Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 27, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Flotilla / Announcement by Government of Israel / U.S. Warnings, Statement / Dangerous Situation / Sufficient Mechanisms Established to Get Aid into Gaza / Israel Has a Right to Defend Itself Against Arms Smuggling / U.S. Call for Restraint on All Sides / Rafah Crossing
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Sanctions / UN Security Council Resolutions
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Ambassador Hale / Diplomacy Remains to Bring Both Sides Back to Negotiating Table
    • Declaration by Palestinians on UN Action Misguided / U.S. Making a Case with Allies in Support of the President's Vision
  • LIBYA
    • U.S. Encouraging Governments to Meet with the TNC / Qadhafi Must End Violence, Pull Back, Step Down from Power / ICC (International Criminal Court) Warrant / Decision to Refer Case to ICC was the Right Decision
  • CHINA/SUDAN
    • President Bashir's Travel to China / U.S. Continues to Oppose Travel for ICC Indictees / UNSC 1593
  • SYRIA
    • Ambassador Ford is Doing Useful Work in Damascus / Continues to Meet with a Broad Cross-Section of Syrians / First Meeting of Nonpartisan Members of the Opposition Today
  • TURKEY/SYRIA
    • U.S. View is That Border with Turkey Needs to Stay Open / Refugees / Superb Turkish Humanitarian Work / U.S. Assistance Offered to Government of Turkey
  • ARMENIA/AZERBAIJAN
    • Joint Statement with President Medvedev Noted an Improved Understanding of Issues
  • YEMEN
    • President Saleh / It's Time for President Saleh to Sign GCC Agreement / Assistant Secretary Feltman / A Wide-Range of Meetings
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Afghan Central Bank Leadership
    • Special Elections Tribunal / U.S. Consulting Closely with Afghans and International Community
  • VENEZUELA/IRAN
    • Venezuela's Participation in Iran's Meeting Dealing with Terrorism


TRANSCRIPT:

12:35 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. I have no opening announcements today, so why don’t we go to whatever’s on your minds.

QUESTION: The – some of the ships that will make up this flotilla that you’re so – not enthusiastic about have left already, heading for points close to Gaza, if not Gaza itself. The Israelis over the weekend first warned journalists and then were rescinded this warning that if they got on any of these ships that they could be subject to criminal penalties, deportation, 10-year ban from the country.

I’m wondering if there was any contact between the U.S. and Israel about that, and whether the warning that you put out last week – or, not the Travel Warning, per se, but the – your statement in which you warned Americans that they might be violating U.S. law if they participated, did that apply to journalists?

MS. NULAND: First, with regard to the Government of Israel’s decision, our understanding from press reporting but also from our own contacts was that that first announcement was made at a relatively low level, and when senior Israelis became involved, the decision was amended, as you saw.

The U.S. warnings to U.S. citizens apply to all U.S. citizens. We are concerned about any of our citizens involved in a situation that could be provocative, that could be dangerous. That said, freedom of the press; journalists make their own decision, but we have made clear that we are concerned about this situation.

QUESTION: But a journalist who is on one of these boats, could they be subject to laws that bar – the law specifically, the legislation, the laws that you mentioned in your statement which have to do with material support for Hamas?

MS. NULAND: I’m not aware of legal distinctions that we would make between journalists and other citizens, but I can double-check whether there’s a distinction to be made there. I think our concern was that this was a dangerous situation for any American to be involved in.

Please.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Is it the understanding of the United States Government that the Rafah Crossing is sufficient to supply the Gaza population with all the needs that they want?

MS. NULAND: I think the statement that we put out last week spoke both of the Rafah Crossing and of the Israeli port which now has procedures to check cargos and to get aid into Gaza. And we have seen an increase in the amount of aid going into Gaza. The Secretary mentioned on Friday that we now have Israeli housing support going into Gaza as well. So our view is that there are sufficient mechanisms both through Egypt and through Israel to get humanitarian aid into Gaza if the goal of this action is truly to help the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: So it is your feeling that the intention of this flotilla is not so much to provide needed supplies to Gaza, but more of a symbolic political statement?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the intentions of those organizing this flotilla. I would simply say that if people around the world want to help the people of Gaza, we believe that the mechanisms established by both Egypt and Israel are sufficient to achieve that objective.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Given that the flotilla or at least elements of it appear to be on their way now, are you increasing your communication with the Israelis about their reaction to this? I mean, now it seems that one arm of the decision has ignored your warnings about not going; they’re setting off. So now the question is: How are the Israelis going to react? What’s your advice to them on this?

MS. NULAND: Our advice to all parties has been the same, that this is dangerous, that this is provocative. With regard to the Israeli position, they know where we stand. We have said that Israel has a right to defend itself against arms smuggling, but we have called on all sides to – for restraint, and we hope that we don’t end up in the same situation we were in last year.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, you said call on all sides for restraint, so that you’ve called on the Israelis to restrain themselves when it comes to dealing with the flotilla?

MS. NULAND: We have been speaking for many months since this event last year, in fact, to all participating actors about the need to avoid a repeat of the situation. That said, our position with regard to Israel’s right of self-defense and defense against armed smuggling hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: But would you regard their reaction to the last time the flotilla came, did that – was that an appropriate response? Would that – would a similar response be expected in this case?

MS. NULAND: I think we made clear at the time that it was a dangerous situation, it was an extremely unfortunate situation, and with regard to this summer, we don’t want to see a repeat. So that’s why we’re hoping that we don’t.

Please.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. To the best of your knowledge, has there ever been a ship caught smuggling arms on these aid ships? Has there been any ship that was caught with arms being smuggled to Gaza?

MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that Israel has been the victim of arms smuggled illegally at sea and --

QUESTION: Right. But not these aid ships? Are you aware of any of these aid ships used to smuggle arms?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to precisely which kind of ships arms have been found on, but one of the reasons for the Israeli concern is that they have been victims of arms smuggled at sea.

Anything else on flotilla or are we moving on?

QUESTION: On --

QUESTION: Israel?

QUESTION: But --

MS. NULAND: Israel, but – Matt, on flotilla?

QUESTION: Well, it was going to be Israel, but --

MS. NULAND: Okay. Israel, please.

QUESTION: -- not flotilla.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Israeli Government yesterday strengthened its rules and regulations in – about the dealing with Iran, sort of, so-called sanctions. Do you think after – don’t you think after all this time that there’s been international outcry about sanctions against Iran, that everybody should tighten their sanctions? Finally, Israel has decided to do so after all this time.

MS. NULAND: I think our position on the need to fulfill UN Security Council Resolutions with regard to Iranian sanctions is pretty clear. We want to see all states fulfill them to the maximum, and we’ve been taking those measures ourselves.

QUESTION: Mine was on Hale and Ross –

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and where are they? What have they done? What have they accomplished?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that Ambassador Hale is home today, that he is consulting here in Washington, that he is headed back out to the region – I believe it’s either the end of this week or the beginning of next week. Again, the process remains – the diplomacy remains centered on trying to bring these parties back to the table, encourage them to see the wisdom of engaging under the general set of principles that the President has set forward, and I think that work continues. He obviously needs to report to his bosses here and plan for the next visit.

Please.

QUESTION: Hi. A question on Libya –

QUESTION: Could we stay on the –

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Israeli-Palestinian –

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Two quick questions. Are there any plans to make Mr. Hale available to the press while he’s here?

MS. NULAND: Well, we did have a Senior Administration Official on background last week.

QUESTION: Yeah, but on foreground –

MS. NULAND: I’m delighted to speak to Mr. Hale and his collaborators and see if they’ve got anything new for you. I don’t think we’re going to have anything new until he makes his next visit, but we’ll see.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you feel that the declaration by the Palestinian president yesterday, that they’re going to the United Nations come what may, do you feel that – in any way that is the undoing of any sort of understanding that was arrived at last week?

MS. NULAND: Our position hasn’t changed. We think that the UN action is misguided, that it’s the wrong way to go, that the right way to go is to get back to the table and to begin negotiations on the basis of the principles that the President outlined. Mr. Hale and Mr. Ross will continue to try to make that point in their consultations.

Still on this? Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? Yeah. The Palestinians are planning to dispatch a whole slew of diplomats to a number of countries that have yet to make their decision on this case, including the Canadians and Australians. I was curious what diplomatic effort the U.S. may engage in to follow on those discussions to make your case that this is not the right way forward.

MS. NULAND: I think we are making our case with all of those countries, with all of our allies in support of the President’s principles and the President’s vision. Certainly, allies like Canada are well aware of where we are.

Please.

QUESTION: Hi. A question on Libya. Canada’s foreign minister just met with rebels in Benghazi. It was a secret mission. They just announced it now. What is your reaction to Canadians doing that? And would you encourage more members of the NATO coalition to make such overtures?

MS. NULAND: To meet with the Transitional National Council?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Yes. We have encouraged – for many, many weeks we’ve been encouraging governments around the world to make contact with the TNC, to get to know them, to support them in any way they can – politically, economically – and we’ve been gratified by the number of countries engaged in that, including the recent visit of TNC members to Beijing.

Please.

QUESTION: There are reports that a number of senior Libyan officials are in neighboring countries to meet with foreign countries – it doesn’t specify who – with regard to some sort of negotiated end to the conflict. Can you – do you have any confirmation of that? Are U.S. officials involved in those talks? And what can you say about, I guess, the status of them?

MS. NULAND: These are Libyan Government official – Qadhafi –

QUESTION: Right. Including, apparently, the foreign minister.

MS. NULAND: -- team members? Again, on this one as well, our position hasn’t changed. Qadhafi knows what he needs to do. He’s got to end the violence, he’s got to pull back, and he’s got to step down from power. So if that’s the tenor of the conversation, then we’d be interested to hear about it. But until we get to that stage, we haven’t gotten where we need to go.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any – I mean, do you know anything about this?

MS. NULAND: We hear lots of reports of feelers this way and that way, emissaries this way and that way. From our perspective, the bottom line remains: End the violence, pull back, step down from power.

QUESTION: Okay. Just to clarify – we first heard that several months ago – can you confirm that that’s – those are ongoing, those feelers that are happening from within the inner circle?

MS. NULAND: Again, we see the same reports that you see. We have reports from various governments of feelers. Whether these have any real connection to Qadhafi, we are urging all of our interlocutors to send the exact same message to Qadhafi, to any of his emissaries that these are the terms for having the kinds of discussions that they want to have, that he’s got to be ready to end the violence, pull back, step down from power.

QUESTION: The ICC warrants on Qadhafi –

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. be willing to take part in some negotiations with people from the regime to hasten the end of the conflict?

MS. NULAND: We are not engaged in such negotiations. Again, we want to see Qadhafi and his people meet our conditions.

The ICC?

QUESTION: The ICC warrants, does that help or hurt the situation? And what is the U.S.’s reaction to the issuance today?

MS. NULAND: Our view is that the actions of the security forces and the Qadhafi regime that are highlighted in the court’s decision underscore the gravity of what we have been witnessing and what the coalition has been trying to prevent in Libya. And in the face of these crimes of this kind of magnitude and this gravity, the need for justice and accountability is absolutely clear. You’ll remember that the Security Council decision to refer this case to the ICC was unanimous. And as Secretary Clinton has repeatedly stated, the pressure on Qadhafi is growing, his isolation is deepening, and many of his former aides have abandoned him, and it’s time for him to get the hint that it’s time to go.

QUESTION: Some people have suggested, however, that because of the issuance of these warrants, that Qadhafi may actually dig in his heels, and that may – this may make a diplomatic resolution less likely. Does the U.S. see things that way? And if so, why?

MS. NULAND: The U.S. believes that the decision to refer the case to the ICC was the right decision, that the ICC has spoken now about the need for justice and accountability. With regard to whether this hurts or helps, it doesn’t change the fact that Qadhafi’s got to take the message that it’s time to go.

QUESTION: But just prior to that, you said it’s time for him to get the hint that it’s time to go. The hint --

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s not exactly a hint. It’s not exactly a hint, yeah.

QUESTION: Well, exactly. Are you suggesting that it might be more --

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: So the NATO bombardment is only a hint and that the ground troops may be inevitable?

MS. NULAND: I will cede to you, Matt, that “hint” was a flabby word in this case. We have more than hinted that it’s time for him to go.

Still on Libya? Please.

QUESTION: I mean, I just have a follow-up on this. I mean, but surely this makes it more difficult for Qadhafi to actually leave Libya and there will be fewer countries willing to take him. I mean, can you concede us this? Or does this make it like – that he’s just going to be confined to his country, taken out, or come to some kind of agreement with the rebels?

MS. NULAND: We’ve got to start with the first steps, and the first steps that we’re asking for are absolutely clear: He’s got to stop the violence; he’s got to pull his troops back; it’s got to be clear that he is ready to step down from power. With regard to what happens after that, that would have to proceed – be preceded by firm action on his part to give it up.

Please.

QUESTION: Can I ask (inaudible) --

MS. NULAND: Is there anything else on the --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) ICC actually, just on the --

MS. NULAND: Yeah, on the ICC.

QUESTION: -- just while we’re on the subject of indicted presidents, President Bashir’s plane had to turn back on its way to China as it was trying to fly over Turkmenistan. Do you have any details about why that happened and if it was at all related to concerns about the ICC warrant?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. I saw that – we saw that press reporting that he was delayed in his trip to China. I don’t have any more detail on that.

QUESTION: Well, on that, since you spoke so glowingly of the Chinese hosting the TNC, what do you think of the Chinese hosting President Bashir? And is any vote that they participate in that relates to the ICC, does it have any meaning at all? I mean, if they’re willing to – I don’t know if he was supposed to arrive late tonight after the delay, but certainly they’re – what they’re doing flies in the face of any kind of cooperation with the ICC.

MS. NULAND: We continue to oppose invitations, facilitations, support for travel by ICC indictees. We have a longstanding policy of strongly urging other nations to do the same. We have urged China to join the international community in its call for Sudan to cooperate fully with the ICC as required by UNSC 1593.

QUESTION: Is that a consistent line; you have continued to oppose travel for ICC indictees allowing them to travel anywhere? Did you make that case to the Ethiopians?

MS. NULAND: With regard to --

QUESTION: Bashir, when he was in Addis just at the same time that the Secretary was.

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve made that case to everybody involved.

QUESTION: But did you try to discourage the Ethiopian – I mean, Meles was trying to broker a ceasefire deal. Did you discourage the Ethiopians from having Bashir go to Addis for those talks?

MS. NULAND: The Ethiopians were well aware of our views on Bashir. You would note that the Secretary of State chose, obviously, not to meet with him.

QUESTION: Right. No, I’m just curious as to whether you tried to discourage the – if it’s a consistent policy that you oppose travel of Bashir or any other ICC indictee, the – if you made that case to the Ethiopians, even though they were trying to negotiate something that you – which you were in support of.

MS. NULAND: We’ve made that – made it clear with regard to any travel of Bashir to ICC countries and to countries that support this that it’s not something that we favor. So I kind of think this is --

QUESTION: So you would have preferred it had he not traveled to --

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to what conversations with regard to ICC were had with the Ethiopian Government in advance of that. We had a good result. That doesn’t change the fact that we want to see ICC standards upheld by all UN countries.

Please.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. On Syria, yesterday Senator John McCain called for the American Ambassador in Damascus, Bob Ford, to go – to return home. He called basically on you to recall your Ambassador in Damascus. Has he discussed that issue with you, or is there an inclination now within the Department that this will be the next step?

MS. NULAND: Our view remains that Ambassador Ford is doing useful work in Damascus and in Syria. He continues to meet with a broad cross-section of Syrian opposition. He is now occasionally meeting with members of the government as appropriate. We did think that his trip up north, even though it was organized by the Syrian Government, allowed him to convey our messages. So we still see his role there as useful and helpful to our ability to have a stronger understanding of what’s going on inside Syria.

QUESTION: Can you tell us who and which members of the government, at what level he’s meeting them, and why – when this started?

MS. NULAND: He – I believe he’s been able to see folks sporadically for about the last week. I don’t have a list of his appointments. There were, as we said last week, some Syrian Government officials on this trip that he took up north. I can see what else I can get for you on official Syrian Government --

QUESTION: That’s for foreign minister or something – that hasn’t come into the loop yet?

MS. NULAND: I – no. I don’t believe it – yeah, I don’t believe it’s been at that level.

Please.

QUESTION: On Yemen, there were --

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: Well, can we (inaudible) on Ford for a second --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- because he’s not – as Senator McCain or whoever it was, the senator said it just then, is not the only person. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen came out this morning, saying that – basically that Ambassador Ford is being used as a stooge or as a propaganda tool for the regime. You don’t agree with that, I take it. But why do you not agree with it, if the only thing he is able to do is to go on government-sponsored trips outside of Damascus or meet with people who – I mean, it’s difficult for me to understand how he is able to meet with dissidents without them being arrested afterwards.

MS. NULAND: He has been meeting with a broad cross-section of Syrians. The information from those meetings comes to us and helps us to evaluate what’s going in Syria. With that in mind, I would note that we had a long-anticipated meeting of nonpartisan members of the opposition that began in Damascus today. This is a significant event. It’s the first meeting of its kind in many decades. About 160 people are attending it. We don’t have any outcomes yet, but it is the first meeting of opposition figures in Syria. Whether some of the folks participating in these meetings or some of them are clearly contacts of the Embassy, again, having a senior official there has allowed us to have access to a broader cross-section of Syrians to get our messages to them and their messages back to us in Washington.

QUESTION: Does he plan to attend that or --

MS. NULAND: We are not – I don’t believe we’ve been – that they have foreign observers invited to this meeting, but I’m sure that the Embassy will follow up on the meeting after it’s finished.

Please.

QUESTION: On Yemen, there were reports that --

QUESTION: Can I just – in Syria, please?

MS. NULAND: Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: Can we stay on Syria? Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Syrian Ambassador to Turkey has called Turkish Government to take action what the Syrians call terrorists crossing the border and smuggling weapons. Do you have any assessment whether they’re such – there is such problem there with the refugees crossing border?

MS. NULAND: This is Syrian Ambassador to Turkey --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: -- who’s calling for?

QUESTION: On Turkey to take action against terrorists that --

MS. NULAND: Sounds like he’s speaking to Turkish authorities. Our view is that, that border needs to stay open. We are very gratified by the superb humanitarian work that the Turkish Government is taking on. I think we have some 15,000 refugees over that border now, and the situation continues to be extremely difficult. As you know, we have offered our assistance to the Government of Turkey, including through Turkish Red Crescent. So we remain concerned about that border.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton last week, I believe last Thursday, mentioned about potential clashes on the border. The Department still views there is a potential this week – starting this week – how do you view it?

MS. NULAND: The Secretary spoke in response to reports that the Turkish – that the Syrian Government had moved heavy weapons, including tanks, up to the border. So her message was designed as a warning to maintain an open border, to maintain peace and security on the border and not to have clashes. So obviously, our concern remains but we’re gratified to see that the border largely still remains open.

QUESTION: On flotilla, I believe you touched a little bit at the beginning – you questioned last week whether it’s legal or not legal. Do you have any view on that? Do you think the Israel blockade is illegal? Thank you.

MS. NULAND: I think we put out something with regard to the – to that after the briefing on Friday. Again, I would just stress that Israel has had a bad experience with arms smuggled at sea, so we do think that there is a right of self-defense here. But what’s most important is that we avoid the situation that we had last year.

Please, back here.

QUESTION: The Russian Government convened the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, tried to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, something – a gesture that the U.S. spoke approvingly of, and reportedly it was a failure. Do you have any reaction?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. As you know, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan were not able to agree on the basic principles when they met in Kazan. However, in their joint statement with President Medvedev, both of them noted that they had improved their understanding on a number of issues, agreed to keep working on the basic principles, and to come back together at a future date to be specified. But I would say it’s disappointing.

Please.

QUESTION: On Yemen. There were reports that President Saleh was going to make some sort of a public appearance today. The report said they weren’t certain whether it was going to be in Yemen or Saudi Arabia. I was just wondering if you were aware of that and what the latest is in terms of U.S. discussions with President Saleh and his intentions to – whether or not to return to Yemen?

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen those reports that President Saleh may speak. Our view remains that the thing we want to hear come from President Saleh is that he’s ready to sign the GCC agreement.

We, meanwhile, had Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman in Yemen last week. He had a wide range of meetings there, including with members of the opposition and the Yemeni Government, Acting-President al-Hadi and Foreign Minister Qirbi. He also met with student representatives, with civil society, members of business, foreign diplomats. And there he reinforced the same messages that we are giving here that it’s time for a peaceful transfer of power and for the transition to begin now.

QUESTION: Has there been – can you just recap for me and remind me, has there been any contact with President Saleh, either directly or indirectly, since his injury?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, there – no U.S. representative has consulted with President Saleh.

QUESTION: Either indirectly through message passing or something? You haven’t heard anything?

MS. NULAND: I think our messages are clear given both in Yemen, from this podium publicly, that it’s time for him to sign the GCC agreement.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Anybody else on Yemen? No?

Please.

QUESTION: Afghanistan --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- just a couple ones. Firstly, we’re reporting that the Afghan Central Bank governor is here in the United States now, has resigned his post saying that there are threats against his life due to the Kabul Bank situation. I was just wondering if the State Department was aware of either these threats or his resignation, any request for asylum?

MS. NULAND: We are not aware of any asylum requests. We – I would refer you to DHS. They would have that. But at this moment, we’re not aware of an asylum request. We do know that he is in Washington. If there were to be a change of leadership at the Afghan Central Bank, we would continue to encourage that government to take all the necessary steps to reform and strengthen the financial sector.

QUESTION: Okay. So but reading into that he hasn’t communicated directly with you his plans about resigning the office – you don’t have that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the second one on Afghanistan --

QUESTION: Wait just a minute.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, what was the last bit? If there were to be a what?

MS. NULAND: A change in leadership.

QUESTION: What was the first word of that? If?

MS. NULAND: If.

QUESTION: You’re answering a hypothetical question that wasn’t even asked?

MS. NULAND: Indeed, indeed.

QUESTION: I do have a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: On the Afghan court order over the weekend about ordering the 62 lawmakers to vacate their seats, it’s caused quite a bit of consternation in Afghanistan. Does the U.S. have a position on whether or not this court order is the right thing? Should it be followed? Should – the lawmakers are challenging it. What’s your view on the situation?

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these reports that the special elections tribunal has overturned some of the results of the Afghan parliamentary elections. We’re working in Kabul now to verify and review the details; it’s an evolving situation, and we’re consulting closely with the Afghans and our international partners, including the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. In broader terms, we call on Afghanistan’s political leaders to work together to advance a common agenda and to continue their dialogue in accordance with Afghanistan’s constitution and electoral law, and preserve the necessary checks and balances between the judiciary, the executive branch, and the legislative branch.

Please.

QUESTION: Yeah. The President of Venezuela has been out of the country for most of the month in Cuba. There are varying reports he may have a health crisis. What does the United States know about this or have to say about it?

MS. NULAND: No information for you on Chavez’s health.

Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, has this rushed off Qadhafi and his associates by the International Criminal Court comes now amidst the international and UN report, and others are calling that, similarly, the Sri Lankan president and his associates also should be treated the way Qadhafi now. I mean, UN, or U.S. should call on the International Criminal Court for the arrest or bring to justice the Sri Lankan president and his associates for committing crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka?

MS. NULAND: Is there a question there, Goyal?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, is the U.S. considering or as far as taking action – as far as there’s a UN human rights report and international community report against the atrocities committed in Sri Lanka?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further for you on Sri Lanka today. I can take the question, if that’s helpful.

QUESTION: And second, as far as Nepal, if I may. Nepal’s former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala – and now he’s heading the Nepali Congress party – he is in town and he will be meeting somebody in the State Department – if I ask you about his visit to Washington?

MS. NULAND: I’ll have to take that one, too. You know of every South Asian who comes through this building, and you’re usually ahead of me on this, Goyal. But so I’ll take that one as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout on the Asia Pacific meetings in Honolulu on the weekend Assistant Secretary Campbell had?

MS. NULAND: You saw, I hope, his on-the-record press briefing, which we put out on Saturday. That was --

QUESTION: I saw his – on TV I saw that – part of it.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We can get you a – the transcript of that. He spoke about the subjects that they discussed and in general he thought it was a very productive meeting, but he did do an on-the-record press avail after that on Saturday.

Please.

QUESTION: Actually, my question is from Venezuela, too. And Venezuela is actually taking part in an international meeting in Teheran to discuss terrorism issues. I was wondering if you have any comments on that?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to Venezuela’s particular choice to participate. I would say, though, that we consider it quite ironic that Iran, the most active state sponsor of terrorism, is holding a meeting on terrorism. Iran’s financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia flies in the face of efforts to promote peace, threatens economic stability, and undermines the growth of democracy throughout the region. So instead of engaging constructively in the region with the international community, the Iranian Government continues to engage unhelpfully and in an unfounded way. So, again, an ironic choice to have a terrorism meeting in Iran.

Please.

QUESTION: Well, I thought you would have thought it was par for the course. You mean a counterterrorism meeting, correct?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: I’m going to finish my flotilla questions, if I may. There’s a report underway at the UN about the – last year’s flotilla incident. Do you have any expectations on that report? It’s supposed to be released, I believe, in two weeks.

MS. NULAND: I think we’ll wait and see what’s in the report before commenting on it.

QUESTION: In your statements, as far as we can see, that – you talk about there are other means and ways to get the aid to Gaza this year. But apparently, there was none of the means and ways to get the aids to Gaza last year. So in terms of – in your analysis and statements, does it tell you that last year was actually meaningful try to get aid? Can we get that kind of result out of your – this year’s statements?

MS. NULAND: I don’t want to go back to last year. Last year was a very concerning and dangerous event that happened. What I would simply say is, just to repeat, that we do believe that effective channels exist today both through Israel and through Egypt, that those channels are being used, that the people of Gaza are being aided. I think it might be useful also to repeat something that the Secretary said last Friday. She drew a comparison between the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a territory controlled by Hamas, as compared to the greatly improved humanitarian situation in the West Bank, which is not controlled by Hamas. And she suggested that folks could draw their conclusions from that.

Please.

QUESTION: Except for the fact that the West Bank has – the borders are different?

MS. NULAND: The borders are different, but simply, when you ask who bears responsibility for the humanitarian condition of their people, clearly, we’re doing better in the West Bank than we’re doing in Gaza.

QUESTION: What do you say about Israel’s warnings to journalists who are planning to get on the boats?

MS. NULAND: I think we went through this at the beginning of the briefing, that Israel started in – with one position and has now modified its position. But again, from a U.S. perspective, we are urging everybody to find another way to aid Gaza.

Please.

QUESTION: Madam, as we wait for the human trafficking report to be released by the Secretary, what in advance that you can say something? Many women around the – in many countries in the Arab world are complaining or they have done in the past – even in the State Department, they were demonstrating outside – that those countries’ dictators and military dictators are after women in those countries for virginity test.

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the end of your --

QUESTION: For virginity test.

MS. NULAND: I think you know where we stand on this issue, that it’s abhorrent. The Secretary will speak to the broader issue of the trafficking-in-persons report shortly.

QUESTION: Because they feel that this issue has not come out in the trafficking report, human rights reports, and all the reports that you issue out as far as women’s issues are concerned.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think there should be any question where this Department or this Secretary stands on those issues.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please, thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 94

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - June 27, 2011]