Daily Press Briefing - April 27, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- U.S.-Philippine Dialogue
- World Press Freedom Campaign / Ethiopian Journalists Woubshet Taye and Reyot Alemu
- Annan Plan / UN Monitors / Continued Attacks
- UN Security Council Resolution / Chapter VII Resolution
- Secretary Clinton's Upcoming Travel to India / Nonproliferation Issues
- Ambassador Grossman's Meetings / U.S. Delegation
- Ambassador Powell's Remarks to American Chamber of Commerce
- Parliamentary Review / Ambassador Grossman's Conversations
1:01 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Happy Friday, everybody. I have a number of things at the top. First of all, we want to do a shout-out to CNN Deputy Bureau Chief Edith Chapin, who is leaving CNN and heading to NPR where she’s going to lead international coverage. We do this not only because she’s a long-time international reporter, but also because Edith is a member of the Foreign Service family. Her father, Frederick Chapin, served as Ambassador to Guatemala. So good luck to Edith as she moves on.
Next, with regard to the U.S.-Philippine dialogue, as our Pentagon brothers have already announced, Secretaries Clinton and Panetta look forward to welcoming Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario and Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin from the Philippines to Washington on April 30th for our first 2+2 U.S.-Philippine dialogue. This follows Secretary Clinton’s visit to Manila in November of last year and our second bilateral strategic dialogue at the assistant secretary level in January.
You missed it, Jill. We just did our shout-out to Edith. (Laughter.)
Okay, and then lastly at the top, our journalist of the day for our World Press Freedom campaign, today we’re highlighting two journalists from Ethiopia – Woubshet Taye and Reyot Alemu. Both reporters were jailed in 2009 for – under the Ethiopian antiterrorism proclamation. They had both written articles critical of the Ethiopian Government’s policies. They were arrested in June 2011. They were tried and convicted and sentenced to 14 years on terrorism-related charges. We call on the Government of Ethiopia to review the cases of these two journalists and ensure that antiterrorism law is not used to undermine freedom of expression and an independent media.
Let’s go onto what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if you could bring us up to date on the results of your contest.
MS. NULAND: On our contest? Which contest?
QUESTION: Yeah. I was under the impression that your diplomatic missions in China were competing to collect the greatest number of Chinese political dissidents or figures. Who’s winning, Chengdu or Beijing?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you. And we have no such contest, as you can imagine.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Chen Guangcheng is at the Embassy or at least in the custody of the United States?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that subject.
QUESTION: Nothing at all?
MS. NULAND: Nothing at all.
QUESTION: Can you say more generally about Chen Guangcheng – the Secretary has spoken out about him in the past. Do you have concerns about his current situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have spoken out about his case in the past.
QUESTION: Do you have current concerns about where he is and how he’s being treated?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that subject.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary, on the trip, plan to speak or meet with him – speak about him or meet with him?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on this issue at all.
QUESTION: You can’t even say that you’re still – you’re concerned about him?
MS. NULAND: I did say that we have concerns. We have always had concerns about this case.
QUESTION: No. You said, “We have spoken out about his case.”
MS. NULAND: Well, we have expressed concern in the past about his case.
QUESTION: Are you continuing to express concerns to the Chinese about this case?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything current on this issue today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, two Administration nominees came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – no, sorry – Senate Committee on Armed Services, testified that they believed the Annan plan is failing. Is that the Administration’s official stance now?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we can all see that it is the Assad regime that is failing to meet its obligations under the six-point plan. And as a result, the plan as a whole is failing thus far. That doesn’t change the fact that we continue to put the onus on Assad to meet his commitments, allow these monitors to come in, allow them to do their job, and fulfill all of the six points. And that’s what the pressure is based on, and that’s what our continued effort to get the monitors in is based on.
QUESTION: Won’t that complicate your effort to get monitors in, though? Because why should countries put their citizen-soldiers in the line of fire or in potential danger, at the very least, when it’s in defense of a plan that you say is failing?
MS. NULAND: We’ve said that it is failing thus far because Assad has not put his – met the obligations that he has made to Kofi Annan. So the point is – and I think we were all concerned and skeptical about whether he would do that from the beginning – there’s no question that the UN is playing an absolutely essential role, that these monitors are playing an essential role, in trying to push out the open space. And where they have been able to get in, they have created space for oppositionists to come out, for people – for Syrian citizens to express themselves peacefully. You’ve seen the crowds where they’ve been able to appear. So absolutely, it is an issue of concern, but we very much support the effort to continue to try to get them in, but it is incumbent on Assad to make the conditions possible on the ground for them to do their work.
QUESTION: Can I just try to clarify --
MS. NULAND: It’s an issue of concern – you mean the difficulty recruiting monitors or getting them in? I wasn’t clear what you meant.
MS. NULAND: We spoke about this yesterday. I mean, we are – the UN is having success in recruiting monitors. In fact, they are vetting a large number of volunteers now. I think there are concerns not only that we vet them well, but that we’ve had this argument with the Assad regime about who can monitor, but more importantly, once they arrive in Syria, they need to be able to move wherever they want to go, speak to whomever they want to speak to, communicate securely and openly back both among themselves and with headquarters. So there are many issues of concern here, starting with the fact that Assad hasn’t silenced his guns.
QUESTION: So Toria, then I guess it’s fair to say that it has not failed in your estimation and that you are willing to give it some time?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s failed to meet its objectives because Assad isn’t living up to his half of the bargain. So we are going to keep pushing, we are going to keep pressuring, we are going to keep encouraging the monitors to deploy as much as they can. But as we’ve said all along, we’re going to have to watch this day-by-day and see how it goes.
QUESTION: But Victoria, how do you verify that it is the Assad regime that keeps breaking the ceasefire, that the onus is on the regime, that there are not really some armed groups that may be breaking – I’m not suggesting they are, but the possibility exists that the armed groups keep violating the ceasefire – how do you verify that this is the case?
MS. NULAND: Well, it remains our assessment that the bulk of the violations of the ceasefire pledge are coming from the regime side. There is ample evidence of continued artillery fire, continued attacks, opposition activists being rounded up the minute that the UN monitors leave the site, et cetera. There is no question that as a result of the violence, you have people trying to defend themselves, you may have other forces exploiting the continued instability, but it is still laid at Assad’s doorstep that he has not silenced his guns, and therefore we don’t have peace in Syria.
QUESTION: I understand. Is the evidence – you said there is plenty of evidence – is the evidence gathered and collected by independent, American assets on the ground?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know from some of the overhead photography that we’ve been able to share on the website of Ambassador Ford, we have our own means of monitoring the situation on the ground, but we also are in contact with a broad cross-section of civilian personnel in Syria. Many of the contacts that Ambassador Ford had, that the Embassy had, as well as all of the NGO and human rights groups that we stay in contact with. So --
QUESTION: And lastly, in your opinion, what is really holding the deployment of the monitors? What is holding it? Why couldn’t they, like, move them all at once, for instance? I mean, 300 people – that’s not a big number. Or in two batches – why does it take so long, like three weeks to deploy 12 people?
MS. NULAND: Well, that’s a question that you should primarily address to the UN, but our understanding of the situation is that first and foremost they had to be found and recruited, and you can’t just take Joe Shmoe off the street, you have to take somebody who has experience and training in monitoring, understands UN standards, understands their obligations in terms of human rights training, et cetera. They then have to – the UN has to negotiate with each one of the governments who are sending personnel and sign contracts with them. In some cases, the sending governments also have to put the agreements through their parliament or other processes. And then you have to get people moved from where they are to where they’re going.
So the UN reports that they’ve had an ample number of volunteers, that they are vetting them, that they are working at top speed to try to vet folks, but we’ve also had other difficulties involved with the Assad regime trying to veto or pick and choose among nationalities. So there are many issues here but the UN is doing its best to get them in as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: And Toria, just so I understand, it feels like a work in progress.
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: In other words, I guess what you’re saying is, you haven’t said that it has failed overall, but so far it’s failed to meet its objectives, which almost sounds like the same thing but I guess probably isn’t. Is there a moment – it just feels as if it’s going to stretch out for a very long time even in the preparation of the people who go there. So is there a moment where you have a line – you’ve talked about this before --
MS. NULAND: We have.
QUESTION: -- a line where you say, “That’s it. It’s not going to work. Forget it.”?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, the UN Security Council resolution authorizing this has a 90-day duration. So UNSC 2043 gives 90 days. As we’ve said here a number of times, we are watching this day-by-day; we are watching it week-by-week. And we’re all going to have to make a judgment as to whether this is achieving the objective overall or whether it is actually creating more difficulty and harm. Where we are now is to frankly say that it is not meeting its objectives but to put the responsibility for that at the feet of Assad, to continue to pressure him, and to continue to encourage the UN to do what it can to deploy monitors, and, as we have more, to see what happens.
QUESTION: When you say creating – it possibly could be creating more harm, are you talking about the fact that when the monitors leave some of these areas, the violence is actually increasing?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think net we still have a lower level of violence overall across Syria than we had before the Annan plan was agreed to. But we do have concerns of the kind that you mentioned Cami and of the kind I stated at the beginning. So I think the concern is if there is violence against monitors, if we see more of this kind of retribution and assaults on populations after the monitors have been in places, and if Assad draws the wrong conclusions, that rather than implementing his commitments, he can play some kind of a game where there are monitors here and there’s violence there. So we just have to watch how it goes.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. seeking to have Americans as part of this monitoring contingent inside Syria?
MS. NULAND: We are not planning to have American monitors. We are obviously supporting this mission financially and we’re prepared to support it logistically as we evaluate its needs.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. NULAND: Said first.
QUESTION: Yeah, regarding the monitors --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I want to go on and revisit the issue of the monitors. I asked this at the beginning of the week. I asked whether 300, in your estimate, is enough while other experiences show that you actually need more than a thousand or maybe two thousand, like the Balkans. So if it’s so difficult to deploy a dozen – it’s been so difficult to deploy a dozen, how are you going to be able to help in deploying such a large number that may be needed to ensure that violence is actually at much lower level than was suggested.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think you’ve heard the UN talk about trying to be at the level of 30, by the end of the weekend, trying to be at the level of a hundred within a month. So we have to see what 300 brings in terms of security, we have to just evaluate it day by day.
QUESTION: And lastly, just to follow up on Jill’s question, the Secretary of State said that we are at crossroads at --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- the beginning of this week. So what exactly – we’re at a crossroads. So we are at a point where things may go either way, right?
MS. NULAND: I think that’s absolutely right. That’s what she said in Paris, that’s what she said at the beginning of the week, that either this Annan plan works or we’re going to have to be back in the Security Council increasing the pressure.
QUESTION: So is it fair to assume that within this 90 days, your emphasis only on the monitors and consequentially you’re not in the business of joining the other – France and other who calling for a resolution under the Chapter VII?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary made clear that if, in fact, this plan fails definitively, we are going to be back in the UN. With regard to the 90 days, that’s the scope that the UN has given before it reevaluates the mission. But frankly, we will – could very well have to draw our own conclusions well before that.
So – please, Nicole. Still Syria?
QUESTION: No. I want to go back to China.
QUESTION: Could we --
QUESTION: Well, could I just ask – draw our own conclusions?
MS. NULAND: My point being I don’t want to leave --
QUESTION: The U.S. or the UN?
MS. NULAND: I don’t want to leave the impression that we’re just going to sit here for 90 days. We are evaluating the effectiveness of this mission on a day-by-day basis. And I think if we and our partners and allies in this conclude, as I said before, that having it run 90 days is not a good idea, then we’re going to have to consider that.
QUESTION: So that was a collective “we,” not your --
MS. NULAND: Of course, of course, of course, of course, of course, of course.
QUESTION: Okay. Just wanted to make sure.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Toria, can you talk a little about those additional steps that you would consider taking for what – I mean, with regards to Syria at the UN Security Council, I guess, provided there is no real appetite for the Chapter VII resolution, at least on the part of the Russians?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think if we have failure – complete failure – of the plan that we all endorsed and that we all tried to use our influence to get the various stakeholders in Syria to support, then we’re going to have to go back to New York. And that will be the case that we will make to other UN Security Council members.
As the Secretary said in Paris, that the time has come for a Chapter VII resolution that includes sanctions – travel sanctions, financial sanctions, an arms embargo, and as much pressure as we can all bring to bear. So that is the roadmap that she’s laid out. That speaks to her message that we are at a crossroads; we either get this thing to succeed or we’re all going to have to do more, and that’ll be our message to other UN Security Council members.
Goyal. Still on Syria?
QUESTION: Another subject.
MS. NULAND: I – go ahead.
QUESTION: India and Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: It was first India who tested for the long-range missile, and now Pakistan is planning to test a long-range missile in the Indian Ocean. My question is that it now looks like the relations between the two countries will go back to 10 years back after the nuclear test by both countries.
Is U.S. playing any role in this? There might be a race between the two countries about the missile test and other materials of mass destruction because, according to Indian officials, they are courting China, but according to the Pakistani press, they are courting India.
MS. NULAND: Goyal, we spoke about the various tests at the time that they happened. I’m not going to get into hypothetical scenarios that may or may not happen coming forward. The Secretary, as you know, will be in India, both in Delhi and in Calcutta. She’ll have a chance in the context of our bilateral dialogue to talk about the full range of issues, including nonproliferation issues.
QUESTION: And one more issue.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as the situation in Pakistan, if you are monitoring, because Secretary Grossman, he met and had trilateral meetings and press conferences and all that. Now according to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Pakistan’s current prime minister, Mr. Gillani, is no longer a prime minister or he was convicted. So where you think – because there is a chaos between the parties and also inside Pakistan on this issue.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think your information is inaccurate. There was a court decision. He was given a 30-second sentence, I believe, and he remains the prime minister of Pakistan. And as such, we continue to work with him, and Ambassador Grossman did meet with him in Pakistan.
QUESTION: Also on Pakistan, bin Ladin, the deportation of bin Ladin’s wives and kids – does the U.S. have anything to say about that? Is that something that the United States sees as appropriate, for them to be sent back to Saudi?
MS. NULAND: We see that as a matter between the Pakistanis and the Saudis.
QUESTION: On Ambassador Grossman’s trip, did he discuss much restarting talks with the Taliban? I mean – and I’m actually a little bit unclear. Did they ever really stop, or did we just stop hearing about them?
MS. NULAND: Well, first on Ambassador Grossman’s trip more generally, I was asked yesterday what agencies were represented on our delegation and on their delegation, so let me just clarify that on the U.S. side, we had representatives from State Department, obviously, Department of Defense, National Security staff, and members of the intelligence community. On the Pakistani side, we had representatives from the ministry of foreign affairs, defense, finance, interior, and others. Ambassador Grossman also met with President Zardari, as I said, with Prime Minister Gillani, and with Foreign Minister Khar. And he also gave a press conference in Islamabad that I would draw your attention to.
With regard to reconciliation, obviously they – we talked bilaterally about where we are. They also talked about it in the core group meeting, Afghanistan, Pakistan. But I think you know that we have a situation where the Taliban have not decided whether they want to participate. They’re in a pause phase, so they know what they need to do if they want to move this forward.
QUESTION: One more quickly. As far as Secretary Grossman’s visit to Pakistan is concerned, you think the (inaudible) of the route for the U.S. fly to Afghanistan will be open now? I mean, have they reached any agreement opening of those routes?
MS. NULAND: There were no agreements reached today. As Ambassador Grossman said in Islamabad, this is the beginning of the reengagement conversation. We’re going to have to work through these issues, and it’s going to take some time.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else? Good. Thanks, everybody.
Oh. Sorry, Shaun. Go ahead.
QUESTION: A couple of things. The --
MS. NULAND: He’s so gentle that we almost closed it down on him. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton met this morning – or at least was scheduled to meet – with the CEO of Twitter, Mr. Costolo. I don’t know if you have a readout about whatever they discussed. Was it information – freedom of information issues? What was the nature of the conversation?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, many of our ambassadors and embassies use Twitter, but I think I’m not going to get into the details of an American-American conversation.
QUESTION: Hold on. Can I just ask why not?
MS. NULAND: What? Well, I don’t have anything particular to read out. If I come – if there’s anything that she wants to read out from it, we’ll let you know.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Just – one more quickly on India.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: U.S.-India Energy Dialogue is going on in Washington, and also U.S.-India Business Council honored the newly appointed Ambassador to India, Madam Nancy Powell, and which is a – she’s already in India now. What she spoke at the U.S.-India Business Council was that U.S.-India will engage more in – as far as economy, trade, and bilateral and other issues are concerned. Where do we stand on this energy issue, which India is still waiting for the U.S. approval for a civil nuclear agreement?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to Ambassador Powell’s first visit to the chamber, it’s a great set of remarks, and I would draw everybody’s attention to it as we prepare for the Secretary’s trip to India. I’m confident that we’ll be talking about the issues that you raised, Goyal. I think you know where we are on this, that we are looking for some more steps on the Indian side.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: During Grossman’s meeting with the (inaudible) official in Islamabad, Pakistan has turned down U.S. request to restore NATO supply line. My question is: How long are we going to wait to restore normalization of the relationship? Doesn’t it – does it – looks like it’s a complete failure of U.S. diplomacy that it’s almost four months and they’re still talking about it. Will we ever able to resolve this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I think you remember the calendar here, that Pakistan did its own internal review – parliamentary review. Out of respect for that, we didn’t engage on some of these issues for some period of time until Pakistan was finished with that review. That review is now completed and we are in the reengagement phase. This was a first meeting of our interagency team with their interagency team. And as I said, it’s going to take some more work to work through these issues, and what’s most important is that we do it together.
QUESTION: But they are saying that Washington needs to apologize on NATO strike on November 26th. They are very clear about it. That’s the only thing they’re talking about. So how can we move forward from there?
MS. NULAND: Again, this was a first engagement. Ambassador Grossman spoke to the fact that the meetings were productive, but we’ve got more work to do together.
QUESTION: Sorry, just on this.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because you say the meetings were productive. Can you describe how were they productive? I mean, were they productive in the sense that one side didn’t storm out yelling at the other side? I mean, if they didn’t accomplish anything, which is – which we – didn’t come to any agreements, how was this productive?
MS. NULAND: They were able to work through all of the issues on the bilateral agenda and set some terms for continuing the discussion. This is going to take some time so --
QUESTION: I thought – I understand, but I thought you said they didn’t work through anything.
MS. NULAND: I said that they – the conversations focused on all of the following things, which are in Ambassador Grossman’s press conference. We talked about this yesterday. They talked about reopening the ground lines of communication; they talked about settling outside – outstanding claims for coalition support funds; they talked about the counterterrorism agenda writ large; they talked about increasing market access; they talked about the economic and assistance relationship; they talked about support for Afghanistan.
It’s going to take some more time and many more conversations before we are able to come to a common way forward on some of the issues that have been most difficult in the last period. And frankly, there weren’t expectations on our side that we would have agreements. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. That’s fair. Did they talk about this apology that the Pakistanis want?
MS. NULAND: They talked about the full range of counterterrorism issues that we have. As you know, Ambassador Grossman, again, offered our regrets for the incident.
QUESTION: But does that include – that’s included in that?
MS. NULAND: Yes. I would assume that they talked --
QUESTION: And you also assume --
MS. NULAND: -- about the incident and that’s what started all of this. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And it should – and would you also assume that the topic that you can’t talk about was also – is also included in the full range of counterterrorism?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.
QUESTION: Hi. (Inaudible) – on the Secretary’s trip to China next week, are you expecting Bo Xilai’s case to come up at all? And will you be talking to them about Wang – about how Wang is being handled after he was – moved on from the consulate?
MS. NULAND: I think we will have to see where the conversations go. We have had consultations with the Chinese on these issues. I would – it’s not clear to me whether we have more to discuss on that front or not.
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: And have you – sorry, on the same issue – anything further about any approaches from anyone – from Bo Guagua or anyone on his behalf to any American authorities about his status here after his student visa expires?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Can you explain why the conference call has been postponed until Monday? The official – were the officials who were going to be on the call decide that they just didn’t want to spend an entire – the entire call not answering questions of – that likely were to be raised?
MS. NULAND: I think we thought that it would be better to do it a little closer to travel. And we’re not traveling until Monday night. Okay.
QUESTION: So that’s the --
MS. NULAND: Yes. Yeah. Okay? Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)
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