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 28, 2011
MS. NULAND: The Secretary is meeting with Foreign Minister Amr later this afternoon. They will also have a joint press availability where they will both be able to speak about the meeting, and they’ll answer some questions. So I don’t want to go too deeply except to say that it is obviously a very important time in Egypt. The Egyptians have just called the dates of the first round of elections later in November. We have a broad and deep relationship, working to support the democratic transition in Egypt that is underway, and I think they’ll review all aspects of our bilateral relationship as well as the regional situation and Egypt’s relationship with its neighbors, et cetera.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Egypt’s relationship with one particular neighbor is what I’m interested in. How concerned are you about the situation between Egypt and Israel, and does this complicate peace efforts?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure if asked, the Secretary will speak to this after the meeting, but you know where we have been. We were very concerned at the time of the incident. We made representations to the Egyptian Government, but we have been encouraged by the responsible statements since there – then, both on the Egyptian side and on the Israeli side, seeking to calm relations. And we’ve been particularly encouraged by high-level statements from the Egyptian side reconfirming its commitments, its longstanding international commitments.
QUESTION: And then this is the last one. On the – domestically within Egypt, there was – you had expressed some concern about the re-imposition of the emergency law. Is that something that’s likely to come up?
MS. NULAND: I would guess that that is something that’s likely to come up. I think you know where we have been on the emergency law, that we had advocated its cancellation, and we still stand with that.
QUESTION: Just to stay in the region, yesterday you were asked a couple of questions about the nature of U.S.-Israeli contact over the Gilo settlement construction announcement. One, I am aware that you put out a taken question. But can you tell us, one, whether you had any kind of a heads-up from the Israeli Government about this or not? And then I have a second one.
MS. NULAND: I think I don’t want to go any further than what we said in our taken question yesterday except to say that we have had consultations with the Israelis on this issue since the announcement at senior levels.
QUESTION: And with – at what levels? I mean, the ambassador or the Secretary or – yesterday, you said you would try to get us – in fact, you said, “Let me get you more detail on who talked to whom.” So who talked to whom?
MS. NULAND: Ambassador Oren of Israel spoke to Deputy Secretary Burns and also spoke to Under Secretary of State Sherman yesterday.
QUESTION: And were those telephone conversations or was he asked to come to the building to discuss the matter?
MS. NULAND: They were both in person.
QUESTION: And would it be fair to say – forgive me – was he summoned? Is that an accurate description – or called in?
MS. NULAND: My understanding was that both encounters were already on the books. One was at another event and one was scheduled in the building.
QUESTION: And then the other thing was, did you get a heads-up or not? And the reason I ask that is that we look at these things from the outside. Friday afternoon, the Quartet, of which the United States Government is a member, issued a statement urging both parties to get back to the negotiating table, laying out a timeline, and specifically asking both sides to avoid provocative acts.
As you well know, over the course of many years, “avoid provocative acts,” although it’s not spelled out, at least one aspect of it on the Israeli side has been settlement construction and to avoid settlement construction. I look at this, one looks at this from the outside. Friday, you make a request; Tuesday, the Israeli Government does something that presumably directly violates what you’re encouraging them to do.
So the reason I asked the question about whether there was a heads-up, and I think I explained this in the briefing yesterday, was that if there was a heads-up, maybe that implies that there is some kind of an effort on the Israeli Government’s part for you to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, why Gilos is maybe different. So I think it’s a reasonable question as to whether there was a heads-up. It may be that as – I mean, as you know, this is a multistage process, so it may be that you don’t expect a heads-up for something that was announced originally in 2009.
So I think it’s a fair question to ask whether the Administration at any level, including at the Embassy, had any kind of a heads-up that this was coming just four days after the Quartet statement.
MS. NULAND: Arshad, I understand why you are asking. I am not prepared to go any further in discussing our private diplomatic consultations with the Israelis beyond what the Secretary said publicly very clearly yesterday, and the additional comments that I made today.
QUESTION: Can you explain why? I mean, what is so sensitive about knowing whether or not you had a heads-up?
MS. NULAND: We’re trying to get these parties back to the table. We need to do that work behind closed doors and encourage the best movement we can back to the Quartet proposal that’s on the table.
QUESTION: Why is it so difficult to go beyond what you had said yesterday --
MS. NULAND: I think I --
QUESTION: -- on the issue of the settlement? I mean, you have a historical position, actually, that claimed that the settlement activities were illegal, but then they became unhelpful and so on. So why is it so difficult to issue a very strong statement saying that we expect the Israelis, our allies and beneficiaries or whatever, to do one-two-three for peace? Why is that so difficult?
MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary issued a very strong statement yesterday, which I’m not able to improve on, frankly.
QUESTION: I wasn’t here yesterday for the briefing. I apologize for not being able to torment you then.
MS. NULAND: We missed you.
QUESTION: But I’ll try again now, or I’ll try to now. You – does the U.S. regard housing units in East Jerusalem, as opposed to the West Bank, as settlement activity?
MS. NULAND: We spoke to this issue yesterday. The Secretary, and obviously from --
QUESTION: You spoke to that specific issue? I’m sorry, was --
MS. NULAND: We spoke to this housing construction in --
QUESTION: The Israelis make a distinction --
MS. NULAND: -- East Jerusalem yesterday.
QUESTION: And do you regard that as settlement activity? The Israelis make a distinction between East Jerusalem and – between Jewish neighborhoods – between construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and construction in the West Bank, which they say are settlements. They say Jerusalem, East or West, is not home to any settlements. What’s the U.S. position on that?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary was very clear yesterday in saying that we --
QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry, she never was asked – she was not asked, nor did she answer that question that I just asked.
MS. NULAND: She was asked how we feel about the construction of these 1,100 units in East Jerusalem, and she said very clearly that we consider it counterproductive.
QUESTION: I understand that, but do you accept the Israeli position that what happens with East Jerusalem is – are not settlements?
MS. NULAND: I’m here to represent the U.S. position, which I think I’ve just done.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t take any position on that is what I’m understanding from you. So do you think that regardless of whether they are settlements, as the Palestinians would argue and as many other people would say, in East – whether it’s a settlement or not, but the construction there changes the situation on the ground?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said what we wanted to say on this, which is it was counterproductive. I’m not prepared to go any deeper or any broader or change the adjective. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Can – well, I’m not asking you to change the adjective. I’m just saying that bricks-and-mortar construction on the ground, does that change the situation on the ground?
MS. NULAND: We’ve said it is counterproductive.
QUESTION: Well, that doesn’t – it’s counter --
MS. NULAND: I apologize if that’s unsatisfactory to you, Matt. It’s what I have to say on it.
QUESTION: It’s just not an answer to the question. I realize that you’re under orders not to say anything, but it’s mind-boggling to me how you guys can just kind of say that something is counterproductive when it actually changes the situation on the ground as opposed to something that you absolute – said absolutely does not change the situation on the ground, which is the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. And for something that is – that does demonstrably change the situation on the ground, all you’re prepared to do is say that it’s counterproductive, and yet for something that doesn’t change the situation on the ground, you’re prepared to use the weight of U.S. veto to stop it. Can you answer --
MS. NULAND: We missed, you, Matt.
QUESTION: Can you answer the question as to why you’re responding to the two differently? Is it because you don’t have veto power over the Israeli – you don’t have any power or persuasion over the Israeli Government?
MS. NULAND: Matt, you know where we are. We’ve been absolutely clear, the Secretary’s been clear, the President’s been clear. We want to see --
QUESTION: It just seems to me that --
MS. NULAND: We want to see a Palestinian state living next to Israel, side by side, both states in peace, both states feeling secure. The way to achieve that is to take advantage of the proposal that the Quartet has put on the table. That’s the direction that we are working in. We considered this announcement yesterday counterproductive.
MS. NULAND: We said that very clearly, we said it publicly, we said it privately. Our effort is – continues to be to try to get these parties back to the table.
QUESTION: Well, it sounds as though your response – I’m sure the Israelis are very appreciative of your response. It’s very biblical. You’ve been slapped in the face in your responses; you’re going to turn the other cheek and not do anything about it. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: Kim, did you have something?
QUESTION: On this, yes. Following up on Arshad, it sounds as though the reason why you are unwilling to say whether you got a heads-up from the Israeli Government about this announcement is because you didn’t get one, and you – it feels like a slap in the face of the United States, but you don’t want to say this publicly because you don’t want to embarrass your ally.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to comment on our private discussion with the Israelis on this except to say that we made the same points privately that we’ve made publicly here and will continue do so.
QUESTION: On the --
QUESTION: I’m sorry. On the Quartet, I mean, what are the Palestinians telling you if they’re talking to American officials at all about whether they will consider this, particularly in light of the Israeli announcement on Gilo?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that the Palestinians are studying the proposal, that there are meetings ongoing, in fact, in Ramallah today and tomorrow. We look forward to their formal answer --
QUESTION: Meetings between the Palestinians?
MS. NULAND: Among Palestinians – and that there are also discussions ongoing in Israel, and we look forward to hearing both sides’ formal responses to the proposal, and we hope that they both take advantage of the opportunity before them.
QUESTION: Yes. A quick follow-up, Victoria. Are you warning the Israelis against incitement by settlers against the Palestinians? Because there have been ads in, let’s say, places like Paris and so on, especially by the JDL France and other groups, even in the United States, that actually call for volunteers to defend the settlers against the Palestinian occupiers. I mean, it’s very – quite volatile and blatant and strong kind of incitement. Do you warn the Israelis against such a thing, or do you warn them to tone it down?
MS. NULAND: We’ve urged both sides to be – to urge calm, to be vigilant with regard to security during this period, and to encourage both Palestinians and Israelis to exercise restraint and to support a process of negotiation.
QUESTION: On this issue but apart from – but completely not having anything to do with settlements, the Security Council today took this next step –
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and will meet again on Friday. Can you explain – is the U.S. or any other country, any other member of the Council in a position to stop this from going forward now? If it is, why didn’t you stop it today? What do you expect will happen on Friday? And how will the U.S. vote or present its argument on Friday? What’s the mechanism for that?
MS. NULAND: The – as we said yesterday, Monday, with this request put forward by the Palestinians, the Security Council has to walk through a number of procedural, legal, analytical hoops. It is now doing that. My understanding is that today’s meeting at the UN – and I’d refer you to USUN for more details – was to take the next procedural step, which is to establish the committee – and it’s a committee of the whole – to review the application. We have been supportive of the procedural issues going forward. We think this is going to take some time, and we, at the same time, are urging the parties to use this time to avail themselves of the timelines put forward by the Quartet and to get back to negotiations.
QUESTION: Okay. Why – but – so – but you could have stopped it. The Council and this kind of thing operates on a consensus basis, yes? Or it just --
MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to USUN for exactly how the procedures work up there.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, is there –
MS. NULAND: But we obviously have not had difficulty with the UN working through its procedural and legal analysis.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I –
QUESTION: You have or have not?
MS. NULAND: Have not.
QUESTION: Can I ask why? You’ve already come out and said you’re going to veto this. Why not stop it before it even gets to that stage?
MS. NULAND: Again, there are a lot of steps that have to be taken. There’s a lot of consultation going on up there. We continue to make the case in the context of those discussions, but more broadly, that if you care about getting to Palestinian statehood, the place to do this is not in New York --
MS. NULAND: -- but at the negotiating table. We’ll continue to make that case, but we didn’t feel it was necessary to block the procedural steps and analytical steps that are ongoing in New York.
QUESTION: Okay. Then can you explain what you expect to happen on Friday or do you, I mean –
MS. NULAND: Again, my –
QUESTION: Some people are presenting it as that there’s actually going to be a decision or there could be a vote, yes or no, on this. Is that not your understanding?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that there’s quite a bit of work ahead, that this committee that was formed today may have its first meeting next week – at the end of this week. But again, I would – going to refer you to USUN for the exact timetable.
QUESTION: Toria, considering that Portugal is on the Security Council, did the Secretary of State discuss this very issue of the vote on the Palestinian issue with the Portuguese foreign minister?
MS. NULAND: She did, and she spoke about it publicly yesterday. So I refer you to her remarks yesterday.
QUESTION: But did she try to persuade them one way or another?
MS. NULAND: They had a very good conversation. I think if you go back to the transcript of their press conference, you’ll see that we’re very much aligned with Portugal on this issue.
QUESTION: Okay. So you feel that Portugal is in support of the U.S. position on this issue?
MS. NULAND: Again, the Portuguese minister spoke quite eloquently about his own government’s position. So I will refer you to his remarks yesterday.
QUESTION: He did, and you just said that the U.S. and Portugal are very much aligned on this issue. The foreign minister, if I’m not mistaken, said in his comments that if there were to be a resumption of negotiations, Portugal as a member of the Council, would be prepared to support an upgrade in Palestinian status at the UN.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not –
QUESTION: Is that what you’re talking about when you say you’re very much – as long as the negotiations have started? That’s exactly what he said, and that’s exactly what you just said. You said you were very much aligned with the Portuguese.
MS. NULAND: The Portuguese minister obviously speaks for Portugal. The bulk of the discussion between the Secretary and the Portuguese minister was on the importance of getting the parties back to the negotiating table. I think the minister was extremely eloquent about Portugal’s support for –
QUESTION: Yes, you –
MS. NULAND: -- the parties coming back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: He was. But when you say that you are very much aligned with the Portuguese on this, and the Portuguese say that they will support an upgrade in the Palestinian status if there is a resumption of negotiations, does that mean that you are – that’s your position as well, when you’re very much aligned with them?
MS. NULAND: We are strongly aligned on the importance of getting back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) because there are three African members on the Council.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: And they had initially taken the position of the African Union. But there has been some sort of stepping back by Gabon and Nigeria in the last week. But now, it seems that the African Union is pressuring these three countries, the few countries along with South Africa, to actually support the Palestinian effort. Are you conversely trying to pressure Nigeria and Gabon to either abstain or vote no?
MS. NULAND: As you saw last week with the President’s meetings, the Secretary’s meetings, our diplomatic effort has been very intensive not only with all the Security Council members, but with all the countries that our leaders were able to meet with in New York to try to make our case that the best way to a viable settlement is through negotiations. So we will continue to make that case, and we have been making it.
QUESTION: Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, one of – in his interviews – I believe one of the major networks in the U.S. – stated that Israel has been building settlements in Jerusalem for decades, and the U.S. Administration has been – had been okay with this. And it is the U.S. Administration who changes its policy. Would you be able to tell us that, in fact, the U.S. Administration was okay with the building settlements in Jerusalem in recent decades?
MS. NULAND: I think you know where this Administration is at this time on this issue. Thanks.
QUESTION: Another subject, Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Also at the United Nations, this draft resolution, the Europeans seem to be weakening it or softening the position, apparently removing sanctions in order to get the Russians and the Chinese onboard. I know it’s in a state of flux right now because it is a draft, but are you fearful that this is beginning to fall apart?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this was also very much the subject of the Secretary’s diplomacy and the President’s diplomacy last week at the United Nations to make the case to Security Council members and to others that it’s time for the international community to speak strongly with one voice to the Asad regime about its brutality. So we are consulting the EU-4. As you have noted, France, UK, Germany, and Portugal have a new draft resolution that’s just been tabled in New York. We are working with them on it. We are also working with other Security Council members on this issue. It came up in the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia, it came up in the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Yang of China, that we’ve really got to send a strong signal.
We want a resolution with teeth. We want a resolution that makes absolutely clear to the Asad regime that the violence needs to end, that must have international monitors in Syria, and that there will be consequences. So we are continuing to negotiate that resolution, but we believe the time has more than come for the UN Security Council to speak out, and we are encouraging all of our Security Council partners to, as the Secretary has said, get on the right side of history and help end this violence through strong international actions.
QUESTION: But it sounds like you’re not getting very far. I mean, they are --
MS. NULAND: Again, this new draft was just tabled. I think the Secretary was – felt that she was able to have a good airing on this issue, make clear how strongly we feel about it in New York. So let’s let the negotiators do their work. But you know what we are looking for.
QUESTION: Can you have a resolution with consequences but not have sanctions imposed on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to get ahead of the negotiations in New York. We want to send a very, very strong message to the Syrian regime. We want it to have teeth. We want to see other countries join the U.S. and the EU in the strong kinds of sanctions that we’ve already taken.
QUESTION: But I heard you right that you want it with consequences?
MS. NULAND: We want the Syrian regime to feel consequences if it does not hear the will of the international community.
QUESTION: And when you say consequences, you mean sanctions?
MS. NULAND: Again, you know where we are. We have sanctioned the Syrian Government strongly. So has the EU. We are encouraging all our other partners to do the same.
QUESTION: So consequences in this case means sanctions?
MS. NULAND: We – let’s let this --
QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking this, Toria, is that a previous administration used the word “consequences” to mean invasion and taking over. Are you --
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that opportunity to clarify, Matt. You know what we’ve been saying in Syria, that we do not believe that there is a military solution to this.
QUESTION: So consequences in this case is – just means sanctions?
MS. NULAND: Tightening the noose on the – the economic and political noose on the Syrian regime.
QUESTION: And also on Syria, there has been a call from some in the opposition there for a no-fly zone to be imposed. I’m not exactly quite sure of the details of this, but – and how it would work. And I’m not sure how much Syria has been using air power, if they even have much of an air force beyond the wrecks of MIGs that are on the airport in Damascus. But is this something the U.S. would be prepared to consider?
MS. NULAND: Our sense of this is that the vast majority of those in the Syrian opposition do not want foreign military intervention of any kind. There have been a few calls, as you have cited, but there is no consensus among the Syrian opposition. Our view is that the number one thing that we can do to help them is to get international monitors in there, because this is an environment where there’s no press, there’s no open reporting of what’s going on. We need witnesses so that we can hold Asad to account.
QUESTION: So does that suggest that the Syrian opposition is not yet as mature as, say, the Libyans were? You’re not sure that some disparate groups calling for this and that or something else are actually representative of the vast – yet of the broader Syrian public?
MS. NULAND: Our point is that at this moment, our assessment is that the vast majority of those in the Syrian opposition want this to end peacefully, want to react to their government’s brutality peacefully, don’t want military intervention. So this situation is different, as we’ve said, than it was in Libya.
QUESTION: So we understand clearly, we asked Mark on Monday, and he suggested that the Syrian demonstrators had the right to defend themselves. So that’s, in essence, if they pick up arms to defend themselves, it’s something that will be sanctioned by the United States of America?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’re getting us into hypotheticals.
QUESTION: I understand. I’m just saying --
MS. NULAND: I think what Mark was referring to is we’ve said for a long time here --
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. NULAND: -- that the Syrian opposition has been largely peaceful.
MS. NULAND: There have now been some incidents of opposition folk taking up arms – very rarely, few and far between when they have. Our assessment is that it’s been largely in self-defense and that, again, the vast majority of Syrian opposition want to continue to be postured with that moral authority of being nonviolent. And that’s what they are aspiring to.
QUESTION: The reason I ask – and I clarified at the time – there are elements within the Syrian opposition that claim that this support actually goes beyond just that; that in essence, when they say people are – have the right to defend themselves, then there’s room to actually evolve into a Libya-like situation where ultimately there will be some sort of military or NATO support forthcoming. Could you comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Again, we don’t believe that there is a military solution in Syria. We need a political solution. We need the ability of the opposition to participate in a political transformation towards a democratic future for Syria. That’s what they want. That’s what we support on their behalf.
QUESTION: Yemen? There was a new report today that Mr. Saleh returned to Saudi Arabia. Do you know anything about that?
MS. NULAND: I think we spoke – returned to Saudi Arabia?
QUESTION: Yes. Today. Yes.
MS. NULAND: No. I had not heard that. That’s interesting.
QUESTION: Could you find out --
MS. NULAND: If we have anything more for you on that, we’ll let you know.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: White House said yesterday that aid to Pakistan is always under review. Does that mean in any way that civilian assistance can also be withdrawn in case Pakistan refuses to take action against Haqqani Network?
MS. NULAND: Our posture hasn’t changed with regard to civilian assistance. At the current moment, our civilian assistance continues.
QUESTION: And there have been some meetings in Pakistan. Ambassador Munter has been meeting the president and other officials there. Is this an effort to calm down the tempers, particularly after aggressive statements have been made by the Pakistanis as well, and if there have been other contacts between Washington and Islamabad as well?
MS. NULAND: I think we spoke to this yesterday. We are using all of our senior-level channels, including our ambassador. But Secretary Clinton also met with Foreign Minister Khar, and her defense and CIA counterparts have also met with their Pakistani counterparts because we need to work through these issues, frankly. And that’s what we’re trying to do without a lot of hype and without a lot of rhetoric, and yes, to have a strong working relationship, first and foremost, to deal with the Haqqani Network problem and then to go on on the other counterterrorism issues.
QUESTION: And have you seen an indication that in these meetings that these issues can be resolved?
MS. NULAND: We continue to believe that we can work this through with Pakistan and that we must work it through with Pakistan.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on that --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did Admiral Mullen go too far in calling Haqqani the veritable arm of the ISI? Is that the phrase that this Administration would use?
MS. NULAND: We spoke to this yesterday. Admiral Mullen expressed the views of the Administration that the safe havens that Haqqani exploits are extremely dangerous, that we’ve got to work on this together. I’m – we’re not going to go backwards. We need to go forwards here with the Pakistani Government, and we need to work on this issue together. Pakistanis have suffered greatly from terrorism. Together we have killed and wrapped up more terrorists in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world, and we need to continue to do that.
QUESTION: As part of your effort to go forward, are you trying to temper the impression left my Admiral Mullen’s language? Or does the Administration still stand foursquare behind everything he said in Congressional testimony, including that the Haqqani Network is a veritable arm of the ISI?
MS. NULAND: Again, we need to work together on Haqqani with Pakistan. That is what we are working on together. All principals of this government are in touch with their counterparts and will continue to --
QUESTION: But do you stand behind --
QUESTION: How would you define --
QUESTION: Do you stand behind his testimony?
MS. NULAND: We stand behind his conclusion that this safe haven is extremely dangerous, that we must work on it together. Admiral Mullen also made the point that we have no choice, the U.S. and Pakistan, but to tackle this together.
QUESTION: But how would you define – how would the State Department define the relationship between ISI and the Haqqani Network?
MS. NULAND: Again, that’s not an issue for this Department. That’s an intelligence question.
QUESTION: Mullen also made point of having evidence of ISI’s involvement in the Embassy attack in Kabul. so --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into intelligence in any way.
QUESTION: -- what I’m asking is that if there is such evidence, has it been shared with the Pakistani authorities at any level?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into intelligence in any way.
QUESTION: Madam --
QUESTION: Isn’t --
QUESTION: But didn’t you say yesterday that you were making a strong case to the Pakistanis, or you had made a strong case in this regard?
MS. NULAND: We are making a strong case that this has to be tackled together, but I’m not going to get into any intelligence specifics.
QUESTION: But you just said that that’s not an issue for this Department. Any relationship that the ISI may have with Haqqani Network is not an issue for this Department?
MS. NULAND: The issue of our mutual requirement to tackle this threat is obviously something that we are all engaged in and all working on together. But I thought the question was taking me into the activities or lack thereof of the intelligence services of Pakistan, which we’re obviously counterparts with the foreign ministry of Pakistan, so --
QUESTION: Well, but – so anything that has to do with intelligence, not only do you not talk about but the building doesn’t care about?
MS. NULAND: We’re not going to speak about the intelligence (inaudible) --
QUESTION: I mean, but it is an issue for this building. At least I would hope if the ISI has got a relationship with the Haqqani Network, that’s something that the State Department is concerned about, if one exists. Whether you’re going to talk about it or not is another question, but it certainly – it better be an issue for this building, no?
MS. NULAND: The issue of tackling counterterrorism in Pakistan is very much an issue for this building.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Yemen if there’s nothing more on this?
QUESTION: Madam --
MS. NULAND: I think we have one more from Goyal.
QUESTION: Yes. You said Pakistanis have suffered a lot or a great deal of terrorism. But they’re the one who created it, number one. Number two, as far as what Admiral Mullen is saying, that U.S. has no choice, do you believe that U.S. has no choice after knowing that the hub of terrorism and the safe haven is Pakistan, and you have no choice?
MS. NULAND: The U.S. and Pakistan need to work on these issues together. It’s a threat to both of them, and we are committed to working on these issues together.
Can we --
QUESTION: And also – oh, I’m sorry. Also Pakistan had warned yesterday any action – unilateral action taken by the U.S. against Pakistan will be face consequences and U.S. will pay a heavy price. Do you have any comments on that?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think you know where we are. Our strong preference and our intention is to try to handle these issues together with Pakistan.
QUESTION: And finally, is that a lot of think tanks are saying – and also foreign – finance minister of Pakistan was speaking at this Atlantic Council and he said that U.S. aid, $500 million is really like nothing. But what I’m asking you is: Are you – has he met anybody here as far as U.S. aid is concerned?
MS. NULAND: What – the Pakistani finance minister --
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: -- to my knowledge has not met anybody in the State Department. He may have met Ambassador Grossman, but I can check on that.
QUESTION: He told us that he met Thomas Nides.
MS. NULAND: Oh, that makes sense. Yeah. He may well have met the Deputy Secretary, Nides.
MS. NULAND: We’ll check on that for you.
QUESTION: And one more, just finally. I’m sorry to interrupt you. Where do we go – or where U.S. goes from here now or as far as China-Pakistan alliance, one that used to be Pakistan-U.S. alliance? I mean, are you worried or are you supporting it? Are you concerned about this?
MS. NULAND: China also works closely with the United States on issues of counterterrorism. China and Pakistan work together on issues of counterterrorism. So we share an interest, all three countries, in working on these problems. This is part of why we established with our Turkish partners this Global Counterterrorism Forum, so we all need to continue to fight this fight.
QUESTION: And now Pakistan is seeking Chinese help to tackle down – tackle out the Haqqani Network, not the U.S. help.
MS. NULAND: That’s an issue between the two of them. We are continuing to also try to work with Pakistan on the Haqqani problem.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please, back here.
QUESTION: There are some reports that China, Russia, and Iran is trying to build a new missile defense shield against NATO shield. Any comment on that? Is --
MS. NULAND: I have not seen those reports. I think you know where we are in our consultations with Russia. We would very much like to have missile defense cooperation both bilaterally with Russia and between NATO and Russia, and we have been consulting extensively on how we might be able to go forward with that. These are defensive systems, so they are designed to defend against aggression.
QUESTION: And last, any update about the U.S. mediation on Turkish-Israeli crisis? Because in Israel press, there are some reports that Ambassador to Tel Aviv Dan Shapiro has been involved now with this issue. Any update for us on this matter?
MS. NULAND: I think all U.S. officials who talk to Turkish interlocutors or Israeli interlocutors have been saying the same thing, which is that both of these countries are strong allies of the United States, and we want to see them improve their bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: Kind of out of left field, but Iran yesterday – or rather the official IRNA news agency quoted the head of Iran’s navy as saying or as raising the prospect that Iran might send military ships close to the U.S. borders, presumably the Atlantic. Do you have any reason to believe that Iran actually intends to do this, any evidence that they have ships that can go that far? And are you worried about this?
MS. NULAND: We saw those reports. I’d simply say that, given the limited size and capability of the Iranian navy, they would be far better off focusing on the challenges closer to home, including reducing the potential for naval incidents in the Gulf and playing a constructive role in freedom of navigation and maritime issues at home and helping to counteract piracy in the Gulf of Aden, which is a far more close-to-home issue for them.
QUESTION: To your knowledge, are the Iranians involved at all in the counter-piracy initiatives, not just in the Gulf of Aden, but further down into the Indian Ocean?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, they are not involved in these multilateral efforts, U.S.-EU, U.S.-NATO.
QUESTION: Would they be welcome to such, if they wanted to, as you just suggested, put their small fleet of whatever ships they have to --
MS. NULAND: I think that if they took a stronger role off their own coast in countering piracy, as I’ve just said, we would all welcome that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Yemen for a second?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you aware or has there been any contact between either President Saleh or members of his government since his return to – not – I don’t know about this thing about him going back – but since he went back from Saudi to Yemen?
MS. NULAND: U.S. contact with members of his government?
MS. NULAND: I believe that our Embassy there is in ongoing contact with members of his government as we continue to try to encourage, with or without his actually doing the necessary deed, which is to accept the GCC proposal. We’re trying to encourage that dialogue between the government and the opposition on a road forward.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary have an opportunity – have the opportunity – because if she did, she didn’t take it – to meet with Foreign Minister Al-Qirbi when he was in New York?
MS. NULAND: She didn’t have a bilateral meeting with him. Whether she saw him on the margins of any of these other meetings, I don’t know.
QUESTION: Is it possible to find out --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- if she did actually, even if it was just a pull-aside?
MS. NULAND: It is.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Jill.
QUESTION: Just one on Haqqani. It’s kind of specific, but there was an MIA – Bowe, I think it is, Bergdahl – who is believed to be held by Haqqani, probably in Pakistan. And the question is: Does that influence or weigh upon the decision to list them as a terrorist organization?
MS. NULAND: With regard to the issue of whether to move from where we’ve been, which is to designate major kingpins of the Haqqani Network, to a blanket designation, as we said yesterday, that issue is under review. That review is based on the terrorist activities of the Haqqani Network. So obviously, if there are activities against specific Americans, that’s part of the dossier. But we’re continuing to look at the issue.
QUESTION: According to several news reports today, Turkish research – gas research ship and accompanying several Turkish ships as close as 80 kilometers from the American Noble Energy, where it is drilling in south of Cyprus. How do you view this tension? It’s – according to captain of the Turkish ship, is – he can see the – Noble Energy platform from where they stand. Have you raised this issue with Turkish Government recently? This just happened today.
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to this issue that may or may not have happened today. You know where we have been on this issue. We continue to support the UN-led mediation on Cyprus, and we discourage any rhetoric or action that could negatively affect a peaceful settlement. I would note that there has recently been a request for the UN to engage in some sort of mediation on a revenue-sharing agreement for natural gas developed off of Cyprus, and we understand that the UN is considering that request, and we would consider that it would be quite constructive if the two communities could begin to work on deescalating tensions in a way similar to that.
QUESTION: Turkish side sees these gas exploration plants of the south as blocked to the direct negotiations for unification of the island. You just cited as well or indirectly as – UN position. What’s the U.S. position on these – one side’s gas drilling projects? Do you think it helps for the reunification process or it hurts?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve spoken to this many times. We want to see a peaceful settlement of this issue under UN mediation. We want to see the island’s resources shared between the communities. We are interested in this proposal for UN mediation of revenue-sharing. Overall, though, we would like to see a de-escalation of rhetoric and tension so that the UN process can move forward in a good environment.
QUESTION: Actually, European Union officials have suggested today that this issue can go to International Court, to The Hague. Can you support this idea?
MS. NULAND: Again, we would support some sort of mediation, but we – our fundamental issue is that the – we need a resolution of these longstanding Cyprus issues under the UN’s auspices.
QUESTION: Is there any difference between UN and – European Union and U.S. approach to the issue? Because the – today, the Cyprus side has been frustrated by the approach of the European Union officials because they suggested The Hague for solution to this problem. But U.S. side has supported to Cyprus and supported these drilling activities as (inaudible) measures for the Cyprus, and it – you saw as a right of the Noble Energy in the Cyprus. Is there any differences – difference between European Union and U.S. approach to this issue?
MS. NULAND: I think if there is a dispute reconciliation resolution mechanism that could be agreed on by all concerned parties, that would ensure that the communities were able to share the resources. That would be something that we would be supportive of. But again, we’re pleased to see that people are talking about resolving this dispute peacefully, deescalating the rhetoric, and more generally, putting our energy into supporting the UN process for Cyprus reconciliation.
QUESTION: Could you clarify --
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve done it on this issue. Thanks, guys, very much. Appreciate it.