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Background Briefing: Senior State Department Officials
Office of the Spokesperson
ERT Washington, D.C.
January 6, 2014
MODERATOR: Hello. All right. So what we wanted to do here, upon popular request – all right, there’s movement. Okay, so on popular request, what we wanted to do here is just take a few minutes to talk to all of you, see if we can address some of your questions. It’s not that we have – just to preface from the beginning – more information that we’re ready to share than we did yesterday, but we can walk through some of the important questions that you have about the last couple of days. And also I know you may have some questions about the Geneva-Iran issues, so we can talk about that too.
So why don’t we start by just giving a quick overview, if that’s okay, of the last couple of days, some of which you heard yesterday. This is, of course, all on background, Senior State Department Officials. Do you want to do it? Okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So just a couple of forward-looking pieces I think many of you are aware of, but just to confirm here for you, Ambassador Indyk is staying on the ground. He will work with both sides to continue to narrow the differences. He’s been there, obviously, prior to the Secretary’s trip. As you know, we were in Jordan and Saudi Arabia yesterday to brief them. That will be a continuing part of what the Secretary will be focused on. He’s making calls during this flight and will make calls also in the coming days where he’ll talk about the last couple of days and the discussion over the framework.
As you also may know, next week there’s going to be a meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-on Committee, where he will brief all of the ministers on the discussions as well. So obviously the engagement with the international community is a key part of what – the role he’ll be playing while officials remain on the ground, and you can also assume as he has been throughout the process that he’ll be in very close touch with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas over the coming days as well.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) On the Secretary’s Mideast meetings here, in Ramallah he seemed to be suggesting that some pretty specific things needed to happen at the negotiator level before, as he put it, he would come back and take the next step. Can you, without going into details I know you don’t want to go into, give a sort of general picture of what you guys would count as sufficient progress before he returns?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I guess all I’d say is we try to time every trip that we make out here, and we’ve made more than a few of them, to what we perceive as an opportunity to move the ball forward. That goes for this trip. That goes for probably every previous trip we’ve made. In the meantime, in the interim periods between our trips, our negotiators are sort of constantly at work trying to sort of tee up an opportunity for the next visit to then push things forward.
So I’m not going to get into it because the Secretary hasn’t and neither have any of the parties, at least they’re not supposed to be, any of the actual substance of what would have to happen, but we want to give the negotiators time to lay the groundwork for a trip that would be productive. I guess I’ll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: I have two quick questions on the Middle East. One is: Lieberman has come up with this idea of population swaps, and we just wanted to know if the Administration or either of the two parties are discussing his idea while they’re discussing this whole framework. And secondly, there are some Palestinian officials who say that he – Kerry’s going to come back next week with a written framework proposal. And is that true or is that just a myth?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: On the swaps idea that Foreign Minister Lieberman put out – you’re talking about Foreign Minister Lieberman, not --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- former Senator Lieberman?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Just kidding. I’m not going to get into our position on that idea per se, but I would point you to other aspects of the foreign minister’s comments, which were extremely positive in terms of the ideas that Secretary Kerry and Israeli officials have been discussing in terms of – for the benefit of, security of, future of the state of Israel. And I think those are important comments by an influential Israeli official and should be taken seriously on those terms. But --
QUESTION: Is the population swap --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: On the --
QUESTION: -- his idea (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I mean, put it this way: The idea, that idea that he put forward, certainly did not come from us. We have no position on that as of now that we’re talking about publicly.
And then what was the second?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So, one, we haven’t determined yet when he’s coming back. He hasn’t determined yet when he’s coming back. At this – we can speak to what’s accurate at this point, which is that there are multiple options for language. There are many pieces of paper. There – it would be inaccurate to say there’s one piece of paper being shuttled back and forth between the parties. Obviously, as the Secretary said yesterday, there’s a lot of work that needs to happen, a lot of tough decisions that need to be made. At some point, there’ll be a document, but – that will be the ideas from both parties – but we’re not going to make a prediction of when that will be.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, I’d just add I think the Secretary has said, others have said we came with ideas. We are getting feedback on those ideas from both sides. Anybody who tells you that they know our exact schedule one week from now and what we’ll be doing on that date is not speaking based on knowledge.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.