U.S. Department of State
On-Camera Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, October 1, 2012
12:55 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson
— Secretary Clinton’s meetings continue in New York
— UNGA Outcomes
AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN
— Ending Incidents on both sides of Border
— Status of Ambassador Susan Rice
— Intelligence / Evolving Assessment of Events on September 11
— Operating Status of U.S. Missions
— Non-lethal Assistance to Syrian Opposition
— Ad-hoc meeting on Syria / Opposition Participation
— Status of Austin Tice
— Kurdish Incorporation in Syrian Opposition
— Diplomatic Facility in Benghazi Closed
— Want to See Syrian Opposition Groups Working Together
— Transfer of Prisoner to Canada
— Yemen / Evolving Process / Transfer of Eligible Prisoners
— Currency Drops to Historic Low / Sanctions
— Next Steps P-5+1
— Impact of Iranian Government’s Choices
— Arrival of Osprey Aircraft at Futenma
— Human Rights Conversation
— U.S. Assistance to Egypt
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 168
MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2012
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:55 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. It is Monday. The Secretary is up in New York finishing her UNGA meetings – multilateral and bilateral. She is, as we speak, meeting with the Indian Foreign Secretary Krishna. I have nothing at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I don’t really have anything, but just on the offhand chance that some lowly notetaker was in the room for Foreign Minister Mualem’s speech, do you have any reaction at all to what he had to say?
MS. NULAND: I don’t.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Did you have somebody in the room?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know whether USUN covered it. They may well have.
QUESTION: During the UNGA, the Afghanistan’s foreign minister and president raised the issue of cross-border fire from Pakistan. Was this issue brought up by them during the meetings with Secretary Clinton?
MS. NULAND: I think at the time when we read out those meetings, we did say that the issue of Afghanistan and Pakistan working together, working together with ISAF and with us to try to end incidents on both sides of the border and incidents across the border, did come up, of course, yeah, in both meetings.
QUESTION: Toria, I know that we’ve been over a lot of this, but now that you’re back and we’re all back --
MS. NULAND: We can try again. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, it is Libya. And there are calls now – Peter King calling for the resignation of Susan Rice. And I just wanted to find out from you directly, what’s the State Department’s view on these calls for Secretary Rice to step down?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that Secretary Clinton believes that Ambassador Rice has done a superb job. So let’s just start there, and we completely reject any such calls here in this building.
Were there other things you wanted to try to litigate here, too?
QUESTION: Well, I mean – well, it’s not trying, but it just – because we want to kind of pull things together. There have been numerous reports about the chronology, that there are gaps between how, let’s say, intelligence agencies looked at that attack and how the State Department or even the Administration explained it. I know it would be easier to go through each point, but I won’t. Overall --
MS. NULAND: It definitely would not be easier to go through each point.
QUESTION: Well, it probably wouldn’t be. But overall, do you see inconsistencies? And if there are some, how do you explain them?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, remember that when we gave our initial impressions that very first week of how we understood things had happened, we were very careful here, the Secretary was careful to make clear that these were preliminary assessments, that we would have to fully investigate, and to the extent that there were lessons to be learned, we were going to have to take those on board. So thereafter, as you know, the FBI began its investigation. The Secretary established the accountability review board, as she’s required to do by law. They are now beginning their work. So from where we are sitting here, we want to let those two investigations go forward, teach us what we need to learn, and then take any necessary steps going forward.
With regard to the intelligence community, they’ve been quite clear, including in the statement that Shawn Turner put out on Friday, that as with the statements that we made, more information has come forward over the course of time, which has given them more of what they need to understand it. But it’s their business to assess the intelligence, not ours here. So we will obviously base what we know there on the statements that they make, and the most recent statement was the one on Friday from Shawn Turner.
QUESTION: Victoria –
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: While the investigations take place, could you tell us what is the state of a U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Yes. I think you know that on Friday we took out a handful of additional staff. We were down to our low staffing levels. We took out five more over the weekend. The majority of those folks have gone back into Tripoli. Our mission in Tripoli remains open and is fully operational there.
QUESTION: When you say fully operational, what do you mean by fully operational?
MS. NULAND: Well, all of the essential functions at the Embassy are being maintained. We’re still at a low staffing level, but we’re not at that very, very low level that we were at Friday, Saturday.
QUESTION: And in Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: Benghazi remains closed, as you know.
QUESTION: How many have gone back? Just a practical matter. You said a majority, which means it’s either three or four. Can you just tell us the number? I don’t think that’s --
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we don’t ever talk about numbers in or out. We had a hand --
QUESTION: You just did.
QUESTION: Except you did. You just talked about five coming out and a majority going back, and then so the number’s three or four.
QUESTION: No, but it was – I think the question is sort of – does the five you said that came out over the weekend, does that – were there more that came out on Friday?
MS. NULAND: No, those are the ones that came out. I think there were a total of six that came out and five have gone back. I think the other one was a matter of something having to do with travel arrangements but not policy related.
QUESTION: Okay. Fine. Thank you.
QUESTION: Going to Benghazi and the compound there, can you tell us how that is now secured, because there was some back-and-forth last week about the FBI people hadn’t been able to get there, it wasn’t secure. There was obviously the issue about Ambassador Stevens’ diary being found. How long did it take before the compound was secured, and is there any concern that reporters tramping over the scene might have actually compromised that kind of crime scene?
MS. NULAND: All of these issues having to do with the status of the scene in Benghazi – what it was, what it is – are now the province of the FBI as they go forward with this investigation. So I’m going to send you to them on any of those kinds of questions now.
QUESTION: So you can’t even confirm here that the – it is now secured?
MS. NULAND: I am not in a position to confirm at all what the physical situation is in Benghazi. I’m going to send you to them. All of this belongs to them now.
QUESTION: Wait – really? Securing of a U.S. diplomatic compound overseas is the responsibility of the FBI once it’s a crime scene? How exactly do they have the resources to do that?
MS. NULAND: They now have both the information and the background on all of that, and I frankly do not have it here. It is their site now to manage. We do not have any diplomatic personnel there.
QUESTION: Did the staff that were – you withdrew from the Embassy in Tunisia, did they return back?
MS. NULAND: We’re still down at low-level staff in Tunis. With regard to Libya, we had taken this additional handful out on Friday. They have now largely gone back. So in terms of being still at essential staffing in Tunis, in Cairo, in Libya, that’s still the case.
QUESTION: So in a response to an earlier question, you said that that’s something – was the province of DNI – when you were talking about Shawn Turner’s statement from Friday – but in fact, the State Department is part of DNI, or it has a bureau that is one of these many intelligence agencies underneath it. Does INR not have its own – do they not have their own opinions about this, or do they just completely – did they completely sign off on the DNI statement? I mean – yeah, on the DNI statement.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I spoke to the intelligence community’s assessment. You are right that we participate in the intelligence community assessments through our own Intelligence and Research Bureau. My point was simply with regard to the totality of the assessment that the intelligence community makes, Shawn Turner speaks to it as the DNI’s representative.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but what I guess what I’m getting at is does – does INR completely – completely agrees with what he said, correct?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any reason to believe that we are not in sync as an intelligence community.
QUESTION: Right. And then say in terms of embassy security, is it correct that INR is the lead intelligence unit on that, simply because they’re based here and that’s what – they are the State Department’s intelligence arm, correct?
MS. NULAND: They contribute, but they don’t have all of the assets to make a full assessment. That’s why we work as a community with regard to intelligence.
QUESTION: Come back to Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. In this past week, I saw the spokesman for Mr. Brahimi, Ahmad Fawzi, and I also ran into the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Mekdad. And they basically say the same thing, that the government’s complaint is that there is no address for the opposition. If we have an address for the opposition, let them come forward, let us know who they are. Is that an argument that is – that you see feasible to pursue in, let’s say, an international forum like the Security Council?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been clear for a number of months now that we want to see the Syrian opposition become more unified, external and internal opposition work together. When we had the Ad Hoc meeting on Syria on Friday at the UNGA, as you know, we invited three or four different representative groups, including representatives from the local coordinating councils, from the revolutionary councils representing the inside. That was an effort to bring together perspectives from outside Syria, perspectives from inside Syria, some of the people who are going back and forth, also to make the larger point that that group wants to make that they need to be talking to each other as well.
So obviously, in what we’re seeing on the ground is folks, particularly as the authority of the government begins to recede across vast swaths of territory – that’s a great ringtone. (Laughter.) What does a ringtone tell you about a person? (Laughter.)
Let me start this again. So as the Secretary made clear in her remarks, particularly as we see government’s authority begin to recede across great parts of the territory of Syria, you see local coordinating councils, you see revolutionary councils, you see other nongovernmental groups picking up the responsibility of taking care of the needs of the people, providing services –anything from water to electricity to bread, et cetera – and we are increasingly working at the local level with those folks. But it’s no secret that we want to see the various opposition groups increasingly work better together.
QUESTION: In response to that –
QUESTION: Now, how would you work with that – there is the claim that there are something like 300 armed groups in Syria, 300 different and distinct armed groups.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there?
QUESTION: Yes. I mean, how does that sort of works with the civilian opposition?
MS. NULAND: You know, in some places we are seeing civilian political leaders working well with those fighting in their names. In other places we are seeing fighters be dominant politically as well. It’s a very mixed picture across Syria.
QUESTION: Well, I think – I mean, the original question seemed to be why the Syrian Government is saying, “Hey, we’d be willing to talk to these people, but we don’t know who to talk to.” Do you think that it would be a really good idea for you to go and tell the Syrian Government, “Hey, we talked with Joe X, and here’s his address?” Is that something that would have merit in your eyes? Is that a good way to go about this? Or is that an invitation to them just being assassinated?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we have been careful, as the Secretary was, in hosting the meeting on Friday to protect the identities of those Syrians from the opposition who were coming and going back and forth. So obviously that’s something that’s still a problem for precisely the reasons that you state, because they – the regime has been taking out leaders wherever they can.
That said, if the regime were actually serious about a peace process, the first thing it can do is stop killing its own people.
QUESTION: Well, right. And I mean, do you – does the argument, if the Syrian Government is in fact making the argument that, “Hey, we’d like to talk, but we don’t know who to talk to, point us in the right direction,” is that a credible line from them?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don’t think very much is credible from the Syrian Government at this stage.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then if it’s not, and if you’re unwilling – if these people are scared and justifiably so, how are you ever going to get to the point where you get to this mutual consent line where the government – where they sit down and talk, if you’re convinced, or they’re convinced, that the only thing the government’s going to do once it finds out who they are is to whack them?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, there are many, many ways a conversation could be structured. We’ve made clear that we don’t see Assad playing a role in this. He would never meet that standard. It could happen in parts of the country that aren’t controlled by the Syrian Government, it could happen outside the country, if there were a sincere effort to actually have a conversation between representatives of the legitimate opposition and those who represent the Syrian state without blood on their hands. But we’re so far from that at the moment.
QUESTION: Wasn’t that a suggestion from the Iraqis at the meeting, perhaps to bring together the Syrian regime and the opposition? There was some reporting to that effect.
MS. NULAND: I don’t know that I have seen that. But again, we are working along the tracks that we talked about and the Secretary talked about on Friday.
QUESTION: Well, further to that – yeah. In fact, Foreign Minister Zebari said that he had raised this during the meeting on Friday, the idea that the Iraqis could – would convene something.
MS. NULAND: Would consider hosting something.
QUESTION: Do you remember that?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t sit through the whole meeting, but we – it was a closed meeting, so we’ll leave it to delegations to report on what ideas they themselves put forward.
QUESTION: Well, be – yes, well, exactly. Well, that’s what he did. You’re not aware of this?
MS. NULAND: I personally was not in the room. I’ll check on it.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: -- one last thing from my part on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Increasingly, the Turkish – I mean the Kurdish region is becoming semiautonomous, and they are coordinating also with the semiautonomous region in Iraq. Are you concerned that they may be headed towards a separate Kurdish state up in that area?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve said from the beginning --
QUESTION: Is that something you discussed with Turkey?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary has spoken about this many times, that we want to see all of the groups in Syria working together on a future that provides a place for Syrians of all different stripes, whether they are Alawi, Sunni, Kurd, Druze, Christians, whomever they are. So from that perspective, we have consistently encouraged the opposition groups to incorporate the Kurdish opposition as well. Kurds have been working well with the SNC. There have – there are also a number of reports from inside Syria of some of the liberated areas where Kurdish populations and Sunni populations are working well together. That’s certainly the direction that we encourage for the Syria that emerges from this to be representative of all and welcoming of all.
QUESTION: Toria, in a couple of times already, you said the phrase that seems to be repeated now for how many months: We want the opposition to work better together.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: After this meeting, and where we are right now, do you see any progress to that goal?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think one of the things that we are seeing which is heartening, as I said and as the Secretary spoke to on Friday, is that in these parts of Syria that are now liberated from the regime, you have a grassroots movement emerging of local leaders who are beginning to take care of the needs of the people. So one never knows in these situations where the next generation of leadership, where the democratic leadership is going to emerge from. Would one have predicted the Polish plumber? Would one have predicted some folks who emerged in other transitional countries? So I think we don’t know yet.
But what we are seeing are Syrians in the political opposition beginning to take charge of leading their communities and trying to do so in a way that is inclusive, that represents the best of the kind of Syria that they want to have going forward. So we are endeavoring to work with those people, to get to know them, and to encourage them to know each other. But again, we are still working on supporting them as they coalesce towards the kinds of leaders they’re going to need going forward.
QUESTION: Sorry, the Polish plumber?
MS. NULAND: I’m talking about Walesa.
QUESTION: Lech Walesa?
QUESTION: But plumbing wasn’t involved --
QUESTION: Okay. Wasn’t he a --
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, not the Polish plumber, the Polish --
QUESTION: -- shipyard --
MS. NULAND: -- shipyard worker. I’m thinking out loud.
QUESTION: You’re getting confused with Joe the plumber? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Exactly. I’m into my EU thinking.
QUESTION: True, true colors.
MS. NULAND: Oh, Matt, it must be Monday. It must be Monday. I – this is why you need our Poland expert, Mark, up at the podium.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Victoria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: A State Department official has said last week that the State Department is in contact with the Free Syrian Army inside Syria through Skype. Since you are in contact with them, why you didn’t or you haven’t invited any representative to the ad hoc meeting?
MS. NULAND: We made a decision to invite the political opposition, not the armed opposition, to the meeting.
QUESTION: And what do you discuss with the Free Syrian Army since you are in contact with them?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are trying to understand how they see the situation. We are encouraging them to work with political leaders as well. We are encouraging them to reject extremism. We are encouraging them to support the spirit and the letter of a Geneva Convention with regard to the way they conduct themselves with respect to prisoners, human rights, et cetera. So there are a number of things to talk to them about.
QUESTION: And did you discuss the military aid to them?
MS. NULAND: You know where we are on that, Michel. We are providing nonlethal assistance. So that’s our perspective on all of these things. Other countries are providing other things.
Scott, still on Syria?
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Still on Syria?
QUESTION: Yes. I just wondered if you guys had seen a video on YouTube that’s supposedly of Austin Tice, the American journalist, and whether you’re in a position to verify whether it is, in fact, him.
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the video. We are not in a position to verify, (a) whether it’s him, (b) whether it represents an actual scene that happened or something that may have been staged. There’s a lot of reason for the Syrian Government to duck responsibility, but we continue to believe that, to the best of our knowledge, we think he is in Syrian Government custody.
QUESTION: I’m sorry to mess up the transcript, but can we get back to Libya just for a moment? Are there any State Department employees in Benghazi now? And if so, what are they doing?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we do not have State Department employees in Benghazi at the moment.
QUESTION: So everybody who was --
MS. NULAND: If that is incorrect, I will – certainly, everybody who was in Benghazi and posted there has been withdrawn from Benghazi. Whether there is anybody supporting the investigative work, to my knowledge, I don’t have anything on that. But if that’s not correct, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: And is there – without people on the ground, is the State Department able to do its job in – still in Benghazi? And if so, how?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we said at the time that the diplomatic facility in Benghazi would be closed until further notice.
QUESTION: But --
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: -- I mean, you have telephones and you could --
MS. NULAND: No, of course we can maintain contact with the people of Benghazi, as we maintain contact with people all around Libya, whether or not we’ve got a physical facility. They come to Tripoli as well.
QUESTION: United Nations?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Sorry, still on Syria. Go ahead.
QUESTION: When you talk to the various political factions, as you say, you ask them to exchange notes to see what they can do in coming – in the transitional phase, what is the response? Why don’t they see eye to eye, this transitional phase?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think to the extent that we are now working with folks inside Syria, and folks are able, given the fact that the border’s relatively open with Turkey and parts – and Iraq, et cetera, that we are able to have people come in and out for training, we are learning more about their needs. We are providing an opportunity through this training for some of them to meet each other. The communications equipment that we are providing to them should help them to be able to talk more closely with each other.
But particularly at the local level, it’s very clear from those contacts that their first priority is providing for the populations, and that many of them are focused on the immediate needs in their towns, in their neighborhoods, rather than thinking grander thoughts about next generation of national leadership.
QUESTION: Do you think those people inside Syria are more representative than those who are established outside?
MS. NULAND: We think all of these Syrian opposition groups have different experience and different perspectives to bring. We want to see them working together on a transition plan and on the basics of how the country ought to move forward after Bashar leaves.
Please. Can you tell me who you are?
QUESTION: Yes, I’m with – Sylvia Thomson with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I have a question about Guantanamo. There was a --
MS. NULAND: Let me just make sure we’re done with Syria.
MS. NULAND: Are we done with Syria, guys?
QUESTION: No. Go ahead.
MS. NULAND: No? Okay. Goyal? No?
Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The transfer of the prisoner from Guantanamo to Canada this weekend, Omar Khadr, Panetta had signed off on his transfer in April. Do you know why it’s taken so long to bring him – to send him back to Canada? And do you know how the transfer suddenly came up this weekend?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the timing of it. I’ll send you to the Department of Defense that has responsibility for all of those negotiations. I think you know that we worked closely with the Government of Canada to ensure that his application to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada would be fulfilled by the Canadian side, and that was the agreement before the transfer. And he’s been transferred directly, is my understanding, into detention in Canada. But that was one of the preconditions for us for the transfer.
QUESTION: Was there hesitation on the Canadian side at all to take --
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that one way or the other. I’d send you to the Canadian side.
Please. Still on this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: A Yemeni source has said that there is an agreement now between the U.S. and Yemen to transfer the Yemeni prisoners in Guantanamo to Yemen. Can you elaborate on this? Can you confirm this news?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that for a number of years now, we have been working on returning to home countries those prisoners in Guantanamo who are eligible for transfer. It generally requires an agreement with the receiving country and, in general, plus specific agreements with regard to how the individual detainees will be treated based on the situation in their individual cases.
I can’t speak about where we are with Yemen, but certainly we’ve been having conversations about whether Yemenis can go home. And there are a number of issues here, but when we have something to announce, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: That means that there is no agreement?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to where we are in our evolving process of general agreement plus specific agreements. I don’t have anything to announce today. But we continue to work on, in all these cases, getting as many of these folks home as are eligible to go home to serve out the rest of their term or whatever is necessary in each case.
QUESTION: And do you have any number, how many Yemeni there are?
MS. NULAND: I don’t. I’ll take that one and see if we can give you any information.
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up on this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said that DOD has the lead in negotiations regarding transfers. I thought Ambassador Dan Fried led those negotiations. Or is it, in fact, DOD and he serves under them?
MS. NULAND: Well, he has the lead in the conversations. They have the ultimate signoff before we transfer. So in this case, he had obviously been talking to the Canadian side for some time, but in terms of what it was that enabled DOD to sign off, I don’t have any particular information, except that the terms and conditions that we required, namely that he serve out the rest of his term, were agreed upon before this transfer came forward.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I know you can’t comment because the election really hasn’t been determined yet, the results of it, but can you give us an idea of the level of interest and how the U.S. might be observing what’s going on?
MS. NULAND: I think the polls may still be open in Georgia. I don’t – maybe they’ve just closed. I don’t know what time they were closing. But it’s obviously a very important day for Georgia. Our understanding from our preliminary reporting is that the turnout at the polls was very strong today. We’ve been looking for a democratic election that is free, fair, transparent. Our understanding is that the Central Election Commission is going to try to tabulate the results overnight, and that we’ll have some announcements in the morning, local time. We’ll see about that.
The international community has had a relatively robust monitoring mission out there, including ODIHR from the – under the OSCE auspices. And our understanding is we have NDI and IRI observers out there as well.
QUESTION: Change the topic?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Iran. The Iranian currency has lost about a quarter of its value in the last week alone. Is the Department pleased to see this? It seems to reflect the efficacy of the sanctions against Iran. Are you dismayed by it, or what is your view?
MS. NULAND: You’d like an adjective of choice?
QUESTION: I’d like a verb, really.
MS. NULAND: You’d like a verb, yeah. Well --
MS. NULAND: -- simply to confirm what you are seeing, Arshad, our understanding is that the Iranian currency has dropped to a historic low today against the dollar in informal currency trading. This despite some frantic efforts by the Iranian Government last week to try to prop it up, rearrange the way it dealt with these issues. From our perspective, this speaks to the unrelenting and increasingly successful international pressure that we are all bringing to bear on the Iranian economy. It’s under incredible strain. Iran is increasingly cut off from the global financial system. Significant amounts of Iranian oil is also coming off the market. As you said, the currency is plummeting. And firms all over the world are refusing to do business with Iranian companies.
QUESTION: Are you --
MS. NULAND: So this speaks to the fact that we have said these are the most punishing sanctions we have ever been able to amass as an international community, and they are very important for trying to get Iran’s attention on the important denuclearization work.
QUESTION: Are you – two questions. One, you said it spoke to the success of the sanctions, but that the sanctions are having any effect on the economy is different from the sanctions’ intended effect, which is to change their calculation regarding their nuclear program. Do you see any change in their calculus on the nuclear program?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve said that we don’t think that Iran would ever have come to the P-5+1 negotiating table at all if they weren’t under the kind of pressure that we’re talking about. You remember that over the summer, after the initial rounds in the P-5+1, the Secretary declared the proposal that the Iranians had made a non-starter, but conversations have continued, including between High Representative Ashton and Mr. Jalili. We will have another round and we will be able to evaluate whether this extra time, these extra sanctions that are clearly having an impact inside the country, cause them to be more serious than we have seen in the past in the P-5+1 process.
QUESTION: You’re definitely going to have another round?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re going to – the next step in this, as I think we said after the P-5+1 minus Iran meeting last week, was that the P-5+1 asked High Representative Ashton to have another conversation with Mr. Jalili. She will do that, and then we will decide together whether another round makes sense.
QUESTION: And then one other one, if I may, on this --
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any concern about the effects – the ill effects that the severe depreciation in the currency may have on the Iranian people? When it’s trading – it’s I think something like 32,000 to 1, that inevitably is going to fuel inflation for anything that is imported. Does it bother you that this may hurt the Iranian people?
MS. NULAND: Well, any depreciation of currency is always going to affect the people who use the currency. The issue here are the choices that the Iranian Government is making, and this is the issue, that the Iranian Government needs to make different choices with regard to its nuclear program if it wants to get into a conversation with us about a step-by-step process, including on the sanctions side.
QUESTION: Sorry. On this. And I – maybe I missed it, but I missed the verb or an adjective in your initial response to the question. Are you happy with this or not?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are --
QUESTION: Are you noting it with gusto or with satisfaction? Or – because you didn’t --
MS. NULAND: Would you like to choose my adjective for me?
QUESTION: No. I just want to – (laughter) – I’d like there to be an adjective and a verb, if you could.
MS. NULAND: These sanctions are having the effect that we expected. They are cutting deeper and deeper into the Iranian economy. And this is an important factor in trying to change the calculus of the Iranian leadership.
QUESTION: And when you say that we expected, does that mean that you wanted them to have?
MS. NULAND: We want the Iranian side to come to the P-5+1 table with a real proposal that will come clean about its nuclear program and get us into a conversation where this kind of thing won’t be necessary.
QUESTION: Right. No, I understand, but --
MS. NULAND: But that’s not where we are.
QUESTION: But the sanctions – you’re saying the sanctions were intended to collapse the currency? Or is that just a --
MS. NULAND: The sanctions are intended to maximize the pressure on the regime so that it will understand that the international community is not going to tolerate Iran with a nuclear weapon. They have to make a choice.
QUESTION: Toria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- do you have any information on the defection of an Iranian cameraman from the Iranian delegation in New York?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the reports. This would be a matter for the Department of Homeland Security. I would send you to them.
QUESTION: Victoria --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- back on these punishing sanctions, as you call them.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Now, obviously, the Iranian Government, at least for the time being, is very stubborn; it will remain so. So at what point it becomes really a moral question that the people – 80 million-plus – should suffer so severely because of the stubbornness of their government?
MS. NULAND: Again, we want the Iranian people as well to understand that this is a direct response to the choices that their government has made in the context of the international community offering them a diplomatic way out, which they should take.
QUESTION: This is also on Iran.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Lastly, this sort of has nothing to do with that at all, but you remember the situation where the Iran airplane was at Andrews?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Did anyone ever look into what kind of make that – model or make that plane was? Because it appeared to be a relatively late-model 747.
MS. NULAND: I don’t --
QUESTION: And if it was, I’d be curious as to how Iran Air got a hold of it.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details on it. As you know, from before the time of the current regime, they were Boeing purchasers back in the Shah’s days, and they’re very good --
QUESTION: Which ended in --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. ’79. But I don’t know what the model was.
QUESTION: In Tokyo, Secretary Clinton took a lot of questions about the Osprey in Okinawa, remember, and she responded that the United States and Japan were going to work it out and talk – make sure that it was safe.
MS. NULAND: And we have. Yeah.
QUESTION: So the arrival of the Osprey was greeted by some protests in Okinawa. Any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well as you know, we’ve worked very hard over the last few months to demonstrate to the Japanese side that the Osprey is safe and that it is needed for our ability to meet our defense obligations to the Japanese side. So we are very pleased now that the MV-22 Osprey has now arrived at the Marine Corps Air Station in Futenma to begin its normal operations. It is consistent with our recent mutual understanding with the Government of Japan to permit the Osprey to come. As you know, the Secretary worked on this. Secretary Panetta worked on this as well when he was there.
QUESTION: So the arrival means that the process of making sure it was safe is over?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we continue to work closely with our Japanese allies to ensure that the fleet that has arrived is maintained in perfect condition and to ensure the highest safety standards as it is deployed. But in terms of meeting our obligations to demonstrate its “safetyness” before we could get it back into operations, we are comfortable that we now have a good understanding with the Japanese – with our Japanese allies that’s allowed us to bring them into theater.
QUESTION: Just a follow-on on this one and then I have a question on United Nations. Anymore, military movement in the area, China is concerned. So have you spoken with China as far as U.S.-Japan military-to-military relations or arrival of these military equipment? How China will see this?
MS. NULAND: With regard to the arrival of the Osprey?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.
MS. NULAND: I don’t think that that’s come up in U.S.-China conversations.
QUESTION: And may I have my question on UN, please, United Nations?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: How do you judge the United Nations this year compared to last year that you have spent now as far Human Rights Council is concerned and the behavior of those countries that in the past you’ve been dealing and this time, because between last year and this year, a lot of things happened around the globe, including Arab Springs and democracies and among other things. So what have you achieved compared to last year this year?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think one of the things that happened this year in the wake of the attacks in Benghazi, the violence in Egypt, Tunis, et cetera, we had an opportunity with leaders from across the region but also around the world to talk about concerns about insult against religions of any kind, but by the same token insult against religion not being an excuse for violence. And we saw quite a bit of conversation among leaders. We saw very strong, good statements from leaders across the region. We had the Deauville process meeting. We also had the meeting between the G-8 and the OIC where we had a chance to talk about of these issues.
So I think it was an opportune time to recommit ourselves to democratic reform in as many countries as possible, to express our collective revulsion at the video and similar insults to religion, while also drawing that hard line at violence being not something that governments of any kind can tolerate.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you saying one of the highlights is that you think you got a pretty good consensus on this issue?
MS. NULAND: I was asked about --
QUESTION: Because frankly, the speech that I heard from the head of the Arab League was all in favor of criminalizing blasphemy, as was the speech from the president of Egypt and Algeria and a whole bunch of countries that –
QUESTION: I mean, Pakistan – exactly. I mean, I don’t think you’ve got consensus on that at all. All of these countries want it to be a crime for – want blasphemy, particularly against Islam but against any – against all religions to be a crime, which is antithetical to your position. So I’m not sure how – I don’t see how is that – how that – you’re counting that as a moment of great consensus or achievement here.
MS. NULAND: Well, the point I made was that all of those same leaders also drew a line at condoning violence, and none of them condone violence. In fact, they all spoke actively against it.
Look, we obviously have work to do to continue to have this conversation about the role that free expression plays in a democracy. We have different views about the place of blasphemy laws in a free society. We’re going to have to continue to have that conversation. Our belief is that becomes a very dangerous and slippery slope and that all of us probably in our adult experience have had our religion or our beliefs insulted, but it should not – once you start criminalizing, it becomes very different.
QUESTION: Well, I understand your opposition to that. But then I get to the point – so you’re saying that the big achievement here was you got a whole bunch of world leaders to come up and condemn violence? I mean, because that seems to be a pretty low bar.
MS. NULAND: I was asked what the human rights conversation was like as compared to last – previous years, and I was trying to describe that conversation. I wasn’t making a value judgment one way or the other.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Last week, Secretary met with the Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina and also President Zardari. And today, while we speak, I believe this time she’s meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister Mr. Krishna. One, have you solved – resolved all the problems with Pakistan as far as terrorism is concerned and in Afghanistan among others? And also, what do you think conversation with the Indian foreign minister today?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the Indian foreign minister, let’s have the conversation and then we’ll have things to share afterwards, I would expect. Let me refer you to a background briefing that was done – I think it was Monday or Tuesday in New York; you’ll find it on our website – after the meeting with both President Karzai and President Zardari. It gives you a full sense of our view of both of those meetings. But I think in general terms, we are making progress to get our relationship with Pakistan back on track, and I think that was evident when Foreign Minister Khar was here and after the meeting with President Zardari as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Late Friday, it was reported that $450 million of the American aid to Egypt was blocked by the Congress or congressional members. What is the status of that – of the story – your story of --
MS. NULAND: Well, first the first part of the story. As the President made clear more than a year ago when he pledged a billion dollars in support from the American people to the people of Egypt if their transition stays on track and continues, and as the Secretary said when we were in Cairo in July, on Friday the U.S. – we here at the State Department notified the Congress of our intention to disburse $450 million in budget support to the Government of Egypt in two tranches. Thereafter, we had some interest in that from the Congress, so we are obviously going to have to work with the Congress in the coming days and weeks to explain why we think this money is so essential at a time of almost 12 billion in budget gap in Egypt, why we think supporting the democratic trajectory of Egypt in a phased way is in U.S. interests, because we obviously firmly do. And we will continue to work with the Congress on that.
QUESTION: So the --
QUESTION: Is it actually correct to say you had some interest from Congress on this? You had a lack – a definite lack --
MS. NULAND: We had concern.
QUESTION: A definite lack of interest (inaudible) Congress.
QUESTION: We had concern.
QUESTION: And the 450 --
MS. NULAND: Hold on, hold on.
QUESTION: Excuse me. I just want to – please clarify. The 450 million is part of the 1 billion, not part of the aid, regular aid?
MS. NULAND: This is Economic Support Funds, as contrasted with 1.3 in --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, right.
QUESTION: His underlying question was – I mean, as you know, it’s not just 1.3 billion in military aid. There’s also non-military aid --
MS. NULAND: Economic Support Funds.
QUESTION: Right. Of like 252, I think. And I think his question is, does the 450 – is it part of the approximately 1.5 whatever billion that you give in annual aid, or is totally separate, and is part of the 1 billion that the President talked about last year?
MS. NULAND: It’s in addition to. This would be budget support funds. There would also be other economic support funds which would be for – to support programs of the Egyptian Government and NGO sector as they come forward.
QUESTION: So it’s outside the envelope of the normal annual aid?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Great. And then, is it – just to ask his question again – is it – is that 450 part of the 1 billion?
MS. NULAND: The one – of the President’s initial commitment, yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Okay. Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: When you say the coming weeks or days, I mean – Congress is in recess now. I mean, is the talk is going on, or, I mean –
MS. NULAND: Yes. And we will have some staff to staff briefings. We’ll have some people up on the Hill talking to the staffs of some of the members who had concerns, explaining how this money would be used, explaining the commitments that we have and the understandings we have with the Government of Egypt to try to allay the concerns so the money can go forward.
QUESTION: So you think you can get this done before the election?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to put a timeframe on it, but we’re obviously going to have the conversations as soon as possible.
Please, in the back?
QUESTION: Thank you, Victoria. On Taiwan – today, Taiwan and U.S. had the industry – Defense Industry Conference. Usually U.S. Government will send higher-ranked senior State Department officials or Pentagon officials to attend this event. But this year there was – there is none. So some (inaudible) media are curious about the intention of the U.S. Government. So could you clarify that?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. I frankly don’t have any information up here on it one way or the other, so let me take it and then we’ll get back to you, okay?
QUESTION: So does that have something to do with the Diaoyu Island dispute, because of Taiwan are send boats to --
MS. NULAND: I can’t imagine that it did, but let me take it for you and figure out exactly what happened. I have no information on the conference right at the moment.
QUESTION: So what’s the position of the U.S. – Taiwan claim the right over the Diaoyu Island?
MS. NULAND: Our position with regard to the Senkakus is the same for everybody.
QUESTION: Documents uncovered last week show that the Russians were aware, or even asked for the Turkish spy jet to be downed, and they uncovered also that the Syrian Government got the pilots alive and then killed them and threw them back at sea. Does this change any of your perspective vis-à-vis the Russian involvement?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen any of that in any of our channels. Sounds a lot like a massive conspiracy theory. But why don’t you send me what you’re looking at and we’ll take a look at it.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)