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 October 05, 2011
QUESTION: Ms. Nuland, my name is Mohamed Ouafi. I’m with France 24, and this will be my first question to you.
MS. NULAND: Welcome, Mohamed.
QUESTION: Thank you. Regarding some suspicious espionage activity from the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., as –
MS. NULAND: Mohamed, before we go there, let me just – we generally try to do things thematically here. So let me just make sure there are no more questions on this subject.
QUESTION: Just about the –
MS. NULAND: I’ll come right back to you.
QUESTION: -- the 150 from the Canadian – you said it’s a sort of similar distribution – you mean a sort of similar kind of groups or a sort of similar kind of 50/50 between –
MS. NULAND: No. Again, I said I don’t have a breakdown of exactly –
QUESTION: You don’t have any –
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: You can’t talk about that?
MS. NULAND: But just to tell you that the groups were similar in the sense that it’s NGOs, it’s industry, it’s Government of Canada, it’s native peoples.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Anything else on that?
Back to Mohamed. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, suspicious espionage activities as alleged by some Syrian Americans, activists in the Syrian opposition in Washington, D.C. I’m now working on a report, and they’ve had some of them on camera – I can state names if you want – asking the U.S. intervention to protect their families back there.
Yesterday, France, England issued a state department – obviously the foreign affair ministers on both countries issued statements condemning that and warning the Syrian Government if such activity keeps going. What is the – I know that U.S. had a position on this, but I just want you to remind us on your official position concerning these activities and if there is anything illegal going on on this matter.
MS. NULAND: Thank you, Mohamed. Again, we first encountered this issue in a serious way over the summer. We had reports from Syrians in the United States that they were being harassed, that their family at home was being harassed. At that time, our head of diplomatic security, Eric Boswell, called in the Syrian ambassador, Ambassador Moustapha, and lodged a complaint, and we referred this matter to the FBI, who has taken it up. So with regard to legal issues ongoing now, I’m going to send you to the FBI on that one, but we remain concerned about this extremely unethical practice of the Syrian Government.
QUESTION: When you say you send the issue to the FBI, would the FBI be competent to investigate such issue when one of the parties is a diplomatic immunity part? I mean, we know that the Syrian Embassy is under the Syrian jurisdictions in their territories. And how did you – how is your deal with his diplomatic immunity issue?
MS. NULAND: If there are violations of U.S. law, it is for the FBI to investigate. And if they make some conclusions, it comes back to us to deal with the government in question. So the FBI review is ongoing. That’s my understanding.
QUESTION: Have you had any answers yet?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is this remains with the FBI.
QUESTION: Victoria, on Syria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- the Syrian Government website is calling this an historic day after the vote, the failure of the vote in – at the UN. Where does the U.S. go from here? And are you concerned that now Asad will think that he does have carte blanche to do pretty much what he wants?
MS. NULAND: Well, as Ambassador Rice made clear yesterday after the vote, we obviously consider that the Security Council failed yesterday to address the urgent moral challenge and the growing threat to international peace and security caused by the Syrian regime’s brutality. We firmly believe that history will bear out which nations were right and which were on the wrong side in this vote yesterday.
The Syrian Government may well be crowing, but I would call your attention to what’s happening on the Syrian opposition websites and blogs, where there is enormous outrage and anger and disappointment, particularly directed at the vetoing countries. I saw this morning a gruesome cartoon that had been up on one of the Syrian websites with two spigots, looked like oil spigots, with blood dripping from them with the names of those countries plastered on them. So clearly, the brave and largely peaceful Syrian opposition that has been standing up to abuse and bullets and torture and arrest day after day in cities across Syria has been severely let down by this vote.
It doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. will continue to work with as many countries as we can to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime. You know that we have cut off our relationship completely on the economic front; we have called for Asad to step aside. The European Union has completely cut its oil and economic relationship. We understand that the Government of Turkey – you may have seen press reports from them today – are considering increasing the pressure on the Asad regime. And we do believe that, despite this vote yesterday, the number of countries that is prepared to tighten the noose on the regime continues to grow and will grow, and we will work with them.
QUESTION: So what do you read into the decision by the Russians to invite the opposition to Moscow to chat?
MS. NULAND: Well, maybe they’ll get a better perspective on the situation and they’ll end up with a better understanding of what these people are facing and the change that they are seeking, which is to have a constitution at least as strong as Russia’s.
QUESTION: Was the U.S. surprised by the vetoes by China and Russia on this?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to characterize where we were in our negotiation, except to say that we had been working on this for weeks and weeks and weeks, and we had gone along with a significant weakening of the resolution. I mean, the text that we supported yesterday was far weaker than we would have liked. It didn’t include the teeth of sanctions, and even that proved to be too much. So that was extremely disappointing.
QUESTION: Yet the Russians are saying on their – I’m sorry. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the draft resolution failed to rule out any military intervention, as happened in Libya, that if that line was there they would have been happy to go along with this vote. What is your comment on that?
MS. NULAND: We spent many, many weeks trying to reach consensus on a resolution. We would have liked a much stronger resolution. The United States has made clear from the beginning of this that what we are hearing from the Syrian people is that they do not want foreign military intervention, that they want to handle this themselves, that they want to handle this peacefully. We have and will continue to call on the Syrian opposition to be peaceful to the extent that is possible in making their views known across Syria about where their country needs to go and to show the world that they are capable of leading democratically, leading peacefully, and that that’s the Syria that they deserve to have.
QUESTION: So – and would it be completely out of the question if, let’s say, a draft resolution can actually spell out or rule out completely any kind of military intervention in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Said, we don’t need to go backwards here. This was a failure of the Security Council yesterday.
QUESTION: Yesterday Senator Lieberman has called the Administration to consider some safe zones inside Syria, particularly along the Turkish and Jordanian borders. Are you considering such a plan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that Turkey has provided a safe zone inside Turkey for the many refugees, tens – more than 10,000 who have moved into Turkey, and we were very grateful to the Government of Turkey for the refuge that it’s provided for Syrians. But with regard to some kind of military action, I think I’ve just answered that question. We don’t believe that that is where the Syrian opposition wants us to be.
QUESTION: Some (inaudible), the U.S. keeping your ambassador was newly confirmed as ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford – some consider it, especially among the Syrian American community consider it as to be offensive to their feelings and they consider that how could U.S. be asking sanctions and be asking pressure at the UN level against this Syrian Government and the same time having an ambassador, an American ambassador, in Damascus. How would you explain that quality, contradiction?
MS. NULAND: Mohamed, we’ve spoken to this question many, many times over the past weeks and months from this podium and elsewhere. Our view is that our ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, has played an absolutely essential role in making clear to the Syrian opposition that we stand with them, meeting with them, helping us to understand their desires, their aspirations, who they are.
You saw his brave trip to Hama, his other efforts to be visible among the Syrian public, his comments on Facebook trying to dispel disinformation and negative propaganda about U.S. views coming from the Syrian regime, particularly in an environment that is devoid of any free access to the press. The international media – none of you can go do your jobs in Damascus. We need to know what’s going on, and we need the Syrian people to know where we stand, and that’s the role that Robert Ford plays. And we were very gratified to see bipartisan support for him in the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans confirming him to that post just earlier this week.
QUESTION: Did the Security Council fail to do its job on Tuesday? Is it time to look at other regional organizations to try to increase pressure? Is this a time for renewed discussions with the Arab League, for example?
MS. NULAND: Ros, I think from our perspective, those discussions never ceased. We have had regular discussions on Syria with the members of the Arab League, with the members of the GCC. We’ve obviously urged a strong stance from those countries nationally and organizationally. And clearly, in an environment where strong UN action is being blocked, we need to work increasingly hard with the countries of the region that have the greatest stake. And I think you see Turkey showing leadership and others as well on this set of issues.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Senator Lieberman proposal? He’s proposing to create safe zones inside Syria, not inside Turkey or inside Jordan, and he’s calling for a no-fly zone over parts of Syria too. What’s your --
MS. NULAND: Again, just to say it again, we at this point do not believe that that is supported by the bulk of the Syrian opposition. They want to do this on their own; they don’t want military intervention.
QUESTION: As you just described, Turkish role on Syria is a leadership against Syria. Turkish prime minister is visiting camps by the border this Sunday and apparently he’s going to state some sanctions in regards of the UN Security Council failure. My question is: Turkish land forces also start this drilling this morning and is going to take another week to complete their drilling. What’s your assessment? Some take it as a warning to Syrian regime, making these drills so close to the Syrian border.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, the Turkish authorities should speak to their own decision to conduct preparedness maneuvers on the Syrian border. They have described this publicly as routine preparedness. But I would leave it to them to characterize the timing and the exercises.
QUESTION: Toria, a follow-up on Mohamed’s question. Do you expect the diplomatic steps to continue with Ambassador Moustapha in Washington and Ambassador Ford in Damascus for some time to come? You don’t see any change?
MS. NULAND: I obviously can’t speak of Ambassador Moustapha. That’s a Syrian Government decision. But we have full and strong confidence in Ambassador Ford, and we believe he’s performing an essential function.
QUESTION: So there are no plans, as of now to – at least to degrade or reduce, or whatever, American diplomatic presence in Damascus?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) if you wanted.
MS. NULAND: Correct, but we believe in meeting our Vienna Convention responsibilities, and as long as he is acting within the terms of his status, there’s certainly no effort in that.
QUESTION: With your very harsh comments about the Russians and the Chinese, as well as Ambassador Rice’s last night, and also your reference to this cartoon, are you suggesting that the Russians and the Chinese have blood on their hands?
MS. NULAND: I did not say that. I don’t believe – I simply said that --
QUESTION: Well, but you walked right up to it.
MS. NULAND: What I would say – and I think the Secretary will speak to this this evening if she gets asked a question when she’s in the Dominican Republic – countries have to take responsibility for the decision that they made yesterday and any implications it might have on the ground in Syria.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, and then in that light, it wasn’t just the Russians and the Chinese who voted no, there were four countries that abstained, including the world’s largest democracy, that – you like to continually talk about how wonderful the relationship is between the U.S. and India. Are there consequences for countries that abstained, or do you just not – because it didn’t really matter in the end, their vote doesn’t count in your eyes?
MS. NULAND: We had nine votes, which was enough for passage. It was the vetoes that killed this – these resolutions.
QUESTION: Okay. So abstaining countries do not need fear the wrath of the United States?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to the abstentions.
QUESTION: And then just – I presume you didn’t repeat it, but Ambassador Rice said last night that the people of Syria now see clearly who – which countries support their yearning for liberty and human rights and who do not and which – who supports it and who doesn’t. Is that – that is your view, yes?
MS. NULAND: I can’t improve on what Ambassador Rice said.
QUESTION: Okay. So if that is what it means for a veto – can I just slightly shift it a little bit – why is it that when you vetoed in February the UN Security Council Resolution that would condemn Israel for settlement building that you call illegitimate yourself, why is that not the U.S. taking a stance against the Palestinians? Why is that not –
MS. NULAND: That question was so convoluted and involves --
QUESTION: Why does that not mean that you do not support – you’re accusing two countries of using their veto to – the vote was 14-1 back in February where you guys vetoed. Why shouldn’t the Palestinians see that as a rejection of their cause by the United States, or their yearning for liberty and human rights, just as the Syrians are yearning?
MS. NULAND: The Palestinians should have no doubt about where the United States stands on settlements or on construction in Jerusalem. We’ve made that absolutely clear.
QUESTION: Well –
MS. NULAND: We thought the vehicle of the United – of the Security Council was the wrong one in that case.
QUESTION: Well, why – okay, so why was it the right one in this case if it didn’t include any sanctions?
MS. NULAND: You have a bloody massacre of peaceful civilians that’s been going on for months and months and months. And the UN Security Council’s responsibility is to maintain peace and maintain security, and it has not done so in this case.
QUESTION: Isn’t it also the UN Security Council’s responsibility to enforce its own earlier decisions or decisions of the UN?
MS. NULAND: Matt, I don’t know where you’re going on this but I think I’ve spoken to your point.
QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, a year ago, President Barack Obama promised from the UN the soon-coming state of Palestine. As a matter of fact, he mentioned September of this year as to be the time to announce it. Wasn’t that – can we consider that to be a good and strong incentive to the Palestinian, to Mahmoud Abbas and company, to go ahead and fight for what they are doing or for what they did?
MS. NULAND: Mohamed, when the President made that proposal, it was based on a whole lot of assumptions and a whole lot of other elements that were supposed to come into play with regard to the negotiations, which did not come about for a whole bunch of reasons. So we’re trying again. We’re trying again with the May speech; we’re trying again with the Quartet proposal. Again, the Quartet has said that with good will and with a commitment to negotiations and with a commitment to the timetable we’ve laid forward we do believe that this could be solved within a year from when the Quartet statement was issued. Now we have to see if the parties will come to the table.
QUESTION: So if I can – so just to go back to my – where I was before --
QUESTION: Can you – can we – I want to get one thing clear here. I mean, the Quartet statement said by the end of 2012.
MS. NULAND: That’s right. You’re right. Thank you.
QUESTION: Okay. So we don’t have people (inaudible) --
MS. NULAND: Thank you. You were right. I can’t improve on what the Quartet said.
QUESTION: The Russians and the Chinese said that – have said that they want to see a peaceful resolution, that they don’t agree with the violence that’s being – that’s going on in Syria right now. And I’m just – you don’t take them at their word?
MS. NULAND: We believe that the United Nations Security Council should have sent that message strongly and clearly.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. Well, then --
MS. NULAND: And that that was one thing that Russia and China could have done with us yesterday.
QUESTION: Then I get – then you’ll see – maybe you’ll see where I was going with the – or the reference to the Palestinians. In that case, it was 14 countries, and you were the only one that didn’t see that the UN Security Council was the way to do it.
MS. NULAND: Matt --
QUESTION: Now let me – just let me – today there was a vote in UNESCO general – in the executive board of UNESCO, where you, along with Latvia, Romania, and the Germans, were the only ones to oppose or vote against a resolution – vote against recommending a resolution that would admit Palestine as a state. Forty countries voted in favor and 14 abstained. What’s the problem here?
MS. NULAND: The problem here is that a move in UNESCO is not going to create a Palestinian state that is secure, that is living next to Israel in security, in self determination, and in mutual recognition. The only way to get there is through negotiations between the parties.
So yes, we strongly opposed today’s vote in the UNESCO executive committee. This is not the end of the road on UNESCO. There still has to be about a month from now a vote of the full membership, and we will use the time between now and then to make our case to the countries that will be making that decision that this is not the way to go, not to mention the fact that we do have Security Council process that is ongoing, that the U.S. is participating in, so it’s incoherent to be making decisions about constituent agencies of the UN before the UN Security Council has even had a chance to deliberate.
So first and foremost, the root to a secure, stable Palestinian state is through negotiations. Secondly, it is just strange to be moving in UNESCO or any other constituent agency before the UN Security Council process has run its course.
QUESTION: Well, 40 countries seem to not think it’s that strange, right?
MS. NULAND: Well, that is their --
QUESTION: And you’re going to lose when it goes to the full vote anyway, because it’s obvious that your weeks and months of lobbying against was only able to convince Latvia, Romania, and Germany, and then you didn’t even get – you had 14 abstentions that could have been no votes, I think, but they might have been yes votes, so they might have persuaded some of them. But I’m wondering – your response to my question is that this is not the way to create a Palestinian state, that you’re not going to --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: But that – no one’s arguing that it is the way to create a Palestinian state. No one’s arguing that – I mean, with all due respect to UNESCO, it’s UNESCO. It’s not the Security Council. It is not an organization that had – that does things that have huge geopolitical security – it doesn’t have – it doesn’t do anything that is going to affect the security balance, Israel’s security or anyone else’s security for that matter. I mean, just looking at the list, are you prepared to vote against the Palestinians at every single constituent agency? I mean, what is wrong with the Palestinians having a seat on the International Institute of Aging or the World Telecommunications Union --
MS. NULAND: Matt, we --
QUESTION: -- or the World Meteorological Organization? I don’t understand how this hurts the effort to bring the two sides back to negotiations, other than the fact that the Israelis seem to think it’s a threat and they don’t like it.
MS. NULAND: First of all, to say we firmly support the work of UNESCO. There shouldn’t be any question about that. They do very important things, promoting tolerance, respect for all, Holocaust remembrance, education, coordinating tsunami warning, all that kind of stuff. It is – the second point I made was that it is incoherent to be making one-off decisions in constituent agencies of the UN when there is a UN Security Council deliberation ongoing, the larger governing board of the United Nations system.
But the major point is that if you care about the fate of Palestinians, if you want them to get a state, this is a diversion. The energy ought to be going into – and every country ought to be pushing – for these parties to get back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this? I mean, I don’t – I also do not understand why – I mean, this is a diversion only if you sort of let it be a diversion. I don’t see why inherently their joining or potentially joining UNESCO necessarily vitiates or erodes your effort to get the parties back into talks. I mean, we have talks of – can you explain to me how or why it vitiates that effort?
MS. NULAND: You’re using words that I didn’t use. We’re simply saying --
QUESTION: That’s my prerogative. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We’re simply saying that this is not the way to establish a Palestinian state. Once we’ve had a negotiated solution, once we have two states living in peace, mutually agreed borders, then the Palestinian state will be in all of these organizations. That is the right sequence, in our view.
QUESTION: Are you concerned --
MS. NULAND: Please. Steve in the back. Hold on, Said. Steve.
QUESTION: On the UNESCO thing --
MS. NULAND: Steve.
QUESTION: Does the UNESCO vote today trigger an automatic cut in U.S. contributions to UNESCO?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are currently looking at existing U.S. legislation on this point to determine how and whether it might apply to various U.S. entities. So I’m not in a position to answer the question, but it is something that we are looking at.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that the UNESCO effort by the Palestinians is an underhanded effort to sort of go about the Palestinian statehood through the backdoor? Is that what it is?
MS. NULAND: We’re just concerned it’s not going to lead to the result that we all want, which is a Palestinian state living next to Israel in peace and security.
QUESTION: On one other thing, how much harder does this make your case on the Hill, where UNESCO is not the most highly regarded UN constituent agency in terms of maintaining funding for the Palestinians?
MS. NULAND: I think that remains to be seen, but we have made the point here that we believe that Palestinian funding should go forward. I would also make the point with regard to the question that Steve asked, the U.S. currently pays 22 percent of UNESCO’s dues.
QUESTION: Victoria, after a time of freeze settlement misunderstanding, let’s call it, between Netanyahu and Mr. Barack Obama, can we – can you be more optimistic and tell us that now the U.S. – you have more cause to pressure Netanyahu to come back to the table and resolve the issue of the settlements?
MS. NULAND: Mohamed, we are talking to both parties. We just had Secretary of Defense Panetta speaking to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. The week before, the President met with both of them, the Secretary of State met with both of them, David Hale is continuing his activities. So we are working very hard on this issue and making the case to both sides that getting back to the table without preconditions is in their interest.
QUESTION: So wouldn’t your vote upset the Palestinian party? I mean, when you say working, your vote in various organizations would upset the Palestinian party, and that won’t help Fatah among the Palestinian unity and (inaudible) the opposition; let’s call it Hamas, clearly.
MS. NULAND: That’s a question you should put to them, how they feel about it. But they certainly shouldn’t have been surprised, because we’ve been absolutely clear.
Jill, did you have something? Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s not this same issue.
MS. NULAND: Still on this? Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Just one last on this very topic while we’re at it.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Israeli press is saying that Mr. Netanyahu, if he accepts the Quartet thing, is planning to submit a number of reservations, including his objection to the timetable that was suggested. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I think you’re three steps ahead of where we are, Said.
QUESTION: I need to go back to this again. You say that it is incoherent. Who is being incoherent? The Palestinians by pushing this while it’s still going on at the Security Council? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: I’m simply saying that as a procedural matter, you have the Security Council looking into this issue. So to have a separate track in the constituent entities doesn’t make a lot of sense.
QUESTION: Okay. Well if – you guys have – correct me if I’m wrong; I thought you guys said you were going to veto it in the Security Council. So no matter how long the Security Council takes to look at it, whether it’s in the Security Council or not, it ain’t going anywhere. You guys are going to kill it, correct?
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Matt?
QUESTION: Yes. Is that right? You’re going to veto it in the Security Council. Why should the Palestinians wait when you’ve already said you’re going to veto it in the Security Council? Why is it incoherent for them to go to someplace else to try and get the – something minor that they would like, that they think is important to them.
MS. NULAND: Again, our view has not changed. This is not going to create a state for them.
QUESTION: But Toria, they don’t even say it’s going to create a state for them.
MS. NULAND: It is going to make things harder.
MS. NULAND: It creates tensions that add to the environment and makes it harder –
QUESTION: In other words, it gets Israel upset.
MS. NULAND: I didn’t say that. I simply said that it further exacerbates the environment of tension. We’re trying to create an environment of trust. We’re trying to create constituencies for peace.
QUESTION: And you think that Palestinian membership in UNESCO creates tensions? Palestinian membership in the Office for Outer Space Affairs creates tensions?
MS. NULAND: Matt, I think I’ve said what I can on this subject.
QUESTION: Well, the problem with what you’ve said on the subject is it doesn’t make any sense, and most of the world, almost all of it, disagrees with you. A, they don’t believe it’s incoherent because they’re voting for it, and B, I don’t think you can get away from the fact that you have said you were going to veto it at the Security Council. So saying the Palestinians should wait for the Security Council to act when they know – because you’ve told them and the rest of the world – that you’re going to kill it, doesn’t make any sense.
MS. NULAND: Doesn’t change the fact that we oppose this at UNESCO.
QUESTION: A commission in Pakistan is investigating bin Ladin’s killing and the events around it, and they questioned his wives and other family members today. Now, my question is that: Is U.S. in any way involved with the Pakistani authorities during this investigation? And there have also been reports that al-Qaida may mount attacks in Pakistan to get them freed. Do you share the concern?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been upfront for some time that we are working well with the Pakistanis on the aftermath of the bin Ladin events. But if you’re asking me to get into the specifics, I think you’d be taking me into intelligence issues. So –
QUESTION: And has there been any access granted to United States to bin Ladin’s wives?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into any specifics.
MS. NULAND: Sorry. One more Pakistan behind you, and then –
QUESTION: The prime minister of Pakistan said today that there has been improvement in relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, but you have been saying that those relations have been in strain because of several instances in the last couple of months. So how do you view it? Has it improved? Have the issues been sorted out like Haqqani Network or the visa issues?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know we’ve been working hard on these issues, and we’ve had all of our principals working with their counterparts. We have Marc Grossman headed to the region on the weekend, and he looks forward to having good meetings. So I think both sides are working hard on the issue.
QUESTION: What –
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: There has been a statement from the spokesman of U.S. Embassy in Islamabad saying that military assistance will only be restored after “cooperation,” within quotes, from Pakistan. He didn’t explain what sort of cooperation is required from Pakistan. And my question is that: Other than action against Haqqani Network, are there other issues on which you are requiring Pakistan to cooperate?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think our position on this has changed from when we began talking about this in the summer. We need a broad and deep collaboration on the whole counterterrorism docket with Haqqani as job one.
Jill, should we move onto Afghanistan? You’ve been very patient.
QUESTION: Yes. Karzai.
MS. NULAND: Karzai. Yeah.
QUESTION: I just wanted to get back to that question of Karzai saying that he won’t talk to the Taliban and trying to understand how you view that. Because it sounds as if he’s just saying, “That’s it, end of process.” Is that your understanding, that he is basically saying it’s over with reconciling with the Taliban? And if so, what does the U.S. do about this?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, he gave those comments just before leaving for India. He’s been on his state visit to India. He’s coming home, and Marc Grossman will be there and will have an opportunity to exchange views with him on this and will also be going on to Pakistan.
We’ve said from the beginning, Jill, that from our perspective, reconciliation has to be Afghan-led, so we have to do this in a way that meets Afghan requirements. So we now need to talk to them about where we go from here. That said, we also believe that continuing trilateral dialogue – U.S., Afghanistan, Pakistan – is of value. So he’ll be making that point.
QUESTION: Right. But at this point, are you taking him at his word?
MS. NULAND: I think we need to have a conversation with him and see where we go.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan itself, Afghan authorities have arrested six persons for – in a plot to kill assassinate President Karzai. Are you concerned and – of al-Qaida and Haqqani networks are now targeting top Afghan leadership to eliminate them?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the same news reports you have. Frankly, I don’t have any information on this particular plot. I would refer you to the Afghans.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you were – back on Pakistan. You were asked about the status of this – of the State Department’s investigation into the whole Ray Davis thing. I don’t remember what your answer was then, but is there an answer to that?
MS. NULAND: The answer is that it’s with the Justice Department, I think.
QUESTION: Because I believe at the time --
MS. NULAND: Or with the FBI. I can’t remember where it went.
QUESTION: -- when he was released, when the Pakistanis let him go, that – I think, but I’ll double-check this – that there was supposed to be some kind of an internal State Department review and that had to do with people under the chief of mission authority. If that’s not the case, then I apologize.
MS. NULAND: It was either DOJ or FBI. I, frankly, can’t recall where it went.
QUESTION: The Pakistani Embassy in Washington has said that it contacted the U.S. authorities and asked for an update on the Raymond Davis investigation that was promised when Senator Kerry traveled to Pakistan. So have you received any such request from the Embassy, and what’s the response on that?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I, frankly, am not aware. But if we have anything to share, we will.
QUESTION: Presumably, the FBI or the DOJ is keeping you in the loop because it involves Pakistan, and the State Department has to interact with them? Haven’t they informed you that investigation as going on? Has it started? Something like that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into our internal communications with our sister and brother agencies, but we are generally aware when we need to be aware, whether it’s beginning, middle, or end.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Yes. What is your reaction to the Iraqi Government decision not to extend immunity to U.S. advisors past the 31st of December?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that we are reviewing the statements that were made – that was made in Iraq yesterday. Ambassador Jeffrey and others are working with Iraqi leaders today on specifically what they have in mind. We certainly appreciate the democratic spirit that has been displayed by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject, and we’re going to continue those discussions.
I think you know that as a matter of practice, when we enter into these long-term relationships, which is what we are negotiating now, we always ensure that our forces have the protections they need when they’re deployed overseas. So we have to work through these issues.
QUESTION: Well, the statement, when it came out at 4 o’clock Washington time, essentially caught the Defense Department by surprise. And one person said this isn’t going to make the negotiations any easier. We’ve already started far later than we should have. And if they insist on no immunity for U.S. forces, that’s it, we’re not going to do it.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Ros?
QUESTION: Was there any signal from the Iraqi Government that this was going to be coming down the pike? Was there any heads-up to anyone in the building on this?
MS. NULAND: I, frankly, can’t speak to what our Embassy and our folks on the ground knew with regard to this particular statement. But as you know, Ambassador Jeffrey and General Allen have been in nonstop communication with the Iraqis. We are working through this now, and as I said, we appreciate the fact that the Iraqis have been working hard to build a constituency for a continued training relationship, and we need to work on that together.
QUESTION: Was there ever a sense that the Iraqis appreciate the bind that they’re essentially putting the U.S. military in, and by extension, the work of the U.S. State Department in Iraq starting next year by, one, waiting so late to decide that they wanted to talk about what happens next, and then two, to let things like this come out on official letterhead, long into the evening and people are thinking about other things?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t characterize it that way, Ros. We’ve been talking about these issues for a long time, and we need to talk about them until we come to an agreement that is strong for Iraq and strong for the United States and strong for the region.
QUESTION: I have one more. Last night, along with Ambassador Ford, also U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ricciardone was confirmed.
MS. NULAND: He was.
MS. NULAND: And we thank the Senate for that.
QUESTION: Is there anything – are we supposed to make any special sense out of this, the two ambassadors confirmed at the same time, in terms of U.S.-Turkish coordination on the Syrian policy? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: I think you’re connecting dots that aren’t necessarily connected, but we’re very gratified to the Senate that both of these important ambassadors have been confirmed.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)