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 14, 2010
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Middle East? You – George Mitchell met today with President Abbas, I think.
QUESTION: Yeah, Abbas.
MR. CROWLEY: He met with President Abbas today, following up on his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. President Abbas is – will be on his way to Cairo, as will George Mitchell. There’s a follow-on committee meeting within the Arab League, I believe, tomorrow. We’ll be looking for the Arab League to continue to support this effort. Senator Mitchell --
QUESTION: Which effort?
MR. CROWLEY: The peace effort. Senator Mitchell, before he returns to the United States, will also make stops in Brussels and Paris later this week.
QUESTION: When you say – so what specifically would you like to see out of the Arab League meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the support that – the statements of support that have come through previous meetings, we think, have been very valuable. They embody the support that we’ve tried to build and I think successfully have built within the region. So we’re looking for a continuation of that support and encouragement to continue through this process. And there will be follow-on meetings next week at the working level. George Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, will have – he had – I think he had a follow-on meeting today with Isaac Molho, but there will be follow-on meetings with the parties next week at the working level on the substance inside the process.
QUESTION: Well, can – but, I mean, are you looking for the Arab League to tell Abbas, or to give Abbas – or to endorse him returning to direct talks, or are you looking for something else?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, – we’re looking for support. If – but I don't want to prejudge what the Arab League will say tomorrow. But their statements of support earlier this year had opened the door for direct negotiations. We will continue to seek and encourage that kind of support as we move ahead.
QUESTION: How worried is the U.S. about Abbas pulling out of the direct talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re cognizant of the fact that right now, there are not direct talks. We continue to pursue a framework agreement, as we’ve said. We believe that in order to successfully reach a framework agreement there will have to be a return to direct negotiations. And our effort now is focused on making progress with the – on the particular core issues and using that to gain momentum that can encourage the parties to return to direct negotiations as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Can you tell us who Senator Mitchell will meet in Brussels and Paris? And what sort of contribution are you hoping for (inaudible) to make?
MR. CROWLEY: I asked that question. Obviously European support is very important. The French have been singularly supportive. So I – but I’ll get more information on who we’re meeting with, (inaudible).
QUESTION: No, wait – still –
QUESTION: One more. The year timeline – I’m just curious, is that – was that only for direct talks, or are we still on the clock?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re still on the clock.
QUESTION: Even with this indirect --
MR. CROWLEY: No. Our goal remains to reach a framework agreement within 12 months. So we’re looking for some fairly rapid progress on the – on substantive aspects of the core issues, and that’s – George Mitchell is discussing with the parties how to move forward, and David Hale will be following up and engaging on the very substance.
QUESTION: Twelve months from when, though?
MR. CROWLEY: The clock hasn’t changed, Matt.
QUESTION: So, 12 months from September?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re not --
MR. CROWLEY: We haven’t reset the clock.
QUESTION: I mean, you can get up every day for the next three months and say 12 months and then still not be wrong. You’re definitely talking about –you’re –
MR. CROWLEY: I can say that for nine months.
QUESTION: Well, you’re definitely – well, fair enough. So you’re still talking about a framework agreement by September of 2011?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, I have one more on the Middle East, not the peace process, though. Did you ever get an answer for my question from last week about this Palestinian peace activist being jailed?
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t yet got a satisfactory answer. We’re still working that with the post.
QUESTION: When you say you haven’t got a satisfactory answer, you mean – what does that mean? That means that you have gotten an answer and then you rejected it as being not sufficiently --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just --
QUESTION: -- informative.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m still seeking --
QUESTION: Or it was too informative and that’s why you’re --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m still seeking a fuller picture of our engagement with the Israeli Government on this case.