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From the Daily Press Briefing of September 27, 2011
12:50 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to all of you who were with us in New York over the last 10 days for the UN General Assembly, and hello to everybody I haven’t seen in about 10 days. I have nothing for you at the top, so let’s go right to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Israeli announcement of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem? Do you have a reaction to that announcement?
MS. NULAND: We do. You won’t be surprised that we are deeply disappointed by this morning’s announcement by the Government of Israel approving the construction of 1,001 housing units in East Jerusalem. We consider this counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties, and we have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem. And we’ll continue to work with the parties to try to resume direct negotiations.
QUESTION: What does this say to the Palestinians now? You’re working hard to try to get them to, well, not drop their bid but maybe not act on it for a while at the Security Council. What does this say to them about the ability to get talks going again and getting the Israelis to hold back on the settlements?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we consider it counterproductive. That doesn’t change the fact that we believe, the President believes, the Secretary believes that the best way – the only way, in fact – to get to two states living side by side in peace, in security, is through direct negotiations. So we will continue to try to use the days and weeks ahead to get there, and we are urging both parties to take advantage of the proposal that the Quartet put forward last Friday to come back to the table.
QUESTION: Excuse me. A follow-up on this --
QUESTION: Sorry. How can you say that, talking about the negotiation, when the very reason that they collapsed was the fact that the Israelis refused to extend the settlement freeze? And now in addition to that, they’re building more settlements. So how – what is it for the Palestinians to come back to the negotiation table?
MS. NULAND: This process of negotiation has been difficult. There have been issues on both sides. With regard to this news this morning, as I have said, it’s counterproductive. But it doesn’t change that fact that if we want a Palestinian state, as we all do, living in peace next to Israel, that can only come through negotiations.
QUESTION: I understand that, but how – do you expect the Palestinians now, after this announcement, that they will come to negotiation table?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve spoken to the fact that it’s only through negotiations that the state that they seek and the state that we all want to see is going to be established.
QUESTION: Yes, a follow-up on the settlement point. Elliott Abrams, a former Bush Administration official, wrote an article – and he’s a member of the foreign – Council on Foreign Relations – saying that there are two points to be made, that the Quartet statement did not mention – purposely did not mention the settlement, and second, he said that the Department of State briefer on Friday said that Israel was flexible, suggesting or concluding that the settlement will cease be an issue in any upcoming dialogue or negotiations.
First of all, do you concur? And if you don’t concur, then what steps are you prepared to take to (inaudible) pressure Israel to stop settlement activities?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think Mr. Abrams was probably referring to the background briefing that was given in New York when the Quartet statement was released. And our briefer did say that in the context of the discussions that we’ve been having with the Quartet and with the envoys in the last few weeks, we do consider that Israel has been quite flexible.
As I said, both parties have to make a decision to come back to the table. The Quartet put forward this proposal in the hope that it would encourage the parties to take advantage of the coming weeks, but the proposal, as you know, has a very specific set of recommendations with regard to the timetable – to have a preliminary set of talks in a month, for both sides to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months, and we think that this could actually form a good basis for starting to rebuild the trust that’s necessary to get these parties back to the table.
QUESTION: So I can understand clearly, you do not agree with Mr. Abrams, then, we are – that we will likely to see the settlement continue to be an issue for the upcoming future, and not be sort of fogged up by, let’s say, politicking?
MS. NULAND: Said, I think I’ve spoken today to where we are on the settlement issue.
QUESTION: Two things on this, please. One, have you – has the U.S. Government raised with the Israeli Government today, since the latest announcement, the concern and the view that it’s counterproductive that you just disclosed publicly? Have you actually talked to the Israeli Government about this?
MS. NULAND: I’m quite confident that we have, but let me get you more detail on who’s spoken to whom.
QUESTION: And then secondly, do you regard this announcement as violating the call in point five of the Quartet statement, which urged both sides to, quote, “avoid provocative actions – ” in your view, is this violating that call that the Quartet made?
MS. NULAND: I think with regard to this move on settlements, we’ve called it counterproductive. That is our view. And we want to see, as the Quartet statement calls for, restraint with regard to provocative actions by both sides.
QUESTION: So if this isn’t a provocative action, then what is?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve spoken to where we are on this issue today.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could we just stay on this for one minute? Are there any plans to send in either Dennis Ross or David Hale again to the region in the near future?
MS. NULAND: Currently, they are talking to all sides, they are talking to the Quartet partners, they’re talking to the parties. With regard to an upcoming trip, I think we haven’t made any decisions yet. We’ll have to see how the two sides formally respond to the Quartet proposal, and go from there.
QUESTION: And one last thing: In the cycle of the Security Council, where does the application of the Palestinians for full statehood now is in the pipeline?
MS. NULAND: I think you saw that there was a preliminary meeting yesterday of Security Council members behind closed doors. Our understanding is that there will be a public meeting tomorrow. There are quite a number of procedural, legal, analytical steps that need to be taken by the Security Council with regard to this application that the Palestinians have made. And as that process goes forward we nonetheless hope that the parties will use the time, use the proposal, that the Quartet has put forward to make progress in their direct negotiations track.
QUESTION: I don’t want to harp on – I just want to maybe ask it more directly. Does this announcement today complicate your efforts to get attention back toward restarting negotiations and away from the Security Council?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said it’s counterproductive.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: How close is the Secretary right now to making that determination to put them on the terror list?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to review whether to designate the entire organization. As Mark said yesterday, quite a sizeable number of the Haqqani kingpins have been individually designated, but we are continuing to review the issue with regard to the whole organization.
QUESTION: Is there anything imminent?
QUESTION: But at this point, is it possible for her not to do that realistically, politically with the pressure that is out there?
MS. NULAND: Again, it’s under review and when we have an announcement to make we will be able to make it.
QUESTION: Could you also just – just one last question. Could you just walk us through again, I know Mark did a good job yesterday but just kind of walking us through –
MS. NULAND: Mark always does a good job. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I know. And I understood every word he said. (Laughter.) But I just wanted to make sure that we have a good understanding of why the U.S., up until this point, has not taken that step.
MS. NULAND: Again, as we’ve looked at individual members of the Haqqani Network, we have made determinations, either on the State Department side or on the Treasury side, to make designations against them, particularly when we had real smoking gun evidence against individuals. And as I said, we are reviewing the organization as a whole now.
QUESTION: Are you trying to lead us to believe – I mean you’ve said that now three times, you’re reviewing it, that doesn’t necessarily mean the decision is imminent. Are you trying to get us to understand that a decision is imminent, or it could be months, or years?
MS. NULAND: I think when we have a decision to make, you guys will be the first, second, maybe the third to know.
QUESTION: Could I, (inaudible), sorry. Well, just one last try. (Laughter.) In terms of like, the rationale, I mean you say incontrovertible evidence or whatever, I mean, right now, the U.S. seems to think that it has that evidence, that the Haqqani Network, not just these individuals, has actually been behind the attack in Kabul. So what more needs to be determined? Isn’t it time?
MS. NULAND: Again, there are a number of legal things that have to go into making these designations, particularly when you designate a group as a whole, and you put a big blanket over a diverse network. That review is ongoing now and when we have something to say, we will say it.
QUESTION: I’m wondering what’s being done to repair U.S.-Pakistan relationships, and whether or not the Saudis have been brought in to help in that effort?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, virtually every principal in this government is engaged in intense consultation and conversation with their Pakistani counterparts. You know that Secretary Clinton had a three and a half hour meeting with Foreign Minister Khar in New York, Secretary Panetta has been involved with his counterpart, we’ve obviously been
involved – Admiral Mullen’s been involved with his counterpart, and I believe that Director Petraeus has been involved with his counterpart. So we are trying to work through these issues together because we have to work through these issues together. The U.S. and Pakistan, although it’s not always easy, have a vital interest in fighting counterterrorism together. So we’ve made absolutely clear that the Haqqani Network is job one, that we want to do it together, and that’s the conversation that we’re having.
QUESTION: Are other countries being brought in to help in the negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan to try to ease this situation?
MS. NULAND: The U.S. and Pakistan have a very clear and direct relationship. The, as I said, all of these principals have strong relationships with their counterparts. We are obviously making the case to other governments in the neighborhood and around the world, who care about counterterrorism, that we consider this Haqqani Network a threat to us, we consider it a threat to Pakistan, and a threat to the region. But I don’t think that the U.S. and Pakistan need a third country to mediate between them. We are working directly.
QUESTION: What aid does the U.S. currently give to Pakistan and are there plans to cut that aid in light of Admiral Mullen’s remarks?
MS. NULAND: Our civilian aid, as we’ve said before, continues apace. We have slowed our assistance on the military-to-military side, for all of the reasons that we’ve discussed, that some of that aid can’t go forward unless the programs that it funds goes – go forward and until we can evaluate with Pakistan where we’re going to go together. I don’t have the figures in front of me, so let me take that question for you, and we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) listing the Haqqani Network as a whole as a terrorist organization mean in terms of aid to Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: The aid to Pakistan decisions are made with regard to our conversation with the Government of Pakistan. If you designate the Haqqani Network, those would be restrictions that would be placed on their financial activity in the United States, their travel in the United States, members of the Haqqani Network. So it’s apples and oranges.
QUESTION: Toria, have you seen the remarks by the Pakistani prime minister in which he says, among other things – he says that there is a widespread view in Pakistan that the United States has tilted toward India since the Cold War and this is one reason for anti-American sentiment. He essentially asked the United States to stop accusing Pakistan of playing a double game with militants. He argues that the United States needs to stop what he calls negativity. Any comment on any of this? And in particular, do you think that the negativity, which seems to refer to Admiral Mullen’s remarks – do you think that’s an appropriate way to describe what Admiral Mullen said?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to the concern expressed with regard to U.S.-India relations, the U.S. does not consider this a zero-sum game, U.S.-India or U.S.-Pakistan. We need and we seek good, strong relations with each, and we also strongly support the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan, particularly the talks that they are engaged in now on Kashmir and other issues. We have been working for some time now on this New Silk Road Initiative that those of you who were with us in New York have learned a little bit about. The initiative formally launched in New York and will be picked up in Istanbul at the beginning of November.
We are actually seeking to improve relationships across the region by strengthening trades, strengthening transportation throughout South Central Asia, as a way of enriching all of the countries of the neighborhood and easing some of the tensions and suspicions that they’ve had together, sort of raising all boats at the same time. So we are very much engaged in trying to improve relations throughout the region to help these countries get along better with each other, and we don’t see any sort of zero-sum situation here.
I think what you have heard in these statements is shared on the U.S. side in the sense that the United States and Pakistan have to work together on the terrorist threats that we both face, and particularly we have to work together in confronting the Haqqani Network and then moving on to other issues. So from that perspective, that we need to roll up our sleeves and do the work, we are making that case ourselves.
QUESTION: Are you going to stop the negativity or what he describes as the negativity?
MS. NULAND: It’s his adjective. We need to get at this very, very dangerous threat from the Haqqani Network together. And the degree to which we have successes together, we’ll be able to trumpet those success as we’ve had in the past, in fact, when we – when the Pakistanis rolled up al-Qaida’s number two and noted that the U.S. had supported them in that effort. So we have examples of solid, good cooperation together, and we need to continue that and strengthen it.
QUESTION: Does the State Department actually believe that the ISI directs what Haqqani does? What’s the nature of that relationship?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to go any further than we’ve already gone, which is to say that we have serious concerns about the Haqqani Network, we have to work on it together with the Pakistani Government, and we are seeking collaboration, cooperation from all branches of the Pakistani Government as we do that.
QUESTION: But wait a minute. I mean, isn’t – Admiral Mullen described the Haqqani Network as a, quote, “virtual arm” of the ISI.
MS. NULAND: We – I – Admiral Mullen has given his view in testimony. Where we are focused at the moment is in trying to work this problem together with Pakistan, and we’re going to continue to try to do that.
QUESTION: One last one from me on this. I mean, I’m sure you saw The New York Times front page story describing an incident along the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2007 in which the article quotes a number of people alleging that Pakistani agents deliberately took aim, fired at, killed one and wounded another U.S. citizen who was there for a meeting. So how do you work together with a country where your own top military officer says they launched an attack on your Embassy and where you have what seems to be a fairly credible report that they have actually attacked American soldiers in the field?
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to this 2007 report. It is many years old.
QUESTION: It’s only four years old. I mean --
MS. NULAND: We have no – we have --
QUESTION: Wait. It’s four years ago --
MS. NULAND: I just don’t have any information on the report. I don’t --
QUESTION: So you guys didn’t look at the paper and say, well, geez, maybe we ought to try to figure out what we should say about this?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the reporting in the paper. We don’t – I don’t have any comment particularly today on a 2007 report. I’m sure that there are folks in the government who are going back and looking at this. It doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. and Pakistan have to work together on counterterrorism, and we’re going to continue to do that. We – it is in our vital national interest, it’s in Pakistan’s vital national interest, and we need each other, and we’re going to have to work this out, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
QUESTION: On this point, are you concerned that the ISI is becoming a government within a government, actually not accountable to the government?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve --
QUESTION: They do as they please?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said what I have to say on this one.
QUESTION: When you ask the Pakistanis for tougher action against the Haqqani Network, what leverage do you have if, no matter what, you have to cooperate and get along because of the severity of the threat?
MS. NULAND: This counterterrorism relationship is based on our shared interest in defeating terror in that part of the world, terror that has killed more Pakistanis than anybody else. That is the case that we make and that you can’t differentiate one terrorist versus another terrorist. They’re all a threat to the region, they’re all a threat to all of us, and that – it’s on that basis that we will continue to try to work on this.
QUESTION: But if the government doesn’t do enough to break the links between the ISI and the Haqqani Network, what, quid pro quo, can you offer? What is the appropriate counter response?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. And obviously --
QUESTION: Well, (inaudible) years where they haven’t done it yet, so it’s a state of fact at this point.
MS. NULAND: We have made an extremely strong case across this government to the Pakistani Government, including that we want to do this together. Obviously, if the Pakistani Government chooses not to take action, we would have to carefully consider how to proceed. But it is our strong interest, we believe, and it is in Pakistan’s strong interest, and we will be most effective if we can tackle this problem together.
QUESTION: Do you feel that the Pakistani Government is in a position to take action?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, we believe that we can strengthen our cooperation together, that we can work together and tackle this threat. We wouldn’t be making this strong case if we didn’t think that we could, should, and must do more together.
QUESTION: We know that under executive order certain kingpins of Haqqani have been targeted by the United States. Do we have specific numbers on individual members of Haqqani who have been designated as terrorists?
MS. NULAND: I think Mark read out that list yesterday. If you need it again, we’ll get it for you.
QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia, what is the U.S. reaction to King Abdullah’s initiative to include women in the Shoura Council?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we welcome King Abdullah’s announcement that Saudi women will now be permitted to participate fully in the Shoura Council, the official consultative body of the kingdom, as well as in future municipal elections. As Secretary Clinton said last week at the UN Women’s event, if we want a safe, secure, prosperous, and peaceful future, women have to participate as equal partners, and they have to be free to realize their full potential. So this is a positive step in terms of the reforms in the kingdom that the king is promoting, and we welcome it.
QUESTION: Do you feel that there should be --
QUESTION: But this is not going to happen until 2015. Are you disappointed about the time, four years from now?
MS. NULAND: Well, our understanding is that the participation in the Shura Council would be relatively soon, and then the next municipal elections will be in 2015. We are encouraged that reform steps are being taken. We hope that is a harbinger of a continued positive trajectory.
QUESTION: Should they be able to drive to their own polling station?
MS. NULAND: I think you know where the Secretary has been on this issue, that we hope that Saudi women will get the same rights that American women have, sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. A source on the Syrian opposition tells me that you have been in serious negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood and, in fact, that --
MS. NULAND: That the United States has been in such negotiations?
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Yes. Right.
MS. NULAND: Continue your question.
QUESTION: First of all, are you involved in negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to that particular report. I will tell you that Ambassador Ford and his Embassy endeavor to see a broad cross-section of Syrians. But let me take the question whether – with regard to whether members of the Muslim Brotherhood are part of that. I think you know where we’ve been in other parts of the world, that when members of the Muslim Brotherhood are prepared to renounce violence and act peacefully, we’re prepared to talk to them. But let me check on this particular one.
QUESTION: Yeah. Just a (inaudible) because the concern is that because you are conducting these serious negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood, other elements, especially secularists and so on, are losing enthusiasm and participation as they see this whole Syrian uprising being hijacked by extremists and Muslim Brotherhood and so on. Could you comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Said, that does not sound right in any way, shape, or form to me, in the sense that I know that Ambassador Ford, our Embassy in Damascus, make it a practice to see a broad cross-section of Syrians from all segments of society – Alawite, Druze, Sunni, Christians – to maintain contacts with all political groupings and to be open to dialogue with everybody.
And in fact, one of the things that we have championed about this opposition movement in Syria is the fact that it has been largely a nonsectarian movement. It has been talking about a democratic future for Syria for all Syrians, in which all Syrians can live peacefully together. So that is the trajectory that we are encouraging and that is the basis on which Ambassador Ford and his Embassy consult very, very broadly in Syria.
QUESTION: Still on the Lebanese, does the United States --
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria before we leave Syria? No? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Does the United States have any confidence or still have confidence in Tony Blair as the envoy of the Quartet, considering this recent report linking him to banking deals in Libya and elsewhere?
MS. NULAND: We continue to have confidence in Tony Blair and his leadership.
QUESTION: Yes, two quick ones. One – I think this came up yesterday – an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister said that Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 F-16s. Any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Iraq has now made its first transfer payment for the purchase of 18 F-16 fighter aircraft, initiating this foreign military sale. These aircraft are going to help provide air sovereignty for Iraq and to protect its territory and deter or counter regional threats.
They also, as a significant military sale between us, are a symbol of the commitment that we’ve made to the Iraqi Government to have a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq on equal, sovereign terms.
And we expect foreign military sales of this kind, including items like the F-16, to serve as the cornerstone of the kind of cooperation that we hope to have in the future to support the secure, peaceful, democratic development of Iraq.
QUESTION: A couple things. How much was the first transfer payment?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a number on the first transfer, but the total value of the sale is approximately $3 billion.
QUESTION: And then are they – and this displays the full extent of my knowledge about F-16s – but are they the A/Bs or the C/Ds?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. Actually, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to send you to the military on that one to DOD.
QUESTION: Oh, come on. Oh, come on.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have which kind of F-16s we’ve got here.
QUESTION: Okay. And then one other thing on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, just to come back to it.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?
QUESTION: Okay. Sure, yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yes. Said.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Mr. Zebari – (inaudible) Zebari last week, and he said that all Iraqis basically, or a majority of Iraqis, want continued U.S. presence, military presence, in Iraq. He was quite frustrated that the United States is not pushing forcefully enough to do that, because he believes that once the U.S. military leaves Iraq, then there will be room for – a chance for another eruption of sectarian war.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we’ve been: that our combat role will end at the end of the year; that we have been open to requests from the Iraqi Government for continued cooperation; that we have had a request to begin negotiations on an ongoing training role. Those negotiations are going on now. Clearly, we will be open to continued foreign military sales, as we are with many other countries in that region, many of Iraq’s neighbors. So I think we need to see where this relationship goes, but we are very open to supporting Iraq and supporting the Iraqi military in a training role and a sales role. So let’s see where that relationship goes through negotiations.
QUESTION: How long is this negotiation going to last?
MS. NULAND: You know we diplomats don’t like to predict such things. Let’s – I think it needs to be done right rather than fast. So that’s what we’re trying to do is to do it in a way that protects the sovereignty of Iraq and ensures that our long-term relationship is solidly based.
QUESTION: And just on the F-16s, do you have any information on when they’re supposed to be deliverable and when they’ll be up in the air?
MS. NULAND: That’s a good question. I think, again, let’s send you to DOD on that one.
QUESTION: Okay. But this would not change whatever plans or negotiations are in place that would have American – a carryover American role perhaps to patrol the skies? These wouldn’t preclude that?
MS. NULAND: These are American planes bought by Iraq for the Iraqi air force to fly.
QUESTION: So they’re not going to be in place at the point when, let’s say at the end of the year? You would have to come up with a new definition for how American planes are operating in Iraq.
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to the delivery dates. Why don’t we give that one to DOD.
MS. NULAND: Libya.
QUESTION: The New York Times reported that pro-Qadhafi militants on Saturday made an incursion into Libyan soil from the Algerian soil and raided the city of Ghadames. Seven people died in the exchange of fire. Are you concerned by these reports?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these reports. We’re, frankly, not in a position to confirm them one way or the other. But we have been concerned and have been working with both the TNC and with Libya’s neighbors about porous borders, and a number of those neighbors have asked us for help in having better management of some of those long, open borders. So this is an issue, obviously, of concern, but with regard to the specific report, I’m not in a position to confirm it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Are we --
QUESTION: Last one here?
MS. NULAND: Please. Arshad.
QUESTION: Did the Israeli Government provide the U.S. Government any advance notice or warning that the latest settlement announcement would be made?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that this particular project has been on the books for – since 2009. With regard to whether we had a heads-up at our Embassy about this particular announcement today, I’ll take the question.
QUESTION: Thanks. It would be interesting, because if you did have a heads-up, it might imply that they’re trying to take, to some degree, U.S. sensitivities about this into consideration – not that it stops them from going ahead and doing it, but --
MS. NULAND: I think it wouldn’t change the fact that we consider it counter-productive.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: All right. Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)