Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 1, 2012.
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- David Hale’s visit / Settlements
- Support of Arab League Plan in New York / Consultations
- Foreign Minister Lavrov / Russian Support of Draft Resolution
- Increase in Violence / Defections
- Security Upgrades / Ambassador Ford / Status of Embassy
- U.S. Citizens Staying on U.S. Embassy Compound in Cairo / NGO’s
- Visiting Egyptian Military Delegation to Meet with Department Officials
- Trips with U.S. Supreme Court Justices
- Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act of 2012 / Waiver Authority
- NATO Classified Report
- Talks with Taliban
- Undersecretary Sherman / Talks to Reduce Dependence on Iranian Crude / Japanese Visit
- Talks with Ambassador Glyn Davies in Moscow
- Talks with Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell Visits to Seoul and Vietnam
- Allocco Case / Consular Assistance
MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Did the whole front row sleep in? Is that what we’ve got today? There he is, there’s Matt.
QUESTION: Is your alma mater in the back?
MS. NULAND: Before we start today, we will do a shout-out to the students from Choate Rosemary Hall in the back of the room. They’re making their annual trip to Washington.
Welcome, everybody. And let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: You have nothing?
MS. NULAND: I have nothing at the top. Just been a little busy, that’s all.
QUESTION: Okay. I don’t really have much because I don’t expect really an answer to this. But yesterday Mark said that you guys were seeking clarification from the Israelis on this announcement that – excuse me – that they’re going to start giving incentives or that they’re going to give incentives to settlers moving into the West Bank housing blocks? Have you gotten any clarification from the Israelis?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we have not yet. I think, as you know, David Hale has just started his round of meetings, and I don’t think that he has yet sat down with the Israelis. I think he started in Amman.
QUESTION: Do you know where he is, specifically, today?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is he is Amman today. He is talking to Foreign Minister Judeh. He is then going on to both Jerusalem and Ramallah on this trip.
MS. NULAND: Before we go to Syria, Said, were you —
QUESTION: I wanted to stay on the issue of the settlements for a little bit.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: When a clarification is requested, in what form is it requested? Is it done officially through the Embassy? Or does it – is it in a statement made by, let’s say, Mark yesterday? Is that considered an official request for clarification?
MS. NULAND: No. I think in the first instance, obviously our Embassy is going in and saying, “What do you intend here, what are the implications?” So that was the first set of questions, but obviously David Hale will speak to this when he has a chance to talk to his counterparts.
QUESTION: Okay. Now the Israeli prime minister talked about 550 settlements all together, seventy of them in the West Bank. Do you ask clarifications about the ones that are on the West Bank?
MS. NULAND: Well obviously, we asked for clarification about all of it and we make clear our view that this is not helpful at this time.
QUESTION: Right. So I’ll ask you again what I asked Mark yesterday, if there is no incentive for the Palestinians to return to these talks seeing how this – the settlement activity is really proliferating, and the land is sort of shrinking and shrinking, what – why should they go back – why should they return to direct talks?
MS. NULAND: Said, we’ve talked about this many, many times, and you’ve asked the same question many, many times in this —
QUESTION: Right. And I will continue to ask it, because what disincentive should the Israelis have?
MS. NULAND: The best solution to the issue of settlements is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate a solution. Because with a solution will come permanent borders and the end of the settlement issue, because everybody will know where the borders of these two countries living side by side in peace are.
QUESTION: Okay, and one last question on this issue. Yesterday, Mark said that we were heading in the right direction with these preliminary talks in Amman. Do you feel that this announcement has sabotaged whatever chance there was with these talks?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, as Mark said yesterday, as we say regularly about these issues, it is unhelpful. That said, we are encouraged by the preliminary rounds that have gone forward in Amman, we do believe that the parties are beginning to talk about substance. As you know they’re in a pause now, they’ve gone back to capitals, and we want to see them come back to the table as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Can we move to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Yeah. So can you give us an update on where things stand on talks over the Syria resolution? And in particular, has the Secretary managed to connect with Foreign Minister Lavrov yet?
MS. NULAND: Well, first on the process, as you know we had a very strong session up in New York yesterday; Secretary had the chance to participate. Very strong support around the council, as you heard, for the Moroccan draft resolution reflecting the Arab League plan and proposals. Some work still to do though.
The work now continues in New York among permanent representatives. Our understanding is that consultations begin at the perm rep level at 3 o’clock today. Ambassador Rice will be in the chair for us and that’ll begin the serious discussions about text with regard to the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov. I think you heard the Secretary speak to this yesterday. She understands the difficulties of travelling in Australia. She’s been – made clear that she is open to speaking to him when he’s available.
QUESTION: So that would be a no.
MS. NULAND: They have not connected yet. No.
QUESTION: Sorry. What are the difficulties in travelling in Australia?
MS. NULAND: Secretary spoke to this yesterday that you’re involved in quite a different time zone. You’re sleeping when we’re awake. So she was empathetic to the situation of having difficulty connecting, but she’s made clear to him that when he’s available she’s ready to talk.
QUESTION: She doesn’t think that this is an issue of such importance that maybe Foreign Minister Lavrov might get up a little bit earlier or go to sleep a little bit later?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s not as if we haven’t been having plenty of discussions with the Russians on this subject.
MS. NULAND: As Mark said yesterday, we’ve had consultations at the level of our Embassy. We’ve had Jeff Feltman in Moscow, we’ve had Deputy Secretary Burns talking to multiple Russian counterparts. Secretary had a chance to see the Russian permanent representative, Mr. Churkin, in New York, and Susan Rice – Ambassador Rice will certainly be working with the Russians over the next couple days.
QUESTION: And how have those consultations gone so far? Yesterday they threatened to veto a resolution. Doesn’t sound like the consultations thus far at the lower level have produced anything satisfactory for you, no?
MS. NULAND: Well, I have to say, having sat in the session yesterday – and you saw, I’m sure, it was a public session – the Russian view was that we need to support the efforts of the Syrians to find a peaceful resolution to this problem. So I think are all working together to find a way for the UN Security Council to support the aspirations of the Syrian people to end the bloodshed and to live better. We obviously got – we’ve obviously got hard work ahead of us on the resolution and that work begins in New York this afternoon.
QUESTION: How much of the Russian objection has been that this would be a slippery slope into some sort of military intervention in Syria? What sorts of assurances are the Americans and others offering to underscore what was said at the table yesterday that this is not in any way a military type of resolution?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, the Secretary was very clear, many other foreign ministers, including Foreign Minister Hague, Foreign Minister Juppe, were extremely clear in their statements in the Council and in their statements publicly to the press that this is not Libya, we are not seeking foreign intervention – that is not what the bulk of Syrians want – we are seeking to support the Arab League’s plan, which involves a dialogue among Syrians about a path towards a more democratic Syria.
But with regard to the precise negotiations that have to happen, Ros, as tempting as it might be to negotiate in public from this podium, we’re not going to do that.
QUESTION: So would you be agreeable to a clause in the resolution that unequivocally states that under no circumstances we’ll be going Libya’s way and allow a margin for military interference, as we did in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Again Said, I’m not going to negotiate the text of this resolution from this podium. That’s not appropriate. But we are working hard in New York to come to a text that everybody can support.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary feel snubbed by the fact that Foreign Minister Lavrov isn’t taking her calls?
MS. NULAND: I think she made clear last night in her press availability that she is quite relaxed on this subject and is available for him when he’s ready.
QUESTION: Was the Russian position what you expected, or was it more hard than you expected?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to give a grade to the Russians. We need to have these consultations on a text in New York, and we’re going to let that go forward.
QUESTION: Okay. The reason I asked this: Do you expect the Russians to show perhaps a little more flexibility in the next two weeks as the violence continues and the repression continues as well?
MS. NULAND: I think sitting in that chamber yesterday, and particularly hearing the extremely strong statements of the Arab representatives in the room – the prime minister of Qatar, the head of the Arab League, the Moroccan deputy foreign minister presenting the resolution – there was an enormous sense of concern about the violence and about, as many people said, since the council first started looking at this situation months and months ago, we now have thousands more dead. So I think you could feel a palpable sense in that room that the Security Council has got to take action. Obviously, we’ve got hard work to do on the precise text, as I said, but I think there was a strong commitment on the part of everybody, frankly, around the table for the Security Council to take its responsibility to protect peace and security.
QUESTION: Well, not everybody around the table. There was one Arab there who you didn’t mention, who didn’t seem to think it would be such a good idea. What did you make of what the Syrian Ambassador had to say?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that the Syrian position at the table surprised us. He, like his —
QUESTION: Well, what about his historical – his reach into history with Syria head of parliament in 1919, Syria can’t understand why the Arab League is not – is bringing them to the table and not Israel for occupying Arab lands, that kind of thing?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into the Syrians’ head. I think what we heard —
QUESTION: No, no, no. I just want to know what you – what was the Secretary’s reaction to that? What was your – what was the Administration’s reaction to this?
MS. NULAND: I think that Foreign Minister Hague said it well when he said that there seems to be blame all around here except at the feet of those responsible for the violence. So our view remains that if the regime had been able, willing to solve this itself, as was the initial expectation, we wouldn’t be in the UN Security Council. But clearly, the regime is not proving capable or willing.
QUESTION: Right. No, I understand, but do you think his comments were appropriate given the situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to give his comments a grade. He spoke for where his government has been, which is not in the right place.
QUESTION: Victoria, on – the Russians spoke also of the armed element, the armed faction that were also attacking other communities and civilians, including they attacked the Russians, I think, in Damascus and so on. Do you agree or would you – would, let’s say, a common resolution include something like that?
MS. NULAND: Again, Said, I’m not going to get into the wordsmithing of the resolution from this podium. That’s the work in New York. What we have said many times from this podium and what the Secretary has said, President has said, is that the vast majority of the violence is being perpetrated by the Syrian regime. The degree to which we are seeing groups trying to defend themselves now, this is precisely the situation that the Secretary was warning about yesterday in her intervention. Violence needs to end before it begins to spiral out of control.
QUESTION: Now lastly, with the increased defection from the army, from the Syrian army, are you concerned that Syria may be sliding fast into a civil war?
MS. NULAND: This is precisely the situation that we are all trying to avoid by ending – by trying to get the regime to end the violence. We have seen an increase in defections. We’ve also seen the regime’s violence increase as it has worried about losing members of its armed forces. So this is part and parcel of the cycle of violence we’re worried about.
QUESTION: But Toria, when this ruling says that all sides need to put down their arms, and then, you say in the same breath, that the amount of violence being perpetrated by the regime is increasing, isn’t it natural for people who oppose the regime to want to try to defend themselves?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is the concern, that as the regime becomes more and more vicious – and the Secretary cataloged some of our concerns – you do have people trying to defend themselves. You have people who are armed trying to defend themselves. And this is the dangerous spiral that we’re worried about. This is precisely why the council needs to act, since the Assad regime has been unwilling to do what it needs to do.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be immoral, though, to say to those who were trying to protect themselves that they should lay down their arms? I mean, it might make things better on a moral level, but in terms of life or death, that’s how they protect themselves from the regime’s soldiers.
MS. NULAND: Ros, I think you’re putting words into our mouths. We have said all along that we want violence on all sides to stop, that this is not going to take Syria forward. But what we also make clear is that we lay the bulk of the responsibility at the feet of the regime.
QUESTION: Do you expect the council to vote on the draft resolution by Friday?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to put a timetable on it. Obviously, as we see the violence increase, as we see the deaths increase, we want the council to act as soon as possible, but they’ve got some hard work to do in New York.
QUESTION: Can I have a new topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Egypt, I wonder – there were some conflicting reports overnight whether or not the Americans were taken off of the travel ban, and I wonder, are they still in the U.S. Embassy there? And have – has anyone in this building met with the Egyptian delegation that’s come to Washington?
MS. NULAND: Regrettably, we have not yet settled this situation. The American citizens that we talked about are still on the embassy compound. We are continuing to work with Egyptian authorities to try to resolve this case.
With regard to the Egyptian military delegation, as we said yesterday and the day before, this – delegations of this kind generally come from Egypt a couple of times a year. We do meet with them. Frankly, it’s another opportunity to underscore for them and for Egyptians in general our concerns about the situation with the nongovernment organizations.
They have – I think they arrived in Washington yesterday. They are scheduled to meet with Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Assistant Secretary for Near East Jeff Feltman here at the Department. They’ll also be seeing folks at the Pentagon and they’ll be seeing folks on the Hill, as we understand it.
QUESTION: When are they meeting Feltman and Shapiro?
MS. NULAND: It’s either today or tomorrow. I’m not exactly sure, Arshad, but we’ll get that for you.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on that when it has happened?
MS. NULAND: We will. We will.
QUESTION: You don’t envision them having any problems leaving the country, do you? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We do not.
QUESTION: No? Still on Egypt but not that subject – Justice Ginsburg was just there. I know that last week she and the Secretary had met, I presume, not to discuss any interests the Secretary might have on – in being on the Supreme Court; rather, to discuss this trip. Can you give us any detail about it, what the State Department in general thinks about visits like – of experts like these – she worked with Tunisia as well – to develop – to transitioning democracies?
MS. NULAND: Well, justices of the Supreme Court, over many years, have been very generous in participating in State Department-led programs to go see counterparts in other countries, particularly in countries where we are working together on reform of the judicial sector, particularly checks and balances on jurisprudence, writing constitutions, these kinds of things, and Justice —
QUESTION: NGO law.
MS. NULAND: NGO law as well, how the branches of government can work together. Justice Ginsburg has been a particularly active participant in those programs. She and the Secretary had a chance to talk before she went to Egypt. I don’t have the details on her schedule, but I think she was seeing senior members of the justice sector in Egypt, and I’m sure she would have had a chance to talk about how nongovernmental organizations are handled in the U.S. and in other democracies and the vital role they can play. But I don’t, I’m afraid, have a readout at the moment on her.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then, less specifically about her trip, but – I mean, what is the value, or what have you seen is the value of trips like these to countries that are in this transition?
MS. NULAND: Well, this gives justices, folks who are writing legislation, folks who are working on court regulations a chance to talk to the most senior American justices and members of the Judicial Branch about their experiences of a lifetime of working on these kinds of issues, about various ways to solve the problems of checks and balances, et cetera, and it is a chance for some of these folks who have less experience in a democratic system to learn a little bit more about how we do things.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know offhand – or maybe this can be gotten later – where – other places that justices, not just Justice Ginsberg but other countries – transitioning countries that they have visited, and what the actual program – what is the actual program under which they go?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, they sometimes go under ABA programs that we fund – American Bar Association programs. Sometimes they go under embassy invitation for specific justice programs that the embassies are managing under our Middle East initiatives on transition. When I was in Brussels, we had a number of justices come through to work with the European Union on some of its legislative issues, and particularly how the U.S. and the EU could cooperate to solve some of our efforts to coordinate our judicial system so that we are pulling in the same direction. So they go all over the world, not just to transitioning countries but also to some of our closest allies and partners.
QUESTION: Do you know, in this case of her, was it an invitation from the Embassy or was it another broader program, an ABA program or —
MS. NULAND: I don’t know. We’ll check on that for you, Matt. I don’t know what the specific program was.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: A question on Uzbekistan: Are you able to comment on reports of the – reports out there today that the Administration waived a ban on nonlethal military assistance to Uzbekistan on a temporary basis? Are you able to confirm that and offer any guidance?
MS. NULAND: I am. Under the Foreign Operations and Related Programs Act of 2012, the Secretary of State has the authority to waive certain restrictions on assistance to the Government of Uzbekistan if she certifies that it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so, and also that it’s necessary to obtain access to and from Afghanistan for U.S. assistance to that country. The Secretary has issued such a waiver in this case. She made the determination on January 18th and we put it forward to the Hill a couple of days later. It is a six-month waiver. This is the first time we have done this one. She’ll have to review again six months from now. And this is waiver authority that we have through 2013.
QUESTION: And there are some critics that will say that this sort of – this is giving the Uzbek Government a free pass on alleged abuses they committed. Is there any response to that sort of criticism for taking this action?
MS. NULAND: Well, we certainly reject the notion that anybody’s being given a free pass on human rights. As you know, the Secretary was in Uzbekistan in October, had a chance to work on the full range of our bilateral and regional issues, but also spoke very frankly to President Karimov, to members of his government, about our ongoing interest in support for human rights, reforming the system, our concern about individual cases. So this is part and parcel of our diplomacy.
She also spoke out very clearly the day before in Tajikistan about our specific concerns about the rights of minorities, the rights of children, the rights of women, about the court system, all of these kinds of things. So nobody is shying away from having the tough conversation. That said, we also have other interests and things that we need to protect in our relationship with Uzbekistan.
QUESTION: So you seem to be saying that this equipment, or whatever it is, is going to be used for the Northern Distribution Network. Would that be —
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Examples of the kinds of things that this waiver was given for – this will enhance the Uzbeks’ ability to counteract transnational terrorism and all – things like night vision goggles, personal protection equipment, global positioning systems. It’s defensive in nature, and it’s also supportive of their ability to secure the routes in and out of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I was under the impression it was weapons. This is all nonlethal stuff?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have exactly – I don’t – but beyond what I just gave you, examples of equipment – vision goggles, personal protection equipment – it’s all defensive in nature. With regard to lethal/nonlethal, let me get that for you, Matt.
QUESTION: But wasn’t the – I mean, there were restrictions in the law that —
MS. NULAND: On any.
QUESTION: Yeah, but they had already been – I guess I don’t understand, because while we were there —
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: — this was a topic of discussion, and it was – maybe I was – a misimpression, but it was my impression that they were already getting nonlethal stuff.
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to what —
QUESTION: There had been a decision almost a year ago on —
MS. NULAND: I think that whatever we had on the books had expired and needed to be renewed, but we can get you a brief on the precise details, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, please, because it came up. It was a topic of – I remember it being a topic of conversation, at least on the plane.
MS. NULAND: Well, one of the topics of conversation was that the Uzbeks were asking for more than we were giving and were concerned about their ability to protect the routes and concerned about their ability to be effective counterterrorism partners.
QUESTION: A change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: India’s external affairs ministry today announced that India’s foreign secretary will be visiting U.S. next week. Do you know who he will be meeting in this building, and what —
MS. NULAND: I don’t. We’ll get that for you, yeah.
Anything else? In the back, please.
QUESTION: I don’t know if this has been asked earlier, but do you have a reaction to the new NATO report that has been leaked and mentions ISI links with Taliban?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Let me just – first of all, I think NATO itself has spoken to this earlier in the day. So obviously, I’m not going to get into a classified report. NATO itself said it was not going to get into a classified report. But what I can do is sort of characterize this report in general terms because it’s one of a regular series. The context, as described by NATO, is that this is basically a summary of the views of those Taliban that we have in detention, so it’s a summary of what they think, what they believe to be true. So that’s just one source of information. And frankly, I think you may also have heard Foreign Minister Khar on this subject. She was quite eloquent about this when she was in Kabul earlier today.
QUESTION: They have dismissed the report today, but do you think such a report at this juncture, when the tension after the 26/11 attack is still lingering on, will further escalate the tension in the relationship?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is a classified report. It is part of a regular series. It shouldn’t have come out into the open. It was not designed for any purpose other than to help those in the field understand what Taliban detainees were saying, so it was in no way designed to impact on our ongoing efforts to get back on track with Pakistan, which continue.
QUESTION: And lastly, your counterpart at Pentagon this morning said that what has been mentioned about these links in the report is nothing new, and the U.S. has been saying this earlier as well. Do you agree with his statement that these links are still there? And do you intend to raise this with the Pakistani administration?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary raised many of these issues when she was in Pakistan last fall. So from that perspective, obviously, this is not new – our concerns about safe havens, our concerns about whether together we are doing enough to go after these groups, our interest in cooperating with the Pakistanis to do more. So that’s the conversation that we’ve been having with some time – for some time, and the exact sort of – kind of cooperation we want to get back to as soon as we can.
QUESTION: Given the interest in the U.S. trying to apparently talk with the Taliban as part of an overall peace framework in Afghanistan, is the leaking of this document, one, curious? And two, does it give people pause about the efforts to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve always said – and the Secretary said – that in the context of our larger strategy here, we need to fight, talk, and build at the same time. So it doesn’t change the fact that those Taliban who continue to take up arms against the state of Afghanistan, against innocents in Afghanistan, are going to be confronted – going to be confronted by Afghan security forces, they’re going to be confronted by NATO supporting those forces. So that continues.
At the same time, we support the efforts of the Afghan Government to create a real channel with those Afghans who are ready for reconciliation, and that’s what we’ve been working on.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, still?
MS. NULAND: Still on Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Can you – since Ambassador Grossman is back now —
MS. NULAND: He is.
QUESTION: — can you give us an update on the talk portion of this strategy, where we are now?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve said a number of times as well that we are not going to get into the back and forth. Ambassador Grossman spoke about where he was when he was in Kabul at the beginning of last week. He’s made a number of trips since. But I don’t think we have anything further on that. He did do some interviews with the Pakistani press yesterday, I think, which I would call your attention to.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the precise level of the delegation, but as you know, Under Secretary Sherman is leading the Department’s effort to consult with countries around the world on the new legislation, to work with allies, partners around the world, to try to reduce everybody’s dependence on Iranian crude. I don’t know whether she’s seeing this delegation herself or whether some of her team are, but we had pledged to the Japanese when Special Envoy Einhorn was there a couple of weeks ago that we would really do a roll-up-our-sleeves session with them on how we can move forward on this together. So my understanding is that’s what they’re coming to do.
QUESTION: Are you any closer to publishing – and I know it’s Treasury and not State, but you guys are involved in the process – in publishing the regulations on how the sanctions will be implemented?
MS. NULAND: We are working on it, Arshad. As you say, Treasury has the lead, so I would refer you to Treasury on the timeline.
QUESTION: Because you’ve got four weeks left now before it – the first set kick in.
MS. NULAND: Understood.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Campbell’s visit to Korea. And also you have another delegation that visit Russia. Do you have anything to share?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, with regard to Russia, our Special Envoy for North Korea Glyn Davies is in Moscow. He’s done consultations with all of the key players on the Russian side who are involved in the Six-Party Talks. Specifically, he and Ford Hart met today with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov, with Ambassador-At-Large for Six-Party Talks Logvinov, Special Envoy for Trilateral Economic Projects Timonin, and MFA First Asia Department Mr. Kulik and their IAEA guy, Grigori Berdennikov. So very broad consultations in Moscow, obviously designed to ensure we all say on the same page with regard to our expectations of the DPRK before we could come back to the talks.
Assistant Secretary Campbell has done a full presser in Seoul, so I would refer you to that, but he saw his usual folks, both on the bilateral relationship and on DPRK issues, and he’s now on his way to Vietnam, or he just landed in Vietnam and has meetings tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria for a minute?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: If that’s okay with everybody. I wanted to ask you about the status of the Embassy, if there’s anything new on Ambassador Ford in particular, about his activities.
MS. NULAND: Nothing new on the Embassy. As you know, we are continuing to press the Syrian Government to make the security upgrades that we think are necessary. We are not where we need to be yet. Ambassador Ford continues to maintain close contacts with a broad cross-section of Syrians and to continue to – I mean, obviously he’s been involved in recent days in making clear our view going into the Security Council and amplifying the Secretary’s messages in New York.
QUESTION: But there’s been no extraordinary measures, let’s say, in the last couple of days since the fighting has gotten closer and closer to Damascus, has there?
MS. NULAND: Well, you can be sure that I’m not going to talk about the precise security measures that we’re taking in Damascus or anywhere else, but —
QUESTION: No. I mean in terms of maintaining operations in Damascus.
MS. NULAND: The Embassy remains open. You saw that the Canadians today did announce that they were closing. Our operations are open, but our concerns remain.
QUESTION: Okay. But so we’re not likely to see the (inaudible) that was announced by the Canadians?
MS. NULAND: We’re not going to have any announcements today, if that’s what you’re asking, Said.
In the back, and then —
QUESTION: Just a clarification. When you mentioned the comments of Foreign Minister Khar and termed as – them as eloquent, which exact comment you are referring to? Because she also made a comment – I mean, these new allegations as old wine in a new bottle or something like —
MS. NULAND: Right. That was the line that I liked. She called it old wine and even older bottles, I think. She’s good with a turn of phrase.
Okay. Thank you every —
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. NULAND: Whoops. Sorry. There you go.
MS. NULAND: I am aware of the case. The Embassy has provided consular assistance to the Alloccos, and that continues.
QUESTION: Well, what’s the – there’s a petition calling for the State Department to get more involved in this case. Please don’t tell me there’s a Privacy Act issue.
MS. NULAND: A petition?
QUESTION: The guy has – the guy’s put out a YouTube video from his confinement, so if there’s a Privacy Act issue, then the law needs to be changed because – what exactly are you doing for them?
MS. NULAND: We have done all kinds of support for them as they move forward with the judicial process. We have seen them regularly. We have advised them on local laws and their responsibilities. We did not find, in this case, that Mr. Allocco met the criteria for refuge. However, we did bring him into the Embassy temporarily. My understanding is we gave him some clothes and some medicine, but we didn’t take him in for refuge.
QUESTION: Well, what’s your understanding of their legal situation?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that they have been charged with fraud in Angola, and we are obviously monitoring that case very closely. But with regard to the precise charges, I’m going to refer you to the Angolans.
QUESTION: Okay. And you said that – so they did ask – they did ask for refuge.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And they were turned down.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And this is different than in the – then the Egypt case how?
MS. NULAND: Because in this case – well, first of all, when we get into the Privacy Act issues, there were specific circumstances behind their request, and they have not given us a Privacy Act waiver to talk about the circumstances that led them to make this request, so I can’t get into it too much more in detail. I will refer you to them. This was their choice.
QUESTION: The – I’m sorry. You mean the – with the concert not – the rap star not showing up or something else?
MS. NULAND: There were other circumstances that led to this.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the money that was fronted has been repaid?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details on that. I would refer you to them and to the Angolans.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)