Daily Press Briefing - August 31, 2011
Daily Press Briefing - August 31, 2011
Daily Press Briefing
August 31, 2011
12:38 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go right to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can we start with just – with Libya, and what your understanding is of the Algerian explanation for taking in Qadhafi’s family?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the letter now. Essentially, what it says is that they made this decision to take them in on humanitarian grounds. And it says explicitly what we now know from your good reporting, which is that one of Qadhafi’s daughters gave birth on the border without medical attention.
So the Security Council has to look at this now that it’s received the official notification from the Algerians, which the Algerians have to do under 1970. But the Security Council is celebrating Eid ul-Fitr today, so that’ll be a process that goes on.
QUESTION: Okay. So that was – to the best of your understanding, the humanitarian grounds were the daughter giving birth, the newborn child and to help the mother?
MS. NULAND: The letter speaks of humanitarian – that their reason to accept these people was on humanitarian grounds, and then specifically makes reference to the fact that the daughter gave birth.
QUESTION: So it’s not your understanding that they’re saying that just because these people were fleeing from possible recriminations, that was the humanitarian grounds; the humanitarian grounds are specifically related to the birth of the child?
MS. NULAND: You’d have to speak --
QUESTION: I’m just asking for your understanding of it. And then also, is that something that you think is acceptable for – as a humanitarian reason, for humanitarian – a reason for humanitarian grounds --
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we have to look at this in the Security Council, and we will do that with our partners there. The important point here is that the Algerians followed the procedures that they need to follow under 1970 after having made this decision, that they stated clearly in the letter the condition of this one member of the family, and they make clear that their decision was based on humanitarian grounds.
QUESTION: Did they mention his sons, who were not pregnant? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We’re sure that the sons were not – (laughter). It simply says four members of the family.
QUESTION: Do you yet have a position on non-indicted, non-ICC indicted Qadhafi family members and what should be done with them?
MS. NULAND: Our position, as we’ve said, is that those with blood on their hands, those members of the family, should face justice. With regard to where we and the Security Council go on this particular issue, I think we are just beginning to look at it.
QUESTION: Staying with Libya, what is the State – the report – there’s a report out by Al-Jazeera today about Assistant Secretary – former Assistant Secretary David Welch offering advice to Qadhafi officials to help them, in essence, stay in power. That’s been running pretty much today. They met in Cairo on August 2nd. What does the State have to say to this?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the report. David Welch, former Assistant Secretary, is now a private citizen. This was a private trip. He was not carrying any messages from the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: But it’s not undermining?
MS. NULAND: So any views represented were his own.
QUESTION: But Dennis Kucinich is not a private citizen, and he was also in contact with top Qadhafi regime officials recently. Was – did the State Department have any knowledge of those contacts, and what – were you being briefed by Representative Kucinich on these meetings?
MS. NULAND: Josh, we went through this at the time, when he was there, and we made clear that this was his own initiative. He did, I think – not immediately after his return, but later, he was in contact with some of our folks. But it was his own initiative.
QUESTION: When you said that he didn’t deliver any message to the Libyan parties, can you – that means you are confirming that he met with the Libyan officials?
MS. NULAND: I would refer you to him. We’ve seen the press reports. Our understanding is that he did have these meetings, but again, he was not carrying any water for the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Can you discuss a little bit more about the Secretary’s agenda for the Contact Group meeting and whether she’s going to have important bilaterals, or unimportant --
MS. NULAND: The Contact Group meeting – well, it’s – well, actually – it’s actually being called the Friends of Libya meeting.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So what do you – what’s the meeting about, if you’ve already changed the name?
QUESTION: That’s the deliverable.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we will speak a little bit more about this, but the French are calling it a high-level meeting of the Friends of Libya. It is their initiative, but as we said yesterday, that reflects the fact that the international community is now moving from support for an opposition force to support for the Libyan people and the Transitional National Council as their governing authority and representatives as they proceed with this transition. We have said that the Qadhafi era is coming to an end. There will be a meeting of the Friends of Libya. There will also be a dinner. The Secretary will have a number of bilateral meetings. I think we’ll speak more about those tomorrow. And then she will also be available to the press at the end of the day.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) more about those tomorrow; she’ll actually have the meetings tomorrow.
MS. NULAND: Exactly, and that’s why we’ll speak about them.
QUESTION: So at this Les Amis de Libye meeting --
MS. NULAND: Ah.
QUESTION: -- it looks like at least four --
MS. NULAND: Le français de M. Lee est pal mal.
QUESTION: Oui. At least four-fifths of the so-called BRIC countries look like they’re going to be attending that. I’m not sure about South Africa, but certainly the B, R, and I, C have said they will. Do you think that this is a good thing? Does it indicate to you that there might be some kind of resolution coming to the whole money issue in the Security Council?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve certainly favored the – a broadening of the international community of support for Libya. We’ve seen that not only in those interested in coming to these meetings, which has grown exponentially from the original 20, to 40, and now we hear it may be as many as 60 countries represented. One of the things that we expect to hear at this meeting is a report from the Transitional National Council on how it sees moving forward what it wants from the international community, including how it wants to work with the Security Council on the appropriate unwinding as we’ve discussed here of 1970 and 1973, but I don’t want to prejudge what they’re going to say to us tomorrow.
QUESTION: No, no, but my – that wasn’t the answer to my – my question was are you encouraged or hearted by the fact that these four, and potentially five countries will be attending, and does that signal anything about your efforts at the Security Council to get the money unfrozen?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We are encouraged. We’ve been working well with all of these countries on the Security Council. As you know, they all supported – those who are members of the Security Council did support our request to unfreeze the first 1.5 billion. There are other countries, including the UK, now working on similar resolutions. So that’ll be – one of the issues under discussion is continuing to help the Libyan people get their money back for appropriate humanitarian and governance support.
QUESTION: Senator Schumer today sent a letter to Secretary Clinton saying – calling on her to raise the issue of the Lockerbie bomber, al-Megrahi, at this meeting tomorrow. He said that no aid should be provided to the TNC, including the unfreezing of assets, unless this guy, the Lockerbie bomber is put back behind bars. Will Secretary Clinton raise this issue at the meeting in any way?
MS. NULAND: We’ve just received Senator Schumer’s letter. As you know, as he knows, we have already raised this issue with the TNC, and the TNC has come back and made clear that it understands the sensitivities here and that it itself is prepared to look into this matter after it gets itself fully in control of Libya and takes care of the immediate security and humanitarian needs of its people.
More broadly, you know where we are on Megrahi. We do not believe that he should have been released from the Scottish jail. We have an open investigation at the Department of Justice into him and other aspects of the Libyan bomber that will be ongoing. With regard to our future discussions with the Libyans on this issue, I can’t speak to what the Secretary will do tomorrow, but certainly the Justice Department has the lead on this and we’ve made clear to the TNC that if and as it becomes necessary, we would like Justice to be able to work with them.
QUESTION: Suffice to say you don’t believe that aid – the unfreezing of the aid should be contingent on this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we are at that, too. That we think a secure and stable Libya that is making its transition successfully to a democratic future is in U.S. vital national interest; that after decades of repression, that we and other countries in the international community need to help the Libyan people and the TNC get on course. We have supported the unfreezing of this small limited amount of money – not so small, 1.5 billion – to begin to meet their immediate humanitarian and governance needs. So from that perspective, we think it is important both to continue the conversation about Megrahi, but also to help the Libyan people get their money back.
QUESTION: Sorry, just one more quick follow-up on this very issue, sorry. Do you have full confidence in the temporary funding mechanism? Are you aware of the concerns with that process, and are you confident those concerns have been cleared up?
MS. NULAND: This was a very painstakingly-established mechanism. It’s an international mechanism. It builds on some of the lessons learned in past efforts to unfreeze assets. It includes a steering board that oversees all requests for funding. It reimburses for funds that have already been paid out. And as we said, when we discussed the 1.5 billion, the money that’s going into this mechanism from that 1.5 billion will be used to meet humanitarian needs –education, health, governance.
QUESTION: But just on that point again, it seems that Schumer and Menendez essentially are saying, “We don’t trust the TNC. We want to punish them if they do not actually hand him over, allow him to be talked to by an international committee who would decide whether he was actually is sick.” I mean, they are taking a very hard line on the TNC. Is this hurtful or helpful to your cause of dealing with the TNC? Are they going too far?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we all have to take a hard line and we have been on Megrahi and anybody else who has blood on their hands from the Lockerbie bombing, and we will continue to do so. And the United States has been front and center in – with regard to that.
I think with regard to the TNC, it is not the TNC that was running Libya when this guy welcomed back by – as a hero. We need to give the TNC a chance to do job one, which is to finish the job of ousting Qadhafi and his regime, begin the job of establishing Libya on a democratic path. And we are very gratified by the fact that they have made clear that they are willing to look into this. We will continue to talk to them about it, and we will certainly make sure that Congress’s views are conveyed.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. In view of the rapidly diverging positions of the TNC and the rebels, why there has not been increased United Nations or international presence to make sure that there is some sort of harmony between the two authorities, if you will, in Libya today to safeguard against Libya delving into lawlessness and so on by the militant groups?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure I accept the premise that you begin with. The TNC is taking a number of steps, which we’ve talked about here, to bring militias under its control both in Tripoli and in other parts of the country to unify the different groups of opposition forces under a single banner.
The – as compared to the brutality and viciousness of Qadhafi’s forces, our view and the view of NATO is that opposition forces in general have been far more respectful and appropriate in the way they have conducted themselves. The TNC itself has sent very, very strong messages publicly on a daily basis that it expects the highest standards of conduct from anybody fighting under the – under its name or in the name of free Libya, and we think that those efforts have had an effect.
QUESTION: If I may follow up, there are groups that claim to be representing the rebels that are saying that, “We don’t trust the TNC, that they – many of them come from the former regime; we trust international bodies like NATO, like the United Nations; we want increased presence,” and so on. Does that in any way indicate a future where the two might collide?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have worked with the TNC from the beginning, and they have said from the beginning that this formation that they’re in now will need to expand, will need to be more inclusive. Their own roadmap speaks of moving in coming days and weeks from a Transitional National Council to an interim government that is more broadly representative, that first and foremost includes folks from across Libya, folks from different walks of life in Libya, including an openness – and this is the TNC’s own openness – to having representatives in the interim government who come from the regime but don’t have blood on their hands.
So the TNC is saying all of the right things about needing to have an inclusive, transparent, open interim government. It is reaching out publicly and privately to a broad cross-section of Libyans. But these issues are hard, and this political process is going to take some time, and we’ll hear what they have to say to say about it when we go to Paris tomorrow.
QUESTION: And lastly, considering that many of these rebels are actually civilians in real life and many of them will go home, should NATO have a role in reorganizing and reconstituting a Libyan armed forces?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we said yesterday, NATO’s first priority is to finish the job it started in supporting UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and protecting civilians from the remnants of Qadhafi’s forces. They are continuing to do that in and around Sirte. When that mission is complete, the current Operation Unified Protector will come to an end. If and when and whether and how NATO might have a role in helping the Libyans with security issues in the future, I think, is up to the Libyans, and – but NATO has itself said that it is open to a request if that request comes from the Libyans, is – comes under the blanket of international law, UN Security Council blessing presumably, and is appropriate to the kinds of things that NATO can do.
I have a little experience in this. There are a lot of things that NATO has done in the past in countries in transition, whether it’s helping to secure ports or borders, whether it is helping to train, whether it is sharing best practices in terms of how to have a democratic military. There’s a whole menu – NATO is looking at its menu – but I think until we have the TNC request, it would be premature to predict, and we’ve got to finish job one with NATO.
QUESTION: Going back to Matt’s question, what is your expectation from these five countries, especially India? And what level of representation you are looking for with the foreign minister, deputy minister?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the list in front of me of who these countries are sending. I think it’s a good thing that the participation is expanding. Probably later today, we’ll have a better list from the French of who we might be able to expect.
I think we want everybody in the Friends of Libya to, first and foremost, work together if they’re on the Security Council on the appropriate unwinding of 1970, 1973 when the time comes; look to unfreeze assets in a responsible, transparent way, as we have – as we ourselves have done; and to look at other support that they might be able to offer the Libyans as the Libyans come forward to the UN with specific requests.
And again, we don’t have the menu of what the Libyans might need. But India, for example, has lots of experience in democratic governance, has lots of experience in working in small towns and villages on democracy issues. That might be one thing, but I don’t want to get ahead of what the TNC might request.
QUESTION: There are – a lot of workers from India had to leave as soon as the fight broke out. And will the TNC – ready to accept workers back? Is there any discussion on that?
MS. NULAND: That’s a question you’re better off asking the TNC. I do know that the TNC has already taken steps, working closely with the UN’s International Organization for Migration, to ensure that those temporary workers or migrant workers from all over the world who are in Libya who want to leave are afforded transport and are afforded protection. With regard to the desire to come back, presumably that would say good things about stability and opportunity in a new Libya, so let’s see where that situation goes.
QUESTION: Also on Libyan issue, if you go back to the concept change and – concept change in Libya being Friends of Libya instead of Contact Group, it will be affecting the mission of NATO in Libya? I mean, they will be more focusing on humanitarian instead of arms embargo or other things, for example?
MS. NULAND: I think I just spoke to that, that NATO right now needs to finish the mission that it is embarked on, which is the protection of civilians. Not all parts of Libya are safe, as we see around Sirte. So that mission needs to be completed. Peace needs to break out all over Libya, then that mission will be concluded.
And with regard to whether NATO might have a follow-on mission, we wait to be guided by what the TNC and the Libyan people might need, but NATO has said it’s open to it. We’re open to it, but it has to be appropriate, within NATO’s capabilities, and under UN umbrella.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: To Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, after our extensive discussion of the new sanctions and Foreign Minister Mualem and what he did or did not say and what he has or has not been saying and the lies which you say that he is propagating around the world on behalf of the Asad administration, a senior official speaking with the authority of the State Department said – well, took it a little bit further, said some pretty strong things that kind of border on character assassination. Is it the building’s – is it the feeling of this building or is it the position of this building that Foreign Minister Mualem is, in fact, an unapologetic, shameless tool and mouthpiece of Bashar Asad?
MS. NULAND: It is.
QUESTION: Can you – would you care to say that?
MS. NULAND: Here’s what I have to say about Walid Mualem. He has played a key role in trying to insulate the Asad regime from the implications of its own brutality by devoting himself strenuously to trying to hide the Asad regime’s capability in the murder and torture of Syrian citizens. Mualem bears personal responsibility as well for the crimes committed. He’s intervened with counterparts to try to prevent the UN Security Council from taking action.
We saw people in the Qadhafi circle demonstrate a clear understanding of right and wrong when the tide began to turn there. They chose to defect. That has not yet happened with senior members of the Asad Bashar – Asad regime. Mualem remains unapologetic, he remains as a shameless tool and a mouthpiece of Asad and his regime.
QUESTION: Do you – I mean --
MS. NULAND: He’s also --
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize you were done. That’s quite a --
MS. NULAND: Not done. (Laughter.) Not done. More Mualem. He has also served as one of the key links between Damascus and Tehran, and he’s strengthened Asad’s reliance on Iranian equipment and advice in his relentless crackdown on the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Okay. A couple of things.
MS. NULAND: Now I’m done.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. One, why --
MS. NULAND: I’ve learned not to laugh here at the podium now. It can lead to trouble.
QUESTION: Why not – why didn’t you say this yesterday?
MS. NULAND: I said plenty yesterday. But given --
QUESTION: Yeah. But it didn’t quite --
MS. NULAND: -- given your barrage, Matt, we thought we ought to put out the full list of indictments against the foreign minister.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on the last bit, the link between Damascus and Tehran, can you be any more explicit about what the – or specific about what exactly that is? Do you know that he has been flying there and consulting with Iranian officials, or are Iranian officials going there and he, Mualem himself, is personally meeting with them? And what does it mean that he has strengthened his reliance on Iranian equipment? Does that mean that he – you suspect that he has had a role in importing computers or software or something that can help the government repress the opposition?
MS. NULAND: Let me simply say on this point, he has been one of the leading diplomatic and procurement links to Iran in terms of acquiring the assistance that Iran has been providing to Syrian security forces, both technical and in terms of giving advice on crowd suppression techniques and the kinds of brutal violence that we see.
QUESTION: And that – sorry. That comes from what? Is that – that’s an intelligence thing, so you’re not going to get into it? How do you know this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I’m not going to get into how we know what we know about Mualem and his overly cozy and dangerous relationship with Iran.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. You drew an analogy with Libya. Do you expect the same fate for Bashar al-Asad as Qadhafi?
MS. NULAND: What we have to say about Asad is that he needs to go, that he is not helping his people have the future that they need. With regard to his particular future, that’s in the hands of the Syrian people.
QUESTION: And on Mualem, just a quick follow-up. Mualem represent the mercantile or the so-called, quote/unquote – that’s their terminology – the Sunni mercantile class in Damascus, whose support or lack thereof Bashar al-Asad is really crucial. Do you think it is wise to alienate that group whose support in sort of changing the regime in Syria is so vital?
MS. NULAND: Said, one of the things that’s been really interesting in watching the Syrian opposition as it has grown in strength and as it has spread across Syria is that it increasingly is broadly representative of lots of interests in Syria. You now see Sunni and Shia, Alawi and Druze, you see Christians, all participating in the opposition. We see defectors from the military. We see trade unionists. And the opposition itself is already speaking publicly about its desire to have a non-sectarian, unified Syria. That’s something we can all get behind. That’s something that the region needs.
So we hope that those in Syria who are still clinging to an Asad future understand that there is a positive future for them in a democratic Syria and they’ll get on the right side of history.
QUESTION: Just back to Mualem and the – what you had to say about him, are you not at all concerned that by turning this into kind of a personal thing now, that Ambassador Ford may be at greater risk?
MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ford is in Damascus. He’s doing his job. Ambassador Ford and we support a policy where the political and economic noose is tightened on the Asad regime. If – and that noose is going to continue to tighten. There have been issues for Ford. We talked about it yesterday. He will continue to make appropriate decisions about how to conduct his business there, but we think it’s very, very important that he continue to do that.
QUESTION: Okay. And then does this change in rhetoric, though, mean that – I mean, is he still going to look for a meeting with ambassador – with Foreign Minister Mualem?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think he’s been looking for a meeting in recent days.
QUESTION: Well, is he – are you still willing to – is he still willing or are U.S. officials still willing to meet with a shameless – unapologetic, shameless tool and mouthpiece of Asad?
MS. NULAND: We don’t have a problem telling any Syrian directly how we feel about this regime, including Mualem. We’ve certainly made it very clear with this sanctioning and with public comments. If the Syrian Government still has questions about where we stand and what we think needs to happen, Ambassador Ford is available.
QUESTION: So you’re not ruling out that the two could meet? I mean, if Foreign Minister Mualem invited Ambassador Ford to a meeting, he would attend?
MS. NULAND: That’s a hypothetical, speculative question, so I’m not going to --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: We’re not --
QUESTION: Put it this way: Have you told Ambassador Ford that he no longer – he should no longer accept invitations from Ambassador Mualem should they be forthcoming – I mean Foreign Minister Mualem should they be forthcoming?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: No. So there’s no blanket policy that such meetings should be refused?
MS. NULAND: These sanctions that we’ve put on Mualem and the other two affect their ability to take advantage of the U.S. financial system, to – for their personal use, et cetera. These are financial sanctions. They are not diplomatic sanctions.
QUESTION: Well, I’m talking more to – talking about the change in rhetoric. I mean, you’re not quite calling the guy a worm, but you might as well be, and I’d just be surprised if, given what you have to say about him, that you’d still be seeking or willing to accept a meeting with someone who you obviously regard with such disdain.
MS. NULAND: Again, no instructions of the kind that you asked about have been sent.
QUESTION: A follow-up --
QUESTION: Yesterday there was a question that was hanging out there, which was whether the U.S. host country obligations would mean that Foreign Minister Mualem could indeed come to New York for UNGA and so on. Is it clear that yesterday’s sanctions do nothing that would – is it now clear to you that he could, in fact, come to the United States and so on?
MS. NULAND: He can come to the United Nations under our host nation obligations.
QUESTION: On the --
MS. NULAND: Just as Ahmadinejad can come under the same conditions.
QUESTION: Yes, Victoria, just a quick follow-up to the question. In the event – in the event that Ambassador Ford is invited by Minister Mualem, is the decision left to his own discretion, Ambassador Ford’s discretion?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said what I have to say on this on the future relationship there.
QUESTION: Toria, you made the distinction between the members of the Qadhafi regime and the Syrian regime. Is there a reason structurally or any other reason why the difference in the fact that none of them, apparently, have defected?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, this is a matter of individual conscience for individual people. Our point is simply that there were people in Libya who had worked, whether for reasons of career or out of reasons of fear, for Qadhafi for a long, long time. And when things began to change, and particularly when Qadhafi chose to turn the apparatus of the military on his own people, those regime supporters defected, flipped, escaped. We have a similar situation in Syria, where Asad and his family have been in power for 40 years. We have a vicious, violent crackdown use of the military against innocent, peaceful protestors. We have seen some defections, so it’s a matter of conscience for all those who continue to support Asad inside and outside Syria to look deep and decide whether this is a guy, this is a regime, they still want to stand with.
QUESTION: On the amnesty report, today, International – Amnesty International issued a report on torture in Syria, citing that 52 people have been killed, imprisoned, showing signs of torture, bodily injuries with whips and sticks and all kinds of things. Could you – do you have a comment on that? Are you aware of the report?
MS. NULAND: We are aware of Amnesty International’s report stating that at least 88 detainees, including 10 children, have died in Syrian custody. According to the report, more than half of the dead bear signs of torture, including some genital mutilation. This is just further to the regime’s abhorrent abuse of prisoners. It’s unconscionable. Some of these people are as young as 13 years old. So clearly, a government that murders and tortures its own citizens, including children, can’t be considered legitimate by any of us.
We sharply condemn the ongoing brutality, and I would particularly note that what should be a joyous time for Syrians, Eid ul-Fitr, the end of the Ramadan holiday, has become, for many Syrian families, a time of mourning and a time of grief, due to the regime’s relentless assault on its own people.
QUESTION: On Libya, we waited for the international community to move, especially France. For Syria also, we are waiting for European Union, France, and those people to act. And the very fact that our ambassador is there means we are supporting the regime? The ambassador – so what is the role of the ambassador, which I am unable to understand?
MS. NULAND: First, on Ambassador Ford --
QUESTION: Ambassador is not to Syria; ambassador is to that country’s government.
MS. NULAND: The – a U.S. ambassador is an ambassador to a country, is an ambassador to a people. In this case, Ambassador Ford is spending the bulk of his time talking to, working with, supporting, those Syrians who want a better future. He is open to working with the government, but the government doesn’t seem to be heeding our message or anybody else’s message in the international community.
With regard to what the United States is doing, we are endeavoring to do a number of things. First of all, to lead in the international community by example as we progressively tighten our own political and economic noose on the Asad regime, an escalation of our political posture with regard to his legitimacy, culminating in the President’s statement that he needs to step aside; the three rounds of sanctions, including the additional set of sanctions yesterday. We are working closely with all of our international partners – particularly our allies, those in the region – to encourage those with influence in Syria, those with trade ties, those with arms ties, to look carefully at what they can do also to tighten the noose.
We’re gratified that the EU took some additional sanctions measures yesterday. They sanctioned 15 more individuals themselves and they expanded the list of sanctionable items and they’re continuing to work on their sanctions against Syrian crude imports. And we’re hopeful that there will be final action on that by the end of the week. That’s what the EU itself is saying. So we’re encouraging other countries to follow our lead, because we’ve got to make it hurt for this guy who is so violently oppressing his own.
QUESTION: A few days, weeks ago, you mentioned about the Indian ties with Syria. Are you satisfied? Have they cut the ties? Is – what is the latest you have?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary spoke to this a number of weeks ago, spoke to the fact that she would like to see India do more. I’ll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Some international organizations raised concerns about the Turkish Government’s approach to refugees coming from Syria, and they urged the Turkish Government to grant United Nations, for example, to full access to the camps and allow to Syrians to apply for refugee status via full protection, according to the international law. How do you see the approach of the Turkish Government this refugee problem?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that UNHCR has had access to the Turkish camps, and as has ICRC, that we have all made clear that if Turkey needs assistance from the United States or others, that we stand by to help. It’s obviously a national decision for Turkey with regard to whether it wants to grant a change of status for those people inside of Syria – inside of Turkey.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: On Sudan, I believe there is a USAID meeting on Sudan that was cancelled at the end of September. I’m just wondering if that has to do with the sort of reignited violence in southern Kordofan?
MS. NULAND: Do you know who the meeting was with whom – and whom – for whom?
QUESTION: I don’t have the details in front of me. I just know it was being hosted by USAID.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Why don’t you get us a little bit more and we’ll get you a response.
QUESTION: They were supposed to meet on Darfur.
MS. NULAND: Okay. I’m happy to – if you have more information, to get back to you.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. I’m told that the Palestinians are reworking their draft for going to the United Nations to state that they will have or they want a declared state on the ’67 borders based on negotiation, that these positions are arrived at through negotiations with Israel. Would that be acceptable to the United States?
MS. NULAND: Well, having not seen what particularly they’re working on, I can’t speak to the details. I think we’ve been extremely clear with Palestinian officials, and those discussions continue, that we want to see them come back to the negotiating table, we want to see Israel come back to the negotiating table, that we think that’s the right way to go here. So I can’t speak to specifically what you have on their intentions. But were it the case that they were preparing to come back to the table, that would be a good thing.
QUESTION: While I can’t determine the veracity of this claim, would such a premise be acceptable to the United States?
MS. NULAND: You’re asking me to comment hypothetically on something I haven’t seen. You know what we are trying to do, and I think I’ve spoken to what we would like to see and what we would consider a good thing.
QUESTION: Okay. A related topic, very quickly. Mustafa Barghouti, a legislative member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a physician who writes in a medical NGO, said that the arming and training of the settlers bodes very ill, and that the world community should step in, lest these settlers – marauding settlers, he called them, quote/unquote, commit crimes and massacres and so on.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Are you concerned that such an event may evolve?
MS. NULAND: We spoke to this yesterday. We’ve been consistently calling for calm on both sides, and we’ll continue to do that.
QUESTION: On this issue, scores of senators and congressmen from both parties have said that they will oppose future U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they go forward with this UN initiative. Has the – does the State Department agree with that position, and has that sort of consequence been communicated to the Palestinian Authority or the PLO?
MS. NULAND: Josh, I think we spoke to this a couple of days ago. We don’t make threats from this building or from this podium. I think the voices of the U.S. Congress have been – are loud enough, and we’ve made clear to the Palestinian Authority that they need to understand where the Congress is and some members of Congress are on this issue. And it’s further to – our strong advice to them that going to New York is the wrong way to go, that we need to get back to the negotiating table, that that’s the only route to a strong, stable future, secure Palestinian state.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Something you didn’t speak to a couple days ago is yesterday a U.S. – the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, said in an interview that all bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could become null and void if they establish something called the government of Palestine. And he suggested that U.S. agreements, bilateral agreements with the Palestinian Authority, could also become null and void because they are not made with something called the government of Palestine. Was he accurate? Is that something that could become jeopardized if the Palestinian Authority changes its self-identification to a government of Palestine.
MS. NULAND: I think the interview was with you, if I’m not wrong there – (laughter) – Mr. Rogin. We take seriously the prior commitments by all sides, and we expect the parties to do the same. We will continue to urge both the Palestinians and the Israelis to honor their commitments fully.
QUESTION: No matter what happens? Is the U.S. ready no matter what – whether the take is to the UN or not?
MS. NULAND: I think the statement stands.
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals one way or the other. We believe that prior commitments need to be respected by both sides, and we’re making that point.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going any further than that, Matt. You’re asking me to get into hypothetical situations that may or may not happen in September.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, on a technical aspect of this thing, a senator suggested that actually, aid could be split. For instance, there is a need for the security forces, the Palestinian security forces, that have worked very closely with the Israeli security forces. Would that be something that the State Department would push for?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into all kinds of hypotheticals and all kinds of crazy scenarios. We are spending our time now trying to get these parties back to the table, and trying to do it before we go to the UN Security Council.
QUESTION: It is a problem, but not --
MS. NULAND: The UN General Assembly.
QUESTION: -- they’re not crazy scenarios. And if you weren’t preparing for them – I think you would agree that a hell of a lot of work that this building does is preparing for circumstances that actually never come about, correct?
MS. NULAND: But I’m not prepared to speak about contingency planning one way or the other.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: I’m not.
QUESTION: Fair enough. But do you think if, all of the sudden – if, yes, there’s a change simply in the name of the Palestinian Authority to the government of Palestine, that that would nullify an agreement that the U.S. made with the Palestinian Authority?
MS. NULAND: Again --
QUESTION: A change of name.
MS. NULAND: Again, we believe all parties need to continue to meet their prior commitments. That is our position. I am not going to speculate on X equals Y or A equals B. That’s not helpful at this stage.
QUESTION: It’s not helpful?
MS. NULAND: It is not helpful.
QUESTION: So what the ambassador told Josh is not helpful. He’s speculating, doing exactly what you refuse to do.
MS. NULAND: I’m --
QUESTION: And you’re saying that that is not helpful.
MS. NULAND: I’m not speaking at all directly to what Ambassador Oren had to say. I am simply giving the view --
QUESTION: Well, in fact --
MS. NULAND: -- of the U.S. Administration --
QUESTION: In fact, you are.
MS. NULAND: -- of the State Department, which is that we take seriously the prior commitments made by all sides, and we expect them to be – continue to be met by and honored by all sides.
QUESTION: So speculation about what would happen if the Palestinian Authority changed its name is unhelpful?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speculate myself here.
QUESTION: No, I know, but --
MS. NULAND: And I’m not going to comment on the speculation of others besides --
QUESTION: I think it’s too late for that. You already did.
MS. NULAND: -- besides making the point that I’ve already made.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a speculative matter, a huge topic?
MS. NULAND: Please. Please. (Laughter.) Speculate away.
QUESTION: You’re aware of the agreement that Exxon Mobil has reached with the Russian oil company Rosneft, under which Exxon is going to do some oil exploration in Russia and under which Rosneft may make investments in some Exxon Mobil fields in North America, including the United States.
Two questions: One, is there any reason to think that Rosneft investments in Exxon fields in the United States or offshore might trigger a CFIUS review? I know you guys don’t normally talk about CFIUS reviews. I’m just trying to get a sense of whether this would fall into that process or might.
And then separately, given the concerns the U.S. Government has raised over the course of many years about the nature of rule of law in Russia and the investment climate in Russia, is this a good idea for a company like Exxon to be getting in bed with a company like Rosneft, which, as you know, bought the assets of Yukos, I think in a fire sale after Yukos was basically dismantled following the arrest and prosecution and trial of its former CEO. Is this a good idea for an American company to be getting so closely involved with a Russian company?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say in general with regard to this Exxon/Rosneft deal, President Obama and President Medvedev have been working for some time now to broaden the U.S.-Russia relationship beyond the security realm and to deepen our relationship in the economic realm, and particularly to expand trade and commerce, because that creates jobs on both sides and it benefits both Americans and Russians. We had a very big deal, not too long ago, between Russian Technologies and Boeing, $4 billion deal. This is the latest big deal between Exxon and Rosneft. It’s worth $3.2 billion, and it’s another example of the expanding relationship.
U.S. companies make their own decisions on the business climate, and our big companies, including Exxon, have quite a bit of experience in dealing with the Russian system. You know where we’ve been on rule of law issues in Russia, and companies take that into consideration as they go forward. With regard to the CIFIUS thing, you’re right; we don’t usually talk about that. I can’t speak today to whether this particular set of deals might trigger a review. I’m happy to take the question and see if we have anything more to say beyond we don’t talk about CIFIUS.
QUESTION: Thank you. And just going back to the first question, though – I mean Western companies, including BP, have come to significant grief in their investments in Russia. I mean, BP, I think as an example of a relationship gone horribly wrong for the foreign partner. The thing that I don’t quite understand is, on the one hand, you’ve expressed concerns for a long time about rule of law, respect for contracts, respect for private property, and so on.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: On the other hand, you seem to be saying that this is exactly the kind of the investment that Presidents Obama and Medvedev want to see. I mean, which is it? Does Russia now have the kind of rule of law and legal practices that it is prudent for American companies to go forward, or does it not? And are you still very concerned about the Russian business climate?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me first say that we’ve made no secret of our view that we believe that rule of law standards in Russia are a work in progress. That said, U.S. companies, like Boeing, like Exxon, operate in the U.S. and operate overseas in keeping with the highest international standards. So the degree to which they are cutting deals with Russian partners, they are presumably demanding the kind of openness, the kind of transparency, the kind of business best practices, that could set an example for Russian business and other international investments. So we have high confidence in our companies’ ability to navigate the system, to learn lessons, and to demand fair practices and openness and rule of law. And when that doesn’t happen, we stand ready to help them.
QUESTION: Similar question on that. Just to clarify the question on Cyprus I mentioned yesterday --
MS. NULAND: Exxon to Cyprus. Okay. Good segue.
QUESTION: Yes. Because there’s another controversial issue about an American company there. And the Turkish officials raised their concern about the drilling activities plans in Cyprus and the American companies which has been involved with this project in the region. Have you contacted Noble Energy on this issue?
MS. NULAND: I think with regard to the questions about drilling in Cyprus, I would simply say that we want to see the affected parties work this out consensually. I don't think I want to go beyond that.
QUESTION: On Iran, the French president has said today or has spoken about preemptive military operation against Iran nuclear facilities. Do you agree with this assessment?
MS. NULAND: I had not seen that, so I’m not prepared to comment on it.
QUESTION: On Japan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: New prime minister called on Secretary Geithner yesterday. Has he reached out any officials --
MS. NULAND: Hold on. I can’t hear you. I’m sorry. Have to shout from the back.
QUESTION: Okay. The new Japanese prime minister called Secretary Geithner yesterday. Has he also reached out any officials from State Department or do you have any timetable to meet him anytime soon?
MS. NULAND: I don't know. I think, obviously, our Embassy has been in contact with his people. I think the President and he spoke; did they not? I believe that they did. So –
QUESTION: The old prime minister was supposed to Washington for an official visit in September. Is that visit still on?
MS. NULAND: I believe that the White House made the point that the new prime minister is welcome, but I’m going to refer you to the White House. I think there was a statement a day or so ago.
QUESTION: What’s the latest regarding the investigation underway into the abduction of American Warren Weinstein in Pakistan if you have the latest on that?
MS. NULAND: Unfortunately, I have nothing new for you. We continue to work hard to support the Pakistani-led investigation. FBI is working with them, but we have nothing new.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)