State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, December 9, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 9, 2010


Secretary Clinton Meeting with Chief Israeli Negotiator Molho
Palestinian Negotiator Erekat will Meet with Secretary Clinton tomorrow
Secretary Clinton Spoke to President Abbas Twice Yesterday
Secretary Clinton’s Meeting with Nigerian FM
Secretary Clinton’s Meeting with Albanian FM
Special Envoy Gration’s Travel in Darfur
U.S. Ambassador White to Attend Tomorrow’s Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony
Secretary’s Meeting with Israeli Negotiator Molho
Secretary Clinton’s Speech Tomorrow at Saban Forum
Palestinian Negotiator Erekat will Meet with Middle East Team this Afternoon and Meet with Secretary Clinton Tomorrow
Working on the Core Issues
Secretary Clinton Meeting with Palestinian PM Fayyad Tomorrow
Indian Ambassador to U.S. / Diplomats Undergoing Airport Screening / TSA
Visa Rules for Diplomats
U.S. Delegation Traveling to China Next Week
Upcoming Foreign Ministers Meeting / U.S., Mexico, Canada / Border Issues
Special Tribunal / Look Forward to Judgment on Hariri Assassination
Letter from President Obama to President Gbagbo / Election Observers


12:35 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Continuing on. The clock at my podium says 12:35 and the Secretary’s bilateral with the foreign minister of Nigeria starts at 1 o’clock. So what we’ll do is run this for about 20 minutes and then if we don’t get through all your questions after the Secretary’s press availability, we’ll be happy to reengage and continue on.

Just to mention a couple of things to start, the Secretary obviously had a discussion this morning with Israeli chief negotiator Isaac Molho. The meeting lasted for more than an hour, and he also met with George Mitchell and our Middle East team for about three hours. So – and the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat arrives this afternoon. He will meet later today with our Middle East team as well, and he’ll have a meeting with Secretary Clinton tomorrow morning. Just additionally, the Secretary spoke with President Abbas twice yesterday to work through issues in anticipation of the meeting, follow-on meeting with Saeb Erekat tomorrow morning.

As I just mentioned, shortly, the Secretary will meet with Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia, and they’ll discuss regional issues, particularly the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, as well as preparations for the Nigerian 2011 election and the ongoing progress in the U.S.-Nigeria binational relationship. We certainly commend Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for convening an emergency summit of ECOWAS and making a very, very strong statement about the situation in Cote d’Ivoire. And in addition, we saw yesterday a very strong statement reiterating the support for the role played by the United Nations Secretary General and his representative in Cote d’Ivoire and welcoming the communiqués issued by ECOWAS. And the African Union Peace and Security Council is meeting today to review the current situation.

Earlier this morning, the Secretary met with Albanian Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto. They talked about a range of regional issues, including the situation in the Western Balkans, in Kosovo, and ongoing efforts of which Albania has been a very constructive player in working for European integration. Albania itself has elections coming up in May of next year, and the Secretary welcomed perspective on that. And Albania has special forces troops deployed in Afghanistan and continues to make a very significant contribution to ISAF for a relatively small county clearly punching above its weight, as the phrase would go.

And finally, Scott Gration and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg traveled to El Fashir, Darfur today. They met with the governor and state security committee of North Darfur and senior UNAMID officials to discuss security, assess, and the ongoing peace process. He will continue his three-day visit to Darfur as we continue to seek to build a durable peace for the Darfuri people.

And tomorrow U.S. Ambassador Barry White will attend the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony, reaffirming the importance that the United States places on the Nobel Award. We welcome the committee’s decision to award the peace prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and Mr. Liu’s courageous advocacy for political reform and fundamental freedoms, including his role in the drafting of Charter ’08, deserve our admiration. We urge China to uphold its international rights – human rights obligations and to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, and we continue to call for Mr. Liu’s immediate release.

QUESTION: P.J., briefly, or not briefly if you want, will – can you give us a little bit more of a flavor of this meeting this morning with Molho?

MR. CROWLEY: I will be very brief. My understanding is that it both reviewed process, as we’ve been indicating, getting a perspective on the Israeli side of how to move forward. And the Secretary and Mr. Molho also engaged in substantive issues. Beyond that, I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Well, what do you mean getting perspective on the Israeli – you haven’t – you don’t know what the Israeli’s perspective is?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again —

QUESTION: I mean, I think their perspective has been pretty clear, hasn’t it, from day one?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – that’s about all I’m going to tell you at this point.


MR. CROWLEY: I’m quite sure when you see the Secretary shortly you’ll probably ask her about this as well.

QUESTION: And what about – in terms of her speech tomorrow, do you expect her to say anything that advances the —

MR. CROWLEY: I think in her speech tomorrow, she’ll give our current perspective on where we are and what we believe should be the way to move forward. Again, I’ll leave her speech for tomorrow night.

QUESTION: P.J., you said that the Palestinian negotiator will meet with the Secretary of State this afternoon?

MR. CROWLEY: Tomorrow – no, she’ll meet – he’ll meet with – when he arrives, he’ll meet with our Middle East team this afternoon and this evening, and then he’ll meet with the Secretary tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, will there be any meeting that – under the auspices of the State Department between the Palestinian negotiator and his counterpart, Mr. Molho? And are there any ideas that you would (inaudible) to explore?

MR. CROWLEY: I would – as we said yesterday, right now I’m not anticipating that there would be a three-sided meeting in Washington.

QUESTION: So what are some of the ideas that you are exploring with Mr. Molho or his counterpart, the Palestinian counterpart?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we indicated, from this point forward, we plan to move forward and begin a more substantive engagement to see how, working on the core issues themselves, we can begin to move the process forward, perhaps regain some confidence in the process that has been stalled in recent months, and through this progress continue to impel the parties back into direct negotiations.

QUESTION: The Indian ambassador to the U.S. was subject to pat-down at a airport last week in Mississippi. Are you aware about this? Has the ambassador logged any complaint to you?

MR. CROWLEY: We have actually just learned about this, are looking into it ourselves. But probably the Department of Homeland Security and TSA would be in a better position to describe what happened.

QUESTION: P.J., can you —

QUESTION: P.J., on that same subject, have the Indians made any formal complaint to the State Department about this? Because there are indications that she was pulled aside because of the way that she was dressed.

MR. CROWLEY: As far as I know, at this point, they have not.

QUESTION: And for —

QUESTION: And could you explain just – I’m sorry – could you also just explain to us, because there are a couple of things that came up – the Polish president yesterday mentioned that he had to fill in a visa form and was asked about any connection with prostitution or terrorism. Is it – what are the rules for diplomats? Do they have to —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, all diplomats do, in fact, fill out visa applications because they’re coming here on a business trip. For example, there are countries that are participating in the Visa Waiver Program. Even though an ordinary, say, British citizen traveling in the United States would not have to apply for a waiver, a British diplomat would because the Visa Waiver Program involves travel for tourism.

QUESTION: And is there —

QUESTION: And for TSA, is there any special way that they are treated when they are at the airport, to your knowledge?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I believe there are guidelines that have been published on diplomats. They are subject to basic security, so everyone at the airport goes through a basic screening. And beyond that, I’ll defer to the Department of Homeland of Security.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Just so we’re clear about basic security or basic screening, that means that these guidelines – well, two things. One, where are the guidelines published? Two, does that mean that they are subject to – basic security from your point of view that includes the enhanced pat-downs, as it were? I mean there’s no perception for —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I – look, again, I think from a TSA standpoint, they followed their normal procedures, and I will defer to DHS to explain what happened in this particular instance. We weren’t there.

QUESTION: P.J., would you at least offer some sort of apology? I mean —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ll defer to the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: You’re —

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it is the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration to assess each passenger and then work each passenger through security based on what they see. I’m going to defer to DHS on this.

QUESTION: Okay, but P.J. –

MR. CROWLEY: There was – we are aware of the fact that the ambassador was subject to a pat-down. As to the rational that TSA used for this, I’ll let them explain it.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, is there any reason for a foreign diplomat who is traveling domestically within the United States to identify themselves as a foreign diplomat while going – while traveling – while going into an airport, i.e., if they do not have to go through any kind of customs or immigration control?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. I’m – give me – I’m trying to understand the question. I’m not being evasive. I just don’t –

QUESTION: If someone – all right. If I am a foreign diplomat, and I am here on my diplomatic passport with a visa and I’m traveling within the United States, meaning that I am not going through any immigration or customs control, is there any reason for me to identify myself as a foreign diplomat?

MR. CROWLEY: The fact that you’re a diplomat does not necessarily mean that you are not subject to basic screening as is any other passenger on any particular flight.

QUESTION: Has the State Department been in touch with TSA or DHS about people who – about what to do in the case of a diplomat, who can prove that they’re a diplomat, being pulled out of line or going through – just going through security in general.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we recognize – and there’s a policy that all passengers, whether a diplomat or a non-diplomat, are subject to screening before boarding any flight. We understand – we recognize that, and the diplomats themselves recognize that. As to this particular case where the ambassador was pulled aside for secondary screening that involved a pat-down, I’ll refer to TSA as to –

QUESTION: Okay, but I’m not asking –

MR. CROWLEY: — as to what factors went into that decision.

QUESTION: I’m not asking about this specific case. Just in general, I mean, the State Department issues guidelines to local police departments about what to do when they arrest a foreign national in terms of notification and consular access. You’re in touch with other agencies about how to deal with – like the New York City police – you’re in touch with on how to deal with UN diplomats. So, I’m curious if you have been in touch with TSA about the treatment of diplomats in airport security lines in general. Forget about this case.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. Yes, I mean, this – there are – there is a – on, I believe, our website there is guidelines published on diplomats and what they can expect as they travel around the United States.

QUESTION: And then –

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Hold on. I have just one more. Are you aware of whether India has complained or not? I mean, the foreign minister said that they were, but whether you’ve received it or not? I recall that there was a case with some Pakistani visitors, official visitors not so long ago. Is that the last one that you recall where there was a complaint lodged?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that – I mean, every once in a while – I don’t imagine that this is necessarily unique where we’ve – we have had misunderstandings in the past few months with different diplomats and security procedures at airports.

QUESTION: Okay, but I –

MR. CROWLEY: I think this pops up from time to time. DHS also has its own office of international affairs that liaisons with this community as well.

QUESTION: Okay, but you’re not aware in this case if this was a misunderstanding or not?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, the – it’s our understanding the ambassador was pulled out for secondary screening, and DHS has indicated their prepared to talk about this.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up –

QUESTION: Due to the external –

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on Goyal. Hold on, Goyal.

QUESTION: The external affairs minister of India has commented on this. So are you planning to –

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. All I will tell you is we have had meetings with officials from the embassy since the incident in Mississippi, and, as far as I know, they have not raised it with us yet.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. It has happened even before, including with the former president of India and other officials in the U.S. airports. What I’m asking you is that when ambassadors, not only the Indian Ambassador, but any ambassador when they travel to different states and different places, do they inform you, or the State Department, or any local authorities that ambassador is coming or a high-level official from international visitors?

MR. CROWLEY: I think there are posts that because of specific restrictions that are placed on travel need to inform us or request permission if they are traveling outside the parameters of – for that particular mission. But I’m not aware that a diplomat traveling across the United States has to inform us in advance. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t.

QUESTION: When you said that you just learned about it, is that today?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe today, yes.

QUESTION: So what is the reaction from India?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Yeah. I mean, that’s – reaction from India, I’ll defer to the Indian Government.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary of State scheduled to meet with Mr. Fayyad tomorrow before they together appear in the event?

MR. CROWLEY: She will meet with Prime Minister Fayyad tomorrow as well, yes.

QUESTION: At State or there?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it will be here.

QUESTION: Any other Middle East related meetings –

QUESTION: Do we know more information like in the morning or in the afternoon?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that one’s in the afternoon.

QUESTION: And any other Mid-East related meetings that she has given the number of people who are coming into town for the –

MR. CROWLEY: That’s all I’m aware of right now.

QUESTION: And briefly on the phone call that the Secretary made to Abbas?

MR. CROWLEY: They had two phone conversations. For the most part, it was to inform – to follow up on other meetings that President Abbas had had in the region and to encourage President Abbas to dispatch Saeb Erekat here for follow-on discussions. And President Abbas agreed.

QUESTION: Is there – does she plan to meet Barak when he’s here?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. If – of course, if there is such a meeting, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: May I ask who Mr. Steinberg will meet in China next week?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure he’ll have multiple meetings. Let me see if I can get more on that for you tomorrow.

QUESTION: Is Mr. Einhorn traveling with him?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. I think it’s Mr. Bader, Mr. Campbell, Sung Kim.

QUESTION: Not Mr. Bosworth?

MR. CROWLEY: Not Mr. –

QUESTION: Despite the importance of North Korea to this trip?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Sung Kim is the ambassador to the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton said on Monday that herself and the other foreign ministers are maintaining close consultations with Russia and China. So we know you’re sending a delegation to China, but are there any plans to send anyone to Russia?

MR. CROWLEY: We are in contact with Russia and will have – and will continue consultations. On this particular upcoming trip, I don’t believe the delegation is going to – what they’re going to, they’ll all go to China and then they’ll split off from there to Korea, to Japan. I don’t think that this particular trip includes Russia.

QUESTION: Still on China. A Chinese statement, Dai Bingguo met Kim Jong-il today in Pyongyang and Chinese Government announced that they reached consensus on their friendly relationship and the Korean Peninsula crisis. Do you have any reaction on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, this is quite fortuitous. When the delegation goes to Beijing next week, we look forward to getting a readout of Chairman Dai’s meetings in Pyongyang today.

QUESTION: Also on China –

MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on, hold on.

QUESTION: On China, too.

QUESTION: China, thanks. As far as this Nobel ceremony is –

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I gave a statement on that earlier.

QUESTION: No, but what I’m asking you is that U.S. law makers are comparing China with Nazi Germany and they said that President – I mean, Secretary must take this issue and it should be (inaudible) to China.

MR. CROWLEY: And my statement addressed that.


QUESTION: I was looking ahead to the Secretary’s upcoming trip to Canada for the foreign ministers meeting. I’m wondering if Canada is going to be asked to do more to help Mexico with its war on drugs. And secondly, wondering what you can tell us about the U.S.-Canada’s perimeter security deal.

MR. CROWLEY: The U.S.-Canada perimeter security deal?

QUESTION: Yeah, apparently it’s in its draft provisions.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we consult on a regular and ongoing basis with Canada on border issues. But this is the regular meeting that we have with the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico and I’m sure they’ll talk about a range of issues. Obviously, what’s happening in Mexico is of concern to the United States and Canada as well.

Let’s make this the last one, because then I’ve got to go upstairs.

QUESTION: The special –

MR. CROWLEY: All right, very quickly.

QUESTION: The special tribunal for Lebanon announced today that they are going to issue the indictment in the assassination of Mr. Hariri very, very soon. What expectation do U.S. have that this may have on the situation in Lebanon?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we look forward to – we support the work of the tribunal, and we look forward to its judgment.

QUESTION: That’s it?

MR. CROWLEY: Right. David and then Matt.

QUESTION: P.J., on Ivory Coast, is the United States contemplating sanctions or any other measures to try to get Mr. Laurent Gbagbo to step aside, aside from verbal —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the President delivered a letter, or we delivered a letter on the President’s behalf to President Gbagbo in the last few days, made clear that if he makes the wrong choice that will lead to isolation of Ivory Coast and its existing government and we would look at possible sanctions against him and others if necessary.

QUESTION: On Ivory Coast as well, did the U.S. have any election observers in the north of the country for voting day?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I don’t know.

QUESTION: And can you check, if you did, if they reported what other observers reported, which was wide – what is alleged to be widespread fraud? And then if that wasn’t the case, why have you been so quick to accept the results favoring the opposition candidate and so quick to reject the complaints of President Gbagbo?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, all I can say is that we participated in the election observer process. I’ll get more information as to where some of the U.S. observers were situated, and we joined in the international consensus that this was a fair result. Beyond that, we’ll see you in a few minutes.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)