Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 3, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • PAKISTAN
    • Secretary Clinton's Call with FM Khar / GLOCs
  • MEXICO
    • Counternarcotics Operations / Cooperation with Mexican Government
  • IRAN
    • Missile Test / UN Security Council Resolution 1929
    • Strait of Hormuz
  • SYRIA
    • Ambassador Ford in Cairo / Paris Meeting / Geneva Statement
    • Defections to Turkey / Turkish Military Plane
    • Human Rights Watch Report
  • INDIA/PAKISTAN
    • Counterterrorism Cooperation
  • IRAQ
    • Dialogue with Iraqi Politicians
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Tokyo Conference


TRANSCRIPT:

1:06 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy July 3rd, everybody, the day before Independence Day here and a day off. Let's go to what is on your minds.

QUESTION: Let's start with Pakistan.

MS. NULAND: Let me guess.

QUESTION: Since I suspect – or actually, I am 100 percent confident that you are going to answer every question about the statement with, “The statement speaks for itself, and I’m not going to parse the Secretary’s words,” I want to go back to a question I asked you on June 12th when you accused me of being snarky, when I said that I would like to know when the apology comes – because at that point we were all fairly certain this was going to happen despite the fact that you guys kept denying it – how much money did it cost the American taxpayer because the Administration refused to apologize since November in terms of additional costs for getting material and supplies into Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I think that Matt is referring to a statement that we just released on Secretary Clinton’s phone call with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khar in which she makes clear that Foreign Minister Khar has advised her that the Ground Lines of Communication will be reopening. You are right, Matt; I’m going to say that the statement speaks for itself. I’m also going to refer you to the Pentagon for questions on transit fees in the interim period.

QUESTION: Do you know – well, these aren’t transit fees that the Pakistanis charged. This is how much it cost the U.S. taxpayer or U.S. Government in additional costs by using the northern route because the Administration refused to apologize. Did you take the question at the time or you did you just deride it as snark, figuring it would never come up again?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying the Secretary of Defense has spoken to the fact that it was expensive for us during the period when the GLOCs were closed. One of the things that has resulted from this is that we have restored the GLOCs and we are going to be paying the exact same amount as we were paying before. So we are back to significant savings here. But I don’t have the figures. I’ll send you to the Pentagon.

Jill.

QUESTION: Toria, can I ask you – by the way, our people over the Pentagon were told that you would have some details. But anyway, just wanted to ask – so there was a transit fee, right? Is there another fee or – because here it says will continue not to charge any transit fee. So –

MS. NULAND: So the question –

QUESTION: Are there two fees? In other words, you’re saying they’ll continue to say – the U.S. will continue to pay exactly the same as it has before. Is that a separate fee?

MS. NULAND: Well, there are regular commercial costs associated with this transit as there were before the GLOCs were closed. In reopening them, we will be back at that regular commercial level. There will be no additional fees to Pakistani authorities.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay?

QUESTION: Is there any estimation of how much was actually – you said it was expensive. How much – how expensive was it? How much has been paid?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to the Pentagon for figures on cost.

QUESTION: Madam, let me ask you, it’s been eight months now since this drama was going on between – I mean, as far as Pakistanis were playing. My question is there that what Pakistan was asking eight months ago, have you or U.S. has met all the conditions they wanted before they opened the doors? I mean, I don’t want to go over Secretary – she made clear everything. But what I’m asking is that makes or satisfies Pakistanis?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I’m going to send you to the Pakistani side for their view of things. I think the Foreign Minister has already spoken to this or there will be some Pakistani statements. But from our perspective, the statement speaks for itself, and we’re pleased that we can now move on.

QUESTION: And one more quickly.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: As far as the new prime minister of Pakistan is concerned compared with the prime minister – former Prime Minister Gilani, you think relations between U.S. and Pakistan will be different under the new prime minister or things will change?

MS. NULAND: As you know, he’s just come into office. The Secretary has had one welcoming conversation with him, and we look forward to having a good relationship going forward.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Toria, can you tell us what led the Secretary to decide to use that word “we are sorry for the losses”?

MS. NULAND: Well, as Matt predicted, I’m going to say that the statement speaks for itself and I’m not going to parse the words that were used.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: There you go. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do I win any money for that? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: But as the statement makes clear, there were mistakes made on both sides that led to the tragic loss of life, and we are both sorry for those.

QUESTION: But the “we are both sorry,” though, on the next page the way it’s printed out here, that sounds like we’re sorry for what the terrorists did to us, right? Does that sorry balance out the other sorry?

MS. NULAND: Again, without parsing the statement, I think the intent here is that we are both sorry for the losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists.

Please.

QUESTION: Is it fair to consider this an apology?

MS. NULAND: Again, the statement speaks for itself, the words are all there, and I’m not going to improve on it here.

QUESTION: So the lesson learned in this is really to come out up front right away and apologize clearly without any sort of fogginess?

MS. NULAND: Said, that sounds like an editorial comment.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m just asking you.

MS. NULAND: The statement speaks for itself. And as you know, we’ve been working on this GLOC issue for some time.

QUESTION: Why did it take so long for this apology to come forward?

MS. NULAND: Again, there were a lot of issues that needed to be worked through. You saw us do that at the technical level, you’ve seen us do it at the political level, and that’s brought us to where we are here.

QUESTION: But the answer to the question really is why did it take so long to come out and say sorry. I mean, this isn’t an Elton John song here. Sorry isn’t the hardest word to say. It’s pretty easy to say. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: I think the State –

QUESTION: Why – it’s not a question about what – about parsing the statement. Why did it take so long?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been clear about for quite these many weeks, there were a number of issues that needed to be worked through that allowed us to get us to where we are.

QUESTION: Was there some kind of investigation into what actually happened and you finally decided, yes, it was the United States’ fault for this incident?

MS. NULAND: Well, at the time, Jo, there was an investigation. There was a U.S. investigation. There was a Pakistani investigation. We have, all the way through this, expressed our regret for the loss of life. We were quite straight up at the time, but then we needed to work through all of these various GLOC issues, and we’ve talked about that a lot here.

Please.

QUESTION: On Mexico?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: But wait. Hold on, just one last one. You’ve been saying for some time now, for weeks now, since June, that all of the logistical issues were worked through and it was just political issues that were left. Obviously, the political issue that was left was the word “sorry,” the apology. So we’re talking then still a month almost – roughly a month from the 11th or 12th when people started reporting back from the talks in Islamabad – that the transit fee kind of things, the logistical stuff, had been solved. Why did it take another month after that had all been settled to get the political part done?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’ve been clear here that these issues have been difficult, there were technical issues, there were political issues, and the statement speaks for itself.

QUESTION: But those technical issues had been worked out weeks ago, correct?

MS. NULAND: They had been and there were continuing conversations at the political level, which resulted in where we are here.

QUESTION: Do you think that the families of the victims will be paid by the NATO or by the U.S. or somebody?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information on that one way or the other.

QUESTION: Mexico?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked the question with regard to the strategy on narcotics that the U.S. is supporting in Mexico. Yesterday, as you recall, the winner – apparent winner of elections says emphatically that he’s going to change the strategy of President Felipe Calderon, a strategy that the U.S. Government supported, because he says has been more than 60,000 people dead in six years. What’s your reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: Again --

QUESTION: Well --

MS. NULAND: -- you went this direction yesterday, and I’m going to give you a version of the same answer, which is that we’ve had excellent counter-narcotics cooperation with the Calderon administration. We expect that to continue until the inauguration of the new president, and we have every reason to believe we will be able to continue our very strong counter-narcotics cooperation with the new president. And we are --

QUESTION: That’s fine.

MS. NULAND: -- already talking about that.

QUESTION: That’s fine. But the strategy you’re going to continue to support is going to end in December.

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re asking me to predict what the President’s going to do --

QUESTION: No, no. I’m not asking you to predict anything.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just like, is the U.S. ready or prepared to support a new strategy? The President-elect has already said yesterday in The New York Times – if you want to see it, he sign a letter in the – on the editorial page for The New York Times – he is going to change the strategy. My question to you: Is the U.S. already preparing or start working on a new strategy for Mexico?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re going to let him come to office. We’re going to let him articulate his strategy. We have a very strong interest in maintaining our strong cooperation with Mexico. That is our goal, and we intend to work well together.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on Mexico before --

MS. NULAND: Still – yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any kind of fear regarding instability in Mexico from the election that happened on Sunday? The candidate on the left is still challenging the results of the election.

MS. NULAND: I don’t think I have anything in particular to add there.

Iran. Yeah.

QUESTION: Toria, Iran is taking some steps. They’ve been – excuse me – testing some missiles that could hit Israel, et cetera. What’s the level of concern right now about this standoff, if you want to call it that?

MS. NULAND: You mean in terms of reaction --

QUESTION: The danger?

MS. NULAND: -- to the annual missile test that they just did?

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like you’re downplaying it then. Maybe you’re not that concerned.

MS. NULAND: Look, we’ve seen the reports that they have conducted a missile test. We obviously remain deeply concerned about Iran’s continued missile development activities. Iran’s had these active missile development programs for two decades and has continued its development of advanced missile capabilities, including increasing longer range systems, and these remain of acute concern. And they can – Iran continues to violate United Nations Security Council obligations to suspend its proliferation-sensitive activities. UN Security Council Resolution 1929 prohibits Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.

So again, this not a positive development.

QUESTION: Toria --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iran in this missile?

MS. NULAND: I think you would be getting me into intelligence issues there, Goyal.

QUESTION: Tangentially related to Iran --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, not tangentially – not this issue. But you’re aware, I think, that the Iranian Vice President had some interesting comments to make a UN drugs conference recently, where he accused the Jews of being behind the world’s drug trade. Do you have any reaction or comment about that?

MS. NULAND: Actually we’re going to issue a statement right after the briefing with regard to that, condemning the remarks that he made. We had intended to do it closer to the time, but we were waiting for the UNODC to speak on the issue.

QUESTION: Toria --

QUESTION: Okay, so suffice to say you don’t agree with his comments.

MS. NULAND: Obviously, yeah.

QUESTION: On the issue of the missiles, Iran has never used these missiles, to the best of our knowledge, against anyone in a war of aggression, have they?

MS. NULAND: What’s your point, Said?

QUESTION: My point is, have they used these missiles to commit aggression in the past?

MS. NULAND: Said, it’s --

QUESTION: No – okay.

MS. NULAND: -- about the potential. I’m not going to get inside their heads about why --

QUESTION: I’m saying why –

MS. NULAND: -- they even think that they --

QUESTION: -- the concern that Iran has missiles of a certain range? Israel has missiles that can reach Tehran as well.

MS. NULAND: I think the concern is what they are going to put on these missiles and the fact that they will not come clean about their nuclear program.

QUESTION: But conversely, all countries can do – put the same thing on these missiles.

MS. NULAND: Right, but we have, as you know, as an international community, confirmed in UN resolution after UN resolution, concern about the nuclear program that they have.

QUESTION: Do these tests violate – specifically violate UN resolutions?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. This is the concern – 1929 prohibits Iran from – yeah.

QUESTION: Covers those – these specific --

MS. NULAND: Prohibits Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: Toria, 120 Iranian lawmakers have signed on to a draft bill calling for the strategic Strait of Hormuz to be closed to oil tankers headed to Europe in retaliation for the EU embargo. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we have been always on Straits of Hormuz. It’s an international waterway and it needs to stay open.

Please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Mexico.

QUESTION: Do you take this seriously, this (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: Iran has obligations under international law to keep those straits open, and we expect them to fulfill them.

QUESTION: There was a report in The New York Times today though that if it was closed, the Straits of Hormuz, this would be seen as some kind of redline by the United States.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these threats from Iran again and again. International law, longstanding international practice, the Straits of Hormuz is an international strait. As such, vessels of all states enjoy transit passage rights through the straits. These rights apply to warships as well as merchant ships and vessels. Any attempt by Iran to close the strait or to require vessels to obtain Iranian consent would be inconsistent with international law and not recognized by the United States.

QUESTION: And what will be the U.S. reaction?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, you won’t be surprised, Jo. But we have over years and decades made clear that we intend to do what is necessary to maintain the openness of the straits.

QUESTION: You said that if Iran did do something, it would be violating its international obligations. Well, given Iran’s record of upholding its international obligations, which seems to be pretty poor, how concerned are you that they’re going to go ahead and do this, despite the fact that they’re required under their international obligations to keep it open?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, Iran has made these threats many times, and we always make the same statements in response.

QUESTION: But --

MS. NULAND: I think we’re – I don’t think I have anything further on the next administration in Mexico.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: You can keep trying, but --

QUESTION: The President-elect has already said that he will not make any thrust on negotiations with narco-traffickers, and that this was one of the goals by members of the U.S. Congress and some Administration officials. Are you satisfied with that statement? Do you believe him?

MS. NULAND: Again, we look forward to working with him. When the Calderon administration concludes its term in December, then we will begin working with the new President after he’s inaugurated. And we have every expectation that we’ll be able to continue our good cooperation.

Please.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the U.S. buildup in the region, military?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to refer you to the Pentagon with regard to military moves.

QUESTION: Let’s say if Iran does not follow its international obligations or rules and regulations, what is the next step you think international or UN community will – should or will take?

MS. NULAND: I think it’s not going to surprise you I’m not going to get into hypothetical responses to hypothetical scenarios.

QUESTION: How about a non-hypothetical question?

MS. NULAND: Go for it.

QUESTION: What have you heard back from Ambassador Ford about the meeting in Cairo?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ford is now in Cairo to attend this broad-based meeting with the Syrian opposition, which is being held under the auspices of the Arab League. We very much applaud this initiative, which is bringing together and uniting an impressively broad range of opposition elements, including Kurds, tribal leaders, Christians, Alawites, under a common plan. It’s the largest and most diverse group of opposition leaders gathering in one place.

We have had reports from Ambassador Ford that significant progress is being made in achieving consensus on a political vision statement and a transition plan. The work is going to continue over the course of the day today, and we’ll await whatever announcements they have at the end of it. But we think that the Syrian opposition – we’ve long called for them to be as united as possible and to put forward their own transition vision, so that’s what we’re looking for.

QUESTION: When you say that they’re making significant progress on – in doing that, does that mean they’re actually coming up with names of people to be part of the interim transitional authority?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that, in keeping with the Geneva template, they are articulating the principles and steps that they think are essential. I don’t think we’re to the stage of names yet.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know how the internal opposition is represented in Cairo?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that there are lots of different groups as well as different individuals represented, that there’s obviously the Syrian National Council and other named and established groups, but that there are also a very broad cross-section of individuals.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking is that because Ambassador Ford basically knows the internal opposition, he would be able to authenticate these people who represent the authentic internal opposition, correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we – as I said, we think this is a very broad and diverse group, and we’re pleased with that. A lot of them Ambassador Ford knew already. He’s meeting some new members and some folks who were recently out of Syria as well.

QUESTION: Toria, the Syrian National Council spokesperson has said that the final statement will not mention the Geneva agreement, because they’re not satisfied with it. Do you have anything on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are continuing to talk to the opposition, both in Cairo and in other places, about the Geneva agreement and how it might support the work that they themselves are doing. I think it’s less important what is – whether they are – the documents are cross-referenced and most important that the principles and the elements be coherent together, that the Syrian opposition, like the Geneva document, speak of a democratic, pluralistic, united Syria that represents the views of all Syrians and protects the rights of all communities. So that’s what we’re obviously looking for.

Jo.

QUESTION: Toria, again Syria. After the love-fest in Geneva with the Russians, they say that they’re not going to be going to Paris for the next Contact Group meeting. What happened?

MS. NULAND: Well, they have – they prefer this Action Group, which is rooted in the UN process. They are, interestingly, represented at the Cairo meeting. So Russia is there, is my understanding from Ambassador Ford, and is taking the opportunity to meet a broad cross-section of these Syrians as well, and we think that’s a good thing.

With regard to the Friends of the Syrian People, I’ll let Russia speak for itself, but I think, from our perspective, that meeting is important and will add energy and lift to this effort to come to a post-transition strategy.

QUESTION: What about the love-fest? No comment on that? You don’t want to suggest that it was something other than a love-fest in Geneva? The premise of the question was --

MS. NULAND: Well, didn’t you have a good time in Geneva?

QUESTION: Well, I’m not sure I would call it a love-fest though. (Laughter.) Did you have any – I assume you’re pleased about these latest defections, the ones from yesterday afternoon our time that were announced in Turkey?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We’ve seen these reports that another Syrian general, seven other officers, and lots of soldiers, dozens and dozens of soldiers from Homs province has now fled into Turkey. There have been, as you know, countless defections. We see this stream increasing, and we think it reflects not only the stress that Assad’s military is under, but increasingly his officers and his rank-and-file are voting with their feet against his regime.

QUESTION: So do you think that – and I’ll ask you to put your analytical hat on. Do you think that the Geneva agreement in any way spurred these people to leave?

MS. NULAND: Again, as we said --

QUESTION: As a – I mean as a sign of international kind of solidarity and coming against their boss?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think our view of this – and the Secretary spoke to this when we were in Geneva – is that the Geneva meeting ripped off the last fiction that Russia and China were going to protect Assad at all costs. And I think that will have an effect internally not only with the Syrian military but with members of the government that have supported him and with the business community.

QUESTION: The possible the Cairo declaration – you don’t expect it to really be much different than the Geneva document, correct?

MS. NULAND: This is the opposition’s own document, so let’s wait and see what they come up with.

QUESTION: But do you expect it to be along the same lines, calling for the same things, aspiring to the same goals?

MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to it except to say that Ambassador Ford reports that they’ve made progress; that, as you know in our conversations with them for all these many months, we’ve been talking about the important of unity, of a place for all Syrians. So let’s see what they come forward with before I predict.

Michel.

QUESTION: Toria, Russian Foreign Minister has accused the West of seeking to distort the Geneva agreement, and he said that these agreements are not there to be interpreted; they mean exactly what it said in the communiqué and we need to follow the agreements that were made. Do you think that you’ve misinterpreted the Geneva agreement?

MS. NULAND: No.

Please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: Let’s finish with Syria.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to what he said?

MS. NULAND: I don’t. Do you have --

QUESTION: Still on Syria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. President Assad has made some comments expressing regret for shooting down the Turkish fighter plane and saying that they didn’t know it was Turkish until after they shot it down. Do you have anything to say to this? Do you think it speaks to perhaps increasing desperation with the situation on the border and the communiqué?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to Assad’s motives for what he does or what he says. I will say again, as we said at the time, that they shot down this plane with no warning, and that’s despicable.

QUESTION: Just going back on the issue of the council or the transitional council, do you expect this transition – the Syrian transitional council to be much like what – the Libya example?

MS. NULAND: Well again, we talked about this at some length yesterday. The Geneva document lays out a roadmap for how this could work, how it could be formed up, what its powers could be. But the idea here was to give a guide to the Syrian people themselves and help them start thinking about and start getting towards this post-Assad transition. So we have now the Cairo meeting going on where the opposition is going to speak for itself with regard to the same kinds of principles, and then we’re going to head to Paris. So this is an evolution, and we just have to see how it all works through.

Jill.

QUESTION: And you’ve talked about in Paris that you’re hoping the meeting will give the efforts more energy and lift. What are the practical things that you’re hoping will come out of the Friends of Syria talk?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ll talk a little bit more as we head towards Paris on Thursday about the specific goals. I think one thing that we certainly want to do is see how this Cairo meeting goes forward. But the last time we met in the Friends of the Syrian people format, we were focused very much on tightening sanctions, on standing up an accountability mechanism for those with blood on their hands, and accelerating humanitarian relief. I think all of those issues will also be discussed again, but now we are also adding to that list concrete planning for the democratic political transitions, both the work in Geneva and getting that endorsed and the work that will come out of Cairo and the opposition’s view on how to take it forward. So this is a chance – in Geneva we had some 15 countries. We’re expecting more than a hundred countries in Paris who support change and democracy and pluralism and unity in Syria to come together and give a boost to the Syrian people.

QUESTION: But it must be disappointing then that the Russians have decided not to participate.

MS. NULAND: Again, it’s their choice. We think this is a very valuable forum that brings together a much larger group of countries. The door is open to them if they want to join. It’s up to them if they don’t.

QUESTION: Don’t you prefer that they’re not there?

MS. NULAND: I think it’s their choice, from our perspective.

QUESTION: Well, but the fact that they’re not there has led to some concern in Moscow that they might be getting left behind in terms of any post-Assad arrangements that are made, business deals and the like, because that’s – one of the very first meeting of this group in Tunis, that was one of the ideas was that you’d create some kind of a business council which would – the intent of which was basically to make the Russians jealous. Aren’t you happy that they’re not going and that you still have this leverage of their nonattendance and nonparticipation in this over them?

MS. NULAND: I think we would be completely open to them attending. We’ve said that for several meetings. It’s their choice to make. We have said all along that we would like to continue to be able to make progress on Syria in a UN format, in the Kofi format, in the UN Security Council, but the degree to which we can bring in more countries in a larger format, we’re going to do that as well.

Please.

QUESTION: Can we just stay on Syria for just one last question?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Please.

QUESTION: Victoria, in this room it was suggested months ago that Assad was – his coffers to pay the security and soldiers and so on, he was running out. Do you have any assessment – current assessment on how long or how much longer he’ll be able to pay all these soldiers and all the security structure?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have a crystal ball here in terms of his money.

QUESTION: Your assessment.

MS. NULAND: But what we do know though is that he has run through a very good chunk of the sovereign wealth of the nation trying to keep his war machine afloat and that the sanctions are biting on his ability to sustain the state – there’s been inflation, et cetera – and on his ability to import goods that the country needs. So every day that goes on that he doesn’t stop his violence, he’s hurting the country in more ways than just the obvious physical military ways.

QUESTION: One more on Syria please?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: A pro-Syrian, Palestinian militant leader has said that Hezbollah and Iran will fight alongside the Syrian regime if it’s attacked by foreign forces. How do you view this statement?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think I’m going to justify that with a response one way or the other. I mean, you know where we are on foreign military intervention in Syria.

Listen, before we leave Syria, I just want to take the opportunity, if you didn’t see it, to draw your attention to the Human Rights Watch report that was released today that identifies some 27 detention centers that Human Rights Watch says Syrian Government intelligence agencies have been using since the Assad crackdown on pro-democracy protestors. The report found that tens of thousands of Syrians are in detention by regime security and intelligence agencies and that the regime is carrying out inexplicable, horrific acts of torture, including – well, I’m not going to repeat them here, but I’ll leave it to you to read the report. And in many cases, the Human Rights Watch asserts that even children have been subject to torture by the Assad regime.

QUESTION: Do you see that report as credible and solid, and you’re putting – you’re endorsing it? I mean, you’re saying --

MS. NULAND: We have no reason to believe that it is not credible. It’s based on eyewitness accounts, and they’re reporting from a broad cross-section of human rights figures inside Syria.

QUESTION: So the next time Human Rights Watch comes out with a report that’s critical of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, I’ll assume that you’re going to be saying the same thing, correct; that you think that the report is credible, it’s based on eyewitness accounts?

MS. NULAND: As --

QUESTION: And you’re not going to say that it’s politically motivated and should be dismissed?

MS. NULAND: Matt, as you have made clear again and again in this room, we are not always consistent.

Goyal.

QUESTION: So, in other words, anything that Human Rights Watch says that is critical of someone you don’t like, that’s okay; but once they criticize someone that you do like, then it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I’m not going to get into colloquy on this one.

Goyal.

QUESTION: India.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: As far as India-Pakistan relations are – once they come together very close to talk, but now again they are blaming each other as far as terrorism is concerned. India wants many terrorists based in Pakistan back to India. And also, especially after the Abu Jandal’s arrest, and Pakistan supposed to leave one Sarabjit Singh on humanitarian basis who was arrested and got 20 years. But now, because of this, they are again tug-of-war blaming each other. What I’m asking you is: Has India asked the U.S. in any way to help to get those wanted by India so relations between Pakistan and India can move forward beyond this war of words blaming each other?

MS. NULAND: Well, without getting into specifics, you know, obviously, that we strongly favor increased dialogue, increased cooperation between India and Pakistan. We have been very pleased to see the economic warming. Our hope is that that can lead to increased warming on the political side, on the security side. We work with both countries on counterterrorism issues and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: And one more. As far as this agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan on this opening, has India been briefed or discussed or talked about this regional issues going on as far as Afghanistan and opening?

MS. NULAND: Well, you remember that the Secretary was in India not too long ago. And Afghanistan was a huge subject of discussion there, including endorsing the business conference that was just held in Delhi. And we’ve been very encouraging and supportive of the role that India is playing, not just in encouraging regional integration and encouraging economic activity, but also in supporting police training, et cetera in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Nicaragua and Russia, please. Is the U.S. Government aware that Russia has in Nicaragua a training center for police (inaudible) anti-narcotics agents? Are you aware of that? The first generation just got (inaudible) a couple weeks ago.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that one way or the other.

QUESTION: But are you aware of that? The U.S. Government is aware of that? Can you take that question, please?

MS. NULAND: I’m confident that our people in Nicaragua are aware.

Please. Anybody else? Yeah, behind. Yeah.

QUESTION: About Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: It was mentioned yesterday in Cairo that the Secretary is going to be in Egypt, July 14th. Is it confirmed? Is it decided? Or not yet?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to announce. I think I did say earlier in the week that she looks forward to going relatively soon, but I don’t have a date to announce.

QUESTION: Just quick on Hong Kong.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Hong Kong. Wow. (Laughter.) Goyal.

QUESTION: Well, China, because that’s related to China. The protestors in Hong Kong are asking the international community that China should not interfere in their freedom and human rights and that China should follow the rules and regulations under the agreement in 1997. And China’s interfering, according to Hong Kong residents, and they were protesting. Is that – they’re asking any U.S. help in this connection to keep their identity and China out of Hong Kong interference?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have a strong and long and deep relationship with Hong Kong, as you know. We support the right of peaceful protest and dialogue to solve issues. That said, we also support the 1997 agreement.

Please.

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MS. NULAND: On Iraq? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Iraq has seen a great deal of violence in the last few weeks. It always – the summer, it goes up. My question to you is: Are U.S. activities or the State Department or the Embassy’s activities in Baghdad have been curtailed as a result of this spike of violence?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, not. But I’m going to refer you to Embassy Baghdad.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Could you also – could you update us on the status of the new ambassador to Baghdad?

MS. NULAND: You mean whether the White House will nominate a new candidate, is that what you’re asking?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: That is definitely a question for the White House, Said.

QUESTION: But surely you can say that they will.

MS. NULAND: Over to the White House for that one.

QUESTION: Well, are you suggesting the White House is not going to name – nominate someone to be the new ambassador to the White House – I mean, to Iraq?

MS. NULAND: I’m suggesting that consideration on all ambassadorial appointments are the White House prerogative.

QUESTION: Well, are you aware that the Administration is not going to nominate someone to take that position?

MS. NULAND: I’m not aware one way or the other.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you comment on some reports that the relationship between Maliki and the United States is really quite tense these days?

MS. NULAND: We continue to have the same kind of dialogue that we’ve had all along. We maintain an open channel not only with the prime minister but with all of the major political figures in Iraq. And we use those channels to encourage them, among other things, to work well together and to settle their political differences through constitutional processes.

QUESTION: And who is leading that channel in Baghdad from the U.S. side?

MS. NULAND: The mission, at the moment, is led by our charge d’affaires who was the previous deputy.

Please.

QUESTION: Just back on the Pakistan announcement briefly. How – I’m sure you’d be thrilled to have this at any point in time, but how important was it, from your perspective, to have this settled, resolved before the next Afghanistan conference coming up?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we’ve been working on this for some time, so we were obviously eager to have it settled in a manner that allowed us to go forward. It does send, I think, a strong signal going into the Kabul conference in – the Afghan conference in Tokyo that we are back on track in terms of being able to support the NATO mission and that we have the opportunity to get onto other aspects of our shared interest in defeating terrorists wherever they are – Afghanistan, Pakistan, et cetera.

Thanks very much, everybody. Happy July 4th.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)

DPB # 121

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - July 3, 2012]