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Middle East Digest - September 16, 2009

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Washington, DC
September 16, 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 September 16, 2009

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MR. KELLY: Mitchell. Yeah.

QUESTION: How was the meeting today?

MR. KELLY: It was good.

QUESTION: Oh, really?

MR. KELLY: Hold on a second.

QUESTION: Still making progress?

MR. KELLY: Hold on a second. Yes, they had good meetings yesterday with Prime Minister Fayyad and President Abbas, and they met with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, and they met with him again this morning. In meetings with both the Palestinians and the Israelis, Senator Mitchell continued to encourage the parties to take responsibility for peace through concrete steps. And both parties reconfirmed their commitment to comprehensive peace and discussed how best to re-launch negotiations. And we do believe we’re making progress toward that goal.

In order to keep the discussion moving ahead, Senator Mitchell will return to Israel later in the week to continue these discussions Friday morning with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Abu Mazen in Ramallah. Today, they’re also meeting with President Suleiman in Beirut and then they go on to Cairo. And tomorrow, they’ll meet with President Mubarak and other Egyptian leaders, and then King Abdullah of Jordan tomorrow afternoon in Amman.

QUESTION: Can I just – just on the logistics, they’re – so they’re in Beirut right now?

MR. KELLY: They’re in Beirut right now.

QUESTION: And then they’re – and – well – and then soon, probably, given the hour, they’re going to – they’re going to Cairo tonight?

MR. KELLY: They’re going to Cairo tonight, yeah.

QUESTION: Meeting with Mubarak tomorrow in Cairo?

MR. KELLY: In Cairo.

QUESTION: And then going to Jordan?

MR. KELLY: And then going to Amman.

QUESTION: And then going back to Israel?

MR. KELLY: And then going back to Israel probably late Thursday night.

QUESTION: Ian, earlier, about a month ago, there was some hope that the Administration could bring the two parties together for a meeting during the UN General Assembly meeting. You’ve got maybe a couple days left to get everything into place. Do you think you can still make that happen?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, we think that we are making some progress towards the goal of bringing the parties together. But clearly, we’re continuing the discussions and we’re hopeful that we can reach the point where we can re-launch the negotiations. But we don’t have anything to announce about any meetings next week.

QUESTION: And do you – is that still a goal?

MR. KELLY: I mean, our ultimate goal is to restart the whole process, but I don’t have any specific details about what might happen next week.

QUESTION: Is it likely or is it possible that Senator Mitchell might stay further or might stay through Saturday and Sunday?

MR. KELLY: There’s no plans for that, but he is, of course, going back on Friday to continue the discussions.


QUESTION: Ian, how --

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can we stay --

MR. KELLY: Are we still on Mitchell or –


MR. KELLY: No, okay. Matt, do you have something on Mitchell?

QUESTION: Yeah, but now I forgot what it was.

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ll come back to you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. I’m back on Mitchell.

MR. KELLY: You remembered your question?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, it was a pretty easy one. I don’t know how I forgot it. You just said – you said you –

MR. KELLY: Easy for you, maybe. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You say that you’re making progress or you’re making good progress towards – I think, is what you said – toward the goal of resuming – but are you closer to that now than you were, say, yesterday or even two days ago, when Mitchell –

MR. KELLY: No. Now, that’s not an easy question, actually.

QUESTION: Well, it was an easy question to remember --

MR. KELLY: It’s my understanding --

QUESTION: -- not to answer.

MR. KELLY: Sorry? Say that again, Matt?

QUESTION: Easy question to remember, not to answer.

MR. KELLY: Right, okay. Yeah. It’s my understanding that we did* make some progress in getting to that goal of getting the parties to agree to re-launch negotiations. But clearly, they need another round on Friday.


MR. KELLY: But the fact that they are – that they’re going to meet and talk again, I think, is a good sign in itself.

QUESTION: Well, it was kind of an – well, it may or may not be, as we’ve seen in the past.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we’ll see on Friday.

QUESTION: But I mean, when you talked about this – was that progress made today? Was it made two days ago? When – I’m trying to get a – get an understanding of how far --

MR. KELLY: I think --

QUESTION: -- how far is the – how far are you moving forward incrementally each time they meet?

MR. KELLY: Well, yeah. That – I don’t know if I can give you the exact number of yards we have advanced the ball, but I understand that we have advanced the ball. We need another set of downs on Friday to advance it further, to push it across the line.

QUESTION: In Afghanistan, the Independent Election Commission has announced its results with Karzai getting 54.62 percent of votes, and with the fraud – things hasn’t been taken care of yet.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So how do you respond to it?

MR. KELLY: Well, we, of course, took note of the announcement of the full preliminary results of the presidential elections. But we – but I want to reemphasize that these are just preliminary, they’re not final, and we’re still waiting for the certified results. These certified results will only come after the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission have carried out their investigations thoroughly and done all the required audits and recounts. You know that they’ve quarantined over 600 polling stations. And so just to say it again, we welcome this next step in the process, but caution patience to everybody to await the final certified results.

QUESTION: The EU observer team there has said, I think, that they think that one in three of the votes that Karzai received may have been fraudulent. Do you have any reason to believe that they’re close to the mark, wide of the mark, and what does – what is the U.S. information on that?

MR. KELLY: We want to allow this process to take place. We – we’re putting our confidence behind these two institutions – the IEC and the ECC – and we are, as I said before, counseling patience and we want this process to play out. But I don’t have any kind of independent data that I’m prepared to share with you. Our – as I said, our focus is on allowing this process to play out.

QUESTION: This – was this, the election issue or just Afghanistan in general, at any part on the agenda of the meeting this morning at the White House between the Secretary, Secretary Gates, and the National Security Advisor?

MR. KELLY: I’m not prepared to talk about the agenda of the meeting. I would be surprised if they didn’t talk about Afghanistan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: And separately – thank you for clarifying that – separately, is the October 1st meeting – and sorry if I missed this – is it set for Turkey, for the P-5+1 political directors?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think it’s set, and this is something that High Representative – is it High Representative or High Commissioner Solana – Mr. Solana --

MR. DUGUID: High Representative.

MR. KELLY: -- High Representative Solana will work out with his counterpart in Iran, with Mr. Jalili. But I believe he said yesterday that Turkey is probably top of the list. But nothing’s been set yet. Only the date; the date has been set.

QUESTION: Iranian --

QUESTION: Is that a one-day meeting or --

MR. KELLY: I believe so.

QUESTION: -- can we expect that it would last longer than that?

MR. KELLY: I believe it’s only planned for one day right now.


MR. KELLY: Iran, yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Iran policy dinner tonight that the Secretary is hosting, can you tell us about that? Is it interagency or – is the Administration ready to set its Iran policy?

MR. KELLY: Well, what it is is it’s an opportunity for the Secretary to hear from outside experts on Iran. These are mostly people from the academic community, from universities, from think tanks. And this is something that she’s done on other occasions. She most recently had a dinner with experts on Africa. That was on July 30th. She’s also had a similar type sit-down with foreign policy experts on more general topics. So it’s just a chance for her to get the benefit of their views in a relaxed and informal setting.

QUESTION: So you don’t – you still don’t have an Iran policy?

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) I didn’t – did I say that?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: No, she’s just listening – she’s listening to what their points of view are – these experts.

QUESTION: Do you have the invite list? Do you have the invite list?

MR. KELLY: I do, but I’m not prepared to share it with you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)

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