Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 19, 2012


Index for Today's Briefing
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
    • U.S. Diplomatic Engagements on Gaza / Role of Egypt and Regional States in De-Escalation
    • Concern for Casualties on Both Sides
    • Israeli Right to Self-Defense
    • Safety and Security of U.S. Citizens / Operating Status of Embassies
  • BALKANS
    • National Reconciliation / The Hague Tribunal
  • DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO / RWANDA
    • Deteriorating Security and Humanitarian Crisis in Eastern DRC
    • Encourage Further Dialogue
  • SYRIA
    • Syria Opposition Coalition
    • Reports of Iranian-Syrian Pipeline / U.S. Sanctions
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Detention of Elton Mark McCabe
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Memorandum of Understanding on Detentions
  • JAPAN
    • American Service Personnel


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

12:55 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody, Thanksgiving week. As you know, the Secretary is still in Asia with the President. They’re in Cambodia today. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Gaza and Israel. One, I realize the White House read out or – it didn’t really read out but gave a list of the calls the Secretary’s made. Do you have anything to add to the list that they put out earlier, calls that she has made related to the situation?

MS. NULAND: They read out the same list that we also gave you yesterday. We sent out last evening to all of you a list of the diplomatic engagements that the Secretary has had on Gaza. As you know, the President’s also been active and been making phone calls, as has National Security Advisor Donilon. For a full list of all of those, I would refer you to the background briefing that Ben Rhodes gave from Cambodia about six hours ago, something like that.

But just to recap the Secretary’s calls, on Friday, as we discussed, she talked to Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, Jordanian King Abdullah. On Saturday, she talked on this subject to Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil after his visit to Gaza. She talked to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French Foreign Minister Fabius before their scheduled travel to the region today. She also talked to Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu and Qatari Prime Minister Hamid bin Jasim Al Thani. She has not made any additional calls yet today, but I think she stands ready to if she thinks that will be helpful.

QUESTION: And I didn’t hear, but maybe I missed it, any Palestinians listed in there?

MS. NULAND: She has not made any calls to President Abbas. As you know, David Hale --

QUESTION: Or anyone else?

MS. NULAND: Or – who do you have in mind to?

QUESTION: I don’t know. Anyone else in the Palestinian leadership?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. David Hale has been in touch with Palestinian authorities. As you know, he had a meeting with President Abbas not too long ago. He’s also been in touch. If we have specific calls to read out, I’ll let you know, Matt.

QUESTION: Do you know if anyone’s been in touch with the PA since Wednesday when David Hale saw Abbas in Switzerland?

MS. NULAND: I think we mentioned that our Consul General’s been in touch from Jerusalem. I don’t have any higher-level contacts to read out, but I will triple check after the briefing.

QUESTION: There is a sense, at least among some on the Hill, that the Egyptians are not doing enough in this situation to bring pressure to bear on Hamas to end the rocket attacks. Do you share that assessment?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that as you can tell from all of the intensive diplomacy that’s been going on, all of the countries involved – the phone calls that the Secretary, that the President, that Tom Donilon have been having – this is an intense period of international community, regional countries trying to work together to de-escalate the tensions. As we have said again and again, we want to see any leaders with influence use it to help the parties de-escalate. I don’t think it’s helpful from this podium for us to be getting into the details of those conversations or to be giving individual interlocutors a grade on how they are doing.

The Egyptians have been playing a leading role in trying to get this de-escalated. We’ve been supportive of those efforts. We’ve been in close contact with them at all levels – Morsi, Qandil, Amr, et cetera.

QUESTION: Sorry. Why is it not helpful to call out people who aren’t doing what you think they should?

MS. NULAND: I said it’s not helpful for us to be getting into an individual grading of the different efforts. We are encouraging Egyptians, Qataris, Turks, others to use the influence that they have with Hamas and with other extremist groups.

QUESTION: I’m not sure I understand why that’s not helpful, but I’ll leave that for another time. Do you know, is there anything in – that while the people on the Hill are venting their frustration with the Egyptians and saying that they better watch out, they better do what you want them to, or their aid is at risk, I’m not going to ask if it is or not, but I would – because of this – but I would like to know, is it – is there anything in the agreements that you have, or in the law as written by Congress, that says that aid to Egypt is at risk if they don’t do enough to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, or is it only related to domestic Egyptian policies and upholding the peace treaty with Israel?

MS. NULAND: Well, if you’re asking about the certifications that are required and that the Secretary has already made for this fiscal year with regard to Egypt, what’s written into the law requests certification with regard to upholding the peace treaty and with regard to making further progress on their democratic trajectory. So --

QUESTION: All right. So as far as you know, there’s nothing in there that says that if they don’t stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, there’s – I mean, there’s nothing in there that says that if they don’t do, that the aid is withheld? Or --

MS. NULAND: There’s no stipulation with regard to this issue --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: -- in legislation. However, as you know, when we want to appropriate money, we notify the Congress. And if the Congress has concerns, they let us know. And we are still working with them on the economic support funds that we want to get released.

Michel.

QUESTION: Toria.

MS. NULAND: Michel.

QUESTION: Do you have any details about the deal that Egypt and Turkey and Qatar are working on between Israel and Hamas?

MS. NULAND: We’re not, as I said, going to get into the details of the diplomacy. We are supportive of efforts by regional states to try to get this de-escalated. But I’m going to send you to those countries for more details on the plans that they’re working.

QUESTION: But are you aware that --

QUESTION: I’m wondering why the Secretary hasn’t managed yet to make time to speak to the Palestinian Authority on this. I mean, they would seem to be a key player in what is unfolding in the region.

MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve been in contact with the Palestinians. I think we make judgments as to her diplomacy based on the situation as we see it.

Said.

QUESTION: Are you aware, Victoria, of actually a deal that was handed over to the Israelis that stipulates a demand for Israel to stop assassinating Hamas leader and lift the blockade? Are you aware of that?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, I am not going to get into the details of the diplomacy that various actors are undertaking. I’m not going to give it a grade. I’m not going to evaluate from here our involvement with it. I think that’s not helpful to the process. We need a little bit a period of quiet diplomacy here to try to de-escalate this.

QUESTION: Okay. For the second day straight, the Israelis bombed a Shuruq media tower and killed and injured some people that are not affiliated with Hamas or Hamas militants. According to Protocol I, Article 79 of the Geneva Convention, that is a war crime. Do you concur?

MS. NULAND: Said, I am not going to comment on the specific ground situation beyond saying what we’ve been saying, which is we are concerned about civilian casualties on both sides. We want to see this situation de-escalated. We are working with parties, we are working with regional players on that.

QUESTION: Okay. But Gaza is fast sliding into a catastrophic humanitarian situation. Are you prepared to aid Gaza directly or to take some sort of urgent measures to alleviate the suffering, perhaps lifting the blockade?

MS. NULAND: The most important urgent matter is to de-escalate this conflict on both sides to – including the fact that Hamas is still firing rockets into Israel.

Please.

QUESTION: You talk about regional actors. Today, again, some of the top officials from Turkey have been kind of taking issue with your stance regarding the events in Gaza. You just mentioned that State Secretary – Secretary of State Clinton talked with the Foreign Minister – Turkish Foreign Minister. Would you be able to elaborate on how these talks going on with Turkish ally?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details of any of these conversations. It’s not helpful to the goal that we all have. I will say, though, as we said in the statement that we put out yesterday, in all of these conversations, the goal is the same, which is to try to de-escalate this dangerous conflict.

QUESTION: Turkish President Gul said that proportional – Israel is not using its force proportionally. Do you agree that? Do you see these proportional views?

MS. NULAND: Again, as I said in answer to Said, I am not going to get into the details of the ground situation here at all.

QUESTION: So you don’t want to say that you don’t agree with the Turks when they say that what Israel is doing constitutes acts of terrorism?

MS. NULAND: We are focused on an affirmative narrative of de-escalation on both sides. I am not going to get into “He said X and she said Y.” I’m just not going to do it here. And I’m also not going to go beyond what Ben Rhodes said in his background briefing just a few hours ago, which accurately, obviously, characterizes for the whole government where we are in our efforts.

QUESTION: How do you – this whole thing of saying nothing, I’m not sure I understand why you think that that’s helpful to the situation. You say that it would not be helpful for you to discuss any of your conversations, that quiet diplomacy is the way to de-escalate that. Well, you’ve been doing your quiet diplomacy now for almost a week. How’s it going so far?

MS. NULAND: We are working hard with the parties. We’re working hard with --

QUESTION: Hasn’t it occurred to anybody that maybe being less quiet might get more results, though? Squeaky wheel gets grease, that kind of thing?

MS. NULAND: I’ll let the --

QUESTION: You’re being silent while people are dying left and right.

MS. NULAND: Matt, we are being far from silent. The President has --

QUESTION: You’re not telling us anything about what you’re – when the Turks come out – when the leaders of Turkey come out and say that Israel is engaged in acts of terrorism and you refuse to say that you don’t agree with that – or maybe you do agree with it – that’s being silent.

MS. NULAND: Matt, we have made a decision that we need to engage in our diplomatic work diplomatically. We have been very, very clear about where we stand on this, which is that – which is --

QUESTION: And that’s because you don’t practice diplomacy from the podium? Is that what you’re getting back to?

MS. NULAND: We don’t practice diplomacy --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: -- from the podium. We have been very clear that Israel has a right of self-defense. We’ve been very clear that rockets continue to be fired and land on Israel. We’ve been very clear that we are working to try to get this conflict de-escalated. We have been very clear about our concern for the civilians and innocents on both sides who are getting caught in this, and that’s as --

QUESTION: And yet you won’t stick up for your ally, Israel, when the Turks, another one of your allies, say that they’re engaged in terrorism in Gaza?

MS. NULAND: We have been extremely clear about our concern for Israel’s security, about the fact that Israel has a right to self-defense, but I am not going to go further than that today, Matt.

QUESTION: Why can’t you say that you don’t agree with the Turks?

MS. NULAND: Because I’m not going to get into a public spitting match with allies on either side. We’re just not going to do that, okay?

QUESTION: And you think that that’s worse? A public spitting match with one of your allies is worse than hundreds of people dying every day?

MS. NULAND: I don’t understand the question here. There’s not a question here. You’re just looking for a fight. Let’s go.

Said.

QUESTION: No, no, no. The fight is already on.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Absolutely.

QUESTION: The fight’s going on over there.

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And you guys, by refusing to say anything about what you’re trying to do or refusing to say whether you agree or disagree with comments that are being made by your allies or others --

MS. NULAND: We --

QUESTION: -- that makes things worse, not better.

MS. NULAND: We, of course, agree that rhetorical attacks against Israel are not helpful at this moment.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Is that what you were looking for, Matt?

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you. Yes.

MS. NULAND: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) proportionality as well.

QUESTION: Toria, do you think that Gaza should be treated in isolation, let’s say, of the whole Palestinian issue? Or do you think that what is going on in Gaza places the issue back on the front burner, resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is not making anything easier if that’s what you’re asking, Said. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Mr. McCain, called to send a high-level diplomat, someone with the stature of former President Bill Clinton. Do you agree?

MS. NULAND: Said, I am not going to get into the details of the work that we’re trying to do to get this de-escalated.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you agree that maybe a high-level envoy should go and take the Middle East right on, so to speak?

MS. NULAND: I am – don’t have anything to announce or to share on anything along those lines at the moment.

I think we really should move on, because I’m really at the end of what I have to share here.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask about your – the conversations you’re having with Israel about this. Isn’t there – are you not at any point asking them to sort of maybe rein things in? There is an issue of proportionality here. I mean, I think we had something like 1,350 targets in Gaza have been struck by the Israelis as opposed to 570 rockets that were struck into southern Israel.

MS. NULAND: Again, I --

QUESTION: I mean, there is a difference there, isn’t – the difference there, but – and also about the technology that’s being used. Could you tell us whether the U.S. is asking Israel to at least have a proportionate response to these attacks?

MS. NULAND: Again, as I said at the outset, I’m not going to get into the details of any of these conversations. I’m sorry to frustrate you.

Please.

QUESTION: You might not answer this one either with things, but Hamas has been stockpiling Iranian missiles for a while now. And do you think Israel could be – the State Department – Israel using this conflict as an opportunity to see Hamas’s capabilities in, like, launching those rockets into Israel? Maybe eliminating them, seeing their strategies in case Israel later decides to strike Iranian nuclear sites?

MS. NULAND: It sounds like a question for Israel, not a question for us. Let’s move on, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I have something on the topic, but maybe you’ll address it. What precautionary measures are being put in place for U.S. personnel inside Israel? Do we have any safety measures? What if there needs to be an evacuation? Can you talk a little bit about that?

MS. NULAND: Let me give you a little bit on all of that. Our embassies in Tel Aviv and in Cairo, our consulate in Jerusalem, have released security messages encouraging U.S. citizens to exercise caution and to take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and security in light of the ongoing violence. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv is operating with essential staffing only at the moment, and limited consular services. Our consulate general in Jerusalem is limiting official travel, and our Embassy in Cairo is open and operating normally.

QUESTION: Can we move from war?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just – well, this has to do with Iraq and Lebanon, and you know – you will have seen or known for a while, probably, that Treasury put Mr. Daqduq on the OFAC list today. And I just – in light of that, I’m wondering if there have been any further conversations since he arrived in Beirut with the Lebanese about him and his status there.

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we have been in contact with the Lebanese, as I mentioned on Friday. I don’t have anything new to report there. But as you say, Treasury has now put him on the designation list.

Anything, please? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Hi, my name is (inaudible); I am correspondent of Tanjug News Agency from Serbia. My question is on Friday’s Hague Tribunal verdict. I’ve seen that you said something about that, but I just want to show you this photo. This is the photo of the Croatian soccer – a member of the Croatian soccer team, and from Saturday’s. He saluted the two generals with the Nazi salute in Germany.

My question is: I haven’t seen in your statement that you mentioned anything about the victims and reconciliation. We heard so many times from the U.S. officials that they are talking about that. And my question is: Do you think that justice is served in Hague with this verdict? And do you have any message to 250,000 victims, Serbs who were forced to leave Croatia 17 years ago and now they found that nobody’s guilty for that, even they have to see the pictures like that?

Thank you.

MS. NULAND: We spoke to this issue and the verdict on Friday. I don’t have anything to add to what we said on Friday. You know that we have, for more than a decade, supported processes of national reconciliation across the Balkans and full accounting including the process that The Hague Tribunal is involved in.

Moving on?

QUESTION: Well I – I was – I’m sorry – as you will recall, what you said on Friday was that you had not – the United States had not submitted briefs on – to add – had not taken any position on --

MS. NULAND: We did not submit briefs in this case.

QUESTION: Right. But --

MS. NULAND: Right. We have in other cases.

QUESTION: So, could you take the question as to why? Because --

MS. NULAND: I will take the question. I’m going to guess it’s because we didn’t have any evidence of our own to contribute, one way or the other, in these cases.

QUESTION: Is it --

MS. NULAND: That’s usually why we don’t submit briefs.

QUESTION: Okay. Or is it because you just didn’t care? That’s --

MS. NULAND: No, I think it’s generally because we don’t any information to add to what the court already knows, but I will take it.

Please, Scott.

QUESTION: Can we go to Congo?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: So, the M23 rebels are approaching Goma. They gave Kinshasa a 24-hour deadline to negotiate, Kinshasa says they won’t because it’s Rwandans behind him. We went through this at the UNGA in New York, so what can you tell us about what’s going on?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously deeply troubled by the rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis in the Eastern D.R.C. There are now some 60,000 people displaced just in the past three days, 500,000 since January, and threats to hundreds of thousands more. We’re also particularly appalled by the incredible spike in violence and M23’s decision to renew its military campaign and its violent and illegal activities.

We have been extremely active in the last couple of weeks, including over the weekend, to try to engage regional leaders and encourage a solution to this crisis. As you know, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman visited the D.R.C. and Rwanda and Uganda in early November. Over the weekend, she spoke again to Rwandan President Kagame, and she will speak with President Kabila and Ugandan President Musevini in coming hours or days. Assistant Secretary Carson has also been on the phone with D.R.C. and Rwandan foreign and defense ministers, and our Embassy has been in very close touch. It’s an extremely dangerous and worrying situation.

QUESTION: Is it your opinion that the Rwandan authorities are doing everything that they can to contribute to the resolution of this?

MS. NULAND: Well we are encouraging, obviously, D.R.C. military and MONUSCO to do everything they can, first and foremost, to protect the population in Goma and prevent a further deterioration in the security situation there. As you know, when the Secretary was at the UNGA, she sat with both Kabila and Kagame together in an effort to try to encourage further dialogue. We will continue to do that. We need all sides to do what they can to roll back the M23 offensive and to protect civilians.

QUESTION: France is putting forward a resolution at the UN Security Council today asking for greater sanctions against the M23. Is this something the United States supports?

MS. NULAND: Well, I knew that there was going to be a D.R.C. conversation at the UN starting at around noon. I don’t know that we have had a chance to review the French proposal, but why don’t I send you to our people at the UN. I think we’re very much on the same page in terms of wanting to work together to see the conflict end here.

Michel.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: A group of extremist Islamist factions has rejected the new opposition coalition and formed an Islamic state in Aleppo. How do you view this development?

MS. NULAND: Well, given that the Syrian Opposition Coalition has supported a platform of pluralism, a platform of tolerance, a platform that respects the rights of Syrians of all stripes, it’s not surprising to us that those who want an extremist state or a heavily Islamist state in Syria have taken issue with this. We would note that this stands in sharp contrast to the 500-plus positive demonstrations in support of the Syrian Opposition Coalition that have taken place across Syria in the last couple of days.

As the Syrian Opposition Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib reiterated last week, what’s most important is that we have a Syria where all populations can coexist, a nation of tolerance. That’s what we support. That’s what we seek.

QUESTION: Victoria, on the Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco, do you have any idea when is it going to be and why it keeps getting put off?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have, as you know, supported a next meeting in Morocco at an appropriate time. I don’t have anything to announce here, but --

QUESTION: They don’t have a date set.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a --

QUESTION: You don’t know what time it is?

MS. NULAND: The Moroccans will be the hosts. We’ll leave it to them to announce it at the right moment.

QUESTION: The French again – sorry – have also said that they’re looking at the idea of welcoming an ambassador from this new opposition alliance. Is that something that the United States would concur with?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have anything to announce yet. As you know, the French have gone a step further than we have in terms of their recognition stance. You know where we are, that we see this group as a legitimate representative of the people. We are encouraging the S-O-C to take the next steps to strengthen its organizational structure, to demonstrate its effective outreach to groups on the ground, and we are continuing to look at what’s appropriate in terms of our diplomatic engagement with them.

QUESTION: I think the Europeans are also going to meet soon, or shortly, on whether to lift their own embargo on supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. Where are we at on that in the United States?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any change of U.S. policy to announce today.

QUESTION: Does what you just said about the SOC – does that mean that --

MS. NULAND: I think you like it calling it the SOC, right?

QUESTION: I think it’s appropriate.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You call the BOG the BOG, right?

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: That would be the Board of Governors of the IAEA.

You said that you’re encouraging the SOC, the S-O-C, to take steps to do other – so does that mean that any decision on – in terms of following France’s lead is still, in terms of recognizing them, is going to have to wait until you see more from them?

Is that what you were going to – is that the basic --

MS. NULAND: I think --

QUESTION: Or is it not inevitable that at some point, or is it not probable that at some point, you will recognize them, as you did the TNC?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to predict where we’re going to go. We’re obviously looking at this day by day, week by week. We’re getting to know them better. We’re encouraging them to make more progress. But we will see how things go over the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Well, I understand, but wasn’t the point of them forming this group to give you – and by you, I mean everyone, not just the United States – but to give you something to look for, look toward as either a transitional government or as a government in exile, at least the germ of that? Isn’t that the idea? I mean, wasn’t that created with the ultimate hoped-for goal that you would be able to recognize them as the legitimate representative? Or am I wrong on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is a process. They’ve made incredible progress at Doha. And they’re continuing to make progress, as I said, in terms of getting support from the population. These demonstrations that we saw over the weekend were a very, very good sign in terms of the traction that they’re gaining inside. They have more work to do organizationally, and we’ll just look at the progress that they make on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) time for Mouaz al-Khatib to come visit in Washington so you can get to know them a bit better here?

MS. NULAND: He hasn’t announced a visit yet.

Please.

QUESTION: Okay. There were clashes today in the north of Aleppo between the Syrian Kurdish PYD forces and the – some of the FSA factions. The tension is – it looks like reportedly growing. What’s your understanding the situation on the ground?

MS. NULAND: You mean among --

QUESTION: Between Kurds and the FSA --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any ground situation details to share today. Frankly, I hadn’t heard that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Victoria, do they have – is there, like, a trial period that – during which the coalition must prove its good deeds, whatever, after which you could recognize them? Is that what we have here?

MS. NULAND: I think we spoke pretty clearly last week, I’ve repeated it here today, the kind of continued progress we want to see. It’s very – one of the issues with the SNC was that they never developed the implementing structures for the commitments that they’d made to the Syrian people. That’s one of the things we want to see here, and as I said, for them to continue to gain traction inside.

QUESTION: There is no timeframe, is there? Like in three months, four months?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything particular to share. As I said, we’re looking at this day by day, week by week.

QUESTION: One more on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Iran has started building a $10 billion natural gas pipeline to Syria. How do you view this?

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen reports of this pipeline six or seven or ten or fifteen times before, and it never seems to materialize. We’re seeing media reports yet again, I guess as far as it’s bragging about this pipeline. I would simply say that the construction of any kind of an Iranian-Syrian pipeline could potentially raise sanctions issues under U.S. law on either Iran or Syria, including for international entities who might decide to participate in it either by financing or by construction.

But again, we’ve heard about this a lot and never seen it materialize.

QUESTION: Is that just on countries this pipeline will go through also?

MS. NULAND: Potentially. We have to see if it ever comes to fruition.

QUESTION: Well, we could potentially see sanctions issued on Iran or Syria? Is that what you just said?

MS. NULAND: Could raise sanctions --

QUESTION: Could I just ask --

MS. NULAND: -- sanctions issues under U.S. laws on Iran and Syria --

QUESTION: Oh, oh, oh, oh.

MS. NULAND: -- for international entities who participate.

QUESTION: Because I would just be curious as to what kind of sanctions you could possibly add to Iran or Syria.

MS. NULAND: No, no, no, no, no. We’re talking about --

QUESTION: I mean, are they in the North Korea thing where you’re going to – you just keep adding layer after layer even after --

MS. NULAND: No, the point here is that --

QUESTION: Other countries.

MS. NULAND: Others. Others who involve themselves in this could be sanctioned.

QUESTION: Any other layers in the pipeline? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Toria, Iran News Agency has said today that Iran has already begun construction of the first phase of the project involving a 225-kilometer stretch at an estimated cost of $3 billion. It looks like they’ve already started construction.

MS. NULAND: That may well be. I’m simply shouting out the point that if there are international entities who are planning to finance or participate in this, they need to be careful of U.S. sanctions.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up question about Turkish request to Patriot missiles. The U.S. Defense Secretary over the weekend said that Turkey and U.S. are working together and he expects that U.S. will help Turkey to provide this. Is there an update regarding Patriots today?

MS. NULAND: No, I think NATO Secretary General Rasmussen spoke for all of us in saying that we don’t yet have a Turkish formal request. We’ll obviously look at that when it comes in. But as we’ve been saying for months now, the defense of our ally Turkey is of paramount importance to us, and we will look very seriously at any request.

Scott.

QUESTION: Sudan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You had a statement earlier today expressing concern. I don’t remember what the word you had about after they had that border deal, then they haven’t really gotten to the specifics of that. Why is it? What is the view of the United States? What’s held up implementing this deal?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything particularly to add to the statement that we released earlier. It was a historic and important moment when they overcame their objections. They both need this oil to move. It’s essential to the economies of both countries. But there are historic suspicions here, and they need to overcome them on both sides and get this thing moving in the interest of both countries.

QUESTION: Can I ask a South Sudan question? There’s an American, Elton Mark McCabe, who is in detention in South Sudan. What can you tell us about him, his case? Has he had a consular visit?

MS. NULAND: Well, we can confirm that Mr. McCabe was originally detained on October 14th by the South Sudan National Security Services. We learned of his arrest from a third party on the 15th and we finally got consular access on the 19th of October. We pressed the South Sudanese to move him into local police custody, which they finally did on October 29th. The local police released him and then the NSS picked him up again. So we’ve raised this case at the highest levels of the South Sudanese Government, urging that he be granted due process as stipulated under Sudan’s transitional constitution. We have been in to see him regularly, including at the level of our ambassador, and we’re going to continue to provide consular assistance and follow his case. But we remain concerned about the circumstances of his arrest, the fact that we weren’t notified in a timely manner, and to insist on due process in this case for our American citizen.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Can you confirm a report that – on Myanmar – USAID will provide $170 million aid to Myanmar?

MS. NULAND: The President announced it in his speech at the university yesterday.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Today, President Karzai is saying that the United States has breached the agreement on transferring full control of Bagram prison to Afghan authority. Could you just fill us in on where you are with that and whether this is, in fact, true whether – he says they haven’t got full control yet.

MS. NULAND: Well, we are committed to fulfilling the commitments that we made under the Memorandum of Understanding on Detentions. This was signed in March and it contains reciprocal commitments to provide for the security of Afghan citizens, the ANSF, coalition forces, by keeping captured enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield. We do have a number of cases that we are continuing to work through with the Afghan Government to ensure that commitments are kept on both sides, and we will work through those diligently. And we are confident that we’re going to find a solution, but we, as I said, still have a number of cases that we’re working through.

QUESTION: They’ve broke their side of the agreement then?

MS. NULAND: Again, we have to ensure that reciprocal commitments are met, and we’re working through the cases.

QUESTION: Have you got any kind of timeline about when you think this will all be dealt with?

MS. NULAND: Again, we are committed to trying to get through it, but it has to be done right.

QUESTION: Are the issues that these prisoners – so to break it down into simple terms, the issue is that you fear that these prisoners will just be released back into the public, and whereas you, the United States, still believes that they present some kind of threat?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into the details because the circumstances are different in different cases, but we need to ensure as we finish this process of releasing all of the prisoners into Afghan custody that both sides are fulfilling the full intent and spirit of the memorandum that we signed.

QUESTION: But the problem is some of them might just be released?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into the details because they’re different in each case, but we do need to ensure that as we do this we are keeping captured enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield.

QUESTION: Have you an idea of how many numbers you’re talking about prisoners that are --

MS. NULAND: I don’t have numbers here in front of me. There are still a number of them that need to be worked through.

Please.

QUESTION: Japan?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Sunday, Japanese police arrested U.S. Marine First Lieutenant Thomas Chanquet for trespassing in Okinawa. This is now the third case since the alleged rape back on October 16th. Do you have any comment on this incident? And specifically, how will this affect U.S. realignment in the area?

MS. NULAND: I hadn’t heard about this trespassing case. I would send you to U.S. Forces Japan for a comment. We are committed, as you know, to upholding the law and to the appropriate behavior of all of our American service personnel in Japan, and we work through these issues as they come up. We try to do it under the terms of our agreement, and we remain committed to the timetable that we’ve been working through with the Government of Japan on realignment.

Please, Scott.

QUESTION: Ivory Coast?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Human Rights Watch is out today with a report alleging that the Ouattara government is rounding up Gbagbo supporters – not necessarily militants, but just some of his political supporters. As you’ll recall, Secretary Clinton and President Ouattara spoke in Abidjan about the Ouattara government’s reconciliation program.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to look at the Human Rights Watch report? And do you believe that President Ouattara’s general reconciliation program is on track?

MS. NULAND: Scott, let me take that one. I had not seen the Human Rights report before coming down, and we’ll see if we have any comment in response.

Please.

QUESTION: Question with – regarding Benghazi. Mike Rogers said yesterday that the Benghazi attack talking points were reviewed by a deputy committee of senior officials. And I was wondering, what involvement would the State Department have with that? And if so, would they be career diplomats or political appointees?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any comment for you on that one way or the other. I, frankly, can’t speak to that at all. I think the CIA may have some comment later today, or the DNI may have some comment later today, with regard to the timeline on the talking points.

QUESTION: And the Benghazi complex is completely closed now? There is no diplomatic presence --

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: -- American diplomat in Benghazi?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Catherine.

QUESTION: You took a question on Friday on Alan Gross. I don’t think I saw anything. Do you have --

MS. NULAND: That’s our bad. We’ll get back to you today, Catherine. Sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: All right.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. Yeah, that was my question. That wasn’t the only one that was not – that was taken and then not answered.

MS. NULAND: Oh, what else did we --

QUESTION: Honduras.

MS. NULAND: On Honduras. We’re falling down on the job.

QUESTION: But on the Alan Gross lawsuit, which I find it very hard to believe that three days later you couldn’t come up with: I’m sorry. We can’t comment because it’s a pending legal matter --

MS. NULAND: Yeah. No, that one we do have the answer to, which is that it is a pending legal matter, so we’re going to send you to Justice, unfortunately. Yeah. That one I had forgotten we did have an answer to, but if we didn’t put it out, we should have.

QUESTION: And Honduras?

MS. NULAND: Honduras – let me go kick the cats and find out what happened there. Okay?

Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:32 p.m.)

DPB # 196

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - November 19, 2012]