1:00 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Happy Wednesday, everybody. I have one little thing at the top, then we’ll go to what’s on your minds. This is with regard to our Human Rights Dialogue in Burma. Our first Human Rights Dialogue with the Government of Burma concluded earlier today in Nay Pyi Taw. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael Posner, led a 22-member interagency delegation from the U.S. to discuss the full range of human rights issues affecting the country. The delegation included senior representatives from the White House National Security staff, the Office of the Vice President, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense.
The talks reflected our whole-of-government approach for engagement with Burma to address outstanding concerns of the international community in the area of human rights. The results of the dialogue were assessed to be very positive and we look forward to continuing these discussions with Burmese authorities.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Sorry, I don’t really have anything. But on that, when you say the results of the talk were assessed to be very positive --
MS. NULAND: By the participants.
MS. NULAND: I knew you were going to say that.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
MS. NULAND: That the tone was very good, that we were able to talk about a broad cross-section of human rights issues. You saw that the delegation reflected experts in different aspects of how our government addresses human rights, and we weren’t sure whether the Burmese would be open to addressing all of those issues, and they were.
QUESTION: And they did.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So you’re pretty confident that there’s not going to be a human rights problem in Burma in the coming days, weeks, months?
MS. NULAND: We are confident that we have now an open channel with the Government of Burma to discuss human rights and to continue to work on bringing them where they want to be in terms of human rights standards for their government.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. team get a – sort of a count from them on the number of political prisoners that still remain, and any sense of how that is progressing?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t get a chance to talk to Assistant Secretary Posner. I’m sure those issues came up, but let me get a little more for you when he comes home.
QUESTION: Also, we’d be interested in what they said on Rakhine.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: New topic. Yeah, let’s go to Elise.
MS. NULAND: Everybody’s in black today, is there something I’m --
QUESTION: This is navy.
MS. NULAND: Oh, it’s navy. All right, it’s navy. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’d like to follow up on your discussion yesterday on Syria and on arming the opposition. I understand that you’ve decided to focus your aid on kind of nonlethal, but do you think that the U.S. decision not to provide weapons to the Syrian opposition makes it more difficult to find out and ensure where these weapons are going, and that they’re not going into the hands of extremists, but more secular people that you want to have them?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have talked quite extensively here about the fact that our own decision is to provide only nonlethal assistance to the opposition; other countries are making other choices. And we do have very close coordination in looking at all of the needs of the opposition and also looking at who’s who within the opposition. This is a very, very important issue now as we see an increasing trend of extremists trying to take advantage of the violence and the lack of government authority, et cetera, all of over Syria, to try to make inroads, to try to hijack what the Syrian people want and deserve, which is a more democratic Syria and an opportunity to have a real transition.
So we are working very closely with lots of other countries. You saw that the Secretary had a meeting when we were in New York with some of the key countries we work with to try to compare notes not only on how we increase the pressure on the regime through sanctions and other measures, not only on how we support the UN’s humanitarian needs and the Syrian people’s humanitarian needs, but also very much on who the emerging leaders are in Syria, what we can do to ensure that we are supporting those who want a democratic Syria, and we are doing what we can to encourage them as they begin to take more control in parts of Syria where the regime has seeded the field, that they are leading in a manner that reflects the kind of Syria we all want to have, one that’s pluralistic, one that’s inclusive, et cetera.
QUESTION: But specifically on the weapons. Are you saying that you’re working with – closely with other countries to make sure that the weapons are going – who are making those choices to make sure that the weapons are going to the right type of people?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to get too deeply into the details of the conversations that we are having, but I would say that we are very, very conscious and we are very active in working with our partners to assess the situation and to encourage that all support going to the opposition, whether it’s to the nonlethal that we’re providing or other support, that there be good vetting of who it’s going to and that we compare notes on what we are seeing. Because it’s not just a matter of individual leaders, it’s also a matter of ensuring that the groups that are working there are not becoming infiltrated.
QUESTION: But just admittedly though, you not doing it yourself does make it less – a little bit more difficult for you to control that, would you say?
MS. NULAND: We have very good and close coordination with the countries that you saw meet with the Secretary in New York when we were there a couple of weeks ago. This is very much a focus to ensure that we are doing what we can to strengthen those in the opposition who support a democratic Syria and to help them resist the efforts of the extremists to hijack their efforts.
QUESTION: Toria, seeing that three close allies, namely Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are the major providers of these weapons, do you caution them against dumping weapons like they did in Libya, for instance? I mean, we have been down that road before.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go any further than I just went in response to Elise’s question, but we are very much working to ensure that the groups that any of us is are supporting are focused on the right kind of the Syria and discouraging extremism, et cetera.
QUESTION: Just following on that, and I apologize if you touched on this yesterday, but there are reports now that the various elements of the opposition are trying to yet again forge a new leadership structure that would include the FSA. Has that – are you aware of this? Is Ambassador Ford in touch with them? Do you think this is a sort of viable vehicle now?
MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ford is very much in touch on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, with opposition groups, both inside Syria, those who’ve recently left, and some of the longtime external opposition figures. We are, as the Secretary said in New York and as we’ve said since, working very hard to support them in their effort to unify. We are encouraged by some of these efforts at unity that we’re seeing, particularly inside Syria.
We talk about providing communications gear as part of our nonlethal support. This not only is designed to help the opposition resist the regime’s aggression; it’s also designed to help them to communicate with each other and to work on things like a real transitional strategy that will be broadly supported within Syria, that’ll protect the rights of all Syrians.
So we’re encouraged, but there is more work to do, quite a bit more work to do. There’s a conference that is getting underway now in Doha. They’re doing some preliminary work this week. We expect that effort will accelerate, that Ambassador Ford will eventually join that group when they get to the right level, but this is part and parcel of trying to encourage more unity and to try to encourage a leadership group to emerge that is committed to democratic principles and can really engage on a transition strategy going forward --
QUESTION: So do you think that – it sounds as though you don’t think this new grouping, however it sort of ends up being constituted, is going to be ready to make its debut in Doha, that it’s going to take more time than that? Or is that where you’re expecting to sort of see the lineup?
QUESTION: Or is that the plan of the conference?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is – I assume you’re talking about this group of fighters --
MS. NULAND: -- that have announced some – well, obviously, there’s that group, but as you know, most of our efforts are focused on the political opposition, whether it’s in the individual towns or whether it’s the emerging effort to form a unified national political opposition, ensuring that they are connected to others within Syria. But it’s early days, I would say.
QUESTION: Victoria, on the issue of the ceasefire that has been called for for Eid al-Adha, which is a week from tomorrow – if you have any comment on that. Also, I don’t know if you read or heard statements made by the Syrian Government that they are actually flexible on this issue and they will consider it. Do you take them seriously? And do you feel that the onus is on the regime to stop the violence on its part before the opposition groups do?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this over the last week or so here, Said. I will say again that we support any efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria. However, as Joint Special Envoy Brahimi himself has said, it’s up to the government to take the first step. I’m not sure what press reporting you’re reading on what the regime is saying, but what I have is that even today the regime rejected the Brahimi proposal and called a ceasefire, quote, “pointless,” unquote.
QUESTION: Toria, you’ve said that we are ready to look at the needs of the opposition. Did you mean that you are ready to look at their needs for specific type of arms, too?
MS. NULAND: Michel, our position with regard to nonlethal hasn’t changed. We are supporting nonlethal assistance to the regime.
QUESTION: Is it --
MS. NULAND: To the opposition. Goodness.
QUESTION: A follow-up: Do you agree on all the types of arms that the Arab states are providing to the opposition?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go any further than I did in response to Elise’s question with regard to our specific conversations with our allies and partners who are supporting the opposition, but we are very conscious of concerns about extremist infiltration and we’re very focused on it.
QUESTION: I’m sorry if you went over this yesterday, but have you discussed reports by Human Rights Watch that the Syrians are using cluster munitions against the people?
MS. NULAND: We are very concerned about these kinds of reports. The security situation on the ground in general is continuing to deteriorate as the conflict escalates, not only in Aleppo and Damascus but also in Idlib, in Al Raqqa, in Homs. We’ve seen horrific reports of barrel bombs, of cluster munitions used against civilians, and we, as you know, have consistently condemned targeting of civilians by any group. We’re not in a position ourselves to confirm the use of clusters, but there are quite broad spread – widespread reports now from the ground to that effect.
QUESTION: But I mean, if these reports are true – and obviously, you’re very concerned about them – doesn’t this take this conflict to another level? I mean, cluster munitions? You’ve said from this podium that this is mostly a ground – when we’ve talked about a no-fly zone, for instance, that this is mostly a kind of ground game and that even a no-fly zone, even if you were to consider it, wouldn’t necessarily be the most prudent thing. But now that the regime is largely now using an air campaign, doesn’t this heighten the necessity for some kind of no-fly zone or something?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have said consistently that we see regime forces ratcheting up the brutality of their tactics – I mean, horrific enough to use fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to strafe your own cities. We are seeing an escalating pattern of regime forces targeting civilians who are not at all involved in the conflict, so this is obviously extremely concerning as we go forward.
You know that we – as the Secretary has said on a number of occasions, we continue to look at all of the ideas out there for trying to end the violence. She has said very clearly that we continue to talk to partners about how, what, why, exactly the elements that might go into some of these things that people have proposed, including no-fly zone, but we haven’t made any decisions at this stage.
QUESTION: Is there a redline for the type of weapons they start using that you’ve drawn?
MS. NULAND: It’s not – I don’t want to put things in those terms that you’ve put them, Justin. We are continuing to look at the ground situation. We are, at the same time, continuing to do everything we can to squeeze this regime. I would note that not only have we continued to expand the number of countries that are sanctioning the Syrian regime, but also the kinds of things that they are sanctioning so that the effect is now being felt quite strongly on the streets of Syria, including in terms of the inflation of the currency, other kinds of things. So we’re going to continue to look at all of these options and work with our partners.
QUESTION: Toria, a couple things. One, the President said that the use of chemical weapons would be a redline. Are you saying – are you walking that back?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously – no. Obviously not. Obviously not.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it still your understanding based on what you’ve heard from the Turks that that plane that was coming from Russia to – Moscow to Damascus – was carrying military equipment – I think you said “very military” --
MS. NULAND: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: It is?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So you are convinced that the Russians are continuing to supply the regime with military equipment and materiel to carry – so that they can continue their repression of the people. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: We don’t have any question, based on what we’ve heard from our Turkish allies, that there was dangerous military cargo on that aircraft, which obviously speaks to what you’re talking about.
QUESTION: Right. Okay, but even aside from just this one aircraft, you are certain that the Russians are continuing to supply weaponry?
MS. NULAND: The Russians – the Russian Government has itself said that it is not concluding any new contracts, but it is fulfilling old contracts. I don’t have anything particular to brief other than with regard to this instance.
QUESTION: Okay, but I mean does this ship – okay, so if that is in fact the case, and if it is in fact the case that the Russians are supplying this stuff, and if it is in fact the case, as you’re alluding to or you’re saying, that some countries have decided that arming the opposition is a good way to go and that they’re doing that, is this now a proxy war between the Russians and the Iranians – the supporters of the regime, and your friends in Gulf, particularly in Turkey, who are supplying weapons to the other side?
MS. NULAND: We’ve made no secret of our concerns that the longer this goes on, the more there is a prospect of the thing devolving not only into a civil war, but into a proxy war, and into a larger war that spills beyond borders. Those concerns remain. The Iranians --
QUESTION: Doesn’t it already meet the definition of a proxy war?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to be giving new definitions right here from this podium, but our concerns remain, and we’ve been clear with the Russians. But it’s – if you want to look for who’s doing the most to prop up the Assad regime, you should address your concerns primarily to Tehran, which is not only aiding them rhetorically, aiding them financially, but is sending fighters, is advising them on tactics and technique, and also providing materiel, as we’ve said --
QUESTION: But why, but --
QUESTION: Okay, but you’re – just because it’s not --
MS. NULAND: Guys? Can you guys decide which one of you is going to yell at me? (Laughter.) Go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m not – I’m trying not to yell.
MS. NULAND: Good. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The – but I – you’re an intelligent woman. Just because it’s --
MS. NULAND: Thank you, Matt. I return the compliment to you.
QUESTION: Just because it’s not in the guidance in front of you --
MS. NULAND: My father will be pleased to hear it.
QUESTION: Just because it’s not in the guidance in front of you doesn’t mean you can’t call it like – call it what it is. If you have the Russians and the Iranians – okay, the Iranians for the most part – on one side supplying the regime with weaponry, enabling it to stay in power longer and enabling it to kill more of its people, and you have on the other side your good friends and allies in the Gulf, and a NATO ally included in that, supplying the opposition with weaponry that you yourself just said you’re helping to vet who gets it, how does this not meet the definition of a proxy war?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go beyond what I’ve said, which is that our concerns remain about where this is going, which is why we all have to work together to hasten the day that the violence ends. And I would also remind that it is the regime that has it in its hands to end this any day that it chooses to, and they are the ones who bear the brunt of the burden of the violence that’s going on.
QUESTION: Can I – but why are you making a moral distinction between what the Iranians are doing and what the Russians are doing?
MS. NULAND: I’m not making any moral distinctions.
QUESTION: I mean, you’re placing more of an onus and a burden on the Iranians when the Russians actually have more influence because they’re the ones holding up a UN Security Council resolution, they’re the ones feasibly presenting – preventing the international community from doing anything, and they’re arming the Syrians. So why is --
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve been very clear about our concerns about the Russian posture vis-a-vis Syria. I myself was quite clear last week from this podium.
QUESTION: Yeah --
MS. NULAND: Poor Jo has been trying to get a word in edgewise all morning – all afternoon.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Yes. Going back to Iran’s influence and whether or not this is a proxy war, how concerned is the United States about the numbers of Hezbollah fighters inside Syria? And do you have any kind of figures on whether these are growing, and how – yeah? I mean, Hezbollah’s obviously backed by Iran.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You mentioned just now they’re sending in new fighters. Are we talking about Hezbollah? Are we talking about Iranian people?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re certainly very concerned about growing Hezbollah influence. We’re very concerned about Iran’s use of Hezbollah to achieve its ends in supporting up – supporting the Assad regime. I don’t think we’ve made any bones about that. And back to where Elise was, in our conversations with the Russians, we have said very clearly and repeatedly at all levels that if Moscow is concerned about these kinds of things – they have expressed concern about what could come after Assad, and our point is, what is coming now with Assad still in power – increasing efforts by extremists of all kinds and by Iran to make trouble that could spread even beyond borders.
QUESTION: So you dismiss Nasrallah’s claim last – three days ago that there are no Hezbollah fighters whatsoever in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yes. We would reject that completely. We are quite confident of nefarious activity by Hezbollah.
QUESTION: Do you have a notion of how many Hezbollah fighters are inside country?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into our intelligence assessments, but it’s a matter of quite serious concern.
QUESTION: Going back to Burma?
QUESTION: One more on --
MS. NULAND: Let’s stay on Syria until we’re – yeah.
QUESTION: The shelling into Turkey has continued today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you expect an escalation in tension between the two countries?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to be predictive here, but the Turks have been very consistent that they are striking back strongly and proportionally every time they take an attack across border. This is extremely dangerous and goes to the point that we’ve been making about the danger of this conflict spilling beyond borders.
QUESTION: Sorry. How concerned are you about whether it’s – whether perceived or truthful – of growing resentment from Syrians on the ground that blame the United States for not doing enough, for not providing weapons, for not providing a no-fly zone, and whether that would fuel some of – sympathy with some of the extremists?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re working very hard through Ambassador Ford’s contacts, through all of our contacts with the Syrian opposition, not only to advertise and reach out through the programs that we have on the nonlethal side. I think I mentioned that in addition to the 1,200-plus sets of communications gear that we’ve handed out, we’ve now trained hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Syrian oppositionists in all kinds of things from human rights training to civil administration training to supporting the rights of women and students, et cetera.
So – but not everybody in Syria understands those programs or has been touched by them, so we are trying to make it better known what the opportunities are to work with us. We are trying to ensure that those who have benefitted from our training go back into Syria and become trainers themselves so that we can deepen and spread the impact and the effect of these programs. But we have made a policy decision that we are not going to – that our support will be nonlethal. But we do think it is having an impact, and we think that the alumni of our programs are beginning to spread that word inside Syria as well.
QUESTION: There are news stories saying that the U.S. has agreed or has allowed Libya to provide the opposition with stinger missiles. Can you confirm that?
MS. NULAND: Has allowed Libya to provide the Syrian --
QUESTION: The Syrian opposition with stingers.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any comment on that one way or the other. As you know, the Libyan Government is working hard on its own business now. They’ve just formed a government. They are working on dealing with the internal security problems inside Libya, and that’s the focus of our conversation with them.
QUESTION: Can we revisit --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Toria – hi, sorry – do you have any information on the attack in Afghanistan over the weekend that killed a female soldier and a CIA operative? Do you know anything more about this attack? Was it targeting U.S. intelligence assets, to your knowledge?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, I’m not going to talk about intelligence of any kind. I think you’re talking about the attack in Kandahar Province --
MS. NULAND: -- which killed a U.S. soldier and another U.S. official. Our understanding of that – and I will refer you to ISAF because I think they’ve already spoken to this – is that this was, in fact, a green-on-green attack where some of our folk got caught in the middle.
QUESTION: So you’re not – does it fall under insider attack?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’m just going to send you back to ISAF because they spoke on this quite extensively at the time.
QUESTION: Okay. Also on Afghanistan, where are we on the post-2014 negotiations for keeping a U.S. presence in Afghanistan? Have those talks begun? Are they progressing?
MS. NULAND: I think we announced when we saw the – when the Secretary saw President Karzai in New York, that we had named our negotiating teams for the Bilateral Security Agreement, but I don’t think we’ve announced a start date yet for those talks.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Afghanistan; go ahead.
QUESTION: Is Ambassador Grossman traveling to Afghanistan for this trip?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce. I know he was planning some travel, but let me get the details. I don’t have the details in front of me --
QUESTION: And there was another --
MS. NULAND: -- and I don’t think he’s left yet.
QUESTION: There was another suicide attack in Afghanistan today and in the last few months there have been increase in number of attacks inside Afghanistan. When the withdrawal of troops was announced, was it – it is – it will be conditions-based. The conditions hasn’t improved yet, so do you think that that policy needs to be reviewed?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the attack in Paktia? Is that the one that you’re talking about?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. ISAF has also spoken today to this one, so I’m going to send you to them for any more details.
QUESTION: The --
MS. NULAND: Sorry, still Afghanistan?
QUESTION: Still Afghanistan, please.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a young woman who was killed in Herat Province. She was beheaded because she refused to become a prostitute for her in-law family. I just wondered generally if you had a reaction to that, if you knew about the case, and then more generally if – what measures are being put in place that, post-2014, the rights of women can be ensured in Afghanistan once the international – the eyes of the international community are somewhat away from the country?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We are looking into this incident. We don’t have any independent information besides what we’ve seen in the news reports. Obviously, we condemn violence against women wherever it happens, including in Afghanistan, and we reiterate our own deep commitment to the rights of Afghan women.
I think you know that for the past decade, we and the international community have worked intensively with the Government of Afghanistan to advance women and girls’ rights not only in the constitution, but in our education programs, in all of the support that we give to the Afghans’ own National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, which does things like establishing shelters, referral centers, transit houses for women under threat, for women who’ve suffered abuse.
We are continuing to work on that. We also think that these shelters play a vital role in the implementation of Afghanistan’s own 2009 law to eliminate violence against women when they face women in their own – violence in their own families. But again, we have extensive programs. I can give you a separate brief or put you in touch with all of our people who work on this. We are training prosecutors who specialize in violence against women. We are working to help women who are incarcerated, perhaps falsely or on charges brought under inappropriate circumstances. We’re working with refugees and IDPs and all of those kinds of things.
So all of our international efforts are designed to create the structures and institutions of the Afghan state to help protect these rights going forward. It’s something that we are all committed to, that the Afghan Government and President Karzai is committed to. But it’s a long road, and we’re going to have to keep working on it. And as we’ve said, even as we wind down the combat mission, our civilian programs are going to continue in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: One more?
MS. NULAND: Still on Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: According to the reports, of course, many trainings are going on and Afghanistan is maybe ready by next year to take over their own security. You think U.S. is planning to withdraw earlier than, I mean, next year, earlier than 2014?
MS. NULAND: I think we have all confirmed from the President on down that we are committed to the Lisbon timetable which speaks about full transfer at the end of 2014. Please.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There’s a report out of the UN panel of experts which, again, is very clear in saying that the Rwandan Government, specifically the Rwandan Defense Minister, is sort of operationally in control of M23 in Congo and also says the Ugandans have a heavier hand than we’ve heard about before. I’m just wondering if you have any reaction to this report and what the current status is of your talks with the Rwandans on trying to get them to back off on the M23.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I think you’re talking about the group of experts report for the DRC sanctions?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. That report has not yet been officially released. I think you’re working off a leak, so I’m not going to comment on it until it’s been formally released. I think you know that we’ve obviously been engaged at the high levels with the Government of Rwanda. The Secretary, as you know, when we were in New York hosted a meeting with both Kabila and Kagame to try to encourage them to work together on these problems, and we’re going to remain very much engaged.
QUESTION: On Benghazi, one question on Benghazi. There’s been sort of an almost constant criticism coming mainly from conservatives that the State Department was wrong when it initially linked the attack to the anti-Muslim video. Now, obviously you all have walked back the idea that it was premeditated, but has the State Department ruled out that the attackers may have been motivated in some way by that video?
MS. NULAND: Justin, I don’t have anything to add to what the Secretary said when she was standing next to Italian Foreign Minister Terzi last Friday. She was asked a version of this question. This is exactly why we have an Accountability Review Board, why we have an FBI investigation, and we really are not going to have any more details on these things or be able to give a final or definitive account until it’s done.
QUESTION: I’m not asking for detail or final or definitive --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m just asking to – for you to – I’m giving you the opportunity to sort of address some of this constant criticism that it is totally wrong to associate this with the anti-Muslim video. And I’m giving you the opportunity to say maybe that constant criticism is too much and is not accurate.
MS. NULAND: While I very much appreciate any opportunities that you’re giving me here, Justin; I just really don’t have any further information to share. As the Secretary said, we just don’t have a full picture, even now.
QUESTION: Is that because the – you’re – you’ve been given the opportunity to – you have already been given the opportunity to present incomplete and perhaps part – only partial information, and it’s come back to haunt you?
MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary spoke for all of us, spoke for this building not only on Friday but also in Peru yesterday. I just don’t have anything further on Benghazi here.
QUESTION: Toria, do you have a timetable --
QUESTION: Could we go to Israel?
QUESTION: -- for when you will have the information, when this will be done, or an update at least?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary said herself that – the day that she announced the ARB, that when she impaneled them and they began working, that she very much hoped that they’d be able to wrap up their work in 60 days. Those were the instructions that she gave them. I think they’ve been at work now for a calendar week maybe, something like that. So – but traditionally, these kinds of reports have taken 60- 65 days, so we just have to see.
QUESTION: Do you think the President was clear in asserting that this was a terrorist attack on September – what was it, the day after?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to try to improve on anything the President has said here. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yes. Victoria, according to Israeli radio, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting ready to enact a recommendation report by Edmond Levy, or parts thereof, declaring the West Bank not occupied and legalizing outposts. Are you aware of the report and do you have any comment on it?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen any of that, but I, in any case, wouldn’t comment on something prospectively that another government might do.
QUESTION: Okay. But you do have a position on the status of the West Bank and on the status of these outposts as being illegal, correct?
MS. NULAND: Our position on settlements has not changed at all.
QUESTION: And you consider the West Bank to be under Israeli military occupation, correct?
MS. NULAND: Said, as I said, our position on settlements, on any of these things, hasn’t changed.
Scott. Can we go to --
QUESTION: Can we stay on --
MS. NULAND: Scott’s been patient. You want to stay on this part of the world?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, it’s not Israel. It’s the Palestinians. Is that all right?
MS. NULAND: Yes, it is all right.
QUESTION: I have your blessing?
MS. NULAND: Scott’s blessing you.
QUESTION: Do you know – this is a very strange story about a Palestinian --
MS. NULAND: What a day. Compliments from Matt, blessings between Scott and Matt. I think we send him to Peru more often. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you know anything about this situation with Palestinian students being unable to take SATs, Palestinian students in the West Bank, because of some problem with the SAT booklets being held up in Israeli customs?
MS. NULAND: I do, and I’m happy to say that we have learned that this issue has now been resolved and more than a hundred – or about a hundred West Bank students will be blessed to get to take the SAT this coming Saturday. So they should sharpen their number two pencils.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not sure they’re blessed.
MS. NULAND: I was just trying to pick up the theme here.
QUESTION: But blessed? What was the issue? What was the problem?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is there was some issue having to do with customs procedures. I would refer you to the Israelis.
QUESTION: But do you know if the U.S. Government got involved with the Israelis to help fix this, or is it just something that it was --
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we were engaged to try to ensure that the West Bank students could sit their SATs.
QUESTION: Okay. And then also on the Palestinians – there’s a report that the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations has said – this is regarding seeking recognition, unilaterally seeking recognition from the Security Council – the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN says that the only two countries that have come out and said – really expressed firm opposition to this are Israel and Canada, and that the United States, along with Colombia and Guatemala, who are your traditional allies, I think, along with Palau and all the --
QUESTION: Micronesia. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- South Pacific islands, have not said firmly that they are opposed to that, and that --
MS. NULAND: Opposed to what, exactly?
QUESTION: To the seeking recognition, to the – asking the General Assembly to recognize them as a non member state. So they say that they have not heard firm opposition from the United States on this or any warning that that kind of a move might draw some penalties from the U.S., whether it’s from the Administration or whether it’s from Congress; is that correct, to your knowledge?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen his comments. If in fact it is correct, it’s easy to rectify. Let me start right now by saying we have consistently opposed a Palestinian attempt to upgrade their status at the UN outside the framework of a negotiated settlement, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. And does that mean that you have also told them that, “Hey, if you go ahead and do this, there are certain – we have their laws in the United States that would require action against you,” correct?
MS. NULAND: As you know, the Secretary has met regularly with President Abbas. He should be in no doubt about our position on this --
MS. NULAND: -- and concerns about the potential ramifications.
QUESTION: Okay, and then just --
QUESTION: Can we go to Benghazi?
QUESTION: Hold on. And then just on that, so you’re telling me right now that you have gone to the Palestinians and told them that they shouldn’t do something. And yet when you’re asked about Israel, you say “We wouldn’t comment prospectively on what another government might do.”
Can you square that for me?
MS. NULAND: Well, I was being --
QUESTION: Is this not a prospective thing that the Palestinian Government might do, and you’re telling them not to do it?
MS. NULAND: I was being – Matt?
QUESTION: And yet, if it’s an Israeli prospective thing, you’re not going to tell them one way or the other?
MS. NULAND: I was being asked about something that I hadn’t seen, that purportedly the Israelis are going to do internally. It wasn’t even clear to me what they were going to do. This goes to a position that the Palestinians may take in the UN where we sit, where obviously we are Security Council members and we are going to talk to them about our concerns about it.
QUESTION: Yes, but “may” take being the operative word. So you’re perfectly willing to tell the Palestinians what they can and can’t do --
MS. NULAND: Well we’ve had – we had measures --
QUESTION: -- but the Israelis don’t get that same treatment?
MS. NULAND: Matt, we had measures taken last year and we are continuing that conversation.
QUESTION: Well, but can I just follow up? I mean, obviously you’re opposed to the attempt for them to get recognition unilaterally at the UN, but can you really expect them to just wait indefinitely to – through – there is no chance of negotiations restarting anytime soon. And, I mean, are they supposed to wait like another 30 years to see if negotiations go through? I mean, is there any other remedy to help them get some kind of recognition, some kind of middle ground or something?
MS. NULAND: Elise, you know where we are on this very well, which is --
MS. NULAND: -- that all of our efforts are focused on trying to get the two parties to talk to each other, to communicate with each other, to set the conditions so that they can have direct negotiations. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this, and we’re not going to give up on that and we’re going to keep working on it.
Scott, who has been patient.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- opening talks with FARC. It seems that the Venezuelans are playing a more productive role than they have in the past. Any thoughts about that?
MS. NULAND: I frankly don’t have anything on a role that the Venezuelans may or may not be playing. We are obviously focused on the process that President Santos has set in place and we are supportive of it and we’ll be watching closely.
QUESTION: Can you take that question, though? I think that – I mean, you don’t have anything on what the Venezuelans – maybe not in your guidance book, but you don’t have anything on what the Venezuelans are doing as far as these – as the FARC --
MS. NULAND: I’m happy to look into whether our folks --
QUESTION: Could you? Thank you.
MS. NULAND: -- have any issues that they are interested in with regard to a Venezuelan role.
QUESTION: And what about – how you are supporting the Colombia FARC talks?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is – these are direct talks. We’re obviously not involved, we’re not in the middle of it. But we are being briefed regularly by the Colombians, and we’re very – we’re supportive of their effort to get to the peace that they deserve.
QUESTION: Just staying in that region, you spoke yesterday about the Cuban exit visa thing, correct?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yeah. Never mind, then.
MS. NULAND: I did, yeah, quite extensively, in fact, making clear that while this may look like a good move on paper, there are other restrictions in place that will allow the Cuban Government to continue to have controls.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: This – as far as this multi-talented organization --
MS. NULAND: Multi-talented, yeah.
QUESTION: -- navigation to Burma is concerned, are they – one, are they meeting with the – Aung San Suu Kyi? And two, are they talking about only human rights or also as far as opening, I mean, investment? And also, finally, the release of political prisoners and also end of emergency rules and regulation imposed by the military rule for 20 years?
MS. NULAND: Well, this was a human rights delegation, the first of what we hope will be many. As you know, we have human rights dialogues with many countries around the world, so this was focused on those issues. Andy asked the political prisoners question. I’m sure that issue came up, but I don’t have any details. When Assistant Secretary Posner gets back, we’ll do what we can to get you some more details on that issue.
QUESTION: How long you think Burmese will wait for – this change will come out?
MS. NULAND: Will wait for what change?
QUESTION: As far as political prisoners and other emergency rules and regulations to be uplifted.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to predict the patience of the Burmese people, but we have all spoken out about the need to get to zero in terms of political prisoners, and we’re continuing to work with the Government of Burma on that.
MS. NULAND: Yep.
QUESTION: -- and human rights as well? I don’t know if you had the opportunity to see yesterday a report from Human Rights Watch on – actually, it came out this morning, sorry – about the executions that they’ve catalogued that happened in the days surrounding the death of Muammar Qadhafi. I just wondered what the United States’s comment was on the fact there seems to have been a lot of summary executions and that these people weren’t brought to trial as perhaps the international community would’ve liked.
MS. NULAND: Well, first, with regard to the findings outlined in Human Rights Watch report, which allege that war crimes took place last year in Libya, we are urging the Government of Libya to genuinely investigate all these claims and to prosecute any perpetrators in a manner consistent with Libya’s international obligations.
Similarly, with regard to Qadhafi’s death, we have regularly urged the Government of Libya to continue to investigate the circumstances, and it’s very important to hold those responsible to account. This is part of the – not only the judicial maturation of Libya, but also part of the ground that they need to plow for national reconciliation.
QUESTION: But are you confident they’re doing that? I mean, it would seem a year on, Human Rights Watch has been out to come out with something which they say they believe to be true. Have you heard back from the Libyan Government on your requests for further investigation?
MS. NULAND: We have an extensive dialogue with the Libyans on all aspects of their justice system moving forward. I would note that, as the Secretary said in her speech last Friday, one of the things that we’ve been doing with the Government of Libya is training lawyers, judges, civil society to strengthen the underpinnings. Remember that they not too long ago were a authoritarian regime. But it’s no secret that this is a fragile and very new democracy. They’ve only just elected a new Libyan Prime Minister. So they were operating within a transitional governing structure for a very long time, and we need to now support them as they take the next steps on all of these issues.
QUESTION: And I wondered, on Benghazi, if you’re aware of reporting that the authorities have apparently singled out a leader of Ansa al-Sharia, Ahmed Abu Khattala, as the commander of the attack on Benghazi on September 11, if you had any information about that.
MS. NULAND: I am not, from this podium, going to get into any of these details of arrests or prosecutions or any of it. We’re going to leave all of that to the FBI as they work with the Libyans to both investigate and – but obviously, we are committed to ensuring that those who did this are going to come to justice.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Oh. Sorry. We got Lalit in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. India and Australia today announced that they would be starting negotiations on a civilian nuclear pact. You know U.S. are the first country to have similar agreement with India, a couple of years ago. How do you see this development, the announcement by the two governments?
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that Australia and India are moving forward but, as you know, we work very closely on these issues with Australia around the world. So I’m sure that we were – we’ll be in touch as we go forward.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)