Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 9, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SYRIA
    • Arab League / Kofi Annan / Foreign Minister Lavrov / Proposed Resolution
    • Arab League Plan / Structure for Dialogue / President Assad
    • Violence / Syrian Security Forces
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • U.S. - Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Document (SPD)
    • Women's Rights / Human Rights / President Karzai
  • EGYPT
    • Readout of Secretary Clinton's Conversation with Egyptian Foreign Minister
    • NGO Issue / Protests Outside U.S. Embassy / Egyptian Court
    • U.S. - Egypt Relationship / Judiciary
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. Will Continue the Effort to Bring Both Parties Together
  • PAKISTAN
    • U.S. Looking Forward to Completion of the Internal Review


TRANSCRIPT:

1:15 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Happy Friday, everyone. Once again, this morning the boss did all the work, so let us just do whatever clean up you all need.

QUESTION: Yeah. On that, she mentioned this Arab League meeting that’s coming up in Cairo in her comments. And I’m just wondering, what is it that you are expecting or that you’re thinking the Arab League – this is about Syria obviously – is going to come from this meeting? What are your expectations for the Arab League?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Arab League, of course, will take stock of where we are in Syria. I think it’s an opportunity for them to look at how we are doing in supporting the UN’s humanitarian effort, at arranging also stronger and more organized support for the opposition’s transition planning. They can coordinate the different messages that they are hearing from members of the opposition. They’ll also be able to take stock of Kofi Annan’s mission; he’s in Damascus on Saturday, as you know. And he has been to see the Arab League in Cairo, I think it was yesterday. So it’ll be a chance to evaluate where we are, and we look forward to being in touch with them on Monday.

QUESTION: But are you – the meeting is on Sunday?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: You’re – are you expecting them to come out with some kind of new proposal? Or new --

MS. NULAND: No. I think that they stand by the proposal that they’ve had on the table. I think it’s simply a question of how we can increase the community of nations that support it. As you know, Foreign Minister Lavrov – I think the Secretary made reference to this, is in Cairo as well today, tomorrow, to talk to the Arab League Secretary General. So they’ll also have a chance to hear from him what we can do together.

QUESTION: Okay. And in terms of the conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov, earlier this week after the Russian election, there was some hope expressed both here and in European capitals that the Russians might have – might be willing to compromise, or might be willing to – that now is – does not appear to be the case. And in fact, hearing that the Russians may be even more adamant in their opposition to what they say is a resolution at the UN that is biased in favor of – biased against the Syrian Government. What is the status of the proposed resolution that you guys had been floating?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve been consulting all week in New York on whether we could do a somewhat narrower resolution that nonetheless was supportive of the effort to get humanitarian relief in. I have to tell you that, based on where we are today, the P-5+ Morocco consultations that we had, have not resulted in an agreed text. We are, frankly, not overly optimistic that an agreed text will be reached in the future. But as I said, we have Foreign Minister Lavrov in Cairo. He’ll have a chance to hear directly from Arab League – the Arab League Secretary General and other participants, and then the Secretary will have a chance to talk to him on Monday. So we’ll take stock then.

QUESTION: So just to kind of put a finer point on it, it sounds like this is the beginning of the ratcheting up of pressure on Russia, because it certainly seems as if the Arabs are looking to give the Russians a pretty good tongue lashing this weekend at the meeting.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you’ve heard some of the Arab League leaders say publicly, they are quite concerned about the Russian and Chinese positions. They are beginning to speak about this having broader implications for their relations with Russia, their relations with China. This is their neighborhood; they want to see progress, they want to see a peaceful solution, and they want to see the UN Security Council act.

So I think we have all been putting quite a bit of pressure – I don’t think the Secretary minced words when she was in Tunis, as you’ll recall. So I think it’s another opportunity for the Arab League to make its views known.

QUESTION: Right. But you kind of put that in the context of also the Secretary’s meeting on Monday. So it sounds as – and when you talk about kind of increasing the community of nations, it sounds like you’re specifically singling out Russia.

MS. NULAND: Well look, we’ve said ever since the second Security Council resolution was vetoed that we want to see Russia and China stand with the Syrian people and help stop the bloodshed and use their influence with Assad and the regime. We had hoped, as the Secretary said today, we continue to hope that with their own elections behind them that Russia can do more now to pressure Assad – Secretary said that again this morning. So the Arab League will make that point, we’ll give some specific ideas to Foreign Minister Lavrov and then we’ll have a chance to see him in New York.

QUESTION: What are the consequences for the U.S. -- you talked about the Arab consequences for the relationship – what are the consequences for the U.S. relationship with Russia if it doesn’t start to at least support some kind of humanitarian effort in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think, as we’ve been saying, this is now topic one, two, and three in our conversation with Moscow. We would like to see Russia do what it can to put pressure, because, as we’ve said, our concern is for the Syrian people, and it is time for Russia to stand with them.

QUESTION: So from your perspective, what is the nature and the expectation of the Kofi Annan visit to Damascus?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Kofi Annan is a very experienced diplomat. He too wants to see a political solution; he too wants to see the regime, first of all, meet the commitments that it made way back in November to the Arab League. So he’s going to first be pressing on all of those things: the ending of the violence, the pulling back of heavy weapons, the release of political prisoners, the start of a real dialogue. He’s made that clear. But I think it is, from the perspective of all of us in the Friends of the Syrian People group, to have a direct envoy to Bashar Assad to make clear to him how absolutely isolated he is, is an opportunity here, and we will see how that works through.

QUESTION: But would he --

QUESTION: So is this --

QUESTION: Well, what are you --

QUESTION: Can I – just a quick follow-up? Is this the beginning of a process or are we at the point of “do this or else” with Kofi Annan this time around?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have not had a UN envoy who has made the trip to Assad. As you know, Kofi Annan is double-hatted. He’s both the UN Secretary General’s envoy; he’s also the Arab League’s envoy. So this will be his first effort to talk directly to the Assad regime and see what he can do to at least get some of the suffering of the Syrian people alleviated, and to do what he can to get Assad to understand that he’s got to meet his international obligations or he will face increasing pressure, increasing isolation.

QUESTION: So is this appointment specifically to get him to step down? Because it sounds as if he’s also calling for a dialogue between the opposition and the government, which the opposition has rejected.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Arab League plan sets out a very specific way that this could move forward, a very specific way that a dialogue could go forward. It resembles some of the processes that we’ve seen in other parts of the region during this Arab Spring period.

QUESTION: Like Yemen?

MS. NULAND: And the proposal is that the vice president would be able to work with the opposition and create a structure for dialogue. But I think you know where we have been on this subject. That under Assad, political power in Syria is exercised by a mafia-like crime family – not by a parliament, not by parties, not by a cabinet. And so the only meaningful reform, the only meaningful dialogue, is one that transfers power ultimately from this family to the people, that there needs to be a structure in place so that those folks, who are currently governing Syria but don’t have blood on their hands, can get into a real conversation with members of the opposition who want to see a democratic transition.

QUESTION: Just one more. When you say that you’re going to present some ideas to the Russians, do those ideas include accepting a visit from Kofi Annan?

MS. NULAND: I think Kofi Annan has been in consultations with the Russians. I don’t know whether he plans to go to Moscow. I said that I thought that the Arab League would present some ideas to the Russians.

QUESTION: So to understand you correctly, you expect this Kofi Annan mission to be – this is the first step of a long, drawn-out process?

MS. NULAND: Said, I can’t speak to where this is going to go. I don’t think that Kofi Annan’s message is going to be maximally different than the message the vast majority of the international community led by the Arab League has been giving all along, that it is well past time for the violence to end and for a political process to begin, and that if that does not happen, that the pressure from the international community will only grow – economic pressure, political pressure, isolation.

QUESTION: So there is no set timetable or a window of time, or is --

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to predict where this is going to go. Let’s let him have his consultation and see where we go.

Please.

QUESTION: Another topic?

QUESTION: I’ve got – no, just staying on this just for a second, a couple of very brief things. One, a mafia-like crime family, as you said. Who is the Godfather here? Do you really think that Assad is smart enough – maybe ruthless enough – is he smart enough to actually be the head of this family? Or do you think that it’s his father’s cronies who are still hanging around?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to dissect the insides of this family except that he is the president of the country. He bears full responsibility.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: But do you really believe – just to follow on you – that one point, Matt. Do you really believe that if he were to step down or be taken out of power that the violence in Syria is going to stop? You really think he’s the sole person that’s calling the shots here?

MS. NULAND: He is the symbol, the president of this regime that is --

QUESTION: You said a symbol.

MS. NULAND: -- leading this violence. He is – we saw this interview with him some months ago where he claimed that he wasn’t issuing the orders, et cetera. From our perspective, it is inconceivable that you can be president of the country and not take responsibility for what your security forces are doing.

With regard to where this might go, you’ve heard the President, you’ve heard the Secretary say with increasing force and pointedness over the last couple of weeks that it is high time for those members of the regime, those members of the military, those members of the business community that are still supporting this president, that are still supporting this family, that are still obeying orders to kill innocent people need to think twice about what they’re doing, need to think twice about the blood that they have on their hands and make a different decision, make a different decision for the dignity of their people, and the future of their country. We’ve seen a number of generals defect in recent days, making exactly that point – that they are no longer going to stand with this bloody man, with these bloody policies.

QUESTION: So my second one was you said that you had hoped that after the Russian election that they would be – and in my first question, I said as kind of a – stated as fact, but I want to know if you agree with it, that in fact, it doesn’t appear that the Russian election has had any – has any – has made any impact on Putin. Is that correct from what you can tell so far, based on the consultations of the P-5 and Morocco since the election?

MS. NULAND: Well, they have not translated into a resolution that we can all support in New York. I think I made that clear.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: I think we look forward to seeing what the results are of the foreign minister’s trip to see Arab League representatives, and the Secretary wants to talk to him herself.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then the last one was you said that this is topic – meaning Syria – is topic one, two, and three with Russia?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: But where does Iran fit in? Are they sixth, seventh? Where --

MS. NULAND: Well, obvious --

QUESTION: Iran, adoptions, North Korea – there’s a lot of stuff on the plate. Are you saying, really, that this is --

MS. NULAND: This is the --

QUESTION: Everything is --

MS. NULAND: -- number-one issue on which we are not seeing eye to eye and which needs more work. I’m – I think we’re all heartened that the P-5+1 has been very strong and unified with regard to Iran, that we are together with Russia, together with China on the way forward, and in answering Jalili’s letter. So from that perspective, I’m sure that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov will talk about Iran on Monday. But it is an area where we are absolutely together and that is working well, as are our consultations on North Korea.

QUESTION: Your assessment – just one more. What is your assessment of this perceived polarization in Washington? On the one hand, you have the Administration, the general, the Secretary of Defense saying look, it is not time to intervene. And on the other, you have the senators – McCain, Graham, Lieberman – newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and so on, calling actually for direct intervention. How is that – are they not seeing eye to eye in this city -- those who make decisions regarding Syria?

MS. NULAND: Look, as the Secretary has said, Said, this is a very frustrating and difficult situation. And there are views all over the city, there are views all over the international community, on what the way forward is. Within the Congress, there are differing views on all sides of this issue about the appropriate policy for the United States. So as the Secretary has said, we’re going to take this day by day, and right now, we are focused on diplomatic pressure, economic isolation, the Kofi Annan mission, and continuing to work with those countries that are – that have influence with him to use it.

QUESTION: One last one on Syria?

MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.

QUESTION: The Syrian National Council has announced the creation of a military bureau to organize armed resistance against the regime. And this is the organization that Secretary Clinton has called the leading legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Is the Department still opposed to violence from the opposition? And if so, are you pressuring the SNC to not use violence?

MS. NULAND: Well, I addressed this issue earlier in the week. Our view on this situation has not changed.

Please. Paul?

QUESTION: If the top of the Syrian regime is a crime family, what’s the Administration’s view of the other institutions of government there? I mean, my impression has been that the Administration wants to keep what it can going forward.

MS. NULAND: Well, Paul, this is going to be a decision for the Syrian people to make. We are not going to dictate the future structure or the personnel in a Syrian system that’s becoming equal – increasingly democratic. What we want to see is a process of dialogue among the various stakeholders and groups in Syria about how to make a democratic transition along the lines of the Arab plan or whatever emerges from that dialogue. And then it’ll be their choice how to deal with the existing structures and what kinds of reform might be necessary, both in a personnel sense and in a structural sense.

QUESTION: But you are dictating who one personnel can’t be. I mean --

MS. NULAND: Well, I mean, the President’s been clear about this for months and months and months. But this is a guy --

QUESTION: Right. I know. But when you say --

MS. NULAND: -- who has lost his legitimacy.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But you say you’re not dictating who’s going to be in charge of Syria, but you are, in fact, saying that there’s one person that can’t be. Right?

MS. NULAND: No dispute there.

QUESTION: Yeah, but to follow up on that (inaudible), you certainly don’t want to see the breakdown of this state, like what we have seen in Iraq with the army, the ministries, and so on that are still plagued by chaos and confusion and violence.

MS. NULAND: Well, this is precisely why we are focused on trying to push everybody towards a political solution through dialogue. There’s been enough physical destruction in Syria already. There has been enough suffering already. It is time to get to a process of dialogue about a democratic transition there that preserves those institutions that are needed, that preserves a secure, stable, but increasingly democratic, more united Syria, in which the human rights of all are protected, including the rights of minorities and women.

Please.

QUESTION: With the signing of memorandum of understanding on detainees transferred in Afghanistan, do you think all the hurdles for strategic partnership documents have been cleared. It’s – to sign now?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are obviously very pleased and encouraged that the memorandum of understanding on detentions was signed today by General Allen and Defense Minister Wardak. We think it’s a very important step forward in transitioning security responsibility to the Afghan Government and to do it in a way that is phased, that is transparent, that meets international legal standards, and that can give all of us confidence in Afghanistan’s future.

We also do think that this step moves us closer to being able to conclude the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership document, which will guide our relationship going forward, including in the post-2014 period when Afghans are firmly in the lead of their own security. We do have other hurdles to clear and we’re continuing to negotiate, but we are increasingly optimistic that we will be able to move on the SPD as well.

QUESTION: And which of those are the hurdles? Can you explain?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, one of the issues that we are continuing to talk about is the issue of night operations. It is now looking like that issue will also be addressed in a separate negotiation, that there’ll be a separate memorandum of understanding on special operations. We’re having that negotiation as well. And then there are the usual things that need to be cleaned up as you come to a final text on an agreement of the magnitude of the SPD.

QUESTION: And when do you expect this – the MOU on night raids to be signed?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the timing. The negotiations are ongoing. But we are obviously, in both cases, both with regard to the SPD and with regard to the MOU on night operations – we are motivated to get it right in the first instance so that it’s sustainable and gives everybody confidence. But we also would like to reassure everybody about the terms for a long-term partnership.

QUESTION: Has there been progress in that area? Because U.S. military officials say over and over again that they’re not willing to budge on that one.

MS. NULAND: Well, there are details to be worked through about how these operations are going to work in the future. As you know, this is also an area where Afghans are increasingly in the lead, so I think it’s a matter of working through what support they might require in the future.

QUESTION: How do you see the – I’m sorry, just to follow, how do you see the security situation now in Afghanistan after all the violence and also now since the (inaudible) of doors are not open between U.S. and Pakistan. So, where do we stand now?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we’ve been through a little bit of a bumpy period. That doesn’t change the fact that every day, Afghan forces, along with ISAF and American forces, go out and try to make it a safer country in all parts of the country where that’s necessary and progress is being made on a daily basis.

QUESTION: And also as far as – you talk about Women’s – International Women’s Day. Afghanistan – the womens in Afghanistan are not very happy the way they’re being treated there, including in many other parts of the world. I know Secretary spoke and we had a special session on women. How do you see now as far as especially women in those third world countries and including in Arab countries or poor country – third world countries, poor countries, or in Muslim countries?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we had a full day on these issues yesterday, and the Secretary spoke in a full way to our commitment to the strengthening of women’s rights and women’s empowerment as part of our broad, fundamental commitment to human rights. With regard to Afghanistan, it’s interesting that you raise it, Goyal. I think you know that the Secretary did speak to President Karzai yesterday, or the day before, I guess it was – yes, it was yesterday. And in that context, it being March 8th, she made clear how important the rights of women in Afghanistan are to us, and President Karzai also reaffirmed in very strong terms the protections that women enjoy under the Afghan constitution and his personal commitment to those going forward.

QUESTION: Well, how does she read that personal commitment after the decree he signed?

MS. NULAND: Well, this was the concern that we had had. This –

QUESTION: Yeah. But does she believe him? Or do you – he can --

MS. NULAND: -- Ulema Council decree – he made clear in that context that this was – that the force of law in Afghanistan does not come from that body; it comes from the Afghan constitution, and that the judicial bodies of Afghanistan have an obligation to uphold the constitution of Afghanistan, and that he is personally committed to that.

QUESTION: Yeah. But --

MS. NULAND: So that was something that she had sought in terms of a reassurance.

QUESTION: So you have confidence that the Afghan constitution is strong enough or that the Afghan judiciary is actually strong enough to overcome a very – at least morally powerful body that --

MS. NULAND: Well, as with so many things in Afghanistan, this is a work in progress in terms of meeting, in practice, the letter and the spirit of the constitutional guarantees that are now available to individual Afghans, but it is not a small thing that the president of the country is making clear his support for those guarantees.

QUESTION: Well, but is it also not a small thing that he signed off on it?

MS. NULAND: That he signed off on --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: He signed off on --

QUESTION: That he’s going along with this decree.

MS. NULAND: No. My point to you was, in the context of the Ulema Council decree and some of the public statements that were made afterwards, in her conversation yesterday, she sought reassurance from President Karzai as to where he stands on women’s rights in Afghanistan. And he made clear that the Ulema Council is an advisory body, it doesn’t have force of law, and that the force of law in Afghanistan is the Afghan constitution, and it is his personal commitment that he will see it upheld.

QUESTION: Right. Well --

MS. NULAND: That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be perfect in all circumstances.

QUESTION: Right. I understand that, but does she accept his reassurance?

MS. NULAND: She was gratified --

QUESTION: I mean, he’s not going to be president of Afghanistan forever.

MS. NULAND: She was gratified to hear his reassurance and made clear how important this issue is to the United States.

QUESTION: This phone call was yesterday?

MS. NULAND: Yesterday.

QUESTION: But before the video conference the President had with President Karzai --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- or after?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Before that.

QUESTION: But Madam, just a quick follow – as far as women’s rights in Afghanistan or other countries, what many women feel that – as far as Islamic laws are concerned, they are being pressured because of Islamic laws and order comes from Saudi Arabia if all – until things change in Saudi Arabia, then women in those part of the world cannot be free or cannot have human rights or their fundamental rights.

MS. NULAND: Goyal, I think I’ve been over this. The president of the country has reaffirmed to us that Afghanistan will be guided by Afghan – by the Afghan constitution.

Please, Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s conversation today with the Egyptian foreign minister?

MS. NULAND: She spoke to the – I think she mentioned, when she saw the press earlier this morning with the Korean foreign minister, she’s been making a number of phone calls in advance of the Arab League meeting. So she obviously talked to the Egyptian foreign minister about the situation in Syria. She talked to him about bilateral relations. She also, as she always does, underscored the importance of settling the NGO issue in a way that allows Egyptian NGOs and international NGOs to operate in a way that is legal and that is clear in Egypt so that we can – these NGOs can support the democratic process, and she – I think they may also have talked about Iran. I’m not sure on that.

Cami.

QUESTION: Can we now back to the NGO issue?

QUESTION: Hold on. Just – did she speak to anyone else about – she said she had been a couple –

MS. NULAND: She spoke to Arab League Secretary General al-Araby. She spoke to – we talked about Foreign Minister Amr. Yeah. That’s what I have so far.

QUESTION: Has any progress been made on getting the charges dropped against the NGOs? And what’s your readout of the protest that happened today outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo? What was going on there?

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the protests outside of the Embassy, as you know, it’s a – Friday is a day that the Embassy is closed. So we only had security personnel there. Our understanding, from what I was able to glean before I came down, was that we had some of the usual protests that have been happening on Fridays against the current pace of reform by opposition folks who don’t think that it’s fast enough. Then we had some counter-protestors of a – sort of in an anti-American vein and some of them clashed with each other. But I frankly don’t have a full picture there, Cami, because, as I said, we had limited staff. But my understanding is that it’s now dispersed.

With regard to the NGO issue, I think you’ve seen the press reporting that the Egyptian court has now set the next hearing date for April 10th, and as I said, we’re continuing to work on this case.

Please.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MS. NULAND: Behind you, Samir, sorry.

QUESTION: Sorry. It’s okay. That’s fine. You mentioned that we are trying to solve – last Saturday when the statement came out, and then after that Assistant Secretary Feltman in his interview with Al Arabiya mentioned that it was kind of – that was – issue is good that we solved that. We can talk about other issue. But it seems it’s not solved. I mean, yesterday, for example, an American is in the trial, and is there anything going on regarding the – dropping the charges, or it’s like wait-and-see?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think Cami just asked a version of the same question. Again, the Egyptian court has now set another hearing date for April 10th. We are continuing to support the lawyers for those Americans involved; to support the NGOs, whether they are American, international, or Egyptian in trying to do what we can to take care of this situation, which as you know we thought never should have arisen in the first place.

QUESTION: Yesterday, to another issue, which is Egypt’s military prosecutor – start to investigate allegations against 12 of the country’s best known activists and public figures, which are well known, including Wael Ghoneim of Google, and the one – young people and media people. Do you have any reaction to this or read-out of --

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the press reporting. Frankly, we need to gather some of our own information. We don’t have much of our own information today.

QUESTION: So regarding this, the same issue, which is kind of solved and not solved, it seems so. In the same time, is there other issues which, regarding the partnership or the strategic partnership as you describe in your statement on Saturday, anything going on or is that – everything is frozen or on standstill?

MS. NULAND: Well, our relationship with Egypt was never frozen. We’re continuing to work together on a broad cross-section of issues, including the support that we want to provide for the presidential elections that are coming up and other support that we’re giving to the transition process.

But in addition, as our statement said over the weekend, the Egyptian Government is now in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on support that, frankly, we believe Egypt badly needs. We want to see Egypt and the IMF come to an agreement that is transparent and that can undergird the democratic transition period, because, as you know, there is hope not only that this change will bring political reform, but that it’ll bring more economic opportunity for the people of Egypt. And of course our important conversations about regional security always continue.

Cami.

QUESTION: Weeks ago you said this was an executive issue in Egypt. And it seems like in the debate within Egypt, it’s been said it’s a judicial issue. So which is it, in your eyes now? And if it is a judicial issue, how is the U.S. able to influence that one way or the other?

MS. NULAND: Well again, Cami, our view has been that we need to talk to all branches of the Egyptian Government about this – to the judiciary to the degree that we can talk to them about the fact that we viewed the situation as unclear as a matter of Egyptian law, and that that needs to be cleaned up with the executive in terms of its oversight of the judiciary. And that, frankly, this is a matter that goes to the larger question of the transition that Egypt needs to make from an authoritarian system where civil society organizations, whether they’re Egyptian or whether they’re international, didn’t play much of a role in politics, to a democratic system where the role and the participation and the support that NGOs can give to the political process, to economic reform, to transparency in government, to being watchdogs over a judicial process, frankly, which they certainly play that role in our country and in democracies around the world, is strengthened, is encouraged, is enhanced, rather than feared. And that is a matter that needs to be clarified in Egyptian law and in practice.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Please.

QUESTION: Quick question on the NGOs.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know procedurally that NDI and RNI and Freedom House are obligated under the law to share their operations and their funds and so on with the Egyptian Government?

MS. NULAND: Said, they had been cooperating all through the spring, summer, and fall period. They had been transparent about their finances. They had been transparent about the beneficiaries of their programs, all of those kinds of things, as requested. And that was one of the reasons that we were so concerned and caught off guard, frankly, when the judicial process moved from one of transparency to one of punitive action.

Please.

QUESTION: So Palestinian officials are saying that the Administration has told them that – not to expect anything big this year or to be patient because President Obama’s reelection is a prime concern and that the peace process is really not an issue of importance. What’s your reaction to that? I have a bet riding on your answer, so do well.

MS. NULAND: Well, we completely reject that characterization --

QUESTION: Oh, good. I’ll go for double or nothing now.

MS. NULAND: -- both of our views and of the message that we’ve been given – giving to the Palestinian representatives and to Israeli representatives at all levels. We continue our efforts to try to bring the parties back together for direct talks. As you know, Secretary saw Foreign Minister Judeh last week, she saw Prime Minister Netanyahu, as the President did as well, on Monday. And we continue to make the case that we think that the direct talks that the Jordanians hosted earlier this winter, although they were only three weeks long, created a good atmosphere, that that atmosphere should not be thrown away, that the parties need to keep working and to try to come back, and that three weeks was simply not enough time for the parties to engage seriously and in depth and that we want to see this process continue.

QUESTION: Well, then --

QUESTION: All right. Hold on. Wait. You didn’t mention Tony Blair, the meeting with Tony Blair that was --

MS. NULAND: No, of course. And she saw Tony Blair as well.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. And might she be seeing anyone on Monday related to a – related to this issue?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce, but as you know, many of the participants will be in New York on Monday.

QUESTION: How much of her discussion with the Prime Minister in her personal meeting with him, was related to the peace process?

MS. NULAND: In the Secretary’s meeting with --

QUESTION: The Israeli prime minister.

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to give you a percentage, but certainly a good amount of that meeting was devoted to this issue.

QUESTION: I have a quick follow-up on –

QUESTION: Can you say – I know that you don’t – can’t get inside the Palestinians’ head why this – but has there been any message sent to them that they might have – that you’re aware of – that they might have misconstrued or misunderstood or misinterpreted, because --

MS. NULAND: Well, as you said, I can’t get into their heads, but --

QUESTION: No. I know. But from your end --

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: No one. So people have wracked their brains in this building, and perhaps over in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and they can’t think of anything that they might have said that would have led – that would have logically led the Palestinians to make this conclusion?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think any brain wracking was necessary, Matt. I think our messages have been very consistent and very clear.

QUESTION: So they’ve just made this up, in other words?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to --

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, do you think it could be like maybe your rhetoric is saying one thing, but your actions and your particular personal U.S. engagement on the issue sends something louder than your rhetoric?

MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what it is that you are referring to, but as we’ve made clear, this week alone the President has been engaged, the Secretary has been engaged. David Hale spent two weeks out in the region less than a month ago. So we are doing what we can to try to get these parties back to the table, but they have got to make the difficult decision to do that.

Said.

QUESTION: Have there been any high-level contacts with the president of the Palestinian Authority Abbas after the meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I don’t know the answer to that one, Said.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Madam, Pakistan has a now new ISI chief, Mr. Zaheerul Islam. And one, if the relations will change between U.S. and Pakistan? And second, Pakistan also has charged three former wives or widows of Usama bin Ladin who were being held after the compound was raided. Any comments?

MS. NULAND: On the second one, I certainly don’t have any comment on that. And with regard to the new ISI chief, I’m going to send you to our colleagues in the intelligence agencies who will be his counterparts.

QUESTION: How about the answer to the – do you see the relationship changing?

MS. NULAND: The relationship with Pakistan changing? I think you know where we are, that we are looking forward to the completion of the internal review.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the new chief?

MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to this individual. I can’t speak to that relationship. It’s an intelligence-to-intelligence relationship, so I’m going to send you to our friends there.

QUESTION: But you are – but you do want the relationship to change, don’t you? You want it to improve, yes?

MS. NULAND: I think you know what we are hoping there. We obviously always want our relationship with Pakistan to be on an upward trajectory.

Please.

QUESTION: One question about Iran. Any update about talks in terms of modality and the where and when?

MS. NULAND: Nothing new to report today.


Okay, Happy Friday, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)

DPB # 44

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - March 9, 2012]