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Middle East Digest - February 18, 2009

February 18, 2009


Bureau of Public Affairs

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 February 18, 2009

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QUESTION: Is the State Department talking to Turkey and/or Jordan about using their – either airspace or territory to withdraw some of the equipment – equipment and material from Iraq when the time comes?

MR. DUGUID: I am not aware of any discussions on that. I know that the President has asked for a review from the Pentagon on just how you could draw down U.S. forces in Iraq. I am not aware that that review has been finalized, so I would have to refer you to the Pentagon for where that stands at the moment.

QUESTION: If there were an interest in using Turkey, then it would probably be something the Department would --

MR. DUGUID: That is correct. If the State Department were asked to lead negotiations, that would be here. I’m unaware that we are doing so at the moment.

Yes, please, Viola.

QUESTION: Do you have any update of the talks about the Durban conference in Geneva?

MR. DUGUID: The – I haven’t had a readout yet. Our group is there on the ground. It is made up of officials from our U.S.-UN – the U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva as well as private partners in that. I don’t have a readout now. I do know that we remain concerned with the draft text and that we are working to try and get that text changed for the better, but I don’t have the full details for you at this point.

QUESTION: The Syrian president has told The Guardian that he expects better relations with the U.S. and also expects an ambassador from Washington. Is the State Department anywhere close to that? And if not, what will it take?

MR. DUGUID: I’ve seen the article, and the – those people in the State Department who are conducting our review on our policy towards Syria have also seen the article. We’re not at the end of that review of policy yet, and so I don’t have an official reaction to those statements for you. However, Syria can play a role, and a positive role, in the region by trying to help bring peace and stability to the Middle East. And I think the Syrians understand that they can do that. That is what the U.S. would like to see all nations in that region do.

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