State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, February 21, 2013


Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 21, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Bomb Blasts in Hyderabad
    • Ongoing Violence in Damascus / Car Bomb
    • Assad Regime’s Bombing of Palmyra
    • Syrian Opposition Coalition
  • MALI
    • Fierce Fighting in Gao
    • Loss of Life in War / Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
    • Violence in Protests / Dialogue
    • Future of Venezuela
  • IRAN
    • Intentions to Install Advanced Centrifuges
  • CUBA
    • State Sponsor of Terrorism List
    • Counterterrorism
    • Energy Needs
  • IRAN
    • Enrichment Activities
    • Hague Abduction Treaty


1:04 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Thursday. Apologies to be out late today. Got a late start.

Let me start with one thing, and that’s with regard to the bomb blasts in Hyderabad, India today. We condemn the cowardly attack in Hyderabad, India in the strongest possible terms, and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected and to the people of India. As you know, Secretary Kerry will have a chance to see Indian Foreign Secretary Mathai later this afternoon, and he will convey our sympathies in person and affirm our support for India during this difficult time. The United States stands with India in combating the scourge of terrorism, and we are also prepared to offer any and all assistance that Indian authorities may need.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Have you received any kind of information on who was behind these attacks?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have any information to share here. The Indian authorities are obviously investigating, so we would refer you to them.

QUESTION: And has Indian Government requested for any assistance at this point of time?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information about that yet. This is relatively recent. It’s possible that when Foreign Secretary Mathai is here later today, we’ll hear more about that.

QUESTION: Do you see any coincident? Recently, French President was there, and now Prime Minister Cameron also in India. Do you relate any of these coincident because of their visits there or India-U.S. cooperations, India-UK cooperations, or India-French cooperations?

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I’m certainly not going to get in ahead of the investigation that Indian authorities need to do into this incident.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about another bomb blast? This is in Damascus. Hearing reports of lots of people dead. And just a couple days ago, you were talking about the rebels taking the fight to the regime in Damascus, but surely, I’m guessing you didn’t have this type of attack in mind.

MS. NULAND: Well, we do have the same reports you have of intense ongoing violence in Damascus today, including a car bomb that reportedly killed 31 people, most of whom were facility – were civilians in the vicinity of the Russian Embassy and the Baath Party headquarters. We understand that there was considerable damage as well. We’re also aware of reports that mortar rounds exploded near the Syrian Army General Command.

We strongly condemn any indiscriminate acts of violence against civilians or against diplomatic facilities, which violate international law, and we continue to emphasize that perpetrators on all sides have to be held accountable.

QUESTION: Have you had any discussions with Syrian opposition leaders regarding this attack? Have you expressed to them that same sentiment?

MS. NULAND: With regard to the acts in Damascus today —


MS. NULAND: — I’m confident that we will. And our concerns would be along the same vein that we’ve been conveying to the opposition, both political opposition and in our contacts with fighters, that indiscriminate violence against civilians, political reprisals, don’t help anybody and don’t help the cause of gaining the population’s support for a peaceful democratic transition in Syria.

QUESTION: And are you worried that, as the fight increasingly goes toward Damascus, which is what it seems to be doing and what you’ve been saying in recent weeks, that these types of attacks could continue, these types of rather indiscriminate civilian targeting attacks might rise?

MS. NULAND: Let me just underscore that it is the Assad regime that started this process of indiscriminate attacks against civilians when it first started aerial bombing its own population, using helicopters to strafe, bombing and attacking in civilian neighborhoods. None of this is what any of us wants to see, and certainly not what the Syrian people want to see. We want to see an end to the violence. We want to see a political transition process take place.

Let me also take this opportunity to express our condemnation with regard to the regime’s reported bombing today of Palmyra, better known in Arabic as Tadmur, the UNESCO World Heritage site. The Assad regime’s deliberate destruction of the ancient city, and its continued attacks on its inhabitants on the heels of its devastating attacks yesterday in Aleppo, demonstrate again the regime’s own appalling disregard for the Syrian people and for their own heritage. And we call on all sides to respect Syria’s cultural heritage, its artifacts, its civilians, et cetera.

QUESTION: Did they bomb the Heritage site or the city? Because the city’s not actually where the ruins are. The city’s kind of a modern, ugly thing, to be honest.

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that there were bombing attacks on the UNESCO Heritage site itself.



QUESTION: Would you call the Damascus bombing terrorism? Would you label it this way?

MS. NULAND: Any use of a car bomb is obviously a terrorist tactic. Our concern is that this is indiscriminate, that it’s against civilians, that it’s not taking us where we want to go in Syria and where the Syrian people deserve to go.

QUESTION: Are you – it does seem hard to believe that this is actually targeting the government. I mean, it seems that the Baath Party, the headquarter, and the Russian Embassy, it seems that they are – these two groups are enemies of the opposition.

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the goals of the perpetrators of this kind of an act. All I can say is that this is indiscriminate. Civilians were the ones who were the victims of this, and this kind of violence has got to stop in Syria.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Can we, or can I – yeah?

QUESTION: Because you mentioned the bombing of Tadmur.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And in fact, Syria has been subject to a methodical destruction of its artifacts and so on by opposition groups —

MS. NULAND: Right. Right.

QUESTION: — including Abul Ala al-Ma’arri just last week, and so on. So do you make your – let’s say your outrage pronounced on these issues as well to the opposition when you meet with them?

MS. NULAND: I think I just finished saying, Said, that we call on all sides to respect Syria’s cultural heritage. What we had today was a regime attack on their own UNESCO World Heritage site. And for those who have been in Syria, I call your attention to Robert Ford’s Facebook page today. My understanding is it’s a very beautiful place, a very impactful place, and really a tragedy historically.

QUESTION: When you say you’re going to have conversations with the opposition about what happened today, are those coming up in the upcoming trip? Will you have conversations before that? How serious are you taking this?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Robert Ford and his team are in daily contact with the opposition. They meet them wherever they can. But they also have regular communications on a daily basis, whether it’s on the phone or by Skype, and I’m sure that this – our concern about this kind of tactic will come up.

But as we have made clear, the Secretary will also have a chance to see the Syrian Opposition Coalition when he is Rome. And not only will he make our affirmative points about our desire to support the Syrian Opposition Coalition in its political transition planning and in its proposal to sit down now for talks, but he’ll also make all of the points about respect for civilians, human rights, justice, unity within Syria.

QUESTION: Sorry, just a couple follow-ups on that. How much influence do you think that the people that Robert Ford’s talking to have on a situation like this? And when you say these kind of tactics, we have a reporter in Damascus right now who just visited one of these hospitals and encountered a four-year-old dead little girl, seven-year-old boy, who had been ripped apart by debris. And these people who are civilians are blaming America because they’re saying America is supporting this opposition.

Are the people that Ambassador Ford is talking to, do they have direct influence on the kinds of people that would be carrying out these attacks?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that as we discussed yesterday, Ambassador Ford and his team are now talking not only to the political opposition; they are also talking to the military opposition.

But Dana, we have to remember that Assad has it in his power to stop this today. He has it in his power to stop this anytime he wants. The opposition has put forward a legitimate proposal for talks if he will allow that to go forward. And it is the regime that is using far – has been conducting aerial attacks on his people, using helicopters, bombarding neighborhoods and towns for more than a year now. They bear the preponderance of responsibility for the violence in Syria.

QUESTION: Sorry, and one last follow-up.


QUESTION: This on the Syria Justice and Accountability Center.


QUESTION: I was looking at the fact sheet yesterday, and it says it’s reviewing some 250,000 videos and other evidence. Do you have a breakdown in that evidence of how much of that is from the regime and how much of that is from various opposition groups?

MS. NULAND: I don’t, Dana, but I can put you together with the people who are supporting the Syrians in this if that’s helpful.

QUESTION: Victoria —


QUESTION: Could you just clarify something you just said? You said that you’re talking to the military opposition. Is that the Free Syrian Army or the other dozen —

MS. NULAND: The Free Syrian Army.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Scott.

QUESTION: Can we go to Mali?


QUESTION: Just one more on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Sorry.

QUESTION: I think it was yesterday that the Russian Foreign Minister said – I think he renewed his offer to host mediation talks between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime. Do you see Russia as possibly playing the role of an honest broker, given its longstanding and continued support for Assad?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that as you know from what we put out earlier this morning, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov will meet on the upcoming trip that the Secretary’s going to take in Berlin. We expect that Syria will be very much a central topic of those discussions. The Russians have hosted the Arab League President Elaraby[1]. They are hosting the Syrian Foreign Minister.

As the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov have been discussing, we want to work together, as we’ve been saying for months and months now, to encourage the parties to sit down and begin a political transition process. The Russians have certain kinds of influence. We have certain kinds of influence. It’s really going to be up to the Syrians where they want to do this, whether they think Moscow’s offer can be helpful.

From our perspective, wherever they can agree to meet and in whatever formation works for them, that would be a good start, and that would be the beginning of a political track.

QUESTION: When the Syrian opposition laughs off the Russian offer, is that something you could understand, given Russia’s activity over the last two years? Or would you say they should take the Kremlin up on this offer?

MS. NULAND: We’re not going to dictate to the Syrian opposition how they should meet and where they should meet. We are encouraged that they are willing to meet. We’re waiting to see if the regime will meet them in that proposal. The Syrian Opposition Coalition has talked about wanting to meet either within Syria, in a place where they can be guaranteed their security, or nearby. But we’re obviously not going to speak for them. Certainly, they’ve made their own views known with regard to their concerns about Russia’s continued military support, continued financial support of the regime.

Please, Scott.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. NULAND: Going on to —

QUESTION: Mali, please, yeah.

MS. NULAND: — Mali? Yeah.

QUESTION: There was fighting today in Gao. What is your understanding of the security situation now in this campaign in the north?

MS. NULAND: I thought I had something on that. We have seen, obviously, reports that there is fierce fighting around Gao. I would refer you, obviously, to the French, who have forces in that neighborhood. I think you know what they are engaged in, working with the Mali military. They’re trying to ensure that the city – the major cities are secured, but also that they are able to track and chase those extremists who may be trying to melt into the hills or melt into the sand, and to prepare the way for AFISMA forces to come in behind and support the Mali military. But this is very much a work in progress.

QUESTION: They’ve made clear that they’d like to get their troops out of there as soon as the AFISMA force is operational. Will the timing of that be part of Secretary Kerry’s talks in Paris on Mali? You mentioned that Mali would be an issue in Paris.

MS. NULAND: Certainly it will be something that we talk about when the Secretary is there and has a chance to see President Hollande and Foreign Minister Fabius. But even in advance of that, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Don Yamamoto is in Paris today having bilateral talks on how the French see the mission moving forward, on how they see AFISMA being supported by the UN family, et cetera. So I think we’re very much engaged with the French.

QUESTION: Human Rights Watch is out today calling on the government in Mali to investigate and prosecute soldiers responsible for torture and summary execution as part of this campaign. Given the somewhat tenuous nature of this provisional government and, as you’ve discussed before, the continuing influence of the military – elements of the military over that, do you think that this government in Bamako has the goal to prosecute soldiers responsible for human rights abuses?

MS. NULAND: We certainly agree that accountability has got to be part of the healing process going forward, both in terms of accountability with regard to the terrorists, but certainly accountability with regard to those members of the Mali military or security forces who may have – who may be guilty of atrocities against their own people. But I think before we can get to a serious Mali-owned process, we’ve got to have a political transition in Mali. As you know, their own roadmap calls for elections in July. So the goal of the international community is to support them in having security conditions, allow those elections to go forward, to have a democratically elected government that can then pursue justice and accountability for the people of Mali.

QUESTION: So it’s your – sorry, just one last – so it’s your opinion that this accountability should wait for a properly democratically elected government?

MS. NULAND: I didn’t want to imply that. I just think that we all understand the fragility of the security situation right now, the fact that Malian institutions have been stressed and confronted by the political instability. So all of these have to move in parallel.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Palestinian prisoner situation. Yesterday, you issued a statement expressing concern about the health of striking Palestinian prisoners. But you also referred us in the press to your position in the Human Rights Report on administrative detention. Would the State Department consider issuing or reiterating that position in a statement so we know what your position is on administrative detention?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we gave you a statement yesterday, Said, and we stand by that.

QUESTION: Yes, I understand. But would you take what you had in your Human Rights Report and issue that in a statement?

MS. NULAND: I think it’s absolutely clear for everybody to see it on our website on our – in our Human Rights Report.


QUESTION: Could I just continue with the Palestinian issue?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, is in town, and he’s having a number of meetings. Could you tell us what would be the thrust of these meetings, or what will be the substance of these meetings?

MS. NULAND: I’m obviously not going to go into the substance of our diplomatic dialogue. But more broadly, let me say that as Secretary Kerry made clear both in his confirmation hearings but also in one of his first press availabilities when Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh was here, we remain committed to working with the parties to help them advance their efforts to resolve the conflict.

The Secretary, as you know, had some of his first phone conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, with President Peres, and he also discussed the way forward with Foreign Minister Judeh. He did last week see the Israeli negotiator, Yitzhak Molho, and he will see Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat later today. And there will be other meetings down the road. So we’re very much engaged, and it’s also in support of the travel that the President intends to take.

QUESTION: Will the meeting with the Palestinian be available to the press?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have – there’s probably going to be a photo, but I don’t know the answer to that, Said.

Please. Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: I’m Samin Josmangizet from ANS Television Azerbaijan. On a separate issue, the anniversary of massacre of civilians in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly is coming up. Any plans to honor the victims?

And also, the U.S. is very committed to successfully completed the petition on the White House web page calling again to honor the victims and recognize them as a genocide. What’s going to be the Administration’s response on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to White House issues, I will send you to the White House. Let me simply say that the tragic loss of life in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan reminds us that there cannot be a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Only a lasting and peaceful settlement can bring about stability, prosperity, and reconciliation in the region. As co-chairs of the Minsk Group, we remain firmly committed to working with the sides towards that, and we remember that today of all days.

QUESTION: Do you have any new information about the fairness and transparency of Armenian presidential elections? You have mentioned some serious violations that need to be investigated in your previous statements. Do you have any new information since you have made those statements?

MS. NULAND: No. I spoke about that here on Monday[2], both what went well and what still needs to be done in terms of the situation in Armenia. And as a general matter, we – as you know, in line with what OSCE ODIHR had to say, we commended the people of Armenia on successful elections that were well administered, generally. But there are, as there are in many countries, additional things that can be worked on going forward. But I don’t have any update on the long statement that we issued yesterday.



QUESTION: In recent days, the situation economic, whether is economic or political, getting worse. What is the latest assessment or reading of what’s going on from your perspective?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know the concerns that we have had all the way through, but we were – we spoke about this quite a bit last week, both in terms of our hope that there will be broad dialogue – the government has called for this, that all the stakeholders in Egypt will sit down and try to resolve their concerns and their grievances in a peaceful manner through dialogue.

But at the same time, we’ve had grave concerns about the violence that has – that we’ve seen in the context of the protests, particularly the sexual violence against women, which is just completely unacceptable in any country. And I’m sure that the Secretary will have more to say, and he’ll want to do a lot of listening when he is in Cairo in two weeks.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any information about the recent contacts regarding discussion this issue between American officials and – or its ongoing discussion?

MS. NULAND: Our embassy is involved every day on a daily basis, led by Ambassador Patterson, in trying to talk to all of the stakeholders in Egypt and encourage them to work with each other.

QUESTION: Recently it was mentioned many —

MS. NULAND: Can I just ask you not to use the flash in the briefing room? You’re blinding me here.

QUESTION: Sorry about that.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Recently it was mentioned many times that according to officials or – it – those who are in charge of the country of Egypt that their narrative of the things is that there are people who are trying to put an obstacle to democratic process. And they are repeating and repeating and repeating either in English or in Arabic. Do you agree with that that the demonstrations or other things that’s going on is – protests – are the ones that put an obstacle for democratic process?

MS. NULAND: On the contrary. Whether we’re talking about Egypt or any other country on the planet, frankly, we support the right of peaceful protest as one means for citizens to express themselves to their government. But protest has to be peaceful and the response to protest also has to be restrained and peaceful on the part of the government.

QUESTION: Another question related, a follow-up. Do you think that President Morsi has the power to stop this violence or this unrest in the country?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re going to have a chance to talk about all these issues. The Secretary will have a chance to talk to President Morsi himself soon, as well as to meet with lots of different groups in Egypt when we are there. And I think he’s looking forward to that. We want to see Egyptians express their grievances peacefully. We want to see the government engage stakeholders across the spectrum in Egypt to resolve the frustrations and the concerns, because that’s what the people of Egypt expected when they went into the street in Tahrir to begin with.

QUESTION: Many people in this city who are concerned about Egyptian-American relations, and they are asking recently, I mean, for more tough-love language regarding Egypt, not just like to do the same mistake as it was said mentioned, and it’s going to be published in The Washington Post, regarding the same language which was used before with Mubarak and the consequences were known. What do you think about it? Is there enough tough language or not yet?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve been very clear about our aspirations on behalf of the Egyptian people to see the country develop democratically, peacefully, to have the views of all heard and respected under the constitution and under the rule of law. But as I said, the Secretary’s going to be there in a week and a half. He’ll have a chance to talk to lots of Egyptians, and I’m sure he’ll have more to say on that himself.


QUESTION: Can I ask you about Venezuela?


QUESTION: Your comments from a couple days ago seemed to kick up a storm with the Venezuelan Government describing them as rude, and I think causing the indignation of all Venezuelans. Do you still believe that incapacity of President Chavez would demand new elections under the Venezuelan constitution?

MS. NULAND: Well, Brad, thank you for the opportunity to address this again. Venezuela’s future has to be decided by the Venezuelan people. I think what I said got blown out of proportion there. The only point I was trying to make was the following: Should President Chavez become permanently unavailable to serve, the Venezuelan constitution, at that moment, requires an election to select a new president. If those conditions come to apply, we hope that the Venezuelan constitution will be respected.

QUESTION: So you don’t see – this is your own constitutional analysis that this Department’s made? Not – because it seems that that’s not shared by the Venezuelan Government. Or the fact that you’re talking about it is not appreciated maybe.

MS. NULAND: No, I think – again, we’re simply stating our understanding of what Venezuela’s own constitution has to say. That’s a different matter than the question of whether the president’s able to serve out his term.


MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Can you tell me, what is the State Department doing to get U.S. access to the Benghazi suspect, Abu Ahmed, who’s currently being held in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: I think you’re taking me into questions that are better directed at the FBI. The FBI is in the lead in the investigation with regard to Benghazi, as we’ve discussed I think the last time you were here.

QUESTION: Have the Egyptians been helpful at all?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not prepared from this podium to talk at all about the investigation. I will send you to the FBI.

Please, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on the French-U.S. relationship. There is an ongoing conflict between an American businessman from Illinois and a French minister. It’s regarding the investment in the tire factory in France. Basically, the CEO of Titan is saying that certain French workers are lazy, that the unions are too strong, and that it’s almost impossible to invest in France. So the French Government seems to be very worried about that. Are you aware of that? And does the U.S. administration think that it’s more or less difficult to invest in France compared with other European countries?

MS. NULAND: Nicolas, I think you’re referring to concerns expressed by an individual American businessman, an individual American company, to a French minister in connection with a business deal that they were trying to make. That sounds like a private matter, not a government-to-government matter. You know where we are in our relationship with France, our oldest ally, that we have deep and broad relations, including many successful American businesses operating in France, many successful French businesses operating in the United States. As allies we continually strive to keep our markets open to each other and to have both of our populations benefit from strong, robust trade both ways.

QUESTION: But you do agree that French workers are lazy then, correct? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: I have a personal soft spot for France. I think I’ll leave it there.


QUESTION: I have two different questions on two different topics. One is Iran.


QUESTION: Does the State Department have any response to the reports that Tehran has started installing high-tech machines at its main uranium enrichment site?

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these reports that Iran has announced its intention to install advanced centrifuges in the production unit at Natanz. Frankly, this does not come as a surprise to us, given the IAEA reports on Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges. But the fact remains that the installation of new advanced centrifuges would be a further escalation and a continuing violation of Iran’s obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA board resolutions. So it would mark yet another provocative step.

But there is another path here. There is the diplomatic path, and as you know, we have P-5+1 talks with the Iranians next week. They have an opportunity to come to those talks ready to be serious, ready to allay the international community’s concerns, and we hope they take that opportunity.

QUESTION: My second question is on Cuba. There are reports today that Secretary Kerry is in discussions on possibly removing Cuba from the state sponsor terror list. Can you comment on that?

MS. NULAND: I saw that report. Let me say firmly here it is incorrect. This Department has no current plans to remove Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list.

QUESTION: And why not?

MS. NULAND: We review this every year, and at the current moment we – when the last review was done in 2012, we didn’t see cause to remove them. We’ll obviously look at it again this year, but as I said, we don’t have any plans at the moment.

QUESTION: Sorry, really quick, can you just give a little bit more of an explanation of what exactly are the – what makes a country – I mean, what are the specifications for a country being on the state sponsor of terror?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this before here. There’s a limit to what I can get into because it takes me into intelligence. But we do – we are required to look at these lists every year and to judge countries individually against the standards in the legislation. And we did that in 2012. We’ll obviously have to do it again in 2013.

QUESTION: So it’s the State Department’s belief that North Korea does not meet that threshold but Cuba still does? Correct?

MS. NULAND: Again, you know where we are on this, that a number of years ago in the context of this same annual review, DPRK was removed from the list. Cuba has not been.

QUESTION: Is the state sponsor of terrorism, is that intent plus actions? Is it, if you haven’t done anything but you still would like to do terrorist acts, you stay on the list?

MS. NULAND: Well, why don’t I —

QUESTION: I mean, I actually know that’s how it is with FTOs, so I —

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I frankly haven’t looked at the legislation in a while. Let me get you a separate briefing if you’d like.

QUESTION: Pakistan?


QUESTION: Madam, any comments on ongoing violence in Pakistan between Shia, Sunnis and bombings and innocent Pakistanis are being killed every day and demonstration in the millions? And what the minorities are asking from the government that they need protection and government is not giving any protection to the minorities, especially in Quetta and Balochistan.

MS. NULAND: Goyal, we’ve talked about this quite a bit here over the months that it is no secret that innocent Pakistanis have been victims of terrorism in the thousands and thousands. This is why – one of the reasons that we work so hard with the Government of Pakistan to strengthen, deepen, and improve the counterterrorism relationship that we have. It’s not just about the region as a whole; it’s also about the threat of terrorism to Pakistanis.

QUESTION: If Secretary had any chance to talk to somebody on this issue in Pakistan with the high-class officials like foreign minister?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, he’s had a number of phone calls both with President Zardari and with Foreign Minister Khar, and I’m sure this conversation will continue as his relationship with them continues as Secretary.

Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: How do the U.S. sees the plan of Iran to build a oil refinery in Pakistan? The news reports are coming from the —

MS. NULAND: I have something on this. I think it’s probably in the Pakistan section here.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: It’s been on my mind a lot.

QUESTION: And there’s a – also a report coming, I think on Wall Street Journal, that U.S. is planning to sanction Pakistan on this issue or its relationship with Iran. Can you confirm that?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say broadly that we continue our dialogue with Pakistan with regard to Iran. We’ve made clear to countries around the world, including Pakistan, that we believe that it’s in their interest to avoid activities that could be prohibited by UN sanctions or that could be sanctionable under U.S. law.

We understand that Pakistan has significant energy needs and requirements, but there are other long-term solutions to Pakistan’s energy needs that we would believe would have better potential for success and would better meet Pakistan’s needs than spending scarce resources on projects like this.

I think you know that we are involved in a number of bilateral projects with Pakistan to support large-scale energy projects there, including ones that will add some 900 megawatts of power to the grid by 2013, enough power to supply an estimated 2 million households. These include renovating the power plant at Tarbela and Mangla and the Mangla Dam, modernizing the thermal power plant at Guddu and Jamshoro – I’m going to mangle all these names – and Muzafaragarh

and building new plants at Satpara and the Gomal Dam.

QUESTION: Does this oil refinery and gas pipeline come under the sanctionable items?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is something that’s been proposed. It’s something that’s being developed. I’m not in a position to make that kind of an assessment. But as I said, we believe there are better ways and more secure ways and more cost efficient ways for Pakistan to get its power.

QUESTION: Speaking of gas —


QUESTION: — any comment on Israel contracting a U.S. company to look for gas in the Golan Heights?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: Still on Iran —


QUESTION: — following up from Dana’s question earlier, you mentioned that Iran has another path. But surely this rapid escalation in uranium enrichment doesn’t auger well for the talks next week, does it? I mean, you’re asking them to come seriously to the table —

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the – yeah.

QUESTION: — next week in Almaty, and here they are with a massive escalation in their enrichment program.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously concerned that Iran continues to flout its international obligations and has refused to halt its enrichment activities and, in fact, is taking steps to expand its capacity. It already has enough uranium to fuel the Tehran research reactor for at least a decade, and its recent actions would allow it to increase its stockpiles well beyond the civilian needs. So this will obviously be a subject that we have to talk about in Almaty, because it’s very hard for the international community to understand what Iran is doing when it claims that all of this is peaceful.

QUESTION: All right. But does this raise doubt already on the seriousness of their attitude going into those talks, when just a few days before they make it clear that they can enrich five times as fast as previously?

MS. NULAND: I wish I could say, Brad, that this pattern was new, but it isn’t. We’ve seen this before, that in advance of diplomatic rounds there are new announcements of activity. It doesn’t make it any easier to get where we want to go, which is to have the diplomacy lead to a real process of Iran making it clear to the international community that it’s prepared to meet its obligations. But it’s not – unfortunately, we’ve seen this before.


MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.

QUESTION: In Iran, there were mass protests on Mother Language Day – and violently dispersed – by ethnic minority groups. Any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen that. If we have anything to share, I’ll get back to you.


QUESTION: Very quickly, Victoria, a Palestinian filmmaker was invited by the Academies because he made a documentary called “Five Broken Cameras.” And he was detained, although he had all the proper visa work and so on.

MS. NULAND: He was detained?

QUESTION: He was detained at the Los Angeles Airport. He had all the visa – proper visas and so on. He was let go because he was bailed out by Michael Moore. But why – if he had all the proper paperwork and visa work for him and his son and his wife, why was he held at the airport and had to wait until somebody else intervened to get him out?

MS. NULAND: Said, I think that’s a question for Department of Homeland Security. As you know, our job here is to do the front end of the process, and then it’s DHS that makes decisions on entry.

QUESTION: Does that mean though that DHS and the State Department don’t talk about these things, that DHS doesn’t trust that if the State Department issues a visa to someone, that they have letters from the Academy Awards saying that they – the Academy of Film saying that they are nominated, that that’s not enough for DHS?

MS. NULAND: Well —

QUESTION: What does that say about interagency relationships?

MS. NULAND: First of all, as you know, before we issue visas of any kind, there’s a whole process of interagency coordination, which also includes DHS. It does sometimes happen that there is something between the visa issuance and arrival that causes DHS to have questions, but I’m going to refer you to them on this particular case.

QUESTION: Is this something that the State Department has discussed with DHS before, on how to improve better —

MS. NULAND: We are constantly looking to improve procedures, because obviously nobody wants to have difficulties for travelers if we don’t need to have them. But at the same time, we all have a responsibility for the safety and security of the United States.


QUESTION: Japan and China. Japanese Prime Minister Abe in a recent interview has linked the Chinese patriotism education and the anti-Japanese sentiment to the territorial disputes, which triggered a very strong reaction from the Chinese foreign ministry. I wonder if you have anything on the most recent back and forth on the eve of Abe’s visit tomorrow?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to disappoint you and say simply today that you know where we’ve been on this issue. We want to see these territorial issues between Japan and China settled through dialogue. That’s our message to Beijing, that’s our message to Tokyo.

With regard to the visit, the White House, as you know, has scheduled a call to sort of talk about the visit on background later today. I would encourage you to hear what they have to say.


QUESTION: On Japan. I’d like to ask about the Hague Treaty —

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Hague Treaty, the Hague Treaty, settling the disputes —

MS. NULAND: The Hague Abduction Treaty? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. That’s right. It’s reported that Japanese parliament will approve the treaty, possibly in May. And this issue has been kind of big issue between Japan and some countries, including United States. So I just would like to know if you have any comment on that.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have regularly raised the treaty with our Japanese allies and encouraged positive consideration of it, but it’s obviously a decision for Japan to make. But we’ve been encouraging positive consideration.


QUESTION: One more. Okay.

QUESTION: Another one on Japan.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the topic in tomorrow’s meeting would be the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both President Obama and the Secretary Kerry mentioned recently. And what is the current State Department position in terms of economic statecraft about Japan’s participation in TPP negotiation?

MS. NULAND: We’ve been quite clear about how we feel about hoping that we’ll get to a point where Japan will choose to participate. But we’ll see what our visitor has to say tomorrow.

QUESTION: Just one more.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask about the wrestling. International Olympic Committee is dropping wrestling from 2020 games, which has been big issue in Japan. There is a report that —

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. International wrestling has —

QUESTION: No, International Olympic Committee —

MS. NULAND: Has dropped wrestling?


MS. NULAND: From its list?


MS. NULAND: Wow. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: There is a —

MS. NULAND: And that’s an issue for us because?

QUESTION: It’s because I heard United States is cooperating with Iran to get it back to the list again. So I just would like to know is the State Department involved in this effort to get it back?

MS. NULAND: I have no information about that. I can tell you that our own wrestling team is in Tehran for the World’s Wrestling something-or-other. I’m clearly showing my ignorance of wrestling here, but I really – yeah?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Guys, I will bone up on my wrestling and I’ll be back. All right? Thank you all very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m.)

[1] Arab League Secretary General

[2] Tuesday