State Department Briefing by Patrick Ventrell, September 6, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–September 6, 2012.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Russian Commitment to Wildlife Conservation
    • State of U.S.-Russian Relations/Secretary Clinton Bilateral Meetings at APEC
    • Expulsion of Save the Children Staff
    • Church of Scientology Detoxification Treatment for Agent Orange
    • Release of Human Rights Watch Report on Torture
    • Extradition of Ramil Safarov from Hungary
    • Delisting of Maoists/Status of Political Situation
    • Status of Jerusalem


12:52 p.m. EDT

MR. VENTRELL: Okay, good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. We have with us some diplomats who are headed out to be spokespeople at some of our embassies overseas, so welcome to the briefing, to all of you. I don’t have anything else, so I’ll turn it over to you.

QUESTION: Makes two of us.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Jill?


MR. VENTRELL: Jill or Jo.

QUESTION: Go ahead, Jill.


QUESTION: Well, I really did want to find out about the sighting of Vladimir Putin in the skies over the Yamal Peninsula. (Laughter.) I mean, reports are that he was in the skies, and we just wanted to know if you had noticed that and had any comment. (Laughter.)

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’ve seen the video, Jill, to be sure. And the Russian Government and President Putin himself are very committed to wildlife conservation. I don’t know if all of you know this, but Siberian cranes are a critically endangered species. And so President Putin has personal involvement in the issue. We, as the United States, remain dedicated to conservation, to ending illicit traffic in endangered species, and we look forward to continued cooperation with Russia to conserve a number of endangered species, including tigers, leopards, and polar bears. And so his personal involvement focuses much needed international attention on the plight of these iconic migratory birds.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Where are these tigers and leopards located?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t know. I believe Siberia is one place, but tigers and leopards in other parts of the world.


MR. VENTRELL: I just listed some of the key endangered species.

QUESTION: That was a general assessment –

MR. VENTRELL: That was a general assessment of endangered species.

QUESTION: Okay. I just thought I’d learned something here.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Michelle.

QUESTION: I have a question about Pakistan.

QUESTION: Could I stay with Putin?

MR. VENTRELL: Let’s finish our discussion of endangered species.

QUESTION: Oh no, it’s not about endangered species.


QUESTION: It’s about – well unless the Secretary is an endangered species. It’s about – President Putin apparently is only going to have very brief talks with Secretary Clinton during the APEC summit this weekend. And according his foreign policy aide, they’ll – they’re going to step to one side during a reception that Putin is planning to throw for some guests that if they can find some chairs they’ll take a seat. I just wondered what the Department’s reaction is to those comments, which sound slightly rude to me.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, just to give you an update on the Secretary’s travel, Jo, as you know, she was in Dili, Timor-Leste yesterday. She’s now in Brunei, where she’s resting overnight. She’s had some meetings there. We’ll have a few more meetings tomorrow before heading to APEC. So her APEC meetings are still a couple of days away. We’re not in a position to confirm any of her bilateral meetings at this point, but she’ll certainly meet with a number of foreign leaders while she has the chance, but we don’t have anything to confirm at this point, one way or another.

QUESTION: I mean, how would you characterize the state of U.S.-Russian relations at the moment?

MR. VENTRELL: They’re good. You know that the reset has obviously reaped important dividends, and that’s been important in terms of our relationship, and so we have some areas that we definitely disagree on, no doubt Syria at the top of those; but we continue to have a productive relationship with the Russian Federation, and the Secretary looks forward to meeting with a number of foreign leaders, and we’re thankful that they’re hosting APEC.

QUESTION: But it seems to me – I mean, the – Putin didn’t manage to make it to the G-8 talks; the President couldn’t go to APEC because of the convention this week. It does seem to me a little bit of a snub that they’re not – that it sounds like the Russians aren’t going to carve out any kind of proper time for a meeting between the President and the Secretary.

MR. VENTRELL: No, I wouldn’t read a lot into some of the things you just said, in terms of, for example, Putin not coming here, or – it’s political season here in the U.S., and so the President wasn’t able to go there. The relationship is strong, and again, a couple of days out we don’t tend to confirm the Secretary’s schedule about what meetings she’ll have and for how long. That’s just something we do a little bit closer to the time. So I don’t want to speculate on what kind of meeting might transpire, but let’s see what happens in our diplomacy out there in APEC and get you a proper readout after the meetings are over.


MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Pakistan. It seems that they’re expelling some members of Save the Children, accusing the organization of playing a role in the death of Usama bin Ladin, and I wondered what your thoughts were on this and whether you’re asking the government to back off from this issue.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, thanks for the question. Like other donor countries, the United States strongly supports the work of Save the Children in Pakistan. We are deeply concerned and have raised this issue with the Government of Pakistan and urged it to allow Save the Children to continue its important work. Independent NGOs are among the essential building blocks of any healthy democracy. So in Pakistan, as in other countries, we urge governments to help create an environment in which they can operate productively.

QUESTION: And so what level have you been raising this with the Pakistanis?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, certainly our Embassy out in Islamabad has. I’ll have to check in and see if we’ve also raised it through other channels or here from Washington, but our Embassy most definitely has been in direct touch.

Brad, you had a follow-up?

QUESTION: No, that was the same question.


QUESTION: I have a couple odd-balls.


QUESTION: One, do you have any comment on – we have a story about the Church of Scientology offering detoxification treatment to people in Vietnam, victims of Agent Orange, which the United States dropped.

MR. VENTRELL: You know, I think our Embassy had a reaction to that out there in Vietnam. I don’t have the information so I’d have to look into that after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine.

And then more serious, maybe, there was a Human Rights Watch report that was released –


QUESTION: – detailing claims of torture, more waterboarding than has been previously disclosed, and other kind of harrowing accounts. Do you have a reaction to this report?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, thanks, Brad, for the question. As you know, the United States stood by the people of Libya during their revolution last year and we are strongly committed to supporting Libya’s historic transition. President Obama has prohibited, without exception or equivocation, the use of torture.

QUESTION: Okay. I don’t think all of the accounts refer to the time since President Obama has been in office. So I’m not sure if that actually addresses the issues that were raised in the report.

MR. VENTRELL: Right. My understanding is this is all in the previous administration.

QUESTION: Right. So do you have a comment on, one, whether there was more waterboarding than the three suspects that we know about, and two, some of the other things that were described, including shackling people, hanging people, elevating people, things like that?

MR. VENTRELL: Brad, I’d really refer you to the Department of Justice for further questions.

QUESTION: Have you, though, reached out to any of the people, the victims of waterboarding and other methods of torture at the hands of the U.S. Government?

MR. VENTRELL: We have a wide range of contacts with Libyan civil society, with Libyan officials, with others. I don’t know if particular individuals are folks that we’re in touch with through our Embassy. I can check into that. But suffice it to say that our contacts with not only the new Libyan Government but Libyan civil society are wide and broad and deep and reflect a number of different viewpoints. But I’d have to check specifically.

In the back.

QUESTION: Last week, you made a statement about Safarov’s – Ramil Safarov’s extradition from Hungary to Azerbaijan —


QUESTION: — who later was pardoned there and promoted. As we know, he killed an Armenian officer in 2004 and was convicted to life prison. I wonder if you had any chance – this building had any opportunity of communication with Azerbaijan or Hungary in this regard. Was there any conversation between State Department and Azerbaijani authorities? Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we most definitely have been in touch with authorities. I’d have to check in after the briefing to see at what level. But our statements expressed our deep concern in this regard, and so we’ve definitely been in touch through bilateral communication through those channels. But let me see if we can get you a little bit more information.



QUESTION: And also on that, what does all of this mean for Nagorno-Karabakh, which was looking as if you might be coming to some type of resolution? Now it appears that that really won’t happen. In fact, it’s probably a lot worse.

MR. VENTRELL: Jill, we’re going to continue to maintain contacts with both Armenia and Azerbaijan to peacefully resolve the conflict and reduce tensions. And we really condemn any action that fuels regional tensions, and that’s why we were so deeply disappointed by Hungary’s decision to transfer him to Azerbaijan.

QUESTION: Do you think the comments by the President of Azerbaijan are stirring up problems?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I haven’t seen his comments since then, but we were deeply troubled at the time, and we continue to be troubled.

QUESTION: Are you talking to Armenia also, Patrick, about this problem? Because Armenia is disappointed and concerned.

MR. VENTRELL: We’re definitely in touch with Armenia, obviously through our Embassy, but also through other channels.


QUESTION: Could I ask on Nepal?


QUESTION: After the delisting this morning of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), I see that there’s actually quite a lot of political upheaval going on in Nepal at the moment. I just wondered what the U.S. feeling is about the political situation, where you have a caretaker government, you’ve got no elections planned at the moment because they just simply haven’t managed to organize it properly. What is the U.S. – is the U.S. in a position to be able to help, or what’s the U.S. position on the political situation in Nepal at the moment?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, Jo, even six years after the political process began, Nepal’s political culture remains tumultuous, and so we continue to urge all parties to express their views peacefully and in accordance with Nepali law. So that’s our broad position on politics in Nepal.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Israel?


QUESTION: Which city does the U.S. Government recognize as the capital in the – Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, longstanding Administration policy, both in this Administration and in previous administrations across both parties, is that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. So that’s longstanding Administration policy and continues to be so.

QUESTION: I mean, no city is recognized as a capital by the U.S. Government?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I just stated our position, and it’s one we’ve said here many times before.

QUESTION: That means Jerusalem is not a part of Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: What it means is that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved in final status negotiations.

QUESTION: But you do have an Embassy in a city which is not Jerusalem.

MR. VENTRELL: Our Embassy is in Tel Aviv, and we have a Consulate General in Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if you have an Embassy, usually it’s in the capital; so therefore, it would appear that you believe that Tel Aviv is the capital.

MR. VENTRELL: What we believe is that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in final status negotiations between the two parties. And currently, our Embassy is in Tel Aviv.

QUESTION: Are there any other countries in the world where the U.S. doesn’t know what the capital is or won’t say what the capital of a country is?

QUESTION: What does the U.S. think the capital of Israel is? What do you —

MR. VENTRELL: As I’ve just said, we believe that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status —

QUESTION: I’m not asking you that question. I’m asking you what you think the capital is.

MR. VENTRELL: And my response is that Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations.

QUESTION: She didn’t ask about Jerusalem, though.

MR. VENTRELL: Look, this is something we’ve been through at this podium. Toria has been through it before. We’ve repeated it many times. You know what the position is. It hasn’t changed for decades.

QUESTION: Wait, I know that. And I don’t want to play the verbal game, I’m just very curious if you actually have a position about a capital of that country. And if you don’t, if – I just would like to hear you say you don’t.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, right now, Nicole —


MR. VENTRELL: — the situation is that we have an Embassy in Tel Aviv that represents our interests with the Government of Israel but that the issue of Jerusalem is one that has to be resolved between the two parties. That’s all I can say on this.

Anything else? Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:04 p.m.)