Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2011, My Qs and As with White House Spokesman Jay Carney

Q Yes. You called Syrian President Assad to step down weeks ago, and some of the Western countries also did that. But it looks like the crackdown is going on. Nothing is changed. My question is, what is the next step?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I know as you probably know, as recently as yesterday, we identified other individuals, members of the Syrian regime for targeted sanctions, including the Foreign Minister. We continue to ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian regime.

As you noted, we recently called for President Assad to step down. His opportunity to lead a transition has ended. He squandered it. He has lost his legitimacy. And we will continue to work with our international partners to take actions that will increase pressure on Syria, to allow the Syrian people -- the Syrian regime, rather -- to allow the Syrian people to determine their own future.

Q Though there are countries like Turkey, you have been praising, and they have not taken any kind of steps on the sanctions regime, and some of the Muslim countries -- I mean, none of the Muslim countries. My question --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you’re discounting the significance of the fact that the Arab League -- of the Arab League’s critique and of Turkey’s saying that it has lost confidence in the Syrian government. It is --

Q But no sanctions.

MR. CARNEY: I think we digest these historic things rather quickly and discount their importance. I mean, we have been through this process over a number of months here of historic and rapid change in this region. And as each of these countries have experienced dramatic upheaval I have stood -- I have, and the President and others -- have stood before you when asked why -- why isn’t this happening sooner, why isn’t this happening now, why aren’t you doing this now? And I would simply say that a little historical perspective is required here to examine the scope and the breadth of change that has taken place in this region. And it is important to recognize with regard to Libya, for example, that Libyans marched into Tripoli and took back their government. Not foreign forces; Libyans did. And that has broad significance for the region and broad significance for the potential for positive developments in Libya going forward.

So when I get questions, "but nothing has changed," it just -- everything has changed. Things have changed dramatically every day in Syria, in Libya, in the whole region. And so I understand impatience, and certainly for every day that the Syrian people suffer at the hands of the Assad regime is a day too many. And I get that. But we are working with our international partners to ratchet up pressure on the regime. We have called for Assad to step down. We will continue to take actions to isolate and pressure that regime.

Q Is the no-fly zone under any consideration right now?

MR. CARNEY: I don't want to speculate about what other -- well, first of all, I think we’ve addressed military action. But I don't want to speculate on other measures that may or may not be considered.

Agust 30, My Qs and As with State Dpt. Spox. Victoria Nuland

QUESTION: I think it was also said by Russian president that should be given two more weeks toAsad following two weeks of Turkish time. Do you agree with that? Do you think that Asad shouldhave another two weeks to come up with some kind of --

MS. NULAND: I think we said a week ago that it was time for Asad to go, and we stand by that.

QUESTION: There are calls coming from activists in Syria that it should be – and they carried thisbanner also in different part of Syria, that should be in no-fly zones, should be under consideration.They called for it. And some others called to activists to take up the guns. What’s your view on these– both two issues?

MS. NULAND: We’ve seen this reporting of a small number of folks making that call. Our contactsindicate and the public statements of opposition figures indicate that the vast majority of Syrianoppositionists want to maintain their peaceful nonviolent stance in Syria, do not want foreign militaryintervention, and want the government to stop its own violence. So from that perspective, I think we’reall in agreement that it’s for Asad to end this, and to end it now.

QUESTION: And no-fly zone, is there any – with the UN --

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I’ve made the case that the vast majority of Syrians do not wantforeign military intervention at the -- in this

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 2011, My Qs and As with the State Dpt. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland

QUESTION:  Will you confirm press reports that Turkey and U.S. recently agreed on the NATO’s phased adaptive missile system a couple days ago?

MS. NULAND:  My understanding is that the talks continue, that our team is still in Turkey working on this.  But we, as you know, strongly support this phased adaptive approach, and we want as many allies as are comfortable to participate in this NATO system.

QUESTION:  So no final --

MS. NULAND:  The team is still talking is my understanding.


QUESTION:  A couple of quick questions.  First, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu said that he would like to see TNC or new Libya flag in UN convention next month.  Do you think – would you support to that? 

MS. NULAND:  I think we’d all like to see that.  I think we’d all like to see that.

QUESTION:  Do you also agree that – rebels suggest that 90 percent of Tripoli is under their control.  Do you agree with that?  There are different news report on -- 

MS. NULAND:  I don't think we’re in a position here to evaluate the security situation, neighborhood by neighborhood, in Tripoli.  You’ve see what we’ve seen.  The situation remains fluid.  There is still fighting, so --

QUESTION:  Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor – yesterday, he had an interview, and he said that there are two core principles going forward for interventions.  One of – is local – relying on local forces and second is a burden sharing.  Are you ready or in a position to lay out such a vision for future interventions?

MS. NULAND:  I think we’ve spoken here, for the last couple of days, about a policy that was based, first and foremost, on supporting the Libyan people in their aspiration for a democratic future.  And second, that was rooted in U.S. leadership to build an unprecedentedly large international community of common action.  So that has been our focus on the military support side, the political support side, the economic support side. 

Yesterday, I outlined the speed of some of the steps that we were able to take, that the international community was able to take to support the Libyan people, but this is their victory.  This is their time.  It’s not over till it’s over.  But the principle that the United States would support and would help rally the international community to support the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people was the under-girding principle here and will remain so.

QUESTION:  Under[1] Secretary Burns had a meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.  Was the Syrian ongoing violence part of the meeting?  Would you be able to elaborate on that part of the meeting?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t have any specifics from the meeting, except that I know that there was an intention from – by Deputy Secretary Burns to talk about Syria.  It’s been something that we and Turkey have been closely working on together as we try to ratchet up the pressure on the Asad regime.


Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011, My Qs and As with the State Dpt. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland

Below my questions to Spokesperson Nuland, on August 22, 2011
QUESTION:  Two quick questions on Turkey.  One is the Turkey’s fighter jets bomb[ed] in Iraq last week [for] three days.  Are you still on same page with the Turks on this?  Turkey was excited [also] to boost its presence in northern Iraq.

The second question is you also praised last week that you’re supporting the cooperation between Iraq and Turkey, but a couple of statements came from Iraq that they’re kind of annoyed with these bombings.  What’s your assessment [situation btw these] neighbors?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t think I have anything new on this from what we said last week, which was that we understand these air strikes were conducted, we recognize Turkey’s right of self-defense, we urge Turkey and Iraq to maintain close contact on these issues and to cooperate.

QUESTION:  There have been – there have been many conflicted reports about the whereabouts of Qadhafi.  What’s your understanding right now, where he is or whether he’s alive or that –

MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to get into our intelligence reporting, only to say that, like you, we’ve noticed that he hasn’t been seen in public in quite some time.  His last message was a radio message, I think.  And there are rumors rampant, as you know, in Tripoli and elsewhere.  If he is alive, the best thing he can do for his people is to step down immediately and end this.

QUESTION:  And one more question.  How was the climate last night and this morning in the State Department?  Do you see this change as a vindication of the leading behind – from behind policy or is there any way you can describe the climate within this day here?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I certainly regret – I certainly reject the premise of the way you phrased the question.  As you know, the President and the Secretary have been very focused on a strong international community response to this Libya crisis, to the support that all of us have given to the Libyan people, to the Transitional National Council as it moves forward using all of the tools at our disposal, maintaining broad contacts with countries in the neighborhood, in the region – GCC, Arab League, NATO, et cetera.  So obviously it’s not over till it’s over.  But this has been a community of common action, of size and scope that is quite unprecedented in the modern era.  That is the way this President, this Secretary believe that diplomacy needs to be done, that that is smart power, but again, we have to finish the job and help the Libyan people have the future that they so want.  And we have to finish the job on the ground in Libya and ensure Libya is fully liberated, and then we have to stay with the Libyan people as they work through this transition politically, economically, et cetera.

QUESTION:  So was there – it was a conscious choice to start calling him the tyrant Qadhafi?

MS. NULAND:  I don’t think that this word ought to be a surprise with regard to this guy and what he’s done to his own people.

QUESTION:  Do you think same description can be applied to Asad – Bashir al-Asad as well?

MS. NULAND:  We’ve made absolutely clear where we are on Asad.  He also needs to go.  He has not led a transition, and he continues to brutalize his people.  

QUESTION:  NATO stated this morning that it is ready to work with TNC.  Is the ground troops by NATO – is under any consideration or – and you are – if you are planning to ask any peacekeeping troops from any of your allies right now?

MS. NULAND:  My sense is that NATO obviously needs to maintain its vigilance, as it has said, until the situation is stable and peaceful and all of Libya is under the TNC and Libyan people’s control.  So that job continues.

With regard to onward future mission for NATO, I don’t think anybody is envisioning boots on the ground, but I think we need to wait and see.  NATO has a long tradition of supporting the UN, supporting the European Union, other international organizations in humanitarian relief, other things like that.  So let’s just wait and see what’s needed.

QUESTION:  On Syria again, last week you talk about sanctions, oil and gas sanctions, and your conversation with EU European allies.  Friday, UK British Foreign Office minister said that oil sanctions may hurt Syrian people instead of Asad regime and they are not going to do anything about it so far.  How this message do you think is in line with the U.S. approach to Syria?

MS. NULAND:  I think the press mischaracterized what he actually said.  What he said was that the EU as a whole is looking hard at how it can implement tougher sanctions, including in the oil and gas sector, and it needs to do so in a way that hurts the regime and doesn’t hurt the people, which is a goal we share, obviously.

QUESTION:  IMF released a report this morning, and was saying that basically Iran’s GDP growth at 3.5 percent within a year and the inflation rate, it decreased from 25 percent to 12 percent.  Obviously, they know what they are saying.  So my question is:  It has been more than a year on – in terms of applying sanctions.  How effective are the sanctions do you think at this point, after these figures?

MS. NULAND:  Our sanctions are not designed to pinch the Iranian people.  They are designed to make it harder for Iran to get the technology that it seeks for a weapons program or to be able to proliferate.  So the GDP growth in Iran is not the goal of these sanctions.  It’s to get them to stop proliferating, to get them to come back into compliance with their UN Security Council obligations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, My Qs and As with Senior Adm. Officials on Syria, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Q    Thanks so much.  I'm from the Turkish press.  You touched on your administration consulted with your ally, Turkey. And you said that within the last 24 hours Erdogan's language was important.  My question is within the last 24 hours since you are closing to this decision to tell us [Assad to go] how was the reaction from Turkey?  Turkey was the lifeline to the [Syria] in the past times.  How do you expect this time Turkey to move forward from this point on?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would just offer a couple of comments.  First, as we've stressed before, our partnership with Turkey on this issue, as on many other issues, has been extremely important, particularly in the case of Syria because of Turkey's longstanding relationship with that country and with that government.  And so I think it's particularly telling that the Turkish leadership has been so strong in its condemnation of the Syrian regime's abuses of its own people; so strong in its determination to bring further pressure to bear against the Assad regime.

So we've stayed in close touch not just in the last 24 hours but in recent weeks and months, and we look forward to continuing to do that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I'd just add that the President did speak, as I said, to Prime Minister Erdogan on August 11th.  It was a long conversation that focused very much on Syria.  And in that conversation they were able the consult about the steps that their governments were taking, including the steps that Turkey is taking and including the steps that the United States was taking today and was considering to take going forward.  At that time, they reiterated their deep concern about the Syrian government's use of violence against civilians and their belief that the Syrian people's legitimate demands for a transition to democracy should be met.

They also agreed to have our teams be in very close coordination and to consult on a near daily basis to monitor the development of events in Syria, and to remain coordinated as we move forward.  So I think that the coordination and consultation has been constant and strong with Turkey that does play a very important role here.  And we expect that that will continue to be the basis going forward given the direction of President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan to their respective governments.  

My Qs and As with US State Dpt. Spokesperson Nuland, August 18, 2011

QUESTION:  So in his latest phone call, you are saying that Foreign Minister Davutoglu is also included within last 24 hours?

MS. NULAND:  He – no, no.  She hasn’t talked to him in the last 24 hours.  She talked to him whenever it was – Monday I believe, right?

QUESTION:  In the morning, it was published and reported that the Syrian President Asad called UN General Secretary and said that their operation will be halted.  This was not taken seriously?  This was the reason you went ahead with the stepping down message?

MS. NULAND:  We’ve had lots of promises from Asad – lots of promises, lots of broken promises.  But it’s not about his broken promises to us.  It’s about his broken promises to his own people.  So yes, we’ve seen the reporting and we know that he called UN Secretary – or UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called him and told him that it was time to stop, and he promised to stop.  But our reporting from the ground is that the thuggery continues.

We still have Syrian security forces and pro-government thugs rampaging in cities across Syria.  They continue to raid home,; they continue to arrest people daily without any judicial due process.  We received reports just yesterday that there were 150 people in al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, arrested, and there were more arrests in Latakia.  So he had plenty of time to act, and he didn’t act.  

QUESTION:  I just want to ask if you have anything else to add from yesterday’s conversation in terms of Turkey and Israel and the conversation between –

MS. NULAND:  I said yesterday that the characterization that we’d seen in the media was inaccurate.  The Israeli Government itself has put out a statement saying – agreeing that the press characterization was inaccurate.  So I would draw your attention to that.

August 18, Turkey portion of the State Dpt. Press Briefing, 2011

QUESTION:  So in his latest phone call, you are saying that Foreign Minister Davutoglu is also included within last 24 hours?

MS. NULAND:  He – no, no.  She hasn’t talked to him in the last 24 hours.  She talked to him whenever it was – Monday I believe, right?

QUESTION:  In the morning, it was published and reported that the Syrian President Asad called UN General Secretary and said that their operation will be halted.  This was not taken seriously?  This was the reason you went ahead with the stepping down message?

MS. NULAND:  We’ve had lots of promises from Asad – lots of promises, lots of broken promises.  But it’s not about his broken promises to us.  It’s about his broken promises to his own people.  So yes, we’ve seen the reporting and we know that he called UN Secretary – or UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called him and told him that it was time to stop, and he promised to stop.  But our reporting from the ground is that the thuggery continues.

We still have Syrian security forces and pro-government thugs rampaging in cities across Syria.  They continue to raid home,; they continue to arrest people daily without any judicial due process.  We received reports just yesterday that there were 150 people in al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, arrested, and there were more arrests in Latakia.  So he had plenty of time to act, and he didn’t act.

QUESTION:  It seems you informed European countries yesterday (inaudible) on this announcement for stepping down.  Have you contacted Turkish administration too?

MS. NULAND:  We have been in constant contact with Turkey about the staging of our respective diplomatic moves, and Turkey was very much aware of the timing of our actions today.

QUESTION:  Because today we have sanctions, we have – it is – in terms of Syrian regime, we have sanctions, we have some countries who withdraws their ambassador from Syria.

MS. NULAND:  That’s right.

QUESTION:  And we have calls for stepping down.  What is the role of Turkey in this picture?  Because you said several times that your coordination is excellent.  And what is the result of this coordination?

MS. NULAND:  Well, yesterday, you saw the very strong statement from Prime Minister Erdogan comparing Asad to Qadhafi and expressing Turkish frustration.  So Turkey has tried very hard to convince its neighbor to do the right thing and end the violence.  And unfortunately, Asad has not been listening.  So we see increasingly tough rhetoric from Turkey, and the expectation is that that will also be matched by action if this bloodshed does not stop.

QUESTION:  Have you asked to join the international chorus for calling of stepping down against Syria regime from Turkey?

MS. NULAND:  We have been in constant contact with Turkey, and they will make their own national decisions.  We took these steps today.  They know what we are going to do, and they’ll make their own national decisions.  But I don’t think anybody can question that Turkey’s not happy either with what’s happening in Syria.

QUESTION:  Turkey has launched a cross-border operation yesterday on Northern Iraq against PKK.  It was an air assault.  Yesterday, you had said that was a hypothetical question.  Can I get your comment, if I may?

MS. NULAND:  The Turkish military, as you have said, we understand has conducted airstrikes both yesterday and today against PKK terrorists in Northern Iraq.  As you know, the United States recognizes the right of Turkey to defend itself against terrorist attacks.  Just in the last month, the PKK has killed more than three dozen Turkish security personnel.  We also support continued close cooperation between Iraq and Turkey in working to combat the PKK, which is a common enemy of Iraq, of Turkey, of the United States.

QUESTION:  It turns out, too, in ground operation, it’s still valid, this statement?

MS. NULAND:  You’re again taking me into hypothetical places.  That was a good effort, though.  That was a good effort.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Turkey portion of the State Dpt. Press Briefing, August 17, 2011


12:53 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Sorry to be a little late.  I understand we had some audio problems today.  I have a brief statement at the top with regard to the killing of more Turkish soldiers by the PKK.

We are deeply saddened by the death of Turkish soldiers who were killed in Hakkari Province.  We express our condolences to the families and the friends of the victims.  We stand with Turkey in its fight against the PKK, a designated terrorist organization which has claimed tens of thousands of Turkish lives.  We support Turkey in its fight against terror and we will continue to work with the Government of Turkey to combat terrorism in all forms.

Now let’s go to your questions.

QUESTION:  Can you tell us what the substance was of the call last night between the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. NULAND:  The Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu did speak yesterday, but we are not going to be going into the substance of the call.

QUESTION:  Oh, okay.  Well, you just let the Israelis [inaudible]?

MS. NULAND:  We’ve seen the same press reporting that you have seen, I assume.  Let me simply say that we consider that reporting not to be accurate, not to reflect either the tenor or the substance of the conversation that they had.

QUESTION:  Can you be more – what was not accurate and what did not – what doesn’t reflect the tenor of the --

MS. NULAND:  There was some reporting with regard to Turkish-Israeli relations.  I think you know that the U.S. has long supported an improved relationship between Turkey and Israel.  This is a subject that the Secretary herself has been engaged with.  She has worked with Turkish counterparts, with Israeli counterparts.  We believe that an improved relationship is not only in their interest, but in the interest of the region, in the interest of the United States.  Our understanding is that discussions between Turkey and Israel continue, and we very much support those.

QUESTION:  But – so she didn’t talk about Turkish-Israeli relations?

MS. NULAND:  Again, I’m not going to get into the substance of the phone call; just to say that some of the press reporting that we have seen with regard to it is inaccurate and doesn’t reflect the tenor or the tone.

QUESTION:  Well, which reports?

MS. NULAND:  Again, I’m – there have been some press reporting.  I’m sure you’ve seen it.

QUESTION:  I’m trying to get at – without me or anyone else in this room bringing up what’s inaccurate, you telling me what’s inaccurate about the reports.

MS. NULAND:  There were some inaccurate reflections with regard to our views on Turkish-Israeli relations, our views on Turkish --

QUESTION:  What specifically was inaccurate in these reports?

MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to cite inaccurate press reporting here.  I’m simply going to say that our view here --

QUESTION:  That’s not particularly helpful for us.  I’m trying to find out exactly what is inaccurate about the reports.  Nor is it helpful for the people who wrote these reports in the first place to know what specifically is wrong with them.

MS. NULAND:  I think I’ve said what we’re prepared to say.  The Secretary did speak to Netanyahu.  It was the latest in a series of phone calls that they’ve had.  And it’s important that the diplomatic confidentiality of that relationship continue.

QUESTION:  Well, would  the Israelis agreed with you, because they’re blabbing all over the place about this.  Did they discuss Turkish relations with Israel?  Did she discuss Israel’s relationship with Turkey in the phone call?

MS. NULAND:  Again --

QUESTION:  Did she talk about the Quartet statement?  Did she talk about efforts to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table?

MS. NULAND:  I know it’s frustrating.  I’m not going to go into the specifics of that.

QUESTION:  But she called the Prime Minister of Israel, and you’re not prepared to say that she talked about restarting the peace process?

MS. NULAND:  I’m not prepared to discuss, any more than I already have, the substance of the phone call.  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  Okay.  That’s – so they talked about what?

MS. NULAND:  Again, I --

QUESTION:  Australia?  Come on.  The Secretary of State of the United States and the prime minister of Israel have a phone call.  The Israeli press writes all sorts of things about it based on Israeli officials’ account.  You say those accounts are inaccurate.  You won’t say what’s wrong with them, what is inaccurate about them.  And you also won’t even say whether they talked about the most obvious issue that they would have talked about, or that they could have talked about.  I mean, that just doesn’t strike me as being honest.

MS. NULAND:  I am simply not going to get into the substance of the discussion that they had, other than to say that some of the press reporting has been inaccurate, doesn’t reflect either the tenor or the tone.

QUESTION:  Has some of it been --

MS. NULAND:  I think we’ve --

QUESTION:  -- inaccurate?  I mean, has some of it been accurate?

MS. NULAND:  I can’t – I haven’t seen every press report that supposedly has been written about this phone call, but we are not going to get into the substance of it.  It’s not helpful to the diplomacy that we are trying to do with Israel and in the region on a broad variety of topics to – for her to have a conversation with the prime minister of an allied country and to be discussing it here.  I’m sorry.  I know that makes your job harder, but that’s where we are.

QUESTION:  No, it doesn’t make our job harder.  It makes it just – it kind of reeks of hypocrisy.  We need to know what exactly is inaccurate about these reports.  What is it that you take issue with in the reports?

MS. NULAND:  I have said here that with regard to Israel’s relationship with Turkey, the United States supports an improved relationship between them.  This is something that the Secretary has worked on with both countries.  We will continue to do it.  That’s as far as I’m going to go on the substance of this phone call or anything else.

QUESTION:  So it’s inaccurate to say that the Secretary suggested to the Prime Minister that Israel should apologize to Turkey for the flotilla raid?

MS. NULAND:  It is inaccurate and does not reflect the tenor or the substance of the conversation.


QUESTION:  That bit is inaccurate and does not reflect --

MS. NULAND:  The press reporting on this phone call --

QUESTION:  But specifically that report?

MS. NULAND:  Yes.  That report is inaccurate.


QUESTION:  Is it accurate that Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel will not apologize?

MS. NULAND:  I am not going to do any more on this phone call than we have just done.  I’m sorry.


QUESTION:  So you won’t characterize the tenor of it?  I mean, you’re saying that their characterizations are wrong.  How would you --

MS. NULAND:  Correct.

QUESTION:  -- characterize the tenor?

MS. NULAND:  They have a strong and businesslike relationship.  They had a warm phone call.  It went fine.

QUESTION:  Is there any way you can characterize the relationship between Turkey and Israel going forward?  The Palmer report, UN report will be released next week.  What’s your expectation now?

MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to predict the future; simply to say that we are encouraged that Turkey and Israel continue to talk to each other.  We think that’s important.  We think an improved relationship between them would not only benefit both of them, but would also benefit the region and would benefit the United States.

QUESTION:  Going back to your announcement – PKK attacks – there are major signs that the Turkish military is about to undertake some major operation against the PKK.  Are you worried or what’s your view on this?

MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to get into hypothetical operations one way or the other.  As you know, we stand with Turkey in its fight against the PKK and we have very close counterterrorism cooperation.

QUESTION:  I mean, what is your view on a cross-border operation which will be conducted by Turkey in northern Iraq?  Because it’s on the table.  It’s obvious.  The prime minister said today that Turkey has come off the fence and there will be obvious and kind of cross-border operation.  What is your view on such a thing?

MS. NULAND:  Again, I think you’re asking me to comment on hypothetical operations, and I’m not prepared to go there.

Anything – any other issues?

QUESTION:  Mr. Ambassador Ricciardone met yesterday with some people, some ministers from the office of prime minister.  Do you have some details on --

MS. NULAND:  Ambassador --

QUESTION:  Ambassador Ricciardone met with two ministers in – from the prime minister’s office yesterday in Ankara.  Do you have an update on that?

MS. NULAND:  No, but perhaps our Embassy in Ankara can help you more fully on Ambassador Ricciardone’s meetings.  



QUESTION:  Yeah.  So I’m sure you’ve seen – I’m sure you had an advance notice of, you may have even recommended, that the Tunisians remove or recall their ambassador to Syria.  I presume that this is part of the growing chorus that you and the Secretary have been talking about.  So my question is:  When is this chorus become the full-on Tabernacle Choir that allows you to go ahead and start taking additional steps, including calling for Asad to step down?

MS. NULAND:  In addition to the message that the Tunisians sent, you may have seen that in the context of opening remarks or closing remarks at the Somali Donors Conference in Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan also had sharp words for Syria.  This speaks to the point the Secretary made a couple of days ago about the President’s effort, her effort, to put together a careful set of actions and statements that will make our views clear and to coordinate those with others.  That process continues.

As you know, her view, the President’s view, is that political steps, economic steps are strongest when they are together.  Words and sanctions should go together, and ideally, they should go in concert with others.  Those conversations continue --


MS. NULAND:  -- and that work continues.

QUESTION:  Following on that, just as a point.  In Prime Minister Erdogan’s comments, he also drew a direct parallel between the situation in Syria and the situation in Libya.  He said essentially, “Now we are in the same position with Syria that we were with Libya before.”  Given that you have repeatedly stressed that the U.S. and Turkey are on the same page with regards to next steps with Syria, is that an assessment you agree with that this is now a similar or the same situation in Syria that we were facing before with Libya?  And if so, what does that tell you about what happens next?

MS. NULAND:  I think if you look carefully at what Prime Minister Erdogan said this morning, he was referring to the fact that the international community called for a long time for reform, for transition.  These leaders not only didn’t listen, but increased the violence, increased the brutality vis-à-vis their own people, and that was the situation that he was describing, as I read his statement.  Obviously, he speaks for himself.

So in response to that, as the Secretary made clear, we have been working with allies and partners and particularly with regional players on how we tighten the noose, how we tighten the political and the economic noose.  We are also looking at how we do that here in the United States with regard to our own relationship with Syria, and we are working on a careful set of actions and statements, as she said, and working with our partners on the same.

QUESTION:  So withdrawing of the ambassador is not on the table, right?  I mean, in terms of Turkey and the U.S.

MS. NULAND:  The withdrawing of --

QUESTION:  -- of ambassadors to Damascus for both countries, for both Turkey and U.S., you are not considering to withdraw Ambassador Ford, right?

MS. NULAND:    You know where we’ve been.  We believe that the presence of Ambassador Ford has been absolutely vital, that his actions have been courageous in standing with the Syrian people, in standing with the Syrian opposition.  And the contacts that he’s been able to have, that his team have been able to have, have encouraged us in terms of our understanding about the growing cohesiveness of that opposition and have enabled us to have a real feel for what it is that they want.  And what they want is what we want, which is for the violence to end and a democratic transition to begin.

QUESTION:  Since the buffer zone is not on the table anymore because some officials from Turkish foreign minister stated that clearly we are not considering the buffer zone options.  So since the – also the buffer zone is not on the table, the only option – the only tool in Syria is sanctions, economic sanctions probably.  What is the level of your negotiation with Turkey on this issue?  Because it’s the critical ally in the region is Turkey in terms of the trade going on in Syria.  And what’s your level of negotiation of this issue with Turkish officials?

MS. NULAND:  Again, we’ve said for many days, many weeks that our collaboration, our coordination with Turkey has been excellent on this issue, and it continues to be excellent.  The Secretary has made clear that there are still countries that are trading with Syria, particularly in oil and gas.  There are countries, like Russia, that are still open to selling arms to Syria.  So part of the conversation with partners and allies is on the steps that – further steps that they can take to tighten the economic noose as we have been trying to take those steps here as well.


QUESTION:  A couple minutes ago, you described Turkish-U.S. cooperation as excellent in terms of – on Syria.  Looking back a few months now, how much do you think these excellent relations effective in terms of stopping Asad killing his own people, and how much hope you should have going forward?

MS. NULAND:  I think that the Turkish concern, the Turkish frustration, is the same as the American concern and the American frustration, that this is a guy, as the noose gets tighter, as more and more countries condemn him, isn’t stopping, and more and more Syrians are dying.  So I think from that perspective, we’re both frustrated and we’re both looking at ways that we can tighten the noose.


QUESTION:  Have you ever discussed buffer zone with Turkish Government?

MS. NULAND:  I think we had this conversation yesterday.  We had it last week.  Our focus with the Turkish Government has been on tightening the political and economic noose.  Thanks.

QUESTION:  Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)RWISE NOTED)

12:53 p.m. ED