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Middle East Digest - November 30, 2009


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Washington, DC
November 30, 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 November 30, 2009

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1:57 p.m. EST

QUESTION: Ian, will there be any briefings either tomorrow or Wednesday on the State Department’s piece of the new Afghan-Pakistan strategy? And also, can you run through for us her testimony schedule on that?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have anything to announce on her testimony schedule. She will be participating in our – in the Obama Administration’s efforts to explain the President’s strategy to Congress to key committees on both sides of the House. I expect those hearings will be on Wednesday and Thursday. There will be – I think there will be a very intense effort to explain our role, the State Department’s role, in those efforts. Secretary Clinton, of course, will spearhead those efforts. But I think we’ll also have other State Department principals speaking to --

QUESTION: Here?

MR. KELLY: Well, not necessarily here in this briefing room, but speaking to the media, certainly.

QUESTION: How do you mean speaking to the media? Doing it in --

MR. KELLY: Well, just doing various interviews. You’ve got – and I don’t even know if we’ve actually officially announced this yet, but Jim Steinberg – the Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg will be going to Athens tonight. Secretary Clinton had planned to go to the OSCE foreign ministerial meeting in Athens, but because of commitments here that I just made reference to, she’s unable to represent the U.S. at that foreign ministerial meeting. So you’ll have Jim Steinberg there.

We don’t have any announcements yet about the representation at the NATO foreign ministerial meeting. We should be making that announcement very soon. But that will be another chance, of course, for us to talk to other countries involved in the effort, particularly ISAF contributing nations who will all have representatives in Brussels on Friday.

QUESTION: How about Ambassador Holbrooke? Will he be having public --

MR. KELLY: Again, I don’t have any announcements regarding his travel, but he – of course, he’s going to be involved, I think particularly, in this outreach to allies and partners in Afghanistan.

Christophe.

QUESTION: Regarding what you just said, the French newspaper Le Monde reports that the Secretary has called her counterpart Kouchner and asked for France to send 1,500 additional troops to Afghanistan. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. KELLY: She did speak to the French foreign minister. This was on Thanksgiving. In fact, she spoke to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten foreign ministers on Thanksgiving.

QUESTION: And can you have a list there?

MR. KELLY: A number of these calls were specifically to talk to our partners who are involved in the effort in Afghanistan, and to give them not the specifics of the President’s strategy, because of course that’s being rolled out tomorrow, but to talk in general outlines about the President’s strategy going forward in Afghanistan. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the – of her conversation, of her exchanges with her colleagues. She spoke with a number of foreign ministers who have troops in Afghanistan. I mentioned France, but also Poland, Canada, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Germany, UK, Denmark – a long list of countries. But I’m just not --

QUESTION: But did --

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to get into the specifics of any kind of request that she made.

QUESTION: Well, without getting into specifics, did she talk about more troops?

MR. KELLY: I think she talked about the need for mostly coordinating our efforts. That’s one – that was one aspect of this whole effort that really became apparent, she said, when she was out in Kabul, about the need for us to talk more about not duplicating efforts, about getting the right kind of coordinated efforts to deliver the best results. But again, I’m just not going to get into – about numbers or increases or anything like that.

Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, apparently, the President spoke with Secretary Clinton Sunday night; is that correct? And can you just give us an idea of some of the guidance that he might have given her, what the --

MR. KELLY: I’m afraid I can’t give you any of the details of that conversation. I know the conversation took place, but I don’t have a readout of it.

QUESTION: On Iran, where are we? Are sanctions inevitable at this point? And why is – why is this all falling apart?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, you saw the statement out of the White House yesterday, the – that was a response to reports about new plans by the – by Iran regarding its nuclear program. And I think that the international community has sent a very strong message, a very unified message that Iran has to live up to its international obligations, that it has to – it has a choice before it and the choice is very clear. We have offered a path of cooperation that could lead to further integration with the international community. That’s the IAEA offer that’s on the table. And it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been able to respond positively on that.

The other choice they have is further isolation. And you know that we have a dual-track policy. The President has said that our patience is not unlimited. He’s indicated that we’re willing to give a preponderance of attention to the engagement track until the end of the year, and if we don’t get a positive response, we’re going to start shifting our focus over to the other track, the track of pressure.

QUESTION: So that deadline is still there, the end of the year?

MR. KELLY: Well, we don’t like to say deadline, but the offer is there. The offer – we haven’t taken it off the table. The IAEA hasn’t taken it off and --

QUESTION: You’re talking about the offer on the medical reactor specifically?

MR. KELLY: The offer to enrich their uranium outside of Iran.

QUESTION: So that’s not dead?

MR. KELLY: That’s not dead.

QUESTION: Despite their seeming total lack of interest in it?

MR. KELLY: It – the offer remains on the table.

QUESTION: So you’re hoping that even though they’ve said they don’t want it --

MR. KELLY: I don’t know if “hope” is the right word, but it’s still – it’s there. I mean, if they want to make that choice, it – the door is still open.

QUESTION: The door is still open. And how unified does the U.S. believe the Iranian Government is on the statements that have come out of some Iranian politicians about withdrawing from the NPT?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. It’s just I’m not going to try and do a political analysis of the internal situation in Iran right now. I think we’ve seen quite a few voices out there. We understand that this is presenting a certain challenge in getting Iran to respond positively to this, but it’s not my place to analyze what’s going on inside Tehran right now.

QUESTION: Ian?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, Mark.

QUESTION: How much preparation and spade work has the U.S. done in terms of potential sanctions, types of sanctions, with allies and with countries that have historically been reluctant to impose sanctions – how much of that is already underway?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what we’re doing right now is we’re – I mean, we have been pursuing the engagement track and we’ve made some really good proposals, and we’ve offered to sit down with them again. We’ve offered – the P-5+1 has offered to pursue some of these discussions. And they haven’t responded to our – the IAEA’s offer and they haven’t responded to the P-5+1 offer. We’ve said all along that the – we, meaning the P-5+1, has said that we are pursuing a dual-track strategy. And as I said just a few minutes ago, if they can’t respond positively to this offer, we’re going to have to start shifting to the other side, to the pressure track. I don’t think it’s productive for me to get into some of the additional measures that we would take, but all along it’s been our policy of pursing simultaneously both options.

QUESTION: But you don’t start from zero on the day you switch to the pressure track.

MR. KELLY: No. No, we don’t. No, I mean, like I say, but it’s not – it’s not – I don’t think it’s helpful for me to talk about specific sanctions.

QUESTION: Related?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Russian minister of energy is in Iran today, and he has said that there’s still good scope for continuation of the negotiations. And the Iranian speaker – the speaker of the Iranian parliament today toned down his comments from – as compared with Sunday’s. He also talked about the possibility of continuing the negotiations. Is the Russian minister carrying any messages on behalf of the P-5+1 possibly?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen what Mr. Shmatko said in Tehran. I do know that we have supported the Russian proposal to provide fuel for the Bushehr plant. I think it highlights, once again, that the international community stands ready to provide the kinds of enrichment needs that Iran would have to pursue a civilian nuclear energy program. That’s part of what the Bushehr proposal is. That’s what the Russian fuel bank proposal that the IAEA Board of Governors just endorsed last week. And of course, it’s the heart of the IAEA program, that there’s no need for Iran to pursue enrichment. In fact, it is a serious violation of four different UN Security Council resolutions which call on Iran to cease their enrichment activities.

QUESTION: So is he possibly carrying a message or not?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, the P-5+1 is united in this approach on Iran in supporting the IAEA proposal. The Russian Government has put out statements in support of the Board of Governors resolution. So I think that we are – we do have a consistent message to Iran.

QUESTION: It’s a possible change of subject. Recently, we’ve heard some reports of one of the Israeli ministers saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu followed* on a horrible administration and some other Israeli officials actually told that the ten-month settlement freeze were a gesture to Washington and not to the Palestinians nor intended to alleviate pressure. So do you consider such remarks as contributing somehow to the positive climate leading to re-launch of negotiations?

MR. KELLY: Well, I never like to respond to remarks that I have not actually seen, so I can’t respond to that. Just that we are concentrating all of our efforts on creating that atmosphere that you referred to, the kind of atmosphere that could resume to those talks and that we saw with the – Israel’s recent announcement of this ten-month moratorium is a step in that direction. And that’s the way we see it.

QUESTION: When Senator Mitchell is going to the Middle East?

MR. KELLY: I don’t – I’m not aware of any specific plans at this time.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)



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