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Middle East Digest - January 22, 2010

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Washington, DC
January 25, 2010


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 January 22, 2010

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QUESTION: The Washington Post reported today that a demarche had already been issued, according to a source, and we’ve been told it wasn’t, from the podium.

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So we want to know.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Let’s see. I mean, we obviously have taken note of the Chinese statement. I think it was a written statement put out by the foreign ministry. In fact, we’ve had conversations over the past 24 hours with the ambassador here in Washington regarding the speech, regarding the issue of the Google situation, and broader aspects of a relationship. And I would anticipate that we will have ongoing meetings both here in Washington and in Beijing on all of these subjects.

I know you were just asking Mike Posner about this. We have a wide-ranging and deep relationship with China. And the number-one and number-two economies in the world are going to need to consult on a regular basis. To Matt’s question earlier, we have a number of shared interests. That doesn’t mean that we look at situations whether they’re North Korea, where there actually is a convergence of views on the current situation, and Iran, where there is not a convergence of views at the present time.

QUESTION: But you were unified – the Secretary said yesterday you were unified on Iran.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are – I think there’s a recognition that the implications of a nuclear power in the Middle East will affect not only the immediate countries, but also the world more broadly. And --

QUESTION: We were under the impression there already was a nuclear power in the Middle East.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. So --

QUESTION: Second nuclear power (inaudible). (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: The idea that you can keep this situation at arm’s length and that it will not affect you if you’re half a world away, in our view, is not correct. Any turmoil in the Middle East is going to have ramifications and broad ripple effects, and as the Secretary mentioned in her Q&A with you yesterday, that can have significant impact on energy markets worldwide, and that’s going to have an impact on the people of China. So --

QUESTION: Secretary Gates was in India and then he went to Pakistan, then on – Afghanistan. As for in India, what they talk about – whether India is still on high alert as far as attacks from terrorism is concerned? And in Pakistan, he warned the Pakistanis that – do more, that Pakistan is not doing enough as far as the global war on terrorism and terrorism into Pakistan and Afghanistan is concerned.

Now, here in Washington, FBI is hiring more and more Pakistanis with Pakistani heritage. The effort – the Pakistani community has put the statement that FBI needs more Pakistanis to work for the FBI. What can you tell us, I mean, as far as dealing with terrorism --

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I’m not – I probably would challenge the facts behind your question, but I would defer to the FBI in terms of the ongoing interaction that it is having with the Pakistan American community here in the United States. I don’t think you’ve got that quite right.

That said, not only Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, others – we continue to have significant dialogue with the Government of Pakistan, the Government of India, the Government of Afghanistan about how we can have stability, dialogue and cooperation across the region. That is ultimately how jointly, these countries together with the United States, together with the international community, will be able to stabilize the region and defeat and deter political extremists who threaten, in different ways, all three countries. This is a common challenge, and it is part of our ongoing dialogue with all three of these countries.


QUESTION: Can I follow up, just actually, on the first part of his question about the Indian threat today? The Indian Government put out some warnings about potential hijackings in the country. I was wondering if you had any information on that.

MR. CROWLEY: I do not. I’ll defer to the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: Yeah. The deputy head of the Central Committee of Fatah, Jibril Rajoub, has said yesterday that the movement and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were threatened on boycott by the United States should they achieve reconciliation with Hamas movement. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. CROWLEY: Michel, start again. I didn’t catch the middle.

QUESTION: Yeah. The deputy head of the Central Committee of Fatah movement, Jibril – Jibril Rajoub has said that the movement and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were threatened by the U.S. on boycott if they achieved reconciliation with Hamas movement.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, our policy on this is clear. We would like to see a stronger Palestinian government that has greater capacity to serve the needs of the Palestinian people. We support Prime Minister Fayyad in his efforts to build stronger institutions and to continue to build – to grow the Palestinian economy, and to professionalize the Palestinian security forces. If others want to join this effort, they know what they have to do. And – but the existing Palestinian Authority, it’s guided by the Quartet principles and if – we will continue to support any effort towards reconciliation that is guided by these principles, including recognition of Israel and support of existing agreements and choosing to join the political process rather than choosing to exercise violence in the pursuit of their political objectives.

So that’s why George Mitchell is in the region and why he’ll continue to have the discussions with the Palestinians he had today and tomorrow.

QUESTION: Yeah. You said that he was going to have other talks. Where else is he going to go?

MR. CROWLEY: He may have other discussions. I think his schedule after tomorrow morning is in flux. We’ll be able to talk to that on Monday.


QUESTION: Sorry, after tomorrow morning? So he’s in Israel and the PA until tomorrow morning?

MR. CROWLEY: He may have additional – he may make other stops before he comes back.

QUESTION: What do you expect concretely from the Haiti meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: The – we will – we look for the meeting next week to consolidate international support for Yemen. We will coordinate our assistance efforts. And we hope to reach agreement on assisting Yemen with its political and economic reform. In the meeting that Secretary Clinton had yesterday with the Yemeni foreign minister as – they talked about security, but a significant part of the discussion was on development and creation of economic opportunity as a tool to help reduce both extremism and conflict within Yemen. So I think this is bringing together a wide range of leaders, those who are – have a direct or – interest in the future of Yemen, many from the region, and it will be to outline the specific require – needs that Yemen has, what Yemen’s plans are for that support. It’s not going to be a donors conference, per se, but just simply to outline what we think the most significant requirements that Yemen has to be able to stabilize itself, deal with the conflicts – plural – within its borders, and also the threat posed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, the Yemeni foreign minister was pretty adamant that the fact that there weren’t any reforms taking place was the fault of the rest of the world and not the Yemeni Government itself. He said that money hadn’t been forthcoming, that the mechanism was broken, and basically it’s all your guys fault that we --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think – I wouldn’t characterize what he said quite that way.

QUESTION: Well, pretty much that’s exactly what he said.

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no, no.

QUESTION: He said it was everyone else’s fault but theirs, that they didn’t have any reforms. Do you agree with that?

MR. CROWLEY: I – we are – one of the things he said in the meeting was that how – one of his criticisms was that there was a significant time lag from the time that aid was pledged and the time it actually got to the ground. And this is something that the Secretary has responded to in other contexts as well. So we will work with Yemen to identify its requirements. We, as the Secretary has said many times, we are raising our expectations in terms of what we expect Yemen to do. We recognize that – that the solutions to the challenges that Yemen faces on the security front and the economic front have to be Yemeni solutions. We will be willing to provide assistance, and the Secretary pledged that we will look to see how we – in the most urgent areas, how we can speed up the assistance --

QUESTION: That’s all fair enough, but he --

MR. CROWLEY: -- to Yemen.

QUESTION: -- also said that President Saleh had taken courageous decisions for reform. Do you agree with that?

MR. CROWLEY: There are certainly a number of political and economic reforms that Yemen still has to – ought to achieve.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you agree that the president has been courageous?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the president has --

QUESTION: And do you --

MR. CROWLEY: -- taken some very significant steps, particularly recently in tackling the extremist challenge that he faces within Yemen.

QUESTION: Do you agree that the outside world is responsible for the fact that Yemen has not reformed and it’s not the Yemeni responsibility?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that we believe that – this is a shared responsibility, but there is clearly things that Yemen – the Yemeni Government has to do to improve its performance.

QUESTION: So when you say speed up assistance, you mean previously pledged assistance? For example, the 2006 donors conference – that’s what you mean?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that – yeah, but that’s – and that’s a very legitimate point for the Yemeni Government to raise, which is if we have an urgent situation, how can we get assistance on the ground and having the desired impact as rapidly as possible. We’re going through – having that same conversation with Afghanistan, that same conversation with Pakistan. It’s why the Secretary is committed to trying to reform how we do assistance. But we are going to expect more from the Government of Yemen in terms of a consistent performance not only to undertake political reforms, resolve the conflicts that do exist within its borders. The Secretary spent a lot of time with the foreign minister yesterday trying to better understand the conflict with the Houthis and how Yemen plans to resolve that.

We are encouraged by the steps that Yemen has taken with respect to attacking elements of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. But clearly, there are things that we expect from Yemen in terms of a consistent and concerted performance going forward.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:52 p.m.)

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