This blog entry is written byNancy Brinker, Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State. Ambassador Brinker provides a behind the scenes look into meetings that took place at the White House the day after the Annapolis Conference.
Today is the first day after the Annapolis Conference. We are all so hopeful that the good will established by yesterday’s meeting will translate into tangible results. President Abbas arrived with his delegation, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian National Authority. They were upbeat and appeared well rested. It has been a tense time; I am sure their efforts leading up to the conference, not to mention the travel necessary to get here, have taken a toll on the everyone involved.
Prime Minister Olmert will arrive with his delegation and then all will convene together. Our Protocol Visits team, under the very capable Ray Martinez, our Deputy Chief, has orchestrated this effort, along with Deputy Assistant Chief for Visits, Bryan Langley. Assistant Secretary David Welch commented on th e superb execution of yesterday's meetings. I was pleased for our team and it was kind that he took the time to mention that to us. Usually, we only hear about things that go wrong.
We are able to do these visits with a thin staff, but we always give our best effort. We all understand how essential our role is and we try to arrived briefed not only on the actual protocol surrounding a particular event but the also aware of the political issues and sensitivities that may be involved. When we are sitting with the delegations, we attempt to tell the story of America, often through stories about the history of the White House. Ray Martinez is really well versed on the p ictures, painting, antiques, and the history of the rooms in the West Wing. He often gives abbreviated tours to guests who may not be in the meetings with the ir respective leaders. Also we try to think about the personal comfort of our guests, offering them chocolate or coffee . At least for me, a little chocolate does wonders!
Aimee Violette and I ran down to the White House mess to eat very quickly after seeing President Abbas to his car.
Prime Minister Olmert then arrived with his delegation, including Israeli Ambassador Meridor. We discussed the history of the Roosevelt room (where we waited before the meetings with the President). We had a chance to chat a bit and we spoke of his previous travels in the United States. We are all very aware that these meetings need to succeed. Focus is so much a part of success and the focus on this meeting and the aftermath is shared and is sharp.
After this, we will have a trilateral meeting where the leaders again come together and issue another statement on the Annapolis conference. This has been a very busy day and a hopeful one.