The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
12:59 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. It is Friday heading into St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. And we also want to welcome our visitors in the back there from the University of Pittsburgh. You are very welcome. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Really? Well, assuming you don’t have a Vatican election answer for me – I’m assuming that’s correct. Or do you?
MS. NULAND: I have a little more for you if you want to continue there, Matt. What exactly did you have in mind?
QUESTION: Well, it can wait until after more pressing things, but you do have answers then?
MS. NULAND: Well, I have a little bit more on our colloquy from yesterday if you –
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Then I’ll wait. People can go to Syria, I guess, first. Today is the two-year anniversary of the uprisings that started against Assad. Do you have anything to say to mark the occasion?
MS. NULAND: Well, you are right. Today is the two-year anniversary of the Syrian revolution. As you’ll recall in early 2011, a few Syrian teenagers scrawled the fateful words, “Down with the regime,” on a wall in Dara’a. And then their call was echoed by compatriots across the country who began peacefully demanding more dignity, more freedom, more openness, less corruption in the Syrian system. However, those simple demands for change were met with absolute brutality by the Assad regime and claims that foreign fighters were behind all of this.
And then you know what happened from there. Obviously, as the regime began to become more and more brutal, Syrian civilians began taking up arms to defend themselves. I would commend to you a message that Ambassador Ford has just recorded in English and in Arabic to the Syrian people, which marks this very sober milestone, tells the Syrian people that we stand with them, and reminds them of what the United States has been trying to do with its international partners.
From our strong humanitarian response, we remain the largest international donor of humanitarian support with more than 50 percent of the international giving coming from Americans We remain committed to supporting the coalition both in political support, and you know our strong and growing nonlethal support and the work we are doing to strengthen sanctions against the Assad regime. So a somber day indeed. And we are marking it by speaking directly to the Syrian people as Ambassador Ford has.
QUESTION: Well, in Ambassador Ford’s message, he says he reminds them of what the U.S. has been trying to do. And the long and short of what you’ve been trying to do is stop the killing. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: We have as – of course we’ve been trying to stop the killing by increasing the pressure on Assad and by working with the opposition.
QUESTION: Right, but given the increasing body toll, body count, would you say that that has been a success?
MS. NULAND: I think nobody is satisfied with where we are in Syria, which is why the Secretary, when he went to Rome for a meeting of the Friends of Syria and to meet with Syrian Opposition Coalition President al-Khatib, encouraged everyone to do more. And in fact, we are doing more on our own side, and as he said during that trip, we believe that the totality of increased effort by the international community ought to begin to make a difference to Assad’s calculation.
QUESTION: But I guess I’m just wondering – I mean, are you – do you think that the Syrian people should be grateful to you and the rest of the international community for what you have done or not done to date?
MS. NULAND: The Syrian people are in a desperate, awful situation, as we all recognize. We are trying to do our part to accelerate and hasten the end of the violence. I wouldn’t use the G word. That is not something that one would use to describe the awful situation that they’re in.
QUESTION: Well, but I’m just trying to get my hand around what you – when Ambassador Ford is reminding the Syrian people of what the United States has done for them –
MS. NULAND: Maybe I used the wrong turn of phrase here. I don’t think that’s the way he phrased it in his message. He wants to make clear, though, because it’s not always clear when you’re in the kind of desperate straits that they are in that we are doing a lot now on the humanitarian side, that we are doing a lot now on the nonlethal side to support the Syrian Opposition Coalition, and we want them to know that we are working hard on their behalf.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But if – it sounds like you’re wanting to take –
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve –
QUESTION: Well, I just don’t understand. I mean, there are more than 70,000 people dead.
MS. NULAND: Of course. Of course, Matt. And nobody is satisfied with that.
QUESTION: Yes. On this somber occasion, as you called it – characterized it, you also mentioned that the Syrian regime tried to duck under the cover of accusing the uprising on foreign fighters. But in fact, as we have learned in the last couple years, there is a tremendous influx of foreign fighters, including today. There were hundreds, literally, that were leaving Jordan, claimed to have been trained by the Jordanians and others and so on that are going into Jordan. So do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: As we’ve talked about for months and months and months here, the longer this has gone on, the more foreign influence there has been on both sides. What is most concerning is the preponderance of foreign support is on the side of the regime. We have massive Iranian support, Hezbollah support, continuing Russian military and other forms of support. We’ve been clear, as well, that we have concerns that extremists are also infiltrating the opposition and particularly al-Qaida affiliated extremists. Again, that speaks to the work that we’re trying to do with the Syrian Opposition Coalition to strengthen the moderates within them, both on the fighting side and on the political side, so that they can resist extremism, because nobody wants to see this revolution hijacked by extremists.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up there. There’s also an influx from Lebanon and today the Syrian regime threatened to strike the positions of these foreign fighters that make their way to Lebanon – to Syria from Lebanon.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we condemn in strongest terms any threats by the Syrian regime to take this fight into Lebanon. That would only increase the violence. But let’s remember how we got where we are, which is that Syria for decades supported Hezbollah. Hezbollah is now supporting the Assad regime. The fighters are predominately coming across to support the regime. So who started this spiral of violence? The Assad regime itself.
QUESTION: As a quick follow-up to that, can we --
MS. NULAND: Jill.
QUESTION: Thank you. We just heard this question: There are reports; we have them, Reuters has them, other people, about these trainers, that there is weapons training going on in Jordan. And I think it’s very important to find out exactly whether it is the United States that is directly involved. Is this a military intelligence thing? Or is it the U.S. organizing and authorizing training?
MS. NULAND: Jill, I think you’ve asked that question here before, and I have said in the past that I don’t have anything for you on that, and I still don’t have anything for you on that. There are a number of countries that have made clear that they are providing military support. They will speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Could I – just one – that last question. The President and other officials continue to say that it is – the U.S. is doing totally nonlethal at least at this point. Is there any exception to that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on these training reports. We have made clear that our support for the Syrian Opposition Coalition and for the Supreme Military Command is all on the nonlethal side.
QUESTION: So your allies in Europe are clearly reexamining where they stand on a ban on arming the rebels. And I believe that the EU has now put on – off a decision as a body until next week. But Britain and France have very – have come out yesterday and said that they believe it’s time to now start arming the rebels. They’re your closest allies. Are they wrong?
MS. NULAND: Jo, we talked about this at length yesterday. We talked about this when the Secretary was in Europe. We’re not going to get into the middle of the EU’s discussion. We have the same information you have, that they have deferred this discussion for another week. I think I said yesterday that in the context of the group that met in Rome, Britain and France were both there, as were Turkey and a number of other countries that have been strong supporters of the opposition. We are all supportive of countries doing more. They obviously need to make their own national decisions how to do so.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Inaudible) the Syrian opposition is talking about a change in the American stance towards President Assad based on Senator – or Secretary Kerry’s statement when he said we want to be able to see Assad and the Syrian opposition come to the table for the creation of a transitional government. You’ve talked about this issue, but the opposition is still not convinced yet. What can you say?
MS. NULAND: Michel, I spoke to this two days ago. I think what was said was misunderstood. The Secretary was talking about implementation of the Geneva proposal whereby the opposition and those in the regime with no blood on their hands would be allowed to sit down and start talking about how a transitional national government could be formed that could have full executive powers and whose members were chosen by mutual consent. There was no plan or expectation that Assad himself would participate in this. The opposite is true, as you know, that we think Assad is going to have to go.
QUESTION: Still on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Treasury Department has announced that U.S. persons – and I assume that includes legal residents – will be allowed to provide cash, despite the range of sanctions levied against the regime, provide cash to the Syrian opposition through a bank account, and they need to get in touch with the SNC office here in Washington. Why now? What’s the reasoning behind allowing this kind of person-to-person assistance when so much of the effort has been to try to keep any funds that could possibly be siphoned off and used against the opposition? Why is this being allowed now?
MS. NULAND: Well, Roz, without accepting the premise of your question, what Treasury has done here is issue a general license which allows Americans who want to support the Syrian Opposition Coalition with services or with money to do so under a general license. This expands a practice that was already in place whereby they would license transactions individually, they would license groups individually. They’ve now issued a blanket license. This essentially mirrors on the private American side what we’re doing on the government side.
QUESTION: Another issue?
QUESTION: No, that’s --
MS. NULAND: Still on – Matt. Yeah.
QUESTION: Just – you made this passing reference to a number of countries that have said publicly that they’re providing military aid. Which countries are those as far as you understand?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to name them from the podium. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, what’s the number, then? How many?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to let them speak for themselves and you can count them up.
QUESTION: Well, but --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to give you a number here. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Do you know?
MS. NULAND: Yes, I do.
QUESTION: There is a number?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to be giving numbers based on other countries’ information from the podium.
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, Amel.
QUESTION: Yesterday I was asking about the Syrian delegation that was coming to New York and Washington. Any news if they are going to have any contacts here?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about Mr. el-Manna and his group?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, our understanding is that they will be in Washington March 17 to 19, and they’ll meet some of our Department officials on the Syria team.
QUESTION: Not Ambassador Ford?
MS. NULAND: Not Ambassador Ford.
QUESTION: Any reason for not meeting Ambassador Ford?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any particular reason there.
QUESTION: No, sorry. On Ambassador Ford’s thing --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: That’s on Facebook? Where was that?
MS. NULAND: I think it’s on his Facebook page.
QUESTION: The Embassy? The --
MS. NULAND: The Embassy page, right. That’s the best place to find it.
Yeah. Let’s to Goyal, and then let’s go to – are we still on Syria, Goyal?
QUESTION: Still on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Margaret.
QUESTION: On Syria, an Israeli military intelligence official was quoted in the past 24 hours as saying there was reason to believe, again, that Assad was considering the use of chemical weapons. Is there any indication on the U.S. side that that is indeed the case, and if so, what is the preparation?
MS. NULAND: Well, you won’t be surprised if I’m not going to talk about intelligence from the podium. Just to repeat what the President has said: Any use, any proliferation of chemical weapons would be a complete red line for us and for the international community. We make that clear every possible way – publicly, privately, through countries who have influence and access to Assad directly – and we are continuing to do that.
QUESTION: Have you made a renewed push on that front of late?
MS. NULAND: Our push is constant and continuing, let’s put it that way.
QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov said on Wednesday that breaking the embargo, the arms embargo to Syria, suggesting that if and when the Europeans send their arms to Syria, that will be the illegal under international law. Is that likely to complicate any possible effort at the UN, let’s say, next week or the week after?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t see what Mr. Lavrov said. But as you know, we were unable to get any UN Security Council action in recent times vis-a-vis Syria, so I’m not quite sure what he thinks we would be violating.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Today, there are reports that they’ve now launched a short-range rocket. And I’m just wondering if you are able to confirm that that did indeed take place, and any reaction you have to that.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything I can share at this stage. You know where we have been with regard to the D.P.R.K., and particularly the pressure we’re trying to bring to bear now with our second sanctions resolution in two months. We are also continuing consultations, obviously, with our allies and partners.
Please. Can you tell me who you are?
QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible) Hayes with Fox News. What was it about the North Koreans’ recent comments that made the Administration decide now is a good time to deploy 14 additional ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California?
MS. NULAND: I think you’ve probably seen an announcement from the Pentagon that Secretary Hagel is planning to address the missile defense issues at 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock. So I think I’ll defer from this podium until he has a chance to speak.
QUESTION: And what do we say to critics out there that say this was stopped back in 2009, they had an interceptor planned in the Bush Administration. Some people say, “Is this a waste of taxpayers’ money to start it back up?”
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ll let the Pentagon speak to the missile defense issues today. There’ll be a statement by Secretary Hagel, and then our understanding is some follow-up questions will be taken by the experts, and then we’ll see where we are.
QUESTION: Another issue?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: A couple questions on South Asia, madam, starting with India. First of all, India – Indian Government and Indian people are not very happy what Pakistan’s parliament did yesterday. They celebrated the killings of five Indian soldiers, and also they passed a resolution against India that India should not have put to death those who were involved in terrorist activities in Mumbai attacks. And tomorrow is the last day for the current Pakistani Government. So what message do you think Pakistan is sending to the rest of the world as far as dealing with international terrorism or terrorism in India, against Indian people?
MS. NULAND: I have to say, Goyal, that I didn’t see what happened in the Pakistani parliament yesterday with regard to India. I think you know how strongly we’ve been supporting, both on the Indian side and the Pakistani side, direct dialogue between them and improvement in their relationship. They’ve already made some good strides on the economic side, on the visa side. We want that to continue. We want it to be expanded to some of these security concerns that they have with each other.
More broadly, though, thank you for the reference to Pakistan. As you know, the Pakistani parliament is planning to complete its term tomorrow. We look forward to timely, free and fair elections that’ll result in the first civilian, democratic transition in Pakistan’s history.
QUESTION: And one more on Pakistan. Pakistani Christians are protesting here in Washington, also in the U.S. and in Pakistan also, as far as burning of their close to 200 homes in Lahore, and other minorities. Do you have any – what they’re asking the U.S., or State Department, the protection of human rights and their existence in Pakistan as far as minorities are concerned?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that myself, but as you know, we have a very strong and continuing human rights dialogue with Pakistan as part of our larger bilateral relationship.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as Jamaat-e-Islamists are protesting against the current government of Sheikh Hasina, and what they are saying is that 1971 massacres there, the government should not put to death those who were involved in killing close to 3 million Bengalis and also the families of the current Prime Minister. Now, is there any change in the U.S. policy as far as what Sheikh Hasina government is saying, that those who were responsible in 1971 should face justice and should be put to death?
MS. NULAND: There’s certainly no change in U.S. policy. You know how much we’ve been working on this with both sides.
MS. NULAND: Let’s just take Scott’s Nigeria here.
QUESTION: Do you have a view on President Goodluck Jonathan’s pardons?
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that. The United States Government is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the Nigerian Government. We see this as a setback for the fight against corruption, and also for our ability to play the strong role we’ve played in supporting rule of law and legal institution-building in Nigeria, which is very important for the future of the country obviously.
QUESTION: You’ve expressed that to the Nigerian Government?
MS. NULAND: We have.
Yeah, please, Michel.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Extremists today burned a church in Benghazi for the second time. This incident came after the arrest of 50 Egyptians in Libya. One of them died in prison, suspected to be – or of trying to spread the Christianity in Libya. Do you have anything on this?
MS. NULAND: We have spoken out in the past against religiously motivated action in Libya and anywhere else. The more broad issue of human rights and justice came up very strongly when we had Prime Minister Zeidan here. This is part and parcel of the kind of democracy that Libya needs to build – one based on a strong constitution that protects the rights of all, but also one that allows for peaceful expression, peaceful protests, so we don’t have resort to this kind of violence. There were also strong messages sent about the importance of pursuing through appropriate judicial means any kinds of perpetrators of violence or vigilante justice in Libya.
QUESTION: Can we just go back to Nigeria for a second?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there anything more than just deep disappointment that you’re expressing about this? I recall there are sanctions available to use on corruption-related issues. Have they – have you warned the Nigerians that aid or – aid might be risked – at risk or that sanctions might be possible against individuals?
MS. NULAND: We have made clear to the Nigerians that this puts a question mark on the kinds of work that we’ve been trying to do with them. We haven’t yet taken the kinds of steps that you’re suggesting, Matt, but we’re continuing to look at what’s appropriate.
QUESTION: So in other words, it might be? This is – you’re deeply disappointed enough that it could end up affecting the relationship?
MS. NULAND: That we are looking at what’s appropriate. Let’s leave it there.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: Considering the anti-sentiment that these – some countries in South America against --
MS. NULAND: The anti-sentiment?
QUESTION: Anti-sentiment against the U.S., very bold sentiments against the U.S. Today is announced a summit with Peru, a key country there in South America politically and military. Can you talk about – a little bit about this? Which is the view of the U.S. with Peru? Which is the sensation, which is the message to some of these countries also in the region?
MS. NULAND: A U.S.-Peru summit?
MS. NULAND: Was this a White House --
QUESTION: For next week.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I’m going to let the White House speak to a visit that they are hosting, but --
QUESTION: It was announced by the Department of State.
MS. NULAND: Okay. I missed it. I apologize. Let me get you a little bit more on that answer.
QUESTION: 18 and 19 of March.
MS. NULAND: Let me get you a little bit more as we head towards that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, we mentioned – we talked a little bit about the formation of a government, and today, I believe they’ve signed off on a new coalition. I wondered if there was an American reaction to the formation of a new government in Israel.
MS. NULAND: I was not aware that they had actually signed on the dotted line. As we were preparing to come down here, that wasn’t exactly clear. Maybe your information is ahead of mine, but I’m sure we’ll speak to it when we’re confident that all the Is have been crossed and the Ts have been dotted, if we put it that way.
QUESTION: No, no. The other way around, I hope. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: I did it in --
QUESTION: Otherwise, we’re going to be waiting a long time.
MS. NULAND: Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: Someone else can go. I forgot what I was --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Back to Libya, we understand that there were three Diplomatic Security agents that were among the injured in Benghazi. We’re just hearing about them. Is there any more information you can provide to us about that, whether they’ll meet with Congress, if they ever met with Secretary Clinton?
MS. NULAND: Secretary Kerry?
QUESTION: Former, just to see if they ever met with her as well.
MS. NULAND: There has been some misreporting, if I can put it that way, in recent days about the number of injured in Benghazi. Let me just set the record completely straight here. There were three security personnel injured, one with smoke inhalation at the temporary mission facility, one at the annex who was seriously injured, and one at the – another at the annex who was less seriously injured. And then we also had a contractor, so that’s a total of four. There was also some reporting that folks had had amputations, et cetera. There was none of that.
So that is the situation. I think you’ve heard Secretary Kerry say that he had had an opportunity to visit the remaining hospitalized injured.
QUESTION: We’re just hearing about this, though. I mean --
MS. NULAND: No, you’re not. We’ve been very clear about this from the very beginning.
QUESTION: Toria, Ambassador Jones, is she already in Libya? Is she going to Libya? What is the status? And – sorry, yeah, could you share with us?
MS. NULAND: She’s been nominated by the President. She has to have a confirmation hearing before she can go.
QUESTION: Right. Oh, okay.
MS. NULAND: Right?
QUESTION: I stand corrected (inaudible). That’s true.
MS. NULAND: American system, yeah, right.
MS. NULAND: All right.
QUESTION: So how long will the process take, if I --
MS. NULAND: You could ask that question of the Senate, of whom we need now advice and consent.
QUESTION: The UN Special Rapporteur for Counterterrorism and Human Rights just concluded a visit in Pakistan, and at the end of the visit, he gave a statement saying that the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is a violation of international law. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen his press release. I’m obviously not going to speak about classified information here. What I would say, Dana, is that we have a strong, ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan, and that will continue.
QUESTION: Toria, you seem to be a little bit disparaging of his press release.
MS. NULAND: I simply said it was a press release. We haven’t seen a report.
QUESTION: You are expecting --
MS. NULAND: He’s only made – there’s only a press release so far.
QUESTION: -- to see a --
MS. NULAND: I don’t know if we will, but we haven’t seen it yet.
QUESTION: On your comment on timely, free and fair elections that’s what U.S. expectation is on Pakistani elections, is U.S. assisting Pakistan in some ways in these – conducting these elections? Because I think there was some provisions in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill in this regard.
MS. NULAND: Let me take that one, Lalit. I don't know whether Pakistan has requested or whether we have any election support programs in Pakistan. I’ll check.
QUESTION: Can I ask – on Monday, there’s a UN arms treaty conference which is starting up in New York. Could I ask what the American position is on the arms treaty and what you’re hoping to get out of the conference?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) couple hours or an hour until the statement? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: If we have not yet released it, we are about to release a statement from Secretary Kerry which lays out our position on the arms treaty negotiations that are resuming soon. So let me not preempt that and let you wait and see that.
QUESTION: Earlier this month – this is a new subject, on Iran – earlier this month was an anniversary. Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it had to do with Mr. Hekmati. It was either the anniversary of his imprisonment or the --
MS. NULAND: I think it was the anniversary of his imprisonment. We spoke on that day, yeah.
QUESTION: Or the – yeah. Well, now, with the Iranian New Year approaching, the Nowruz celebrations, the family – his family is making a pretty big, concerted effort to try and appeal to the Iranian officials for a pardon, which is – pardons are apparently common around the holiday period. I’m wondering, one, if the State Department is involved either directly with the family or through the Swiss in trying to push these appeals forward and get them to the right people. And they have also – the family has also sent a letter to Secretary Kerry. Wondering if he’s responded to that.
MS. NULAND: With regard to the response, I think it’s in train. Let me just say that with regard to both Mr. Hekmati and Mr. Abedini, you know our difficulties here, that we regularly urge the Iranians to allow our Swiss protecting power to see them, that the Iranians, unfortunately, do not recognize their American citizenship, so it’s very, very difficult. We would obviously hope that in the context of Nowruz there would be a humanitarian gesture. Neither one of these – both of these men are unjustly imprisoned and ought to be released.
QUESTION: Do you know if it’s been raised with the Swiss or if you guys have asked the Swiss again to go to the Iranians to say hey, please act on this?
MS. NULAND: I think we do on a regular basis, but let me check whether there was a Nowruz appeal specifically.
QUESTION: Right, specifically on that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm. Okay. Anything else?
QUESTION: Oh, yeah.
MS. NULAND: Please, Tolga.
MS. NULAND: Tolga, in the back.
QUESTION: Yes. In the next week, there will be an expert meeting in Istanbul in terms of the Iranian nuclear program. I mean, can we have a comment from you regarding this meeting about your expectations?
MS. NULAND: As you know, we have teams who participate and support the P-5+1 process who also are responsible for consulting with allies and partners, interested allies and partners who don’t participate in the P-5+ 1 process, to share with them what we’re seeing both in terms of the Iranian response to our proposals and in terms of the program. So this is a – my understanding is it’s a routine update on the regular consultations we do with the Government of Turkey on this issue.
QUESTION: Istanbul – talking about meetings in Istanbul, I understand 18th and 19th there is a Syrian meeting at which the opposition is (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: I believe the Syrian opposition itself is meeting in Istanbul. I don’t know that it’s a meeting with us. Let me see if we plan to send anybody.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Ieng Sary died whilst he was still on trial, and now there’s a push for the UN and others to ensure that the trials are speeded up and make sure the last two people from the Khmer Rouge regime actually do face justice. Does the United States have a position on this?
MS. NULAND: The United States does continue to support the mandate of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia, the ECCC, to bring to justice the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge and those responsible for the atrocities of that era. The death of Ieng Sary simply highlights the need for an expeditious process which is also comprehensive to complete the trials of all of the former Khmer Rouge leaders.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The IMF issued a lengthy report on the – basically the economic collapse of both the West Bank and Gaza, and warning that the liquidity problem is very deep. The question is – my – I have two questions. One, what is the status of the U.S. aid – financial U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority? And second, it also speaks of increased military confrontation between the Israeli military and Palestinians that we have seen in the past and threatens a very volatile situation.
MS. NULAND: You know where we’ve been on this, that an economically viable Palestinian Authority is in the interests not only of the Palestinians themselves but of regional peace and security. The Secretary spoke to virtually every one of his interlocutors on his long trip through Europe and the Middle East about the importance of supporting the Palestinian Authority. I’m confident it’ll also come up on the President’s trip.
To date, the United States has moved forward with a total of $295.7 million in FY2012 assistance and $200 million in FY2013 assistance. Just breaking that down for you, it’s 200 million in FY13 economic support funds, direct budget support to the Palestinian Authority; $195.7 million in 2012 economic support funds for development and humanitarian assistance provided by AID; 100 million in FY2012 international narcotics control and law enforcement nonlethal assistance to the Palestinian Security forces and to their rule of law programs.
In February, at the end of February, we notified Congress of our intent to provide an additional 200 million in FY2012 ESF for AID programs. We are continuing to work with Congress to secure that funding.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There’ve been a number of reports about problems with the program, students coming in from overseas looking to get work, to get cultural experience, and then saying that they were abused by their sponsors. I know that there’s been an interim final rule issued by State to try to improve oversight and supervision of the sponsors in the program. Where is the final approval status?
And more particularly, what is being done to make certain that young people who come here for a cultural experience aren’t basically imprisoned, taken advantage of, put in horrible living conditions, and threatened with deportation if they complain?
MS. NULAND: Roz, thank you for the question. What I’d like to do is get you a separate briefing, and I think we should set up a briefing on all of the work that we’ve done to improve the Summer Work Travel Program.
Let me just take extreme issue with the way you characterized the program at the very end there, which left the impression that mass numbers of kids are coming to the United States and having a horrible experience. Let me just remind that in 2012 we had a total of 91,600 participants, the vast majority of whom had a very good experience with this program.
But there have been problems. We have been working on them. Let me give you a sense of what we’ve been doing. We’ve been working over the past year to strengthen our regulations to enhance the program’s health and safety protections for participants. This includes, among other things, more closely vetting the type of jobs that they’re eligible for, including vetting every single job and every single employer, including overnight hours, prohibiting jobs in isolated areas, and ensuring proper housing and transportation.
We’ve also done a lot to improve the information and access participants have to us, so that they know how to get in direct contact with us if there are problems of any kind, including through a 24-hour helpline and through regular Department monitoring of all placements through the course of the program.
So this is an ongoing effort on our part to ensure that those who come here for this program are not only safe and secure, but have a terrific experience.
QUESTION: Let me clarify that the way I characterized what I said at the end was, based on the interviews we have done with some of these young people who have come here and are now trying to salvage whatever they can of their experience – in that light, does it concern officials in this building that there are, as in every walk of life, perhaps some unscrupulous people who might have seen a way to take advantage of this situation? And if this were to arise in the future, what is the State Department looking at doing to hold them accountable for what I think we would all agree would be unsavory behavior?
MS. NULAND: Well, of course we’re concerned about the integrity of this program, which is why we’ve done a bottom-up review and why we’re working so hard to strengthen our procedures, including reaching out to all of the employers ourselves and strengthening the ability of the participants to get to us directly if there are problems.
When we talked about this last year, Roz, as you we will recall, we did outline a number of significant prosecutions that have gone forward over the past five years against those who have abused this program, and particularly American citizens. We can get you more information on that if you’d like it.
QUESTION: Sorry. Just you said that the vast majority of the 91 – more than 91,000 kids had a very good experience. How do you know that?
MS. NULAND: Because we do exit interviews with them and we do follow-up.
QUESTION: You do?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. It’s not just that the vast majority didn’t complain.
MS. NULAND: No, no, no.
QUESTION: They actually said – checked the box or said, “I had a great time last summer.”
MS. NULAND: This is another one of the things that we’re doing to strengthen the program, is much tougher exit interviewing and follow-up with participants.
QUESTION: And is that – every single participant is interviewed at the end?
MS. NULAND: I don't know whether we – the State Department get to every participant, but certainly the sponsors that we work with have to get to every participant. And we monitor them ourselves in terms of spot contacts.
QUESTION: Wait. So it’s the sponsors. So it could be one these – could it be one of these, as Roz said, unscrupulous people who’s doing the exit interview?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are also monitoring the records of the sponsors, as we talked about last year.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Senior opposition leaders in Burma are saying that, as long as military is there, there will not be democracy or human rights or freedom for the people of Burma. Is there anything new going on, as far as to bring more democracy or human rights in Burma?
MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think we’ve talked about this for a couple of years here. You saw the – Secretary Clinton’s trip to Burma; you saw the President’s trip to Burma last year. You know that we’ve got an ongoing human rights dialogue that former Assistant Secretary Posner conducted, I believe three times, and that will continue under Secretary Kerry’s tenure here with the Government of Burma. Certainly, human rights within the military is one of the subjects that we talk about in that dialogue, as well as in our nascent, now mil-mil contacts with the Burmese.
Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. NULAND: Oh, here we go. Here we go. Matt’s got one.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’ve got my Vatican question.
MS. NULAND: All right.
QUESTION: But also there was a question asked yesterday --
MS. NULAND: I thought I was going to get away.
QUESTION: -- that was kind of intriguing about comments made by the Japanese Prime Minister, or former Japanese Prime Minister about the trials after the Second World War. Did you get an answer to that question?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any comment on that at all.
MS. NULAND: All right?
MS. NULAND: Okay?
MS. NULAND: What about the Vatican?
QUESTION: Well, do you regard it as a free and fair exercise in electing a leader of a country?
MS. NULAND: We did a little bit more digging on this. We consider Vatican City a sovereign juridical state. As some of you know – I think Matt knows – that sovereign juridical state has about 600 resident citizens. I would simply note that in the context of the election for the Pope, they were electing the head of a religion. He’s also the head of this sovereign juridical state.
It’s interesting to us that since this is a European state, we have never had a request for ODIHR monitoring of the election, ODIHR being the election-monitoring entity in the European space. So, obviously, were that to come forward, we would take it very seriously.
QUESTION: So, wait, who requests that?
MS. NULAND: The – it can be requested by citizens. It can be requested by parliament. It can be requested by the opposition, as it was in the case of Belarus.
QUESTION: So if – (laughter) – such a request was made, would – the Vatican would have to open up its voting process for that kind of state?
MS. NULAND: If such a request were made for ODIHR monitoring of the voting, then the Vatican would have to consider whether it would open itself to ODIHR monitors.
QUESTION: Okay. But – all right. That’s very interesting. Now --
MS. NULAND: And as I said yesterday --
MS. NULAND: -- we would – if you wanted to be a monitor, we could see if we could arrange it, Matt. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That would be great. I would love to spend a week or two in Rome.
MS. NULAND: Exactly.
QUESTION: But – what – now – but that --
QUESTION: Can women be monitors?
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: Can women be monitors?
MS. NULAND: In the Vatican City context, I don’t know. We’d have to work on that. Jill, do you want to monitor?
QUESTION: So this just brings me --
MS. NULAND: Jill’s volunteering, too. We could have a whole roomful of monitors.
MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday --
QUESTION: Without universal suffrage, without --
MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, we don’t have any reason to question the process.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:41 p.m.)
U.S.-Peru Political-Military Dialogue http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/03/206305.htm