Friday, September 09, 2011

My Qs and As w/Spox Nuland, Turkey portion of the briefing September 09, 2011

[Red Colors questions asked by other reporters on Turkey related matters]

Turkey-Israel Rel., Turkish Gunboats/Aid vessels, possible NATO involvement, Cyprus/Israel natural sources
QUESTION: What do you have to say about the latest disagreement between your two allies, Israel and Turkey? Turkey, as you, I’m sure, know – Prime Minister Erdogan has said that Turkish ships would – Turkish naval vessels would escort any Gaza relief flotillas in the future and an Israeli official described this as harsh and serious. Any comment? Are you doing anything to try to ease tensions between your allies?
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Arshad. We are quite concerned, as I said yesterday. We are talking to both the Israelis and the Turks. We are urging both sides to refrain from rhetoric or actions that could be provocative, that could contribute to tensions. Assistant Secretary Gordon is going to meet with Turkish Ambassador Tan today. We’ve also been talking to the Israelis. Obviously, we would like to see both sides cool it and get back to a place where they can have a productive relationship.

QUESTION: And – but can you tell us just what were the – what have been the level of contacts with the Israeli side? Has that been with the Israeli ambassador here or has that been done in Israel? And if so, by whom?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, the Hale and Ross team did broach the subject in their meetings, but there has been follow-up, as I understand it, by our ambassador in Tel Aviv.
QUESTION: Would Turkish warships escorting Turkish ships – in this case, in international water – be deemed as provocative?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support the right of free navigation, obviously. But we are concerned about any action that could be perceived as provocative, that could escalate tensions. We want to see these two strong allies of the United States get along with each other and work together in support of regional peace and security. So that’s the message we’re giving both.
QUESTION: Quick follow-up on that: One of the biggest issue that Turkey has been taking is these exploration plans, which an American energy firm is going to start next month, I believe. What’s your understanding of the situation?
MS. NULAND: Are you talking about the drilling for oil --
QUESTION: Right, and gas.
MS. NULAND: -- off the coast of Cyprus? Is that what you’re referring to?
QUESTION: Cyprus, and also Israel has some plans as well. It’s – the same company is doing it. And Turkey – actually the prime minister said Turkey’s not going to let Israel to exploit sources in the Eastern Mediterranean.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re obviously aware of the Turkish Government position on this issue. With regard to the U.S. Government position on this issue, we strongly support efforts by both Cypriot parties to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We believe that securing energy supplies through better energy diversity is of value to all of the people of Cyprus and of value to the region. We have a U.S. company involved, Noble Energy. And we believe this a positive thing, and that energy diversity in Europe, including increased energy supply from Cyprus, would be a positive.
MS. NULAND: We’ve made those views clear to the Turkish Government.
QUESTION: You said that – all people of Cyprus, but the problem is the separatist de facto separated. So the Turkish argument is these deals only work for the Greek Cyprus, is the --
MS. NULAND: Again, this is why we have so strongly supported the efforts led by the United Nations to try to settle these issues. We’ve also made clear that we believe that the energy resources ought to be equally shared.

QUESTION: While we’re still on the topic, Israel?
QUESTION: No. We’re staying on Turkey and the naval ships. Does this have any – are there any NATO implications to this?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what you would be thinking about there, Matt. Can you clarify?
QUESTION: Yeah. If, in the – in keeping with your answering of hypothetical questions over the last several days, if Turkish warships do accompany Turkish civilian ships in a flotilla to Gaza, and if there is some kind of confrontation with the Israelis, are there NATO implications for that?
 MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’re into three levels of hypotheticals, so I think I will decline to speculate.
 QUESTION: Have you talked to the Turks about what – about any possible NATO implications should their ships be involved in some kind of an incident with the Israelis?

MS. NULAND: As I said, we are talking to the Turks today. We’ve been talking to the Turks for many weeks --

MS. NULAND: -- about avoiding provocative action or rhetoric.
QUESTION: Right. And would the – so have you told them that having warships accompany flotillas, Gaza-bound flotillas, would be provocative?
MS. NULAND: I think you know where we’ve been on Gaza-bound flotillas.
QUESTION: Please, enlighten me again.
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have anything new to say about that.
QUESTION: Have you told the Turks that it would be provocative for them to send warships with flotillas that are headed to Gaza?
MS. NULAND: Meetings that are happening today, that have been happening over the last few days, have made clear that we are concerned about provocative action, about provocative rhetoric.
QUESTION: I’m asking if you think that that is a provocative action or provocative --
MS. NULAND: I think I’ve said about as much as I want to say about our diplomacy with the parties.
QUESTION: I realize that you have said as much as you want to say, but that’s not answering the question. The question is: Have you told the Turks that it is – that this would be a provocative action?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go any further into our diplomacy than to say that we’re urging both sides to refrain from provocative action.
QUESTION: Well, regardless of whether you told the Turks – I understand there have been meetings that are ongoing about this – do you think that would be provocative?
MS. NULAND: As I said, we are concerned, and we are sending this signal privately and publicly that we do not want to see either side engage in provocative action or action that raises tension.
QUESTION: And one other one, just to take Matt’s double or triple hypothetical to a single hypothetical. If Israeli forces were to come into – were to engage Turkish forces, would that not then not have implications for NATO, given that Turkey is a member of the alliance?

MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking us to hypothetical places that we don’t want this situation to get to, which is why we are talking to both sides now.
QUESTION: Well, when you say that you don’t want either side to take provocative actions, are you – is there something out there that the Israelis have said that they would do that you think might be provocative as well?
 MS. NULAND: As I said, we are urging both sides to keep the rhetoric and keep the actions in a constructive and productive tone and channel.
QUESTION: Egypt. There is still no clear date for the parliamentary election. What’s your view on that? Have you received any satisfying answer why this process is dragging?
MS. NULAND: I think the Egyptians are trying to work this out themselves. And we are encouraging that and we are standing by for them to make their own internal decisions.
QUESTION: You just described the type of UN Security Council resolution you have been seeking. What is the latest update on that? I think you have been working on it for a while. Do you see anything happening anytime soon?
MS. NULAND: We are consulting in New York. Those consultations will continue. I would refer you up there for more detail, but I think we are looking at accelerating that work next week, if we can.
QUESTION: On Turkey, the prime – the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is going to start his trip to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya starting Monday. First of all, are you coordinating with Ankara on this trip, or is there any expectation from Prime Minister Erdogan of messages that you want to be coordinated, or anything on the?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary, as you know, saw Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu – it was a week and some ago in Paris. He mentioned this trip, and obviously we talked in that meeting and talk in all meetings about the full range of issues in the region that we work on. I think the conversation between Assistant Secretary Gordon and Ambassador Tan today will be another opportunity to hear from the Turkish side what the goals of the trip are, but we are both supporting good, strong democratic transitions in Egypt and Libya, and trying to do what we can to play our role in the international support function.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Gordon and Ambassador Tan is having a meeting today?
MS. NULAND: Yes. I think I said that earlier. Yeah. They – I think their meeting is completed now.
QUESTION: Yeah. Today, the State announced formation of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which has 30 countries in it. And since this is a U.S. initiative, I didn’t find the name of Afghanistan in this. Has Afghanistan not been invited or Afghanistan hasn’t shown interest in this forum?
MS. NULAND: Did we release all of the 30 names?
QUESTION: Yes, yeah.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I can’t speak to our conversation with Afghanistan on this, but this is something that, as you know, the Secretary announced in her speech today. It’s designed to be a place to share best practices, information sharing, particularly on the civilian side of counterterrorism. It’ll be formally inaugurated in New York at the UN General Assembly, with U.S. and Turkey chairing that meeting.
This organization is based on individual countries saying that they want to join. I frankly can’t speak to whether Afghanistan has been consulted, but we’re obviously interested in more members if they want to join.

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