Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox V. Nuland, November 2, 2011, Press Briefing

[Reds by other reporters]

US Elections and effect on MEast Peace Process

QUESTION: [building on] last two questions, Said’s point that next 12 months [there]might not be negotiations, which you did not object to that – one of the premises of the question.  And second is your appearing as ineffective in the Middle East peace process. Some argue that these two reasons because of the next 12 months is the reelection season and they have the Administration’s in U.S. in need with the strong Israel lobbies.  Do you see this reelection term in any way making you less effective in any way it affects your ability?
MS. NULAND:  The American election, you’re talking about or elections in the --

QUESTION:  Next 12 month – reelection of this Administration.
MS. NULAND:  No.  We are focused on trying to make as much progress as we can.  As I said, we are working on having another round, another session, with these parties in coming weeks.  We are focused very much on the 90-day clock that the Quartet set forward for these parties to be ready to exchange their ideas with each other so that we can start negotiations.

Israel Bombing Iran
QUESTION:  According to news reports from Israeli press, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been trying to [convince] his cabinet to bomb Iran in near term.  First of all, do you – how do you assess this kind of a statement?  And secondly, how do you see this threat of the Iranian nuclear weapons in near term?  Is there anything changing radical – in radical terms?
MS. NULAND:  Well, first of all, I’m not going to comment on stray press reports out of Israel.  I’m going to send you to the Israeli Government for its views on these things.  We remain committed to Israel’s security.  We and Israel share a deep concern about the direction that Iran is taking.  We continue to work with Israel, with the international community, to speak clearly with regard to Iran’s nuclear obligations.  And you know where we are on this, that Iran has got to make – take the necessary steps established by the international community to come back into compliance with its obligations.

QUESTION:  Well, without speaking to it, the – there has been previous concern by the – about the possibility for Israel to take unilateral action against Iran.  So this report aside – this news report aside, what is level of concern here in this administration that Israel might take unilateral action?
MS. NULAND:  Well, we are focused with Israel, we are focused with our other international partners, on getting Iran to comply with the IAEA, to increase the international pressure for Iran to comply, and that’s the focus of our activity.  

QUESTION:  Did you just, in response to the second-to-last question, say that there was no – that the U.S. election season has no influence over how you approach the peace process?
QUESTION:  Let me ask the question straightly – straight, then.  I believe that the question was there is concern that political pressure in the United States during the election season may make it difficult for the U.S. to be a completely honest broker in the peace talks.  Do you reject that accusation?  Do you reject the suggestion that the American political process, i.e. the upcoming presidential election, will have any role in what America does, what the Administration does, as it relates to the peace process?
MS. NULAND:  I reject the notion that we are working any less hard now than we have been working over the last few months and years on trying to get these parties back to the table.
QUESTION:  Okay.  Good.  Because I thought what you said was no, flat out no, the American election season doesn’t have any influence on --
MS. NULAND:  I’m not here to comment on electoral issues or political issues.

Arrest of Zarakolu, publisher
QUESTION:  Yeah, about Turkey – in other words, the country this time.  Recently, the Turkish Government arrested intellectuals, and one of them was Zarakolu, a publisher – owner of publishing house.  And as far as I know, Zarakolu had been arrested before a couple of times and has spent years in jail.  And so I wondering if the State Department follows this process of the arrest of Turkish intellectuals and Kurdish intellectuals and maybe the delegation that is in Istanbul right now will have a chance to touch bases with their Turkish counterparts and kind of bring this topic to agenda.  Thank you.
MS. NULAND:  I don’t have a comment on this particular case.  I think you know that the Secretary, we, in all of our encounters with the Turkish Government, have been very clear that we want to see a continued strengthening of Turkish human rights norms and particularly with regard to journalists and press freedom and transparency of the court system.  So if you’d like, I can take that question with regard to the specific case. 

AFGHANISTAN-Senior State Department Official on Afghan Meeting in Istanbul -Background teleconference - November 2
QUESTION:  Hello.  Hi, it is Ilhan Tanir from Turkish daily Vatan.  [Senior State Department Official], thank you very much for taking time to give us detailed account of the conference in Istanbul.  My quick questions, the first is: you mentioned a follow-up mechanism and you said that these ministers will meet and is going to follow up and countries will consult each other.  Will there be – if any country is recognized as  (inaudible) with the rules, what kind of sanction or what kind of punishment is foreseen? And second quick question is: the meeting was in Istanbul and there are many commentaries that Turkey is taking a driver’s seat in this process of reconciliation.  Would you be able to tell us a little more about Turkey’s role?  And related to that, actually, is there any specific commitment is asked Turkish authorities in terms of investment economically or militarily?  Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thank you very much for your question.  First of all, let me talk about Turkeys’ role, as you asked.  This first – the idea for this conference first was proposed at a meeting of the International Contact Group earlier this spring in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.  The Turkish representative at that time suggested the possibility of bringing together again Turkeys’ neighbor – I’m sorry, Afghanistan’s neighbors and near-neighbors.  And at that meeting, I think people thought this was an excellent idea, and what you had today was the outcome of that.  And so people have worked extremely hard for the success of this meeting since early in the spring.

When you ask me about Turkey’s role, Turkey was the host of this meeting.  It was co-chaired by Turkey and Afghanistan.  Afghanistan and Turkey worked closely together with the neighbors and the near-neighbors of Afghanistan to try to bring a successful conclusion to the statement that was issued today.  And we found that to be a very natural and good and important role, and I think that they played their role extremely well.  As I say, this was a combination of a Turkish effort and an Afghan effort, and then of course the neighbors and the near-neighbors.  

On terms of specifics, two things.  One is I think as you will read the document, there is nothing that says anybody has made any particular dollar commitments.  That’s not what this was about.  This was, as you will see, a list of confidence-building measures in the political, economic, the cultural, the legal areas.  Although I would say that there is a real commitment to increasing the role of the private sector in economic integration and there is also a vision of connecting Central Asia and South Asia together with Afghanistan at the center.  One of the interesting things about this is that for many years, Afghanistan was sort of at the edge of things – the edge of Central Asia, the edge of South Asia – and you’ll notice that the Turks and the Afghans decided that this conference would be about Afghanistan at the heart of Asia.  And so connecting Central Asia and South Asia together with Afghanistan, and I would say Pakistan as well, in the middle, is an important thought that’s come out of the conference.

You’ll read the document for yourself.  I think it would be fair to say that it’s not a document that assumes failure and therefore is not a document that’s a list of sanctions.

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