12:51 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right. I have two things at the top and then we’ll go to what’s on your minds. First is with regard to Grigory Yavlinsky’s candidacy for president in Russia. The United States is disappointed by the refusal of the Russian Central Election Commission to register the candidacy of Grigory Yavlinksky to compete in the Russian presidential elections. Open political competition requires that electoral laws be applied fairly to all parties and candidates. Russians, like Americans and people everywhere, seek free, fair, transparent elections and a genuine choice when they go to the ballot box.
My second piece is about secretarial travel. On February 3rd through 5th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Germany and Bulgaria. In Munich, Germany, the Secretary will participate in the 48th annual Munich Security Conference. This annual event brings together global leaders to discuss common security challenges and will also give the Secretary a chance to have bilateral meetings with a number of her European and other counterparts from around the world.
While in – the Secretary will then go to Sofia, Bulgaria on February 5th to meet with senior Bulgarian officials to discuss a range of issues, including the democratic transitions in the Middle East, our ongoing support to Afghanistan, energy security, and our bilateral cooperation in international law enforcement.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can I just ask very briefly on Munich, do you have any idea of who she might see other than the Germans?
MS. NULAND: We have not set her bilateral schedule. We’re still working on that, but we’ll let you know when we have it.
QUESTION: All right. And then I’m assuming she’s coming back to – she plans to come back to Washington from Sofia on the 5th?
MS. NULAND: That’s the plan.
QUESTION: Will those of us on the plane be able to watch any of the Super Bowl?
MS. NULAND: I will refer you to management on that issue.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Take that as a “no” then. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: You know our plane is not Air Force One, so I just can’t speak to whether we’re going to have direct feed of the Super Bowl. So maybe that will affect your plans.
QUESTION: Can we – I was going to – are you going to stay on the trip?
QUESTION: No. I was going to go substance, actually, but --
QUESTION: Oh. Might I go to – yeah.
MS. NULAND: All politics is local.
QUESTION: The French president, Mr. Sarkozy, has just announced that France will be pulling all of its combat troops out of Afghanistan in 2013, a year ahead of schedule. Do you have any reaction to that? Does it concern you at all that at least one of your allies doesn’t appear willing to wait until the announced deadline?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve had Afghan President Karzai in Paris today, yesterday. We also had the French defense minister in Afghanistan, after the tragic death of the French troops in Afghanistan. So our understanding, based on our consultations with our French allies, both bilaterally and in NATO, is that this timetable was worked through both with the Afghans and with NATO as part of our collective process of transferring increasing security authority to Afghan leadership.
We obviously want to continue to work together to ensure that this is implemented in a way that is consistent with the efforts of all of NATO to give increasing authority to the Afghans and that it is smooth. But what we are gratified by is that this was not precipitous, that this was worked through carefully with NATO, with the Afghans, and in consultation with all of us.
QUESTION: You’re saying that the new timeline that he announced, the 2013, was worked through, so this didn’t come as a surprise to you, this announcement?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’ll recall that after the death of the French soldiers, there were very strong statements from Paris. There were some concerns expressed in NATO countries, and as well as in Afghanistan, that whatever was done needed to be done in a consultative fashion, needed to be done in a managed fashion. And what we see now is just that, a consulted and managed effort.
QUESTION: Gratifying --
QUESTION: But there was some --
QUESTION: Gratifying though this may be to you that it was worked through, would it not have been more gratifying still had they not stayed the additional year?
MS. NULAND: This was a national decision of France worked through with the Afghans, worked through with NATO. What we are trying to do as an ISAF community, the NATO nations, and all of our partners, is ensure that as we move towards Afghan security lead in 2014, that all of these moves are phased, that they’re done in a managed manner. So each country, you will see as we go through this between now and 2014, will be making national decisions, but they’re also making them in consultation with the rest of the ISAF partners and with the Afghans.
So this was a national decision of France. It was done in a managed way. We will all work with it. As the President has said with regard to our own presence, we are working on 2014. The alliance as a whole is working on 2014, but we are also going to work within this French decision.
QUESTION: So is the suggestion from the French left that this was done strictly to enhance Sarkozy’s attempts to win reelection in about three months’ time? Was that a consideration in the U.S.’s discussions with Paris about its plans to pull its troops out?
MS. NULAND: Our discussions with Paris were not political. They had to do with ensuring the integrity of the mission.
QUESTION: So how will that integrity be assured and how will the alliance compensate for the more rapid departure of French troops? What was worked through to make sure that the security situation remains (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I’m not going to get into all the operational details here. I think if you want to get to that level of detail of how – where France leaves from, who comes in behind, how that works, I’m going to send you to NATO.
QUESTION: So you’re not --
QUESTION: Can you say that the U.S. will not have to either maintain additional troops because of the French decision?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you for NATO for how the actual troop rotations will be affected by this.
QUESTION: The U.S., as the commander of ISAF and as the largest member of NATO, doesn’t have any – you don’t have any problems with one of your allies slinking out the back door?
MS. NULAND: Again, Matt, I would reject that characterization. This was something that over the last week to 10 days we have worked through in a NATO context, in an Afghan context, and it – we will be able to manage it.
QUESTION: More broadly, this means that the American troops will be picking up the slack, without the details. Is that right or --
MS. NULAND: Josh, I cannot speak to that because I’m not the NATO commander, obviously. I don’t know how this will affect military rotations. I’m going to have to send you to NATO.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: But you can’t say in general that you feel that this does put an increased burden on the U.S.?
MS. NULAND: Again, I cannot speak to what the plans were for how many forces we were supposed to have in 2013, who was supposed to do what, and what the rotation schedule was going --
QUESTION: So it’s possible --
QUESTION: So you’re suggesting --
MS. NULAND: I’m just not --
QUESTION: -- it could have no effect whatsoever?
MS. NULAND: Having some experience with NATO issues, I’m really not going to stand here and speculate on troop rotations and the impact. I’m going to send you NATO; I’m going to send you to the Pentagon, where they work on these things.
QUESTION: But surely, as this key, critical, very valuable ally, France plays a big role in the ISAF mission, does it not?
MS. NULAND: It plays a strong role. It plays a particularly strong role in RC-East.
QUESTION: So them leaving – and I won’t use the term that I did before – but in them leaving a year earlier than had been agreed by everybody in Lisbon, that doesn’t create any kind of problem or concern for you?
MS. NULAND: Again, the main thing now as we transfer authority province by province, area by area, from NATO the Afghan lead is that this is done in a managed, phased, planned way. Having a year to work through this will allow us to have those conversations both internally within NATO countries and with the Afghans. And this could have been a whole lot more precipitous. Our request was that be consulted, that this be managed. We do think that this will allow us to do that, and we’re going to work within the decision of the French Government.
QUESTION: So, essentially, this means that areas where French troops are now will be the first ones to be transferred?
MS. NULAND: I cannot speak to how this will impact on the ground, whether other forces will come in behind, whether Afghans will be able to take up the lead there. These are really questions that have to go to the commanders --
QUESTION: Okay. Can they be answered that by commander? I mean, I sure hope they can. Maybe this is just the wrong forum to be asking them, but if these questions can’t be answered, it seems like this was, in fact, precipitous and --
MS. NULAND: This is exactly why we wanted a little time to work this through.
QUESTION: So if we closed --
MS. NULAND: And I have confidence that NATO and the Afghans will be answer your questions, but I cannot.
QUESTION: So if we asked NATO or the Pentagon, ISAF, they will be able to answer the questions that we’re asking here?
MS. NULAND: Again, they are the right address for those operational questions.
QUESTION: But they have answers to them, right?
MS. NULAND: They are the right address for those questions.
QUESTION: Does that mean that they don’t have answers to them? Are you aware – I mean, that they do or --
MS. NULAND: Matt --
QUESTION: I don’t think this is --
MS. NULAND: I don’t know whether they have answers today or whether they’re going to have answers in two weeks or whether they had answers a month ago.
QUESTION: Well, can I just say that if they don’t have answers to the questions right now, then it seems like it was precipitous and there’s no plan in place for them to be --
MS. NULAND: Again, we have been consulting with France, we’ve been consulting within NATO, on how this will impact the mission. And we – and NATO is prepared to manage it, as are we.
QUESTION: But – I know you’re prepared, but you have no feelings about it whatsoever, like it stinks, it’s not a good time?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said what we have to say on this subject. Can we move on, please?
QUESTION: Yes. Can we finish on this? Can you finish what you were saying about France’s role? You started talking about their role in RC like you had some more to say about that. What is France’s current --
MS. NULAND: Well, just that France has been a very strong player in the mission, has performed superbly in Afghanistan, has also been a superb partner for the Afghans in training. We expect the training cooperation to continue.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yes, please, on to Syria, Said.
QUESTION: Finish in Afghanistan --
MS. NULAND: You want to stay in Afghanistan? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Afghanistan today signed a strategic partnership agreement with Italy. Do you have anything?
MS. NULAND: With Italy.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have anything to say on that?
MS. NULAND: No, I’m going to refer you to the Afghans and the Italians.
QUESTION: And what’s the status of your strategic partnership with Afghanistan agreement?
MS. NULAND: We’re still working through a document. We very much want to have a strategic document agreed. We have some outstanding issues which I think have been out in the press, and we’re still working on them.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you share with us any information you might have on a possible meeting between Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman and the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Araby this coming Monday in New York?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we are expecting both the head of the Arab League and, I think, the Kuwaiti prime minister --
MS. NULAND: Yeah – the Qatari prime minister --
MS. NULAND: -- in New York early next week to make the Arab League’s report to the Security Council. My understanding is that Assistant Secretary Feltman has also asked to see them bilaterally.
QUESTION: And what will he discuss with the secretary general of the Arab League? Are they doing to discuss, like, points or perhaps increase monitors or participation of the international community with these monitors and dispatching them to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of Jeff’s meeting. I think we need to see where we are. I think the main thrust will be to coordinate our positions as we work to strengthen the Security Council action with regard to Syria and to get a better resolution.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any information from the Russians as to whether they will support a resolution short of introducing any kind of military action in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, nobody at the moment is looking for such a resolution. We are looking for a resolution that reflects the commitments that the Arab League was seeking from the Syrian Government that in its November 2nd agreement, which unfortunately has not been lived up to by the Syrian side, we are, as you know, having consultations in New York. Consultations at the perm rep level begin this afternoon. So we’ll have to see where we go then.
QUESTION: But are you comfortable that there may be a resolution next week coming out of the Security Council?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have a crystal ball here. But we are committed to working very hard. We understand that the Moroccan Government may lead on a new draft, but we’ll see what happens this afternoon in New York.
QUESTION: The Russians said today they do not support the Arab League proposal to end the crisis in Syria, which includes Assad to step down. What’s your reaction to this? Isn’t this negative?
MS. NULAND: Our – again, we don’t want to negotiate this UN Security Council resolution in public. We want to negotiate it in the UN based on a strong draft. We continue to want to work with the Russians so that the whole UN Security Council is united in sending the strongest possible message to the Assad regime that the violence has got to end and we’ve got to begin a transition.
QUESTION: I’m not asking about the resolution.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: In principle, they do not support what the Arab League agreed on.
MS. NULAND: Again, the Arab League is working with council members. We may have a new draft. I don’t want to get ahead of what is or isn’t in it or where individual nations might be. Let’s let the UN have its session this afternoon and then we’ll see where we go.
QUESTION: Staying in the region --
QUESTION: Can we stay with just Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: One thing that – this will be very quick. While I was gone, I caught – remember seeing something about possibly closing the Embassy in Damascus. Has that all been taken care of?
MS. NULAND: We talked about this extensively last week. There have been no decisions. We’re continuing to work with the Syrian Government to try to resolve the problem.
QUESTION: So – but the problem --
QUESTION: The last thing you said was that it was – that they were working with you, that you had made some proposals, they had made some, and you were still trying to work it out.
MS. NULAND: Correct. That’s --
QUESTION: So the direction seemed to be positive.
MS. NULAND: We’re still working with them. We’re not where we need to be.
SCAF on how it intends to apply the still extant emergency law in instances of thuggery?
MS. NULAND: We have not. Our questions regarding this thuggery loophole and, frankly, the questions of many Egyptians remain.
QUESTION: And have you made any progress at all in seeking to persuade the Egyptian authorities – and again, it’s not clear to me if it’s the SCAF or the government – regarding the IRI and NDI staffers?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to work on this collection of issues, as we discussed yesterday. We do not have progress since yesterday, I am sorry to report.
QUESTION: And is all of that being done through Ambassador Patterson, or are you reaching out at higher levels from Washington to try to resolve this?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said yesterday, if you saw the readout of the President’s phone call with General Tantawi, he raised this issue. The Secretary raised this issue over the weekend with Foreign Minister Amr. Jeff Feltman’s talked about it with them. Anne’s been in every day. So we are working on it.
MS. NULAND: The Secretary – Assistant Secretary Posner was in --
QUESTION: Prior to --
QUESTION: Weren’t those calls prior, however, to their being barred from leaving?
MS. NULAND: The President’s call was before, but we were trying to resolve the larger issue of the NGOs, of which this is a part.
QUESTION: No, no, I get it.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: What I’m trying to figure out, though, is whether on the narrower issue of six U.S. citizens who, as far as I believe you’re concerned, have done nothing wrong, being barred from leaving a foreign country. And I’m wondering if it’s just been left to Ambassador Patterson or if you have amped it up and had other people call.
MS. NULAND: We had – Assistant Secretary Posner was in Cairo yesterday and made the strongest possible demarches on this. We have – the Egyptian authorities are in no doubt that this is part and parcel of the larger set of concerns about NGOs, both Egyptian NGOs and international NGOs, that the President has raised, that the Secretary has raised, that multiple assistant secretaries have raised.
QUESTION: Last one for me on this. Are you giving any thought to the possibility of requesting less money for Egypt, which gets about $1.55 billion a year from the U.S. Government, the vast majority of it for the military, as a way of trying to persuade them to address this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Congress has asked for a number of certifications from the Secretary before this money can go forward. Those are decisions that are going to have to be made later on in the winter and spring, so it’s premature to decide where we’re going to be able to go on this, but it’s certainly something that we have been calling to the Egyptian Government’s attention.
QUESTION: Victoria, would you say that the strong message delivered yesterday included a warning that there may be a cutoff in aid if these behaviors continue?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the specific back and forth with the Egyptian Government, but they certainly are well aware of the certification requirements that the Congress has placed.
QUESTION: Those requirements – you have to certify what? That they’re just cooperating in general?
MS. NULAND: There are a whole range of certifications that have to be made. If you need a brief on this, we’ll give you a separate –
QUESTION: But is there one specific –
QUESTION: Yeah. That would be helpful. That would be --
MS. NULAND: Okay. Let us arrange a separate briefing on all of these.
QUESTION: Is there one specifically about democracy and this kind of thing?
MS. NULAND: There – yes.
QUESTION: That would cover this NGO –
MS. NULAND: Again, the way the legislation is framed – and rather than do it here without it in front of me, let’s arrange a special briefing for you all – but the way it is framed, it talks about certifying that the Egyptian Government and governing authorities are living up to the spirit of the democratic transition that is underway and human rights standards.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just one last one. You said that we have not had – you said at the beginning we have not had progress since yesterday, I am sorry to report. I just want to – when – does that mean that prior to yesterday, there had been a little progress? Or there’s been no progress at all?
MS. NULAND: No. I gave a very full state of play on this yesterday. My point was simply that we have been trying to work through these issues. We have particularly been trying to work through the issue of registering these NGOs, which is what the Egyptian Government says it now wants to do, and which would create the clear, understandable legal playing field not only for international NGOs, but for Egyptian NGOs, and that is the way out of this situation.
QUESTION: Right. But did you mean to imply that there had been initially since way early in January some progress, other than when Tantawi told Panetta that everything was going to be okay, and then it wasn’t? Has there been any movement prior to yesterday?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t know what you’re measuring here. What we are trying to do is come to not only a tactical resolution of this problem, but also a systemic resolution of this problem to help and support the Egyptians in establishing a system of registration for NGOs of this kind, whether they are local, domestic, Egyptian NGOs, of which there are now many when there didn’t used to be many, and for internationals.
QUESTION: I understand that.
MS. NULAND: And on that front –
QUESTION: But when you refer to–
MS. NULAND: And on that front, if you’ll let me finish, we have been having good conversations about what is necessary. It has not, as I said, regrettably led to the action that we need with regard to our own citizens, with regard to return of equipment, et cetera.
QUESTION: But I think that I may – maybe I’m not making it clear. When you say, “We haven’t had any progress since yesterday,” you’re talking about the resolution to the NGO workers who are not being allowed to leave.
MS. NULAND: I’m talking about all of it.
QUESTION: All right. Everything. Okay.
MS. NULAND: All of it. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you. On this, is it true that the Egyptian Government has told you that the reason these people have not been allowed to leave is because they’re being – because the government is considering bringing them to trial on criminal charges?
MS. NULAND: The – as I said yesterday, the assertions of the Egyptian Government in these cases are that they are subject to a judicial process, which is not complete. Our message back is: Complete these formalities, and let our people travel as soon as possible.
QUESTION: There’s a delegation from the Justice Department that arrived in Cairo today. Do you know if this is part of the talks with the Egyptians on how to help them to register the NGOs and –
MS. NULAND: Samir, I’m going to send you to our Embassy in Cairo. Frankly, I don’t know whether this was a special team called in to try to resolve this set of issues or whether it was a previously scheduled delegation. We are trying to work with the Egyptians in general on judicial sector and improving and strengthening the sector as a whole and for international standards.
QUESTION: Staying on Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Senior officials indicated last summer off camera that the reluctance of the Egyptian Government to allow NGOs, particularly groups such as IRI and NDI, to operate was because the Mubarak regime was very leery of having any challenges to its power. There seemed to be more a sense last summer that perhaps this interim government – that SCAF would be more likely to allow these groups and local groups to operate. Was this a mischaracterization or a misjudgment by officials both here in this building and in Cairo? Because it seems as if it’s just gotten even tougher for these groups to operate.
MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, thank you for putting that that way. I think the part of this that’s very difficult to understand, bewildering, frankly, is that both Egyptian NGOs and the international NGOs and the ones we support – NDI, IRI, Freedom House – have been playing an enormous role in supporting the very good elections that we’ve had. So they’ve been a value – the Egyptian ones, the international ones – to this transition process. They have played a role in training election monitors, training election workers, helping political parties to establish themselves, get their message out, campaign without choosing winners and losers, without supporting any individual candidate. So they have been very active throughout this period, were largely allowed to be so.
Our understanding from our contacts with the Egyptians involved in the political process, including Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, is that they have also partaken of their local NGO programs, of our NGO programs, and have made good use of them in preparing them for the election. So you have these NGOs, which are proving their value in terms of supporting a clean, open, transparent, increasingly democratic transition in Egypt. They’re playing a very strong role, and yet, after the fact almost between these two rounds, they’re facing this harassment. So it’s quite bewildering as to why this is a good idea for Egypt’s democracy, and that’s the point that we’re trying to make.
QUESTION: But you will not concede that it was a mistake to trust SCAF that these groups would be able to carry out their work, that they wouldn’t be harassed? I mean, are we now expecting to hear that some of these Americans are going to be forcibly detained and have their passports taken from them?
MS. NULAND: Again, Ros, the bizarre aspect of this – the bewildering aspect is that they have been able to work. They were able to work, and they performed a valuable service, primarily the Egyptian ones, but also the international ones. So from our perspective, this harassment is counterproductive to the larger goal of Egyptians being able to get where they want to go, which is a more democratic, open, prosperous Egypt.
QUESTION: So do you think that this expression is an expression of hostility towards the United States or towards Egyptians trying to learn democracy?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get inside the heads of the officials who are involved in this. As we talked about a little bit yesterday, this is a new day in Egypt. And the fact that you have open elections, the fact that you have grassroots groups trying to support them, and that you have a blossoming of international support is something that is relatively new in the Egyptian system, and there are clearly some Egyptians in the bureaucracy who are not understanding its value and not in the 21st century, shall we say.
QUESTION: But the Secretary’s going to have to go to Capitol Hill in the next two weeks and justify why the State Department is going to be asking for X millions of dollars for this kind of democracy promotion work in Egypt and in other countries around the region. She’s going to be asked the question, because members of Congress are already asking: They don’t seem to like us, they don’t seem to care for us, why should we spending our money on people who don’t like us and don’t want us there?
MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, you’re absolutely right. As we said before, the Secretary does have certification responsibilities before the money that the Congress has already appropriated can flow. And these are points that we’re obviously making clear to the Egyptians, as Assistant Secretary Posner did yesterday in Cairo.
QUESTION: One more Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you just clarify that the Muslim Brotherhood’s also seeked India’s official help on India’s model of elections? If you know anything about this, if anybody talk about from India, that they came to help – get help?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know anything about that, Goyal.
QUESTION: On Bahrain?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: State Department has prepared a new set of arms sales to Bahrain, replacing the old program, which was missiles and Humvees. I’m wondering why change the package of arms sales we’re offering to Bahrain, and can you talk about what’s in the new package?
MS. NULAND: Josh, I’m going to take that one because I do know that we made some changes, and we’ve – but I need to get the details. Okay?
QUESTION: Yes. On the Palestinian issue.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has there been any new development in the last 24 hours, since the talks apparently were suspended or stopped?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’ve seen the statement from Foreign Minister Judeh characterizing this as a chance for the parties to go back to their capitals to consult, so kind of a pause, as we discussed yesterday. And both the Jordanian hosts and we are very much encouraging the parties to come back to the table in the – in relatively short order, after they’ve had a chance to consult.
QUESTION: And one more. Are you aware of discussions that former advisor to President Obama, Dennis Ross, is having in Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his advisor Yitzhak Molcho on possible ways out of this – the current stalemate?
MS. NULAND: I’ve heard about this, but I can’t speak to the mission. You know Dennis Ross is now a private citizen, but he also has an association with the White House as an unpaid advisor. So I’m going to send you to the White House in terms of how this might --
QUESTION: There’s been allegations --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- that there’s been – some people are claiming – the claim has been made that Mr. Ross, in coordination with the White House, is bypassing the State Department in these separate – could you comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, start with the fact that the White House and the State Department are in lockstep on these policies, and have been from the beginning. And Dennis Ross has been an advisor in this process. He’s now an unpaid advisor. So we don’t see it that way, but I’m going to send you to the White House with regard to his specific mission.
QUESTION: But wait a minute. I mean, I see what you’re saying, but especially given the fact that Dennis Ross is not in government anymore, is not an official, don’t you think that the State Department or top White House officials that are actually working for the government should be the ones conducting diplomacy with the Israelis, not some kind of backchannel between --
QUESTION: I don’t think it’s freelance. I think it’s Dennis Ross going on behalf of the White House, but I mean don’t you think that Jeff Feltman or some – or the U.S. ambassador to Israel or some other senior official should be conducting diplomacy of the U.S. Government?
QUESTION: David Hale?
QUESTION: David Hale? Thank you.
MS. NULAND: All of those things are also happening. With regard to this specific mission and how much of it is Dennis’s private travel and how much of it is in this role as an uncompensated advisor, you need to talk to the White House about that. I don’t have those details. But frankly, Dennis has been a good partner to administrations of all kinds, whether he was in government or out of government, and always remains in close touch. So in terms of some sort of split in policy, it’s just not there.
QUESTION: Just a – I just – just on that, hey, he’s been a good friend and partner for the Administration as well. How much success has he had? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: That strikes me as a tendentious rhetorical question.
QUESTION: No, I’m trying to – I wouldn’t – just a pretty obvious --
MS. NULAND: These issues are difficult. They’re – if and when this – if and when Arab-Israeli peace is struck, I have no doubt that --
QUESTION: Dennis Ross will claim credit for it? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: -- his role will be --
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m sure.
MS. NULAND: -- fully explained.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The constitutional court will decide today whether President Abdoulaye Wade has the right to run for reelection. Deputy Assistant Secretary Fitzgerald has already said that the president should retire and that his decision to seek a third term is regrettable. Can you tell us why the United States is telling the head of a sometime ally that he should not run for reelection?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we respect Senegal’s political and legal processes, so we are not going to get ahead of the Senegalese constitutional court in making a determination here. However, we do continue to believe that his decision to try to run for a third term as president does have the potential to jeopardize a lot of the achievements that he himself has made, including ushering in new constitution with a two-term limit for presidents. So he’s had two terms, he supported a constitution with two terms, and we want to see him be a leader in paving the way for a new generation of African leaders and solidifying his own stature as a democrat in this way. Senegal has a vibrant democracy, a vibrant civil society, and we call on everybody to participate peacefully in this process.
QUESTION: They are a recipient of Millennium Challenge Account --
MS. NULAND: They are.
QUESTION: -- funds which have --
MS. NULAND: They are.
QUESTION: -- some pretty stringent conditions on good governance. Is – are these two conflicting?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We need to see what the Senegalese supreme court – constitutional court says, we need to see how Senegalese political figures respond to that, and then we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: President Museveni in Uganda also supported a constitution that had a two-term limit and you said nothing, or this building said nothing – not you; you weren’t in this job – but said nothing when he went and launched – amended the constitution to allow for a third term. And if I’m not mistaken, he’s being – Deputy Secretary Burns is in Uganda today talking with President Museveni. Why has Senegal – why can’t the Senegalese leader do the same?
MS. NULAND: Again, we think it will be better for Senegal if the next generation comes forward.
MS. NULAND: Catherine.
QUESTION: Catherine, sure.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Warren Weinstein – there’s a report in Pakistan that says he’s alive and --
MS. NULAND: Who?
QUESTION: Warren Weinstein, the American contractor who was kidnapped. Do you have an update, or have you seen these reports?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new on Warren Weinstein. If we have anything new out in our Embassy, we’ll let you know. But I don’t have anything new today, unfortunately.
QUESTION: Can we stay just with Americans in distress for a second, or non-distress, which is --
MS. NULAND: Or – was it Pakistan still?
MS. NULAND: Okay.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re very happy to see these reports that William Ock has been released by his captors. We, from our consulate in Lagos, are ready to help, but I don’t have any further information.
QUESTION: Well, it’s the Embassy in Abuja that’s actually confirming this. What do you mean we were very happy to see these reports? You don’t – you’re saying that the Embassy isn’t --
MS. NULAND: I’m interested that our Embassy has confirmed it, because as of my coming down here we were not in a position to confirm it because we didn’t have a Privacy Act waiver on the conversations that our folks may or may not have had with his relatives.
QUESTION: Well, his sister says that you’ve been in touch with them and that you say that he’s safe, so --
MS. NULAND: Well, that’s the usual thing when we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver. So there you go.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: Arshad.
QUESTION: -- can you say that this guy has been released or not? I’m not asking you who he is.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the reports and --
QUESTION: But the reports are quoting your – by name the Embassy spokeswoman.
MS. NULAND: Well, I had not seen that. So if in fact that’s where we are, we will be even more effusive.
QUESTION: Yeah. Different topic. Twitter, as you I think will be aware, has put out a blog post in which it explains that it is going to give itself the ability to block certain content in certain countries. And I wanted to ask what the State Department thinks about that, particularly in the light of the appeal that the Department made to Twitter in Iran following the elections to try to maintain open lines of communication. In censoring, or in giving itself the ability to censor, is it not perhaps becoming a tool of regimes who do not want to see the kind of freedom of expression that the United States so often from this podium champions?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, just to affirm that, as the Secretary’s made clear on numerous occasions, we’re strongly committed to protecting fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, association online. As the Secretary said in her internet freedom speech, the choices that private companies make have an impact on how information flows or doesn’t flow on the internet and mobile networks. They also have an impact on what governments can and can’t do and on people on the ground. Smart companies need to develop broad principles that guide their action, and in the tech field this includes principles on freedom of expression, privacy, criteria on when to avoid working with governments that use technology to become more efficient at committing human rights violations, these kinds of things.
I think in the Twitter case, what we see here is a company making very clear what its policies are going to be in these circumstances where the choice is operate not at all or operate in a constrained way. So from that perspective, being honest about what you’re up to is in keeping with these standards. But until we see how they are implemented and how it impacts on content, we obviously can’t evaluate whether this is a good thing or not for internet freedom.
QUESTION: Being transparent about your censorship is better than just censoring?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have a number of examples of companies that are not as upfront about what they do, and at least this way Twitter users can know what is up. But again, until we see how this is implemented, I don’t think we’re in a position to evaluate.
QUESTION: And would you not have preferred perhaps that – I mean, it’s a private company, and it has its own board. It can figure out what it wants to do.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: That said, would it not have been preferable to you if they had taken a clear, bright line that they were not going to compromise? So if Twitter ever gets to North Korea, presumably criticism of the new leader will not be permissible. Wouldn’t you rather just have them say, “Look, if you’re going to use your service, you can say whatever you want”?
MS. NULAND: Well, Twitter has stated publicly that it is committed to abiding by fundamental freedoms of expression and association and assembly and to being transparent. So I think we will refer you to Twitter as to how these decisions of the company – as you say, private company – impact that overall statement.
QUESTION: So you don’t have a preference about it?
MS. NULAND: We’re not going to be dictating to this one company or another. We’re setting out the general principles. As I said, there are many companies out there that make these decisions without being transparent, either to their users or to the world. Twitter’s been upfront about what they’re doing. I think we have to see how it works.
QUESTION: Right. But as a prolific – some might say over-prolific – user of Twitter and a prodigious consumer of Twitter, surely the Department has some concerns about what might happen to its own tweets, say its Farsi tweets, no?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve spoken about where we are. We need to see how this is implemented, obviously.
QUESTION: Well, but if you’re not confident your message is getting out without redaction to the audience that you expect to have --
MS. NULAND: Again, Matt --
QUESTION: -- are you going to continue to – will you continue to use this social media platform?
MS. NULAND: You are asking me to evaluate the implementation of this policy that they’ve announced before they’ve implemented it, so I think we’re going to wait and see.
QUESTION: Well, no. I’m – well, but I’m asking – I’m just asking --
MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve made the general points, so we – but I can’t talk – speak to how it might affect our use of this unless – until we see it implemented.
QUESTION: Well, but have you raised those concerns with the company? I mean, have you said, “Hey, look, we don’t want our stuff being censored”?
MS. NULAND: I think this was announced today, so we have to see how it was implemented.
QUESTION: Yesterday, actually. But you – but there has obviously been some thought put into the guidance that you just read us. There’s no concern – you have not expressed any concerns to Twitter about how this might affect U.S. Government or State Department use of this medium?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether we’ve had conversations with Twitter in the last 24 hours. I will let you know if we have anything to say on that front.
QUESTION: So Russia Today –
MS. NULAND: Russia Today?
QUESTION: Yeah. The –
QUESTION: Staying on the same –
MS. NULAND: Still on Twitter?
QUESTION: No. On Google.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Google has announced that it’s going to use all the personal data of its users without giving an option to opt out. Have you commented on that? Do you have anything? This has –
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that, and I’m not sure that it’s an issue for us to comment on.
QUESTION: Thank you. Russia Today, the Russian Government-funded television and information service that broadcasts in English, including here in Washington, has struck a deal with Julian Assange to produce a television show. I’m wondering what your comment is on that.
MS. NULAND: That’s also news to me. I will take that one. I had not seen that. I think you know our general view on that whole complex of issues.
QUESTION: Can we have a readout of the meeting between Secretary Clinton and the president of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, Dinah Shelton?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a readout. We have – we put out – oh, actually we did – we’re about to – we either just put out or are about to put out a Media Note on the meeting here. So why don’t I let that happen. But she did meet with Professor Dinah Shelton earlier today, and she had an opportunity to stress the United States support for the work of the commission and its rapporteurs, and she announced an increase in U.S. financial support for the commission. But let us put out our broader note on that, and you’ll have a chance to look at that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Elliott Abrams has testified in the trial of two former Argentine presidents who are accused of masterminding the scheme to kidnap and place for adoption the children of political prisoners during the Dirty War. And he basically said that this Department was very much aware of it and considered it a serious humanitarian issue and – but they did not seem to get anywhere with the Argentine leadership. What more can you say about what the U.S. Government knew about the abduction and then the subsequent adoption of these children of political opponents?
MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, in 2002, we released and declassified a whole package of documents related to human rights abuses and political violence in Argentina between 1975 and 1984. These documents include the period of the dictatorship, the 1976 to ’83 dictatorship, preceding events, and the return to civilian governance. So these were State Department cables, other reports. So I’m going to refer you to those. They are quite a rich treasure trove of what we knew and of our own efforts.
Okay. In the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. Assistant Secretary Campbell will travel to Seoul, Korea next week. What is the purpose of his travel this time?
MS. NULAND: I have – I think on that one, we’re also either about to put out a Media Note --
QUESTION: It’s out.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, on that one. As you know, he makes frequent trips to visit our allies throughout the East Asia Pacific region. This will obviously be about the full range of bilateral issues, but obviously to continue to consult on our efforts to get North Korea to come clean on its nuclear program and come back to the table.
QUESTION: Are you going to discuss about the Six-Party Talks?
MS. NULAND: Always.
QUESTION: Can I stay on Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The U.S. and Korea are going to have joint military exercises. What do you think the – how do you think the North Koreans will react to that in this delicate time?
MS. NULAND: Well, my understanding is this is a routine exercise, that the North Koreans are aware of it. So obviously, we would call for calm, but I would refer you to the Pentagon. They’re the managers of the exercise.
Yeah. All right? Thanks – sorry.
QUESTION: Last one?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Well, these are 20 Uighurs who Cambodia deported to China in 2009, and we are concerned that China has reportedly sentenced two of them to life in prison. We’re seeking to confirm these reports with the Chinese. As you know, we have repeatedly called – the United States Government has repeatedly called on the Chinese Government to provide information on the whereabouts of all 20 of the Uighur asylum seekers, to allow access to them by international agencies, and to treat them in accordance with international human rights obligations and commitments.
QUESTION: Back when that happened, the – you were telling – urging the Cambodians not to send them back and warned that there would be consequences to the U.S. relationship – to their relationship to the U.S. if they did. As far as I know, there never really were any consequences, and in fact, they got a rather lengthy trip from Secretary Clinton just last – or November, 2010. Were there any consequences as a result of the deportation or of their handover of the Uighurs?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have the facts from 2009 at my fingertips. I think you were sitting in that very chair yourself when this went down, and you likely do recall that we made some – we withheld some –
QUESTION: I remember asking several times afterwards and never getting a response.
MS. NULAND: My understanding was we –
QUESTION: The facts are Matt was actually in this chair at that time.
MS. NULAND: In this chair. There you go. And why did you go -- (laughter)
QUESTION: In 2009?
QUESTION: ’09? No. I’m sorry. That was (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: There you go.
QUESTION: I’ve got one last one, which I – you probably won’t have an answer to, but just any update on the situation with this American in Somalia being held? Is there anything you have on that?
MS. NULAND: I think I don’t have anything further to what we had yesterday. Okay. Wait. Sorry.
QUESTION: Would you mind just backtracking to Egypt real quick? Has there been any invitation extended to the IRI members for them to seek refuge in the ambassador’s residence?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that they are asking for that. We – they are in constant contact with the Embassy, including with regard to their personal safety.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)
DPB # 18