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Middle East Digest - November 29, 2010


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Washington, DC
November 29, 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 29, 2010

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MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Obviously, I’m sure the Secretary of State answered all of your questions on that particular subject. Let me mention just briefly a couple of other things before coming back to the issue that I’m sure you’re focused on today.

The Secretary this morning had a very productive session with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. They did talk about the WikiLeaks issue, and the foreign minister appreciated the direct and candid comments that the Secretary provided. They also talked about a range of regional issues from Iran, where the foreign minister indicated that Turkey continues to support and encourage Iran to join in the P-5+1 process, and we continue to hope that we can lock in early this week a location for first meetings of the P-5+1. They talked about Cyprus, the Balkans, and other regional issues from Lebanon where we shared – continue to share concerns about the situation in Lebanon to ongoing dialogue between Turkey and Israel.

And as you know, the Secretary is on her way to Andrews Air Force Base and will depart shortly for a trip this week to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, and Bahrain. She will participate in the summit of the OSCE as head of the U.S. delegation. She will also participate at the end of the week in the 2010 Manama Dialogue.

QUESTION: P.J., were you under immense pressure by the Saudis and the other GCC countries to pursue a more vigorous and more aggressive posture towards Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to cooperate with Saudi Arabia and a range of countries in the region. We all see a danger with the direction that Iran is on. We want to see Iran change direction and play a more constructive role in the region and around the world --

QUESTION: So they are --

MR. CROWLEY: -- and live up to its international obligations.

QUESTION: They are pressuring you to take more aggressive action toward Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: We are fully engaged with Saudi Arabia and many other countries. We all see the danger posed by Iran in a similar way.

QUESTION: WikiLeaks in their tweet to reply to the Secretary’s comments just now has said Hillary says U.S. taking in course aggressive steps against us, take some yourselves. What exactly they mean by that?

MR. CROWLEY: I have no idea. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Different topic. You were saying at the beginning you’re trying to lock in a date for the Iranian talks. There is a report out of Reuters out of Tehran today that the Russians have been told that December 5th in Geneva works for the Iranians. Is that something you’re hearing? And on the side of --

MR. CROWLEY: We have offered a date, we have offered locations to Iran, and we are waiting a confirmation by Iran that not only the dates are right, but the location is acceptable.

QUESTION: But you haven’t gotten a confirmation, as far as you know?

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible).

QUESTION: And secondly, on Egypt, there’s reports of massive fraud in the parliamentary elections and – I don’t know, it doesn’t even sound like the opposition has won any seats. How much --

MR. CROWLEY: Which country are we talking about?

QUESTION: Egypt, the Egyptian elections. I know going in, you had raised concerns about fraud. Is there any statement yet on whether we see those elections as free and fair?

MR. CROWLEY: There will be. We expect to have a statement out from the Department later on today.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) critical of the way the election was conducted in Egypt? There was violence --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are --

QUESTION: People were disallowed from gathering and so on.

MR. CROWLEY: We are still evaluating yesterday’s activities. We have serious concerns about what occurred, and we’ll have more to say later in the afternoon.

QUESTION: Going to --

QUESTION: Different topic.

MR. CROWLEY: No, hold on.

QUESTION: A different topic. Do you think that – today, do you think that Pakistani nukes are in safe hands?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: President Ahmadinejad today accused Israel and Western governments of – behind killing a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist. Is there any comment from the State Department?

MR. CROWLEY: All I can say is we decry acts of terrorism wherever they occur, and beyond that, we do not have any information on what happened.

QUESTION: P.J., Israeli sources say that the talks with the Americans are stalemated over the incentives regarding the renewal of settlement freeze. Can you share with us anything on that regard?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to engage the parties in creating conditions for a return to negotiations. And as I said last week, this remains a work in progress.

QUESTION: But do you feel that – do you concur that they are stalemated, they’re not going anywhere?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re continuing to do everything we can to get the parties back into direct negotiations.

QUESTION: So what would the next step be? I mean, what do you envision --

MR. CROWLEY: Further engagement to get the parties back into direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Does that mean that Senator Mitchell will be the one who is engaged?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, if Senator Mitchell has any travel plans, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: There was some new construction approved in East Jerusalem. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, our position on that is very clear. We continue and encourage both sides to avoid unilateral steps that prejudice negotiations.

QUESTION: Do you know if you’ve been in touch with the Israelis about this latest approval?

MR. CROWLEY: I will find out.



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