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Middle East Digest - October 5, 2009

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Washington, DC
October 5, 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 October 5, 2009

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QUESTION: Can I ask about the Goldstone report? On Friday, the Palestinian Authority agreed in Geneva to go ahead and put – defer a vote for it to go to the Human – UN Human Rights Council. What role specifically did the United States play in pressuring the Palestinian Authority to make that decision?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know if I would accept your characterization of pressuring. I think that we recognized that we had serious concerns with the recommendations and some of the allegations. We felt very strongly that while these investigations should be investigated and addressed, that we thought on the one hand that Israel had the kind of institutions that could address these allegations. And of course, we urged Israel to address these very serious allegations.

But I think we had a broader concern that we didn’t want the report to distract us from our ultimate goal, which was to address the root causes of the tragic events of last January, and that’s the lack of a regional and lasting peace between the two parties – between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So we were concerned that we stay focused on that ultimate goal.

And we are not saying that the allegations in the report – we’re not saying that they should be ignored. We simply do not want the report itself to become any kind of impediment to this ultimate goal. We appreciate the seriousness with which the Palestinians approach this very, very difficult issue, and we respect this decision to defer discussion of the report to a later date for the reasons that I just stated – that we want to make sure that we stay focused on the ultimate goal here.

QUESTION: You say you respect the Palestinians’ decision?


QUESTION: Is that what was sort of discussed in the meeting between Abu Mazen and the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem? That’s what’s being reported, that he strictly, specifically said that a message from Secretary Clinton is that he is to defer that report going to the UN Human Rights Council so that the Middle East peace process does not veer off track.

MR. KELLY: Well, in all honesty, I’m not aware of that meeting, and so I can’t comment on it. I’m not sure that we would comment on a meeting – on a confidential, diplomatic exchange between one of our diplomats and a representative of the Palestinian Authority. I’m just saying that we have been very frank about where we think the focus should be, and that should be on resolving this longstanding conflict.

QUESTION: Do you agree with Prime – with Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that this report, if it had gone to the Human Rights Council, would have dealt a fatal blow to the peace process? Do you agree with that assertion?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – that’s an assertion by the – by Mr. Netanyahu. Our – as I say, our priorities were that this process goes forward so we’re able to address the underlying causes. We are focused on that, and that is the most – that is our priority right now in dealing with the issues related to the Middle East.

QUESTION: Still on the Middle East?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Egyptian foreign minister from Amman says that the rival Palestinian factions will sign an agreement, a reconciliation agreement on October 26 – just came in maybe 20 minutes before you arrived. Are you skeptical or hopeful given the long, you know, efforts to try to secure a deal?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen this report, and if this is something that helps us reach this ultimate goal that I was just referring to, of course we would welcome it. But I don’t have any details on it.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Goldstone for a second?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re saying that there was no U.S. pressure on the Palestinians? That is a bit disingenuous, I think.

MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, we --

QUESTION: Did you not – did you not discuss with the Palestinians the fact that you didn’t think that it was a good idea for it to go – for them to go ahead with this resolution?

MR. KELLY: I think we have said it publicly that we do not want --

QUESTION: Did you tell the Palestinians that?

MR. KELLY: -- to have impediments on --

QUESTION: Exactly. Did you tell the Palestinians that?

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ve said it publicly.

QUESTION: Did you tell --

MR. KELLY: I’m saying it right now.

QUESTION: Yeah, but did you tell the Palestinians that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not going to get into the details of our diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you’re talking – you’re saying it publicly right now that you didn’t – so it stands to reason that you told the Palestinians what you thought.

MR. KELLY: Not going to get into the details of a diplomatic conversation.

QUESTION: I don’t – I’m not aware of what my colleague asked about this meeting of the consul general and Abbas. But it’s my understanding this came up during the UN – at the UN with the Palestinians. Is that not correct?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, I’m not going to get into --

QUESTION: I mean in New York, not out in --

MR. KELLY: I think that this was something that was in the interests of all sides, and I don’t accept the characterization that we necessarily put pressure on anybody to – I think what we wanted to do was highlight that it was in the interests of all parties involved to set the sort of context that we’re looking for to start the negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, but leaving aside whether you pressured them or not, you did discuss it with them, didn’t you? I mean, you discussed it with the Israelis. It came up during the meeting with Secretary Clinton and the Secretary General --

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m certain we discussed it with them in Geneva as well. But I’m not going to get into the substance of the discussions.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Senator Mitchell’s trip to the Middle East this week?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have anything to announce, but we will very soon. It’s going to happen this week, so I would imagine that today or tomorrow we’ll be able to announce something. But I have nothing right now.

QUESTION: So you’re waiting for him to actually leave tomorrow before you announce it?

MR. KELLY: I hope it’s before he leaves.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:54 p.m.)

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