Daily Press Briefing - May 16, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Technical Discussions Continuing
    • Defense Minister Barak Visit to Pentagon
    • U.S. Policy on Settlements Well-Known
    • Secretary's Calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas
    • Appropriate Venue for Contesting Adoption Case in State Courts of U.S. / Privacy, Legal Concerns
    • Non-Lethal Support to Civilian Members of the Opposition / Coordinating with Friends of the Syrian People
    • Elections / Electoral Commission
    • Continue to be in Regular, Frequent Contact with Chen / Visa
    • U.S. Continues to Support Right to Peaceful Protest / U.S. Wants to See Peaceful Resolution Through Dialogue
  • MALI
    • Continuing Concerns / Concerns ECOWAS-Brokered Deal May Be Breaking Down
    • Executive Order
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 16, 2012


12:42 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Wednesday, everyone. The only thing I have at the top is to welcome our four radio journalists from Uruguay. Welcome to the briefing room. Let us go to what is on your minds.

QUESTION: Can – well, it’s the same thing for the last two days: Pakistan and the agreement. Is there one or is there not one? There seem to be some reports out of Islamabad that there is one, and there seem to be some numerous officials here saying that there isn’t one yet. What’s the deal?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said yesterday, our technical discussions with the Pakistanis are continuing. We have had some progress. We’ve also had some very helpful and positive political statements out of Pakistan, some political moves. The – but while the Pakistani political leadership hasn’t yet authorized the reopening of the ground transportation routes, we understand that they did endorse the conclusion of the negotiations. That said, the negotiations are still ongoing, so we’re not done yet.

QUESTION: Well, so that just – how do you endorse the --

QUESTION: Yeah. So what does that mean? Endorse meaning the conclusion of the negotiations? Aren’t the negotiations ongoing? It seems like a statement of the blindly obvious.

MS. NULAND: They have authorized their team, as I understand it, to come to conclusion with our team. That doesn’t change the fact that we haven’t yet come to conclusion on all of the issues. So they are giving a positive signal is how we read this, that they want this agreement to be concluded. But there are a number of technical issues that we are still working through, including today. As you know, we’ve had this team working in Pakistan for some three weeks, and they’re continuing to work through the issues.

QUESTION: Well, see in – I mean, in every other negotiation that I have ever tried to cover – which is not easy – the line is that it’s not done until it’s all done.

MS. NULAND: It is not done until it’s all done.

QUESTION: Well, then what is this “They’ve authorized the conclusion” if there is no conclusion yet?

MS. NULAND: Again, they have – I read this, we read this as they are sending a political signal to us, they’re sending a political signal to their own negotiating team that they would like to see this wrapped up. That doesn’t change the fact that we still haven’t closed all the issues. So they see some urgency. We see some urgency. But the negotiators have to finish it.

QUESTION: Okay. And what is the urgency? Is the urgency to get it done by Chicago?

MS. NULAND: The urgency is to be able to support Afghanistan from Pakistan. This is --

QUESTION: Well, I understand, but, I mean, this has been going on for six months. So what’s the urgency now? The urgency is to get it done before the summit, right?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we are making progress. We are close. The negotiators have a number of issues that need to be finished. So there’s a sense that getting it finished is now a timely thing to do. We’ve been wanting to get it finished for some time.

QUESTION: Right. Well, you also wanted to get the --

QUESTION: Wouldn’t you like to have it done by Chicago?

MS. NULAND: Well, we would have liked to have had it done for – never to have encountered this situation. Let’s put it that way.

QUESTION: I know, but Pakistanis would like for their more than two dozen soldiers not to have been killed, but we’re not talking about what you would have liked. I mean, isn’t it fair to say you’d like it to be done by Chicago?

MS. NULAND: We’ve said from the very beginning that if we can get it done by Chicago, that will send a powerful signal of support from Pakistan to Afghanistan and to its larger support for the ISAF mission. That said, it’s not done till it’s done.

QUESTION: Then why – what are roughly the remaining issues? Do they have to do with the amount of payments for access? I mean, what is it down to? Is it money? Is it the rate of flow through? What are the issues?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to be inside the negotiators’ heads from the podium. Some of these issues are well known and have been difficult in the past. But until it’s done, I think we can’t really speak to the details.

QUESTION: What about Pakistan, the statement that came out after the defense coordination committee meeting yesterday has made those demands very clear. There are three specific demands. They’re making it seem that arms and ammunition will not be allowed to be transported in those trucks. They’re saying that the outstanding coalition support fund of 2.1 billion should be transferred to Pakistan before budget, which is next month. And they are apparently stepping back from the demand of an apology. So are all those demands acceptable to you?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think it’s helpful, we don’t think it’s helpful to negotiate this in public from the podium. These are the kinds of issues and other issues that our negotiating teams are working through, but we’re not going to negotiate it from here.

QUESTION: But that is clear that an apology is not being made anymore?

MS. NULAND: Again, we spoke about this yesterday. The technical team is involved in technical issues. We’ve spoken before about this other issue.


QUESTION: Can we switch topic?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Going to the Palestinian issue?


QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli. According to Palestinian and Israeli press reports, the defense minister who is on – currently on a visit to the United States --

MS. NULAND: Who is?

QUESTION: Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Israeli radio that there’s only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and that is the state of Israel. And then he said – he actually announced his refusal of a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967. Do you have a comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, Said, I haven’t seen any comments from Defense Minister Barak. You’re right; he will come and be the guest of the Pentagon. I think it’s tomorrow. But having not seen what he said, I’m certainly not going to get into a back and forth. I think you know where we are.


MS. NULAND: I think that we are working on getting these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: Well, he also said in the same report to the Israeli radio that they will annex two settlements, Ofra and Beit el, which is in the center of the West Bank. Is the Secretary likely to meet with him?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think there are plans for the Secretary to see the defense minister. I think some of our people may be involved in the meetings, but I don’t think that’s our plan for the Secretary to see him. Our policy on settlements is well known, it’s not going to change, and I’m sure it’ll be reiterated in these meetings.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, he’s meeting with a high U.S. official, American official. Is this issue likely to be raised?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that, frankly. It’s not --

QUESTION: And lastly, Mr. Abbas said today that there is some movement, that the United States has taken some lead on some movement perhaps on the peace process. Could you share with us anything along those lines?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just, if you didn’t get a chance to see it, call your attention to the interview that --

QUESTION: Right. I saw it.

MS. NULAND: -- the Secretary did yesterday with Richard Wolf of USA Today where she spoke about her phone calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, that she was encouraged that the new Israeli coalition talked about having furtherance of the peace process as one of its goals, where she felt that she got a positive signal as well in her phone call from President Abbas about his willingness to engage seriously. So I think these are the kinds of things that we’re hoping will lay some good groundwork as well as the exchange of letters.

QUESTION: There’s also a new Palestinian government that includes three women. Is – do you see this – the new government, the Israeli Government and new Palestinian government as perhaps part of that larger scenario to get things moving?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we just spoke to the commitment by the new Israeli coalition, which we consider positive. Frankly, I haven’t seen any statements from the new Palestinian government yet. Obviously, who they choose for their government is an internal matter.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Jill.

QUESTION: Can we return to the issue of the Guatemala girl who was kidnapped?


QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure – I know yesterday you said that the Hague Convention on Abduction was not in force between the two countries at the time of her abduction. And some people who are supporting her cause say that there should be – that there are actually other agreements, other treaties, that would require the United States to return somebody who had been trafficked. Is that the case? Are there other treaties that might trump the lack of that?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, they’re making an assertion of trafficking in order to bind this case to other agreements. Our view remains that, at the time, this appeared to be a legitimate adoption. So again, our preferred course of action would be for any claims to be pursued in the state courts of the United States.

QUESTION: And so there is no other recourse? I know it has to be settled legally, but when you look at what appears to be the case, that this child was kidnapped in some form, there’s no other resolution other than the court in the United States?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me also say, as I should have said at the outset and as I should have said yesterday, there are obviously privacy concerns related to this, there are legal concerns related to this. But beyond that, our view of this is that the appropriate venue for contesting this or cases like this would be in the state courts.


QUESTION: Just a quick one on North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Japanese media is reporting that the U.S. will meet with officials from Japan and South Korea and Seoul this weekend to discuss North Korea, and the report said that Glyn Davies would be attending. Could you confirm this?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that. I know he was planning travel, but I don't know whether the dates you have are right, so let me take that. Okay?


QUESTION: Yeah. Just moving to Syria, there are reports that Syrian rebels are getting more weapons and better weapons right now. The United States says that it’s providing Gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure. What exactly is the United States giving?

MS. NULAND: First of all, can you tell me who you are? I don’t think we’ve met before.

QUESTION: Oh, (inaudible) from Al Jazeera English.

MS. NULAND: Ah, welcome. So Ros is out?


MS. NULAND: Excellent. First of all, I don't know what you are quoting from --

QUESTION: This is from The Washington Post.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, that particular piece of journalism I think stretched the – stretched its sourcing; let’s put it that way. Our view, our position on this, has not changed. There is a statement there from a senior Administration official which makes clear exactly where we are and exactly where we aren’t, and the Secretary has spoken to this many times.

The United States has made a decision to provide nonlethal support to civilian members of the opposition. This is things like medical equipment. This is communications, things to help them, first of all, deal with the humanitarian aspects but also to help them to communicate better so that they can plan and be ready for the period of transition that we expect and want to see in Syria. But with regard to any assertions with regard to lethal, we are not involved in that.

QUESTION: Can I just – what were you talking – I only saw one. There seems to be two, maybe. Which report stretched the sourcing?

MS. NULAND: He was quoting back to me from a particular piece in The Washington Post today asserting that --

QUESTION: Oh, okay.


QUESTION: And then you mentioned a quote from – a senior Administration official was quoted in that story. What did that senior official say?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’ll refer you back to the story, but essentially made clear once again that our support is in the nonlethal area; that as we are supporting in the nonlethal area, we are also coordinating with friends and allies and partners.

QUESTION: Now, can you imagine any reason why a senior Administration official would have to say something so banal under cover of anonymity?

MS. NULAND: I think there was a concern that there was a – there were all kinds of rumors --

QUESTION: Since you’ve just repeated it on the record, I’m not sure exactly why it was --

MS. NULAND: You mean why it wasn’t done on the record?


MS. NULAND: Well, we concluded today that given some of the wild reporting out there, we should do it on the record. Okay? Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. NULAND: Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you mean that the U.S. supports the Arab states or Arab Gulf states to provide arms to the Syrian Free Army or to the Syrian opposition?

MS. NULAND: Michel, we’ve been through this many, many times here. The Secretary has spoken to it. Our decision is to support the civilian opposition in nonlethal ways. There are other countries who have made other decisions. That’s their sovereign decision to make. We’ve made our decision.

QUESTION: But are you aware that some Arab states are providing arms to the Syrian opposition?

MS. NULAND: We are obviously consulting with various states about the decisions that we’ve made, that they’ve made. But – and they’ve been quite clear – some of them in public, in fact – about their decisions.


QUESTION: Yeah, but just – I mean, (inaudible) on that, so the U.S. just said it provides nonlethal support, but also is what? Coordinating? Or what is it doing with the allies that are providing?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is – these were assertions that were unsubstantiated in this report.


MS. NULAND: We are providing our own nonlethal support. We are coordinating broadly with all the Friends of the Syrian People, including those who have made other decisions, about how we can best assure that maximum support goes to the civilian opposition that is preparing itself for a peaceful democratic transition when we can get to that point, and we hope that point is as soon as possible, and we hope Assad will get out of the way so it can happen.

QUESTION: But that is kind of a broad concept. I mean, coordinating with --

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- the allies. So it could be anything from let’s just talk about what’s good for the Syrian people, to saying, “You provide weapons to this particular group, you provide weapons to there, we’re not going to get involved –”

MS. NULAND: This is a loose coordination mechanism. Let’s put it that way.

QUESTION: Deliberately?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Yeah. But the senior person who decided to harp on this issue says: We are coordinating our efforts with friends and allies in the region and beyond in order to have the biggest impact on what we are collectively doing.

MS. NULAND: I will stand by that statement.

QUESTION: Okay. But you do find that the flow of arms into Syria disturbing?

MS. NULAND: We have said from the very beginning that we are not providing arms. We don’t think that adding fuel to this fire is the right way to go. That said, we do understand that there are Syrians who, in self-defense, have taken up arms because it is the Assad regime that is leading the violence that we are seeing. And so we’ve seen people defend their homes.

QUESTION: But certainly the United States wields a great deal of influence on its allies – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Corporation Council. Couldn’t you lean on them to stop providing arms to Syrian rebels?

MS. NULAND: Said, I think we’ve talked about this many times. We’ve made our decision. Other countries are making a different decision.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on one thing?


QUESTION: You said – in response to Said, you said we don’t think that adding fuel to this fire – closed quote – is the right thing to do. Can you then say that your loose coordination with other nations does not involve their arming the Syrian rebels? I mean, since you don’t think it’s a good idea, presumably you’re not coordinating with them about this bad idea that they are pursuing, correct?

MS. NULAND: Arshad, I think I’ve said what I’m going to say about our diplomatic discussions with all of the Friends of Syria who are making their own national decisions about how they think they can best influence this situation.

QUESTION: So despite your believing that it is wrong to add fuel to the fire by arming the opposition or rebels, you cannot say on the record, however, that you are not discussing or coordinating with other nations on their arming? You can’t just rule that out on the record if it’s a bad idea that you’re coordinating – you can’t say no, we’re not doing that?

MS. NULAND: What I’ve said is, in the context of our two-track strategy, first, maximum pressure on the Assad regime through sanctions, through political pressure, through support for the Annan plan, and our other track, which is to support the peaceful opposition in preparing for a democratic transition. We are – all of us in the Friends of Syria – talking openly about the programs that we each have to achieve those objectives, whether you’re talking about sanctions, assistance, et cetera. That is what the Friends of the Syrian people is about. It’s about coordinating, and that --

QUESTION: Well, maybe you can answer it this way: Are you discouraging other countries from doing – from going through with this idea that you think is bad? Or have you just said, “Well, they can do it – if they want to do it, they can do it, but we’re not going to get involved?” Are you actively telling them, “Hey, we think this is a bad idea and it shouldn’t be done?”

MS. NULAND: Again, we are making our views known about what we think needs to be done, and we are listening to them about the choices that they are making. I think, guys, we’ve really come to the end of this one.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: One more, because apparently much of these arms are – they flow through Lebanon, and using Lebanon as a relay station for arms is really a bad thing, because that – it’s like a powder keg. Don’t you – aren’t you concerned that the flow of arms through Lebanon could create other problem as we have seen in the past?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think there is reporting of this kind of activity all the way around, right? So it’s not a matter of us endorsing or not endorsing one route or another; it’s a matter of our making our own national decision about what we think the best way to support the people of Syria and their democratic future is. Other countries are making their own decisions. I can’t speak to the decisions that they are making.

QUESTION: But do you agree with their decision?

MS. NULAND: Again, Michel, they are making their own sovereign decisions. I think we’ve done this one. Let’s move on.

QUESTION: Another topic?


QUESTION: Colombia.


QUESTION: Has the State Department a comment about the terrorist attack yesterday in Bogota against Former Minister Fernando Londono?

MS. NULAND: I am naked on that one. I’m going to take it, and we’ll get back to you later today, okay?

QUESTION: You routinely take positions on other countries’ sovereign national decisions, don’t you?

MS. NULAND: When it suits us, yes, we do. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. So – all right. So then – so in other words, you’re just choosing to stay opaque on this whole arming of the Syrian rebels thing. You don’t want the world – you want the world to know that you’re against it, but you’re not quite sure that you want the world to know that you’re telling other countries either not to do it or you’re saying to them go ahead and do it.

MS. NULAND: I’m going to let you write your own analysis into your story, Matt.

Scott, was there something there?

QUESTION: Yeah. Egypt? The presidential elections.


QUESTION: The elections next week will have far fewer international observers than the parliamentary elections. Does that concern you about the validity of that process?

MS. NULAND: Frankly, I’m not sure whether your facts are right, whether in fact there will be fewer. I think we are still trying to get further information from the various witnessing entities about how many that we’re going to have. So I think we shouldn’t judge the monitoring mission until we see how it goes.

QUESTION: The electoral commission that’s responsible for conducting that election, its rulings on the validity of the vote apparently will be un-appealable. Any concerns about that as a foundation for an election?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asserting things that I’m not sure are accurate. So I think we are, as a general matter, encouraged not only that parliamentary elections were broadly witnessed but that these elections are going to be broadly witnessed. I think we are continuing to call on the election – electoral commission to do its job and meet the expectations of the Egyptian people that this will be free, it’ll be fair, it’ll be transparent, that there will be appropriate recourse if there are concerns and that that’ll be a transparent process as well.

QUESTION: I was going to just ask if there was any update on Mr. Chen in Beijing.

MS. NULAND: Beyond what we said yesterday, that we continue to be in regular, frequent contact with him, I don’t have anything new to report, that he continues to work with his government on the appropriate arrangements. Our understanding is that continues today.

QUESTION: And his visa is still waiting to be picked up as soon as he gets it, as soon as he --

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes? Yes? So --

MS. NULAND: We are – as I said yesterday, we are ready when he is ready.

QUESTION: Okay. So then can I – and I have to say, I expected this, but the taken question that came out last night about my question about Raul Castro’s daughter getting a visa to come to – to go to San Francisco for a conference, can you explain the spectacular inconsistency in when you talk about visa issuances and when you do not?

Because this is just – this taken question is just ridiculous. It was everything that I feared would come out of this Department: We do not discuss specific details of individual visa cases. Visa records are confidential under U.S. law. Well, I’m sure Mr. Chen is happy to know that you’ve been blabbing all over the place about how he got a visa or has one ready to go. When is it that you – what is the tipping point at which you decide that you could violate U.S. law and talk about visas that are supposed to be confidential?

MS. NULAND: In this case, as you know, we have been engaged with Mr. Chen all along for a couple of weeks now. We talk to him any number of times a day. In that context, we have his explicit concurrence to talk about the aspects of this that we are responsible for. That is very rarely the case. It is the case in this case.

QUESTION: So in other words, then if Ms. Castro said that it was okay to talk about her visa status then you would talk about it?

MS. NULAND: We would take that under advisement. And she’s welcome --

QUESTION: Well, you would or you would not?

MS. NULAND: We would take it --

QUESTION: Because I can guarantee you that someone’s going to ask her now. And if she says yes, I will expect an answer from you.

MS. NULAND: Again, she is free to speak about her travel status if she would like to, and we would welcome that she do that.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: Mr. Chen has called Congress a couple of times.


QUESTION: What does the State Department think about his phone calls?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have any particular comment one way or the other. I think he spoke for himself and that was available for everybody to see.

QUESTION: And you don’t think that that might be – might jeopardize his position?

MS. NULAND: Again, he made a decision how he wanted to handle that situation.

QUESTION: Yeah, more about the substance of his calls.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He’s been saying that his family is being harassed and his nephew is being charged with trumped up charges. Did you ever get clarification from the Chinese about how his relatives are being treated? And are they independent of the Chinese central authorities? Are they – what’s your impression that – are they acting separately?

MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying, as we’ve said a number of times, that in addition to working on Mr. Chen’s situation, we have made absolutely clear our expectations with regard to the human rights of family members, of supporters, et cetera. I don’t think I’m going to go any further into our diplomatic exchanges on the Chinese side, but do know that we have made the appropriate representations.

QUESTION: You can’t tell if – they’re obviously not responsive if it’s continuing to happen.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are not in a position to evaluate all of the circumstances that have gone on in – may or may not have gone on in this case, so I think I will just refrain at this podium from further --

QUESTION: Toria, when you – when the Secretary was wrapping up her trip, you had said that you expected the Chinese authorities to act expeditiously. And I think we’re now about two weeks since then. Does your definition of expeditiously stretch to that span of time?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we are still having good communication with Mr. Chen; he is having good communication with his government. So from that perspective, we are not in a – at a point of concern.


QUESTION: About the passport paperwork Mr. Chen has --


QUESTION: -- I have just heard that, based on the paperwork filing and the time it takes to turn it around, the kind of window of opportunity for a fair admission is from the 21st to the end of this month. I’m just wondering if the U.S. – if the State Department has plans for what happens if that date comes and goes and Mr. Chen doesn’t have his passport.

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re getting me into all kinds of hypotheticals, and I’m also not going to get into validities or lack thereof with regard to his visa.

Okay, Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have any answer to the clashes in North Lebanon and Tripoli?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We had – you’re talking about the clashes that were happening earlier in the week and that have now – I have to admit to you that I did not see that they had renewed again today. Is that there are reports of the same kinds of things in Tripoli? Is that right?


MS. NULAND: Yeah. Because as of earlier last night, our view had been that the Lebanese security forces had done a good job of defusing these tensions, that while we continue to support the right of peaceful protest, that we wanted to see this situation resolved peacefully, resolved through dialogue. So let me take it and see what we have on renewed clashes. But in general, you know the role that the – the very important role that Lebanese security forces play in maintaining calm when we have these kinds of situations. So we were, as of yesterday, quite impressed with the work that they had done to calm things.


QUESTION: A terrorist group today threatened – the group is calling itself the Movement of Unity and Jihad in Western Africa, where it has threatened today to kill a Spanish humanitarian worker kidnapped six months ago in Polisario camps in southern Algeria. Do you have any reaction to this? And are you concerned that the Mali situation is threatening the stability of the Sahel region?

MS. NULAND: Well, more broadly on Mali, we have continuing concerns. I think if you – Johnnie Carson spoke to some African journalists about our concerns here, that we thought we had a deal brokered by ECOWAS to return Mali to civilian government so that we could get to elections. We have concerns that that deal appears to be breaking down, is not being honored. And of course, that’s just providing space for more mischief in the north of Mali. And we have had concerns that if we cannot get back to civilian government, if we cannot get back to unity between Mali and security forces and a government that is constitutionally mandated, that the people respect, and that can be in dialogue and collaboration with the military, we can’t get back to the important business of fighting extremism, fighting terrorism in the north, and that this could, in fact, spill over.

So yes, we have all of those concerns, which just underscores the importance of getting back to the ECOWAS deal, of the commanders of the CNRD honoring the arrangements that they made, and we are continuing to work with ECOWAS to get to this interim government led by President Toure and Prime Minister Diarra so that the Malian people have the future that they deserve.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thanks. Michel.

QUESTION: Can you share with us on the executive order that the president has issued on Yemen today?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. The White House also put out a statement earlier today explaining this executive order a little bit. And then, I believe, my colleague Jay Carney spoke to it somewhat. But this executive order was signed by the President in order to give the Administration new authority to take action against individuals or entities that pose a threat to Yemeni peace, security, or stability, and specifically against individuals or entities who are blocking the political transition.

So it gives broad authority. No designations have been made yet. However, it is also designed at this stage as a signal to any of – any who would block a peaceful transition going forward in Yemen.

QUESTION: Is it your view that there are people who are attempting to block this, or is this just purely a preventative or an anticipatory measure, that there are going to be people who are going to try and block it – for example, the former president?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, I’m not going to name names, but we’ve had concerns about spoilers. We’ve had concerns about foot-draggers. We’ve had concerns about actual opposition from various different groups. And so this is a new tool that we can use to make our views known if that continues.

QUESTION: In the note to Congress that accompanies the President’s executive order, it specifically states that it is aimed at members of the Yemeni Government who may seek to disrupt the stability et cetera, and in particular to interfere with or prevent – obstruct the implementation of the November 23rd agreement. Who are the – because the document itself talks about members of the Government of Yemen, who are those members of the government that you are so worried about?

MS. NULAND: I think the document speaks of those within the government and outside the government. So this is a big umbrella set of authorities that can be used as necessary. Again, I’m not going to name names here because we haven’t designated anybody yet. But it is definitely meant today as a message to those who are trying to block a transition that we have this tool to use against them and that they should think again about the policies that they are pursuing.

QUESTION: Does it – and I haven’t read the whole thing, so I apologize. But does it actually lay out criteria for what it means to be blocking this, to be foot dragging or to – however you want to describe it? Because I mean, it seems to me that members of the government or members of the legislature that are trying to fix – that are – that you may see as blocking it, they may see as just being part of the governing process, kind of like the way it is with this Congress right now in the United States. You know? You don’t see --

MS. NULAND: Again, this --

QUESTION: You’re not going to run out and call out the Republicans for blocking the President on some – and say that there are some – put sanctions on them because they’re interfering with the governance of the executive, are you?

MS. NULAND: We’re not talking about using this authority with regard to a healthy debate about how to implement the agreement that --

QUESTION: So is there something in there that distinguishes between healthy debate and actual malfeasance?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to encourage you to read the whole four pages. The intent here is not to discourage healthy debate about implementation. It is to put on notice those who want to undo the agreement that was made about how the transition will go forward or stand in its way or block implementation altogether, that we are watching them and we will take steps.


QUESTION: Is former President Ali Abdullah Saleh one of the people who will be targeted if --

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to name names here, because we haven’t had to designate anybody yet. This is a new tool that we can use if we consider that obstruction of the overall deal is going forward.

Okay. Anybody else? All right. Thank you, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)