State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, December 17, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 17, 2010. 


Secretary Clinton This Morning Presented the Secretary of State’s 2010 Awards for Cooperate Excellence / List of ACE Award Winners / Secretary Announced the Launch of Palestinian Information Communications Technology Capacity Building Initiative (PITI) / Seeks to Strengthen the Palestinian Private Sector
African Union, African Union Peace and Security Council and ECOWAS in Abidjan / Statements Released to Ask Ivoirians to Restrain from Violence / U.S. Prepared to Impose Targeted Sanctions / Under Secretary Pat Kennedy has Authorized Departure of Dependents, Non-emergency Personnel at U.S. Embassy
George Mitchell has Returned to the Region / David Hale’s Meetings / Follow-on Meetings this Coming Week / Continue to Engage the Parties / Outlined the Appropriate Agenda
Deputy Secretary Steinberg, NSS Senior Director Bader on their Way Back to U.S. / Ambassador Sung Kim / Meetings Constructive and Useful
South Korea is a Sovereign Country / Routine Live Fire Exercise Poses No Threat / North Korea Should not Use Legitimate Training Exercise as Justification for its Provocative Actions / No One Wants to See Further Escalation of Tensions / U.S. Concerned About Current Tension in the Region / Trust that South Korea will be Cautious in What it Does / South Korea has been Restrained
South Korea has a Right to its Own Self Defense / U.S. in Constant Contact with Allies
How Pakistan Deploys its Military Forces is a Decision for Pakistan / No Military has Suffered More Significant Casualties than Pakistan / Regional Strategy / Seen a Definite Shift in Pakistani Military Posture / U.S. has a Military Cooperation that is Ongoing
Aware of U.S. House Resolution 252
Turkey, like any Country in Good Standing has a Clear Responsibility
If New Information Revealed , U.S. Fully Supports an Investigation / Some Issues have been Investigated Before / Will not Change U.S. – Kosovo Relations / Will Continue to Work with Kosovo Government
Will not Address any Specific Cable
Issue of WikiLeaks / Building Strategic Partnership with India
U.S. Embassy / Always Maintained a Tightened Security for U.S. Operations There
Issue Concerning Palestinian Peace Activist / Discussed the Case with the Israeli Government


1:21 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of things to mention before taking your questions. This morning, Secretary of State Clinton presented Denimatrix, Cisco, and Mars with the Secretary of State’s 2010 Awards for Corporate Excellence here at the State Department. The ACE is given annually to U.S. businesses that exhibit good corporate citizenship, promote innovation, and advance democratic principles around the world.

In the small to medium size category, the winner Denimatrix has accomplished a great deal in Guatemala. The textile and apparel company was chosen for reducing the environmental impact stemming from its production process and reaching out to the community to help disadvantaged youth and the homeless.

In the multinational category, Cisco, the computer and networking company, was chosen for helping to connect the Israeli and Palestinian economies and people and engaging in several partnerships and initiatives to enhance technical capability, connectivity, education, and opportunities for women and youth in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

And Mars, the confectionary manufacturer, was selected for improving farming methods, sensitizing communities against child labor, and promoting the overall wellbeing and sustainability of cocoa growing communities.

Obviously, during her remarks as well, the Secretary announced the launch of the Palestinian Information Communications Technology Capacity Building Initiative or PITI. This initiative is designed to enhance Palestinian economic capacity in the information communications technology sector by facilitating partnerships between Palestinian ICT companies and U.S. multinational companies, particularly those with operations in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, and the broader Middle East. The initiative is modeled on successful ventures by U.S. companies like Cisco and also seeks to strengthen the Palestinian private sector by encouraging broader economic growth, development, and job creation for Palestinians. This PITI effort is led by the State Department in partnership with USAID and Partners for a New Beginning. It will help to expand U.S. investment in Palestinian companies and promote new business opportunities in the region. And the initial partner companies include Cisco, Google, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Medcor, and

Regarding the Ivory Coast, we understand that African Union President Jean Ping, African Union Peace and Security Council Chair Ramtane Lamamra, and ECOWAS Chair Victor Gbeho have arrived in Abidjan, are in discussions with both President Gbagbo and President Elect Ouattara. International pressure is increasing. Both the European Commission and the United Nations Security Council have released statements asking Ivoirians to restrain from violence and respect the outcome of the election. From the United States standpoint, time is running out. The United States is prepared to impose targeted sanctions individually and in concert with our partners on President Gbagbo, his immediate family, and his inner circle, should he continue to illegitimately cling to power.

At the same time, we’re mindful of the situation in Cote d’Ivoire and the Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy has approved an authorized departure of dependents and nonemergency personnel for our embassy in the country.

QUESTION: That’s it?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s it.

QUESTION: The situation in the Ivory Coast didn’t come off at all with the Mars people, did it, considering the Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of what makes M&Ms M&Ms?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a question or that’s a statement?

QUESTION: No, I asked did it come up at all.

MR. CROWLEY: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Okay. The Secretary before then, I believe, met with Senator Mitchell, yes?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, this morning.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what came – what he reported to her?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I will decline to read out his report. He has returned to the region from meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials and also with others in Europe, as we’ve outlined throughout the week. I would say his deputy, David Hale, met today with UN Special Representative Mark Otte in Brussels and Mr. Hale, joined by Daniel Shapiro from the National Security staff, will have follow-on meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials next week. We continue to engage the parties. We plan to continue that engagement next week. We’re focused on the substance of the core issues. We hope to use these discussions in the coming weeks to create some momentum that will lead the parties back to direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Where is that – Hale and Shapiro?

MR. CROWLEY: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Where will those meetings be?

MR. CROWLEY: In the region.

QUESTION: And just with the Palestinians? Sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: I said with the Palestinians and the Israelis.

QUESTION: Would you say that Senator Mitchell’s meetings to date have started to create that momentum, or no?

MR. CROWLEY: This, I think, has to look at what we want to see happen in the coming weeks and months. We’ve outlined what we think is the appropriate agenda. We’ve gone through substantive details, what we want to see the parties do in upcoming meetings that we’ll have, but this is going to be an effort that unfolds over a number of weeks.

QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. On Deputy Secretary Steinberg, his visit to China, I just saw the statement. Is there any progress? And also they discuss about the President Hu’s visit to the U.S. next month. What did they discuss?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – Deputy Secretary Steinberg and NSS Senior Director Jeff Bader are on their way back to the United States, having completed meetings in Beijing. Our Ambassador Sung Kim has moved onto Seoul, and we will expect, as we’ve said, to have discussions early next month with Japanese officials. Unfortunately, that did not happen this week because of the illness to Kurt Campbell. The meetings, we felt, were constructive, useful. They touched on bilateral issues; they touched on the upcoming visit by President Hu Jintao next month, obviously focused significantly on activities and events in the Korean Peninsula.


QUESTION: P.J., there seems to be a lot of apprehension about these South Korean drills, to the extent that it’s reportedly the Russian Government asked the United States and South Korea to come in, and they apparently urged South Korea to cancel this exercise. Is that something that you’re also counseling the South Koreans to do?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can confirm that Ambassador John Beyrle met today with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Borodavkin on a number of issues, including North Korea. The meeting came at the deputy foreign minister’s request. I’ll leave it to Russia to characterize its view on the current situation.

Clearly, we are concerned about events and North Korean provocations. We want to see tensions reduced. We’ve clearly called on North Korea to do that. We want to see other countries, including China, Russia, and others, send a clear message to North Korea to cease its provocations.

But by the same token, we recognize that South Korea is a sovereign country. It has a right to exercise its military as it sees fit. Exercises in the past, routine in nature, do not pose a threat to North Korea. And North Korea should not use any future exercise as justification to undertake further provocative actions.

QUESTION: You just said that South Korea – but the North Korea is saying that South Korea is acting provocatively. So —

MR. CROWLEY: It’s hard to see how a routine live-fire exercise, which has been – have been held in the past, poses any kind of threat to North Korea. In fact, it does not.

QUESTION: How is that possible?

MR. CROWLEY: A country has every right to train and exercise its military in its own self-defense. These are activities that have – and should there be a live-fire exercise in the coming days fully contained within South Korea’s territory, if you look back on the most recent live-fire exercise that did precede North Korean shelling of South Korean territory, the live-fire exercise was directed in a different direction away from North Korea. So North Korea should not use any future legitimate training exercises as justification to undertake further provocative actions.

QUESTION: How can you say anything is ordinary when this has been heightened tension over the past eight, nine months, starting with the sinking of the Cheonan and then the revelations of their nuclear – how can you say anything is normal and not provocative in this context?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m saying that – if you look back at South Korean activities, they have had live exercises in the past. In some cases, we have had training exercises with South Korea. This is a perfectly legitimate undertaking on behalf of South Korea. It does not pose a threat to North Korea.

QUESTION: Well, is there a disconnect here, because General Cartwright yesterday, immediately following your briefing, expressed his concern about these exercises and urged some – that they take in some sort of considerations into account, considering the tensions.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, nobody wants to see a further escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula. We are in touch with South Korea. We are closely monitoring ongoing events. But at its heart, South Korea has a legitimate right to train its military as it sees fit.

QUESTION: But, P.J., just to follow up on that, just because it’s their legitimate right doesn’t mean that they should be doing this, given the situation.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, this is a decision for South Korea to make. That said, it is hard to see how North Korea can legitimately threaten South Korea for undertaking a regular military exercise. There’s no justification for what – for the statements that North Korea has made.

QUESTION: Well, while it is a decision for the South Koreans to make on their own, you have considerable interests and influence with the South Koreans, interests meaning tens of thousands of U.S. troops who are stationed in South Korea.

MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So are you not – you’re not concerned at all for their well-being?

MR. CROWLEY: We are absolutely concerned about the current trajectory. It’s why Deputy Secretary Steinberg undertook the trip to Beijing to consult with China, just as we’ve consulted with others, including Russia in meetings here this week.

We are concerned about the current situation. But that said, the responsibility for current tensions rests exclusively with North Korea. North Korea’s trying to point a finger at South Korea, when, in fact, it is the very string of events that we’ve seen in the region in recent months, from the sinking of the Cheonan right up to the shelling of South Korean territory last month. The sole responsibility for the current tensions in the region rests with North Korea. And it is certainly understandable that South Korea is making sure that its military is properly trained and properly prepared in the face of the North Korea’s ongoing provocations.

QUESTION: So you don’t – the trajectory that you spoke of, you don’t see this exercise as contributing to that in any way?

MR. CROWLEY: Certainly, we trust that South Korea will not – will be very cautious in terms of what it does. But that said, let’s put the responsibility squarely where it lies. The responsibility for the current tensions in the region rests with North Korea.

QUESTION: But in what light do you see the exercises? Because the North Korea – it did – once South Korea said we will take care of it, then it attacked. South Korea said we will take care of it. If it does it third time, South Korea again will say, oh, okay, we’ll take. It’s not —

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t understand the question. What do you mean by take care of it?

QUESTION: South Korea has not responded in kind.

MR. CROWLEY: North [South] Korea has been amazingly restrained in light of the —

QUESTION: South Korea.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, thank you. South Korea has been amazingly constrained in light of a series of North Korean provocations. But North Korea – I’m sorry – South Korea has the right to self-defense. It has a right to exercise its military as it sees fit. Nothing that South Korea is planning is anyway threatening to North Korea. And there’s no justification for North Korea taking any action whatsoever should South Korea decide to proceed with this – a scheduled live exercise, which I understand it has been delayed due to inclement weather.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. military participate in these exercises?

MR. CROWLEY: This, I understand, is a South Korean exercise.

QUESTION: Another subject, P.J. My question is yesterday when Secretary announced 140,000 Pakistani troops will be or has come out from the Indian border on the Pakistan-Afghan border to fight against terrorism. My question is that when this was decided and what role U.S. played, whether U.S. had spoken with the Indian authorities. Because in the past, Pakistan was saying that India is a threat to Pakistan, and now they are pulling 140,000 troops from the Indian border. That means there is no (inaudible) between the two countries or was never.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, how Pakistan decides to deploy its military forces is a decision for Pakistan. We’ve made no secret of our desire to see Pakistan take more aggressive action against extremist elements within its own borders. That is a threat to Pakistan itself. And as the Secretary said, we have seen Pakistan shift its emphasis away from the Pakistani-Indian border and more aggressively to the Swat Valley and other areas where these extremists operate. And no military has suffered more significant casualties in undertaking these operations than Pakistan. But these were obviously decisions for Pakistan to make. But the context of increasing dialogue and reducing tensions between Pakistan and India is something that we have stressed in our dialogue with both countries.

QUESTION: And one more just quickly. What do you think in this new – after this new strategy, what role do you think India will play in Afghanistan and the reason as far as this new announcement is concerned?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we do have a regional strategy. India has legitimate interest in helping with the future of Pakistan. It has contributed significantly to development and reconstruction projects within Afghanistan. And this should – we encourage that activity, even as we stress the importance of dialogue between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, other countries. So no efforts like this are misunderstood.

QUESTION: P.J., maybe I missed something here. Did – the Secretary didn’t actually announce that the Pakistanis had moved these troops. She said that – she was talking about something, a gradual thing, over the course of the last year since —

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, we’ve seen a definite shift in the Pakistani military’s posture, as —

QUESTION: Was she intending to announce something then?

MR. CROWLEY: No, it wasn’t an announcement. I think it was a reflection of fundamental changes that have occurred in Pakistan as part of our strategic dialogue and our cooperation on dealing with the threat on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

QUESTION: Yesterday, at the White House and then at the Pentagon, the vice chief, he said something about American boots on the Pakistani soil in cooperation with Pakistan. So are you working on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have a strong military relationship with Pakistan. We do have military cooperation that is ongoing. And on an occasional basis, that does mean that U.S. forces are working cooperatively, side by side, with Pakistani forces.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) American boots on Pakistani soil.

MR. CROWLEY: I just said that.


QUESTION: Apparently, Speaker Pelosi has a plan to bring Armenian genocide bill to the floor today, or tomorrow if the Congress remains open. Do you have any view on that?

MR. CROWLEY: You are talking about —

QUESTION: Armenian genocide bill.

MR. CROWLEY: We are aware of a potential House Resolution 252, and we strongly oppose that resolution. We continue to believe that the best way for Turkey and Armenia to address their shared past is through their efforts to normalize relations.

QUESTION: And also, Turkey, along with U.S., Russia, and France apparently – or secret talks with the Iran for swap – nuclear swap talks, that there was in the UK maybe yesterday that these talks are going on. Do —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not going to comment on any story that might be based on any classified cables. We can’t vouch for the authenticity of any single cable. But clearly, there are international obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, including the most recent resolution, 1929. Turkey, like any country in good standing, has clear responsibilities.


QUESTION: Council of Europe accusations against – Council of Europe report today accused also prime minister for serious crimes, basically. In the report, the FBI is mentioned as one of the sources of the inquiry. So is there anything new about that? We heard something —

MR. CROWLEY: We addressed that a couple of days ago.


MR. CROWLEY: We fully support that – any investigation by a legitimate authority into these charges.

QUESTION: Do you have any contacts with Kosovo government on the issue?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question, see if we’ve had – I’m not aware of any – I’ll tell you what, I’m not aware of any contacts we’ve had since that report has come out. If that is – if our – but I’ll take that question and see.

QUESTION: P.J., just on that subject, you said – when you did address it the other day – I think it was Wednesday – you said pretty much the same thing, that you fully support an investigation. But you also noted, pointed out that this has come up before and that the ICTY has declined to prosecute or declined to go any further. Is that – I took that to suggest that you didn’t think that there was anything new here or that you thought that there was any – there was evidence that —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we did have a statement of fact that some of these issues had been investigated before, and – but to the extent that this report sheds new light on these issues, they should be followed through.

QUESTION: And do you have any concerns about what this might do to the U.S.-Kosovo relations, in particular —

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think it’s going to change fundamentally U.S.-Kosovo relations.

QUESTION: Well, the U.S. –

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, they’re based on our mutual interest, not on specific personalities.

QUESTION: Well, right. But I mean, if – do you see any problem in dealing specifically with Mr. Thaci?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, at this point, since any individual anywhere in the world is innocent until proven otherwise, he is the current prime minister, and we will continue to work with that government.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but you won’t deal with President Bashir; he’s not been convicted of anything. You don’t deal with Mugabe, pretty much, and he’s not been convicted of anything.

MR. CROWLEY: He – well, he – yeah.

QUESTION: You’re calling for Laurent Gbagbo to leave Ivory Coast.

MR. CROWLEY: For very different reasons, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, all of them have been accused of – okay – being accused of crimes. None of them have been convicted of anything. And yet – so why is Hashim Thaci given this luxury?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re not giving anybody a pass. As we’ve said, if there’s new information that is revealed in this report, it should be fully investigated.

QUESTION: Giving the pass on Hashim —

MR. CROWLEY: In fairness, we don’t want to neglect the back of the room.

QUESTION: Thank you. Do you have any comments on today’s Japanese prime minister visit to Okinawa?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.

QUESTION: During the past (inaudible), what about the WikiLeaks? You have any updates on the justice system, U.S. justice system working –

MR. CROWLEY: The investigation into the leak of classified cables is ongoing.

QUESTION: About a year ago this week, Cambodia deported 20 Uighurs to China. Do you have any information about their whereabouts? Where – are you looking for them?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question, see if there’s any follow-up.

QUESTION: Have you been able to figure out any more detail – what are you waiting for? I’m going to ask about Yemen.

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Huh? What?

QUESTION: This is a question about Yemen —

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: — the incident there the other day. Other than the —


QUESTION: I know that you put out the taken question and said there were four Embassy personnel —

MR. CROWLEY: I have no further information on what happened in Yemen.

QUESTION: But do you know if the – is the Embassy stepping up its security? Has there been anything done since this happened?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly, in a country like Yemen, where our Embassy and personnel have been subject to attacks before and threats before, we always maintain a heightened security for our operations there. I’m sure we will look at this most recent attack, and if any adjustments are necessary, we’ll make them.


QUESTION: Can we just go back to Korea for a second? The Russians have someone, U.S. and South Korean ambassadors request —

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. We already answered that question earlier in the briefing.

QUESTION: No. I just – that – what is the final take that you are feeling? So who will be responsible if something – if North Korea —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if – well, put it this way. I can go back over it again.

QUESTION: No, please don’t. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. South Korea has a right to its own self defense, and any exercise that South Korea contemplates as part of its self defense is not a justification for North Korea to take any provocative action, or certainly, not to attack South Korea.

QUESTION: The question is: Are you giving a go-ahead to South Korea to retaliate if not —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are in constant contact with our allies in South Korea.

QUESTION: Can I ask the question that I think you were preparing to answer, and that would be Palestinian peace activist?

MR. CROWLEY: We have raised this case with the Israeli Government. We continue to follow developments in this case, as well as other cases of West Bank Palestinian protestors who have been arrested and tried on a variety of charges. We are aware that in this particular case of Abdullah Abu Ramah, the case is under appeal, and our Embassy regularly raises human rights issues as appropriate and with regard to specific cases with the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: When you say that you’ve raised it with the Israelis, can you be more specific? What have you said?

MR. CROWLEY: We have discussed with the Israeli Government. I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Okay. And did this happen before or after you started getting questions about it?

MR. CROWLEY: Before.

QUESTION: And so then what was the problem with saying this when it was originally raised?

MR. CROWLEY: I finally got the information I needed.


QUESTION: Last week, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India signed an agreement for a gas pipeline with all the four countries —

MR. CROWLEY: All right, one more time.

QUESTION: Last week –


QUESTION: — Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India signed a gas – an agreement for the gas pipeline which can go through all the four countries. How do you view this development there as –

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question and see if we have a view on that.

QUESTION: And finally, today, WikiLeaks released a lot of documents related to India. I’m not asking about the WikiLeaks, but the – some of the Indian political parties are saying that U.S. is interfering in the internal affairs of India. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, again, as you say, I will not address any cable. We are building a strategic partnership with India. We have significant engagement on a variety of issues with both India the government and the people. Our diplomats do what diplomats do, and that – what we do in a country like India is no different than what Indian diplomats do in our country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)