Subject: WH travel pool report #3
AF1 landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh at 5:08 pm.
Ben Rhodes and Jay Carney gaggled on the plane. Highlights are below. Please check against transcript, which you may already have.
On Syria, Rhodes said a main topic will be how to best empower the opposition militarily and politically, but “there’s not a specific announcement forthcoming around additional assistance.” In recent months, the US and Saudis have tried to improve coordination on that front, he said. “We believe we’ve made good progress” in improving coordination about “who we’re providing assistance to and what types of assistance we’re providing.”
“Frankly, I think that’s part of the reason why I think our relationship with the Saudis is an a stronger place today than it was in the fall when we had some tactical differences about our Syria policy.”
Rhodes wouldn’t get into whether the US had changed its opposition to the Saudis sending man pads into Syria, but mentioned continued concerns about weapons proliferation.
On Iran: US will make clear that, even as it pursues a nuclear deal, concerns about Iran’s behavior in the region “remain constant.” “We’re going to keep the pressure on all those other issues.”
On Egypt: The US has concerns about detention of journalists, political activists and the “shockingly large” number of death sentences announced. The msg will be “We have a shared interest in stability” but that interest is best served by “Egypt sticking to a democratic roadmap.”
On human rights: It will be on the agenda but so will “a very broad set of shared security interests, economic interests that we’ll be pursuing.”
On Ukraine: Nothing new on Russian troops on the border. Rhodes didn’t rule out the possibility of an Obama-Putin phone call in the future.
And finally, Rhodes also recapped the trip highlights and talked a bit more about POTUS-pope meeting.
Carney commented on ACA deadline on Monday. He said they’re “confident” website will handle any final surge. He wouldn’t say how many sign-ups they expect. And did not have any announcement on POTUS’ activities in the final push.