"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. I feel like I just saw most of you. But this call is to, of course, provide an overview of the Secretary’s trip he’ll be taking to Jordan over the next two days. I have with me here [Senior State Department Official] who, moving forward, will be Senior State Department Official One. We don’t have any updates to what we shared at the briefing about additional meetings, but we can go through some more specifics about the meetings on Wednesday, so we will do that.
With that, I will turn it over to [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hi, everybody. Let me just start by saying the – giving the facts. The Secretary will travel to Amman, Jordan, departing Washington this afternoon, July 15th. In Jordan he will be meeting with Jordanian officials and with Arab League officials. He will be meeting with them to give an update on the Middle East peace process, as he said he would when he met with the same Arab League committee in Washington on April 29th.
OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please press * followed by 1 at this time.
QUESTION: Hi, and thanks for doing the call. Could you just give a little bit more of a look at what Secretary Kerry’s goal is for the Mideast peace part of this meeting with Arab League officials? And to what extent do you think their conversation is going to be dominated by events in Egypt? Does he have anything new to tell these officials?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: On Middle East peace, he’s going to be providing them an update, as he undertook to do when he met with them in April.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up on that, I mean, in both cases you used the word “update.” I mean, that’s possible to do in many other venues than a whole bunch of people meeting in Jordan. What’s different about this? Why – what – I mean, clearly there’s a whole lot going on in addition to the Mideast peace deal that they talked about back in April. I mean, it – can you talk a little bit about what his goal is here?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: One of the things that we find, and he finds in his individual engagements with various of the Arab – his Arab colleagues is that they would like to have this update as part of the Arab League Arab Peace Initiative Committee. He undertook to meet with them on a fairly regular basis, and he wants to make good on that undertaking, and this seemed to be a good opportunity for him to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the next question.
OPERATOR: We have a question from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks for doing the call. Can you specify for us what Jordanian officials he will meet – I would guess he would normally include the King and the Foreign Minister – and also what Arab League officials you expect him to meet on Wednesday, whether you think it will include all of the members of the so-called Arab League Peace Initiative Follow-on Committee?
And lastly, can you address the speculation that he wouldn’t be making this trip if he didn’t think he could get – he could make some kind of an announcement. We’re now – he himself had said that – not on his last trip, but on the trip before – that in June that we were close to the point at which decisions, hard decisions, had to be made. This is his second trip since that comment. Is it fair to regard this trip as the point at which you either make a decision to proceed with some kind of peace talks or this peace effort, or where the Administration decides that the timing is just not right and it will not put as much emphasis on this as it has in the first six months of his time at the State Department?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Let me answer the questions in sequence. The Jordanian officials with whom he’s planning to meet, organized so far, are with King Abdullah of Jordan and with Foreign Minister Judeh. So those will be his meetings with Jordanian officials.
The Arab League committee, the Arab Peace Initiative Committee, is – that meeting is being organized by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby. Our expectation is that the participation would be roughly the same as participated in April in Washington. But I don’t have details yet on who’s accepted and who exactly is coming, et cetera. That’s still being organized by Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.
MODERATOR: And on your second question, Arshad, we would not – it would not be accurate to assume that this trip is going to define whether the United States or whether Secretary Kerry will continue to press for both sides to move back to the table. We’re still finalizing the entirety of the schedule, but part of updating representatives from the Arab League is part of that process. But again, to the degree he has other meetings, it’s to continue to move the process forward. As you know, we’ve had officials on the ground since the last time he was there having technical discussions and conversations. That wouldn’t be the case if he didn’t still see there was a path forward. So we’re not going to make an evaluation now about where things will stand at the end of the week.
OPERATOR: We have a question from Jo Biddle with AFP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hello, guys. Good afternoon. Can I just follow on from what you just said there, [Moderator], and perhaps try and press a little bit more on the path forward? Could you tell us exactly what the officials who’ve been left behind have been doing for the last 10 days, and could you give us your assessment of what progress they have made in their talks? Can you confirm that they’ve actually been talking with both sides, with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and what they’ve managed to achieve so far? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Sure. Well, it’s Frank Lowenstein and Jonathan Schwartz from our Legal Office have been on the ground for the past couple of weeks. They have been meeting with representatives from both sides. I don’t want to outline for them how they evaluate their progress, but of course they’ve been in close touch with the Secretary, they’ve been in close touch with other officials in the Administration, and they wouldn’t be there continuing those conversations if the Secretary and others didn’t feel there was a path forward. So that’s why they’ve been on the ground. And they’ll be briefing the Secretary, I’m sure, as part of this visit as well.
OPERATOR: We have a question from Matthew Lee with Associated Press. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Yeah, we can hear you, Matt.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Sorry, I didn’t think, actually, I had gotten my question in on time. But anyway, thank you.
MODERATOR: Actually --
QUESTION: This is – your – this background briefing is stunningly devoid of anything that one might consider sensitive enough to be put on background. I’m wondering, one, if we could just put it on the record since, [Senior State Department Official], what you said is essentially what Jen said from the podium.
And I’m – other than that, I’m wondering why is it still – I mean, we’re leaving in two and a half hours or so. Why do we still not know – why can’t you confirm a meeting with President Abbas in Amman?
MODERATOR: Well, Matt, we’re still waiting to get final confirmation of any other meetings. And as soon as we have more details, we will provide them to all of you. So I can promise you that. Beyond that, we’re happy to take your request under consideration and get back to everyone. As you know, we typically provide these briefings on background, so we just don’t want to change the process. It’s not a long trip, so there’s not a lot to preview for you, so that may be part of it. But as soon as we have more details on the trip, we’ll provide them to you. We just don’t have more at this point.
OPERATOR: If there are any further questions, please press *1. We have a question from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’d like to echo Michael’s request that you not cut us off before we have a chance to ask a follow up. That happened to me, Jo, and Matt all in succession. My follow up is in response to my earlier question, is it then fair to say that one should not regard this trip as a decisive trip in any way with regard to the possibility of resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks?
MODERATOR: Well, Arshad, we’ve never defined it that way. This is a trip that is focused on the meeting that [Senior State Department Official] outlined, or Senior Administration Official One outlined, providing an update to representatives from the Arab League. As there are other meetings, we’ll provide that information to all of you.
But the Secretary has said, of course, time is not unlimited here. It is time to make tough choices. But if there wasn’t an opportunity to still be moving the ball forward he wouldn’t be continuing to have all of the discussions with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, as he has had. He wouldn’t have two senior officials on the ground. So beyond that, I think we’ve outlined what the purpose of the trip is. And if there’s more meetings to add or discuss, we’ll make sure that all of you have that as soon as we have it confirmed. And I --
OPERATOR: We have a question from Jay Solomon with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. I just wanted to follow up on the dynamics of the Arab League in that a kind of a driving force over the past couple years has been the Qatari Prime Minister, Foreign Minister who’s, I assume now, not taking part in these meetings anymore because of this transition in Qatar. Are you expecting the dynamic to shift much without that diplomat present and sort of taking such an enthusiastic role?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I really don’t expect it to change. Qatar is the chair of the subcommittee and agreed that the meeting could take place under Qatari chairmanship in Amman just for the – to accommodate the Secretary’s travel schedule. So I expect Qatar to be just as active now as it has been in the past, actually.