Last-Ditch Talks and European Lectures

In San Francisco yesterday, after talks with Australia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that there is “a growing recognition" among parties in the Middle East that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will only be resolved through negotiating. Diplomats are trying to convince the Palestinians to abort a bid to seek statehood through the United Nations. Clinton though wouldn’t give “the odds of how successful [that] entire effort will be.” Meanwhile, special envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross, on the ground in the region, have met with Israeli president Shimon Perez, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak as well as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Hale and Ross, along with the envoys from the rest of the Quartet, will meet in New York on Sunday.

On the sidelines of a NATO conference that kicks off in Spain today, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen will sit down with Pakistan’s General Ashfaq Kayani to try to ease tensions. Washington is still attempting to rebuild ties with Islamabad following the raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden. He was hiding in relatively plain sight Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In Poland for a meeting of European finance ministers, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is coming under fire. Austria’s finance minister, Maria Fekter, is not happy about Geithner’s lecturing. As Fekter put it, the U.S. treasury secretary used “very dramatic terms” to call on the eurozone to get the current European crisis under control. She said, “I would have expected that, if he explains the world to us, that he would also listen to what we want to explain to the Americans.”

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns met with Iraqi senior officials yesterday, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and Iraqiya bloc chair Ayad Allawi. They discussed things like “regional developments and bolstering our bilateral relationship as envisioned in the Strategic Framework Agreement,” according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. He headed to the UAE after wrapping up in Baghdad.

Nuland also said that Washington is hopeful that a power-transfer deal for Yemen will be signed within the next week. As Nuland put it, “The United States has seen encouraging signs in recent days from the government and the opposition in Yemen suggesting a renewed willingness to implement a political transition.” Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was injured in an attack on his compound in June and has been in Saudi Arabia recovering. He authorized his deputy to negotiate a power-transfer deal on his behalf.

And in the most recent blow to President Obama’s ego, a new Bloomberg National Poll finds Secretary Clinton to be quite a popular political figure these days, with “nearly two-thirds of Americans hold[ing] a favorable view of her.” One-third thinks the US would be better off with her in charge. President Obama’s job approval rating, at 45 percent, is at its nadir.