Daily Press Briefing - January 26, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Deputy Secretary Burns' Travel
- Readout of Ambassador Grossman's Travel
- Designated Global Terrorists
- Ahmadinejad's Public Statements
- U.S. in Contact with Turkey / Foreign Minister Davutoglu
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- Government of Jordan / A Pause in Talks
- Quartet / U.S. Urging Parties to Get Back to the Table for Talks in Jordan
- The Mufti's Remarks
- Status of U.S. Citizens Departure from Egypt
- NGOs / U.S. Urging Government of Egypt to Lift Restrictions
- Registration / U.S. Working with Egyptian Government Daily
- Assistant Secretary Posner in Egypt / Judicial Process
- Media Note on Under Secretary Sherman's Travel to Yemen
- Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai Meeting with U/S Sherman
- New Legislation on Sanctions
- Under Secretary Otero
- Ambassador Grossman / U.S. Open to Having Meetings
- Pakistan's Important Role in the Reconciliation Process
- Issue of a Taliban Office
- Reports of Arrests / Deputy Assistant Secretary Fitzgerald
- Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell/ Bilateral Strategic Dialogue
- Kidnapping of U.S. Citizen / Travel Warning
12:58 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. And apologies, we’re late again. We’ve been late all week, so we’re going to have to pull that – pull up our socks here.
I have one small thing at the top. Then we’ll go what’s on your minds. Just to advise that Deputy Secretary Burns is in Accra, Ghana today. He met with President Mills. They had a wide-ranging conversation focused on Ghana’s future. Deputy Secretary Burns also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to working closely with Ghana on the Partnership for Growth and other important initiatives. President Mills reaffirmed his commitment to holding free, fair, democratic elections at the end of the year, and he welcomed greater trade and investment in Ghana’s economic development. So shout-out to U.S. business, Ghana is open.
Tomorrow, Deputy Secretary Burns heads to Uganda for meetings with President Museveni, civil society, and nongovernmental organization leaders. He’ll also, on this trip, be going to South Sudan and to Ethiopia for the AU summit.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds. Welcome back, Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m stunned that not all the – that all of the problems of the world haven’t been resolved in the last two weeks.
MS. NULAND: We tried without you. It just wasn’t possible.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Secretary’s hair bands, I suppose there’s a lot to be said.
Just on Burns’ trip, when he goes to South Sudan – I mean to Uganda and South Sudan, is he going to be meeting with the American troops who are there? Do you know if that – the soldiers that were sent over to help in the fight on the – with LRA?
MS. NULAND: In Uganda, I don’t think that he’s going to be meeting with our advisors.
QUESTION: Okay. A different subject. On Iran, Ahmadinejad has said this morning that the Iranians are ready to talk with the P-5+1. I know that your position has been that if they want to talk, they have Cathy Ashton’s address and they can reply to her letter of – her October letter. Are you aware that – if they have responded actually to the letter? Is this Ahmadinejad talking?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously seen Ahmadinejad’s public statements. What we have not seen, as we’ve been asking for for a couple of months now privately, and publicly for a couple of weeks, a formal response to the letter of the EU-3+3, P-5+1, which, as you know, is now public, which very specifically offers talks if Iran is ready to be serious about coming clean with regard to its nuclear program. So just saying you’re open for talks doesn’t meet the criteria that we have set, which is to be ready for talks and ready to be serious about letting the world know all of the details of your nuclear program and proving your claims that it’s for peaceful purposes.
QUESTION: Are you in contact with the Turks, who seem to be in contact with the Iranians, on these proposals?
MS. NULAND: We’re always in contact with the Turks on Iran issues, and will continue to be.
QUESTION: And have they told you anything, that there’s any improvement? Other than hearing from Ashton, have you heard from the Turks that they’re more serious about returning to nuclear talks?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that Foreign Minister Davutoglu was in Iran, I kind of think it was a week and a half ago. After that visit, he was quite optimistic that we would have the kind of response soon that we’ve been looking for. But he hasn’t seen it yet, and nor have we.
QUESTION: So he hasn’t given you an update since then?
MS. NULAND: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: And just to confirm, you have been in touch with Ashton’s office, and they say they haven’t gotten anything?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Correct.
QUESTION: A difficult --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: A difficult subject, so a different subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: The Palestinians’ President Abbas seems to suspend the talks in Jordan. First of all, can you confirm that? And second, where do you go from there?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, as we’ve been saying for some time, we are very grateful to the Government of Jordan for the environment that it’s provided for the two sides to begin the kinds of preliminary face-to-face negotiations that we hope will lead to a full negotiation of the issues.
It’s not surprising that the sides need some time to pause and to reflect. Our hope is that this will only be a little short period and that they will be able to get back to the table relatively quickly, and that’s what we are urging them to do.
QUESTION: The Palestinians seem to indicate that if the Israelis accept the ’67 perimeter for a future state, that they’re willing to go back. Is this your understanding, from talking with the Israelis, that it would be something that they can bridge?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re not going to negotiate this situation from this podium or in public in any other way. The sides have had a chance to have a number of rounds and exchange positions. They know where each other stand. Our hope and expectation is that they’ll come back to the table relatively quickly and keep moving forward.
QUESTION: But – I’m sorry. I mean, this hope, what is it based on? I mean, the conditions have not changed. They said they’re going to withdraw on the 26th. They have. So what’s there for them to come back?
MS. NULAND: I think our sense is that this process was helpful to both sides. They’ve clarified some issues, there are some things that they need to work on at home on both sides, and that perhaps a small pause and then to come back with some fresh ideas will be helpful.
QUESTION: Just one last thing. Sorry.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sorry, Mega.
QUESTION: President Peres and Prime Minister Fayyad met in Davos. Were any Americans involved in that, or do you know anything about the meeting?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, there were certainly no Americans in the room. Whether the process that we’ve all supported, that the Quartet has supported, led to their comfort and confidence in meeting, I can’t speak to, but all of these kinds of things, any direct contact is always good for the process. So we welcome it.
QUESTION: It’s another subject.
QUESTION: Can we just – just one more on this.
MS. NULAND: Anything further on this? Yeah.
QUESTION: You said – is this – did – while I was gone, did this whole idea of the deadline on the 26th, did that ever get resolved? Was there a deadline? Was there not? Did you guys put it – set it out there and then take it back?
MS. NULAND: We talked about this extensively without you, Matt.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. All right. And was it resolved?
MS. NULAND: And our view on this is that, again, we do have this small pause now. What we had been saying to the parties all along was that what was important is to keep talking, and that this date should not be a straitjacket. Rather, the process should be dictated by the conversation that they’re having and that the Quartet, as you’ll recall from our excitement in New York in September, set out a number of benchmarks. But again, these were not designed to be straitjackets. They were designed to help the parties. And the overall goal remains to have a serious, negotiated document by the end of the year.
QUESTION: But the Quartet proposal is now done, right?
MS. NULAND: No. I just – I think our advice to the parties, our advice to you is that those dates that were set out were designed to be guideposts for how this could work. But what’s far more important is that the parties together work through the next steps. And the fact that they’re sitting together and able to do that is the most important aspect.
QUESTION: The mufti – the grand mufti of Jerusalem is saying that Israel is launching a campaign against him because he made some remarks recently. Do you have anything on this?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the press reporting, we’ve seen the video of the mufti’s remarks. While the mufti claims that his remarks were taken out of context, frankly, in any context, they are deplorable and they constitute, in our view, incitement, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms. We have raised our concerns about this with the Palestinian Authority at senior levels.
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. Jill, were you still on this – on the Middle East?
QUESTION: That is what I was going to ask. So feel free.
MS. NULAND: Okay. So Egypt.
QUESTION: Sorry. Who did you raise the concerns with?
MS. NULAND: With senior level officials of the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: Can you say who?
MS. NULAND: I actually don’t have that detail here.
QUESTION: You mean from –
MS. NULAND: From our –
QUESTION: I’m not particularly interested in – who it was on the Palestinian side, but from the American side, from the consulate?
MS. NULAND: It was from the consulate. Correct.
QUESTION: Just if you’re interceding on this travel ban on LaHood and others and if you have any confirmation on how many this travel ban’s been placed on by the Egyptian Government?
MS. NULAND: We are very actively involved with the Egyptian Government on this issue. William’s referring to the fact that we have several U.S. citizens working at various international nongovernmental organizations in Egypt that have been questioned by judges in Egypt, and they are currently not being allowed to depart Egypt in connection with the government’s investigation of NGOs. Due to Privacy Act considerations – I know Matt couldn’t wait for that to be raised today – I can’t get into the numbers, I can’t get into the names, but we are urging the Government of Egypt to lift these restrictions immediately and allow folks to come home as soon as possible, and we are hopeful that this issue will be resolved in nearest days.
QUESTION: Do you have any specifics as far as, like, the methods or different avenues open to you guys to try to get these citizens out?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’ve been raising our concern about the NGO issues, both the situation for Egyptian NGOs, but also international NGOs for a number of weeks now. If you saw the report of the President’s phone call with Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi last week, the President reinforced the importance of upholding universal principles and emphasizing the role that these organizations can play in civil society. So even up to the level of the President, we’ve been working on this issue. And our ambassador, Anne Patterson, has been very involved. Secretary of State spoke to Foreign Minister Amr over the weekend as well.
QUESTION: And is there – does this affect how the U.S. sees the transition or any worries about the Egyptian military and their actions on NGOs? Does it escalate that kind of worry among the U.S. Government and officials?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve said over the last week, as we watch this Egyptian process of transition to democracy, we’ve seen some positive steps, and we’ve seen some issues that are of concern. On the positive side, we had three rounds of, by all accounts, good elections. We’ve got the lower house of parliament seated now and starting to work. We have the election process for the upper house beginning. We had positive statements about – from the SCAF about lifting the emergency law, although caveated in concerning way with regard to thuggery, whatever that means, and we’re all seeking clarification.
And on the NGO side, the issue here is that this has been – this is a relatively new thing for Egyptian bureaucrats and for the Egyptian judicial system. We’ve not had open elections of this kind in Egypt, so we’ve got new NGOs on the Egyptian side, we’ve got NGOs on the international side wanting to do what we do in countries around the world, which is to support the process, not to support any individual candidate. And this has been a matter of difficulty in getting the Egyptian system to register them properly and allow them to operate.
So we’re going to continue advocating for freedom for civil society to support the electoral process whether they’re Egyptians or whether they’re internationals and continuing to try to work through existing Egyptian bureaucratic processes and get them improved, including allowing for the appropriate registration so everybody has clear rules of the road.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: What happened to the promises the Egyptians made to you to return the confiscated property? And I think there were some other promises. If you can tell me what happened to them as well, I don’t remember exactly.
MS. NULAND: Well, since before even Matt went on vacation we were working on this – that we had these raids.
QUESTION: It wasn’t that long, my gosh.
MS. NULAND: It wasn’t that long, yeah. But we had these raids on the NGOs, we had property confiscated, we had staff interrogated, this kind of thing. So we have not yet resolved this situation. As I said, on a daily basis, our Embassy is working with the Egyptian Government. We’ve now raised it at the level of the President. The Secretary’s been very actively engaged, and we continue to think that for the health of Egypt’s democracy, this is not just about our NGOs; it’s also about the right of Egyptians and Egyptian civil society to operate freely and to support their democratic process through nongovernmental organizations, that we need to keep working on this and keep raising it until it’s fixed.
QUESTION: It doesn’t sound like you’re anywhere close to a solution, though, if they haven’t returned the confiscated property and now they’re preventing people, such Ray LaHood’s son, from leaving.
MS. NULAND: Well, the issue here is that they are asserting that there is a judicial process underway, and they are asserting that these people are subject to the judicial process and so is the equipment. And our point is that whatever the formalities are here, they need to be concluded as quickly as possible, and clear rules of the road need to be set for these organizations, whether they’re Egyptian or whether they’re international.
QUESTION: Victoria, you mentioned that this is something new for them, but actually, IRI says that they have been trying to register for five years and have not been able to do it. They tried to get the paperwork in. So it doesn’t sound new. And then also, you have – we know at the highest levels you’ve been raising this issue, and nothing is happening. So what explains that? How can this just keep going on like this?
MS. NULAND: Well, it is a matter of concern that it’s taking so long. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to have to keep working on it until it’s fixed. You’re not wrong, Jill. Obviously, IRI, NDI have been active in Egypt for previous elections. They have wanted to register. In previous days there was no process for foreign NGOs to register. The Egyptian Government says it now wants to remedy that and have a formal process, but this is what we’re working through, is formalizing the process. I think we also have a groundswell of Egyptian NGOs that have sprung up in this new post-Tahrir Square environment. And so they’re going to have to – the system is going to have to grapple with allowing civil society, domestic and international, to play a role in supporting Egypt’s transition.
QUESTION: And there are reports, in fact it is correct, that they at least Mr. LaHood did sign some sort of document saying that he would be available for questioning. Can you clarify exactly what that means?
MS. NULAND: I cannot, because we do not have a Privacy Act waiver that covers our discussion of that particularly situation.
QUESTION: Okay. Just staying on this?
MS. NULAND: Still on Egypt?
QUESTION: Yeah. Just on this.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: How are they being – have they actually tried to leave?
MS. NULAND: Well, in a couple of instances, we have Americans who’ve gone to the airport and been not allowed to board aircraft, yes.
QUESTION: And – but their passports have not been confiscated?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Their passports are in their possession.
QUESTION: And they are not in jail?
MS. NULAND: Correct. They are not in jail or otherwise physically detained.
QUESTION: And the Egyptians have said that they will be allowed to leave once these – this judicial process is over? Or is that not a guarantee?
MS. NULAND: We are trying to get them free to travel as soon as possible, and we’re hopeful that we can resolve this in coming days.
QUESTION: Still on Egypt?
QUESTION: But the Egyptians said that they will be able to leave once the process is over, or is it possible that charges could be brought against them, and they could --
MS. NULAND: Again, we are trying to work through all of the issues that you raise Matt, and I – and frankly, we don’t know how this is going to come out yet.
QUESTION: Still in Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Still on Egypt for Catherine. Yeah.
QUESTION: Just more broadly with the NGOs, you said they’re not able to operate fully. Can you get into more specifics about what they have been able to do and what they haven’t been able to do in terms of their work? What’s your assessment of how they’re being effective there or not?
MS. NULAND: Well, this situation is different for different NGOs. It’s different for some internationals and some Egyptian NGOs. So I don’t want to speak for them. I would certainly encourage you to contact them directly, and all of them have their offices in Cairo. But as we talked about in response to Lach’s question, some files were confiscated, some computer records were confiscated, some staff was called in for questioning – which obviously sends a chilling effect. There have been requests for their books to be opened. Most of the U.S.-supported NGOs have complied with that, but still the questions keep coming. So it’s those kinds of things.
Ros. Still on Egypt? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Still on Egypt. Assistant Secretary Posner is in Egypt right now for these meetings.
MS. NULAND: Yes. Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on with whom he’s been able to meet from the Egyptian Government, what sorts guarantees he’s been able to get, and has his access to these NGOs that are in question, has it been unfettered? And what sorts of reassurances has he been able to give them from this building?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, Ros, thank you for reminding me to make note of that. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner has been in Egypt. He gave an extensive press conference in Cairo earlier today, so I’m going to refer you to that in terms of all of the folks that he met with. But he did have very broad access to both Egyptian NGOs and international NGOs, and he also met with Egyptian Government officials, both in the government in the executive branch and in the judicial branch to try to work through these issues and to try to give some context to the work that these organizations try to do.
He also expressed, as you’ll see in his opening statement and in his follow-up, concerns that with regard to the lifting of the emergency law, while the pledge is a good one, both the Egyptian citizenry and the international community would like to see a full lifting of the emergency law.
So again, he had broad meetings, he’s working on this issue along with Anne Patterson, along with the Secretary, and as I mentioned, the President himself has been active. It’s not yet resolved; we hope it can be resolved.
QUESTION: Are the plans to keep the assistant secretary in Cairo to try to work out not just this immediate crisis of Americans trying to travel, but also dealing with the larger questions of trying to make these investigations go away?
MS. NULAND: No. I think we have a number of ways to stay active with the Egyptian Government both with our ambassador, Anne Patterson, on the ground, but also with the support that principles here have been giving. Assistant Secretary Posner’s on his way home; he’ll do a report here, and then he’s got other travel. He’s got, as you know, global responsibilities.
Still Egypt. Anybody else?
QUESTION: Yeah, I got one more here.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Just on the terms of the numbers of people; you said that you couldn’t get into that. How does the Privacy Act prevent you from talking about numbers of people?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have – let me say – a number of Americans who have contacted us with regard to problems. I’m not sure that we can, at this point, scale the whole problem, because we also have NGO – we have Americans in NGOs who haven’t tried to leave, so don’t know whether they might be barred.
QUESTION: Right. Well, can you say how many Americans have contacted the State Department through --
MS. NULAND: I think we’re working on four or five specific cases, at the moment, of folks who have tried to leave and have had difficulties. If that number’s not correct, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Four or --
MS. NULAND: Four or five.
QUESTION: Again, it’s not either four or five --
MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is an ongoing issue on --
QUESTION: I understand. But as of the last information that you had before coming down here, how many --
MS. NULAND: We had four or five specific cases of folks who had tried to exit and had not been able to do so.
QUESTION: What is the Administration’s sense of who – which part of the government initiated this, what happened today? I mean, is this all coming from the SCAF? Is this the quasi-independent judiciary? Who’s responsible for this latest order?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to try to parse this too finely from the podium here, but – and also ask you to talk to the Egyptians – what they say to us is that they have a semi-independent, independent judiciary which is conducting investigations of both Egyptian and international NGOs as to whether they are complying with Egyptian law, and that these investigations, these police actions against their offices, were called down by the judiciary. That doesn’t change the fact that the government as a whole, including the SCAF, obviously bears responsibility for the conduct of the state as a whole. So that’s why we’re talking to everybody, both executive SCAF and judicial branch.
QUESTION: They characterize it as semi-independent?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know how they characterize their own judiciary. I was playing back Paul’s characterization there.
QUESTION: Still on Egypt. Related – the trial of former President Mubarak has been postponed again. I’m just wondering, so far how do you evaluate the judicial system of trying him?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’ve asked me this question, Nadia, with regard to many countries. We’re not going to give countries grades here with regard to their judicial process. We want to see this trial and other trials of similar type around the world conducted in conformity with the national laws of the country, and in conformity with international judicial standards.
QUESTION: But, I mean, so far, do you think it is applying to international standard?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to be giving this trial a grade.
Anything else on Egypt? No. Dima.
QUESTION: New subject, Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Syrian ambassador to Moscow spoke yesterday. He gave a news conference. He claims that the weapons shipments are coming to his country from Turkey and Lebanon, presumably for some radical opposition groups or extremists, as far as I understand. Unfortunately, I can’t be any more specific, I’m not sure the ambassador was. I was wondering if you saw his remarks and if you looked into them.
MS. NULAND: I did not see his remarks.
In the back, sir?
QUESTION: Yes, please. It’s a quick question about Guinea.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I was wondering whether you have any comment on the development there, as far as the legislative elections is concerned.
MS. NULAND: Guinea-Conakry?
QUESTION: Yes. Yes. Two days ago there was a statement issued by a coalition of civil societies complaining that they feel, like, excluded completely from the process by the current government. And you just mentioned that the Assistant Secretary will be in Addis and the President Conde too will be there. Is there any chance that issue may (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: I have to tell you I did – was not aware of the issue in Guinea-Conakry. So let us take that question and get back to you after the briefing.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.
MS. NULAND: First let me just advise if you didn’t see it, we did, as soon as she left the country, issue a Media Note about her – about Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s travel to Yemen. She was there yesterday. She’s now home. While there, she met with Vice President Hadi. She met with other senior government officials. She met with a broad cross-section of Yemeni civil society leaders, youth leaders, and the media – she had a press availability also in Sana’a – to support a peaceful, democratic transition. Her key messages, among other things, were to support the democratic transition underway, and also to support the next step in that transition, which is the election to be held in February that will begin the new chapter in Yemen’s history and lead to additional reforms. She also took the opportunity to underscore our support for the integrity and security of Yemen.
QUESTION: And did her trip have anything to do with Saleh’s trip to New York?
MS. NULAND: In what way?
QUESTION: As far as negotiations for his visa being released?
MS. NULAND: No. I mean, the visa issue was separate. It had been decided a number of days before. But as we said a couple of days ago, the fact that he is – has left the country for medical treatment provides some breathing space for the transition to move forward. I think her visit was meant to encourage now Vice President Hadi and the opposition to redouble their efforts, stay on track, and take Yemen in a democratic direction.
QUESTION: Victoria. Yemen?
QUESTION: Can you tell me what Cui Tiankai will be discussing with Under Secretary Sherman this afternoon?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. Who?
QUESTION: Can you tell me what Under Secretary Sherman will be discussing with the Chinese official Cui Tiankai this afternoon?
MS. NULAND: Mr. Cui?
QUESTION: I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing that --
MS. NULAND: C-u-i?
QUESTION: Yes, exactly.
MS. NULAND: He is the Kurt Campbell equivalent. He is – in the Chinese foreign ministry, or roughly sits between Kurt Campbell and Under Secretary Sherman. He’s primarily responsible for bilateral relations. My understanding is that he is, among other things, preparing the visit of Vice Premier Xi Jinping, so coming to have that conversation.
QUESTION: Will she be --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up to the same question?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Actually, foreign minister – Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai is visiting the State Department the second time in about a month. So what’s the topic that’s going on there?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to him for more information about his visit. But it is normal, traditional in diplomacy for diplomats at that level to prepare the visits of the senior high-level folk. And my understanding was that was the prime purpose of this visit. We have DFM Xi coming, I think it’s in two or three weeks.
QUESTION: And also the question, we noticed that President Obama, he mentioned China five times during this State of Union speech and he’s seemingly taking a tougher stand against China. So what’s the message that the U.S. Government is trying to sending now to Vice President Xi before his visit?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the President’s intent with his State of the Union Address, you won’t be surprised if I suggest you raise that with our colleagues at the White House. I don’t think our policy with regard to China has changed. We are intent on cooperating wherever we can around the world, encouraging a peaceful and strong, cooperative relationship. We do a huge amount of business around the world.
MS. NULAND: We did give a readout on those meetings a few days ago. I don’t have anything new. He – what I can tell you, though, is that he was in Rome today for the last stop on his long, long trip which included stops in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, India, Afghanistan, Qatar, and now Rome. In Rome, he met with his Italian counterpart, Francesco Talo, and he also had a meeting with President Karzai, who was in Rome on a swing to talk to European governments. So that gave Ambassador Grossman an opportunity to debrief President Karzai on his meetings in Qatar and continue to work closely with the Afghan Government on next steps in the reconciliation process.
QUESTION: And while in Qatar, did he had any meetings with any representatives of the Taliban?
MS. NULAND: Well, I am not going to get into the specific blow-by-blow of his diplomacy on this issue. We’ve talked about this before. We have said in the past, he has said, the Secretary has said, we have said here, that we are open to having those meetings that we think can be helpful in encouraging a process that gets Afghans and Afghans sitting down together at a peace table. So he did have a number of meetings in Qatar focused on national reconciliation issues. I’m not going to get into the blow-by-blow either with regard to that stop or with regard to future meetings that he might have, except to say that we are intently focused on working these issues closely with the Afghan Government. That’s why he sought a second meeting – it might actually have been a third meeting – in a week and a half with President Karzai up in Rome.
QUESTION: But that’s a very important issue for the U.S. and why you’re reluctant not to say if he met or didn’t meet?
MS. NULAND: Because if this process is going to work, we have to give it some time, we have to give it some space, we have to give it some room. But the fundamentals are clear. We’ve been absolutely clear about it. I would refer you to his press conference in Kabul where he was very upfront that whenever we have such meetings, he talks to the Afghan Government about it before and after. And our goal is to get to a point where it’s Afghans talking to Afghans and we’re not needed to facilitate this. So that’s what he’s working on, but do not expect from this podium we’re going to get into every blow-by-blow. We’re not going to.
QUESTION: Can you tell me is --
QUESTION: Can you tell me a little bit more about what the – Under Sherman might have to say to --
QUESTION: Whoa, wait a minute.
MS. NULAND: Wait, let’s stay on this subject, please. Sorry.
QUESTION: He can finish.
QUESTION: But overall, is he satisfied with his entire trip, including his meetings in Qatar?
MS. NULAND: I think that he thinks it’s been quite a productive trip, that it has solidified in particular our understanding and agreement with the Government of Afghanistan about how to go forward, and made clear where we need to go next in this process. But there’s a lot of work to do. The Secretary has been very clear about this – a long way to go, including a long way to go on the question of whether and when a Qatar office might be opened.
QUESTION: Thanks. And finally, in the entire thing there is a feeling – recent feeling inside the Pakistani reflected in the local media that Pakistanis have been sidelined in these talks with Taliban. Is that – how do you address that?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely untrue. We have at every opportunity been clear that we think that Pakistan has a very important role to play in supporting this reconciliation process. The Secretary talked about it quite extensively when she was there. As you know, Pakistan was part of the Istanbul process, part of the Bonn process, supporting this reconciliation effort. As we’ve said a number of times, Ambassador Grossman was ready to go to Pakistan on this trip. Pakistani Government, very much involved in an internal review of its relations with the United States, thought that this trip was not the best time, but they welcome him at a future time. So we very much want Pakistan to be part of this, as do the Afghans.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Well, just following up on that, I mean, if Pakistan wants to be a part of this, wouldn’t you think it would have made sense for them to have given him a visa to have had meetings?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did talk about this a number of days while you were away. We have complete understanding for the Pakistani decision, that they frankly are not --
QUESTION: No. I’m not – I don't want to ask about the Pakistanis. I’m saying that if they want to be a part – if they want to play a role, wouldn’t it be better not to snub American diplomats who are directly involved in it?
MS. NULAND: We don’t see it that way. We have had conversations with them about this in the past. We’re open to doing it in the future. The message that came to us from the Pakistani Government was we want to be involved in this, but right now is not the moment; we’re involved in our internal review; we’re not – this is not the right timing; we will let you know. And so --
QUESTION: So you don’t think that they should be at the table if they want to play?
MS. NULAND: We think that they will have ample opportunity to remain engaged and this was not the sole opportunity for that.
QUESTION: All right. Who did – who, again, did he meet with in Rome, Grossman?
MS. NULAND: He met with his Italian counterpart in the foreign ministry, and he also met with President Karzai.
QUESTION: Met with Karzai. And then in each of his other stops, you’ve also talked about who he’s met with?
MS. NULAND: We have talked about some of the meetings that he had on some of the stops. But --
QUESTION: So those were all the meetings in Rome?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, yeah.
QUESTION: And then in Qatar? By not talking about it you’re making it painfully obvious that he did have meetings with Taliban representatives.
MS. NULAND: You may draw whatever conclusions you’d like, but we’re going to give this diplomacy some space, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, would he have met with President Karzai for a third time, as you say, in Rome had he not met with representatives of the Taliban in Qatar?
MS. NULAND: Well, there’s also --
QUESTION: You said that he had pledged when he was there --
MS. NULAND: Didn’t we miss him? We missed him. We really missed him. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You said he pledged when he was in Afghanistan that he would consult with Afghan officials before and after any talks that he might have with the Taliban representatives.
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, and as the Secretary made clear when the Qatari foreign minister and prime minister was here, one of the issues in this discussion is whether to have a Taliban office open in Qatar. There was business to do with the Government of Qatar as well on this issue.
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. NULAND: And he certainly had some meetings with – in regard to that. The other thing that he said when he was in Kabul at his press conference was that on this office, one of the issues needs to be Qatari-Afghan direct dialogue on the office, and standing next to him, Deputy Foreign Minister Ludin of Afghanistan invited the Qataris to come to Kabul to talk about these issues. So whether or not where, who, how on the Taliban side, there was plenty of business to do in Qatar without that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, who then did he meet – which Qatari officials did he meet with in Qatar?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’re not going to be giving the blow-by-blow of these sessions, except to say --
QUESTION: But you’re more than happy to give a blow-by-blow to meeting with his Italian counterpart?
MS. NULAND: In Rome. Absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Who – what, over pasta?
MS. NULAND: Yes. I hope there was pasta, for Marc’s sake.
QUESTION: I mean, and that meeting was of consequence how?
MS. NULAND: The Italians play an enormous role in ISAF. They are also strong supporters of reconciliation. They also wanted to be briefed on these issues and President Karzai was there.
QUESTION: I guess I’m just confused as to why you’re – why it’s okay to talk about a meeting with a functionary in the Italian foreign ministry and you want to talk about a meeting with a functionary in the Qatari foreign ministry.
MS. NULAND: It is our prerogative to brief out those aspects of our diplomacy that are useful and not to brief out those that we think need to be --
QUESTION: Are most interesting?
MS. NULAND: -- allowed some space to work, Matt.
QUESTION: So, in other words --
MS. NULAND: I did miss you. I missed you.
QUESTION: -- Under Secretary – or Deputy Secretary Burns in Ghana’s meeting are of great interest to the world, but not Taliban reconciliation talks. That – those don’t --
MS. NULAND: I think we should send him back to Patagonia. What do you think? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Different subject?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Risking to draw the ire of Matt. Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins met her G-8 counter --
MS. NULAND: I can’t hear you. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Ambassador Jenkins, Bonnie Jenkins, met her G-8 counterparts early this morning to discuss Global Partnership, the nonproliferation initiative launched in Kananaskis. I was wondering if you could share the results of this meeting you have and if you can provide us maybe a Fact Sheet on the Global Partnership as it stands right now.
MS. NULAND: We do have some Fact Sheets. We’ll get those to you. And with regard to her meeting today, you’ll have to let me take that, because I think I’m not even actually sure it’s happened yet, today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the arrest today of about 200 people, Chadian national? And I would like to know if the U.S. has any involvement in trying to help out there.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these reports of these arrests. I don't have any specific comment on them. More broadly on Nigeria, we’ve talked this a number of times over the course of the last week. We did have our Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs William Fitzgerald in Nigeria on January 24th. He was in Abuja for meetings with senior-level Nigerian Government representatives on improving regional security. In those meetings, both sides acknowledged that innocent civilians have got to be protected during government security actions, that human rights violations have no place in a professional security response. The discussions that we had focused on how we can better partner with Nigeria to address the political and development challenges in the north as well as to improve the capacity of the military and law enforcement to respond to security threats.
So we’ve had a long-standing military-to-military relationship. We’re looking at how we can deepen our cooperation to help the government address these threats in an appropriate manner and how we can strengthen – help strengthen the fabric of Nigerian society, because its diversity is really a part of its great, great strength. So this could include future training enhancements, intelligence sharing, modernization of the security services, logistics and other things.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we go back to China?
MS. NULAND: Back to China. Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Can you tell me what --
MS. NULAND: Can you tell us who you are, because I’m having --
QUESTION: I’m with NHK, Japanese Broadcasting.
MS. NULAND: Nice to meet you.
QUESTION: Just filling in for someone else.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: But can you tell us a little bit more about what the Under Secretary might have to say to the Chinese official Cui Tiankai this afternoon about Chinese cooperation on sanctions against Iran?
MS. NULAND: Well, I would expect that her message will be the same as the message that we’re giving to countries around the world, that as we seek to implement this new legislation we’re encouraging all countries to do what they can to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude oil. We’ve had these discussions on an ongoing basis with China. We had a team in Beijing not too long ago to discuss these issues. So I would guess that they will exchange views on that. They will exchange views more broadly on the offer of the P-5+1 or E-3+3 to try to get Iran back to the negotiating table as well.
QUESTION: Do you think she might get somewhere today?
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) I mean, you could ask me that about any diplomatic meeting we might have. We certainly hope that we’ll have a good meeting.
QUESTION: Will she have a message to the official on recent protests in Tibet and Chinese reaction to those protests?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve spoken out very strongly in the last couple of days. We have from this podium. We’ve also issued a statement from Under Secretary of State Otero expressing our grave concerns about the reports of unrest and violence. So I would guess that she will reiterate those concerns.
QUESTION: Has China reacted or responded to your request that you made just day before yesterday?
MS. NULAND: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: I have a quick question --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- about the press release this morning regarding designated global terrorists.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: According to some reports, one of them is in Turkey. Have you contacted with Turkey regarding this guy?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the terrorist designations that have come out about Yassin Chouka, Monir Chouka, and Mevlut Kar, all of whom have been designated under Executive Order 13224 as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. I would expect that we would – I mean, we – this is part of our larger counterterrorism cooperation around the world, so generally we compare notes with allies and partners in advance of these designations. I’m not in a position to speak on these particular ones.
The brothers Yassin and Mr. Chouka are fighters, recruiters, facilitators, and propagandists for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Melvut Kar is also a facilitator for the Islamic Jihad Union. They have carried out a number of attacks of the IMU along the Afghan-Pakistan border. And Mr. Kar is also wanted by the Government of Lebanon and the subject of an Interpol Red Notice and sentenced in absentia in Lebanon.
QUESTION: What is the next step when you designate someone as terrorists, global terrorists?
MS. NULAND: Well, what these designations do is they make it illegal for U.S. persons to engage with them, for anybody to do business with them, et cetera. It’s a way of closing off U.S. commerce and trade with these individuals because they are suspected terrorists.
QUESTION: Do you know why the Lebanese want him?
MS. NULAND: I have here “sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for attempting to establish an al-Qaida cell in Lebanon.”
All right? Thank you.
QUESTION: No, I got – I got two --
MS. NULAND: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief ones. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Yeah. One on the Philippines. Kurt Campbell and a Defense Department official are speaking with two – or their counterparts from the Philippines. Can you give us an idea about how much they’re talking about military cooperation, increased military cooperation, and how that takes it forward from when Secretary Clinton was in the Philippines?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is the second annual Bilateral Strategic Dialogue between the U.S. and Philippines. It is conducted at the level of Assistant Secretary of State Campbell and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy. Their Philippine counterparts are Under Secretary Basilio and Pio Lorenzo Batino on the Philippine side.
We do these strategic dialogues, State and Defense together, with a number of countries around the world, and particularly with countries in the East Asia Pacific region. We – they’ll be talking about the full range of bilateral, regional, global issues, reflecting, obviously, common interests. But this will be a chance for Acting Assistant Secretary Lavoy to brief Philippine counterparts on the new defense strategy that the Secretary of Defense will be speaking about later today, and also to talk about how we can work together to build capacity, increase training, increase cooperation in line with that.
So the Secretary talked about some of those things when we were in the Philippines. She made clear then, and we reiterated here, we’re not seeking a base in the Philippines or any permanent establishment of U.S. forces there, but we are interested in taking up the offer of the Philippines to increase our training, increase our cooperation, in a whole host of areas from search and rescue, freedom of navigation, countering terrorism, countering piracy, et cetera.
QUESTION: But also military operations such as exercises in the South China Sea, would that be one of the things that will be discussed?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that specifically. I would send you to DOD. But certainly, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is something we share an interest in and something that we are interested in protecting together.
QUESTION: Has this topic been discussed before here in the last couple days? I was just --
MS. NULAND: The Philippine subject?
MS. NULAND: No. I don’t think so. We did put out a media notice that this bilateral exchange would be happening.
QUESTION: There was a report in some newspaper, some outlet, I think --
QUESTION: The Post.
QUESTION: -- today, yesterday? About a – about new – a new base.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. The Post had a piece that --
QUESTION: Which is wrong?
MS. NULAND: -- that made some assertions that were – I don’t think they were assertions of the author; they were assertions of some of the folks quoted. Just to be clear, we are not looking to establish a new U.S. base.
QUESTION: You are not suffering from post-Subic Bay remorse?
MS. NULAND: There you go.
QUESTION: That is correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. My two were on – one, has there been some kind of an edict come down that you have to say EU-3+3 as well as P – were the Europeans upset that you keep calling it the P-5+1?
MS. NULAND: We call it --
QUESTION: Or is that just you trying to be diplomatic?
MS. NULAND: No. The letter that Cathy Ashton put forward, because it was written by the EU, they like EU-3+3, so I was trying to be --
QUESTION: Well, the Germans like EU-3+3. I don’t know if the rest of Europeans --
MS. NULAND: I use them interchangeably, and one should not read political --
QUESTION: Well, can we just settle on one? (Laughter.) Kind of like whether the Libyan Transitional National Council or the National Council of Transition, can we just have one?
And then secondly, on Somalia, you’re aware of reports that an American has been abducted there. This is unrelated to the SEAL raid. Do you – what can you say about this, about the – sorry – about this new report?
MS. NULAND: We – with regard to a U.S. citizen reportedly kidnapped in northern Somalia, another one, we are concerned about this individual’s safety and well-being. We have been in contact with the individual’s family. We are also working with our contacts in Kenya and in Somalia to try to get more information. Obviously, we condemn kidnapping of any kind and call for the immediate release of the victims – any victims. We also would note that our Travel Warning for Somalia does caution U.S. citizens about the risk of travel. So we are working on this case and seeking more information.
QUESTION: Well, it does more than caution them.
MS. NULAND: It sure – it certainly does.
QUESTION: It tells them not to go.
MS. NULAND: It’s pretty clear. Kidnapping, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, other violent incidents are a threat to U.S. citizens and other foreigners.
QUESTION: Right. But it actually doesn’t just – it tells people that they should not go to Somalia, right?
MS. NULAND: It talks about the risks of travel.
QUESTION: But doesn’t it say at the very top the U.S. warns American citizens not to go to Somalia?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have it in front of me, but I’m sure you can --
QUESTION: And you don’t know who’s holding this person or have any other details about the condition, where --
MS. NULAND: As I said, we are --
QUESTION: -- how – and how this happened?
MS. NULAND: We are seeking further information. That’s what I have for you today on this one.
In the back, please.
QUESTION: Quick follow-up on Pakistan. There are some reports in media that Pakistan is going to open NATO supply lines. Do you confirm those reports?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are awaiting completion of the internal review in Pakistan and an invitation to discuss it with the Pakistani Government, and our understanding is that their internal review continues.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) after two months that this route was closed, how long can you sustain without the Pakistan route?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are – we obviously have a number of routes that we use.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:48 p.m.)
DPB # 17