1:46 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Good afternoon. Thanks for waiting. We had the Secretary’s meeting with the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, which made us a little bit late today. I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Could you update --
MS. NULAND: Well, I think what you’re referring to is that NATO had made a preliminary decision to end Operation Unified Protector on the 31st of October pending consultation with the TNC. Those consultations are now ongoing. Our understanding from our mission to NATO and from our Embassy is that the TNC may foresee a future role for NATO. Some things have been discussed like support for border security, support for demobilization, decommissioning of weapons, these kinds of things.
So those conversations are ongoing, and we just have to wait until we get to a stage where NATO makes a decision on where to go. But NATO does have quite a bit of experience, after the combat phase is over, in helping countries around the world, and particularly partner countries, to train and equip their own military, restructure, particularly in the decommissioning of weapons. NATO played this role in Afghanistan. So I think we need to let those conversations continue and see where they go.
QUESTION: Do you think that there was perhaps too much of a rush with the killing of Qadhafi for the Western world to essentially go ahead and try to pull out and let the Libyan people, as the President said last week, take over their country and start to build the kind of government that they want?
MS. NULAND: Well, just to remind that Operation Unified Protector, which was NATO’s – is NATO’s mission in Libya, was designed to support UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and the protection of civilians from the regime’s military. So I think a decision has to be made, obviously, about when the terms of the NATO mandate are complete, but that is a different matter than whether NATO might have some kind of a invitation to do other sorts of security support. And I think, again, those conversations are ongoing.
QUESTION: Is there – and finally for me, is there any sense that the end of the mandate will be declared on this coming Monday, October 31st?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think those conversations are going on in Brussels, they’re going on with the TNC, so let’s let them continue and then we’ll see where we go.
QUESTION: On Libya, officials in Niger are saying that the intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, is in the country, believed to be on the border areas with Algeria. Do you have any information on this?
MS. NULAND: I don’t, Brad. I’ve seen the same reports you have, but I don’t have any way to confirm.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the – your discussions with Niger’s government about maybe locating individuals who might be in the country and bringing them to the proper accountability in this case? I think he’s been indicted by the ICC.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have been in touch with all of Libya’s neighbors for – I think, it’s now a number of months at this stage – urging them, if they – first of all, to do what they can to protect their borders, but in the event that they do apprehend folks on the ICC list, to detain them, to begin a discussion with the TNC on the disposition of these people, and to ensure that they are working with the international community as well. So that’s been our message to Niger as well. As you know, we had some previous cases here, and I believe that those folks are still under house arrest in Niger, and that the conversations are still ongoing with the TNC.
QUESTION: But related to that --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- we are quoting a senior National Transitional Council official by name as saying that Mr. Senoussi and Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, both wish to surrender. Do you have anything to confirm that they are trying to surrender? And is there anything the United States could or would do to try to facilitate that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information myself, Arshad. I’m happy to take the question. If we have anything further this afternoon, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: And just lastly --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- again on Niger, have you had any conversations specific to – I guess it’s days of reports now that Senoussi might be in their territory? Have you had any conversation specific to his case?
MS. NULAND: It’s quite possible that our Ambassador has had conversations on the ground in Niger. As you know, she’s been in regular contact with the authorities as they’ve tried to grapple with those they already have in detention. I can’t confirm one way or the other, but I would guess that we’re having an ongoing conversation with them about these issues.
QUESTION: Are you aware or can you comment on reported fissures and differences between the rebels on the ground – field rebels on the ground – and the TNC? We saw some of the rebels, the military rebels on the ground, telling Arab news stations that they may run the political show, but we have our own agenda and we will enforce what we want. Can you comment on that and do you have any reports on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think when the Secretary was in Libya with all of the interlocutors that she met with, they were again speaking about their primary focus now – on unifying the country, on moving to the next step politically, which involves broadening the base of the governing group to make an interim government that truly represents as many groups in Libya as possible, including groups that were part of the liberation of the country who might not have originally been included in the TNC. So that’s very important.
But the other thing that’s very important is to try to consolidate the security forces under national authority, and the TNC is working on that, and including on the issue of getting rid of and demobilizing excess weaponry. But again, this goes to the issue of all Libyans feeling like they have a place in the new Libya that we’ve been talking about. So that’s why it’s important to begin moving to these next steps politically and in terms of security.
QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, is there coordination between, let’s say, NATO and commanders on the ground – Libyan commanders, military commanders on the ground? Or is that done with the TNC?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know that NATO has a dialogue ongoing with the TNC, but NATO does not have boots on the ground, so --
QUESTION: I understand, but who do they coordinate with in the field? Because --
MS. NULAND: I think that’s a question --
QUESTION: What guarantees that these guys don’t run their own show, so-to-speak?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think in terms of the specific communications channels between NATO commanders and those who were fighting, I would refer you to NATO. They’re going to have better information. But I think we all have an interest in the international community, as we’ve said and as the TNC has said, in ensuring that the security structure that emerges is a unified one and protects the security and the peace of all the citizens of the country.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the question about Saif al-Islam and Senoussi surrendering?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There were some reports that – quoting TNC officials saying that they were prepared to turn themselves over to the ICC. Are you in touch with the ICC about this, and have you inquired with the TNC whether or not – where they’re hearing this from?
MS. NULAND: Kirit, as I said at the outset, I don’t have any particular confirmation about the disposition at the moment of Senoussi or of Saif. If we have anything further late today, we will get back to you. I think you know where we have been with the TNC, which is to urge them that this – these – if when these are – these guys are apprehended, when any Libyans with blood on their hands are apprehended, that they be treated in a manner that is just and meets international standards, and that they also make clear to the international community how they intend to meet those standards.
As you know, under the ICC obligations, ICC is available when countries cannot prosecute to appropriate standard themselves. There is the option to do it either in country or at the ICC, so that’s a conversation that’s going to have to happen between the TNC and the international community.
QUESTION: Okay. I was just curious whether you actually called the ICC to find out or whether you’re inquiring with NTC about what they’re quoting – being quoted as saying.
MS. NULAND: It is possible that Ambassador Cretz has been in conversation today, but again, I don’t have any specific information to confirm.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Are we finished with Libya? Still on Libya.
QUESTION: Very quickly.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So you do urge from this podium – you urge the TNC that if Saif al-Islam is caught, to be treated as a prisoner of war until there is such a time where he can be turned over to a sort of any kind of criminal justice?
MS. NULAND: We do urge that all those detained on the battlefield be treated in accordance with international law and the highest standards of justice.
QUESTION: Victoria, do you have any information as to what has become of the letter that was sent by Algeria to the UN Security Council to explain why they have decided to receive family members of Qadhafi?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that they sent the letter to the Security Council as they were required to do because some of these guys were on the ICC list, but they are in continuing discussions with the TNC about the options for appropriate venue for justice and terms for justice for these guys. And I think the UN Security Council is waiting to hear what the final outcome of those discussions are.
Anything else on Libya?
Okay. Jill, please.
QUESTION: There’s this report about the State Department buying a total of $70,000 worth of books written by the President and giving them to libraries around the world, giving them as gifts. Do you have any comment about that or explanation as to how that happened?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me say that for decades we’ve had a program where our embassies overseas have used books to engage key audiences in discussion about U.S. policy, our system, our foreign policy. And in fact, for decades every embassy has had its own budget to buy books on U.S. history, culture, politics, which they can either put in embassy libraries or they can give to host country libraries or they can give to their contacts to try to deepen understanding of the United States. But it’s the embassies themselves that make the decisions what American books to buy, and they make these decisions based on the interest in the country where they are. But these are not decisions that are made in Washington and they’re not decisions that are directed by Washington. And finally, I would say that all of these book purchases are done in strict accordance with government procurement standards. The records are available for anybody to see.
QUESTION: The people who are critical of this would say that it has not been done for previous presidents. Is that correct? And then also, even if the motives were worthy, it doesn’t look good to have taxpayer dollars, they would say, being spent on books written by the President of the United States, who then would earn royalties on those books.
MS. NULAND: Well, first, I think if you went through some of these embassy libraries and some of the lists over these decades, you’re going to find books in these libraries from administration figures from both political parties. And as I said, this is a longstanding practice to allow embassies to buy books, to put them out in libraries, put them out – give them to contacts, which they think will help deepen understanding of the U.S. political system, of U.S. political figures and leaders, of U.S. history, U.S. culture. So this is standard practice, and it’s designed to help the world understand us better. And it is conducted in a bipartisan manner and with full transparency.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: The Quartet meeting, can you update us on the Quartet meeting?
MS. NULAND: I had hoped to, Said, and in fact, I’d even promised you yesterday that I would.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Right.
MS. NULAND: What I didn’t count on is that the meetings are ongoing, that they have only had some of their meetings today, they have an evening meeting, and then the Quartet itself has to evaluate what it heard. So I think we’re going to have to kick this one until we have some more information. I do expect that the Quartet itself will put out some kind of a statement when it concludes the round, which may be this evening, may be tomorrow, may be the day after. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: Did you get any information on the alleged proposal made by the United States to both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the day – for – beginning tomorrow --
MS. NULAND: Said, can you start the sentence again? I couldn’t hear you.
QUESTION: Do you have any more information on an alleged proposal made by the Administration to both the Israelis and the Palestinians to start direct negotiations in the next day or two, that calls for a partial freeze on settlements in the West Bank and in Jerusalem?
MS. NULAND: I do not have any additional information on that.
QUESTION: What meetings have been held so far?
MS. NULAND: I actually did not bring my schedule downstairs. My recollection is that the Quartet envoys themselves met first this morning, that at midday there was a meeting, Quartet envoys with the Israeli envoy, and that the evening meeting is with the Palestinian envoy. But if that is not correct, we will correct it for you.
QUESTION: And is there any possibility of additional meetings between the Quartet and separately with the Israelis or separately with the Palestinians occurring tomorrow, or do you expect this to get wrapped up today, however late it runs?
MS. NULAND: I asked this question earlier today. I think the expectation is that the meetings will be completed today, but I think if there is an interest and a desire on the part of parties or Quartet members, there is the option to continue tomorrow.
QUESTION: And is there any expectation of a meeting between the parties, which, of course, is what was called for in the September 23rd Quartet statement?
MS. NULAND: As of this moment, there is not an expectation of that for this round.
QUESTION: Can you describe what the U.S. is doing at UNESCO to try to avoid either having to cut off money or prevent the Palestinians from taking this to a vote?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we are doing the same kind of individual and bilateral consultation privately that we’ve been doing publicly in terms of explaining why we think this is absolutely the wrong way to go, that we are not going to create a Palestinian state at UNESCO, that it can only be created by the parties sitting down and working through their issues, that there are consequences if UNESCO votes in this direction, as we have discussed. And we have concerns about our ability to continue to participate and our ability to be – to ensure that UNESCO has the full benefit of U.S. support.
QUESTION: Is there any – are there any ways that you could give the Palestinians some sort of different status at UNESCO without having to cut off funds?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve made the point that there are very clear redlines in U.S. legislation and that if those are crossed in UNESCO that the legislation is triggered. So I don’t want to get ahead of decisions at UNESCO, but I think we’ve been absolutely clear about our concerns.
QUESTION: And finally, what – how many other UN agencies are you worried about the Palestinians taking their case to?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve made the point that we don’t think this is appropriate in any of the UN agencies. In addition to our concern that you don’t create a Palestinian state inside UN agencies, as I said about UNESCO, you only create it at the negotiating table between the parties, we also have this UN Security Council review of the Palestinian request. So that is ongoing. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to us that before the Security Council, governing body of the UN, has made its own conclusions that you’d have actions in constituent agencies of the UN.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you --
QUESTION: You would not be opposed to, let’s say, UNESCO discharging its responsibilities for possible sites under the Palestinian Authority, do you?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. I didn’t understand the question, Said.
QUESTION: I said, you do – you are not opposed to UNESCO discharging its responsibilities for possible sites that are currently under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, do you?
MS. NULAND: We have supported – as fully functioning members of UNESCO, we have supported UNESCO programs in the Palestinian Authority, and the 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget paid by the United States also supports those projects.
QUESTION: So why then --
QUESTION: Just to go the point that you made, you made this point about how there is this matter that is still pending before the Security Council and how odd it is to – for UN agencies to proceed while that is still under review. But is that not a foregone conclusion, given your own statement at the podium that the United States will veto?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the UN has a process ongoing in the Security Council. That process has not played itself out. We don’t know at what stage the review that is ongoing by the Security Council will come to member states for consideration. So the point we’re trying to make here is that that ought to be the governing process for the UN at this stage. We shouldn’t have parallel processes in constituent agencies.
QUESTION: But you’ve already said what the outcome of that process will be, which is to say that the U.S. Government, should it come before the Security Council, will veto. So there is, to me, an intrinsic logical inconsistency in your position, given that the U.S. Government has, itself, made up its mind what will be the ultimate outcome of the UN process if it comes to a vote.
MS. NULAND: But I think you’re prejudging where we’re going to get in the UN process. We have made a statement about where – how we will vote if it comes to a vote, but that process is ongoing, and so you are assuming that that is where it leads.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, if it leads to a vote, you’re going to veto it. I didn’t prejudge that, you prejudged that.
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think I can take this any further than what I’ve said and what the Secretary’s also said. We can’t create a Palestinian state that is stable, secure, a good neighbor to Israel and with Israel unless we do it at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Then what --
MS. NULAND: Added to that, we want to see this process play out in the Security Council before there’s any action in the constituent agencies. Doesn’t make any sense to us.
QUESTION: Victoria --
QUESTION: One other thing on this, if I may.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: One other thing that the Secretary has said, and relatively recently, is that she raised the possibility of the Administration talking to the Hill about seeking waivers that might permit the U.S. Government to continue funding UN agencies that it deems to be vital. The ones that she mentioned in that case were the IAEA, the FAO – I forget the third, but there was a third one. Is the Secretary or is the Administration giving any thought to seeking waivers that would allow for continued funding at UNESCO? Or is UNESCO not of – in that category?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I think you’re getting ahead of where we are. We are still at the stage of discouraging our partners from supporting this move in UNESCO. Second, I’d be interested in the statement that you’re citing. My memory of the reference that the Secretary made with regard to other agencies was – went as follows: that UNESCO does extremely important work, it does work with regard to cultural heritage, which we support and which we want to continue to support. The concern is if this move in constituent agencies were to mushroom and you were to go on to agencies like the World Health Program like some of these others and the U.S. were put in a position of the legislation triggering and us not being able to participate anymore, you could actually have lives lost if these agencies were not fully funded. So, I think that was the way she was going with her thinking. Anyway, I think we – you know where we are on the UNESCO thing and we’re hoping that it doesn’t come to this.
QUESTION: Can I just ask about the bilateral talks that you were describing? You’re essentially going to sovereign nations and explaining to them the consequences of this UNESCO vote and also how there is U.S. congressional legislation. How receptive are countries around the world to the idea that how they view this matter should be somehow determined by U.S. congressional legislation?
MS. NULAND: I think that as we talk about this we talk about it in the context of our larger effort, all of us in the international community, to support the Palestinian aspiration for a state, the Israeli aspiration to live side-by-side with its neighbor in peace and security, recognized, stable. And we put it in the context of the best option being the negotiating table. So – and then from there we talk about the serious potential effect on these constituent agencies if U.S. legislation is triggered. Because we do believe that UNESCO and these other agencies do important work.
So we’re explaining and making sure countries understand the impact on our own potential participation, and that they’re weighing that as they consider whether this is actually helpful in UNESCO to make this move now, when where we really need to be is supporting and pushing the parties towards direct talks.
QUESTION: Now when you talk to them and you hope to explain to them why this is damaging, do you also learn from them why they think – this being the majority of the world’s countries – that a Palestinian vote for statehood is not a damaging process, that it can actually help the peace process? Or is it solely the U.S. goes there to teach school to the silly people out there in the world why it’s right?
MS. NULAND: Brad, whenever we have a bilateral encounter we are talking and we’re listening and we’re exchanging views. We want to make sure that countries who are considering this understand the potential implications for us and for the organization affected.
QUESTION: And has the U.S. taken anything from any of these bilateral meetings that has in any way changed its view of how this process should be played out?
MS. NULAND: You’re saying have our meetings with these countries changed our view about whether our own legislation might be triggered by this?
QUESTION: No. Whether this UN process, either at the Security Council or at one of the specialized agencies is, indeed, so damaging to the peace process.
MS. NULAND: I think our fundamental view that the way to get a Palestinian state that is stable and secure is at the negotiating table has not been changed. What we’re trying to do is make sure that countries understand the full range of consequences if we go in some of these other directions.
QUESTION: Just a clarification. Thank you. According to – I’m interested in how that legislation would work. In other words, if they were to take this vote, the U.S. would have to stop funding, correct?
MS. NULAND: There is legislation that speaks to the continuation of U.S. support for UN agencies. Again, we would have to review exactly what happened before we were able to determine whether legislation was triggered, and we’ve made that clear as well. So unless and until we see what is actually done at UNESCO, I don’t want to predict ultimately where the U.S. ends up. But we have been making clear to countries that this legislation is on the books, that it is U.S. law, and that we’ll have to make a legal determination whether it’s been triggered.
QUESTION: And is there anything in that aside from the money part of it that would require the United States to pull out of an agency? Or is it just a funding mechanism? And if it is just funding, could the U.S. stay within an organization without paying?
MS. NULAND: I don’t want to walk through all the what-ifs. Our lawyers are going to have to look at this if we get to that stage. So why don’t we leave it that we hope this is a bridge that we’re not going to have to cross. And if we do have to cross it, we’ll be prepared to speak about what our legal conclusions are about what the U.S. is required to do.
QUESTION: Yes, Toria. In her new book, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks about a lost opportunity. They were almost there to clinch the deal. Before that, the Clinton Administration – before that Secretary of State Baker basically said the same thing. Are you concerned that a few years from today you’ll look back at this particular time and say the lost time and go through some sort of a tenuous process of negotiations again?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you made clear, Said, the U.S. has been working across many administrations to support a peace process for many decades. And I think it’s incumbent on each administration, each president, and each secretary of state to do all we can, and that’s what we are endeavoring to do today. But I certainly can’t get out my crystal ball and tell you how –
QUESTION: No. I guess not.
MS. NULAND: -- we’ll feel about it ten years from now.
QUESTION: Can I just go back – I just have to clarify –
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify something that Arshad asked. So are you seeking the waiver? Or are you waiting to see what happens in the UNESCO vote before you seek that waiver?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not going to make a legal determination about what is triggered here and what kinds of conversations we have to have until we see what is done.
QUESTION: But you’ve told everybody at UNESCO that you’re going to have to cut off money. I mean, that’s what you –
MS. NULAND: We’ve told them that we are concerned that certain actions taken there could trigger this legislation and could leave us no choice.
MS. NULAND: From the Indian Ambassador?
QUESTION: Yeah. On the Indian students studying in the Tri-Valley University?
MS. NULAND: She has, and we are reviewing that letter, and we intend to answer it.
QUESTION: How do you respond to the sense among the section of Indian students who now feel that the way they have been treated at the Tri-Valley is not justified? They have not been – has not been reasonably treated. A number of them are on the verge of going back.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, as you know, for those of you who don’t know this issue, we had a pretty horrible visa scam, where a fake university petitioned and got visas for a bunch of students to come over and then actually turned out not to be a real educational institution. So we did take action, federal authorities closed down Tri-Valley University on January 11th, and we’ve also been working very hard, as we have told Indian authorities, to try to find other places in the U.S. for these students who got scammed. So as of October 19th, 435 of the 1,500 former Tri-Valley University students were approved to be processed for transfer to other universities. And of the remaining cases, some students we’re not going to be able place, but we’re continuing to work on this issue.
QUESTION: As you rightly said, this was a visa scam. Naturally, visas are being issued by the State Department officials. So has there been investigations into what went wrong within the State Department itself?
MS. NULAND: Well, we issue visas on the basis of documentation that we get from institutions in the United States. So when we became aware of this, we turned it over for judicial review, and as I said, this scamming institution has now been closed down by U.S. justice authorities.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) into it, do you know, before you turned it over for judicial review? Isn’t that part of their purview, to make sure that –
MS. NULAND: I do believe that we were involved in the first instance. Let’s see. The U.S. Department of State, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service have examined these individual cases, were involved in the busting of this group.
QUESTION: And isn’t that a relatively large – I mean, I think you said it was something like 1,500.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: That’s a lot.
MS. NULAND: It is a lot.
QUESTION: That’s big.
MS. NULAND: It is big. It is big.
QUESTION: During the U.S. and North Korea talks in Geneva, and do you have any information about this, about, like, if they talk about food aid to North Korea or separate families or even human right issue?
MS. NULAND: We spoke about this for about half an hour yesterday. So I would just refer you to the conversation that we had yesterday. We had a very full review of the conversations in Geneva.
Please. Bret, and then Samir.
MS. NULAND: There were.
QUESTION: -- overnight. I take it President Saleh has not signed the GCC compromise yet.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And the cease-fire hasn’t taken hold.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: How disappointed are you? And will there be more efforts to really get the Yemeni president to implement these commitments he’s made?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are concerned. As I said yesterday, after – when we reported on the meeting between President Saleh and Ambassador Feierstein, we were pleased by the statements he made, both about the GCC – his intention to sign the GCC agreement and the ceasefire he called, but we said that the proof would be in the pudding. So we haven’t yet tasted a good pudding.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the Secretary’s meeting with the foreign minister of Bahrain? What’s the purpose? Is it the commission that postponed the release of the report? Or the sale of military equipment? I mean, can you tell us anything?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. The Secretary met with Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa just before I came down, the foreign minister of Bahrain. They discussed the full range of issues that we have together, including they had a detailed discussion of the upcoming release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report. And the foreign minister assured her that the government would take the report very seriously and would, in fact, establish an implementing committee. And the Secretary obviously underscored our view that this is a very important commission. The fact that it is independent, the fact that its work will be transparent, is not only important for Bahrain, but it’s important for the cause of reform throughout that region.
QUESTION: Did she express any concern about the prosecution of doctors who are treating some of the wounded protestors?
SECRETARY CLINTON: She did talk about – they did talk about the full range of human rights issues, including the military trials. As you know, the Bahraini Government has now committed to retry those cases in civilian court, and the Secretary underscored how important that is.
QUESTION: Sorry, can you clarify a little bit? You said they did talk about it. Can you explain what her message was with regard to those cases, human rights cases and the treatment of protestors during the uprising?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, she’s made very clear throughout, we have made very clear throughout, that we had concerns here that we wanted to see the Bahraini Government take action, the commission of inquiry being one step. Another step that they have now taken is to move these cases which were tried initially in a military construct back into civilian court and to commit to retrying them. So these are very important steps, and the Secretary underscored that they need to follow through on them.
QUESTION: And what did they say about the arms sale, proposed arms sale?
MS. NULAND: We have spoken extensively about the arms sale here before. They obviously talked about it. The foreign minister has been up on the Hill talking to members of Congress as well. And I’ll leave it to them to share their view on this, but the Secretary’s position hasn’t changed. These are – this is equipment that we have notified to the Congress for use for the external security of Bahrain. And this speaks to the work that we are trying to do with the Gulf countries – all of them. And you saw this in New York, the GCC plus U.S. forum, to increase interoperability, increase – harden the defenses of these countries against external threat.
So obviously that conversation was had, but also the Bahrainis know that we have human rights standards attached to these sales, and the actual transfer decisions are pending.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary satisfied with the steps that the Government of Bahrain has taken thus far to investigate the allegations of human rights violations in Bahrain over the last eight months?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the thrust of the conversation, the thrust of our message to Bahrain over some months, including when the crown prince was here, was that the – not only the Bahraini people but the international community and certainly the United States are waiting eagerly for the release of the results of the independent commission of inquiry, which will be out, we understand, on November 23rd; and that this will really be a litmus test of transparency and accountability for what happened in Bahrain and what – and particularly how the government chooses to deal with what is reported will also be important.
QUESTION: But it doesn’t address the underlying question, which is to say whether the U.S. Government believes that, based on its own information, that there were significant, severe human rights violations and whether her conversation had anything to do with the underlying facts and events that have been reported, including by NGOs and rights groups. It’s almost as if – and I’m trying to get at what she may have said about the U.S. Government’s belief in what actually has transpired, rather than just how the Bahraini Government should deal with the allegations in retrospect. I mean, if you believe that there were human rights violations, is it simply enough that you investigate them later, or is there not some other message that the U.S. Government should perhaps make to its friend and ally about the underlying propriety of human rights violations.
So to summarize, do you believe that human rights violations occurred in Bahrain based on the work of the U.S. Embassy, and did the Secretary address the underlying question of any such violations in her conversation with the foreign minister today?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I don’t think that it’s any secret that we have had concerns, which is why we both encouraged and supported an independent investigation, which Bahrain has undertaken. It is the first time that they have done such a thing, so it sends a very good signal.
This investigation, we hope, will speak not only to individual incidents but also to systemic changes that can be made to prevent future such abuses. And we will look not only for a full, transparent, independent report, but also for the government to take steps to redress shortcomings that are found. So that’s the thrust of the conversation that we’ve been having.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. --
QUESTION: One more on the arms sale real quick. Is there any concern about Bahrain’s use – and again, external to Bahrain – use of any of that equipment in their mutual defense agreements that they have in the region? For example, when Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain earlier this year, they were used to put down the protests. Is there any concern that if they were to use any of that equipment for a similar purpose in a neighboring country?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have spoken about this before, Kirit, when we talked about – on the day that we notified. Whenever we do an arms sale, we also have to negotiate an end user agreement. So that has yet to be done in the Bahrain case with regard to these sales. And that allows us, in cases all around the world, to be able to go back if we feel that equipment that we have sold is not being used for purpose, to go back and have those conversations with the government.
So one of the things that has not yet happened in this case is to have the end user conversation. But obviously, we’re always concerned that the equipment be used for purpose.
QUESTION: And – but specifically, can you say whether in that agreement you, the United States Government, would like to have some assurance from the Bahrainis about that specific point?
MS. NULAND: We – as I said, this equipment is being sold for external defense. I’m not going to get into the details of – or the specifics of chapter and verse of what we’re going to ask for. But the end user conversation we have to have will be about ensuring that that is, in fact, the use.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. trust Bahrain to do the right thing, to live up to its promises, to follow what’s in the commission report and then to actually implement the changes. Does the U.S. trust Bahrain? I mean, this seems to be a case of there’s not some trust there.
MS. NULAND: We supported the establishment of this commission, which is the first time Bahrain has done such a thing. We are looking to see a high-quality report from the commission, a transparent process. We’re also looking to see the Government of Bahrain act on and implement the recommendations and the findings of the commission, so that’s the conversation that we had today.
QUESTION: I just wonder if this external defense element really has much meaning at a time when Syria is committing abuses against foreign conspirators in its own words, Bahrain was fighting Iranian-backed revolt in its view, Libya the same. It seems that in a lot of these countries and tumult, the argument is constantly being made that it’s foreign elements that are trying to stir up trouble. So these countries would find it justifiable, presumably, to use whatever equipment you’re giving them on the notion that it’s external defense. Am I wrong?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we reject the Syrian Government’s assertions that these weapons that they’re turning on their own people are being turned on external provocateurs. Our view is that they’re being turned on peaceful protestors. As I said, we have to have an end user discussion with the Bahrainis. We will have that end user discussion. You know why we feel that this sale should have been notified. It’s about external defense. So obviously, those are the kinds of reassurances you look for in an end user conversation.
QUESTION: But earlier this year --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to go further than that, though, because it’s the Department of Defense’s deal.
QUESTION: Okay. We’re going back, not further. Earlier this year when Bahrain used force to quell protests, that was, in their view, an external issue. Would the U.S. have disagreed?
MS. NULAND: Brad, we’re now parsing this thing as finely as sausage here. I think I’ve covered where we are on this issue with Bahrain.
QUESTION: I don’t know whether you had a chance to see what Representative Peter King said today about the Iranians.
MS. NULAND: I didn’t. What did he say?
QUESTION: Oh, well, he believes that Iranian officials working in the U.S. should be expelled because many of them are spies, and he says they ought to be expelled from the United Nations as well as in Washington.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we don’t have any Iranian diplomats in Washington because we don’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. Iran is represented by Pakistan as the interest section power in the same way that we are represented by the Swiss in Tehran.
With regard to New York, they’re there under UN auspices. And we’ve spoken about this before – as the host nation for the UN, we have certain obligations to allow diplomats from all countries accredited to the UN to serve there.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes, Victoria. Prince Nayef is getting ready to assume his position as crown prince, and being young in his early 80s, he might – he may very well be the king. And he’s known for very sort of austere Wahhabist positions – being against women, being virulently against the Shia minority. And are you concerned that some of their reforms that have been introduced by King Abdullah in the last 12, 14, 15 months may be rolled back as a result of that?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start with the fact that we have very strong and enduring relations with the kingdom, that we have been supportive of and encouraged by the reforms that the king has undertaken. And I’m certainly not going to get into getting out my crystal ball with regard to futures.
QUESTION: But Mr. Prince Nayef’s positions are well known. I mean, he’s – this is the guy that said that September 11 was the result of a Zionist Israeli conspiracy, and that kind of rhetoric he’s used all along, a very conservative --
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think there’s any question where the United States stands on these kinds of issues.
QUESTION: I’m saying – but – well, I guess the question is: Are you concerned that these reforms might be rolled back as a result of him becoming the crown prince?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I want to go any further than today’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is strong, and the king is moving in a reformist direction, which we have encouraged.
QUESTION: Just to clarify what I had asked about earlier, in an interview a couple of weeks ago, the Secretary, with regard to the question of UNESCO and other UN agencies, said --
MS. NULAND: Where – when was this, where?
QUESTION: I can – it was an interview with us. I was not trying to make that point. But she said, “There are those on the Hill and elsewhere who say, well, UNESCO deals with cultural stuff; what’s the difference? Well, I think there are some significant problems if this begins to cascade. What happens with the International Atomic Energy Agency? What happens with the World Health Organization? What happens with the Food and Agriculture Organization? Not only do we provide 20 to 25 percent of all the funding that these organizations get, but our membership in them is in our self interest. I mean, it’s not anything to do with supporting the Palestinians or supporting the Israelis; it’s supporting the health of Americans, stopping pandemics, getting food into the Horn of Africa, holding Iran’s nuclear program accountable. So I am strongly making the case to members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions.”
And so she didn’t use the word “waivers,” but as you well know, the way Congress typically provides flexibility to an Administration is it provides waiver authority for the President to certify that certain things are in the U.S. national interest, and therefore, the President can waive the application of the law in a particular circumstance.
So the key question to me is – and you may still not be willing to answer it – but whether there is any consideration being given to the possibility of such a waiver or of such flexibility for the Administration to continue to fund UNESCO if it is – if it ends up having to go down this path?
MS. NULAND: I think the stage that we’re at now is to hope that we don’t get to that step.
QUESTION: Do you have a preview of what the Secretary is planning to stress during her remarks before the House Armed Services Committee tomorrow?
MS. NULAND: Well, she’s testifying on Afghanistan and Pakistan, so I think you’ll hear her strike many of the themes that she struck on her recent trip and report to the Congress on that trip and on the road forward. By the way, we will not brief here tomorrow because traditionally, we don’t brief when the Secretary has a full hearing on the Hill.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering about Ambassador Ford, what contacts you’ve had with the Syrian Government to try to get him back there.
MS. NULAND: Well, the Syrian Government obviously knows where we stand. We have made absolutely clear privately, as we have publicly, that we expect them to stop the incitement, stop the attacks on him in state-sponsored media. We do intend for Ambassador Ford to go back, and when he does go back, we expect the Syrian Government to do a better job of meeting their Vienna Convention obligations to keep him safe and to keep all of our personnel safe.
QUESTION: Do you know their timeframe?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say that he’s bought his Thanksgiving turkey for his Embassy staff and he wants very much to have a Thanksgiving dinner for his folks there. So that’s our expectation. It’ll be some time before Thanksgiving.
QUESTION: But he’s physically here?
MS. NULAND: He’s here. He’s here. Yep.
QUESTION: Just – so he will be available for interviews?
MS. NULAND: He is having internal consultations, and he is also seeing his family, which he hasn’t had a chance to do for many months. So I think we’re going to let him do that.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, India?
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ambassador --
QUESTION: Go right ahead. No, no.
MS. NULAND: Samir is such a gentlemen that he always gets overrun by others.
QUESTION: Did you get any information about the results of the Arab League meeting with Asad today?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a report on the Arab League meeting. I don’t know that they have come out and said anything publicly. I’d just quickly check, but I think we don’t have anything yet.
QUESTION: Is there any change from – sorry. Are you checking, or are you done?
MS. NULAND: I’m done. Thank you.
QUESTION: Is there any change in the State Department’s assessment that was expressed on Monday morning that there are credible threats to Ambassador Ford’s safety?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further to say than what we said on Monday. We had an extensive review of what we were concerned about on Monday.
QUESTION: Just further on that, the statement as well on Monday said his return depends on the Syrian state government-backed incitement campaign. I don't have the exact wording, but “depends” was definitely in there. So --
MS. NULAND: Are you talking about the statement out of our Embassy in Damascus, which --
QUESTION: No. I’m talking about the statement that was out of this building here.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I think we will make our decisions about when he goes back, and when he goes back we expect the Syrian Government to meet their security obligations.
QUESTION: So it doesn’t depend on that, then?
MS. NULAND: We’ll make our own decisions when it’s appropriate for him to go back.
QUESTION: This week, an Indian military chopper entered Pakistani airspace. Pakistani authorities forced – landed that chopper, but allowed it to return, preventing the incident from blowing into another crisis, given the history of – between the two countries. How important it is that the two countries should prevent such incidents? And how do you see Pakistan’s reaction to this?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s obviously very, very important. My understanding is this was actually, as these things go, a relatively good news story, that as a result of the increased dialogue between India and Pakistan and the fact that they have reestablished some hotlines and emergency procedures, they were able to speak directly, thereby avoiding an incident. So that’s a very, very good step, and the kind of step – and the kind of progress we hope to see continue.
QUESTION: And secondly, would you like to say something about the outcome of Secretary Clinton’s visit to Pakistan? How do you describe the state of affairs, relations between the two countries after her visit?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I spoke about it extensively on Monday and Tuesday, and she’s going to speak about it on the Hill tomorrow, so I think we’ll leave it there.
Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)
DPB # 162