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State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, March 16, 2012

  • Written by Press Release
  • Category: Latest National News

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--March 16, 2012.

Index for Today's Briefing
  • NORTH KOREA
    • North Korea's Statement about a Satellite Launch / Leap Day Agreement
    • Ambassador Glyn Davies and Six-Party Talks / Under Secretary Sherman
  • SYRIA
    • Special Envoy Kofi Annan's Report / Secretary Clinton Meeting with Moroccan FM
    • Syrian Refugees in Turkey / Over-flight of Iraq by Iranian Flights to Syria
  • IRAN/RUSSIA
    • Conversation between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • President Obama Call with President Karzai
    • Condolences for Turkish Casualties in Helicopter Crash in Kabul
  • EGYPT
    • FY 2012 Security and Economic Assistance
  • SUDAN
    • Ongoing Violence in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile
  • EGYPT
    • Pending Legislation on Aid
  • HONDURAS
    • Aid to Honduras
  • IRAN/IRAQ
    • Status of MEK Review / Camp Ashraf

TRANSCRIPT:

12:14 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Let’s go right to what’s on your minds. Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Happy Friday. On North Korea, I am wondering if it is an indication of the urgency or the concern that the Administration has about this announced satellite launch that the statement was put out at 4:47 in the morning, before – I mean, I realize it was daylight in Seoul, and it was going out there, but it has been the case in the past that statements like these have waited at least until the sun came up. Is it something of that – is that momentous that it was felt that this statement had to go out at that particular time?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me tell you, Matt, that I did think of you at 4:20 this morning when I – (laughter) – approved the release of the statement, and I had a feeling that we would hear from you about this issue.

QUESTION: I’m not complaining about it.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I just want to know if it’s an indication that this is something that the Administration thinks is so serious that it warrants putting out a statement when most people are asleep – here.

MS. NULAND: Well, our concern, as you know, was that the North Koreans had put out a public statement of their own about this satellite launch, and we wanted to make absolutely clear what our views were with regard to it without much time passing from the release of their statement. So had we waited until daylight in Washington, we would have had it just sitting out there un-responded to for some five hours.

QUESTION: So it is an indication of the --

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- seriousness you take this with. Okay.

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And then just on the other technical point on this before I get into the substance is that there were what seem to be two versions of it, one of it – one in your name and one in the Secretary’s name.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. It was meant to be in my name. We had a little bit of a technical glitch when it got switched to some of the web servers who push it out on the web. They put it on the wrong header. It was intended to be in my name.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. But does that mean anything?

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: No. All right. Now, in terms of the substance or the practical issues of this announced launch, are there consequences for such an act?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, for those of you who didn’t follow what the statement said, our concern is about the stated intention of the DPRK to launch a satellite at some future date. A North Korean launch of a satellite would be highly provocative, as our statement said this morning – to remind that UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 very clearly and unequivocally require North Korea to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, including the conduct of launches. And Resolution 1874 actually says in the text – it demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear tests or any launches using ballistic missile technology.

So our concern about this, as you know, coming so quickly after the Leap Day agreement for a moratorium and IAEA-style inspections or IAEA inspections is that this calls into question whether, when the DPRK entered into that agreement with us, they did so in good faith, because at the time we did warn them that we considered that a satellite launch of this kind would be an abrogation of that agreement.

QUESTION: Okay. And does that mean, though, that they were told that there would be consequences if they abrogated this – if they did not go along with this agreement? In particular, I’m wondering about the food aid because you guys have gone to great lengths to try and separate the two, the nuclear issue from the humanitarian side. And though – but at the same time, they made a distinct link --

MS. NULAND: Linkage, yeah.

QUESTION: -- between the two of them. So without being inconsistent on your --

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: -- on your part, is it something – since they took the step of linking them, is it something that you could re-think now – food aid – because they have violated their part – or announced that they are – essentially announced that they are going to violate --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- their part of the agreement?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you say, Matt, we make it a practice not to link humanitarian aid with any other policy issues, particularly in the case of the DPRK. And we do want to assist the North Korean people, particularly those who the regime has chosen to neglect. That said, a launch of this kind, which would abrogate our agreement, would call into question the credibility of all the commitments that the DPRK has made to us, is making in general, including the commitments that we’ve had with regard to the nutritional assistance, which go to the questions of monitoring and ensuring that any food that we would provide would go to the needy folks and not to the regime elites.

In addition, were we to have a launch, it would create, obviously, tensions. And that would make the implementation of any kind of a nutritional agreement quite difficult. It would very much imperil the environment.

So frankly, if they were to go forward with this launch, it’s very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward with a regime whose word we have no confidence in and who has egregiously violated its international commitments.

QUESTION: All right. Just --

QUESTION: I’m sorry – not to move forward on food aid?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure I file that under hypothetical questions that you are willing to answer.

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: I’m done.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) to move forward (inaudible) --

MS. NULAND: It’s very hard to imagine that if we have a satellite launch, which would call into question their good faith and whether they keep any of the commitments that they make, that we would be able to have confidence in the monitoring arrangements that we’re trying to make with them, or that the environment would be such – would be sufficiently tension free that we could actually implement those agreements. So it’s very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward if this launch goes on.

QUESTION: Just one last one. Have they been told this? And when did it become apparent that they – was there any heads-up given to you that the – from the North Koreans that they were going to make an announcement of this kind? Was this statement really cobbled together in the couple of hours between the announcement and – or was it ready – teed up and ready to go? And then just have the North Koreans been told what you just told us about the assistance – food aid?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, in the context of working on the Leap Day agreement, we made clear unequivocally that we considered that any satellite launch would be a deal-breaker. So on the front end, they understood that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: We were called yesterday. We were contacted through the New York channel and advised late in the afternoon yesterday that they were likely to move forward with this. Obviously, the individual who took that message was uninstructed at that time, but made very clear what he considered the implications of this to be. And then just a few hours afterwards, the statement was released by the North Korean news service, which was why we felt we had to respond almost immediately. Hence the notification you got at 4 o’clock in the morning.

So from our perspective, there shouldn’t have been any doubt in the North Koreans’ mind before this what the implications will be if they go forward.

QUESTION: And Toria, you said that he explained kind of the rationale. Can you give us a gist of exactly what their point is?

MS. NULAND: I think I will let them try to explain this themselves. I’m not going to characterize their view.

Please.

QUESTION: Just to follow on enlisting (inaudible), is that you said this launching will be in violation to the resolution. But is it correct to consider this as in violation to the U.S.-DPRK agreement you made on February 29th?

MS. NULAND: It would certainly constitute an abrogation of the agreement, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Still on North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Iraqi Government just assured the North Korean that will make – they will make (inaudible) cutoff of Iranian oil to North Korea. Is that good because it potentially assures that the flow of Iranian oil to North Korea is cut off? Or is it bad because it guarantees the continued flow of cheap oil to North Korea, a rogue state?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that announcement or how it came about, so I don’t have any particular comment on that. Let us look into that.

Please.

QUESTION: Yes, South Korea?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This project of recovering the remains of U.S. servicemen in North Korea, that was not on the agreement announced on February 29th, but I wonder if this project will be also impacted by North Korea’s announcement today.

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that one. I’m going to send you to DOD on that one. It’s their primary program.

Please.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that they will still allow IAEA inspectors to their nuclear facilities?

MS. NULAND: We’re not clear at this moment what this means in terms of the commitments that they made.

Please.

QUESTION: You said that the North Korea missile launch is not a linkage with the humanitarian aid? Why not?

MS. NULAND: Well, because the humanitarian aid, from a U.S. perspective, whether it’s in North Korea or whether it’s in Africa or anywhere else in the world, is designed to meet a humanitarian need. So we don’t, anywhere in the world, explicitly link political issues with the delivery of humanitarian foodstuffs. The problem becomes, as you know, in order to get those foodstuffs in and to ensure that they get to the right people, in regimes like this, you have to work with the government. So that takes you to the question of whether you can trust the government’s word, which takes you to where I started this, that it’s – so the issues are not linked and we don’t consider them linked, but there are complications as a result of dealing with a government who, frankly, we’re just not sure now whether they’re acting in good faith.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Victoria --

QUESTION: On the statement, you mentioned this is a missile launch, but you – now you say this is satellite launch, so USA is considering this as a missile launch or (inaudible) a rocket launch?

MS. NULAND: Well, the DPRK announcement talks about a satellite launch. However, as we know, it requires the use of missile technology to launch a satellite. And it’s the use of the missile technology that is an explicit violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. So it’s a matter of semantics, whether you call it – I mean, they say they’re launching a satellite. We say you’re launching it with ballistic missile technology, which the UN Security Council resolutions have explicitly precluded.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: Can I – next to you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. been in contact with Japan or Korea or any of the other Six-Party Talk members? And what’s been the substance of these conversations?

MS. NULAND: We have been. While Matt and the rest of you were being woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning, our special advisor on these issues, Glyn Davies, was on the phone to each of the Six-Party Talks counterparts. So he has now spoken with all of them by the time it was daylight in Washington.

QUESTION: Including the North Koreans?

MS. NULAND: He has not spoken to the North Koreans. The only contact with the North Koreans was the contact that we had in New York last night.

QUESTION: What’s the next step? Will you plan to contact the North Koreans through the New York channel or meet with them in person?

MS. NULAND: Well, the – obviously, in the context of the Six-Party Talks consultations that we had in the wee hours here in Washington, the agreement is for everyone to use their influence with the DPRK to encourage them not to make this launch and not to violate their international obligations and to recommit to the Leap Day agreement. We’ll see if that is the way this goes.

QUESTION: So you, then – just on food and then – and the logistics for it, it had been getting pretty close to being done, correct, after the meeting that Ambassador King had in Beijing? Does that mean you basically have put that on hold until you – until either the North Koreans say never mind, we’re not going to do this launch, or they actually do it, in which case it’s cancelled completely? I mean, how do we describe where the food aid is now? Is it pending or is it (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you can certainly describe the concerns that I articulated at the beginning here about whether they’re acting in good faith, and the fact that all of those things need to be clarified. As you say, we were relatively far advanced. Ambassador King, in fact, was in Rome talking to the World Food Program about delivery and that kind of thing. But I think we’re going to take a pause here and see what happens, yeah.

QUESTION: So on hold is the best way to say --

MS. NULAND: I think you can say that we need more reassurance now.

QUESTION: Was it naive of the Administration to have reached and then announced the February 29th agreement, given that it’s only taken about 17 days for, in your view, the North Koreans to violate it, as they have violated a great many agreements in the past?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just say that they have announced that they may have a launch, or that they will have a launch. They have not actually had that launch, so we all need to encourage them to change course.

Remember, Arshad that the agreement that was reached on Leap Day was something that we had been talking about on the nuclear side since August, and we had been through three rounds of direct talks, U.S.-DPRK. We had had other members of the Six-Party working with the DPRK for those kinds of commitments. So there was nothing rushed or un-thought through about that agreement from our perspective. It took a long time to work through, and then, of course, we had a change of – death of the leader and change of leadership in the middle there. I think that our expectation, obviously, on Leap Day, when we issued our statement and the DPRK issued their statement, that the DPRK’s statement was representative of the full intentions of the regime, and that we could move forward on that basis.

Obviously, at the time, the Secretary made clear that it was just a first step, that it had to be tested, that we had to get the IAEA in there to verify the various aspects of the moratorium that they had committed to. So at no time did we consider that this was a done deal or clear sailing and it was only a first step. But obviously, it’s of concern that we worked so hard together on these parallel statements, that we thought that that would be a good first step to getting ourselves back to a solid conversation with the DPRK about meeting its international obligations. And they understood from the beginning that a move like this would not be in keeping with that.

QUESTION: My question wasn’t whether it was rushed or whether it was not considered, because obviously, it did take a long time and I’m sure you did consider it. The question, I think, is more what is the utility of this particular agreement, given the history that the North Koreans have of violating many agreements that they have reached, notably the agreed framework, even more strikingly, the September 2005 agreement –

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: -- to abandon all their nuclear programs, which was of course followed by a nuclear – their first nuclear test.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think it’s particularly – given that history, that we were so intent when the two statements were issued to say, “good first step,” but it has to be tested. The moratorium has to be real, the IAEA has to get in there to verify it, and only thereafter will we be able to decide what this means about the prospect of getting back to Six-Party, et cetera. Even on leap day itself, nobody was sort of jumping for joy and predicting that this was a massive turning of the page. That said, I think, obviously, the statement that we had today from the DPRK was – as I said, it’s really difficult to figure out how we move forward from here.

Cami?

QUESTION: What about the logistical talks and meetings that were taking place? Has everybody just been told to stand down?

MS. NULAND: Well again, I think the stage that we were at was we were working with the IAEA on how they might plan for their trip to inspect. That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense until we get a little bit more clarity, but we’ll see. On the nutritional assistance side, we were working with the World Food Program and others on how the monitoring agreement might be implemented, who might actually deliver. So, as I said, we need to take some breath here and see what happens.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, what is it – what doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense?

MS. NULAND: I said it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that in the context of the potential that this deal might be abrogated that we would expect the IAEA to be getting on a plane now. So I think we need to talk to them, and we need to continue to talk to our Six-Party partners.

QUESTION: Why isn’t there a utility, even if they have said that they will violate one aspect of the agreement, why is there not utility in testing the –

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- another one, which would give you IAEA boots on the ground, which is something that the U.S. Government generally thinks is useful?

MS. NULAND: Well, it is a good point, Arshad. And I think we need to review all of those options as we go forward here. But all of us were woken up by this in the middle of the night, so we need to think about what makes sense.

Jill?

QUESTION: Toria, just one kind of general question: This – it’s a new regime, a new administration in North Korea. Is there any way that this was handled – it is different from the way North Korea has handled things before? Anything that seemed a little odd? You’re saying it doesn’t seem to make sense, you’re not quite sure. We’ve heard phrases like that before, but is it the same modus operandi?

MS. NULAND: Are you talking about sort of how the talks were going before the leadership change versus after the leadership change? Or –

QUESTION: Yes, but when his father was alive, let’s say.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: And anything a little bit more strange about this one, or is it just kind of the way this often happens with North Korea?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I have any particular – or we have at this point any particular insight into what may or may not have changed in the inner workings. You know how that – how closed that system is.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) expressed to –

MS. NULAND: Yeah, I mean I don’t think that there was anything particularly different as our envoy Ambassador Davies has said. Many of the individuals that were working on aspects of this deal in August were the same ones that we worked with in February. They’ve got the institutional memory on the DPRK side, but obviously, there’s a question of what is going on in Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Follow up on Syria? Different topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, just can we – let’s finish North Korea here?

QUESTION: In the past when they’ve – when you’ve been doing these deals, they never announce anything like a missile launch in the middle of the deal. So what do you think it means that he – they actually went ahead and announced this just as you are on the cusp of finishing the food aid deal?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not in a position to analyze their motives. These are questions to be asked of them. But from our perspective, obviously, it’s of concern and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Please.

QUESTION: Through this phone calls (inaudible) Ambassador Davies made –

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- do your Six-Party partners actually assure you they stand on your side. China is considering offering the humanitarian aid to North Korea at this moment.

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to get into the substance of each of those individual calls, but the sense that we had was that there wasn’t anybody who wasn’t caught by some surprise by this decision from – by the DPRK. So now the question is for all of the Six-Party members to make clear that this is not the way to go forward if they want to work with us.

Please.

QUESTION: Different topic.

QUESTION: Very briefly. Under Secretary Sherman’s meeting the Korean ambassador this afternoon. Is this issue going to be discussed with him?

MS. NULAND: She’s meeting the ROK ambassador?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: I didn’t have that, but I’m sure that this issue will come up obviously.

Goyal?

QUESTION: Just to follow this context as far as – one, who’s supporting the North as far as right now new missiles and all these technology is concerned? Are you in touch with China? And finally, when you had – when they had new leadership and you hoped that things will change as far as security in the region is concerned under the new leadership in North Korea. What happened?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think I mentioned that we have already spoken to the Chinese and we will continue to work with them. They are, as you know, the chair of the Six-Party talks. So they have – and they have a particular relationship as – with the DPRK and quite a bit of influence. So – and I can’t remember what your second question was, Goyal.

QUESTION: When this new leadership came in and you hoped that things will change, as far as security in the region is concerned especially with the South Korea.

MS. NULAND: Well look, Goyal. I mean, I think as we mentioned in talking to Arshad, it’s always a matter of having to test assumptions with the North Koreans, and clearly that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS. NULAND: Please. Still on North Korea? Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry if this sounds redundant, but given the significance of this missile launch issue, how would you describe the status of the February 29th agreement?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve spoken to that already. That we – the concern -- all the partners now are trying to encourage the DPRK not to do this, to understand that we would consider it an abrogation. They haven’t done it yet; they’ve just said they’re going to do it. But it’s not a good sign.

QUESTION: You think the agreement is still alive?

MS. NULAND: We have grave concerns about that. Okay?

Please.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you have an update on the Kofi Annan report and do you have a comment on his proposal to dispatch an apparently expansive team of monitors?

MS. NULAND: As I was coming down, he was briefing the Security Council by video. Frankly, I don’t have a readout on his briefing. I think if we’re going to comment today it’ll probably be Ambassador Rice up in New York who’s taking the briefing.

He, as I understand it, he and his team were working on an urgent monitoring effort to try to support getting the humanitarian aid in. My understanding is that the Syrian Government has already rejected the idea of the UN conducting its own independent monitoring or joint humanitarian assessment with the Arab League. And they’ve proposed instead that this be a Syrian inspection supported by the UN. Frankly we don’t have any confidence in that government to inspect itself, particularly on the humanitarian side, the way it’s been treating its people.

What we were looking for, and I think what Kofi Annan is looking for, but we’ll and hear what he has to say, is a neutral, impartial, independent assessment of the situation that comes from the UN with regard to what’s needed. So we will continue to push for that, and we’ll wait and hear what Kofi Annan says about that when he reports.

QUESTION: The Russians indicated that they will support whatever suggestion Kofi Annan will make. Do you feel that you have a close position with them on this issue?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this before.

QUESTION: Right. (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: We are working hard to narrow the gaps. I think we have to see what the joint special envoy recommends and how the various UN Security Council members react to that. And again, they’re in live diplomacy now with him.

So, please.

QUESTION: Iran?

QUESTION: All right. He’s finished.

MS. NULAND: Is he finished? Yeah.

QUESTION: So I’m wondering if I can get an answer to my question of yesterday since he has finished – I realize you don’t know exactly what he said – but what did you make of the Syrian response to his proposal?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to, with partial information having not had a debrief on his briefing or had a chance to talk to Ambassador Rice, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be giving grades here.

QUESTION: But you – yeah, but you just said that you understand that the Syrians have already rejected this idea of a UN mission and that you don’t have any confidence in them. That was part of it.

MS. NULAND: Well, that part I could speak to because they’ve already done it publicly. But again, we’re going to wait and hear what Kofi has to say, and New York will react. We won’t do it here today.

Please.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, what did the Secretary discuss yesterday with the Moroccan foreign minister about Syria? And he’s going to visit Turkey tomorrow.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know the Moroccans are on the Security Council. They’ve played a leading role in representing the views of the Arab League as a whole and in trying to bring the Security Council together. So they had a good discussion about the fact that Kofi Annan was going to be briefing, that we need to support him, that he has been very supportive of the Arab League position. They also discussed – we’ve got some upcoming GCC and Arab League meetings there. But the U.S. and the Moroccan position are extremely close on this issue, so it wasn’t a contentious conversation in any way.

QUESTION: Did you hear from the Turkish Government about their idea to have safe zones for the refugees on the border with Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that Turkish Government – the Turkish authorities have been making clear for some time their concern about the number of refugees who are coming over, about – they are, as you know, the hosts of large refugee camps. We are obviously continuing to consult on the whole range of Syria issues. And Turkey will be the host of the next Friends of the Syrian People, so we’re obviously working with them on that and we will talk to them after we hear from Kofi.

QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t – like a humanitarian area like that, wouldn’t that require troops, and would the U.S. support foreign troops going into Syria?

MS. NULAND: Again, Cami, I think I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. I mean, I think that the Turkish proposal we’ve heard articulated in various ways, whether it’s a safe area inside Turkey would be one thing, a safe area that spanned the border, as you say, would be another thing. And the question would be how one could ensure access to it or secure it. But again, I’m not going to get into speculating about a proposal that, as we understand, is hypothetical on the Turkish part at this point.

QUESTION: Do you know if the head of the CIA discussed these issues with a certain – with the Turks in terms of where should the safe area should be?

MS. NULAND: Said, what am I going to say in response to that question?

QUESTION: Well, I’m saying (inaudible). Okay.

MS. NULAND: Let me see if we can guess. I’m going to suggest that you go talk to the CIA about what their director might have said.

Please.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan, the comments – the very strong comments by --

MS. NULAND: Let’s finish on Syria?

Yeah, anything?

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry.

MS. NULAND: Katherine?

QUESTION: There was a report in The Washington Times today that the U.S. requested that Iraq stop bringing cargo flights in Syria that are, according to intelligence, carrying arms. Was that request made, and what did Iraq have to say in response?

MS. NULAND: Well, without getting into intelligence matters, we are concerned about the over-flight of Iraq by Iranian cargo flights headed to Syria. We are consulting with Iraq about them and we are making the point that any export of arms or related materials from Iran, frankly, to any destination would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1747, and that any arms sent to the Syrian regime at this time would obviously be used in the brutal repression that the regime is exacting on its own people.

So we are in consultation with Iraq, as are many other states, encouraging the Government of Iraq to be absolutely sure about any cargo that’s overflying its territory.

QUESTION: For – just to follow-up on that – for Iran to export arms to Syria would be a violation of 1747 you said, correct?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: But for Iraq to permit -- would it be a violation of 1747 for Iraq to permit over-flights of cargo planes whose cargo it doesn’t – it’s not aware of?

MS. NULAND: I can’t actually, from here, parse the legal obligations for transparency of trans-ship cargo. But the point that we’re making to Iraq is to ensure that it is not aiding and abetting in any way a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 and nor that it is helping to arm the Syrian regime given the positions that it itself – Iraq itself has supported in the Arab League.

QUESTION: And then just one other one from me on Syria. I believe Annan has proposed sending a technical mission to Syria next week to discuss a monitoring mission. Given the limitations that were placed on the Arab League’s own mission in their decision to scrap that in fairly short order, do you see utility in pursuing such a UN mission?

MS. NULAND: Well, Arshad, again, my understanding is that what the joint special envoy was proposing was actually the first step in the humanitarian effort – the same issue that we discussed before, which the Syrians have already publicly rejected before he could even report to the Security Council. So before we could even evaluate it, the Syrians appear to have rejected it. But perhaps there are two separate ideas here, and frankly, being un-briefed, I’m not sure.

Okay. Are we still on Syria? Yeah, Nicole.

QUESTION: Yeah. I may be confusing resolution numbers, but Resolution 1747, this means that Russia is in violation of that as well, right? If they are sending weapons to --

MS. NULAND: No, 1747 is the resolution that requires all states to preclude the export of arms from Iran to any – yeah. So. Yeah.

Please.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: According to some reports, the talks with the Iranians may start early April. Can you confirm that now?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have anything to announce at the moment. As you know, the EU is consultations now with the Iranians with regard to both the timing and the venue for these talks, but no decisions have been made to my knowledge.

Please. Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

QUESTION: No, Iran. We’re on Iran.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I want to revisit a question that was – that I asked yesterday about the Secretary’s conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov and whether in fact she told Foreign Minister Lavrov – perhaps not as a warning to the Iranians – but told him that this would be the last – Iran’s last opportunity to deal with this in the P-5+1 context. Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I spoke to this yesterday. I don’t have anything further to add.

QUESTION: I’m giving you another chance. Do you have any reason to think that she would’ve departed from her prepared talking points when she had her conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov?

MS. NULAND: The way the conversation was characterized in the Russian press was incorrect. Let’s put it – let’s just leave it at that. I don’t have anything further from yesterday on that one beyond that.

Please.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: These comments by President Karzai that the U.S. is not cooperating enough in his investigation, could you give me a reaction to that? And also his call to basically have a much earlier exit strategy for NATO and for the U.S.?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think beyond advising that the President and President Karzai spoke earlier this morning, and I think the White House is going to be reading out that phone call later today, that’s obviously the most authoritative recent conversation that we’ve had with President Karzai on our understanding of where we’re going forward. But you know where we were – we’ve been. We’ve been clear, and particularly this week with Prime Minister Cameron here, that we want to see steps in this transition in 2013 and see it conclude in 2014.

Please.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

QUESTION: No. Staying on Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Sorry.

QUESTION: There was a report that popped up just before the briefing began about the U.S. cutting funding to a prison.

MS. NULAND: I don’t know, Matt. Let me take that. I don’t know. Why don’t you give us a little more information?

QUESTION: Because of --

QUESTION: Just one other one on Afghanistan. We’ve run a number of quotes from President Karzai today in which he voices, again, considerable anger about the incident.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: I gather he said these things as he was meeting with some of the family members of the victims. Is he not justified in his anger about this? And do you see a plausible way to maintain good working relations with his government?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the latter question, as I said, the President and President Karzai spoke today. The relationship is very important. It’s very important to us and it’s very important to Afghanistan. So on the latter, obviously, we need to keep working together.

Is he justified in being angry? We’re all justified in being angry. It was a horrific incident.

Please, Kim.

QUESTION: What part is the State Department, is the Embassy playing in these negotiations? When Karzai says that the U.S. is not cooperating with the Afghans in this investigation, I assume he’s talking about the military. Has the State Department got a role in here to play in this investigation or the relations between the two?

MS. NULAND: This was an act by an active duty member of the military, so it’ll obviously be investigated in military channels. We do not have a role here in that.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Actually, before we leave Afghanistan, I had meant today to make clear how saddened the United States was by the death of 12 Turkish soldiers and two civilians in a helicopter accident near Kabul. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and the friends of the victims, and we understand that an investigation is underway into the cause.

Jill.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the aid for Egypt going forward now that all of this seems to be kind of pushed to the side?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, before any of the Fiscal Year 2012 security assistance or economic assistance for Egypt can be spent, Secretary Clinton needs to certify to Congress that Egypt has met certain criteria or she has waive those requirements in the national interest. So no decisions have been made yet on these issues. We are, though, now engaged in consultations with a broad cross-section of interested groups to help inform the decision that she will make. These include, obviously, colleagues on the Hill, members of Congress, their staff, who are and will be being briefed, and we’ll be having discussions with them, key Egyptians, both inside and outside of government, members of the U.S. think tank and NGO community, and a broad cross-section of people who have long been involved in U.S. and Egyptian relations.

Our goal, as we go forward with this process that the Secretary has to make a decision on, is to satisfy the intent of the legislation while maintaining the strongest possible foundations for the U.S.-Egyptian relationship going forward, supporting the Egyptian people’s aspirations for democratic change and increased economic opportunity, and promoting regional stability.

So we don’t anticipate making these decisions next week. Perhaps middle of next week; we’ll have to see how it goes.

QUESTION: So you do or you don’t?

MS. NULAND: We do not anticipate making any decisions this week, this week being nearly over.

QUESTION: But you said next week, there --

MS. NULAND: There – we may be able to make – she may be able to – in a – be in a position to make these decisions by the middle of next week, but we’ll just have to see.

QUESTION: And one more thing. You said that you wanted to both satisfy the intent of the legislation while providing a sound foundation for U.S.-Egyptian relations going forward. I mean, is it fair to say that the intent of the legislation is to ensure that the U.S. Secretary of State believes that the Egyptian authorities are respecting the various freedoms that are described?

MS. NULAND: Well, there are a couple of pieces of this. There’s one that goes to their regional security obligations. There is one set of concerns that goes to whether the democratic transition process is on track. So obviously, all of those things have to be considered. And as I made clear, it is also in U.S. national interest and our own interest to support the aspirations of the Egyptian people going forward for a more democratic future.

QUESTION: Yeah. What I’m trying to get at really is whether satisfying the intent of the legislation that, as we’re all aware, includes the national security waiver authority. So you could argue that if she waives, even if she doesn’t believe that they’re satisfying the other conditions, that you have still satisfied the intent of the legislation, which – part of which was clearly to give her the authority to waive. Correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into all of the various options that one could consider in this circumstance. What I was trying to do here was to make clear that the Congress set forward some criteria. We share an interest in those criteria. We also have an interest in preserving strong U.S.-Egyptian foundation of the relationship, as does the Congress and as do the American people. And all along, we’ve been clear that we want to see and we want to support a more democratic and a more prosperous Egypt, and we want to see the region stay secure. So those are a lot of things that have to be kept strong and kept in balance as we move forward with this.

QUESTION: And one other question, just as sort of an ordinary citizen question.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, why does the Egyptian military now need, and have needed for lo the last three decades, more than a billion dollars in military aid every year? I mean, why is that – why does it need that? It has a peace treaty with Israel, so Israel’s not going to attack them, they wouldn’t presumably think. So why the very high and longstanding – why is this necessary now?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t – I’m not going to, from this podium – I’ll send you to DOD to break down what the money buys. However, Egypt has, for many, many years, played a vital role in regional stability and regional security. It’s not only a question of its obligations and commitments vis-a-vis its neighbor Israel and with regard to Sinai. There are issues having to do with Suez, there are issues having to do with the role it plays as a regional player, and it is in that context that the United States and Egypt have had a very, very strong military-to-military relationship for lo these many decades.

And frankly, as we’ve discussed from this platform before, that relationship between the U.S. military and the Egyptian military has also enabled us to have influence during this period of transition, and it enabled us to have influence at a time when the Egyptian military had to decide whether it was going to fire on its own people or whether it was going to support change. And it’s enabled us also to have influence at a time when the military is undergirding this transition until it can get to a place where we can have a handoff to an elected government.

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: Toria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just a couple of follow-ups, please.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Why can’t the Secretary make a decision this week? What is she waiting for?

MS. NULAND: She wants to consult broadly, as I said, and to look at all these factors before making a decision.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you coordinated Speaker Pelosi – not Speaker – sorry – Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Cairo? Is she carrying any message for the Secretary, or is she going to be speaking on this issue with people while she’s there?

MS. NULAND: I frankly, I must admit, was not aware that the Speaker* was going. So I don’t know that there’s any linkage between our decision timetable and that. But obviously, Speaker* Pelosi is one of the people that we will be consulting with as the Secretary makes her decision.

*Former Speaker

QUESTION: Okay. And Toria, just --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one last technical question. The amount of aid we’re talking about, if the Secretary does go forward with a waiver, we’re talking about a portion of the aid, aren’t we? We’re not talking about the whole 1.3 for military plus. Is it staggered or --

MS. NULAND: Those kinds of decisions have not been made. This is – no aid could move without any of these decisions, so how --

QUESTION: No aid or no military aid?

MS. NULAND: No FMF or – and no ESF.

QUESTION: Okay, sorry.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: Oh, and just to follow on that, though --

QUESTION: But if it does --

MS. NULAND: None of the 2012 money --

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that there could be a partial instead of – for lack of a better word, a partial certification or a partial waiver so that a portion of that money would go, but a portion would remain on hold pending --

MS. NULAND: There are a --

QUESTION: -- certification or a waiver down – another certification or another waiver down the road?

MS. NULAND: Depend --

QUESTION: That’s – my understanding is that it is, but --

MS. NULAND: There are a number of ways that the Secretary could choose to implement the intent of the Congress. You could make this decision one time and then make subsequent decisions about apportionment. You could make it a couple of times. That’s – there are complications with that as well. But no decisions have been made on any of these kinds of questions that you’re asking.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, theoretically, since you’re willing to answer hypothetical questions --

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) You got me on a hypothetical day.

QUESTION: -- one could say, okay, we’re going to certify – we’re going to give you a partial certification, I’m going to give you $10 for this program, I’m going to – just as an example – or a hundred thousand dollars for this one program, but then the rest of it is going to have to --

MS. NULAND: Matt, each of these pieces of legislation is distinct, and I think before going down the rabbit hole of predicting what is possible under this particular statute, let me just pledge to you that we will make sure you all are fully briefed on the options when the time comes, okay?

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. NULAND: Are we still on Egypt? No?

QUESTION: No.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Can we go to Catherine, Said, since we --

QUESTION: Yes, I’m sorry.

MS. NULAND: Are you still on Egypt, Said?

QUESTION: No, I’m not.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: I want to go --

MS. NULAND: Catherine.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the Secretary’s meeting with George Clooney yesterday and --

MS. NULAND: I don’t, and I missed it myself.

QUESTION: Oh, shoot.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a statement on his arrest outside the Embassy this morning?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s – he was exercising his rights as a citizen. Beyond that, I don’t have a statement.

QUESTION: Do you support what he says he was protesting, which, according to his representative, is violence committed by the Government of Sudan on its own innocent women, men, and children, and demanding humanitarian aid into the country?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have been, in terms of the substance, in precisely the same place that Princeton Lyman, the Secretary’s special representative, testified alongside George Clooney just a couple of days ago. We absolutely share his concern about the ongoing violence in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. We’re continuing, as you know, to press for an end to the violence. Mr. Clooney, as you said, met not only with the Secretary yesterday. He also met with the President. And we believe it’s absolutely critical for the Government of Sudan to allow humanitarian access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to alleviate the humanitarian suffering. And we believe that all of this can be accomplished if we can actually implement the AU-UN-AL tripartite agreement, which remains unimplemented.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) issue --

QUESTION: Can we go back to Egypt for one second --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- just to clarify something? And maybe I misunderstood it, but looking at the legislation, it says none of the funds appropriated under titles III and IV of this act and in prior acts, making appropriations for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs may be made available for the assistance – for the central government of Egypt unless the Secretary of State certifies to the Committee on Appropriations that such government is meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Okay? So that’s one set.

The second one --

MS. NULAND: It’s always dangerous when they start reading legislation to you from the bullpen.

QUESTION: The second one – but the second one is – so – is what we’ve really been talking about, which is the democracy stuff. And prior to the obligation of funds appropriated under the heading Foreign Military Financing Program, Secretary of State shall certify to the Committee on Appropriations that the Government of Egypt is supporting the transition to a civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion in due process of law.

So if I understand it correctly, all of the aid is subject to its keeping to the peace treaty with Israel, but only the military aid is subject to the pro-democracy – is subject to the democracy and civil society conditions.

MS. NULAND: Well, you’ve just read me a piece of the legislation, but I’m not sure it’s complete. My understanding was both the FMF and the ESF, the Economic Support Funds, are subject to both requirements.

QUESTION: Okay. Maybe I misunderstood.

MS. NULAND: Please. Scott.

QUESTION: There are calls by some in Congress for the Administration to suspend military and security assistance to the Government of Honduras because of the killing – the suspicious killing of another journalist there. Can you speak to – is that an issue that you’ve raised with the Government of Honduras, and your – any guarantees about the respect for human rights there?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, I think you know, Scott, that we have consistently and strongly spoken to the Government of Honduras about not only press human rights, but human rights standards in general. We have consistently called for prompt and credible investigations of these cases. We also have sent some of our prosecutorial and investigative advisors to Honduras to try to help them with some of these issues, so – and we will continue to speak out on these issues.

QUESTION: Is there any – at present, are you considering that congressional request to suspend aid? Or is that something that you’ve discussed with the Government of Honduras?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think the concerns that we have with this particular proposal is that it calls for a cutting of all aid to Honduras. And I think you know that Honduras is the murder capital of the world right now based on per capita incidents, particularly in Tegucigalpa. So the money that we give in assistance to Honduras is primarily focused on rule of law, crime, strengthening the police, counternarcotics programs, human rights programs, democracy programs. So I think we have a concern that this recommendation to cut it all off is a relatively blunt instrument, especially given the other concerns that we have in Honduras. So our preferred course of action is to continue to speak out strongly and to send advisors and other assistance to help them improve the system.

Please.

QUESTION: Victoria?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: There is a Palestinian woman, 29-year-old Hana Shalabi, she has been – she was arrested on February 16 and been on a hunger strike ever since. The Human Rights Rapporteur, Mr. Falk, called her situation critical and grave and called Israel’s practice of administrative detention illegal. Do you have a comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Said, I got your interest in this case yesterday. I have to say that we are still working on this particular one and we’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: But do you – does the U.S. have a position on the administrative detention by Israel?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to take the larger question and the small question.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: As far as human rights are concerned in Pakistan, if you are aware of it, there is known as Asia Bibi.

MS. NULAND: I am not, Goyal.

QUESTION: Under the blasphemy law, she has been sentenced to death and she condemned the charges because – what they’re saying is that she had some kind of abuse or accused under the blasphemy law. Christian lady.

MS. NULAND: I’m not aware of that one, Goyal. I don’t have any comment today.

QUESTION: And second, if I may, as far as trafficking in human is concerned, Secretary was co-chairing the -- at the White House. My concern is here that trafficking in humans is a big concern as far as from India, from South Asia, and especially from India but other nations: Sri Lanka. So where do we stand? Are you taking any special steps to stop all this from these poor countries?

MS. NULAND: Well, as the Secretary made clear, and as our annual trafficking progress reports makes clear, this is a priority in the work of all of our embassies. And we try to work intensively with the government to strengthen their programs, and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Ros?

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of the MEK as a terrorist group?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that the review is ongoing. Beyond going back to something that the Secretary said when she was on the Hill, I don’t have anything new to say. I think the Secretary made clear that it is important to us in the context of looking at this review that the MEK vacate its last known terrorist camp in Ashraf and that that would be a factor in our decision if they were be able to do that.

QUESTION: What about the court order that is asking for a response from this building by, I believe, next Friday in response to some petition on – for action on petition to be removed from the list? Do you have anything on that?

MS. NULAND: I’m not aware of any next Friday deadline, Ros. If you have something on that, you can send it us.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. NULAND: But we are going to do this in a deliberative way.

QUESTION: Can I try – you’re going to get bombarded. I just want to make sure that you meant to say – you meant to call Camp Ashraf a terrorist camp.

MS. NULAND: I don’t know what I meant to call it. Suffice it to say, that what the Secretary on the Hill is our statement of record on that subject.

QUESTION: Right, but do you – does the United States –

MS. NULAND: The closure of camp – sorry, it’s main paramilitary base. Thank you, Matt. As the Secretary said, the closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s main paramilitary base, will be a key factor in any decision regarding the MEK’s FTO status. Thank you for cleaning up my language as usual, Matt.

QUESTION: One more. Do you anything further to what you said yesterday about the Ethiopian incursion into Eritrea?

MS. NULAND: I do not. We are continuing to work with the Ethiopians to understand exactly where they are and what their intent is. All right. Thanks everybody. Happy Friday.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:09 p.m.)

Source: state.gov

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