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Middle East Digest - July 6, 2009

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Washington, DC
July 6, 2009


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 July 6, 2009

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QUESTION: Do you have any readout of the Mitchell and Ehud Barak meeting in London?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, that just happened today. I don’t have a very fulsome readout, but I’ll give you what I have if you can just hold on a second. It’s a big world out there.

Yes, they did meet today in London and discussed a wide range of issues. We are engaging in continuing intensive discussion with all parties, and our goal is to create the context for negotiations. We’re pressing all parties to honor their obligations under the Roadmap. You know what that means. It means for the Israelis to stop all settlements; for the Palestinian, it means an end to incitements against Israel and demonstrating an ability to provide security. We believe also that Arab states should take meaningful steps towards normalization with Israel. And we remain committed to bringing this process to a point where we can start negotiations.

QUESTION: When you say a stop to settlements, are you meaning that to be a permanent stop?

MR. KELLY: We mean exactly what it says in the Roadmap, that there should be a stop to all settlement activity, including natural growth.

QUESTION: Right. But it’s been reported that the Israelis would like to propose some sort of three- to six-month freeze, and that was presented last week – at last week’s meeting. Have you taken a position on that now? And can you tell us what – if Mitchell has been able to meet with President Obama on that matter yet?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any information on that, Kirit. You know that what we say is that we’re not going to negotiate the details of any deal through the media and from this podium, so --

QUESTION: Well, the problem with that, Ian, is that, again, you’re negotiating with the Israelis, but it’s not you who needs to – it’s not you and the Israelis who need to negotiate here. It’s the Israelis and Palestinians.

MR. KELLY: This is true. Yeah. Well, we meet with the Palestinians and we meet with the Arabs, too. We meet with --

QUESTION: No, I know. So aren’t you thinking --

MR. KELLY: -- with the neighbors.

QUESTION: -- you’ve gotten sidetracked on this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t think – well, I mean, we’re – just because Mitchell met with Barak, no, it doesn’t mean we’re not working the other avenues as well.

QUESTION: Has the Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting been rescheduled at all?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that it’s been rescheduled.

QUESTION: Do you know if there are any new Mitchell-Barak meetings scheduled?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware there will be any follow-ups, necessarily, to this one.

QUESTION: Do you think there could be a peace in the Middle East without Iran’s interference? Because since Iranian president has been calling – wipe off Israel from the map and all those things?

MR. KELLY: Well, this Administration’s approach to the Middle East peace process is a comprehensive, regional approach. And yeah, we would expect all players, all partners in the region, to contribute towards that.

QUESTION: Iran is a player?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Iran is a player in --

MR. KELLY: Iran is – has, of course, not played a very constructive role with its export of terrorism and with the kind of rhetoric that we’ve seen. We’d like to see it do more to contribute towards Middle East peace.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Vice President Biden said it’s up to Israel to determine whether or not it’s going to strike any targets in Iran. Would Israel let the United States know before they were going to make such a strike?

MR. KELLY: You have to ask Israel that. That’s not to say that Israel’s going to make a strike.

QUESTION: Is that the U.S. Government policy, that it’s ultimately up to Israel to make such a determination?

MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, let me just step back a minute and – our goal here is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When I say “our,” I don’t mean just the U.S. This is the – it’s the international community. So – and we’re – so our approach right now is to be very engaged with international partners to get Iran to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities and to fully cooperate with the IAEA, as detailed in United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Having said that, Israel is a sovereign country. We’re not going to dictate its actions. We’re also committed to Israel’s security. And we share Israel’s deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. But for questions about what they plan to do in response to this, I really have to refer you to the Israeli Government.


QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that by saying Israel is a sovereign country and we’re not going to dictate to them what their actions are, that your words, like the Vice President’s words, may be interpreted as sort of a green light.

MR. KELLY: I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action. But I mean, what – our policy is that we – that Israel is a sovereign country and we’re not going to dictate its actions.

QUESTION: Well, why do you have to say it? I mean --

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) Because it is what it is.

QUESTION: Shakespeare or not. (Laughter.) Doth protest too much.


QUESTION: Just a quick logistical question: Can you give us any kind of more firm schedule on the vice foreign minister’s meeting in Washington – Wu Dawei’s?

MR. KELLY: I just know that he met – I’m just – right now, I’m just aware of the meeting that he had with Deputy Secretary Steinberg, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell. And as I said, the Secretary also dropped by that one. He also has a meeting with our special representative to the Six-Party Talks, Ambassador Bosworth. If there are other meetings that he has in this building, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Hey, do you know, Ian, who it was that actually, from the U.S. side, who brought up the Uighur situation with the Chinese?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t.

QUESTION: Was it the Secretary or was it Campbell or --

MR. KELLY: I’m just not aware right now.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Actually, I’m going to go back to the Vice President’s statement regarding Iran and Israel. Does this statement indicate that the Administration is reconsidering its approach or attitude toward Iran?

MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t read into it any more than what you see, than, as I said, that we respect Israel’s sovereignty. We share Israel’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. But our focus now is getting Iran through this multilateral process to adhere to its obligations and responsibilities to the international community. That’s the stage we’re at right now.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)

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