Briefing on the U.S-Libya Comprehensive Claims SettlementC. David Welch, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
August 15, 2008
(5:15 p.m. EDT)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Thank you. Thank you, all. And thank you for being patient. I’ll just make some brief remarks because I said something Thursday afternoon in Libya which I think you have – of which you have a transcript.
First, there’s been an awful lot of work go into this, and I sometimes forget that I should thank some of my colleagues who have spent a lot of time with this. In particular, there are two offices inside the State Department who did an awful lot to support arriving at this agreement. One is our Legal Advisor’s Office, Jonathan Schwartz, in particular, who couldn't get a flight out of Tripoli at the same time that I was leaving, so he’s somewhere in the air right now. But behind him is another big legal team, and I’m really very grateful for their assistance. You guys know some of these people, so if you don’t mind, let me just go through and complete this.
Second, our Congressional Relations Office did a terrific job, and particularly there’s one person there, Jen Butte-Dahl, who was really very, very helpful in getting Congress to agree to this. And having congressional support for this agreement was instrumental in enabling us to get it signed in Libya because it put a great deal of focus on the matter.
Finally, there are all my colleagues in NEA who have worked on this for many months. This is a big project for the American Government, folks. There is a – you know, you can look back over the history of our relationship with Libya and see a long period of heartache and sorrow, and we hope now to move beyond that. I don’t think it’s ever possible for families to move beyond some of these tragedies, but we now have the possibility to turn to a new page in our relationship.
What we have concluded is a claims settlement agreement, and I’d like to describe it a little bit so that you understand how this thing is structured.
Basically, this is – it’s designed to resolve the last major historical issue that has stood in the way of developing a proper relationship with Libya. There are claims on both sides: Libyans against the United States in Libyan courts that have been adjudicated; and there are claims by American citizens against Libya in U.S. courts, only one of which has arrived at a partial judgment.
The process of addressing those has been very slow. It hasn’t given effective relief to the claimants and has been a source of tension in our relationship for a long time. This agreement provides a process and a mechanism that will give fair compensation to the claimants from both sides for these past incidents and, when it’s fulfilled, will enable us to move ahead toward a normal relationship, which I’m convinced is an important national interest for both countries.
As I said, it would not have been possible to do this agreement without the support of Congress, in particular the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, which was signed into law by the President earlier this month.
The next phase of this now is to create what’s called an international humanitarian settlement fund – I think that’s the precise description – the Humanitarian Settlement Fund, which I will refer to here as the fund. And this fund will be established as kind of a separate entity. It has bylaws that we have negotiated. There will be Libyan representation to it on one side and American representation to it on the other side. These are – it’s an independent body. It’s not a governmental body. And its sole purpose is to fulfill the terms of this agreement.
That fund will sit and collect resources – and I’m confident you will ask me about the resources – that will lead to the payment of the claims once it is fully capitalized. Once the fund receives the agreed level of resources, it essentially – an automatic process starts then, and some amount of those resources are sent to a separate account for American claimants and some amount is sent to another account for Libyan claimants. And then each government undertakes to pay the claims in each case.
There’s a lot of work that’s been done to identify contributors to the fund, and I am optimistic that it will be a success. When that happens, this will be the completion of the process begun almost a decade ago in 2001 when Libya renounced terrorism and began the process of lifting of sanctions and renouncing its weapons of mass destruction.
I met with the entire Libyan leadership, from the leader, Colonel Qadhafi, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the entire Libyan negotiating team, some other Libyans in other branches of their government who were important in helping us get to this point. And from those discussions, I would say I’m fully confident of Libyan adherence to the terms of the agreement and of their desire to not merely fulfill it but also to move ahead in our relationship and so that we have a more normal pattern of interaction between us.
QUESTION: David, this fund that’s being set up, who’s contributing to the fund and what is the acceptable level in dollar terms that you’re talking – you said there’s a minimal level. Maybe if you could --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: There is an agreed level.
QUESTION: Agreed level.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: The fund is set up as a humanitarian vehicle, and it can take contributions from any source. Sue, if you wish, the account will soon be open. (Laughter.) That said, even with --
QUESTION: I don’t think it’s tax-deductible, though, is it? (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: No, it is actually not. (Laughter.) At least to the best of my knowledge, it’s not. But you may – seriously, you could donate if you wished. I think, however, even knowing your generosity, the amounts would probably not reach to the levels that are expected here.
I am confident that there will be robust sources for this funding. I can say with respect to the United States that no taxpayer dollars will be used. There has been, I realize, some commentary about possible funding from U.S. or other firms. The U.S. Government is not asking them to do that. But to our knowledge, there is no legal bar for them voluntarily doing it if they wish to do that.
Again, the same would apply to any other foreign entity. At the end of the day, I think – say it this way. I could characterize my view of where that stands now as I’m optimistic this fund will receive the resources it needs.
QUESTION: Well, but if --
MR. WOOD: Let Elise finish her question.
QUESTION: Do you have commitments? I mean, obviously, you have a certain commitment from Libya that it’s going to satisfy the claims that it’s – that you’ve held it responsible for. But as far as the Libyan claims, when you say that you’re optimistic, do you have commitments that – from certain individuals or companies or whatever that they’re going to make a contribution to the fund? Is that why you’re optimistic?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: No, no, that’s --
QUESTION: I mean, why would any American – just –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I’ve not been in the business of doing that. As I said, we were --
QUESTION: Why are you optimistic, then?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Because the central point in this negotiation was to see how we could set it up in a manner that would be balanced, perceived as balanced and fair, and to provide an opportunity for this transaction to take place under terms that were politically acceptable in both places.
QUESTION: But you’ve got – I’m sorry, but you’ve got --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Can I finish my answer please, Elise? The toughest part of the negotiation was to arrive at a figure, because these claims are quite large. I mean, you can easily do the math yourselves. And in order to be able to satisfy them at levels that would be seen as convincing by our Congress and the American claimant community and, most importantly, the families of those who have been killed and injured, the numbers would be quite large. That was a tough part of the negotiation.
Right now, we’re – again, as I said, I’m confident in this. But if it – if the fund does not reach the agreed level, there’s no obligation on either party, Libya or the United States, to do anything. In other words, the status quo would obtain. I don’t expect that to be the case. I think we turned a really important corner with this agreement, and I expect it to be satisfied. So that’s the basis for my optimism.
MR. WOOD: Anne.
QUESTION: What is that figure? And also, can you just sort of say why this isn’t letting the Libyan Government off the hook? I mean, they were supposed to be solely responsible for forking out a lot of millions of dollars in claims that – to --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well –
QUESTION: Some people will interpret this as their not having to do this solely.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: If that were the interpretation, it would be fundamentally mistaken, because there’s nothing that the U.S. Government has to do until we own the amount of money allotted to us under the agreement.
QUESTION: Which is what?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I’m not going to tell you now. You’ve asked me three different ways, and for right now, we’re not going to say.
QUESTION: Why not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Let me just say that the agreement would not have been concluded without an agreed figure, and the agreed figure is sufficient – more than sufficient – for us to deal with the claims that are out there, plus provide an amount that helps us to look at some of those that are of a special category, say, if there was an injury that was especially grievous or a property claim for which the standard of compensation has yet to be decided.
QUESTION: But I’m sorry, can I just get clarification on this one point? This is all talking about money that Libya is going to give into the fund, but this fund is also compensating Libya. And you said that you’re optimistic that those – that contributions to the fund to compensate Libya are going to be made. So where do you get that confidence from that Americans are going to contribute to the Libyan fund? Do you have commitments? I mean –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I didn’t say that Americans would contribute. I don’t know if they’ll contribute. I didn’t ask them to do so.
QUESTION: So how are you confident that the Libyan compensation part of the fund will be satisfied? Where do you get that confidence from?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, you’re right, in a sense. It’s an agreement which, until its terms are met, it will not be fulfilled.
QUESTION: So you expect American companies to do it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Elise, no. Your question bundles several different things.
The structure of the agreement is such that its obligations on the United States, or on Libya, for that matter, to satisfy the claims, to remove the law, to restore Libya’s immunity as a normal state, will not be triggered unless the agreed amounts are received.
QUESTION: So who might that (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: It’s – that gives me great confidence that they have a high incentive to do it.
MR. WOOD: Let me move on to another question.
QUESTION: Can you give specific examples of other potential contributors? I mean, are these Arab sovereign wealth funds? Are they do-gooder charities? I mean, who – who might potentially be putting into the pot?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: You know, in the past, there have been various solutions to this kind of problem, at least, that offer guides but are not necessarily dispositive. For example, in some of the European case settlements, a Libyan NGO was behind paying the agreed amounts. In – I think at one point, the Libyans described some of the Pan Am settlement payments as having come from Libyan companies because of their desire to see sanctions lifted.
In the Bulgarian medics case, there was an international vehicle created that aggregated contributions from a variety of sources, including other countries. And we had some experience in working with some of the participants in that agreement in setting that humanitarian vehicle up. So all of those are possible examples.
At the end of the day, what matters for us is: Is the agreement triggered by the amounts and deposited at the appointed levels?
QUESTION: And you’re basing this gamble on Libya?
MR. WOOD: Okay, please. Let’s move to another question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I don’t gamble. There is no gamble here. There is a binary solution. It either happens, or it does not happen. And I am confident it will happen.
MR. WOOD: A question here, please.
QUESTION: During your meetings with the Libyan leadership, did you raise the issue of Libya’s record on human rights? There’s a (inaudible) been in prison, and this Department in March and May called for his unconditional release. Did you bring up this issue with the Libyan leadership?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: And who do you represent?
QUESTION: I’m with a Kuwaiti newspaper. I write.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, the answer to your question is I did have meetings with a whole bunch of people there. And while we were working mostly on the agreement itself, we did a lot of bilateral business and a lot of other issues came up, including the one you mention, but there were many others as well. We have a concern about this particular case and the Libyan Government, at all levels, is very aware of that.
We did a whole bunch of other things too that are of interest to us and this Department; for example, Sudan, Chad, Mauritania, also, because Libya is very involved there. We discussed the IAEA, Libya’s activities in the Security Council, where we were with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It was normal bilateral discussion.
MR. WOOD: Before asking your questions, folks, for those of you who are not normal attendees at the Department, if you could just sort of identify your news – your name and your news organization.
QUESTION: Okay, I’m Tariq Arshad from Middle East News Agency of Egypt. For such an agreement to resolve such a sensitive issue, it must have addressed the very minute and small details of the whole problem. Thus, I’m asking about the details of the compensations the Libyans will get, the number of those eligible, a sense of how much – of how many people will be compensated from the Libyan side, and whether the other sides of damage would be compensated, the property and these things, and also the deadline of the agreement implementation.
And finally, about the -- a different one concerning the ambassador. When will the American ambassador get to Libya?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Okay, let me try and answer that. I’m much more familiar with the universe of American cases than I am with the Libyan cases, but I’ll take a stab at their side of this arrangement.
In Libya, all their cases arise, essentially, from one event; that is, the U.S. military retaliation for the La Belle disco bombing that occurred in 1986. And the claims in Libyan courts assert that there was a loss of innocent life, injury and property as a result of those military operations. I’ve seen a variety of numbers from Libyan colleagues, but somewhere around 40 deaths and maybe double the number in injuries. And those cases have gone through the Libyan courts and there are judgments against the United States.
On the American side, you have the Pan Am – there’s a remaining settlement amount for the Pan Am settlement. In the case of the Pan Am, there are 168 deaths subject to this settlement agreement. Then there is the La Belle disco bombing for which there are two deaths, I believe, and around 90 injuries. And then there is a body of six other historical events where it has been alleged in American court proceedings that Libya is responsible, and those have 23 deaths total and, I think, 58 injuries. That includes the UTA bombing case which was adjudicated in France already. There were seven deaths on that aircraft that are American. There is a court judgment at one stage of the court process here on that one.
Then the – I’m sorry for this – the complexity of this answer because the claims are also of two other varieties. There are some claims for emotional distress and then there are some claims for what are commercial claims, essentially, for insurance companies or for the loss of an aircraft, for example. And so they’re a very complex body of cases here on our side.
QUESTION: Are the French included? The French --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Under American law, you know, only Americans can bring these kinds of suits in the United States.
QUESTION: American victims only in the incident, in --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: That’s correct. One exception would be the Pan Am Lockerbie settlement, because the Pan Am Lockerbie settlement itself included victims on the ground or foreigners on the airplane who were not American. In that case, there was an agreed settlement amount and the dispute has been over the remaining payment, $2 million in each death. So rather than reopen the settlement, which was not ours, we had simply said this is – this will be taken care of at its face value if the agreement is implemented.
MR. WOOD: A question --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: The – he had one more.
QUESTION: The deadline of the agreement and implementation?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Obviously, we would like this to move ahead quickly, and I’m reasonably optimistic that it will.
QUESTION: And the ambassador?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: That’s a completely separate subject. We’ve nominated an ambassador, a high-quality individual, and his name is before the Senate and we hope they would now see fit to act upon it.
MR. WOOD: A question here?
QUESTION: Same as yours.
MR. WOOD: Oh, you’ve answered – okay. Another question?
QUESTION: Have you received any commitments from members of Congress related to the ambassador nomination and to the – taking the hold off of the funding for the embassy there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I --
QUESTION: As part of this whole process, the whole discussion?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I want to be careful in answering that because others may have talked to them about those points. I’ve focused with Congress on what we needed in the way of legislation to set up this agreement with maximum opportunity for success behind it. Congress is very reassured so far about what we have been doing; otherwise, they would not have passed this legislation by unanimous consent. I briefed them today on the way in from the airport again. And I would – I think I can safely describe their views as very positive about this – this result.
QUESTION: When does the --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: That said, we would like to move ahead with being able to do the kind of normal work that we need to do on Libya. I think by examples such as this, we show the value of American diplomatic representation. It would help us, to be candid, having an ambassador on the ground. Not that our people there aren’t good. They are, but, you know, America likes to be represented at the highest level.
QUESTION: Speaking of which, when is the Secretary going?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: The Secretary would like to visit North Africa and I’m hopeful she will do so soon, but she seems to be busy.
QUESTION: Georgia on her mind. So if the fund is not at the right levels and you can’t go ahead and pay people and resolve all that, will relations improve dramatically after that level has been reached? Or because you’ve reached an agreement, you think relations will move into a new sort of chapter now? Sorry, David, was I clear with that? Maybe not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Yes. Well, first of all, under the terms of the agreement, the agreement is really – not because I helped to author it, but it is airtight. Nothing is going to happen unless we reach the agreed amounts. And both sides understand that. That said, this is the first time that we have written down and agreed and signed and had our leadership endorse, had the American Congress support, an understanding about how we’re going to fix this problem. And when you’re able to do that, you set the terms for the solution. And I think that means that people want to have that solution.
I’m going to persist in being very optimistic about this. I really feel that we have turned a corner. And – but on the other hand, if I’m wrong, the worst we’ve risked are the two bags I’ve lost and a fair amount of U.S. Government time.
QUESTION: Sorry, David, but when you said, you know, nothing will happen, what do you mean? I mean --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: The obligations for the United States are not triggered until we reach the agreed amount and we possess it.
QUESTION: But what are the obligations of the U.S.? To improve diplomatic ties and have a normal --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: No, no, they have – they have nothing to do with diplomatic ties. They are of two kinds: one, to deal with the cases in U.S. courts and for Libya to deal with the cases in their courts – those have to go away; and, second, to restore their immunities to those that would apply to any other country.
QUESTION: Would it be tit for tat? I mean, step for step? You pay compensation for the Libyans and the Libyans pay compensation for your peoples? Will it be one for one, or what?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: It’s – the setup is designed to be fair and balanced, but it is not tit for tat. You know, I think if you – if we had looked at it as step for step and valuing one human life versus another human life, we would still be having this negotiation. It’s better to have a humanitarian approach with a fund there that people can contribute to, and then that will take care of these issues in a fair way to both sides.
QUESTION: David, can I get a clarification? In answer to the question earlier about the Secretary possibly being interested in going there, you answered – I don’t know whether it was meant to be artful, dodging or just in general, “She’d love to go to North Africa.” Does she want to – she’s been to North Africa. Does she want to visit Libya? Does she not --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: She’s not been to North Africa as Secretary of State.
QUESTION: She’s been to Egypt.
QUESTION: No, no, she’s been to Marrakesh.
QUESTION: Powell --
QUESTION: For sure --
QUESTION: Well, she said that she wanted to visit Libya.
QUESTION: Well, anyway, does she want to go to Libya? Does she plan to go to Libya?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: She would like to visit North Africa. And North Africa, for me, includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. We --
QUESTION: And Sudan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: She’s been to Sudan as Secretary of State and it’s not in the NEA area. Were it in my area, we would have fixed that problem. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So do you expect her to go to Libya before she leaves?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I certainly hope so, Charlie. And the idea is that sometime before the end of her tenure, she would have gone there. There’s only – apart from the Maghreb countries, there are only two other places in NEA that she hasn’t visited as Secretary of State. And I’m --
QUESTION: What’s the other one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: -- parochial about this. Yes, I would like to get --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Yemen and Oman.
QUESTION: And Iran?
QUESTION: She went to Damascus as Secretary --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Iran and Syria are, for the moment, in a special category in NEA.
QUESTION: David, can I ask you about what else – assuming this all goes forward in a timely manner as you expect and the agreed amount is put into the fund and the process starts to pay – to pay on each side, what other sort of discussions did you have with the Libyans while you were there about other things that they would like to have done on a diplomatic level and in terms of lifting some of the restrictions that still remain on Libya? Anything like that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Yeah. First of all, if we reach the agreed level, I expect a lot of things to happen very quickly. It’s very easy to immediately see the amounts that we would need to satisfy some of the claims. The Pan Am claim, the – if you just take a look at the numbers, is $536 million right there, and – but we would be able to put that literally out the door. I don’t know how long people would take to spend $500 million, but it would be pretty quick.
La Belle settlement is also a known amount. It’s 280 – 283 million, so right there, you have 819. Then you have this other body of cases, and some of them are easily discernible; that is, we know that seven Americans died on UTA and we’d be able to take care of that right away. There are a body of other deaths and physical injuries. And we’re not contemplating that people have to prove liability. There’s an important benefit of this to American claimants. But they would have to show that they were the appropriate representatives in the case, and we’ll set up a process to nail that down.
For that part of it, it should be – it should be very brisk, so a lot of the fund would pay out very, very quickly.
QUESTION: Then for the Libyan side, I mean, what else --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: On the Libyan side, they’re responsible for their distribution.
QUESTION: No – yes, but outside of the particulars of this settlement, what about other restrictions that are --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Oh, I see, other issues.
QUESTION: -- that have – that still exist?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, the most important— when you set up an embassy, it’s a long and complicated process. But basically, they would like to normalize the relationship across the whole range of activities with our country. They would like to send students to study in the United States. They want American businesses to set up there. They want to be able to invest in America.
One of the people on the Libyan negotiating team is someone with experience in managing their investments. And in an aside, he described the current investment climate in the United States as the investment opportunity of a generation, for which they presently could not take advantage. So I think there’s a lot of motivation on their part to try and move ahead with this.
MR. WOOD: A question?
QUESTION: I know it’s difficult to make comparisons between different countries, but are there any lessons that can be followed or any sort of deductions that can be made with the very pragmatic approach to dealing with the Libya case, and when you look at Iran and what can be used to deal with Iran?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, I --
QUESTION: And on the issue of representation at the highest level, is there any talk still about opening an interests section in Tehran?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: That’s off the Libya subject, so let me deal with the first.
I worked a long time on this issue and it’s not been easy, to be honest with you, because there’s a lot of heartache associated with the nearly three decades of estrangement. And Libya was responsible in the past for terrorist acts that killed Americans, including at least one friend of mine.
But they also have shown an intent to put that, not merely behind them, but to come to terms with it. Therein, they went beyond that and said, look, we don’t really need these weapons of mass destruction either; the defense of our country does not rely on this. So yes, it is an important example, not merely to Iran, but to some other countries, including at least one other Middle Eastern country.
There is a path of responsible behavior that, if countries are sincere in taking it, then I believe, the Secretary of State believes, and the President of the United States believes that that should be addressed in a manner that shows them that this works. Again, I know because this is a subject where there’s high emotion – many Americans affected – that maybe it’ll – there will never be a satisfactory answer, and – but it’s within the power of nations to make these decisions as to move ahead. And regrettably, in the – at least one of the cases you mentioned, the appropriate decisions are not being made. And that will come at increasing cost to Iran in particular.
MR. WOOD: Libby, you had a question?
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about the Middle East.
QUESTION: Wait, you never answered the interests section question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I don’t intend to. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: When do you think a decision will be made either way?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Is one pending?
QUESTION: Would you like Colonel Qadhafi to visit U.S.?
QUESTION: How do we characterize body language? You gave one of these – (gestures) – what does that mean? (Laughter.)
Okay, Middle East. Secretary Rice was supposed to go this week, I believe, and now she’s a little bit tied up.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you guys going to reschedule that trip? And also, now that Olmert is stepping down next month and there’s going to be a lot of jockeying going on among the Kadima Party, do you have any hope of getting any document signed by these politicians that are probably not willing to take risks while they’re looking to get elected?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I haven’t really been able to check in with Secretary Rice on the schedule. She tried to call me the other day, but I was not in a place where I was comfortable having the conversation. We’re going to have to, I think, recalibrate the schedule a little bit. But the fundamental objectives, Libby, aren’t going to change. The Secretary of State will be back to reengage on the Israeli-Palestinian issue soon.
Of course, there’s a political context for everything. And I tell my colleagues that hope is not a policy. You know, we have to set certain goals and expectations and try to meet those. We work with the Prime Minister of Israel. He’s committed to this process and he represents the Government of Israel. Their appointed representatives are still doing the meetings, even as we speak, and there will be further meetings in the immediate period ahead.
You know, again, we want to do as much as we possibly can. We think it’s important and I do believe there’s still opportunity to have some accomplishments.
QUESTION: Will they be meeting in – at – in New York, UN General Assembly?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, we’re sorting through that schedule too, to be honest, because the Kadima – the Kadima primary is divided into two parts. There’s one on the 17th, right before the General Assembly begins and then, if a runoff is necessary, one on the 25th, I think, which is right smack in the middle of the General Assembly. So Foreign Minister Livni is likely to be quite busy during that period, but we’re looking at what the possibilities are.
MR. WOOD: Okay, one last question.
QUESTION: One more question. Actually, Russia has promised a post-Annapolis conference. Do you think there’s any chance of that happening due to various, you know, actions in Georgia? And also – I haven’t really seen it on the schedule lately. Just wondered whether that had just gone away?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, we’ve discussed it in the Quartet several times, but I think recent events have cast a pall over the international community’s willingness to look at ideas that are that far down the road while this kind of behavior is still going on.
QUESTION: Do you think that Russia will still stay part of the Quartet or do you not anticipate the Quartet meeting for a while?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Oh, I think that the Quartet will meet and --
QUESTION: With Russia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: So far, yes.
QUESTION: No plans to kick Russia out of the Quartet? (Laughter.) No, I’m serious.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Not that I’m aware of yet.
MR. WOOD: Okay. Thank you, everyone. Assistant Secretary Welch, thanks very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Thank you, guys.
Released on August 15, 2008