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Middle East Digest - April 15, 2010

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Washington, DC
April 15, 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 April 15, 2010

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2:50 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Again, sorry for the lateness of this briefing, but we just finished a fairly lengthy and comprehensive meeting with the Secretary and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. There was so much to talk about that we couldn’t fit it into one or two sessions during the Nuclear Security Summit, so they met again this afternoon, continued our discussion on Armenia and normalization with Turkey, on Bosnia and Bosnia’s future role within Europe, but also talked extensively about our mutual interest in solving the challenge represented by Iran and its nuclear programs, also touched on ways in which the United States and Turkey can be helpful to Greece and its economic challenge, and touched on the situation with respect to Cyprus and also about the situation next door in Iraq. But an excellent discussion this afternoon. I’m sure you’ll have questions about that.

Secretary Clinton this evening will give a speech at the dedication of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. I think you’ve got kind of a summary of her remarks there. But tonight she will focus on how to strengthen our efforts in the region and to combat those hostile to peace, and the importance of the peace process in terms of opening the region to compromise and coexistence. And she’ll address the challenge of Hamas, also reinforce efforts by the international community to strengthen the efforts of the Palestinian Authority. She’ll make the case that it is in the interest of Israel, her neighbors, the international community, and the Palestinians themselves to support the efforts by President Abbas, Prime Minster Fayyad, and the Palestinian Authority to reach a negotiated peace with Israel and build the institutions that will be the foundations of a future Palestinian state.

Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg will travel to India and Bangladesh from April 20 through 22. This is his first visit to India and Bangladesh as Deputy Secretary. He will meet with government officials and other political figures and business, civil society, and opinion leaders in New Delhi, Kolkata, and Dakar, and he will discuss a range of bilateral and multilateral issues that advance our bilateral relationship with both countries.

Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero will travel to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank beginning this evening – or beginning today – following up on Secretary Clinton’s speech delivered on World Water Day. Secretary Otero’s trip will underscore the need to elevate our diplomatic efforts surrounding water, harness the power of science and technology, leverage full range of relationships, and build capacity at local, national, and regional levels. She will meet with government officials and nongovernmental organizations about a wide range of technology and policy-based solutions that address water challenges confronting the region.

QUESTION: Today, the Department of Treasury announced sanctions against two Pakistani nationals who ran charities that were funding to al-Qaida and Taliban. So now what are the expectations from the Pakistan Government? Will they be arresting these two individuals, banning the charities?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I am not – I cannot comment on the specific cases. I have not seen any information on them in particular. I would just simply tell you that two evenings ago, when Secretary Clinton visited with Prime Minister Gillani, we talked about the shared effort to combat extremism and we were all encouraged by the signs that we see in terms of steps that both the United States and Pakistan is taking to reduce the threat to both of our countries and the region. But I can’t comment on a particular action taken.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up quickly, P.J.? If this has come to your attention that some of the charities, not only in Pakistan but from any other countries, especially from Karachi, they are funding some of the think tanks here and then those think tanks bring the thinkers panels from – and favoring those countries. Do you have any --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not in a position to talk about any particular action or any particular group and what happens to that money. I mean, this is something that we pay a great deal of attention to – the flow of money around the world and how that money may, in certain circumstances, benefit extremist groups. But I would defer to – I mean, we have clear rules – laws in this country addressing this. We have built significant cooperation internationally on financial transactions. Now, those financial transactions can support terrorism. But as to whether any particular group has broken any set of laws in this country or Pakistan, I’m not prepared to address that.

QUESTION: But does the statement concern over think tanks here?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, Goyal, I just don’t know anything about this particular case.

QUESTION: The Secretary is giving a major speech on the Middle East tonight. What is the latest update on Senator Mitchell’s contacts and the peace – where is the peace process standing today?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s standing in the same place it was yesterday, Samir. (Laughter.) Maybe it’s moved an inch to the right or an inch to the left, I don’t know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, it hasn’t been able to get up.

MR. CROWLEY: Look, we continue our contacts with both parties, and some of you noted that George Mitchell was here in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. He had some contacts with a variety of officials here, taking advantage of the presence of key leaders from the region. We want to see – we haven’t changed our view that the best way to resolve this conflict is to get the parties into direct negotiations. The proximity talks are a means to that end, and we’d like to see both sides engaged on the substance as soon as possible.

What the Secretary will make clear tonight is, once again, this is in the long – this is in the interest of all parties in the region to support the process rather than trying to throw impediments at – in the process.

Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: I have a question on Turkey. You told us that the Secretary and the foreign minister, they discussed how to help Greece. And can you tell us how they are going to do it? Are they going to send money? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Look, the – I mean, I’ll defer to my Turkish counterpart to talk about what Turkey is prepared to do. But Minister Davutoglu simply said that he – Turkey wants to find a way to be helpful to Greece, but what form that will take, I defer to Turkey. We ourselves have had similar conversations with Greece and we’re focused on how to best help (inaudible) in that process.

QUESTION: How about on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: How about on Iran?

QUESTION: Are the Turks willing to be helpful on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: The Turks want to be helpful on Iran.

QUESTION: Are they?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: They are being helpful?

MR. CROWLEY: They are being helpful.

QUESTION: By doing what?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, as to specific actions that Turkey might take, I’ll defer to Turkey to describe those actions. I think the minister described some ambitious travel plans that he may have between now and the NATO ministerial next week in Tallin. I think we have a very, very strong understanding. And let’s remember that whatever happens involving Iran, Turkey borders Iran, and Turkey will be among the first countries to feel the impact of whatever happens. So we respect that. That’s why Turkey has been deeply engaged in this process. We have an understanding with Turkey as to what needs to happen from here. We have a shared objective, which is that no one wants to see Iran emerge as a nuclear state in the Middle East. That’s Turkey position. That’s the United States’s position. That’s the international community’s position.

And anything we can do in terms of diplomacy and engagement or pressure, we do not see these as being – we see these as being mutually reinforcing as opposed to being an either/or proposition. Turkey indicated that it will continue to find a way to engage Iran and see if can convince Iran to meet its international obligations under the IAEA. And we have made clear that we are consulting with Turkey and working within the Security Council on an appropriate UN Security Council resolution that shows – that demonstrates that there is a consequence for Iran’s failure to meet its obligations or to respond meaningfully to the offer that was put on the table last September.

QUESTION: But they’re not – they are not yet on the same page as you are when it comes to sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t necessarily draw that conclusion. I think Turkey recognizes that --

QUESTION: Well, they’ve said as much.

MR. CROWLEY: Turkey recognizes that there is work being done on a sanctions resolution, and Turkey is part of that process and ultimately will have the opportunity to cast a vote on that. At the same time, Turkey has indicated it wants to continue to see if there’s a way to resolve this through diplomacy. And obviously, at the end, what matters is what – not only what Iran does, but also what matters is the international credibility, because we all have a very significant stake in this.


MR. CROWLEY: And we’ve made clear that Iran has responsibilities. It’s clear that Iran has failed to live up to those responsibilities. And we have made clear in today’s meeting and other conversations that we think, at this point, there needs to be action on both fronts.


QUESTION: Did the Secretary show the Turkish foreign minister a draft of the resolution, which they hadn’t seen up until now?

MR. CROWLEY: No. There was no --

QUESTION: Do you know if --

MR. CROWLEY: There was no talk about – this was about a strategic approach to Iran. This was not about the nuts and bolts of a resolution.

QUESTION: But P.J., as far as --

QUESTION: But only yesterday, he complained yesterday that you didn’t show him the draft. He made a speech yesterday. He complained that the Americans refused to give us a plan.

MR. CROWLEY: And we pledged during the meeting that we would have further discussions and consult closely with Turkey as a resolution draft emerges.

QUESTION: But, P.J., as far as sanctions against Iran is concerned, Indian prime minister had a press conference in Washington. He said that sanctions will hurt only the poor people and not the elite or the government.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and I would remind that our approach to potential sanctions against Iran is, in fact, to direct sanctions intelligently at those who are directly connected and support Iran’s nuclear program, without placing undue hardship on the Iranian people.

QUESTION: So you and India are on the same page regarding sanctions, the types of sanctions on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can’t speak for India. I know that there’s work now being done in New York on the particulars of a resolution. That track is continuing. At the same time, if we can find a way through engagement to convince Iran to change course – at the end, what matters is for Iran to shift its present course and – but today, we reemphasized that, look, we’ve done this for a long time. Iran has showed no willingness to seriously engage the international community. It has yet to officially respond within the IAEA to the proposal put on the table last September in Geneva. And for that, we believe earnestly that now is the time for action; there should be consequences for Iran’s failure to meet its obligations.

QUESTION: You got to speak to the Indian delegation when they were here on Iran? That was part of the readout. You got to know the--

MR. CROWLEY: We are talking to – I mean, there were 47 countries here this week, and I suspect in most, if not all cases, we found a way to talk to them. And Iran obviously was a major topic of discussion.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to Turkey. Turkey’s complained that when Iraq was hit by sanctions it really devastated their economy. I’m wondering if they have asked you or whether you’ve discussed any sort of help for them if Iran sanctions go forward.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that, first of all, there’s an international responsibility, that there are rights and responsibilities when it comes to the development of civilian nuclear energy. And there are countries that are playing by the rules, and there are other countries such as Iran and North Korea that are not playing by the rules.

You can look at a country like Libya, for example, that it contemplated a nuclear program and it chose a different path. And we have obviously welcomed that and that’s opened the door for a different kind of relationship between Libya and the United States. Likewise, for a country like Iran or a country like North Korea, there are opportunities here should they choose to abide by their international obligations. But at the same time, that the credibility of the international system is at stake. There are clear rights and responsibilities under the Nonproliferation Treaty.

And as we outlined in the Nuclear Posture Review, those that live up – live by the rules, will benefit. Those that choose not to live by the rules, will face – need to face firm action, united action, by the international community. So we --

QUESTION: Okay. But if --

MR. CROWLEY: No, we do understand. And Minister Davutoglu did bring up today that as a neighbor of Iran, Turkey will be affected by whatever course of action the international community takes. We understand that. We really do.

QUESTION: How did the Secretary respond?

MR. CROWLEY: But by the same token, at this point in time, if our shared objective is to see no further – shared objective is to prevent an arms race in the Middle East that will profoundly affect Turkey among other countries, that this is the time where the international community has to come together, has to act as one, and has to demonstrate to outlier states like Iran that there is, in fact, a consequence for its failure to live up to its obligations.

Now, once we get into – and as a member of the international community and as a key leader in the region, Turkey has responsibilities. And just as the international community came together in the context of North Korea and not only passed tough sanctions, but also have been enforcing them, we would expect all countries, including Turkey, to step up to its responsibilities. But at the same time, we will be very cognizant of the fact that in doing so there is impact. But we think that the credibility of the international system is at stake.

QUESTION: May I ask you about talks of Secretary Clinton with the Turkish foreign minister about Bosnia? What is the position of U.S. toward Turkey mediation effort in Bosnia?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in fact, when we greeted the foreign minister this afternoon, for part of the meeting Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg came in to talk about the situation with respect to Bosnia, and they smiled, shook hands, and said we just saw each other last week. So Turkey is a full partner in helping encourage reforms. I think the foreign minister said that we would have some further engagement on this issue in Europe before Tallin. We obviously welcome that. We want to see Bosnia progress. We want to see countries in the region enjoy greater integration, greater cooperation. But there are things that these countries have to do, and we continue to look for ways in which we can encourage steps like you’ve seen today and yesterday and fundamental reforms, resolving issues among these countries and giving them the opportunity to advance.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I get some more on the trip, additional detail? Do you know if anything – if your Embassy is doing anything in London and in Europe to deal with this extraordinary number of Americans who are stranded there with all the flights being canceled?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question. Obviously, we’re aware of the almost unique situation involving the cancellation of flights due to the volcano, but I don’t know any particular actions that were taken.

QUESTION: P.J., just one clarification. You watched the presidential press conference on Tuesday at the Convention Center. When he was asked by two distinctive reporters about Pakistan’s nuclear program, which is a flare-up around the globe, and including especially in India, that President defended Pakistan’s nuclear program. And this convention or summit was about nuclear security and peace. But what I’m asking you is that when Secretary – when President met with the Indian prime minister and Pakistani prime minister, and Secretary was there both places --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, she was.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:41 p.m.)

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