Monday, October 24, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox V. Nuland, October 24, 2011, Press Briefing

US-SyrianNC engagement/assessment on SNC
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) anything about – on this conversation, engagement with the opposition.  Obviously, is it Syrian National Council in Turkey.  They have been trying to get their acts together.  What’s the current status of your engagement with this particular group, claims to be umbrella organization for the other opposition groups?
MS. NULAND:  Well, I think the Syrian National Council itself has said that it is seeking to unify other groups, but even as recently as this weekend, it has made clear that it doesn’t claim to represent all groups.  So even as we talk to and work with the Syrian National Council, we are also talking to and working with many other opposition actors and opposition groups in Syria.  And you know where we’ve been, that we would like to see these groups come together as much as possible.  We want to see them set forth a clear platform for taking the country in a democratic direction, the kind of platform that could really attract Syrians of all walks of life, whether they were Aloite or Sunni or Druze or Christians, and could really provide a vision of a nonsectarian, unified, increasingly democratic Syria because that’s certainly a Syria that we would be proud to be supportive of.  And that’s what we think the Syrian people deserve.

Arab League visit to Damascus
QUESTION:  A delegation from the Arab League is about to visit Damascus.  What would you – what should we expect from this visit?  I believe they gave another final two weeks notice to Damascus.  What would you like to see out of these discussions?  
MS. NULAND:  Well, first and foremost, we obviously support the Arab League delegation’s stated intent that their number one message to the Asad regime will be that the violence in all of its forms – the intimidation, the brutality, the arrests, the torture – have to stop; and second, that the people of Syria should be allowed to exercise their right to protest and that a peaceful transition should begin, including dialogue.  So we will see if Asad will listen this time.  I wouldn’t say that our expectations are terribly high.

Blue Coat tech company helping Syrian Regime to cencor
QUESTION:  Over the weekend, I believe (inaudible) Washington Post Blue Coat – the name of the technology firm is Blue Coat according to the news, is a technology firm the Syrian regime has been using to censor social networking site.  Have you been taking any steps to deal with this company?
MS. NULAND:  Let me say that we are aware and we are concerned about reports of the use of technology by repressive regimes in general, but Syria in particular, to target activists and dissidents.  We are reviewing the information that we have and monitoring the facts as they come in.  As you know, we have very strict controls on most exports to Syria.  We’ve had them since 2004, with some very tiny exceptions, including for the download of some software that we think can be helpful to the people.  Exports that are not covered by those tiny exceptions would be a violation of U.S. law, so we are looking into this.

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