Regrettable, Premature and Deeply Damaging

The State Department issued a statement yesterday on UNESCO’s vote to admit Palestine as a member. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made the U.S. stance quite clear: the vote was “regrettable, premature, and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East.” She reiterated that Washington believes direct negotiations are the only way to a Palestinian state. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that the vote was “no substitute for direct negotiations” and “deeply damaging to UNESCO.” Washington has cut off funding to the cultural agency, amounting to nearly a quarter of UNESCO's budget.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that even though the NATO operation in Libya has officially ended, the U.S. military will still perform “some kind of overwatch role” in the country. Washington is working out the details with its NATO partners. Ambassador Rice called on the new Libyan authorities to “make maximum effort to swiftly form an inclusive government that incorporates all aspects of Libyan society, and in which the rights of all Libyan people are fully and thoroughly respected.” The operation was authorized by the UN Security Council to protect civilians from Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. Qaddafi was killed on October 20.

President Obama will be hosting an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hawaii on November 12 and 13, as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan begin to wind down and the administration starts to turn its attention eastward. As part of the increased attention on Asia, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was just in Japan, South Korea and Indonesia for meetings.