Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 7, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry to Hold Bilateral Meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Baird
    • Keystone XL Timing
  • IRAN
    • P-5+1 Process / Upcoming Talks in Almaty
    • Arrest of Journalists
  • TURKEY
    • Rule of Law / Human Rights / Free Expression
  • IRAN
    • Swift Case / Sanctions
  • SYRIA
    • Organization of the Syrian Opposition Coalition
    • Condemnation of Shelling in Damascus Neighborhoods
  • SOUTH KOREA
    • Korean Delegation to Meet with State Department Officials
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Implementation of Sanctions
  • TUNISIA
    • Condemnation of the Assassination of Chokri Belaid
  • CHINA
    • Chinese Accusations Against Voice of America
    • Concerns over Human Rights / Self-Immolations


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:04 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Thursday, everybody. Before we start, let us welcome our new colleague from The Boston Globe, Bryan Bender. We are obviously getting more attention in Massachusetts around here than we used to. Perhaps --

QUESTION: Why are you welcoming him?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know. Boston Globe has never been in the room before, to my knowledge, but anyway – (laughter).

QUESTION: I’ll tell Farah. She’ll be really thrilled to --

MS. NULAND: Oh, has she – but she doesn’t come to the room very often, right?

Anyway, let me do one little thing at the top, then we’ll go to what’s on your minds. Tomorrow, Secretary Kerry will hold his first bilateral meeting with a counterpart, with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who will be down here with us. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Baird will discuss ways to deepen cooperation across the extensive U.S.-Canada relationship, including in bilateral trade, investment, energy security and environmental stewardship, as well as securing and streamlining trade and travel at our shared border. They’ll also explore ways to strengthen North American cooperation and U.S.-Canadian collaboration in advancing human rights, democracy, security and good governance in the Americas and around the globe.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Can I – just about that, when you said energy, I assume that means that they will be discussing Keystone, the pipeline.

MS. NULAND: I have no doubt that that subject will come up, as it always does with our Canadian counterparts.

QUESTION: There was a letter sent today to the President by Congressman Royce and co-signed by, I don’t know, a whole host of others asking the President to drop his opposition to Keystone. And I was curious if – I know that you’ve said in the past that you don’t expect the EIS before the end of the first quarter, but this letter made me think that maybe there is something afoot. Is there? I mean, is the timeline still the same or is has it been – is there something expected sooner than the end of March?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any updates or changes to the timeline that we’ve talked about here.

QUESTION: All right. And then, is it your understanding that the President is actually opposed to the Keystone pipeline, as this letter says, urging him to drop his opposition? Is the Administration opposed to the Keystone pipeline?

MS. NULAND: You know where we are, which is that we have to complete the environmental study, then we have to finish --

QUESTION: No, but I mean the reason why it didn’t go through before was not because of Administration objections, was it? It was because the Governor of Nebraska wanted – or North Dakota or whatever it was – wanted it to be rerouted; isn’t that correct?

MS. NULAND: The reason that we weren’t able to complete the process and move on to a determination --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: -- of whether or not it was in the national interest to permit was that, in the middle of our deliberations here, one of the issues that came up were strong views in Nebraska about changes to the routing, which is part of the process that we go through to ensure that the states are interested.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: So then we had to, as we’ve been saying for quite a while here, go back, work with the state, work with the --

QUESTION: So can I just – is it correct that the Administration opposes the pipeline in principle?

MS. NULAND: The Administration has not made a determination, and we’re still in the process.

QUESTION: So it is not correct to say that – to say – to suggest that the Administration should drop its opposition? The Administration has no position at all at the moment; is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to go head to head with members of Congress, but our --

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. NULAND: We are in the process of reviewing the --

QUESTION: They go head to head with you guys all the time.

MS. NULAND: Only with you, Matt.

Okay, let’s move on.

QUESTION: Yeah, on the Canadian --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- Foreign Minister’s visit, did you say what time they’re going to meet?

MS. NULAND: It’s going to be in the afternoon tomorrow. We’ll put out the schedule.

QUESTION: So there will be a press availability?

MS. NULAND: The plan is that they will come out and address the press, yes.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary – Secretary Kerry likely to do, like, a stakeout out there?

MS. NULAND: The plan is that after the meeting, the two ministers will come out and address the press.

QUESTION: Is Caroline Kennedy going to be the next ambassador to Canada?

MS. NULAND: I have no personnel announcements to make here, but you know that the White House is responsible for making such announcements when the President is ready to nominate folks.

QUESTION: Would Secretary Kerry welcome that?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have anything on personnel to share today.

QUESTION: Can I just – is there anything significant about him – about Foreign Minister Baird being the first secretary – first colleague that the Secretary will see in person?

MS. NULAND: Yes, the Secretary felt very strongly that our Canadian neighbor and ally should be first, yes.

QUESTION: Okay, so this is – the Mexicans aren’t as important, or other countries?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’ll recall --

QUESTION: I know the phone calls --

MS. NULAND: No, no, no. You’ll recall that the last minister seen by --

QUESTION: Oh, I see. So this was choreographed.

MS. NULAND: -- Secretary Clinton was the Mexican Foreign Minister. So we are doing some nice bookends here in the hemisphere.

QUESTION: I got you.

MS. NULAND: You like that?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: Switch topics?

MS. NULAND: Please, James.

QUESTION: On Iran, in public comments, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected the idea of direct talks with the United States on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program. Your response?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we have been on this, that when Vice President Biden was in Munich he made clear that in the context of the P-5+1 process, including the upcoming talks in Almaty, that we would be open to consulting with the Iranians bilaterally. They’ve obviously got to make their own decisions how they want to proceed within the P-5+1 context. What I would certainly say is that we are, as I said yesterday, very much hoping that when we have this opportunity in a couple of weeks, that the Iranians will come prepared to discuss real substance. Whether they prefer to do that in the P-5 -- with all of us in the room, whether they prefer to do that with all of us in the room and an opportunity to see us bilaterally, we’re open to whatever can take this forward. What’s most important is that they come prepared to really engage on the substance.

QUESTION: The gist of his remarks, which I presume you saw, was that an offer to hold bilateral talks cannot logically coexist with the proponent of that offer simultaneously exerting greater and greater pressure on Iran through sanctions and other means. Is he wrong about that? Can those two things logically coexist?

MS. NULAND: Well, as the Iranians well know, the ball is in the Iranians’ own court. The burden of these sanctions could be eased if they made a decision to engage with us substantively. We’ve always said that action on the Iranian side would be matched by action on our side. So it’s really up to Iran to engage if it wants to see sanctions eased.

QUESTION: He actually said that talks cannot be held while you are threatening with the force of arms and holding a gun to their head. That’s what he said. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: As you know, we have made an offer to engage. We have had three rounds of talks already; this will be the fourth one. We’ve been disappointed that those have not yet resulted in real, concrete progress. We’ve also said that in the absence of progress, in the absence of movement, we would continue to ratchet up the international pressure. So as long as Iran fails to address the concerns of the international community, we’re going to have to continue to increase the pressure and isolate Iran internationally.

So again, this is really a choice that Iran’s leaders can make. They can have a better path for their people, they can have a better path for their nation, but they’ve got to make the choice to come clean and answer the international community’s concerns about their nuclear program. And that has yet to happen. We’ll have another opportunity for them to do that in Almaty.

QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick follow-up: Do you see this as a split between the ayatollahs and the political leadership? Because Salehi is actually quite welcoming and conciliatory; in fact, he told Ahmadinejad, he said that they’re open for talks. And so do you see, like, this may be the great divide?

MS. NULAND: Well, Said, that sounds like more of a question for the Iranians than for us. We’ve obviously seen reporting of ferment within the regime. But we are trying to make the case that if they really want sanctions relieved, if they really want a better relationship with the international community, they can come to Almaty and work with us to really explain what this nuclear program is about and to allay the concerns of the international community.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you used the expression “the clock is ticking” with respect to this effort.

MS. NULAND: I think I was channeling my inner Vice President Biden. I think he used a similar phrase. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That raises the even more frightening prospect that all of us have some inner Joe Biden, but we’ll come back to that. If the clock is truly ticking, it suggests that you know precisely the timelines you’re dealing with, at least how the United States proceeds. I mean, can you share with us what those timelines are and how much time is left on this ticking clock?

MS. NULAND: James, I don’t think that would be helpful to the diplomacy that we’re trying to do. As we said yesterday, we’re going to go to Almaty and we’re going to hope that this round the Iranians come ready to make concrete progress. I think we won’t be able to evaluate where we’re going and what the clock looks like until after we see if they actually come with some concrete ideas.

QUESTION: So the clock changes from day to day based on developments?

MS. NULAND: Again, the President’s been very clear that we’re prepared to talk, but not infinitely and not for the purpose of stalling or evading the real issues.

Please.

QUESTION: The Iranians say that they have captured a U.S. drone and are parading it on television. Any confirmation, comment? I mean, is this something they’re doing ahead of the talks to try to --

MS. NULAND: This is a new one today? We’ve had these stories on a --

QUESTION: No, this is the same drone. They say that they’ve downloaded the video from it and they’re --

MS. NULAND: This is the same one. Yeah. I think our brothers and sisters at the Pentagon have spoken to that one in recent weeks and months.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Toria, just a quick follow-up. You said yesterday that the sanctions culled out areas of nutrition and medicine and so on. Could you tell us how that is done in the sanctions regime?

MS. NULAND: As you probably know, Said, yesterday at around midday there was a backgrounding call led by the White House about these new sanctions where they talked extensively about the efforts that we’ve gone to to exempt from sanctions food, medicine, et cetera. The details, I would refer you to that transcript. They were pretty clear about how this works.

Please. Yeah. Still on Iran?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday you took a question from Scott regarding the detention of journalists in Iran recently.

MS. NULAND: Yes, thank you.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you have anything else or --

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Thank you for coming back to that one. We are deeply troubled by the Iranian regime’s arrest of more than a dozen journalists on spurious charges of spying and having contact with foreign news organizations. Such actions are clearly meant to stifle free expression, limit political debate, and close off the flow of information in advance of Iran’s June presidential elections. Iran’s attempts to suppress the ideas and the desires of their own people are not going to make those demands and desires disappear. So we call on the Iranian authorities to release those who have been arrested and to respect their country’s own laws and their citizens’ right to freedom of expression.

QUESTION: Are you doing anything internationally to put more pressure on them regarding this?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we’ve been clear about yesterday, there’s plenty of pressure on Iran at the moment.

Please.

QUESTION: Just our Special Envoy to the OIC --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: -- who attended the meetings in Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us whether or not he had any contact with Iranian officials?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, he only left yesterday and he has not had contact with Iranian officials.

Please.

QUESTION: China?

MS. NULAND: Sorry, China?

QUESTION: China. Yeah.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, Goyal.

QUESTION: Still on the --

MS. NULAND: Sorry. Still on Iran? Yeah.

QUESTION: -- on the OIC.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is he planning to have, like, any kind of an official appearance to speak or to address the conference?

MS. NULAND: I frankly don’t know the answer to that one, Said. Was it not in the Media Note that we put out, how he would be --

QUESTION: I failed to see that.

MS. NULAND: Let me – yeah. We put out a long Media Note on what his plans were. If you don’t find it there, we’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Okay. And their statement that is coming out calls for direct talks between the Government of Syria and the opposition without conditions. Are you aware of that?

MS. NULAND: I was not aware of that, but that would be in line with what Syrian Opposition Coalition President al-Khatib has been proposing, that the regime – that Assad authorize his Vice President to start engaging in talks.

QUESTION: And finally the Mufti of Al-Azhar, the major Islamic institution in Cairo, called on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop meddling in the Gulf countries and to help stop the bloodshed in Syria. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we would obviously share those concerns, as we’ve made clear in the last couple of days.

Please, Tolga.

QUESTION: On Turkey.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ambassador Ricciardone met with Turkish reporters this week and he criticized judicial system in Turkey and mentioned about the long detention of military officers, scholars, students, and then aftermath he faced the backlash from ruling party’s officials, and including the government officials. Can I have a comment on this issue? I mean, are you aware of what he said about the judicial system in Turkey, Mr. Ambassador’s comments?

MS. NULAND: Ambassador Ricciardone was simply repeating what Secretary Clinton had said, what I’m sure Secretary Kerry will say when he has a chance to speak publicly on these things, that it’s incumbent on Turkey’s friends and allies to continue to respectfully point out the importance of Turkey making steady progress in strengthening the rule of law, strengthening protection of human rights, and of protecting free expression for journalists, for bloggers. This is not new from us. We have been quite open, both publicly and privately, in Turkey.

QUESTION: He was in the Turkish Foreign Ministry today, Mr. Ambassador. And there – I mean, this meeting was scheduled before – I mean, after the bombing actually. But they discussed a range of issues, including his comments and also your comments about the Turkish-Israeli thing in – after the incident in Syria. How was the meeting? I mean, do you – can I – can we have a readout about the --

MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to our Embassy in Ankara. I mean, it was a meeting that the Ambassador had, and he’ll be better able to read it out. My understanding matches yours that they talked about the full range of issues, the continuing investigation into the attack and all of the many, many things that we do together with Turkey, including Syria, et cetera.

QUESTION: I was under the impression, from what you said yesterday or the day before, that you had raised the Erdogan and Davutoglu comments about Syria-Israel within the past 24 hours of when you --

MS. NULAND: Of when they happened.

QUESTION: -- of when you spoke. Well, right. So does this mean that this was – he went to address them again?

MS. NULAND: No. I think it was a continuation of the conversation that had been started. When I mentioned it to you, I was citing conversations that the Vice President had in Munich, that Assistant Secretary Gordon had, so obviously a number of days ago.

QUESTION: Okay. Not necessarily the Ambassador?

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: One more Iran, if I may. The European – a court in the European Union yesterday recommended that sanctions be lifted on Bank Saderat, one of Iran’s bank. Do you have a reaction on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we would obviously – you’re talking about the EU court’s decision on Swift?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Is that what you’re talking about?

QUESTION: It is on – as I understand it, Bank Saderat, sanctions against the – maybe it’s just the Swift aspect of things, I don’t know. But --

MS. NULAND: I have some comments on the Swift case, but I’m not sure whether that encompasses Saderat or not. With regard to the EU court’s decision in Swift, we would obviously view with concern any impediment to the continued robust EU application of sanctions on Iran. We work with the EU, as you know, regularly on these issues. But for specific questions about where the EU is on its sanctions policy, you’d obviously need to talk to them.

QUESTION: Still on Syria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We’re on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah, because you mentioned Syria already. Also the statement, the OIC statement, called on the coalition, Syrian Opposition Coalition, to speed up the process of forming a transitional government. Is this something that you support?

MS. NULAND: The OIC statement called on? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Yes, called on the Syrian Opposition Coalition to speed up the process of forming a transitional government. Is this something that you support?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this before here, Said. It’s obviously up to the SOC itself to decide how best to organize itself. What we are focused on is their continuing to articulate how best to implement the transition principles that they themselves have put forward, that we endorsed in Geneva, et cetera. The al-Khatib proposal of talks with Shara is one way to do that. So it’s really up to them how they want to organize themselves.

QUESTION: Okay. And I have a quick follow-up on – also on the point that you raised yesterday about the offices in New York and in Washington. Will these be information offices, or will they have some diplomatic activities?

MS. NULAND: They will not have diplomatic status at this stage. Got some feedback here. (Laughter.) I would refer you to the Syrians in terms of the actual functions and the things that they plan to do.

QUESTION: Okay. And Mr. Najib al-Ghadban, who was designated as their representative, and my understanding is he’s a U.S. citizen. Could a U.S. citizen be – have – be diplomatically credentialed in the United States, like maybe Michael Oren is, or something like this?

MS. NULAND: Again, there hasn’t been a proposal to accredit him diplomatically. That’s not what we’re talking about at this stage.

Please, Mr. Lee.

QUESTION: Hi. I have a couple of questions on Korea, first on South Korea.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Syria for just one second?

MS. NULAND: Sorry, can we just finish Syria?

QUESTION: Sure, no problem.

QUESTION: Thank you. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey testified earlier today before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he and Secretary Clinton advocated for the supply, the direct supply, of arms to the Syrian rebels but were rejected in that proposal by the White House. Can you shed any light on that internal dispute between the individual who was at that time your boss, Secretary Clinton, and the White House, and why this decision was rejected?

MS. NULAND: James, I think it’s not going to surprise you if I decline here at the podium to talk about internal policy deliberations of the government.

Yeah.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Can I just, before we leave Syria, just call attention to reports that we’re getting about intense clashes over the last two days in the Damascus neighborhoods of Hajar al-Aswad, Jobar, Zamalka? In response to an offensive launched by the armed opposition, we understand that the regime has once again resorted to indiscriminately shelling unarmed civilians who – including those who are not active participants in the hostilities. So we again condemn the regime’s indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilian areas. This violates every tenet of international law, and we call for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

QUESTION: Okay. Wait a second. So on that, you would not have a problem if they were just going after the rebels who were attacking them?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously you know where we are, which is to lay the preponderance of the blame for the violence in Syria and the violence in Damascus at the feet of the Assad regime. So we --

QUESTION: But you said that they were – that these attacks came in response to an offensive by the armed opposition.

MS. NULAND: I did, and --

QUESTION: So you’re not – are you saying that the Syrian military doesn’t have a right to defend itself, or are you saying that they don’t have --

MS. NULAND: I’m saying that they should not --

QUESTION: -- a right to defend themselves by indiscriminately killing civilians?

MS. NULAND: I’m saying that the indiscriminate killing of civilians is further to the horrific brutality of this regime.

QUESTION: And Hajar al-Aswad, which you just mentioned, is an area that is largely populated by Palestinian refugees. Would you support an effort by UNRWA or other agencies to ensure that aid and food and medicine and so on gets through to them?

MS. NULAND: We have supported such efforts, as you know, Said. In fact, we have a significant contribution around the world to humanitarian support for Palestinian refugees, and they have – that population has been a particular focus of the assistance that we give through UN agencies and through NGOs.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MS. NULAND: Please, poor old Mr. Lee’s been waiting yes.

QUESTION: Yes, okay.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Let me guess, it’s on Korea.

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Let me start with a question on South Korea. A high-level delegation dispatched by President-elect Park Geun-hye is in Washington and met with Under Secretary Wendy Sherman this morning. Do you have any readout to share with us?

MS. NULAND: Yes. As you say, a high-level delegation from the Republic of Korea led by Representative Lee Hahn-koo had very productive meetings this morning with Under Secretary Sherman. They are here on behalf of President-elect Park of Korea to discuss a range of bilateral issues, regional issues, global issues, in advance of the transition there to ensure continuity in our alliance. We also understand that they’ll have a meeting tomorrow with – that tomorrow they will meet with Secretary Kerry and with Deputy Secretary Burns.

QUESTION: So the meeting with Secretary Kerry will be a formal meeting in –

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that Deputy Secretary Burns had planned to see them, and Secretary Kerry has made clear that he’ll be there for some --

QUESTION: So perhaps he’ll drop by there?

MS. NULAND: He’ll be there for some of that meeting, yes.

QUESTION: And just one more on North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: I just saw a Japanese news agency report that the United States Government may be designating North Korea as a country of terrorism sponsoring – sponsoring terrorism.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to share for you on that, Mr. Lee. I’m sorry.

Please.

QUESTION: In the region --

QUESTION: On North Korea --

MS. NULAND: Can I go here, please? Yeah.

QUESTION: The Japanese have now protested formally to the Russian Government about a violation of their northern airspace, and the Russians have denied this. So I’m wondering, first, what’s your reaction to this incident, and have you – have the Japanese approached you about this at all?

MS. NULAND: I’ve seen press reporting on this. I refer you to the Japanese and Russian governments. I don’t have anything today.

Please.

QUESTION: The United States was reportedly pushing for the law to prohibit food aid to the North Korea. Can you comment on that?

MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I’m not sure where your information is coming from. That who is pushing for a prohibition of --

QUESTION: The U.S. was reportedly pushing to the law to prohibit food aid into the North Korea, that Harry – Senator Harry Reid, yesterday he mentioned about this prohibit for the North Koreans.

MS. NULAND: That Senator Reid is interested in prohibiting?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: I would refer you to his office, that it sounds like it’s an activity going on on the Hill.

Please, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Yes, Tunisia?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Just one more on North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Sorry, North Korea. Yeah.

QUESTION: All signs point toward the new nuclear test going off as they planned, and the UN and this building has said reaction will follow, but no sign indicates that the North Koreans are taking that seriously and showing no sign of response. I’m just wondering what makes you think this – the most recent UN resolution or the next one will have any effect.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, what we can do here is ensure that the Six Parties are unified in their response, as we did in crafting UN Security Council Resolution 2087. We can ensure that that’s not just a piece of paper, that those sanctions are implemented around the international community and in all of our member countries, which we are very much doing. And we can continue to make clear, all of us, publicly and privately, as we are, to the North – to the government of the DPRK that if they continue down this provocative path, there will be more, as it says in 2087.

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: -- question again? As I mentioned yesterday, South Korea and the United States is considering preemptive strikes to North Korea. And how is the United States position of these preemptive strikes against North Korea? Could the U.S. cooperate to South Korea or --

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we don’t take anything off the table. We never do. But we are focused on the path laid out in UN Security Council Resolution 2087, which is to continue to exert economic pressure if, in fact, the North Koreans don’t change their course.

Nicolas.

QUESTION: Thank you. Tunisia?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: The situation is deteriorating in Tunisia. Could you give us your assessment of the political crisis there, and do you have any plan for your American citizens and American facilities in Tunisia in terms of security and safety?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to share on a change of posture or a notice to Americans. Obviously we are watching the situation, as we said yesterday. We again condemn the assassination of Chokri Belaid, but we remain hopeful that Tunisia can realize the aspirations that their people fought for. There is no place for violence in Tunisia’s democracy. It won’t resolve the issues that Tunisians face, and it’s not an appropriate response to murder. It’s only going to bring more violence.

So we welcome steps that Tunisians are taking to maintain dialogue among them about their political future. It’s up to Tunisia’s leaders to decide how to take the country forward. But we also encourage Tunisia’s citizens, their political leaders, to continue to work together to find consensus so that the constitution can be completed quickly, to ensure that that constitution respects universal human rights and the will of the Tunisian people, and that they can develop a plan for early elections and determine a permanent government.

QUESTION: Do you regard the calling of a general strike for tomorrow as one of the kinds of steps that you’re advocating? As you know, such a strike has been called for tomorrow.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re obviously not going to dictate the political path in Tunisia. In the case of public demonstrations of discontent, what we will say about Tunisia is the same as we would say anywhere in the world: that those expressing their discontent should do so peacefully and that security forces should be responsible and exercise restraint.

QUESTION: Victoria?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on just – Hizb Ennahda, the ruling party in Tunisia, was engaged in incitement against Chokri Belaid before his assassination. Are they in any way complicit?

MS. NULAND: Again, what we have said is that we encourage and expect, as the Tunisian people do, that the government will do a full investigation. I’m obviously not going to preempt that investigation here.

Goyal.

QUESTION: China, Tibet?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Madam, it looks like that China is running away from the truth of what’s happening in Tibet, and Tibetans are now more and more putting themselves on fire or self-immolations. And now the Chinese media is accusing the U.S.-based VOA, Voice of America, and what they are saying is that American Government – supported by the U.S. Government, the VOA is behind all those what they are alleging that self-immolation by the Tibetans. Any comments on that? Because VOA, they have denied any allegations of the – by the Chinese Government.

MS. NULAND: Well, that’s what I was going to say, that VOA put out a very strong statement denying any involvement. I’ll refer you to Scott in the back of the room.

QUESTION: But what I’m – (laughter).

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, since the Secretary of State is the de facto or the ex – I don’t know what it’s called – the figurehead of the BBG --

MS. NULAND: Of the Broadcast Board of Governors.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you not have a – do you not have any additional comment from what VOA said? I mean, they can deny it all they want, but it seems like a rather scandalous thing to say to suggest that VOA is responsible for people setting themselves on fire.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously VOA has made clear that they were not involved, and we support VOA in that statement.

QUESTION: But do you know if this was – this subject has been raised with the Chinese at an official level? I mean, this is a – I mean, this is --

MS. NULAND: I expect that it will be.

QUESTION: Madam, can I just follow quickly? As far as your problem in Tibet is concerned, if U.S. has any roadmap for the Tibetan people as far as their – for their human rights and for their religious rights and freedom of the press in Tibet, like talking to India, U.S., and the Chinese. Any kind of – are you planning, or there should be now Dalai Lama is calling on the U.S. to help his people.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Goyal, in almost every encounter we have at a senior level with Chinese officials we raise our concerns about human rights in general, about Tibet specifically, and we urge the Chinese Government to engage in a substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representative without preconditions as a means of addressing the grievances that the people of Tibet have and to relieve tensions. And we continue to call on Chinese Government officials to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, and peacefully, without fear of retribution.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: James.

QUESTION: This is a kind of a broad subject, but I don’t think so broad that it would preclude you from responding or engaging it. Yesterday we saw, late last night, the President and the White House turn over these Department of Justice documents relating to the drone program, but only after lawmakers, including Democratic lawmakers, threatened to block nominations for key national security posts. There is a great uproar, as you know, right now over the drone program. This president was elected, in part, based on his criticism of the previous administration for its conduct of the war on terror. Is there a case to be made that this Administration in fact is conducting the war on terror in a less secretive, less lethal way, with less collateral damage to civilians abroad?

MS. NULAND: James, I think this subject, this basic set of questions, was addressed to my colleague Jay Carney at the White House today, and he gave a pretty full response and I don’t think I have anything to add here.

Scott, can we go to you?

QUESTION: Well, wait a second. Can I --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s not on that specifically. But I’m wondering if you have any comment about the report that came out this week from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which found that the number of deaths of children from airstrikes and attacks in Afghanistan doubled between 2010 and 2011, that hundreds of children have died in Afghanistan as the result of attacks and airstrikes by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, and that this is due, according to them, to a lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force.

MS. NULAND: I have not seen the report, Matt. Let me take the question and see if we have something to get back to you with.

Scott’s been patient --

QUESTION: I’m just following --

MS. NULAND: Goyal, Scott’s been patient in the back.

QUESTION: On Tibet.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Please, could you speak specifically to the recent arrest of 70 Tibetans by Chinese authorities?

MS. NULAND: I didn’t actually have information about a new round-up of Tibetans. I will look into that, obviously, but we are deeply concerned about the overall deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas, including not only the tragic self-immolations, but also that criminal laws have been used to deal with people who have associated with those people.

Please.

QUESTION: Going back to self-immolation – do you think – sorry.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Do you think the Tibetans’ self-immolation are results of foreign causes, or --

MS. NULAND: Are the result of?

QUESTION: Foreign forces, or foreign – caused by foreign media or foreign causes, or it’s a result of Chinese policy which the State Department has been calling the Chinese Government to review? Thank you.

MS. NULAND: I mean, obviously we can’t speak for the individuals who have taken these actions, but our concern is that there are deep grievances within the Tibetan population which are not being addressed openly and through dialogue by the Chinese Government.

Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: Did the issue came up when Secretary Kerry spoke to his Chinese counterpart yesterday?

MS. NULAND: General issues of working well together across the spectrum, including in the human rights sphere, came up. I don’t have any more detail for you. As I said yesterday, there will be – these were introductory calls. There will be plenty of time to go through the whole agenda.

Scott.

QUESTION: Can I change topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the Serbian Prime Minister’s meeting today with Deputy Secretary Burns?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one too.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: I think it was at midday. I didn’t have a readout before I came down.

Please.

QUESTION: After --

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. After the Secretary’s phone call with the Chinese Foreign Minister, the Chinese Foreign Ministry put out an announcement in which they emphasize both agreed to continue with the high-level exchange, high-level meeting. One of the meetings is a strategic and economic dialogue --

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and under which there is a specific bilateral dialogue on human rights.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: I just wonder what is the status of the human rights dialogue between China and the United States? What’s the timeline?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we have had a robust dialogue. Assistant Secretary Posner has led that for this Department. I think we’ve had three rounds in the last two years, including Chinese human rights stakeholders coming here, lawyers, et cetera. So it’s been a very important aspect of the strategic and economic dialogue that we’ve had. I don’t have any information to share at the moment about whether there are going to be any changes to that structure under the Kerry State Department. But I would expect that in some fashion, our strong – we will have an interest, obviously, in a strong human rights dialogue continuing.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: Change topics. Aid to the Palestinians.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now that Congressman Kay Granger nodded her approval or okay for the money to be sent out, could you share with us how this will happen? Is it going to be the $200 million commissioned last week that it designated for economic growth? And is that a result of Secretary Kerry’s personal effort?

MS. NULAND: I’m not – I have not seen what you’re seeing. Has Senator Granger put something out, or --

QUESTION: Yeah, her office is saying that she’s --

MS. NULAND: Her office? Let me check into where we are. You know where we had been --

QUESTION: Okay, please. Yeah, I may be wrong, but that’s what I heard.

MS. NULAND: -- including in then-Secretary-designate Kerry’s hearing for confirmation, he was very clear about the importance that he places on having the money released. We’ve been clear in the last couple of days. If we’ve made progress, that’s terrific news. I didn’t have it before coming down.

QUESTION: I may be wrong.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Toria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, Tolga.

QUESTION: Any update about the bombing incident last week?

MS. NULAND: You mean about the investigation?

QUESTION: Yeah, about the investigation.

MS. NULAND: Only that we continue to work well with the Turkish side, that the FBI is cooperating. But I don’t have any details about where they are. I think we’ll probably have to wait until the investigation is complete.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, just going back to drone attacks. Pakistan’s ambassador, Madam Sherry Rehman, has accused the United States that the U.S. is violating Pakistan’s sovereignty and Pakistan rights by attacking drone attacks inside Pakistan. And she said that it may hurt the relations between Pakistan and the U.S. Any – and also, a Pakistan delegation was led to the OIC in Egypt, and they also discussed about this issue.

MS. NULAND: Well, as I always say on this subject, I’m obviously not going to get into intelligence issues at all from this podium. But what I would say is, as you know, we have a strong, we have an ongoing dialogue with Pakistan with regard to all aspects of the relationship, but in particular the counterterrorism relationship, security cooperation, and we work hard to try to address each other’s concerns.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: One more in the back, and then we’re going to wrap it up here.

QUESTION: Following up on Mr. Lee’s question --

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Would the – the North Koreans conducting a nuclear test, would it increase the likelihood that the Administration might reverse its earlier decision to take North Korea off the terrorist list and put them back on? Would it increase the likelihood?

MS. NULAND: The terrorist listing of the DPRK had to do with terrorist activity. The nuclear activity is handled through the Six-Party Talks process, as you know, so --

QUESTION: And is it your belief or understanding right now that, presently, North Korea is not engaged in any terrorist activities?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, they were delisted. I don’t have any new information one way or the other with regard to that.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - February 7, 2013]