The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
12:59 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Wednesday. I have one thing at the top, and then we’ll go to what’s on your minds.
You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago we announced the Secretary’s upcoming trip to London and Northeast Asia. We’ve now added a few stops to the trip, so let me just go through that. The Secretary will depart this weekend. His first stop will now be in Istanbul, where he will consult with senior Turkish leaders on a variety of subjects, including the situation in Syria. He will then go on April 8th and 9th to Jerusalem and Ramallah. In Jerusalem, he will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu; in Ramallah, he will meet with President Abbas.
And then he’ll pick up with the schedule we previously announced, which is that on April 10th and 11th he will be back up in London at the G-8 Foreign Ministers Meetings. He’ll also have some bilateral meetings on the margins there. And then April 12th through 15th he will go on to Northeast Asia, starting in Seoul on April 12th, in Beijing on April 13th, and in Tokyo on April 14th, and then coming home on the 15th.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: All right. As much as I would like to start with the trip – I’m sure other people will get back to it – I have to start with perhaps a less weightier matter than the Secretary’s Mideast peace efforts, and that is Jon Stewart. What is going on with the Twitter – Embassy Cairo’s Twitter feed? It’s up, it’s down, it’s back up again, it’s deleted the tweet that had the link to the – Monday’s monologue about President Morsy. What’s the deal there?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that Embassy Cairo’s Twitter feed is back up now. We’ve had some glitches with the way the Twitter feed has been managed. This is regrettably not the first time. We are now – or I should say Embassy Cairo is now working to remedy those glitches and they’re looking at how they manage the site, but just to advise that the site is now back up and is carrying U.S. Government content again.
QUESTION: Can you explain why that – the tweet was deleted?
MS. NULAND: I would refer you to Embassy Cairo. I think that they came to the conclusion that the decision to tweet it in the first place didn’t accord with post management of the site.
QUESTION: Okay. That’s understandable. But you’re aware the Egyptian Government – that President Morsy’s office response, right, that this is political propaganda, it’s unacceptable for a diplomatic mission to be spreading it. Is that why it was deleted?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the – as you know, the decisions about Twitter content are made out at post. I can’t speak to the decision to re-tweet Jon Stewart to start with. But Jon Stewart is a comedy show in the U.S.
MS. NULAND: As you know, it is publicly available content. With regard to our position on the Jon Stewart counterpart, if you will, in Egypt, we’ve spoken very clearly about that here, both on Monday, and again yesterday, the Secretary spoke to our concerns about application of justice in Egypt.
MS. NULAND: So we stand by all of that.
QUESTION: But I guess the question is – I mean, what Mr. Stewart said in his monologue was not very different for – perhaps it was a bit indelicate, and it’s a comedy show, he was making fun of it – but the points that he made were almost identical to the points that you yourself made here from the podium on Monday, which drew a harsh reaction from the Egyptians as well.
So I’m just wondering, do you agree with the Egyptian presidency’s characterization of the content of the clip as being political propaganda and unacceptable for an embassy to put out in whatever form, when the content was essentially the same as the points that you made on Monday, and also what certainly are in line with the comments that Secretary Kerry made yesterday at the press conference?
MS. NULAND: Again, let me just say we stand by the points that were made here, by the points that the Secretary made yesterday, with regard to what’s going on in Egypt. I’m not going to get into parsing the Jon Stewart show, other than to say it was publicly available content, and decisions about what to tweet are made at posts.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then my last one on this is – so what’s – the upshot is now that they will not be – the Embassy won’t be tweeting things that – or re-tweeting things that are publicly available because they are publicly available? What’s --
MS. NULAND: No. I think they are looking, again, at the procedures for how they decide what they want to tweet from their Embassy site. We’ll see what they decide to do there.
QUESTION: And you believe that the Embassy has come to the decision that it was a mistake to tweet this link in the first place?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to refer you to them with regard to that.
QUESTION: Well, but more on the issue of kind of the content that will come out now of the feed, will there be some kind of approval process? Will there be some kind of oversight? Will that continue to be done in Cairo, or will the State Department here in Washington have more oversight of it? Because this is not the first time that you’ve had some problems with this particular Embassy’s Twitter feed.
MS. NULAND: This is not the first glitch. That’s right. I think that’s why the Embassy is now reviewing its procedures. That said, Department policy is that main State manages Twitter feeds that come from main State, that the embassies and consulates and their senior leadership manage the content that is on their feeds, and they are expected to use good policy judgment in doing that.
QUESTION: Toria --
QUESTION: I’m not quite clear on your answer to Matt on the issue of whether you agree with the Egyptian Government that it is diplomatically inappropriate.
MS. NULAND: To re-tweet publicly available content? I’m not going to get into that fight at all.
QUESTION: Okay. I have a quick follow-up.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you see this issue as perhaps sort of something that should sort of incentivize the opposition, the non-Islamist opposition, to participate in the upcoming elections? Do you see the regression of democratic freedoms to be an incentive for that opposition to participate in the future?
MS. NULAND: Well, if you will recall, when Secretary Kerry was in Cairo, he made the case that first and foremost the elections, when they go forward, have to go forward in a way that is credible, that is open, that is transparent, that is broadly supported by the population. But then he said that, in the context of them going forward under those standards, that Egyptian citizens should participate. We always encourage democratic participation.
I think the larger point here, though, is the point that the Secretary made yesterday, that we made here on Monday and yesterday as well, that we have quite strong concerns about a number of civil and human rights issues in Egypt and the direction that they’re going. We talked about the justice issues. We also have deep concerns about the draft legislation that would restrict the ability of NGOs to operate, and we have concerns about laws that are being reviewed now that would limit demonstrations. So these are --
QUESTION: Are you aware that --
MS. NULAND: -- issues that the Egyptian Government has to look hard at.
QUESTION: Are you aware that the number of lawsuits against defamation have quadrupled, or – in fact, in the last year, it is probably four times the whole amount of the Mubarak presidency, and they are actually pushed by the Islamic brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood, to file these lawsuits?
MS. NULAND: We are aware, which is why we spoke out so strongly about media freedom the last couple of days, including in the Secretary’s voice.
QUESTION: Can I take one more stab at this --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- whether you think it’s – the Egyptian Government’s response is this is inappropriate. You’ve referred me now to the Embassy in Cairo as to the specific tweet, but what’s the opinion of this building, of management and main State, for which you speak? Does this building, or do people – the senior officials in this building believe that that tweet with the clip to the Daily Show link was inappropriate?
MS. NULAND: I’m, again, not going to parse decisions made in Embassy Cairo. They --
QUESTION: Well, I understand that. I’m not asking you to talk about their decision to put it up, I’m asking what people in this – the senior leadership of this building, for whom you are the spokeswoman, what – do they think --
MS. NULAND: Thank you for reminding me of that.
QUESTION: Do they think that it was inappropriate?
MS. NULAND: Look, from where we are sitting here, the Secretary spoke very clearly for the Department, for the Administration, on our concerns. Whether or not one needs to use a publicly available comedian to make some of the same points, that was a decision that was made out at Cairo.
QUESTION: Well, wait. You’re calling --
QUESTION: Okay. So you do agree then that the points that he was making in his monologue were essentially the same points that you were making from the podium on Monday?
MS. NULAND: I, frankly, took a 30-second look at it and didn’t parse it myself.
QUESTION: But you’re calling it a glitch. So --
MS. NULAND: I’m calling a glitch the fact that they obviously put up something that they later took down, that they took down the whole site, which should not probably have been the way that went, and that in the past there has been differences between the Twitter team and senior post management. So they’re looking at all that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Were there some communications from this building, from senior officials here to the Embassy, on whether that was a smart thing to do? And did those communications lead them to take down the tweet, or did they do that on their own?
MS. NULAND: There were no instructions from this building with regard to that.
QUESTION: There were no instructions for this – to put the tweet --
MS. NULAND: There were no instructions with regard to giving the tweet; there were no instructions with regard to the site. There were – the only instruction from this building was: Every embassy should have a Twitter feed, so why did you take it down?
QUESTION: There were no instructions to put the feed back up?
MS. NULAND: There was an instruction that taking down the Twitter feed altogether was not in line with Department policy.
QUESTION: That’s my question, Toria. Is there a concern that these glitches and actions of taking the feed down, then putting it back up, but still having the deleted feed – is this presenting an image of the U.S. as bowing to criticism from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsy government?
MS. NULAND: Again, from the Department’s perspective, we want to see all of our embassies have active Twitter feeds. We want to see post management, ambassadors and their deputies, decide what will be most impactful in terms of conveying the views of the U.S. Government on those Twitter feeds and in terms of having a direct dialogue with the people of the country. So it was from that perspective that we thought that the right approach was to make editorial decisions that were in line with posts’ views, but not to take down the feed altogether.
QUESTION: I promise this is my last one on it. I just want --
MS. NULAND: I think you promised that the last – three times ago.
QUESTION: Yeah. I know, I know.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: But anyway, I just want to know, are you aware if there was any formal kind of government-to-government complaint about the tweet, other than just the Egyptian presidency’s comment? In other words, did they go to the – did they – demarche --
MS. NULAND: Did they call the Embassy? I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll take it.
QUESTION: Do you know --
MS. NULAND: I’ll take it.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Change in topic.
QUESTION: One more on Egypt. The Egyptian president’s spokesman has said that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution in Egypt, and there is a strong commitment toward it, and there will be no deviation from that. Do you see this statement reflects the situation on the ground?
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Michel. I had meant to draw attention to the fact that the presidency did today enter the fray on this subject on the side of freedom of expression, so that’s a positive move, and we want to see that reflected in Egyptian Government policy.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What do we expect out of this? I mean, they have done their listening tour, first part of it, and is there something that the two parties have promised to move the process forward? Did you hear any positive movement from the Palestinians or the Israelis? Or does the Secretary himself have something new, like an altered Arab peace plan initiative?
MS. NULAND: I would not expect the Secretary to be putting down a plan, as we have been saying for some time now, and as the President said during his visit to the region. Following his visit, he asked Secretary Kerry to continue exploring with the parties, with the Israelis and the Palestinians, following the President’s trip, how we can support the parties in getting back to the table and in having a real dialogue leading to peace.
As you know, the Secretary had a chance to have a meeting directly after the visit with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Abbas. It’s now been a couple of weeks. They’ve had some time to reflect on the visit, et cetera. So this is a chance for the Secretary to go back and to listen again and to hear what they think is possible.
I think you’ve figured out by now that Secretary Kerry very much believes in personal diplomacy. He believes in sitting with leaders and listening to them, so that’s what he will be doing again this time. But he’ll also be making clear that the parties themselves have to want to get back to the table, that this is a choice that they have to make, and that they’ve also got to recognize – both parties – that compromises and sacrifices are going to have to be made if we’re going to be able to help.
QUESTION: Can I ask if this is the beginning of a new round of shuttle diplomacy for the Secretary, and that there won’t – that the envoy position that George Mitchell held and that David Hale holds now is not going to be the main mover and shaker in terms of Mideast peace efforts, that the Secretary is taking this on as his own issue?
MS. NULAND: I would not characterize this as the start of a new shuttle. What I would say is, first of all, you know that Secretary Kerry is, has been passionate on the subject of the U.S. playing an active role in supporting Middle East peace for his entire career. The President, with his trip, committed very strongly that if the parties are ready to move, we are ready to help them, and that he wants Secretary Kerry to explore what’s possible. But again, we’re not at the stage of knowing what’s possible, so it would be premature to put it in those terms.
QUESTION: Well, so how --
MS. NULAND: And as you know, David Hale is still our envoy.
QUESTION: Right, but – so how would you characterize three trips to the same places in 10 days?
MS. NULAND: Again, this reflects the commitment of the --
QUESTION: That’s not shuttle diplomacy?
MS. NULAND: It reflects the commitment of the President, the commitment of the Secretary, to see what’s possible, but we don’t yet know what’s possible.
QUESTION: All right. My last one on this is just going to be about the Turkey-Israel rapprochement.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with how that’s going so far, or is part of what the Secretary is doing going to kind of – I don’t know, not – maybe not knock heads together, but to make sure that that rapprochement continues along the lines that it was envisioned? Which it hasn’t so far.
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Matt. That was the second piece that the President announced after the warming between Israel and Turkey was announced, was that he had – he asked Secretary Kerry to continue to work with both parties to try to strengthen that initial warming, to try to deepen it into a full normalization, not only in the interest of our two allies but in the interest of all of the challenges that they share and that we share with them in that neighborhood.
So by going to Istanbul first to see Turkish officials and then going on to Israel, the Secretary will also have an opportunity to spur both sides to continue to take steps to deepen their normalization and to work well together.
QUESTION: But I guess my question was: Are you satisfied with the way it’s going so far? Because the Turks seem to have backed down or seem to have backed away from what was apparently their initial promise or pledge.
MS. NULAND: I think we’re pleased with the initial steps that were taken in the context of the President’s diplomacy and the President’s visit. We need to now see further steps on both sides.
QUESTION: Toria --
MS. NULAND: Please, Nina. Nina. Nina. Nina.
QUESTION: There was reports indicating --
MS. NULAND: Nadia.
QUESTION: Sorry, that’s okay. There were reports indicating that the Israelis were willing to release some political – Palestinian political prisoners arrested before ’94 as a goodwill gesture to bring – to entice the President Abbas to come back to the negotiation. Is this something that you have discussed with both sides and it has any kind of truth that might happen on this trip?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not prepared to get into any details here at this stage. As I said, the Secretary is trying to see what’s possible.
QUESTION: But weren’t you at an impasse? Because the Palestinians insist that for the talks to start, all settlement activities must cease, must stop completely. And Abbas – for Abbas to meet with Netanyahu, he insists that 120 prisoners that had been arrested before 1994 be released and a thousand others that have been arrested afterward, which he negotiated with Ehud Olmert and agreed to by the former prime minister, them be released. So what do you comment – what is your comment on that?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you, Said, back to the remarks that the President made when he was on his trip, that both sides are going to have to help create an environment for peace, but we’re going to have to start this process, or restart this process, without preconditions.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the current violence sort of gives the prisoner issue some special attention?
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this particular case yesterday. Nobody wants to see violence of any kind, either by demonstrators or by security services in response to peaceful demonstration.
QUESTION: Well, I know that you’re saying this isn’t the beginning of a shuttle and you’re kind of couching what this trip is really about. But three visits in three weeks, I mean, are you concerned that the optics of this will raise expectations that there’s some kind of momentum and renewed peace process?
MS. NULAND: Again, the Secretary and the President have both said that there is an urgent window to – for the parties to come back to the table, that we are prepared to support them in that, but we can’t do more than they’re willing to do themselves. So the President has committed his Administration to see what is possible.
I would simply say that we are still at the let’s-see-what’s-possible stage. And the Secretary is committed to using his strong relationships with both leaders to encourage them to be open, to be creative, to be prepared for compromises, and to work hard to build trust between them, to increase confidence, and to create that environment where we’re able to help them. So we’ll see what is possible, but it’s really too early to know.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Also, this happened before a high-level delegation from the Arab League, including the Palestinian Foreign Minister, are set to come to Washington to discuss, apparently, the details of the Arab Peace Initiative that was put on the table back in 2002. And so you have the visit of the Secretary of State, you have all these movements and so on, and you’re saying but we should not – expectations should not be raised?
MS. NULAND: As you know, when the Secretary made his first visit – and we talked about this a little bit here – to Europe and then to the region and then to the Gulf, he did talk quite a bit with Arab leaders about the important step that the Arab Peace Initiative was, that it’s important in this context as we move forward, if the parties are ready to make steps, that it not only be the United States and Quartet countries supporting but that regional partners and their neighbors also be supportive, and that we need to all stay in close coordination and consultation with regard to what may be possible. This is all part of that diplomacy.
QUESTION: Yeah. Maariv, the newspaper, has reported that Secretary Kerry was planning to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah once every two weeks. Is that accurate?
MS. NULAND: That is not accurate. There’s been no such calendar set.
QUESTION: As I understand, the rapprochement will be a main – one of the main issues in this trip, when Secretary Kerry is to Turkey, but should we assume that his trip will also as a part of the Middle East peace process? I mean, what will be the highlights of his trip, of his meetings with the Turkish officials in Istanbul?
MS. NULAND: I think I said at the outset that one of the key issues, in addition to trying to encourage the continued warming between Israel and Turkey, would be to talk about Syria, as we do every single time we are in Ankara or Istanbul. That is obviously at the top of the agenda. Also interested in talking about other regional issues where we work together with Turkey, and about the Middle East peace process where Turkey has a lot of interests and will need to be supportive as well if the parties can start to move.
QUESTION: There was another hot issues that also Foreign Minister Davutoglu sent a letter regarding on Cyprus last week to Secretary Kerry. And as I understand, Secretary Kerry confirmed that he received his letter. Do you have anything to share with us about the content of his letter? We are talking about a new approach probably on Cyprus.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m certainly not from this podium going to reveal the contents of a letter from another government. I’ll let them decide if they want to talk about what was in the letter to Secretary Kerry. We did receive it, and the Secretary will also be talking about that letter when he is in Istanbul.
QUESTION: Just I want to make this crystal clear, at least in my mind. You’re saying that this is still very preliminary, there’s not – it’s still part of the kind of listening tour to see what is possible. Can you say definitively that he is not – the Secretary is not bringing with him any new or even old ideas with him about specific issues, such as borders and security?
MS. NULAND: I can say definitively that the Secretary of State is not planning to put a big plan on the table.
QUESTION: Well, how about a little plan?
MS. NULAND: He wants to see what’s possible.
QUESTION: How about a little plan or ideas?
MS. NULAND: Again, his diplomacy will be based on what he hears from the parties.
QUESTION: But –
QUESTION: But he doesn’t have – but is he bringing any kind of ideas for – suggestions as to how they might be able to build confidence to get back to the negotiating table?
MS. NULAND: I think he’s going to listen to what he thinks is possible and then the conversation will proceed.
QUESTION: But he’s --
MS. NULAND: Guys, we’re not going to have the trip before we have the trip. We’ll talk about the trip as we’re on the trip.
QUESTION: No, that’s not – but it’s --
QUESTION: No, it just --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: But the peace proposal on the table is different than coming with some ideas of how to create a climate for peace, such as confidence-building measures that he clearly has some idea of what he would propose.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the trip until the Secretary takes it. I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to ask him on the road.
QUESTION: Yeah. Exchange of fire has resumed between Hamas and Israel. Do you think that November ceasefire has gone?
MS. NULAND: We’ve – I’ve seen these reports. I’m not in a position to evaluate them one way or the other. But as you know, we considered that November ceasefire to be absolutely fundamental for everybody involved. So we’ll have to see what happens now.
QUESTION: But Toria, just to follow up on Elise’s question, I mean, you must have a clear idea of what these confidence-building measures are, don’t you?
MS. NULAND: Said, I think I said about 12 times that he’s continuing to evaluate what’s possible. I’m not going to get ahead of diplomacy that he hasn’t done yet.
QUESTION: Can we change the topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- we’ve seen last night that talks in Brussels had failed, and Lady Ashton said that it was their last round of talks. My question is: What is next? Do you think that new round of talks is possible? And for – because EU failed on this, do you think that maybe there is possibility to – for Washington or Moscow to step in with something new?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure why you’re characterizing what happened yesterday in Brussels that way. That’s certainly not the way that Lady Ashton characterized the state of play when she spoke about this after the meeting. As she made clear in her statement, there are proposals on the table and the gap between the two sides is narrow. We have very much, as you know, supported the diplomacy that she’s trying to do from the beginning and we’ve applauded the serious engagement that both sides have shown. So we are now encouraging both sides to seize this opportunity to study the proposals that are on the table and to come back to the EU prepared to make a deal.
QUESTION: Change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are reports that there are upwards of 90,000 fighters operating in Syria today. And I asked in this room a number of times whether you have a way of designating who’s who in these things. I mean, I look at the names and some are called the Islamic Liberation Front for Syria, others are called the Front for Liberating Islamic Syria, others, Jabhat al-Nusrah, or the Heirs of the Prophet, the Grandchildren of the Prophet, they are all at one time or another were used by al-Qaida in different places. So how do you decide who’s who that is operating and what kind of help you are willing to give them?
MS. NULAND: Said, you’ve asked this question a number of times before.
MS. NULAND: What I can tell you is that we are working very hard both with our Syrian opposition contacts and with our partners in the region to try to ascertain who is who and to make sure that support that the United States is giving, that support that we are seeing our partners give is going to moderate opposition, and that extremists and al-Qaida affiliates are isolated to the maximum extent possible. That’s why we took national efforts to designate as foreign terrorist organizations some of these al-Qaida affiliates. And we will continue to study who else might be designated.
With regard to what some of these groups call themselves, if they are not actually affiliated and if they are espousing and fighting for the defense of the Syrian people – all the Syrian people – and a democratic, open, pluralistic future for that country, and they can demonstrate that and they are acting in a manner that’s consistent with international human rights standards, then they deserve our support. But obviously, if they are affiliated with al-Qaida, if they’re trying to exchange one dictatorial family for an extremist future, that is not something that we are prepared to support, and we’re working hard to isolate them.
QUESTION: So how do you go about identifying them? I mean, if there are indeed 90,000-100,000 fighters, that really bodes ill for the whole region especially espousing such an extreme of dogma.
MS. NULAND: Obviously, this is something we have to be vigilant about. I’m not going to get into the details of how we work on those issues.
QUESTION: Jordan has spoken about going to the Security Council to discuss Syrian refugees crisis. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen some of this reporting. As you know, we maintain a very close dialogue with Jordan on all issues, but certainly on Syria. This was one of the top topics when the President was in Jordan just a little while ago, and we are strongly supporting humanitarian relief in Jordan, including with direct U.S. assistance targeted to them.
QUESTION: And what can the Security Council do in this regard?
MS. NULAND: I would refer that question to the Jordanians if they have an agenda there.
QUESTION: But Jordan’s Prime Minister said today actually that he’s expecting if the situation is getting worse in Syria two million refugees to be in Jordan. Apart from the 200 million that the President announced during his trip, are you planning to give any more humanitarian assistance to Jordan?
MS. NULAND: We’re obviously continuing to evaluate the needs in Jordan. We are also encouraging all of our partners around the world to fill the United Nations’ requests for funding in all of their accounts for humanitarian relief for Syrians, both for IDPs inside Syria but also for refugees in all of the neighboring countries. There have been some pledges unfulfilled and there’s a huge gap between what the UN thinks it needs and the number of countries who are giving. So this is a subject that comes up in virtually every bilateral meeting that Secretary Kerry has is to encourage more countries to give to the UN relief effort.
QUESTION: And any reaction to Assad’s decision to divide areas according to ethnic populations, if you are aware of that, that he decided to expand the --
MS. NULAND: Is this something that he announced, Nadia?
QUESTION: -- provinces from 17 to 19? Yeah.
MS. NULAND: I mean, I hadn’t seen that. But by your reporting, it sounds like it’s taking Syria in exactly the wrong direction, some sort of ethnic partition. What we are supporting is the aspiration of the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition coalition to have a unified country where every Syrian, regardless of ethnicity or background, feels comfortable and safe in every part of the country.
QUESTION: One more on Syria. A Syrian jet has fired a missile into a house in Arsal in Lebanon, and this is not the first time. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these media reports of regime aircraft firing rockets into the Lebanese border town of Arsal. We’re frankly not in a position to confirm this ourselves at the moment. But if in fact it is confirmed by the Lebanese side, it would represent the latest and most egregious violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty, coming just on the heels of the regime’s March rocket attacks into border areas of al-Qasr, Wadi Al- Khayel. We maintain our longstanding commitment to UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and we call on all parties in the Syria conflict to respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.
QUESTION: Sorry. You said it was – it would be, if it was confirmed, it would be the latest and most egregious violation of Lebanese sovereignty?
MS. NULAND: In this conflict, in the Syrian conflict.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Travel Warning you put on traveling to Lebanon.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Sounds like you consider now Lebanon like a security vacuum place, lawless.
MS. NULAND: Well, our concerns in the Travel – in the updated Travel Warning, as you saw, were particularly with regard to border areas where we’ve seen both indiscriminate firing by the regime, we’ve also seen kidnapping, we’ve also seen extremists of one side or the other operating, so that we needed to warn Americans.
QUESTION: The fact that it came with the resignation of the cabinet – does the resignation of the cabinet have anything to do with the updated --
MS. NULAND: I think if you look at the text and compare it to our previous warnings, it’s primarily a reflection of the violence that is spilling over from Syria.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, ahead of the general elections next month, there was a survey report which came out today in Pakistan, according to which a majority of Pakistan’s youth favors Sharia law and they are not in favor of democracy. How do you – how do the U.S. sees this – sees the view that’s coming out of Pakistani youths?
MS. NULAND: Lalit, I haven’t seen that. I don’t think I’m going to comment on something I haven’t seen.
QUESTION: And do you – how do you see the talks which is going on between Pakistan, Russia, and China on Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Is there a fresh round of talks today among them?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, we’re not in the room there. We have our own channels to all of those countries with regard to the importance of supporting Afghanistan’s sovereignty, its ability to manage its own future itself in security terms, in political terms, in economic terms, but the need for continued international support in that direction.
So obviously, if there is anything of interest in that direction we’ll be – we’ll look forward to it.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Russian authorities say they are probing three cases of alleged abuse against adoptees in Silsbee, Texas. Are you aware of that Russian probe? And is the State Department assisting, facilitating any of that?
MS. NULAND: Is this the Dekert case, if – is that what --
QUESTION: I don’t have names associated with this.
MS. NULAND: I mean, I’d obviously have to know what case you’re talking about there. We are --
QUESTION: How many Russian adoptees are there in Silsbee, Texas?
MS. NULAND: I’m frankly not – I have information that we are following one new case in Texas, but I don’t know if it’s the same one – I frankly don’t know where in Texas it is – that we are aware of, and we’re endeavoring to help Russian consular officials in their communications with Texas officials. But again, Scott, I don’t know if you and I are talking about the same case.
QUESTION: One other on Russia: The Russian authorities are again asking for access to the Guantanamo prisoner Russian national Ravil Mingazov. Can you give us anything?
MS. NULAND: We do know that the Government of Russia has requested access to Mr. Mingazov, who is detained at Guantanamo. We have confirmed back to the Government of Russia that Mr. Mingazov has refused through his own legal counsel to meet with any Russian delegation. We’ve conveyed that back to the Russians. So we’re not able to facilitate the interview that they requested because we have a longstanding policy of not forcing such interviews if they’re not voluntary.
We have offered to host a Russian delegation visit to Guantanamo so that they can get a broader understanding of our detention operations there, and that invitation remains open.
QUESTION: So it’s okay to pluck someone off the battlefield and incarcerate them at Guantanamo with no trial, but they – you are certainly going to respect his right not to see the Russian delegation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to comment on the first part of that, but --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: -- we do – we have been working --
QUESTION: It’s interesting which rights you’re going to defend.
MS. NULAND: We have been working hard, as you know, to meet international humanitarian law standards at Guantanamo, including the right to refuse visits by individuals incarcerated.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Any change in your policy in light of the latest eruption of a similar pipeline in Arkansas?
MS. NULAND: Said, we talked about that – I think it was Monday or Tuesday, you weren’t here.
QUESTION: I wasn’t here (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: And I made clear that that incident did not occur on the same piece of pipe. It was on an Exxon pipeline, and our procedures remain in place, which is that the next step is the – we’re in the middle of the public comment period, and we’ll have some public meetings in Nebraska.
QUESTION: On North Korea.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
MS. NULAND: We consider this a regrettable move. We think that the ban ought to be lifted. This isn’t the first time that the DPRK has denied South Korean workers access to the Kaesong industrial plant. It, from our perspective, always works to the detriment of North Korea, first and foremost, given the number of North Koreans who are employed there, and the opportunity to make money in the economy. So again, this is just a choice that further isolates the country, rather than taking them in a direction of a better future for their people.
QUESTION: Well – but, I mean – but just the fact, though, that this obviously – it’s not cost-free for them. It’s a hard source of currency for the regime.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: And so what does that say about their willingness to ratchet this up, that they’re even denying themselves badly needed financial gain by closing this plant?
MS. NULAND: It says to us that despite the international community’s open door to choose a different path, which we have had open for a long, long time now, the Korean leadership is choosing to violate its international obligations and to flout international law rather than to feed and help and improve the lives of their own people.
QUESTION: Any expectation on the new round of talks next week in Kazakhstan?
QUESTION: Lady Ashton said today that she was cautiously optimistic. Are you aware of (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re going to have a call this afternoon. We’ll refer to that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a bit more about Secretary Kerry’s visit to Istanbul? When is he – when will he be there? Is he meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan, or --
MS. NULAND: Is he --
QUESTION: Is he meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan, or is he meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and is he staying overnight?
MS. NULAND: I’m – he’s meeting with senior Turkish officials. I’m not prepared to go into the individual meetings. He’ll obviously see Foreign Minister Davutoglu, but we’ll let the Turkish side speak to the other meetings when we get there. He will be there on Saturday night and Sunday, is the plan at the current --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. In light of the security situation in CAR, we, along with Uganda and some others, have put a pause on our operations only in CAR which are counter-LRA. Our other activities and training and support continue. But we have to evaluate this on a day-by-day basis based on security.
QUESTION: The Ugandans said that it was because the new leadership in Bangui, the capital --
MS. NULAND: Bangui, Bangui.
QUESTION: -- yes, in Bangui – was not cooperating. Is that correct? Do you have reason to believe that the new leadership in Bangui is sympathetic to the LRA and Mr. Kony?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that one way or the other. My understanding is that our decision was based on a general ferment and lack of security that resulted from the Seleka rebel takeover.
QUESTION: So you’re not aware that the new leadership there is hostile to the hunt?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to it one way or the other, Matt, but let me follow up for tomorrow.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)