The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Turkey, Palestine, Mitchell, Iran

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. Here are the highlights of Friday's briefing at the Foreign Press Center by Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon went to Turkey over the weekend, just as the Turks are increasing ties to the Iranian regime. "We think that's useful because we think there should be a variety of voices, you know, talking to the Iranian government about its responsibilities and its need to play a more constructive role in the region," said Crowley. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher is also visiting Turkey, related to nonproliferation and possible missile defense.
  • "We have never said that a total settlement freeze should be a precondition to negotiations," Crowley said about the effort to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. That is what the PLO's mission head in Washington said.
  • The State Department still intends to send an ambassador to Syria, but the selection process is just taking a long time, Crowley said.
  • No truth to the rumors that Special Envoy George Mitchell will resign soon in light of the problems in restarting Middle East peace negotiations, according to Crowley. "I think this is a monthly rumor. Let me put it to rest yet again. You know, Senator Mitchell remains hard at work. He's committed to this process."
  • Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are each visiting Brazil this week, but that's not a problem for the State Department. "I'm certainly not going to project that there should be a competing process. I think that we actually want to get a negotiation started," Crowley said. "We certainly would welcome other voices who would encourage the parties to work towards a two-state solution."
  • Crowley is "not sure" that there is an imminent collapse of the Palestinian Authority in the works, due to the problem of holding elections without the participation of Hamas. "There are questions about the future; obviously, significant question about elections going forward, but we continue to encourage the Palestinian Authority. But ultimately, its future is a decision for the Palestinian people to make."
  • The FBI's crackdown on the Alavi Foundation, which stands accused of crimes in conjunction with the Iranian mission to the United Nations, is not related to the Obama administration's overall engagement with the Iranian regime, Crowley said. I think this shouldn't affect other issues. We want to see a different kind of relationship between the United States and Iran ... but we will continue to enforce U.S. law in the meantime."

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