printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 4, 2013


Share
Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Calls Readout
  • SYRIA
    • President al-Khatib's Remarks
  • D.P.R.K.
    • Secretary's Conversations with Japanese and South Korean Prime Ministers / Agreement on Sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 2087
  • TURKEY
    • Investigation into U.S. Embassy Ankara Attack Continues
    • Death of American Citizen Sarai Sierra
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Support Israeli Release of Palestinian Tax Revenues
    • NGO Textbook Study
  • AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN / UNITED KINGDOM
    • Chequers Summit
  • EGYPT
    • Condemnation of Recent Violence
  • IRAN
    • P-5+1 Negotiations Continue


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:05 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Monday, everybody. Kind of feels to all of us like the first day of school around here. (Laughter.) You all will have seen Secretary Kerry’s arrival down at the C Street entrance, and his very warm and heartfelt comments. Let me give you a little bit of a sense of what else he’s been up to today. In general, you can imagine that this is a week of introductions, or at least an initial few days of introductions, not only to the State Department family here and abroad but also to counterparts around the world.

You will have seen some of the readouts that we put out over the weekend about his many calls to foreign leaders, both on Saturday and on Sunday. He’s continuing to make calls to foreign leaders today. He, as we were coming down, had just completed calls with British Foreign Secretary Hague, with French Foreign Minister Fabius. He as on the phone with German Foreign Minister Westerwelle. I do not yet have readouts of those because we were running down the stairs as he was dialing, but we will get those out to you later today. He obviously met with senior staff to – so we were able to welcome him and get some initial guidance. He will also have a briefing today from Deputy Secretary Nides and Under Secretary Kennedy on where we are on implementation of the Accountability Review Board recommendations.

And what you may have seen is that right after the senior staff, when he was advised that we had in the building today the Afghan National Institute of Music group, he wanted to meet them and he hopped right up and went down and crashed their performance in the Dean Acheson and had a chance to meet them and have his photo taken with them, and he called them ambassadors of peace.

So that’s a little bit on what the Secretary has been up to. As we have more to share with you, we will do it here and we will do it in writing.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Well, there’s so much to talk about.

MS. NULAND: I know.

QUESTION: I wanted to start with Ahmadinejad wanting to be shot up into space, but I think I’ll start with something a little bit more serious. (Laughter.) Syria --

MS. NULAND: The monkey did so well that now he’s – (laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, well, save that for when it actually comes up. (Laughter.) Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, it seems as though your friends in the Syrian opposition, Syrian rebels, or at least some of them, have been critical of President Assad not for attacking his own people but for not retaliating against Israel. The Turkish Foreign Minister, one of the people who Secretary Kerry, I believe, spoke to this weekend, said – made similar comments about how can Assad not protect his – what’s his army for, attacking his own people or defending the country, suggesting that both the Syrian rebels and the Turks think that the Syrians should be retaliating against Israel. I’m wondering what you make of those comments.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to comments by Foreign Minister Davutoglu, I will send you to him for any further explanation he wants to give there. You know where we have been on the issue of concern, which is the question of whether the Syrian regime would allow weapons to move to Lebanese Hezbollah. This is something that we have been concerned about for a long time and which continues to concern us. You will note that when al-Khatib was in Munich at the Security Conference, he had a chance to meet with Vice President Biden. He made clear in that context that, as outlined in the Geneva documents, if the regime is willing to sit down with the opposition, that he is willing to sit down with them. That is the best way to get ourselves back to a situation of peace and security throughout that region, and certainly we’re not looking for any further provocations.

QUESTION: Well, that’s – all that’s well and good, but aren’t you concerned at all that the Syrian rebels are complaining that Assad hasn’t hit back at Israel?

MS. NULAND: I frankly haven’t seen what you’ve seen about that from Syrian opposition leaders, but our --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, when you see it --

MS. NULAND: -- our concerns are --

QUESTION: -- as I’m sure you will after this briefing, it would be great if we could get some kind of comment, because it would strike me that you – or it would seem to me that that would be an issue of pretty deep concern.

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly we know that the Syrian opposition shares our concern, shares the international community’s concern about dangerous weapons in Syria getting into the hands either of extremists or into the hands of terrorists outside of the country.

QUESTION: Let me just – that’s not what they’re talking about. They’re complaining that Assad has not --

MS. NULAND: I understand.

QUESTION: -- is not defending the country against an Israeli attack. That’s – I just want to make sure you got --

MS. NULAND: I understand what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Keeping with al-Khatib’s comments, he is quoted today as urging Assad to respond to his initiative for dialogue, and specifically as saying that his effort is designed to help the regime leave peacefully. Is the idea of the Assad government leaving power peacefully and not facing any consequences for the bloodshed over the last nearly two years acceptable to the United States?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we’ve long said that those with blood on their hands in Syria need to be held accountable, that it’s up to the Syrian people to determine how they should be held accountable. That said, I don’t think there was anything in what president al-Khatib said that implied that he thought there should be immunity of any kind. He simply reiterated the offer that he’s been making for a number of days, and which we very much welcome, that if the regime has any interest in peace, it should sit down and talk now with the Syrian Opposition Coalition, and we would strongly support al-Khatib in that call.

QUESTION: You would oppose immunity?

MS. NULAND: Again, we have said, as have the Syrian people, that those with blood on their hands need to be held to account. I don’t think there’s anything in what President al-Khatib has said that undercuts that concern of the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Can I go back to --

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: -- Matt’s question and the issue about the Israeli strike? I’m wondering why a lack – what a lack of Syrian response actually says about the state of the Syrian military capabilities at the moment.

MS. NULAND: Well, when this story first began to move, we made clear that we weren’t going to comment on the specifics of it from this podium, and I will continue not to comment on it.

QUESTION: But I wasn’t really asking about the specifics; I was asking --

MS. NULAND: I understand, and I don’t have any comment on it.

Said.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- very same point, I mean, do you consider that to be a legitimate, preemptive defense action by the Israelis? Should they continue to do that? Or do you consider that as an illegal breach of international law?

MS. NULAND: Said, I think I just said that I don’t have any comment on these reports.

QUESTION: You don’t have comments on the specifics, but do you stand by – let’s say, by your commitments to international obligations, that this is actually a violation of international law? Do you --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any comment on these reports beyond saying what we said on Friday, which is that we have serious concerns about diversion of advanced weaponry to Lebanese Hezbollah from the Syrian regime.

Okay, let’s move on, then.

QUESTION: And the last point --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- on the very – on this very point.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you counsel the Israelis not to do this again, or you will give them a free hand to do so?

MS. NULAND: Said, I don’t have any comment on those reports one way or the other.

Moving on? Yeah.

QUESTION: How has the Secretary engaged on the issue of this expected nuclear test? And I know that there were South Korean and Chinese ministers meeting in Beijing today. Has he had any communication with South Korean or Chinese counterparts?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we made clear over the weekend, Secretary Kerry, in his initial round of phone calls to counterparts, spoke over the weekend both to Korean Foreign Minister Kim and to Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida. In both of those conversations, the D.P.R.K.’s provocations came up. And in both of those conversations, there was agreement that not only do we have to fully implement the new sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 2087, but if the DPRK continues its provocative behavior and takes further steps, that there must be further consequences, as that resolution calls for.

QUESTION: Were there any communications with the Chinese on this issue?

MS. NULAND: We’ve been in constant contact with the Chinese, both in the context of working out Resolution 2087 and since, in – as you know, Glyn Davies was out in the region, and we’ve had plenty of contact with the Chinese from here as well. The Secretary has not yet had a chance to talk to his Chinese counterpart, but I’m sure that’ll be on the list relatively soon.

Please.

QUESTION: Do you have any update about the incident in Ankara, the bombing incident?

MS. NULAND: We – as you know, we are continuing to work with the Turkish national police and Turkish authorities who are investigating now. Let me just say that our cooperation with the Government of Turkey has been absolutely outstanding. The FBI will be now coordinating closely with the Turkish police and conducting a full attack on the investigation.

QUESTION: Full investigation on the attack.

MS. NULAND: Full investigation of the attack. What did I say? Whatever I said, it was not right. A full – (laughter).

QUESTION: They will attack the investigation with full force.

MS. NULAND: Woo. Woo. (Laughter.) You can tell it’s been a busy weekend and a busy morning. Let me start that again.

Our cooperation with Turkish authorities has been excellent. The FBI is going to be coordinating closely with the Turkish national police to conduct a full investigation of the attack. You will have seen some of the public comments from Turkish authorities as well as the claims of responsibility with regard to the perpetrators.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister made in a comment today. The attacker had been living in Germany. And he --

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The attacker had been living in Germany before this attack. And the Prime Minister complained of the lack of support from European Union countries in this – in Turkey’s struggle against these illegal groups, outlaw groups, against terrorism. So this is the second time in over the last (inaudible) that there was another incident in Paris last month, an assassination of Kurdish women. How do you elaborate the stand of European Union countries on these issues and their relationship with these outlaw organizations?

MS. NULAND: Well, I didn’t see the comment from the Prime Minister. I know that we have been strong supporters of good Turkish-EU cooperation on counterterrorism, as we have been on all aspects of Turkey’s relationship with the EU. I would simply say that our own counterterrorism cooperation with the EU has been excellent, but I am not in a position to get in between the Turkish-EU relationship here.

QUESTION: And the last one on this issue. The Prime Minister said also that he warned – I mean the Turkish Government warned about the incident in Paris last – and about this last incident in Ankara, did you warn the Turkish authorities about this kind of attack?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not, as you can imagine, going to get into intelligence or counterterrorism sharing from the podium.

Said.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry --

MS. NULAND: Yeah, go ahead. Elise, in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah. I was wondering if you have anything on this American woman that was killed, Sarai Sierra? Apparently she’s an American citizen.

MS. NULAND: I do, and I know a number of you were asking over the weekend, and we had a little bit more work to do at that time.

We can now confirm the death of U.S. citizen Sarai Sierra in Istanbul, Turkey. We express our deepest condolences to her family and her friends. Our U.S. consulate officials in Istanbul are in contact with her family. They are providing all appropriate consular assistance. We thank the Turkish Government for all of its efforts to locate Ms. Sierra, and we will remain in close contact with them as they pursue an investigation.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up to that?

MS. NULAND: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Is the FBI involved at all in the investigation?

MS. NULAND: Not to my knowledge. I think we are working with Turkish authorities.

Please.

QUESTION: Can we go to the – Secretary Kerry’s phone call to both Palestinian and Israeli leaders?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And this also coincidentally happens with (inaudible) resigning from his political position and retaking his negotiating position again. Do you foresee, like, a reigniting of the peace process, or at least the talks, anytime soon?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you saw in the readouts that we put out on the Secretary’s phone calls with President Peres, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, a real personal commitment as well as our national commitment and the President’s commitment to helping Israelis and Palestinians get back to the table, to supporting the peace process. But I don’t have any more details for you, Said, at this stage.

QUESTION: Yeah. So Abbas on his part did not promise to stop pouting and return to the negotiations, and Netanyahu on his part said that we will give it a go?

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I didn’t --

QUESTION: I’m saying, did they make a commitment that they will cooperate with the United States to reignite the peace process?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any more details from the Secretary’s phone calls besides what we put out. I think what’s important here is that there was a very early contact with both sides to express a commitment to continuing to support them and getting back to the table with each other.

QUESTION: They have not been invited to Washington?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce on that, Said.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up on this (inaudible) --

MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.

QUESTION: -- conversations? There was also concern expressed about the Palestinian – urging Congress to release this money. How much U.S. money is being held up to the Palestinians right now, and why such a concern? I mean, is – why are you so worried about what’s happening with the Palestinian economy?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re concerned because of the fiscal plight of the Palestinian Authority. I mean, in order to have a viable peace process, you have to have a viable partner, and the Palestinian Authority is in extreme straits. We also noted, in reading out the conversations that the Secretary had over the weekend, that he commended the Israelis for now resuming the release of tax revenues back to the Palestinian Authority. That’s very important.

We have, in total, some $495 million in Fiscal 2012 assistance that is currently being held by the Congress. The Secretary made clear his intention to continue to urge the Congress to release that money, and particularly the urgently needed $200 million tranche for economic support.

QUESTION: One more on that, Toria. You said --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You talked about the Israelis resuming the transfers. But as I understand it, when they announced this last week, they were resuming about $100 million in the withheld tax revenues. That represents about one month’s worth. And we, at least, quoted Israeli officials as saying this is a one-shot deal, it had nothing to do with any further transfers they might or might not make.

Have they given you any commitment that they are indeed resuming and it’s going to be an ongoing matter, or did they give you to understand, as they did to the public, that this was a one-time thing?

MS. NULAND: I would refer you to the Israelis. I don’t have anything further to share on that front except that our position has been that this tax revenue money should continue to flow.

QUESTION: Libya?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Still on --

QUESTION: Staying on --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this textbook study that was apparently State Department-funded and found that the Palestinians, nor the Israelis, were guilty in serious way of incitement of violence or hatred?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just clarify what this is and what it isn’t. The U.S. Government provides grants for independent textbook analysis and curricula development to a number of different organizations that seek to promote interfaith dialogue and tolerance in educational curricula. These are not U.S. Government studies. The results are not necessarily endorsed by the U.S. Government. But we fund NGOs who are seeking to do independent analyses so that parties on the ground can use them in their own evaluation of these things.

So this particular project was part of a broader call in 2008 for proposals aimed at empowering religious institutions globally to promote interfaith dialogue and peace. The study itself was undertaken by an NGO, not by us, called A Different Future, and it was partnered with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in doing this study. So our point in funding it was to enable this Council of Religious Institutions to take what it got from the report, use it in a constructive matter to continue to pursue its objectives, which are for peace and religious tolerance in the curriculum.

So we’re not taking a position one way or another on what the study found.

QUESTION: Okay. But you said it was an independent analysis.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you don’t – you’re not in the business of giving these grants out to biased organizations?

MS. NULAND: I mean, obviously, we try not to do that. We try to fund organizations that have strong reputations for a balanced and open perspective.

QUESTION: In this case, since you said it was independent, do you believe it was not biased? Because – I ask because the Israelis say this was a biased report. I guess they didn’t explain whether they mean the State Department’s biased or the – I guess, Yale University’s biased in that they, as the arbiters, perceivably are unbiased in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but – so does that mean you think it was an unbiased report?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not going to give a grade or evaluate this report one way or the other. It was done at the request of the NGO on the Israeli side. If it’s not useful, they don’t need to use it.

QUESTION: Can I just add that --

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: I mean, you regularly give your position on whether you agree or disagree with reports from NGOs from UN agencies. Why not this one? Is it --

MS. NULAND: Because we haven’t done an independent analysis of this report ourselves. It was funded at the request of some of our Israeli partners. If it’s not useful to them, then they don’t need to use it.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t see it as being --

MS. NULAND: We don’t get ourselves in the middle of whether --

QUESTION: No, no, I understand that, but --

QUESTION: How do you (inaudible), then?

QUESTION: -- the findings are – do you think that the findings are helpful? Because if you don’t think the findings are helpful, why did you give them money?

MS. NULAND: Again, we gave them money because the NGO partners who we work with in Israel on interfaith issues asked us to help support this work for their own purposes.

QUESTION: So you think that this study is helpful, then.

MS. NULAND: We offer it to the organization that we worked with. If they don’t find it helpful, they don’t need to use it. We’re not going to evaluate it ourselves.

Please.

QUESTION: Why aren’t you --

QUESTION: Just before you --

QUESTION: Wait, just – why aren’t you going to evaluate it yourselves?

MS. NULAND: Because it was not a study that we contracted for our own purposes. It was not a government-to-government initiative. It’s part of our broad effort to support NGOs in Israel who are promoting interfaith harmony and religious tolerance. So this was something that we did in support of that. It’s up to them to use it or not use it as they wish.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t – I mean, if you were a desk officer who worked on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and you were somebody who, as you inevitably must, have to give thought to matters like incitement and so on, would you not read this study and see if it actually added to the sum total of your knowledge or gave you a different perspective? I don’t understand why you would sort of willfully ignore the study just because you paid for it.

MS. NULAND: Again, we analyze these things ourselves as well in the context of our human rights reporting. We last spoke to this issue, I think, in our 2009 Human Rights Report. But the study was not for us.

Said.

QUESTION: But if you do analyze it and if you note that you did so in 2009, are you not going to analyze it now given that you have this study that has been done?

MS. NULAND: Again, this was – we undertake analysis of this in a human rights context from the Embassy. This study was done for some of our Israeli NGO partners at their request.

QUESTION: Well, we’ll go back and --

MS. NULAND: Guys, guys, I think we’ve done this.

QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. We’ll go back and look, but if you did your own study in 2009, the Human Rights Report, does that comport with the findings of the study that just came out?

MS. NULAND: Our last – 2009 Human Rights Report, which spoke to this, noted that the Palestinian Authority revised its textbooks in 2006. That report referred to academic experts who said at the time that those textbooks did not incite violence, but that they were imbalanced and biased. So that was the last time we spoke to this issue as a government.

QUESTION: Well, that sounds as though, then, that you would agree with the findings of this report. And I just don’t understand why it is that you can’t – I mean, when someone --

MS. NULAND: Because --

QUESTION: -- comes out and says – if there’s a report, especially one that you helped pay for, that comes out and has certain findings, I don’t see why you wouldn’t say, “Well, we agree with these findings,” which it sounds like you do, at least from the last – the Human Rights Report, or, “No, we think that these findings, likes the Israelis are saying, are biased and not accurate.”

MS. NULAND: Because we fund these kinds of studies all over the world at great volume. We’re not in a position to take each one and analyze them. We do them in conjunction with partners in the NGO community, in the host countries, who request support in doing their own analysis. We do our own analysis, as is clear in the Human Rights Report.

Let’s move on.

QUESTION: On that --

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve really done what we can on this one, Said.

QUESTION: One last one.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: One last one. Ever since 1984 – ’94, or ’95, since the U.S. started funding the PA, they requested that they stop the incitement, sometimes emphatically. Have they improved, or they – you continue just to ask them to do so, or are they showing any sort of – any response, positive response?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re right that is a continuing theme, and it will continue to be a theme.

Lalit.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: The leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Britain had their summit meetings in London. They again called the Taliban for – come back to the peace table. Do you have any reaction to that? And do you believe that Talibans are reluctant partner to come to the peace table?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, last month we had our own meeting. President Obama had welcomed President Karzai here to Washington. And in that context, they reaffirmed that an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process is the surest way to end the violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and in the region. We believe that the U.K.-Afghanistan-Pakistan Chequers summit that occurred this weekend, which is I think what you’re referring to, Lalit, was clearly an advance in this process. We fully endorse the contents of the joint statement that those three governments came forward with, and we are committed ourselves to support an Afghan-led process.

QUESTION: Why do you think, despite all these efforts, the Talibans are not coming for new talks?

MS. NULAND: Well, I obviously am not going to speak for the Taliban. Our goal here has been to support the creation of a process to make it possible, both in the work that we’re doing with the Afghan Government, the work that we’re doing with the Government of Pakistan and the three of us together through the core group, and our support for the opening of the office in Qatar under the right circumstance, to make it possible for willing Taliban participants to talk directly to the Afghan High Peace Council. That’s what we’re looking for, and we call on the Taliban to take the steps necessary to open the office in Doha and to enter into real dialogue with the High Peace Council. The goal for everybody should be an inclusive political order in a strong, unified, sovereign Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Just to follow --

QUESTION: So on the BSA or the – were the talks --

MS. NULAND: On the?

QUESTION: On the BSA talks --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- was it held over the weekend?

MS. NULAND: There was a – Jim – Ambassador Jim Warlick was in – I think it was in Kabul, right? – for another round of BSA talks. I think they’re still continuing, but I’m not sure. I’ll get an update for you, Lalit. Thanks.

James, in the back.

QUESTION: I bring you our greetings from the northlands. I wanted to ask about --

MS. NULAND: Meaning northlands of the room, or --

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s what I meant, yeah.

MS. NULAND: Oh, I see. I see. (Laughter.) Yeah, you’re so far back there that --

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m glad you can see me. I wanted to ask about a remark that the Secretary made in his comments to the employees here in the building this morning. When he cited the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi, he then went on to say that he would pledge to the assembled not to let their sacrifice, as he put it, be obscured by politics. Why did he feel it necessary to say so, and where does he see that happening or as a potential threat down the line?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to parse the Secretary’s statement from the podium. I think he was very clear in what he was saying. I don’t have anything to add to it, James.

QUESTION: But does the Department worry about that?

MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary’s statement stands as he said it.

Please.

QUESTION: India?

MS. NULAND: Um, sorry, Justin.

QUESTION: Sorry, Toria, another question from back here.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is Secretary Kerry seeking to correct the record? The Boston Globe reported that he said he was given the nod for the Secretary of State job before Rice withdrew her name. There was some reporting on that on Friday. And then some reporting that he had issued a statement correcting that record. Is – where do we stand on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you look at the Globe’s own reporting, it’s clear that the Secretary made some clarifying statements of his own on Friday. I don’t have anything to add to those either.

Please.

QUESTION: What – I’m sorry, what were the clarifying statements?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have it here in front of me, but I would refer you back to the Globe’s reporting. Yeah.

QUESTION: But did it – hold on – but did it come from this building or from his Senate staff or from him, himself?

MS. NULAND: It was on --

QUESTION: Was he the Secretary of State when he made these comments? Not the written – initial ones, but the clarifying ones?

MS. NULAND: I believe it was all something that went down before 4 o’clock, if that’s what you’re asking.

QUESTION: I – no, well – I mean, I – at least my impression is that it was released after he was sworn in, but it was released by his Senate staff. I don’t know when he decided to release it, but I saw it after he became Secretary of State.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Yes, move to Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, more violence took place and especially there was a case – obvious case – a televised case of police brutality. And it was not just brutality, it was more than – even trying after that, there was kind of a simplification or – I mean, justification of what happened and he retreat and all these things. I mean, how do you see this escalation of violence and especially when it’s done by the police forces?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that. We strongly condemn the recent violence and the attacks that have taken place in Egypt. We are extremely disturbed by these incidents, including sexual assaults against women and the beating of a defenseless man last week. We understand that the Government of Egypt has now apologized for the beating of the individual. We’re also concerned that this violence against women is preventing women from exercising their right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression. And we urge the Government of Egypt to thoroughly, credibly, and independently investigate all claims of violence and wrongdoing by security officials and demonstrators and to bring perpetrators to justice. Accountability is the best way to prevent recurrences of these kinds of incidents.

More broadly, as we’ve been saying since this spate of violence began, Egyptians participated in their revolution in order to bring democracy, in order to bring rule of law and freedom for all, not more violence, not sexual assaults, not looting. And all Egyptians, regardless of gender, political affiliation, or religion, deserve the right to safe assembly in public without fear of violence. And we call on the Egyptian Government to make that possible.

QUESTION: One follow-up on this, Toria. If we’re speaking about the same man who was beaten and I believe stripped and then dragged, are you particularly – at least according to the reporting that I’ve seen, the police initially denied beating him and he initially denied it. And then a video of it came out and he then subsequently said that yes, this is what had happened. Are you particularly concerned that the police denied beating him and it appears, according to his own statements, leaned on him to deny it as well and only fessed up when the video came out?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, this is why we are calling so strongly today for an investigation of all of these kinds of incidents, because, again, there has to be accountability. That’s the best way to ensure that the environment improves both in terms of public security for citizens exercising their rights peacefully and to prevent violence by demonstrators.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any prosecutions that have resulted from cases of the mistreatment either of ordinary demonstrators or sexual assaults on female demonstrators or reporters since the – since Mubarak’s downfall?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that there were some cases brought. I don’t know whether they came to conclusion in the context of the initial violence in Tahrir Square, but in terms of this first round, obviously it’s early days and we’re looking for the Egyptian Government to do the right thing.

QUESTION: Could you take that question just to check with the people in the building who track that --

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm, sure.

QUESTION: -- just to see whether you believe that there has been any significant effort to find and hold accountable those who may be responsible for such acts?

MS. NULAND: We’ll see if we have more to say on that.

Jo.

QUESTION: Could I ask about Iran, please, if that’s all right?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Still on Egypt, please?

MS. NULAND: One more on Egypt? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you that – a woman, an Egyptian activist told NPR on Friday that sexual assault by the police and the military is actually a common practice by the military and by the security forces and so on, before Mubarak and after Mubarak, at a time when the Egyptians are actually receiving four F-16s to make a total of 224 thus far.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, Said, I think that speaks to why we are being so strong and so vocal about this. We are now in an Egypt with a democratically elected president who has to be the president for all Egyptians and has to work with security officials to ensure that there is a safe and secure environment for all citizens of the country to express themselves peacefully – as long as they are peaceful.

Please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: I think – let’s move on because we have been at this for quite some time.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) same issue about the (inaudible) two days – in the coming two days. Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, is going to be Egypt. This is the first visit since 1979. Do you have any concern? Do you have any – something to say, as you said when Morsi – President of Egypt Morsi went to Tehran two months ago or three months ago?

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these reports that Ahmadinejad will go to Cairo for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It’s an opportunity for the Egyptian Government to give him the same strong messages that the international community’s been giving about their nuclear behavior, about their terrorist behavior, et cetera.

QUESTION: Do you have --

QUESTION: Along that, the --

QUESTION: Do you have any doubt or are you pretty much assured that the Egyptians – are you satisfied that the Egyptians will do that?

MS. NULAND: Well, President Morsi’s been pretty strong about his concerns with regard to Iranian behavior.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: The Iranian Foreign Minister today, though, is saying that he believes the U.S. is rethinking its approach to Iran and was saying that the Iranians are ready to resume talks. Is that a theme that you’re getting from Tehran and are you rethinking your approach towards the whole issue of Iran and its nuclear program?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Vice President spoke to this both in Munich and I think he’s just spoken to it again during his visit to Paris today. You know where we have been, but our focus remains on working with our P-5+1 partners to bring Iran back to the negotiating table. We have, for a number of months, been trying to schedule another round. You saw the public statements in Munich by Foreign Minister Salehi that he is finally confirming now that we may be able to meet February 25th in Kazakhstan. I would note that the P-5+1 still has not had an official response from Iran with regard to those proposed dates for the meeting.

With regard to our approach, our approach is to encourage Iran to come clean about what’s going on with its nuclear program, and if it takes steps, we will take steps in response. That has not changed. But we have to get back to the table if we’re going to be able to test it.

QUESTION: So if these talks go ahead in Kazakhstan on February the 25th, what will you be hoping, concretely, that the Iranians will come up with and will present to you?

MS. NULAND: We want them to show a real willingness to make clear what this nuclear program is all about and to take steps to reassure the international community that they will meet their international obligations.

QUESTION: Russia?

QUESTION: But isn’t Kazakhstan the home of the Cosmodrome?

MS. NULAND: Well, I know that they have – there’s Baikonur, if that’s what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Baikonur, right, that’s where they launched --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: So getting back to my – do you have any thoughts at all about Ahmadinejad saying he’s willing to strap himself – (laughter) – to the top of a ballistic missile and fire himself into space? Would you wish him a healthy, happy return to earth or is this a waste of time and money? What – do you have any thoughts at all?

MS. NULAND: That’s an interesting choice that he’s made. One thing I will note is that Kazakhstan is a country that had a nuclear weapons program and voluntarily gave it up in the ‘90s. So it sets a powerful example.

QUESTION: So the United States would have no problem with going to talks in Kazakhstan then?

MS. NULAND: Again, we had made that proposal. We have heard --

QUESTION: Is that why you chose Kazakhstan as a potential venue?

MS. NULAND: I would simply say that there were a number of venues under discussion, and again, we still don’t have an affirmative response back to us directly from the Iranians that they’re ready to go. All we have is these comments by Foreign Minister Salehi in public. So --

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Matt’s question so we can be clear, does the Administration believe that firing Iran’s – senior Iranian officials into space is good as a matter of policy in general?

MS. NULAND: Well, there are a lot of questions about whether the monkey that they reportedly sent up into space and reportedly came down was actually the same monkey – whether he survived. So --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You’re confirming a monkey went to space?

MS. NULAND: I’m simply saying that the Iranians said they sent a monkey, but the monkey that they showed later seemed to have different facial features.

Guy. In the back.

QUESTION: What? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Yeah, he was missing a little wart.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: Exactly.

Guy. In the back please.

QUESTION: I have just a serious question, actually, about Honduras. Last – across town last week, 57 members of the House, all of them Democrats, wrote a letter to – late last week to Secretary of State Kerry asking for a formal investigation to be opened into the role played by the United States, specifically DEA agents, in the death of several Honduran villagers last May. One was a pregnant woman, another was a 14-year-old boy. I was wondering, has that letter been received by anyone at this Department? Has it been yet responded to? And does the Department plan to open a probe into this?

MS. NULAND: Guy, let me take that one. I need to look into it.

Please, Dana.

QUESTION: Somalia.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Friday, you spoke about the case of the young woman alleged to be raped, and you said that it was a litmus test for the country. I just have a question: The U.S. has obviously invested about $1 billion in helping to defeat or push back al-Shabaab. What kind of support and training is the United States providing to Somalia now to help reinforce the security sector? And is there a concern that a case like this, if it’s not resolved properly, the country could slide back into being a haven for extremists?

MS. NULAND: Well, I know, Dana, that we are working on security support and on rule of law and justice with the Somali Government. Let me get you a few more details, but as I said on Friday, absolutely – the world is watching, and the people of Somalia expect law and order and a judicial system that respects the rights of the Somali people.

Please.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Madam, first of all, my personal greetings and congratulations to Secretary John Kerry.

MS. NULAND: We will pass those on, Goyal.

QUESTION: And we have a vast experience in foreign policy, and I hope he will bring India and Pakistan on a table for a peaceful resolution on many issues between the two countries. My question is, Madam Secretary – madam, last week --

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’ve been elevated today. (Laughter.) I think we’re actually on our first time in eight years having a guy in the job. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Maybe in the future.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Last week, we had Under Secretary Robert Hormats to India --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and now also this week, I understand, madam, Under Secretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Tara Sonenshine also in India. What I’m asking you is, one, if Secretary Kerry had called India and Pakistan foreign ministers? And number two, as far as their visits to India is concerned, what are we – where are we now as far as – this is an important visit as far as a public diplomacy and public affairs official is going to India, because India had gone so many – all those problems as far as public affairs problems in India.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on Under Secretary Sonenshine’s visit, you are right. We put out a pretty lengthy media note, and I refer you to that in terms of the purpose of her trip. But obviously people-to-people and public diplomacy relations with India are extremely important going forward. I don’t have calls yet to either the Indian leader or the Pakistani leader to read out to you, but again, as we have more calls coming through, we will let you know.

QUESTION: And just a quick follow-up. As far as this visit is concerned, from madam Tara, is she going to discuss all those problems, what in India – those rapes and violence going on and all those problems in India that have been going on for months?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure she will. I mean, she almost always has broad, public meetings of one kind or another when she travels, makes an effort to reach out to the public. So given that this issue is very much on the minds of Indians, I’m sure it will come up in the context of her visit.

Please. Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Yes, hi, my name is Lisa Friedman. I’m a reporter for ClimateWire. We’re an energy policy magazine here. Thanks for taking my question. And as the name of my publication suggests, I have a climate question, which was obviously a big priority of Secretary Kerry when he was Senator. Did he give any guidance or sense in his initial briefings today, or conversations with his counterparts overseas, about either any efforts he may be making personally on climate change, efforts towards an international treaty, or changes at the State Department on approach to climate change?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re obviously right that this is an issue that is very close to Secretary Kerry’s heart. I’m obviously not going to talk about internal meetings here in the Department, but if you go back and look at the testimony that he gave for his confirmation hearing, he was very clear about the priority he places on this. But I think we’ll be hearing more about that in coming days and weeks as he makes his first public comments.

QUESTION: Is Todd Stern staying on? Is he still here?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any personnel switches to share with you today.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just –

MS. NULAND: I don’t have an answer to that.

QUESTION: You don’t know if he’s still here? I mean, I guess I can walk by his office and see if he – and knock on the door and ask him, but since we’re sitting here.

MS. NULAND: I have not heard anything about --

QUESTION: Have you seen him recently?

MS. NULAND: I saw him --

QUESTION: Today?

MS. NULAND: Last Thursday there was a sighting. I haven’t checked up on whether he came to work today.

QUESTION: We had a sighting today. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Michele says she saw him today.

QUESTION: Saw him today? Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Yeah, I saw him today.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Do you have anything to share about his first overseas trip?

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Do you have anything to share at this moment about his first overseas trip?

MS. NULAND: I don’t yet. He’s working through it and thinking through it. When we have something to share, we certainly will.

QUESTION: Any more scheduling updates for the rest of the week, apart from Wednesday where we have some – the official public swearing-in?

MS. NULAND: Well, we did announce the public swearing-in on Wednesday here in the Ben Franklin Room. I think we’re going to – as we move forward and can fill out the schedule, we will be doing it for you. But as I said, his focus is on introducing himself to his counterparts, to the interagency, to the workforce, and to beginning to get some – go a little bit deeper in his in-briefings, as I mentioned today, for example, with regard to the ARB and other things.

Okay. Please, in the back? Young lady, yeah.

QUESTION: Hi. Jennifer Lee with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. So I have a question regarding the North Korea nuclear test. So you mentioned that Secretary Kerry’s phone call with his China counterpart is on the list. And do you think – how soon you will have the phone call with the China counterpart, and what message he will be delivering?

MS. NULAND: Well, you saw the message that was shared with the Japanese side and the Korean side, and we work very closely to have a unified position among the Six Parties with regard to the D.P.R.K. I don’t have anything for you on timing of first contact with Foreign Minister Yang.

QUESTION: A very quick one.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: There were calls for a Turkey-Egypt-Iran summit to try to solve the Syrian crisis. Do you have anything against this format?

MS. NULAND: I hadn’t heard that this idea was being revived. You know how we feel about the role that Iran has played in Syria. It has played an extremely negative role in terms of its aiding and abetting the Assad regime’s violence, so we don’t see how it can be a productive actor of any kind in any kind of effort for peace.

Thank you all very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)

DPB # 19



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.