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From the Daily Press Briefing of November 12, 2010
1:32 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of things just to mention briefly before taking your questions. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is in Passau, Germany today. He participated in an international forum on international security architecture and over the weekend will be moving to Islamabad for the Pakistan Development Forum hosted by the Government of Pakistan. This will be a follow-on to the recent Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting in Brussels, two UN hosted meetings and the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue here in Washington. And it will be an opportunity for Pakistan to present its economic reform and stabilization plans to the international community. There will be a focus on things like energy reform, tax reform, and fiscal consolidation.
QUESTION: P.J., I’ve got a housekeeping question and then I’m just going to move on. Unless my email is completely screwy, the statement – the Secretary’s statement on the formation of Iraqi Government was released at 3:04 this morning.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Were you going for, what, the afternoon paper deadline in Iraq with that? (Laughter.) Considering that this was all done by – roughly around 6:00 or end of business yesterday, can – why exactly was it so late?
MR. CROWLEY: The simple answer is that under the choreography that we had worked out, our statement followed a statement by the President and he issued his statement right about that time.
QUESTION: I believe, in fact, that the White House statement came out at about 8:00 our time.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that’s true.
QUESTION: Well, that’s when our story came out, so –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way, the President of the United States spoke and our statement followed the President’s. I hope it didn’t wake you up. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I don’t think anything could have woken me up after the trip we just went on. (Laughter.) All right. So that’s my housekeeping –
MR. CROWLEY: I know. You were celebrating Veteran’s Day yesterday and –
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So the EU says December 5th for the talks? What do you make of that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, our understanding is that Catherine Ashton’s office has responded to Iran. They’ve accepted Iran’s recommendation of December 5th and I think, as her office indicated, looks forward to meeting with Dr. Jalili on that date. We expect that the nuclear program will be among the – will be the leading issue discussed. I believe Catherine Ashton’s office also indicated that it would be the preference of the P-5+1 to meet in – somewhere in Europe and has proposed Austria or Switzerland.
QUESTION: So you don’t have a venue?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that’s still to be determined.
QUESTION: And when you say “somewhere in Europe,” that’s – considering the fact that you think that Turkey is in Europe --
MR. CROWLEY: A more --
QUESTION: -- but the Europeans don’t.
MR. CROWLEY: -- a more central location for the first meeting.
QUESTION: Why not Turkey?
MR. CROWLEY: This was something that was discussed with the P-5+1 political directors earlier this week, and Istanbul could still be a location for a second or follow-on meeting, but the general consensus is that the first meeting should be somewhere in Central Europe.
QUESTION: Why – I mean, why? That’s what I don’t understand.
MR. CROWLEY: I – as a preferable location.
QUESTION: Why? I mean, why not Istanbul or why not anywhere in Turkey for that matter?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve had – the previous meeting was in Geneva. That seemed to be a location that satisfied the travel arrangements for all members of the P-5+1.
QUESTION: But they proposed this. I mean, did the other side --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Iran --
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) been trying to get it to the table for the last 15 months.
MR. CROWLEY: Iran proposed Istanbul as a possible meeting location. Catherine Ashton’s office has gone back expressing a preference for a meeting in Austria or Switzerland.
QUESTION: I understand. One more time, why? I mean, you’ve said it four times. I mean, I’m just kind of curious why. Why not? I mean, you still have not explained why not.
MR. CROWLEY: I just said, we think it’s a more appropriate and a more convenient location for the first meeting.
QUESTION: On a related issue, and just for the record since you’re on camera and on the record, is this the preliminary meeting with Ashton and Jalili or is this the P-5+1 and Jalili?
MR. CROWLEY: Our expectation is this would be a meeting with Dr. Jalili, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, as well as the political directors of the P-5+1.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Peace talks.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: P.J., are you more encouraged or discouraged as a result of the meeting with the prime minister of Israel? Is the Secretary of State more encouraged or less encouraged?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as the joint statement that we put out yesterday indicated, we thought it was a productive meeting. Any time a Secretary of State and an Israeli prime minister get together we think it’s useful. It was substantive. It was lengthy. As those of you who were monitoring yesterday’s activities, there were lengthy conversations between the Secretary and the prime minister one on one. There were expanded meetings over a couple of hours with the prime minister, the Secretary, and their respective delegations. Went through the issues that we think are central to the – to this effort and designed to try to help overcome the current stalemate and get the parties back into negotiations.
QUESTION: Just to follow up – couple of quick follow ups. The statement that was issued does not specifically talk about the settlement – building of new settlements and the new housing, although it was talked about during the week. Is that for any particular reason? Was that something that was discussed with the prime minister?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as a general rule, we do not talk about the specific details of our discussions. As you would – you can rightly assume that any time we get together and we’re talking with the parties, we’re talking through the substance and addressing the concerns that both sides have. But as we’ve done from the very outset, we’re just not going to be specific about what the Secretary and the prime minister talked about.
QUESTION: What will the – the President and the Secretary both said it was not helpful and they were disappointed and so on. Was that point driven home with – to Mr. Netanyahu?
MR. CROWLEY: All I’ll say is that we addressed that and other issues during the course of the discussion.
QUESTION: One last one. I’m sorry, one last thing on this issue. The Israelis are saying that Mr. Netanyahu is going to talk about a possible deal, a possible security deal that can go on for 10 years with the United States in exchange for freezing and going back to the negotiation and getting things going again. Can you comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as you know, a core concern of the Israeli Government, and understandably so, is security. And in order to advance to an agreement, an Israeli prime minister has to be confident that an agreement will make his people more secure.
On the other side of the coin, obviously territory is central to the Palestinian aspiration for a state. And any progress has to take into account the aspirations of the Palestinians to have a state of their own that can live in peace with Israel and other countries in the region.
As the statement we put out emphasized, once again, direct negotiations are the only way to accommodate both the desire of the Israelis for security and the desires of the Palestinian people for a state. And – but in order to make progress, we have to assure the leaders on both sides that this negotiation, and ultimately this agreement, can meet the needs of both sides. That is – we are confident, as the Secretary reiterated yesterday, that this can be accomplished. And we will continue to work with the parties to try to resume negotiations and reach an agreement.
QUESTION: Senator Kerry has conveyed the message during his visit to Syria and Lebanon a few days ago that Syria and Lebanon were going to be – he put the emphasis that they were going to be included in any peace talks in the future. I wonder if the talks yesterday in New York between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu have touched on these two tracks. And also another question is: You mentioned, sir, that you usually do not emphasize or give details about the talks – what they touched on. But since you mentioned the – since the statement mentioned the security of Israel or the need for security for Israel, why didn’t – I mean, there is a lot of criticism in the Middle East today, why the statement talked about security for Israel did not touch on openly on the criticism of the United States of the building of the Israeli settlements? Why it did not mention it openly?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we are – to your first point, we are in pursuit of comprehensive peace and that means that in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian track, we’re looking to see engagement and progress and resolution of the Syrian track and the Lebanese track. That is our goal and that is what we have done from the outset of the Obama Administration. And we continue to talk to various parties in the region, including Syria, including Lebanon, about their ideas on how to proceed.
As to the issue of settlements, our policy is well known. The concern of the Palestinian people and others in the region are well known. This is something that we discuss as part of any meeting we have with the parties. But again, we’re just not going to go into detail about the specifics of those discussions.
QUESTION: P.J., just a follow-up on the security issue. The statement yesterday said Israel’s security needs to be fully taken into account under any new peace deal. Were the talks yesterday – is it fair to say that the U.S. and Israel reached a new – in any way a new understanding of what Israel’s security requirements are? Were there any new guarantees given to the Israelis about what kind of security arrangements might be made? I mean, I realize you can’t talk about details, but they did mention this in the statement.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I mean, as the statement says, we have and continue to talk to Israel about its security concerns. But as to any specifics, we’re just not going to go into that.
QUESTION: The other point in the statement – that point first, has this Administration ever not been committed to Israel’s security?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s not a matter of the commitment. It’s a matter of how, in the context of reaching an agreement we can best assure that security concerns can be reasonably addressed.
And at the heart of this is, again, getting over years and decades of mistrust that have built up between both sides. So it’s not – we can say security is a concern. It is a concern. And the ability of the Palestinians, the United States, and others to address those concerns is crucial to being able to make progress.
QUESTION: Well, a couple of things on that. One is that the mistrust here doesn’t seem to be between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it seems to be between the United States and Israel. I mean, the Palestinians – that part of it wasn’t mentioned. But I guess my broader point is, after meeting for seven hours or roughly seven hours, you’ve come --
MR. CROWLEY: Meeting across seven hours.
QUESTION: Right. But after all that time, you released a statement which basically reiterates the Administration’s position since it came into office two years ago.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So is there any sign that you can point to that there was any progress made? I mean, the statement says that you’re committed to Israel’s security. Well, that’s great, but you’ve always been committed to that. And two, that an agreement has to be based on the’67 borders with agreed swaps, blah, blah, blah, which is also exactly what the Administration came into office with. It doesn’t seem to have – two years have gone by and a lot of talk has been – there’s been a lot of talk about this, most recently seven hours in New York, and you haven’t gotten beyond the first – the two points that you already embraced.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, Matt, do not confuse what we release publicly with what is discussed privately. As the statement points out, we thought it was a productive meeting yesterday. It was substantive. We went through the kinds of issues that are necessary to get the parties back into negotiations and get the parties to an ultimate agreement. But as we’ve laid down since August, we are not going to talk about the specific issues or how we are addressing the core issues and concerns that are at the heart of this effort. Rest assured that this was a very detailed, substantive, and productive meeting yesterday.
QUESTION: So are you saying that the statement that was released is an inaccurate reflection of the meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: The --
QUESTION: Well, you just said don’t confuse what we say publicly with what goes on privately, and if – (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: It is --
QUESTION: So if we can’t trust you to give --
MR. CROWLEY: -- an accurate reflection of our policy and our effort.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s an accurate reflection of your policy and your effort as of two years ago, not after seven hours of meeting with the Israeli prime minister.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand what you’re saying.
QUESTION: Moving on --
QUESTION: Has the Secretary contacted Abu Mazen since the meeting with Netanyahu and the Egyptian foreign minister?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware the Secretary has had conversations with the Palestinians. We will, of course, be following up.
QUESTION: Moving on from yesterday’s meeting, were any Israeli negotiators left behind to talk with any Americans? And are there any plans for Senator Mitchell, though I’m sure if there were anything specific you would have already told us, but might we be expecting him to go in the near future?
MR. CROWLEY: We will be following up. I can’t cite any particular activity today. But if and when we have travel announcements, travel plans to announce, I’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Did you – what would you publicly say to keep hope alive to the Palestinians, considering that you don’t talk about specifics but you really need to keep hope alive and want to address the Palestinian public, you want to address the negotiators? What would you say to them?
MR. CROWLEY: It is not what I say, Said. It’s – the reality is that we have reached an obstacle and we’re trying to surmount it. And what gives us encouragement is that everyone involved – the Israelis, the Palestinians, other countries in the region and other countries around the world – want this effort to succeed. And everyone is creating sufficient room and time for the United States with the support of others to patiently work through this challenge, get the parties back into negotiation and reach an agreement.
It doesn’t mean this is not hard. We understand this is hard. The details do matter. How do you address the legitimate security concerns of the Israeli people? How do you address the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a viable state? These are complicated issues. And so what gives us encouragement is the response that we’re hearing from countries in the region and around the world. They are supportive of the United States. They recognize the importance of our leadership, but they also recognize the real challenge, which is how do you get these leaders and these people to – back into negotiation and to an agreement.
We never thought this was going to be easy. Even though the broad parameters of an ultimate agreement are fairly well understood, getting there is hard. But yesterday’s meeting, just like the follow-on activities that we will embark on, are aimed at finding a way to get to a negotiation that gets to an agreement. And we are determined, but we recognize that this is going to be difficult.
QUESTION: Did she come away though from those seven hours feeling any – like these talks are going to resume? And is she encouraging Abbas to return to negotiations without preconditions, as Netanyahu has suggested?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we – our effort, you’ve heard us say this many times, but we’re trying to create the conditions for the negotiations to resume. That is what yesterday’s meetings were about, and that is what our activities going forward are focused on.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROLWEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Has Islamabad officially, unofficially, formally expressed their resentment or concerns on President Obama’s endorsement of India’s bid for a UNSC permanent seat?
MR. CROWLEY: We have briefed the Government of Pakistan on the President’s announcement. I’m not aware that there was any particular concern expressed.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. But in the media reports, their – at their cabinet level and in general in Pakistan, they have expressed. So they have not given any –
MR. CROWLEY: We – I think they understand what we told them, and beyond that, I’ll leave it to the Government of Pakistan to describe its own reaction.
QUESTION: Do you feel that this endorsement will make Pakistan less motivated to support your efforts in the war on terror?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, no one should see this in zero sum terms. And first of all, understand that there is a process, it involves the Security Council and many countries that will have a say in the possible reform of the UN Security Council. But this is a reflection of the growing importance of the region to the rest of the world, and Pakistan should not see this as something that comes at their expense. It does not.
QUESTION: You’ve mentioned countries. Any other countries have expressed their negative opinion about this endorsement?
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t got a full array here. I’m sure there are a variety of countries that have reacted to this.
QUESTION: The G-20 countries have obviously expressed some objections to some of the United States economic policies. You might tell me to ask the White House this question, but whatever information you can give, I will take.
MR. CROWLEY: I think there’s a bubble above my head saying: “talk to the White House.” (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I will take whatever information you can give me. I mean, is that, like, for the $600 billion that are going to be pumped in the – supposedly in the economy of the United States? Is this kind of policy subject to change or to respond to these kind of objections from the other power – economic powers?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this was a significant topic of discussion during the G-20 in Korea. I just think it underscores that solving the global economic crisis will involve significant action by the United States but also by other countries. And each country will have a prism through which it sees its own economic challenges. We’re no different. But it is going to be the cumulative impact of this collective action that ultimately lifts the global economy to recovery.
And there was a robust discussion in Korea about steps by the United States and steps that need to be taken by other countries in order to promote the kind of growth that is necessary to rise above this economic crisis.
QUESTION: Iran’s foreign minister is in Nigeria now, where the Nigerians say that they’ve intercepted some – a shipment of weaponry. I’m wondering what the Nigerians are telling you about this and if you – if the U.S. had any role in helping them to intercept this shipment.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any particular U.S. role in this. We have talked to the Nigerian Government about the discovery of significant arms. Nigeria is investigating, as it should. And I think there’s been a public statement by the Nigerian foreign minister that Nigeria will do what is necessary. If these reports are true, these are potential violations of Security Council resolutions, including 1929, and we will obviously encourage and assist Nigeria in any way that we can with its investigation.
QUESTION: I wonder if you might have any reaction to the Canadian prime minister yesterday saying he wants to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2011, to 2014, in a training capacity.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we the United States have been encouraging a number of countries to add trainers to help with the development of Afghan national security forces. A great deal of the strategy which will be discussed in detail at the NATO summit in Lisbon is predicated on the ability of Afghanistan by 2014 to take significant responsibility for its own security. That is the goal of President Karzai and his government.
The United States, Canada, NATO are all trying to find ways to support Afghanistan in that effort. So this is something that we have discussed with Canada, and we’re grateful for Canada’s ongoing contribution.
QUESTION: So you’re happy about the extension to 2014, then?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Canada has played a – has made a significant contribution to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. And we have had discussions with Canada about continuing its role, and we are grateful that Canada is willing to consider an ongoing contribution.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you give us a status report on the impact of the Sunni walkout – of the Iraqiya walkout from parliament?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s unclear to me that it’s going to have any impact. We are very pleased that Iraqi leaders have come together and are taking significant steps through a constitutional process to stand up a government. All of the major voting blocs from the election will have a significant role in this new government. All of the leaders of those blocs will have a role in the government. And this is exactly what we’ve been patiently encouraging the Iraqi leaders to do for many months.
What you’re seeing is politics break out in Iraq. But this is a government that – it’s made in Iraq. These are decisions that were made by Iraqi leaders who came together, reached an agreement, and now they are carrying out that agreement. You saw yesterday, through the Council of Representatives, the selection of a president, the selection of a prime minister, the selection of a speaker of the house.
There are going to be zigs and zags through this process. As we know from our own country, politics is not a straight line. So there will be steps taken by one side or another as we go through this. There’ll be wrangling for and jockeying for particular positions now that the prime minister has been named. He’s got 30 years – 30 days to – (laughter) – 30 days to form a cabinet. And so – but we are – we think this is a major step forward, and most importantly it’s a major step forward for the Iraqi people because the government that emerges does, in fact, represent broadly the will of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: And P.J., during his conference – press conference, I mean, telephone press conference, the senior government official did not really explain how the new strategy council will function in terms of replicating or having a conflict with the existing ministries that already have those responsibilities and are ready to discharge these responsibilities such as foreign policy and oil and others and so on, and whether it has a veto power and so on. So is there a fear of replication here?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there are things to be worked out. But I think this is a credible Iraqi-led process. The leaders of the various factions all have a major role to play in the Iraqi Government. That is important. And the fact that this is a broad-based coalition government means that – is, we think, a setback for countries like Iran who are trying to seek the emergence of a more narrowly focused government.
QUESTION: Would you be able to comment on --
MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on, hold on.
QUESTION: Would you be able to comment on reports of Suu Kyi being released tomorrow – Suu Kyi in Burma?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it has been the United States’s view over many, many years that Aung San Suu Kyi should never have been detained, arrested, confined. We would hope that she would be released today. And – but we’ll wait and see what the government does in Burma.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: According to an internal intelligence memo, the government will not be in function before February. Do you have any comments on that? And also, the factor of Kurds taking a different position after the government is formed.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I’m familiar with --
QUESTION: The question is that an intelligence memo says that the government will not be formed till February because January is a religious holiday and --
MR. CROWLEY: Hang on a second. I mean, now that you have a prime minister named yesterday, he has 30 days to form a Council of Ministers, his cabinet. So this is going forward per a constitutional process underlined and ensconced in Iraqi law. So I don’t know where the suggestion that this will take till February. They are taking the very steps yesterday that were – are both part of the constitutional process and consistent with the agreement made by the leaders in Iraq. So we will look to see a government formed, we believe, much sooner than what you suggested.
QUESTION: Is it your view, P.J., that the new council was created as a face-saving measure for Mr. Allawi?
MR. CROWLEY: These are Iraqi decisions. The United States has encouraged Iraq over several months to form a government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people and provides meaningful participation by all of the major vote getters in the March election. And that’s exactly what Iraq is doing now. Did it take a little bit longer than might have been optimal? Yes. But you have concrete steps being made, real politics underway, and this, we believe, is the best and in all likelihood the most peaceful way of resolving the tensions that do exist in Iraqi society. So we’re very encouraged by the steps that have been taken over the last few days and we look forward to working with the Iraqi Government that emerges.
QUESTION: Has the new government which is in formation – you have started talking to them about the Kurdish push which will come? The Kurds are going to ask for a referendum on Kirkuk according to Article 140.
MR. CROWLEY: There are – there’s unfinished business in Iraq. There are major decisions that have to be made. But those decisions require a government to address, and that has been our message to Iraq for several months and we’re happy to see a government being formed. It reflects the will of the people. It will have the support of the Iraqi people and then can begin to address some of the major issues that still have to be resolved inside the Iraqi political system.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)