Daily Press Briefing, June 21, 2012
Daily Press Briefing
June 21, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing
Meetings in Geneva / Reported Clemency Offer / Post-Assad Transition
Defection of Syrian Pilot to Jordan / Other Syrian Military Defectors
Consulting with Partners on Arms Embargo
Meeting in Cairo
Non-Lethal Support to Syrian Opposition / Six Point Plan
No Place for Iran
Elections / Reforms
Terrorist Designation of Three Senior Boko Haram Leaders
Terrorist Designation of Basque Fatherland and Liberty Leader Aitzol Iriondo Yarza
Boko Haram / Discussions with Government of Nigeria
Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Mofaz
Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
12:57 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Nice to see that Cami also wore purple in honor of Mike Hammer’s swearing-in today. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can we start with Syria? There is a report in a British newspaper that says that you and the Brits want to invite President Assad to Kofi Annan’s shindig in Geneva toward the end of this month. Is that – is there any truth to that?
MS. NULAND: There is no truth to that.
QUESTION: How go the preparations for that meeting?
MS. NULAND: Preparations are ongoing. Conversations are ongoing. I think the Secretary spoke a little bit to this last night in her interview with Charlie Rose and Jim Baker. She talked about her conversation with Kofi Annan and our expectation that we can have a framework come forward similar to what we’ve been saying here.
QUESTION: Is the – is it still the U.S. position, as the Secretary has enunciated, that the U.S. wants Assad to leave power and wants him to leave the country? Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: That has been our position. That’s what we think is best for Syrian democracy.
QUESTION: The other part of the story says that it would – that the U.S. and Britain are considering offering some type of clemency to President Assad. One, is it up to the U.S. and Britain to offer Assad clemency, or anything else for that matter? And two, whose – who is it up to? If President Assad were to get some kind of clemency or amnesty, who would that be up to? Presuming it’s not the U.S. and Britain.
MS. NULAND: Well, issues of accountability in cases like this when you have grave human rights abuses against your own people are fundamentally a decision for the people of the country to make, how they are going to hold past leaders to account. So we would not presume to speak for them.
QUESTION: Right. But – and it is still the – it is still – I’m sorry, I’m not sure if you – did you answer the – it is still the U.S. position that he should leave power and leave the country, correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: You’re saying that there was no truth to this report today. But in the past, you did say or you alluded to that a deal akin to what happened with Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, it would be acceptable to you. How is that different?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to compare one situation with another situation. But the situation we’re in at the moment is there is no evidence that Assad has any interest in doing what is the right thing for his people, starting with ending the violence but continuing on to stepping down and leaving the country, which would be in the best interest of Syria, obviously.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the United States, in the event that he would see the writing on the wall and said, “Okay, I will accept a deal similar to the one brokered by the GCC,” you would support such an effort, such a decision on his part?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, I’m sure you know where I’m going to go with this, which is that you’re taking me into four levels of hypotheticals. Where we are right now is we have a brutal leader who is continuing to exact abhorrent violence against his own people and is showing no interest in stopping that or stepping down or any of these other things.
QUESTION: On the issue of getting amnesty and so on, that would preclude any kind of, let’s say, international court proceedings against Assad. Would you also come out in public and say, “Look, if you leave, we would not insist on bringing you before the International Criminal Court?”
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re getting me into hypotheticals, but as a general principle in response to Matt’s question, accountability issues are in the hands of the people who have been aggrieved – in this case, the Syrian people.
QUESTION: On the potential Kofi Annan meeting later this month, are we getting closer to a consensus on date, time, and roster of invitees?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary spoke a little bit to a potential roster of invitees. Obviously, that is still a matter of discussion with Kofi Annan, with others. We have said repeatedly that we want to make sure that the meeting is going to make progress, specifically on the issue of the post-Assad transition, so that’s what we’re continuing to work on with Kofi’s team, as are other nations, and we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: A New York Times report this morning talks about weapons going into Syria and quotes Syrian activists as saying Turkish army vehicles delivered anti-tank weaponry to the border where it was smuggled into Syria with U.S. knowledge. Is the U.S. aware that weapons are flowing across the border from Turkey into Syria?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that one way or the other, but it sounds like a question better directed at the Turks.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to what you were saying earlier, Secretary Clinton yesterday mentioned that she was in touch with Kofi Annan about a political transition roadmap. How would this differ from what is already in place? And can you talk to any specifics on it?
MS. NULAND: Well, as the Secretary said when she was in Istanbul some two weeks ago now, we are looking for a relatively specific framework for how this transition could go forward. She laid out some of the guiding principles that the U.S. believes need to be part of it: that it needs to include Assad relinquishing power, ultimately leaving the country; that it has to be – include a transition government that reflects the various views and protects the rights of all of the Syrian people; that there has to be a ceasefire; that rule of law, human rights standards have to be protected by the transition government.
So those are the kinds of things that we are looking at in as much specificity as we can get, because we think that we’ve got a number of issues here. We’ve got, first and foremost, a lot of folks in Syria who are still sitting on the fence because they are unsure what the future will hold for them, so --
QUESTION: One less today.
MS. NULAND: One less today indeed. Let’s talk about that. But – so to give some – this kind of a transition framework can give some confidence to the Syrian people that the transition (a) can be managed in a way that is democratic, that protects their rights, but (b) will give them a future that’s far better than what they have under this brutal regime.
QUESTION: But does it lay out specific ideas for the future of Assad?
MS. NULAND: Again, we – this is something that we are talking about now as an international community, that the Syrian opposition is also talking about in terms of what its hopes and expectations of a transition will be, and this is a work in progress. But as we had in the Yemen case, having a relatively specific set of steps helped to bring that situation to a resolution, and ultimately resulted in a referendum on the path forward that the Yemeni people could (inaudible).
QUESTION: But the Yemen model had a specific timeline that was worked out eventually. Are we getting to that stage where we have a timeline? I believe there was some mention of two – something in two weeks. The President spoke of this.
MS. NULAND: I think you’re way ahead of where we are in terms of continuing to work through this.
QUESTION: Victoria, just to follow up quickly, the day before yesterday, Senator McCain, said that we should actually send in troops on the ground in Turkey to aid and help any humanitarian effort in supplying the Syrians with a humanitarian effort. Yet there has not been any kind of a legislation of these statements and so on. Is this, like, an idea that is being probed?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, on the humanitarian side, the United States is now the largest donor to the humanitarian relief effort, both in Turkey and in other parts of the region where there is a humanitarian need and in getting – supporting the UN agencies that are working in Syria. We are doing this primarily through the UN agencies. There has not been a call or a requirement for anything other than our civilian humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: So to the best of your knowledge, there are no U.S. military personnel that are actually facilitating this humanitarian aid?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, the U.S. military is not involved in the humanitarian effort, no.
QUESTION: Can I ask you --
MS. NULAND: So --
QUESTION: One, before we – is it on Syria? Because I just --
MS. NULAND: It seems to be Mr. Klapper. Still on Syria?
QUESTION: Still on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Last --
MS. NULAND: Double-teamed by --
QUESTION: Your guy quadrupled --
MS. NULAND: -- the AP.
QUESTION: Quadruple-teamed, yeah.
MS. NULAND: Quadruple-teamed, all right. Go, guy.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) avoid a two-front war (inaudible) --
MS. NULAND: Exactly, or a four-front war.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) or a four-front war. Last night, former Secretary Baker suggested that as a fig leaf to Russia maybe, the U.S. should think about suggesting a presidential election in Syria, and saying that Assad would be allowed to run. And the Secretary responded by saying that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, but then she didn’t really address this plan, per se. She spoke more broadly.
I was just wondering, is such a scenario feasible? Is it something you’ve considered or would consider?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly any transition plan for the post-Assad era has to ultimately end in the Syrian people being able to elect their own leader, their own parliament, et cetera, as we have seen in other parts of the region. But we are very firm in our view that Assad cannot be part of that democratic future, that he has lost his legitimacy with his own people and with the international community.
QUESTION: So even if the majority of Syrians – and I’m not suggesting that I believe that or I don’t believe that – were to wish that Assad remain as their president, that would be something unacceptable for the United States?
MS. NULAND: That strikes me as a highly unlikely hypothetical scenario that we would confront, Brad. Good try, though.
QUESTION: Can I ask you – about the Russians, the --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- I think the spokesman for the Foreign Minister said today that that Russian ship with the helicopters and the – apparently the air defense systems is going back to Murmansk, is going to re-flag as a Russian vessel, and he said contracts must be fulfilled, indicating it will continue on to Syria again. Will you discourage Russia from sending that ship back?
MS. NULAND: We will discourage Russia. We have discouraged Russia at every level, including the presidential level, from continuing to support the Assad regime militarily. We think all of this activity should be suspended in the interest of the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Just a couple of quick ones maybe to finish up on this one.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: One, you spoke a little bit earlier about Assad, quote, unquote, “ultimately” leaving the country. So this is not something that you want? I mean, wouldn’t it be best if he just left right now?
MS. NULAND: Misuse of the adverb.
QUESTION: Okay. Two – I’ve forgotten what two is, so I’ll go right to three. You seemed to suggest that you might have something to say about the pilot?
MS. NULAND: Well, you’ve all seen the press reports about a Syrian air force pilot defecting to Jordan with his MiG. We have now been in contact with the Jordanian Government. They have confirmed to us that a Syrian MiG landed in Jordan with the pilot aboard, that the pilot did in fact request political asylum, and that they have in fact granted that asylum to the pilot.
As you know, we have long called for members of the Syrian military to refuse to obey orders, to break with the Assad regime, and this is just one of countless instances where Syrians, including members of the security forces, have rejected the horrific acts that they’re being asked to carry out by the regime. And we’d like to see more of this. We consider it extremely courageous and the right kind of move.
MS. NULAND: There are --
QUESTION: Meaning you don’t know of any others, so you can’t count them?
MS. NULAND: No, we have many instances of defections at all levels of the Syrian military.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea? Do you have numbers, rough?
MS. NULAND: We don’t have a scoping fully, but it’s certainly in the hundreds.
QUESTION: Hundreds, okay. And now I remembered what my other one was. Was that – and that relates to the weapons thing. Is it still the U.S. position that there should be an arms embargo on Syria, a blanket one?
MS. NULAND: What we have --
QUESTION: You had tried to get that into the Security Council resolution, which was – which failed, but I’m just wondering if it’s still the case that there should be no arms at all going into Syria.
MS. NULAND: What we have said in the context of the Secretary’s comments on working to try to implement the Kofi Annan plan, working on this conference or group that he wants that can support the implementation, that if we are not able to get where we need to go, we may very well be back in the Security Council seeking a Chapter 7 resolution. We are consulting with colleagues in other countries on what might be in that. Included in that very well could be a complete arms embargo.
QUESTION: But is that the U.S. position that you would like to see an arms embargo on the whole country – rebels and government?
MS. NULAND: Again, it is one of the options that we are consulting with Security Council partners on.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But what is – the U.S. obviously has its own feelings on this matter, so what are they? Should there be one, or no?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think as far as I want to go at the moment is that we are consulting with our partners on the possibility of a full arms embargo. If we do it, it needs to be within a Chapter 7 context and it needs to be endorsed by the entire Security Council. We can’t have some countries refraining and other countries putting their --
QUESTION: Yes, I know. That was the whole point of my question.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Which is why I’m curious, because you did support an arms embargo before.
MS. NULAND: We have in the past. And if we can --
QUESTION: And so now it might not be a good idea?
MS. NULAND: I think the question is: Could we get unanimous support of the Security Council for it, so that we didn’t end up in a situation where some were refraining and some were enhancing?
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: But you start with a position: Yes or no, this is a good idea or it’s not a good idea; or it might be a good idea, but it’s not something you’re going to push. And it’s – I understand it’s a negotiation. I’m trying to find out whether or not the U.S. would push for a total arms embargo on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Again, we have supported this in the past. We were not able to get consensus on it.
MS. NULAND: We are keeping it on the table for the future, but we need to make sure that if we go in that direction, it is a direction that will be supported by all. Okay?
QUESTION: Can we go back to defections?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said hundreds? Where are these members or former members of the Syrian army? Who has given them asylum? And perhaps most important, is the U.S. Government talking with any of these defectors to find out what is actually happening within the military, whether or not it’s crumbling from within and about to break with Assad, or whether it’s just as strong as ever and they just have their own reasons for defecting?
MS. NULAND: Well, based on what we have seen, these folks have either melted away – some of them have taken refuge in other countries, some of them have taken up arms against their own government. I don’t think any of that is a secret. Some of them are at some rank, but the vast majority are at the middle and lower ranks, essentially refusing to fight for the regime.
So we’re continuing to watch this. I mean, it’s obviously a significant moment when a guy takes a $25 million plane and flies to another country and asks for asylum. This is how these things start. We’ve also been making the point, including recently on Ambassador Ford’s Facebook page and on his Twitter feed, which as you know is heavily subscribed inside Syria, that those members of the military, particularly senior members of the military, who continue to obey orders, who continue to lead the regime’s bloody offenses against its own people, need to think hard about the fact that accountability is coming – Syrian accountability and international accountability – and whether they want to be on those lists when the time comes.
QUESTION: Have U.S. officials found a way to try to make initial contact with this pilot to talk with him about what’s happening inside the country, since obviously the U.S. doesn’t have any of its own people there?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this has just happened. Obviously, the Jordanians are talking to him, and we’ve been in contact with the Jordanians.
QUESTION: I wanted a clarification, because you said in principle Assad would not be allowed to run. Let’s say if people call (inaudible) petition for him to run, he would not be allowed. Yet we have a very similar situation in Egypt. Ahmed Shafik was the last prime minister of Egypt. He’s responsible for the death of hundreds of Egyptians and so on, yet he’s able to run and compete for the election. Why the symmetry or the dissymmetry?
MS. NULAND: Again, without accepting your premise that there is symmetry in these situations, which there isn’t, we’re talking about a man who has led bloody attacks on his own people for months and months and months. And as a result, some 10,000 plus of them are dead. He has lost his legitimacy with them. He’s lost his legitimacy with the international community. I find it extremely farfetched that there would be a groundswell of support for him to be elected president.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the meeting again and this British report?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So Assad is not welcome at this meeting. You don’t think he should come. But how about members of his government, lower ? Is that – I mean, if you’re looking at a political transition that’s going to include – that’s going to have the agreement of the government, a la Yemen, presumably you would need to have some member – some part of the existing government involved. So is there a scenario under which some lower-level person, but not Assad himself, might be welcome in Geneva?
MS. NULAND: With regard to this first session that Kofi Annan is envisioning, if you look back at what the Secretary said, she talks about the notion that the participating countries, based on their knowledge of the Syrian situation, based on their contacts with a broad cross-section of Syrians, based on past precedent in other places, would put forward a series of principles, a framework for how a transition could go forward. And then – and the Secretary says this yesterday in speaking to Charlie Rose – and then members of the Syrian interested groups would be invited to comment, work with, join in a conversation about how that could be taken forward.
So the notion is that this first meeting would be one of internationals as we work in parallel with the Syrian opposition, which we’ve been doing, as you know, for months. But there are also meetings around the same time with the Syrian opposition in Cairo, and then these processes would come together.
QUESTION: Sorry. Their meeting’s in Cairo?
MS. NULAND: There’ll be a meeting in Cairo the first week of July to follow up on ongoing meetings that we had in Turkey last week – or earlier this week with the opposition on its own transition plan. The Arab League, I believe, is sponsoring their own session early in July.
QUESTION: Then that’s not just a U.S.-Syrian --
MS. NULAND: No. No.
QUESTION: Okay. But – so in other words, this initial meeting, no Syrians allowed.
MS. NULAND: Is an international meeting. The initial meeting – the concept is to try to bring some unity in the international community around the kinds of ideas and the principles that the Secretary has already articulated.
QUESTION: But you don’t --
MS. NULAND: And then to expand the conversation to include Syrians.
QUESTION: At that same meeting? Or in the same day?
MS. NULAND: Presumably, thereafter. Again, this is a work in progress so we have --
QUESTION: Understood. But I mean, don’t you think it would make sense to have some Syrian, whether it’s of the opposition or the government, there?
MS. NULAND: Again, there are plenty of conversations with Syrians going on in parallel. I think we have to see what this meeting produces. But as the Secretary said yesterday, the expectation would be if we can get a process and a framework going, then to invite the Syrians to participate in that process.
QUESTION: Do you know who will represent the United States at the meeting in Cairo in July?
MS. NULAND: We’re still working on that as well.
QUESTION: And just to follow up on the report in the New York Times about whether or not the CIA is working with Syrian opposition on arms, is the United States offering any sort of logistical support like satellite imagery or other sorts of intelligence on showing where Syrian troops might be to assist the opposition in their efforts?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I’m not going to comment on intelligence, as you can imagine. Second, we’ve said that we are providing non-lethal support to the civilian opposition. Beyond that, I don’t have anything of news to report to you.
QUESTION: Can we go to –
QUESTION: Sorry, one more here.
QUESTION: Sorry, excuse me. Who will represent the United States in the meeting in Geneva?
MS. NULAND: Again, that meeting has neither the time nor the place nor the configuration has been set. After we get to the point where we have agreement that we should have a meeting and what the meeting’s going to be about, we’ll announce who goes.
QUESTION: The Secretary implied yesterday that she doesn’t mind Iran’s participation in the meeting, but at a later time, not in the beginning.
MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t over-read what she said. She was pretty – she was very clear that we don’t see a place for Iran at the table.
QUESTION: But she said not – later on she --
MS. NULAND: I think you’re over-reading what she had to say, Samir.
QUESTION: What did she have to say?
QUESTION: Will this conference – do you expect this conference to be convened before the expiration of the 90 days with respect to Annan plan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, the 90 days is up in the middle of July, I think. And the expectation is that Kofi wants to do it sooner than that. We’ll have to see if it comes together.
Brad. Still Syria?
QUESTION: Since you have significant experience in Europe, can you recall the last time a UN-organized peace conference in Geneva or UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva produced any results for anyone?
MS. NULAND: It sounds like you’re thinking of a particular example there, Brad. Look, we believe that Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan has played an important role to date in trying to bring together disparate views of the international community, particularly around his six-point plan. He believes that a conference, if it’s well prepared, could be useful. So we have said that we are prepared to work with him on setting it up for success, and we’re prepared to go if we think it can be successful. So we need to support him in his efforts, and that’s what we’re planning to do.
QUESTION: So you’re not interested in going to this for talk’s sake? You would only go if there’s a realistic expectation that this can prove valuable?
MS. NULAND: That’s what we’ve been saying for weeks and weeks now, Brad.
QUESTION: Now, you were skeptical from the very beginning of the entire Assad plan. What makes you more optimistic that somehow a conference linked to that plan would produce a result?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been saying all week, as the Secretary’s been saying since Istanbul, we have – and as Ben Rhodes said out in Los Cabos – we’ve all been focusing, obviously, given the violence, on the front end of Kofi’s plan, which includes the ceasefire, which includes the pullback of weapons, which includes allowing space for political opposition. But one of the points in the plan is also to prepare this transition. So there’s a view now that in the absence of being able to get Assad to stop, we need to now start creating some reality behind the notion that there can be a managed post-Assad transition. We need to do that to bring greater international unity and to bring greater Syrian unity and to move past this guy if he will not stop his bloody-minded behavior.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. I mean, why Russia, who is the major supplier of arms to Syria and to the – and the protector and benefactor of the Syrian regime, can be part of any conference, yet Iran is disallowed?
MS. NULAND: Said, I’ve answered this about four times, I think, for you this week, right? That – if not in the last 10 days. Russia and China signed up to the six-point plan. They have an obligation to join us in trying to make aspects of this work. They have also been very clear that they have no love lost for Assad, that they want to see a stable situation. They want to see the Syrian people have the right to choose their own leaders. That is far different than the posture of Iran, which has been implacably supportive of Assad, implacably involved in the tactics, techniques, rearming, et cetera.
So the postures of these two countries are not the same, not to mention the fact that this is a UN Security Council effort to support the Kofi Annan plan, so obviously members of the Security Council all have to be involved.
QUESTION: In her remarks last night, the Secretary said that – in discussing the inadvisability of having Iran involved, said that Iran is always trying to engage us in talks about all sorts of things except its nuclear program, and sort of implied that that’s the only thing we want to talk about with them about at this point. And you yourself in the past have said that there’s no linkage between these two briefs, but it seems as though the Secretary was making a pretty clear one there, that as long as we’re not getting progress on the nuclear front, we’re not going to talk to them about Syria. Is that fairly accurate?
MS. NULAND: I think the better way to understand her point was as follows: First of all, they’re not a positive actor in Syria in any way, shape, or form. Second, of course they want in the door, because they always want to be anywhere but where we need them, which is focused on the nuclear subject.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MS. NULAND: Please, Scott. Moving on?
QUESTION: To a different topic?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) It’s about the new government in Greece and your thoughts about what that might mean for financial stability in Europe.
MS. NULAND: I think the President has talked about this a little bit. We obviously look forward to working with new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. We encourage the Greek Government to quickly implement the necessary reforms that’ll improve the long-term competitiveness of the Greek economy and that’ll make Greece attractive to investment. And we believe that it’s in all of our interests – Europe’s interests, Greece’s interest, the United States’ interests – for Greece to remain a member of the Eurozone area while respecting its commitments to reform. So that’s the message that we are giving. And we’re looking for further progress as the EU members go to their summit next week and Eurozone countries continue to work on the problems there.
QUESTION: On the Boko Haram announcement, I’m wondering if you could just explain to us why the decision was taken to name these individuals as specially designated terrorists and not to name the group as a whole as an FTO, as Scott Brown and various people in the House and indeed the Justice Department have suggested would be the right course of action.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, just to repeat here what you’ve seen the Media Note that we put out earlier this morning, that the Department has now designated three senior leaders of Boko Haram as – for – they’ve been designated as global foreign terrorists. They are Abubakr Shekau, Shikal Khalid al-Barnawi, and Abubakr Adm Kambar. These – they claim responsibility for all kinds of terrorist attacks, including the August 26, 2011 bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja, a number of church bombings in northern Nigeria, et cetera. And Shekau has publicly stated the goal of overthrowing the Government of Nigeria and an interest in instituting strict Sharia. We took this measure to designate these three because they are clearly kingpins of Boko Haram, and clearly all of them have advocated terrorism as a weapon in their campaign. They’re all committed to violent extremism.
More broadly, as you know, there is always this question of whether designating individuals within an organization is the most effective strategy or whether the designating the whole organization is the most effective strategy. So we’re continuing to look at the question of a broader designation. But as you know, Boko Haram is at the moment a loosely constructed group attached to trying to address grievances in the north. There are different views within the group, and we’re continuing to look at that. More broadly, we are working with the Government of Nigeria and encouraging it in its dialogue with forces in the north, to promote a unified, multi – pluralistic Nigeria where the rights of all people, no matter their religion, no matter where they live, are protected in its own security efforts, that it examine its tactics, it look more at policing, and that it begin a real dialogue about some of the roots of the dissatisfaction in the north, which are primarily economic, and that they’ve got to really engage the northern communities and thereby make them more resistant to some of these extremist-style tactics that these three espouse.
So that’s the basis of the way we’re working – that these three, we think, are irredeemable. We are continuing to encourage the Government of Nigeria to reach out to other forces in the north.
QUESTION: Just by contrast though, ETA is a FTO (inaudible) same action with relation to one of their senior members. So what could (inaudible) like North Korea, how much more sanctioned can you be? What does this designation mean, since this guy’s a member of a foreign terrorist organization? Presumably, he’s already subject to these exact same sanctions.
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the other designation that we made today which was for a member of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty ETA Party. His name is Aitzol Iriondo Yarza. He is currently in custody. We took this action to demonstrate our support of the Spanish Government’s efforts to end ETA terrorist activities.
QUESTION: Isn’t he already covered by the FTO designation for ETA?
MS. NULAND: He is. Just in case anybody had any question as to whether we all – we considered him covered by that blanket, we do.
QUESTION: So this is pretty much pointless. It’s just show?
MS. NULAND: It is – it is --
QUESTION: It’s a – it doesn’t – I mean – by pointless, what I mean is that it doesn’t affect him. He’s now – he’s not affected by anything new because of this designation today that he wasn’t affected by yesterday. And the fact that he’s already in custody suggests that this is just some kind of a --
MS. NULAND: It’s a sign of our --
QUESTION: -- gesture to the Spanish.
MS. NULAND: It’s a sign of our political solidarity with the Government of Spain as it continues to go after ETA.
QUESTION: To follow up on that --
QUESTION: Wait, just – the meaningless – whatever it is there – that’s the Boko Haram people, actually – these leaders actually have anything that could be targeted by the United States? Do they have assets already within the U.S. jurisdiction? Do you have any evidence of that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to speak to what we know about these three guys. But it also, as you know, in designating them, makes it impossible for them to personally be involved in fundraising in the United States or any of those kinds of activities. So we did consider it important. It also sends a shot across the bow to those who are considering taking up extreme violence to address grievances in the north, that this is a course that is open to us with regard to them as well.
QUESTION: What is the linkage between this --
QUESTION: Following up on the – sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: What is the linkage between this designation and the Pentagon’s ongoing interest and seeming ramping up of its own activities to deal with Boko Haram and other extremist groups in Sub-Saharan Africa? Was this done in any coordination with the Pentagon?
MS. NULAND: Well, we always work in coordination. I think, as you know, as a government, we’ve been concerned about increasing extremism and loose groups coming together in that whole part of Africa. The Secretary spoke to this when we were in Cote d’Ivoire and other parts of our West African tour. So we are looking at all of the steps that we can take to support governments that are trying to close space for terrorism, including these designations today.
QUESTION: To your answer to Andy, have you seen any evidence that the government in Abuja is moving to take a broader look at some of the dissatisfaction that you say is at the root of the Boko Haram issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve had very intensive and serious consultations with them, including at the level of the President repeatedly over the last few months. Our – we are making some progress in terms of our security relationship with them, encouraging them to strengthen policing versus using the military in these cases. And we are working with them on the kinds of offers of dialogue, economic support, et cetera, that could be helpful.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Could you give us a result of the meeting with Mofaz yesterday? Anything new as a result of that meeting?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not sure that you’re going to consider that what I have to share is all that new.
MS. NULAND: But as – the Secretary and Special Envoy Hale met with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz yesterday. They had a very good meeting. The discussed a broad range of regional issues. They also discussed their common interest in a resumption of negotiations, direct negotiations, between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Okay. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said yesterday that a primary issue to the Palestinians is the issue about prisoners, and that he did talk to the Secretary of State about the issue of Palestinian prisoners. Was that an issue that she may have discussed with Deputy Prime Minister Mofaz?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think – as we always do in these cases, I don’t think it’s in the interest of getting where we want to go to get into the details either of her conversation with Mofaz or of her conversation with Erekat beyond what I’ve said here.
QUESTION: And finally, one of your former colleagues from the State Department, Mr. Richard Haass, spoke today – or yesterday in Jerusalem, and he suggested that the United States is likely to be less engaged in the coming months and years for the peace process. Is that something that you agree with?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you managed – I’m sorry, someone else?
MS. NULAND: Andy, you guys have to get your AP act together. I’m sorry, this is Andy.
MS. NULAND: Brad. (Laughter.) You should at least sit next to each other if you’re going to double-team me, will you?
MS. NULAND: Yes, Brad.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Can I just ask you if you have a reaction to the Palestinian bid to get the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem qualified as a UNESCO World Heritage site?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I have no idea where we are on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: All right. Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Egypt.
QUESTION: Have you managed to get any clarity from the SCAF or anyone else in Egypt as to what’s going on, what they’ve done, what they intend to do in the future? Or is it still as opaque and messy as it was several days ago?
MS. NULAND: I think they are still working through it.
QUESTION: So in other words, no?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And do you get the sense that they have a clue of what’s going on themselves?
MS. NULAND: I think they are working through the presidential election issues, and then they’re going to have to go back to the other issues.
QUESTION: No, I’m not talking about the --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m not talking about the counting of the vote necessarily, but does the SCAF know what it’s doing, to your mind?
MS. NULAND: They are obviously involved in a very intense process there. I don’t have anything particularly to share on it from here.
QUESTION: Does the delay in the vote count concern you? Do you think that it might call into question the viability of the results when they are announced?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we reaffirm the absolute necessity that this vote count respect the will of the Egyptian people and the results of the election. We expect that Egyptian authorities are going to move as quickly as they can to announce the election results so that the election – so that the Egyptian people can have confidence in the outcome and can move forward with their democratic transition because, as we’ve said here yesterday, there are all these other elements that also have to be dealt with.
QUESTION: So are you urging them, in fact, officially to do that, to hurry up and get the numbers out there?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into our conversations with them other than to say this needs to have credibility, it needs to respect the will of the Egyptian people when the count is announced.
QUESTION: Toria, the Secretary said that SCAF should be – should be prepared to turn over power quickly, expeditiously. But why not sort of have a caveat that if you don’t, then the relationship with the United States will suffer greatly?
MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about our concerns that if they don’t meet their commitment to the Egyptian people – I’ve said it repeatedly, she’s said it repeatedly – that there will be consequences in the way we’re able to deal. So what we want to do is see them meet their commitments to the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: Do you have any concern about what might happen if either particular candidate wins?
MS. NULAND: What we want to do is see an election result announced that is credible, that represents the will of the Egyptian people. I’m not going to get into the --
QUESTION: I’m not asking if you have a favorite. I’m just asking you if you’re concerned that if one candidate wins, it could lead to greater instability.
MS. NULAND: I think we’re concerned that if the Egyptian people think that their vote wasn’t respected and if they think that the process wasn’t as free and fair as possible, that there could be demonstrations of unhappiness in Egypt, which is again why we’re calling on Egyptian authorities to do this in a manner that is credible and that gives the Egyptian people confidence that their vote is reflected in the outcome that’s announced.
Okay. Thanks, guys. Sorry.
QUESTION: Sorry, just quickly on Burma?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, Jill.
QUESTION: I saw that David Cameron has invited the Burmese President to London at some point. Are there any plans for a similar invitation from the United States or indeed an invitation to Aung San Suu Kyi as well?
MS. NULAND: I think in terms of Aung San Suu Kyi, she is a parliamentarian. She can make a visit whenever she wants to. In terms of an official announcement of a visit by the head of state, that would be a White House matter and I would send you to them.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|