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Middle East Digest - June 4, 2010

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Washington, DC
June 4, 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 June 4, 2010

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1:32 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: George Mitchell has left the region after completing another round of indirect talks between the parties. The talks were constructive and substantive, and both parties reiterated their commitment to reaching our common goal of comprehensive peace. He was in the region, in addition to meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, to attend the Palestine Investment Conference. And Arab business leaders and members of the international community came together and France, Italy, and the United States pledged a combined 655 million for the development of the Palestinian private sector. These funds will work to stimulate the Palestinian economy, support institution building, and lay the foundation of a future Palestinian state. And despite the recent Gaza flotilla incident, the Palestinian Investment Conference continued as scheduled and generated positive momentum for future Palestinian economic development.

And finally, before taking your questions, we – you’ve seen this week – a release of the – of a report from the Office of the Inspector General on the Embassy in Baghdad. We take the OIG report seriously. We have implemented corrective measures and improved property accountability. We are confident that measures are in place to prevent any such problems in the future. The audio report is a snapshot in time and does not portray current conditions. The audit was conducted in Baghdad from July through November 2009 during a – in a period of transition at the Embassy. The Embassy took quick action to address all the points raised in the report and audit, and immediately began implementing a plan to track more precisely the inventory of property.

I think our NEA Bureau is standing by after this for anybody who wants to follow up with additional details on that audit report.

QUESTION: Can I ask you very briefly on the DRC, your statement there?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Last night, the guidance on this said you were calling for an immediate and independent investigation to determine what happened to these two – these guys. I noticed that the word independent was missing from your comment today. Was that a conscious decision?

MR. CROWLEY: It – again, we – the United Nations has offered, we have offered, the --

QUESTION: Is that no longer part of the guidance, the word independent?

MR. CROWLEY: The DRC is capable of conducting an investigation. We – they may require some technical assistance, but we are available in the event that we can support an investigation. Or if the DRC wants to turn this over to an independent body, we would support that.

QUESTION: Well, then why wouldn’t you support the Israelis turning over their investigation of the flotilla incident to an independent investigation?

MR. CROWLEY: We think that Israel is fully capable of conducting – I – you’re mixing apples and oranges, Matt. I --

QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious as to why the word independent is missing --

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t --

QUESTION: -- because I raised this yesterday when I was told this and made the same comparison and now all of the sudden the word independent is missing, so I’m just curious if there’s a reason for that.


QUESTION: You’re saying no.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m saying that I would not draw a comparison to the capabilities of the Government of Israel and the capabilities of the Government of --

QUESTION: Okay, that’s all I wanted to know.

MR. CROWLEY: -- the DRC. That said, I mean, both governments have an opportunity to conduct investigations on their own. We are confident that Israel can conduct an impartial investigation. We have less confidence in the DRC.

QUESTION: Does the government have any further information on the circumstances surrounding the death of the Turkish American?

MR. CROWLEY: Nothing I can add here. We continue to talk to Israeli officials and are gathering information, as we indicated earlier this week.

QUESTION: Nothing further on any autopsy reports or the actual – the numbers of shots, all of those things that were raised yesterday?


QUESTION: You said yesterday that the U.S. was still evaluating its options with what to do in terms of its own investigation into that particular death or its own participation in any sort of investigation the Israelis might do. Do you have any more --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we are in touch with Israeli officials and other officials on not only how to evaluate the nine deaths on board these ships, including one American citizen, but also the broader aspect of what happened and, more importantly, what – how to go about improving the conditions in Gaza while protecting Israel’s legitimate security interest.

The Secretary, in talking to Foreign Minister – or Prime Minister Papandreou, discussed some ideas. We’re considering and discussing a wide range of options that we’re – the international community can support Israel in meeting these twin challenges of providing greater assistance to the people of Gaza and also protecting Israel’s legitimate concerns. So we’re going through the whole range of issues here and see what Israel is prepared to do and how the international community and the United States can help.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting there’s another new international channel that they’re looking to create for aid to go into Gaza? Is that what you’re saying?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we’re looking at a – there’s a broad international interest in supporting the people of Gaza. And we are in a broadening discussion with a range of partner countries on how to best accomplish that.

QUESTION: All right, and then – sorry. And then just back to my initial question, whether there was any U.S. – whether there’s going to be --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and regarding the investigation, we continue to talk to Israel about how that investigation will be conducted and, as the Secretary has indicated, perhaps how there might be an international role for this, including a role for the United States.

QUESTION: P.J., could you just – following up on that, could you just give us an idea of what they are – what the thinking is, what some of those ideas might be?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re talking – we’re thinking through and talking to Israel about a wide range of options. I’m not going to bring them to the podium at this point.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the contacts that you’ve had about the new – the other ships that are heading towards Gaza now? Urging restraints or whatever it is that you’re doing?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, everybody wants to avoid another confrontation and avoid a repeat of Monday’s tragic event. We have been in touch with the Irish Government. Deputy Secretary Jack Lew had an extensive conversation with the Irish foreign minister yesterday. They are in turn in touch with the individuals on board the Rachel Corrie. We would hope to see the Rachel Corrie and other vessels work with Israeli authorities to deliver these materials to Gaza. That’s part of the conversation that we’re having and how can we do this in a way where groups that have a vital interest in seeing the expansion of goods to the people of Gaza have confidence that those materials will actually reach the people of Gaza and various groups that are working to help the people of Gaza.

So we are working with the Israelis, we’re working with the Palestinian Authority, we’re – other international partners. We’re looking to see how we can best accomplish this. And we hope in the meantime that everybody here will make responsible decisions and avoid unnecessary confrontations.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about President Karzai’s loya jirga – peace jirga?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the Embassy put out a statement on that. I think we will continue to support the Afghan-led efforts on reconciliation and reintegration. We thought the peace jirga accomplished its objectives and has provided some – a national consensus to pursue a political strategy to reduce the danger posed by the insurgency. And we will be – continue to support Afghanistan as it goes forward.

QUESTION: The Turkish ambassador said this morning there had been a response today to the – Iran’s letter to the IAEA, but he wasn’t clear whether the response came from the Vienna group of the IAEA itself. Can you shed some light?

MR. CROWLEY: We have responded to the IAEA regarding the Iranian letter and the joint declaration. We’ll take the question as to whether that was a response by the United States only. I think it actually was our response [1]. I think each country of the Vienna group was responding individually. But we – as we’ve said many times, we’ve continued to have concerns about Iran’s noncompliance with its international obligations, its continued enrichment, and we will continue to work on these issues both in Vienna and in New York.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)

[1] The United States, Russia and France provided Director General Amano with our joint response to Iran’s latest communication to the IAEA.

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