12:41 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody. I hope that everybody who had holidays this weekend had a great weekend and that everybody else just enjoyed the great weather.
Let’s – I have two things to do at the top, then we’ll go to what’s on your minds. The first is with regard to the attack on Russian journalist Elena Milashina over the weekend. The United States has long been deeply concerned about violent attacks on journalists in Russia. Journalists and representatives of civil society everywhere must be free to report without fear of reprisal or intimidation.
Most recently in Moscow, late on the evening of April 4th, Novaya Gazeta reporter, Elena Milashina and her friend, who was a representative of a nongovernmental organization, Freedom House, were brutally assaulted. We’re concerned that this attack may have been related to the journalistic work of Ms. Milashina as an investigative reporter. We urge the authorities in Russia to work quickly to bring those responsible to justice.
Our second note is with regard to the passing of Chinese democracy advocate Fang Lizhi. We are saddened by the passing of democracy advocate and physicist Fang Lizhi who was a champion of human rights and democratic reform in China. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Where to begin?
MS. NULAND: Yes. It is going to be a very, very busy week.
QUESTION: Yeah. I guess, let’s start with what may be the shortest of your answers, and that’s North Korea. So the North has showed off its new missile that they’re – or its new rocket – satellite-bearing rocket that they’re about the launch. And then there are also signs – at least according to the South Koreans – that they’re preparing for a possible nuclear test. I’m wondering what you all have to say about that beyond, “Just don’t do it.”
MS. NULAND: Well, our position remains: Don’t do it. North Korea’s launch of a missile would be highly provocative, it would pose a threat to regional security, and it will be inconsistent with its recent undertakings to refrain from any kind of long-range missile launches. And as you know, we consider that it would be a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1718 and 1874. So we are continuing to make the point that it is a bad idea to do this.
As the President said in Seoul, we are also working with our Six-Party counterparts to try to make the same points to North Korea and to urge all of the countries in the Six-Party Talks to use their influence with the DPRK. We believe in particular that China joins us in its interest in seeing a denuclearized Korean peninsula, and we are continuing to encourage China in particular to act more effectively in that interest.
QUESTION: But what about the signs of a possible nuclear test?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, that would be equally bad, if not worse.
QUESTION: Do you see any such signs?
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position to confirm one way or the other, and certainly not to share any intelligence that we might have.
QUESTION: Are you asking those nations in the region to be on high alert because of this North Korean missile launch and other threats?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think everybody needs to be vigilant at this time, obviously.
QUESTION: What about Japan’s --
MS. NULAND: Behind you, Ros.
QUESTION: Do you have any concern if condemning North Korea after the launch it might give them, like, excuse that they will do the nuclear test?
MS. NULAND: Well, they shouldn’t be doing either. And any of these types of action are just going to further isolate them and make it harder for them to be part of the world community and to give their people a better quality of life.
QUESTION: Japan has been making some comments suggesting that it might respond in some way if this missile launch does happen. Have you cautioned Tokyo to dial down its rhetoric at all?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been consulting with all of our Six-Party counterparts on all of this; our position, as you know, has been that Japan, Korea, any of the countries in the region, obviously, have the right to self-defense.
QUESTION: Change topic?
QUESTION: No, no, no. I’m not --
MS. NULAND: Stay on DPRK?
QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: Yeah. North Korean official announcement yesterday that if and when the United States have additional sanctions against the North Korea, then North Korea will regard it as an act of war. What is your comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into all kinds of hypothetical, “we do this and they do that,” situations. The bottom line is we strongly urge North Korea not to do this.
Please, right here. And then come back to you, Matt.
QUESTION: North Korea is now all set to launch the long-range rocket. And the sanctions made have not been working very well so far. So do you have any new good ideas to prevent them to doing so?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we’re making clear we think this is a very bad idea. With regard to what kinds of consequences there are going to be, I’m not going to predict at this point.
QUESTION: Well, at this point --
MS. NULAND: Let me go back to Matt.
QUESTION: That’s okay.
MS. NULAND: No? No.
QUESTION: Mine’s very brief.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: North Korea invited all over the world in journalists. Has North Korea invited any U.S. journalists?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. But obviously we would be discouraging of that.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. You would be discouraging of what?
MS. NULAND: Of folks going and celebrating this launch, which we consider a violation of --
QUESTION: Celebrating? Or – I’m sorry, celebrating or just witnessing --
QUESTION: Covering --
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, there’s been plenty of coverage.
QUESTION: -- this propaganda.
QUESTION: Well, you don’t have a problem with reporters going to cover it, do you?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re not in a position to tell reporters what to do one way or the other, as you guys well know.
QUESTION: Okay. I was just – right. I just wanted – the last time we talked about this, you were not aware – or you were aware that there had been no direct contact between you and the North Koreas with this warning or this appeal not to do it. Do you know if that’s changed? Has there been any direct contact? Or is your message pretty much – this is how you’re delivering the message?
MS. NULAND: We wouldn’t say anything different in private that we’re not saying here.
QUESTION: No, I know, but --
MS. NULAND: So, to my knowledge, we haven’t had any additional private contact with them, other than the day that they advised us they were going to do this and we said --
QUESTION: That Thursday?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Exactly.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The North Koreans inviting the journalists, showing them really it has no armament value whatsoever. You don’t believe them? Do you consider that to be just a public relations stunt?
MS. NULAND: Said, we’ve talked about this many times.
QUESTION: I know, but --
MS. NULAND: They can’t launch the thing without using ballistic missile technology which is precluded by UN Security Council Resolution 1874. So regardless of what they say about it, it’s still a violation.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: All three stages of the rocket are ready on the launch pad, so how much hope do you actually have that you’re going to be able to convince North Korea to not do this in the next few days? It’s already there.
MS. NULAND: We’re not in the hope business here. We’re simply making clear we think this would be a very bad idea.
QUESTION: The Chinese Government has been convincing North Korea to – not to launch this rocket?
MS. NULAND: Well, you heard me say that we are continuing to urge all of the countries that may have influence on the DPRK, most notably China, to continue to use that influence to make clear that they also disapprove of this and think it would be a bad idea and will just further isolate the DPRK.
QUESTION: It seems like we go through these periodic moments of DPRK appears to be reconciling with the U.S. and other members in the Six-Party talk regime, then we have some sort of provocation, to use the U.S. Government’s term, and then we repeat. What’s it going to take to break this cycle if the DPRK continues to engage in what the U.S. and others country consider provocative and destabilizing behavior?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’d share your assessment that it is extremely disheartening that we seem to be in this cycle of thinking that we are coming to some sort of an agreement, as we did on Leap Day, and then having new threats of provocative activity or provocative activity itself. Our concern is for the people of the – of North Korea, who are just further and further in isolated – whose quality of life is not improving, and this – and the regime, who seems bound and determined to isolate their country rather than rejoining the community of nations.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Say again.
MS. NULAND: Syria, yes.
QUESTION: Could I just stay on North Korea?
MS. NULAND: One more North Korea; then we’re going to move on. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say you are not very satisfied with the way – how Chinese Government is pressurizing or not pressurizing North Korea, or – and could there be specific measure, action, taken by the Beijing to prevent it?
MS. NULAND: I think we continue to encourage China to do all that it can, and we are hopeful that they will continue to use their influence in the hours and days ahead.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just – Victoria, the deadline is fast approaching for a – the Assad regime to pull its forces out of the cities and neighborhoods and so on, and obviously they’re not doing that. So once the deadline has come and gone, what will be your next trip – next step, I’m sorry – to deal with this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, before we get to the step that might follow a day from now or the day after, let’s start with the news today, which are the reports of cross-border violence across the Turkish border. Let me just start by saying that we strongly condemn any attack by the Syrian regime on refugees in bordering countries, and we’re absolutely outraged by today’s report. We join the Turkish Government in calling for the Syrian regime to immediately cease fire. And these incidents are just another indication that the Assad regime does not seem at all willing to meet the commitments that it made to Kofi Annan. Not only has the violence not abated; it has been worse in recent days.
QUESTION: So does that mean that you are not – you don’t trust the regime in following through on its commitment to cease fire by the 10th of April?
MS. NULAND: Well, we see no indication that it is preparing to do so. It’s done some moving around of its tanks and artillery but only so that it can use them in other places. There are new, horrific reports in addition that over 100 people were summarily executed in the last period outside of Aleppo, that there were 200 bodies found in Idlib in similar conditions. So are we optimistic that he’s going to meet his commitments? No. But obviously, we’re going to wait for tomorrow’s deadline and take it from there.
QUESTION: Does this cross-border attack raise any alarms among the NATO alliance? And what sorts of discussions have started because of what happened overnight?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’re all consulting with our Turkish counterparts in trying to ascertain what the facts are. I would not be surprised if the Turks do raise this in Brussels. I haven’t heard that that’s the case yet.
QUESTION: In addition to the attack on Turkey’s (inaudible) killed a Lebanese journalist today inside the Lebanese borders. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: I’m not aware of that, Samir. We’re – we’ll look into that. But again, was this another cross-border incident? Is that what you understood? Again, the violence clearly hasn’t abated at all.
QUESTION: You stated that all the indications show the Assad regime is not prepared to follow up Annan plan. What is – what are you preparing to do after tomorrow? It is not months; it’s just tomorrow. What are you going to do?
MS. NULAND: Well, tomorrow we’re expecting that there will be a report from Kofi Annan’s representative in the Security Council, probably in the afternoon. I think we will wait and see what his evaluation is and then what he recommends, but as we have said, we expect that we will be having intensive consultations in the Security Council. And then, as you know, we have G-8 countries in Washington this week for ministerial meetings with Secretary Clinton. I’m sure that Syria will be a subject of discussion here, too.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the cross-border incident?
QUESTION: Do you still have any hope for the Annan plan to – at any rate be implemented at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re going to wait until tomorrow. The deadline is tomorrow. But based on what we’re seeing today, we are not hopeful.
QUESTION: What is it that you understand transpired on the border? Our early reports said it was not clear whether people were deliberately targeted or whether this might have been stray or accidental fire. Are you convinced that the people in Turkey were deliberately targeted by Syrian forces?
MS. NULAND: That is the view of the Turkish officials who have been briefing us, that the regime knew that it was firing across the border, that it was pursuing activists and that these were intentional acts. But we are obviously continuing to consult with the Turks who are there.
QUESTION: And how does this – if that is what happened, how does that differ from, say, hot pursuit, say, from Afghanistan into Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: This is – you’re talking about apples and oranges. In the Pakistan-Afghanistan situation, as you know, along that border, we have a complex but very intensive dialogue and set of protocols between Afghan forces, Pakistani forces, and NATO as to how you manage when insurgents are seen crossing the border, et cetera. The reports that we’re having from Turkish officials indicate that these were firings on innocents. These were not in response to any kind of fire.
QUESTION: Victoria, the regime has requested that the opposition put down in writing that they are ceasing fire. One, how could they possibly do that? And conversely, how would the regime be assured that these groups, who probably number a hundred or something like this, would actually cease fire?
MS. NULAND: Well, precisely. This is just more chaff being thrown up in the air at the last minute to deflect attention from the fact that the regime is not meeting the commitments that they made to Kofi Annan. Remember, it wasn’t simply that the accepted the plan, but that they reported to Annan some – about a week ago or even less that they had started to withdraw - none of which seems to be the case. And now two days before the deadline, they’re asking for written guarantees from groups that are loose and amorphous and have themselves declared that if they saw the regime cease fire that they would also cease fire. So this is just another way to stall for time.
QUESTION: Is there a new estimate on how many people in Syria may have been killed since the – overall since the uprising began? I mean, you just mentioned a hundred people found here, several dozen found over there. I mean, what’s – what figure are we talking about now?
MS. NULAND: My understanding that the figure that the UN Human Rights Council has been using is around 9,000, but I would refer you to their figures. I don’t think anybody has a complete and accurate accounting, obviously, because we’re not able to get into Syria.
QUESTION: Does this death toll, seemingly rising by the day, add any additional urgency? I mean, we’re more than a year on into this and there’s no security, it seems, for the Syrian people. We saw the satellite images put out by Ambassador Ford on Friday afternoon. Tanks are still sitting on Homs, and they’re still sitting across Idlib province. What’s it going to take for the U.S. and other countries to actually do something against Bashar al-Assad’s regime?
MS. NULAND: Ros, let me take issue with the premise. I mean, first of all, let’s start with the fact that this has been urgent for months and months and months. Remember that the President called for Assad to go way back in November, I believe it was, if not earlier. What we have done is marshaled an enormous coalition of countries that are now sanctioning Assad. We talked last week about all of the measures taken at the Friends of the Syrian People conference: crippling sanction not only from the U.S. and the EU and the Arab League, but now globally; the effort to assist now the Syrian opposition, in our case on a nonlethal basis, other countries choosing to do other things to help them to defend themselves; the humanitarian assistance; the effort to take – to stand up an accountability center so that we can help the Syrian people document the abuses; et cetera. And we will keep squeezing and isolating this guy until the violence ends.
QUESTION: Should people in Syria assume that unless the Assad regime decides to just stop its attacks that each day could be their last?
MS. NULAND: Ros, we are all horrified by the violence, and we are doing what we can to increase the pressure on Assad, and we will continue to stand with the Syrian people until they have the future that they want and that they deserve.
QUESTION: From the beginning, you have been supporter of the Annan plan. In fact, the UN envoy, Ms. Susan Rice, said this outstanding choice for Mr. Annan and the best solution was cited. My question is: Do you have any regret that the Assad regime agreed to Arab League plan, agreed to different plans, and now you again supported this Annan plan, and now over a thousand people just past week have died. Do you take any kind of responsibility for your choice of policy on the Annan plan?
MS. NULAND: Look, the Annan plan is based on all of the efforts that all of us have been making for months now to try to end this violence. He is a highly respected diplomat. He put forward something that was accepted by the entire international community, which was not the state that we were in before he joined this effort, and that was accepted by Assad. The fact that it hasn’t worked yet doesn’t change the fact that having the international community increasingly united and increasingly willing to pressure Assad will not eventually bring him down. He will go down. The question is when and the question is how many of his supporters, how many of his military are going to continue to execute his orders right up until the end and face the justice that is coming to them as well.
QUESTION: So you don’t have any regret – should we understand that you don’t have any regret supporting the Annan plan?
MS. NULAND: Kofi Annan is doing what he can to represent the will of the international community. We’re going to see what he has to say tomorrow when his representative reports on the outcome, not only in terms of how he appraises what’s happened, but what he proposes for next steps.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: No. Wait, I just – back to the question about NATO.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. – what does the U.S. think about this? Does the U.S. believe that there are NATO implications for the – for what happened?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I can’t --
QUESTION: Or that there could be? And do you know, given your past expertise or current expertise of NATO, does an aggrieved country have to ask for Article 5 to be invoked? Because I don’t remember what happened after 9/11. Did the U.S. ask for Article 5 to be invoked, or did it – did others invoke it on our behalf?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to whatever the Turkish conversation might be in NATO, Ros asked if that has happened. I said that I didn’t know whether Turkey had briefed the NATO council, so --
QUESTION: No, no, but I don’t – I’m not interested in whether they have or not.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. With regard to --
QUESTION: I’m interested in if the U.S. believes that it – if there are Article 5 – NATO Article 5 implications.
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that we have gotten to that point in our analysis. We’re still trying to ascertain the facts here.
MS. NULAND: With regard to how NATO works, Article 5 is invoked by consensus, so any member of the council can propose --
QUESTION: Can say – so the Turks don’t have to go and say we want this invoked; the Greeks could do --
MS. NULAND: Any member of the council can propose something and then the council would have to be unanimous in its support.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow-up on Matt’s --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on the NATO thing. Suppose Turkey decided that this is really a hostile act and decided to take a military response to this thing. Would NATO automatically give support in this case? I mean, from your experience --
MS. NULAND: You’re getting me into 17 layers of hypotheticals, Said --
QUESTION: I mean, from your personal experience in --
MS. NULAND: -- which you can imagine I’m not going to get into.
QUESTION: -- that area, how would it happen? I mean, they --
MS. NULAND: NATO works by consensus. Any NATO action has to be proposed in the council and has to be supported by all member states.
QUESTION: Sorry, what’s that date on the issue of having safe havens for the refugees? Is this an issue under discussion with the Turkish Government?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Turks, as you know, have provided safe haven inside Turkey in a number of locations along the border, and they are continuing to feed and house and care for a growing number of Syrian refugees. We have all offered our support to that effort. International humanitarian organizations are supporting that effort inside Turkey.
QUESTION: India and Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So there is nothing going in Syria? Because even today and yesterday, Turkish officials have been talking about – we have seen different reports that Turkey is seriously considering these safe havens within Turkey. What is your position on this idea right now?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about expanding the refugee centers --
MS. NULAND: -- within Turkey?
QUESTION: Within Syria.
MS. NULAND: Within Syria. We’ve seen the same reports that you have, that various Turkish officials have said that they’re looking at it, studying it. I would refer you to Turkish officials.
QUESTION: But Turkish officials have not told your – briefed U.S. on this matter so far?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that at various levels, Turkish officials have studied or are studying this. I don’t think we would have any comment unless and until those studies were complete.
QUESTION: It was a great diplomatic week between India and Pakistan.
QUESTION: President Zardari of Pakistan, he took a mission – what he called – in Delhi and also at – religious pilgrimage, that this mission is for peace between the two countries and forget the past, whatever we have done. But a new chapter was started between the two countries’ relations. And both agree now that they will work at the highest level, including prime minister visiting Pakistan on the invitation of President Zardari.
So what is the future of this relationship goes as far as the U.S. is concerned, this quasi -- moreover, a diplomatic and religious mission for peace?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we are very pleased that Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari had a chance to meet in New Delhi yesterday, and that Prime Minister Singh has accepted President Zardari’s invitation to visit Pakistan in the near future. As we have said for a long time, we believe that expanded and improved engagement between these neighbors are not only going to help the neighbors - they’re going to help the entire region and provide opportunities for millions of citizens in the neighborhood to live in a more secure and stable region. So we applaud the trend. We hope that India and Pakistan continue to build on this progress, and we look forward to more such meetings.
QUESTION: On Burma?
QUESTION: There are – several reports came out saying Derek Mitchell will be named as a next ambassador to Burma. When will you be ready to make the announcement?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we don’t make announcements about presidential personnel decisions from this podium. If there’s something to announce, I’m sure the White House will announce it.
QUESTION: The sanctions. In the days which are --
MS. NULAND: Still Burma?
QUESTION: Burma. I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is sanctions in the near future coming down for Burma or are you going up, lifting the sanctions?
MS. NULAND: Well, you heard the Secretary make some announcements when she saw the press after the Thaci meeting. I can review those for you again, but essentially, in addition to continuing to work to name an ambassador as soon as we can; she talked about opening the USAID office in Burma. She talked about normalizing UNDP country program opportunities for Burma, lifting travel restrictions on key Burmese officials and parliamentarians, and also beginning the process of easing some of the restrictions that we’ve had on U.S. financial services and investments into Burma. So those are the things that we are looking at. Remember that we always said action for action, so these come in the wake of the good round of parliamentary elections.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Very quickly --
MS. NULAND: Let’s talk to Said and then go to --
QUESTION: -- there are groups in Iraq that are opposing the appointment of Ambassador Brett McGurk to --
MS. NULAND: We’re in Iraq? I heard Iran. Yeah.
QUESTION: In Iraq. Yes, Iraq. I’m sorry. Yeah. The new ambassador-designate to Iraq, they oppose his appointment, including Alawi and many other groups. Does that in any way influence your decision?
MS. NULAND: The President has nominated Brett McGurk to be our new ambassador, and he made a strong statement in his support, that he will greatly – that our nation will be greatly served by his talents and by his experience in Iraq, and we look forward to the Senate’s advice and consent on his appointment.
QUESTION: Okay. And follow-up. Yeah. Go ahead. Follow-up on Iraq?
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Barzani was in town, and he called Maliki the new dictator of Iraq. He says that he’s the minister of defense, the minister of interior - he’s the head of the armed forces, now he’s trying to even become the president of the Central Bank, and this is really unprecedented action. So do you feel that Maliki is the new dictator of Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Vice President and the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Burns had a chance to meet with Mr. Barzani and have a full exchange on his views. We continue to believe that the tensions and the concerns and the disagreements between the different political groups in Iraq are best solved by dialogue among them. We want to see them get together in a national unity conversation and air their differences and work through them.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the new appointment of Mr. McGurk, who is apparently close to Mr. Maliki or has had good relations with him, would that in any way influence these negotiations?
MS. NULAND: Well, the President nominated Mr. McGurk because he thought that he would strongly represent U.S. interests --
MS. NULAND: -- and that his experience in Iraq could be put to good use. As you know, our current ambassador plays a strong role in trying to help the various different political factions stay in contact with each other, encouraging dialogue among them, and I would expect that the same would be true of the future ambassador, assuming confirmation.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that, and then I want to go to Iran. But if I understand it correctly, the White House never announces a nomination until you have obtained agrement from the government in question, correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: So the fact that some Iraq political figures might be complaining about his choice – yeah, I mean, from your point of view, you’ve got the government’s acceptance, and it’s just a matter for the Senate, correct?
MS. NULAND: I would have to confirm, but it is, I think, always practice that we seek agrement before we put a nomination forward.
QUESTION: Seek and obtain, right?
MS. NULAND: Seek and obtain. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. And then on Iran, so obviously you’re well aware of the decision to hold the P-5+1 meetings in Istanbul on the 14th.
QUESTION: Is it only going to be on the 14th, or is it possible that it will run for more than one day?
MS. NULAND: Well, the meetings of the P-5+1 with the Iranians are going to be on the 14th. I don’t think there’s any expectation that it will run longer, but I wouldn’t want to preclude it from this podium. Obviously, we’ll see how it goes.
QUESTION: Aren’t there --
QUESTION: Like --
QUESTION: Well, just on the scheduling of this, isn’t – aren’t the P-5+1 minus Iran meeting on the 13th?
MS. NULAND: There may be a preliminary meeting of our group on the 13th. I think there probably will be. That’s usually the practice.
QUESTION: And it will, indeed, be Under Secretary Sherman who represents the United States?
MS. NULAND: It will.
QUESTION: What, if anything, can you say about The New York Times report that came out Saturday night, saying that the United States wants Iran to cease enrichment at 20 percent, turn over its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, and close the – and immediately close the Fordo facility?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously not going to conduct our P-5+1 negotiations with Iran before the meeting or from this podium or in public, so I’m not going to get into the details of what the P-5+1 might be proposing to Iran. I’m sure that we’ll have some information for you all as those talks go forward.
What I would say is that our concerns with regard to Iran’s behavior are well-known, they’re well-documented, they’re spelled out clearly in numerous IAEA reports – IAEA reports that we’ve all signed up to. And as the Secretary said at her own press conference in Istanbul about a week ago, we don’t have any problem with peaceful civilian nuclear power by Iran. And the Iranians themselves have said, at the level of the supreme leader, that they don’t have any weapons intention. Well, if it that is, in fact, the case, then it ought to be relatively straightforward for them to demonstrate that to the international community’s satisfaction. And that’s what we’ll be talking about when we see them.
QUESTION: So everything that the Secretary said in that April 1st press conferences still stands?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Because I’m looking at the transcript of it, and it says, “The government” – this is quoting her. “That government policy” – i.e., the Iranian Government’s policy – “can be demonstrated in a number of ways: by ending enrichment – the enrichment of highly enriched uranium to 20 percent; by shipping out such highly enriched uranium out of the country; and by opening up to constant inspection and – inspections and verifications,” which is basically, I think, the Secretary saying on the record what The New York Times – what The New York Times had to source to senior officials. Isn’t, in fact – did she, in fact, say exactly that?
MS. NULAND: She, in fact, said exactly that.
QUESTION: -- on the record on April 1st --
MS. NULAND: On the record.
QUESTION: -- eight days before this great, exclusive story appeared in The New York Times?
MS. NULAND: Matt has a particular thing with New York Times reporting.
QUESTION: Well, with one in particular, I suppose. But I just – I just – I mean, so I don’t understand your response to Arshad’s question, though.
MS. NULAND: Well, I did make note of the press conference --
QUESTION: I mean, if she said this --
MS. NULAND: I didn’t have an encyclopedic --
QUESTION: She said all of this on the record.
MS. NULAND: She did.
QUESTION: More than a week ago.
MS. NULAND: She did.
MS. NULAND: I mean, look --
QUESTION: Well, why not come out and – why not repeat it?
MS. NULAND: I could have repeated it. I didn’t have it in front of me.
QUESTION: Oh. Okay.
MS. NULAND: But I’m glad you did. Thank you very much, Matt. You did my job for me. I appreciate it, as ever.
QUESTION: So –
MS. NULAND: Still on Iran?
QUESTION: One other one on this.
MS. NULAND: And then to Said.
QUESTION: Is it still – a couple of – actually, on this. Is it still the U.S. Government’s position that in line with multiple UN Security Council resolutions, Iran should cease all uranium enrichment pending its having satisfied the international community with the peaceful nature of its program?
MS. NULAND: Our position with regard to UN Security Council resolutions is unchanged.
QUESTION: So why then does the Secretary make reference to the – only the highly enriched uranium, the 20 percent level, and not the 3.5 percent level?
MS. NULAND: Again, the Secretary’s comments came in the context of a broad answer on Iran on the talks. I don’t think that she was looking to be exhaustive. She was looking to give a set of examples of the kinds of things that we are concerned about as an international community – all things that have been well documented as areas of concern by the IAEA.
QUESTION: But as you know, the Secretary can be exquisitely precise in her language.
MS. NULAND: She can. I think you are parsing the – you are cutting this salami too finely, looking to try to read through it.
QUESTION: I would hate – I would hate to be her spokesperson and suggest that that was a deliberate – that it was just accidental and, in fact, she meant that they should cease enrichment entirely, not just the 20 percent, and she just somehow got it wrong. I mean, I think she said 20 percent for a reason.
MS. NULAND: Arshad, again, we’re not going to have these negotiations with the Iranians from this podium. She’s given the parameters of what we’re seeking, and we’ll have to see how these negotiations go.
QUESTION: So you’re not --
MS. NULAND: Said.
QUESTION: One last one here. You’re not actually then seeking their – at least in the first instance, their suspension of uranium enrichment to 3.5 percent?
MS. NULAND: We are seeking their compliance with all UN Security Council resolutions. We are seeking to be able to verify that compliance through inspections and other means. And beyond that, I’m not going to slice the salami thin enough for you to read through. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Toria, you always cite that – Iran’s behavior. I mean, in the old days when they cited Saddam’s behavior - he had attacked Iran, he had attacked Kuwait and occupied Kuwait and all these things. But what in Iran’s behavior that really placed it in such a rogue status where it could not do this or pursue this nuclear thing in a peaceful fashion?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, go back and read this exquisite press conference on April 1st --
QUESTION: I did.
MS. NULAND: -- where the Secretary spoke not only about our concerns vis-a-vis Iran with regard to the nuclear docket, which are about a weapons program. They are not about civilian nuclear power. But she also spoke about the export of terrorism from Iran, about Iran’s internal human rights record, and about its destabilizing behavior in the neighborhood.
QUESTION: So --
MS. NULAND: So all of these are issues of concern. These talks are about our nuclear concerns.
QUESTION: So although the – Khamenei, the supreme leader, said that we have no intention – in fact, there is a fatwa – they issued a fatwa against acquiring nuclear weapons --
MS. NULAND: And the Secretary made reference to that on April 1st, too.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. Here and then back there. Go ahead.
QUESTION: You were just saying that you don’t want to get into the conversation on the subject, on the P-5+1 talks with Iran. But actually, it seems like the conversation has already started. What the Secretary has said they have already taken as conditions, they’re saying we won’t talk with preconditions. And on the enrichment, again they’re saying we’re going to continue the 20 percent enrichment until we have enough for our research reactor. Don’t you think this is a nonstarter already?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re going to get to Istanbul. We’re going to sit down with the Iranians. We’ll hear what they have to say. From our perspective, it’s relatively straightforward if, in fact, their program is purely peaceful, for them to be able to demonstrate it to everybody’s satisfaction.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: I have two questions. One, getting back to Pakistan, is there anything further to add --
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Let’s finish Iran, then we’ll come back to Pakistan. Okay? Arshad.
QUESTION: Iranian media quoted Iran’s nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi Davani as dismissing the idea of a revival of the TRR deal under which they would have received more highly enriched uranium to run that reactor. But he then goes on to say that once Iran has obtained sufficient more highly enriched uranium, it would – quote, “We will scale back production and maybe even convert it to 3.5 percent uranium.”
Is it at all hopeful to you that an Iranian official is talking about, however hedged or conditioned, the idea of at some point ceasing to enrich to the higher level?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think it’s productive four days before these talks start to be reacting to Iranian comments to the press. What we want to do is have productive talks in the room that show a sustained effort to demonstrate the peaceful intent of the program. That’s what we’ll be looking for, but I’m not going to react to stray Iranian press comments.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further to add on the Siachen tragedy? And did Pakistan – you’ve sent nine – the U.S. has sent nine experts to help in rescue efforts in Siachen. Has an effort been made to send – are more experts being sent, or has Pakistan asked for more help from the United States?
MS. NULAND: This is with regard to the avalanche --
MS. NULAND: -- over the weekend or early – at the end of last week. At the request of the Government of Pakistan, the USG did deploy an eight-man U.S. military alpine search-and-rescue team from Kabul to Islamabad. They arrived yesterday. The team is currently in Islamabad, has not yet deployed to the region. We’re discussing with the Pakistani military how best they might be used. But we stand by to assist, and to my knowledge, we haven’t had any additional requests from Pakistan.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up, another question, different matter. Center for Constitutional Rights based in Washington, DC says that a lawyer who represents drone victims in Pakistan isn’t being given a visa by the U.S. Embassy to come attend a conference on drones in Washington later this month. He says that he has not received any reply from the U.S. Embassy. And his name is Shahzad Akbar and he represents drone victims in Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to an individual visa case. I’ll send you to our Embassy in Islamabad for an update on that one.
QUESTION: This might be better directed to the Pentagon, but do you have any more details on this deployment of an eight-man search and rescue? I mean, the Pakistanis actually invited U.S. military into their country?
MS. NULAND: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Oh, so it’s okay, then, for them to do that and tell you to – just give you the short end of the stick? I mean, how did they get there? Did they fly in on their own helicopter or plane?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know how they got in. They – this was obviously a humanitarian request, a horrible situation with the --
QUESTION: Well, it’s very nice of you to --
MS. NULAND: -- avalanche and --
QUESTION: Considering how nice they’ve been to you lately, it’s very nice of you to send your troops there.
MS. NULAND: Well, we felt it was --
QUESTION: Are you sure that they’re safe?
MS. NULAND: We felt it was important to respond to their request. As I said, they haven’t left Islamabad yet, but they’re ready to help.
QUESTION: Are they – is their presence there at all covered by the parliamentary review of relations between the two countries? Is this – are they going to make a special exception so that these guys – it’s okay for them to come in?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that the Pakistanis asked for this specialized help, that we made them available. And we are delighted to have them help in any way they can.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Still on Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Still on Pakistan.
QUESTION: This is a follow-up of the avalanche tragedy, which, in a way, the deployment there is a result of the India-Pakistan conflict. And you have been very vocal in the recent past about better relations between both countries and your willingness that they should try to resolve their issues. Could you also play a role in trying to reach a diplomatic and political settlement of the Siachen conflict?
QUESTION: The Siachen conflict.
MS. NULAND: Of the Siachen conflict. Well, we have made clear to both India and Pakistan that we are prepared to be supportive in any way that might be helpful but that primarily we see this being settled by dialogue between them.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Another violent Easter in Nigeria, at least 36 dead now from that blast in Kaduna. Response – the United States has assisted in investigations into Boko Haram in the past. Are you involved in this as well?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that the United States strongly condemns yesterday’s attacks on two churches in Kaduna and Jos, Nigeria. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the loved ones of those who were killed and injured. This violence has no place in a democracy. We support the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to bring the perpetrators of these violent acts to justice, and we stress the importance nonetheless of respecting the human rights and protecting civilians in any security operation.
To my knowledge, we have not been asked for any direct support for this investigation but obviously would be prepared to consider a request like that if it came to us.
QUESTION: Can I ask an ECOWAS question as well? On Mali, you have, in the last week, 10 days, supported the ECOWAS approach on Mali. ECOWAS has decided to lift its sanctions because it’s satisfied with the deal that was cut on Friday. Will you follow suit and resume your suspended aid?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that we commend the strong leadership of ECOWAS throughout this episode in brokering the agreement with the junta leaders and fully restoring civilian rule. As you know, President Toure has now taken the step to stand down in order to restore peace and security and democracy in Mali, and the National Assembly Speaker Traore will now head a transition government. So this is a very good step in the restoration of democracy in Mali.
We obviously want to see these steps consolidated. We will look over the coming days at whether enough progress has been made to restore our full programming, but we don’t have any decisions today.
QUESTION: So the message is the stepping down of a duly elected president following a military coup is a good thing in terms of the restoration of democracy?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the issue here arose because there were unresolved grievances between the military and the leadership of the country. These escalated to the point of the situation that we saw, which was a complete overturning of the democratic system in Mali.
Is it ideal to have to broker a deal where the president steps down and you have to have an interim president until elections? Of course, it’s not ideal. But it does mark a very important restoration of civilian rule, without which we didn’t think Mali was going to be able to move forward. And as the same time, as you know, there have been very dangerous gains in the north by not only Tuareg militants, but also AQ elements that have taken advantage of the instability.
So we wanted civilian rule reestablished so that dialogue can now commence with the Tuaregs that redresses their grievances within a unified Mali, and real effort can be made to secure the country against the AQ elements that have taken advantage.
QUESTION: The only problem is that in accepting such an outcome, does it not send a signal potentially to other militaries that if they have longstanding – or if they have any grievances with their elected government, they can just mutiny, stage a coup, oust them, and then try to work out a way to make the ouster permanent?
MS. NULAND: Well, recall that that was not the junta leaders’ first choice. The junta leaders’ first choice was to run the country themselves. So from our perspective, restoring civilian rule to Mali was absolutely paramount. There are new elections planned anyway this spring, so we were going to have a government change shortly. And if we have to have an interim head in order to get to that stage where the people of Mali can make their choice – as I said, the situation should never have arisen in the first place. That’s a message that we and ECOWAS and the AU sent, and there were strong sanctions put in place by everyone. That said, we are very pleased now to see civilian rule reestablished so that we can get to the elections that the people of Mali deserve.
QUESTION: And then just to go back to Scott’s question, because maybe you answered it and I didn’t hear it. But have you guys made a decision about restoring your suspended assistance?
MS. NULAND: We have not. We want to see this restoration of civilian rule consolidated. So I don’t have anything to announce today, but we’ll look at it on a day-by-day basis.
QUESTION: So – but just on that, because it’s, I think, an important point, leaving aside the inconsistency over whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing, I think it’s a good point that you made that all they had to do was to wait for this election anyway. There never had to be a mutiny. Did you – when you suspended the aid, knowing that it took you so long to do it or to figure out how much was suspended, did you actually come to the determination that a coup had taken place, that there had been an undemocratic change in a – or an unconstitutional change to a democratically elected government?
MS. NULAND: Well, in terms of our congressional notification of suspension, we didn’t actually invoke the “c” word --
QUESTION: You did not?
MS. NULAND: -- because it was such a fluid situation --
QUESTION: -- which we were hoping was on its way to reversal.
QUESTION: Does that then mean that – normally, when that does happen, there has to be an actual election and an elected government come to power before the aid can be restored. In this case, does it mean that simply you can turn the switch back on as soon as there’s – you’re satisfied that there’s a civilian leadership without an election?
MS. NULAND: We can turn the switch back on when we are satisfied that civilian rule has been reestablished.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes, the Palestinian issue.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Wednesday, you’re set to meet on the periphery of the G-8 – the Quartet is set to meet. But also on the same day, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad is set to meet with Netanyahu and give him a letter. Basically, the Palestinians are saying that unless you respond positively, we’re going to go back to the UN. So do you have a comment on all this?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you said, we do have Quartet envoys meeting – we have Quartet ministers meeting at Secretary Clinton’s level on Wednesday morning, so I don’t want to get ahead of the events of Wednesday. I think we’ll take it one step at a time, Said.
QUESTION: Are they likely to discuss the topics that are allegedly in the letter that Abbas is sending to Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MS. NULAND: I think you won’t be surprised if they discuss where we are in the proposal that they made in September, where we are in supporting the Palestinian authorities and maintaining stability, maintaining good quality of life for the Palestinian people. They’ll be talking about the full range of issues, I would guess.
QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief --
MS. NULAND: Two. Please.
QUESTION: -- Gulf questions. One on Bahrain. I understand the Administration has taken some interest in the case of this Norwegian Bahraini dual-national.
QUESTION: Danish. Sorry. Danish dual-national who’s on a hunger strike.
MS. NULAND: We are very concerned about the case of Mr. al-Khawaja particularly with regard to his health. We are in touch with the Bahrainis and with our international partners, and we are urging a humanitarian solution.
QUESTION: Do you know how – when you say we’re in touch, do you know who has been in touch with who?
MS. NULAND: Jeff Feltman’s been in touch – Assistant Secretary Feltman. We’ve been in touch at the embassy level, and more contacts are planned.
QUESTION: And what about – on this. What about his daughter, who was reported to – last week was reported to have been arrested? I think the interior ministry, if I’m not mistaken, said that she had – I think an interior ministry source was quoted as saying she had assaulted someone. Do you have any views on her case?
MS. NULAND: We’re also seeking more clarity on her case.
QUESTION: Did you say that someone from the Embassy has been to see Mr. al-Khawaja?
MS. NULAND: No, we’ve been in contact with Bahraini authorities about the case.
QUESTION: But no one has visited and then saw how bad--
MS. NULAND: To my mind – knowledge, no. He’s not an American citizen.
QUESTION: And the other one is on the Emirates and the case – this NDI situation. Is that completely resolved now, as far as you know?
QUESTION: Not in terms of the American, because I believe she left the country.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. In terms of the Serb national who worked for NDI, to my knowledge, that is not completely resolved.
QUESTION: And are there contacts going on on that?
MS. NULAND: There are. There was.
QUESTION: And do you know when the last one was?
MS. NULAND: I don’t. I don’t.
MS. NULAND: All right, thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)
DPB # 64