1:26 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. We are late again. It seems to be our pattern this week. I apologize to all of you. We had some meetings upstairs which caused us to get a late start. I have one little thing at the top, and then we’ll go to your questions.
Let me just say at the top it is a sad day today in the State Department Bureau of [Public] Affairs because our dear deputy, Julie Reside, is retiring today after 36 years of service to the U.S. Government and 19 years, [including] as deputy, in the State Department Press Office. Julie has served 12 Secretaries of State. She joined the Press Office 19 years ago. She’s had to survive 11 different State Department spokespeople. She’s also been a mentor and a friend to a whole generation of State Department press officers of all ages and stages of their career, and we will miss her very much.
Just one anecdote. When I was first asked to take this job, I went and saw a lot of my predecessors and asked for advice. And the one piece of advice that each of them gave me was, “Just listen to what Mamma Julie says and do whatever she asks.” (Laughter.) And I have taken that advice very much to heart.
So, Julie, we’re going to miss you. We’re going to [soldier] on without you. We encourage you, as you move into retirement, not to watch the news and to enjoy your new role, not as Mamma Julie but as Grandmamma Julie and enjoy spending time with your grandchildren.
Okay. With that, let’s go --
QUESTION: On behalf of the press, we are going to miss Julie too, and we wish her every happiness in her new stage in life.
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that, Arshad. The press corps gave Julie a lovely gift yesterday, a beautiful frame with a picture of her grandsons in it, which I know was greatly appreciated.
Okay. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: The situation in Sarajevo.
MS. NULAND: The situation in Sarajevo, I think you know that we had an incident this morning. I just want to make sure I get it right, so I’m going to find my things here. We had an incident outside of our Embassy this afternoon in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Several bullets struck the outside wall of the Embassy building. The Embassy was immediately secured. The local police responded, and we were able to restore order. At least one policeman assigned to protect the Embassy was injured. All Embassy employees are now safe.
We want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the very swift response by local police, whose operations stopped the attack on the Embassy compound. And our thoughts and prayers at this time are with those who put their lives on the line to protect the Embassy.
QUESTION: What kind of damage was done?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we have some damage to the outside wall of the compound --
QUESTION: Just the wall? No windows? No nothing like that?
MS. NULAND: That’s my understanding.
QUESTION: You said that the Embassy is now secured. Does that mean that the gunman is in custody?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that he was initially taken to a medical facility. I don’t have any information further to that. But he was in police custody at that time.
QUESTION: He was captured?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Correct.
QUESTION: You understand he was working completely alone?
MS. NULAND: We only have information at the moment about one gunman. But again, there will be an investigation by the Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities, and we will obviously give our support to that.
QUESTION: Why to a medical facility? Was he hurt?
MS. NULAND: He was hurt at the time that he was taken from the site, is my understanding.
QUESTION: Do you know how badly? Or was he shot or --
MS. NULAND: I don’t know. I don’t know anything about his condition. I don’t.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: So a couple of things. One, do you have anything more to say about the Ennahda Party’s efforts to form a coalition and specifically on the violence that has erupted in the town where the Arab Spring began?
MS. NULAND: Well, first let me say that in Tunisia and certainly across the region, people have been demanding political change and the ability to form their own governments, so we were very pleased to see them have the chance that they had this week to vote for a constituent assembly and to move on with the process of democratic change.
As you note, Arshad, the Ennahda Party has won a large portion of the vote. That said, they have not won a majority. They are going to have to work in coalition with other parties. So this is going to be real politics. This is going to be what the Tunisian people want and deserve, which is an opportunity for the political process to reflect the views of Tunisians of all stripes and for a spirit of coalition building and compromise to be the norm.
And with regard to the violence, obviously we believe that neither the Tunisian people nor Tunisia’s future are served by the use of violence to achieve political ends, and we call on the Tunisian people to uphold their own society’s long tradition of tolerance and moderation, and to demonstrate with the same peaceful dignity and restraint that earned them the admiration of the region and the world just a few months ago.
QUESTION: How do you regard the initial signals that have been sent by the party since the official – since the results were announced? I mean, I know they don’t have a majority, but they have sent a number of signals, it seems to me, on both social and financial policy. On social policy, for example, they have said that they’ve tried to reassure the sort of secular groups in the country by saying that they have no intention to impose a Muslim sort of moral code nor to impose the wearing of headscarves. On the financial side, we have quoted a senior party official as saying that they’re likely to keep the finance minister and the central bank governor in place.
Are these good signs? Do they – are you pleased by those things?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we are pleased by any signals that all parties involved in the constituent assembly are going to respect the core principles of democracy. These are the terms on which we’re going to judge all parties, whether they’re in Tunisia or whether they’re elsewhere, who are joining a newly democratic process in the region. We want to see respect for free speech, freedom of expression, media tolerance of different views, obviously the renouncing of violence. So anything moving in that direction is positive, from our perspective.
QUESTION: But just to – anything on the financial side, on the sort of the continuity or the signals that they plan to maintain – one of the first things, for example, that one of the leaders did this week was he talked about the stock market and how he’s very pro stock market. I mean, are these – I ask not – I ask because it’s the first time in whatever 40 years that there will appear to be a democratically elected government in Tunisia, or at least one that didn’t 99 percent of the vote, and I’m therefore interested in your take or your initial assessment on whether you are sort of gratified by the signs that at least it appears that they are sort of pro capitalism, pro women’s rights, at least insofar as attire is concerned.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think obviously we’re pleased by this support for democratic principles, for economic openness, for opportunity, and we look forward to working with the new constituent assembly as it is seated and as it begins the important work of writing a new democratic constitution for Tunisia that guarantees the universal human rights of all and guarantees equal economic opportunity for Tunisian citizens. As you say, this is a very exciting new chapter in Tunisia’s history.
QUESTION: But you can’t get the stock market in there for Reuters, no? It’s always looking for something – he’s just looking for something that has stocks and markets in it. (Laughter.) That’s all he wants out of the quote. You can’t do that? Is it not ready? I mean, are you not ready to do that?
QUESTION: I appreciate Matt coming to my defense here – (laughter) – but that’s okay.
MS. NULAND: Said.
QUESTION: Victoria, are you concerned with the rise of Islamist parties or Islamists in the whole region? I mean, Ennahda being a moderate Islamic Party, but perhaps it could cause problems for U.S. policy down the road? Or are you reconciled to having to deal with Islamic parties, such as even the Muslim Brotherhood?
MS. NULAND: Said, let me just say that we’re not going to judge these parties, these groups, by what they’re called, we’re going to judge them by what they do. And what they need to do is support universal human rights, support democratic principles, support equal opportunity for all citizens, including women, support tolerance, diversity, unity. So that’s the basis on which we are going to judge all of these groups coming forward.
QUESTION: So would you like to see that the others facing Ennahda to form a coalition and actually maybe have a majority to sort of make sure that they keep them in check?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the middle of Tunisian coalition building. I think we’re just gratified that Tunisians have a chance to have real politics. The Secretary spoke to this a little bit yesterday in her testimony.
QUESTION: But you would like to see a coalition of different parties form a government.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously they’re going to have to be in coalition because no party has absolute majority. So it’s real politics for the first time in a long time in Tunisia, and that’s exciting.
QUESTION: Former president of Pakistan, General Musharraf, is in town. He was going around – he’s going around lobbying for his political future in Pakistan, which he has formed a new party. And he has been meeting influence of people in private and government from the U.S. Administration and others. He was speaking at the Carnegie, where he said that the current government in Pakistan is a failure and it’s the governance is failed and he’s the future in Pakistan. So what I’m asking you is which he’s lobbying here for the last several weeks and he will be here for some time to come – is he meeting somebody here in the State Department or getting any advice or any kind of – you think he has some kind of political future in Pakistan which he’s seeking support from here?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the fact that I am so not going to get into Pakistani internal politics. My understanding is that Mr. Musharraf has not been in the Department, but that some Department personnel have been at either the Carnegie event or some other events that he’s been at in town.
He is a private citizen. His views are his own obviously.
QUESTION: And also one more thing. He said at Carnegie that as far as his administration was for eight years, he had no knowledge of Usama bin Ladin in his backyard. And another thing was also he said that he had never signed any agreement with the United States to attack inside of Pakistan as far as Haqqani Network and other terrorist organizations are concerned. What do you have to say about this Haqqani Network now, which most of the Pakistani speakers coming here are defending that U.S. should not attack Haqqani Network because it was part of the 1979 that Mujahedeen went against the Soviets?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, my boss spoke to this extensively on the Hill yesterday, she spoke to it extensively last week. I don’t think I can improve on anything she’s been saying over the last week.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you give us more insight as to what the Secretary plans to achieve in Istanbul? Is it about promoting the New Silk Road Project, or urging countries not to interfere militarily and politically in Afghanistan – is it both?
MS. NULAND: Lach, we will have on Monday morning a background briefing on the Istanbul conference and then the road from Istanbul to the Bon conference in early December. So – which will set up our trip to Istanbul – Secretary’s trip to Istanbul on Wednesday. So I don’t want to get ahead of that, but I will say that this is a meeting co-hosted by Turkey and Afghanistan is my understanding and it will include all of Afghanistan’s neighbors and it is in support of the vision that we share with our Turkish allies, with Afghanistan, and with many of the countries bordering, that there is so much opportunity and prosperity to be had, not only for Afghanistan, but also for its neighbors. If they can come to a common political understanding, and if they can start working on the – on economic openness, on transportation, on these kinds of links. But again, I don’t want to get ahead of what our policy experts will have to say when we brief on this on Monday.
QUESTION: Just to follow up quickly. Yesterday, a general speaking directly from Afghanistan – he said that as well as peace and stability in Afghanistan is concerned, Pakistan’s cooperation and support are a must. And he said that --
MS. NULAND: Is – Pakistan’s support is what?
QUESTION: Support and cooperation – without Pakistan’s support and cooperation there cannot be stability and peace in Afghanistan. But also he said that Haqqani Network is the major dangerous problem across the border. What I’m asking you is, rather than depending only on Pakistan’s support, are you consulting other neighbors around in that area like India and others for peace in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, of course, we want all of Afghanistan’s neighbors to help support peace, stability, economic prosperity in Afghanistan not only for Afghanistan’s stake, but because increased political and trade relationships between India and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan will be good for the region, that all boats will rise. So that’s been a theme that the Secretary has been putting forward for a number of months now.
QUESTION: Weren’t you just in two of those neighbors last week?
MS. NULAND: We were just in two of those neighbors last week.
QUESTION: And wasn’t that pretty apparent?
MS. NULAND: It was. And it will be – it will be reinforced in Istanbul next week.
QUESTION: Madam, do you see --
MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think I – we’ve covered it.
QUESTION: -- easing of tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan now at this time?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, we really spent a lot of time on Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday in the hearing. We did it last week. I think you know where we are on these issues.
QUESTION: Yes, very quickly on the Quartet meeting. It is alleged that the Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat responded to a proposal – an American proposal – for a partial freeze of settlement – rejecting that. Could you confirm or deny that?
MS. NULAND: You’re getting into details that I’m not even sure are accurate at this moment. I think you probably saw the comments that were made by Quartet envoys after the meeting on October 26th, that our next step is to continue to work with the parties as they work on the next step of the proposal that the Quartet put forward in September, which is to work on comprehensive proposals for each other on territory and security. So we will be engaged intensively with each party as they prepare to exchange those, we hope within the 90-day period.
QUESTION: Could you share with us some of the information that – or of the discussion that took place between Ambassador Shapiro and the Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai regarding the settlements?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to get into Ambassador Shapiro’s diplomacy with his Israeli counterparts.
QUESTION: Okay. But did he discuss with him settlement activities?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to get into the details of Ambassador Shapiro’s discussions with his counterparts.
QUESTION: Okay. One last thing. It is alleged that Minister Yishai said that they will build one million units over the next 10 years. Are you aware of that report?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that particular report. I think you know where we are on settlement.
QUESTION: Where are we with the settlements?
MS. NULAND: Said, we’ve done this many, many times.
QUESTION: I mean, but – I’m sorry, but we keep – it’s like Groundhog Day. We keep stepping in the same puddle. So where we are at the settlement practically?
MS. NULAND: Our situation – our view on this hasn’t changed, and I don't think I need to repeat it here.
QUESTION: A couple of major press reports indicate that the U.S. is operating a drone facility out of Ethiopia. Even though the Pentagon and the White House will say that they’re simply cooperating with the Ethiopian Government in terms of various security programs, surveillance, intelligence, there’s nothing armed of that sense, what is the relationship, as far as the State Department is concerned, about what the U.S is doing with these drones in Ethiopia?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, our colleagues in the Pentagon made clear this morning that the United States does have an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, does have some of these at an Ethiopian facility as part of our partnership with the Government of Ethiopia to promote stability in the Horn of Africa and to combat terrorism. There are no U.S. military bases in Ethiopia.
We also have an intense partnership with the Ethiopian military, which includes the training of their peacekeeping troops, counterterrorism assistance, and professional development courses. And we are working together on a broad, sustained, and integrated campaign to counterterrorism. And in doing so, we are harnessing all tools of American power. So obviously, the Ethiopians themselves don’t have these advanced drone aircraft that can provide intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, so we support their counterterrorism efforts with these aircraft.
QUESTION: Is there any definitive way that the State Department can say that these UAVs would not be used for any sort of offensive mission, meaning they can be outfitted with hellfire missiles? Can the U.S. say that there is no agreement with Ethiopia that that sort of step would be taken? Is the relationship strictly about surveillance, intelligence gathering?
MS. NULAND: These drones are not equipped with offensive capability. These are ISR aircraft. And anything further, I think I’m going to refer you to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Well, how about this: What are they surveiling? Is this mainly for Somalia or can the Ethiopian Government use this to surveil its own enemies inside the country? As you know, it’s not exactly – it hasn’t been exactly stable. Can they use them to spy on the Eritreans?
MS. NULAND: These are designed for supporting the Ethiopian counterterrorism mission.
QUESTION: Can --
MS. NULAND: Here is Julie.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: You missed – (laughter, applause.) We’re going to miss you, Julie.
MS. RESIDE: I’m going to miss you.
QUESTION: You have been very helpful.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Ethiopia’s counterterrorism mission where? At home? Are these being used as – for – can Ethiopians use these to spy on their – on domestic dissidents, dissident groups?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no, but I’m going to refer you to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: The dominant threat to East Africa and to Western interests in East Africa is Somalia’s chronic instability and the terrorism threat that stems from Somalia.
QUESTION: Right, but as you’re aware, the part of Ethiopia that borders on Somalia is also home to domestic Ethiopian rebels. And I’m just wondering – I mean, are these things being used? Can Ethiopians direct them, say, “Hey, we want to check out these people over here,” and then --
MS. NULAND: I think you’re --
QUESTION: -- they’ll go and do that?
MS. NULAND: You’re now into things that are better directed to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Has the interim government in Somalia expressed any concerns about the establishment of this UAV facility at a civilian airport in Ethiopia?
MS. NULAND: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Quickly, Madam, on – as far as students --
QUESTION: On Somalia --
QUESTION: Stay on this, please.
QUESTION: Victoria, do you have – are you taking sides with the fight between the President of Somalia Sharif and the Prime Minister Abdiweli? Somebody – the prime minister supports the incursion by Kenyan troops and the president does not. So how do you see this panning out?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: I don't know where we are on this particular issue, but you do know that we are obviously supporting --
QUESTION: Supporting, yes.
MS. NULAND: -- Kenyan efforts.
QUESTION: Will there be any benefit to the U.S. approaching Somalia and telling them that this is their – I mean, if this is ostensibly to deal with any sort of security threat to Ethiopia, could it not be assumed that a similar security threat might be posed to the interim Somali Government, which has had its own difficulties staying in power?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have intensive counterterrorism cooperation with them as well, and all of these efforts are designed to enhance capabilities in the region to fight terror.
QUESTION: This was a direct invitation by the Ethiopian Government to the U.S. to send these drones there?
MS. NULAND: This is part of our cooperation, which we have discussed and worked through at length, and obviously has the support of the host government.
QUESTION: And do you have a time estimate for how long this mission is going to go on for?
MS. NULAND: I don’t.
QUESTION: Was this specifically aimed at dealing with the threat from al-Shabaab?
MS. NULAND: It is designed to deal with terrorism throughout the region and the neighborhood in any form.
QUESTION: So in other words, it could be used by the Ethiopians to go after their domestic foes or opposition?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re getting me beyond my --
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. You --
MS. NULAND: Can I – you’re getting me beyond my knowledge, and I think the knowledge base for this is in the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Right. But, I mean, the guidance that you have there says it can be used for any Ethiopian counterterrorism operation, and as --
MS. NULAND: The guidance I have here speaks of the importance of working together to combat terrorism in this region. So beyond that, I’m going to refer you to DOD.
QUESTION: Different question, quickly. Madam, as far as hundreds of Indian students so-called from the fake university, they were meeting there recently with the Homeland Security officials at the Indian Embassy. Are you aware of that, or is the State Department is – are they consulting with the State Department? What is the future now in the U.S.?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, we spoke about this on Wednesday. I would refer you to the conversation that we had on Wednesday. And as I said, we are working to help them to relocate, and we are obviously supporting the efforts of Department of Homeland Security in this effort.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: We understand that Ambassador Ford is meeting with the Secretary of State?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry – yes.
MS. NULAND: He met with her last night to give her his update on the situation in Syria, and they had a full and extensive exchange.
QUESTION: What is the status of what’s going on in Syria today?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’ve probably seen the same reports that we have. We have 31 new dead today, 25 killed yesterday, despite the urgent pleas from Arab League negotiators that the violence needs to end, that the heavy weapons need to be pulled out of the cities, that the arrest and the torture and the brutality needs to come to an end, that political prisoners have to be released, and that human rights monitors, including from the Arab world, should be allowed in. The violence continues and Syria does not appear to be listening.
QUESTION: Okay. Are the possible plans by Turkey to provide safe haven to defected soldiers – probably in the thousands, as they claim – is that the policy that the United States supports?
MS. NULAND: The Turks have spoken to this in the last 24 hours. I would refer you to them. But what they have been saying is that they provided humanitarian refuge across the border in these camps that we’ve spoken about many times to Syrians fleeing, that it is – they are not in the business of identifying one refugee from another refugee. Some of them may be defectors from the military, some of them may just be civilians at risk. So I don’t think there’s any particular policy here other than humanitarian relief for refugees.
QUESTION: But there’s a particular incident. A group of these soldiers actually went in, attacked Syrian soldiers and killed a number of them, then they retreated. What is the U.S. position on such action or activities?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve seen this press reporting. We’re not in a position to confirm it. I would refer you to the Turkish authorities.
QUESTION: But there have been reports that Beijing has even spoken out against this violence and has urged Asad’s regime to dial it back, as it were. Is that a welcome statement from Beijing, given its decision not to support the UN resolution?
MS. NULAND: Any stronger increasing pressure, political or economic, from our friends and allies around the world on this regime to start its -- stop its brutality is most welcome, including the recent statements from Beijing.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary or have -- or has the deputy spoken to any of their counterparts about this never-ending violence against the Syrian people in recent days?
MS. NULAND: In recent days, I do not know whether Syria has come up in conversations. I would expect that when we are in Istanbul to speak about Afghanistan, the Secretary will see a lot of her counterparts who are also quite concerned about Syria, and we will talk about it there. But as you know, she did have an extensive review of our concerns with regard to Syria when we were in New York and in some subsequent diplomacy thereafter and continues to take every opportunity to press colleagues to up the pressure politically and economically.
Anything else? Please, here.
QUESTION: Yeah. It was reported that an American official was quoted as saying that the number of military defected has almost reached 10,000 soldier and officer. Can you confirm that?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that particular report.
QUESTION: It was on the 27th in Washington Post, day before yesterday.
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what that was based on. We are obviously -- we share the view that an increasing number of Syrian military officers are asking themselves whether they want to fulfill the bloody orders of the Asad regime, and we are seeing an increasing number of defectors. With regard to the number you cite, I’m not in a position to verify that one way or the other.
QUESTION: The bloody orders of the Asad regime? That’s very good.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
QUESTION: Listen, having failed to get you to comment on the royal Bhutanese wedding a while back, I’m wondering --
MS. NULAND: I did love the pictures that you sent me, Matt. (Laughter.) I love a good royal wedding.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if you --
MS. NULAND: It’s a Friday. What are we going to get next.
QUESTION: -- if the former -- yeah -- if the former British colony has anything to say about the change in the --
MS. NULAND: The former British colony, meaning me?
QUESTION: Meaning the United States.
MS. NULAND: Yes. Yeah.
QUESTION: Meaning those 13 colonies back then.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: And the change in the succession rules for the British monarchy.
MS. NULAND: I have not seen that. I will look into that --
QUESTION: I would think the Secretary --
MS. NULAND: -- having a British mother myself.
QUESTION: The Secretary is big on women’s rights and that kind of thing, and I think she might want to say something about the fact that girls will now be allowed to --
MS. NULAND: Can you brief us? So tell us what you know, because I hadn’t heard this. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I would have thought that your Embassy to the Court of St. James might be up on this kind of thing.
MS. NULAND: I think they’re busy getting ready for the Secretary’s visit. So it’s now possible for --
QUESTION: Well, apparently it soon will be.
MS. NULAND: Excellent. Always good to do this before there is a grandchild on the way. All right.
QUESTION: So nothing? Does that mean that there’s nothing?
MS. NULAND: I have no official comment, because frankly, you caught me by surprise, Matt, on a Friday.
One last one in the back. Go ahead.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Well, the other day the North Korean envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, told reporters that Pyongyang would be prepared to halt uranium enrichment, but only if the U.S. gave concessions for such preliminary actions. But then in the meanwhile, Kim Jong-il has said that he would like to see Six-Party Talks resume without any preconditions. And I was just wondering if you had anything on the North Korean envoy’s comments.
MS. NULAND: Our position on this has not changed. We are not in a position of making unilateral concessions or any such thing. We made clear again when we saw the North Koreans in Geneva that we want to see progress in North-South dialogue, but we also need to see concrete steps along the denuclearization track, as we’ve discussed so many times here before. So we need to see concrete steps. We’re not in a let’s-make-a-deal place here.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)
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