Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 2, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing
    • NGO personnel departure/ 13 Individuals including Six U.S. Citizens/ Judicial Process / Bail Arrangements
    • Situation in Homs
    • Sanctions / Continuing Political and Economic Pressure
    • Embassy Closures/ Polish Embassy
    • UN Security Council / Talks with Russia
    • Arms Sales to Syria
    • Watan Radio Station / Confiscated Equipment
    • Al Quds
  • DPRK
    • Nutritional Assistance / Face-to-Face Talks Next Week
  • IRAN
    • Continuing to Work with P-5 + 1 Partners
    • Sanctions
    • President Correa Pardon of El Universo Defendants / Freedom of Expression is Essential Component of Democracy


12:14 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. I apologize for the cramped quarters in here while our briefing room is down.

We had quite a discussion yesterday about the numbers on the plane coming out of Egypt. And as a result of our inability to give you numbers yesterday, some of the reporting was a little goofy. So let me just confirm that there were 13 individuals all together. Six of them were Americans from IRI and NDI. And there were seven others representing the nationalities that we gave you yesterday.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Can you explain – one American from NDI, I believe, has stayed in Egypt. Can you let us know if you’re offering him anything, if there’s anything you’re concerned about with that – his decision to stay?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you noted, Michele, it was his personal decision to stay. He was offered the – a seat on the airplane, and he chose not to take it.

QUESTION: You – yesterday, Toria, you said that, in response to a question about whether the Americans who departed would return to face the charges, you said that was a decision that they would themselves have to make. As a general principle, is it the U.S. Government’s belief that people who are accused of crimes make bail and agree to return to face the charges should indeed return to face the charges?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we are on judicial processes as a general matter. But let me say that in the context of this case, as we’ve said repeatedly, we consider that these charges were unwarranted from the start. So our goal, going forward, is to continue to work with the Egyptian authorities to try to have these charges dismissed, not only for our people and for the other internationals but also for the Egyptians who have been charged. So that is the goal, that we will not get to the point that you are pointing out, because the charges will be dismissed.

QUESTION: But to go back to the point about making bail, I mean, is it acceptable that people should selectively elect whether to return to face charges or skip bail?

MS. NULAND: Again, you are assuming facts not in evidence here. These guys were --

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Did they not pay bail?

MS. NULAND: These guys were --

QUESTION: Did they not pay bail?

MS. NULAND: Will you let me finish my point?

QUESTION: Sure. But what are the facts that are in dispute? Because as far as I can tell, they did pay bail and they did agree to go back to face the charges.

MS. NULAND: These guys were charged. There was a travel ban on them. The travel ban was lifted on the understanding that they would pay bail. So your assumption is that these charges will stand and they will be expected to go back for trial. Our point is that we will continue to work with the Egyptian Government to see if we can get this case dismissed, not only for our people but also for the Egyptians, because we think the case was unwarranted from the beginning.

QUESTION: But if the charges do stay – and I don’t see why one shouldn’t assume that they might – should they not return?

MS. NULAND: Again, as we said yesterday, this will be a matter for the individuals to decide, along with their lawyers, but our hope is that we don’t get to that point, and that is what we’re working for.

QUESTION: So then it is selectively acceptable for them to make a decision whether to keep their word and return or skip bail?

MS. NULAND: Again, our expectation and hope is that we will not get to that stage.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out about the money question, the whole fungibility issue and how much taxpayer money went into paying their bail and how much of it was – I don’t know – whoever donates to IRI or NDI, how much of it was private money?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can tell you on this is that we discussed this issue of bail with the NGOs and we made arrangements with them so that the legal expenses associated with this incident would be treated as part of the activities that the U.S. Government funds. And we agreed to this because the situation arose in the context of the democracy promotion work that they were doing that we had funded and supported on behalf of the United States. So – and apparently this is not unusual. In the past, we have paid legal fees when there are issues associated with these organizations and they get into issues --

QUESTION: Okay. So basically the taxpayer paid their bail?

QUESTION: And legal --

QUESTION: And now they’re going to jump bail and not return, and that money is going to be forfeited to the Egyptians.

MS. NULAND: The NGOs paid the bail --

QUESTION: With taxpayer money.

MS. NULAND: -- out of money that they receive from the U.S. Government.


MS. NULAND: As I said --


MS. NULAND: -- this incident arose because --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. NULAND: -- of the activities they were involved in. Again, with regard to the question of what happens now with the bail, our goal is to get this case dismissed. That is what we want to see happen.

QUESTION: In that – and in that case they would – the Egyptians would return the money?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to how this is going to go, but that is the expectation, that we will get this case dismissed.

QUESTION: The case decision --

QUESTION: When I asked about this, the case --

QUESTION: Hold on. Hold on, Said. I need – I want to know if – is there some guarantee that this money is going to be repaid to either the institutions or to the U.S. Treasury if it is returned by the Egyptians? Do you expect the Egyptians to return it? Because otherwise I don’t see why the U.S. Government is putting up however many million dollars it was that is just going to be seized because these people aren’t going to go back to face trial if they’re charged. So that’s why – I just want to know what the end result of this money is. You have a guarantee you’re going to get it back, or that the IRI and NDI are going to get it back, or is it just kind of flown out the window and never gets seen again?

MS. NULAND: Again, we worked with the NGOs to allow them to make arrangements to pay this bail because we considered it was important to be able to resolve this issue with regard to their safety and security. This --

QUESTION: I understand that, but there’s a difference between bail that’s supposed to be repaid once you – you get at least a portion of it back when you show up, when you don’t jump bail.

MS. NULAND: I understand --

QUESTION: And in this case, you’re leaving it up to the individuals involved whether or not they want to return. So I want to know what happens to it.

MS. NULAND: Again, our hope and expectation is that we can get this case dismissed. That’s what we want to work on, that’s what we’re continuing to work on. In that event, presumably this issue would be resolved. But again, these groups ended up in this situation because they were trying to do democracy promotion work, which they do in 70 countries all over the world on behalf of the U.S.

QUESTION: I’m not taking issue with the fact that it was paid.


QUESTION: That’s fine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: And it’s fine that the tax payer paid it. But if you’re – but if it’s going to be forfeited because they’re not going to go back, then that’s a problem.

MS. NULAND: Well again, as I said, we consider these charges unwarranted. Our goal is to get the case dismissed. If we can resolve it that way, that is in the best interest of everyone and that’s what we’re working on.

QUESTION: On this point --


QUESTION: -- negotiating to have the case dismissed, is this a legal issue like lawyers to judicial system in Egypt, or is the political issue – is it negotiated at the political level?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s obviously an issue to continue to support the lawyers for the organizations, whether they are American, whether they are international, or whether they are Egyptian in working through whether the case should have been brought in the first place. Because as you know, our view is that none of these organizations – not ours, not the Egyptians, not the internationals – did anything wrong and that the circumstance arose as a result of the very unclear legal environment provided for these organizations.

So not only do we want to get this case resolved, we want to get the situation resolved as a legal matter so that all NGOs can register, including the Egyptian ones, and they can continue their important work.

QUESTION: So in this case, if the judges in Egypt decide that they will dismiss the case but consider the bail to be a fine, for instance, that would be acceptable to the United States?

MS. NULAND: Said, you’re taking me into all kinds of hypothetical situations that I’m not going to go into.


QUESTION: So is it U.S. policy then that if someone is detained working for an organization that promotes democracy that we help with their legal fees? Because there are Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Lots of groups sort of do that, and people get detained. Or is it a case-by-case basis?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said, in this case it was our judgment, working with the NGOs. The situation arose as a result of the work they were doing, that the U.S. Government had supported, and we thought that it was important. This has been done in some cases in the past. I don’t think we have a blanket policy with regard to it, but this is not an isolated incident where this has been necessary.

QUESTION: Is there something special about specifically NDI or IRI? Are they primarily funded by the U.S. versus some of the other organizations? Why these groups versus others?

MS. NULAND: Well, NDI and IRI do receive the bulk of their funding from the U.S. Government. With regard to decisions that we make about whether we’re going to help – allow organizations to use funding from the U.S. Government to pay legal fees, that is on a case-by-case basis depending upon the circumstances.


QUESTION: Yes. Hi. The one NGO worker who decided to stay – was bail paid for that person as well?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that.

QUESTION: Okay. And are there any NGO workers still at the Embassy compound?


QUESTION: Why can’t you speak to that?

MS. NULAND: I don’t – I frankly don’t know the answer. I assume that the answer is yes, but I don’t know it.

QUESTION: Do you have a current location for the six Embassy employees that were on the flight – or, I’m sorry – six NGO workers that were on the flight, the U.S. citizens?

MS. NULAND: I do not.

QUESTION: Looking a bit at how this affects relations with Egypt, there was talk during the ordeal. There was some talk about the U.S. aid being in jeopardy. What’s the status now? Is this – is all back in the clear?

MS. NULAND: Shaun, I spoke to this yesterday. I don’t have anything further to say from what I had to say yesterday.

Okay. Other subjects?

QUESTION: Change of topics? Syria.

MS. NULAND: Other subjects?

QUESTION: Now that the rebels appear to have been routed in Homs, does that change your assessment of the situation at all? Does that make you reassess whether militarization, more arms to Assad’s opponents, might be a better idea?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all just to say that the situation in Homs is absolutely horrific. I mean, there is no other way to describe what is going on there with the government shelling and moving into neighborhoods against innocents, cutting off water, cutting off food, cutting off medical supplies to people who are desperately in need. So we are all hoping that the humanitarian aid that the Syrian Government is claiming it is going to allow into Homs today can begin to flow and that this can continue and that the poor suffering people there can get some of the relief that they need.

More generally, our message continues to be that the Assad regime has got to stop its brutality and that anybody with influence on Assad has got to be leaning on him. All of us who have not yet done all the sanctioning we can do should do that, and they’ve got to feel pinch until this violence ends.

QUESTION: But does this kind of success – is that a worrying sign, because he seems to have prevailed in this individual battle, in this section of Homs? Will that lead him on to press on his military campaign further? And is the response from you at this point beyond what has been the previous response?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all to say you know what our response has been beginning with the Friends of Syria meeting to try to get countries around the world to implement the broadest possible array of sanctions, and we have had increasing success with that including this week. As you know, the EU this week implemented a complete embargo on oil purchases from Syria. That’s now halted a third of Assad’s revenues. We have the Arab Leagues suspending Syria’s membership. We have many of the Arab states downgrading their diplomatic relationships and freezing Syrian bank accounts. So we think that these measures are beginning to pinch; and as more and more countries around the world take the kinds of steps that we’ve taken, that the EU is taking, that the Arab League countries are starting to take, we will dry up the funding for his military machine, and we’ve got to continue to do that.

That said, that said, we have all got to use our influence, including those countries who are still supporting him. And they know who they are. They’ve supported him again this week in the Human Rights Council. They bear responsibility as well for the violence that is ongoing there.

With regard to the military question, I think if you had a chance to see the testimony that Assistant Secretary Feltman gave yesterday and Ambassador Ford gave yesterday in the Senate, you know where we are. The fastest, best, most humane way for this to end is for a political solution to happen. Pouring more fuel in the form of arms on the fire that this guy has started is not the right answer and is not going to necessarily save lives.

We’ve got to increase the pressure on him. We’ve also – and you heard the Secretary say this in Tunis, she also said it very clearly when she was testifying before the Congress. We are also sending the clearest possible message to those members of the business community in Syria who are continuing to support the Assad regime: The future is not with him, he’s going down, make a decision what side you’re on, blood on your own hands if you continue to support him and same to the military leadership, that it is time for them to stop firing on their brothers and sisters. So we will continue the political pressure, we will continue the economic pressure, and we will continue to work with our partners around the world.

QUESTION: Victoria, do you have any information about the Syrian forces arresting every male over 12 years of age in Baba Amr area?

MS. NULAND: We have seen these reports. Again, absolutely disgusting. They are reminiscent of some of the most barbarous acts in recent history – human history. The folks responsible for this are going to be held accountable. They will be.

QUESTION: But do you have any independent sources that can confirm that?

MS. NULAND: We haven’t had any of our own sourcing, as you know. We have not had that kind of confirmation of events since we had to close our Embassy, but we’ve seen the same press reporting that you have and it’s coming from multiple sources, so we’re very concerned.

QUESTION: And lastly, the phrase by Mr. Feltman, when he said we don’t want to pour fuel on the fire, has taken in the region as this is it; the Americans will never supply arms, especially in view of a broken-up opposition. Is that the position that says they cannot, or has that been taken off the table completely?

MS. NULAND: You know where we are on this, Said. We’ve all said it. The Secretary said it. We never take anything off the table. If this regime does not heed, we are going to have to look at additional measures. That said, it is not necessarily clear that we’re going to save lives if we go in that direction.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: What conversations have you been having with allies in the Middle East who have been considering arming the rebels?

MS. NULAND: Well, as Assistant Secretary Feltman said yesterday, there are differences of view on this question about what the right thing to do is. So there is a very robust conversation going on with countries on this subject. Some of that happened on the margins of the Friends of Tunis conversation. So we are obviously listening. We are obviously watching, as the Secretary said. We have to take this situation day by day. But our response of today is that we still think a political solution is the best and fastest way to help the Syrian people.

QUESTION: So no conversations since the Friends of Syria conference about – specifically about arming?

MS. NULAND: We are continuing to talk to those countries that have a view different from ours, who are friends and allies of ours, about what they’re seeing, what they think is necessary, and why. And we will continue to have that conversation going forward.

QUESTION: On the – on the just embassy closures. The French and the Brits have now closed their embassies. Are you seeking – are you looking for other European countries to close their embassies as well? In particular, I’m curious about Poland, which you would seem to have a vested interest in keeping that embassy open.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, again, as we said a couple of days ago – I think it was Monday I spoke to this issue – that the reason that the Friends of Syria communiqué is written the way it is, that countries should make choices as to whether to downgrade their diplomatic relations, is that each of these cases is different. In some cases, these embassies are no longer able to operate because of the – either the security concerns that we had or because of the intense scrutiny that they operate under.

In the case of Poland, they have been doing a superb job as our protecting power, particularly with regard to some of these very difficult humanitarian issues that American citizens have had. So again, it’s a case-by-case decision for nations to make. We are not dictating one way or the other, and we are grateful to Poland in particular, but also there are other countries that are open or providing services to the humanitarian effort that remain important.

QUESTION: Well then, how about the converse: Have you asked them to keep their embassy open?

MS. NULAND: At this point, our understanding is that the Polish Government doesn’t have any plans to change its posture --

QUESTION: Which is fine with you?

MS. NULAND: -- which is absolutely something that we support and we are very grateful to Poland for the services that it’s continuing to provide to Americans.


QUESTION: Can you talk at all about this new UN draft resolution, when we expect that to be presented or any kind of vote in the Security Council?

MS. NULAND: Well, as our folks up in New York have been saying to all of you, we are continuing to have discussions with UN Security Council members as to whether it might be possible to have a resolution that will do some good, particularly on the humanitarian side. We would obviously have to be able to ensure that those Security Council members who have vetoed two resolutions in the past were prepared to support something. So those consultations continue, and we don’t have anything to announce yet today. But we don’t want to go forward with something that’s going to fail again.

QUESTION: Are you seeing any different signs coming out of Moscow, or are you just going to wait until after the elections?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are continuing to talk to the Russians at all levels in Moscow, in New York. There have been some better statements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the last 24 hours with regard to the humanitarian requirement. If and when this translates into either pressure that is visible on Assad or something that we can all do in the Security Council that will help the suffering Syrian people, we’ll just have to see.

QUESTION: Victoria, Vladimir Putin said that there is no special relations with Syria, that they are standing on principle. How do you characterize this characterization?

MS. NULAND: Well, he’s obviously going to represent the views of the Russian Federation. Our message to Russia, the Secretary’s message to Russia, all of the American interlocutors’ message to Russia is unified in saying that the humanitarian crisis is absolutely acute and we would hope, as a matter of humanity, as a matter of dignity, as a matter of morality, Russia would do what it could to end it.


QUESTION: Just a question about U.S.-Russian relations in general. There have been press reports about ongoing U.S. Government relations with Russian defense and military firms. I’m just curious on a general plane how that squares with the message to Russia to not sell arms to Syrians?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the U.S. has never sold arms to Syria. The U.S. has been pushing Russia to consider the wisdom of its own arms sales to Syria, for arguably a decade, and certainly most acutely since this crisis began, and particularly since the assault in Homs. So our message to them is very clear with regard to the dangerous role that they are playing in fueling the fire.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?


QUESTION: Could I ask very quickly on the issue of the Palestinian television station, do you have anything new?

MS. NULAND: I do, Said, and thank you for giving us a little time to work on this. So we have had more conversations with the Israelis about what stood behind this decision of a couple of days ago. Our understanding now is that the situation was not related in any way to the content of the broadcast that Watan was putting forward – broadcasts, as you know, that we support – but appeared to stem from technical issues regarding the frequency that the station has been using. I think you made this point yourself, Said, that the station, Watan, continues to use a frequency that the Israelis use for air traffic communications and it is interfering in a way that is dangerous.

They’re also, as we understand it, sitting on a frequency that had already been licensed to some Israeli stations. So there’s a matter of the spectrum, there’s the matter of the band. Our understanding is that the Israelis had been trying to work this out through dialogue, through political means, and had not been able to come up with a solution.

So that’s our understanding of the background of all of this, that they had tried to settle it through political and security channels and unfortunately were unable to.

QUESTION: Would you request that the Israelis return property that was paid for by the United States Government?

MS. NULAND: We understand that some U.S.-provided equipment was confiscated during the IDF raid, and we are discussing with Government of Israel what’s going to happen to that equipment.

Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Do you want it back?

MS. NULAND: Shaun.


QUESTION: Sorry, can we just finish with that? Do you want – you said you’re discussing with it – it with them. Do you want it returned?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics. There are a number of resolutions to this that might be possible, but we have to see what happens here.

QUESTION: Well, wait – a number of resolutions? Does that include the station not getting the equipment that the U.S. Government paid for back?

MS. NULAND: Well, no there are various options. Either they resolve this thing with Watan and then Watan can have its equipment back, or they don’t resolve it with Watan and we can ensure that the taxpayer gets their equipment back. But I’m not going to get into the specifics.

QUESTION: Victoria, just one if I may. There’s another station – it was accused on content, basically on content issues. So do you have any information on the second station?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on the current situation with Al Quds except to say that Al Quds is one of the stations that we fund, and we do it to help Palestinian audiences gain access to free and fair news coverage and to benefit from the same quality of programming that Israelis benefit from, for example. I don’t have anything here to indicate any particular pressure on them one way or the other.

All right, Shaun.

QUESTION: A different topic?


QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: North Korea made a statement overnight about the South, using language talking about sacred war against the South. This is obviously just a couple of days after the United States and North Korea announced their agreement pertaining mostly to the nuclear issue – a statement in which the issue of North-South relations wasn’t directly addressed. What’s the U.S. reaction to this? Is this consistent with the spirit of the agreement of February 29th?

MS. NULAND: No, it is unfortunate. Frankly, it’s not helpful to the kind of environment that we’re trying to foster. We had a good small initial step, as the Secretary said, with this announcement that we had yesterday, so we would like to see that matched with other steps moving forward.

While we’re on North Korea, I messed something up yesterday. We are going to have to have another round of face-to-face technical discussions in order to be able to move the food that we’ve committed to. So the plan now – and there will be a Media Note later this afternoon – is that Ambassador King will meet with his DPRK counterpart in Beijing next Wednesday. And the idea is to finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move.

QUESTION: I have a question on --

MS. NULAND: Let me guess. Lots of questions on that.

QUESTION: North Korea is saying that yesterday, mention about the (inaudible) would be temporarily stop their nuclear activities. So how are you going to response for that? You said yesterday permanently stop the nuclear activities. How different they say?

MS. NULAND: Well, I spoke to this yesterday. Our view is that this should be permanent and it should be the first step towards a larger process. So that’s what we’d like to see. We’re not – it doesn’t really make sense to us under what circumstances they would want to restart this.

QUESTION: Two questions. It looks like the Korean Six-Party Talks delegation, Mr. Lim Sung-nam, is also coming next week to New York.

MS. NULAND: To Syracuse?

QUESTION: Yes, yes, to the Syracuse thing. And it seems like the North-South contact might happen in the realm of that stay. If so, is it something that the U.S. Government has facilitated, is one thing? And another thing is, given the visit of Ri Yong Ho, is it still the case that you’re not planning to meet with them, like, for example, Mr. – what was his name – Hart is not meeting him? Is it still the case that Mr. Hart is not meeting (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. This is with regard to the track two delegation of North Koreans who are going to Syracuse for a conference next week. We are where we were yesterday. We currently have no plans to have U.S. Government meetings with those individuals. Obviously, it’ll be a good thing if there are positive North-South contacts on the margins of the Maxwell School event. The degree to which we facilitate it, then, is simply that we continue to say to the DPRK and make clear to them that from our perspective, a condition of being able to go back to the Six-Party Talks includes continuing to improve their relationship with the ROK.

QUESTION: If that happens – sorry, a follow-up. If the North-South happen this time in the realm of their stay, is it – can you say that you’re one step closer to resuming the Six-Party Talks?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to evaluate events that haven’t yet happened.

QUESTION: Victoria, you’re saying that regard to nutritional assistance to North Korea is technical things U.S. has – still have in U.S. And can you tell us what is the (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: What are the issues?


MS. NULAND: Frankly, I think what we want to do is have Ambassador King have these talks and then come back and give you all a debrief. But my understanding is it’s – we’re down to issues like what port, when, who manages it, how do we count, how do we monitor, all those kinds of actual shipment issues.


QUESTION: Is it WFP or is it going to be separate?

MS. NULAND: I do not know whether that issue has been settled either, I mean, who the NGOs that will be – who the distributors are. I don’t know whether we’ve settled that issue or not, but it’s these kinds of things. So that the strategic issue that we will do it, the kinds of nutritional assistance, the amount, that we want to do it as soon as possible – all of that is settled. So now we’re up to the shipment issues, the vendor issues, the implementation of the monitoring issues.

QUESTION: Are you also going to touch on the additional assistance, how much --

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we want to get this first shipment moving, see how it goes. before we make any commitments on onward assistance.

QUESTION: Any news about the 5+1 response to Iranian proposal to go back to the table?

MS. NULAND: Nothing further to what I said yesterday, which is that we’re continuing to work with our P-5+1 partners to ensure that, if and as we go forward, we structure this in a way that it’s sustainable, that it’s verifiable, that we’re actually making progress.

QUESTION: You expect it anytime soon?

MS. NULAND: I don't know what you mean by soon.

QUESTION: Next week.

QUESTION: Before the President --

QUESTION: Before the President meets Bibi or after?

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) I don’t have any timing to announce to you here.

QUESTION: In the past, you’ve complained about the Iranians using negotiations, the route of negotiations, as a stalling technique. When it takes you guys so long to respond to a four-paragraph letter, does that argument hold up? Because it seems like right now, you guys are stalling; there’s not anything going forward because we’re waiting for your response, and the Iranians are too.

MS. NULAND: Brad, the Iranians got Lady Ashton’s letter in October and didn’t answer it for four months until late January. We’ve taken some five weeks to get our act together, so I don’t think you can compare these two circumstances.

QUESTION: I’m not – and I’m not putting the Iranian response time as the benchmark to the U.S. Government.

MS. NULAND: Good, good.

QUESTION: But one would, one could, or one should ask why it’s taking so long, especially when you’ve complained about the slowness of their response in the past.

MS. NULAND: Well, they have one government to coordinate. We have six governments to coordinate, and it’s important that that be done right for precisely the reasons that everybody wants to see. If we go forward with this, as the Secretary made clear, we have to ensure, on the one hand it’s not a one-meeting wonder, and on the other hand it can’t be used as a stalling tactic by the Iranians while they continue to develop. So we have to have very clear understanding and expectations among the P-5+1 parties exactly what would be expected at every stage before we start.

QUESTION: But is it good to do it --

QUESTION: In those five weeks you’ve taken, they’ve continued to develop, though. Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely. But we have also continued to tighten, in an absolutely crippling way, the sanctions that we have on them. And as the Secretary said, that tightening continues with the new steps taken by the EU or the progress that we’ve seen with Japan. We even have reports now that some of you have – some of your news organizations have been writing that they can’t even trade with countries like India and China because they can’t get insurance for their shipping companies. So the argument could be made that every day that the Iranians waited to get back to us was a day that the sanctions were gaining strength as well. But look, we are working it with this – on this with our partners, and we will respond to the letter as soon as we can.

QUESTION: What do you think about the optics, though, of, like, waiting till after the Obama-Netanyahu meeting? And during this whole AIPAC we’re going to hear lots of talk of gathering war and all of this. Is that helpful to your diplomacy or hurtful to your diplomacy?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I haven’t commented on when, in the coming period, we’re going to be prepared to respond to Mr. Jalili’s letter, so I wouldn’t draw any conclusions about that.

I would refer all of you to the interview that the President gave, which I think was published today, with Jeff Goldberg in The Atlantic. And the President spoke pretty clearly about where we are on this larger issue of ensuring that pressure and diplomacy have a chance to work. And I think you’ll be hearing more along those lines in the coming days.

QUESTION: Different topic?


QUESTION: Is there anything extraordinary or special that you could share with us about the Secretary’s meeting with the Jordanian foreign minister?

MS. NULAND: Well, we haven’t had it yet.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, the topic --

MS NULAND: Let’s see how that meeting goes. But I think you know that we have been extremely grateful to the King and to Foreign Minister Judeh for the leadership role that they have been playing in hosting the parties and trying to keep Israelis and Palestinians talking. So this is a chance for the Secretary to exchange views with Foreign Minister Judeh on where we are and what it’ll take to get the parties back to the table and to continue the – what we considered a productive first set of steps in the Amman process.

QUESTION: But he’s not coming here with any new proposal on restarting the talks?

MS. NULAND: Haven’t had the meeting yet, Said. How can I speak to that from here?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) communications.

QUESTION: Toria, sorry. One --

QUESTION: Will we get a readout afterwards?

MS. NULAND: Let us see. If we have something to read out we will.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I forgot to ask you: So Mr. –

QUESTION: Can you speak up?

QUESTION: Yeah. Ambassador King is meeting Mr. Ri Gun, correct? In – because there are rumors that Ri Gun was actually coming to New York, so we were kind of confused.

MS. NULAND: Why don’t we have our East Asia Bureau get back to you with – on the precise name of the expected interlocutor. Okay?

QUESTION: One more on the North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.

QUESTION: You said that some of the issues they’re working on now are vendor issues, monitoring issues. I know monitoring is a key issue for the U.S. So is it possible this is going to become a sticking point? How confident are you that after Robert King’s meeting next week that everything will be finalized and the nutritional assistance program can begin?

MS. NULAND: Again, you pitched your question as asking me to predict the future, so I’m not going to do that. But the first order issues included amounts, precisely what we would send – and we talked to you about what we’re going to send so that we can assure that it’s not diverted – and issues of timing. So those have been agreed. There are always these – this range of technical issues. Our expectation is that that will go smoothly because there appears to be common understanding and will on both sides.

MR. TONER: Toria, we’ve got to --

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We’ve got to go. Take the last three --

QUESTION: Could I just follow on that with –


QUESTION: I’m not asking you to predict the future on this. I know you said you don’t have a plan for meetings in Syracuse, but you’re sending – there will be people attending that conference. Is that right?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that the U.S. Government is not participating in the conference. Whether we have a low-level observer or two, I can’t speak to that, but we are not participants. This is a track two event. But I would refer you to the Maxwell School. They are organizing it.

QUESTION: Okay. Now on the schedule for the Secretary next week, is she planning to meet with the South Korean foreign minister here?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce today on her bilateral meetings next week. She does have a number of meetings, but I haven’t – I don’t have them to announce today.


QUESTION: Just one quick one. In – on Ecuador, President Correa this week announced a presidential pardon to – for people sentenced in the case against the newspaper El Universo. I was wondering if – what’s the U.S. reaction to this? And does this erase your concerns for freedom of the press in Ecuador?

MS. NULAND: Well, we do note the news that Ecuadorian President Correa has chosen to pardon the defendants of the el Universo who were convicted of libel. However, the circumstances surrounding these cases continue to raise troubling questions about the state of freedom of the – of expression in Ecuador, and understand the need – underscore the need for clear measures by the Government of Ecuador to address the potentially chilling effects of the libel case and the convictions. We consider freedom of expression to be an essential component of democracy everywhere, but it’s particularly enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. So we expect the democratically elected leaders in the Americas have a special responsibility in this regard to ensure that the political and legal space is clear for freedom of expression, and also to acquit themselves with thoughtful forbearance.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: All right. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:53 p.m.)

DPB # 40

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - March 2, 2012]