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Middle East Digest - September 13, 2011


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Washington, DC
September 13, 2011

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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 September 13, 2011

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MS. NULAND: Last point is with regard to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns travel. Deputy Secretary Burns arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia today. This is his first trip to the Middle East as deputy secretary of state. He will meet this evening with Assistant Minister of Interior Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and he’ll meet tomorrow with King Abdullah and other senior Saudi officials. Later this week, Deputy Burns will travel to the UAE, where he will meet with Abu Dhabi Crowned Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

In Saudi Arabia, the deputy will reaffirm to Saudi leaders the United States firm and enduring commitment to Gulf security, including our commitment to countering the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. He will also reaffirm the U.S. and Saudi Arabia’s shared interest in ensuring security and stability across the Middle East, and exchange views on a range of issues, including peaceful transfer of power in Yemen, the need for political and economic support for the transition underway in Egypt, and concern about the Asad regime’s unabated violence against the Syrian people.

During his consultations in Abu Dhabi later in the week, he will cover many of the same issues. The U.S. and the UAE have a strong and expanding partnership, and his visit will reinforce that.

Why don’t we go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Sure. On this and then leading into my next question, but on the Burns’ trip. In Saudi, he doesn’t plan to raise the Israeli-Palestinian issue and perhaps talk about whether Prince Turki was speaking for the Saudi Government or royal family when he talked about the dangerous consequences of a U.S. veto at the UN?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, he is going to talk about Middle East peace and security across the region. I have no doubt he will certainly talk about the issues – Israeli-Palestinian issues.

QUESTION: Right. But when you read your list, you had specifically mentioned Yemen, Egypt, and Syria. You didn’t mention Israel or the Palestinians. So --

MS. NULAND: Shared interest in ensuring security and stability of the Middle East. That was our broad catch phrase that includes Israel and Palestine.

QUESTION: Okay. So are those concerns – are your – are his talks at all informed by or swayed by what the prince wrote in the – in his editorial piece the other day?

MS. NULAND: I think the deputy will obviously be conveying the views of the United States Government with regard to where we need to go on Israeli and Palestinian negotiations, and we’ll be asking for the Saudis’ help in ensuring that we can get these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: And then just on the same subject but not on Burns. Can you give us some specifics about the Hale-Ross comet trip to the Middle East? When are they leaving? How long will they be there? Do they plan to stop in Europe on the way back? That kind of thing.

MS. NULAND: Well, just to reiterate what the Secretary said about an hour ago, envoy David Hale and Dennis Ross are – have been asked by her to go back to see Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, in the region. They will be leaving, I believe, this evening. They will have meetings tomorrow and the next day. The schedule is still in flux. I cannot speak to whether they stop in Europe. I would guess given that the New York events start early in the week, they will probably head home and be seeing Europeans in New York.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions just to follow up on the Secretary’s announcement. She said that the route to a two-state solution runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York. I’m interested by her use of the word “Jerusalem” because the Israeli Government – successive Israeli governments’ claims to regard Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal and undivided, or indivisible, capital have not been internationally recognized, nor have they been recognized by the U.S. Government, which very carefully, as you well know, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv. Why did she say Jerusalem then? Does she regard it as the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary was speaking of the objective of these two negotiators, which is to see Prime Minister Netanyahu. While he is in Israel, we have traditionally met him either in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem where he happens to be.

QUESTION: But why did she use that word, because it’s – the Palestinians – I rather strongly suspect they’re going to look at her use of that word and suspect that it bespeaks a U.S. view on Jerusalem as the – as Israel’s capital that hitherto has not been the U.S. view.

MS. NULAND: I would not over-read new policy with regard to Jerusalem in this.

QUESTION: So there is no new policy?

MS. NULAND: There is no new U.S. policy with regard to Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Another thing. She said that she had spoken recently – forgive me – to Prime Minister Abbas. When was that call?

MS. NULAND: She spoke to him about a week ago. We’re anticipating that they will speak again in the next couple of days.

QUESTION: A week ago is recently? I mean, a week is a long time in politics and in diplomacy.

MS. NULAND: Well, she’s getting ready to send her people back. And as I said, we’re anticipating they’ll speak again in another couple of days.

QUESTION: And last thing for me on this. Can you read out when she spoke to High Representative Ashton and Quartet Representative Blair?

MS. NULAND: The conversation with EU High Representative Ashton was yesterday afternoon, and she spoke with Tony Blair this morning.

QUESTION: Just to clarify on the issue of Jerusalem, should the Palestinians take this as a very clear message that the United States of America does recognize Jerusalem as their capital?

MS. NULAND: There is no change in U.S. policy with regard to Jerusalem.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up. What has transpired in the last four days to prompt Mr. Hale and Mr. Ross to go back to meet Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu, considering that they’re all coming to town, basically, to New York on Sunday?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we have been saying for many days, and in fact weeks, and as the Secretary said again, we want to leave no stone unturned in our effort to get these parties back to the table. So we think another trip is warranted. She thinks another trip is warranted, as does the President, this week before everybody arrives in New York.

QUESTION: So it is a feeling that there were stones unturned yet that could be turned this time around, and we have – and I say this seriously – and you have new ideas that they could submit to the Palestinians?

MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary was asked for specifics and she declined to get into the specifics of the diplomacy because we’re trying to have some success here. So let’s just leave it that the two envoys are headed back and to wish them success in their mission.

Kim.

QUESTION: Could you tell us a little bit more about Mr. Burns’ trip to Saudi Arabia? Who exactly is he going to be meeting? Why in --

MS. NULAND: In Saudi?

QUESTION: In Jeddah.

MS. NULAND: In Jeddah. I think I just read out the list, did I not? He’s – yeah, he saw Assistant Minister of the Interior Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Tomorrow, he’s going to see King Abdullah and he’ll be seeing other Saudis, senior Saudis.

QUESTION: Just back to this whole name thing, which seems to be intrigued – Ramallah is not the capital of any country either, is it?

MS. NULAND: You know where we stand on the issue of the Palestinian territories.

QUESTION: So could the Secretary have meant simply that that – that these two – the names of these two cities are simply where the interlocutors, the senior leadership of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, are, where they live, where they work? And could – is that a possibility?

MS. NULAND: I think that was the point that I made in response to Arshad’s question. She was taking about where meetings might take place.

QUESTION: Right. Exactly. But I mean, in terms of the idea of a capital, does the United States recognize Ramallah as the capital of the state of Palestine? No, I don’t think so.

MS. NULAND: I think you know where we are on the effort to establish a Palestinian state.

Please.

QUESTION: Palestinian leaders say that next week they will go for a full bid for statehood before the UN. If it goes before the Security Council, in the past the U.S. has said they don’t want moves that are perceived as unilateral and unhelpful. Will the U.S. veto a bid for Palestinian statehood at the Security Council next week?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve answered this question about four times in the past week and a half. If this issue comes to a vote in the UN Security Council, the United States will veto.

Please.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: On Cuba --

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. NULAND: Oh, wait.

QUESTION: Israel for a second. It’s unrelated to Mideast peace.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: And I think you probably know what it is about. But it’s this clarification about the sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group, or non-sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group. This – the clarification, which is in your name, says that the announcement of the sanctions on May 24th led – the announcement of sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group, in quotes, “led to the conclusion by some banks and companies that we had intended to sanction all Ofer-owned companies.” What exactly were they supposed to think when they saw this if you put it in there? What do you mean, “led to the conclusion?” The fact that you published an announcement of sanctions against a company named the Ofer Brothers Group means that you put sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group. How is this leading someone to the mistaken or erroneous conclusion that that’s not what you did?

MS. NULAND: Matt is referring to the fact that we put out a clarifying note yesterday or today with regard to those entities under the Ofer Brothers conglomerate that we had intended to sanction and that are sanctioned for dealings with Iran. The title of the paper was misleading, it was quite clear in the sanctioning documents that we were not seeking to sanction the entire conglomerate, we were seeking to sanction those entities that we found to be illicitly trading with Iran. This nonetheless led to some confusion as to whether the entire conglomerate was the target of sanctions. It was never the target of sanctions. Some of the specific entities, and I can read them out here if you’d like, were the intended target. So this thing has now been rewritten so that it is absolutely crystal clear that the subjects of the sanctions are a couple of entities of Ofer Brothers.

QUESTION: There’s three entities, not a couple, right? There’s three? This Monaco, Singapore –

MS. NULAND: SAMAMA, Allvale Maritime, and Tanker Pacific Management.

QUESTION: And these three entities are, in fact, owned by the Ofer Brothers Group, correct?

MS. NULAND: They are part of that conglomerate.

QUESTION: The reason that I ask that is because the Ofer Brothers Group is very happy about this, and seeming to say that they have been exonerated when, in fact, they have not been exonerated, have they?

MS. NULAND: We made –

QUESTION: Three of their subsidiaries have been hit with U.S. sanctions, correct?

MS. NULAND: We have made clear that this does not change the intention which was to sanction three of their entities. That said, the firms have pledged to implement with due diligence measures to prevent further sanctionable offences. But these three entities are sanctioned, yes.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the Ofer Brothers have a controlling interest in those three entities?

MS. NULAND: I really can’t speak to the business arrangements of the Ofer company.

QUESTION: Well, it’s a relevant question because if they are, for example, wholly owned subsidiaries or if they are entities in which the Ofer Brothers have a more than 51 percent stake, and therefore fall under the control of the Ofer Brothers, then however the Ofer Brothers may feel about it now, they clearly were not exercising sufficient diligence –

QUESTION: They’re dead.

QUESTION: I know the owner just died – but before his name got cleared, or not cleared, as Matt would say, but the point is that if they are wholly owned subsidiaries, or if they have a majority stake in them, then presumably the parent company bears some responsibility for their trading with Iran, correct?

MS. NULAND: Again, our intention was to sanction specific entities in the larger Sammy Ofer Shipping Organization, those entities that were responsible for providing a tanker to Iran. So obviously the conglomerate as a whole has had three of its entities sanctioned and now has to exercise due diligence to ensure that it never happens again.

QUESTION: So the bottom line is that this was basically just a kind of a clerical mistake?

MS. NULAND: It was a cleanup issue; because the way the original May 24th document was written led to some confusion as to what was sanctioned and what wasn’t.

QUESTION: So that – does that mean it takes – it literally takes five months for the U.S. Government to correct a typo, in a Federal – I mean the Israelis were upset about this at the very beginning, the day afterwards. If there was a mistake, why wasn’t it – why did it take so long – if it was a simple mistake, one of just – I don’t know what – but if it’s that kind of simple mistake, why did it take five months to fix?

MS. NULAND: I think I’m going to take that question, Matt, not being in the loop on how this went down.

QUESTION: Can you tell you us – on a different subject – about the jailed Americans in Iran? Have Swiss Interests Section – U.S. Interests Section been officially notified about the – that the Iranian Government is ready to receive the bail? And if yes, who is going to pay the money? And how is it going to be paid?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further to what we put out earlier this morning, which was that we’ve seen the statements that Iranian officials have made, but we are continuing to try to follow up to see is if this is actually going to happen. As the Secretary said, we very much believe that these men have been in jail too long. It’s the anniversary this week of Sarah’s release, and it would be absolutely fitting if they were able to join her in liberty as soon as possible. But I have no more information about them today than we had earlier this morning.

QUESTION: Can I follow that real quick?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: The Swiss have said that they have been summoned to a meeting or will be summoned to a meeting either later today or tomorrow in Tehran. Can you at least confirm that much? Is that – have you been informed that that may be related to this case?

MS. NULAND: I think we will not know anything until the Swiss get to that meeting and we see what happens thereafter. But as I said, we await official confirmation here, either through the Swiss or in any other way.

QUESTION: Did you know that that meeting’s supposed to happen or –

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the same reports you have. I don’t have anything particular before I came down here. But obviously, if we get any more information that we can share with you, we will.

QUESTION: Wait, you’ve seen reports that the Swiss are going to meet with the Iranians, but –

MS. NULAND: I’ve seen –

QUESTION: -- the U.S. has – I mean, I would assume by now that the U.S. has spoken with the Swiss and has some indication of whether the Swiss have been talking to the Iranians about this or not.

MS. NULAND: Again, if we have anything more we can share on how this is going with the Swiss or between the Swiss and the Iranians, we’ll get it to you after the briefing.

Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: I just had a quick question. Do you consider the crisis – the Embassy crisis in Cairo to be over?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re certainly –

QUESTION: And that calm has been completely restored?

MS. NULAND: -- very pleased that the situation has been brought under control and that Egypt and Israel are making concerted efforts to repair issues between them.

QUESTION: Is it your feeling that the relations between Egypt and Israel will continue to be solid?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re asking me to predict the future. It’s –

QUESTION: I’m asking you: What is your assessment of the relationship between Egypt and Israel at this juncture as a result of the attack on the Embassy?

MS. NULAND: Again, as we said yesterday, both the Egyptian Government and the Israeli Government have been at pains to underscore the importance of the relationship between them, to underscore the importance of the commitments that they have to each other. We’ve been involved in trying to encourage them to come back to normal, calm, neighborly relations, and we hope that’s the direction that it stays in.

QUESTION: You put out a taken question this morning about Diplomatic Security involvement in the Embassy, and you said as a matter of course – or I don’t remember your exact words – that you don’t speak about security matters. But I can cite several instances over the years from this podium where you’ve lauded the work of Diplomatic Security in helping get people not from – just from the United States, but other countries out of sticky situations. So why in this particular case do you not want to talk about what the U.S. Embassy did to help Israelis in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: I’m just going to stand by the answer that –

QUESTION: But the answer’s not true, though. I mean, I can give a litany of cases where you did speak about security – Diplomatic Security operations. So it isn’t a matter of course. I mean, it’s this specific case. So is there some particular reason why you don’t want to say what the U.S. did to help Israeli diplomats in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: There have been times as – for example, talking about the role Diplomatic Security is playing in trying to get our Embassy reopened in Libya – when we do talk about security. In this case, as in many other sensitive diplomatic cases, we’re not going to talk any further about the role that diplomatic security may or have may not –

QUESTION: But is it a sensitive security matter that you don’t want to talk about or a sensitive diplomatic matter that you don’t want to talk about?

MS. NULAND: I think it’s probably both.

QUESTION: So in fact, it is not, as it says in this – it is not a matter of longstanding policy never to comment on security matters? That’s just simply not true, is it?

MS. NULAND: Security matters of this kind are never commented on.

QUESTION: Yesterday, when I asked the question if there were any Israeli diplomats being sheltered in the U.S. Embassy, you said that not to your knowledge and that – but you would get back to us if you found out subsequent information. Is your answer still the same: Not to my knowledge?

MS. NULAND: At the time, that was an accurate answer. As we --

QUESTION: And now you can’t comment on it. Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: -- put out, we’re not going to comment on security in this case.

QUESTION: Okay. But at the time yesterday, it was an accurate --

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: But that’s because you hadn’t asked. And now after you have asked, the answer is we don’t comment.

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to our internal processes here either, but I think we are not going to comment any further on this one.

QUESTION: Staying on Egypt --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- a policy matter. The Supreme Military Council yesterday, I believe, moved to extend or to revive the emergency law and to extend its application to categories of behavior that previously had not been covered, including spreading false information, which is something that is often a tool used to go after journalists. It could also be used to go after the U.S. Government for the Ofer Brothers original press release. And also – I’m just giving you an example of how saying things like this can get misused. And also, for example, demonstrations that cause traffic jams, which if you’ve ever been to Cairo are kind of endemic.

Do you have a view – the U.S. Government, as you well know, called for the scrapping of the emergency law. It was subsequently scrapped. It’s now been revived. Is this good, because maybe embassies will be better protected? Or is this bad because you now have the re-imposition of the law, which can be misused to violate people’s rights?

MS. NULAND: Arshad, I’m going to tell you, honestly, I’m going to take that one for today and come back to you tomorrow, because it is a question that deserves a concerted and serious answer, and I just don’t have what I need today.

QUESTION: On Egypt – I don't know whether you’ve already answered a question, since I seem to have a problem concentrating sometimes. Are you satisfied with the way the Egyptian army handled the situation around the Israeli Embassy? There is a lot being said that they, in essence, allowed it to happen. Is that your reading of the situation? Did they protect the Israeli Embassy properly?

MS. NULAND: There’s no question that we were concerned. We were concerned by the breaching of the walls. We were concerned by the violence committed there. So that’s why we swung into diplomatic action to try to help, and the situation was ultimately calmed. But I don't think anybody can be satisfied. The Egyptian authorities themselves have been pretty clear that they were not satisfied.

QUESTION: But when the Egyptian army doesn’t want something to happen and doesn’t want a building to be breached, it usually manages to keep it safe.

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we were not satisfied; they were not satisfied. The question now is to take the right lessons going forward from this and ensure that it doesn’t ever happen again.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: On Egypt. Just quick question on Egypt. Are you concerned that the treaty, the Camp David treaty, that was brokered by the United States of America, may have been shaken by this episode?

MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, saying again today, that we have been pleased to see strong statements by both Israel and Egypt in the wake of this, reaffirming the importance of the commitments that they have to each other, the importance of calm, the importance of good neighborly relations.

Kirit.

QUESTION: On – different topic. On Qatar, the government there says they’ve allowed the Taliban to open up a liaison office as a matter of good will, and they say they’ve spoken with the United States Government about it and received the U.S.’s blessing. Do you have any comment on that? Is that true? And what does this say about the future of possible reconciliation talks?

MS. NULAND: We have nothing for you on that, Kirit, nothing further.

QUESTION: Why not?

QUESTION: Why not? I mean, is that an accurate report, when they say that the U.S. has given its blessing?

MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to comment one way or the other on that one. I apologize.

QUESTION: Do you recognize the Taliban --

QUESTION: Do you have any – could you have any comment – is it true that they have opened this office? Can you confirm that much?

MS. NULAND: I can’t one way or the other.

QUESTION: Well, presumably I could probably walk up to it if I went to Doha. But – so you can’t confirm that from the podium?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything for you on that subject at all.

QUESTION: Well, can you say why you don’t have anything on this very public announcement by the Government of Qatar that they’re opening – I mean, what is it about this that you don’t want to comment?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve done what I’ve can on this one, which is just to say --

QUESTION: You’ve done nothing on it.

MS. NULAND: That’s correct. That’s correct.

QUESTION: But can you say why you can’t say anything about it? Is it because you don’t have enough information about the office and what it entails and everything like that, or --

QUESTION: Or is because members of this group just attacked your Embassy this morning in Kabul?

MS. NULAND: I have nothing further to say on this subject.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Can we try just – I’ll bring this up later. I have one that’s kind of related back to Egypt but also goes to Libya. As Elise noted, many times from the podium security at embassies is discussed, not just in terms of DS but also in terms of physical security at embassies. I remember after the Istanbul consulate was attacked, we had a presentation up on the wall about exact procedures and how things worked, which leads me to your second taken question that was released today.

Just 13 minutes after saying it was a matter of longstanding policy not to comment on security matters, you put out this that says that there are no Marine guards or were no Marine guards at the Embassy in Tripoli before the uprising against Qadhafi. Is this or is this not an embassy security issue?

MS. NULAND: That was designed to correct a mistake that I made yesterday that you actually caught, which was that in the embassies that I’ve been in we’ve always had Marine security guards. As it turns out, there are some countries where this was not the case. It was the not the case in Tripoli before the uprising, so we just wanted to be absolutely clear about that.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But as --

MS. NULAND: And to clear up a mistake by your humble spokesperson.

QUESTION: Yes. But as – but in fact, what it also did was it meant that this first taken question that you released is just completely false. The answer to this question, “As a matter of longstanding policy, we do not comment on security matters,” is just wrong. And it was proved wrong 13 minutes after by this second taken question. So please, for the sake of consistency, when you don’t want to talk about a security matter, don’t say it’s a matter of longstanding policy. Just say, “We comment on security matters when it’s in our interest to comment on them, and when we don’t want to comment on them, we’re not going to.” But we’re old enough not to be fooled by this kind of thing. Thanks.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. NULAND: Goyal, go ahead.

QUESTION: Madam, this time much of Sindh in Pakistan was under water. Hundreds of thousands of people – they’re in need of help. What – any request from the Pakistan Government or anything U.S. is doing to help those people or the Sindh province?

MS. NULAND: I spoke about this at length yesterday, Goyal, and spoke about all of the relief on its way to Pakistan from the United States. I believe some of it has already been delivered. We began responding on September 10th. I can go through it again for you if that would be helpful.

QUESTION: Well, I saw yesterday a report --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- but what I asking you if there is any additional help asked by the Pakistan Government, because people of Pakistan are still saying that they are not receiving anything and international community must respond quickly before many people dies or any disease.

MS. NULAND: Again, it’s my understanding that the 8,000 U.S. tents, 17,000 shelter kits, 71,000 food rations, are being delivered. It is possible that Pakistan is making appeals to other countries, but the United States is very much involved in trying to provide flood relief to Pakistan.

QUESTION: And finally, what is different this time than in the past? Because there were so many complaints in the past that people are still not – I mean, they have not received any help. There’s a difference this time how your accountability or how you are sending the relief funds or relief help?

MS. NULAND: Well, we traditionally work through international NGOs that have well-established records in Pakistan and elsewhere.

QUESTION: What – USAID says that most of the help that is being extended is a continuation from last year with the available resources that they have. The question that probably Goyal wanted to ask, and I want to ask, is that is there going to be additional allocation, considering the devastation this year?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we have a very sizeable donation to this flood, which is just going in. If there’s a further appeal from the Pakistani Government to us, we can, obviously, look at it. This flood relief does come from cost savings that we were able to make in an earlier allocation. But obviously, we stand by to help in any way we can.

Please.

QUESTION: On Libya, yesterday you said that Saadi Qadhafi was not subject to a travel ban when, in fact, I believe he is. Does that change your position toward Niger at all on this issue?

MS. NULAND: Another mistake by your humble servant yesterday. He is on the 1970 list. I think we did a notation in the transcript on that.

Again, this is an issue that the Government of Niger and the TNC are trying to work now. Our understanding is, like the others, he’s being detained in a state guest house and that it is appropriate that Niger and the TNC work through this together.

QUESTION: Can I clarify that the term that you’re using is “detained”? I just want to be clear about that. When you say he’s detained, is that to describe his condition as being unable to leave that guest house? Is he free to move about at all? I mean, he’s in a guest house. Detained seems to say that he’s behind bars or something. Is he in their custody? I mean, is detained the right word?

MS. NULAND: This is a word that the Nigerien officials are using. It’s essentially a house arrest in this government facility, is our understanding.

QUESTION: So this means that they have to send a letter to the Security Council, right? And then the Security Council has to decide whether to pass it to the Sanctions Committee? Is that --

MS. NULAND: That is one --

QUESTION: The same way the Algerians --

MS. NULAND: If you follow the same logic as the Algerian situation, we’re also, as you know, quite interested in the TNC continuing to work with both of these countries on what it wants done with these people.

QUESTION: Given the fact that his crossing the border would be a violation of the UN travel ban, has there been any discussions either – I understand you said between the TNC and the Nigerien Government. Has there been any conversations with your ambassador there to try to find out what they plan to do with him? Because it’s not just a matter for the TNC at this point.

MS. NULAND: I think our primary focus on the ground in Niger is to facilitate discussion between the Nigeriens and the TNC. And we have been doing that and trying to make it absolutely clear that it’s up to the Libyans what this – what needs to happen here.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be a violation of the – of 1970, the fact that he actually did cross the border? I mean, isn’t that – it’s not just a TNC issue.

MS. NULAND: It’s not just a TNC issue. Again, the humanitarian grounds have been cited. We need to work through these issues and we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: Could I ask a question on the International Religious Freedom Report?

QUESTION: Sorry, just a follow-up. So are you expecting them to make any sort of declaration to the UN or to the international community about this? I mean, or what – is it just going to be --

MS. NULAND: They have made a declaration to the international community in making clear that they not only have this guy but that they are keeping him under house arrest and that they are endeavoring to work with the TNC on next steps, which we think is the appropriate course.

Please.

QUESTION: On the report, the International Religious Freedom Report?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I have anything further to what our briefers gave you earlier today.

QUESTION: Okay. I just want to ask you a very quick question.

MS. NULAND: Sure.

QUESTION: With deputy Burns being the first high American official to visit the Saudis, will he lodge a protest against their continued use of very draconian apostasy and blasphemy laws in Saudi Arabia?

MS. NULAND: I would guess that with this report recently released, that they will have a conversation about it, and we’re happy to get back to you on that after he’s there.

QUESTION: Just one to quickly follow as far as this report is concerned, Madam. Before you issued this report to Congress, have you shared this with any country or any reaction from any country?

MS. NULAND: I think our general practice is to release the report and brief countries simultaneously. But obviously, these issues are the subject of ongoing discussion in all of our diplomatic relationships. So thanks.

QUESTION: In view the attack in Kabul at the U.S. Embassy and ISAF headquarters today, what is your assessment of the security situation in Kabul and in the country in general?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think at the moment, we’re focused on calming the situation and trying to investigate precisely what happened. So I think it’s premature to make a sweeping judgment. But as the Secretary said this morning, these kinds of cowardly terrorist attacks are not going to stop our effort to help the Afghan people have the future that they want and that they deserve.

QUESTION: From this attack, it seems the Taliban is continuing to indulge in violence and terrorist activities. Do you still support reconciliation efforts of the Afghan Government?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know the terms under which we support reconciliation. We support reconciliation in an Afghan-led process. If and when those reconciling Taliban have renounced violence in the first instance, are willing to live by the constitution, have put down their arms, and are willing to support universal human rights, that would obviously not apply to the kind of people who would perpetrate these kinds of incidents.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea who are behind these? Do you – have you got any information?

MS. NULAND: It’s way too early.

Okay? Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.



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