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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 1, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • KENYA
    • Elections
  • EGYPT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel
  • PAKISTAN/IRAN
    • Pipeline / Energy Crisis in Pakistan
  • ISRAEL
    • U.S. Citizen Denied Entry
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Dennis Rodman Visit
  • RUSSIA
    • Denial of Visa to Congressman Smith
  • BRAZIL
    • Death of State Department Contractor
  • SINGAPORE
    • Investigation into the Death of Shane Todd
  • UNITED NATIONS
    • Removal of Usama bin Laden from Sanctions List
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Sequestration
  • BANGLADESH
    • Ongoing Violence
    • International Crimes Tribunal
  • KENYA
    • Elections
  • SYRIA
    • Aid to the Opposition
    • Support for UN Envoy Brahimi
  • SRI LANKA
    • UN Human Rights Committee Resolution
  • MALI
    • Reports of Abu Zeid's Death
  • CHINA
    • Human Rights Situation in Tibet


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:24 p.m. EST

MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Happy Friday, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. I’ve got one thing for you at the top. I think you all know there are very important elections taking place this weekend in Kenya. Kenya’s national elections serve as a historic opportunity for Kenya to take another bold step in implementing its new constitution and strengthening its democracy. As Kenyans head to the polls to exercise their most fundamental democratic right, we hope that all Kenyans, no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, or geographic affiliation, will exercise their right to vote peacefully and help ensure Kenya’s elections are free, fair, and transparent, and put the collective interests of their country first.

The United States is a close friend and strong partner of the Kenyan people. We have contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, civic education, and elections preparation since 2010, and more than $90 million to support constitutional reform, conflict mitigation, civil society, and youth empowerment since 2008. So we stand together with all Kenyans, committed to the promise of a new constitution and to a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.

Having said that, I turn it over to all of you.

QUESTION: Could you we start with Egypt this morning?

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry is due there at the weekend. And the Egyptian opposition leader, Hamdeen Sabahi – excuse my pronunciation – and Mohamed ElBaradei apparently have turned down invitations to meet with him this weekend. Could you confirm such invitations were issued and that indeed they’ve been refused?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, Jo, as you’re right, the Secretary is visiting Cairo this weekend to discuss how the U.S. can support the Egyptian people’s democratic aspirations, their desire to build a government that respects universal rights, and to help meet their economic challenges. But in terms of the Secretary’s schedule, I really don’t have any details for you one way or another. Some of that will be read out by the traveling party as they get closer.

QUESTION: So you don’t know if he was planning to meet any opposition leaders whilst he was there?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have anything for you one way or another, Jo.

QUESTION: Okay. And --

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: -- just to stay with this, there was another – an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Nasr, has also said in a Friday prayer meeting in Tahrir Square today that he plans to meet the Secretary with eggs and tomatoes. I’m wondering what the U.S. comment would be to that. It doesn’t seem to be very helpful in the – to the situation.

MR. VENTRELL: I hadn’t seen that, Jo. But the bottom line is that the Secretary is looking forward to his trip, to his visit to Cairo to see what we can do to help the Egyptian people in terms of their democratic aspirations and looking at some of the economic challenges they have. So we’re a friend of the Egyptian people, and he looks forward to meeting a variety of Egyptian interlocutors from a variety of walks of life.

Do you have something else, Paul?

QUESTION: I emailed you a bit earlier too about Iran, this Glencore, exports of alumina to Iran. They acknowledged having done it, and the question is: Does it violate UN Security Council resolutions on provision of supplies to the reprocessing of the – in the Iranian nuclear program?

MR. VENTRELL: Paul, I’m going to have to take that and look into it. I just don’t have an answer yet. But thank you, I’m aware of it and we’ll look into it.

QUESTION: And continuing on Iran, Iran and Pakistan have now announced that they will start the work on this gas pipeline beginning March 11th. Now, do you think it is a sanctionable activity?

MR. VENTRELL: So if a deal were finalized for the proposed Pakistan-Iran pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under the Iran Sanctions Act. It’s still hypothetical at this point, but we’ve made that absolutely clear. And we’re, of course, watching and we’ll look at it. But as you know, as a member of the international community, a current member of the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council, Pakistan has an obligation to join multilateral efforts to convince Iran to adhere to international nuclear obligations.

QUESTION: Can we change topic?

QUESTION: Well, what would be the sanctions if they go ahead?

MR. VENTRELL: These are under U.S. sanctions, the Iran Sanctions Act.

QUESTION: But what – so what would – what concretely would sanctions –

MR. VENTRELL: Again, we’re still talking about something that’s hypothetical. We’d have to monitor and see exactly what sort of infraction it would be. But I can look into – see if we can get you a technical readout of how that works, Jo.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Have you been talking to Pakistan about this pipeline, Iran-Pakistan relations, and what is the action or reaction from Pakistan?

MR. VENTRELL: We continue to discuss Pakistan’s energy needs, especially through our bilateral mission in Islamabad. You know that I talked about earlier in the week how we are contributing to the alleviation of the energy crisis in Pakistan. So it’s something we’re working with our Pakistani counterparts on. They know our position, and we’ll continue to discuss this with our Pakistani counterparts.

QUESTION: And also one more quickly?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure, Goyal.

QUESTION: Since Pakistan is now in the UN Security Council seat, is that makes Pakistan more responsible than as a non-member of the UN Security Council?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, suffice it to say, being a member of the Security Council has – there are important obligations for Security Council members to – obviously, it’s an important international responsibility, clearly.

Said.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue.

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: There is a – are you aware that an American teacher, Nour Joudah, was denied entry into the West Bank where she teaches at an American school, the Quaker school, the Friends School, in Ramallah, and although she had all the proper papers – documents? Have you been – has that even been brought up to your attention?

MR. VENTRELL: Can you say her name one more time, Said, to make sure?

QUESTION: Nour Joudah.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, Nour Joudah . Okay. Well, as you do know – let me just talk about this broadly for a second. And you know this, Said. The U.S. Embassy provides consular services when U.S. citizens are denied entry to Israel or any other foreign country. And you know that the decision of whether or not to admit a foreign citizen rests solely with the country controlling the port of entry. So our country-specific information on Israel advises that travelers may be denied entry or exit without explanation.

Now, on this particular case, there are privacy concerns. We can’t comment further, but I am able to give you that general overview.

QUESTION: Okay. But are you aware that she was denied entry when she refused to cooperate with them? They wanted her to tell about people she met with, her students, some teachers, and other things and so on, which she actually said publicly?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I can’t comment on the specifics of this case due to privacy considerations and the Privacy Act. But again, we have country-specific information about Israel, and we have long told our Israeli counterparts and we’ve been consistent that we seek equal treatment and freedom of travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity. But this particular case, I just don’t have any more details for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: Samir.

QUESTION: Were you able to get a readout on the U.S. position regarding Israel exploration of energy in the Golan Heights?

MR. VENTRELL: Thanks, Samir. We’re still looking into this. I know that this is something, as I mentioned, that our mission in Tel Aviv has raised with our Israeli counterparts, and I’m still looking to get you some more information about that particular deal.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay, Paul.

QUESTION: We had heard that perhaps the Keystone XL pipeline environmental evaluation would come out today. Is there any basis for that expectation?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything to announce.

Dmitry.

QUESTION: I wanted to move to North Korea.

MR. VENTRELL: I couldn’t hear you.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MR. VENTRELL: North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you if the State Department or U.S. Government in general plans to debrief Mr. Dennis Rodman or any members of his traveling party. I think they issued an invitation for the North Korean leader to visit the United States, something like that.

MR. VENTRELL: So this has been a topic a couple times this week.

QUESTION: I know.

MR. VENTRELL: And you know where we are, that this is a private visit by a private American citizen. Mr. Rodman does not represent the United States. He’s never been a player in our diplomacy. And you know where we are in general in terms of we don’t have ill will toward the North Korean people, and exchanges of sports or something we do with certain countries where maybe we don’t have a good relationship. But this is coming at a time where we’re got significant activity at the UN to work for a strong, credible response after this nuclear test. Clearly you’ve got the regime spending money to wine and dine foreign visitors when they should be feeding their own people. So this isn’t really a time for business as usual with the DPRK. We’ve got – we’re up at the UN seeking some significant reaction. You’ve got the North Koreans focused on sort of entertainment and feeding foreigners instead of their own people.

QUESTION: Patrick, just to be clear, do you plan to meet Mr. Dennis Rodman or any --

MR. VENTRELL: Sorry. For the second part of that, you know we’ve long said our policy long has been that there are Americans who have been to North Korea who want to talk to us and discuss their travel when they come back. We take their call; we’re willing to listen to them. But we haven’t been in touch with this traveling party at any point along in the process. They haven’t been in touch with us. And so we don’t have any plans in that regard, but --

QUESTION: You don’t plan to phone Vice, this company that’s representing him, then, or to phone Mr. Rodman?

MR. VENTRELL: Our longstanding policy is if there are Americans who want to provide us a readout afterward, we do.

QUESTION: So he came out today and told the press in Beijing that he found that the new leader Kim Jong is an awesome kid and the previous leaders of Korea – North Korea were great leaders. I mean, these are leader – people who have led their people into starvation, they’ve imprisoned them in death camps and concentration camps, for use of a better word.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is that a characterization which you find helpful for an American citizen who is of such prominence around the world?

MR. VENTRELL: Let me just reiterate: Mr. Rodman does not represent the United States; he’s never been a player in our diplomacy. And you’re right, Jo; the North Korean regime has a horrific human rights record, quite possibly the worst human rights situation in the world, depriving their people of food, shelter, water – horrible prison gulags. So no doubt our position on the DPRK as a government is clearly not that.

QUESTION: So what would you say to any other celebrities or public figures who may be considering a visit to North Korea in the future? What is the advice from the State Department to them?

MR. VENTRELL: We’ve been talking about this throughout the week. We just don’t take a position on private American travel other than to refer people to our country-specific information which you can see on the internet. It describes some of the conditions in terms of traveling to the country. We do not have an embassy in Pyongyang, we do not have diplomatic relations, so the Swedes are our protecting power there. There are some considerations in terms of safety and travel, but private Americans – we’re a free country. This is not something that we advise on.

QUESTION: So it’s a matter for your individual conscience then? It’s a matter for a private person’s individual conscience as to whether he or she --

MR. VENTRELL: Each person has to make their own decision. We don’t consult on it.

Josh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to --

QUESTION: A follow-up to North Korea, please?

MR. VENTRELL: Same topic or different, Josh?

QUESTION: Different.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. What do you think of this Kim Jong-un’s gesture is a signal of improved relationship between U.S. and North Korea or future, there are more elections of the --

MR. VENTRELL: What we’re looking at is for them to come in line with their international obligations, to stop their ballistic missile tests, to stop their nuclear program. So absent those kind of fundamental changes, we’re not going to read into this sort of theater one way or another.

Josh.

QUESTION: Two consular issues. One --

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: The Russian Government denied a visa for the head of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, Congressman Chris Smith. Congressman Smith said this is a retaliation for the Magnitsky bill and the State Department’s ongoing process to list Russian human rights violators for visa bans. Do you have a comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Thanks, Josh, for the question. While it is Russia’s sovereign right to determine who receives a visa, we are very disappointed that the Russian Government decided not to issue a visa for Congressman Christopher Smith to visit Russia. We refer you to his office for more details. But this is something that we’ve raised with Russian officials in Washington, we’ve raised it in Moscow, and we’ve expressed our deep disappointment to the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Have they responded at all? Do you think he’ll get the visa? He’s about to reapply.

MR. VENTRELL: I’ll have to look into that. I know we’ve raised it both here and there, but let me see if we have any more details about their response.

QUESTION: All right. And the second quick one was --

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: A State Department contractor, Victoria Tcaciuc – I’m mispronouncing her last time – was murdered in Brazil last week. I’m wondering if you can talk about what has been the State Department’s level of involvement both on the consular services level and the American citizen services level, and also in dealing with the Brazilian Government to find out what happened to this woman and what can be done.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. So, Josh, we were deeply saddened to learn of the death of State Department contractor Victoria Tcaciuc. That’s spelled T-c-a-c-i-u-c. We express our deepest condolences to her friends and loved ones.

Officials from the U.S. Consulate in Rio are providing all appropriate consular assistance. We are in communication with the Brazilian authorities and we refer you to them for more details. So she was there on personal travel. This was not an official State Department delegation, but she was there on a personal visit.

QUESTION: And is the State Department involved in repatriating her remains back to --

MR. VENTRELL: We assist as we would through normal consular channels. I don’t know in this specific case what assistance the family has requested, but we are providing normal consular assistance for – in this case, for her family.

QUESTION: And to your knowledge, is the U.S. Government at all involved in the investigation, or is that the sole province of the Brazilian authorities?

MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is that this is the Brazilian authorities investigating.

QUESTION: She is an American citizen, correct?

MR. VENTRELL: Yes.

QUESTION: I also have a consular question or --

MR. VENTRELL: Sure. Go ahead, Dana.

QUESTION: Not about her but about Shane Todd.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: He was a young man working in – from Montana, working in Singapore, who was found hanging in June. And his parents are in Washington asking questions and meeting with – meeting on the Hill. They’ve told us that they would like the State Department to work more closely with Singapore authorities in investigating his death. Does the State Department have any comment on that? Are you working with Singapore authorities in this investigation?

MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Let me tell you a little bit about this case. First of all, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Todd for their loss. We handle death cases with utmost care and sensitivity. We’ve been in regular contact with the Todds since Shane’s death. Our consular officer has accompanied them to all their meetings with the Singaporean authorities investigating the case. The Ambassador has also met with the family. The Ambassador expressed his sincerest condolences and concerns to the parents and offered to assist in any way we can within the limits of the law.

And since Mr. Todd died in Singapore, Singaporean authorities do have jurisdiction, are responsible for investigating the cause of death, but we continue to be in coordination with them and to provide assistance as necessary, as we do in all consular cases.

QUESTION: Haven’t the Singaporean authorities already determined that it was a suicide, and isn’t that contradicted by the forensic evidence?

MR. VENTRELL: Josh, the current status of the case is that the Singapore police are continuing to investigate the case – the cause of Shane Todd’s death, and will present the report and relevant evidence at a coroner’s hearing. So my understanding is it’s still ongoing.

QUESTION: Do you know if the FBI is involved in the case?

MR. VENTRELL: I can tell you the United States has offered FBI assistance to the Government of Singapore on the Shane Todd case and has engaged in frequent discussions with the Government of Singapore in all regards to the case.

QUESTION: Do you find it suspicious that he was – he died shortly after discovering that the research that he was doing was connected to the Chinese company Huawei, which is a thinly veiled mask for the Chinese People Liberation Army?

MR. VENTRELL: Josh, beyond what I said, I just – I don’t have any further reaction at this time. We’re going to continue to cooperate with the Singaporean authorities, continue to work with them, and wait for the official results to their process.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Another issue?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Any comments on – the UN has just taken off Usama bin Ladin’s name from the sanctions on the terrorist list. Any comments on that? Is that going to hurt as far as terrorism and their hiding their wealth around the globe is concerned?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, Goyal, we do have a process up at the UN whereby people who are deceased are removed from lists. Let me take the question and get you a full response that we can provide some information in terms of how that process worked and what sanctions do and don’t remain in place in terms of his existing assets. But let me take the question and get a full response, because we do have some information on that.

QUESTION: Can you share something about sequester-related furlough policies in this building?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have – is it --

MR. VENTRELL: So, first of all, let me just say that the Department of State has been taking cost containment steps going – dating back to October 2012 under the continuing resolution and in light of overall fiscal uncertainties. So we’ve delayed equipment purchases, reduced travel expenditures, carefully scrutinized new contracts. At this time we can’t rule in or out furloughs. Should events occur requiring the Department to initiate furlough actions, you know there is a minimum of a 30-day notification. But at this time, we simply can’t rule it out or not. We have been in communication with our staff, and we do anticipate that one of the impacts on staffing will be that we’ll continue to have to slow our hiring process.

So – Lalit.

QUESTION: Do you have something on Bangladesh, the ongoing violence in that country? Thirty-seven people have died so far after a death sentence was given to a head of Islamic party because of his – the crimes he committed in the 1971 war.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. So my information is from yesterday, so if any of this is out of date, it’s only that I have an update from yesterday. But --

QUESTION: Well, there’s fresh violence today.

MR. VENTRELL: I hadn’t seen the fresh violence overnight. What I can say is that we’re saddened by the reports that people – my information from yesterday is that 17 people had been killed, but if there’s further violence, that obviously applies that we’re saddened by the loss of life during protests across Bangladesh.

Also we saw reports of attacks on a Hindu temple. So, while engaging in a peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right, we believe violence is never the answer. We encourage all Bangladeshis to peacefully express their views, and we welcome peaceful efforts by the Government of Bangladesh to help calm the situation.

Let’s go to Dana.

QUESTION: Sorry. Is yours on Bangladesh?

QUESTION: Yeah. Just quick one.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a different topic.

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: What the people in Bangladesh are asking that rather than getting life in prison, they’re asking that all those who were involved in 1971 killing hundreds of thousands or even millions of Bangladeshis by the regime that time should be hanged to death. My question is if Bangladesh Government has had ever ask any help from the U.S.?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, what I can tell you is that we believe it’s important to bring justice to those who have committed war crimes and atrocities. We believe it is very important for these trials to be free, fair, transparent, and consistent with Bangladesh’s obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. In terms of any U.S. assistance, I’d have to look into that, Goyal. I just don’t have any information one way or another.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. VENTRELL: Dana.

QUESTION: The Kenyan elections?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Were you hear at the beginning when I --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay, good.

QUESTION: Yeah. To that, as you talked about Kenya being such a great friend to the United States --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one of the leading candidates is currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court for committing alleged war crimes during the last elections. Has the United States had any discussion with the Kenyan Government, or what kind of discussions have you had, should he be elected? And would the United States be prepared, then, to treat Kenya as it treats Sudan, with President Omar Al-Bashir, who also is – has been indicted by the ICC?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, there are a couple of hypotheticals in there. We’re not there yet. What we’re looking for are free, fair elections. We’re encouraging Kenyans to do it peacefully. But in terms of the results, what might happen, we’re just not going to speculate. We’re going to continue to urge the process to be free, fair, and transparent, and obviously to improve on what happened from the last elections in 2007, where we had all these incidents. That’s why we’ve had all this support and aid to Kenya.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that there would be no difference in the way the United States treats Kenya?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not saying that. I’m saying I’m not going to answer a hypothetical about what we may or may not do. What I am saying is that we want free, fair elections, for the Kenyan people to freely express their will, and we want the election process to be improved from what it was last time. We’ve spent a lot of money on that, a lot of effort. We’ll be monitoring the election. We’ll have election monitoring teams from our Embassy, as will the international community. We think that’s important. But as to the results, I’m just not going to speculate. It wouldn’t be appropriate at this time.

QUESTION: Well – sorry. Quickly. But with Bashir, no one – there are – no senior sort of officials are able to visit with him or take pictures with him or anything. That’s sort of been the decision that the Administration’s made. You can’t speculate whether it would be the same process in Kenya?

MR. VENTRELL: We never speculate from this podium, so I’m not going to start doing that today.

Okay. Do you have anything else?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’ve got a couple of questions, but Russia. So the Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin has come out and he’s been – he’s denounced the aid that was – sorry, let’s start again.

Vitaly Churkin is denouncing the move by the United States to start delivering medical supplies and food to the rebels in Syria. He calls it a nod and a wink to those who are already supplying arms in the region, saying the United States just doesn’t want to sully its own hands. I wondered if you had any comment on that.

Also was – during the talks between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, did Secretary Kerry tell his counterpart that this was the move that the United States was going to make?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any further readout for you on the bilat with Lavrov, and I haven’t seen Mr. Churkin’s comments up at the UN. You know why we have this aid, what we’re focused on: helping hasten the end of the Assad regime. Why we want to support the opposition, and clearly we’re going to do that, as we mentioned, through humanitarian assistance, through this nonlethal assistance. And indeed, as the Secretary announced, the provision of food rations and medical kits to the opposition, so including the Supreme Military Council.

So we’re accelerating our aid. It’s part of our goal to hasten the end of the violence, to hasten the end of the Assad regime, and to give these folks a chance at governing and getting to the unified, peaceful, and democratic Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens. That’s our goal; that’s what we’re looking for. And that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: And the regime-run press in Syria is also saying it’s outraged by this move. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, we’ve been very clear where we are on this all along. We were clear that we wanted to work with our partners, our allies, and with the Syrian Opposition Council to accelerate our assistance, so this really is no surprise. And in fact, we’re very pleased that really, as the Secretary talked about, the collective efforts of all of the allies and partners that came together in Rome.

So we have a significant new package, but so do some of our allies. And so this is really a shot in the arm, a real boost to the opposition at a time when they need to take on additional responsibilities, really deliver for the Syrian people, and show that they can provide a new future for the Syrian people.

And I think what the Syrian people need to know is to see an opposition that’s going to function and work for them so that they can – those that are on the fence can envision a future beyond, without him, and one that – a Syria that is – protects the rights of all its citizens. So those that are concerned about retribution or reprisal or what may come next, that’s what we’re trying to reassure some of those people, is that there is an alternative.

Of course, this is up to the Syrian people. This is their council, but we’re going to assist them as best we can.

QUESTION: And following up from that – sorry – did you have any further clarification on why the Syrian opposition has decided to postpone the meeting that was due to be held in Istanbul tomorrow?

MR. VENTRELL: I just don’t have any more information on that. I really refer you to them.

Samir.

QUESTION: A press report yesterday said that the French President in his talks with the Russian President in Moscow suggested the appointment of a new mediator acceptable from the Syrian Government and the opposition. Is this France no longer appreciate the role of Brahimi?

MR. VENTRELL: I can’t speak for France. We continue to support Mr. Brahimi. We continue to support; we think a dialogue is the best way to get to a political transition. But at this time, we haven’t seen the regime take the serious steps to, first of all, communicate through Mr. Brahimi, but second of all, to stop raining SCUDs down on Aleppo and the area around it.

QUESTION: Because the regime criticized Brahimi and they said he’s no longer credible last week.

MR. VENTRELL: I hadn’t seen that, but we continue to support Mr. Brahimi.

QUESTION: Is there any news on a three-B meeting?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have an update for you, but I’d be happy to look into it, Jo.

QUESTION: I have one on Pakistan.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s move going on inside Pakistan for talks between various terrorist organizations and the government. How do you see this developments going on? Tehrik-e Taliban --

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything for you on that, Lalit. I’ll look into it. Okay?

QUESTION: All right. There’s one more on Sri Lanka I have.

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: On the resolution that you are putting up at the UN, is it different than the last? How different is it from the last year’s resolution that the U.S. has put in?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we do intend to, as I mentioned yesterday, sponsor resolution at the UN Human Rights Council current session. It will build on the 2012 resolution, which called on Sri Lanka to do more to promote reconciliation and accountability. The resolution will ask the Government of Sri Lanka to follow through on its own commitments to its people, including implementing the constructive recommendations from the report by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. So that’s really the content of the resolution and we’re cosponsoring – we’re sponsoring it and support it.

Okay, guys?

QUESTION: Somalia?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: There are reports that one of the senior leaders of AQIM, Abdelhamid Abu Zeid has been killed in fighting with French troops.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you anything you can give us on that? Any confirmation?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Thanks for the question, Jo. We have seen the reports that French forces in Mali have killed Abu Zeid. We refer you to the Government of France for further information. Abu Zeid is a senior, influential member of AQIM, and his death would represent a significant blow to AQIM’s efforts to exploit West Africa.

QUESTION: But you can’t confirm it?

MR. VENTRELL: Cannot confirm it at this time.

QUESTION: Tibet?

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: Tibetans are again still asking for more freedom and human rights. And one after another, almost every day, one Tibetan putting themself on fire and now it’s expanding to even Kathmandu in Nepal.

So anybody will talking to the Chinese? What’s the future of the Tibetans now if this continues the trend among Tibetans?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Thank, Goyal. We remain concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas, including the numerous tragic self-immolations that have occurred and related reports of detentions and arrests. We’ve also seen, as you mentioned, in Nepal, self-immolations. We continue to call on the Chinese Government to permit Tibetans to express grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution. And we urge Tibetans to end self-immolations.

Okay?

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Have a nice weekend.

MR. VENTRELL: You too, Goyal.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:56 p.m.)

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