State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, March 28, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 28, 2012. 

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Continuing Violence
    • Ambassador Ford’s Points on Capitol Hill
    • Kofi Annan’s Work / Friends of the Syrian People Meeting / China
    • Secretary’s Travel
    • Media Note on Travel of Acting Under Secretary Stevens
  • IRAN
    • BRIC Countries / P-5+1 Process / Reduction of Iranian Crude
  • CUBA
    • The Pope’s Visit / Alan Gross
  • DPRK
    • Status of Food Aid / Satellite Launch
    • Fighting and Violence / Efforts
    • Election Observation in Burma / Burmese Representation to National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute
  • DPRK
    • Leap Year Agreement
  • MALI
    • Working with France / ECOWAS / Humanitarian Assistance
    • Election Coverage
    • Ambassador Grossman’s Travel
    • Continuing Parliamentary Process
    • Human Rights


12:47 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Wednesday, everybody.

First, before we start, welcome to all of our guests in the back of the room who are participating in the Foreign Service Institute’s information and media programming courses. These are staff from some of our embassies around the world – Cairo, Baghdad, Bratislava, London, Juba, Accra, Seoul, Hyderabad, Rio de Janeiro, and beyond, I’m told. I’m not sure who’s beyond – (laughter) – but welcome to the beyond-ers in particular. (Laughter.)

We have —

QUESTION: I think that’s in Kazakhstan. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Exactly. We have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.

Hello, Arshad.

QUESTION: I don’t have anything that’s really worthy of starting the briefing, so I’ll —

QUESTION: Me either.

MS. NULAND: No? Lach?

QUESTION: Well, on Syria, the fact that the Assad regime is attacking a town in Hama province – Madiq Qalaat if I remember correctly – does that say anything about his intentions after promising to adhere to Annan’s six-point plan?

MS. NULAND: Well, not only in the town that you mentioned, Lach, but we’ve seen arrests and violence continuing today across Syria, from Daraa to Hama, so it is clear that the Assad regime has not yet taken the necessary steps to implement the commitment that it’s made to Kofi Annan. So as the Secretary said yesterday, he knows what he needs to do; we will judge him by his actions, not by his promises.


QUESTION: So yesterday, Ambassador – by the way, you forgot to mention Amman; we also have someone from the Embassy in Amman.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Hello.


MS. NULAND: He must be in the beyond category.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. Anyway, so yesterday, Ambassador Ford was on Capitol Hill, and he actually said emphatically that there are militant groups that are conducting – they’re doing all kinds of human rights violations and basically doing much of what the regime is doing. So will the United States come out with a stronger statement calling on the Syrian protestors and so on not to resort to arms?

MS. NULAND: Well, Ambassador Ford made precisely those points yesterday on Capitol Hill, so I obviously cannot improve on what he had to say, which is that we don’t condone this kind of activity and that it is incumbent on everybody to do what they can to end the violence and get down to the business of talking about a transition.

QUESTION: Okay. Just to take this a bit further —


QUESTION: — many of your allies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and so on, seem to be aiding the opposition, sometimes with arms. Would you sort of lean on them not to aid the opposition with any arms?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we are on this issue, and our position hasn’t changed. With regard to what those governments may or may not be doing, I’m going to refer you to them.


QUESTION: Toria, do you consider that Annan plan has failed since the violence is still going on?

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly we have not seen the promises that Assad made implemented. Obviously, the joint special envoy is continuing his work; his technical team continues its work in Syria. We will have the Friends of the Syrian People meeting this weekend, and I understand that Kofi Annan will also be making a report to the Security Council on Monday. So it’s incumbent on all of us to keep the pressure on Assad to meet the commitment that he’s made, and that’s our intention over the next few days.

QUESTION: Yesterday —

QUESTION: What is your understanding of the Chinese’s view of the situation now?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to refer you to the Government of China, but as you know, they supported the Annan plan and the presidency statement of the Security Council. They’ve come out pretty clearly publicly, including during the Seoul meetings. So I think that they are – have also moved firmly away from any support for the violence of the Assad regime.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Clinton used some pretty strong language in saying that the United States would be pressing very hard in the next few days for the Syrian opposition to demonstrate a clear commitment to an inclusive path forward and to respecting minority rights. I don’t think she said minority rights, but it’s clear that’s, I think, what she was talking about. We’re now, I think, close to four months since she, for the first time, met them. She met them again in Tunis. Do you get any sense that the Syrian National Council is coming together at all in the direction that you wish it to?

And I ask the question partly because at an opposition meeting yesterday in Istanbul, a number of people walked out, including Syrian Kurds, saying that they felt that they were not being listened to and that their concerns were not being taken into account. Is this group coming together in any way that you feel is likely to yield a representative and inclusive group?

MS. NULAND: Well, Arshad, we did speak about this a little bit yesterday, and obviously the Secretary was very clear about her hopes and expectations for the Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Istanbul. She called on the opposition to come with a vision of the way forward. Our understanding is that that was what the Istanbul meeting has been focused on, the meetings that they’ve had in preparation for the Friends group. We are continuing to work with them.

This has not been easy, as we said yesterday. It hasn’t been easy because of all of the roadblocks that the regime has put up so that it’s very difficult for those outside Syria, those inside Syria to communicate, to work together. Even within Syria, it’s very difficult for groups to work together and come together, and then the additional fact that it’s been a political-free zone for 42 years, so it’s not surprising that this is difficult, time-consuming work.

But it is very much a focus of our efforts leading up to the Istanbul meeting to encourage them to be as unified and be as strong as they can be. They will be making a presentation at that meeting. And the Secretary will also have another chance to meet with them, and as you know, she’s been very strong since her first meeting with them that this is a group that needs to represent and include all of the groups and ethnicities and religions and women and minorities of Syria and set an example for the kind of democratic, tolerant, inclusive society that a new Syria should be.

QUESTION: Well, what would make the Istanbul meeting a success? What tangible accomplishments would make it a success?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to predict success or failure before we’ve had the meeting. But I think the Secretary was clear yesterday that, obviously, we want to see as much unity as possible among those members of the opposition, that we are continuing to try to make progress in delivering humanitarian aid, so we’ll be evaluating how we’re doing on that. We’re going to be continuing to look at what more we can do on the sanctions side to pressure the regime, so I think you’ll see action on that front. And obviously, we’ll all be comparing notes on how we can support Kofi Annan, particularly on the important point of getting Assad to meet the commitment that he’s made.

QUESTION: Are you making any progress on the delivery of humanitarian aid?

MS. NULAND: My sense is that we have made some progress, but we are – let us speak to that a little bit more as we get on the road and head towards Istanbul.

QUESTION: Do you have more ideas about the non-lethal aid you would provide the Free Syrian Army following President Obama’s talks in Seoul?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we said, I think, a couple of days ago, as Ben Rhodes said, this is an issue that we are looking at, whether we, the United States, can work with allies and partners to provide some non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition. This is one of the subjects that we’ll be discussing on the road, so —

QUESTION: But any ideas how you would deliver it and what quantities and —

MS. NULAND: Again, these are issues that we’re going to be working on, on this trip.

QUESTION: Given today’s violence, what hope do you have that Assad will implement these commitments he made yesterday?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think I said at the top here, Brad, that this is not a good sign that the arrests and the violence continue, and we’ve all got to increase the pressure on Assad to meet his commitments.

QUESTION: Have there been any signs thus far that would give you any optimism that some sort of – that a ceasefire and then some sort of political transition will derive from this plan?

MS. NULAND: Well, Kofi Annan has had this letter from the regime. He’s also had his technical team there. He will be speaking to the Security Council on Monday. So he is the one who’s had the most direct, most current contact with the Assad regime, so I’m not going to get ahead of his report on where he thinks we are with the regime, other than to say that their conduct of the last 24 hours does not indicate that they are taking the kinds of steps the Secretary called for yesterday.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) are you getting the opposition group to sort of close ranks and stop the bickering? Because obviously, that is sort of – that is not sending the proper message as to what future Syria will have.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary has now met with this group twice, their leaders. She will meet with them a third time. We also have a number of experts and leaders in the Department – Jeff Feltman, Fred Hof – who are working with them on a regular basis, sharing experiences of other oppositions who have come together to present transition plans, whether they are in the recent past or longer term, the kinds of things that you need to think about when you’re moving from a dictatorial regime to a transition regime. So we’ll continue to provide that support. And as we have said, we are now looking at what we might be able to do on the communications side, et cetera.

QUESTION: And a quick follow-up on the Friends of Syria: Have you been informed officially by the Russians that they are not attending?

MS. NULAND: I would refer you to the Turks. They’re the host. I’m frankly not up on what their plans are.

QUESTION: Will there be any representatives of the Free Syrian Army at this meeting?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that the SNC will speak for the Syrian opposition, so I think we need to see who comes with them in this – to this meeting.

QUESTION: And what is your position on the linkage between the SNC – this becomes alphabet soup, sorry – between the Syrian National Council and the armed opposition with – inside – within Syria?

MS. NULAND: I don’t understand what the question was there.

QUESTION: Well, what type of linkage – do you want them speaking on behalf of the armed opposition, or do you want a clear demarcation between the political opposition and groups that may be fighting the regime in the country?

MS. NULAND: Our effort here, as you know, is to work with as many civilian groups who are working for a peaceful transition as possible. And we want to see the opposition in all of its colors come together behind a peaceful democratic transition plan that can support the six points that Kofi Annan put forward.

QUESTION: And then just lastly, in the Senate today, there was a nonbinding resolution about providing the armed opposition, so non-civilian opposition, the means to defend themselves. You’ve been clear that you don’t want to provide anything military in assistance, but do you want to at least engage in discussions or in some sort of relationship with these elements as well?

MS. NULAND: Well, I haven’t seen the text of what the Senate passed, so I’m going to defer on that one. But I think we’ve spoken to the thinking that we’re giving to what we can do on the non-lethal side.


QUESTION: Is there any U.S. expert or official in Turkey following the opposition meeting or participating?

MS. NULAND: Our Embassy in Turkey is in touch with them. Fred Hof, who’s the Secretary’s special advisor on these issues, has been in touch with them by phone, met with some of them beforehand, is talking to them now, and – as is Jeff Feltman.

QUESTION: Can we shift slightly?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Wait, I just want to —


QUESTION: Just a technical question, which —


QUESTION: — I asked earlier, but I’m – you seem intent on using the term Friends of the Syrian People.

MS. NULAND: That’s what the —

QUESTION: So is it – but why is this? Did someone decide that they liked the acronym FOTSP or FOSP?

MS. NULAND: FOS-P, right.


MS. NULAND: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: — better than FOS? Or what’s going on here? Why is this – trying to – are you trying to distinguish this from Friends of Libya? Why are you —

MS. NULAND: This is —

QUESTION: We keep calling it the Friends of Syria, and every time you mention it, you say Friends of the Syrian People, so I’m just curious.

MS. NULAND: Because that’s what it was called in Tunisia by the organizers. That’s what it’s being called in Turkey by the organizers. Our understanding is that this is the name that is most welcome by the Syrians that we’re working with to differentiate —

QUESTION: Do you know why that is? Because they don’t —

MS. NULAND: Differentiates the regime from the people. Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) you did not call them Friends of Democratic Syria to include people like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries? Would that – would you say that —

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into parsing the name. It wasn’t our name. It was the name of the organizers.

QUESTION: Can we go to —

MS. NULAND: Are we still on Syria? Yeah.



QUESTION: It’s understood that you are not arming the Syrian opposition, but what’s your position for other countries that are seriously considering to arm the opposition?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve spoken to this issue before. I don’t have anything new on it today.


QUESTION: Yeah. It’s been reported that Syrian forces have crossed the border yesterday to fight the rebels in Lebanon. Can you confirm that? And what’s your reaction, please?

MS. NULAND: We can’t confirm that. There were all kinds of reports, so we frankly are not in a position to say one way or the other. As you know, we don’t have eyes there, so we would refer you to the Government of Lebanon.

QUESTION: Well, you have eyes in Lebanon, though. I mean, you have —

MS. NULAND: Right, but we weren’t on that border.


QUESTION: At the end of day, Kofi Annan said that it’s only Syrian people can ask the resignation of Assad. So going forward to the – these negotiation that Annan planned, I just want to make clear your position is that the Syrian opposition should sit and talk, negotiate with the Assad regime? This is what you are envisioning?

MS. NULAND: We – that is not our position. We have supported, as you know, the Arab League plan, which had a very detailed outline of how these talks could go forward, recommending that one of the other members of the government would represent the government’s views in any dialogue. With regard to how the Annan plan might be implemented, we are waiting to hear what his views are on that, but obviously, whatever will happen has to have the support of the Syrian people, and that is what we will be endorsing.

QUESTION: But these negotiations are going to be between the regime and the opposition. So who is going to be on the side of the regime? Who are you planning to negotiate with?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve answered the question that we were supportive of the way the Arab League laid this out. The Kofi Annan plan is a little less specific about how this would work. This is one of the main subjects that he is discussing not only with the government but also with as many opposition folks as he can talk to and his people can talk to. So we’re not going to prejudge the direction this might go. What we’ve been very clear about, though, is that we do not see Assad leading a democratic Syria and that he will have to go.

QUESTION: Change topic?


QUESTION: (Inaudible) had dibs on new topic. Can you – but it’s related. Can you shed any greater light on the – what will be the substance of the Secretary’s talks in Riyadh for the GCC meeting in advance of the Friends of Syria meeting?

MS. NULAND: Well, there are two pieces to the Secretary’s stop in Saudi Arabia. There are bilateral talks with the Saudi Government, as we announced, and then there is the meeting of the GCC + U.S. Security Cooperation Group. As you know, we have strong security relationships with all of the Gulf countries bilaterally. What we are hoping to do with this forum – and we’ll talk a little bit more about this on the road and obviously when the Secretary sees the group. We are hoping to bring this group together so that we can do more to make connections among them, to create efficiencies, to create mutually supporting programs. One of the issues that we’ve talked about is missile defense. We have missile defense cooperation with some of these countries; can we make it more efficient in a regional context, et cetera? So these are the kinds of things that we’ll be talking about.

QUESTION: Is the – just to – I’m trying to help someone who may be writing a curtain raiser on this – not me.

MS. NULAND: Not you.

QUESTION: I mean, look, should one – is this going to primarily be about Iran, and missile defense is therefore something that is related to potential Iranian threats? I mean, what is – in tangible terms, what do you expect to talk about? Is it going to be about oil and the Saudis trying to make up for those countries that are significantly reducing their Iranian crude imports? I mean, what tangibly is this about?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the bilateral side, obviously we’ll talk about the full relationship, economic security, the neighborhood, all those things. On the GCC + U.S. side, this is a security forum. It is —

QUESTION: It’s called strategic in the thing, but —

MS. NULAND: Yeah, but it’s primarily about peace and security in the neighborhood. It is about helping all of those countries work more closely together to combat the threats that they share, the threats that we work on with each of them. So we’ll be talking a little bit more about that tomorrow and the next day.

QUESTION: By those, you mean Iran?

MS. NULAND: Well, you can imagine what threats they share.

QUESTION: Would Secretary of Defense participate in this meeting?

MS. NULAND: Say again?

QUESTION: Secretary of Defense?

MS. NULAND: No, not this time. He has in the past, but not this time.

QUESTION: Do those threats include the opposition in Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: This is about the external security of these countries.

QUESTION: So that won’t come up at all?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know. I am sure that Bahrain will come up. Whether we’re going to see the Bahraini, I can’t speak to. We haven’t set the schedule.


QUESTION: Today marks a very important event. It’s the 10th anniversary of the Peace Arab Initiative – at the time, total peace for total withdrawal. But it seems like time has come and gone over the years on this issue; it’s discarded. Do you still consider it to be a viable option?

MS. NULAND: Said, I don’t have anything particular to say on this subject today.

QUESTION: But at the time, and I think time again – time and again, different administrations supported the Arab Peace Initiative as a viable negotiating avenue or a peace prospect.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think —

QUESTION: Do you still support it?

MS. NULAND: I think you know where we are. We are working with the parties to try to get them back to the table. We continue to work with all the members of the Arab League in the same direction. Whether one could sort of go letter and chapter and verse of a 10-year-old document today, our main focus – all of us – is to try to get these parties back to the table.

QUESTION: So I mean, let me just probe a bit further. Do you consider it to be obsolete, that time has passed it behind?

MS. NULAND: Said, I’m not going to give it a grade 10 years on.



QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: No, no, same —


QUESTION: Well, roughly the same.


QUESTION: Yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle over an announcement that was made by the Department about the travel of your boss.


QUESTION: Is it the State Department’s position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed. The first Media Note was issued in error without appropriate clearances. We reissued the note to make clear that Under Secretary – Acting Under Secretary for R, Kathy Stephens, will be traveling to Algiers, Doha, Amman, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it’s a permanent status issue; it’s got to be resolved through negotiations between the parties.

QUESTION: Is it the view of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, notwithstanding the question about the Embassy, the location of the U.S. Embassy?

MS. NULAND: We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND: Jerusalem is a permanent status issue; it’s got to be resolved through negotiations.

QUESTION: That seems to suggest that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Is that correct or not?

MS. NULAND: I have just spoken to this issue —

QUESTION: No, no. But —

MS. NULAND: — and I have nothing further to say on it.

QUESTION: You’ve spoken to the issue but didn’t answer the question, and I think there’s a lot of people out there who are interested in hearing a real answer and not saying – and not trying to duck and say that this has got to be resolved by negotiations between the two sides.

MS. NULAND: That is our —

QUESTION: What is the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND: Our policy with regard to Jerusalem is it has to be solved through negotiations. That’s all I have to say on this issue.

QUESTION: What is the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND: Our Embassy, as you know, is located in Tel Aviv.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you regard Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND: The issue on Jerusalem has to be settled through negotiations.

Lalit, thank you.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Say again?

QUESTION: Change of subject?


QUESTION: The leaders of BRIC countries are meeting in Delhi tomorrow for a summit.


QUESTION: What is the U.S. position on that? And they are also planning to launch a developmental bank for the BRIC countries. Do you support that effort?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think – we obviously look forward to hearing the outcomes of the BRIC countries summit. I don’t think we’re going to prejudge them before they’ve had their meeting. And with regard to the bank, again, if it’s a new initiative, we’ll look at it after they launch it.

QUESTION: How do you see the BRIC as a group as a whole, I mean, these developing countries coming together in one platform? Naturally, they’ll be discussing Iran and Syria. What’s your message to them?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think our message to them on Iran is pretty consistent. And we work very closely with Russia and China in the P-5+1 process, so they’re very up-to-date on our policy with regard to Iran. And with regard to Brazil and India, our message there is to continue to reduce dependence on Iranian crude.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Please, Catherine.



QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran for one —

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Just – so the Iranian state news agency IRNA is quoting the Iranian foreign minister as saying that he expects to resume – Iranian P-5+1 talks to resume on April the 13th and that he hopes that the talks will be in Istanbul. Would you care to comment? Do you expect them also to be on the 13th, or do we all have to knock on Lady Ashton’s door to find this out?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think when we have finished the discussions with Iran about the when and the where, Cathy Ashton’s office will announce it. As was clear in the Iranian statement where he was expressing his personal view, we’re still working on this.

QUESTION: Do you – on this subject, do you have a problem with the meeting being in Istanbul?

MS. NULAND: We are letting Cathy Ashton’s office lead this discussion —

QUESTION: That doesn’t matter. I’m not asking you that. Does the United States have a problem with the meeting being in Istanbul?

MS. NULAND: I’m not going to give our – to sort of put to you what we’re discussing with the Iranians. I’m going to wait and let Cathy Ashton’s offices —

QUESTION: I’m not asking what you’re discussing with the Iranians. I’m asking, does the United States have a problem with this meeting being in Istanbul?

MS. NULAND: And again —

QUESTION: That has nothing to do with what you’re talking to the Iranians. Do you have a problem with it, considering Istanbul was the venue for the last round, which was a total failure?

MS. NULAND: Again, we are going to let Cathy Ashton’s office lead on this, and we will work together in that forum to see where the best place for this meeting’s going to be.

Catherine has been patient.

QUESTION: On Cuba, as you know, the Pope is in Havana.


QUESTION: Do you or the Department have any hopes that Alan Gross may be released? And have you been in contact with the Vatican about raising the issue?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are obviously regularly in touch with the Vatican with regard to Cuba. We were in touch with the Vatican and with the nuncio in advance of the Pope’s visit. We obviously are hopeful that the Pope will continue to be strong on all of the human rights issues in Cuba, religious freedom, and it would be a very, very good thing if the Cuban Government were to take this opportunity to release Alan Gross.

QUESTION: You think it presents an opportunity, then, that they should seize?

MS. NULAND: Obviously. Obviously. Yeah.

QUESTION: So do you have any hope from the Vatican that – I mean, what are they telling you?

MS. NULAND: Well, we would be, obviously, very grateful were the Pope to raise this issue.

QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy testified this morning on the Hill that, apparently, the U.S. has decided not to go forward with food aid for North Korea because of its plans to launch this rocket in mid-April. Is that accurate? And if so, under what – how did this decision come to be?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been clear for the last week, Ros, that we’ve got an issue with the government that makes a Leap Day deal with us on the nuclear side and then turns around and announces its intention to do something that would violate it in just a number of weeks. So that, as we’ve said here, calls into question whether one can make any kind of arrangements with such a government that’ll be binding. And it would be hard to give food aid without being sure that the commitments that we are working on together, or had been working on together, were going to be honored, to ensure that the food got to the right people.

And the President made clear in Seoul we’re not going to be rewarding provocation. So it obviously makes sense that we’re not moving forward with this right now, until we see what happens.

QUESTION: And just –

QUESTION: Are the President’s comments in Seoul the marker that this discussion about emergency food aid to North Korea is done?

MS. NULAND: The President’s comments are always the marker on everything. How about that?

QUESTION: Just on this, it’s still your position that you guys made totally clear to the North Koreans that this kind of – you do not regard this as some kind of an exemption, or —

MS. NULAND: Correct. This —

QUESTION: — the satellite launch. Is there —

MS. NULAND: This came up in the talks.

QUESTION: So this is very clear. I mean, is there some other problem? Does the Juche calendar even have a Leap Year in it? Maybe they’ve got – I mean, what have they told you?

MS. NULAND: You mean that the day didn’t exist, or —

QUESTION: I don’t know. I mean —

MS. NULAND: Is that your idea?

QUESTION: What’s the – I mean, what have they told you, other than, “We don’t regard this as a violation of what – of an – of what we signed up for?” Have they said —

MS. NULAND: It’s not clear to me that we’ve had any direct contacts with them since that day that we talked about and we made clear that this was not going to work for us.

QUESTION: That was the Thursday overnight – Thursday-Friday?

MS. NULAND: Whenever it was, yeah.

QUESTION: But what about the whole idea that you don’t link food with political discussions?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve talked about this before. We talked about it on the day that this initially came up. We don’t link food with the nuclear issue, but we do have to have confidence in the commitments that the government is making to us with regard to the monitoring situation before one could go forward. This is a government that turned around in a matter of weeks and undid what it had said on the nuclear side, so how can one have confidence in what they’ve said on the monitoring side? And we’re not going to send food to a country where it might be diverted to the elites. That’s not what the American taxpayers want to support.

QUESTION: But that does make it sound like it’s a link.

MS. NULAND: There’s a link in the sense that we don’t have confidence in the good faith of the government.

QUESTION: I’m confused by that because you said that nutritional assistance, not food aid, would be done in such a way that it would be impossible to divert. You were talking about baby vitamins and things like this.

MS. NULAND: But again, we have to be able to get it in in the way that we’ve agreed, we have to be able to distribute it with the groups that we’ve agreed, we have to be able to have the monitoring ourselves on it that we’ve agreed to. All of that requires the government’s cooperation.

QUESTION: Well, have they said that they won’t cooperate on that particular issue?

MS. NULAND: We haven’t had those conversations. We’ve simply said: Do not have your space launch here.

QUESTION: So how do you know that they wouldn’t keep their word if it were a matter of —

MS. NULAND: Because we have no confidence in their good faith right now.


QUESTION: But I don’t understand on it. I’m sorry. Just – I don’t understand how this is not linking your dissatisfaction with them on the nuclear and political issue and the food assistance. You don’t know whether they would make good on their commitments to allow monitors and food, on the food, because you won’t talk to them because you’re mad at them about the nuclear issue.

MS. NULAND: We don’t have confidence in their good faith. If they want to restore our confidence in their good faith, they can cancel the plans to launch this satellite.

QUESTION: No, but how is that not linking it, Toria?

MS. NULAND: We – as I said, we have concerns about whether one can make a deal of any kind with this government. It’s a – they are separate issues, but they come together at the point of whether the government’s acting in good faith.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) said that this missile is based on old technology; that is, actually, it is in existence. That’s old SCUD engine. And what the Koreans are doing is really posturing, so why make such a big deal out of it?

MS. NULAND: It’s not a matter of what they’re putting in the sky. It’s a matter of how they launch it, which uses ballistic missile technology, which is precluded under UN Security Council Resolution 1874.




QUESTION: Fighting along the border between North and South been intensified and the President Bashir postponed the Juba summit. Are you worrying about – that a full-fledged war may break out between them? And what are you going to do with this respect?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary spoke very strongly on this issue yesterday afternoon with the Estonian, so I would refer you to her comments. We have our Senior Advisor Dane Smith in Sudan, and he’s going to represent the United States at the African Union/UN-Sudan consultative group in Addis on Thursday. We are also sending a team from Special Advisor Princeton Lyman’s office to observe the security and border discussions. And as the Secretary made absolutely clear yesterday, we want to see the high-level summit go forward, we want to see these agreements come together, but most importantly, we want to see the fighting and the violence end immediately.


QUESTION: The Arab summit?


QUESTION: Can you tell us who’s going to be participating from the American side in the Arab summit, if any?

MS. NULAND: We don’t have anybody participating or observing at the Arab summit.

QUESTION: Not even Ambassador Jeffrey?





QUESTION: I was wondering if you’ve decided who are going to be the two election monitors.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We have a little bit more on that. So, as you know, Burma invited us to send two election observers, so we in turn offered one slot to the National Democratic Institute and one slot to the International Republican Institute, and they will each be sending somebody. They issued – they both issued a statement yesterday. NDI’s witness will be Peter Manakis and IRI’s will be Johanna Kao, director of their Asia program.

In that context, they’ll be there March 28th through April 3rd to study the conduct and significance of the polling. But as they said in their own statement that they released yesterday, they will not be in a position to monitor in the traditional sense under the terms of the UN Declaration of Principles on International Election Observance, because they’re only getting there a couple of days before the election.

So the process that the Burmese have offered, although a positive advance over past elections, is not going to conform to international standards for conducting an election observation mission. But they are going to bear witness to how the voting goes forward, and we also are expecting some American journalists and international journalists there.

QUESTION: Have the Burmese given them – they can travel anywhere in the country or certain places, restriction of movement? Are there – have they set up any conditions?

MS. NULAND: I haven’t heard of any restrictions on movement, but obviously we’ll have to see how it goes when they get there.

QUESTION: Do you know if you asked or want to be able to send more?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we pushed beyond the two. We did say to the Burmese, going back to the Secretary’s visit and before, that we considered it essential that they allow international observation when they hadn’t in the past.

QUESTION: Well, I guess what I’m getting at is: Do you think that this is acceptable?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I – as we are saying, it doesn’t meet the standard for monitoring, but it’s an advance over where they’ve been. And we are supporting the notion that they will witness the day of.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t consider this to be them taking on board what the Secretary told them when she was there?

MS. NULAND: No. We consider that they’ve made progress. We just don’t consider that they have yet reached the international standard for observation.

QUESTION: And do you know how many journalists are going? Have they got the visa for U.S. journalists to travel to Burma to cover elections?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a full count on how many journalists have been visaed by the Burmese. I do know that we’ve had a number of American journalists and organizations receive some visas.

QUESTION: So, more than three?


QUESTION: Can we go back to North Korea for a moment?


QUESTION: You said that the issue of a satellite launch was raised during the discussions, correct?


QUESTION: Why did not the Leap Year agreement specify a – your objections to a satellite launch specifically? If it was important enough to raise in the discussions, why not put it in writing?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’ll recall the way the Leap Year agreement was structured that the DPRK undertook a number of steps, which included a moratorium on missile launches. And we undertook to affirm that this is what they had guaranteed us. So from our perspective, a launch using ballistic missile technology was covered by the Leap Day Agreement.

QUESTION: Okay. But if – I mean, given that the North Koreans have a very, very, very long history of breaking their agreements, right – I mean, very long – so why not have tried to obviate this problem by making it explicit in the agreement going beyond missile launches but specifying missile launches or the use of ballistic missile technology for any purpose, including the launching of a satellite? I mean, why not try to have achieved a higher level of – if it was important enough to bring up in the talks, why not have tried to get it into the agreement to have averted this problem?

MS. NULAND: From our perspective, it was explicit both in the negotiating record and in our understanding of the agreement that was made and the text of the agreement. And we made absolutely clear to the North Koreans during the negotiations that we would consider anything that moved using ballistic missile technology to be covered. So I don’t think we were under any ambiguity, and we don’t think they were either.

Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: Toria, are you having any coordination with the French Government with regard to the crisis in Mali? And also, are you talking to some neighboring countries of Mali who might have some leverage on the Tuareg tribes and/or the mutineers?

MS. NULAND: We are working very closely with the French on Mali. Our embassies are very closely associated, always have been on these issues. We are also talking to and working with neighboring countries. I think you know that the ECOWAS summit resulted in a decision to send a delegation of chiefs of defense today to Mali to impress upon Captain Sanogo the importance of immediately returning the country to civilian rule. And we’re expecting tomorrow six heads of state from ECOWAS, led by Cote d’Ivoire President Ouattara to arrive, to make the same points, and to try to walk this back.




QUESTION: Do you have the aid – do you know how much aid you’re withholding yet?

MS. NULAND: We are still working on this. And it goes to, as I said yesterday, the question of how you define humanitarian and what programs need to continue to help the people of Mali, and it has to do with our internal analysis of the needs versus the programming. So —

QUESTION: And that takes more than three days?

MS. NULAND: It appears to take more than three days.


QUESTION: Under the previous administration, Henrietta Fore, with great pride and fanfare, talked about redoing the internal budgeting of the State Department so you could figure this stuff out much, much faster. I mean, Secretary – former Secretary Rice used to say that she’d go into meetings and she’d be like, “Well, how much aid do we give to Country X?” And she’d get these blank looks, and, “It depends.” And I mean, why is it – and we now have a deputy secretary for budgeting and stuff. Why does it take three days to figure this stuff out? It just seems – seems like if you asked a corporation, “Well, how much money do you spend in Thailand,” they’d probably know within an hour, let alone 72 hours.

MS. NULAND: We did know within an hour how much money we spend in Mali. That’s not the issue. The issue is simply —

QUESTION: You just don’t know what you spend it on.

MS. NULAND: No. And we do know what we spend it on.

QUESTION: You just can’t make decisions among what you spend it on between what’s humanitarian and what’s not humanitarian.

MS. NULAND: The issue here is that under the development program basket in particular, depending upon how you define humanitarian assistance, you could define, for example, a long-term vaccination program for children as humanitarian assistance, or you could say that’s not humanitarian assistance. For this purpose, we need to make a statement. So we are working through the various programmatics and trying to determine what is absolutely essential to continue to help the people of Mali through this difficult period and what essentially one could cut off to send our message to the government. So —

QUESTION: Are you – wait, wait. Are you trying to suggest that vaccinating children against disease is not humanitarian?

MS. NULAND: No, it is. But —

QUESTION: How is that —

MS. NULAND: But this is – but my point is that there are various – there’s – for example, long-term support to government-run hospitals. Is that humanitarian or is that government support? So these are the issues we have to work through. I understand it’s not satisfying – it’s not satisfying to me either, but it has to be worked through carefully.

QUESTION: So when you said two days ago that you suspended aid, is there a minimum amount that you know is actually suspended? Or is it between —

MS. NULAND: Well all military aid, all security support has been suspended. All programs that are non-humanitarian in nature —

QUESTION: But we don’t know what those are?

MS. NULAND: — that go to the government. We have some clear understanding of what those programs are, but I can’t give you a firm number until we work through the rest of it.

QUESTION: Right. We’re recognizing that you do – that it is not obvious.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: Still, three days to figure this out?

MS. NULAND: But it’s a policy process as well. There’s a budgeting process and then there’s a policy process as to where you draw the line in terms of humanitarian. So we’re working through that.

QUESTION: Back to Burma quickly?


QUESTION: You had previously said that you’re going to be working with the ASEAN observers to kind of maximize the effect that you’re able to have. I was wondering if you had come to any agreement with them or where we’re at with that.

MS. NULAND: I think the expectation here is that the NDI and IRI representatives will link up with their colleagues from the ASEAN countries, many of whom they’ve worked with before, and try to make sure that we’re getting as much coverage as possible during the elections. In addition, we’ll have some of our embassy folks, and we will work with the ASEAN embassies as well to make sure that we don’t duplicate and we get as much coverage as we can.


QUESTION: Ambassador Grossman. Do you have any readout on his further travel after his visit to Kabul a few days ago? And where he is now – when he’s coming back?

MS. NULAND: He’s on his way home. I think he gets back this afternoon. I think you know that he was primarily going around European capitals, ISAF supporters, talking about our long-term support for Afghan national security forces in a number of capitals.


MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: And a neighborhood in Pakistan. This week, there had been three high profile meetings with the U.S. and Pakistan. Ambassador Grossman met President Zardari, then President Obama met Prime Minister Gillani, and today top Pentagon officials are in Islamabad for a meeting with General Kayani. Do you think that this is resumption of talks? The relationship is back on track? Your issues have been resolved?

MS. NULAND: Well again, the President spoke to the relationship when he met with Prime Minister Gillani. We – in terms of getting fully back on track, you know where we’ve been, which is to respect the parliamentary process which is continuing. Our contacts have continued all the way through this. So – but in terms of where we go from here, we’re going to wait until the Pakistani side finishes its internal debate and then we will look forward to consulting with them on the results.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to – I want to clarify something.


QUESTION: Perhaps give you an out on your Jerusalem answer. Is it your position that all of Jerusalem is a final status issue or do you think – or is it just East Jerusalem?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I don’t have anything further to what I said 17 times on that subject. Okay?

QUESTION: All right. So hold on – so – I just want to make sure, you’re saying that all of Jerusalem, not just East Jerusalem, is a final status issue?

MS. NULAND: Matt, I don’t have anything further on Jerusalem to what I’ve already said.


QUESTION: I have one more on the Tibetan situation. Yesterday, one Tibetan self-immolated in Delhi when President Hu Jintao was visiting there and has been increasing such incidents inside Tibet. What is your assessment of the situation inside Tibet now?

MS. NULAND: Well, we speak to this issue regularly. We remain deeply concerned about the tensions and the human rights violations in the Tibetan areas. China’s own continuing vilification of the Dalai Lama and repeated accusations with regard to the Dalai Lama and saying that he’s directly involved adds to the Tibetan grievances and just makes the situation worse. So we continue to call on China to respect the human rights of Tibetans and to allow journalists in, et cetera.

QUESTION: Do the Chinese ever respond to your concerns?

MS. NULAND: Well, we talk about this every time we meet.

All right? Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)