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 06, 2011
QUESTION: Can I – I just have a brief one on Syria and Libya combined.
MS. NULAND: Syria, Libya combined. Okay.
QUESTION: Combined, yeah. Because, as you will have noticed, for the past couple months, since Qadhafi basically has left or fled Tripoli, his messages to the Libyan people seem to be coming out of a Syrian-run television station. And I’m just wondering what you – including one today – and I’m just wondering what the United States makes of this.
MS. NULAND: We have noticed this. This is not surprising that one authoritarian regime is still trying to aid a dictator who doesn’t know that his time is over. Beyond that, this is a choice that that station is making, and I don’t think we have anything further to say about it.
QUESTION: Okay. It’s not surprising that one authoritarian regime is still trying to aid a leader who doesn’t recognize his – does that – would you put the Russians and the Chinese in the same category, then?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think the Russians and the Chinese are broadcasting Qadhafi’s messages.
QUESTION: Well, no. But they’re --
MS. NULAND: At least we haven’t seen that.
QUESTION: No. But yesterday’s comments from you and the Secretary, and two days ago’s comments from Ambassador Rice, suggest that you hold the Russians and the Chinese responsible for their vote or their vetoes at the Security Council, and that that’s problematic towards resolving the situation in Syria. So if you’re saying now that the Syrian Government is somehow involved with this television station that is broadcasting Qadhafi’s messages – you said it’s not surprising one authoritarian regime is still trying to help another. I’m wondering why you won’t make the same comparison to – why you won’t say the same thing about the Russians and the Chinese, who have earned your venom by – with their veto.
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said quite a lot about the UN Security Council resolution on Syria and our disappointment. Secretary Clinton had a very strong statement last night. I don’t think I can improve on that here.
QUESTION: Following up on the Security Council resolution, so what’s next? Do you have any plans for what’s next at the Security Council as far as Syria is concerned?
MS. NULAND: In terms of the Security Council, regrettably, it was unable to act. I think our focus now will be on continuing to work with countries in the region, allies and partners of the United States who join us in wanting to send a strong message to the Asad regime and to tighten the noose economically and politically. So we are working with lots of countries and hoping that more countries will match the kinds of steps that the United States has already taken, that the European Union has already taken, that Turkey is talking about taking, because those measures are having an effect. And they are beginning to pinch in Damascus and elsewhere, and that is very important, to get the Asad regime to listen.
QUESTION: So just to follow up, as far as a UN resolution or the – a Security Council resolution, the Russians are saying – I asked you this yesterday; maybe I can get an answer today – the Russians were saying that the resolution lacked any clause that clearly prohibits the use of force in Syria, a la Libya, as we have seen. So should there be a draft resolution that does exclude – specifically and clearly states no use of force in Syria? It seems like the Russians would go along with that. Would you sort of make a suggestion on that – in that regard? Would you submit a draft resolution that does address these issues?
MS. NULAND: Said, I think I did say yesterday that we spent many, many weeks in New York trying to work on text, including with the Russian Federation and other members of the Security Council. I don’t think the problem that we were having was the problem that you cite. In fact, the resolution that was tabled, that was put in blue, that the U.S. supported, as I said, we supported reluctantly because we thought it was not strong enough. It did not even include the ability of the international community to monitor the situation in Syria. And as we’ve repeatedly said, if Asad has nothing to hide, why doesn’t he let the press back in? Why doesn’t he let international human rights monitors in?
So our concern was that the resolution was far too weak. And frankly, we would’ve supported it anyway. And it is regrettable that the UN has made it clear that it is not able to act on this issue at this moment, and so we will continue to work with countries around the world that understand that we’ve got to stand with the Syrian people in their democratic aspirations.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: So lastly, just – we are not likely to see any renewed effort at the United Nations, at least for the foreseeable future?
MS. NULAND: I would refer that question up to our folks in New York, of course, but it was a pretty unequivocal failure of the UN Security Council. I believe my boss said last night that the Security Council had abrogated its responsibility. If countries that were involved in that want to re-think, then obviously we’d be prepared to talk, but we don’t want a resolution that’s any weaker, obviously.
QUESTION: Are you going to actually – are you actually making efforts to talk to the Russians and the Chinese about a possible re-think? Is there – are you actually reaching out to them to see what next, or do you regard that avenue as effectively closed following the veto, and that you’re just going to wait and see sort of what happens on the ground?
MS. NULAND: In diplomacy, avenues are rarely closed. We obviously are talking in New York. But we had a fundamental difference here. We had a fundamental difference of intention and goal and end state. The United States and the other eight countries who supported the Security Council resolution thought it was very important to send a strong message that the violence needs to end.
So obviously, if there’s a text that we can support, we’re prepared to keep working; but at the moment our efforts are focused elsewhere.
QUESTION: But these measures that you say, and that they might have some kind of success, i.e., the economic sanctions, don’t seem to stop the killing. The UN reports today indicating that 2,900 people have been killed so far. What the United States can do to – directly to stop the killing, whether it’s any leverage that you have on the Syrian Government? And using the context of the Security Council veto yesterday, the Asad regime can go on beyond the time that everybody expected that it will be for him to be unstable.
MS. NULAND: Well, we do believe that the oil and gas sanctions that the European Union has put on Syria in particular are pinching, and we are calling on other countries who are continuing to trade with Syria, and particularly those who continue to send weapons, to think hard about whether they want to be supporting, economically or militarily, a regime that is using that money and using those weapons against its own people.
So what we can do, and are continuing to do, is to work with countries to try to encourage them to take the kind of steps that we are taking. And I think we are seeing, as in the case of Turkey and we hope others, stronger steps rhetorically and stronger steps economically, which will have an impact.
QUESTION: But how the killings going to stop?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve got to make the regime understand that it cannot survive if it continues to kill its own people.
QUESTION: But don’t you think that the fundamental differences you have with Russia and China – are you concerned that these fundamental differences are going to involve on the Asad regime – I mean, to keep going on as it’s doing right now?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we said yesterday, the Asad regime might be crowing about this, but the opposition has made absolutely clear its extreme disappointment with the position taken of those nations. We continue to believe that those nations made a choice that is – takes them to the wrong side of history, and that it won’t be forgotten, and they need to think about whether they want to stand with the future of Syria or with Syria’s past.
QUESTION: Have you seen the press release from the Syrian Embassy in Washington to journalists and how this is being allowed from the U.S. soil? They are saying that this is all – these allegations of harassment of dissidents and all – I just couldn’t understand how I can receive an email with a press release from the Syrian Government from the U.S. soil.
QUESTION: Because we don’t live in Syria.
MS. NULAND: I have seen the press release. It is – (laughter) – it represents obviously the Syrian Government’s view. As Matt said, their embassy is Syrian soil. That said, obviously we believe in freedom of speech in this country. Doesn’t mean we agree with everything that is printed in this country. And in that case, we patently disagree, as you know.
QUESTION: Can I – just on the whole UN – the vetoes, the last time that the Russians and the Chinese teamed up together and earned the opprobrium of the United States on vetoing a resolution was one on Burma, I believe, several years ago. In that case, the Secretary and others from this podium said that the council had abdicated its responsibilities, very much the same language, how could they do this, they’re certainly – “they’re going to be on the wrong side of history” was the line back then.
And in fact, has it given anyone pause that since that resolution failed and since sanctions were not imposed on Burma, the situation there has actually improved? Aung San Suu Kyi is now out of jail. Granted, things are not far from perfect, but it would appear that the Russians and the Chinese were not on the wrong side of history on that one.
MS. NULAND: I think you’re –
QUESTION: She’s out of jail, you have the – you’re praising the new president of Burma for canceling this dam project. He’s gotten praise from John McCain for – I mean from unusual places, you’ve sent your envoy over there to meet with him --
MS. NULAND: Matt, I think you really work hard to make these connections. Can I just start with where you ended up? New president of Burma. New government in Burma --
QUESTION: Yeah, but that --
MS. NULAND: -- that has made a political choice to have a different --
QUESTION: -- which happened in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution with sanctions.
MS. NULAND: May I finish? Which has made different policy choices, or appears to be making different policy choices than its predecessors, particularly with regard to the way it relates to its own people, with the way it relates to internal dissent, with the way it proceeds economically when its people oppose decisions. And so we are trying to encourage that policy change.
As you know, on – in the case of Burma, there are strong sanctions still from the United States and from many other countries around the world. So I don’t think you can necessarily draw a straight line in terms of the cause and effect here. But we are gratified that we have a more reformist, more open-minded government in Burma that we can work with. And if that were the situation in Syria, then we would be in a different place.
QUESTION: So it hasn’t given anyone pause in this building or in this Administration that that transition in Burma happened in the absence of – or happened despite the Russians and the Chinese being on the wrong side of history and vetoing a resolution that has sanctions in it? No one has thought about this?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think that the people of Burma who are fighting for change there probably didn’t forget that move either. We have made clear --
QUESTION: Funny. I don’t hear Aung San Suu Kyi complaining about the veto two years ago now.
MS. NULAND: Again, the number-one thing that has changed in Burma is we have a new set of leaders who are more willing to work cooperatively with the opposition.
QUESTION: But you’re willing to accept that that new leadership came about despite the fact that there wasn’t – there weren’t UN sanctions. I mean, there are sanctions, people – countries have strong – you’ve talked about them from here – countries have strong sanctions, individual strong sanctions on Syria, as they did with Burma. It did not take – or it did not take a UN Security Council resolution with sanctions to bring about a transition that appears positive in Burma. And no – you’re telling me no one has thought about that?
MS. NULAND: Look, when the UN Security Council can take strong action and send a strong political message and send a strong economic message, as it has in the case of Iran, as it has in the case of North Korea, we believe that’s a powerful tool. In the absence of that tool being effective, as it has not been in the case of Syria, we will continue to work, as we did in Burma, with those countries who share our interests, share our values, and are willing to take the tough steps to make it clear that to join the international community, to be fully part of a global community, you need to listen to your own people, you need to answer the calls for reform. That policy has been – is on its way to bringing some change in Burma that we hope will be continued, and that’s the same approach that we are now going to have to pursue in Syria, that we’ve been pursuing, which is to grow the community of nations that are ready to pressure this regime. If we can’t do it with sanctions in the UN, we can still do it with sanctions by individual nations.
QUESTION: I’ll drop it after this. But the two unrelated questions that mentioned, Iran and North Korea, I don’t see much transition going on there, and there’s been plenty of UN Security Council resolutions against them. You had them against Iraq, and it took an invasion to get –
MS. NULAND: You’re an impatient guy. Sometimes sanctions take a while to work.
QUESTION: Well, apparently – no. Well, yeah. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t work at all, right?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. On Ambassador Ford.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: We received an invitation – we were still on Syria? I think the connection was made. We received an invitation yesterday that he’s going to speak at the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy on the 14th. Could you share that with us? Is he going to be in town? How long will he be in town, and so on?
MS. NULAND: Said, I haven’t seen the announcement that you have seen. It would make sense that he might be coming home for consultations; he hasn’t been home in a while. But I am –
QUESTION: It’s on Skype.
MS. NULAND: It’s on Skype, oh.
QUESTION: On Skype. Okay. I’m sorry. I apologize.
MS. NULAND: So he’s doing it by Skype. The miracle of modern technology. There you go.
QUESTION: I misread that there. So he’s not –
MS. NULAND: So you’ll be able to see him, but you won’t be able to shake his hand. That’s good.
QUESTION: Okay. Great.
MS. NULAND: You know that he’s a high-tech guy, Ambassador Ford. Still on Syria?
QUESTION: Going back to Burma.
MS. NULAND: Going back to Burma.
QUESTION: Madam, people of Burma have been fighting for critical freedom and democracy for the last 20 years, and Aung San Suu Kyi had won the elections, but military has taken over for the last 20 years. My question is: When will you tell a victory for the people of Burma that Burma is now free, and they have a freedom like in Afghanistan and other countries that you have been pushing? But it’s 20 years, a long time, and people – so many people have died now who were fighting for freedom.
MS. NULAND: Goyal, we share your frustration. The point that I was trying to make –
QUESTION: It’s not my frustration; people of Burma’s frustration, and people for around the globe who love and work for human rights and democracy.
MS. NULAND: Absolutely, and we don’t disagree that there is a huge amount of work to be done in Burma. My point to Matt was simply that we have a new government in Burma that seems to be making more efforts that its predecessor in terms of engaging Aung San Suu Kyi, in terms of engaging civil society, in terms of thinking twice about things like the dam in the north that have been so controversial among the Burmese population, and we want to encourage that trend, and we are trying to do so, and that’s been the work of our new envoy, Derek Mitchell, who I hope will come speak to you all in the new future.
QUESTION: And Madam, just one more quick.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: What role China and India is playing? Are you talking to them? Both they have interest or connection with Burma.
MS. NULAND: We do talk to both China and India about Burma. Burma came up in the Secretary’s bilateral meetings with both Foreign Minister Yang and Foreign Minister Krishna in New York.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Please.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m sure you saw the President address Pakistan relations in his press conference, and part of his comment was that the U.S. would not feel comfortable in a long-term strategic alliance with Pakistan if it didn’t feel that Pakistan was mindful of U.S. interests. And I’m wondering if you could just let us know if you feel at the moment whether or not Pakistan is mindful of U.S. interests and what markers you have to determine that now and going forward.
MS. NULAND: Well, Andy, I think you won’t be surprised if I don’t try to improve on the President of the United States, who’s just spoken to this issue. As we’ve said many times over the last couple of days and weeks, we are engaged intensively with Pakistan at all levels. That engagement will continue. Marc Grossman will be there over the weekend, and we look forward to continuing to try to work together on these absolutely essential issues, both for their security, for our security, and for the region.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up, Madam. I was also at the press conference at the White House. My question is: When President said that he sees some hands from the ISI – I mean, he didn’t name the ISI or the Pakistani military, but from intelligence and the Pakistan military. My question is: According to many Pakistanis here I have been talking and as far as the press reports and poll in Pakistani press, Pakistan’s number one enemy is not India today, but is the United States. My question is: How can you bring back the image of U.S. in Pakistan so that way you can work with the Pakistanis or U.S. will not remain number one enemy for the acknowledgement that you have been giving billions of dollars and pouring in humanitarian aid and all kind of aids?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, we are concerned about the public opinion polling numbers in Pakistan. This has been one of the key focuses of our Embassy in Islamabad, to try to give an accurate picture to a broad cross-section of Pakistanis about all that we have tried to do as a nation to support Pakistan’s own democratic reform efforts, education in Pakistan, quality of life, micro-lending, economic projects. It’s sometimes hard to permeate, given the intense emotions about other aspects of the relationship. But as you know, our civilian assistance to Pakistan, which has not been touched, is all focused on trying to strengthen Pakistan’s own efforts to grow the economy, improve and modernize education, to help more people out of poverty, et cetera, and we will continue to make those efforts along with our – to support Pakistan.
QUESTION: But what I’m asking you, Madam, is: What is the big problem? Why is so much negativity inside Pakistan against the United States?
MS. NULAND: I think you’d have to ask Pakistanis that question, Goyal.
QUESTION: On Yemen?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Pakistan –
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Pakistan? Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Actually, the President put a question mark on the long-term relationship with Pakistan. He said we’ll be constantly – we will constantly evaluate our relationship with Pakistan. Are you in this – doing this evaluation already --
MS. NULAND: I don't think I’m going to --
QUESTION: -- from yesterday, today, or are you going to do it in six months, one year, ten year’s time?
MS. NULAND: I don't think I can improve on what the President said today, so I’m not (inaudible) --
QUESTION: The President – I’m asking you because it’s the State Department who’s going to evaluate. He gave that – that we are – he said we will constantly evaluate. So what kind of evaluation are you doing, this --
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’m not going to elaborate on what the President said.
QUESTION: Yes. In Yemen, President Saleh looks like he’s on a bit of a PR offensive, and he’s been trying to capitalize al-Awlaki’s killing, I think, to show why you need him and why he is essential to the counterterrorism efforts there. I think one of his sidekicks has even said that – has equated the opposition with al-Qaida and said you need to help fight them both. So any reaction to this, to Saleh’s PR offensive and these suggestions?
MS. NULAND: Frankly, I haven’t seen what President Saleh has said. I think you know where we are on these issues. As I mentioned to you, we haven’t seen President Saleh since he’s returned to the country. Our view – and we’ve made it clear privately to his people as well as publicly here – is that the best thing that he could do for his country, including if he cares about stability, if he cares about our joint efforts to fight terror, is to sign the GCC agreement, allow a transfer of power, encourage a dialogue between remaining government forces and the opposition so that we can get a timetable and a roadmap for change.
QUESTION: But hasn’t he hit a raw nerve here in that it’s rather a complicating factor that al-Awlaki’s killing came just as he returned to Yemen?
MS. NULAND: We don’t, frankly, see a connection.
QUESTION: Do you know – on that – has there been an attempt to see him? Or are you just basically ignoring him, pretending he’s not there?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that one way or the other. I don't have the answer to that.
QUESTION: Do you consider the controversy over the killing, the constitutionality of killing al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, to be over?
MS. NULAND: We spoke to that at the time. I don't have anything to add on it.
QUESTION: But considering that today the FBI director is before Congress, does the State Department have a position on it?
MS. NULAND: Why don’t I let the FBI director give his testimony.
QUESTION: Toria, the last couple of days I’ve asked this follow-up on that Awlaki killing about any State Department involvement. Today, the family of Samir Khan, who was the other American citizen who was killed in this whatever it is that you want to call it, has put out a statement which complains that the U.S. Government has not been in touch with them at all; they haven’t told them, informed them, of their son’s death or offered any assistance.
Your answers to me for the past couple of days on this have been that there has been no outreach from the families of neither men – the family of neither man has come to you. Isn’t it usually something that the U.S. does, that the government does, on its own without a request, to notify families of the death of a next – of a kinsperson?
MS. NULAND: This can happen in a number of ways. A family member can ask the embassy for assistance. The authorities of the country can ask the embassy for assistance, whether those are local authorities or national authorities or another citizen of the country can come to the embassy and ask for assistance. To my knowledge, none of those things has happened in this case.
QUESTION: So if – then this has a hypothetical in it, but if person X dies in country Y and that person X is an American citizen, it is not – the embassy there and the State Department here do not necessarily get involved unless there is a request, a specific request?
MS. NULAND: Normally what would happen in that case is either the family or the folks who were present, whether they were law enforcement, whether it was in a hospital, whether it was in a hotel, would notify the embassy that they have an American citizen who needs assistance. Again, that would be how the embassy would become involved. And my understanding is that that has not happened in this case.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I know you exhausted the UNESCO topic yesterday.
MS. NULAND: I sure did. And so did my boss.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) But I wanted to ask you: Is this now the U.S. position to fight Palestinian requests in every UN organization every step of the way? And are you going to punish every UN agency that will admit them, cutting funds and et cetera?
MS. NULAND: We do not support moves in any constituent UN agencies of this kind. As the Secretary said yesterday, it’s incoherent to be pursuing this in the UN agencies at the same time that the Security Council is reviewing it. So there – there’s one point of contact, and that should be the Security Council, where the process is moving forward.
But again, our larger point is that any of these efforts, whether in the Security Council or the constituent agencies, are not going to change the conditions in Palestine. They’re not going to bring a state with agreed borders, et cetera. I’d refer you to the Secretary statement last night in the Dominican Republic. She made the case a state with what borders, a state with what benefits. So --
QUESTION: No. I saw that, and I also saw the briefing yesterday. But my question is: Is this now a fact? Is it fait accompli that United States strategy is to fight any attempt by the Palestinians to join any UN organizations?
MS. NULAND: Our policy is that we will oppose these moves in any UN organization.
QUESTION: Victoria, frankly, I have to say I’m surprised that you’re sticking or the Secretary stuck with this incoherent argument after the conversation and the discussion that we had about this yesterday. It is not --
MS. NULAND: Maybe she didn’t get a chance to read your arguments, Matt.
QUESTION: Perhaps. I was actually hoping that the Administration might have come up with itself a coherent reason why the Palestinians shouldn’t be a member of UNESCO. You do – it is still correct that the United States will veto the Palestinian bid at the UN Security Council, correct?
MS. NULAND: Our first option is that this should not come up for a vote.
QUESTION: Yes, but if it does --
MS. NULAND: But if it does, we will veto, yes.
QUESTION: So why – so if the Palestinians’ bid there is doomed, and they know it and the rest of the world knows it, why is it incoherent for them to seek another alternate route?
MS. NULAND: Matt, we went through this and through this and through this yesterday. I’m not going to do it again today.
QUESTION: Well, here’s the – I mean, here’s the thing. If they weren’t pursuing this bid at the UN Security Council, you would still oppose them in UNESCO; isn’t that correct?
MS. NULAND: You’re asking me to get into hypotheticals that I’m not going to get into.
QUESTION: Victoria, come on, that’s – look, the thing at the Security Council is dead de facto. I mean, it’s just not going to go anywhere because you’re going to stop it. So absent the bid at the Security Council, is it not correct that you would still oppose their attempt at membership in UNESCO?
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to that because that’s not the situation we’re in. But I will say what we’ve said again and again and again, that we believe that the energy needs to go into getting these parties back to the table. That is where a real Palestinian state will be born is in a direct negotiation with Israel that settles security, that settles borders, and goes on to the other issues. Life on the ground for Palestinians will not improve until we have a real negotiation and a real state living side by side in peace and security with its neighbor, Israel. That’s what the United States wants, and we want the international focus and energy and the parties’ energy and focus to go on that. And that’s why the Quartet statement is so important and why we want this Roadmap to have some legs. But the clock is ticking.
QUESTION: The problem with that is that the energy is being expended here, it seems to be all yours being expended, and it’s being expended in a losing cause at UNESCO to try and fight this. So I don’t – it’s hard for me to get my brain around that when it seems to me that the U.S. is expending just as much energy at trying – at stopping the Palestinians than it is from trying to get the parties back to the table.
I’ll accept that that’s not the case, because I know that’s what you’re going to say, so is it correct that one of the reasons that you don’t want the Palestinians to have membership in UNESCO is that you believe they might take issues involving cultural sites to the organization and that decisions made at UNESCO could prejudge final status issues?
MS. NULAND: I would reject the premise of your question. I think we answered this yesterday. I answered it. The Secretary answered it. We don’t believe that this issue ought to be settled this way at all, but we certainly don’t think that decisions on constituent agencies should precede a decision in the United Nations Security Council.
Please, it doesn’t have to do with which agency it is or what you can do in the agency. It has to do with the general sequencing.
QUESTION: All right. Then did you – did the lawyers get their – get an opinion out on whether the vote by the executive board means that your contribution is no longer? Or does it – do they have to get the two-thirds vote in the whole assembly before that happens?
MS. NULAND: We’re still working on what triggers we might have in U.S. legislation that would require a cutoff of funding. We don’t have any decision at this time.
QUESTION: A related but tangential issue: There’s been a spate of – as I’m sure you know, of attacks on mosques in the West Bank by Jewish settlers.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: To date, no one has been charged for those attacks that have occurred in the West Bank. Do you have any reaction, number one, to the attacks, and number two, to Palestinian allegations that this – that the Israeli Government is not taking a strong enough line on something which would be very destabilizing given the current situation?
MS. NULAND: Andy, I don’t have the text here with me, but I think you might have seen – maybe it was when you were in Dominican Republic – but we did put out a very strong statement in my name either yesterday or the day before condemning these bombings in strongest terms. The Israeli Government has also condemned them. My understanding is that there is an investigation underway, which is the appropriate --
QUESTION: Can I – just one more thing, and I want to just raise this. It goes back to the whole incoherent – your incoherent argument at the UN Security Council. You are aware that the UNESCO rules, their bylaws, allow for non-UN member-states to join, are you not?
MS. NULAND: I am aware of the differences in UNESCO rules as compared to others. It doesn’t change our view, though.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, so considering then that on two tracks the UN Security Council thing is dead – one, because you’re going to veto it, and two, because it doesn’t really matter if they’re a member of the UN or not – you would still oppose the UNESCO bid?
MS. NULAND: We continue to think the UNESCO bid is a bad idea.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the issue of UNESCO. I mean, suppose they accept the Palestinians and you cut off aid. Twenty-two percent of UNESCO’s budget comes from the United States of America. Why should the grand shrines in Samarra, which really triggered the civil war in Iraq, suffer because of that? I mean, why should the aid that goes --
MS. NULAND: You’re into three levels of hypotheticals, Said.
QUESTION: Well, not hypothetical. But if you cut off aid, then you know UNESCO cannot go on conducting its business, such as rebuilding of the grand shrine in Samarra, which was a major event in the Iraqi civil war.
MS. NULAND: I don’t dispute that the work that UNESCO does on historic shrines, memorials around the world is absolutely vital and fabulous work. And any of us who’s had the opportunity to enjoy a UNESCO historic site knows that, which is why we want to avoid the situation. And we don’t want to see a situation where U.S. legislation might be triggered. Again, we haven’t made a legal determination whether it would be triggered, but if it is triggered, it’s a matter of U.S. law passed by the Congress. It’s not a matter of policy choice. It’s a matter of law.
QUESTION: One last question on this. While you’re making your position clear, doesn’t it bother you that the United States is being seen as a bully, twisting arms, and threatening other countries that will vote for the Palestinian membership or voted for it at UNESCO?
MS. NULAND: I think what bothers us is that what we want to be focused on is improving the lives of Palestinians. We want to be focused on getting to the day when Palestine is a state and is living peacefully and living securely in a good neighborhood, and that Israel is secure living next to it; and that all of this noise and storm is taking us away from that goal and causing a distraction and causing tensions to be exacerbated; and if all that effort was put by all these countries on to persuading the parties to get back to the table, maybe we’d be closer to the day when we have a Palestinian state.
QUESTION: Speaking of trying to get the parties back together again, where’s David Hale right now and what’s he doing?
MS. NULAND: David Hale is preparing to go to Europe. I think he travels tomorrow. There’ll be a Quartet meeting, as I said, on Sunday in Brussels. And then he’s spending next week in a number of European capitals.
QUESTION: Right. I understand he’s added Rome to that list.
MS. NULAND: He has. The Italians wanted to see him.
QUESTION: Good for him. I’m sure they did.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. The Italians wanted to see him.
QUESTION: Any specific reason why the Italians – I mean, it’s not as though – I mean, with all due respect to the Italians, they haven’t exactly been at the forefront of this whole situation, so --
MS. NULAND: I think they care about these issues – I think you’ve seen the Italian foreign minister be quite passionate on these issues – and they want to be helpful.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the Palestinians are undertaking –
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Sure.
MS. NULAND: Can I allow the woman in the back who hasn’t been able to speak at all?
QUESTION: A change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Okay. So still Palestinians.
QUESTION: Right, it’s – right.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you believe that they are taking underhanded efforts to sort of put the United States in an untenable position, having to reject their efforts to the United Nations? And if so, why can’t you tell them, “Don’t do any UN efforts, period, or we cut off aid”?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t characterize either their position or our position in that way. I would say that we have been very clear with them at every level and in all the meetings that we’ve had recently with President Abbas that we think this is misguided. So I don’t think there is any question that they know where we stand.
QUESTION: Okay. Since reference was made to Iran much earlier, I’ve been trying to ask you this: Since the Iranian president was in New York for the UNGA last month, he said in New York that he is ready to have the 20 percent enrichment stopped immediately if the fuel for the Tehran research reactor was provided. He has made the same statement at least three times since then. Has – is Washington aware of this? Has anybody noticed his outreach?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen his statements. We have said, including in a statement issued under Cathy Ashton’s name on behalf of the P-5+1 in New York, that if Iran is truly serious about sitting down and talking about its nuclear program, that we are prepared to do that, but we need to see a sign of seriousness. So those – if this is a serious proposal, Ahmadinejad and his team know where to find the P-5+1. But we have as yet not had anything besides words out of Iran. But I would refer you to the statement that was issued by Lady Ashton on behalf of the EU speaking for the EU3+3 or the P-5+1 on this subject, which makes clear that if they’re serious, we’ll be prepared to talk.
QUESTION: And what is it that they have to do?
MS. NULAND: They have to come ready to talk seriously about what they are doing about stopping it, and having that conversation with us rather than just giving speeches. And they know where we are, so --
QUESTION: Right now, they want the fuel swap, basically. I don’t think – it doesn’t sound like they’re interested in the rest of the talk but the fuel swap.
MS. NULAND: Again, we have said that if this is a serious conversation about the – all of their nuclear program and nuclear activities, we’re ready to have that conversation. But we – so far, we’ve had lots of rhetoric, but not a lot of serious action to come talk to us.
QUESTION: Just a quick one: I think in your prior statement, at least from this podium on this, you said that they should – the Iranians, if they’re serious, should go to the IAEA with their proposal. Are you now suggesting that the IAEA isn’t the right venue and that they should come directly to the P-5+1?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think in the past, the P-5+1 has led the international effort to try to work on this problem, and particularly the fuel swap proposal that we had that didn’t work a year and a half ago. So yeah, I think the first address should be the P-5+1. Obviously, the IAEA would be kept informed.
QUESTION: You presume, I presume, have some kind of reaction to the House yesterday, the UNFPA vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a reaction to it here. I’m happy to see if we’ve got a reaction. That’s --
QUESTION: They voted to strip funding from it.
MS. NULAND: I saw it, but I don’t have anything here. If you’d like me to take the question, I will.
QUESTION: Well, I’d just like to know – I mean, the Administration still supports funding UNFPA, doesn’t it?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, it was in our original request, but let me take the question.
QUESTION: So it’s – right, so in other words – but – so you would want to see this changed?
MS. NULAND: Again, let me take the question because I don’t know where we are in our efforts with the Hill, but we had supported it in the past.
QUESTION: You had supported – not stripping the funding?
MS. NULAND: Correct, we had supported the funding.
QUESTION: And you think that there’s a chance that that might have changed?
MS. NULAND: No. I’m just saying let me take the question because I’m not sure where we are in terms of our efforts with the House on this issue.
QUESTION: You have in the past told the House that you’re – that you would like to have this money; it was in your budget request, correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct, correct.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Still on Iran, what’s the holdup with the ruling on the MEK’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization?
MS. NULAND: There are a lot of issues to work through here. There are legal issues, there are policy issues, and we’re still working on it.
QUESTION: Just a quick one on Afghanistan. As far as security is concerned, according to the report, there was another plot to kill President Karzai, and also you have seen in the recent months and weeks high-level killings, and what President Karzai is blaming again on the ISI and the Haqqani Network. What I’m asking you is: As far as security is concerned in Afghanistan, what U.S. is doing now to protect all these high-level officials in international community?
MS. NULAND: Well, first let me say that our understanding is that the threat against President Karzai was real, was credible, but it was only in the early stages of planning. And we want to give a shout-out to the great work done by Afghan detectives, who work tirelessly in service to their country and who worked tirelessly in this case. I think you know that the United States does play a protection role in Afghanistan, so we coordinate closely with the Afghans on these kinds of issues. Obviously, it’s also part of our larger mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: And just a quick one. After all these high-level murders and killings in Afghanistan, are you protecting – giving now extra protection for President Karzai?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to our security posture with regard to President Karzai.
QUESTION: Victoria, the other day, one of our colleagues asked you about Saudi Arabia. There were clashes. Did you find out about these clashes? Allegedly, government troops attacked Shia demonstrators.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I had something yesterday to say on this one. I don’t know – let me – let us give you something later in the day, Said. We did have a comment on this, but I don’t seem to have it with me today.