Friday, May 25, 2012

My Qs and As with State Dept Spox Nuland: On-Camera Daily Press Briefing - May 25,

[Reds asked by others]

QUESTION:  Yesterday, Secretary of UN Ban said that, at this point, we don’t have any Plan B.  What’s your assessment of this statement?  How do you think this would reflect on the Syrian people – have been slaughtered for about 15 months by now?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I think you know where we are.  We have always said that we want to see what we can do to make this Annan plan work.  We, however, reserve the right to go back to the Security Council, as the Secretary said in Paris, for Chapter 7 resolution and further steps. 

So from – I’m not sure what the Secretary General would consider a Plan B – but very much now the focus in the UN context remains on trying to get the full complement of monitors in and have them do their job in combination with the full range of other steps that all of us are taking with regard to Syria, including, as we’ve talked about, the extreme pressure we’re exacting now on the regime with sanctions, the effort to close all the loopholes in the sanctions, with the Friends of the Syrian People sanctions working group, the accountability efforts that we’re doing, the work we’re doing with the Syrian opposition and all of its components including now with the tribes and with the Kurds to try to bring them together on a concrete plan and our non-lethal assistance. 

QUESTION:  The number is about 270 as of yesterday of the monitors – UN monitors.  Is this the number you are hearing?

MS. NULAND:  We have about the same number, but I would refer you to the UN for the precise number today.  As you know, they are authorized for some 300.  My understanding is that we expecting another periodic update from Kofi Annan to the Security Council; it’s either today or Monday-Tuesday.  I’m not sure.  So we’ll see what he has to say about how the monitors are doing.  There had been some thought that they might ask for even more.  We’ll see what happens there.

QUESTION:  So it has been about four or five days exact to the half of the 90 days of the first timetable of the Annan plan.  There are six points in the Annan plan.  Do you think any of these points, at any rate, have been implemented so far?


QUESTION:  I understand Kofi Annan is going back to Damascus.  Do you see much point in his visit, given that things are not being implemented?  What more can he do by returning there?

 MS. NULAND:  We’ve seen the press reports that he’s talking about coming back.  I think we’ll wait and see what he says to the Security Council about his trip.  But obviously, he’s been empowered by the Security Council to try to get this plan implemented.  So if he thinks continued dialogue in Damascus might help, we’re not going to deter him from that.  Obviously, we all have the same goal. 

QUESTION:  But you’re skeptical.

MS. NULAND:  I think we have to hear what he has to say about what he thinks he can accomplish on the trip.

QUESTION:  I just wonder how realistic you think this Plan B of yours is in going back and getting a Security Council resolution, given that – haven’t been able to yet, and China takes over the presidency of the Security Council on June 1st?

MS. NULAND:  Well, as you know, the Secretary did have a chance to talk in some detail to the Chinese leadership about how we see things in Syria when we were in Beijing for the Security and Economic Dialogue.  We’ve also been talking to the Russians.  I think all of us have been in this posture of maximally pushing for implementation of the monitors for Kofi Annan also to join us in working with the opposition on a transition plan, all of these kinds of things. 

But we’ve made absolutely clear, we’ve said it publicly, we’ve said it privately to the Russians, to the Chinese, that if we get to the point where we think that more pressure from the Security Council is going to be necessary, that we will be back around talking about a Chapter 7 resolution.  We’re not there yet, Michele, but they certainly know that that’s where we will go if we can’t get more progress.

QUESTION:  Were you able to confirm reports about the poisoning of the head of Syrian intelligence, the brother-in-law of Assad?

MS. NULAND:  It’s all still quite murky.  There have been lots of conflicting reports. 

QUESTION:  I wanted to ask if you – in the council – the Security Council discussion or the member – there are – with Kofi Annan, are there any new things, or is it the same six points?  Has anything changed in the last few weeks?
MS. NULAND:  Well, again, I think he’s going to report either today, Monday or Tuesday, so let’s let him do his report in terms of how he sees what the monitors have been able to do; how he evaluates implementation, which – we’ve heard him, we’ve all been saying there’s been no implementation of any of the six, but what he wants to do as the next step, and then we’ll go from there.

QUESTION:  But ever since his initiative was launched, there has been quite a few weeks that have transpired, what have you learned during that period?  What needs to be done immediately?  Or is it ceasefire?  I mean, do we have something else that we could maybe facilitate (inaudible) for the Syrians to do to bring this about?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I don’t think this is rocket science here.  We’ve been saying the same thing for a long time.  The six points speak directly to what it will take to get to a political transition.  He’s got to stop firing on his own people, he’s got to pull his weapons and heavy armor back, he’s got to release political prisoners, he’s got to allow peaceful assembly, he’s got to allow journalists in, and that will create the environment where we can really have a free and open conversation among all Syrians about the future for their country and pave the way for a transition. 

But again, that’s not what we have.  So what do we have instead?  We have the monitors trying to provide space where they are able to deploy.  As you know, we see a mixed picture there.  We have seen space provided for people to express themselves on the street, to feel more comfortable meeting and organizing for the day when Assad goes, because he will go in places where monitors have been.  But we also have seen monitors attacked, we’ve also seen monitors unable, because of numbers, to maintain permanent presence in places where they’re needed.  So this is a very mixed picture.  As I said, let’s let Kofi Annan report and then we’ll go from there.

QUESTION:  Yes.  There was a story on the AP yesterday by Matt that was saying that the U.S. basically is about to give green light in terms of allies arming the rebels.  Would you be able to give us any update on that?  Are you about to give any green light to that kind of policy?

MS. NULAND:  As I said to Matt myself, our policy has not changed.  He knows what it is, which is that we ourselves are providing nonlethal assistance.  Other countries have made other choices.  We obviously consult with them.  But there were a lot of wild assertions there that are not supportable.

QUESTION:  It appears that some Turkish delegation members of Turkish delegation here in

D.C. and having meeting at State Department.  Would you be able to tell us or give us any readout – what is the relevant topic discussed regarding Syria?

MS. NULAND:  I think you’re referring to the visit of Foreign Secretary – Deputy Foreign Minister Sinirlioglu of – to see Deputy Secretary Burns.  My understanding is – I can’t remember if they met last night or this morning.  I think they – I guess it was last night.  Yeah.  They talked about the full range of issues; first of all, debrief on the EU3+3 talks.  They obviously talked about Syria, which they always do.  They talked about the wider region.  They talked about the upcoming conference that the Secretary will attend on the global counterterrorism conference in Turkey, so all of it. 

  QUESTION:  Is there anything on Syria that you can tell us specific –

MS. NULAND:  I think this is just further to our regular ongoing consultations with the Turkish Government about Syria, how they see the situation.  As you know, from the Secretary’s intersections with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, we maintain extremely close contact with the Turkish Government on these issues.

QUESTION:  President Obama told the Atlantic Weekly about two months ago that it’s our estimation that Assad’s days are numbered about two months ago.  What does it tell that the President of the United States saying that Assad has numbered days, and after two months, that basically still don’t have a plan B?

MS. NULAND:  The president has said for quite some time that Assad will go.  The question is:  How much bloodshed between now and then?  How much time between now and then, which is why we are all working on the Annan track and also increasing the pressure. 

 QUESTION:  One more on Syria?

QUESTION:  As we’re waiting for Annan’s report, is there anything happening with the clearinghouse or with the mass atrocities agency dealing with Syria?

MS. NULAND:  The accountability?  So we’ve had a number of meetings to stand up this accountability clearinghouse that we talked about.  I’ll have to get you a precise update, but my understanding is that Turkey has offered to be the host for the brick-and-mortar piece of it, but the database is already being built even before we get to that stage.  And we’ve had a couple of organizational meetings about how it will go with the partners there participating.

QUESTION:  And once people are able to sort of report human rights abuses, will that be used as, say, evidence or – in the diplomatic talks within the UN or to the ICC?  What’s going to happen with the information?

MS. NULAND:  Well, I think first and foremost, the idea here is to be able to maintain strong, clear files in a safe and secure environment for the day when Syria has moved on, but justice and accountability need to be pursued so that, in the first instance, to make clear to any of those who will carry out orders to commit atrocities that they will be known, they will be found, they will be held accountable, and that we have international support for Syrians who are trying to create records and for international NGOs who are trying to create records.  So that’s one piece of it, sort of the warning shot if you will.  But the second piece of it is to be able to begin to build files that have integrity, so when it comes time to bring people to justice, that material is available.

QUESTION:  Just one more in relation to that.  Going back to an earlier question about going back to the Security Council to try to get a resolution, given that the Russians are, by their acts – and I don’t think there’s – regardless of whether this particular report is true or not, I don’t think there’s a lot of dispute about their having continued arms shipments to the Syrian Government – by their acts are showing that they disagree fundamentally with your position, at least with regard to arming Assad.  What does that say about the odds of getting some kind of a resolution through the Security Council given their veto?

 MS. NULAND:  Well, again, the Russian Federation has been fully supportive of the Annan plan.  They supported the resolution authorizing the mission.  They supported the resolution fleshing out the mission.  We have been saying from the beginning to our partners in Moscow, to our partners in Beijing, yes, we need to give this time to work, but if it doesn’t work, we’re all going to be back in the Security Council.  So I’m not going to get ahead of ourselves as to how Moscow might evaluate the situation or Beijing might evaluate the situation when we get to that point.  But we’ve made absolutely clear that this can’t – this is not an infinite amount of time here that we’re going to give this plan not to work. 

QUESTION:  What is the time?  Is it 90 days still?  If – this is same –

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.  The Security Council authorized the mission for 90 days.  And again, we’re going to see what Kofi Annan himself has to say.

QUESTION:  So you are going to go back – do you – basically Security Council again.  And it looks like it’s not going to – happening anything at the Security Council.  What is your –

MS. NULAND:  Again, we’re going round and round here.  As I said –

QUESTION:  Because there is no answer.

MS. NULAND:  -- we’re going to let Annan report; we’re going to work together on what comes next.  If and when we determine that it’s time, the Secretary’s made clear it’s going to be Chapter 7 next.

QUESTION:  At the same time, every day dozens of people are getting killed.

MS. NULAND:  Absolutely.