Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 15, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SYRIA
    • Access to Internally Displaced People
    • UN Human Rights Report
    • Control of Territory / Beginning of Interim Governing Structures
    • Economic Needs of a Democratic Syria
    • Nonlethal Assistance Designed to Help Opposition Communicate, Organize
    • U.S. Endeavoring to End Violence
  • RUSSIA
    • U/S Sherman Travel to Russia
  • SYRIA
    • Concern about Iranian Support for Syrian Regime
    • Support for Opposition Based on Litmus Test
    • Support for Geneva Declaration
  • AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN
    • Cross-Border Violence / Haqqani Network
  • INDIA / PAKISTAN
    • Support for High-Level Communication
  • CHINA / JAPAN
    • Senkaku Islands
  • EGYPT
    • Continuing Relationship with SCAF, Leadership
  • VENEZUELA
    • Arrest of U.S. Citizen
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Oppose Palestinian Authority's Efforts at the UN / Need for Full Settlement with Israel
    • David Hale's Meetings
    • Need for Direct Dialogue, Discussion
  • SYRIA
    • UN Observers
    • Spillover from Syrian Conflict into Lebanon / Sectarian Tensions
  • HONDURAS
    • Supportive of Investigation / No Suspension of U.S. Assistance


TRANSCRIPT:

12:48 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Happy Wednesday, everybody. Before we get started, let me welcome the participants in the Fundamentals of Public Diplomacy class from FSI. Go forth and do good public diplomacy work. Let’s go to what is on your minds.

QUESTION: I don’t have anything that’s really worthy of starting the briefing, so –

MS. NULAND: It’s August. All right.

QUESTION: Defer.

MS. NULAND: Jill.

QUESTION: Just one thing on Syria. Valerie Amos – they just sent out an announcement – is there, visited some camps where people are. What’s the U.S. understanding of how cooperative or not cooperative the Syrian Government is in terms of providing access to people who are displaced internally?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, as Valerie Amos has said, one of the purposes of her trip is to try to expand access. The UN agencies have been getting into places but not as quickly as they would like and not when conflict is ongoing in those places. So she is looking to expand access. And as you know, the UN is all over Syria – both UNHCR, also World Food Program. Some 850,000 Syrians are now being fed by the World Food Program. So the need is extreme. Access has been okay, but not as good as it should be, and particularly not as good as it should be when violence is ongoing in the area.

QUESTION: But are there actual attempts by the government to impede access, or is it just that there’s so much fighting that people – the UN can’t get in?

MS. NULAND: My understanding – but again I’m going to refer you to the UN and Valerie Amos’s people – is that access is uneven and it depends on how the government evaluates the security situation.

QUESTION: Toria –

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the UN Human Rights investigators report that said that war crimes were being committed on both sides in the conflict in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are carefully reviewing this report which just came out. It’s some 102 pages. We regret that the Government of Syria refused to cooperate with the commission of inquiry when it was there. Our reading of the report is that the commission of inquiry finds the same thing that we have been saying, which is that the preponderance of the violence, the preponderance of the abuses, are on the side of the regime, are on the side of government forces, which is not to say that there have been no problems on the rebel side. Obviously, there have been problems, but the preponderance of violence has been with government-led forces.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Yes. With what was said in the last couple days about the regime losing its grip on the country more and more – it’s accelerated – what is your own assessment of that? Because, as you said yesterday, the vice – the former prime minister said that the Assad regime only controls 30 percent of the country. So what is your own assessment?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as we said yesterday, I’m not prepared here to put a percentage on the amount of territory still controlled by the regime, but our own view is very much in keeping with what the former prime minister said, namely that much of the rural areas, many of the smaller towns are now controlled by the opposition, that the fight is now for the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo.

What we’re also starting to see is the opposition beginning to set up interim governing structures, interim structures to provide services and food and medical supplies, et cetera, for the people in the towns where they are holding territory. And as I said yesterday, we are in contact with them and we are calling on them to set a positive example for the kind of Syria we all want to see going forward in the way they deal with populations, protecting Syrians of all stripes in the territory that they control, no reprisals, no acts of vigilante justice, and providing services as much as they can, not destroying institutions or structures of the state that will be important and useful in the future.

QUESTION: With the country being destroyed fast and furious in a way or rapidly, during your deliberations with other countries, would it be a good idea, let’s say, to have something akin to the Marshall Plan for the day after, because everybody talks about the day after? Is that something that you can – or you discussed or you have discussed with the rich oil countries in the Gulf?

MS. NULAND: Well, in fact, we are, as an international community, already beginning to look at some of these day-after issues, as the Secretary said when she was in Istanbul. And one of the issues is this question of economic support when a democratic government gets back up on its feet. In fact, we have a preliminary conference beginning tomorrow in Berlin on the potential economic needs of a democratic Syria. Fred Hof will represent us at that conference, and we anticipate that that will lay the groundwork for further work in September.

Syria is not Iraq. It doesn’t have that great, vast natural wealth. And depending on how long this goes on, we are already seeing a lot of the economic underpinnings of Syria’s prosperity at risk from this fighting. So there’s going to have to be a serious rebuilding job that will be Syrian-led obviously, but the international community has to be ready to support, so we’re beginning to think about those things.

Please.

QUESTION: Another one on Syria, please. There’s a story today that says essentially the United States is providing communications equipment to the opposition, to fighters as well, but that some of the sanctions are impeding their attempt to communicate because the Syrian Government has access to things that can track their cell phones, et cetera. Did you see that story, and do you have any concern that perhaps the sanctions are boomeranging on the opposition in terms of having secure communications?

MS. NULAND: I did see the story. As you know, one of our main lines of efforts with the nonlethal assistance has been to try to provide the kind of equipment and support to the Syrian opposition to help them communicate with each other, to help them to be better organized, to help them to circumvent some of the restrictions that the regime places on internet, some of its efforts to track their movements, their communications. So that is what our programs are designed to do.

We have heard some of these same concerns from the Syrians that are in that article, and we are working with them as we institute this program to try to better understand what it is that they would like that we’re not able to provide, what it is that they need to help them circumvent some of these efforts by the Syrian regime to use the very same communications against them.

But we take great pains – and this is part of why we don’t talk in much detail about what we’re giving and who we’re giving it to – to protect those people that we’re helping and to protect the equipment that we are putting in from this very same kind of effort by the Syrian regime to use it against those who are getting it.


Margaret. Sorry, just to Margaret, who’s been patient here, and then back to Matt.

QUESTION: Thanks. Russia’s Foreign Minister said that external players need to stop encouraging the opposition to continue their military struggle. Is the U.S. encouraging the opposition to continue its military struggle, and what’s the response?

MS. NULAND: Well, there’s no question that we are endeavoring through our support to the opposition to hasten the day when the violence ends, when Assad leaves power, and when a democratic transition can begin. That said, as you know, we tried very hard repeatedly – three times, in fact – through the UN Security Council to work with Russia to put some teeth behind the UN efforts and Kofi Annan’s effort to get compliance with his six-point plan. We wanted very much for there to be a penalty, a sanctions penalty in particular, if those six points were not implemented. And Russia again vetoed. So I would ask the question: Who is doing the most now to try to hasten the day?

Please.

QUESTION: On Russia, of course Wendy Sherman has been – will be there, right, I guess?

MS. NULAND: She’s going to be there tomorrow. She’s en route today. Yeah.

QUESTION: So what’s the message? Because if – I mean, we haven’t heard much from the Russians recently on this anyway. But is there any new message to the Russians now that the U.S. is working with Turkey and others on a more specific plan for both helping the opposition and for the day after?

MS. NULAND: Well, first let me say that Under Secretary Sherman’s primary purpose on her stop in Russia is to work with the Russians on the P-5+1 process vis-a-vis Iran, which she is the lead American on. And she’ll be meeting her counterparts there.

Obviously, Syria is going to come up. She will say what the say has been saying to Lavrov, what we’ve been saying at all levels, which is that the Russians themselves have expressed to us, has expressed internationally, grave concerns about this turning into a civil war or turning into a proxy war, spilling beyond borders. And we have those exact same concerns. But not allowing the UN to work, not allowing real teeth behind efforts that we’ve all agreed to – that we need a transitional structure, as the P-5 agreed in Geneva, that we actually need the Kofi Annan plan to have enforcement mechanisms – is not helping and is not contributing to stopping the violence and containing this crisis so that we can move on and we can rebuild Syria.

Please.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: Matt was patient here. Go ahead, Matt. Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah. On Syria.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, no, let him go.

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: No, I just wanted a quick follow-up to this. I mean, basically the Secretary of Defense yesterday acknowledged that others are providing lethal aid to the opposition, perhaps suggesting that your allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are providing lethal aid while you stood at this podium time and again and spoke against violence and that really extending lethal aid to the opposition will only serve to sort of exacerbate the violence and destruction.

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with the main message that the Secretary of Defense gave very strongly yesterday and which most of you covered, which was our grave concern about the training and the materiel and the support that Iran is giving to the Assad regime, and the prolonging of the misery of the Syrian people that Iran is now responsible for, and the other nefarious efforts that they have going there. You know where we are on this, Said. We have made a decision to only provide nonlethal assistance, but we do coordinate with others who have made other decisions.

Matt.

QUESTION: So I was intrigued by your statement of fact a few minutes ago where you said Syria is not Iraq; it doesn’t have the great natural wealth that Iraq does. I presume you’re talking about oil, yeah?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, it has some natural wealth, but it’s not swimming in an ability to --

QUESTION: Would you say that that’s one of the reasons why you’re not doing anything to intervene, because Syria doesn’t have the amount of oil that either Iraq or Libya had?

MS. NULAND: There are no connections between these two things. This is --

QUESTION: So anyone that would --

MS. NULAND: Our --

QUESTION: You yourself brought up the distinction. I just want to make sure that that’s not – that oil is not the reason that you’re not doing anything militarily to help the Syrian people .

MS. NULAND: My point with regard to Iraq was that Syria is a country that in the rebuilding phase is likely to want, need, and request significant international economic support because it doesn’t have the same kind of natural benefits that some of these other --

QUESTION: So all right. From your experience, Iraq didn’t need any help rebuilding?

MS. NULAND: No, of course they did. But they didn’t need – they mostly took loans, they mostly took technical support. They didn’t take straight-out assistance in the same way. So --

QUESTION: So you’re not intending to suggest that going in, militarily intervening in a country with oil is in the U.S. interest, but not intervening in a country that doesn’t have oil isn’t in U.S. interests? That’s not what you mean?

MS. NULAND: There is no connection between those two things. Our decisions about how to support the opposition are based on the litmus test that the Secretary has put out very clearly in Istanbul and which we’ve been saying all along. We want to ensure that what we do to support the opposition actually hastens the day rather than increasing the suffering.

Please.

QUESTION: How do you read Minister Lavrov saying that the spirit of the Geneva declaration should be – I mean, should stay alive?

MS. NULAND: We agree with that, which is precisely why the last time we went to the UN Security Council in June our effort was to try to get a UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the Geneva understandings about transition but put real teeth into a resolution in the form of sanctions if Assad didn’t start moving in that direction. And it was the Russians and the Chinese who chose to veto that.

QUESTION: Do you see this as a first step maybe to Russia agreeing on that?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to what Foreign Minister Lavrov has in mind.

Please.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Are we still – anything else on Syria? No? Please, here.

QUESTION: One more on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You’ve said for a while now you’re in touch with a broad cross-section of the opposition. In those contacts, are you hearing an increased call for more direct aid from the U.S., such as a no-fly zone or more lethal aid, that sort of thing?

MS. NULAND: There are a lot of different voices in the opposition with regard to what they need. We are talking to as many players as we can. And as I said, we’re making clear that our decision is on the nonlethal side, but they are also talking to other countries who have made other decisions.

Please.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MS. NULAND: Still Syria? No?

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MS. NULAND: Wait a minute. Still Syria? Margaret? No?

Okay. Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, as India and Pakistan celebrates their 65 years of independence yesterday and today, I know Secretary has sent messages to the both countries. My question is: Can you put some – give some reflection on the both countries, their progress, where they’re heading, and 65 years, as far as you – in the eyes of the U.S.? Both are friends of the United States.

MS. NULAND: Well, Goyal, I don’t think I can improve on the two birthday messages sent by the Secretary, so I would refer you to those. We have important relationships with both of those countries, and I would refer you to her words and the statements that she issued.

QUESTION: What I’m asking you really, on the – both got independence on the same day 65 years ago. India, you can see where is India today, as far as progress is concerned. Pakistan is still supporting terrorism. And as Secretary Panetta said yesterday, that safe haven is still in Pakistan, and Pakistan is not doing what it’s supposed to do as far as U.S.-Pakistan support is concerned.

What I’m asking you is: Are you still thinking of talking to Haqqani Network? According to some press reports, U.S. might be in the way of talking to the Haqqani Network. Or some Pakistanis are saying that if there is a problem of terrorism inside Pakistan into Afghanistan, then why U.S. is not stopping it from that eastern border of Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Well, on the larger issue of cross-border violence, Afghanistan/Pakistan, I want to refer you back to what Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey said yesterday. They talked about improved cooperation in recent weeks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ISAF on cross-border. Obviously, this is something that we’ve been stressing for many, many months, that the best way to deal with the Haqqani threat and with the threat that crosses borders is for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ISAF to work together in joint operations, joint planning, joint pressure that squeezes these terrorists and doesn’t allow them to run back and forth across the border.


With regard to Haqqani, our position is unchanged, as you know, which is that we’ve designated a number of the kingpins, and we’re continuing to look at the larger question of designation. And we’re continuing our dialogue with Pakistan about how it can do as much as it can to close down the space for those affiliated with Haqqani to perpetrate terror.

QUESTION: And one more quickly.

QUESTION: Are you sure you don’t want to give us a list of why India is better than Pakistan 65 years later? No?

MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary’s statements are quite eloquent on the birthday message.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please, Shaun.

QUESTION: Just one more quickly. I’m sorry. India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is planning two visits – to Iran and Pakistan. Do you have any – do you get in advance any of these notices that he’s visiting Pakistan at all, then he’s visiting Iran?

MS. NULAND: Well, we don’t clear his travel schedule in advance, if that’s what you’re asking.

QUESTION: No, I mean --

MS. NULAND: We talked a lot – a little bit yesterday about the Indian visit to Iran. I’ll refer you to those comments. With regard to Pakistan, any high-level communication between India and Pakistan that can help them address the various issues among them is something that we would support.

QUESTION: In East Asia, it’s obviously a sensitive anniversary, August 15th. The – there was an incident today with pro-China activists going to disputed islands. And I was wondering if the U.S. has anything to say specifically on the incident, or more broadly about Japan’s relations with its neighbors.

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the incident, with regard to the general issue of this set of territorial disputes, we talked about it at some length yesterday, and we also talked about it on Monday. We don’t take sides in these things. We want to see people work it out. With regard to the Senkakus in – specifically – is that the incident that you’re talking about, the Hong Kong incident?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: We expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means and any kinds of provocations are not helpful in that regard.

QUESTION: In terms of provocations, does that mean the actual trip was – I’m not putting words in your mouth, but was that considered provocation?

MS. NULAND: Again, these guys have got to work this out, and we’re not going to take a side with it. But these kinds of pressures and pushing are not helpful to an environment where they can sit down and work it out.

QUESTION: Sorry. I need you to parse a word, which I know you’re going to be reluctant to do. But we have this – this thing comes up. When you say, “we expect,” does that mean that you have reason to believe that they are going to resolve this peacefully because they have told you that?

MS. NULAND: We want to – no.

QUESTION: Or is it “expect,” meaning that we would hope that --

MS. NULAND: We want to see them – we would hope that, we want to see them. Is that helpful --

QUESTION: So they haven’t told you definitively one way or another that we’re going to resolve these peacefully?

MS. NULAND: They have not.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Ambiguous wording.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Sorry. In the back.

QUESTION: On this dispute issue, yesterday the Japanese Government arrest the 14 Chinese after the activists landed on the dispute island, and they are including the two reporters from Hong Kong Phoenix TV and by the reporting freely. Would you please give us some response on that?

MS. NULAND: So you’re talking about the same incident, where we had a Hong Kong group landing on the Senkakus that were arrested by the – by Japan?

QUESTION: Yeah. Yes. And there were, like, two Hong Kong news reporters on the boat, and they are arrested as well.

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have any particular information about who this group was. I don’t think I have anything further to say, beyond the fact that we want to see Japan and China work this through together. We’re not taking sides in it, but it needs to be resolved consensually, not through provocative acts.

Please.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: The new Egyptian military leader, General Sedki Sobhi back in 2005 wrote a lengthy paper. I don’t know whether you had time to go through it last night.

MS. NULAND: He’s the new chairman of the armed forces?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: The General Dempsey counterpart?

QUESTION: I believe. I mean, I guess he’s described as --

MS. NULAND: This is beginning to sound like something that’s got to go to the Pentagon, but go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Well, no, I’m sure this is interesting reading for somebody who’s interested in foreign policy, because he talks about – he wrote it when he was the U.S. Army War College.

MS. NULAND: Boy, you’ve been busy at Carlisle.

QUESTION: He was.

MS. NULAND: You’ve been busy.

QUESTION: Yeah, at the bars. And he said that he calls for full U.S. withdrawal from all Middle Eastern countries and criticizes the U.S. for always taking Israel’s side. So just wondering, since we’re looking at this, whether there is – whether you’ve looked at it, whether you know about it, might have any reaction?

MS. NULAND: I have not seen it. I’m not sure whether anybody in this building has seen it. But if you go back to the press conference that Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey gave yesterday, General Dempsey makes clear that he’s reached out to him, that he’s somebody that we know, and that General Dempsey’s expectation is that we’ll be able to work well together. But I don’t know whether anybody in that building has studied his scholarly works while he was here or whether any of us ought to be held to school papers, but anyway, I can’t imagine what my school papers said. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, the War College, that’s hardly a school paper. If the guy’s an officer in the Egyptian military, does not mean he’s a 17-year-old kid expanding on Ayn Rand or anything else. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Anyway – general – yeah. I certainly don’t have anything beyond what General Dempsey had to say.

QUESTION: To follow-up on Jill, I mean, General al-Sisi did make very strong statements, very controversial on the fact, that where it deems to be Islamist or, in fact, extremist Islamist in the past. Did anyone really look at his credentials in that particular way?

MS. NULAND: Again, we talked about this yesterday.

QUESTION: I understand that --

MS. NULAND: We talked about the fact that Egyptian personnel decisions are for --

QUESTION: -- but more and more is coming out.

MS. NULAND: -- Egyptians to make and that we have reached out to him and we want to have a good working relationship continuing with the SCAF and its leadership, and we want to be able to work together, not only on issues of Egypt’s security, but of the whole neighborhood’s security.

Please.

QUESTION: Secretary Panetta was saying also that Israel has not yet decided on any attack on Iran. Is he implying that there is coordination between the U.S. and Israel on an eventual military action there?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to send you to the Pentagon for a parsing of the Secretary of Defense’s words.

QUESTION: No, no. This is a political thing, not military.

MS. NULAND: That would be – yeah.

Please, Scott.

QUESTION: Anything new that you can give us on Venezuela and this American?

MS. NULAND: Yes, a little bit. So we can confirm that a U.S. citizen was arrested. We can confirm that the Government of Venezuela has notified us of the arrest – that was yesterday or the day before yesterday late in the afternoon. We’re now working with the Government of Venezuela on a consular visit. You’ll recall that yesterday I said we had not had joy on that subject. We’re now actively working on being able to get in to see the individual. But until we do that, I don’t think I’ll have more to share.

QUESTION: Just a quick – when you say working on a consular visit, that means the Venezuelans have agreed to that, and it’s just a matter of the practicalities?

MS. NULAND: That’s my understanding. Yeah.

QUESTION: But wait. Yesterday you said that they hadn’t notified you in the normal way. That you were told, here in Washington, not in Caracas, is that --

MS. NULAND: Now all of that has been worked through, as well as --

QUESTION: So they went and talked to the Embassy?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: So they have followed, now, belatedly followed regular procedures?

MS. NULAND: That’s my understanding, that our Embassy in Caracas is working with the authorities now.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Victoria, I wonder if I could have a quick follow-up question on my email question, and thank you for responding. Dr. Ashrawi did speak to the diplomat, and she apparently suggested that the Palestinians are going ahead with their effort in the journalists under the ’67 section. But she also said she’s trying to appeal for a substitute aid to – that comes from the United States in the event that you will cut the aid in the event that they do go to the General Assembly. Are there any plans to cut off aid to the Palestinians in the event that they go to the General Assembly for membership, observer status?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’re into about three levels of hypothetical there, Said, which you can imagine I’m not going to be --

QUESTION: Not hypotheticals; they are going.

MS. NULAND: We continue to make clear to the Palestinian Authority leadership at all levels – and David Hale has been out there in fact, just this week – that we continue to oppose any efforts to advance their cause through the UN before they have had a full settlement with Israel. That’s not the right sequence, and it’s not going to lead to peace, it’s not going to lead to two states living side-by-side in security. So that’s the message that we continue to give. That’s the message that the Secretary gave to President Abbas when she saw him in Europe not too long ago and that David Hale continues to give. It’s the wrong way to go.

QUESTION: Is she exaggerating the feel or the concern that you might cut off aid?

MS. NULAND: Again, you know that our Congress has been strong on these issues; we have been pretty strong on these issues. There are a number of legislative things on the books, of which the Palestinians are well aware. But fundamentally, if the goal is to have a state, to live in peace with your neighbors, to be secure, going to the UN is not going to get you there.

Please.

QUESTION: So would you say that her description of the peace process as being completely paralyzed is not true?

MS. NULAND: We disagree with that. And we’ve had David Hale out there this week, as well. He met with his counterparts, the Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho in Tel Aviv on August 11th. And he also met with President Abbas in Amman on August 11th. And then he went on to Jordan. He saw Fayyad in Ramallah, and he also saw Defense Minister Barak. So we are continuing to do our part and try to keep these – get these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: Sorry – you said he saw Abbas in Amman, and then he went to Jordan? Isn’t that the same thing? I just want to make sure I got these places right.

MS. NULAND: So he saw – just to get it right –

QUESTION: Or are you saying Oman?

MS. NULAND: -- he was in the region August 11th and 12th. On Saturday, August 11th, he met with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho in Tel Aviv. And then he went to Amman, where I assume Palestinian President Abbas was visiting because he saw Abbas in Amman. Then on the 12th, he also saw Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh, and then he went back to Ramallah and saw Prime Minister Fayyad. Then he went on to Jerusalem to see Defense Minister Barak and other Israeli officials. And he’s now in Geneva seeing his Quartet pals.

QUESTION: Okay. That was all on the 12th. Good thing these places are close together.

MS. NULAND: Exactly.

QUESTION: Just want to clarify one thing: The message that he’s giving them contains the Congressional stuff – the consequences of, “Look, if you guys do this, we have laws back here which are going to require us to do – if you do X, Congress says that we have to do Y, right?”

MS. NULAND: You’re connecting dots that I didn’t connect.

QUESTION: Well, that’s what --

MS. NULAND: His message is the overall one that we continue to give, which is that direct dialogue, direct discussion, is the way to go here; that the UN track is not going to lead to peace; that we want to support and we are prepared to continue to support any efforts that are going to get these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: But does he not also say that not – that the UN track, not only does it not lead to peace, but it will also lead to – it’ll also lead to cutoff in funding, as mandated by Congress? It would be --

MS. NULAND: Look, when called upon, he can explain U.S. legislative and congressional requirements. He’s certainly not in the business of predicting what policy is going to be in advance of --

QUESTION: Well, but the – it’s not predicting. I mean, Congress has said if the Palestinians achieve – if they get recognition or if they get – win admission to UN bodies, then there are consequences for that.

MS. NULAND: It is not our impression that there are any gaps in understanding on the Palestinian side in terms of what our legislative requirements are.

Please.

QUESTION: Can you explain, then, why they would go ahead with it? Do they not think that --

MS. NULAND: You need to speak to them about that.

Please.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on the – Syria and the UN. Has – are you talking about renewing for the observers? Did it – is it coming up in discussions at the UN?

MS. NULAND: Well, we had this 30-day technical rollover to allow the observer force that was there to have an orderly withdrawal. There remains a question about what their fate will be when that 30 days is up, which I think is at the end of August. We’re having informal consultations in New York, but there haven’t been any decisions or any particularly firm plans put forward.

QUESTION: Are you happy with the choice of Mr. Brahimi as an envoy?

MS. NULAND: I think you’re assuming a choice that hasn’t been announced, so I think we won’t speak to it unless and until it’s announced.

Please, Margaret.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia called on its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately today. What’s the U.S. threat assessment in Lebanon? And how connected is that to what we heard last week about growing concern about Hezbollah and potential attacks in Europe and elsewhere?

MS. NULAND: Well, our concern in Lebanon first and foremost has been the spillover from the Syrian conflict, and the fact that the sectarian tensions in Syria are potentially being replicated in Lebanon, and that we’ve seen clashes between different groups in Lebanon that have had to be managed by the Lebanese defense forces. So we are obviously supportive of their efforts to try to keep and maintain calm, but it’s been a very tense and difficult situation, including with these allegations of kidnapping, et cetera. So that’s the main angle of concern here. We have done the appropriate travel warnings, et cetera, to our own. We haven’t gone as far as the Saudis have.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. NULAND: Thank – oops, Ros.

QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to ask you about the May 11th shooting in the Mosquitia region – I’m probably mispronouncing that – during a joint Honduran-U.S. law enforcement action, DEA action. Four people were killed. A preliminary Honduran military report suggests that it may have been a case of mistaken identity. The people were killed because they were thought to be drug traffickers and it seems that they weren’t. Two NGOs today released a report calling for U.S. accountability. I have a few questions if you’ll indulge me.

MS. NULAND: This is May – the May 11th --

QUESTION: May 11th incident.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, because there have been at least two other shootings since in which DEA agents were found to have actually fired and caused peoples’ deaths.

The first question: Is the U.S. Government fully cooperating in the ongoing Honduran investigation? Is it reviewing the actions of any DEA or other U.S. personnel who were taking part in that counternarcotics action that night?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, we – as you know, the Hondurans, as you said, are leading in their own investigation. We are being supportive of their investigation, as we said, since May 11th. That investigation has not yet concluded. DEA, as it always does in these kinds of incidents, is doing its own work to look at what its people were involved with. So with regard to specific questions about where that’s going, I’ll send you to DEA, Ros.

QUESTION: Now it’s my understanding that the helicopters that were being used in this operation are actually owned by the U.S. State Department. When something of this sort happens and there is a requirement for an investigation, does that mean that the U.S. State Department has those vehicles grounded pending the outcome of the investigation? Is there any requirement to suspend any aid to the Honduras Tactical Response Team that leads these sorts of operations?

MS. NULAND: While those are options in this case, we have not suspended assistance to Honduras. We are continuing, but we are obviously, as I said, supporting the investigation that the Hondurans are undertaking. And if other action is warranted on our part, we’ll obviously look at that.

QUESTION: And then finally, given that there’s been a lot of local press reaction to the May 11th incident, a lot of concerns that the Americans need to back off, is the U.S. concerned that trying to help Honduras get its arms around its drug trafficking problem could lead to any anti-American sentiment in Honduras? And if so, what is the U.S. doing to try to counter those feelings?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know and as we say regularly in Honduras, U.S. efforts in support of Honduran counternarcotics efforts are at the invitation of the Honduran Government. They are worked out with and for and are supportive of Honduran agencies’ efforts. And they have been increasingly successful, so this is the standard against which this has been judged. We are not in there doing our own thing without any partnership. We are doing what we are doing at the request of and in support of Honduran efforts.

QUESTION: And then one quick follow-up: Have there been any requests from any of the relatives of those who were killed on May 11th for compensation from the U.S. Government?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no, but if there is a change to that, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

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

DPB #145

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 15, 2012]