Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 18, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Security Issues Worldwide
    • Aung San Suu Kyi Visit
    • Mexican High-Level Dialogue
  • RUSSIA
    • Russian Government's Decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation
  • PAKISTAN
    • Status of U.S. Embassy and Consulates / Protests
    • Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister Khar
    • Marc Grossman's Visit
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Suicide Attack
    • Secretary's Contact with President Karzai
  • LIBYA
    • Security Contract
    • FBI Investigation
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. Assistance to Palestinian Territories
    • Palestinian Authority Funding
  • EGYPT
    • Reform / Economic Support
  • MEXICO
    • Fourth Session of High-Level Group
  • BURMA
    • Aung San Suu Kyi's Visit
    • Easing of Sanctions


TRANSCRIPT:

1:04 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND:  All right, everybody.  I don’t have anything at the top.  It’s obviously a very, very busy day here as we continue working with posts around the world on security issues.  As you know, we’ve had Aung San Suu Kyi here today.  We have the Mexican high-level dialogue.  The Secretary will be out with Foreign Minister Espinosa later today.  So it is busy. 

What’s on your minds?

QUESTION:  Well, just on – logistically, schedule-wise --

MS. NULAND:  Yes.

QUESTION:  -- what is this signing ceremony?  What are they signing, and why isn’t that open?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t know the answer to that, Matt.  I think it’s an update on Merida, but I will get that for you. 

QUESTION:  Is – I know that this is not some --

MS. NULAND:  I know you did ask us --

QUESTION:  Yes, exactly.  This isn’t some secret thing --

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  No, it’s --

QUESTION:  -- to invade Canada or something like that? (Laughter)

MS. NULAND:  No, no, no.  It’s not anything classified.

QUESTION:  All right.

MS. NULAND:  I think it may just have been logistic.  We’ll get that for you.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Can I – I want to start with something that just came out from you – not on the Middle East, but on Russia and the USAID decision.  Can you explain to us when the Russians communicated this to you considering we were just there – the Secretary was just there?  Did they tell her then that this was going to happen?  What kinds of programs are affected?  How much was being spent?  I presume most of it was human rights and democracy training.  And what – how does this bode for the reset?

MS. NULAND:  Well, what Matt is referring to, in case you didn’t see what we just put out, we have recently received a decision of the Russian Government to end USAID activities there.  Let me just reiterate what we said on paper, which is that the United States is extremely proud of what USAID has accomplished in Russia over the last 20 years, and we will work with our partners and staff to responsibly end or transition those programs.  And while our USAID physical presence in Russia is going to end, we remain committed to supporting democracy, human rights, and the development of a more robust civil society in Russia, and we look forward to continuing our close cooperation with Russian non-governmental organizations. 

With regard to your specific questions, Matt, over the last 20 years that we’ve had an AID program in Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, we’ve spent about $2.7 billion overall.  The AID budget for fiscal year 2012 is about 50 million.  In addition to the civil society programs, which, as we have said, we will look for ways to continue with those members of Russian civil society who want to continue to work with us, we also work or have worked over the years with the Russian Government on programs that fight AIDS there, fight tuberculosis, help orphans, help the disabled, combat trafficking, support Russian programs in the environmental area, wildlife protection.  So it is our hope that Russia will now, itself, assume full responsibility and take forward all of this work that we were proud to do together so that the Russian people continue to have the benefit.

We got an official diplomatic note on this on September 12th, which was – what, last week.

QUESTION:  And how much of that 2.7 billion had gone to democracy promotion and civil society?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t have a breakdown, Matt.  We can look at it --

QUESTION:  Well, is it fair to say that most of it?

MS. NULAND:  No.  I think it’s not.  I think it’s about a third.  I think the rest of it is going into these health programs, or a very heavy chunk of it – trafficking, environment, et cetera.

QUESTION:  All right.  And then you say that you’re extremely proud of your – are you extremely disappointed or disappointed at all in the Russians’ decision?

MS. NULAND:  Well, obviously this is a sovereign decision that any country makes, whether they want to have U.S. assistance through AID.  As I said, we think the work we’ve done together has helped the Russian people with all of these kinds of things, and we hope the Russian Government now takes forward that work itself, particularly in environment and health.  But we will continue to work on civil society issues and democracy issues.

QUESTION:  So you’re agnostic about this issue?

MS. NULAND:  It’s their sovereign decision to make.  And as you know, there are many countries around the world who would like to have more AID funding and health, et cetera, so --

QUESTION:  Right.  Are you – do you know of any other country that said no?

MS. NULAND:  To having an AID mission?

QUESTION:  Other than Eritrea?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t know that I can speak to that directly, but what I can tell you is that there are more than 20 countries around the world where we work with civil society but we don’t have a formal AID mission. 

QUESTION:  Right, and then just the last thing is --

MS. NULAND:  We work on democracy, human rights, et cetera.

QUESTION:  Do you not – you don’t see this as in any way affecting the reset, or is emblematic of failure of the reset?

MS. NULAND:  Well again, this is always a sovereign nation’s decision, whether they want to have our assistance.  That said, as you know, when we talk about the reset, we talk primarily about global and regional foreign policy issues on which we work together.  And in those categories, we’ve been very clear about what we see as the benefits of the reset – the New START Treaty, obviously; the work we’re doing together in the P-5+1 on Iran; the work we’ve done on the DPRK; the work we’ve done to be able to support Afghan security forces; peace and stability in Afghanistan.  Those things obviously continue. 

But we’ve also always said that the reset would give us an opportunity not only to cooperate wherever we could but also to be clear when we have concerns and when we disagree.  We’ve been very upfront about our concerns about the human rights situation and some of these new legal moves in Russia, and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION:  Toria, sorry, did the Russians in their communication with you on this express any specific points of dissatisfaction with USAID’s work there, or did they just say, "We’re rich enough, we don’t need it?"

MS. NULAND:  Well, I’m going to leave it to the Russians to characterize their motivations behind this, but I would say it tends to trend towards the latter, their sense that they don’t need this anymore.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And does the – this order mean that the USAID offices are being closed sort of today and that people are being withdrawn now, or is there a wind-down period?

MS. NULAND:  Well, we would like to see an orderly transition.  That’s what we’ve said publicly, and we’re working with the Russians on how that can go.  Obviously we’re not going to be doing any new contracting as of the new fiscal year, but we have to wind these programs down responsibly.  A lot of Russians are dependent on them.

QUESTION:  Could you clarify –

QUESTION:  Was there some foreshadowing of – that this decision was coming, or did it come out of the blue?  And how many people does it actually affect who are working with the USAID program at the moment?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t have the numbers in terms of American AID personnel, but it goes beyond that, of course, because AID programs around the world also hire folks in the community.  So I can see if I can sort of size that generally for you. 

We had had some indications that this was coming over the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION:  Toria, is there like a waiting list of countries that are waiting for USAID help that maybe this money can be shifted to now?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I’m not going to predict how we’re going to be able to rebalance, but --

QUESTION:  Is that how it works, you have countries that are saying, "We want some aid," and you put them – like there’s a priority list or anything?

MS. NULAND:  Well, obviously we look at the entire USAID program against U.S. national priorities and against the interests and needs of countries.  But for example, when we were on our trip to Asia, the Secretary’s most recent trip about two weeks ago, we heard from a lot of the Pacific Island countries that they would like more help and support.  There are a lot of countries out there that would like more of the kinds of support that we were doing in Russia, whether it’s on environment, whether it’s on health, whether it’s on trafficking, those kinds of things.

So obviously, we have to look carefully at this. But as I said, we are committed to continuing to work with the nongovernmental sector, with the civil society sector in Russia. So we’re going to look at other ways to do that as we do in other countries.

QUESTION:  And do you think that Russia’s action is one of not-such-great relations with the United States, or perhaps they have the money to supplement --

MS. NULAND:  Well, this was the question that Andy asked.  I’m not going to account for their motives.  I think they should probably speak to that.

Goyal.

QUESTION:  Madam, basically, USAID helps the people on people-to-people contact.  Is it going to factor in any way U.S.-Russian relations or hurting the people in Russia which USAID might be able to help them in any way?  Or how are you going to factor it?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as I said, we’ve been proud of this collaboration that we’ve had which has touched the lives of a lot of Russians, particularly in the health area and protecting their environment and wildlife.  So it is our hope that the Russian Government will be able to now fully fund all these programs and take them forward.

QUESTION:  What --

QUESTION:  Toria, do you know why it is that we’re just hearing about this now if you were notified on the 12th?

MS. NULAND:  Why we didn’t get to you?  I think probably the intention was to be – see, what day was the 12th?  The 12th --

QUESTION:  Wednesday.

MS. NULAND:  -- was Wednesday.  Well, you remember what the events of Wednesday were.

QUESTION:  Right.  Well, I understand that.

MS. NULAND:  Yeah, I think – yeah.

QUESTION:  But I mean, that didn’t stop you from putting out the Iran sanctions --

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  I mean, I don’t have specifics but I guess that after --

QUESTION:  Right.  And then --

MS. NULAND:  -- we received the formal notice, which could well have been late in the day, we had to do some processing and thinking through how we would --

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then the last one on this:  You said that you had some indications this was happening.  Is this something that was – that the Secretary talked about while she was seeing Lavrov and Putin in Vladivostok?  Because I remember that you all made a big point about this wildlife cooperation and the tigers and all that stuff, and if they were sitting there extolling the virtues of saving the big cats, and yet at the same time we’re about to slice off the – kind of cut the – cut the programs out, that it might have come up.  It might have been mentioned to, I don’t know, the --

MS. NULAND:  Well, first --

QUESTION:  -- 10 or 12 people who were – who would be interested in this kind of thing and were on the trip.

MS. NULAND:  Well, first, in the context of the APEC visit, as you know, it was a priority of the APEC nations this time for all of the APEC countries to look at what they’re doing nationally and to take more steps.  So that doesn’t go to the question of whether the U.S. was helping Russia with its own program.  There’s clearly a commitment on behalf of the Russian Federation to try to protect its wildlife.  That seems to go to the very top, and that was an APEC priority.

We did have some preliminary indications when we were out there, but we didn’t have final word until we got this diplomatic note.

Please.  In the back.

QUESTION:  The Embassy and missions in Pakistan have stopped publicly (inaudible) in their reports that staff has been shifted elsewhere from Karachi and other places.  So is it just a precaution because of the protests that are going on there, or you had some other information or terrorist activity or something?  And for how long this activity will remain suspended?

MS. NULAND:  Well, first of all, let me just say that with regard to the situation with our missions, today our Consulates General in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar are closed for public services, but the Embassy in Islamabad is open, although we suspended visa services today.  Again, we do that to keep crowds down around the mission.  We did see protests throughout the country today, and despite violence in some cities, they have now been dispersed.  All of our official American personnel in Pakistan are safe and accounted for.  And we are continuing to work with the Government of Pakistan on the security. 

My understanding is that the security response has been quite good, and again, our understanding is that this was primarily a response to this internet video.

QUESTION:  Just to follow, I understand that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister will be here in Washington and meeting here with the Secretary.  Is all these issues will be discussed with her and – or is she – they have indicated about before she came here – I believe she’s arriving today.  Are these issues going to be on top of the agenda as far as security in Pakistan and also all these demonstrations against the U.S. despite Pakistan receiving billions of dollar – aid?  How much Pakistan is doing to disperse these demonstrations, (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as I said, our security cooperation in response to the demonstrations with the Government of Pakistan has been good, and we’re continuing to talk about it.  Yes, Foreign Minister Khar is coming to see the Secretary on Friday.  That is a long-expected visit.  She’s then obviously going to go up to the UN General Assembly in New York.  I’m expecting that the full range of issues we have with Pakistan – bilateral, regional, et cetera – will be covered, including our continuing effort to get our counterterrorism activities back up and running fully.

QUESTION:  This will be her first visit to Washington after she took over as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, so do you see anything new this time because she’s more liberal and she’s the one who took action about opening the route to Afghanistan for the U.S.?  I mean, she’s more likable other than in the past.  And what I’m asking you, really, two ladies will be getting together on Friday – (laughter) – and most famous.  So do we see anything new among – between the two ladies as far as the U.S.-Pakistan relations?

MS. NULAND:  Well, let me just remind that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Khar have had a very strong relationship ever since Foreign Minister Khar took office.  I think this is going to be at least their fourth meeting, if not more.  They – I don’t have a full count in my head, but they’ve met in Pakistan, they met in Tokyo, I think we’ve met one other time before, certainly at the UNGA last year.  So they have a working relationship together.  They have both rolled up their sleeves to try to stabilize and strengthen the relationship, and I think this is a good opportunity, obviously, for them to take stock of where we are and continue to try to move forward.

Please.

QUESTION:  This visit comes on the heels of a U.S. delegation in Pakistan that was there a week or so ago.  So in this visit, will they be building upon the discussions in Islamabad?  And what were they—if you put in list— some of the critical issues that were discussed and decided then?

MS. NULAND:  I think you’re talking about the visit of Marc Grossman, who --

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MS. NULAND:  -- was in Islamabad on the 15th.  He put out a press notice after his visit concluded.  As you know, he was there September 14th, 15th.  He met with President Zardari, Prime Minister Ashraf.  He did see Foreign Minister Khar, Foreign Secretary Jilani, Chief of the Army Staff Kayani, members of the parliament, et cetera.  And he covered as well the full range of issues, and obviously, he reported to the Secretary, and we’ll try to build on that conversation going forward.

QUESTION:  Where does the issue of Haqqani Network feature in these full range of issues in terms of priority?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I’m not going to rack and stack the issues.  They’re all important, but you know that we’ve been very intensively focused on our concerns about the Haqqani Network.  We’ve been continuing to encourage further squeezing by the Government of Pakistan on the Haqqani Network, and we have now made a full designation, as the Secretary announced a week ago.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up, there are reports in Pakistan that during this visit and maybe on the sidelines of GA – UNGA – a strategic dialogue between U.S. and Pakistan is going to be revived.  Can you tell us something about that?

MS. NULAND:  I know that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Khar are going to be speaking.  I don’t have anything else for you with regard to that.

Said.

QUESTION:  Just on the Haqqanis –

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- has that designation actually been made?

MS. NULAND:  You’re talking about the announcement.

QUESTION:  Formal notification of when --

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  Well, the Secretary made the announcement of her intention – right.

QUESTION:  I know.  Has it been published anywhere?

MS. NULAND:  I think there was – there’s a hold period of some kind, so we’ll – I’ll look into that, but I don’t think we have the – I think you’re right, Matt.

QUESTION:  Can we stay in the region and just move next door to Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  Today, there was a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, which – the group that claims to have carried it out also linked to the video.  This time, there were, I believe, eight South Africans who were killed when the suicide bomber blew herself up next to their bus because she saw it was filled with foreign workers, I guess.  I wonder, in the light of the fact that perhaps these protests are now going to spread beyond just Americans and perhaps foreigners in general, what your consultations are with other governments who might be struggling to warn their workers and come up with the appropriate response to this.

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  Well, as you can imagine, Jo, we’re consulting with a very broad range of countries about the response to this video – not just ones where our embassies and consulates and missions have been affected, but around the world and encouraging leaders – whether they’re government leaders, religious leaders – to speak out strongly along the lines that the Secretary and the President have, that we can all condemn this reprehensible video, but it should never be an excuse for violence. 

Let me just take this opportunity to repeat what we said from Embassy Kabul earlier today with regard to the suicide attack, that we condemn the attack that took place in Kabul, we offer our deepest condolences to the families and the loved ones, and we wish for the speedy recovery of the injury – of the injured.  We can confirm that there were no U.S. citizens involved. 

What I can’t confirm, Jo, was the motivation for this.  And we are seeing, whether it is the recent calls by Hezbollah for people to go out into the streets, some of the things we’ve seen on al-Qaida sites, we’re seeing a lot of piling on.  We’re seeing a lot of extremist activity trying to exploit the sentiments from this video to gin up folks to violence and try to use that as an excuse for things that might otherwise have been planned, for their otherwise rejectionist agendas.  So that’s very concerning, this sort of spoiler, pile-on agenda that’s happening now.

QUESTION:  So how do you and your allies, I suppose, or other foreign countries deal with that concretely?

MS. NULAND:  I think there are two planks to this, obviously, as the Secretary has been talking about.  First of all, strengthening security, strengthening of vigilance, sharing information, but also leading publics, speaking out strongly that this must never be an excuse for violence, that outrage, concern, hurt, should be expressed through legitimate, democratic channels, should be expressed peacefully, and it’s never an excuse to take the lives of others. 

Please.

QUESTION:  Change topics?

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  Are you going to stay, sorry, Margaret, on this one?  Sorry.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Sorry.

QUESTION:  No problem.

QUESTION:  Has the Secretary spoken to President Karzai in the past few days in regard to this attack today or the three insider attacks over the past three days?  And what is she prepared to tell Congress about this when she speaks with them this week?

MS. NULAND:  She has not – she spoke to President Karzai last on Wednesday, September 12th.  So she did speak to him after the Cairo and Benghazi incidents.  Among other things, I think we were concerned about just this kind of contagion, if you will.  There have been – certainly, ISAF and others have been in direct contact with him in recent days.

The other half of your question, Margaret?

QUESTION:  How – is she prepared to talk about how this changes the strategy in Afghanistan when she speaks to Congress this week?

MS. NULAND:  Well, she’s going to be talking, obviously, as I said yesterday, extensively about the security measures that we’ve taken, but also about the larger strategy that we are seeing extremists, we are seeing rejectionists, we are seeing those who aren’t succeeding in these newly democratic processes taking violent action.  And what conclusion does that bring us to?  That does not bring us to the conclusion that we ought to withdraw or roll back.  On the contrary, it brings us to the conclusion that we have to redouble our efforts to support those who are trying to build democratic, pluralistic, open societies with universal rights, where grievances can be expressed through the ballot box, they can be expressed peacefully, and where violence is not the answer to the problems that people see.

QUESTION:  As a follow-up to that --

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- can you talk a little bit about how these insider attacks and decisions that the DOD are making in terms of engagement, militarily, are affecting the diplomatic relations in terms of the handover in Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I’m going to let the Defense Department talk to some of the tactical decisions that they’ve made on the ground.  We are obviously working hand-in-glove with our colleagues at the Pentagon to work with the Afghans to make the necessary adjustments in the context of the green-on-blue.  So we are their partners, but the military has the lead on this one.

QUESTION:  But how does that affect – I know the military has the lead, but how do the decisions that they’re making affect the decisions that the State Department makes in terms of your own diplomacy, in terms of USAID, in terms of various negotiations?

MS. NULAND:  I’m not sure I’m seeing the connection that you are seeing.  This is a question of how we deploy together with the Afghans on the battlefield, what missions they do, what missions we do together.  Obviously, our diplomatic efforts, our efforts to support the civilian reform processes, continue apace. 

QUESTION:  So the two aren’t connected at all, is what you’re saying.

MS. NULAND:  Well as I said, in the context of the military working with the Afghans to address some of these green-on-blues, we’re their supporting player on the diplomatic side.

QUESTION:  Just a quick follow-up. 

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  As far as the designation of the Haqqani Network, is it going to help to end the violence or terrorism in Afghanistan, or do you have to take more measures in order to be ready in the next – like, 2014 and beyond?

MS. NULAND:  Well, when we complete this, the step will have an impact in the sense that it will allow us to better go after Haqqani money in the United States, to support the efforts of others who are looking to squeeze their funding.  But fundamentally, this has to be dealt with where the Haqqanis plot and plan, right.

QUESTION:  Libya?

MS. NULAND:  Yep.

QUESTION:  The Independent reports that there was a Bureau of Diplomatic Security alert in the region two days before the Benghazi attack.  Can you confirm that?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t have anything on that.  I haven’t heard that or seen that one.

QUESTION:  Not necessarily Libya-specific, but in the region.

MS. NULAND:  Well, first of all, I don’t think I would speak about specific security warnings one way or the other.  But I have to say to you, that I haven’t heard that.  Obviously, as we have been saying for several days, all of these things are going to be looked at in the context of the FBI investigation.

QUESTION:  You also said there was no contract with a private security firm in Libya, and yet apparently some British security guards were hired.  Is that your way of saying you didn’t contract with a firm but you did hire individual security guards?

MS. NULAND:  Thank you for that, because there was an error in what I said.  The external security, external armed security, as we have been saying, outside of the perimeter, was fully handled by the Libyan side.  There was no contract – contracting out of that.  There was a group called Blue Mountain Group, which is a private security company with permits to operate in Libya.  They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening the cars, that kind of thing. 

Please. 

QUESTION:  Just to clarify, they were contracted by the U.S. State Department or another agency – Blue Mountain?

MS. NULAND:  They were contracted by the Department. 

QUESTION:  And Blue Mountain is a British company?

MS. NULAND:  I’m going to let them self-identify on that front.  But the people who were hired were Libyans.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Changing topic --

QUESTION:  No, no.  So that’s the first thing that has been wrong – I don’t know if there are others – from what we were told initially.  Is there anything else that you’ve discovered that was incorrect?

MS. NULAND:  There’s nothing else that I have that needs correcting at the moment, Matt.  I’ll let you know. 

Please.

QUESTION:  Any more information on the investigation, on the timeline?  There continues to be some question about whether the protests had all but dissipated before the attack in Benghazi began, or whether or not the protest was robust and ongoing and this attack at least used it for cover.  And there also continue to be, frankly, some apparent differences between the characterization here that it was a coordinated attack and Ambassador Rice’s assertion that it basically kind of grew out of the protest.

MS. NULAND:  Well, on your last point, I spoke to this extensively yesterday, making clear that Ambassador Rice was speaking on behalf of the government with regard to our initial assessments.  I don’t have any more details beyond those that we’ve already shared, and I don’t expect to because I think all of the information is going to go to the FBI for their investigation, and when they’re completed, then we’ll have more information. 

QUESTION:  The idea that it grew – that the protest may have been used as cover, can you say whether or not the protest had basically dissipated when the attacks began?

MS. NULAND:  I personally have no more information than what I’ve given you, and I don’t think that we as a government will be talking about these details until the FBI has completed its investigation so that we don’t prejudice it.

QUESTION:  Do you know if any of these Blue Mountain Group guards were killed or injured?

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

QUESTION:  Do you know how many there were?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t.  I don’t think we would probably talk about the number.  But again, you’re talking about the guys who run things like the metal detectors and that kind of thing, not the external security with the weapons.

QUESTION:  Right.  No, I understand.  I’m concerned because we were told not once, not twice, numerous times over, that there were no security contractors involved in --

MS. NULAND:  Well, that was the information I had, and it turned out not to be correct.

QUESTION:  No, I understand.  But I – but now my concern is that there is – that there may be other information that we were given before that is incorrect and that you are just – or that the Administration is just going to let stand out there incorrect because of this – the guise of the FBI investigation.  And I think it’s inappropriate and irresponsible if there – if you are aware of information that was given to us that is incorrect to let it stand out there as being incorrect.  And so I just want to make sure that when you say that you’re not aware, are you absolutely sure that right now, to the best of your knowledge, nothing else that was told to us on Wednesday or whenever that background call was, there’s nothing else in that call that was incorrect?  Or are you – or is there stuff that’s incorrect and you’re just not going to tell us what it is because of the investigation?

MS. NULAND:  Here’s what I’m going to say to you:  We spoke in those initial days to our initial assessment, as did Ambassador Rice.  Any further information that we are, as a government, unearthing now is going to go into the FBI investigation, and they will make a complete report when they are finished.  They are not going to be giving it to me and therefore I am not going to be privy to it to give it to you.  I’m not even sure they’re going to give it to this Department until they’re completed.

So I know that is frustrating, but I have made a personal pledge to you, Matt, that if I find errors in what I have said that I can share with you and fix, I will, as I did today.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So that – this was one.

MS. NULAND:  This was one.

QUESTION:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Can you give us some context on why that happened?  I mean, is it very unusual?  Is this the only instance where a firm like this is contracted who then subcontract to local security guards?

MS. NULAND:  My understanding is that this particular function, the hiring of local guards to do things like operate the access equipment, screen cars, et cetera, is not uncommon to use a contractor to find the best local people for that function.

QUESTION:  And is this a company that you have worked with in the past or are still currently working with, or was this the first time that you worked with them?

MS. NULAND:  They are still under contract pending a full assessment of the security situation is what I have here.  Whether we've worked with them elsewhere, I think the issue in this particular case was that they had Libyan permits to do this kind of hiring. 

So – Said.

QUESTION:  And you have said that Libyans lost their lives in this attack.  Were members of the security firm – were victims members of the security firm?

MS. NULAND:  I do not know the answer.  I think that will also come forward in the investigation.

QUESTION:  Can I just ask --

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  I’m not begrudging the fact that you gave – that you told us this, but why – what's different about this bit of information than something about the timeline?  How is this okay to correct --

MS. NULAND:  Because I had --

QUESTION:  -- and other things might not be.

MS. NULAND:  I had inaccurate information, which I gave to you, which has since been corrected.  So there were people who saw the transcript who were not involved in the original assembling of information for me who came forward and said, no, we need to fix this.  And so we have.

QUESTION:  All right.  And just to the best of your knowledge at this moment, there is nothing else that needs to be corrected?

MS. NULAND:  There is not to my knowledge.  But again, my knowledge is not going to be complete until there's an investigation.

QUESTION:  Yesterday, you said the investigation would be joint between both the Libyans and the United States.  Is it --

MS. NULAND:  I think I didn’t quite say that, Dana.  What I said --

QUESTION:  You said --

MS. NULAND:  What I said was that the Libyans have an investigation.  We also have an open FBI investigation, and they are going to collaborate with each other.  And we now have FBI in Libya starting that process.

QUESTION:  And so, as the Libyans are – they’ve been saying a lot of things and giving, sort of, frequent updates on what they view as their investigation.  Are we going to hear anything from here about that or --

MS. NULAND:  You're not going to hear anything from here unless my guidance changes.  Whether you’re going to hear anything from the FBI, I think that’s their decision.  We – when we open a criminal investigation in the United States, generally, we don’t brief out in pieces until the investigation is complete so we don’t prejudice the outcome.  I have to respect their process, obviously.

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up on that.  In instances like this where you have the FBI investigating in a foreign country, does the FBI operate as a completely independent entity?  Or do they operate sort of under State Department rules and regulations?

MS. NULAND:  Well, obviously, they come like any visiting interagency team operating with the support of the embassy platform.  They will work themselves with the Libyans, but they'll obviously seek the Embassy's political support, guidance, et cetera, to the extent that they need it, and we'll hear back here in Washington if they need any further support from us.

QUESTION:  And so they don’t – for instance, they don’t sort of become temporary embassy personnel or anything like that?

MS. NULAND:  Well, they are what we call TDY-ers in-country -- temporary duty personnel in-county of the U.S. Government if that makes sense.  Generally, they're expected to obviously abide by the same rules of the nation and respect for our protocols as other agencies. 

QUESTION:  And you mentioned that they do have staff now in Libya --

MS. NULAND:  That's my --

QUESTION:  -- (inaudible) that's in Benghazi.  Do you know when they arrived there?

MS. NULAND:  I'm going to send you to them for more details.  My understanding is that they have now -- they are now there.

QUESTION:  Can you --

QUESTION:  Just the last one on this, had the question not been asked, how were you going to relate this correction to us?

MS. NULAND:  I was going to talk to you about it afterwards on background.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Is there a commitment from the U.S. Administration that this – the findings of this investigation will be made public?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t know the answer to that.  I think we need to do the investigation first.  Clearly, there's going to be a lot of interest, but I think we're – it's premature to talk about whether any, all, or most will be able to be made public.  We have to see what we find, I would guess.  But I'll talk to the – I would send you to the FBI for their protocols on these things.

QUESTION:   Can we move on?

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  Let's move on, please.

QUESTION:  Today, the UN representative to the West Bank, Mr. Robert Serry, gave a very dismal picture of the situation in the West Bank and prospects for peace.  He talks about an increased set of transgressions.  He talked about deficits that the Authority has, that they have no hope of, let's say, rectifying anytime soon.  Has there been any discussion, one, with the United Nations directly on this issue, or, two, with the Palestinian Authority on this?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as you know, Robert Serry is the opposite number of our envoy, David Hale.  They have a very close relationship.  They work together in the Quartet at their level, so obviously we share perspective on what we are seeing, and we certainly share the concerns about the assistance situation in the Palestinian territories.  We’ve been pretty clear about that.

QUESTION:  So as the Palestinians gear up to participate in the 67th UNGA, is there any kind of ongoing discussions to remedy that situation?

MS. NULAND:  To – well, obviously, our conversation is primarily with the Congress, where we still have $200 million that we would like to be able to get to the Palestinian Authority.  But we will also, as we do every year, the Secretary will talk to regional states who have traditionally been contributors to the Palestinian Authority to encourage them to do as much as they can, as we do with Europeans as well.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I was talking to the Palestinian – the PLO representative in town.  And he was saying that the commitments made by the Arab countries have not been forthcoming, but they’re also puzzled at the fact that the $200 – I’m sorry – the $200 million that had been already approved, it’s still held up somehow for whatever reason.  Do you have any more information on that?

MS. NULAND:  Well, we’ve talked about this before.  We have some – we have Congressional concerns that we’re trying to work through.

QUESTION:  Although it is approved, there are still some Congressional concern?

MS. NULAND:  Correct. 

QUESTION:  Okay.  And finally, is the Secretary planning any meetings with the Palestinian Authority President Abbas next week (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND:  Well, we’re still working on her full schedule.  When I have things to announce, I will, but I don’t have anything to announce at the moment.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION:  Yes, please, Egypt?

MS. NULAND:  Egypt, yeah.

QUESTION:  It was reported today that negotiations or the talks about the stimulus or the economic program package is – are on hold.  Is it a right characterization this, or what’s going on?

MS. NULAND:  I have to say that we found that particular piece of reporting pretty puzzling, given the fact that I’m quoted in the story from yesterday making clear how absolutely committed we are to moving forward to support reform and economic restoration in Egypt.  So we are continuing to work with the Congress on these issues.  As you know, we had the delegation led by Under Secretary Hormats about two weeks ago to talk to the Egyptian side about the needs that they see.  Then we had Deputy Secretary Nides in Egypt with the business delegation.  And we’re also looking at how we support prosperity and growth there.

So as I said yesterday, particularly in the light of this kind of extremist and spoiler activity that wants to sort of turn back the clock now, we think it is absolutely essential that we support those forces in Egypt who want to build a peaceful, stable, democratic country with prosperity restored, jobs for people, et cetera.  And that’s what the assistance that the President has pledged and that we are working with the Hill on is for.

QUESTION:  So when you say puzzling, I mean is this a diplomatic --

MS. NULAND:  Sorry?

QUESTION:  When you say puzzling, is this --

MS. NULAND:  As in wrong.  (Laughter.)  As in wrong. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) the talks on – have not been delayed then (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND:  They have not.

QUESTION:  So the – my next question is regarding – so you talk about negotiations or talks are going to be done within the coming days.  Still these talks are on?

MS. NULAND:  Well, we are working with the Congress now on how we will move forward on this.  We’ve talked to – we’ve made an initial budget request.  As you know, we have worked with the Egyptians on precisely how we see breaking down this support.  And now we have to work with the Congress on ensuring we can move forward.

QUESTION:  One, is it not correct that members of Congress have expressed concern about this money?

MS. NULAND:  Well, obviously you’ve seen the press reporting that we’ve seen, which is why the Secretary is looking forward to having an opportunity to talk through these issues with members of Congress.

QUESTION:  All right.  And then secondly, there is still a certification requirement on this – on some of the – not the – perhaps not the debt relief, but on the aid.  Is that – that is correct, right?

MS. NULAND:  Well, she made her waiver earlier. 

QUESTION:  Right.

MS. NULAND:  There are notification requirements, but those go up --

QUESTION:  But there’s – okay.  So all the certifications that are needed for this money have already been done?

MS. NULAND:  To my knowledge, yes.  But if I didn’t get that right, we’ll get back to you.

QUESTION:  Because – I don’t know for sure, but can you check to see if it wasn’t for the last fiscal year and not --

MS. NULAND:  I think it was for FY12 is my understanding.  The ones that we made in March or April were for FY12.

QUESTION:  Right.  Which includes this?

MS. NULAND:  Correct.

QUESTION:  What’s the difference between certification and notification?

MS. NULAND:  The Secretary had certain requirements that the Congress put on last year, where she had to make certifications to them with regard to democracy progress, with regard to their commitment to their international obligations, including vis-à-vis Israel.  Those were the certifications that were made earlier in the spring.  Notification is when you tell the Congress how you intend to spend money that they’ve already agreed to.

QUESTION:  Could you quickly tell us what is the situation of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today?

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is open today.  I think we are – we even have – had visa services today.  Our consulate general in Alexandria is still closed.

Okay.  In the back.

QUESTION:  On Mexico, can I ask you something?

MS. NULAND:  You may, but the Secretary’s going to speak to it this afternoon, so I doubt I’m going to say anything very interesting.

QUESTION:  I know.  I just want to ask you, this meeting of the high-level group is in the context of some incidents that occur against U.S. personnel, linked to the consulate in Ciudad Juarez, the mother of agent Jaime Zapata, as well as the attack to another U.S. officials recently. Do you think the Mexico-U.S. relationship is mature enough to set aside these issues and handle those in a different way that doesn’t affect the rest of the complex agenda between both countries?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as you know, this is the third session of the High-Level Group, and precisely one of the reasons to establish this group was to be able to talk through our strategic approach to security, border issues, counternarcotics, et cetera, together, but also to be able to deal with these difficult incidents when they arise. 

QUESTION:  Victoria?

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Sorry, it got passed (inaudible).

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  Sorry.

QUESTION:  Can you offer anything on reports that Morsi has requested the release of the blind sheikh either officially, or are there talks regarding that going on?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as you know, early on – I think he was still a candidate – he made a public statement about it, which – we obviously made our own public statements about how we feel about that.  But to my knowledge, it hasn’t come up since. 

QUESTION:  A quick one:  I can sort of imagine what your answer might be, but I have to ask it anyway.  Mitt Romney’s comments today on the Israel-Palestine question – he says that it’s an impossible thing to resolve and that Palestinians don’t want peace.  Could you lay out just where you guys might differ on that score?

MS. NULAND:  You know that I don’t respond to campaign issues here.  I’m going to send you to the campaign for a direct response on the campaign.  Good try, though, Andy. 

Jo.

QUESTION:  Can you characterize, though, given that we’re going to go next week to UNGA, a year ago there was a very public demand by Mahmoud Abbas to have a Palestinian state.  There was a timetable that was set up for talks agreed to by the UN Quartet.  A year on and – well, nothing has happened.  Could you characterize how you see the state of the peace talks right now? 

MS. NULAND:  Well, as you know, we did work through a Quartet roadmap last year.  We had some initial success getting some direct talks going under the auspices of the Jordanians.  We then had an exchange of letters during the course of the winter.  We’ve spoken very clearly about the fact that we considered those positive steps and hoped that they would lead to direct talks, which is really the only way to solve that.  And we have been continuing to try to work towards that ever since, so we will continue to do so. 

QUESTION:  Do you see a commitment from both sides, from the Palestinians and from Israel, that they are serious about reaching a peace agreement? 

MS. NULAND:  Again, I’m not going to qualify this here.  We’re – you know what we’re continuing to do.  We’re continuing to support them and try to get them to talk to each other, and those efforts continue. 

QUESTION:  Well, haven’t both sides told you that they are committed to reaching a two--

MS. NULAND:  They have said that publicly.

QUESTION:  So isn’t that the answer to the question?  I mean, they tell you they are.

MS. NULAND:  I mean, they’ve obviously made public commitments, but only they can actually make the decisions.

Goyal.

QUESTION:  Burma?

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  So finally she’s here – Aung San Suu Kyi – and she was waiting for the last 20 years to visit the U.S. and I’m sure she wants her job back which she is supposed to be prime minister of Burma in 20 years ago.  My question is here that as she discussed with the Secretary and also she spoke today with the Secretary at the U.S. Institute of Peace across the street, what I’m asking you is that how U.S. is going to help her to have a free and fair election that she had won 20 years ago and that she can get back her life as the prime minister of Burma?

MS. NULAND:  Well, Goyal, you know that we had free, fair, parliamentary elections which gave her her seat back in parliament, and she is now very much an active parliamentarian of her government, and that is the – those are the auspices under which she is here as well as to receive the many, many awards that she has gotten over the years that she hasn’t been able to get.  She spoke herself about her work at the U.S. Institute of Peace this morning, so if you didn’t get a chance to see those remarks, I would encourage you to see them.

You know that the United States has been very supportive of the reform track in Burma.  We’ve been working hand-in-glove both with the Burmese Government, President Thein Sein, but also with Aung San Suu Kyi, on how we can encourage in a step-by-step way more progress and lifting our own restrictions as they make progress.  So she had a chance to talk through the progress that Burma has made this morning when she was with the Secretary and the role that she is playing in that.  They also talked about the work that still needs to be done – finishing the release of all political prisoners, the work with the ethnic minority groups to address their grievances and have lasting peace.  The meeting was, as it was the last time they met in Burma, very, very warm.  And we will continue to support the progress that Burma is making in a step-by-step way.

QUESTION:  One more just quick follow.  People of Burma still feels that they are not free under the current government.  And second, finally, what she’s asking the Secretary or what she asked the Secretary this morning really what she want or what her country needs, what kind of help from the U.S.? 

MS. NULAND:  Well, I just gave you a little bit of a read on that meeting.  I think she wants to ensure – and she’s talked about this – that our continued work together is done in a step-by-step fashion; that we are evaluating progress and responding to it, because she sees more work to be done, as do we.

QUESTION:  If I could follow on that, the Secretary in her opening remarks for Aung San Suu Kyi did lay out, as you said, some of the progress they’ve made, but she also was very specific about areas where they need to make further progress, including military contacts with North Korea --

MS. NULAND:  Right.  Yes, I left that off my list.  Thank you, Andy.

QUESTION:  -- the Rakhine state question.  Is it unreasonable to expect that no further steps would be taken on sanctions until some of these very specific issues are addressed to U.S. satisfaction?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as you know, we’ve made quite a bit of progress already in easing the sanctions that we have, allowing the U.S. investment to go in.  So again, we are going to do this in a measured way as we see progress.  And the Secretary did lay out the list which – thank you, Andy – does, of course, include concerns about continuing contact with North Korea.  So we will continue to watch that and make our decisions as we see more progress.

Please. 

QUESTION:  About China and Japan, the anti-Japan protest in China is getting bigger and getting worse, and many Japanese people and the shops and the factories are attacked, and there are many lootings and setting fire, a lot of violence in China against Japan.  Do you have any comment about that?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I spoke to this yesterday.  I spoke to our concern.  I spoke to our desire to see these two countries work this out directly.  Secretary Panetta is in Beijing now.  He will have some meetings tomorrow, and I’m sure he’ll be making the same points as well.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but this is not a territorial issue.  This is the issue of the violence, just like U.S. is facing in the Middle East and all around the world.

MS. NULAND:   I understand.  And I’ve said we have concerns.

Thanks very much.

QUESTION:  Victoria, last one?

MS. NULAND:   Oh.  Jo, one more?

QUESTION:  Sorry, last one very quickly.  There was reports that the Boko Haram spokesman in Nigeria has been killed.  Do you have any information on that? 

MS. NULAND:  I think I do.  Let me see what I have.  It looks like we are not able to confirm those reports at this time.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MS. NULAND:  Okay, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:54 p.m.)

DPB # 164

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - September 18, 2012]