Thursday, November 03, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox V. Nuland, November 3, 2011, Press Briefing

[Reds by other reporters]

Syria&ALegaue Deal
QUESTION:  One of the same promises in this proposal was given to Turkish prime minister about two months ago – or Turkish foreign minister – and then same promises given to Russian for two weeks.  And every single proposal took two weeks for Asad to come back and kill more people.  So isn’t – how can we sure that this is another just two weeks license to kill for his regime?
MS. NULAND:  Well, he doesn’t have a license to kill from us or from anybody else in the international community for one more minute, and as I said at the very beginning, the reason for our skepticism yesterday and our increasing concern today was because this guy, this regime, has a long history of broken promises.  So you’re not wrong when you say that he’s sold this horse before, and the horse still is not riding. 

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on Andy’s question and the question just now?  I mean, it is a good point that every time these proposals are put forward, whether it’s the Turks or the Russians, it buys this government more time because they are experts at playing that game of saying, “Yes, we’ll look into it; yes, we’re going to do it,” and then they don’t.  And they know that somebody else is going to come and say, “Well, could you please do it?”  And then another proposal comes, and it keeps buying them time.  So as Andy said, are these proposals not actually detrimental to finding a quick resolution to – or a quick end to the bloodbath?  
MS. NULAND:  Kim, I would say that actually the opposite is true, that as the United States says, Asad needs to step aside because he’s clearly made a choice here.  Other countries – like Turkey, like Russia, like the Arab League – have said, “Well, maybe if we use our influence, it’ll have an impact.”  So as they go and make the effort, as the Government of Turkey did, and they have promises made and promises broken, then it changes the dynamic in terms of Turkey’s calculation as to whether you can work with this guy.  The same has been true with the Europeans.  And we will predict that if he doesn’t meet his promises to the Arab League, the Arab League is going to feel that they had promises made, promises broken, and they’re going to have to react.  So from our perspective, what has happened through Asad’s own action is that the community of countries pressuring him, making their voices heard, is growing, and that is the direction that we’ve been calling for for many months.

QUESTION:  But – or do you think that this makes him think that he has legitimacy because people are dealing with him?
MS. NULAND:  I think on the contrary.  They’re dealing with him in saying it’s not just those Europeans, it’s not just those Americans, it’s not even just those Turks; it’s all of us who find the way you are running your country abhorrent and dangerous – dangerous to you, dangerous to the region.  So whatever --

QUESTION:  But still, they’re dealing with him as the legitimate government.  I mean, they’re sending envoys, they’re meeting with him.  
MS. NULAND:  And he is breaking promises to them, which is going to have the effect that we’ve seen other places that have been – that have made the effort and found the effort to have been in vain. 


NATO Rassmussen "No Intervention"
QUESTION:  But at the same time, NATO general secretary says, “NATO has no intention to intervene whatsoever.  I completely rule that out.”  At the time – and Turkey, which you have been praising from this podium for so long for its outspoken language against Asad regime, did not start – begin taking any steps on the economic sanctions.  How and why Asad should be convinced that he should step aside? MS. NULAND:  Again, I think the community of countries that have made the effort to convince him to change course and are being dismissed, lied to, having promises broken to them is growing, and that is losing him friends and increasing the pressure.

QUESTION:  Just one more.   From this podium again, you never rule out any intervention, military intervention.  But NATO general secretary clearly and openly did that.  What’s your comment on that?  Have you been able to check if there was something else was meant to say by the NATO – why this unbalanced approach to this situation?
MS. NULAND:  I think the NATO secretary general was making a version of the same point that we’ve been making here, which is that the Syrian opposition in its vast majority wants this situation settled peacefully, does not want foreign intervention in their country.  And in fact, none of the neighbors or anybody else is calling for that.  So the situation is different.  You know that NATO operates on consensus, NATO operates on the basis of emergent situations, so I think he was speaking of the here and now. 

QUESTION:  I have a real quick follow-up, and it was also addressed yesterday, and I’m – on this – all those reports on the Israeli – supposed Israeli cabinet discussion of possible attack, I know you said yesterday you had no information.  I’m just wondering, was there any attempt made to get any clarity from the Israelis on those reports and whether or not they’re accurate? 
MS. NULAND:  Well, the Israelis themselves have been out publicly in the last 24 hours, making clear that this testing that they did, which was what spurred all of this speculation, was routine, had been planned for more than a year.  So they themselves are trying to put this in perspective, I think. 

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up on this:  But they didn’t reject these news reports and --
MS. NULAND:  Didn’t reject? 
QUESTION:  The Israeli Government did not reject these news reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been – tried to convince about bombing of Iran.  
MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to speculate on press reports about what may or may not be happening inside the Israeli Government.  
QUESTION:  I’m not asking about press reports that the prime minister or the administration did not reject it.  And my question is:  How do you find these kind of statements or the news reports about bombing Iran?  Do you find it helpful for the stability of peaceful region? 
MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to comment on internal documents inside the Israeli Government

Flotilla/Communication w/Turkish&Israeli Governments
QUESTION:  Okay.  Israel; back to the Israel.  This one’s different, though.  Apparently there’s a new – flotilla might be too grand a word for a it, but a couple of boats have left Turkey with international activists aboard saying that they’re headed to Gaza, and the Israeli military says that they are ready and able to stop them from reaching Gaza.   I was wondering:  Have you had any contacts with either Israel, the Turks? 
MS. NULAND:  Well, we’ve seen these reports.  Our view on this flotilla activity has not changed, as you know.  We are in contact with all of the relevant governments, including being in contact with the Turkish Government today.  And we have also renewed – we are renewing our warning to U.S. citizens not to involve themselves in this activity. 

QUESTION:  In the last case, I think that it was – it appeared that the U.S. was successful in persuading Greece to – or to prevent an earlier flotilla attempt from leaving.  Have you made any attempts with Turkey prior to their departure to get them to not allow these boats out of the harbor?  
MS. NULAND:  I don’t know the answer to that, Andy.  My sense of this was that given the way this came together, there was some element of surprise for both the Turkish Government and our own government.  But if that’s not right, we’ll get back to you. 

QUESTION:  Toria, you said you talked to Turkish Government today?  
MS. NULAND:  We did. 

QUESTION:  Can you give us a little more detail with -- 
MS. NULAND:  The concern was some of this press reporting that there were Turkish warships accompanying these – this flotilla, and we were told quite emphatically by the Turkish Government that that was not the case. 

QUESTION:  You said that you’re renewing the warning to the U.S., has that actually happened yet?  Has it happened with -- 
MS. NULAND:  I think we’ve not yet reissued it, but we will later today. 

QUESTION:  This is the same warning that warns that they could be violating U.S. law?  
MS. NULAND:  Correct.  It’ll look a lot like the last warning. 

QUESTION:  Well, I mean, the Turkish Government has said that it would be sending warships on any flotillas that would go.  So did you, at the time, kind of warn them against that, about -- 
MS. NULAND:  Absolutely.  We’ve been clear to them that we think that that would be an extremely bad idea, and they’ve now reassured us that that is not what they are doing in this case. 

QUESTION:  Sorry, just one last one.  Have you had any specific communications with the Israelis on this subject? 
MS. NULAND:  I believe we have in Tel Aviv.  If that’s not right, we’ll get back to you. 

Egypt/Press Freedom&SCAF/Alaa Abdel Fatah

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Alaa Abdel Fatah who is an Egyptian blogger who refused to stand in the military trial because he doesn’t want to set a precedence for civilians, and he’s been sentenced to 15 days in jail. Are you following his case? What the United States is doing for democracy promoting activists in Egypt, and particularly to Alaa Abdel Fatah?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are following his case. As I said Tuesday, I believe, in recent days, a number of cases in Egypt have raised concerns about freedom of expression. In particular, we’re concerned about the arrest of blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah as well as the arrests and detention of other bloggers and activists. We publicly and privately have been urging the Egyptian Government to handle all cases involving civilians in a civilian court, in full transparency, and with due process of law. We also, as you know, believe that Egypt’s emergency law should be lifted immediately. These were points – the more general points about civilian courts, about the emergency law were made by President Obama again when he spoke to General Tantawi on October 24th.

QUESTION: So you have a positive response from the military council?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Egyptian Government is looking into this. I think our views are absolutely clear, and we wanted to particularly cite this case publicly today.

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