Daily Press Briefing - June 25, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- President-elect Morsi / Transition
- Consultations Continue on Economic Support Funds
- Turkish Military Plane / Turkey Continuing to Consult with NATO and P-5
- Status of UN Monitors
- Syrian Military Defections
- President Lugo's Impeachment
- Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan
- Discussions with the Pakistani Government about U.S. Diplomats
- Parliamentarians' Visit / Engagement with Broad Cross Section of Egyptians
1:01 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody. I do not have anything at the top, so let’s go directly to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Nothing? Really?
MS. NULAND: Nothing.
QUESTION: I mean, there were some big developments in Egypt yesterday. Are you saying that the White House speaks for the Administration? There’s nothing else to add to what they had to say yesterday?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, the White House speaks for the Administration. What in particular were you looking for?
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering, has there been – obviously the President spoke to President-elect Morsi. Has the Secretary made any calls of that nature? Where do you see things standing the day after?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary had spoken to Foreign Minister Amr; I think it was Friday or Saturday, but –
MS. NULAND: Yeah, before the announcement was made, so –
QUESTION: But post-announcement you’re not aware of –
MS. NULAND: Since the announcement, obviously the next step is for the president-elect to be inaugurated, for powers to be transferred to him, for a government to be formed that represents a perception of national unity, that is prepared to meet all of the pledges that the president made – the president-elect made in his speech to the nation on Sunday with regard to upholding universal values, support for democracy, support for the country’s external relations and a responsible role in the neighborhood, et cetera. So that will be the next step, and I’m sure when the Secretary has a counterpart, she’ll make a phone call --
QUESTION: Okay. But when you said government of national –
QUESTION: You said a perception of national unity. What do you mean by a perception of national unity?
MS. NULAND: The point is that we want to – as the President made clear in his phone call, we want to see President-elect Morsi take steps to advance national unity, to uphold universal values, to respect the rights of all Egyptians, particularly women, minorities, Christians, et cetera. So there are further steps that he can take as we go forward, and those are the messages that we’re sending.
QUESTION: Has he not been handed a very tough hand, given that the powers of the presidency were to some degree gutted by the SCAF in the last couple of weeks? And as you’re well aware, the parliament was dismissed. I mean, he’s coming into this with rather – with much more constraint than he might have expected.
MS. NULAND: Well, as we know, this is only the next step in a transition process that very much has to continue. Not only does he have to form a government, but there has to be a resolution to the issues surrounding the seating of a constitutional assembly that can write a constitution and get to a democratically elected parliament. So there are a lot of issues ahead, and yes, it is going to be challenging. And Egypt is going to need our support, it’s going to need the international community’s support, but all of these steps and all of the actors involved need to be true to the spirit and the values that spurred Egypt to this point.
QUESTION: Are you confident that he has the authorities necessary to name a government, or do you regard pretty much all of his actions as likely to result from some kind of a negotiation with the SCAF which is arrogated to itself considerable powers?
MS. NULAND: Well, the SCAF has committed to turning over power to him. They have also committed to his ability to form a government. So it’s up to them to meet those commitments now going forward.
QUESTION: One other one for me on this. Fars, the Iranian news service, published an interview which it says was conducted with President-elect Morsi a few hours before the results were announced on Sunday, in which he is quoted as talking about the importance of Egypt restoring relations with Iran. Is that a good idea? Do you favor that?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we look forward to talking to President-elect Morsi and his whole government about Egypt’s relationships in the neighborhood going forward, its upholding of all of its international obligations, including obligations vis-à-vis Iran. But that said, Arshad, I wouldn’t believe everything that you read on Fars. You’ll recall that this is the news organization that completely fabricated an interview with our deputy secretary and has been – there have been other similar incidents.
QUESTION: Do you regard this one as fabricated?
MS. NULAND: I have no way to know one way or the other.
QUESTION: I mean, has –
QUESTION: You said perception of national unity, going back to the – are you suggesting that he form something akin to a national unity government? Are you saying that you want kind of old-line people in there and –
MS. NULAND: I didn’t mean to speak to how the government ought to be formed, and I –
QUESTION: Okay. And then – no, I’m not sure you did. I was just wondering if that’s what you meant by what you said. And then just why – was the State Department involved in the drafting of the statement from the White House yesterday? Because I’m curious as to why it made no mention of the – when you – a specific mention of the Camp David – of the peace treaty with Israel and that this is an expectation of the – or of the United States that the new government will uphold its commitments – its regional commitments, but specifically the peace treaty with Israel.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been making that point all the way along, including from the beginning of all of this change in Egypt, and we certainly have been making that point very clearly publicly and privately all the way long. With regard to the actual crafting of the statement, I’ll send you to the White House.
QUESTION: And in – the readout of the President’s call didn’t mention it either. I presume you’ll refer me to the White House, but are you aware if the President mentioned this to President-elect Morsi?
MS. NULAND: That sounds also like a question for the White House.
QUESTION: You mentioned respect for women for – of the rights of women, of minorities, but what are the signs you’re getting so far from President-elect Morsi both before the election and since?
MS. NULAND: Well, he’s been saying a lot of the right things both privately, and then you saw him say many of the right things publicly on Sunday. So now he – as he gets inaugurated and begins taking up his duties, he needs to turn those pledges into action, obviously.
QUESTION: So how is the U.S. going to deal now with that issue of the funding that it provides to the military, the 1.3 billion?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve talked before about how this works, that essentially there is a Federal Reserve account that has two keys on it. So we are, as we have said from the beginning, we are continuing to look for the various parties in Egypt, including the SCAF, to continue to meet the commitments that they’ve made to the Egyptian people in terms of the transition of power, in terms of the democratic principles that are going to undergird the rest of the process. And we’ll continue to gauge our ongoing relationship based on that.
We do look forward to working with the government on issues that it’s going to need to confront, including providing for its people economically, getting things back on track there. So we will consult with them, obviously, as we will with the Congress, before we go forward with any of the Economic Support Funds.
QUESTION: Going back to the interview that Arshad mentioned, you said that you’ve been saying publicly and privately that you expect them to uphold the Camp David Accords. In the interview, Morsi says he’d reconsider them. Has he ever expressed that to the U.S. publicly or --
MS. NULAND: He has not.
QUESTION: -- I mean, in the private conversations?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, he has not.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Turkey and --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Not since the phone call that she read out – that we read out yesterday. You will have seen the statement that we put out based on her phone call with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.
QUESTION: Have there been any notable exchanges between the other Administration officials and the Turkish officials so far since Saturday?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Under Secretary Sherman has been in contact with the political director. Phil Gordon’s been in contact with the political director. Our Embassy, Ambassador Ricciardone, has been very much involved in consulting with the Turks.
QUESTION: So today, Syria’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman came out and basically said that it’s self-defense – that’s what they did and shot down Turkish jet. We all read your Administration statement. What’s your response to this latest self-defense argument of Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we said in our statement – and I’m not going to get into details of the incident; I’m going to send you to the Turkish side for those – but as we said in our incident, there was no warning to this aircraft. It was just shot out of the sky. And that obviously is not in keeping with international norms in such incidents.
QUESTION: So what would you recommend your Turkish ally to do at this point? What’s your recommendation to Turkey?
MS. NULAND: Well, they are continuing to consult with their partners. You know that they have asked for an Article 4 consultation at NATO. They are continuing. I think the Foreign Minister made calls to all of the P-5 over the weekend. So we look forward to continuing to hear their views of this incident and to hear what they want to do moving forward.
QUESTION: Are you willing to extend your full support if the – tomorrow with the NATO Summit in Brussels if Turkey would ask to respond to Syria in same kind?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m certainly not going to get into predicting what Turkey might ask for at NATO, what its views might be at NATO. And I’m certainly not going to be drawn into hypothetical situations.
QUESTION: What your position would be in this Article 4 consultation?
MS. NULAND: Well, an Article 4 consultation under the NATO Treaty is the right of any ally when it has security concerns of any kind. So essentially, we start with being in listening mode to an ally that has asked for the consultation, and then we go from there.
QUESTION: Is it a two-way thing? Would you advise them --
MS. NULAND: Of course, of course. But we have to see what Turkey comes in with and what it wants from NATO after it briefs on the situation.
QUESTION: What would you want from them?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to prejudge a meeting that hasn’t happened yet.
QUESTION: How are the – or is there anything more solid on this meeting, the contact group meeting? Is it going to happen, not going to happen?
MS. NULAND: The proposal of Kofi Annan for --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We are continuing to talk to Kofi Annan’s staff. There were meetings over the weekend, including a number of the countries who might be represented. But as we’ve said, we’re not going to settle finally until we’re sure that we can have a meeting that’s going to make real progress in the interest of a democratic transition.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that if the U.S. doesn’t go, is there a meeting that it will skip, or is this meeting not going to happen if you guys decide it’s not the right time?
MS. NULAND: Well, what we’re trying to do is come to some consensus among some of the major players as to what the meeting would look like so that everybody can see that it will be worth having. So --
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, are you under the impression that if he’s going to go, he would go ahead with having a meeting if you guys weren’t going to go?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re getting me into hypotheticals I just can’t predict.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: But we’re trying to get to the point where we work on the elements of this meeting in a way that it can be productive and that we can all go. Whether it’s on that timeline or whether it takes more time, or – we’ll just have to see.
QUESTION: Toria, just a NATO question. Maybe (inaudible) --
MS. NULAND: I know nothing about NATO.
QUESTION: -- but you know NATO very well. With Chapter 4 consultations, then does an individual country ask for Chapter 5, or does it have to be applied for that and then other – the other members say yes, we agree? Or how – could you walk us through Chapter 5? What could potentially happen next?
MS. NULAND: Well, Article 4 of the – and I would refer you to the NATO Treaty. It’s a nice, short document. It’s on the website, www.nato.int. Article 4, as you’ll see if you read that original charter from 1949, speaks to the right of any ally to ask for political consultations, essentially. Article 5 can be invoked either by an ally who has been struck or by others when there is an issue of having been attacked.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: Same topic. Have you been asked from Turkey for the rescue-and-search operations for the lost pilots of the jet?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that through our regular military-to-military channels we’re providing some support, but I don’t think we’ve been asked to actually participate in the operation. But I’m going to send you to DOD for the details on where we are exactly. But we’ve made clear that we’re open to what can be helpful.
QUESTION: On Syria again, so far, as far we know, is UN monitors right now in Syria and waiting and the mission is halted. What’s your timeline? How long they are – are they expecting any specific order? What they are waiting for in Syria right now in their hotels?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know that they have a mandate that runs 90 days from when it was initially issued, so that takes us into the middle of July. My understanding is that they are now postured essentially in their large bases, that they continue to feel that the security situation is insufficient for them to go out and monitor and patrol. So the bulk of the energy now of the international community is focused on whether we can get further progress on the Annan Plan and particularly this issue of a democratic transition, but also the issue of trying to get a ceasefire so that the monitors could become effective again. And if we’re not at that place, then we’re going to have to reconsider where we are with the mandate and certainly by the time it expires.
QUESTION: According to news reports, State Department has given a visa to Syria’s Grand Mufti, Hassoun, who has been on the record threatening U.S. and West sending suicide bombers just a couple months ago. Apparently, he is going to talk about dialogue and coexistence in one of the D.C. think tanks. Do you have any information on that? How such a person can be given visa – are you fully comfortable with that?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are aware that he, along with a number of other clerical figures, has been invited to an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But you won’t be surprised if I’m not going to comment on visa matters at all, in terms of confidentiality under U.S. law.
QUESTION: I don’t know – I suspect you will not know about these bulletins which seem to have come out while we were in the room, but a Turkish Government spokesman says that Turkey will protect itself within international law and that Syria’s downing of the Turkish aircraft will not go unpunished. The same spokesman says that another Turkish plane was fired upon by Syrian forces during the initial search and rescue operation for the first plane. Do you have any comment on those? And is the statement that it will not go unpunished a helpful one?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think our next plan with our Turkish allies is to hear what they have to say when they come to the NAC tomorrow, to be briefed by them, and to have a better sense of the path forward from their perspective. So we will await that meeting.
QUESTION: Very briefly, do you have anything to say about this apparent surge of – well, not surge, these latest defections?
MS. NULAND: That we’ve seen the reports that you have seen; that they appear to be credible; that there were dozens of Syrian military who defected to Turkey overnight with their families; that there are at least 38 soldiers, including military officers. So this appears to be an increasing pace of these kinds of military folks voting with their feet, voting with their airplanes, voting with their cars, voting with their families against the Assad regime. And this is something that we have long called for, for people to follow their consciences, refuse to obey orders, and to make their views clear.
QUESTION: There are several reports today in Arab media that 20 of the defected soldiers who went to Jordan over the weekend are going to be sent back to Syria. Have you heard on this or what’s your comment on --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that. The bulk of the officers we saw were going into Turkey that that was – but as you know, Jordan has been very welcoming of refugees and defectors from Syria all the way through this. So that would surprise me.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The ouster – impeachment of President Lugo has generated quite a bit of criticism throughout Latin America. I was wondering what the U.S. view on it is. Does the U.S. recognize the new government in Paraguay?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have been closely following the events. And we remain quite concerned about the speed of the process used for this impeachment in Paraguay. And we note the statements that elections and transitions to the next president will take place on schedule. As you know, I think they were due to have regularly scheduled elections in some eight or nine months. So what we are doing now is consulting with a broad cross-section of our OAS partners – the Secretary spoke over the weekend to Brazilian Foreign Minister Patriota for example – and taking stock of what our reaction will be along with our partners.
QUESTION: Have you made a determination on whether it constitutes a coup?
MS. NULAND: We have not. We are continuing to consult with our partners.
QUESTION: Wait. But that is not something that you do with your partners. I think that’s done by the (L) bureau – office here, whether or not it’s a coup under U.S. law, correct?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We have not so designated it at this point.
QUESTION: Well, one thing. The OAS could potentially choose to take action to try to get rid of the current Paraguayan Government. Is that something the U.S. would support?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have, as you may know, a Permanent Representative’s Council meeting of the OAS tomorrow. So I think Paraguay will obviously be topic one, two, and three on the agenda at the OAS. I think we look forward to seeing how much unity there is there in the OAS on next steps.
QUESTION: Do you – or when you say that you’re still looking at it in terms of whether it meets the definition of a coup, I mean, are you – do your concerns extend beyond the speed of this? Or do you think that something was done extra-constitutionally?
MS. NULAND: No, I think in the second pass to Arshad, we have not made a determination of coup in the traditional sense, obviously.
QUESTION: No, I understand that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, are you concerned that it might be? I mean – or do you think that it’s possibly that the constitution wasn’t followed? Because if it was, then I don’t see how you could make that determination.
MS. NULAND: I think that we are obviously consulting with our partners, but it appears to have been – it appears to have tracked process, but the concerns that we have have to do with the speed and with whether there was due process; let’s put it that way.
QUESTION: Okay. And are you aware – is it correct that President Lugo went to the U.S. Embassy on, I believe, Thursday, when this process was going on? Are you aware of any meetings between him, even if it wasn’t in the Embassy, and U.S. officials there? And if you are, what did they talk about?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Matt. I’m not sure.
QUESTION: Can you clarify one thing, Toria? You said, in response to Matt’s question, that it appears to have tracked process, that your concerns were with the speed of it and whether there was due process. Can you explain how it could have tracked process, but there would not have been due process?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into all the back and forth, but within the Paraguayan system, the speed itself was questioned at the time and things just went forward. So that would be a process question as well.
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Still Paraguay?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Most of the Latin American governments have called their ambassadors for consultations. Is the U.S. considering a similar step?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously been in extremely close touch with our ambassador, but we haven’t made any decisions about issues like that at this stage.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Finland?
QUESTION: Are you – yes.
MS. NULAND: Finland?
QUESTION: Yes. Rarely brought up, but important.
MS. NULAND: Finland on your mind.
QUESTION: Since the Secretary will be headed there --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- are you aware of the comments by President Putin about Finland and losing its sovereignty if it is allied with NATO?
MS. NULAND: I had not seen President Putin’s comments. You know where we stand on all countries having the right to choose their alliances or choose not to have alliances as they wish. And that is a principled position for us around the world, and most especially and including countries in Europe who have consistently worked well in partnership with NATO, et cetera.
QUESTION: Really? You don’t mind if Venezuela and Iran decide to ally in some formal structure? That wouldn’t bother you?
MS. NULAND: We have dealt with certain kinds of alliances like that for many years.
QUESTION: On India and Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: India this week is hosting an international investors meeting on Afghanistan. Do you know what your expectations are from this meeting, and what – at what level the U.S. is participating in this meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’re referring to the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan, which is something that the Indians put together to encourage more private sector investment in Afghanistan and support for its economy. We have more than a dozen American companies participating in the conference to explore investment opportunities, including big companies like DuPont, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Electric, ExxonMobil. So we think this is an excellent initiative to strengthen private sector investment, to strengthen regional links, and shows great leadership on the Indian Government’s part. And we’ve encouraged our firms interested in Afghanistan to participate. So we are very much appreciative. I think the Secretary mentioned it when we were in Delhi and again when the Indian delegation was here.
QUESTION: So can you provide us the list of U.S. companies participating in this project?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a full list, but I’m sure that the Indian side, since they’re organizing it, can probably give you that.
QUESTION: Also on India?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Indian media are reporting that Abu Jindal, better known as Sayed Zabiuddin, has been arrested for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in India. What’s the U.S. reaction to this? And is the United States still concerned about Pakistan’s condoning terrorism and not cooperating as much as they could?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are aware of these reports that one of the suspected planners of the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai has been arrested. We have a strong interest, as we’ve said, since the day of the attack in the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of all those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attack because our own citizens were among the victims. So we want to see all of them brought to justice.
QUESTION: A follow?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. provide any kind of assistance intelligence-wise in nabbing that 26/11 accused?
MS. NULAND: With regard to that particular one, I don’t have any details for you. But as you know, we have been doing what we can to share information and support of the Indian efforts to bring folks to justice.
QUESTION: On the back of that, when S.M. Krishna was here recently, he put in another request for access to David Headley. Is the U.S. going to be giving them that access quite soon?
MS. NULAND: We have routinely provided access to David Headley when asked, and we will continue to make him available as appropriate.
QUESTION: On Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. There were reports last week over a State Department report on harassment of U.S. diplomats in Pakistan. But again, there’ve been a lot of reports coming out of Pakistan that U.S. diplomats had been stopped and found with various weapons, which they were perhaps not licensed to have at the time in that area. Do you have any comment on that, and whether that could’ve contributed to the stopping of diplomats?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the issues that we’ve had with regard to our diplomats, we have been in consultation with the Pakistani side on these issues to make sure that the rules of the road are clear and it is absolutely understood by the Pakistani side what functions these individuals are involved in, and we’ll continue to do that.
With regard to some of the things that you’ve seen in the Pakistani media, we work very hard to ensure that we are clear and within the Vienna Convention with regard to the behavior of our diplomats, not just in Pakistan but around the world.
QUESTION: Have your – have you gotten any assurance that your concerns will be addressed? Or that --
MS. NULAND: We’ve made some progress on some of these, and we have to just continue to work on them, as we do with other things.
QUESTION: But – so this is very much a live issue?
MS. NULAND: It has been complicated.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I go back to Egypt for just one second?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And – but it’s not having to do with the government. It has to do with the visa for the Gama’a al-Islamiyya member. You said last week that there was a – you were looking into the circumstances of how this was issued. Has – have you determined how this – how it happened? And are you aware that Representative King has asked – formally asked Homeland Security to find out how he was in fact allowed entry, quite apart – separate from the visa issue?
MS. NULAND: On the latter, yes, I’ve seen the reporting. As we promised, we did look into it. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be happy with me when I tell you that we are not going to get into the details of confidential visa issuance. He and the rest of that delegation who were here last week have all now returned to Egypt.
QUESTION: Do you regard it as a mistake to have issued him a visa, given that he is self-proclaimed a member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the fact that we have an interest in engaging a broad cross-section of Egyptians who are seeking to peacefully shape Egypt’s future. The goal of this delegation, as you know, was to have consultations both with think tanks but also with government folks, with a broad spectrum representing all the colors of Egyptian politics: liberals, Islamists, Salafists, women, Bedouin Christians. We were encouraged that they were willing to travel, that they were open to meetings with us, et cetera.
But in terms of specific questions on the visa issuance, I’m not going to – I’m not at liberty to get into anything further.
QUESTION: Well, but here’s the thing: I mean, I appreciate that you feel that you have an interest in consulting with the entire spectrum of Egyptian political society. But you also have U.S. laws which state that members of foreign terrorist groups are not eligible for travel to the United States, and would state, in some cases, can actually be removed from the United States if they happen to come here.
So the question – and I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question – it’s whether it’s a mistake to let somebody who is a self-proclaimed member of such a group in or not. It may be that the threshold under the law is higher and that you have to do more than just say, “Hey, I’m a member of X.” You actually have to have a card or, I don’t know, pay dues. I mean, maybe there are --
MS. NULAND: The T-shirt?
QUESTION: I bet he has one. But the question is whether it – this is a mistake or not regardless of – nobody’s asking you about the specific details of the issuance or – it’s just “Did you make a mistake?”
MS. NULAND: Again, with regard to this case, we pledged to you that we would look into it. We did look into it. But I can’t get into any further details with regard to the how, why, where of the issuance for all of the reasons that we usually state.
With regard to the broader principle of engaging a broad cross-section of Egyptians, as I said, we think that’s a good thing to do.
QUESTION: So in the future, you’re going to allow in members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations to the United States Government, because that’s an interest to the U.S. Government to talk to a wide range of people?
MS. NULAND: As we always do, U.S. law comes first.
QUESTION: I don’t recall you saying when you said you were going to look into it, that you weren’t going to tell us what the results of the investigation were. I missed that part.
MS. NULAND: That’s true. You did.
QUESTION: No, I missed it because I don’t think you said it. And I think there was an expectation that if someone acted inappropriately or if somehow this guy slipped through, if procedures were violated, that you would at least be able to say that. So can you say if – has there been a determination that someone missed the ball here?
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to what our looking into this resulted in, except to say that the delegation has all departed the country now.
QUESTION: Well, right, but we knew that they had left on – or were in the process of leaving on Friday, so --
MS. NULAND: They were. They were.
QUESTION: So --
MS. NULAND: I’ve said what I’ve got on this one. Arshad had more --
QUESTION: I understand, but I just – I really – I mean, if you say you’re going to do an investigation and the results of the investigation are secret, that’s --
MS. NULAND: I said we were going to look into it. We did look into it.
QUESTION: And that’s it? It’s a done deal?
MS. NULAND: Under U.S. law --
QUESTION: So the matter – no one’s going to face any disciplinary action? There hasn’t been --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to --
QUESTION: I don’t understand how that --
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position --
QUESTION: I don’t understand how that gets into the Privacy Act, I don’t understand how that gets into visa confidentiality, and I suspect that you’re going to hear a lot more about this from the Hill. Maybe you’ll be more forthcoming with them than with the American people, who are supposed to be protected by these laws.
MS. NULAND: Anything else?
QUESTION: Two, yeah, related to this. To your knowledge, are there any legal or criminal inquiries into whether any U.S. laws were violated in this instance?
MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that question, Arshad.
QUESTION: Can we go to something unrelated? Next week, the UN takes up negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty regulating global arms – the global arms trade. (Clears throat.) Excuse me. Maybe you’ll have to come back to me.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Okay. All right.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: President Obama’s nominee for Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Brett McGurk, just withdrew from consideration. Do you have any comment on the situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, the White House spoke at the time to his withdrawal, and I’m going to send you to the White House on any next steps.
QUESTION: Can I go back to my question? I asked you whether, to your knowledge, there were any criminal or legal inquiries into whether any laws were violated here, and you said you didn’t know the answer. But surely, you do know the answer as to whether, to your knowledge, there are any such. So does that mean --
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, there are no such.
QUESTION: But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that there might be some? Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m just going to try this again: Next week’s UN Arms Trade Treaty, they start – the UN starts negotiations on that. What are the U.S. hopes for that negotiation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’re still working with our partners leading up to it, but let us, a little bit closer to the time, get you a brief on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ahmadinejad in Venezuela, if you have an assessment at all to – of his tour last week in Latin America? And also some voices on the Hill are asking the U.S. Government to develop a strategy towards Iranian presence in the region. Is there such a strategy?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the strategy, our strategy is to continue to work with all of our hemispheric partners, as we do with countries around the world, on the importance of staying united in support of UN Security Council resolutions, and our expectations that Iran will come back into compliance with its obligations, and that anybody that engages with Iran should do what they can to make those points, and our larger work now to try to strengthen the sanctions regime, including lowering the number of countries and the amount of Iranian crude that is imported. So we – that’s our message in the hemisphere. That’s our message globally.
With regard to Ahmadinejad’s southern tour, he’s hanging out in Venezuela, looking for friends in all the wrong places. I think it continues to speak to the desperation of the regime.
QUESTION: Maldive’s former president is in town. Do you know is he meeting anyone in the building or while he’s --
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one too. I am not aware.
QUESTION: Just back to the Egypt visa thing, because I – when – last week, when you spoke to this, you said that he and all – anyone who gets a visa goes through a full screening and vetting process, but that that vetting process is only as good as the information you have available to yourself at the time. Is it still the State Department’s position that this entire – all the members of the delegation were fully and accurately screened?
MS. NULAND: Visa processes were followed, as they are in all cases.
QUESTION: So the problem then – so there’s no problem. You don’t see that there’s a problem with the process, with the vetting process?
MS. NULAND: Again, obviously, we said we would --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in general.
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether – I mean, in – on a national basis, in terms of the way visas are processed, we continue to seek whatever improvements we can across the interagency to make sure that we have full information. We’ll continue to do that, as we have historically.
With regard to this particular case, I’m completely constrained in terms of what I can say.
QUESTION: Well, let me just say – I mean, how about in terms of all Egyptians? Are you convinced that the Embassy and its – at least the consular officers and the DHS people who are there are doing their job in a responsible and thorough manner?
MS. NULAND: Well, again --
QUESTION: Without talking about this case, talking about the – Egypt as a mission, as diplomatic missions, Alexandria and Cairo, is the Department – does the Department have confidence that the people who are in charge of issuing visas are doing a thorough and accurate job in vetting applicants?
MS. NULAND: We have confidence in mission Egypt in all of its components, and it is working very hard across the political, economic, people-to-people, consular chains to manage the – and work with a country that’s going through a great transition.
QUESTION: Right. I understand.
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to give individual sections and individual officers a grade from the podium, Matt. It’s just not appropriate. It’s --
QUESTION: Well, it – well, in this case, there are a lot of people asking a lot of questions.
MS. NULAND: I understand.
QUESTION: And elected officials are as well. And --
MS. NULAND: And we will obviously answer the concerns of the elected officials, as will DHS.
QUESTION: Okay. But those people represent – those elected officials represent the American population.
MS. NULAND: I understand.
QUESTION: Who – it is the American people who are supposed to be protected by these laws. And if these laws aren’t being enforced or they’re deliberately being – I don’t want to use circumvented, but they’re being allowed to slide so that you can have the best representation or you can reach out to the full cross-section of society, then I think people need to know about that.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me put a stake in that to start with. American law was followed, will be followed, will always be followed in U.S. visa issuance.
QUESTION: Well, was it in – and so if you can – so you’re saying that that was followed in this case, when clearly it wasn’t.
MS. NULAND: I said what I can on this case. American law also protects the confidentially of visa records, so I’m not at a --
QUESTION: Well, fine, but not when someone screws up and --
QUESTION: -- when you had – look at the shoe bomber – I mean, not the shoe bomber, the Detroit thing.
MS. NULAND: If we have more to say, we will say it. At the moment we don’t, guys. Can we close this one down for today?
QUESTION: You said American law was followed. Did that mean that American law was followed in this specific instance?
MS. NULAND: Again, Arshad, I’ve said what I can on this one. I really don’t have anything further today.
QUESTION: I’m giving you an opportunity to roll back from that statement, because it’s not clear to me that that’s what you meant to say. If it turns out that American law was not followed, you may regret saying that American law was followed.
MS. NULAND: I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m really at the end of what I have, which is to say that we looked into it, but I can’t go any further than that.
QUESTION: Very quick follow-up. Will there be any meetings with the Syria’s Grand Mufti at State Department or any Administration officials are going to have meetings with him?
MS. NULAND: Again, what we have at this point is an invitation. I don’t have anything for you on anything further.
Okay, guys. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
DPB # 116