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 28, 2009
QUESTION: Is there any reaction to Israel’s rejection to Clinton’s demand yesterday to stop all settlements?
MR. KELLY: Any reaction from the Israeli Government?
QUESTION: No --
MR. KELLY: I’m not --
QUESTION: No, no. From you. Secretary Clinton said yesterday – demanded that all settlements --
MR. KELLY: Right.
QUESTION: -- must be stopped. And Israel today, the spokesperson said that the communities will be allowed to grow, quote, “normal life in” those communities will be allowed to continue.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there any reaction to that?
MR. KELLY: Well, I’ll let the Secretary’s words speak for themselves. I mean, she said very clearly that in order for this process to move forward – the President has said this, too – the settlements must stop. I mean, that’s – it just couldn't be more clear.
And we also think that it’s not only in the interest of regional peace and stability, it’s in the square interest of Israel and the square interest of the Palestinian people to come up with a lasting solution to the problem of this decades-old conflict. And we just need to remove all the obstacles to this process.
QUESTION: Ian, do you have any readout from the dinner last night with President Abbas?
MR. KELLY: You know, the Secretary gave a readout upstairs. I can give you basically what she said from me on the record, if you like.
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. We were working on something else, as usual.
MR. KELLY: Sorry?
QUESTION: No, I was working on something else.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Oh, that’s understandable.
QUESTION: But if you could elaborate on the comments.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Yes, she had – of course, she hosted dinner last night for the president of the Palestinian Authority. She termed it a very productive dinner. They discussed the – a full range of bilateral issues and concerns before our countries. Senator Mitchell had an opportunity to report on some of his talks. They were able to report on the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu. She said that the main message that we gave to the president of the Palestinian Authority is that we’re committed to doing all we can to move this process forward to attain the goal of a two-state solution and a lasting peace. And of course, she’s going to participate in the meeting with the President, with Mr. Abbas as well.
QUESTION: Right. One of the overriding aims seems to be to obviously offer as much support to President Abbas as you can. Could you kind of tick through some of the main ways that you were doing that?
MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, we want to have a lasting peace in the region. We want to have a – we want to allow the Palestinian people to be able to participate in their own future, to be able to give a prosperous future for their children. We – of course, we want to have a Palestinian Government that abides by the principles laid out in the Roadmap. And I think – you know, beyond that, I think that the President is having a meeting with Mr. Abbas later, and I’ll just – the President will have more to say about it.
QUESTION: -- support President Abbas. And you ticked off a list of things that you want to see in the region, not what you want.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I will – I will beg your forbearance, because as I said, the President is going to be meeting with Mr. Abbas in a few hours, and I think I’ll let the President speak to these issues.
QUESTION: But there’s an – you know, we dealt with this for a long time, you know. I mean --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, but I haven’t. I’ve only been here two and a half weeks.
QUESTION: Well, you know quite a bit about this here, and I’m sure – he does have certain weaknesses. I mean, half his territory is controlled by Hamas.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: So what does the U.S. do concretely? I mean, you’re – we’re going to see him with the President today, that’s support, money, yes.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What more can you do to really make him – you know, to solidify him as the leader of the Palestinians?
MR. KELLY: Yeah, well, it’s a fair question. I think that the best thing we can do is to work in – towards a regional solution to this longstanding conflict, and develop the kind of circumstances where they can be responsible for their own future, to develop a democratic state that’s living in peace with its neighbors.
QUESTION: Last night, Abu Mazen gave a talk to a small group of think tank people. And at that talk, I understand that he said he was still pushing for the idea of a unity government with Hamas that would – where the individuals of that government would accept the Quartet conditions, even if Hamas doesn’t. What – would the U.S. Government support such a unity government?
MR. KELLY: I think that we would accept a government that renounced violence, accepted the right of Israel to exist, and abided by the principles of the Roadmap – on the Roadmap.
QUESTION: Okay. This is – so you would accept a government that has Hamas in it?
MR. KELLY: I would accept a government whose members accepted those three principles.
QUESTION: Okay. Even if Hamas doesn’t?
MR. KELLY: No, then we wouldn’t accept – if Hamas doesn’t accept these principles --
QUESTION: All right, this is a – there’s a big technicality here, because there’s a lot of talk about how the U.S. might or should strike some kind of a deal as it’s done in Lebanon, where members of Hamas could be part of a unity government even if the group does not accept those – even if Hamas does not accept those principles.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But the government itself does.
QUESTION: If the individuals as part of the – the individuals – so individual Hamas members would sign on --
MR. KELLY: All right, time out. I’ll take your question.
MR. KELLY: Okay?
QUESTION: Because in the past, the answer to that has been no.
MR. KELLY: Okay. Then all the more reason to take the question.
QUESTION: Can we go to something else?
MR. KELLY: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more on the Mideast? What can you tell us – we haven’t seen much of Special Envoy Mitchell recently. What has he been up to?
MR. KELLY: I think I addressed this yesterday. He had a – he went to London and had a meeting with officials from Israel to follow up on the – some of the discussions that Prime Minister Netanyahu had when he was here in Washington. He’s back in Washington now, and as I said, he participated in the dinner last night.
QUESTION: Ian, last night, PBS Frontline World documented the Taliban with their brutal carnage and human rights violations in Pakistan. Have your talks convinced now the Pakistani Government as well as army to retake the Swat Valley region with both necessity and a permanence to end the rogue terrorism groups’ activities?
MR. KELLY: Well, you know, the President and the Secretary have addressed this many times, that we believe that Pakistan should confront the danger of extremism, particularly in the Swat Valley. We’ve been encouraged by some of the actions that they’ve taken in terms of dealing with this threat within their borders. And of course, we also are helping in a very substantial way in dealing with some of the humanitarian issues that have come out of this operation. And we’re – stand ready to help in any way we can to help deal with it.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the bombings in Peshawar?
MR. KELLY: Yes, I do have a reaction to that. We have a Consulate, of course, in Peshawar. They reported two blasts in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar, located in the Old City area of eastern Peshawar, just before 6:00 p.m. local. We’ve received reports indicating at least five people were killed and at least 16 wounded. And all American personnel are – have been accounted for. And of course, we deplore yet another incident of indiscriminate massacre.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, on Pakistan again.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I was wondering if there’s any concern that the Pakistani army or the government seems to be losing control – or some control at least – of the Taliban. I was wondering if there was any concern on that, following today’s attack and yesterday’s attack in Lahore.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, you know, as I said before, we recognize that Pakistan has a big challenge ahead of it, and we are working very closely with them in partnership in dealing with all the consequences of this extremist threat. And we have – we have every confidence in the way that they’re dealing with both the threat of extremism and the problem of the humanitarian situation.
QUESTION: Ian, the Secretary said, I believe, Nicholas Burns was going to go to Egypt. Could you elaborate on his --
QUESTION: Bill Burns.
MR. KELLY: Bill Burns.
QUESTION: Bill Burns. Can you – sorry. Could you elaborate on his --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, I know it’s hard because Burns replaced Burns, but I’ll see if I can get you more details on Bill’s trip.
QUESTION: Okay. During the President’s trip to – upcoming trip to Egypt, obviously, democracy concerns are going to be – well, I mean, that’s my question. Will the President be raising issues of democracy with the Egyptians, or will he be pushing for --
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well --
QUESTION: -- more democracy?
MR. KELLY: Traditionally, historically, the United States have made human rights a very important part of our foreign policy. So in all of our discussions, all of our foreign policy discussions, we make human rights a very important issue. But I – this is – I’m not going to – I’m not going to – and, I mean, this is really a question for the White House in terms of what President Obama is going to discuss, but just to say in general that it’s a – I think as the Secretary said a few minutes ago, it’s – human rights is a real pillar of our foreign policy.