Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 28, 2013.
- Secretary Clinton’s January 29 Townterview
- Recent Violence
- Emergency Law
- U.S. Embassy Status
- Russian Prime Minister’s Comments
- Chemical Weapons
- Ambassador Ford / Meeting with Opposition Figures / Humanitarian Concerns
- AMIA Bombing / Iranian Government Should Cooperate with Argentine Authorities
- Negotiations for Bilateral Security Agreement / U.S. Security Support, post-2014
- Missing U.S. Citizen
- Space Launch / Violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929
- P5+1 Talks
- Working with Algeria
- ISR Lift and Aerial Refueling
1:39 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Monday. We are a little late today because the roads were icy in Washington and we know what that means. We all come in late.
I just have one thing at the top which is to remind everybody to tune in tomorrow at 9:30. The Secretary is going to do a global townterview at the Newseum, and she’ll be taking questions from every continent on the planet, both from local audiences and from Twitter, Facebook, and Skype. So that’ll be tomorrow at 9:30 livestreaming on our site and live at the Newseum. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
EgyptQUESTION: Can we start with Egypt? There’s been a rash of violence that’s continued over the weekend and just wanted to hear your opinions, and also whether you think the government’s response has been appropriate. There’s been a state of emergency in various provinces and some tough rhetoric from the President.
MS. NULAND: Well, first, just to call your attention to the comments that our colleague Jay Carney just made from the White House. I think he got asked a few questions on this and spoke extensively. But obviously to repeat that we strongly condemn the recent violence that’s taken place in various Egyptian cities; we extend our condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who have been injured. We look to all Egyptians to express themselves peacefully and to all Egyptian leaders to actively work to prevent further violence. The Egyptian people want to see the revolution and change that they fought for succeed in a peaceful and democratic manner and that’s what we’re all looking to see.
QUESTION: And particularly on the government, do you think they’ve handled this appropriately so far, specifically with the President’s comments on TV where he took a somewhat defiant tone and also the state of emergency?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, it’s been a very difficult and violent few days on the Egyptian side. Like the Egyptian people, we of course look to the Egyptian Government to bring to justice those who are responsible for deaths and injuries, whether they were sustained by protestors, whether they were sustained by the police. And we obviously look to see this done in line with due process. We’re obviously watching how this moves forward. We are watching how the emergency law put in place will be applied given the very sensitive history of this in Egypt. What’s most important is that the Egyptian Government respect the rights of all Egyptians to due process going forward.
QUESTION: So you don’t – you see this as different from what happened a couple years ago? I mean, optically, when you see a president defiantly refusing to kind of meet protestors half way and then having a state of emergency, it evokes memories of what happened a couple years ago. You see this as a distinctly different situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think that the underlying causes here were obviously different. The situation in Egypt is obviously different. That said, the right of all Egyptians, as I said, to due process, is not different whether they are those who are owed due process because they were on the government side, police side, or whether they’re owed due process because they’re on the protestor’s side. I would say that we have been gratified to see the President and his government renew their call for a national dialogue to avoid further violence and to find a peaceful way to move forward. We call on all political forces in Egypt to avail themselves of this opportunity to work together through dialogue to deal with the underlying issues. That’s obviously something that would have been unheard of in times past in Egypt.
QUESTION: But Toria, but the opposition or the national dialogue was rejected by almost every other group except for the Muslim Brotherhood. So do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Again, in all of these situations, first of all, concerns about the course that the country is on should be expressed peacefully. There’s never an excuse for violence, not on the protestors side, not on the government side. And when national dialogue is offered, it should at least be tried. That is our view.
QUESTION: Okay, so just to follow-up on what you said about the emergency law that has been invoked in the last couple days. So how is that different than, let’s say, what was under Mubarak? I mean, considering that the United States is really the benefactor of Egypt and supplied – the main supplier of arms and training and financing of the military, how do you react to that?
MS. NULAND: Again, as I said in response to Brad’s question, given Egypt’s history with this, we are going to watch very closely how it’s applied and the underlying need for it. What is most important is that the Government of Egypt respect the rights of due process of all of its citizens. That’s also something that the Egyptian people will be watching, that we’ll be watching going forward.
QUESTION: I – forgive me, I might have missed this as I was walking in.
MS. NULAND: But let’s do it again.
QUESTION: Why not? But as of now do you have any intrinsic concern about President Morsi’s having declared the state of emergency in the cities that he has?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I said we are watching closely how this is put in place, how long it’s necessary given Egypt’s history. What we are also watching, as the Egyptians people are, is that due process is afforded to everybody affected by this.
QUESTION: I have a question —
MS. NULAND: Still on Egypt?
QUESTION: On Egypt still.
MS. NULAND: Margaret.
QUESTION: The Canadians have closed their embassy. We’ve seen pictures of violence outside the British Embassy, people trying to dismantle security cameras. Can you update us on the status of U.S. personnel, any response to some of this instability in the streets?
MS. NULAND: Our embassy closed early today and released people because we did have reports that there would be a lot of people in the streets. We will obviously evaluate this as we always do on a day-by-day basis.
QUESTION: Is the response any different now, given what we have seen back in September with the ability to breach the wall at the Embassy? Is there a read on the level of the threat at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, I’m not going to go to intelligence or other security planning. Simply to say that in the wake of the events that we saw in September, we’ve worked very well and carefully with Egyptian authorities on our security needs throughout – around our perimeter, et cetera, and at our other facilities, and that cooperation will continue. But in this case, we determined in Cairo that prudence dictated that we let people go home early today.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Are you concerned that the approach of Morsi – the President, Morsi, is more security approach more than a political approach?
MS. NULAND: Again, he’s taken both security measures and offered political dialogue, so we have to see how this moves going forward.
QUESTION: Would you update us on the status of the funding that’s been held up in Congress for several months now?
MS. NULAND: We had been working with Congress and been seeking about $450 million in economic support for various programs with Egypt, which we had agreed to back in the summer. That money remains on hold, and we are continuing to work with the Congress to get it released.
QUESTION: Don’t you see the violence in the street in Egypt as the sign of a deeper malaise in the political scene?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this began in response to verdicts against violence that happened as a result of a soccer tournament. So I think we have to see how it goes forward. I’m not going to put myself in the heads of the various people who are taking to the streets. As in all such cases, as we’ve said for a couple of years now, we want to see these things resolved peacefully.
QUESTION: But if all it takes is any – any event that would trigger such big things, it means there’s something deeper there.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into the heads of the particular –
QUESTION: (Inaudible) address whether you think there are legitimate grievances at stake here?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said all the way along that, as we’ve seen, whether it was in the constitutional process before, during, and after the passage of the constitution, there are a lot of different views about how to take the country forward. That’s why we want to see the major stakeholders engaged in continual dialogue to take the country forward and continuing to look at what’s going to create the greatest unity, the greatest consensus about the fundamental tenets of Egyptian democracy going forward.
QUESTION: At least some of these protesters may have legitimate gripes, concerns that they are trying to express peacefully.
MS. NULAND: Again, we support peaceful protest whether you are protesting soccer verdicts or whether you are protesting the basic tenets of your country’s democracy. It’s when protestors turn violent, when governments resort to violence that we have issues of concern here. So we want to see all of these issues in Egypt resolved by peaceful means, protestors being peaceful, and folks availing themselves of opportunities for dialogue.
QUESTION: Are you in touch with other factions or fractions besides the authorities?
MS. NULAND: We are always in constant contact with all different groups in Egypt.
QUESTION: I mean, in recent events or just whatever was done before?
MS. NULAND: No, this is a constant dialogue that our Embassy has with all groups in Egypt, particularly when things are sparking.
QUESTION: Victoria, what about navigation in the Suez Canal? I mean, considering that Port Said is a very hot place and they deployed apparently a lot of forces along the banks of the canal. Are you concerned about the security of navigation along the canal?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything particular to say there. Obviously, freedom of navigation through Suez is essential for all of us in global trade.
QUESTION: Okay. It was also announced that the United States Government is providing some F-16s to Egypt. Is this a good idea at this juncture?
MS. NULAND: Well, that’s in the context of our military-to-military support, which, as you know, is ongoing. It is – we’ve talked about this at the time when the Secretary approved the waiver to continue that. It’s part and parcel of not only Egypt’s ability to defend itself but its ability to maintain its regional security responsibilities.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the way that the Egyptian Government is dealing with the demonstrators and demonstrations?
MS. NULAND: Michel, I think I’ve said six ways from Sunday here that – how we feel about that.
QUESTION: Are you happy with their way or not satisfied –
MS. NULAND: Again, we have to see how this goes forward, and I gave a number of issues that we’re watching, including the way demonstrators handle themselves, the way police handle themselves, and the question of how the emergency law works going forward. I think we’ve really done it on Egypt. Let’s go forward.
MS. NULAND: Other than saying perhaps the Prime Minister is coming to see what most of the Syrian people and most of the international community have known for some time, that Assad has not only lost his legitimacy, but the days for his regime are numbered.
QUESTION: So you still subscribe to the fact that his days are numbered despite what, let’s say, the Foreign Minister of France said last week, that his days may not be numbered after all?
MS. NULAND: We consider this a matter of time. What we want to do is continue to work with the Syrian opposition to hasten the day that we’re involved in a democratic political transition, because that’s in the best interest of Syria and in the region.
QUESTION: And lastly, have you heard anything about the well-being of Mr. Brahimi? There were suggestions in the Arab press that he may have suffered a stroke.
QUESTION: I think his office has denied that.
MS. NULAND: Have they?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t see either the concern or the denial, but I don’t have any reason to doubt his health.
QUESTION: Do you have any update about the chemical weapons issue? Because according to the Israeli press, U.S. Administration asked Jordan and Turkey to take responsibility of these chemical weapons in post-Assad regime, post-Assad period.
MS. NULAND: What question are you asking?
QUESTION: U.S. is expecting from Turkey and Jordan to deactivate or destruct or take over all the chemical weapons –
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to share on that. I think you know that we are all in the international community talking about our need to not only be absolutely clear in setting common redlines about the consequences of using chemical weapons, but our expectation that the Assad regime will maintain careful stewardship of them. If and when we get – as we get to a political transition, we are all going to have to work with the future leaders of Syria on dealing with the residual weaponry of the Assad regime, including the chemical weapons.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction —
QUESTION: Let me ask this way. Are you cooperating with those neighbor country to dealing with this current risk in terms of the chemical weapons?
MS. NULAND: We have made clear that we are engaged in all manner of contingency planning with not only Syria’s neighbors but with countries throughout the international community who have expertise in dealing with these weapons.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Israeli Prime Minister’s threat that they will strike if they feel that chemical weapons are about to be used?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen various different comments from Israel. Most of them appear to be in line with the same kinds of warnings that President Obama has been giving: that obviously this would cross a very, very serious redline for us, for other countries in the international community.
QUESTION: Do you see the Medvedev remarks as signaling any change in the Russian position?
MS. NULAND: Look, we’re all constantly hoping that Russia will not only see the writing on the wall but will join us in the international community in increasing the pressure on the Assad regime. And there are a number of steps that Russia can take. It can firmly and publicly cut off the regime’s supply of Russian weapons, especially attack helicopters. It can cut off Assad’s circle of access to Russian banks. It can actively support a political transition and work with us on who can come next, who can keep the country united and take it on a democratic path. So there are plenty of things that Russia can do if, in fact, it is concerned about the writing being on the wall now.
QUESTION: But do you see those remarks are being – as being a – as signaling any change, or not yet?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’m going to send you to the Russians. But he was pretty clear that they are not seeing a lot of longevity here for Assad.
QUESTION: The Russians said what they said, but do you see this as a change of position?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to let the Russians speak for themselves. We want to see the Russians work with all of us on all of the issues that I mentioned.
QUESTION: Still on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I know you talked about this several days ago, but are you hearing from Syrian opposition figures their complaint that they are running out of weapons and ammunition, that they can’t get enough from Turkey and from Gulf states anymore?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think I’m going to get into conversations that we may be having with a broad cross-section of Syrians on the military side. What I will say is that Ambassador Ford has been in all of the neighboring states in the last week. He’s also been seeing a broad cross-section of Syrian opposition figures on his travels in France, and then he’ll be in Kuwait on Wednesday. And we’re hearing a lot of concerns on the humanitarian side, particularly that the regime is restricting the ability of the UN to get into places that it controls and that we need to do a better job of having access to parts of Syria where the regime is no longer in control because UN and other agencies are having difficulty getting in there.
So all of those questions will be very much the center of focus when we have the humanitarian conference in Kuwait. We have a conference in France today where we’ll have a chance to hear from the Syrian opposition on other things like the assistance that they want in terms of strengthening their office operations, strengthening their ability to reach deeper into Syria and the work that they’re doing in communities that are now having to provide social services, et cetera, in the absence of where the regime’s already melted away.
QUESTION: They are making a lot of public comments, Mr. Saeed and others – Mr. Sabra – that say that there have been – inability to access new weaponry and new ammunition is making it impossible for them to step up the fight to actually increase their position vis-à-vis the Assad regime. Is that something you’re concerned about? Does that change your assessment at all about the Assad regime’s days being numbered?
MS. NULAND: I think we continue to see the opposition making advances. We continue to talk to them about how they see their position. But as you know, Brad, we are not engaged in providing lethal assistance. They are talking to other countries about that.
QUESTION: And are you in contact with those other countries that they say they’re not getting as much help from anymore?
MS. NULAND: We’ve made clear for many months that we are endeavoring to collaborate across the international system, particularly with those countries who are the major donors for the opposition, whether they’re giving on the lethal side or the nonlethal side, to ensure that we are maximizing the impact of the support that we are giving and that we are also doing our best to keep the flow open to the legitimate political opposition and keep it out of the hands of extremists and others like al-Nusrah, who just want to exploit the instability for their own purposes. So, certainly, we’re in dialogue.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic?
MS. NULAND: Still Syria?
QUESTION: No, on Syria. Is there a U.S.-Russia summit in the cards?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I have anything – I mean, there’s nothing to announce. The White House would be announcing that if we had a presidents meeting coming. But —
QUESTION: But you’re part of the preparations.
MS. NULAND: Right. But any announcement would come from the White House. I don’t have anything to announce here.
QUESTION: Yes. South America?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. La Nacion from Argentina. I’ll Silvia Pisani. I would like to ask you if you have any comment or – about a recent agreement that Argentina arrived with Iran concerning the bombings in the AMIA.
MS. NULAND: Well, our position on the AMIA bombing is clear. It remains unchanged for the last 18 years. We in the international community have joined the Argentine Government and victims of this horrific attack in seeking justice. We continue to stress that the Iranian Government has a responsibility to cooperate fully with Argentine authorities in seeing that the perpetrators are brought to justice. We’re – obviously, that has not been something that the Iranians have been forthcoming about, but we’ll continue to make the points publicly.
QUESTION: So, is this a good – is this a step in the right direction, that they’re going to engage in this process?
MS. NULAND: To engage in a truth commission?
QUESTION: Yes, because it doesn’t necessarily lead to – usually, such commissions don’t actually lead to prosecutions. You just tell the truth and – so, I mean, is this a step in the right direction or not? Or do you not know?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we all, obviously, have all wanted to see the perpetrators brought to justice, so if the Argentine Government thinks this might take us closer to that, then we’ll have to see.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Afghan foreign ministry is saying there’ll be talks in Kabul at the weekend on an immunity deal. They seem to be close to having sorted out the differences. I wondered if you could confirm that and tell us what you’ll be hoping for?
MS. NULAND: We have starting, I think it’s on – it may be on the weekend, it may be before that – the third round of negotiations for a bilateral security agreement. These are the negotiations that are led on the U.S. side by Ambassador Warlick. This is with regard to the legal basis for our security support after 2014. So we’re obviously hoping that we can make some progress following up on the meeting of the two presidents. But we’ve also made clear that we expect that this is going to be a negotiation that’s going to go on throughout the year.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So there’s nothing – you’re not going to be signing anything, then, at the week end —
MS. NULAND: That would be fantastic. That would be magical, but I think we – this is a very complex deal, and I think it’s going to take some time.
QUESTION: Could you outline some of the issues that are still at the heart of the problem?
MS. NULAND: Generally, when we do these things nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so I don’t think it behooves us to talk publicly about the elements. But I think the two presidents made clear that, obviously, the status of U.S. troops and the immunity requirements that we have all over the world are certainly a vital issue for us when the deal is complete.
QUESTION: And President Karzai, I think, was also saying that he wanted to see the prisoners turned over to Afghan control as opposed to still being in some kind of limbo, I believe, between sort of U.S. and Afghan control.
MS. NULAND: Right, but that’s the subject of a separate set of agreements, which we’ve been working to implement over time. And there was some positive momentum on all of that, as well, during the President’s visit, but – and that, from his perspective, he thought made it easier to get to where we need to get on the BSA.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Toria, the Taliban claimed that they received messages from the U.S., the NATO allies, and from the Karzai government that they are welcome as at the table?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to any messages that might have gone, but you saw in the context of the visit of President Karzai here that he is now open to having a Taliban office in Doha which would provide a venue for discussions with the Afghan High Peace Council. There’s more work that needs to be done before that office can be opened, but those conversations are continuing, obviously, and you know that we continue to support Afghan-Afghan conversations towards reconciliation.
QUESTION: There is nothing new today? I mean —
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to report today, no.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: No. One more Afghanistan.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead, Scott.
QUESTION: Anything to say about prospects that Afghanistan might purchase electricity from Iran?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t – I don’t have anything on that. I mean, they have in the past, is my understanding, Scott. They’re neighbors. It’s just a question of whether it’s a level playing field and all those kinds of things.
QUESTION: Do you believe that it is?
MS. NULAND: I, frankly, haven’t seen the deal that’s being discussed.
MS. NULAND: Catherine, where were you moving to?
QUESTION: Turkey —
MS. NULAND: Okay, why don’t we finish here.
QUESTION: The Washington Post recently reported that U.S. – Obama Administration is drafting new rules for carrying out drone strikes against suspected militants on foreign soils, but it said that these new rules, which will go on strict – have standards, strict standards for drone operations, will not be applied to operations inside Pakistani territory for at least one year to come. Is it the U.S. Administration’s position on this issue?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s not going to surprise you that I will, as I always do, decline to talk about intelligence matters from this podium. What I will say is that the U.S. and Pakistan have an ongoing dialogue on the full range of counterterrorism measures. You know that we are back on track with those discussions after a little period of hiatus when we didn’t have the lines of – the LOCs open, et cetera. But we will continue to have that dialogue with regard to our shared security concerns and how we can cooperate together.
QUESTION: And – but this has led to a very heated debate in the Pakistani parliament. The senators objected very strongly. Can you confirm, is – going forward, will this be a different policy for Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m going to decline to speak about concrete intelligence matters here at the podium.
QUESTION: There’s a missing woman in Turkey, I believe Mrs. Sarai Sierra. Have you been made aware of the case? What are you doing to assist in finding her? And is the U.S. Embassy on the ground involved?
MS. NULAND: We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen, Sarai Sierra, is missing in Turkey. Our consulate general in Istanbul and our Embassy in Ankara are working on the case, and they are obviously in contact with the family and with Turkish authorities. But you won’t be surprised that privacy concerns prevent me from speaking any further about it.
QUESTION: Is this a dual citizen to your knowledge?
MS. NULAND: What I have is that she is a U.S. citizen. I don’t have anything on whether she may be dual.
QUESTION: Toria, the Prime Minister gave an interview last Friday to Turkish television, and he said the Turkish Government is now considering – seriously considering seeking the membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And he said – he suggested this idea to President Putin. And if they accept Turkey to the organization, they will say bye to European Union. Do you have any comment on this issue?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t see that comment by Prime Minister Erdogan. Obviously, it would be interesting, given the fact that Turkey’s also a NATO member. We’ll have to see how that goes.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about extra terrestrial primates?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Well, I saw the monkey – I saw the pictures of the poor little monkey preparing to go to space. Look, let me just say broadly we don’t have any way to confirm this one way or the other with regard to the primate. But our concern with Iran’s development of space launch vehicle technologies are obviously well known. Any space launch vehicle capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles as well as SLV technologies. And they’re all virtually identical and interchangeable. So just to remind that UN Security Council Resolution 1929 prohibits Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.
So we’re going to continue to work closely with our partners and our allies to address our concerns about Iran’s missile developments, including by promoting implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions. But I’m not in a position here today to confirm whether or not there was a launch.
QUESTION: So that launch, if it indeed happened, is illegal by the UN Security Council?
MS. NULAND: It would certainly fall under 1929, yeah.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear here. The first time you said you weren’t able to confirm the monkey, but then a moment ago you said that you were not in a position to confirm the launch. I want just to make —
MS. NULAND: Both – neither monkey nor launch.
QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.) Maybe a third one —
MS. NULAND: Nor a launched monkey.
QUESTION: But you don’t consider this a serious space program?
MS. NULAND: Again —
QUESTION: It’s illegal regardless.
MS. NULAND: If they have launched anything using ballistic missile technology, it’s of serious concern.
QUESTION: That was basically my question. But you oppose Iran — this aspire to become like a space – technologically-able country?
MS. NULAND: Again, if and when they come clean with the international community, they let the IAEA in where it needs to go, they work with the P-5+1 to allay all of our concerns, then you’d be in a different universe. But right now, you’re in the universe of 1929. Okay?
QUESTION: No pun intended.
MS. NULAND: No pun – maybe it was. I had a space thing going on, yeah.
QUESTION: According to a family who met with —
QUESTION: Just one more on Iran. Do you have the —
MS. NULAND: Are you on Iran, or are you – no. Okay.
QUESTION: Just date and venue for P-5+1 talks. Do you have it yet?
MS. NULAND: We do not. Talks are ongoing. As you may know, the P-5+1 offered January 28 and 29 in Istanbul— an offer that Iran did not accept. We don’t have any particular preconditions on place or time or venue, but we do not seem to be getting much help from Iran coming to closure on this.
QUESTION: The Russians seem to be chiding you, as in the West, as much as Iran for the inability to get past this. I think it was called “these childish games over dates and venues,” or something like that.
MS. NULAND: Look, I don’t – I can’t speak to that other than to say that we offered January 28 and 29 in Istanbul, the Iranians did not accept that. We’ve now offered another set of dates and another range of venues in February, and we’re waiting to hear from the Iranians. So ball in their court.
QUESTION: What dates and venues?
MS. NULAND: We’ll let you know if they’re agreed, but right now we’re still working it.
QUESTION: Toria, why not just agree to meet them anywhere, anytime? Why does the venue matter so much?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think we’re going to Tehran, for example. So —
QUESTION: But why not anywhere except Tehran? I mean —
MS. NULAND: Look —
QUESTION: — why is the venue so very important? Why not take that away as a negotiating tactic for them?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have to ensure that it’s a venue that’s not politicized in and of its own right, right? But other than saying we believe that we’ve been extremely open and flexible both on dates and venue and the Iranians don’t seem to be able to come to closure, I think you know what we’re trying to do, which is to get to a place where both sides feel comfortable, can come, and we can see what we can do.
QUESTION: What did the Iranians offer? I mean, is Tehran one of the options they’ve offered you?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into it beyond saying that we think that we’ve been quite open about dates, about venue, and they have not been able to come to agreement with us yet.
QUESTION: Change of topic.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: As the French forces and West African forces push Islamists, AQIM, north, is the United States working with Algeria to ensure that the Algerian-Malian border is secured so that these Islamist or AQIM folks don’t just keep moving north?
MS. NULAND: Well, we have obviously been working with Algeria all the way through. It has its own ties into northern Mali, its own view on the situation. As you know, when the Secretary was in Algiers in October, this was a very intense topic of conversation. We’ve obviously been in conversation with them since, and particularly in light of the hostage-taking of a week and a half ago.
Just to confirm what you’ve probably already seen— that on the French wish list of ISR lift and aerial refueling, we have now gone forward as well with the aerial refueling and that has begun.
QUESTION: Does this mean–
QUESTION: Is it still your —
QUESTION: Oh, sorry.
QUESTION: Is it still your position that there can be – that there should be new elections on schedule, which I think is like April, and is that reasonable given what’s going on there now?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have said all along that there has to be more than a purely security solution to the problems in Mali, that the security track and the political track have to go hand-in-hand, that a key component of returning stability to Mali includes new elections and overturning the results of the coup firmly. The date had been in April. I think, obviously, we’re not going to prejudge whether security’s going to be restored in a manner that’s going to enable that. What we want is a national unity conversation about what’s appropriate and security standards so that elections can go forward as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Toria, just to go back to your previous answer, do you believe that in agreeing to provide air-to-air refueling capability for French aircraft over Mali, or travelling to Mali, that you are becoming – that the U.S., that the United States is becoming a co-belligerent in this conflict?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we have a number of legal things to work through, which is what took a little bit of time. With regard to the precise legal underpinnings here, I’m going to send you to our brothers and sisters at the Department of Defense. What I will say is that the U.S. military is not going to be engaged in combat operations in Mali, and we don’t expect U.S. forces to become directly involved on the ground in combat either. So this is a discrete set of missions in support of our French ally in the efforts that they are making to support the people of Mali.
QUESTION: Toria, can you give us an assessment of what’s happening on the ground in Mali? Because there are reports that fighters have been expelled from Gao, airports and roads around Timbuktu, and this building had guided us towards that definition – the U.S. definition of stability, including expelling rebels from those two particular towns. What is the U.S. view now?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying I think with regard to the precise ground situation and the advances that French and Malian troops have been able to make, you’re going to get the best ground information from the French, obviously. But we’ve, obviously, seen the reports that French and Malian forces now control all the access roads to Timbuktu, including the roads in and out of the city and the airport. We’re awaiting confirmation of these reports from the French or from others.
We’ve also seen reports that French troops have seized and secured the entrance and the airfield in Gao, and we have unconfirmed reports that the terrorist elements have left Kidal. But beyond that, I don’t have anything specific. We’re also not able to confirm this report of damage to the historic library in Timbuktu.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: According to a family who met up with Ambassador Davies during his trip in Japan, he stated that he believes North Korea will launch a nuclear test. Is this the assessment of the U.S. Government?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to what may or may not have been said in a private meeting that Ambassador Davies had earlier today in Tokyo with executive members of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea. That was one of the meetings that he had today in addition to seeing Deputy Foreign Minister Saiki and Foreign Affairs Director General Sugiyama on the full range of North Korea issues.
I will say what he said publicly once again, that the statements that North Korea has made have been needlessly provocative, and any test would be a significant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. And as we said in Resolution 2087, we will take significant action if they launch.
QUESTION: And also, does the – do you have any response to the statements by North Korea that specifically name the United States as a target?
MS. NULAND: I think I spoke to this on Friday. All of these things are needlessly provocative and don’t do anything to improve the lives of the North Korean people.
Please, in the back. Lalit.
QUESTION: Yes. On Headley case, has Indian Government officially expressed its opinion or disappointment on the judgment of Headley case to the State Department?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to send you to the Indian Government for their view on this. You know that we spoke to this on Friday, expressing our satisfaction with the long sentence he was given as well as the cooperation we received in the context of this in terms of prosecuting others.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know that, but —
MS. NULAND: Please, who’s got – who’s on there? Okay.
MS. NULAND: Hello. That’s me playing back to me, I think. All right?
QUESTION: On Thailand, do you have anything to say – there was a magazine editor sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting the monarchy. Do you have anything?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that, Scott. We can take it and see if we have anything.
Jill. Or —
QUESTION: Can I ask on Libya?
MS. NULAND: I’m looking at Jill and —
QUESTION: There was – following the spate of warnings that came out of Britain and other European capitals yesterday about specific threats in Libya, just as we were coming down there was another threat – specific threats against British and Western interests in Tripoli. I wondered if that was anything that you were hearing on the American side, and if so, could you comment on it?
MS. NULAND: Well, we spoke on Friday to our updated warnings to Americans with regard to Benghazi and other parts of Libya. I think you know that we’re still in reduced staffing at our mission in Tripoli and have taken a series of very significant measures to ensure that our Embassy there remains secure.
QUESTION: But you haven’t heard anything specifically today, obviously —
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything new to share with you other than what we’ve been saying all the way through.
QUESTION: Yeah, the Chinese are seeking U.S. help on a number of their human right activists who are here in the U.S. They say they are fugitives and they want them back. Have you received any request on the number of those peoples, those Chinese who are living in the U.S. and the Chinese want them back?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that, Lalit. Why don’t you give us a little bit more specific information afterwards and I’ll see if there’s anything I can share.
All right? Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)