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Middle East Digest -July 21, 2010


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Washington, DC
July 21, 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 July 21, 2010

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MR. CROWLEY: . Obviously, coming out of yesterday’s discussion between Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama, we welcome the prime minister’s statements that his government will engage constructively with the upcoming Senate hearings. He also said that he has asked the cabinet secretary to go back through all of the paperwork and see if more needs to be published, or see if more can be published, about the background of this decision. We continue also to be in touch with Scottish authorities who have pledged similar cooperation. And as the President said yesterday, we will support the relevant facts being made available both through steps that the British and Scottish governments take and also through the upcoming Senate hearing

QUESTION: Palestinian President Abbas gave an interview. He seems to be saying that he would like the United States to specify what the boundaries of a Palestinian state would look like before he enters into direct talks. Are you aware of that? Is that something the United States would be prepared to do?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve had discussions in the recent days with the Palestinian authorities, including President Abbas. I’m not going to reveal the specifics of those conversations. Our message to both parties is let’s get to direct negotiations as quickly as possible, where, in fact, we can address the fundamental issues and the process, including borders. These are issues that we think can only be resolved within the context of direct negotiations.

Now, there certainly is the opportunity in the proximity talks that we’re having and other contacts that we have to clarify and identify the foundation upon which the direct negotiations could pursue. So, is the opportunity to have dialogue on these issues leading up to direct negotiations, of course. But ultimately, in order to address the concerns that we know that both parties have – refugees, security, Jerusalem, borders – those are going to be resolved in the direct negotiations themselves.

QUESTION: Does the United States have a map per se that it is ready – that it might be ready to put forward?

MR. CROWLEY: We will play a constructive role, but ultimately this is something that the parties themselves have to resolve.

Samir.

QUESTION: Did Senator Mitchell return from his travels and what did he achieve in his last mission?

MR. CROWLEY: A lot of frequent flyer miles. (Laughter.) George has returned. He had a wide range of discussions not just with the Israelis and Palestinians, as he always does, but with others in the region whose support is critical to moving the parties forward into direct negotiations. Those meetings included the UAE, Qatar, and Egypt. We will continue our discussions with these key players and see if we can find the way to move them forward.

QUESTION: P.J., recently the – in fact, a couple days ago, the Israel press reviewed that Israel has what they call a secret plan to absolve itself of any responsibility for Gaza, and basically they want to call – they are discussing this with the European – six European ministers. And what they want is an international force to come and control the borders. And it’s (inaudible), interpreted as basically saddling Egypt with Gaza and (inaudible) any possibility for a viable state. Any comments on this topic? Any information on that and so on? It is a plan that is being –

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t normally comment on secret plans from the party.

Lalit.

QUESTION: Senator Menendez has wrote a letter to the Secretary on July 2nd but was --

MR. CROWLEY: Who did?

QUESTION: Senator Menendez from New Jersey wrote a letter to Secretary Clinton that was dated July 2nd, but was released to the press this week, in which he has urged the Secretary to submit a report to the Congress on aid – U.S. aid effectiveness to Pakistan and what Pakistan is taking measures on fight against terrorism. The report, he said, was (inaudible) for March – April 15th, but it hasn’t been submitted so far. Do you think – do you know why it has not been submitted and what are the reasons for it?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can’t – I don’t know about that particular letter and request. Obviously, coming out of the meetings that the Secretary had this week in Pakistan, we’re looking at, first, an announcement of very specific projects in support of Pakistan. We are continually evaluating how to make those as effective as possible, how to channel them so that as much as this assistance as possible gets to the intended beneficiaries. This is an area of significant interest throughout the Congress. We are reporting on a regular basis to the Congress given not only the large sum of money that we are seeking in support of this program under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation. But I’ll take the question as to whether we have a pending request to Senator Menendez.

QUESTION: And also, the Secretary has several interviews with various news channels. She said she believes that Usama bin Ladin is in Pakistan. But Pakistan foreign minister says he doesn’t agree with that. And he says if U.S. has any (inaudible) information, they should share it with Pakistan. Why don’t you share with them?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can go back to what the Secretary said last October. And she reiterated on her trip today that – I think she’s not suggesting that at the highest levels that there’s specific knowledge of where bin Ladin is. I think the CIA director recently said on a major television program it is – he’s not sure precisely today where bin Ladin is. I think what the Secretary was saying was that it’s our belief that somewhere within the government there is this kind of knowledge, and we would hope that if that knowledge is available we can find out and take appropriate action. But I can’t sit here and say that we today know where bin Ladin is.

QUESTION: And --

MR. CROWLEY: We believe – I think we believe that he is – remains in the tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: And finally a follow-up to the question asked earlier. Do you think the statement’s been given by senior Indian officials on Headley case is some kind of breach of the understanding that you had with the Indian officials, U.S., India had?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just going to simply say that our cooperation is significant. It is a vital dimension of our relationship. It’s important for both sides. And when – and in this cooperation there are responsibilities that we both have, and I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the statements being given by those two senior officials – the home secretary and the national security?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Two more questions from South Asia. Assistant Secretary Blake traveled to Maldives yesterday. It’s very rare that any senior official visits Maldives. Do you know what was the reason and what issue discussed, whom he met?

MR. CROWLEY: I actually think he’s going to Maldives tomorrow.

QUESTION: Tomorrow?

MR. CROWLEY: So he hasn’t been there yet. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. And on Nepal. There was elections for the prime minister to --

MR. CROWLEY: I think – just on that subject, I think it’s his first opportunity to visit the Maldives as Assistant Secretary. We value our interaction with the Maldives, particularly on the subject of climate change. There are some things happening in Maldives that Assistant Secretary Blake will want to understand more fully. But I think it will be a range of bilateral issues as well as global issues.

QUESTION: Will counterterrorism be also an issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Will counterterrorism also be an issue? Because Maldives was the venue of the talks between Taliban and Afghan Government earlier this year.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll tell you what, I’ll have more to say about that. I’ll address that when I reflect on his visit tomorrow.

QUESTION: Is it linked to the recent unrest in the Maldives? There’s some – it was --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I can’t say. I think he was looking forward to going there and had this on his list of countries in his region to visit. But clearly, we are conscious of the unrest that has been in Maldives recently and want to be as supportive as possible to the government going forward.



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