Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 29, 2011.
- Abkhaz Presidential Elections / U.S. Does Not Recognize Legitimacy or Results
- U.S. Condemns Brutal Attack on Innocent Civilians in Tel Aviv
- Terrorist Attack in Cherchell / U.S.-Algeria Bilateral Relationship
- Secretary Clinton to Travel to Paris / Meeting of the Contact Group on Libya
- U.S. Embassy in Libya / Condition of Building
- Statement on Megrahi by TNC Member /Aware of Sensitivities and Reviewing all Aspects of Case / Justice Department / Megrahi Should Not Have Been Released
- NATO Involvement in Implementing UNSCR 1973
- Security of Facilities / State Department Teams / MANPADS
- Frozen Assets
- Consultations with the TNC
- Contact Group on Libya
- Getting the Libyan Economy Back on Track
- Violence By the Qadhafi Forces
- Qadhafi Needs to Be Brought to Justice
- Election of the new Prime Minister
- Counterterrorism Cooperation
- Taliban Reconciliation
- U.S.-Japan Bilateral Relationship
- Continued Violence / Statement by Turkish President Gul / Arab League / Security Council / Sanctions
- SRI LANKA
- Assistant Secretary Blake Travel
MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. We have four announcements at the top, so why don’t I go through those?
First of all, with regard to the so-called Abkhaz presidential elections on August 26th, the United States does not recognize the legitimacy or the results of the August 26 so-called elections in the Abkhazia region of Georgia. We reiterate our support for Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict positions and free access for humanitarian assistance to the territories.
The United States condemns in strongest terms yesterday’s brutal attack on innocent civilians in Tel Aviv. We extend our deepest sympathies to all those harmed in this tragedy. Attacks against innocent civilians in Israel or anywhere else are never justified. We again remind all parties that violence will not advance but will impede the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
And now on Algeria, the United States strongly condemns the August 26th terrorist attack on the military academy in Cherchell, Algeria. Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those who were killed or injured as a result of this horrific event. The U.S. and Algeria have a strong bilateral relationship, and this tragedy highlights the need to continue to bolster our joint efforts as partners to fight terrorism in all its forms.
And the last announcement today is with regard to secretarial travel. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Paris, France on September 1st to participate in a senior-level meeting of the Contact Group on Libya. This will be the fifth such meeting that she’s attended. The Paris meeting will build on the productive Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul on August 25th, and will provide the international community with an opportunity to further coordinate our financial and political support for the TNC. The days and weeks ahead will be critical for the Libyan people, and the United States and its partners will continue to move quickly and decisively to help the TNC and address the needs of the Libyan people. Libya’s transition to democracy is and should be Libyan-led, with close coordination and support between the TNC and its international partners. The United States stands with the Libyan people as they continue their journey towards genuine democracy.
And now let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I don’t have anything.
QUESTION: How close are we from a reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Libya?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to look at that issue. We need to do a little bit of work to establish the condition of the building itself, et cetera, but we are making plans for those moves even as we speak. But it’s premature to tell you exactly when we’ll be ready to open.
QUESTION: Toria, could you explain how the TNC kind of backtracked on that statement by their legal representative on Megrahi?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. This is with regard to an unfortunate statement by one of their members. The TNC leadership has now said very clearly that they are very aware of the sensitivities and the complexities around this case, and they have assured us that they will review all aspects of the case after they assume full authority in the country, which is obviously their very first priority today and this week.
QUESTION: Because the understanding that I had was that they were not – the TNC itself would not make any determination; that would be left to the government that would be elected eventually.
MS. NULAND: I think what we’ve seen today is a TNC recognition that this is a very sensitive issue and that they will need to address it as soon as they establish full authority. But they’re not there yet, obviously.
QUESTION: Would it not be double jeopardy for Mr. Megrahi, having been tried, convicted, sentenced, and then subsequently released on humanitarian grounds, however appropriate or inappropriate that release might have been, for him to face any additional consequences or any additional trial? I mean, he was tried under terms that everybody signed onto, he was convicted, he was sent to jail, and then he was released by the Scottish authorities. Why – sensitive though this clearly is, how can he be tried again or asked to face additional consequences when he was subject to a legal process that everybody signed off onto?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me make two points in response to that, Arshad. First of all, as Secretary Clinton has made clear, we believe he should still be behind bars, that the decision to release him was not the right decision to make.
With regard to what the TNC will conclude ought to be done, I don’t think any decisions have been made in that regard. We need to let them get their feet under themselves as a governing authority, and then they have agreed that they will look at this, but they haven’t – they’re – you’re speculating as to what might be concluded, and I don’t think we’re there yet.
QUESTION: Well, I asked the same questions last week after some members of Congress and also some – at least one Republican presidential hopeful candidate – and there was never any response. I mean, there are no charges pending against Mr. Megrahi in the U.S., are there?
MS. NULAND: I can’t answer that from here. I would refer you to Justice. I don’t have the answer from here.
QUESTION: Well, are you aware of any?
MS. NULAND: I am not aware of any, but I would refer you to Justice.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any scheme under which a country – the U.S. or any other country could now request that he be – or – other than Scotland, ask that he be delivered to them to serve out the remainder of his sentence?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into legal and judicial matters that the Justice Department will speak to, but we —
QUESTION: Right, but they’re questions that were actually asked last week, and I would’ve assumed that someone had made an attempt to get them answered. No?
MS. NULAND: Again, the Justice Department is going to deal with these issues. What we have done is to be in touch with the TNC about these matters. That’s gone on over the last week or so, and you see the TNC’s statement today that they understand the sensitivities, they understand the complexities, and they will be looking at this issue as soon as they can.
QUESTION: What have – what did you ask the TNC?
MS. NULAND: We asked the TNC to, as soon as it can, take a hard look what it thinks ought to happen with Mr. Megrahi, and it is committed to do that.
QUESTION: What does that entail? What —
MS. NULAND: Again, that will be up to the TNC. And the Justice Department will be the lead agency in the U.S when – if and when that moment comes.
QUESTION: So there was no suggestion as to, hey, you might want to take a look at this – option A, option B, option C?
MS. NULAND: We’re not to that stage and nor are they.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, in the past, has said that his place is behind the bars? Would you press for this?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, in the past, has said that his place is behind the bars, he should be in the prisons. Would you press for this with the TNC?
MS. NULAND: Again, I reiterated her point, which is that we don’t think he should have been released, he should be behind bars. What I’ve said today about the TNC’s commitment to look at this as soon as it can, I think is as far as we have gotten on this issue at the moment. The overwhelming priority, as you can imagine, is to end the violence in Libya and complete the transition to TNC governing authorities so that it can fully address the needs of the Libyan people and start turning that page towards democratic governance.
QUESTION: Let me just follow up quickly, Madam. Will the U.S. push through the United Nations International Criminal Court to bring him to justice so people of Libya will get justice?
MS. NULAND: You’re talking about with regard to this case?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: No decisions have been made with regard to that set of issues.
QUESTION: But recognizing that there are other priorities that are more important right now perhaps, but still you’ve asked them to take a look at it. What are they supposed to look at?
MS. NULAND: This issue – this case is of concern around the world. The fact that the Scottish court let him out is of concern around the world, including in this building. So it is —
QUESTION: But that doesn’t have anything to do with the TNC or Libya at all. That has to do with not the Scottish court but the Scottish executive.
MS. NULAND: Which – and that’s also a conversation that we have engaged.
QUESTION: But that’s the conversation you have with the TNC?
MS. NULAND: We have asked —
QUESTION: I mean, your problem here is with the Scots. It’s not with the Libyans, is it?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is a new day in Libya. This is a guy with blood on his hands, the lives of innocents. Libya itself, under Qadhafi, made a hero of this guy. Presumably, a new, free, democratic Libya would have a different attitude towards a convicted terrorist. So it is in that spirit that the TNC will look at this case. I cannot speak to what decisions will be made.
QUESTION: Even if it’s a new day in Libya, the guy was subjected to a legal process to which all the parties involved signed off. I mean, that was excruciatingly negotiated so that you would have this bizarre prospect of a Scottish court sitting in The Hague trying him. I mean, there was enormous work put in to try to find a process that was regarded as fair. And I tend to see it the way Matt does: Your problem ultimately is with the Scottish executive that chose to release him.
MS. NULAND: And again, we have made that point that we thought that the release decision was in appropriate.
QUESTION: Right. But it’s not the Libyans’ decision. It was the Scots’ decision. And in the interest of rule of law and fairness of legal procedures, it’s not clear to me why you should ask, having signed off on the original process under which this man was convicted, tried and convicted, why you should now ask another authority to do something about it.
MS. NULAND: The expectation was that he would remain behind bars after his conviction. I think we’ve said what we can on this one today.
QUESTION: Just last one – would you like to see him detained in Libya as a result of the change of regime?
MS. NULAND: We would like to see this issue taken up. That’s what we have asked for. It remains to be seen where it will go.
QUESTION: Well, can you find out, though, what exactly – when you say you want it to be taken up, when you say you want the TNC to look at it and you’re – once they have a functional government, what exactly that means? When you say you want them to take it up, I mean, what is there to take up? There’s nothing really for them to take up. The guy was convicted, he was released, whether you agree with that decision or not. It’s not up to the TNC to – I mean, it’s not the TNC you have a problem with here.
MS. NULAND: The previous —
QUESTION: So what is it exactly? Can we just – can you ask or find out what exactly it is that you want the TNC – once it’s able to, to take up regarding this case?
MS. NULAND: The TNC is – as the – it was under the Qadhafi regime that he was accepted back into Libya. If you have a new governing authority in Libya, they can presumably review the terms under which their predecessors accepted his return to Libya. So I think I’m going to leave it there because going further than that takes us into issues that are far from clear at the moment.
QUESTION: NATO spokesmen now acknowledge that there were British and French military operatives on the ground in this Libya operation. Can you tell me did they have any support from any of the NATO facilities or NATO operations in which U.S. personnel were involved?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the precise undertakings of individual allies in their support for the TNC. What I can say is that NATO itself is involved in implementing UN Security Council 1973, which speaks to the protection of civilians and the targets that NATO has deployed against, were in support of protecting civilians as they were attacked and as they continue to be engaged with Qadhafi forces. And as you know, today, the pressure is growing around Sirte, Qadhafi’s own hometown. From the U.S. perspective, as you know, we’ve had no boots of our own on the ground.
QUESTION: Can you say whether there are other operatives, paramilitary or other, connected if not to the Defense Department, to the CIA or other U.S. agencies that are working on the ground in this context to help the forces?
MS. NULAND: I cannot. I would be – you’re asking me to get into intelligence issues, but I can’t speak to any of that stuff.
QUESTION: Well, wait. Does that mean that – I thought last week when we were talking about WMD that you had said there were people there.
MS. NULAND: Well, there —
QUESTION: She was talking about national technical means.
MS. NULAND: With regard to U.S. experts, as I said last week, on the nuclear side with regard to remaining yellowcake, on the chemical side with regard to the facility that has been sealed by OPCW, we stated some assurances with regard to the security of those facilities based on national technical means. We did say that with regard to the conventional concerns that we have primarily with the shoulder-fired MANPADS that we have had teams in Libya working with the TNC, and that work will continue.
QUESTION: And those teams are, to the best of your – those are State Department teams? DOD teams?
MS. NULAND: They are State Department teams.
QUESTION: So there are —
MS. NULAND: And contractors.
QUESTION: So the – but they’re not fighting?
MS. NULAND: I think he was asking me a – he asked me a CIA question, I thought. He asked me an intelligence question.
QUESTION: TNC officials are eager to get their hands on money from the frozen assets, money that they can spend at their discretion. How far is that off? Is the U.S. thinking about release of money for those purposes? Or is that still a ways in the distance?
MS. NULAND: Beyond the 1.5 billion that we —
QUESTION: Beyond the 1.5, yeah. Yeah. They want money to spend on arms and security forces and so forth.
MS. NULAND: With regard to the remaining U.S. money frozen, our main priority now is working with the TNC, working with countries on the Security Council in New York on an appropriate resolution or set of resolutions to unwind those aspects of UN Security Council 1970 and 1973 that may no longer be appropriate. Presumably, that would speak to the unfreezing of assets. But that work continues, and we haven’t completed it in New York.
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Libya?
QUESTION: Just one.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: There’s some reporting that some loose MANPADS have appeared in African countries and that there’s some consideration being given to a buyback program by the United States. Are you aware of this?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to specifically Libyan MANPADS being found outside. We have had, as I said last week, an extensive anti-MANPADS program worldwide since 2003, and it does involve buyback, it does involve destruction. And we have had teams in the neighboring countries of Libya in the recent months.
QUESTION: Another subject matter?
MS. NULAND: Anything else on Libya?
QUESTION: Yeah. I’ve seen that Johnnie Carson will travel to three African countries, including Mali. Are you concerned about what might do – ex-mercenaries coming back from Libya to Niger, Mali? I have seen reports that they are concerned that these people who are heavily armed might cause trouble in their countries.
MS. NULAND: I think some of Libya’s neighbors have been concerned about this and have been open to consultations both with the TNC and with the international community about how they might manage returning fighters, and it’s obviously in our interest to help those governments ensure that trouble doesn’t flow back to them.
More broadly with regard to security within Libya, I think you all have seen that half of the Transitional National Council has now established its offices in Tripoli. The current – the TNC’s Tripoli office is headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tarhouni. The ministers for interior, justice, telecommunications, health, information, and development have also moved to the Tripoli office. The other half of the TNC is still in Benghazi – the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, economy, education, and reconstruction.
The internet is now back up in Tripoli. The phones are working again. The TNC – which is, I think, more than we can say for some parts of the larger Washington area after Hurricane Irene, and the TNC has set up its own stabilization – security stabilization offices in Tripoli, in Zintan, in Zawiya, and is also working with the national police to ensure security in the areas that it controls.
QUESTION: To what extent is the TNC, to your knowledge, actually providing security on the ground in terms of basic policing?
MS. NULAND: The TNC is working actively and has been working since neighborhoods in Tripoli began to fall with the neighborhood committees that it had set up even before then and with the local militias that were involved in the fighting in Tripoli. And it is now seeking through this new office that it’s established of security to bring all of those militias under a common command and control structure and to work with the local police. And that work continues. I think we’ll have more on that in a couple of days.
QUESTION: Just one other one on Libya. What do you expect – what would make the meeting in Paris on Thursday a success to the United States? What do you expect to come out of that?
MS. NULAND: As the TNC makes its own moves to establish its governing authority across Libya, the international community is transitioning itself from a body that was supporting an opposition coalition now into a Friends of Libya group for the long haul as Libya sets about restoring order, restoring services, taking care of the humanitarian needs of its people, and beginning to transform itself into first an interim government and then prepare for a new constitution, elections, et cetera.
So the international community is going to be looking forward to a report from the TNC in Paris on its needs in the areas of governance, security, humanitarian, economic reconstruction, and talking about how we can all play our part to support those efforts, including through the UN structures.
QUESTION: Is this – I mean, other than maybe changing the name then to Friends of Libya from Libya Contact Group, are you looking ahead, for example, to the possibility of a donors conference where donors could pledge money toward the needs identified by the Libyan authorities?
MS. NULAND: I think the first priority, Arshad, is to get the Libyan people’s money back to their governing authority and to them. With regard to the need for further money, I think that would only come after we get their money back to them and we see how they’re doing. And as you know, they are themselves very interested in getting the oil flowing again, the gas flowing again. It’s a rich country; they want to support themselves. So let’s start with getting their money back to them and getting the economy back on track.
QUESTION: Is changing the name really something that’s going to happen?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know whether there will be a formal change of name, but there will certainly be a change of psychology. We’re no longer supporting an opposition coalition; we’re supporting a new governing authority as it starts the journey to a democratic Libya. And as you know from having worked many transitional societies, this is often the hardest part. After you —
QUESTION: Changing the name of the group? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: No. Changing the name of the group, let’s hope, it’s easy.
MS. NULAND: But after you —
QUESTION: It’s a pretty significant and substantial move on the – if that’s what the Libyans can look forward to, I’m sure they’re thrilled.
MS. NULAND: No, no, no. After you’ve won on the battlefield, then you have to win the peace and you have to secure a positive future for your people. And that is complex work, especially in a society like Libyans – Libya’s, where a dictator has ruled for so many years.
QUESTION: So as this – as it transitions, as the Contact Group goes through this transition of no longer supporting a rebel – are you hoping that it will attract new members?
MS. NULAND: Hoping it will attract new members. The Contact —
QUESTION: People like the Germans, for example, who —
MS. NULAND: The TNC itself —
QUESTION: People with cash, who actually have money, unlike a lot of countries that are members of it, people that – is that what you’re looking for, to expand the membership so that it’s more inclusive than just – I mean, the Contact Group was always defined loosely as the countries and organizations that were supporting the NATO mission.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously the EU is present in the Contact Group. And Germany, as a leading member of the EU, participates in the Contact Group.
QUESTION: Right, right. No, no. I understand that. But so – are you hoping to expand it beyond those countries that —
MS. NULAND: I think in terms of the country count in the Contact Group, that’s up to other countries if they want to join. I think what’s most important is that those countries who recognize the TNC as the governing authority in Libya, and therefore are open for business in terms of supporting this transition, is growing. We had another four or five countries just over the weekend recognize the TNC, and that is good. We also have the Arab League. I don’t know if you all caught this, but the Arab League, in its meeting over the weekend, agreed to seat the TNC in Libya’s seat in the Arab League, so that’s very good in terms of broadening the international support for Libya in this transition phase, which is most important.
Please. Still Libya?
QUESTION: Just one quick one.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Jill.
QUESTION: There had been some pretty horrendous reports about violence by Qadhafi forces against members of the rebels. I just wanted to check. That is not surprising, I guess, but how is the TNC upholding its pledge not to have reprisals on the part of their forces?
MS. NULAND: You’ve seen public statements by the TNC and other leaders expressing concern that there are many, many people still missing, even after some of these prisons have been opened, et cetera. The TNC, meanwhile, has been saying on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, to its own, no reprisals, no spilling of innocent blood; we need to behave like we want new Libya to be, no destruction of property, et cetera. And as they seek to get control of these disparate militia forces that have been keeping the peace in Tripoli, we expect that those sort of governing principles will be conveyed and will be implemented throughout.
MS. NULAND: Say again?
MS. NULAND: Nepal. Sure.
QUESTION: Yes, madam. Finally, Nepal has a new prime minister but still without any constitution. If U.S. has been asked for any help or if U.S. is in touch with this new government?
MS. NULAND: First, we congratulate the people of Nepal on the election of the new prime minister. We look forward to working with Prime Minister Bhattarai and continuing the warm and constructive relationship that we’ve had with Nepal. We’re hopeful that his election will give renewed momentum both to the peace process and to constitution drafting.
QUESTION: One more. As far as constitution, they are still struggling to have a new constitution. Was there any moment that they had or are still seeking any U.S. assistant in this forming a new constitution?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we need to let the new prime minister take up his duties, and then we will see whether they need our support in that regard.
QUESTION: And finally, did the Secretary call him?
MS. NULAND: She has not. She has not called him, no.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: The prime minister heads the Maoist party of Nepal, which has been branded as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. Do you have any plans to lift that – remove that organization from the list?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on that today. I can take it, and we can get back to you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: To take you back to Libya, you may not be aware of this, but there are reports that two of Qadhafi’s sons, Hannibal and Mohammed, his daughter Aisha, and one of Qadhafi’s wives have arrived in Algeria. This is reported by Al-Jazeera, according to Algerian officials. Do you have – can you confirm that? Do you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of those of his relatives, and do you have any position on what should be done with members of the Qadhafi family that flee but are not under indictment by the ICC or not wanted by the ICC?
MS. NULAND: I did see this Al-Jazeera report just before we came out. I’m not in a position to confirm it. And with regard to your larger question, you know where we’ve been, that we want to see justice and accountability for Qadhafi and those members of his family with blood on their hands and those members of his regime with blood on their hands. But it will be a decision of the Libyan people how that goes forward.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the action Islamabad is taking against al-Qaida and other organizations, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba? Because today the Pentagon spokesman, he said, to quote, “Al-Qaida in Pakistan clearly remains a nerve center of the organization, remains dangerous,” end quote.
MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying that our work, our counterterrorism work with Pakistan, continues, that these issues have not always been smooth. Sometimes our work together is complex, but we share an interest with Pakistan in ridding the region of al-Qaida. And that work will continue.
QUESTION: But as you know that Pakistan is dragging its feet over bringing to book culprits of Mumbai attacks in which six Americans were killed. What is the latest you know that Pakistan is doing to fight terrorists, like these are more than the words? Any concrete action that you know of?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into the details of our very sensitive counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan. But as I said, we share an interest with Pakistan in ridding that country, that region, of al-Qaida. We’ve worked on it together for many years, and our work will continue.
MS. NULAND: Still on – on Afghanistan? Sure.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the statement issued by a Taliban leader Mullah Omar in which he says that any – he sets a precondition for talks with Afghanistan Government, which is withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen that particular report. I think you know where we’ve been on the larger issue of Taliban reconciliation, that this needs to be an Afghan-led process. U.S. has been and will continue to support an Afghan-led process, but certain principles or absolute red lines, they have to renounce violence, they have to accept the Afghan constitution.
QUESTION: So there’s no flexibility in that red line?
MS. NULAND: There are not on our side.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Come out (inaudible). (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: You won’t be surprised to have me say that U.S.-Japan – the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship is very strong, it’s very deeply rooted in our common interests, in our values. Our alliance has flourished under each and every Japanese prime minister. We look forward to our continuing close cooperation with the Government of Japan and the next prime minister across a broad range of issues facing our two nations.
QUESTION: How many prime ministers would that be?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know. How many prime ministers would that be?
QUESTION: It seems – better keep that in the book. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Okay. There you go. Jill.
QUESTION: Just one more on Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there anything that you can give us on this —
MS. NULAND: You guys are silly after the weekend.
MS. NULAND: Maybe just Matt’s silly thinking about his trip to Paris. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is there anything on this report that after the U.S. met secretly with a personal emissary of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the Afghan Government leaked it and scuttled the talks? Do you have anything that you can add to this extensive reporting?
MS. NULAND: I don’t, Jill. I don’t have anything on that particular story except to say what we’ve already said, which is that we support an Afghan-led process. We’re continuing to be willing to support that, but it’s got to be Afghan led and it’s got to be within the terms that I mentioned before.
QUESTION: Just going back to the – you said that you don’t want to go into the details of cooperation with Pakistan. But have you got anything concrete for the families of the six Americans who were killed in the Mumbai attacks?
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said what I’m going to say on counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan. Thanks.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Violence, while it may be a little less, but it’s still continued. And I’m wondering what you have to say to that. Has Ambassador Ford been out? Has he had any contacts with people? And what do you make of Turkish President Gul’s comments?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that the horrific violence in Syria continues despite promise after promise from the Asad regime. There were dozens more dead over the weekend. Mass arrests continue. Torture continues. Some of you may have seen reporting of this horrific August 26th night attack on the Rifai Mosque in Damascus, including an assault on a very respected religious figure and arrests of peaceful worshipers and a ransacking of the mosque, particularly at this time of year. It’s not the first time we’ve seen the regime attack mosques. It also did so in Hama, it did so in Deir al-Zour, where there was gun-fighting and toppling of a minaret, and all of that was on TV.
With regard to the statements by Turkish President Gul, the Arab League’s very strong statement over the weekend, even concern expressed reportedly by Russian President Medvedev, Asad is increasingly isolated. The international community is increasingly speaking with one voice in demanding an immediate end to the violence. As the Secretary has said, the chorus of condemnation is continuing to grow.
We are also, as you know, intensifying our work in New York with some of our allies and partners on a new sanctions resolution. That’s going to be a matter of diplomatic priority over the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: Weeks? So you don’t expect this to be anytime soon?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s going to take some time. It’s obviously not going to be done in the next couple of days. But we’re going to continue to make the case to the Security Council that it is time now for the Council as a whole, rather than the individual nations, to sanction Asad. I think you saw some press reporting earlier this morning that the EU (inaudible) now have made an agreement in principle to suspend its own oil and gas imports from Syria.
QUESTION: I think it was also said by Russian president that should be given two more weeks to Asad following two weeks of Turkish time. Do you agree with that? Do you think that Asad should have another two weeks to come up with some kind of —
MS. NULAND: I think we said a week ago that it was time for Asad to go, and we stand by that.
QUESTION: A monk in Tibet has been sentenced for 11 years. A Tibetan monk in China has been sentenced for 11 years. Apparently, he was along with the monk – (inaudible) of the monk who committed suicide earlier this month. Tibetans are saying this is unjustified. How do you react to that?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to have to take that one. I hadn’t seen that reporting.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: There are calls coming from activists in Syria that it should be – and they carried this banner also in different part of Syria, that should be in no-fly zones, should be under consideration. They called for it. And some others called to activists to take up the guns. What’s your view on these – both two issues?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen this reporting of a small number of folks making that call. Our contacts indicate and the public statements of opposition figures indicate that the vast majority of Syrian oppositionists want to maintain their peaceful nonviolent stance in Syria, do not want foreign military intervention, and want the government to stop its own violence. So from that perspective, I think we’re all in agreement that it’s for Asad to end this, and to end it now.
QUESTION: And no-fly zone, is there any – with the UN —
MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve made the case that the vast majority of Syrians do not want foreign military intervention at the — in this.
QUESTION: The Algerian ministry just confirmed that Qadhafi’s wife, two sons and daughter crossed the border into Algeria. Are you concerned that Qadhafi might follow suit? And what’s the position concerning their crossing into Algeria, actually?
MS. NULAND: Again, our position is that Qadhafi needs to be brought to justice. Our position is also that Qadhafi needs to step down immediately and call on his supporters to stop fighting.
QUESTION: But you have no position on the non-ICC (inaudible) – indicted members of his family?
MS. NULAND: Our position has been that those members of his family, those members of his regime with blood on their hands should be brought to justice. With regard to other members of his family, I think this needs to be a Libyan decision.
QUESTION: But wait. Just to be clear, though, that means that those who were suspected of having blood on their hands have been indicted by the ICC; correct? Or do you think that they could go – that others could be as well?
MS. NULAND: I think it’s too soon to tell. We need to have a full investigation.
QUESTION: I need just – did you – was there no answer to my question on Ambassador Ford and Syria? Has – he has not gone out? He hasn’t been —
MS. NULAND: He hasn’t had any further travel since his trip to Jassem.
MS. NULAND: No, no. He – Assistant Secretary Blake was supposed to fly out on Saturday. His flight was delayed by the hurricane which caused him to miss some previously scheduled meetings. So he is now endeavoring to reschedule those meetings so he can go at the next appropriate opportunity.
QUESTION: And I had a basic question about this Palmer report which has been postponed last week, is for the third time and this week probably it has been postponed for the fourth time. What is your view on this report – about this commission’s work, I mean? Because there are signs from – coming from Israel side that they are not happy with this commission’s work, and maybe they believe this kind of report is not necessary to repair the relations with Turkey. What is your position on this report? Because before, you had said that this report should be released as soon as possible to repair the two countries’ relations. Are you on the same page still about this commission and about this report?
MS. NULAND: We have supported the work of the Palmer commission. It’s up to the UN to decide when the commission report is ready for release. I obviously can’t comment on their work until we see the report.
QUESTION: But, I mean, do you believe that this report is constructive for the two countries’ relations?
MS. NULAND: We believe that the commission, the fact of the commission and its process to issue a report is an important step. I can’t comment on the substance of the report because it hasn’t been released.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)