1:04 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. I’m sorry to be a little bit late. That’s what happens when you take a couple days off. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Are you referring to --
QUESTION: Syrian --
MS. NULAND: -- some of the Foreign Minister’s statements or –
QUESTION: I think it was the Foreign Ministry, yes.
MS. NULAND: Well, I mean, one can read that one way or another. I think we’ve been absolutely clear where we stand on this issue, which is that any possible use of these kinds of weapons would be completely unacceptable. We’ve been making our position clear for many, many days now, and we’ve also been working with all of our allies and partners to monitor the situation, to compare information, and to send the same messages.
QUESTION: Have you had any interaction directly with the Syrian Government pertaining to this issue?
MS. NULAND: I think there is no question that the Syrian Government knows where we stand. We’ve been absolutely clear, including out of the President’s mouth recently.
QUESTION: But have you – have officials spoken from this government with that government regarding this issue?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge we’ve not had those contacts, but they are not necessary in this case, because we’ve been absolutely clear publicly.
QUESTION: And just lastly, because last week there were statements by various officials stressing the need for Syria’s authorities to safeguard whatever they have, have you spoken with the opposition as well regarding this and maybe stress to them the need not to go after these things?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely. The warnings that we have given with regard to responsibility to safeguard this kind of absolutely horrific and dangerous weapon have been made to regime, to opposition, to anybody who might get their hands on them.
QUESTION: Just on that last point, are those warnings – particularly to the opposition, since I gather your direct communication with the regime is slim to none – but particularly with the opposition, have those warnings been increased in the last week, say, since the bombing that killed the three security aides and the situation became more unstable there?
MS. NULAND: Look, we’ve been absolutely clear with all parties in Syria, outside of Syria, how we feel about the importance of safeguarding these weapons. I don’t think there can be any question of that.
QUESTION: But I’m asking about specific messages to the opposition in the last week.
MS. NULAND: I think our messaging has been public and clear for everybody to see.
QUESTION: Do you have any clear indication of what kind of chemical weapons we’re talking about? I mean, obviously it covers a broad spectrum of weapons. Is the United States in a position to say what exactly the Syrians might have in their hands?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we have a good sense of what the regime had, but I’m obviously not going to get into intelligence issues here.
QUESTION: Can we talk about the Arab League’s call overnight to have Assad step aside, providing him safe passage presumably to Algeria and then have the FSA, the Free Syrian Army, actually lead a transition government? What is this building’s reaction?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen some of the statements by participants in the Arab League meeting. They’re obviously very much in keeping with the statements that we have been making, that we have been making as a community of the Friends of the Syrian People, that it is long past time for Assad to go, that we’ve all got to be planning and supporting the Syrian opposition’s planning of a transitional governing authority. There’s going to have to be an interim authority until we can get to elections there, and that all of our support needs to go into that, and also that there is going to have to be some kind of a transitional security arrangement that all the parties in Syria are also going to have to think about assuring the safety of all of the citizens of Syria in the transition period.
QUESTION: Is the FSA, in the U.S. Government’s view, capable of handling a transition? What’s the confidence level at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are not in the position of anointing the next leaders of Syria. That is for the Syrian people to do. What we are trying to do is encourage and help all the strands of the Syrian opposition work together, work together to hasten the day when Syria has the democratic chance that the Syrian people want, and also to prepare for a political transition, a transition in terms of protecting the human rights of all Syrians, giving them all a voice in their future, ensuring the country is secure, and ensuring some of these horrific weapons are secure, et cetera.
QUESTION: But when Libya was going through its paroxysms of its crisis, there was a point where this building basically said, “We will engage with the NTC.” Is that afoot when it comes to the Free Syrian Army?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you see the same thing that we see, Ros, that there are a number of groups in Syria participating in this opposition movement. There’s the Syrian National Council, which as you know, we’ve met with a number of times. There are the Kurdish groups. There is the FSA. They are increasingly working better together. They are increasingly working on a plan for a political transition. They are all making, including the FSA now, more positive statements about a Syria for all Syrians, a democratic country that protects the rights of majority and minority alike. These are the kinds of messages that we want to see. We want to see them thinking hard about all of these day-after issues, because the day after will come, and it could come sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Let me follow up on the chemical weapons. What do you make of the Foreign Ministry even bringing that up today? Did you take that as a threat that they might be willing to use those weapons?
MS. NULAND: Look, any talk about any use of any kind of a weapon like that in this situation is horrific and chilling. The Syrian regime has a responsibility to the world, has a responsibility first and foremost to its own citizens to protect and safeguard those weapons, and that kind of loose talk just speaks to the kind of regime that we’re talking about.
QUESTION: Was something new that the spokesman said? Because I saw what he said, and he said that these chemical weapons were actually secure, and he dismissed, of course, the call by the Arab League for Assad to leave. Was there some other statement that was made by the Foreign Ministry that they were willing to use chemical weapons?
MS. NULAND: Well, it was Brad who drew that – connected those dots. So I would refer you to him.
QUESTION: Unless something transpired the last couple of hours –
MS. NULAND: I’m referring you to Brad now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It was at the background conference.
QUESTION: Now, let me just quickly –
MS. NULAND: I think the concern here, Said, if I understand the colleagues here in the benches – not to speak for you all – was that in ruling out circumstances when they surely would not use them, it begs the question as to when they would use them, and they should, of course, never be used.
QUESTION: Are your private resources and so on see any kind of movement or inclination to use that weapon?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’ve spoken to this issue again and again with regard to their responsibility.
QUESTION: Okay. And one quick follow-up on the statement that you mentioned on the day after: Is there any kind of discussion or talk on how to best protect minorities in Syria the day after? Because there’s a great deal of fear among Alawites, Christians, and others.
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this is an issue that we’ve been speaking about, that the Secretary and the President have been raising in their personal diplomacy – the Secretary particularly every time she sees anybody in the Syrian opposition – that key to having a democratic state is to protecting not only majority rights, but minority rights, the rights of women, et cetera. And we have pushed in all of our work in their planning that the kinds of documents that are issued, the kinds of statements that are made, give reassurance on this front.
And if you look at the work that came out of the Cairo meeting some three weeks ago by the opposition – their very detailed code of conduct, their transition plan – it’s replete with these kinds of references to universal human rights, et cetera. And that’s the kind of thing that the – any kind of democratic state needs, but certainly that has to be in any of these plans in order to give reassurance to those who worry about their future post-Assad.
QUESTION: Can you talk more about the humanitarian situation?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Otero briefed late last week about the numbers of people who were fleeing the country and about the need to try to get it – get aid in, particularly when it comes to food aid inside Syria. Has there been any substantial progress made in trying to meet the two-thirds of the estimated 500,000 people who don’t have enough food to eat? In terms of International Red Cross, International Red Crescent, other NGOs, what progress is being made there?
MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for that, Ros. Whereas some six months ago, the primary humanitarian effort was in medical care, in shelter, et cetera, over the last two to three months, as you know, as the UN has been saying very clearly, and these agencies have been saying very clearly, there are increasing concerns about food and food security and food in war-torn parts of the country. So all of the UN agencies have been trying to redouble their efforts to add food to the components that they are pushing into the country, and as you know, all of our humanitarian support goes to these UN agencies. And we have also been providing support to the World Food Organization.
QUESTION: Can I just ask --
MS. NULAND: Sure.
QUESTION: Sorry about – going back to the chemical weapons, Israel’s actually reacted as well, and Defense Minister Barak has said that he’s ordered the army to prepare for any eventuality, possibly – raising the possibility of any kind of Israeli military action against Syria. What would be the U.S. position on that if the Israelis were to get involved?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously I’m not going to walk into hypothetical scenarios. Like all countries in the neighborhood, it makes sense for there to be prudent planning for self-defense. Right now, we are focused on these very strong warnings to anybody who might have their hands on these weapons about their responsibilities with regard to them.
QUESTION: Would you characterize --
QUESTION: One more (inaudible) on the same exact thing, Israeli Government officials said that they had discussions with American officials in the last – in recent days – the Secretary was there, as was the National Security Advisor, and I was wondering if you could confirm that you had discussions about any possible operations to secure weapons inside Syria at any point?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m obviously not going to get into intelligence issues, but as the Secretary said when we were in Israel, we had a full discussion of all of the issues with regard to Syria, including our shared concern about the chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.
QUESTION: There was a report out earlier today about a series of demarches the United States has issued to the Iraqi Government about their airspace earlier this year being used to ferry weapons from Iran to Syria. Is the United States satisfied with the cooperation the Iraqi Government is giving to assure that its airspace and other methods are not used to get weapons to the Syrian regime?
MS. NULAND: Well, when this issue first came up a number of months ago, we were quite clear that we were in conversations with the Iraqi Government about ensuring that it had full visibility and full management of things that were moving through its airspace, across land, et cetera. And our sense is that they have done quite a bit of work in recent months to manage those kinds of issues and to make it clear to Iran that they are not interested in being a transit site.
QUESTION: If I could – following on that, the – Iraq just distanced itself this morning from the Arab League call – we talked about it earlier – saying Assad – the Arab League saying Assad should go. Iraq says no, that’s not a – something the Arab League should determine, it’s something the Syrian people should determine.
Does it – does that concern you? Do you think that Iraq is straying from the fold a little bit here? Or do you think that you and Iraq are completely aligned on what happens next in Syria?
MS. NULAND: I think we all agree that who comes next is a decision for the Syrian people to make and that there are a number of players in this opposition that need to be part of the transitional governing authority, that there will have to be some – probably have to be some representation from the technocratic classes in Syria, et cetera, and it’s not for us to decide.
With regard to Iraq’s position, there was not a sort of formal statement out of this Arab League meeting, so I think what you see is different countries putting their own spin on a meeting that nonetheless was focused on the situation in Syria, on the importance of keeping the pressure on the Assad regime to end the violence, and on preparing for the day after.
QUESTION: But Iraq’s spin being at odds with the spin that some of your closer allies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar and so on – does that concern you at all?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think everybody wants to see the Syrian people determine Syria’s leaders. So I don’t think there’s that much difference there. With regard to whether they are making a direct appeal to Assad, that’s their decision to make.
QUESTION: May I follow up on Iraq, the violence today and the --
MS. NULAND: Let’s just make sure we’re finished with Syria. Everybody?
QUESTION: Just one last --
QUESTION: It’s kind of Syria-related.
MS. NULAND: Syria-related? (Laughter.) Okay.
QUESTION: Because of the pressure on its borders --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on Iraq’s borders from Syria, we saw some incidents last week when apparently the opposition took some border posts. How concerned are you about the situation in Iraq right now and whether or not the security forces are up to the task? They’re – they’ve got all these attacks within the country and now the border with Syria, which is so porous anyway.
MS. NULAND: Well, first on Iraq and Syria, you’ll also note that Iraq made a call for its own citizens who had taken refuge in Syria during the troubles, the worst of times in Iraq, to now begin to come home. So I think that speaks to Iraq’s sense that it can manage the return of its own citizens, that it can provide for them better in Iraq than the situation that they confront in Syria now.
We work very closely with the Iraqis on Syrian issues, as you know. In part of outreach to the transition, we’ve been working not only with the groups that are strong in the western parts of Syria but also with some of these tribes in the east, as has the Iraqi Government, to get to know them better, to support the opposition as best it can.
With regard to the security inside Iraq itself and some of the violence that we’ve seen as Ramadan has started, we strongly condemn these attacks which took place today, took place over the weekend, in Iraq. The targeting of innocents is always cowardly. It’s particularly reprehensible during this holy month of Ramadan. I would like to see it’s unusual. Unfortunately, it is not unusual, that we have seen terrorists exploit the holy month, exploit the peaceful efforts by Iraqis to worship, to commit acts of terror. But we continue to believe that Iraqi security forces are up to the task, that net-net the security situation over the last couple of years has improved in Iraq, as has the capability of Iraqi forces.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: Still on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah. Still on Iraq, this wave of attacks was the most violent day since the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Is the United States doing anything specifically to help the Iraqi Government in its response to this morning’s violence?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we continue to provide appropriate security support to the Iraqis based on their requests in terms of equipping and training and that kind of thing, and we will continue to do that. But in general, the position of the Iraqi Government is that they want to be responsible for their own security, that they are up to the task of dealing with these kinds of things.
The issue here is the horrific tactics of al-Qaida in Iraq, who, during this month of Ramadan, are making desperate efforts to call on Sunnis to turn against their government, to assassinate judges and investigators, and to, in general, turn against all of these democratic institutions. They’re going to fail. The Iraqis know they’re going to fail. But regrettably, this is a bloody pattern that we’ve seen in years past, that Ramadan has been exploited for the agendas of terrorists and those who don’t have the best interest of Iraq at heart.
QUESTION: Can I just follow it up really quickly, just to be absolutely clear? So does the violence change the U.S. posture towards Iraq? Does this morning’s violence shift what we are doing at all?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are concerned, and we stand ready to give the Iraqis any support that they might request. At the moment, their preference is to do what they can to manage their security themselves. They fought long and hard to get to this stage where they are taking responsibility for their own security. But as necessary, we provide support.
QUESTION: If they requested, say, a contingency of U.S. troops to go back in --
MS. NULAND: Now you’re, Guy, into all kinds of hypotheticals that I’m not going to get into. But again, it has been their desire – all the way through we’ve been guided by what they have wanted. We made clear a year ago that we were open to a number of options. They picked the option that we are in, which is that they maintain security with advice and support as necessary. But if that posture changes, obviously we will consult with them on it.
QUESTION: Has there been any communication today between the U.S. and the Iraqi Government as they try to manage these series of events in Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Our Embassy is in constant contact there.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, Syria.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. NULAND: Margaret. Nice to see you in the room, Margaret.
On Syria, the EU adopted another layer of sanctions today, including travel bans --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- on 26 individuals. What can you tell us about the sort of pressure-and-peel strategy here, the progress of that, and the whereabouts of some of those individuals, in particular high-ranking ones like Bashar al-Assad?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to some of the people on the EU’s travel ban list who are also on our lists, there’s no reason to believe that the majority of them are not still in Syria. But this is a further step taken by the EU to increase the pressure. As we’ve said, we will continue to work with like-minded countries around the world and ask each one of them to do as much as they can to increase the economic and political pressure, and this is the next step. The EU, among other things, has made it a no-go policy, if you will, for any EU entities to ship goods to Syria, et cetera. So that’s also a very, very important step for increasing the pressure.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: On Syria --
MS. NULAND: I knew we’d be back to Syria. I knew you guys hadn’t exhausted yourselves.
QUESTION: Exactly. Last week, Ambassador Rice said that in view of the third veto by Russia and China, they will work – basically, she said that they will work outside the Security Council. Could you shed some light on what has evolved since then? There has been – or what are these options? What kind of efforts have been done outside the box of the Security Council?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, all along we have said we have two tracks with regard to the diplomacy on Syria. We have a UN track and then we have the track of likeminded countries. So we now face a situation where, for the third time in a row, the UN track has been checkmated by the Russians and Chinese. They even were unwilling to support consequences for the non-implementation of the Geneva transition plan that they agreed to. So while that is regrettable, the situation moves forward in Syria, and therefore, the international community and those countries who are likeminded in their support for the Syrian people and their desire for change also have to move forward.
So as we have done all along, that means all of the elements of our strategy – the pressure increasing the sanctions with the kinds of things we’ve seen recently from the EU, from the Arab League cutting off ties, making it increasingly difficult to trade or aid the Assad regime in any way, the work with the opposition to prepare it for a smooth transitional governing body to take its place in guiding a democratic Syria forward until there can be elections, our work on the humanitarian front, our work to strengthen the Syrian opposition’s ability to document and prepare to hold account those who are responsible for the bloody acts in Syria when justice and accountability can be brought forward.
So we’re going to continue on all of these tracks. We are doing that with the Syrian opposition in all of its components inside and outside Syria, but we are also working with all of our allies and partners.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally, back in the --
QUESTION: But --
MS. NULAND: Let’s let --
QUESTION: -- during the terrible days of the civil war in Iraq --
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: Back in the days in 2006, 2007 during the height of the civil war in Iraq, General Petraeus cultivated the help of the Shammar Tribe that are actually Syrian-Iraqi. They go back and forth. Has there been any effort to also cultivate their help and induct their services along the opposition impacting the regime?
MS. NULAND: The Syrian tribes in the east, as I said earlier, are increasingly strong in their opposition to the Assad regime and their interest in seeing change. We are working with them, as we are working with other groups, as are many of Syria’s neighbors in the region. We are also trying to connect the tribes to some of the other opposition groups inside and outside of Syria so that they can have a common strategy to prepare for the transition and to prepare for interim security.
QUESTION: Here’s what I don’t understand about this second path which now seems to be the way forward – likeminded countries working, consulting with the opposition – how will you decide when to go from nonviolent to violent measures? What’s the framework that’s going to guide the decisions? If you’re working through UNSC, you have a Chapter 7, Article 41 process that’s spelled out. What is the process for deciding how things get done now? It just seems as if it’s sort of make it up as you go.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, Ros, I think all of us would be – would prefer to support the opposition, support the transition through the broadest community of countries and to use the UN structures if that were possible. We agree with you that it would have been better to do this under Chapter 7. But in the absence of being able to have real teeth and real consequences for a guy who’s made promise after promise and broken them, first and foremost to his own people, but now to the international community and to somebody of Kofi Annan’s stature, we’re going to have to do as much as we can with those countries who are on the side of the Syrian people.
And as you know, at our last meeting in Paris, we had some 100 countries and organizations prepared to work together. We do that, obviously, in these Friends of the Syrian People meetings with the Sanctions Working Group that we’ve established that helps countries to implement the sanctions that they have on the books and helps them think about additional sanctions, talks about best practices in sanctions, compares notes on what will most pinch the Syrian regime. So we have that track with a working group that’s now met three times, including here in Washington. It’s out of that group that you see these moves that the Arab League is making, that the EU is making, and that now countries in as far-flung as Latin America, Africa, Asia are taking against the Assad regime. So he has very few friends left for trade, aid to be able to travel to. So that’s very important.
On the humanitarian side, the UN is still the main organizer of humanitarian support, but they come to the Friends of the Syrian People meeting as well. They put out appeals for the kinds of things that they need, including, as we talked about earlier, when they made an appeal for support for the World Food Program, for foodstuffs for people. So that is coordinated that way.
With regard to the direct material support provided to the opposition, as you know, we are providing nonlethal support. Other countries have decided to go in another direction. We’ll let them speak for themselves. But we also use the Friends of the Syrian people structure and our bilateral contacts to make sure we all have visibility on what each other is doing and to talk about the needs that we assess the opposition to have, and in general, to try to pull them together in working in common cause.
And you can see, day on day, that the opposition is becoming more effective. They’re becoming more effective on the ground. Assad is losing control of his territory. He’s losing senior officials, whether they’re being bumped off or whether they are voting with their feet or with airplanes and leaving the country. So this support is becoming more effective. The opposition itself is becoming more effective. Our assessment is that those who have chosen to work on a purely political track and those who are fighting are working better together in terms of trying to hasten the day when the opposition will be able to participate in bringing democratic governance forward for the people of Syria.
So we’re working on all of those tracks. And don’t let me forget the accountability track because it is very, very important that those who are still shedding blood in Syria know that they will be held to account. So we have this accountability forum that we’ve set up – there’s a center in Turkey. There is connectivity around the world and with the Syrian opposition so that we can begin to support the Syrians in creating dossiers of these crimes so that when judgment day comes, there are good, strong files.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. know who is behind the bombing in Damascus?
MS. NULAND: Again, we have some information, but there are a number of conflicting claims here. And I’m certainly not in a position to get into what we might know through intelligence.
QUESTION: If you did identify who was behind it, would you still – would the U.S. still be working with that group and offering them assistance?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re getting into all kinds of hypotheticals. I think that the issue here is that the attacks are becoming more deadly in and around Damascus, Aleppo, et cetera. Assad is going to go. His regime is going to crumble. The question is simply how long it’s going to take, how many innocents have to die between now and then. And if he cared about his country at all, he knows exactly what he could do. He could stop, he could leave, any of those things.
QUESTION: That question’s not hypothetical if you ask are you working, right now, with the group that you believe was responsible for that attack?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to speak to --
QUESTION: That’s not hypothetical.
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to whether we have information that is solid, credible. I’m also not going to speak to any intelligence at all. We have made clear from the beginning that we don’t think violence is the answer here. That said, these are people that have faced the most horrific onslaughts against their homes, their families, their cities, their way of life, their right to have a voice in Syria. So it’s unfortunately not surprising that they are taking up the same deadly methods.
QUESTION: On more on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: One more on Syria. Madam, as far as UN resolutions concerned, and also to bring the bloody war to an end in Syria, have you any idea of what Russia and China wants? And second, India voted for the resolution and Pakistan voted against or abstained. What do you make out of this diplomacy – I mean, U.S., France, even, are not for the resolution.
And also, again, again, what Russia and China wants out of this?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m so not going to speak for what Russia and China want. I’m going to let them speak for themselves because, frankly, it’s not so clear at the moment.
With regard to India, we were gratified by their support. With regard to Pakistan, they made their own decision.
QUESTION: Could you clarify something? You said that you are providing nonlethal aid, but other countries have decided – or are providing different kind of aid, presumably lethal aid. Could you – who are these countries?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to let them speak for themselves, Said.
QUESTION: Like who?
MS. NULAND: Said, I’m going to let them speak for themselves. I – we speak for the United States here.
QUESTION: Would you say that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among these countries that are providing lethal aid?
MS. NULAND: We speak for the United States here. I’ll let other countries speak for themselves.
QUESTION: In despite your efforts in Syria, how do you answer critics who say the U.S. still isn’t doing enough?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is extremely difficult, extremely painful. The suffering is unbelievable. That is why we are working so hard to support and help organize the Syrian opposition into a coherent manner, but also working with partners all around the world, some hundred plus countries and organizations, to increase the pressure. We all want to see this end. So we have to do everything we can, everyday.
QUESTION: Toria, when you spoke about the accountability, does that mean that Assad will be brought before the International Criminal Court when all this is over?
MS. NULAND: Again, that’s going to be a decision for the people of Syria to make, how to bring justice in the face of these kinds of crimes against individuals and collectively. That’s going to be a decision that they have to make.
With regard to the ICC, I think you know the process. There would have to be a referral from the Security Council.
Are we done with Syria? Can we move on, finally? Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as war in Afghanistan is concerned and Pakistan support, there’s a bombing in Pakistan, bombings in Afghanistan. And also, what Pakistan wants from the U.S. is that U.S. should stop immediately drone attacks because now Pakistan has opened the doors for the U.S. route supplies to Afghanistan. And Pakistan’s ISI chief supposed to be here this week – I think with army chief, but they have again, cancelled a fourth one. Is U.S. going to stop all these drone attacks against Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you won’t be surprised that I’m going to give you the answer that I always give you, Goyal, which is I’m not going to talk about intelligence issues. What I will say on Pakistan is that we’ve got good news with regard to the ground lines of communication. As you know, they’ve been open for some week and a half, two weeks now, and we have some 400 trucks either having passed or getting ready to pass through. And so that is working very well.
QUESTION: Can I ask you for an update on any assistance you might be providing Bulgaria in its investigation and if you have any information? I believe John Brennan’s there today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t have any specifics. I will let the Bulgarians speak to the kinds of international support that they have asked for and that they are receiving. I will simply say that we are supporting them in every aspect of this investigation in accordance with their wishes, because we want to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible, as do our Israeli allies, as you can imagine.
QUESTION: On Cuba?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
MS. NULAND: Well, we put out a statement, I think, about an hour ago. As you know, we learned with great sorrow about the untimely death of Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya in a car crash on Sunday. And we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, to his widow, but also to the Cuban people, because he was a great fighter for their rights to someday live in a democracy and to have basic human freedoms, and a very brave voice of dissent inside the Cuban system.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the family at all, anyone at the interests section in Havana? Do you know?
MS. NULAND: I’m sure that the interests section has been in touch, but I will get back to you if that is not the case.
MS. NULAND: Well, this is our annual Human Rights Dialogue with China that Assistant Secretary Posner leads and that is always addressed by senior officials, when it’s in Beijing by the Chinese officials, when it’s in the U.S. by U.S. officials. I don’t have a particular readout on Bill Burns’s session, but as you know, we consider that this is an integral part of all of the work we do to try to build a strong partnership and cooperation across the board with China. We are always – whether it’s at the presidential level, the secretarial level, or at this working group level – raising not only individual cases but our concerns about rule of law, justice for individuals, equality, Tibet, other issues. So all of those issues will come up in the next couple of days, and I would guess that Assistant Secretary Posner will have some kind of a readout when the session is over tomorrow.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell me, just going into this, has the Chen Guangcheng case – does that figure on the U.S. agenda specifically, either his own case or the reports that his family members have been harassed since his departure?
MS. NULAND: We always raise the situation with regard to his family members and supporters and call for appropriate handling and no reprisals.
QUESTION: What was the risk of this particular dialogue being scuttled because of the Chen case?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, there was concern in the context of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that that whole meeting might not go forward at the time. And in fact, not only did it go forward, it went forward with all of the agenda items intact, including discussion of the Chen Guangcheng case. So from our perspective, this speaks to the maturing of our relationship with China that we can talk forthrightly about human rights in all of its aspects, even as we also work on other issues together, including Iran, DPRK, cyber, et cetera.
QUESTION: Not to take away from Deputy Secretary Burns, but is there any reason why the Secretary herself did not or is not going to address this particular meeting?
MS. NULAND: I’ll take that, Ros. I – as I said, she did address human rights with the bosses of the folks who are here when she was in China less than a month ago, so I don’t think there should be any question about her commitment to these issues.
QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, Hamas is claiming that President Morsi of Egypt will make an announcement involving the restriction – or not the restriction – the requirement for Palestinians to have a visa. In other words, people from Gaza, they can go back and forth to Egypt, effectively breaching the blockade that is being imposed on Gaza now. Is that something that you would encourage or you would oppose or you would counsel against?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak to any hypothetical decisions that may or may not be made by the Egyptian Government. I think we were gratified – the Secretary was personally gratified by the reassurances she heard from President Morsi and his government with regard to their commitment to the treaty with Israel and to continuing forward with that.
QUESTION: Asking about Chinese human rights, how do you view the human rights situation in China? Can I have any comment?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we have the Human Rights Dialogue going on now. I would guess that Assistant Secretary Posner will want to speak to all of you after that is finished, so I will reserve comment there. But I think the Secretary’s been forthright, the President has been forthright, that we have serious ongoing concerns about a variety of human rights issues and rule of law issues in China, and we are always open and clear about those with Chinese officials.
QUESTION: So do these talks and dialogue between U.S. and China brings any fruits? Because still the human rights activities and human rights violations are still on the rise, and they are under the carpet in China. So how do we assure to the people here and in China and in Tibet and in Hong Kong and among other places that international community and United States is with them, not just talks, but in deeds?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, by continuing to raise these issues, by having them be an integral part of the fabric of our relationship with China, including through this institutionalized group that addresses them, we obviously do what we can to support those in China who are trying to strengthen rule of law, who are trying to strengthen rights under the law, and through the judicial process.
Sometimes Chinese officials talk about the tension between individual rights and national security. This dialogue also gives us an opportunity to talk about how we and other countries around the world address issues of human and individual rights while also maintaining national security and that you can walk and chew gum at the same time. So this is a very, very important dialogue not only in terms of being forthright about the issues, but also training and supporting those who are fighting for improvements inside China.
QUESTION: Yes. On Japan, the MV-22 Osprey aircraft are currently on the ground in Iwakuni, and many Japanese citizens are still kind of disconcerted about this or concerned about the Ospreys being there, and especially being deployed to Okinawa. What is the State Department doing to mitigate those tensions, and will there be any high-level meetings about this to discuss the issues?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, the Secretary spoke to this issue at her press conference in Tokyo and to all of the reassurances that we have given the Japanese Government. So I would refer you back to that. I think it was – I can’t remember now – it was the 8th or 16th –
QUESTION: The 7th --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, the 8th of July, something like that. But we’ve also had some statements from the Pentagon and from our Embassy in Tokyo today with regard to the Osprey, so I would send you – refer you to those.
QUESTION: On India?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as the India-Pakistan dialogues are concerned, the cricket diplomacy again coming back between the two countries –
MS. NULAND: We’re for cricket. We don’t understand it, but we like it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, they love their cricket, but at the same time, there are problems on other issues like terrorism and border problems and also prisoner exchange and so forth. Now, India’s Foreign Minister Krishna is visiting Islamabad, I believe, in the next two or three months.
What my question is here – that there are some issues between the two countries which are hurdle and not bringing them together and solving major issues between two countries, and people are eager that two countries must work together and as far as people to people and opening doors of visa and so forth. My question is: What role do you think U.S. is playing now between the two countries so it can solve these problems?
MS. NULAND: Well, listen, we share the interest of people in India, people in Pakistan, and you personally, Goyal, in seeing these two countries continuing to improve their relationship. We have been supportive in all of our diplomatic encounters at every level with the Indian side, with the Pakistani side in some of the progress that they’ve made. They’ve made considerable progress on the economic side. We are encouraging them to do better on issues like sharing counterterrorism information, dealing with threats to both countries, moving forward to work on trust and political issues, so we will continue support dialogue between them at every level, but it’s obviously up to Indians and Pakistanis to continue to work on this.
QUESTION: Last –
QUESTION: The major issue between the two countries now going on is to bring this famous prisoner out of Pakistan into India, which Pakistan announced that they will release him last month, but he’s still there. Is U.S. aware of this or anybody ask the U.S. to intervene or –
MS. NULAND: Again, this is a subject that the – dealing with the aftermath of the Mumbai bombings and bringing people to justice that comes up in all of our discussions with Indians and with Pakistanis. And we’ll continue to advocate for full justice being served, not least because Americans lost their lives as well.
Brad, last word.
QUESTION: Last week, the question was asked whether this Department had knowledge that Omar Suleiman was here in the country. I think it was supposed to be taken, or we were supposed to get more information on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me say that it turns out that even in death, visa issues are subject to privacy. So I can’t get any further into what we knew and what we visaed and all that kind of thing. But I don’t think that he made too much of a secret that he was here.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)
DPB # 131