State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, March 7, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 7, 2012. 

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • International Women of Courage Award Ceremony
    • The Secretary’s Travel to New York / UN Security Council
    • The Secretary’s Call with Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • IRAN
    • Meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors/ P-5+1
    • Economic Development
    • Gas Pipeline with Iran
    • Parliamentary Review
    • Refugees
    • Talks in Beijing / Nutritional Assistance
    • The Secretary’s Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib
    • Special Representative Mitchell’s Travel
    • Aung San Suu Kyi
    • Sanctions
    • The Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan


1:26 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. Sorry we are so late. We were late after the Secretary’s bilateral meeting this morning and then we had some technical issues. And I know some of you have to get over to the Secretary’s speech at the Institute of Peace. We have a couple of small things at the top.

First, as you know, tomorrow is the annual giving of the International Women of Courage Awards. We will have a background briefing at 4 o’clock on this year’s awardees. You can do that by telephone, if you’d like.

Second, when the Secretary was out before the press with Foreign Minister Sikorski earlier this morning, she made reference to going to New York next week on March 12, on Monday. I just wanted to advise you she is going to attend a session of the UN Security Council at the ministerial level that has been called by British Foreign Minister Hague to talk about the broader impact and ramifications of the Arab Spring. Foreign Secretary Hague will host the meeting. The Brits are in the chair of the president of the Security Council this month. And the Security Council foreign ministers will also be joined by the foreign minister of Tunisia, of Libya, and of Egypt. The Secretary will also take the opportunity to have a bilateral meeting, as she said, with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia when she’s up in New York.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Is there anything else you want to tell us about what’s going to happen in New York?

MS. NULAND: There is nothing else scheduled at the moment, but there may be other things. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: Such as?

MS. NULAND: We’ll have to see who comes. But at the moment, this is the schedule.

QUESTION: Okay. She doesn’t plan on having any other bilats or any other multilateral type meetings?

MS. NULAND: Not at the moment. If that changes, we’ll let you know.


QUESTION: In the meeting, will they – you said the broad impact of the Arab Spring. So it will be that general, or it’s going to focus, like, on what’s happening in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure the subject of Syria will come up in all of the interventions. But the subject of the meeting, as called by Foreign Secretary Hague, is the broader question of the impact and ramifications of the Arab Spring.

QUESTION: Okay. But what direction is this likely to take? Because this is so broad, I mean, while we have sort of a very urgent situation in Syria.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we are also working in parallel within the Security Council on whether it might be possible or timely to pass something in the Security Council which would at least allow us to move forward on humanitarian assistance. So that work goes on in parallel, and we’ll see where we are on that when the ministers are there on Monday as well.

QUESTION: The Secretary also mentioned that she’d spoken to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday. I was wondering if you could read out that call and let us know whether she or the building generally emerged from that with any stronger hopes that the Russians might be able to change their stance.

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary herself spoke to this a little bit when she saw Foreign Minister Sikorski this morning. And when she saw the press, she made clear that they did talk about Syria and about the hope that we can get something going in the Security Council and that we could have more help from Russia now on alleviating the humanitarian suffering. Other subjects that came up in the call yesterday included Middle East peace, Iran in the wake of the P-5+1 letter in Cathy Ashton’s name back to Mr. Jalili, and the general bilateral relationship now that the elections in Russia are behind us.


QUESTION: I have a follow-up.


QUESTION: You said Middle East peace. Anything new in that realm or is it follow-up on the meeting with Tony Blair from the Quartet?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think in general, it was a chance to give Foreign Minister Lavrov a sense of where we think things are. As you know, Tony Blair had been here, Foreign Minister Judeh had been here, and Prime Minister Netanyahu had been here. So that was an opportunity for the Secretary to catch the Russian side up on some of those meetings.

QUESTION: Okay. So on Monday you said that the Middle East peace process would be front and center in the discussions. So did she discuss with Foreign Minister Lavrov any new development in that area?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to go any further into their phone call than to say that she was briefing him out on recent meetings that we’ve had.

QUESTION: Okay. Lastly, as a result —

QUESTION: Wait – hold on a second, Said. Did you say that Middle East peace was going to be front and center at the meeting on Monday?

MS. NULAND: No, I think I —

QUESTION: No, you said Arab Spring.

MS. NULAND: I think what I said was that in – no, I think what Said is referring to is the fact that I was asked before Prime Minister Netanyahu came whether we thought that Middle East peace would be a subject, and I replied in that manner with regard to the Netanyahu meeting.

QUESTION: Right. No, but I’m saying are we likely to see, like, new activities or meetings as a result of this phone call?

MS. NULAND: Not – I mean, as you know, we are where we have been, which is that we are continuing to encourage the parties to try to come back to the table. But I wouldn’t say that there are any major breakthroughs that came out as a result of the phone call.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, Andy.

QUESTION: On the P-5+1 issue, I know we have the statement from Cathy Ashton’s office about – the response. But there’s also this discussion, we’re told, going on at the IAEA about trying to come to some sort of joint position ahead of these talks and making some sort of statement. I’m wondering if you can let us know what the U.S. thinks is going on there within the IAEA at the moment and how that plays into the broader question of when and where and how these talks might resume.

MS. NULAND: Well, there is a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors. They meet – I actually don’t have it, but they meet, I think, a couple of times a year. So I think there is a question of how the views of the Board of Governors might be expressed at the conclusion of that meeting, and those conversations are ongoing. This comes in the wake of the unsuccessful IAEA effort to visit Parchin a couple of weeks ago.

With regard to the modalities for the conversation that the P-5+1 has offered to have with Iran, Cathy Ashton’s office is now working with the Iranians on the timing and the modalities. I don’t have anything further for you on that. We will obviously give it to you when it’s settled.

QUESTION: So just to be clear, we wouldn’t – would we expect to see another P-5+1 common statement setting out the group’s hopes, requirements for any talks, before the talks begin?

MS. NULAND: I would not look for that necessarily. I think the next step is to set a place and a venue and to begin the talks.

QUESTION: The Turkish prime minister will be in Iran in the next weeks. Do you have any comment on that? Do you have —

MS. NULAND: Will be in Iran? I don’t have anything in particular there. As you know, we talk to Foreign Minister Davutoglu and the Turkish Government about Iran every time that we meet, so he’s very well aware of our views and he’s very well briefed on the thinking of the P-5+1 as well.

QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: Are you aware of a special report by the United Nations that slums are on the rise around the globe, including maybe 24 percent in India?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that report, Goyal. Perhaps our colleagues at the UN might have something to say on it.


QUESTION: But when you talk, let’s say, with the Indian officials and all that, does this issue ever comes up as far as slums and poverty and all those issues?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, in our bilateral dialogue with India, we are always interested in economic development issues, development more generally, the efforts of the Indian Government to alleviate poverty. It’s always part of the conversation, and it’s part of our bilateral dialogue as well.

QUESTION: And including the corruption and the black —

MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about these issues here before. I don’t have anything new for you on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: On Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, Secretary last week, speaking on the Hill, said that when Pakistan goes that route, sanctions on – vis-a-vis Iran could apply. Now Pakistan has opened the tenders, and yesterday they have given the contract of laying the pipeline in its territory to a German firm. So what are the options for the United States now? What kind of sanctions would apply on Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’ve had this conversation here many times. This is a deal that has been talked about, come and gone many times, so we first make the point to Pakistan about whether they really think that Iran is going to be a reliable partner in this. We secondly make the point that we understand the energy needs of Pakistan. We are prepared to continue to work with Pakistan, as we have in the past, on other sources of energy. I’m not going to prejudge what might be sanctionable on a deal that is just prospective at this point and where tenders have only just gone out. Our point is to say that we think this is a bad idea and that there are other options.

QUESTION: But this is now in the execution phase. This is not just talk. They are – they have given tenders for laying the pipeline. The route survey is underway.

MS. NULAND: Again, there have been government proposals and tenders put out; there hasn’t been a deal cut.

QUESTION: So at what stage the United States will contemplate action based on these sanctions? When the first set of pipeline will be underground?

MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t predict that on a prospective deal at this stage of its development.

QUESTION: Yeah. Following up on Pakistan —


QUESTION: — has Pakistan given you any update on when they are going to complete their parliamentary review?

MS. NULAND: Our understanding is it’s going to be a little bit of time yet, but it sounds like that’s a subject that you might have more information from the Pakistani side. We have said that we will respect the time that it takes them to do this, and we look forward to hearing from them when they’re ready.

QUESTION: Because General Mattis yesterday at the Hill said that he is planning to go there in 10 days, indicating that the review would be over by that time, so that’s why I’m asking this question. Have they given you any indication of timeline for this?

MS. NULAND: Again, we continue to be in dialogue with them about an appropriate time for us to resume our own discussion, but we don’t have anything firm at the moment.

QUESTION: But is any travel scheduled – from Ambassador Grossman to Pakistan planned?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have anything planned at the moment.


QUESTION: Madam, as far as pipeline is concerned, the same pipeline is supposed to be between India and Iran, through Pakistan, but now India is out of the game. Is that something because of your talk with Indian officials and all that?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to India’s decision-making process on this. We’ve been very clear what we think about this pipeline.

Anything else? Please, here.

QUESTION: On China and North Korea?


QUESTION: Regarding the current crisis facing the North Korean refugees, Chinese Government continues to face – force the North Korean refugees back to the North Korea. Does the United States have any action to China to stop repatriation to these refugees go back to the North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Well, we do, as part of our regular dialogue with Beijing, talk about refugee difficulties, and obviously, one would hope that all countries would live up to international obligations with regard to refugees.

QUESTION: Wasn’t a meeting today in Beijing?

MS. NULAND: There was the first day of meetings between Ambassador King and AID Deputy Brause and their North Korean counterparts. They apparently had a relatively productive first day, but they need more time tomorrow, so we’ll see what we have at the end of the round.

QUESTION: Do you still expect, though, that it’ll be finalized at the – after this round is over?

MS. NULAND: That is our hope, because we’d like to move this nutritional assistance.

QUESTION: All right. And then I just have one purely logistical question. The Libyan prime minister is in town and he met with the President today. Does he have anything here?

MS. NULAND: Yes. He has a bilateral with the Secretary tomorrow morning, and they’ll have a press availability after that. I think the meeting is at 9:00 and the press availability is 9:45, something like that.


QUESTION: Special Representative Derek Mitchell will be traveling to Burma next week. What is on the agenda this time, and who all he will be meeting?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, it is Special Representative Derek Mitchell’s job to go back and forth between the U.S. and Burma, so he will be there March 11th to the 17th. He’ll be first in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss the reform developments, and particularly preparations for the bi-elections, and to follow up on some of the sort of action-for-action steps discussed by the Secretary with Burmese counterparts when she was there. He’s then also going to go to Rangoon and on to Mandalay. He’s going to meet a broad spectrum of civil society leaders, private sector stakeholders, et cetera. And we’ll also have some other U.S. officials in Burma next week as well.

QUESTION: How do you view the campaign being run by Aung San Suu Kyi for her bi-elections? How do you see this —

MS. NULAND: Well, we are gratified that the government has lived up to its commitment not only to register her party, but to allow her to campaign throughout the country, to allow her to speak freely. So – so far, so good at this point.

QUESTION: All this —

QUESTION: And do you see —

QUESTION: The other U.S. officials you mentioned, where are they from?

MS. NULAND: We will have Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Bear also in Burma next week. He’s Mike Posner’s deputy. He will join some of the meetings in Nay Pyi Taw and some of the meetings in Rangoon. He will also be meeting with former political prisoners and talking more generally with the government about human rights. We also have Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Barbara Shailor. She’ll be in Burma at the same time. She’ll be meeting with also some labor union types and working on the effort to have Burma meet its commitment to internationally recognized labor standards, et cetera.



QUESTION: The Burmese Government have been asking the U.S. to lift sanctions, because they have – they think they have taken a number of steps which meets the criteria and the U.S. needs a response to that. How do you – would that be an issue coming up during this trip?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been very clear from even the months before the Secretary was there, but certainly during the Secretary’s visit, that this is going to be a step-by-step process. And we’ve made some moves in response to some moves that they have made, but we are not at the stage that you are discussing.

QUESTION: What do you want Burma to do more in order to lift the sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve talked about that extensively. We need the process of democratization to continue to go forward, including the elections that are upcoming. We need continued progress in settling issues with the tribes and seeking ceasefire, seeking national reconciliation. There is – there are a whole raft of things on the human rights and democracy side, and we are also working together on how we can support more of an economic opening as well in Burma.

QUESTION: And finally, as far as this visit is concerned, will be different than of Assistant Secretary Blake and others in the past who visited Burma?

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry. Assistant Secretary Blake hasn’t been to Burma. I don’t know what you’re – can I have the question again, Goyal? It wasn’t very clear what you were asking.

QUESTION: Other U.S. officials have visited Burma in the past, so this visit will be different than those. Will it make any difference?

MS. NULAND: We’re continuing to work on the issues that we have in front of us. Yeah.

Another issue I’ve neglected to mention, as you know, we have an ongoing dialogue with Burma about its military cooperation with the DPRK and it’s signing of the IAEA Additional Protocol, which we’d like to see.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Last follow-up. Last thing.


QUESTION: Are you considering lifting travel sanctions against some of the Burmese officials earlier?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce here today.

QUESTION: Okay. They still exist.

MS. NULAND: In the back. Yeah.

QUESTION: Sorry if you’ve already mentioned this. I’ve been out for a few days. But can you confirm whether or not Clinton will meet with Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan on Friday? There are Korean media reports —

MS. NULAND: She will. He has just announced his visit, so I can now confirm that, given the announcement that he is coming, she will meet with him on Friday.

QUESTION: Will there be a press availability for that? Or do you have any information on —

MS. NULAND: That’s the current plan. That’s the current plan.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)