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Breifing Skipper: Europe, Mitchell, Pakistan, Lebanon, Sudan

Breifing Skipper: Europe, Mitchell, Pakistan, Lebanon, Sudan


In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Monday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg is off on a trip to central Europe that will include stops in Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland. Crowley mentioned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit the Balkans soon.  Undersecretary of State Bill Burns is traveling this week to Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan. "In Iraq, he will continue to encourage the political factions in Iraq to form an inclusive and representative government, as well as review progress in the transition to a civilian-led partnership in Iraq," Crowley said.
  • Regarding the State Department’s Travel Alert for the entire continent of Europe, Crowley tried to put it in context. "We are saying to American citizens, ‘Continue with your travel plans if they include Europe, but be cautious and be aware that we are following, you know, multiple streams of threat information. And we felt, having tracked intelligence over a lengthy period of time, it was appropriate to issue this alert at this moment.’"
  • Special Envoy George Mitchell is back in the U.S. after a tour through the Middle East that included stop in Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. No progress reported on saving the peace talks and the key meeting of the Arab League where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak has been postponed until Friday. Clinton phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.
  • Crowley couldn’t and therefore didn’t answer persistent questions coming from one press corps member seeking to know when was the last time the U.S. failed to back up Israel at the U.N. The questioner was ostensibly referencing reports that the administration was trying to convince the Israelis to extend the settlement freeze by promising to veto any future attacks on Israel in international fora. "I’m not sure that is a question that can possibly be answered," Crowley said.
  • The U.S. can still move goods to resupply troops in Afghanistan despite that the Pakistani government has closed one of the supply routes in order to protest the NATO airstrikes that killed some Pakistani troops. "I’m only aware of one particular gate that remains closed. We do have multiple routes into Afghanistan," Crowley said. "The flow of materiel through Pakistan to Afghanistan continues, but this is an issue that we continue to discuss with Pakistan."
  • The State Department is "satisfied" with the level of cooperation by the Pakistani government and is supporting the civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, which is under pressure from elements of the Pakistani military to yield power. "We continue to support civilian government in Pakistan, and much of our effort is focused on helping to strengthen Afghan civilian institutions," Crowley said.
  • Crowley called on Syria to respect the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and reiterated U.S. support for the special tribunal on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "We are committed to do everything possible to support, you know, Lebanon’s sovereignty. And that’s what we’re doing," Crowley said. He also referenced recent high level U.S. visits to Lebanon, which included the visit of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy last week.
  • Crowley said he was hopeful that the Senate might confirm the still lingering nominees for Ambassador to Turkey (Frank Ricciardone) and Ambassador to Syria (Robert Ford) and added that the delay is hurting American diplomatic efforts. "It does have an impact. These are vitally important countries to the future of the region. They are countries that, you know, we need that kind of day-to-day interaction with. And we’re hopeful that when the Senate reconvenes after the election, that their nominations will go forward," he said.
  • Special Envoy Scott Gration and Ambassador Princeton Lyman are in Sudan right now engaged in talks about how to hold the upcoming referendum in the district of Abyei. "And we hope that, through these discussions in the coming days, we can reach an agreement that allows the referendum in Abyei to go forward," Crowley said.