The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.
From the Daily Press Briefing of August 15, 2011
QUESTION: Libya. What do you make of the apparent success of the rebels over the weekend, and also the – what looks to be another high-level defection from Qadhafi’s inner circle?
MS. NULAND: We are watching with considerable encouragement the advances that the rebels have made. You’ve seen the reporting with regard to taking over of Gharyan, their advances in Zawiya on the coastal town of Tripoli and at Tawargha, south of Misrata. I think what we are seeing is an effort by the rebels to choke off the access routes into Tripoli and to up the pressure on Qadhafi.
We have seen the same reports you have with regard to the interior minister and his family leaving Libya. I’m not in a position from this podium to confirm the exact nature of their intentions. I would refer you to them. But again, we’ve seen a steady march of senior Qadhafi officials abandoning him, and we think this is further to the importance of him taking the hint and stepping down.
QUESTION: So the defection, that’s further evidence of that?
MS. NULAND: The fact that senior members of his government seem not to want to stand with him in Libya but are voting with their feet – again, I can’t speak to his final intentions.
QUESTION: In terms of the rebels themselves though, is this – the maneuvers, the operations that they’re taking, this is something that you – the U.S. has encouraged? I understand that you’re encouraged by them or at least by the apparent success so far, but is this the kind of strategy that you want – that you had advocated that the U.S. had wanted them to take?
MS. NULAND: Well, their military strategy is for them to decide. I think what our point was is we’re encouraged by the progress that they’re making, and they are increasing the pressure on Tripoli significantly.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: There were reports of some new rounds of talks between the rebels and the government taking place in Tunisia. How serious are these efforts? How aware of you are – how aware of them are you? And what do you expect to come out of them?
There are also reports of South African planes having landed in Tripoli. And it’s unclear what they’re there for, but they would have required NATO permission to land. I’m curious if you could tell us what those are there for.
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the South African planes. These are South African planes with African Union markings, so they are South African planes put at the disposal of the African Union. I think there’s been some mis-recording. Our information is that those planes have been grounded in Libya since February, so this is not a new air arrival. These are a couple of South African planes that are – appear to be stuck there.
With regard to the talks, we’ve seen the reporting you’ve seen on rebels – on the TNC in discussion again with Qadhafi emissaries in Tunisia. As you know, these discussions have been ongoing for a number of weeks now. They meet periodically in different places. Our understanding is that this latest round is ongoing even today and tonight in Tunisia. But generally, we are in contact with the TNC after these rounds for an update, and we would expect to be again.
QUESTION: You haven’t gotten an update yet?
MS. NULAND: We have not, no.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Libya?
QUESTION: I’m sorry, one more.
MS. NULAND: Can we finish Libya first?
QUESTION: Just going into – have you – did you have any expectations going into this round of talks that this might have been bearing fruit?
MS. NULAND: Again, these are – this is their process that they’re going through. I think we all know what the TNC’s expectations are that Qadhafi will step down fully from power and allow a democratic transition to go forward.
QUESTION: And the UN special envoy, apparently, is also at these talks. Has that – has he been present at all of the talks in the past, do you know, and does he come with any special message from members of the United Nations as far as this particular round of talks goes or in general?
MS. NULAND: I actually can’t speak to how many rounds he’s been involved with. As you know, he’s been discussing the issue of moving on to a democratic future in Libya with all sides for quite some time now. And we all consider that it is part and parcel of his role to do what he can to hasten the day when Qadhafi leaves power.
Still on Libya?
QUESTION: One more on Libya?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please, Lach.
QUESTION: Has Aujali -- Mr. Aujali been accredited ambassador here and has he been authorized to access the phones in the Embassy?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is we – he was issued his visa. I believe it was on Friday. I sought an update just before coming down as to whether he has actually reentered the United States, and I don’t have a precise whereabouts for him today. The process will be that he will present those credentials, be formally accredited as chargé of the TNC Embassy and at that point will be in a position to unlock the assets of the Embassy into his custody.
QUESTION: And who will he present the credentials to? The President? As chargé he’s not --
MS. NULAND: I think there hasn’t been a decision yet on the credentialing ceremony, but the credentials are to the United States Government and then somebody accepts on behalf of the President.
QUESTION: Well, hasn’t he already been accredited? Hasn’t he – he’s here. I mean, hasn’t he already been accredited and started working?
MS. NULAND: Again, as I came down here today, my understanding was we had issued the visa. I don’t – I can’t confirm to you whether he came back in, but the formal credentialing ceremony hasn’t happened yet.
QUESTION: But it’s not – I’m sorry. It’s my understanding that he, maybe like Friday – Thursday or Friday – came to the State Department and was officially accredited.
MS. NULAND: That’s not what I got from the guys before coming down –
MS. NULAND: -- but maybe I am behind. So let me – we will check again for you, but I did ask this question just before coming down.
QUESTION: Does the accreditation process and the unlocking of the Embassy assets into his control, does that have any bearing on the broader question of unlocking Libyan assets that have been frozen in this country? Does having him in place now as an accredited or soon to be an accredited envoy mean that that will be a quicker process?
MS. NULAND: To the degree that the step that the Secretary took at the last Contact meeting in Istanbul on behalf of the Administration to formally recognize the TNC as the governing authority allowed us to take this step to have him come back as the head of mission, get the assets, yes. But in terms of the larger pool of money, we’re still working through the various legal issues that we have to – and financial issues that we have to work through. Having a fully accredited staff representing the TNC here will enable us to strengthen even further our strong diplomatic relations with them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. NULAND: Still on –
QUESTION: No. One more on Libya.
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Libya before we move on? And then it’s to Elise, I think, first.
QUESTION: Yeah. I have one more on Libya.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Just given the rebels’ success and your encouragement – you’re being encouraged by that, are there any remaining concerns or do you still have concerns about the cohesiveness of the TNC, about their – would you still like them to take steps to prove that they are, in fact, not just unified, but also fully representative of the entire population?
MS. NULAND: As you know, they are in the process of reforming their government. We look for that new government to meet these highs standards of unity, inclusiveness, democratic commitment. So those conversations continue, and it is our hope and expectation that it will be a strong, new government.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Over the last 24 hours, it appears that the Syrian navy has brought warships to start opening fire on civilians. And I think we’ve all kind of resisted making comparisons to Syria and Libya, but at this point, it does sound like the Syrian people – I mean, if they didn’t before, they certainly need some kind of protection now. I mean, this isn’t just violence against people; this is large scale attempts to annihilate whole areas with navy warships. I mean, is there any consideration in this Administration or in your consultations with the UN or international allies about some way to protect the Syrian people? I don’t know if the effect of sanctions over the long term is really going to help these people in the short term.
MS. NULAND: First, I think you’re referring to Latakia, which is the latest city to be a victim of the Asad regime’s carnage. I can’t – we have been unable to confirm, actually, the use of naval assets. However, we are able to confirm that there is armor in the city and that there is firing on innocents, again, in the pattern of carnage that you have seen in other places. So we are concerned, and we’re concerned not only about Latakia and the neighborhood of al-Ramel, but also ongoing violence in Idlib and Deir al-Zour.
This is a guy who is not hearing, as the Secretary has called it, the increasing chorus of condemnation from the international community, which is why we are working hard now with our partners around the world to increase the pressure, political and economic. But we share the concern that you’ve expressed, the concern around the world, that this is a man who is slaughtering innocents again and again and again.
QUESTION: Okay. But if I could follow up, I mean, this – it seems as if the violence is only getting worse. And if you’re talking about the introduction of naval assets into specific areas, the combination with tanks, I mean, we’re talking about tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people potentially being killed. And, I mean, you undertook this effort to protect civilians in Libya because you were afraid of large-scale killings. And so what is being done to protect large-scale amount – protect – I’m not talking about get the regime to change its course; it’s clearly not doing that. But what efforts are being made to consider protecting the civilian people?
MS. NULAND: Just to say again, we have not been – we are not in a position to confirm. We have not been able to confirm this reported use of naval assets, and there are some inconsistencies in – about – with regard to what Syria actually has. But it’s bad enough that there is armor and there is fire against innocents in yet another major city in Syria and the march in other cities continues.
So the focus at the moment is on increasing and broadening our contacts, not only with our allies, with all of the regional states, so that we see increasing numbers of countries making clear how absolutely unacceptable this is, both in political terms, but in ratcheting up the pain economically and the pressure on the Asad regime and staunching the flow of money that fuels this kind violence.
QUESTION: So you think that there is – just one more. I mean, so you think that there is a particular level or threshold of pain that this regime has that’s going to get it to stop killing its people?
MS. NULAND: I take your point that so far they do not appear to be listening. But we do believe that there is more that can be done. As the Secretary said on Thursday, there are countries out there that are still trading oil and gas with Syria. There are countries out there that have not renounced their willingness to send arms to Syria. So we are working to strengthen that coalition and continue to ensure that the message from the international community has teeth.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, this is a point of clarification. On the reported use of naval assets, are you saying that the U.S. has not seen evidence of any use of naval assets in this instance, or that the jury is still out on whether those are being used or not?
MS. NULAND: The jury is still out, but there are some inconsistencies in what – from the reporting that we’ve seen.
QUESTION: So you’re not ruling it out either?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay, and --
QUESTION: Can you explain what the inconsistencies are? I mean, it seems like it’s boats that have the – that bear a Syrian naval emblems unleashing torrents of bullets on civilians. What’s the – I’m not sure I understand what’s the inconsistency. You think it’s someone else?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen reporting of this. We have not seen this firing ourselves.
QUESTION: You haven’t seen any firing from the sea onto land?
MS. NULAND: That is my understanding.
QUESTION: Not that it’s happening, but you’re not sure who’s doing it?
MS. NULAND: The point is that at the moment, my information is that we have –
QUESTION: Okay, well –
MS. NULAND: -- not been able to confirm that naval assets have been used.
QUESTION: Okay. Even in the absence of you not being able to confirm it, would you – wouldn’t you agree that Asad is doing to his people right now what Qadhafi only threatened to
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into characterizing who’s worse, Qadhafi or Asad. I’m simply making the point that --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to try to do that. I’m – do you agree with the idea that what Asad is doing to his own people is what – something that Qadhafi only threatened to do and was stopped by NATO?
MS. NULAND: Our concern is that city after city now, when there have been peaceful protests, is becoming the victim of his violence, and it is very, very concerning.
QUESTION: And you see no double – you don’t see any double standard here at all?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is – we’re not going to compare the situation in Libya and the situation in Syria – both bad, both wrong, both violation of universal human rights, and both will have the inevitable outcome of these guys losing legitimacy with their people, losing any shred of support or help from the international community, and the international community turning on them.
QUESTION: Why are the Syrian people less worthy of your protection or NATO’s protection than the Libyan people were?
MS. NULAND: Our focus in supporting and protecting --
QUESTION: I’m not --
MS. NULAND: -- the aspirations of the Syrian people is to work on closing down the pipelines of financial support for this regime and on --
QUESTION: But the aspirations of the Syrian people are going to be hard to achieve when they’re all dead. So what --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, in the case of Libya, they have rebels that are fighting the regime. In the case of Syria, it’s just defenseless people against an army that’s killing them.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question in there?
QUESTION: What makes – I’d like to --
QUESTION: Don’t you agree?
QUESTION: I’d like just to repeat my question. What makes the Syrian people less deserving of your protection than the Libyan people?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not going to get into comparisons of the situation. We are working hard with our international partners to make the pain that the Syrian Government feels in terms of international condemnation and in terms of losing the ability to trade and work with the world as strong as we can so that they will get the message that this is not the direction that’s going to lead to peace and security in Syria.
QUESTION: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu just made a statement and gave an ultimatum in which he said that these are the final words and if the violence continues there will be nothing on the table to discuss. Since the cooperation between two countries very close, what’s your assessment is the final word? What’s your expectation?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen the precise statement from the Turkish foreign minister. We were aware that Turkey would make a strong statement today. A week ago, the Turkish view was that they would send Foreign Minister Davutoglu down, give Asad a strong list of demands, and the hope would be that he would listen to his neighbor who has had significant influence, has strong trading relations and strong political relations over many years with Syria. And all we saw after that visit was an increase in carnage. So it’s not surprising to us that Turkish patience is wearing thin, and I think it’s completely consistent with the position that we hold at the moment.
QUESTION: What is Ambassador Ford doing?
MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ford has – as you know, he saw the foreign minister last week. I believe it was on Thursday. He continues to meet with a broad cross-section of Syrians. He meets with three or four groups a day, including many figures in the opposition movement. I think where we are in our discussions with the opposition, as the Secretary made clear on Thursday, is to continue to encourage them to work together, to be unified in their message, and to come up with a clear roadmap of their own for a democratic future for Syria.
QUESTION: Has he had any meetings with government officials, especially in light of what has happened in the last 48 hours?
MS. NULAND: I will take the question on who in the government, if anybody, he’s seen in the last 48 hours. His most senior meeting I can confirm was the meeting with the foreign minister on Thursday.
QUESTION: Do you support a military – a Turkish military intervention in Syria to protect civilians?
MS. NULAND: Turkey will make its own decisions about such things. That’s not – it has not been a subject of discussion to my knowledge between us.
QUESTION: But what would be your position if --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.
QUESTION: Well, when is the last time that the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Davutoglu?
MS. NULAND: Yesterday.
QUESTION: And is Fred Hoff still in Turkey?
MS. NULAND: Fred Hoff, I believe, is home now. He had been meeting – traveling around Europe and meeting with various European counterparts, including meetings in Turkey, along the lines of these goals that the Secretary has been putting out to strengthen our collaboration politically and economically.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on the latest phone conversation you just mentioned between Davutoglu and Secretary Clinton?
MS. NULAND: I think we put out a written statement, did we not?
MS. NULAND: Or perhaps Turkey did. Obviously, the main subject of the conversation was to compare notes on Syria in advance of the Turkish Government’s statement today. There were a couple of other regional subjects also discussed.
QUESTION: Everybody in town was expecting a call for stepping down toward Asad on last Thursday. Have you postponed this call after the phone conversation with Turkish prime minister?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to a decision-making process internally on next steps on the economic side, on the political side. You heard the Secretary say that, particularly with regard to sanctions, more will be coming. But with regard to timing, I’ll just repeat what she said on Thursday, which was stay tuned.
QUESTION: Well, if I could --
QUESTION: Turkish officials confirmed that the Turkish prime minister asked from Mr. President to postpone this call.
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said what I care to on this one.
QUESTION: Toria, there are also – the Syrian opposition and activists have put out some kind of reports and statements that they’re very upset because they feel as if the Turkish foreign minister with U.S. – I don’t know if endorsement is the right word, but has basically given President Asad two weeks to implement reforms which they take as another two weeks to kill more Syrians.
MS. NULAND: And?
QUESTION: I’m wondering if the U.S. is aware of this ultimatum and whether that was part of the discussions between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Davutoglu.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen press reporting about deals about timelines. I think the important point here is that the goals of Turkey and the United States are identical, which is for the violence to stop, for the military forces to go back to barracks, for the way to be open for a true democratic transition. That was the message that Foreign Minister Davutoglu carried, and we’ve stayed in close contact ever since. The United States will make its own sovereign decisions about when to take the next --
QUESTION: So the goals are the same, but the tactics are not?
MS. NULAND: The goals are the same. The tactics will be made nationally and sovereignly by each government with regard to when we will take the next political and economic steps.
QUESTION: So would it be fair to say that you would not oppose Turkish intervention to Syria if deemed necessary?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical situation at all.
QUESTION: Did the foreign minister – Turkish foreign minister and Secretary Clinton discuss any kind of – about a kind of deadline in Syria, because in Turkish press there are reports that in 48 hours ahead they will discuss again the situation? Is there any kind of deadline, like?
MS. NULAND: Apart from confirming that the Secretary and the foreign minister spoke about the fact that Turkey was likely to make a strong statement today, I’m not going to get into the substance of the conversation.
QUESTION: So also the goal is – the mutual goal here is stop the killing, but you can kill a little while longer?
MS. NULAND: Again, we have the same goals. We are working to consolidate our tactics, both political and military. Our goals are the same, but with regard to the steps that each government will take, the timing will be made in a sovereign –
QUESTION: But you said military --
QUESTION: So the timing for stopping the killing is actually up in the air?
MS. NULAND: We all have the same goals, which is for the timing – for the killing to stop now.
QUESTION: But you --
MS. NULAND: Asad bears responsibility for the fact that he is continuing to kill his own people.
QUESTION: But I thought the whole idea of inaction in the face of this kind of repression was something that this Administration was not prepared to tolerate anywhere*.
MS. NULAND: I don't think you can accuse anybody of inaction, when we’ve had three, four rounds of sanctions, when we are looking at further sanctions, when we are leading an international conversation involving not only our allies but all of the partners around the region about coordinating economic and political pressure, where we’ve been in the Human Rights Council, where we have a new UN presidential statement which took a lot of work to get because too many countries have been on the fence for too long about the violence that we’re seeing. And that diplomacy continues and will continue.
QUESTION: And the result of that diplomacy, as far as I can tell, is more dead bodies in the streets of the cities of Syria.
MS. NULAND: Nobody is satisfied with the situation in Syria. It’s abhorrent and repulsive, and our efforts will continue.
QUESTION: Can you offer any kind of assessment of the actual result or the actual pain that you have inflicted on the Syrian Government with your several rounds of unilateral sanctions?
MS. NULAND: These kinds of sanctions, as you know, take some time to work, but we believe we are catching their attention.
QUESTION: Again, so we get back to the timing, so it’s important to stop the killing, but maybe not just yet?
MS. NULAND: Everybody wants the killing to stop now. It should have stopped – it should never have started, let alone gone on for as long as it has. And it is barbaric and abhorrent, and we are all working together to do what we can.
QUESTION: Can – but is there any thought to kind of maybe changing tactics? Because as Matt said, the results have been minimal. These type of sanctions that you keep – continue to ratchet up – these are sanctions that I’m sure you know, as previous sanction campaigns – these are sanctions that a regime takes a long time to feel the pain. It’s not something instantly, like one massive blow and it causes them to change course. And so in the meantime, while you’re waiting for the effects of these sanctions, more people are being killed. And so is there any thought to possibly doing something more immediate, impactful, and robust that could make them immediately change course? Because I don't see this course as making them really rethink it. I think they think also that they can withstand it.
MS. NULAND: Again, there are – as the Secretary said last Thursday, there are countries out there still putting money into the coffers of the Syrian regime. Our emphasis at the moment is on working with as many countries as possible to have them sanction as strongly as they can, because this will work if there are not holes in it. I mean, not – sorry. This will have maximum impact if there are not holes in the regime that so many of us are trying to put in place. And frankly, we continue to believe that the UN Security Council ought to more strongly condemn the violence than it has.
QUESTION: But, I mean --
MS. NULAND: And we will continue to work along that regard.
QUESTION: -- all this condemnation and all of this – that’s all very well and good. I’m just saying, like, is there any consideration to any kind of action, whether it’s – I don't know if it’s military or if it’s tougher sanctions or if it’s something that is going to get them immediately to stop. I mean, these are all things that you’re talking over a long-term approach that you’re continuing to ratchet up. I mean, I just don’t see were this campaign, while strategic and impressive, is, in the immediate term, going to stop Syrian people from being killed.
MS. NULAND: The Secretary was clear on Thursday, and I’ve been clear here. We are working on more sanction measures, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: The President spoke with King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia over the weekend. Has the Secretary spoken with her counterparts in the foreign ministry, and if so, what did she tell them?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, the President speaking to the King is the top level, and that was an important conversation. We continue to speak with foreign ministry and other folks at all levels.
QUESTION: What is your view on the role of the Iran in this turmoil in Syria?
MS. NULAND: We have said before, and we have sanctioned Iranian entities with regard to Syria, that we are concerned about the support that Iran has given in this instance and both its technical assistance and other things, and we continue to condemn any support Iran would give, any cover that they would give for this kind of violence.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, two things. First, there’s a report in The Wall Street Journal today that the United States is now tying Pakistan’s progress or completion of certain counterterrorism tasks to aid that it plans to give to Pakistan. Is that true?
And then the second is the reports that the Pakistanis did allow access to Chinese engineers to view the rudder of the helicopter that was downed in the bin Ladin raid. Do you have any confirmation of that assessment?
MS. NULAND: With regard to the helicopter story and China, that would take us into intelligence, so I’m not going to comment on that one at all.
With regard to the conversation with Pakistan on military assistance, first let me make our usual points, which is that this relationship with Pakistan is not an easy one but it’s an extremely important one. Kirit, I don’t think that this story is particularly new that while our civilian assistance continues unchanged, on the security side, on the military side, we have had to make some changes based on cooperation. We need to have the appropriate military personnel in. If all the training assistance is going forward, we have to have the trainers there.
That on counterterrorism, the level of our ability to work together depends on continuing to strengthen this dialogue. So we didn’t see anything particularly new in this. The supposed baskets speak to the conversation we’ve had here about the need to continue to strengthen CT cooperation and the many visits we’ve had to continue to try to do that. Our desire to see Afghanistan and Pakistan work closely together is, as you know, not a new subject for us, and that’s why we sponsor the core group and work so hard to help them develop a better relationship, et cetera. So the military aid – we’re going to be absolutely clear-eyed about this military assistance and tie it to our ability to cooperate.
QUESTION: Since the policy has been in place to tie those two things together, has any assistance to Pakistan been withheld or delayed as a result of their failure to comply with any of the things on that list?
MS. NULAND: This is – that will be a question for DOD. This is largely their money. But I will take the question with regard to any of the money that the State Department might be giving.
QUESTION: Are you confident that the Pakistanis are doing everything they can to find this American who was abducted over the weekend?
MS. NULAND: Let me say that the Pakistanis are conducting a robust investigation, that it is their investigation but the FBI, our guys on the ground in Pakistan, have been collaborating. And our view is that that cooperation is excellent. And let me just, obviously, take this opportunity to say that we are providing full consular support to the family as well.
QUESTION: Could this possibly affect – you talk about the importance as well of civilian assistance to Pakistan, but when you’ve got American civilians on the ground in Pakistan involved in these projects and they’re being abducted, I mean, are those types of – is that type of assistance not also at risk in a way when you see an incident like this?
MS. NULAND: Our priority at the moment is to get this guy back and get him safe. It’s hard to evaluate what lessons one might draw from it until we have more information about the situation. But the Pakistani Government is cooperating fully with us in trying to find him on the civilian side. We consider it very important to continue these programs which are designed to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy, economically, political, to have the kinds of educational and other forms of assistance that will support Pakistan’s own desire to have a strong democracy going forward.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication of what group or people are behind the kidnapping? And also, do you have any guidance for other U.S. civilians or workers on the ground that you’ve reissued since the kidnapping?
MS. NULAND: We don’t have anything on who did this. With regard to travel warnings, I think our existing warnings are – stay in place.
QUESTION: Well, just to follow up on Kathy’s* question, do you have any indication whether it’s political or criminal?
MS. NULAND: We do not at this moment. We do not.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the aid for one second? Didn’t Secretary Clinton announce this – say publicly when she visited Islamabad not so long – in the wake of the bin Ladin raid that she was going there with a list of things that they would have to do if they wanted their – if they wanted the aid to continue?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. And she said it also in her testimony that followed that. I think I have a June 23rd --
QUESTION: Yeah. But she actually said it while she was in Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. There’s a quote from her from June 23rd: “When it comes to our military aid, we are not –
MS. NULAND: That’s from the Hill statement.
QUESTION: I’m looking for – yeah, that was from her testimony. What I’m trying to get at is that when she was there – and I think Admiral Mullen was with her – they presented the Pakistanis a list and they said that they did.
MS. NULAND: When they were there, they presented – they discussed a number of categories in which we wanted to see cooperation, collaboration continue. They then sent various representatives to staff these working groups, and as she said publicly again on the Hill on the 23rd of June, “When it comes to our military aid, we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps.”
Please. Are we off Pakistan? Here, please.
QUESTION: No. Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: Pakistan? Please.
QUESTION: Yeah. What’s the latest on the visa issues? How many visas are pending yet? And can you also comment on this new push for resolving the travel issue of diplomats in Pakistan? Because Ambassador Munter has met General Kayani, and Senator McCain has also raised this issue, so if you have latest on that.
MS. NULAND: On the visa issue, this is for DOD personnel, so I’m going to send you to DOD on that question.
Your second question was with regard to? Sorry, can you give me the second one again?
QUESTION: The travel of diplomats in Pakistan and the condition of amnesty for that. There is apparently a new push to resolve this. Ambassador Munter has met General Kayani, and Senator McCain has also raised this in Pakistan, so is there a headway?
MS. NULAND: We continue this discussion. Our diplomats have been traveling, so that’s a good sign.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Pakistan. So there are no State Department visas pending with Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: I will have to take that one. I think these are DOD personnel.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Sudanese President Bashir accepted an invite and attended the inauguration of Chad’s president. The EU and the UK have criticized the visit. Do you have any comment on his travel to Chad?
MS. NULAND: You know our position when Bashir travels that we urge all countries to fulfill the mandate of the ICC and to support the interest in finding justice here. So that – our position on that one hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Do you have any statement on the attacks that occurred earlier this morning, and has that affected – what is the status of talks about keeping troops there beyond the end of this year?
MS. NULAND: We remain concerned about these kinds of terrorist acts in Iraq, and we are working closely with our Iraqi partners to address them. In net terms though, overall, the violence in Iraq is significantly down this year over previous years. We consider these to be desperate acts by desperate people. We believe that the Iraqi security forces are getting stronger by the day, and our goal is to continue to strengthen them, and we remain on track to withdraw all our forces at the end of the year.
QUESTION: Well, one theory is the desperate attacks by desperate people, but the attacks, at least last night, seemed pretty well coordinated. So are we talking about a resurgence? I mean, what theory do you have, as far as the level of sophistication of the attacks, if that represents an uptick in --
MS. NULAND: Again, I don't have a particular comment on these attacks. They are desperate, they are terrorists, and they are designed to stop the progress in Iraq towards peaceful and secure and democratic future, and we have confidence in the Iraqi security forces’ ability to increasingly maintain and – security there.
QUESTION: In the past, though, the U.S. has voiced concern about some foreign influence in this kind of violence in Iraq. Do you see any evidence of that in the current violence that we’re seeing, foreign hands?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to this particular round of influence – of attacks. But as you know, we’ve been quite concerned, not only about Iranian advice but about Iranian materiel contributing to these attacks.
QUESTION: Other subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Another week and another housing permits from Israel, one of your favorite topics. It’s about 300 in West Bank. First, what’s your reaction to that? And second, do you have any sense that the Israeli administration takes your view or worries under any consideration, given the fact that it’s kind of cycle? Once they issue new permits and then U.S. Administration condemns it, and then they do it again, and then you do it again.
MS. NULAND: We have seen this – reports of this approval for apartments in the West Bank. We consider it deeply troubling. As I said last week with regard to other housing activity, these kinds of actions are counterproductive to the resumption of direct negotiations. We have raised this issue with the Israeli Government. We will continue to make our position known. Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.
More broadly, as you know, and as the Secretary said on Thursday or Wednesday, when Foreign Minister Stoere was here, we remain committed to getting these parties back to the table. We have – our Palestinian partners continue to tell us that their priority is negotiations as well, so what we need to do is end the cycle here of this movement going in the wrong direction and get folks back to the table and get positive steps on both sides towards that goal.
QUESTION: When you say the Palestinians have told you that they’re still looking for direct negotiations, does that mean that they’re abandoning their plans to go to the UNGA and get recognition as a state next month?
MS. NULAND: Ros, we have made clear to them, privately, we have made clear publicly our view, that going to the UN is not going to get us to peace, is not going to get to the two states that we want to see, and that it’s a bad idea. So we take them at their word, as the Secretary said at Thursday, that they want to get back to negotiations, and our efforts will remain to try to create the kind of confidence between these two parties which will get both sides back to the table.
QUESTION: But have you gotten any concrete assurances, I mean, it’s --
MS. NULAND: This work --
QUESTION: -- that they’re not going to do it.
MS. NULAND: This work continues, and it’s difficult.
QUESTION: Does the approval of these or the announcement of these two new housing projects in the space of less than a week – does that raise any concern that the movement in the wrong direction is accelerating on the Israeli side?
MS. NULAND: I don't want to characterize speed of this kind of stuff. Simple to say, that we are going to continue to use every tool at our disposal to encourage these guys to come back to the table. That’s where the answers lie. That’s what they both say they want, and that’s what we need to focus on.
QUESTION: But, I mean, if I could just follow-up, I mean, it doesn’t seem as if they feel, anyway, that they have any alternative. Because you’re looking for them not to go to the UN, and here there are these – housing settlements are continuing. I mean, they feel as if – give me something that would make me not go. And between now and September, don’t – do you feel the pressure to offer them something to convince them not to do it? I mean, just asking them not to or telling them that this is a bad idea and it’s not going to lead to peace doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough. It needs to be something that gives them confidence that they’re going to have a horizon where they’re going to get their state.
QUESTION: And not just confidence, but also credibility with their own people.
MS. NULAND: That’s exactly what the President’s remarks on May – in May were designed to do, were designed to set a framework that these parties could work within to have good and serious negotiations and that would give both sides a sense of the horizon, a sense of the future that they have been looking for. But they’ve got to come to the table and work in order to get – to have those aspirations fulfilled. It’s not going to work to go to the UN. Settlements are not helpful either. The best place for these conversations to happen is at the negotiation table.
QUESTION: Okay. If both of these – well, if both sides keep doing things that you believe are antithetical to the idea of getting back to the table, why do you continue to take them at their word that they want to go back to the table?
MS. NULAND: When a leader of people says that the goal is X, then we have to continue – and the goal is the same as ours – take them at their word and keep working. That was what we mean by that statement. Again though, it’s up to these parties to prove that they are as good as their word by coming to the table.
QUESTION: But in fact, both the actions on both sides disprove that they are – or at least they should if you’re looking at this rationally and saying that if you guys are interested in this you won’t take steps, either of you, that would hurt the negotiations. And both sides – that would hurt – that would stop or hinder our return to negotiations. And both sides, yet, are doing that and continue to do that, with the Israelis with these settlements and the Palestinians by continuing to insist that they’re going to go to the UN.
MS. NULAND: This work is not easy. We’ve said that again and again. Doesn’t change the fact that we believe that the framework the President laid out is the right one and that we will do what we can with each of them, with our international partners, to convince them that the table is the place to do this.
QUESTION: And then last week, when – with the last round of settlement or the last round of approvals, you took a question as to whether there would be any consequence for the Israelis for continue to completely flaunt – flout your wishes. At the time, you said that the consequence was just that it was going to hurt the prospects for getting back to the table, but then you were asked if there was any – would there – is the U.S. willing to consider any consequence, any negative consequence, for the Israelis if they continue to do this. Is there an answer to that?
MS. NULAND: I think we put out an answer on Friday afternoon in response to that specific question, essentially saying that we thought that this was not going to improve the environment, as we’ve said here, to get folks back to the table.
QUESTION: Okay. Follow-up.
QUESTION: But there isn’t any – there won’t be any consequence for the Israelis if they continue to go against your expressed wishes?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of where this would go other than to say that our focus is to get these parties back to the table.
QUESTION: I just want to try Matt’s question another way. I mean, you said you’d take them at their word, and as we’ve seen, their actions are completely showing something else. Just the other day when we were asking the Secretary about something else, she said she firmly believes that she’s a person where actions speak louder than words.
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So again, don’t these parties’ actions show that even if they would like peace, then they’re not serious about the hard work that’s needed to get there?
MS. NULAND: Again, our focus is on trying to create the kind of environment, the kind of trust between them that they will at least get started at the negotiating table. And we’re not going to give up on that, and we’re going to keep trying.
QUESTION: Last Thursday, the issue – same issue was raised, and I am wondering since last Thursday, within the last four days, have you been able to raise this issue. And surely Israel is one of the close ally of U.S. And what kind of a response have you received within last few days that – what is behind of these actions?
MS. NULAND: We continue to speak to the Israelis about this activity directly. I’m not going to characterize the – either what we said or what they said back.