State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, February 10, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 10, 2012. 

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Budget Rollout
    • Amb. Ford Facebook Page / Imagery Available / StateOnDemand
    • A/S Feltman Trip/ Meetings with Arab and European Leaders / Spiral of Violence Continues / Sanctions
    • Transfer of Power / A/S Blake Travel to Male
    • al-Shabaab
    • Pakistan’s Internal Review
    • Detention of U Shin Gambira
    • Allocco Case / Consular Support
    • Poet Zhu Yufu Prison Sentence / Human Rights Situation / Chinese VP Visit
    • Jordan Rounds / David Hale Travel
    • Foreign Minister Davutoglo Meeting Monday / Iran


12:49 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Happy Friday, everybody. All right. A couple of housekeeping things before we start. First of all, on Monday we’re not going to do a full-up brief. We’re just going to gaggle, probably around 11:30. This is because we have White House budget rollout at 12:30, and then we’ll have Deputy Secretary Nides and AID Administrator Shah at 1:30 here for our budget rollout. And then after that, we have the Secretary with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. So plenty of news, but we’ll do our business early in gaggle format on Monday.

QUESTION: So what time is the Secretary meeting with Davutoglu?

MS. NULAND: She’s giving him lunch, then they’re having a meeting, and I think the presser is somewhere in the 3 o’clock area. I’m not sure precisely. Okay? A lot to talk about there, obviously.

Second item, for those of you who are fans of our Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s Facebook site, just because he’s left the country doesn’t mean he’s not up and running still, talking to the Syrian people. I commend to you his post of yesterday which included some declassified U.S. national imagery of destruction of Homs – very gruesome pictures showing lines of tanks, showing fire, showing the kind of thing that you really only see if you have a major military attacking in a civilian area.

We will have more of this declassified U.S. national imagery available both on Robert’s site in coming days but also on our new site, where news organizations can find all of our content to pull down around the world. These will be pictures – the ones coming later today will be pictures of Zabadani, of Halbun, and of Rankus. Our intent here is to, obviously, expose the ruthlessness of the brutality of this regime and its overwhelming predominant military advantage and the horrible kinds of weaponry that it’s deploying against its people.

Robert will also be continuing to use the Facebook site to talk to the Syrian people on a regular basis along with his Twitter feed.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Well, talking about the photos, those photos, are the ones that you’re going to be releasing later any more clear? Because the ones that are on the Facebook post —

MS. NULAND: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: — are not very clear. And frankly, I don’t think that – I mean, unless you are a trained military analyst, you wouldn’t be able to see what it is that you say there is. I mean, I looked at those pictures and I couldn’t tell what it was.

MS. NULAND: Well, first off, the images that are going to be coming are going to be better resolution. But more importantly, if you are interested as a news organization in using these photos, the resolution is going to be a lot better on the stateondemand site than you get when you put them on Facebook and they go through the Facebook filter. So we are working on that.

If, as we put them up, you conclude that you’d like a briefing, an analyst to walk you through exactly what is there, we can arrange that, of course, too.

QUESTION: Yeah. That will be great. For other countries as well.

Can I just ask about Jeff Feltman’s trip and how it’s going as it relates to Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, Assistant Secretary Feltman was in Paris yesterday. He was working with the French. He also had some meetings, as we said yesterday, with Arab leaders. He’s now in Bahrain attending a conference that includes a broad cross-section of Arab leaders as well as European leaders. So the work continues on putting together the Friends of a Democratic Syria or the Friends of the Syrian People. We’re still working on the name. And we’ll see how that goes as the weekend proceeds.

QUESTION: You’re still working on the name?

MS. NULAND: We are.

QUESTION: Is that an issue of contention really?

MS. NULAND: It’s an issue that needs to be consensual among the friends.


QUESTION: Where do those photos come from exactly?

MS. NULAND: They are declassified U.S. national imagery. So you can imagine that they started out classified, and beyond that I’m going to let you use your imagination.

QUESTION: And that site, the ondemand site, is that new or —

MS. NULAND: It is a new site for us to bundle all our content and make it more available to you.

QUESTION: As of now?


QUESTION: Did it just start in Syria?

MS. NULAND: No, it’s been – it’s a – it’s run by the Department for content from around the world to give you pictures and content from all of our various folks.

QUESTION: But it just started —

MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. Mark is telling me relatively recently. I think about a month ago. So if we didn’t shout it out then, we should have.

QUESTION: Victoria, these images from Syria, now are they U.S. sources or are they collected through YouTube and so on? I didn’t – I know you answered that, but I couldn’t hear you.

MS. NULAND: U.S. declassified national imagery.

QUESTION: So you are certain of the sources? It’s not someone that has sent it?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Continuing on Syria, on the name. Now, what would the difference be between Friends of Syria and Friends of a Democratic Syria in terms of a message that the Syrian people should receive?

MS. NULAND: You’re getting me ahead of where we are. I think we really shouldn’t be parsing these kinds of details. We’re simply trying to work through what the various countries involved think the right name is, think the right agenda is, think the right timing for the first meeting is – all those kinds of things. So this is live diplomacy going on now, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you think that choosing a name like Friends of Democratic Syria automatically puts these friends in opposition to the regime and in opposition to the system that is there and aiding the opposition to the regime?

MS. NULAND: Said, the goal of all of the countries and partners that we expect will participate in this is to support the kind of plan that the Arab League put forward, which spoke very clearly about a democratic transition in Syria.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are the reports – and it’s correct – that Syria does have chemical weapons. There has been some concern that something might get loose, something might be used. And all of this aside, are there any direct efforts now to talk with Syria and hopefully get some type of insurance that nothing is going to go astray, nothing would be used?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have anything new to say to you on this subject. You know that for many years we’ve had a dialogue with Syria about the importance of security and safety of these weapons. We’ve had concerns about these weapons and we’ve been trying to work on them. So that was always part and parcel of our diplomacy with Syria.


QUESTION: I’m just – back to the kind of Friends of a Democratic Syria, whatever you’re going to call it, the group, I’m just wondering if, as you plan this meeting and the proposed dates that we’re hearing are ways away, I’m just wondering if you’re not going to be overtaken by events on the ground. I mean, hundreds of people are getting killed every day. Is there more immediate – are there any type of steps that you can take in the immediate to protect some civilians? I mean, there’s been – I know you’ve been talking about it for days, but I mean, I just don’t understand what – if you’re going to have a meeting weeks down the line and you’re talking about more sanctions, you’re talking about trying to increase the pressure, I mean, I’m just wondering if you’re not going to be overtaken by events on the ground and the level of killing just continues to increase.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, you’re not wrong. The killing increases. The killing is obviously being planned and executed primarily at the hands of the regime. We have reports that on February 9th, at least 137 people were killed by pro-regime forces throughout Syria, 110 of those in Homs. You’ve seen the press reporting of suicide bombings now in Aleppo, which had previously been a relatively peaceful place in Syria. So obviously, we are deeply concerned about this spiral of violence.

That said, even in advance of this meeting, as we have said, and part of the Secretary’s diplomacy, the President’s diplomacy, Assistant Secretary Feltman’s diplomacy with all of these countries is to begin – is to continue working on this track that we’ve been working on for some months to increase the economic and political pressure on the regime.

On the economic side, I think you’ve seen the reporting that the Europeans are considering in the very near future, greatly ratcheting up their own sanctions. We’re talking to the Arabs about what they might do at their Arab League summit with regard to the sanctions that they have on the books, but they have to make some decisions about implementing how that might work, et cetera. So we are not stopping and waiting while we plan this meeting and this new group. We are obviously continuing the work that we’ve done, and the diplomacy leading up to the meeting obviously gives us an opportunity to work with countries about the agenda.

QUESTION: Just one more: I understand that you’re continuing additional sanctions, but as you know, these kind of sanctions take a while to implement, and for there to be a tipping point in which the regime would make a strategic choice to end the violence. So how do you take steps in the short term while you wait for these sanctions to work in the long term? I mean, what kind of more immediate steps in terms of humanitarian access? I know that there’s a lot of talk. I know you’ve been speaking about safe havens or corridors. I mean, what type of immediate, tangible steps can you do to help the people on the ground while you wait for these very tough measures to be implemented and the regime to feel the effect?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, with regard to the sanctions that have already been implemented and those that we’re looking to increase and tighten, we are seeing the effect. We have been seeing the effect for a number of weeks, actually a number of months. If you have followed the press reporting about what’s happening with the Syrian currency in freefall, the regime increasingly having difficulty trading around the world, the regime increasingly having to resort to its reserves in order to fuel this violence – again, we’ve spoken out about this in the context of stealing the wealth of all Syrians to fuel the killing machine and how horrible that is – but one should be under no illusions. The regime is beginning to feel the heat.

So what is the effect of this kind of thing, and why do you want to continue to tighten that noose? It’s not only about Assad himself and the regime turning a switch, seeing the light. It’s also about those who support the regime inside Syria, whether it’s those who take up arms in its name or whether it’s the business elites who have to decide about their own money and their own future. We’re trying to influence all of these groups to abandon this regime and to side with a democratic Syria. So the degree to which you bring economic pressure, we’re also seeing the results of that in choices by some senior figures around the regime starting to move their families, trying to move their money, the increasing pace of military defections. All of these things are important for the tipping point we’re trying to reach.


QUESTION: Victoria, at today’s bombing in Aleppo, someone claiming to speak on behalf of the Syrian Free Army called the BBC and took responsibility for that. Do you think that such things will complicate whatever aid might be in the offing that may be delivered to the Free Syrian Army or the opposition?

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the two bombings in Aleppo, we have seen the regime blame the opposition and the FSA. We’ve seen members of the opposition accuse the regime of staging these kinds of bombings for propaganda effect. Frankly, we don’t know what the ground truth is here. The concern is simply that the violence is spiraling.

QUESTION: Should this turn out to be true that someone actually did call the BBC and tell them that the Syrian Free Army did that, would that – do you think that makes life difficult for giving any kind of aid?

MS. NULAND: Our point here is, Said, that there are claims and counterclaims of responsibility. This is a very dangerous situation, as the President’s been saying, as the Secretary’s been saying, with regard to the potential of where this violence could cycle to. So that is why the international community has got to do what we can to assist these parties in getting to a democratic transition.

QUESTION: Back to the diplomacy on the meeting, you seemed to suggest, I think, that the name of this group is an actual issue. So if the name were – can a nondemocratic state be a member of the friends of democratic Syria? In other words, like, Saudi or some of the Gulf countries? Is that an issue?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think you are taking us to places that we’re not at yet. Obviously, we have to –

QUESTION: Aren’t you – isn’t this being discussed?

MS. NULAND: What it might be called?

QUESTION: Yes. You said it was. I mean, I –

MS. NULAND: No. I mean, I don’t know that there’s – I’m not trying to claim that there’s any contention about the name. I’m simply saying that until the group is formed, until the group is announced, we’re not going to know what the name is. So I wouldn’t read too much into that. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know who Jeff met with in Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: As I said, he’s at this conference that the Bahrainis have, I think, on an annual basis, and there are a broad cross-section of Arab leaders there, there are also a lot of Europeans there. I think it was less a matter of sitting down and having bilaterals the way one would in a formal way and talking to as many people as he could. I don’t have an actual list of who he got a chance to see.

QUESTION: How about the meetings that he had with Arab – and forgive me if you said this in yesterday’s briefing – with the Arab officials that he met in Paris yesterday? Were they the Saudis, the Qataris –

MS. NULAND: I know that he met with Arab League Syria coordinator, the Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim. I believe he had at least one other meeting, but I don’t know who it was.

QUESTION: Can you check if it was with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal?

MS. NULAND: I will. I think I would have remembered, but I’ll certainly check whether he had a chance to see him.


QUESTION: Toria, just back to Syria. Is there anything more you can say about these senior members of the regime trying to move their families or their money? Who and where?

MS. NULAND: I think you’d be taking us into the realm of intelligence and some of our sourcing on the ground that we want to protect. So at this point, let me just assert that we are beginning to see this trend accelerate.

QUESTION: Once they – once people are getting out of the country, are they contacting you? I mean, as of maybe last week, there were no indications that maybe while they were moving their people out of the country that there was a direct pipeline to members of the regime or members of his inner circle, of the business community that were beginning to abandon him and contact you.

Just to take us back to Libya, I remember you speaking out very forcefully about that you were getting kind of rumblings from people.


QUESTION: Are you starting to be contacted by people that are looking to get out, looking to abandon the regime?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say that I think it’s premature for us to be talking about those issues. Obviously, the first thing people need is a way out. They need to get somewhere with their families and their money. The Syrian National Council does report increasing interest in help from it by a number of people in (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) violence by any group in Syria?


QUESTION: — with the caveat that people have the right to defend themselves. Do you think that caveat can embolden some action that maybe action like we’ve seen today, among some certain circles in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Said, we’ve talked about this every day this week. We want to see a nonviolent solution to this. We want to see the violence, first and foremost, at the hands of the regime, end. And it is Assad that bears responsibility for this.

Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: Maldives?

MS. NULAND: Sorry?

QUESTION: Maldives.


QUESTION: Yeah. Madam, any comments that – the ousted president has said that he was ousted at gunpoint. Do you believe it was some kind of a military coup against him?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, the circumstances are murky, they are contested, the situation is somewhat fluid. As you know, after the briefing yesterday, we put out a clarification of precisely where we are with regard to the Maldives. So just to repeat that, our position is that we will work with the Government of the Maldives, but believe that the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power need to be clarified, and we also suggest that all parties agree to an independent mechanism to do that.

As I said, Assistant Secretary Bob Blake will be there – he’ll be in Mali tomorrow – and he will see all of the major players and have a chance to talk about an appropriate way forward in reconciliation and national unity mechanism.

QUESTION: Well, the – are you happy the way now the new leader is there and the ousted president is unhappy that he was ousted at gunpoint? And second, if any way he had indicated any kind of problems before he was ousted to the U.S. in any way?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that one way or the other, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: When you said that you will work with the Government of the Maldives, that means that you do not regard this as a coup; correct?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think what – where we are is that the circumstances are contested, and we need to have Bob Blake get there, talk to the various parties before we start opining one way or the other ourselves, because there are a lot of contested facts here that need to be sorted.

QUESTION: Right. But in the interim, you will – you do not —

MS. NULAND: In the interim, I’m not going to opine at all.

QUESTION: Well, but you say – you didn’t opine, but you said you will work with the government, which means that you don’t have – you don’t regard it as an illegal or unconstitutionally created government; correct?

MS. NULAND: Again, we – I got myself in a place yesterday that was not borne out by the facts, so we’re going to stick exactly where we are, which is that Bob is going to go talk to the current president, he’s going to talk to the former president, he’s going to talk to representatives from all the political parties. And between now and then, until he has a chance to report and make recommendations, our posture is that we are going to work with the government, but we believe that the circumstances need to be clarified. We’re going to try to clarify them for ourselves, and we also think that the parties need to agree on a mechanism forward.

QUESTION: Okay. So there has – so you have not made a determination about whether this was an extra-constitutional change in power?

MS. NULAND: We do not have a clear view of the facts at the moment.



QUESTION: — I just want to make sure that means that after Blake is there, you will come to an assessment one way or another?

MS. NULAND: I would expect that we will have, certainly, ideas about the way forward, and with regard to what we’re dealing with now, yes.


QUESTION: Can I ask about —

MS. NULAND: Still on Maldives?

QUESTION: Yes, a quick one on Maldives: According to some businesses here, that the president was pro-business and also he brought some economic growth and prosperity for the people of Maldives, and most of the people are not happy what happened in their country, like they’re confused, like you said.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re also at that point where we need to sort through the facts and we need to talk to all the parties, okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Nicole.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask if the Embassy or the lawyers for the NGO workers in Egypt have seen the charging documents yet, if there’s any progress.

MS. NULAND: We have not.

QUESTION: Still not.

MS. NULAND: We have not.

QUESTION: Do you have an indication of when you might?

MS. NULAND: We have been asking for them; we have not seen them.

QUESTION: So what was the document that you made reference to on Wednesday, then?

MS. NULAND: You missed our fabulous briefing yesterday, Arshad, in which I had to say that we had miscommunication with our Embassy in Cairo. They were expecting to see it when I said we had seen it.

QUESTION: Got it, sorry.

MS. NULAND: In fact, we did not see it, and still haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: What is the latest in the situation with Egypt?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to report.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to Scott, who’s been patient in the back. Sorry.

QUESTION: Just quick, just on Egypt?

MS. NULAND: On Egypt, yeah.

QUESTION: Can you find out if Feltman saw any Egyptians —

MS. NULAND: I don’t believe that he did.

QUESTION: — in Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: I don’t – oh, in Bahrain?


MS. NULAND: Yeah, let’s take that one. Yes.


QUESTION: Al-Qaida and al-Shabaab seem to have consummated their longstanding relationship. Any reaction and how you think that might complicate efforts to bring peace in Somalia?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the press reporting. Obviously, one can’t independently verify these things, but obviously, it’s bad and it’s dangerous, and it’s further to our grave concerns about al-Shabaab and the danger it poses in that part of the world.

QUESTION: Any – would that affect the way that the Obama Administration supports the African Union mission there? Perhaps additional intelligence, anything to try to counter this union?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re looking at what the implications might be, but I don’t want to predict any changes in policy at the moment.


QUESTION: Pakistan?


MS. NULAND: Let’s do Russia, then go to Pakistan.

QUESTION: Yes. I was wondering if you had any comments on the Russian engineer who was sentenced to 13 years for passing data to the CIA (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We don’t comment on intelligence matters, as you can imagine.

Okay. Goyal.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, any update as far as any openings of U.S.-Pakistan relations, as far as goods going through or not, or any – this new budget has anything, any new fundings for Pakistan because of what’s going on between the two countries as you —

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about our Fiscal Year 2013 requests that we’re going to roll out on Monday? I think we’ll roll that out on Monday. I don’t have anything new to report on the U.S.-Pakistan side. We are still where we’ve been, which is awaiting the completion of the internal review on the Pakistani side.

QUESTION: And one more thing quickly: Many people have been asking that – as far as Usama bin Ladin’s hiding in Pakistan, what many people were asking here, if ever Pakistan had apologized to the U.S. that they were hiding knowingly, or if U.S. ever asked any apology from Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new on that for you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Anybody else?


MS. NULAND: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the subject of Argentina and the Falklands came up —


QUESTION: — and the question was: Is the United States concerned about what the Argentine president says is a militarization of the South Atlantic? You said you hadn’t been briefed on the military postures, but I’m wondering if you have an answer to that question today.

MS. NULAND: So we didn’t get back to you one way or the other, so let us make sure that we do. But I don’t have anything further right now.

QUESTION: Okay. And then do you have anything on this monk in Burma who was one of the people behind the Saffron Revolution, who was released and then today was arrested again?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. This is the reported re-arrest of —


MS. NULAND: — U Gambira, you’re —

QUESTION: — Gambira.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, U Gambira, Ashin Gambira. We are deeply concerned that Burmese authorities removed U Gambira from a monastery in Rangoon early in the morning on February 10th. His whereabouts are still unknown. U Gambira is a former political prisoner who was one of those released on January 13th. We urge the Government of Burma to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to provide clarification on the purpose of his detention.

Given the Burmese Government’s stated commitment to reform and democratization, we call on Burmese authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens, including all of those recently released from detention.

QUESTION: Do you – does – that means that you are – you’re confident that the government was the one – that it was – that he was taken by security or police or whoever, and that he is being held by the government?

MS. NULAND: We are confident, based on our Embassy reporting, that he was officially detained, yes.


MS. NULAND: And it is of concern.

QUESTION: And then I wanted to know, back on Angola again, if there’s anything new in that case, if you have any concerns for the safety of these American citizens much in the same way you have concerns about the safety of this monk in Burma.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new over what I said to you yesterday, which we consider to be accurate in terms of our information and experience with these individuals. They are subject to the fraud case, and now there’s an investigation about what happened on the evening that the son appeared at the Embassy. We are providing all consular support to them. We are in daily contact with them.

QUESTION: Is that – that’s an investigation by the Angolans or an investigation —

MS. NULAND: By the Angolans.

QUESTION: And is the Embassy looking into it at all, into its handling of this situation?

MS. NULAND: Into the Angolan Government’s handling?

QUESTION: No. I’m wondering if there’s any kind of look being taken into how the Embassy handled this situation up to this point. It’s my understanding the Embassy has not been particularly forthcoming with information, either to this building or to members of Congress.

MS. NULAND: That is not my information, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, okay. We’ll talk about it afterwards.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: You just said that your – which has been your position earlier, that you are waiting for the parliamentary review to complete. But —

MS. NULAND: Subject Pakistan?

QUESTION: Yeah. But it seems that the Government of Pakistan is caught up with so many internal issues, there is a kind of judicial crisis there, government versus judiciary or something. So does that concern you, although that is Pakistan’s internal matter, that it could delay the completion of internal review and forwarding of recommendations to United States?

MS. NULAND: Well, our sense from our contacts with the Pakistani Government is that they are still trying to work through the issues, and we will be patient as they work through these things.

QUESTION: Have they given you any timeline as to when these are going to be forwarded?

MS. NULAND: We are talking about what we might expect. But again, I’m going to refer you to Pakistan because it’s subject to their process, so I think it’s they you should be asking about the timing.


QUESTION: A veteran Chinese dissident Zhu Yufu has been put in prison for inciting subversion of state power by a court in Hangzhou in eastern China. Apparently his crime was posting a poem and some other stuff on the internet that called for mobilizing in the name of democracy. Do you have any comment on his incarceration, and do you expect his name to get raised when the Chinese vice president is in town?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the last question, let me just say, as the Vice President’s made clear in recent days, we always talk about the human rights situation in China when we have high-level visitors. I expect that will be the case. But with regard to specific cases that they may or may not raise, I would refer you to them. I think you got the notice that the White House will be doing a backgrounder on the visit later this afternoon.

With regard to the case of Zhu Yufu, we are deeply concerned about these reports that he’s been found guilty of inciting subversion of state power and sentenced to seven years in prison for writing a poem. We remain more broadly deeply concerned about the worsening human rights situation in China, including the Chinese Government’s harsh sentences of human rights activists and recent violence in Tibetan areas. We believe that Mr. Zhu’s conviction, as well as the recent lengthy convictions of Chen Wei, Chen Xi, Li Tie, are inconsistent with China’s commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we call on the Chinese Government to release Zhu Yufu and all others detained for exercising their rights and to respect the universal human rights of all their citizens.

QUESTION: The tone of your reply suggests that the U.S. – that either you or the U.S. Government doesn’t believe that writing a poem should be punished by any kind of jail term. But do you – is it possible that poems can be subversive? Do you think some of —

MS. NULAND: Well, you know how we feel about freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But I mean, poems can be subversive, can’t they?

MS. NULAND: You know how we feel about freedom of speech and freedom of expression.


QUESTION: There are press reports quoting Palestinian officials saying that the Palestinian Authority decided not to return to their talks with Israel in Jordan. Did Ambassador Hale confirm this to you?

MS. NULAND: We are still engaged with the parties. We believe this process was a good one. We want to see the parties return to the talks. So as you know, we often in these cases have a press report here, a press report there. David Hale remains in the region. He’s coming home, I think, tomorrow, so we’ll get a report from him for the Secretary when he comes back.

QUESTION: Has he been in touch with you in the last day or so?

MS. NULAND: David Hale?

QUESTION: David Hale.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. He’s in touch with us every day. He’s one of our pen pals.

QUESTION: Okay. And what did he say?

MS. NULAND: What did he say?

QUESTION: I mean, what – how did he assess the situation?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think where we remain is that we think that these Jordan rounds were good preliminary meetings. We think that it’s important to continue this process, and that’s what we’re working to.


QUESTION: Just one more.

MS. NULAND: Arshad.

QUESTION: The Turkish foreign minister this morning told a number of reporters that the Iranians have agreed to resume talks with the P-5+1, and he said there may be some technical issues, including the matter of a response to the Ashton letter. Just for the record, have you – are you aware of any response to the Ashton letter, one? And two, if not, are you aware of any material evidence that suggests that the Iranians are indeed prepared to return to talks on a basis that the P-5+1 might find acceptable?

MS. NULAND: With regard to response to Ashton, the answer is no. We don’t have anything new. With regard to new evidence, nothing that I have particularly seen or heard about. But more broadly I think the Secretary does look forward to hearing directly from Foreign Minister Davutoglu about his contacts and how he comes to the conclusions when she sees him on Monday. I do expect that Iran will be one of the subjects that they work through.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Thanks very much, everybody. Happy Friday.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)