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Middle East Digest - May 26, 2010


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Washington, DC
May 26, 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 26, 2010

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1:24 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: General Keith Dayton will step down next fall. What’s the reason?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – I’ll defer to the Pentagon in terms of its plans for General Dayton. I don’t know. I hadn’t heard that before coming out here.

QUESTION: Yeah, but he’s the special security coordinator --

MR. CROWLEY: He – it is a vitally important role that General Dayton plays and – but as to the specifics about his career, I’ll defer to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: But the Palestinian Authority is concerned that Dayton’s departure signals the Obama Administration intends to decrease its involvement in the peace process.

MR. CROWLEY: Say that again.

QUESTION: The Palestinian Authority is concerned that Dayton’s departure will decrease the involvement of Obama Administration in the peace process.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, I – on – that should not be a concern. The work that General Dayton has done complements work that we’ve done in other areas to build up strong institutions within the Palestinian society. So we have seen the fruits of General Dayton’s work in terms of improvements in the performance of Palestinian security forces. That has directly led to some of the easing of checkpoints and incursions that Israeli forces feel that they have to undertake.

So the security situation in the West Bank is improving and – but we’ll maintain this commitment to support the efforts of Prime Minister Fayyad and others to build up strong institutions as we look to reach an agreement that will lead to a Palestinian state.

QUESTION: Any replacement or --

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Will there be any replacement for him?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question of if we have any information on a replacement for General Dayton.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about preparations for meetings next week here in Washington with the Palestinians and Israelis?

MR. CROWLEY: I think there’s been an announcement at the White House, or actually by the White House Chief of Staff, that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be coming to Washington in the next couple of weeks. We are in active discussion with President Abbas on a similar trip to Washington, so those are – will happen in the next – here in the next couple of weeks. I have nothing to announce in terms of plans for George Mitchell to come back in the region. But we will continue to remain engaged in this, obviously.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Dayton?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you expect that someone of his caliber would replace him or are you satisfied that this will --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll take that – I mean, General Dayton, being a military officer, obviously his assignment is under the control of the Pentagon, not the State Department. He works very closely with us. As to whether he’ll be replaced by a military officer, I’ll take that question and consult and see what we know about it.

QUESTION: Could you take the question just a bit further and tell us whether you are – maybe you are satisfied or the U.S. is satisfied with the level of training and capability of the Palestinian security forces that they would need no more training or supervision?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I thought I just tried to address that with Michel. I think we can see progress on the West Bank both in terms of their performance and the confidence that both the Palestinian people and the Israeli Government has in that performance. We are seeing real changes on the ground in the West Bank. You’re seeing the growth of an economy, and economies grow when people are confident about security. That is not to say that there are not still significant challenges that lay ahead. And as we see, there are always plenty of people who want to try to impede this progress.

But General Dayton has done extraordinary work on behalf of both our interests and supporting the Palestinian Authority. And more broadly, we continue to work intensively with President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad in terms of building up the capacity of the Palestinian Authority so that should we reach an agreement at some point in the future, that the Palestinians are prepared to govern a viable state.

QUESTION: The Dawn newspaper of Pakistan today reported that Pakistan has asked – urged (inaudible) U.S. help in bridging the trust deficit with India. So how – are you going to help them?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the trust deficit, as it’s been called, between India and Pakistan is most significantly a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India. We are friends with both countries. We have strong and strengthening relationships with both countries. We have encouraged both Pakistan and India to enhance its dialogue in a cooperation. We are gratified that both countries seem to be moving in a direction that – to see that dialogue become deeper. So we will continue to encourage both countries to pursue the commitments that both have made and pledged publicly.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the differences between Iraq and Kuwait over the Iraqi airlines?

MR. CROWLEY: Over the Iraqi?

QUESTION: Airlines company.

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan, next month, or in the next two weeks, U.S. is going to (inaudible) NATO a major operation in Kandahar and – just like in Marjah. What I’m asking is that in Kandahar, the governor is the brother of President Karzai and who was – the president was here. And his team was here. And also, at the same time, you have just issued a warning – Travel Warning to Afghanistan.

So where are you going as far as the relation between the president and the brother? And brother has some connections also with al-Qaidas.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, Goyal, you just made an enormous leap that I don’t think is supported by any facts that we’re aware of. This was touched on when President Karzai was here. We are beginning to focus greater energy and attention on Kandahar as part of our strategy for helping to increase government influence, both at the national level and at the local level to greater portions of Afghanistan. And as we are increasing the availability of soldiers and other resources in Afghanistan, we’re able to move out into other parts of Afghanistan.

This is not about – this action is not about the president or the president’s brother. This is about bringing security and effective governance to all of Afghanistan. And then we understand from our standpoint here at the State Department that as we are able to improve the security situation on the ground in a place like Marjah and a place like Kandahar, we’ve got to quickly move to demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan that they can have confidence in their government at the national level and at the local level. That’s what we’re going to try to do.

QUESTION: Afghanistan follow-up?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Afghanistan’s opposition leader and the former foreign minister, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, is here for the last 10 days. What role do you see for him in Afghanistan’s democratic process? And did anyone from the State Department meet him – met him during this stay here?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the – Abdullah Abdullah has done a number of news interviews. I think that what’s most important is the role that he envisions for himself and for a loyal opposition in a robust political structure in Afghanistan. We have encouraged greater participation, broader participation in politics in Afghanistan. That’s a decision for Abdullah Abdullah and his supporters to make. He has been here in Washington. We have had officials from Richard Holbrooke’s office who have met with him while he’s been here.

QUESTION: And secondly, the peace consultative jirga in Kabul has been postponed for several days now. So how do you see this?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it was postponed by a few days for logistical reasons. We’re looking forward to having the jirga take place.

QUESTION: And finally, the spy agency of Afghanistan has blamed Pakistan for several suicide attacks inside Kabul in the last several weeks. Do you see any Pakistani role? Do you see anything in the allegation by Afghanistan’s spy agency?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we are focused on security on both sides of the border. We’re working hard with Afghanistan on the one hand, working hard on – with Pakistan on the other, and we certainly encourage ongoing cooperation between the two governments so that on both sides, we can have effective action against insurgents.

QUESTION: On India. P.J., last week, India banned over 100 terrorist organizations in the country. And at the same time in Pakistan, Pakistan arrested an army major who was connected with Times Square. What I’m asking is: What role do you think U.S. played in all these arrests or connections with the terrorist organizations?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, these were steps taken by India and Pakistan. We – security, counterterrorism are an ingredient of our dialogue in our relationship with both countries. This is a shared challenge that the United States, India, Pakistan, other countries have. It’s a global challenge. So we welcome the efforts of these countries to try to reduce the threat not only within the region, but more broadly.

QUESTION: Any update with the Iran sanctions in the Security Council? Anything new?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s see. We have – we continue to evaluate the IAEA – or the letter that Iran sent to the IAEA – and we continue to work aggressively in New York on the sanctions resolution.

QUESTION: You said you expected the evaluation to be concluded by the end of the week. Is that still --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think I said that. I said we would respond quickly to the Iranian letter, and we will respond quickly to the Iranian letter.

QUESTION: You said within a week.

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: I thought you did say within a week.

MR. CROWLEY: No. Iran said that it would provide the letter to – I believe – I’ll go back and look at my – I think I (inaudible) we’ll respond quickly.

QUESTION: Was this sanction issue discussed between the Secretary and the Chinese leadership in Beijing – during her visit to Beijing, if Secretary had discussed this sanction issue with the Chinese leaders?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Because China --

MR. CROWLEY: Of course. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Because China really had been saying that maybe sanctions at this time may not have been necessary.

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, Goyal, I’ll go back to last week where we announced that there was consensus within the P-5+1 on a draft sanctions resolution. China committed to that draft resolution. We’re now discussing it within the entire Security Council, and we will continue to work as hard and as long as necessary to gain the Council’s approval of that resolution.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)



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