1:10 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: So good afternoon, everybody.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MS. NULAND: Before we start the regular briefing, I’ve got a small little thing at the top – actually, not a small thing, kind of a big thing. Today is USAID’s 50th birthday. It is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Whether it is vaccinating children against preventable diseases, improving crop yields around the world, or responding to disasters, USAID exemplifies the caring nature and selfless spirit of the American people. And USAID continues to be a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy, fostering a more peaceful and secure world.
USAID is going to celebrate its birthday with employees and staff around the world. Administrator Raj Shah, Vice President Biden, and Caroline Kennedy will lead off the celebrations. And we obviously celebrate USAID’s success and look forward to many more years of supporting global economic growth, health, democracy, conflict prevention, and humanitarian assistance.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: So yesterday, it was announced that President Asad and the Syrian Government had agreed to the Arab League proposal, and today, the tanks went out and killed a whole bunch more people. I’m just – I realize that you were skeptical yesterday when they did – when the agreement was announced, but is this just – I think you were talking about proof being in the pudding a little while – maybe not yesterday, but what do you make of the Syrian action?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve said many times before, this Asad regime has a long, deep, and continued history of broken promises and it has significant blood on its hands. We have seen the same reports that you have seen that just yesterday, as the regime was supposedly signing up to the Arab League proposal, 26 civilians were killed at the hands of Asad regime forces, and the majority of these deaths occurred in homes.
So we obviously thank the Arab League. We welcome its efforts to stop the Asad regime’s brutal assaults. But we have not seen any evidence that the Asad regime intends to live up to the commitments that it’s made. Acceptance of the initiative, if it were to actually be implemented, would include all of the following things immediately – stopping of the violence, release of the detainees, withdrawal of all elements of the armed forces from populated areas, and immediately allowing free and unfettered access to journalists and to the Arab League monitors that they’ve offered. So that’s the standard by which we’ve – we will judge this, and we have not seen it yet.
QUESTION: So what would you like to see, or would you like them to try again?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, I think it’s now incumbent on the Asad regime to prove it, first to the Arab League and secondly to the larger international community, that it meant what it said when it committed to this deal. The Arab League will obviously draw its own conclusions if today, tomorrow, the next day, all of these promises that were made are again broken.
QUESTION: The regime --
MS. NULAND: Kim.
QUESTION: What do you think is motivating the Arab League – and Qatar in particular – in their approach to these talks with the Asad regime? I mean, are they naïve? I mean, you expressed skepticism. Why do you think that they believed this could work?
MS. NULAND: Well, their goals are the same as ours. This is their neighborhood. This is their region. They’ve got a great stake in regional stability, in stability inside Syria, in Syria living up to its potential to set a nonsectarian, democratic example for the region, which is obviously what the opposition is asking for the chance to do. So we encouraged – as we did with the GCC in Yemen, we encouraged the neighbors to do what they can. Their objectives are the same as ours. I think that the concern – and they had this concern going in, in our conversations with them – was that they would lay out these redlines, the Syrians would pay lip service to them, but would not implement them or would draw out the process while continuing to kill their people. So I think we all have to see what happens.
QUESTION: But if I may follow up, I mean, their goal may be the same, but they’re coming at it from a different perspective. You’ve already said that President Asad must step down, and that’s not something that the Arabs have said. So do you think that they’re looking for a way that he could survive this and stay in power?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’d have to ask that question of them. I think in the first instance, our goals are absolutely the same as the first step – that the violence has to end, that the regime has to take its forces back to barracks, and that a dialogue has to start. You can’t even get to the question of where the opposition wants to take the country democratically when there is all this violence. So Arab League is addressing itself to the most urgent issue, which is the bloodshed. I don’t think that precludes our being able to work together on the next steps, but we haven’t even gotten to step one.
QUESTION: Do you regard, given this – that the concerns that you’ve laid out about Syria possibly playing the process out, do you think the proposals like that submitted by the Arab League are detrimental to the international effort to increase pressure, or that they’re creating diversions or smokescreens or are confusing the issue at all?
MS. NULAND: No. We very much welcomed the Arab League’s intensive involvement, its effort to try to use its considerable influence and the fact that its redlines were our redlines, were the international community’s redlines, and most importantly were the redlines, the starting points, that the Syrian opposition has put forward. So obviously, the fact that the Arab League has put itself forward is very welcome. As you know, we have been asking for many weeks and arguably months for more countries to make the kinds of demands that we’ve made that this violence needs to stop.
So now the question is: Is Asad going to do what he said? If he does not do what he said, the international community has to continue to increase the pressure on him.
QUESTION: Well, can I just press that point, though?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, but specifically, are you – do you think that this should be the impetus for tougher action by the Arab League – perhaps some resolutions or some kind of call for greater international intervention, military or otherwise?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Arab League itself has made clear in public and in private – is our understanding – with Asad that they were giving him an opportunity to take these first steps, and that if he didn’t take these first steps, they would obviously have to toughen their posture. But that will be their decision to make. We have said clearly to all of our partners that we believe that if more countries match the kind of steps that we have already taken, that the Europeans have taken, that’s the right course for increasing the pressure on him if he doesn’t stop.
MS. NULAND: Can I – Said, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, Victoria. The regime claimed that it has actually – it has pulled or are pulling out its mechanized units and tanks from most cities and populated communities, except for a place like Homs, where they claim to have a great many armed gangs. Can you confirm or do you have any information on that?
MS. NULAND: We have no evidence to indicate that they’re withdrawing from anywhere at this stage.
QUESTION: And this sort of step-by-step withdrawal is unacceptable; it has to be done all at the same time?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Arab League proposal is clear. We haven’t seen any action against it to date.
QUESTION: One of the same promises in this proposal was given to Turkish prime minister about two months ago – or Turkish foreign minister – and then same promises given to Russian for two weeks. And every single proposal took two weeks for Asad to come back and kill more people. So isn’t – how can we sure that this is another just two weeks license to kill for his regime?
MS. NULAND: Well, he doesn’t have a license to kill from us or from anybody else in the international community for one more minute, and as I said at the very beginning, the reason for our skepticism yesterday and our increasing concern today was because this guy, this regime, has a long history of broken promises. So you’re not wrong when you say that he’s sold this horse before, and the horse still is not riding.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Just to follow up.
MS. NULAND: In the back.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: Just a follow-up, quickly.
MS. NULAND: Goyal, yeah.
QUESTION: What he said was that you have not given – nobody has given license to kill to him, but also it falls in the same category as in Libya. Qadhafi took – you have given – you gave Qadhafi so much time that he killed more people.
MS. NULAND: We’ve spoken many times here, Goyal, about the differences in the situation in Libya and Syria. So we are working intensively with our partners to try to increase the pressure. The fact that the Arab League is now saying, “Enough is enough for us,” is an important move in the region. And if he doesn’t live up to promises he made to them, then it’s not only countries like the United States, Russia, Turkey that he’s broken promises to; he’s broken promises then to all of the neighboring countries.
QUESTION: And finally, what role India is playing? Because India has so much interest in the Gulf, including in Syria.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think that’s a better question for the Indian Government. We’ve been making the same points there on Syria that we’ve been making to other countries.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Andy’s question and the question just now? I mean, it is a good point that every time these proposals are put forward, whether it’s the Turks or the Russians, it buys this government more time because they are experts at playing that game of saying, “Yes, we’ll look into it; yes, we’re going to do it,” and then they don’t. And they know that somebody else is going to come and say, “Well, could you please do it?” And then another proposal comes, and it keeps buying them time. So as Andy said, are these proposals not actually detrimental to finding a quick resolution to – or a quick end to the bloodbath?
MS. NULAND: Kim, I would say that actually the opposite is true, that as the United States says, Asad needs to step aside because he’s clearly made a choice here. Other countries – like Turkey, like Russia, like the Arab League – have said, “Well, maybe if we use our influence, it’ll have an impact.” So as they go and make the effort, as the Government of Turkey did, and they have promises made and promises broken, then it changes the dynamic in terms of Turkey’s calculation as to whether you can work with this guy. The same has been true with the Europeans. And we will predict that if he doesn’t meet his promises to the Arab League, the Arab League is going to feel that they had promises made, promises broken, and they’re going to have to react. So from our perspective, what has happened through Asad’s own action is that the community of countries pressuring him, making their voices heard, is growing, and that is the direction that we’ve been calling for for many months.
QUESTION: But – or do you think that this makes him think that he has legitimacy because people are dealing with him?
MS. NULAND: I think on the contrary. They’re dealing with him in saying it’s not just those Europeans, it’s not just those Americans, it’s not even just those Turks; it’s all of us who find the way you are running your country abhorrent and dangerous – dangerous to you, dangerous to the region. So whatever --
QUESTION: But still, they’re dealing with him as the legitimate government. I mean, they’re sending envoys, they’re meeting with him.
MS. NULAND: And he is breaking promises to them, which is going to have the effect that we’ve seen other places that have been – that have made the effort and found the effort to have been in vain.
QUESTION: Victoria, the sectarian schism in Syria is widening, and there is a lot of fear that this may explode into a sectarian war. What can the United States do in the case of the regime being toppled to ensure that something like this does not happen, where the situation in Iraq is to be replicated in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Said, I’m not sure that we share that analysis. What we are seeing in the opposition movement inside Syria, outside Syria, what we are hearing from folks across the political spectrum in Syria is that, in fact, groups that have never worked together in Syria before are starting to coalesce, starting to meet each other, starting to find common cause in this opposition movement. And the other thing that’s important is all of these opposition groups are espousing the same thing, which is a future for Syria that is nonsectarian, that is tolerant, that is pluralistic, which is, frankly, a far cry from the way Asad and his regime have run things for a long, long time.
QUESTION: But at the same time, NATO general secretary says, “NATO has no intention to intervene whatsoever. I completely rule that out.” At the time – and Turkey, which you have been praising from this podium for so long for its outspoken language against Asad regime, did not start – begin taking any steps on the economic sanctions. How and why Asad should be convinced that he should step aside?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think the community of countries that have made the effort to convince him to change course and are being dismissed, lied to, having promises broken to them is growing, and that is losing him friends and increasing the pressure.
Brad, did you have something?
QUESTION: I just wanted to know if you’re specifically hoping that this series of broken promises will lead more countries to join the U.S. position that Asad must resign, not that Asad should be dealt with, not that Asad should be offered more proposals, but that it would come to the same opinion. Is that something you would like to see?
MS. NULAND: Well, in the first instance, we want to see more countries take action to tighten the economic and political noose on him. But I think naturally it’s going to come to this point that we’ve already come to, and that Europeans have already come to, and that Turkey is increasingly coming to. You can’t work with a guy who operates like this.
QUESTION: Just one more. From this podium again, you never rule out any intervention, military intervention. But NATO general secretary clearly and openly did that. What’s your comment on that? Have you been able to check if there was something else was meant to say by the NATO – why this unbalanced approach to this situation?
MS. NULAND: I think the NATO secretary general was making a version of the same point that we’ve been making here, which is that the Syrian opposition in its vast majority wants this situation settled peacefully, does not want foreign intervention in their country. And in fact, none of the neighbors or anybody else is calling for that. So the situation is different. You know that NATO operates on consensus, NATO operates on the basis of emergent situations, so I think he was speaking of the here and now.
Okay? Anything else on Syria? Moving on. Go ahead.
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that question. I was kind of hoping to get it yesterday. First of all, we don’t yet have most favored nation status, but what we do have and we are very pleased to see happen is we have a decision unanimously approved by the Pakistani cabinet to open a path for full normalization of trade relations with India as agreed in the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani commerce ministers in Delhi this September, which will in turn, we hope, lead to most favored nation status.
This is a very, very big deal, very important, could lead to really great economic opportunities for both India and Pakistan, sets the kind of example within the Silk Road family that we would like to see throughout that region. We’d like to see the opening of trade relations because this will bring prosperity to everybody, break down old barriers, really lift all boats in the region, and make the region even more vital as a center of global commerce. So we’re really – we really applaud Pakistan and India for taking this concrete step to improve their relations. It’s the most tangible thing that they’ve done yet, and our hope is that the process of normalization in both directions, including getting eventually to full MFN, continues and that there is a reduction in nontariff barriers by India that will also lead to a full expansion of opportunity. Very exciting.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just to follow up quickly, when they sign this, you think somebody from the U.S. Embassy or somebody from here will be there to witness this great opportunity between two countries?
MS. NULAND: I’m sure if we’re invited, we’ll be there. But I think the main celebration is between these two countries whose relationship is improving.
QUESTION: And finally, do you think this will bring or give new light and life to the SAARC, which is now, because of India and Pakistan relations, SAARC is not moving anywhere as far as regional issues are concerned?
MS. NULAND: Well, absolutely. We have a SAARC meeting, I think, next week. So for India and Pakistan to come into that meeting making progress together sets a good example. Obviously, the meetings we had in Istanbul yesterday and on Tuesday also improve the environment.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Elise.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I want to pick up on something we discussed yesterday about this proliferation, if you will, of reports that there’s going to be an attack on Iran. There’s discussion about U.S. and British military contingency planning, Israel gearing up to launch a strike against Iran, and it’s kind of invoking this memory of what happened in late 2002 with this kind of drumbeat about war with Iraq. And even Michael Douglas, who visited us this morning, said --
MS. NULAND: Was that fun?
QUESTION: That was fun.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) I offered for him to do the briefing, but he didn’t take me up on it.
QUESTION: Well, he said the same thing, that it kind of reminds him of this period. And I was wondering if you could – if you have any thoughts on that, or you can assuage anybody that the U.S. is not going to war with Iran.
MS. NULAND: Well, we have said many times in the last weeks and months that we do not seek a military confrontation with Iran. That remains our position. That said, we are going to use every means at our disposal to continue to try to increase the international pressure on Iran to meet its IAEA obligations and to come clean on its nuclear program.
QUESTION: But that doesn’t – but you said you don’t seek a military confrontation. But are you growing increasingly concerned that that might be the – your last option at this point, or are you not there yet?
MS. NULAND: We are pursuing our goals with Iran by growing the community of countries willing to speak out and pressure them in the IAEA and beyond to meet their obligations. As you know, we are expecting IAEA reporting next week that’ll take us forward in this conversation with Iran.
QUESTION: Are you – on that question of the IAEA report, I’m just wondering, are you sort of – do you expect that that report will be another kind of turning point in the issue of how the international community deals with Iran and its nuclear program? And are you engaged in sort of preparatory diplomacy pending whatever the report’s outcomes might be? Are you going to have a sort of plan in place ready to move, should the report come out one way or another?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we need to let the IAEA lead on its own report, which we expect to be out sometime in the middle of the month. As an IAEA member, the U.S. obviously contributes actively with our own information to the preparation of that report, as we encourage all countries to do. And obviously, I think we need to let Director Amano make his report, and then we will see what’s in it, and we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: Still on the same subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The concern with Iran has always been when does it reach that tipping point of being able to fully enrich and then be able to weaponize its nuclear stuff. And over the last two years or so, there’s been an assessment that that point keeps being pushed back because of the sanctions, because of various other things that this country or other countries undertake covertly or overtly. Do you feel that Iran’s capabilities are still being undermined enough at this stage that you don’t need to consider all the options, that you are buying more and more time to delay the inevitable?
MS. NULAND: Kim, I think rather than doing a deep dive on Iran’s capabilities today, given that we are expecting this report from the IAEA which is going to go into the IAEA’s assessment of many of these issues, let us table this discussion, have that report come forward, and then we’ll speak to the U.S. view with regard to it, if you don’t mind.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: I have a real quick follow-up, and it was also addressed yesterday, and I’m – on this – all those reports on the Israeli – supposed Israeli cabinet discussion of possible attack, I know you said yesterday you had no information. I’m just wondering, was there any attempt made to get any clarity from the Israelis on those reports and whether or not they’re accurate?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Israelis themselves have been out publicly in the last 24 hours, making clear that this testing that they did, which was what spurred all of this speculation, was routine, had been planned for more than a year. So they themselves are trying to put this in perspective, I think.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on this: But they didn’t reject these news reports and --
MS. NULAND: Didn’t reject?
QUESTION: The Israeli Government did not reject these news reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been – tried to convince about bombing of Iran.
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speculate on press reports about what may or may not be happening inside the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: I’m not asking about press reports that the prime minister or the administration did not reject it. And my question is: How do you find these kind of statements or the news reports about bombing Iran? Do you find it helpful for the stability of peaceful region?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to comment on internal documents inside the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: Victoria, new topic?
QUESTION: No. Let’s stay on Iran.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Matt, on Iran.
QUESTION: Since this Iran is slightly different than his Iran.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday you were asked about the supreme leader saying that he had hundreds of documents proving U.S. – well, now it looks like they’re going to be released tomorrow, Jalili is going to get up and – do you have any concern that you might – that you’ll be implicated credibly in a --
MS. NULAND: That I, personally, will be implicated?
QUESTION: No, no. Well, that the United States or any U.S. Administration – presumably this could go all the way back to the ’50s. So do you have any concern that you could be – that the U.S. could be implicated in terrorist acts against – in or against Iran?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of whatever Iran may or may not do. We’ll have to see what happens, and then we’ll react if necessary, I think.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Toria, Robert Einhorn is in Moscow. He had talks with the Russian deputy foreign minister yesterday. And the subject has been reported as specifically Iran’s nuclear program. Can you tell us what aspect they’re talking – are they talking about more sanctions or the Russian sale of the new mobile jammers, or what?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Bob Einhorn is our special envoy for these nonproliferation issues. Given that Russia is a full participant in the P-5+1 process, which is our first venue for trying to engage Iran in a serious denuclearization effort, we stay in very close touch – he stays in very close touch with his Russian counterpart. So I think the consultations are obviously in the context of what the IAEA may or may not say and where we go from there.
QUESTION: Yes, Victoria --
QUESTION: Can I ask you about Alaa Abdel Fatah who is an Egyptian blogger who refused to stand in the military trial because he doesn’t want to set a precedence for civilians, and he’s been sentenced to 15 days in jail. Are you following his case? What the United States is doing for democracy promoting activists in Egypt, and particularly to Alaa Abdel Fatah?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are following his case. As I said Tuesday, I believe, in recent days, a number of cases in Egypt have raised concerns about freedom of expression. In particular, we’re concerned about the arrest of blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah as well as the arrests and detention of other bloggers and activists. We publicly and privately have been urging the Egyptian Government to handle all cases involving civilians in a civilian court, in full transparency, and with due process of law. We also, as you know, believe that Egypt’s emergency law should be lifted immediately. These were points – the more general points about civilian courts, about the emergency law were made by President Obama again when he spoke to General Tantawi on October 24th.
QUESTION: So you have a positive response from the military council?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Egyptian Government is looking into this. I think our views are absolutely clear, and we wanted to particularly cite this case publicly today.
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else on Egypt? No?
QUESTION: Okay. Israel; back to the Israel. This one’s different, though. Apparently there’s a new – flotilla might be too grand a word for a it, but a couple of boats have left Turkey with international activists aboard saying that they’re headed to Gaza, and the Israeli military says that they are ready and able to stop them from reaching Gaza.
I was wondering: Have you had any contacts with either Israel, the Turks? I think it’s – one of the boats is Irish and the other is Canadian – have you had any contact with those governments? And what’s your view on this, do you think? Are you monitoring the progress that they’re making across the water?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these reports. Our view on this flotilla activity has not changed, as you know. We are in contact with all of the relevant governments, including being in contact with the Turkish Government today. And we have also renewed – we are renewing our warning to U.S. citizens not to involve themselves in this activity.
QUESTION: In the last case, I think that it was – it appeared that the U.S. was successful in persuading Greece to – or to prevent an earlier flotilla attempt from leaving. Have you made any attempts with Turkey prior to their departure to get them to not allow these boats out of the harbor?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that, Andy. My sense of this was that given the way this came together, there was some element of surprise for both the Turkish Government and our own government. But if that’s not right, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Toria, you said you talked to Turkish Government today?
MS. NULAND: We did.
QUESTION: Can you give us a little more detail with --
MS. NULAND: The concern was some of this press reporting that there were Turkish warships accompanying these – this flotilla, and we were told quite emphatically by the Turkish Government that that was not the case.
QUESTION: You said that you’re renewing the warning to the U.S., has that actually happened yet? Has it happened with --
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve not yet reissued it, but we will later today.
QUESTION: This is the same warning that warns that they could be violating U.S. law?
MS. NULAND: Correct. It’ll look a lot like the last warning.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, the Turkish Government has said that it would be sending warships on any flotillas that would go. So did you, at the time, kind of warn them against that, about --
MS. NULAND: Absolutely. We’ve been clear to them that we think that that would be an extremely bad idea, and they’ve now reassured us that that is not what they are doing in this case.
QUESTION: Sorry, just one last one. Have you had any specific communications with the Israelis on this subject?
MS. NULAND: I believe we have in Tel Aviv. If that’s not right, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on the interminable settlement issue and the (inaudible) yesterday, William Hague, the foreign secretary of Britain, called it a big blow to the Quartet effort to resume the negotiations. Do you concur with --
MS. NULAND: Called what a big blow?
QUESTION: The announcement on the settlement yesterday. He called it a “big blow” – those were his words – to the Quartet’s effort to resume direct negotiations. Do you agree with William Hague?
MS. NULAND: We made our views on this clear yesterday, Saed, both from this podium and from the podium at the White House.
QUESTION: I know that you said that you were disappointed, but do you also agree that it is a big blow to the effort that you put up?
MS. NULAND: We put this in our own words yesterday. The British have put it in their words.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Sorry, (inaudible). I mean, has there been anything – has anything happened in the last 24 hours on this whole issue which we’ve been talking about since Monday? In other words, has the Administration done anything in the past 24 hours to: one, stop the Palestinians on their – in their UN bid or for UN – for recognition at various UN agencies; two, done anything to stop the Israelis from expanding settlement expansion – stop accelerating settlements; and three, done anything to protect U.S. interests in UN agencies that it might have to withdraw from if they recognize Palestine?
MS. NULAND: I’ll say at this stage we have been active on all of these fronts in the last 24 hours and will continue to be, but I’m not going to go into details.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Have you specifically talked to the Israelis about reports that some of the demolitions that they’ve talked about in Jerusalem would affect some of the holy sites?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Elise. I don’t know whether that specific issue has been raised.
QUESTION: And can you – sorry. Can you explain how you have been active?
MS. NULAND: I think I just said that I’m not going to get into details on any of these lines, but we have been --
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking for --
MS. NULAND: We have been active on all lines.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean that you’ve been in touch with the Palestinians, you’ve been in touch with the Israelis, and you’ve been in touch with the Hill?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: It does?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you say at what levels these happened?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to get into any further details about our engagements on any of these lines.
QUESTION: But – well, is it safe to assume that you have told the Palestinians that you would still like to see them stop in their UN – stop – halt their UN aspirations, that you have told the Israelis that you would like to see them not inflame the situation by announcing acceleration of settlements, and that you have told people on the Hill that, hey, it’s not really a good idea to force us to cut off funding to UN agencies that we want to be a member of?
MS. NULAND: I think you know what our goals are here.
QUESTION: Well, then --
MS. NULAND: Our goals are to have provocative acts on either side come to an end, get the parties focused on the main game, which is getting back to the table so that we can start making progress towards a sustainable, safe, secure Palestinian state with all of the attributes of statehood coming the right way, including our ability to get Palestine recognized in UN agencies after it becomes a state through negotiations. So that remains our focus, and we are doing all of the necessary things with all of the necessary folks to try to get the focus back on the negotiating table and away from the other aspects of this that are not helpful.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you think that you’ve been at all successful in persuading all the various sides – that is, the Israelis, the Palestinians, and Congress – to see things your way, or is it still very much a work in progress?
MS. NULAND: Very much a work in progress.
QUESTION: Can I just – on Sri Lanka --
QUESTION: Sorry. Can I follow up on this? I don’t know whether this has been raised before in connection with this – with this issue, but the law specifically says – the U.S. law specifically says the Palestinian – it mentions the Palestinian Liberation Organization as going to request membership, but this is the Palestinian Authority. I mean, isn’t that a technicality that allows for a loophole?
MS. NULAND: Not in our reading.
QUESTION: Why not? But why not?
MS. NULAND: I’d have to get you 17 lawyers to answer that question, but our reading is that the law applies in this situation.
QUESTION: Just tangentially on this UNESCO issue, there was a report – I think it was on NPR or something – about a recent intelligence report that found that China is the biggest offender of economic espionage and violators of international property, and that this was becoming a – quickly becoming a national security issue – issues of China and intellectual property. And I’m wondering if the very likely possibility that the Palestinians go to the World International Property Organization and your possibility that you might withdraw funding, I mean, this – don’t you think this would become a major national security issue for you?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did speak about this on Tuesday, that there is a concern in the context of a cascade that the next shoe to drop could be WIPO and that WIPO has significant implications for U.S. business because it’s an organization that we’re very active in in trying to maintain the highest intellectual property standards for our companies globally. So I think you’re identifying some of the reasons that we would be concerned if we were unable to participate fully in an organization like WIPO.
QUESTION: But when the intelligence community senses China as a offender of economic espionage, is this stand – do you believe that this stand that you’re taking on this issue of the Palestinians is worth sacrificing your own national security?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I’m not going to get into intelligence reports. Second, as we try to work on these issues in organizations like WIPO, we also have a very active and rigorous bilateral conversation with China on international property protections – copyright, et cetera – and that is something that we’ve worked on together for many years. We’ve made some progress, but more progress needs to be made. So we will continue to pursue our objectives, first and foremost in the bilateral channel. But obviously, we don’t want to lose the ability to create strong international standards that everybody would adhere to through the international organizations --
QUESTION: But it sounds like you’re saying you could live without WIPO, though.
MS. NULAND: I did not say that. We want to be able to stay active and strong participants in WIPO because we think it’s valuable.
QUESTION: What’s the U.S. contribution to WIPO? Because I believe it’s self-funding. I’m not sure there is any.
MS. NULAND: It’s actually relatively small. I believe it’s like 2 percent of their budget, so it’s not on the scale of UNESCO.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Would it be possible to get a more detailed answer to my question about why the U.S. position applies to what is happening place – to what is taking place at the moment when the law specifically says that you would cut funding of any agency which accords the Palestinian Liberation Organization the same standing when what we’re seeing is now the Palestinian Authority taking those steps.
MS. NULAND: Kim, let me – I see Said nodding. Let me do this: Let me take those of you who are interested in this legal issue and put you --
MS. NULAND: -- and put you together with our lawyers for some backgrounding. Yeah.
QUESTION: Victoria, it is actually the PLO that submits all applications to all organizations because it is the recognized entity as a representative of the Palestinian people and not the Palestinian Authority.
MS. NULAND: So maybe Said has just answered your question. But before we work it out here in the press room --
QUESTION: No, no, but there is also a second clause in the law which talks about – not specifically about the PLO or anything, but any entity that doesn’t have all the attributes of a state.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: It’s right at the --
MS. NULAND: We’ve clearly got better lawyers in the press room than you’ve got at the podium. But if you would like to be put together with our lawyers, I can do that.
QUESTION: A quick one. Sri Lanka?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, can you wait for me to call on you, please?
QUESTION: Just one last thing on the peace process, I’ll try. But yesterday, a panel of expert at the USIP, including former secretaries of state and national security advisors who I believe from time to time advise Secretary Clinton, all believe that the Quartet attempt to try to bring the two parties together now is a futile exercise. Why can you take this into – this opinion into account that actually this is not the right time to bring the two sides together?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we always listen to folks who have been in government in the past. But I would note that most of these former U.S. Government officials also put considerable amounts of time and energy into trying to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinian people because it is not only essential to each of them, essential to the region, but it’s also in our own interests. So we don’t believe that stopping is the right way to go, and we’re concerned about a deterioration if there is not the prospect for peace and if we are not helping to midwife an international option that these peoples can use to go forward. So we think we need to keep going.
QUESTION: Some of the deterioration, they were mentioning basically of the lack of funds that will go into building the institution in the Palestinian Authority and maybe maintaining a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and this is – they focus this as a main issue. But meanwhile, bringing the two parties together to talk – I mean, you can’t bring them anyway because you’re talking individually to them through a mediator. But saying that – considering that there is a year that nothing could be done, why is it not – why do you insist that now really is the time to bring them, considering that there is no results at all on the ground?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re trying to do both at once. As you know, we are working hard to try to maintain the funding that we provide to the Palestinian Authority both for security, for institution building, for infrastructure, all these kinds of things, even as we continue to lead a Quartet process to provide a path, if they are willing. We believe that it is our responsibility and in our interest to continue to try to keep the table set for these two governments to try to come together, and we will keep trying to do that; that giving up on that would be to abandon our responsibilities, and we’re not prepared to do that.
Goyal, on Sri Lanka. You’ve been so patient.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Thank you very much. As we still wait for the report on November 15 by the Sri Lankan Government, in the meantime the report had been coming that things are changing in Sri Lanka as far as economically and also humanitarian aids. And also for the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Washington is saying that his country’s moving forward and IMF has now more interest and also faith in Sri Lanka’s economy and for – my question is a number of lawmakers, U.S. lawmakers, visited Sri Lanka recently. They came back and also they had a positive view of Sri Lanka’s moving forward.
Now, Sri Lanka’s lawmakers were in Washington, here in the State Department also, but I want to know what they had to say and what happened during their visit as far as things in Sri Lanka, please, as far as Tamils are concerned. These are – these were the Tamil lawmakers.
MS. NULAND: Right. The Tamil National Alliance representatives were in Washington last week. They met in the State Department with Under Secretary of State Sherman. I’ll leave to them to characterize their views. Under Secretary Sherman’s main point was that we have high expectations for the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission report which is due later in the month – not only that the report will be of highest quality, but that the Sri Lankan Government will take steps to implement it. So that was the main message that we were giving, and we look forward to seeing that report.
QUESTION: Is Secretary aware of these movements in Sri Lanka?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:54 p.m.)
DPB # 167