The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
12:53 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Tuesday. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I don’t really have anything at the top because I’ve been away, so I’m afraid I will embarrass myself with my ignorance --
MS. NULAND: Can’t have that, Matt.
QUESTION: -- if I start – (laughter) – so I’ll defer to someone else.
MS. NULAND: We can.
QUESTION: I wondered if there was an issue – under U.S. law, you cannot provide direct aid to Mali because the – it’s a nonelected government in power at the moment. Does it preclude you providing aid to French forces going into Mali?
MS. NULAND: No, it does not.
MS. NULAND: But let me just make some general points on Mali today as we go forward. As we’ve been saying, it’s absolutely critical to stop the offensive of terrorist groups toward southern Mali, to prevent the collapse of the government, and to accelerate the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Mali. So it’s in that context that the U.S. very much welcomes the French military action in Mali which came at the request of Mali’s President as well as support being offered by other governments. We also, as I said yesterday, support the immediate deployment of the African-led international support mission, and we urge the Government of Mali to move forward on a political transition process.
So what are we doing in this context? First, as I said yesterday, as Secretary Panetta made clear yesterday, we’ve had a number of requests for support from the French in support of their operation. They’ve asked for information sharing, they’ve asked for support with airlift, they’ve asked for support with aerial refueling. We are already providing information and we are looking hard today at the airlift question, helping them transport forces from France and from the area into the theater. And also at the refueling question, I think the Pentagon will have more to say about that as we work through those.
Here in the State Department, as I said yesterday, we are focused very much on trying to accelerate the deployment of the AFISMA forces, the ECOWAS forces, so we have been in touch with a number of ECOWAS governments over the last couple of days preparing for the summit that they’re going to have on Saturday to make deployment decisions. Specifically, we’ve offered pre-deployment training using our ACOTA trainers. We’ve offered equipment, we’ve offered to help lift ECOWAS forces into Mali, and we’ve offered the kinds of sustainment packages post-deployment that we also offered to forces that served in Somalia. So a number of governments are looking at all of that, and as we know, we’ll have an ECOWAS summit meeting on Saturday, which we hope will make some decisions.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. A couple of clarifications on that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So the summit meeting is not Wednesday, then? It’s Saturday?
MS. NULAND: It’s Saturday. We initially understood that it was going to be earlier in the week, but it’s now been moved to Saturday.
QUESTION: These packages, sustainment packages, is that part of the funding mechanisms that you’re still working out? Or have you worked those out? Is that going to be paid for by the United States?
MS. NULAND: Well, more broadly, the funding mechanism for the UN mission is still being worked out, but we are assuming that the U.S. will be asked to contribute significantly, as we did to the Somalia operation. So to get a jump on that, we are using some of our existing funding that we already have in the budget, and we’ll be going to the Congress for additional funding over the coming days.
QUESTION: Do you have numbers for the existing funding already?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any numbers I can share at the moment. We’ve got some $8 million in the budget currently. In terms of the additional ask that we’re going to make of Congress, let us crunch through that a little bit. Let us begin working with them. Some of it’s going to depend on what we ascertain the needs are when the ECOWAS countries step forward, and we begin to send out the assessment teams with regard to needs.
QUESTION: Sorry, just a couple more questions. In the pre-deployment, will that be in the home countries of these ECOWAS, or will they go to Mali and then the ACOTA trainers will train them?
MS. NULAND: Traditionally, the way this works, a country identifies itself as being willing to send a battalion, some aircraft, whatever they’re contributing. Our ACOTA teams then go in and work with the government in the home country to assess the needs, whether they’re training needs, whether they’re equipment needs, whether they’re logistical needs, and we work together bilaterally in support of the larger mission before they go in, and then we help lift them in, and we provide the sustainment packages wherever they need them, either directly to country or outside coming in.
QUESTION: And it doesn’t violate U.S. policy for the U.S.-funded ECOWAS troops to fight alongside Mali troops, correct?
MS. NULAND: It does not. We are precluded under the counter-coup restrictions from funding a military that has been involved in a coup until democracy has been restored, but we’re not precluded from assisting allies and partners in trying to restore security to that country.
QUESTION: What are we to understand the ultimate goal now is of this? Is it just to push back the offensive that began a few – last week? Or is it actually now to jump ahead and try and get rid of the rebel groups for good from the region?
MS. NULAND: Well, the French have spoken to the scope of their mission. I think President Hollande had some comments today with regard to how they see the role that they’re playing. Over time, obviously, the international community’s goal as spelled out in the UN Security Council resolutions is not only to help the Government of Mali route the terrorists who have taken up control of too much of the north of the country, but also to be able to restore security throughout the country and to restore democracy. We’ve talked about the fact that there’s no purely security solution to this problem. There also has to be a democratic solution which heals the country and addresses some of the grievances that make these populations in the north vulnerable to the siren song of terrorists.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The French today called on – made a particular call to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries for help. What kind of help could they provide?
MS. NULAND: The French did?
QUESTION: The French did. I know you’re not the French, but in your opinion, what could the Gulf Cooperation Council offer in terms of – is it financial or military or what?
MS. NULAND: Frankly, Said, I don’t know what they asked specifically of the GCC, but I would refer you to the French for what they think the GCC can help them with.
QUESTION: Do you think that they are calling on, let’s say, the GCC versus, let’s say, the Maghreb countries for political reasons?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into the French relationship with GCC countries, but I think all of us in the international community need to play any role that we can in rolling back the threat inside Mali.
QUESTION: Sorry, this is a very elementary question.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: What is a sustainment package?
MS. NULAND: A sustainment package, generally, once forces have deployed – and I’m now getting into DOD’s territory, and I don’t want the brothers –
QUESTION: Well, that’s why I’m confused, because it sounds like military speak for something that could be either cash or it could be food, could be – what is a sustainment for --
MS. NULAND: Again, this is under our foreign military assistance programs that we run here. It generally refers to replenishment of ammunition, replenishment of spare parts, can be anything from boots to tents to ammo, et cetera, as units that have been in the field begin to need replenishment, if you will, of anything from beans to bullets.
QUESTION: But it includes lethal – it’s --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- lethal support; it’s not food?
MS. NULAND: It can be food if they need food, but it can also be parts, equipment, ammunition.
MS. NULAND: Scott.
QUESTION: Was there discussion of the ECOWAS approach between the Secretary and the Liberian President in their talks this morning?
MS. NULAND: There was. Mali was very much a subject that was discussed, and the upcoming ECOWAS summit. The Secretary did outline the support that we are prepared to offer to ECOWAS countries, as she did make clear that we support the French forces and that we are looking at how best to respond to the requests that they’ve made as well.
QUESTION: Toria, up until now, the country actually – Mali was actually considered pretty progressive politically. What happened? How do – are there larger lessons to be drawn from this?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don't know what you mean by pre-progressive, Jill.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, they had a government.
MS. NULAND: That’s not a word that I --
QUESTION: They seemed to be functioning as a government. Is there – I guess what I’m asking is, in that particular area where you have al-Qaida and you have other groups, is there a larger lesson to be drawn from how this very quickly devolved into a very bad situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary’s been clear for more than a year now about her concern about al-Qaida’s efforts to make in-roads into various countries in that part of the world, and particularly the threat posed by al-Qaida in the Maghreb. If you got a chance to see what the Secretary of Defense said yesterday, he also talked a little bit about the squeeze the balloon phenomenon, if you will, that they have been increasingly squeezed in Yemen, in Somalia, even in Libya such that they’re looking for new safe havens.
So in all of the travels that the Secretary has had in West Africa, she’s spoken about not only this threat but the Boko Haram threat in Nigeria and the risk that they link up. You remember that we were in Algeria and this was very much a subject not too long ago. So I think we’ve all been watching this with concern, and particularly after the coup, when the only result of the coup was to immobilize the government in Bamako, both politically and in security terms, so that they were increasingly less able to combat the slow takeover of some of these towns. But obviously, the turning point came when the rebels began moving significantly towards Kano and were on the road to some of these southern towns that are very strategically important. So I think it was at that point that the Government of Mali asked for French help, et cetera.
QUESTION: It has been – just to take Jill’s point, though, it has been a pretty stunning fall from grace for Mali. I mean, 10 years ago, they were a founding member of the Community of Democracies. They – several Secretaries of State traveled there. It was hailed as a model for other African countries coming out of post-colonial unrest --
MS. NULAND: Right, right.
QUESTION: -- for tribulations. So, I mean, is there – is it the U.S. Administration – is it the Administration’s position that this happened solely as a result of the coup?
MS. NULAND: No. I mean, I think, first of all, to agree with you. It is – for all friends of Mali, it’s a great tragedy to watch what’s happened to the country. This process was greatly exacerbated by the coup in Bamako, which had all of the political and economic energy of the country focused on the crisis of governance in the south, rather than working on what they should have been working on, which were addressing the grievances of the north and trying to rebind the country political and economic progress.
So over the past however long it’s been, ten months, nine months, that has allowed increasing space up in the north – which is hard to secure anyway, hard to govern cause it’s so far away, the country’s very large – for the terrorist groups to make in-roads and for the Mali Government to be divided among itself, the Mali military to be divided among itself, rather than confronting the challenges in the country. So if there’s a lesson here, it’s that coups, political coups, take countries backwards and that any effort by terrorist groups, particularly regionally-based ones, to make inroads into ungoverned spaces, has to be confronted firmly by the government. And if that can’t happen, then there has to be international support.
QUESTION: But is it --
QUESTION: Not to get too into the weeds with this, but --
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s try.
QUESTION: Well, I think it’s important, because isn’t it true that the rights of the Tuaregs were not protected sufficiently so that they were in opposition to the government? And then in effect, their movement was co-opted or taken over by al-Qaida.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve said this, that this is also an issue when you have a country that is ethnically, historically, geographically divided, and there are a number of such countries in that region. It’s incumbent on the government to represent, work with, address the views of the entire population so that groups are not left vulnerable; they’re not left out of the political and economic process. Because when that happens, and when you have haves and have-nots in a country, and you have ungoverned space, those groups become vulnerable, as I said, to the siren song of terrorists who come with great bags of money promising all kinds of things that the government hasn’t provided, and ultimately just bringing more violence and more misery.
So yes, rather than fighting among themselves politically and in security terms in Bamako, they should all have been focused on addressing the grievances in the country and trying to create a stronger, more stable Mali. So it is quite difficult and tragic, and we all have to work with them now to try to get back to where they deserve to be.
QUESTION: But to Jill’s point and --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- Matt’s point as well, are there discussions in general about what kind of assistance the United States gives militarily to countries that have these sort of issues? For example, the leaders of the coup, many of them were part of the Mali army, and they were trained by the U.S. and Europe. Are there discussions about whether you can have better training for the military and for the security sector while not also backing up or funding or requiring the government to live up to that type of professionalism?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, starting with the fact that we are now unable to support Malian security forces directly at all because they were involved in a coup and we haven’t yet had a restoration of democracy, so it’s enshrined in American law that we can only work with militaries that support the democratic process and not with those who undermine it. That said --
QUESTION: But even before that --
MS. NULAND: Of course. And --
QUESTION: The coup – the argument that --
MS. NULAND: Can you let me address your question?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. So it is a fundamental tenet of U.S. training in all of our military-to-military cooperation programs that we focus not only on hard security but that we also focus on citizen security, that we focus on human rights, that we focus on democratic principles. And the sad story here is that those Malians who were trained in the United States did have that kind of training, including Sanogo.
So obviously there is an effort underway to look at how we can strengthen that, and it doesn’t always succeed. But I would point to the hundreds if not thousands of serving officers and staff members of militaries around the world who have been strong supporters of democratic principles, have refused to fire on their own people, have refused to undercut their constitutions, in no small part because they got exposure to those fundamental tenets of what a democratic military does in their training in the United States, first and foremost the Egyptian military, as you know.
QUESTION: And secondly? Second and third?
MS. NULAND: Were there second and third?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, do the Syrians follow that? No, they don’t seem to. Any country in Latin America over the last 30 years? They were all trained in the U.S. They were running around --
MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m not going to go --
QUESTION: No, no, no. You said thousands and thousands of troops and you even mentioned Egypt. So what other countries have there been where militaries have refused to fire on their own people because of human rights training that their officers received in the United States? Can you name one?
MS. NULAND: There are a number of militaries around the world who have been offered the opportunity to coup on their own people and haven’t done it. I’m not going to sit here and give you a list.
QUESTION: Just one quick one.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: At least in terms of Mali, it’s my understanding that the coup – they were upset because while they felt like they were being professional, they weren’t being backed up by the actual government. They weren’t necessarily firing on their own people, but they felt like they’d had this professional training by the West and that the Mali Government was not backing that up. So I guess my question is more about whether the U.S. is not just focused on the training of the military but whether it’s also focused on insisting that the actual governments live up to that type of training. I don’t know if that – if I’m making sense. In other words, you had an army that expected a certain amount of professionalism because that’s part of the training that they’ve been giving. They launched a coup because they felt like the government was not living up to that professionalism.
MS. NULAND: Again, the answer when you have grievances with your own government is not to overthrow it. It is to have a democratic discussion about how to improve the situation, how to broaden the approach that is being undertaken, to work through your parliament, to work with your leaders. There’s never an excuse for violence and there’s never an excuse for overthrowing a democratic government. Work through the democratic process to address the grievances.
Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: When you talk about overthrowing a democratic government, how are you viewing the situation in Pakistan where a mass rally in Islamabad is calling for the government to ramp up? The Supreme Court has issued orders for Prime Minister’s arrest. Do you have a comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously not taking a position with regard to the march and all of those – the various issues, political issues that the marchers are out in the streets for. What we have said is, as we say around the world, we want to see any kind of demonstration remain peaceful and that the government protect the right of people to a peaceful protest and that the protestors remain peaceful in the way they approach things.
But with regard to the larger question of the political future of Pakistan, that’s an internal issue for Pakistanis to resolve as long as it is resolved in a just and transparent manner that protects the constitution, protects the rule of law. You know what we’ve said consistently that we stand strongly in favor of a democratically elected civilian government in Pakistan, and we’ll continue to do so.
QUESTION: But does the situation where the government is almost paralyzed affect your ability to talk to the Pakistani Government and work on the issues that you have been working through during the last few months?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been talking to the Pakistani Government throughout this period. I think you know that Foreign Minister Khar is in New York today and Ambassador Rice will have a chance to meet with her. So we are continuing – our lines of communication are very much open.
QUESTION: Will the situation in Pakistan also be a topic of discussion?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that Foreign Minister Khar is coming primarily because Pakistan is going to take the chair of the council, so I assume that the conversation will focus primarily on UN and multilateral issues. But I will refer you to USUN to give you a readout after the meeting.
QUESTION: Have you issued any new security or other kind of instructions to the Embassy staff? Who is the Ambassador in touch with in the Pakistani Government at the moment?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Ambassador has been very active, as you can imagine. I’m not going to get into details of his diplomacy. The Embassy, though, because of the march and the large number of people in the streets, the Embassy has been closed for public services yesterday and today. We anticipate it will also be open tomorrow. The usual advisories are out for American citizens as well to avoid --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) closed?
MS. NULAND: It will be closed for public services tomorrow as well because of the number of people in the streets. And the usual advisories for Americans to stay away from crowds, et cetera, are out.
QUESTION: Just one last one.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There are some sections of the media in Pakistan and several political parties who are saying that the U.S. would also welcome any change that is caused by this rally or any other means because it has lost confidence in the Pakistan Government’s ability to deliver. Do you have a comment on that?
MS. NULAND: That is not our view. Our view is that internal political issues in Pakistan need to be resolved by Pakistanis, as I said, in a just, transparent manner that accords with the rule of law. And as I also said, we stand strongly in favor of a democratically elected civilian government in Pakistan. We always – we have for a long time and we will continue to.
QUESTION: Has anybody from the Embassy met Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadry, who is leading this mass rally?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that one way or the other. It sounds like he’s
a pretty busy guy at the moment.
Still on this?
QUESTION: Yeah. You said that you didn’t want to comment on the broader political issue, and then you laid out the principals: rule of law --
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- respect for the constitution, et cetera. Do you have a view on the narrower question of whether the Pakistani Supreme Court’s ordering the arrest of the Prime Minister may have been a politically motivated act?
MS. NULAND: We’re – our only comment on any of this today is to say that these issues have to be resolved among Pakistanis in a democratic and transparent manner.
QUESTION: Well, do you regard – I mean, I think it’s a serious question because there are cases of what State Department spokespeople themselves say they regard as politically motivated prosecutions, right? And when the Supreme Court orders the arrest of the serving Prime Minister of a country, it is a natural question to ask. Is that a question yourselves are asking yourselves? Is this politically motivated? Or is it not even a question that occurs to you, it’s just the march of justice in a democratic society.
MS. NULAND: Our – my understanding is that this was rooted in a long case that, based on charges that were made some time ago, we are not in a position to evaluate the merits of the case one way or the other. If that changes, we’ll let you know.
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: You have had the last couple days to evaluate; do you still see value in Mr. Brahimi’s efforts?
MS. NULAND: We do still see value in his efforts. We do continue to support what he’s trying to do. It’s never been an easy mission. He, as you know, plans to continue his consultations. He’s going to be meeting some of the opposition leaders in the coming days and weeks, and he’ll also be having more consultations with the regime and we’ll see where we go from there.
QUESTION: Although, the Syrian Government seems to have closed the door basically on his access and welcome to Syria.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we have to see what happens the next time he tries to go.
QUESTION: Okay. And his predecessor, Kofi Annan, said that he did not get the proper support from anyone, including the permanent members on the Security Council. Do you agree with that?
MS. NULAND: Well, we were also extremely supportive of what Kofi Annan was trying to do. It’s obviously been a difficult mission; it’s been difficult for all of us. Nobody would say that the situation in Syria’s been easy.
QUESTION: Would you say that all members of – all permanent members of the Security Council were full supportive of Kofi Annan?
MS. NULAND: Well, we obviously had different views, as you know, and that was evident in the three vetoes that we had.
QUESTION: And finally, if I may ask, there are some reports that you have concluded – or you have reports, whatever it is, intelligence or otherwise – that suggest that Syria is really headed towards becoming a failed state, that in fact the elements that are there now sort of suggest that very strongly.
MS. NULAND: I think all of the efforts that we’ve been undertaking over this whole period are designed to prevent that, to try to get the bloodshed ended before the fabric of the society and all of the institutions are destroyed. The Secretary has been quite eloquent in talking about the risks here, and we will continue to support the Syrian people in their effort to have a better future and to get another chance at rebuilding their society in a democratic way.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Egypt? I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about these comments that President Morsi made before he was President that were strident, shall we say, and vitriolic against Israel and Jews and even the U.S. President Obama. One, what do you think of them, and two, are these the words – as a leader who says something like this, can you really, honestly expect him to uphold the peace agreement with people that he describes as the descendents of pigs and apes?
MS. NULAND: Well, we obviously strongly condemn the remarks attributed to then Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi in 2010. The language that we’ve seen is deeply offensive; we completely reject these statements as we do any language that espouses religious hatred.
This kind of rhetoric has been used in this region for far too long; it’s counter to the goals of peace. And we want to see President Morsi make absolutely clear to his own people, to the international community, that he respects people of all faiths, and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt from its President. So we are obviously raising our concerns with the Egyptian Government.
What I would say is that since he has been President, President Morsi has reaffirmed again and again Egypt’s commitment to the peace treaty, to working with, in both word and deed, he’s been willing to work with us and Israel on shared objectives, including the ceasefire in Gaza. He’s been committed to our bilateral relationship, so that is the basis on which we are continuing to work together going forward.
QUESTION: Well, have you – so you think that there is still some value to be worked – to working with him? You don’t think that these comments reflect his heartfelt beliefs? You’re seeking – I assume – you say you want to see him make clear that he respects all faiths. Does that mean you want him to publicly repudiate these comments, which were captured on video as I understand. I mean, this was quite a big speech --
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ll leave it to – we’ll leave it –
QUESTION: No, no. Do you want to see him publicly repudiate what – these comments? And even if he does, I mean, how can the Administration have any faith that this man is committed to peace with people he obviously clearly thinks so poorly of?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start by the fact that we will judge him by what he does. What he has been doing is supporting that peace treaty, continuing to work with us and with Israel on common goals, including in Gaza. But we’ll also judge him by what he says, and we think that these comments should be repudiated and they should be repudiated firmly.
QUESTION: By him.
MS. NULAND: That’s what I said.
QUESTION: So you are calling on him to retract, apologize, or repudiate --
MS. NULAND: I think I said it pretty clearly that he needs to make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable in a democratic Egypt.
QUESTION: So, in other words, let me – I just want to make absolutely clear, you detest, you abhor the comments that he made, but since he’s been president you haven’t seen anything from him that would suggest that he is anything other than committed to the peace treaty with Israel.
MS. NULAND: he’s reaffirmed his commitment to it several times. He’s been acting in a manner that upholds that commitment.
QUESTION: So as odious and deplorable as these comments are, you have not seen them manifested at all since he’s – in his actions while he’s been president?
MS. NULAND: We have not, but we still think that he needs to make clear his views.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Can I turn the coin around?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As you know, Israel is refusing – threatened to refuse to submit its Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights to the Human Rights Council. I’m wondering how strongly you think that this is a bad idea. What have you been telling the Israelis about it? And do you think that they should participate, even though the council – you have problems with the council, and they have serious problems with the council?
MS. NULAND: Matt’s referring to the fact that in the Human Rights Council, all states are reviewed every four years. The U.S. submits to these kinds of reviews as well. We think it’s important for all UN member-states to appear for their own Universal Periodic Review. Frankly, this is an opportunity for that member-state once every four years to report on its own views of the human rights situation inside of its country and to receive nonbinding, expert advice and recommendations on how to improve those conditions. We do it; we find it useful to us.
That said, we’ve also consistently registered our opposition to the council’s consistent anti-Israel bias. It doesn’t serve the interests of the council to single out any one country in an unbalanced manner. But nonetheless, we think it’s in Israel’s interest. Obviously, they’ll decide their own interest. But we think that Israel, like all countries, serves itself by coming and appearing.
QUESTION: Okay. When you say that you have been consistently opposed to the council’s anti-Israel stance, and yet you still think the Israelis should do this, you mean to say that this is not necessarily an anti-Israel exercise?
MS. NULAND: Well, the exercise itself is something that all UN member-states, including the United States, are asked to submit to every four years. The question, obviously, is when the report is issued, whether it is balanced, et cetera, and whether, in the context of the information that is gained from it, the Human Rights Council behaves towards that country in a balanced manner.
QUESTION: Right, no, I understand. But you’re telling the Israelis, “Look, just appearing or participating in the UPR isn’t necessarily an anti-Israel exercise.” Is that --
MS. NULAND: We don’t consider it an anti-U.S. exercise when we do it, if that’s what you’re asking.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. So it’s not an anti anything. What happens after that might be, but the actual participation in it is not, and that’s your argument to the Israelis?
MS. NULAND: Our argument to them is that we think any country, rather than having the thing go by without them participating, serves its interests by actually appearing and representing its views.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just on the contacts that you had with Israel about this, where have they – how – what level have they gotten to? And what have you warned the Israelis that the consequences – whether they be real consequences or just reputational – what kind of consequences have you warned them of if they go ahead and boycott?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think there – we’ve spoken about consequences, and with regard to our view on what they ought to do, I think this is something that we do at the embassy level.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You’re not suggesting that the Human Rights Council has been biased against Israel, are you?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We do. We are. (Laughter.) We are, as we have consistently said. We have always been clear that we consider that the disproportionate and biased opposition to Israel within the Human Rights Council further politicizes that body and doesn’t serve the interests of the Human Rights Council. We’ve said that all along. As you know, almost every year we have to take issue with something that comes up in the Human Rights Council with regard to Israel.
QUESTION: So why – if you feel that way, what is the value of doing that, or asking Israel to appear before the council and submit a report?
MS. NULAND: I think I just went through this; that they’re going to do a report on every country once every four years. That country serves itself better by appearing and making its own case than being silent and letting this go forward without them. That’s our view.
QUESTION: On the same topic, in the last – over the weekend, the Israelis forcibly moved Palestinians who had tried to reclaim an area taken from them for a settlement in the E1 area in Bab al-Shams. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: We’ve obviously been aware of recent developments in E1. I will again take this opportunity to urge all sides, both sides, to refrain from unhelpful action, from unhelpful rhetoric, and to think seriously about the consequences of their actions. Every step taken should be designed to reduce tension, to prepare the way for getting back to the negotiating table.
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what you’re --
QUESTION: Doing – taking action like that, going to areas and pitching tents and staying up there and do temporary housing and staying on land without seeking – without resorting to violence, that would be the kind of action that the Palestinians ought to do in sort of undoing the occupation?
MS. NULAND: We oppose all unilateral action, Said, including settlement activities of any kind. They complicate efforts to resume direct bilateral talks. This includes in the E1 area. It’s just not helpful.
QUESTION: Toria, on adoptions, I noticed that yesterday – I’m sorry I didn’t print it out – there was an announcement that a U.S. State Department official is going to be going, I believe, to Kyrgyzstan, was it, on the subject of adoptions? And I was just wondering whether that was something that was connected to the Russian adoption story, or whether that’s completely separate. I guess the subtext would be: Are you worried that some type of law like that might spread in that region?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, our adoption relationship with each country is unique. It’s based on bilateral agreements and the Hague Conventions, et cetera. So I would guess that this was a visit that was planned beforehand. But let me check for you, Jill, if there’s anything that connects there.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s not a settlement question, per se, but do you have any comment on the situation of these Palestinian villages in South Hebron Hills?
MS. NULAND: I don’t. Let me look into that one, Matt.
QUESTION: And they’re being forcibly relocated because they’re apparently inside an Israeli military firing zone.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information on that one. If we have anything to say, I’ll share it with you tomorrow.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MS. NULAND: Let’s just stay with adoptions, and we’ll go to Mr. Lee. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I believe we mentioned last week you were holding a conference call with some of the families, and you said that you’d update us if you could on that. Could you just tell us where we are and whether your figures have changed and what the latest discussions have been with the Russian authorities?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I’m not going to go through every twist and turn in this, because we’re obviously now working intensively with the Russians to try to work through what we can do about these cases that were already entrain. I don’t think it serves the interest of that process or the kids to be going through it publicly here, Jo. So as we work through that, if we come to any kind of resolution that we can talk about, we’ll obviously get back to you. But you understand that our intent is to have as many of these children able to join loving families as possible.
QUESTION: Did the figures go up or come down as a result of --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any new update on figures. This was less information gathering on the cases, because we do that through the website, and this was more a general updating of families of the action that we were trying to take and timelines. And there we also had some advice to families, some of whom had had people sitting in Russia, trying to process things as the law came into force. So it was more about how to work with us during this period.
QUESTION: And can I just ask generally, the intense discussions that you’re having with the Russians now – what kind of tone are you getting from the Russian side? Is it generally constructive? Do they want to try and help these families get through this?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think it doesn’t serve the process for us to be putting you inside the room. Let us try to work it through in the interest of the children.
QUESTION: This gentleman has been waiting for a long time. After – can I ask after him? Okay. You go first.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Please. Thank you, Victoria. I want to go back to Greece. I asked you yesterday a question. There are some people in Greece that they believe that what we see in Athens right now – is a comeback of terrorism. What is your comment on this?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further to what I said the other day, which is that we condemn violence of any kind. If there are economic grievances, if there are political grievances, they ought to be addressed in a peaceful manner. So – but I’m not going to get into characterizing.
QUESTION: Okay. And another question. How is your cooperation with Greece on this issue, on the issue of terrorism?
MS. NULAND: On counterterrorism cooperation?
MS. NULAND: Has been excellent for at least a decade and a half.
QUESTION: You are not tired yet?
MS. NULAND: I am never tired. One of my feet is asleep, but other than that, we’re fine.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Japan’s new administration plans to increase defense budget, military budget, and it’s apparently seeking more activity of its self-defense forces abroad. Neighboring countries, like China and South Korea, seem to be concerned about the move. So what’s the State Department’s formal stance, position, on Japan’s move?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we’re consulting with the Abe government on the direction that it wants to go on a whole variety of things. We look forward to having new Foreign Minister Kishida here on Friday. I think you know that we have Assistant Secretary Campbell and a delegation in Seoul today, and then they’ll also be – I think they’re in Tokyo tomorrow. So I don’t think we’re going to comment on some of these press reports out of Japan about what the government might do until we get a chance to talk to the government.
What I would say though is that Japan is a treaty ally of the United States. We work together very intensively on the security of Japan, the security of the whole northeast Asian region. Similarly, the Republic of Korea is a treaty ally of the United States. We work intensively on security of the Korean Peninsula, security of the region. And we work very closely with our two treaty allies together, Japan and Korea and the United States, to maintain security in northeast Asia. So it’s very, very important in this period, where we have a new government in Japan, where we have a government elected and getting ready to come into office in Korea, that we continue those bilateral consultations and the trilateral consultations on how to keep that neighborhood safe, and we will do that.
QUESTION: One more, please.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Well, I obviously am not going to preempt Assistant Secretary Campbell before he has his meetings, just to say that he’s in Asia with Assistant Secretary of Defense Mark Lippert and National Security Council Senior Director for Asia Dan Russel. As I said, this trip to Japan and Korea is an opportunity to consult with new governments. In Korea, he’s going to be consulting with the sitting government, but he’ll also have a chance to see Madam Park’s transition team, talk about a range of issues. I’m sure we’ll talk about the security relationship, the political relationship, and the economic relationship going forward. But I will let you know what I have after they come out of there.
What I – let’s see what I already have. Yeah. They had a productive meeting with the Minister of National Defense, Mr. Kim. In that context of that, they discussed the regional security situation, how we can further strengthen and modernize our alliance on the eve of its 60th anniversary. And tomorrow, they’ll continue their meetings with the government and with the Park transition team.
Yeah. Please. Still in Asia? Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On DPRK, Senator John Kerry – if my memories are correct, he wrote an op-ed in LA Times in June of 2011, criticizing the current policy toward North Korea. It’s not working, and he think the best way is to find a different approach and the best way is direct engagement with North Korea. Now that Kurt Campbell is in Seoul, and the South Korean first woman president, she mentioned that she might want to consider a change of the policy toward North Korea. I just wonder is there any discussion within the Administration to have a policy review on policy toward North Korea. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, I think this is an opportunity with Kurt Campbell being in Seoul today with Danny Russel and Mr. Lippert to hear both from the government and from the Park team what they are thinking moving forward and to make sure that we are working together, as we always do, on the issues involving DPRK and on security in the region. So to my knowledge, there’s no policy review planned here. You know where we are on all of these things. We’ve been clear about that in the context of our concerns about the DPRK’s course.
MS. NULAND: Yep. Let me see if I can find it here. Maybe I put it in the front. So I was not in that meeting. My colleague, Mike Hammer, went up to it, so let me see if I can find the notes that I had. Let me just say generally that they obviously spoke about the broad and deep relationship that the U.S. and Colombia have both bilaterally and on regional issues. It was a chance for the Secretary to get updated on the peace talks that the Colombian Government is conducting with the FARC.
Here we go. The Secretary obviously expressed admiration for President Santos’ efforts to engage in peace negotiations with the FARC and she also praised the Santos regime for its broad engagement on social and economic development and human rights in the country, including working on labor rights, land restitution, victims’ reparations, and its work with the Human Rights Council.
They also had a chance to discuss the potential for change in Venezuela, where both counties indicated that a political transition of any kind needs to happen in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution, needs to be transparent, needs to be democratic.
And the Secretary also reiterated the U.S. support for Colombia’s accession to the OECD and commented positively on the potential for the Alliance of the Pacific, where Colombia plays a strong role.
MS. NULAND: Let me see what I’ve got there. I think I’ve got something. Yep. So Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs Feridun Sinirlioglu was in the Department yesterday. He had meetings as part of our ongoing consultation with Turkey. He met with Deputy Secretary Burns. The Secretary had a chance to stop in and say hello to him during that meeting, as well as Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon, Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Beth Jones, and Special Envoy for Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual. They obviously talked about Syria, as we always do. They talked about Iraq and the importance of international solidarity in Iran and efforts to promote Middle East peace. They also discussed U.S. continuing support for Turkey’s efforts to combat terrorism and to deepen justice and rule of law in Turkey and to bolster U.S.-Turkish economic ties.
QUESTION: Ayalon also was in the building yesterday and --
MS. NULAND: Sorry?
QUESTION: Mr. Danny Ayalon, the Deputy Foreign Ministry – the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, he was in the building yesterday too, and he met with Mr. Burns too. Did you raise the Turkish-Israeli relations in the meeting too?
MS. NULAND: Well, whenever we meet with Turks, the issue of Israel usually comes up. And whenever we meet with Israelis, the issue of Turkey usually comes up. So I don’t have anything specific on the Ayalon meeting, but usually we are, as allies of both countries, trying to support increased dialogue and better relations between them.
QUESTION: A quick one for you.
MS. NULAND: Ms. Chomiak.
MS. NULAND: It does. It does.
QUESTION: And what about the Senate?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’re going to let the Senate speak for itself, but – so I would refer you to them.
QUESTION: And do you have anything on Kerry’s own hearing?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to the SFRC for them to make that announcement.
QUESTION: Can you provide any update or details on Rose Gottemoeller and Tom Countryman’s arms control/nonproliferation meetings this week in Europe, what was talked about with the United Kingdom for Countryman?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have – Tom is here today, so I’m not sure – were these meetings today?
QUESTION: I think they were earlier this week or they were listed in the schedule for this week --
MS. NULAND: Okay. Let me take that and see if we can get you anything specific.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Should – and Morsi’s comments if you want to grab that page. It’s very brief. Should the Egyptians expect some kind of a deterioration in relations if these comments are not repudiated?
MS. NULAND: I think our hope is to be able to make our views clear and to see the kind of action that I’ve called for here so that we don’t have to get into all kinds of hypothetical scenarios.
QUESTION: And in your conversations with the Egyptians about these comments, whether with him or his aides, have you told him about what the reaction is going to be to these comments on the Hill and the likely uproar that they are going to cause along with calls for reduction or elimination in funding, that kind of thing?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have a senior Senate delegation that’s going to be in Egypt in the next couple of days, so I’m sure that they will have a chance to speak for themselves, but we certainly have made the Egyptians aware that we are continuing to seek economic support funds for Egypt on the Hill, and they are very well aware that these kinds of issues are of concern there, too.
QUESTION: Okay. And then lastly – and this has been quite a whirlwind briefing, so try and get to the two inhabited continents that have not been covered so far – anything new on the Keystone environmental impact statement which was supposed to come out last year?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new yet. I think you know that we were waiting for Nebraska to take some steps so that we could conclude our work. My understanding is Nebraska’s only recently done that, but we’ll check on the timing for you, Matt.
QUESTION: And then anything new on Australia?
MS. NULAND: On Australia? (Laughter.) Our fabulous alliance to Down Under? Not to report today.
QUESTION: All right. Well, we got them all.
MS. NULAND: We have, yeah.
QUESTION: This is not about the removal of the chief justice, but rather about the President’s choice of one of his close allies to now serve as chief justice. Do you have anything to say about that in particular?
MS. NULAND: Not on that particular issue except to say that we had made clear throughout this impeachment that we were concerned about what it said about the democratic process, that we were concerned about the perception of reprisals against somebody for independent thinking and action. So those concerns remain with regard to the quality of Sri Lankan democracy.
QUESTION: One other thing I should have mentioned. She is quoted today as saying that she – the former chief justice or the ousted chief justice, she maintains that she still is the chief justice – is quoted as saying her life is under threat. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. NULAND: I have not seen those comments. Let me also add, as I said yesterday, that this entire issue also serves to undermine the international reputation of Sri Lanka as it pertains to investment decisions that foreign companies might make, so there is usually a cost to this kind of thing in terms of their ability to attract foreign investment.
QUESTION: How about to U.S. assistance if any?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything at the current moment on that. Let me check up on our current assistance situation with Sri Lanka. All right? Thank you all.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m.)