The U.S. State Department spokesman announced in today’s regular daily briefing in Washington that U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, met Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem.
This meeting could have happened at the U.S. Consulate in East or West Jerusalem, of course …
Rice had some meetings at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem once with Fayyad. The U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem is almost next door to where some of Fayyad’s children went or are still going to school, at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral.
But Fayyad himself is also a resident of (East) Jerusalem, living in Beit Hanina … which may or may not be part of the package deal (or, shall we say, part of one of the package deals) that outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is reported to have put on the table for the “sharing” of Jerusalem …
Here are some excerpts about what was said at the State Department briefings today (and yesterday):
“QUESTION: Senator Mitchell’s trip – do you have anything to say about —
MR. WOOD: Yeah, let me give you the latest readout that I have. Senator Mitchell was in Jerusalem this morning. He had productive meetings with Mossad Director Meir Dagan, Israeli Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, and our Consul General Jacob Walles. Senator Mitchell arrived in Ramallah in the afternoon and met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He will be – he is scheduled to return to Jerusalem later in the day and meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to meet with —
QUESTION: I’m sorry, he’s meeting with Fayyad in Jerusalem?
MR. WOOD: It says here he is – he is scheduled to return to Jerusalem late in the day and meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. That’s what I have.
…He is scheduled tomorrow – he is scheduled to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu early tomorrow morning. And that’s the latest I have on his trip …
Here are excerpts from the U.S. State Department briefing yesterday:
QUESTION: George Mitchell’s trip – do you have any readout of his talks in Cairo with President Mubarak? And also, I think he’s with the Israelis right now.
MR. WOOD: Yeah, let me give you what I just received. Senator Mitchell was in Cairo this morning. He met with Tony Blair and Egyptian President Mubarak. Following his meeting with President Mubarak, Special Envoy Mitchell gave a statement in which he reiterated our belief that is – it is of critical importance that the ceasefire in Gaza be extended and consolidated. In that regard, he thanked Egypt and reiterated our support for its efforts.
Senator Mitchell arrived in Jerusalem in the afternoon. He was scheduled to meet with President Peres, Prime Minister Olmert, Minister of Defense Barak, and Foreign Minister Livni today. As we have said, the President and the Secretary have sent Special Envoy Mitchell on this trip to hear the views of and consult with the parties and our Arab and European partners on ways we can best work toward achieving a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Yeah, a follow-up on the Middle East. Peace Now has come out with a report that Israeli settlements in the West Bank have increased by about 60 percent in the last year, and I noticed that nobody in the new Administration has even mentioned the issue of settlements. Can you at least respond to this report — and why you haven’t said anything about settlements until now?
MR. WOOD: Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the report. And as we’ve said, Senator Mitchell is out in the region. He’s going to be talking to Israeli leaders. He’ll be talking to others. And as I said, that will all be fed back to the Secretary and the President. And we will – the Administration will be formulating its Middle East policies. But again, Senator Mitchell is out there to hear from people in the region, and then he’ll bring that information back.
QUESTION: Why don’t you want to talk about settlements? Even the previous administration mentioned it – Secretary Rice.
MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t want to talk about settlements right now is – because the Administration is going to be further outlining its views. But it wants to wait, of course, until Senator Mitchell has returned and talk to him.
QUESTION: Robert, was – Senator Mitchell’s talk with the Egyptian included any possibilities of deploying Egyptian troops on the border with Gaza?
MR. WOOD: I don’t want to get into the substance of his discussions with Egyptian officials. But obviously, we want to do what we can to be supportive of efforts to prevent Hamas from rearming. But let’s wait for Senator Mitchell to come back and report, and then we can go into more details in terms of what was said.
QUESTION: But would it be that – something that you would consider, you would like to see?
MR. WOOD: I don’t want to get ahead of what’s going on on the ground there, so I’d prefer to wait until we have heard back from Senator Mitchell and then be able to respond.
QUESTION: I wanted to go back to Senator Mitchell. Can you tell us whether he has any particular message or agenda for his discussions in the region, and how soon after he gets back we can expect to hear some kind of unified, newly formulated policy towards the region?
MR. WOOD: I think I addressed both of those earlier. Going to the second part, I just can’t tell you when we’ll be able to basically announce, you know, how we’re going to go forward with regard to our policy in the region. He has said, with regard to your first question, that he’s going out to hear from leaders of the region, and also to try to help, you know, sustain this ceasefire and make it lasting.
QUESTION: Robert, same subject. By saying that he’s trying to help sustain the ceasefire, does that include presenting new ideas or proposals to strengthen it, or is he just listening?
MR. WOOD: I think at this point he’s just going to the region to hear what the people have to say about the various issues and concerns, and then as I said, bring those – you know, have him report back to the Secretary and the President, and then we go forward from there, Ron. But I don’t have anything further.
QUESTION: Well, but (inaudible) has said it’s going to work with the Israelis and others on the anti-smuggling programs. So he’s not offering any U.S. proposals along those lines about stopping smuggling, or just —
MR. WOOD: I’m not going to – it wouldn’t be fair for me to talk further about what he’s trying to do in the region, except to say what I’ve already said.