12:55 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. I think you know that the Secretary is on her way back from Los Cabos. She’ll be here at 4:00 to roll out our Annual Trafficking in Persons Report. And before that, we will have a backgrounding call with Ambassador-at-Large from the office that monitors trafficking in persons, Ambassador CdeBaca. So any of you who would like to be on that call, I think we’ve already notified it.
I have nothing else, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I’m just wanting to know if – what you all make of the developments in Pakistan, the supreme court decision, the lack – apparent lack of a prime minister. I’m wanting to know what you make of that and also how you see it affecting your attempts to repair relations.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve said all along that we expect that Pakistan will resolve any of these internal issues in a just and transparent manner in accordance with Pakistan’s own laws and constitution. Our understanding is that the Pakistani Government itself is meeting now to decide how it goes forward from here. Throughout this process, which has been going on for a number of months now, we have continued to work with the Pakistani Government and try to get through some of these issues that have been difficult. So it is our hope and expectation that we’ll be able to continue to do that. But they obviously have to work their internal issues internally.
QUESTION: When you say that throughout this process you’ve continued – or throughout this mess, for lack of a better term, you’ve continued to work with the Pakistani Government, how so? I mean, the main point of contention – the supply lines – doesn’t seem to be solved.
MS. NULAND: It is not. But the point being that the question of the prime minister’s – Prime Minister Gillani’s status and future and the court process with regard to him has been going on for some time. So we have nonetheless been able to work with the Pakistani Government through that period. As I said, they’ve got to now come to some internal conclusions about what this means for the government as a whole, et cetera. But our hope and expectation is that we will continue to be able to work with Pakistanis to try to finish some of these issues that we need to finish.
QUESTION: In the interim?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: You mean, before they get it all sorted out?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s see. We have to see how it goes there, obviously.
QUESTION: Is there any plan or – I mean, I know that the team has come back. Is there any plan to resend them? Is that on the schedule yet?
MS. NULAND: I think when the team came back at the time, we said that most of the technical level issues are settled. We have a good sense of how those can be managed. There are some political issues that still need to be worked through, and we’re continuing to have conversations both here and there about working those through.
QUESTION: So the talks, per se, wouldn’t start again. It would just be more –
MS. NULAND: I think if we need to we can, but we have other work to do first.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There have been a lot of conflicting reports about these ships going various places, then called back, et cetera, et cetera. Does the U.S. have any clarity on what exactly Russia is trying to do? And are you concerned by any of this action?
MS. NULAND: With regard to this particular set of –
QUESTION: Well, the most recent. I mean, I guess there are essentially the three ships, one of which is the helicopter ship, and then there are two others. It has – I think it actually has been confusing in terms of even media reports. Does the U.S. have clarity on what the Russians are doing?
MS. NULAND: Well, beyond what you saw in the readout on the President’s meeting with President Putin that Ben Rhodes and Mike McFaul spoke to yesterday that the issue of – in general, of arms shipments to Syria came up, I can’t speak to the details of what ship, where, who, or what. We’ve seen the same report that you have seen that a UK insurer has pulled coverage on the vessel that was reportedly carrying the helicopters and that it’s turned around. But frankly, I’m not in a position to sort of give a – where Russian naval assets are at the moment. I would refer you to them.
QUESTION: And just could I ask one question? We never really talk about China in all this. The focus has been on Russia. Is there anything specifically that the U.S. feels that China could do to bring Syria to a close?
MS. NULAND: Well, China – as you know, the President sees Hu Jintao today. So I would fully expect that Syria will come up in that meeting and that you’ll hear more about that at the end of the day. The Chinese did join with all of us at the UN Security Council in supporting the six-point Annan plan. They have received Syrian delegations. They have made representations in Syria that they want to see the Annan plan implemented, so we would ask them to continue to do that. But they don’t have the same kind of deep military ties with the regime that the Russians have.
QUESTION: Could I just go back to Russia on this one? Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has a statement out today saying that she believes that the Administration should reimpose sanctions on Rosoboronexport, the company that’s been a self-professed seller of arms to Syria. Is this something that the Administration would consider? And do you feel that given the Secretary’s own comments about the destabilizing nature of these weapons going into Syria, that this becomes an issue of U.S. national security?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the fact that yesterday was the first time that our President had a chance to sit down with President Putin since his election and to sit eye-to-eye and really talk through how we each see the Syria situation, as was reported by Ben Rhodes and Mike McFaul yesterday. They clearly talked about our concerns about any kinds of arms shipments to Syria by anybody and the way the regime has been using the weapons that they have.
So I think before we get into the kind of hypothetical scenarios that you’re putting forward, Andy, we need to see how that conversation settles and what kind of work we’re able to do together to bring more pressure to bear to have the Annan plan implemented and the impact that – the concern of not just the United States, but many of the countries around the G-20 table have with Russian arm sales settled on the Russians.
QUESTION: And what about that question of sort of national security implications for the United States of the Syrian question now? Is that something that’s being considered? I mean, we haven’t heard it phrased that way yet. Is that something that you think is a true sort of a statement, that it is affecting our own national security now?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been saying for months and months that our concern was that this was not simply a matter of the future for the Syrian people and their having the same rights and dignity and democratic aspirations as everybody else, but that the risks were that if this violence didn’t get under control it could spin into the region and it could become a larger proxy war situation. So obviously, that’s precisely the sort of spillover that we’re trying to avoid. And we wouldn’t be putting this much effort into it if we didn’t think it had security implications, not only for the region and for our friends but for the United States as well.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: The Uganda --
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. Still Syria – behind you. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. How do you feel about the announcement of the maneuvers with China and Russia and Iran in Syria?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know what you’re referring to. What maneuvers?
QUESTION: There is an announcement that going to be the biggest ever maneuvers in the Middle East with Russia and Iran.
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure who announced them, but I didn’t see what you’re referring to.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The anti-homosexuality bill is under consideration again by the parliament. What’s – we’ve talked about this before. What steps is the Administration taking to try to dissuade them from this?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously had this on our agenda with Uganda ever since this issue first came up, not only with the government but obviously with members of the legislature. And we will continue to raise our deep concerns about this.
As you know, the Ugandan Government has taken some recent steps to make clear that they are not supportive of some of these moves that are going forward. So in particular, their own human rights commission in 2010, in their annual report, they determined that the anti-homosexuality bill violated Uganda’s own constitution and international law. Other members of the Ugandan civil society have also been speaking out, and we’ve obviously been supportive of those efforts.
So we are very concerned about this. We are resolutely opposed to the bill. We think it’s inconsistent with Uganda’s international human rights obligations, and this just sets a bad, bad precedent in the neighborhood. So we’ll continue to make those points clear, and we’ll make them clear to the individuals who are having to take this vote in the parliament.
QUESTION: Thank you. Iran and Venezuela. It is on this information from The New Herald that – regarding Iranian – Venezuela – engineer is overseeing this drones project in Venezuela. I would like to know if you have any comments on that.
MS. NULAND: I do. I have to find where we put them here today. Well, we’ve seen these reports that Venezuela says that it is getting assistance from Iran, among others, to enable it to field some kind of unmanned aerial vehicles. Our understanding is that these UAVs would not be equipped with weapons but are more sort of camera surveillance type things, flying cameras if you will.
All countries, including Venezuela, have an obligation to comply with international sanctions against Iran, so we will continue to monitor this situation between Iran and countries in the hemisphere closely. And we’re committed to ensuring that if we see violations of Iran sanctions that we will call them out and that we will seek appropriate action.
QUESTION: And you know that the Iranian President is going to visit Venezuela too. Do you have any reaction on that? He’s in Latin America right now trying to close some deals with Latin American countries. And in the frame of these sanctions, I believe on Thursday the Congress is going to have a hearing on Iran sanctions too. What will be the impact on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we spoke to the Ahmadinejad tour around the hemisphere about a week ago. Iran is continuing to look for friends wherever it can find them, and what we are saying to all of our partners in the hemisphere is that this is an opportunity, when Ahmadinejad comes knocking, to underscore the unity of the international community in not wanting to see Iran get a nuclear weapon.
With regard to Venezuela, if – we will see how that goes. But the expectation is that there will be unity in the international community on this question.
QUESTION: A question on Kosovo-Serbia relations. We’ve seen another acts of violence today against KFOR on the north of Kosovo. But my question is on the diplomatic offices in Pristina, in Belgrade. The Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Dacic yesterday says that international community will ask Serbia to open some kind of diplomatic office in Pristina and Kosovo to do the same in Belgrade. Do you have that kind of information? And what will be your position on that, if we know that Serbia didn’t recognize Kosovo independence?
MS. NULAND: Okay. Well, I think you – it sounds like you’re getting me ahead of events, that there may be a request for X and how we would we respond to Y. I don’t have anything for you at the moment, but if we have something that we need to share, I’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.
QUESTION: On Japan, Shinsuke Sugiyama from the Japanese foreign ministry was here yesterday and today to meet with Assistant Secretary Campbell, and I’m wondering if you could read out those meetings for us.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a full readout on the details of the meetings, except to say that this was a joint foreign ministry defense delegation that also met with a U.S. foreign ministry and defense delegation led by Assistant Secretary Campbell. It was part of our regular regional consultations with Japan. There was a separate session on the DPRK with Ambassador Davies as well, and we’re continuing to work on all of those issues together.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Anything happening today? (Laughter.) Are they getting somewhere?
MS. NULAND: Well, my understanding just before coming down was that the plenary session that happened today was completed, that they had broken down into various bilateral meetings, that EU High Representative Ashton was meeting with the Iranians. There were others meeting with the Iranians, there were others meeting in other combinations, and that High Representative Ashton would speak for the P-5+1 side when those meetings were completed.
So I think she’s not quite ready to do that, but stay tuned for later in the day.
QUESTION: The Russian had a plan on the table, do you know? Do you have any details on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, the P-5+1 has been pretty united – completely united in fact – in what we are asking of Iran. There’s no separate Russian plan. There is a united P-5+1 proposal which was put down at the last round and which they’ve been working on in this round. And it speaks to the necessity of coming back into – starting to take steps to come back into compliance with international obligations very much focused on the real concerns about 20 percent enrichment, et cetera. But I’m not in a position to give you much of a debrief about how they did today until EU High Rep Ashton speaks.
QUESTION: There is room for small details. Anything came out on the Russian point of view? That was my question.
MS. NULAND: Well, I would refer you to Moscow for their perspective on the meetings.
Michele, in the back.
QUESTION: One quick follow-up on that. Is Wendy Sherman holding any separate meetings with the Iranians there, or is she --
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said all along that we’re open if we think that would be helpful. As I understand it, there was nothing particularly scheduled today. But again, I just don’t know what might be happening as they wrap up today.
QUESTION: Okay. Then on Egypt, President Carter said he’s troubled by the undemocratic turn there. The Carter Center had lots of limitations on what it could witness. How worried are you about what’s happening with the vote count, and at what point do you sort of put aid on hold? I know you talked about this broadly yesterday, but can you go back on your decision earlier to release aid?
MS. NULAND: Well, on the question of the monitors reporting on the elections, my understanding is there has not yet been a formal report from the monitoring group. So I think we will await their conclusions. And obviously we were pleased to have a big group of witnesses in Egypt, and we will take their views very seriously. And as you know, the election has not been officially called either, so this is a very important couple of days for the Egyptians to get it right in keeping with their commitment to have free, fair, and transparent presidential elections.
We spoke extensively to the situation in Egypt yesterday and particularly some of the concerns that we have. I think we have to see how this period unfolds before we make any decisions. But as I said yesterday, this is a crucial time for the right decisions to be made, and those decisions are going to have an impact on how we go forward.
QUESTION: Did you get any reassurances from the military council, I mean, after all these decisions they took?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, they’re very much involved in settling their own internal house in the last 24 hours, so we’ve been very clear with them privately and publicly what our expectations are, if they’re going to meet their commitments to the Egyptian people. So we need to see them get it right in the coming days.
QUESTION: A follow-up on the aid question. I’m just wondering if you have any information about how much of the $1.3 billion that the waiver was lifted for has actually gone out the door since the Secretary made that decision, so how much do you have left to hold if you were to make that decision?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can make some general points about this. Let me just take a minute and describe how Foreign Military Funding with Egypt works, and I think that’ll be instructive in this case.
So once money has been appropriated by the Congress, and in this case following the Secretary’s waiver, that money goes into the named Federal Reserve account which actually has two keys. It has a U.S. key and it has an Egyptian key. At the moment, there is at least 1.3 billion in the account. The 2012 money and some residual money – frankly, I don’t have a breakdown of how much is old money and how much – but it’s at least 1.3 in the account now.
And then when the Egyptians want to pay a bill to a U.S. contractor who has provided services to the Egyptian military, they submit that bill for payment from this fund, and then the U.S. side has to also approve the payment. So given the fact that there’s at least 1.3 in there now, we retain a lot of ability to manage how this money is spent going forward.
QUESTION: But can you stop – I mean, obviously you’re not going to want to stop payments to U.S. companies. Can you stop U.S. companies from providing the services?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into where one might go in these circumstances. But the point was simply to make it clear that there are two keys on how this money is spent. That’s the FMF obviously.
There’s also the ESF money, as you know, some 250 million appropriated for 2012. I think you know that the vast majority of that we had previously made a decision we would wait until there was a new elected government in Egypt and we would want to work with that government on its priorities before deciding how to spend it. So we’re currently in the process of working up a plan that will have to be consulted with the Congress, then will have to be proposed and worked through with the new Egyptian government once a winner is named, a cabinet is formed, et cetera.
QUESTION: So that money all remains (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Correct, correct.
All right. Anything else? Great. Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)
DPB # 112