Daily Press Briefing
Mark C. Toner
Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
June 2, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing
o Secretary Clinton Will Host Business Forum on Friday / Commercial Opportunities in Iraq
o Release of Secretary Clinton's Statement on Honduras' Admission to OAS (Organization of American States)
o Google Allegations / FBI Investigating / Department of State Cyber Security Awareness
o Eman al-Obeidi / U.S. Aware of Her Return to Benghazi / U.S. Contact / Monitoring Situation in Libya / Individuals Detained in Libya
o President Asad / U.S. Wants President Asad to Seize Whatever Opportunity Remains / Syrian Opposition / Issue of Asad's Legitimacy / U.S. Working with International Partners to Put Pressure on Asad's Regime / Human Rights Abuses / Arab League / Basic Criteria Looks at What is Happening in Syria / U.S. Maintains Diplomatic Relations with Syria
o Secretary Clinton Had Constructive Meetings in Islamabad / Counterterrorism Cooperation
o Consular Personnel in Beirut Providing Assistance to Injured U.S. Citizen
o President Saleh / Ordered Departure Indicates U.S. Level of Concern / Effort to Convince President Saleh to Sign Agreement / GCC Proposal
* MIDDLE EAST PEACE
o Continued Consultations with Both Parties, Quartet / David Hale / Ultimate Goal is to Get Back to Negotiating Table / A French Initiative / Mitchell's Departure / Framework Agreement / Hamas
o Durban Commemoration / 2001 Durban Declaration
o Counternarcotics / Enforcing Existing Laws
1:29 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Great. Just very briefly at the top, I did want to call your attention to the fact that tomorrow Secretary Clinton will lead the Department of State in hosting a business forum with senior executives from major U.S. corporations from across our economy to discuss opportunities in Iraq. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides will also moderate discussions between senior officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, and Energy, and the corporate executives. Senior Iraqi Government officials will also deliver remarks.
While businesses entering into the Iraqi market continue to face hurdles, including a greatly improved but still difficult security environment, some positive developments, such as rising oil revenues, expected double-digit domestic economic growth, and significant investments in infrastructure, and a stable democratic government, point to the conclusion that Iraq represents a unique business opportunity, which would benefit both the United States and Iraq.
The Department of State wants to ensure that commercial opportunities in Iraq are not lost at this critical juncture. Some U.S. companies have seized opportunities there, but many more opportunities exist. In many cases, U.S. firms are well placed to bring their expertise to bear in the Iraqi market. Given America’s reputation for innovation and quality, Iraqi entrepreneurs are also anxious to partner with U.S. counterparts. So that’s tomorrow and at approximately 10:30, I believe, is when the Secretary will make remarks.
That’s all I have. Matt.
QUESTION: Mark, I need to start with --
MR. TONER: It’s here. Yes, it is here.
MR. TONER: Sure, I can give you the nitty-gritty. It’ll be at 10:30 – sorry, Matt, one second – in the Ben Franklin --
QUESTION: Didn’t this go out as a statement?
MR. TONER: Yeah. It did. In the Ben Franklin Room, and there is a Media Note on this.
QUESTION: Yeah. Listen, I just need to follow up on this housekeeping matter that I raised yesterday, because in less than 24 hours, of course, it happened again. As Arturo just noted, yesterday at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the OAS – or roughly about 2 o'clock, the OAS agreed to readmit Honduras. And I’m just wondering why it took more than eight hours for the Secretary’s statement to come out, given the fact that this was not an unexpected development. In fact, we knew at a certain point the Secretary planned to go over to the OAS and speak to them.
MR. TONER: And we felt it was important to get her comments out on this noteworthy occasion. And look, Matt, it’s – we’re a 24/7 operation, but I am sensitive to the fact that we don’t want these coming out too late in the evening and miss your guys’ news cycle. That said, oftentimes these are – we want to get the language right and we want to make sure that we’re saying the right things, and that’s a group process in the State Department. But we’re trying to make sure that we’ll get it out earlier in the evening to respect your deadlines.
QUESTION: Well, look, this is not a question of our convenience or our deadlines necessarily. It’s a question of this building being able to get its act together and to come out with a statement on something that is of alleged importance to the government within a reasonable time. And I think more than eight hours is too long. Either it isn’t as big a priority as all officials claim it to be --
MR. TONER: I can assure you it’s a big priority. It’s --
QUESTION: -- or there’s a serious problem in the clearance process. Anyway, thanks.
MR. TONER: Well, anyway, all right. We’ll agree to disagree and we’ll try to make better efforts to get it out earlier in the evening.
QUESTION: The Secretary made some comments this morning about the situation with the Google allegations about hacking of its Gmail accounts in China. I’m wondering if you have anything to add to that. She said the FBI was going to be --
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- investigating these allegations. Are you aware of anyone – was there anyone in this building or anywhere else in the U.S. Government who was affected by this, do you know?
MR. TONER: At this point, I don’t believe we’re aware that anyone is – was affected in this building. As the Secretary said yesterday, Google did make us aware of the situation prior to their public announcement. And obviously, they’re serious. We continue to look into the possibility that some individuals here may have been affected. But really, the FBI has the lead on this, and as well as Google.
QUESTION: When you said affected, do you mean targeted?
MR. TONER: Again, we just don’t know at this point.
QUESTION: Or do you mean successfully targeted?
MR. TONER: I think it’s difficult to say, frankly, at this point.
QUESTION: No. But you said you don’t think anybody’s been affected.
MR. TONER: Affected.
QUESTION: That either means that they --
MR. TONER: I would say both.
QUESTION: -- weren’t targeted, or it means that they weren’t hacked into, right?
MR. TONER: Well, I would say both.
MR. TONER: I mean, we don’t know in either case whether that’s happened to any individuals within the State Department.
QUESTION: Well, Google said in its statement that it had notified the people who had been – you’re not aware that anyone in this building --
MR. TONER: We were notified --
QUESTION: No, no, no, specific – individually they’ve been notified.
MR. TONER: Then we’re not aware that any have been notified.
QUESTION: And is there any --
MR. TONER: If that changes – but again, I want to be very careful because FBI is looking into this matter, so they have the lead, obviously.
QUESTION: Just to put some stuff sort of on the record in black and white --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: -- is there any prohibition against U.S. Government officials using private email services such as Gmail for their personal, non-classified, non-official --
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there any – there are certain agencies – the SEC, to cite an independent agency in the U.S. Government – which bars its employees from accessing private accounts like Gmail while they’re at work. Is there anything that bars U.S. Government – State Department officials from accessing Gmail at work?
MR. TONER: There is not. I think the general rule – first of all, you’re right; on the first account that State Department employees are not prohibited from having private email accounts. We all do it. That said – or many of us do it. That said, we all undergo, I think, annual cyber awareness security reviews, programs. And in fact, that even extends into when we log on, in fact, we get constantly quizzed on our cyber security awareness. And I think it’s important to say that in that training, it’s stressed that there’s no assumption of confidentiality in any kind of personal email account and that you should obviously act accordingly.
I’m sorry, your last – what was your – oh, are we prohibited during the workday? As far as I’m aware, we are not. Obviously, though, that use should be limited. But I’m not aware that we’re prohibited from using it in the workplace.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Clinton have a Gmail account?
MR. TONER: I do not know.
QUESTION: To clarify, were any of the people who worked in the U.S. Government State Department employees?
MR. TONER: Again, I just don’t think we – I thought I had clarified that, but --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. TONER: Again, we were notified by Google. I’m not aware that individuals within the State Department have been notified at all.
QUESTION: Well, the reason I ask is because I also asked this question over at the Pentagon, and they said that their agency specifically had not been contacted by Google and it was their understanding that other agencies within the U.S. Government had been contacted about this attempt at a breach. And so I just wanted to, one, clear that up --
MR. TONER: My understanding is that it hasn’t been – it hasn’t affected any of our employees. But again, we’re looking into that.
QUESTION: Well, did they contact you because you – because you’re the primary interlocutor with the Chinese? I mean, is that why they contacted you?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure why. I just know that they gave us things that --
QUESTION: Have you talked to the Chinese about it?
MR. TONER: -- they alerted us to the – we have not. As far as I’m aware, we have not raised it with him because, frankly, this is – I mean, obviously, in terms of an investigation into the matter, the FBI has the lead. And then Google is also looking into the matter.
QUESTION: But I mean, Google said that they believed that it most likely originated from a particular part of China. The last time there was a belief that Google itself had been the victim of a Chinese-inspired attack, the U.S. Government did have conversations with the Chinese, including at the level of the assistant secretary for EAP. And so I wonder why you would not reach out and say--
MR. TONER: But again, these are – okay, these are alleged hackings. The FBI is investigating it. Google has come out publicly and acknowledged that these – that this has happened or that – made these allegations. They’re investigating it. But let’s be clear that right now the FBI has the lead. We are obviously very much aware of the seriousness of the situation. I think the Secretary spoke more broadly this morning about that it underscores why cyber security is such a pressing issue and why we’ve got Chris Painter in place to look at these issues across the government and indeed internationally. But in terms of this specific case, the FBI has got the lead in investigating it and Google’s also looking into it, but we’ll wait to see what comes out of that.
QUESTION: So just so I understand. The reason, then, that you haven’t asked the Chinese is what? Is it that you are worried that asking the Chinese Government about it might in some way taint the FBI’s investigation?
MR. TONER: No, I think --
QUESTION: Do you think that there’s insufficient evidence?
MR. TONER: I think there’s – I think we’ll wait and see how this – yeah, I mean, we’ve got allegations of hackers in China who have been – who have carried out this alleged incident. So
QUESTION: Is there --
MR. TONER: I mean, it’s – so --
QUESTION: It’s just not enough – it’s just not – I mean, see, the problem is the Secretary calls it serious, right?
MR. TONER: It is serious.
QUESTION: Okay. Google says they believe it originated in China --
MR. TONER: It is serious, but it’s not --
QUESTION: But it’s not serious enough to ask the Chinese about it?
MR. TONER: -- but that doesn’t necessarily say that it was state-sponsored. And again, I – FBI’s looking into it, I think I’ve spoken to this enough.
QUESTION: Is there a sense, or was there a heightened sense of awareness of the potential for any sort of outside hacking given that Lockheed Martin, 10 days ago, reported some sort of attempt to breach its computer systems, and then (inaudible) and the DOD --
MR. TONER: I think we wake up every day with the awareness that everybody’s private email accounts are vulnerable to – I mean, my own account’s been hacked into before, but for who knows what. I don’t have any assumption of confidentiality when I use that.
QUESTION: But I’m talking about computer systems that were being used in a government environment. Lockheed has this deal with the Pentagon --
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- and so there’s this – already this heightened sense of monitoring, looking out for anything unusual. That same kind of awareness didn’t ratchet up here in the past week?
MR. TONER: I would say that we always have that heightened sense of awareness given the vulnerabilities and the constant threat of cyber attacks.
QUESTION: Mark, am I correct in thinking that it is impossible to forward a – to automatically forward from a classified system – a classified email to a private email account?
MR. TONER: I believe so.
QUESTION: And does that apply – is it possible to forward an unclassified email from the --
MR. TONER: To a private email account?
QUESTION: To a private --
MR. TONER: I believe that is possible.
QUESTION: It is possible? So it is possible that there are employees of the State Department or other government agencies – I don’t want to take on State, since you’re the State Department spokesman --
MR. TONER: Again, it’s – again --
QUESTION: It is possible for them to have it programmed, have their work computer here programmed to forward --
MR. TONER: Not programmed. I believe that’s impossible.
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MR. TONER: But you can forward, I believe, individual emails.
QUESTION: So it can’t be done automatically?
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: Can we change?
MR. TONER: Can we move on? Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: On Libya --
MR. TONER: Sure. I’m sorry, I’ll get to you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: This is about Eman al-Obeidi, the woman who was --
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- raped in Libya. And she has said that, and her family has said that she was in Qatar and she was forcibly removed from her bed, taken by government aircraft back from Qatar to Benghazi against her wishes; the UNHCR has confirmed this. Have you been contacted in any way?
MR. TONER: We have. We’ve been monitoring the situation and are indeed very concerned about her safety, and we have even spoken to her in recent days. We’re aware that there is a plan to offer her protection, possibly to a third country, and we’re going to continue to work in the coming days with the appropriate international organizations to – first of all, to ensure that she’s safe, and secondly, to possibly get her out.
QUESTION: So you’re in direct touch with her then?
MR. TONER: We are.
QUESTION: At what level?
QUESTION: And what --
QUESTION: You said direct? Didn’t you say, we talked to her?
MR. TONER: We said we’ve spoken to her in recent days, yeah.
QUESTION: Since she’s been --
MR. TONER: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Since she’s been forcibly removed from --
MR. TONER: I think you said – I’m sorry. You --
QUESTION: No, no, I thought we said indirect and I just wanted to make sure.
QUESTION: Since she’s been removed from Qatar you’ve been in touch with her?
MR. TONER: That I’m not sure. I’d have to look.
QUESTION: I mean, the idea is that, allegedly, the Qatari Government physically took her out of Qatar and took – and sent her back to Benghazi against international refugee regulations.
MR. TONER: Again, this is obviously a very sensitive issue. I’ll just say that – I’ll repeat what I just said, which is that we are in touch with her, we’ve been in touch with her recently, we’re very much aware of her case, and we’re working with the appropriate international organizations, as I said, to make sure that she’s safe.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. At what level, again, was that contact?
MR. TONER: What level is the interaction?
QUESTION: Yeah. You said you’d been in touch with her.
MR. TONER: Well, I would say at a variety of levels.
QUESTION: Okay. And that – sorry, just real quick to follow. Have you talked to the Qataris about this now, since the allegations of it?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure. I was trying to find out before coming out here and didn’t – wasn’t able to confirm.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, do you have any statement on what the Qataris allegedly did?
MR. TONER: Again, I want to find out more about what they allegedly did before I would comment on it. What I think is most important is that we’re aware that she’s been returned to Benghazi, and we’re following her case very closely and we’re going to make every effort to ensure that she’s safe.
QUESTION: Are you worried that she was expelled?
MR. TONER: I think we’re concerned for her safety given what’s – all that’s happened to her, and we’re going to work to make sure that she’s – that she’s kept safe, first and foremost, and that she finds appropriate asylum.
QUESTION: On Syria.
QUESTION: No. Could we stay on Libya for a second?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Have you – do you have any update at all on the search or the quest for information about this guy Matthew VanDyke from Baltimore and the other Americans who are missing there?
MR. TONER: I don’t, Matt, except to say that we continue to follow a variety of leads and contacts and try to find out more information and appeal to the Libyan Government to release these individuals. They’ve done nothing. They should be released, and they’re simply caught up in this conflict.
QUESTION: You’re – you have some information that they are detained?
MR. TONER: I believe we – some of them are detained. We talked about these – the Americans who remain behind. But obviously, we had two released and who made it out to Tripoli a couple weeks ago, and that was in indeed good news.
MR. TONER: But we continue to follow that case. I’ll try to see if I can get an update for tomorrow.
QUESTION: And when you say you continue to follow the case, does that mean that you’re with – through the Hungarians?
MR. TONER: Through the Hungarians, through other contacts.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate on the Secretary’s statement regarding the nearing end of the legitimacy of the Bashar al-Asad regime in Syria?
MR. TONER: The near – I’m sorry, what did you say again?
QUESTION: That the legitimacy of the Bashar Asad regime in Syria –
MR. TONER: Wow, I think she was --
QUESTION: -- is nearing its end.
MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, I think she was crystal clear, so I’m not sure what I can elaborate on. She said that – very clearly, and indeed the President has said as much, that if President Asad doesn’t want to be a part of the transition that’s currently underway, that he should get out of the way. And I think that the Secretary was stressing that more and more what we’ve seen on the ground in Syria indicates that he doesn’t want to be part of that.
QUESTION: Does that mean that we are likely to hear a statement, an official statement, calling on Asad to step aside?
MR. TONER: I’m not going to predict what we may or may not say in the coming days. All I can say right now is that we want President Asad to seize whatever opportunity remains for him to meaningfully enact reforms, to engage with the opposition, to release all political prisoners, to cease the violence against innocent civilians. But in a clear-eyed way, we see that that window of opportunity is closing.
QUESTION: Is it closing? I mean --
QUESTION: So you still feel that – you still feel that he still has opportunities to seize, to reform, and move forward into a transition?
MR. TONER: I think there’s always – always the opportunity remains. But again, we’ve seen today that the Syrian opposition is – obviously has been meeting the last couple days in Turkey. They’ve obviously seen no response from their government in a meaningful way to engage with the Syrian people’s demands. So you’re seeing a process moving forward in Syria that’s increasingly isolating the Asad regime and Asad himself.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. reached out --
QUESTION: To what extent --
QUESTION: -- to the opposition in any way?
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. reached out to the Syrian opposition in any way?
MR. TONER: We’ve had contacts with the opposition --
QUESTION: Can you characterize them?
MR. TONER: -- and with the civil – I don’t want to get into it beyond that because it’s obviously an extremely sensitive situation.
Yeah. Go ahead, Kim.
QUESTION: To what extent is your position on Syria dictated by this lack of international unity on dealing with Syria?
MR. TONER: Well, look, again, the Secretary spoke a little bit about this earlier today. We are trying to build pressure on Asad’s regime. We’ve been very outspoken about the abuses going on there. We’ve enacted increasingly stringent sanctions against Asad’s regime and indeed President Asad. We’ve worked with the EU effectively. They’ve ramped up their sanctions. We’ve brought it to the UN Security Council. We brought it to the UN Human Rights Commission. We’re trying to ratchet up the pressure. That’s been our strategy going forward.
You look like you have a question.
QUESTION: Well, do you want to finish?
MR. TONER: Go ahead, Kim.
QUESTION: Yeah. I want to go back to the statement that the Secretary made about the legitimacy being, if not gone, nearly run out. At what point does it run out?
MR. TONER: Again, I think that’s something for the Syrian people to decide.
QUESTION: Well, but you can take a position, though, as to whether – as you have with President Mubarak, with President Saleh, with Muammar Qadhafi, you’ve explicitly said that he’s lost the legitimacy to lead. And he’s answered --
MR. TONER: I think we’ve said that about Muammar Qadhafi, but I think Matt actually corrected me last time when I agreed to this. I’m not sure what we – I believe what we said about Mubarak was that he should step aside so that a democratic transition could take place.
QUESTION: Well, isn’t that kind of saying that he --
MR. TONER: Again, I mean, we’re --
QUESTION: -- shouldn’t be leading the country anymore?
MR. TONER: We’ve said that about Yemen and we’re saying that about Asad as well. If he doesn’t want to lead this effort, then allow that effort to move forward.
QUESTION: But you – I mean, you’re saying that he’s not making reforms and he’s not leading the effort. And then you’re saying if he’s not leading the effort, then he should go. But why is that not he should go? I mean, he’s answered your calls. He’s answered your calls for ending the violence, for all of the – stopping the brutality of the people, for making reform. He’s answered these calls with what even U.S. congressmen are calling crimes against humanity that should be referred to the ICC. So why do you keep --
MR. TONER: I agree --
QUESTION: Why do you keep saying that the window is closing? I mean, at what point, as Kim said, is it closed?
MR. TONER: Again, it’s up to the Syrian people to decide when he’s lost legitimacy. And I think given what actions they’ve taken over the past weeks only increases their isolation and makes it more and more impossible for them to take the kind of meaningful reform that would in any way end this crisis.
QUESTION: If it’s up to the Syrian people to decide when President Asad is no longer a legitimate ruler, do you therefore suggest that the people who are on the streets of Damascus don’t represent a majority of the Syrians? Are they just a minority protesting against the government?
MR. TONER: No. I mean, I think we’re looking for – look, again, this is a – the onus on this should be on the Syrian Government. The United States is working hard with its international partners to put the kind of pressure that will encourage or force Asad and his government to make the kind of reforms, to cease the violence, to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the opposition. So far, we haven’t seen any of that. We’re going to continue to look at options moving forward on how we can up that pressure on him. We’re trying to build international pressure on him. The Secretary spoke to this this morning. But what’s happening in Syria is obviously very, very, very concerning to us.
QUESTION: But your reluctance – sorry – your reluctance --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to call on President Asad to go in any sort of form, whether saying those words or in other ways asking him to step aside for the democratic transition to move forward --
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- that reluctance is really dictated by the fact that the international community isn’t united, that the Arab League isn’t saying it is time for Asad to go. Your position would be different if the Arab League suddenly said, “It’s time for Asad to go.”
MR. TONER: Well, again, all I can say is where we’re at with our policy right now. I’m not going to predict where we might be a day or two or three from now. Where we’re at right now is we’re trying to build that international pressure on Asad. We’re trying to make the choice even clearer to him that he needs to either be part of the reform or to step aside and allow that reform process to take place.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the Human Rights Watch Report that these abuses constitute crimes against humanity?
MR. TONER: I think they need to be clearly investigated. From all the allegations that we’ve seen, they clearly represent egregious human rights abuses, and I think that we’ve been clear that all these people need to be held accountable to --
QUESTION: Would you support a referral to the ICC?
MR. TONER: Well, we referred it to the – well, we had the UN Human Rights Commission speak on it, but I think if merited, yes.
QUESTION: Mark, the opposition just formed an advisory council of 31 members. Are you comfortable that these members would be actually representative of the Syrian people? Would you reach out to them as representatives?
MR. TONER: Again, I don't want to talk too much about our contacts with the Syrian opposition, but clearly they’re in the formative stages. And as we – as I’ve said earlier, it just indicates that they’re moving on with or without Asad, with our without the government’s support or, as I said, any effort by the government to engage with them. And as they form, clearly, we’ll evaluate them and have discussions with them.
QUESTION: Mark, can I --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that you’re looking for as an expression of the Syrian people’s belief that Asad is no longer legitimate, the formation of --
MR. TONER: The formation of some opposition?
QUESTION: -- an opposition council.
MR. TONER: I think it speaks volumes about the fact that they believe that they no longer have a credible form of government.
QUESTION: And once the Syrian people do deliver an expression that you believe is a sign that they no longer believe Asad is legitimate, are you – is the U.S. prepared to say that he has lost his legitimacy?
MR. TONER: Again, I don't want to predict where we’re going to be in the near term. I just think where we’re at today is that we’ve been very clear in saying that if he’s not going to be a part – an agent of change – if he’s not going to be an agent of reform, then he needs to allow that reform to take place.
QUESTION: But do you really believe he can do that, Mark? Do you – I mean, at this point are there any doubts that he’s not going to do that?
MR. TONER: I completely agree with you, Elise, that we’ve seen no indications. We’ve seen an offer of amnesty that didn’t go far enough, and we continue to call on him to do more to show it. But I would agree with you in that this window, this opportunity, is close to evaporating.
QUESTION: Did you see The Washington Post editorial today --
MR. TONER: We did.
QUESTION: -- which said that anybody that’s seen that Human Rights Report could not claim with a straight face that there’s any hope left that this regime will take any meaningful steps. And you say that you’ve – yourself and the Secretary have said that you’ve reviewed this report and these charges of crimes against humanity. So I just don’t understand why you keep expressing the hope that the regime is going to take formidable steps.
MR. TONER: Look, we’re not – I don't think there’s any way you could accuse us of being Pollyannaish about --
QUESTION: I --
MR. TONER: No. Okay. Granted, I’m putting words in your mouth, but I’m just saying that I don't think we’re optimistic. And indeed, our hope that they would take meaningful steps is, as I said, evaporating. What we’re trying to do is to work on an international scale. We’ve done it unilaterally, we’ve worked with the EU, we’re trying to put pressure on a regime – rather, on Asad’s regime to either help or step aside and get out of the way.
QUESTION: Do you – does the United States believe that Russia and China, which have thus far refused to sign on to the European proposal to – simply to criticize, not even to sanction, the Asad regime for its crackdown – does the U.S. Government believe they’re on the wrong side of history?
MR. TONER: I think we would appeal to those who have yet to join in the international condemnation of Asad’s regime, that they need to consider what he’s doing, what actions he’s carrying out against his own people, and the long-term consequences of that.
QUESTION: What was the Secretary referring to when she talked about other members of the UN Security Council?
MR. TONER: I think she’s talking –
QUESTION: Was that who she was talking about, Russia and China?
MR. TONER: I think she’s saying – look, I’m not going to parse the Secretary’s words. She said what she said, which is that these people are on the wrong side of history.
QUESTION: What do you make of the Arab League credibility by not taking a moral stand on what’s happening in Syria?
MR. TONER: You’ll have to ask the Arab League that question, but we’re trying to build pressure against Asad. We’re working with a variety of partners. We’re trying to get more people to – around the globe to wake up to this – the terrible events happening in Syria.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the conversations between the U.S. and the Arab League about Syria?
MR. TONER: I – frankly, I don’t know. I mean, I haven’t been privy to those conversations. But we’ve – the Arab League has obviously been very forward in its condemnation of what’s going on in Libya, and we would hope that they would apply that same set of standards to other places.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any indication that they’ve been reluctant to come down on Asad?
MR. TONER: No. I mean, again, I haven’t been privy to those conversations, but certainly they’re well aware of what’s going on in Syria.
QUESTION: Mark –
QUESTION: But they’re not –
MR. TONER: I just – I think I just said that. They’re well aware of what’s going on in Syria.
QUESTION: You keep saying that you’re asking President Bashar al-Asad to do more. If there’s any time table, any criteria for this demand?
MR. TONER: Again, our criteria is based on looking at what’s happening in Syria and trying to – obviously, calling on publicly for them to cease their violence, free all political prisoners, and engage in meaningful reform. To this date, we’ve seen very little, if nothing, in that regard. So as I said, we’re continuing to ratchet up the pressure in a variety of international fora and as well as unilaterally to make the choice even clearer. And that’s where we’re focused right now. I mean, (inaudible ) anything better than that.
QUESTION: Those are the criteria of the international community or the demands of opposition group? Who is determining the criteria in terms of reforms in Syria that –
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, there’s – there are some – I think I’ve just outlined some really basic criteria, which are cease violence against –
QUESTION: Then because after the declaration of –
MR. TONER: Carrying out violent attacks and rounding up innocent young men and freeing political prisoners – I mean, those are all relatively – those are all, according to international human rights standards.
QUESTION: I’m asking this question because after the general amnesty that the Syrian Government has declared, the opposition group in Turkey refused this kind of amnesty.
MR. TONER: Because it was a half measure.
QUESTION: Mark –
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: One last thing. When and if there is a public statement that both clearly states that the president of Syria is no longer legitimate, would that automatically mean that diplomatic relations does not exist with the regime. Or would you –
MR. TONER: I wouldn’t – look, it’s so speculative, I’m not going to say when and if we may declare such a thing. Again, our focus – we have a diplomatic mission in –
MR. TONER: I don’t even want to go there, because where we’re at right now is that we maintain diplomatic relations with Syria. We think it’s very important that their ambassador remain in Damascus. He’s trying to deliver our very candid message to the Syrian Government, and he also has contacts within the Syrian community that are important.
QUESTION: What is your contact with the ambassador here, Imad Moustapha?
MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I’m not aware of what recent contacts we’ve had with him. I can get more information for you.
QUESTION: A new subject?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, during her recent visit to Islamabad, handed a list of terrorists to them. Has Pakistan replied to that?
MR. TONER: I think I’d just say that the Secretary had very constructive meetings while she was in Pakistan, and there was broad agreement that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan has yielded results in the past and that it’s in both our interests to work even more diligently in the future.
QUESTION: Is the name of (inaudible) Kashmiri in that list? If it is –
MR. TONER: I don’t know what list you’re referring to, so –
QUESTION: The Secretary – so you cannot even confirm that the list –
MR. TONER: I’m not going to confirm there’s some list, no.
QUESTION: Mark, by my count, you have used the expression “Pollyannaish” at least three times in three briefings this week.
MR. TONER: It’s my favorite word, I guess.
QUESTION: I appeal for you to switch your literary reference to maybe “Panglossian” or something like that. (Laughter.)
Yesterday, the Administration informed Congress that it would be boycotting the Durban 3 Conference at the UN because it – the potential for it to be anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, unfairly anti-Israel. I’m wondering what specific evidence you have that this was – that this is a possibility.
MR. TONER: Well, again, you’re right. We’ve – we will not participate in the Durban commemoration. In December, we voted it against the resolution establishing this event because we believe the Durban process includes displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we don’t want to see that commemorated.
QUESTION: Yeah. But what specifically?
MR. TONER: What specifically –
QUESTION: What specifically about the Durban process – what specific evidence do you have that this commemoration is going to display anti-Israel or anti – unfairly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic –
MR. TONER: Well, again, I don’t want to get into our private conversations about this issue –
QUESTION: Well, you have to back up –
MR. TONER: -- about this issue, but I think what we’ve seen clearly in the past is that there’s been an anti-Semitic bent to this –
QUESTION: And that –
QUESTION: I’m sorry, and that came out – I mean, the first Durban Conference that the U.S. walked out in – walked out of, which was actually in Durban –
MR. TONER: And I –
QUESTION: -- did not contain the problematic language that you had worried about. The second one, which the U.S. boycotted it during this Administration, also did not have the document – final document. So I’m just wondering if you –
MR. TONER: I just think – Matt, I just think we’re – I’ll just say that we’ve not seen the kind –
QUESTION: So that – I just want to make sure that it –
MR. TONER: We’ve not seen the kind of – in our conversations about this commemoration, we’ve not seen the kind of progress that we think is indicative, and so we’ve made a decision.
QUESTION: Well, yeah. But do you know – does the Administration have some kind of evidence or some kind of insight into this that this was going to be a – or is it just simply because it’s being called – unofficially called Durban 3 that you’re not going? Or is it something more sinister? Does it have to do with the fact that the prime minister of Israel just addressed Congress? What is –
MR. TONER: Look, what it –
QUESTION: What is it that makes –
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- you worried that this is going to be a bad thing?
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going to get into the private conversations that we’ve had that led us to the decision that we made, but we’ve – we remain unconvinced that the conference is moving in a new direction.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the –
QUESTION: A quick follow-up to – a quick follow-up to Matt’s question. You are dependent on the final statement of the 2001 conference –
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- in taking that decision.
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear your question again.
QUESTION: In taking the decision to boycott this conference.
MR. TONER: Right. I’m referring to the – right, the outcome document, which – right, exactly, the original 2001 Durban Declaration.
QUESTION: Okay. So just to be redundant, what specific anti-Semitic language was used in that – in the final statement of 2001?
MR. TONER: I don’t have it in front of me, but I can say that it unfairly – we believe it unfairly singled out Israel and included language that were inconsistent with our own free speech laws.
QUESTION: Let’s stay just on Israel.
MR. TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: Did you – yesterday, I asked about this American --
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- who was shot. Do you have – have you managed to find anything out about him?
MR. TONER: Yeah. We’re obviously aware of his case. He doesn’t have – and you’re going to be thrilled at this. He does not – he’s not signed a Privacy Act waiver, so we’re limited to what we can say. But the consular personnel in Beirut are providing assistance in his case. And obviously in any case of an injured U.S. citizen abroad, we’ll work to ensure that the individual in question receives appropriate medical care.
QUESTION: Can you tell me when he was given the opportunity to sign a Privacy Act waiver?
MR. TONER: Normally, in the first meeting, they would offer him the opportunity to sign.
QUESTION: Well, normally, but in this case?
MR. TONER: I don't know in this case. I haven’t talked to the people in Beirut.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Yemen?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Secretary said that you were still trying to get President Saleh to step down from power. Could you talk about what your latest efforts are to get him out of power, now that he hasn’t signed the agreement and the GCC has abandoned its efforts?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: And also, I mean, as the violence increases in Yemen, it’s growing increasingly like a civil war. What is your concern for U.S. personnel on the ground and --
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, the fact that we went to ordered departure – ordered departure, is that right? Yeah. – ordered departure, just a little over a week ago, I think, indicates that our level of concern is very high.
QUESTION: Is that ordered departure just for families and non-essentials or everybody?
MR. TONER: No, it – well, I mean, as you know this is – it’s ordered departure for embassy personnel. At the same time --
QUESTION: Oh, I thought it was just families.
MR. TONER: No, no. But then – and then we moved – we reduce our footprint, if you will, to essential, so-called essential personnel. But at the same time, we also advise any U.S. citizens there to leave, and we certainly – and then we ask anybody who’s intending to travel to Yemen to defer their travel.
You’re right. It’s a very concerning situation. Violence is persistent over the past week or so, ever since President Saleh once again backed away from the table and decided not to sign what we believe was a very valid GCC agreement that really would chart a way forward. In that time, our ambassador there has consistently been in touch with the Yemeni Government. And again, our efforts are trying to convince President Saleh that this agreement is the best way forward, it’s the way – it puts – it charts a path, if you will, for Yemen to move out of this period of crisis and to move towards a democratic transition.
QUESTION: Are there any – are you considering any punitive measures against the government if he does not do that? Considering you have so much crucial cooperation with them, I would think it’s pretty dicey.
MR. TONER: Well, yes, although we’ve said that our counterterrorism, which I think is what you’re referring to – our counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen doesn’t – isn’t hinged on one particular individual. It goes beyond that. I think we’re looking at a variety of options, but to this – at this point, we still are convinced that the GCC proposal is a good one and that he should sign it.
QUESTION: Well, but I mean, why are the two mutually exclusive? I mean, you think it’s a good proposal, and he should sign it, but he’s not. So what are the consequences for him not doing so?
MR. TONER: Well, I – you’re right in the sense that I think as this wears on, we need to look at ways to convince him. But at this point, we continue to work closely with the Yemeni Government in trying to urge that he sign it. He has committed to signing this agreement, and again, we urge him to sign it.
QUESTION: Any decision on food aid to North Korea?
MR. TONER: No. The team, I think, just is wheels-up today out of North Korea.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on U.S. assurance to Delhi about another chance to question Headley?
MR. TONER: Just that, as Secretary Napolitano said last week, the – she – we can’t get into too much detail about the ongoing case in Chicago, but in the past we’ve given India full access to Headley, and I think that when a case is in litigation it’s impossible to do that. But moving forward, I think we would look for a – or consider further access.
In the back, and then to you, Matt.
QUESTION: On Japan, Prime Minister Kan survived a no-confidence vote yesterday, but he offered to resign. Does it have any impact on the 2+2 scheduled at the end of this month, or had this date --
MR. TONER: No. And that’s really an internal matter for Japan.
Go ahead, Matt, and then we’ll continue.
QUESTION: No. I’m sorry.
MR. TONER: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Global Commission on Drug Policy issued its report today.
MR. TONER: Didn’t I hear this question before?
QUESTION: It calls for a radical change in drug policy, particularly the legalization or the decriminalization of marijuana use, for example. Your reaction to that?
MR. TONER: Look, I think anybody who works in counternarcotics is well aware of the challenges that we face. But we’re committed to both enforcing our existing laws as well as working to decrease demand and also working for – working with our neighbors like Mexico in combating the scourge of criminal gangs that have proliferated because of the drug trade.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the French proposal for a Middle East peace conference?
MR. TONER: Right. I know we’re consulting with the parties, the Quartet and obviously the parties on the best way forward. We’re going to continue those consultations. We’re focused on getting both sides back to the negotiating table, and that’s where our focus remains.
QUESTION: So you treat it a bit like the UN, you don’t – you think the best way is through the U.S. brokering (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: I’m not saying that it’s necessarily it needs to be U.S. lead, but I think we’re in consultation right now with both the parties and the Quartet and trying to find the best way forward. And again, the ultimate goal is to get them back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Yeah. But – so it sounds as though you’re not too keen on this idea and you’d prefer that Sarkozy just kept his nose out of it, as you have preferred since the beginning of this and the last time he tried to set up a --
MR. TONER: And I’ll say that we’re --
QUESTION: -- an Israeli outreach.
MR. TONER: -- and I’ll say again that we’re --
QUESTION: You don’t think that this is the appropriate venue or forum?
MR. TONER: I’ll say again, we’re -- I’m just going to say that we’re hard at work. David Hale and others in his team are hard at work in talking to Quartet and the parties.
QUESTION: Well, is there room for --
QUESTION: But I mean, you only have until September.
MR. TONER: I know.
QUESTION: And I mean, do you have something that you’re going to get going between September? Because if you don’t, between now and then, this is really the only thing that any party has going, wouldn’t you say?
MR. TONER: And I’m not necessarily dismissing it --
QUESTION: So that’s not better than nothing?
MR. TONER: -- I’m just saying that we’re trying to chart a way forward on this, and we’re considering a variety of methods to do that.
QUESTION: Well, do you believe that there’s room for a French initiative in this?
MR. TONER: I think, again, the ultimate goal is to get them back to the negotiating table, and we’re looking at a variety of ways to do that.
QUESTION: Well, don’t you see this as a reaction to kind of the U.S. inability to get the parties to the table and a failure of U.S. leadership to do so?
MR. TONER: And – (laughter).
QUESTION: Why is that funny? I mean --
QUESTION: Because you asked a question with the work “failure” in it. It’s guaranteed to get a negative response. (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: And I won’t use the word Pollyannaish in my answer, but I will just say that, look, one of the reasons the President tried to lay down some conditions, basic conditions to try to get the parties to look at some of these hard issues, to get them back to the negotiating table, is that we realize that this process has not been moving forward very quickly, and it’s vital that we jumpstart this. But, that said, I mean, the Secretary said this in London, I think last week, is that the status quo is unsustainable, but that the U.S. and the international community can’t impose a solution on the parties. Ultimately, it’s up to them to decide.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. still believes it can get some sort of framework deal done within that one year goal, by the beginning of September?
MR. TONER: I think it’s – there’s a Pollyannaish opportunity there. But it’s an increasingly difficult challenge, but David Hale and his team remain hard at work.
QUESTION: Why is the French initiative an initiative to impose? You said you can’t impose anything on the parties. I mean, it doesn’t sound like the – it sounds like the French just want to get together with people to talk.
MR. TONER: I’m just saying that ultimately, no matter what initiative comes down the pike, it’s really up to the parties themselves to make the hard choices that they need to make to get back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Do you have an update about --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Is David Hale conducting any kind of shuttle diplomacy, and does he (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Well, I know he’s in constant – he was in Europe last week talking to members of the Quartet. I’m not sure whether he’s planning to go to the region any time soon.
QUESTION: So is he playing, like, a go-between?
MR. TONER: I’ll try to get an update for you on his travels.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to the region since his (inaudible) position was announced?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure.
QUESTION: Mark, is it not correct that Mitchell’s departure was the end of the idea of a one – of a deal by September?
MR. TONER: Again, no, we’ve not said that --
MR. TONER: -- publicly. (Laughter.) Or privately. Look, there’s nothing --
QUESTION: I think you just did.
MR. TONER: No, we did not. Look, let me be clear here, I – we are fully aware of the challenges that exist in trying to reach an agreement by September. That said, his departure in no way closes a door to an agreement by September. There was nothing publicly said about that, there’s nothing privately that we’ve conveyed about that that in any way indicates that we’re not working 110 percent on getting the parties back to the negotiating table. And that’s what I wanted to stress.
QUESTION: I don’t doubt that you’re trying to get the parties back to the negotiating table, it’s just the question of the deadline.
MR. TONER: And to reach an agreement by the September deadline. When that changes over we’ll let you --
QUESTION: To reach an agreement you’d have to (inaudible) agreement-agreement.
MR. TONER: No, no. We talked about a framework agreement.
QUESTION: By September?
QUESTION: I hear Pollyanna calling right now.
QUESTION: That’s – yes.
QUESTION: Can I – I’ve been trying to get this loose end wrapped up for some time. It has nothing to do with this, not even the same hemisphere. Did anything ever get resolved with that dispute with the Argentines?
MR. TONER: Wow.
QUESTION: Do they still have your stuff?
MR. TONER: I --
QUESTION: And if they do, what are you going to do about it?
MR. TONER: I don’t know. I’ll get an update for you.
QUESTION: You wanted it back – your predecessor, or the previous spokesman, was pretty --
MR. TONER: First let me see whether they still have our stuff, and then I’ll tell you what we’re going to do about it.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: But do you have anything about the Hamas and Fatah negotiation in Turkey?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, what? The Hamas --
QUESTION: Do you have – Hamas and Fatah, the negotiation in Turkey?
MR. TONER: No. I haven’t heard updates on that, but our position’s been clear about the reconciliation.
QUESTION: Do you have any expectations about this (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Our expectations are that if Hamas wants to play a meaningful role in the political process, they need to abide by the Quartet principles.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
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