An excerpt from a U.S. State Department briefing by spokesperson Victoria Nuland on June 15:
QUESTION: Yesterday you said that you were looking into or inquiring with the Egyptians as to what exactly was going on there with this court decision and parliament being dissolved. I'm wondering if you managed to get any clarity on this, or is it still Nile-like opaque?
MS. NULAND: Nile-like opaque. I like that. It's elegant, Matt.
Well, we are continuing to monitor the situation in Egypt. We're looking closely at the decisions that were made yesterday and their full implications. Our sense of this is it's not exactly clear to Egyptians themselves what the path forward is. But if in fact the conclusion is that there need to be new parliamentary elections, our hope is that they could happen swiftly and that they reflect the will of the Egyptian people.
More importantly, as you know, or equally importantly, this weekend we have the second round of the Egyptian presidential elections. And we are hoping and expecting that these will be free, fair, transparent, that the monitors and witnesses who the Egyptian Government have invited in will be able to be present throughout the country and will be able to give reassurance to the Egyptian people about the outcome.
And finally, as you know, the Supreme Command of the Allied Forces in Egypt has pledged to turn over power --
QUESTION: Isn't that a NATO --
QUESTION: Supreme Council - (inaudible) --
MS. NULAND: Council of Allied Forces. There you go. Thank you. The SCAF has pledged to step down, turn over power to the elected leader on July 1st, and we expect them to meet that commitment to the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: But in terms of the parliamentary election, you don't - even though you thought the first one was fine and dandy, you don't have a problem? You don't see a particular problem with just redoing it?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we respect the independence of Egypt's judiciary.
QUESTION: You do?
MS. NULAND: But we are troubled by this court ruling yesterday that will effectively dissolve a democratically elected parliament. So now the question is: The court has called for new elections. If, in fact, that's the direction that Egypt goes, they need to be swift, they need to be fully democratic, free, transparent, so that we can move on to giving the Egyptian people what they want, which is an elected president and an elected parliament and a system that is permanent and sustainable.
QUESTION: When exactly did you come to the - did you decide that the Egyptian judiciary was independent? Since Mubarak was toppled?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have --
QUESTION: When was that - when did that light bulb click?
MS. NULAND: We've never taken specific issue with the independence of the judiciary in this recent year. What we've been concerned about, as you know, with regard to other things has been politicization.
QUESTION: Do you - just to follow up, I mean, do you regard the decision by this court yesterday as one taken solely on the merits and entirely untainted by any political bias?
MS. NULAND: You're asking us to make judgments that the Egyptian people have to make. As I said, we had concerns. The remedy here, if it is to be a new election, is for that election to happen swiftly and for the Egyptian people to have full confidence in it.
QUESTION: But you make judgments - you meaning the Obama Administration and past Administrations - make judgments all the time about prosecutions and court decisions. We had an example just yesterday where you noted the reduction of the sentences of the medics in Bahrain, but you regretted that nine of them still have prison sentences and you wish that an alternative had been found. In the Human Rights Report you released just a month ago, you routinely look at prosecutions and will determine whether you - and say bluntly whether you think they are politicized or not. And it - in saying that you respect the independence of the Egyptian judiciary, I think it's worth hearing whether the United States has a judgment on whether this was an impartial, according to the law, verdict by the court or not.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I've said, Arshad, that the full implications and the full understanding of how the court ruled and why it ruled are things that we are still talking to Egyptians about and trying to understand. And our understanding is that Egyptians themselves are trying to understand the court ruling.
But we're troubled that yesterday's court ruling did appear to dissolve this independent parliament. So that is the point that we're at now. We'll continue to try to understand it. But if, in fact, the conclusion is that this set of parliamentary elections has to be rerun, we want that done as quickly as possible, and we don't want it to hold up the turning over of power by the SCAF to elected Egyptians.
QUESTION: And do you believe - does the Administration believe - we heard a lot during the period and soon after Mubarak's ouster about the importance of the longstanding ties between the U.S. military and the Egyptian military. And of course, it is the Egyptian military through the council that continues to run the country today.
Does the Obama Administration believe it has any influence over the SCAF and over the decisions it does or does not take toward democracy in Egypt? Do you think you have any influence over the SCAF, given the long history of American-Egyptian military ties on these matters, or not?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, throughout this transition in Egypt, we have worked hard to keep our ties open to the SCAF, to be in dialogue with them, as we are with all of the other forces in Egypt and a broad cross-section of the political parties. We were pleased when a clear transition, including elections for parliament and president, were set by the SCAF. We were very pleased when they made their commitment that they would step down and turn over power on July 1st. So our message to them is the same message that we're giving publicly, which is that they've made a commitment to the Egyptian people, the Egyptian people expect them to keep it, and so does the international community.
QUESTION: The fact that you're making this point in public and in private suggests that you don't actually believe that they will turn over power. I mean, if you were absolutely certain that they would, why would you be talking about it?
MS. NULAND: I think you're overanalyzing now.
QUESTION: Victoria, very quickly, an Egyptian legislator described what happened as a military coup through the courts and instead of tanks. Do you agree with that characterization?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to characterize it one way or other, except to say that we have stood by the Egyptian people all year long in support of their aspirations to have a free, fair, transparent, democratic, permanent transfer of power, for them to make the choice in how they are governed. And we stand by that and we want to see that happen and we want to see it happen in a constitutional way.
QUESTION: But you don't see this as tainting the transition to democracy?
MS. NULAND: Again, Said, I think we've spoken to our concerns about the process and what we want to see happen now.
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, there is a - supposedly a delegation of Al-Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood, coming to town next week. Do you know anything about that?
MS. NULAND: I'm not sure who would have - who invited them. I don't have any particular information at this point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) next door?
MS. NULAND: Are we done with Egypt? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, Libya.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if you have any thoughts or concerns about the detention of the ICC staff, including some lawyers.
MS. NULAND: Well, we are continuing to be in touch with the Government of Libya about that, and we are pressing them for an urgent resolution of this matter. The United States and others, including the ICC itself, have been concerned about these four who have been detained since June 7th. We have said to the Government of Libya, and we will say it here, that we consider that they are obligated under Resolution 1970 to cooperate fully and provide any necessary assistance to the court pursuant to that resolution. And we're also urging them to safeguard the well-being of Mrs. Taylor and her three colleagues and to ensure that they're granted appropriate consular access.
QUESTION: May I change the subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: Next week, we have - apart from the Los Cabos meeting, we also have in Rio the UN Environment Summit. What is the U.S. hopes for what could come out of this summit, given that a lot of protagonists seem to be pretty pessimistic that anything concrete or any fixed dates will come out of it?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, to say that the Secretary will be leading the U.S. delegation. I think we put out a notice about that. I would expect that in advance of her departure, probably Tuesday or so, we'll have a broader briefing about our expectations and hopes. But this is 20 years on since the first Rio conference. We'll take stock of all of the goals that were set then, and I think the United States has a strong record of leadership both at home and abroad on all of these global sustainability issues, so we will want to share our experience.
I think the other great benefit of the Rio conference - and we'll be talking more about this when we brief - is that it's not just leaders meeting. There'll be a business component, there'll be an NGO component. There'll also be a local government component, given the role that the local government plays now in supporting sustainable development. So stay tuned; we'll have more for you next week.
QUESTION: Are you going to be meeting with any idea of a fixed kind of program that comes out of it, fixed dates for addressing some of these issues?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. My understanding is that they are negotiating now a statement that will come out of the meeting, and we're very much engaged in those negotiations, but --
QUESTION: I believe only about three paragraphs of that statement have actually been agreed yet, so what is the --
MS. NULAND: Well --
QUESTION: What are the holdups?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to speak about the negotiations that are happening on a statement that hasn't been issued, but again, we'll have more to say in the middle of next week, I would guess.
QUESTION: Are you also going to do - although I'm not sure you can today, being the date that it is, the 15th - for the P-5+1?
MS. NULAND: What we generally do there is that those members of the press who travel with Under Secretary Sherman or meet her, we do some kind of a - we do a background briefing in advance, then the meetings happen, then usually the EU speaks for the P-5. So that's our expectation.
QUESTION: Is that - that's the plan?
MS. NULAND: That is the plan.
Anything else, guys?
MS. NULAND: Happy Friday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:11 p.m.)