12:59 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Quiet room. Looks like people are starting their Thanksgiving holidays.
I’ve got one small thing at the top, and then we’ll go to what’s on your minds – to announce that today the Department of State launches its new Bureau of Conflict Stabilization Operations. This is a further to the implementation of the Secretary’s vision under the QDDR. This new bureau will elevate conflict prevention and response as a core civilian mission for the State Department. And specifically, it’ll advance U.S. national security by driving integrated civilian-led efforts to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises in priority states, setting conditions for long-term peace. And for those of you who have an interest in this development, particularly the elevation to a full State Department bureau, we’ll have a background briefing on the new bureau at 2 o’clock today.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Couple of things. One, just a quick question on Exxon’s agreement with the Kurdish regions of Iraq. What does the U.S. Government – well, a couple things. One, what does the U.S. Government think about the fact that Exxon went ahead and cut this deal?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that the United States has advised all of our companies, including ExxonMobil, that want to invest in the Iraqi security sector that they run significant political and legal risks if they sign contracts with any parties in Iraq before there has been a national agreement to work out the complex issues having to do with oil revenue distribution within Iraq. That said, you know that for many years, in fact, the United States has been urging all parties in Iraq to enact the necessary national laws that can govern the oil and gas sector because the sooner they do that, the sooner companies can invest in a legally viable way.
QUESTION: You said the Iraq security sector. Did you mean the Iraqi energy sector?
MS. NULAND: I meant the Iraqi energy sector. I apologize.
QUESTION: So you told them for ages that they should not – that they run significant risks if they go ahead and do this, absent the revenue sharing agreement, which has not been there despite the fact that they’ve been trying to work this out for seven or eight years, right? So did you specifically advise Exxon against this specific deal? Did they come to you and say, hey, we plan to do this? And did you say, hey, not such a good idea?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether anybody at Exxon spoke to anybody in USG about its intention to go ahead and sign this, but we have had conversations with Exxon for some time, as we have with all of our firms, advising them to wait for national legislation.
QUESTION: The Iraqi Government is saying that they may sanction Exxon. Normally, it’s the U.S. Government that is slapping sanctions on other people. Is this – in this instance, does it strike you as warranted on the part of the Iraqi Government to consider sanctioning Exxon for doing something that you yourselves have advised them and others was not a good idea?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into the business of advising the Iraqi Government one way or the other how to respond to this – simply to say that our message to Iraq and to all the parties involved in the crafting of national legislation is that this is overdue, that it is in Iraq’s interest to get this done so that companies like Exxon can invest in a way that is legally viable and sustainable. That said, when Exxon has sought our advice about this, we asked them to wait them to wait for national legislation. We told them we thought that was the best course of action.
QUESTION: And just so I’m clear, when you say when Exxon has asked us about this, did that include this particular transaction, or you just mean as a general principle with regard to Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly as a general principle. I can’t speak to whether there was an exchange with regard to this specific signing.
QUESTION: Could you take that one? And I realize I’m asking that on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but we still have maybe 24 hours where people will be working, so if you could check whether there was a specific contact with Exxon about this specific deal, that would be, I think, interesting and helpful. Are you willing to take that?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s – let me take it in the following manner. I will check whether Embassy Baghdad had contact with Exxon about this particular signing.
QUESTION: And the second part of this would be: Has the U.S. Government had contacts subsequent to this signing with either Exxon or with Iraq? I mean, Exxon is one of the largest capitalization companies in the world. It’s a major American corporation. It would not surprise me if the U.S. Government might not have reached out to them after this deal or reached out to the Iraqi Government about this to see what might be done to resolve the situation. Have you done so?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, let me take it in terms of whether either Embassy Baghdad or our new energy bureau here have had contact either with the Iraqis or with Exxon since this incident began.
QUESTION: And why – just so I understand, why limit it only to those two sectors? Because that would exclude if the Secretary, for example, had worked on this, then we would never know.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, contacts could’ve been made with Exxon anywhere in this government. I want to take it in terms of what the State Department is responsible for.
QUESTION: Right. But by limiting it just to the Embassy and the new energy bureau, it excludes a lot of other places in the building, right? That might’ve had contacts? I mean, I’m – Assistant Secretary Feltman could’ve had contacts, Deputy Secretary Burns, the Secretary herself. I’m not – I’m just trying to make sure that in defining it this way, we’re not excluding – I don’t expect you to ask every person in the U.S. State Department --
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that, Arshad. Let me see what I can do --
QUESTION: -- the day before Thanksgiving, but –
MS. NULAND: -- to be responsive to your question. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: The ruling military council in Egypt has accepted the resignation of the government, the civilian government. What – does this mean – what’s the reaction? What does this mean for the process of elections going forward? And do you have an update on those students, the U.S. students who have been taken into custody?
MS. NULAND: Well, first let me say that the United States remains very concerned about the violence in Egypt. We condemn the excessive force used by the police, and we strongly urge the Egyptian Government to exercise maximum restraint, to discipline its forces, and to protect the universal rights of all Egyptians to peacefully express themselves.
While all parties in Egypt need to remain committed to nonviolence, we believe that the Egyptian Government has a particular responsibility to restrain security forces and to allow the Egyptian people to peacefully express themselves.
You may have heard, just before we came down here, General Tantawi of Egypt gave a press conference. In that press conference, he said a number of things that Egyptians have been wanting to hear and have been needing reassurance on. The first thing that he said was that the Egyptian Government will ensure that the elections begin on time. That’s something that we have been calling for, as I did here yesterday, as we have throughout the government. Second, that the Egyptian military intends to hand power back to civilians. And the third important statement was that the Egyptian military expects that the electoral process and the handing back of power to civilians will be completed before July 2012. So we consider that these were important reassurances, reassurances that we have also wanted.
So with regard to your precise question about the government stepping down, we are looking forward to the naming of a new Egyptian government. That government’s first responsibility will obviously be to organize and ensure that free and fair elections do move forward in a peaceful environment to allow for the credible transition to democracy that the Egyptian people want.
QUESTION: And then those students who apparently have been taken --
MS. NULAND: So our Embassy has been in contact with Egyptian authorities throughout the day. We can confirm that there are three U.S. citizens in detention in connection with the protests. We have requested consular access to them. We expect that we will have that access tomorrow.
QUESTION: So no details about them?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, you can imagine that privacy concerns would constrain me from giving any more details here, particularly before we’ve had access to them and have been able to obtain --
QUESTION: Do you know exactly where they are right now?
MS. NULAND: I believe we do. Yes.
QUESTION: Are they safe? Is – at least can you tell us that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have any information to indicate otherwise.
QUESTION: Are they basically being detained, or have they been charged with anything? And if so, what are the charges against them?
MS. NULAND: To our knowledge, they have simply been detained. But again, we are seeking more information from the Egyptian Government and we’re seeking access to them.
QUESTION: Can we stick with Egypt for just another moment, please?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: Thank you. A couple of other things: Do you believe the ruling military council’s reassurances on all these (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, these are reassurances that the Egyptian people and many of the political parties had been seeking for some time. The fact that General Tantawi went out and reaffirmed them today was significant, and we certainly will hold the ruling authorities to the commitments that were made today.
MS. NULAND: We have made clear from the beginning that we stand with the Egyptian people in their aspiration for a full democratic transition. We have wanted that to proceed peacefully, we have wanted that to proceed transparently and quickly. So we have reassurances now from military authorities again that that is their intention and that gives us a basis to, going forward, hold them to what they’ve committed to the Egyptian people. But of course, first and foremost, the Egyptian people will have the same expectations of the governing authorities.
QUESTION: But how are you going to hold them to account? I mean, are you going to cut off military assistance? Are you going to – I mean, just saying we’re going to hold you to account doesn’t mean you actually hold them to account. What are you going to do to hold them to account?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’re asking me to get ahead of events that haven’t happened here, Arshad. So what we have today is a reassurance from General Tantawi that this democratic transition process will be complete by July 2012. So that’s an expectation that he has now given to his own people, and we will stand with the Egyptian people as they ensure that the process delivers as he has promised.
QUESTION: Yeah. Ambassador Haqqani has resigned in Pakistan and his resignation has been accepted. Has the U.S. Government received any official intimation from Pakistan in this regard?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that these are events that happened today in Pakistan. We have not had any official notification with regard to his standing here.
QUESTION: Before going to Pakistan, his last meeting was with Ambassador Grossman. Was there any indication that this was a farewell meeting?
MS. NULAND: That this was a what?
QUESTION: Farewell meeting.
MS. NULAND: Favorable meeting?
QUESTION: A farewell meeting.
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I think they spoke about the full range of Pakistani issues. I do know that Ambassador Haqqani said he was going back for consultations, but I don’t know whether he characterized --
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have a comment on his three years (inaudible) working as Ambassador here? Because there were several ups and downs. And what kind of role do you think he played as an ambassador?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to get into valedictory comments here unless and until we’ve had a formal notification from the Pakistani Government.
QUESTION: Just on that, do you actually --
QUESTION: Have you had an informal notification? I mean, have you been told anything informally even, like “He’s gone and we’ll send you the note later?” or --
MS. NULAND: I mean, obviously we’re watching the same recording that you are watching in the press. But unless and until we – generally, the process is that if an ambassador is going to be withdrawn you, have a formal notification. So that is presumably --
QUESTION: So the statement by the prime minister’s office that they had asked for his resignation isn’t enough?
MS. NULAND: Again, he has a status here until he’s formally withdrawn. That usually happens by letter. Presumably based on the prime minister’s statement – well, we will see that, but I’m not going to be making valedictory comments about him in the current state.
QUESTION: The Secretary has – aware about the developments in Pakistan with regard to Memogate, which is resulting in political turmoil inside Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: I think we spoke to this yesterday. I’m not going to get into an internal Pakistani issue.
Anything else? Really? Is that all we have today? (Laughter.) Oh, no, no. There we go.
QUESTION: It’s a big day.
MS. NULAND: Okay, Jill. What else do you have?
QUESTION: For those of us who are fans of the CFE, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, what does this mean, what’s going on? Does this affect missile defense? Doesn’t sound good for the reset.
MS. NULAND: Are you a fan of the CFE, Jill?
QUESTION: I’ve always loved it.
MS. NULAND: I thought I was the only fan of the CFE around here. Well, we will shortly put out a statement later today – or is the statement already out?
QUESTION: It is out.
MS. NULAND: Statement is already out – there you go – advising that the U.S. has made a decision to cease implementing, vis-à-vis Russia, our – certain obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. This move responds to Russia’s cessation of implementation of CFE, which began in December 2007, and the subsequent impasse with Moscow on a way forward.
As you know, we’ve made repeated efforts to bring Russia back to full implementation of CFE. Efforts were made in 2007. Efforts were made in 2009 and 2010. So what this means specifically is that the U.S. will not accept Russian inspections of our bases under the CFE, and we will also not provide Russia with the annual notifications and military data called for in the treaty. And it is our understanding that a number, if not all, of the U.S.-NATO allies will do the same.
QUESTION: Why is that a good thing?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have a treaty now that is not serving the purpose for which we signed, which was to provide military transparency among all the 30 states parties to the treaty, and to allow for reassurance. We have tried repeatedly to bring Russia back to the table, because we do believe in the CFE and we think it provides reassurance. But we’re at a stage now where, after a number of efforts to salvage this, we don’t think it’s in our interest to continue to provide data that is not reciprocated on the Russian side.
QUESTION: Right, but my question goes more to the – I’m sorry, did you want to --
QUESTION: Well, you can --
MS. NULAND: Both.
QUESTION: Just one more on this.
MS. NULAND: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, why is it you’re essentially giving up on the possibility of sustaining this treaty? Now, I understand that they unilaterally ceased to comply with its provisions four years ago, but to say, “Well, we’re not going to comply either,” would seem to suggest that you’ve just given up on it. And I wonder why that is – I understand not wanting to continue handing over data when they’re not reciprocating. But what I don’t understand is why you would just give up entirely and why you wouldn’t actually continue to try to persuade them to either adhere to the treaty or amend it in such a way that they would be willing to continue with it?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’re making an assumption not in evidence. We are not giving up on conventional arms control nor are we giving up on the possibility of saving and modernizing the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which, as you know, has been a goal of this Administration.
We are simply saying that at this stage, after four years of non-Russian implementation, and after repeated efforts, including high-level efforts to save the treaty, we think that it’s important to take some countermeasures vis-à-vis Russia, and maybe this will crystallize the mind in terms of our ability to get back to the table. Because hitherto, there had been, as you said, a nonreciprocal situation where we were giving data, giving data, giving data and being open, and Russia was not reciprocating.
I would also say that we will continue to give data and cooperate in inspections with regard to the other 28 states parties in the CFE Treaty. So the CFE Treaty goes forward normally vis-à-vis the countries who are implementing it fully. And it is our hope and our goal that we can still get back to the table and resolve the situation with Russia.
QUESTION: Okay. And there’s nothing scheduled for now? No more talks are scheduled for now with them on CFE?
MS. NULAND: There are no more 30-country talks at the moment. We obviously are open and prepared to talk to Russia bilaterally about CFE at any stage.
QUESTION: Do you think that this will have an effect on missile defense?
MS. NULAND: Well, our missile defense policy remains that we want to have a collaborative agreement with Russia that allows us to cooperate, allows us to share information, allows us to connect our systems. That remains our goal. But it’s, again, up to Russia to want it as well. So from this point of view, we don’t see a direct connection between the two. Missile defense is missile defense. Conventional arms control is conventional arms control. We want to have both. We want to have a good collaborative relationship with Russia on both. But it takes two to tango.
QUESTION: But again – we always have to ask this when things happen with Russia – the overall effect on the reset, I mean, this is – it’s pretty serious when the U.S. says it’s not going to carry out a treaty, albeit if the Russians are not doing it, what will be the effect?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, remember where this started. This started with Russia unilaterally suspending its own implementation of the CFE Treaty, and the U.S. then leading two rounds of efforts with our NATO allies, with other treaty parties to bring Russia back. We are prepared to continue those efforts. But what we’re not prepared to do is to give our data in the absence of Russian data over a four-year period.
So what we’ve always said about the reset was that the reset would enable us to collaborate and cooperate more where we could, but also to be clear and honest when we have difficulties and we have differences. And this is a difference that’s been going on since December 2007, so we thought it was important to be clear now and reciprocal.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yep.
QUESTION: A follow-up to your question on yesterday’s nuclear deal with India: You said the State Department’s looking for – working towards American companies having a level playing field in India and in India’s civilian nuclear industry. This gives us a sense that the U.S. believes that U.S. companies doesn’t have that kind of level playing field in India. So my question is: What steps – what specific steps do you want India to take so that American companies have a level playing field in India’s civilian nuclear industry?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth of a very sensitive issue that has been under discussion between our governments for a number of months. But I think our statement speaks for itself in the sense that we want to ensure that our companies can compete freely and fairly in this industry as we hope and expect that they’ll be able to compete in other industries both in India and around the world. So we want to make sure that legislation on the books in India does not disadvantage American firms.
QUESTION: But do you agree that that is not the case right now?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think the statement makes clear that this is an issue we have not yet resolved with the Government of India, and we’re continuing to work on it because we think it’s very important for both countries to finalize all of the terms that offer so much promise for both of our people.
QUESTION: And do you also agree that this is something which is now a sticking point between India-U.S. bilateral relations?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, this is an issue that we’ve been discussing. It’s an issue that both governments know we have an interest in resolving. Sometimes these things take time, so we’re going to continue to work on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a --
QUESTION: Just one quick one on Russia. I don’t know whether you have anything on this, but there’s apparently a bill that’s supported by Putin’s party which would – it’s in two major Russian cities – that would criminalize almost all activity that is related to LGBT equality, equating any discussion of that issue with pedophilia. Have you heard about this? Is this anything that the State Department would be interested in taking up?
MS. NULAND: I have not heard about that one, Jill. I’ll certainly ask our Embassy in Moscow whether they have been active on this issue. I think you know the principled stand that the United States Government takes on this issue and that the Secretary of State in particular takes on this issue, which is that gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. And so I don’t think the Russian Government could have any question about where we would stand on such an issue. But let me take it and see whether we’ve been active at all.
In the back.
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I can’t hear. About Japan?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: In order to increase beef export to Japan, does the State Department hope to see from Japan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think our policy on this has changed. We’ve been having discussions, negotiations on this issue for some period of time, so I don’t think I have anything new to report. We’re trying to work through the issues with regard to the export of delicious beef from the United States to Japan so that the Japanese people can enjoy it.
QUESTION: Just to come back to something that came up yesterday, you were asked yesterday about reports that U.S. manufactured tear gas has been used in Egypt, and a colleague has asked me to check in on this. Do you have any guidance on this? Is there anything illegal about American companies selling tear gas to Egypt? Is there any American assistance that funds this? Is there any reason why the United States might rethink or seek to restrict such sales, given that you feel that the Egyptian police have used excessive force? Or is this perfectly legal, and it continues, and there’s no reason why the U.S. Government would get involved?
MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for the question, Arshad. We did want an opportunity to speak to this again today. Let me first say that we will examine fully reports of use of U.S. tear gas. What I can say today is that no U.S. security assistance funds have been used for the purchase of tear gas, that direct commercial sales between the Egyptian Government and private companies have, however, been licensed in the past. The U.S. Department of Commerce and State have in the past approved such licenses, but we don’t have any pending at the moment. But we are going to be looking into these reports.
QUESTION: And just one other thing here. Do you have any reason, other than its use – I mean, tear gas gets used by all sorts of governments, including U.S. local authorities, when faced with protestors. I think the issue is more whether you feel like it may have been misused. So do you have any reason to believe that the Egyptian authorities have misused tear gas in seeking to contain the protests?
MS. NULAND: Well again, as I said, we’re going to look into fully the question of use of U.S. manufactured tear gas that was licensed by us. But I can’t speak today to – I can’t evaluate today before we look into it what we might conclude.
QUESTION: Okay, and last one on this. You said it had been licensed in the past. Do you know if those licenses were a long, long, long time ago? Like, ten years ago, so it’s unlikely that any U.S. tear gas would still be there and available for use? Or do you know if that was more recently, in the last couple of years?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know how recently these licenses are. I can tell you there aren’t any new licenses pending for consideration.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Jill. You are busy today.
QUESTION: I know. I’m just printing them out right and left. This is --
MS. NULAND: Thanksgiving rush?
QUESTION: No, there are just a lot of things from our network that are important to follow up on. And there’s one case in Afghanistan of a woman, whose name is Gulnaz - and we can give you more information – who was raped and – essentially the only way to expiate the guilt of her family for this is to marry the man who raped her. It’s a case that really is quite shocking and it raises issues about rule of law in Afghanistan. Would you be able to take this, or somebody could look into it, to see whether there is any comment? I presume you don’t - you’re not up on that case right now.
MS. NULAND: I am not. The circumstances you describe obviously sound horrific. We will take it.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please. Behind.
QUESTION: There are reports that Pakistan had started talks – peace talks with Pakistani Taliban. Are you aware about it, and do you support such an initiative of the Government of Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: I think you asked the same question yesterday, or somebody asked this question.
QUESTION: I was not --
MS. NULAND: There we go. This question was asked yesterday. As I said yesterday, this is not an issue that the United States is party to so I’m going to refer you to the Government of Pakistan about what it may or may not be doing with its own Taliban. But you know where we are on these issues in terms of what it takes to reconcile.
QUESTION: And one more on Afghanistan’s loya jirga, which approved that they - Afghanistan wants U.S. to have its military presence for another 10 years. Now Russia has issued a statement saying that they want U.S. to explain why it wants to have permanent military base in Afghanistan for another 10 years.
MS. NULAND: The Russians issued a statement?
MS. NULAND: Who issued the statement?
QUESTION: I’m not sure. It was issued in Kabul. It’s one of the (inaudible) in Kabul.
MS. NULAND: Well, I haven’t seen the Russian statement. We have had extensive bilateral discussions, including the Secretary with Foreign Minister Lavrov, about these conversations we’re having with Afghanistan, that we’re seeking a long-term, consensual relationship on the civilian side, on the security side, and that we’re working out the details, and we’ve been quite explicit with the Russians about what this will and will not be, that these will not be American bases, et cetera.
QUESTION: Just one more about CFE.
MS. NULAND: Didn’t know there were so many CFE fans. This is --
QUESTION: Love it.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Me too.
QUESTION: Do you see a – is this reflective of a broader deterioration in relations with Russia?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve spoken to this, that the reset has allowed us to make significant progress on some very difficult issues, and you know what those are. The conclusion of the new START deal, a better understanding on Afghanistan, significant progress vis-à-vis Iran. But reset also allows us to speak quite frankly when we have difficulties and disagreements, as we’ve had on issues like the sovereignty of Georgia, et cetera. And with regard to CFE, this is an issue that we’ve been working on ever since the Russians withdrew in December 2007. We’ve made two extremely serious efforts to try to resolve the concerns of the Russian Federation.
We’ve called for the modernization of this treaty, which, as you know, was originally conceived in the ’80s, was modernized in the ’90s, but could use even further modernization. But unfortunately, we’ve not yet succeeded in that. Our door remains open to resolve these issues because we do believe it’s an important treaty. We believe that conventional arms control among the 30 states’ parties and even to include more parties in Europe is useful. But this move that we’ve made today signals the fact that, after four years of giving data when the Russians haven’t, we think it’s important to take some counter-measures.
Please. You’re also busy today. Please.
QUESTION: Do you have any dates for the Secretary’s travel to Burma? Is that been firmed yet?
MS. NULAND: I think we put out an announcement, didn’t we? Middle of last week? December 1st and 2nd.
QUESTION: December 1st and 2nd?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Good. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:31 p.m.)
DPB # 179