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Middle East Digest - November 6, 2009

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Washington, DC
November 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 November 6, 2009

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2:16 p.m. EST

QUESTION: Speaking of the Security Council, the Goldstone report that was – I moved for another topic – that was approved yesterday in the United Nations, there is some speculation that said that the U.S. may veto this report if it goes to the Security Council. Do you have any point of this? This is in the press today. And they say that if it's vetoed it can go to the Netherlands Hague court.

MR. KELLY: Well, what happened yesterday was the – there was a resolution in the General Assembly. The U.S. and 17 other nations voted against it. We continue to strongly support the need for accountability, such as some of the events that are in the report, through credible domestic investigations. And we note that Israel is undertaking such investigations. Ultimately though, the best way to address the suffering in Gaza is by getting the two sides to sit down and talk and – towards the ultimate goal of two sides living side by side in peace and security.

We don't support raising this issue in the Security Council. The members of the Security Council themselves decide which matters the Council will consider. We believe that this issue is best raised in the Human Rights Council and not in the Security Council, so we would be very much against it being taken up by the Security Council.

QUESTION: Well, but don't you think that kind of supports the idea that the UN Security Council is totally out of touch with the majority of the world, which a lot of countries said in their address to the UN General Assembly? I mean, if 168 nations support it and 17 don't, don't you think that the majority of the world thinks that these issues should be investigated?

MR. KELLY: Well, we --

QUESTION: Isn't the UN Security Council – I'm sorry – isn't the UN Security Council supposed to kind of represent the world body in terms of national – in terms of international security?

MR. KELLY: What – we will – we don't think it's in our interest at this --

QUESTION: In your interests?

MR. KELLY: In our interest, the U.S. national interest, that it be taken up by the Security Council. We are committed to the resumption of talks between the two sides, and we do not want to take any steps that would, in any way, jeopardize the resumption of those talks. We also believe that these kinds of issues are best raised and best dealt with through domestic institutions. And we call on Israel to set up the kind of mechanisms to investigate these – some of these allegations. The allegations are very serious allegations and deserve to be investigated. But this is not something we believe should be taken up by the UN Security Council. We follow our national interests and that's what --

QUESTION: So the UN Security Council is only about 15 countries' international interests?

MR. KELLY: I'm not going to get into an argument about the UN Security Council and its role in the world right now. I'm just talking about what our interests are right now. Our interests are the resumption --

QUESTION: So when you – I'm just – I'm sorry. But when you take a vote at the UN Security Council, you're only voting on behalf of U.S. interests?

MR. KELLY: We – for the UN Security Council, we – yes, we make our decisions based on the – our national interests and the interest of our allies.

QUESTION: Yeah, that – the second part being key, I think, there.


MR. KELLY: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: At least on this issue or issues related to the Middle East.

MR. KELLY: Yes, yes.

Yeah. Michele in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to ask about Abbas, his announcement yesterday. I know you spoke to it yesterday. But has anyone in this building been in touch with him since then, trying to convince him to stay on, trying to advantage of the last couple of months while he's there?

MR. KELLY: Regarding whether or not somebody's been in touch with him, I'm frankly not – I'm not sure. I know that our people on the ground, I'm sure, are in touch with him. I really – I don't have much to add beyond what the Secretary said yesterday, that we have tremendous respect for him and we think he's an important player in the process, a voice of moderation, and we look forward to continuing to work with him. But I don't have anything to add to what the Secretary said yesterday.

QUESTION: But do you think that there should be elections in January in the Palestinian territories, given the state of the kind of tensions between Hamas and Fatah, because the Palestinians certainly aren't united? You don't want a repeat of what happened in 2005.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Should there be elections?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that any government should be representative of the will of the Palestinian people. We understand that there's an internal political dynamic now that is affecting our goal to – our goal of re-launching the negotiations, and that's something that's understandable. But the decision to hold elections is a – is really – that's a matter for the people themselves to decide.

QUESTION: Well, it wasn't a matter of like three or four years ago. You were completely insistent – the United States was completely insistent that the Palestinians did hold elections, which is why Hamas was elected. So is it – so you think the Palestinians should just decide amongst themselves what --

MR. KELLY: I think the --

QUESTION: You don't have an opinion? Do you have an opinion on that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, of course, we have an opinion on it.

QUESTION: What's your opinion?

MR. KELLY: Well, our opinion is that we need to address the root causes --

QUESTION: No, about the elections.

MR. KELLY: -- of the lack of peace. And in order to do that, you need to have institutions and mechanisms in place to be able to guarantee a better future for your – for the people. And I – but I’m not going to say whether or not the Palestinian people should have elections in January. That’s really for them to decide.

QUESTION: Well, that’s a change in U.S. policy, then, because last time, you were fully insistent that they should have elections. But, I mean, President Abbas --

MR. KELLY: When was the last time? What are you – I’m not sure what you mean by the last time.

QUESTION: Well, I mean under the Bush Administration. But --

MR. KELLY: Well, this is a different administration.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

QUESTION: (Laughter.) There’s a difference between saying the policy is unchanged and restating the policy.

QUESTION: But (inaudible).

QUESTION: Wait, no, no, no. But President Abbas said that he won’t run for reelection. But if the Palestinians don’t hold elections, he could be president indefinitely. Wouldn’t that --

MR. KELLY: It’s up for the Palestinian people to decide when they want to have elections, when they think it’s an appropriate moment.

QUESTION: Do you all have any problem with the Turks inviting President Bashir to the OIC conference?

MR. KELLY: I think that is – that’s – I mean, our position --

QUESTION: But please don’t tell me --

MR. KELLY: -- is clear.

QUESTION: -- that you’re not a member of the EU and you’re not a member of the ICC.

MR. KELLY: No, I wasn’t going to say that.

QUESTION: Just say, “I’m just not – ”

MR. KELLY: Well, actually, maybe I was going to say the latter, yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you have a problem with them inviting a guy who’s been indicted for war crimes?

MR. KELLY: It really – it’s, first of all, we think that leaders should be held accountable for their actions. And we think that what happened in Sudan needs – there needs to be accountability for it. We would expect Turkey to raise these kinds of issues. If they were to have any sort of bilateral meeting with Mr. Bashir, we would expect them to raise these issues about the importance of accountability in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. But it’s really up to the Government of Turkey to decide if they want to --

QUESTION: Okay. So it doesn’t matter; you don’t really care as long as, if they do do it, they raise this issue with him?

MR. KELLY: We would expect them to be consistent with the – with our policy of raising our concerns of accountability.

QUESTION: A quick one on a different subject, please. The future of the freedom of the press in Pakistan may be in trouble according to Freedom House, because the National Assembly of Pakistan is now considering a bill which will be anti-press freedom. Do you have any idea on what you have to say?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’d have to see the details of the bill, but we’ll see if we can get you more information.


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)

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