Daily Press Briefing - August 21, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Explosion in Gaziantep
- Press Briefing by Deputy Prime Minister
- Opposition Transition Plan
- Deceased Japanese Journalist / Reports of Missing Journalists
- Chemical Weapons
- Violence in Lebanon
- Nonlethal Aid to Opposition
- Rumors of Violence / Internet Freedom
- Rights of Minorities / Blasphemy Case
- Death of Prime Minister Meles / Continued Partnership
- Concern for Human Rights and Press Freedom
- UNITED NATIONS
- Arms Trade Treaty
- Security in the Sinai
12:59 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. I have one thing at the top, then we’ll go to what’s on your minds. This is with regard to the explosion in Gaziantep, Turkey yesterday. We condemn the attack that took place yesterday in Gaziantep, Turkey that left nine people dead and more than 60 people injured. We express our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victims. The United States stands with Turkey in its fight against terrorism, and we join the Turkish authorities in calling for calm in the wake of these tragic events.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Just following on that, apparently in Turkey they’re now investigating whether there might be some Syrian link of some kind with this explosion. Do you have any information that might indicate that’s possible?
MS. NULAND: I don’t, Andy. We haven’t seen any claims of responsibility, nor do we have any independent information at this point.
QUESTION: Also on Syria, there was that flash that came out late this morning about supposedly Assad’s people, his Deputy Prime Minister, saying we can discuss his stepping down. Have you looked at those reports coming out of Moscow, and do you have any guidance as to what you think is being said? MS. NULAND: We saw the reports of the press conference that the Deputy Prime Minister gave in Syria. Frankly, Jill, we didn’t see anything terribly new there. The Syrian Government knows what it needs to do. And the Russian Government, as you know, joined us in Geneva in setting forth a very clear transition plan. So there was an opportunity in those consultations – obviously, we weren’t party to them – for the Russian side to be encouraging the Assad regime to start now to be following through on a transition plan, but there is no need to complicate it, as the Deputy Prime Minister appeared to do there.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: And the – just one more. The Syrian rebels say that they are – I’m sorry, the SNC is saying that they are studying the creation of a transitional government. Do you have any more information on that, any details?
MS. NULAND: Well, our understanding of this is that it is further to the process that has been going on in Cairo with a broad cross-section of opposition groups. As you know, in early July they put forward a code of conduct, a sort of a bill of rights for a future Syria, if you will, which we welcomed. And they also put forward a detailed transition plan after the Geneva meetings, which built on what the Geneva participants had and had sort of two stages of transition leading to elections. So our understanding is that they are participating in a process of trying to work up an implementing committee for those plans that would begin to operate like a potential future transitional government. And we’ll see where that process leads, but it’s very much a consultation among a broad cross-section of opposition groups about how they take this work forward.
QUESTION: So no indication that they’re actually at the stage where they would have someone that they could put forward as a potential leader?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I would refer you to them, but they are trying to identify, – not just the SNC, but the broader group of opposition leaders – whether they are inside or outside Syria, the kind of people who might be good players in a transitional government, along the lines of the plans that they’ve already put forward themselves.
QUESTION: Where do you see a – political solution efforts right now? How are things progressing?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, there’s a clear plan that we endorse, the Geneva plan. There is this, as I just said, this broader lay-down of how a transition might go forward. But it’s very difficult to get there until the violence stops. So that obviously is square one. That said, there are groups inside and outside Syria beginning to plan for that day after, and beginning to plan for how they might quickly stand up at least that first stage of transition so that we could move on when Assad goes, because he will go.
QUESTION: Are people still hopeful of a soft landing, the idea that the regime could collapse, but that the state would be preserved and that basic services continue, there’s no sectarian crisis? Is this still a hope?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have said all along that the longer the violence goes on, the more entrenched it becomes, the more danger there is that extremists and others will exploit the situation, the more risk there is that some of the fundamental structures and institutions of the state will collapse, be further damaged, be harder to rebuild. So obviously, the longer this goes on, the harder it is.
But we still believe that the faster Assad goes, the more chance there is to quickly move on to the day after. These are the kinds of things that we are looking at in terms of the support that we expect the Syrian people are going to need, that any future transitional government may ask of the international community, whether it’s support for political structures, support for getting the economy back on track, support for public safety and security, support for transitional justice, accountability, et cetera. So we’re looking at all of those things moving forward.
MS. NULAND: Said. Samir, sorry.
QUESTION: There are – there were contradicting reports about the fate of our colleague from Al-Hurra TV and the cameraman in Syria. Do you have any information about their status?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’ve seen that the foreign ministry in Japan has confirmed the death of a Japanese journalist in recent days. Our hearts obviously go out to the family of that journalist. We’ve seen these reports of other journalists who may be in government hands, but we’re not in a position to confirm the circumstances at this point.
QUESTION: But, you know the --
QUESTION: One more on Syria?
QUESTION: Hold on. But the BBG has already put out a statement on this. You’re aware of that, are you not?
MS. NULAND: The BBG has put out a statement saying that it has lost contact with a couple of its own stringers. We’ve seen those, but we’re not in a position to confirm the whereabouts or even the circumstances.
QUESTION: No – well, I understand, but the BBG is actually a government organization.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. No, obviously.
QUESTION: So you are in a position to be able to confirm that they have lost contact.
MS. NULAND: That they have lost contact, yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Victoria, the – a Syrian Government official denounced the President’s statement yesterday about the possible use of military force. Has there been a change in U.S. position in the last 48 hours on military interference?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, the President’s comments obviously speak for themselves. They were very clear. This is not terribly new. We have been saying, and the President has been saying for some weeks now, that the use of chemical weapons, anything untoward, would be extremely serious from our perspective. So this is a set of points that we’ve been making for quite some time.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that there has been no departure whatsoever in position in terms of only if chemical weapons are used or are about to be used is determined that then the United States will intervene?
MS. NULAND: Again, the President was very clear in the way he put it that this would be a redline for us, would cause him to think very seriously. I can’t improve on what he had to say or the way he explained it himself.
QUESTION: Is it the only redline?
MS. NULAND: Sorry?
QUESTION: Is it the only redline?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to improve on the way the President characterized his position.
QUESTION: Are there any signs that minority groups in Syria that had been afraid of a new era are now more willing to take part in planning for a new government?
MS. NULAND: Well, both in our contacts with Syrians outside Syria in the Cairo process and in the contacts that we have with a broad cross-section of activists who are in Turkey, and in and out, we are seeing Syrians from across the spectrum planning for the new day, whether they are Sunni, Alawi, Druze, Christians, and working better together – Kurds as well.
In terms of what’s going on inside Syria, it’s obviously something that we are watching and trying to understand. I think what’s encouraging from our perspective is some of these code of conduct statements that we’ve seen, whether it’s from the FSA or whether it’s from the local coordinating councils inside Syria, talking about a Syria for all Syrians, speaking against reprisals, speaking about trying to create a big tent in the future, and that’s obviously something that we are strongly encouraging.
QUESTION: There’s been some violence in Lebanon today associated with what’s happened in Syria between Alawites and the Sunnis. Have you guys been in touch with the Lebanese government about this, and what’s been your message to them on how they deal with it?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have been in contact with the Lebanese government all the way through, obviously, from our mission there. And as we’ve said all the way along, we are very concerned about this violence and the spillover effect from what’s going on in Syria, and particularly the latest violence in Tripoli and the ongoing reports of retribution, kidnappings across Lebanon, and we are continuing both publicly and privately to call on all parties to exercise restraint, to respect Lebanese security and stability. We have been commending – and we are continuing to do so – the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces and the internal security forces to respond and try to quell this violence where they can and to set the good example that they do of a nonsectarian Lebanon, but it’s obviously very worrying and a bad example of negative spillover.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Still Syria?
QUESTION: Still. Yeah, it’s always on our mind. There’s a piece in the Post today talking about the opposition, saying that they are not receiving the communications equipment that the State Department has been talking about now for weeks and weeks. Can you set us straight? Are those complaints legitimate? Is there some holdup? Or what is going on?
MS. NULAND: Well, if you read the piece in its entirety down to the fine print at the bottom – which I’m not sure why the journalist chose to put the meat at the bottom – but it made clear that we have now, through our nonlethal assistance program, provided more than 900 sets of communications gear to groups and individuals inside Syria. As you know, all these groups have to be carefully vetted, and we are also using the $25 million in nonlethal available to us to run training programs for a broad cross-section of activists.
The Secretary, as you know, met with some of these recipients and other activists when she was in Istanbul about three weeks ago. We are doing training on free media, countering the government’s circumvention technology, legal and justice and accountability issues, and how to deal with the crimes that have been committed during this conflict, programs for student activists who are encouraging peaceful protest on the university campuses, programs for women. So we are extremely active, and if there are a few guys who are hanging out in Turkey who haven’t actually gotten this stuff, it’s because we’re focused on the groups inside Syria.
QUESTION: But that training, just to make sure, is taking place in Istanbul?
MS. NULAND: We are doing training in a number of locations where Syrians are able to get out, and we are particularly focused on those who are going back and forth.
QUESTION: Victoria, a follow-up on that –
QUESTION: That piece sort of made it sound as though one of the problems was that this effort had been slow to get going, that there had been bureaucratic holdups within the Department on this side and perhaps also some concerns on the part of the Turks about how this stuff was going to get to the Syrians. Would you concede that – was it a slower start than you had initially anticipated?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the way the piece is written, it doesn’t differentiate among the various strands of work that we’ve had. Some of this work that we’ve been doing, like the countering internet censorship and circumvention work, has been going on for years, in fact. Efforts to support human rights, justice, other things that our Department – our Bureau of Human Rights and Labor have been going on for a number of years. When we still had an embassy in Damascus, we were using regional funding to begin to support the communications needs of the opposition already. As you know, about two to three months ago, we notified Congress about a plus-up in money specifically for Syria. So some of that money is now starting to flow, but that’s on top of money that we already had.
QUESTION: Toria, you spoke – I know you addressed this before, but you just spoke of dealing with a cross-section of activists, and that – the Secretary herself spoke with many of those. Now when you give this aid, how do you give that aid? To which groups? I mean, how do you say we want to give X entity this much and Y entity that much?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we’re not giving money. As you can see, Said, we’re giving equipment where that is warranted, and we’re giving training where that is warranted. So obviously we vet groups that receive equipment, and we vet individuals before inviting them for training. We do that across U.S. Government programs around the world. So –
QUESTION: And that is under the auspices of the State Department? All of it?
MS. NULAND: State Department, AID, it depends on who’s running the programming, yeah.
Margaret in the back.
QUESTION: Before we came in here, there were some reports on the wires, Arabiya had also been reporting that the French Government had acknowledged talks about a no-fly zone with its allies over Syria. Is the U.S. participating in that, and is that part of tomorrow’s conversation in Istanbul that State is participating in?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen those French reports, so I’m not sure who’s talking to whom about what. But as we said when the Secretary was in Istanbul and as we’ve said with regard to the conversations that we’re having with allies, first and foremost, we’re evaluating with our partners the effectiveness of what we are already doing. And then we are looking at the ground situation, which is evolving very rapidly, and talking together about what more we can do together, what more we can do collectively to support the opposition, but against this litmus test that the Secretary laid down when she was in Istanbul that we don’t want to increase the suffering of the Syrian people.
So some of our partners have talked about this idea, it’s obviously something that needs to continue to be evaluated, and it’s – as the Secretary made clear when we were there, we haven’t taken any options off the table.
QUESTION: Has that list of options been whittled down from the time the Secretary was there up and to tomorrow’s conversations, the interagency conversations you talked about?
MS. NULAND: I think we’re still in the place where we were when she was there, which is that we are open to discussing options that folks think will help the opposition without causing more suffering.
QUESTION: I have actually a question about the redlines.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I don’t think the question was asking you to improve on the President’s comments. I think it was just simply, are there other redlines? I mean, if Assad starts bulldozing entire towns or cities or lining every resident of a town or city up and shooting them, is that a redline?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to walk us into all kinds of hypothetical situations and how much this and how much that. Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, okay, that’s – I understand that, but it seems to me it’s a pretty big hypothetical for him to use chemical weapons. If Assad uses or moves chemical weapons, that would be a redline, which is what the President said yesterday. It doesn’t get much more hypothetical than that. In fact, I think you could argue that that hypothetical is more hypothetical than him bulldozing entire cities, because he’s done that to entire neighborhoods already.
MS. NULAND: Well --
QUESTION: So with the – so what is it? I mean, is all – is that the – that’s the only thing? As long as Assad doesn’t use chemical weapons, he can sleep well at night knowing that the Americans aren’t going to militarily intervene? Is that the message?
MS. NULAND: Again, it’s the President’s prerogative as Commander-in-Chief to –
QUESTION: To go into hypotheticals?
MS. NULAND: -- to set whatever redlines that he wants to set.
QUESTION: Is that a hypothetical question? I mean, is that a hypothetical circumstance, Assad using chemical weapons?
MS. NULAND: I’m – again, I’m not –
QUESTION: Isn’t it?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to go beyond what the President had to say yesterday. He set a very firm redline. With regard to other hypothetical situations, I’m not walking into it from here.
QUESTION: You’re only – okay.
MS. NULAND: I’m not walking into it from here.
QUESTION: So the U.S. Government will only go into hypotheticals if the President comes out first and --
MS. NULAND: Matt, as you always say, we reserve the right to address these issues as we feel appropriate.
QUESTION: Can you talk more about examining the effectiveness of what you’ve already done? I mean, in 18 months, no one has ever conceded that the U.S. assistance or U.S. policy has been ineffective. So what would that mean? You’d say we are being effective but we could be more effective?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re having these consultations and we need to see where they go, but as the Secretary said when we were in Istanbul, the ground situation is changing very rapidly. We now have a situation where a lot of that Turkey/Syria border is more open for movement back and forth. That’s changing the way the conflict is going, that changes what is needed, et cetera. So we need to evaluate what we are seeing, what other partners who are deeply involved are seeing in terms of how this is going forward, the needs of the people, how we can hasten the day that Assad goes, what we are already doing in terms of, on our side, the effectiveness of these com kits and other things, and then go from there.
QUESTION: But you’ve argued that it has been effective, repeatedly –
MS. NULAND: There’s no question it’s been effective. The question is what more might be needed.
QUESTION: On Brad’s point, Victoria, yesterday, the Turkish Government said that they cannot absorb any more refugees, and in fact, they referred to swathes of land that are under rebel control. So in – that is the case, and under humanitarian – or for humanitarian needs, would you support, like, a safe haven in that area and enforce it?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is in the category of looking across the spectrum at what is happening, what individual partner countries are – including Turkey – are experiencing, having a better sense of what our Turkish allies may have in mind by those kinds of statements and seeing what makes sense. But I’m not going to prejudge here.
QUESTION: Do the changes on the ground that you referred to – did they make it possibly better, more desirable from the U.S. perspective to consider this idea of a no-fly zone or a no-drive zone?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to get ahead of evaluations that we are having right now with partners and others.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
India, after that dark – entire India was dark without electricity, now India has blocked over 250 websites because somebody put some inflammatory messages over the internet. Now India is blaming Pakistan and Mr. R.K. Singh, the Home Secretary of India. And in Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman said that we need proof. Now Indian Prime Minister is saying that after committing the crime, Pakistan always wants the proofs, and now we have given proof to the U.S., UN, and EU.
My question is: Have you received or do you have any comments about this, what’s going on between India and Pakistan over this? Because it created unrest throughout in many major Indian cities.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by putting some distance between the way you framed the sequence of events and what we know. Let me start by saying that we have seen these reports that northeastern Indians are returning to the northeast from cities in southern India, and these media reports that the returns are due to concerns about personal safety. The Indian authorities themselves have called for calm, they have provided assurances of protection and safety to all people. As you know, they have called an investigation of some of the sources of the rumors that have caused people to start to move. And so we are going to obviously watch and see how that process goes forward.
On the larger question of internet freedom, you know where we are on that issue, and we are always on the side of full freedom of the internet. But as the Indian government continues to investigate these instances and preserve security, we also always urge the government to maintain its own commitment to human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law.
QUESTION: Are you part of the investigation?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: You’re always in support of full freedom of the internet? No qualifications? You’ve got no problems at all with WikiLeaks, do you?
MS. NULAND: WikiLeaks didn’t have to do with freedom of the internet. It had to do with the --
QUESTION: Well, some would argue that it does.
MS. NULAND: It had to do with the compromise of U.S. Government classified information.
QUESTION: So you have not asked for any investigation by the Indian Government?
MS. NULAND: As I said, the Indian Government itself is investigating, so we’re going to let that go forward.
QUESTION: The Indian Government in particular has targeted a number of U.S.-based companies, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, asking them to go after the sources of what they say is erroneous information. Are you – or would you suggest that it’s good for these companies to comply with that kind of government directive?
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to the premise that you started with, Andy, in terms of the conversation that those companies may or may not be having with the Indian Government. We maintain open lines to our own companies in India, as we do around the world, and we are obviously open to consultation with them if they need it from us.
QUESTION: On that, do you know that – if the Indian government has asked the Department of Homeland Security for assistance in looking into those online threats?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that. Why don’t you – I would urge you to check with Homeland.
QUESTION: On Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
blasphemQUESTION: As far as human rights and religious freedom is concerned in Pakistan, which I raised several months ago also about – against the Hindu minorities and Hindus as far as religious freedom is concerned, now over 250 Hindus have fled to India because they are saying that they are forced to – their women are being raped, and they are forced to convert – either convert or marry their children or their girls to the Muslims in Pakistan, and now they have been complaining inside India that the international community should help them. And now, latest – hundreds of Christians have fled the Islamabad area because of that feud, a12-year-old girl was arrested over Qu'ran.
So my question is: As far as religious minority or religious freedom is concerned in Pakistan, where do you stand as far as – human rights and other reports do not mention all these problems minorities are facing in Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I take issue with that as well. In our annual Human Rights Report, we always cite the importance of respect for the rights, freedoms, protections for minorities in Pakistan as well as countries around the world. And we did speak out yesterday with regard to the case of the young Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges. So this is obviously part of our ongoing dialogue with the Government of Pakistan and has been for some time.
QUESTION: But what – when you talk to them, with Pakistanis, when you meet them and greet them in the – over many other issues, do these issues come, and what did the – answer from them?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we have a regular dialogue with the Government of Pakistan on a whole range of issues, including protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights, and we’ll continue to do so.
Hey, you guys are all wearing this green color. It’s like the room is glowing. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
QUESTION: We need color.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, exactly.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister – have you guys been in touch with the Deputy Prime Minister on the – since the passing of Prime Minister Zenawi, and are you guys concerned about power struggle with in Ethiopia with the death of Prime Minister Meles?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just point all of you – as you know, the White House issued a condolence message on behalf of the President at the passing of Prime Minister Meles, and I’m anticipating, if it’s not already out, a similar statement from the Secretary of State.
Our understanding is, at the moment, that things are going relatively smoothly, that the process is that the parliament has to be called back into session, that there is – that that’s already been set, I think, for tomorrow. And then the parliament has to choose a new prime minister, and that that process is expected to go forward in coming days. So obviously, we would hope for a smooth constitutional change.
With regard to whether we’ve been in touch with the Deputy Prime Minister, I would expect that our Embassy probably has been in touch with senior levels of the government on issues including the funeral for Prime Minister Meles.
QUESTION: Do you – or do you have any message for the incoming government regarding security policies, particularly on Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn? I mean, are you expecting that any government that succeeds Meles will have the same security stance that his government did on these various issues of mutual cooperation?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Andy, the Government of Ethiopia has been a very strong partner in Somalia and elsewhere. We do not anticipate at this stage that there would be any diminution of their commitment to security missions in Africa, but obviously they – that is something that we would hope could – would continue. If you look at the President’s statement, he does encourage Ethiopia to continue to move forward, not only as a security partner, but as an economic player, and to make more progress in human rights and democracy going forward.
QUESTION: It’s another subject, Toria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: No. Can we just – one more on --
MS. NULAND: Stay on Ethiopia? Yeah. Scott.
QUESTION: Yeah. He was a good ally for Somalia and Sudan, but not so much on political freedoms and treatment of the press. Is it your hope that a new government in Ethiopia would improve those conditions, which are regularly outlined in your human rights reports?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you say, Scott, we have not been shy about expressing concern where it’s necessary, particularly with regard to journalist freedom, human rights, et cetera. So you’ll note that there is a reference to that in the public statements that we’re making today, and we would always look for further improvements that can strengthen the system and support for people across Ethiopia.
QUESTION: Just to stay on that momentarily – I don’t expect you to have an answer to this because I just thought of it, and I don’t know if anyone here has thought of it – have you been in touch with the Eritreans at all? And are you..? About this?
MS. NULAND: You mean in the wake of the Prime Minister’s death?
QUESTION: Yes. Exactly. And if there – if you’re aware or expecting any change in the rather Stalinist attitude that the Eritreans had towards Ethiopia in the wake of – now that – well, because a lot of this seemed to be personal animosity between Isaias and Meles.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Let me take that one, Matt. I frankly don’t know if we’ve had much contact with the Eritreans in the last 24 hours.
QUESTION: This is – concerns the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. The treaty, not the conference that’s --
QUESTION: I’m sorry?
MS. NULAND: The treaty, not the --
QUESTION: The treaty.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Among gun rights supporters, Second Amendment supporters in the United States, there is a great concern about the Secretary and President Obama supporting that UN Arms Trade Treaty, because they say that it would bypass Congress and implement gun control on American citizens, forcing them to register eventually, et cetera. Has the State Department looked at that, and do they – is there any merit to those claims?
MS. NULAND: There is no merit to those concerns. This – as the Secretary has said, as we’ve said all the way along, as our negotiator in New York has said, the Second Amendment rights of Americans are fundamental, and we are not going to accept any treaty that infringes on America’s – Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
Frankly, in the negotiations that we’ve had, we have not had problems with those kinds of issues, because we have our own very strong internal regime on these kinds of weapons. What this negotiation is primarily trying to do is to get equally strong internal controls in countries that have no gun laws, so --
QUESTION: I’m sorry. What are the very strong internal regimes that you have?
MS. NULAND: The point is that we have export controls on weapons; we have our own set of laws with regard to licit export of weapons to other countries. There are some countries that are in this regime that don’t have any reliable controls on what they export. So this treaty, among other things, would bring global standards closer to where the U.S. already is.
QUESTION: Only for exports, though?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. That’s what it’s about. That’s what – yeah.
QUESTION: All right. When you referred to internal regimes --
MS. NULAND: No. We’re talking about our own laws.
QUESTION: Internal regimes for exports?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Madam, do you see any new changes coming in China after the powerful Chinese Communist Party leader was ousted and his wife was arrested, charged, and she pled guilty and now she has been sentenced this – in connection with the British businessman? Do you see any changes coming in China now because of these things happening, first time?
MS. NULAND: This is a matter of Chinese internal policy. I don’t think I have anything to project from that. As you know, they’re in a political season there, so I’ll refer you to them.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and the Sinai? There’s Israeli officials who are saying they sent a message to Egypt through the United States regarding remilitarization of the Sinai. Have you had any conversations with the Israelis and then also with the Egyptians regarding this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, without getting into our private diplomacy with one country or the other, I would make the general point that as the Egyptians work hard now to defeat terror and turn back other security threats in the Sinai, we’ve been supportive of those efforts. We have encouraged them in those efforts, not only to enhance security in Egypt but also to enhance security for neighbors, security in the region. And we have encouraged that lines of communication stay open, in keeping with peace treaty obligations, and that they make full use of the mechanisms that are available for transparency, for confidence building, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: So you don’t have any concerns specifically regarding tanks or aircraft that go beyond limits, as expressed in those – in that treaty?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to parse the treaty here from the podium. What we want to see is Egypt deal strongly with the security threats and do so in a way that supports the security of neighbors and is in keeping with its obligations.
QUESTION: So you --
QUESTION: But you did – you have raised that with the Egyptians, correct?
MS. NULAND: We’ve talked – as you know, when the Secretary was in Egypt, we were very clear that we had concerns about the Sinai. They had concerns about the Sinai. Secretary Panetta was also there, so this has been an ongoing conversation. And we’ve – and throughout that conversation, we’ve also talked about the importance of what they do there, not just for Egypt – obviously Egypt’s security – but also for the security of neighbors.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re also aware of the Israeli concern in this situation, correct?
MS. NULAND: We are interested in seeing those lines of communication stay open, and we’ve been clear about that.
QUESTION: Right. But you acknowledge that the Israelis have – you’re saying – you understand the Israeli concern about what the Egyptians are doing there, even though the Israelis, as well as you, want the situation to be brought under control? But you do understand the Israeli point, correct?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we are also speaking to the Israelis. They want to see security in Sinai enhanced, and they want to see it enhanced in a manner that is also respectful of treaty obligations.
QUESTION: Can I just continue on this real quick?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You have no concerns that the Egyptians are moving assets into this area not for action against militant groups, but to solidify its border against Israel?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding of the Egyptian security posture is that they are enhancing their posture to deal with security threats in Sinai. That’s obviously of security interest with regard to Egypt, but also with regard to neighbors. But as has been longstanding practice, there needs to be transparency, there needs to be confidence with neighbors.
QUESTION: And you’re not worried that these will become permanently sited there?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get beyond the immediate issue of dealing with security and dealing with it in a manner that also gives confidence to neighbors.
QUESTION: But you --
QUESTION: The immediate issue --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- you are in support of the redeployment of Egyptian tanks and airplanes and so on (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to sit here and endorse X or Y military move. We have said all along that we support stronger Egyptian security measures to deal with security threats in Sinai.
QUESTION: You said that it has to be done transparently? Is that --
MS. NULAND: The treaty between Israel and Egypt provides a series of transparency measures, et cetera --
MS. NULAND: -- and we always encourage --
QUESTION: But is that a problem?
MS. NULAND: -- both sides to --
QUESTION: Is there a sense that the Egyptians are not being transparent about --
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not evaluating one way or the other. I’m simply speaking about --
QUESTION: Well, I know, but you raised that, so I’m curious if it’s a question, if it’s a concern that it is not as transparent as perhaps should be under the treaty. Is that a concern?
MS. NULAND: Again, we just want to see these mechanisms which have been very useful and helpful in the past continue to be used.
QUESTION: Do you feel that there’s still decent military-to-military communication and cooperation between Israel and Egypt?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to those two governments to comment on that, but we have encouraged them to maintain open lines as they have in the past.
QUESTION: Staying on Israel?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Last week, I think it was on Friday, you put out a statement about some settler violence, the firebomb attack.
MS. NULAND: It was --
QUESTION: Do you recall this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you – there was an attempted lynching over the weekend in Jerusalem. Do you have anything on that?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Matt. I think I did, but I don’t have it here.
QUESTION: Do you think you –
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take --
QUESTION: -- did put something out?
MS. NULAND: No, I think I at one point had a comment to make, but when it was closer to the time.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you, yeah, get that? Thanks.
MS. NULAND: I will. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Two Chinese state media, Xinhua and China Daily, today they published two articles concerning the U.S. and Japan drill. And one article says that the drill, the military drill, is aimed at tackling the scenarios of taking back islands occupied by enemy troops. They went on to say that the deliberate decision to carry out such a agitative drill serves nothing but to fuels the fire. And also it says that this move gives the lie to Washington’s alleged neutral stance towards China-Japan dispute and gives birth to more suspicion of the United States true intentions in Asia and Pacific. What is your comment on this? Do you think that is the case?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the piece, other than having you read it here. Second of all, I’m not sure what military drill they’re referring to.
QUESTION: The (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: So if there’s an ongoing military exercise between the U.S. and Japan, I’m going to send you to the Pentagon for comment. I haven’t heard about anything unusual, so I’m going to guess that this is a regular exercise pursuant to our alliance, designed to enhance peace and security and interoperability there. But I’m going to send you to the Pentagon because I’m, frankly, not aware of the exercise. Okay?
(The briefing was concluded at 1:39 p.m.)
DPB # 148