Daily Press Briefing - December 21, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Secretary Clinton's Phone Call with Egyptian Prime Minister Ganzouri
- Arrest Warrant for Iraqi Vice President
- Camp Ashraf
- Iraqi Visas for U.S. Contractors
- NORTH KOREA
- U.S. - North Korea Telephone Contact
- Violence Increasing
- Arab League Proposal
- UN Security Council
- ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
- Settlements / UN Security Council Statement
- EUROPEAN UNION
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions / ICAO
- Readout of Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Foreign Minister
- Detained American Citizen / Swiss Have Not Received Access to the American
- KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
- Awaiting Final Legislation
12:52 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I don't have very much either. I’m just wondering if you have – if there was – been any contact with the North Koreans, subsequent to the contact you mentioned yesterday through the New York channel.
MS. NULAND: There has not been.
QUESTION: That’s all I have. Thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’ve got a couple things. First on Egypt, the Egyptian foreign minister was quoted with a pretty strong reaction to the Secretary’s statements about the violence against women in the protests, calling it interference in Egypt’s internal affairs and rejecting it out of hand. I’m just wondering if they’ve made any direct representations to you. And do you have any reaction to their reaction?
MS. NULAND: Well, I have to say, Andy, I did not see the foreign minister’s comments. I will tell you that the Secretary had a very good call with the new Egyptian Prime Minister Ganzouri yesterday afternoon. She called him to congratulate him on his appointment. They also had a very good conversation about the path that Egypt is on and the transition underway. She, of course, reiterated our points about wanting to see a genuine, inclusive, democratic process, free elections, emphasizing the historic importance of the election process underway.
They also talked about the security situation in Egypt, and she reiterated some of the points that we’ve made and he reiterated the government’s points that it wants to see the protests be peaceful and it is working with its security forces. They also talked about how the United States can continue to support the economic development of the country going forward. So from that perspective, our most recent contacts were at the prime ministerial level, and it was a very productive call, all focused in the right direction.
QUESTION: And the prime minister didn’t mention to her or have any pushback against her comments earlier? Did that come up?
MS. NULAND: Well, she obviously said that she had been greatly concerned and particularly concerned about the horrible images, and he was very clear that the Egyptian authorities want to see their security forces operate within the rule of law.
QUESTION: And I think the Egyptian armed forces came out with a statement --
MS. NULAND: They did.
QUESTION: -- saying that they were expressing great regret at the treatment of women. What would your response be to the armed forces statement?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, there was this women’s march in Cairo yesterday, and in the context of that march, as you said, the Egyptian military authorities – I think they posted it on Facebook, in addition to using other channels of communication that the women themselves had been using – expressing regret about what had happened. So obviously we were gratified to see them recognize that these issues need to be addressed.
QUESTION: So you’re up on statements from Egyptian authorities that are in line with the Secretary’s comments, but criticism of it you don’t know anything about? Are you just --
MS. NULAND: Again, I didn’t see the foreign minister’s comments.
QUESTION: Is this an ostrich head in the sand material here?
MS. NULAND: Andy’s the expert at sitting there and working his Blackberry, and whatever issues pop on the wire --
QUESTION: This has been out there for at least 12 hours.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Well, then got --
QUESTION: Well, given the fact that he did say – that he did call it interference, do you think that that’s correct?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously going to speak out, as we have all along, whether it’s in Egypt or Tunisia or anywhere else around the world, in support of our values in terms of – and our interests. And obviously when you see the kind of horrific pictures that we saw coming out of Egypt a few days ago, the Secretary was not going to be quiet on this issue, so --
QUESTION: So you wouldn’t reject the characterization or a characterization by anyone, whether it’s the Egyptian foreign minister or not, that this – that her comments were interference?
MS. NULAND: People around the world will hear the United States speak out in defense of our values and in defense of our interests. The Secretary of State is not shy on those subjects, so --
QUESTION: So interference or not?
MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m not going to let you put words in my mouth one way or the other.
QUESTION: I’m not – I want to know if you reject the allegation that this is interference.
MS. NULAND: Again, we are going to speak out for the human rights of people around the world. We do not consider that interference.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied that Mr. Ganzouri is actually representative of the new Egypt, the post-revolution Egypt and not a relic of the past?
MS. NULAND: Again, the Secretary had a good introductory phone call with him, and he reaffirmed his personal commitment to Egypt’s democratic path and the course that they are on. So we are prepared to continue working together. But as I said, the call was very cordial.
QUESTION: So you are – I mean, you always say that we judge them by their actions and so on, and you’re confident that Mr. Ganzouri had like a deathbed conversion or something?
MS. NULAND: Said, as you said, we always --
QUESTION: I’m asking a serious question, because that impacts the political future of Egypt and how the United States is likely to deal with future governments.
MS. NULAND: Said, our view has not changed, that we will judge all actors in this transitional governments by how they behave, how they respect the human rights of their people, how they take their countries forward on a democratic path, how they maintain their international commitments, et cetera. But we had, as I said, a productive conversation yesterday in line with all of the things that we would like to see for Egyptians and that they’d like to see for themselves, namely a genuine transition to an inclusive democracy that brings more prosperity, more tolerance.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) one more?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: This clashes as are still going on, as far as we see. As far as last night, according to activists, these clashes mostly are going on during the night time. Within the conversation with the prime minister, how – what kind of explanation you have received? Why these clashes are still going on if the Egyptian security forces are going to act differently?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think I’ve said what I want to say about the phone call. I think we’ve been absolutely clear that with regard to the demonstrations in Egypt, peaceful protesters should have the right to protest peacefully, that obviously, on the side of the government, we are expecting them to allow peaceful protests to go forward. That said, as the Secretary’s statement on Sunday made clear, to the extent that demonstrations are not peaceful, we are calling on demonstrators to return to peaceful practice and we want to see security forces who respond to that do so with restraint and within the rule of law.
QUESTION: So this is the context you are seeing ongoing clashes, protestors are not peaceful and this how the security forces responding?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to sit here from this podium and parse every incident that’s happening in Egypt. We’ve been very clear with the Egyptian Government privately and publicly at all levels that we expect Egyptian people to be able to exercise their right to protest peacefully. If and when those protests are not peaceful, the security forces need to act with restraint – maximum restraint – and they need to do so within rule of law.
QUESTION: Please, the last question. You said you had been speaking out. Are you ready to take any kind of action if security forces are not acting accordingly?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to stand here with a crystal ball and predict where we’re going to go. I think what we want to see is an Egypt that continues to proceed along an electoral path where the will of the people can be expressed through the ballot box, through peaceful protest if that’s necessary, but that violence is not a tool used by anybody.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Maliki’s news conference today? In talking about the Vice President, he said if Kurdish authorities don’t release him or if he were to manage to flee the country that there may be problems, I think is how he put it. Is that not sort of a threatening tone? What was the readout here on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Vice President did have good conversations yesterday. I think the White House reported on those yesterday. We do note what the prime minister said in his press conference, and I would say that he also spoke about the need for the parties to get together. I think he called it a summit of political leaders that he wanted to have to discuss the political process and discuss power sharing, and we continue to urge all the sides in Iraq to work through their differences peacefully and within international standards of the rule of law. That’s the message that we’ve given to the prime minister; it’s the message that we’re giving to all of the political actors in Iraq.
QUESTION: Does the Ambassador continue to make phone calls and meet with the various parties?
MS. NULAND: He does.
QUESTION: Do you know when the last meetings or talks were and who they were with?
MS. NULAND: He had more talks today. I don’t have a list here with me, but as the White House reported, the Vice President spoke to Prime Minister Maliki and Speaker al-Najafi yesterday. I think that Jim Jeffrey – Ambassador Jeffrey – over the last couple of days has seen the – seen or spoken to the leaders of every major group in Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you have any position on the prime minister’s demand that the Kurds essentially return the vice president? Do you think that’s the right way to go?
MS. NULAND: They need to work this out within the rule of law. They need to respect the Iraqi constitution on all sides. If there are charges, they need to be processed appropriately within the Iraqi judicial system, as we said yesterday, and all sides need to cooperate in that.
QUESTION: But would releasing the Vice President be – as the prime minister has requested, be essentially doing that, working within the Iraqi legal framework?
MS. NULAND: I think there are conversations going on inside Iraq that we’re not going to get into the middle of about how this process ought to move forward. It’s – release implies that he’s being held or prevented from fulfilling the demands of the court, and I don’t think that’s the stage we’re at right now.
QUESTION: And just a final one: Also, apparently the prime minister has extended the Camp Ashraf deadline by six months.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did they let you know about this formally, and what’s your – do you think that’s a good thing?
MS. NULAND: We do think it’s a good thing. We do think it’s a good thing that the Iraqi Government is engaged. We’re encouraging those living in Ashraf to also be engaged. The UN, as you know, is in the process of trying to broker an agreement where the residents of Ashraf could be moved safely and securely to another location and where they could take advantage of some of the international offers for resettlement. And so, obviously, that process is going to take a little bit more time. So we’re gratified to see that the Iraqi Government’s going to give it a little bit more time, and that they are particularly cooperating well with the UN process.
QUESTION: And are you confident that the six months would be a sufficient time to get that agreement done?
MS. NULAND: Well, we would certainly hope so, and we are encouraging all sides to keep working on it.
QUESTION: Well, what’s your understanding of that extension? When did it take effect? Because he seemed to suggest that he had actually done this in November.
MS. NULAND: Well, as of two days ago, we were still understanding that we had a December 31st --
QUESTION: So you guys didn’t know anything about it until today? Or maybe not when he spoke, but today was the first time you knew of an extension.
MS. NULAND: Well, it was one of the options that we had been discussing, was to extend the deadline that the UN had also been discussing to buy more time for this. In terms of an actual decision of the Iraqi Government and a public announcement of it, I think we became aware shortly before the public announcement.
QUESTION: So your understanding is that this six months expires six months from now and not six months from November, when he said that --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t have a sense of the final calendar time. But again, the UN is working assiduously to try to come up with a roadmap for the residents of Ashraf. In the best case scenario, it won’t take six months, and we’ll be able to get them settled in before.
QUESTION: Right. And then the other thing, you said that there were outstanding offers for resettlement for these residents? Are you – can you – are you aware of any specific – can you provide names of countries that have offered to take in – other than Iran, which would like to see some of them back, I’m sure?
MS. NULAND: The UN is working on this issue with a number of countries in Europe. I think there is an issue of whether some of the residents of Camp Ashraf would be willing to take up those offers, particularly some of them who have relatives abroad.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: As a matter of fact, European countries, many of them refuse to repatriate – many of these people are their citizens and, in fact, they failed time and again a UN suggestion that they should return to their countries in the Netherlands and Germany and other places. Are you urging the European countries to take at least their own citizens that are in Camp Ashraf?
MS. NULAND: Again, the UN has the lead on this. They are working both with – they are working with the Iraqis, they are working with the residents of Ashraf, they are also working with some of these other countries of citizenship. So we are obviously looking for a settlement that gives these folks a better quality of life and security while maintaining international peace and security.
QUESTION: On Vice President al-Hashimi, are you concerned about his safety? Or has he contacted either Ambassador Jeffrey or any other U.S. official expressing concern about his own safety considering that the immediate members of his family were actually assassinated three or four years ago?
MS. NULAND: I’m not aware of conversations of that kind of concern. There is a question about how and whether these Iraqi judicial processes will be carried out.
QUESTION: Has there been any discussion with President Talabani of Iraq and President Barzani of Kurdistan as to the safety or maintaining safety and security for Vice President Hashimi?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Ambassador has been in touch with both of those leaders in the – in recent days. I’m not going to speak to the details of those conversations.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on Vice President Hashimi: You just said that it should be solved through Iraq judicial system and rule of law. So does it mean you have confidence in the rule of law if he were to go back, and do you think that there’s going to be a fair trial? You have that confidence?
MS. NULAND: We went through this conversation exhaustively yesterday. I don’t think we need to go through it today.
QUESTION: It was (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: It was pretty exhaustive, so – all right.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) subject?
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Still on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah. Just one last one on Iraq.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just update – I’m just wondering if any – I can predict what the answer is going to be – but any progress on the MEK listing issue –
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: – given that the –
MS. NULAND: We’re still reviewing.
QUESTION: Still reviewing --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but it’s still in the final stages; is that correct?
MS. NULAND: I think –
QUESTION: Getting more final?
MS. NULAND: – what the boss said back in October still stands.
QUESTION: And still on Iraq, (inaudible) about any update on visas for State Department contractors? Has that issue been resolved?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve said last week that we are continuing to work with the Iraqi Government on it, that the processes are in place, the contracting visas are moving along. We have an office in the Embassy that is helping those contractors who have encountered difficulties and helping them work things through with the Iraqi Government. So we don’t think we’ve got a systemic issue here. We have a few individual cases that need to be resolved, and we’re working with the Iraqis on it. But in general, the systemic issues are moving relatively smoothly.
MS. NULAND: I think we had a question back here first.
QUESTION: On North Korea.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Just one question: The contact with North Korea through the New York channel, you talked about yesterday. I think the timing was very sensitive right after the death of Kim Jong-il. So do you have some more details, including which side requested the contact?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t think I have anything more to say on that other than to say that there was this telephone contact, I believe it was, on Monday. We reiterated in that contact the information that we’re still seeking to enable us to make decisions on nutritional assistance and also what our expectations would be, preparatory to whether we could schedule another round of bilateral talks, let alone move back to Six-Party. Obviously, given the situation in North Korea, the folks on the other end of the phone were not newly instructed. So from our perspective, we want to be respectful of the period of mourning, but the ball’s in North Korea’s court.
QUESTION: Would you please tell us which side asked for the contact?
MS. NULAND: I frankly don’t have that information. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. Just one more, Victoria. Many didn’t expect such a quick contact between the two sides after the death of Kim Jong-il. So can I say it is a good sign for continued dialogue between the United States and North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Look, I’m not a fan of having adjectives put in our mouth here. But obviously, we want to continue working on these issues. We’ve made clear to the DPRK the information that we are still seeking, and we are also appreciative that this is not a moment in Pyongyang where we’re likely to have fresh instructions until after the mourning period.
QUESTION: Well, was there any response at all from the people on the other end of the line, or was it just silence? Or did they – were there actually people on the other end of the line? They just didn’t call and leave a message, did they?
MS. NULAND: No. It was a real phone conversation. Beyond that, I’m not going to get into the details.
MS. NULAND: Syria. This corner would like Syria. Go ahead.
QUESTION: First off, the White House put out a rather strong statement –
MS. NULAND: It did.
QUESTION: – in the last couple of hours --
MS. NULAND: It did.
QUESTION: -- and I’m going to partially quote from it. The U.S. is calling on Syria’s few remaining supporters in the international community to warn Damascus, that basically, if it doesn’t comply with the Arab League initiative, that more steps are coming. Are we now seeing something akin to a Libya-type action?
MS. NULAND: Ros, I think what you are seeing here is increasing concern that Syria is again in a pattern of making promises and not delivering potentially as a stalling tactic. But in this case, particularly given the violence of the last 24 to 48 hours, we have reports just yesterday of some 84 civilians killed again by regime forces in Idlib, in Daraa, government artillery opening fire on civilian homes.
This is not the behavior of a government that is getting ready to implement the Arab League proposals of – which some seven weeks ago it said it accepted. And I will remind that key to that was not just the issue of allowing in monitors, but for the violence to end, for forces to go back to barracks, and for all the political prisoners to be released. So on the contrary; we’ve got lots of promises as the government continues to mow down its own people. So I think what you see in the statement from the White House is concern that this process of discussing monitors et cetera is not only becoming a cover for inaction, but is providing cover for increasing violence on the Syrian side.
QUESTION: Does this statement indicate that the level of urgency inside the U.S. Government is reaching a point where we are going to see a new set of discussions not just on additional sanctions but on some sort of intervention?
MS. NULAND: I think what you see here is our view that the Arab League proposal really needs to be implemented now. It is already seven weeks overdue in implementation. The violence is increasing rather than decreasing. We have said that we want to see more action in the UN Security Council. So what can we do in the UN Security Council? We can either endorse positive implementation of the Arab League plan and steps forward or we can make clear that, again, the Syrian Government has made promises, stalled, said one thing to one set of interlocutors and another thing to another set of interlocutors. And it is absolutely time for the international community to increase the pressure on Syria and to do what it can to enforce our ability to protect civilians.
Now, first and foremost there, would be being able to get monitors into that country. So if we cannot do it through the Arab League proposal, that’ll be first and foremost on our list through the Security Council.
QUESTION: How long is – I mean, if this is already seven weeks overdue, how much longer is the U.S. willing to see that Syria complies or doesn’t comply? A day? A week? Another month?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think what you see is that the frustration is growing. Now, the Arab League believes it’ll be able to start implementing its monitoring regime this weekend. We’re going to see whether that’s true. But I think, particularly in light of the violence of the last 48 hours, our concern is growing that this is a delaying tactic.
QUESTION: Does this mean we’ll see a Security Council session, emergency session called in the next several days?
MS. NULAND: Our work at the UN is continuing. We are having consultations with all Security Council partners. And in part, this statement is designed to make clear that this issue of implementing an agreement that they supposedly signed up to seven weeks ago is increasingly dragged out, even as the violence increases.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) issued a statement today saying that these towns that being bombarded by the Syrian regime are in bad need for humanitarian assistance and for the Red – International Red Cross to provide humanitarian help. How can you do that?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re not in a position to do that right now because the Syrians are not allowing humanitarian workers in, they’re not allowing monitors in, they’re not allowing the press in. So as I mentioned to Ros, these would be first on the list of things that we would want the Security Council to take up.
QUESTION: Victoria, in the face of continued resistance by the regime to accept the Arab League proposals, and in view of what the White House said, what is the priority? What measures that you prioritize as having to take in the future, one by one? Do you have such a list?
MS. NULAND: That the Syrian regime needs to take or that the international community needs to take?
QUESTION: That you will take, that the international community will take and adopt to make sure that the Syrian regime, at the end of the day, complies by the international community demands.
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, tightening the sanctions. So any countries that are continuing to trade with the regime or otherwise line its coffers and give it fuel, food, money, anything that it can use against its own people, they ought to examine hard their own national policies, strengthening international sanctions as well. Number two, trying to get international monitors into as much of Syria as possible as the best way of bearing witness to what’s really going on and telling truth about who’s at fault here, which, as you know, we firmly believe that the responsibility lies with the regime. The third issue would be being able to provide humanitarian support for communities in need.
So these are not new ideas. These are not new concerns of ours. Our concern, and I think you see it in the urgency of the White House statement, is that this has been going on a very long time now, and the violence is getting worse, not better.
QUESTION: There’s another version of the Russian resolution on Syria being circulated today at the Security Council. What sort of advice did the U.S. and other countries give Russia as it revised its first version, which many people thought was – it was nice to have it, but it was just too weak to be effective?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been pretty clear about what we wanted to see in the Russian resolution. I haven’t seen the revised draft, but the Secretary spoke to our concern that there was still this apparent sense of parity between the regime and the peaceful protesters, which is obviously completely unacceptable to us. But more importantly, we want to see the Security Council actually call for these kinds of actions that could make a difference in the lives of Syrians.
QUESTION: How is your level of engagement right now with Russia and China on this particular issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary spoke to both foreign ministers earlier this week. I’m not sure whether – I don’t think Syria came up in the China call, but it certainly did with Foreign Minister Lavrov. We’re also very much engaged with both countries in New York.
QUESTION: Again, to follow up earlier question, head of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Galioun, I believe he was not asking – not talking about the Arab League plan. He was basically saying that these safe zones should be created, not asking – going through the Asad regime. Are you planning, or it’s under consideration, to talk about these safe zones near the border of Turkey?
MS. NULAND: I’ve – we’ve seen the statements by Mr. Galioun, but we haven’t had a chance to talk to them about exactly what they envision and how they would propose that such a thing would be implemented. We continue to believe that job one is to increase the pressure on the regime and to get monitors and the press back into Syria.
QUESTION: What’s the situation on the departure of Mr. Moustapha as the ambassador to the U.S. and this naming of someone as the chargé d’affaires. What is – has anything developed since that statement was released overnight?
MS. NULAND: No. They are being served by their chargé. I think he’s the former deputy. They haven’t appointed a new ambassador.
QUESTION: Was Mr. Moustapha at the end of an expected term or was he recalled?
MS. NULAND: He was reassigned. I would refer you to the Syrians on that.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes, Toria. Yesterday, the four members of the European Union on the Security Council issued a statement calling occupied territories and settlements in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem as illegal under international law. Do you concur?
MS. NULAND: Said, as you know, we declined to join that statement for all of the usual reasons. It doesn’t change the fact that our longstanding policy remains that we don’t recognize the legitimacy of the continued Israeli settlements, but we don’t think statements in the UNSC are the way to pursue the goal of getting these parties back to the table. The best way to deal with this issue of land, settlement, et cetera, is for these parties to talk to each other, come up with borders, and then have two states living side by side in agreed borders.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, after the closed session, 14 members of the Security Council, one by one, criticized the position of the United States for not condemning the continued expansion of settlement. Do you have a response to that?
MS. NULAND: We do not believe that this is business that needs to be done in the UN Security Council. We are absolutely clear with Israel where we stand on these issues. But shouting from the rooftops of the Security Council is not going to change the situation on the ground, which is that these parties have to get back to the table and settle these issues together, and that’s the way we’re going to have a lasting, stable peace.
QUESTION: And lastly --
QUESTION: And yet shouting from the rooftops from the Security Council on Syria is going to make a difference?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve spoken about the concrete actions we want to see the Security Council take.
QUESTION: Well, you don’t have a chance of getting them through if the Chinese and the Russians still aren’t onboard. So what’s wrong with – why is it – what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander here? Why – I just don’t get it. Do the – why does screaming and yelling at the Security Council on Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, North Korea – why does that – what is that all a good thing and something – on Burma, for – and yet – and when it comes to Israel, it’s absolutely not?
MS. NULAND: Every situation is different. In this case, the answer to the problems in Israel with the Palestinian people can only be resolved when they sit down and talk to each other. They cannot be resolved in the Security Council. That’s our longstanding view. The Security Council can take action, we believe, on Syria. It can take action on other issues. So you need to use the appropriate tool at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t get it. Why can they take --
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry you don’t get it.
QUESTION: Why can they take action in Zimbabwe and Syria and they can’t take action in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
MS. NULAND: It’s not going to lead to the result that we all want, which is --
QUESTION: Well, it’s not going to lead to the result anywhere else, either.
MS. NULAND: -- two states living side by side. Well, I’m sorry that you’re so cynical about the UN’s ability --
QUESTION: I have one --
MS. NULAND: -- to have an impact.
QUESTION: -- final question on this issue. Mr. Churkin, the Russian Ambassador, said that one delegation – meaning you – one delegation believes the thing will miraculously sort themselves out. Do you believe that things will miraculously sort themselves out on the Palestinian issue?
MS. NULAND: There are no miracles to be had here. There is hard work to be done by the parties, supported by the international community. That is why we’ve been working so hard to try to get the Quartet proposal implemented, why our negotiator David Hale’s been in constant motion on these issues, and why we continue to talk to these parties and try to get them back to the table.
QUESTION: New subject. Carbon emissions --
MS. NULAND: Carbon emissions.
QUESTION: Carbon emissions – the European top court has upheld their law on charging airlines carbon emissions fees for flights in and out of Europe, and apparently, Secretary Clinton had written to them, along with Secretary LaHood about essentially urging them to reconsider this law. What’s your reaction to this decision, and do you – they’ve talked about steps written up, retaliatory steps – what sort of parallel steps that the U.S. might take if this law is upheld, which it now has been. What’s contemplated here?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to where we might take it from here, but as you say, we have had concerns with this EU action. We’re disappointed by the decision of the court. Our message to the European Union has been very, very consistent – that there are mechanisms in international aviation in ICAO for addressing the question of greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s where these things should be talked about. And what the EU has done is to do an end run around ICAO rather than dealing with these issues there.
So we want to see these issues return to ICAO, we will participate actively there, but we don’t think it’s helpful to circumvent the agreed multilateral forum for addressing these issues.
QUESTION: But given that they, in effect, have done that, that – and it seems that that part of the conversation is now over – is that correct? I mean, there’s nothing more to pursue with them if their law has been upheld by that top court.
MS. NULAND: Well, they have – the court has made its decision, but these things are not scheduled to be implemented until sometime in April. So we’re going to continue to try to work this through between now and then.
QUESTION: So in that case, you’d be looking for a change in the law itself or --
MS. NULAND: What we’re looking for is to take these issues back to ICAO where they belong.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yep.
MS. NULAND: I think we did have a readout yesterday. I didn’t have it from here. We didn’t have the question yesterday, so we didn’t give it here, but I think our European bureau gave it. Whether I still have it, I don’t know. I was also in the meeting. They obviously talked about our hope that the UN process will produce a lasting settlement on Cyprus, that we have another round of those talks coming up in the end of January, and that we hope that sides will really roll up their sleeves because it is very important and very urgent.
We also obviously talked about bilateral business, we talked about the – about Cyprus’s upcoming EU presidency, talked about Iran. As you may know, Cyprus has recently made a decision to de-flag Iranian shipping vessels, and that was something that was obviously welcomed by the U.S.
QUESTION: The foreign minister yesterday – she said at the think tank that one of the subjects in the meeting was Turkey’s threats in the south – East Mediterranean. Is there any way you can elaborate on that? What is – how do you see the latest escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean?
MS. NULAND: I’m not – I didn’t see the foreign minister’s comments, so I’m not sure what she’s referring to. We obviously talked about the energy issues. Maybe that’s what she was referring to, do you think?
QUESTION: Yes, related to energy issues.
MS. NULAND: Well, on energy, the Secretary restated the position that you’ve heard her give many times, that we support the right of Cyprus to exploit resources within its own zone, but we would like to see the benefits of that exploration shared among all Cypriots in the context of a full settlement of the issues between them.
QUESTION: The question referred to the foreign minister of Greek Cyprus. Is that a distinction that you make, or is Cyprus Cyprus?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know how we refer to Cyprus, which is as Cyprus.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about this report of five Iranian engineers being detained in Syria?
MS. NULAND: I’ve seen that press reporting. I don’t think we have anything on it, though, Ros. I’ve seen the Iranians expressing some concern, but I don’t think we have any independent information.
QUESTION: Any update on Mr. Hekmati and U.S. efforts to have your representatives see him in Iran?
MS. NULAND: No. We are where we were, which is that we’ve asked the Swiss to ask for access, and they have not yet had that access.
QUESTION: What is your understanding of the current Keystone language? What’s going on there? Is anything?
MS. NULAND: Well, we don’t have a final piece of legislation.
QUESTION: I know.
MS. NULAND: So until we have a final piece of legislation, we can’t --
QUESTION: But that’s unlikely to change though, as far as I understand. That portion of the bill is unlikely to change. So --
MS. NULAND: But again, I don’t think – beyond the points that we’ve been making repeatedly and that we made last week, I don’t think that we are going to be making any government decisions until we have a piece of legislation.
QUESTION: No. But you may know that – I mean, there were two competing – well, not competing, but there were two variations of what the position was and that – one was that the government would not be – or that a permit could not be issued if it was to be forced upon – if a decision to be enforced within 60 days. But then it appeared to shift a little bit, because it seemed that there were some people who thought – who interpreted the language in the bill that it – that the language would actually change the process and so that the original position might not stand. So – and then Senator Lugar yesterday said that --
MS. NULAND: Is everybody following all of this? (Laughter.) This is further to why we’re not going to speak any further about this until we see the final piece of legislation.
QUESTION: Well, this part of the legislation is not going to change, so is it still the State Department’s interpretation that the language changes the process?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think we’re going to speak any further to our concerns about this until we see a final piece of legislation.
QUESTION: Are you still --
MS. NULAND: We are concerned, as we’ve been all along --
QUESTION: You’re still concerned about it?
MS. NULAND: -- that in order to do this properly, we need to respect the rights of the Nebraskans to have the alternative route fully explored; but that’s going to take some time – including a new environmental impact statement. We want to do this properly.
QUESTION: But if Congress so chooses to change the process --
MS. NULAND: Again, this is the issue that we’re not going to get into, Matt, until we see the bill that emerges --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: -- the legislation that emerges from Congress, because the words in the bill will matter. So I’m not going to sit up here and parse which way we’re going to go till we see it finished.
QUESTION: Okay. Fair – well, that’s fair enough, except that if – unless every single news report that I’ve been watching for the last 24 hours is wrong, this is not going to change. The only thing that might change in that legislation has to do with payroll taxes.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go any further here at this podium until we see a final piece of legislation and we make some decisions.
Okay. In the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. About North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The – a South Korean official said yesterday that there might be another high-level dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea on – this week. The --
MS. NULAND: We’re not expecting anything this week. We’ve spoken to this for a couple of days.
Okay. Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 p.m.)
DPB # 198