Daily Press Briefing - November 2, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- OSCE Election Observers
- Consultation with Turkey
- Doha Conference / SNC / Goals of Syrian People / Syrian Leadership
- Human Rights Violations
- Accountability Review Board
- Congressman Issa's Letter
- Deputy Secretary Burns's Meeting with Tunisian MFA Secretary of State
- Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation
- ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- U.S. Seeking Dialogue, Negotiated Solution
- Palestinian Action in the UN
- EGYPT / PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Continued Conversations with Congress on Aid
- ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN
- U.S. Urges Diplomatic Solution
- CHINA / JAPAN
- Senkaku Islands
- SRI LANKA
- Judicial Process
- Freedom of Access to Information / Alan Gross
- PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Reforms / IMF and World Bank Lending
This video is available on YouTube with closed captions.
12:48 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Happy Friday. We had a very interesting trip to Algeria and the Balkans. It’s good to see all of you ladies all in blue today. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Toria, can I begin with something that may not be at the top of your agenda, but it is a question about the elections? There are international observers --
MS. NULAND: Whose elections?
QUESTION: Well, I think they’re happening all over the world.
MS. NULAND: Are they?
QUESTION: But specifically here. International election monitors in two states are being threatened with, in one case, in Iowa, apparently with arrest if they try to go to polling places. And in Texas they’ve also had kind of a similar threat, that they should not show up at polling places. Has the State Department been in touch with the OSCE and other organizations and is there any advice? How are you dealing with the states on this?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did, as you may remember, talk about this at some length last week.
QUESTION: Great length.
MS. NULAND: Great length, yeah.
QUESTION: But there’s another one.
MS. NULAND: Matt was quite interested himself. The OSCE team has a duty to comply with U.S. law. They know that. We have reminded them of that. Our understanding from them is that they fully plan to comply with all U.S. laws. With regard to those states where there have been questions, we have worked with them to facilitate direct contact with state authorities so that they can work out what terms would be acceptable.
I think you know how much we as a country value OSCE observation. As you know, we deploy American observers to places like Russia, Ukraine, countries across the Euro-Atlantic area to observe elections ourselves, and the OSCE has observed elections in the U.S. since 2002, including successfully in Texas in 2008. And we think we have an excellent system to display to the world, so we look forward to hosting the OSCE here this time. They are already operating in some 40 states.
QUESTION: And does the State Department actually physically go out with them or anything, or are they just on their own?
MS. NULAND: No, we don’t. No.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
QUESTION: Do you know if any other foreign observers will be coming, do you know?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t check on that today. When we talked about this last week, our understanding was that IFES was going to field some study tours. They weren’t observers, per se, they were studying the administration of elections, and that a number of embassies and other foreign governments were asking to observe in particular states and they were working directly with state authorities. But I didn’t have any other formal organizations besides the OSCE that had requested to come observe.
MS. NULAND: IFES, the International – I will get it for you.
QUESTION: Elections Systems --
QUESTION: Elections – yes.
MS. NULAND: -- Elections Systems something. We’ll get it for you. Apologies.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
QUESTION: What part of the law, American law, were they not complying with, the OSCE? You said they had a duty to comply with the law, which suggests that they weren’t complying with some part of the law.
MS. NULAND: I think this speaks to – there were some questions in Texas that came up publicly and came up in conversations. The question was state laws, and they have been reassuring to us and they have been reassuring to state authorities, and that’s the expectation from here.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Of?
QUESTION: The Patriot missile along its border with Syria to guard against any Syrian attacks or incursions. Does that usher in the beginning of a no-fly zone, in your estimate?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen what you are seeing, Said, so I can’t speak to it specifically. I think you know that we have, in a NATO context, already had an Article 4 consultation with Turkey on its security, and we have made clear that we stand ready to support our ally in other ways if necessary. With regard to a no-fly zone, I think you know where we’ve been. We continue to look at this proposal, to talk to neighbors and allies about it, but we haven’t made any decisions.
QUESTION: Okay. Would, in your judgment, the deployment of the Patriot missiles along the border accelerate the – sort of, the tensions that are ongoing between Syria and Turkey, or is it likely to mitigate that?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to get into hypothetical situations. But just to state the fact here, Patriot missile systems are defensive systems. They’re not missile batteries. They’re defenses against incoming missiles.
QUESTION: And finally, on the Doha conference next week. Could you confirm that both Mr. Hassan Abdul Azim and Mr. Hijab are on the list, the former Prime Minister of Syria, are on the list to lead the opposition? Is that something that you are or you may be proposing?
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position to confirm any of the invited guests to Doha because the Qataris, not we, are the hosts. But as we have been talking about for some time and as the Secretary talked about on Tuesday or Wednesday – I guess it was Wednesday when we were on the road – our hope is that Doha will produce a broader, more representative structure for the opposition that reflects the diversity – ethnically, geographically – that reflects the many groups that have sprung up in Syria over the last year. So that’s what we are encouraging, but it is up to the Syrians to pick their leadership.
QUESTION: The SNC isn’t very happy with the Americans having put forward a recommended list of names or recommendations. They’re accusing the United States, actually, of undermining the revolution now. What would your comment be to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have been supportive of the SNC’s efforts for more than a year now. But we have also been very clear, privately and publicly, with the SNC throughout the period that we’ve been working with them, that we thought they needed to broaden their representation, as the Secretary has said – ethnically, geographically – to reflect these local coordination councils, to reflect the leadership that is emerging within the opposition in Syria. And we’ve been encouraging them to do that.
So our view remains that the SNC can, should participate in Doha, but we want to see but we want to see, because Syrians want to see, a broader representation. So this is not a matter of the U.S. dictating. This is a matter of the U.S. and other friends of Syria supporting the voices from inside Syria who are saying that the SNC has not, over the past year, used this time to really broaden itself, to reach out inside, and that the leadership needs to reflect what’s happening in Syria, it needs to reflect all of the colors and voices of Syria.
QUESTION: So are we going to see a situation where the SNC is actually effectively sidelined now from ongoing discussions about a future government in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, our understanding is that representatives of the SNC will be invited to Doha and that they will be part of this conversation. So I think it’s really up to the Syrians how much of a role in this future structure the SNC, as SNC, has or whether they become part of a larger and changed structure. That’s really something the Syrians are going to have to decide.
QUESTION: Do you have any ideas about what, or are you aware of anyone else having ideas about what the structure should look like in terms of number? Not in terms of specific members but in terms of numbers of people? Is it a council followed by – is it a – what is it? What is this structure?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we don’t want to get ahead of the meeting that’s going to happen in Doha next week, particularly because as we’ve repeated again and again, these are Syrian decisions to make. But the conversation among Syrians that we’ve been party to has talked about a relatively broad council with a smaller leading board of some kind, similar to what’s been done in other transitioning states. But I think we have to just see what emerges from the conversations in Doha.
Let me also just say that Assistant Secretary Beth Jones is now going to be leading the U.S. observer delegation. Ambassador Robert Ford will also be part of that, as will Ambassador Bill Taylor.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that Ambassador Ford (inaudible) the delegation. He’s been so involved with the opposition.
MS. NULAND: Well, he’s obviously going to be a key interlocutor with all of his Syrian counterparts. I think we decided that given how big this meeting is becoming that Assistant Secretary Jones should also go and represent. There’s going to be enough people to talk to for everybody.
QUESTION: I’m still confused just by the structure --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because I mean, it seems to me that with such an amorphous goal out there, and I don’t believe it is amorphous but it’s amorphous what you’re describing to us, is a recipe for creating another SNC with all the same problems that – so what is this executive board or politburo or whatever you’re going to call it – I mean, how many people should be on that thing, recognizing that it’s a Syrian decision, but clearly you all have ideas because you’re sharing your ideas about specifically who should be on it?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into prescriptions here. Our conversations with the Syrians have not been prescriptive. We have simply been sharing --
QUESTION: Okay. So what is your suggestion then? What --
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not going to be suggestive here in public. We’re going to talk to the Syrians. But the concern that we have is that in its formal structure that this body be as representative as possible of the many voices and places and leadership structures emerging in Syria but that it also be able to be effective. And in that regard, I would say that in our conversations with the Syrians, particularly those who are coming from inside Syria, they have articulated two key goals which we fully support.
The first goal is an internal goal for Syria itself that this new enhanced structure be able to give more political cohesion, that it be able to connect the various political groups inside Syria and to give assurances, particularly to minority populations, that their rights, that their voice will be respected. It can do that by having a broader membership, by reaching out more broadly, that it can also be effective thereby in encouraging more defections, encouraging people to break with the regime, because they will see that they have a future in a more democratic and open Syria, and as we’ve also said on the internal side that it really enhance and deepen the conversation among the opposition about how they would see the transition moving forward.
The second goal is the external goal. And here we’ve talked about the difficulties that we’ve had vetting groups inside Syria, ensuring that we are working with the right people. So we are hopeful that if this leadership structure can emerge in a new and enhanced way, it’ll be an organization that the international community can work with to better direct assistance – humanitarian assistance, non-lethal assistance, any other kinds of assistance – where it can be most helpful to the opposition as a whole.
The second is the goal of having a real representative address for countries that remain to be convinced that a transition is in the best interest of Syria. So for example, we often hear from the Russians, we hear from the Chinese, we don’t know who’s going to come next, we’re more concerned about that than we are about what Assad is up to. So again, a more cohesive, unified, reflective group that can do advocacy with those countries that remain to be convinced that change is necessary, that they’ve got a better plan for Syria.
QUESTION: So is --
QUESTION: Well, given the problems that you’ve had with the SNC and the frustration that you had with them, which is a less broad, right, group than what you’re hoping for out of here, this seems like a recipe for more gridlock to me. I mean, if you – the broader and the more – the broader the group and the more interests and people you have in it, the less likely it is to be able to come to any kind of cohesion, isn’t it?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’re making an arithmetic argument. I think our concern is that part of the problem that the SNC has had has been establishing its legitimacy as speaking for those inside Syria. So we want to see more voices coming from inside Syria, more voices representing more of the constituencies inside Syria. So rather than fighting among themselves about what they represent, to have folks who are actually representative.
QUESTION: Victoria, (inaudible) the Secretary said that we want more representation of those who are on the front lines fighting. Does she mean the militant group that are fighting on the front lines, or does she mean that the Syrian public who’s out there demonstrating against Bashar al-Assad?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think as I said here in outlining the goals, the first goal is to unite the political opposition and to bring more of the different groups around Syria into the political opposition and to have them be comfortable and feel like they have a home in the new Syria. So we’re talking about making sure that the group represents not only the Sunni population but the Alawi, the Druze, the Christians, the Kurds, any other minority groups, women, et cetera. So for that to be reflected in who is part of this group, as well as the geographic balance inside Syria. But also, we have a number of new structures that have emerged over this year of difficulty in Syria. We have the local coordinating councils. We have the revolutionary councils. We have the armed groups. And they need to do better talking to each other, coordinating with each other locally and across the country.
So our hope is the same hope that Syrians tell us that they have, which is that this new, improved structure will help them to be coordinated with each other.
QUESTION: You said that to help facilitate nonlethal aid, right? Just now --
MS. NULAND: To help facilitate humanitarian aid --
QUESTION: Humanitarian and nonlethal aid.
MS. NULAND: -- nonlethal aid. That’s what we are --
QUESTION: But on the other hand, when you say those fighting on the frontline, that does not really clearly preclude armament, for instance, does it?
MS. NULAND: Our position on this hasn’t changed, Said. And as we’ve said all the way along, we are working with states that have made choices other than ours, and one of our main concerns has been ensuring, whether it’s humanitarian, whether it’s nonlethal, whether it’s what states other than the United States are giving, that it is getting to those who seek the same kind of Syria that we seek, a democratic, pluralistic, united Syria, and that we are protecting against extremists hijacking this revolution either in political terms or in military terms. So again, this is one of the goals we seek, and the Syrians seek, in working on a new leadership structure in Doha.
QUESTION: Is the aim to --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please, Samir.
QUESTION: There are reports today quoting members of the SNC criticizing this new approach, saying it’s going to lead to more division among the opposition, and they will not accept any alternative to their body.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think if they don’t participate in a broader structure, they risk making themselves irrelevant. So we would hope that they would participate actively in Doha and be part of the solution to a representative structure.
QUESTION: But then there will be division.
MS. NULAND: Again, I spoke to Matt’s sort of arithmetic that more makes harder. Our concern is that we have a relatively narrow slice of the Syrian conversation fighting with themselves rather than a broad representative group that --
QUESTION: Fighting with themselves. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Anyway.
QUESTION: I mean, come on. Is there any evidence that the – that a broader group is going to get together and work together --
MS. NULAND: Well, I would --
QUESTION: -- any more than the SNC did?
MS. NULAND: I would simply say --
QUESTION: Just because some of them happen to be in the – on the ground and being shelled every day?
MS. NULAND: I would simply say that if you look at transitional efforts, the first transitional government in Libya, they were very careful to be broadly representative geographically, broadly representative in terms of background, and that ensured that they were able to have a conversation about the needs of the entire country. In Yemen, it was a similar situation, where we worked hard to try to reflect – the Yemenis worked hard with the international community to try to reflect all the constituencies in Yemen. From our own democratic experience, when you have a representative group that reflects, in the American case, all the states, you have a better chance of being coherent in terms of a national policy.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. So in terms of the United States, you think that right now that the Congress is working just superbly? There’s no --
MS. NULAND: It’s better than all the alternatives, Matt. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- no gridlock at all? No problems there?
MS. NULAND: What do they say, democracy’s really difficult, but everything else is worse? All right.
QUESTION: So, is the aim to come out of Doha with some kind of government in exile somehow?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to put labels on this. The goal from our perspective is to support Syrians in having a broader, more effective, more representative grouping lead this opposition.
QUESTION: And I wondered if you had any comment about whether you’d seen the video that’s circulating of Syrian rebels executing Syrian soldiers, which some of the rights – international rights community is saying could amount to war crimes.
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Jo. We have, obviously, seen this video. We condemn human – let me start again. We condemn human rights violations by any party in Syria. There is no justification for that kind of behavior, ever. Anyone committing atrocities should be held to account. I would note that the Free Syrian Army themselves, back in August, put forward a code of conduct which reflects rules of war, international codes, and they have routinely called on their fighters to adhere to that. And we would echo that sentiment here.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Wendell, I knew you came for a reason. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Please, have mercy. (Laughter.) We’re reporting on a cable --
MS. NULAND: I will if you will, how about that?
MS. NULAND: Again, Wendell, I don’t have anything broadly new to say on this, other than you know how seriously we take the Accountability Review Board process that the Secretary has stood up. We want them to look at all of these questions that are out there, all of the documents that are out there, and give us their best advice about what happened and what we can learn from it.
QUESTION: And given the – just the few days between now and the election, would you expect the Review Board to report before Tuesday?
MS. NULAND: No. We said when it stood up that we expected its work would take somewhere between 60 and 65 days, based on past precedent. That takes us into December, based on when they started. And we need to make sure that it is a complete and thorough review, rather than it be pitched to some artificial deadline.
QUESTION: Do you consider Republican calls for a response before Tuesday to be politically motivated?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know we don’t talk about politics here, so I’m not going to speak to what one side or the other in this exciting American time has to say about this. I appreciate the opportunity, though. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That is my charge. Tunisia has agreed to allow U.S. questioning of a suspect in custody in the Benghazi tragedy. The Republicans are saying that’s only because of pressure from Senator Lindsey Graham, but, of course, the Deputy Secretary Burns met with the Tunisian Foreign Minister yesterday. Did yesterday’s meeting precipitate the decision to allow the U.S. to question this suspect?
MS. NULAND: Wendell, I’m going to frustrate you on this one as well and say that from this podium, I’m not going to be speaking about any aspect of the requirement to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attack. I’m not going to speak about our conversations with other governments. I’m not going to speak about what we’re learning or who we may be pursuing along with the Libyans.
QUESTION: What did the Deputy Secretary talk with the Tunisian Foreign Minister about yesterday?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that the meeting is today, in fact, that it --
QUESTION: Did I get that wrong?
MS. NULAND: -- wasn’t yesterday.
MS. NULAND: It might have been this morning. The expectation is that he’s going to talk about the full complement of issues that we have. We, obviously, are working hard with them to deepen and broaden their democratic institutions. As you know, we are supporting economic reform and we have provided, as the Secretary said – announced when we were in Tunisia not too long ago – budget stabilization support with the support of the Congress. We’ve obviously been having an ongoing conversation about the need to remain vigilant in support for the security around our Embassy, and that conversation continues, but there are a full range of things that we’re talking to the Tunisians about, including security sector reform.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There’s another report about security in Benghazi and – well, about the immediate aftermath of the attack and whether or not a FEST team should go. I notice that your colleague, at least one of them, has spoken about this on the record. I am wondering if you can tell us why the decision was made not to ask for one of these teams to go.
MS. NULAND: Again, I am going to leave it to the ARB to do a full review of what went on before, during, and after. I’m not going to get into any of the details from the podium.
QUESTION: So as soon as you stand down, you’ll go on the record and say something?
MS. NULAND: I’m not planning on speaking on this issue at all.
QUESTION: Well, then can you explain why Philippe was quoted in this story, a State Department official?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to again --
QUESTION: You’ve seen what he had to say?
MS. NULAND: I actually didn’t see on this particular matter, but I’m going to refer you to him for anything he wants to say on it.
QUESTION: I think that since it is a television network that is reporting this, that they would – they and all the rest of us would love to have something on camera.
MS. NULAND: I’m sure that the television networks will appreciate you advocating for that, but --
QUESTION: Well, I hope they do.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And I think it’s ridiculous for someone, an official in this Department, to speak on the record about something and you not be able to speak about it from the podium. Just because it’s on camera --
MS. NULAND: Well, again --
QUESTION: -- doesn’t mean that --
MS. NULAND: Again, I didn’t see what he said this morning, so I will --
QUESTION: Well, can you explain to us why and – since has spoken about it on the record and is quoted in this story as talking about it, can you take that and come back to us on camera and give us a similar explanation as to why a FEST team wasn’t thought to be necessary?
MS. NULAND: I will speak to him and figure out what it is he said, and we will go from there.
QUESTION: Let me second Matt.
MS. NULAND: Excellent.
QUESTION: Can we change topic?
MS. NULAND: Please.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. I got – these documents that Foreign Policy wrote about yesterday also from Benghazi have prompted a letter to the Secretary from Congressman Issa. She’s gotten that, I assume?
MS. NULAND: She’s gotten the letter. We are reviewing it and we expect to respond shortly.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether anyone – to your knowledge, anyone other than the FBI team that went to the consulate, any other U.S. officials have been to the site since then?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the answer to that, Matt. I --
QUESTION: Can you explain how, six weeks afterwards, there would still be documents lying around? It seems like maybe this question best directed to the FBI, but the – you basically – the State Department has basically abandoned this site, correct?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to speak to any aspect of Benghazi.
QUESTION: No one has gone back and no one is there right now?
MS. NULAND: I frankly just don’t have the – all of the facts on that here. We will come back to you afterwards if we have anything to add on that.
QUESTION: On India, Madam, did Secretary have any time to call the new Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Salman Khurshid? And also if he has been invited to the U.S.?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think she expects to be in contact with him. As of this morning, I don’t think that she has connected with him yet, but I think she does expect to be in contact with him, as she always is with new colleagues. And I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk with him and begin working well with him.
QUESTION: On India (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Not India, necessarily. The U.S. --
MS. NULAND: I can’t hear you, Lalit.
QUESTION: On Indian Ocean?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: The U.S. today was inducted as a dialogue partner in the 20-nation Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation. In this capacity, what role U.S. wants to play, and why U.S. are interested in becoming a dialogue partner with us on that issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, let me say that we welcome the news that we have been included as a dialogue partner in the IOR-ARC. These kinds of regional and multilateral institutions play a vital role in addressing the shared challenges that we have and building a more prosperous and peaceful region. As you know, that part of the world is extremely strategically important. We are glad to see the states around the Indian Ocean working together, and we welcome the opportunity to be part of that conversation in a dialogue capacity.
QUESTION: And what do you have to say that there was Iranian opposition to your induction in this group, and despite that you went and conducted a dialogue party?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think it speaks to the fact that other states in the region very much welcome having us as a dialogue partner.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Toria, today marks the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which promised a Jewish homeland for – I mean, a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. And it clearly states – clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may have prejudiced the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. We all know that the Palestinians have, for 60 some-odd years, have suffered a great deal – languished in refugee camps and so on. What have you done – what has the American Government done to really alleviate the Palestinians suffering and to ensure that what is stated in the basis of the formation of the state of Israel to rectify the situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, as you know, we have across many administrations – Democratic and Republican – for decades now, supported and promoted the cause of peace and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. I don’t think I need to recount that history for you of all people here. I would also note that since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, we have supported that Authority financially every year, and we continue to advocate for that with the Congress and believe that it is important for the Palestinian Authority to be able to provide well for its people, and we’ll continue to do that as well.
QUESTION: President Abbas, apparently marking the occasion yesterday, said very clearly that when he says, “Palestine,” we mean land occupied in 1967, that he does not expect to ever go back to Safed, his home town, in essence giving up on the right to return. Does that help accelerate the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians in your view?
MS. NULAND: Again, Said, I didn’t see the specific comments that he made, but I think we’ve been pretty clear here about what we are seeking, which is a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians that is lasting and sustainable and results in two states that can live next to each other.
QUESTION: And lastly, he also said that on the 15th or thereabouts of this month, they will go to the United Nations pursuing a nongovernment – an observer status – state as an observer status with the United Nations. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Our comment is no different than the comment that we’ve been making for more than a year. Action in the United Nations efforts to move this forward in the United Nations are not going to bring the Palestinian people any closer to a state. Only negotiations can do that. And we are concerned about creating new tensions and making it harder.
MS. NULAND: Those conversations continue. We’ve had staff delegations up, and we’ve been making phone calls to advocate for our budget requests for both of those. But as you know, the Congress has been out pending the elections, so we’re only able to work with staff at the moment.
QUESTION: Any news about Ambassador Hale’s activities?
MS. NULAND: He has been in phone contact with his various counterparts, but he hasn’t made any travel plans. I’m expecting he will probably travel later in the month, but I don’t have anything to announce at the meeting.
QUESTION: Next door in Jordan, are you aware of a report that the Jordanians are going to release the guy who was convicted of killing Laurence Foley back in 2002? And if you are aware of this, do you have any comment on it?
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that, Matt. If we have anything to comment, I will give it back to you.
QUESTION: Going back to --
MS. NULAND: Scott. Scott. Scott, and then we’ll come back.
MS. NULAND: Sorry, still in the neighborhood?
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask a quick follow-up on the issue of the UN. If they go to the UN, then there is a law – there is a U.S. law that calls for the closure of the PLO mission in Washington. In terms of time, what are the steps – what are the procedures to close the office here if that happens?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into hypothetical situations that haven’t arisen as of yet. Our goal is to continue to make clear that taking those steps will not be productive, but the law’s pretty clear. If you need a separate briefing on it, we can get you that.
Scott, back to --
QUESTION: Azerbaijan is threatening military action against any commercial flights into Nagorno-Karabakh, specifically into the apparently newly renovated airport at Stepanakert. I know that the Secretary spoke about that when we were there sometime this year in both countries. Is that – the United States involved in this latest trouble – potential trouble?
MS. NULAND: Well, we – as we always do with these kinds of issues, the United States urges the parties to find a diplomatic solution to issues relating to the operation of the airport, in keeping with the relevant international agreements, customary international law, and the current practice between Armenia and Azerbaijan with respect to civilian air travel. The OSCE-Minsk group issued a statement on this. There was one on April 14th, 2011. There was another one just this past July 2012, which represented the views of the United States, France, and Russia in calling for a diplomatic solution. So I would urge you to take a look at that.
We also, in those statements, reiterated that the operation of this airport should not be used to support any claim of change in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
QUESTION: Yes, on the Senkaku. A report to Secretary Clinton by former officials, including Deputy Secretary Steinberg, warned of military danger if there is no – unless there is more communication between Japan and China. I wonder if you have anything on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into private reports or advice offered by these former officials to the Secretary. We’re going to keep that confidential. As you know, we did have, last week, a group of very well-respected friends of both China and Japan make a visit and go on a listening tour, if you will. And they have given some comments back to the Secretary, but I’m not going to get into the details here.
QUESTION: Is there any more indication that there will be more communication between China and Japan directly regarding these disputes?
MS. NULAND: You mean American communication with China and Japan?
QUESTION: No, the communication --
MS. NULAND: Between them?
QUESTION: -- between China and Japan regarding Senkaku disputes.
MS. NULAND: Well, we would certainly hope so. As you know, we are advocating dialogue as the best way forward. But I would refer you to those governments.
QUESTION: Does the United States expect a heated tone or rhetorics cool down after China’s 18 Party Congress?
MS. NULAND: Again, our goal is to encourage both countries to talk to each other about this and to work through it. I’m not going to get into their internal politics one way or the other.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. One final question. I’m confused, so please help me. On one hand, the United States said that it’s not going to be a mediator. On the other hand, we see this shuttle diplomacy between China and – I mean, American officials, current officials and former officials, travel and talking to both Chinese and the Japanese separately. So isn’t that a mediator or at least facilitating communication?
MS. NULAND: We are not seeking to mediate, not officially, not unofficially. We are seeking to encourage both governments, Japan and China, to talk to each other.
QUESTION: Do you really think that it takes a team of experts of former officials to recommend that China and Japan talk to resolve this problem?
MS. NULAND: Again, I was --
QUESTION: How helpful is a recommendation from a blue-ribbon panel of experts that tensions could rise if they don’t start talking more seriously? Does that really contribute anything to the conversation or to the policy? Does the Secretary appreciate this kind of what would seem to be rather obvious advice?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re drawing assumptions about what was in the report, which I haven’t confirmed here. They were encouraged by this --
QUESTION: Oh, so the report in fact might have suggested that it would be good for China and Japan to go to war?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details of this at all.
QUESTION: Can I just stay on Japan for a minute?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add to Ambassador Roos’s comments about the alleged break-in and assault of the U.S. serviceman in Okinawa?
MS. NULAND: I do not. I think Ambassador Roos obviously spoke for all of us in being gravely concerned about this most recent event and committing that we will obviously cooperate fully with Japanese law enforcement.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Last week Shahriar Kabir, who is a human rights advocates and also filmmaker in Bangladesh, he was at the Bangladesh Embassy and showed his documentary about the crimes against humanity committed against his country and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his family, and three million Bangladeshis during the freedom struggle in 1971. What his film was a documentary on rise of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan and the future of --
MS. NULAND: In Pakistan or in Bangladesh?
QUESTION: In Pakistan. And what documentary said also, the future of Pakistan secular democracy and jihad open borders.
MS. NULAND: Is there a question in here, Goyal?
QUESTION: What I’m asking you is that he also came to the State Department, met State Department officials about this documentary and also upcoming trials against crimes against humanity. So what his film is – there are two questions, one about this trial crimes against humanity, and second the future of secular democracy in Pakistan. Any light you can put on?
MS. NULAND: I really am not aware of conversations we may have had with the filmmaker. I think you know very well where we are on issues of democracy, human rights, countering terror in Pakistan. We’ve been very clear about that.
MS. NULAND: Well, as you said, Lalit, we issued a statement earlier that we are concerned about interference with the judiciary. Beyond that, I think it’s probably not productive to go, but these are – what we are saying publicly in that statement is not any different than what we’ve been saying to the Sri Lankan Government for some time.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t this seen – should be seen as something as interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, because 117 elected member of parliaments have signed the resolution for impeachment against him?
MS. NULAND: Again, we speak out around the world when we are concerned that judicial processes are not being allowed to be conducted impartially. And we will do so wherever we see that, as we have in Sri Lanka this time.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Speaking of that, can we go to Bahrain?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Earlier this week there was some pretty blunt comments from Mark about the ban on demonstrations, and he said that there were discussions ongoing with the Bahrainis about this. I’m just wondering if those have yielded any satisfactory – or results that you find satisfactory.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have an update on those. Why don’t I get you something for Monday, Matt.
QUESTION: All right. Another thing about Bahrain is there’s been some questions raised about an American guy who’s serving as an advisor to the Bahraini Ministry of Interior, a guy named – a former police officer named John Timoney, or Timoney. Do you know anything about that and if he has any relationship with the U.S. Government?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that. Let us take it and see what we’ve got, Matt.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Today the Cuban authorities are accusing the United States of supplying the Cuban opposition with the means to access the internet, and they say that diplomats are promoting, advising, instructing, training, financing, supplying opponents with diverse media and technology. I just wondered if you had any comment on that.
MS. NULAND: We are absolutely guilty of those charges. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana does regularly offer free courses in using the internet to Cubans who want to sign up. We also have computers available for Cubans to use. Obviously, this wouldn’t be necessary if the Cuban Government didn’t restrict access to the internet and prevent its own citizens from getting technology training. So we – you know how we feel about this. We support freedom of access to information around the world.
QUESTION: Do you worry that this could maybe have an impact on the Alan Gross case?
MS. NULAND: We have been very clear about our support for freedom, human rights, dignity, and change in Cuba for decades now. We’ve also been very clear that Alan Gross is guilty of nothing and he should be released.
QUESTION: Toria, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to visit Gaza and Hamas, this coming at the heels of the visit of the Emir of Qatar. Does that help the situation, considering that Hamas still stands on your list of terrorist groups?
MS. NULAND: You know where we’ve been on this. We are clear, publicly and privately with our allies and partners, we oppose engagement with Hamas. We think Hamas remains a destabilizing force in Gaza, in the region. Visits of this kind are not conducive to advancing the cause of peace and security in the region. Instead, we urge all parties to play a constructive role in bringing the parties together.
That said, if there are legitimate interests in providing humanitarian support to Gaza, there are established means and ways to do that, and we encourage anybody wanting to do that to use established channels.
QUESTION: But as a major ally, would you call him to dissuade him from going?
MS. NULAND: I’m sure that we’ll be having conversations to try to get a better understanding of what’s intended here.
QUESTION: Sorry. I don’t remember you coming out with that strong a statement with the Emir when the Emir went there.
MS. NULAND: I think our statement was in line with that. I think there’s a concern now that we have more and more of this, and it’s not helpful.
QUESTION: Well, you didn’t say that that was unhelpful.
MS. NULAND: I did. I most certainly did.
QUESTION: Just a clarification on the Cuban thing. You said that the U.S. is guilty as charged. Teaching people the internet or teaching the people the internet, how to use the internet in order to subvert the government?
MS. NULAND: Teaching people how to use the internet, period, and allowing them access to computers with internet, that is the only thing that we are responsible for, as we do in our missions all around the world, our American corners around the world.
QUESTION: Sorry. I just wanted to – you said that you did say that the Emir’s visit was unhelpful?
MS. NULAND: I believe I did. I certainly gave a statement at the time.
QUESTION: Okay. Then maybe I missed it.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I think you were out.
QUESTION: And Bahrain also sent a delegation last week to (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: I mean, our view on all of these is the same.
QUESTION: Can I just go back on Sri Lanka quickly? According to the press reports and also Sri Lankan ambassador in Washington, he said that his country is now progressing on many fronts, including human rights and economically and also basic rights for the citizens of Sri Lanka. My question is that if there – is there any change between U.S. and Sri Lankan relations as far as opening for investment and other fronts which were banned in the past?
MS. NULAND: The comment that we made this morning was not with regard to broader relations with Sri Lanka, which remain on track. It had to do with our concerns about effort to impeach the Chief Justice, about other assaults on the independence of the judiciary.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just one last one on elections. Do you know yet --
MS. NULAND: On our elections?
QUESTION: Our elections. (Laughter.) The United States elections. Do you know where the Secretary will be for the election and how she will vote? I presume she’s going to --
MS. NULAND: How she will vote? You’d like me to tell you how she’s going to vote? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Technically, technically how she will cast her ballot.
MS. NULAND: I think we’ll speak to that after she does it, but probably not before.
QUESTION: One on Burma?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday the World Bank approved the --
MS. NULAND: I’ll let her know, though, Jill, that you were asking how she was going to vote --
MS. NULAND: -- that that was a tough one for you to divine.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that as part of our step-by-step support for the reforms that Burma is making, we sought relief from legislation in the U.S. Congress that made it difficult for us to support IMF and World Bank lending, so we are very pleased to see this go forward now.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, a final question on --
MS. NULAND: I think we’re finished for today. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 p.m.)