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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 29, 2008



Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Israeli Defense Minster Barak
Discussed Issues Relating to the Roadmap Implementation
Continuing Settlement Activities Is a Problem / Roadmap Obligations
Upcoming Bilaterals and Trilaterals with Mr. Queria and Foreign Minister Livni
Palestinian Prime Minster Fayyad’s Appeal to World Bank for Emergency Funding
Syria-Israeli Talks Are Not Substitute for Progress on Israeli-Palestinian Track


Secretary Rice’s Meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Frattini


Bombings In Kirkuk and Baghdad / Issues Surrounding Kirkuk


Protests in Belgrade Against Extradition of Radovan Karadzic


View Video

12:07 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything to start off with, so we can get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Any readout, sir, from the Defense Minister’s meeting with --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I haven’t had a chance – I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Secretary Rice. We’re going to have a press avail, I think, with Foreign Minister Frattini of Italy. I would encourage you to ask questions about U.S.-Italian bilateral relations, but I would expect that, you know, perhaps the Middle East will come out.

I can tell you what the intent and the thinking behind the meeting was – is that – to talk about issues related to the Roadmap, Roadmap implementation and what Israel has on the books in terms of what it needs to do, but also talk about what the Palestinians need to do. And because the Ministry of Defense has a particular role to play, specifically with respect to the West Bank, which is really the focus of our discussions regarding the Roadmap right now, is particularly timely for Secretary Rice to meet with Minister Barak. As a member of the cabinet, they also discussed issues related to the political negotiations. And I think there was a question this morning also about whether or not they discussed Iran, and I do believe that they did discuss Iran a bit.


QUESTION: I have a new topic if – do you have the same topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Susan.

QUESTION: Well, first, to follow up, you said you think they did believe – you did believe --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- they discussed Iran. I’d like any detail on that. And also, I was wondering whether they discussed the construction of the housing units in Maskiot and what Secretary Rice said about that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. As I said, I have not had an opportunity to talk directly with Secretary Rice. I got sort of a thirdhand outline of here are the things that they talked about. So perhaps if you have an opportunity upstairs to ask her these questions, you can ask her firsthand. If not, then I’ll be happy to do so myself. We can post something up for you with a little bit more detail.

In terms of the settlements issue, I know that that was on the agenda for us to talk to Minister Barak about. Our position on that is well known. We’ve talked about it. The fact that there are these continuing activities with respect to settlement activity is a problem. We have talked to the Israelis about that. We’ve talked to them about their Roadmap obligations and we’re going to continue to do so. We’re also going to continue to talk about the political track, which is ongoing. The Secretary is going to meet with Mr. Queria, who’s the lead Palestinian negotiator, this afternoon. She’s going to meet with Foreign Minister Livni separately tomorrow. And then she will meet both Mr. Queria and Foreign Minister Livni together tomorrow in a trilateral meeting. So there’s activity over the next – today and tomorrow on the Roadmap side of the issue, as well as the political side of the issue.

QUESTION: Apparently, based on his comments to reporters, the Israelis consider that – those units as justified and there’s no indication they’re backing down on it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, they have their point of view, we have our point of view, with respect to the Roadmap obligations. Our view is not changing, and we’re going to continue talking to them about it. You know, ultimately, however, these questions about settlements where – you know, where lines are drawn, what is legitimate, what is not legitimate, with respect to Roadmap obligations, are only really ultimately going to be settled by a final negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. You’re not going to have these kinds of questions. You’re not going to have these kinds of bumps in the road with respect to negotiations when these issues of settlements come up.

And so our focus is to work with both sides to get as far as we can in achieving a settlement on all final status issues by the end of the year. That remains our goal. We’re going to continue to push on that goal. And ultimately, when you get to that point, whether that’s in this Administration or some administration down the road, these questions aren’t going to become the grist for daily news stories anymore because the issues will have been settled.

Yeah. Anything else on this? Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yes. There is also negotiations going on in Turkey right now between Syria and Israel. I was wondering if they also talked about that or --

MR. MCCORMACK: That would fall in the category of I haven’t talked to the Secretary about her meetings this afternoon. I know that these are ongoing. There are some discussions, at least indirectly, between Syria and Israel. Turkey is using its good offices to facilitate those discussions. We’ve said that it’s up to both sides to pursue those. Certainly, we are not going to in any way, shape, or form, stand in the way of those negotiations. We don’t think, however, and it is our belief, that any of those discussions should be viewed in any way as a substitute for making track -- progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track. That is a mature track, and we believe that there needs to remain a focus and energy devoted to that track.


QUESTION: A Palestinian-related question. Apparently, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad has appealed to the World Bank to help him get emergency funding to bridge a shortfall in donor funds to pay their public workers. And I just wonder if you’re going to get involved in this in any way. Maybe you would increase your contribution to the donor fund or there’s some other way that you can help them bridge that shortfall?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Let me look into the specifics of it. I hadn’t seen that story. I know that we are involved on a regular basis in urging donors who have made pledges to fulfill their pledges. Very oftentimes, it’s the case that donors are either slow to or fail to meet their commitments in terms of the Palestinians and often – and you do very oftentimes get to these situations or close to these kind of situations where -- the Prime Minister Fayyad has a hard time meeting his payroll. Let me see if we can –

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: -- I’ll look into this a little bit more, see if we can get you some more details.


QUESTION: On Kirkuk. Mr. McCormack, at least -- at least --

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s a little far afield for you, Lambros – Kirkuk.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s a little far afield for you -- Kirkuk.

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s close to Turkey. That’s why. (Laughter.)

At least 68 people were killed and 238 wounded, nearly all of them Kurdish political protestors in Kirkuk and Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad -- one of the bloodiest days in a year. Any comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s a terrible tragedy. And while we and the Iraqis have made a great deal of progress in providing personal security for Iraqis, there’s still work to be done. Yesterday’s events are evidence of that. But it is a dramatically different situation from a year ago, two years ago, where tragic stories such as the one that we saw yesterday were a regular occurrence. It’s notable now that they aren’t. It doesn’t make the events any less tragic in which innocent lives were taken by people bent on taking innocent life for no worthy or justifiable cause.

So our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost loved ones. And we’re going to continue working as hard as we can with the Iraqi Government to provide a safe, secure environment for the Iraqi people, so they can continue their progress in building a new Iraqi state.

QUESTION: A follow-up? What is the U.S. position vis-à-vis to the majority Kurdish people and ethnic Turkmens in the city of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, where tension are running very high in the recent days?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the issue of Kirkuk is one that’s been carved out in the Iraqi constitutional process, and there is a political constitutional process to deal with issues surrounding Kirkuk. I would note, however, that there has been progress on the -- building a better political atmosphere, I guess you can say, in Kirkuk, where all the, you know, confessional representatives have taken their seats back on the Kirkuk city council. Secretary Rice had an opportunity to visit Kirkuk and the city council there. At that point, the Turkmen hadn’t rejoined the council, but I understand subsequently they have. So that’s progress. And Mr. de Mistura, the UN Representative in Iraq, deserves a great deal of progress, as do the citizens of Kirkuk for grappling with what are some very difficult issues. Nobody is trying to sell short the idea that these are tough issues, but they’re making progress on it, and there is a political and constitutional framework that is established in which the Iraqis are going to resolve finally questions related to Kirkuk.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Lambros?

QUESTION: On Serbia – on Serbia, it’s very important.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right.

QUESTION: Today, thousands of Serbs, Mr. McCormack, are protesting in Belgrade against the extradition of Radovan Karadzic. And a bunch of reports are claiming that President Boris Tadic is using all illegal methods to send him at The Hague as soon as possible. Any comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have previously said that it was a very positive step that Radovan Karadzic has been arrested, and that the Serbian Government has stated its intention to send Mr. Karadzic to The Hague to face justice. We think this is a very positive step, it’s a brave step by the Serbian Government, and it’s one that should be applauded and supported by the international system.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:18 p.m.)

dpb # 134

Released on July 29, 2008

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