12:51 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. We had a lovely trip to West Africa, very interesting. Thanks to those who traveled with us. All of them seem to be sleeping in. I have nothing at the top today, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Keystone. There have been --
MS. NULAND: Know nothing about, Sean.
QUESTION: Know nothing about it?
MS. NULAND: Have no idea what you’re talking about.
QUESTION: Sure, sure.
MS. NULAND: What’s the question?
QUESTION: Well, there’s multiple reports that the Administration has made a decision in line with the congressional efforts to set a deadline on – an up-or-down on Keystone. Has a decision been made? And if so, what is it?
MS. NULAND: Well, we don’t have anything to announce at this moment or from this podium. I assure you that when we do have something to announce, we will announce it, and you will have a chance to be fully briefed and you will have a chance to ask your questions. But as of this moment, I have nothing to tell you. But we do – as you know, we had 60 days to take a decision based on the legislation that was passed at the end of December. That 60 days is still clicking off, but we will let you know when we have something to say, but I don’t at the moment.
QUESTION: Do you expect that announcement – do you expect a decision and an announcement to be made today?
MS. NULAND: I cannot tell you that at this moment one way or the other, Arshad.
QUESTION: Okay. And then one other thing, if I may, just – it’s kind of technical, but it’s a question that one could have asked you a week ago, okay? If – I hate starting with “if”.
MS. NULAND: Because you just open yourself to that --
QUESTION: I know. So I’m finding another one.
MS. NULAND: -- “I’m not answering a hypothetical.” (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m going to find another way to do this.
MS. NULAND: Hurry (inaudible).
QUESTION: I’m going to find another way to do this. When the Administration previously announced that it had decided to examine looking at a different route through a portion of Nebraska, it made abundantly clear that only that portion of the route was going to be reexamined, not the whole pipeline route, correct?
MS. NULAND: I don’t – not sure anything was made abundantly clear, except that we thought we needed to do more work based on the comments that we got particularly from Nebraska.
QUESTION: I think --
MS. NULAND: Keep trying, though, with your hypothetical question.
QUESTION: I’ll go back and look, but I think that it was made clear that you were only looking at any portions of the route that would be changed. So the question is: When a company submits a new application for such a pipeline, do you have to look at every single mile of the pipeline? Or, if they’re only changing one or two little pieces of it, can you only look at that small portion?
MS. NULAND: Let me help you out here, Arshad. I think what you’re trying to say to me is: If X happens and a new application is submitted, will we start all over again? And my answer to that is: I’m not in a position to answer that one way or the other. But that was a good effort to do that without an “if.”
QUESTION: It was not a good effort. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It was not a good effort.
MS. NULAND: Anything else on this subject?
QUESTION: It was valiant but unsuccessful.
MS. NULAND: Ros.
QUESTION: The House Speaker is already circulating what may be a legal technicality on who has the authority to actually make this decision. Does the authority to decide whether or not to go forward with Keystone XL or with – in particular, does that authority still ultimately rest with the Secretary of State, or does it lie with the President? Because they’re circulating a part of the law that was passed last month, indicating that, in their view this is a decision for the President to be making and not for the Secretary of State or her designate.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to comment on draft ideas that are circulating on the Hill one way or the other. Where we had --
QUESTION: But this is from the actual law that was passed that put in this additional 60-day review.
MS. NULAND: I understand that it is an interpretation of some members of what they passed. We are operating within the letter of the legislation that was passed at the end of December. We understand that we have to take action on that within the 60 days. That is what we are working on, but I don’t have anything to announce on it at this moment.
Josh, still Keystone?
QUESTION: Yes. So has the process of this review been managed solely at the State Department, or has this been an interagency process led by the White House?
MS. NULAND: This – as you know, from the very beginning - this was presidential authority devolved to the Secretary of State, which she was charged to manage, this building was charged to manage, across the eight involved agencies of government. That is the way this has been proceeding. If and when there’s a decision to announce, the discussion of it and the chance to ask your questions about the process will be fully part of it, including the process for getting to wherever we decide to go, but we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: Hi. Is it true, as I’ve seen stated, that Secretary Clinton’s aides have made a deliberate effort to not involve her in the Keystone process?
MS. NULAND: I think you’re taking me into details of where we are that I’m not going to get into today.
QUESTION: No. I’m speaking historically over the course of this --
MS. NULAND: The Secretary has – Secretary runs and manages this building, and she had a responsibility that was devolved to her from the President, then she makes a decision how to manage that responsibility within this building. Those decisions are hers to make.
QUESTION: How active has she been in the process, I guess, is a different way of asking it.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into any details on Keystone until we have a decision to make, at which point we’ll give a full briefing. I think I’ve said what I have to say on it.
QUESTION: But I’m not asking about the decision. I’m asking about the process to date. How active has she been? There’s nothing that should preclude you from answering that question.
MS. NULAND: Secretary has been fully responsible for the work of this Department in keeping with her responsibilities to the President.
QUESTION: One last one, if I may.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: The environmental impact statements that were prepared by the Department of State indicated at the time that, in the view of the Department, Keystone as a project posed only limited adverse environmental impacts. Is it safe to say that decision to reopen the whole process is a repudiation of that judgment?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, you’re taking us into details of this that are better gone through when there’s a decision made. I will say with regard to the process that we went through, and we were clear about this at the time, there was the initial environmental impact statement. That and the other work that we had to do needed to be submitted to the other branches of the U.S. Government that have to give national interest evaluations and also, under our process, had to be open for comment in all of the affected states. That is what we did. We held open meetings in all of the affected states, and we went through this at the time. In Nebraska in particular, we had very, very strong views about the environmental issues, about the routing, et cetera. And it was on the basis of that that we decided that more work needed to be done. That’s where we were before the legislation came into play at the end of December. And it was a direct result of the consultations that we had that were part of the process.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you – you said there’s nothing to announce. When there’s a decision made – those are the words you’ve – is there no decision, or are you just not --
MS. NULAND: As of 30 seconds before I walked in here, my understanding was that a decision had not yet been made. Okay?
QUESTION: Just educate me a little bit on this. When and if this decision is made, is there a concern that it may be interpreted as being politically expedient in any way, in the current atmosphere?
MS. NULAND: Said, you’re taking me into “if” places. So I – when a decision --
QUESTION: Yes, but that does not factor in any way in the Secretary’s thinking or --
MS. NULAND: When a decision is made, a decision will be announced. There’ll be an opportunity for that decision to be explained, and there’ll be an opportunity for all of you to ask questions of the appropriate experts.
QUESTION: Another question.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Another subject. Freedom House has come out with a report, “Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy around the Globe,” but what they are saying is there is a long way to go; the wave of freedom started but suddenly came to halt or a break. What we see now – are we seeing the more freedoms coming around the globe and human rights and democracy which the wave started for people who are crying and asking for more? Only in two country but, again, we don’t see much going on anywhere else.
MS. NULAND: Well, I haven’t seen the report that you’re speaking of, Goyal, so I’m not in a position to give you an evaluation of it. Certainly, I think you know that the United States stands for freedom around the world. Consecutive administrations – and this one very strongly – have worked hard with friends and allies to promote and advance the cause of freedom. If you look at some of the places that have been – were hottest in 2012, it spoke to the aspiration of many citizens around the world for more freedom, for more democracy, whether you’re talking about Libya or Egypt or Tunisia or Burma. And I think you see that U.S. policy is very much directed towards helping and advancing the cause of freedom and democracy around the world wherever it is incomplete.
QUESTION: Toria, we had a person on our air who was a passenger on the Italian liner, and they were critical of what the State Department had or had not done in their case, saying that essentially they had no documents, no passport, called the Embassy and they said come on down and get it even if you have to borrow cab fare to do it. Probably difficult for you to speak to individual cases, but how would you assess right now how the State Department handled the assistance – consular assistance to Americans in that tragedy?
MS. NULAND: Well, Jill, the report you give does not track with our sense of how events went over the weekend. Immediately after becoming aware of this tragedy and the fact that we had some 120 American citizens on board, we began, from our Embassy in Rome, from our consulate in Florence, working with the cruise line to account for the Americans. We made a deal with the cruise line that they would transport all of the Americans, after accounting for them with us, to a hotel in Rome and to the Embassy for those who needed documents. We set up a 24/7 operation on the holiday weekend at the Embassy. We processed over a hundred emergency passports. Some folks either didn’t need documents or chose to get them outside of Italy. We also provided all kinds of advice, telephone contacts to families, helped families make travel funds, provided them with passport photos, warm clothes. There were even a couple of families that needed diapers. So – and obviously, we’ve remained in touch with the Italian authorities with regard to the two Americans who remain missing.
So this was a full court press by the consulate in Florence, by the Embassy in Rome, to try to provide services to our Americans, and we’re pleased to say that more than a hundred passports were issued. And frankly, we would like to hear directly from this American if in fact there were difficulties because, beginning at 3 o’clock in the morning, our folks were all hands on deck to try to help them as best we could.
We also, as you know, set up a full website, Twitter, contact information for families. We connected all of the families to their loved ones.
MS. NULAND: I’m shocked that they’re Russian-related, shocked.
QUESTION: First, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin is in town. I was wondering if I can get a readout of his meetings with the people at the Department.
And secondly, Russian national by the name of Vladimir Zdorovenin was indicted yesterday in Manhattan, in New York, for cyber ID theft, something like that. My understanding is that the Russian consul general in New York said that they never received an official notification from you guys on that gentleman being extradited from Switzerland, where he was arrested. Why this happened?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to have to take both of those, I’m afraid. On Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin, I will check who he’s met with, and we’ll get back to you.
And with regard to this Russian citizen, if you can give our folks the name, we’ll get back to you directly on what we know about that case.
MS. NULAND: Said.
MS. NULAND: Please.
MS. NULAND: With regard to sanctions on Iran? I did see his comments with regard to Syria.
QUESTION: He’s saying that cutting off Iranian oil is basically cutting off its economic lifeline.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we are here, that from a U.S. perspective – and we are working with allies and partners around the world on this – our concern is that the money that the Iranian regime gains from the export of crude is fueling its nuclear program and that we really need to get the regime’s attention, and that it is important to get it where it bites, and that is with regard to the crude. We have been talking to the Russian Federation about this legislation and about our hope that countries around the world can reduce their dependence on Iranian crude. We had Deputy Secretary Burns in Moscow yesterday and the day before talking about this and a number of other issues.
He also took that opportunity to consult with the Russian Government about Syria and about our continuing concern about the violence, about the fact that despite their best efforts, the Arab League has not been able, through its monitors, to get the Assad regime to live up to its promises and that we really need stronger action in New York at the United Nations Security Council.
QUESTION: Okay. A former CIA official, Mr. John McLaughlin, said yesterday that your diplomatic effort has been less than desirable with Iran. Do you believe that the United States has not pursued the diplomatic route, so to speak, as vigorously as it should have with Iran?
MS. NULAND: I have to say that we would reject that characterization. You’ll remember at the beginning of the Administration, Iran was one of a number of countries where the President mandated that we should give engagement another chance to work. The door was open to consultations with Iran. We worked hard to try to construct opportunities for Iran to come clean about its nuclear program. Those initial efforts were not successful, which led to a series of increasingly punitive sanctions both unilaterally and at the Security Council, the toughest sanctions that we’ve ever had against Iran.
Now, where we are is to say again to Iran, “You have a choice. We are still prepared to come back to the table and talk to you in P-5+1 format.” That was a proposal made in September at the UN, reiterated in writing in October, reiterated publicly many, many times, including in the last days and weeks. “If you, Iran, are prepared to engage seriously and come clean about your nuclear program and demonstrate to the world that you have no military intent.” So we remain open to engagement. The choice is Iran’s.
QUESTION: So lastly, the remain – this window remaining open is conditional upon Iran coming clean on its nuclear efforts, correct?
MS. NULAND: Of course.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that?
QUESTION: I’m following up on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Go ahead. Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: So several State Department officials have been traveling to countries to explain the Administration’s planned enforcement of the new Iran sanctions legislation. How do you so far gauge the success of those efforts? We’ve seen reports out of China, Russia, and India that they do not intend to comply. And what is your view on that? And also, how do you respond to Russian State TV calling our new ambassador, Mike McFaul, quote, “not a Russia expert” and someone who is determined to undermine the stability of the Russian regime?
MS. NULAND: First, on Iran, as you’ve noted, we have sent briefing teams to lots of different countries around the world – to Europe, to the Middle East, to Asia – to work with partners and allies on how to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude in a phased and managed way so that we don’t have economic backlash on those countries, so that we don’t unduly destabilize markets. We’re also talking to suppliers about how we can compensate for a reduction in Iranian crude.
I’m not going to comment, as I said last week, about the ups and downs and every public comment out of different countries. We’ve also had a number of countries making positive statements about their own national decisions, or in the case of the EU, work on a regional basis to try to reduce dependence on Iranian crude. We do think that these consultations are bearing fruit. We also see that Iran is already feeling the pinch in terms of the revenue it counts on from its crude, and we’ll continue to work on this.
With regard to Ambassador McFaul, as the Russian Federation knows very well and as he’s tried to explain to the Russian people directly through his own Twitter and Facebook site, which I commend to all of you, he is one of the U.S. Government’s top experts on Russia. He was and remains a key architect of the President’s reset policy. The degree to which we’ve had a number of successes in deepening our cooperation with Russia, whether it’s in the New START agreement, whether it’s with regard to cooperating to – on Afghanistan, tightening our efforts at the UN on Iran, et cetera, Mike was at the center of all of these things that we’ve done together. So he is obviously going to do his job, which is to continue to look for opportunities to cooperate strongly with the government in our mutual interest, but also to speak out clearly and meet with a broad cross-section of Russians, including those Russians who are hopeful that their country will move in an increasingly democratic direction. So he will continue to do that.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran?
QUESTION: Could we just stay – one more on Russia --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- on McFaul? He also is being criticized by Kommersant newspaper and some others as an expert in color revolutions, and the obvious implication is that he does know democracy promotion in other countries and that he might be interested in stirring up some trouble in Russia, which would be these types of color revolutions that occurred in Ukraine or perhaps Arab Spring. What do you say to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, Mike McFaul is also an expert on democracy. He wrote a very important book that was published in 2009 on this. He has a broad cross-section of contacts in the Russian Federation, leaders from all political parties – right, left, and center. From our perspective, this is a benefit that he knows Russians of every political stripe. He knows Russians in the NGO sector, in the press sector, in all of the political parties. He knows many Russians in the Duma. So among the things that we would like to have him do and which we expect he’ll be active in is to listen very carefully to the conversation that’s going on among Russians in Russia about their country’s future.
QUESTION: Iran. Do we have any more Russia follow up? (Laughter.) The Iranian foreign minister said publicly that there are talks about getting back into talks. Both the European Union and the British Government have denied that. Are there talks about getting back into talks with the Iranians?
MS. NULAND: Talks about talks about talks about talks?
QUESTION: No. Just talks about talks. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: First, I had meant, when we started the Iran conversation today, to do a little shout-out to a different kind of Iranian, so let me do that first, and then I’ll come back to your question. We would like to formally congratulate Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi, whose film, A Separation: Nader and Simin, won the Golden Globe award for best foreign film this past weekend. We applaud his achievement, and it’s a testament to the richness and the resilience of Persian culture.
On to talks about talks. There are no current talks about talks. What we are doing, as we have said, is making clear to the Iranians that if they are serious about coming back to a conversation, where they talk openly about their nuclear program, and if they are prepared to come clean with the international community, that we are open to that. We’ve seen a lot of public statements from Iran that they are interested, but we have not seen the kind of official communication that we need to see that demonstrates serious intent.
QUESTION: And that’s in response to Lady Ashton’s letter?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And lastly, I’ve been asked to ask yet again about the letter that Khamenei says he has received from the President. Any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: No comment, except to say what we’ve been saying, which was that we have multiple ways to communicate to Iran, and we deploy them all.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: When you congratulated Mr. Farhadi about the film, is this just something you’re saying now, or has there been some communication with them or some formal --
MS. NULAND: With him?
QUESTION: Or some more formal way to commend him on the film’s Golden Globe.
MS. NULAND: I have to tell you I don’t know whether our Cultural Bureau has been in direct contact, but they wanted to make sure that we did a shout-out here. I haven’t seen the film, but I’m looking forward to it.
QUESTION: It’s very good, actually.
MS. NULAND: Is it? Is it great? Good.
QUESTION: Yes. Victoria, Iran requested that the Security Council condemns the assassination of its scientist, but it seems that this request was sort of dismissed. Wouldn’t you support such a thing, that assassination is a despicable thing, that no country should involve itself in the assassination of a scientist of any other country?
MS. NULAND: Said, on the day this happened, we were quite clear, and the Secretary herself was quite clear, that we do not condone this kind of behavior and we weren’t involved.
QUESTION: I understand, but – okay. But shouldn’t, like, the international bodies, like the Security Council, talk about these issues openly and perhaps establish a standard against the assassination of either leaders or scientists or whatever?
MS. NULAND: I think the individual states of the Security Council probably pretty unanimously spoke out on this one.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran? Just --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Let’s finish on Iran, if that’s okay, Scott, and then we’ll go to Venezuela.
QUESTION: Just one quick one.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Iranian foreign ministry said over the weekend that they received a letter from the U.S. Government with regards to the Hormuz Strait. Do you disclose the content of this note or letter?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve answered that question.
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: We answered it last week, that we have many ways to convey our views to Iran, not going to get into details.
QUESTION: The new --
MS. NULAND: Oh, is that you feedbacking there, Scott? This is what happens when you let VOA in the room.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The new Venezuelan defense minister is on a list of people who the United States believes is involved in helping drug trafficking. He’s also believed to have contacts with FARC. Any reaction to General Silva’s appointment?
MS. NULAND: I don't think I have anything on him today, Scott, so I’m going to take that one from you, and we’ll get back to you.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please, Ros.
QUESTION: And this kind of goes back to all the questions on Russia. The foreign minister indicated that he would oppose any effort to impose any sanctions from the Security Council on Syria. Do you have a reaction to that?
MS. NULAND: Well, as Mark made clear yesterday, as we made clear last week, we continue to believe that it is past due for the Security Council to make a strong statement, make our views known against the violence, and stand on the side of those wanting peaceful change in Syria. We are consulting this week on an appropriate resolution. Those consultations we expect will continue through the week. We also expect that after the Arab League has a chance to evaluate its own mission, there’ll be input into the UN process from the Arab League as well. So we will continue to talk to the Russian federation about this in New York and bilaterally, but there’s more work to be done.
QUESTION: And what about reports of some sort of ceasefire in the town of Zabadani between the military and the Free Syria Army? Do you have any readout on that? Any sense from the Embassy on whether this is legitimately happening?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with what we do have on Zabadani, which is great concern about broad reporting that we’ve had from activists that the Syrian military brutally attacked Zabadani – this is a town between Damascus and the Lebanese border – as well as heavy – reports of heavy fighting in Hama and in Homs. These military actions are completely unacceptable and, obviously, out of step with the promises that the regime made months and months ago now to the Arab League. We’ve seen reports of some sort of a ceasefire. We’re not in a position to comment on it. It may have been an expedient in order to just stop the killing, which was quite brutal in our reporting.
QUESTION: Toria, do you have any contacts with the Syrian Free Army, and what do you think about this army?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we have broad contacts with the Syrian opposition. I’m not in a position to comment on specific individual contacts. Our message to the Free Syrian Army is the same message we’ve been giving more broadly, that we don’t want to see the situation in Syria further militarized, that we think that just plays into the regime’s hands, plays their game, gives them an excuse for the violence that they’re perpetrating. Rather, we want to see all aspects of the Syrian opposition work together and put forward a clear roadmap for a peaceful transition and transformation in their country.
QUESTION: Do you expect the Arab League monitors’ report that will be coming out, I guess in the next day or so, to be a watershed event and once it is sort of published, then you will consider what steps, perhaps at the Security Council, you will take?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are looking forward to the Arab League meeting, which is January 20th and 21st over this weekend. Our understanding is that they will take stock of their mission, that they will make the report available, and that they will consolidate their views on next steps. We are consulting with the Arab League, as we made clear, individually. We’ve seen a number of the countries at high levels over the last couple of weeks. And as you know, we had – both Jeff Feltman and Deputy Secretary Burns have been in direct contact with Arab League headquarters in Cairo. So we look forward to the report and we look forward to working together on next steps after the weekend.
QUESTION: One more on the monitoring?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you think that this monitoring mission – I know you’re waiting for the report, but there’s talk about expanding it or continuing it. Do you – and Secretary Clinton said that this shouldn’t go on – this mission should not go on forever. Do you see the usefulness of such a mission continuing, or do you think that there’s enough evidence of what’s going on on the ground that the mission should report? Does it have a purpose at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, without getting ahead of the Arab League, I think the Secretary was very clear at the beginning of last week, that we don’t see this going on indefinitely, and the reason for that is that, despite the best efforts of the Arab League, despite the considerable risks that they’ve put their monitors to, it has not succeeded in getting the Assad regime to meet its commitments, any of them, to stop the violence, to pull heavy weapons back from cities, to allow the monitors to go wherever they want to go, to release political prisoners, and to allow you, the international journalist corps, in.
So that’s the concern the Arab League members individually have made clear, that they are also concerned, but we need to let them report, and we stay in close touch with them going forward.
QUESTION: Toria, going back to the Syrian opposition, are there any talks with this opposition to have a representative here in Washington, which would send a strong message to President Bashar al-Assad, from here?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we are in close contact with them. We’re in close contact with them inside Syria. We’re in close contact with them in the diaspora. The Secretary met with the SNC representatives of – before Christmas time when we were in Europe and Geneva. But our sense is that the Syrian opposition is very much focused on the situation in Syria and that is as it should be. I don’t think that we have any difficulty being in contact with them as we need to be. I think their focus needs to remain on uniting together behind a common plan that can give more Syrians confidence that there is a good path forward for a democratic future that they deserve.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else on Syria before we leave Syria?
QUESTION: Just one quick one. There have been reports on the ground that unmarked NATO planes that were being used in the Libya operation are supplying the Syrian opposition. Can you confirm or deny those reports?
MS. NULAND: That sounds like fiction to me. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one more on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: If you said the monitoring mission has not succeeded in the objectives, then why wait for the report? Is that just to keep it appearing as if the Arab League is out in front of this?
MS. NULAND: This is the Arab League’s mission. They are the ones who had fielded the monitors. They’re the ones who have taken the risks. They’re the ones who deserve to be able to meet, consolidate, make a report on their mission. We have committed to them that we will stay in close contact with them. This is their region, where they live. They have taken great responsibility for this and so it’s appropriate that they get a chance to consolidate their work and then consult with all of the rest of us.
QUESTION: It sounds like you’ve already made up your mind though that it didn’t work – it didn’t succeed.
MS. NULAND: The Arab League itself, in individual member statements and in the statements of some of the monitors, have made clear that it did not succeed in its macro-mission, which was to get the violence to end and to get prisoners released. That doesn’t change the fact that we owe it to the Arab League to let them consolidate their report and come to – and work with the rest of the international community on a way forward.
QUESTION: But even if it did not succeed in ending the violence, is there not some utility in their presence? At the very least, you have greater information flow about events in Syria than previously. So absolute success seems like a very high bar. Is there not some utility in keeping them there?
MS. NULAND: Well again, we’re not going to prejudge what they’re going to decide. We have said here and elsewhere that one of the tragedies of this situation is that where Arab League monitors have been present and available on the streets of Syria, we’ve seen big crowds come out. We saw it just yesterday. There is YouTube video out there of Syrians thanking Arab League monitors, crying, sharing their stories, but this hasn’t changed the fact that as soon as monitors leave, the military fires on demonstrators, that they intimidate and continue the campaign of violence where monitors are not present. And as I said earlier, they haven’t met any of the four commitments that they made in any kind of – at any kind of scale.
So I think from our perspective, you’re absolutely right. What the monitors have been able to demonstrate, when they have been able to show presence and when the opposition has known that they were going to be there, is that the Syrian people want to be able to tell their government peacefully, and in an organized fashion, that they’re ready for change. And it is fear of reprisal, fear of violence, fear of intimidation, fear of being locked up, killed, or tortured, or all of the above, that is chilling the atmosphere for dialogue.
QUESTION: None of which answers my question, which is do you see any utility to having the monitors there even if they have not succeeded in ending the violence?
MS. NULAND: Again, Arshad, we need to let these monitors make their report and then we need to hear from the Arab League how they evaluate this report. We’re not on the ground trying to do this monitoring mission to evaluate whether there’s continuing utility. So I think we’re going to wait and see what they have to say.
QUESTION: But Victoria, seeing as this is – the primary mission is to stop the violence, from your perspective they have failed? The monitors have failed?
MS. NULAND: Again Said, we are going to let them make their report. We’re simply calling it like it is. The Secretary has said it can’t go on indefinitely if it’s not stopping the killing. Exactly where we go from here, I think we need to let the Arab League do its thing, and then we need to consult with them.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow on that. So would it be fair to say that if you’re waiting for Arab League’s report, you want to hear what they say about the report – is it fair to say that you’re letting the Arab take – League take the lead on where they think that this should be going next?
MS. NULAND: Look, Elise, we’ve made no secret of what we think here. We think Assad should step down, we think countries around the world ought to join us in maximum sanctions on this regime to squeeze it to change course, that any countries that are still trading actively with Syria, that are still supplying it with weapons need to stop, and that the international community needs to speak out, that the UN Security Council needs to speak out. We also have strong Arab voices making many of the same assertions.
That said, the Arab League took enormous responsibility on itself. Individual members of the Arab League have fielded monitors into dangerous parts. We owe it to those people who went into Syria in an effort to help Syrian civilians, to let them report. And I think that report, judging by what we already know, is going to bring more light and air and facts to the case that all of us have been making, and we want to make good use of that when it happens.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Pakistan’s new ambassador is scheduled to meet President Obama later this afternoon and present her credentials. So what is this Administration’s message to Pakistan on taking forward this relationship at this important time?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are delighted that Ambassador Rehman, along with a number of new ambassadors, is presenting credentials at the White House. As you know, she’s already had meetings here in advance of that with the Secretary, with Deputy Secretary Nides, with Deputy Secretary Burns.
Our message to Pakistan has been very clear. The Secretary spoke about this last week after she saw Ambassador Rehman. I would guess that the White House will speak about this as well today. We want to – we believe we both need a strong, continuing, cooperative relationship across the range of important issues – political, economic, security. We want to get back to the full range of business together, and we want to do that as soon as the Pakistani side is fully ready to have those conversations with us.
QUESTION: And another just --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: With this courts of Pakistan saying no to the U.S. diplomat (inaudible), can you give us just two answers? One is: How much aid has been given to Islamabad since November 26th? Like, if – has Islamabad said – also said no to the U.S. dollars? And the second is: There was a talk about compensation to the families of the soldiers killed. What is the update on that?
MS. NULAND: With regard to whether U.S. assistance has flowed since the tragic events of November 26th, I’m going to have to take that one. I don’t have it at my fingertips.
And then the second question? Remind me. I’m sorry, a little jet lagged.
QUESTION: That we had the reports or the talk about --
MS. NULAND: Oh, yes.
QUESTION: -- the U.S. paying compensation --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- to the families of the soldiers who were killed.
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, at the time, U.S. forces in ISAF made some statements about this. I would refer you to them regarding whether anything has moved forward on that. That’s a DOD issue. I’m going to send you to them.
QUESTION: One more on --
QUESTION: Ambassador Gary Locke is back to the U.S. and he has a meeting with Secretary Clinton and Deputy Secretary Burns. Could you please provide any details of this meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, that’s Americans talking to Americans, so I think we will not read that out. But as you know, Ambassador Locke has been doing some public diplomacy here and in China about the importance of that relationship, but also about the importance of speaking clearly on all the issues that we share.
QUESTION: One more on Locke?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: He made some very interesting comments in an interview on NPR this morning, saying that the situation of democracy and the stability of the – of China is very delicate right now, and I was wondering if there is a concern that there is a flourishing democracy movement in China that might be headed for confrontation with the government.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think what Ambassador Locke had to say in both that interview, interviews – other interviews in the U.S. and, frankly, interviews that he’s given in China, he obviously speaks for the Administration in expressing continued concern that we seem to have an increasing trend of crackdown, we – forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of human rights activists, lawyers, religious leaders, ethnic minorities in China. So we are being quite forthright with the Chinese Government about our concerns that we are in, and we seem to be in a period of crackdown and --
QUESTION: But when he said – I mean, does this Administration believe that the government in China has – is unstable, that it has cracks in which a democracy movement might – you might see things along the line of what’s happening elsewhere in the world?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to go into that kind of speculation. I think our message to the Chinese Government on these issues is the same message that we give around the world when we have human rights concerns – that governments are stronger when they protect the human rights of their people, and when they allow for peaceful dissent.
QUESTION: Can I ask one – thank you. One of the ambassadors being credentialed – presenting his credentials today is the new ambassador from Ecuador. This particular individual wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post defending the actions of President Correa, who is waging a criminal libel case against a leading Ecuadorian newspaper, and also waging a broader campaign against freedom of the press in Ecuador. I’m wondering if the State Department is concerned about the actions of the Ecuadorian president in this regard, and how does that jibe with their – with your actions to credential the new ambassador today?
MS. NULAND: Well, more broadly, I think you know that we are trying to do better with Ecuador. We are – have taken this step to nominate and send to the Senate the President’s nominee for Ecuador. We are hoping for confirmation there and to accept the Ecuadorian ambassador here. We have a lot to do together and we need to get on and do it. I can’t speak to the – whatever the internal judicial process may or may not be in Ecuador.
QUESTION: You’re not concerned about freedom of the press in Ecuador?
MS. NULAND: We’re always concerned about freedom of the press around the world.
MS. NULAND: John.
QUESTION: A separate issue, on Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Former President Musharraf, he said publicly that he’s planning to return to Pakistan at the end of the month. Today, the Pakistani authorities said that if he arrives, he’ll be arrested. Does the U.S. have a position on whether that’s a good thing or whether he should have freedom of movement going into Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: I think our view on this remains that this is an internal issue for the Pakistanis.
Samir, you’ve been so patient.
QUESTION: The issue --
QUESTION: One more on Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Is it Pakistan --
MS. NULAND: -- or should we finish Pakistan? Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Just a quick one: As far as credentials by to-be the new Ambassador of Pakistan Sherry Rehman is concerned, one, if she’s bringing a new understanding between U.S. and Pakistan, and – because of – after this memo scandal? And second, finally, bomb – terrorist bombings are still going on in Pakistan, and common Pakistanis are asking that those bombings must stop, killing innocent people in Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Goyal?
QUESTION: No. I mean, are you – what – any comments on those ongoing bombings inside Pakistan? Also, if there’s a new understanding, if she – the new ambassador is bringing a new understanding between the two countries?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I spoke earlier to our aspirations for where we would like to see the relationship with Pakistan go. It’s – it is a very important relationship. Nobody is going to deny that it is also complex and difficult, and that we have work to do.
With regard to the bombings, we condemn violence of any kind. And this is part and parcel of the intense consultations we continue to have and the work we want to do with Pakistan because terrorism threatens Pakistanis, and more Pakistanis have died than – at the hands of terrorists than many other countries. So we have work to do together.
QUESTION: Thank you. Did Deputy Burns meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov when he was in Moscow?
MS. NULAND: I know he met with senior folks at the MFA.
QUESTION: He did.
MS. NULAND: I do not believe that he met with Foreign Minister Lavrov himself.
QUESTION: He did, actually. (Inaudible.)
MS. NULAND: Did he? Great. All right. So there we go. (Laughter.) Thank you. I have high-level officials in the Kremlin, prime minister, and foreign ministry’s office, but I’m glad that Foreign Minister Lavrov received him, so there you go.
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: One question on Burma?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: With their prisoner release last week, I was wondering if you could provide us with an updated number of political prisoners still held there.
MS. NULAND: I don’t know that we have a conclusive number. I don’t think we’ve ever had a conclusive number. But we are working with Burmese authorities to try to understand the full list of those released and to check it against lists that we have and lists that human rights NGOs have with regard to who may still be held. But as of earlier this week, that work was still going on.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on sending a new ambassador to Burma, which was announced by the Secretary last week? How are you working with the Congress on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, as the Secretary said, this is not a speedy process. We need to select a nominee; that nominee has to be vetted through the process; the President needs to formally nominate that person; then that person has to be vetted in the Senate, and then we have to have the advice and consent of the Senate. So we are not even yet at the stage of announcing presidential nominees, so stay tuned. But it’s something that we are continuing to work on.
QUESTION: So the entire process is going to take a few months, couple of months?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to predict it. This is a process that is complicated and needs to be done right. But it’s usually a matter of a couple of months, not a couple of weeks, no matter how much good will there is on all sides.
QUESTION: A quick question on the Palestinian issue.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. The --
MS. NULAND: I thought you were going to let me out of here without – (laughter) – anything on Middle East peace, Said.
QUESTION: Right. The chief Palestinian negotiator claims that the Israelis have never really submitted a proposal that includes borders, for instance, or the future of Jerusalem, which is something that Mr. Netanyahu claims that he has. Can you lead us where – do you have any information on this issue? And how will this factor in in the discussions between the Jordanian monarch and the Secretary of State?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, I think you are again trying to take us here into that negotiating room, into that discussion room that the Jordanians have provided for the parties to speak. These are the kinds of issues that the parties need to work through. That’s why we’re so supportive of the Jordanian issues. Yes, the President talked yesterday, as the White House reported, about the Jordanian process, how much we support it, where we need to go. The Secretary, obviously, will discuss those issues or has discussed those issues with the king as well.
QUESTION: Okay. A very quick follow-up: Are you not aware of the proposals submitted by both sides?
MS. NULAND: Said, we’re very well aware of what’s up, but we’re not going to debate it in public here. We really need to give these parties some space to try to work it out themselves.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally, that when the Secretary of State talks with the Jordanian monarch, then she takes these points that are in the proposals, of which she is aware, and discuss them with the king of Jordan as to the future of the talks?
MS. NULAND: You’re asking me to report to you on her comments with him. I think that is – comes into the category of diplomatic discussions that would not be helpful to the parties if we got into the back-and-forth. But the Secretary is hoping to be helpful to the process, obviously, in her meeting with the king, taking – touching base with him on how we’re doing. And both the Kingdom of Jordan and the United States want to be friends to the parties in helping them to work this through.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on Ambassador Grossman’s meetings the last 24 hours? We got some yesterday.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t know that I have a readout per se. I can tell you where he is, in the category of “Where’s Waldo” today. He is in Abu Dhabi today. He’ll be there through tomorrow evening. He’s then going to New Delhi, which is a new stop. He’ll be there on Friday. Again, all of these meetings are focused on the support these countries give to Afghanistan and talking through the process of Afghan-led reconciliation and how we can all support the aspirations of Afghans.
QUESTION: Delhi was not in the list initially.
MS. NULAND: It was not on the original list. I think Mark said yesterday this going to be a little bit of an organic trip. He’s going to go where he thinks he can do some good and where consultations can be helpful.
QUESTION: And do you have any idea who he will be meeting there in Delhi?
MS. NULAND: I don’t, but I’m going to tell him that you all want to know, and then we’re going to figure it out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And from Delhi, he goes to Afghanistan?
QUESTION: Is that a message to Pakistan, because they rejected him?
MS. NULAND: In no way. Secretary Grossman made – we made clear that we would welcome a stop by Ambassador Grossman in Islamabad on this trip. You know that the Pakistanis are looking hard internally at our relationship. They asked us to give them time to do that. So he will not be going there on this trip.
QUESTION: Do you believe India has a role to play in the overall Afghanistan reconciliation process?
MS. NULAND: We do. We believe that India has a role to play in supporting a democratic, prosperous future for Afghanistan. They’re very much a player in the New Silk Road Initiative. These are all part and parcel of the same fight, talk, build strategy. India does, as you know, support police training and other things in Afghanistan. So it’s important that we keep those lines of communication open.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: Is the time that he’s going to spend in India time that was freed up by the fact that the Pakistanis did not wish to receive him?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that, being the creative diplomat that he is, he had an open around-the-world ticket and he’s going where he thinks he can be most useful.
QUESTION: This – Toria, the Secretary herself said that she was sending Ambassador Grossman to both Afghanistan and Qatar.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: So could you say when he’s going to be visiting those countries?
MS. NULAND: His plan is to get to Kabul on Saturday. In Kabul, he’s going to consult with President Karzai, he’s going to consult with the Afghan Government, on the larger Afghan-led process. And his onward consultations and his onward travel will be part and part of those consultations – when it’s appropriate to go to Qatar, et cetera.
QUESTION: Is there a policy change now that means that India has a role to play in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: No. In – we’ve been talking to India. They’ve been part of the New Silk Road. They’ve been part of many consultations. Not new.
QUESTION: Can you endorse the Turkish announcement to train a Libyan police force? Because EU officials in Brussels are quite worried about the track record of Turkish police force.
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that announcement by Turkey. We have said that it is up to the Libyans to decide what kind of international help they would like in the restructuring of their security forces, both the military as they seek to unify it and in the police forces – but I don’t have any kind of update on whether they and the Turks are talking.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: All right. Thanks very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
DPB # 11