Remarks on The Plane in Cairo, Egypt
Secretary of State
QUESTION: There seems to be a little confusion over whether the Egyptian position, which, as expressed by the foreign minister earlier in the week, seemed quite harsh, was very much (inaudible) Palestinians (inaudible), that the (inaudible) take up an opportunity to (inaudible), said fine, (inaudible), yeah, we’re not going to come out and scream and yell anymore, and maybe we’re going to tell them they shouldn’t do it, or he was just being polite? How did you interpret it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I thought it was a very productive meeting. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Candid, cooperative?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Candid, cooperative, productive, constructive – and shows the value of consultation and listening and sharing ideas and hearing the other side and putting forth your views and explaining. I thought it was a very, very (inaudible).
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in order to get the Palestinians to the negotiating table for – to start talking about full – about final status issues, would you – are you able to give them a guarantee that the negotiations would be about a state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are working – and I don’t want to get into negotiating details, but we are working to really fulfill what were, in essence, the terms of reference for any negotiations set forth in President Obama’s speech to the United Nations. I don’t think enough attention may have been paid to exactly what the President said and the importance of what he reaffirmed as the American position. And it obviously is about the territory occupied since 1967, it is about Jerusalem, it is about refugees, it’s about all of those final status issues.
So we want to be facilitating the return to negotiations. We don’t think that there’s any question in anybody’s mind about what’s going to be talked about.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I just want to clarify something the Egyptian foreign minister said. On the one hand in the briefing, he said that any more settlement activity is completely unacceptable, but then in another breath, he said we’re focused on the endgame; we don’t want this issue or that issue to impede getting there. So in your private conversation with him, how did you understand the resolution of those seemingly conflicting comments?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) one issue means don’t let settlements get in the way –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but that’s our position. We don’t think there should be continued settlement activity either. We would like to make it as clear as possible, which, as you heard, I repeated for the question from the Egyptian media. Our position has not changed. We have the same position. There is a desire to get into these final status negotiations, and we think taking advantage of a stop to all new settlement construction happens to be in the best interests of the negotiations.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton --
QUESTION: So then it wouldn’t be a precondition anymore? The Egyptians might go along with saying, okay, then don’t have a precondition, get it back to the table?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t want to speak for the Egyptians.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I think that you should let the foreign minister’s words stand for themselves. And Jeff speaks Arabic, so he can go into more detail about that. But I think it was very clear that the – and this is not very different from what I heard from my counterparts in Morocco. We have to figure out a way to get into the re-launch of negotiations.
And things have happened along the way, the Goldstone report being the most recent and the most difficult for everybody. And that was not – and you saw what happened is the Palestinians tried to postpone so that it wouldn’t be an issue and then they got criticized for that. And I mean, so – but that doesn’t take away from what the ultimate objective is, and that’s what I think you heard from Aboul Gheit and what you heard from me.
QUESTION: Have you talked with --
QUESTION: But how – where does Abbas get the cover to take that heat? Where does Abbas get the cover to drop the precondition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Go ahead, (inaudible).
U.S. OFFICIAL: But he does not have to sign up for this deal. This is something that the Israelis are putting on – are talking about putting on the table. He doesn’t have to sign up for it at all. No one’s asking him to bless it.
QUESTION: No, you’re asking him to sign up for talks though, right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but that’s slightly different. The Israelis are offering this. It can be rejected by everyone. There’s no imposition of it, no requirement for it. The Israelis will decide whether or not they want to go forward with it. That’s up to the Israelis, obviously. But at the end of the day, this discussion about settlements will be mooted by getting into negotiations about borders. Because then, you can build what you want in your state and the other can build what they want in their state.
QUESTION: So just to follow up on my question very quickly, some Palestinians – some Palestinian officials have said that if you were – if the Americans were to give guarantees that negotiations would be about a state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, they would consider this as an encouragement to sit down at the table of negotiations.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, and I think that’s --
QUESTION: Is that one way of getting around the settlement issue?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s a very welcome suggestion, and it is something that --
QUESTION: Is that something you’ve talked – discussed with them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have. We have discussed it with nearly everyone.
STAFF: I think it’s time to buckle up, guys.
QUESTION: Thank you.