Daily Press Briefing - April 11, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Announcement on Upcoming Secretarial Travel
    • G-8 Ministerial Meetings
    • Ceasefire
    • Case of Zaineb al-Khawaja and Daughter
  • MEPP
    • Quartet Principles
    • Funding of Palestinian Institutions
    • Satellite Launch
    • Southern Kordofan / Comprehensive Peace Agreement / SPLA
    • Refugees / Foreign Minister Davutoglu
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 11, 2012


12:45 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Wednesday. I’ve got a brief announcement about upcoming Secretarial travel, and then we’ll go to what’s on your minds.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Colombia, Brazil, and Belgium April 13th to 19th. April 13th to 15th, she will be in Cartagena, Colombia, accompanying the President for the sixth Summit of the Americas meeting.

She’ll then travel April 16th and 17th to Brasilia. This will be for the U.S.-Brazil Global Partnership Dialogue on the 16th and then on the 17th, she’ll give opening remarks at the meeting of the Open Government Partnership, which will be chaired by Brazilian President Rousseff. And during the OGP meeting, 42 new countries will be welcomed into the partnership as they announce concrete commitments to prevent corruption, promote transparency, and harness new technologies to empower citizens.

The Secretary will then go on to Brussels, Belgium. She’ll have a bilateral meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Reynders, and she will participate, along with Secretary Panetta, in a joint session of NATO foreign and defense ministers, which is preparatory to the Chicago NATO summit in May.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

Please. Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: In relation to the Syrian defense ministry announcement that they will cease fire tomorrow and Kofi Annan has received a letter, a similar letter from the Syrian Government.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the announcement. It won’t surprise you if I say that we will judge the Assad regime by what it does, not by what it says. Meanwhile, the violence rages on today.


QUESTION: I have a follow-up question to something you briefed on the other day. It’s about the Danish-Bahrainian citizen who is on hunger strike in Bahrain. And apparently the U.S. is assisting in trying to find a humanitarian solution. Do you have any new info on that matter?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything further to what we said yesterday about our ongoing meetings with the Government of Bahrain. We obviously continue to follow the case, and we remain concerned about his health, and we will continue to raise it with the Bahrainis.

QUESTION: And what is the U.S. interest in this? I mean, why are you assisting?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, there are human rights concerns here, but there are also concerns that he is the – he is a dual citizen, I think, or he’s also a Danish citizen, and our ally Denmark is grateful for our assistance I think.


QUESTION: Thank you. It is regarding the G-8 preparatory meetings. They are undergoing right now.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: If you can tell us something, what is the U.S. position, what is the U.S. looking for, and if Brazil and Mexico are going to attend as a G-8+5 this year?

MS. NULAND: Well, these meetings, which are ministerial meetings preparatory to the summit meetings that the White House will host at Camp David, are being attended just by the eight. So today and tomorrow, it’s just the foreign ministers of the eight countries. They’ve just started. They’re having a lunch, and then the Secretary will have some opening comments at the first plenary session in about an hour, and she’ll go through the agenda for the meetings. But you can be sure they will include all of the hot topics: Syria, North Korea, Iran, obviously the ongoing work of the G-8 in the Deauville Process to support the Arab Spring transitions, etc. But she’ll have more to say about that in about an hour.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Bahrain for one second?


QUESTION: Yesterday I had asked about the status of --

MS. NULAND: Of his daughter. Yes.

QUESTION: Exactly.


QUESTION: Who was arrested and then released. What is her current status, to your knowledge?

MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that Mr. al-Khawaja’s daughter, Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested again over the weekend for protesting. And she was at the Bahraini defense forces hospital when this happened. So we are also continuing to inquire about her case.

QUESTION: And are you – I mean, I think you had just said something like you were aware of it the other day. I mean, you didn’t have a whole lot to say about her case. Do you have any view as to whether her arrest – twice now in a matter of a couple of days, I think in both cases either trying to see or to protest on behalf of her father – is justified?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to precisely what was going on outside the hospital, but the point that we have been making to Bahraini authorities is that we want to ask them to ensure that the treatment of all detainees is in accordance with universal human rights standards and standards of due process.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Quartet meeting? Any --

MS. NULAND: I think we just released to you, in a Media Note, the statement of the Quartet principles. You should have had that just a couple of minutes ago, as soon it was released by the UN. So further to that, I was not in the room, but I understand that it was a very productive meeting. I think the statement makes clear there that the Quartet principles were also briefed and joined by Foreign Minister Judeh of Jordan, who talked about Jordan’s recent engagement with the parties. And you’ll notice that the statement speaks not only of our – of the Quartet principles’ commitment to their own principles from September, which are founded in the President’s speech back in May, but they also talk quite a bit in the statement about the need for continued international support for the institution-building projects of the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION: Just for – not – for the record, we only got this – I mean, we still haven’t gotten it, but it was released by the UN in writing 30 minutes ago and it was read out by the UN spokesman in New York, I think, 10 or 15 minutes before that, so it just – I think it serves all of our interests if you guys can get that stuff to us more quickly.

MS. NULAND: Our agreement with the UN was we would wait for them to read it out, so I think we were about five minutes behind the written statement. I’m sorry we weren’t able to do it quicker.

QUESTION: No. I just – I still don’t have it. I mean, unless I’m --

QUESTION: I don’t think you – unless you guys put it out in the last 30 seconds, it’s not out. But anyway, we --

QUESTION: I don’t have the computer --

QUESTION: -- but anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

QUESTION: Can we go to just one other substantive question about it?


QUESTION: The statement talks about the increasing fragility of the situation. What do they mean by that?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think what we’re talking about is concern about security on the ground, the importance of all sides maintaining security, and also about the importance of funding Palestinian institutions so that they can continue to provide services to the Palestinian people. And you know that our position here has been that it’s very important to empower moderate politicians within the Palestinian political system and to have them be able to deliver services to the Palestinian people as a way of deterring radicalism.

QUESTION: And does the U.S. Government have any plan – does the Administration have any plans to try to direct any of its own money in additional assistance to the Palestinian Authority?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have a considerable program of economic support funds and foreign military support to the Palestinian Authority, which is flowing, so obviously we are very much engaged with that.

QUESTION: So that was going to be one of my questions about this.


QUESTION: So all of it is clear – all of it, from – that had been being held up by the Hill is now gone or on en route?

MS. NULAND: We advised the Hill yesterday of our intention to move all of the money, yes.

QUESTION: But they’re --

QUESTION: What is the – what was the remainder that had not been spent?

MS. NULAND: I think we had about 80 million that hadn’t yet moved.

QUESTION: For the current fiscal year?

MS. NULAND: Correct, correct.

QUESTION: But don’t – there’s – and there’s no objection to that, that you’re aware of?

MS. NULAND: There had been some concerns with regard to the Congress. We had been consulting for many weeks and months. And at the end of those consultations, the Secretary did advise key members of Congress yesterday of our intention to move the money.


QUESTION: Do you have any plans to ask for more money, given that you – I mean, the statement refers to the 1.1 billion that you want to make sure that the international community puts forward. I understand that you’ve finally seek your Congress’s agreement to go forward with the remainder of the money that you’ve already appropriated, but are you looking at providing anything beyond that, given the need and fragility?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that the 1.1 from the world community incorporates the amount that the U.S. had pledged and that the U.S. is now sending. So I don’t think there’s an intention in the short run to ask for more money. I think what we want to do is see all of the other donors also deliver the money that they have pledged.

QUESTION: Sorry, on the 80 million, that was that – you’re not aware of anyone holding that up?

MS. NULAND: We are not.

QUESTION: And that means that was 80 of how much? That was the remainder of the --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have the numbers right here. I think it was 140 in ESF. We’ll get you that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. And the other thing about this statement is that it talks about, as they always do, calling – avoiding actions that can undermine trust and focusing on positive efforts that can strengthen and improve the climate for resumption of direct negotiations. Can you provide some examples of what those positive efforts might be? Would that include a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Fayyad?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you’ve seen in the press, a meeting has been announced, at least by the Israeli side. I don’t know whether the --

QUESTION: Which is – exactly, yes, why I bring it up (inaudible).

MS. NULAND: Yeah, exactly. We would obviously consider that a positive step, and the parties have both talked about additional contacts that they are seeking.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there anything else that you would consider a positive step, anything specifically that you can point to?

MS. NULAND: I think that there are any number of steps that the parties could take to continue to build confidence with each other. The statement also talks – the Quartet statement, when you get it, talks about some additional measures as well.


QUESTION: Can you (inaudible) with the Summit of the Americas?


QUESTION: Do we know who is going to hold bilateral meeting with the Secretary Clinton, besides Colombia, of course? I mean, other countries in the region? And I would like to know if there is any possibility of a bilateral with Venezuela.

MS. NULAND: We have not yet released her bilateral schedule. I don’t – I think we’re still looking at what she will have time to do, but obviously, she will see all of her colleagues in the context of the summit and have a chance to talk to those who are there. I can’t speak to the Venezuelan, however.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Quartet statement?


QUESTION: You reaffirmed it’s the 23 September 2011 statement.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Wasn’t that a statement that said that they should get a deal done in a year?

MS. NULAND: Well, that was the time horizon that the Quartet aspired to.

QUESTION: Right. Is that still --

MS. NULAND: And --

QUESTION: Does – when – so when they reaffirm it, are they still suggesting that they – are they still saying that there should be a deal done by 23 September 2012?

QUESTION: Actually, it was by the end of 2012 so that they would not be --

QUESTION: All right. Well, by the end --

QUESTION: -- so they would not be back at the UN.

QUESTION: Well, whatever. When – is that still the --

MS. NULAND: I mean, that’s obviously the aspiration and the horizon that the Quartet put forward.

QUESTION: Is that realistic?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak to what’s realistic and what isn’t at the moment. What we’re trying to do is get the parties back into direct contact with each other. They’ve talked about some positive steps that they want to make, so I think we have to take it one step at a time.

QUESTION: The 23 September statement was also the statement that said that the parties will meet within a month and will establish their own timelines for moving forward. It also said that they would exchange proposals. None of that came – has come to pass on the timeline that was laid out. And in fact, at the very first meeting, which didn’t take place within a month, I believe, ultimately, they were separate meetings. They didn’t actually meet together initially.

Can you give us any tangible sense of what you are concretely trying to do beyond issuing hortatory statements to actually get the two sides to talk more to one another? And I’m talking not in this instance of Prime Minister Fayyad, but rather the peace negotiations, as you know, are handled by the PLO, if I’m not mistaken. So what are you concretely doing to try to make – to try to bring them back into direct negotiations beyond issuing statements encouraging them to do so?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, all of the Quartet principles and all of their envoys remain in constant contact with the leaders on both sides trying to close the gaps, trying to encourage contacts of different kinds, trying to improve the atmosphere, trying to discourage provocative action one way or the other. So those efforts are obviously going to continue, and they’ll continue as a result of this Quartet meeting, and we’ll keep going with that.


QUESTION: Region change?


QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: I just have two quick questions. The first one is technical. I know Secretary Clinton mentioned several times yesterday that if North Korea does go through with the launch, it’ll be a threat to the region and the regional security. I just wanted to know if she meant to include the U.S. in that or if she’s really just, with those statements, talking about the Asia Pacific region. And --

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we consider ourselves part of the Asia Pacific region, so I think she was clear there.

QUESTION: Okay. And I have one more. Kim Jong-un today was named the first secretary of the Workers’ Party. I know this is more North Korea’s internal thing, but I was just wondering if you had any opinion on that.

MS. NULAND: You couldn’t have said it better. North Korea’s internal thing. I like that.

QUESTION: You often have comments on North Korean internal things.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t today.

QUESTION: Like throwing hundreds of thousands of people in jail, starving people. Nothing on this?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t today.


QUESTION: On Sudan, are you concerned about the situation between --

MS. NULAND: First of all, anything else on North Korea before we move on?

QUESTION: Yeah. Victoria, a South Korean official said that the North appears to be preparing for a third nuclear launch in its northeastern town. Secretary Clinton also suggested the likelihood and said U.S. is willing to – U.S. willing to sharpen its deterrent. And how – can you elaborate on this, how the U.S. would sharpen its deterrent should there be more provocations?

MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what statement of the Secretary you are referring to with regard to the deterrent. I don’t recall her saying that yesterday.

QUESTION: She said if look to history, it’s very likely that the North Koreans would have more provocations in the future and that the U.S. is prepared to consult with its allies and to have more – to exert more deterrent.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously she’s – the comment that she made yesterday was a reflection of the fact that when the North has been provocative, it often comes not just as a single incident, but it sometimes comes in twos and threes. So I think the intention there was to make clear that we are concerned that not only might we have this satellite launch, we might have other provocations as well.

With regard to the deterrent aspects of our regional policy, you know we have our alliance with Japan, we have our alliance with Korea, and we are constantly looking at how we can strengthen security and deterrence in the region.


QUESTION: On Sudan, I understand you are – are you concerned about the situation there, and are you talking to the two parties to avoid a new war?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re very concerned and we will likely have another statement later today which strongly condemns the military offensive incursion into Southern Kordofan state, Sudan by the SPLA today, and also that again condemns the ongoing aerial bombardment of civilian areas by the Sudanese Armed Forces. We’re calling for a cessation of all hostilities by all sides.

Our envoy, Princeton Lyman, has been in touch today with the UN special envoy and the African Union and is also seeking to be in contact with both parties again today. The UN Security Council, I think you know, is being briefed or was briefed this morning on the operations of the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei, discussing peacekeeping operations, et cetera. And as presidency of the UN Security Council this month, we are intent on keeping Sudan very much in – and South Sudan very much in focus.

QUESTION: You, in fact, are coming out and strongly condemning the SPLA today --


QUESTION: -- which is something unusual.


QUESTION: Was it a mistake for the United States to be so supportive of the SPLA and of South Sudan for so many years, if they can’t be trusted to keep an agreement?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think our concern all along has been that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that both sides signed up to has not been implemented. And after independence, there were more things that were supposed to happen. And we’ve made clear that we have concerns about violence along the border region. We have been even-handed; when we see violent behavior by either side, we have called it out. So that’s what we’re doing again today.

Look, there are unresolved conflicts that can only be resolved through dialogue. There are borders that need to be set. There are resources that have to be shared. There are humanitarian reasons for these two states to work together and create a peaceful neighborhood. But it wasn’t peaceful before independence either, so --

QUESTION: No, but do you – are there people who are now a bit concerned or perhaps saying – giving – having second thoughts about whether you should have been so active in supporting the Southern Sudanese?

MS. NULAND: I think the concern is that there has been violence rather than dialogue to settle these issues. And when violence has happened from the North, it’s been met by a violent response, and both sides need to come to the table rather than use weapons on these problems.

Yeah. Please, Scott.

QUESTION: On that, when last we heard from Ambassador Lyman when he had that humanitarian conference call, he was saying that the United States was pushing Khartoum to open these humanitarian corridors. One of the reasons they say that they are not doing that is because of these SPLA attacks in Heglig. So do you think that the actions by the government in Juba are complicating Khartoum’s acceptance of opening humanitarian corridors?

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with Khartoum’s week after week of aerial bombardment of the region. So they’re – they haven’t been angels either in this situation. So this is something that we are calling out here today that we’ve got problems with both sides, and we’re calling for restraint and cessation of violence by all sides.

QUESTION: So it’s a lie? There are no angels in Sudan?

QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria?


QUESTION: Did you have any chance to make a consultation with the senators who visited the region with Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think so. They may have had a chance to talk to our Embassy in Ankara, but I think they’re on their way home today. I don’t think we’ve had a chance to see them yet.

QUESTION: Do you have any update about the situation, about the refugee influx to Turkey? I mean, any number or any update, any development on this issue?

MS. NULAND: No, I would refer you to the Turkish side with regard to any update on numbers.

QUESTION: So I have asked this question yesterday, too. After Ambassador Rice statement of – about the – Annan’s letter, can we say that United States will intensify his efforts to find a solution to this bloodshed in Syria on the UN Security Council platform?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary spoke to this yesterday. Obviously that’s what we are involved with now. We are having intensive discussions in the Security Council. We’re having intensive discussions with our G-8 partners about how we can increase the pressure on the regime.

QUESTION: Is there any timeline, because Ambassador Rice met that it will – the members will face soon about these realities in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, we obviously all appreciate the fact that every day that goes by, we have more Syrian victims. So we’ve got to do all that we can, as fast as we can.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the G-8 meeting.


QUESTION: Do you expect to see any formal outcome documents or statements coming out of this meeting, like a chairman’s statement or a G-8 statement on North Korea or any other issues?

MS. NULAND: We do expect to have a chairman’s statement. It will be released, I would guess, at the end of the meeting tomorrow, late morning, about the time that the Secretary comes out publicly.


QUESTION: One more on the G-8?


QUESTION: And apologies if you dealt with this before I walked in, but is it correct that Foreign Minister Davutoglu is going to have a video conference call with the G-8 foreign ministers?

MS. NULAND: The Secretary has invited Foreign Minister Davutoglu to address the ministers who are in town. It’s not a formal part of the G-8. It’ll be an addition to the G-8. And my understanding is he’ll do it by video conference later this afternoon.

QUESTION: And what do you – is that going to be – is he just going to speak and then that’s it? Or will it actually be – will he be able to talk, and will they be able to answer questions and go back and forth? It’s a conversation more than just him making an address?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. My understanding is that he would plan to brief the group on the concerns that Turkey has and on what it’s seen on its own territory over the last couple of days along the lines of the conversation that he and the Secretary had a couple of days ago on the phone, and then they would have some time for an exchange and some questions back and forth. Then, after that session is over, the ministers will resume the formal G-8. And in the G-8 they have a whole session on the Deauville Process and also the – North Africa and the Middle East.

QUESTION: And do you expect him to address anything other than Turkey’s concerns about Syria during that colloquy?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ll have to see. You know the Turkish extreme concerns about the situation in Syria. So I think he’ll, as a neighboring state, want to give his nation’s views.

QUESTION: So there are plans to read out that video conference this afternoon?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. Why don’t we see how that goes?

QUESTION: The Secretary commented yesterday, has talked with Minister Davutoglu too, probably, right?

MS. NULAND: I think it was yesterday she spoke to him on the phone, might have been Monday. What was the day of the – it was Monday, was the day that we had the violence in Turkey, right? So it was Monday she spoke with him.

QUESTION: Any readout? Any --

MS. NULAND: I think I spoke to it on the day that he spoke about his extreme concern about Syrian forces firing on civilians across – as they were running across the border.

Okay? Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:09 p.m.)