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Diplomacy in Action

Secretary Kerry's Meetings with Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri And Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman


Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Paris, France
June 26, 2014

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SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: For the purposes of the transcript, this is a readout of the Secretary’s meetings with former Prime Minister Hariri this morning from Lebanon and with Foreign Minister Lieberman of Israel. We have a couple of senior State Department officials. Why don’t we start with the Hariri meeting? Just a quick – [Senior State Department Official Two], do you want to do that one?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We just had a very good meeting. The Secretary and former Prime Minister Hariri have known each other for a while, and obviously he wanted to hear former Prime Minister Hariri’s views and his position (inaudible) March 14 views. There was a discussion of the need, from our point of view, obviously, for Lebanon, for the Lebanese to elect a president as soon as possible because they need all three elements of the government working in order to deal with the really serious challenges that Lebanon faces, meaning a president, the prime minister and the cabinet as the government and also parliament as well. So they discussed prospects for that and I think they all – they both agreed on the need to – for Lebanon to move ahead and try to elect a president as soon as possible.

They also discussed regional events, both Iraq and Syria. And former Prime Minister Hariri raised an issue, which, of course, has been very high on our agenda as well, which is the large influx of refugees and its impact on Lebanon. As you know, we were the largest single donor to the larger appeal on the refugees and in particular to Lebanon, where we’ve given over $400 million since the beginning of the crisis.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. If we have any questions on Lebanon, let’s just do them quickly and then we’ll do Lieberman.

QUESTION: Just was there a reaction to the bombing yesterday?

QUESTION: To the bombing, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It came up. Former Prime Minister Hariri mentioned it, of course. They’re all very sensitive about that this not be symptomatic of that – obviously that we don’t want to go back to that. Obviously a concern for spillover from Syria and more broadly. As you know, we strongly condemn the bombing and are hoping that the perpetrators that are left – or that are brought to justice. And that’s yet another reason why we have been in a very material way supportive in assisting the Lebanese armed forces and the internal security forces.

QUESTION: How about support for the Syrian opposition and rebels, how much conversation was dedicated to that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There was some discussion of that between the two of our assistance and support for the moderate opposition in Syria, and again, the impact of the continuing war as it is in Syria on Lebanon, both with respect to refugees and any other destabilizing aspects. There was discussion of the effects of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: All right. I can do Lieberman. Are there any more on Lebanon?

QUESTION: No. Well, it comes from a bigger one and you can probably answer it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Well, the question is exactly what is the Secretary trying to get from these meetings? I mean, is there – are there very specific things about Iraq?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean I think it’s fair to say that Iraq was discussed in all of the meetings he’s had over the course of the last week. But obviously the Lebanon meeting, which [Senior State Department Official Two] referenced, was more about the political issues also going on on the ground there and issues specific to Lebanon. So it wasn’t set up, as I understand it, specific to Iraq, but it was certainly discussed.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No. This wasn’t the reason for the meeting --

QUESTION: No. Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- what prompted the meeting or the main subject. But I will say, and then [Senior State Department Official One] can talk more broadly, the subject did come up about the need for government formation in Iraq and to move ahead with that for both sides.

QUESTION: Given another additional threat of Iraq?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, yes. Okay. I can do Lieberman. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. In the meeting with Foreign Minister Lieberman, they talked about the long-term relationships between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They talked about the teenagers. And the Secretary reiterated his concern, the concern of the United States, about the missing teenagers. He talked about the strong emotions that obviously are happening in Israel right now as a result of the missing teenagers, and he thanked – the foreign minister thanked the Secretary for his support and the strong statement that we had made from the United States. The Secretary also wanted – acknowledged or talked about the difficult position that President Abbas is in.

(Interruption.)

He also – the Secretary also talked about the difficult position President Abbas is in and talked about efforts from both sides to continue security cooperation, but acknowledged that it’s difficult on both sides in the region right now.

They also talked about Iraq. The Secretary briefed him on his trip, and he asked him for his views on ISIL and the threat. He made clear that we felt that resolving the political process, resolving the political situation on the ground is vital, but also reiterated that it’s important that countries in the region stand together against the threat. They also had a discussion about the longer-term threat of a range of groups and how to take that on and how to address that over the long term, both in the Middle East, in North Africa. They talked about Syria as part of the discussion kind of the threats that we’re facing. They also briefly talked about Iran and the ongoing negotiations. And the Secretary reiterated that, of course, gaps remain, that it’s up to Iran to determine whether they want to have a peaceful program. So that was basically the thrust. And they spent a few minutes at the end one on one, though most of the meeting was with the entire group.

QUESTION: What did Lieberman say about Iraq?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They’ll talk about it. I will say that he acknowledged, he agreed that ISIL is a threat to the region and that that is something that he thinks all countries should have concern about. And so they talked a little bit about that, which broadened into a larger conversation about all the threats, whether it’s Boko Haram or al-Shabaab. I mean, they had a broad conversation about our CT efforts and what we’re looking at, and the Secretary asked him for his views.

QUESTION: Anything on the peace process getting --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Secretary thanked him for the positive statements that he had made over the course of the process. Obviously we know it’s on pause right now, but they talked broadly about the benefits over the long term and how resolving these issues would be essential to having long-term stability in the region.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion on your part or any words on your part about the need to sort of restrain Israeli activities in the West Bank, (inaudible) during the hunt for the teenagers?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think the Secretary reiterated his long-held view that increased settlement activity is not a step that is conducive to a positive environment, but acknowledged it’s difficult on all sides, and obviously there are a great deal of emotions involved, naturally, given the missing teenagers. And that’s how he also talked about the difficult position that President Abbas is in, as they work to continue security cooperation as well.

QUESTION: Did he ask for the Israeli army to rein in some of their activities though?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It really was a brief part of the conversation at the beginning that was just a reference to the strong emotions going on on the ground, the importance of continuing security cooperation between the parties.

QUESTION: You mentioned a while ago that the United States had offered to help in the search. Has that been taken up? Is there any movement on that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They’re really – they know that we are willing to help and willing to assist, and obviously we’re engaged closely with them, but there wasn’t a specific discussion of that during the meeting.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject quickly on the Fabius comments?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.

QUESTION: What does the Secretary mean by the “within hours.”

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think he was making a point that as quickly as possible the armed separatists should put down their arms and the Russians should play a role in that.

QUESTION: Is there something specific that you guys are asking before the EU and that meeting on sanctions tomorrow? It starts at 9:00.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think he was making a point about urgency. It wasn’t – it shouldn’t be taken literally, but making a point about urgency, as he referenced yesterday, right, about steps that they could take to show the Europeans, to show the United States that they’re serious about the peace process.

QUESTION: But Foreign Minister Fabius made it clear that during their conversation that was held last night, four-way conversation with the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France – or chancellor of Germany, sorry – that there have been commitments made on the – he didn’t say on which side, but there have been commitments made and that they expect to see some kind of – he didn’t say this, I’m paraphrasing – expect that he sees some kind of progress. What commitments were made in your estimation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: In that four-way conversation?

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t have any specific details on that.

QUESTION: Did Foreign Minister Fabius brief --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I honestly didn’t talk to the Secretary about the Fabius meeting. I can – we can see if there’s more to tell you about it. But at this point, I haven’t even briefed – I haven’t even gotten a download from him on it.

QUESTION: It was just – from what Fabius was saying, it was kind of clear that they’re expecting something to happen today.

QUESTION: Yeah, they’re --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay.

QUESTION: And some kind of de-escalation, some kind of de-escalation. They – he was hinting that something is going to happen today or that --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, let me ask him for more clarity on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, obviously, as you know, we’ve wanted them to do more than they’ve done. And as he said yesterday, there are some steps, like the steps of the Duma the other day. But clearly they haven’t taken steps like calling for the armed separatists to lay down their arms and stopping – securing the border. And so I don’t know. That certainly could have been part of the discussion with Fabius this morning, but I’ll talk to him about it.

QUESTION: He said that they’re taking a number of – they’ve managed to take a number of – advance a number of decisions in the conversation on the phone last night.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Last night. Okay. Well, let me see if there’s more. We weren’t on that one, but we’ll see.

QUESTION: No. You weren’t, but I just wondered.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll see if there’s more to tell.

QUESTION: I think he must have briefed the Secretary.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. Sure, sure. We’ll see if there’s more to tell. Okay. So – and we’ll do a little readout of the next one too, if that works.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And I’ll find out.

QUESTION: You’re going to do it afterwards, yeah? Obviously.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Afterwards. Yeah. I think it ends at like 4 o’clock or something like that.

QUESTION: And can we just say what is the point? Why are they meeting here? Why with these foreign ministers? What’s the aim of this meeting, the Quad meeting this afternoon?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Quad meeting.

QUESTION: The Quad meeting, what’s the aim of it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Look, I think the emphasis is on recognizing the shared threat they all face from ISIL, reiterating that that’s where the focus should be, that our efforts are also focused on the political process and that working its way through, but there needs to be a recognition of the seriousness of the threat and also everybody should kind of be working together to encourage all the parties in Iraq to move towards that political resolution.

QUESTION: And these ministers are meeting here at your invitation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.

QUESTION: So is there a deliverable out of the meeting they’re expecting?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s more about consultations and discussion about the situation. And obviously they all play an important part in this, and it’s important to the Secretary that he brief them on his trip, and that’s really the purpose.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.



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