Background Briefing on Secretary Clinton's Meetings With Iraqi Vice President al-Khuzai, Arab League Secretary General Elaraby, and Yemeni President Hadi

Special Briefing
Senior Administration Official
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 25, 2012

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Secretary has been going full steam all afternoon with a number of bilateral meetings, and we thought we maybe could squeeze a readout a little bit earlier, but we got caught up in them.

Just to go over what we’ll cover tonight, just a little bit of programming, we’ll provide you now, as a Senior Administration Official, background readouts of her meeting with the Iraqi Vice President al-Khuzai, followed by a brief readout as well of her meeting with Arab League Secretary General Elaraby, and as well as her meeting with Yemeni President Hadi.

We will then, for your convenience, provide a readout at the conclusion of tonight’s dinner – Transatlantic Dinner with NATO and EU foreign ministers, by phone and also on background as a Senior Administration Official. And that will also cover the three bilateral meetings that the Secretary just concluded with the Greek Foreign Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, as well as with Foreign Secretary Hague of the UK.

With that, let me just turn to the meeting that the Secretary had with Iraqi Vice President al-Khuzai. A good portion of the discussion focused on Syria, which you’ll see was a very common refrain in almost all of her bilats. The Secretary, as you heard earlier, had her meeting with Brahimi that was read out, and there’s a lot of work that’s being done consulting with key partners, allies in the region in terms of how best to achieve the goals that we all share. And this was certainly a focus of the discussion with the Iraqi Vice President. And it was a discussion of the shared goals of trying to achieve an inclusive, stable, and pluralistic democracy for the Syrian people, the need to bring about a political transition, clearly a need to stop the violence.

And in that context, Secretary Clinton made very clear to the Iraqi Vice President the need – urgent need to ensure no passage of over-flights by Iran in supply of – military supply of the Assad regime. It was then a focus of discussion in terms of the urgency of continuing to provide humanitarian support. The Secretary urged the Iraqi Vice President to ensure that the borders remain open, allowing for refugees to come in as needed into Iraq, and to work with the UN to provide the support that is needed.

The Secretary also had the opportunity to thank the Iraqi Government, express appreciation for the way in which it has facilitated the peaceful relocation of the MEK from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya. And then also the Vice President of Iraq took the opportunity to also express his sympathies to the United States in the wake of the tragic loss of Ambassador Stevens and the violence that has resulted from the video. And he also welcomed, very much so, and thanked the Secretary for getting – in working with the Senate to confirm Ambassador Beecroft, noting the importance for Iraq of having an American ambassador on the ground and doing his job.

Moving on to Elaraby, the meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, you have seen the Media Note that we released, so hopefully you have some sense for the importance of the cooperative MOU that was signed with the Arab League. There was a fair amount of discussion that you heard the Secretary talk about, as well as the Secretary General, of the importance of increased cooperation with the Arab League, the results that we saw achieved in Libya, the work that is ongoing on trying to resolve the situation in Syria, and other areas where we can be working more closely together, be it the Sudan or other areas of common interest, noting, as the Secretary did, that perhaps on occasion we will disagree, but that there has been great progress and advancement in terms of our relationship with the Arab League.

They spent the great majority of their meeting discussing the situation in Syria, as you might expect, talking about the role of the UN Representative Brahimi, and in preparation for what is expected in terms of the Ad Hoc Ministerial on Syria on Friday. I should note, just going back on the Iraqi meeting, that the Iraqis are going to be participating in that meeting with their Foreign Minister, so we welcome that as well.

There was --

QUESTION: Is this the first time?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is correct. That is the first time that the Iraqis will be participating in these groupings. And there was also a fair amount of time devoted to, again, the discussion of the situation in Syria and as it relates to helping the opposition to try to find a way forward in terms of a political transition and to provide humanitarian assistance.

There’s a general sense, as you’ve heard, that we have the space to reach a diplomatic solution, that we’re working to hasten the democratic and political transition, and that we’ll continue to all work together to up the political pressure, increase Assad’s isolation, increase the economic pressure, urging him to depart the scene, to – he – it is quite clear he must go. And we are, at the same time, working to help the opposition coalesce and to provide nonlethal assistance to facilitate and strengthen their prospects.

So with that, let me just make a few final points on the meeting that the Secretary had with President Hadi of Yemen. The Secretary thanked President Hadi for his strong leadership in working to implement the terms of the Gulf Cooperation Council political transition initiative. The United States firmly remains confident that President Hadi and Yemen’s political leadership and stakeholders can continue implementing the agreed-upon political settlement, despite clear ongoing efforts by those who want to see it derailed. We are supporting Yemen’s democratic transition through a comprehensive strategy that promotes political, economic, and security sector reforms, and that will enable the government to respond to the needs and aspirations of the Yemeni people.

We also – the United States remains focused on supporting a peaceful political transition in Yemen, and we’ll continue to stand by the Yemeni people. It is clear that robust steps that they are taking and will take are part of a long-term plan with the goal of ensuring a unified, stable, democratic, and prosperous Yemen. And then I'll just add just one final sort of programming note. I know there's been a lot of interest on Iran. There is -- now, we can confirm that there will be on Thursday a meeting of the P-5+1 at the political directors level that will be followed by a P-5+1 ministerial that clearly does not include Iran. It is a way for the P-5+1 to consult and take stock of where we are and consider next steps.

So with that, I'm happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just on that ministerial, is that a time to be determined down the line? Or is it this week?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it will be on Thursday. There will be a political directors meeting that will then evolve into a ministerial. So it will be back to back.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So the ministers will join that meeting, and we'll have an opportunity to discuss the situation with regards to Iran and next steps.

QUESTION: And can you tell us why -- sort of what was -- why that determination was then -- why was it deemed appropriate now to have a ministerial level meeting?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we are always looking to see how we can advance the ball in terms of trying to get Iran to comply with its international obligations. You know that we're working with our P-5+1 partners to ratchet up pressure, but as the President and Secretary have said, there's still time for diplomacy. And so clearly given that the key ministers are here in New York, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, again, for them to take stock.

It is important that we remain focused on this. It is an urgent matter. We certainly have seen tremendous P-5+1 unity with relation to Iran. And I think that it was just an opportune time. Part of the reason we weren't able to confirm before is also working the logistics that you see at UNGA with everybody having very, very full schedules. We needed to just lock it down. But political directors who are in constant contact will have an opportunity to first meet and then the ministers will join that meeting and have an opportunity then to discuss where we are, where we should be going from here, and I'm sure we'll be trying to provide you some perspective after the meeting.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact between any of the Iranian delegation that are here and any of the members of the P-5+1?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I can't speak for -- yeah, I can't speak for all of the P-5+1 or even for the EU for Lady Ashton. We haven't, as far as I'm aware, had contact with them. That said, you know that Lady Ashton did meet with her counterpart, Dr. Jalili, not too long ago, again, urging him to take seriously the proposals that have been put on the table­­ by the P-5+1 that provide an opportunity for resolving this critical issue diplomatically, that they need to get serious. The bite of sanctions will only increase, their isolation will only increase, and they need to just come to terms with the reality that there's no other way to move forward than for them to meet their international obligations and work with the P-5­­+1 on the way forward.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t believe so. Obviously there are consultations. In fact, in some of the meetings that the Secretary has had, there is a focus on trying to see how the peace process can go forward. You know our position, that we think it is urgent that the parties find a way to come together and begin to move forward on that process. But I don’t know of any formal meeting of the Quartet. And of course, we have our Special Envoy David Hale who is engaged at his level, certainly probably consulting with his counterparts and also dealing with the parties.

QUESTION: If I could ask you, going back to the Iraqi (inaudible) and the over-flights. Maybe I just wasn't able to pay attention here, but what's the status of that now? Have they agreed --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it's a long day, and I can fully understand that it's hard for you. A long week, as we know, at UNGA, but we have made very clear to the Iraqis that they need to put a stop to these flights. They have taken some encouraging first steps. We saw that they stopped a North Korean flight. We've seen public statements that they've made that they certainly are not going to allow flights from Iran that carry military equipment and resupplying of Syrian troops to go through their airspace. They just need to follow through and deliver on that, and we very much heard in our meeting with the Vice President of Iraq that is in fact their intent, and that is their position. They do not want to see an arming or rearming of the Syrian regime come through their airspace.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. Jo Biddle from AFP (inaudible).


QUESTION: Since a lot of the focus of the meetings of the Secretary has been on Syria, I wonder if you could talk to us perhaps to confirm that Fred Hof is resigning from his post and what that actually -- the implications that will have for your policy on Syria going forward.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Well, first I want to say, yes, I can confirm that he is going to be retiring. He's had a wonderful, terrific, long, and distinguished career in government service. As it happens to folks who have dedicated so much of their lives to government work, there comes a time when it really is important for us to reconnect with our families and spend time with them, and that's the reason that he has decided to step down. Of course, the Secretary is extremely grateful for his leadership and all the work he's done on a variety of issues, and obviously most recently focused on Syria. So we wish him all the very best and fully understand that there comes a time in everyone's career when sometimes you just have to pick, to go back to your family.

QUESTION: And going forward, is this going to have implications? Is he going to be replaced or --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we have a number of people who are fully engaged on Syria. As you know, Ambassador Ford is relentlessly working the issue, and frankly at all levels. As you've seen from these first couple of days of here at UNGA, the Secretary is working on this intensely. We continue to have a number of our key players at all levels, whether it's Deputy Secretary Burns or Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, a number of people, Beth Jones, and others who are working on the Syria issue.

But we will look, obviously, to ensure that Fred's role is sustained in terms of the excellent work he's done to try to bring together the opposition, in particular, and working with the different parties to see how we might be successful in bringing about the political transition that we know that the Syrian people want, that people in the region want, the world wants. And again, we have talented folks, and I'm sure somebody will step up and be able to continue the fine work that Fred has done on this issue.

Do you have any other questions while -- I hope again -- I know it's a very long day, and I'm sorry that this got delayed. We will have an opportunity again to do it by phone in terms of the readout of the Transatlantic Dinner. And then I'm sure we'll have more programming every day of the week. And please bear with us. We'll do our best to keep you well informed. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PRN: 2012/1517