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Middle East Digest - December 17, 2010


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Washington, DC
December 17, 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 December 17, 2010

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1:21 p.m. EST

QUESTION: The Secretary before then, I believe, met with Senator Mitchell, yes?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, this morning.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what came – what he reported to her?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I will decline to read out his report. He has returned to the region from meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials and also with others in Europe, as we’ve outlined throughout the week. I would say his deputy, David Hale, met today with UN Special Representative Mark Otte in Brussels and Mr. Hale, joined by Daniel Shapiro from the National Security staff, will have follow-on meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials next week. We continue to engage the parties. We plan to continue that engagement next week. We’re focused on the substance of the core issues. We hope to use these discussions in the coming weeks to create some momentum that will lead the parties back to direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Where is that – Hale and Shapiro?

MR. CROWLEY: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Where will those meetings be?

MR. CROWLEY: In the region.

QUESTION: And just with the Palestinians? Sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: I said with the Palestinians and the Israelis.

QUESTION: Would you say that Senator Mitchell’s meetings to date have started to create that momentum, or no?

MR. CROWLEY: This, I think, has to look at what we want to see happen in the coming weeks and months. We’ve outlined what we think is the appropriate agenda. We’ve gone through substantive details, what we want to see the parties do in upcoming meetings that we’ll have, but this is going to be an effort that unfolds over a number of weeks.

QUESTION: Another subject, P.J. My question is yesterday when Secretary announced 140,000 Pakistani troops will be or has come out from the Indian border on the Pakistan-Afghan border to fight against terrorism. My question is that when this was decided and what role U.S. played, whether U.S. had spoken with the Indian authorities. Because in the past, Pakistan was saying that India is a threat to Pakistan, and now they are pulling 140,000 troops from the Indian border. That means there is no (inaudible) between the two countries or was never.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, how Pakistan decides to deploy its military forces is a decision for Pakistan. We’ve made no secret of our desire to see Pakistan take more aggressive action against extremist elements within its own borders. That is a threat to Pakistan itself. And as the Secretary said, we have seen Pakistan shift its emphasis away from the Pakistani-Indian border and more aggressively to the Swat Valley and other areas where these extremists operate. And no military has suffered more significant casualties in undertaking these operations than Pakistan. But these were obviously decisions for Pakistan to make. But the context of increasing dialogue and reducing tensions between Pakistan and India is something that we have stressed in our dialogue with both countries.

QUESTION: And one more just quickly. What do you think in this new – after this new strategy, what role do you think India will play in Afghanistan and the reason as far as this new announcement is concerned?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we do have a regional strategy. India has legitimate interest in helping with the future of Pakistan. It has contributed significantly to development and reconstruction projects within Afghanistan. And this should – we encourage that activity, even as we stress the importance of dialogue between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, other countries. So no efforts like this are misunderstood.

QUESTION: P.J., maybe I missed something here. Did – the Secretary didn’t actually announce that the Pakistanis had moved these troops. She said that – she was talking about something, a gradual thing, over the course of the last year since --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, we’ve seen a definite shift in the Pakistani military’s posture, as --

QUESTION: Was she intending to announce something then?

MR. CROWLEY: No, it wasn’t an announcement. I think it was a reflection of fundamental changes that have occurred in Pakistan as part of our strategic dialogue and our cooperation on dealing with the threat on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

QUESTION: Yesterday, at the White House and then at the Pentagon, the vice chief, he said something about American boots on the Pakistani soil in cooperation with Pakistan. So are you working on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have a strong military relationship with Pakistan. We do have military cooperation that is ongoing. And on an occasional basis, that does mean that U.S. forces are working cooperatively, side by side, with Pakistani forces.

QUESTION: This is a question about Yemen --

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: -- the incident there the other day. Other than the --

MR. CROWLEY: We --

QUESTION: I know that you put out the taken question and said there were four Embassy personnel --

MR. CROWLEY: I have no further information on what happened in Yemen.

QUESTION: But do you know if the – is the Embassy stepping up its security? Has there been anything done since this happened?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly, in a country like Yemen, where our Embassy and personnel have been subject to attacks before and threats before, we always maintain a heightened security for our operations there. I’m sure we will look at this most recent attack, and if any adjustments are necessary, we’ll make them.

QUESTION: Can I ask the question that I think you were preparing to answer, and that would be Palestinian peace activist?

MR. CROWLEY: We have raised this case with the Israeli Government. We continue to follow developments in this case, as well as other cases of West Bank Palestinian protestors who have been arrested and tried on a variety of charges. We are aware that in this particular case of Abdullah Abu Ramah, the case is under appeal, and our Embassy regularly raises human rights issues as appropriate and with regard to specific cases with the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: When you say that you’ve raised it with the Israelis, can you be more specific? What have you said?

MR. CROWLEY: We have discussed with the Israeli Government. I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Okay. And did this happen before or after you started getting questions about it?

MR. CROWLEY: Before.

QUESTION: And so then what was the problem with saying this when it was originally raised?

MR. CROWLEY: I finally got the information I needed.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Last week, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India signed an agreement for a gas pipeline with all the four countries --

MR. CROWLEY: All right, one more time.

QUESTION: Last week –

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India signed a gas – an agreement for the gas pipeline which can go through all the four countries. How do you view this development there as –

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question and see if we have a view on that.

QUESTION: And finally, today, WikiLeaks released a lot of documents related to India. I’m not asking about the WikiLeaks, but the – some of the Indian political parties are saying that U.S. is interfering in the internal affairs of India. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, again, as you say, I will not address any cable. We are building a strategic partnership with India. We have significant engagement on a variety of issues with both India the government and the people. Our diplomats do what diplomats do, and that – what we do in a country like India is no different than what Indian diplomats do in our country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)



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