Daily Press Briefing - February 8, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Conference Call on Right-Sizing Mission in Iraq
- Sen. Graham to Brief Secretary Clinton on Africa Trip
- Vice Mayor Wang Lijun Meeting at Chengdu Consulate
- Violent Situation Continues / Alarming Reports across Country
- Humanitarian Support / Friends of a Democratic Syria / Sanctions / Arab League Plan
- Turkish FM Davutoglu to U.S. Next Week
- Charges against NGOs / Reviewing Formal Charging Document
- Americans at U.S. Embassy
- Impact on U.S. and Egypt Relations Including U.S. Assistance
- Indian Foreign Secretary Mathai Meetings at Department / Range of Topics
- Anti-Homosexuality Bill / Continue to Raise Concerns
- Sanctions / Help Partners Reduce Dependence on Iranian Oil
- Amcit Hekmati / No Consular Access
- Urge Government and Parties to Resolve Situation Peacefully
- Embassy Colombo Personnel and A/S Blake Travel to Maldives / Talking with all Parties
- New Defense Posture / Okinawa
- Unchanged Position on Balochistan
- Working to Improve Credibility of DRC Elections / Great Lakes Contact Group
- Support to Uganda, DRC and other States Grappling with Lord's Resistance Army
- Status of Privacy Waiver for Americans Unable to Leave
12:56 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: Happy Wednesday, everyone. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I don’t have anything worthy of starting the briefing with, so --
MS. NULAND: Excellent. Oh, I do have one thing, sorry, which is to advise you, given the amount of interest in the process that Deputy Secretary Nides is running with regard to rightsizing our mission in Iraq, we are expecting at about 2:30 today to have an on-the-record phone call for folks who are interested. I don’t know at this moment who that’s going to be with, but it will be somebody senior. Okay?
QUESTION: Well, wait. On that – so what is it – the purpose of this call is to do what? I mean --
MS. NULAND: Well, I mean, obviously he’ll build on what we said here yesterday, but just to put this in perspective, because we’ve had some funky reporting – let’s put it that way – on what this is and isn’t about.
QUESTION: Can you explain what that – what you mean by that?
MS. NULAND: There’s been reporting that this is a decision based on foreign policy concerns. There have been wild guesstimates in the press about what we’re doing here, so --
QUESTION: You’re referring to one specific reporter. You’re not --
MS. NULAND: Oh, there have been a couple of funky pieces. Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, but all based on that first report. Correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: So is it still the case as it was yesterday that you are not considering cutting – slashing the Embassy personnel by half?
MS. NULAND: We are not considering slashing diplomatic personnel by half. The degree to which there may be a reduction in the diplomatic personnel, it’ll be modest. What we are looking at here is what we call the tail. If you think about in military terms, tooth to tail, we’re talking about the contractor support for the mission.
But again, that’s why we’re having a conference call this afternoon to set this right for those of you who still want to pursue this story.
QUESTION: Was that the – I know that Deputy Secretary Nides did a video conference with Embassy Baghdad this morning. Was that the subject of that conversation as well? Was he attempting to reassure them that they were not about to be slashed?
MS. NULAND: No. (Laughter.) I think, as I understand it, that was part of this whole exercise. He was introducing this exercise to them and talking through with them how it would proceed over the next couple of weeks.
QUESTION: I mean, given that this all seems to have been precipitated by the report that we’re sort of vaguely referring to here, is there a sense in the Department that this has been rushed – that you’re being rushed to show your hand on these plans that you weren’t planning to do this? But with that report now out, you’re being forced to sort of explain what the plan is. Is there a timeline problem here?
MS. NULAND: No. I think that the issue here is that we’re engaged in an exercise to figure out what the right size now for this mission is. And generally, when you’re involved in a process, you don’t want to have a big disclosing of it until you’ve come to the conclusions. You guys were asking all kinds of questions yesterday about the conclusions, and the point is we’re at the beginning of this next phase of rightsizing the mission.
QUESTION: Did the subject of lettuce shipments and chicken wing rationing come up in the conference call this morning?
MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that, Matt.
QUESTION: I’ve got one on another subject --
MS. NULAND: Please, yes.
QUESTION: -- specifically these reports coming out of China that a deputy mayor of Chongqing had sought refuge at the consulate in Chengdu and that there had been an unexpected increase in security personnel around the consulate for a while. What can you tell us about any of this?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’re referring to reports about the vice mayor of Chongqing – right – City. So his name is Wang Lijun. Wang Lijun did request a meeting at the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu earlier this week in his capacity as vice mayor. The meeting was scheduled, our folks met with him, he did visit the consulate and he later left the consulate of his own volition. So – and obviously, we don’t talk about issues having to do with refugee status, asylum, et cetera.
QUESTION: Okay. But – so can you tell us exactly when that meeting took place?
MS. NULAND: I believe – we’re here on Wednesday – I believe it was Monday, but if that is not right, we will get back to you.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about what – have you had any subsequent contact with him? Because there’s some questions about his whereabouts.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. To my knowledge, we have not.
QUESTION: And aside from any possible thing that you couldn’t talk about on asylum can you tell us what he did talk about there? What was the purpose of this meeting?
MS. NULAND: Frankly, I don’t have anything at the moment on the substance of the meeting.
QUESTION: Can you say why you said he used – why you used the term, “he left the consulate of his – on his own volition”?
MS. NULAND: Well again, there has been some reporting to indicate that that might not have been the case, but it was the case.
QUESTION: Okay. The reporting being that he had been forced to leave or that had been dragged out, or --
MS. NULAND: There’s been unusual reporting about all of this. So just to reaffirm for you, that he walked out, it was his choice.
QUESTION: Can we talk about --
QUESTION: Other subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: We’re all looking at these pictures once again every day. The U.S. is talking about some ideas to provide some type of humanitarian assistance. Can you – I know it’s early days, but can you give any idea of what the United States, or with other people of the international community, could do to provide some type of humanitarian help and what kind?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, Jill, just to confirm what you are seeing with your own reporting, we continue to have extremely alarming reports from our contacts in Syria about heavy artillery shelling on Zabadani continuing for the fourth day, no power, no water, no phones, no internet in the city, reports of some 20 houses destroyed by regime forces, five killed, 35 injured. We also have reports of regime-led bombing campaigns in Homs for the fifth day. Tanks, rockets, mortars being used to subdue the resistance and to subdue activists claiming more than 50 lives just in the last couple of days.
We also have reports from activists of heavy gunfire in Douma. And we have peaceful protests continuing across Syria, including in Aleppo, in Dara’a, in Deir Ezzor, and Hama and Idlib, and some of the suburbs of Damascus. So a very tense, dangerous, violent situation continuing in Syria in the wake of the double veto at the UN Security Council.
So as we discussed yesterday, in the context of needing to pursue our support for a democratic Syria outside the Security Council, we are looking, along with our allies and partners who care about the Syrian people, at a friends of a democratic Syria group. We are, frankly, consulting with individual countries now about what that group – when it might be able to meet, what it might be able to do, but certainly one of the issues that we would like to see this group take up is the issue of humanitarian support for the people of Syria. We on the U.S. side have already been looking at what we can do to prepare ourselves on both the financial and the legal side so that we’re ready to provide humanitarian aid such as food and medicine.
But we’re going to have to work with our international partners. We’re going to have to work with neighboring states to identify coordinators on the ground who could assist in receiving this aid and in distributing it. And so we’re going to need to get this group up and running in order to do that, but these are the kinds of things that we are thinking about and working on, preparatory to the group having its first meeting, which we hope will be soon.
QUESTION: So in order words, the idea would be that the international community provides some type of help and – but does not go in itself, would provide it to these organizations or somebody on the ground that would then disburse it?
MS. NULAND: Again, these are the issues that we have to work through as we evaluate the situation and as we evaluate what we can all do.
QUESTION: And is there any attempt to talk with the Syrian Government about this on a purely humanitarian basis?
MS. NULAND: Well, all of us have been talking to the Syrian Government about the need to provide for their people in a humanitarian way. And a number of the countries that might be interested in participating in this group have been talking to the Syrian officials about the importance of being able to let international assistance in. To date, the Syrian Government’s not been terribly interested in that, but we have to continue to work this through.
The other thing that this group would do, obviously, as we talked about, is look at what we can each do nationally and regionally to tighten the sanctions. We’re talking about ensuring that sanctions that countries already have on the books are implemented to the fullest. And I think you’ve seen in some of the statements from the European Union today that they are looking at increasing the sanctions. We have Arab League sanctions that have been approved, but they need to make decisions about when and how they will implement those. So this is another thing that we can do with this group is to coordinate the sanctions efforts so that we drain the funding that the Assad regime can use to exact violence and brutality against its own people.
QUESTION: And just one last one. With the Russians and with Lavrov, has the Secretary had a chance to get any personal feedback on how it went?
MS. NULAND: She has not. He has not called her yet.
QUESTION: So are you expecting that he would call her; you would not call him?
MS. NULAND: Our expectation is if he is interested in giving her a report that we’ll hear from them when he’s ready.
QUESTION: The Turks have called for an international conference on Syria. Does that dovetail well with your plans to get the Friends of Syria together? Is that part and parcel of that?
MS. NULAND: This is part and parcel of the same idea. I think you see many countries speaking in sort of harmony now about all of us who want to help a democratic Syria working together. So again, the precise form that this is going to take, the precise timing, the precise mandate, is still being worked out with individual nations. As you know, we’re going to see Foreign Minister Davutoglu pretty soon here, and so we’ll have a chance to talk to him about the Turkish Government’s latest ideas. The Secretary did speak to him a little bit when we were in Munich, but we’ll have a longer airing of views next week.
QUESTION: So you like the idea of an international conference to get it going?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak to exactly whether we’d call it a conference, whether we’d call it a meeting, whether we – how this group actually mounts. I think that’s still to be worked out.
QUESTION: When is she meeting Davutoglu?
MS. NULAND: It’ll be early next week. We haven’t quite put it out on the schedule, but it’ll be early next week.
QUESTION: All right. Can I ask just a couple things? You seem to link the violence that’s going on today, this list that you read out, with the double veto in the Security Council. Is it the Administration’s belief that the double veto is responsible for this uptick in violence, or do you not think that it would have happened anyway?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have seen violence all the way through for these 11 months.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen – we saw a horrible uptick beginning at the end of last week and through the weekend. The point was simply to say that we have a number of countries saying that in their contacts with Assad he’s ready to stop the violence, but we certainly haven’t seen that on the ground. The violence continues unabated and very strenuously.
QUESTION: So you’re not blaming the Russians and the Chinese for this? I mean, obviously it’s the regime that’s doing it, but you’re not meaning to say that the double veto gave the green light for Assad to step up the repression?
MS. NULAND: I think we saw a step-up even before the UN Security Council vote and throughout the weekend.
QUESTION: Okay. And then in terms of the Friends of Syria, do you think it would be appropriate for either Russia or China to be members of this club that you’re starting?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to speculate on how this thing is going to come together. But we are talking about friends of a democratic Syria in support of the Arab League plan, the exact plan that was on the table in New York, which Russia and China chose to veto.
QUESTION: So you don’t think that they would be – they would meet the membership criteria?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak about membership criteria or eligibility at the moment. But I think you know that we have not been in the same place on what is to be done.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. And then the last one is when you talk about supplying or considering giving humanitarian assistance, food and medicine, I realize that there’s a lot to be decided on how that will be done, but there must be some options for delivery that you’re looking at and considering now, because you can’t just dump the stuff in the ocean and let it float ashore or have it move by osmosis from Turkey or something like that. What are – I mean, this is only done in extreme cases, but there have been airdrops of assistance to people. What are the options that you have to get humanitarian relief into besieged areas of Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, there are a number of options. As you know, all of you who have watched humanitarian relief in many parts of the world, there are always land, sea, and air options. Frankly, we are not at the stage of ventilating options. We are talking to various partners in preparation for the forming of this friends group. So stay tuned. We’re not at the point where we can get into things.
QUESTION: But most places that get this kind of assistance, you’re – they’re doing it with – the government has requested it and wants it, and one presumes that in this case the Assad regime isn’t interested in having humanitarian supplies delivered to its opponents or people who it thinks are its opponents. So is there a mechanism to forcibly deliver aid to --
MS. NULAND: Well, I appreciate, Matt, that --
QUESTION: -- on hostile – I mean, in a hostile area?
MS. NULAND: Well, I appreciate, Matt, that you are trying to get us to define this mission before we’ve had a chance to talk to all of our partners, but we’re going to need to do that.
QUESTION: Well, I just think it’s a bit unusual to be talking about considering – we’re considering giving them humanitarian aid, if you don’t have any ideas about how you’re going to deliver it.
MS. NULAND: There are plenty of ideas, but not for ventilating until we get a chance to talk to our partners.
QUESTION: Just to clarify – sorry – about this humanitarian --
QUESTION: Toria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please, Nicole. Let’s let Nicole – Nicole.
MS. NULAND: Because she’s a very gentle person, and if we don’t help her, all of you run over her. Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: I do want to start a new topic though, so --
MS. NULAND: Okay. So if it’s still Syria, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, the humanitarian aid is on the table, as I understood. The humanitarian corridor is on the table about this delivery of humanitarian aid to --
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not prepared to speak about what the delivery options might be. We have quite a bit of work to do with other governments, so I’m not going to speculate. But there are places all around the world where humanitarian aid is delivered through various means, including in places where it’s difficult to do that. So before we have a chance to do this work with our allies and partners, I’m not going to speculate on how it’s going to work.
QUESTION: Are you able to tell us whether or not the Pentagon is part of this conversation on the U.S. side?
MS. NULAND: We often have asked the Pentagon to use its assets in certain circumstances, both consensual circumstances and more difficult circumstances, but I really don’t want to speculate on exactly how this might be moved. But as we’ve said repeatedly, we are not looking for military options, if that’s what you’re getting at, in Syria.
QUESTION: Sorry, last question: About the new platform that Turkish foreign minister has suggested, are you concerned about the change in the Arab League next month, in the (inaudible) of Arab League, and this kind of platform will substitute an Arab League in taking initiative about Syria?
MS. NULAND: We have been working very strongly, hand in glove, with the Arab League. Not only the United States, but all kinds of partners around the world have been supporting Arab League leadership and consulting very, very closely with them. So we’re not, by any means, looking to replace that. We’re looking to have the Arab League very much be a player in this larger friends of a democratic Syria group.
QUESTION: Just one last thing, it’s more a technical thing: Friends of democratic Syria in support of the Arab League plan which envisions Assad stepping aside, it’s that original plan?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are in the process of defining how this group will define itself, who will be part of it, exactly what it will do. I think you know that the bulk of the participants that one would consider having in this group are strong supporters of the Arab League plan, including all of its elements for a transition, which envisions Assad handing over to the deputy so that we can have a dialogue.
Okay. Please, in the back.
MS. NULAND: Pakistan. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, wait.
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Well, how about Nicole?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, let’s go to Nicole, on her next subject.
QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to know if the State Department has any formal response to your Egyptian NGO workers being charged, and also how this changes the legal status of those workers who are on the Embassy grounds.
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we now have a formal charging document. The document itself is more than a hundred pages. So we are now in the process of reviewing this report and working to fully understand its implications, as are the legal teams for the various affected Americans, the various affected internationals, and the various affected Egyptians. So we need some time, frankly, to understand what the implications of this are, exactly who is expected to do what now in the Egyptian judicial system, and we are not at a point where we fully understand the implications. So I’m going to ask you all for some time.
That said, our view remains that this is not fundamentally a judicial issue. This is an issue between the two governments, between the two executives, about the appropriate role – and frankly, between the Egyptian executive and other countries around the world – about the appropriate role that foreign NGOs, and frankly, that Egyptian NGOs should play in supporting a democracy, and in ensuring that the environment for their operation is clear, is well understood, and that we have an agreement among us.
So we are continuing to work with Egyptians across the spectrum to get this solved, because that’s the most important thing.
QUESTION: Could you speak to the issue of the legal status of the people on the Embassy compound now?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, as we said, and as we’ve been saying for a number of days, we have offered to those Americans who were reported to be – expected to be charged and who were on the no-fly list the opportunity to stay as the guests of Ambassador Patterson on the Embassy compound. That is still the – our understanding of their status today as we work through what the implications for each of those individuals might be in this 100-175 page document, and frankly, that’s not clear at the moment.
QUESTION: And how was that document handed over?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that, Jill, whether the Embassy got a copy directly from the Egyptians or whether this came to the lawyers or the organizations that are affected.
QUESTION: Could you say how many --
QUESTION: It comes from their judicial system, it comes from the court?
MS. NULAND: That’s my understanding, yeah.
QUESTION: Already, several Republican senators, including John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Kelly Ayotte, are really pushing on this issue and suggesting very strongly that the approximately $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to the Egyptian Government may well need to be held back because of what’s happened with these workers today. What does the Administration have to say about that? Is this then, in turn, a message to the Egyptian Government, we told you this could happen?
MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, as we have said for more than a week now, as the Secretary said in Munich very clearly, and as the White House has also said – my colleague Jay Carney just yesterday – we have been saying to the Egyptian authorities that we are concerned that this could have implications for the whole relationship, including our ability to deliver the assistance that we have planned for Egyptian – to support Egypt in its democratic transition and the traditional assistance that we provide for security purposes. We do not want that to happen. That is why we want to get this solved and why we continue to work it very, very hard at all levels.
QUESTION: Let me correct myself, and thanks to Matt. Senator Lieberman is an Independent, not a Republican.
MS. NULAND: I’m glad I’m not the only one corrected by Matt in this room. That’s good.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) But to follow on, they’re also suggesting that not only is this perhaps an opportunity to rethink the granting of the aid, but they’re also very concerned about what this means for U.S. strategic interests in the region. Can you speak to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, look, we obviously share the concern about the impact this could have on our larger relationship. This is the message that we are giving to Egyptian authorities. So we want to work through this, we want to solve it, and we want to move on to the very, very important business of our being able to support the aspirations of the Egyptian people to live in a more democratic, more prosperous, stable state.
QUESTION: Toria, could you just elaborate on why you don’t think it’s a judicial issue, given that the Egyptians are – have laid out laws that these people have allegedly broken? How is it not a judicial issue?
QUESTION: Tax evasion, interfering in political activity, not being properly registered.
MS. NULAND: Well, as we have been saying also for days and days and days, it is our view that these people have not done anything wrong, that they have been endeavoring to demonstrate that by cooperating with judicial authorities on the tax side in terms of being transparent about their records, in terms of asking for clear ability to register for – even in the Mubarak times, we wanted to have these groups registered and they have been denied registration. So from that perspective, there is something more going on here than a purely judicial process. We have to – the extent that this – this is a dispute, obviously, about the appropriate role for U.S. assistance in today’s Egypt, and we believe that a dispute like that can really only be addressed government-to-government. We’ve been asking to resolve it government-to-government, and we are just not getting the traction that we need for a long-term settlement of these issues. This is how we work with governments around the world, that the rules of the road are clear so that our people who want to support democratic transitions can do so in a way that is understandable, and that’s not where we are right now.
QUESTION: Sorry, just a detail. I’m wondering if – do you have detail on how many people are covered by this charging document and whether or not it includes both the Americans – all of the Americans and the Egyptians or how it breaks down?
MS. NULAND: Well, that’s part of the problem. That’s why I’m not opining in detail here. We got this 175-page document about three hours ago in Arabic. We’re working our way through it to understand who is implicated and in what and what the expectations are. And as you know, the original intent to charge information that we had indicated that some Americans in Egypt, but also a big number of Americans who weren’t in Egypt, some who haven’t been in Egypt for years, would be charged along with internationals, along with Egyptian NGOs who we partner with. So we need to work our way through this.
QUESTION: Can I just – I want to make – clarify. When first referred to it, you said more than 100 pages. Then you said 175 pages. 175 is quite a bit more than 100. So I just – is it 175 pages or give or take?
MS. NULAND: I heard initially this morning that it was 175 pages. My official cleared guidance says 100-plus, so I can’t give you the exact number. Let us endeavor to get that for you, Matt.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: But it’s a serious document that has to be --
QUESTION: But if it’s 175, you could say close – nearly 200 pages, right?
MS. NULAND: I could. I could.
QUESTION: And it is in Arabic?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: And there’s no – they didn’t offer you an English translation --
MS. NULAND: They did not.
QUESTION: The – so you’re saying that you don’t even know if this charging document actually charges the people. Is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: We have not – as of the time that I came downstairs, we were still working through it, both as a translation issue and as a legal manner, to understand exactly what is expected in this charging document of individual Americans.
QUESTION: Well, apart from the document, did they – have the Egyptians asked that the Americans who are in the – at the Embassy be handed over, or have they been asked to turn themselves in?
MS. NULAND: Well, again –
QUESTION: That you’re aware of, outside of the charging document?
MS. NULAND: -- outside of the document that we’re still working our way through, to my knowledge, no.
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. NULAND: Now that doesn’t preclude the fact that there are instructions in this thing that we haven’t been able to determine.
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: And in terms of their being at the Embassy as guests of Ambassador Patterson, now that this document is out, are they legally compelled just in a general sense to actually make themselves available, or is the U.S. Government advising any American working for IRI or NDI that they should come to the Embassy until their status can be clarified?
MS. NULAND: Again, we don’t know what this charging document actually requires, which is why I’m not speaking to it today. As I said at the beginning, as of a couple of days ago, when we had this list of folks who we thought would be charged and we had the no-fly list, anybody who was on both lists was invited to come be a guest of Ambassador Patterson. Again, we don’t know where we are right now --
MS. NULAND: -- and nor do these individuals is my understanding until we get a chance to work through this.
QUESTION: Toria, you were going to look into the number of people that are working with Linda Jacobson on this.
MS. NULAND: I was, and if we didn’t get back to you on that, I am sorry. Let us take that again and get back on that. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Let’s go to Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: India. Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have details of the meetings that this building had with the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, yesterday?
MS. NULAND: I do, if I can find it. Here we are. Okay. Let me look somewhere else. All right. If I don’t have it readily available, I will get it for you right afterwards. Here we are. Okay.
So yesterday we were pleased to host Indian Foreign Secretary Mathai. He was here for a full day of extremely comprehensive talks. As I mentioned, the Secretary dropped by on Deputy Secretary Burns’ meetings with him. He also had more than four hours in an interagency session led by Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. He also had meetings with Under Secretary Hormats, Under Sectary Otero, our Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense Ellen Tauscher, Ambassador Grossman talking about Afghan-Pakistan issues. He was also up on Capitol Hill yesterday.
The conversations included virtually every topic on the bilateral and multilateral agenda with India, including our joint cooperation to combat terrorism and violent extremism, defense cooperation, planning for the upcoming Strategic Dialogue, important civil nuclear cooperation, shared energy security interests, regional and economic integration along the New Silk Road, joint interests in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, and our engagement at the UN and in multilateral fora.
QUESTION: So I follow up --
MS. NULAND: I knew there would be a follow-up. I knew that wouldn’t be enough. Go ahead.
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly the subject of Iran and working together to reduce India’s dependence on Iranian oil came up. We are working well through these issues and we will continue to have those conversations.
QUESTION: Do you know --
QUESTION: And also on civilian nuclear deal – are you – how is it progressing now? Is it –
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any further details with regard to the conversation yesterday, but you know that our hope is that we can work this out and that we can get the central assurances cleared on the Indian side.
QUESTION: And do you have any dates for the Strategic Dialogue later this year?
MS. NULAND: Just later this year. That’s all I’ve got for you at this moment.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Jill.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: I believe that Uganda anti-gay bill is back again, if you have any guidance on that. And there was another one that came up over the summer – I think it’s back – in St. Petersburg, Russia, a bill that would outlaw any type of speaking, reporting, writing, reading on anything related to LGBT issues? Do you have anything on either --
MS. NULAND: Jill, I have to say I’m not aware of the St. Petersburg issue. This was a – this is a citywide --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We’ll look into that with our consulate. I don’t know exactly what the Petersburg city authorities might be intending. I think you know how strongly this government and the Secretary personally feels about this issue, that nobody should be discriminated against based on whom they love.
With regard to the Uganda issue, our message is unchanged. We oppose any anti-homosexuality bill, which we view as manifestly inconsistent with Uganda’s international human rights obligations. We continue to talk to all parties in Uganda about this.
On – in October, the Ugandan parliament voted to save and retain the bill, along with about 20 other pieces of legislation. So on the one hand, they didn’t act on it, which was good news. On the other hand, they left themselves the opportunity to do it going forward. So we remain attuned to the fact that this could be taken up, and we’re continuing to raise our concerns with the Ugandans.
QUESTION: Toria, I had a question about the sanctions on Iran. This issue will be one of the topics, obviously, at the meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu when he will be coming to town. Can you – is there any detail that you can share with us about the sanction – sanctions and your expectations from Turkey on this issue about the timeframe, about any waiver option? Any detail?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been saying with regard to all countries with whom we’re working, including Turkey on this issue, as you know, the legislation gave us 180 days from passage, which was in December, so deeper into the spring, early summer, to make a determination on individual countries as to whether they had been able to reduce their energy dependence on Iran.
So what we’re engaged in now with regard to all of the partners with whom we’re working is to continue to help them to find alternative sources of energy to allow them to reduce their dependence on Iran, and to talk through specific issues and concerns that countries have as we all try to do that to implement – to tighten the sanctions on Iran and increase the pressure on them to come back seriously to the P-5+1 table and come clean about their nuclear program.
QUESTION: Is there any waiver possibility for Turkey on this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, the legislation does allow for some limited waivers, but our goal is to try to have as many countries around the world as possible be in a position where they clearly have reduced their dependence on Iran. That’s the right thing to do in terms of increasing the pressure on Iran.
QUESTION: Did you start to discuss the waiver option with Turks?
MS. NULAND: We’re not talking about waivers with anybody at the moment. We’re talking about reducing dependence on Iran.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Maldives. Yesterday, you discussed the situation there and appeared to sort of accept the story that the president stood aside and the vice president is taking over and that they’re going to have a government involving the opposition ahead of elections. But now, the former president Nasheed is saying that he was forced out at gunpoint and that it’s making it sound as though it’s essentially a military coup there. I’m wondering if you have any further information on communications with them, what your assessment is of the situation.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously seen the statement from President Nasheed. As I said to you yesterday, Assistant Secretary Blake was in contact with President Waheed. His view of events obviously differs. I think the thing that is concerning today, Andy, is whereas we had calm on the streets yesterday, we have had some less than peaceful incidents in the Maldives. So that is concerning, and we are urging the government and the political parties to work together to resolve the situation peacefully, and we’re continuing to monitor the situation.
As I mentioned yesterday, some of our folks from our Embassy in Colombo are on their way down. And today, Assistant Secretary Blake has decided that he will add a stop in Male, the capital of the Maldives, to his upcoming trip to the region. He’ll be there on Saturday, February 11th, en route also to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as planned.
QUESTION: Are you going to withhold – I mean, are you taking any position on the suggestions that it might have been a military coup? Are you going to investigate that? Is Blake going to check that out? Or do you think that that’s not a sort of a reasonable suggestion here?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we are talking to all parties. That’s why we’re sending our folks down, but that is not the information that we have at the moment. But Assistant Secretary Blake will have a chance to be there and talk to everybody on Saturday. But in the interim, we are urging calm, we are urging dialogue, we are urging the – President Waheed, as you know, has committed to forming a national unity government, and we think that will also be an important signal to political factions across the Maldives.
QUESTION: So he’ll be speaking to Nasheed and Waheed?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to exactly what meetings he’ll have. He literally has just started to put the schedule for that stop together.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean that a determination on whether it was an unconstitutional change in power is going to wait until after Blake’s visit?
MS. NULAND: Well, our view as of yesterday – and I don’t think that that has changed – obviously, we’ll collect more information going forward – was that this was handled constitutionally.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just a little bit on the timeline of the decision, the statement put out early, early, early this morning.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why – why that decision was made now?
MS. NULAND: You mean why the statement was put out at 4 o’clock in the morning Washington time?
QUESTION: No, although that would be nice, too. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Well, the statement --
QUESTION: Why was it decided to de-link the two issues right now? What was the --
MS. NULAND: Well, the statement was put out at 4 o’clock in the morning Washington time because that was – is when our Japanese allies are awake, so apologies to any of you who were awakened on this side of the Pacific.
As you know, we’ve been working through these issues for some time. We have also concurrently been working through the new defense posture as a result of the budget cuts which Secretary Panetta has talked about extensively. And as we seek to settle all of the Okinawa issues, we nonetheless concluded that we could move forward with some aspects of the relocation even as we continue to work through the Okinawa – the rest of the Okinawa issues.
And in this context, let me just underscore that the end state hasn’t changed. We’re still talking about a permanent presence of some 10,000 Marines on Okinawa at the end of the day.
QUESTION: And what’s the next step here? What’s going to be the next – can we expect meetings? Do you have more for us on a timeline of what’s next?
MS. NULAND: We are going to having some more meetings over the coming weeks. I don’t have a schedule to give you at the moment, but when we do, we’ll let you know. Okay?
QUESTION: Are those meetings going to be at the same level, or will Kurt Campbell maybe get involved?
MS. NULAND: Well, Kurt Campbell, as you know, is the boss of --
QUESTION: Well, yeah, in the direct meetings.
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that.
Thanks. You’ve been very patient. On Pakistan.
QUESTION: Thank you. There is a briefing on the Hill today on Pakistan’s Balochistan province, and the person who is chairing this hearing, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, wrote an article with another congressman saying that the United States should support the demand for an independent Balochistan to deal with extremism. And another witness who was speaking today has also published a map which showed an independent Balochistan carved out of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has reacted to this with alarm and concern.
What is the U.S. Administration’s position on this? Do you support the demand for an independent Balochistan carved out of Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Our view on Balochistan has not changed. We are aware of this hearing. As you know, the Congress holds hearings on many foreign affairs topics. These hearings don’t necessarily imply that the U.S. Government endorses one view or another view. I’d underscore that the State Department is not participating or involved in this hearing today.
For our part, if – just refer you to some comments I made on Twitter a couple of weeks ago with regard to our unchanged position on Balochistan. We emphasize that the United States engages with Pakistan on a whole range of issues, including ways to foster economic development and expand opportunity in Balochistan.
QUESTION: Would you know – were you – was anyone from the Department invited to this hearing?
MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that. I don’t think so.
QUESTION: So does it mean that you do not support a demand for an independent Balochistan?
MS. NULAND: Our view on this has not changed, and you know where we’ve been on Balochistan. We encourage all the parties in Balochistan to work out their differences peacefully and through a valid political process.
QUESTION: Within Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: There are meetings here tomorrow and Friday on the International Contact Group on Africa’s Great Lakes. That’s U.S., France, Britain, Belgium, EU, UN. The Enough Project is saying that that group should hold Kinshasa accountable for electoral fraud and boost efforts to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army. Are those both on the U.S. agenda for this meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are – the United States is looking for opportunities to work with our partners, including in fora such as the Great Lakes Contact Group, to improve the credibility of future elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the Secretary said not too long ago, the United States was deeply disappointed by the Democratic Republic of Congo Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the electoral commission’s provisional results without fully evaluating the widespread reports of irregularities.
So we believe that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed. They lacked transparency, and they did not measure up to the democratic gains that we had seen in many recent elections.
QUESTION: Lord’s Resistance Army?
MS. NULAND: With regard to Lord’s Resistance Army, the – I mean, as you know, we are doing what we can with advisors and trainers to support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan – of Uganda. Oh, my goodness, that would be really, truly, horrible if we had Lord’s in Afghanistan. We are supporting Uganda, we are supporting the DRC, we are supporting other states who are trying to grapple with Lord’s Resistance Army. We have increased the number of advisors and trainers. We’re not actually in combat ourselves, obviously.
MS. NULAND: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Oh, oh.
QUESTION: I got two very brief things.
QUESTION: I’ve got one little brief one. Just a point of curiosity, really. The schedule had the Secretary meeting a number of senators this morning --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Burr and Graham and so on. Can you just tell what that meeting was about?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Senator Graham, not too long ago, led a group of senators on a trip through Africa. It was sometime in January. And they asked for an opportunity to come in and brief the Secretary on their conclusions after their important visit, and also to talk to her about some ideas they have to improve effectiveness of U.S. assistance. The Secretary, as you know, very, very interested in trying to ensure that U.S. assistance, particularly in Africa, has the impact that we all desire, and very encouraged to see members of Congress traveling to Africa and putting time into those relationships.
QUESTION: I just had two brief ones on the Americans in distress abroad. One, is there any update on Mr. Hekmati’s case in Iran?
MS. NULAND: Sadly, there is not. We still have not been able to secure access to him for our Swiss protecting power, despite repeated requests.
QUESTION: And everything else remains the same? Have you been – have they – I mean, do you know anything about the case, other than what you’ve – what’s been reported?
MS. NULAND: Not that we can share at this moment, no.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Since these two gentlemen involved have signed the Privacy Act waiver, I am assuming that you can offer me some information about exactly why you determined that they were not in danger and should not – could – don’t – didn’t meet the requirement, the criteria for refuge in the Embassy.
MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m going to come back to you tomorrow, because I have to check your information that they have signed a Privacy Act waiver. I did not have that today. So before I spill their story --
QUESTION: I have the name of the guy that they gave the Privacy Act waiver to --
MS. NULAND: Excellent. Excellent.
QUESTION: -- which I won’t use here, but he’s a senior official at the Embassy in Rwanda.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: And --
MS. NULAND: Was that today or yesterday?
MS. NULAND: Okay. I will endeavor to --
QUESTION: And I know that Angola is a long way away, but it shouldn’t take that long --
MS. NULAND: Excellent.
QUESTION: -- for this news to reach here.
MS. NULAND: We will get this for you. It’s quite a story, if we’re allowed to tell it now.
Thanks very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:42 p.m.)
DPB # 26