Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 11, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • BELARUS
    • Economic Sanctions / Political Prisoners / Targeting Those Responsible
  • SYRIA
    • Security Forces Continuing Operations / Death Toll Rising / Democratic Transition / Increasing Chorus of Condemnation / Situation in Hama / Opposition Figures / Embassy Damascus / President Asad / International Pressure / Ambassador Ford's Meeting with Foreign Minister Mualem / Vienna Convention / Economic Contacts / Turkish Cooperation
  • SRI LANKA
    • Tamils / Human Rights Abuses / Taking Responsibility / Accountable System
  • BURMA
    • Letter from Senators to Secretary Clinton / Violence in Kachin and Shan States / Raised Concern / UN General Assembly / Accountability for Human Rights Violations / International Commission
    • Aung San Suu Kyi / Political Liberty / Free Speech / Safety
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Concerns about Housing Construction / Path Forward to Negotiations / Continuing Dialogue / Consequences of Actions / Special Envoy David Hale's Efforts with Quartet / Diplomatic Exchanges / Setting Back a Long-Term Peace Process
    • Congressional Delegation Visit
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Food Situation / Continue to Evaluate / Food Security / Engagement
    • International Obligations
    • Improving the Relationship between North and South
  • PAKISTAN
    • Counterterrorism Cooperation / Strengthening the Relationship
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Security Situation / Military Footprint / Building up Afghan Capacity / Development Efforts
  • EGYPT
    • Lifting of the Emergency Law
  • INDIA
    • Peaceful, Nonviolent Protests / Exercising Restraint


TRANSCRIPT:

12:46 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MS. NULAND: Sorry to be a little bit late today. I have a short statement on new sanctions on Belarus, and then we’ll go to your questions.

Today, the United States imposed additional economic sanctions against four major Belarusian state-owned enterprises. The sanctions are a response to the continued incarceration of political prisoners, the crackdown on political activists, journalists, and civil society representatives. These new sanctions augment the travel restrictions, asset freezes, and sanctions announced on January 31st and these measures target those responsible for the repression in Belarus following the December 19th presidential elections. They are not designed to harm the people of Belarus. And we reiterate our call for the Government of Belarus to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally.

And with that, let’s go to your questions.

QUESTION: I don’t have any.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. NULAND: Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. The Syrian president said that he – he admitted making mistakes and showed elements of regret. Is that a little too little too late?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say that in the last two days alone, since the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, the Syrian Government security forces continue their operations throughout the country. No sooner had the Turkish press departed from Hama when the security forces returned. The daily death toll is rising. There are house-to-house raids as recently as yesterday in Deir al-Zour and in Homs. Prominent members of the local coordinating committees and other activist networks have been wrapped up. The local coordinating committees estimate that we have 22 dead at the hands of security forces on August 10th and 34 dead on August 9th. We have some 30,000 people still in detention, in some cases in absolutely repulsive, disgusting conditions. There are reports from witnesses who have been inside prisons that some of these prisoners are being kept in cages and in the courtyards of prisons and in schools.

So we are looking for action. We are not looking for words. We’re not looking for promises. We’re looking for the violence to end, for the forces to go back to barracks, and for a real democratic transition to start.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on Hama?

QUESTION: Why don’t you just say he should go?

MS. NULAND: The focus, as I said yesterday, is on increasing the chorus of condemnation internationally against him and taking firm action to increase the pressure. That’s why we issued more sanctions yesterday. Our focus is on working with our European partners, our other partners around the world, including in his neighborhood, and particularly encouraging those who are still trading with Syria, particularly in the oil and gas sector – Russia is still sending arms to Syria – to stop so that the pinch will be felt and none of the revenue from this can go to fueling this violence.

QUESTION: Okay. On Hama, Hama is virtually under martial law. It’s like been literally occupied. There are virtually no news. Are you concerned that maybe some horrendous going-ons there – goings-on inside Hama, more killings and so on? And how do you monitor the situation?

MS. NULAND: We are very concerned about the situation in Hama and in other cities at risk, cities under attack. We have our own contacts inside these cities. We have broad contacts with Syrian opposition figures who have their own contacts. Again, this speaks to the value of having a strong Embassy in Damascus and having Ambassador Ford at its helm.

QUESTION: Then would it be fair to say that nothing basically has changed since the foreign – Turkish foreign minister visited there two days ago?

MS. NULAND: I think it’s fair to say that the violence continues at extremely horrific levels.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that not saying Asad not go or not saying do not go still, does it mean that you give him still more chances for Asad since there is still hope that he can stay, since you don’t take any firmer stance on this issue?

MS. NULAND: I think you heard the White House spokesperson yesterday, you heard Ambassador Rice at the UN say yesterday, that the United States believes that Syria would be a better place without Asad. This is a decision for the Syrian people. Our focus is on doing what we can to increase the international pressure on him, to support those who want a democratic future for Syria.

QUESTION: You just mentioned about Russian arm transfers. Do you have any information when was the latest arm supply went to Damascus from Russia?

MS. NULAND: I don’t.

QUESTION: Did you make an official request to stop the arms flow from Russia?

MS. NULAND: We have repeatedly, yes, and over many, many years, and more than one administration.

QUESTION: Sri Lanka?

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria before we move on?

QUESTION: About Ambassador Ford, has he traveled in other cities so far since he went back to Damascus?

MS. NULAND: He has not yet traveled beyond Damascus. He is looking at when and how that might be appropriate. I can tell you, though, that he met with the Syrian foreign minister today, Foreign Minister Mualem. You won’t be surprised at the points that Ambassador Ford made. He made clear, as we have publicly, repeatedly, that Syria is going to face increasing pressure if this violence doesn’t end, including more economic sanctions from the U.S. and we hope from others, that empty rhetoric isn’t going to suffice. He challenged the regime’s lip service about enacting reforms, and he called for free and open access for the media and also for strict compliance with Vienna Convention obligations to protect diplomatic personnel.

You also won’t be surprised that the response from Foreign Minister Mualem was just as defiant and just as unconvincing as President Asad has been in the last couple of days.

QUESTION: Was that meeting requested by the ambassador, or was he called in, or --

MS. NULAND: It was our request, yes.

QUESTION: When was the last time he saw Mualem? Because --

MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. Let us take that question. I believe it was earlier back in the spring.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: On Syria.

MS. NULAND: Please. Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Sorry. Yeah. You said just before that you’re encouraging those who trade with Syria, particularly in oil and gas, to stop. Can you tell us more about that, please? Because obviously, I mean, the sanctions you have been talking about haven’t materialized. So what are you doing to encourage them?

MS. NULAND: The Secretary, the President, have had broad contacts, not only with European countries but with neighbors of Syria, with others around the world, who maintain economic contacts, who benefit from oil and gas trade with Syria, and that – those diplomatic contacts continue.

QUESTION: Is there a government (inaudible) on it, not talking to companies?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re doing diplomacy with governments. But we think it’s a bad idea for anybody to be helping the Syrian economy at the moment.

QUESTION: Did you discuss the bilateral sanction option with Turkish Government towards Syria issue?

MS. NULAND: I mean, I think in our ongoing dialogue between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Davutoglu, at the presidential level, we talk every time about how we can increase the economic pressure, the political pressure.

QUESTION: And is – do you think that there is a mutual understanding within U.S. and Turkish side on an assessment of situation in Syria? Because there are some reports today from – coming from the region, especially from Turkish ambassador to Damascus and the Turkish press, that the situation is improving in Hama. But you said that the violence is continuing in Hama. So do you think that there’s a mutual understanding of the situation between two sides in Hama and in Syria in general?

MS. NULAND: I can’t comment on the specific Turkish view today of the situation on the ground. I will tell you that we are quite concerned about the situation in Hama. At a strategic level, I will tell you that we believe that we have good, strong, diplomatic collaboration with Turkey and that that’s been very important in this context.

QUESTION: Yeah. I asked this question to someone from the other Administration agencies, that they said – they referred actually to the State Department. They said that State Department is coordinating this issue. Because I’m wondering, okay, the coordination is ongoing between two governments, but the last year it’s happened in Iran, for example, in Tehran, so something happened, then some differences are clear between two governments.

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we --

QUESTION: So it can happen in Syria too, between U.S. and Turkish side?

MS. NULAND: Our sense is that both sides, American side and Turkish side, are working very hard to maintain tight coordination on this issue, because it’s absolutely vital to our shared effectiveness.

QUESTION: Is there anything on the – they had more meetings with the Syrian activists, just Secretary Clinton did a week ago?

MS. NULAND: I don't think there’s anything on the calendar at the moment, but as you know, in Damascus, Ambassador Ford and his people continue to have broad contacts with opposition leaders and with regular folk who want a better future for Syria.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the status of American companies that were awarded the right to do oil exploration in Syria? Do their offices operate? Are they back? Have they been recalled? What is the status of these American companies?

MS. NULAND: Let me take that question --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: -- to make sure that we get it right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Still on Syria? Anything else? No?

QUESTION: Sri Lanka?

MS. NULAND: No. Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, as far as Tamils of Sri Lanka are concerned, inside Sri Lanka or outside, what they’ve been hearing from the United States, they’re not happy as for atrocities were committed against their people and millions are still left behind without any basics. And what they’re blaming that after the war they are – they were killed by – with the – by the order of this current president, and they are seeking now justice and human rights from the United States and the United Nations. What they’re saying is why there’s this double standard when Sri Lankan Tamils are concerned, when other nations that – why this case is not going in Hague to be – to the International Criminal Justice Court against the Sri Lankan president.

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think we spoke to the issue of justice and accountability in Sri Lanka as recently as Tuesday. The United States view hasn’t changed. We would like the Sri Lankan Government to take its responsibility and establish the kind of accountable system that its people can have confidence it. But if that does not happen and does not happen expeditiously, then we reserve the right to discuss international mechanisms.

QUESTION: Just to follow, the reason I ask, because they are watching whatever we do here, State Department, as far as Tamil issues are concerned. After your response, that’s why they said they are not happy, and Sri Lankan president and Government has repeatedly said that they will not investigate their president or whatever, if the crimes were committed or not. Now the Tamils are in your hands.

MS. NULAND: Again, this is a Sri Lankan Government responsibility that we want to see them take on for the good of their own nation.

QUESTION: So have you given – is there any timeline of – how much time do you expect?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to set artificial timelines from this podium, but we understand the frustration and the concern of Sri Lankan people.

Please.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. NULAND: Change of subject, sir?

QUESTION: Yes. Sir?

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Burma, 13 U.S. senators have written a letter to Secretary Clinton yesterday seeking her help in asking the Burmese Government that they shouldn’t use rape as a weapon of war, and also seeking U.S. help in establishing a UN international investigation committee on crime against (inaudible). What’s the State Department’s stance on it? Are you pushing for these two things?

MS. NULAND: First, let me say that we did receive this letter from 13 U.S. senators expressing concern about violence in Burma’s Kachin and Shan states recently, and reports of Burmese military’s atrocities, including using rape as a weapon.

Let me just review where we have been on this issue with Burma. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about these issues with the Burmese Government, particularly regarding violence in ethnic areas, including reports of rape and forced labor. We have also used the annual resolution on Burma at the UN General Assembly every year to express our concern. And we have strongly supported the role of the UN special rapporteur on the situation in Burma, and we have urged Burma to allow him access to the country.

With regard to the request now for an international commission, we are committed to seeking accountability for human rights violations that have occurred in Burma, and we are prepared to work to establish an international commission of inquiry through close consultation with our friends and allies.

QUESTION: And you also recently-- the special envoy on Burma was confirmed by the Senate. Has he resumed his duties here, or --

MS. NULAND: He is working. He has to have some formalizing of his role, but he is working.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Any – isn’t there a response to these 13 senators saying, “Thank you very much but we’re already doing this, and why aren’t you aware of the fact that we’re doing all this already?”

MS. NULAND: I don’t know when the letter came in, but I think it’s relatively recent, and a response is in the works along the lines that I just outlined.

QUESTION: Well, it was – it was yesterday.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: So you were basically telling them, “That’s wonderful but we’re already doing this. Why didn’t you notice?”

MS. NULAND: No. I think we --

QUESTION: Don’t cut our budget?

MS. NULAND: Our point is we’ve been doing a lot, but we are now prepared to work with friends on an international commission of inquiry, which was their main ask in the letter.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, except that I recall that you – that this building had said that before. That’s not --

MS. NULAND: Well, then we will say it again.

QUESTION: But Madam, as far as your U.S. lawmakers are concerned, they have said this many times in the past, and also the Burmese leader now waiting for the last 20 years in an – outside, inside, in and out from the jail. She has been threatened by the military dictators there that if she speaks again for human rights or for the Burmese people, who are seeking democracy and human rights, she will be again behind bars.

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think anybody should question our commitment to Aung San Suu Kyi’s political liberty and rights of free speech. At every encounter with Burmese officials, this issue comes up as well as their responsibility to protect her safety.

QUESTION: New subject now?

MS. NULAND: Anything else on this? Yeah.

QUESTION: Sorry. I have one follow-up on that. On the commission of inquiry, is there any interest among U.S. allies to pursue such a commission of inquiry? Because I don’t get the impression that there is.

MS. NULAND: I don’t – I can’t speak to precisely who the more bullish and the more bearish are on this issue, but we are working to build support for it.

QUESTION: On --

MS. NULAND: Arshad.

QUESTION: -- Israeli-Palestinian matters, you will have seen that the Israeli interior minister has given final approval for the construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. This is the project, I believe, whose announcement during Vice President Biden’s trip to Israel caused such consternation across Washington. Do you have any comment on final approval being given to this project, one, and two, do you believe this further undercuts your effort to try to get the parties back to the negotiating table?

MS. NULAND: We are concerned about continuing Israeli action with respect to housing construction in Jerusalem. We have raised these concerns with the Israeli Government and we will continue to do so. As we’ve said many times, unilateral action against – unilateral action of this kind works against our efforts to get folks back to the table, makes it all more difficult. And we think the best path forward is direct negotiations so that the parties can agree together on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards the unique religious status for people around the world.

QUESTION: Just so there’s no ambiguity, when you say “these concerns,” you are referring to – specifically to concerns about this specific project?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: And was that done – were the concerns raised in the last day – in other words, subsequent to this final approval? Or are you referring to the concerns that have been raised in the past?

MS. NULAND: I think the concerns have been raised right along since this was – this project was right first announced.

QUESTION: Including since the final approval, or you don’t know?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether they’ve been raised in the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you read the taken question response on settlement activity that was put out two days ago? Because I believe it’s identical to what you just said now.

QUESTION: No, didn’t use the word “folks.”

QUESTION: Didn’t use the word what?

QUESTION: Folks. F-o-l-k-s. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Didn’t use the word “folks”? I --

QUESTION: Trying to get folks back to the table. Yeah, that’s different. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Get folks back to the table.

QUESTION: But it’s the first time in a while you’ve said this from the podium. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, she – well, she repeated it the other day, but I’m just wondering, has anyone given any thought to maybe perhaps changing this monotonous drone that you produce every time someone asks you about it? Because it obviously doesn’t do any good. It was just two days ago that you said you were deeply – or whatever it was – gravely concerned about settlement activity, and then two days later, the Israelis just go in and do it again. So your words of concern fall, obviously, on deaf ears.

MS. NULAND: This issue is part of our continuing dialogue with Israel. It’s part of our continuing quest to create an environment so that we can get these parties back to the table. I apologize if you don’t like our phraseology. We’ll take that one under advisement.

QUESTION: No, it’s not – it’s just – it’s the same thing, and I think it’s an – it seems to be an exercise in futility. It’s kind of like this bizarre kabuki dance where you express concern about something and the Israelis go ahead and do exactly what you’re concerned about. And it happens over and over again, so I’m just wondering if there’s been any thought given to perhaps changing the message or suggesting to the Israelis that there might actually be a consequence for their action instead of you just standing up there and expressing concern.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve expressed to the Israelis the consequences of these actions. So I don’t think that’s an issue.

QUESTION: What are the consequences other than undermining your efforts to get the parties back to the table?

MS. NULAND: It undercuts trust, it makes it harder to get folks back to the table, and getting folks back to the table is the main goal here, at least of our efforts.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: Well, haven’t --

QUESTION: -- that’s hardly a negative consequence from the Israeli point of view if they’re not interested in getting back to the table. I mean, it’s not like you’re withholding loan guarantees, for example. It’s not a tangible consequence that might actually cause the Israelis some financial or other discomfort. I mean, I think when Matt was using the word “consequences,” he was talking about consequences that are uncomfortable for the Israeli Government for continuing to do what the U.S. Government has for lo these many monotonous years, said it should not do.

MS. NULAND: The focus of our diplomacy, as we’ve said for many, many weeks here is to build on the vision that the President set forth on May 19th to get these parties back to the table, to make the case to each of them that their interests are better served by getting back into direct negotiation. And it is in that context that we also make the point that this kind of activity is concerning and doesn’t improve the environment.

QUESTION: And to follow up on Matt’s question, though, are – is the U.S. Government considering imposing any negative consequences on the Government of Israel for continuing to do what the U.S. Government believes it should not do, or not? I mean, it may be that you’re not considering any negative consequences for Israel, and that may be your strategy. But are you considering any such consequences, or no?

MS. NULAND: Again, our focus is on trying to get these parties back to the table. If you’re asking me whether we intend new measures of some kind, I will take that question if that’s helpful to you.

QUESTION: It is, actually. Thank you.

QUESTION: Has anything --

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: Has anything evolved from the – since the conversation that the President had with the Israeli prime minister a couple days ago, as far as the State Department’s concerned in terms of getting these talks back on track?

MS. NULAND: David Hale continues his conversations, continues his efforts with the Quartet to bring folks back to the table. But this work is very difficult and we haven’t had any breakthroughs, if that’s what you’re asking, in the last couple of days.

QUESTION: Okay. Another thing – another issue is the --

QUESTION: Well, in fact, isn’t the answer to the question yes, in fact, the – that there has – I mean, the President talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. And the next day – and today, the Israelis announced new settlement construction. It doesn’t seem to me that they’re showing any interest at all --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- in following or in accepting the idea that talks – that peace talks with the Palestinians are a good idea and they will help them at all.

MS. NULAND: Was there a question somewhere?

QUESTION: Yeah. I guess the question is: Exactly how successful do you think your efforts are when you come out two days ago and say settlements are concerning, the President talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and then you get basically slapped in the face by your close ally in the Middle East that exists partly because of the largesse that this government gives them in terms of cash.

I just don’t understand what – it calls into the question the seriousness of the United States when one side of the – one side of these – when the Israelis, in this case, continue to flout your desires, your wishes.

MS. NULAND: Again, our focus is on trying to get these guys back to the table on both sides. I’m not going to get into the details of the private diplomacy or the messages going back one way or the other. The communication channels are open. We’re working hard on this. But each party has to make its own sovereign decision to want to come to the table. And it’s been difficult; we are making no secret of the fact that this has been difficult and it continues to be difficult.

QUESTION: Can I – I want to go back to Matt’s line of questioning about the kabuki dance. I mean, if I remember correctly, when this announcement was made, when Vice President Biden was there, one of the things that calmed it down was the Israelis said, “Oh, this was just for politics and it’s just an announcement and it’s going to be years before these settlements are even moved to fruition.” And you seemed to be satisfied with that at the time that these settlements would never really come to fruition. And now, it’s inching closer.

So, I mean, at what point does Israel’s statements that turn out to be not in good faith when they know that they’re going ahead with it – I mean, basically, they’re lying to you. And at what point do you not take them at their word and consider that they’re not – when you call them – when you say that they’re wanting to come back to the table in good faith, at what point do you say – do you call them on it?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think you’re asking me to get into the details of our diplomatic exchanges with Israel, and I’m not going to go there. Our position on this issue is clear. It’s clear publicly, it’s clear privately, and we’ve made it abundantly clear that we don’t think that this improves the environment, and we’ll continue to say that. This is difficult work to try to get these parties back to the table. We’re going to keep trying to do it and we’re going to do it at all levels, including, as you saw, the President’s phone conversation yesterday.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, yes, it’s difficult work especially when one of the – at least one of the parties, and it seems like both of the parties, are continuing to ignore the guidance that you’re giving them in terms of what’s going to make a constructive negotiation. And, I mean, even if you don’t want to get into the delicate or sensitive discussions, can you honestly say that Israel is a good faith partner in this process --

MS. NULAND: I think there --

QUESTION: -- when they just lied to you again?

MS. NULAND: There are difficult issues and difficult conversations being had with both parties to get them back to the table, and that’s going to continue, and we’re going to keep working at it.

QUESTION: Do you think that –

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve done –

QUESTION: -- Israel is a good-faith partner?

MS. NULAND: I think I’ve done what I can do on this issue, and we’re going to keep working with Israel; we’re going to keep working with the Palestinians to try to get them back to the table.

QUESTION: But based on your view on settlements, do you question the Israelis’ commitment to our peace, toward the whole peace process, based on the continued building projects in what the Palestinians want to build as a state?

MS. NULAND: We believe that the Israeli Government wants to keep working towards the outcome that the President laid out in his speech in May. Each side has its issues as we try to get to the table, and we’ll continue to work with each side on its issues.

QUESTION: Has the level of concern has changed since the – this new announcement came? Has the level of concern has changed?

MS. NULAND: I think this has been hard work before this announcement, and it’s going to be hard work after this announcement. But we’re going to keep doing it. Really guys, I think we’ve done what we can do on this issue.

QUESTION: Can I ask one on this? I think it’s important. You were asked a couple of times about Israeli good faith, and you didn’t, in a way, say that you believe that Israel treats with the United States Government in good faith, which I suspect is the U.S. Government’s position. I just wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to address that squarely, whether you feel like the – Israel, which deals with the United States on an enormous number of issues, not just this one, in general treats with the U.S. Government in good faith.

MS. NULAND: Israel remains a close ally of the United States, remains our partner. We not only work on Middle East Peace, we work on a broad range of regional and global issues, as you have noted, Arshad, and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: One follow-up? Without getting into the substantive details of your – of this private diplomacy, but presuming at the same time that your message to them in private is the same as you deliver in public, how do you rate your efforts so far?

MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position from this podium to give this a grade, and I’m not even sure that that would be appropriate at this moment.

QUESTION: Well, if you look at – but if you look at the developments that have happened in the last three days, surely you can’t be happy.

MS. NULAND: This hasn’t just been difficult for three days; this has been difficult for decades. And it’s going – and we’re going to continue to work on it.

QUESTION: Correct. But I’m – we’re talking about a very short period of time here in the last three days, the developments on the ground. You’re not –

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to grade the peace process today.

QUESTION: On a related matter.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: On a related matter, the American-Israel Education Foundation is sponsoring a visit by 81 members of Congress to Israel on what is expected to be a show of support for the policies of Mr. Netanyahu. Does the President or does the State Department consider this to be, in a way, complicating the peace effort and the peace process? While I understand that the legislative branch can do whatever activities they want, but this is a fully paid trip by an organization based in Washington that may end up complicating the President’s effort on calling for a state on the basis of 1967.

MS. NULAND: Let me just say that –

QUESTION: Are you aware of –

MS. NULAND: I am aware. Let me just say that whenever members of Congress travel, we welcome it because it helps for them to have eyes on the situation. It helps when leaders of the legislative branch speak directly to foreign governments, speak directly to our international partners, can develop their own views. So we always welcome congressional travel, and we look forward to hearing their views when they come back.

QUESTION: But do you think it’s helpful when they don’t give a message that’s the same message as this Administration?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’re assuming that that’s what’s going to happen. I think in general the Congress supports the goal of getting these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: You really – you can – you want to stand by that: We always, always endorse or support congressional travel? Because I can remember several instances when this building has really gotten upset with in particular Speaker Pelosi going to Syria. Perhaps not in this Administration, but the line that the State Department or any Administration always supports congressional travel is not entirely true, correct?

MS. NULAND: Matt continues to school me to ensure I get it right up here. In general, it is a good thing when members of Congress travel.

Please.

QUESTION: In light of these developments, do you think U.S. Administration is in a position to put forward a clear – means politically doable and diplomatically meaningful reason for Palestinian Authority to not go to UN this September?

MS. NULAND: We continue to believe that going to New York is a bad idea and will set back a long-term peace process.

Please.

QUESTION: Four officials from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad were stopped from entering Peshawar city yesterday because they didn’t carry the – which the Pakistani authorities is NOC, no-objection certificate, which is necessary for the traveling documents. Is it true? And why they were not carrying the necessary travel documents when they were entering Peshawar?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that report. We’ll take it.

Please.

QUESTION: On Korea, ma’am.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A senior South Korean official yesterday said North Korea’s food situation is not that serious compared with previous years. I’m just wondering if you agree with – agree to the assessment. I’m asking this question again. Almost three months have passed since you sent the evaluation team to North Korea. So I think you have come to your conclusion on the situation. So do you agree with the South Korean official’s assessment on the food situation?

MS. NULAND: I’m not aware that our internal analysis has concluded. I think we continue to evaluate the situation.

Please.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up? I mean, given that the Secretary just spent the last hour talking about food security, I mean, is there a value or could it improve the U.S. relationship with North Korea if it worked on what the Secretary said is important – are the long-term effects of famine and drought rather than just considering food aid to North Korea?

MS. NULAND: If the United States worked with the North Koreans? Well, obviously, that would require us to be in a better state of relations. The North Korean Government bears primary responsibility for the state of food security in its own country and the horrible isolation its people live in as a result of its policies which flout United Nations Security Council resolutions. So the best route would be back to engagement with the international community, which would allow trade and allow an open system. That said, you know the basis on which we evaluate food aid, and we’re still evaluating.

Please.

QUESTION: Also on North Korea, a government spokesman for them said that they would be willing to allow face-to-face meetings of families that were split by the Korean War between the U.S. and North Korea. Would you guys support that?

MS. NULAND: I have to take that. I haven’t seen that report. But obviously, this would be part of a larger conversation that we’re having with North Korea, which starts with their obligations on the nuclear side.

Goyal.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka, thank you. I mean – sorry, on --

MS. NULAND: Back to Sri Lanka?

QUESTION: On Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Yesterday a general from Afghanistan told the Pentagon press that as far as security in Afghanistan is concerned, it all, of course, depends on how Pakistan behaves or cooperates with the U.S. And he said that as far as arms or Talibans or explosives are concerned are still being smuggled from Pakistan into Afghanistan. My question is that how much Pakistan is now cooperating after Usama bin Ladin was killed inside Pakistan and if things have changed ever since.

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think you know that we continue to cooperate with Pakistan on counterterrorism and to try to work together as closely as we can. You saw all the visits that we have had to improve this relationship and strengthen it, from the Secretary’s visit, Admiral Mullen’s visit, to all of the working groups that we’ve had. So our efforts continue and we’re going to keep working at it.

QUESTION: My question is really as far as security in Afghanistan is concerned, what surety can you give to soldiers there and also to the international community working to rebuild Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I didn’t --

QUESTION: As far as security is concerned, what surety can you give them who are working to rebuild Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: To the international assistance workers --

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: -- or to the Afghans or --

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. International workers.

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that the United States maintains a large military footprint working with our Afghan partners, our international partners. As we seek to draw that down heading towards 2014, we are also seeking to build up Afghan capacity, both military and police, so that the security situation will enable strong development efforts and strong political and economic strengthening. That’s our goal.

Please.

QUESTION: On China, two questions?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese responded to your request for seeking clarification why they need an aircraft carrier?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think there have been any further development on that issue.

QUESTION: And secondly, China has come out with a report saying that they have been – they too have been attacked – there have been several attacks in China, and 14 percent of those are originating from U.S. Have they brought this to your notice?

MS. NULAND: I don’t believe so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: The South Korean national security advisor was holding talks, I think here yesterday. Do you have any readout on that and whether you’ve agreed on any next steps regarding engagement with North Korea?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to tell you that I should have had a readout and I don’t have it, so let me get it for you.

QUESTION: One follow-up on that, although you didn’t answer. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: A follow-up on my non-answer?

QUESTION: Are future U.S. talks with North Korea going to be conditional on a continuing dialogue between the North and the South? I mean, would you hold talks with the North without the North and the South holding talks themselves first?

MS. NULAND: I think where we’ve been on this and where we were when we had the New York meeting was to try to use our contacts with the DPRK when we choose to have them to encourage them not only to meet their international nuclear obligations and show concrete progress towards denuclearizing the peninsula, but to also strengthen relations with their neighbors. So we will give that message to them whenever we choose to meet them. I don’t want to get into the sequence of who’s going to do what, but we are certainly expecting North Korea to take steps to improve its relationship with South Korea.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Egypt’s government has announced that it is taking steps to remove the emergency law.

MS. NULAND: I missed the first – which government?

QUESTION: Egypt’s government has announced that they are taking steps to remove the emergency law. Is that a good thing?

MS. NULAND: It is a good thing. It’s a longstanding position of the United States that the emergency law should be lifted.

QUESTION: Can we talk about what was happening yesterday on Egypt? Do you know – is it true that the departure of the USAID director for Egypt is at all related to the kind of tide of anti-Americanism that you mentioned yesterday?

MS. NULAND: I’ve got to take that one. I don't have any – a couple of you asked, by the way, when Ambassador Patterson arrived in country. She arrived on August 1st. She has not yet presented her credentials. That’s set for next week.

QUESTION: On India?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Madam, I have asked this question before also, but what I’m asking you, on a daily basis there are demonstration going on in India and police brutality against the people who are having peaceful demonstrations against corruption, against the corrupt Indian politicians. Do you concern – are you worried about that?

MS. NULAND: As you know, we support the right of peaceful, nonviolent protest around the world. That said, India is a democracy, and we count on India to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protest.

QUESTION: And August 16th could be a very big day in India as far as demonstrations are concerned, next day of the Indian Independence Day, because they are planning a big demonstration against corruption in India.

QUESTION: According to Israeli press reports, the phone conversation yesterday between the President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu also significant portion of the conversation was about Turkey-Israel rapprochement. Would it be possible for you to elaborate whether that was the one of the topics, or is there anything you can update us on the topic?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything beyond the statement that the White House put out yesterday, but our White House colleagues might be able to help you with that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)


DPB # 119

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 11, 2011]