Daily Press Briefing - June 13, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Child Survival Call to Action Event
    • Russian and Soviet-made Helicopters in Syrian Fleet
    • U.S. Provides Non-lethal and Humanitarian Support
    • U.S. and Russian Leadership Relations
    • Refugees from Burma
    • DPRK Missile Programs
    • Nomination of Brett McGurk
    • U.S. - India Strategic Dialogue
    • Upcoming Bilateral Meetings
    • Readout of Secretary's Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
    • Letter from Congress on Global Counterterrorism Forum / Israel
    • Economy / Inflation
    • NATO Supply Routes
    • Dr. Afridi
Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 13, 2012


12:35 p.m. EDT

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

Tomorrow morning, Secretary Clinton and USAID Administrator Raj Shah will speak at the Child Survival Call to Action conference. This is a global event convened by the United States, India, Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF launching a new partnership to end preventable childhood diseases. Eighty countries will be involved, including government ministers, private sector executives, faith-based leaders to build a path forward to ending childhood disease. And in addition, we will have Ben Affleck with us. He will speak tomorrow here at the Department.

So let’s go to what is on your minds.

QUESTION: Sorry. Wait, he’s going to be here or at the thing at Georgetown?

MS. NULAND: He’s going to speak at the thing, so wherever it is.

QUESTION: That’s at Georgetown, not --

MS. NULAND: Georgetown, excellent.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov in Iran today denied that the Russian – that Russia is sending attack helicopters or weapon – any kind of weaponry or armaments that can be used to quell or to – can be – that the Syrians could use against their own population. Seeing as how he can’t prove the negative, I’m wondering if you can try to prove the positive, which was what the Secretary said yesterday by elaborating a little bit on what information you have that suggests that these helicopters are, in fact, en route.

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said yesterday, what the Secretary had to say speaks for itself. I’m not going to go any further than she did yesterday on that specific issue. What I will say is that Russian and Soviet-made helicopters form the base of the Syrian helicopter fleet, that we are seeing these helicopters used all over Syria now against civilians. We’re seeing gun mounts on these being used to fire on populations in Homs, in Hama, in Latakia, in Idlib. We have seen the Russians resupply weapons that they sold to the Syrians as recently as January. So we stand by what the Secretary had to say.

QUESTION: But does – but what she talked about and what you said yesterday was that these were new shipments – not existing Russian and Soviet-era helicopters, but in fact, new ones that were en route. Is that still --

MS. NULAND: What the Secretary said – and I would refer you back to the transcript of those remarks – is that there are helicopters en route to Syria from Russia. So we stand by that.

QUESTION: So you would – so Foreign Minister Lavrov is simply just – he’s not telling the truth?

MS. NULAND: Well, I would encourage him to check with his own authorities.


MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: -- India --

QUESTION: No, hold on a second. Still on --

MS. NULAND: Still on this? All right. And on India, Goyal, I’m going to defer all those questions because, as you know, the Secretary is having a press availability very shortly with Foreign Minister Krishna.

So still on this subject? Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Russians – another thing that they did say was that the United States is making it worse by, in their view, in their perception, funding or arming the rebels in Syria. I know that you’ve discussed that before, but do you have a response to the Russian accusations?

MS. NULAND: The United States is sending no military equipment to the Syrian opposition. What we are doing is providing nonlethal support, as we’ve discussed here, primarily communications gear. And we are also one of the largest donors of humanitarian relief for the Syrian people – medical supplies, et cetera – through the UN agencies, some 52 million so far.


QUESTION: Part of what Mr. Lavrov has said is saying – comparing U.S. arms sales to Gulf region – obviously, Bahrain – and saying that how come that we cannot do that and United States can do. So don’t you think that the recent resuming – resuming the arms sales by her and which happened recently is going to make it more difficult for United States to criticize Russia for doing almost the same thing?

MS. NULAND: We reject that analogy completely for the following reasons: On a daily basis, on an hourly basis, we are seeing Russian and Soviet-made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Syria. That is not the situation in Bahrain. That is point one.

Point two is because of our concerns about the importance of implementing the full set of recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission, including the attention that needs to be paid to security services, the United States took action with regard to its military relationship with Bahrain. We put a pause on all kinds of small weaponry, et cetera, including things up to the level of tow missiles, because of this issue until we can see more progress. And the only things that we are moving forward with on Bahrain are things that are clearly designed for external defense, including coastal vessels, et cetera.

So this is not a comparable situation in any way, shape, or form.

QUESTION: And a follow-up on that for your point one: So is there any specific numbers which justifies selling arms – I mean, numbers of death? So if 60 people from Bahrain has died from the beginning of protest and 10,000 people in Syria, so Bahrain is not Syria and it justifies the arms sale?

MS. NULAND: You’re mixing all kinds of apples and oranges. The United States, in all of its arms sales to countries around the world, some 80 countries around the world, insists on end-user agreements. I don’t know what the Russian Federation requirement is here, but those end-user agreements specify how this weaponry can be used, and in no case is it permissible to use it against your own citizens. So the situations are absolutely not comparable.


QUESTION: Toria, some others are saying --

QUESTION: Well, just on that, you’re saying that the United States is a responsible arms dealer and the Russians are irresponsible?

MS. NULAND: We have systems and oversight, both in this Department, interagency, in the Congress, to ensure that when we authorize an arms sale, it is used for the purpose that we all agree on as a nation, given the checks and balances in our system. If that is the case with others, then it doesn’t seem to be applied in this case.


QUESTION: Yeah. Others are saying that the U.S. perhaps is not directly providing arms – as I’m looking at the quote by Lavrov, he actually said “providing arms,” – but helping to coordinate the provision of arms or money for arms by other countries, specifically Gulf countries. What do you say to them?

MS. NULAND: The same thing that we’ve been saying for weeks and weeks here: We are not providing arms. Other nations are making other decisions. We are coordinating with other nations that are trying to support the Syrian opposition, and we will continue to do that.

QUESTION: So what does coordinating mean?

MS. NULAND: That means comparing notes on what people are providing and trying to ensure that what we are doing is effective for the goals that we have, which are to end the violence to get to a post-Assad transition.

QUESTION: But just to make sure, because some of them are providing arms and are providing weapons, so --

MS. NULAND: Again – we have said, again, that other nations will make other decisions. We’ve made our own national decision.

QUESTION: Okay. And one question about this tiff between the Secretary and Mr. Lavrov: It’s quite extraordinary now that you have two secretaries or ministers publicly feuding at a point where time is of the essence to bring this to a close. This is – some are saying it’s pretty deplorable that this is turning into a debate between both of them.

MS. NULAND: I would reject the way you characterize this, Jill. They have a long working relationship. They talk regularly. They talk very frankly with each other. These two ministers have been responsible for overseeing a lot of important improvements in the U.S.-Russian relationship – we’ve talked about this many times – supporting their presidents in the reset policy. But that doesn’t change the fact that they also need to be able to speak frankly with each other, and our Secretary will always call it like it is when she has concerns.

QUESTION: How are the plans for a meeting taking place, I believe in Geneva, at the end of the month? How are those plans going on?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think anything has been announced. We are continuing to work on the kinds of arrangements and preconditions that the Secretary spoke of, namely that this be a meeting that can really look at the principles and elements that need to go into a post-Assad transition, starting with an agreement that he needs to leave the stage and hand over power.

QUESTION: Just for the record --


QUESTION: -- the last time Lavrov and the Secretary spoke was 10 days --

MS. NULAND: About a week – 10 days ago. And then we had Fred --

QUESTION: All right. You said 10 days yesterday. And then --

MS. NULAND: I’m just trying to recall. We were on the road to – in Scandinavia. I think it was either --

QUESTION: I think it was Saturday.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Saturday or – Saturday of a week ago, right?

QUESTION: Right. Do you know if this – has there been an attempt to talk again since then?

MS. NULAND: We are --

QUESTION: Or was he traveling in another country where there are no telecommunications?

MS. NULAND: I think I mentioned that our first step was that Fred Hof would go to Moscow. He’s done that.


MS. NULAND: We’re expecting other communications in the next couple of days at a level below her, and then we’re expecting that she will speak to him sometime next week.

QUESTION: So is that still on with what you said yesterday, Thursday?

MS. NULAND: Yes, yes.




QUESTION: You said yesterday that Deputy Burns will meet with senior Russian officials on Thursday in Afghanistan. Today the British foreign minister – he’s said he’s going to meet with Lavrov in Afghanistan. Will that mean that Ambassador Burns will meet with Lavrov?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we will let the meetings go forward, and then I hope by this time tomorrow we’ll have something to read out for you.

Anything else on this subject? No? Please.

QUESTION: Turkey is reported as supplying the opposition with anti-tank and other weaponry. Are you aware about that, and do you have any reaction?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to the choices other nations make. It sounds like that’s a question for the Turks.


QUESTION: New topic?


QUESTION: Just – can we get back on the issue of Burma?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As we discussed yesterday, there have been a number of calls by the United States for an end to the violence, but specifically on the issue of Bangladesh, there have been some concerns about whether Bangladesh is giving access to Rohingya fleeing Burma. Is there anything that the U.S. has to say about its communication with Bangladesh on the issue?

MS. NULAND: Thanks for that, Shaun. We are concerned that Bangladeshi authorities appear to have intercepted and turned back persons fleeing the ethnic and religious violence in Burma. So we have been urging the Government of Bangladesh to respect its international obligations under the relevant refugee conventions and to continue its longstanding policy of non-refoulement of refugees. So those are points that we are making. We are also continuing to make the point to all sides in Burma that it is important to settle these issues not through violence but through dialogue, and to put down their arms and start talking to each other.

QUESTION: What was the word you used? Its longstanding policy of non-refoulement?

MS. NULAND: Refoulement. R-e-f-o-u-l-e-m-e-n-t. That’s a good Scrabble word.

QUESTION: What’s the level of communication with the Bangladeshis? Has it been through the Embassy in Dhaka or --

MS. NULAND: Yes. And I believe that we’ve also had communication from this building as well.

QUESTION: Is – this issue has come up now upstairs with the Indian foreign minister as far as situation in Burma is concerned?

MS. NULAND: They did talk about Burma and they did talk about the ethnic issues and the Rohingya issues when the Secretary had her brief meeting with Foreign Minister Krishna before starting the broader Security Dialogue.

QUESTION: Different topic?


QUESTION: The Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun had a story today talking about Chinese – alleged Chinese cooperation with North Korea on its missile program. I know this question’s been posed before, but the Asahi was saying that the U.S. specifically requested Japan and South Korea not to take up this issue with the Chinese for fear of the consequences to the relationship. Is there anything that the U.S. has to say about what it knows or doesn’t know about Chinese cooperation with North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me simply say that what I can say on this is relatively limited, given intelligence issues involved. But I will say that we have raised our own concerns with China about allegations that Chinese entities have assisted the DPRK missile program. And we will continue to work with China and others in the international community to enforce the UN’s sanctions on North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear missile programs.

QUESTION: Is this new cooperation – I mean – something that’s happened in the recent past? I mean --

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not prepared to go further than I have, just because of the intelligence issues involved.


QUESTION: At the time you said that you take China’s word at their compliance with Resolution 1718 and 1874. I’m wondering if you still feel that way.

MS. NULAND: At what time? At what time?

QUESTION: When this issue was brought up about a month ago with the trucks, the delivery vehicles.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to speak to the specific concerns. I’m not going to speak to where we are or aren’t, other than to say that we have in recent weeks raised our concerns.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Is it true that the U.S. was able to confirm the shipment with China back in April but chose not to disclose the information?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said that I said about as much as I can, given the intelligence issues concerned.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: There’s a letter that just came out from a number of U.S. senators concerning the nomination of Mr. McGurk. They say – they’re urging the President to reconsider. They say he has a number of problems, including his judgment, for unprofessional conduct. And they also say that some Iraqi political groups have stated they will not work with Mr. McGurk if he is confirmed. Is the State Department still insisting that he is a candidate?

MS. NULAND: Well, first let me say that this is, of course, the President’s nominee, and I am expecting that the White House will also speak to this issue. But we remain where we were when I spoke to this issue on Friday, and we urge the Senate’s advice and consent on his nomination.

QUESTION: But when you say you expect the White House to also speak to this issue --

MS. NULAND: My colleague is – Jay Carney is going to be out shortly on this.

QUESTION: But saying the same thing, that you stand behind the nomination?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely. I hope so.


QUESTION: If we can just clarify upstairs where a meeting going on between U.S. and India, third annual, of course, U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. When Secretary spoke this morning, she mentioned a number of issues between U.S. and India and also she mentioned about Afghanistan, but did not mention Burma or, I mean, Pakistan.

MS. NULAND: Well, Goyal, she herself is going to come and address all of you good people at 1:30 standing next to Foreign Minister Krishna, so I’m going to let her speak to the full range of meetings that they’ve had this morning.

QUESTION: And finally as far as the liability issue is concerned on U.S.-India civil nuclear issue, she mentioned that GE and Westinghouse, two companies, they signed with India and their trucks are now rolling. What I’m asking you is: Is that liability issue between U.S. and Indian Government, or it’s between the Indian Government or U.S. companies?

MS. NULAND: The short answer is it’s between Westinghouse and it’s – it’s between the companies and the Indian Government. But she’s going to speak to this issue as well at 1:30.

QUESTION: Because this liability issue yet has not been confirmed or finalized by the Indian parliament.

MS. NULAND: Again, Goyal, she is going to speak to this shortly.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: Tomorrow, I think there’s going to be a U.S. and ROK (inaudible) concerning (inaudible) North Korean issue. Are you going to talk about the extension of the missile ranging issues which is requested by, I think, ROK Government?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re going to talk about the full range of issues that we have, bilateral issues, regional issues, global issues. So beyond that, I think we’ll let the meetings go forward, and then both secretaries will come out with their counterparts tomorrow and read you out.


QUESTION: I think there was a question yesterday about the Secretary’s meeting with the Cambodian Foreign Minister. Do you have guidance on that? And in particular did she raise human rights issues, and if so, which ones?

MS. NULAND: She did. She met yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. It was a very wide-ranging set of discussions both on bilateral issues and on regional issues. Both of them noted that our bilateral ties and cooperation have deepened across the range on humanitarian issues, economic issues, security issues, development issues. We’re also working together in the Lower Mekong Delta. As you know, Cambodia is in the chair this year for ASEAN, so they talked quite a bit about preparing the ASEAN Regional Forum in July and trying to make progress at that meeting on South China Sea issues and specifically on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

The Secretary did express our concern over the recent protests regarding land rights issues and urged Cambodia to allow Boeung Kak Lake detainees full access to due process. And she did note that their release would be a sign of support for freedom of expression.

She also talked to – commended the Foreign Minister and the Cambodian Government on the Prime Minister’s announcement that his government would not proceed with a planned NGO law until a consensus could be reached between the government and Cambodian civil society.

QUESTION: When you say that she expressed her concern about the protests, that’s about the protests or about the government’s response to the protests?

MS. NULAND: Our concern about the way the whole issue was handled and the fact that this ignited quite a bit of difficulty.

QUESTION: And did the issue of Mr. Sam Rainsy come up and the possibility of his playing any kind of political role in the future?

MS. NULAND: His issues did come up, and the Secretary talked about the importance of a free, fair, transparent election in 2013 and with appropriate participation across the political spectrum.

QUESTION: Does that mean that she believes he should be able to participate?

MS. NULAND: She did raise the issue with the Cambodian Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: No, but you said that, and twice now, but the issue is not whether she raised it. It’s whether she believes that Rainsy should be allowed to participate.

MS. NULAND: Again, this is an issue for the Cambodians. She simply raised concerns that – about this election and ensuring that it is, in fact, free, fair, transparent, with equal access to participate.

QUESTION: You said the release of the protestors would be a sign of what?

MS. NULAND: Would be a sign of support for freedom of expression, would be a humanitarian gesture and a sign of support for their ability to express themselves.

QUESTION: So this one of those private diplomatic discussions that you decided is okay to talk about?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Right. Can I ask you about another letter from the Hill?


QUESTION: A letter that was sent, I believe yesterday or the day before, by Senators Lieberman and Kirk about the Global Counterterrorism Forum and Israel’s participation, or rather lack of participation, in it. They, in the letter, ask if – well, ask for the Secretary’s view on whether – or ask if the Secretary agrees with them or would agree with them that Israel’s presence at such meetings would be beneficial to both Israel and to the other participants.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve – as you know, we put out – this question, the same sort of set of questions, was asked of us here, I think it was Friday --

QUESTION: Yes. I asked it.

MS. NULAND: -- following – yeah. So we put out a sort of long explanation of the role that --


MS. NULAND: -- of how this thing was set up and the role Israel plays.

QUESTION: Which was not responsive to the question, though.

MS. NULAND: Oh, I would disagree with that. But the short answer – and I’m sure that the Secretary will respond to the senators – is that we are looking for ways for Israel to participate in the working groups of the forum, and we are talking to them about that, and they seem to be quite interested. So we’re trying to move forward with that.

QUESTION: Sorry – you’re talking to the Israelis about that?

MS. NULAND: Correct. Correct.

QUESTION: Well, what about with the rest – other members of the group, in particular Turkey, which seems to be exercising veto power over who the U.S. invites to conferences on its own soil or conferences that it is co-hosting on other people’s soil?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve been completely transparent with other members in the forum about our hope and expectation that Israel can participate in the working groups.

QUESTION: Do you get the sense from the other members, particularly Turkey, that they are amenable to having Israeli participation?

MS. NULAND: That issue was not raised as one of concern when we were in Istanbul and had a meeting there on the morning of the conference.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. What issue was not raised?

MS. NULAND: There was no concern raised, as far as I recall, by the Turkish side when the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Davutoglu on the --

QUESTION: But did she bring it up with them? I mean, has she – have –

MS. NULAND: Again, I think the --

QUESTION: Has she or people who were involved in the pre-planning of these conferences – have they said, hey, let’s – it would be a good idea to get Israel involved?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is yes.

QUESTION: But – so why weren’t they involved, then?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is only the first full foreign ministers-level meeting. Now the working groups will go forward, so that work to flesh them out and get them up and running is really only just beginning.

QUESTION: So you would predict, then, that they would be invited and participate in the future?

MS. NULAND: That is our expectation.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Another Syria question?


QUESTION: There’s a report – it’s a Reuters report – that Syria has released new cash into circulation and that that cash was printed in Moscow. Now, I don’t even know whether that’s illegal, but do you have any information on that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. I can say that obviously you are all seeing what we are seeing, which is that the Syrian economy is in freefall as a result of the international sanctions, that they are suffering from very high inflation, that the Assad regime has run through more than half of the national reserves of the country. So if they are now resorting to inflating their own currency to survive, that wouldn’t be surprising.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. You think that the economy is in freefall because of the international sanctions, or you think the economy is in freefall because there’s a civil war going on?

MS. NULAND: I think both are obviously contributing. The wealth of the nation is being directed at killing its own rather than at providing for the people.

QUESTION: Was there an answer to the Falklands question from yesterday about whether the United States would respect the results of the referendum, whatever the results were?

MS. NULAND: I think we put something out just before I came down. It won’t surprise you that we’re not going to comment on a situation that hasn’t come into play yet and that our policy has not changed.

QUESTION: Okay. Does it say whether the U.S. thinks that such a referendum would be a good idea?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’re going to comment on a matter that’s going to be decided there.


QUESTION: Do you have any update on U.S.-Pakistan talks about the opening of the routes to Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: Beyond what we’ve been saying and what I think I said yesterday, namely that the technical issues are largely concluded, that political talks continue, we think it’s very much in the interests of all of us to get this settled, and we are continuing to stay engaged with the Pakistani side.

QUESTION: So what are the major hurdles now left? Is it from Pakistani side or --

MS. NULAND: Again, Goyal, I’ve declined all week and for several weeks now to get into the details of those negotiations. I’m going to continue to decline to do that here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: One last one in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, still on Pakistan.


QUESTION: Anything new on the Dr. Afridi case? And when was the last time you were able to confirm that he is actually still alive?

MS. NULAND: I think that’s a question for the Pakistani side. We have not been able to be in contact with him. I don’t have any further information about the case.

QUESTION: Actually, on that, is there any reason why you should? He’s not an American citizen, is he?

MS. NULAND: Correct. I mean, that’s --

QUESTION: I mean, it’s not --

MS. NULAND: It would not be traditional that they would give us access.

QUESTION: But have you – I mean, have you asked?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Well, would you ask? Is it normal for you to ask to see non-citizens?

MS. NULAND: Normally, we would not. Obviously, we would only ask for consular access to our own citizens.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)

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