Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
November 16, 2012
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Index for Today's Briefing
Secretary Clinton's Speech on Economic Statecraft
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Secretary's Phone Calls / Situation in Gaza / Urging De-escalation
Egyptian Role in Gaza / Peace Treaty / Egyptian Prime Minister's Visit
Conditions for Contact with Hamas
President Obama's Trip / Human Rights Promotion
Daqduq Case / Contact with the Government of Lebanon
Cooperation with Iraq
IAEA Board of Governors Report
HR-6156 / Jackson-Vanik
Protests / IMF Standby Arrangement
Jordanian Reform Process
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia / Gotovina and Markac cases
Accountability Review Board
U.S. Diplomatic Presence
Human Rights / Tibetan Self-Immolations
Election / Alliance
Status of Diplomatic Presence
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Contact by U.S. Officials
Ban Ki-moon's Visit
1:04 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right. There are far too many of you here for a Friday. Let me start by an appeal for mercy, still jetlagged as I am. I’ve got – first of all, happy Friday. I’ve got a couple things at the top.
First, to remind all of you that the Secretary is giving a speech on economic statecraft. It’s actually tomorrow in Singapore, at the Singapore Management University, but in our time you’ll be able to see it at about 9:30 this evening on our live stream feed. As the Secretary said in October, in New York, America’s economic strength and our global leadership are a package deal. Tonight, in her speech, she’ll be laying out some of the steps that we’ve been taking around the world to implement her vision of global statecraft. So I encourage all of you to tune in for that.
Second, we want to take this opportunity to congratulate Kosovo on receiving membership – a membership invitation today from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This is something that the United States has long encouraged and sought for Kosovo, because EBRD membership will support the economic development and cooperation, growth and social stability, benefiting all the people of Kosovo and the Balkan region. We will continue to support Kosovo’s integration into international organizations.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I thought you were going to congratulate the Bills on beating the Dolphins last night, but I guess it’s up to me to say that. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: I congratulate you, Matt --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: -- on having a good Bills night.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Secretary, I understand, has been on the phone with a lot of people talking about the situation in Gaza. Can you tell us who she’s called and what her message has been to them?
MS. NULAND: Today, in Singapore, the Secretary spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman; she spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr – that’s their second call in as many days – and she talked to Jordanian King Abdullah. Yesterday, as Mark made reference to, she spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and I think he mentioned to you that she had spoken, as I said, to Foreign Minister Amr as well on Wednesday.
In all cases, her message has been the same, that we are urging a de-escalation of this conflict. We are urging those countries with influence on Hamas and other groups in Gaza to use that influence to get a de-escalation. As you know, rockets are continuing to be launched from Gaza, including today. We support, as Mark has said, as the President has said, as the Secretary has said, Israel’s right to self-defense, and we obviously express our regret and sadness for the loss of life on all sides.
QUESTION: Do you know on – it’s interesting, at least to me, that she’s called the Egyptian Foreign Minister twice. Is that an indication that the first time, that she didn’t think her message got through the first time to the Egyptians? Or was it that this call specifically had to do with the visit of the Prime Minister and what he had learned?
MS. NULAND: No, I think it’s the latter, Matt. As you know, Prime Minister Qandil was in Gaza today, so it was an opportunity to get an update on that visit and to get a sense from the Egyptians, in the wake of the visit, what further steps any of us can take to help de-escalation.
QUESTION: And what further steps are there that you can take?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we are all in the same place – the Egyptians are, the Turkish Government is. There are a number of other calls that we anticipate the Secretary will make in the coming 24 hours to other countries with influence to try to maximize the pressure we can bring to bear on Hamas to cease and desist. And we are encouraging anybody with influence to do that.
QUESTION: Okay. But is – on the basis of what the Secretary heard in the phone calls and any other contacts – I presume there are a lot more contacts going on back and forth – on the basis of those conversations, do you have any reason to hope that there will be, or believe that there will be, a de-escalation anytime soon?
MS. NULAND: Well, I obviously don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t think anybody’s happy with the current situation and the loss of innocent life on both sides. So it’s a matter of the international community, and particularly regional states with influence, to do what they can to make clear to Hamas that this is not benefiting the cause of the Palestinian people and it’s certainly not benefiting the cause of regional stability.
QUESTION: All right. My last one on this.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And it’s your understanding from her conversations with the Egyptian Foreign Minister that they hear that message and they are passing it along to Hamas, and that what they’re saying publicly, that this is Israeli aggression that can’t stand, is not what they’re saying to you privately?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not, from this podium, going to characterize the Egyptian view, nor am I going to speak for them and characterize our private diplomatic conversations. I will say that in all of the conversations that she has had, that the President had with President Morsi, we all agree on the need to de-escalate this conflict, and the question is for everybody to use the influence that they have to try to get there.
MS. NULAND: Please, Said.
QUESTION: On de-escalating – you keep saying de-escalating. Now, specifically, did you ask the Israelis or did you request that Israel does not conduct a land invasion of Gaza, which it is preparing to do?
MS. NULAND: To reiterate, Israel has a right of self-defense. I am not going to get into our private messages with any of the parties that we’ve been speaking to --
QUESTION: So, would the --
MS. NULAND: -- beyond saying that we are seeking a de-escalation, we are seeking a peaceful settlement of this.
QUESTION: So you would consider the land invasion of Gaza as part of Israel’s right to self-defense?
MS. NULAND: I am not going to speak about tactics or any of our messages privately to one side or the other. I’m also not going to speak about hypotheticals, Said.
QUESTION: But are you --
MS. NULAND: That was a good effort, though.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Are you concerned that this actually may sort of blow out of control in the whole region?
MS. NULAND: I think we’re all concerned about the level of violence. We’re all concerned.
QUESTION: Toria, a senior cabinet official from Egypt is quoted as saying that in spite of the statements basically in support of the Palestinians, the peace treaty is still – is not in jeopardy. Is that the U.S. understanding?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m not going to speak for the Egyptians, but as you know, the position that we have taken – and we have had no indications to the contrary from President Morsi or anybody else – is that it is very important for Egypt to live up to its international obligations, including the peace treaty. We have not had any indications that there is any difficulty on that question.
QUESTION: On Egypt, how do you view the visit that Prime Minister – Egyptian Prime Minister has made to Gaza, and in general, how do you view or do you assess the Egyptian role in Gaza?
MS. NULAND: Well again, as it’s very clear from the President’s conversation with President Morsi, the two calls the Secretary’s made to Foreign Minister Amr, we consider the Egyptian role key in any efforts to de-escalate. They have influence with Hamas, with the Palestinians in general, and we are encouraged that they are engaged fully in this, and we appreciate the fact that Prime Minister Kandil went personally to try to ameliorate the situation. And we’ll continue to work with them on the efforts that we can all take to try to de-escalate.
QUESTION: Have they coordinated the visit with Washington or with the Israelis?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think both we and the Israelis were aware that the Prime Minister would make this visit, if that’s what you’re asking, Michel.
QUESTION: Toria, I don’t understand. Two weeks ago, you said it would be a bad idea for Erdogan to go to Gaza. You were not particularly enthusiastic about the Emir of Qatar going to Gaza. And now all of a sudden, it’s a wonderful thing that the Egyptian Prime Minister went there?
MS. NULAND: Matt, we have a different situation, obviously.
MS. NULAND: We are in the process of trying to de-escalate a very, very dangerous situation between Gaza and Israel. So the purpose was completely different in this case, and can be helpful, we think.
QUESTION: It can be helpful because they’re talking to Hamas.
MS. NULAND: Because they’re talking to Hamas, they’re talking about the danger of this kind of situation.
QUESTION: So the way that Hamas gets a stamp of U.S. legitimacy in terms of being an interlocutor is to fire lots of rockets into Southern Israel, and then you’re okay with people going to talk to them?
MS. NULAND: We have a – we have an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. We have a dangerous situation inside Gaza, we have a dangerous situation inside Israel. It is not a matter of legitimating violence. This is a matter of supporting diplomacy to get this to end, which is a different thing than what the visits were intended to do before this.
QUESTION: But the --
MS. NULAND: So we see a distinction between these.
QUESTION: But the danger was there two weeks ago and three weeks ago as well, because as the Israelis will tell you very clearly, there were rockets being fired into Israel nonstop for the last months. So I guess I’m – you see, then, that the escalation here is on the Israeli side? Because it sounds to me as though --
MS. NULAND: Matt --
QUESTION: No, no, listen. You’re talking about – you want people to de-escalate here. Are the Israelis part of the escalation, or is it only Hamas that is doing the escalation? Because --
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, as Mark said here – whether it was Wednesday or yesterday, I can’t recall – we have had rockets launched throughout 2012. We had a sharp escalation in the kind of attacks that Israel was seeing over the course of this week. It called for urgent diplomacy; that’s what the Egyptians are trying to do. There is no comparison between that and previous trips, which were more in the category of “nice to see you” trips.
MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. You said – you made a call on Hamas to cease and desist. If Hamas heeds that call, is Israel expected to also cease and desist immediately?
MS. NULAND: Again, what the Israelis are doing is defending their country from these rocket attacks from Gaza, so --
QUESTION: I understand. But if Hamas stops firing those rockets, do you expect Israel to stop its bombardment of Gaza?
MS. NULAND: If there’s no need for self-defense, then there’s no need for self-defense, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. And that’s my – just my last point, just to clarify.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: So you don’t expect Israel to go into Gaza to sort of clean and clear and do all these things that they normally do afterwards?
MS. NULAND: You’re asking me to get into Israeli tactics of self-defense. I’m not going to do that.
QUESTION: And I’m asking your expectation, what – your expectation that Israel should also immediately cease?
MS. NULAND: I’m not from this podium going to be dictating Israeli choices with regard to their self-defense.
QUESTION: Toria, can I just ask what you’re --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just – you say you’re not – you don’t want to get into tactics. Does that mean that anything that Israel does and it says that it’s self-defense is okay with you?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t say that. I said that I --
QUESTION: That’s what I – exactly. That’s what I want to make sure because --
MS. NULAND: I didn’t say that. I simply said that I was not going to be dictating tactics, which is what Said appeared to be trying to get us to do.
(Phone rings.) Who’s got a phone ringing in here? Somebody?
MS. NULAND: Samir.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary call the Qataris, the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister?
MS. NULAND: She has not, but we expect that she will be in contact in the next 24 hours or so.
MS. NULAND: Still on this subject, Said?
QUESTION: Yes, on this subject. A hypothetical, I know you don’t like – (phone rings) --
MS. NULAND: Sir, perhaps I could ask you to take the phone out of the room if it’s going to ring?
QUESTION: It’s not my phone.
MS. NULAND: Whose ring?
QUESTION: I think it’s in the control room in the back.
QUESTION: Back behind the rack, around the --
MS. NULAND: Interesting. All right.
QUESTION: -- back there.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. I know you don’t like hypotheticals.
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: You don’t like hypotheticals. Could I ask a hypothetical question?
MS. NULAND: You can try, Said. I doubt I will answer it.
QUESTION: Okay. Through the mediation with your good friends the Qataris, the Egyptians, and the Turks, Hamas moderates tremendously and gives up on rockets and so on. Will that be, like, an opening for direct contact with Hamas, with the United States?
MS. NULAND: With our direct contact with Hamas?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: You know what our conditions for contact with Hamas have been. They have not changed; they will not change in this circumstance. They need to recognize Israel’s right to exist. They need to renounce violence and take those other measures that we’ve always called for.
QUESTION: Do you see any role for Iran behind this escalation in Gaza?
MS. NULAND: Beyond saying, again, what we have said before, which is that we see Iran playing a malign role not only in the region generally, but obviously in the context of Gaza, I don’t have any particular comments to make here. But obviously, were they to cease and desist, which we don’t expect, that would be helpful.
QUESTION: Can we turn to Iran?
MS. NULAND: Sorry, still – Dana.
QUESTION: I just wanted to be clear. So the United States does not have a problem with the Prime Minister’s visit saying that the world needs to take action against Israel being an aggressor? That’s helpful to the diplomacy?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to comment on the public statements that he made. What I am going to say is what we’ve said here all along, which is that we want Egypt, we are encouraging Egypt to use its influence on Hamas. Egypt made the decision that it would be helpful to send the Prime Minister to see what he could do. We’ve been in contact with them before, we’ve been in contact with them afterwards. That does not in any way indicate that we endorse public statements that were made in the context of that visit.
QUESTION: Sorry, one quick follow-up.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Today, the – Israel’s ambassador indicated that maybe Hamas – I mean, maybe that Egypt --
MS. NULAND: Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.?
QUESTION: Yes, sorry – that perhaps Egypt doesn’t have as much influence over Hamas as it previously has. He said that despite the visit, they haven’t seen a change in Hamas’s behavior; that part of the escalation is because over the course of the last few months, Egypt has negotiated ceasefires that Hamas has repeatedly violated. Is it the United States view as well that Egypt maybe does not have as much influence on Hamas as it has in the past?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we wouldn’t be working as closely with the Egyptians as we are if we didn’t think that they had an important role to play here in encouraging and working for de-escalation. There are, as I said, a number of other countries in the region who we are encouraging also to use their influence.
QUESTION: That means that you view that Egypt is playing a positive role in this de-escalation, in the – sorry, de-escalation of the situation and the violence in Gaza?
MS. NULAND: Again, we have asked Egypt to do what it can. They are obviously trying to do what they can. I’m not going to put – give individual nations a grade here if that’s what you’re asking for.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: Let’s – can we move on?
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead, Goyal.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Amnesty International had a protest at the White House as far as human rights and political prisoners and other changes in Burma which has not taken place, and what they’re saying is that before U.S. gives stamps of approval, these – they should consider their – what people of Burma wants and they’ve been suffering for the last 20-plus years under the military dictatorship. And this is the views also of Aung San Suu Kyi.
My question is now – what steps do you think now, upcoming visits and all that, (inaudible) for the people of Burma that they will consider that the Burmese Government will fulfill their commitments?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me refer you to the background briefing that was given at the White House yesterday talking about some of the goals of the President’s upcoming visit. As you know, human rights promotion has been a key part of our conversation with Burma throughout this year of diplomacy that we’ve been conducting. We have been encouraged by the release of some political prisoners. We’ve been calling for the release of all of them. Even one political prisoner is one too many. I’m sure that those points will be made again in the context of the President’s visit. As you know, we now have a formalized human rights dialogue with the Government of Burma, which we had never had before, looking not just at those issues but also the whole panoply of human rights issues, from labor rights to minority rights to improving the environment for all citizens of Burma, and we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: As far as this visit is concerned, since China was the major supporters of Burmese military dictatorship, you think now they are talking with Chinese what their role will be in the future? Or they will stop all the support they’ve been (inaudible) to the military government?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have used our bilateral dialogue with China to talk about the positive reform trajectory that we would like to see Burma on, that we think that this is in the interest of the entire region and something that – a goal that we ought to share. But beyond that, I don’t have anything particular.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I ask on Burma?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, sorry.
QUESTION: When Secretary visits Burma next week, will she be the first Secretary of State to visit Burma twice?
MS. NULAND: That may actually be right, Lalit. I think that may actually be right. Matt says it is. I haven’t –
QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: I would guess it’s probably true, yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) next week – I mean Saturday.
MS. NULAND: It’s two --
MS. NULAND: It’s actually Monday, I think --
MS. NULAND: -- that they’re in Burma, yeah.
QUESTION: On Iraq, is it correct that Iraq has released – I believe his last name is Daqduq? He’s a --
QUESTION: Uh-huh, Daqduq, a top Hezbollah operative. Senator McCain is saying it’s an outrage; he apparently was responsible for the deaths of five Americans.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to refer you to the Iraqis for the precise status, but as you know, we continue to believe that Daqduq should be held accountable for his crimes. We’ve made this point very clearly to the Government of Iraq. We – while we strongly object to his release, we’ve been informed by the Iraqis that they determined that they were no longer able to hold him under Iraqi law.
QUESTION: So I’m sorry, does that mean that --
MS. NULAND: So I guess – yeah, he’s – they have said that he’s been released, yeah. Never mind.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, so basically, you’re saying he shouldn’t be? I mean, is there (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We were – we didn’t want it to happen and we were concerned about it. We said that to the Iraqis. They have said back to us that they didn’t have a legal basis to continue to hold him. Let me add to that that as with other terrorists who we believe have committed crimes against Americans, we are going to continue to pursue all legal means to see that Daqduq sees justice for the crimes of which he is accused.
QUESTION: How would you do that? What can you do?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, it all depends on the circumstances, but we’re going to continue to do what we can in this circumstance.
QUESTION: Can you take any retaliatory action against Iraq?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into hypothetical issues here beyond saying that we’ve expressed our deep dissatisfaction with this action with the Government of Iraq. We do have to respect the role of the Iraqi judiciary.
QUESTION: So does that – when you say you’re going to pursue all legal means, does that mean that this Mr. Daqduq might be driving in a car someday and get blown out of the air or blown --
MS. NULAND: I’m obviously --
QUESTION: -- or blown off the road? Would --
MS. NULAND: I think I said all legal means and I’m not going to --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: -- get into hypotheticals.
QUESTION: Well, the drone – the Administration says that drone strikes are legal, so all legal means could include that; correct?
MS. NULAND: I am not going to get into anything along those lines.
QUESTION: All right. Then the other thing about Daqduq is, is it all upsetting to you that after spending billions and billions of dollars to oust Saddam Hussein and create a democracy in Iraq, one the previous Administration was very, very high on, is it at all upsetting to you that you seem zero influence with this government now?
MS. NULAND: First of all, I’m going to reject the premise of that. There are many, many things that we work together with the Iraqis on, both in terms of the internal situation in Iraq as well as our regional work together, not least of being Syria and our efforts to ensure that Iraqi air and land space is not abused to arm the Syrians. There are many things that we work together on. But as I said, we objected very strongly to this particular decision, and we’ve made that clear to the Iraqis.
QUESTION: Toria, do you –
MS. NULAND: Michel.
QUESTION: Daqduq’s lawyer has said that he left Baghdad, and he arrived to Beirut. Will you ask the Lebanese Government to arrest him?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details, but I will say that we’ve had contact with the Government of Lebanon on this issue.
QUESTION: So would you describe the state of your relations with Iraq as being strained or being stable, or being fine?
MS. NULAND: On this particular issue –
QUESTION: On all issues.
MS. NULAND: -- we have a strong disagreement. As a general matter, we have a broad and deep cooperative relationship with the Iraqis.
QUESTION: Okay. A former high official in the former Administration suggested your Administration has actually strained relations with Iraq, that you have not conducted yourself as well as should have been, and especially in concluding the kind of agreements that could have kept American forces in Iraq.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we spoke to that issue at the time. Iraq is a sovereign country. We were obviously open to having a continued presence there, if the Iraqis had been supportive of that. They made a decision that they were not supportive of it, and we have to respect that as a sovereign nation.
QUESTION: And lastly, the situation between the northern region of Kurdistan and the central government is quite volatile because of the oil issue. Are you doing anything to mediate between the two, the regional government and the central government?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t use the M-word. I would say that, as we have made clear here for many months, we are in contact with all of the different senior leaders and groups in Iraq. We encourage them to avail themselves of the process that’s been established for them to talk to each other and try to work through these issues in the interest of all the Iraqi people. There are a number of – there are lots of pieces of unfinished business, including the issue of oil rights, et cetera.
QUESTION: Can we move to Iran?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sorry. Jill, not in Iraq anymore?
QUESTION: No, Iran.
MS. NULAND: Iran?
QUESTION: You will have seen the latest Directors General’s report at the IAEA, and I’m wondering if you – kind of what you make of it.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously seen the report. It was released to the Board of Governors today. My understanding is, though, that it’s a confidential report. So we’ll continue to discuss it with other board members, but I think I’m not going to get into the details here. You know that, for more than a year, the IAEA Board of Governors has been calling on Iran to intensify its efforts to come to agreement with them. That has not yet happened, so –
QUESTION: It’s a confidential report? Really?
MS. NULAND: It is.
QUESTION: I would have ventured to guess it’s in the email box of everyone in this room.
MS. NULAND: It may well be, but --
QUESTION: And it’s also – but I mean, not only from – sent from people who are part of the IAEA, but think tanks. This is about as confidential as a newspaper is confidential. So I don’t understand why you can’t comment on it. Everyone else is.
MS. NULAND: Suffice it to say that these reports often leak. That doesn’t mean that we can disregard the integrity of the process within the IAEA, which is that these reports are supposed to be confidential.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Pakistan today released around 14 Taliban detainees. How do you see this process? Is it going to be helpful in the reconciliation, or you’re concerned about such terrorists being released?
MS. NULAND: I think – didn’t Mark speak to that issue yesterday? I thought that he did.
QUESTION: Yeah. That was about the agreement reached between the two countries.
MS. NULAND: It was about –
QUESTION: It was about the agreement that the two countries had reached last week, early this week, but today there was – these prisoners were released.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t have any particular comment on this set of releases. You know where we have been on the issue of reconciliation. We continue to support an Afghan-led process. We’ve been clear about that, but it’s the Taliban who have been saying since March that they are suspending their participation in that.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Magnitsky. So is this progress or is this – how would you evaluate – where does the State Department think it falls?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the bill before the House now?
QUESTION: Right, which I think passed.
MS. NULAND: Did it? I mean, before I came down here, it had not yet – we understood that the vote was going to be this afternoon. Is that right?
QUESTION: I thought PNTR had.
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s all part of the package now, right?
QUESTION: Yeah, and then Magnitsky, I think they were still doing it.
MS. NULAND: Let me just say from here that we strongly support HR-6156, which to my understanding is going to be voted today. I don’t think it has yet been voted. It would terminate the application of Jackson-Vanik to Russia and Moldova and would authorize the President to extend permanent normal trade relations to both countries. As you know, this fixes a problem for us, among other things, since Russia joined the WTO, where all of our competitors enjoy the full benefits of the fact that Russia is in the WTO, but we don’t, because we’ve got these restrictions on Russia. It also now includes the Magnitsky provisions, which have been wrapped in, which would apply to Russia.
QUESTION: On Jordan.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated today in Amman and called for the ouster of King Abdullah. How do you view these calls? And are you worried about the situation in Jordan?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we are continuing to monitor the protests that have been going on in Jordan in recent days in response to the fuel prices increases announced by the government on November 13th. As I mentioned, the Secretary spoke to King Abdullah today. They spoke, obviously, about the situation in Gaza, but they also spoke about the internal situation inside of Jordan. Among other things, the Secretary commended the Jordanian Government’s efforts to address their economic challenges and the King’s commitment to reform. I think you know that these fuel-price increases were necessary to address Jordan’s fiscal challenges and to comply by the terms of their IMF standby arrangement. Jordan’s economic challenges are substantial; economic reform is necessary. There is always some pain that comes with these things, but it’s a necessary pain in this case.
In terms of the protests, obviously we support the right of peaceful protest, we just want to see them remain peaceful.
QUESTION: Are you planning to provide Jordan with more aids – financially?
MS. NULAND: Oh, well, I think you know that we have supported Jordan in its reform efforts quite generously, and we anticipate continuing to be able to do that.
QUESTION: I want to see if I can get you – are you at all concerned that something that – that what’s happening in Jordan could – is either related to or could become like what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen?
MS. NULAND: Our reading of this situation is a little bit different. In the case of – you’re talking about Tunisia, fruit vendor before the --
QUESTION: Well, I’m talking about whether you see a serious threat to the King, the King’s – his – the government that he – that’s there, and stability?
MS. NULAND: We see this particular situation somewhat differently. In the case of Tunis, you had a population that was massively frustrated with the lack of reform and the lack of attention to the people’s needs. In the case of Jordan, you have a government that is wrestling with reform, trying to meet obligations for reform, both to their own people and to the IMF. There’s obviously some pain involved, and that has resulted in some reaction. But this is a government that is endeavoring to reform.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t see a connection between King Abdullah and the government there and, say – how quickly we forget. I’ve forgotten the guy’s name in Tunisia – or Mubarak, or --
MS. NULAND: The tactical situation is considerably different.
QUESTION: All right. And then just one more thing on Jordan. You said that the – about the pain, there’s always some pain, but this is necessary pain. Why is it that the United States Government is telling the people of Jordan what they have to suffer through?
MS. NULAND: It’s the IMF who’s made clear that the kinds of subsidies that the government has been providing are not sustainable for a modern economy, and that adjustments need to be made. We have supported the IMF, as in this case, and we support King Abdullah and his government in the change that they’re trying to implement inside Jordan, which they’ve got to do in order to modernize the state.
QUESTION: Well, that’s all well and good, but if I’m a Jordanian and I sit here and listen to the Spokeswoman for the State Department say that this is “necessary pain,” that’s just – who are you to tell me what’s necessary and what’s not?
MS. NULAND: Again, this is a set of reforms that need to be undertaken. It’s not easy. It’s never easy. It’s not easy in the European context; it’s not easy in the American context when we have to make adjustments to deal with our fiscal situation. But all of us are having to deal with these things in one way or another these days.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that these protests are economically driven and not politically driven? In other words, because they’ve cut off subsidies and so on.
MS. NULAND: The timing appears to be a reaction to the fuel-price increases.
QUESTION: But often, if you talk to people who protest when subsidies are cut off, they feel like it’s because there’s a big discrepancy between those that are elite and have money, and the subsidy is one of the few things that they benefit from, which I think is kind of a follow-up to Matt’s question, which is: Are you concerned that the masses in Jordan, who maybe feel like they’ve been economically marginalized by the elite, don’t see the reforms happening soon enough?
MS. NULAND: Again, without getting into the weeds of the Jordanian reform process, we have supported the King and the government’s efforts to reform the political and economic system in Jordan. This is something that we think is necessary to modernize the state. It’s obviously up to Jordanians to ensure that the pace is right, that the choices are right, that over time this is going to lead to an improvement in the quality of life for citizens. We have supported the IMF’s work with Jordan to support their reform effort and will continue to do that. But these – as I said, it doesn’t matter where you’re trying to make fiscal reforms; it is often difficult and it has to be worked through.
QUESTION: Sorry, one follow-up to that. In terms of the pain that you were speaking about that is sort of – that the economy – that the people have to feel – what within the reforms do you – can you speak to that the elite has sort of felt in terms of these reforms?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position here to evaluate the entire reform package in Jordan. But this is --
QUESTION: But you did say that, I mean, the entire – but you are sort of evaluating the subsidies being cut as being part of that reform package.
MS. NULAND: But this is part of a larger package that is affecting the entire economy and the entire population.
QUESTION: Does the United States have any reaction to the decision in The Hague today, the ruling overturning the war crimes verdicts against Croatian generals Gotovina and Markac?
MS. NULAND: I do. See if I can find it. We note the judgment of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We fully support ICTY and we accept its ruling.
QUESTION: So we were in the Balkans, and Secretary Clinton was talking about how the three Serbian leaders need to work it out. I mean, does this, in your mind, complicate the U.S. push to reconcile Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, the Balkans in general?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, when we created ICTY as an international community and as a trans-Atlantic community, we all supported it. It was so that these accusations could be adjudicated in a manner that was open and that was transparent. So it’s therefore incumbent on all of us to support the process and support the outcomes.
Let me take this opportunity to clear up somewhat of a misconception in the Balkans as well. Let me just say that the United States did not play any role in the Gotovina and Markac cases. We did not submit any briefs on behalf of either the prosecution or the defense, and we don’t have any particular comment on any issue in this case, but we do respect ICTY and we respect its rulings.
QUESTION: Toria, could you please provide us with an update on the status of the Accountability Review Board that’s looking into the Benghazi attack?
QUESTION: Just before you do that, can I just – this is extremely quick. Just on the generals, the Croatian generals: You have in the past, in other cases, submitted briefs to the court, though, correct?
MS. NULAND: We have, but in this case we did not.
QUESTION: So you just didn’t care in this case?
MS. NULAND: In this case we didn’t have anything to add to the court’s proceedings.
QUESTION: One way or the other?
MS. NULAND: That’s my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Yes. Well, I’m just looking for an update on the status of it – how often is the board meeting now? When was the last time it met, for instance?
MS. NULAND: I think that Ambassador Pickering, who’s chairman of the board, released a statement yesterday making clear that the board is continuing to work, that they have everything that they need. I don’t think we’re going to be commenting about exactly how their sessions are proceeding. I think if they have anything to say on that, they’ll let you know.
MS. NULAND: Please, Said. Yes.
QUESTION: Victoria, the other day former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, told NPR that it was unconscionable that you don’t have diplomats in Syria on the ground now to do what they should be doing, conveying proper information, and so on. Do you agree with that assessment?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t see that statement by Ambassador Crocker. I think he --
QUESTION: It was not a statement. He was participating in a conference and then NPR interviewed him on this issue.
MS. NULAND: Again, I didn’t see those comments. Obviously, it’s not our first choice not to be represented in Syria, and we stayed as long as possibly could until our mission ended up right in the line of fire, and the government in Syria was unable or unwilling to protect it.
QUESTION: Okay, just to follow up on the Embassy in Syria, those who are locally-employed, how do you stay in touch with them? How do you make sure that their safety is maintained?
MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we maintain our strong relationship and contacts with them, I’m not going to get into any security issues. That wouldn’t be helpful.
QUESTION: On Benghazi, there has been a lot today on the talking points with Susan Rice. Did State participate in any way in putting those talking points together?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything additional for you on this subject at all one way or the other, Jill. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Two Tibetans died in self-immolation in China today. There has been no respite to it – this – I think more than 50 have died so far. Do you have anything on that? Have you brought this to the Chinese of late, the newly (inaudible) has come up?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know, Lalit, that we regularly raise our concern about the Tibetan self-immolations with Chinese authorities. We encourage China to work with authorities in Tibet to address the grievances of the people and to protect the cultural diversity of their country. So this is obviously – and to address the worsening human rights situation in Tibet – we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: And how did they respond when you raised these issues with them?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to speak for them, but this is something that comes up regularly when we talk about human rights in China.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up quickly.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: What (inaudible) are saying now really that we live now in 21st century and world is changing and freedoms are going around the globe, but as far as China’s rule is imposing more and more stricter on them, and the time has come for the United Nations and the United States and the world to stand for them now because it’s been going on for 50-plus years and otherwise violence will continue and China will continue to press because Chinese think that the way freedom is going around the globe, including the Middle East and all that, that it may not happen in China.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been clear for decades about our commitment to human rights in Tibet, that we want to see China address the underlying problems there, the threats to the distinctive culture and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people, and our grave concern about the fact that people would feel so desperate as to resort to self-immolation.
QUESTION: Is human rights or freedom for the people of Tibet, because they are asking for freedom – full freedom which they would have been freed for 50 years ago?
MS. NULAND: Well, our view of the status of Tibet hasn’t changed, but we want to see the human rights situation there and throughout China improve.
QUESTION: On Japan, it looks like there’s going to be another leadership change next month there. I’m wondering what you expect from that, and just more broadly, where you expect U.S.-Japan relations to go in the President’s second term.
MS. NULAND: Well, Japan has one of the strongest democracies around, so we have worked very, very well with this government. We expect that we will work well with whomever the Japanese people choose to elect, and we will be following closely obviously.
QUESTION: And the broader question, just where you expect things to go for next – for the President’s second term.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we’re going to have – we’ve just had an election in the U.S.; we’re obviously going to have an election in Japan. We are the closest of allies; that is important for the United States, it’s important for Japan, but it’s also important for the region. So we anticipate that whomever the Japanese people elect, that relationship will remain critical to both of us.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, also a broader question on Libya. What is the shape of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya at the moment?
MS. NULAND: What do you mean, “what is the shape?”
QUESTION: I mean, in what way has it changed since September 11th and where do you see it going? Are you deploying more staff? Are you planning to change the shape of the mission there at all?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve spoken about this before. As you know, we were compelled to close our post in Benghazi. We had a reduction in staff in Tripoli. We have a new charge d’affaire, Larry Pope, who’s an extremely able and experienced diplomat. So we are now in the process of continuing to evaluate the security situation, working with the Libyans on that. But we are also continuing a broad array of programs that we have with Libya to support their democratic development.
Anything else? Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’ve got – I need to go back to Gaza just for one very quick second, and it’s on phone calls.
Realizing that you don’t have any contacts with Hamas, has there been any contact between the senior – the Secretary or anyone senior with any Palestinians, like West Bank Palestinians, since Ambassador Hale met with Abbas on Wednesday in Switzerland that you know of?
MS. NULAND: I’m assuming that our Consul General in Jerusalem has been in regular and constant contact --
QUESTION: I mean, people in Washington.
MS. NULAND: -- with the Palestinian Authority. To my knowledge --
QUESTION: So your efforts --
MS. NULAND: Our last contact with President Abbas was obviously when David Hale saw him earlier this week. But I --
QUESTION: Right. That was on Wednesday. So your efforts to get the Palestinians, or certain Palestinians, to stop firing rockets into southern Israel don’t involve conversations with any Palestinians, correct?
MS. NULAND: Wednesday, we had --
QUESTION: Well, that was not --
MS. NULAND: -- a full bilateral meeting between President Abbas and --
QUESTION: -- the readout from that meeting didn’t have anything to do with Hamas. It all had to do with the UN bid for recognition. Are you saying that there’s --
MS. NULAND: Well, there was certainly a conversation about the violence in Gaza in that meeting, and there have been ongoing contacts between our Consul General and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: And then my last one which is half a world away from that, you are aware maybe – or maybe you’re not – that Alan Gross and his wife have filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Government and against the contractor who he was employed by but that USAID had – he wants some $60 million, says that he was sent to Cuba without any proper training and that that constitutes gross negligence on behalf of not only his contractor, but the U.S. Government, specifically USAID, which is, of course, part of the State Department family. Does this have any merit?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Matt. I was not aware that there was a lawsuit filed. Let me see if we have any comment on that here, or whether that’s now a Justice Department matter.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Victoria (inaudible) follow-up on a question that Matt raised. Next week, Ban Ki-moon will be visiting Ramallah. Is he discussing the content of what his – the purpose of his visit? Is he trying to talk the Palestinians out of going to the UN, to the best of your knowledge?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to Ban Ki-moon to go through what his brief is. But obviously, we’ve been very clear with the Secretary General, as we’ve been with the Palestinians, how we feel about a renewed effort in New York. We don’t think it’s going to bring them any closer to a state, and we think it’s going to make the environment much tougher.
QUESTION: I actually have one more Latin American question.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: And if you don’t have anything on it, maybe you could take it. It’s on Honduras.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Political intimidation, repression – apparently, I believe, a litany of recent events, mainly directed towards one opposition party. Do you have anything to say about those incidents specifically or more broadly about just the political environment in Honduras right now?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on the political environment in Honduras. Let me take it and see if we have anything we’d like to say.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: All right.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)
DPB # 195
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