whoever happens to be at the top of it in this building, will stay the same?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. The SRAP structure will carry on. And as you see, not only did the President and the Secretary name Richard Holbrooke as the special representative, now – and I forget the number, I think it’s well over – it might be 50 countries have emulated this approach and had their own – have appointed their own special representatives to focus on this. So the structure will carry on and it will be ably led for the foreseeable future by Frank Ruggiero.


QUESTION: Sorry, can we just stay with this for a second? The remarks that you – or the exchanges that you just recounted between Ambassador Holbrooke and some of his medical team, were those meant to be direct quotes when you said he said this, and they said that, or are these paraphrases?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s no transcript.

QUESTION: I figured that.

MR. CROWLEY: And I’ve consulted with more than one person in the room. Their recollections are similar, but their phraseology was not identical. So I would caution about saying this is precisely what he said. The context simply was, as you – those of you – many of you in the room knew Richard very well – a relentless figure, and he was already saying I’ve got a lot of work to do, and the medical team was trying to get him to prepare for the surgery. And so it was a humorous repartee with the medical team, as it was described to me, but they promised to try to fix this challenge while he was in surgery.

QUESTION: P.J., just on a personal note, I personally pay tribute and condolence to great Ambassador Holbrooke. He was very joyful and always answering questions and very helpful in that way. Everywhere we have called him, and always he called on me and whenever I talked to him. What I’m asking you, it’s a very sad day and sad especially for South Asia, for Afghanistan and Pakistan, because they were all depending on him and he was always there when needed in any circumstances.

My question is: Do we see any change in any policy in any way because of this departure?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, the President on Thursday, joined by, I believe, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates, will announce the results of the Administration’s review of the policy, as it’s been described, we’ll make minor adjustments or tweaks, but expect that the review will continue to affirm the policy which Ambassador Holbrooke helped to develop on behalf of the President and has been charged to carry out.

So it is the policy, but clearly, we’re not going to pretend that you can easily replace someone of Richard Holbrooke’s stature or personality. But we will continue to pursue the policy as Richard would want us to do.

To your first point, Goyal, I think it’s a reflection of the fact that today not only Mr. Lambah, who was Richard’s counterpart but also India’s National Security Advisor Menon has sent in a letter of condolence to Kati Marton, Richard’s widow, but also Foreign Secretary Rao, Foreign Minister of Japan Maehara – and I’m just reading down a very lengthy list of people who have checked in already during the course of the day. So from his many contributions over many years, not only in South Asia, but Asia, going back to his time in an earlier administration as assistant secretary for Eastern Asian Affairs and also clearly – President Saakashvili of Georgia – Richard spent a lot of time focused on Georgia both in and out of office. So it is a profound loss for us, but we will continue to pursue the policies that he was – his fingerprints are all over.

QUESTION: Just one more quick one —

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, hold on.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). One of the news reports says that ambassador’s last word that you need to stop this war was to a Pakistani —

MR. CROWLEY: Lalit, I just covered that. I just want to caution that there was no recorder in the room. I think the context was finishing the job, which of course our policy is to have a combined civilian and military effort. There is a war going on, and we believe strongly that the action over the past year that Richard wholeheartedly supported is having an effect on the ground. But by that same token, the strategy as it is formulated calls for also significant civilian effort, which Richard was charged with overseeing, as well as the – an Afghan led process to end hostilities. So this was Richard’s relentless focus up until his passing yesterday.

QUESTION: Secondly, about the organizational structure, that Dan and Vikram are the — now two deputies. Dan and Vikram –

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, Richard – as we said, his legacy in terms of building a very talented, effective team, formidable team, that has worked across the interagency and across governments and around the world to focus international – the essential international effort on Afghanistan and Pakistan – that structure will carry on, and Dan and Vikram and — will be supporting Frank Ruggiero as he serves as acting SRAP.

QUESTION: And finally, Secretary’s call to Lambah. Was it a routine call or was it in view of this development?

MR. CROWLEY: He called to express his condolences personally, but also to say that he had some follow-up action that – from his last interaction with the Secretary and with Ambassador Holbrooke.

QUESTION: Can you give us the status? What was the follow-up action?

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: And today, Hamid Karzai talk on the phone and express his condolences about late Ambassador Holbrooke. But he said less pressure and direct policy approach than Mr. Holbrooke is what would work in Afghanistan. Is there a potential for that at the moment?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s too early to tell what changes will be made, not so much in the policy, but obviously there will be a change in personal approach. And that is inevitable. As we said at the start of the briefing, Richard Holbrooke – many have described him as a one-of-a-kind figure. I think that’s a fair description. He – his experience is unique in terms of interactions ranging from Vietnam to the Balkans to Congo to East Timor, and he brought that perspective to the challenge of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Whoever succeeds him, whether it’s Frank Ruggiero or somebody else, will bring a fresh set of eyes and also unique experience. But certainly, no one can question Richard Holbrooke’s determination and drive, and it had a measureable effect on the people that he interacted with. And the outreach by President Karzai, both over the weekend as he was in the hospital, President Zardari, Foreign Minister Qureshi, and others is greatly appreciated.

QUESTION: Can we move on?


QUESTION: Middle East? You – George Mitchell met today with President Abbas, I think.

QUESTION: Yeah, Abbas.

MR. CROWLEY: He met with President Abbas today, following up on his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. President Abbas is – will be on his way to Cairo, as will George Mitchell. There’s a follow-on committee meeting within the Arab League, I believe, tomorrow. We’ll be looking for the Arab League to continue to support this effort. Senator Mitchell —

QUESTION: Which effort?

MR. CROWLEY: The peace effort. Senator Mitchell, before he returns to the United States, will also make stops in Brussels and Paris later this week.

QUESTION: When you say – so what specifically would you like to see out of the Arab League meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the support that – the statements of support that have come through previous meetings, we think, have been very valuable. They embody the support that we’ve tried to build and I think successfully have built within the region. So we’re looking for a continuation of that support and encouragement to continue through this process. And there will be follow-on meetings next week at the working level. George Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, will have – he had – I think he had a follow-on meeting today with Isaac Molho, but there will be follow-on meetings with the parties next week at the working level on the substance inside the process.

QUESTION: Well, can – but, I mean, are you looking for the Arab League to tell Abbas, or to give Abbas – or to endorse him returning to direct talks, or are you looking for something else?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, – we’re looking for support. If – but I don’t want to prejudge what the Arab League will say tomorrow. But their statements of support earlier this year had opened the door for direct negotiations. We will continue to seek and encourage that kind of support as we move ahead.

QUESTION: How worried is the U.S. about Abbas pulling out of the direct talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re cognizant of the fact that right now, there are not direct talks. We continue to pursue a framework agreement, as we’ve said. We believe that in order to successfully reach a framework agreement there will have to be a return to direct negotiations. And our effort now is focused on making progress with the – on the particular core issues and using that to gain momentum that can encourage the parties to return to direct negotiations as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Can you tell us who Senator Mitchell will meet in Brussels and Paris? And what sort of contribution are you hoping for (inaudible) to make?

MR. CROWLEY: I asked that question. Obviously European support is very important. The French have been singularly supportive. So I – but I’ll get more information on who we’re meeting with, (inaudible).

QUESTION: No, wait – still –

QUESTION: One more. The year timeline – I’m just curious, is that – was that only for direct talks, or are we still on the clock?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re still on the clock.

QUESTION: Even with this indirect —

MR. CROWLEY: No. Our goal remains to reach a framework agreement within 12 months. So we’re looking for some fairly rapid progress on the – on substantive aspects of the core issues, and that’s – George Mitchell is discussing with the parties how to move forward, and David Hale will be following up and engaging on the very substance.

QUESTION: Twelve months from when, though?

MR. CROWLEY: The clock hasn’t changed, Matt.

QUESTION: So, 12 months from September?


QUESTION: Okay. So you’re not —

MR. CROWLEY: We haven’t reset the clock.

QUESTION: I mean, you can get up every day for the next three months and say 12 months and then still not be wrong. You’re definitely talking about –you’re –

MR. CROWLEY: I can say that for nine months.

QUESTION: Well, you’re definitely – well, fair enough. So you’re still talking about a framework agreement by September of 2011?


QUESTION: Oh, I have one more on the Middle East, not the peace process, though. Did you ever get an answer for my question from last week about this Palestinian peace activist being jailed?

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t yet got a satisfactory answer. We’re still working that with the post.

QUESTION: When you say you haven’t got a satisfactory answer, you mean – what does that mean? That means that you have gotten an answer and then you rejected it as being not sufficiently —

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just —

QUESTION: — informative.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m still seeking —

QUESTION: Or it was too informative and that’s why you’re —

MR. CROWLEY: I’m still seeking a fuller picture of our engagement with the Israeli Government on this case.

QUESTION: P.J., can we (inaudible) about things with regards to the New START in the Senate from the Administration point of view, of course? Rose Gottemoeller, as far as I understand, said last week that the Senate might break out for their recess at the end of this week. Do you think this is what is going to happen or they will stay until Christmas to take the vote on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are – we have been in touch with Senator Reid’s office today. I think we’re hopeful that debate on New START can begin after the tax vote, which I think is scheduled for later on this afternoon. But we’ll wait to see what the Senate – once the tax vote is done, what the Senate decides to do next. But we certainly are encouraging the Senate to take up New START. We believe there’s enough time to do this before breaking for the holiday.

QUESTION: Japan and the U.S. agreed yesterday to keep Tokyo’s base-host spending at the current level. Is there a U.S. reaction to that agreement?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question.



QUESTION: South Korean media reports are talking about intelligence, saying that North Korea has up to four uranium processing sites. I’m just wondering if that – you think there’s anything credible to that. Do you have any evidence?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, without getting into intelligence, it has obviously been a longstanding concern about this kind of activity. We’re very conscious of the fact that in the recent revelations to American delegations, what they saw did not come out of thin air. It certainly reflects work being done at least one other site, so this remains a significant area of concern.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay. I have one more.


QUESTION: Cote d’Ivoire.

MR. CROWLEY: We’re in overtime.

QUESTION: Cote d’Ivoire, just a quick one. The EU foreign ministers have agreed to put sanctions on Gbagbo. Does the U.S. think that’s a good idea? Is the U.S. considering anything similar? Is that going to achieve anything?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are continuing to encourage President Gbagbo to step down and pave the way for a orderly transition. We are going to look at ways of, if necessary, putting pressure on him and those around him who are denying the will of the people of Cote d’Ivoire, so that is something that is certainly an option that’s available to us.

QUESTION: And by (inaudible) sanctions —

MR. CROWLEY: We’re looking at – that will remain a possibility depending on the decisions that he makes.

QUESTION: The Secretary said exactly the same thing last week. Has anything moved since then?

MR. CROWLEY: He hasn’t.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I – no, I realize that, but inside the Administration talking about the sanctions. I mean, the Secretary was very specific that the President —

MR. CROWLEY: We are – no, no, we have —

QUESTION: That President Obama had warned him of sanctions.

MR. CROWLEY: We are developing a set of options and are prepared to take action depending on what he does.

QUESTION: But in terms of actually taking that action, nothing has changed since he spoke to this, I believe, on Thursday.

MR. CROWLEY: We have not taken any specific actions yet.

QUESTION: All right.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)