1:33 p.m. EDT
MR. DUGUID: Good afternoon, everyone. I’d like to begin this afternoon’s briefing with a short statement. The ceasefire between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement combined with the recent ceasefire signed between Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement presents an important opportunity for reduced violence in Darfur and progress in the AU/UN-led peace process.
This is a very important step – that is, the ceasefire – in that it broadens the ceasefires to numerous parties throughout Darfur. A ceasefire throughout Darfur is essential so that elections can move forward peacefully in that region. It is also an important step towards making the Darfur peace process more inclusive and comprehensive.
With that, I am prepared to take your questions.
QUESTION: I have nothing to ask.
MR. DUGUID: And --
QUESTION: Why is that so funny?
MR. DUGUID: And Matt, I always look forward to your questions. I’m somewhat disappointed on my Friday, but we’ll go directly to the back, then.
MR. DUGUID: Please.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, North Korean Ambassador to London said that it would be possible to resume the Six-Party Talks in the first half of this year. He also said that North Korea had no precondition to come back to the talks. So I just want to ask you that – do you think this is a new, positive sign from North Korea that they’re going to actually come back to the Six-Party Talks?
MR. DUGUID: I think that a positive sign would be coming back to the Six-Party Talks and not making statements about the Six-Party Talks. There has been, for some time now, an avenue for the North Koreans to reengage with the other partners in the Six-Party Talks. A statement that they have no preconditions for arriving at those talks, while on the face of it being positive, it is the actions that speak the loudest in this particular context.
There have been several communications or meetings with North Korean officials on the Six – or within the Six-Party framework and they have not reengaged up to this point. If a reengagement is what they desire, we’re ready for that to take place and that can start as soon as they take the action to do so.
QUESTION: But I think this is the first time that a North Korean official actually mentioned the specific timing.
MR. DUGUID: And as I said, that in and of the – on the face of it, the statement is positive. However, it is the actions that follow the statement that make the thing come to fruition.
QUESTION: So the sign you want from North Korea is actually action that --
MR. DUGUID: Well, we’ve been consistent on what we would like to see from North Korea. We would like to see them come back to the Six-Party Talks. So rather than making statements about them, if they do wish to reengage, they can make that known to the chair of the Six-Party group, and we can begin from there.
Yes, please, Andy.
QUESTION: On the famous telephone call yesterday --
MR. DUGUID: Yes.
QUESTION: -- I’m just wondering if you have any readout now on – more precisely about what was discussed there, what the package was, if there was one, that Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to Secretary Clinton about. And the U.S. statement said that the U.S. officials were sort of weighing – I forget the exact word – but somehow --
MR. DUGUID: “Reviewing,” I believe, was the word.
QUESTION: Reviewing it. What are you reviewing it – to what end – I mean, what are you looking for? What will this review result in? A judgment on whether or not it’s acceptable?
MR. DUGUID: I think that the Secretary has spoken this morning earlier. They’re – certainly, her comments are out. But just to try and be as succinct as I can from the podium, the telephone call was a positive conversation that focused on the proximity talks as the means to an end – the end, of course, being direct – the end of – the short-term end being direct talks about a two-state solution.
The points raised by the prime minister were discussed. I won’t go into those. I don’t have great detail for you on that. Yes, we’re looking at them because these are the things that the Israeli side has proposed. They proposed a few things as a way of confidence-building measures, as the Secretary was looking for. And we are now moving forward on the proximity talks.
The end of the process needs to be kept in mind, that we will find a two-state solution that will address Israeli security and Palestinian aspirations. We are going to have a number of steps before we get there. We are now looking for the means to keep the process moving forward. As you know, Senator Mitchell will be traveling to the region. He will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu before the prime minister arrives here this coming Monday. And then we will take the process forward as far as we can go. Senator Mitchell will also be meeting, of course, with President Abbas while he is in the region. In between then and now, he has a couple of stops in Europe to consult with other allies before he goes.
QUESTION: So you wouldn’t expect any further statements from the U.S. side on the actual – what – I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re not going to get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on what the prime minister said. Now this conversation then moves back behind closed doors and I guess Mitchell and --
MR. DUGUID: Well, the conversation moves to where it belongs, between – as close as we can get in proximity talks – the two sides. It’s the Israelis and the Palestinians who need to be talking, and we’re there to help them, to that end, to get around the negotiation table and really start dealing with the efforts, start dealing with those things that will resolve their outstanding differences.
QUESTION: Gordon, just to follow up on that.
MR. DUGUID: Yes, please.
QUESTION: I mean, has Israel shown confidence or restored confidence in this peace process? And can you also talk about any contacts with the Palestinians about getting them back to the table?
MR. DUGUID: Well, the – Senator Mitchell’s visit will include meetings with President Abbas. And that is a constant throughout this process, has been our engagement with the Palestinians. I’ll let the senator, when he arrives in the region over the weekend, really outline that for everyone. But the process that we take forward from here will include those proposals that – or those ideas that the prime minister has laid out, and they will be discussed thoroughly with the Palestinians. But Senator Mitchell is on his way to do just that.
QUESTION: So you’re satisfied enough with the Israeli response?
MR. DUGUID: We are satisfied that the process is now moving forward again.
QUESTION: Just a --
MR. DUGUID: Yes, please.
QUESTION: -- point of clarification on Mitchell’s schedule. Is he going to go to Amman? It sounds like Abbas had some sort of a medical issue; he may not be able to leave. Is he going to meet him there or --
MR. DUGUID: I don’t have the senator’s full schedule. As soon as I can get that to you, I will. I do know, as I said yesterday, that he will be consulting in Paris and Berlin before going to the region. His actual appointments in the region I don’t have for you yet. As soon as I do, I will try and share those.
QUESTION: But if he does see Abbas, he might go to Amman, you think?
MR. DUGUID: He is going to see President Abbas.
MR. DUGUID: Okay. Other questions?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. DUGUID: I should always follow Holbrooke. (Laughter.)
(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)