Daily Press Briefing, July 14, 2011
Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing
July 14, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing
Deputy Secretary Nides' Telephone Call to Pakistani Minister of Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh / U.S. Civilian Assistance Program to Pakistan
U.S. Expresses Condolences to Families of the Victims of PKK Attack in Turkey / Condemns the Attack / Strongly Supports Turkey in Fight against Terrorism
Government of India Investigation into Mumbai Attacks
U.S. Consulate General Remains Open / No Reports of American Citizens Killed or Injured
U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue Next Week
Continued Dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan to Resolve Issues
Reports of Mass Graves in Southern Kordofan
No U.S. Contact with Government of Israel over Boycott Law
Reports of the Defection of a Burmese Diplomat in Washington
Quartet Envoys Held Conference Call Today / Continue to Discuss Ways to Get Both Parties Back to the Negotiating Table
Refugee Situation along the Turkey-Syria Border
Reports that President Saleh Plans to Return to Yemen Friday / Yemen Should Move Forward with the GCC Proposal
12:55 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. Just a few things at the top very briefly and then I’ll take your questions.
I did want to note that Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides spoke by telephone today with Pakistani foreign minister – sorry, minister of finance, excuse me – Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. They discussed the importance of continuing cooperation on the U.S.-Pakistan civilian assistance program, and Deputy Secretary Nides reiterated to Minister Shaikh that the United States remains committed to working in partnership with Pakistan to fuel economic growth and to improve its energy, education, and health sectors.
I also wanted to note and respond to reports we’ve seen that 13 Turkish soldiers who were killed today in clashes with the PKK. We express our condolences to the families of the victims and we stand in solidarity with Turkey. The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s killings of Turkish soldiers, and we strongly support Turkey in its fight against terror and will continue to work with the Government of Turkey to combat terrorism in all its forms.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something about Deputy Secretary Nides’ conversation with the Pakistani foreign minister?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Did they discuss at all the impact on Pakistan’s budget and external accounts from the U.S. decision to suspend some of the security assistance?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, did they discuss the impact of --
QUESTION: One implication of the U.S. Government’s decision to suspend the 800 million in security assistance is that that’s a certain amount of foreign exchange that is no longer going to be flowing into Pakistan. And it is – at least according to our reporting, it’s going to have an impact on their external accounts because this is a bunch of foreign exchange that isn’t coming in that they had presumably been counting on. And I wonder if they had discussed the implications of that in their conversation.
MR. TONER: Arshad, specifically to the impact of that – of the slowdown of this military and security assistance and its effect – possible effect on the budget, I would have to take that question because I didn’t get a full readout of their conversation. But as you know, it’s important to note that while there is this slowdown on the security and military side, our civilian assistance continues. And I think since the passage of Kerry-Lugar-Berman, we disbursed about 2 billion in civilian assistance, which includes over 550 million in emergency humanitarian assistance that was in response to the floods. So we do have the slowdown on the security side, but our civilian assistance remains undeterred. But I’ll specifically ask if that was raised.
QUESTION: Can you speak – did they speak at all about the military security assistance, or was it limited precisely only to the financial civilian assistance?
MR. TONER: I think the crux, if you will, of the conversation was about the continuing flow of civilian assistance and how best to ensure that that meets Pakistan’s needs.
QUESTION: So would you – I mean, is it fair to say that --
MR. TONER: But I don’t – as I said with Arshad --
MR. TONER: -- I don’t know if the implications of --
QUESTION: So is it fair to say --
MR. TONER: -- budgetary implications were discussed of a slowdown on the military side.
QUESTION: So was the message essentially that even as the United States is pulling back or holding back some money militarily, the civilian side, the civilian component will continue?
MR. TONER: I think the message is that while the decision to slow down some of the security and military assistance reflects the reality that some of those programs are tied to the level of our cooperation. But we continue to work productively on the civilian side; that assistance continues to flow. It speaks to the full spectrum of our relationship with Pakistan that we’re able to continue to work with them productively, and that’s, again, in our national interest as well as Pakistan’s.
QUESTION: So was the tone specifically one of reassurance?
MR. TONER: I think that’s a fair question. I think it was an important opportunity to touch base with Pakistan to ensure that this civilian assistance continues and to look at our priorities and make sure that they match Pakistan’s.
QUESTION: Was it primarily on the aid or was there some talk, perhaps, about economic reforms? There’s been lots of concern about structural problems in Pakistan’s economy, lack of a tax base.
MR. TONER: Well, you’re right, those are longstanding concerns of ours, but – and the Pakistan Government has taken some steps to address them. I’m not aware that it’s come up in this conversation.
Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: So are you expecting any breakthroughs from Pasha’s visit and his meetings with --
MR. TONER: From?
QUESTION: From General Pasha’s visit and --
MR. TONER: Pasha’s – I’m sorry, I didn’t hear.
QUESTION: -- his meetings?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I’d have to refer you to the Pakistani Government about specific meetings he may have during his visit. It’s always an important occasion to touch base.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan?
MR. TONER: Are we done with Pakistan?
QUESTION: Ambassador Haqqani was also in this building today and was meeting Ambassador Benjamin, so if you could tell us what happened there?
MR. TONER: I could see if there’s a readout. It might be just part of their normal dialogue. We have, as you well know, close counterterrorism cooperation, and it might have been an opportunity to just touch base on that. But I’ll see if there’s anything specific to read out.
QUESTION: Do you have any indications of possible Pakistani involvement or complicity or support – complicity and/or support for the Mumbai bombings of this week?
MR. TONER: Nothing more to add from what I said yesterday, which is that the Indian Government’s conducting an investigation. We’ll wait and see how that develops.
QUESTION: And can you specifically ask, when you see if there’s a readout of the ambassador’s meeting with Ambassador Benjamin, whether that topic was discussed?
MR. TONER: Sure.
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, I was wondering if the U.S. Embassy in Kabul did business with a man named Roy Carver who owned a company called Red Sea Engineering and Construction, I believe.
MR. TONER: That’s going to have to be a taker. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I know that, but I’ve been trying to get an answer all week --
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and that’s why --
MR. TONER: Happy to take and get back to you.
QUESTION: Yeah. Like any details about the business that they did. I understand that he built --
MR. TONER: This is a contractor or --
QUESTION: American contractor. I understand he built embassy housing, and I’d like to know if that’s accurate.
MR. TONER: Okay. Fair enough. We’ll take it.
QUESTION: On Mumbai, has there been any update on requests for assistance from the Indian Government?
MR. TONER: There hasn’t. I checked before coming down here. We’ve offered – we’ve received no request for assistance. Of course, our offer stands. And just other relevant information: The consulate remains open. They did issue a Warden Message, as you can expect. Other than that, they remain open for business and there’s no confirmed injuries or deaths among American citizens.
QUESTION: The – excuse me. The Secretary’s Strategic Dialogue with India is coming next week.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: And will they be discussing Chinese expansion into the Indian Ocean at all?
MR. TONER: It’s hard for me to know at this point. The – it’s clearly going to be a full spectrum of issues given the breadth of our relations with India, and they’ll probably touch upon regional issues. But as to that specific one, I can’t say at this point.
QUESTION: Expanding on that, just in a general sense, how would these attacks affect the Secretary’s talks in Delhi? Is this going to be – do you expect this to become a topic of more conversation, counterterrorism in particular?
MR. TONER: Right. I mean, logistically, it won’t affect them at all.
QUESTION: In terms of the subject matter.
MR. TONER: Right. She’ll – she continues with her plans to visit India next week. But certainly, it’s conceivable that – counterterrorism is always an issue on the table when we talk to India, but it’s conceivable that, given yesterday’s attacks, that it’s going to perhaps be more at the forefront. But we enjoy good counterterrorism cooperation with India, so.
Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m looking for the U.S. reaction to the Arab League decision to pursue – to request Palestinian status be upgraded to full member status.
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. The Arab League decision –
QUESTION: Decision to go to the UN to request from the UN that there be an upgrade in the Palestinian status to full member, to full member state status.
MR. TONER: To full member state status? I don’t have a reaction right now. I’ll see if we have one for you.
QUESTION: Has there been a decision or was that just a draft? I think that may be just a draft.
MR. TONER: Yeah. My thought, too, was that it was not a decision yet, so.
QUESTION: Well, the Arab League voted today in Qatar.
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: Did they vote? Okay. Sorry.
MR. TONER: Anyway, we’ll see if we can get you something for that. I mean, we’ll see if we have any comment on that.
QUESTION: There are a couple of developments related to Sudan. The Sudanese authorities, I believe they made a decision on the citizenship of Southerners in what’s Sudan – North Sudan. Does the U.S. have any concern about that, about how this would affect all the people who are still there, the Southerners who are in the North?
MR. TONER: The Southerners who are in the North?
MR. TONER: Again, there was just a – we haven’t had a chance to really study the decision, so obviously it’s important that the two countries continue to have a dialogue as we move forward and talk about indeed all these citizenships – all these issues, including borders, citizenship, and others, and work through them. But as for the specific decision, I’ll have to check on it.
QUESTION: Can you – on South Sudan –
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, Sudan, let’s say for now – this Sentinel Project, there’s some talk that they’ve picked up mass graves or something that might look like mass graves in Southern Kordofan. Do you have any information about this or what might’ve taken place?
MR. TONER: Right. I did try to get more information about this. We’ve also seen those reports. We can’t, obviously, confirm at this point these photos and what they actually show. I would just say that we remain very concerned about allegations of targeted and ethnic-based killings and other human rights abuses in Southern Kordofan, and we call on all parties there to take immediate steps to end the violence and protect innocent civilians. And also, it’s extremely important that all parties allow humanitarian assistance and aid workers to have unfettered access to the region.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: You condemned the attack against Turkish soldiers at the beginning. I’m wondering if Madam Secretary’s bilateral meetings in Turkey with Turkish officials there will be any plan to enhance the cooperation between U.S. and Turkey in struggle against PKK at a specific point.
MR. TONER: Right. Well, as you know, we do support Turkey in its fight with the – against the PKK with intelligence. I can’t get into the details of that. It’s – again, and I also can’t – it’s – preview the Secretary’s meetings there. I just say that we stand in solidarity with Turkey in its fight against the PKK and stand ready to assist. But right now, I believe, it’s mostly intelligence sharing that we conduct with them.
QUESTION: I had asked this question last week, but I couldn’t get any answer. There is a specific request from Turkish Government regarding your weapons sales, that they are expecting –
MR. TONER: Regarding?
QUESTION: Regarding your weapons sales. They are expecting two major weapons systems, actually, from U.S. One is drone and the other one, attack helicopter that they will use against PKK. But the process has not been still started. And over the 10 years U.S. is supporting weapons to Turkey in – as an ally, there are two – only two exceptions – expections – exceptions. One is 2003 and the other one is 2010. During those two years, U.S. didn’t supply any major weapon to Turkey. You know what happened in 2003. That was a big crisis.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: But it’s – it cannot --
MR. TONER: So you’re – but you’re asking what the status of --
QUESTION: Yes. Why in 2010 U.S. didn’t supply any major weapon to Turkey, and what will happen in this year? And if there is a relationship as an ally, why --
MR. TONER: Well, we do --
QUESTION: -- U.S. doesn’t supply those weapons to Turkey?
MR. TONER: Our relationship with – or our cooperation with Turkey on – against the PKK spans three presidential administrations, and it’s only grown over time. I’ll have to check specifically why there was – why there were no specific weapons sales, but I’m not sure – again, I’m challenging your question a bit. You’re saying that planned weapons sales were somehow stalled or --
QUESTION: Actually, there is a long process.
MR. TONER: Correct.
QUESTION: First the foreign countries coming in, is demanding --
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- a specific major weapon, and then some discussions is going on between State Department, DOD, Congress --
MR. TONER: Okay. Look, I’ll try to get an update of the specific --
QUESTION: I don’t know why – where the process has been stalled.
MR. TONER: Okay. I’ll try to get --
QUESTION: It’s --
MR. TONER: I’ll try to get an update for you.
QUESTION: It’s sure that Turkish Government is asking two major weapon systems.
MR. TONER: I’ll try to get an update on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: In the back.
QUESTION: There was a question yesterday, I think, about the new Israeli boycott law, whether anyone at State had spoken to someone in Israel about it. Did you ever get a --
MR. TONER: Yeah, I did. We haven’t had any contacts with the Government of Israel specifically on this law.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary ever meet with the Dalai Lama?
MR. TONER: She did not.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: How come?
MR. TONER: Well, again, she obviously left for travel. And the Dalai Lama, who she met with last year, is obviously a revered cultural figure, did meet with Maria Otero last week. And it’s not excluded that he’ll have other meetings as well, but it didn’t work out this time. But again, she met with him last year.
QUESTION: Have you gotten a report of another – or have you – of another Myanmar diplomat defecting? Have you received any notification?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I’m limited in what I can say about any asylum case. I can’t confirm, I can’t deny, I can’t comment on it. It’s – and it’s also --
QUESTION: You can’t comment on if you got a letter from – to this --
MR. TONER: I can confirm we did receive a letter, but I can’t get into the contents. I can’t talk about the case.
QUESTION: You received a letter from a Myanmar diplomat asking that he – for asylum?
MR. TONER: I can’t get into the contents. I can confirm we received a letter.
QUESTION: Well, back to --
QUESTION: The question was about a defection.
MR. TONER: And then he asked me specifically if we received a letter, which I confirmed. But as to the specifics of the letter or the case, I can’t get into details.
MR. TONER: I can’t discuss it.
QUESTION: Because it’s about a possible defection? (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said yesterday that the meeting with the Quartet was very useful and they signed specific documents. Can you tell us what kind of documents they signed?
MR. TONER: On the – this was the Quartet?
QUESTION: The Quartet.
MR. TONER: I can say that the Quartet did have an additional conference call today, but as to specific documents, I would have to – a senior Administration official did give a readout the other night of the meeting, said it was productive and – but in lieu of – or in recognition of some of the gaps that remain between the parties, that they would not be issuing a statement. But I’m not aware that there was – that they signed any documents. I’ll have to check.
QUESTION: So there was a two-hour meeting --
QUESTION: This was at the envoy level?
MR. TONER: Correct. At envoy level. Correct.
QUESTION: So there was a two-hour meeting yesterday at the envoy level. There was a conference call today. What’s the result?
MR. TONER: I don’t believe there was a two-hour – now I’m losing my days here. The dinner was Monday night.
QUESTION: Monday. Right.
MR. TONER: There was an additional meeting on Tuesday.
MR. TONER: I don’t believe they met Wednesday. And then --
QUESTION: That’s okay. And then the conference call today.
MR. TONER: -- to a conference call today.
QUESTION: So what’s come out of these two additional meetings, in person and by phone?
MR. TONER: It’s – we continue to discuss with our partners ways to get the parties back to the negotiating table, ways to – as we cited, there’s – there are still gaps between them. And we’re again continuing the conversation about how to close those gaps.
QUESTION: What’s the biggest problem? Is it the Israelis or is it the Palestinians?
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) That’s a good question. But as these negotiations continue, I’m not going to discuss them here.
QUESTION: I mean, I presume you’re not going to say much on this, but there’s some talk that perhaps there was – in the course of the Quartet discussions, that there was some movement on the call for ’67 borders, that perhaps – in the Quartet – that there’s been more unanimity among the parties on that. Is that a sense that you get?
MR. TONER: Well, I think two things. One is we wouldn’t be pushing forward as aggressively as we have been if we didn’t believe there was an opportunity here and that there was a promise to get them back to the negotiating table. And the ’67 borders, of course, was something that was laid down as a principle by the President as the foundation for future negotiations, so it’s an important element.
QUESTION: You say you’ve been pushing very aggressively?
MR. TONER: In the past weeks.
QUESTION: The President made his speech.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: There have been travel by envoy level --
MR. TONER: Correct.
QUESTION: Right? Both Ambassador Hale and Mr. Ross.
MR. TONER: And Mr. Ross to the region.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any calls about this?
MR. TONER: I don’t have her call list in front of me, but --
QUESTION: Has she been to the region in about --
MR. TONER: -- I think she spoke to Netanyahu the other day.
QUESTION: She hasn’t been to the region in about a year, though, right?
MR. TONER: She has not. But again, she’s talked to Netanyahu just a couple of days ago.
QUESTION: Any plans for Ambassador Hale to go to the region?
MR. TONER: I don’t have any updates on his travel.
QUESTION: Can we get a readout on the conversation with Netanyahu?
MR. TONER: I’m sure I can try to get it. It was prior to the dinner, but --
QUESTION: Do you have an update about the refugees in Turkey in – coming from Syria or --
MR. TONER: Well, of course, it’ll be a topic when the Secretary is there both within the context of – well, sorry – both as she meets with countries and talks about Syria as on the margins of the contact group and also with her meeting with Turkish officials. My understanding is that the number may have dropped a bit, that – so that’s an encouraging sign. But we’ve said all along that we stand ready to assist Turkey in handling this situation.
QUESTION: Do you believe, like, this is a good sign for – is kind of improvement about the Syria –
MR. TONER: It’s unclear. I just – all I know is that the numbers dropped slightly, I think, from somewhere around 10,000 to the mid-8,000.
QUESTION: On Syria, has Ambassador Ford had any meetings with Syrian officials since his meeting with the deputy foreign minister after the Embassy –
MR. TONER: Don’t believe so.
QUESTION: And on Yemen, are –
QUESTION: Can we stay on Ford for one more second?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Any further plans for him to travel outside of Damascus –
MR. TONER: Not at this time, but I believe we’ve said that he does plan in the near future to visit other places in Syria, but not any specific travel plans at this time.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I had a question on Yemen.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Has President Saleh had any meetings with U.S. officials since his meeting with Mr. Brennan last Sunday in –
MR. TONER: I don’t believe so.
QUESTION: And have you – are you aware of reports that he’s planning on returning to Yemen tomorrow?
MR. TONER: I’ve seen those reports, but I can’t confirm them. Again, as we’ve said all along, the focus for Yemen should be on moving forward with the GCC proposal.
QUESTION: Is President Saleh reachable by telephone, or is he kind of cordoned off by the Saudis?
MR. TONER: You know what? I don’t have that kind of sense of his location on the ground. I know he’s receiving medical care. That much is, I think, in the public domain. But as to his whereabouts, I don’t know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Sure. Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:14 p.m.)
DPB # 106
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