Daily Press Briefing
June 9, 2014
- Pope Francis
1:43 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Can we talk about Israel-Palestinian peace process?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Sounds like the Pope had a very nice visit with Presidents Abbas and Peres. Just wondering if there has been any discussion about restarting the peace talks from this building, or getting more U.S. involvement as a result.
MS. HARF: Well, as I think you know, we did not participate in the meeting. We welcomed the summit. We commend Pope Francis, President Abbas, and President Peres for their participation, and deeply appreciate Pope Francis’s critical spiritual role in peacemaking on exactly these kind of issues.
We are where we are when it comes to where the Middle East peace process is today. We have called on both sides not to take steps during this time period that could hurt our chances of getting back to the table. I don’t have any prediction for you about whether or not that’s likely, but we are – we remain in a pause, and I don’t have any indications that things will get restarted soon.
QUESTION: Is it – is my recollection correct that it’s – the ball is kind of in their court at this point?
MS. HARF: In their court, absolutely.
QUESTION: They need to ask the United States to reengage?
MS. HARF: Well, the ball is in both – the court – both sides of the court.
QUESTION: Right, right, right.
MS. HARF: On their court, not us.
MS. HARF: Because – right. What we’ve said is they need to make the tough decisions. They need to decide they want to come back to the table. They need to decide they want to stop taking escalatory steps. Until we see that, there’s not much we can do besides continue talking to them, continue talking about the importance of this process and why they should come back to the table.
QUESTION: What if the Vatican asked the U.S. to re-engage? And is that something —
MS. HARF: We’re still engaged, to be fair. But we can’t get – we can’t make decisions for them and can’t get them back to the table before they’re both willing to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. Is that something that you think is in the realm of possibility, that the Vatican would ask the U.S. to bring everybody, or, I guess, restart the process – unfreeze the process?
MS. HARF: Well, the Vatican has played a key role. Pope Francis has played a key role in promoting peacemaking and bringing the parties together. We’ve talked to the Vatican about this when the Secretary was there and since, so I know it’s something we talk to them about all the time. I don’t want to guess what we would say if they asked something like that.
QUESTION: But do you see any role for the Vatican, or just like encouraging both sides to come together?
MS. HARF: Certainly encouraging both sides to come together and talking about the importance of peace.
QUESTION: Nothing more than that?
MS. HARF: Look, I don’t – I can’t look into a crystal ball, but at this point that’s the role they’re playing.
QUESTION: In principle, do you accept that or not?
MS. HARF: I accept the fact that they play an incredibly important role in terms of promoting peace around the world, particularly here. This was a good summit. We welcomed it. And I don’t have any more predictions to make.
QUESTION: On your list of priorities, where the peace process stands now?
MS. HARF: We don’t prioritize all of those things. We have a number of key foreign policy priorities in this Administration. Middle East peace is certainly one of them.