Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 24, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • World Press Freedom Day / Uzbek Journalist Dilmurod Sayid
  • SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN
    • South Sudan Forces Withdraw from Heglig / Call for Immediate Cessation of Violence / Special Envoy Princeton Lyman / Working with the AU / Comprehensive Peace Agreement
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Settlements / David Hale Meetings
  • INDIA
    • Indian Education Initiative / Indian Students in the U.S.
  • WIKILEAKS
    • Negative Effects
  • RUSSIA
    • Jackson-Vanik Legislation
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Nuclear Tests / International Obligations / Chinese Influence
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions / Talks
  • SYRIA
    • Sanctions / Friends of the Syrian People Meeting
  • PAKISTAN
    • Haqqani Network
  • WIKILEAKS
    • Bilateral Relationships
  • SYRIA
    • Violence
  • EGYPT
    • Nongovernmental Organizations


TRANSCRIPT:

12:59 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Tuesday, everybody. Further to our Free the Press daily highlight as we walk up to World Press Freedom Day, today’s highlighted journalist is Dilmurod Sayid, an independent Uzbek journalist. He wrote for opposition websites including The Voice of Freedom and was a member of the Ezgulik Human Rights Society. He was a particularly staunch critic of corruption in Uzbekistan, and he was convicted in a closed trial that did not meet international standards. So we take this opportunity to again call on the Government of Uzbekistan to release him, and we call your attention to his case on HUMANRIGHTS.GOV.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one thing about this, the human rights?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Was there a call that was sent out to embassies to kind of come up with people that you’re going to highlight, or how do these – how were these people chosen?

MS. NULAND: Our Human Rights Bureau, working with embassies and working with our Annual Human Rights Report, came up with the list of journalists that we’re particularly highlighting. Do you have somebody in particular you want to add to the list?

QUESTION: Well, I was going to add me. (Laughter.) No --

MS. NULAND: We all have concerns about your human rights – (laughter) – and about our human rights at your hand. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m sure that’s the case. No, I was just curious as to – I mean, how many are there going to be total?

MS. NULAND: We started this about a week ago and we’re doing it up through May 3rd, which is International Press Freedom Day.

QUESTION: Have you seen any kind of – has there been any response to this that you’re aware of yet?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re seeing quite a bit of coverage in the various regions that these individuals are from.

QUESTION: But any actual action from the governments who are involved?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I don’t think that we’ve had any formal responses to these, but sometimes these things take time. And sometimes when we shout out these cases, it emboldens folks in the region or in the host country to do more on their behalf.

QUESTION: Okay. Moving on to the issue of the day, or at least one of them, the situation in Sudan seems to be really deteriorating, even though there was a hopeful – possibly hopeful sign earlier in the week. It’s gotten worse. I’m wondering what your take on that is. What have the contacts been with both North and South? Where is Princeton Lyman now? Is he back? Is he still out there?

QUESTION: He was in the cafeteria about 20 minutes ago.

QUESTION: Thank you. Well, then I don’t need to – you don’t have to answer the last one.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Well, as we said yesterday, we had the good news of South Sudan withdrawing from Heglig; but rather than responding in kind, we’ve had Sudan increase its aerial bombardment over the last 24 hours. And so these reprehensible bombings are targeting civilians. They are causing casualties all over the place. And they are obviously gross violations of international law, and we continue to call for an immediate cessation.

As the Secretary has been saying over the last week in particular, these countries have to work together if they are each going to succeed. They have got to come back to the table and settle these issues. So I think the concern that we had was, after the trip that Princeton Lyman made where he was in both Juba and Khartoum, where he worked with the parties, where the – we – working with the AU and others, we convinced the South to pull out of Heglig. Rather than that pulling both sides back to the table, the Sudanese seem to have taken negative advantage of it. So it’s very, very concerning. You saw the President’s statement of a week ago.

Ambassador Lyman is here, but he remains in contact with the parties and he remains in contact with a variety of international partners on a daily basis.

QUESTION: And what is the Administration doing, if anything, at the moment, directly with the two sides? Is there – other than Ambassador Lyman’s, I guess now, phone calls, is there anything else?

MS. NULAND: Well, in addition to the presidential statement of the weekend and his direct appeal to the sides, we’re also working with the AU on a package of increased pressure if we can’t get these --

QUESTION: And the UN?

MS. NULAND: And the UN, of course. Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we go to Israel?

QUESTION: And the West Bank?

QUESTION: Please.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Hold on. Sudan, just for a second?

MS. NULAND: Why don’t we stay with Shaun and then come to you.

QUESTION: Sure. Just President Kiir was in Beijing.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: I just wanted to see if you had an assessment of China’s role. China traditionally has been quite close to Khartoum, has received some criticism for that. How do you perceive China’s role in this?

MS. NULAND: Well, China has played a role in both Sudan and South Sudan. We actually have been in very close touch with the Chinese. The Secretary has raised the issue of Sudan with Foreign Minister Yang. Princeton Lyman has been in contact with Ambassador Zhang here. He’s traveled to Beijing. So our hope is that Beijing will play a constructive role. They have in the past in trying to encourage the sides to come back to the negotiating table. China has investments throughout the area and also benefits from stability, so we have been working to enlist Beijing and to work together on a common message.

QUESTION: Victoria, just a quick follow-up. Would you say that the withdrawal of the Southern forces is a direct result of the involvement of Ambassador Lyman? And if so, what did he get in return from the North? I mean, he went to both Juba and Khartoum.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is a process of trying to work with both sides and get them back to the table. He works, as you know, in extremely close partnership with the African Union, with the UN peacekeeping forces on the ground. But his own personal relationships and his own diplomacy have been very important to this process.

So I think this is the issue of concern, that Sudan wanted to see the withdrawals from Heglig. Those happened. And the response was – instead of being a response in kind, was a violent response. So that’s extremely concerning.

QUESTION: But the rhetoric today from al-Bashir, the president, is quite belligerent. Is anyone in contact with him from this Administration at the present time?

MS. NULAND: No, of course. And Ambassador Lyman is in regular contact with him, but so are others. And we will continue to be.

QUESTION: Hold on a second. Really? With President Bashir himself? I thought there was a kind of de facto ban on direct contacts between U.S. officials and President Bashir because of his status with the ICC.

MS. NULAND: I think that Princeton has been in contact with him directly. But if that’s not the case, I’ll get back to you.[1]

Yeah. Please.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just one more on that?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Jill.

QUESTION: This is the immediate problem, the fighting.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: But there are underlying issues that are fueling this, such as borders. Is there any attempt at this point to even begin to sort that out?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that created the two states that led to the velvet divorce creating South Sudan, there were unresolved issues of borders and resources and other things that had to be settled. There is a process that is internationally managed that the AU supervises for their negotiators to come to the table and work on these things. But every time we have serious flare-ups of violence, those talks break down, stall, get off the rail. So this is the problem, that they can’t move past the immediate difficulties to get to the underlying settlement of the remaining underlying issues.

And as the Secretary has said again and again, as the President said over the weekend, unless they can settle these issues, neither one of them is going to benefit from the potential to be reintegrated with the international community, to benefit from the resources, and to really invest in their people who are so long-suffering.

QUESTION: Is there a feeling that the AU is not putting enough pressure on either side, or specifically Sudan?

MS. NULAND: I think we’re all looking once again, as we have so many times in this process, at what pressure we can bring to bear – economic pressure, political pressure – but frankly, the AU has done a superb job speaking for the region on these issues. And we continue to work very closely with them on a daily basis.

QUESTION: Just one more on this. And I have to admit that I am not a Sudan expert, but – and this phrase “velvet divorce” is new to me. Is this – but given this – the incidents or the developments, is this --

MS. NULAND: No, of course, of course. I mean there was so much violence.

QUESTION: -- doesn’t really seem to be so much velvet --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- left to it.

MS. NULAND: Well, suffice to say that it was the result of a negotiated settlement, so it was not – the violence, obviously, was the backdrop, but ultimately they came to the table and decided how they were going to divide themselves. So --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Yeah, please, please, please.

QUESTION: Are you coordinating with the Arab League on the issue of Sudan?

MS. NULAND: We are.

QUESTION: I know you have coordinated on Syria, but are you --

MS. NULAND: We are, and we have Arab League meeting, I think, later this week, where we expect that Sudan will be on the agenda as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: So there are reports out of Israel that the Israeli Government has legalized three so-called settlement outposts. I think it’s the U.S. Government position that such outposts are illegal, but what is your – A, what is your view on Israel’s decision to, quote, “legalize these three outposts,” close quote? And B, how does that affect your efforts to bring the parties back into a direct negotiation?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’re talking about the reports that there has been a request for a stay of court decisions with regard to the settlements. Is that what you’re referring to?

QUESTION: I – and I’m sorry I don’t have – although I tried to email it to myself --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- I don’t have it in front of me.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: My understanding was that it was not just a request for a stay, but rather a determination that had been made. But maybe I misunderstood.

MS. NULAND: No, I think it’s a request for a court decision. We are, obviously, concerned by the reports that we’ve seen. We have raised this with the Israeli Government and we are seeking clarification. You know where we are on settlements. We don’t think this is helpful to the process and we don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.

QUESTION: And when you say we have raised this, you’ve raised this with them since these reports emerged? In other words --

MS. NULAND: My understanding is we raised it in Tel Aviv today. That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up, three settlements – Bruchin, Rechelim, and Sansana, and they are on privately owned Palestinian land, they have for 15 years or 16 years – have been declared illegal. And a lot of people are interpreting it as a response to Abbas’s letter. Do you see it that way?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re seeking clarification from the Israeli Government as to their intentions and making our own views very clear about this.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the office of the prime minister issued a statement that they are legal, that they have been deemed from this point on forward as legal settlements.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, you know where we stand on this. And as I said, we are raising it.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I know where you stand, but what measures are you willing to take in case that the Israeli Government goes forward with this?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, you know where we are on these things. We make this case every time we have an incident like this that it is not helpful to the process; it doesn’t get us where we need to go. We will continue to raise it, as we have.

QUESTION: Well, beside raising the issue with the Israeli Government, what measures is the United States Government willing to take?

MS. NULAND: Well --

QUESTION: You have constantly taken measures when similar activities are taken by other governments. What measures are you willing to take in this particular case?

MS. NULAND: Again, my understanding is that we have a government statement with regard to its intentions. We are seeking to clarify that. So I’m not going to predict what further response there might be on our side.

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: Do you feel that the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to sabotage efforts by David Hale?

MS. NULAND: David Hale has been in the region all week trying to work on the issues involved here and bring the parties back to the table. I don’t think that we would characterize that at all – the situation at all the way you just have.

QUESTION: And finally, do you see this as boding really ill to Palestinian landowners whose land is shrinking from underneath them?

MS. NULAND: I missed the beginning of your sentence, Said.

QUESTION: I mean, this new decision by the Israeli Government bodes very ill for Israeli landowners, how – for Palestinian landowners, however, that land is shrinking, so to speak.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is the backdrop for the statements that we always make about this kind of activity, but we want to get some more clarification from the Israelis.

QUESTION: So in this case, why wouldn’t the United States Government support an initiative by the United Nations to term the settlements, or these at least illegal outposts, as illegal?

MS. NULAND: Said, you know where we are on these things, and we are going to continue to talk to the Israelis about these issues.

Jill.

QUESTION: Can you just update – you mentioned David Hale. Can you update us on some of his --

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Yeah. So he was in Jerusalem yesterday. He met with his Israeli counterpart, the Israeli negotiator Mr. Molho. Today he met with Palestinian negotiator Erekat and with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. He also now plans to go on to Qatar and Egypt. And thereafter, his travel plans are up in the air.

QUESTION: Did he meet them separately, with Erekat and Foreign Minister Judeh?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Yeah. I think he went to Amman to see Foreign Minister Judeh.

QUESTION: And so do you know if – was this an issue? Had it happened yet by the – had this government announcement happened by the time he had had his meetings? Do you know if he raised it, or when you say it was raised in Tel Aviv, was it raised by someone else?

MS. NULAND: He was in Jerusalem yesterday. He was with the Palestinians today. So my understanding is this announcement was sometime today, was this morning. So my – what I had was that the Embassy had raised it with the Israelis. If that is not --

QUESTION: Do you know if it was the ambassador or someone else?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have that.

QUESTION: And hadn’t he originally planned to go to Saudi, too? Is that now off the itinerary?

MS. NULAND: I think – no, he was in Riyadh at the beginning of the – oh, sorry. I’ve got it here at the very beginning. Yeah, he’s also in Riyadh today, currently in Riyadh for meetings with the senior Saudi officials. Jerusalem yesterday. Something’s not right here. Riyadh’s on this agenda; I don’t know when, though, because I also have that he is today with the Jordanians and with the Palestinians, but Riyadh is still on the agenda.

QUESTION: Okay. And his – and post – his post-Gulf – you had mentioned earlier that after the Gulf, he was probably going to go back to Israel and the PA. Is that – you said that’s now up in the air. It is because – is that because of this announcement?

MS. NULAND: No, I don’t think it has anything to do with that. I think he just wants to see where he is and whether there’s a need for him to come back to Washington and report first.

Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: India.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: A number of education ministers from different Indian states were or are in the U.S. studying the U.S. community colleges system and the U.S. education system, and planning to open maybe hundreds of community colleges in India with the U.S. education system help, which Prime Minister Singh and President Obama and knowledge initiative was signed between the two leaders. What role do you think State Department playing in this role?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we support this initiative. We have been working with the Indian side to flesh out the initiative that was agreed between the President and the prime minister through our Education Bureau here. And obviously, we are responsible for the visa issuance for the various folks studying in the United States.

QUESTION: And as far as Indian students now, over 125,000, I believe, in the U.S. What will be their status when these community college will be open in India? Because right now, when they graduate from an Indian university or colleges and their degrees are not really accepted or agreed to here in the U.S.

MS. NULAND: I guess I don’t understand the question, Goyal. You’re asking if they had graduate from Indian college, are those degrees accepted in the United States?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: I think it’s a case-by-case issue depending upon where they graduate from and where they’re looking to get accredited from, and et cetera. So obviously, if there’s a sister university relationship, sometimes those accreditations can be recognized, but it just depends on what they want to do. I don’t think there’s a blanket way of looking at that.

QUESTION: And finally --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. As far as the U.S. visa for the Indian students coming to higher study in the U.S., is there a change now? Because some feel that the requirements are more or higher than after this incident took place at the various (inaudible) universities, so-called, in the California area.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’ve changed our policy with regard to the way we interview applicants. I think what we are doing is making sure that the sponsoring organizations truly are what they say they are in the United States; that if they say that they are bringing students over to educate them, that they intend to educate them, not put them to work, et cetera, so – yeah.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please, Ros.

QUESTION: In the WikiLeaks case, the judge in the Bradley Manning case this morning ordered the State Department, among other agencies, to turn over some of their documents to the defense in order to help the Manning team better prepare its case. Is the State Department going to turn over those documents? And my follow-up is: Does the U.S. still see a negative impact on its relations with other countries in diplomacy because of what happened in the alleged leaking of these documents?

MS. NULAND: Let me take the last part first. I think our view of the entire WikiLeaks incident has not changed at all in terms of the negative effects. With regard to what the court has ordered, Ros, I haven’t seen it, so let me take it and see what we know about what’s been requested of us and what our response is.

Jill.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Russian ambassador here in Washington is concerned about legislation that is moving forward, the Magnitsky legislation. And he’s saying essentially that this is just a way of – if you get rid of Jackson-Vanik, this is just another way of punishing Russia. He’s quite concerned about it. I know the State Department has been talking with Congress. Do we know what the status of Magnitsky is? Is the State Department encouraging, discouraging this legislation? What’s the view?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we do support the goals of the legislation. We have programs already in place to ensure that we are sanctioning those who are responsible for human rights abuses, and we are continuing our dialogue with the Congress about how we can appropriately make the views of the Congress and the American people known; at the same time, that we strongly favor the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik legislation, as really being a relic of the past that doesn’t apply to today’s situation. So this is an ongoing conversation that we’re having with the Hill.

QUESTION: Why is Magnitsky needed if the State Department really does have the ability right now legally to refuse visas to people who have been involved in crime, or at least, I guess, maybe alleged – I’m not quite sure how we can define that. But don’t you have the tools already to exclude people and not give them a visa?

MS. NULAND: We do have many of the tools in this legislation. I think it’s a matter of – from the Congress’s point of view, obviously, I would refer you to them. But our understanding in the conversations that we’ve had is that there’s a desire and an interest to make this a matter of law; and particularly, if we are going to make the point with members of Congress that the days are over for the kinds of sanctions that we had under Jackson-Vanik, but that we still have other human rights concerns that need to be taken into account.

So I think there are – there’s a feeling on the Hill that putting this in legislation will create a systemic, routine way of dealing with it and a clear set of guidelines that the Congress and the Administration agree to and understand and that are clear on the Russian side. So let’s see where this legislation goes as it goes through the Congress.

Please.

QUESTION: Thank you. On North Korea, they reported that North Korea is almost ready for the nuclear test. And so I would like to know, what’s the assessment from the U.S. Government?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think our position on any of this has changed: No launching, no testing, no nothing if you want to have a better relationship with the international community. All of these are provocations, all of them take the DPRK in the wrong direction, so our message on all of this hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: But they say if the U.S. agree in a peace treaty with them, they may abandon the nuclear test. What’s your reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: Starting with the Leap Day deal that the North Koreans have abrogated, we were beginning a conversation again about a step-by-step process that could convince the Six Parties, could convince the international community that this new North Korean leadership was interested in coming back into compliance with its international obligations. Those – was a small first step, and unfortunately now we’re going backwards. So it’s really up to the DPRK to demonstrate that it wants a better relationship with all of us and that it wants to put its energy into peace and stability and taking care of its people rather than expensive weapons.

QUESTION: And last question --

QUESTION: Haven’t they already done that? Haven’t they demonstrated their interest already?

MS. NULAND: Demonstrated their interest?

QUESTION: Or lack of interest?

MS. NULAND: Unfortunately, they are demonstrating a lack of interest, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then can you just (inaudible), you said no launching, no testing no nothing. I mean, what is that – no nothing? They can’t do anything? (Laughter.) I mean, what if they decide they’re going to free all political prisoners and have democratic elections tomorrow? I mean, is that – that’s bad, too?

MS. NULAND: What they can and should do is take care of their people, open their country, begin to reform the system, and demonstrate to the international community that they’re prepared to meet their international obligations. And they haven’t done any of those things. So what I meant by “no nothing” was no provocative nuclear actions of any kind.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Keeping me on my toes.

QUESTION: On this – at the coming U.S.-China S and ED, what’s the U.S. expectation from China on North Korea issue, specifically?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we said very clearly that we have encouraged China to continue to use all of its influence with the DPRK and particularly with the new young leader to encourage a positive course and to discourage the negative course. So I’m sure that we will be exchanging views on North Korea and getting a better sense of how the Chinese side analyzes the situation, what messages they’ve been willing to send, able to send, and what pressure they think they can bring to bear, because it’s absolutely essential we all work together here.

Please, Michel.

QUESTION: On Iran? Iran has warned today that the new U.S. sanctions targeting its access to surveillance technology were negative and could affect its crucial talks next month with the P-5+1 in Baghdad. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that the sanctions that the President announced yesterday were designed to address a different set of concerns that we have with regard to Iran’s behavior, and that’s Iran’s behavior with regard to their own citizens, with regard to the dignity, human rights, standard of living for their own citizens. So frankly, putting sanctions on companies that help Iran spy on their own citizens and having complaints about that begs the question as to why the Government of Iran thinks it needs to spy on its own citizens and block their access to the internet in the first place. So these – this is a set of sanctions that are designed to support the humans rights, freedoms, dignity of the Iranian people.

QUESTION: But do you expect these sanctions to affect the upcoming negotiations in Baghdad – or talks?

MS. NULAND: Well, our hope is that we will have a productive round in Baghdad. We discussed very clearly in Istanbul what it’s going to take to continue to move forward. So it’s really up to Iran. But frankly, what we have done with the President – the sanctions that the President announced yesterday, don’t even have anything to do with the nuclear file. They have to do with our separate concerns about the human rights situation.

QUESTION: Can I just ask a question on these sanctions? The net effect – I mean, one could argue about the effect of these sanctions, whether they actual do anything, whether these companies or institutions actually have any assets that can be blocked, or whether any Americans were doing business in the first place, but that’s not – well, my question is: With the exception of one, the internet provider in Iran, all of these entities and the one individual in Iran and Syria were already under numerous layers of other sanctions that did exactly the same thing. So I’m just wondering, there was no net effect on the IRGC, on the intelligence ministries, on the head of the Syrian intelligence directorate, was there?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think --

QUESTION: I mean, it didn’t do anything new to them. They were already under sanctions that did exactly what these sanctions do.

MS. NULAND: Frankly, I’m not sure that your premise is right, Matt, that there was no – nothing new, that this was an additional layer and all of these same folks and entities had already been sanctioned. I think the larger point here, though, is to express our concern about the circumvention, the importing of foreign technology to be used against your own citizens to deny them access to the internet, to deny them the ability communicate freely.

So regardless of whether it’s an additional layer on top of the same people and entities, the political point here is to express our concern about what these governments, whether they’re Syrian – the Syrian Government or the Iranian Government, are doing to block access to the internet, to block the ability of their people to communicate, to chill the environment for civil discourse and for civil society.

QUESTION: Doesn’t that happen in quite a few countries? In Equatorial Guinea, in Zimbabwe, in --

MS. NULAND: It happens in a number of countries and the Secretary --

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia.

MS. NULAND: -- there are number of countries that as we – as the Secretary has spoken out on many, many times, that seek to limit the right of their citizens to free speech, to free association, to the internet, and we will continue to speak out. But there are particular governments who are now in the business of acquiring the most sophisticated Western technology they can find and targeting it back on their own citizens and squeezing them, in human rights terms, with it. So this is an area of increasing concern.

QUESTION: So that would be the standard then for which countries would in the future those sanctions would apply to, whether they’re acquiring (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’re going to take this on a case-by-case basis. But in this case, the President was making the point, and we were making the point more broadly that these two governments are particularly egregious in this area as, if you will, state-sponsors of censorship.

QUESTION: Victoria, could you explain something regarding the board – the atrocity prevention board that the President announced on the sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now, is it -- how is the State Department involved? I mean, since we know that Samantha Power is going to lead that effort. Who’s from the State Department? Who will sit on that board?

MS. NULAND: The State Department representative on the board is Under Secretary of State Maria Otero.

QUESTION: Maria Otero. Okay.

MS. NULAND: And the first meeting of the board was yesterday.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: And the board is designed to get together this group of very experienced people to look at how we can, as a government, do more to support accountability and to stop atrocities.

QUESTION: Okay. And one related issue: Last week it was announced – the Open Government Initiative?

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: Is that in any way connected to this – there’s going to be a center of – a connection with this board?

MS. NULAND: Well, some of the people who work on the Open Government Partnership are the same people who work on this atrocities board – as you said, Samantha Power, Under Secretary Otero. But the initiatives are not linked.

What I would say is that when we announced at the Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Istanbul that we were standing up this atrocities clearinghouse for Syria, that’s an example of the kind of initiative that this group of people on the atrocities board brought to bear. They were the sort of idea factory for that idea, and it’s the kind of thing that, assuming that it works well in a Syrian context, we can replicate in other contexts.

Yeah.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Do you have – does the State Department have any additional information on the two Cuban actors who were granted temporary visas and have since disappeared?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge – and frankly, this is yesterday information and I didn’t have an update from today, so if it’s not right, we’ll get back to you – but neither we nor the film festival has any further information about where the two actors are.

QUESTION: So that hasn’t changed, then, --

MS. NULAND: I do not believe that has changed since yesterday. Okay.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Pakistan. As far as Secretary Grossman’s visit to Pakistan is concerned, and also last week Secretary Panetta told the Pentagon press that the Haqqani Network is the most dangerous, and is also now going back and forth from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Afghanistan to Pakistan. Is that going to be a topic? Because this is the main concern or main issue between the two countries and the security in Afghanistan is concerned.

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have any travel to announce today, Goyal, but I think you know that we’ve been pretty clear. Secretary was clear, Secretary Panetta was clear last week, that we have concerns about the Haqqani Network in – with regard to the most recent incident in Afghanistan. And as the Secretary said in Brussels, we will continue to try to work with Pakistan because this is a threat to both of us.

QUESTION: And finally, are you planning to include Haqqani Network in the Reward for Justice or any other sanctions against this network?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have sanctions on individual members of the Haqqani Network, and we’re continuing to look at what more we can do there.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, State Department announced Grossman – Marc Grossman visit to three different countries, but Pakistan is not included. And there are some media reports in Pakistan that Pakistani official are getting ready to meet with him, and talk about all issues, including reopening of a NATO supply line. And they also talk about the trilateral core group meeting, including Afghanistan. So do you have any update of his visit? Is he going to Islamabad? Do you confirm that?

MS. NULAND: I think I just said that I don’t have any travel to announce today, but as you know, both Afghanistan and Pakistan fall within his purview. But I don’t have anything to announce today.

Okay?

QUESTION: No. I just want --

MS. NULAND: Sorry.

QUESTION: -- to go back to the WikiLeaks question. When you said that your position had not changed as to whether this – whether the release of these documents have done damage to the national security, what – can you be more – what does that mean? You say that it did damage?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you be more explicit about how it did damage?

MS. NULAND: I think we were quite explicit at the time, and I’m not going to come back to it today.

QUESTION: Well, no, at – well, at the time, you said that it had the potential – well, not you personally; it was your predecessor – but had the potential to do damage and that there was the concern in the – in this building in particular that ambassadors or embassies would be less than forthcoming about what they wrote in cables coming back, knowing that they had been – that it had been compromised.

Has there been any evidence? Is this building concerned or is there evidence that shows that this building is not getting full accounting, full reporting, honest, candid reporting from its embassies abroad in the wake of WikiLeaks?

MS. NULAND: Our embassies abroad continue to do a superb job of working with governments and societies where they are accredited and giving us a good, strong picture of what’s going on. That doesn’t change the fact that there was enormous turbulence in many of our bilateral relationships when this happened, and that there have been impacts on individuals. As you know, we’ve talked about that at the time.

QUESTION: Right. But when you say enormous turbulence in bilateral relationships, has – what has – what can you – what is there that --

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m going to go any further than we went at the time. We had concerns from many of our interlocutors.

QUESTION: Well, I know you had concerns --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- but that – but concern is – that does not that mean that there’s – that something has been damaged?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve got an ongoing lawsuit, and I’m not going to go any further right now.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious, though. If the – do you see – has the U.S. ability to conduct its foreign relations been compromised or damaged because of WikiLeaks? Can you point to one or two examples of how that – of how this has done harm to the U.S. national security or U.S. --

MS. NULAND: Matt --

QUESTION: -- ability to conduct diplomacy?

MS. NULAND: -- given the fact that we have an ongoing legal case, I don’t think I’m going to comment any further on this set of issues today.

QUESTION: Well, fair enough, but --

MS. NULAND: Michel, did you have something else?

QUESTION: -- you do understand this is exactly what you’re being asked to produce in court.

MS. NULAND: I understand. And --

QUESTION: And if you’re saying that, “Yes, it did damage, but I’m sorry, I can’t tell you what the damage is because it’s a secret,” that’s what – is that what you’re saying?

MS. NULAND: What I’m saying is there’s ongoing legal work now, and if there are legal responsibilities of this building, we’ll do it in a court of law, not here.

QUESTION: Well, but in terms of the one thing that you did answer, you – there isn’t any evidence that this has affected embassies’ ability or – to report back honestly and accurately about what’s going on in their host countries. Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to give a grade to our embassies. We expressed our concern at the time. Those concerns were very clearly stated. I’m not going to get into evaluating, from this podium, what’s come back, what hasn’t come back. We’ve got an ongoing legal case.

Michel.

QUESTION: One clarification still on this, please.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I thought the concern was less that embassies would not report stuff back in cables but that their interlocutors would not tell them stuff in the first place because they no longer had faith that the U.S. Government could keep their conversations or communications private, given the vast leak of cables. So I think the question might be better posed as: Has the State Department discerned a diminution in the candor of its foreign interlocutors as a result of this gross breach of confidentiality?

MS. NULAND: Again, we said what we wanted to say at the time on this case. We now have this case in the courts, and I just don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be commenting any further.

Michael, did you have something else? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Any new assessment about the UN observers’ work in Syria?

MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, we’re continuing to watch this day by day. I think the concern remains that we only have a small number of monitors in, which means that they can stay in some of these towns for only a short time. They were in Zabadani; they were in parts of Hama and Homs in the last couple of days, but we don’t have enough yet to be able to leave them there. And there are concerns that no sooner do they leave when violence restarts. So this is something we’re just going to have to watch going forward.

Please.

QUESTION: There was a bomb that exploded today in Marjeh, which is a densely populated area within Damascus. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we were just getting reporting on this as I was coming down. Obviously, any acts of violence of that kind are reprehensible.

Please.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have any comment on Egypt’s decision not to register, I think it’s eight NGOs, pro-democracy NGOs, including the Carter Foundation?

MS. NULAND: I have to say that we are – we don’t have a full picture of what has happened and what hasn’t happened with regard to these NGOs. So we are in the process of trying to figure it out, and we’re seeking clarification from the Egyptian side.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:39 p.m.)

DPB # 74



[1] The United States does not have direct contact with President al-Bashir.

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - April 24, 2012]