Briefing Skipper: Hu, Tunisia, Sudan, Baby Doc, Exiled in Kuwait?
In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Tuesday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley: President Hu Jintao arrived at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by Vice President Joseph Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and chief of protocol Capricia ...
In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Tuesday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:
- President Hu Jintao arrived at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by Vice President Joseph Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and chief of protocol Capricia Marshall. Tuesday evening, President Obama hosted a private dinner for Hu that was attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. Wednesday begins the formal festivities, including the arrival ceremony, bilateral meetings, a meeting with U.S. and Chinese business leaders and CEOs and a joint press conference. Biden and Clinton will host the lunch at the State Department.
- Undersecretary for Management Pat Kennedy has approved the authorized departure of dependents from Tunisia. The first plane left Tunis for Rabat Tuesday and included 70 American official and private passengers. Crowley said the situation on the ground was improving but still fragile. "This is a period of significant transition for Tunisia," Crowley said. "We hope the interim government takes this opportunity to chart a course for their country that provides for inclusion of all peaceful and democratic forces in the political process, through open and fair elections and by investigating the abuses of the past."
- Crowley then went on to spell out what the U.S. wants that new government to do. "We see this as a moment in time and an important opportunity for the government to meet the aspirations and demands of the Tunisian people," he said. "This includes experiencing an end to violence by security forces against nonviolent civilians, truly free and fair elections, respect for basic human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, and an accountable, transparent, just government."
- Crowley congratulated Sudan on behalf of the United States for completing their referendum on splitting the country and said the voting was peaceful and orderly and turnout was high. "Though the official results probably will not be known until sometime in February, independent observers have stated they believe that the referendum’s result will be credible and will reflect the will of the people," he said. "Both northern and southern leaders have stated that they will respect the outcome of the referendum and have demonstrated that they take seriously their responsibilities under the 2005 peace accord."
- The U.S. is not taking a positing on what should happen to Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who is back in Haiti all of the sudden. But Crowley said the State Department views his return as a distraction. "If I look at the list of challenges that Haiti faces today, having a former dictator return to Haiti just adds to Haiti’s ongoing burden. But as to his status in the country and what happens, this is a matter for the government of Haiti and the people of Haiti." The U.S. was not involved in his return and heard about it from the French, Crowley said.
- The State Department still doesn’t think that a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity or one recognizing Palestinian independence is a good idea, even though the Palestinians continue to push for one. Crowley said the State Department did allow the Palestinian representative office in Washington to raise a flag at their DC headquarters, but said that didn’t change their diplomatic status in any way.
- Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon will travel this week to Nicosia, Cyprus to meet with President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and their advisers. He will also meet with the U.N. secretary-general’s special adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer.
- Crowley refused to answer repeated questions about Gulet Mohamed, the 19 year old Virginia resident who was refused entry back to the U.S. from Kuwait and now alleges that he was beaten and tortured while in Kuwaiti custody. Crowley wouldn’t comment on whether he was on the no fly list, or whether he was interrogated by FBI agents in Kuwait, or anything. "Well, all I can really tell you — because we do not have a Privacy Act waiver — is that we are providing him consular access. Our last access was, you know, late last year," Crowley said. "If you’ve got those kinds of questions, I would direct them to other agencies besides this one."