Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:
QUESTION: Central African Republic.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: During the break, we learned of the evacuation of U.S. diplomatic personnel from Bangui. Can you tell us what the situation is now and if the U.S. is supporting the Central African troops that are in the capital?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did issue - I think it was New Year's Eve - we issued a statement of concern about the situation on the ground in the Central African Republic. We remain deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic. We understand that the Seleka rebels took the town of Sibut over the weekend. We call on the rebel alliance to cease its hostilities and its movement towards the capital, and we also call on the government and the rebel alliance to ensure the safety of the civilian population.
We also call on CAR Government to ensure that its own security forces respect the rights of the civilian population. We're particularly concerned by allegations regarding the arbitrary arrest and disappearances of individuals who are members of ethnic groups with ties to the Seleka rebels. And we also reiterate our call that those who are responsible for crimes under international law be held to account. So we are watching very carefully.
As you know, we had some U.S. troops in Chad to aid in the evacuation of our Embassy folk from Bangui. They have now left, is my understanding.
QUESTION: Does that evacuation from Bangui affect U.S.-supported efforts to track down the Lord's Resistance Army in the Central African Republic?
MS. NULAND: No. These are separate issues, and our efforts with regards to Lord's are based, as you know, in Uganda.
QUESTION: Is there any suggestion that the rebellion that President Bozize is currently facing has some link to the Lord's Resistance Army as a way to weaken his government and his allies who are - including yourself - who are trying to run down the LRA?
MS. NULAND: At this stage, we don't have any indication of connections between the rebel movement and the continued presence of Lord's in that piece of the Central African Republic far to the east. In fact, the geography's pretty dispersed if you look at it.
QUESTION: Toria, are you aware of the reports that the rebels say that they've halted their advance on the capital and that they've agreed to start peace talks?
MS. NULAND: Our understanding is that both sides are making better noises about sitting down together, but it's still talks about talks at this stage. And again, we call for a halt to the advance and we call for everybody to get to the table.
QUESTION: So do you not believe that the rebels have indeed halted their advance, as they say they have?
MS. NULAND: Well as I said, they took Sibut over the weekend.
MS. NULAND: We want to see it stop. We want to see them all get to the table now.
QUESTION: So - but, wait a minute. You don't - I mean --
MS. NULAND: They haven't moved beyond Sibut since the weekend is my understanding.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.