Daily Press Briefing
May 21, 2014
- Meeting of Envoys / to Get the Sides to Come Together / Remain Engaged with Parties
- Call for Investigation into Deaths of Palestinian Teenagers / Foreign Minister Lieberman's Comments
1:23 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: I’ve got a couple on the Middle East.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Should be brief. One, apparently there was, in fact, a Quartet meeting yesterday in Brussels. Yes?
MS. PSAKI: Did you ask me this yesterday and I gave you the wrong answer?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. I don’t know —
QUESTION: No. No, you said —
MS. PSAKI: — you just said it in an accusatory way. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, it wasn’t – sorry, it wasn’t intended to be accusatory. I think someone asked if there was a Quartet – someone —
QUESTION: A statement. I asked on Monday if there was a Quartet statement due out.
MS. PSAKI: A statement coming.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. And I said I’d have to check.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Anyway, so there was a meeting yesterday in Brussels.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Ambassador Indyk was there —
MS. PSAKI: — and he participated in the meeting.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what happened? What did they discuss?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a regularly scheduled session and provided an opportunity for Ambassador Indyk and other envoys to asses where things stand and consult on the way ahead. Consistent with the approach of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the focus of these discussions and of the effort overall is on getting the two sides to come up with new ideas and avoid unhelpful steps, and hence there wasn’t a statement that came out.
QUESTION: Okay. So they discussed where things stand and the way ahead. Where do things stand, and what is the way ahead?
MS. PSAKI: We’re still determining that, Matt. It remains in the hands of the parties to take – make the choices necessary if they want to resume discussions. Obviously, there’s a great deal going on in the world, and Secretary Kerry is focused on everything from Ukraine to South Sudan, all the issues we talk about in here every day. But we’re still engaged with the parties and we think that’s an important —
QUESTION: Is “where things stand” actually the right phrase to use? It may appear to be —
MS. PSAKI: You don’t have to use it in your report if you choose not to.
QUESTION: — prostrate on the ground, lying on their – things don’t appear to be standing at all; they appear to be going nowhere. So they didn't – they weren’t able to – there was no statement because they weren’t able to agree on where things stand or on the way ahead, or just because it was —
MS. PSAKI: No. It’s because it’s up to the parties to determine. And obviously at this stage we’re in, we’re clearly in a hiatus from the talks. Nothing has changed from that.
QUESTION: But they couldn’t even – I’m just trying to figure out, did they try to find some consensus on something? I mean, could they – they couldn’t even —
MS. PSAKI: They didn't feel it was necessary given where things stand, and obviously the Quartet is – there’s broad support for the effort. It’s just a need for action to be taken.
QUESTION: The Quartet are all playing without bows, it appears. What – I mean, does the roadmap still exist? Does the Quartet still endorse the roadmap?
MS. PSAKI: You’d have to ask the Quartet that question.
QUESTION: Well, does the United States still support the roadmap as the Quartet’s main reason for existing?
MS. PSAKI: Again, we think that they serve an important role and will continue to, and the discussions going on between the parties and where they left were obviously reflective of what they had or hadn’t agreed to. So – but —
QUESTION: Are you aware of there being any discussions now between the parties? Have they – have you – has either side mentioned to you that they’re involved —
MS. PSAKI: Nothing to update you on from here. We’re all aware of the meeting that Justice Minister Livni and President Abbas had last week.
QUESTION: Yeah, well that’s – that wasn’t – I mean, the —
QUESTION: That was private.
QUESTION: Exactly. The Israeli prime minister went out of his way to say that Minister Livni represented only herself and perhaps her family in this meeting, and not —
MS. PSAKI: Well, perhaps I should say that maybe we’ll allow the parties to announce if there’s any other contacts between them.
QUESTION: Yesterday you called on – you said that you were encouraging Israel to conduct a thorough, transparent investigation of the shooting incident in which these two Palestinian teenagers were killed. The foreign minister of Israel has reacted rather negatively to that and to your – to you in particular, saying that it’s essentially – I don’t want to mischaracterize his quote, but saying that it’s not appropriate for the United States to demand an investigation into an Israeli military activity, that the IDF is the most moral army in the – armed force in the world. And I’m just wondering: Do you stand by the call for the Israelis to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation given the foreign minister’s comments?
MS. PSAKI: We do. And we also have deep respect for the Israeli army’s moral code, which is exactly why there should be an investigation. And I believe in the foreign minister’s comments he also referenced a plan for an investigation or a desire to have an investigation, or the Israelis can call an investigation. We certainly support that. They’re in the lead; it is events happening on their soil, and we would support that effort.
QUESTION: Okay. And you don’t have any concerns about what such a – let me put it this way: Past investigations by the Israelis into their – into alleged Israeli misbehavior or alleged Israeli violence – I don’t know how you would call it – you have been satisfied with them? They have a proven track – do you believe they have a proven track record in self-investigations of this kind?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a sweeping comment about that. But obviously, they are in the lead, they should be in the lead, and we support their efforts to investigate.
QUESTION: All right. And do you have any specific comment about Foreign Minister Lieberman’s response to you and what you said?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t, no. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the statement —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: — from the Quartet?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Was part of the issue that the Quartet had been trying to put together a statement which would include a reference to the Palestinian unity government?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe – I don’t have any other detail on the discussions of the Quartet. I’d point you to the Quartet for —
QUESTION: Because Quartet statements have to be made by consensus, I would imagine.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what their process is. So I would point you to them for their – how their statements are put together and how it works to get those out.
QUESTION: Okay. And i had just had one more —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: — whether you’d seen the reports – this was just again, just happening as we came in, was that the – Israel has apparently ordered house arrest for some of Jewish extremists during the Pope’s visit. Would you have any kind of comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that before I came out. You know our position on actions as it relates to vandalism and unhelpful steps, but I’d have to check with our team and see.
QUESTION: This would seem to be – yeah, this would seem to be some kind of preemptive move against – I don’t even know what this group or these individuals may have been trying to do, but —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m happy to take it and get you a comment on it.
QUESTION: Do you have – more generally, do you have any thoughts on the Pope’s visit and what appears to be a rise in anti-Christian activity among some in the region?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is one of the issues that certainly when the Secretary was meeting with his counterpart in the Vatican he discussed – broadly speaking, I should say – the Pope’s visit to the Middle East, and it’s something that we strongly support. We have had – would certainly be concerned about any rise of anti-Christian or anti-religious sentiment that’s growing there. Obviously, we condemn that type of rhetoric and behavior, but beyond that I don’t have a further comment.