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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Twitter Briefing - June 20, 2012

Special Briefing
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Questions from Twitter
Washington, DC
June 20, 2012


MODERATOR: Our first question for today’s Twitter briefing comes from our Arabic language feed, @USAbilAraby. SPRINGNOWTIME asks: When will the USA do something to stop Assad crimes in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, Twitterworld, it’s good to be with you again. SPRINGNOWTIME, we share your frustration about the escalating violence in Syria and about the Assad regime’s rejection of every effort the international community has made to try to end the violence and help the Syrian people have the democratic future that they want and that they deserve.

As you know, we have supported the six-point plan of Kofi Annan, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. That plan calls for an immediate ceasefire, a pullback of heavy weapons, space for the political opposition to make its views known, a political transition process, release of political prisoners. And to date, Assad has done nothing. And not only that; he continues his violence against his own people.

So now, our efforts are focused not only on strengthening the international pressure on Assad through sanctions – and as you know, countries across Europe and the Arab world have stopped trading with him and these sanctions are beginning to bite hard on the Syrian regime – but we are also beginning to look past Bashar al-Assad and to work with the Syrian opposition and countries around the world to craft a true framework for a political transition that will protect the rights and create a democratic structure for all Syrians.

This is difficult work. We have a lot of differences within the international community. But we are committed to having – to helping the Syrian people have the future that they want.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from our English language feed, @StateDept. RonSupportsYou asks: Why doesn’t the State Department designate the Haqqani Network a Foreign Terrorist Organization?

MS. NULAND: Well, we do share the concern about the serious threat posed by the Haqqani Network, and we continue to evaluate whether or not designating the entire organization makes sense. But please know, RonSupportsYou, that we have designated individually many of the kingpins of the Haqqani Network. And that allows us to ensure that they can’t benefit from the U.S. banking system, that they can’t trade here, they can’t earn money here that would – could or would be used for terrorism.

So we’re continuing to look at this. We’re continuing to work with our Pakistani partners on the most effective ways to squeeze the Haqqani Network, and we’ll continue to do so.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from our Arabic language Twitter feed, @USAbilAraby. A7mmade asks: Why does the United States support the suppression of democracy in Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the contrary, @a7mmade, we are very much involved in an intensive dialogue not only with the government in Bahrain but with all parties in Bahrain about the importance of protecting and strengthening democracy in the country, and of human rights. We very much supported the establishment of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, its various recommendations for reforms in the country that could strengthen democracy, strengthen human rights.

As you know, some steps have been taken, but not enough, and we continue our dialogue. The Secretary recently met with the Crown Prince, had a good discussion about more steps that the government can take, a broader scope for dialogue within the country about the path forward. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Mike Posner was just in Bahrain working with Bahraini civil society, working with the government to try to advance democracy. And we’ve taken some steps like putting a pause on some of our military assistance until we see more progress. So this is something we are very committed to, standing in lockstep with the Bahraini people.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from our English language feed, @StateDept, and it’s two parts. Bassant_zein asks: Will Obama’s Administration consider annual aid to Egypt after expressing concern about the latest steps of SCAF? And what are the redlines that the USA will consider if Mr. Morsi was elected?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, as you know, like Egyptians themselves, we are watching the events unfolding in Egypt with some concern, and particularly steps that appear to look like the military wants to hold onto power beyond the period that it committed to the Egyptian people it would turn over power to democratically elected people. So we’re watching these events very, very closely. And how things develop as Egypt moves on its course towards a democratic transition will certainly have an impact on the relationship that we can have with the government that emerges and with the Egyptian military going forward. So we haven’t made any decisions yet, but we are watching events very closely.

With regard to Mr. Morsi, Mr. Shafiq, any individual who is going to hold public office and hold public trust in Egypt, we want to see whomever is elected meet their commitments to the Egyptians who voted for them and to all Egyptians to defend those democratic structures and institutions that got them elected in the first place: to protect the human rights and human dignity of all their citizens; to strengthen the economic underpinnings of the country, create more prosperity for their people; and also to ensure that Egypt continues to honor its international obligations, including to its neighbors.

So those are the things that we think are going to make a stronger Egypt. They’re based on the interests and values that the Egyptian people themselves support and went into the streets of Tahrir Square for. So that’s how we are looking at events in Egypt, but we are concerned right now.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from the English language feed @StateDept. @Lacerebra asks: What will be the U.S. response, plan of action, in the event that Greece leaves the Euro?

MS. NULAND: Well, @Lacerebra, I’m obviously not going to speculate on hypothetical scenarios. But I will say, as the President has said, as the Secretary has said, the United States has an enormous stake in the health of the European economy and the health of the Eurozone. We think that Greece took an important step with its elections over the weekend.

Now we want to see Greece continue to work with its European partners, and particularly its Eurozone partners, to make additional reform progress and get the support that it needs, so that its economic reform path can be sustainable and so that it doesn’t face the kind of situation that you raise. That would be best for the Euro, best for Greece, and best for the transatlantic economy, which is one of the biggest economies in the world put together.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from the Arabic language Twitter feed, @USAbilAraby. @Nasser_Khalid asks: Why is the U.S. imposing sanctions on Iran and at the same time supporting followers of Iranian regime in Arab countries such as Iraq, who commit massacres in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, Nasser_Khalid, thank you for your question because I think there is a little bit of misunderstanding of U.S. policy here.

First, with regard to U.S. sanctions, international sanctions, on Iran, I hope you know that these sanctions are in place because of our concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, about our concerns that it has not come clean with the international community about precisely what it is doing. It has not allowed inspections. And we have concerns that even though Iran claims that its program is purely for peaceful purposes, it hasn’t been willing to demonstrate that. And we are all committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Those constraints on Iran, those restrictions, also extend to Iranian proliferation activity in the nuclear era and international efforts to prevent Iran from supporting terror either in the neighborhood or beyond. And we are quite vigilant, including working with the Government of Iraq and others, to prevent Iran from being able to ship things that would support Assad’s brutality against his own people in Syria or otherwise support terrorist activities in the region or globally. So we will maintain our vigilance with regard to Iran and work with our international partners to tighten its room to maneuver as a terrorist – in support of terrorism.

MODERATOR: Our next question also comes from the Arabic language feed @USAbilAraby. Tripoli9 asks: What is the role that the United States will play in building Libya’s future? And when will we see the U.S. cultural center in Libya?

MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for that, tripoli9. First, on the U.S. cultural center in Libya, we are very excited about this. We’re finalizing discussions now for launching American resource centers in a number of locations in Libya. These will feature research material about the United States and particularly information about how you and others can study in America.

Our commitment to the Libyan people is to help you strengthen your democracy, help you strengthen your economy, help you strengthen your role as a responsible regional state working for peace and stability throughout the region. So we have a huge number of programs now working with NGOs, working with human rights organizations, working with democracy organizations, supporting your presidential elections that are coming up in July, supporting the writing of the constitution – sorry, the national elections that are coming up in July which will elect the general national congress, and also supporting entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, the establishment of NGOs, all kinds of things.

We are also, obviously, working with you to deal with all of the negative impact and leftover problems from the Qadhafi era, including programs to secure MANPADS and other dangerous weapons, to help reintegrate militias into national security structures. So we are very proud of the partnership that we have now with Libya and the Libyan people. We wish you luck in your elections and encourage everybody to go out and vote.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from the English language feed @StateDept. ContessaBourbon wants to know: What are specific measures to save the planet that the U.S. would support on Rio+20?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are excited about the upcoming Rio+20 meeting this weekend. The Secretary will go down later this week to give the U.S. remarks at the conference. This is an important milestone in our shared effort to advance sustainable development, whether you’re talking about on land, in the air, on the waters, in our forests, et cetera.

Sustainable development is not simply good for the planet; it’s also good for the United States as an economy. In 2010, the environmental industry in the United States employed nearly 1.7 million Americans and included some 61,000 small business generating $312 billion in revenue. So this is good for the planet, it’s good for the country, it’s good for the economy.

In terms of some of the specific initiatives that the U.S. is championing at Rio, there are a huge number of things, but just to name a couple of them, we’re working and – on presenting an initiative on reducing deforestation through sustainable supply chains. This is something that the United States is doing in public/private partnership with the companies of the Consumer Goods Forum, and it’s going to promote sustainable supply chains and reduce deforestation. We are also launching a U.S. water partnership to mobilize U.S. expertise, knowledge, and resources to address water challenges around the planet.

And the third initiative that we have for the conference that I’d like to highlight is the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative. This is an innovative, collaborative financing mechanism to help mobilize clean energy investments in Africa and in low-income countries around the world through harnessing public/private initiatives.

So we’re exciting about Rio. We think it’ll make – it’ll deepen and broaden the global partnership we have in sustainable development.

MODERATOR: NH_Bugti wrote into @StateDept to ask: Pakistan doesn’t have stability to be a state because it’s establishment of terrorism. So why aiding the state of terrorism?

MS. NULAND: Well, the United States and Pakistan, although our relationship has been difficult, it has been bumpy, we have a stake in each others’ success, and we have a stake in the region that Pakistan lives in becoming more peaceful, more stable, more democratic, more integrated. We have worked for many years on the number one challenge to peace and stability in Pakistan, and that is the threat of terrorism internally and emanating from Pakistan. We have a very deep and broad counterterrorism cooperation program. We’ve had some difficulties with it in recent years, but all of our efforts are based on trying to help Pakistan tackle this scourge, which has also resulted in the loss of life for many, many Pakistanis, and to help Pakistan be a stronger neighbor throughout the region.

So it’s not an option to give up on that. It’s not an option for the United States. It’s not an option for Pakistan. And it’s not an option in our relationship. We just have to keep working on it, even if it’s difficult and even if there are still many, many challenges.

MODERATOR: Our final question for today’s briefing was submitted by dhikirulah2006 to StateDept. They ask: What’s the U.S. doing about the statehood of Palestine?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that question. I think you know how committed President Obama has been from the moment he came into office in seeing Palestinian statehood become a reality through negotiations with Israel, as he is equally committed to the security of Israel. And we all want to see two states living side by side in peace, both feeling secure and with good relations between them.

So through the Quartet and through our national bilateral efforts, we have been working, particularly in the last few months, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, with their designated negotiators to try to strengthen the underpinnings for a direct dialogue between them. We were heartened by the letters that the two leaders exchanged with each other a couple of months ago and by the commitment that they made to continue to seek dialogue, to continue to try to work together.

The Secretary has been in regular consultation with both leaders. She spoke to them both on the phone some 10 days ago. And she also saw their negotiators just this week to try to spur them to get back into direct dialogue and to work on the most important issues first – security, borders – and to make further progress towards that vision we all want to see that’s going to be good for the Palestinian people, the Israeli people, the region, and the world.

Thank you very much.

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