Daily Press Briefing - January 12, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Deputy Secretary Burns Meetings
    • Muslim Brotherhood
    • Prime Minister Netanyahu / President Abbas
    • Arab League
    • Assad Regime
    • Investigation of Venezuelan Missions
    • Venezuela's Consul General in Miami / PNG
    • Peaceful Protests
    • Government of Nigeria
    • Ambassador Grossman / Taliban / Talks
    • Condemnation of Video Incident by U.S. Military
    • News of an Agreement on a Ceasefire
    • Ambassador Derek Mitchell
    • Quartet / Talks / Government of Jordan
    • Settlements
    • Ambassador Sherry Rehman
    • Iran Sanctions / Legislation Signed by President Obama
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Crude
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 12, 2012


1:07 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Well, Secretary Clinton has spoken to so many of the key issues yesterday and today, I’m hoping we can just do a little mop up here and move on.

Anyway, what’s on your minds?

QUESTION: Can I start with a taken question that you issued this morning about Deputy Secretary Burns’ meetings in Egypt? The question, which was accurately posed, was: “Why did he not meet with Salafists?” But the answer said he met with a lot of people, and then it said he didn’t have time to meet with everybody. But the question isn’t: “Did he have time to meet with everybody?” The question is: “Why didn’t he meet with the Salafists?” Is the answer that he didn’t have time to meet with them?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: And why are they not worth his time, given the – given their showing at least in the election results so far?

MS. NULAND: Well, he had about 20 meetings during his day, day and a half, in Cairo. He met individually with some party members. He was not able to meet with all of them; he regrets that. But the Embassy does meet with all of them, as does our ambassador. So he had to do some triage, and that does not mean that we are not open to these kinds of meetings in the future, but this trip there just wasn’t enough time, Arshad. And I really wouldn’t read more than that into it.

QUESTION: Okay. And so they were not invited to meet him, because he didn’t have the time?

MS. NULAND: Correct. Okay.

QUESTION: Still on Burns in Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Do you have a more fuller readout of his discussions with the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically as pertains to what the Brotherhood said regarding Egypt’s treaty obligations – past treaties?

MS. NULAND: Well, this was an opportunity for them to meet with him privately. We’ve talked quite a bit about what he said to them. I think I’m going to let them speak for themselves in terms of what they said back to him.

QUESTION: Right. The problem is, is that as they speak for themselves, members are saying different things and it’s not really producing a very coherent message. And you had an official there who was able to meet with them at the highest level yesterday, so it’d be nice to hear from the highest – at the highest level what they say about such an important issue.

MS. NULAND: But it’s also important that as we meet with folks around the world, whether they’re government officials, whether they’re party leaders, whether they are members of NGOs, even if they’re members of the press, that we are able to keep those conversations confidential unless the interlocutor chooses to advertise what was said. So why don’t we start by suggesting that you talk to him about his messages to us.

You know where we were. You know what we have been saying to the Muslim Brotherhood and to all the parties, both in Egypt and around the region that are competing in elections, that we want to see universal human rights respected, including the rights of women and that we want to see, in this case, Egypt’s international commitments upheld.

Please. Said.

QUESTION: Yes. This reaching out to the Islamists – the political entities, mainly Sunni Islamist political entities – and these – because they go to visit (inaudible), let’s say, someone like Saud al-Faisal and Hamad bin Jassim, and next week the King of Jordan, who proposed that there is a Shia Crescent. Is that some sort of an ideological alignment of the United States with Sunni Islamic movements?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely not. We meet with all kinds of folks from all across the region. We have extensive contacts as well with Shia representatives, with other representatives from across the region. So I would not see some big new policy here.

QUESTION: So you are not concerned that there may be a realignment of, let’s say, politics within Islam – the Sunnis on one side and the Shias on the other as we see in Iraq, possibly Syria, the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and what kind of conflict this may evolve into?

MS. NULAND: We are not.

QUESTION: Stay in the region?


QUESTION: I saw that the White House just announced that President Obama had a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and it reminded me that there was an outstanding question about when were the Secretary’s last conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Abbas. Can you share those with us?

MS. NULAND: I’m just looking at what I have here. I think I corrected the record a week ago or so, but perhaps I didn’t from the podium, that she had phone conversations with both of them in late November. I regret that I do not have the date here. Yeah. I think that’s --

QUESTION: You did correct the record saying it was in November. I think one of them was November the 10th, and I think the other one was some time in the 20s. But I think I had asked if you could just give us the date so everybody has them.

MS. NULAND: We will, Arshad. We will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please, Cami.


MS. NULAND: Can I just go to Cami and then –


QUESTION: Yesterday, the Secretary in the meeting with the foreign minister said that the Arab League mission in Syria cannot go on indefinitely. Is that – was she indicating that once it’s over, this mission, this current mandate, that’s it, it’s over, failed experiment, let’s move on?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, that’s a decision for the Arab League to make. I think that she was sharing with the foreign minister of Qatar – you saw his comments yesterday – concern that, despite the best efforts of the Arab League, we do not see the Assad regime meeting the commitments that it made in any of the categories that it made them.

So, obviously, we want to see the full report come forward to the Arab League, we want to have a chance to talk to – for the Arab League to meet and consult, we want to talk to Arab League representatives about it afterwards. But in terms of this going on and on and on, if it’s not producing results, I think she was pretty clear that that’s not where we want to see this go.

QUESTION: So does that mean she thinks this has not produced the results that she would have liked to have seen?

MS. NULAND: I think she was very clear about that yesterday.

Yeah. Please.

QUESTION: With the resignation of some members, do you feel that the integrity of the mission has been eroded?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been concerned from the beginning less about the intentions of the Arab League – the Arab League is obviously trying to do its best to implement the agreement that it felt it had with the Assad regime. Our concern with regard to integrity is the integrity of the Assad regime’s word, and obviously it’s not keeping its word.

Please. Samir.

QUESTION: Do you see a contradiction between the Secretary’s position on the mission of the Arab League and the Algerian foreign minister today? Because he was hopeful that the support should continue to the mission and contradicted what the Qatari prime minister said yesterday.

MS. NULAND: Well, I didn’t hear his comments the way you did, Samir. What I heard him to say is that the situation on the ground has not improved sufficiently, that the situation is still violent and that that’s not acceptable. And he was also obviously quite clear about that in private.


QUESTION: Can we just go back to Bashar al-Assad’s appearance yesterday in a rally in a pro-government demonstration? Does that to you mean that he feels more emboldened, that he’s more confident that they’re about to turn the corner in snuffing out the opposition and the popular resistance?

MS. NULAND: I am so not going to get inside the head of Bashar al-Assad.

QUESTION: What is your assessment of this kind of behavior back to back on two days? He came out and spoke, and he’s reaching out to the public. Are they trying to project a picture of confidence do you think?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to what he’s trying to do with his own people. It’s relatively easy for strong men like that to rent a crowd of supporters. That said, we spoke to his speech, we reacted to his speech, that he clearly took zero responsibility for the violence perpetrated by his own forces, and that’s simply unacceptable.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s on Iran and Venezuela. Some members of Congress, they asked for an investigation as for – to the State Department to conduct an investigation on Venezuelan mission or other consulates in the U.S. Can you please give us an update on that?

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the proposal by Representative Ros-Lehtinen that U.S. counterintelligence agencies –


MS. NULAND: -- investigate all of the Venezuelan missions.


MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, that would be the responsibility of those agencies – FBI, et cetera. We here at the State Department obviously take extremely seriously any indications of improper activity by diplomatic personnel assigned to the United States. We cooperate fully with the FBI and with other agencies that are responsible for making sure that diplomats act within their Vienna Convention mandate here. That’s why we moved to PNG, the consul general in Miami. But obviously looking into these things is not the responsibility of this Department; it’s the responsibility of other departments.

QUESTION: The Venezuelan Government denies any wrongdoing. What do you expect will happen; I mean, from the Venezuelan side after that – this diplomatic impasse?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve made clear that that particular individual is not welcome here for reasons of behavior incompatible with her status. So from that perspective, what happens in Venezuela is Venezuela’s business.

QUESTION: Another follow-up, before that – before this impasse – the new impasse, the U.S. was open to initiate or to begin a dialogue with the Venezuelan Government. Has something changed since that or after that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think that we’ve had any broader shift in our policy towards Venezuela. You know that this has been a difficult and complex relationship. That doesn’t change the fact that if there were ways to improve it, we would be open to that.

Please, in the back. Yeah.

QUESTION: On Nigeria, on Tuesday, you called on security forces to allow opponents of the lifting of the fuel subsidy to generate – to demonstrate peacefully. Some of those opponents have now accused the government of infiltrating their crowds with, quote, “thugs.” Oil workers have also pledged to join the nationwide strike from Sunday. So can you give us an update on your view of what’s happening there?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think that our view has changed in terms of the right of people to protest peacefully and then the expectation that, as they protest peacefully, assuming they protest peacefully, that Nigerian security services will respect those rights and conduct themselves professionally. Obviously, there are a lot of complicated issues that the Government of Nigeria is dealing with, and some of these have become interlinked. So we’re obviously monitoring the situation very, very closely.

QUESTION: Do you have a fear that if the oil workers join this strike on Sunday that the situation will worsen?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not going to get into crystal balling this situation. If things remain peaceful, then you’re seeing a peaceful representation of popular opinion that the government needs to take into account. But at the same time, it’s incumbent on the government to encourage an environment that remains peaceful.


QUESTION: Marc Grossman is going to Afghanistan next week. Do you have any details or expectation?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, he travels very frequently out to his region that he is responsible for. As the Secretary made clear yesterday, one of the issues on his agenda is the talk piece of the fight, talk, build agenda to assess where the government is on wanting to move forward on some of these issues. He’ll also, obviously, be talking about the full range of programs and issues that we have with the Government of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Why the stops in Turkey and Saudi Arabia and I think maybe one other country in addition to – why the other stops?

MS. NULAND: On virtually every trip that he makes, Ambassador Grossman visits regional countries and particularly tries to stop in countries that have been supportive of Afghanistan, supporting economic development, supporting training of the Afghan National Forces, part of the New Silk Road initiative. So all of those countries have been part of our broader international coalition of support for a peaceful, increasingly democratic Afghanistan.

QUESTION: One other on Afghanistan, if I may. We are quoting a Taliban spokesman as saying that the video which Secretaries Clinton and Panetta have both condemned and deplored now will not affect their potential talks on reconciliation. Are you gratified that they are taking that position?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the same press reports that you have seen. I think the Secretary was quite clear this morning that we do condemn, we do deplore, this incident; it needs to be investigated; it’s incompatible with the standards we expect from our military. And we also have a lot of important work to do in Afghanistan and with Afghans, so she wants to see that work go forward, as she made clear this morning.

QUESTION: But you’re not gratified that – I mean, the quote is, “The video will not harm our talks in prisoner exchange because they are at the preliminary stage.” I mean, they could have gone to town over you with this, and it’s sort of interesting that the first signal that they send is not furious. Isn’t that pleasing to you?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to leave it to you to analyze, Arshad.


QUESTION: Just to go a little bit more deeply into what Ambassador Grossman is going to be doing, I mean, I think you were saying he’s going to – what’s the word he used – assess, define – assess the Afghan position. I mean, is it that unclear what the position of President Karzai is?

MS. NULAND: No, we wouldn’t be going forward with this if we hadn’t had positive signals from President Karzai, from the Afghan Government, from the Loya Jirga. That said, there are a lot of details to be worked out. As the Secretary made clear yesterday, this is far from a done deal to move to a face-to-face conversation among Afghans that we could support. So we – he will go out and see where we are, and that includes assessing how the Afghan Government wants to take this forward. Remember that we have always said that this process must be Afghan-led.


QUESTION: Will he also be meeting leader of opposition parties in Afghanistan and also might be any representative from Taliban?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a full list of his meetings on this visit. We will endeavor to do what we usually do, which is read out the stops as they go forward.


QUESTION: And is he also traveling to Pakistan along in this trip?

MS. NULAND: He is not traveling to Pakistan on this particular trip. As you know, he does travel to Pakistan frequently.


QUESTION: On those details, because it’s the same question that I had. Excuse me. The details to be worked out – so that would be what? Are we talking about representative to office? What are some of these details that are unclear?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary has made quite clear that what we would support would be an Afghan-led process of discussions that could potentially lead to a peace agreement among Afghans. But this has to be Afghan-led. She talked yesterday about the potential of having an office in Qatar where – that might facilitate some of this work, but there are a lot of details that need to be worked through. And frankly, a lot of this is quite sensitive, quite delicate, so I think we need to let Ambassador Grossman go out there and do some diplomacy and see what might result.

But this doesn’t change the fact that this is embedded in a larger policy with three elements, what the Secretary has called fight, talk, and build; that we will – we have supported the Afghan Government in fighting those insurgents who insist on fighting it. We will continue to do that and put pressure on those who are unwilling to leave the battlefield, even as we seek to support the efforts of those ready to talk. And the third element, obviously, is building a safer, better, more prosperous, more integrated neighborhood in which Afghanistan can live. This is our New Silk Road initiative to try to improve trade, transportation, the political environment around Afghanistan and with its neighbors.

QUESTION: But when you say Afghan-led, do you expect that Afghanistan will be holding negotiations with the Taliban and you would be a participant in those talks? I mean, how do you envision your role in this?

MS. NULAND: Well, the first issue here is: Can Afghans talk directly to each other? We do this around the world. It’s not, frankly, that different than some of these other efforts at peace negotiations that the United States has endeavored to facilitate, where it is often the case that both sides will talk to us, they will talk to other internationals, but they won’t necessarily talk to each other. So I think that’s the question: What might the modalities for that be, how could this move forward, is this office helpful to that, what kinds of political statements might be made in advance of that? All those kinds of things.

But frankly, I think with the Secretary having set the broader frame for this, we’re going to stop talking from this podium or elsewhere about details because we need to allow some space for the diplomacy to go forward and to see if this leads to anything. The Secretary has been very clear. This is at a very preliminary stage. We do not know what is going to come of it.

QUESTION: That’s fair. But I mean, it’s not exactly the same as you being a broker of talks anywhere else because you don’t have direct equities in all of the other – in other conflicts between two parties. I mean, here you’re offering deliverables to the Taliban for them to hold talks with the Afghan Government, so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question to ask whether you see yourselves as a participant or a party of the talks.

MS. NULAND: I think the goal is that we would not have to be, that they would be able to talk to each other. But where this is going to go and what the steps are from here to there, again, we need to let the diplomacy go forward and see what might happen.


QUESTION: Can I follow on this?


QUESTION: I think my colleague from the Press Trust of India had asked you in his question,

if I understood it correctly, whether Ambassador Grossman might meet with any members of the Taliban on this trip. And I think your response was: I don’t have a full schedule; we’ll try to read these out as he – at each stop. Is it conceivable that he might meet members of the Taliban on this trip?

MS. NULAND: On this trip, I do not know the answer to that question. And I do not know whether if, in fact, there is direct diplomacy. It’s something that we’re going to be reading out. As I said, what we want to do here – the Secretary has set the frame for you. She has explained to the American people, she’s explained to the press, how this fits into the larger strategy; that if this could work, we think it might be worth a try within the redlines that we’ve set. And let me just reiterate those redlines again. Reconciliation is only possible with those who are prepared to renounce violence, break ties with the Taliban, accept the Afghan constitution in all of its elements, including rights of women, et cetera.

So where this is going to go, I don’t know. But what we need to do now is provide some space for conversations with the Afghans for – to try to help them to talk to each other, and we’ll see.

QUESTION: Just – but just so we’re clear, I said, “Is it conceivable,” and you said, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” But you’re not ruling it out as a possibility; therefore, it remains within the realm of the possible.

MS. NULAND: It is – I think our goal here is to try to be helpful. How Ambassador Grossman and others involved in this choose to do that, what will be requested of us to facilitate by one side or the other, is not clear. And frankly, if it were to be clear to those folks, they need some space to do it. So again, I’m not going to predict one way or the other. And I – and frankly, it may be the case that decisions haven’t been made on that particular subject, Arshad.


QUESTION: Victoria, do you expect the late desecration of the Taliban by the – by U.S. Marines to complicate this process?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think the Secretary was clear this morning that we are prepared to move forward in supporting this initiative if it is supported by Afghans.


QUESTION: On Burma, any reaction to today’s ceasefire between the Burmese Government and ethnic Karen rebels?

MS. NULAND: Well, we do welcome the news of an agreement on a ceasefire between the Government of Burma and the Karen National Union. We have long called on Burmese authorities to halt hostilities in the ethnic areas and begin an inclusive dialogue with the ethnic minority groups towards national reconciliation. This was a central topic in the Secretary’s meetings when she was in Burma back in the fall, and she emphasized the importance of making progress, of national reconciliation. So this is a good step, and we welcome it.

QUESTION: And do you also have a readout on Ambassador Derek Mitchell’s trip to Burma? He has been meeting officials there.

MS. NULAND: Well, he is – I think he’s still there or he finished today, so I don’t have a readout on his today meetings, but he did start on January 9th. He has met with Aung San Suu Kyi, he’s met with members of civil society, he’s met with a number of other folks in Rangoon. He also went to another area of Burma to look at some microfinance projects that are underway and to understand better what some of the needs might be.

He discussed all of the same issues that the Secretary raised on her trip, including developments in the country; Burma’s relations with North Korea, which, as you know, had been a matter of concern; the ongoing detention of a large number of political prisoners, more than a thousand; the ethnic area issues; national reconciliation. But I think we may try to have him come talk to some of you when he’s back.

QUESTION: And also, there’s a report that Microsoft chief Bill Gates is traveling to Burma along with some other executives. Do you have any information? Do you know about it, this trip?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to refer you to Mr. Gates. I don’t have anything on that.


QUESTION: A question on China?


QUESTION: I wonder if you’ve been informed of the arrival of Yu Jie to the United States and whether he’s applied for political asylum.

MS. NULAND: Of who?

QUESTION: Yu Jie. He’s a writer dissident from China who arrived in the U.S. yesterday.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that. I can take it. What is the specific question? Has he arrived or --

QUESTION: He has – well, whether you’ve been informed of his arrival and whether he’s applied for political asylum.

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure that if there were any asylum involved here, we would not be speaking about it. I think you know that those are matters of privacy. We generally don’t speak about them unless the individuals involved speak about them.

With regard to his arrival, I can take it, but I’m not sure we’ll have anything for you.


QUESTION: Can you also take that you’ve been talking to Chinese officials about him coming here at all, any contact with Chinese officials over him coming to the United States?

MS. NULAND: Certainly.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

QUESTION: I also have a change of topic. Go ahead, Said.


MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes ma’am. As we inch closer to the 26th, which is two weeks from today, can you give us a picture of your engagement, the level of your engagement, on how far we are advancing towards perhaps a resumption of talks?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, just to remind that under the sponsorship of Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh, the parties have begun meeting face to face, which is a very welcome initiative. Foreign Minister Judeh was out in public today, and he made clear that the Jordanian sponsorship, the effort that they are undertaking to provide an environment for the parties, focuses on encouraging paving the way for direct negotiations of all of the issues, and an end to the conflict, and a two-state solution.

We have agreed that, in general, the Government of Jordan is going to be the main conduit to the press on these talks as they go forward. That said, I wanted to just put in context what’s going on here, just to recall that when the Quartet made its statement on September 23rd, that statement contained a number of milestones. It called for direct preparatory meetings between the parties, it called for an exchange of concrete proposals within three months, and it called for a commitment to make substantial progress within six months and the goal of sustained progress throughout 2012, leading to an agreement between the parties.

So our priority all the way along has been for these parties to start talking directly to each other. So that’s why we consider what’s going on in Jordan so encouraging. But what I do want to say is although this January 26th date has been out there, we do not want to see it be a rigid sort of straitjacket which chills the atmosphere. We’re pleased that the parties are now talking seriously with each other, and our focus needs to be on facilitating that dialogue so that it becomes deeper and stronger and includes all the elements. So that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up if I may finish up, just to quickly follow up.

MS. NULAND: Can we let Said finish?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Just to quickly follow up, these talks constitute direct talks. Should the United States Government be leaning or pressing the Israelis to stop settlement activities since Mr. Netanyahu had made that a precondition to stopping settlement activities before?

MS. NULAND: We are intensively involved with both sides. As Arshad made clear, the President himself spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu today, as the White House has read out, including on this subject. So we are doing our best to play our role to encourage this effort. The Jordanians are obviously playing a vital role. But what’s most important is that in that room, the parties are talking to each other. And it’s also, frankly, a good thing that they’re talking to each other without having to have all of us sit with them.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the state --

QUESTION: Just – wait, can I follow up?


QUESTION: I mean, you said that you don’t want it to be a straitjacket. That sounds like you’re giving both sides carte blanche to miss that deadline.

MS. NULAND: Again, this was a proposal made by the Quartet. It was illustrative of what we wanted to see happen. So – parts of that proposal are moving forward, including the parties talking to each other, so it’s really incumbent on the parties now to do the hard work to fill out the rest of the game plan through 2012. So we don’t want them or anybody else to get so fixated on the date that it chills the mood. We want them to keep going on the hard work that they’re doing together.

QUESTION: Riddle me this.


QUESTION: Why is there --

MS. NULAND: “Riddle me this,” I like that. I like that.

QUESTION: Going back to Batman.

MS. NULAND: How much – let’s have a competition. How much Shakespeare can we get into this briefing ever?

QUESTION: Well, I was actually thinking about the 1960s Batman show, but --

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) All right, well --

QUESTION: But I’m happy to do Shakespeare, too.

MS. NULAND: All right.

QUESTION: Why is it in your interest to give them an out on the deadline? I mean, why is that beneficial? Why not say, “Look, we really do want you to produce plans by that date,” and hold their – hold them accountable to the timeline that you put out there? Why is it not better to try to force them to try to do this by then?

MS. NULAND: What’s best is for them to work out these plans together. They are in that room trying to do that. We’re trying to encourage flexibility, creativity, real dialogue. Obviously, we want this to happen as soon as possible. That was the point of putting dates on the table. But again, when dates become a straitjacket, it can take you backwards. We want to go forwards.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. still want or is the Quartet still keen on seeing a final deal, then, wrapped up by the end of the year? Or is that another date that we shouldn’t really be fixated on either?

MS. NULAND: That is obviously still the objective, and we are making that clear to the parties.

QUESTION: Is that a straitjacket as well, or would that one be subject to loose interpretation and flexible circling in the calendar?

MS. NULAND: Brad, we are here 12 days into the new year, so let’s have intensive diplomacy, real negotiations, real proposals, real hard work in 2012 before we start talking about what happens at the end of the year.

QUESTION: The problem is that some of us have heard many dates many times. There was the date that former President Bush said at the Annapolis conference that came and went, there was the date that President Obama and Secretary Clinton set, calling for within a year of – I guess it was early September of 2010. Why should – if you’re willing to fudge – I mean, you missed the deadline for the first meeting. If you’re willing to fudge the deadline for the exchange of proposals, why should anyone think that you will achieve the objectives here, including a deal by the end of this year? I mean, why not simply say, well, all these things are fungible – fudgeable, and yeah, maybe it slides into 2013 or off into the horizon?

MS. NULAND: Arshad, I think we have a preposition issue here. You keep saying “you,” and we keep saying “them.” This has to be done by the parties. All we can do is try to create the conditions, try to improve the environment, try to put some benchmarks out there to try to help them. But they have to do the hard work. They have to make this peace. So obviously, we would love to see it tomorrow, were that possible. What we are saying is that the work they are doing now, the work they have done in the last week, 10 days, is important. It is encouraging. They need to keep it up and not be fixated on deadlines but be fixated on content and putting meat into these proposals.


QUESTION: But Victoria, this is a spanking new year, and we’re 12 days into it.

MS. NULAND: It is a spanking new year.

QUESTION: It is. Okay.

MS. NULAND: You used the word “spanking.” I’m loving this today.

QUESTION: All right, okay, apparently about a brand new year. It’s a brand new year, and yet 12 days into the new year, the gobbling of territory by the Israelis for settlement is unabated, it’s ongoing, to the point where your European allies are now doubting that a Palestinian state – a viable Palestinian state – can actually be established.

MS. NULAND: Was there a question in there, Said? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes. I mean, I would like you to comment on that. I mean, you said it’s a brand new year, but there are – this is a problem. You said the problem is them, not us, but --

MS. NULAND: We comment about every third day here where we are on settlement activity, where we are on building in Jerusalem. We talk to the Israelis about it nonstop and we’ll continue to do so.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just rephrase the question, then. Do you feel that there is a sense of urgency as long as these settlement activities are ongoing and unstoppable?

MS. NULAND: We think there’s a sense of urgency for precisely the reasons that the Secretary has spoken about. The best way to end this question of where settlements should and shouldn’t be is to have a final negotiated solution that sets agreed borders; then the whole problem goes away. That’s why they have to negotiate with each other.


QUESTION: You spoke last week about monitoring the memo-gate case closely and the situation with Ambassador Haqqani that has, in fact, led to a civil-military crisis in Pakistan. My question is that: Do you see situation improving or worsening from last week? And was this discussed in Ambassador Rehman’s meeting with Secretary Clinton yesterday as well?

MS. NULAND: I would refer you to what the Secretary said earlier today. She was asked about Pakistan. She was asked about her meeting with Ambassador Rehman, and she spoke very, very clearly about our hopes for our relationship with Pakistan as well as our views in support of democratic governance and good dialogue inside Pakistan. So I certainly can’t improve on what the boss had to say earlier today.

QUESTION: And there are also reports in Pakistan that the U.S. Administration is trying to influence Mansoor Ijaz to stop him from going to Pakistan for testimony in the case.

MS. NULAND: We are not interested in interfering in internal Pakistani events. Thanks.



QUESTION: This week, India opened its fifth consulate in Atlanta, but my question is about Seattle. The application for opening a new consulate there has been pending for last two years now. Both the consulates were announced in September, October 2008. It’s more than three years. Can – you do you have any status update on Seattle application?

MS. NULAND: You completely stumped me. I’m going to take that. I know nothing about the Indian consulate in Seattle.

QUESTION: One more on India?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: We have a story today quoting an Indian cabinet minister – although he is not named – as saying that India sees no reason to cease doing business with – cease purchasing Iranian petroleum and that they are, in fact, sending a mission to Iran to discuss how to pay for it, given the restrictions that can be – given the sanctions that can be applied under the new Iran sanctions law. Is this a good idea? I mean – and are you not – Secretary Geithner is traveling in Northeast Asia, trying to make the argument against China buying Iranian petroleum. Are you not making the same arguments to India, and are you not dismayed by the idea that at least this minister sees no reason to cease?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say that, contrary to practice, I’m going to take this one, and then I’m going to have to split. I’ve got something I’ve got to do. I’m getting the high sign over here.

First of all, I haven’t seen the comments that you’re referring to, Arshad. I will tell you that, as we’ve said, we are talking to a broad number of allies and partners about the legislation that the President signed and about the implications, trying to urge as many countries as possible to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude as another way that the international community can send a message to Iran about the choice it faces. India is one of the countries that we’re talking to, and we will continue to talk to India about this legislation, and we are hopeful that we can make progress together, because India certainly shares our view that what Iran is doing on the nuclear docket is dangerous, and we have a shared interest in getting them to change course.

Thanks very much. Apologies for running out on you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:46 p.m.)