Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 26, 2013.
- Secretary Kerry’s Trip to Germany / Meeting with German Youth
- Arafat Jaradat’s Autopsy
- Continue to Seek Negotiations / Urge Restraint
- Nonlethal Assistance
- Call with Mr. al-Khatib / Rome Meeting
- Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
- Al-Khatib Meeting / Hope to Intensify Coordination with the Opposition
- Delivering Humanitarian Aid / Working with Assistance Coordination Unit
- Missing U.S. Citizens
- Diplomacy at the UN / Secretary’s Call with Chinese Counterpart
- P-5+1 Meeting
- Support for Constitutional System / Rights of the Protesters
- Working with French and African-led Mission / UN Role
- Concern About IEDs
- Secretary’s Call to Chinese Counterpart / Security Council Negotiations
1:01 p.m. EST
As you’ve all seen, the Secretary continues his travel. He’s in Berlin. I hope you all saw his – the remarks from his press avail with his German counterpart. And in addition to that, he gave an extensive sort of town hall-style encounter with some youth in Berlin today, and so I really commend you to read that transcript. He had a number of comments for the young people of Germany that were in attendance about democracy, opportunity, tolerance. And he talked a little bit about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, so a really good transcript that I commend you to read there. And we’ll have the video up on our website as well shortly. So, having said that, we’ll turn it over to all of you.
QUESTION: I don’t really have anything to start with, but he did say in the meeting with the German youth that in the United States, you have a right to be stupid. Do you know what he was referring to? I don’t think he elaborated at the time. Was he – did he have anything specific in mind?
MR. VENTRELL: I think he was just referring broadly to here in the American system, in our democracy, we’re a very free country, and you get to be exactly who you want to be. And so it was a really frank and heartfelt exchange with some German youth, and I think he was able to share a lot of good reflections.
QUESTION: Yeah. On the same transcript, Patrick, it seems that the Secretary of State is suggesting that the President is going to Israel and Palestine really with nothing new. Now, that a bit conflicts what was said yesterday about this is a top priority, a top foreign policy priority, for the United Kingdom and the United States. Would you care to elaborate on this issue?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I think those are your words, not ours. And the Secretary did talk –
QUESTION: No, not my words. I mean, the words were William Hague’s words in the presence of the United States Secretary of State who seemed to concur with him.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I think we’ll describe what our policies are. Clearly, the President has announced that he’s going to the region. It’s clearly important to this Administration, and the Secretary looks forward to traveling with the President. So beyond that, I refer you to the White House.
QUESTION: If I could continue with the Palestinian issue, yesterday, an autopsy was performed in Israel and with the presence of Palestinians, and it was determined that Arafat Jaradat actually died under torture. Do you care to comment on this?
MR. VENTRELL: Said, you heard what – we talked about this at length yesterday in terms of the autopsy. You know that the Israeli Government is carefully looking into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat’s death. And so we’re awaiting the results of that investigation.
QUESTION: But the results are out, Patrick. The results are out, and it has been determined by those present that he actually died under torture.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I’m not sure that we’ve seen the final Israeli results. I certainly – and I don’t think anyone here in this building has, so we’d have to wait to see those.
QUESTION: Is the Department prepared to issue a statement once the results are well known and public?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to speculate at this point.
Go ahead, Nadia.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the Israeli-Palestinian question, the Secretary himself said that he’s going to the Middle East on a listening tour in his last meeting with the Jordanian Foreign Minister. Don’t you think that this is a step backwards considering that this President has considered the Israeli-Palestinian question a priority and the Secretary talked about his commitment? Considering going back from the tenet and the understanding, or Mitchell first report to Bush’s roadmap, what is it you’re listening to? What has changed in the conflict that they want to go back to point zero, even – not even one, starting point?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, you guys are trying to get me to have some sort of broad historical analysis or trajectory here. The bottom line is it’s an important priority for this Administration, and we will continue to seek to get the two parties back at the table negotiating. And you heard my clear message yesterday in terms of the situation on the ground, that we want Israelis and Palestinians at this sensitive time to exercise maximum restraint. So we’re conveying that message both here publicly and privately to both sides as well.
So both parties need to consider the consequences of their actions, and we urge both Palestinians and Israelis not only to refrain from provocative actions, but to consider positive steps. So you heard me say that yesterday. We have the same message today.
QUESTION: So is it fair to assume that there is no new proposals on the table once the President and the Secretary of State’s going to the region?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, when we get closer to the trip, the White House will do further readouts of – in anticipation of the trip, but I’m really going to refer you to the White House on the President’s travel when we get closer.
Change of topic?
QUESTION: A question about Syria. Today, there were some reports saying that Saudi Arabia has financed some purchases – weaponry purchases from Croatia to the Syrian rebels. My question is: Was there any coordination between the – Saudi Arabia and the United States? And was it part of the guarantees given to the Syrian Opposition Coalition in order to participate in next meeting in Rome?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’ve seen these press reports. You know where we’ve been on this issue going back a long time. We provide nonlethal assistance to the opposition. Other countries have made other decisions, and those are their sovereign decisions. But beyond that, I’ve got nothing for you.
QUESTION: But the report is saying that the U.S. Administration was aware of that.
MR. VENTRELL: I’ve got nothing for you on that.
QUESTION: Have you provided –
MR. VENTRELL: Michel.
QUESTION: — any guarantees to the opposition to bring them to the table – to the table in Rome?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, other than to say that you saw the statement released last night that the Vice President was able to communicate with Mr. al-Khatib, and we’re pleased that they’re going to be in Rome, I really have nothing further for you on that. Let’s look as they get into those meetings a couple of stops from now.
QUESTION: Excuse me, a follow-up on this. But the opposition is saying that they’ve got guarantees from the U.S. and Britain that they will step up their aids to the opposition; that’s why they are coming to Rome.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, the Secretary talked about this yesterday, what more we can do to help, that we’re looking at it. Again, today, he said we’re not going to preview that ahead of the meeting. So let’s get to the meeting, and we’ll have more for you then.
QUESTION: The Secretary is going to meet this afternoon – or maybe he already has now; I’ve lost my time – with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov –
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: — who today has called the Syrian opposition extremists, and I wondered if I could have your comment on that. Because it wouldn’t seem to be very helpful given the fact that we – the United States is looking to Russia to try to play some kind of key role in bringing together the two sides.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, first of all, Jo, to confirm that indeed the Foreign Minister and the Secretary had a chance to meet, and I believe that meeting has just wrapped. If we’re able to get you some further readout on that later in the day, we will. But I believe that’ll go to the traveling party first.
I hadn’t seen the Foreign Minister’s comments, but we certainly have expressed our concerns about some of the extremist elements within the opposition. We’ve been clear that in terms of the Syrian opposition, we look to support the opposition that’s democratic-inclusive, that’s looking for a moderate Syria, and obviously, isolate the extremist elements whose vision of Syria is very different.
QUESTION: And he also said that he expects the United States to put pressure on the Syrian opposition to hold – to not have Assad’s departure from Syria be a precondition for the talks. What is your position on – do you think that Assad leaving power should be a precondition for sitting down?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I haven’t seen —
QUESTION: Well, just – I mean, what is your position on that?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we’ve long said that we want a political transition, that we want – and clearly, Mr. al-Khatib was courageous in going forth and saying he’s willing to talk, but – I mean, again, I just hadn’t seen the comments, Elise.
QUESTION: No, I’m not asking you about those comments, but I’m just saying, specifically, do you think that President Assad has to leave power before there can be a meaningful political track?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, the Syrian Opposition Coalition has been clear that Assad has to go. We agree, the majority of the international community agrees.
QUESTION: But before talks start, though?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, they’ve been clear that Assad has to go. We’ve been clear that Assad has to go.
QUESTION: I’m not denying that. You’ve been clear he has to go eventually, but I’m asking specifically whether you think that there’s a chance for a political track before he is out of power, or does – discussion about a political transition can only take place after he’s out of power?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I’m just not going to parse it for you.
QUESTION: Why not? Why not? That’s a very – you’ve said he has to go. That’s a very answerable question about whether you think that there’s room for talks that you’re trying to organize between the opposition and the regime, or does Assad have to step down first. It’s a very simple question.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we’ve, going back some time now, said that we want a political track, but we’ve also said that Assad has to go, and that hasn’t changed, Elise.
QUESTION: So the suggestion —
QUESTION: I really —
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: One more on Syria. The suggestion a couple weeks ago that Shara is a plausible interlocutor, is that on the table or no longer on the table as a representative of the regime, the Vice President, the Syrian Vice President, Farouk al-Shara?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, guys, look, I’m just not going to parse this any further. We know that we want a political track. Clearly, the – Mr. al-Khatib has taken the courageous step of offering that, but I’m not going to parse what’s acceptable to them. This is up to the Syrian people, it’s up to the Syrian opposition.
QUESTION: But —
MR. VENTRELL: I’ve done what I can on this, guys. Let’s go ahead.
QUESTION: On Syria, do – Patrick, what’s the State Department definition of making President Assad change his calculation on the ground?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, guys, the Secretary’s talked about that clearly, Assad is somebody who’s lost perception of what the outside world thinks, what his own people think, and so the Secretary’s talking about him getting a dose of reality. But I’m just not going to parse it beyond that.
QUESTION: Hi, compared to yesterday —
QUESTION: But what do you mean when you say that you want to work to make him change his calculation?
MR. VENTRELL: I think I just answered the question.
QUESTION: Well, his calculus is that he’s in power, so how – so, I mean, without getting him out of power, how do you change his calculus that he is not in power? I mean, he’s firmly – even though, yes, the economy is hurting and yes, his forces are continuing to battle the Free Syrian Army, but from where he sits, he’s pretty firmly in power. So how does – what do you do to change his calculus?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t know. If someone firmly in power is needing to rain SCUDs down on his own people, killing, as Human Rights Watch came out with this morning, 141 people, 71 of whom —
QUESTION: I’m not saying he should be in power. I’m just saying that he is.
MR. VENTRELL: — 71 of whom were children, so —
QUESTION: No, I mean, I’m not going to argue with you on – over whether he’s doing bad things to his people. Of course he is. But I’m just saying, like, he’s in power, so how do you change the calculus that he’s not until you get him out of power?
MR. VENTRELL: Guys, I really can’t parse this more. Let’s go on.
QUESTION: Yes. I need to change, sorry, to Italian election because —
QUESTION: You’re calling out the questions now or you’re picking people? What’s going on?
MR. VENTRELL: No. I mean, I’ve said what I have to say on Syria today on this.
QUESTION: So we go – we rush to Italy? Is that how it works?
MR. VENTRELL: Do you have another question on Syria, Brad?
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So today, we have the full result of Italian election, and there is some concern both in Italy and in Europe about the stalemate, some very difficult government – stability of government. I wanted to know if you have any comment on the importance of an important – of a stable government in Italy, both for Italy and for the Eurozone.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Well, first of all, we congratulate Italy on its elections. Once the new Italian Government is formed, we look forward to working with it on a wide range of shared priorities. And as you know, Italy is a critical partner for solving global issues. So until they get to a coalition, we can’t really comment further, but we look forward to working with the new Italian Government as they form, after they form.
QUESTION: So you think —
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, a follow-up.
QUESTION: So it’s important that a strong, new coalition that assure a stable government is formed?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, Italy is a long-standing ally of ours. We look forward to them forming a new government and working with them closely and cooperatively, but beyond that, I don’t have anything further.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: There were some plans that Mr. al-Khatib will visit the United States. Those plans are still there?
MR. VENTRELL: We had extended an offer. I’m not sure where we are in terms of planning that, but we look forward – the Secretary said he looks forward to seeing Mr. al-Khatib in Rome.
QUESTION: Is the United States relieved that the opposition decided – has now decided to attend the Rome talks? How would you characterize your emotion on finding out that they did decide to go?
MR. VENTRELL: I think the adjective I used was “pleased,” so we’re pleased.
QUESTION: How did you convince them to come there?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I’m not going to get into the diplomatic back-and-forth. Clearly, we thought this was an important discussion to have, and we look forward to it in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: So what are you hoping will be the outcome of the talks in Rome? How is this going to take us forward?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, guys, I’m —
QUESTION: You can’t say what you hope to achieve there?
MR. VENTRELL: Guys, the Secretary’s going to be there in a couple of days. He’s going to have extensive meetings with our partners, with the opposition. We will preview them extensively on the road, and then when we have more to say about what we’ve achieved in terms of working with our allies and with the opposition, we’ll read that out. In terms of previewing everything we’re going to do, the Secretary said he wasn’t going to do it and it wouldn’t be appropriate, and I’m not going to do it here.
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to preview exactly what you’re going to do, but what do you hope will come out of those talks?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we hope to intensify our coordination and cooperation with the opposition and with these key countries who are our key partners and all share the same goal of the Syrians living – having a free, democratic, prosperous future. That’s what we’re looking for in Syria.
QUESTION: That was all the question asked for.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: Can I – Syria again?
MR. VENTRELL: Yes.
QUESTION: So the Syrian opposition also said that they’re going to form a transitional government. Is this something that you think a step in the right direction? And they already mentioned potential names to head it. Or will that complicate an effort to get the Russians and others to convince Assad to give up power?
MR. VENTRELL: We’ve long been working with the opposition in terms of them becoming more coordinated, more organized. They’ve already taken on some of the governing roles in some of the area they’ve captured in the north, and so we certainly commend them in those efforts. And we’re not at a place now where they’ve announced a full sort of government or are at that place, but we continue to work with them as they work in the direction of governing the space that they’ve already achieved and control and doing so in a way that’s effective.
QUESTION: So will you give them direct aid to deliver to the Syrian refugees, for example, in northern Syria?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, our longstanding policy on this is that we don’t pass aid directly through governments or quasi-governing bodies, but we coordinate very closely with the opposition in terms of where the needs are, how we can best get there, how we can communicate and coordinate. But the actual deliver is through humanitarian organizations.
QUESTION: But didn’t you – I’m not sure who it was that said this, but I mean, isn’t it a goal that you start funneling aid more through this group so they’re seen as the ones delivering for the Syrian people?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, they have this —
QUESTION: Isn’t that a main —
MR. VENTRELL: Right.
QUESTION: Wasn’t that a main reason why you recognized this new group?
MR. VENTRELL: This is the Assistance Coordination Unit that they have within the Syrian Opposition Coalition umbrella. That’s an important unit and it’s exactly what I said it is: working through and with them. It’s not that they necessarily drive the truck into the town, but they tell us where the towns are; they tell us how, as they build up these governing structures, as they help police the streets, turn on the water and electricity, get food to people. We’re there with a helping hand, some $385 million of aid and assistance from the U.S. taxpayer to help these suffering people. And so having an opposition coalition sort of organizing mechanism helps that. It doesn’t mean that they necessarily drive the truck or they take the place of the humanitarian aid organizations.
QUESTION: I’m not saying about them driving the truck. But wasn’t the goal to start giving them the aid so that they were the ones seen as – not delivering via a truck, but I’m talking about that they were the ones that were seen as delivering on their promises to the Syrian people.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, certainly we want the people who are in some of these liberated areas to know that it’s the opposition that’s helping to bring the outside help. As I said, we coordinate with them very closely.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you, is there any update on the accountability – I’ve forgotten the name of it – the accountability board that was set up in Turkey to look into war crimes, possible war crimes and atrocities carried out?
MR. VENTRELL: I’d have to take that question. I’m just not sure.
QUESTION: Okay. I’d be interested just to know where we’ve got. It’s been, like, two months now, something like that, that it’s been set up.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Let’s do Peru.
QUESTION: This California couple who were on a cycling tour near Cusco, near the Machu Picchu area that went missing, I believe your consular officers down in Lima have addressed it. But do you have anything on that?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Thanks, Paul, for the question. The U.S. Embassy in Lima is aware of two U.S. citizens who apparently went missing while on a cycling trip in Peru. According to their families, the couple, Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal, were last heard from on January 25th, 2013. According to their families, they were traveling from Cusco to Lima and were expected to arrive in Lima on January 26th.
Consular officers from the Embassy are in contact with the families and Peruvian authorities and are providing all appropriate consular assistance. Embassy —
MR. VENTRELL: Let me finish. Embassy officers are also in close contact with Peruvian authorities, who are working diligently to find Garrett and Jamie. The Peruvian authorities provided us all assurance they will do everything possible to locate the couple so we can help bring them home.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense of how active the Shining Path and other groups like that are again? There have been reports that they’ve somewhat regrouped and are out there again.
MR. VENTRELL: We did put out a recent travel message to people considering travel to Peru. I really refer you to that. But I’m not sure that we’ve seen any connection between those two, not necessarily what happened to this couple and that note that we put out.
QUESTION: So I’m assuming that this couple has a Privacy Act waiver because your information about their case is very substantial and broad.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. As you know, Elise, we wouldn’t read out anything in that level of detail without a Privacy Act waiver from the family. But the family certainly wants to get their loved ones home and safe, and the U.S. State Department is doing its best to assist and coordinate with Peruvian authorities.
MR. VENTRELL: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I wonder what the State Department’s reaction is to the visit by Dennis Rodman there. Is this – is basketball diplomacy the same as ping-pong diplomacy with China?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, not exactly in this case. We have not been contacted about this travel to North Korea by this group. We don’t vet U.S. citizens’ private travel to North Korea, but we do urge U.S. citizens contemplating travel to North Korea to review our Travel Warnings on North Korea as well as country-specific travel information available on our website. So we just don’t have a position on the timing of this travel or otherwise.
QUESTION: The one that – the visit by the Google executive, Eric Schmidt, earlier this year you characterized as unhelpful. How would you characterize the visit by this basket —
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we just don’t take a position on this particular private travel.
QUESTION: Even that he’s unhelpful or —
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, you know where we are in terms of the track with the D.P.R.K. and their threatening and provocative behavior and how we’re working very hard in New York for a very credible and strong response. In terms of this private travel to do basketball with kids, we just don’t take a position on this private travel.
QUESTION: So the Google chief gets a sharper admonition before a nuclear test than a basketball player gets two weeks after a nuclear test.
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t know if I’d parse it that way. I mean, I think —
QUESTION: That’s not parsing. That’s just exactly what you’ve done.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, we have —
QUESTION: And I want to know why.
MR. VENTRELL: We’re talking about somebody who is a former significant American official and businessman who were going there on different – for different purposes. Here we’re talking about sports. I mean, we just don’t take a position.
QUESTION: Well, we did see the propaganda value of the – of Eric Schmidt’s visit, and the statements and pictures that were put out by the North Korean media. And I imagine the same thing is going to happen with this visit as well. I mean, it’s the second high-profile visit in a matter of weeks to North Korea.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: A country with which you have no ties.
MR. VENTRELL: You know where we’ve been on this more broadly, which is that they probably should focus their money on feeding their children, taking care of their families, and providing a more prosperous future for the North Koreans. On this specific basketball trip, I just don’t take a position.
QUESTION: But is it because it’s more about kids and something cultural than opposed to some kind of business that the regime could possibly benefit for? I mean, we’re just asking why you’re making the differentiation.
MR. VENTRELL: That would be a safe assumption, Elise. It’s that kind of – look, we’re talking about a basketball and a kids’ clinic. It’s different than some sort of dialogue directly with the regime.
QUESTION: And where are we on the resolution at the —
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that there’s no regime contact on this trip, as far as you know?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t know. I really refer you to the travelers, and just don’t have any information.
QUESTION: Where are we at the UN, on the putting – patching together a resolution?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re still working every day on this very actively.
QUESTION: Is there a timeframe, this week, next week?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t want to predict. I never predict diplomacy up at the UN. But we continue to work on it. I can tell you that the Secretary did reach out to – was it – had a discussion with his Chinese counterpart today. So we continue to discuss with some of our key partners these key issues.
QUESTION: When the Rodman trip comes back, does this building have any plans to contact them to follow up or ask for any information, or even just say, “You shouldn’t have done that”? Anything at all?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I don’t think we would proactively reach out, but if Americans who had been to North Korea want to share their experiences, I’m sure we could arrange that.
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Could you share with us any progress with the ongoing meeting between the 5+1+Iran?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. So we understand that the P-5+1 and Iran met for almost three hours today, during which the P-5+1 presented a serious, revised proposal. Further discussions also took place during the evening, and the entire group will reconvene again tomorrow at 11 a.m. local time. And you heard the Secretary obviously speak earlier today where he said we encourage Iran to make concrete steps in order to begin addressing the international community’s concerns.
QUESTION: Would these concrete steps take, like, the specific suggestion by Iran that they will accept 5 percent enrichment, for instance?
MR. VENTRELL: You know, Said, I’m not going to get into the details of this ongoing diplomacy. Let’s let the negotiators do their work.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the atmosphere in the talks?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t think I’m going to characterize it beyond that other than to say, as I just mentioned, it went on for three hours and further discussions will take place tomorrow.
QUESTION: Well, what do you hope to achieve at these talks? I mean, clearly a deal is not going to be reached at this. So do you hope to come out of it with a commitment for another round, or what are you hoping to achieve?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I don’t want to preview anything as we go into the second day.
QUESTION: You can’t even say what you hope to achieve at these talks? I mean —
MR. VENTRELL: Well, what we hope to achieve, and what we said all along is our goal —
QUESTION: I don’t —
MR. VENTRELL: — is that we want Iran to change its behavior. Yeah.
QUESTION: I don’t think that’s going to happen by the end of tomorrow. So I’m just wondering, like, what would you see as an indicator of progress? Another round, maybe?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to preview that today. Let’s talk again tomorrow.
QUESTION: Any bilateral —
MR. VENTRELL: Samir.
QUESTION: — meetings take place?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: And then how do you square the fact that no matter what comes out of these talks, tomorrow or the day after the Supreme Leader can just say something that totally negates all the progress that you had in the talks? We’ve seen it many times that you think you see some positive movement from Iran, from the Foreign Minister or the negotiator or something, and then the next day the Supreme Leader kind of pours water on the whole thing.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, we’ve been very clear that we want the full Iranian regime to change its behavior on this. And so we’ll continue to meet with his appointed negotiator, the Supreme Leader’s appointed negotiator, through the P-5+1 process. But beyond that, I don’t have anything for you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Iraq.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: Iraq is experiencing a lot of volatility. There were demonstrations all across the country. There are pamphlets in Baghdad for cleansing Baghdad of all Sunnis, and there are bellicose statements by the Prime Minister, who is your ally, actually against the United States and against certain groups in Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, the United States remains deeply committed, Said, to supporting the Government of Iraq’s efforts to bring greater stability and prosperity to its people. Our engagement in Iraq remains focused on supporting Iraq’s constitutional system and strengthening institutions. Obviously, we support the rights of those to protest and make their voices heard. We’re also working with them on their institutions. We do, Said, have some concerns about some rising sectarian tensions, and we condemn that. And we’ll continue to work with our Iraqi counterparts to help them as they continue to develop their institutions.
QUESTION: Well, there are certain groups who are collecting names and signatures and so on to have actually the constitution repealed and call for a new constitution. If that is the will of the public, will you support that?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, our broader policy’s always been that we want the Iraqis to work things out through the political process. It’s not for us to determine what it is for them, to determine how their democracy’s going to function, how their constitution works. So we’ll provide support to them, broadly speaking, as they do that.
Scott, in the back.
MR. VENTRELL: Say that one more time, Scott?
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MR. VENTRELL: Can you say that one more time again?
QUESTION: On Mali.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a notice this morning that one of the leaders of Ansar Dine has been categorized as a foreign terrorist. Can you tell us anything more about that?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t. I’ll have to take the question. I hadn’t seen that.
QUESTION: Can I just stick with Mali?
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Ivorian Foreign Minister came out yesterday and said that he believes that the AFISMA forces will need $950 million to carry out their mission and hopefully instill peace in Mali, allowing a UN mission then to take over. That’s double what’s been so far pledged. And I just wondered if the State Department had a sense of the kind of escalating cost, whether this will be feasible to achieve or whether you’re being held over the fire a bit by African forces.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we continue to work closely with the French and with the African-led international support mission to Mali. We also continue to think that this needs to come under and we need to work in the Security Council to quote/unquote “blue hat” some of this, or increase the UN role. So we’re continuing to look at the costs. I hadn’t seen that particular statement, but I know our folks following Africa are clearly working on this as we are at the UN as well to see how we can best support this international mission in a cost-effective way.
QUESTION: Would that seem to be an impossible sum, though – $950 million? Like I said, it’s double what so far had been pledged.
MR. VENTRELL: I just hadn’t heard that. I haven’t seen it. I’ll look into it, Jo.
Thanks. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a question about the Fatima Fertilizer plant in Pakistan. Basically, the question is: What has the State Department done over the last few years to pressure the group to change their ingredients so they wouldn’t be – couldn’t be used in bombs and be so damaging to U.S. troops?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, you know where we are on IEDs in Pakistan. We have a working group with the Pakistanis where we work very closely. That’s a major concern of ours and something that we’ve worked closely with them on.
On this particular company, I’ll have to take the question and see if we have a reaction. I think DOD had some lines on this, but let me look into it after the briefing and see if I can get you some more details.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to them trying to open a plant here domestically?
MR. VENTRELL: I’d have to look into it on this company.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Right after the nuclear test, Secretary Kerry said the U.S. will seek rapid and strong response soon. But two weeks already have passed. So why does it take so long time?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re working with our partners diligently on this. I don’t want to predict how UN diplomacy will play out, but we want a strong credible response and we want it as quickly as we can get there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) report that U.S. and China already agreed with some sanction for the UN Security Council. Can you confirm that?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything to confirm about the diplomacy in New York right now.
QUESTION: But do you think that a response that takes weeks or even months to come out is credible, even if it is strong?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, let’s not predict how long it’s going to take on this. I just —
QUESTION: Well, it’s already taken two weeks. So I don’t need to predict. It’s already taken —
MR. VENTRELL: I’ve been through a lot of extensive UN negotiations for Security Council resolutions and they take time and we’re doing our best we can.
QUESTION: You mentioned the Secretary talked to his Chinese counterpart today.
MR. VENTRELL: He did. That happened while – they were able to connect while he was in Germany today.
QUESTION: Right. By telephone presumably.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: What was the purpose of the call? Why was it necessary to —
MR. VENTRELL: Well, they have touched base before their initial call. One of the main things they talked about today was D.P.R.K. But there could have – clearly, they talked about a wider range of issues, as they always do when they have a chance to connect.
QUESTION: Are the Chinese onboard with what the U.S. is trying to build in a resolution, in a UN resolution?
MR. VENTRELL: Guys, I don’t know how many ways differently I can say it.
QUESTION: Well, look, you brought it up. You brought it up and then you say I’m not going to tell you about it.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, what I’m trying to tell you, Brad, is we have ongoing diplomacy on this.
MR. VENTRELL: The Secretary is engaged. Ambassador Rice is engaged. We’re working very hard with our Chinese counterparts, our Russian counterparts, the entire P-5 on the Security Council. We’re making sure that the Japanese and the South Koreans are kept in the loop and know what’s going on. We’re working with the rest of the Security Council. This is ongoing diplomacy. We’re working it as diligently and as rapidly as we can.
QUESTION: Can you say that the Secretary talked with Chinese counterpart on the phone about concrete countermeasure, including the actual sanctions, today?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I think I’ve said what I can say on this.
Anything else, guys? Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:31 p.m.)