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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 26, 2012


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • GEORGIA
    • March 24th De Facto Elections
  • RUSSIA
    • Missile Defense / Ben Rhodes Background Briefing in Seoul
  • TURKEY/SYRIA
    • Closure of Turkish Embassy / Security Concerns
  • SYRIA
    • Meeting of Friends of Syrian People / Syrian Opposition
    • President Medvedev / Ben Rhodes
    • Unity Among the Security Council Members / Discussion of Syria with Russians
  • PAKISTAN
    • U.S. has Rich Dialogue with Pakistan on Energy Needs
    • Readout of Ambassador Grossman's Meeting with President Zardari / Other Stops
    • Core Group Meeting
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Ambassador Grossman's Meeting with President Karzai
  • QATAR
    • Assistant Secretary Feltman's Visit on Bilateral Relations
  • PAKISTAN
    • Parliamentary Review
  • SENEGAL
    • Conclusion of Electoral Process
  • MALI
    • U.S. Suspends Assistance to Mali Government / Continuation of U.S. Humanitarian Assistance
    • ECOWAS
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • David Hale / Quartet Meeting / UN Human Rights Council / Resolution
  • SRI LANKA
    • Foreign Minister Peiris' Visit on May 18th
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Condolences Extended to the Family of Iraqi American Shaima Alawadi
  • EGYPT
    • Constitutional Panel
  • TUNISIA
    • U.S. Support for Universal Rights
  • IRAN
    • Working with Other Nations on Issue of Dependence on of Iranian Oil
  • ERITREA
    • March 15th Attack


TRANSCRIPT:

1:07 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right. Afternoon, everybody. Happy Monday. I have one thing at the top, then we’ll go to what’s on your minds.

The United States does not recognize the de facto elections held in the Abkhazia region of Georgia on March 24th, nor do we recognize those that were held in South Ossetia on March 25th. We reiterate our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We further urge Russia to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict positions and free access for humanitarian assistance to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Well, I didn’t have anything, but now that you’ve brought that up – and it seemed like the President and President Medvedev were having such a good time together in Seoul. Did this come up there, do you know? Or is this something that has been --

MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that.

QUESTION: -- delegated to the State Department so as not to cause embarrassment to heads of state?

MS. NULAND: I do not know if it came up there. I will refer you to them.

Jill.

QUESTION: Speaking of which --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- during their meeting, there was something overheard, which was – sounded as if they are basically saying – or President Obama is saying and Ben Rhodes basically said this – that there will be, they expect, no progress on the missile defense issue, and that essentially it’s off the table to be studied by the technical folks until after the election. Is that the understanding of the State Department?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think Ben Rhodes spoke to this on-the-record after the meeting and made clear that the intention now is for technical experts to continue to work together to see if we can bring our positions closer, and we’ll see where that work goes.

Said.

QUESTION: On the same meeting – yeah.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sorry Jill, did you have a follow-up?

QUESTION: Of course, this is – after all of this, I mean this has been going on for some – quite some time, and it seems surprising that if the United States has explained over and over again that this is not a threat to Russia, that still is not accepted. Is there anything more that the U.S. can do to convince Russia that that is the case?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you look at what Ben had to say out in Seoul, he makes the point that we’ve been making over and over again, which is that it’s often the case with these highly technical arms control issues, it was certainly the case with the New START Agreement, that you really need to work through the capabilities of various systems so that they can be well understood and so fears about them can be dispelled.

And you really need to have the folks who speak missiles, who speak arms control, who speak missile defense conveying the concerns back the other way so that they can be worked through. And you know our hope remains that the United States and Russia, and ultimately NATO and Russia, can come to missile defense cooperation agreements. We believe that the threats that we face are shared threats, that we will be stronger in missile defense if we cooperate. So we’re going to continue to work on these issues. But I think as was clear out in Seoul, there’s more work to be done.

QUESTION: Also on Seoul?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Immediately after meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turks announced the closure of their embassy. Should there be any correlation between the meeting of the Turkish prime minister and the President of the United States on the closure of the Turkish Embassy in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that the Turkish Government has made clear that, as we had some time ago, they have security concerns about being able to keep their embassy open. So my understanding is that this was based on security.

QUESTION: So you don’t see any kind of correlation between the meeting with the President and the announcement for the closure of the embassy?

MS. NULAND: Well, assuming that their process was similar to ours, these things don’t generally come up overnight. It’s a process where concern rises over time about whether you can keep your people safe.

QUESTION: So just a quick follow-up. Are we likely to see stepped-up efforts by the Turks and the United States together to sort of tighten the noose on Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that as the President and Prime Minister Erdogan made note, we have the Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Syria – in Turkey on Sunday, so obviously the meeting between our heads was a chance to coordinate in advance of that meeting. And we are both very committed, not only to the Arab League plan but to the Kofi Annan plan and to do doing what we can to tighten the screws on Assad to come into compliance with Kofi’s proposals, starting with an end to the violence.

QUESTION: Is that what it is now? The Friends of the Syrian People?

MS. NULAND: That’s what it was originally – Friends of Syria, Friends of Syrian People. I’ve seen it both ways. We’ll see what the Turks call it.

Michel.

QUESTION: Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood have issued a statement yesterday saying that they will share power and respect democracy if President Assad is toppled. How do you view this statement?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, as you know, for many months now the United States and many of our partners have been urging the Syrian opposition to work together and in their statements about the future that they want to see for their country to make clear that they are seeking a Syria where all groups are welcome, where universal human rights are respected, where tolerance is the norm, where women have the rights that they need and deserve and are full included. So to the degree to which individual groups within Syria are committing to these principles, we think that’s a good thing.

QUESTION: Yeah. But a quick follow-up on that. They also said that they are not opposed to having a Christian president, but they have a long history of actually considering Christians to be heretics and so on. Do you believe them? Are you in touch with them?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we continue to make the point that these groups need to work together, that they all need to work together to propose a transition structure, transition ideas that will make all groups in Syria feel comfortable, feel like they have a place – Sunni, Alawi, Christians, Druze, Kurds, minorities, women. So it is important that they talk the talk, and it’s important that they walk the walk.

Still on Syria? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, a brief follow-up regarding the meeting at which has been now between the Russian president and the Turkish foreign minister – Turkish prime minister. There will be communication equipment aid to the opposition, but Russians, they are opposed to this idea that they critics – they critique this step as one-sided aid to the groups in Syria. Have you connect – have you communicated with Russians about this communication gear aid to the opposition?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the subject of Syria was discussed quite fully in the President’s meeting with President Medvedev. In terms of the specifics, I’m going to refer you to our team out in Seoul. But as Ben Rhodes made clear, we are beginning to look at whether we can enhance the non-lethal support that we give. We’re talking about things like communications equipment, medical supplies, et cetera. But we are – this is still very much at the stage where we are talking to our partners about it, and we’re also talking to the Syrian civilian opposition about what their needs might be.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Before we change topics from Syria --

MS. NULAND: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Also, the Chinese foreign minister today said that he supported Annan’s mediation efforts. I wonder if you can – does that put us – give this Department more confidence in the unity between Russia, China, and the United States on this and possibly breathe life back into the possibility of another UN resolution push?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think obviously, as we said at the time, that the presidential statement passed, it represented for the first time in many, many months unity among the Security Council members and particularly unity with Russia and with China and something that we expected the Assad regime to take note of. But it was obviously a very good step, and it’s good that that decision to support the presidency statement continues to be supported strongly by government statements from both Russia and China.

So our goal now is to make it clear to Assad that if he thought he had friends that were going to protect him from the demands of the international community,that he doesn’t anymore.

Please.

QUESTION: Can we go to Seoul via Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Can we go to Seoul via Pakistan? (Laughter.) Sure.

QUESTION: Pakistani prime minister is meeting President Obama tomorrow at a time when the Pakistani parliament is debating a way forward in relations with the United States in the wake of several incidents. So what are you expecting from that meeting?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to preview a presidential meeting that hasn’t happened yet. I would refer you to the background briefing that Ben Rhodes gave in Seoul about two hours ago, where he talked about some of the subjects that he expects to be covered in that meeting.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Still? Yeah. Lalit.

QUESTION: The foreign office of Pakistan is saying that they will seek a nuclear reactor from U.S. Is that in --

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. Say it again?

QUESTION: Pakistan is saying that it will seek a nuclear reactor from the United States. Is that something being considered by the U.S.?

MS. NULAND: I have to say that I haven’t seen that. We obviously have a rich dialogue with Pakistan about its energy needs. I don’t know whether we’ve had discussions in the past about these issues, but we would obviously await a request and then see what made sense.

QUESTION: And also, do you have a readout on the meeting between Ambassador Grossman and President Zardari of Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Grossman put out a statement himself in Dushanbe. I can summarize that for you again. He met with President Zardari in Dushanbe yesterday. They discussed primarily the importance of regional stability and security. Ambassador Grossman highlighted the United States respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan, and he expressed respect for Pakistan’s ongoing parliamentary review and our desire for consultations after it’s concluded because we have many shared interests to work on together. Other topics included counterterrorism cooperation against insurgents that could harm Pakistanis, Afghans, the United States. And they also talked about regional integration, expanding trade, economic cooperation, so a full meeting which took place on the margins of this conference in Dushanbe.

QUESTION: And continuing with the same meeting in Dushanbe, the Afghanistan President Karzai has called for exploration of this TAPI pipeline project – Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India gas pipeline project. What role U.S. is playing in pushing this forward at this ambitious --

MS. NULAND: Lalit, I’m going to take that one. I didn’t see what the Afghans said. And we’ll go from there, okay?

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Is this a follow-up?

QUESTION: No, I just want to check on one thing. You said that Ambassador Grossman told Zardari that the U.S. has the highest respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: That the United States respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.

QUESTION: Was that before or after the latest drone strike?

I have another question on Grossman.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m assuming you’re not going to answer my last question.

MS. NULAND: Definitely not. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Has he added any stops onto his trip that you know of yet?

MS. NULAND: He has.

QUESTION: Obviously, Dushanbe. Was that one of the ones that was added?

MS. NULAND: He was in Dushanbe. He made a quick --

QUESTION: Was Dushanbe originally on his --

MS. NULAND: Well, it was, but I think when we announced the European piece we were waiting to confirm the Core Group meeting and the Zardari meeting before announcing Dushanbe. So I think we announced the Dushanbe stop on Saturday morning Washington time, when he was on his way there.

QUESTION: I missed it.

MS. NULAND: So he was in Dushanbe to attend this conference. They had a Core Group meeting at his level, and then he also saw Zardari. He actually made a quick – he also saw President Karzai while he was in Dushanbe, and then today he made a quick trip into Kabul for literally one meeting because he had seen Karzai in Dushanbe. And that was a meeting with the High Peace Council.

I have a little bit more on the Karzai meeting. So with President Karzai, they consulted on the upcoming NATO summit, in particular the work that we’re all doing to get support for the Afghan National Security Forces. As you know, Ambassador Grossman had been working his way through Europe looking for support for the ANSF. They also discussed the Afghan peace process. And then as I said, he went on to Kabul and met with the High Peace Council to discuss the reconciliation process as well. And apparently, a lot of that meeting was spent on the situation of women in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Okay. So does that mean that – he met Zardari in Dushanbe so there was no need for the Pakistanis to reject his --

MS. NULAND: He met Zardari --

QUESTION: -- application --

MS. NULAND: -- in Dushanbe.

QUESTION: All right. And then on his trip, I’m trying to figure out if his trip is in any way connected to, or if there is any conversation between him and Assistant Secretary Feltman, who is going to be in Qatar soon, if not today, maybe tomorrow or the next day. Is there any discussion going on with Assistant Secretary Feltman about the reconciliation talks, and would he – would there be any coordination between Grossman and Feltman and their counterparts on this issue, or is Feltman’s visit purely about Gulf security and other things?

MS. NULAND: The Feltman visit is primarily on bilateral relations with Qatar, the security in the region, preparing for the Arab summit, talking about Syria, all those kinds of issues.

QUESTION: And what was discussed with the High Peace Council meeting? Do you have --

MS. NULAND: As I said, they discussed the Afghan peace process. They also discussed the situation of women in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: So have they left? Has he left?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. As far as your Pakistan’s parliament review is concerned, a lot of stories have been going on in Pakistani press. Have you received any advance copy of the review that they have put some – several conditions, that drone attacks must be stopped and also there should be apology by the U.S. for killing of those 24 soldiers, and also as far as interfering in the Pakistani affairs, among others? Have you seen any copy?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the press reporting on the initial proposals. Those proposals are now being debated. That debate started today, so we’re obviously going to wait for the results of the debate and let democracy take its course in Pakistan.

QUESTION: And second – I’m sorry. Second, U.S., I understood, is paying for the innocent people killed in Afghanistan, for their families some kind of ransom or some kind of payments here. Are you considering also paying to the Pakistani families who lost those 24 soldiers?

MS. NULAND: I think the Pentagon spoke to this issue way back in November, so I refer you to what they had to say then.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on Hong Kong’s election?

MS. NULAND: Not in particular. What were you looking for?

QUESTION: Yeah, because Hong Kong held an election, a new chief of executive in Hong Kong, the election last Sunday. So do you have any comments on the result?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. I don’t have any comments on the result.

QUESTION: How would you evaluate the developments of democracy in Hong Kong?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have any broad statement on the development of democracy in Hong Kong today.

QUESTION: Can we switch to another election?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.

QUESTION: Senegal?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Senegal – Macky Sall beating Abdoulaye Wade?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re going to wait for the election results to be certified, but we, obviously, congratulate the people of Senegal on conclusion of the electoral process. And it – we will, as I said, have something more formal to say when the results are more formal.

QUESTION: Does it – even though I realize it’s informal, the results are not out yet, does it speak well of Senegal’s political evolution that President Wade conceded Sunday night? There was no drama or ambiguity about this.

MS. NULAND: No, absolutely. And the fact that he was graceful in his concession was a good step.

QUESTION: One other small one, if I may. There’s a report out that the P-5+1 are going to meet with the Iranians in – on April the 13th. Is there anything to that?

MS. NULAND: Again, as you know, Cathy Ashton’s office is trying to work through with the Iranians not only the dates but an appropriate venue for these meetings, so I don’t have anything to announce until her office has something to announce. My understanding is they’re continuing to talk about the venue in particular before they make an announcement.

QUESTION: Can we just come back to the West African elections --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- or lack thereof, like the coups that happen before elections?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Mali – have you guys made up your mind what you’re going to do?

MS. NULAND: We have. We have now taken a decision to suspend our assistance to the Government of Mali, pending a resolution of the situation on the ground. As you know, like ECOWAS, like the African Union, we want to see the elected government restored as quickly as possible so that we can get to the elections, which are scheduled to go forward shortly.

We will continue, through USAID, to provide humanitarian and food assistance to those displaced by the conflict in the north and those affected by the region’s food crisis, but the rest of our government-to-government assistance will be suspended.

QUESTION: So that --

QUESTION: How much is that?

MS. NULAND: I have actually asked them to give me a scrub on the numbers, but as you know, about – a little more than half of our 140 million is food assistance. So I am expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 million in assistance that will be suspended, but we’ll have better numbers for you later on in the day.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on the whereabouts of the president, Toumani?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have anything particular. Our understanding is that he is safe, as we said on Friday, that he is being protected by some of his loyalists. You saw that the head of the mutiny made a public statement – I believe it was yesterday – on ECOWAS’s insistence calling for his security, calling for his protection, and that nobody should harm him.

QUESTION: One other thing: The decision to suspend your assistance, pending a resolution of the situation, does that mean that you have determined that a military coup has taken place, or is this therefore triggering the cutoff? Or is this an antecedent step, that you’re just suspending it for the time being, while not yet taking a position on whether a military coup has indeed occurred?

MS. NULAND: The latter. We’re still considering this a mutiny with uncertain results.

Yeah.

QUESTION: So you’re really not complete with the hope that they would get together and resolve the crisis?

MS. NULAND: No. We are still – as you know, there was an ECOWAS delegation there on Friday. ECOWAS heads of government are meeting tomorrow in Abidjun. They’ve invited the mutineers to send a representative, and they will impress upon them the view of the international community that they’ve got to get back to civilian government, they’ve got to get back to democracy here. So we are very much supportive of the efforts of the Africans to resolve this. We are in contact ourselves with folks in Mali. As you know, our Charge spoke to the mutineer and told him and previewed --

QUESTION: The captain.

MS. NULAND: The captain yeah, Sanogo. And, by the way, the Secretary also spoke today to Ivorian President Ouattara to support his efforts.

QUESTION: Can I ask if you did not – if you haven’t made the decision that it was in fact a coup, why – what’s the reasoning for suspending the assistance?

MS. NULAND: To make the point that this is an unacceptable situation where democracy is being undermined in Africa, and it’s got to be restored.

QUESTION: Okay. But isn’t some – the 60 to 70 million is – well, some of it’s for democracy promotion, isn’t it?

MS. NULAND: Indeed, and again, if we can get to a point where we’re back to --

QUESTION: Oh, the irony.

MS. NULAND: Well, I mean, right now, we don’t have a lot of democracy going on, and we don’t have a lot of election planning to support because we’re in this uncertain netherworld that needs to be --

QUESTION: Is that what it was – it was election – it was – a fair amount of it was to support the upcoming, or what was supposed to be the upcoming, election?

MS. NULAND: Some of it. Again, I want to get you a breakdown because it was a little bit opaque this morning what’s staying and what’s being suspended.

QUESTION: Toria.

MS. NULAND: Michel. Still on Mali or --

QUESTION: No, on Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to Scott, still on Mali.

QUESTION: The talks that you have had with ECOWAS --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- over what’s going on in Mali, has that included the security concern about the Tuareg rebellion, and how the suspension of this U.S. assistance, some of which was for security, might affect the government’s – government army’s ability to put down that rebellion?

MS. NULAND: Well, both in talking to Captain Sanogo and in working with ECOWAS, we are all saying the same thing as we said on Friday -- that only the Tuareg have benefited from the situation, and that is among the reasons why this issue has to be resolved immediately. And our main point, and ECOWAS’ main point – and this – and President Ouattara said this to the Secretary today – is that we’ve – in pressing the mutineers to restore civilian government, the point is being made that yes, they have some grievances with the government. Those grievances need to be addressed, but they need to be addressed so that the military can go back to doing the job that it has to do to secure the country, namely to go after the Tuaregs and other threats to security in Mali.

QUESTION: Can we change topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Quickly on the Palestinian issue?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: On Friday, a former security chief – Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub, was in town and met with officials on the National Security Council. Did he have any other meetings in this building?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on whether he met with others in this building. David Hale, I believe, was here, so let me check --

QUESTION: Okay, please.

MS. NULAND: -- whether he met with David Hale.

QUESTION: And on --

QUESTION: Is David Hale going back to the region or is --

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the --

MS. NULAND: Why don’t we let Said finish.

QUESTION: -- Palestinian issue, just – you also issued a statement regarding the United Nations Human Rights Council. And you said that you reaffirm its strong opposition to a series of anti-Israeli measures. Why is sending – a fact-finding mission is an anti-Israeli measure? Could you explain to us?

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s go to that but I think Michel had this related --

QUESTION: Yeah. Is David Hale going back to the region soon?

MS. NULAND: So let me just put this all in context, including with regard to David Hale travel, et cetera.

So as you know, Quartet ministers have agreed to meet in two weeks in Washington to take stock of where we are, and to consider steps that we can take to try to get through the current impasse, and to discuss ways that we can support the implementation of the proposals that they made way back in September. As you remember, there was an informal Quartet meeting on March 12th, and at that time the principals again expressed their support for the Jordanian-led efforts that began in early January. And they reiterated their call on the parties to remain engaged and to refrain from provocative actions.

David Hale is in Washington this week, but he’s going back to the region next week to touch base with the parties in advance of the Quartet principals meeting. Last week, as you know, he was in Brussels. He had a chance there to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad and to discuss, have consultations with senior officials in London and in Paris.

On Friday, both at this podium and in the statement we put out on the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, we talked about the decision to create a fact-finding mission on the settlements. And there are more reports today about a decision by Israel now to boycott the Human Rights Council.

As I said on Friday, we vigorously opposed the resolution, as it was counterproductive. It’s not going to contribute to international efforts to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to direct negotiations. It’s not going to advance the cause of peace, it’s not going to add any new information that isn’t already known to the debate over settlements, and it’s not going to lead to any kind of a new consensus about what has to be done. Instead, it’s just going to distract efforts to help the parties resolve the issue directly, which is what has to happen here, and it takes up time and limited resources that the council ought to be spending on other issues. More broadly, the Human Rights Council has a track record that is not productive on these issues. Ultimately, as you know, the only way to a viable peace is for these parties to sit down and work through it.

QUESTION: You laud the efforts by the council in other areas. Only when it comes to things like settlements and so on where you stand --

MS. NULAND: We do.

QUESTION: -- with strong – you affirm your strong opposition.

MS. NULAND: Well, I have to say that the record of the Human Rights Council on this part of the world is very negative, very one-sided, and does not contribute to more information coming out into the public; it doesn’t contribute to the cause of peace, which differs from the track record of the Human Rights Council in other areas where its work has actually contributed to better international understanding, as was the case in Syria, as was the case in Libya, as was the case in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: How about Iran?

MS. NULAND: And Iran.

QUESTION: So it’s only when you don’t like it that it doesn’t contribute to the cause?

MS. NULAND: Look, the facts are well-known here.

QUESTION: Exactly.

MS. NULAND: A fact-finding mission isn’t going to change the fact that these parties have to get back to the table.

QUESTION: But the fact-finding mission – you said it would – not going to help bring the two sides back together.

MS. NULAND: It isn’t.

QUESTION: It’s not going to help the peace process.

MS. NULAND: It isn’t. It’s going to be --

QUESTION: Wait. I – wait, wait. Is it supposed to?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know what it’s supposed to do, apart from waste the resources --

QUESTION: I mean, is it – other than the fact that you oppose it, what’s wrong with it? I mean, it isn’t designed in itself to contribute toward the peace process, does it?

MS. NULAND: It wastes the resources and the time of the Human Rights Council that could better go to investigating issues where the facts are not well-known and where they can actually make a difference in bringing a settlement about.

QUESTION: But --

MS. NULAND: The other thing that’s going to make a difference in this case is when these parties sit down together.

QUESTION: But sending a fact-finding mission to Iran is going to make a lot of difference in the way that the situation in Iran is?

MS. NULAND: Because of the way Iran is governed and because of the constraints on media and the internet, et cetera, there is not a good understanding globally about all of the human rights violations going on in Iran. So when the Human Rights Council makes a full report, it does contribute to international understanding, which is not the case in this case.

QUESTION: But let me follow up very quickly.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: But are you suggesting that the United States Government is aware of all the details of everything that happens in the settlement and how the settlements are impacting Palestinian lives and so on?

MS. NULAND: Everybody knows that there are issues here. You know our position on settlements. We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. We oppose any effort to legalize outposts. We don’t think that having a fact-finding mission is going to shed any more light that is going to lead to a change in the situation, unless and until these parties sit down together and work it through.

QUESTION: But suppose that the fact-finding mission finds out that one community – for instance, in my village, it is divided by the wall and a settlement, and communities suffer tremendous hardship, and let’s say parents visiting their children or children visiting their parents and vice versa. Suppose they come up with something like this. That is a fact that could be brought to your attention and you could say, well, we want these people to be able to visit each other.

MS. NULAND: Said, there is a full and vibrant press in that part of the world. Your newspaper is one of the leading proponents of a free press out there, so this is not an issue where the facts are not well-known.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more?

MS. NULAND: Please, Samir. Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it about this? Mine’s about the Quartet, actually.

QUESTION: On Iran.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just real quick, when Hale goes back out there, is he going to be inviting members of the Israelis and Palestinians to come to the Quartet meeting? Do you expect that they’ll be observers? Or maybe the Jordanians, will they – is it – in other words, is it just going to be the Quartet principals and no one else, no one from the region?

MS. NULAND: With regard to the Israelis and Palestinians, we don’t expect that they will be represented at this meeting. With regard to whether there might be others beyond the four folks, we’re still working that through.

QUESTION: Do you have an exact date for the meeting? It’s in four weeks --

MS. NULAND: It’s that week. It’s 11th or 12th. I don’t know if we’ve announced it, but I think it’s the 11th. Yeah.

QUESTION: He is visiting Israel and Palestinian territories only or --

MS. NULAND: David Hale next week?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: I think he’s still working on his agenda. So yeah. Generally he stops in Jordan as well.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Government has said that --

MS. NULAND: Oops, sorry. We’ll come back to Samir on Iraq. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- it will not implement the UN Human Rights Commission resolution on Sri Lanka. And last week you had said that Secretary Clinton is planning to meet the Sri Lankan foreign minister. Do you have any dates for those?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, the Secretary will welcome Foreign Minister Peiris to the State Department on May 18th. As you know, the call in the Human Rights Council resolution was for the Sri Lankan Government to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. So that’s what we’re all hoping Sri Lanka can move forward with. And to date, as you know, they have not taken concrete action required for accountability and reconciliation. So that’s what we are looking and hoping to see.

Please, Samir, on Iraq.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have any reaction to the hate crime killing of an Iraqi woman refugee near San Diego on Saturday?

MS. NULAND: We do. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and the friends of Shaima Alawadi, who was an Iraqi American woman who died over the weekend following an absolutely brutal beating in her home in San Diego. We understand that U.S. law enforcement authorities are investigating all aspects of this horrific crime and taking all possible steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. As part of the investigation, the authorities are continuing to search for motives behind this attack, but the United States has no tolerance for wanton acts of violence like this.

QUESTION: Toria, on Egypt, Islamists in Egypt won 60 percent of the parliamentary panel charged with drafting Egypt’s constitution. Two liberal politicians have pulled out from the panel today. How do you view this panel?

MS. NULAND: Well, the constitutional panel is the next step, one of the next steps, in the Egyptian transition process panel to propose a constitutional draft that’ll then have to be put to referendum before the Egyptian people. We’re not going to prejudge, obviously, the work of this panel. I think that you know what we support, which is the same thing that the Egyptian people fought for. We want a – we want to see a new constitution for Egypt that upholds democratic values and universal human rights in all of their aspects and provides protections and assurances for the participation and the rights of all Egyptians, regardless of their religion, their group, their part of the country, their sex, et cetera.

So that is what the Egyptian people have been in – been supporting as they look for a democratic transition in their country, and we have high hopes and high expectations for a new constitution for Egypt.

QUESTION: But do you think that a panel with 60 percent of Islamists is able to draft like – this constitution?

MS. NULAND: Well, Michel, just to say what we’ve been saying here, we are not going to judge these groups by their names, by their history. We’re going to judge them by what they do. We’re going to judge them by the output. This panel is from the elected parliament, so having been elected democratically, it’s now their obligation to uphold and defend and protect the democratic rights that brought them to power in the first place, including the universal rights of all groups. So that’s what we’re expecting from this process and that’s the standard that we’ll hold them to.

QUESTION: One last question on --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Tunisia. Ennahda party in Egypt has – or, sorry, in Tunisia – has declared that it will not call for Sharia to be the source of all legislation. Have – how do you view this declaration to --

MS. NULAND: Well, again, in Tunisia, we are also looking for the same support for universal rights. The Secretary had some very strong comments when she did her town hall in Tunis just a few weeks ago on all of these kinds of issues.

Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: And when do you expect Secretary Clinton to make a determination on the rest of the 12 countries with regard to the sanctions on Iran?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re still working with all of these countries and trying to do what we can to help them to reduce the – their dependence on Iranian oil. As you know, we have 180 days under this legislation which takes us into the end of June.

QUESTION: So that will be done before June, right?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have 180 days in the legislation to make a determination one way or the other, so we’re continuing to work with them in the intervening period*.

QUESTION: Also on Iran?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, Lach.

QUESTION: I’m wondering about the U.S. position on a South African cell phone operator, MTN, that seems to be helping the Iranian regime. Basically, a former Treasury official wrote a column in the South African Sunday Times saying that MTN, the South African cell phone operator, should stop helping the Iranian regime persecuting the opposition. Do you know anything about this? And what is your position?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. I missed my copy of the Sunday South African Times.

QUESTION: Yeah, I bet you did. You read it every morning.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, usually --

QUESTION: Or every Sunday.

MS. NULAND: -- it comes to my driveway, but it didn’t this week. We’ll take that and see if we have any comment, Lach.

QUESTION: But you don’t have a position on the cell phone operator? Have you been dealing with the South Africans on it?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have any background on whether we’ve been involved with the South Africans, so let me take it and see if we have anything to tell you about it.

QUESTION: Special Envoy Rosenthal will be meeting with her Turkish counterpart tomorrow.

MS. NULAND: Sorry, the Special Envoy?

QUESTION: Hannah Rosenthal will be meeting with her Turkish counterpart tomorrow. Do you have any – what is the agenda? What – because there was a controversial ad last week in Turkey depicting Hitler as a shampoo promoter or something like that.

MS. NULAND: Well, why don’t I – why don’t we let that meeting go forward and we’ll ask her to give us some information to read out here.

All right? Thanks.

QUESTION: I have --

MS. NULAND: Sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: This is brief. The president of Eritrea, one of your favorite people, President Isaias, has come out – do you know what I’m talking about?

MS. NULAND: I think I do.

QUESTION: Has come out and said that the Ethiopian attacks on Eritrean soil were the – was basically the responsibility or the fault of the United States. I know that the Embassy in Asmara had a brief statement. Do you have anything you can add to that?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say again, unequivocally, the U.S. was not involved in the March 15th attack by Ethiopian forces inside Eritrea.

Okay? Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:46 p.m.)

DPB # 55

____________________________________

* Exceptions determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.  When considering a case, the Secretary of State takes into account relevant evidence in assessing each country’s efforts to reduce their purchases of crude oil from Iran. The timing of any exception relates to the timing of positive actions taken by a country to reduce the volume of its purchases of Iranian crude oil



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