State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, October 19, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 19, 2012.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton’s Trip to Haiti
    • American Council of Young Political Leaders
    • Terrorist Attack
    • Attack on Police Officer
    • Support for Strong, Democratic Pakistan
    • Hopes for Malala’s Speedy Recovery
  • MALI
    • Security Council Resolution / Meeting in Bamako
    • Turkey’s Efforts in Syria / Friends of Syria


12:56 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Okay, I have a couple of things at the top.

As most of you know, the Secretary is traveling to northern Haiti on Monday, October 22nd. This is her first trip to the north of Haiti. She will be delivering remarks on a new day in Haiti at the formal opening of the Caracol Industrial Park, which showcases the region’s achievements in agribusiness, energy, light manufacturing, tourism, and artisan crafts. She’ll also be visiting a nearby housing site which is under construction, and a recently completed power plant. While there, she’ll meet with President Martelly, Prime Minister Lamothe, local officials, and she will be accompanied by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

One more, which is to advise that from October 21st to the 31st, so starting on Sunday, the Department of State, partnering with the American Council of Young Political Leaders, will host a 10 day Active Citizen Summit for 60 young leaders age 18 to 35 from across the Middle East and North Africa. They will be doing leadership development workshops, short internships, policy discussions, and various presentations starting in San Francisco. And then they’ll do internships either in California, North Carolina, or Utah.

Let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Sorry, just on that – the whole thing goes to the 31st?


QUESTION: So it ends in a big Halloween party?

MS. NULAND: I hope so, gee.

QUESTION: All right. Lebanon, let’s start with: One, what do you know, if anything, about this explosion and who it may or may not have targeted, who died? And two, more generally, because I understand – I realize you probably don’t have a huge amount of information about it, given that it just happened – but more broadly, does this raise your concerns about spill-over from Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all we condemn in the strongest terms this apparent act of terrorism that took place today in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighborhood. There is no justification for such violence. The Government of Lebanon is obviously going to have to conduct an investigation, and you are right, Matt, that we do not yet have details either on who the perpetrators were. We do know that our Embassy personnel are all accounted for. We also don’t have any reports at this stage of American citizens having been victims. We obviously express our heartfelt sympathies for the families and the loved ones of those who were killed and injured, and we stand by the people of Lebanon and renew our commitment to a stable, sovereign, and independent Lebanon.

With regard to your –

QUESTION: Well, wait – before – just before you go to the second part of the question, you condemn this “apparent” act of terrorism?

MS. NULAND: Well, it –

QUESTION: So, I mean, I’m just curious. Is there a reason –

MS. NULAND: It was a car bomb. We have no reason to believe it wasn’t terrorism, but obviously the Lebanese –

QUESTION: Do you want to say that – do you want to change your – what you said to say, “We condemn this act of terrorism” rather than “apparent act of terrorism?”

MS. NULAND: Look, again – yes, we condemn this act of terrorism. You are right; there is no justification for the word “apparent” in this sentence.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Then the second part of the question, which is concern about – sorry, I just – (laughter) – I mean, why would you – if you’re not sure it’s terror, if it was some accidental gas explosion, you wouldn’t be strongly condemning it, right?

MS. NULAND: Look, it was a – right. I mean, it was a car bomb, so – but of course there has to be an investigation as to the intent.

QUESTION: The second part, which was: Does this make you concerned, or increase your concerns about spillover from Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well again, as I said, we don’t yet have any information about who the perpetrators are. We have been saying for a number of weeks and, in fact, months now that we’ve been concerned about increasing tensions inside of Lebanon, particularly sectarian tensions and tensions as a result of spillover from Syria. But I don’t want to prejudge before the Lebanese authorities have had a chance to declare themselves who is responsible here.


QUESTION: Sort of related, but slightly different – there was another bomb attack in – this time in Bahrain, where a policeman was attacked by a – the government says a policeman was attacked by protestors with an IED and firebombs or whatever. What’s your comment on that? And they’re calling that an act of terrorism. Do you agree that that’s the case there?

MS. NULAND: Well, we obviously strongly condemn today’s attack with an explosive device that killed one police officer and critically injured another in Bahrain. We extend our sympathies to their families as well. We are continuing to follow this incident closely and to urge all members of Bahraini society to condemn and renounce violence. Violence of any kind by any side only undermines the trust that is necessary in Bahrain to pursue meaningful reconciliation.

It’s incumbent on all segments of Bahraini society to contribute to a climate that is conducive to reconciliation. I’m not in a position to give an assessment with regard to terrorism or how this particular incident went forward in Bahrain. We’ll have to see what the Bahraini authorities have to say.

QUESTION: Just more broadly on the question of Bahrain, I mean, you – this building and the Secretary have been pressing them for a good long time now –


QUESTION: — to get this political dialogue up and running, but it seems like it’s sort of going nowhere. What more can or should the U.S. do here to help this key ally and home of the Fifth Fleet?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we have regularly engaged with the Government of Bahrain, including the Secretary’s personal engagement. We’ve had Assistant Secretary Posner out there regularly to talk about national reconciliation. He was there, I believe, at the end of the summer. Again, our policy remains the same. Our advocacy both to the Bahraini Government and to groups in opposition is that they need to follow the recommendations of the BICI Commission and sit down together and work on national reconciliation. That’s still the only path forward that we see, and we are encouraging both sides to roll up their sleeves and get to it.

QUESTION: Just on this bombing theme – just before you came out here, and – you probably don’t know about this – but there was a report of a bomb going off in a shopping mall in Jordan. Do you know anything about that?

MS. NULAND: I did not have that before coming down. Obviously, if we have a comment on that, we’ll get back to you.


QUESTION: Among those killed in Beirut was a senior Lebanese intelligence official, Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, who had led the probe into the death of the Prime Minister there in 2005. Does that suggest – first of all, can you tell us anything about whether Lebanese intelligence officials are saying that he was a target, whether that suggests pro-Assad forces might indeed be behind that and therefore that the spillover is really underway?

MS. NULAND: Well, we saw – we’ve seen those press reports with regard to that individual. I’m not in a position to confirm it, nor has it been confirmed to us by Lebanese authorities. So I don’t want to get ahead of what we are hearing.

Please, Goyal.

QUESTION: On Pakistan. Mr. Altaf Hussain, one of the major politicians in Pakistan from London – from England, he said that Pakistan has to decide today what kind of Pakistan they want in the future, whether founder of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan or Taliban’s Pakistan. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t have anything particularly innovative to say on that subject. You know where we have been, that we want to see a strong, democratic Pakistan that works well with us and with the international community in addressing the terror challenges it has; that we are reengaging after some period now in trying to get our working groups and other things back up and running to support our joint efforts to meet the terror challenge, and that is – that’s the trajectory that we’re on. But I don’t have any particular comment on that comment if that’s what you’re asking.

QUESTION: One more, related: Now this 14-year-old girl who was shot in Pakistan, she is – Malawa – she is now in U.K., in Birmingham for further advanced medical treatment. I saw millions of people throughout Pakistan praying for her – innocent people, common people – but I didn’t see any comment from any politicians or from any government officials condemning Taliban, or they are just quiet on this issue, the way she was speaking out. But I have not seen anybody from the political system speaking out the way she did.

MS. NULAND: My recollection of this, and you’ll need to check, was that President Zardari spoke out the day of or the day after the attack. Let me, though, take this opportunity, first to commend the UAE, who transported her, and the U.K., who are treating her for those efforts, and to express our continued hopes for her full, speedy recovery.

Anything else? Are we finished? No. Catherine.

QUESTION: On Libya, there are now reports that the CIA station chief in Libya sent a cable 24 hours after the attack in Benghazi saying that it wasn’t carried out – that it was carried out by militants. Did that cable ever cross over and reach the State Department, do you know?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know, Catherine, that we never talk about intelligence issues from this podium at all. So I’m not in a position to comment on that here today.

QUESTION: Wait a second, that’s not true.

MS. NULAND: Here we go.

QUESTION: You talk about intelligence issues when you want to talk about them and when it’s in your interest to do so.

MS. NULAND: That’s fair.


MS. NULAND: And when the intelligence community – (laughter) – when the intelligence community —

QUESTION: When the intelligence makes you look good, then you’re willing to talk about it.

MS. NULAND: — when the intelligence community releases intelligence information into an unclassified format.


QUESTION: On Mali, I just wondered if you could respond to the EU statement today that the crisis in Mali poses an imminent threat to Europe, talk of targeted sanctions, and what material support the U.S. might provide a foreign interventionist force?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know where we’ve been on Mali, that we supported the UN Security Council resolution recently passed which calls for ECOWAS to continue working with the transitional authorities in Bamako to flesh out the elements of a peacekeeping mission. We have expressed our support for that and our willingness to support ECOWAS materially in any way that they are interested in discussing with us or other members of the international community.

There is today an African Union-sponsored meeting ongoing in Bamako to look at how to coordinate the international community’s response, not only in fleshing out the peacekeeping mission but also in offering political support, economic support, et cetera. And we have two participants in that meeting – the director of our Office of West African Affairs, Ambassador Eunice Reddick is there, as is our director of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Peace Operations and Sanctions, Raffi Gregorian. So our hope is that that meeting will support the transitional authorities in Bamako in presenting a coherent plan that includes political elements, economic elements, and advances the peacekeeping effort that ECOWAS will be leading.

I think you know that we want to see this crisis addressed in all of its elements – the political crisis; we want to see the people of Mali get the elections that they deserve by April; the rebellion waged by the Touaregs, the violent extremists who are trying to exploit that, and the humanitarian crisis across the Sahel.


QUESTION: If I could follow on that. Is it your expectation that this meeting in Bamako is actually going to produce this coherent plan, or is this just sort of step one of what could be a multi-step process?

MS. NULAND: I think it’s step one in the international community trying to support ECOWAS in getting some clarity out of the officials in Bamako about how they want to proceed moving forward, not only on the ECOWAS mission but also on their political plan, their Touareg – their reconciliation plan with the north, all of those elements. So it’s a first step since the UN Security Council resolution was passed.


QUESTION: Yes. According to variety of sources, Turkey has been engaged in discussion with both the opposition of some of them, and the government to find a way for peaceful —

MS. NULAND: Are we in Syria? What country are we in?

QUESTION: Syria, (inaudible).

MS. NULAND: Syria, thank you.

QUESTION: To find a way peaceful – for peaceful negotiated settlement. (A) Are you aware about those discussion; (B) do you encourage it, and under which terms?

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about Government of Turkey’s —


MS. NULAND: — Turkey initiatives to broker —

QUESTION: Turkey’s been in discussion with both of them to find a way if there’s – if it is possible.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that with regard to Turkey’s efforts in Syria, we have been in very close bilateral consultation with Turkey. We’ve also been working with Turkey in the ad hoc group on Syria and the larger Friends of the Syrian People. We compare notes across the board on what we see going on on the ground, on who we see as potential future leaders, any prospects that we see to move a transition forward along the lines that we agreed on in Geneva and since. So we’re obviously in contact with the Turks on all of these initiatives.

QUESTION: But are you aware about discussion, that the Turk —

MS. NULAND: The particular initiative that you point to sounds like a follow-on to the kinds of things that Turkey’s been doing all along, but I can’t speak to precisely what it is that you’re seeing.

Anything else? All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)