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Middle East Digest - July 20, 2009


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Washington, DC
July 20, 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 July 20, 2009

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12:53 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: Do – Israel apparently rejected a new demand from the U.S. to stop a settlement project in East Jerusalem. Can you confirm that? Can you confirm that U.S. tried to stop this project and that it was rejected?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think there have been – this is not a new issue. There have been issues revolving construction in East Jerusalem have come up a number of times. I believe they came up when some of you might have been with the Secretary in the region back in February. We have made our views to – known to Israel. Our views are not new either, that this kind of construction is the type of thing that should be – is the type of issue that should be subject to permanent status negotiations, and that we are concerned that unilateral actions taken by the Israelis or the Palestinians cannot prejudge the outcome of these negotiations. That’s one of the reasons why we’re working hard through George Mitchell and others to create conditions so that you can have a resumption of negotiations that would lead the parties to address these final status issues. George Mitchell will be traveling to the region later this week. His itinerary is still not completely set, but he will be traveling to talk to Israeli officials, Palestinian officials, others in the region. I think he’s got a speech scheduled in Bahrain later this week, where I think he’ll have the opportunity to express once again our gratitude to Sheikh Salman for his message last week.

QUESTION: Can you confirm – excuse me --

QUESTION: *Has he had* any conversations with Ambassador Pickering about this meeting last week with Hamas leaders?

MR. CROWLEY: I think Ambassador Pickering is a private citizen. I’m not aware that we’ve had – we had any contact with him before or after that meeting.

QUESTION: Can we go back to settlements? Can you confirm that the Israel ambassador in Washington was summoned to the State Department on Friday?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had conversations with the Israeli ambassador recently on this and other subjects.

QUESTION: Well, can you clarify when that meeting actually was?

MR. CROWLEY: Last week sometime, I think.

QUESTION: Last week; not over the weekend?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Friday --

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: And he met with who?

MR. CROWLEY: He met with a number of high-level officials, not the Secretary.

QUESTION: Deputy?

MR. CROWLEY: A number of high-level officials.

QUESTION: What is the agenda of Ambassador Holbrooke when he visits Afghanistan and Pakistan this week?

MR. CROWLEY: I think in – obviously, he makes regular visits to both countries. I think he’ll also be traveling to India and Brussels on this particular trip. Obviously, in Afghanistan, he’s going to be looking at the current situation and conferring with Afghan officials, with Ambassador Eikenberry, both on the current military campaign, but also on progress in developing civil society issues. I think in Pakistan, he will confer with a range of Pakistani officials. I think he’ll also go out once again to check on the status of Pakistani citizens that have been affected by the ongoing military efforts.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: When exactly is he going?

MR. CROWLEY: Last I checked, his departure date – it’ll be sometime this week, but I’m not sure that that is set.

QUESTION: Do you have any – do you have any lower-level assessment of how the resettlement of Pakistanis in Swat Valley has been going?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a fair question. I know there have been some media reports that they’ve begun to flow back. I think that’s exactly what Ambassador Holbrooke will be looking at, because obviously, as you get closer to the end of the year, you’ve got great concerns in Pakistan about the plight of these people.

So I think that’s exactly what he wants to go check on, is what is their status, what are the current numbers, and what are the implications both in terms of addressing their immediate needs, but more significantly, I think when he was here talking to you last month, that if we thought that we had to care for these people over the winter, that has significant consequences in terms of the amount of aid that would have to be done – have to be raised by both the United States and the international community.

QUESTION: Can we go --

MR. CROWLEY: Elise, welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)



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