Daily Press Briefing - November 21, 2011

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Deputy Secretary Burns Trip to the Middle East / Bilateral Relationship / Regional Issues / G-8 BMENA / President Abbas / Ongoing Political Process / Quartet Proposals
    • Violence / Peaceful, Transparent, Fair Elections / Drafting of a New Constitution / Clear Transition
    • Violence / Update on Ambassador Ford's Return / Arab League / International Observers / Additional Sanctions
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions / Increasing Pressure / IAEA Report
    • African Union and IGAD Determine Role in Regional Stabilization Efforts / Potential Troops in Somalia
    • Inaccurate State Department Map
    • General Election
    • Reconciliation
    • Ambassador Haqqani Consultations
    • Seif al-Islam Trial / Judicial Process that Meets International Standards
    • Investigation on Death of Muammar Qadhafi
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 21, 2011


12:45 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody. We missed you on the road, just back from Asia and Hawaii. I have a couple things at the top, and then we’ll go to your questions.

First, just to advise that Deputy Secretary Burns is on a multi-stop trip to the Middle East for consultations with regional leaders. He met yesterday with Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Ramallah. And today, he meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and with King Abdullah in Amman. During each of these meetings, Deputy Secretary Burns will be stressing the value the U.S. places on our bilateral relationships as well as discussing a wide range of regional issues, including the importance of the Israelis and Palestinians taking advantage of the Quartet’s proposals. They will also – he’ll also be talking about Iran at all stops.

Later today, Deputy Secretary Burns will head to Kuwait, where he will lead the U.S. delegation to the annual ministerial of the G-8 BMENA Forum for the Future. This ministerial, as you know, brings together G-8 countries and regional government leaders, civil society, and the private sector to develop priorities for political, economic, and social reform. And this year, they’ll be discussing ways we can support the important democratic transformations going on in the region.

One more issue. This is with regard to the violence in Egypt over the weekend. The United States is deeply concerned by the violence in Egypt over the past few days. We deplore the loss of life, and our condolences go out to the families of the victims of this violence. In the coming days, it will be very important for all parties to focus on holding free, fair, and peaceful elections as scheduled on November 28th. And we urge all involved to act with restraint in order to allow free and fair elections to proceed. The United States supports the Egyptian people and their goal of having a democratically elected civilian government that respects universal human rights, including the protection of women, minorities, and the press, and that will help Egypt to address its economic challenges.

Let’s go to your questions.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that last one?

MS. NULAND: Arshad. Please, yeah.

QUESTION: One thing you didn’t mention there is whether the United States believes that the Egyptian military should have some kind of special guaranteed status in Egyptian society going forward and any kind of constitutional or otherwise legally protected special status. That seems to have been the issue that is behind some of the latest protests, this feeling that the military council that has governed the country – the unelected military council that has governed the country since Mubarak’s departure – was trying to preserve its prerogatives in a future Egypt. Is that – do you not have – do you have anything to say about that specific aspect of this?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, the United States is not going to get ahead of the process in Egypt. As you know, after this parliamentary set of elections, the Egyptian people will then – this body will be in charge of drafting a new constitution which will set out the parameters for governance in Egypt going forward. So it’s obviously going to be up to the Egyptian people and those representatives that they elect to deal with these kinds of issues in a constitutional way.

That said, as you know, last week, or maybe it was the week before, there were some proposals to try to lock in certain guarantees, and those were met with broad opposition across the political spectrum and they were dropped. So obviously, this is an issue that the Egyptian people and their representatives are going to have to work through, but we have to take this in a step-by-step way as the Egyptians themselves are trying to do by having, first and foremost, a good and peaceful and transparent and fair electoral process, starting on November 28.

QUESTION: Do you have, in stressing the importance of holding that election on time and having it be free and fair just a week from today – it sounds as if you are afraid that the military authorities will not do so. Have you had any indications from them that they are thinking of scrapping it or that they are thinking of conducting it in a less than free and fair manner?

MS. NULAND: We have not. I think our emphasis today is that all of this energy and, frankly, the concerns that have led to violence, we want to see the Egyptian people express themselves peacefully and express themselves through the polls. So we want to see those elections go forward and we want to see all concerns brought forward through the electoral process and then through the process of, ultimately, drafting the constitution and moving forward.

QUESTION: And have any senior officials from this building – I know you can’t speak for the White House and I know that President Obama spoke to Field Marshal Tantawi, I think, three weeks or a month ago. But can you say whether any senior officials from this building have reached out to the Egyptians in the last day or two following the latest protests and the attendant violence?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Embassy and our Ambassador, Anne Patterson, has been in constant contact with all parties in Egypt. I believe that Jeff Feltman has also been on the phone with some Egyptians, but let me confirm that for you because he’s on travel.

QUESTION: Okay. But nothing by the Secretary yet?


QUESTION: Victoria, I know you say you want the people to demonstrate their feelings peacefully. However, there obviously are a lot of people who are feeling very distraught about the situation right now. Does the U.S. share any of that concern that we have déjà vu again, with people on the streets but this time acting legitimately, it would appear, out of frustration over the military government? I mean, I know you’ve had statements before concerning the military government, but at this point, how high is the level of frustration here in the United States that they are not going in the right direction, however you want to phrase it?

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the fact that we are very concerned about the violence. That’s obviously deplorable and not the direction we want to see Egypt go. What we are focused on, as I said, is helping and hoping that the Egyptian people can start this electoral process on time in a free, fair, and peaceful manner on the 28th of November.

The best hope for democracy in Egypt is for these elections to go forward, for the people to express themselves through the ballot box, and then for the process of democratization to move forward in Egypt. We’ve been very clear with the SCAF that that’s what we want to see, that we want to see this electoral process go forward, and that they need to hear the will of the people as it evolves. We’ve also been clear that we think that the emergency law should be dropped, and we’ve – the other concerns that we’ve had about steps that these protesters have been also concerned about.

QUESTION: So Victoria, what is the message that you do – you give to the – you give the council, the military council in Egypt today?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve just given it, that we want these elections to go forward in a free, fair, transparent, peaceful process. We want that to be the beginning of this full round of parliamentary elections. As you know, they have to – they’re going in three cycles. And then we want to see the Egyptian roadmap followed, which begins the process of drafting the new constitution and deciding how the country goes forward democratically.

QUESTION: So when the Secretary states that the military should know that they cannot continue to rule Egypt through unelected officials, or something akin to that, does that mean in any way – or should that be taken as an encouragement to the other forces to go ahead and sort of seize the moment, so to speak, like the Muslim Brotherhoods?

MS. NULAND: Well, nobody’s encouraging violence. On the contrary, we’re encouraging expression by all Egyptians through the ballot box. That’s what we are encouraging.

QUESTION: Like when you say the violence is deplorable, whom are you deploring, the protestors who are turning violent or authorities who are responding to the protests?

MS. NULAND: Well, anybody involved in the use of violence for any purpose, in this case.

QUESTION: And who, to your knowledge, was responsible in this case?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into who started what and who responded here. That’s a matter that the Egyptians are going to have to investigate.

QUESTION: Well, you do it in Syria. You say, in the latest case last week with the Free Syrian Army, that it was clear that it was Asad who was responsible. Why in Egypt is it different?

MS. NULAND: Well, in this case, there was some confusion initially. There was some violent response. So I’m not going to get into sort of parsing all of the events of the weekend except to say that violence is not the answer. It’s not the answer from Egyptian authorities; it’s not the answer from the Egyptian people. The ballot box is the answer.

QUESTION: Well, but come on. I mean who (inaudible) – who – look, it’s – I think it’s a perfectly reasonable question, though. I mean, you’re going to deplore something, you ought to be able to say fundamentally who you are deploring. Do you believe both sides are responsible for this to some degree?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into parsing the events over the weekend. We’ve seen every –

QUESTION: But you’re deploring them. That’s a very strong word to use without being able to say who and what exactly you’re deploring.

MS. NULAND: Arshad, I think I have already said that there was – there were actions and reactions in Egypt which led to a violent situation, which we deplore.

QUESTION: So it’s both sides.

MS. NULAND: So what we are saying in this case is that everybody ought to be focused now on getting to the polls in a free, fair, peaceful, and transparent way.

QUESTION: One last question from me on this: Given that the state, in theory, has a monopoly on the use of violence, are they not – do they not bear some of the responsibility for making sure that the use of force is, to the extent that it occurs, is in line with, sort of, protecting people, not attacking protesters?

MS. NULAND: This is a message of nonviolence to all parties that we’re issuing here.

QUESTION: Toria, do you accept the assertion by some military commanders who are saying that their action is because they are driven by or motivated by preventing the violence from getting out of hand between the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhoods, and liberals?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to try to get ourselves into the middle of the events except to say that no use of violence by any side was justified in this case.

QUESTION: So what do you expect on the 28th or the 29th of this month?

MS. NULAND: What we want to see is this first round of balloting for the new parliament to go forward peacefully, to go forward freely, fairly, and transparently. And we want to see the aspirations of the Egyptians people expressed through their balloting.

QUESTION: How confident are you that this process is actually going to the go forward in a free, transparent manner?

MS. NULAND: Well, one is never confident until the day, but that is what the Egyptian people deserve, and that’s what we want to see.

QUESTION: So you’re simply taking SCAF’s word that it’s going to put out an election process and that it’s going to work?

MS. NULAND: No, Ros. What we are saying is that we want to see a free and fair and transparent election. And all sides in Egypt, including the governing authorities, have to work hard from that – for that between now and then.

QUESTION: So what happened over this weekend doesn’t give the U.S. Government pause that there could be some sort of disruption? I mean, we’re six, seven days out now. There’s no real concern that this first round of elections won’t actually take place?

MS. NULAND: I think I started with the fact that we were concerned about the violence, and then went on to the fact that we want to see everybody now redouble their efforts in working towards a free, fair, peaceful election, because that’s what the Egyptian people deserve and that’s the best way for them to express themselves.

QUESTION: But with all due respect, when you say that, as Arshad pointed out, when you deplore something, it’s rather tough diplomatic language. And then, yet you’re suggesting that preparations for these elections are going to go forward as if what just happened in the last 72 hours didn’t happen, that you don’t have people claiming their relatives’ bodies from the morgue and people out in the middle of the night chanting we want the military to step down, we want them to leave power. It does – they don’t jibe. They don’t jibe.

MS. NULAND: Ros, I think we’ve been through this about six times now. What we want to see after these deplorable incidents over the weekend is all parties – ruling party, all of the folks in the Egyptian public, all of the parties – focusing their energies on getting to a good first round of elections on the 28th of November. That’s what the Egyptian people deserve, and that’s what they ought to have.

QUESTION: One of the –

QUESTION: Do you see the military maintaining its legitimacy to oversee this whole process?

MS. NULAND: Well, there’s not only the government involved. We have NGOs involved, we have international observers supporting, so this is why we have an internationally open process, and why we want to see an internationally open process to --

QUESTION: But the military is shepherding the transition right now. And do you think its actions are strengthening or weakening its legitimacy as kind of the guardians of this democratic transition?

MS. NULAND: Again, we need to see a free, fair, and transparent election on the 28th. And that’s what will be a first step in demonstrating that not only governing authorities but all parties involved are sticking to the democratic roadmap, and that it has integrity going forward.

QUESTION: But if people are dying in clashes, is that really enough?

MS. NULAND: Is what really enough?

QUESTION: The free, fair and elections – free and fair and – what’s the third? Transparent?

MS. NULAND: Again, what we are saying is that we don’t want to see energy directed in a violent manner. We want to see people come together and use this right that they now have of the ballot box to express their views. We want to see the elections held in a free, fair, and transparent manner, and we want to see broad participation by the Egyptian people. That is the best answer to the grievances that people are expressing, and that’s the best answer to the concerns about whether Egypt is going to move in a democratic direction.

QUESTION: And then just lastly, would the elections be stained if they were marred by further violence in the coming days?

MS. NULAND: Again, we want to see peaceful elections. I’m not going to crystal ball this here, but that is the best way forward for the Egyptian people and the best way for those who want to see a different future to express their views.


QUESTION: One of the biggest demands of the protestors right now – not only to see elections, but also to see clear timetable for the transition. Do you share this largest concern of the protestors right now?

MS. NULAND: We do. We want to see a clear transition timetable, but again, the plan now is to have these rounds of parliamentary elections to elect a body that can begin then laying out of the rest of the timetable, including for the drafting of the constitution and including for the decisions on head of state and government. So we have to get started here in order to complete the process.

QUESTION: Egyptian military over the weekend, and including today, has been using – heavily using teargas, and according to reports, this teargas had been provided by the U.S. companies. After seeing this violence on the protestors, are you open to reconsider this aid, military aid, to Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Again, what we want to see is this democratic process go forward. We want to see this first round of elections go well. We want to see the electoral process continue. And we don’t want to see violence by any side between now and then or going forward.

QUESTION: Victoria, could you explain to us the nature of engagement with the different Egyptian groups? For instance, is it military to military? Is it the Pentagon with the U.S. military? Are you engaged with NGOs or the Muslim Brotherhood? And in the lead-up in the remaining days, how do you engage the different political groups in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Said, I think you know the answer to this question – that we are open to talking to all groups who want to talk to us, who are willing to support universal human rights, appropriate democratic principles going forward, and our door has been open. And our Embassy in Cairo as well as our folks in Washington across the interagency have been conducting broad consultations with all the parties.

QUESTION: I guess my question is about the mechanism, because we understand there is very close engagement right now going on with the Muslim Brotherhood. For instance, who is conducting these engagements? Who is talking on behalf of the U.S. Government with the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance?

MS. NULAND: Well, we spoke to this last week. Mark made the point that Jake Wallace had had a meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood at its instigation. Our Embassy has also been open to those conversations. But we use those conversations to stress the values and democratic principles that undergird our support for Egypt’s electoral process and for anybody that we’d be able to work with in the future.


QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Please.


MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The UK this morning cut off all financial ties to Iranian banks, including the Central Bank, and we know that the Treasury Department and Secretary Clinton will be announcing more this afternoon. Can you give us any indication of where the U.S. stands? And especially on that issue of the Central Bank, which is a big subject on – up on Capitol Hill.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you noted, Jill, the Secretary and Secretary Geithner will speak to the issue of Iran at about 4:30 this afternoon upstairs, so I think you won’t be surprised if I don’t get ahead of what they have to say when they speak.

QUESTION: But could you – the UK is doing it, we understand that the EU will be discussing this, and it looks as if there’s kind of a full court press emerging. Is that the case that there is now a coordinated attempt to put more pressure on Iran?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we always try to work with our allies and partners, and particularly with P-5+1 countries, as we ratchet up the pressure on Iran. So yes, you are seeing coordinated and consolidated moves, and the Secretary will have more to say about this at 4:30.

QUESTION: I take it – obviously, you don’t want to say anything, but with the UK --

MS. NULAND: You can try again, though. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The UK is a very significant step, though. I mean, do you have any reaction to what they have done?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re gratified that our allies are increasing the pressure on Iran. We think this is the right response to the concerns expressed in the IAEA report, and the continued unwillingness of Iran to meet the conditions that the international community has set forth with regard to its nuclear program.

QUESTION: What has the U.S. heard from either Russia or China about these efforts to further isolate Iran financially?

MS. NULAND: Well, the White House spoke to this a little bit after the President’s bilaterals with Russian President Medvedev and with Hu Jintao in Bali last week, so you know that the subject of Iran has come up and you know that we have been talking both about the IAEA report and about the assassination plot here against the Saudi Ambassador. And there is – there was strong support for P-5+1 unity. You saw that in the way the BOG vote came through last week. So it’s been very much a subject at the forefront of our diplomacy with both countries.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Syria. Is Ambassador Ford going back today? And if not today, is he still going to get there before Thanksgiving?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ford is not going back today. He will now be eating that turkey in the United States. We are now in a process of consulting with our allies and partners on appropriate timing for his return. We do still intend for him to go back, but the precise timing is under discussion with a number of other countries, and we’re consulting on that. I think our issue here is to ensure that when he goes back, not only is he safe, not only is Syria willing to live up to its Vienna Convention obligations, but also that he can be effective in getting out and meeting with people.

So that’s a conversation that we are having internally, and it’s also a conversation that we’re having with other countries who have had ambassadors currently on hiatus from Damascus.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question, then, about what’s – I guess the first question would be why he’s not going back. Today, you’ve mentioned several reasons that seem to contribute to it, one being safety, another being what you call this effectiveness to operate, and then the third being cooperation with allies. Can you say to what extent it was only – was a security decision today or any of those three? I mean, what’s the reason for not going back today?

MS. NULAND: You’ve – we’ve had a number of developments in the last week in Syria, including in Damascus, which has led more countries to pull their ambassadors home for consultations, so we want to coordinate with those countries. We’ve also had continuing intransigence in Syria. We’ve also had more discussion with our own folk about the importance of him being able to be effective when he goes back, and – but we do intend for him to go back, but I think we need a little bit more time to look at these issues and to consult, and to consult with others.

QUESTION: Do you think he’ll go back this year?



QUESTION: And now that the deadline --

QUESTION: But do you expect him to go back this year?

MS. NULAND: That is the expectation at the moment, yes.

QUESTION: He plans to stuff Christmas socks now in Damascus?

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Victoria, now that the deadline has come and gone – the three-day deadline given by the Arab League, it has come and gone, and apparently the Syrians have not acted on the recommendations. What do you expect to see next? What do you expect the Arab League to do next?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve said repeatedly, the Arab League needs to make its own decisions about how it will increase the pressure on the Syrian Government, but since this has been going on, and even just over the weekend, we have reports of an additional 58 civilians killed in Syria between November 28th – November – sorry, November 18th and today. So not only has the Syrian Government done virtually nothing to meet its – the commitments that it reportedly originally made to the Arab League, but it’s continuing to kill its own citizens. And as you know, the Arab League took issue with the Syrian Government’s effort to weaken and water down some of the commitments it had made, particularly with regard to human rights observers.

We had this supposed agreement again last week, Thursday, Friday, to take the international observers, and particularly to take Arab League observers, only to turn around and find out that the Syrians wanted to take just a handful of them and constrain them to Damascus, et cetera. So the Arab League has understandably rejected that. So our view has been clear from – for quite some time. This is not a guy – Asad – who is planning to do what is necessary to allow his country to move forward, and therefore he needs to step aside.

QUESTION: Do you have a general idea of which areas that can really hurt the regime most, that you can impose a sanctions in the next, let’s say, week or two, if the situation calls for it?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’ve seen that – what we have done, that we have done what we can to cut off the revenues that Syria makes from hydrocarbons. We have done our best to sanction individuals who we think are responsible for violence. We have certainly called for other countries to match these steps, and also to renounce the sending of weapons to the Syrian regime. So those kinds of steps – steps that match ours, that match the EU’s steps – would be most welcome, and we think would increase the pressure on the Asad regime.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you call – do you also call similarly on the neighboring countries not to allow arms to flow into insurgents or armed groups, and so on?

MS. NULAND: Correct. We’ve obviously wanted --

QUESTION: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this weekend that Asad was driving Syria to the brink of civil war. Is that an assessment that you would share?

MS. NULAND: Well, Secretary Clinton spoke to this on Saturday in some of her TV interviews, and expressed similar concerns that it is Asad who bears responsibility for the dangerous spiral that we’re seeing in Syria now.

QUESTION: But do you see this case of a civil war now as a distinct possibility?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary herself expressed – Secretary Clinton expressed some concerns that this is the path that Syria could go down.

QUESTION: Different topic?


QUESTION: This next story in Lebanon, and I imagine you may not have anything to say about it, but there are reports that a number of CIA assets have been busted and some sort of intel ring was disrupted by Hezbollah and by the Iranians in the last few months. Do you have anything to say about that or any concern about the loss of capability in the eyes on Hezbollah?

MS. NULAND: I’m certainly not going to comment on anything having to do with intelligence. Good effort, though, Kirit.

QUESTION: Worth a try.



QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Let me go to --

QUESTION: Different topic. Does the U.S. support this apparent entry of Ethiopian troops into Somalia?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me say that we have not ourselves been able to confirm that Ethiopian troops have entered Somalia. As you know, the Ethiopians themselves have denied that they have crossed the border. What we have said is that we believe that the African Union, and particularly the Intergovernmental Authority on Development – the IGAD – should determine the appropriate role for Ethiopia in the ongoing regional stabilization efforts. We obviously support the efforts of the African Union and of neighboring countries in their fight against al-Shabaab. But we want the African Union and IGAD to drive the train here.

QUESTION: I see. So the U.S. doesn’t have misgivings about the possibility that any such action would – might make famine relief much – that much harder?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, it’s al-Shabaab who is making famine relief difficult here. So what we’re looking for is a peaceful settlement. We’re looking to end the violence and we’re looking for the African Union to be in the lead.

In the very back, Mike --

QUESTION: A different subject: India, two questions. So firstly, I asked Mark last week about the new regulations under the Nuclear Liability Act, and do you have any comment on that? And secondly, the Ministry of External Affairs in India has taken up the subject of a map of India, which has appeared on the State Department website, which shows a part of Kashmir as part of the territory of Pakistan. So do you have any comment on that? Is the map correct? And what’s your view?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, with regard to the map, we’ve taken the map down off the website. It did contain some inaccuracies which were associated with the boundaries of some geographic features. This was unintentional; we’re going to get the map fixed and put up a fixed map.

With regard to the question that you asked Mark last week, I’m not aware whether we answered it or not. Mark is shaking his head, so we will take it and answer it for you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow-up on that --

QUESTION: If it’s inaccurate – obviously, it’s a map, right? Clearly, it’s inaccurate with regard to some geographic features, right?

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: So can you not sort of close the loop and say that it was inaccurate over the delineation of Kashmir?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that is the way that it was inaccurate, that it wasn’t drawn properly.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the – so when you put the map up and then you just – it vanishes from there, when I saw it. And then just before I came in, there was nothing there in the body of the page except some links. Will you be posting a statement saying that there was inaccuracy in the map and we are reposting a corrected map? And the second question is was there any person or a company responsible for this found guilty and any action taken about it?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, consider this our statement. I’ll say it again: The map was inaccurate. We’ve taken it down. We will put up the new map when we acquire one that we are confident is accurate.

And with regard to where the map came from, I think I’m not going to comment on that other than to say it was inaccurate and we have so represented. And we will get it fixed.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, I checked just before the briefing and it’s still on your travel web site.

MS. NULAND: All right, we’ll fix that one too. Travel web site, gentlemen.

QUESTION: Have you talked to any officials about this?

MS. NULAND: We have. We have.

QUESTION: What about Pakistani officials?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know. It sounds like we should talk to Pakistani officials.

QUESTION: Probably a good idea.

MS. NULAND: We will make sure that happens.

Way in the back. Thanks.

QUESTION: Different topic?


QUESTION: About yesterday’s election in Spain, has the Secretary contacted the president-elect that won yesterday? And there are very important issues that are being negotiated with Spain, namely the transfer of some Guantanamo prisoners, for instance. Do you think that is going to affect your work with the government?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, welcome. I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Can you tell me what news organization you’re from?

QUESTION: I’m with El País.

MS. NULAND: Not surprised you decided to come today.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But I’ve been here before. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Okay. Hiding, hiding, hiding. Well, first of all, the United States congratulates the People’s Party and Mariano Rajoy on his victory in Spain’s general election. Spain is obviously a close partner and ally of the United States, and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the future government of Spain on a wide range of issues, including some of the issues that you discussed.


QUESTION: New topic?


QUESTION: Deputy Burns’ visit?


QUESTION: The Israelis claim that Deputy Burns issued a very stern warning to President Abbas if they continue their misbehavior with going to the international community, that they are going to be dire consequences. Could you confirm that?

MS. NULAND: I’m certainly not going to get into the private discussion, diplomatic discussion that Deputy Secretary Burns had with President Abbas, except to say that it was a long and full meeting.

QUESTION: What was it focused on? What were some of the points that Deputy Burns raised that are, let’s say, different from what was raised last week or the week before by Ambassador Hale, for instance?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously it was at a higher level. They have a long personal relationship. And the main thrust of the meeting, as I said at the outset, was designed to encourage President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to make the best possible use of the opportunity that the Quartet has put forward to get the parties back together and get them talking about the real issues.

QUESTION: Did he talk with Mr. Abbas about his upcoming meeting or his meetings with Hamas, ongoing meetings with Hamas, whether at his level or other levels, to form a new government that excludes someone like Salam Fayyad and may bring in someone that is more acceptable to Hamas?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the back and the forth and all of the issues that we discussed. But in general, we do talk about the ongoing political process in the Palestinian Authority. You know where we are on the situation with Hamas. We don’t want to see anybody in the Palestinian Authority government who is not prepared to renounce violence, recognize the state of Israel’s right to exist, and live up to previous agreements.

QUESTION: And finally, will he raise with Prime Minister Netanyahu the issue of the new announcement on new settlements?

MS. NULAND: Again, I would expect that that conversation will cover the full range of issues that we always talk to the Government of Israel about.

QUESTION: And will he convey your position that settlements are illegal?

MS. NULAND: Again, I would expect that conversation will cover the full range of issues.

QUESTION: Can I ask another quick one?


QUESTION: Is it still the plan to have detailed proposals brought forth by each side, I think it was what, 90 days after the last Quartet meeting, so end of January?

MS. NULAND: That is what we are continuing to encourage, Brad. And we continuing to work with each side in an effort to hone and refine proposals that they could make to each other.

QUESTION: Now, the original plan was they’d already be meeting directly by now. So, presumably, they would have you know brought that to another meeting and exchanged and looked at it. How does that work now when the negotiators aren’t even in the same room together?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re continuing to work with each of the parties to refine and hone proposals that they can put to each other and to encourage them to be ready to put them to each other as soon as possible. So that process goes forward.

QUESTION: So is there a third-party interlocutor that the proposals have to go through, because they’re not actually meeting?

MS. NULAND: Well, they’re not exchanging either. They are working on their own proposals at this stage. Our view is that the proposals should be directly exchanged, and that is what we are encouraging.

QUESTION: So you hope by that logic that they will meet before that end January post or benchmark for these proposals?

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s what the Quartet proposal calls for and that’s what we’re continuing to work for.

QUESTION: Right, but you missed the previous deadline for that. So I’m wondering, is now -- is there a hope that this will happen before those deadlines?

MS. NULAND: That continues to be the goal of all the Quartet countries, including the United States.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: You said that they are -- that each side is continuing to work on their own proposal. And you said that we, by which I assume you mean the United States and other members of the Quartet, are working with them to hone and refine their proposals. When we asked last week, it wasn’t clear to me from the readout after the last Quartet meeting that either side actually had begun to develop a proposal. Are you absolutely certain that each side has now drafted proposals of their own?

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s put it this way. Each side has over time had proposals of various kinds. Some of them are being reworked and thought through, but they’re not at the stage where they have been ready to exchange them. So we’re continuing to talk to each side about what would go in an appropriate proposal about security and about land.

QUESTION: But they are, in fact, reworking previous proposals?

MS. NULAND: We are working with them on their --

QUESTION: But they are? That’s my question, because it’s not clear to me that they’re actually doing this work themselves or whether they think that this is so elusory a process that they’re not actually bothering yet to craft proposals. I mean, are you certain that they have themselves actually begun working on their own proposals? Not that they did proposals in the past, which there have been, of course, many, but that they are now actually concretely working on proposals.

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m confident that we and other Quartet members have been talking to each side about the elements that we would hope to see in proposals that they would put to each other. How much they have been drafting and redrafting, I can’t speak to from this podium.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is that because the use of the words “hone” and “refine” implies that there are concrete proposals on each side that are being sharpened, buffed, shaped. And now I’m not so sure that that’s what’s actually transpiring here. Now I’m beginning to think that maybe you guys are just talking to them about, hey, you could do this, you could do that, but not that they are necessarily shaping these things themselves.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, it is going to be up to them to shape their proposals and to put them to each other. They are obviously building on work that they had done in the past. We want to see that work shaped, honed, refined, ready to present to each other as soon as possible.

QUESTION: There are reports that Pakistani officials are trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban in tribal areas on a give-and-take basis, and Taliban have laid out some demands, like free movement and that they have demanded compensation, which are not certainly in line with the hard lines that you referred to. So my question is that are you aware of these developments? And if you are, do you have any reservations on this?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on negotiations that may or may not be going on between Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban. I would refer you to the Government of Pakistan on that. I think our own views about reconciliation have been very clear in terms of what it takes to truly reconcile, but I can’t speak to what may or may not be going on between these groups.

QUESTION: Okay. And a Sunday Times story says that Ambassador Munter has met Imran Khan, a cricketer and politician, in the presence of DG ISI. Can you confirm the meeting, and what was the agenda?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I don’t have any information one way or the other.

QUESTION: Can we go to the arrest of Seif al-Islam – the capture of Seif al-Islam Qadhafi?


QUESTION: Do you have confidence in the Libyan justice system to provide a fair trial for Seif al-Islam?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we have been on this issue. We have, in general terms and now in very specific terms, with regard to Seif, appealed to all parties in Libya to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners in their custody and to ensure that independent monitors have access to him and to prepare a judicial process that meets international standards. So that is what we are continuing to encourage. Ambassador Cretz has had a number of conversations with members of the TNC about that. The Libyan Government itself, the TNC, has made assertions that that is its goal and aspiration. And I think you know that the ICC is on its way to Libya to discuss these issues as well.

QUESTION: But do you encourage the Libyan officials to turn over Seif al-Islam to the ICC?

MS. NULAND: Our view is that he needs to see justice in a manner that meets international standards. It’s a matter for the Libyan authorities and the Libyan people to decide how that is done.

QUESTION: But are you confident that the current justice system can actually provide that?

MS. NULAND: Again, it’s a matter for the Libyan governing authorities and the Libyan people to demonstrate to the world that they can meet high international standards. The international community is prepared to support them and assist them if they decide to do this in Libya, and that’s one of the reasons why the ICC is on its way to Tripoli now to have that conversation.

QUESTION: Is Seif al-Islam still in the hands of the militia that captured him?

MS. NULAND: That is my understanding, that he has not yet transferred to Tripoli.

QUESTION: Right. So then what influence does the TNC actually have over his treatment when they have not even been able to convince the militia to hand him over? I mean, isn’t it the militia you should ultimately be talking to since they actually have him and therefore they affect the conditions he is kept in?

MS. NULAND: Well, the TNC, as I understand it, is having these discussions with the guys who have him captured. And I expect that the ICC will also have something to say about this. So this is a relatively new event. I think he was picked up less than 48 hours ago. So the TNC is working this hard, and we are certainly making clear to the TNC that we see this as something where they can really prove to the world the high standards that they support.

QUESTION: And just to go back – forgive me, Brad. Just to go back, you told us after the death of Muammar Qadhafi that the TNC was going to conduct an investigation into his treatment. I know investigations take time, but it’s also not 48 hours since his capture and subsequent death. Did you ever get an answer back from the TNC about what precisely happened and how it is that he appeared to die after he was captured?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the TNC did pledge to do a full and open investigation. Our understanding is that that investigation is still underway and they have not yet completed it or made public the results. So we’ll obviously have to judge it when it’s completed.

QUESTION: My question goes – it’s the same thing, because you said at the time that that was a chance for the Libyan Government to prove to the world community that it will adhere to these high international standards. So it actually hasn’t done that. It hasn’t taken that chance yet. We’ll see if it does in the future. Now it has another chance, yet you have no doubts about its ability to adhere to the principles it has laid out?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to the investigation, I think we need to let them do the investigation that they have pledged to do before we judge it. So let’s --

QUESTION: How long does that take?

MS. NULAND: I think we need to let them have some time to do this investigation. So --

QUESTION: How long?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to put an artificial timeline on this. It’s only been a number of weeks, and if we want this thing done credibly, I’m sure they need a little bit of time to do it.

That said, they – the TNC from the very beginning has in all of its public statements prioritized the issue of justice, said that it wants a credible, independent justice system, in contrast to the way Qadhafi did things. The international community has said, including the United States and now the ICC, that we stand ready to help Libya as it develops its system and as it begins to deal with cases like the case of Seif. So we’re having that conversation now. They continue to say the right things, and we will look to them to do the right things.

QUESTION: But the one – the biggest example of its chance to put these principles into action was a shamble. So I don’t understand why you have such full confidence in their ability to adhere to these principles.

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re putting words in my mouth here. What we have said is that they have asserted that they want to stand in contrast with the Qadhafi regime by having a credible judicial process that meets international standards. That they want to also have a credible investigation into what happened to Qadhafi himself. We have said that we stand ready to help. So I think we need to let this process go forward before we stand as judge and jury in front of it.


QUESTION: Just a quick one?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Pakistani Ambassador Haqqani has gone back home after a meeting in this building. So are you confident he’s safe, and any other updates on that following this Memo Gate?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to say on the specific issue. Our understanding is that Ambassador Haqqani is home on consultation, so I would refer you to the Pakistani Government with regard to his consultations and what he is specifically up to. We always expect that Pakistan’s leaders will act in accordance with Pakistan’s constitution, and in a manner respectful of its democratic institutions. So beyond that I don’t have any specific comments on this issue.

QUESTION: Very quickly, going back to Syria. Are you planning to work at the UN Security Council this week to pass resolution on Asad or on the regime this week? Are you going to start any – resume any work in New York?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we always leave open the door to continue work at the United Nations and its various constituent bodies as well as in the UNSC. But I don’t have anything particular to report to you today.

Okay? Thank you, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 p.m.)

DPB # 178