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Middle East Digest - May 7, 2010


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Washington, DC
May 7, 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 May 7, 2010

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1:24 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Last night our deputy perm rep in New York, Ambassador Alex Wolff, participated along with other representatives from the Security Council nations in a dinner hosted by the Iranian foreign minister. It was a frank and professional exchange. Members of the Security Council pressed the Iranian Government to promptly meet its international obligations. Several members of the Council, including the U.S., pointed out the significant flaws and shortcomings in Iran’s approach. During the course of the conversation, Foreign Minister Mottaki focused on the Iranian counterproposal to the Tehran research reactor, which deviates in significant ways from the balanced IAEA proposal that Iran agreed to and then walked away from last October. But we see this as yet another missed opportunity by Iran to meet its international obligations.

George Mitchell just started a dinner meeting with President Abbas. I think you saw earlier today he met with Israeli President Shimon Peres. We expect to have additional meetings tomorrow before he returns to the United States, and we would expect late tomorrow night, early Sunday morning, to have a statement as he prepares to leave for the United States that summarizes where we are following his meetings.
movement, and focus on strengthening the labor officer function at our embassies abroad.

QUESTION: On the Iran – the Secretary’s call, you said that they updated themselves on the current status of the negotiations. What is the current status of the negotiations?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work on the specifics of a UN resolution. There’s still work to do and we will – we’ll be moving that forward in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, the coming what?

MR. CROWLEY: Weeks.

QUESTION: But I presume, or it appears, that the people that she spoke to are all – she and the people that she spoke to all agree, correct, on what should be done? So I’m just curious as to – I mean, there is --

MR. CROWLEY: This conversation did not get into the specifics of option A, B, C, D. It was more a case of where do we stand in the specific work of building a resolution but mostly comparing notes on various consultations that the United States and other countries have had with those who will be in a position to evaluate the resolution once it’s formally presented to the Security Council.

QUESTION: With other members of the – with the nonpermanent members of the Security Council?

QUESTION: Were China and Russia on the call or not?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Why? Why not? Just --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, this was a quad plus one call.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) Quad plus one?

(Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, this was a call with our European counterparts. We do have these calls on a regular basis or contacts on a regular basis. China and Russia are not part of that component. I mean, that said, last night, all of the countries in the Security Council, including Russia, including China, joined in pressing Iran to change its course. So we’re very comfortable with where we are in terms of our interaction with the – within the P-5+1.

QUESTION: All of that begs the question, though, of why you felt that you should consult without your Chinese and Russian partners.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, as Matt suggested, we have a lot of different groupings, depending on the issue.

QUESTION: Is it quad plus one because quint was already taken? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You’re really getting desperate if you’re quoting Matt. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve got to write that down. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I take that – well, actually --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I mean, we’re not excluding anyone. This was a case where we – and like I said, there were other topics of discussion focused in Europe as well. I’m not kidding you, this was the primary focus of discussion. And our countries have touched base with others who sit on the Council and will – and just to some extent, perhaps I would describe this as doing a bit of a (inaudible).

QUESTION: And then one other thing, if I may, on this. There is a report that the – your plan is to put forward the resolution to the full Security Council next week. Is that correct? Have you set such a – do you plan to put it forward next week?

MR. CROWLEY: That report is not correct.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Is it really – do you think the resolution – another resolution is going to work against Iran – you have done in the past? Don’t you think that Iran is buying more and more time, whatever that is?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, this is precisely, Goyal, something that does concern us, that this week, Iran had an opportunity with President Ahmadinejad here, with Foreign Minister Mottaki here, and we literally heard nothing new. They are not in compliance with their IAEA obligations. They have not come forward with a meaningful or acceptable counter proposal on the TRR, something that we had offered last fall, in order to build confidence.

Ambassador Wolf and others made clear to Iran last night that they’ve had the opportunity to build confidence, and their actions and words since then have done exactly the opposite. So we are in a position where we’re working closely with others in the Security Council. We’re working on this resolution. And we look forward to a very strong, united international statement that tells Iran it’s got to change course and meet its fundamental obligations.

David.

QUESTION: P.J., can you comment on any possible interaction that Alejandro Wolf had with Mottaki?

MR. CROWLEY: On the margins of the meeting, he did both stress that the United States continues to have concerns about the welfare of our citizens who are in Iranian custody. He shared with Foreign Minister Mottaki some letters from family members, but – and stressed again that we would like to see these individuals released.

Farah.

QUESTION: *Was there any reaction?* Did Mottaki – was --

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t characterize any reaction.

QUESTION: Can I just --

QUESTION: Was that just the hikers or was that for all the U.S. citizens?

MR. CROWLEY: All the U.S. citizens.

QUESTION: But the letters were just from families of the hikers?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – I think they were beyond.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. You have heard something new from him this week, though. Ahmadinejad talked a lot this week – it’s apparently for the first time – about how if this sanctions resolution comes forward, all ties will be cut with Iran, Obama is going to regret it. We’re – I mean, he seemed to have this very strong message this week of threat, saying that the United States would actually – our experiments, our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the Palestinian territories would be destroyed if we passed this resolution. He had some pretty strong words about that. I mean, does the Administration – what’s the reaction? Is it – you know, is it giving anybody pause?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, it is our view that absent a strong statement and significant pressure, Iran is not going to engage significantly. We have offered, clearly, a path of engagement, and it has been Iran that has failed to reciprocate. So Iran is isolated and unless it comes forward and answers the questions that the international community has, it will have – it will face additional pressure and additional isolation.

QUESTION: Were the detainees the only subject that he brought up on the margins or what did he --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of another one.

QUESTION: So you do not expect a resolution this month while the Security --

MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t say that, Samir.

QUESTION: -- while the Security Council --

MR. CROWLEY: I said it in response to a particular question.

QUESTION: Yeah. You said there was --

MR. CROWLEY: “Do we expect to table a resolution next week?” I think that report is irrelevant.

QUESTION: Not next week. You said it’s going to take weeks to table the resolution, right – earlier?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it will take as long as it takes. We are working hard on this and I would expect there’s still work to be done. And we’ll work hard until it’s completed.

QUESTION: So you don’t expect it this month?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we face – we have a sense of urgency about this, but – we are working as fast as we can, but there’s no particular time – there’s not a specific timetable.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, any further communication between the United States and Pakistan on the investigation? Anything maybe that the Pakistanis are saying in return?

MR. CROWLEY: The other piece again, Jill?

QUESTION: Anything that the Pakistanis are saying in return or any more specificity on the U.S. side of what it wants?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have had a range of contacts with the Government of Pakistan, both at post and here in the United States. We continue to develop information here as the investigation continues. The flow of information to Pakistan has begun. And with that flow would come specific steps that we would expect Pakistan to take.

QUESTION: You think this has become an international issue now? Because I think that the issue is going beyond U.S. borders as far as the investigation is concerned. One --

MR. CROWLEY: That’s true.

QUESTION: If this is connected in any way, Headley, who is being held in Chicago, and who has provided much information as far as the bombings in India and elsewhere, you think this is connected in some --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it could be – there have been multiple plots that have involved the United States and Pakistan, citizens on both sides who have chosen to take these actions. I’m not aware that there’s any specific connection, but clearly, we are looking to see, while this individual was in Pakistan, who he met with, what support, if any, was provided. And that is the reason why we are working so closely with Pakistan on this investigation.

QUESTION: One more --

QUESTION: P.J., when you said the flow of information has begun, we knew that yesterday, and actually, a couple of days before that. But is there anything specifically today, more information? Is it – you know, is a – significantly more information or is it --

MR. CROWLEY: Jill, I can’t – more? Yes. Significant? Hard to judge. I mean, the investigation is in its fifth or sixth day, depending on how you count. I’m sure we are learning more today than we knew yesterday, from yesterday from the day before. As we develop information that has a link back to Pakistan, we are doing exactly what would be expected. We’re sharing the information that we can with Pakistan. They are already also taking their own actions. So the kind of dialogue that we need to both understand what happened here and what happened there and eventually put these pieces together, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan, President Karzai is coming here next week.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, he is.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of the meetings he would be having at the State Department, the issues that you want to raise with him?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. We probably – I think, let me take that. We are working on a complete agenda. He’s going to be with us for much of a day next week. Let’s see if we are about to release kind of the schedule. I’ll take that question.

QUESTION: There are some reports that U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jim Jeffrey will be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and the deputy U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan will be the next U.S. ambassador in Turkey. Do you have any comment on this to offer?

MR. CROWLEY: I would defer to – and whenever we’re announcing potential nominating ambassadors for key positions, that’ll be done at the White House.

QUESTION: On Mitchell?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: First a little bit of housekeeping. Can we try – if this statement does come out – not to put it out at 2 o’clock in the morning like the last one?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: That would be really helpful for those of us who try to sleep. And secondly, if you do expect this statement to come out, do you expect it to say that the proximity talks have --

MR. CROWLEY: Right now, it’s scheduled for about 2 o’clock in the morning, but I’ll see what I can do. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So really – well, then maybe it can be put out – maybe you can put it out some place in the world where it’s actually daylight.

MR. CROWLEY: We will – we did do that last time. We’ll see what we can do. All right, I gotcha.

QUESTION: Do you – do you expect that it will – that the statement will be the – announce the resumption or the start of the proximity talks? Is that your hope?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll – we have – we expect to have meetings tomorrow in addition to the meeting that’s going on now, and the statement will tell you exactly where we think we are at the end of those meetings.

QUESTION: P.J., is it still your position that the proximity talks, in fact, did begin in March? You were on the record at the time as saying that the talks had --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- begun and then you remember --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, and then there was a halt.

QUESTION: So this should be their resumption?

MR. CROWLEY: We – let --

QUESTION: If it happens.

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s let – maybe at 2 o’clock in the morning, we’ll have a dramatic reading of our statement on Sunday morning. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And we’ll be calling for clarification.

QUESTION: Your home phone number is what?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s actually listed. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I know you’re loathe to scoop Senator Mitchell here, but if he’s already having a meeting with President Abbas and he’s had several with the Israelis, doesn’t one logically conclude that the proximity talks which had hit a bump are back on?

MR. CROWLEY: There are meetings taking place. And when the meetings conclude, we’ll tell you what they mean.

QUESTION: They don’t constitute proximity talks – the meetings taking place?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t want to scoop ourselves either.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Have a nice weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:56 p.m.)



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