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Middle East Digest - February 27, 2009

February 27, 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 27, 2009

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10:31 a.m. EST

QUESTION: Do you have any reflection on the apparent reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority? The talks in Cairo seem to have produced some convergence there.

MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have anything for you on that, Dave. You know, what the Secretary and others in this building are focused on is to try and help get some kind of a durable ceasefire in the region and, of course, deal with the humanitarian situation in Gaza. But I don’t have any way of characterizing how things are going with regard to, you know, talks, you know, between Palestinians.

QUESTION: Is a better relationship between the two a positive thing?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know. I’d have to refer you to, you know, for one – in one case, the PA.


QUESTION: How useful can the Secretary’s talks be in Jerusalem since the Israelis haven’t yet formed a government?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I said the other day, the Secretary wants to talk to all the parties and get a sense, on the ground, as to how things are, how receptive various parties will be to moving forward with the peace process. But she’s certainly well aware that there is not a government in place at some – you know, at this point. And she looks forward to working with that new government once it is in power. But again, she wants to take a – you know, get a sense of what’s going on on the ground and see how we can possibly move the process forward.

QUESTION: How was the meeting yesterday between Assistant Secretary Feltman and the Syrian ambassador?

MR. WOOD: It was a – you know, a very frank discussion. Ambassador Feltman pointed out a number of concerns that the United States has about Syrian behavior and activities. We felt it was important that we communicate, you know, our concerns directly to the Syrians at this level. And we’ll wait and see how the Syrians respond to our concerns about a number of things, such as, you know, support for terrorist organizations, its inability to be – well, at least from our standpoint, it isn’t doing enough to serve as a good neighbor to Iraq, its interference in Lebanese internal affairs. So we wait to see how the Syrians respond to our concerns.

Let me follow with Samir. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the meeting Ambassador Feltman had yesterday with the commander of the Lebanese army?

MR. WOOD: I don’t at all, Samir. But you asked me that yesterday, I’ll try and get you an answer – get you a readout on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Ambassador Rice said U.S. will work to stop any illicit action by Iranian regarding nuclear program. Is that part of the review on Iran’s policy?

MR. WOOD: Well, we are obviously reviewing all aspects of our policy with regard to Iran, and certainly the nuclear issue is one that we’re very concerned about, and that will be an issue that will be covered under the review. But I don’t have anything beyond that right now, other than our previously stated policy with regard to Iran’s nuclear program and our desire to see Iran, you know, comply with its international obligations.

Let me go to someone else. Michel.

QUESTION: Iran wasn’t satisfied with the nomination of Ambassador Ross as a special advisor for the Secretary for the Gulf affairs. Do you have any reaction?

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s – you know, he is someone who will be working for the U.S. Government. It’s not for Iran to decide who they’re satisfied with or not with regard to an appointment by the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Yesterday’s trilateral meeting – U.S.-Pakistan-Afghanistan – did they reach to any agreement regarding alleged connection between Afghan security and Pakistan’s?

MR. WOOD: I think it’s pretty much understood by all parties that there is a link between Afghan and Pakistani security. The Taliban and al-Qaida are threats to both countries. And what we want to see is much closer cooperation between the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, as we try to deal with these threats.

It was a good – a good discussion. There were a number of issues that were dealt with at this trilateral meeting. There will be future meetings. I believe the Secretary said that probably either – I think sometime in late April or May would probably be the next trilateral meeting. It was a very good forum for trying to deal with these very, very thorny issues of security. And you know, the Secretary thought it was very useful to have, you know, representatives from, you know, both Pakistan and Afghanistan here together so that we could really talk about this threat to regional security that’s posed by al-Qaida and the Taliban.

QUESTION: Any concern about Pakistanis addition troop deployment, 17,000 more troops? Pakistanis didn’t raise any concern regarding adding 17,000 more troops, U.S. troops to (inaudible)?

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to get into specifics of the discussions, but certainly the question of how we can improve the security situation both inside Afghanistan and along its border was certainly an important topic of discussion.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:40 a.m.)

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