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Middle East Digest - April 1, 2009


April 1, 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 March 31, 2009

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11:55 a.m. EDT

QUESTION: Different subject. The Iranian officials denied any meeting with Mr. Holbrooke and also denied any letter handed to them. What’s your reaction to that denial?

MR. DUGUID: I think that the Secretary addressed this yesterday and the Secretary’s words stand. There was a brief handshake, if you will, or a meeting on the edge of the conference, if you will. To describe it as substantive or even, you know, lengthy would be inaccurate; that is true. It was an engagement for Mr. Holbrooke. So no, it was not a meeting. We agree with that.

QUESTION: But they denied any letter handed to them.

MR. DUGUID: We passed a message on to the Iranians, the substance of which was the same as we have transmitted through the Swiss in the past about American citizens who are currently detained and under detention in Iran or, in the case of Mr. Levinson, an American citizen for whom we have no information at all.

QUESTION: So there’s no update on them – Roxana Saberi or Mr. Esha Momeni?

MR. DUGUID: Not in the case of the other two. In regards to Ms. Saberi, we have heard from the Swiss that they were in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I believe it was the 25th of March was their last contact asking for consular access.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: On the Middle East, the new Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said that Israel will not be bound to the Annapolis peace process. Your reaction and where you stand on the Annapolis process yourselves?

MR. DUGUID: Well, first let me welcome the formation of a new Israeli Government and look – we look forward to working with it to advance the bilateral relationship shared by the United States and Israel.

Israel is a close friend and ally, and we remain unalterably committed to Israel’s security. We will work closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government to advance the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East and move the parties in the direction of a two-state solution. We have full confidence in and will continue to support the Government of Israel, and we work together – we will work together for a durable and lasting peace in the region.

As for statements made or comments made, I’d point you to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments that he will work for peace with the Palestinians and peace in the region.

QUESTION: That gives you no pause at all?

MR. DUGUID: I just said we support the two-state solution, and we will continue to work for that.

QUESTION: But the foreign minister apparently doesn’t.

MR. DUGUID: I’ve given you our statement. I’ve directed you to what the prime minister of Israel has just said. Whether or not the final position of the Israeli Government as they come into discussions with us is one way or another – we haven’t heard their proposals yet. We haven’t sat down with them.

QUESTION: But no public division between the prime minister and the foreign minister gives you any pause either?

MR. DUGUID: I’m letting you know that we’re going to work with the Israeli Government. We welcome the formation of a new Israeli Government. And we have – or will shortly – the Secretary will be in touch with her counterparts and will issue a U.S. official welcome to the new government.

QUESTION: Is the Obama Administration committed to the Annapolis process since it was launched by the previous administration?

MR. DUGUID: As you know, the Annapolis process does call for a two-state solution. The Obama Administration is committed to seeking a two-state solution for the resolution between – the differences between Israel and the Palestinians.

QUESTION: That’s not really a full commitment for the process that was launched at Annapolis.

MR. DUGUID: Our processes are – many of our policies are under review. The two-state solution, however, is not one that is under review. We’re committed to that solution.

QUESTION: Is the Administration reviewing the Annapolis process?

MR. DUGUID: Not in particular. We are reviewing most of our policies. As you well know, we are looking at things. Senator Mitchell has been to the region. Senator Mitchell is in touch with the parties on the ground looking for ways that we can move all parties in the direction of the two-state solution.

QUESTION: The last administration made – took – went to great lengths to enshrine Annapolis as like – as the bedrock of the peace process, of the whole effort. Is this Administration – does this Administration stick by those – what the Quartet agreed to in the – at the end of --

MR. DUGUID: Yes, we do.

QUESTION: -- last year, what the Security Council did?

MR. DUGUID: Yes, we do.

QUESTION: So that you do want (inaudible) the Annapolis process --

MR. DUGUID: And Senator Mitchell is now – and Senator Mitchell is now moving forward from that point.

QUESTION: Gordon, what can youdetails can you give us about Triple Canopy being awarded the remainder of the Blackwater security contract in Baghdad, please?

MR. DUGUID: I can, if I can – I need to find the date, excuse me. I believe the Triple Kennedy – excuse me, Triple Canopy was awarded the contract on March 31st. And I am going to search to make sure that I have that correct, if you’ll excuse me for just a moment.

Yes, indeed, March, the 31st, the Department awarded Triple Canopy the ground task order for protective security details in Baghdad after a thorough evaluation of proposals from each company that had submitted bids. They will begin the transition process to – just to anticipate, if I may – between the current company, which is called Xe – formerly Blackwater – immediately, although Blackwater will continue to provide security services until the end of its current task order which finishes in May.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that.

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: Who’s going to do the air assets that Blackwater provided, namely the helicopters?

MR. DUGUID: Air assets is currently being performed by – as you said, by Presidential Airways, which is a part of Blackwater. The decision has not been made yet on who will perform the new air order, although we recognize that based on the Government of Iraq’s decision, the Department has had to notify Xe in writing that it did not renew the company’s task order for the air order.

QUESTION: And when is that task order up?

MR. DUGUID: I’ll have to find out for you.

QUESTION: Could you?

MR. DUGUID: Yes, I will.

QUESTION: And the award for Triple Canopy, what’s the duration of that? And do you have a price tag on that?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have either one of those two things. We’ll try and find out for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Actually, if I – quick, one more. You are going to try to find someone else to replace the air assets? You’re not just getting rid of that? It has to be --

MR. DUGUID: No decision has been made on who will replace. Yes, that’s correct.

QUESTION: All right. Well – but whether you will replace it, whether you’ll – you still require those air assets, do you?

MR. DUGUID: I believe that we still require air assets. No decision has been made on who will do that job.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:22 p.m.)



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