Daily Press Briefing, October 3, 2012
Daily Press Briefing
October 3, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing
Secretary's Response to Letter from Congressmen
Continuing Conversation with Russia / Transition Plan
Condemnation of Mortar Attack in Turkey
Turkish Aircraft Fired upon by Syrian Side
Concern about Hezbollah's Involvement
Strong Support for Afghan-Pakistan-NATO-U.S. Conversations Cross-Border Issues
Bilateral Security Agreement Talks / Upcoming Elections / Reconciliation Process
Applaud Progress of India-Pakistan Dialogue / Kashmir / Human Rights
Protests / Impact of Economic Sanctions
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Continued Conversations on Bilateral Security Arrangements
No Quarrel with Iranian People / Want to See Iranian Government Change Course
Peace Process / U.S. Support for Palestinians
Non-Lethal Support to Opposition
Support for ECOWAS Peacekeeping Efforts
Concern over Rulings against Medical Professionals
Merida Initiative / Need to Strengthen Mexican Security Services
Easing of Sanctions
12:14 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. Afternoon, everybody. Just barely afternoon. We actually got out a little early today. I have nothing at the top. As you know, the Secretary has just seen Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul and the Binational Commission folks, and she will see the Kazakh Foreign Minister in about an hour.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t really have anything huge, but just on the – have you gotten a response from the Hill to the Secretary’s response, or is that not – was that not expected?
MS. NULAND: A response to our response of their response?
QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. Or did you just – did you not expect one?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we would – we were responding to their letter.
QUESTION: I know. Well --
MS. NULAND: So clearly, we’re in a process now where we will work with them.
QUESTION: And that process, today as opposed to yesterday, stands – does it stand any different? Is --
MS. NULAND: No. You saw her letter. She put it out publicly.
QUESTION: Well, I know. But I mean, has anything happened between the time that she sent the letter and 12:05 today?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, nothing that rises to your level of interest. Perhaps we’ve had staff-to-staff talks, but --
QUESTION: I don't know. The level of interest in this is pretty --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, I know, I know.
QUESTION: -- the bar is pretty low, so --
MS. NULAND: I would guess we’ve had some staff-to-staff talks, but nothing significant to report.
QUESTION: Has it been decided yet – sorry. Has it been decided yet who will actually attend the October 10th hearing?
MS. NULAND: No. We’ve got a lot of work to do ahead of us first. Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Victoria, Mr. Lavrov in an interview is – basically accused the West of having an agenda in Syria and not really wanting to bring all the different parties together for a dialogue. Could you comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I haven’t seen Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments. As you know, the Secretary has had intensive conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov, endeavoring to get Russia’s support for implementation of Geneva-style transition process, along the lines that we agreed way back in July but with real consequences. We’re going to continue to have that conversation with the Russians. We’ve been absolutely transparent about our policy, about our intentions, and have been urging the Russians to do more to use their own influence on the Assad regime.
QUESTION: His message seems to be that the West is so fixated on Assad leaving the scene that they don’t see – or they don’t have any elbow room to really work around any other accommodations.
MS. NULAND: The Secretary has said repeatedly – and she said it again when we were in New York after she saw Envoy Brahimi – that we still see merit in the arrangement that the P-5 foreign ministers and others worked out in Geneva way back in July that provided some preliminary thinking on what a transition structure might look like – that’s something that the Russians themselves signed up to – but that we only think it’s going to work if it has real consequences, consequences for both sides, if it’s not implemented. So we are prepared to move forward on that basis. It’s been the Russian side that has blocked consequences in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Sorry. When you say – you just said Geneva-style transition process. Is that the new language? And if it is, what does that mean? Does that mean it comes with fondue too or something? (Laughter.) What does --
MS. NULAND: What I meant was to use the template put down in Geneva. Obviously, it’s up to the Syrian side if they have – Syrian opposition if they have improvements or additive --
QUESTION: Well, I think this goes to the question that came up in New York last week, which is whether or not the absolute – what – word-for-word the document that was adopted in Geneva is still operative. And I just want to make sure that by saying Geneva-style, we’re not talking about like Geneva-light, where several --
MS. NULAND: Didn’t mean light, didn’t mean fondue. Simply meant the transition plan.
QUESTION: All right. Okay.
QUESTION: On that very point, Victoria, I mean, you talk about the June 30th Geneva, whatever point that would come out, which did not stipulate or did not say clearly for Assad to step aside.
MS. NULAND: It says very clearly that we would see the opposition working with those members of the existing governing structure who would be acceptable by mutual consent. And as we said at the time, as the Secretary said at the time, we don’t see any way that Assad himself or any of those with blood on their hands would meet that standard.
QUESTION: Also on Syria. I’m wondering if the U.S. Government, either at the Secretary’s level or below, has had any contact with the Turks on the latest mortar that landed in Turkish territory.
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Andy. We did want to make reference to that today. We do understand that a mortar from Syria landed in Turkey just a couple of hours ago, killing at least four children and one woman, wounding others. We extend our sincere condolences to the families and we strongly condemn this clear violation of Turkish sovereignty. We expect that the Secretary will be talking to Foreign Minister Davutoglu about this incident later in the day today.
QUESTION: And Davutoglu has already been on the line with Ban Ki-moon and with Brahimi. Do you think that this signals a potential change in the dynamics between Turkey and Syria?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we’ll wait and hear what Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s report is on this. But the Turks have been very clear all along how seriously they take their sovereignty and they’ve been warning very clearly, particularly after the airplane incident, against further violations. So we will wait to speak to our Turkish ally.
Please. In the back here.
QUESTION: On that airplane --
QUESTION: Yeah. Afghanistan.
QUESTION: On Turkey still.
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Still on Syria. Let’s stay on Syria. We’ll come back to you.
QUESTION: On that airplane incident, did any clarity ever come out of that? Because there were a lot of questions at the time, and I know you were in discussions with the Turks.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, the Turks themselves conducted an investigation. I’m going to send you to them. Frankly, I don’t know whether that was concluded and what the ultimate findings were there.
QUESTION: But you referenced it. That’s why I bring it up.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And it just seemed unclear at last time it was a relevant subject whether – where fault lied and how exactly the plane came down.
MS. NULAND: Well, there was no question in any of the reporting that an unarmed Turkish aircraft was fired upon by the Syrian side. There were questions as to exactly what the circumstances of that were. But again, I’ll send to you to the Turkish side, because they did do a full investigation.
QUESTION: Just staying on Syria, do you – does the United States have any reaction to the news that some Hezbollah fighters were actually killed in Syria as well?
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t said – I hadn’t seen that particular report, but you know we’ve been very clear about our concerns about Iran’s involvement, about Hezbollah’s involvement, and making clear that all of this was making the situation more violent, more dangerous.
QUESTION: Sorry. Do you – you expect that – her conversation with Davutoglu sometime this afternoon? Is that what you said?
MS. NULAND: We do.
QUESTION: And then just tangentially related to this, is there anything new on that – the video and on Mr. Tice?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new on Mr. Tice. I wish I did.
QUESTION: Or on the actual video?
MS. NULAND: No, no. Still on Syria? I promised our colleague back here on Afghanistan. Please.
QUESTION: People in Afghanistan worried about the security transition in Afghanistan --
MS. NULAND: The security --
QUESTION: Security transition. And still the situation in Afghanistan is still tough and rocket fire from Pakistan to Afghanistan, and 2014 also close. And you know the Strategic Partnership was signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Afghan people don’t like that they are under attack. And they say although Pakistan – still didn’t change this policy toward Afghanistan. Just generally, what do you think about this general situation in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary spoke quite extensively to our relationship with Afghanistan, to the Afghan-Pakistan relationship, before – or after her meeting with Foreign Minister Rassoul today, so I obviously can’t improve on what she said. We obviously focus very intensively still on security with the Afghans. We have strongly supported Afghan-Pakistan-NATO-U.S. conversations about the cross-border issues, and we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: Sorry. Could you update us on where – the status of the talks with the Taliban at the moment? Foreign Minister Rassoul made a vow that they would continue this peace process. Where are we in terms of the United States engagement on that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to report to you, Jo. I think we have been saying for a number of weeks that we support an Afghan-led process, that we’ve created this Afghan-Pakistan-U.S. group to facilitate Afghan-led reconciliation. It’s got some working groups on things like safe passage. But the Taliban have not been interested in coming to the table for some time. So the door is open there; they have to make a choice.
QUESTION: Just on the U.S.-Afghan security partnership talks, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Rassoul both named the diplomats that would head their respective sides in these. Does this meeting they’re having today mark a start to that process, or is this more – are we still in the sort of talks about talks stage?
MS. NULAND: I think the process today was to establish the sides. You’ll recall that in the Strategic Partnership Agreement, we speak about trying to complete those bilateral security agreement talks within a year. So I think when you see that first meeting occur between the Afghan and U.S. sides, which this was not today – it’ll be at some point in the future – that’ll start our 12-month clock that we hope to be able to meet.
And this is just, for those of you who aren’t aware, as we transfer Afghan security lead by the end of 2014, the U.S. security and training relationship with Afghan National Security Forces will continue but will need a new underlying bilateral agreement for that. That’s what this bilateral security agreement is about, to replace the existing --
QUESTION: When is the first meeting of the two groups (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think they’ve set a precise time. They are working on how this is exactly going to work and where. But we’ll let you know when we have something to announce. As Andy said, we announced our negotiators on each side at the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Rassoul today.
QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia?
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Afghanistan before we move off?
QUESTION: Yeah, one more.
QUESTION: Can I stay on Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: Okay. As you negotiate with the Afghan Government this new agreement, which I guess is going to supercede the current SOFA --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- they have events coming up, such as the local elections, and there’s the reconciliation talks, and obviously that’ll decide, to some extent, I guess, U.S. success in Afghanistan. To what extent are you concerned about those domestic affairs that are going to be taking place in Afghanistan? To what concern are you concerned, if you will, with their local events?
MS. NULAND: Well, the electoral process is obviously an important milestone in Afghanistan’s democracy. This would be the third election, I think, and it’ll be very important that it be free, fair, transparent, that they allow international monitors, that there be a stable environment for it. So obviously, we’re very focused on that in our political conversations and in our security conversation with the Afghans.
On the reconciliation side, as we’ve said for a long time now, we support an Afghan-led process, and there has been a lot of work done to prepare the ground for that. It’s really – the ball is in the Taliban court, whether they want to play or not.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: What is the – what’s the basis for [inaudible] that Taliban is no longer interested in talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: They themselves made an announcement back in March that they were suspending participation. And so they’ve got to make the decision whether they’re going to take advantage of the opportunities that are open to them.
QUESTION: But to follow up on [inaudible] question, does the electoral calendar impact the security arrangements?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s part of the evolution. There’s a security evolution; there’s a political evolution; they obviously have to go hand in hand. As the Afghans take on more of the responsibility for their own security, we will obviously work with them, as we do with many countries, on election security, to the extent that they want support, they want help. The elections are supposed to be in 2014, so presumably we won’t have completed the full transition, but as we have in past elections, we would expect that we would be open to Afghan requirements and requests for support. But it’s obviously going to be their lead in how this is structured.
QUESTION: So --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Goyal.
QUESTION: Madam, as far as reconciliation is concerned, do you think it’s working now? And what is the future, because still there are some attacks that are going on? And also, what she was asking, that unless there is full cooperation and really understanding from Pakistan as far as the – ending the war in Afghanistan, it cannot work. And because in the south there are still problems of Taliban across the border from Pakistan. So what do you think the future will be for the people of Afghanistan? They have been fighting for this free and fair election and also freedom for the last 20-plus years.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously I don’t have a crystal ball as to where reconciliation is going to go. I think I said a couple of times here earlier in this brief that it’s – we have supported the Afghan-led process. They’ve got an open door to it. It’s now for the Taliban to decide if they want to take advantage of it.
Moving on? Moving on?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Alan Gross’s condition?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I’m sorry. The question was: Do we have an update?
QUESTION: Yeah. And what do you make of the disconnect between what his physician has said and also what the Cubans are saying?
MS. NULAND: Well, my understanding of the situation is that the Cubans turned over some of the test results that they had done on Alan Gross, and it was as a result of those that the public statements were made. As you know, Alan Gross’s wife, Judy Gross, has long asked the Cuban Government to allow an American physician, his personal physician, to go and to see him, and we strongly support that request. More broadly, obviously, we think he ought to be released immediately.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Kashmir, last week Pakistan President Zardari, at the UNGA, said that not resolving the Kashmir issue is a sign of UN failure. And this week on Monday, the – India’s External Affairs Minister said these remarks by President Zardari was unwarranted. There has been exchange of words between the two countries on Kashmir issue.
Two questions: What is U.S. position on Kashmir? Do you think UN still has a role to play in resolving that dispute? And secondly, these exchange of words, do you think, will derail the peace process which is going on between India and Pakistan right now?
MS. NULAND: Well, more broadly, we have said for some time that we applaud the progress that India and Pakistan have made in their dialogue, particularly on the economic side. We are encouraged that they’ve taken some concrete steps to normalize trade relations, including the recently signed agreement on visa liberalization. We want to see this economic warming extend to other areas.
With regard to our own policy on Kashmir, it hasn’t changed. It’s been the same for a very long time.
QUESTION: Just to follow?
QUESTION: On Iran?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Oh, sorry. Let’s finish on Kashmir first. Sorry, Margaret.
QUESTION: Sorry. Madam, what I feel and say, after talking to many Indians and Pakistanis in the area, there is always – every year, there’s a tug of war between India and Pakistan at the United Nations, like this – and also same thing. If this thing continues, then India brings up the issue of terrorism, that unless Pakistan stops terrorism into India, then no talks will continue because of this Kashmir issue they keep bringing.
My question is here. I have been interviewing and talking a lot of Kashmiris from the occupied Pakistan Kashmir, and what they are saying is always U.S. and others talking about the human rights in India’s Kashmir but nobody talks about in Pakistan’s Kashmir, which is – situation is horrible. And nobody talks, and time has come – what they are saying, that U.S. should bring this issue what is happening inside Pakistan Kashmir.
MS. NULAND: Well, more broadly, I would say that we do talk about human rights regularly with the Pakistan Government. We report on these things in our annual Human Rights Report. So obviously, human rights in Pakistan is something that we watch carefully and that’s important to us.
On the broader issue of Kashmir, as I said, we want to see this economic warming now translate into a better conversation on that issue as well.
QUESTION: Did this issue came up when Secretary met External Affairs Minister Krishna and President Zardari in New York – Kashmir issue?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think it came up in the Pakistan meeting. I will check for you on the Krishna meeting. As you know, I was here, so I’ll check on that one.
QUESTION: Can I just – one more, quickly?
MS. NULAND: We – yeah.
QUESTION: Just – any readout, Madam, on the meeting between Secretary and the Indian Foreign Minister Krishna, please?
MS. NULAND: I think we had a written readout on that that came to some of you on the day. Let me see what I have here.
So they reviewed the trilateral meeting that we had – Afghanistan, India, U.S. They also talked about regional economic integration, including the TAPI pipeline – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India pipeline. They discussed our joint efforts on energy, civil nuclear cooperation, visas, trade and bilateral investment, cooperation with India’s near neighbors. And as I said, the Secretary commended India on India-Pakistan work together on the economic side.
QUESTION: Did you say a trilateral between U.S., India, and Afghanistan, Madam?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: So what will be the role of India’s role in the future in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, India’s been a big economic investor. It’s been a big development investor. It’s been supportive of police force strengthening in Afghanistan. And they’ve been a big contributor to the broader Silk Road vision that the Secretary strongly supports. So India is playing a constructive role in Afghanistan’s future.
QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: Margaret has been patient.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam.
QUESTION: In Iran today, there are many reports that protests had been building about what’s happening with the local currency there, but that the size of the protests had picked up, that they were targeted more, and discussed the role of the President, Ahmadinejad, in allowing for the circumstance. And there were also reports that the government was jamming some of the radio signals, BBC Persia and whatnot. Is there a U.S. readout on what the situation actually is inside Iran right now?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know that obviously we don’t have our own mission there. We are watching the situation very closely. We’ve seen what you’ve seen, that protests are growing on the ground. Clearly, the Iranian people are demanding better from their government and speaking out against the gross mismanagement of the economy and of the situation in the country of the current regime. So we are watching carefully. And obviously, as we have continued to say, the Iranian Government bears responsibility for the bad choices that it is making on behalf of its people.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say, though, that these protests are a reflection of the impact of the sanctions and thus putting pressure on the government at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, the Iranian state has horribly mismanaged all aspects of their internal situation, but certainly the economy and certainly their reaction to the run on the rial. But on top of that, the economic sanctions that the international community has put on the government as a result of its lack of forthcomingness on its nuclear program are having a profound impact on the ground and are being felt in what’s happening to the rial.
QUESTION: Sorry. When you say that you’re watching very closely the situation, do you mean to say you’re watching very closely on television?
MS. NULAND: We are watching closely with our partners who do have missions on the ground. We’re watching closely through your fantastic reporting.
QUESTION: That would be – since the Canadians closed their embassy, that would be what, the Swiss, and that’s about it?
MS. NULAND: The Swiss are there. I don’t have a full picture of who’s there.
We did – I’m going to guess you’re going to ask me about the horrific bombing into Turkey. I did speak to it at the top of the brief, yeah.
QUESTION: On Korea?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Media reports say South Korea and the United States have reached an agreement on expanding South – the range of South Korea’s ballistic missiles. I think you may have some information on the subject. What’s your – what’s the State Department position on the matter?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we continue to talk about bilateral security arrangements. We’ve made that clear here. The Secretary, as you know, saw the Prime Minister when we were in – saw the Korean side when we were in Vladivostok. We also had a trilateral meeting – Japan, Korea – in New York. But I don’t have anything new to report to you today on the missile side. If we do, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one more --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- about Korean culture?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m, of course, wondering if you know Korean singer Psy and his song “Gangnam Style.” Do you know?
MS. NULAND: No, but I bet you my daughter does. She loves Korean pop.
QUESTION: It’s a big hit here in the United States and --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: -- on the YouTube.
MS. NULAND: I’m going to dial it up and see that --
QUESTION: It’s number-two song on the Billboard chart. Do you think such popularity of a Korean song will help promote people-to-people exchanges and ties between South Korea and the United States?
MS. NULAND: Let me be cool enough to have seen it first, and then I’ll get back to you. How about that? I’m sure my daughter’s seen it, though.
QUESTION: Maybe tomorrow.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Jill.
QUESTION: Toria, on Iran – I’m sorry I was late for the briefing, but --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- I just wanted to ask, with the demonstrations that are taking place now, upheaval – was that asked?
MS. NULAND: Yes, Margaret just asked it and – yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Is the ultimate intent right now of all of these sanctions – which are going to be increased not only by the U.S. but the Europeans now are planning – is it to tip over and, let’s say, destroy, bring to its knees the Iranian economy?
MS. NULAND: Let me start by saying what the President said, what the Secretary said repeatedly. We have no quarrel with the Iranian people. We don’t want the Iranian people to suffer. Our quarrel is with the bad choices that the regime has made, and particularly the bad choices that they’re making to continue to pursue their nuclear agenda, to refuse to come clean with the international community about what’s really going on, not to allow the IAEA in, not to make a really substantial effort in the P-5+1 talks, not to take up the offer that we’ve got on the table. So it is as a result of that that the international community is tightening and tightening and tightening the sanctions, and it is now clearly being felt on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere in the country.
QUESTION: Right, but right now, it’s getting to a very serious point --
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- you would agree?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So is there any effort, I mean, right now, just to tip it over the edge?
MS. NULAND: As we’ve said, we want to see the Iranian Government change course in their discussions with us. If they change course, then we’re prepared to match steps with steps. But this pressure is real because our concern is very real, and we’re not going to allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that come what may, they will submit the application for a vote for a nonmember state observer, a nonmember state in the General Assembly in about a month and a half, at a time when (inaudible) is about to fall off a financial cliff and the money that is in – and jeopardized – I mean the aid, $200 million aid. Is anyone making that point clear to the Palestinian Authority, the connection between the two?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary saw President Abbas when she was in New York.
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. NULAND: She obviously made the points that we always make, that the way to get to the goal that we all seek, which is a Palestinian state that lives securely next to Israel, is through the negotiating table, not through action in New York. But she also said that we are working with Congress to try to get the 200 million that has not yet been released to the Palestinian people because we very much understand the needs there, and we support the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority in its ability to meet the needs of its people.
QUESTION: Okay. So was the point lost on Mr. Abbas? Because he made that statement yesterday about going forward with the application. And second --
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re going to –
QUESTION: -- do you separate between the two efforts?
MS. NULAND: There’s no question that in our discussions with the Congress, our effort to get this money released is made more difficult by strong statements.
MS. NULAND: And the more progress we can make at the peace table, the easier it is to get support for the Palestinian Authority. These are points that we continue to make. That said, we will continue to work with the Congress because the need is urgent.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Jill.
QUESTION: One more on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Let’s see. Certain European countries are providing cash to the opposition in areas that are now under control of the opposition, towns that are now liberated, so-called. So is the United States considering doing that in addition to, of course, what it already does, which is provide communications equipment and training, et cetera, for city services? Is the U.S. planning on or contemplating handing out cash?
MS. NULAND: In general, as you know, nowhere in the world do we write checks and hand out cash. That’s not the way we operate.
QUESTION: Except – well, except in Iraq and other places that the military does.
MS. NULAND: That was a separate effort having to do with the Iraqi – the military’s operations in individual towns. In general, the way State Department and USAID programs work, as you know well, is that we provide training, we provide material support – in this case, nonlethal support like communications equipment, et cetera. So my expectation is that our aid will continue to be in that form, it’ll be concrete or in terms of training rather than cutting checks, which are hard to have a trail of accountability on.
QUESTION: And they’re also hard to cash.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. (Laughter.) Exactly. Exactly.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. considered areas under rebel control liberated areas?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve used the L-word here in recent days.
QUESTION: So there are liberated areas?
MS. NULAND: Clearly, there are increasing parts of Syria that have been liberated from the regime’s control, yeah.
QUESTION: On Libya --
QUESTION: On Syria --
QUESTION: A quick follow-up, just --
MS. NULAND: Still on Syria, yeah.
QUESTION: Just a second. Have you been able to talk to Turkish officials today since the shelling happened?
MS. NULAND: I did speak to this at the beginning of the briefing and made clear that the Secretary intends to talk to Foreign Minister Davutoglu later today.
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: Excuse me. To clarify the statement – I am sorry to miss the statement, but we know that – the U.S. State Department position on this issue in terms of this military intervention in Syria is not, I mean, supporting of this idea. But Turkish officials, including the Foreign Ministry and other agencies’ top officials are gathered today to discuss all the options of Turkish Government on this issue. Is there anything, any change, on your position in terms of limited military intervention to stop this violence at the border of Syria and Turkey?
MS. NULAND: U.S. position is not changed with regard to the contribution that we are making to the Syrian opposition.
QUESTION: I have a question on Mali.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Europeans today are saying that the – an intervention in Mali is its top foreign policy priority at the moment. I wondered if you could --
MS. NULAND: They said that at the EU? I didn’t see that.
QUESTION: No. It was the French, actually. The French saying it’s Europeans’ top policy. The French are saying it’s the Europeans’ top policy. The French – one of the French ministers is saying that.
MS. NULAND: Minister Fabius said that? I didn’t see that.
QUESTION: Defense Minister.
QUESTION: Defense Minister, thank you. I wondered if you could give us an assessment of --
MS. NULAND: Agence France ici?
QUESTION: Oui, bien sur. (Laughter.) If you could give an assessment from the U.S. perspective of the threat levels coming out of Mali, not just for the region, but more importantly for U.S. national security. And what, if any, planning is going on within the U.S. Administration to deal with this?
MS. NULAND: Well, as the Secretary made clear when we were in New York, we do have growing concerns – we’ve had concerns all along, but they are continuing to grow – about al-Qaida in the Maghreb and their abuse of ungoverned space or space that’s been ceded to extremists like in northern Mali, and their ability to use places like that as platforms for more mischief, and particularly mischief that could endeavor to destabilize some of the fragile democracies.
We are, in the Mali context, working closely to support the efforts of ECOWAS to further elaborate a robust peacekeeping plan with the new interim government of Mali that would work both on securing the capital and on pushing north. And we have said that we’re prepared to support a well thought out plan in the Security Council when it comes forward but with ECOWAS very much in the lead.
QUESTION: Do you think there’ll be any instances or room for any kind of unilateral U.S. action in that area?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to rule anything in or out here, but our focus in Mali is on the ECOWAS effort and what they are talking about with the Government of Mali.
That said, we work across the region with our partners on counterterrorism efforts, including sharing of intelligence and local efforts to go after terrorist cells.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Director of Saudi Arabia religious police has said that his forces are losing some of their key powers, including arrests and investigations and raiding houses. How do you view this development in Saudi Arabia?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen those comments, and frankly, I don’t have anything particularly new to comment on with regard to the security situation in Saudi.
QUESTION: A Bahraini court rejected today or yesterday the medics’ appeal. Do you have any reaction to this?
MS. NULAND: We are deeply concerned that the court of cassation upheld the rulings against the nine medical professionals who were associated with the protest last year against the Salmaniya Medical Complex. We’re also concerned that these convictions serve to further restrict freedom of expression and hurt the atmosphere that’s so necessary in Bahrain for national reconciliation. And we understand that as of this morning, the government has begun taking these people into custody. So we’ve repeatedly voiced concern about this case; we’re going to continue to do it both publicly and privately at the highest levels in Bahrain.
QUESTION: Does that include the Ambassador directly?
MS. NULAND: Of course.
QUESTION: Has the Ambassador been here, for instance?
MS. NULAND: Of course. Yeah.
QUESTION: In Mexico, is there an update on the investigation on the U.S. officials who were attacked near Cuernavaca?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to report on that, Roz.
QUESTION: There’s also a report suggesting that Mexican officials suspect that they may have been targeted by federal police working on behalf of one of the main drug cartels. Is the U.S. concerned about the ongoing infiltration of the federal police by criminal elements, and does that raise any questions about joint work to deal with the drug problem between Mexico and the U.S.?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, our concerns about the need to strengthen the Mexican security services have been ongoing. This is the basis for the Merida Initiative that we have going together. It looks not just at rule of law issues, but it also looks at vetting of police, it looks at auditing of activities, and all those kinds of things. And the Mexicans have made considerable progress both on the basis of their own investment and on the basis of substantial Merida investment that we have made, but clearly, all sides have more work to do.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: After meeting Burmese President at the United Nations, so what do you get now out of – I mean, can you update as far as political prisoners and also further opening for the businesses and also as far as sanctions are concerned, madam?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary spoke to the Burma issue after her meeting with President Thein Sein, and we also had a background briefing in New York. As you know, we took a couple of steps to ease sanctions. We’ve eased some name sanctions on individuals, and we also began the process of lifting sanctions – easing sanctions on the import of Burmese goods into the United States. So this reflects the continued progress that the government is making, but there’s obviously more progress to be made on the political prisoners, on national reconciliation within Burma, and on the relationship with the DPRK.
QUESTION: Where will be this triangle of Burma-China/Burma-India, and now there’s a U.S. – so where – what will the position of China and also India, because before these changes, India was there and China was there.
MS. NULAND: Well, they’re obviously both neighbors of Burma. We talk very extensively with the Indian side on support for reform within Burma. Secretary has also talked about Burma with Foreign Minister Yang, and when we were in Beijing, about the fact that the U.S. wants to see a Burma that is opening to the world, increasingly democratic, but a level playing field for all investors there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:48 p.m.)
DPB # 170
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