FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Daily Press Briefing
April 20, 2012
1:06 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: Happy Friday, everybody. I am sorry to be late. We had a lot more material than I expected and a more jetlagged me than I expected. Welcome, first and foremost, to American University students in the International Communications Program. We recently got a chance to talk over at AU. Happy to have you.
We have a couple things at the top before we get started. A nice, thin crowd. Looks like a lot of people have taken Friday off. Excellent.
QUESTION: We’re working on our figures here.
MS. NULAND: You’re working on our figures?
QUESTION: Our figures. Yes.
MS. NULAND: Yes?
QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Never mind. (Laughter.) I notice that – so only one of you is working on your figure, or both of you? (Laughter.) I couldn’t help myself. (Laughter.) All right.
First, let me just advise that at the Syria Human Rights Forum in Geneva, Switzerland today, the U.S. Department of State and AID announced an additional $8 million in funding for those suffering from violence in Syria, bringing our total humanitarian assistance for Syria to nearly $33 million. And we will have a Fact Sheet later in the day or Monday on the totality of our humanitarian assistance to date.
Also I know that Mark briefed one of the days this week about our efforts in the walk-up to May 3rd UNESCO World Press Freedom Day that we are, every day between now and May 3rd, highlighting an individual human rights case on ourhumanrights.gov website.
Today’s case is the case of Dhondup Wangchen, who is a Tibetan filmmaker who was detained by Chinese authorities on March 8th on charges related to the production of his 25-minute documentary film titled, “Leaving Fear Behind.” He was reportedly beaten, deprived of food and sleep during his interrogation, and held incommunicado for a full year. You can see his full story on our website.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can we start with that Syrian aid? What is this money going toward? And then maybe afterwards you can explain what of that 33 million has gotten into Syria, how you get it in there, what challenges you’re facing.
MS. NULAND: Right. Well, Brad, let me say, first off, that when we release this Fact Sheet, which will update the one that we have currently on our website, it’ll be a little bit clearer with more details, including all of the organizations that we fund.
But just to remind that all of the U.S. humanitarian assistance goes through UN humanitarian organizations or NGOs. It funds food, medicine, shelter for those refugees and IDPs who we can get to, particularly those who are currently in Turkey, in Jordan, et cetera. But we’ll give you the whole rundown when you see the sheet; and if it’s still not clear, we’ll arrange a briefing.
QUESTION: So is this 33 million – this is separate from any communications, medical, and non-lethal aid?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Correct. There are two pots of support. The first is the humanitarian assistance that the Secretary has been talking about. The interesting thing was when we first started to think about humanitarian assistance for Syria, the question was: Could we get to the people in need? And we have very much been able to get to the people in need, both those who have already escaped Syria, but the international humanitarian organizations, to the extent that they have been able to operate in Syria, have already run through a lot of their money, which is why we keep giving more, because they continue to appeal for more. There is also a severe food shortage in parts of Syria, as we’ve talked about before, so we’re also supporting their effort to get high-nutritional items into Syria through the Red Crescent, et cetera.
QUESTION: And is there a monetary value on the non-lethal side?
MS. NULAND: We’ve talked a little bit about it. I think at the moment, we’re not prepared to break it down monetarily for a whole bunch of reasons, or to say more about it besides what the Secretary and Secretary Panetta and others have already said, that it’s primarily communications support, it is logistical support. And the reason for that is the one that we’ve stated before: We don’t want to endanger those who it goes to; we don’t want to make it easier to disrupt for those who don’t want to see it go in.
QUESTION: Well, fine, regarding the details of how it gets in and who it goes to. But why won’t you provide just kind of a ballpark figure so that we know the scale of this assistance?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s been growing over time, and frankly, we are working with Congress as well on the totality of the program. So why don’t I pledge to get back to you a little bit next week as we can scope it a little bit better for you. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On the aid question, the humanitarian aid, I’m wondering if you have any sense of how much of the aid that you’re providing through these various UN and NGO organizations is actually getting into Syria itself. Is there a percentage that you are able to identify, like say 30 or 40 percent of it is actually reaching Syrians in Syria?
MS. NULAND: I think we do have those numbers handy, and I think they are going to be represented in this material that we’re going to put forward.
MS. NULAND: And if not, we will seek to do it. But I think it’s somewhere in the ballpark of half, I think.
MS. NULAND: But we’ll get you more.
QUESTION: Toria, you’re saying that not all this aid goes through the United Nations, correct? You’re saying some goes through some sort of NGOs?
MS. NULAND: Most of it goes through UN organizations. You’ll see it when we give you the outline.
MS. NULAND: It’s very – the factsheet very carefully outlines what’s through ICRC, what’s through the World Food Program, et cetera.
QUESTION: And is it all in cash or in money or is it in material?
MS. NULAND: It goes in a number of ways. Either we provide financial support to UN funds that purchase things that we agree on, or there is often excess supply that we give.
QUESTION: And finally on this issue regarding the aid, how do you vet – how do you – what kind of vetting process are the NGOs subject to? How do you know that they are not going to take this aid and sort of turn it around somehow, illicitly provide arms?
MS. NULAND: When you see the list, you will recognize every single name on there as a major international – internationally recognized organization. We’re not giving this to Uncle Joe who’s playing around.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton also, I believe, talk about the option of a humanitarian corridor. Is this one of the option how some of the aid will be delivered in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Secretary Clinton has not talked about that in particular. I think another foreign minister talked about that yesterday.
QUESTION: So that – it’s not -- so it’s not another option – this creating humanitarian corridor?
MS. NULAND: Our humanitarian support is either being, as I said, given to those who have already left Syria, or it is getting in through organizations that have been able to work in Syria.
QUESTION: After – week after the truce, today shelling is going on in Homs and it has been going on. And according to SANA regime – news agency – it’s about 18 regime soldiers also got killed in the south of Syria.
My question is: How do you assess today, a week later, how the ceasefire is holding up?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary spoke to this quite clearly in Brussels on Wednesday, again in Paris yesterday. And the situation has not improved since she expressed our grave concerns about the ongoing violence, and made clear that we put the onus of the burden on the Assad regime to silence its guns, which clearly it has not done in Homs, in Idlib, and in other parts of Syria.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the monitors, if I may.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: The monitors now – today, there has been only, what, six monitors so far?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have today’s count. I think there were about six yesterday. The expectation was that over the next few days, the full advance team, which was about 25, would get in. And as you know, there is work ongoing in New York about getting in the full complement of 250-300.
QUESTION: So what is the holdup, because there is, if one listens to the Russian writers, for instance, they are putting the blame so to speak on the UN that is not dispatching the monitors quick enough.
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the 20-25 who have to get in, as you remember, this came up quite suddenly. They’re having to find and recruit monitors from other UN missions. They are working on that. I frankly can’t speak to the delta between those who’ve gotten in and the rest of the advanced team. I would send you to New York on that.
But with regard to the full team, as you know, there has to be another – here he is – another UN Security Council resolution. So they’re talking about that in New York.
QUESTION: And on that subject --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- I mean, there have been – Ambassador Rice yesterday noted that several Security Council members have reservations given the lack of full compliance by the Assad – with the various points of the Annan plan. But would the U.S. be ready to back such a resolution given that the Assad regime has not fully fulfilled its obligations there?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are working with our colleagues on the Security Council today on an appropriate resolution. You heard the Secretary yesterday in Paris make clear that we want to see monitors be able to get in, but they’ve got to be able to do so in the permissive conditions that Assad signed up to when he signed up to the Kofi plan. And we have extreme concerns about the situation on the ground now, and we also have to ensure that as and when the full group gets in, they’ve got to have freedom of movement, freedom of communication, freedom of access, freedom of reporting. It’s got to be a true independent, international monitoring effort under UN auspices and not regime controlled. So – and it also has to be able to monitor not simply the silencing of the guns, but all aspects of the six-point plan, the pull back, the situation with political prisoners, it’s got to be able to interview anybody it wants.
So as we work in New York to make clear what it will take to get this mission in, we are also making clear that the burden is on the Assad regime to live up to its promises and allow it in. But what we’ve also seen is in those parts of the country where the monitors, the few monitors who’ve already gotten in – have been able to get in – they’ve been met with joyous crowds. They’ve provided space for more peaceful demonstration. So that’s the goal that we’re looking for here.
QUESTION: Okay. But just to sort of shrink it down, it sounds as though what you’re saying – correct me if I’m wrong – is that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to support this resolution if the situation in Syria remains as it is right now.
MS. NULAND: Brad, there were – Andy, they’re working now on a resolution which is going to spell out exactly how this needs to happen and the terms, even as the international community puts more pressure on Assad to make the conditions appropriate for the monitors under the scheme that he agreed to when he agreed to the Annan plan.
Okay? Please. Still on Syria? Yeah.
QUESTION: How was the experience of our six monitors have had in Syria? What’s your assessment? Did they have full freedom and all the other conditions you have been describing?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to refer you to the report that was given by Kofi Annan’s deputy in New York yesterday. I think it’s a mixed picture. He made clear in that report that where they have been able to get out and about, they’ve been met with enormous crowds, they’ve been met with enormous support from people looking to express themselves peacefully to their government. But there are only a few of them there, and the terms are still being negotiated with the government.
QUESTION: So next Friends of Syria meeting will be in Washington, and is – the date is clear, yeah?
MS. NULAND: No, the meeting in Washington is the next meeting of the sanctions group, the sub-group on sanctions. My understanding is the next Friends of the Syrian People meeting has not yet been set either in time or space.
Please. Still on Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah. On Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Moroccan colonel who’s leading the UN team there now has been quoted that he’s not going to take his team out on Fridays. He doesn’t want to be used politically. There’s a quote to that effect. And I’m just wondering, since it seems that one of the purposes of the observer mission is to allow people to protest, and that’s a big day they want to protest, what would the U.S. think of that?
And also, I wanted to ask you one other question on this idea of freedom of movement. Some people are saying that for the U.S. to be so focused on this absolute freedom of movement in Syria while it’s about to vote for a resolution on Western Sahara, which basically acknowledges that the Moroccan Government has been limiting and surveilling the peacekeepers in Western Sahara, is somehow inconsistent. And I wonder if you have an explanation of the different approaches.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the comments of the Moroccan lead. As I said, all of the modalities for these peacekeepers are being reviewed based on the experience of the initial group, and they have to be worked out through a new Security Council resolution, and obviously, we have to see how it goes on the ground.
With regard to Morocco versus Syria, the situation is different, the history is different. In the case of Syria, what we have seen all over the country is an effort at peaceful protest that has been met with regime violence. And so we need to ensure that we are not just covering – able to cover some parts of the country or some affected populations; that if this is going to be a true monitoring mission, the mission is going to have the ability to make its own decisions about where it can – where it needs to monitor, where it – and how it needs to be able to move around the country.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up.
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask this about this idea of a resolution. It’s said now – I’ve already – I’ve heard that Russia has actually now introduced a resolution for the 300 peacekeepers, sort of jumped the gun or beaten you to – and that France is saying it’s going to introduce one for 500. And I just wondered, can you confirm the Russian draft has been circulated? And between the two, which one would the U.S. prefer?
MS. NULAND: I understood from my colleagues in New York, at U.S. Mission to the United Nations, that they were all now working off a single draft, but I’m going to send you up to them for the work that’s ongoing up there.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Did something just happen where they’ve been jumped to peacekeepers from monitors?
MS. NULAND: No, monitors.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MS. NULAND: Monitors, monitors, monitors, observers.
QUESTION: Can I – I apologize if you covered this already. I missed most of it, but I did hear your intriguing reference to Uncle Joe. Maybe Uncle Vanya would have been a better choice, no, given your background? No?
Is the U.S. – is the Administration thinking now, planning for the eventual possible failure of the Annan mission and what would happen next, or – and at the same time, is it encouraging other members of the Friends of Syria, like the ones who were represented at the meeting yesterday with the Secretary, to do that, i.e. plan for the possible failure of this mission?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you look at what the Secretary had to say, first in Brussels, where she called this a crucial turning point, and then again in Paris yesterday, where she talked first about our hopes and expectations for the monitors but then also about increased pressure, obviously, we’re planning for both scenarios. We’re planning for a scenario where the monitors will be able to get in and do their job and will be able to push and encourage increasing space for peaceful protests, for political transition, and for Assad to live up to his – all the rest of the obligations under the six-point plan.
But she made very clear yesterday in her Paris discussion with the colleagues at the ad hoc meeting that, even as we plan for the best, we also have to be prepared, if this is not successful, to increase the pressure. She talked quite explicitly about what that could look like, specifically a new UN Security Council resolution under Chapter 7, which would increase sanctions, increase travel restrictions, increase financial squeezing, an arms embargo, these kinds of things, and other measures that we would be looking to push forward.
QUESTION: Right. Well, given the fact that – I mean, or not the fact, but the 99 percent possibility which – that that will be vetoed, that that kind of a resolution won’t go through, what are those other things? Do they include kicking more Syrian diplomats out? Do they – what else do they include?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of the precise sanctions, but I will tell you that in the context of the meeting that this ad hoc group had yesterday and the many consultations on Syria that the Secretary had while she was at NATO headquarters, both bilaterally in the dinner among NATO allies as well as her bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, she has been ventilating a variety of ideas, some of which were reflected in her intervention about what we’re going to have to do if Assad does not live up to his commitments.
QUESTION: Has – do you know, has she raised, rhetorically perhaps, the question of how can we continue to do nothing but supply humanitarian aid while one side is – while one side to – one party to this conflict is using nothing but brutal violence? How – has she raised that? Has she said that the United States is reconsidering its year-long opposition to military assistance?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you saw in her statement yesterday, she again reiterated our commitment to providing nonlethal support to civilian groups who are trying to prepare for a transition, trying to express their interest and their rights in a transition. There are other countries in the Friends of Syria Group who have other ideas about how to support and help the opposition. As she said --
QUESTION: No, that’s (inaudible) talking about. Has she told them that the United States is reconsidering everything regarding its policy towards Syria? Has she used – has she talked about the obduracy of the Assad regime?
MS. NULAND: Well, you can see what she had to say about the obduracy of the Assad regime in her statement yesterday, which was put out for all of you to look at. With regard to military assistance, our policy with regard to our own posture has not changed.
QUESTION: No, no. But as she said that you’re – that it’s being reconsidered. Has she told people that the United States is reconsidering --
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: -- everything?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: How much pressure has she put – has she levied, as it were, against others in the
Administration, when you consider that the Pentagon has been actively looking at the White House’s request for possible ways of providing military assistance or intervention in Syria?
MS. NULAND: Ros, I’m definitely not going to talk about internal Administration deliberations. I think Secretary Panetta talked to where we are with regard to the responsibilities of his building quite clearly yesterday on the Hill.
QUESTION: Toria, did you say – when is the sanctions meeting is taking place in Washington?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the date, but we’ll get it for you, Said.
QUESTION: Are these issues to be discussed there? What kind of – you talked about more – tightening the sanctions more --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- the financial aspect and so on.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: Do you have very specific ideas on what you will do in case it fails, as has been suggested?
MS. NULAND: We do. We’ve talked about this a little bit, Said, in the context of the Friends of the Syrian People meeting that we had in Istanbul, where this group was established. The group, as you know, met in Paris earlier this week. It’ll meet in Washington next.
We’re talking about a variety of things – first of all, tighter, more precise implementation of those sanctions that are already on the books; closing the loopholes; helping countries to really monitor and know what’s going on – similar to work we’ve done with regard to North Korea sanctions, Iran sanctions around the world; but also consulting among ourselves about other pressure points that we haven’t considered that might increase the pressure, as I said, on the Assad regime, on the people around him, whether they are military leaders, whether they are business folks, et cetera, to try to get their attention.
QUESTION: The Embassy is Damascus posted a photo on the Facebook page this morning.
MS. NULAND: The – our U.S. Embassy?
QUESTION: Yes. And I was wondering if you had any more information. There wasn’t a blurb, but I’m
guessing it’s one of the declassified aerial photos that they’ve put up before.
MS. NULAND: This was something on Ambassador Ford’s website?
QUESTION: Right, on Facebook.
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen it. But as you know, we’ve been putting a regular stream of aerial photography up on his website to make the case that although the Assad regime continues to claim that all the violence is the result of terrorists and bandits, you can very clearly see from this imagery that these are regime forces using very heavy weapons on civilians.
QUESTION: After reading Secretary Clinton’s statements and meetings in Paris, some argued that U.S. doesn’t have Plan B after the Annan – his plan – if the Annan plan fails. And most of the people actually agreed with this assessment, and you hear this from other – across the capitals that the U.S. basically doesn’t have Plan B when people come and ask if these Annan plan fails, what’s going to happen.
MS. NULAND: I think --
QUESTION: Can you tell us confidently that U.S. has Plan B right now if this Annan plan fails soon?
MS. NULAND: I think that’s where we started with this Syria conversation. Plan A is for the Annan plan and the monitors to be successful. Plan B is increasing, unrelenting pressure from all quarters.
Please. Still Syria?
QUESTION: No. It’s not Syria. It’s a new topic.
MS. NULAND: Hold on a sec. Andy, did you have Syria? No? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: On Mali.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any further details on the six Americans who were killed in Bamako in the car crash today – three service members, three civilians?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have it at all. So let me take that. Let me take that.
QUESTION: Okay. There was a statement from AFRICOM that three service members and three civilians were killed in a car crash. And then a follow-up to that --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- after you take it. Since you’ve suspended military aid in Mali, the statement says that the service members were there helping the Embassy. If you could just give more information as to what they were doing.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, they may well have been Marine security guards for our mission. But let me – frankly, I haven’t seen the AFRICOM statement, and we’ll see if we have anything further to say. I would guess that AFRICOM’s probably closest to this situation, but we’ll see what we have.
QUESTION: Another topic. On these reported connections between China and this North Korean missile program, Secretary Panetta yesterday in testimony said that it appeared that there had been Chinese help in certain elements of the North Korean program. We mentioned this with Mark yesterday, but I’m wondering if you can tell us if you’ve raised this with the Chinese. I mean, have these – do these concerns amount to something that you would actually talk to Beijing about?
MS. NULAND: We have. We have raised these alleged assistance of the Chinese Government as part of our ongoing discussions on North Korea.
QUESTION: And have you – have they provided you with any clarification, or what’s been their response?
MS. NULAND: I think we are continuing to talk about the full range of issues with regard to North Korea, including these.
QUESTION: North Korea, too?
MS. NULAND: Yes, please.
QUESTION: North Korea has mentioned yesterday in Pyongyang, North Korea will have – conduct another missile launch soon. What is your comment if there were another missile launch?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we are on this; that it is a very bad idea, that it is a violation of international law, that it is a provocation, and that it’s the wrong way to go.
I want to call your attention to the interview that the Secretary had on – Wednesday or Thursday? What’s today? Friday. Wednesday with Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and he asked her what her message would be to the new Korean leader. And she gives a very full answer about her hopes that he will change course and that he will really begin caring for his people, opening the country, and reforming it in a way that would allow us to reintegrate North Korea into the family of nations, and that he has a choice to make.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about UNESCO? You mentioned that today was UNESCO World Press Day and you spoke about it in a positive term. Does that mean that the United States now – everything is okay between the U.S. and UNESCO?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know --
QUESTION: Is there no longer about – no more bad feelings?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve never had bad feelings. We’ve had, as a matter of U.S. law, the requirement to suspend U.S. assistance to UNESCO. This is a situation we very much regret. It’s a situation we wanted to avoid, but we had no choice.
QUESTION: On Bahrain, some British leaders today said that Grand Prix over the weekend should be canceled. What’s your assessment? Do you think Bahrain is safe this weekend for such a big organization?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything in particular with regard to the travel situation in Bahrain. I would look – suggest that you look on our website where we post our various travel notifications. I will say that we are concerned by the increase in violence in Bahrain, especially leading up to the Formula One race which starts today and goes on through the 22nd. We condemn violence in all of its forms. These are unproductive, unhelpful acts in building the kind of meaningful trust and reconciliation that is needed in Bahrain, and we’re calling for, again, Bahraini Government respect for universal human rights and demonstrators’ restraint in ensuring that they are peaceful.
QUESTION: On the actual event, you don’t think there’s any problems with it going forward and all this international participation in a country that still has kind of serious unresolved questions related to violence, possible human rights violations, et cetera?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the safety and security of the race itself and people’s participation, to my understanding, we have not expressed any new or additional concerns.
QUESTION: I’m asking --
MS. NULAND: With regard to individuals’ decisions whether or not to travel to Bahrain, that’s obviously an individual decision to make.
QUESTION: In light of the controversy over whether Bahrain is doing enough to comply with the terms of
the independent commission’s report, should it have gone ahead with the F1 race this weekend?
MS. NULAND: That’s obviously a decision for the Bahraini Government to make. You know that we have expressed our support for a large number of measures that the Bahraini Government has taken to implement the independent commission’s investigation, but we’ve also been quite clear about the work that remains to be done.
QUESTION: Well, isn’t it also a decision for the Formula One people?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Right. So – but you’re – what you’re saying is that you didn’t get in touch with them to register an opinion one way or another?
MS. NULAND: We did not. We did not.
QUESTION: Then you’re not aware of any – if there are American drivers or crew participating in this race, you’re not aware of any warning or alert or advice that was given especially to them?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we did not issue anything specific with regard to the Formula One.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Campbell returned from his Asian trip – tour yesterday, and I’m
wondering if you have a readout of his meetings there or if he’s debriefed you at all.
MS. NULAND: I haven’t actually seen Assistant Secretary Campbell today, so let us get us – get you a debrief on his trip. Usually, he speaks to the press on each stop. Did he not do that this time?
QUESTION: Usually, he does. Yeah.
MS. NULAND: All right.
QUESTION: Off and on.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Well, we will see what we can get you.
QUESTION: Can we go to other travelers?
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: David Hale?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did he have meetings today? Where is he?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. He remains in the region. He remains engaged with the parties. That’s funny; I don’t have dates here. I think today he met with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho. Yeah. And he’s also going to have dinner with UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry this evening. And tomorrow, he will see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and he will see Prime Minister Fayyad.
Thereafter, he’s going to go on next week to Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Those consultations will be primarily to exchange views about the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing institution-building efforts and to encourage everybody to continue to --
QUESTION: And the fact that that they have no money?
MS. NULAND: -- support that. Right.
QUESTION: So, what, in Jordan as well? I mean, the Jordanians still have the money --
MS. NULAND: He’s going to be briefing in – as you know, the Jordanians, under the leadership of the king and Foreign Minister Judeh have been very much involved in the peace process.
QUESTION: Right. So can – is – are you guys trying to restart the Jordan talks or is it, at this point, any talks anywhere would be welcome?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, any talks anywhere would be welcome, as after the January rounds, the Jordanian role continued in terms of the discussions that they have, that the foreign minister has, that the king has with the parties. So they are continuing to use their good offices. They are continuing to make clear that if the parties want to come back to Amman, they would welcome that. But as the Quartet said – what, was it a week ago – we favor any contacts. And there have been – there has been a contact by letter, there may be other kinds of written communication, and these are the kinds of things that David Hale is trying to encourage, as are the Jordanians.
QUESTION: Do you know – have you weighed in on what you think about the Palestinian letter?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into what David Hale’s message is one way or the other. We are trying to use any kind of contact that these parties are able to have, including their work together on stabilization and institution building in the Palestinian Authority as a way to keep the process going, to encourage them to get back to direct dialogue.
QUESTION: No, I wasn’t asking what his message was. I’m just wondering if you have – I’m not asking even what – if you have, what you have said. I’m just asking, have you proffered an opinion as to what the Palestinians proposed in the letter?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m confident that one of the subjects of the discussion has been the letter – before, during, and after – but I’m not going to get --
QUESTION: So is that a yes?
MS. NULAND: That is a yes.
QUESTION: Do you have a – you have a – okay.
MS. NULAND: But I’m not going to get into the substance of it.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. I mean, we had proximity talks, direct talks, sub-proximity talks in Jordan and so on. Why doesn’t the State Department or the United States of America take the initiative and have – actually call for direct talks, bring in the parties, and go on from where they stopped? Why not?
MS. NULAND: Well, the parties were together in Jordan, and we were very much supportive of that effort. We were talking to both sides, we were being debriefed by both sides, and we continue to encourage that and we continue to be open to any role that the parties think will be helpful. But at the end of the day, they’ve got to sit with each other and they got to work this through.
QUESTION: So, I mean, why do you need the good offices of Jordanians, for instance? I mean, what is the United States doing to actually get this thing in motion?
MS. NULAND: Besides having our envoy in the region for three weeks? Besides having a Quartet meeting at the ministerial level three weeks ago? Obviously, we can continue to facilitate support, et cetera, but these parties have to make the hard decisions, as you know, Said.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. He’s in the region, and he’s going to be there for three weeks?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, he will. He’s there now. He’s then doing this tour next week, and then he’s going to go back and see the Israelis and Palestinians after he’s been in Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Whether it’s three weeks or two and a half, it’s --
QUESTION: Not much of a spring break.
MS. NULAND: He’s taking a lot of shirts. Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m sorry? So he’s – after he does the Gulf, he’s going back to Israel and the Palestinian --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And then is he coming back, or then is he – or is it no?
MS. NULAND: It always is – he basically calls it as he sees it, wherever he can be most helpful.
QUESTION: Sure, a couple questions. One is about Heglig, where it’s – the South Sudanese army has said that it’s pulling out of this disputed town that it went into. Sudan is claiming that they threw them out, and I guess President Kiir has said that he’s pulling back voluntarily based on calls from a variety of parties, including the U.S. What’s the U.S. understanding? Are they leaving? And are they leaving voluntarily, or have they been ejected?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me start with pronunciation. My guys are saying Heglig. You think Heglig?
QUESTION: That’s how the Sudanese are saying it.
MS. NULAND: Interesting. And is there a difference between the way the South Sudanese and --
QUESTION: There’s actually a whole ‘nother town for the South – a whole ‘nother name that the South Sudanese give it, which begins with a P. But --
MS. NULAND: All right. Heglig. Guys, Heglig.
QUESTION: Sorry. Heglig. Either way.
MS. NULAND: All right. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: It sounded – yeah.
QUESTION: That’s how the Sudanese --
MS. NULAND: Interesting.
QUESTION: -- ambassador says Heglig.
MS. NULAND: Well, we welcome the announcement from South Sudan that they will withdraw their forces from Heglig. We urge them to completely and fully withdraw all Sudanese forces from Heglig. In parallel, we’re also calling on the Government of Sudan, as we have regularly, to halt their own cross-border attacks, particularly the provocative aerial bombardments that – so that we can get back to a place where these two sides are working together and using mechanisms like the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism to work through their issues.
As you know, our special envoy, Princeton Lyman, has been there all week. I think he briefed some of you yesterday by telephone. He had a very productive series of meetings in Juba and in Khartoum. And yesterday he made clear that it’s not just the United States; it’s the entire international community that’s working together to get this violence ended.
QUESTION: Is he going to stay in the region, do you know? I mean, he mentioned a couple of – an AU and an Arab League meetings which are going to be about this issue early next week. Do you think, is he going to stick around for those?
MS. NULAND: It wasn’t clear to me if he’s coming home and going back, or whether somebody else is representing us at those other meetings. We’ll get some more for you next week.
QUESTION: Yeah, so (inaudible) that the situation may not be now on the verge of war, as the ambassador had suggested or implied in his conversation yesterday with reporters?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think as he made clear yesterday, he’s been trying to walk both sides back from the brink, as has the African Union. And the concern was that this Heglig situation was very much a flash point that could sort of explode into a much larger conflagration. So there again, it is good news that we have an announcement from the South that they’re going to pull back. They now have to implement that, and the North has got to – and Sudan has got to stop what it’s doing as well.
QUESTION: What about the situations in Abyei and South Kordofan and in Blue Nile? Have there been any steps of progress made in those areas? Because those have been some of his concerns earlier in the year.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the problem is that whenever there is violence anywhere, it makes it more difficult for these parties to do what they need to do to finalize arrangements anywhere else. So Abyei, Blue Nile, et cetera, always suffer when there’s violence and they can’t get back to basic work to implement the CPA, et cetera. So we had had some progress in Abyei, but I think everything’s sort of on hold while this situation gets settled, is my understanding.
All right, everybody. One last one in the back? Yeah.
QUESTION: I hope I didn’t introduce the wrong pronunciation of this Heglig. I’ll check it out, but --
MS. NULAND: Well, now I’m in it with you guys. We’re going to find out.
QUESTION: Yeah. No, this is something totally different.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Today the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in. He came to D.C. , and among the things that he said is that he wants people to tweet @BarackObama to have him go the Rio + 20 summit in June. So I wanted to know, one, what your thinking is both about the President going and about the summit. There was a finance ministers meeting at the IMF – or the World Bank on this topic, except Geithner didn’t – Secretary Geithner didn’t go. Somebody else went. But what is – what’s the U.S. position on Rio + 20, and will the President go?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we’re strongly supportive of the Rio + 20 efforts, With regard to whether the President’s going to go, I’m going to send you to the White House on that one. And I had not seen Ban Ki-moon’s tweets, but I think it’s interesting.
QUESTION: He tweets at people.
MS. NULAND: He tweets at people. Tweets at people. I barely know how to do that. Thank you. All right. Happy weekend, everyone.