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Middle East Digest - May 5, 2010

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Washington, DC
May 5, 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 May 5, 2010

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1:35 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A number of things to talk about before taking your questions.

Obviously, we at the Department of State continue to do everything that we can in support of the ongoing investigation of the attempted bombing in Times Square last weekend. Our focus is primarily overseas. Today, Ambassador Anne Patterson had meetings with President Zardari, Foreign Minister Qureshi, she spoke with Pakistani Interior Minister Malik. She will continue to have other meetings with senior Pakistani officials in the coming days to work collectively on this investigation.

Richard Holbrooke this morning also had a conversation with Foreign Minister Qureshi. The Pakistanis are fully cooperating in the investigation. They recognize, as we do, that this is a shared responsibility and a shared threat to both of us. During the course of the conversation between Ambassador Holbrooke and Foreign Minister Qureshi, he mentioned Pakistan’s gratitude for the strong statement by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York regarding – cautioning everyone to avoid any backlash against Muslims who are Pakistani Americans. Obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of Pakistani Americans here in the United States. They enrich our society and our culture and we value them as part of the American community. I’m sure you’ll have more questions for me on that subject.

QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about these conversations that Ambassador Patterson had and Ambassador Holbrooke had with their interlocutors?

MR. CROWLEY: In what respect? Well, I mean, the investigation is obviously ongoing. The FBI and Justice Department are in the lead. Pakistan is taking its own steps and we expect we’ll do more as more information is yielded through this investigation. So I think we have a full and complete pledge of cooperation from Pakistan. We’re heartened by that. And we will move forward step by step as we go through this and try to determine who else might be implicated.

QUESTION: Yeah, but what did they talk about?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the --

QUESTION: Did Patterson walk into Zardari’s office and he said “We’re going to cooperate fully,” and she said “Great, thanks,” and then left? What did they – can you – I mean, is there any substance there?

MR. CROWLEY: Of course there’s substance there, but – I mean, we will be exchanging information as the investigation is ongoing. Whatever leads are generated --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, was there an exchange?

MR. CROWLEY: -- here in the United States, we would fully expect Pakistan to follow up on. Pakistan, as you’re seeing, has already taken its own steps. I’ll defer to the Pakistani Government to describe what it is doing. So we are touching all the right bases. You have law enforcement, intelligence officials that have established contact with their counterparts in Pakistan. And I mean, remember, we are still in the early stages of this investigation.

QUESTION: Right. I guess – but I just – what was the purpose of these meetings?

MR. CROWLEY: The purpose of the meetings was to operationalize that as we have an investigation here, it is to inform Pakistan that we – there are clear links to Pakistan and that we would fully expect them to do what they should do and what they have been doing. I mean, as you know, Pakistan has itself faced this significant threat. Probably in the last year, there have been more Pakistanis killed by terrorists than in any other country. We’ve long recognized that this is – it’s a shared threat, it’s a shared responsibility, and there’s a commitment on both sides to fully cooperate as this investigation unfolds.

Once you get that kind of political commitment, then it moves down through the relevant agencies. And we are encouraged by Pakistan’s response since the bombing happened, or the attempted bombing happened on Saturday.

QUESTION: That means that you’re pleased with what they’ve done so far?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to Pakistan to --

QUESTION: I’m not asking what they’ve done.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean --

QUESTION: Are you happy with what they’ve done so far?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s more a matter of what we do from this point forward.

QUESTION: P.J., let me try it a little different way. Did they talk about arrests that the Pakistanis had made?

MR. CROWLEY: I will defer to – we are certainly aware of various reports of arrests. We don’t have a number that we can verify. That really is for Pakistan to announce. Obviously, the individual in custody had links to Pakistan, has family members in Pakistan, and I think we understand that there are – that law enforcement have made contacts with family members and are questioning them and are (inaudible) taking their own steps to do their part of this investigation.

QUESTION: Look. Ambassador Patterson was in a meeting with senior Pakistani officials.

MR. CROWLEY: We are not --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to --


QUESTION: -- announce arrests. You say you’ve seen reports of arrests. Did the subject of arrests come up in a meeting that your ambassador was in -- or in the meetings?

MR. CROWLEY: I happened to talk to Ambassador Patterson this morning myself. I asked her about that issue. And she indicated, at this point, we are not in a position to verify any number of arrests by Pakistan.


QUESTION: There have been some reports about ties between Pakistan’s ISI and militants in Waziristan. Did this come up at all with Ambassador – did Ambassador Patterson bring this up at all?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, without prejudicing the current investigation, let me take it slightly higher. This has been a topic of conversation between the United States and Pakistan for several years. And obviously, Pakistan in the last couple of years has recognized that elements in the past that Pakistan has supported and links – potential links between terrorist networks or terrorist organizations now threatens not only regional security, but Pakistan itself.

So – but let’s not jump ahead of the current investigation. Clearly, there are international implications to what occurred in Times Square. We are investigating those. We would expect Pakistan – and would fully expect Pakistan will help us with that. But as to where that investigation takes us, this is still way too early to make that judgment.


QUESTION: P.J., a change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, wait. Can we stay – can we please stay on this?


QUESTION: Are you seeking access to anyone who might be detained by the Pakistanis? Have you requested --

MR. CROWLEY: Since – we are not aware of any specific arrests at this point, but I think you safely – safe to say that our law enforcement-intelligence relationship is very strong. Should there be arrests and should we see clear links to what happened here – we have, in the past, asked for that kind of access, but that’s more an issue for Justice.

QUESTION: Well, but wouldn’t the request come from you? And in the past, you asked – you have asked for access, and you’ve been turned down.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Well, all right. This is part of the investigation, and for that, I would defer to Justice. But I think we are confident in our – the relationship we have, and let’s let the investigation take its course.

QUESTION: Well, but the record isn’t – the record of cooperation in this area is not – I mean, you haven’t yet ever been able to talk to A.Q. Khan.

MR. CROWLEY: I think – put it – rest assured that Pakistan understands that this investigation is important to the United States, it is important to Pakistan. We will expect full cooperation. There has been a pledge of full cooperation. And now as we go forward, I think based on those strong political commitments, I think we are confident that we can work through those issues together.

QUESTION: Did the ambassador – when she met with Zardari and Qureshi, did she give a – sort of a list of things that the U.S. would consider full cooperation? You say we expect to have it in (inaudible) future. Is there a game plan for how this goes forward – that she was bringing to them?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that – I mean, as our investigation here proceeds, and to the extent it points to possible events in Pakistan, I expect we will make specific requests of Pakistan in terms of cooperation. But we’re still very early in the investigation.

QUESTION: Just following up, did the ambassador give a list of names of associates of the suspect Shahzad here, to check out?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean that – those are the kinds of things that are – that can be done at that level, but it also can be done at a working level.

QUESTION: So you --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m just trying to say, look, I’m not going to get into the tos and fros of the investigation of itself. We are confident that we have a pledge of cooperation from Pakistan. I think there’s a mutual recognition of why this is important to both countries. And now, we’ve got to let the investigation take its course.

QUESTION: So is that essentially what the meeting – the two meetings were, is just getting a pledge of cooperation?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to – I wasn’t in the meetings with the ambassador and the president and the foreign minister.

QUESTION: Well, you spoke to Ambassador Patterson.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. I’m just – I’m telling – but –

QUESTION: When you came out and you announced that these meetings had happened, it was the first thing you said.

MR. CROWLEY: We came away from these contacts today with full confidence that we are on the same page in terms of how this investigation will proceed.

QUESTION: Just to pin something else down, did Ambassador Patterson have any meetings with Pakistani officials yesterday as well, or just today? And the same for Ambassador Holbrooke, in addition to the (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: I think yesterday, Ambassador Holbrooke talked with Ambassador Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. I’m sure that Anne Patterson had contacts with Pakistani officials yesterday. I mean, she meets with them all the time, so it could well be that she had regularly scheduled meetings and then this issue was part of that discussion.

QUESTION: On Mitchell?


QUESTION: He met with Netanyahu today. What did they talk about? Are they any closer to – are you any closer to getting what you want out of the Israelis?

MR. CROWLEY: I think let’s go through – we have a sequence of meetings with a variety of officials. It might be more fruitful to get through the weekend, come back, and he’ll report to the Secretary as to what was discussed. But clearly, the benefit of these talks – issues can be discussed, they can be evaluated, and follow-up meetings can further refine what was discussed. So I don’t have a particular readout from George Mitchell today, but we’re going to have multiple meetings on the Israeli side and multiple meetings on the Palestinian side. It’s hard to characterize after one of a series of meetings where we are.

QUESTION: Is it your view that the proximity talks have, in fact, now begun?

MR. CROWLEY: It is our view that George Mitchell is in the region. He is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. I think on the Palestinian side, they have, in consultations in light of the Arab League meeting and decision of last weekend – they want to consult with their own leadership. So at the end of these string of meetings, we’ll be in a position to characterize where we are.

QUESTION: Well – so, in other words, you don’t think that they’d be – this doesn’t – this isn’t any --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to characterize. There are meetings going on. I’m not going to characterize what they mean until we finish the --


MR. CROWLEY: -- four days.

QUESTION: Just to go back, I mean, you’re saying you can’t characterize the meetings that Mitchell had with Netanyahu, but you did say that they were good and productive. I’m wondering what – on what basis you label them thus.

MR. CROWLEY: George Mitchell left the meeting and said they were good and productive.

QUESTION: But he didn’t give you any details?

MR. CROWLEY: And you know George Mitchell as well as I do. He’s --

QUESTION: Probably not.

MR. CROWLEY: He keeps particulars to himself.

QUESTION: I have another one.


QUESTION: On – this also has to do with Israel. It’s about, actually, the P-5 statement in the UN today on the Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone and the P-5 all saying that they back committing to full implementation of the 1995 resolution to that. And I’m wondering why does the U.S. feel – why did you join in this statement today? And what do you think needs to be done in order to bring that 1995 resolution to fruition?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – and I think we’re going to release as a Media Note the formal text of that agreement here shortly. As the Secretary affirmed in New York on Monday, we continue to support the 1995 resolution on the Middle East. And with this P-5+1 reaffirmation, if you will, I think that puts us in a position to continue to promote this and the further discussions that we’ll have within the NPT, including with nonaligned countries. So this is obviously an issue of importance for them and we will continue to talk about this through the course of the RevCon.

QUESTION: The Secretary said, if I remember right, that the conditions were not right yet for this to happen. What conditions need to be in place in order for this to actually come into force? What isn’t there that needs to be there?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, a comprehensive peace agreement would be helpful.

QUESTION: So you need Middle East peace before we can even think about --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, significant progress in that direction, I think might give people confidence that the conditions could emerge that allow this to advance.

QUESTION: Well, even if Iran is still acting the way it’s acting now?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, a comprehensive peace --

QUESTION: It wouldn’t include Iran, I don’t believe, would it?

MR. CROWLEY: But a comprehensive peace would indicate that groups that Iran has supported that, have up until now, undercut progress in – towards Middle East peace might themselves be willing to accept Israel and recognize existing agreements and themselves be willing to become a constructive part of the process.

QUESTION: But Iran itself, which Israel regards as an existential threat, that wouldn’t be a part of that. So are you of the opinion that if there is a comprehensive peace, that Israel will be able -

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not making any bold --

QUESTION: Israel will give up its nukes?

MR. CROWLEY: -- predictions of the future. I’m just saying that, as an example, progress towards Middle East peace is the kind of thing that would give people confidence to consider things like the – to pursue things like the vision of a region without weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m.)

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