This video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:02 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Thursday to all of you. I have nothing at the top, just to say that, as you know, the President’s probably coming out at 1:30, so we’ll get the high sign when we need to come down.
Let’s start with Brad.
QUESTION: Can we start with Russia? There’s been an announcement that this adoptions law won’t come into effect until 2014. Do you have a reaction to that, and do you know what that means for the American families who are still hoping to complete adoption processes that had already begun?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the statement that the Russians have put out. As you know, we have been seeking to have consultations with them about the implementation of the law. So we will be inquiring of them how they see this. I think you know that they did – as I said yesterday, but I again bungled it a little bit – they did notify us that they wanted to terminate the bilateral adoption agreement that we had signed back in November. That termination clause, though, takes a year to come into effect as well, so that would also take you to 2014.
As you know, we are very hopeful that we will be able to complete the cases of adoption that had been begun before the law was passed. So that’s something that we will be working on with the Russian Government.
QUESTION: So you don’t know quite yet what this one-year grace period, delay, whatever, means for those families still waiting to see if they can complete their process?
MS. NULAND: We do not yet, but we are very hopeful that in the spirit of the original agreement and out of humanitarian concern that we will be able to work through those cases that had been begun.
QUESTION: And just to repeat, all of the 500 to a thousand cases that you mentioned? Or --
MS. NULAND: Well, we have to talk to the Russian side, we have to compare notes about what our lists show and what their lists show. But obviously, we want to help as many families as we can.
QUESTION: Did you manage to get a more detailed breakdown of the figures? We talked about this yesterday.
MS. NULAND: I will tell you that in response to our request for information from American families who were trying to adopt, we’ve had email communication from some 950 individuals. We are in the process now of evaluating the information we’re getting from them about exactly where they were in the process so that we have full facts when we have this conversation with the Russian Government.
But what I will say, Jo, is that our consular folks and the people who do this would prefer not to be getting into too many specifics here because, obviously, we want to see as many children be able to have the future that we’d like for them as possible, and we don’t want to be putting people in different categories. And secondly, there are privacy concerns here, obviously, with regard to both the Americans and the children.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. NULAND: Said.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Today, the Syrian Government criticized, strongly, Brahimi and accused him of being biased because he apparently gave an interview to Reuters suggesting that Assad could – he could not imagine a future for Syria with Assad.
Do you believe that – first of all, giving a statement like this, what is your comment on that? And second, Brahimi, by saying something like that, does he compromise, sort of, the impartiality of his mediation?
MS. NULAND: Well, we spoke about this a little bit yesterday, Said. From our perspective, Special Envoy Brahimi was simply giving voice to the same sentiments that we’ve heard from Syrians across the political spectrum that 40 years of the Assad family is enough. I think you know that we strongly support the mission of Special Envoy Brahimi, and it’s on that basis that Deputy Secretary Burns will be in Geneva tomorrow for his meeting that he is hosting with us and with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov to see what we can do to support his efforts.
QUESTION: So you still see value in Mr. Brahimi doing what he’s doing?
MS. NULAND: We still see value in Joint Special Envoy Brahimi doing what he can to take forward the work that we’ve already done in the P-5 supported by the EU, supported by the Arab League, to think about how a transition could go forward in Syria. And we very much want to support the Syrian people in their desire for a better future, so yes.
QUESTION: And on this point, just the last point, you don’t see as a result of tomorrow’s meeting, for instance, that actually it may take a different course altogether? Because it seems everybody to be talking about the day after Assad rather than mediating with Assad.
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to prejudge what the meeting tomorrow will cover. We’ll obviously give you what we can from the meeting after it happens, and I think that you’ll see Joint Special Envoy Brahimi have some words for the press. But our understanding is that, as we’ve been saying all week, his proposal is to continue to take the Geneva document and look at how you could actually implement it and take soundings from us. So we’ll see what he has to say.
QUESTION: A follow-up, Syria, just to follow up tomorrow’s meetings. What would be your ideal expectation from tomorrow’s meeting?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to get ahead of this. We had quite a long discussion about what we are supporting here yesterday, so I really don’t have anything further until we see how the meeting goes, Ilhan.
QUESTION: Two days ago, you mentioned that Ambassador Ford was in Jordan, especially for the Zaatari camp – refugee camp reportedly have been under very severe conditions because of the bad weather in the region. Do you have any update on the talks, whether Jordanians would be able to correct some of the problems there?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we talked about this earlier in the week as well. He was in Jordan at the beginning of the week. His goal there was to talk to the Jordanians about all aspects of the Syria conflict, notably including the humanitarian situation. I don’t think he had an opportunity to go out to the camps himself, but obviously we want to be maximally supportive to the Government of Jordan as it tries to work with refugees. I think our Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migrants will also be visiting some of the neighboring states of Syria in the coming week to support efforts. There was some severe weather. There were difficulties in the camps. The Jordanian Government is working through it, and we very much support those efforts.
Just to say that following that – oh, also in Jordan, Ambassador Ford, as I said, had a chance to talk to some of the Syrian opposition leaders who are resident in Jordan now. He then, as you may know, Ilhan, went on to Istanbul, and also had meetings with Syrian opposition who are currently based in Istanbul, both on the political side, and he also saw some of the Free Syrian Army representatives there in an effort, again, to support a political transition process, to understand their needs.
QUESTION: One of developments in Syria, it looks like the rebels ran over one of the largest airbase in Taftanaz, north of Idlib. Would you be able to confirm the developments, or how do you deem that?
MS. NULAND: Well, our understanding is that the armed opposition has launched a pretty sizeable offensive at Taftanaz, the main airbase in the north, in Idlib. The loss of the airbase to the regime would certainly be a significant blow to the Assad regime’s ability to resupply its forces in the north. The fighting is obviously continuing there, but it speaks to the armed opposition’s growing strength and also the priority that it’s now placing on trying to ground Assad’s air force, because obviously the aerial bombing is what’s most lethal and scary for civilians.
QUESTION: Are you considering any kind of change of policy to support these changing dynamics of the fight currently?
MS. NULAND: We continue to support the opposition through nonlethal assistance only.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Wait. Just still tangentially on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you aware of this – the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that he rejected an Israeli offer to have refugees – Palestinian refugees in Syria come to the West Bank or Gaza. Were you aware of this apparent offer that was floated?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on conversations that we may have had with the Palestinians. As you know, there was a period about two weeks ago where the fighting within Syria went right through Palestinian neighborhoods and some of the camps outside of Damascus, and a number of refugee families got caught in the crossfire, and it increased the refugee flows, both north and south. But the question of whether they would go to the Palestinian territories was not something I was aware of. I think we were focused primarily on direct neighbors there.
QUESTION: Do you think that would be a viable solution, to have some relocate into the West Bank or Gaza? Or would that complicate peace talks, considering the right of return issues and other things?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, if you were going to go in that direction, it would have to be something that was supported by the Palestinian Authority and that Israel was prepared to facilitate. I just don’t want to get into a hypothetical there.
QUESTION: Just a clarification on this point --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Victoria, I think Abbas claimed that the Israelis – the Israeli offer was conditioned on Palestinian refugees signing onto giving up the right of return, those that come, let’s say, from the refugee camps in Syria.
MS. NULAND: I just, frankly --
QUESTION: Just to clarify, not just --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I just don’t, frankly, have any information on it at all. We have been focused primarily on Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey.
QUESTION: Can we stick with the Israelis on that, with the Palestinians for a moment?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: We’re quoting a senior Egyptian official who took part in talks with Palestinian – with both Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials as saying that the two Palestinian factions have agreed to revive their unity plans. Successive American administrations have not been very enthusiastic about the idea of Hamas-PA cooperation or unity. Do you have any reaction to this? Do you want to see that happen?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think our position on any of this has changed, Arshad. With regard to what happened in Cario, we’re going to judge the outcome on what actually happens, not on what is said, because we’ve obviously seen this movie a number of times before. From our perspective, Mahmoud Abbas remains the President of the Palestinian Authority. Salam Fayyad remains the Prime Minister. We’re going to continue working with them on our shared goals.
We’ve been very clear on the principles that have to guide the Palestinian Government and any reconciliation if they want Hamas to play a role in any future government. Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, including the Roadmap. Obviously, President Abbas has done all of those things.
QUESTION: May I ask you about the – can I change topic?
MS. NULAND: Just on – for Said on this?
QUESTION: Right. Just very quickly, yesterday I listened to a former American diplomat, Ambassador Kurtzer, who suggested that viability of the Palestinian state does not preclude the spread of settlements, including in E1. You have not changed your position. I know he’s a former diplomat, but your position is still viability is also geographic, correct, for the Palestinian state?
MS. NULAND: Our position on none of these things, including our concerns about E1, have not changed.
QUESTION: Okay. And any news on the money that is being held up by Congress?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to --
QUESTION: Have you made any headways?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to talk to the Congress about it. I don’t have any progress to report.
QUESTION: I wanted to turn to the shootings of – and killings of three PKK activists in Paris today, three female activists. I wondered if you had any reaction to that, and any clue as to who might be behind the killings.
MS. NULAND: We understand that the French Government has committed to ensuring that there is a full investigation. I frankly don’t have any inside information either about who, or motive, or any of those things. We’ll send you to the French.
MS. NULAND: Well, we have been clear for some time, as you know, Ilhan, that we want to see the Turkish Government work through the issues that it has with the Kurdish population. We think the talks in general are a positive development. We encourage Turkey to tackle its domestic terrorist issues from multiple angles, taking a broad approach, including engaging with the Kurds and other marginalized communities.
QUESTION: Has the Turkish Government reached out to you and asked any kind of help regarding these talks?
MS. NULAND: They have, in general, kept us apprised. As you know, we stand with Turkey in its fight against the PKK. We maintain our support for them on those issues, and we’re always interested in any progress that they’re making.
QUESTION: And finally, apart from – you already stated, there is another advice, would you be willing to extend to Turkish Government?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, we are open to hearing from them on any support that they’re interested in from us.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that Assistant Secretary Gordon had a press conference in the UK yesterday where he made some comments along these lines. Let me just reiterate what he said. First and foremost, that the UK’s relationship with the European Union is obviously a question for the British people and the British Government to make. You know how important our relationship with the UK is. We call it our special relationship. What he did say was that we value a strong UK voice in the EU and that the European Union is a critical partner on global issues, and we welcome an outward-looking European Union with the UK in it.
Interestingly, the Cameron government re-quoted that line and said after Assistant Secretary Gordon had said it, “And so do we.”
QUESTION: Okay, so you’re re-quoting their re-quoting. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Correct. You like that?
MS. NULAND: It’s like tweeting, right? Whatever it is.
QUESTION: Here’s what I’m trying to get at: Should one take your comment that the U.S. Government values a strong UK voice in a strong EU as basically your saying that you like the fact that Britain is in the EU?
MS. NULAND: Again, Arshad, as we said at the top, this is a decision for the UK people and the UK Government to make. But to say it again, we welcome an outward-looking EU with a strong UK voice in it.
QUESTION: I’ve been asked to ask you one more on this. Forgive me.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Is that line, that you value a strong UK voice in a strong EU --
MS. NULAND: Outward-looking, I think I said.
QUESTION: No, well, what he said was – and I think you said it initially – was, in general, we value a strong UK voice in a strong European Union. Is that sort of cleared, approved Obama Administration policy on this?
MS. NULAND: We generally don’t have assistant secretaries of state going out and giving press conferences and freelancing, if that’s what you’re asking, Arshad.
QUESTION: No. I mean, it’s not what I was asking. But you do have people who will occasionally say something off the cuff.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Assistant Secretary Gordon very much spoke for the Administration.
QUESTION: But does the opposite pertain in this case, that the lack of UK in the EU, would that become an inward-looking EU, in your opinion?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going get into --
QUESTION: Or weak, in your opinion?
MS. NULAND: -- seventeen layers of hypothetical --
QUESTION: That’s not --
MS. NULAND: -- with – the UK is currently in the EU.
QUESTION: -- seventeen.
QUESTION: Well, the other hypothetical is if the British citizens voted in a referendum to withdraw as much as possible from the EU, not fully, would that harm the U.S.-UK relationship?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into hypothetical scenarios with many layers of potential difference in the way it was done or wasn’t done. What I said at the top is this is a decision for the UK people and for the British people and the British Government to make. As allies, we’ll obviously respect decisions that are made, but as Assistant Secretary Gordon has said, we value a strong UK voice in the EU.
QUESTION: But there is a very widespread perception now across the UK that the U.S. would be unhappy if the UK pulled out of the EU, and that somehow the British Government and the British people would suffer. Can you categorically deny that the special relationship between Washington and London would not be affected, regardless of whether it remains inside the EU?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into all kinds of hypothetical situations. I don’t see any scenario under which in our lifetime, my lifetime, this relationship’s going to be any less special than it is right now.
QUESTION: Any less strong, though, perhaps?
MS. NULAND: Come on, guys. We’re getting --
QUESTION: Or outward-looking?
MS. NULAND: We’re getting goofy now.
MS. NULAND: Let’s go to – I know it’s going to be Venezuela. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you so much. I know you have been talking about a lot of Venezuela these days. But you know, today is the inauguration day, and I would like to know there is anything that you would like to say, like congratulate someone, who in Venezuela, the government, the President Chavez, whoever the government is, the people of Venezuela? What will be the next step for the U.S. to take regarding Venezuela?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve been talking about Venezuela all week. Obviously, the inauguration did not go forward today as planned. We’ve been saying all the way through that it’s up to Venezuelans to decide on the next steps, and particularly our interest here is that this is a broad-based, consensual path forward and that whatever transition takes place, one way or the other, that it be the product of decisions and actions by Venezuelans themselves, that it be transparent, that it be clear, that it be democratic. So beyond that, we are, like everybody, waiting to see what the next step will be.
QUESTION: So – sorry – it means that the – because you expressed that the U.S. is willing to improve the relations with Venezuela, so what does that mean? Is this like a standby situation between Venezuela and the U.S. until everything is clear? And what will be the best case scenario in Venezuela regarding the relations to the U.S.? I mean --
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said yesterday, we’ve put forward some ideas about how this relationship could be improved on a step-by-step basis. It’s going to be up to the Venezuelan side whether they want to move forward with those things. Our sense is that at the moment they are very much preoccupied with internal affairs. So we are standing by, and when they are ready to talk to us about improving things, we’re ready for those conversations.
QUESTION: What are your ideas for improving the relationship?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m going to negotiate them here in public. We’ll see what the Venezuelan side wants to do.
QUESTION: A technical question on Venezuela --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on this issue. The inauguration itself being a ceremony does not, in your opinion, delegitimize the process (inaudible) that the inauguration or could have (inaudible) the inauguration, in other words, the elections, does it?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the – my understanding of the situation is that the inauguration itself has been put on hold because of the President’s health. So the question becomes: What happens in the coming days, weeks, and months in Venezuela in terms of leadership?
QUESTION: But the U.S., as a promoter of the rule of law and all these values around the world, I mean, what will be the U.S. expecting happening in Venezuela? What will be the future? What would you like to see in Venezuela happen?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we have said all week, and I’ll say it one more time, we want to see the political process move forward in a way that is broadly consulted, that is maximally democratic, that is transparent, that provides for a level playing field among the voices in Venezuela. All of those good democratic principles that we espouse around the world, we’d like to see in place in Venezuela as they move through this period. But it’s going to be for Venezuelans to decide how that happens.
QUESTION: Can we change topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: We’re quoting Tunisian – probably not the only ones – quoting Tunisian prosecutors as saying they were opposed to the release of Ali Harzi. What does this say to you about the decision to release him?
MS. NULAND: Again, we talked about this earlier in the week. I’m really going to have nothing to say about anything having to do with the investigation and the work on getting the Benghazi attackers because this is in the purview of the FBI.
QUESTION: What does it say to you in general about decisions to release suspects in Tunisia when prosecutors are expressly opposed and publicly opposed to it?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think if we --
QUESTION: Is that a problematic development for this young government?
MS. NULAND: It’s a good effort, Brad. If we have anything to say on any aspect of this, the FBI will say it.
MS. NULAND: Yesterday’s cyber attacks.
QUESTION: On banks – accusing Iran of being behind them. There were some cyber attacks yesterday on U.S. banks.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. What was the precise question?
QUESTION: Does it have any foreign policy implication? I mean, accusing Iran and so forth?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously it’s further to Iran’s efforts around the world and destabilizing behavior. But beyond that, I think the statements – I think it was Treasury that spoke on this, right – speak for all of us.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There’s been renewed fighting in northern Mali, and today, we’re being told that one of the government towns in the center of the country, Kona, has been seized by the rebels. EU representative – Special Representative (inaudible) said to Catherine Ashton came out and said this shows that the need for a force in northern Mali is now urgent. And I wondered what the United States position was on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly on the ground situation, we’ve seen a number of conflicting reports, both about the village of Kona, which is along the front line. Also, there were reports that the Malian army had recaptured Douentza. Those are not confirmed either.
Look, we’ve considered this situation in Mali urgent for a number of months now, and we are eager to see the swiftest possible implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2085. That requires a number of steps. We need to come to closure on the funding mechanism. We need to have more clarity, as we are waiting on, from ECOWAS with regard to its concept of operation for this force. As you know, the European Union is also going to support increased training of the Malian military. We’re very much supportive of that, and we’re prepared to work with the EU on all of that. We want to see all of these things implemented as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: There’s some rumors that there’s disputes going on between ECOWAS and African Union now about the makeup of this force. Is that something that you’re aware about, that you can speak to?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details here. I think there has been a question about which nations might be able to contribute. There are a number of African countries that are tied down in other peacekeeping missions. This is also tied to the funding mechanism. Countries that are going to contribute need to know that they’re going to be supported over the long term. So these are some of the issues that still need to be worked through both in an African context and within the UN context.
QUESTION: And where are we time-wise at the UN on actually getting this pulled together and some kind of fruition on a force being agreed on?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, under UN Security Council 2085, we had a broad agreement subject to more information coming forward from ECOWAS and the forces with regard to the concept of operation, the rules of engagement, all that stuff. So we’re waiting for that on the African side. And we’re still have a conversation in New York, as I understand it, and you can check with your folks in New York on exactly how the funding mechanism would work. So this is – we are trying to light a fire under everybody wherever we find them because it is urgent.
QUESTION: I’m sorry I missed the top of your briefing.
MS. NULAND: So let’s do it again. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We have not talked about Afghanistan. We didn’t talk about Afghanistan either.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, that’s outrageous.
MS. NULAND: We knew you would – you were coming, Jill.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So -- (Laughter.) Good, then I can start. Can you tell us what’s going to happen this afternoon and this evening, and can you also give us the state of play on reconciliation, talking with the Taliban, peace agreements, et cetera?
MS. NULAND: Well, this late afternoon, this evening, as you know, the Secretary will host President Karzai here in the Department. She’ll have her own meeting with him, and then she’s going to host a working dinner. Defense Secretary Panetta is going to be here, National Security Advisor Donilon, and she’s obviously very much looking forward to seeing President Karzai. And then as you know, he’ll be at the White House tomorrow, as Ben Rhodes outlined.
Here at the State Department, we think a full range of issues are going to be discussed. Obviously, aspects of the security transition, the elections in 2014 and preparing for them, the economic transition, regional integration, support for the Afghan reconciliation efforts. Those will all be central themes in the discussions this evening.
With regard to where we are precisely on reconciliation, I think we are looking forward to hearing from President Karzai how he sees things. As you know, we have had some modest steps forward in recent months, including a commitment by Pakistan to support Afghan-Afghan reconciliation, some of the work we’ve been doing in the Core Group U.S.-Afghanistan-Pakistan to pave the way and ease the conditions for those Taliban who might need safe passage to go have conversations. As we’ve discussed here, we also had some track two discussions, Afghans and Taliban in Paris about a month and a half ago that could potentially be built on.
So I think first and foremost, we want to hear from President Karzai what he sees as the next steps and take it from there. So we’ll probably have – I’m expecting you’ll hear more about that aspect after the discussions here, but as importantly, the discussions tomorrow at the White House with the President. And I think you know the two presidents will have a press conference tomorrow afternoon.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is there going to be any kind of a readout afterwards here, or were you going to leave that for tomorrow in the news conference?
MS. NULAND: I think given the fact that this is a rolling conversation which culminates in the two presidents sitting down, I would not expect much here this evening. We will, obviously, have a pool spray of the events, but I think the readouts, such as they are, will come from the two presidents tomorrow.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Madam, as far as India-Pakistan border dispute or incidents are concerned on Kashmir, there was another exchange of fire on the border, and now they claim that one Pakistani soldier was killed by Indians. And now --
MS. NULAND: By aliens? By aliens?
QUESTION: By Indians. Indians.
MS. NULAND: Oh, I’m sorry. Goyal, it’s hard to hear you here.
QUESTION: Yesterday was two Indian soldiers were killed by Pakistanis. Now, this exchange of fire is now continuing and it may escalate, as I said yesterday. What I’m asking now, what Indians are saying, if you remember Hafiz Saeed, who was the mastermind behind Mumbai attack who killed six Americans and 160 Indians in Mumbai, he was on the border brought by the Pakistani military, and they – this is what the incident took place there and LET or Hafiz Saeed behind along with the Pakistan military.
What I’m asking you, where is leading this all exchange of fires and incidents and little by little, because India and Pakistan were on the verge of having good relation exchange of economic and trade relations? And also, recently last week India hosted the Pakistani cricket team inside India for one month long. And what Indians are saying on the other hand you are hosting Pakistani cricket team in India and on the other side they are stabbing in the back.
MS. NULAND: Goyal, as you know, we’ve talked about our concerns about this violence along the Lines of Control for a number of days here. You know that we’ve made representations to both governments urging them to work together to determine the best course of action. We strongly support their continued high-level dialogue that they are engaged in. That is the best way to work through these issues and end the violence and move back to where we had been, as you said, where we had a warming, certainly on the economic side, which we hoped would lead to a warming on other sides as well.
QUESTION: I just wanted to say one thing quickly, that talking to people of Pakistan here or Indians here and also back home, both Pakistanis and Indians, they are for peace. People are people. They want people-to-people exchange and relations and all that.
MS. NULAND: I think --
QUESTION: What they are saying is governments are playing politics against the people.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’re all for peace, and what’s important is that the governments are talking.
I want to get to our Asian journalists before we have to come down today. Please, go ahead. Guys, either one of you.
QUESTION: Yeah. The Secretary had a meeting with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister. I think it just ended a little while ago. I’m wondering what you can tell us about that, specifically if Senkaku was discussed.
MS. NULAND: Frankly, I don’t have a readout yet. And it was less of a – I think you know that it was Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai was here to see Under Secretary Sherman, and he also saw Assistant Secretary Campbell. He was going to then see Deputy Secretary Burns, and the Secretary was going to stop by and say hello. So it was less of a separate meeting and more of her coming and greeting him and hoping for a good conversation between him and Deputy Secretary Burns. But let me get a readout on the conversation for tomorrow, if I may.
QUESTION: Will he have discussions with him on Syria?
MS. NULAND: With the Chinese side about Syria?
MS. NULAND: I assume in the context of our consultations with him we will talk about all issues, as we usually do.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Governor Richardson has had a press conference in Beijing today after his trip in which he pressed for North Korea to open up particularly the internet but also to open up more fully to the West. And he also talked about the American citizen who is held there. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like they could see him, but he did say that he’s supposedly in good health and that judicial proceedings are about to start. What more do you know about his case?
MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying what we’ve been saying, which is that we are working through our Swedish protecting power, that they did have a chance to see him some time ago, we are seeking to see him again, privacy concerns would preclude me from being able to go any further than that, Jo.
QUESTION: What would you understand by judicial proceedings – a full court case, a full – charges? I mean, what is his legal status?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have any particular information that I can share right now about what might be going forward. If we have anything more to share, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Now that this trip is over, do you care to weigh in on its success or its value as a diplomatic exercise?
MS. NULAND: I don’t. I think our view is unchanged, that the timing was unfortunate. We – they were there in an unofficial capacity, and we were not a part of it.
QUESTION: That said, would you be interested in having the Governor come in and debrief officials here?
MS. NULAND: We’re not seeking such a readout. But obviously, if they want to offer one, we will be prepared to listen.
QUESTION: Yes. I have a question on Greece and FYROM. Mr. Matthew Nimetz is started a shot of diplomacy between Athens and Skopje, trying to solve the name issue. I wanted to know what is your position on his efforts and on his mission.
MS. NULAND: Well, we do understand that Ambassador Nimetz, who is the UN Special Envoy on this issue, is currently traveling to Athens and Skopje in an effort, once again, to try to settle the longstanding name issue between Macedonia and Greece. We have long supported this UN process and hope that the leaders of Macedonia and Greece will be able to find a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, will avail themselves of Ambassador Nimetz’s efforts and that we’ll see some progress.
QUESTION: And a follow-up. What is the role of American diplomats in Athens and Skopje? Because we have some information that they are helping the negotiations.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve always been supportive of Special Envoy Nimetz’s efforts. When he asks us to be helpful, we try to be helpful. And we always sees him in both capitals when he comes through. So obviously we look forward to hearing what there is.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: President Bozize says that he’s facing foreign terrorists. Has the State Department made an assessment about the forces that are opposing the government, as you have in Mali, for instance, to determine whether they are, indeed, foreign terrorists or if the Seleka rebel group are citizens of CAR?
MS. NULAND: I’m getting the high sign here that the President is getting ready to go out. Let me simply say in general on Central African Republic the talks have begun in Libreville. They began yesterday. We want to see all of the groups sitting down together in finding a way forward, as I said yesterday, and we look forward to any of these concerns and grievances being hashed out at the table there. Thank you, all.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)