State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, December 18, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 18, 2012.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Status of ARB
    • Current Presence in Libya
    • Secretary Clinton’s Health
    • Chemical Weapons
    • Yarmouk Camp Killings / Refugees
    • Consular Services to U.S. Citizen / Missing U.S. Citizens
    • Nonlethal Assistance
    • Support Political Opposition
    • Settlements / Actions on the Ground
  • IRAQ
    • President of Iraq Jalal Talabani
    • Condemn Attacks of Healthcare Workers
    • India and ASEAN Meeting / Free Trade Agreement
    • Acquittal of Ngudjolo Chui
    • M23 Issues / Kampala Peace Process
  • LAOS
    • Disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone


1:13 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Tuesday. Is it only Tuesday? I think it’s only Tuesday. I have nothing at the top. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Just, again, the logistics on the ARB. Has it been sent up to the Hill? I heard just a little while ago that it hadn’t. If it hasn’t, when exactly is it going to go up? Are you going to do it at like 10 o’clock tonight to try and minimize the likelihood of it leaking?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we laid out yesterday, the classified version of the ARB report is going to go up to the Hill later this afternoon so that members and staff of relevant committees will have a chance to look at it in advance of the classified briefings that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen will give tomorrow. Also to say that it will be covered by a letter from the Secretary.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the unclassified bit doesn’t go up until the following day, or does it all go as one thing and they get the whole report and they can sort of look at it?

MS. NULAND: Today they’re going to get the classified report covered by the Secretary’s letter. I think you know that in the context of this whole ARB process, the Secretary has wanted to be as transparent as possible not only with the Hill, but also with all of you, with the fourth estate, with the American public. So in that context, she has asked the ARB to do its utmost to make a good portion of it unclassified while protecting national security, obviously. So that unclassified portion is being worked now. We anticipate being able to make that available no later than tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: So could it be today?

QUESTION: Oh, it could be today?

MS. NULAND: Again, no later than tomorrow morning, could be earlier, but certainly no later than tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: And how will it be delivered?

QUESTION: Can – is it possible to get a little bit of a heads up if it’s going to come today? If it is – if it becomes clear that it won’t be –

QUESTION: Tomorrow?

QUESTION: — today, could someone let us know?

MS. NULAND: We should give you a 20-minute warning, watch the website, or –

QUESTION: So we can know —

QUESTION: If at 5:30 it becomes clear that they can’t scrub everything and it’s not going to come today, can you –

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We’ll do what we can to work with you. We understand everybody’s got a job to do.

QUESTION: When you said the website, is it going to be put up on the State Department website?

MS. NULAND: We’ll make it available on the website. And at that time, we’ll also make the Secretary’s letter – covering letter available as well. Okay?

QUESTION: And can you give us some specifics, perhaps, just in advance of how long is the report, how many pages?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any specifics for you at this moment, Jo.

QUESTION: You can’t – can you tell us anything about the procedures, how the ARB actually worked, the number of people they interviewed, the number of documents they reviewed?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any back story on any of that for you, Jo. I’m sure that that’ll be one of the subjects that’ll be discussed on the Hill, and we’ll have more to say in coming days on all of that.

QUESTION: And what are plans for Ambassador Pickering or Mike – Admiral Mullen to brief the press?

MS. NULAND: That is also still being worked out. Their main focus, as you can imagine, today is preparing for the briefings that they’re going to be giving tomorrow. So that’s what they are focused on. As you know, they did ask us to collect the various press requests, which is why we established that website for you all to put your requests in, but I don’t have any clarity yet on what their press plans are. I will get back to you on that as soon as I possibly can.

QUESTION: Can you also – yesterday I asked whether there was any update on the status of the Libyan authorities’ own investigation, and you said you would try to get back to us with that.

MS. NULAND: Ah, I thought you were asking, Jo, about our intention to brief the Libyans on the ARB. Were you asking about the update on the investigation, on the FBI?

QUESTION: No, there was two parts of the question, one of which you answered, which was whether you were going to give the – and you said you would give them the unclassified part of the investigation, but there was also – I also was wondering if you could update us on the status of the Libyan authorities’ own investigation into this incident.

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the investigation, that’s, as you know, fully in the hands of the FBI now. So they will be responsible for giving whatever press information they feel comfortable with. But my understanding is that they don’t intend to do any briefing on the status of the investigation, their work with the Libyans, until they’re completed, which they are not yet. With regard to the ARB and the Libyans, my understanding today is that our charge d’affaires there, Ambassador Larry Pope, will have access to the report, and he will be working with the Libyans on any necessary follow-up.

QUESTION: Victoria.


QUESTION: Could you update us on the status of the diplomatic presence – American diplomatic presence in Libya? You just mentioned the charge d’affaires. Is it just in Tripoli or is it in other places? Is there some in Benghazi or not?

MS. NULAND: Our only permanent presence in Libya at the moment is in Tripoli. They do travel as necessary to stay in touch with other parts of the country. It is still relatively streamlined there as we continue to work on the various security issues with the Libyans. You know that I never talk about numbers. We just don’t do that.

QUESTION: Okay. Are the Americans hunkered down, or are they able to work with civil society groups and other groups to provide the kind of guidance and democracy and rule of law and all that stuff that you –

MS. NULAND: No, they are able to interact with a lot of Libyans, both in person and on the phone and in other ways. So I don’t think from that perspective, in terms of their ability to get a sense of what’s going on in the country, we’re constrained, but we are constrained by numbers at the moment because of security.


QUESTION: Toria, just a clarification. You said the classified report goes to the Hill tomorrow ahead of the testimony.


QUESTION: Or excuse me, today, ahead of tomorrow’s testimony. For other committees who aren’t going to be in that room, when will they get access? The same time the press does to the unclassified portions I would assume?

MS. NULAND: In terms of the classified ARB, it’s going up to Senate and House assigned reading rooms, like we always do with classified information. Members and staff of our committees and other committees of jurisdiction will be granted access to it. With regard to the unclassified report, obviously that’ll be available to everybody when it’s released.

QUESTION: You mentioned yesterday that there’s a possibility or potential that leadership could be briefed separately. Is that still being considered, or has that been firmed up?

MS. NULAND: Again, my understanding is that, in terms of the classified report going up today, leadership will also have access to it. I don’t have anything on a separate briefing for leadership beyond the briefings that will be given in classified session tomorrow to SFRC and HFAC.

Moving on? Can we move on?

QUESTION: On that note, are there yet any plans in motion for reopening a consulate in Benghazi as yet?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have any plans at the moment.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just kind of hesitate to ask this, but do you care to have – offer any response to your former colleague John Bolton, who suggested that the Secretary is suffering from, quote/unquote, “diplomatic illness,” suggesting that she is not, in fact, under the weather —

QUESTION: And the New York Post.

QUESTION: — or ill, and that she is faking an illness to – in order not to show up. I don’t – not looking for you to say what you have said in the past, which is that the Secretary is – wants to be open and has said that she will go up in January. What I’m interested in is a reaction specifically to your former colleague, Mr. Bolton’s comment.

MS. NULAND: Completely untrue. We’ve been very clear from the beginning that she had a stomach virus, an ugly stomach virus. She got very dehydrated, she fainted, it was later discovered she had sustained a concussion. On doctor’s orders, she is working at home this week. That’s all we’ve got going on.

QUESTION: This is a guy you used to work with. Can you offer any explanation as to why this man, a former colleague of yours, worked in this building, would say such a thing?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to his personal motivation. I can assure you he’s not privy to any inside information.

QUESTION: Well, there are – I mean, there are several of these type of reports that are making these outrageous charges, so —

MS. NULAND: It’s really unfortunate that in times like this, people make wild speculation based on no information. As I said yesterday, and I’ll say it again today, she’s on the mend, she’s going to be absolutely fine. She is working at home. As you know, she got the ARB report yesterday. She read through it yesterday. She’s been working on the letter that will go with it to the Hill. She’s been on the phone and in email contact with senior staff. She’s been working on other issues, Syria, the DPRK today. So these are people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

QUESTION: Well, how does that – I mean, is she working – is she doing too much work against the advice of her doctors? Because when the doctors put out the statement on, I believe it was Saturday, they said that they urged her not to have any kind of strenuous work. I don’t think they meant physical; I think they meant the – when you have a brain injury of that type of nature, that some sustained rest would be required.

MS. NULAND: Well, her doctors and all the people close to her are trying to encourage her to take the time that she needs to get completely well.

QUESTION: Sorry, what else did you say she was – D.P.R.K., so North Korea – what else?

MS. NULAND: D.P.R.K., working on her letter that covers this report, et cetera, and other issues of interest.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific about what she did on Korea? Was it a phone call? Was it —

MS. NULAND: Well, she’s obviously keeping track of the conversations that we’re having in New York and elsewhere about a response, but I’m not going to get into details; the normal work that she does.

QUESTION: How did the Secretary receive the report? Did she get it in person? Was there a briefing attached to that? And can you describe for us, in general terms, what her reaction was? Satisfied, thought it took too long, didn’t take enough time, whatever? I mean, any sort of general characterization of it?

MS. NULAND: The physical report was couriered to her at the house along with the regular classified pouch that goes to her as appropriate. I’m not going to get into her reaction. I think you’ll get a sense of her reaction and the Department’s reaction when you see the letter that she’s covered the report with and when you hear the testimony of Deputy Secretary Burns and Deputy Secretary Nides. Just to remind that they are standing in for her, so the —


MS. NULAND: — testimony that they give on Thursday will very much reflect her view and how we should go forward from this report and how we should learn its lessons.

QUESTION: Would you consider releasing that letter at the same time it goes up instead of later on? That would help greatly frame that very question today.

MS. NULAND: Well, I’ll certainly convey to folks your interest in that. The current plan is to release it when we release the unclassified so it’s a package, so it’s not sitting out there in isolation from the report itself and —

QUESTION: Would the letter be – would the letter itself contain classified information or would it be —

MS. NULAND: The letter’s unclassified.




QUESTION: Where is her current (inaudible)? In New York or in Washington? Where is she actually?

QUESTION: Which couriers (inaudible)? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: And how many pillows are there and all that kind of stuff? I haven’t —

QUESTION: When did she receive this? Can you say when she received the report, though?

MS. NULAND: Yesterday morning. Yesterday morning. I think I said that yesterday.


QUESTION: My question to you is that although it is Mr. John Bolton that made this accusation, and he’s been known to make such accusations in the past, they do gain a certain traction and a lot of noise on a certain network. Are you concerned that they may create a lot more noise than you like?

MS. NULAND: That’s why we’re trying to be absolutely clear what’s going on, why we put out such a full statement on Saturday of exactly what was going on, because people speculate wildly. We understand the culture and we just want to be clear.

QUESTION: Was there reporting that she – the Secretary had to be put onto an IV; correct?

MS. NULAND: I am not going to get into the details beyond saying that she’s on the mend. It’s a very good try.

Can we move on to some foreign policy? Is that possible? Said.

QUESTION: Hold on, wait a second.


QUESTION: This is foreign policy.

MS. NULAND: Whether she’s had an IV or not is foreign policy?

QUESTION: No, no, the entire Libya investigation is foreign policy.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else here?

QUESTION: Can we —


QUESTION: — go to Syria?


QUESTION: Yes. I asked you yesterday about accusations made by the Government of Syria about the possible – or warning the possible use of chemical weapons by the opposition. And yesterday, it was revealed that Mr. Bashar al-Jafari, the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, has sent a letter, a lengthy letter, to Mr. Ban Ki-moon saying that – warning that the opposition may get its hand on chemical weapons, and also accusing the United States of aiding and abetting terrorist groups. Do you have a response?

MS. NULAND: First of all, as we’ve said for more than a month now, the Syrian Government bears responsibility for the chemical weapons on its territory. They have a responsibility not only not to use them, but to keep them safe and secure. As you know, for more than a decade, we’ve been trying to convince Syria to eradicate these weapons, to get rid of them altogether. They have not done that. They bear responsibility for keeping them safe and secure.

So any effort to abrogate that responsibility, any effort to shift it onto others is just further to the kind of garbage that we’ve seen from the regime. We hold the regime responsible; the President holds the regime responsible for the security of the chemical weapons of Syria.

So that’s one thing. The second —

QUESTION: Well, that – but Toria – well, that’s fair enough, but if the government – if the regime loses control and is not able to – and they don’t give up or they don’t do it willingly, how can they be held responsible?

MS. NULAND: If the regime loses control of these weapons, they have an obligation under international treaties to report that immediately so that remedial action can be taken. That is not where we’ve been.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: If I may follow up.


QUESTION: Now, is it conceivable that the United States can take a lead in asking for some sort of a commission to go and perhaps inspect or make sure that the integrity of these chemical weapons storages, if they do exist, is not compromised?

MS. NULAND: Without getting into intelligence, I’ll just tell you that we are all extremely vigilant with regard to what appears to be going on at the sites. As I said, we have tried for many years to get the Syrians to give up on these weapons. Any day that they want to come to the international community and say, “We’re ready to get rid of them,” we will be there to help them.



QUESTION: I mean, if they did it right now, you’d send in troops and go right ahead?

MS. NULAND: We would do what was necessary to help them if they were ready to give them up now.

QUESTION: Can I just clarify one thing? And so if – realizing this is hypothetical, but since you were willing to answer it —

MS. NULAND: Went into that hypothetical?

QUESTION: Exactly. The second that the Syrians – if the rebels or whoever group takes over a facility that has chemical weapons stockpiles, you would say that they – that the government has a responsibility to report this, say, “Hey world –” or whoever you report it to – “we’ve lost control of this facility and it has the following in it.” Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, well before that. If they have a concern that they could lose control, then they should be calling in for international help. But the point here is that they cannot be shifting responsibility to others. This responsibility is theirs.

QUESTION: There were some reports that the Israelis are talking to Jordan about overflight rights to go after Syria chemical weapons if it came to that. Are you kind of urging the Israelis not to go it alone and to coordinate with international efforts to secure these weapons?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m obviously not going to get into the details of our discussions with partners, but I think we have said for some weeks here that we are working very closely with a number of allies and partners in the international community to ensure that we are able to do what’s necessary should the regime make the wrong choice, should the regime lose control, et cetera.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: I would say that we are – we have been in very close consultation with all of the neighbors on this subject, including Israel.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on what’s happening at the Yarmouk camp? We reported today that there’s something like 2,000 refugees who’re streaming across the border into Lebanon as the camp come – following the strikes on the camp yesterday.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we put out a statement yesterday expressing extreme concern that this Yarmouk camp is now right in the crosshairs and frontlines between the regime and the opposition. We are seeing the same thing that you are seeing, which is that we have a large stream of refugees, including into Lebanon. We are doing what we can, particularly through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees to support Palestinians who are displaced inside Syria, but also to support Palestinians who are forced across borders either into Lebanon or into Jordan.

So I think you know that in 2012, we spent some $233 million on Palestinian refugee issues; 11 million of that was specifically earmarked for refugees in Syria.

QUESTION: How worried are you about the strain this is placing on the Lebanese authorities? Have you been in contact with the government over in Beirut?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have been in contact with them; we are working with them on the refugee response and we are encouraging the UN to do so. This has been a conversation we’ve been having for some time. You’ll recall that at the beginning, like Turkey, neither Lebanon nor Jordan wanted to ask for international help. We’ve encouraged them to do that, and they’re getting some of that help now.


QUESTION: Victoria, I have a follow-up on the chemical weapons issue, but on the Palestinian refugees, you may know this, but the Palestinian refugees from Iraq are still in limbo at the border of Jordan in a place called Ruwaished. So if the Palestinians are moved towards Jordan, this may happen to them again. I just wanted to alert you to that.

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say on that, Said, we are encouraging all of the neighbors of Syria to keep their borders open, given the situation in Yarmouk and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Okay. To follow-up on the chemical weapons aspect, how will you know when the regime has used chemical weapons or, for that matter, when other forces have used chemical weapons?

MS. NULAND: Said, if you want a separate briefing on chemical weapons, I think we can do that —

QUESTION: No, I mean, I’m just asking you —

MS. NULAND: — this is an absolutely horrific weapon of mass destruction. It will be obvious to everyone, as it’s been in the past.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, but the reason I raise this is that when Iraq was accused of using chemical weapons, it took years and years for people to (inaudible).

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve come a long way since then.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.

QUESTION: Mr. Brahimi. Do you have any update on when he’s going to meet with Deputy Burns and the Russian official?

MS. NULAND: I don’t, Samir. As we said yesterday, we stand ready for another meeting of the 3Bs when he thinks it’ll be helpful. But he hasn’t yet asked for one.

QUESTION: The Deputy of the Secretary General of the Arab League said yesterday that Mr. Brahimi is focusing on the consultations with the Russians and the Americans to produce a Geneva Number 2. Are you willing to amend the Geneva Number 1 agreement?

MS. NULAND: Again, he hasn’t come forward to us requesting amendments or with another formulation. He has simply spoken to us about using Geneva as a base to get Syrians interested in beginning to think about who might participate in a transitional government, how it would work, how you’d get from where we are now to that. So obviously we’re open to suggestions that he might have, but we haven’t heard the kind of thing that you’ve discussed here.

QUESTION: Can we stay – sorry, in the region?

MS. NULAND: Can I call on your colleague? Are we still on Syria?

QUESTION: Not on Syria.

MS. NULAND: No. Okay.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Richard Engel. I was just wondering if you guys had anything to do with his release or what you might have had to do with that case.

MS. NULAND: Well, we were made aware by the network. We did what we could. I think for privacy reasons, I’m not going to go into any further details. We are providing full consular services now to him and his colleagues in Turkey.

QUESTION: Sorry. For privacy reasons? For whose privacy? The U.S. Government’s privacy or his privacy? He’s been on TV talking about this —

QUESTION: He’s been on TV talking about it.

MS. NULAND: Again, but it’s —

QUESTION: I mean, and the question that Andy asked you was what you did, and you’re saying that you can’t talk about that for privacy reasons. It seems to me that that’s privacy for the government, which doesn’t have a right of privacy.

MS. NULAND: Well, let me put it this way. We were asked to do what we could to try to ascertain where he might be, who was holding him, do what we could to facilitate release. Without getting into details, we did try to do what we could in that regard.

QUESTION: All right. Well, other than going to the Czechs and saying, “Hey, can you look into this with the Syrian Government,” did you do anything else?

MS. NULAND: We were in contact with various forces inside Syria.


QUESTION: Sorry, just a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Do you have any update, then, on Austin Tice (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: We do not. And I would simply say that the same procedures apply to any missing American inside Syria, working through the protecting power, working through our own channels, to see what we can. But with regret, we have not had a report on Austin Tice in some time.

QUESTION: Is it the same regarding the Al Hurra correspondent who disappeared since – few months in Syria? Nothing on it?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, he’s not – is this an American citizen, the Al Hurra correspondent?

QUESTION: I don’t know.

MS. NULAND: I think he is not. I mean, obviously we are pushing for humane treatment of all journalists, et cetera, and you know where we are generally on freedom of the press, et cetera, inside Syria. But we also are very straight-up in all of our travel warnings that this is a very difficult and dangerous environment.

Please. Still on Syria, in the back?



QUESTION: This morning —

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are, by the way?

QUESTION: Sure. Zach Biggs from Defense News. This morning, the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. once again voiced Turkey’s support for the opposition forces in Syria. But he said that without additional support, he didn’t think they could do it. I’m curious; does the Department also feel that additional support would be required in order for those opposition forces to succeed? And what additional support could the U.S. and the international community be providing that might assist them that you’d be willing to consider?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know, we’ve talked about this quite a bit here, that we are providing nonlethal assistance. We are continuing to look now in conjunction with the Syrian Opposition Council at what more kinds of nonlethal support we can provide. We are primarily supporting the political opposition on the ground inside Syria now. So not only the communications equipment and the health support that we have been talking about, but now trying to help them to meet the basic needs of the – of people in towns that have now been liberated from the regime, trying to help them to provide basic services, et cetera, the training programs that we’re giving for that.

So we are continuing to listen to the SOC in terms of what needs to be done on the nonlethal side and to expand the things that we can offer in that category.

QUESTION: And the assessment that it’s not possible for the opposition to win without additional support?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into our internal assessments other than to say what we’ve been saying for a couple of weeks here, which is that we do see the regime under significant pressure, we do see the opposition making gains on the ground, and particularly in the context of this extremely difficult and fierce fighting going on in both Aleppo and Damascus now.



QUESTION: Just staying in the region, but moving to Israel, you will have seen Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments this morning that they will continue to build in Jerusalem, East Jerusalem included, because it is the undivided and eternal capital of Israel. You will probably also have seen that the – several European countries that are members of the Security Council are talking about writing a – or drafting some kind of condemnatory language about this. So one, I’m wondering what your reaction is to the Prime Minister’s comments, and two, I’m wondering if you’ll sign on to the European expression of extreme displeasure.

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start with the second first. I don’t know that we’ve seen any particular draft from the Europeans. We obviously believe that each country ought to make its own representations to the parties, and that’s the way we’ve proceeded. And if we want to make representations as a Quartet, we’re prepared to do that.

With regard to the larger settlement issue and statements recently and actions on the ground, we are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action. These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk. So we again call on Israel and the Palestinians to cease any kinds of counterproductive unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, it’s —

QUESTION: Well, can I ask you – this is a far cry from what you said yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, and the day before, and the day before, and the day before. Why now are you taking this up a notch?

MS. NULAND: Because we’re concerned about the actions that have happened in the last 24 hours and the continued acceleration.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Do you – is it a recognition? Can I just – is it a recognition of the fact that when the Palestinians take steps that are – you think are provocative and unhelpful to the process, that those steps actually do not change things on the ground, i.e. going to the UN and asking for recognition there, and that when the Israelis do things that you think are provocative and unhelpful to the process, they actually have the effect of changing the situation on the ground and pre – affecting issues that you believe need to be decided only in negotiation?

MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this yesterday. The number one way to settle this whole question of building and settlements is for the parties to come together and settle security, settle boundaries between them. That is the right path forward. We don’t want to see provocative action on either side. But you’re absolutely right that this strong statement today reflects concern about what’s going on.

QUESTION: But there’s no – I mean, up until now, the Palestinians haven’t had any recourse when they – when these settlements are being built. Now, as an upgraded member of the United Nations General Assembly, they do have the option of joining the International Criminal Court or other courts and pursuing this as a matter of international law. And the United States itself recognizes its settlements – that the settlements are not legal. So what incentive do you have to offer the Palestinians not to try and seek this redress in an international court when you yourself are saying that it’s provocative and it’s not legal?

MS. NULAND: Because it’s not going to change anything for a single Palestinian, and in fact, it’s going to make the environment for getting to the table, which could change the lives for Palestinians, all the harder. So if you really care about your people, if you really care about lasting peace on either side of this, the only way forward is to sit down, talk it out, and figure it out for the future.

QUESTION: But you can understand, can’t you, that they don’t want to sit down with the Israelis while they’re continuing to build these settlements? I mean, what influence do you or does even the courts – I agree they would – they completely don’t listen to that either. But what influence does anybody have over the Israelis to get them to stop building settlements?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve had provocative action all the way through this season. The only way to get this settled is for the parties to come back to the table. It’s not going to be settled by any of these provocative actions, and we are calling it out today.


QUESTION: A follow-up on your deep disappointment. You just said you’re deeply disappointed. I assume that you’re referring to the confiscation of about 450 acres, which is 1,200 dunams, yesterday from Abu Dis and Hazara. Now, how will this deep disappointment impact what is going on on the ground? I mean, it seems that from briefing to briefing, more land is taken.

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I just spoke about this, that the only way forward is to have a lasting settlement between these parties. But again, we are not in a good cycle here. We need to break this cycle, end the provocative actions, and get these parties back to the table. It is not easy. It has not been easy for quite some time. We can’t want this more than the parties themselves want it. And we are going to continue to work on it and we’re going to continue to call it how we see it when either side takes provocative action.

QUESTION: Sorry just to keep beating this issue, but you are deeply disappointed. I mean, next week you can be exceedingly deeply disappointed, but the Israelis will continue to build. What leverage you can actually exercise?

QUESTION: I just asked that.

QUESTION: I want to ask this because we keep asking – we keep going around this thing. I mean, and next week we’ll have another statement. On the ground, what is going on?

MS. NULAND: Again, as long as the parties want us involved, we’re going to continue to try to get them back together. We’re going to continue to call it how we see it if we think either side has taken action that imperils the peace process. If there were a quick fix to this, it would be fixed. The only way forward is back to the table. We can talk about this for seven more hours, but it’s not going to change .

QUESTION: How has your deep disappointment been conveyed to the Israelis? I assume your statement today was not a surprise to them.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously making similar representations privately as we are making publicly.

QUESTION: Is that at the level of Ambassador Shapiro or has any – is Secretary Clinton or one of – Deputy Secretary Burns or Beth Jones called?

MS. NULAND: It’s at the level of Ambassador Shapiro and David Hale. I’ll let you know if I have anything else to share with you on that front.



QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that when you say you can’t want this more than the two sides, given all that’s going on by both sides, the actions, are you concerned that you’ve reached the point where you want it more than they do?

MS. NULAND: I don’t want to characterize that. You’ve seen the President say, including in the last few weeks, that he is committed to staying engaged, he is committed to continuing to try. So we’re going to do that.

QUESTION: Right. But your comments today – you’ve questioned it before – the last provocative action by the Palestinians, I think was the UN, right? There hasn’t been anything since then, right? But at that point, you questioned the Palestinians whether they were really interested in peace or not. And today, for the first time that I can remember in a very, very long time, going back probably back a decade, you’re questioning whether Israelis are really – the Israeli leadership, despite what they say, is really interested in peace. So I’m —

MS. NULAND: Matt, I was evenhanded in my comment that we can’t want this more than the parties.

QUESTION: Oh, I know. So now it is evenhanded. Now you’ve questioned both sides’ commitment to – you’re questioning both sides’ stated commitment to wanting to get a peace deal. So I’m just wondering if, given that situation, if you’re worried at all that it has gotten to the point where you want it more than they do.

MS. NULAND: I think, frankly, I’ve made that statement probably three times in the last three months that we can’t want it more than the parties.

QUESTION: I know. But have you gotten to the point where you think you do want it more than they do? And that’s – and that would be a serious situation.

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to make any grand pronouncements of that kind. I think we need to keep working, and the President is committed in his second term to continue working.

QUESTION: Okay, and then just one more. Would you be willing – would the Administration be willing to put this strong language in a Security Council resolution, even though it wouldn’t change the situation on the ground?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we think that’s a helpful step at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. So just following with that, if the Europeans – and I know this sentence is hypothetical. But I mean, the European – this work among the four European countries is going on in New York and presumably could lead to a Security Council resolution. But you’re saying now you don’t think that it needs to go to that stage, that you don’t think a —

MS. NULAND: We don’t think that that is helpful and we’re making that clear.

QUESTION: So I mean, what could you do to be – that would be helpful in terms of getting them to – so basically, unless the Palestinians sit down with them in talks, they’re going to continue to build settlements? I mean, you make the connection between the only way to solve this is to sit down and have the talks, but that doesn’t seem to be possible, particularly while the Israelis are building settlements. So what else can the U.S. do to kind of put pressure on Israel to stop them from building settlements to create the kind of climate for talks that you’re urging?

MS. NULAND: We’re going to continue to make our case that this isn’t taking either side closer to the table, just as we made that case in the context of the UN action. We will continue our diplomacy with both sides. We will continue to try to press them.


QUESTION: Victoria, in 2002, March 2002 in the Arab Summit, there was an Arab peace plan submitted. I understand that in the next summit Egypt will propose a resolution to actually withdraw that Arab peace plan. One, do you still consider that Arab peace plan to be viable? And second, would you counsel them against withdrawing it?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that at the moment, Said. I’m not even confident I know when this summit is and how it would come in the flow of diplomacy. But we’ll have – I’m sure that we will discuss it if and when it comes forward.

Okay. Please, in the back. Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Jonathan Blakley from NPR.


QUESTION: Can we move to Iraq?

MS. NULAND: We can move to Iraq.

QUESTION: Okay. President Talabani, he’s sidelined. I’m wondering what you know about his health, because there’s been a lot of kind of wild speculation on how badly he is right now. Apparently, it’s a stroke. And also, do you – are you fearful that with him sidelined, could there be some instability up there in northern Iraq and Kurdistan?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that our thoughts are with President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, his family, and the people of Iraq. We wish him a full recovery. I frankly don’t have any information beyond what his office has put out with regard to his health. I think you know that we have been urging calm, we’ve been urging dialogue. We were pleased with the initial agreement between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces. We want that kind of calm to continue. We want stability to be observed, obviously, up there. But we’ll just have to see how he is going forward.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah. I’ve got – I was actually surprised you didn’t open with this, but do you have anything to say about the killing of these – the anti-polio workers in Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: I think I do, Matt. Let me see.

QUESTION: And I have one more after that.

MS. NULAND: So our sympathy goes out to the victims of the violence today against healthcare workers in Pakistan and also to the greater community in the area and the children there who are right now being denied access to basic health services and interventions. Any attack on health workers anywhere in the world is unacceptable. The safety and sanctity of health workers needs to be respected as does the provision of healthcare, and that should be kept neutral in any kind of a conflict or disagreement. Together with the Government of Pakistan and the larger international community, we condemn these attacks in their strongest terms.

QUESTION: Well, do you – I mean, do you think that in some ways you’ve created a bit of a mistrust of healthcare workers in Pakistan after one of – a healthcare worker who was doing vaccinations ended up being the person who provided information on Usama bin Ladin? I mean, the Pakistanis themselves have said that now there’s a lot of distrust of healthcare workers.

MS. NULAND: Well, we have supported efforts not only in Pakistan, but around the world to provide accurate information to the public about these kinds of vaccines, et cetera. We have continued to do that in Pakistan. Nothing justifies violence against health workers.

Anything else? Please, in the back there. Go ahead. That would be you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s important that India and the ASEAN countries agreed with – agreed to strengthen their military ties because they have the same kind of concern against –

MS. NULAND: Military ties? Can you get your hand off of your mouth there? I can’t understand you.

QUESTION: Yeah. That security cooperation between India and ASEAN countries –

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on security cooperation. I know that India and ASEAN have been meeting. What we did see was that they have said that later this week they expect to enact a free trade agreement on services and investment, which would be something we would very much welcome. I think those meetings are going on now, so we look forward to it. Obviously, we value increased cooperation between India and ASEAN across the board politically, economically, and in security terms. I think you know that when the Secretary was in Australia, she talked about that hinge between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, so okay?

QUESTION: Okay. That report said that they announced that the agreement in the near future —

MS. NULAND: Later this week was my understanding, yeah.


MS. NULAND: Okay. Jo, did you have something else?

QUESTION: Yes. I wondered if there was any U.S. reaction to the acquittal today by the ICC of the Congolese leader Mathieu, and I can’t pronounce his last name, I’m sorry, Ngudjolo, who was accused of a massacre in a village in 2003 in the D.R.C.

MS. NULAND: I did have something on that, Jo. And I also had some trouble with his very long last name. But I’m going to have to – oh, here it is. So this is with regard to the acquittal of Ngudjolo Chui, right? So we’re obviously reviewing the trial’s decision. We also understand that it is subject to appeal. I would note that in announcing the verdict, the chamber made clear that the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the commander of the combatants involved in the attack on the village, and thus he wasn’t responsible within the meaning of the Rome statute. So again, they also – the judges in the case emphasized that his acquittal didn’t mean that in its opinion no crime had been committed there. It’s just that within their definition, they couldn’t link him to it.

We continue to call – the United States continues to call for the apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators of human rights abuses and atrocities and crimes in the D.R.C., including other high, well-known figures – both Sylvestre Mudacumura and Bosco Ntaganda who are both the subject of outstanding ICC warrants. The current conflict in the Eastern Congo with M23 underscores the continuing impunity the perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses continue to enjoy in the Congo.

QUESTION: Just following on that, OFAC today named two other leaders of M23 onto their sanctions list, and I’m just curious. I mean, it just draws attention, again, to the fact that the U.S. has not sanctioned any senior Rwandan officials who the UN Committee on – experts, et cetera, are actually pulling the strings of this whole thing. So when are you guys – is there any – are you looking at any of the Rwandans? Are you considering expanding your sanctions list? Is that even under contemplation here?

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly we continue to review our list with regard to those supporting M23. You saw, as you just said, that we’ve just done some new designations. So we’re continuing to look at this, we’re continuing to talk to the Rwandans. In fact, Assistant Secretary Carson was in touch with the Rwandans earlier this week on M23 issues and the Kampala peace process. So we’ll continue to look at it, Andy, but I don’t have anything to announce today.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you on that point and dealing with the Rwandans, what do you think your U.S. sanctions would – where do you think they would have more impact? On senior members of the Rwandan military or government who have cash, passports, ability to travel, often come to countries like the United States? Or two guys who hang out in the jungle with very – with probably not much more than what they have on their back and never leave the area?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, there are a variety of ways that these kinds of sanctions can come forward. They can come forward on individuals who we know are perpetrators of abuses. They can also come forward on people who we know aid and abet them. So we look at the whole –

QUESTION: I understand that, but –

MS. NULAND: — landscape.

QUESTION: In which scenario would they be more effective?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think from our perspective it’s important to look at both categories. It’s also important to name names when there are people on the ground who are continuing to participate in human rights abuses with impunity.

Okay, guys?

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Very brief. Laos. Do you have anything about this social activist who’s gone missing or possibly arrested?

MS. NULAND: This is Mr. –

QUESTION: Sombath —

MS. NULAND: — Sombath Somphone?


MS. NULAND: Yeah. We are concerned about the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, who is a well-known Laos civil society leader. He went missing on the night of December 15th. Representatives from the diplomatic and NGO communities in Laos have been in frequent contact with his wife. We share their concerns for his well-being and safety. We have registered our concern with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Laos and encouraged them to make every effort to locate him and figure out what’s happened here.

All right. One more, please.

QUESTION: Yeah. Does the U.S. have any additional separate sanctions against North Korea except UNHCR sanctions?

MS. NULAND: We have, over the years, had a number of our own unilateral sanctions. If we need to give you a briefing on that, we can do that.

Okay? Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)