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Middle East Digest - May 27, 2009


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Washington, DC
May 27, 2009

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The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.

From the Daily Press Briefing of May 27, 2009

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QUESTION: Well, the Secretary is meeting with President Abbas tonight, and the White House announcing yesterday that the President is going to do a detour for his Cairo trip, stopping in Riyadh and meeting with King Abdullah. Is the Arab Peace Initiative still the premise, the base for negotiation between the Israelis or the Palestinians? Or are we expecting to see a new plan or proposal that’s going to be launched?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – you know, this – it’s a – I can say that the Secretary is meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority tonight. She’ll review a broad range of issues, including our commitment to a Middle East peace and our commitment to a two-state solution, and they’ll also discuss ways that we can cooperate in areas of shared interest.

QUESTION: But I mean, is this anything new that we’re going to hear? My question, is are we still – or is the Administration still relying on the Arab Peace Initiative as the base for negotiations?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me – let’s not – I don’t want to prejudge too much what will be on tomorrow’s agenda, so I’ll refrain from further comment on it.

QUESTION: But in terms of Saudi Arabia, how important is the Saudi role in all of this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think Saudi Arabia plays a very important role in this. I mean, we want to take a regional approach to the issue of a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And so we think Saudi Arabia plays a very important role.

QUESTION: Can you tell us why the Secretary no longer plans to meet with the Egyptian democracy activist today? She had --

MR. KELLY: I think she does plan to meet with an Egyptian democracy activist.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell us why it’s not some sort of – on her – it’s on her schedule today?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – it’s – you’ll see it on her schedule. It’s just not today.

QUESTION: When?

QUESTION: Well, when is she going to do that?

MR. KELLY: We’ll have – I’ll tell you when – we’ll tell you when we have that information. But she is going to meet with him.

QUESTION: But not today?

MR. KELLY: But not today.

QUESTION: Why not today?

QUESTION: Was this postponed today because of the – because she was doing – he was coming after the meeting with --

MR. KELLY: It was postponed strictly for scheduling reasons.

QUESTION: Well, scheduling reasons, as we know, can be – take on a variety of different --

QUESTION: A multitude of (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yes. So it wasn’t done out of any --

MR. KELLY: One at a time, Arshad.

QUESTION: It wasn’t done out of sensitivity because she was meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister immediately --

MR. KELLY: No.

QUESTION: -- before that?

MR. KELLY: No, it wasn’t.

QUESTION: Who would be in this meeting then?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have that information right now.

QUESTION: Do you expect her to raise the case of Ayman Nour in her meeting today with the foreign minister?

MR. KELLY: She’s going to talk about a broad range of issues, but I’m not going to get into individual cases --

QUESTION: During the Secretary’s --

MR. KELLY: -- individual agenda items.

QUESTION: During Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Aboul Gheit today, did she pressure him at all to look into reforming or speaking with Mubarak about reforming Egypt’s democracy?

MR. KELLY: Well, they’re actually meeting right now.

QUESTION: To discuss that?

MR. KELLY: Well, they’re having their – they’re having a working lunch right now. You’re talking about the Egyptian foreign minister?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, that’s going on right now.

QUESTION: And did she mention if that’s going to be on her agenda to --

MR. KELLY: Well, I – it’s happening right now.

QUESTION: And how does – if I can just follow up with that. Egypt as a democracy – if I can just mention something that was in an op-ed this week – the executive director of Voices for an Egyptian Democracy said while Mubarak is perceived abroad as playing a key role in regional stability, the corruption of his regime and continued repression of the Egyptian people are undermining that very stability and security. So where does the State Department stand on the Egyptian-U.S. relationship?

MR. KELLY: Well, the Secretary is going to be speaking in about a half hour on the meeting that they’re having right now, so I think I’ll just refrain from comment and give her an opportunity to --

QUESTION: Will Gaza be part of that discussion?

MR. KELLY: I – again, I’ll let her characterize the meeting.

QUESTION: On the Middle East?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is Senator Mitchell in London, as the Jerusalem Post says, meeting with an Israeli delegation on Iran and the future of Israeli settlements?

MR. KELLY: Senator Mitchell was in London yesterday. He met with some senior Israeli officials. This is part of our ongoing consultations with the Government of Israel, and these meetings were agreed to as a follow-up to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit earlier.

QUESTION: You can’t confirm the settlement issue figured on that?

MR. KELLY: I just – all I know is that they discussed a full range of issues.

QUESTION: Where is he today?

MR. KELLY: I believe he should be back in Washington. He’s on his way back to Washington.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any reaction or comment about Syria’s release of the political activist Michel Kilo last week?

MR. KELLY: Let me check for you.

QUESTION: And if you could --

MR. KELLY: I do, yeah.

QUESTION: -- get something on the Lahore bombing also, which I suspect you have guidance on?

MR. KELLY: Oh, yes. Okay. You’re right, Arshad. I will take that one.

This is on the release of Michel Kilo?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. KELLY: Okay. I do have a reaction to it. We welcome the release of Syrian writer Michel Kilo. President Obama has made clear his strong support for human rights around the world. And that’s it.



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