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Source: United States of America
21 July 2014

Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Trip to Cairo, Egypt

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
En Route to Cairo, Egypt
July 21, 2014

MODERATOR: So this is a background briefing for the Secretary’s trip to Cairo, Egypt. We’re going to start. I’m just going to give a quick overview of what to expect in terms of what’s been scheduled and what we anticipate, and then we’ll just spend most of the time taking questions from you guys.

We have with us, of course, two senior State Department officials, [Senior State Department Official One and Senior State Department Official Two]. Okay. One thing also to flag for you guys, and we’ll make you copies, is the President gave remarks just about – in the last 30 minutes where he touched on mainly Ukraine, but he also touched on Gaza. We’ll give this to you but let me just read you – it’s like three lines:

“I want to note that Secretary Kerry has departed for the Middle East. As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. As a result of its operations, Israel has done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. As I’ve also said, we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. That is why our focus needs to be on a ceasefire that ends the fighting and stops the death of innocent civilians in Gaza and Israel.”

So let me just give you a tick-through of the next – what we know now, I should say. So the Secretary will arrive this evening in Cairo, Monday, July 21st. His first meeting will be this evening with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. As many of you know, Ban Ki-moon has been traveling in the Middle East for the last few days, making stops in Kuwait and Doha and, of course, arriving in Egypt. He is expected to go to Jerusalem soon, I believe, even possibly tomorrow. So Secretary Kerry will naturally update him on his conversations he’s been having. He’ll hear from him on the conversations that the UN Secretary General has been having.

And while the schedule is still being finalized, we expect Secretary Kerry to have a full schedule tomorrow with meetings with Egyptian leadership, including President al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Shoukry, Arab League President Elaraby. It’s possible other meetings will be added, and we’ll of course keep you updated on that. It’s likely that he stays in Cairo through at least Wednesday morning, and depending on where things stand will determine whether there are additional stops and where those may be. And obviously, while he’s having these meetings, he’ll continue his discussions and engagement with the same leaders he’s been talking to, which includes, of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Qataris, the Turks, President Abbas, and others. So that will continue through the course of the coming days.

Anything else we want to say at the top or should we just turn it to questions?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, I think we can say really quickly what our goal is.

MODERATOR: Oh, yeah. All right. Go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Obviously, as you guys can tell from the President’s remarks, our goal is to achieve a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible. Obviously, we understand the Egyptians are playing the leading role in this effort, but we’re willing to engage with anybody we think can help us achieve that. We don’t expect it will be easy, though. This is a very complicated dynamic and it may very well take at least several days to get this done.

MODERATOR: Okay. Why don’t we go straight to questions.


QUESTION: Thank you. I guess this is a bit for both of you. So what has the interaction with Israel been like in the last couple of days? The – at the same time as fighting is intensifying, what kinds – can you hear me okay? What – at the same time as fighting seems to be intensifying on the ground, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of public receptivity in Israel to either Kerry coming there himself or to try to kind of do things from afar. How receptive do you see Israel being to your efforts in the last couple of days?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I guess I would just start by saying that Secretary Kerry has had several – I couldn’t get you an exact number, but several conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the last few days, including, I think, at least two or three yesterday. I would disagree with the characterization that Israel has not been receptive to a U.S. role, and in fact, I would point you to the prime minister’s conversation with President Obama yesterday in which the prime minister made clear that he welcomed Secretary Kerry’s visit to the region and our efforts to help bring about a ceasefire.

QUESTION: And following on Anne’s question, what is the goal here for the United States? What difference do you think can be made with Secretary Kerry coming on the ground versus the phone calls he’s been making over the past week and a half? What do you think the presence on the ground means?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I think – I mean, to start with, I think Secretary Kerry would say that personal diplomacy in a crisis situation like this is indispensable in terms of finding a way forward. And so while you can get a lot of business done on the phone, and we think we have over the last few days, it’s no replacement, no substitute for actually being in the room with the various players involved.

In addition to that, I would say that what the U.S. can bring to the situation is, at a time of some fractiousness in the Middle East, in the region, solid relationships with not only the Egyptians, the Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority, but also with regional players who may be able to exert some influence on Hamas, including the Turks and the Qataris.

You might want to --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, and just to build on that, there’s obviously a lot of different threads here. There’s a lot of efforts going on. Obviously, Ban is in the region. Qataris and the Turks have been engaged. And really, the Egyptians have remained at the center of all this. So it’s really only the Secretary of State who can come in, and as [Senior State Department Official Two] suggested, have the close relationships with all the different parties to bring them together on the same page to try to get the ceasefire done as soon as possible.

MODERATOR: So just one thing to add. As you know, we’ve been thinking about, he’s been thinking about going to the region for the past week or so. And there were, of course, several trips announced that didn’t end up being the case. But the factors now that have changed were what the President talked about. One is the increase in civilian casualties, which there’s a growing concern about in the Administration from the President, from the Secretary. And he felt and everybody felt it was the appropriate time for him to go to the region.

And the second factor is another one the President mentioned, which is the – some success that the Israelis have had in impacting the infrastructure of Hamas. So there was a decision made that now is the appropriate time to go with all of the factors that were already mentioned.

QUESTION: Two things. One, you talked about how the United States has solid relations with most of the players in the region. It’s relationship with Egypt, though, would seem to be somewhat less close now than in years past. I mean, clearly, you’ve been – you’ve suspended military assistance to the Egyptian Government. You’ve been highly critical of the civil rights abuses. Do you think – question one: Do you think that your relationship with this current Sisi government – do you think your relationship with the current Sisi government is as good as those that you had in years past, say, with Mubarak? And do you find that that’s – the strains that you have with the Egyptians on other issues affect your ability to do diplomacy on this side?

And then the second – then the other question is: Can you describe how much leverage you think the Egyptians and the Qataris actually have in terms of influencing Hamas and whether, will stop firing rockets?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: On the first question, I guess I’d just say I’m not going to get into comparing our relationship with the current Egyptian Government and any of its predecessors. I think there have now been three in the last three or four years. But I would say that our collaboration and cooperation with the Egyptian Government remains quite close. And you mentioned that we have paused some of our military assistance, but we have also released hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance in recent months. We continue to cooperate very closely with the Egyptian military on a military-to-military basis. We have coordinated extremely closely with them on the diplomatic efforts with regard to Gaza. And I think it’s quite clear that we are able to continue to work productively and constructively with them despite whatever differences remain, and those are well documented.

Do you want to talk about this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. Just to the second part of your question, obviously, it goes without saying that the Egyptians’ relationship with Hamas under President Sisi is not the same as it was when Morsy was in power. But at the same time, the main lifeblood of goods into Gaza is through Rafah, or one of them, anyway. There’s also obviously Kerem Shalom in Israel. But – so Egypt has a great deal of influence over Hamas in the sense that they do control the Rafah crossing, so I think it’s important to understand there’s leverage and influence there.

And on the Qatari side, obviously, Meshaal spends a great deal of time in Doha. The Qataris have offered to give – have put, I know, a great deal of money, made available to the – to Hamas a great deal of money for reconstruction there. They’ve also offered in the past to pay salaries of the Hamas workers. That obviously ran into some hurdles, but in any event, they have physical relationship with Meshaal and also a great deal of leverage – or some degree of leverage, anyway, as a result of the financial assistance that they provide.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’m just going to add one more thing. So – and on the relationship with Egypt, our ability to work with them closely obviously does not impact our willingness to raise important issues with them, even when there are differences. And our relationship really is robust enough to withstand our efforts to work through and manage those differences. And I think the last time we were in Cairo, you heard Secretary Kerry speak very clearly about those differences, and including in the aftermath the day after our visit of the verdicts rendered against the Al Jazeera journalists. Secretary Kerry was quite clear about our views about that and – again, those differences do not impact our ability to work constructively, but we raise them when we have them.

QUESTION: When you talk about a ceasefire, is the goal merely to return to the status quo prior to the Hamas missile firings and the Israeli military response? Or do you think it’s important to do more than that, to develop a plan that would diminish the rocket threat so that there’s not a war every 18 months or two years, and which would relieve the economic pressure on Gaza perhaps through the supervised openings of key border crossings? What is your concept of a ceasefire? And do you even think the more limited one would be acceptable to Hamas or Israel given the sacrifices each side has made?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I guess I would say that our immediate goal is to stop the violence, stop the fighting as soon as possible. And we are going to be exploring all avenues for doing that. Now, in the aftermath of a cessation of hostilities, we think it’s critical to continue to discuss, work through, and negotiate with all parties a more robust set of solutions to what is obviously an ongoing problem that has erupted into violence now three times since – erupted into serious violence, into conflict three times since 2009.

And we believe that all issues related to that should and will be on the table, but our immediate goal is to stop the fighting as quickly as possible, and we do not want to arbitrarily or otherwise set a bunch of conditions that will interfere with getting to that goal. Now whether the parties and what the parties will accept in terms of just an immediate return to the 2012 status quo ante is exactly the kind of thing that we’re going to be exploring with them in the coming days, and I don’t want to prejudge those conversations. Certainly, we’ve started that process on the phone, and the Egyptians have worked through those questions as well. But I think before we get into the room, we can’t really – it’s not profitable to speculate on what people’s demands and bottom lines will be.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would just add on the issue of the crossings, if you saw the 2012 ceasefire agreement and also what the Egyptians proposed last week, which were very, very similar, they both included opening up the crossings. Now there were caveats there, and subsequent negotiations in 2012 didn’t result in a lot of clarity on what that actually meant. But there may be a degree to which we need to address the issue of the crossings, nailing down exactly what is contemplated by the Egyptians in the 2012 – what was contemplated by the Egyptians in the agreement they put forth last week and what was contemplated in 2012. So there may be an element of ironing out and nailing down a little bit more on the crossings as in – as a part of our effort to get to a ceasefire as soon as possible.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’ll just add one more thing, which is we believe that the effort to reach a ceasefire this time around is going to be in some ways more complicated than it was in 2012, and that’s for a number of reasons. One is that the region is more divided now than it was then, and I alluded to that earlier when I talked about some of the countries that might have some greater degree of influence over Hamas and their complicated relationships with some of the other countries involved in these discussions.

That’s also because the Israeli – sorry, the conflict has proceeded further this time around than it had when the United States began intervening in the negotiations in 2012, with the Israelis now having launched an incursion on the ground that involves thousands of Israeli troops.

Third, there is the perception on the part of Hamas – and I don’t want to speak to this in too much detail – but that some of what was agreed, if not officially in writing but was discussed in the room in 2012, was not implemented. So there will be an additional challenge in getting both sides to sign onto an agreement that they believe is actually going to come into force, and that’s in part why the subsequent discussions that I alluded to earlier are so critically important.

And then finally, the Egyptian Government that we’re dealing with now versus the Egyptian Government in 2012 has, I would say – does not have the same close relationship, or does not have as close a relationship with Hamas as the Morsy government did, and so that complicates our efforts as well. Although as [Senior State Department Official One] explained earlier, we do believe they have the ability to exercise influence over the outcome and over Hamas because of their control over the crossings.

QUESTION: Thanks. Two questions: First, do we know who’s talked to Meshaal in the last 48 hours? I know there was talk that Abbas might be meeting him. And two, is Qatar seen as a good player in this situation or not? I’ve talked to Egyptians and Palestinians who thinks Qatar have been pressing Hamas not to accept the ceasefire. And even our government – on the one hand, we’re trying to use Qatar as an intermediary. On the other hand, we publicly blast them for financing Hamas. So it’s – I don't know. I don't know if Qatar is seen as a good player in all this.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Obviously, that’s one of the things that we need to find out when we get on the ground, what role is – who’s meeting with who, who’s telling who what. We need to get a very clear-eyed assessment completed as soon as possible as to the various positive roles that all the players can potentially play in getting us to this ceasefire as soon as we possibly can. It’s a good question. It’s one we’ll be looking into just as soon as we get there.

QUESTION: Thank you. What is the U.S. assessment as to the firepower that remains under Hamas’ control? Many U.S. officials have told us over the past year how degraded, how weak Hamas has been, especially with the new Egyptian Government in place and how that has played into the broader peace process strategy. Was that underestimating what Hamas actually had either ideologically or militarily? But specifically, how many more rockets do they have? What kind of arsenal do they actually still have?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think there’s two separate issues here in a sense. One is whether Hamas is weak, which was an assessment that many shared, and I think was manifested in the fact that they agreed to this unity government with Abbas, basically, on Abbas’ terms. And by that, I mean they were very weak financially. When the tunnels were cut off, when the Rafah tunnel – when Rafah was closed down and when the tunnels were shut down, it really began to put a lot of pressure on Hamas financially. So I think in the sense that we’ve been talking about, we’ve really been referring to the fact that financially, and I think really politically, they’re in a weakened position. They’ve lost one of their major patrons in Morsy, and that had serious implications.

Militarily, I don’t think anybody was suggesting that Hamas was weakened militarily or that – and I don’t think anybody was underestimating what they’re capable of. What we are saying now is that we believe they’ve been degraded significantly by this Israeli military campaign. Just exactly to what extent they have ongoing capabilities, we don’t know, and one of the – obviously – the things that we’ll be looking into. The Israelis would know far better than we, though, exactly where Hamas stands militarily.

QUESTION: Thanks. Given how difficult both of you have said this mission is going to be, short of achieving a ceasefire in the few days that you’ll be on the ground or that Secretary Kerry will be on the ground, what would you see as a step forward to progress. What would be at least a minimal sign of success in what you’re trying to achieve here – again, short of achieving a ceasefire?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, as we said, we’re trying to achieve a ceasefire as quickly as we possibly can, but I wouldn’t put a time limit on the Secretary’s visit here. We have not decided we will need to come home after a certain number of days. We want to get there on the ground, see how quickly and effectively we can move towards a ceasefire. Recognizing the complications of all this, we haven’t put any sort of back end on his engagement here, so I would just say that in the first instance.

Second of all, I think --


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- anything that reduces the amount – I mean, so anyways, our goal is a ceasefire, right, and I believe that given enough time, we – that ought to be achievable. But if it wasn’t, then obviously, anything that de-escalates the situation on the ground is a movement in a positive direction, so that would certainly be a fallback if we were unable to get the ceasefire that we’re aiming for.

QUESTION: Any kind of specific examples? I mean, what should we be looking for, basically? There have been a lot of temporary ceasefires (inaudible). What would you advise us to be looking for as some sign that however long it takes, the process --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I mean, I think every time the shooting stops, even if only temporary, is a positive development that helps lay the groundwork for something more lasting and more permanent. So I guess I would just leave it at that. There aren’t other sort of half-steps that we’re trying to achieve. The goal remains de-escalation of the violence and a ceasefire. But we do consider these – I guess we’ve seen them referred to as sort of humanitarian pauses – to be positive.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And just to answer your question, very simply, obviously, the fewer rockets that are coming out of Gaza, the closer we are to ending the rocket fire and a ceasefire, so --

QUESTION: Do you think that – could it not be something like the Qataris and the Egyptians working closer together, that there be some kind of compromise and a proposal? I mean, at least two opposing proposals now. I mean, is (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I wouldn’t – yeah, I wouldn’t say there are competing proposals out there. Obviously the Egyptians have the only ceasefire proposal that’s been formally introduced. And as I said before, I think one of the things the Secretary is going to be doing is gathering all the different parties together who are all working, I believe, towards the same objective – make sure we’re all on the same page and we’re all working in a coordinated manner, right. So I don’t think there’s competing things out there and everybody should be looking to be concerned that there’s different folks competing there. The idea is that there are different initiatives underway. The primary one is the Egyptians, and we’re trying to get everybody unified in that regard.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about why the plan that the Qataris are floating and have formally proposed? Why that isn’t (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re not – I’m not sure what you mean when you say a Qatari proposal, right, or a Qatari plan. We’ve obviously seen some demands that have come from Hamas that the Qataris have – there was – published in a paper in Doha, there was a list of Hamas demands. That – you shouldn’t read into that that that is Qatar’s proposal for a resolution of the – for a ceasefire, right? There are different things there. There’s conveying of demands which has been done publicly by Hamas through a number of different mechanisms, and any kind of other – there are no competing proposals right now.

QUESTION: Does Qatar have any input into the Egyptian plan? I mean, are they giving some – are they helping develop it? Did they help develop it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s one of the things we need to find out when we get on the ground – exactly what the nature of the discussions between the various parties is. So we’ll probably have more on that later.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: How do you keep Abbas in the picture?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So I guess I would start by saying – I mean, Abbas has very much been in the picture all along. I mean, he just made a tour through the region, including stops in Cairo, in --


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- Ankara and Doha. So I think it’s not just a priority for us that Abbas play an important role here, but it’s a priority for him, a priority for each of the other countries in the region that – as the head of the Palestinian Authority, his views and his input be central to all of this. And I think this visit that he just made to many of the key countries demonstrates that.

QUESTION: Two questions. You said the Israelis would know best what kind of military capabilities Hamas has. Has the U.S. conveyed to Israel in terms of to what extent their military operation can go to debilitate Hamas? I mean, how do you ensure that it achieves this goal that Netanyahu has said is about weakening the military capability, not deposing it in a way?

And a second question is: What happened with – should I repeat?

MODERATOR: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Okay. In terms of the question about the military capability and what you know about the rockets and things like that Hamas has, you said the Israelis would know best. But in terms of assessing what – to what extent the operations should go to achieve that goal of debilitating the rocket capability, it sounds as if U.S. doesn’t have as much clarity in terms of what Hamas’ military power is. So basically, have you conveyed to the Israelis, after X number of days or to this extent or targeting specific tunnels is – would be enough and it wouldn’t need to go beyond to limit – so that you can limit the deaths of civilians, if that makes any sense (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: (Inaudible), restate your question. Let me just (inaudible) and if not, we’ll try again. Okay, I think your question is: Are we conveying to the Israelis what – how far we think is too far with their military engagement? Is that part of it? Okay. And I’m not sure, was there another part of it or is that --

QUESTION: Sorry. Let me rephrase it. All right. Let me rephrase. The second question is: There have been reports after Israel accepted the ceasefire and that says Hamas rejected it – what had happened there, there are many reports saying that Hamas wasn’t contacted at all by the Egyptians, that it was sort of a unilateral thing. And so where is the guarantee that Egypt will be influential now in this effort? What has the calculus changed for the – of the Egyptian Government, I mean?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. We’re not going to get into the specifics of what happened with the Egyptian ceasefire proposal last week. Obviously, one of our primary goals here is to make sure that we have a ceasefire agreement that all can accept as soon as possible. So that’ll be a primary focus when we get on the ground here.

As to the Israelis, I think the President and the Secretary have been clear in their public and private comments about the concerns we have about escalation of violence and civilian casualties, while at the same time supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against terror attacks from tunnels and rocket attacks. We don’t get into a lot of very detailed specific discussions with the Israelis about what their tactics are on the ground. That’s not the nature of these discussions.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up on that a little bit? I think you both were alluding earlier to the greater complexity this time around than in 2012 and to various changed circumstances since then. I mean, one other thing that’s changed is that in 2012, the Administration came out harder and earlier in its warnings to Israel – I mean, stated nicely, but warnings nonetheless not to take it too far. Why – you don’t think that happened earlier? I mean, that ceasefire ended in eight days, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t even accept the premise of that question.

QUESTION: So there’s no difference in the tenor, timing, or sort of import of the warnings from the Administration this time and last time?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I would say that in 2012, we also made clear that we strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself as well as the – emphasizing the need for a de-escalation and a ceasefire as soon as possible. I don’t think there was really much of a difference between our approach then and our approach now. Obviously, the situation on the ground is different. The Israelis have – they talked to tunnel activity. There was an attempted attack on a kibbutz right near Gaza. I think that factored into their decision to launch this ground operation. But I don’t think our response to the violence was really substantively different.

MODERATOR: Great. Let’s just do (inaudible) more (inaudible).

QUESTION: Just as a point of fact to follow up on an earlier question – I honestly don’t know the answer to this question – was Hamas offered – did – I’m sorry, did Egypt involve Hamas or ask it to say yay or nay on its ceasefire proposal? I mean, there have been a lot of conflicting reports about this. Hamas says it was never asked. I’m just confused.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I guess I would just leave it to this: We – it is our understanding that there were conversations that took place between the Egyptian Government and Hamas, but we would leave it to the Egyptian Government to comment on the extent and nature of those conversations, as it was their initiative.

MODERATOR: One or two more? All right. Oh, the one and only.

QUESTION: Really quick, Secretary Kerry obviously in some remarks that were extemporaneously discussed – I just want to know, in his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, did they address that at all – the substance behind them, which seemed to be a very real – very real concerns with the force of the ground invasion and whether or not they were taking into consideration civilian casualties? I want to know, was that discussed in the context of the sort of very strongly worded extemporaneous remarks?

MODERATOR: So regardless of the nature and the root of those extemporaneous remarks, the – what he said was very consistent with what the President has said, what the Secretary has said, and certainly what we’ve been conveying, in the sense that we are concerned about the growing number of civilian casualties. That’s one of the reasons the Secretary is going now to Egypt to engage person to person. And we have been and he has been asking the Israelis and all parties to take every step possible to prevent civilian casualties. And that’s been consistent for several days now.

You want to --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: (Inaudible) ceasefire (inaudible). Do you have a follow-up?

QUESTION: Just has it – has it ever been discussed with the prime minister since --


QUESTION: There’s concerns over (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Let’s put it this way: I don’t think the nature of his conversations with the prime minister have changed since the remarks that you are referring to were made.

And I think, just to wrap up – I mean, I think we want to just restate that the objective here is to get the fastest possible ceasefire. Again, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be fast and that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy, but that’s the goal. And we would like it to be the cleanest possible ceasefire as well. If we could get both sides to agree on a ceasefire immediately that was relatively free of conditions, we would take that in a second. But it’s going to require conversations with both parties on the ground before we really know what exactly a ceasefire that can work is going to look like and what other elements may be required. So that’s what the conversations are going to be focused on for the next couple days.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for any (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: We – I would expect, and we’re happy to keep you updated on this, that he will – the Secretary will remain engaged with relevant parties on that, whether it’s the White House or whether it’s our Ambassador in Ukraine, our team in Ukraine. He spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov, as you know, over the weekend. And we’ll keep you updated on those. There’s no current plans to travel of – to – on those particular issues.

QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more. It’s just logistics.


QUESTION: So just logistically, you said at the beginning that here in Egypt, the Secretary is going to be talking to President al-Sisi and the foreign minister and the Arab League president. You also said he’d remain engaged with the Qataris and the Turks. Would that be in person? Will we see those foreign ministers here in Cairo, or is that all phone conversations? And is there an expectation that we will travel on to Doha or Ankara or something?

QUESTION: Or Israel? Or Israel, (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I guess I’d just say (1) we’re certainly not ruling out onward travel, but we have no onward travel plans at this point, and (2) I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility that other regional officials from relevant countries would come to Cairo. But we also have no concrete plans for any of that as well. But that’s one of the things that we’re going to be discussing tomorrow.

MODERATOR: And so what I meant at the beginning was currently, that would mean engagement over the phone, but obviously, any – either them or people they designate could certainly travel to Cairo.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: [Moderator] described the schedule as it currently exists, yes.

QUESTION: Is he (inaudible) Abbas (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: Oh, okay. Last one. President Abbas, he’s remained engaged with. He’s not currently traveling to Cairo. We are not ruling that option out either, but right now, he’ll remain engaged with him on the phone.

QUESTION: Is he in Ramallah?

MODERATOR: I’m not sure where he is right now, but --

QUESTION: Just to clarify, because sometimes your travel arrangements aren’t reportable, but we can say Kerry’s expected to be here for the next few days in Cairo --

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: -- and then through Wednesday morning?

MODERATOR: At least (inaudible). Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Through Wednesday morning. Thank you.

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