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Middle East Digest - September 9, 2011

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Washington, DC
September 9, 2011


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 September 9, 2011

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QUESTION: What do you have to say about the latest disagreement between your two allies,

Israel and Turkey? Turkey, as you, I’m sure, know – Prime Minister Erdogan has said that Turkish ships would – Turkish naval vessels would escort any Gaza relief flotillas in the future and an Israeli official described this as harsh and serious. Any comment? Are you doing anything to try to ease tensions between your allies?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Arshad. We are quite concerned, as I said yesterday. We are talking to both the Israelis and the Turks. We are urging both sides to refrain from rhetoric or actions that could be provocative, that could contribute to tensions. Assistant Secretary Gordon is going to meet with Turkish Ambassador Tan today. We’ve also been talking to the Israelis. Obviously, we would like to see both sides cool it and get back to a place where they can have a productive relationship.

QUESTION: And – but can you tell us just what were the – what have been the level of contacts with the Israeli side? Has that been with the Israeli ambassador here or has that been done in Israel? And if so, by whom?

MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, the Hale and Ross team did broach the subject in their meetings, but there has been follow-up, as I understand it, by our ambassador in Tel Aviv.

QUESTION: Would Turkish warships escorting Turkish ships – in this case, in international water – be deemed as provocative?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support the right of free navigation, obviously. But we are concerned about any action that could be perceived as provocative, that could escalate tensions. We want to see these two strong allies of the United States get along with each other and work together in support of regional peace and security. So that’s the message we’re giving both.

QUESTION: The Embassy recently had a wall constructed around it in Cairo. And we are airing video now of people trying to tear down the wall, saying that they don’t like the idea of any sorts of separations, and Egyptian police are simply standing by. Does the U.S. have any concern about this happening in the middle of Friday demonstrations in Cairo?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen your footage, Ros. But our understanding is that the extra wall height that was added around the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was done at the request of the Israeli mission and consensually with the Government of Egypt just to enhance security measures at this time. And I think the Government of Israel and the Government of Egypt are collaborating well in this regard.

I can’t speak to the precise situation today around the Embassy. As I said, we hadn’t seen your footage. But obviously, Egypt has Vienna Convention responsibilities and it’s incumbent on those two governments to work together if there are security concerns.

QUESTION: Madam, this morning, former Vice President Mr. Cheney was speaking at the American Enterprise Institute. He laid down his administration’s 10 years of what U.S. went through as far as 9/11, which is falling on Sunday. What he said was that, of course, Afghanistan was the epicenter. My question is here that today, Afghans are thanking U.S. for getting freedom and getting rid of most of the Talibans or al-Qaida. But most of Pakistanis do not like or they hate Americans because U.S. went to get Usama bin Ladin.

My question is here: Same thing goes when you talk to most Americans. They also are saying that why U.S. is not taking tougher actions in Pakistan today because of more epicenter of al-Qaida is still Pakistan. My – what I’m asking you is, where are we going after 10 years as far as the reason is concerned, which is full of terrorism and threats coming from there to here?

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think we talk pretty much every day here about the intense relationship that the U.S. and Pakistan have, particularly in our shared fight against terror in the region. I would refer you to the Secretary’s speech today for more information about what we are doing together across the range, whether it is using our hard power as necessary, whether it is trying to counter the ideology and offer young people a better path forward, a more democratic and prosperous path, or whether it is what we are doing to strengthen borders, strengthen our ability to drain finances from terrorists, et cetera. So it is a very rich and deep menu of counterterrorism measures not only with Pakistan, but with countries around the world.

QUESTION: And then the other thing on Syria is that it appears that some – at least some of the opposition, some of the opponents of Asad, are now looking for some kind of international or some kind of outside help in terms of monitors, in terms of other kinds of assistance. I’m wondering what you make of that. Is that something that you’re prepared to respond to, or are you not yet convinced that this is representative of the majority of the Syrian opponents to Assad?

MS. NULAND: I think, Matt, what you’re referring to is the fact that a group of opposition have dubbed today the “Friday of International Protection”, and specifically they’re asking for the Syrian Government to allow international monitors into Syria to monitor the human rights situation. I think the quote is that, “the Syrian people call on the United Nations to adopt a resolution to set up a permanent observer mission in Syria.” This is completely in keeping with the kind of action we’ve been seeking in the Security Council on Syria, and as you know, we are working with some of the Security Council members to get a new resolution that not only can provide this kind of monitoring on the human rights side, but can also strengthen sanctions against the Asad regime.

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