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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 9, 2011

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton Remarks on Countering Terrorism with Smart Power
    • Terrorist Threats / Enhanced Security Measures / U.S. Embassies
  • CUBA
    • Governor Richardson Travel to Cuba
    • Gaza-Bound Flotillas / Regional Peace and Security
    • Oil and Gas Drilling / U.S. Strongly Supports Efforts by Both Cypriot Parties to Reunify Island into Bi-Zonal, Bi-Communal Federation / Securing Energy Supplies / Noble Energy
    • Wall around Embassy in Cairo / Enhanced Security Measures
    • Parliamentary Elections
    • Getting the Parties Back to the Table / New York Track / Extensive Diplomacy
    • U.S. Property in Libya / Damage at Ambassador Cretz' Residence / Technical Team / U.S. Presence in Benghazi
    • U.S.-Pakistan Relationship / Counterterrorism
    • Bombing in India / Deputy Secretary Burns' Meeting with Ambassador Rao
    • Afghan National Security Advisor / Meetings
    • Global Counterterrorism Forum
    • Ambassador Ford's Facebook Post / Taking Threats Seriously
    • Monitoring Human Rights Situation / UN Security Council
    • Ahmadinejad's Comments about Syria
    • Medvedev's Comments about Syria
  • IRAQ
    • Troops in Iraq / Ambassador Jeffrey's Comments
    • Ambassador Mitchell Travel to Burma / Meetings
    • Ambassador Blake's Travel to Sri Lanka / Meetings
    • Sri Lankan Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission Report
    • Talk in All Meetings about the Full Range of Issues in the Region


12:41 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Happy rainy Friday afternoon, everybody. I hope you all got a chance to see the Secretary’s speech, Countering Terrorism with Smart Power, in New York today. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go --

QUESTION: It would have been nice had the speech been on in its entirety and it didn’t flip away to the President – the opening of the President’s remarks in Richmond, Virginia, and then – I want bring that up with BNET.

MS. NULAND: The live stream, yeah. We had some technical difficulties among other things.

QUESTION: I don’t really have anything that’s worthy of opening the briefing, but I’ll try anyway. Just on Cuba and Governor Richardson, what’s the latest that you understand from his trip?

MS. NULAND: Governor Richardson is still in Cuba. He met yesterday, as we understand, with the Cuban foreign minister. He was not able to meet anybody named Castro. He was also not able to see Alan Gross, which we all regret. And our understanding is that he is still in Cuba.

QUESTION: Were those requested? Did he request a meeting with the Castros and with Alan Gross?

MS. NULAND: Well, I would refer you to the Richardson Center. They’re in charge of his trip --

QUESTION: But you said he was unable to --

MS. NULAND: -- but my understanding is that he had hoped to see one or the other Castro.

QUESTION: Different topic – oh, wait. I just wondered if --

MS. NULAND: Can – just on that.

QUESTION: -- he’s still there? Does he – are you aware that he has more meetings planned?

MS. NULAND: We are not aware of other meetings that have been scheduled. I think you’ve probably seen comments that he’s made in the last couple of hours. So we’ll see what he chooses to do.


QUESTION: Can you tell us, what did he say the foreign minister said to him?

MS. NULAND: I can’t, actually, from here. I would refer you to his folks for a readout on the meeting.

QUESTION: What do you have to say about the latest disagreement between your two allies, Israel and Turkey? Turkey, as you, I’m sure, know – Prime Minister Erdogan has said that Turkish ships would – Turkish naval vessels would escort any Gaza relief flotillas in the future and an Israeli official described this as harsh and serious. Any comment? Are you doing anything to try to ease tensions between your allies?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Arshad. We are quite concerned, as I said yesterday. We are talking to both the Israelis and the Turks. We are urging both sides to refrain from rhetoric or actions that could be provocative, that could contribute to tensions. Assistant Secretary Gordon is going to meet with Turkish Ambassador Tan today. We’ve also been talking to the Israelis. Obviously, we would like to see both sides cool it and get back to a place where they can have a productive relationship.

QUESTION: And – but can you tell us just what were the – what have been the level of contacts with the Israeli side? Has that been with the Israeli ambassador here or has that been done in Israel? And if so, by whom?

MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, the Hale and Ross team did broach the subject in their meetings, but there has been follow-up, as I understand it, by our ambassador in Tel Aviv.

QUESTION: Would Turkish warships escorting Turkish ships – in this case, in international water – be deemed as provocative?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support the right of free navigation, obviously. But we are concerned about any action that could be perceived as provocative, that could escalate tensions. We want to see these two strong allies of the United States get along with each other and work together in support of regional peace and security. So that’s the message we’re giving both.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up on that: One of the biggest issue that Turkey has been taking is these exploration plans, which an American energy firm is going to start next month, I believe. What’s your understanding of the situation?

MS. NULAND: Are you talking about the drilling for oil --

QUESTION: Right, and gas.

MS. NULAND: -- off the coast of Cyprus? Is that what you’re referring to?

QUESTION: Cyprus, and also Israel has some plans as well. It’s – the same company is doing it. And Turkey – actually the prime minister said Turkey’s not going to let Israel to exploit sources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously aware of the Turkish Government position on this issue. With regard to the U.S. Government position on this issue, we strongly support efforts by both Cypriot parties to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We believe that securing energy supplies through better energy diversity is of value to all of the people of Cyprus and of value to the region. We have a U.S. company involved, Noble Energy. And we believe this a positive thing, and that energy diversity in Europe, including increased energy supply from Cyprus, would be a positive.


MS. NULAND: We’ve made those views clear to the Turkish Government.

QUESTION: You said that – all people of Cyprus, but the problem is the separatist de facto separated. So the Turkish argument is these deals only work for the Greek Cyprus, is the --

MS. NULAND: Again, this is why we have so strongly supported the efforts led by the United Nations to try to settle these issues. We’ve also made clear that we believe that the energy resources ought to be equally shared.

QUESTION: While we’re still on the topic, Israel?

QUESTION: No. We’re staying on Turkey and the naval ships. Does this have any – are there any NATO implications to this?

MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what you would be thinking about there, Matt. Can you clarify?

QUESTION: Yeah. If, in the – in keeping with your answering of hypothetical questions over the last several days, if Turkish warships do accompany Turkish civilian ships in a flotilla to Gaza, and if there is some kind of confrontation with the Israelis, are there NATO implications for that?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’re into three levels of hypotheticals, so I think I will decline to speculate.

QUESTION: Have you talked to the Turks about what – about any possible NATO implications should their ships be involved in some kind of an incident with the Israelis?

MS. NULAND: As I said, we are talking to the Turks today. We’ve been talking to the Turks for many weeks --


MS. NULAND: -- about avoiding provocative action or rhetoric.

QUESTION: Right. And would the – so have you told them that having warships accompany flotillas, Gaza-bound flotillas, would be provocative?

MS. NULAND: I think you know where we’ve been on Gaza-bound flotillas.

QUESTION: Please, enlighten me again.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have anything new to say about that.

QUESTION: Have you told the Turks that it would be provocative for them to send warships with flotillas that are headed to Gaza?

MS. NULAND: Meetings that are happening today, that have been happening over the last few days, have made clear that we are concerned about provocative action, about provocative rhetoric.

QUESTION: I’m asking if you think that that is a provocative action or provocative --

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said about as much as I want to say about our diplomacy with the parties.

QUESTION: I realize that you have said as much as you want to say, but that’s not answering the question. The question is: Have you told the Turks that it is – that this would be a provocative action?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go any further into our diplomacy than to say that we’re urging both sides to refrain from provocative action.


QUESTION: Well, regardless of whether you told the Turks – I understand there have been meetings that are ongoing about this – do you think that would be provocative?

MS. NULAND: As I said, we are concerned, and we are sending this signal privately and publicly that we do not want to see either side engage in provocative action or action that raises tension.

QUESTION: And one other one, just to take Matt’s double or triple hypothetical to a single hypothetical. If Israeli forces were to come into – were to engage Turkish forces, would that not then not have implications for NATO, given that Turkey is a member of the alliance?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking us to hypothetical places that we don’t want this situation to get to, which is why we are talking to both sides now.

QUESTION: Well, when you say that you don’t want either side to take provocative actions, are you – is there something out there that the Israelis have said that they would do that you think might be provocative as well?

MS. NULAND: As I said, we are urging both sides to keep the rhetoric and keep the actions in a constructive and productive tone and channel.

QUESTION: Another one on Israel?


QUESTION: The Embassy recently had a wall constructed around it in Cairo. And we are airing video now of people trying to tear down the wall, saying that they don’t like the idea of any sorts of separations, and Egyptian police are simply standing by. Does the U.S. have any concern about this happening in the middle of Friday demonstrations in Cairo?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen your footage, Ros. But our understanding is that the extra wall height that was added around the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was done at the request of the Israeli mission and consensually with the Government of Egypt just to enhance security measures at this time. And I think the Government of Israel and the Government of Egypt are collaborating well in this regard.

I can’t speak to the precise situation today around the Embassy. As I said, we hadn’t seen your footage. But obviously, Egypt has Vienna Convention responsibilities and it’s incumbent on those two governments to work together if there are security concerns.

QUESTION: And staying on Egypt --

QUESTION: Yes. Ma’am.


QUESTION: Egypt. There is still no clear date for the parliamentary election. What’s your view on that? Have you received any satisfying answer why this process is dragging?

MS. NULAND: I think the Egyptians are trying to work this out themselves. And we are encouraging that and we are standing by for them to make their own internal decisions.


QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?


QUESTION: Nabil Abu Rdainah, an advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, dismissed the threat, the veto threat cast from this podium yesterday, and he said they’re going to the UN come what may. Are you at the point of no return? Do you think that a confrontation is unavoidable?

MS. NULAND: We have been saying that we will use every day, every hour, to try to get these parties back to the table. That is our position. We’re continuing to work, and we hope that both parties will also continue to work and keep their minds open about the right way forward.

QUESTION: Do you counsel the Palestinians not to sort of elevate the level of rhetoric in this regard, that this is not helpful?

MS. NULAND: We have, of course, made clear that we think that the entire New York track is not helpful. That’s not a surprise, I think.

QUESTION: But you also counsel them to – not to make statements, like Mr. Abu Rdainah’s statement?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the precise messages one way or the other. But escalating the tension on the way to New York clearly doesn’t help get back to the table.

QUESTION: And lastly, what is the – sort of the result of this week’s diplomatic activities headed by Mr. Ross?

MS. NULAND: It’s not a surprise that it still remains difficult, but we’re going to keep trying.

QUESTION: Have you made any – did Hale and Ross make any progress, in your view?

MS. NULAND: You know, I’m not going to characterize in inches or in feet their diplomatic progress one way or the other. But I think that the trip was certainly useful in terms of working with both sides to think through how we can continue to try to avoid the situation in New York, and if we can’t avoid it, how we can manage things so that after New York we can still stand a chance to get back to the table.

QUESTION: It sounds as if at least part of the conversation – well, clearly part of the conversation as you just described was in contingency planning if the Palestinians do go to the UN.

MS. NULAND: Again, our priority is plan A, which is that we can get them back to the table before UNGA week.

QUESTION: But you’re already talking about plan B.

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details of the conversation. I mean, I think it would be irresponsible on all sides not to think about all the contingencies, but I’m not going to get into exactly what we’re thinking about.

QUESTION: But you don’t regard it then as a foregone conclusion.

MS. NULAND: We do not, and we’re still working to try to get folks back to the table before New York.

QUESTION: One other thing, did either Mr. – Ambassador Hale or Ross go to Israel or the Palestinian territories during the month of August?

MS. NULAND: I can’t – wasn’t – the prior Hale trip was late July, early August. I don’t know. Let us –


MS. NULAND: Let us check on that for you.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is that, as you well know, a lot of diplomacy gets done in person and not just on the phone. And therefore, I wonder why their trip this week appears to have been the first one in about a month and only two weeks before UNGA begins, and therefore I wonder how hard you are really trying if you don’t have people out – senior people out there pushing this more assiduously.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I reject the premise. I believe this is the fourth trip by Hale and Ross since the President’s speech in May. They’ve also done extensive diplomacy with the parties here. Both sides have been here. They’ve been traveling around Europe working with the Quartet parties. They’ve been certainly on the phone on a daily basis between negotiating rounds. So, again, our view is that we will leave no stone unturned and we’re going to continue to use every day and every hour.

QUESTION: When were they – when did they go to Europe?

MS. NULAND: They were in Europe after their trip prior to this one, but let us get you the precise tick-tock on all of their travel.

QUESTION: The four trips in four months is not a Kissingerian shuttle either, though.

MS. NULAND: Again, one has to target the trips for when one thinks one can make progress. And I would argue that you have to do other work in between trips, including working the phones and working your allies, and we’ve been doing all of that.


QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: No. Still on this. But at the end of that and with only two weeks to go, you can’t characterize the progress made in inches or feet, so –

QUESTION: In millimeters?

QUESTION: So it’s centimeters – exactly. I mean, or is it negative?

MS. NULAND: It’s – we –

QUESTION: If it’s not bigger than an inch, that’s not very much.

MS. NULAND: We are continuing to work this. There is no escaping the fact that it is difficult. We still believe that progress is possible before New York, and we’re going to continue to work it.


QUESTION: Different topic?


QUESTION: Two questions. First, I’d like to ask just for the record whether you have anything to say about the terror plot and specifically reports that the tipoff came from a walk-in at one of the U.S. embassies abroad.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you probably saw my boss on CNN earlier and a couple of other networks earlier today say that we are obviously not going to comment on the intelligence background behind this one way or the other, but there is credible but unconfirmed information. So beyond saying what we have said publicly and referring you to DHS for any details, I think that’s all we will say from this podium. But we’re taking it obviously very seriously. If you drove into the State Department today, you probably encountered some of the enhanced security measures here and in other parts of the Northeast.

QUESTION: Is that a direct function of this specific credible but unconfirmed report?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Because the threat level has been elevated.

QUESTION: Are you doing anything at your embassies abroad? Or is only –

MS. NULAND: We are. We are. As we always do before September 11th, all embassies are practicing enhanced security measures.

QUESTION: Okay. My other question was on Libya if anybody else had anything on this one. On Libya, whether you could update us on any additional findings from your technical team in Tripoli and when you feel you’ll be ready to return diplomats to Tripoli?

MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for that question, Kirit. We – our technical team has been working on our property there. We have some – quite a bit of additional work to do. I think I said yesterday that what we found was a chancery that had been burned, looted, and trashed. There’s also considerable damage at Ambassador Cretz’s residence. We have had a small technical team there for a number of days. Tomorrow we will enhance that team a little bit and send our first policy people back in.

Still a relatively modest footprint, but this enhanced team will be led by Ambassador Cretz’s deputy, Joan Polaschik, and she’ll have a couple of policy people with her and some more security folks and building folks to work on getting the premises ready for the reopening as soon as we can. I think you can imagine that Ambassador Cretz is getting antsy and wanting to go back as soon as we determine that that’s appropriate. But the policy team will also enable us to have direct diplomatic contact with Mr. Tarhouni and other members of the TNC and members of the international community in the UN who are now working in Tripoli.

QUESTION: A couple follow-ups. They’re going to be working out of the Embassy compound or an alternate location?

MS. NULAND: We – I think for security reasons I’m not going to comment on where we’re located, but they are also going to be working on getting us back to a permanent facility.

QUESTION: And this is not the official reopening of the Embassy in your view, correct?

MS. NULAND: Correct. The flag will not go up until Ambassador Cretz is able to return.

QUESTION: And do you – are you still maintaining a team in Benghazi? Is Chris Stevens still there? Is he going to be moving in as well with your DCM?

MS. NULAND: For the coming period, we’re going to maintain the presence in Benghazi because there are also important players in Benghazi for Chris Stevens and his team to work with.

QUESTION: Okay. And how many people are going into Tripoli?

MS. NULAND: I’m just going to describe it as a very modest diplomatic footprint. It’s a handful of diplomats and an enhanced diplomatic security presence.

QUESTION: Why is it – just out of curiosity, why is it not appropriate for Ambassador Cretz to go now? I mean, I understand the Embassy is a mess and his residence is a mess, but he’s the ambassador. So why would his deputy go instead of he himself?

MS. NULAND: We have no place for him to work, we have no appropriate connectivity to Washington, we have no – a limited number of cars, and all that kind of stuff that you need to work. We have to reconstitute our Libyan staff who have loyally managed a lot of our property and assets in Libya. So we just – we need some time.

QUESTION: So this is tomorrow?

MS. NULAND: This is later tomorrow evening, yeah.

QUESTION: And can you spell the name of the deputy who is going back?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. P-o-l-a-s-c-h-i-k. Joan is her first name.

QUESTION: It’s all over WikiLeaks. You can Google it.

QUESTION: The – I’m not trying to cast aspersions here, but if the local Libyan staff that you said worked so well, how was it that the Embassy was so damaged?

MS. NULAND: Well, some of our property was not damaged, but, you know, these – the folks who are trying to guard the chancery and Ambassador Cretz’s residence were literally driven off by thugs with AK-47s who threatened their lives, even as they tried to protect our property.

QUESTION: Do you know when that was?

MS. NULAND: We actually don’t know precisely when it was, because of course, we had evacuated the property, but it was sometime after that. We believe it was --

QUESTION: Yeah. But the people who went there to look at it presumably have spoken to them, right?

MS. NULAND: Have spoken to?

QUESTION: The local Libyan staff?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have a report from the Diplomatic Security team on the ground as to when they think it happened, but I – we believe it was in the spring sometime.

QUESTION: And your buildings are still salvageable, you think, or --

MS. NULAND: Again, we need to get more people in there to see. There’s some structural damage. They’re – so we have to see what we need to do. I think it’s quite clear that we’ll have to have a temporary location for some time while the buildings are refurbished.

QUESTION: All right. And is there any – I’d imagine that most of the class-side material was destroyed before the Embassy was shuttered, but was – can you say whether there was any compromise to anything sensitive at the Embassy while you were gone? Has that been determined?

MS. NULAND: We’re not concerned about the compromise of classified information.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the terror threat for one second?


QUESTION: You said that all embassies are practicing enhanced security, but that is just related to the anniversary; it’s not related to this specific threat here, correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, we were already in a vigilant posture with regard to the anniversary, as we are on every anniversary.


MS. NULAND: And obviously, as of last night, embassies were reminded to be extra-vigilant. The information that you have seen has also obviously gone to all our diplomatic posts.

QUESTION: Right. But that threat or what officials have said about it is specific to New York and Washington. Are you suggesting that it’s actually larger than that, that it goes to U.S. interests overseas as well?

MS. NULAND: No. I’m simply saying that vigilance is important.

QUESTION: So in other words, the embassies aren’t doing anything more than they would usually do around the anniversary of September 11th?

MS. NULAND: Every embassy makes its own decision based on the local conditions.

QUESTION: Yes. I understand that.

QUESTION: But were they going to do anything more as a result of this threat? Or they were just told be extra-vigilant but they weren’t told, “Put more guards out?”

QUESTION: As you (inaudible).


MS. NULAND: Again, every embassy makes its own decision based on the information it gets from Washington.

QUESTION: Well, wait --

QUESTION: Exactly, so --

QUESTION: It sounded like you were saying --

QUESTION: If you’re trying to --

QUESTION: -- that that level has been elevated --

MS. NULAND: They were informed that the threat level in the U.S. has been elevated. They were already on a vigilant stance.

QUESTION: So in other words, they weren’t told to do anything more than they normally do because of this specific threat?

MS. NULAND: First of all, we don’t dictate to individual embassies how to be postured. They make their own decision based on the conditions locally, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is that they were already in a hyper-vigilant state because of the anniversary.


QUESTION: Can I just follow up?


QUESTION: Madam, this morning, former Vice President Mr. Cheney was speaking at the American Enterprise Institute. He laid down his administration’s 10 years of what U.S. went through as far as 9/11, which is falling on Sunday. What he said was that, of course, Afghanistan was the epicenter. My question is here that today, Afghans are thanking U.S. for getting freedom and getting rid of most of the Talibans or al-Qaida. But most of Pakistanis do not like or they hate Americans because U.S. went to get Usama bin Ladin.

My question is here: Same thing goes when you talk to most Americans. They also are saying that why U.S. is not taking tougher actions in Pakistan today because of more epicenter of al-Qaida is still Pakistan. My – what I’m asking you is, where are we going after 10 years as far as the reason is concerned, which is full of terrorism and threats coming from there to here?

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think we talk pretty much every day here about the intense relationship that the U.S. and Pakistan have, particularly in our shared fight against terror in the region. I would refer you to the Secretary’s speech today for more information about what we are doing together across the range, whether it is using our hard power as necessary, whether it is trying to counter the ideology and offer young people a better path forward, a more democratic and prosperous path, or whether it is what we are doing to strengthen borders, strengthen our ability to drain finances from terrorists, et cetera. So it is a very rich and deep menu of counterterrorism measures not only with Pakistan, but with countries around the world.

QUESTION: As far as this threat is concerned, the recent one, have anybody spoken with anybody in India? Because India was also a victim of bombings recently. Also, we have a new Indian Ambassador Ms. Nirupama Rao in town.

MS. NULAND: I think I mentioned yesterday that Deputy Secretary Burns --

QUESTION: She’s going --

MS. NULAND: -- had a meeting with Ambassador Rao yesterday, a very good meeting, and as you know, we issued a strong statement after the bombing in India.

QUESTION: No. I mean, if somebody spoke anybody in Delhi about this recent threat?

MS. NULAND: Our ambassador has obviously been very active in Delhi.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On the meetings in – of Afghanistan, NSA Spanta and in the building here, do you have any update on it?

MS. NULAND: Just to say meetings are still ongoing. They’re in their second day of talks today. Secretary and National Security Advisor Spanta had a good discussion yesterday of where we are, and we are both committed to try to get this finished. But as we’ve been saying, we would rather get it right than get it fast, so we don’t expect that this round will conclude it, but we’re going to keep working.

QUESTION: On Syria, Ambassador Ford has taken to Facebook again, and in it has said – mentioned at least that one – that at least one commenter or one person who commented on his previous post had threatened or made what appeared to be a threat to his life. Does this Department take this seriously?

MS. NULAND: We take any threat to any American personnel overseas seriously.

QUESTION: Are you aware of this?

MS. NULAND: I, frankly, had not seen Ambassador Ford’s Facebook post today.

QUESTION: It’s from yesterday.

MS. NULAND: From yesterday. But obviously any security threat we take with utmost seriousness, and we always – we are quite vigilant with regard to Ambassador Ford in Damascus.

QUESTION: And then the other thing on Syria is that it appears that some – at least some of the opposition, some of the opponents of Asad, are now looking for some kind of international or some kind of outside help in terms of monitors, in terms of other kinds of assistance. I’m wondering what you make of that. Is that something that you’re prepared to respond to, or are you not yet convinced that this is representative of the majority of the Syrian opponents to Assad?

MS. NULAND: I think, Matt, what you’re referring to is the fact that a group of opposition have dubbed today the “Friday of International Protection”, and specifically they’re asking for the Syrian Government to allow international monitors into Syria to monitor the human rights situation. I think the quote is that, “the Syrian people call on the United Nations to adopt a resolution to set up a permanent observer mission in Syria.” This is completely in keeping with the kind of action we’ve been seeking in the Security Council on Syria, and as you know, we are working with some of the Security Council members to get a new resolution that not only can provide this kind of monitoring on the human rights side, but can also strengthen sanctions against the Asad regime.

QUESTION: And then do you have any comment on President Ahmadinejad’s latest remarks having to do with Syria and his suggestion that President Asad might want to listen to his people?

MS. NULAND: This is remarks from yesterday or a couple days ago?


MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, as we’ve said here before, I think the Secretary said about three weeks ago that Iran seemed to be the only friend Syria had left. Well if even Ahmadinejad is questioning how Asad is running things, maybe he’ll start to listen.

QUESTION: Is Ambassador Ford perhaps pushing the envelope with these postings? Is he taking unnecessary risk and perhaps moving beyond the propriety of diplomatic function?

MS. NULAND: In the absence of an open media environment, in the absence of other ways to speak directly to the Syrian people, Ambassador Ford uses Facebook, he uses other new media techniques, as lots of our ambassadors do around the world, to try to make clear where the U.S. stands and to stand with those who want change.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.) What other new media techniques does he use?

MS. NULAND: I think he has been a Twittering kind of guy, but let us check on that for you.


MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: What’s your reaction to the Russian president? He said that the opposition have terrorists among them in Syria.

MS. NULAND: Well, President Medvedev had a lot of things to say on Syria. I think if you look at the bulk of his remarks, he was finally joining the chorus in the international community that includes the Arab League and many others, calling for an end to the violence. We disagree categorically with the Asad regime’s assertion that the demonstrators are led by terrorists. We believe that this is a peaceful movement for democratic change and that it is simply part of the Asad regime propaganda machine to try to paint them otherwise.

QUESTION: So you don’t agree with Medvedev’s statement?

MS. NULAND: On that point, no.

QUESTION: You just described the type of UN Security Council resolution you have been seeking. What is the latest update on that? I think you have been working on it for a while. Do you see anything happening anytime soon?

MS. NULAND: We are consulting in New York. Those consultations will continue. I would refer you up there for more detail, but I think we are looking at accelerating that work next week, if we can.



QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. U.S. ambassador to Iraq Mr. Jim Jeffrey dismissed as false news reports that the Administration has settled on 3,000 troop figure. Do you agree with that? That is false?

MS. NULAND: I think we spoke about this yesterday, that no decisions have been made on levels. What we have agreed to do is to open a negotiation. The first thing we’ve got to do is decide when the Iraqis say that they’d like training support, we have a very broad menu of training support, what the mission might be. And it’s – but it’s premature to talk about numbers till we agree on the mission.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, Mr. Jeffrey, according to AP, Lara Jakes, took a swipe at policy advisors in Washington and said, I think – quote – “I think Washington, when it wakes up, will have really great guidance and insight as to what’s going on here,” but being sarcastic. Do you agree that perhaps Washington’s asleep at the wheel here?

MS. NULAND: You have to know Jim Jeffrey and his sense of humor. It was an absolutely literal statement, that he is seven hours ahead of us in the time zone. I think he was speaking in Baghdad when we were actually literally sleeping at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. So what he was saying was quite literal, that whatever question was asked of him he’d prefer it be asked in Washington, when we were physically awake. So don’t read too much into this.

QUESTION: So it was just time zone difference and --

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- not – he’s not being frustrated by the --

MS. NULAND: This was not a broader comment of any kind.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Is there any frustration in this building with the information that seems to be out of the Pentagon regarding the future of U.S. – future U.S. presence in Iraq?

MS. NULAND: We are working and Jim Jeffrey is working in lockstep with his military counterpart on these issues. I think we are gratified that we are actually in talks now, and these are being conducted, obviously, under Ambassador Jeffrey’s leadership but with General Austin right there at his side. So we’re doing this together.

QUESTION: Again, a great answer, but not the answer to the question I asked.

MS. NULAND: One team, one fight.

QUESTION: Really? There’s no frustration in this building at all?

MS. NULAND: There is not.

QUESTION: Really? Not even over the fact that a senior military official was quoted in the lead Times story as saying that the plan was for – to have about 3,000? I mean, I think I would find that frustrating if I were involved in a negotiation.

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve made clear that that was not an authorized statement and didn’t reflect where we are.

QUESTION: Exactly. Is there any frustration in this building that there is information coming out of the Pentagon that could affect the negotiations – unauthorized information coming out?

MS. NULAND: I think we are in a good place together in terms of our negotiating process in Baghdad, and we are going to work together on this issue.

QUESTION: Yes. I’m asking a follow-up on this --


QUESTION: -- this morning event at AEI. The former vice president said that was a big, big mistake for the United States to be – to cut and run from Iraq. Isn’t that just cutting and running from Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think it constitutes cutting and running when we had a massive surge of U.S. forces at the end of the Bush Administration, supported by the Obama Administration, which essentially led to a great improvement in the security situation such that we are able to transfer security responsibility to the Iraqis and draw down. And we’re certainly not cutting and running on the civilian side, where our civilian surge is greatly enhanced and we’ve opened consulates around the country.

QUESTION: Today was the first day – Burma for Ambassador Derek Mitchell. Do you know who all he met and how did the meetings went there?

MS. NULAND: I do. Ambassador Mitchell had a good day in Naypyidaw. He saw the ministers of foreign affairs, of labor, of social welfare, information, and border affairs. And he also met with the secretary general of the Union of Solidarity and Development Party and with some parliamentary leaders. And tomorrow, he anticipates traveling to Rangoon so that he can see Aung San Suu Kyi.

As you know, his objective on this first trip as our new special representative and policy coordinator on Burma is to build on our effort to have dialogue, have engagement with a broad cross-section of Burmese to help the Burmese people meet their objective to see a more democratic future.

QUESTION: So did he get any sense of the new Burmese Government is willing to reform or go – take steps which the U.S. wants?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that he is going to complete his rounds in Burma, and then he’ll be speaking about his trip a little bit either on the way home or when he comes back. So let’s let him characterize his conclusions after he finishes his visit.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka?

QUESTION: No, no. Those meetings that he had, they were separate meetings, right? Or were they all --

MS. NULAND: Separate meetings.

QUESTION: -- together in one big lump?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is they were separate meetings.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka?

MS. NULAND: On Sri Lanka. Yeah.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Blake’s with – during last visit to Sri Lanka, it was postponed, but now he’s visiting again. But in between, Madam, a number of things took place as far as Sri Lanka is concerned not in favor of Sri Lanka, because several reports from the United Nations and also Amnesty International. His plans are going to change as far as meeting officials in Sri Lanka, as far as these new reports are concerned?

MS. NULAND: No. I think I mentioned yesterday – I announced his trip. He’s on his way now. You know that his trip was only postponed because he couldn’t fly during the hurricane. So he’s now – he’s either on his way today or he has actually arrived, and he looks forward to productive meetings in Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: I mean, what I mean is there are some new reports from the United Nations and Amnesty International against Sri Lanka or as far as events took place in Sri Lanka during and after the war.

MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Goyal?

QUESTION: Yeah. Any comments on those new reports from the UN and Amnesty International?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve taken note of the Amnesty report. I think where we stand is to wait for the Sri Lankan Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission to come out with its own report in November. Obviously, one of the purposes of Assistant Secretary Blake’s visit will be to talk to the Sri Lankans about that report and to do what we can to ensure that they are doing a thorough and credible job with it.

QUESTION: And Madam, are you giving any timeline, timeframe, how long you – Sri Lankan Government should or take – can take time to come to an independent inquiry?

MS. NULAND: Well, they themselves have said this report will be out in November. Our first goal is to ensure that it is a good, strong, credible report that can take Sri Lanka forward.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam.

QUESTION: On Turkey, the prime – the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is going to start his trip to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya starting Monday. First of all, are you coordinating with Ankara on this trip, or is there any expectation from Prime Minister Erdogan of messages that you want to be coordinated, or anything on the Israel-Turkey relations?

MS. NULAND: The Secretary, as you know, saw Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu – it was a week and some ago in Paris. He mentioned this trip, and obviously we talked in that meeting and talk in all meetings about the full range of issues in the region that we work on. I think the conversation between Assistant Secretary Gordon and Ambassador Tan today will be another opportunity to hear from the Turkish side what the goals of the trip are, but we are both supporting good, strong democratic transitions in Egypt and Libya, and trying to do what we can to play our role in the international support function.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Gordon and Ambassador Tan is having a meeting today?

MS. NULAND: Yes. I think I said that earlier. Yeah. They – I think their meeting is completed now.


QUESTION: Just to go back to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, has Secretary Clinton herself made any phone calls on this since the one I believe she made before the Hale-Ross trip to President Abbas?

MS. NULAND: On Middle East peace or on Turkey-Israel?

QUESTION: On Middle East peace.

MS. NULAND: She has not. I think she’s waiting for David Hale to get home and have some consultations with him, and then proceed and decide what the appropriate next steps for her and for other folk will be.

QUESTION: So he’s not back yet?

MS. NULAND: If he’s back, it would’ve been just today that he’s landing. But he has not had a chance to see her, as she’s in New York.


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yeah. Today, the State announced formation of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which has 30 countries in it. And since this is a U.S. initiative, I didn’t find the name of Afghanistan in this. Has Afghanistan not been invited or Afghanistan hasn’t shown interest in this forum?

MS. NULAND: Did we release all of the 30 names?

QUESTION: Yes, yeah.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I can’t speak to our conversation with Afghanistan on this, but this is something that, as you know, the Secretary announced in her speech today. It’s designed to be a place to share best practices, information sharing, particularly on the civilian side of counterterrorism. It’ll be formally inaugurated in New York at the UN General Assembly, with U.S. and Turkey chairing that meeting.

This organization is based on individual countries saying that they want to join. I frankly can’t speak to whether Afghanistan has been consulted, but we’re obviously interested in more members if they want to join.

QUESTION: Is Israel participating in this forum? Another --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have the full list here in front of me. Let me take that one.

Good. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:23 p.m.)

DPB # 135

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