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 December 1, 2010
MR. CROWLEY: Speaking of Iran, obviously, Lady Ashton has confirmed that the P-5+1 will meet next week in Geneva. Under Secretary of State Bill Burns will be the U.S. representative for these talks. And you* perhaps caught some of Under Secretary Burns’ testimony this morning before the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, where he focused on the fact that we continue to aggressively implement sanctions, both international and national sanctions, and that we believe this is having a material impact on Iran with the loss of perhaps 50 to 60 billion dollars in energy investments, as well as a range of companies across multiple sectors withdrawing from the Iranian market. At the same time, he indicated that we will approach next week’s discussions with no illusions*, but by the same token underscoring that we believe that there is still the opportunity for serious engagement if Iran is prepared to do so.
QUESTION: Peace talks, on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Yesterday, you condemned strongly the statement made by Al-Mutawakil Taha, who is the deputy minister of information in the Palestinian Authority. Did you request his resignation, or would you like to see him resign?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s not a decision for us to make. We have condemned his statements. We thought they were historically inaccurate and fundamentally irresponsible. But those – that’s a decision for the Palestinian Authority to make. We just want to cease – to see an end to that kind of inflammatory rhetoric that we believe is an obstacle to progress.
QUESTION: Yeah, but if his statement was so inappropriate, then I’m sure you conveyed to the Palestinian Authority your displeasure with his statement. Wouldn’t that lead you to say – to like --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had discussions with the Palestinian Authority on this, but I’ll leave those private.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) out of Iran – the Iran talks next week. What are your expectations for these talks? I mean, are there any indications that Iran is coming – ready to negotiate with you? And do you think the Wikileaks could actually help by showing Iran what all of its neighbors think of it?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Let me take the first thing first. We would like to see Iran engage in a real process. I think I quipped last year: What’s our objective for the first meeting? A second meeting. But that would signal Iran is ready to answer the questions that the international community has. I mean, Iran is alone in the fact that it is unable or unwilling to answer the questions that have arisen about the nature of its nuclear program. But these are not impossible questions to answer. We will come next week prepared to engage on the nuclear issue, engage on other topics of interest with Iran. We hope that they will come to this meeting with the same seriousness of purpose. We’re under no illusions here. We understand that this may be difficult and we understand that Iran may not come prepared to engage constructively. But we’re showing that we’re willing to offer this – continue to offer this engagement and we hope that we will have a productive meeting next week.