1:09 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Wednesday, everybody.
Just one small thing at the top: As you saw, the Secretary put out a statement for World Refugee Day today. Just wanted to advise all of you that tomorrow, in recognition of World Refugee Day, the Department is going to host, together with Homeland Security, a special naturalization ceremony at 3 o’clock in the Ben Franklin Room, and it is open to the press. And we’re going to be administering the oath of allegiance to 19 citizenship candidates from nine countries who are all former refugees. So join us for that if you have the time. I have nothing else.
QUESTION: I think it’s also International Surfing Day tomorrow.
MS. NULAND: Is it? All right, Matt. You should be out surfing, guy.
QUESTION: No statement on that?
MS. NULAND: You should be setting an example for all of us. (Laughter.) I’ll do some surfing. All right.
QUESTION: That looks more like what I’m about to get into – (laughter) – kind of like walking like an Egyptian, so let’s start with --
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) That was good. That was good.
MS. NULAND: Well, first, on the last, with regard to Mubarak’s health, we’ve seen the same press reports that you have. I don’t have anything to add there or any information specific to us.
Our understanding is that the situation remains as it was yesterday. They are continuing to tabulate the votes. There have been a number of claims and counterclaims. So our call remains as it has been, that we want to see the Egyptian people have a process that gives them confidence that their democratic transition is on track. So these days are going to be absolutely crucial in the way this vote is handled, in the confidence that the Egyptian people have, in the way the announcement comes forward, in the way any concerns are addressed, et cetera.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, leaving – before I follow up on that, have you gotten any clarity on what their – on their constitutional decisions, what – from the SCAF on what they have done in meddling with the – or adjusting the constitution? You said before you were seeking clarity from them, as the thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square are also seeking clarity. Have you gotten that yet?
MS. NULAND: I think there’s – there are a lot of, sort of, decisions going forward that we – that are not very clear at all, including to Egyptians.
QUESTION: Okay. And then recognizing the fact that this is, first and foremost, for the Egyptian people to decide, so far, what is --
MS. NULAND: That was good. First – this is, first and foremost, for the Egyptian people to decide.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. view? Do you think that so far, that what we’ve seen so far, is something that gives – that would give the Egyptian people confidence in the process?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I spoke to this two days ago, and we expressed concerns about some of these moves that appear to prolong the period that the SCAF remains a political actor on the scene. The Egyptians have to sort through this now, given the decisions of the court, given the lack of clarity about the constituent assembly, given the fact that we still don’t have – that the election hasn’t been called, et cetera.
So there’s – there are a lot of moving pieces here. Our policy is one of principle. It’s the same set of principles that’s guided us throughout the Arab Spring, that’s guided us throughout our work with the Egyptians in this transition period. They deserve to have a permanent democratic government chosen by the people that represents all the people of Egypt. And it’s quite murky now how that’s going to come forward.
QUESTION: Have there been any high-level contacts between this Administration and the leaders of the SCAF that you’re aware of since Secretary Panetta had his call with Tantawi?
MS. NULAND: Ambassador Patterson has been in touch, as she always is, with a full range of Egyptian actors. But beyond that, again, as Matt said, this is for the Egyptian people to decide, and – (laughter) --
MS. NULAND: -- we need them to work through it themselves.
QUESTION: There is a delegation of Egyptian that is visiting the Department today. The public schedule says that a delegation – an Egyptian parliamentary delegation. Should we read that the State Department will not recognize the dissolution of the parliament in Egypt?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t draw any connections between any of these things. This is a delegation that is sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center. They are seeing a range of folks in Washington, including folks on the Hill, folks here in the Department. They represent a cross-section of political parties. This was planned well before any of the events in Egypt of the last week. They did have a chance to see Deputy Secretary Burns. They have also seen Under Secretary Hormats. They’ll see Under Secretary Sonenshine and Assistant Secretary Posner. The bulk of their meetings here are focused on transition to civilian rule, protecting human rights, all of those kinds of things that undergird our support for a transition in Egypt.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
MS. NULAND: Well, his contacts in Qatar, as you know, were with the leadership there. There were no other meetings. It was continuing our process of consultation about how we can support an Afghan reconciliation process. In Helsinki, as you know, they are strong contributors – the Finns are – to ISAF. And it was continuing the discussion not only about the 2014 transition but about supporting Afghan national security forces in the post-2014 period.
QUESTION: And do you have any information that suicide attack in Khost and any U.S. national injured or died in that, in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, our Embassy in Kabul has put forward a statement strongly condemning, obviously, this cowardly act, reporting that we have – our understanding is that 17 Afghan civilians were killed, 32 others were wounded, three members of the International Security Force in Afghanistan and an Afghan interpreter also lost their lives, but I don’t have the nationalities on those.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up: You think this is a wrong message for the terrorists, that you’re telling that U.S. and NATO will leave next year or 2014, and now they are waiting and hiding? And also, according to some experts in Afghanistan who are visiting here, what they are saying is that some groups are still waiting inside Pakistan, and they come inside Afghanistan, attack, and come – and then go back. This is what’s happening, and they are waiting, that when the time comes, then they will just move in. Is that kind of a wrong message?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on this issue of cross-border militancy, we’ve seen this all through this period for more than a decade. This is why it’s important to have action against terror on the Pakistan side, on the Afghan side, and for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ISAF to continue to work together.
With regard to the 2014 transition plan, as you know, the goal, the expectation is that ISAF forces will begin to flow home as Afghan forces take on lead responsibility for security, that we will continue to equip and train them and to support them in paying salaries and all those kinds of things. But the transition is based on an expectation that Afghans will be able to secure themselves using Afghan National Security Forces. So that’s what we are working towards, not a diminution of any kind in capacity, but just the ability of Afghans to manage their security themselves.
QUESTION: And one more, just quick. As far as your – this recent report that after 10 years of 9/11, that some terrorists were hiding in Pakistan or they knew it, everybody knew, or had been saying for the last 10 years, what’s the purpose of this report now after 10 years that Pakistan knew that there were terrorist training camps? Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what report you’re referring to --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) unclassified.
MS. NULAND: -- Goyal, but this is part and parcel of why we need to continue counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan, why we’re working so hard to try to get through the issues that have been difficult, so that we can restore robust cooperation and support Pakistan’s own efforts to root out terrorists in their midst because Pakistanis die at their hands as well.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, is there any movement on the GLOCs at all?
MS. NULAND: There is not.
QUESTION: Nothing? I mean, zero? No conversations, no nothing?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing conversations at a political level, but I don’t have any progress to report, Matt.
QUESTION: Developments in Pakistan – the political developments in Pakistan would affect your negotiations or the timeline on negotiations with them?
MS. NULAND: Well, we spoke about this a little bit yesterday. We’ve been able to work with the Pakistani Government throughout this period. They’ve now announced plans of their own for their own political transition, so our hope and expectation is that we can continue to try to work through these issues.
QUESTION: Syria. Oh, go ahead.
MS. NULAND: Can I --
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. NULAND: Samir had his – been patient.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the Secretary’s meeting with Mr. Erekat? Any news coming – came out of this?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary in the last week or so has been doing quite a bit of diplomacy on this front. She spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu by phone. She spoke with President Abbas. She received the Israeli negotiator Molho last week.
She met today with Saeb Erekat. I’m told that it was a good meeting. They discussed a full range of regional issues, but they also discussed efforts to continue to pursue dialogue with Israel and building on the exchange of letters between the two leaders and to try to get these parties back to the table. We’re going to continue to be in close touch going forward with them, with our Quartet partners, with the Arab League, et cetera, so --
QUESTION: Did – and did – has she already met with Mofaz?
MS. NULAND: She has not; later this afternoon.
QUESTION: That’s this afternoon?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. If --
MS. NULAND: So if we have anything on that, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Erekat came down afterwards and spoke to us, and he basically could have – it felt like deja vu, kind of. He’s been saying the same thing over and over again for the last five, six years. And I think he said verbatim what he said the last time he was out there, which was the Israeli prime minister has a choice – settlements or peace.
And I know – I’m not going to ask you to get into a position on – U.S. position on settlements again, but I’m just – given the fact that nothing is going on here; since the talks in Jordan ended there’s been nothing, no tangible sign of any kind of progress, when is it that you guys are going to start knocking heads together to get – if you really want to get a peace deal done? It seems clear that you’re going to have to do something to bring them together and to make it – to give them kind of no other choice but to talk. When is that going to happen?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, Matt, I would reject your premise that nothing’s happened since the meetings in Jordan. Since those meetings in Jordan in the late winter, early spring, we had this exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. We had both of them reconfirm publicly their hope and expectation that they can get back to direct talks. We’ve had a lot of quiet diplomacy between us and the leaders, among the negotiators. We’ve had David Hale out there. We’ve had the Quartet engaged. The Quartet was here for a ministerial, as you know.
So we are trying to continually improve the environment, help create trust between these guys. It’s not always helpful to the process to play it all out in public, so we will continue to try to work for the day when more of these efforts are visible to you all.
QUESTION: Well, people can write letters and have meetings all day long, but the situation on the ground isn’t getting any better. There’s no – there’s zero sign that anything is improving or that there’s – or that the – including the atmosphere. I mean, you had this mosque burning yesterday, which I know that you condemned. You had the rockets being – coming from Gaza, not to mention the whole situation on the Sinai, which is unrelated – well, semi – only semi-related. You had Mr. Erekat complaining about – more about settlements. Things don’t – you’re – the letter and the talks seem to be just words floating into the ether with nothing. Are you trying to say that there actually is progress being made and the atmosphere is improving despite all of the indications to the contrary?
MS. NULAND: What I’m trying to say is that we are working hard at keeping these parties working and talking, and trying to keep them committed to this process. The process is still very much alive. I don’t dispute the fact that we’ve had some bad incidences on the ground this week, and we have spoken out about them. But that is further to why these parties need to stay engaged, and they are staying engaged, and we’re staying engaged with them. It is not easy work, it is not always evident what is going on, and it’s not always very glamorous, but we have to stay engaged and we will.
QUESTION: Well, fair enough, but, I mean, what’s the evidence for your saying the process is still very much alive?
MS. NULAND: Again, we – this --
QUESTION: I mean, is it alive like Mubarak is alive, or what is it? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: They exchanged these letters.
QUESTION: Clinically alive? Is that --
MS. NULAND: They have recommitted themselves publicly. They are coming to meetings. They are working with us to try to close the gaps. So I know it may be frustrating for you, looking for some big breakthrough, but it is slow, grinding work and we’re going to keep doing it.
QUESTION: Well, no, no. But it shouldn’t – it’s not frustrating to me. It should be frustrating to you, right?
MS. NULAND: We are --
QUESTION: Shouldn’t it be frustrating to the people – I mean, I don’t care. It’s good news for me when there’s – when there’s a crisis. That means there’s news, right? So it’s not frustrating to me. Isn’t it frustrating to David Hale and to the Secretary and to everyone involved that there’s been – that things are getting worse rather than better, despite all of these meetings and all – the letter?
MS. NULAND: Rocket fire in – from Gaza is a bad thing, obviously, some of these other things that we’ve spoken out about, but the parties, their negotiators remain very much engaged. And that is ground that we will continue to try to build on and continue to try to do our best.
QUESTION: There have been suggestions that the Secretary’s meetings, today in particular, are aimed at brokering a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Mofaz and President Abbas. And Mr. Erekat said that he didn’t rule it out, certainly. Downstairs, he said that President Abbas was considering this. Has the Secretary raised this with Mr. Erekat? And is that something that the U.S. is hoping to see take place and that it would be something concrete?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are, as we’ve said all along, looking for as much direct engagement between Israelis and Palestinians as we can have. I’m not going to get into details of what may or may not work in the future, except to say that you see us trying our best to work with both sides, keep them close together, keep them engaged, keep them trying. So – to be continued.
QUESTION: So – but, I mean, the U.S. would be glad to see the two men meet? That would be a positive development?
MS. NULAND: Any combination of Israelis and Palestinians getting together and working on their issues would be a step in the right direction.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Syrian Ambassador – excuse me – Jafari gave a rather bravura performance yesterday at the UN, saying not only is the Syrian Government intent on meeting the terms of the Kofi Annan six-point plan, but he essentially accused the U.S., France, and several other countries of trying to push for some sort of armed conflict and an armed overthrow of the Syrian Government.
Given that General Mood, as far as I know, still has not decided to send out his observer team today, where does the situation stand on trying to resolve the crisis in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to those comments, I can only say, based on your recitation, that he sounds deluded. It is his government that is using helicopters against civilians. It is his government that bears the burden of the bulk of the violence that is going on, and we have repeatedly said that we are not in the business of arming in Syria. We are trying to broker and work with a Kofi Annan peace plan, that it is Assad who has spurned.
So what are we trying to do? I think if you heard the President last night in Cabo, what the Secretary’s been saying over this period, in the context of Assad having squandered every chance to lead his own country to a better future, we are focused very much on elevating that aspect of the Kofi plan that has not gotten enough attention, and that is the political transition aspect. The plan calls for a political transition. We need, as we’ve said for many, many weeks here – this can go well or it can go badly. The international community can help the Syrians to manage a transition to a post-Assad Syria that is democratic, that is inclusive, that preserves the best of Syrian society, Syrian institutions, that stops the bleeding, stops the damage, or this will continue to devolve into civil war, proxy war, et cetera.
So we are working very intensively with Kofi Annan and his people, in the wake of the President’s meeting with President Putin, Premier Hu Jintao, the others in Los Cabos, to try to turn that commitment to supporting a political transition into a real framework that the – that can take us where we need to go.
So for example, the Secretary had another phone call with Kofi Annan today to talk through what this meeting that he has suggested might encompass, how we can keep working towards a framework that would be helpful to the Syrians, et cetera. At the same time, we are working with all of the Friends of the Syrian People to tighten the sanctions. As we’ve said for many weeks, we think the sanctions are biting on his ability to resupply, et cetera. We’re continuing to make our views known to those who are still supporting him, whether they’re inside Syria, whether they’re outside Syria, that they’re making the wrong bet. And we’re continuing our consultations with the Syrian opposition to try to help them to be more united, help them to work on their own transition thinking, and to prepare the day when they can participate in that transition session.
QUESTION: I have a couple of follow-ups. First on not just the Russian commitment but also the stated Chinese commitment to try to make the six-point plan work, what conversations has this building had with its Chinese counterparts in order to build on that publicly stated commitment also at the UN?
And then the other question, in terms of the sanctions, the pressure to cut off supplies, does that include pressuring insurance companies to strip policies from certain countries’ cargo ships so that supplies can’t get to Syria in violation of current sanctions?
MS. NULAND: First, with regard to China, as you know, the President saw Hu Jintao yesterday. Syria was very much a topic of conversation. We have talked Syria in every meeting that we’ve had with the Chinese over the last few months. It was very much a topic when the Secretary was in Beijing for the S&ED. Again, I think we have a general agreement on the end state that we want. We want to see an end to the violence. We want to see a political transition. We want to see all the points of the Annan plan implemented. So we have to continue to work on the means to get there, because obviously Assad is not listening.
With regard to sanctions, I think there’s a lot of international experience now not simply in a Syria context but also in a North Korea context, in an Iran context, about the kinds of measures that you can take to put pressure on a regime that is not listening to the international community. Insurance is one aspect. So nations are taking their own decisions, given that we don’t have an overarching UNSCR with regard to sanctioning Syria. These are national actions taken by countries to make it more painful for the Assad regime, and some are in fact taking insurance steps.
QUESTION: On the Secretary’s conversation with Mr. Annan, are you able to tell us whether or not she came away feeling any more confident or accepting of his notion of what the contact group might entail?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think we are where we have been, that we are supportive of doing this meeting if it can make progress and specifically if it can make progress in shaping and framing a political transition process that can take us past the Assad regime and give Syrians of all stripes confidence in their future. So we’re continuing to talk about what the elements of that might be. She, as you know, has laid out privately and publicly a lot of the American thinking in that regard, and our people are continuing to work with each other and work with other countries who would have to be involved to ensure that if we do go forward, that it can be successful.
QUESTION: Does that answer imply that you’re not yet sure whether this meeting can achieve --
MS. NULAND: I think it --
QUESTION: -- can meet your standard?
MS. NULAND: What we’re simply implying is it takes all sides, and we want the Russians very much to participate, we want the Chinese to participate. So before we get to the point where a meeting is called, we need to ensure we can narrow some of the gaps that we have right now.
QUESTION: But you’re saying that that has not yet happened?
MS. NULAND: I’m saying, as the President said two days ago, that we still have gaps that have to be narrowed.
QUESTION: So all the gaps have to be narrowed? You have to agree 100 percent before there can be – because that – this meeting’s never going to happen if that’s the mantra.
MS. NULAND: We want, as she has said, as we’ve been saying here, for the trajectory from the meeting to be one that is very much focused on the post-Assad transition, that gives shape to it, that gives some principles to it, and that is generally agreed and the international community is supportive of. As has been evident in the last couple of days, we’ve had high-level meetings to try to clarify positions on Syria. Those need now to translate into concrete results and a concrete plan that the international community can support. So we need to do some more work.
QUESTION: Okay. So the short answer is no, you’re not quite there yet?
MS. NULAND: We’re not quite there yet.
QUESTION: Is it too much to say that – you just said that Assad had squandered, I think was your word, he has squandered opportunities to resolve this crisis peacefully. If his ambassador is saying that no, no, no, no, no, Damascus is committed to trying to end the peace plan, look, even the Secretary General of the UN said that there is a third element which they interpret to mean al-Qaida and other extremist groups trying to take advantage of the situation. Is it too late for Damascus to say all right, we get it, we give, we want to try to resolve this peacefully?
MS. NULAND: Any day of the week the Assad regime can ground its helicopters, tell its forces to stop firing, pull back from cities and towns, allow the monitors to get back in, and then we’d have a different situation on the ground. None of those things has happened; and on the contrary, Assad has in many places around Syria doubled down with his security forces.
QUESTION: On Ambassador Ford, since he’s come back to Washington, has he had any contact with any Syrian Government officials on the past couple days, weeks?
MS. NULAND: Syrian Government officials, no.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about Ambassador Ford’s meeting today with a group of Syrian businessmen?
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t heard that he was seeing Syrian businessmen today. As you know, he had been in Istanbul for this meeting of the Syrian opposition. He, on a daily basis, is meeting with Syrians of all stripes. As you know, the business community across Syria is one of the targets of his activity, and the effort here is to peel those business folks who are still supporting the regime away and convince them that the economic future of the country, that their personal businesses, will be better protected if they work with us, work with the Syrian opposition, on a post-Assad transition.
QUESTION: Was the Secretary’s travel to (inaudible) to Russia, was it planned before the President Obama’s meeting with Putin or because of it?
MS. NULAND: No, it didn’t come about as a result of the Putin meeting, if that’s what you’re asking. The Russians are this year’s chair of the Asia Pacific Economic Council, the APEC, and they are having in – as part of their APEC presidency, they are having a big event in St. Petersburg that Foreign Minister Lavrov has been asking her for many months to attend. So she had committed a while back that she would come. It’s a special – it picks up on the work that she did, that the United States did, as APEC chair last year on women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. So that’s the anchor event for that stop, but as you know, it also gives her a chance to sit down again with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And I would guess a week from tomorrow, Syria will be very much on their minds.
QUESTION: Just for the transcribers, the C in APEC is Cooperation.
MS. NULAND: Cooperation. Thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On – change of subject, on Burma?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this --
QUESTION: -- on Monday --
MS. NULAND: -- a couple of days ago. Yeah. In order to fully suspend the sanctions we have on financial services and on new investment, we have to have a presidential waiver and then we have to have licenses issued by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. So we are still – our interagency team is still working through those pieces. These sanctions, as you may know, have grown up over decades and they are multilayered, so unwinding these so that they can be suspended properly with a single – with a couple of pieces of paper has taken some time. So we are still doing that work and we are hoping to resolve it soon.
QUESTION: And would these licenses be company specific or general (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: No. They’ll be two general licenses that authorize the export of U.S. financial services for commercial transactions and that authorize investment. So they’ll be blanket licenses in those two categories.
QUESTION: Given that they are blanket licenses, I’m wondering if you can explain how, as when it was originally put forward, the fact of the suspension of these sanctions, what mechanisms there are within this framework to follow through on the U.S. pledge to make sure that human rights and so on continue to be weighed in these cases. I know the Secretary said she wants companies there that are going to do good.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: What mechanism do you have to ensure that that those in fact are the only companies that go in there?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is part of the issue as we craft both the presidential waiver statement and the supporting licenses, that we have to be sure that we are in fact making these contingent on best practices, on good human rights practices. That’s part of what we have to do. We also have to – as we’ve said, this is a suspension. This is not a rescinding of sanctions. So we also have to make sure that this is reversible, if necessary.
So these are complex legal things. There’s a lot to cover in this documentation, which is why it’s taking some time.
Please, Scott. In the back. Scott.
QUESTION: Any contact with Ecuador since Julian Assange’s arrival at the Embassy in London requesting asylum and perhaps a request that he be extradited to the United States on the WikiLeaks (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: No. No.
QUESTION: On that subject, does the Administration care where Julian Assange decides he wants to spend the night? Is this a subject that keeps people up in Washington? I don’t – is it something that you have any interest in at all?
MS. NULAND: This is a UK-Ecuador-Sweden issue.
QUESTION: Well, people who – his people around him seem to think that the U.S. is some puppeteer here that’s controlling all the strings. And I just – I mean, does anyone give a second thought about Julian Assange? And maybe you can’t answer that for anyone – but I mean, are you aware of anyone who gives a fig where Julian Assange is?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we are not involved in any of these discussions.
QUESTION: Yeah, but do you care? Does anyone --
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to speak for the great mass of America.
QUESTION: Well, I mean – but in terms of – no, in terms of the – in terms of this building.
MS. NULAND: We want to see justice served. Let’s leave it at that.
QUESTION: Yeah. But that would be justice – Swedish justice.
MS. NULAND: We are obviously not involved in the process, as far as I know.
QUESTION: A question on trafficking.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Modern day slavery. Secretary spoke, of course, yesterday about this and there are more than 42 million trafficking around the world. In South Asia, it has risen in the last year. We were spoke – speaking from last year to this year. One, Secretary was speaking about a girl in Kolkata. If she had made any efforts to bring her here back in the U.S., and also what U.S. is making efforts to stop this trafficking, especially from South Asia. It’s because it has risen to the Middle Eastern and other Arab countries, because of course there’s supply and demand issues there.
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the young girl that the Secretary mentioned, this was actually a good news story. This was a child who had been born in a brothel. And her mother – as the result of some good anti-trafficking work in India, her mother is now free and works – is well-employed by one of the NGOs involved in anti-trafficking work. And this little girl was basically a celebration of life. And that’s what the Secretary was speaking about.
We do have programs around the world, including a lot of investment that we make with NGOs in South East Asia to help all of those countries do better. And as the report makes clear, we had some – I can’t remember if it was 27 or 29 countries – graduate to an improved level in the report this year.
QUESTION: And as far as World Refugee Day today, in many cases refugees also become victims of – especially women – and there are also about 43 million refugees around the globe today. And they are taking risks like sexually harassment or exploitation, especially women, when they become refugees in other countries. So isn’t this related, this refugees and also this trafficking in many ways?
MS. NULAND: Right. And a lot of programs that we support around the world include programs by anti-trafficking NGOs that work with refugees, whether they are in camps or whether they are seeking to integrate back into society. So that’s very much a subject that the Secretary cares deeply about.
QUESTION: I was hoping you could just give us your on-the-record assessment of the P-5+1 talks and whether or not you think we are now at risk of talking for talk’s sake, (inaudible) that the next round of technical discussions in July are sort of more talks added on discussions which are clearly going nowhere.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you saw yesterday that there was a conscious decision made that we didn’t – we had not made enough progress to have – to commit ourselves to another session at the political level yet, that we need to have technical experts sit down first to work through with the Iranians the details of the proposal that the P-5+1 has put forward. Because although they are engaging now in a detailed way, there seems to be lack of understanding in their appreciation of why we’re asking for what we’re asking for. And then they’ve made some assertions in their proposal that we really need to work through as well.
So we don’t want to have talks for talk’s sake. We want to ensure that if we’re going to continue this process that it’s going to produce results, which is why the next stage is to have experts meet in Istanbul on July 3rd and see if we can close some of the gaps in comprehension here.
QUESTION: So that July 3rd meeting will then be the final sort of make or break – I mean, if that doesn’t get the progress that you’re seeking, will the whole process essentially be dead?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to predict before we have that meeting where we’re going to go. But the clear path that Lady Ashton laid out yesterday was we need to see if we make progress at that meeting. We’ll then have a subsequent session between Lady Ashton’s deputy and the Iranians. And at that point we will, as a P-5+1 community, decide what makes sense. But we’ve always said that we’re not going to have talks for their sake. If they can’t make progress – that we have to make concrete progress.
QUESTION: One final one on this. U.S. – unnamed U.S. officials in Moscow and named official David Cohen of Treasury speaking to Haaretz have suggested that the failure of the Moscow talks to achieve the desired results will cause new – or may – will spur additional sanctions, more than have already been proposed or that are already in train. Can you elaborate on that at all? Does the U.S. plan to – and does allies plan to start stepping up new sanctions now because Moscow didn’t work?
MS. NULAND: Well, in the first instance, as we made clear to the Iranians before and during the talks, the – all the remaining sanctions that were scheduled to come into place on July 1st, both U.S. sanctions and EU sanctions, will come into force. So that is a fact of more pressure that’s coming the Iranians way. But as Lady Ashton said, as we have said, if following this July 3rd session we are still not making progress, we’re going to continue to work together on what more pressure we can bring to bear, including on the sanctions track.
QUESTION: Is there a concern that the Iranians are stalling by, in fact, forcing this technical level meeting?
MS. NULAND: I don't want to characterize the Iranian position, except to say that we need – there are very significant gaps in terms of what they think concrete steps are and what we think concrete steps are, and those gaps have got to be closed in order to consider that progress is being made.
QUESTION: I’m a bit confused, because I thought that the period of time between the last meeting in Istanbul and – wasn’t in – in Baghdad and this meeting was supposed to be the time that they figured out what exactly it was that was on the table. Is that not the case?
MS. NULAND: As I understand it, the advance, if you want to call it that, between the Baghdad meeting and this meeting was that if in the Baghdad meeting the way the Iranians approached it was relatively general, in this meeting they came with a relatively serious comments about what we had put on the table. But that doesn’t change the fact that aspects of it clearly need further elaboration among experts. And what they’ve put on the table needs further elaborating among experts with us.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I don’t understand. What is so hard to understand about stop enriching at 20 percent, get the 20 percent out, and open up Qom. Where’s the – what --
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re going to --
QUESTION: What possible explanation could they want?
MS. NULAND: We’re going to make the effort at the experts level to explain to them why, from our perspective, these steps are essential if you’re going to give the international community confidence.
QUESTION: But the --
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak for why they’re having --
QUESTION: Well, here’s the thing, though.
MS. NULAND: -- difficulty understanding that, Matt.
QUESTION: But their calls on the Hill are – I mean, it does not matter why you want this. This is your demand. Why is it up to you to explain to them why you want this to be done?
MS. NULAND: Again, there was a sense based on what happened in Moscow – and I obviously wasn’t in the room – that it was worth getting technical experts together to talk through all of the details of what we’ve put on the table and to understand better why they think their proposal is sufficient, because we don’t think it is sufficient. And then we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean it seems to me – do you agree or not agree that the P-5+1 position is very straightforward and not that difficult to understand?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to --
QUESTION: No, no. From --
MS. NULAND: I wasn’t in the room. I wasn’t – I can’t speak --
QUESTION: No. I understand that. But, I mean, you know what it is. We think we know what it is. And if it is what we think it is, and what we’ve been told it is, it seems to me pretty clear. It doesn’t seem to need any elaboration. So the fact that – and people on the Hill are going to make this argument to you – that you’re just – you’re allowing them to – you’re giving them more time to kind of screw around and do nothing. And I just want – I mean, do you – do you, meaning the State Department – do you think that this proposal, the proposal the P-5+1 put on the table, needs elaboration?
MS. NULAND: Again, I haven’t been in the room when this was discussed, but the sense was that we would try this expert-to-expert, roll up sleeves among people who do nuclear things, and see what it leads to. But it doesn’t change the fact that the pressure from the international community continues to grow on Iran. So if they are trying to run out the clock here, they’re going to run out the clock in the context of the noose tightening and tightening and tightening on them. So they need to think about whether that’s in their interest.
QUESTION: On Bangladesh?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I have a --
MS. NULAND: Still on Iran? Yeah.
QUESTION: -- Iran-related question. Yeah. An Apple store in Atlanta, Georgia has refused to sell an American of Iranian origin products. A local news outlet got hold of the incident and they have apparently contacted the State Department, and the State Department told them that anybody buying Apple products or technology and wanting to travel to Iran has to register the products. And the Apple store has cited the U.S. sanctions as the reason for not selling the products to these people. What can you tell us about this? Is the story --
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I’m going to – we’ve seen these press reports. I’m going to refer you to Apple for its sales policy. But we also understand that the company has issued an apology for this incident in not selling somebody something. It is a fact that if you want to take technology goods from the United States to Iran you have to have an export license. So – but I can’t speak to – what appears to have happened here is somebody asked to buy something, said they were going to Iran, and it set off a chain of internal Apple policy. So I’m going to send you to Apple to explain that.
But we have no – there is no U.S. policy or law that prohibits Apple or any other company from selling products in the United States to anybody who’s intending to use the product in the United States, including somebody of Iranian descent or an Iranian citizen or any of that stuff. If you do want to take high-technology goods to Iran, you need a license. But that is a separate issue.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) might want to go visit and come back? Doesn’t have to get a license to take his or her --
MS. NULAND: No, if you want to export something to Iran, you need an OFAC license. But I’m going to send you to Treasury for all of our licensing policy.
QUESTION: Well, wait a second. I mean, if someone wants to – if an Iranian American wants to visit their relatives at home and he or she flies through London and/or through Europe and buys an iPad, they have to get a license? No, I don’t think you have jurisdiction over – maybe if you were going to send it from the States, but not – and the Iranians might want to know if they’re bringing it in or not. But your jurisdiction cannot extend, can it?
MS. NULAND: Here’s what I’ve got on licensing requirements for bringing laptops and other technology into Iran, okay? And beyond this, I’m going to send you to Treasury for their licensing policy. But U.S. sanctions generally prohibit the export of goods to Iran or the re-export of goods to Iran containing 10 percent or more U.S. content without authorization from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, in order to prevent the use of U.S. technologies for the Iranian Government’s proliferation or terrorism-related activities.
QUESTION: But that’s exports. It’s not like taking it with you and bringing (inaudible).
QUESTION: Yeah. You’re telling me that if a journalist gets a visa to go to Iran and he can’t bring his laptop in unless he gets --
MS. NULAND: No, no, no. We’re talking about trying to export stuff to Iran.
QUESTION: Right, but ---
QUESTION: Okay. So this doesn’t --
MS. NULAND: Okay?
QUESTION: -- apply to someone carrying it on their person or carrying --
MS. NULAND: And then bringing it home? Not if they’re not exporting it, presumably. But I’m going to send you to Treasury because we’re beyond my competence, okay?
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)
1It is unlawful to bring controlled items, such as laptops and satellite cell phones, into Iran, even on a temporary basis, unless specifically authorized by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in a manner consistent with the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 and other relevant law.