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Middle East Digest - February 23, 2009


February 23, 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 February 23, 2009

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MR. WOOD: Welcome. I don’t have anything.

QUESTION: Israeli officials are saying that Secretary Clinton is going to be traveling to Jerusalem and also to the West Bank following her already announced visit to Sharm el-Sheikh. So I just wondered whether you could confirm that and provide us any details on her future travel plans.

MR. WOOD: Well, look, as – you know our standard policy. Once we have a trip announcement and some details to give you on an upcoming trip, we’ll announce them. But I don’t have anything until, you know, we make an announcement at some point on her travel.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the meetings this week with the Afghan and Pakistan delegations as to where, when, that sort of thing?

MR. WOOD: Yeah. I believe that the Secretary is going to meet with Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi – I think it’s on Thursday. Let me just double check, I have some – and meet with Foreign Minister Spanta on Tuesday. Is it – have I got it mixed up?

STAFF: Tuesday.

MR. WOOD: It’s Tuesday with Qureshi. Tuesday with Qureshi and Thursday with Spanta. And I believe there is a trilateral meeting that is supposed to take place on Thursday, and then a trilateral dinner on Wednesday.

QUESTION: Is this all going to be at the State Department?

MR. WOOD: I believe so. We’ll let you know if there’s some change of schedule. I believe it’s supposed to be here.

QUESTION: The trilateral dinner will be here in the State Department?

MR. WOOD: I believe so, but we’ll double check on that for you.

QUESTION: And why are you doing this? Is this part of – is this as a result of Ambassador Holbrooke’s visit? He thought it would be a good idea to bring them together to meet or --

MR. WOOD: Well, look, this is all in connection with our review. And we obviously want to hear from a wide variety of voices about the situation on – with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the Secretary looks forward to meeting with both ministers, hearing their views, and of course, sharing our views on what we believe is going on, on the ground. And as I said, that will all feed into our overall review.

QUESTION: Why this trilateral? Does she think there is some room for improvement in their relations?

MR. WOOD: Well, I think it’s just a desire to – you know, for us to sit down – for her to sit down with the two leaders and talk about shared concerns, shared problems, how all of us can work together to try to improve the situation in Afghanistan and on the border – and on Pakistan’s – excuse me, the tribal areas. So she believes it’s an important opportunity to sit down and discuss these very serious issues, because you know how concerned she is about – and other government officials are about the situation on the ground in the region.

QUESTION: I thought these are separate meetings, Robert. Is that --

MR. WOOD: There are separate meetings and then there is, as I said, the trilateral dinner and then the trilateral meeting.

QUESTION: But can you say who asked – who requested these meetings? Was it the Afghans and the Pakistanis who asked to --

MR. WOOD: I don’t --

QUESTION: -- come and to have some input into that policy review?

MR. WOOD: What I can tell you is that we think it’s important that Pakistan and Afghanistan – the governments feed into that review. Their views, obviously, are very important. They will be taken into account with the Secretary, the President. Others are going to be talking with experts in the region to figure out how we can best go forward, because we are concerned about the situation in that region, and we want to do what we can to try to make things better. And it’s important to have a wide variety of views going into it.

QUESTION: Well, will she also have other counterpart visits here in Washington along the same lines later?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. I don’t think we’ve gotten that far along, but we certainly will keep you abreast of any types of meetings like those.

Yes.

QUESTION: Who all will be participating in this meeting from the U.S. side beside the Secretary of State?

MR. WOOD: I haven’t had time to focus on that. We’re just getting back from Asia. We’ll see if there’s something we can get you in terms of who will be participating. But I don’t have anything right now.

QUESTION: Will there be any joint statement at the end of the meeting?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. Don’t know at this point. I don’t want to rule it out and don’t want to rule it in, actually. So we’ll just see how that develops.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. WOOD: Change the subject?

QUESTION: No, it’s the same subject.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: Could you say something specifically about the U.S. attitude towards the peace agreement or the negotiations toward some kind of agreement in the Swat area? These are a concern to the U.S. side and --

MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything to add. I mean, I’m not sure it’s very clear in terms of what’s actually happening with regard to the situation in Swat. I’d have to refer you to the Pakistanis, who can give you a better sense of what the – has been agreed to or not been agreed to. I just don’t have any way of knowing at this point.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any reaction about this attack in Cairo? There were some tourists killed – and one was killed in --

MR. WOOD: Yeah. Look, we strongly condemn this terrorist attack in Cairo. My understanding is that there weren’t any American citizens who were hurt at all. No claims of responsibility yet. Our Embassy is open for business. And we obviously express our sympathies to the families of the victims. And we will continue to work closely with the Government of Egypt to do what we can to support them in their efforts to fight terrorism.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the – to Kyrgyzstan? After the decision of the parliament and the president to close the base in Manas, do you – can you confirm that U.S. is discussing with Turkey about the use of Turkey to transfer people and logistics --

MR. WOOD: Well –

QUESTION: -- to Iraq and from Iraq.

MR. WOOD: Well, Sylvie, I’m not going to go into specific discussions we may be having with – may or may not be having with other countries, except to say that, you know, we understand that the president signed the law. That was not unexpected. We have other options. We’ll be looking at other options.

QUESTION: Well, what are your other options?

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to talk about what those options are.

QUESTION: Well, but how do we know you have options? If you just say you have options, then we’re supposed to take –

MR. WOOD: I’m saying we have options.

QUESTION: Okay, so what – so tell us what some of the options are.

MR. WOOD: I’m not going to talk about them from here. I’m just telling you we have options, and we’ll be looking at those options.

QUESTION: So but – so, you’re examining possible options. But if you have another option, you would say it already, wouldn’t you?

MR. WOOD: We’re looking at a number of options. That’s about the best I can do for you.

Samir.

QUESTION: Did former Senator Mitchell leave to the Middle East today?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I’ll have to check, Samir. I apologize. I am just getting back and trying to read up everything. I’ll look into that for you and see if he has.

QUESTION: Is he due to leave early this week? Is he --

MR. WOOD: Let me look into it. I haven’t had a chance to do that.



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