The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:15 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. I apologize for being late. We had a little bit of a birthday celebration going on for a deputy assistant secretary who shall go nameless…Philippe.
I have nothing to give you at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Well, let me just start by saying we appreciate the cake that we got delivered –
MS. NULAND: Excellent.
QUESTION: -- from the party.
MS. NULAND: I’m glad that the –
QUESTION: Even though we weren’t invited – (laughter) – we did get to have some of the cake.
MS. NULAND: Well, I would note that the press corps is well and capable of hosting its own parties for –
QUESTION: Well, that’s true.
MS. NULAND: -- important deputy assistant secretaries in this building.
QUESTION: That’s true.
MS. NULAND: So maybe more cake is forthcoming.
QUESTION: Well, maybe we would do it on the actual day of the birthday.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Well, there you go.
QUESTION: Although it was a Sunday. Anyway, enough of that.
Let’s get on to the Palestinians’ attempt to get some kind of recognition at the UN. I understand that Mr. Molho was here yesterday speaking with David Hale and that there is an attempt – some kind of an attempt to get them to present an alternative version to the Palestinians that they might take to the UN that might be less objectionable to both you and the Israelis. Is that true? One. And then two, you lost another one of your allies. Your oldest ally, France, says today that it’s going to vote in favor of the Palestinian resolution as prepared, not any alternative. So I’m wondering if you can comment on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, just to confirm that Mr. Molho was here. As you know, he’s a regular visitor and we see him routinely when David Hale is there, when others are there, and when he has a chance to come to the States, we talk about all of the peace process issues. He is the negotiator for his government. I am obviously not going to get into the details of our private conversations with him. That will not surprise you. I don’t have anything on the question that you asked me. This is obviously an issue for the Palestinians. They know our view on this, that we do not think that any move in the General Assembly is helpful or any text in the UN General Assembly is helpful. We think it’s going to be, as I said yesterday, a mistake.
With regard to France and any other countries, we obviously disagree with our oldest ally on this issue. They know that we disagree with them, but it’s their sovereign decision to make how to proceed.
QUESTION: But when you see something like that happening – and I’ll get back to the Molho visit in a second – but when you see something like that happening, does it not give anyone pause? Because this is going to be – whatever the final vote is, it’s going to be a lopsided outcome. The Palestinians are going to win. You don’t dispute that, right?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into what’s going to happen when the vote comes forward. I would simply say that there are times when governments should take principled stands. We are doing that in this case.
QUESTION: Okay. But it doesn’t give you pause – in this case or in the case of the Cuba embargo vote, whichever year is the same, it doesn’t give you pause that – to think that maybe you are not actually taking a principled stand and that others are taking a principled stand when everyone – virtually everyone else in the world disagrees with you on the fundamental aspect of your policy? That doesn’t give anyone in this building pause? You just – or this Administration pause? You just charge right ahead regardless of what the rest of the world is saying?
MS. NULAND: We’re focused on a policy objective on the ground for the Palestinian people, for the people of Israel, which is to end up with two states that can live peacefully next to each other. Nothing in this action at the UN is going to take the Palestinians any closer to that. So yes, we’re going to oppose it because we think it is the wrong move. We think it makes other steps that might improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis harder. Other countries will make their own decision. This is not a new issue. We’ve been talking about it for more than a year, and so we’re just going to have to see what happens later on in the week.
QUESTION: Well, now just back to Molho’s visit for a second.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So you’re not even prepared to say that they – that among the things that they talked about was the Palestinian move, the vote on Thursday?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we talked about this issue. We made clear that our view hasn’t changed and that we’re continuing to convey that both to the Palestinians directly and to other countries who will have to make decisions in the General Assembly.
QUESTION: All right. So you’ve seen the report in Haaretz, yeah, which has a detailed –
MS. NULAND: I’ve seen a lot of reports in Haaretz.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, this isn’t the one about rat infestation in West Jerusalem, okay? This is the one that –
MS. NULAND: Was there one on rats in West Jerusalem today?
QUESTION: Probably, but this is the one that is germane to what we’re talking about right now.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, I –
QUESTION: You’re aware of this story which has a detailed – in fact, it has what appears to be an actual document with specific points that was allegedly drafted by this joint Hale-Molho or in these joint discussions. You don’t have anything to say about that?
MS. NULAND: I’ve obviously seen the story. I don’t have any details of our private diplomacy with the Israelis yesterday.
QUESTION: Victoria, just a follow-up on that. You keep saying from this podium time and again that it doesn’t bring the Palestinians any closer. Does it get them really any farther from the two-state solution?
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this at length yesterday, Said. I really don’t think I need to repeat all the comments I made yesterday. We do have concerns that it makes the environment harder, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So – but you’re saying that this will get them farther from the two-state solution?
MS. NULAND: That’s the concern.
QUESTION: Why is that? How does an observer membership really – is sort of an obstacle towards having negotiations starting?
MS. NULAND: It enflames the situation between the parties and makes it harder for them to come to the table, makes the political situation harder between them.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you on the issue of the – a caveat maybe to the whole document that perhaps if the Palestinians commit themselves not to pursue membership in the International Criminal Court of Justice, that would be acceptable to you. So could you say that that is not acceptable to you even if they make such a commitment?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into negotiating a less bad situation maybe. That’s not where we are, Said. We oppose any move in the General Assembly. We think it’s going to make the situation harder.
QUESTION: Okay. Abbas arrives in New York tonight. He will have the whole day tomorrow. Is anyone going to meet with him?
MS. NULAND: I think I said yesterday that we expect we’ll have a chance to see him, but I don’t have anything to announce at the moment.
QUESTION: And finally, your meetings with Molho, do you have, like, balanced meetings with Molho’s counterpart, the Palestinian negotiator?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Mr. Molho was here in the States. We have not seen – Mr. Erekat has not been here, but as you say, we’re expecting President Abbas. So the expectation is we’ll have a chance to see him, but again, we were just – the Secretary was just there in Ramallah, so – less than, what is it, a week ago somewhat – just barely a week ago. So there’s no question in our mind that the Palestinians understand our position on this.
QUESTION: Finally, I think the British indicated that they might vote for the state provided that the Palestinians do make that kind of commitment not to seek membership or pursue Israeli officials and military personnel and so on. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re aware of our British allies’ position. In fact, the Secretary had a conversation with Foreign Minister Hague this morning. This was one of the subjects that they discussed. It’s a British call how they want to take this forward. They know exactly where we stand as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Does the United States accept that President Abbas’ move is really borne out of a sense of frustration that things haven’t moved on the ground for the Palestinian people for decades now, and that really there’s nothing else he can do other than keep bringing this issue up and keep trying to move things forward?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak for his motives. We’ll let him speak for his own motives. We share the concern that we have not been able to move forward. It is in that spirit that we have been encouraging President Abbas to come to the negotiating table with the Israelis without preconditions. That’s the way to take this forward, not in the GA.
QUESTION: There is a story saying that Secretary Clinton and the Department of State are being sued for allegedly allowing American aid money meant for the Palestinian Authority to be used by terror groups like Hamas. The lawsuit was filed by 24 U.S. citizens living in Israel on Monday. Do you have anything on this?
MS. NULAND: Michel, we saw press reporting on this alleged suit just before coming down. I frankly wasn’t able to confirm whether it’s been filed, but obviously, if there’s a legal action, we wouldn’t speak to it here. It would go to the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: Can we turn to Egypt?
QUESTION: Hold on, just one more. The – on the UN, the U.S. does accept that the Palestinians have the right to seek this status; correct?
MS. NULAND: Well, there’s obviously a procedure in the GA that allows it, if that’s what you’re asking.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, that they are not outside of their – I don’t know what the right word is – they’re not acting inappropriately other than inappropriate – other than, in your opinion and the opinion of the Israelis, they’re doing something that they shouldn’t do? They’re not violating any kind of rule? They do have the legal ability to do this?
MS. NULAND: Well, there’s a process in the GA that’s obviously going to go forward, right? So if that were not possible, then it wouldn’t be going forward under the rules.
QUESTION: But --
MS. NULAND: But we continue to maintain it’s --
QUESTION: No, I understand that, but --
MS. NULAND: -- the wrong decision in policy terms.
QUESTION: No, I – right. But you do accept that they, along with other people, have this right to seek recognition, correct?
MS. NULAND: Again, they are following appropriate UN procedure, if that’s what you’re asking. That doesn’t make it the right decision in terms of taking their own stated goal forward, which is to have a state.
QUESTION: Right. No, no, but I’m asking about the U.S. position. The U.S. doesn’t think that they’re acting outside of the rules of the UN or anything?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, I – if that were our position, then we would be making that clear inside the UN.
QUESTION: And just a basic question: The U.S. will be voting no on Thursday when this comes up?
MS. NULAND: The U.S. will be voting no on Thursday.
QUESTION: Well, isn’t that a hypothetical question? There is no vote, and in fact, you have been saying that you hope that you can avoid a vote.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, if there is a vote, we will vote no, and we said that yesterday and will say it again today.
QUESTION: Okay. So does that mean that when other votes are coming up, we will be able to get your – we’ll be able to get the --
MS. NULAND: We’ll just have to call it case by case, Matt.
QUESTION: Will Ambassador Rice be there to vote no on Thursday?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that, Said. I would send you to her staff and to the USUN folks.
QUESTION: Because I understand that she’s in town and --
MS. NULAND: She is in town today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. She released a statement today, in fact, on her meetings today.
QUESTION: One more on this: Will there be a new approach for the peace process from the U.S. after the vote?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position here to predict where we’re going to go in policy after a vote that hasn’t actually happened. So again, we are taking this day by day. We are continuing to make clear publicly, privately, to anybody who will listen, our view on this. But I can’t make any predictions about where policy goes when we don’t have all of the inputs yet.
QUESTION: What do you see changing after – if this vote goes on?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to crystal ball the impact this is going to have. Since we don’t have a “this” and we don’t have a decision, I’m not going to do that.
QUESTION: Well, you always say you have contingency plans for everything.
MS. NULAND: Well, we do have contingency plans, but not necessarily for sharing.
QUESTION: Well, hold on. You just – you can’t get it – you can’t have it two ways.
MS. NULAND: Why not?
QUESTION: You can’t say that – you can’t begin the briefing by saying if the Palestinians go and do this, it’s going to inflame things, it’s going to be horrible, it’s going to make things worse, and then say you don’t – can’t crystal ball what’s going to happen if it goes through.
MS. NULAND: Well, look, I can repeat what I’ve been saying for --
QUESTION: Either you believe what you said, that it’s going to be bad and have a horrible effect on the possibility of resuming the peace process, or you can’t predict the future and you don’t know.
MS. NULAND: Look, I’ve already said yesterday several times, today several times, that we are concerned about inflaming the environment for negotiations. But I’m not – I thought the question that Michel was asking, the question that you were asking, was what’s the U.S. step-by-step approach after a vote that hasn’t happened. And I’m just not in a position to get into that.
QUESTION: But what are you worried about? That Israel doesn’t go to negotiations again? What is it really that you’re concerned about?
MS. NULAND: We’re concerned that these parties should be focused on getting back to the table together, that this is a distraction and an irritation and it may make it harder to get back to the table. I think we’ve said that a number of times.
QUESTION: Egypt now?
MS. NULAND: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Okay. President Morsi yesterday, through a spokesman, said that he was amending this decree which has caused all the political chaos there. I’m just wondering what your take is on this amendment. Does it go far enough in – it’s sort of only partially shielding his decisions from judicial review. Will that in itself be enough to sort of satisfy your checklist of what Egypt should be doing as far as an inclusive constitutional process and all of that?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’ve seen the public statements. It’s a little bit unclear to us as yet precisely what has been decided, what the impact is going to be, whether the various constituencies have all felt that they’ve been heard and had their views taken into account.
So frankly, Andy, at this stage in Cairo, we are seeking further information and trying to understand what’s going on. But as you’ve seen on the ground, the situation remains unclear. We want to see, as we’ve been saying, a solution to the constitutional impasse which is consultative, which is democratically achieved, which protects a positive, democratic trajectory for this constitution, protects balances of power, protects a voice for all Egyptians in this process.
So again, the situation a little unclear to us at the moment, and we’re seeking more information.
QUESTION: Does that mean – I mean, the Egyptians haven’t briefed the Ambassador there or spoken to anybody in this building to convey directly what has been decided? You all don’t have that from the horse’s mouth yet?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to consult with various parties to understand how they appreciate the situation, and it appears to us that the situation continues to evolve.
QUESTION: Victoria, the IMF indicated that they might leverage the $4.8 billion in loan to Egypt as a way to sort of maybe persuade Mr. Morsi to back down. Would you support such a thing?
MS. NULAND: Did you see an IMF statement to that effect? Because I did not.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, there’s news reports saying – suggesting that the IMF is heading in that direction.
MS. NULAND: I saw you guys speculating, but I didn’t see the IMF saying that.
QUESTION: Well, let me --
MS. NULAND: Again --
QUESTION: -- form the question this way. Would you coordinate with the IMF and other U.S. allies to make sure that what Mr. Morsi says about this being temporary that it is, in fact, temporary and not long-lasting?
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this quite a bit yesterday, Said. I don’t think our view on this has changed. In general, when the IMF makes an agreement with a government – and they have a preliminary agreement, is our understanding, with the Government of Egypt – the conditionality for an IMF agreement is primarily in the economic arena, it’s not in the political arena.
And in the case of Egypt, the idea here is that Egypt has begun some reform measures but will continue additional reform measures and that the support, if it is approved, will be phased based on their continued economic reform. There is usually not political conditionality. But again, this hasn’t come forward to the board yet, and there’s still some time here, so we’ll have to see what the IMF puts forward.
QUESTION: Okay. But you have a voice on the IMF.
MS. NULAND: Obviously, we do.
QUESTION: Okay. So how would you – what would you suggest to them? What would you recommend?
MS. NULAND: Again, we want to see appropriate economic conditionality in this package. We want to see Egypt continuing on the reform path to ensure that any money forthcoming from the IMF truly supports a stabilization and a revitalization of a dynamic economy based on market principles. That’s what we look for in an IMF deal. But again, it hasn’t come forward for board --
QUESTION: But I mean, political turmoil – would you protest everything?
MS. NULAND: I mean --
QUESTION: So the IMF may change --
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to predict where this is going to go, but there’s obviously a constitutional standoff in Egypt that has to be resolved.
QUESTION: Just while we’re on Egypt --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- are you guys concerned at all that you may have created a new Mubarak in President Morsi by essentially handing him the keys to the – not to the peace process itself but to security in the area, and that, much like Mubarak did, Morsi will use that and his new gained – newly gained stature to continue to clamp down and do things that are what you would say are not democratic or in support of the values that you think the Egyptian people voted for?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve been absolutely clear that the quality and strength of our relationship with Egypt going forward is rooted in our expectation that Egyptian leaders will take forward the goals of the revolution, the goals of the Egyptian people, to have a democratic, open country that respects the rights of all of its citizens, where there are checks and balances. We haven’t made any secret of that in our conversations with the Egyptians.
We very much appreciate, and we were clear about this too, the role that President Morsi and the Government of Egypt played in brokering the ceasefire with Gaza. As the Secretary said when she was in Cairo, this is a role that Egypt has historically played. We’re pleased to see it continuing under the Morsi Administration. That’s important for the region. But other aspects of the transition that the Egyptian people are expecting also have to go forward.
QUESTION: Okay. But based on what your – let’s just talk about recent history or 20th century history. We won’t go back to the pharaohs. But based on your reading of past Egyptian leaders, starting, I guess, let’s start with Nasser, have they carried on the revolution, as you are saying that you expect Morsi to now? I mean, has any Egyptian leader not ended up doing the right thing, or do they turn – become autocrats or they get assassinated? What leads you to believe that Morsi --
MS. NULAND: Are we doing a history class here, or what?
QUESTION: You said in the answer to my first question that you thought and expected that any Egyptian leader would carry through the goals and ideas of the revolution, and presumably you’re basing that on your experience with Egyptian leaders in the past. No?
MS. NULAND: We have a situation already in Egypt where, over the course of the last period, there have been decisions taken by one group or another in the Egyptian leadership structure that have been challenged by others, that have been challenged in the street, and the result has been a dialogue among them and working through this very murky legal period. As we called for last week, when confronted with concerns about the decree that he issued, President Morsi entered into discussions with the judiciary, with other stakeholders in Egypt. As I said, I think we don’t yet know what the outcome of those are going to be, but that’s a far cry from an autocrat just saying my way or the highway.
QUESTION: Okay, okay. Well, maybe I misunderstood when you --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: It was this question of what you mean when you used the word “expect.” This is an expectation that is not based on anything other than the current situation?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: After yesterday’s meeting between Morsi and the judiciary, there was a statement saying that the decrees stand and nothing has changed. So --
MS. NULAND: Again, we are continuing to gather an understanding of precisely what’s been agreed, precisely what the impact is, as are Egyptians who are continuing to try to understand this. So I’m not going to opine any further till we have more information.
QUESTION: So news has been coming over all morning that huge demonstrations are in Tahrir Square, people are sitting in until their demands are fulfilled. Would the U.S. willing to put more pressure on President Morsi to renounce his last declaration if the sit-in continues in Tahrir Square and people demand that the declaration goes down?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not – this is – these are Egyptian decisions for Egyptians to make on the basis of democratic consultations. Clearly, the situation continues to unfold. There needs to be national unity around a way forward. There needs to be conversation with all of the folks who have a stake in the way this goes forward. So the degree to which there are still sit-ins, demonstrations, et cetera, it may be that the Egyptian people as well don’t have a clear view of what’s been decided. But again, we are trying to gather more information, we’re trying to understand where things are, and we’re watching the situation closely.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: So do you consider that the last declaration is a right step in the process of democracy?
MS. NULAND: Again, we don’t have a clear view of what was decided yesterday.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you if you are aware of any military-to-military talks or ongoing talks regarding this issue between, let’s say, the Pentagon and the Egyptian military. And the reason I ask this is, because potentially this is a very volatile situation. Today, the security forces in Alexandria said that they will not protect Muslim Brotherhood personnel or property.
MS. NULAND: Again, that sounds like a question for the Department of Defense. I mean, we have ongoing mil-mil conversations, we’ve had a lot of conversations in the context of Gaza, in the context of the security challenges in Sinai, but against the constitutional questions, I don’t think so. But you can talk to the Pentagon.
Please. Still on Egypt?
QUESTION: Syria, please?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: We have seen these press reports that you are referring to. I frankly don’t have any information that I can share in a format like this on that subject. I think we’ve been very clear, both publicly and privately, how we feel about any country, Russia included, supporting the Assad regime in any way. And we will continue to make those points. And it doesn’t simply go to the question of military support; it also goes for any kind of economic or political support.
QUESTION: Can we stay – not on Syria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, still – anything else on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was reports yesterday, a news report, that Russian diplomats got in touch with U.S. diplomats about something in Syria, finding a --
MS. NULAND: Russian diplomats got in touch with U.S. diplomats about something on Syria.
MS. NULAND: I think you’ll have to do better than that if I can help you. But we’re in a constant conversation with the Russians about Syria, a difficult conversation.
QUESTION: The story – a follow-up on this – the story is that the Russian diplomats called a U.S. official to discuss post-Assad and after the fighting reached Damascus.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details about a particular meeting of that kind. I frankly hadn’t even seen press reports. But as you know, we’ve been engaged with the Syria opposition. We’ve also been engaged with countries around the world in the Friends of the Syrian People group on day-after planning, as we call it, to ensure that the international community is prepared to support Syria when Assad goes, whatever kinds of support might be necessary – whether it’s security support, dealing with Assad’s weapons including chemical weapons, whether it is economic, rebuilding, humanitarian, et cetera.
So we have a very robust conversation going with the opposition about what might be needed and also with our international partners on how to divide up the work if there’s work to be done. We’ve said to the Russians that we would welcome their being part of that conversation, but it’s predicated on an expectation that Assad will go.
QUESTION: He did better than I did, but --
MS. NULAND: Was that the question? Excellent.
QUESTION: -- is there anything that makes you feel that the Russians may change their minds?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to report on the Russian position, but I’d send you to the Russians.
QUESTION: But have you felt that there is a change in their stance regarding Syria?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: Again, he’s doing better.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Scott, still on Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah. I just have a little follow-up on the ProPublica report question. You said you don’t have any information that you can share in this format. In prior instances of concern over aid to the Syrians, whether it’s military shipments and boats or aircraft or whatever, there has been sort of specific concern raised but from the podium. Is there something about this that – I mean, what I’m asking is you don’t have any information you can tell us, or we just don’t have any information to back up this story?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information I’m in a position to share. That said, you can be sure that any kind of support for the Assad regime of any kind, from Russia or elsewhere, we would oppose, and we would be talking to that government about.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Ambassador Carson’s (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t get a chance to talk to him myself as I had hoped. What I can tell you is that he was in Kigali yesterday and delivered a very strong message to the Rwandan Foreign Minister and other government officials about what our expectations are in Congo as we’ve been discussing, that we want to see Rwanda use its influence, if it has it, with the M23 to get a cease-fire, get a rollback to the July 7th lines, and to participate actively in a conversation among Museveni, Kabila, Kagame, on how to deal with the political and economic grievances in eastern Congo.
We also expressed concerns in those meetings about any Rwandan support for M23. Our understanding is that we are also continuing to ask Rwanda to be active in this, but it is a slog. It’s a slog with M23, which has said a lot of good things, but we haven’t seen them implemented on the ground. So Assistant Secretary Carson is still out there and continuing his meetings.
QUESTION: His meetings here tomorrow with the AU, what --
MS. NULAND: He’ll be back in – yeah, I guess he must be on his way back because he will be here for Chairperson Zuma, who is coming to see the Secretary tomorrow. I would expect the DRC will be on that agenda, as will Mali, as will Somalia.
QUESTION: One of the --
QUESTION: So you said he wanted to – he delivered the message that you want Rwanda to use its influence with the M23 if it has it. Is there some doubt?
MS. NULAND: No. I mean, obviously, it has influence with M23 and there’s also been concern, as you know, about materiel support to the M23.
QUESTION: Well, okay, so it’s – there is no doubt in the mind of the Administration that Rwanda has influence or – and more with M23?
MS. NULAND: There is no doubt.
QUESTION: I think you said yesterday that there was anticipation that he was going to meet President Kagame when he was in Kigali. Did that meeting fall through, or was that never scheduled, or what happened?
MS. NULAND: That meeting did not happen, I understand, for scheduling reasons, but obviously we remain in contact with President Kagame.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. When you say scheduling reasons, does that mean that Ambassador Carson did – somehow didn’t have the time to see him, or that President Kagame decided that he didn’t really have any interest in seeing --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have --
QUESTION: -- Ambassador Carson, so that his schedule became full?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details about why the meeting didn’t happen.
QUESTION: You also mentioned --
QUESTION: -- that you were asking Rwanda to stop any support – if it has any support if – for the M23. Is there any doubt that it’s supporting, militarily, the M23?
MS. NULAND: We have had concerns about Rwandan support for the M23.
QUESTION: Still on the AU.
MS. NULAND: Still on this?
MS. NULAND: No?
QUESTION: Yeah, one more on AU, sorry. You said that the ECOMOG force – I think you’d like to see in Mali, could be patterned on --
MS. NULAND: ECOWAS force.
QUESTION: Yeah. The ECOWAS, ECOMOG force in Mali would be patterned sort of on AMISOM. So what would you like to see the African Union do in support of the Mali force? And is that part of tomorrow’s conversation, too?
MS. NULAND: Well I think you know that the UN Security Council asked ECOWAS to refine its proposal for how it would strengthen a mission in Mali. We are waiting for a formal report from ECOWAS about the kind of mission it sees, what kind of international support it would need for it. So I think the expectation is that the AU would be supportive of that as well. So I think we will compare notes on what we think is needed in security terms, but also in political terms in Mali. We’ve talked a lot about trying to split off moderate Tuaregs, get them into a conversation with the interim government about a way forward that meets the human, economic, and political needs of that population so that they’re not drawn to terror, so they’re not drawn to separatism. So that will be part of the conversation as well.
QUESTION: Toria, can you stay in Africa just for one --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- but mostly Africa? That’s the Kimberley Process meeting today – that’s going on this week here. I know there’s going to be a press conference that they’re going to have, but is there anything that you can say from here about what you’re expecting or hoping to get out of this meeting?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on what they are up to. But we are going to do something at the end. Let me see if I can get an interim report for you, Matt, for tomorrow.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you update us on your role in mitigating the tensions between the northern region of Kurdistan and the central government. There was a delegation yesterday, a Peshmerga delegation, that met with the Minister of Defense in Iraq. Are you updated on this situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve said over the last little bit that we have been encouraging Peshmerga and Iraqi forces to sit down together to have conversations. We have been encouraged that they are now in dialogue with each other, that they’ve now had two days of discussions. And we look forward to their continuing to work through these issues in a political manner so that we don’t have any kind of a confrontation.
QUESTION: Okay. But there has been a tremendous spike in violence in Iraq. There has been a lot of polarization with Turkey basically taking the side of Kurdistan. There is a lot of problems. They are – the central government on the side of Iran. What is your position on this? It’s quite a plateful, but what do you do, what are you doing in this case?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this before, Said, that we remain active with all of the groups in Iraq, encouraging all of them to participate in a national dialogue to work through the various issues so that they can protect the unity of the country, so that they can protect the constitutional structure and ensure that all of the groups and all of the regions are well represented in working with each other on the issues of the nation. This has been difficult, as you know, but we are encouraged that there are still conversations ongoing. They now need to get to all of the difficult, unresolved issues, including issues having to do with security, resource sharing, et cetera.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about explosions in Kirkuk today? The bombings?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything in particular on that one. I frankly hadn’t heard it before coming down.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add to what – the Uganda answer you gave yesterday? Has there been any more contact, do you know, between – since Ambassador – since Assistant Secretary Carson was there on this – the anti-homosexuality law?
MS. NULAND: Just a little bit more on Assistant Secretary Carson’s conversation: He did talk to parliamentary leaders and to President Museveni very directly about our concerns, the concerns of the international community. Our understanding is that President Museveni certainly took onboard the fact that this could have a serious impact on the way Uganda is perceived, the way Uganda is supported in the international community. There are many hoops for this thing to go through, as you know. I think yesterday we said that the bill had passed the parliamentary committee. My understanding is that’s incorrect. It hasn’t even gotten to that stage. So we just need to continue to highlight the issues.
MS. NULAND: I had a conversation with our people on that. With regard to the technical matter – yeah.
QUESTION: I’m not --
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the political matter. Yeah.
QUESTION: Exactly. That doesn’t –
MS. NULAND: We do have concerns about this map which is causing tension and anxiety between and among the states in the South China Sea. We do intend to raise this with the Chinese in terms of it not being helpful to the environment. We all seek to resolve these issues.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you would like them to remove the map, or make some kind of – make them – have them make some kind of explicit declaration that this does not necessarily reflect their ambitions or their goals for territory in the region?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure that we’re --
QUESTION: What is it you would – how do you – how would you like to see the Chinese resolve or decrease the tensions that this has created?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I have a remedy to predict here. But I think we’ll make clear that this is not helpful to what we all want, which is an environment where the countries involved in this can settle it.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just, do you know if you have been in – did members of ASEAN or other countries ask you to make representations to the Chinese, or was this something that you were going to – you’ve decided to do purely on your own?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know that we have been approached by other ASEANs, except that we have watched their concerns expressed directly to the Chinese. But obviously, we now that --we’re going to take it up ourselves, we’ll obviously share that with them.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just my last one on this, and I’m just being devil’s advocate. Why is it any of your business what the Chinese put in their passports? As long as it’s a legal document that you’ll accept or that ICE or whoever, the immigration people, will accept, why is it your business?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said yesterday, as a legal and consular matter, it’s up to states to decide what their passports look like, as long as they meet international standards of being a valid travel document and a document that can’t be forged and all those kinds of things. So it’s on that basis that we will accept it as a legal document. That’s a different matter than whether it’s politically smart or helpful to be taking steps that antagonize countries that we want to see a negotiation happen with.
QUESTION: Okay. And absolutely the last one on this.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: It is – the U.S. will still accept this as a valid travel document, correct?
MS. NULAND: Yes, yes.
Guy has been waiting patiently.
QUESTION: Thank you. Beyond saying that just this is a White House deal today, I wonder what you can tell us about --
MS. NULAND: It sounds like he’s giving me my answer before I even have the question.
QUESTION: -- Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto’s visit to Washington today. Is there anything that the U.S. is hoping to get out of this initial meeting with him? Specifically, is the Administration optimistic that the time is ripe now for an expansion of U.S.-Mexico economic relations?
MS. NULAND: Well, you are right, Guy, that whenever a foreign visitor goes to the White House it’s up to the White House to speak to the results of the visit. I think you know that throughout this transition period from the Calderon Administration to the Pena Nieto Administration, we have sought a seamless transition in our relationship with Mexico because it’s so very, very important, and we both have so much at stake. We have seen members of the Pena Nieto transition team, talked about our many shared issues from security to economics to preserving and protecting our region. So we have high expectations that our continued excellent relations will go forward.
Further than that, I’m going to let the White House speak to it. I think they’ve also announced the delegation for the inaugural.
QUESTION: Sorry. Yeah. You just answered. Who is attending --
MS. NULAND: The Secretary is there, as is Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson are at the meetings at the White House today, and Assistant Secretary Jacobson will also be part of the presidential delegation.
QUESTION: Ambassador Rice was on the Hill today, and it seems that after months of State Department and her going up there, there are still serious concerns that senators have. I’m wondering what the State Department has continued to do and is doing now to address those concerns. And then if you have an update on the ARB.
MS. NULAND: On the ARB, the ARB is continuing to work. We are still looking, we hope, at that sort of 60-65 day expected report time, which puts us somewhere in the middle of December. We’ll have to see how they do.
We, as you know, have done our utmost in this period to be as open and transparent and cooperative with the Congress in its requests. You know that, I think, some two weeks ago we participated in four or five hearings. We expect that there’ll be at least one more hearing next week that we will be asked to participate in, and we will do so. And we continue to deliver and make available documents as the Hill requests.
QUESTION: And who will go to the Hill next week?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’ll wait for the Hill to announce what they are seeking, but they’ve been in touch with us about further hearings that they may have next week.
QUESTION: And is the plan still for Secretary Clinton to go when the ARB is complete, or are there potentially a trip in her future up there sooner?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve been saying that the expectation is that after the report is concluded that she’ll consult with the Congress on it.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Asia for a second?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Recently, within the last few days, South Korean officials are citing new satellite imagery, claiming that North Korea is preparing a new missile to test/launch. And they say that the likelihood of that happening either in December or January is considerably high. Can you confirm or refute that, and do you have a comment?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did talk about this a little bit yesterday. I’m obviously not going to comment on intelligence issues. We would, of course, again, take this opportunity to remind the D.P.R.K. of the UN Security Council statement of April, which explicitly demanded that the D.P.R.K. not proceed with any further launches using BMD technology.
QUESTION: Sorry. Did you (inaudible) the intelligence issue on this?
MS. NULAND: The intelligence issue – he asked me what the satellite imagery was showing us --
QUESTION: Not necessarily that, but have you – you’ve received some other information other than just the South Koreans saying hey, look at North Korea for us, I assume?
MS. NULAND: Not that I’m in a position to share with you.
QUESTION: Hold on. Just one second. You were talking about the satellite imagery, which is --
MS. NULAND: I’m talking about any intelligence we might have about any D.P.R.K. intentions.
QUESTION: We’re not talking about any intelligence you might have about anything?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: No, you are. Right?
MS. NULAND: Well, in general, I’m – yes.
QUESTION: Right. But I just want to – in terms of the broader issue here on this, and I will drop it, but I don’t – frankly, this stuff is commercially available. If you’re saying that you don’t want to comment on what your analysts see in commercially available satellite imagery, that’s one thing. But pretending to – that the imagery doesn’t exist and isn’t out there for – I mean, certainly the North Koreans know what they’re doing.
MS. NULAND: I think I asked for a USG assessment of what we are seeing, and I’m not going to give you that. Okay?
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MS. NULAND: In the back, please. Still on --
QUESTION: Yes. If I may, I would like to follow on Matt question regarding the Chinese new passport. Under Secretary Hormats is meeting with the Chinese Minister Councilor for Commercial Affairs today at noon at the Chinese Embassy. I wonder if the conversation, even if it’s a casual conversation, Chinese new passport come out. And if they do, could we give – could you please take that question?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I’ll let you know when we raise this and who raises it. But generally Under Secretary Hormats deals with economic matters, and this is more of a political issue, so --
QUESTION: And then another question on TPP?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Trans-Pacific Partnership.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton’s remark in Singapore on November 17 was buried with tons of other transcripts. So I feel like you won’t do it justice if I don’t raise a question.
MS. NULAND: Let’s do it some justice. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Given the importance of the TPP, she was saying that the United States will welcome any economic body that is willing to meet the high standard of TPP to participate the TPP, including China. So this carry a lot of weight because she seems to be the highest level official to make that kind of comment. So was there any efforts to bring China into the trade bloc led by the United States? And if yes, what is the status of that?
MS. NULAND: Let me just say that obviously her statements were very clear, they were very open. We’ve always perceived of TPP as a regime that would be open to new members as they can meet the standard if they are interested. We’ve also been very transparent with the Government of China about what we intend here, so that there wouldn’t be any secrets, so that they could make their own assessment about it. So --
QUESTION: At the same time, China is pushing a trade bloc led by China. It’s called RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. It seems that it’s counter the trade bloc led by the United States. So how does the United States perceive RCEP?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any particular comment to make on that other than to say that, as a general matter, we want to see trade arrangements be open, be transparent, be encouraging commerce and trade that enhances regional stability, security that is not exclusionary, that meets high labor standards, that meets high human rights standards, all those kinds of things that we’re seeking to promote in the TPP. So I don’t know that we’ve had a chance to analyze this Chinese initiative, but obviously we want to see any global trading arrangements be open, be fair, level the playing field and support the highest standards of intellectual property, labor rights, human rights, et cetera.
QUESTION: Do you think RCEP will interfere in the negotiation efforts led by the United States? Because China is negotiating with Japan, South Korea on this initiative.
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: On Iran, if I could. Following the meeting out of – in Brussels last week with the P-5+1, we’re hearing on the grapevine that the group is about to – or is proposing to Iran to meet soon, and possibly as early as the 1st of December, maybe in Istanbul. Could you confirm that for us, please?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce here. And I think if and when we do have something to announce, we’ll follow past practice and Lady Ashton will probably be the person who puts that forward.
QUESTION: It would seem that the Americans, though, are the ones who are the keenest to try and push this forward. Do you see that there’s a new momentum, perhaps, to go to the Iranians and start talks again?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think when we left off the P-5+1 meeting, the way the EU cast it in their public comment was that there’d be another contact with the Iranians, probably at the Ashton level, and then we’d see whether it made sense to have a meeting. I don’t know that that first step has happened yet, Jo, so we’ll let the EU speak to that.
MS. NULAND: Great earrings, by the way.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Balkans. Philip Reeker is visiting Balkans. He met Serbian Prime Minister yesterday or today, I don’t know. You have any details about that? The topic is Kosovo and Serbia relationship.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details, but I’m going to hazard a guess that he’s following up on the Secretary’s visit and the support that we’ve been giving to the EU process and encouraging that. But we’ll see if we can get you a little bit more. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you, everybody. Oh, more Matt, more Matt. Here we go.
QUESTION: I have a Colombia (inaudible). It seems that the FARC are again asking for the release of this guy, Simon Trinidad, who’s serving a 60-year prison term in the U.S. Have you been approached, and – you asked it yesterday, did you? I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: We did talk about this yesterday.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: I think the Justice Department also talked about it yesterday, and they have --
QUESTION: My bad.
MS. NULAND: -- far more power than we do in this circumstance.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if I could on Palestinians but – for one second.
MS. NULAND: (Inaudible.) Okay.
QUESTION: It’s your favorite topic.
MS. NULAND: My favorite topic.
QUESTION: And that is, since you’re weighing in so heavily on their bid at the UN, I’m wondering if you have anything to say about their exhumation of Arafat and what that – and what any medical tests might find. Do you think that that will be bad for the peace process as well, or are they within their rights to do this? Do you think that this suggestion that Arafat’s death may not have been a natural one is helpful to the cause of pursuing peace?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any comment on that one way or the other.
QUESTION: Could you comment on who’s likely to meet with President Abbas?
MS. NULAND: I think when we have something to announce, we will, Said. Probably after the meeting.
QUESTION: But someone will meet with him, for sure?
MS. NULAND: The expectation is that somebody will, yeah.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:06 p.m.)
DPB # 200