Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:
QUESTION: A new topic, Ethiopia.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister - have you guys been in touch with the Deputy Prime Minister on the - since the passing of Prime Minister Zenawi, and are you guys concerned about power struggle with in Ethiopia with the death of Prime Minister Meles?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just point all of you - as you know, the White House issued a condolence message on behalf of the President at the passing of Prime Minister Meles, and I'm anticipating, if it's not already out, a similar statement from the Secretary of State.
Our understanding is, at the moment, that things are going relatively smoothly, that the process is that the parliament has to be called back into session, that there is - that that's already been set, I think, for tomorrow. And then the parliament has to choose a new prime minister, and that that process is expected to go forward in coming days. So obviously, we would hope for a smooth constitutional change.
With regard to whether we've been in touch with the Deputy Prime Minister, I would expect that our Embassy probably has been in touch with senior levels of the government on issues including the funeral for Prime Minister Meles.
QUESTION: Do you - or do you have any message for the incoming government regarding security policies, particularly on Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn? I mean, are you expecting that any government that succeeds Meles will have the same security stance that his government did on these various issues of mutual cooperation?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Andy, the Government of Ethiopia has been a very strong partner in Somalia and elsewhere. We do not anticipate at this stage that there would be any diminution of their commitment to security missions in Africa, but obviously they - that is something that we would hope could - would continue. If you look at the President's statement, he does encourage Ethiopia to continue to move forward, not only as a security partner, but as an economic player, and to make more progress in human rights and democracy going forward.
QUESTION: It's another subject, Toria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: No. Can we just - one more on --
MS. NULAND: Stay on Ethiopia? Yeah. Scott.
QUESTION: Yeah. He was a good ally for Somalia and Sudan, but not so much on political freedoms and treatment of the press. Is it your hope that a new government in Ethiopia would improve those conditions, which are regularly outlined in your human rights reports?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you say, Scott, we have not been shy about expressing concern where it's necessary, particularly with regard to journalist freedom, human rights, et cetera. So you'll note that there is a reference to that in the public statements that we're making today, and we would always look for further improvements that can strengthen the system and support for people across Ethiopia.
QUESTION: Just to stay on that momentarily - I don't expect you to have an answer to this because I just thought of it, and I don't know if anyone here has thought of it - have you been in touch with the Eritreans at all? And are you..? About this?
MS. NULAND: You mean in the wake of the Prime Minister's death?
QUESTION: Yes. Exactly. And if there - if you're aware or expecting any change in the rather Stalinist attitude that the Eritreans had towards Ethiopia in the wake of - now that - well, because a lot of this seemed to be personal animosity between Isaias and Meles.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Let me take that one, Matt. I frankly don't know if we've had much contact with the Eritreans in the last 24 hours.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:39 p.m.)