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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: United States of America
2 December 2013

U.S. Department of State

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC
December 02, 2013

  • Peace Process / Direct Negotiations
  • Secretary Kerry Meetings This Week



    MS. PSAKI: Do we have another topic?

    QUESTION: Yes. Could I move onto the --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: -- the Secretary’s trip.

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Okay. The portion to the West Bank and to Israel.

    MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Yes. If you have more to share with us – today or yesterday, President Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was so impressed with the Geneva success, now he’s suggesting a format, perhaps another Geneva, where the Palestinian-Israeli issue could be resolved. Would you look kindly at this suggestion?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t seen those comments from him specifically. I know this has been an idea floated out there. Our focus remains on the direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We’re a facilitator in that effort. There are certainly a number of countries who have a great investment and great interest in the success – in a successful outcome here, including the Arab League, including many other countries that want to contribute to growing the Palestinian economy. But that’s our focus, not on planning yet another conference.

    QUESTION: And a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Mr. Ahmed Tibi, claims that the 20,000 housing that the Israelis announced and they put on hold were actually not put on hold, that there is – construction is ongoing. Do you have any information on that?

    MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new on that. I’d have to look into that for you.


    QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

    MS. PSAKI: Oh.

    QUESTION: Can we stay on stay on that?

    MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Just on this idea of not necessarily a Geneva-type conference for the peace process, but just the idea of internationalizing the process, would the United States – would the Administration object to an internationalization of the peace process?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard to know exactly what that means. Obviously, as you all are well aware, there’s direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians now. That’s what our focus is on, so certainly that’s not a path we’re pursuing.

    QUESTION: Well, I think that the point that – right, it’s not a path that you’re pursuing --

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- but the point that people who are suggesting that this might be a way to go, the point that they make is that the United States has been the sole and unique arbiter, mediator, facilitator, whatever you want to call it, of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going back decades.

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: And you haven’t gotten anything out of it. There’s been no success. It’s been one failure after another. Is it perhaps not time to try something new, is the argument that these people would make.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, many people are going to make different arguments about how it should proceed. We’re less than halfway through the nine-month timeline here. There are a number of countries that are engaged and invested, including, of course, the Arab League, who, as you know, are in very close contact with the Palestinians and engaged in this effort. There are many who are engaged with the Israelis in this effort. So our focus remains on the direct negotiations, and I don’t think we’re at this point speculating on a different alternative forum.

    QUESTION: Well, let me – okay. Well, let me put it this way: Is it still the position of the Administration that the United States has unique leverage and influence with both sides that makes it the only logical or capable, competent, credible mediator for peace between Israel and the Palestinians?

    MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that we’ve ever stated it exactly like that. We’re playing a facilitator role which both sides are comfortable with. There are other countries engaged with this effort and certainly in touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians. I expect that will continue. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to play the facilitator role as long as it’s productive.

    QUESTION: Do you believe, does the Administration believe that the United States still has leverage and influence with Israel or the Palestinians? I mean, you say, in reference to other questions about, say, Mr. Newman or Mr. Bae in North Korea --

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- that the Chinese have influence with the North Koreans and you would like to go through them, maybe after you’re done yelling at them about their air defense zone. But do you still think that the United States – does the Administration believe that it has influence and leverage with either Israel or the Palestinians?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have a close relationship with both. And obviously, we’re at this point because both sides decided to come to the table. I don’t think it’s about leverage. There’s – it’s in the interest of both sides to come to an agreement on the final status issues, and that’s what they’re working to do at this point.

    QUESTION: Jen, could I just ask – there was an agreement --

    MS. PSAKI: Sure.

    QUESTION: -- reached last week between the EU and Israel which will allow Israel to actually touch some funding for scientific research. There have been some problems because the EU wanted to bar all research in areas of – in the West Bank --

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- settlement areas in the West Bank. Is there an – I mean, does the American – do America – does America believe that this is a good agreement for the EU and Israel, given that Secretary Kerry has always mentioned that he fears an increasing isolation of Israel on the international stage?

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I haven’t talked to our team about it, so I’d have to talk to them and see if we have any particular view on the agreement last week.

    QUESTION: And is – what is the message that Secretary Kerry’s going to be bringing with him when he visits Israel later on this week?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he’ll be talking to both sides about the importance of staying firm with the timeline and working through the tough and difficult issues that they’re doing at the negotiating table, and reiterating the importance of coming to a peaceful end to the final negotiations. And of course, when he’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, they’ll certainly be discussing the recent P5+1 agreement with Iran and having an ongoing dialogue about that as well.

    QUESTION: And have there been any meetings, direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, since the resignation of the Palestinian team?

    MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on meetings at this point. I’ll see if there’s any more we want to provide to all of you in terms of specific meetings and timing of that.

    QUESTION: But I mean, since the last time the Secretary’s been there, there’s been another announcement of new settlement construction.

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: There’s been the resignation of the Palestinian – it ust seems that without him actually physically there holding their hand for hours at a time, that they’re not able to sustain it on their own.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve had many meetings when he has not been there. So obviously, we didn’t expect this to be easy. We certainly are aware of some bumps in the road of late, but both sides have also reaffirmed their commitment to seeing this through.

    QUESTION: Would you really call those bumps in the road, though? I mean, particularly on the – actually, on either side, whether it’s the Israelis continuing to announce settlement construction or the Palestinians’ full negotiatiang team just giving up, it just doesn’t seem as if --

    MS. PSAKI: Well, when the negotiating – and that’s a good example. The negotiating team – President Abbas reaffirmed his own commitment to seeing this through --

    QUESTION: But it just --

    MS. PSAKI: -- whether it was them or whether it was other officials in their place. So they’re continuing to move forward.

    QUESTION: It just doesn’t seem like they have the – while they may have the desire and the dream that there’ll be a peace deal. The motivation to actually do the hard work day in and day out doesn’t seem to be there. And so it does seem as if Secretary Kerry is the one holding this together personally, and isn’t there, like, a limit to how much he can do?

    MS. PSAKI: Sure. That’s why he has a team to help work through it every day.

    QUESTION: Well, I meant more the parties themselves.

    MS. PSAKI: You’re right, but there also is a long timeframe we still have left. One of the reasons committing to the nine-month timeframe was so important is because we knew there would be challenging periods throughout the process. But both sides remain committed to that, and so we’ll continue to work through it.

    QUESTION: But it doesn’t sound like – unless you could disabuse us of the notion, it doesn’t sound like since Secretary Kerry’s last trip in early November that there have actually been any direct talks.

    MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. We just have always said we wouldn’t confirm every meeting.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS. PSAKI: So let me see if I can confirm any meetings since that point for all of you.

    QUESTION: Jen, could you tell us if Ambassador Indyk is there now? Is he there? Is he in the region? Is he – Ambassador Indyk, where --

    MS. PSAKI: He’s here. I saw him this morning.

    QUESTION: He’s here. Okay.


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