Daily Press Briefing, October 25, 2012
Daily Press Briefing
October 25, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing
Statement on Violence in Burma's Rakhine State
UN Special Envoy's Call for a Ceasefire
Violence in Syria
U.S. Is Not Providing Lethal Assistance
Supportive of a Democratic, Unified, Pluralistic, Tolerant Syria
Concern for Extremist Elements in Syria
Taliban / U.S. Supportive of an Afghan-led Reconciliation Process
Human Rights Dialogue / Aun San Suu Kyi
Additional U.S. Humanitarian Contribution
U.S. Calling on All Sides to Exercise Restraint
U.S. Position is Clear, to Support Efforts of Libyan Government
U.S. Mission in Reduced Staffing Pattern in Khartoum
Secretary Clinton's Travel to Algeria
U.S. Looking at Process of President Suleiman
Russian Activist Leonid Razvozzhayev
OSCE Observers in Texas / Protected Status of Observers
1:05 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: They’ve downgraded me to a paper cup. What am I supposed to think about that? I guess it’s more environmentally appropriate, right?
All right, everybody. Thin crowd today. Happy Thursday. I have one thing at the top, which is with regard to the violence in Burma’s Rakhine state. The United States is deeply concerned about reports this week of increasing ethnic and sectarian violence in Burma’s Rakhine state, and urges parties to exercise restraint and immediately halt all attacks. We join the international community and call on authorities within the country, including the government, civil and religious leaders, to take immediate action to halt the ongoing violence, to grant full humanitarian access to the affected areas, and to begin a dialogue towards a peaceful resolution, ensuring expeditious and transparent investigations into these and previous incidents.
The situation in Rakhine state underscores the critical need for mutual respect among all ethnic and religious groups, and for serious efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Burma. We urge the people of Burma to work together towards a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic country that respects the rights of all of its diverse people.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Right. So speaking of calls for ends to violence, you’ve seen that the ceasefire in Syria has been agreed to. Do you think this makes any difference? Do you think that it will work? And does it really mean anything if the government hasn’t agreed to a political transition?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you note, Matt, we have seen some statements from the regime side. We’ve also seen some statements from the opposition side, Free Syrian Army, saying that they will abide by the UN Security Council and the UN Special Envoy’s call for a ceasefire tomorrow beginning for the Eid holiday and continuing into Sunday. What we are hoping and expecting is that they will not just talk the talk of ceasefire, but that they will walk the walk, beginning with the regime. And we will be watching very closely.
QUESTION: Right, but does it really mean anything if the government hasn’t agreed to a political transition (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: I think we all would agree that any day in Syria without violence is progress. And obviously, if we can get this ceasefire in place, it might open space for more work to be done on a transition. We are also in parallel, as you know, continuing to work with the Syrian opposition inside and outside of Syria on their own transition plan and on their own leadership structure so that they can be better prepared to work towards that transition if we can get the conditions going. But from our perspective, any day without violence in Syria is a better day than we have today.
QUESTION: You just said that you hope and expect that they will follow through on this. What leads you to that expectation? I mean, the Syrian Government, for one, didn’t honor its previous declarations of this kind. Why do you expect that they’re going to do it now?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are putting forward, as we did in concert with other UN Security Council members yesterday, our call for everyone to abide by the ceasefire. So we are putting forward that we would expect that they will now keep the word that they have put on the street, but we have to see. As we have seen over the past year, the Syrian regime in particular is good at making promises and less good at following through.
I would simply note that, as we said yesterday, the regime’s violence and brutality in these days leading up to the Eid holiday has continued unabated. Despite these calls for a ceasefire, the regime hit five mosques in the Damascus suburbs of Harasta yesterday, and abducted and murdered an Orthodox priest, Father Fadi Haddad, outside of Damascus. And there are reports, as you know, of serious fighting in Aleppo and Idlib, et cetera.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you about your wording? You just said the Syrian regime is good at making promises and less good at following through. Don’t you really mean to say that they’re no good at all at following through, or do you think that there has been some good, and so that “less good” is appropriate?
MS. NULAND: Well, you can parse my words clearly. We have seen many promises from the Assad regime --
QUESTION: Well, have they followed through on any?
MS. NULAND: We have seen none of them implemented.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Do you understand any conditions set to this truce? I mean, one of the things that immediately comes to mind to me is how the government is going to react to possible peaceful protests that may now be able to emerge if there is indeed an absence of violence for a couple of days.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, let’s start, Brad, with getting an absence of violence for a couple of days. You know where we stand on these things. We support, whether it’s in Syria, whether it’s anywhere on this planet, the right of citizens to protest peacefully, but we haven’t had the conditions to see much of that, so let’s see.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you asked the Russians to provide any proof that they might have of Stinger missiles being in Syria. Have you gotten any response from the Russians on this?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have, no.
QUESTION: Related --
MS. NULAND: Please, Scott.
QUESTION: The Foreign Ministry – Russian Foreign Ministry says that the United States is coordinating the delivery of weapons to illegal armed groups in Syria.
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry. I think we’ve been very clear that we are not providing any lethal assistance ourselves. We’ve been also clear that we are coordinating and talking with countries around the world that are supporting the opposition, including those who have made other choices than the ones that we have made, and that one of the things that we are working on, all of us, is to try to ensure that any support we give to the opposition is not going to extremists.
QUESTION: Well, so, if you’re saying now that you are coordinating with countries that made a different choice, is it incorrect for the Russian Foreign Ministry to say that you’re coordinating shipments of weapons to the rebels?
MS. NULAND: The implication that we are coordinating the shipment of other people’s weapons is ludicrous.
QUESTION: Well, but you just said that you were.
MS. NULAND: I said we are coordinating, as we have said --
QUESTION: With countries that have made another choice than you have.
MS. NULAND: Can I finish my sentence?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. This is not new. The Secretary’s been saying this since --
QUESTION: I know it’s not new, but I don’t think it’s a denial of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
MS. NULAND: Maybe I can finish my sentence. As we’ve been saying for many months, including when the Secretary was in Istanbul, we have made a choice only to provide non-lethal assistance. Other countries have made a different choice. We coordinate with all of those countries, particularly on this issue of ensuring that we are vetting well who are we – who we are working with, and making sure that we are not inadvertently supporting extremists. But this notion that we are coordinating the military assistance of other countries is ludicrous.
QUESTION: You still think this is the wrong choice, right? That providing weapons only further militarizes the situation?
MS. NULAND: That is why we have continued to make the non-lethal choice.
QUESTION: So why, if you coordinate with countries that are doing the wrong thing, in your opinion, have you been – are you unable to coordinate or work with countries that are providing weapons to the other side, which is just another wrong choice?
MS. NULAND: We have been trying, as you know – the Secretary’s made clear for more than a year – to work with Russia, work with China, work with other countries, on bringing more pressure on the regime to stop its violence. We have made three attempts in the Security Council to pass something that has consequences for noncompliance with the calls of the Security Council for the violence to end, for dialogue to begin, for journalists to be able to get in, all of these things. And you know the – how that story has turned out. And we were continuing to try.
As you know, Special Envoy Brahimi, I believe, is on his way to both Moscow and Beijing in coming days, and we are coordinating messages to him.
The Secretary said again yesterday that the Geneva document that we worked out many months ago is still viable as far as we’re concerned, as long as there are consequences for noncompliance with it, consequences for both sides. So we have been trying to work this through, but we haven’t been having a lot of success.
QUESTION: I took that comment to be kind of policy boilerplate, but is there a serious effort now to re-internationalize this in the sense of either the UN Security Council or something else at the United Nations to attach real consequences to some sort of Geneva-like plan?
MS. NULAND: If you’ve tracked what the Secretary has said since the day the ink was drying on the Geneva document, she has regularly raised the notion that this plan could be put under a Security Council resolution, and said that we’re open to it as long as that resolution has consequences for noncompliance. So every single time this sort of (inaudible) goes cold, it’s been she who has put forward again the option of the international community supporting a real roadmap towards a transition that we’ve all agreed to, but only if there are consequences. So our message has been consistent; it’s a question of what the other side wants to do.
QUESTION: But there’s no movement on that front that you know of?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could just explain a little bit how you would see – you say consequences for both sides. Clearly, the Syrian Government is a sanctionable entity, it’s a centralized state.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: Whereas the various freedom fighting elements are all very disparate, there is no central control, they have different connections with different people. How could you get consequences for that – for them, should elements of that fighting force decide not to abide by anything? I mean, it seems like you can’t sanction them as a group because they aren’t a unified group.
MS. NULAND: Well, without getting into all kinds of hypotheticals – and we can have a deeper conversation about this offline – you could imagine a scenario – say in some magical universe, the regime --
QUESTION: It doesn’t get much more hypothetical than that. (Laughter.) That’s crazy land.
QUESTION: Is that crazy land? Is it crazy land in the magical universe? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Say in some magical universe we have a complete cessation of hostilities by all regime forces and the other side is not complying after you have passed the Geneva plan under UNSC. We have identifiable individuals on the opposition side, we have clear leaders, we have countries around the world who are providing them with support. So obviously, one could envision opportunities to turn off that spigot that one could work through, including in UN Security Council language. But we are so far from that right now that we’re continuing to talk about the principles of how this could work.
QUESTION: Can we – just to remove ourselves from rainbows and unicorns for a second, back to the coordination, I don’t understand why it’s – why you say that the Russian Foreign Ministry suggestion is ludicrous that you are coordinating military shipments if you, in fact, say that you are coordinating with countries that are supplying weapons to the rebels. I understand --
MS. NULAND: I think I explained in some detail --
QUESTION: But doesn’t the coordination just – doesn’t the coordination that you’re involved with these countries that are supplying the weapons include coordinating their shipments of weapons? Or are you saying that it doesn’t and that only – the only coordination that you’re involved with is with their nonlethal supplies?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into a detailed discussion of our private diplomatic exchanges with these countries. What I said was we are working together to try to understand who’s who on the ground in the opposition to ensure that none of us, whether we’re supporting on the nonlethal side or making another choice, are inadvertently aiding and abetting extremists.
MS. NULAND: This is something that we are extremely careful about. I read the Russian statements to be implying that we were directing shipments, supplies, materiel by countries other than the United States, and that is not --
MS. NULAND: Okay?
QUESTION: Okay. But what you read – I thought you had said you hadn’t seen them.
MS. NULAND: Well, I had heard about it. I hadn’t seen the precise language until Scott read it out.
QUESTION: All right. Okay.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Can you define extremist in that – in the sense you’re talking about now? What is extremist, what is not?
MS. NULAND: We have actors in Syria who advocate an ideology other than what we understand the vast majority of Syrians support. What we have said is we want to see a democratic, unified, pluralistic, tolerant Syria going forward. There – the concern has been about extremist elements supporting either side, frankly, who don’t have that vision of Syria, who are seeking a less tolerant Syria, who are seeking a decidedly undemocratic Syria, who are seeking a Syria that is only constituted to support one small group or is going to replace one tyranny with another. And that is what we all need to be vigilant against, and what the Syrian opposition is working hard to be vigilant against.
QUESTION: Would you consider the Muslim Brotherhood as extremists, or it’s just like al-Qaida-linked organization or --
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re certainly concerned about those linked with terrorism; we’re certainly concerned about those who espouse extremist and terrorist ideology. But as you know, we work with political – legitimate political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in other parts of the world. So I’m not going to get into naming names or grading people’s t-shirts and affiliations. But I think certainly anybody who espouses a terrorist ideology would fit the bill.
QUESTION: How confident are you that your close international partners are also promoting democracy, pluralism, and tolerance, as you put it? I mean, is Saudi Arabia, who you’ve been closely working with – coordinating, in fact, on this – are they – is their goal to promote democracy, tolerance, and pluralism in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Brad, let me refer you back to the communiques that have been issued after the last two Friends of the Syrian People meetings. I think they are quite clear that we all share the value of a tolerant, open, unified, pluralistic Syria.
QUESTION: But how much credibility does that have when some of these countries don’t promote those very ideals in their own countries, yet are now suddenly behind the banner and providing weapons and supposedly promoting that in other countries?
MS. NULAND: A number of these partners that we’ve worked with have also, in the context of Libya, in the context of Yemen, in the context of Egypt – worked with us, worked with the international community to ensure that as these transitions go forward, the end state is a democratic, pluralistic, unified country.
So this is obviously something that the Syrian people are going to have to take forward at the right moment, but the goals of the international community, the goals of the countries working in the Friends of the Syrian People organization and format, have been very consistent and very unified.
QUESTION: There’s been various stories about weapons provided by certain countries and groups that aren’t promoting these things, and it just begs the question – you wouldn’t say that Saudi Arabia is, itself, a democratic, pluralist, and tolerant society, would you?
MS. NULAND: Brad, as I said, and as I’ve said now four times, I think, today, as we work through who’s who in the opposition, one of the key goals of all the countries that we work with --
MS. NULAND: -- is to better understand what they are and what they stand for.
QUESTION: No, but my point is that if Saudi Arabia considers itself a democratic, tolerant, pluralistic society, it might have completely different notions of what those words mean and might be supporting groups that you don’t think meet that criteria. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is why it’s important that we are all talking to each other frequently and working together closely, and that is what we have been doing.
QUESTION: I think that the point may be that – are you comfortable with joining up with Saudi Arabia to, say, promote equal rights, women’s rights in Arab Spring countries? This is something the Secretary’s made a big deal about. This is – Saudi Arabia is a country which discriminates against women and religious minorities. It’s a big – it’s antithetical to the – its policies are antithetical to what Secretary Clinton has espoused in Tunisia, in Libya, in Syria, in Egypt, and in Yemen.
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that Saudi Arabia or any of our other partners have any doubt where the United States stands on all of these issues, and particularly where the Secretary of State stands on the issues of rights for women. All of these issues are going to have to be addressed by the Syrian people. We’re not going to make any secret of the kind of Syria that we want to see, one that protects the rights of all Syrians, including women, and that it is on that basis that we are supporting a strong transition going forward.
QUESTION: But you’re not uncomfortable with the fact that Saudi Arabia is – I mean is, along with you, championing these ideas which it does not – which, these policies which it does not appear to (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to the Kingdom for its own views on these things, but in working with us, they know very clearly what we support.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Taliban leader Mullah Omar, today issued a statement saying that Taliban would negotiate only with U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan through its recently created political office in Qatar. Have you seen, though, the statements, and this statement indicates that they are trying to bypass the Karzai government, they want to --
MS. NULAND: Trying to bypass?
QUESTION: The Karzai Government, the government in Kabul.
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to interpret the Taliban’s words. I’m going to send you to them. I think we’ve been very clear --
QUESTION: (Laughter.) That is – boy, thanks a lot.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, good luck. (Laughter.) Good luck with that. This was, as I understand it, part of a long Eid message to their own faithful. We have made clear that we are supportive of an Afghan-led reconciliation process. We have worked, as have the Afghans, to make that possible, but the Taliban are going to have to make their own decision whether they want to take advantage of that.
QUESTION: But where do the process stands now, after the office was opened in Qatar – attempts were made to open the office in Qatar?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I have anything new to report. We’ve been talking about this for some time, that the Taliban themselves broke off talks sometime back in March. So we continue to talk among ourselves in the Core Group to try to make it possible if they change their minds about that and talks are restarted to facilitate those, but it’s the Taliban’s choice to make here.
QUESTION: Would the U.S. be willing to talk to Taliban directly, as this statement indicates, without having the democratically elected Kabul government in the talks?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is an Afghan-led process, of Afghans talking to Afghans, that we support. So if we get to a point where there are conversations that the Afghans consider might be helpful, we will consider that. But we’re so far from that right now, Lalit. Okay?
QUESTION: If I could just take us back to Burma just to – a quick follow-up on that. It’s notable that this related violence takes place about a week after the Human Rights Dialogue. I’m wondering if you feel that the government’s response so far has conformed with its statements or pledges that it made in the Human Rights Dialogue, and are you at all disappointed or (inaudible) that they’re – this is exposing, perhaps, a gap between what they say and what they do?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly the violence in Rakhine state has been on the agenda in all of the conversations that we have had with the Burmese, including the Human Rights Dialogue that took place on October 17th. We have now, ourselves, made five visits down to northern Rakhine state since the outbreak of the violence in June. That, in and of itself, is remarkable if you consider where Burma was a year ago, that they are allowing not only us, but they are allowing other international observers and UN organizations to try to assist them in getting a handle on this. It’s obviously a very difficult problem, and we are working with them on various ways to address it.
As the Secretary has said before, obviously there are deeply felt tensions and religious tensions here. But at the root of this problem is the extreme poverty and lack of opportunity that plagues both communities in Rakhine state. So over the longer term, it’s going to be a matter of the government providing a better quality of life for both communities there.
QUESTION: And you feel that Aung San Suu Kyi has been appropriately vocal, given that she represents a new Burma? Do you think that her statements to date, which sometimes have appeared to be a little confusing, have been on message or loud enough?
MS. NULAND: I think when you – if you follow some of the comments that she made when she was on her 16 day U.S. tour, she’s clearly appreciated the importance of Burmese leaders and all political parties getting a handle on this, addressing both the near-term problem and the longer underlying problems. She – some of these problems are things that she hasn’t had to address or deal with until her recent incarnation as a parliamentarian. So I think in our conversations with us – with her, it’s very clear that they are front of her mind.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. sending a new team to this state after yesterday’s violence in (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Our Ambassador Derek Mitchell out there is (inaudible) to talk to the government about what might be helpful. I would also note that on October 19th, we announced an additional humanitarian contribution of 2.73 million for displaced people in Rakhine. Two million of that will go through UNHCR and 730,000 will go through UNICEF for water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutritional support. So we are doing what we can to be helpful, and we are in constant conversation with Burmese authorities.
QUESTION: Given that the Burmese Government has not been able to protect its own people in this state and there have been human rights violations in this state against the Muslims, would the U.S. review its – the way its lifted the sanctions against Burma in recent months and the next phase of lifting of sanctions? Would these incidents have an impact on the develop – on the decisions making process?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of where we are, which is to try to work with Burmese authorities on ways to address both the short-term issues and the longer-term issues. As we have said, there are communal issues on both sides; there are issues of poverty on both sides. So these have to be worked out over time. But I’m not going to make any predictions about where this is going to go.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: The story in Libya and Bani Walid continues to grow in its cruel brutality. And the matter at hand is a systematic slaughter of Bani Walid’s population by what used to be anti-Qadhafi rebels for not towing the party line and not supporting Libya’s new rule and government quickly enough and with quite open heart. Only yesterday, on Wednesday, 600 local residents --
MS. NULAND: Is there a question here, or is this a political statement that you’re making here in the briefing room?
QUESTION: No, no, just a – I wondering, 600 people, local resident, were allegedly killed yesterday --
MS. NULAND: Can you tell me what news organization you’re from?
QUESTION: -- and why this – and local appealing for the international aid and an international call, but why this call? Why these massacre completely ignored by the Western community and the – particularly by the U.S.?
MS. NULAND: Where are you from, please? What news organization?
QUESTION: Vera Volokhonovich, RT.
MS. NULAND: From Russian TV.
QUESTION: Russia. Yeah. Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we haven’t ignored this at all. We talked about it a number of times here, and we’ve spoken about it very clearly. We have been urging restraint on all sides, respect for human rights and humanitarian law. We’ve been calling on Libyan authorities and rebel groups to provide access for humanitarian organizations who are trying to provide humanitarian assistance. And frankly, we can’t confirm any of these press reporting of what is actually ongoing there, but we are calling on all sides to exercise restraint.
QUESTION: But why Washington blocked – why did Washington block the statement – draft statement proposed by Russia for the United Nations Security Council resolution, which called for a peaceful solution for this conflict?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to what may be going on at USUN. I’m not aware of what the Russian statement might have been. I will send you up to our people in New York to discuss that. But our position on this is absolutely clear: We support the efforts of the Libyan Government to get control of militias and to provide security throughout the country, including in Bani Walid, and to do so in a way that is respectful of the human rights of all citizens, and allows humanitarian organizations to get in. So we are watching this situation very closely.
QUESTION: Sudan. Do you have anything that you could tell us today about who you think blew up the arms factory outside of Khartoum?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new for you on that. I would send you to the Sudanese authorities. We don’t have anything particular to say.
QUESTION: Right. Do you have anything old for us on that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything old for you on that.
QUESTION: Ah. Okay, so you basically have nothing at all on that. You are aware that it happened, correct?
MS. NULAND: We are aware that it happened. Yes.
QUESTION: And not just from press reports.
MS. NULAND: We are aware that it happened. In fact, after the explosion happened, there was – there’s some misreporting as to our – the status of our mission there, so why don’t I take this opportunity to clean that up.
I think all of you know that we have been in a reduced staffing pattern in Khartoum since we had the anti-U.S. protests around our mission. So we’ve been in reduced operational status since about September 12th. The Embassy has been operating, but it has not been open to the public since that time. We got our first reports in the Embassy of the explosion at about 11:30 local time on the 23rd, and at that – soon thereafter, our mission suggested that Embassy staff not come into work the next day, that the mission be closed, and it has been closed since then. It’s now closed for the Eid holiday.
We also simultaneously issued an emergency message to all U.S. citizens who were registered with the Embassy apprising them of the explosion and urging them to stay home as well.
QUESTION: You’re not aware of an untoward incidents at the Embassy since --
MS. NULAND: No. In fact, there have been none. No.
QUESTION: Algeria. Just saw you announced the Secretary’s trip next week to Algeria. I’m wondering if you could tell us – stating the obvious, perhaps – but if Mali (inaudible) potential intervention is going to be on the agenda. And we’re hearing now from various sources in Algiers and Paris that the Algerians are sort of okay with this idea. Have you received any notice from them that they are more open to the idea of an African-led military intervention in Mali?
MS. NULAND: Well, in addition to bilateral issues and general regional issues, Mali is one of the subjects that the Secretary does want to talk to Algerian officials about, as well as the general issue of al-Qaida in the Maghreb. I’ve seen the press reports today that the Government of Algeria seems to be more open to supporting the ECOWAS force. I think we look forward --
QUESTION: Wait, wait. The Government of Algeria or the Government of Mali?
MS. NULAND: It was the Government of Algeria, actually. And so we look forward to continuing that discussion when we’re there on Tuesday.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yourself and the Secretary have been warning about the vacuum in Lebanon for the past few days. Is there anything in particular you’re concerned with?
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this at some length yesterday, and I don’t think I have anything further to say to what the Secretary said yesterday and what we said here yesterday and the day before. We’re looking at this process that President Suleiman is conducting, and we want to see it be a Lebanese process; we want to see it be successful and result in a new government. But we don’t want to see a vacuum between now and then.
QUESTION: But nothing in particular --
MS. NULAND: This is --
QUESTION: -- by any particular party you would be concerned with? It’s not --
MS. NULAND: I think we are affirmatively saying this is not for us to decide; this is for the Lebanese to decide. We’re not going to be picking and choosing. Lebanese people have to work this through.
QUESTION: No, no, it’s just about concerns of a vacuum.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the concern was we want to have these negotiations be successful; we want to have a new government emerge. But between now and then, we don’t want to have a vacuum.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the arrest of the Russian Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve talked about this a couple of days ago, but let me just say again that we’ve seen these press reports about the disappearance of Russian opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev in Ukraine and then his subsequent arrest in Russia. We are quite concerned about allegations that he was forced to confess, that he may have been subjected to torture, and we take – we are – concerns about this and other arrest actions taken against the May 6th protestors very seriously, including against Aleksei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov, Konstantin Lebedev, and now Razvozzhayev. And we continue to support the rights of all Russians to exercise freedom of expression and assembly regardless of their political views. And we have shared our concerns with the Russian Government, including about the Razvozzhayev case.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add to the nothing that you had to say yesterday about the arrest of this Benghazi suspect in Tunisia?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: And there were reports from Cairo yesterday about another suspect being killed. Do you know anything on that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that either.
Okay? Way in the back, please.
QUESTION: Yeah. If I can change the topic, do you have any update about the situations with the OSCE observers and this conflict in Texas? As I know, they sent a letter to Madam Clinton.
MS. NULAND: Yes. Can you tell me where you’re from? I haven’t seen you before.
QUESTION: Dmytro Anopchenko, Inter television channel, Ukraine.
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this a couple of days ago, that since 2002 the OSCE has regularly sent observers to U.S. general elections and midterm elections, that this one isn’t any different than that. Since the initial issue with Texas, we’ve received a letter both for Secretary Clinton and one for Texas authorities from the OSCE assuring us and Texas authorities that the OSCE observers are committed to following all U.S. laws and regulations, as they do in any country where they observe elections, and they will do so as well in Texas.
QUESTION: So did you ever get the answer to my question on this about the support that you offer? And can you --
MS. NULAND: Yes, I got a little bit more.
QUESTION: Can you --
MS. NULAND: So Matt had asked a couple of days ago about the role the State Department plays when the OSCE or other international observers come. We provide letters of introduction to the state secretaries of the states where these OSCE observers want to be active. And since 1996, we have also given the observers privileges and immunities when they come into the United States, certain diplomatic privileges and immunities, as we do for diplomatic personnel.
I think we also had a question about whether we knew of any other organizations – international organizations looking to observe our elections. We understand that the NGO International Foundation for Electoral Systems, better known as IFES to many of you, has invited more than 200 election administrators to watch how the U.S. does elections. These are not observers strictly. They are coming to look at how we do administration of our elections for lessons learned purposes, and we do expect that individual embassies and countries may send parliamentarians, diplomats, politicians to observe elections, but not in a organized fashion necessarily.
QUESTION: Sorry, back to the OSCE team.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: They all get diplomatic immunity?
MS. NULAND: No, they get certain privileges and immunities.
QUESTION: Which ones?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have a list here of exactly what we’re giving them, but in general, we give them protected status, as we expect of our people when we participate in OSCE delegations.
QUESTION: Okay. And – but who are these people?
MS. NULAND: Generally, they are parliamentarians from OSCE countries. They’re usually the ones who --
QUESTION: They’re members of parliament, they’re lawmakers --
MS. NULAND: -- make up the bulk – they are lawmakers from OSCE countries.
QUESTION: -- who would normally or not normally have diplomatic status if they traveled to the United States?
MS. NULAND: Again, it depends on how they came. If they came to bring their grandchildren to Disneyland, they’d be on a tourist visa. If they came in their parliamentary capacity, or in this case, in an OSCE capacity, then they would have some protected status.
QUESTION: Okay. And I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the – you have gotten – the question about Texas – you got a letter from the OSCE; is that correct? Or the Secretary got a letter from --
MS. NULAND: The Secretary got a letter and the authorities in Texas got a similar letter.
QUESTION: And you said that you have responded to the OSCE? I didn’t understand the rest of that.
MS. NULAND: The Texas authorities expressed their concern by letter, through us --
MS. NULAND: -- and directly to the OSCE.
MS. NULAND: The OSCE has now responded both to Texas and to the Secretary.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MS. NULAND: Okay?
QUESTION: And the concern was what from Texas?
MS. NULAND: I think you can see the Texas letter, but they were concerned about whether this observer delegation would obey Texas electoral law.
QUESTION: Texas is still part of the union, is it not?
MS. NULAND: It is.
QUESTION: Yeah? The Republic of Texas has long, long ago gone away even though it still has an embassy in Paris?
MS. NULAND: But under our Constitution, as you know, there’s a thing called states rights, and they – and states administer their own elections, right?
QUESTION: Well, has there ever been a problem in the past?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Did the – I’ll look for the Texas letter, but are you aware of any problems that there were in Texas?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Is it normal procedure for states to be in touch with international organizations directly, not through the State Department or the federal government?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, it’s common practice in the same way, as I said, that we are providing introductions to the secretaries of state in the states for this international organization, in the same way when states have an international problem they can work with us, they can work with other federal agencies, whether Department of Justice, et cetera.
QUESTION: Yeah. But would they go to any international body without going through you, or through the federal government?
MS. NULAND: Generally, they do better if they work with us, but sometimes they can go directly. There’s no law against it per se.
QUESTION: Do you have or do you know if it’s on, like, the OSCE website where they’re going to be going?
MS. NULAND: We had, I think, about 15 states that they were going to go to. I think the list was still being worked up. We’ll get that for you, Matt.
QUESTION: And Texas was the only one that had reservations or concerns?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, it’s the only state that came forward and said please reassure us that you’re going to follow our state electoral law. And they have now been reassured.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
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