|Daily Press Briefing|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 17, 2007
12:30 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Do you have any -- a readout of the Secretary's meeting with Secretary Ban? And secondly, if you could just give us a preview of what you hope to achieve at the Quartet and whether you looked at what --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure --
QUESTION: -- could be discussed at the Quartet during the meeting with Ban?
MR. MCCORMACK: ...
In terms of the Quartet meeting, it's going to be an opportunity for Secretary Rice to sit down with her Quartet counterparts and I would expect former Prime Minister Blair, the new Quartet envoy, to talk about a few things; to talk about President Bush's speech about a -- his decision to energize efforts along a political track; talk about his plans for and his personal commitment to trying to move that political track forward, as well as the international meeting that he talked about. It's also going to be an opportunity to talk about Prime Minister Blair's role and what some of his plans are -- to help the Palestinians build up Palestinian institutions that would form the foundation for a future Palestinian state.
So that's essentially it. That's sort of the long and short of it. I'm not sure that this is going to be a meeting with any new announcements, but there's a lot that has happened over the past couple weeks and it's a good opportunity for them to get together, take stock of what has happened over the past couple weeks, as well as to look ahead and chart a course out for the next several months.
QUESTION: Are you hoping that the Quartet will officially endorse the President's speech and plans for a conference? And you said you're not expecting any major announcements, but are you going to be at least fishing around for more funds for the Palestinians and particularly for Abbas?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think a precondition for -- at least for us -- talking about more money for the Palestinians is really getting a sense of what kind of progress Prime Minister Blair, former Prime Minister Blair, can make in building those institutions. So we've already stepped up to the plate with some significant funding. And for our purposes, I think we're going to want to see what Prime Minister Blair is able to do and what other support he is able -- going to be able to generate within the international system for the Palestinians.
There was another part to the question?
QUESTION: The endorsement of the President's sort of speech and also at the conference.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see if they put together something formally in their Quartet statement. I expect they might -- that they might address it. But we've already seen positive statements, for example, out of Javier Solana. I think Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will speak for himself. But I think privately we have heard from a number of different parties very positive responses to the President's remarks yesterday.
QUESTION: Just one more thing. There's still quite a lot of division within the Quartet as to how to handle Hamas. Are you anticipating that Russia will once again raise its opposition to your policies, and do you think that there might be any changes in that regard?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't anticipate it. I don't know if the Russians will bring it up. You can talk to them whether or not they'll bring it up. But from our perspective the answer is the same. And I'm not sure that there's a change in sentiment within the Quartet on that matter.
QUESTION: Just to follow-up on that real quick.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you heard any positive responses from any of the Arab governments that the Secretary or the President has spoken to regarding the Arab summit or the regional summit this fall?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't want to become a spokesman for various Arab governments, but privately we've had conversations with them and I think that there's been a generally positive reaction. I think the only negative reactions that we've seen out of the region thus far have been from Hamas and Syria. Everything else in our private conversations has indicated a positive response to what the President said yesterday.
QUESTION: Can I follow on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: My understanding is that while people are interested in hearing what you have to say, that no country has yet -- except those who are already relations with Israel -- have been willing to sign on to this, have some doubts about it, have a different approach to Hamas because they basically believe that you need to strengthen Abu Mazen so that down the road, he is in a better position to deal with Hamas.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Not isolated indefinitely.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: How do you plan to reconcile with a very different outlook?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And second of all, what is the Secretary going to be doing in the next few weeks to follow up on what the President did yesterday and get people onboard?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think David Welch talked about this a little bit yesterday and we have some diplomatic work to do. There -- you're going to have a -- from the -- out of the starting gate, you're going to have a variety of different responses because you have a variety of different Arab state orientations towards Israel. You have some openly who have made peace with Israel; Egypt and Jordan. You have some who meet with the Israelis and publicly acknowledge it, but they don't highlight it. You have some who meet with the Israelis and don't at all acknowledge it, but they do it anyway, and there are some who don't meet with the Israelis in any way, shape or form.
So you have a variety of different starting points here and we're going to try to generate as much positive public response and participation in the meeting. We haven't set the venue or the timing or anything else at this point. It's going to be in the fall. Secretary Rice is going to host it here in the United States, but we still haven't decided exactly where --
QUESTION: Did you -- sorry, did you say Secretary Rice is hosting the conference in the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect -- yeah, I think that's what the President said.
QUESTION: Because yesterday you thought it would not be in the U.S.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I didn't say that. She's going to be -- she'll be hosting it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she's host. I would expect that she would host it here. We haven't set exactly -- we haven't decided on a venue. I suppose all that can -- all of that can change.
QUESTION: Camp David, maybe?
MR. MCCORMACK: I really don't think so. Again, all of that to be determined; the who, what, when and where. So we have work to do. And I think, in answer to your question, what is she going to be doing in order to generate support for moving the political track forward, moving forward on the institution-building and then also moving forward with this international meeting, which is a mechanism, but we believe a useful mechanism, the first thing she's going to do is she's going to get on the road at the end of the month.
Part of that trip is going to be with Secretary -- Defense Secretary Gates. They're going to be talking about Iraq and, sort of, the wider -- the broader regional context for the struggle against violent extremism with partners in the region. The other part of that trip is she's also going to be working on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
So, also during that period of time when we have various leaders from the Arab world together with Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates, she's going to use that opportunity as well to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian track.
QUESTION: The Egyptians this morning had talked about that she will visit Sharm el-Sheikh and meet with Arab foreign ministers. Can you tell us anything more about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a possibility that we're -- that everybody will gather up there. There are a couple --
QUESTION: So it's not a done deal?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're still working out the scheduling details. I think at this point, Sharm el-Sheikh certainly could be an attractive place for everybody to gather, but it's one possibility and I won't exclude that there -- the fact that there would be more than one stop with Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates in the region.
QUESTION: But is the idea to get all the Arab foreign ministers together in one place?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't say -- I would say it would probably be a subset of the entire universe of Arab foreign ministers, but certainly, those most concerned and most directly involved in Iraq. I don't expect, though, that this is going to be Sharm el-Sheikh II, in terms of the neighbors -- the Iraq neighbors group meeting. It would probably be some subset of that grouping.
Yeah, in the back.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)
DPB # 126