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Middle East Digest - April 23, 2009

April 23, 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 April 23, 2009

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QUESTION: Could you speak to reports that one of the members of the royal family tortured an American citizen? And, allegedly, the person said that he showed the tape of the torture to a member of the U.S. Embassy – official at the U.S. Embassy who only told him to, you know, get his family out of the country.

MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t know anything about those particular comments. But, Elise, we have seen the video of this alleged act. And if you go back to our Human Rights Report of 2008 -

QUESTION: Well, how can you see in a video of an alleged act? I mean, you saw the video of the act, right?

MR. WOOD: We – I said we have seen a video of it.

QUESTION: But you called it alleged. I mean, if you’re seeing it on video, it’s not exactly alleged, is it?

MR. WOOD: Well, again, I don’t have all of the circumstances surrounding the creation of the video, so I’m just giving you our assessment of it. And we reported on this in our 2008 Human Rights Report. And, you know, again, as we always do, we urge all governments to fully investigate allegations of criminal acts. So – but I don’t have anything on that for you.

QUESTION: Did this come up when Secretary Clinton met with the UAE foreign minister?

MR. WOOD: I don’t remember that it did. But again, we’ve spoken to this very clearly through our Human Rights Report.

QUESTION: Well, actually, it’s not very clearly. You just said that – you just mentioned the alleged act, so that’s not really very clearly. But have you specifically asked the UAE Government to look into this?

MR. WOOD: I just said to you --

QUESTION: No, you just said you urge all governments, but did Secretary Clinton or someone else from the building --

MR. WOOD: Certainly, our --

QUESTION: -- specifically ask the UAE Government to look into --

MR. WOOD: Well, we have an Embassy in the UAE, and the Embassy obviously goes out, talks to government officials, does its own analysis and reports back through our Human Rights Report on various issues with regard to the human rights situation in the UAE. So certainly, UAE officials --

QUESTION: Well, you’re speaking in generalities, though. I’m speaking about this particular case. Have you asked the government to look into it?

MR. WOOD: I don’t know specifically the answer to that question. But the government is certainly aware of our position. It’s certainly read the section in our Human Rights Report with regard to the situation in the UAE. I just can’t tell you whether it was raised in the meeting. I don’t recall. It was some time ago.

QUESTION: Well, again, this gentleman alleges that he showed the video to an official at the U.S. Embassy. Could you please check whether the U.S. Embassy – what the conversations were with this gentleman that he --

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to necessarily – I’m not going to take the question to get – give you a response to what – to a conversation that may have happened. I don’t – I’m not going to do that. I’m just telling you that the government is aware of our concerns. And we – and others are aware of our concerns through our Human Rights Report. So --

QUESTION: Well, supposedly, this gentleman sent a copy of the video to every member of Congress.

MR. WOOD: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you think that this could hurt your pending 123 agreement with the UAE?

MR. WOOD: Look, I’m not going to get into a characterization of, you know, what Congress should or should not do. I just prefer to leave it at that.

QUESTION: What’s the status of the 123 agreement with the UAE?

MR. WOOD: Well, it’s something that we are looking at. We hope to be able to put that forth, and we will so – we will do so in due course. But I don’t have anything beyond that for you at the moment.

QUESTION: Just one more on the tape, you know, on it.

MR. WOOD: Sure.

QUESTION: You call it an alleged incident and you said you’re not familiar with the kind of production of the tape. Are you suggesting that perhaps the video is manufactured?

MR. WOOD: Nope, didn’t say that.

QUESTION: So then why are you calling it an alleged incident?

MR. WOOD: Well, because --

QUESTION: I mean, the sheikh is on the video. He’s beating the crap out of some guy. How could that be an alleged incident?

MR. WOOD: I’ve given you my position on this.

QUESTION: In her testimony today, the Secretary seemed to indicate that there would be some flexibility in dealing with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. She referred to the – to Lebanon’s government which includes Hezbollah, saying – and also the Northern Ireland situation.

What kind of flexibility are you thinking of? And the supplemental language can be read in many different ways, so maybe if you could just explain how flexible you plan to be when it comes to the national interests of the U.S.?

MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve been very clear, this is not an issue of being flexible. This is an issue of what Hamas needs to do. We’ve outlined those conditions for Hamas if it wants to be a partner for peace. It’s been very clear. We will not deal with a Hamas government. We – the Secretary has made that very clear and --

QUESTION: But it’s not actually that clear. I mean, today she seemed to indicate some --

MR. WOOD: Well, it may not be to you, but it’s very clear to us.

QUESTION: She’s saying on the one hand, she doesn’t want to deal with them. But then on the other, she’s used – the other hand, she’s using examples where you are dealing with governments that include people you don’t like. So it’s not clear to me.

MR. WOOD: Well, it should be very clear that we have those three principles. And the Secretary’s made clear, she made clear yesterday, what Hamas needed to do. And our position has not changed. What we’re trying to do is to get a process going, at some point, so that we can move forward on our vision of a two-state solution. And nothing has changed with regard to our principles.

So I think what the Secretary was trying to show you was that there have been cases where we have dealt with various groups. She used the issue of Lebanon.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WOOD: Yeah. Well, but again, there are some very strong solid principles that we have to see adhered to before we can deal with Hamas.

QUESTION: Well, but you’re not – but you’re not dealing with Hamas. I mean, the question is --

MR. WOOD: I didn’t say we were dealing with them.

QUESTION: Okay, but the question is not whether you’re going to deal with Hamas. We know you’re not going to deal with Hamas. The question is: Will you deal with a government that is kind of led by the – or a unity government? Will you deal with PA members of that unity government?

MR. WOOD: Well, look, first of all, there isn’t a unity government.

QUESTION: As in Lebanon, you deal with members of the March 14 Movement, but you don’t deal with members of Hezbollah?

MR. WOOD: Look, what I’m saying to you is that there is not a unity government. We have principles, conditions that we have put on Hamas in order for us to engage – in order for Hamas to become part of the solution instead of being what they are, which is the problem, and – you know, so it’s premature to start talking about what we would --

QUESTION: But Secretary Clinton was talking about it today, so it’s not premature.

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m just – no, no, what I’m saying is it’s premature to talk about what a unity government is going to look like. What I’m saying to you is that our principles, we stand behind them with regard to what Hamas needs to do if it wants to become a partner for peace. Hamas is not a partner for peace. It rejects Israel’s right to exist. It rejects previous agreements that have been agreed to by the Palestinian Authority, and it continues to perpetrate violence against its own people.

Our principles remain the same. They haven’t changed. I’m not going to start speculating about what we might do, what might be, or what kind of engagement we might have with some future unity government that doesn’t exist. The only thing I can tell you is that our principles remain the same with regard to Hamas.


QUESTION: Yeah, last year, former President Bush renewed Executive Order 13338, which created a state of emergency with respect to Syria and imposed some sanctions. This expires early next month. I’m wondering if you can tell me what the status of the discussion is about whether it will be renewed or not.

MR. WOOD: Matt, I don’t have --

QUESTION: Can you take that question to see what the status is?

MR. WOOD: I’d be happy to do that.

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