The Cable

Clinton meets with Egyptian and Turkish foreign ministers

Among the more than a dozen meetings Hillary Clinton has had on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit here in Washington, one stands out. The U.S. secretary of state had an intense 90-minute session with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit.

Also in the meeting on the American side were two crucial officials: Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell.

The main topics of the meeting? The Middle East peace process and the upcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference to be held at U.N. headquarters in New York in May.

The Cable caught up with State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who gave us an exclusive readout.

Clinton and Tauscher spoke at length with Aboul Gheit about the NPT review conference, as they are doing in a host of meetings yesterday and today. The Obama administration is using this week's summit to lay the groundwork for the May conference, which is sure to be more controversial and more heated than the sessions this week, which have focused on the need to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorist groups.

On Monday, Aboul Gheit reiterated Egypt's call for a nuclear-free Middle East, urging that Israel's unacknowledged nuclear weapons be put on the table along with Iran's nuclear program. The possibility that Egypt, along with Turkey, might raise was the official reason for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's last-minute decision to skip the D.C. summit.

The State Department wants to head off any plans to disrupt the NPT conference and also start the discussions about what countries would be bringing what agendas to New York next month.

"We recognize that this is an issue that many countries are concerned about and we want to make sure we are prepared for that," Crowley said, no going so far as to say the U.S. is trying to dissuade Egypt from making the NPT review conference all about Israel.

"There clearly will be a subtext to the NPT Review Conference, just as there is here. We recognize that," Crowley said.

On Middle East peace, he said Egypt is "in tune with what the Arab league is thinking about things," and so the United States wanted to touch base.

Crowley said he wasn't aware of any meetings between Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg (who is also milling about) or Mitchell with the Israeli delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, but he didn't rule that out.

As for Turkey, Clinton met with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The substance of that conversation was on how to move forward with the Turkey-Armenia agreement that Clinton has been pushing for some time.

"The discussion was about how to take specific steps on progress on both sides," Crowley said.

Clinton will join President Obama's meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and also his bilateral with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

When asked what the Turkish foreign minister about the prospects for a breakthrough between the two historically estranged neighbors, Crowley said, "Anyone who knows Davutoglu knows that he is always optimistic."

What about Iran's nuclear program? Crowley said there wasn't enough time to discuss the issue in the meeting, but noted that Clinton and Davotoglu will meet again before he leaves for Ankara Thursday.


The Cable

At the summit, side meetings galore

Sure, the Nuclear Security Summit is supposed to be about President Obama's drive to secure all the world's loose nuclear material. But hey, since all 47 nations have such high-level leaders in one place, why not set up a bunch of side meetings?

And set them up they did. There are delegations scuttling this way and that, discussing who knows what, and coming up with new combinations for conversations every few minutes. The last one your Cable guy witnessed was when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh brought his entourage to meet behind closed doors with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his gang.

The French are having so many meetings, they reserved their own exclusive room to host them.  Everyone else has to schedule meeting space one at a time through the State Department.

The Chinese didn't schedule any meetings at the convention center, preferring to hold court back at their hotel, the Wardman Park Marriott in northwest Washington.

And the Israelis don't have any rooms reserved either, according to the State Department. But they are having meetings. We witnessed Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg exit the convention center this morning. (OK, he might not have been there to see the Israelis. But then around noon we saw Special Envoy George Mitchell. I wonder what he was doing there...)

Here are some of the other interesting meetings we are being told about. Russia is having a meeting with Ukraine and we heard Kazakhstan will also attend. Russia is also meeting with Japan. No word yet on what was discussed.

The United Arab Emirates is holding a string of meetings. Today's roster included the French and the Singaporeans, although they missed their chance to meet with the South Africa delegation.

Yesterday, Mexico met with the EU delegation; Spain met with the team from the U.N.; and New Zealand and Chile sat down to talk, just to name a few.

President Obama even found time to squeeze in a few extra sessions. He sat down with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and also scheduled a new bilateral meeting this afternoon with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina.