Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 8, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • LIBYA
    • FBI Lead on Investigation
    • U.S. in Communication with Libyan Officials on Safety and Security
    • Ambassador Walles in the U.S. for Consultations
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • President Karzai's Visit / Afghanistan's Progress
    • U.S. Assistance
  • SYRIA
    • Three Bs Meeting Status
    • Ambassador Ford's Consultations in Jordan
    • Assad's Proposals / U.S. in Direct Consultations with the Opposition
  • IRAQ
    • Demonstrations / Encourage Dialogue between Stakeholders
    • Position on Petroleum Trade Remains Unchanged
  • PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
    • Ambassador Hale's Meetings
  • D.P.R.K.
    • Missile Launch / Security Council Consultations Continue
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Call with Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida / Upcoming Meeting
    • Secretary's Call with Korean Foreign Minister Kim
    • Secretary's Schedule
    • Secretary's Commitment to Testify on Benghazi
  • MALI
    • Northern Mali / Tensions / Movement of Extremist Groups / Concerns about Border Controls
  • RUSSIA
    • Status of Pending Adoptions
  • GREECE / CYPRUS
    • Energy Arrangements
  • CAUCASUS
    • Pipelines
  • VENEZUELA
    • Succession Situation / Call for Peaceful Discussions
  • CHINA
    • People's Aspirations for More Freedom / U.S. Supports Freedom of the Media, Freedom of Expression


TRANSCRIPT:

This video is available on YouTube with closed captions.

12:43 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Tuesday, everyone. I have nothing at the top, so why don’t we let this side of the room start the briefing?

QUESTION: Can we start with Tunisia perhaps, then Libya, Benghazi? I believe the only suspect who’s so far being held for the attack in Benghazi was ordered released overnight by the courts in Tunisia because of a lack of evidence. I wondered whether the State Department is in agreement with this, what your viewpoint was on that.

MS. NULAND: Well, Jo, we’ve obviously seen the same press reports that you have seen. I think you know that throughout the FBI’s investigation of the Benghazi attacks, we’ve been referring you to the FBI for any details on this case, and we will do that again today.

QUESTION: But have you had any submissions to Tunisia about whether you think it’s right or wrong or –

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to the FBI because they have the lead on all of these issues.

QUESTION: But he wasn’t released by the FBI.

QUESTION: He was released by –

QUESTION: I mean, he was released by a foreign government, and you’re the agency that deals with foreign governments, right? Or have you ceded that to the FBI?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to the FBI because they, as you know, are pursuing all of the aspects of this case, and they are also working with all of the foreign governments on the case.

QUESTION: But it said that it’s a restricted release. What is that? Or a monitored release.

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to send you to the FBI for more details on the conversations that they may or may not have had.

QUESTION: I don’t understand. What does that mean? Like, he’s under house arrest or you know where he is at all times? Does he have, like, a bracelet on his arm? What’s –

MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to the Tunisians, then, on that one if it’s some aspect of their law.

QUESTION: The FBI does not handle international diplomacy, and so I think you’re well equipped from this podium to answer the question of whether or not U.S. diplomats have been in touch with Tunisian diplomats regarding this matter.

MS. NULAND: The FBI has the lead on the Benghazi investigation --

QUESTION: On the criminal investigation.

MS. NULAND: -- to the degree, and they are working with governments appropriately. I think you know that they’ve had a team in Libya. They also have contacts with other governments as necessary, so I’m going to send you to them. I know that’s frustrating for you all, but they also have a public affairs operation, so I would send you to them. We are not going to be commenting on this case at all from here.

QUESTION: More generally then, are you in touch with the authorities in Libya about some way forward on this investigation? I mean, not just the criminal side of things, but whether it’s going to be deemed to be safe to reopen the U.S. mission in Benghazi again and where they sort of see that going forward?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we are in touch with Libyan officials on all aspects of safety and security of our diplomatic facility, of our own posture there. As you know, for many months, we’ve been talking to Libya about our willingness to support efforts that they may have on their own – strengthening their own internal security structures on the police side, on integrating the militias, all those kinds of things. They have not yet availed themselves of some of these offers that we have made. We have not had any discussions or any internal deliberations about reopening Benghazi.

QUESTION: Have you called in the Tunisian Ambassador to Washington to the State Department?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no. This is – as I said, the FBI has the lead on this.

QUESTION: Would the United States request, in this case from the government concerned, that he not be allowed to travel?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said –

QUESTION: Or any agency?

MS. NULAND: -- with regard to any aspect of this case, I’m going to send you to the FBI.

Jill.

QUESTION: Toria, did I hear correctly? You said there are no deliberations about reopening the mission in Benghazi?

MS. NULAND: Not at this stage. Not now.

QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, that’s – but all that will be there will be the Embassy and no facility whatsoever in Benghazi?

MS. NULAND: We are operating from our Embassy in Tripoli. Officers serving in Tripoli obviously can travel around Libya as appropriate. But we do not have any discussions underway at the moment about reopening a presence in Benghazi, a permanent presence in Benghazi.

QUESTION: What’s the feeling in the State Department about the progress in this case? I mean, obviously Ambassador Stevens was one of your own. It’s been four months now and counting since the attack. There’s nobody who’s been charged in this case. There were promises made from the President – to the Secretary that people would be held accountable and justice would be served and would be seen to be served by the American people. It must be incredibly frustrating from the point of view of the Department not to have progressed any further.

MS. NULAND: The President has committed that we will see justice in this case. We have confidence that we will see justice in this case. But he FBI has the lead. They have to do this right. It is their business, and we support them in that business. I’m going to send you to them on the status of the case.

Please.

QUESTION: Question. On the public schedule today, I believe it said the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia was in the building. Is that issue of Ali Harzi, of the 26 year-old jailed person linked to the Benghazi attack, is that in any way coming up in those conversations at State today with the U.S. Ambassador?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Walles is home for consultations this week. He’s seeing a variety of people here in the building, and he’s also seeing folks interagency, as our ambassadors always do when they come home. He will discuss the full range of issues that he is engaged with the Tunisian Government on, but I’m obviously not going to get into the details of American discussions with Americans.

QUESTION: But would he –

QUESTION: Do you expect he’ll meet with the FBI?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m sure if they need to see him, they have an opportunity to do that either here or there.

QUESTION: But would it be on the table or in the portfolio at all for him to discuss this matter? Or is he allowed to touch this part of the FBI investigation?

MS. NULAND: What do you mean “allowed?” I mean, obviously, the point –

QUESTION: Well, when – you’re saying it’s a matter for the FBI.

MS. NULAND: My point is that the FBI is on – is in the lead on the investigation. They will do any public speaking to this investigation, but obviously, our ambassadors in the field who need to be involved are involved, and there’s nothing that would preclude that from being the case. We’re just not going to speak about this case publicly from here.

QUESTION: And Toria, just to make sure, then, he’s on, in effect, kind of home leave when ambassadors come back to the mother ship here. He’s not here specifically for the Benghazi investigation, et cetera; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is he had some holiday leave here in the States, and before going back to Tunis is doing some consultations, as a number of our ambassadors are.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: I’d like to talk about the U.S.-Afghan relationship in advance of the upcoming meeting with the President of Afghanistan. I guess most broadly, just to start off, what do we expect to be on the table in these meetings, these discussions?

MS. NULAND: James, I believe that the White House has announced that they’re doing a background call later today on President Karzai’s visit. They’re going to take the lead in setting the stage for the visit. So I’m going to allow them to go ahead and do that. But I think you know the full range of issues that we work with President Karzai on, on the security side, on the political side, on the economic side, regional issues. So, all of those will be obviously on the table, but I’m going to let the White House lead.

QUESTION: Looking backwards then, Hamid Karzai has been in power for over 10 years. Has he acquitted himself well in those 10 years in terms of Afghanistan’s progress toward democracy, its economy, its reliance on the poppy trade? What’s his legacy been so far?

MS. NULAND: Well, first to remind that he is the twice-elected President of Afghanistan. I think we have been clear that we believe that Afghanistan has made considerable progress over the last 10 years, and particularly if you compare it to the country that it was on September 11th, 2001. It is now a democratic country with an elected government with human rights for all. Obviously, like all transitioning democracies, there are a huge number of challenges. There are security challenges, there are political challenges, there are economic challenges.

As you know, the United States is deeply invested with our international partners in supporting and helping Afghanistan as it continues to try to move forward on all of those fronts, and that’s what this visit is going to be about. We have upcoming elections in Afghanistan in 2014, the next stage in their political development. We have an intensive conversation underway about continuing to develop and improve the economic support that we give to the Government of Afghanistan, and we have a security conversation that we have to have, as we’ve been clear about, about what the enduring U.S. and NATO presence might be after 2014 and how the Afghans are doing meeting their goals of being able to secure themselves after 2014. So all those issues will be on the table.

QUESTION: Again, just sort of in a historical context, Americans have spent a lot of blood and a lot of treasure with respect to all of the efforts that you just described. What should our engagement in Afghanistan over the past 10 years tell us about the scope and the limits of American influence, or the – America’s ability to influence events overseas in a place like Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: I think that’s a massive question for a longer conversation, James, which I’m prepared to have, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for the podium today.

Said.

QUESTION: Yes, change topics?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Just one --

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry.

MS. NULAND: Still --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Embassy of Afghanistan pointed us towards State today when it came to announcing the President’s schedule. Can you give us any details, or is the White House now in charge of the schedule, too?

QUESTION: Or the FBI?

QUESTION: No. (Laughter.) That’s not my question. Just the schedule.

MS. NULAND: What I can tell you is about his – the schedule here at the State Department with regard to the meetings and – that President Karzai will have at the White House. Obviously, we’re going to let our colleagues at the White House speak to the details there. But as we put out in the Secretary’s weekly schedule, she expects to see President Karzai here on Thursday in the late afternoon for a meeting followed by a small dinner, and then his White House day is on Friday, is my understanding.

QUESTION: But he’s here in the U.S. today at a hospital. Is there any meeting involving the Secretary or staff on Wednesday?

MS. NULAND: She doesn’t see him until Thursday.

QUESTION: Until Thursday?

MS. NULAND: That’s her day with him, yeah.

QUESTION: Can I just ask on – I think one of the issues that President Karzai is – has been flagging is that he wants to ask for greater control of U.S. assistance and aid. You just mentioned that as one of the issues that’s on the table. I believe there’s some kind of move to try and channel the U.S. aid directly towards the Afghan coffers and not go through some kind of third party distribution center.

What’s the State Department’s feeling on that given that we have had a number of critical reports from the special administrator – inspector general for Afghanistan about waste and funds not ending up in the right place?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, historically, our support for – our economic support for Afghanistan has been channeled in a number of directions. Some of it goes to the Government of Afghanistan for distribution through its various programs that it manages. Some of it goes through NGOs and local governments, et cetera. So it’s been a mixed program. We are constantly reviewing the effectiveness of the program with the Afghan Government, with our folks on the ground, with local leaders to refine it.

One of the things that the Afghan Government has wanted for some time is for more of the U.S. Government assistance to go into federal government-administered programs. We have continued to evaluate what the appropriate percentage is. We’ve made a pledge that about 50 percent ought to go through the Afghan Government, but this has been tied to our expectation that the Afghan Government will, in turn, meet the commitments that it made at the Tokyo meetings earlier last year with regard to continuing to make progress on corruption, on transparency, on accountability. So that’s a conversation that we’ll have with President Karzai when he’s here, and probably also at the White House.

QUESTION: How concerned do you remain about the levels of corruption in Afghanistan, or has – do you feel that there’s been a genuine effort made to try and bring it under control?

MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this when the Secretary attended the Tokyo conference, that there has been progress made but there’s quite a bit more progress to be made. And so that’s a conversation that we’ll continue to have.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

QUESTION: Before we go to Syria, can we stay in the region real quick?

MS. NULAND: Stay on Afghanistan? Yeah, and Pakistan.

QUESTION: There was a reported drone strike along the Afghan-Pakistani border earlier today which is reported to have killed eight people, including an al-Qaida tactical trainer. Is there anything you can tell us about that?

MS. NULAND: We don’t talk about intelligence issues at all from this podium. Sorry to frustrate you again, James.

Please.

QUESTION: I’m not the frustrated character you portray me to be, by the way. I’m quite cheerful in our engagements.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Excellent, I’m glad of that.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to speak to Ambassador Ford after his meeting in Amman? And have they been able to sort of clarify what (inaudible) needs to be discussed in the three B meeting?

MS. NULAND: We do not yet have a date and venue set for the three Bs meeting. We are continuing to be open to a meeting whenever JSE Brahimi can get it scheduled with the Russians. So I don’t have anything to announce on that. My understanding was that Ambassador Ford had quite productive consultations in Jordan with the Government of Jordan, particularly on the refugee issues. As you know, there were some difficulties in the camps over the last 24 hours, trying to work together on those issues. And he did see a number of opposition figures.

He has asked me, because they are asking him, not to sort of be naming the various interlocutors that he’s seeing on the opposition side; just to say that he’s seeing a full range of folks.

QUESTION: But you believe that the meeting is still – will still happen and the Russians are still on board at least to attend that meeting?

MS. NULAND: It is our understanding that they are willing to have another meeting. They said so publicly before their holidays. But we haven’t yet scheduled it.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you believe that you are conveying the right message to both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and to the opposition? Because the talk of – the news reports coming out of the region that are suggesting that perhaps you’re moving away from sort of a decisive solution by the opposition into some sort of a negotiated settlement for the regime.

MS. NULAND: I think we were extremely clear over the weekend how we felt about the proposals that the Assad regime put forward, and we are, as you know, in direct consultations with the opposition about how to support Mr. Brahimi’s ideas and the Geneva plan.

Please.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Some Iraqi officials are blaming the U.S. for supporting the demonstrations in Iraq against the government. Do you have any reaction?

MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about this a couple of times last week. We are not taking a side in any of these internal difficulties inside Iraq. We want to see the Iraqi stakeholders sitting down, talking, meeting, discussing, finding constitutional solutions to the various grievances on all of these issues. Our role has simply been to try to encourage the various stakeholders to talk to each other.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Change topics again?

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MS. NULAND: On Iraq?

QUESTION: To Iraq. Turkey’s U.S. Ambassador Namik Tan has been giving some interviews and actually has been criticizing U.S. Government policy in regard to Kurdistan Regional – KRG, basically saying that U.S. has its own – U.S. energy companies, that those companies do not listen their government, but the U.S. Government is telling us this regarding the energy deals in KRG. What’s your response to that?

MS. NULAND: Our response is the same response in public and in private, both to American companies, in our conversations with the Turkish Government, that our position on petroleum trade from Iraq has been consistent and remains unchanged. We support a constitutional solution to the disputes over the management of Iraq’s hydrocarbon resources and we do not support oil exports, whether or not such trade is in barter from any part of Iraq, without the appropriate approval of Iraqi federal officials. This is what we tell our companies at every single turn, and we tell them that signing contracts for oil exploration or production with any region of Iraq without federal approval exposes these companies to potential legal risk.

QUESTION: Including U.S. companies, I believe?

MS. NULAND: This is our message to U.S. companies, first and foremost, yes.

Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to David Hale?

MS. NULAND: We can.

QUESTION: Yes. Could you update us on the status of the meeting between Palestinian Authority President Abbas or the newly declared Palestinian state President Abbas and David Hale?

MS. NULAND: He – I’m going to apologize to you, Said, because I don’t have what I should have had from him. He, as I mentioned, saw the Israelis last night, and today is his day in Ramallah, and I don’t yet have anything back from him.

QUESTION: So it is Ramallah, not in Amman? I heard that it may have been changed because of weather. Are you aware of that change?

MS. NULAND: I think you are right that he is seeing President Abbas – President Abbas is in Amman and therefore he is able to see him there.

QUESTION: Right. So – but that is because of weather and not because of any political reason?

MS. NULAND: No, I think that – my understanding is that President Abbas was scheduled to be in Amman and that’s where he is going to see him.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. But I will endeavor to have something for you by tomorrow. I apologize.

Jill.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Today is Kim Jung-un’s 30th birthday.

MS. NULAND: I heard that.

QUESTION: Are you planning on sending him any greeting, or do you have any comments on his propitious --

MS. NULAND: I’m personally not planning on it, no.

QUESTION: Is there any update from New York on reaction to – on any next steps in terms of what they are – of the response to the missile launch?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to our mission in New York, but my understanding is that consultations continue among the permanent members of the Security Council on an appropriate resolution in response to the North Korean launch. Ambassador Rice, I think, is going to see the press later today. She may have more to say on where they are.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, have Governor Richardson and Mr. Schmidt been in touch with U.S. officials since they touched down in Pyongyang?

MS. NULAND: I do not believe that they have been. If that is incorrect, we’ll get back to you.

Please, still on DPRK?

QUESTION: Japan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. On Japan or on --

QUESTION: Yeah, Japan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I ask Japanese Government just announced the Foreign Minister will visit here and have a meeting with Secretary Clinton middle of this month. Can I have more details?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Secretary Clinton called her new Japanese counterpart this morning, Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida. She congratulated him on their electoral victory, and she invited him to come to Washington on Friday, January 18th and he accepted. And we expect to see him a week from Friday here. They obviously also reviewed the full range of bilateral and regional issues.

While I am reading out her phone calls, let me also advise that she spoke to Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kim this morning as well. She congratulated him on the successful elections in the ROK. She noted, as she did with Foreign Minister Kishida, that Assistant Secretary Campbell is going to be traveling. I think he leaves over the weekend, and he’ll be in both Tokyo and Seoul earlier in the week and then home in time for the Kishida visit at the end of the week.

QUESTION: This weekend?

MS. NULAND: He is going to travel this coming weekend. He’ll be in Tokyo and Seoul – I don’t know in what order – early next week.

QUESTION: What is he going to discuss with --

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s a chance for him to consult with both of these governments after their election, obviously with the Japanese in advance of the visit here and on the Korean side in advance of the inauguration.

QUESTION: Will Secretary discuss with Japanese Minister about Senkaku issue here?

MS. NULAND: That issue did come up in the phone call. The Secretary reiterated our longstanding position on this and again encouraged that these issues be discussed through dialogue and calm on all sides.

QUESTION: First, did the topic of the reports of the Japanese Government possibly reviewing the so-called Kono Statement come up in the Secretary’s call today with the Japanese Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: Not in that kind of specificity, but obviously in the context of the need to manage conversations with neighbors in a – through dialogue, et cetera, and to have those conversations get off to a good start.

QUESTION: And did – so in making that general point, this was one of the issues she was trying to make it in conjunction with, even if it wasn’t raised by – with specificity, as you said?

MS. NULAND: The Kono Statement you’re – you’re talking about with regard to borders and all that kind of thing? Maybe I’m talking about the wrong word.

QUESTION: This is the so-called comfort women one, I believe.

MS. NULAND: Oh, I’m sorry. No, that issue did not come up today. No.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you expect the Secretary --

MS. NULAND: But we did speak to it here yesterday or the day before. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Do you expect Assistant Secretary Campbell to raise that issue on his trip?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know, but we’ll get you some readout if he does.

QUESTION: Toria, do you have other details about the Secretary’s day besides the calls and her meetings at the White House? And what is the second meeting on the schedule today?

MS. NULAND: So the – in the addition to the calls she made this morning, she’s doing some internal meetings today. She has her regularly scheduled lunch with National Security Advisor Donilon and Secretary of Defense Panetta. She’s probably in that lunch as we speak. And then there is another interagency meeting later this evening, one of the regular meetings at her level.

QUESTION: And is anything (inaudible) for tomorrow, and particularly are we going to be on to actually see the Secretary at any public event tomorrow?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to announce beyond the Sunday schedule, but obviously we’re – she’s booking herself up as the days go. So if we have anything new tomorrow, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Has she spoken with Senator Kerry today, or is he in the building?

MS. NULAND: He is in the building today. He’s continuing to see State Department issue managers to read in and prepare for his hearings. I don’t know if they’ve spoken today. Frankly, Catherine, they’re speaking so frequently and sometimes informally that we’re not even keeping track at the moment.

QUESTION: Victoria, did you say – did you mention that President Karzai might come to this building and she might be meet with him here?

MS. NULAND: She’s seeing him on Thursday here.

QUESTION: Here. Okay.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: And any updates (inaudible) on the issue about when the Secretary could testify on Benghazi and when the confirmation hearing for Senator Kerry could be held?

MS. NULAND: We’re still working with the Hill on all of those things, but I think we talked in some detail yesterday about the expected timing. They’re not coming back to work – the committees are not – until after the inaugural.

QUESTION: What is the Department’s preferred sequence in those hearings? That the confirmation hearing should precede the Benghazi hearing, or vice versa?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we’re going to negotiate that here with you all. We’re working on it with the Hill to make sure that it’s appropriate for their needs and for ours. But as I said, the goal on our side is that we would have the Secretary able to testify, as she’s promised to do while she’s still sitting Secretary, but also have the confirmation hearing as quickly as appropriate after they come back in.

QUESTION: And just for the record, why is it important to the Secretary that her testimony on this matter should unfold while she is sitting Secretary?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that’s appropriate. That’s what the Hill seems to want, and that allows her to complete her obligations as Secretary while she’s Secretary. Makes sense.

QUESTION: Then this would have to be done rather quickly. In theory, you wouldn’t want to have a confirmed Secretary, next Secretary waiting around until this happens, right?

MS. NULAND: I think we are hopeful that we can work this all through very smoothly with the committees.

Please. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one more on that. Could you give us a little bit of detail about who you’re talking to on the Hill? There are two very disparate groups up there. Is it – and then there’s also the House and the Senate. Who are you talking to? I mean, is – the hearing is going to be before John Kerry’s committee, or it’s going to be before the House, or --

MS. NULAND: We talked a little bit about this yesterday, on the --

QUESTION: I know, and I wrote about it after you talked about it yesterday.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: But that’s why I’m asking. Who are you talking to on the Hill?

MS. NULAND: So with regard to the Secretary’s commitment to testify on Benghazi, I think the expectation is that she would be prepared to testify in both the House and the Senate. So we have to work out appropriate timing in both places. With regard to the confirmation hearing for Secretary-designate Kerry, that is always before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

QUESTION: Mali?

MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: The Mali Defense Minister today said that Jihadist elements have deployed on several points along the line separating the southern and northern part of the country. Do you have any information on this? And are you worried that the Islamists might try to advance further south in the country?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen this report. We’re obviously closely monitoring the movements of extremist groups in northern Mali. There was some clear repositioning between January 5th and 7th of armed extremist forces within some of the areas in northern Mali that they already controlled, sending some of their forces down to the southern end there. And we understand that there were some small skirmishes as well with the Malian army and extremist forces near the villages of Konna and along the front line of control there near Sevare and Douentza.

So tension has clearly increased and we are watching it very carefully even as we are working now with our international partners, including the European Union, the African Union, the ECOWAS states, to swiftly implement the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2085.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Jill.

QUESTION: Victoria, on this – on Mali.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any of the governments that – who are the governments that are supporting the Jihadists and these elements with arms and supplies and so on?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to share in this context in terms of government support. But clearly, as the Secretary has said before, the concern is support from AQIM and other supporters thereof.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because most of these weapons find their way to Mali from Libya. And the proliferation of arms that we have seen, that was distributed so largely by, let’s say, Qatar and other countries, Libya, finds its way to other places. And the same thing may happen in Syria. I mean, these kind of things, do you ever look at to see what could happen in the future for the proliferation of arms?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve made clear all along here that we have concerns about border controls in that whole region and that we have been working with the Government of Libya. We’ve been working with all of the neighboring states on border controls. We’d like to do even more. But as you know, groups like AQIM will gather this stuff from wherever they can get it.

Jill, did you have something?

QUESTION: Yeah, I was just wondering, since a lot of this happened over the holidays, the Russian adoption story, there were some children kind of – the phrase, “in the pipeline,” but they were being adopted. Is there any update on that? Like, what’s happening to those children?

MS. NULAND: Jill’s referring to the fact that we have, depending upon how you count, some 50 to 200 families who were in some stage of trying to adopt Russian children when the new law was put into place. We are continuing our conversations with the Russian Government. We would obviously like to see those adoptions be able to move forward. But we have now been informed by the Russian Government that they are going to formally suspend our agreement. But we’re going to continue to try to work on these pipeline cases. It’s really quite tragic, as you can imagine, for the families and for the children.

QUESTION: Is it not the case – I believe I’ve read that in some cases, the children whose adoptions were pending had actually gotten to know the families that hoped to adopt them. Is that not correct?

MS. NULAND: It is obviously the case. I’ve got – I had my numbers wrong. I’m just looking more carefully here. Our preliminary estimates are that there are approximately 500 to a thousand families at various stages of adoption. So this affects a number of children, and some of them, you’ve seen some of the stories in the – that have been reported about past contact and bonding, et cetera.

QUESTION: And what --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just a small thing. When were you told about the suspension? Was that immediately after the law was signed into – the legislation was signed into law, or was it more recently than that?

MS. NULAND: We received notification from the Russian Government of their intention to suspend the agreement sometime just after the New Year.

Let me, in the context of this pipeline of children who were in the process of adoption, just take this opportunity to remind Americans out there that we have a special website for American families who are in some stage of adopting Russian children to notify us of those cases so that we have a full picture, and that is www.adoption.state.gov. So you can contact us and register your case on that website.

Moving on. Please.

QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on Greece. According to many reports in Europe, the U.S. Government has reservations regarding interest by Russia to buy a Greek company. The name of the company is DEPA. It is the public gas corporation of Greece. Do you have a comment on this or an answer on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s obviously a sovereign decision for Greece, as it would be for any country around the world, what kinds of energy arrangements it wants to make on a commercial basis. In the case of Greece, they’ve obviously got to abide by their own domestic laws, and they’ve got to abide by EU regulations. What we do counsel countries everywhere is to have diverse sources of supply for their national energy needs so that they can’t be held hostage.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? What is the U.S. Government position on this energy game in the Mediterranean? As you know, the Israelis are cooperating with Cyprus and Greece; the Russians setting up in the Mediterranean already; the Turk – Turkey’s complaining because of all these American companies are in the Mediterranean cooperating with Cyprus and Israel. What is your position on this game that they are playing there?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we support open and transparent commercial discussions and negotiations. If you’re asking me about the Cyprus situation specifically, is that what you’re asking?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: As we’ve long said, we support Cyprus’s right to explore for energy in its offshore areas. In that context, of course, we strongly support the Cypriot-led negotiating process conducted under the UN’s good offices to try to reunify the island in a bizonal/bicommunal federation. And we continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between the communities in the context of an overall solution.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Greece for one second?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure I’m clear on something. Your comment about how you always encourage countries to have a diversity of energy supplies so that they can’t be held hostage – that was meant as a general comment; it wasn’t meant to suggest that you’re particularly fearful that the Russians would hold the Greeks hostage if they succeeded in buying this?

MS. NULAND: It’s a general comment with regard to our policy anywhere in the world.

Please, Scott. You’ve been patient.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee critical of what it determined was the lack of State Department involvement on the Caucasus pipelines. Then-Senator Lugar said that he was expecting that State would be more involved, especially in that Nabucco-West pipeline. As you know, there are two competing pipelines there. Do you have a view on that, specifically the criticism that the State Department has not been sufficiently involved in that?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen the report, so we’ll take a look at that and we’ll get you a more formal response. But I think you know that before we went to Azerbaijan, Ambassador Morningstar had as his virtual full-time job working on diversity of energy opportunities, particularly in the Caucasus, and longtime advocate of Nabucco. And then those responsibilities have moved to Ambassador Pascual’s bureau now, and he remains extremely active with all of the countries in the region. But let me see if I’ve got anything more specific in response to the criticisms that you cited, Scott.

QUESTION: I arrived late, so did you talk about Venezuela at all?

MS. NULAND: We have not talked about Venezuela yet.

QUESTION: Do you have a position on whether – on the possibility of President Chavez not being able to attend his inauguration on Thursday? There are some in the opposition in Venezuela who are saying that would be a constitutional breach if the date were changed or other arrangements were made.

MS. NULAND: We have over the course of the last week or so talked in general about the succession situation in Venezuela. Let me reiterate our foundational point, which is that this is an issue for Venezuelans to decide, and it – they need to do it in a manner that includes all the voices in the discussion. So it needs to be a broad-based discussion and it needs to be decided in a manner that is free, fair, transparent, is seen as ensuring a level political playing field in Venezuela.

QUESTION: And you have concerns that that is not taking place right now with how it is being decided, the constitutional process?

MS. NULAND: Again, we are watching the discussion among Venezuelans. Our concern is that all voices be heard.

QUESTION: Is the United States monitoring his status of his health?

MS. NULAND: Well, without – I mean, obviously we are, as we would be for anybody suffering what he is suffering, concerned for his health and wishing a speedy recovery. But in terms of any specific, internal information that we have, I don’t have anything to share here.

QUESTION: Is it at least a concern that Thursday could prove a violent day on the streets with calls, I believe, from both the opposition and Chavez supporters for, sort of, demonstrations?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think anybody would caution that this discussion needs to happen peacefully and that there needs to be no resort to violence, no excuse for violence on any side.

QUESTION: But the Embassy, for instance, isn’t putting out any specific warnings perhaps to Americans to avoid going out and about in Caracas on --

MS. NULAND: We haven’t yet, but we are closely monitoring the discussion among Venezuelans and hoping it will remain peaceful.

In the back, please.

QUESTION: Yes, may I ask, China?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Still on Latin America? Can we just do one more on Latin America?

MS. NULAND: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry. Regarding a little-reported piece of legislation that President Obama signed on the 28th of December that will require the State Department to put together a report about Iran’s activities in Latin America and the activities of Hezbollah, or the purported activities of Hezbollah, the purported activities of Hezbollah in Latin America. Do you have any reaction to this legislation, first? And then can you tell us the process by which such a report would be compiled? Who’s going to be working on it? When could it be expected to be done?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one, Guy, and get back to you, because I, frankly, don’t have the information I need here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: China, please.

QUESTION: Yesterday you were asked about anti-censorship protests surrounding a Chinese media outlet Southern Weekly. And you called the Chinese Government to take note on that. As Voice of America reported today, the rally of the protestors and people who think – whose supporters are still going on up to Tuesday. I just wonder do you have any more details to add on. How has the consulate in Guangzhou followed the development?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything specific to give you from how our consulate in Guangzhou is covering it. Obviously, we are all watching with interest as the Chinese people make their views known to their own government, and we will all watch how the government takes this into account. It’s not surprising that as the country grows more prosperous, more successful, that people’s aspirations to have more freedom grow as well. So it’ll be interesting to watch.

QUESTION: Do you think this is a test of the tolerance of the – how the Chinese new media put out with the grassroots call for reforms?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we support freedom of the media, freedom of expression everywhere around the world, including in China. And we believe that censorship of the media is incompatible with China’s own aspirations to build a modern, information-based economy and society. As I said, as people become richer, they want to have the ability to speak freely. So it’s obviously up to the Chinese Government to make its own assessments about those things, but we obviously stand on the side of free expression and free media everywhere in the world.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all.

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

DPB # 5

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - January 8, 2013]