Daily Press Briefing - June 12, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

  • CUBA
    • Jorge Luis Garcia Perez
    • Russian Military Ties / Use of Arms / Escalation of Violence / Conscripted Children
    • Post-Assad Transition / Communications with Russian Authorities / Jackson-Vanik Legislation / Influx of Syrian Refugees
    • Missing Young Professional Program Participants
    • Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Foreign Minister Judeh
    • Secretary Clinton's Communication with President Nikolic
    • Ahmadinejad Visit to Brasilia
    • Falkland Islands Referendum
    • GLOCs
    • Rohingya Refugees / U.S. Sanctions Relaxed
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 12, 2012


1:27 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. I have one thing at the top, and then we’ll go to what’s on your minds.

The United States is disturbed by reports that Cuban authorities arrested and physically assaulted Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, otherwise known as Antunez, on June 9th. This beating and detention follows his June 7th testimony via video conference before the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing entitled “The Path to Freedom: Countering Repression and Supporting Civil Society in Cuba.” This treatment is contrary to respect for universally recognized human rights. We call for his immediate release and for the end of government-sponsored retaliatory harassment, violence, and arbitrary detention in Cuba.

These actions once again highlight the repressive nature of the Cuban Government, particularly with regard to Cuban citizens peacefully expressing opposing views. We will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire to determine their own future. As our Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson recently stated before Congress: “Exercise of free speech is not criminal behavior. To the contrary, free speech is a right that must be defended.”

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: So the Secretary, not so long ago – a matter of minutes actually – said that you all had information that the Russians are sending attack helicopters to Syria. Can you be more specific about that? Is she referring to helicopters that are already there and in use by the Syrian security forces? Or do you have information that there are, in fact, new shipments of these helicopters that are on their way?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary’s statement at the Saban Center just a few minutes ago speaks for itself. As she said, we have been pushing the Russians for months to break their military ties with the Syrian regime, and they haven’t done it. And instead, they keep reassuring all of us that what they are sending militarily to Syria can’t be used against civilians. But now what are we seeing? We’re seeing the Syrian Government using helicopters to fire on their own people from the air.

So our question remains: How can the Russians conscience their continued military sales to Syria?

QUESTION: But you said --

QUESTION: But what she actually said though – it’s important to go to the actual language --

QUESTION: Well, that’s why – what I was getting into --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, what she actually said is --

QUESTION: Well, why don’t you do it then, Arshad?

QUESTION: -- we are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically. So does the U.S. Government have information that there are Russian helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria?

MS. NULAND: Again, the Secretary’s statement is pretty clear, I think. I’m not going to elaborate on it, nor am I going to give any more – any further details.

QUESTION: Well, the reason we’re asking is that there are photographs up that suggests that there are Russian-origin helicopters that have been used against civilians. But what is not clear is whether those are Russian helicopters that were obtained by Syria in years past. As you know, Syria’s received a lot of military equipment from Russia in years past, and what the Secretary says is that she believes they’re on the way. I mean, I just find it perplexing that you can’t back that up in any way or clarify whether she’s talking about things that are now on their way or things that were delivered in years past.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, her statement is clear with regard to what she’s concerned about. She’s concerned about helicopters on the way. That’s a different matter than whether there are already Soviet-made helicopters or Russian-made helicopters that are being used by the regime against their own people.

QUESTION: So there’s – so it is a different matter?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: This is something else. And are these helicopters, are they in transit? Have they arrived? What’s the latest that --

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have anything to elaborate on what the Secretary said.

QUESTION: Have you raised that directly --

QUESTION: Is it based on nonpublic information?

MS. NULAND: Say again?

QUESTION: Is it based on nonpublic information, or are there – is there – are there any public reports – none of which I can find – to substantiate this?

MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position to speculate on the sources of the information.

QUESTION: Toria, if you’re raising this publicly right now, does that mean that you have raised it privately with the Russians and they won’t do anything? Or I guess the question is, have you warned them that they shouldn’t be doing this before coming out publicly?

MS. NULAND: We’ve been asking the Russians to reconsider their military supply to Syria for months and months and months.

QUESTION: Victoria, the – I mean, Syria is technically in a state of war with Israel. It is not allowed to have arms to defend itself in the case of war breaking out with Israel? I mean, the Israelis get the Apache helicopters, F-35s, and so on.

MS. NULAND: Said, have you seen the Syrians --

QUESTION: No, I mean independent --

MS. NULAND: Well, how are the Syrians using their helicopters today?

QUESTION: I understand. I understand that --

MS. NULAND: They are using them against their own civilians. That is the concern.

QUESTION: I’m – I suppose I’m asking a different question. I understand they are using their arms to quell a civilian uprising, but is Syria allowed technically to have weapons to defend itself against a possible Israeli war?

MS. NULAND: I think the concern that we have is that the arms that the regime has are not being used for external defense. They’re not being used for external planning. They’re being used to kill their own citizens, especially civilians – women and children and men.

QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick follow-up. Just minutes ago, Deputy Chief of UN Peacekeeping Forces Herve Ladsous just described the conflict in Syria as a civil war. Does that thrust the whole conflict into different dynamics altogether?

MS. NULAND: Said, we’ve been talking about this for weeks as well – the concern that you are having a descent into civil war that could escalate and even spill beyond borders.

QUESTION: So you concur with that description?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not prepared to sort of say, “Now it is. Then it wasn’t.” The concern is – has been the same for weeks, that we have a spiraling escalation of violence led by the Assad regime and they have it in their hands to stop this. They possess, as the UN has said, the preponderance of force, and they are responsible for the preponderance of the violence.

QUESTION: Would that be like the Spanish Civil War or the Lebanese Civil War? I mean, people would take sides on this civil war, right?

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s obviously the concern that we’re talking about.


QUESTION: There are new reports about children being used as human shields, but also children being conscripted as child soldiers by both sides. What can you tell us about that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve also obviously seen the same report that you’ve seen. This is the report by the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, which named Syria as one of the worst offenders in its annual list of shame and talks specifically about children being the victims of killing, of maiming, of arbitrary arrest, of detention, of torture, of ill treatment, of sexual violence. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. We’re obviously – without our own eyes on the ground, we’re not in a position to confirm one way or the other, but obviously this is a UN report in which we put high stock around the world, and this is just further to the abhorrent nature of this regime and the fact that it will stop at nothing to repress its own people.

QUESTION: But if I’m not mistaken, also, there is part of that that says that child soldiers are being used by both sides. Do you know that there are any violations by the opposition?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information to substantiate reports with regard to the opposition.

QUESTION: Victoria, a quick follow-up.


QUESTION: Today, Mr. Lavrov said that he, again, called on some sort of an international conference that does include Iran. Your position has not changed in any way, has it?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary also spoke to this just now at the Saban Center, and she made clear that we – as she has said since Istanbul a week ago, that we are not opposed to meeting anywhere, anytime, in any format where we can talk about the post-Assad transition and where the group is assembled to consider how to move forward based on the principles that she laid out, that Assad has to leave power, he has to leave Syria; we’re talking about a democratic process that represents the interests of all Syrians and protects all of their rights.

QUESTION: Do you have any kind of –

QUESTION: She also said it was a red line.

QUESTION: She ruled out accepting Iran --

MS. NULAND: She said –

QUESTION: She said – she told Kofi Annan –

MS. NULAND: -- Iran participating is a red line. She said that in Istanbul. That didn’t – hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: She actually –

MS. NULAND: Thank you for adding to my points there, which I had meant to say.

Please, behind you. Still --

QUESTION: The Russians are continuing to supply weaponry and are essentially at least partially culpable for all of this death. Is anything being done to punish them at this point, other than just saying, “We want you to stop, we want you to stop”? It doesn’t seem like that part is working. Is there any movement towards anything more tangible?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we are all making the point in the international community that they are on the wrong side with regard to this set of issues. And we are – we have people in – we’ve had people in Moscow in the last week making these points again, and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Has she talked to Foreign Secretary Lavrov – Foreign Minister Lavrov since her phone call from Tromso, Norway?

MS. NULAND: She spoke to him, as you say, about a week and a half ago. Then we had Fred Hof, her Syria advisor, in Moscow earlier in the week, and we are expecting that Deputy Burns will have a chance to have a senior-level meeting with Russian authorities when he is in Kabul on Thursday. So that will be our next intersection, and then after that she’ll probably be in touch with Foreign Minister Lavrov.

QUESTION: So she hasn’t actually talked to him since Tromso?

MS. NULAND: She has not talked to him since, no.

QUESTION: Can I get – I want to just get a little – some clarity on an answer that you gave in response to a question about whether Syria has a right to get – import or buy weapons for its own defense against Israel. And understandably you said that your concern, at least immediate concern is –

MS. NULAND: How they’re using them.

QUESTION: -- they’re using these weapons on their own people.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: But in – does the – the U.S. does have concerns about Syrian weapon purchases, doesn’t it, as it relates to Israel’s security and –

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve traditionally –

QUESTION: -- more broadly?

MS. NULAND: Of course, we’ve had concerns, and we obviously don’t engage in weapons sales or condone weapons sales, even before we got to this egregious stage that we’re at now.


QUESTION: Just to follow up on the Russians, this comes just as the Senate has introduced legislation to get rid of Jackson-Vanik. Do you draw any links at all? Is this – I mean, is the –with the calls for more pressure on Russia on the arms, are you drawing any correlation at all to trade legislation?

MS. NULAND: No. I mean, this – as you know, the Jackson-Vanik legislation is something that now three administrations have called for the repeal of because it’s outdated legislation. It had to – it was put in place because of restrictions on emigration, particularly by Soviet Jews.

So we are happily well past that moment, and the concern now with Jackson-Vanik on the books in the context of Russia joining the WTO, as you know, is that it only hurts our own companies. It only hurts the interests of American workers and farmers and ranchers and businessmen who do business with Russia, because they won’t be able to bring suit against Russia if they need to in a WTO context while this legislation’s on the books, because we ourselves will be noncompliant. So that’s the concern.

But in that context, we are also supportive of the goals of the Magnitsky legislation and we are working with the Congress on an appropriate bill. So for those who are proposing sort of a substitution updating human rights legislation so that it’s more appropriate to the common day, we also support those goals.

QUESTION: Toria, just a quick follow up. I mean, this regime has been in power for over 42 years. It has monopolized all expressions of power, all aspects of power. If they’re suddenly to disappear, it would be a tremendous vacuum, security and others. Are you discussing these contingencies?

MS. NULAND: Well, this is precisely, Said, why the Secretary has been talking in far more concrete terms over the last week about the necessity of a managed transition and that if we can get that conversation going, both in the international community and broadly across the Syrian opposition about how this would work, you stand the best chance of getting there quickly in a managed way without destroying not only the entire societal fabric, but the institutional fabric of the state and doing it in a way that allows Syria to heal and move on as quickly as possible.

So we are absolutely concerned. And we’re concerned that if we don’t get to that moment of working on articulating and transitioning in the post-Assad era quickly that we’re just going to have more and more destruction and more and more clean-up later.

QUESTION: One of the concerns is that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees would flood Jordan, Lebanon, and indeed, Israel if the regime collapses. Have you discussed this, for instance, with Foreign Minister Judeh?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary had a chance to see Foreign Minister Judeh yesterday. He was here. Syria, as it always is in recent months, has been – was one of the topics that they discussed. As you know, the Government of Jordan is dealing with a massive influx of refugees from Syria, including some of the Palestinian refugees who had been in Syria now moving into Jordan. This is putting significant strains on support services in Jordan: schools, education, et cetera. But the Jordanians have found a way to be welcoming hosts for these people in distress.

So, obviously, it’s a concern and it’s part and parcel of this effort to have a managed transition that protects the rights of all people, including minorities and including refugees.


QUESTION: A new subject?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Toria, do you have any more information about these Afghan women who are – who went missing from that democracy program?

MS. NULAND: We do have a little bit of information for you, Jill. So these were – we had a group of 22 Afghans who were participating in a Young Professionals Program in public administration and justice. They were to have spent a month in the United States. And we had four Afghan women who were participating in the program fail to appear for some of the program activities. I think this began about a week ago.

So we are obviously concerned, first and foremost as their hosts, about ensuring their safety, ensuring that they are not in danger. We engaged local law enforcement to try to help us to locate them. And my understanding is that the FBI has now been engaged, and there is an investigation underway.

QUESTION: And there – some officials have said just on background that this has happened before. Not huge numbers at all, but sometimes people do stay behind. Can you confirm that that indeed has happened? And perhaps, do you have any indication why these women decided to stay?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to this particular case. This is obviously something that everybody is investigating what their motivations were or even what has happened to them. This is something that we are investigating.

More generally, though, I would say that tens of thousands of people from around the world come to the United States on exchange programs, on educational programs, on instructional programs, on short-term internship opportunities, and the vast majority have a great experience. They go home. But these programs are not immune from this kind of thing. And we always try to investigate and figure out what’s happened when it happens.

QUESTION: Is it – is the fact that the FBI is now involved mean that this is now a sort of criminal matter or a criminal investigation? Or is it more a missing person thing where perhaps no crime has been committed, that the four may just have chosen to go into hiding or something? So is it being treated as a criminal matter where you think there may have been some foul play or is it simply that you’re just trying to figure out what happened to them regardless of whether that might have been the result of a crime or not?

MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t actually speak to why the FBI has been engaged in this case. We generally start with local law enforcement. And then if it escalates, it does as a result of their investigation. But I would refer you to the FBI and to the Department of Justice if – for more information on exactly where they are in this particular case.

QUESTION: Where is this?

MS. NULAND: I believe that it was – yeah. It was over the weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina was where they were.

QUESTION: Virginia.

MS. NULAND: You have Virginia? I have --

QUESTION: Charlotte or Charlottesville?

MS. NULAND: I have one piece of paper that says --

QUESTION: I think it’s UVA.

MS. NULAND: I think it was UVA. Right. I think you’re right. I think my paper is wrong here. Yeah.


QUESTION: Can I ask a question about Foreign Minister Judeh?


QUESTION: He said, according to the statement, quote, “We should be discussing not only those issues in the headlines, but issues making headlines as well in the future.” Could you share – would you care to share with us some of the stuff that may have been discussed about future headlines?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to his particular comment, but it sounds something similar to what the Secretary says often, which is: It’s not just about what’s in the headlines; it’s also about what’s in the trend lines. With regard to their meeting last night, there were three main subjects.

The first, as they always do, they talked about the Middle East peace process and the absolutely essential role that the Jordanians are playing now as – in their effort to facilitate direct contacts between the parties.

As I said, they talked about the situation in Syria. Jordan is one of the countries that participates broadly in the Friends of the Syrian People meetings, but also has participated in a number of these ad hoc smaller group meetings on Syria. And as I said, there was quite a bit of discussion about the refugee situation in Jordan as a result of the violence in Syria.

And then the last subject they – as they always do, they talked about the reforms that the king is endeavoring to spearhead in Jordan and the importance of keeping them on track and U.S. support for the reform efforts.

QUESTION: On the peace process, Mr. Peres just a short while ago said that this is really a tremendous opportunity to pursue the peace process. Is there anything new that makes you feel hopeful that this is really a great time to go ahead and pursue the peace process?

MS. NULAND: Well again, I think the Secretary just spoke to this at the Saban Center so I don’t think I can improve on what she had to say.


QUESTION: Uros Piper, Tanjug news agency from Serbia. My question is on Western Balkans. Yesterday, a presidential inauguration ceremony in Serbia was boycotted by the regional leaders. And except of president of Montenegro, no other president from the region showed up. So because we often hear from U.S. officials and European officials that good neighbor relations are essential for reconciliation. So my question is: Do you think that was the

right move for better relations in the region, especially if you have in mind that Serbian president was present? He had attended every ceremony of other presidents in the last few years?

And the second question is from Serbian media. I don’t know if that is true. Just to check with you. Their information is that Secretary Clinton talked by phone with President Nikolic in last few days.

MS. NULAND: Well, first, on the last one, right after his inauguration, she did call President Nikolic to congratulate him on his election, to say how much we want to work with him, and to once again underscore our fundamental interest in seeing Serbia continue on its European integration path, to seeing Kosovo also continue to move closer to the EU, and on seeing increasingly open, transparent, cooperative, collaborative relations between them. So she underscored the points that we always make.

I can’t speak to the decision of other governments with regard to the inauguration, but as I said, that was our message to the Syrian Government – to the Serbian Government, that we want to work with a new president and we want to see Serbia continue on an integrationist path, be at peace with Kosovo, and work through the remaining issues that they have together.


MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: One question related to the Iranian presence in the Western Hemisphere. Next week is expected to receive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil. There is – there are reports that he’s going to meet with the president, Dilma Rousseff. There is a lot of worrisome in the Jewish community in Latin America because of this advance of Iran, especially in countries that are key players, like, for example, Brazil. I want to know if the U.S. has any position on this.

MS. NULAND: Well, when we were in Brazil not too long ago – I think it was about six weeks ago – and the Secretary had a chance to talk to the Brazilian side about these things – there was a noting of the fact that the Iranians seemed to be wandering around far-flung parts of the world, including Latin America, looking for friends because they don’t have too many friends. We had a good discussion when we were in Brazil of the importance of the international community being united and sending a strong message to Iran to come back into compliance with its international obligations. So we have no doubt that that’s the message that Ahmadinejad will hear when he’s in Brasilia.

QUESTION: When you say far-flung, you’re talking about far-flung for Iran?

MS. NULAND: Far-flung from Iran, not far-flung for us, obviously.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: But the U.S. is not worried that, for example, okay, sometimes Ahmadinejad goes to Venezuela, sometimes he goes to Bolivia. But this case, it’s Brazil and President Rousseff. Is not the U.S. worried with this position of Brazil? Is not the situation get a little bit more over the limits? That’s a very important player, Brazil, right?

MS. NULAND: As I said, I don’t think we have any doubt that Brazil shares our interest in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and that they will make those points clear.

QUESTION: As long as we’re in Latin America, can I – or I’m not even sure it counts as Latin – lost – you know where I’m going?

MS. NULAND: I think I know where you’re going. Where are you going, Matt?

QUESTION: Well, we’re going to a far-flung place where --

MS. NULAND: An atoll?

QUESTION: -- a lot of penguins, yes.


QUESTION: So they say that they’re going to – the Falklands are going to have a referendum on whether they want to stay British. Your – the U.S. position has been for some time now that this is something that should be resolved between the Argentines and the Brits and that you don’t take any position. But I’m wondering if – as is going to be the case – the Falklanders vote overwhelmingly in favor of remaining British, will that still remain your position?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’re asking me to go four levels of hypothetical, right?

QUESTION: I’m – well, not really, because I think that the --

QUESTION: Just one level.

QUESTION: No, no, not even.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) By the way, I’m liking the cream-colored suits here.

QUESTION: I think that --

MS. NULAND: You guys need your Panama hats; you’ll be all set for summer.

QUESTION: I think that the chance of them voting – this is going to be an election that is a hundred percent to nothing or 99 – we’re talking about North Korea type results here. Not to say that the Falklands are North Korea.

MS. NULAND: I think maybe you should go cover it to be sure, yeah.

QUESTION: I’d love to.


QUESTION: But given the fact that they are going to vote in favor of remaining British, is the United States prepared to change its position and say that this is no longer something that needs to be settled between Argentina and Britain, that the question is settled?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical process for a hypothetical result. What I will say is today, our position remains one of neutrality. We recognize the de facto UK administration of the islands, but we don’t take any position regarding sovereignty claims. So our position has not changed.

QUESTION: Will you abide by the outcome – will you abide by and respect the outcome of the referendum, whatever it is?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into all kinds of hypotheticals about (inaudible).

QUESTION: No, that’s not hypothetical at all.

QUESTION: Not hypothetical at all. Will you abide by the results of a referendum?

MS. NULAND: Our position is one of neutrality. I don’t have anything to add on this subject today.


MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to add on this subject today, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, can you – can --

MS. NULAND: You can ask me 17 times.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I’m going to ask you to take it, because there’s – the Brits have not been --

MS. NULAND: What am I taking precisely?

QUESTION: Will you respect the results of the referendum? I don’t think that’s a difficult question to answer.

MS. NULAND: I’m delighted to take it --

QUESTION: If you --

MS. NULAND: -- and I’m going to guess that the answer is going to come back that our position is one of neutrality.

QUESTION: Well, I’m sure that’s going to be very interesting to hear – for the British to hear because --


QUESTION: -- they’ve been upset with this Administration for not having taken a stronger – or to – for having basically – or what they say is abandoning them on this issue. And if you’re not prepared to say that you’re going to respect the results of a referendum that is overwhelmingly going to come out in favor of the remaining British, that’s going to be a problem. So if you could take the question to find out whether you will respect the results of the referendum and whether – and if that will inform your position, that would be very helpful.

MS. NULAND: I will be delighted to take the question.


QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: Back to --

MS. NULAND: Still on our favorite?

QUESTION: No, only that in two days, there’s going to be a general debate in the United Nations. The Argentinean president will be, for the first time, presenting the case of Argentina in the colonization committee of the United Nations. I want to know, is the U.S. going to be there with observers, because it’s going to be a debate between the islanders and also the president of Argentina?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to our mission in the – in New York at the UN. I’m actually not sure how we’re planning to cover that session.

I’m going to take one more from Jill and then I’ve got to go join her meeting with the Cambodian – two more, two more.

Okay. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Pakistan.


QUESTION: Pakistani officials are saying that the reason the GLOCs talks stopped is because of the issue of an apology, has nothing to do with money. It’s the apology that the parliament wants from President Obama or at least from the Administration. Is there any intention at all to change course and actually apologize, not just regret, but apologize?

MS. NULAND: Again, Jill, you know where we were when this incident happened. You’ve said it yourself. I’m not going to get into any of the negotiating details on the GLOC conversation except to say that we continue to want to resolve this matter. As we said yesterday, the technical issues are virtually complete here. What we need to do is to continue the conversation at a political level and get to a resolution, because it’s important for both Pakistan and the United States.

QUESTION: So on that, just because – what it looks like there will be, eventually at some point, a resolution. So I want to ask you in advance if it’s possible to come up with the amount of money that the U.S. has had to spend while these GLOCs have been closed – the amount of additional money that it’s cost the U.S. taxpayer because the Administration refused to apologize. Once you do make the apology, in whatever form it is, I’d like to know how much that cost the taxpayer.

MS. NULAND: I think I’m going to take that as a --


MS. NULAND: -- snark, rather than a question.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I --

MS. NULAND: I’d like to make the point --

QUESTION: -- it’s not a snark. No, no. It’s – I do – I would like to know what that figure is. Maybe it’s a Pentagon figure and you don’t have anything to do with it, but I --

MS. NULAND: Well, I certainly don’t have figures on transportation costs for our military. However, what I would say is that the Northern Distribution Network, which as you know has been worked on for a number of years and has been a priority of the Administration, is functioning very well in this context and is continuing to move cargo in the absence of the GLOCs being open.

Let’s finish with Arshad, and then I got to get upstairs.

QUESTION: When is Deputy Secretary Burns going to meet with this senior Russian official in Kabul? And who is the senior Russian official that he expects to meet with?

MS. NULAND: I am going to – it’s – the expectation is that it’ll be on the margins of the conference on Afghanistan. I think it’s an economic conference in Kabul on Thursday. Let me just read out the meeting after it’s completed, because I think we are still working on exactly how this is going to go.

QUESTION: Can I ask a brief one?


QUESTION: On Burma. I know that there’s a statement that was put out yesterday. There’ve been reports that the Bangladeshis are not allowing refugees, Rohingya refugees, to go into Bangladesh. The UNHCR made a statement asking them – asking the Bangladeshis to allow them in. Does the U.S. have a position on this – on whether the Bangladeshis should be allowing in refugees from the recent violence?

MS. NULAND: I had actually not heard that with regard to borders being sealed. In fact, we had heard a different report, namely that they were taking care of refugees who are coming across. So if we have anything to add on that, we’ll get back to you, Shaun. Okay?

QUESTION: One other one on Burma, if you’re willing?


QUESTION: The Secretary announced the relaxation of sanctions – U.S. sanctions on Burma. And I believe that gets done by the Treasury Department. And unless it’s changed in the last few days, I don’t think that the license has yet been issued to permit that relaxation – although we’re several weeks beyond when it was announced. Do you know or can you check on what, if any, may be the holdup there?

MS. NULAND: I think if you’re talking about the actual OFAC license to execute that aspect of the easing, I’m going to send you to Treasury, because there are a huge number of technical issues that go into this. So they’re the experts on that once the policy decision is made.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)