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Middle East Digest - November 23, 2010


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Washington, DC
November 24, 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 November 23, 2010

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1:44 p.m. EST

QUESTION: On India, Mark, on Friday, there will be 11/26 or 26/11, or India’s 9/11 marking. And there are some reports and India is on high alert, that they have received some information. I don’t know whether U.S. has received that information or not that same terrorists from Pakistan are trying to now hit Mumbai and other places in India to celebrate their 26/11. And this will be now, according to some reports, under the leadership of Ibrahim Dawood, who is a fugitive and wanted who is hiding in Karachi. Any reports or any comments?

MR. TONER: Goyal, I’ve not even seen those reports. But our counterterrorism cooperation with India is – in the wake of 26/11 has been very, very productive, very constructive, and on a good footing. And I’m sure we’re consulting with them. And thank you for the reminder. That’s a grim anniversary, and our hearts go out to the people of India.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: On the reports of this – of attempted high-level talks with the Taliban who turned out to be an imposter, I saw that the White House has already confirmed that this has broken off. But I was curious if you could tell us at what point, when, it was figured out that this guy wasn’t who he said he was.

MR. TONER: Kirit, I wish I had more information. It made for – for you and for me, as well, it made for pretty compelling reading this morning as I drank my coffee and read the story. But I don’t have a lot of information about when it was cut off. I’m trying to get more details, and if I can get them, I’ll share them with you.

I think Ambassador Holbrooke, when he was here a few weeks ago though, was pretty succinct about saying that he found that a lot of this – the speculation about peace talks or peace negotiations with the Taliban were – there was a lot of – there was no “there” there, that there were a lot of contacts, a lot of talks about contacts rather, but he was cautious about describing them as anything substantive at the time.

QUESTION: That talk by Ambassador Holbrooke was about two weeks after officials, including, I think, Secretary Gates, spoke about – for the first time – these talks. Would you say that Ambassador Holbrooke’s comments indicate that sometime between there and that two-week period is when it – when this was figured out?

MR. TONER: I can’t say that. As I said, it’s a pretty compelling story. I would have to refer you to the Afghan Government for more details. I’ll try to flesh out more details that we can get on that specific question. I don’t have any more.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the Israeli parliament passed a law which will make it significantly more difficult for any government to cede territory that it annexed after the 1967 war. That would be specifically the Golan Heights and parts of East Jerusalem. Given the fact that you’ve said that both – neither party should take any unilateral steps that could affect the outcome of any negotiations or the success of a peace deal, do you have anything to say other than the rather unsatisfactory taken question that was put out – the answer to the taken question that this is an internal Israeli matter when clearly it affects one of the Administration’s prime foreign policy goals?

MR. TONER: Matt --

QUESTION: You can just say no. (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: No, I would just say that you’re right; it may. But we’re – again, it’s hypothetical at this point and we’re getting ahead of ourselves and we’re getting ahead of the process. Our goal now is really to get the parties back into direct negotiations in an effort to achieve an agreement that is in the mutual interests of both sides.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: And that’s the focus right now. So for us to talk about the impact or the potential impact of this legislation is really putting the cart before the horse.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, what’s the hypothetical here? The parliament passed a law.

MR. TONER: Right now, we need to get --

QUESTION: That is not hypothetical.

MR. TONER: That is not hypothetical. But we need to get them back into direct negotiations so we can reach an agreement --

QUESTION: Right. And this makes it more difficult to get them back into negotiations because the Palestinians see this and the Arab world sees this as – particularly the Syrians --

MR. TONER: Again --

QUESTION: -- see this as something that prejudges the outcome of negotiations and/or the success of an agreement. So I’m curious as to why you want to say – just brush this aside as an internal matter for the Israeli parliament when it clearly has a negative impact on what you’re trying to do.

MR. TONER: Well, again, our goal is to get them back into direct negotiations. Once we get an agreement that is in the mutual interest of both sides, then we’ll look at this issue and other issues. But I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.

QUESTION: So actions – but you’re not worried that this is going to make it – that this will make it difficult – more difficult to get them back to the direct negotiations?

MR. TONER: It’s already a difficult process, but we’re going to keep moving forward.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But you don’t think this makes it more difficult?

MR. TONER: Again, we’re going to keep our focus on getting them back into direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Does the new Israeli law help you in achieving your goal?

MR. TONER: Again, we’re focused on getting them back into direct negotiations. Thanks.

QUESTION: Is Senator Mitchell going back this week, next week?

MR. TONER: I don’t have anything to report.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)



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