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State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, November 29, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 29, 2012.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • UN Vote on Palestinian Recognition
    • David Hale’s Actions in New York
    • Evolution of the Syrian Opposition
    • U.S. Assistance to the Syrian People
    • Internet, Cellular Communications Shutdown by Syrian Regime
    • U.S. Contact with Opposition Political Figures, Leaders, Councils
    • Constitutional Drafting, Review, Process
    • Visit of Afghan High Peace Council Chairman Rabbani
    • Reports on New Chinese Maritime Practices
    • Passport Image/Map Changes
    • New Chinese Leadership
    • Tibetan Self Immolations
    • U.S. Concerns about Dr. Afridi, Hunger Strike
    • Readout of the Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Panjikidze
    • Upholding Democratic Values, Rule of Law in Georgia


1:07 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Thursday. The Secretary has remarks at about 1:30, so we will be together until we hear that she’s getting ready to go out. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Really? You don’t have anything? You don’t have anything to say about what’s going to happen in New York a couple hours from now? Nothing at all?

MS. NULAND: I’m sure after whatever happens happens, we’ll have something to say.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let me just – you do plan to have – does that mean that it’s fruitless and not worthwhile to ask you about it now?

MS. NULAND: You will not get a different answer than you’ve heard all week if that’s what you’re asking, but we will – obviously we have to vote, and we will have an explanation of vote thereafter. So I would –

QUESTION: Okay. And you expect that to come from Susan Rice, not from – or you expect what you will have to say in Washington will not be dissimilar to what Ambassador Rice says at –

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, can I just ask this on it? And that is that for the past couple weeks now, you and the Israelis and – well, you and the Israelis and that’s about it – have been warning not that this is going to be the end of the world, but it’s going to be a serious, serious setback to efforts to get peace. Now yesterday, former Prime Minister Olmert said he didn’t really see any problem with this, and in fact it goes along with the idea of a two-state solution in the end. You’ve got the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel Danny Ayalon saying today that this is really not that significant. And so my question is then: If in fact it is true what you have said all along that this doesn’t change the situation on the ground at all, and if in fact Israelis themselves are now saying or are trying to downplay the significance of this by saying oh, well, it doesn’t really mean anything, was it really worth the effort that you made to try and stop it?

MS. NULAND: Again, Matt, you’re in the past tense, and the action hasn’t happened. So I’m not going to comment on the results until we have a result, and then as we said, there will be a U.S. vote, and there will be an explanation of vote in New York, and then we’ll see where we go from there. We have been clear, the Secretary was clear again yesterday in the context of the press conference that she had with AU Chairperson Zuma that we have concerns about this, that we’ve been clear with everybody about why we are going to vote the way we are going to vote. As she put it, as she has put it consistently, the path to two states goes through Ramallah and Jerusalem, not through New York. But we will obviously have more to say afterwards.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you think that it’s – that when this passes, and I’m holding to this kind of fiction that it hasn’t happened yet, so you can’t comment on it seems to be a bit odd, but when this happens, does it irreversibly destroy the – whatever was left of the peace process, or will you continue to try to bring the two sides together?

MS. NULAND: Regardless of what happens in New York today, the United States is going to continue to try to bring these parties back to the table. Obviously we’re going to. The President is committed to that, and I think the only question is what kind of environment we’re working in.



MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry, Jo.

MS. NULAND: Still on this?

QUESTION: Yes. On this. I just wonder if you could explain to me what about the vote or what about the situation would make it harder for these talks to progress.

MS. NULAND: Jo, I think I’ve spoken to this issue every single day since Monday. I really don’t have anything new to add to what the Secretary said yesterday and what I’ve said all week. I really don’t.

QUESTION: You said it would make it harder, but I don’t quite understand why it will make it harder.

MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve spoken to this several, several times. I just don’t have anything new on it today.

Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Wait. I’m sorry. This is a – non, it’s substantive, but it’s not – it doesn’t have to do with you predicting anything that’s going to happen. Do you know if there are plans – any U.S. officials have plans to see Abbas or any other Palestinian officials in – I understand David Hale is still up there – after the vote or is that all going to depend on the vote happening?

MS. NULAND: I don’t know what David Hale’s plans are. I know that he’s been in constant discussion with all of his counterparts, and as you say, he has stayed in New York. So it’s conceivable he would see some of the Palestinians afterwards. I frankly don’t know, but whatever we have for you tomorrow I’ll give you, Matt.


QUESTION: Ambassador Ford this morning said that the Syrian opposition are making real progress and that our position, the U.S. position, will evolve as they themselves develop, and now there are reports that the U.S. will recognize them apparently in Marrakesh. Can you confirm that that is the intent?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have anything new on that either from what we’ve been saying all week long, which is that we are watching their evolution. We’ve seen good progress being made both organizationally and in terms of the connections that they’re making with Syrian groups, political groups on the ground. But when we have something to announce, we will announce it, Jill. I don’t have anything to predict today.

QUESTION: What would you say is left for them to do before the U.S. would recognize them?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, they are still in Cairo working on their permanent organizational structure. Those conversations continue even into this evening is my understanding. And they are continuing to spread and deepen their contacts with the major players on the ground in the opposition in Syria, and we’re continuing to watch the evolution of their influence there and their ability to affect political dialogue and good effective management of those parts of the country that have now been liberated from the regime.

QUESTION: But there’s – is there a way of quantifying it? Let’s say we’re on a scale of one to ten. Are they at eight and a half, nine and a half, ten?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a number for you today, Jill.

QUESTION: Ambassador Ford also was asked a propos of The New York Times story this morning on whether or not the Administration was taking a new look at potentially arming the opposition, and his answer was: We are not currently arming the opposition. But when we look at this question, it’s a question of tactics versus strategy, and that’s the kind of thing that we’re weighing. And I’m just wondering does that mean that this is indeed an ongoing discussion within the Administration, that you are looking at always sort of, even at the point, the President hasn’t taken arming the rebels off the table? Is this discussion ongoing? Has it changed at all in the past few weeks, given the changes on the ground?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any changes of position to announce. You know what our position has been, that we’ve provided some 200 million in humanitarian assistance, some 50 million in nonlethal assistance in the areas of training and communications support and those kinds of things.

As the Secretary’s made clear, we continue to look at the evolving situation, we continue to talk actively with our partners, but our position has not changed at this stage.


QUESTION: And just one clarification. This is not a hypothetical, but an actual question: If the U.S. – is there – does recognition entail certain legal steps? Or is that just a step in and of itself? In other words, the question of arming or anything like that, would that be tantamount to saying that we could go ahead and arm? Or is it a discrete step?

MS. NULAND: Well, the question of how we view the Syrian Opposition Council is a matter of our political and diplomatic relationship with them, right, which is a separate matter from our posture with regard to support and assistance. And as you know, we are in a nonlethal place. So the one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other; these are separate decisions.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the reports of a hearing about the internet being cut off across Syria today?

MS. NULAND: We have been learning from local coordinating councils inside Syria over the last day or so that the regime does appear to be resorting to cutting off all kinds of communication – cellular networks, landlines, as well as internet service across the country – notably in Damascus and the suburbs as well as Hama, Homs, and Tartus. Obviously, we condemn this latest assault on the Syrian people’s ability to express themselves and communicate with each other. And it just, again, speaks to the kind of desperation of the regime as it tries to cling to power.

QUESTION: And on that point, is there – the U.S. has been providing communications equipment. Can the groups to whom it’s been provided continue to communicate without this – without these networks?

MS. NULAND: Yes. We’ve provided some 2,000 communications kits, pieces of equipment, since this effort began. These are all kinds of things: computers, phones, cameras. They are all designed to be independent from and able to circumvent the Syrian domestic network precisely for the reason of keeping them safe, keeping them secure from regime tampering, regime listening, regime interruption.


QUESTION: Back on the Cairo meeting —


QUESTION: — and your comment that we’ve seen, quote, “good progress,” unquote, being made by the opposition. I’m wondering if you can be a little bit more specific about what you mean by that good progress. Is that the formation of these committees? I understand that they formed four more committees today in Cairo. So that’s number one.

And the second one based on that is also, they say – the opposition says that what they’re hearing from people like the U.S. and their other supporters is that they want – is that you guys want them to form an actual – something that could become a transitional government with ministers for – who would oversee certain functions, including defense, and one person who could serve as the head of a body that would work to integrate the domestic, the internal opposition with the diaspora opposition. Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly we’ve been looking for them to establish a leadership structure that’s clear to everybody, but also discrete committees that can deal with the various issues that they are assuming responsibility for, one of which is this question of helping the international community to better target the assistance that we provide. You’ve already seen that committee come together. We’ve already had our first meeting with some of those representatives.

There are a huge number of other things that they are looking at in terms of the needs of the Syrian people: a humanitarian group, a group that will interface on the security side, a group that’ll look at the current and future political structure, a judicial group, accountability group. So this is – it’s up to them, really, how they organize themselves. Obviously, as we’ve seen in other transitions, the degree to which they have consensus among themselves how to organize, and their organizing against governing requirements, that could easily become the basis for post-Assad planning and for potentially what might be needed after Assad falls. But we don’t want to get ahead of the game here.

QUESTION: Okay, but the main point is that the good progress that you’re referring to is the formation of these (inaudible), these groups.

MS. NULAND: Of these – the committees plus a central structure, yeah.

Please. Still on Syria?


MS. NULAND: Let’s stay on Syria and we’ll finish that up, come back to you.

Please, (inaudible).

QUESTION: A quick one. Do you know if those internet cuts are sporadic? Are they all the time, is it on/off? Is it —

MS. NULAND: I think what we’ve been seeing reported in the last day or so appeared to be a cold cut as compared to what we were seeing in the past, which was phones coming in and – sporadic interruptions. But now we appear to have a cold cut; I think we just have to see what happens here.


MS. NULAND: Mark clearly didn’t open all of his candies before the break. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. NULAND: Still on Syria? Go ahead, Guy.

QUESTION: Yeah. Toria, could you tell us, actually, a little bit more about these local coordinating councils that you just mentioned in relation to the 2,000 pieces of equipment, the computers and phones that all circumvent the Syrian network? Could you tell us how that equipment gets to these local coordinating councils?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have quite a number of opposition figures who are now able to move in and out of Syria, particularly as the regime loses control of broad swaths of border. I don’t want to get into it too much more specifically than that, because obviously, there are security issues for those people. But we are able to meet with opposition and get things to them through those networks.

We also maintain, through Ambassador Ford and the Embassy’s network, broad contacts with political figures and emerging leaders across Syria in many, many different towns, and particularly we are seeking to maintain connections to leaders on the – of these local political organizations, these local coordinating councils that have sprung up in towns across Syria to get our own sense from them of what’s needed, how they are doing, how they’re coordinating internally. Many of them are now starting to take up the slack where government has receded, where the regime is no longer able to provide services, everything from trash collection to ensuring that there’s no vigilante justice. So we’re watching those developments as well through our contacts.

QUESTION: How many of these councils are there around the country?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a number for you, but they – my understanding is, whether they’re in big cities or small villages, they number in the dozens and dozens now.

QUESTION: And regarding the equipment that circumvents the Syrian network, that would – would that presume there’s some sort of a satellite link to this equipment that —

MS. NULAND: Guy, I don’t think it’s helpful for the integrity of the equipment for me to get into how this works, because we obviously want it to stay secure, so I think I won’t do that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) it’s a system that officials in this building presumably could monitor; is that —

MS. NULAND: Not necessarily, and I’m not going to get into any more details because we don’t want to damage the integrity of the program.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please. Sir. Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Or – no.

MS. NULAND: No? Syria? Anybody else? Jo? No more Syria. Okay.

QUESTION: Did you see the draft for the constitution that they are working on in Egypt, and how do you feel about it?

MS. NULAND: We have not been privy to the draft that they are working on. Our understanding is that there is a rolling process of the constitutional assembly reviewing this statute by statute, and we have not seen a final text of what they are working on.


QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. NULAND: Still on Egypt?

QUESTION: Can I just have – just a follow-up on Samir’s question? The reports seem to suggest, then, that they’ve kept in the clauses from the Islamic about recognizing Sharia law, which were the clauses from the previous constitution. Would that be of concern to the United States?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been very clear all the way along about the kinds of protections, both in the interim period and constitutionally, that we believe the Egyptian people have fought for and that they deserve. We want to see this constitution meet international human rights standards, protections for all groups in Egypt, and to have a judicial set of guarantees that also meets international judicial standards. But again, we haven’t seen the specific draft that’s being reviewed.

Ultimately, the Egyptian people are going to be the ones who have to determine whether the process by which this is being handled meets their aspirations. And as you know, the plan has always been that the constitutional assembly would work on a draft, and then that draft would have to go to popular referendum, at which point everybody will have a chance to opine, and we would hope everybody would come out and vote as to whether the constitution that comes forward meets and protects all of the aspirations and standards that they have, and whether it meets international standards. But we seem to be in the middle of it now, and so we can’t really evaluate.

QUESTION: Do you see rushing this approval of this draft of the constitution helping with the present situation in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Again, we haven’t seen it, so we’re not in a position to evaluate what exactly they are voting on. And as I said, it’s going to be up to the Egyptian people whether the process and whether the substance meets their aspirations. It’s not up to us.

QUESTION: I think that’s – it didn’t go public. Even the Egyptian people don’t know what they are voting on, so – I mean, this kind of —

MS. NULAND: I mean, if it had been in the newspaper, we would have seen it as well, right?

QUESTION: Exactly. So is it helping?

MS. NULAND: Again, we have to see what emerges. More importantly, the Egyptian people have to see what emerges.

QUESTION: But so you just said, “if it had been in the newspaper we would have seen it, too.” Are you sure that you would have commented on it if you had only seen it in the newspaper, or would you have said, well, we’ve seen that but we haven’t gotten an official copy yet and so I’m going to – would you be in a position to comment on it had you seen it in the newspaper?

MS. NULAND: If we had seen a draft that we thought had integrity and was clearly what was being looked at, we might well have opined on it, but we haven’t.


QUESTION: Are you clear, Toria, about the people who are on that constitutional assembly? Because there have been liberals that have criticized, stepped down, et cetera. I don’t even know the latest state of play, but are you – do you – are you clear exactly who is writing it?

MS. NULAND: Again, that part of the process has been a little bit difficult to follow as well. As you say, Jill, of the original hundred members, there were some who tendered their resignations, whether they then thought differently of it. There is also a process by which alternates can be appointed. So we frankly don’t have full visibility. But again, it’s going to be up to the Egyptian people whether the process and the substance meet their standards, and at some point, this is going to have to come forward for referendum, and they’ll have their chance to make their views clear.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah. I am asking a question about Afghanistan. As you know, Afghan chairman of the High Council of Peace stayed at the U.S. since the day before yesterday. Could you please share with us the topic, important topic that he discussed with the U.S. authorities, especially Mrs. Clinton?

MS. NULAND: Well, with the Secretary, it was an opportunity for him to have a courtesy call. It was largely a photo and a few words. She’s been very supportive of the efforts of the Council, of his personal efforts. So I think that was less of a substantive meeting and more of a thank-you meeting on her behalf. The substantive meetings, my understanding, are still going on. If we have anything to read out I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And they – he had a meeting with Mr. Grossman?


QUESTION: So do you —

MS. NULAND: But I don’t have anything to report to you. When we do, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Was the Secretary satisfied with the progress in the reconciliation process which the High Peace Council is leading?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’re all glad that we now have strong Afghan leadership of this process, that we have acceptance by all parties that this needs to be an Afghan-led process, but I don’t think any of us are satisfied with the Taliban’s attitude towards it, which has been not to participate. So —

QUESTION: So there has been no green light, green signal from the Taliban after February/March, when they stopped talking to —

MS. NULAND: There is nothing new on that front to my knowledge.


QUESTION: China? There are reports out of China that Hainan will (inaudible) allow police to board foreign vessels that cross through the disputed territory in the South China Sea. I’m just wondering if you’re aware of those and if you’ve had any contacts with Philippines, Vietnam, other ASEANs about this particular development. It sounds like it could complicate things.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the same press reports that you have seen. We are going to be asking some questions of the Chinese Government about this, frankly, to get a better understanding of what they intend. So until we have a chance to do that, I think we’ll withhold comment given that it’s just press reporting at this stage.

QUESTION: Okay. And have – you don’t – do you know if any of the ASEANs have approached you with concerns about that?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we have not yet had those conversations with the ASEANs. I think this broke overnight, but, yeah.


QUESTION: On the passport issue?

QUESTION: Yeah. Do – on the passport, have they given you a satisfactory response on the passport map, or did they just tell you to mind your own business, we don’t tell you to put – what to put in your passports, don’t tell us what we can put in ours?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say that this has been raised now a couple of times with the Chinese Government, yesterday, by – at the Deputy Assistant Secretary level, and today at the level of Assistant Secretary Campbell, along the lines of the points that we’ve been making publicly. Obviously, I think you may have seen the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had its own comment yesterday on this as well. I’m going to let the Chinese side speak for itself, but we’re obviously joining the chorus of countries who are urging the Chinese to reconsider the political signal that this appears to send.

QUESTION: So suffice it to say, without getting into what their response is, your concerns have not been assuaged?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Just to follow on China.


QUESTION: As far as the new leadership in China is concerned, do you see any changes as far as the Chinese behavior in the South China Sea and also as far as the Tibetans? They are still asking U.S. and UN help. He – the Dalai Lama spoke the other day that his people need help now, so – because they are putting themselves more and more on fire every day.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Chinese announced the new leadership sort of less than a week ago. We had a chance, at the level of the President, to see Wen Jiabao in Cambodia, and there was a – as the readout of that made clear, there was a concerted effort on the Chinese part to talk about continuity. But obviously they have – we will see how we go forward.

With regard to the immolations in Tibet, we obviously make those points as often as we can, and we have been concerned about the accelerating level of these and continue to raise it with the Chinese side.

QUESTION: And one more: There’s escalation between China and now Philippines. The Chinese are claiming the territory from Philippines and also now Japan is also worried about the rise of China and what the new leadership will be there. Are you discussing all these things, what China is claiming the territories, including a territory part of India?

MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we have been raising this passport issue over the last couple of days. It obviously applies not only to the South China Sea, but the Indian side has expressed concerns about some of their territory being chopped into this map. So the conversation is about all of it.

QUESTION: Can I just —

MS. NULAND: Scott? Yeah. Sorry.

QUESTION: And this is kind of a technical and procedural thing, but if you said that yesterday the Deputy Assistant Secretary spoke to the Chinese about it, and then today the Assistant Secretary spoke about it – I mean, was there a reason that this is going up the chain?

MS. NULAND: I think we had —

QUESTION: Are your concerns greater today than they were yesterday, and so you had someone more senior bring it up with them? Or is this just a reflection of scheduling?

MS. NULAND: It’s more scheduling that the meeting at the Kurt Campbell level was going to be today. But we didn’t want to wait in terms of raising it, so we had another opportunity yesterday to start it, start the conversation.

QUESTION: And can I – and that was here in this building?


QUESTION: Did any of countries of Asia have approached you on this issue?

MS. NULAND: Lalit, I don’t know the answer to that. They’ve obviously been very clear publicly about where they stand. And we’ve been talking to them in capitals. But I don’t think in terms of asking us to do anything with the Chinese, I don’t think so. But obviously we have concerns if they have concerns.

QUESTION: And given the kind of response you have seen from the countries in the region, do you see – do you visualize increase in tension between China and these countries?

MS. NULAND: Well, I spoke yesterday about the concern that we have, that this raises tensions. So that’s the context in which we’re bringing it up with the Chinese.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Dr. Afridi’s hunger strike in Pakistan? He’s apparently protesting the conditions of his detention.

MS. NULAND: I don’t know that I have – let me just take a quick look.

Well, obviously, as the Secretary has said, we believe and have believed all along that the prosecution and conviction of Dr. Afridi sends absolutely the wrong message, particularly with regard to our shared interest in taking down one of the world’s most notorious terrorists. We’ve made our views well known, both to Pakistanis and in public. We are, as you know, in the middle now of a series of working group meetings with the Pakistanis. So that gives us a chance to raise our concerns about the hunger strike and other things, and we are doing that.

QUESTION: Sorry. Have U.S. offered any help to Dr. Afridi, if in case they decide to leave Pakistan for the U.S., or if they have made any request, any kind of request for their safety to leave Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: You know that if we were having those kinds of conversations, I wouldn’t be at liberty to talk about them here. But obviously we want to see him released —

QUESTION: No, what I —

MS. NULAND: — and we want to see him safe.

QUESTION: What I mean, really: Are you worried about his safety as far as under the Pakistani law? Because since the military leadership have already spoken against what that – this kind of treason, what they said, and he might be – or his family and friends might be tried under the treason.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, we’re worried about —

QUESTION: How can they do this?

MS. NULAND: We’re worried about all of it, because he should never have been locked up to begin with.


QUESTION: Georgia?


QUESTION: Can I ask on Georgia?


QUESTION: The Secretary’s meeting this morning with Prime Minister, Foreign Minister – is this the first time they’ve met? And what was the substance of the talks between them?

MS. NULAND: I believe this was the first time the Secretary had met – well, certainly as Foreign Minister, it was the first time she had met Foreign Minister Panjikidze. I don’t think that their paths had crossed before. A number of us do know her because she was Georgian Ambassador to Berlin. So we had encountered her before.

You saw the comments that the Secretary made at the beginning of the meeting about our strong and enduring support for Georgian democracy. And in that context – and territorial integrity, sovereignty, et cetera. But in that context, our strong urging that democratic institutions be preserved, particularly rule of law and transparency, that there not be even the appearance of any political motivation in prosecutions, et cetera.

So it was a very good meeting. They obviously talked about those issues. The Foreign Minister underscored very strongly her government’s commitment to democratic principles, including rule of law. They also spoke about the new government’s commitment to continuity in foreign policy, their continued commitment to a NATO path, an EU path, to participating in the Afghanistan mission, including and supporting Afghanistan post-2014. We were very gratified to hear that and very reassured. We obviously underscored our enduring commitment to Georgia, to its sovereignty, to its territorial integrity, to the Geneva process where we try to work through the difficulties there. And as I said, the Secretary was very clear about our rule of law expectations.


QUESTION: Wasn’t it supposed to be Ivanishvili who was coming, the original schedule? Was there some change?

MS. NULAND: There is a question about when the Prime Minister will come to the U.S. He’ll be the guest of the White House when he does come, so I’m going to send you to them in terms of the precise scheduling. He had – he has said publicly that he wants to make an early visit to the U.S.

QUESTION: Toria, two things on this. One, it doesn’t seem as though the expressions of concern about rule of law and these prosecutions matches the severity of what’s going on over there. I mean, 29 former officials from the Saakashvili government or people from his political party have been arrested now. And it looks to be something like what was going on in Ukraine, and – where you had much stronger comments. Is there a reason why you’re not speaking out more strongly?

MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary was very clear in her public statements that this is something that the international community is watching and that undergirds our support for Georgia, that the democratic values that we share, and rule of law being key among them, are vital to our support for Georgia. I will tell you that in the bilateral meeting the Foreign Minister both began and ended the meeting with reassurances with regard to the way these cases will go forward and was very clear in understanding that they know the world is watching.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second one is: Why are you telling – you consistently refuse to say what other governments tell you in these “private,” quote/unquote, diplomatic conversations. Why are you so willing to tell us what the Georgian Foreign Minister – you won’t tell us what the Chinese told you when you brought up the passport issue; you won’t tell us what – virtually anything about your conversations with the Israelis or the Palestinians, or the Egyptians for that matter. And yet, you’re making an exception here. Can I ask why?

MS. NULAND: In this case, virtually everything I said the Foreign Minister said herself in the opening comments with the Secretary, so —

QUESTION: Well, I listened, and she, in fact, didn’t come close to saying half of the things that you said about rule of law.

MS. NULAND: But it also talks – speaks to whether we have agreement with the other government about how we will characterize the meeting, which we do in this case.

I need to get off the stage, so that the boss can – continue this?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I need you, because I just – I don’t expect you to have an answer, so I think this will be very short. Did you take – was that question taken yesterday about al-Awlaki and Yemen? And if it was taken, what did the lawyers tell you?

MS. NULAND: That I don’t have anything further to say with regard to that issue, other than what I said yesterday, that the reason he was called into the Embassy was to deal with the passport issue. Had he come in, we would have dealt with the passport issue and offered him a chance to return to the United States to face prosecution and to – in a safe and secure manner. But he did not choose to avail himself of that opportunity. Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:41 p.m.)

Source: state.gov

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