1:01 p.m. EDT
The first is with regard to the vicious killing of our Foreign Service national in Yemen. We’re deeply saddened by the killing of Qassim M. Aklan, a long-time employee of the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a. We condemn this vicious act in the strongest terms and extend our deepest condolences to his family and his friends at this difficult time. Mr. Aklan, a Yemeni citizen, worked as a Foreign Service National investigator in the Regional Security Office of our Embassy in Sana’a for the past 11 years. He was a dedicated professional, and he will be greatly missed. We’re coordinating closely with the Yemeni authorities to investigate this attack and to help bring those responsible to justice.
A second unrelated issue: As I think we may have put out earlier today, Deputy Secretary Burns will travel to Japan, Korea, China, Burma, and India, leaving Washington tomorrow. In Tokyo on the 14th and 15th, he will meet with Foreign Minister Gemba, Defense Minister Morimoto, and other senior officials on the full range of U.S.-Japan issues. In Seoul, he will meet with senior South Korean officials and participate – he’s actually going to lead the U.S.-ROK Strategic Dialogue. He’ll then go to Beijing for meetings with senior government officials there. And he will arrive in Nay Pyi Taw on October 17th, where he’ll meet President Thein Sein, members of his government, and he’ll also meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. And then he will finish his trip in Delhi, arriving on October 18th to meet with senior Indian officials. He’ll be home on the 20th.
You’ll also see that we put out a notice that right after the Deputy Secretary is in Tokyo, our Special Representative for North Korea DPRK Issues Glyn Davies will also be in Tokyo on the 17th for a trilateral meeting with the Japanese and the ROK on North Korea.
QUESTION: Sorry. You said all those – I didn’t see any of those. But maybe I’m just –
MS. NULAND: Maybe we just planned to release them and didn’t release them. Anyway, they are on their way to release.
QUESTION: Can I – can we get into this? Why are you advertising the Foreign Press Center briefing with William Fitzgerald?
MS. NULAND: That’s a good question. I think that’s – maybe we can deal with that, guys. Yeah.
QUESTION: Is that a Smith-Mundt violation?
QUESTION: A violation of the Smith-Mundt Act?
QUESTION: It seems like it’s a little old, actually.
QUESTION: February 22nd? Yeah.
MS. NULAND: These screens, I don’t know. We had great plans for them, and then –
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, in all of our embassies, we have a regional security office that’s responsible for a whole range of things, including security at the mission. As I understand it, as a member of our Yemeni staff in that office, he was responsible for routine personnel checks. He was our liaison on security matters to local authorities, those kinds of things. He was not in the Embassy at the time of his killing. He was off duty. I think it was already – the weekend had begun. He was out with a family member when he was killed.
QUESTION: And in terms of the – there was some suggestion that he was in part – investigating what happened at the Embassy on the – what was that, the 12th or the 13th of September? Is that – do you know if that’s correct? Would that have been something that fell into his scope?
MS. NULAND: No. That information was incorrect.
QUESTION: Okay. So he – so his investigation or his investigatory capacity was limited to personnel checks and this liaison function that you mentioned. That’s –
MS. NULAND: Those were his primary jobs, and these initial reports that he was involved in the investigation of the attack were not accurate.
QUESTION: Toria, just to make sure, there was an initial report that he headed up that team. Then later, it said he was a member of the team. But you’re saying he wasn’t involved in that investigation at all; is that right?
MS. NULAND: That is my understanding. He was head of the Foreign Service national investigative unit within the larger RSO shop, but he was not involved in this investigation. At least that’s what I have.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it safe to assume that he was targeted by al-Qaida, who may have also a list of all the national – Yemeni national employees at the Embassy?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, I’m sure you can understand if I stress the fact that the Yemenis are investigating. We are supporting their investigation. It is premature – this happened today – for us to be drawing conclusions about who did it, why it happened, all of those things. But obviously it’s of great concern, and it’s of great concern given the larger issues in the region.
QUESTION: Will the --
QUESTION: So are you taking any steps to – if it’s a great concern, are you taking any steps with your Foreign Service nationals?
MS. NULAND: Well, there was obviously an Emergency Action Committee meeting at that Embassy today, as we always do. They are looking at our security posture. They are taking the necessary steps. But I’m not going to get into the details of those today.
QUESTION: Do you know if there’s been any threats made against these gentlemen or any of the other foreign nationals that are working for you in Yemen?
MS. NULAND: I really don’t have any additional information. Presumably, all of that will be reviewed in the context of the investigation.
QUESTION: Could you spell his name, please?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Qassim, Q-a-s-s-i-m, middle initial M, Aklan, A-k-l-a-n.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MS. NULAND: Margaret, did you have something on this still?
QUESTION: Just one more on Yemen.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is the fact that today’s the one-month anniversary of the attack in Benghazi viewed as in any way significant symbolically by the State Department given that this was an attack on a U.S. employee?
MS. NULAND: I just have to say honestly right now, Margaret, we just don’t know. We have to investigate this.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you don’t know if he was targeted because he was an employee? This could have been – as far as you know, this could have been just a random act of crime – criminality?
MS. NULAND: It could – he could have been killed for reasons that had something to do with his job or reasons that had nothing to do with his job.
QUESTION: You just don’t know?
MS. NULAND: We just don’t know right now. We just don’t know.
QUESTION: But you do believe he was the target?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Could we –
MS. NULAND: I like your blue, Jill.
QUESTION: On Libya. You have announced that the new charge d’affaires – he is already there. Could you give us some background as to why specifically – obviously, he’s got great background in a lot of different areas – why specifically Laurence Pope was selected, what he’s going to be doing, et cetera?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you can imagine, we wanted to have somebody with significant experience in the region, a very seasoned diplomat at this complex time, and as we continue to work with the Libyans. He, as you saw from his bio, has had a lot of tours in the region. He retired some years ago, so he is another one of our very seasoned veterans that the Secretary asked to come back on active duty. And the President supported that to ensure that we have senior leadership out there at this time.
QUESTION: He never served in Libya, though, had he?
MS. NULAND: No. But remember for the longest time, we had –
QUESTION: It was closed for most of the time he was –
MS. NULAND: Exactly.
MS. NULAND: Right, yeah.
QUESTION: Wasn’t he –
QUESTION: But when you say in the region, I mean, he was director of Gulf Affairs, but I didn’t see anything that suggested he was ever in – serving in Libya or in North Africa --
QUESTION: Chad. Excuse me. You’re right.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Is he the one – he was Chargé in Lebanon in the ‘80s?
MS. NULAND: I have to tell you, I should have, but I did not bring his bio down here with me. But I will check on that, Samir. We will --
QUESTION: You don’t have a shortage of – a young Foreign Service officer with maybe bilingual isn’t quite effective?
MS. NULAND: I would say --
QUESTION: And --
MS. NULAND: -- on the contrary. Given the great change and the huge relationships that we have with these countries of North Africa and the Middle East, our younger folks are more and more gravitating to want to serve in that area, to take Arabic, to learn the languages. But as you know, at the senior level, and particularly in a complex time, you need that seasoned leadership.
QUESTION: Another issue?
QUESTION: No, can we stay on Libya?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: One more about – is there any possibility or any expectation that he might ultimately be nominated to serve as Ambassador, or is he regarded as an interim choice?
MS. NULAND: Well, he’s the Chargé at the moment. With regard to any White House plans to nominate a successor to Ambassador Stevens, I’m going to send you to the White House.
QUESTION: Well, but didn’t he agree to go for a specific period or – because, I mean, some of the people that the Secretary has sent, for instance, have said, “I’ll go for a year,” or --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information on whether we set a timeframe with him. Generally, one signs up for these things for a year and then we see where we are, but again, we are, as I think Said said, a month out from the tragic loss of Ambassador Stevens, so we have to look at the longer-term question there.
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. When you say one signs up for these things for a year, you mean when a retired person comes.
MS. NULAND: When you do some sort of an interim --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) less than a year?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, it goes to the question of whether the White House has an intention to nominate a successor and when.
QUESTION: This is State Department Diplomacy 101, but as Chargé and in a region that’s obviously been traumatized by various events --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- could you please explain to us what you feel Ambassador Pope’s role is going to be and how he’ll be working with the Libyan Government?
MS. NULAND: As with any chargé d'affaires in the absence of an ambassador, he leads the mission staff, he is the senior American in country conducting relations with the Government of Libya, reaching out to civil society, responsible for ensuring that our various programs with the Government of Libya are operating. He obviously has all of the responsibilities that any chief of mission anywhere around the world would have.
QUESTION: Do you see the – it might be a more complicated or complex role that he has, though, given the situation that he’s going into.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, chief of mission authority is essentially the same in operational span of control anywhere in the world, but every relationship is different. It’s at a different stage in every country. The programmatics in terms of what we’re doing together with support of one kind or another are different in every country, so --
QUESTION: And has there been any reaction from the Libyan side as to – about his appointment? Have they welcomed it or --
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that he’s had a warm welcome from the Libyan side. They understand his seniority and his deep background on these --
QUESTION: Is he in agrement or was that like --
MS. NULAND: I don’t – frankly, that’s a good question whether you give agrement on a chargéship.
QUESTION: You don’t need agrement to --
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: Can I – I don’t want to raise old wounds, but do you know --
MS. NULAND: But you’re going to.
QUESTION: Well, no, I’m not going to raise the wounds themselves, but do you know if Congress or the Senate in specific was informed about the decision to send him, given his somewhat problematic history in getting confirmed when he was appointed – when he was nominated to be the Ambassador to Kuwait by President Clinton?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, in chargé status, you are not constitutionally --
QUESTION: I am very well aware of – yeah, I know.
MS. NULAND: -- required to have consent.
QUESTION: But since he had a problem getting confirmed – in fact, wasn’t confirmed for the Kuwait post – I’m wondering if anyone in this building said, thought that it might be appropriate – granted Senator Helms is long gone, but – and Danielle Pletka is no longer a congressional aide. But do you know if there was any discussion with the Senate about sending him out there?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to the question. I am happy to take it for you, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you – could you tell us when Ambassador Pope actually arrived in Libya? And will part of his brief be to assess the situation about any eventual reopening of a mission in Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: He arrived very late last night, Libya time, is my understanding. We – as Ambassador and Under Secretary Kennedy said yesterday, we haven’t made any decisions with regard to the future of Benghazi. We’re just going to have to see how the situation evolves.
Still on Libya?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As a follow-up to the hearing yesterday, how was --
MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are?
QUESTION: Mike Levine with Fox.
MS. NULAND: Every time I turn around, I’ve got a new Foxie in the pool here. Going to have to talk to them about that.
QUESTION: I am here today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: A follow-up to yesterday: On the conference call on Tuesday night, the briefer said that an agent at the TOC instantly saw dozens of armed men flooding into the compound, that one of them – that the agent instantly yelled, “Attack, attack,” and that the agent immediately notified Washington of what was going on. On the same call, one of the senior officials said it was, quote, “not our conclusion that in the first several days, this was – that this was prompted by the anti-Islam video.” So how is it that Ambassador Rice came to such a different conclusion when she was on a Sunday show?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to refer you to what Under Secretary Kennedy said both on the Hill yesterday and from this podium yesterday with regard to what he himself would have said if he had been on the Sunday shows that day, based on the information that we had at the time.
I think there’s a conflating of issues here. When Deputy Assistant Secretary Lamb was testifying, she was speaking about the events from the moment that the alarm was sounded going forward. I think the question was initially whether those events were preceded by a more peaceful protest outside of the gates. That was our initial impression which turned out not to be the case.
QUESTION: But at – but on this conference call, one of the officials said that immediately, it was not the conclusion that the video was responsible for --
MS. NULAND: Again, I think Under Secretary Kennedy spoke to that yesterday.
QUESTION: I don’t think he ever really answered the question as to why this official said that that wasn’t the conclusion of the State Department, yet Under Secretary Kennedy said that he would have said that. I don’t understand. If it was the – I didn’t understand when he said it yesterday, and I don’t think he answered the question, that if it was the conclusion of the State Department that it was not a preplanned protest or a protest gone awry, why would Under Secretary Kennedy say that in an interview?
MS. NULAND: I think if you go back and look at that transcript from Tuesday night, what was actually said that night was over-reported. In the same sentence, the official goes on to say we’re going to have to investigate what actually happened; we’re not going to have a full view of all of these things until we have the ARB report and the FBI report. So I’m going to await those --
QUESTION: Did they – sorry.
MS. NULAND: Please, Jill.
QUESTION: Just to – one point that still seems unclear: Do we know that there actually was a demonstration on the streets that day at any time?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think, as you heard reported, as of 8:30 at night when the – when Ambassador Stevens exited the building – or escorted our guest out, or his guest out, there were not any folks outside the building. And then the alarms were sounded by the security officials at about 9:40. Whether or not there was a gathering of any size at the gates between 8:30 and 9:40, that’s a matter that’s still being looked into. We think that contrary to what we initially thought, if there was such a gathering, it was probably relatively modest. But again, I don’t want to get beyond what we know until we have a full picture of the investigation.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t --
QUESTION: Sorry, one quick follow-up. If there – if an agent is yelling “Attack, attack,” sounding the alarms and informing Washington about what’s going on, isn’t it sort of self-evident that it was more than a spontaneous attack?
MS. NULAND: There’s no question that at the time the alarm was sounded, we were in a very serious situation with folks coming through the gates. Nobody has said anything other than that. The question is: What, if anything, may have preceded that?
QUESTION: And wouldn’t you have expected, if there was a demonstration, however modest outside, that the guards, someone would have noticed it and there wouldn’t have been nothing – there would have been something said between 8:30 and 9:40 had there been any kind of unusual crowd gathering, whether it was 10 guys with a sign or 15. Wouldn’t that have registered on the guards? Wouldn’t they have said something had there been any kind of a demonstration?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are still in the process of understanding what the --
QUESTION: Well, it was a very detailed timeline that was presented on Tuesday, okay?
MS. NULAND: Right, right.
QUESTION: And I would assume – but correct me if I’m wrong – that had there been something unusual outside the gates of the compound like a modest demonstration or any kind of gathering, that that would have not – that it would have not – it would not have gone unnoticed?
MS. NULAND: Again, that is something that we have to look at. But in terms of what triggered the phone call to Washington, a modest protest outside the gates might not have done that. So again, we have to get all of the facts, we have to finish interviewing all of the people who were involved. I would simply remind that on the days immediately following, all of the Americans who were directly involved were either in the process of being medevaced or were being treated for smoke inhalation, et cetera. We had lost some of them; so there was obviously quite a bit of confusion.
QUESTION: All right. Well, I just – and I have another question after this --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but you just raised something else. I mean, are you saying that – given what had happened in Cairo earlier in the day, that if there had been a – even 15 or 20 guys outside the Embassy carrying signs or yelling but not with weapons or anything that wouldn’t have been – given what had happened in Cairo already, that that might not have been something that would be reported back to Washington? Seems to me that that would be --
MS. NULAND: Again, we are talking about what caused the alarm to be sounded at 9:40.
QUESTION: No, I’m talking about what happened in between – if anything happened in between 8:30 when the Turkish diplomat left and 9:40 when --
QUESTION: He said – that official said there was nothing outside.
QUESTION: Exactly. That’s why I’m --
MS. NULAND: Right. That’s – that is our impression.
QUESTION: -- but I don’t understand why you’re still holding out the possibility that there might have been something – however modest, when it seems to me that it would been reported because of what had happened in Cairo earlier. Even something modest would have been cause for at least someone to note it.
MS. NULAND: Again, between 8:30 and 9:40, there might not have been a call to Washington. As that official said, we don’t now believe that there was anything. But we don’t --
QUESTION: All right. And then just the other thing, in terms of --
MS. NULAND: I’m trying to explain how this might have gotten confused at the time.
QUESTION: Okay. In terms of what the official said on the call --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- in fact, he said that there was – that they didn’t – that that was not the conclusion. And then he said, “I’m not saying that there was a conclusion.”
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: So if there was – I mean – and yet, Under Secretary Kennedy said that in his conversations with people on the Hill, the next day or the 12th or the 13th, that his personal opinion was that it was premeditated or it was a coordinated terrorist attack. And I guess I’m just, does the State Department defer to DNI if DNI comes out and tells you that something that is demonstrably at odds with what witnessed on the ground had to say about it?
MS. NULAND: Look, I’m not going to parse this 17 ways from this podium. What I am going to say is, obviously when one goes out and tries to represent what the totality of what we know, the intelligence community plays a large role in that. And they had given an assessment to the entire government, which was the basis on which Ambassador Rice spoke on Sunday, they themselves have talked very explicitly about how their assessment has evolved over time.
QUESTION: Right. And yet --
QUESTION: But you never – okay.
QUESTION: And yet Under Secretary Kennedy and other people in this building knew, or felt in their opinion, that that was not correct, and that this was --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the personal feelings of anybody. I’m simply going to say that in making public statements, one depends on the totality of what the Administration knows.
QUESTION: But you didn’t. You never said that.
MS. NULAND: Look, I’m generally dumber than most of the rest of the government. I mean, that’s what I’m paid to be. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, that’s all well and good, but when asked --
QUESTION: Well, maybe not. In this case, it turns out that you might have been smarter than other people.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, exactly. I mean – no, no, no --
MS. NULAND: Look, Elise, we’re not going to parse this any further. We’re just not.
Said, please. Yeah.
QUESTION: Victoria, yes, on this issue. Foreign diplomats in hotspots normally send in what they call an advance team – security team – to scan the area and so on to make sure that the Ambassador or the diplomat – the point to which he’s going is actually safe. Do we know if Ambassador Stevens was given the benefit of that?
MS. NULAND: Whether there was advanced discussion about security for his visit?
QUESTION: Advance team. They always send in – suppose he wants to go from point A to point B. An advance security team goes to survey the area beforehand – before he --
MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that there was obviously security planning for his visit to Benghazi, as evidenced by the fact that he took two extra agents with him from Tripoli, I’m not going to get into the details. But he was not moving beyond the compound at the time of the attack.
QUESTION: Toria, on Friday, the Secretary has a speech, we understand, at a think tank here in Washington. Are we expecting to hear her discuss some of what happened in Libya at that speech?
MS. NULAND: Well, the subject of the conference at CSIS where she’ll speak tomorrow is the transition in the Maghreb, so she’ll obviously speak to that. But I think you can expect she’ll make broader comments about the democratic transitions across the Middle East and North Africa.
QUESTION: And one other question. Some in the media have already drawn a conclusion, are asking the question: Could this affect her legacy, reputation as Secretary of State? I know we’re still in the middle of all of this, but can you give us your appraisal as to how this might – the incident – the killing, the attack, might affect the Secretary?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary herself has said that there is no one in this building who wants to get to the bottom of what happened that night and the lesson that we can learn from it more than she does – more than all of us who are employees of the State Department want. So she is focused on that with regard to what happened in Benghazi. But she is also, obviously, engaged all across the world on a broad cross-section of issues. We’re obviously not going to be getting into legacy when she’s still got four months of very busy times here leading this Department and leading for the President.
QUESTION: I got one more on Libya. Just to go back to yesterday, and it’s something I raised with Pat yesterday as well, but I – and I just – you could say I was a little surprised at his response to the question that I asked yesterday, and it has to do with what Mr. Nordstrom said at the very end of his testimony, which was – the quote was, “For me, the Taliban is inside of the building,” referring to this building as – Pat said he found that comment surprising, but I would think that feelings would run a little bit stronger than just surprising, considering that a comment like that suggests that there’s some kind of a conspiracy within the State Department or within the Diplomatic Security Office to deny people the protection and the security that they need, or that, in fact, there are people inside this building who would wish harm on their colleagues. Do you have anything you want to say about what Mr. Nordstrom said?
MS. NULAND: I think that the way Under Secretary Kennedy responded to your question was absolutely appropriate and extremely dignified, if I can put it that way, and well represented this Department, when he said that he and all of us are extremely and extraordinarily proud of what Diplomatic Security does every day around the world; that these are people who are the best of the best, they are extraordinary professionals, but that particular comment was surprising.
QUESTION: Well, is it your --
MS. NULAND: I can’t improve on that, Matt.
QUESTION: You can’t improve on that? Really?
MS. NULAND: I cannot and I will not.
QUESTION: So you don’t find that offensive at all in any way? You don’t think that there’s any truth to Mr. Nordstrom’s claim that there are some people inside this building who are acting like the Taliban and denying – or wishing harm on their colleagues?
MS. NULAND: I think the way Under Secretary Kennedy answered your question speaks for all of us.
QUESTION: India region?
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Libya? Are we still --
QUESTION: One more?
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: At the hearing yesterday, they spoke of warning signs prior to the attack in Benghazi – an attack on the British convoy in Benghazi two weeks before and then another attack on the wall of the compound in Benghazi, and then the third attempt was the attack that resulted in the killing of the four Americans.
Now that the security official in Yemen has been killed in Sana’a, do you consider this as a warning sign and maybe a reason to buffer security for diplomats in Sana’a?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we have been working intensively, obviously even before September 11th but since the incident, to look at all of our missions around the world, but certainly all of our missions in North Africa and the Middle East. The President’s been clear about that. The Secretary’s been clear about that for weeks and weeks and weeks.
As I said in response to today’s incident in Sana’a, we’ve had our first Emergency Action Committee work out in – at the Embassy. We’re looking at this now in Washington. We are investigating with the Yemenis to draw whatever conclusions there are to be drawn. But all of us take security extremely seriously.
MS. NULAND: Are we finished with Libya? Jill? Yeah, okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you provide more information about the visit of the Secretary Burns to India and also --
MS. NULAND: The visit of the Secretary to India?
QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns’ visit to India.
MS. NULAND: Oh, Secretary Burns. Yeah.
QUESTION: And also, I understand that – I saw a diplomatic vehicle. I think the Indian Ambassador is also in the building? Is that anything to do with the visit to India? And also, what is the reason for him to visit to India this time?
MS. NULAND: Well, as the note we’ll put out makes clear, he’s going to review the full range of issues that we have with India, our bilateral issues, our regional issues. As you know, we try to maintain a regular pace of high-level diplomacy with India. The Secretary saw Foreign Minister Krishna just recently at the UNGA. Treasury Secretary Geithner was out there. So this is part of our regular deepening and broadening of that relationship.
QUESTION: And where do – this issue of India-U.S. civil nuclear is the main issue now in India also being discussed in the parliament. Where does it stand now? Still not going anywhere. Is this also going to be part of the discussion, or it’s moving forward now on a final stage?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything particularly new to report to you, Goyal. If we do after the visit, I’ll let you know. But as the Secretary made clear when she was in India, we remain committed and we are looking for more progress so that we can move forward.
MS. NULAND: Still on India? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. About this visit, is there going to be again discussion on the subject of visa fees hike? Because Indian Foreign Minister and Secretary Clinton have met three times, and every time they say are talking, but nothing comes out of it.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have that specifically as an issue, but it generally does come up in these visits, as you said.
QUESTION: So – and the second one is, in the light of this British policy shift that’s going on with Narendra Modi, he’s the Chief Minister of Gujarat and a prospective contender for the next prime minister – we’ll see – is there a change of policy from the U.S.? Are you planning to reach out to him also?
MS. NULAND: Tejinder, I think I suggested earlier in the day that you speak to our folks in the South Asia Bureau. I frankly don’t have anything.
QUESTION: Yeah. Nobody reached out to me.
MS. NULAND: Okay. We’ll figure it out. Thanks.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on that plane allegedly carrying Russian arms that was stopped in Turkey?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’ve probably seen the public statements from Prime Minister Erdogan just this morning asserting that they found Russian-made munitions onboard the plane. Was there anything else in particular?
QUESTION: No, just anything that the U.S. might have or any reaction to what has happened.
MS. NULAND: Well, more broadly, we strongly support the Government of Turkey’s decision to inspect the plane. And while we would send you to them for more details on what they found, we would be concerned by any effort to supply military equipment to the Assad regime, because it’s clearly being used by the regime against their own people. So any transfer of any military equipment to the Syrian regime at this time is very concerning, and we look forward to hearing more from the Turkish side when they get to the bottom of what they found.
QUESTION: How about more from the Russian side? Have you asked them about this?
MS. NULAND: I’m confident that when we have a better sense of what the Turks have found, it’ll be a subject of conversation we have with them as well.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a report yesterday by Kommersant newspaper that the Russian Government is planning to halt the provisions for nuclear disarmament made under the Nunn-Lugar bill. Could you explain what your understanding of what’s going on is, please?
MS. NULAND: Well thanks for that, Jo. We, as a government, greatly value the ongoing Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. We believe there is a lot of future work for the U.S. and Russia to do together in the CTR space, including cooperation that we do in this area with third countries. It has to be done on an appropriate legal basis.
The current agreement that we have for Nunn-Lugar cooperation expires in June of 2013. So in anticipation of that, we began talking to the Russian side back in July of this year about updating that agreement. And we are continuing to have those conversations. I think you probably saw statements out of the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday clarifying that we are still in talks, in fact, and making clear that this is distinct and separate from the Russian decision to stop the AID program, which was different.
QUESTION: So they haven’t told you they’re – you are still in talks. They haven’t told you that they’re going to stop it?
MS. NULAND: We are still in talks.
QUESTION: A quick note to Jo’s question was also they haven’t told you that they’re going to stop this; your talks could be they’re telling you, “We’re going to – we’re pulling the plug,” and you’re saying, “No, please don’t.”
MS. NULAND: They have told us that they want revisions to the previous agreement. We are prepared to work with them on those revisions, and we want to have conversations about it. Just for background: Under the CTR program, which, as you know, has been ongoing for many years – at least 10 years, if not 20 – we have implemented security upgrades at Russia’s own nuclear storage sites, we’ve deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads. We’ve neutralized chemical weapons, we’ve safeguarded fissile materials, we’ve converted weapons facilities into peaceful use facilities, and we’ve mitigated biological threats. So this is a program that has paid dividends for the Russian people, for the American people; it’s paid dividends globally, and we hope to be able to continue it.
QUESTION: What changes do they want?
QUESTION: What kind of --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get you in the middle of the negotiating room, and I would refer you to them for that, but we want to keep talking about it, and we want to solve it.
QUESTION: Like you want to keep talking to them about missile defense?
MS. NULAND: Of course. We’ve said that.
QUESTION: Yeah. And --
QUESTION: Just on that point, the Russians say it’s a new world now, they’re not a poor nation going through chaos. They’re a relatively rich nation; they can pay for it. They also don’t want a lot of interference. I mean, is there any legitimate view that they have that maybe programs like this are not needed anymore?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, Jill, as I said, there are many aspects to this program. There’s work in Russia, but there’s also work that we do together in third countries, other former Soviet states. There is experience that we’ve gained together that we can share even beyond the space that we’re working. So again, we want to talk to Russia about the modifications that they might want, and we want to be able to continue to do this kind of important nonproliferation work together, whether it’s in Russia, whether it’s beyond.
QUESTION: When was the last time you talked to them about this?
MS. NULAND: Yesterday.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: This plane – have you been able to talk to Turkish officials about this plane incident since yesterday?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that the Embassy has been in touch with them, and we’re expecting to be in touch from Washington. I think Ambassador Ricciardone’s been in in the last couple of hours, probably.
QUESTION: There are some reports in Turkey that this intel about the plane was supplied by the U.S. agencies. Would you be able to confirm that?
MS. NULAND: You can imagine that I never talk about intelligence, so I’m not going to talk about it in this case.
QUESTION: What was the legal basis to search this plane? I mean, there’s no sanctions on Syria, there is no – nothing on international level that would disallow transfer of weapons to Syria.
MS. NULAND: Well, without being able to give you a full legal analysis here, the aircraft asked for permission to transit Turkish airspace, so it was granted with the caveat that it come down for inspection, is my understanding.
QUESTION: On Syria-Turkey again, Secretary of Defense Panetta just yesterday or the other day was talking about the danger about the escalation between Turkey and Syria because of trade of fires. Do you share this concern? Do you think this clashes or Turkey-Syria thing would escalate in coming days?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we are eager to see this cross-border and violations of Turkish sovereignty come to an end. I think the Secretary of Defense was obviously just calling it as he sees it, and expressing the concern that we all have. We all want to see it end.
QUESTION: Within last six, seven days, apparently rebels – Syrian rebels freed, as they called it, about 50, 60 kilometers about Idlib area near Turkish border, and they claim, their videos, that they got 50, 60 tanks and all this different military equipments. Is this something that you are supporting, or do you see it as something – positive sign?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve spoken about the fact that we see the regime losing control of more and more territory, particularly across that northern swath, across the eastern swath. Again, they brought this on themselves with their violent response to the concerns of their citizens and this – more and more, we see the opposition making gains on the ground.
QUESTION: So do you see this positive sign, or how do you see it?
MS. NULAND: Again, what we’re seeing is a regime that is under extreme pressure, that is losing people, that is losing money, that is losing the ability to fight, that is losing territory. So we do see the opposition making gains, but this is a situation that is far from being over, unfortunately.
QUESTION: So do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing for --
MS. NULAND: Again, I am not going to characterize it one way or the other. We are very concerned about the violence and the impact on the Syrian people.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. There has been a great deal of talk around town about the imminent collapse of the Palestinian Authority because of bankruptcy, this $1.5 billion in deficit without the Palestinian bank being able to bail it out. Could you update us on the status of the $200 million?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing our conversations with Congress. I think I mentioned that this was one of the subjects that Deputy Secretary Nides has been in conversation with the Congress about. And we will continue to make the case that we think that the need is great and urgent and that we would like to see this money released as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that if they are recognized as a state with an observer status in the General Assembly, then they will go to direct negotiations. Is that a notion that you might support?
MS. NULAND: That is not the appropriate sequence of events from our perspective, as you know. We believe that only through direct talks are things going to get settled.
QUESTION: And lastly, could you share with us any kind of current activities from Mr. Hale?
MS. NULAND: He was to have been on travel to the region in the next couple of weeks. Let me take that, Said, and check on his plans.
Please, can you tell me who you are?
QUESTION: Yes. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. My name is Keith Boag. Yesterday, a Canadian naval intelligence officer pleaded guilty to espionage after having sold secrets to the Russians, shared intelligence to the Russians, over a period of five years that he had gathered from a supposedly secure computer. I wonder what that does to this country’s confidence in its ally and neighbor and its ability to keep a secret.
MS. NULAND: Well, I actually don’t have any information about that. This is news to me. I didn’t follow that particular event. But as you yourself said, it sounds like the Canadian Government caught him, right?
QUESTION: Five years later.
MS. NULAND: Well, this is --
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Russia – Iraq Prime Minister Maliki has been in Moscow, and apparently Iraq had purchased about 4.5 billion in military equipment, including aircraft, attack helicopters, and all that. How does the U.S. Government see this? Is – are you okay with Iraq purchasing such a huge amount of military equipment from Russia?
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this extensively on Tuesday. I don’t have anything to add from the extensive comments that I gave on it on Tuesday.
QUESTION: One thing that Iraq last week actually asked Turkish troops to leave from northern Iraq. It’s reportedly there are some Turkish base or bases in northern Iraq, and some Iraq officials actually ask U.S. to help on this. Do you support the Iraqi decision on this?
MS. NULAND: We support a strong relationship between Iraq and Turkey and continued dialogue between them on these kinds of issues.
QUESTION: Iraq Prime Minister just yesterday --
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: -- said that Turkey must be stopped, actually. This is quote from Moscow. It’s danger. Its foreign policy is danger in the region. Do you agree with that?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t see those particular comments, I’m sorry. But you know where we are with regard to – this was with regard to Syria?
QUESTION: Yes. Basically, Syria.
MS. NULAND: I think you know very clearly where we are, that we are working very closely with the Turkish Government to put maximum pressure on the Syrian side to stop its violence.
Dana. Oh, sorry. Right here.
QUESTION: Oh, I had a question about the reports of the U.S. team that’s in Jordan to help train Jordanian forces and provide support to them and also provide possible humanitarian support with regards to Syria and a possible influx of refugees. I mean, can you comment on that on the – if they are doing humanitarian work?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary of Defense was asked about this in Brussels yesterday, and he spoke pretty extensively about that mission. They are his forces, so I will send you to the Pentagon on that.
QUESTION: There is a State Department component of that, though; is there not?
MS. NULAND: Well, there’s obviously a large State Department --
QUESTION: No, of that operation that Secretary Panetta spoke about yesterday. Can you talk about what – can you tell us what exactly the State Department component of it is?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are working intensively with the Jordanians on humanitarian relief.
QUESTION: No, no. I’m not – I’m talking about the people or person or people from PRM specifically reporting to this Secretary, not Secretary Panetta.
MS. NULAND: Who are embedded with the military?
QUESTION: Who are in – with –
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that and get more information on exactly what we are doing to cooperate with that.
QUESTION: Victoria, these forces – the 150 American soldiers --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- will they be under the direct control of the Pentagon or with the Embassy, as would protocol call for? Would – under whose authority are they?
MS. NULAND: It sounds like it is a training and support mission, which would make it a Pentagon effort directly with the Jordanian military. But if that is not correct, Said, I’ll get back to you.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And the case of the young girl Malala.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I saw that the President had suggested that if help was needed from the Americans, that the Americans would actually be forthcoming in providing transport or medical help. Can you tell us if there have been any – since that, have there been any conversations with Malala’s doctors and her family about this?
MS. NULAND: Well, our offer is on the table for the Pakistani side, if they need it. The President and Jay Carney were pretty explicit about what we have proposed and offered. But my understanding is that the Pakistanis have not come back to us with any specific requests.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: This murder of 13-year old girl has become an international issue. My question is that, one, if the Taliban and al-Qaida they have claimed responsibility, that means those elements are still there inside Pakistan. What the Pakistan Government is doing?
And second, U.S. has invested millions of dollars in education in Pakistan, and this girl was outspoken on education and girls issues inside – in the Pakistan. On the one hand, Pakistani military is going after the terrorists inside Pakistan, and on the other hand now we have other side of area these elements are still there. So what Pakistanis are telling you and what are you asking them now after 11 years that the time has come to stop this, because innocent Pakistanis are the victims now?
MS. NULAND: Well, Goyal, you know that we’ve talked about this many times from this podium. The Secretary spoke about our efforts against terror with Pakistan when she saw Foreign Minister Khar here just a couple of weeks ago. We have an intense counterterrorism relationship. We would like to do even more together. We’re continuing to try to work on these issues and encourage our Pakistani partners to do as much as they can against these issues, because Pakistanis are the greatest victims of terror inside their own country.
QUESTION: Finally, are there any new steps to be taken by U.S. and Pakistan now after this incident?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we’re in contact with the Pakistani side in the wake of this incident, but I think it speaks to the work that we’re trying to do to get all of these working groups that we had under our counterterrorism cooperation back up and running – as you know, we had the counter-IED group, et cetera – and to continue to support each other and share intelligence, et cetera.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I would like to ask about the Mr. Burns trip to the Japan and South Korea and China. Is he going to discuss about territorial issues between Japan and China and South Korea? And also that violent statement by North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure that in both China and Japan, the territorial issues will come up. As you know, the Secretary talked to both the Japanese side and the Chinese side in Vancouver in our past – Vancouver – Vladivostok. And on our trip to Asia, she met with both Foreign Minister Yang and in trilateral session with Korea and Japan when we were at the UN General Assembly. I’m sure those conversations will continue on Deputy Secretary Burns’s trip.
QUESTION: So I --
QUESTION: How about North Korea?
MS. NULAND: On North Korea, obviously, we always talk about North Korea when we’re in North Asia and our efforts to try to get them to show some new movement and new commitment in the context of the proposals that the six parties have made.
QUESTION: So I’ve just seen the announcement that came out on Burns’s trip. Can you say why it doesn’t mention in here that he’ll be talking about the territorial issues and the maritime disputes?
MS. NULAND: Regional issues in East Asia, it says there.
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s great. That could be --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I think it could be --
QUESTION: -- the price of rice. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t you seek to highlight the fact that he would be – this would be a major issue for him to talk about?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary’s been very clear that we are not looking --
QUESTION: Well, I know. But I mean, why try to – why try – it seems to be – this is incomplete.
MS. NULAND: This is not a complete listing of every issue he’s going to discuss. I would also note --
QUESTION: Normally, you would think that – you would think that something as big as this and involves treaty allies and China, that it might be worth a mention in the statement.
MS. NULAND: I would note that this also doesn’t talk explicitly about the DPRK, which is an issue that we always talk about. This is a relatively general statement. Nobody was seeking to skirt the issue.
QUESTION: It was intended not to make news; is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: This is a travel announcement. This is not --
QUESTION: It was intended not to reveal the details of what he’s going to actually talk about.
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve just said that --
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. NULAND: -- we are confident the issue will come up.
QUESTION: A quick one just staying in the region.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton hosted a meeting of the U.S. high-level team on China and Japan this morning. Do you have any readout from that?
QUESTION: I don’t. As you know, these were folks with a lot of experience in that part of the world, and I think she was interested in hearing their views on some of these tensions that we’ve seen in Northeast Asia. But I don’t have a readout. And given that it was an American in an American meeting, I don’t think we will have a readout.
Okay? Thanks very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)
 Correction: The Deputy Secretary will leave Washington on October 13 and will be in Tokyo the 14-15. He will travel to Seoul October 16, Beijing October 17, Burma October 18 and India on October 19.