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Diplomacy in Action

Background Briefing on Deputy Secretary Steinberg's Travel to Corfu, Greece and Under Secretary Burns' Travel to Trieste, Italy


Special Briefing
Senior Department Official
Background Briefing by a Senior Department Official
Washington, DC
June 23, 2009

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SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, and hello, everybody. Let me just walk you through the itinerary a little bit and talk about some of what we’re trying to accomplish on the trip.

Let me start with the obvious, that the Secretary is disappointed that she’s not going to be able to go because she’s recovering from her surgery. She was looking forward to the trip. Instead, as I think everybody knows, the Secretary’s duties and itinerary will be shared by Under Secretary Bill Burns and Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg.

Under Secretary Burns will head the delegation traveling to Trieste, Italy from June 25-26 to participate in the G-8 foreign ministerial in advance of the G-8 summit in July. Topics for Trieste will include global threats such as counterterrorism, food security, piracy, nonproliferation, as well as regional issues such as the Middle East peace process, Iran, and North Korea.

Under Secretary Burns will also participate in a series of special meetings on the situation of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which Special Representative Holbrooke will also attend. The Italians have really wanted to put a very heavy emphasis on Afghanistan and Pakistan at this G-8 meeting, given the degree to which this is a question of global concern. And so, some of those Afghanistan-Pakistan meetings in Trieste will be attended by Afghanistan’s neighbors, and by the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as other countries and organizations with a stake in those two countries. And on top of all of that, Special Envoy Mitchell will also be in Trieste for a Quartet meeting. So it’s a pretty big agenda even beyond the normal G-8 global issues agenda.

June 27-28, Deputy Secretary Steinberg will travel to Corfu, Greece for an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE. He will, while there, also participate in an informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, and of course also engage in some bilateral meetings on the side. This will be the Deputy Secretary’s second trip to Greece. He was there when he visited Greece and Macedonia last month.

What we’re trying to do in these meetings is engage with Europe and our other partners to address the most urgent, overarching security and economic challenges we face from Afghanistan, Pakistan, to reengaging with Russia, to the global financial crisis and many other issues.

Let me make just a couple of points about the substance of what we’re trying to do, and then take your questions. As everybody knows, the Obama Administration is committed to reinvigorating and deepening its traditional relationships with Europe and other partners. And we have three strategic priorities with Europe, one of which is enhancing our cooperation on global challenges. When you think about the range of global challenges we face, whether it’s Iran, Afghanistan-Pakistan, food security, financial crisis, global warming, there is really none on which we’re not stronger when we’re working together and well with our European allies, and these meetings will be an opportunity to discuss those challenges with them.

Other strategic priorities we have in Europe is expanding the zone of peace and prosperity and stability in Europe to the east and to the south and to the southeast, and we work closely with the Europeans on that. And we’re trying to renew our relationship with Russia. And all three of these areas we’ll, I think, be able to move forward on in Trieste and Corfu.

Trieste, the focus will be mostly on working with the G-8 partners on some of the global challenges I mentioned, from food security to climate change to the regional ones. In Corfu, we have a specific agenda of trying to reinvigorate the OSCE, which, as you know, focuses on fundamental freedoms such as human rights, civil society, and necessary components of security. Deputy Secretary Steinberg will participate in a discussion of European security issues, including Russia’s proposal for a dialogue on European security.

And I want to make clear we welcome that dialogue. The Russian President Medvedev last year proposed a new European security treaty. We have been waiting for the Russians to flesh out their ideas, but all along, we said we were happy to engage in this discussion. We welcome a dialogue. We will stress that we agree that Europe needs comprehensive security institutions and sound principles. We, at the same time, think it already has some pretty good security institutions and sound principles, and we’ll make that clear at the OSCE. Indeed, we felt strongly that this discussion should take place at the OSCE because it already is a comprehensive security organization based on the Helsinki Final Act and some pretty important principles that are within it.

At the OSCE in Corfu, Greece, we’ll also want to commend Greece’s strong leadership as the chairman in office of the OSCE, in particular, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis, who has ably led the OSCE, and who we think made commendable efforts to secure a fair agreement, to extend the mandate of OSCE monitors in Georgia, which Russia unfortunately was not able to accept.

Also in Corfu will be a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, as I mentioned, which will mark the resumption of high-level dialogue between NATO allies and Russia. As you know, the NRC hasn’t met at this level since Russia’s military action in Georgia in August 2008. After the Secretary’s March 5th ministerial in Brussels, it was decided to resume the NRC at ambassadorial level, the perm reps in Brussels. This’ll be the first ministerial, it’ll be an informal ministerial held in Corfu. And it will also be a useful opportunity to discuss areas of potential cooperation between NATO and Russia, a genuine debate and dialogue, but also areas where we disagree. And that includes the question of Georgia and there are some others. But we hope that it’ll be a constructive meeting where we can talk about areas in which NATO and Russia can cooperate, including on terrorism, piracy, and Afghanistan.

The Deputy Secretary in Greece will also underscore the importance of our bilateral relationship with Greece, the deep friendship between our countries and Greece’s important role in regional issues, including through its chairmanship of the OSCE. And we’ll also work – we are also working with Greece on qualifying for the Visa Waiver Program and hope to be able to move that process forward while the Deputy Secretary is in Greece.

With that, I will stop and I look forward to your questions.

MR. KELLY: Arshad, if you could just identify yourself too, please.

QUESTION: Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. One just practical scheduling matter and then a more substantive question: On the scheduling, do you expect Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to, in fact, be there at the NATO-Russia ministerial? And do you expect Deputy Secretary Steinberg to have a bilat with him?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The answer to both questions is yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And more substantively, on Afghanistan and Pakistan --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Actually, I need to correct. The bilat will take place in Trieste with Under Secretary Burns rather than in Corfu with Deputy Secretary Steinberg.

QUESTION: Okay. Got it, thanks. What – can you shed any more light on what – you know, the United States, after (inaudible) its allies at NATO for a number of years for additional troops and fewer caveats, you know, seems to have acknowledged that it is unlikely to get much more on that side of the equation. And I wonder if you can shed some light on what exactly you are looking for in concrete terms from your partners and allies on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think there’s a lot they can do. Already, at the NATO summit, of course, we did work together on military and nonmilitary aspects of cooperation. They did pledge some 3,000 troops for election support and established a NATO monitoring mission – training mission in Afghanistan, which was a very useful contribution that goes beyond the military deployments that they’ve already made, which at present constitute more than 30,000 troops. So it’s far from nothing what they’re already doing militarily.

In terms of further contributions, we will continue to hope that allies are willing to lessen the caveats and the restrictions that they placed on their forces in Afghanistan, and we’ll put a particular focus at this meeting on what they can do to help Pakistan, in particular, to bolster Pakistan’s civilian government and its efforts to combat Taliban and extremists both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Our assumption, and that’s why we now talk about Af-Pak and Afghanistan-Pakistan together, is that you can’t really deal with Afghanistan unless you deal successfully with Pakistan.

And we’re working on this as a region now, and that’s why Special Representative Holbrooke is responsible for both countries. It really is a global theater. It’s a region of operations. The EU had a conference on Pakistan – I believe it’ll be its first one in history – last week and came up with a significant amount of money, I think $100 million, getting us towards the goal of $500 million for Pakistan. That’s an important contribution of a nonmilitary sort, the likes of which we’ll be looking to build on at the G-8 meeting.

MR. KELLY: All right. Sylvie, if you could identify yourself.

QUESTION: Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP. You mentioned Iran among the global threats that Bill Burns will have to work on in Trieste. Is there a P-5+1 meeting scheduled, and if so, what kind of achievement can you expect to make in (inaudible) situation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. There will be a foreign ministerial level meeting on Iran that Bill Burns will – Under Secretary Burns will represent the United States. And this is part of the ongoing process. Already I should note that the Secretary, even though unfortunately unable to be there, has already been continuing these discussions with her foreign minister counterparts this week. So she is remaining engaged on this issue.

QUESTION: That’s why she called Miliband and Kouchner.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In part.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: She has had other business in these calls with Miliband, Kouchner, Steinmeier. But also to discuss Iran, so she’s continuing the engagement. We –

QUESTION: Can I just be clear, you – there – it is going to be a P-5+1 foreign ministers meeting in Trieste?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Let me see if it’s billed as a P-5+1. There’s going to be meeting on Iran in Trieste. I --

QUESTION: We can confirm that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a Quint meeting without the Russians. We’ll have to – I’ll have to check to be sure.

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ll get back to you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. Which other countries are participating in AFPAC meeting, and the neighboring countries, in particular? And what do you expect from the neighboring countries?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There – on the second day in Trieste, there’s a series of meetings that are going to focus on AFPAC. The first will be a G-8 foreign ministers informal meeting. So that’s obviously just the G-8 and the European Commission participates in its G-8 functions. G-8 foreign ministers will also have a working lunch on Afghanistan and Pakistan. And then later in the day, the agenda will expand to a large number – and I don’t know if I have the number in front of me – but a much wider delegation including all of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s neighbors and other countries with a stake and interest and international organizations. And I don’t have that full list in front of me now. We can get it for you.

QUESTION: So that includes India and Iran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Iran was invited to participate, but I believe, as of yesterday, hadn’t answered. And that lack of an answer the Italians took to mean they’re not going to come. And I believe they’ve withdrawn the invitation. So --

QUESTION: And India is coming? India is participating?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ll have to check to confirm that. I believe so. But Iran was invited, but the invitation is now withdrawn, presumably, the --

QUESTION: With regard to Pakistan, what do you expect from the neighbors’ role in there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said you expect a lot of things from neighboring countries.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it’s a meeting. I don’t know that I said we expect – what we expect is an open dialogue on the challenges that we face together in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I said – as I said, this is an Italian initiative. The Italians are convinced that this is a global problem and can only be dealt with globally. If we’re all working together, and I think there’s a significant amount of common interest in Pakistan in bolstering the Pakistani government and in providing more resources for its fight against the Taliban and other extremists, and for finding money. And I hope this meeting will help us work towards that goal for the tremendous challenge of IDPs in Pakistan. There’s an enormous humanitarian challenge and the international community will need more resources to deal with that. And all of these countries coming together who have an interest in all of these same things: bolstering the government, fighting extremists, and dealing with the humanitarian situation, we hope we’ll be able to coordinate the efforts better with a chance to talk about it.

QUESTION: So you would be looking for humanitarian aid and military aid or both, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’ll be looking for all of the ways in which countries will be able to help bolster the government and contribute towards these goals, sure.

QUESTION: Mark Landler with The New York Times. A small question on the invitation to Iran: Was that withdrawn? And I know it’s the Italians who did it. Was that withdrawn because the Iranians didn’t reply to it or in reaction to the events on the streets of Tehran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: My understanding is that there was a lack of response. The invitation was out there for quite some time. The Iranians never answered. And at a certain point, the hosts had to get on with their planning.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the more substantive question is in the Iran meetings that you’re describing, given the – how fluid the situation is in Iran right now, do you expect those meetings to be largely a discussion of how these powers should respond to the situation in Iran or would it be a more long-term discussion about engagement, since what you hear from people is it’s very hard to have that discussion right now, given what’s going on there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Look, I think it’s obviously both. It would be impossible not to discuss current events at this meeting and just stick to broader nuclear agendas as if nothing had changed. This will be an opportunity for foreign ministers, in our case, the under secretary who is – who are following things on a day-by-day basis to look – to compare notes on what’s happening in Iran and to then perhaps think about how that might affect our long-term strategy that was initially the agenda. But of course, it would be impossible not to discuss –

QUESTION: I guess my question was how much of the latter could you really hope to do in a meeting like this? I mean, given that the long-term agenda is almost entirely dependent on how this plays out. I mean, I don’t know how much you can really talk about that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s a fair question. I mean, that’s – that will be one of the questions, how much can you talk about this, given the uncertainties. And there are things you can do. You can think it through. If things develop one way, what does that mean for our common strategy? How does – how do current developments affect the course that – we have a pretty clear course that we’re on and things we’re trying to do. How is this going to affect that course? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Margaret Ryan at CleanSkies News. You mentioned several times global warming climate change being among the big issues that will come up. What specifically do you expect to see discussed in Trieste on that? I mean, there were an awful lot of issues brought up in Bonn and not a whole lot of progress made there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think this is going to be a pre-Copenhagen negotiating session. I think – you never know. People can show up with specific ideas and try to get – that’s the beauty, if that’s the right word, of these things. You have responsible people who are engaged and it’s an opportunity to put things on the table. But especially with an agenda that includes all of what I described and a special focus on Afghanistan-Pakistan, plus a Quartet meeting. I don’t think climate change is going to be the most widely discussed issue and – leading to a very serious negotiation. Other G-8s might have been on a different order. I think you can assume that AFPAC will dominate; Iran, given what’s going on there – Quartet, Middle East. And then there will be opportunities to discuss global issues, but there’s only so much time, even in a very packed agenda over two days.

QUESTION: I thought you said you were putting together a special meeting for AFPAC and Iran? Are you also thinking or planning to do anything on – in terms of North Korea? Are you trying to organize a U.S.-Russia-China-Japan meeting, for example?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The agenda is largely set, and there’s not a place on it for a special meeting. Again, many G-8s get hijacked by current issues. When you get foreign ministers together, they can talk about what whatever they want. And if that comes up, it’s perfectly legitimate or appropriate. But no, we don’t foresee a special session on that. None of these issues are sort of dispensable. So I think the agenda will largely be the one that already is.

QUESTION: Will they have separate meeting – the bilateral with the meetings with the Japanese foreign minister?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: And the Chinese and the --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Not – you won’t –

QUESTION: Because that might be a venue or an opportunity to address North Korea?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s right. And bilats would be a good opportunity for that. Under Secretary Burns will have a bilat with the Japanese foreign minister. I’m sure North Korea – or I would imagine North Korea would come up in that meeting. It could easily come up in the bilat with Lavrov, and there’ll be other opportunities for exchanges issued.

QUESTION: Chinese exchanges?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know of a bilat with the Chinese, but there will be one with the Japanese and the Russians.

QUESTION: Can I – is Lavrov also going to be in Corfu?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And –

QUESTION: And – I’m sorry. Go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Now, remember, there’s also a NATO-Russia Council in Corfu, so we will --

QUESTION: Right. That’s right. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We will still be there.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) I was wondering.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: If – and in Trieste in the Quartet meeting, is this going to be the first – I think this is going to be the first meeting with – the Quartet meeting in the new Administration for – I can’t remember.

QUESTION: I believe it is.

QUESTION: Or was there one in Sharm el-Sheikh?

MR. WOOD: Yeah, there was one in Sharm el-Sheikh.

QUESTION: It was in Sharm.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you sketch out what the purpose of that meeting is? Is it just sort of, you know, assessing where things are or is there going to be any particular focus such as on settlements or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I mean, I think it’s coordinating the plan. We have a very clear view that the President has expressed about what we’re trying to accomplish, and it’s comparing notes with the allies. And again, Special Representative – Special Envoy Mitchell will be there as well.

QUESTION: Is there something in particular that you’re looking at to come out of all of these meetings over the four days in both Trieste and Corfu? Any particular result that you’d like to see come out at this point, since it has been, what, five months now with the Administration, so ready to move on to some sort of specific actions?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You know, I think on – in some of the subareas I’ve discussed, one would hope for concrete areas of progress. As I mentioned, some of the goals we’re trying to achieve on Afghanistan-Pakistan. I would hope that we bring this many countries together, we will have taken a step forward on the strategy for bolstering their governments and coming up with assistance on IDPs , and so on. So, some of that seems to me obvious. What I would add, though, is I hope that these meetings can be used to constructively advance the European security agenda. This is – all the Europeans will be there. We have the OSCE whose purpose is to enhance European security. We have a NATO-Russia Council. We have talked about trying to have a more constructive relationship with Russia. We would like to see these meetings set that up. The President, of course, is going to Moscow ten days later.

And this would be a useful opportunity – we’re not going to shy away from talking about the differences we have with Russia on European security or anything else. But we would like to see this used constructively, because we have common interests with Russia in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, terrorism, piracy, financial. And it’s an opportunity to make progress in those areas as well.

QUESTION: But how can you make progress on some sort of common idea about European security with the Russians, while at the same time, you listed yourself that one of the priorities for relations with Europe is to continue to expand influence or whatever term you want to use to the east?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Well, I think President Obama has said that he thinks it should be possible, and is possible, to have a more constructive relationship with Russia, even as we disagree on some core issues. And that’s what we’re trying to test at this series of meetings and with the Moscow summit that – and that’s what we’re trying to test in the NATO-Russia Council as well. We have different ideas on missile defense. We have different ideas on the CFE Treaty. We have different ideas on Georgia and some principles of European security.

But we don’t think that should mean that we say, okay, nothing to talk about constructively with the Russians or between NATO and Russia. We’ll explain those differences, but maybe we can, nonetheless, make progress and work together. We’re talking to Russia about how we can – we have welcomed Russia’s willingness to help us with transit across Russia, to Afghanistan’s constructive cooperation together. We’ve put to the Russians some ideas on missile defense, how we can better protect ourselves – Europeans, Americans, Russians – from a growing threat from ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. We have a common interest in counter-piracy. We have a common interest in reducing numbers of nuclear weapons. So that’s what we’re trying to do is – without shying away from our differences on principle and substance, nonetheless work together. We’re going to test that proposition.

QUESTION: May I ask you about the visit of Ahmadinejad to Russia? Do you view it as a positive sign or an attempt to engage Iran in the dialogue or it’s a negative? (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Ian, do you have --

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) I guess the Spokesman is not saying anything either, and I think it’s a matter between Russia and Iran. I don’t think we want to comment on it.

QUESTION: Could you shed any more light on the new agreement with the Krygyz (inaudible) base? Any – there are reports that the rent has gone up three times. And I also wonder whether there has been any talk with the Russians about this, because the foreign ministry in Moscow commented on this today.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I can briefly -- I don’t know if Ian wants to add anything on that. This is a matter between Kyrgyzstan and the United States. So I don’t believe there’s been discussions with Russia about it. It’s in our common interest to use the base for transit in Afghanistan, and we’re pleased that we’ve reached an agreement with them on it. And it’s really not a Russian issue. Kyrgyzstan is a sovereign country.

QUESTION: Did you raise the amount of money that you’re paying now to the Kyrgyz Government for use of the base?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t have anything on that. Ian, do you --

MR. KELLY: No, I --

STAFF: That’s out of our region, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, this is --

QUESTION: Pardon me?

MR. KELLY: This is out of our region.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- out of area.

QUESTION: Can you speak about the European security structure, who seem to say that they are (inaudible) security situation right now? So you are ready to engage with Russia, but not to make any concession? What is it exactly that you --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It is – we are indeed ready to engage with Russia. The Russian president said we should talk about principles of European security and proposed even examination of a possible treaty. And we did not want to reject that suggestion out of hand. We said we’d be happy to talk about it, we look forward to your ideas.

We did have certain principles which are that we should keep this in channels of the comprehensive security organization that already does exist. We made clear that we would also stress that we think there are some pretty good principles for European security already out there and agreed on the Helsinki Final Act, such as non-use of force and sovereignty and self-determination that were negotiated and agreed upon and have served us pretty well.

So we are happy to have discussions and find out more of what they have in mind. We’ve been waiting for quite some time to get some more details about their proposal. We never want to reject dialogue; maybe they’ll have some useful suggestions. But we also think that the organizations that exist are pretty good, pretty comprehensive, the principles on which they’re based are pretty good.

And let me just stress it’s not really up to us. We often get the question, what are you going to propose at Corfu on a new European security structure? That’s not our – we didn’t underline the need for that discussion, so we’re open to hearing. But I don’t think it’s necessarily for us to come up with radically new ideas.

MR. KELLY: One more. Go ahead, Sylvie, the follow-up and then Jill, last question.

QUESTION: On Georgia – a follow-up on Georgia. In Corfu, I suppose you are going to speak about the deployment of the observers in Georgia? What do you expect?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Or the lack thereof.

QUESTION: Yes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I think that we will make clear our disappointment that we were unable to agree to have OSCE monitors in South Ossetia, which they had been prior to the war, and UN monitors in Abkhazia ,which there – well, which there are now, who are current packing their bags, because Russia vetoed the UN Security Council resolution last week that ten of the members of the Security Council voted for, and no one else joined Russia in opposing. A couple of others abstained. In other words, there was a strong gathering behind – this was simply a technical roll over of the UNOMIG resolution that was already in place. We weren’t even at that point proposing a new substantive resolution, but just saying let’s let these monitors stay while we work on this resolution.

The Russians opposed any reference to Security Council Resolution 1808 because it referenced Georgia’s territorial integrity, something we strongly believe in and defend, even though they have supported other Security Council resolutions that referenced Security Council Resolution 1808 since. So that’s really for them to explain, but they insisted on vetoing it. And as a consequence, we no longer have monitors in Abkhazia, which we regret, and we’ll say this to them and others at Corfu.

We no longer now have eyes and ears on the ground. We’ll encourage the Russians to allow the humanitarian aid into Abkhazia and South Ossetia that they haven’t been allowing in, but agreed to allow in, in the ceasefires of August and September of last year. So these are differences that we have, and we won’t be shy about articulating them.

I mentioned Greece and its constructive role, and the Greece chairmanship. They proposed what we thought was a practical and pragmatic resolution in South Ossetia to have an OSCE monitoring mission. And the Russians alone blocked it as well. So there again, we’re not going to hesitate to bring that up. That was, we think, unfortunate because we need transparency in these zones of conflict.

MR. KELLY: And the last question to Jill Dougherty.

QUESTION: Thank you. You know, I was really struck by the way you phrased it. On Russia, you said that, you know, we want to have a more constructive relationship, that’s what we’re going to test. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put quite that way. Does that send – it sounded a little more negative than what I’ve heard before. Is – are you – is that what you intended by that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What I intended by that was we’re going to test the proposition. I suggested that the President believes that we can have a more constructive relationship while not hesitating to underscore our differences with Russia. And we’re going to test that proposition by seeking the more constructive relationship with Russia. And we’ll find out if it’s possible. We hope it is. That’s what we’re trying to do. Does that make sense?

QUESTION: Yes. But I mean, it sounds to me – I would note that as a little bit of shift in the – as expressed by the Administration.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: From what?

QUESTION: From a more open-ended – you know, we’re going to see, we were hoping that we could have a more constructive relationship --

QUESTION: Hit the reset button.

QUESTION: -- and work together on, you know, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Maybe one thing to ask in regard to that is: You have made these overtures to Russia. Are you starting to wonder whether they’re actually interested in reciprocating?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, a test is open – we’re exploring. I mean, I don’t, again, interpret test – so a test is an effort to explore the proposition that the President believes to be the case that we can have a more constructive relationship with Russia even as we underscore our differences. That seems to me entirely consistent with what we’ve been saying about what we’re doing.

MR. KELLY: And we’re seen it with the North Korea resolution too at the UN. We’ve seen a very constructive relationship.

QUESTION: Is there a Quint --

MR. KELLY: And really, Arshad, absolutely the last question.

QUESTION: Okay. Just (inaudible), is there a Quint meeting on the former Yugoslavia?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: When G-8 foreign ministers discuss regional issues, Balkan issues are on the agenda along with Iran.

QUESTION: Right, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So that – and I think gets back to what I was trying to remember exactly who would participate in which meeting. I think it’s G-8 foreign ministers will talk about regional issues, including Iran and the Balkans and --

QUESTION: But that’s not a Quint --

QUESTION: It’s Quint --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, no, it’s fair enough because I’m trying to clarify. It’s --

QUESTION: So that’s at the G-8 level, not at a smaller level?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think that’s right. But I’ll have to clarify that for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks. Thank you.

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PRN: 2009/636



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