Special Briefing
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Questions from Twitter for 21st Century Statecraft Month
Washington, DC
January 27, 2012

MS. NULAND: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to our fourth Twitter briefing for 21st Century Statecraft Month. Over to you, Victoria, for the questions this week.

MS. ESSER: Thank you. Our first question comes from our English-language Twitter feed, @StateDept, and it comes to us from @TanPdx who asks: How important is the Kerry-Lugar bill in the U.S.-Pakistan calculus, and it will it be revived?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that question. The Kerry-Lugar bill is extraordinarily important. This was the piece of legislation that increased U.S. civilian support for Pakistan and allowed us to greatly expand the cooperative programs that we do together. Just to give you a flavor of this, since October 2009 the U.S. Government has dispersed some $2.2 billion in civilian assistance to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar legislation, including about $500 million in emergency humanitarian relief. What is this money doing? What is it buying? It allows us to support programs that help Pakistan improve its economy in vital sectors, for example, in energy, in economic growth, in the stabilization of the border regions, in education, and in health.

And one thing I’d like to say is that even though we’ve had some difficulties, some complications, in our military-to-military relationship over recent months, this part of our relationship, the civilian relationship continues and all of this money continues to flow, including the valuable assistance that we are giving to help lay some 210 kilometers of road in the FATA and other parts of Pakistan to fund Fulbright scholars, so bright leaders of Pakistan’s future can come and study in the United States, and also to promote private sector growth in Pakistan.

MS. ESSER: Great. Our next question is also from our English-language feed, and it comes to us from AhMukhtar, who asks: Have peace talks started with the Taliban in Qatar, or are we still waiting for President Karzai to approve it?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know, AhMukhtar, that the U.S. role in this process is to try to help get an Afghan-Afghan dialogue about peace, about reconciliation. So we are not yet at the stage where those direct talks have started; nor are we at the stage where there has been agreement to open even a Taliban office in Qatar.

We had our special representative for these issues, Ambassador Marc Grossman, both in Kabul and in Qatar and in other parts of the world talking about these issues last week. The next step is we need to have some direct conversation between the Government of Qatar and the Government of Afghanistan on this. And we’ve also made absolutely clear that we and the Afghans are looking for a concrete statement publicly by the Taliban that they are prepared to renounce violence and participate actively in a peace process.

So those are the next steps. This is going to be a long road. We’re not anywhere near there yet, but thank you for your question so that we could clarify where we are in the process.

MS. ESSER: Thank you. Our next question comes from our French-language Twitter feed @USAenFrancais, and it comes to us from HagumaChristine, who asks: What are the measures being taken by the Obama Administration for better integration of Africa into the economy?

MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that question, HagumaChristine. The Obama Administration’s approach to Africa, working intensively with all of our partners on the continent, is increasingly to move our relationship from one of aid to one of trade. So we’ve been focused very much on bringing Africa more greatly into the global economy, just as you suggest.

I’d start by saying that the United States continues to be the largest foreign direct investment partner in Africa. For example, U.S. direct investment in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2009 was $22.6 billion dollars, 17 percent higher than the previous year. So the Obama Administration is trying to support this greater trade by working with the countries of Africa to open trade and investment opportunities, to create good, clean rules of the road for our companies to invest, and for Africans to expand their access to the U.S. market through programs like the AGOA, which we have expanded, which allows more textiles from Africa to come into the United States.

In 2010, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative and also the International Business Partnership program to try to create more partnerships between American business and African business so that prosperity can grow on both sides of the Atlantic and to bring more overseas partners, more African partners, to the United States as well. So we are very much on the move from aid to trade agenda, and we’re seeing some solid success.

MS. ESSER: Thanks, Toria. Our last question comes from our new, launched this week, Turkish language Twitter feed @ABDTurk, and it comes to us from akkorlu, who asks: What would happen if the Cyprus negotiations turn into a deadlock and if they, meaning the parties, cannot decide to have an international conference?

MS. NULAND: Well, akkorlu, thank you for that question. I’m pleased to report that the UN process, which we very much support, which is to provide the environment for a Cypriot-led negotiation process under UN good offices to reunify the island into a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation is very much alive. In fact, the parties just met last week under UN auspices, and we are very much encouraging both sides to stay at the table to make good use of what the UN has to offer and to get to that strong bi-zonal, bi-communal federation that’s going to provide for a healthy, stable, prosperous Cyprus for all the people of the island going forward in the future.

MS. ESSER: Thank you, Toria. That concludes our session for today, and it actually is our last session for the Twitter briefings for 21st Century Statecraft Month. So thanks so much to everyone for tuning in.

MS. NULAND: Thanks to all of you for participating.