Special Briefing
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Questions from Twitter for 21st Century Statecraft Month
Washington, DC
January 20, 2012


MS. NULAND: Welcome, everybody, to our third Twitter briefing here in 21st Century Statecraft Month at the Department of State. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

MS. ESSER: Our first question comes from our Arabic feed @USAbilAraby, and it comes from @haidersahir, who asks, Dear Spokesperson Nuland, I am an Iraqi and my question is: Where is the Iraqi oil money going and why is it not being given to the people?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that question, haidersahir. First, before I try to answer your question, I just want to make a point about the political situation in Iraq. We are quite encouraged here in the United States to see that senior Iraqi politicians are now beginning to deepen and expand their dialogue about how to overcome the political differences that they’ve had and arrive at a solution within the Iraqi constitution that meets the needs of all Iraqis. So we very much encourage the work that they’re doing together.

With regard to your question about Iraqi oil, this is primarily a question for the Iraqi Government. However, over the last three years, we have been encouraged by the budgeting decisions that the Iraqi Government has made. Since 2010, the Iraqis have, on an annual basis, put considerable amounts of money from oil proceeds into rebuilding the infrastructure of the country. For example, the 2012 Iraqi budget, which is passed – under consideration in the Council of Representatives now, includes $32 billion for investment and reconstruction of key economic and social sectors, including 4 billion for the electricity sector and 628 million for health.

In 2011, Iraq budgeted some 26 billion for infrastructure investment, including about 6 billion for the oil sector itself to encourage that sector to continue to grow. This is on top of some 20 billion in oil revenues committed by the Iraqis to capital investments in 2010. So we want to continue to encourage Iraq to take those oil profits and reinvest them in the country for the good of all Iraqis.

MS. ESSER: Great. Our next question comes from our English language Twitter feed @statedept, and it’s from @ramseyhakeem, who asks, What is the real position of the U.S. regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict? Because I see a double-standard policy.

MS. NULAND: Well, thanks, ramseyhakeem, for the chance to talk about our policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States continues to believe that the only way for the parties to have lasting peace between them is for them to have a direct dialogue and to negotiate the issues that separate them so that we can end up with two states living side by side in peace, in security.

So with that goal in mind, we have worked with our international partners in the Quartet, the European Union, the UN, the Russian Federation. And in September, we put forward a series of proposals for how the Israelis and the Palestinians can move forward. This included a proposal that within 30 days they sit down directly together, and within 90 days after that, three months, they start talking seriously about concrete proposals that they would each put forward on the issues of security and land.

We didn’t meet all of those deadlines, but we’re very pleased to see that under the sponsorship of the Government of Jordon the parties are now meeting directly. They’ve been doing this for several weeks. And they are starting to talk seriously about the issues that divide them. So we are encouraged, and we are working with both sides to try to get them now to turn these preliminary talks into a real negotiation, starting on the issues of territory and security.

MS. ESSER: Thanks Victoria. The next question is from our Spanish language Twitter feed, @usaenespanol, and it comes from Angel Bermudez who asks: What is your assessment of the trip made by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we see an Iran that, as a result of its failure to come clean with the international community about its nuclear program, is facing increasing isolation. It’s increasingly under international sanction. Those sanctions are beginning to bite, and fewer and fewer countries are willing to trade and deal with Iran, either economically or politically.

So what we see is an Iran desperate for friends, looking for friends in new places. Some of the countries that it’s been approaching, not surprisingly, have difficult relations with the United States. Frankly, we didn’t see too much come out of this trip in terms of new agreements, and in some of the countries, do seem to have given Iran the message that until it agrees to cooperate with the international community with regard to its nuclear program, that isolation is only going to increase.

MS. ESSER: Thank you. Our next question comes from our Portuguese language feed, @USAemPortugues, and it comes from Eve Sampaio, who asks: What is the expectation of the State Department regarding the forthcoming visit of President Dilma to the U.S.?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, before answering your question, Eve, I want to make sure that all folks on our Portuguese feed had a chance to see the President’s statement yesterday encouraging more tourism into the United States. Included in that message were some specific steps that we’re taking to try to make it easier for folks who want to come tour the United States to get visas. We have a particular emphasis now on improving the visa process and decreasing interview wait times in key tourist markets, including Brazil and China. And we’re delighted that our consular officers overseas will now be able to waive the interview requirements on a case-by-case basis for many tourist and business travelers. So those of you in the Portuguese-speaking world who want to come to the United States, you can learn more about our visa changes on travel.state.gov, and I encourage you to do that.

With regard to your specific question, the United States and Brazil have an excellent relationship across a wide range of issues. This was evident when President Obama was – visited Brazil last March, and the President looks forward to hosting President Rousseff later this year. Our two governments are working on a whole host of issues, including trying to enhance our energy partnership, increase educational exchanges in support of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative to bring more students back and forth across the United States and the Americas and President Rousseff’s initiative, Science without Borders. So we will continue to work on all of those things together.

MS. ESSER: Our last question comes from our Russian language feed @USApoRusski, and it comes from @dip_ifax who asks: What does the U.S. feel about the Russian decision to freeze adoption procedures for children?

MS. NULAND: Dobryj dyen, @dip_ifax. Just to say that, first of all, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov signed a bilateral U.S.-Russian adoption agreement in July of this year, which is designed to provide additional safeguards to better protect the welfare of children and all parties who are involved in adoptions between our two countries. This agreement is now pending ratification in the Russian Duma, and we hope that the Duma will ratify the agreement as soon as possible, because we really do believe that this will help address some of the issues that we’ve had in the past.

The United States takes very seriously the safety and security of children adopted by U.S. parents, and we also regularly prosecute those who are convicted of – those who are accused of criminal abuse of children. Many of these children that have been adopted into the United States would not have had good homes otherwise. In 2011, almost a thousand Russian children were brought to the United States through inter-country adoptions. We also issued more than 9,000 immigrant visas to children worldwide adopted by U.S. parents. And our view is that inter-country adoption can provide a permanent home to a child who otherwise might spend their life in an orphanage.

But as we’ve said, we are committed to doing this in a safe and secure way and to prosecuting those who abuse it. We encourage the Russian Duma to ratify the agreement that we have in the interest of continuing this. We’ve seen press reports about freezing Russian adoptions. We’re not sure that this has actually been implemented. The best step, we believe, is to ratify the agreement we have together.

MS. ESSER: Thanks Victoria. That’s all we have time for today. Thanks to everyone, and we look forward to your questions next week.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much, Victoria.

[This is a mobile copy of Twitter Briefing - January 20, 2012]