The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
12:58 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Tuesday. I think you know the President is coming out on some economic things at about 1:15, so they’ll pull us down when he comes out. If we have to continue off-camera, we will.
I have a couple of things at the top, and --
QUESTION: Wait, hold on a second.
QUESTION: That’s in ten minutes.
QUESTION: Why – that has nothing to do with anything that we’re interested in here.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we don’t want to be on top of the President because there may be other people who are interested, but let’s just --
QUESTION: Is there anyone in this room who is interested in watching the President?
QUESTION: We all (inaudible). (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Well, out of --
QUESTION: No, I don’t think so. Toria, we can’t just stop the briefing because the President’s about to speak.
MS. NULAND: Okay, Matt. We will – I need to make my own decisions about being respectful of the President, but anyway, let’s go on with some things at the top.
First of all, just to commend to all of you a video message that President Obama released today with regard to the upcoming Kenyan elections, calling on all Kenyans to commit to support the goal of free, fair, and peaceful elections on March 4th, and underscoring his commitment to the U.S.-Kenyan partnership. His personal engagement in this reflects the important place that Kenya occupies in East Africa and beyond.
Let me now turn to our concern about recent attacks on mausoleums in Tunisia. The United States is concerned by reports of continuing attacks against mausoleums throughout Tunisia. We condemn all attacks against religious sites and support the call of Tunisian citizens and political leaders who have demanded a full investigation into the causes of these attacks which have damaged and destroyed valuable parts of Tunisia’s rich cultural patrimony. We urge the Government of Tunisia to implement its own proposed action plan to improve the protection of all of Tunisia’s important and diverse religious and historical sites. We also call on all Tunisians to respect the rule of law and religious freedom.
Let me go now to some of the activities of Secretary Kerry. We’re obviously not going to do this for the whole four years, but I know that there’s a lot of interest in his first week, and since we have only been able to put out a bare bones schedule. As you will have seen in the press and some of you were able to cover it, yesterday, in addition to the items that I gave you, he did get a chance to go out to the Diplomatic Security Command Center in Rosslyn. He got a chance to tour the command center. He greeted more than 150 employees, got a security briefing from them, and got a chance to underscore yet again his commitment to empower this Department with resources to ensure that we are living up to the highest standards of security around the world.
Today, he is continuing his calls to foreign leaders. He had a chance to speak today with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang and with EU High Representative Ashton. I’ll give you a little bit on those in a moment. He is also meeting here in the building today with former Secretary Baker. You’ll recall, I noted, that he had been in contact with every living former Secretary, concluding over the weekend, but this is a chance to sit down in person with Secretary Baker.
With regard to the phone calls, today, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Yang spoke for quite a while. They agreed on the importance of continuing to work to strengthen U.S.-China relations, notably including in the economic trade and investment sphere. They also discussed the continued provocative rhetoric coming from the DPRK and commitments under UNSCR 2087 to ensure that there are further consequences if the DPRK takes further action in violation of its international obligations. They also discussed Iran and the upcoming round of P-5+1 talks in Almaty. And finally, the Secretary noted his hope that the U.S. and China can redouble our efforts together to address climate change.
With regard to the conversation with Lady Ashton, they talked about the situation in Mali, commending the French efforts, commending the fact that African troops are beginning to flow in, discussed the status of the EU training mission, and the U.S. efforts under ACOTA to strengthen the AFISMA troops, agreeing that we have to redouble our efforts to ensure that Africans can begin to take on the burden of peacekeeping now in Mali as soon as possible. They also obviously discussed the upcoming P-5+1 talks in Almaty, a chance for them to orient. You will have seen today that the Iranians and the EU have now confirmed that we will have these talks on February 26th. They talked about Libya, importance of U.S. and EU coordination to support the transition ongoing there, both in security terms and in economic terms. They obviously talked about Middle East peace at some length, the importance of supporting the transition underway in Egypt, and the proposals that Vice President Biden made at the Munich Security Conference with regard to U.S. and EU trade proposals.
So those were the phone calls today, and I’ll continue to give you what I can on the Secretary’s schedule.
QUESTION: Is that all they talked about with Ashton?
MS. NULAND: Well, they obviously also talked about the news from Bulgaria today, if that’s what you’re asking.
QUESTION: Did – yeah.
MS. NULAND: That’s obviously been a subject.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into any further details except to say that we have been working in tandem with the EU on this set of issues since the Bulgaria attack. I think you know that for many, many months, we’ve made no secret of our desire to see the EU take firmer action with regard to Hezbollah.
If you saw the statement that the White House issued earlier today, and we’ll have our own statement from here shortly, it explicitly calls on the EU and international partners to take proactive action to uncover infrastructure, to disrupt groups and financing schemes of Hezbollah and its networks to prevent future attacks. So obviously, this was a subject we’ve been talking about with the EU for a long time. Lady Ashton knows where we want to go, and they obviously talked about it today.
QUESTION: So they did?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So he did tell her that the U.S. would – the Administration would like to see the Europeans designate Hezbollah or to take action --
MS. NULAND: She is fully aware of our position on this.
QUESTION: Well, did he bring it up in the phone call today?
MS. NULAND: It certainly has come up, yes.
QUESTION: So it has come up, or did it come up in the phone call that he had with her today?
MS. NULAND: She had already seen the statement that the White House issued, so it wasn’t as if he had to --
QUESTION: Oh, I understand that. I want to know if he actually said to her, “Hey, we really mean it, we really want -- ” in the phone call, or if he just decided that, well, I don’t need to harangue her with this because the statement is already out?
MS. NULAND: Beyond – they discussed it and she knows where we want to go.
QUESTION: Just a clarification on this point?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Was there – was that prompted by any recent Hezbollah attack in particular?
MS. NULAND: Was the --
QUESTION: I mean, was it – urging the EU to uncover activities and so on that they have done, is that – was that prompted by any recent incident that Hezbollah may have done?
MS. NULAND: So are you not aware of what the Bulgarians just released? No?
MS. NULAND: So the Government of Bulgaria came forward this morning with the results of their own investigation into the Burgas terrorist attack on July 18th of last year. We note that that investigation found that Hezbollah is responsible for both the planning and executing of this attack on European soil which killed six innocent people. This attack was part of what we all perceive as a stepped-up terrorist campaign by Hezbollah, which it’s been waging around the world over the past year. So this has been the subject of intensive conversation not only with Europeans but with governments around the world.
QUESTION: Can you sketch out for us how the EU’s failure to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization has adversely impacted U.S. and allied counterterrorism efforts with respect to Hezbollah?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, this is not the kind of thing one can easily quantify, but it is our view that governments around the world, particularly in light of this latest set of evidence as a result of an extremely professional investigation done by the Government of Bulgaria, make it absolutely clear that Hezbollah was behind this.
So we have long designated Hezbollah, as have some others. Our concern is that in the context of our squeezing them, they look for other places to do their banking, to do their plotting, et cetera, and our concern has been that Europe has been one of the places that they have exploited, if you will. And we’ve been in conversation with EU countries bilaterally, with the EU collectively. As you know, it’s a 27-nation organization; they like to take these decisions together. So our hope and expectation is that this clear evidence of Hezbollah operation on European soil will be galvanizing to their internal conversation.
QUESTION: Which countries does the U.S. believe have been reluctant to move ahead with the sanctioning of Hezbollah?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to let nations speak for themselves. I don’t think it’s useful for us to get in the middle of their conversations. But there are varying views about whether there should – there is a difference between the military wing and the political wing. You know that our view is that we don’t recognize a distinction, but different governments have different views.
Can I --
QUESTION: But the EU is an alliance; it’s not a supreme government. Doesn’t the U.S. want to basically shame these countries into doing what the U.S. considers the right thing: putting Hezbollah on the terror list?
MS. NULAND: Again, as I said, Roz, we have been in discussion with EU countries, both bilaterally and as a union, for some time about our concerns about what Hezbollah is up to, our hope that firmer action could be taken. But given the common market, et cetera, it doesn’t – it’s not actually very effective if only a couple of countries in the union take the action. It’s far more effective in terms of the impact it’ll have on Hezbollah if they do it together.
QUESTION: I know the focus is on Europe because of the attack in Bulgaria, but have there been any phone calls to countries in Latin America about this issue, because Hezbollah also operates there? And have there been any phone calls to the actual Government of Lebanon where Hezbollah is a recognized political party?
MS. NULAND: Let me say that our conversations with regard to our concerns about Hezbollah have been taking place on virtually every continent – I don’t think Antarctica yet, but certainly in Asia, in Latin America, in Africa, in Europe – and we’re urging all countries to take the kinds of steps, and certainly the White House statement makes that clear today.
With regard to Lebanon, you know as well as anybody, Kim, that we have long shared our concerns with Lebanese authorities about the true nature of Hezbollah, about its long record of terrorist and criminal activities that we believe undermine the state of Lebanon. We believe that the Lebanese people deserve a government that better reflects their aspirations and that will strengthen Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and independence.
QUESTION: In the formation of this report by the Bulgarians, did the U.S. have any helping hand or provide any assistance, whether through the FBI or any other agency?
MS. NULAND: We did provide technical assistance in response to Bulgarian requests. As you know, we have a long and strong history with Bulgaria of law enforcement cooperation, but I think we’ll let the Bulgarians speak to the details.
QUESTION: Just on that --
QUESTION: Can I ask, is this the first time that there’s been such clear evidence of a Hezbollah-planned attack in Europe? And if so, what has changed? Because for many decades in the past, Hezbollah was an organization which was largely confined to southern Lebanon, as we know.
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether this is the – I mean, I think we’ve had past incidents where the strong evidence has pointed in the direction of Hezbollah. I frankly can’t give you an encyclopedic briefing here today on whether the smoking gun was as clear as this particular one is here. I don’t think too many of us in this room believe that the Hezbollah’s activities have been confined to Lebanon. I think the history around the region and around the world indicates that they’ve been pretty active and increasingly active around the world for quite some time.
QUESTION: Sorry, just to --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: On this subject still? I just wanted two. One, you said the Lebanese people deserve a government that basically is better. But, I mean, the Lebanese Government – the Lebanese people do get to vote for their government.
MS. NULAND: They do get to vote for their --
QUESTION: And they have voted for Hezbollah members.
MS. NULAND: They have. We have concerns about this.
QUESTION: So maybe they deserve the government they voted for.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think the concern is that the true face of Hezbollah is not always known. They do their best to mask their own hand in terror.
QUESTION: So you think that the people of Lebanon who vote for Hezbollah members are ignorant of what Hezbollah really is?
MS. NULAND: It is our belief that Hezbollah works very hard, particularly inside Lebanon, to mask the true nature of the regime.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just on – are you aware of any other calls that Secretary Kerry had over the weekend or today that dealt with this issue, or did it come up in any of the calls, say, with Foreign Secretary Hague or with the French Foreign Minister?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything else to read out in detail with regard to that. Let me check with regard to the European calls. Let me simply say that since this incident happened in Bulgaria, we have been talking to every European government at that level. Secretary Clinton certainly did with all of her counterparts. I think we all knew over the course of the last week that this report was going to come forward. We were all briefed by the Bulgarians what it was likely to say, so I don’t think it was a surprise. I think the issue now is what action Europe will take in response.
QUESTION: You’ve done an independent review of this investigation? You called it “extremely professional,” so I assume you guys have done a thorough review of it.
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we were asked to be supportive. We were, so we had good visibility into the way it was conducted.
QUESTION: Well, you said you were briefed on it, not that you had actually seen the investigation and studied it. To go to “extremely professional” seems to be – where did you get that assessment?
MS. NULAND: What I said was that European governments had been briefed. With regard to our involvement, I said that we had been actively supportive of it.
QUESTION: Madam --
QUESTION: But – I’m sorry, just back to the phone call question.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, you said that it’s been – in the last – so I’m just specifically asking about Secretary Kerry here. I mean, can you – is it possible to find out if he did raise the issue of this report and what it – what the Administration thinks that it should lead to --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- in Europe with the Europeans? And also, did he have any contact with European police?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that, Matt. I will take all of those and see what I can get for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. NULAND: Ms. Margaret.
QUESTION: On this topic, Toria, with the initial reporting around this attack, there was language used by Israeli officials, and I believe it was linked in this building as well, the potential for Iran to be involved in this Hezbollah attack. The language in today’s release from the U.S. Government did not have mention of Iran there. Is there anything in the investigation that made you doubt the initial inclination that they were linked directly in this attack?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve all been pretty clear about our concern about how tightly enmeshed Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran have been historically. With regard to fingerprints back to Tehran on this attack, I don’t have anything further today. Let me see if I can take that and get anything more for you.
QUESTION: Very quickly on Syria, do you have any position on the possible talks between the opposition and the government with some groups saying that they accept Shara, the vice president, and other groups rejecting any kinds of talks with the government?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think what Said is referring to is a set of public remarks made by Syrian Opposition Coalition President al-Khatib calling on Assad to now allow the Syrian opposition to begin conducting some talks with his Vice President al-Shara on the – in line with the Geneva Agreement on how a transition might take place and Assad might step down and the bloodshed might end. You know that we have strongly supported that kind of a transition scenario, the Geneva process. We commend President al-Khatib for making this kind of overture. It’s very clear, though, that there is a lot of discussion also going on within the Syrian Opposition Coalition about whether that is the right direction to go, and they are continuing to work on whether they would be unified in that. But obviously it doesn’t go anywhere if Assad doesn’t take a step to meet the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
QUESTION: Just very quickly – so al-Shara is an acceptable interlocutor from your point of view?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve said from the beginning, and the Geneva documents also say that it’s not for us to decide who an appropriate interlocutor would be. The President of the SOC has said that for him, al-Shara is the kind of guy that he thinks this kind of thing could be worked out with. So we need to see whether the regime is willing to respond to that kind of a thing and how the conversation inside the Syrian Opposition Coalition comes forward.
QUESTION: Excuse me. On the Secretary’s other call this morning with the Chinese Foreign Minister –
QUESTION: Can we please stay on Syria first?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Or you can go to the – well, actually, I can wait. I want to go back to Syria.
MS. NULAND: No, let’s finish Syria. Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you about whether you had any thoughts about Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s comments about Assad basically being a wimp and not attacking Israel for – or retaliating against Israel. I also asked about some opposition comments saying the same thing, complaining that Assad hadn’t done anything to respond to Israel. You said yesterday you hadn’t seen the Davutoglu comments. It turns out they’re more than just Davutoglu; Erdogan as well. Davutoglu said, “Why didn’t Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?” “Why can’t Assad, who gave the order to fire SCUD missiles at Aleppo, do anything against Israel?” Suggested – asked if there was a secret agreement between Israel and Assad. “Why doesn’t the Syrian --”
MS. NULAND: Matt –
QUESTION: I’m just giving you the flavor of what he --
MS. NULAND: I gotcha.
QUESTION: -- of what he said.
MS. NULAND: I gotcha. I am going to give this a little pause, and we’re going to come back when the President is finished. With due respect to your sense that there’s no foreign policy, I’m going to respect my president and not be out while he is out. We’ll be right back. Okay? And we’ll pick up right there, Matt. Okay? Thanks.
MS. NULAND: We are back as promised. I apologize for that; it’s just every fiber of my being says that I don’t speak on top of a president. So you were --
QUESTION: Well, I hope you were edified by that exciting performance.
MS. NULAND: So you, Matt, were asking about --
QUESTION: Yes, I’m asking you about --
MS. NULAND: -- the Turkish comments and the SOC comments.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Davutoglu and Erdogan. Erdogan, his comment, “Israel has a mentality of --
MS. NULAND: I’m aware.
QUESTION: Are you aware?
MS. NULAND: I am aware.
QUESTION: “ – of waging state terrorism”?
MS. NULAND: I am aware.
QUESTION: All right. What do you think about these comments?
MS. NULAND: So first of all with regard to the inflammatory comments from our – from the Turkish leaders, these are obviously very troubling to us. We have in the last 24 hours conveyed our concerns on this matter with senior Turkish officials. Our view here is that all of us need to keep our eye on the ball, which is to get the violence to stop, to get Assad to step down, and to turn the page towards a democratic Syria.
We have also – I checked into some of this comment from one individual in the Syrian --
QUESTION: There was like seven.
MS. NULAND: -- opposition.
QUESTION: Well, it was a statement --
MS. NULAND: The one you sent me was one – yeah.
QUESTION: It was an official statement from the opposition coalition.
MS. NULAND: What I saw were some individual comments from some individuals. They, in our conversations with the SOC, do not reflect the views of the organization as a whole. But again there, what we’re gratified by is that the leadership of the SOC is focused now on putting the pressure on Assad to step aside and let a transition begin and have real conversations about how that’s going to proceed.
QUESTION: Okay. So can I just make sure I understand this on the opposition ones? You think that they’re bad comments, but you do not believe that they reflect the feeling of the council as a whole?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: They’re – just they’re individuals’ comments?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: All right. And you said that you have raised this with the Turks? This has been raised with them in the last 24 hours by who, where?
MS. NULAND: From our embassy in Ankara with senior Turkish officials.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if Secretary Kerry, when he spoke to Foreign Minister Davutoglu the other day, was aware of these – of him having made these comments?
MS. NULAND: I don’t believe that he was aware at the time that he spoke to him. But if that’s not true --
QUESTION: Okay. So it did not come up in – as far as you know, this didn’t come up in their conversation?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, it didn’t, because I don’t think the Secretary had seen them.
QUESTION: Because he didn’t know --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: All right, thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please, Kim.
QUESTION: Can I just go back briefly to Hezbollah and the EU? Is there any debate within this Administration about Hezbollah? I mean, I realize that they’re listed as a terrorist organization here, but John Brennan himself has made references to the moderate elements within Hezbollah in the past as a member of this Administration and has said that the best way to, let’s say, coax them away from violence is to strengthen those moderate elements. So he recognizes that they are part of the political fabric in Lebanon.
MS. NULAND: Look, I think if you take a look at the statement that was issued from the White House today and the statement that we will shortly be issuing from here, it is clear that our concern is that the leadership of Hezbollah not only is cognizant of these kinds of terrorist decisions but endorses them, supports them, et cetera. Whether there are individuals in the organization who may have a different vision, I can’t speak to that, but that’s certainly not how we view the organization as a whole.
QUESTION: Victoria, just a clarification to Kim’s question. So like with Hamas, you always say Hamas knows what it needs to do to be accepted; it has to renounce violence, it has to recognize Israel. There are certain things that they need to do. What does Hezbollah need to do to be accepted as a mainstream political party?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously they have to do all of those same things as well and they have to --
QUESTION: They have to – they don’t have to recognize Israel, though.
MS. NULAND: I am not in a position to advocate for how Hezbollah improves its image. Suffice to say that they have --
QUESTION: It could use the help. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Suffice to say that our concern is that that is not the direction that they’re moving, that they’re not even trying; that on the contrary, they have been over the past year increasing their emphasis on these kinds of terror attacks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
MS. NULAND: I think I gave you what we wanted to share with regard to that. As I said, when he spoke to his Japanese counterpart, his Korean counterpart, and now his Chinese counterpart, the conversation was remarkably similar, that we are all concerned that despite the strong measures taken in 2087, the provocative rhetoric continues, which means that we’ve all got to stay unified in watching this and making absolutely clear to Pyongyang that if it takes further action, so will we.
QUESTION: Can I ask on – staying on North Korea, can I ask on the video? I don’t know if you’ve managed to see the video which appears to have come out from North Korea over the weekend about – showing scenes of a city in the United States, presumably New York, in flames after a missile attack. What is the U.S. comment on such a video?
MS. NULAND: I’ve seen it. I’m clearly not going to dignify it by speaking about it here.
QUESTION: Toria, you suggested on Monday that – and correct me if I’m wrong – that there was agreement between the Secretary and his counterparts in South Korea and Japan that there needed to be – that there was an agreement that new sanctions might need to be imposed if North Korea were to go ahead with whatever this thing is they’re planning. Did that come up as well with Mr. Yang? And if so, what was the Chinese’s reaction to perhaps new sanctions?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to go into any further detail about the conversation between the two ministers beyond saying what I said a few minutes ago, which is that conversations were remarkably similar in terms of the importance of ensuring that if we need to implement the commitments in 2087, that we will.
QUESTION: So does that mean that --
MS. NULAND: What I mean is the --
QUESTION: No, no, no --
MS. NULAND: -- commitment to further action.
QUESTION: When I asked about possible other topics that might have been raised during that call, you’re saying there weren’t any, the only ones were DPRK, Iran, and the P-5+1?
MS. NULAND: I’m saying those are the topics that we’re sharing today.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, how about Japan and this accusation by the Japanese that the Chinese have locked radar onto one of their destroyers? Did that come up, or is that something that doesn’t rise to the – something you don’t think is serious and doesn’t rise to the level of the Secretary mentioning it to the Chinese Foreign Minister?
MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying that regional security issues as a whole came up, I’m not going to get into any further detail of the phone conversation. I will say that with regard to the reports of this particular lock-on incident, actions such as this escalate tensions and increase the risk of an incident or a miscalculation, and they could undermine peace, stability, and economic growth in this vital region. So we are concerned about it.
Jill, in the back.
QUESTION: Wait, can I just ask about --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, did it or did it not come up with the conversation with the Chinese? And if you don’t know, that’s one thing. If you do know and you’ve been – there’s been some decision made that you don’t want to say that it came up in the conversation, I’d like to know the rationale behind it. It seems to me that Japan is a treaty ally of the United States, and if there is a belligerent action taken against a treaty ally of the United States, it would seem to me to be entirely appropriate for the Secretary of State to raise that with the country that committed the belligerent act.
MS. NULAND: Again, Matt, I will – I’m happy to check on your specific issue. We have shared today what we care to share from that conversation, including the fact that it covered regional security. But I will check on your question.
QUESTION: With the Secretary visiting the Diplomatic Security, could you give us a few more details about that? And also, now I believe it’s the Senate has taken action on increasing money for security around the world; what the hopes for the State Department are in terms of dollar figures.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you – with regard to the visit to the DS Command Center, just to go through it again, he made the trip out to the Command Center, which is in Rosslyn, to underscore his support for what Diplomatic Security does to be personally familiar with the workings of the Command Center, to have a chance to be briefed by Diplomatic Security, to underscore his commitment to support their budget needs, to be – and to work extremely closely with them in his tenure to ensure the safety and security of our personnel and our facilities.
Thank you, Jill, for bringing up the fact that we are gratified to see that on February 4th the Senate approved legislation authored by Senator Leahy to allow us to transfer unallocated money from our overseas contingency operation funds toward identified increased security requirements that came up in the post-Benghazi review. This bill allows us to transfer specifically 1.1 billion in previously appropriated funds for Iraq to help us construct – improve construction for Diplomatic Security, and to support 35 more Marine security guard detachments, and to implement additional measures.
I would note that we had also requested an additional 300 million on top of that, which we’ll now be seeking in our FY13 appropriations bill, for hiring of more DS agents and particularly more mobile security detachments. But the House has yet to act on the reallocation as well.
QUESTION: And with Secretary Kerry – I know right before, obviously, Secretary Clinton ordered a review of security around the world. Is Secretary Kerry looking at even further steps? Is there – did he react to the briefing? Is there anything that he is going to do that would further this?
MS. NULAND: Well, he is committed, as he did publicly in his confirmation hearing – I’m confident you’ll hear him speak about this tomorrow and in the days ahead – to full implementation of all of the recommendations that came out of the ARB, to seek to work with the Congress to fully fund all of our security needs. This is obviously something that’s going to be front and center as we move forward here.
QUESTION: Sorry. When you say tomorrow, you mean you expect him to talk about it at his swearing-in?
MS. NULAND: I’m sure security will come up in the swearing-in.
QUESTION: He doesn’t have any other meetings that you know of?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: Just on Secretary Kerry’s first days, you’ve briefed out some very bare bones of his conversations and we see on the schedule that gets released certain meetings he’s having, but obviously those can’t account for the totality of his days. I’m just wondering if you can give us a sense of how he is spending these days. Is he poring through briefing books? How have those been compiled? Like, is there any sort of organization to the way he’s being kind of inaugurated here, if you will, or ushered into the process here?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously there’s some order, at least we like to think that there’s some order. In addition to the things that we’ve been talking about here, I think I mentioned to you that he’s been introducing himself to the workforce, that he’s been briefing in deeper with the various teams here in the State Department that work on issues. So on various policies, and I’m not going to go through them in detail, he’s been having the senior leadership team that works on some of the hot issues that we are confronting, including many of the ones that interest you, he’s been having them come up and give him their assessment of where we are, what is to be done, sharing his views on how we go forward together. He’s obviously been talking to interagency counterparts as well, preparing for his first interagency meetings where he’ll sit in the secretarial chair and represent the Department. So all of those things.
QUESTION: And can you tell us a little bit about the considerations that are going into his decision about where he will travel first as Secretary?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything yet to tell you about travel. You can imagine that’s obviously a set of serious decisions that need to be made. When we have something to share with you about where and when and why, we will do that.
QUESTION: I didn’t ask where, when, and why. Well, I did ask why, but I just am curious as to what he has set forth as to how he’s going about making that decision.
MS. NULAND: Again, he’s still thinking about that. When we have more to share, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Does he have anything with Vice President Biden and the President to discuss the Munich Security Conference?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Vice President Biden’s still on the road.
QUESTION: I understand. When he comes --
MS. NULAND: I’m sure they’ll have chance to talk when he’s back.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You’ve addressed this a few times over the --
MS. NULAND: Hold on. Let’s just finish with Jo on the money. Yeah.
QUESTION: Sorry. I just wanted to clarify this 1.1 billion. Does some of that include what we talked about last week about the upgrades to the 10 embassies that have been singled out for first review, if you like?
MS. NULAND: 1.1 billion covers the 35 Marine security detachments, construction for new diplomatic facilities, and implementing the additional upgrades that we’ve identified. We’re still short the 300 million for extra DS agents, as I mentioned.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Scott.
QUESTION: Somalia --
QUESTION: The 300 million (inaudible) this year?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’d like it as soon as possible, obviously.
QUESTION: You’ve addressed the Somali issue a few times over the past few days, but the woman and the journalist have now been sentenced. Do you have anything that you can tell us about that?
MS. NULAND: Scott, I think we’re going to put out a statement on this a little bit later today in my name. So if you’ll give me a minute on that, we will get it out to you.
QUESTION: NBC News has obtained a white paper on the lawfulness of a lethal operation directed at U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader in al-Qaida or an associated force. I am wondering if Secretary Kerry has been briefed or read in on this and what his reaction to the policy is.
MS. NULAND: First, on the broader issue, the White House is going to be speaking to this later today – or the Justice Department, so I’m not going to comment on the broader issue beyond saying that Secretary Kerry is fully aware.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: I would like to know if the State Department views this Senkaku latest incident as also a test of American resolve, not just the resolve of the Japanese air and naval defense systems. Does the State Department also view this as a test of our resolve in backing up our Japanese ally?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve spoken to our view of this incident. We’re concerned by it. We think it could escalate tensions. We are concerned about the potential for an incident or a miscalculation. I think that’s pretty clear from here.
Please. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Was that – when you say the concern, though, is that because – is that you’re concerned by the Chinese action --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, by the --
QUESTION: Not by the Japanese destroyer being where it was?
MS. NULAND: The concern is by the painting of the ship.
MS. NULAND: We have seen the reports of the conviction and the sentencing of three former members of parliament for comments they made in October of 2012, and two other individuals for comments that they made on Twitter. We, as you know, oppose laws that curb the peaceful exercise of free expression. I did speak early in January, I think it was on the 7th, about the importance that we place on freedom of expression, and we called at that time on the Government of Kuwait to adhere to its own tradition of respect for freedom of expression, and I reiterate that here today.
QUESTION: Change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm
QUESTION: There was just a report on Israel Channel 10 that President Obama will visit Israel and the PA territory on March 20th. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: You know that only the White House is going to speak to presidential travel, so I’ll send you to them, Said.
QUESTION: Well, that wasn’t his question. His question was: Are you aware of the report? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We try here to be aware of most reports.
In the back.
QUESTION: Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister is visiting China this week, and I wonder if Syria came up in the conversation between Secretary Kerry and Yang Jiechi.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that. I will check into that for you.
QUESTION: And on the question on the revised agreement of privileged exemptions and immunities between American Institute in Taiwan and TECRO, I wonder if you have anything on that and what is the significance of that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. On February 4th, the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, TECRO, signed an updated agreement on privileges and immunities. This replaces the 1980 agreement on this subject and improves legal protections for both our AIT personnel in Taiwan and TECRO personnel in the United States. This action is fully consistent with our longstanding commitment to a one-China policy, which has not changed. But as I said, this updated agreement was designed to improve the necessary legal protections and enable these entities and their employees to perform their functions effectively.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, does that mean that before they did not have diplomatic or consular immunity, and now they do?
MS. NULAND: No, this agreement is not the same. It’s not the same as diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities under Vienna. These are specific –
QUESTION: Can you – maybe not for now, just –
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I can give you a little more on what it does.
QUESTION: -- get someone on like a paragraph about – yeah, well, what the difference is, specifically what the difference is between then and now.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I can give you a little bit here. This new agreement expands and clarifies certain legal protections of the entities. For example, the updated agreement is going to provide certain employees with expanded protection from criminal jurisdiction and arrest as well as specified immunities from providing testimony. And so that would be reciprocal. In addition, certain employees’ personal property will receive additional protection, and family members of certain employees will also receive broader protections.
QUESTION: But that sounds a lot like diplomatic and consular immunities and privileges.
MS. NULAND: This is a – it is – because we don’t – because of the status of our relationship, these are [not] government-to-government agreements, not the same as Vienna Convention, which specifies –
QUESTION: No, no. I understand. Before – I don’t understand. Before they didn’t have any protections?
MS. NULAND: They were not as strong as either side thought they should be to allow them to work.
Catherine, did you have something else, or did we get to it? Okay.
QUESTION: Toria, you just mentioned it’s a government-to-government agreement, so –
MS. NULAND: No, I didn’t. I said it’s not the same as a government-to-government agreement just to be absolutely clear.
QUESTION: I have one on Iran. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, today, in that – confirms the date of the talks in Kazakhstan, but also said that the world powers are going to be making an updated and credible offer to Iran, and the onus was on them to respond seriously. Could you talk a bit to what – why he would mention an updated and especially credible offer which suggests that perhaps previous offers weren’t seen as credible?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by reiterating what I said in the beginning in the context of the discussion that the Secretary had with Lady Ashton. We are pleased that the Iranian negotiating team has now confirmed that they will meet the P-5+1 in Almaty on February 26th. Our view is it’s time for Iran to discuss substance, and we hope that the talks will make concrete progress regarding the international community’s concerns about the nature of the program. I’m not here in a position to discuss what we will be bringing to Almaty, our – what we want though is to ensure and to see Iran take advantage of this opportunity and allay the international community’s concerns.
QUESTION: But so within this new offer that you’re making, there is going to be – there are going to be different things than were put on the table previously?
MS. NULAND: Again, I am not in a position here to discuss our thoughts about what the P-5+1 will want to discuss with Iran. If we have more to share on that as we get closer to the Almaty conversation, we will.
QUESTION: And this is going to be a Wendy Sherman-led delegation?
MS. NULAND: Wendy Sherman will lead for us, yes. Under Secretary Sherman.
QUESTION: And who decided – what brilliant mind decided to have this meeting in Kazakhstan in February?
MS. NULAND: Having been in Kazakhstan in February, we all know that you need a winter coat and a good hat and gloves, and I’m confident Under Secretary Sherman will be ready for that.
QUESTION: On the issue of uranium enrichment, you do have a position on how much uranium enrichment Iran should have? For instance, like 2 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent?
MS. NULAND: Said, we have been very clear that we’re not going to negotiate this from the podium. We will be working this through with the Iranians. We’ll share what we can at the time.
And Scott, and then we’re going to finish.
QUESTION: Related to Iran, are you aware of the former governor of the Iranian Central Bank who was stopped by German customs with a $70 million check from the Venezuelan Government, that the Venezuelan opposition would like to know where it came from? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We are aware that an Iranian national has been detained in Germany. We’re certainly not going to speculate here why he was carrying a check for some 300 million bolivars, which is the equivalent of $70 million. We’ll refer you to the Germans and the Venezuelans on that one. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)
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