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Middle East Digest - September 23, 2009

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Washington, DC
September 23, 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 23, 2009

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QUESTION: Russia, and particularly its drug czar, is urging the U.S. to go back to poppy eradication by air. What’s your response to that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We did take note of that. Of course, Russia is one of the major destination countries for Afghan heroin, and of course, because of that, has been long concerned about international counternarcotic efforts in Afghanistan. They’ve been active in the Paris pact, a consortium of nations committed to assist Afghanistan combat illicit drug production and trafficking.

As you note, Viktor Ivanov, who is the director of their anti-drug agency, is in Washington, and tomorrow will have meetings with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, with Director Kerlikowske, and here at State with David Johnson, who’s our Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

In general, I think just to sort of lay out what our general policy has been, we believe that large-scale eradication efforts have not worked to reduce the funding to the Taliban. And we believe that it’s also worked as a kind of a recruiting tool by driving farmers who have lost their livelihood into the hands of the insurgency. So we’re supporting the Afghan Government’s efforts to provide farmers with alternative means of supporting themselves.

And because of this new policy, we’re reducing support for eradication. We do provide some targeted support for Afghan-led efforts where we think they will work on a case-by-case basis. But our assistance will focus on increased efforts for alternative crop development, and this is part of our overall strategy in Afghanistan of supporting the people and Government of Afghanistan to stand on their own.

Yes. Samir, you haven’t asked a question.

QUESTION: Yes. The Egyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, declared today – he accused today the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, that he fought very hard to prevent his election as a new Director to the UNESCO. What can you say on this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen – I have not seen those comments. I think, in general, we welcome the election of the new Director General, Madame Bokova, and we look forward to working with her; but I don’t have any comments on these press reports.


QUESTION: Can I ask – moving on, if we may, to the trilateral between President Obama and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, does the fact that the President is no longer insisting on a freeze to Israeli settlements, is that a bit of an about-face? Or, I mean, has policy changed?

MR. KELLY: Well, I thought Senator Mitchell really put it very well yesterday, and that’s that we’ve always looked at our calls to all the parties to abide by their obligations as a means to an end, and there has been no change in our focus on that end. And the end is the re-launch of negotiations that can concede[1]. That’s the goal that we’re seeking. And the actions that we asked them to take were not an end. They were a means to this end of getting the two sides to sit down and begin negotiation. We never saw them as any kind of precondition.

We still continue to believe that the best way for us to create the kind of context for successful negotiations is for all sides to live up to the commitments that they made. And you know what they are: for the Israelis, it’s an end to settlement activity; for the Palestinians, it’s raising trust in their ability to provide for security in the region; and for Arab states, it’s taking steps to normalize. But our focus has always been re-launching the negotiations. So there’s been no change in our policy.

[1] succeed

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