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Middle East Digest - March 18, 2010


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Washington, DC
March 18, 2010

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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 18, 2010

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1:08 p.m. EST

QUESTION: Can I ask you just a logistical thing on this Pakistan strategic dialogue?

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: Is it correct that Assistant Secretary Blake is going to be out of the country and not attending?

MR. DUGUID: Matt, I’ll have to take that question. I know he’s on travel now and I don’t have his return date, whether it’s before the 24th or not.

QUESTION: Well, who takes the lead in Pakistan strategic dialogue? Is it the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, or --

MR. DUGUID: Well, the --

QUESTION: -- is it the Bureau of South Asia?

MR. DUGUID: Well, as you know, they work together very collaboratively, that Special Representative Holbrooke has the lead for Afghanistan and Pakistan on security issues. Sometimes, there is overlapping responsibilities, particularly when we talk about economic engagement and other forms of – our bilateral relationship with Pakistan. I will find where I can on Assistant Secretary Blake’s travel for you and get right back to you on that.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. Thanks. Moving on to the Middle East, has the Secretary heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu yet?

MR. DUGUID: I believe the Secretary, you may have seen, had a press conference in Moscow just over an hour ago –

QUESTION: She didn’t answer the question.

MR. DUGUID: -- and she has said that when we have something to say on the particular communication with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that we’ll let you know. As to my knowledge, just before coming in here, I did not have any word that a communication had been received. But when we do have one, we will let you know.

QUESTION: Okay, so the answer is no.

MR. DUGUID: I think I went a long way around (inaudible) there, yes.

QUESTION: Why – yeah. So is it problematic that you haven’t heard back? It’s been almost a week now.

MR. DUGUID: Problematic is not the word I would use to describe the situation. The word I would use to describe the situation is fluid. We are looking for – looking forward to the response, of course, but meanwhile we are still working. We have the Quartet dinner that should be – have started perhaps a half an hour ago, and we are going to work with our Quartet partners on looking for ways to move the process forward and to keep finding ways to get the two parties back to the negotiating table to work on a two-state solution. The Secretary made these points in her press conference.

The – Senator Mitchell is there in Moscow now. He has, of course, been engaged on the telephone and in meetings. He will be engaged in meetings now in Moscow with his counterparts in order to discuss their ideas, to assess their evaluations of the situation, and to try and look for more ways to achieve the goal, which is to get the parties back to the table and get them talking about bringing peace to the region.

QUESTION: There’s been some speculation that Mitchell might go to Israel and the PA immediately after Moscow. Is it correct that you will not – that he will not go until after – until Netanyahu responds?

MR. DUGUID: It’s correct to say that Senator Mitchell is looking forward to returning to the region as soon as he can. We don’t have any particular plans right now that I have for you. As soon as we have his schedule down, we will, of course, let you know that. But for right now, we are not much further in the planning stages for this weekend or past this weekend than we were yesterday. As I said, the situation is fluid but we do have much – there’s a lot of diplomacy taking place and a number of conversations. So as we talk to you every day, we will update you every day where we are.

QUESTION: Right. But is it correct that he won’t go until after you hear from Netanyahu?

MR. DUGUID: Well, I don’t know that that statement is correct. What I do know is that he will go when we have a schedule for him, when we have a schedule built that he can work from. But for the moment, the plans for anywhere beyond the Quartet meeting tomorrow are something that we’ll have to get back to you on.

QUESTION: To put it another way, can you say that the plans for his visit, whether he goes or not, is unrelated to whether Prime Minister Netanyahu responds to the Secretary?

MR. DUGUID: There are a lot of moving parts in the entire picture, and the Senator will speak with those colleagues of his that – I believe in Paris and Berlin – that he was planning on speaking to following the Quartet meeting. We will work with the Israelis to – and to the Palestinian side for when he can return to the region. We look – he looks forward to going back to the region as soon as he possibly can. And when we have the agreement on where all the parties are, we will do that.

QUESTION: But I was wondering – the Secretary said that there are a number of conversations, communications, going on within this process. I’m wondering if, in any of those, the Israelis have given you any kind of reason for the delay. Is it anything that P.J. might describe as logistical, or is there something else? Do we have any understanding what’s holding it up? And does the hold-up in this response in any way affect the ongoing diplomacy, (i.e., are things on hold pending this response coming in?)

MR. DUGUID: Once again, looking on a – the passage of time as an indicator for any sort of reaction from us, I think, is going in the wrong direction. The Israelis will have discussions amongst themselves. They have certainly started out following the phone call with an investigation on how the incident itself happened. That of course, took them some matter of time – I’m not sure how much time, but still that took-up some time.

There are also internal politics that everybody on each side has to work through before we can move the process forward. As soon as people have their positions in place, we will, of course, let you know, and then we will make the announcement at that time.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: So the Secretary is going to be speaking in the morning at an AIPAC conference here in D.C. and Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to speak in the evening at the same conference. Will they be meeting? Are there any plans --

MR. DUGUID: As soon as we have anything on a meeting between them, we’ll let you know. That schedule is not yet available to me, and I don’t have anything to pass on to you.

QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about the internal politics on both sides that you just referred to?

MR. DUGUID: No. That is a general observation, that before any side can move forward, they certainly have to make sure that their positions are firm --

QUESTION: No, I’m curious about the internal politics here. You said on both sides. What are the internals? I know you don’t want to speak to the Israeli internal politics, but what are the internal U.S. politics?

MR. DUGUID: Well, on the U.S. side, we, of course, have our positions down. The Secretary is presenting those right now to the Quartet partners and --

QUESTION: So, in fact, there aren’t any internal politics?

MR. DUGUID: I was speaking of the two sides both in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority, not the United States.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary raise the issue of settlements during the speech to AIPAC?

MR. DUGUID: I’m not going to preview the Secretary’s speech at this point. I haven’t seen a draft of the text, but if we can do, I will.

QUESTION: One more thing on Mitchell?

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned he was going to be seeing people in Paris and Berlin – that’s after?

MR. DUGUID: Yes, it’s my understanding that it will be after --

QUESTION: So he’s going to Paris and Berlin?

MR. DUGUID: That’s my understanding, afterwards, yes.

QUESTION: So in fact – so he does have some travel plans after Moscow, but just not --

MR. DUGUID: But they’re not fixed yet. Those are two destinations. I don’t have the order in which that will happen or the itinerary.

QUESTION: On Iraq, the Iraq election commission announced today that – or yesterday that 80 percent of the results of the vote showing that the coalition by Iyad Allawi is winning over the coalition by the Prime Minister Maliki. Can you react to this or you’re going to wait till the final, complete results?

MR. DUGUID: There seems to be politics going on in Iraq. That is a good thing, okay? Anytime you have a parliamentary system, you are going to have a very mixed result. Until all the results are in, we won’t know the final composition. But that the process is moving forward day-by-day, that it has shown that there are political alliances that are being forged, or that political alliances exist among Iraqis is a positive development.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Yes, David.

QUESTION: Gordon, there are reports that a Pakistani parliamentary delegation broke off a trip to the U.S. earlier this month, claiming that the U.S. reneged on some assurances that they wouldn’t have to go through extra airport scrutiny. Are you aware of that, have anything to say about that?

MR. DUGUID: Yes, and I believe – I’m not sure if we released a statement at the time. We did not.

MR. TONER: We do have something. We can get back --

MR. DUGUID: We will get a statement out to you shortly, but in short, yes, a parliamentary delegation that was here under State Department auspices did cut their trip short after significant Washington meetings. But moving on to their second city, they objected to screening processes that are in place for everyone using American transportation. It was not directed at this group nor were anyone else in the traveling party with them exempt from going through this screening process, to my understanding.

But they did not agree with it and therefore broke off their tour. We understand that. We understand that position. And we look forward to working with parliamentary groups in the future under the same sorts of programs. This was unfortunate, but we have made clear to the group that the – our processes under the TSA are not particularly directed at them as Pakistani parliamentarians.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)



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