Thursday, June 26, 2014

Secretary Kerry's Meetings with Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri And Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Paris, France
June 26, 2014

Excerpts re. Lebanon

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: For the purposes of the transcript, this is a readout of the Secretary's meetings with former Prime Minister Hariri this morning from Lebanon and with Foreign Minister Lieberman of Israel. We have a couple of senior State Department officials. Why don't we start with the Hariri meeting? Just a quick – [Senior State Department Official Two], do you want to do that one?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We just had a very good meeting. The Secretary and former Prime Minister Hariri have known each other for a while, and obviously he wanted to hear former Prime Minister Hariri's views and his position (inaudible) March 14 views. There was a discussion of the need, from our point of view, obviously, for Lebanon, for the Lebanese to elect a president as soon as possible because they need all three elements of the government working in order to deal with the really serious challenges that Lebanon faces, meaning a president, the prime minister and the cabinet as the government and also parliament as well. So they discussed prospects for that and I think they all – they both agreed on the need to – for Lebanon to move ahead and try to elect a president as soon as possible.

They also discussed regional events, both Iraq and Syria. And former Prime Minister Hariri raised an issue, which, of course, has been very high on our agenda as well, which is the large influx of refugees and its impact on Lebanon. As you know, we were the largest single donor to the larger appeal on the refugees and in particular to Lebanon, where we've given over $400 million since the beginning of the crisis.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. If we have any questions on Lebanon, let's just do them quickly and then we'll do Lieberman.

QUESTION: Just was there a reaction to the bombing yesterday?

QUESTION: To the bombing, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It came up. Former Prime Minister Hariri mentioned it, of course. They're all very sensitive about that this not be symptomatic of that – obviously that we don't want to go back to that. Obviously a concern for spillover from Syria and more broadly. As you know, we strongly condemn the bombing and are hoping that the perpetrators that are left – or that are brought to justice. And that's yet another reason why we have been in a very material way supportive in assisting the Lebanese armed forces and the internal security forces.

QUESTION: How about support for the Syrian opposition and rebels, how much conversation was dedicated to that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There was some discussion of that between the two of our assistance and support for the moderate opposition in Syria, and again, the impact of the continuing war as it is in Syria on Lebanon, both with respect to refugees and any other destabilizing aspects. There was discussion of the effects of Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: All right. I can do Lieberman. Are there any more on Lebanon?

QUESTION: No. Well, it comes from a bigger one and you can probably answer it.



QUESTION: Well, the question is exactly what is the Secretary trying to get from these meetings? I mean, is there – are there very specific things about Iraq?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean I think it's fair to say that Iraq was discussed in all of the meetings he's had over the course of the last week. But obviously the Lebanon meeting, which [Senior State Department Official Two] referenced, was more about the political issues also going on on the ground there and issues specific to Lebanon. So it wasn't set up, as I understand it, specific to Iraq, but it was certainly discussed.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No. This wasn't the reason for the meeting --