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Middle East Digest - June 10, 2010

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Washington, DC
June 10, 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 10, 2010

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MR. CROWLEY: As you heard and read, yesterday we announced that Robert J. Einhorn, our Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, will serve as the U.S. Coordinator for the implementation of sanctions related to Iran. We would also mention that in addition to overseeing full and effective efforts to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1929, Bob will also similarly coordinate U.S. sanctions-related efforts, particularly those aimed at preventing the North Korean acquisition or transfer of proliferation-related equipment or technology, including full implementation of Resolutions 1718 and 1874. So in that respect, he will be assuming the responsibilities formally held by Ambassador Phil Goldberg, who is now our Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

MR. CROWLEY:Turning to a few activities overseas, we mentioned yesterday that one element of the ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Pakistan, a working group underway on science and technology – well, in fact, there are several working groups that are working in Islamabad this week in preparation for future meetings with the Secretary and her counterpart in the coming weeks. So there are a full range of the working groups going on regarding law enforcement, energy, water, economics and finance, market access, defense, health, women’s issues, and agriculture. In fact, the defense working group co-chaired by Pakistani Lieutenant General Athar Ali, Pakistan’s secretary of defense, and Mr. David Ochmanek, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development, and David Sedney, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan and Pakistan and Central Asia, met today and exchanged views on security cooperation and focused on mechanisms for prioritizing and integrating security and defense capability requirements.

MR. CROWLEY:I mentioned yesterday that the Secretary will be meeting tomorrow with Palestinian Authority leader President Abbas. She will also have a one-on-one meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah, who is actually here at a private visit, but they’ll have the opportunity to visit early tomorrow afternoon.

QUESTION: So what time will she --

MR. CROWLEY: I think the meeting with President Abbas is mid-morning. I think it starts around 10 o’clock, and we will have media availability afterwards. I do not think there is a press component to her meeting with King Abdullah, which will take place outside the Department.

QUESTION: What time?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) taking place?


QUESTION: With President Abbas (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: It will be here at the State Department.

QUESTION: She’ll be meeting with the king when?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s tomorrow midday at his hotel.

QUESTION: On sanctions, could we move onto that?


QUESTION: Even though Brazil and Turkey have voted against the sanctions at the United Nations, have – has the United States talked with them? Do they know whether they are intent on carrying out these sanctions even if they don’t agree with them?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’ve – well, first of all, we expect all UN members to carry out the will of the United Nations and the Resolution 1929. I think we have heard that – at least from one of those two countries that they are committed – they have committed to carry this out. And we fully expect that that will be the case.

QUESTION: Is that Turkey?



MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I think Brazil has said publicly that they will carry it out, and I – but I don’t have any reason to think that Turkey will not fulfill its obligations as well.

QUESTION: There have been several countries who have come out today and say that their particular projects are not affected by these sanctions. Is there any reaction to that? Is there some way to evaluate these statements? Is it --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I know what you’re alluding to.

QUESTION: Well, Russia, for example, is saying that its sale of missiles, certain missiles to Iran, wouldn’t be affected. And Pakistan says that it has a project as well and their gas project wouldn’t be --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in the case of the – if you’re alluding to the S-300 missiles, the – 1929 prohibits the sale and transfer of items on the [i]U.S. Register of Conventional Arms, which does not include the S-300. That said, this is a sale that Russia concluded with Iran a number of years ago and Russia has exercised responsibility and restraint and has not, at this point, delivered those missiles to Iran.


QUESTION: This question’s been asked in various forms before, but you talked yesterday about keeping up the pressure on Iran. What are you planning on doing in terms of unilateral sanctions or persuading other countries to pursue that track?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had – well, step back. First of all, the – 1929 provides a framework for addressing our proliferation concerns, our nuclear concerns. It highlights the fact that we can take specific action in a variety of sectors. There’s significant limitations on conventional weapons, missile technology, nuclear technology. It focuses on banking, financial sector and so forth, so there’s a lot in that resolution and it provides broad international responsibility and authority.

And now, a number of countries can look at what can be done bilaterally, unilaterally. We here in this country are in conversation with Congress on some pending legislation that addresses some steps that we in the United States can take. I think the EU will have a council meeting in the next – in about the middle of this month, and they’ll be looking at particular steps that they can take in light of Resolution 1929.

So we are looking for a strong, united international response to make it clear to Iran that it will pay a price for its current course and that it should – based on this pressure, that it will begin to feel – very quickly change course.

QUESTION: Are you pushing other countries specifically or the EU to impose unilateral sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t characterize it as pushing. I think that we are in total agreement that beyond Resolution 1929, there are some steps that the EU can take as a body and that we will consider as well to follow up on what’s in this resolution and begin to apply the teeth that are in this resolution, and really take a bite out of Iran’s – the institutions that support Iran’s nuclear and its current policy.

QUESTION: What do you expect from China in terms of putting pressure on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we – first and foremost, we expect every country to aggressively implement Resolution 1929, and we look for the same kind of performance with 1929 that we’ve seen over the past year with Resolution 1874. This was a strong, united, aggressive statement to Iran. We expect it will have an impact on Iran over time and we expect every nation to carry out its responsibility.

QUESTION: Without sanctioning the hydrocarbon industry, I mean, how crippling can – or effective can sanctions be?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, it’s not our – it was not our intent to shut down Iran. It was our intent to change Iranian policy and change Iranian behavior. So this is a resolution that is tailored to not only address the specific interests of government, but also focus on those institutions that support the Iranian Government and Iranian policies. Our focus and emphasis on the IRGC would be a particular case in point. We have no interest – while applying pressure on the Iranian Government with the hope that it will come back to the table to negotiate in good faith, we don’t want to add to the misery of the Iranian people.

QUESTION: P.J., what do you make of the Iranian statement today that they will review their relationship with the IAEA as a result of this?

MR. CROWLEY: Iran has international responsibilities. It wants to be respected in the region and around the world, and that respect is earned. So if Iran continues its irresponsible behavior or if it goes from bad to worse, we will take note of that.

But what we’re trying to do here is not push Iran away from the IAEA; we’re actually trying to help Iran recognize where its own self-interest is, come to the table at the IAEA, engage directly with the IAEA, indicate it’s willing to engage directly with the P-5+1, and once and for all answer the questions that we’ve had for several years about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear programs.

That’s what Iran should do, but what Iran will do is obviously up to its leadership.

QUESTION: Another subject?

QUESTION: Just one more back on sanctions, one more point on the S-300. Is there any side-letter agreement or understanding with the Russians, between the U.S. and Russia, on the S-300?

MR. CROWLEY: We have had conversations with Russia about this broad set of issues. And I would note that people have kind of overlooked the fact that there is a significant expansion of the restrictions on the sale of arms to Iran. And that has a direct bearing on Russia, which has had a fairly significant level of commerce with Iran over a number of years.

So this was very meaningful for Russia to agree to the restrictions that are in this resolution. But – been some statements out of Russia today regarding the S-300, and as we said, we note the fact that it’s not captured specifically by this resolution, but we have recognized and appreciate the restraint that Russia has shown up to this point.

QUESTION: But to the question, is there any separate understanding between the U.S. and Russia about the sale of S-300s, is there any agreement or any letter --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I don’t know that there’s any agreement. We have talked to Russia about this issue, and Russia obviously will make up – make its own determination as to how to proceed or not.

QUESTION: But you’re satisfied that this particular sale is not – is excluded from the sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s safe to say that we have agreed to disagree on certain aspects of this.

QUESTION: So that’s a no? Okay.

QUESTION: New question?

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about the visit of the president of the Palestinian Authority. He spoke today at Brookings. He was quite upbeat. He wanted to keep hope alive and all that and so on. So are we likely to see the resumption of the talks? What will the Secretary of State discuss with him tomorrow? Are there any practical steps?

MR. CROWLEY: That is clear, since this resolution was based on the existing arms registry at the UN, and the S-300 is not on that list.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think if there is a silver lining in the recent tragedy regarding the flotilla, it is that while it did increase tensions in the region, it did not knock the proximity talks off course. And we value that. The President had the opportunity to talk to President Abbas yesterday. The Secretary will have a chance to talk to President Abbas tomorrow. We want to see these continue and we want to see – and we’ll continue to explore at what point the parties will feel confident that they can move from proximity talks into direct dialogue. That is – that’s our immediate next step, is to get them into direct negotiations, and we’re still trying to work for the right formula to bring that together.

QUESTION: But if you have, like, these incidents like the flotilla or these various incidents, how are you going to make sure that these proximity talks are not just dealing with, like, fallout from day-to-day issues? I mean, presumably, you’ve got to think that a lot of the proximity talks now are going to be just dealing with the aftermath of the flotilla incident.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, those are not mutually exclusive. The President and President Abbas had the opportunity to talk about not only the status of the proximity talks but also the situation in Gaza. I mean, they are fundamentally interrelated. We are seeking a solution for all of the Palestinian people. That’s difficult under the current circumstances, where you have, in essence, divided governments.

But we are encouraged by the fact that they’ve started. In all of these negotiations, go back any number of years, there have been times where there’ve been an event on the ground and, tragically, sometimes they do knock negotiations off track. I think we’re encouraged by the fact that notwithstanding the tragedy involving the flotilla, people remain recommitted to the proximity talks. They recognize that, ultimately, the only way to solve and prevent a repeat of these kinds of confrontations is, in fact, to find an end to the conflict. And that’s precisely what the proximity talks are intended to do: lead us into a negotiation that helps us reach a settlement agreement, a two-state solution, and peace and security for everybody.

So I think we certainly agree with the sentiment of President Abbas. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t very complex negotiations and difficult decisions to be made in the weeks and months ahead. But I think we are encouraged by his steadfastness in recognizing that the proximity talks offer us the best way forward.

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