12:45 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. We have nothing at the top. So let’s go right to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Well, so before we get any questions, I’d like to, on behalf of the press corps, pass on our condolences to the Secretary for the loss of her mother overnight. I hope you can relay that to her.
MS. NULAND: We absolutely will. Thank you very much for that. I’m sure she will be gratified to receive your condolences.
QUESTION: How do you really feel, Matt?
QUESTION: -- Israel hasn’t – that’s the U.S. position, I think. Israel hasn’t fallen into the sea. It doesn’t look like thousands of Palestinians have descended on Israel waiving little UNESCO flags. I don’t think that you can say that Israel’s security has been affected at all by this, and I’m wondering if it’s still your position that this was bad for – and this hurt the peace – the efforts to bring the two sides back to the table.
MS. NULAND: Our position on this hasn’t changed. We think that this was the wrong move at the wrong time, and we’ve made that view clear, we made it clear yesterday, and our view hasn’t changed overnight.
QUESTION: So are you aware that the Palestinians have said now that they are going to go to the other UN – the cascade effect that you spoke about yesterday that you were worried about, it looks like that is going to happen. So is this Administration prepared to isolate itself from the UN system simply because the Palestinians are going to continue to try to get membership in these organizations?
MS. NULAND: We have made absolutely clear to the Palestinians, we’re making clear to our partners around the world, that we oppose continuing this effort in other UN organizations, and we are prepared to maintain our same position if this comes up in other places.
QUESTION: So – wait, hold on. In fact, I was wrong. Something – one thing has changed since yesterday, since the vote yesterday, and that is that an organization that you support, which promotes scientific, educational, and cultural programs around the world, is now out $60 million.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Have you looked into what the total funding impact would be on all of the UN specialized organizations, what would happen if the U.S. is forced to, by these laws, to withdraw – to withhold funding? Do we know what an exact dollar amount of that would be?
MS. NULAND: You mean, were this --
QUESTION: Were to it to continue.
MS. NULAND: -- to be repeated in every UN specialized agency? I don’t know whether anybody has done the math on that.
QUESTION: Because it looks like the World Health Organization is next, and surely it wouldn’t be in the U.S. interest to withdraw from the World Health Organization, correct?
MS. NULAND: Again, we don’t think it was in our best interest to have to take the move that we made in UNESCO, which is why we tried to head it off, and we will continue to try to head off these moves in other UN agencies because we think it’s the wrong way to go.
QUESTION: Okay. So taking this from the other side, what exactly have you told the Palestinians that you’re going to do if they continue to do this? There doesn’t seem – you seem to – you’re opposed to it, and yet you’re still fighting for them to get funding from Congress while you have warned the Palestinians about the mood on the Hill. You have also taken the unprecedented step of asking Israeli officials, including the prime minister, to call members of Congress and tell them to continue to support funding for the Palestinians. So I don’t understand how the Administration, on one hand, is telling – is punishing UNESCO for this and yet you’re not doing anything to the very people that made this a problem in the first place.
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with why we’re cutting off UNESCO funding. We’re cutting off UNESCO funding because we have legislation on the books, we have U.S. law that requires this in the event of any effort to gain statehood this way. And we were absolutely clear about that before it happened. At the same time, we believe that the security support that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority supports peace and increasing strength of local authorities to provide for the security of their own people, and that’s very important, and it’s particularly important at a time where moves like the move in UNESCO could lead to increased tensions. So we need security forces to be strong and alert and well-funded.
QUESTION: Well, what did the Palestinians lose from you? What’s your leverage with them? If you’re not – if you’re, in fact, not prepared to cut funding to them, which would seem to be an obvious lever of leverage, what are you going to do? Because there doesn’t seem to – you’re upset with them, you don’t like this, and yet there doesn’t seem to be anything that you’re doing to make your displeasure clear, other than just speaking and saying that this is a bad thing.
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said yesterday – and frankly, we went through a full hash of this yesterday so I don’t think we need to do it again today --
QUESTION: Well, no, not from the Palestinian side. Not from the Palestinian side at all. And that’s the question today. My question is: What do the Palestinians lose from the United States if they continue to do things that you think are bad and not in their own interests?
MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, the Palestinians do not take themselves any closer to a state in secure borders living next to their neighbor in peace by these moves.
QUESTION: But --
MS. NULAND: And the risk is that the environment for the conversations and the negotiations that have to take place is – doesn’t get better, it gets worse, by these kinds of moves.
QUESTION: But in the --
MS. NULAND: So that is the --
QUESTION: But in the meantime, the Palestinians don’t get any – there’s no consequence to the Palestinians. The only consequence is to the United States. The U.S. is pulling out of or having to stop funding to UN specialized agencies. Does that make sense?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s certainly the case that, like every other country around the world that benefits, like every other part of the world that benefits from UNESCO support, the degree to which the agency is down 22 percent of its budget will have an impact in the Palestinian territories, as it will have an impact in other parts of the world.
Elise, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just taking this a little broader --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- I mean, this Administration came to office pledging more multilateralism, working more through the UN system. And the UN system – or UN member-states are clearly sending a message to the Palestinians and to this Administration that they think that the Palestinians should be more part of the international system. And so isn’t this kind of you’re willing to work through the international system as long as it does what you want?
MS. NULAND: We also want the Palestinians to be a greater part of the UN system, but the way to get that done is to get to the peace table and work on the establishment of a state so that then they can come into all of these agencies and the UN as a whole as a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel. That is our goal.
QUESTION: That’s --
MS. NULAND: And we’re not any closer to that by these moves.
QUESTION: Right. But what I’m saying is, it seems like the rest of the international community is saying, like, okay, X many years since Oslo, the peace negotiation track has not been working, and we need to find another way to bring the Palestinians in while you continue the negotiations. It just seems as if you’re blackmailing the international community. You’re calling them and saying don’t vote for the Palestinians, which is their right to do, as any member-state has a vote. You have a vote. The member-states have a vote. It seems as if you’re blackmailing them to say if you vote for this, we have to withdraw funding.
MS. NULAND: We’re not blackmailing anybody. We’ve been absolutely clear. We were clear in the UNESCO case. We’re clear in any future cases what the --
QUESTION: Are you prepared to --
MS. NULAND: Can I finish? Can I finish my point here? We’ve been absolutely clear at the beginning, before UNESCO, and with regard to other agencies, what would happen under U.S. law, that we are compelled by U.S. law to cut off funding. So this is not a matter of blackmailing. This is a matter of a disagreement between us and a number of other countries about the best way to help the Palestinian people. We continue to believe that the best way to help the Palestinian people is to get to the peace table. None of these things change quality of life for one Palestinian. If you care about the Palestinian people, the best way forward is to get to the negotiating table and get them a state.
QUESTION: But in lieu – but I think you can acknowledge that that’s not happening. So are you supposed to kind of stay in this limbo forever and the Palestinians not advance in any way whatsoever until that day when you’re able to get to the negotiations where they can have a deal? That’s not happening. So is there some kind of middle ground between the day that they have a deal and they have a state versus some kind of middle ground where they’re able to participate more in the international system until there’s a peace deal?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I would reject your premise that life for the Palestinians is not advancing at all. This is – this goes back to Matt’s point about why we are pushing so hard on the Hill to continue the security funding. Certainly in the West Bank, security is better. Security is better because Israel and the Palestinians, with international support, including U.S. support, are working on strengthening indigenous Palestinian security forces so that they can provide security for their people. The – we are working on strengthening governance and self – and autonomy and these kinds of things. But we are not going to get to the place where the Palestinians can realize their goal, where we can realize our shared goal of a state, unless we do it at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: I just have --
MS. NULAND: So from our point of view, it’s not one or the other. It’s a matter of continuing to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and trying to push the parties back to the peace table.
QUESTION: Just one last quick one --
MS. NULAND: But we can’t do this through the back door.
QUESTION: Are you asking Congress to try and make some legislative carve-outs for some UN agencies that have particular national security interests, such as the World Health Organization and the IAEA?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said yesterday, we are having conversations with the Congress. But these issues are very complex and very difficult, so I don’t want to make any predictions where those conversations will come out, nor do I want to predict a timeline for this.
QUESTION: Is your Administration planning to change the law that I believe dates back to 1994 that you just described as you are compelled to do what you are doing about Palestine?
MS. NULAND: This was the question that Elise just asked with regard to the consultations we’re having with Congress. So we’re consulting with the Congress, but these issues are complex, and I don't know where we’re going to go.
QUESTION: Yes, Victoria, are you planning to fight this fight or to go through this argument with the Palestinians every step of the way, each organization by itself, where the Administration or the United States can get a black eye actually every – each and every time and be marred in this endless kind of effort? They are planning to go – to file for membership in 15 different organizations at the United Nations, so that’s really a long and tenuous process.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen those reports. We have been talking to them about this. We think it’s a mistake. And we think when the impact on UNESCO is better understood over time, people might sober up about this. This is not a free gift. This has real implications and consequences.
QUESTION: Okay, one other question. Today, Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, actually sort of appealed to the Congress and to the Government of the United States not to cut off funding, because she said that we go and we train governments and other agencies that are really vital for U.S. security, national security, especially in the aftermath of troop withdrawal like from Iraq or Afghanistan. So what have you to say to that?
MS. NULAND: This is the point that I made yesterday, Said, that we regretted very much that we ended up in this situation, because we do support the work that UNESCO does and we think it is important. And I gave a long list yesterday, things like literacy training in Afghanistan, tsunami early warning, teacher training efforts in Africa, protecting and nurturing your colleagues – journalists – across the Middle East.
So we very much regret that we are where we are. And we did make very clear to our partners and to the Palestinians what the impact was going to be if we went down this road. And we very much hope that this is not repeated in other agencies, because the impact will – could be even greater.
QUESTION: And lastly, do you make the case before Congress, if we are to take what Ms. Bokova said, that U.S. security might be compromised, considering that, as you explained yesterday, if funds or whatever dues, U.S. dues, are not paid within two years, then the United States will lose its membership status? Would you raise that issue as having cut off funds to UNESCO may compromise U.S. national security?
MS. NULAND: Congress knows very well what the implications are. This is their legislation.
QUESTION: A follow-up. You said you – you’ve seen the reports about the Palestinians seeking membership in these additional organizations. Have they not told you directly that that’s their intent? Have you had any communication with them directly and they said yes, this is what we’re going to do?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, they have been talking to us about this move; and every time they talk to us about it, we make our points about why it’s a bad idea.
QUESTION: But you’re not prepared to actually do anything to punish them for doing these things that you say are so bad and detrimental to the peace process?
MS. NULAND: Our view is that, as the implications of what is happening in UNESCO sink in, everybody is going to feel the result.
QUESTION: Right. And then in response to one of Elise’s questions, you said that this is a disagreement that we are having with a number of other countries. Can you – a number of other countries? It’s not – in fact, you can count the countries that agree with you on this on just over two hands.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Matt?
QUESTION: Yeah. So I’d just like to – a number of other countries? Is that really your position?
MS. NULAND: We --
QUESTION: You don’t see yourself in the distinct minority here?
MS. NULAND: Look, it is very clear that we had a profound disagreement with 107 countries yesterday.
QUESTION: Thank you. There are actually --
MS. NULAND: And we are hoping not to repeat that disagreement in the future.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the other thing is that, in a response to Elise’s question, you said the conditions are getting better for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, right, security-wise?
MS. NULAND: I said that security in the West Bank was getting better, as compared to where we were --
QUESTION: So --
MS. NULAND: -- 10 years ago, five years ago.
QUESTION: Okay. And so how is that demonstrably changed from today – from yesterday to today?
MS. NULAND: I don’t understand where you’re going with that.
QUESTION: Well, there seems to be an idea out there that this vote is somehow – was somehow anti-Israel, that it will affect Israel’s security. Do you – well, I guess, first of all, does the Administration think that this vote in UNESCO is anti – was an anti-Israel vote or a vote that negatively affects Israel’s security?
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to characterize it the way you did. I was --
QUESTION: No, no. This is not my characterization. This is the characterization of people like the chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations – House Foreign Affairs Committee, people on the Hill. They have characterized it like that. And I just want to know is that the – does the Administration agree with that?
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to characterize it that way. We are concerned about aggravating tensions between the parties.
QUESTION: Okay. So if it doesn’t quantifiably change the security situation, it doesn’t do anything to change the situation on the ground, as you have said yesterday, today, and ad nauseam weeks before, I just don’t understand what the problem is.
MS. NULAND: I don't think that we know all the implications yet, and we are concerned that tensions will be aggravated between these parties at precisely the time that we are trying to calm things and we’re trying to get them back to the table.
QUESTION: Right. But the tension – where is this tension – the tension is coming just because the Israelis are angry. They don’t like this, correct?
MS. NULAND: Because this is a move to get statehood by the back door rather than to get it at the negotiating table, which does not contribute to the environment for getting back to the table.
QUESTION: Okay. Fair enough.
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve talked about this about 17 times in the last few days.
QUESTION: Well, we may have. But when you go to the Palestinians and you say to them we think this is a bad idea and it’s not going to get you statehood, don’t the Palestinians say to you, as they have said to everyone else, that they know it’s not going to get them statehood, but this is a way that they can increase their leverage in bargaining, in negotiating?
MS. NULAND: And our concern is it does not increase their leverage; it may actually hurt their case.
QUESTION: Well, in fact, Toria, everything that you and the Israelis have said would seem to indicate that you don’t – that you think that it does increase their leverage.
MS. NULAND: Matt, I think we’ve really run the string on this one.
QUESTION: But on the issue of the aid to the Palestinians, why – I mean, what disincentive do they have if you continue to fight on Capitol Hill to continue – to maintain the flow of aid and so on? Or don’t you tell them plain out that if you continue this effort, we will cut off aid? What’s wrong with that?
MS. NULAND: Again, we have said that we don’t think that that is in the interest of the Palestinian people, we don’t think it’s in the interest of Palestinian security or Israeli security. These programs that we have been supporting for a number of years are designed to keep the peace, and this is absolutely essential, particularly at a time of political friction.
QUESTION: Well, then why shouldn’t the Palestinians listen to you?
QUESTION: Do you continue to feel that the security will continue to get paid, all the thousands, tens of thousands of employees will continue to get paid, the institutions will continue to be – to receive money and so on. Maybe they feel under no pressure to go ahead and perhaps see your position.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to get inside their heads. They know where we stand on these issues, and they also know that they are no closer to a state today than they were yesterday, and they --
QUESTION: The – but the – this idea that they – that there’s not going to be any impact to the Palestinians if they continue to do what you don’t want them to do, it’s the same as when you do nothing when the Israelis announce new settlements. So you have a situation where you’re basically encouraging both sides to continue to do things that you think are not in the interests of peace because you’re not prepared to do anything against the – to take any steps against the Israelis when they do things that are detrimental, like settlement construction, and you’re not prepared to do anything against the Palestinians when they take steps that you think are detrimental to the peace process. At the same time, you’re trying to get around a law that would punish UNESCO, that you’re trying to make it – change it so that there wouldn’t be any consequences to anybody for doing this. There’s no consequence to UNESCO, because you want to continue to fund it even though you’re required not to, so you’re working with Congress to try and change --
MS. NULAND: Is there a question here, Matt, or is this a speech?
QUESTION: Yeah. The question --
MS. NULAND: I’m serious, really.
QUESTION: Well, I’m serious, too. It just seems to me that there’s a profound lack of critical and intelligent thinking going on to this. You’re not – no one has an incentive to do what you want here because you’re not prepared to do anything, unless you are. Please tell me that you are.
MS. NULAND: We haven’t made any decisions with regard to the future of this legislation. We’re talking to the Hill. So I think you’re jumping to all kinds of conclusions that haven’t been drawn yet.
More broadly, we have been working for years, obviously, but certainly intensively for months to try to get these parties back to the table, which is the best way to get a state, the only way to get a state. And when these actions occur in the middle of that diplomacy, our worry is that it’s imperiled. And the concern there is that -- when you ask what the impact for the Palestinians could be, it could be that their government is taking them down a path that doesn’t take them closer to statehood; it can conceivably take them further away. So that’s the concern.
QUESTION: Toria, I mean, the Palestinians said even before they went to the Security Council, one of the reasons that they’re doing this is because the – your efforts, your diplomatic efforts, are not going anywhere. So I mean, what kind of alternative are you offering them to say okay, don’t go to these UN agencies; we’re going to do something that’s going to bring you closer? I mean --
MS. NULAND: May 19th, the speech of the President that laid out a framework, followed up by Quartet support, followed up by the roadmap on September 23rd, followed up by the current effort that we have now to work with each party to come up with concrete proposals on land, on security, if both of them came together within 90 days with a real set of what it would take on border and security to make them feel safe, we’d have the basis for a direct conversation, and that’s the conversation that has to happen if we want to get closer to a state.
QUESTION: On the talking with Congress, I’m just curious. Deputy Secretary Burns is up there for closed-door briefings this afternoon on the Hill, or is that no longer – that was on the official schedule.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me say that when the Secretary canceled her travel, she asked Deputy Secretary Burns to take her place in Istanbul at the conference there.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay.
MS. NULAND: So he’s on a plane for Istanbul now. We do have an interagency group up on the Hill for --
QUESTION: And was that interagency group – are they discussing this issue? Is that one of the topics they’re going to talk about?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that this was primarily a members briefing on future of military and civilian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can get you some more.
QUESTION: Do you know who’s representing State?
MS. NULAND: I think because of the way --
QUESTION: No one?
MS. NULAND: -- this happened, we were not able to field a replacement.[i]
QUESTION: Victoria, on what you mentioned, on the May 19th speech, to the best of your knowledge, is the Israeli Government of Benjamin Netanyahu in agreement with the principle annunciated in the speech made by President Obama on May 19th?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think that’s a question you have to ask them, but they’ve spoken favorably and positively about the speech.
QUESTION: But certainly you are negotiating – you are talking with them.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: Have they given you any nods or any expression that they are in agreement with the principles that were made in the speech?
MS. NULAND: I mean, they spoke favorably about the speech right after it happened.
QUESTION: Okay. And a quick follow-up. A longtime Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Nabil Shaath, is either in town or will be in town in the next day or two. Do you have any plans in meeting him?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that, Said. Let me see if we have anything on who will see him.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan --
QUESTION: On the peace process --
MS. NULAND: Last one for Samir on the peace process, and then we’ll move on to Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the meeting Deputy Nides had yesterday with Tony Blair?
MS. NULAND: First of all, it was a phone call, and it was to discuss the full range of issues that he’s working on in the Quartet context. I think we just put out a little note on it. I don’t think I have anything further on that.
QUESTION: And he also met with the President, Mr. Blair.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. You’d have to talk to the White House about that.
QUESTION: Hi, Toria.
MS. NULAND: Hey.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. revised its strategy for negotiating in Afghanistan, as The Washington Post reports this morning, to include a greater role for Pakistan, giving them a seat at the table in these reconciliation and negotiation talks?
MS. NULAND: With due respect to our colleagues at The Post, I think that story was a little bit overwritten. The Secretary spoke extensively to this set of issues when she was in Kabul and Islamabad, and in her follow-on testimony. I think you know where we are in the fight, talk, and build strategy --
MS. NULAND: -- that we are – if you don’t need me to repeat it, I won’t here, but that --
QUESTION: Well, just tell me the – on the talk part, does the talk part now include a greater role for Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think it’s always been our view, and it’s certainly always been Afghanistan’s view, that an Afghan-led reconciliation process needed the support both of the United States and of the Government of Pakistan. So – and you’ve heard President Karzai speak about that, both when the Secretary was there and before that. So I think the focus for us is to try to get these countries pulling in the same direction, under an Afghan lead and within the red lines and constraints that the Afghans have put out that we have supported, namely that if there are fighters – junior level, medium level, senior level – willing to come off the battlefield, they have to make absolutely clear they are breaking their ties with al-Qaida, they are prepared to support the constitution of Afghanistan in all of its elements, including its support for the rights of women, and they are renouncing violence.
QUESTION: So there was no thinking, then, that if you give Pakistan some higher-profile role, that they would curtail their support for the insurgency, as the article suggests?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the point here of fight, talk, build is that as we support the Afghans in their offensive in the safe havens on their side of the border, we also need the Pakistanis to be vigorous on their side of the border, and we’re prepared to support that. As we support an Afghan-led effort to talk, the Pakistanis also have to be signaling to Taliban who may be reconcilable on their side of the border that they support talk within the Afghan red lines and that this is what it’s going to take, everybody pulling together, squeezing together, and encouraging talk together.
QUESTION: You said that Deputy Secretary Burns is on his way to Istanbul. I take it he’s missing the trilateral meeting that’s being chaired by Turkey between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Do you have any sense of what kind of pull-asides he’s going to have with both Afghanistan and Pakistan on these security issues?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary had a full set of bilateral meetings planned for Istanbul. I don’t have here, Ros, a sense – especially given that the schedule is truncated, because he had to get on a flight – how many of those bilateral meetings Deputy Secretary Burns will be having. But as he has them, we’ll read them out to you.
QUESTION: Could it be arguable that perhaps these two are perhaps the most important pull-asides?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Would it be arguable that meeting with Pakistan and Afghanistan would perhaps be the most important?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we’re there to support the general effort of the conference. The Secretary just met with President Karzai. She also just met with President Zardari. So obviously we need to follow up, and I would guess that he will see them. The question is whether he can complete the full schedule that she had in mind, given that he’ll be getting there considerably later.
QUESTION: Well, so just going back to the original question on this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said The Post story was overwritten. It sounds like it was less overwritten than it just was about a week late. Is that – or maybe a little less than a week late, since Thursday.
MS. NULAND: I mean, it implied that we’ve had something new in the last week. I think that the strategy described is a sort of a different articulation of what the Secretary and her counterparts have been articulating for some time.
QUESTION: Well, but (inaudible) The Post story notwithstanding, I mean, it does seem as if your strategy of fight, talk, build has evolved from the old strategy of clear, hold, build, and there’s a new emphasis on talking. It used to be that the talk part was kind of not – you were still trying to feel the way with the Afghans about reconciliation and integration of the Taliban, and now it does seem as if there’s much more of an emphasis on the talk part, including your role in talking. I mean, it used to be that you thought that the Afghans should talk to the Taliban. Now, there’s a lot more about the United States talking to the Taliban, your meetings over the summer, the U.S. meeting with the Haqqani Network. It does seem that there’s more – much more of an emphasis of you and Pakistan doing more of the talking.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I think the – we’ve been talking about, the Afghans have been talking about the need to open a path for those who are willing to come off the battlefield to be reconciled for years and years.
MS. NULAND: We’ve been talking for at least two years about supporting Afghan-led reconciliation within these red lines. I think the issue here is trying to help the Afghans and the Pakistanis be on the same page with regard to the parameters of talking. At the same time that we are making sure that as we talk about talking, that those who are not willing to reconcile know that the Afghans, with our support, are going to keep fighting them and that we’re pressing the Pakistanis to also squeeze them.
QUESTION: No, I understand, but there was – there used to be kind of two pieces of this talk. There was the integration of the fighters, such as the ones you’re speaking of, and then the kind of political reconciliation of the larger leaders and groups as a whole, and it does seem as if that part of it is becoming much more prevalent in this talk strategy.
MS. NULAND: I think you’re over-reading. I think this is an effort to ensure that Afghanistan and Pakistan are working in harmony and are communicating well together and that U.S. support, whether it’s to Afghanistan or whether it’s to Pakistan, serves that goal of helping them to work together on both the fight side and the talk side and, frankly, the build side, which takes you to the New Silk Road Initiative and our hope that we can move from aid to trade with both countries and that they can begin to trade more with each other, et cetera.
QUESTION: But you don’t see this as, like, this kind of low-level integration is going to be the kind of sum total of your talk. I mean, don’t you see some kind of larger peace deal between the Afghans and these various groups – Haqqani, Taliban – with buy-in from yourselves and Pakistan as being the ultimate way that this is going to end up?
MS. NULAND: But I don’t think any of this is new. The Secretary has been talking about this for a couple of years. The late, great Richard Holbrooke talked about this a lot, that at the end – wars don’t end until somebody sues for peace. So at the end of the day, you have to, even as you fight, provide an opening if and when those who have been leading the fighting are ready to come off the battlefield. But they have to come off the battlefield in a manner that is consistent with everything that the new Afghanistan stands for and that we support, namely, an end to AQ, an end to violence, and support for broad, universal human rights.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: We just --
QUESTION: What was the point of signing the – or designating Mali Khan of the Haqqani Network, given that he’s already in custody?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think --
QUESTION: Is that a legality that needs to be – that has to be taken?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, even as he is in custody, we want to make sure that nobody can do business with anybody who has access to his stuff and/or if he ever came to a time when he was out of custody, that he shouldn’t have any illusions about being able to do business, et cetera. So it is a housekeeping measure, but an important one.
QUESTION: Can you quantify how effective these sanctions are on individual members of Haqqani or al-Qaida or JET or any other group?
MS. NULAND: I mean, I can’t. I think it’s a better question for Treasury, who are the trackers of the money flows and who have a good sense of the precise chilling effect that these sanctions have. But obviously, when you sanction an individual, not only are you clamping down on their ability to act but you’re also sending a very broad message not only to Americans but to people around the world that this is a no-go zone for economic and political interaction.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you sanction an individual member of the Haqqani Network, that sort of throws into relief the fact that you haven’t sanctioned the group as a whole. Why – if you’re trying to send this message, wouldn’t it be far more effective to do it as to name them as a group, and FTO? And if – and where are we in that process? I think the Secretary said that there were – this was under consideration, but it seems to be just sort of just hanging out there with no resolution.
MS. NULAND: Well, we are still working on this. And as the Secretary said about a week ago, we are in the final formal review that has to be undertaken before a decision.
QUESTION: A final formal review, I mean, generally speaking, is there a timeline for how long that process takes?
MS. NULAND: It just has to do with how much – how many things have to be gone through to understand the scope and to – and all those kinds of things, so --
QUESTION: So can you offer us a little handicapping? What’s going to come first? That, the MEK decision, or Keystone?
QUESTION: If you designate the entire organization (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Or military action is (inaudible).
QUESTION: -- is that technically possible, then?
MS. NULAND: Again, you can – we are looking for people who are willing to come off the battlefield along the lines that we are talking about.
QUESTION: But if they are members of an organization that you’ve designated as a terrorist organization, can you talk to them?
MS. NULAND: As a technical matter, we have in the past. We have talked to people around the world who are on the list. I mean, how and in what shape this would take, I think, remains to be seen. As we’ve said repeatedly, including in response to your question earlier, Elise, these reconciliation efforts are really at the preliminary stage.
QUESTION: But I’m just unclear about one thing – sorry, Andy – that the distinction you’re making – you keep saying that you want people to come off the battlefield. These larger – like, Mullah Omar is not on the battlefield, okay?
MS. NULAND: Well, he’s certainly directing operations.
QUESTION: Okay, but what I’m saying is the leaders are not necessarily – their kind of decisions to make a deal, the ultimate peace deal that you’re seeking, is not coming from these people on the battlefield. So I’m just not clear what the distinction is between the leaders of these groups and the grand bargain that you’re trying to seek and these people coming off the battlefield that you’re talking about.
MS. NULAND: You can make, without getting into large, inaccurate analogies here, think about the peace deal that was struck with the IRA, that ultimately, the leaders of the organization made their own decisions to accept the rules of politics rather than to pursue their aims through violence. So the point here is that that option can be available if leaders of these organizations are willing to accept the terms --
QUESTION: Is the --
MS. NULAND: -- namely that they have to break their ties, they have to renounce violence, and they have to live within the Afghan constitution. That – has that happened yet with these kingpins? No. But should one keep the door open if there were a serious decision on their behalf to come to that point? Yes, and sometimes it’s because you’ve put such extreme military pressure on them that they decide to sue for peace.
QUESTION: Does Haqqani have a political wing that you could deal with?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think – I’m not going to parse who’s a fighter and who might be a politician within the Haqqani Network. That’s obviously for them to decide. I think the issue here is will they make – will any of these people who are behind the violence that we’re seeing make the decision that the choices that they are making to fight their way to where they want to get are not working, and that they ought to reconcile and they ought to reconcile on these terms.
QUESTION: You mentioned that the talks are necessary because no war ends unless one side sues for peace, and yet it sounds as though in this instance it’s the U.S. that is actually making the offer and essentially lodging the suit for peace here. Was that a right description? Suing for peace, how does that --
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all --
QUESTION: -- come about through this?
MS. NULAND: First of all, this is Afghan-led offers of reconciliation, so it’s the Afghans who have to make the decisions what the acceptable terms are. We happen to agree with the terms that they have set out.
But it’s important to understand, Andy, that all of this is enabled by, first of all, the surge in military forces that the President authorized a year-plus ago, which has greatly increased the pressure on the Taliban and on its allies, and denied them all kinds of safe havens, all kinds of freedom of movement, all kinds of political influence and economic influence that they used to have, and in the context of this operation that we’ve talked about for a couple of weeks now, on the Afghan side of the border to go after the Haqqani safe havens and the pressure on Pakistan to do the same. So it is the military pressure that often causes fighters to change their mind about whether they want to keep fighting.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. We just had the news from CNN Arabic that the Syrian president accepted the proposal submitted by the Arab League. Do you welcome that?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we – I saw reports before coming down here from the Arab League. I didn’t see anything with regard to Asad going on the record. As we have said before, I think I said yesterday, we consider that the list of moves that the Arab League was asking for – namely that heavy weaponry be withdrawn, that political prisoners be released, that the torture and the violence and the abuse stop, the extrajudicial killings stop, mainly that international observers be allowed to operate throughout Syria and the press be allowed back in – that all of these would be very welcome moves.
So if, in fact, we have a Syrian regime that is accepting that full list of things, we would consider that a first step to the direction that we want to see Syria move.
QUESTION: So how would this be juxtaposed against, let’s say, the call for him to move on, to step down?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I don’t want to get ahead of things here, Said. We’ve had a lot of promises of reform and only violence in terms of the action that we’ve seen from the Asad regime. So let’s wait and see, A, whether we really have a deal here, and B, whether that deal is implemented.
QUESTION: Toria, some of the news stories said that Syria has agreed on the proposal after the Arab League has made some modifications on the main proposal.
MS. NULAND: Again, we haven’t seen this deal if, in fact, there is a deal. We don’t have details from the Arab League. I think you know what we are looking to see, so let’s see where it goes.
QUESTION: Also on Syria, have you seen this report about some more suspect activity, potentially nuclear activity in Syria, and also allegations of cooperation between the Syrians and A.Q. Khan? If you have, which I think you have, what do you make of them?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these new reports. I don’t have any particular comment on some of the details in these reports. But I would say that we remain concerned about whether Syria is meeting its obligations to the IAEA, and that their nuclear – their clandestine nuclear program remains an issue of grave concern. And we fully expect the IAEA to address Syria’s noncompliance and to follow up on any relevant information. And we want to see Syria answer all the questions and allow all the access that the IAEA is asking for.
QUESTION: So you – but you believe that they are operating a clandestine nuclear program now?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I would take you back to --
QUESTION: Well, but I – now. I mean, we all know what happened with the alleged reactor before, but I just want to make sure. The U.S. position is that you believe, like with Iran, that they are operating a clandestine nuclear program?
MS. NULAND: We believe that if they have nothing to hide, they should be allowing the IAEA full access. You remember that just last June, the IAEA Board of Governors found Syria in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and asked to be able to go into all possible suspect sites.
MS. NULAND: So they have not been able to have the access that they need to prove that we don’t have a problem now.
QUESTION: Right. But that – so just because they won’t let people in doesn’t mean they are actually operating a clandestine program.
MS. NULAND: I think we need --
QUESTION: You’re saying --
MS. NULAND: I think we need more information, Matt, is the answer to your question.
QUESTION: Okay. But can I just get you to – because I missed it. You said – you did use the words “clandestine nuclear program,” right?
MS. NULAND: I said that we – I cited the fact that we were concerned about whether they have a clandestine nuclear program.
QUESTION: Whether they have. Okay.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: What about reports that the Syrians may be putting landmines along the border to prevent weapons from coming in to – ostensibly to fight against them?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these reports, too. We’re obviously not in a position to confirm them one way or another. But if, in fact, it is true, we would obviously call on the Syrian Government to cease and desist. The last thing that country needs is more violence.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Last week, Secretary Clinton met with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman and – who said in an interview that she asked Secretary Clinton for the Administration to consider freezing President Saleh’s assets or possibly supporting his indictment to the International Criminal Court, and she wasn’t sure whether the Administration was ready to kind of make good on its calls for President Saleh to step down, as it has made these moves with some of the other leaders of the Arab Spring that were abusing its people. I was wondering where the Administration stands on that.
MS. NULAND: Stands on what she --
QUESTION: On possible measures, possible punitive measures that you can take against President Saleh and the Yemeni regime that continues to refuse to step down.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think in the context of Yemen, we will stay in close coordination with our GCC partners. They are continuing their diplomatic efforts, which, unfortunately, despite Saleh’s promises and his promise to Ambassador Feierstein just a couple weeks ago, have not come to fruition. But certainly, the Secretary heard the message that Ms. Karman gave her, and we’ll have to see where we go.
QUESTION: So are there any ongoing efforts today, U.S. efforts with Saleh himself, to sort of convince him to step down for the good of the country?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we were, Said, that just two weeks ago or even 10 days ago, he made a commitment to Ambassador Feierstein that he was going to sign the agreement. And the agreement calls for him to step down, but so far we haven’t seen the results of that.
QUESTION: But that was two weeks ago, and in the interim many dozens of people have been killed and injured.
MS. NULAND: And it’s very much a matter of concern.
QUESTION: Going back to Syria (inaudible), are you still planning to send Ambassador Ford (inaudible) back to Damascus?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think his plans have changed at the moment.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that the new Libyan authorities might not be – might not have enough leverage to convince the different militias to disarm and thus prevent an arms proliferation that might endanger not only Libya but the whole Sahel region in North Africa?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, before I get into the militia questions, let me say that we applaud the TNC’s effort to move expeditiously now to the creation of a broader interim government, and we are encouraged by the appointment of Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Keeb and also his positive statements yesterday about the direction that Libya needs to go, including with regard to human rights.
This issue of unifying the militias is very much – or has been very much an issue that the TNC has been working on by creating this unified national security committee, by broad outreach to all the militias to integrate, by working with the international community, us included, to try to sop up excess weaponry, et cetera. And it was certainly the subject of the Secretary’s meetings with TNC representatives in Tripoli two weeks ago – how long ago was the trip? – and also in her previous meetings.
So this is a very serious issue. It’s a very important issue. The TNC is working on it. They’re going to need increasing – they’re going to need international support. And it’s something that we’re prepared to help them with to the degree that we can, but it is absolutely essential for Libya to unify these forces. And part of it, as we’ve discussed before here, is the political piece; that as the interim – as the new prime minister begins this process of forming the new interim government, we want to see it represent all the colors and views in Libya so that everybody in the system will feel included and will feel part of the national system, which will, in turn, encourage militias to participate in an integrated security structure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Say again?
MS. NULAND: Kyrgyzstan.
QUESTION: Coming on the heels of the State Department’s comment yesterday on its elections over the weekend, there are reports that the man who may yet be president, Mr. Atambayev, is suggesting that the airfield, Manas airfield, which the U.S. uses to transport supplies into Afghanistan, may no longer be available to the U.S. One, has the U.S. reached out to Mr. Atambayev and his aides to talk about the way forward, and two, to talk more specifically about this, given that the U.S. has another three years at least in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, Ros, let me just reiterate what we said in our statement yesterday, that we congratulate the people of Kyrgyzstan for demonstrating their commitment to democracy, turning out to vote in large numbers, and we support their continued peaceful path. Although this election has not yet been certified, assuming that all goes according to plan, this will actually be the first peaceful, democratic transition of power in Central Asia from one leader to another, so it’s really quite a landmark event, and we also congratulate Rosa Otunbayeva for leading her country in that direction.
We obviously have a firm agreement with the Government of Kyrgyzstan on the use of the base through 2014. We look forward to consulting with the new government on what will happen after 2014. They have made clear to us that they do want to have that conversation, and we look forward to having it.
QUESTION: I’m – I can’t come up with anything, but I assume that – really, the first in all of Central Asia ever?
MS. NULAND: That a leader has stepped down and given way to a new democratically elected leader. We’ve had democratic elections, but we haven’t had an alternation of power.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: It seems to be gaining force. They’re doing airstrikes; they’re talking about trying to seize this port (inaudible) Kismayo. What communications have you had with Nairobi on this, and do you feel this is – is this helping the AMISOM efforts based out of Mogadishu? What’s the U.S. position on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that the Kenyan objective is to staunch the terror propagated by al-Shabaab. We have supported Kenya in strengthening its counterterrorism capabilities, in equipping, and in training. We’re obviously not involved in this particular operation. We are in close contact with them as they go forward with this operation, and we will continue to be.
QUESTION: They’ve mentioned, and I think the Somali Government itself has also mentioned, that it might be better if other big nations, presumably including NATO and possibly the U.S., get involved in things like a blockade of the port, which they see as a key al-Shabaab exit point into the waters. Is that something that’s been brought up officially? Have they asked for any support like that?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Andy. I’m not sure.
QUESTION: When you say you’re in close contact with them, meaning sharing intelligence, giving them advice? Can you give us any idea?
MS. NULAND: Well, they are obviously sharing their view on how they’re doing in this operation with us. We regularly share intelligence on counterterrorism issues.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Forgive me if this came up yesterday. The apparent letter of protest which Iran apparently has made to the U.S. about the alleged assassination plot, can you give us some guidance on that?
MS. NULAND: We did receive a lengthy diplomatic note from the Swiss protecting power on behalf of the Iranians. It was about seven pages. It was a rant. It was full of all kinds of denials. There was not a lot new in there from our perspective.
QUESTION: Seven is lengthy?
MS. NULAND: For a diplomatic note, yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: I remember when we used to do these on carbon paper and doing them --
QUESTION: What do you mean by rant?
QUESTION: Was it in English?
MS. NULAND: I believe so, yeah.
QUESTION: What do you mean by rant? Could you extrapolate?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to go further than that, considering that it was diplomatic correspondence.
QUESTION: Who signed it? Who signed the note?
MS. NULAND: It was from the Swiss protecting power who represents us in Iran, so it was given to us from the Swiss. Whether there was a signature on the bottom of the Iranian text, I’m unaware.
QUESTION: No, but, I mean, I’m not being – not to be glib, I mean, could you extrapolate? When you say rant, I mean, that’s a negative connotation that doesn’t give any kind of explanation of what the letter was about. Was it a – are you just saying it was a bunch of expletives and – (laughter) – or nasty things that they said? Did they offer a kind of detailed accounting of their rebuttal? I mean, what specifically do you mean by rant?
MS. NULAND: I think you could say that it was in keeping with some of the things that they have said publicly.
QUESTION: So what do you do? How do you respond? Do you respond when you get something of this nature? Or do you treat it --
MS. NULAND: I think we are reviewing it. I don’t know that any decisions have been made on that front.
QUESTION: You treat it with the contempt that you have treated it from the podium, yes?
QUESTION: Was it (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m prepared to go any further.
QUESTION: I have one brief – very briefly. I was – forgot to ask yesterday, but it was about Egypt and the arrest of a new blogger. Forgive me if this has been overtaken, if he’s been released or something like that, but I think yesterday or the day before there was another arrest.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say that in recent days a number of cases in Egypt have led Egyptians from across the political spectrum to once again demand an end to the trial of civilians in military courts and the lifting of Egypt’s emergency law, and we share those concerns. And we again urge the Egyptian Government to handle these cases involving civilians in a civilian court and with full transparency and due process of law, and again to remind that when the President spoke to Field Marshal Tantawi on October 24th, he made these same points and specifically called for a lifting of the emergency law and for a lifting of trial of civilians in military courts.
In the back there. You’ve been very patient.
QUESTION: I just want to ask, yesterday, North Korea, South Korea, the – do you have a detailed information about the visiting status of the secretary of the new reunification in Korea? And also, today, the president – President Lee of South Korea visited Russia and they’re going to talk about the natural gas pipeline, but do you have any comments for that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any comment on the pipeline issue. Republic of Korea Minister of Unification Yu Woo-ik is in Washington November 2nd through 4th to discuss next steps on the Korean Peninsula. We’re still working on his schedule. He will be seen at a senior level.
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: On the $53 million Bahrain arms deal, there’s been a lot of criticism on the Hill that the U.S. should not be approving such a deal during – when there are such serious accusations of human rights abuses happening in Bahrain. What’s the rationale for the deal? Should the State Department wait until there’s a resolution in Bahrain to the human rights abuse allegations?
MS. NULAND: Let me just say that we had a very long conversation about this from the podium the day that the Bahraini foreign minister was here. I don’t think our view on this has changed since then. We have not – we’ve obviously notified the sale, but we haven’t made a decision about the timing. There are also other things that need to be negotiated with the Bahrainis, and human rights is very much front and center in our consideration of this, as we’ve said to them. And we’re obviously not going to make any decisions until after their own – the report that they are working on for November 23rd is out and we see how that goes.
QUESTION: So in fact, human – and I know you did talk about this at length, so I won’t prod too much, but so in fact human – these human rights abuses and these allegations are a sticking point in – to finalizing this deal?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, human rights are always a consideration in arms sales discussions, and they are always part of our end user discussion that we have to have, and we talked about that at length when – last week on the record here. But we’ve also said that until the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations are out, we don’t see making any decisions on moving forward. So we’re obviously waiting for that report and waiting to see the government implement it.
QUESTION: And I take it these aren’t the types of weapons that you would consider the Bahrainis would use against their own people. These are more conventional type weapons in this deal, right?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. These are for external defense. And again, we go through that at some length last week.
MS. NULAND: All right, Jill and then --
QUESTION: Forgive me if you’ve gone through this, but on Libya, is there any update on the investigation into the death of Qadhafi?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further. As you know, the TNC has pledged a full investigation. I would guess that they’re at the stage of assembling the team to do that, but I don’t have anything further for you.
QUESTION: Anything more on Saif Qadhafi and efforts to bring him to the ICC?
MS. NULAND: Nope. And I don’t have anything on his location either, beyond the press reporting.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)
DPB # 165