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12:58 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Can you start with --
QUESTION: Let’s go with Keystone if you don’t mind, just to get it out of the way. As you know, Nebraska has effectively given a nod to the proposed route. Do you guys have, now, a judgment on it?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did receive a letter from the Governor of Nebraska approving the route through the State of Nebraska. We will obviously take that letter and the Nebraska environmental report into consideration as we continue our federal review process. I think we said last year that we expected that this process was going to take us through the first quarter of 2013, so just to reiterate that we don’t anticipate being able to conclude our own review before the end of the first quarter of this year.
QUESTION: Do you expect to have a decision by the end of the first quarter?
MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we don’t expect to be ready before the end of the first quarter, I think we need to let our folks continue to do the work that they’re doing. Obviously, Nebraska’s just finished. As I said, we have to take that work and crunch it into our own work.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re not ruling out that it could slide into the second quarter?
MS. NULAND: Again, let’s just stick with where I am right now, that we certainly don’t see it before the end of the first quarter.
QUESTION: And does this change the timeline in any way? Does this make it more complicated to make a decision?
MS. NULAND: Well, we were waiting for Nebraska to make its decision. Our processes move in parallel. We’ve been doing our own work. But had Nebraska changed the route or done something else, that certainly would have been complicating. I think we obviously want to take the Nebraska environmental study, we want to compare it with the work that we’ve done, so – but I think we are still where we said we were, which was that we don’t anticipate concluding before the end of the first quarter.
QUESTION: Victoria, on this, can you just tell a little bit – I think you did by saying they go in parallel. But could you see where your efforts converge with the state’s efforts, so us, the foreign journalists, can understand it?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we had to do a new review of the environmental impact of this in light of some of the comments that we received, so we took the first review that we had done; we are expanding it, looking at it. The State of Nebraska has itself done an environmental impact study, so that can inform the updating of our federal one now. And that is a necessary part of this interagency process that the State Department leads on behalf of the President before a license can be issued.
QUESTION: But does yours supersede or overrule the state’s?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, if the state had been opposed to this or unwilling to see it proceed, that would have had an effect on our process, but given that the state has now given it a green light, we’re operating within that more positive parameter.
QUESTION: Could I change the subject --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to Benghazi? Secretary will be testifying tomorrow, both with the Senate and the House.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Can you tell us – many people, a number of people on the Hill say that there are still questions. One person I spoke with, a senator, said that he believed that there were not – that all of the documents have not been released. They believe there are emails and texts that still have to be released.
Just on that immediate point, have all of the documents that they have requested been released? What – do you know what he’s talking about?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen those comments from that member. Tomorrow, both on the Senate side and on the House side, members of Congress will have a chance to hear what the Secretary has to say, but also to ask her any remaining questions that they have on this matter. I think she will focus not only on the ARB report, but on all the work that the Department has done already to implement the ARB report and give a status on that and an update on the work that remains. You will recall that she pledged not only to accept all 29 of the recommendations, but to have the implementation of those recommendations well underway before her successor took over. So I think she’ll want to give a status on that.
With regard to documents, as you know, Jill, since this initially happened, we have been responding on a regular basis to document requests from members of Congress, making those documents available to members and staff. I can’t speak to what this particular member may be looking for.
QUESTION: And how would you say – over the past week or two since she’s gotten better, how has she been preparing for Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: Well, she’s obviously been receiving briefings on the implementation work underway. She’s been overseeing that work. She’s been pushing it along. She has to obviously prepare statements for both testimonies tomorrow, and she’s had a chance to talk to a lot of the people in the Department who’ve been working – who are working on this during the time that she was out, get caught up, and push it forward herself.
MS. NULAND: Can I go to Jennifer?
QUESTION: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: Thank you. Congressman Jason Chaffetz has said that he hasn’t – that he has requested many times to interview some of the survivors and that the State Department has not allowed him to do so, has kept some of the survivors from talking to members of Congress. And then there are some of the survivors themselves who said that they – including members of the Diplomatic Security Service who were present that night, who say that they weren’t interviewed by Admiral Mullen and Thomas Pickering as part of the ARB report. Do you have any comment about that?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, members of Congress, including these members, will have a chance to raise issues of concern when they see the Secretary tomorrow. I don’t want to do the hearing in advance of doing the hearing here. But clearly, as evidenced by the folks who were up on the Hill from Diplomatic Security in those initial hearings way back when in October, some members of Diplomatic Security were made available. I really can’t speak to the scope of it from here today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Why did – you have often noted that Secretary Clinton took responsibility, and she did so, I believe, some weeks after the event itself. Why did she not come out immediately, or within a day or two or five, and say, “This was my responsibility”?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you go back and look at every single statement that she made, from the statement that very first night to the public statement that she made the day after, to her comments at the remains return ceremony for Ambassador Stevens and our other three fallen colleagues, there was no question at any point in those statements that she considered it her responsibility to learn the lessons from this and to take the Department forward in implementing whatever lessons were learned.
So, and then obviously, she said the words in a slightly crisper way a little bit forward, but from the perspective of all of us who have served under her, we have always considered that she took full responsibility.
QUESTION: Did she use – I don’t believe she used the word “responsible” or “responsibility,” though, did she?
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position to parse every statement that she made.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you just cited all of her statements immediately afterwards, and you said if you read those, you will see that it’s very clear that – and I’m just wondering, because words matter; words matter in this building. And it was, I think, a month – more than a month, in fact, I think it was October the 15th – it may be that she felt responsible and felt that her statements reflected that initially and throughout, as you suggested, before she actually seems to have said the words. But I don’t recall her using those words in the initial statements or at any time prior to her interview with Elise.
MS. NULAND: Well, that is not to say that she didn’t at every single stage feel enormously responsible. It was just a matter of the immediate issues that needed responding to, like condoling the families and everybody else.
QUESTION: Can you just provide us an update of how many people in the end were fired for any mistakes or based on their recommendations from the Benghazi report?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to do all aspects of this testimony before we do the testimony, but just to remind that we had four – a total of four individuals put on administrative leave as a result of the implementation of the ARB recommendations, one of whom, Eric Boswell, who was Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security, who resigned from that position.
QUESTION: But they’re all four still working for the State Department, right?
MS. NULAND: They are all on administrative leave from their positions in the State Department.
QUESTION: And there’s --
QUESTION: But they – sorry, just to put it in simple English, they no longer are in those positions, but they still work in the building?
MS. NULAND: They are in administrative leave status. I don’t have the sort of letter of each of their --
QUESTION: I don’t know what that means. I’ve never been on administrative – I mean, what is that in simple English? They work here?
QUESTION: Does that mean that they’re still getting paid, but they’re not doing work?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take it. I actually don’t know what the precise details of it are.
QUESTION: Toria, is the testimony expected to be over and done with tomorrow, or is it likely to drag on? And how will that impact the confirmation hearing for Senator Kerry?
MS. NULAND: What the Secretary will do tomorrow is be available to Congress, first and foremost, to update them on the implementation of the ARB’s recommendations, but also to answer any questions they have of her. Then, as she’ll make clear tomorrow, all of the recommendations are currently being implemented, but there will be plenty of implementation work that needs to be carried forward by her successor.
QUESTION: I would imagine that the Secretary will also be asked about the state of the investigation by the FBI, and I can’t imagine that she will send the senators to the FBI for their answers. So would you be able to let us know what she can – what she will be able to tell the congressmen and women about where we are with the investigation into catching anybody who might be responsible for this – for these events?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position to preview what she’ll have to say on that, but I’m sure one of the things that she will say is that the FBI is mandated under U.S. law to be the investigating agency. This Department is not the investigating agency. So I think she will obviously decline to speak about another agency’s investigation, but we will leave it to her. I frankly haven’t been privy to whatever coordination has been going on there.
QUESTION: And is the anticipation perhaps that with the hearings tomorrow, this may now draw a line under this incident, and that the Department can move on with the implementation of the recommendations that is going forward?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I just answered that one in response to Said, that she will want to make clear the implementation that is set in train, the lessons that we are learning, but that implementation needs to be seen all the way through by her successor.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Your statement yesterday said that you are hoping for a fuller accounting from the Algerians on how the attack took place, who was responsible, et cetera. Do you have that fuller accounting, and can you provide us any information?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just start by saying that my colleague Jay Carney at the White House had extensive comments about an hour ago on where we are with the Algerians.
But just to repeat some of the things that he said there that we’ve been saying all the way through this: First and foremost, we have to underscore that the blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out; that we condemn this terrorist action in the strongest possible terms. We recognize that the Government of Algeria was dealing with a ruthless terrorist operation – people, as we said on Friday, who have no respect for human life. We, in our communications with the Algerians, as the Secretary made clear on both Thursday and Friday, urged them at every turn to do what they could in this difficult situation to protect the lives of the innocent.
We are moving forward, working with the Algerians, to get a fuller understanding of exactly what took place, how the terrorists were able to seize control of the facility, the decisions that the Algerians made in the context of the – dealing with this brutal attack. And we’ve also offered to be helpful in the investigation. Obviously, as the FBI’s already made clear, they have an open investigation into the matter, and they will conduct that in coordination with Algerian officials and other relevant partners.
QUESTION: Just a couple points of clarification: You refer to the terrorists – you don’t say AQIM at this point? Or are you not sure who was responsible?
MS. NULAND: Well, AQIM, as you know, has claimed responsibility for the attack. We are obviously, as I said, in consultations with the Government of Algeria to try to gain a fuller understanding of what took place, of who they deem to be responsible for this. But we don’t have any reason to doubt AQIM’s involvement in this attack.
QUESTION: And on the assistance, can you tell us what types of assistance you provided the Algerians in this operation? Were there U.S. personnel on the scene? Were – I don’t know. Please, let us know.
MS. NULAND: Apart from saying that we offered assistance to the Government of Algeria, I think I’m not going to get into the details. If they want to talk about that, then I’m sure that they will.
QUESTION: You said (inaudible) – whether they accepted or denied assistance is – you’ll leave open?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously there was information sharing and other things. Beyond that, I’m not going to get into details.
QUESTION: One of the biggest criticisms is that there allegedly was not enough information or contradictory information coming from the Algerians. Does the State Department believe that, that there was not enough?
MS. NULAND: You mean as the attack was --
QUESTION: As the attack was underway, that – even the President’s statements seemed to kind of get into that. But especially – officials that we were speaking to obviously said that they were not getting enough information or it was contradictory. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that the Secretary spoke to Prime Minister Sellal every single day, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, endeavoring to keep a channel of communication open at that level. We said here and the White House also said that we had open channels of communication among our terrorism experts all the way through.
These are very difficult, awful, tragic circumstances when these happen. I think the Secretary spoke to the fact that the facility was some thousand miles from Algiers, very remote. So one of the things that we have to understand better is how much information the Government of Algeria had at various different stages as this was going forward. It was obviously a complex attack, very difficult. There was – it was very fluid, and the folks on the ground were having to make very, very difficult calls. So we – as part of our ongoing conversation with the Government of Algeria, part of it will be to try to understand what was known when and by whom.
QUESTION: Victoria, Moktar Belmoktar --
QUESTION: Could you tell us about how you got your nationals out of the country once you knew they were safe? Did the – did you send a plane in to evacuate them? What were the mechanics of that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m going to get into all the mechanics except to say that I think the Department of Defense has already confirmed that it was able to do some lifting of our personnel and other personnel out of the country at an appropriate moment, and also to take out the remains of our three fallen Americans. But I think I’m not going to get into chapter and verse here.
QUESTION: And we still have those five foreigners that the Algerians say are still missing. There’s also unfortunately seven bodies that they haven’t been able to identify. Can you confirm or let us know of any – if you believe any American citizens are among those 12?
MS. NULAND: We don’t have any reason to believe that we still have Americans unaccounted for. I think you saw our statement yesterday in which we confirmed that we had three American dead as a result of this terrorist attack, and we had seven Americans who we knew were able to survive the attack. Those are our numbers still as of today.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you more direct – sorry if I’m before – were there any U.S. personnel at the scene in In Amenas or the immediate area at the time of the anti-terror operation?
MS. NULAND: Were – did we have Americans physically on site --
MS. NULAND: -- in the town?
QUESTION: Whether they were forces or providing any assistance or anything like that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to share on that one way or the other, Brad.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information to share on that one either, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. By all accounts, the Algerians acted precipitously, recklessly, and almost dismissively of the lives of the hostages. Do you think this sets a very bad precedent for similar situations in the future?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not, from here, going to be giving a value judgment about the way the Algerians dealt with this ruthless attack. I think Jay Carney said the same thing today, that the Algerians told us at the time, that the attackers intended to kill all of the hostages and to blow up the facility, which, as you know, was a gas plant. It would have been an enormous explosion which would have killed everybody. So obviously, the outcome could have been a whole lot more tragic than it ultimately was. That said, we are in touch with the Algerians to try to gain a fuller understanding of what took place, of the decisions that they made, so that we can all work together going forward against this kind of ruthless attack.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Tell me who you are.
MS. NULAND: I understand he will meet with Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Eric Rubin. That’s the only confirmed meeting that I have for him at the moment.
MS. NULAND: Sorry, still on Algeria?
MS. NULAND: Apologies.
MS. NULAND: Uh-oh. The set’s falling apart here. I’m sorry. I didn’t understand the end of your question. Can you say it again?
QUESTION: Sure. As the U.S. Government, do you recognize the activity by the Islamic extremists in that region is stable, not growing right now?
MS. NULAND: Well, I would refer you to the comments that the Secretary made both on Thursday and on Friday. On Thursday when the Somali President was here and on Friday with Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, she made clear that we have been concerned for a long time about the growing danger of radical extremism in this part of the world, about the connections across, which is why she was in Algeria in October, why we have the Global Counterterrorism Forum stood up, why we have counterterrorism training for some 10 governments across that region to try to strengthen their capacity, to try to improve border control, to help them to work together regionally. The countries in that region don’t have a great history of collaborating between themselves and among themselves, whether it’s on border, whether it’s on intelligence sharing, et cetera.
So these are all issues that not only the United States but other members of the international community are going to have to intensify our efforts on. And she spoke to that quite clearly both on Thursday and Friday last week.
QUESTION: Stay in the region?
QUESTION: On Mali, Mali.
MS. NULAND: Still on Algeria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: What you said now sounded like a threat by terrorists is a good excuse for authorities to act recklessly or --
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I didn’t --
QUESTION: You said that the terrorists were threatening to kill everyone and to blow up the facility there, so that the Algerians --
MS. NULAND: I said that I was not in a position here, based on what we know so far, or perhaps at all, to pass judgment on the precise decisions that Algerian security forces made at the time. We were making clear throughout that we expected and wanted them to place a premium on the protection of innocent life. The Secretary said that herself on Thursday, on Friday.
That said, this was an absolutely ruthless attack. They made clear to us that they believed that they were facing a situation where all hostages might be killed, where the plant might be blown up. So again, I’m not placing a value judgment one way or the other, except to say that the terrorists are the ones who bear responsibility for this instance, and all governments, those in the region, those in the international community, have to work together to learn the lessons from this one and to tighten our cooperation and collaboration.
QUESTION: One more on Algeria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on the cause of death for the three Americans who died?
MS. NULAND: I think we mentioned that to respect the privacy of these individuals, we’re not going to be getting into any more details, Brad.
QUESTION: Let me be sure. The Secretary had a meeting and a conversation with Prime Minister of Algeria every day, but she didn’t get her information a lot delayed by the Algerian military forces beforehand, right?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into any more details than we did last week about those conversations. They were designed to give us a real-time picture of the Algerian understanding of the situation on the ground, to convey our concerns and the information that we had about Americans, and to coordinate at that political level as best we could. But I’m not going to get into any further details of those conversations.
QUESTIONQUESTION: On Mali, we’re reporting that AFRICOM – that the United States has started airlifting troops and equipment into Mali, and that two flights have landed already. I wondered if you could update us on where you are with that situation.
MS. NULAND: The Department of Defense has started airlifting French equipment into Mali. I will refer you to our brothers and sisters at the Department of Defense for details on that. I think we can also confirm that African forces are starting to flow into country. We have some 700, 800 African troops from Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Burkino Faso. We have some Senegalese en route already moving into country. The Government of Chad has also committed between 1,000 and 2,000, depending upon needs, and those forces are en route into country but haven’t yet arrived.
This is further to the support that we have been offering both in terms of training, pre-deployment, sustainment, lift, et cetera.
QUESTION: And the Secretary mentioned that the trainers, U.S. trainers, were ready to leave last weekend to the – some of the ECOWAS countries.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: Did that take place?
MS. NULAND: It did. I think I spoke to this on Friday. I gave a list of the countries that we were deploying to to help with pre-deployment, et cetera.
QUESTION: And some of the experts that we’ve been talking to are telling us that because the deployment from Chad is quite a large number, between 1,000 to 2,000 troops, as you mentioned --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- it’ll be – could make up a third, if not more, of the final force. There’s some suggestion coming from experts abroad that this is because the United States has actually pushed Chad to be quite a substantial partner in this force given the training that the Americans have given to Chadian forces. Would that be a correct assessment of the situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have been pushing all of the ECOWAS countries for more than a month now to look at what they could do in terms of available forces, in terms of the kinds of capabilities that were required. Chad is a country that does have a relatively robust and well-trained set of forces. They also have interests to protect in the neighborhood. And we have been working with them to get them ready, so we are very grateful for the large size of this deployment and to all the other countries that are deploying.
Still on Mali?
QUESTION: Can I go back to Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: Probably not. Anything else on Mali before we leave Mali?
QUESTION: Yeah, maybe one more. Sorry. I’ve just been reading up on it this morning after a weekend off. The --
MS. NULAND: Is that how you spend your weekends?
QUESTION: Yes. The head of the Malian forces is actually quite optimistic that they could take back Gao and Timbuktu within a month. Is that an assessment that the United States would share?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m prepared to make a military assessment standing here. I obviously would refer you to the French and to the ECOWAS countries that are actually deploying now. We do understand today, though, that a combination of Malian and French forces have been able to liberate Diabaly and also Douentza, so they are making some progress. I think it’ll be important, obviously, to be able to hold that territory, continue to make progress going forward.
Let’s go back to Jennifer quickly on the understanding that I’m not going to be giving the Secretary’s testimony for her from this --
QUESTION: That’s fine. I just wanted to give you the chance to respond to this. It’s our understanding that U.S. Marines who were part of the FAST team that was sent from Rota, Spain were asked to take off their military uniforms before they were sent into Tripoli, and I assume that that request came from the State Department for some sort of diplomatic reasons. I was just wondering why they were asked to. They were told to deplane and they had to change into civilian clothes. So was there a reason for that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that one way or the other. I’ll refer you to the Pentagon on all that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Serbia’s removal of that monument to Albanian fighters has led to the desecration of some Serbian cemeteries in Kosovo. Can you tell us where the United States is in trying to make this better?
MS. NULAND: I have to say that I did not have that one this morning. Obviously, the desecration of any cemetery anywhere is something that we would be very concerned about. But let me take that one, Scott, and we’ll get back to you.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, it’s interesting. We’ve obviously seen these press reports that a number of Russian citizens are now moving across the border into Lebanon and that the Russian Government either has or is considering evacuation flights for their citizens. I obviously refer you to the Russian Government for more information on that. But unfortunately, this is not surprising, and it speaks to the continued deterioration of the security situation and the violence that Assad is leading against his own people.
QUESTION: But it doesn’t to you, on the face of it, symbolize any changing of Russia’s position or in their confidence, perhaps, in the Assad regime’s ability to see this violence through?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you look at the Russian public statements over the last month, they have been evolving somewhat in terms of the level of confidence in whether Assad was going to make it or whether Russia actually had an interest in that. But I'm going to send you to them for an evaluation of how they analyze the situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on some allegation that Assad's mother went to Dubai?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that.
Please. Still on Syria? Anything else on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead, Tova.
QUESTION: A Turkish delegation is going to Turkey. I mean, the –
QUESTION: U.S.A. – American –
QUESTION: I mean, not the – the U.S. delegation is going to Turkey to discuss some humanitarian aid issues. I’m wondering if the humanitarian aid will be the only dimension of this visit, or will they discuss other issues, too, with their Turkish counterparts?
MS. NULAND: This particular visit – as you know, Ambassador Ford was in Turkey for both humanitarian and political consultations about two weeks ago. This particular delegation is Ambassador Ford joined by Assistant Secretary from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard, and USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg. So they are primarily focused on the refugee situation. They’ll be in both Turkey and Jordan, and as we said in our media note, they’ll be looking to talk to those involved with refugee assistance from those governments, but also to talk to a broad cross-section of Syrians in both countries to assess the need, et cetera.
QUESTION: There was a body that you formed a couple of months ago. It was a kind of operational mechanism that you were working with Turks. I mean, what happened to this mechanism, and when was the last meeting that you held?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about our bilateral consultation mechanism –
MS. NULAND: -- that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Davutoglu set up in August.
MS. NULAND: It has been meeting regularly. It was under that mechanism that Ambassador Ford had consultations two weeks ago.
QUESTION: So I was going on because the last time that Under Secretary Sinirlioglu, when was – when he was in town?
MS. NULAND: Well, right. He was here as well, so the mechanism goes both ways. I think you could consider that the consultations he had here on Syria, which were with a broad cross-section of our agencies, also would fit under that rubric of trying to stay as tightly coordinated as we can on Syria.
QUESTION: Why only Turkey and Jordan? I mean, Lebanon, Iraq –
MS. NULAND: Well, we have made refugee visits, and both Nancy Lindborg and Anne Richard have, in the past, to those countries. I think in this case it is in Turkey and Jordan that we have the highest concentrations right now of Syrian refugees and where we have very difficult situations in the camps in terms of the cold winter, et cetera.
QUESTION: I mean, in Lebanon now, the number is nearing 200,000, which is –
MS. NULAND: And we are working intensively with the Government of Lebanon on these things. I’m sure that we will have officials in – we’ve had officials in and out of Lebanon on these issues regularly as well.
QUESTION: Are they planning to go to Kuwait to attend the UN donors conference for refugees?
MS. NULAND: We will be represented at the UN donors conference on refugees in Kuwait, which is at the end of the week. I’ll have more for you on that tomorrow.
QUESTION: So the delegation will go to Kuwait?
QUESTION: Not the same delegation?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’ll have more for you on precisely whom at the end – probably tomorrow we’ll have something.
QUESTION: Just as a follow-up, Toria.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I talked to the Commissioner on Syria, the United Nations Refugees Commissioner, who is coordinating the Syria issue last weekend. He’s expecting that refugees’ numbers will be tripled in six months in Syria in all the – including all the neighbors. For example, in Turkey, there are 160,000 right now, the refugees, the total refugees number, excluding the Syrians who are staying at Homs as unregistered, but in six months, this number will be reaching 350,000, something like that. Do you have any calculation in this problem?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speculate beyond saying this is why we need to all work together as an international community to hasten the day when this bloodshed ends and when we are turning the page and welcoming a transitional governing structure that can give Syria a better and different future. That’s what we’re all working with in the hopes that we don’t get to the kind of numbers that you’re talking about, Tova. The numbers we have are already bad enough.
QUESTION: The Syrian Government is making allegations that a lot of artifacts have been stolen and taken across the border to Turkey. Are you aware of that situation? In fact, they’re also accusing members of the opposition of dismantling factories and furniture and all kinds of things that are just being taken across the border. Are you aware of anything like this?
MS. NULAND: I think we are always concerned in situations like this, and we’ve seen it in other areas of conflict, whether it was in Afghanistan or in Iraq, that criminal elements, bad actors would take advantage of the chaos and of the violence to loot, to steal patrimony that belongs to all the people of the country, to spirit it across borders, and anybody involved in the conflict could conceivably be guilty of that, including members of the regime themselves. So obviously, this is part and parcel of our message to all of the Syrians that we talked to that in the context of defending themselves and working for a better day in Syria, that they also need to do what they can to protect the patrimony of the state, to protect the institutions of the state, so that when we get to the turning of the page and when Assad eventually goes, as he will, the Syrian people have lost as little as possible and don’t have – and that the great history and culture of the country has not been stripped from them.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Last Friday, Secretary Clinton sent a clear message against China about same type of issue. And right after that, spokesman of the Chinese Government criticized that comment strongly and then also invaded Japanese territorial water again and again. So how do you response this action and comment by the Chinese Government?
MS. NULAND: Well, the comments that the Secretary made on Friday when Foreign Minister Kishida was here reflected the longstanding U.S. position on this. Frankly, there was nothing new in the comments that she made. They were simply a reiteration of where we have been, starting with the fact that we don’t see any solution to this problem unless and until Japan and China sit down and work it out through dialogue. So in that context, we are happy to see a high-level envoy from the Abe Administration being received in Beijing, and we hope that that is the start of a real process of dialogue between the countries.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’d like to follow up on that question. Apparently in this Xinhua commentary, they said Mrs. Clinton – not referring directly to Mrs. Clinton, but saying U.S. officials were irresponsible concerning these islands and that the irresponsible remarks would worsen rather than relieve tension on this issue. How does the State Department respond in such a comment?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve just responded in saying that the Secretary was simply reiterating the longstanding position of the United States on this situation, a position that we’ve made clear to both governments, and rather than pointing their concern at us, the Chinese ought to be working with the Government of Japan to try to resolve these issues through dialogue.
QUESTION: Do you have any contact with Chinese Government after her comment?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we have contact through our Embassy. We have contact through Assistant Secretary Campbell. As you know, he was recently there. I guess he wasn’t there on this last trip, but he’s in regular contact. We had Cui Tiankai here just the week before.
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary sent a letter to the opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, and if so, could you tell us what’s in it?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information about a letter to Mrs. Tymoshenko. We’ve obviously been advocating and expressing our concern about her case for some time. The Secretary’s spoken about it publicly almost a year ago at the Vercunda conference, you’ll remember the Munich security conference, and all the way since. We continue to urge the Government of Ukraine to adhere to the rule of law for all of its citizens, to release Mrs. Tymoshenko, not to engage in selective prosecution, et cetera.
QUESTION: There’s a report out that’s saying that her party – Tymoshenko’s party has released a copy of the letter which the Secretary’s pledging her support and saying she’s following the case very closely.
MS. NULAND: I’ll look into that. I don’t have any information about a new letter. Maybe it’s something that she had sent a while back.
QUESTION: Can I – same case. Her lawyer has expressed concerns that he feels he’s about to be arrested on charges of robbery and something else relating to a divorce case several years ago. Do you express concerns to the government about that?
MS. NULAND: I’m aware that there is some ferment there with regard to his divorce case, but I don’t have any detail, whether it’s related to that or whether it might be something else. As a general matter, we are concerned about selective prosecution and we make that point clearly to the Ukrainians.
QUESTION: It’s his case that he believes this is politically motivated. Do you share that view?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position to evaluate that here. The Ukrainians claim it’s something to do with this divorce. I, frankly, don’t have a way to evaluate that.
QUESTION: I have a different subject.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the UN Special Rapporteur’s announcement, the Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism, saying he wants to investigate drone strikes and their impact on civilians?
MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying that we don’t talk about intelligence in this format or any format that’s unclassified, I don’t.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking you to talk about individual strikes. They occur and we know they occur. Do you think that’s a good way for the United Nations to be spending its time, investigating things you don’t like to talk about?
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen those comments, so let me catch up with them and see if I have anything to share on it.
Okay. One more? Yeah.
MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about this in the past and we’ve never been able to get international agreement on it. Obviously, if it’s something that UN Secretary General thinks we ought to look at again, we’re obviously prepared to talk about it.
QUESTION: Could I just – Israel?
MS. NULAND: The problem would obviously be enforcement by – on countries like Iran and others who are aiding and abetting the Assad regime.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I know you’ve been speaking a long time now.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Today the Israelis are voting for a new government, and with all the polls showing a likelihood that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be returned – his alliance. And I wondered, there’s some members of his alliance who are privately – and some more on the right wing who are openly questioning the whole idea of a two-state solution. What is the United States hopes going forward with this new Israeli Government on where we could be in the peace process?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think on election day it’s probably inappropriate for me to get into any details here while Israelis are voting. But we were very clear in comments that we made last week that we hope and expect that once the new government is formed, we’ll be able to get back into the business of encouraging direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians because that’s really the only way forward here.
All right? Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:42 p.m.)
DPB # 14