12:52 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. I see some of our road warriors from last week back in the room looking refreshed. Glad to have you back. No, not refreshed? I’m sorry about that.
All right. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
MS. NULAND: Yes, President Saleh asked to see Ambassador Feierstein today. It was their first meeting since President Saleh returned to the country. He had – the president had two main messages. The first was to advise Ambassador Feierstein that he intends to sign the GCC agreement. The second was to inform Ambassador Feierstein of the ceasefire that he has called between the Yemeni Government forces and the opposition.
As you’ve seen, it’s not clear that that has been completely enforced on either side since then, but we do consider it a good step, both that President Saleh is reaffirming his commitment to the GCC agreement and that he understands and is supportive of the fact that the violence has got to end so that we can set the conditions for discussions about Yemen’s diplomatic future. But again, the proof will be in the pudding.
QUESTION: So your reference – at least on the ceasefire, your reference that they not have been – it may not be being enforced is because there is still fighting going on?
MS. NULAND: We’re seeing reports, the same reports that you’re seeing, that there is still some fighting going on. So what we’re looking for is to see the ceasefire enforced throughout the country.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on the – him saying that he intends to sign the GCC agreement, I mean, what month are we here? Didn’t he say that he was going to sign this when, March?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said, the proof will be in the pudding, but it is a positive step that he called the ambassador in and recommitted to him, to us, to the international community, that he intends to sign it. So now we look for him to make good on that commitment.
QUESTION: Yeah. Why is there an absence of urgency in the rhetoric in calling on President Saleh to really abide by the GCC? I mean, there seems to be almost an equivocal approach to Saleh from Washington.
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’ve been equivocal at all, either from this podium or when the Secretary’s been asked about it. She’s been quite emphatic that the GCC agreement offers the best path forward. We’ve also been supportive of the discussions that have been ongoing even in the absence of the agreement being signed. We’ve been supportive of the GCC’s own efforts to mediate. We spoke about this in New York. So I have to say I reject the premise, Said.
QUESTION: If you’ll give me just to follow up, I mean, going back to President Mubarak when back then in February when the President said “now”, and also to Syria, Libya, and other places, I think there’s a feeling in the region that Saleh may be getting a pass.
MS. NULAND: Well, he’s not getting a pass from us. As I said, we welcome the fact that he brought the ambassador in and made this commitment again, but now we look to see him implement it.
QUESTION: Did the president explain why he decided to do this?
MS. NULAND: Why he decided to call Ambassador Feierstein in or why he --
QUESTION: To accept – no, to finally accept and take a step that you have been urging for quite a while.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any more information about how he explained why this moment is the moment. But as you know, we thought we were there before he left the country. We thought we had been there when he decided to return. So I think the proof will be in the actions that he takes now.
QUESTION: Did the ambassador seek an explanation from the president as to why he kind of snuck back into Yemen on the sly?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further on that subject.
QUESTION: Did it come up?
MS. NULAND: I do not know. I --
QUESTION: All right, and then just one more thing. I just want to check to make sure. You said your reaction, we do think this is a good step, that he should do it. This was the message that the ambassador relayed back to the president? Did he say that or did he say get the lead out and do it now?
MS. NULAND: No, of course.
QUESTION: He did?
MS. NULAND: He said that we – this is overdue and we want to see you actually implement this action you’re committing to.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Yemen?
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Yemen?
QUESTION: With regards to reports that Anwar al-Awlaki’s son was killed in a U.S. air strike in Yemen, do you have anything more on that?
MS. NULAND: I think that we have put out – we put out a note about an hour ago saying that we’re actually not in a position to confirm. We’re aware of the media reports that he’s been killed, but we’re not actually in a position to confirm it, and we have not been contacted by the family with regard to it.
QUESTION: What is the State Department’s protocol for – if something happens like this? Do they reach out to the family or --
MS. NULAND: It is standard consular practice to contact the next of kin in the event of the death of any U.S. citizen and to provide any information that we have and to obtain instructions from the family on disposition of remains and any possessions, et cetera. This is something that is routine; it’s mandated by law and regulation. But in this case, we haven’t been contacted by the family and we also haven’t been able to establish any contact.
QUESTION: The note actually said that you hadn’t been contacted by the government.
MS. NULAND: We haven’t been contacted by the government, nor have we been contacted by the family.
MS. NULAND: Sorry, I think Arshad did want to go to North Korea next, if that’s all right. Go ahead.
QUESTION: As you know, the U.S.-DPRK talks have ended in Geneva. Can you provide any kind of a readout on them?
MS. NULAND: Well, Ambassador Bosworth gave a little bit of a press readout, I think, about two hours ago, let me --
QUESTION: Emphasis on little.
MS. NULAND: Let me just pick up from there. We do consider that it was a constructive meeting, that all the issues were covered, as I said yesterday in going through the categories. There was some narrowing of differences, but important issues do remain.
We now think that we’ve both got to go back to our capitals, we’ve got to evaluate what we’ve heard. And we have agreed that we will be in touch at an appropriate moment, and if there is more to say through the New York channel, or if there are other channels that we have.
QUESTION: One of the things that Ambassador --
MS. NULAND: And I’m allowed to tell you that they had Korean food for lunch today.
QUESTION: Wow. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Korean food in Geneva.
QUESTION: One of the things that Ambassador Bosworth said --
MS. NULAND: The Koreans in the room are smiling.
QUESTION: At what restaurant? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: One of the things that Ambassador Bosworth said was that, he would agree that there was a need for more – to go back to capitals and consider this – and also for more discussion. Did that mean more discussions between the United States and North Korea or does that mean just more internal U.S.-U.S. discussions, North Korean-North Korean discussions about this?
MS. NULAND: Well, in the first instance, I think each side – each delegation has to go home, has to digest the exchange, has to analyze where we might go next. And that may take some time.
In the second instance, as I said, while there’s been some narrowing of differences we haven’t had any breakthroughs here and significant issues do remain.
QUESTION: So – but what I didn’t understand and what I still don’t understand is whether there’s any agreement for further discussions or not. And if – so is there an agreement for further discussions between the United States and the North or not? You’re just going to go back to capitals and think it over?
MS. NULAND: What they agreed at the end of the session was that we would go home and digest, analyze, work with our governments, see where to go, and that we would be in touch with each other. But no onward meeting has been set; although, we haven’t closed the door on it either. I think we need some digestion time.
QUESTION: And just the last thing. He said that if you were going to be in touch it would be via the New York channel. Are you holding out the possibility of other contacts aside from via the New York channel?
MS. NULAND: No. I think that’s the primary point of communication about next steps.
QUESTION: One of the explicit points of this meeting in Geneva was to discuss the potential for Six-Party talks. Is that something that’s closer today after this meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, just to say, we’ve narrowed the differences but there is quite a bit of work still to do. I think you know where have been on the Six-Party talks; first, that the North-South dialogue needs to continue; and second that we need to see real concrete steps, concrete commitments by the North Koreans on their nuclear obligations. So these were obviously both subjects that were discussed and differences narrowed but more work to do.
QUESTION: Did the North Koreans give assurances on denuclearization?
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to characterize the discussions in any more detail than I have. Certainly, just to say, that we’ve narrowed the field but there is more work to do.
QUESTION: Well, at first you said that there was some narrowing of differences, and then you just said right now they’d narrowed the differences.
MS. NULAND: Let’s keep the “some” attached to the --
QUESTION: Okay. But are we talking about on substantive things or are we talking about like the lunch menu?
MS. NULAND: We’re talking about some narrowing of differences on substantive issues. Some.
QUESTION: And the substantive issues would be those which we are already aware of --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: -- that nuclear issue, what they need to do with the South -- what else is there?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) agreement.
QUESTION: Holding up their end of the bargain – the end of the bargain – holding up their commitments and making positive gestures to the South. Is that what we’re talking about?
MS. NULAND: These are the issues that we talk about when we saw them in July. These are the issues we --
QUESTION: Yeah but that – those are where the differences have been narrowed?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Correct. Some narrowing.
QUESTION: Toria, also on North Korea. The UN had – I wasn’t here yesterday so I’m presuming you didn’t get into this – the head of Humanitarian Issues for the United Nations says that – I believe it’s 6 million people in North Korea are in very dire straits concerning food. Is there any – and of course the implication is that it’s being held up for political purposes – is there any update on what the situation is in terms of providing food aid? And could you address that issue of whether it is politically being held up?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all let me just reiterate again that we do not connect the issue of humanitarian assistance to other issues of policy, politics, our relationship with North Korea. The humanitarian – the food aid decision – will be made on the basis of the criteria that we’ve discussed many times here: our assessment of the need, and we are working with the UN and with nongovernmental organizations and with other governments that look at this issue on the need; our assessment of the need in North Korea as compared to the need globally, because we have to balance food aid, and as you know we’re providing massive amounts of food aid in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere; and then the third issue, if and when we were prepared to move forward, we would have to settle some of these monitoring issues that have plagued the program in the past to ensure that if we do give food aid, it goes to those truly in need and isn’t stockpiled, et cetera, or misallocated.
So we haven’t made any decisions on food aid. We didn’t make any decisions in this context. I will tell you, as I said yesterday, that the humanitarian situation was discussed, but we haven’t made any decisions.
QUESTION: Can you add just a --
QUESTION: Can you address comments by named officials from NGOs, who have argued that they believe that the United States is holding up its decision on this for political or policy reasons that have nothing to do with the factors that you just cited, and that they do not believe that the monitoring and evaluation issues are really the holdup here, that they feel like for the most part these have been adequately addressed? How do you respond to that?
MS. NULAND: We reject those assertions. We do not connect these issues. And were we to go forward, we would have – have to have significant and detailed discussions about monitoring, which we have not yet had.
QUESTION: Why have you not had those discussions yet, given that there are reported to be millions of people starving here? I mean, where – what discussions do you need to have that you haven’t had yet, or why haven’t you had those discussions yet?
MS. NULAND: Because we are continuing to evaluate the need, working with our partners, working with international organizations. As I said, this issue did come up; the humanitarian basket of issues did come up. We’ll be evaluating what we heard, but we are not prepared to make a decision at the moment.
QUESTION: So just so I’m clear on this, you evaluate the need and the competing needs elsewhere – and this is always the position that the U.S. Government has said – and only then do you look at the question of the monitoring and evaluation? So that if you determine that, yes, there are sufficient numbers of people starving and they do, indeed, merit U.S. assistance, even in comparison to the needs of other starving people around the world, only then do you commence the discussions on monitoring and evaluation?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously done a lot of work to evaluate lessons learned from the last time we did food aid, where the monitoring was insufficient, and to think about what we would need to do to reassure ourselves, reassure the American people, that the aid was going to the right place and to ensure that it have impact. So we have a very good idea of the kinds of things that might be needed. But you would not get into those discussions with the host government until you had made a decision in principle to go forward, because otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.
So again, we had a humanitarian discussion in the context of this round. We haven’t made any decisions. We have to evaluate what we’ve heard, and we will get back to you when we have more to say.
QUESTION: And just so I’m clear, I mean, you said we have not had the discussion on monitoring and evaluation. You’re absolutely convinced that – you’re certain of that, you haven’t talked about that at all?
MS. NULAND: We have not had a detailed discussion of these issues.
QUESTION: So you may have had a discussion, just not a detailed one?
MS. NULAND: I think I stand by what I just said.
QUESTION: Just to follow up --
MS. NULAND: Dima, are you on North Korea or on something else?
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- it’s been months since these aid groups have talked about a dire need in North Korea. Does that mean that the United States doesn’t see it as an – as urgent of an issue as they see it?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are continuing to evaluate the need. We’re continuing to talk to everybody, including these aid groups, and we’ll let you know when we have a decision to announce.
QUESTION: When you brought up the Horn of Africa and competing needs, are you suggesting that the U.S. food aid to North Korea might be hampered or constrained in some way because of the amount that you’re sending to the Horn?
MS. NULAND: No. I didn’t mean to make that – draw that direct link. I simply said that we look at the full global --
MS. NULAND: -- need in making these decisions. It’s one of the factors that goes into our decision making.
QUESTION: And in terms of monitoring, in the Horn of Africa, you’ve actually relaxed restrictions on where that food aid can go, who can get to it, because there were concerns from NGOs about al-Shabaab getting control of it, using it to feed themselves instead of the people who really needed it. It seems to me roughly – there is a foreign terrorist organization. In North Korea, you’re talking about the army. North Korea is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism. Why are you willing to ease the rules to get food quickly to Somalia and the Horn of Africa and not to North Korea? It seems to me to just fly in the face of the rejection of – that this is a political argument. In other words, if you’re prepared to ease the rules to get food to one place, why aren’t you prepared to do the same for another place, unless it is a political decision?
MS. NULAND: Again, if and when we make a decision to move forward with this, we have to have an agreement with the Government of the DPRK how the monitoring will go. DPRK is a government entity that controls its borders, controls access to its population.
QUESTION: So the TFG does not --
MS. NULAND: We have an opportunity here to have an agreement that can satisfy us, if and when we decide to move forward. In the context of al-Shabaab, there’s not a partner that’s reliable that you could negotiate with. The circumstances are apples and oranges.
And again, we haven’t made --
QUESTION: So you think that --
MS. NULAND: Can I finish?
QUESTION: -- the Government of North Korea is a reliable partner, that they always do what you --
MS. NULAND: Can I finish?
MS. NULAND: We haven’t made any decisions yet, either about food aid or about what’ll be required on monitoring. What we have looked at was the insufficiencies of the regime the last time we did this. So --
QUESTION: What about the insufficiency of food?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are continuing to talk to all of the --
QUESTION: It seems to me if there are people starving in two places and you’re willing to ease the rules to go give food to one place, you might as well – the only reason you wouldn’t be willing to ease the rules to go to another place is that it’s a political reason, which is fine. It just seems to me odd that you deny it when it appears clearly that that’s what’s the case here.
MS. NULAND: If and when we decide to go forward with this, we want to make sure that the food goes to the people who need it, not to the regime, and not to go locked up in storehouses. So if and when we get to that stage, that’ll be the conversation that we will have. It’s not a matter of easing or tightening; it’s a matter of having an agreement about how we get it to the right people.
QUESTION: But you’re okay if Shabaab gets some of the food that – U.S. food that --
MS. NULAND: We are doing everything we can --
QUESTION: -- while they blow up things and attack.
MS. NULAND: We are doing everything we can with our NGO partners to work with those who are reliable and to try to get the food to as many people as they can.
QUESTION: Well, I thought there was this big announcement, not so long ago, about how the restrictions were being eased and how NGOs wouldn’t be punished if --
MS. NULAND: That’s – no, but see, that’s a different matter, Matt. Because what we’re talking about in the case of Somalia is that we have issued more licenses to more U.S. NGOs --
MS. NULAND: -- after working with them individually --
MS. NULAND: -- on their chain of custody of aid --
MS. NULAND: -- and on the procedures that they use. So in that case, the negotiations have gone forward with the NGO groups to our satisfaction, so what we been easing is that we’ve been giving more licenses to more groups as they --
MS. NULAND: -- establish --
QUESTION: So why don’t you do the same with North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Can I finish, please?
MS. NULAND: As they establish their ability to make sure it gets to people in need. So –
QUESTION: So why don’t you do the same in North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Again, if and when we make that decision, we’ll have a conversation about how we ensure chain of custody on the –
QUESTION: Does the United States agree that people are starving in North Korea?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to evaluate the need situation in North Korea. Are we –
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on this, please?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is the purpose of U.S. food aid to ease human suffering abroad?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So we’ve established that.
If – given that it is your intent in food aid to ease human suffering abroad, why, as a matter of common sense, would you not engage on both tracks at the same time; track one being figuring out what the need is and what the competing needs are, and track two being, look, if we’re going to go ahead and do this, we need to make sure that there is proper chain of custody and we have adequate monitoring and evaluation safeguards in place, so that once you make the decision on point A, there is no extended period of time for where people are going to continue to starve, and at a rate, apparently, worse than elsewhere in the world before food arrives?
Why, as a matter of common sense, if the intent is to reduce human suffering, you wouldn’t do both?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re certainly proceeding on both tracks with regard to our internal review – first of all, evaluating the need, secondarily establishing what we will need to ensure this program is successful and meets people in need if we go forward. With regard to having a detailed conversation with the government, that only makes sense if you are going to proceed to go forward, because otherwise you raise expectations when we haven’t made a decision with regard to need and with regard to moving forward.
QUESTION: Well, how does it raise expectations if you say, “Look, we haven’t made a decision here. So don’t get your hopes up. But if we do make a decision, we don’t want there to be this lengthy period of time between when we make up our minds and we negotiate a monitoring and evaluation protocol, during which time, presumably, there will be more human suffering than there would have been if you guys had the bandwidth to do this at the same time”?
MS. NULAND: Let me just say that the way this could and should proceed, if and when we’re going to go forward, is relatively straight forward and relatively easy to implement with goodwill on the receiving side. So it’s not as if we think that we would need to have an extensive negotiation if, in fact, the partner country is prepared to let the goods go to the right people. So I don’t think that one should be looking at this as a potential to delay if and when we make the decision, and it’s not as if we have never had a conversation with North Korea about what went wrong the last time and what we consider to have been substandard procedures in the past.
Cami, still on this?
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the – Somalia?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: North Korea.
MS. NULAND: Are we still – let’s finish North Korea. Yeah.
QUESTION: In Ambassador Bosworth’s statement today, he said, “I am confident that with continued effort on both sides, we can reach a reasonable basis of departure for formal negotiations for return to the Six-Party process.”
So I just wanted to clarify what steps we should hope to see from here. Does this mean that they will agree to then have negotiations about whether or not to have the Six-Party Talks, and then at those negotiations, if the answer is yes, then go to Six-Party Talks?
MS. NULAND: You’re about eight steps ahead of where we are. (Laughter.) Where we are at the moment is that we’ve completed this Geneva round, had a fabulous lunch of Korean food; now everybody’s going to back to their capital and evaluate what we’ve heard, and the next step will be to be back in contact if and when we have more to say.
QUESTION: But what is Ambassador Bosworth referring to here? He says, “When we can reach a reasonable basis of departure for formal negotiations.” Is that referring to bilateral negotiations or Six-Party negotiations?
MS. NULAND: I think Ambassador Bosworth was referring to the conditions that we’ve always had for getting back to the Six-Party Talks, which I can reiterate here again if you want to hear them.
QUESTION: Actually, I couldn’t hear your exchange between Matt earlier when you were talking about the – what was it – some narrowing of differences on substantive issues. And did you say what those substantive issues were? Sorry. I just couldn’t hear.
MS. NULAND: I did not. I did not.
MS. NULAND: China remains a party in the Six-Party Talks, we exchange information, we work together to try to influence North Korea, and that’s where we continue to be. We just recently had Kurt Campbell in China working with the Chinese in advance of these discussions.
QUESTION: Toria, while you were having this meeting in Geneva, in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-il met with Chinese vice premier and called for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks again. So how do you respond to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, Kurt Campbell was recently in China. One of the subjects that we discussed was our approach – our respective approaches to North Korea. So the expectation is that we were in Geneva working on this issue, the Chinese were in Beijing working on this issue. Our goal remains the same, which is to see concrete progress towards denuclearization.
Are we finished with North Korea?
QUESTION: Still on North Korea.
MS. NULAND: Still on North Korea.
QUESTION: Yes. The North Korean envoy said that – kind of going along with what Arshad said about further consultations – the North Koreans seem to say that they want to meet within – hopefully within this year, and that on the narrowing of differences, this was on confidence-building measures. And so they kind of went a step further in saying that they had somehow maybe reached an agreement about meeting again instead of just talking on the New York channels.
MS. NULAND: I think the agreement is that we’ll talk about what the next steps should be when both sides are ready.
QUESTION: Okay. So only the New York channel portion is set?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve spoken to this one.
QUESTION: Can we change – new subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just one, last one?
MS. NULAND: Last one on North Korea.
QUESTION: I’m sorry if you’ve answered this before, but did you – have you said when Bosworth officially steps down and Davies officially takes over?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, they did this meeting together. Ambassador Davies was there with Ambassador Bosworth so that we would have a smooth transition and so that Ambassador Davies could get to know all these people that Ambassador Bosworth has been working with. I think when they come home and they have completed their debriefing, my understanding is at that point Ambassador Bosworth will go back to private life and Glyn will take up the baton.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about this when the announcement was itself made about sort of when there would – when Bosworth –
MS. NULAND: The precise date?
QUESTION: Yeah. Just so it’s – so everybody’s clear.
MS. NULAND: Okay. We will certainly get that for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MS. NULAND: I’ve promised, Dima, that he will be next.
QUESTION: Thank you. As you know, the Russian Government has blacklisted a number of U.S. officials as a reciprocity measure and announced its decision over the weekend. I was wondering if they informed you on that officially, and if you can tell how many U.S. officials were blacklisted. Anything on that, and your reaction to this step?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we do not believe that there is any basis for visa restrictions of this kind against U.S. officials. The reasons for our visa restrictions are very clear. Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, we’re required to deny visas to individuals involved in serious human rights violations. With regard to who’s on the list, the Russian Government did advise us through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they would take this step, but did not advise us who was on the list or how long the list is.
QUESTION: From your point of view, is this – the whole visa ban spat between the two governments is over? Is the case closed? Or we should expect some new steps from the U.S. Administration and, as a result, something from the Russian Government as well?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the Russian side. You know where we are on this issue. Our steps were taken, as I said, in response to U.S. law, and they are targeted at those individuals who were involved in the wrongful death of Sergei Magnitsky, and we are not prepared to give them U.S. visas. With regard to what the Russian Government does, you’ll need to talk to them.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about Somalia?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about this report that an American’s been kidnapped?
MS. NULAND: I do have something. Let me find what I have. Yeah. We are aware of reports that two individuals have been kidnapped in northern Somalia, one of whom is believed to be a U.S. citizen, but we’re not able to confirm it. We’re currently trying to confirm the identity and whether this person is a U.S. citizen. Of course, we condemn kidnapping of any kind.
QUESTION: Can I also ask you, on the subject of Somalia, did the U.S. back Kenya’s decision to send in military forces into Somalia?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that it was a matter of backing or not backing. I think you know what our relationship is with Kenya, that we don’t participate, obviously, militarily, but we do support the training and the equipping of the Kenyan military.
QUESTION: So what do you think of Somalia’s president then calling on Kenya to halt the offensive? Does the U.S. have a position, one way or the other, since the purpose of this Kenyan mission is to go after al-Shabaab?
MS. NULAND: I mean, in the same way that we protect our security interests, Kenya is protecting its own security interests. And we share deep concern about al-Shabaab, and we cooperate very closely in trying to go after it and squeeze it. And as I said, we do participate in the training and equipping of the Kenyan counterterrorism forces in the Kenyan military for these purposes.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MS. NULAND: Anything else? Yeah.
QUESTION: Just (inaudible) briefly on the kidnapping.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. doing at this point to try to ascertain the facts and to try to release the American who appears to be a hostage?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re first trying to get more information about who precisely has been kidnapped so that we can establish what the citizenship might be, and we’re still at that stage.
QUESTION: Yes, Toria. There were reports today in Maariv, the Israeli newspaper, that the United States Government submitted a proposal to the Israeli Government to partially hold the – to partially freeze settlement activities in Jerusalem and in the West Bank in exchange for resumption of talks right after the end of the Quartet meeting tomorrow. Could you share with us any information on that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that, one way or the other, Said. I think you know that we are preparing for these talks tomorrow, where our Quartet envoys will meet both Israeli negotiator and will also meet with the Palestinian negotiator. I don’t have anything on this issue that – (inaudible).
QUESTION: But you’re not aware of any special and separate proposal?
MS. NULAND: I am not.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you another question. The former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged that he had made a deal with Abbas to release prisoners if and when Sergeant Shalit is released – Corporal Shalit – as he did, and now the Israeli Government perhaps should really abide by that. Do you have a position on this?
MS. NULAND: A position on what? The Shalit exchange has been --
QUESTION: A position on the release of more – as it seems, toward the end of his tenure as prime minister of Israel, he had agreed with Abbas at the time that if --
MS. NULAND: You mean to do more?
QUESTION: Olmert. Yes, ma’am. Olmert. I’m sorry. Ehud Olmert. He said – he acknowledged that he made a deal with the Authority President Abbas that when and if Shalit is released in an exchange – in a deal, as we have seen last week, then the Israeli Government would go ahead and release more Palestinian prisoners to the custody of Abbas. Do you support such an effort?
MS. NULAND: I think we’re talking about prospective events that may or may not happen. I don’t have anything to say on that one.
MS. NULAND: She – the Secretary did speak to Foreign Minister Davutoglu yesterday. She made the call to express our condolences, to express our concern, to reiterate the offer that our Embassy has made to Turkish authorities to be helpful. My understanding is that the foreign minister was very grateful for that, but that they have indicated, so far, that they intend to handle the response to the earthquake within their national disaster management system. But again, the Secretary reiterated our offer. We stand by if there is anything that’s needed on the Turkish side. And obviously, we offer our condolences to those who lost their lives and those who were wounded.
QUESTION: Okay. On Iraq, there are some conflicting reports coming from the region about the Turkish troops’ operation in the region. Do you have any update on this issue, about the last situation in northern Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Apart from reiterating what we have said all along, which is that we urge the Governments of Iraq and the Government of Turkey to work together to limit the impact of the PKK, I don’t have anything further. You may have seen that we have a Defense Department-led interagency delegation en route to Turkey to have bilateral consultations on how we might be able to strengthen U.S.-Turkish bilateral cooperation in the counterterrorism field.
QUESTION: This is the committee that President Obama has mentioned to Prime Minister Erdogan last week, that – his phone call?
MS. NULAND: Yes. It came up in the phone call between the President and the prime minister, and it’s being led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Vershbow.
QUESTION: Vershbow, and how many people are there in the committee?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the details, but I’m sure that our Embassy can help you with that.
QUESTION: They are all the DOD personnel?
MS. NULAND: It’s an interagency delegation is my understanding.
QUESTION: Going back to the Quartet for a second --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- what is it that you’re hoping to get out of tomorrow’s meeting?
MS. NULAND: What we’re hoping to get is a commitment by both of these parties that they will, after this meeting, move on to the next step that was in the Quartet proposal of September 23rd, namely that within 90 days they will offer each other concrete proposals on security and territory, which can form the basis for direct negotiations.
QUESTION: So that’s all – you’re not looking for them to commit to the end of 2012 timeline? You’re just looking for them to commit to the next in the – they’ve already missed one, granted only by three days, and they’re not meeting together, which is – so you want them to commit to just the next step in the Quartet’s plan, which is that – what you said, the 90 days, trading ideas on security, correct?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, after the Quartet statement came out, we had positive noises. Now we have to take it step by step. So as you said, although it was not 30 days; it was 33 days. We do have envoy meetings with these parties. We do want now to work with them on how we get ready for the step that follows, which is within 90 days trading initial ideas on how we can move forward on territory and security.
QUESTION: Well – but did you not want them also to commit to the whole – to the deadline for the whole deal?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we want them to support the timeline in its entirety. I think our main focus is on moving to the next steps so that we can stay on track with that timing.
QUESTION: Okay. So success tomorrow is getting them to agree to meet the 90-day deadline?
MS. NULAND: To --
QUESTION: It is not necessarily to have them meet on Thursday together?
MS. NULAND: No, we want to get each of them working on their 90-day – on their concrete proposals, and that’s what we’ll be focused on.
QUESTION: Okay. And the way that the Quartet envisions this, it means that within – that in – within 90 days of tomorrow – or was it 90 days of the 23rd? And I think everything starts from September 23rd. So you want them to sit down and to present each other with their proposals within that 90-day period, correct?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the Quartet statement in front of me, but it speaks about being prepared to exchange or offer each other – I can’t remember what the verb is, I’m sorry, but go back to the Quartet statement – concrete proposals on security and territory. So that’s what we’re looking for.
QUESTION: On this point, Toria, why won’t the resumption of negotiations be contingent upon freezing of settlement? A very well-renowned legal scholar, John Quigley, in fact, said that settlements were a war crime, not only illegal, they’re a war crime. So why should it not be contingent on the freeze of settlement? Why would you back away from such a proposal? Because if such a proposal can be made, why not make it?
MS. NULAND: Said, I don’t think we’re backing away from anything. Our position on settlements has not changed: It is not helpful; it doesn’t improve the environment. We’ve been clear about that with the Israelis and we’ve been clear about it publicly.
QUESTION: On Libya?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I have a quick follow-up about Turkey. Sorry. What is the next meeting of trilateral security mechanism for the region? It would – the last time it was October 3rd, Mark said last week. What is the next meeting time?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know that follow-on has been set. But if we have any information to share on that, we will.
QUESTION: Just a simple question. How would you evaluate how the NTC, or better known as the TNC, is handling the death of Qadhafi – investigations, more information, et cetera?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the TNC has pledged a full investigation. They know that they owe this to the Libyan people. They know that they owe this to the international community. They have said that it will be independent and that it will have integrity. We have made clear that we expect to hold them to that.
You’ve seen, I think, press reporting – I don’t think we’re in a position to confirm it, but there is press reporting that the body has now been returned to the family for private burial, moving on to fulfill those personal obligations.
But I think from where we stand, and as the Secretary said on Sunday and as she said when we were in Libya, what we need is closure on this issue and for Libyans to now be able to move on to building unity, building a Libya in which all Libyans, including those who supported the regime but don’t have blood on their hands, can feel safe, can feel secure, can feel included. And we certainly support and have been strongly encouraging the statements of the TNC that there should be no reprisals, that there should be no vigilante justice, and that the new Libya needs to be seen and needs to be understood as a state that respects rule of law, and that what they do in this circumstance will really set the tone for the future, so they need to get it right.
QUESTION: Get this investigation right?
MS. NULAND: Get this investigation right, get the investigation that they’ve promised on Sirte right, get the next stage in governance right, where they’ve pledged that the TNC will now expand and become an interim government that really reflects all the faces and all the views in Libya.
QUESTION: It seems --
QUESTION: And how big a test of the new government is the death of Qadhafi in terms of its adherence to rule of law?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve answered that question, that not only Libyans but the world will be looking for the TNC to set an example in the way they deal with this that really gives confidence to their own people in the first instance but to the international community as well about their – the quality of their commitment to rule of law, to international standards of human rights and justice. But most importantly, this can serve as a healing going forward so that even those who supported the regime will know that they can feel safe, they can feel secure, they can participate in the new Libya. And that’s what will bring the country back together, and that’s very, very important going forward.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that and then just expanding --
MS. NULAND: Please.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and pulling troops out of Iraq, how that affects Iran. There are new concerns of Islamic rule taking hold in these countries. What does the rise of fundamentalism there mean to the United States, and should the Administration be taking a different approach to handling it?
MS. NULAND: The rise of fundamentalism where?
QUESTION: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we have been on all of these cases, that it has been absolutely front and center in our dialogue with Libyans, with Tunisians, with Egyptians, and certainly in our public concern and condemnation about what’s going on in Iran, that human rights, in all their forms and all their aspects have to be respected, that you cannot have a transition to democracy that does not protect, guarantee the rights of all citizens, particularly free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, the rights of women, the rights of minorities, the rights to justice in a transparent, open fashion that meets international standards.
So we are working with all of these transitioning countries to help them as they try to build those kinds of societies, rule-of-law states. We know from other transition countries that this can take a while, and particularly in countries like Libya that have not had institutions at all, let alone institutions of democracy.
So we have pledged our support. We have pledged our assistance, our assistance programs, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, where we have them well-started now and where Ambassador Bill Taylor has been working in the last few weeks. A large portion of those are designed to support efforts by these new leaders to establish a rule of law and to create transparency, to train judges, et cetera.
But this is obviously a very, very, very important aspect of the transition to democracy, something that the freedom fighters in all these countries care about that serves as a litmus test for the quality of democracy going forward. But we also recognize that it’s going to take work, and it’s going to take time, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But again, as I said, the examples that are set in the early days, in all of these places, will set the tone, and so we’re watching those as well.
QUESTION: Do you – well, hold on a second. Do you accept the premise of the question, which you seemed a little confused about? Do you accept that there is a rise of fundamentalism in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt?
MS. NULAND: I do not accept the premise of the question. Let’s start with that. Yeah.
QUESTION: So you’re not concerned about a rise in fundamentalism, at least at the moment, because you don’t see one. Correct?
MS. NULAND: Again, we have a situation where – first of all, let’s say that each of these countries is different, and the situation in each of these countries is different. So, obviously, you have to take each country from where it starts. In the case of Egypt, you obviously had the regime, you had the Muslim Brotherhood. We now need to see a transition in Egypt, which allows people of all political views to participate in the system, including the Muslim Brotherhood, as long as they meet international standards of human rights and as long as we’re not turning back the clock. So that is what –
QUESTION: I just wanted to find out if you were accepting the premise of the question, which is a bit stark in a Republican talking point, which is --
MS. NULAND: And I think I answered that.
QUESTION: So you do not accept – this building does not believe that there is a rise of fundamentalism, per se, right now, in North Africa, in the Middle East in the country – in these newly liberated countries?
MS. NULAND: I think what we are seeing is we are seeing newly democratic, newly free people and populations feeling their way forward –
QUESTION: Yeah. But you do not accept the premise of the question, which was that there was a rise of fundamentalism? Right? You already said that. I just want to make sure.
MS. NULAND: You have – I think I answered the question as I chose to answer.
QUESTION: Yes. All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: Victoria, on the death – on the burial of Qadhafi –
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- he’s been buried in an unmarked grave. He was not returned to the family.
He – I heard the news today that he was buried in an unmarked grave. There were only four people present, a cleric and three members of the revolutionaries – the rebels and so on – who swore would never tell where he’s buried ever again. So, just a piece of information.
MS. NULAND: Look, we’ve seen conflicting reports on this. As I said, we’ve not been able to confirm it. But I had also seen reports that the family had received the body. So let’s wait and see what we can actually learn.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Burns in his keynote address on U.S.-China relationship yesterday said --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Libya --
MS. NULAND: You want to stay on Libya. Sorry, Lalit. Hold on a second.
QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry about that.
QUESTION: There were press reports earlier today that the Transitional National Council is asking NATO to extend the mission for one month longer. And of course NATO has decided to dismantle the operation by October 31st. So, what’s going to happen now?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen these reports that you are talking about Dima, so we’ll go see what we have. But my understanding was that the decision taken at NATO was that they would first consult with the TNC with the proposal that the mission end on October 31st, that that was what NATO decided a couple of days ago. So, obviously, we want to ensure that we are working with the governing authority in Libya to assess together whether, in fact, the threat to civilians is over, and whether, in fact, this NATO assessment is shared. So that was the stage that we were at. If we have anything new to tell you, we will let you know.
QUESTION: Staying in the region – Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Yep. I’m sorry. I had promised Lalit next. So let me, in the interest of fairness, stay with that.
QUESTION: Thank you. Deputy Secretary Burns in his keynote address on the U.S.-China relationship yesterday said, “Eventually we hope to see the U.S., India, and China sit down together to address some of the region’s most pressing challenges.” Is the U.S. proposing some kind of trilateral dialogue between the three countries and what it is?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think Ambassador Burns’ remarks speak for themselves, that we think that all three of us have a number of shared interests and we ought to be able to talk about them together. But I don’t think he was making a concrete, structural proposal.
QUESTION: Still on the region?
MS. NULAND: Please, let’s stay here.
QUESTION: Thank you, madam. One, India is now without U.S. ambassador for the last – more than four months. You have any reason why U.S. Ambassador is not there?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know these processes of nominating and confirming takes time so just stay tuned.
QUESTION: And second, madam, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, followed just from yesterday’s question, do you have any idea, because so many think tanks and meetings are – debates are going on, that why President Karzai had to say about that he will side with Pakistan, not with the U.S., since U.S. got liberated his country from the tyranny of Taliban and from terrorism, and billions of dollar have been given to Afghanistan by the U.S., and now he’s saying that he will side with Pakistan, not with the United States. You have any idea if somebody have already spoken to him, what happened, what went wrong?
MS. NULAND: Lalit, I – sorry, Goyal, I spoke to this yesterday. This is a scenario that’s not going to happen, so it’s not worth discussing.
QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Derek Mitchell is there again.
MS. NULAND: He is.
QUESTION: He was there last month as well. There’s been quite a lot of diplomacy. Is there something specific that he was – that he wanted to follow up on by going back to Burma? Can we have a readout of his talks there?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, this is his job, is to do what he can to move us forward in our dialogue with Burma, so it’s normal that he is making regular trips. He was there yesterday and today. I think he’s on his way home now, so we’ll see if he has more to share with you when he comes home.
I can tell you that on this trip, he met with the foreign minister, he also met with the speaker of the lower house of parliament, and he met with Aung San Suu Kyi. And it is his plan to continue to meet, to continue to discuss the situation, to press for progress on all of the agenda items you know we have together, including the continued release of more political prisoners.
So let’s let him come home and we’ll see if he has more to share on where we are.
QUESTION: Did he meet – was he both in Rangoon and Naypyidaw then, both?
MS. NULAND: I think he must have been. I don’t have that here, but we’ll confirm for you if that’s helpful to you.
QUESTION: Can you get that for us?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And just last thing, did he offer any assessment? I mean, when he was here and spoke to us the other day, he said that you guys weren’t even really sure about the number of political prisoners who were released as part of the general amnesty. So, one, do you now have a better handle on how many political prisoners you think were actually released? And two, did he offer any assessment of that sort of gesture in his talks with the Burmese authorities?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have specific details. I can assure you that the issue of political prisoners came up. I would guess that one of the things he was trying to do on this trip was ensure that we have a true and accurate picture of exactly who’s out and who is not out, and to continue the discussion about those folks that we want to see out.
QUESTION: And can you say – not guess; and if you can’t say it, don’t, but then if you would please try to get it for us – that one of the points that he made is the U.S. desire to see the release of all political prisoners so as to enable progress in the U.S.-Burmese relationship?
MS. NULAND: I have zero doubt that at every stop, he made the point that we want to see all political prisoners released.
MS. NULAND: Okay, (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. On Egypt, I saw the readout yesterday. President Obama called Egyptian interim leader Marshal Tantawi. It looks like the Egyptian side agreed on close cooperation against counterterrorism and other subjects. Was there a – press of freedom one of the talk? It looks like over the weekend, journalists (inaudible) quit his pro-revolution program.
MS. NULAND: You’re asking me if, in the President’s conversation, press freedom came up? I think you should ask that question of the White House.
QUESTION: Can you please give your assessment how do you see this increasing criticism from the protestors and Egyptians in terms of censorship and how it’s – it made a comeback to Egypt in recent weeks especially?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m going to take that. You’re talking with regard to press issues? I think I’m going to take that one, and we’ll get back to you on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: One more here.
QUESTION: With – going back to Russia, right now Speaker Boehner is delivering a speech calling out the Administration, saying it hasn’t done enough with regard to Russian foreign policy, specifically saying they’re trying to restore Soviet-style power. Should the U.S. pressure Russia more to return to pre-2008 borders with regards to Georgia, one? And secondly, should the U.S. do more to compel the Kremlin to curtail its relationship with Iran?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, both of these subjects are front and center in our dialogue with Russia at every level. You know where we are on Georgia. We recognize its sovereignty, its territorial integrity. We’ve been absolutely clear with Russia about that. This is an area where we have disagreement. As we always said with regard to reset, we will cooperate and work together where we can, but we will also be absolutely clear where we disagree. And this is one subject.
With regard to Iran, I think we do believe that we’ve had progress together in tightening sanctions on Iran. And this continues to be a subject in our bilateral dialogue – what we can do together, what we can each do to tighten the economic noose on Iran.
Thanks very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)
DPB # 161