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Middle East Digest - July 6, 2011


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Washington, DC
July 6, 2011

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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 6, 2011

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MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: I have a question. French Foreign Minister Juppe said yesterday again that France still hopes to host a conference on the Middle East, and he also said that he would speak actually today with the Secretary about that. So can you share with us any information on this? And also can you preview in a way the Quartet meeting of Monday – what would be the agenda and --

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we remain in close touch with France and the Secretary does with Foreign Minister Juppe as we prepare for the Quartet next week. She’s not spoken to him yet, but we do anticipate that they will speak in the next couple of days. I think our position on this, the Secretary’s position on this has not changed, which is that a conference might make sense at a time when the parties have agreed to come back to the table and we’re actually launching something. But to have a conference about how we have a negotiation doesn’t make that much sense to us, so I think we’ll continue to work with our Quartet partners, with leaders like Foreign Minister Juppe as we go forward on this.

More broadly with regard to the Quartet next week, the ministers are going to come together and take stock of where we are. As you know, since the President’s speech many of the Quartet members have been engaged in the same kind of diplomacy that Ambassador Hale and Dennis Ross have been engaged in, trying to talk to the parties, trying to get them to agree to come back to the table within the framework that the President has set out. So it’s a good opportunity for stock-taking among the major ministers involved.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please, Andy.

QUESTION: Could I follow up? What – would you also expect there to be discussion of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN and maybe a coordination of policy among the Quartet about how to approach that? Do you think that’s going to be on the agenda?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t want to prejudge their meeting before they have their meeting, but as you know, our goal is to get these parties back to the table and our position on the idea of a UN action in September remains that it’s not a good idea, that it’s not helpful. So presumably folks will be working on the former so that we don’t have the situation on the latter.

QUESTION: Will that message be conveyed later today when Mr. Erekat meets with officials here in Washington?

MS. NULAND: Mr. Erekat is in the Department today. He will see David Hale and Dennis Ross later this afternoon. I think the main focus of that diplomacy remains to encourage the Palestinians to come to the table within the framework that the President has set.

QUESTION: And have you – there’s been some talk about a softening of the Palestinian position with regards to the settlement freeze as a central condition for returning to the talks. Have you been encouraged by anything you’ve heard from the Palestinians? And are you thinking that they might be ready to return?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re about to have Mr. Erekat here, so to prejudge how that meeting is going to go wouldn’t make sense. But why don’t we agree that we will see if we have anything new for you tomorrow after the meeting takes place?

QUESTION: But then, could you just speak in general about since the President’s speech, in these last weeks of diplomacy, both here, in the region, essentially across the world? Are you getting promising signs that there is going to be a renewed reengagement from the parties towards some sort of talks?

MS. NULAND: That is our goal. We had, as you know, a senior official speak to this after the first major round of diplomacy, and we continue to work on it and we’re going to work on it up through the Quartet, during the Quartet, and onward afterwards.

QUESTION: So you don’t sense – is there any sense you can give to how successful or what direction things are moving?

MS. NULAND: I don’t want to characterize where we are. I think we need to let Quartet ministers come together and see what they conclude when they meet next week. I would simply say that this is hard work. You can see that this is hard work getting these parties back to the table, and that hard work will continue not only in the United States but by all the Quartet partners.

QUESTION: And what’s the goal of the Quartet at this time?

MS. NULAND: I think I spoke to it a minute ago. It is for these ministers who are very supportive of this shared goal of getting the parties back to the table to compare notes on where they are on the diplomacy that all of us have been having with the parties, and to see where we go from here.

Please.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Anybody else on Middle East? No?

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: In the press conference with Assistant Secretary Brownfield yesterday, the interior minister announced a crackdown against the IED factories, and Pakistan security forces have also launched an operation in some parts of North Waziristan that there has been a longstanding demand. If you can comment if these actions are line with the demands made by United States after the Abbottabad operation.

MS. NULAND: As you know, we did have a very good working group session. Ambassador Brownfield, I believe, spoke to some press in Pakistan yesterday after the session. And you all asked me yesterday whether IEDs were on the agenda. They were the central piece of the agenda, so I can confirm that. And we are working very hard with our Pakistani partners on their own efforts to strengthen their ability to combat IEDs. So it was a good meeting. We are making progress together. But most importantly, Pakistan is taking strong ownership of this issue at home.

QUESTION: Lieutenant General Rodriguez said this morning in his valedictory press conference from Afghanistan that the U.S. military has been disappointed in the Pakistani military’s cooperation in trying to secure Afghan security, notably on not just the shipment of IEDs into Afghanistan but also the failure of the Pakistani military to do anything about the people going in to provide support and on-the-ground building and training of others who would set off these explosives. What kind of pressure – what kind of readout do you have from Ambassador Brownfield’s meeting that the Pakistanis understand the gravity of this, especially given that U.S. forces, most notably, are leaving in a year’s time and won’t be there to help protect the Afghan people from these sorts of attacks?

MS. NULAND: Again, Ambassador Brownfield spoke quite extensively yesterday. Let us try to get you a transcript of what he had to say in Pakistan. But this is precisely why we are working on these issues together. And as you know, the United States has a lot of experience now, after all this time in Iraq and in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, with IEDs. We’re trying to help our Pakistani partners get stronger in this area, and my sense from what we had from Ambassador Brownfield’s consultations was that he feels that this working group is helping to advance our cooperation and advance Pakistani capability in this area.

MS. NULAND: Please? Anybody else on Sudan before we leave Sudan?

QUESTION: Ambassador Munter was scheduled to meet –

MS. NULAND: Ambassador?

QUESTION: Ambassador Munter was scheduled to meet Secretary Clinton this morning. So if you could tell us –

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. I didn’t –

QUESTION: Ambassador Cameron Munter.

MS. NULAND: Campbell –

QUESTION: Cameron Munter.

MS. NULAND: Cameron Munter, of – our ambassador in Pakistan.

QUESTION: Yeah. He was scheduled to meet Secretary Clinton this morning. So if you could just tell us –

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that, but generally we don’t speak from the podium about our internal discussions with our ambassadors. But as you know, the Secretary follows the U.S. diplomacy with Pakistan very closely. She always see Ambassador Munter when he’s in town, generally does.

QUESTION: Just two other reports. One that is about Pakistan denying UN access to assess the level of humanitarian assistance required in the areas where operation is now being launched, if you could comment on that. And the second report is that the Pakistani commission that was made to investigate Abbottabad operation and the aftermath of that, it had its first meeting today. And the first demand it has made is that the family of Usama bin Ladin should not be repatriated If you could comment on that as well, and if you are in touch with the Pakistani authorities about the commission and what it is doing?

MS. NULAND: I’ve seen the reports on all these things. I’m not prepared to comment from here, but we can take the question and come back to you.

QUESTION: A follow-up –

MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah. Please, Christophe.

QUESTION: How do you see the rather intense fightings which developed today in northern Waziristan? This is the beginning of a military offensive by the Pakistani army? Is it something that the United States would expect or hope for?

MS. NULAND: I would refer you to the Pakistani army on what they’re up to in Waziristan.

Please.

QUESTION: Can I just follow – one – according to WikiLeaks, there was a report that U.S. had requested China to go through some of the routes, some of the humanitarian aids to Afghanistan through China. I understand the Chinese have denied the access to the U.S. because you thought – I mean, U.S. thought you had been putting all the eggs in one basket, like through Pakistan, only you’ve been seeking another route.

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I can’t imagine you’re asking me to comment on a WikiLeaks cable because you know that I wouldn’t do that. I don’t think it’s any secret that the U.S. is looking for multiple routes for ourselves, for our allies to support the operation in Afghanistan. That only makes good sense.

QUESTION: And second, if I may, also on Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: According to the Pakistani newspaper reports, General Musharraf is here in the U.S. – now in Chicago, I believe. He will be speaking some of the public events. But Supreme Court of Pakistan has arrested – issued arrest warrants for him. If Pakistani authorities in any way have asked the U.S. for his extradition to Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that for you.

MS. NULAND: Please, in the back?

QUESTION: Persian News Network, Voice of America. What is the State Department’s take on the internal conflicts within the Iranian regime?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’re going to get in the middle of Iranian politics. We’re obviously watching it closely. Our interest in Iran is primarily in seeing Iran fulfill its international obligations.

QUESTION: With regards to Iraq situation, especially that they haven’t requested officially for the U.S. troops to remain there, if it doesn’t happen, what is the take on that? I mean, is there an action plan on the – Iran’s effort to influence Iraq situation?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have grave concerns about what Iran has been doing in terms of supplying weaponry and trying to stir up violence in Iraq. Ambassador Jeffrey spoke to this yesterday, trying to exploit the current situation. That said, we have a lot of confidence in Iraqi security forces and in their ability to maintain security in Iraq. We continue to say that if Iraq were interested in some residual U.S. presence staying in Iraq, we would be willing to have that conversation. But at this point, we haven’t had a request.

QUESTION: But there is two key position in Iraq Government. Defense and internal ministry hasn’t got any minister there. These are two key position. Are you confident within the – Iraq’s government to handle their conflicts internally? Because they don’t seem to be reaching any substantial unity amongst themselves.

MS. NULAND: This is democracy in action in Iraq. They are involved in trying to take their internal situation to the next level. So from our perspective, we continue to work with them on the full range of issues, including the security situation today and the security situation as we head towards the end of the year and the withdrawal of the remainder of forces.

Andy, did you have something?

QUESTION: May I have one more question?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve done it on that subject.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. NULAND: Andy?

QUESTION: A follow-up on Iraq?

QUESTION: I’ve got an Iraq one.

MS. NULAND: Lots of Iraq today. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: A couple of months ago, a senior State Department official rolled out a U.S. plan for relocating the residents of Camp Ashraf, saying that there was a concern in this building that they face the potential for more violence against them if they stay where they are. The head of that group is now going around telling media outlets that they’re rejecting this plan sort of outright, that they won’t consider it.

I’m wondering if that rejection has been communicated directly to you, and is there a Plan B if the U.S. – what’s the next step as far as the U.S. is concerned regarding the Camp Ashraf situation?

MS. NULAND: We are continuing to work with the Government of Iraq, with the Ashraf leadership, with all of our international partners on a plan to relocate the camp. This is an ongoing dialogue. We want to see this done in a way that avoids further violence and leads to a long-term solution. So this is an ongoing process and our goals, I think, remain the same, which is to see an appropriate settlement of the issue.

QUESTION: But if they’re rejecting this plan, then clearly, you have to find another path to reach those goals, don’t you?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to speak to the specifics of the negotiation that we’re having, both with the Iraqi Government and with the Ashraf leadership. I think those talks will continue.

Please.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Please, on Iraq.

QUESTION: Iranian vice president was visiting Iraq today, and he said that Iran is ready to build and provide security to Iraq. He added that the relation between the two countries has reached a very high level. Do you have any reaction to this?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve already spoken to our – (laughter) – I think I’ve already spoken to our concerns about Iran’s intensions and Iran’s activities in Iraq.

QUESTION: North Korean --

MS. NULAND: Please, in the back.

QUESTION: The Turkish foreign minister has decided yesterday to stop the air operations in Libya during Ramadan. Would it – would you support this idea to stop, to postpone at least, the air operations, air assaults in Libya during the Ramadan?

MS. NULAND: I mean, I can’t speak to internal Turkish decisions made in the context of Ramadan.

QUESTION: No, it’s --

MS. NULAND: We have very strong relations with Turkey on the subject of Libya and we’ll continue to work towards our common goal, which, as you know, is for Qadhafi to understand it’s time for him to go.

MS. NULAND: And in the back.

QUESTION: A U.S. congressmen delegation has visited Gilad Shalit’s family last week in Israel, and the family members said the U.S. – the Turkish prime minister has involved with this issue (inaudible), but the release of Gilad Shalit from Hamas – do you have any update? Have you contacted with the congressmen who have talked to family members?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new on that for you.



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