Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 5, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • REPUBLIC OF CONGO
    • Explosion in Brazzaville / Assistance
  • RUSSIA
    • Election / OSCE Mission / NGO Participation
    • Syria
    • U.S.-Russian Relations
    • Georgia Sovereignty
    • Khodorkovsky Case
  • SYRIA
    • Weaponry
    • Valerie Amos Travel / Kofi Annan Travel
  • IRAQ
    • Attack in Haditha
    • Syria
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Peace Process
  • EGYPT
    • American NGOs / IMF
  • IRAN
    • Hekmati Case
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Cooperation
  • YEMEN
    • Violent Extremism / Democratic Transition
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Talks in Beijing
    • Nutritional Assistance
  • LIBYA
    • MANPADS


TRANSCRIPT:

12:47 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Happy Monday. All the excitement is over at the White House this morning, so I’m hoping we can do this with dispatch.

One small statement, which I think will be followed by a Secretary statement later today, which is with regard to the explosion in Brazzaville, Congo. We are obviously saddened by the loss of life and damage caused by Sunday’s explosion at the munitions depot in Brazzaville. We are in the process of issuing a disaster declaration so that we can provide assistance and emergency help, and we are working with the Government of the Republic of Congo and the international community to determine what additional assistance might be necessary.

Why don’t we go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: I’m presuming from your opening comment that you are likely to defer nearly all questions about Israel and Iran to the White House today?

MS. NULAND: Not even nearly. But how about all?

QUESTION: All. Okay, good. Can I ask about the Russian election?

MS. NULAND: You may.

QUESTION: And your interesting statement which doesn’t mention Putin by name, doesn’t congratulate him or the, quote, “president-elect,” as you refer to him or whoever might be once the votes are certified. Is that intentional?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s simply a matter of form, because until this election is certified, it’s not formalized. So obviously there’ll be appropriate statements with names in them after the election has been certified by people far more high than me.

QUESTION: In status?

MS. NULAND: In status, yes. And in height, I would guess, given that I’m one of the shortest, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, that’s not exactly what I meant. But anyway. (Laughter.) But do I presume incorrectly, then, that you think that the result is going to be anything different than what it’s been reported to be?

MS. NULAND: No, we don’t. But it’s simply a matter of waiting for the formalities to be done.

QUESTION: Okay. And then did you – you talked about the OSCE monitors and the PACE monitors, that kind of thing, but what did your own people have to say?

MS. NULAND: Well, our people, to the extent that there were Americans deployed, were part of the OSCE mission. We had some Americans as part of the OSCE mission, so from that perspective, you see that our statement endorses the preliminary report of the OSCE.

QUESTION: Right. But there wasn’t anyone from the Embassy who was out kind of tooling around, looking, dropping in at various polling stations or anything like that?

MS. NULAND: There may well have been, but as a matter of course, as OSCE members, our formal observation is conducted inside the OSCE.

QUESTION: Okay. So we should not expect a separate U.S. pronouncement?

MS. NULAND: Correct; you should not.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Lach.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the elections again, you had a long list of positives that seem to have occurred. Do you recognize the election as being overwhelmingly positive by Russian standards?

MS. NULAND: Well, Lach, I think if you look at the statement that we’ve just issued, in addition to noting the statement by the PACE head of delegation that there appeared to be a clear winner, we also say very clearly that the OSCE, whose report we endorse, had concerns about the conditions under which the campaign was conducted, that it wasn’t a level playing field to begin with, the partisan use of government resources including resources dedicated to media coverage, and the procedural irregularities on the day of the election. So we’re very clear in calling out the issues that we see. And then we talk further in the statement about the importance of Russian authorities investigating any such irregularities.

QUESTION: But you do emphasize a lot that was positive. I mean, the whole last sentence, paragraph: “We’re encouraged to see so many Russian citizens voting, monitoring voting in their local precincts.”

MS. NULAND: Well, this speaks to the fact --

QUESTION: I was surprised at how positive it was.

MS. NULAND: Well, the OSCE --

QUESTION: That statement is not about – that’s not about the Russian Government though, is it?

MS. NULAND: No. That – Lach, I think this speaks to the fact that when we had the parliamentary elections in December, there was widespread concern among NGO groups in Russia, among Russian citizens, that they didn’t have the kind of transparency that they wanted. They themselves called for improved procedures. The OSCE statement, which we cite, does make reference to the fact that there seem to have been more Russian eyes on the process, et cetera, which allows for the kind of reporting that the OSCE and we also think that the Russians need to investigate. So we wanted to make clear that we see more citizen participation, more NGO participation in the monitoring process than in December.

QUESTION: So, Victoria, recognizing these elections as legitimate is on hold until the concerns of the OSCE are dealt with?

MS. NULAND: I think our statement speaks very clearly for where we are at this moment.

QUESTION: So could you just clarify that for us? I mean, it’s – since it is in the statement, but I haven’t had a chance to read the statement. What is the position on that?

MS. NULAND: So what we have said in this statement is that we look forward to working with the president-elect, that the OSCE and PACE monitors make clear that there appears to have been an overwhelming winner, but that there were concerns of the kind that I just stated, that those concerns all need to be investigated. And that we note, as I just said to Lach, that there was increased ability by Russians themselves to monitor and have transparency and confidence in these elections as compared to where they were in December. But this is a process that needs to continue.

QUESTION: Now, just a quick follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: As a result of this election, do you expect the new Russian leadership to be more amenable to cooperating internationally to put pressure on Syria, for instance?

MS. NULAND: Well, Said, that's obviously something that is extremely important to the international community. It's extremely important to the long-suffering people of Syria. It is something that we expect to take up virtually immediately with the Russian side. And our hope is that now that these elections are behind them, that they will join all of us in doing more to push for humanitarian relief for the people of Homs and the people throughout Syria who are suffering at the hands of the regime.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: In the back.

QUESTION: Yeah. So assuming that Putin is the winner, which is essentially what it sounds like in not so many words you're saying, can we anticipate that triggering any kind of a shift in U.S.-Russia relations towards the more positive or towards the more negative within the context of the last several years’ discussion about a reset in relations?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have a crystal ball here. I think we need to have the new president come into office. You know that our interest remains, as it has always been, in as much cooperation and as much common action as we can have with the Russian Federation on challenges of common interest. That said, as we have always said throughout this reset period, we will continue to be clear and straightforward about areas where we disagree. So we really need to let the new president come into office, and we will work from there.

QUESTION: So does that – I’m sorry. Does that mean that it’s too early to tell?

MS. NULAND: Yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Russia’s Syria policy, I was just wondering if you could update us on the state of play regarding this draft resolution at the UN. The deputy foreign minister of Russia came out today saying that they thought it needed to be more balanced; (A) How are things going, and (B) do you think that there can be a better balance achieved here?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve said for a number of days now, Andy, we are open to exploring a new Security Council resolution if we think that it can do some good for the people of Syria. You know our view that the regime bears the vast lion’s share of responsibility for the violence, that it is the regime that needs to silence its guns first before those defending their homes can be expected to do so. So we are exploring with Russia, with China, with other Security Council members what we might be able to do, but we are not at the stage of having a consensual draft. So we need to see where we are.

QUESTION: And it sounds as though – I mean, just to sort of restate it, that your position would be that the balance, if there is one, in any resolution would have to be weighted toward what you’re saying and have to be very much more weighted toward demands on the Syrian Government than anybody else.

MS. NULAND: It has to be balanced where reality is balanced, which, in our view, starts and ends with the violence of the Assad regime.

Said.

QUESTION: Victoria, on Syria, Secretary Feltman’s statements and Ambassador Ford’s statement and your statement the following day were very clear on arming the opposition, or in fact, that you don’t view the increased weaponry in Syria would be a good thing. But statements by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and some of your more ardent allies are really contrary to that. Do you see that there is a split on this issue between you and your allies?

MS. NULAND: Well, Said, we talked about this on Thursday.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: We talked about it on Friday. As I said on Friday –

QUESTION: But forgive me, there was subsequent statements made by Saud al Faisal, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, yesterday.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, as you know the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Saud when she was in Tunis. We will, as I said on Friday, continue to talk to all of our allies and partners about the evolving situation. As the Secretary said when she testified, we’ve got to take this situation day by day. As you note, there are differences among us about what the right answer is, and we’re going to keep talking about that.

QUESTION: Can I go back to just the Russia thing?

MS. NULAND: Matt.

QUESTION: You said that now that this election is behind them or these elections are behind them, we hope they’ll do more to help us on Syria. Why would – what was it about the election – the Russian electoral process that was – that you think was holding them back and preventing them from signing on with the rest of the international community?

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s a question for them, obviously. But there was some sense that senior leadership in Russia might have been preoccupied in the week or two before the election and not have had the same kind of attention to pay to Syria that we have had, and that now that they – now they might.

QUESTION: Senior leadership meaning the main candidate?

MS. NULAND: Meaning the government, meaning other people who are involved in the decision making.

QUESTION: Well, but everyone – but all that’s well and good in a perfect world, but this isn’t a perfect world, and it’s very clear that this was – this election was not one that was going to take anyone by surprise, at least the results of which were. And I’m just wondering how preoccupied you think they might have been when they were guaranteed victory.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, there was some sense that they weren’t going to be making changes in their foreign policy position in the last week before an election. So the election is now finished. This is not surprising. Sometimes it’s difficult for governments to focus at home and abroad at the same time.

QUESTION: It would be if the presidential candidate that has won the election wasn’t running things anyway even when he wasn’t the president.

MS. NULAND: Well, perhaps we overstate what might change. Our point is simply that we will continue to work with Russia to see what we can do to alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Syria, because we think it’s a place where we ought to have common interest.

QUESTION: But is there some indication that now that he’s president instead of prime minister that Putin will go along with – that Putin is more prepared to go along with this? Because it was everybody’s understanding in the – at least conventional wisdom, which can be wrong – but conventional wisdom that it was him that was the reason that they weren’t. I mean –

MS. NULAND: Well, I think it remains to be seen how the Russians will play this going forward. But as we said on Friday, we hope that their sense of humanity and compassion will encourage them to join us in pressing the Assad regime to silence its guns.

QUESTION: So you’re hoping for a new reset, basically, on this issue with the newly elected president, that him in a new position might have a change of heart.

MS. NULAND: We’re hoping for some fresh attention to the tragedy in Syria now that the elections are past.

Please.

QUESTION: The Chinese are sending another envoy to Syria. Have you guys been in touch with the Chinese about what their goals are, what their expectations are for their trip?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have been talking to the Chinese all along throughout this period. As I think I mentioned last week, Under Secretary Sherman has talked about Syria with the Chinese recently. We’ve talked about Syria in Beijing. And as with the Russians, we’ve been encouraging them to do what they can to put pressure on Assad to silence his guns. So our hope is that this envoy will make it clear that Beijing does not support the horrific violations of human rights and human dignity that are ongoing now.

QUESTION: Can I go back briefly to the arming? The Secretary pointed out that al-Qaida in Iraq is supporting some of the Syrian rebels. And there was this attack today in Iraq in Haditha, which is so close to the Syrian border, where they actually raised an al-Qaida in Iraq flag. I wonder, in these discussions with the allies about whether or not to arm Syria, are you discussing the fact that by not doing anything now, by not intervening more, that you’re actually allowing them an in, that you’re giving al-Qaida in Iraq an opening to go in there?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to the attack in Haditha today, we condemn the attack on Iraqi police forces in Haditha that killed at least 35 officers and wounded others. These attacks are again a blatant attempt by extremists to undermine the progress that Iraq is trying to make.

As the Secretary said throughout her testimony, the concern – among the concerns that we have about the situation in Syria is that, as the violence continues, as there is unrest in broad swaths of the country as in other places where we’ve seen this during this Arab Spring period, extremists can exploit the lack of security to take advantage of the situation. So that is not something that we want to see.

But from our perspective, again, the number one party that bears responsibility for enabling any destabilization that these extremists might be able to bring is the Assad regime. And it’s further to why he should be living up to the commitments that he made back in November to end the violence, pull his guns back, and start a process of dialogue.

Andy.

QUESTION: On that, back on envoys. We’ve had now Valerie Amos said she’s going to be going to Syria, I believe on Wednesday, and Kofi Annan will be going later – perhaps at the weekend. What do you make of these? I mean it seems as though the Syrians are now going to let them in. Do you take that as a positive sign? And what do you think should be the sort of ground rules for their visits?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are encouraged by what Valerie Amos has said, that after two weeks of trying, she is – has now been granted a Syrian visa and will go in. It’s now incumbent on Syrian authorities to give her unfettered access and to work with her to allow the humanitarian relief to come in.

As you know, we are strongly supportive of the naming of Kofi Annan as the Secretary General’s Representative on Syria. Our understanding is that he will be in Cairo early this week to talk to the Arab League, and then he will endeavor to go into Damascus. Again, this is another opportunity for this situation to be settled and for the violence to end, and we hope that the – we call on the Syrian regime to take advantage of it, because the horrific situation there just cannot continue.

QUESTION: Are you at all concerned that the delay may have given the Assad government time to mop up after operations that it didn’t want seen?

MS. NULAND: Absolutely. And you know the delay is not just in granting Valerie Amos her visa; it’s also in allowing UN humanitarian organizations into the most distressed districts, including the Baba Amr district of Homs. So this is of serious concern to all of us.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t those concerns sort of undercut any result from this trip? I mean, what’s the point of going if you’re missing the main action?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, she’s got to get in and she’s got to have unfettered access. So if this is a first step towards an improvement, what we have to see. It’s another test for the Assad regime, which it can pass or it can fail.

Please

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah – whoa.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. NULAND: Hello. The lights have gone out. This is good. This is our new high definition camera opportunity. We do it without the lights and then you don’t even need the makeup.

QUESTION: It doesn’t bode well for my question.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: I think it means that this briefing ought to be concluded. What do you think?

QUESTION: All right. That’s correct. A very quick question.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: With all that is going on in town with the President completely consumed and focused on the Iran issue as far as Israel and the Middle East is concerned, it seems that the peace process is not only on the back burner, but that it has fallen off the stove. Would – are there any – can you share with us anything that the President or the Secretary of State may be discussing with the Israelis in terms of any practical steps to reignite vitality into the peace process?

MS. NULAND: Well Said, first of all, I have no doubt that the peace process will be front and center at the White House today, so I am going to send you over there with regard to the content of the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. That said, there’s been plenty of activity here. As you know, the Secretary met with Quartet Representative Blair last week. She also met on Friday with Foreign Minister Judeh of Jordan, who’s been the host of these preliminary talks that we’ve had. And all of that is part and parcel of us trying to get the parties back to the table and continue the discussion.

QUESTION: So anything new on Mr. Hale’s efforts?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’m going – the White House has the main show today on these kinds of things, so I’m going to send you over there.

QUESTION: Question on Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Cami.

QUESTION: On the events in Egypt over the weekend, the parliamentarians calling – some of them calling for them to sever ties with the U.S. I know you issued a statement over the weekend – it was this weekend. I – your thoughts on the political situation, the relations between the U.S. and Egypt, with so many Egyptians angry over the fact that the American NGOs left the country?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we did issue a statement over the weekend making the point that as we have continuing concerns that the NGO issue be settled completely, ending up in the registration of not only of our own NGOs but also the Egyptian NGOs, that we have a lot of work to do together with the government and people of Egypt in support of this transition.

So we first wanted, after all of this focus on the NGO issue only, to make clear how strongly we support the electoral process that has been going forward relatively smoothly. We’ve had two rounds of – we’ve had upper and lower house parliamentary elections that were successful. We are looking forward deeper into the spring, having presidential elections go forward.

And we also have concerns about the Egyptians economy and the importance of ensuring that this democratic transition is also accompanied by increasing economic opportunity for the Egyptian people, and that speaks to the conversation that the Egyptian Government is conducting now with the IMF.

So we’re calling on both sides, the government and the IMF, to do what they can to speed up those discussions so that Egypt can have the support that it badly needs in this period.

QUESTION: Well, I know you said that the negotiations were continuing as well to get the charges dropped completely.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: How difficult is that process now with so much anger focused at the U.S.?

MS. NULAND: Look, this has not been easy from the – whoa, there we go. All right. Back in high color, blinking.

This has not been easy from the start, Cami, as you know. I mean, we have been engaged in discussions, as have other countries, as have the Egyptian NGOs themselves, throughout this period about the importance of trying to normalize and make clear the legal process under which NGOs operate in Egypt.

So our continuing effort is to do what we can to get these NGOs registered – ours, the Egyptian NGOs. It is not easy, but the environment has not been easy for this throughout. And we would just remind that not only the American and international NGOs, but the Egyptian NGOs played a crucial role in providing transparency and legitimacy for the elections that have already gone forward. And they have a role to play for the presidential elections, which are very important.

QUESTION: Would you say the environment’s gotten worse since the Americans departed?

MS. NULAND: Cami, I think it has been difficult all the way around and we have to keep working on these issues.

Please.

QUESTION: Victoria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: May I come back to Russia, please, for a second? You mentioned --

MS. NULAND: You were so quiet earlier, I thought you were finished.

QUESTION: All my questions were asked by other people.

MS. NULAND: Excellent.

QUESTION: So I’m actually, yeah, thinking of loose ends, so to speak. Basically, you referred to the fact that after the process is finalized, there will be another round of contacts, or statements, or whatever. I wanted you to describe that to us, if you know how it’s normally done. For instance, can we expect a phone call or whatever? What’s the protocol here?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think stayed tuned. But generally, those kinds of higher level contacts happen after an election has been certified.

QUESTION: Certified. And then secondly, we seem to run into obstacles in our relations from time to time. Like now with Syria. I don’t want to go into that too much. Is it like Putin, if we assume that Putin is the winner – Putin made his position very clear. He basically said the resolution – the previous resolution was at hand. It could have been achieved if it was more balanced in the sense that the violence needs to stop from both sides, that that is a necessary condition.

To me, as someone who doesn’t know anything about such things, it sounds pretty reasonable. If we want people to stop being killed, then we want them to stop being killed by everyone. You want to respond to that?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think I did respond to it earlier in response to both Cami and Andy’s questions, both about the UN resolution. I mean, we have a regime here that is using tanks, that is using advanced weaponry and firing into homes, towns, killing civilians, as compared to an opposition that is using rifles in self-defense around their homes. So if we want this situation to end, it needs to start with the Syrian army silencing its guns. That is our position.

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand, but – yes and no, because, I mean, obviously, yes in terms of using tanks and other heavy weapons, no in the sense that if I want to be – want a regime change in my country, wherever I live – I don’t know, in Country X – and I’m a rebel, yeah, I don’t have tanks. But I start my little rebellion. As long as I’m armed, as long as I’m encouraged to go on, it’s – basically, it’s a partisan war or whatever.

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve been clear that we want to hear – see all of the guns silenced, but we don’t see that happening on the side of the opposition until the regime stops its guns.

QUESTION: That’s --

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve covered this one.

QUESTION: That’s clear. And one more thing on Russia, if I may. I started to say that I didn’t want to go into Syria and I did. Does this issue now, like, prevent us from going forward on other issues? And if not, then what are the priorities that you see for our relations, for the relations with Russia for the foreseeable future, for this year, for instance?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think we’re going to give a full briefing on U.S.-Russian relations going forward here, but given the number of issues that we work on together, both the places where we need to cooperate, the common challenges that we face, the fact that Russia’s a Security Council member, we always work on the full set of global issues, and we need to continue to do that. We’re working together on Iran, we’re working together on North Korea, we’re working together on Middle East peace issues in the Quartet context. We’re working together on the bilateral relationship. But the most acute issue now is to have Russia’s help – it has influence with Assad – to pressure him to silence his guns.

Please.

QUESTION: Toria, just to follow up --

QUESTION: On Pakistan?

QUESTION: On Iran --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- are you and the P-5+1 members any closer to responding to the Jalili letter?

MS. NULAND: We are where we were on Friday when we talked about this. We’re continuing to work together on what the right course forward is going to be. I don’t have anything to announce today.

QUESTION: One more on Iran?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You’ve seen the reports that Mr. Hekmati – there’s going to be a retrial? Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have seen some credible reporting that the Iranian Supreme Court has now ordered a retrial in Mr. Hekmati’s case. As you know, he had been sentenced to death and we were extremely concerned about that. So if it is true that there will now be a retrial, this is a welcome development, and we hope that he will be reunited with his family soon. We have regrettably still not been able to have contact with him through the Swiss protecting power, nor have we heard this information through the Swiss protecting power.

QUESTION: And that’s because they regard him as an Iranian citizen, not an American citizen; correct?

MS. NULAND: That is our understanding that they don’t recognize the U.S. citizenship.

QUESTION: Have the Swiss gotten any information about him even prior to this? Or have they just been flat out denied and told that it’s none of their business because this guy is an Iranian citizen? What I’m curious to know is do you – would it – is it your expectation that if this were true, the Swiss would be notified simply because the Iranians know of your interest in the case?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think if the Iranians want to send a message to us about Mr. Hekmati, they know that the best channel for that from our perspective is the Swiss protecting power. That said, we have never had them recognize the authority of the Swiss protecting power in this case because they don’t recognize his American citizenship.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Afghanistan’s foreign ministry today said that it will not go ahead with a strategic agreement with the U.S. until and unless two of its – two of the main conditions set by recently held Loya Jirga are accepted. One is the night raids and other is transfer of prisoners. What do you say about that? Are you willing to accept those two conditions?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’ve been working on this strategic partnership document for some time. We continue to think that it’s extremely important. We think it will provide a long-term framework for the bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Afghanistan in the areas of security, economics, social development, institution building. As you note, there have been a couple of sticking points. We are continuing to try to work through those. And I don’t have anything to report at this time with regard to completing the document or settling those two issues.

QUESTION: But are these two the sticking points? Are there any more sticking points in the documents?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the substance of the negotiations. You can understand that. But we will continue to work on it. We don’t have a set timeframe for when we want it done, but we do think it’s an important long-term foundation for where we need to go together.

QUESTION: Are those talks continuing at the same pace that they have been, or have they reached a sort of stalemate?

MS. NULAND: No, they’re continuing, and our Embassy in Kabul has the lead on them at this moment, yeah.

QUESTION: So what --

QUESTION: Two weeks ago --

QUESTION: Hold on. Just what – but what – who is handling that? Ambassador Crocker?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Crocker has the lead.

QUESTION: Now – okay. Well, he is – I presume he’s going to be here next week like everyone else, so I just – is there a – I’m sorry, that’s not supposed to be secret, is it?

MS. NULAND: Matt is referring to – yeah, a conference that we’re having here.

QUESTION: It is?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Oh. Well, anyway, I mean, that isn’t – there were – there was talk that Spanta had threatened to resign or offered to resign, and that – and this didn’t – you’re saying there isn’t any specific new problem that you’re aware of other than the atmosphere around the whole Qu’ran incident.

MS. NULAND: No. I mean, we’re continuing to talk about these issues. I mean, he had discussions about the SPD issues as recently as last week, so I think he’s continuing to try to work on things. I’m not aware of anything new.

In the back, please.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on Russia, if I may.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Let’s try, guys, to clump these so that we don’t end up coming back and back.

QUESTION: You mentioned there is some interest on a number of issues with Russia. I’m wondering if this cooperation will include Georgia and the situation in its occupied territories. I would like to ask, in general, what their recent policy will be like after these presidential elections?

MS. NULAND: Well, our position with regard to Georgia and its sovereignty and territorial integrity is unchanged. And we will continue to be absolutely clear with the Russian Federation where we stand on those issues. I don’t think this election will change that in any way.

Please, behind you.

QUESTION: What do you think about the fact that Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev ordered the probe into Khodorkovsky’s case?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these press reports that President Medvedev is looking at potential changes in status or clemency for some political prisoners in Russia. Obviously, we would await any final decisions there, but I think you know our views with regard to the Khodorkovsky case. So we would – any positive improvement in his situation would be most welcome.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s a PR decision, or how do you answer it?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to what’s motivating this.

QUESTION: Going back just to the Middle East and saying – on Yemen and your thoughts or concerns on the latest incidents?

MS. NULAND: Well we strongly condemn all acts of violence and terrorism, including the recent attacks on the Yemeni army. We will continue to provide security and counterterrorism support to counter the immediate threats of violent extremism, as well as to deliver humanitarian, economic, and technical support. As you know, Yemen has set itself on a two-year democratic transition course, so it’s very important that we do what we can to support Yemen in maintaining security and stability during this period.

QUESTION: You don’t see this as having to do – or as either derailed or the beginning of a derailment of that two year process?

MS. NULAND: Well, our hope and expectation is that working together and with the international community, we continue – we can continue to support Yemeni security authorities in taking on these issues. As you know, there have been attempts of this kind all the way through this period.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about an increasingly secessionist move in the south of Yemen?

MS. NULAND: Our view is that the Yemeni people, with their overwhelming – overwhelmingly positive vote in the presidential election have endorsed the democratic transition process set forward by agreement between the government and the opposition, and that’s a very positive sign. So the Yemeni people have said that they want change, they want democracy, they want unity, they want a voice for all Yemenis in the central government.

So that is the process that they have spoken in favor of, and it’s not surprising that people who don’t favor a democratic transition may be trying to derail it. But we will continue to support Yemeni central authorities in supporting the will of the people, which is overwhelmingly to keep the country together and overwhelmingly to have this two year transition process to a new constitution and full democratic elections that they have endorsed.

In the back?

QUESTION: Yeah. Has the Indian Government informed you about the results of investigations on the Israeli diplomatic car last month? You have any update on --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new on that. I wish I did. I don’t.

Matt, did you have other things? Yeah.

QUESTION: I have – yeah, very briefly. Have you – do you have anything in there on Somalia?

MS. NULAND: Anything new on Somalia since the London conference? What specifically?

QUESTION: Yes. Yeah. Well, this is a story that came out on Friday, I think, about the budget and the TFG spending money or not spending money. You guys are a big contributor to the TFG and there’s some allegations --

MS. NULAND: Why don’t you give me the details afterwards? We’ll see what we can do for you.

QUESTION: Yeah, I forgot about it this morning. I’m sorry about that.

MS. NULAND: Did you have something? No?

QUESTION: One more?

MS. NULAND: Please, here.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you able to provide as with who Ambassador King’s North Korean counterpart is going to be for the talks?

MS. NULAND: I think I do have that. Let me just take a – yeah. My understanding is for these talks in Beijing on March 7th, Ambassador King and AID Deputy Assistant Administrator Jon Brause will be meeting with a delegation led by DPRK Deputy Director General for American Affairs An Myong-Hun. That’s my understanding.

Please.

QUESTION: Can you spell that?

MS. NULAND: I have A-n, M-y-o-n-g, H-u-n.

Please, still on North Korea? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Where is this meeting (inaudible) discussing on the North Korean human right issues?

MS. NULAND: This is a meeting on the modalities for nutritional assistance. That’s the scope of this meeting.

QUESTION: Also on North Korea --

QUESTION: I have a quick question on that.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: So do we have – still have teams in Libya that are helping to track down weapons?

MS. NULAND: We do, and we have continuing progress on the MANPAD issue, on destruction of excess stockpiles, et cetera. We’re also working with all the border states, as the Secretary mentioned on her recent road trip.

QUESTION: There was a story that they’re seeing an increased flow of weapons across the border into Egypt and that’s adding to a crime problem there. Have you been monitoring that flow? Have you seen the increase with your teams?

MS. NULAND: Again, what we are trying to do is work with all of the bordering states to try to staunch this flow, and we have been working with Egyptians as well. But our primary focus is on trying to destroy as many of these weapons inside Libya as we and the Libyans can find and can manage to destroy.

Please.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the Track II conference in New York? Last week, you said that there was no plan to – for U.S. official to attend?

MS. NULAND: I have nothing new on that. And last one in the back.

QUESTION: So – yeah, there is a news report in an Indian telegraph newspaper saying that the U.S. opposed a joint venture between India and China to explore and drill oil in Syria. Is it true? Has the U.S. opposed the joint venture?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I don’t think we are encouraging of anybody doing new business in Syria these days, but I don’t know if we’ve made a specific – taken a specific position on that particular project.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)

DPB # 41

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - March 5, 2012]