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Middle East Digest - June 16, 2010

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Washington, DC
June 18, 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 16, 2010

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MR. CROWLEY: Our consulate in Peshawar has not yet had the opportunity to meet with the American citizen detained by Pakistan. It’s not a cooperation issue. It’s actually simply a logistical issue given the distance from where he was detained. It’s taking some time for us to reach him and be able to have consular access to him.

QUESTION: Where is he?

MR. CROWLEY: He is in Pakistan.

QUESTION: He’s in – yeah, it’s a big country, though.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I know.

QUESTION: How far away from Peshawar is he?

MR. CROWLEY: He is being moved.


MR. CROWLEY: So we expect the meeting will take place in Peshawar.

Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon of European Affairs is, as we speak, making a speech on the U.S.-Russia relationship today at the German Marshall Fund. He’ll be underscoring that a robust relationship between our two countries is vital for the security of the United States and the world, that the new atmosphere in the relationship with Russia has led to practical cooperation in concrete areas from arms control and trade to Afghanistan and the Middle East, and that we have pursued this cooperation with Russia while standing firmly by our traditional European allies in defending their sovereignty, security, and independence.

And finally, George Mitchell will arrive in the region this evening. He expects to have meetings with Israeli officials tomorrow, Palestinian officials on Friday, and Egyptian officials on Saturday.

Over to you.

QUESTION: This is a continuation of the indirect talks?


QUESTION: Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK terrorists today. We know that USA and Turkey has been sharing intelligence about northern Iraq. I wonder in what level USA is cooperating with Turkey in the latest offensive. Does this intelligence sharing continue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the United States and Turkey are NATO allies, so we share information and cooperate on an ongoing and continual basis. I can’t say that the United States is directly involved in the action that Turkey has taken. These are security matters that directly affect the Turkish Government and the Turkish people. The PKK challenge for Turkey is a longstanding one. Turkey, like any country, has the right to defend itself against terrorist organizations, and we will continue to work with Turkey depending on how this goes. But we certainly understand the reasons behind the action.

QUESTION: I mean there’s like trilateral mechanism between Iraq, USA, and Turkey about this counterterrorism and it was like decided there to act more in a prompt way. So –

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I would defer to Turkey. I would – I believe that this is an action that Turkey made decisions about based on actions recently by the PKK. You’re quite right; this is an issue that the United States, Turkey, and Iraq have had longstanding discussions about, and clearly we want to see in the north of Iraq the end to these kinds of pockets that allow groups like the PKK to continue to operate.

QUESTION: I have one more follow-up, sir.


QUESTION: The bilateral meeting – high-level bilateral meeting between USA and Turkey was scheduled about counterterrorism in Istanbul today, but in the last moment it was canceled by State Department Counterterrorism Officer Daniel Benjamin. Do you know the reason behind it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I’m – that’s not something I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Israeli authorities have approved, yesterday, 1,600 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. Have you talked to the Israelis about this decision and how do you view it?

MR. CROWLEY: I will take the question as to whether we were informed about this latest announcement. It’s not something I’m aware of. We have had longstanding conversations with the parties about – and expressed our concerns over actions that are taken on a unilateral basis that can be impediments to progress on the talks that are underway. But I’ll take the question as to whether – to what extent we’re familiar with this particular announcement.

QUESTION: Well, wasn’t it the same 1,600 that were --

QUESTION: Yeah. They were --

QUESTION: Yeah. It was the same --

MR. CROWLEY: But I’m not – as I say, I was not aware of a new announcement, so that’s what caught me by surprise.

QUESTION: It’s the same one that was announced when Biden was there.


QUESTION: But the committee has approved the 1,600 units yesterday.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if this – if we’re talking about the one that we’ve been dealing with for a number of weeks, we’ve expressed our ongoing concerns to the Israeli Government over weeks about developments in East Jerusalem.
QUESTION: Is there anything about the nuclear cooperation with Jordan? And Amman is blaming Israel for saying that Israel is trying to undermine Amman’s nuclear procurement efforts. Do you have anything on this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to have discussions with the Jordanian Government on these issues just as we have discussions based on the desires of many countries in the region to expand civilian nuclear energy. And we – this is part of the same kind of dialogue we’ve had with the UAE and other countries in the region, and we will continue that dialogue.

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