The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
12:57 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Thursday. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can I – before we move on to North Korea and its latest round of bombast, I just want to close the loop on one thing about the Jon Stewart – Egypt thing, and that is: Did you get an answer, were you able to find out – my question yesterday if the Egyptian Government had actually made some kind of a formal complaint to the Embassy about this tweet, or was it just restricted to their own Twitter feed?
MS. NULAND: Apparently, they did make a complaint.
QUESTION: They did. And do you know what the nature – was it the same complaint that --
MS. NULAND: That they did publicly?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is yes.
QUESTION: And was it responded to?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know whether – I think it was a sort of a phone call complaining, and the answer was, “We’re looking into it.”
MS. NULAND: Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Egypt still?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you update us on the situation in Egypt? There’s been a food crisis, fuel crisis, there’s instability and so on. What is the United States doing to sort of alleviate that, in terms of having the IMF come up with the loans that they promised?
MS. NULAND: Said, you’re asking me to give a U.S. Government briefing on the situation in Egypt?
QUESTION: No, I mean, I’m not – but saying – it’s quite volatile. I mean, this whole thing comes together, because you’re saying that Egypt needs to democratize, it needs to sort of open up freedom of the press and the liberties and so on, and yet they are facing these dire conditions.
MS. NULAND: Said, I think we’ve been very clear from the Secretary’s trip to Cairo forward what our concerns are, both on the political side and on the economic side in Egypt, and about the necessity of the government leading urgent action on both fronts. We’ve also been very clear that we support the renewed conversations between the IMF and Egypt, because we think that IMF support is urgently needed, but obviously, Egypt is going to have to take some steps. Beyond that, I don’t think I have anything new to say beyond what we’ve been saying all week about our concerns about justice, our concerns about some of these new restrictions on NGOs and demonstrations, et cetera.
QUESTION: Sorry, just back on the Twitter thing for a minute. As far as you’re concerned, as far as the U.S. Government is concerned, this is a done deal, case closed, chapter over, let’s move on?
MS. NULAND: You mean would we like to repeat the comedy --
MS. NULAND: -- that we had here yesterday?
QUESTION: No, no, no, no. I mean, I just want to know, I mean, as far – there isn’t any more interaction going on --
MS. NULAND: On this subject?
QUESTION: -- between you and the Egyptians or you and – or this building and the Embassy about --
MS. NULAND: No.
MS. NULAND: We did have an incident, as you may have seen, of – a separate incident of an effort to impersonate the Embassy site, which we had to deal with, and that’s also now been taken down.
QUESTION: To North Korea, right?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: This is about the mechanics of yesterday’s latest threat. I don’t know if there’s a threat today, but North Korea says it has notified and – ratified and notified you that it intends to attack. Mechanically, do you get any notification? Do they go through the New York channel, for example? Do you get – or are they just publishing it on their state newswire, KCNA, and that’s their notification?
MS. NULAND: I saw that in some of their public statements, Paul. Frankly, to my knowledge, they don’t call us up and say, “Let us just say privately what we’ve just said publicly,” generally. These kinds of statements of, as Matt called it, bombast and aggressive rhetoric come through their state news service.
QUESTION: But to your knowledge, the New York channel fax machine or --
MS. NULAND: If I have anything to share on that, I will, but I don’t think there’s anything to share there.
QUESTION: In other words, I mean, when they launch their satellite, when they’ve launched their rockets and when they’ve conducted the test, you – we have been told that they gave you advance notification that was happening. But as far as you know, in this case, with this latest threat, there was no private communication between the North and --
MS. NULAND: You are right that in the case of some of these tests and launches we’ve had advance notification. We’ve talked about that here. In this case, I don’t think we did. But if that’s not correct, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Your colleague at the White House a few days ago said that there is a gap between North Korea’s rhetoric and actions because they have not been moving military forces around in their country. But the South Koreans have said that they’ve started moving missiles from the east to west coast there, so I’m wondering what your read is in terms of the situation there on the peninsula.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary was very clear on Tuesday, and you’ve seen subsequent moves from us, that we are taking the appropriate steps in terms of defense of the United States, in terms of defense of our allies, both the Republic of Korea and Japan. We are making those clear, and we are watching very closely, obviously, what the D.P.R.K. is up to.
QUESTION: Do you believe that this rhetoric by Kim Jong-un is utilized because the only thing that North Korea has is its military threatening, I guess, is used to extort maybe some aid and some help and some action and some attention to its problems?
MS. NULAND: If, in fact, that’s what they are thinking, they are wrongheaded in that approach. If you’ll recall, about a year and a half ago now, we were very close to being able to support the humanitarian needs of the North Korean people. We had worked out all kinds of arrangements. And then the assurances that we had that the aid would actually get in the right place fell apart, as did the D.P.R.K.’s general approach to its international obligations and commitments, which led us to question our ability to cut any kind of a deal that would hold.
So the D.P.R.K. knows what it needs to do if it wants to make a different choice. If it wants to have support from the international community economically, in terms of supporting its people, it’s got to come back into compliance with its international obligations. The President’s been clear, the Secretary’s been clear, that if they make a different choice, we will respond. But unfortunately, all we’ve seen in response to those offers has been more aggressive rhetoric.
QUESTION: You were kind of asked something about this yesterday, what the North could do that would result in a positive response from you, and it – I’m just curious if – will another Leap Day type agreement do it, given the fact that they completely ignored their – what they had agreed to, and that – which was, at the time, hailed as a great breakthrough?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, I’m not going to negotiate with the D.P.R.K. on behalf of the Six Parties from here when they haven’t taken any steps and they’re moving in the wrong direction. But we have quite a track record in the Six-Party Talks format of discussing what could be necessary to come back into compliance. The Leap Day Agreement was obviously something that we thought could be a positive step, but it wasn’t implemented, and in fact, we went backwards. So I don’t think that it’s particularly a mystery, the kinds of things that we need to see from the D.P.R.K.
QUESTION: Yeah, but because they’ve reneged on everything --
MS. NULAND: Well --
QUESTION: -- and in fact, I would say that the track record that the Six-Party Talks has is entirely a negative track record. It hasn’t accomplished anything of what you guys have set out – what it is intended to do. They haven’t denuclearized. They’re being more and more antagonistic. So I’m just wondering, you need – you would need more than just a piece of paper like this Leap Day Agreement from last year, correct, for --
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to --
QUESTION: -- to be assured of the North’s intentions?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think it’s appropriate to have a negotiation here in the context of the situation we see right now, which is escalating rhetoric and dangerous moves. What I would simply say is that, as we said at the time that the Leap Day Agreement fell apart, there was a complete lack of confidence and trust that they were able to and willing to implement what they had already agreed to. So that’s obviously affecting the environment, as does this rhetoric now.
MS. NULAND: Guy.
QUESTION: Toria, sorry, just to go back to yesterday’s announcement made by North Korea’s military that it has now final approval to carry out merciless attacks, including nuclear attacks using small, versatile nuclear weapons on the United States, do you have a specific reaction to this? And how would you characterize the seriousness of this claim within the context of earlier threats that have been made?
MS. NULAND: Guy, I would simply say what we’ve been saying, that this is just the latest in a long line of aggressive statements. These are only going to serve to further isolate the D.P.R.K. and make it harder for the international community to work with them, but they have a different choice. They have a different choice, and they’re not choosing to take it.
Cami. Cami. Guy.
QUESTION: Just – can I follow up just a little bit on that? I mean, so are you then saying that there’s some concern in this building and within the Administration perhaps that the movement of military assets to Guam and the statements by Secretary Kerry on Tuesday and then Secretary Hagel yesterday may actually be serving to elevate the tension rather than defuse it at this point?
MS. NULAND: That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I said at the outset, as you’ll recall, which was very similar to what Secretary Kerry said and what Secretary Hagel said, was that in the context of the kinds of moves that the D.P.R.K. has made, rhetorical moves and other moves, it’s incumbent upon us to take prudent steps to defend the United States, to defend our allies, to be prepared for necessary deterrence, et cetera. That is reflected in the moves that you’ve seen announced from the Pentagon, et cetera. That said, we continue to make the case that it doesn’t have to go this way. The D.P.R.K. could choose a different course, and the President said that himself.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering, do you have – does the U.S. have independent confirmation about this missile of considerable range being moved to the east coast, or was the U.S. notified by South Korea that they had detected it?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything I can share in this format, besides what you’ve seen in the press. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on --
QUESTION: On --
MS. NULAND: Please. Please.
QUESTION: -- Secretary Kerry’s impending visit to the region, is there any change to his – to the plans for his arrival for any of his security arrangements? Because he would be entering missile range, technically.
MS. NULAND: Well, you won’t be surprised that I’m obviously not going to talk about security in any context, including personal security with the Secretary. What I said yesterday I’ll repeat here today, which is that this is actually a very timely visit, given the fact that he will have an opportunity in Seoul, in Tokyo, and in Beijing to talk about our shared concern about the direction the D.P.R.K. is going in.
QUESTION: Toria, can I ask if there’s a sense that what we’re seeing now is in fact more dangerous than similar periods of tensions that we’ve seen in the past with North Korea? And if so, is it because the – Kim Jong-un is still an unknown quantity as the leader of North Korea to the United States?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not prepared here to give a great analysis or exegesis about what may or may not be going on on their internal system. As you know, it’s one of the most closed and difficult systems to understand inside the – that we have on the planet still today.
But clearly, we have this very negative pattern of aggressive rhetoric. We have to take it seriously. But we also continue, with our colleagues, with our counterparts, with our allies, to leave open the opportunity for a different course for the new leader of the D.P.R.K., and a course that could bring his country out of isolation if he chose to do the right thing.
QUESTION: In your answer to the previous question before Jo, you’re meaning to say that, no, there is no change to the Secretary’s planned travel?
MS. NULAND: He is planning to travel. The travel is timely. I’m not going to talk about security arrangements for travel.
QUESTION: No, no. I --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m not asking about security arrangements.
MS. NULAND: No, no, no.
QUESTION: He still plans to go to Seoul and Tokyo?
MS. NULAND: Of course. Of course, yeah.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Madam, China is the closest allies of North Korea, and they had been supplying military (inaudible) to North Korea and also economic aid in the past. And at the same time, China did vote at the United Nations Security Council against the North.
What I’m asking – all this tension going on, and they are neighbors, and China is still supporting North Korea – what do you think the future, how China will play or is playing now? Is China with the rest of the world or with the U.S. or UN on this – what’s going on in North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Well, Goyal, we’ve talked about this a number of times here over the last few months. As you know, China expressed its own concern about the trend by joining with the rest of the Security Council in now two rounds of sanctions over the last four months with respect to the D.P.R.K. This has been the subject of intense conversations between the Secretary and his Chinese counterparts, including in a phone call yesterday with Chinese State Councilor Yang. And as I said, it’ll be a central focus of the Secretary’s diplomacy when he’s in Beijing to see what more we can do to get the attention of the leadership in the D.P.R.K. and get them to change course.
QUESTION: Sorry. Are you saying that the Secretary called Yang yesterday?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Did he make any other North Korea-related --
MS. NULAND: The call was primarily to prepare the visit, to talk about what our teams can do to prepare the visit. The central focus, obviously, was on the D.P.R.K. They did talk a little bit about --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. NULAND: -- climate change and other issues.
QUESTION: And along those lines then, is there any kind of a hope or sense, feeling in the building that a shared strategy, U.S.-Chinese and even U.S.-Russian strategy, on North Korea might translate into broader, better – better and broader cooperation in other areas?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve had good unity in terms of the U.S.-China approach, the approach that we’ve had with all of our partners and allies vis-a-vis the D.P.R.K. over the last few months. We’ve also regularly held up our cooperation on D.P.R.K. issues along with our cooperation on Iran, our cooperation increasingly on Afghanistan as one of the benefits of the – what was known as the reset with Russia in the first term.
So I think the issue here is to continue to recognize that the threats we share are common, and the approaches are more likely to be more effective if we can work well together.
QUESTION: So the short answer would be yes, you are hopeful that, yeah – I mean, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I mean, do you think --
MS. NULAND: I don’t want to --
QUESTION: Is there an opening for – that you are on the same page and literally completely on the same page on North Korea, whereas you’re not necessarily on the same page with Iran or with innumerable other issues? Is there an opening --
MS. NULAND: With Russia or with China or with both?
QUESTION: With both.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, I would say, first of all, in the P5+1 context we’re completely on the same page with Russia vis-a-vis Iran going into this round of talks in Almaty that unity has been essential. I would say with regard to the D.P.R.K. that we all share concern, as reflected in the two very strong sanctions resolutions that we’ve had. We need to maintain that unity if we’re going to be able to be effective in our approaches.
QUESTION: And then I just had a question about your use of the phrase “what was known as the reset.” Does that mean --
MS. NULAND: What is known as the reset.
QUESTION: Does that mean it’s over?
MS. NULAND: No, I didn’t mean to imply that at all.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Toria, is it the United States understanding that China is doing what it can to actually implement sanctions?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is they’re looking internally at what their own regulations require vis-a-vis UN Security Council Resolution 2094. That’s the most recent one that requires implementation. It’s up to, as you know, each government to look at its own national legislation and ensure that – and regulations and ensure it’s in full compliance.
QUESTION: And in the past, have they fully implemented sanctions that have been brought against North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Again, it’s their national responsibility. I don’t think I’m in a position here to give them a grade on that particular thing.
QUESTION: Can you take a run at this from the perspective of the South Koreans? The North Koreans first attacked the Cheonan, which some 46 sailors were killed. Then there was the shelling of a South Korean island near the border. And there has been some popular sentiment that South Korea, under the previous president, Mr. Lee, didn’t do enough to defend its citizens and its territorial sovereignty. What guarantees has the U.S. received from the new government of Mrs. Park that it’s going to be restrained, given that there is this public yearning, as it were, for some sort of payback against the North Korean regime and possibly taking advantage of this situation to perhaps do so?
MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, I think the best place to send you would be to refer you back to the very strong and comprehensive statements that Foreign Minister Yun made with Secretary Kerry on Tuesday, where he spoke about the need to maintain strong deterrence and to do it in alliance with the United States and in a coordinated fashion, but also to keep the door open. As you know, the Secretary will see him again next week, and President Park will be here to see President Obama. So what’s important here is that with a new administration in Seoul that we build and strengthen those personal relationships and we work together on a common trajectory here, and I think we’re set up well to do that.
QUESTION: But it’s also happening within the context of a change to the mutual defense treaty between the two countries --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- in which South Korea is now taking a more forward-leaning posture when it comes to defending itself rather than the U.S. having once had for decades the ability to defend not just its interests but those of South Korea as well. It’s a peculiar time, to say the least, to have this tension happening, so are there assurances being made that just because South Korea is coming into this lead role, as it were, that it’s not going to take advantage of it in a way that hasn’t been thought through extensively?
MS. NULAND: Ros, I think you’re asking whether we have the kind of relationship, communication, and alliance that allows us to be fully comfortable and transparent with each other. The answer to that is emphatically yes. As Foreign Minister Yun made clear and as the Secretary made clear, we’ve done some recent updating to that. As we’ve also been talking about from all platforms, we’ve taken additional deterrent steps. What’s most important is that those lines of communication and approach stay open, and we’re very well set up for that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to this kind of new – it seems as if anyway – more talking about diplomacy, finding a diplomatic way forward? Do you think that – did you not anticipate that some of your kind of rhetoric in the last few days would be taken seriously by North Korea? I know you say you’re making – you’re taking their threats seriously, but you can see where they’ve taken what you’ve been saying and have been ramping it up even further. So can you talk a little bit – I mean, this is definitely a new tone today – so about how you’re dialing it back a little bit?
MS. NULAND: Elise, you were a little bit late. We went through --
QUESTION: No, I mean, I heard what you’re saying, but you didn’t really answer the question.
MS. NULAND: We went through this at the beginning. I, first of all, reject the notion that there is a new tone one way or the other. I would simply say --
MS. NULAND: I would simply say, as I said at the beginning, as the Secretary said on Tuesday, when you have a country that is making the kinds of bellicose threats that they are making and taking the steps that they are taking, and when you have allies and treaty commitments, you have to take it seriously; you don’t have any other choice. So the moves that we have been making are designed to ensure and to reassure the American people and our allies that we can defend the United States, that we will, and that we can defend our allies.
So from that perspective, it was the ratcheting up of tensions on the D.P.R.K.’s side that caused us to need to shore up our own defense posture. We have done that. But we have also been saying all the way through that this does not need to get hotter, that it can – we can change course here if the D.P.R.K. will begin to come back into compliance with its international obligations, will begin to cool things down, take a pause, understand that for the future of its people, for the future of its country, the course it’s currently on is only going to lead to isolation. But there’s a better way. There’s a different way. There’s a better future.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please, let’s change topics. I think we’ve really now done about 25 minutes on North Korea. But one more.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Any kind of talks with North Korea is not working now. The United States assessment about effectiveness of Six-Party Talks, what is your comment?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we haven’t been able to have any rounds, given where we are. So we would obviously like to be able to get back there, but we’re not in that situation now.
MS. NULAND: Iran.
QUESTION: Yes. Could you share with us anything new or new developments in the meeting at Almaty?
MS. NULAND: They’re on their way to Almaty. They left last night. I think the talks actually start tomorrow. As you know, we offered a background briefing yesterday that sort of set the table for that, but they’re en route.
QUESTION: Okay. Now there was an event today in town that discussed what should be done with Iran and it’s suggested that there’s a number of things that you guys are not creatively approaching such as having people-to-people relations and so on. And one issue that came up was the fact that you don’t have an interests section in Iran despite repeated tries over the past 15 years. Why not have an interests section in Iran?
MS. NULAND: Again, Said, there are any number of things that could improve in the U.S.-Iranian relationship if we can work through this toughest problem, and that’s what we’re trying to do in the Almaty talks.
QUESTION: So the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said yesterday in a speech in Almaty University that they – what they want the United States to do at the top of this meeting is to accept Iran’s right to enrich. Is that totally unacceptable for the United States?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go beyond what our background briefer had to say yesterday, which was that we believe that we have a positive proposal on the table that would allow for step-by-step measures in the right direction. And we want to see at this round a serious Iranian response to it.
QUESTION: But other countries enrich. I mean, Brazil, Japan, other countries have a civilian nuclear energy policy.
MS. NULAND: And we’ve always said that nobody was looking to deny Iran the right to civilian nuclear power, but it has to be under the right circumstances and at the end of the – a positive resolution of the international community’s concerns about their nuclear program more broadly.
QUESTION: I don’t think that’s quite correct. You haven’t always said. I mean, you personally have always said that --
MS. NULAND: Thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- the first Bush Administration --
MS. NULAND: Oh my goodness, we’re going back a decade now. A decade, two decades.
QUESTION: No, no, no. The first of George W. Bush Administration --
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: -- there were – the policy was that Iran should have – Iran didn’t need civilian nuclear power because it had enough oil. I remember Mr. Bolton saying this over and over and over again. So always --
MS. NULAND: Suffice to say that in recent years we’ve been clear about this.
QUESTION: Yeah, but in fact you are ruling out their right to enrichment while everybody – all scientists and experts say that up to 5 percent of the enrichment can actually be controlled and verified and all these things that will be utilized --
MS. NULAND: Said, I’m not going to have this negotiation here today.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Madam, again this issue has been asked several times about the visa. Recently, of course, the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, sent his special business delegation to Gujarat to – the Indian state of Gujarat to meet with Chief Minister Modi. Now this week, while the special delegation from the U.S. – congressional delegation, also including big industrialists, they went to Gujarat and met with Chief Minister Modi and they praised the state and his achievements and developments in the state. And they are saying that he may be the future of India-U.S. relations.
My question is that have you changed – I mean, the U.S. has changed its mind as far as providing or giving visa to Chief Minister Modi after all these developments, I mean? Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me first say with regard to our congressional delegation that was in Gujarat, visits like this do help support a deepening of business-to-business ties, of people-to-people ties, across India, in Gujarat. So from our perspective, the more congressional delegations that visit India and understand its dynamism and diversity, the more likely we are to continue to deepen those important ties.
With regard to Mr. Modi, our lines have not changed here. He is welcome to apply.
QUESTION: And just a quick follow, as far as the U.S. Embassy in Delhi and our good new ambassador, is she has taken part in this delegation or is she taking part when --
MS. NULAND: I don’t know if our Ambassador accompanied them to Gujarat. She obviously sees all Congressional delegations who come through Delhi. I don’t know if she went --
QUESTION: Has she met with Chief Minister Modi?
MS. NULAND: I don’t believe so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, Lalit.
QUESTION: He’s welcome to apply, previously you hadn’t said that? You’re saying that there’s no change in U.S. policy on his visa, so --
MS. NULAND: Well, there is no change, that he is welcome to apply. All visa decisions are made on a case by case basis, and I’m not going to prejudge it here.
QUESTION: -- the policy U.S. earlier was, which was in 2005, established that he was not being given a U.S. visa because of the concern that the U.S. has on the Gujarat rights.
MS. NULAND: We’ve said at all points that like any other visa applicant he’s welcome to apply and we’ll review the case on the merits.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: In reference to the Human Rights Watch report about what appears to be an imbalance in the Ouattara government’s prosecution of those suspected of post-electoral violence, is it the opinion of the United States Government that the Ouattara government has been balanced in prosecuting those or charging those responsible?
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that, Scott. We are concerned about reports that question the impartial application of justice in the Government of Cote d’Ivoire’s prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the post-election crisis in 2010 and in 2011. We continue in our conversations with the Government of Cote d’Ivoire to stress the need for accountability for all those responsible for serious crimes during the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire regardless of what side they are on. And we reiterate our call for credible, transparent legal processes at both the national level and the international level to ensure that the alleged atrocities are investigated and that all perpetrators, regardless of which side they supported, are brought to justice.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I just clarify something you said?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You were concerned about reports that – you were concerned about the findings of the reports, right? You’re not concerned about the report --
MS. NULAND: No, no. The reports – we’re concerned about the findings of reports that question --
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So in other words, you share the concern that --
MS. NULAND: We share the concerns that there are questions about whether the approach has been impartial.
QUESTION: You’ll see in the Human Rights Watch report that they allege that of the 150 people who have been charged, all 150 are Gbagbo supporters, and none of them were Ouattara supporters. Has the U.S. Government had any assessment of that scope of those charges, to either confirm or dispute that rough breakdown?
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position here to advise whether we have our own accounting. I did note that the Human Rights Watch report speaks about a sequential application of justice both by the Ivorian Government and by the ICC, and questions whether that’s the right way to go in this case. But that would lead to the kind of results that we see so far, and as I said, we have concerns about whether that’s the right approach.
QUESTION: Speaking of transparent and legal – perhaps this was touched on earlier in the week – what are the concerns out of this building about what is happening in the presidential campaign in Zimbabwe? There are reports that short-wave radios are being confiscated in small villages, people who are counting on information from VOA, from Radio Free Europe, from other organizations, to find out alternate perspectives on the political policies of Mr. Mugabe and the opposition candidates who are running. There are also suggestions that perhaps if the leading opposition candidate were to win, that there could be the specter of a Libya or a Syria-type situation, according to one high-ranking military official. Is the U.S. concerned about what is happening as Mr. Mugabe is trying to get yet another term in office?
MS. NULAND: Ros, let me see what we’ve got on Zimbabwe. You know how strongly we feel about the people of Zimbabwe having the right to free, fair, transparent elections finally. But let me look into what we – how we assess the ground situation in preparation for that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Today or – Bashar al-Assad, yesterday or today, gave an interview to two Turkish outlet – Ulusal, a TV station, and Aydinlik, a newspaper – in which he accuses Turkey and your other allies of Syrian blood on their hands. He’s calling the Arab League quislings and doing your bidding and so on. And he’s certain that he will prevail.
One, have you been able to see the interview? It will air tomorrow, by the way, if you’re interested. But there are some excerpts that came out. And do you have any comment on what he said?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen the interview. I don’t think I need to see it. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything new here from Assad but blaming everybody but himself for the blood flowing in his country. You know how we feel about this. Any time he chose to stop it, he could.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he also points out a crumbling opposition, and in fact, one can observe that, that within the different groups and so on, they are not being cohesive together, they’re not coalescing, they’re not showing the kind of – sort of resolve, politically at least, that one sees. So do you dispute that?
MS. NULAND: We continue to see gains made on the ground by the opposition. With regard to the political opposition and the essential element of unity, you know that we continue to work very hard on that and to support unity among them. They are now beginning in liberated areas to deliver assistance themselves, to support, as we’ve talked about here, elected governments outside – in the towns outside of Aleppo and in the north there. And that is a very important trend. So he’s living in a parallel reality; let’s put it that way.
QUESTION: Same topic, Toria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News. A few questions on the UN team investigating the allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria: We heard that the team members were hoping to hit the ground in Syria this week. Can you update us on whether in fact any members of the team have arrived in Syria?
MS. NULAND: I looked into that yesterday. My understanding is that the team is still preparing to go, but I’m going to send you up to the UN for further clarification on that.
QUESTION: Thank you. And also, a few follow-ups: Who is the State Department’s primary point of contact with the investigating team?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this is a UN team, so our mission to the United Nations is very much involved in supporting that effort.
QUESTION: Right. And you previously mentioned from this podium that the U.S. is supplying technical assistance to the team, this UN team. But you’re not being specific about it. Can you tell us whether we have, in fact, provided any assistance to the team, to this UN team?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, to say – I think I said it a couple of – some time ago that there was a decision made that no P-5 countries would actually participate on the team, but that we are open to supporting the UN’s efforts with appropriate information sharing, et cetera. My understanding is that we have been open and transparent and that we will continue to try to be responsive to any requests that come our way.
QUESTION: Fantastic. And lastly, has anyone in the building, at the Office of the Legal Adviser, for example, or any other bureau, been put to work since these allegations first surfaced back on March 19th, researching what happened with these chemical weapons, supposed chemical weapons, or otherwise been tasked with funneling information to the White House or NSC?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what you’re asking, but we have a whole-of-government effort as necessary, both in terms of ensuring that we have a – as much information as we can about the situation in Syria across the board, and as I said, we are prepared as necessary from all agencies to support the UN effort however we can.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Afghan President Karzai was in Qatar over the weekend for talks with the government on opening up Taliban office in Doha. How do you sense – after his visit, do you think the Taliban will be – finally be able to operate from Qatar and hold talks with you or the Afghan Government?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we were supportive of President Karzai’s visit to Doha to strengthen the cooperation between the Afghan Government and the Government of Qatar to prepare for the prospect of Afghan-Afghan talks there, on the Afghan side under the auspices of the High Peace Council. That is a separate issue than whether the Taliban chooses to avail itself of this opportunity. It knows very clearly what it has to do, and the ball is in its court if it wants to see this office opened.
QUESTION: And has the U.S. tried to independently get in touch with the Taliban over the last few weeks or few months?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details. I think that there is no question in our mind that the Taliban understand very clearly what’s required if they want this office to open.
QUESTION: A follow-up on the Travel Warning to Lebanon.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Some embassy security people were seen scouting that part of beach that was used in 2006 to evacuate the U.S. nationals from Lebanon. Does it say anything about the seriousness of your concerns about violence spreading to Lebanon, maybe needing to evacuate?
MS. NULAND: I’m certainly not going to talk about security posture of U.S. personnel in Lebanon. Sorry.
QUESTION: Change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Israeli occupation army continues to use live ammunition to quell demonstrations. Yesterday, they killed a 17-year-old boy; they injured many others; they continue to do this today, using both live ammunition and rubber bullets. I wonder if you have a position on the violence that is – seems to be getting out of hand.
MS. NULAND: We talked about this quite a bit yesterday.
QUESTION: But this has happened – or transpired since then.
MS. NULAND: Our understanding – yeah. Our understanding is that this tragic incident is being investigated now by Israeli authorities. We look forward to the results of that investigation. And again, we make the call that we’ve been making for some time, that both sides, all sides, have to refrain from provocative action, have to refrain from violence and set an environment that is conducive to peace.
QUESTION: Are you aware that the Israeli soldier kept his lifeless – kept his family from reaching his lifeless body, to retrieve the body and so on, for hours on end until the --
MS. NULAND: I don't have that level of detail on this issue, but my understanding is that the Israeli Government has pledged to investigate, and we look forward to seeing the results of that.
QUESTION: And finally, do you trust the Israeli Government to do its own investigation on these issues? Have you had sort of the kind of experience from the past where they can come clean on these investigations?
MS. NULAND: This is the standard and appropriate procedure in an incident where there is a question about whether conduct was appropriate. We do the same thing on the U.S. side with regard to our own soldiers.
QUESTION: Okay. In the event that the Israelis do not do their own investigation, would you support the Palestinians to go to the ICC to pursue such an --
MS. NULAND: You’re getting me six steps ahead of where we are.
QUESTION: Can we go to the issue one more time? When a congressmen or group of congressmen invites a foreign national, is the State Department obligated to grant him the visa? Or you can take an independent decision based on merits?
MS. NULAND: Every visa is adjudicated on the merits and in the context of U.S. law individually.
QUESTION: Just quickly, I wanted to go back to my question. My question is different, madam. As far as this delegation is concerned, before leaving had they spoken with Secretary Kerry or are they going to brief him after they return?
MS. NULAND: Well, I would expect that they had a good discussion with our Ambassador there, and she would convey the results of their – of the CODEL back to Washington.
QUESTION: Thank you, madam.
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: On Afghanistan. There are some reports an American contractor is being held in Kabul, in a Kabul prison. His name is David Gordon, apparently being held for $2.4 million. Is the State Department aware of this report? Are you – and if so, are you doing anything to secure his release?
MS. NULAND: We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was arrested in Kabul. We are providing appropriate consular assistance, but because of privacy considerations, I can’t give you any further details.
QUESTION: Can I --
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Tunisia?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you following the case of Tunisian jihadist, (inaudible) who was arrested in Egypt on March 21st and handed today to the Tunisian authorities? He reportedly was running a network that facilitated the movement of jihadists by providing them with false passports. Are you following his case? Is he a person of interest to you?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything today on that case. Let me see if we have anything we want to share.
MS. NULAND: All right?
QUESTION: No, no. I’ve got two very brief ones.
MS. NULAND: Sorry.
MS. NULAND: We expect that he will see Prime Minister Erdogan.
QUESTION: Okay. And in that conversation, do you expect him to raise the Prime Minister’s plans to travel again to Gaza in the context of the rapprochement?
MS. NULAND: As I said, Matt, I do expect that the whole complex of issues surrounding Middle East peace will come up. I can’t – they have in the past talked about appropriate reconciliation, if you will, among Palestinians and our insistence that Quartet principles need to be abided by if this is going to serve the cause of peace.
QUESTION: Right. Well, could I just ask, does the Administration see a visit to Gaza by Prime Minister Erdogan, as he plans to do, in keeping with the rapprochement that the President – President Obama brokered between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m going to get into characterizing a visit that hasn’t yet taken place. We have in the past in our conversations with senior Turkish officials urged that any contact with Hamas be in service to the greater issue of stability and peace and that the fundamental underlying tenets of the Quartet principles be reiterated as the necessary precondition.
QUESTION: Okay. But does that mean it’s not necessarily counter to the rapprochement that was --
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not prepared to comment at this moment on a visit that hasn’t taken place.
QUESTION: But just in a general way, I mean, isn’t Turkish – isn’t this one of the whole reasons for the rapprochement in the first place, that Turkey could play a helpful role in terms of working on Palestinian reconciliation and helping peace and stability in the region. I mean, isn’t that – wasn’t that one of the whole tenets of it?
MS. NULAND: Certainly, Turkey has significant influence with the Palestinians. It has the ability to encourage Palestinians of all stripes to accept Quartet principles and move forward on that basis. That’s a different matter than the question that Matt asked.
QUESTION: Toria, very quickly on this issue?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the reelection of Khaled Meshaal as the head of the politburo of Hamas, someone who’s been described in this town as a person that you can do business with, that he is reasonable?
MS. NULAND: I don’t, Said.
QUESTION: Can I just ask about the Secretary’s visit to Istanbul? Are there any plans for him to meet any of the Syrian opposition leaders who are based there?
MS. NULAND: Not on the stop in Istanbul, no.
QUESTION: All right. I’ve got --
QUESTION: I’ve got my --
QUESTION: Wait. On another stop?
MS. NULAND: I think it depends on the – on what’s happening with some of those leaders. We’re still looking at that.
QUESTION: I believe this questions was posed to you all by us but not in the – but offline yesterday. I’m wondering if Secretary Kerry plans to follow the lead of President Obama and Secretary Hagel in forgoing a percentage of his salary.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me say, as you probably know and as was clear from his public disclosures, the Secretary contributes every year to a large number of charitable causes that he is quite private about it. This year though --
QUESTION: But --
MS. NULAND: This year though, this year though, in recognition of the special circumstances of sequester, the Secretary does intend to give the equivalent of five percent of his government salary to an appropriate charity that will benefit employees of the State Department. So that is his plan for this year.
QUESTION: And that charity, that would be the U.S. Treasury?
MS. NULAND: No, he’s going to – rather than contribute to the Treasury, he’s going to contribute to a charity that benefits State Department employees.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you be more specific about what that charity is?
MS. NULAND: We’re still working through what the --
QUESTION: Does it exist?
MS. NULAND: We have a number of employee charities that serve as – that benefit folks who have been injured or killed in the line of duty. We have a number of charities that benefit children of our employees. We’re still looking at the best choice and whether all of the money will go to one or whether it’ll be spread. I’ll let you know when we have more to share.
QUESTION: Okay. And then – and this is on top of what he already – he gives to other non-State Department related charities?
MS. NULAND: Correct. He –
QUESTION: Can you --
MS. NULAND: In line with the decisions that have been made by other senior Administration officials, he will make a contribution on the order of five percent of his salary.
QUESTION: Do you know why he decided to go that route instead of just returning it to the Treasury, which seems to need the money a whole lot?
MS. NULAND: I think he wanted to ensure that his contribution made a direct impact on our larger State Department family.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Just to be clear, his annual salary is $183,500, so 5 percent is about 9,175.
Okay? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)