Daily Press Briefing
Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing
November 15, 2012
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Index for Today's Briefing
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Need for De-Escalation of Violence / Onus is on Hamas / Egyptian Influence
NDAA Sanctions / Indian Waiver / Increased Pressure on Iran
Cooperation with Congress / Secretary Clinton to Talk to Relevant Committees
New Chinese Leadership
Strong Engagement in Asia Region
Call for Peaceful Protests / King Abdullah's Reform Package
Need for UN Security Council Action
Syrian Opposition Coalition Development
1:07 p.m. EST
MR. TONER: Anyway, let’s go to your questions, Matt.
QUESTION: Let’s start with the situation in Gaza and Israel. The Secretary made a call yesterday or took a call from the Egyptian Foreign Minister; is that correct?
MR. TONER: That’s correct.
QUESTION: What was the content? What was the message?
MR. TONER: Mm-hmm. Well, I mean, obviously, as I said, she did speak, as you noted, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr yesterday. I’m not sure what time, frankly. In the convoluted time zones that she’s in versus us, I’m not sure what time of day it was. But her core message was that we need – the necessity of a de-escalation of the ongoing situation and an end to the violence. That’s what’s most important here. And for --
QUESTION: And based --
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
MR. TONER: No, no. You go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, based on that conversation and also on what you know, what you may know, about the President’s conversation with President Morsi --
MR. TONER: Correct.
QUESTION: -- do you think that Egypt is going to do the right thing here, or do you have the sense that they’re going to? What was the response from the Egyptians? It’s --
MR. TONER: Well, I --
QUESTION: Because publicly, their response doesn’t seem to be very consistent with what you’re asking of them.
MR. TONER: I think – and in fact, the White House has issued in a readout of the President’s calls yesterday – both we and the Egyptians agree there needs to be a de-escalation, and we urged the Government of Egypt to take steps to support that kind of de-escalation.
QUESTION: Such as?
MR. TONER: Well, obviously, using their influence in the region. But we want to see, obviously, a de-escalation of the violence. We need to see the violence to -stop. We need to see Hamas stop its rocket attacks on Israel so we can end the violence.
QUESTION: Okay. And the other day, I asked you whether or not the United States spoke to – or not spoke to, but had messages delivered to Hamas to knock it off, if you’ve used Egypt or Qatar, particularly since their Emir just visited Gaza, to send a message to Hamas that these rocket attacks have to stop whether or not they are actually firing them or not. I was told and – or I was led to believe that the answer is no, that you don’t pass any messages on to Hamas through third parties; you don’t talk to them yourselves. And I’m curious; is that correct? And if it is, why? Why not?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure – again, I’m not sure – you’re talking about what I told you in terms --
MR. TONER: -- of my response? Okay. I think what I said was that – at the time was we certainly do convey our concerns, certainly to Egypt as a regional leader, as someone who has influence in the region. We convey our concerns and we consult closely on them whenever there’s this kind of outbreak of violence.
QUESTION: Yeah, but do you tell the Egyptians or the Qataris or other people or other countries --
MR. TONER: And I’m not going to get into the substance of our phone calls --
QUESTION: No, no, no, no.
MR. TONER: -- or our conversations with them, other than to say that we’re obviously consulting closely with them. We value their input on the security in the region.
QUESTION: Well, but the question is do you tell them to tell Hamas – do you tell people who have contacts with Hamas, since you don’t have any contacts with them, to cut it out?
MR. TONER: And I think I --
QUESTION: I mean, you go on the record all the time --
MR. TONER: I think I answered your question to say that, certainly, we ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation. I’ll leave it there.
QUESTION: All right. Well, why is it that you’re willing to say, “use influence in the region” but you’re not willing to say “with Hamas?”
MR. TONER: Because I – because that’s what I decided to say.
QUESTION: Mark, the Egyptian Prime Minister just announced that he’s going to Gaza tomorrow.
MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has he informed you of that? Have you discussed the content or the purpose of his visit?
MR. TONER: We haven’t. I don’t believe – I know the Secretary hasn’t had any conversations with her counterpart today. I can’t speak for the White House, obviously.
QUESTION: So do you expect this visit to actually mitigate the – sort of the tension that is ongoing, or delay (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: I think there’s one clear way to mitigate the tensions, and that is for Hamas to stop its rocket attacks on Israel so we can de-escalate the situation and end the violence. That’s the clearest path.
QUESTION: Okay. We understand. But are you dissuading or are you telling Israel not to conduct a major land invasion of Gaza, a la Cast Lead back in 2008, 2009?
MR. TONER: We’re obviously in close consultation with Israel, as you well know. The President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. Let me finish. Let me be very clear that Israel has a right to self-defense. As of yesterday, I believe the Israeli Government noted that since the beginning of 2012, more than 768 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza, and over 12,000 in the past 12 years, and I believe over a hundred today alone. They have a right to self-defense.
QUESTION: Are --
MR. TONER: The onus – let me be very clear – the onus here is on Hamas. And as Jay Carney just said from the White House, it claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, but through its actions it’s showing a far different agenda.
QUESTION: Are you counting the number of rockets and air raids that Israel has conducted on Gaza into (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Again, we need to see Hamas stop its rocket attacks and then we can see a de-escalation of the violence.
QUESTION: Do the Palestinians in Gaza have the same right to self-defense?
MR. TONER: This is violence instigated by Hamas. We have – as we’ve said very clearly in our statement yesterday, that we extend our sympathies to the victims, innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians that have been affected by this violence. But let’s be very clear where the onus likes.
Go ahead, Said – Samir.
QUESTION: No, no I just – I was going to say you quoted Mr. Carney, but he said the same thing you said yesterday yourself in your statement.
MR. TONER: We’re in lockstep, I guess.
Yeah. Anything else on Hamas? Or in Israel, Gaza?
QUESTION: Yeah. Which is the reason that you think that Hamas was attacking Israel? Do you think it has any connection with the Syria situation?
MR. TONER: I have no idea. You’ll have to ask them.
QUESTION: Egypt recalls its ambassador in Tel Aviv. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. TONER: No. I mean, look, you’ll have to ask the Egyptian Government to explain its actions, but we’ve been in close contact, as Matt pointed out, with Morsi and the Secretary with her counterpart. We’re consulting with them closely. We both agree on the fundamental point that there needs to be a de-escalation here so that the violence can stop.
Yeah, go ahead, Margaret.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to Abbas or anyone in the PA?
MR. TONER: The Secretary has not. I can confirm that David Hale did meet with President Abbas yesterday in Bern, as we had talked about. Obviously, they did discuss the importance of deescalating the current situation in Gaza and they also obviously talked about overall Middle East peace efforts, but clearly, that came up.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the ongoing conflict shifts the balance from Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to Hamas as the major Palestinian interlocutor?
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into an analysis on the ground of the political situation. I can only tell you that Hamas’s efforts are only serving to destabilize the situation, and it’s putting peace efforts farther away rather than closer.
QUESTION: With Israeli reservists being put on standby --
MR. TONER: Sorry.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MR. TONER: Go ahead, Rosalind. Go.
QUESTION: Okay. With the reservists being put on standby, with the 25-mile civilian protection zone being implemented, with other steps being taken, does the U.S. believe that there is a realistic chance of an Israeli ground invasion? And what steps is the U.S. taking to try to avert that?
MR. TONER: Again, we’re obviously in close consultation with Israel, both at the Secretary’s level, at the President’s level. We’re going to remain in close consultation going forward. I’m not going to speculate on where this might go beyond saying that we all want to see a de-escalation of the violence and that the onus rests squarely on Hamas. It needs to stop its rocket attacks.
Yeah, (inaudible). I’m sorry.
QUESTION: On that – who has the onus to stop and de-escalation, so if for some reason Hamas actually does stop, as you suggest they need to, what gives you confidence that Israel would also – would de-escalate as well as opposed to seizing an opportunity and striking harder?
MR. TONER: Well, again, let’s wait till we get to that point. That’s a good point. We want to see the violence stop that Hamas is carrying out, the rocket attacks. The President said very clearly in his conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I think we said as much yesterday in the readout, that we want to see Israel make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. But clearly, they do have a right to self-defense.
QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry, Mark. Egypt claims that there was actually a de-escalation, and in fact, they had arrived at some sort of an understanding with the – or brought the positions closer between Hamas and Israel and then Israel basically surprised everybody by the attack. Do you concur?
MR. TONER: I don’t. I am frankly unaware of those remarks. Again, I would just point to the fact that over a hundred rockets have been fired on Israel today as a sign that there’s no imminent cessation of violence.
QUESTION: Yeah. When you say contacts and then you describe the word as a conveying message or consulting, what’s exactly this type of contacts? I mean, how would you describe it?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, obviously, these are private diplomatic conversations. We convey our position and there’s agreement, frankly, among us and the – among and – well, in Israel and as well as Egypt that we need to see the violence end, there needs to be a de-escalation. Our strong position is that Hamas needs to stop its rocket attacks, that Israel is only defending itself.
QUESTION: Beside those two sides, any other contacts or consultation with other people in the European Union or France or anybody else?
MR. TONER: Obviously, I think all friends of Israel and other regional players are concerned by what’s taking place and there’s ongoing consultations. I can’t speak, frankly, to whether the Secretary’s had additional calls. She has not.
QUESTION: Mark, would you expect the Egyptian Prime Minister tomorrow in Gaza to work on this de-escalation? I mean --
MR. TONER: We would certainly hope so.
QUESTION: Because the declared reason is to show support to the Palestinians in Gaza.
MR. TONER: Again, there’s a very clear path here to ending the violence, and that’s for the rocket attacks to stop. So we would hope that’s a message that’s delivered.
QUESTION: Just --
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Oh, you hope that that is a message that will be delivered, after you --
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) I thought you’d seize on that, Matt.
QUESTION: -- just spent five minutes trying to not answer my question before about whether you deliver messages to Hamas. And now you just said that – so there is a message. So, thank you, there. Thank you for that.
MR. TONER: It’s more – it was because it was a more artfully posed question.
QUESTION: Oh, I see.
MR. TONER: I think that’s what it was. Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: So I’ll just plant my questions with other people (inaudible) --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: -- I can get an answer for? Just on the – what the Egyptian response has been --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- you said numerous times now that you both – the U.S. and Egypt – agree based on these conversations that there needs to be a de-escalation. But do you – does that agreement extend to how the de-escalation should come about? The Egyptian officials who have spoken publicly about this talk about the Palestinians’ right to defense. They talk about how this is Israeli aggression. Clearly, you don’t agree on that, or are they giving you some other message behind the scenes?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I don’t want to get into the substance of our conversations. We both are in agreement that the violence needs to end. We need to de-escalate the situation.
QUESTION: The --
MR. TONER: Let me finish. Let me finish. As I just said, our position is clear that there’s no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against Israel, and the onus is on them to cease their rocket attacks so that this de-escalation can take place.
QUESTION: Yeah, but is that the Egyptian position as well, that there’s no justification for these attacks?
MR. TONER: You’ll have to ask the Egyptians.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don’t think that’s the Egyptian position at all, and so it’s kind of disingenuous to say that you agreed on the endgame, which is that there shouldn’t be any violence, that all violence should stop. But if Egypt is saying, okay, the easiest way to do that is to just get rid of Israel, then you have fundamental disagreements with – if that’s the case or something like it, you have fundamental disagreements on how one arrives at a de-escalation.
MR. TONER: Look, just – we --
QUESTION: So I think it’s pretty --
MR. TONER: We believe the Government of Egypt --
QUESTION: I think it’s --
MR. TONER: -- remains committed to --
QUESTION: Oh, yeah?
MR. TONER: -- its peace treaty with Israel. We are in close consultation with them as we go forward on this, we’re in close consultation with Israel, and we’re looking for a de-escalation.
QUESTION: Do you know – have the Egyptians been told about what abrogation of the peace treaty would mean for them, particularly in terms of money from the U.S.?
MR. TONER: Again, that’s – you can ask them that question.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: When you put the onus on Hamas, is it because Hamas is doing the rocket launching or because --
MR. TONER: Right. I mean, it’s – this is --
QUESTION: -- Hamas is ruling Gaza?
MR. TONER: Well, again, this is a situation that they’ve created by firing rockets on innocent Israeli civilians. We obviously mourn civilian deaths on both sides, but the onus is on Hamas to stop its rocket attacks.
QUESTION: I’m surprised that when I ask you the question why Hamas is throwing all these rockets, you said that you don’t know that it’s related to the situation going on in the Middle East. How do you think Iran has any participation with the --
MR. TONER: Well, they’re clearly --
MR. TONER: I mean, it’s pure conjecture. I haven’t spoken with them, clearly, today or any day. But they continue to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause, so you’ll have to ask them to explain it.
QUESTION: So does the U.S. hold Hamas responsible for rockets launched by other militant groups in Gaza such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad?
MR. TONER: I think I said – I think I noted Hamas and other terrorist groups.
QUESTION: I just want to go one --
QUESTION: So – sorry.
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, go ahead. Go ahead and finish up.
QUESTION: So you’re saying Hamas is responsible for rockets that other groups have launched from Gaza?
MR. TONER: What I am trying to say is that Hamas and these other terrorist groups need to cease, but primarily Hamas.
QUESTION: Just on the – on your assertion or your belief that the Government of Israel remains fundamentally committed to the peace treaty, is that --
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, would you repeat that again?
QUESTION: Well, you just told me that you --
MR. TONER: The Government of Egypt? I thought you said --
QUESTION: Well, yeah, the Government of Egypt remains committed to the peace treaty --
MR. TONER: I just didn’t hear it all.
QUESTION: -- sorry, with Israel.
MR. TONER: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: That is based on these phone calls? Because – or something else? And the reason I ask the question is that this – at least this building’s assessment or analysis of Egypt – I think back to the Secretary talking about how Mubarak’s government was stable amid the Tahrir Square protests – your assessment and analysis of the situation in Egypt hasn’t always been right. So are you absolutely sure and have you gotten reassurances in the last two days from Egyptian officials that they are, in fact, committed to the peace treaty?
MR. TONER: Matt, I’m just going to say that we are consulting closely at very high levels but also through our Embassy in Cairo that we’re in regular contact with President Morsi’s office. We’re conveying the same message that we want to see a de-escalation of violence, that the onus for de-escalating the violence is on Hamas, and I’m going to leave it there.
QUESTION: Well, okay, but that --
MR. TONER: I mean, I’m not going to – I just said that we believe that they remain committed to their peace treaty.
QUESTION: But is that – what is that based on? Is that based on recent conversations?
MR. TONER: It’s based on our continuing close consultation with the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. TONER: Yeah, in the back. Are we done with --
MR. TONER: -- Gaza? Okay, go ahead. You have the floor, my friend.
QUESTION: Thank you. Two questions. One, what sort of messages are you receiving from the leaders from around the globe from the news or reports or even from the White House that Secretary of State is going to leave? And I mean --
MR. TONER: I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself. But obviously, Toria and others, including the Secretary, have said that she’ll finish out this term. But we still have several months ahead of us, so we haven’t received that whole portion or that whole part of – hasn’t begun yet. We don’t have – we still have hard work to do in front of us.
QUESTION: Second question, if I may.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as new sanctions against Iran are concerned, they are toughest in the history what President also said that new may be coming on the way. My question is that how these new sanctions will play a role as far as India is concerned buying oil or doing business with Iran and all that. Are you putting India on the brink also again now to have new sanctions to follow or --
MR. TONER: Well, I think if you’re referring to the --
MR. TONER: Sorry. If you’re referring to the NDAA sanctions, we did provide India a waiver, which we were authorized to do given that they made progress in cutting off their dependence on Iranian crude. That waiver, I think, still remains in effect. But obviously, we’re consulting very closely with the Government of India. This is a process by which we’re working with our partners around the globe all in the same cause, which is putting increased pressure on Iran to come clean and to address international concerns about its nuclear program.
QUESTION: Finally, just to follow up quickly, have you --
MR. TONER: You got in the follow-up --
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MR. TONER: That’s okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Have U.S. given --
MR. TONER: Finish up.
QUESTION: -- given any options, new options for India to fulfill its gap with the oil that which India is not buying from Iran and but they need more oil?
MR. TONER: I don’t have anything specific to cite. But obviously, we’re well aware in our Strategic Dialogue with India of India’s very real concerns about energy, and we’re obviously working with them to address those concerns.
QUESTION: Another one on Iran, Iran sanctions?
MR. TONER: Sure, let’s go ahead. Yeah, we’ll stay on Iran.
QUESTION: On Iran sanction on China, this year on June 28th, Secretary Clinton made a recommendation to Congress and then saying that the Section 1245 of NDAA does not apply to China. So China has 180 days exemption. If my math is correct, it’s going to be expired by the end of this year. So I wonder, what is the status of China being extended for that exemption?
MR. TONER: I don’t have any specific update for you today. Obviously, we’re still a month out from that deadline, if your math’s correct. I can’t do that kind of math in my head anymore. But as I said, the same holds for what I had just said about India, which is that we continue to consult closely with all our partners, obviously China, a member of the P-5+1 group. We’re all committed to seeing Iran address international concerns about its nuclear program, and so we’re working with them to that end. The goal of these NDAA actions or sanctions are to increase pressure on Iran, so we’re obviously – it’s an ongoing conversation we’re having with China, with India, with other global partners on how to cut off dependence on Iranian crude, look at other energy sources that can fill their needs, and put pressure on Iran.
QUESTION: Sorry to take you back to Gaza --
MR. TONER: It’s okay.
QUESTION: And if --
MR. TONER: It’s okay, it’s okay.
QUESTION: -- if this was asked before I entered the room. But has the Secretary spoken to any Turkish leaders about the situation, and is there anything you can tell us about those contacts if they’ve taken place?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Just before coming down here, I did confirm – I do believe she’s spoken with Davutoglu, but I don’t know – I didn’t obviously get time to have a readout and I don’t know when the call was. I know it was recent, so I’ll try to give you one.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I want to ask you a question --
MR. TONER: What are we on now?
QUESTION: I’m moving you to Africa. There is an Argentinean boat in Ghana that it was invited to enter the port of Ghana and was taken --
MR. TONER: Sure. I’m trying to find our angle here, but go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And what some believe is that there is 44 sailors in that boat and they are cutting electricity, they are cutting the water, they are cutting the gas to maintain that boat. And I want to know if the U.S. is following this situation. It also became a little bit risky last week when they wanted to move the boat and the Argentineans say with guns, tell them you don’t enter into our boat. So it came to some security international --
MR. TONER: I apologize; I have not been following this situation. But you’re talking about an Argentinean-flagged boat --
QUESTION: The Argentinean frigate --
MR. TONER: -- or is this a naval vessel?
QUESTION: The Argentinean frigate Libertad is a boat that is a very nice boat that goes around the world with – in terms of peace and presenting the Argentinean army, and it has a sense of no international boundaries and nice relations.
MR. TONER: I don’t have a good answer for you. I’ll look into it if we’re concerned about it.
Catherine, and then you, Margaret.
QUESTION: Just on Benghazi, today Chairman Ros-Lehtinen said that Secretary Clinton is going to be appearing before her committee in December after the ARB is concluded. Is that the plan, and do you know if this will be open or closed?
MR. TONER: Sure. Thanks for asking the question, actually. We’ve been clear all along about our intent to cooperate with closely and work closely with Congress on Benghazi. It’s why Under Secretary Kennedy and officials from State have appeared multiple times with relevant congressional committees. I think it’s six times this week alone that Under Secretary Kennedy has participated in these hearings. The Secretary, as she’s said previously, has served in the Senate for eight years. She knows how important Congress’s role is in reviewing what happened in Benghazi and helping to ensure that we have the best policies, practices, and resources to protect our diplomats and development experts.
So all that to say that once the ARB’s – the ARB has completed its work, she does intend to talk to the relevant committees, as you’d noted. Should the ARB meet its target for completing its review, it will report its findings in December. So that’s why the December date was, I think, mentioned today.
QUESTION: Open session?
MR. TONER: All those details, I think, are – remain to be seen.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, just – and I know this is extremely hypothetical, but suppose the ARB takes much longer than expected or doesn’t meet its December dateline, and in fact, it drags on for – until January and to the point where the Secretary is no longer the Secretary. She still would go up there?
MR. TONER: That’s a – look, we certainly --
QUESTION: I know that it’s hypothetical, but since other officials, ex-officials, recently ex-officials have agreed to testify, I don’t see --
MR. TONER: We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, Matt.
QUESTION: I don’t know why she would have a hesitation in saying no, that she wouldn’t.
MR. TONER: At this point now, I’m just going to say that I just don’t like highly speculative questions. It’s my natural reaction when somebody speculates to that degree.
In the back.
QUESTION: On China. Xi Jinping yesterday officially took the office for Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the Communist Party. What is your impression of his first public speech? Also, what if the – do you see any difference between him and his predecessor, Hu Jintao?
MR. TONER: All good questions. I’m just going to say that we worked well with the previous leadership team, and we look forward to working with the new Chinese leadership. Look, we’re committed to building a cooperative partnership with China. The Secretary’s spoken to this at length on her current trip to Australia. And in fact, it was enshrined in the AUSMIN final communiqué how important our relationship is with China and how we want to see – or want to continue our strong economic engagement. We want to cooperate on regional and global issues. We want to deepen our people-to-people ties. And we want to, obviously, encourage progress on human rights. So I think I’ll just say we look forward to working with the new Chinese leadership.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Clinton spoke to – has had chance to speak to Xi over the phone? Do you have a readout?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. I don’t – you said she has?
QUESTION: Does. My question was if she --
MR. TONER: Okay. I don’t think she has yet, no.
QUESTION: On Jordan.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we get a readout on what the assessment of stability is there? There are some large-scale protests.
MR. TONER: Yeah. We are obviously aware of protests that began, I think, on November 13th. We’re obviously, through our mission there, our Embassy, continuing to monitor the situation closely. As we do in all of these cases, we call on protestors to do so peacefully. Obviously, we, as we’ve said before, we support King Abdullah II’s roadmap for reform and the aspirations of the Jordanian people to foster a more inclusive political process that will promote security, stability, as well as economic development. So we’re continuing to monitor the situation, we’re calling on peaceful protests.
QUESTION: What’s the assessment of why the protests are happening?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think that this is, obviously, as I just said, there’s – there are concerns, economic and political concerns, aspirations by the Jordanian people. We believe that King Abdullah’s roadmap for reform addresses these, but certainly, as we’ve seen elsewhere, there’s a thirst for change.
QUESTION: Mark, the demonstrations are a result of the price increases that the government enforced. And they were done really under pressure from the IMF. Do you have any comment on that? Perhaps you could maybe alleviate the situation, or sort of tell the IMF to sort of lay off the pressure?
MR. TONER: Again – look, I’ll refer you to the IMF for their comments on this. We respect the rights of protestors anywhere to protest, as long as they do so peacefully. We’re aware of the difficult economic situation, but I don’t have any comment beyond that.
QUESTION: But Jordan has always been a very close ally of the United States, and it is really in a very precarious situation (inaudible) –
MR. TONER: No, absolutely. We want to say --
QUESTION: -- between Syria and Israel and the West Bank, and --
MR. TONER: -- I think I just stated very clearly that – I think I stated very clearly – and Jordan is an important strategic partner and ally of the United States, and we’re very supportive of King Abdullah’s reform package.
QUESTION: So finally, you would like to see that they go into, like, the constitutional monarchy kind of way?
MR. TONER: Look, that’s – these are all questions for the Jordanian people to decide.
Yeah. Jill, did you have a question, or no? Or I’m looking behind you.
QUESTION: I actually do on another subject. If you haven’t --
MR. TONER: You walked in, so I assumed you had a question, and you weren’t just interested.
QUESTION: I know. Sorry I was late. I do, on another subject?
MR. TONER: I think we’re done, yeah. Which one?
QUESTION: Okay. This Jill Kelley. Are you able to explain exactly how she got this honorary consul award and license plates, et cetera? It appears that it’s – a lot of this is done on the state level, but they had to check with the government. Is that the State Department? Do you know?
MR. TONER: I don’t have a lot of details. Obviously, what I said the other day still stands, which is that she has no formal affiliation with the State Department.
QUESTION: But she did require some form of clearance for that status (inaudible).
MR. TONER: Again, I can try to get you what our formal process is. I don’t have it in front of me, but --
QUESTION: That would be very helpful.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And then also, because of her apparent representation in some form for the South Korean Government, there is a connection that she got the honorary consul through the South Korean Government. And if you could explain how the State Department might be connected with that. Obviously, it sounds as if there must be a State Department connection if a foreign government is giving some type of consular --
MR. TONER: I mean, I – look. I think – again, I’ll try to get more details for you, but these are – we don’t have a direct role. This is something that foreign governments choose to do, talking more broadly about honorary consuls.
QUESTION: There’s also this report that she apparently was trying to broker some sort of financial relationship between a New York businessman and the South Korean Government. Would she have needed some sort of lobbyist licensing or anything of that sort from the government to do that?
MR. TONER: I don’t think that – again, she’s a U.S. citizen. I don’t think that would pertain to us in --
QUESTION: Does the State Department keep a log of honorary consuls?
MR. TONER: Again, I’ll try to get you more details on this, on --
QUESTION: How does one become an honorary consul? I mean, if you can educate us. Because she seems to be of a Lebanese descent, and she’s really representing the South Koreans.
MR. TONER: You can probably Wikipedia it. But my rudimentary understanding is that these are U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens who perform consular duties, services on a part-time basis. That’s all I really know.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) honorary consuls?
MR. TONER: I’ll find out.
MR. TONER: (Inaudible.) Go.
QUESTION: It was reported by South Korean authority – South Korean Government catched a North Korean ship at the Busan Port in South Korean territory.
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, we’re off of Jill Kelley now? We’re talking about South Korea?
MR. TONER: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: Well, did Jill Kelley make any representations to the State Department on behalf of the South Korean Government about the ship that – how’s that? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The ship that was carrying --
QUESTION: And was General Petraeus involved? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: A North Korean ship carrying the (inaudible) delivered – for deliver to Syria, do you have anything --
MR. TONER: Okay, sorry. Just to make sure I understand, you’re talking about a North Korean ship that was trying to provide --
QUESTION: Yes. Syria, yes.
MR. TONER: -- weapons or parts to Syria that was interdicted by South Korea?
MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll take the question whether we have any --
QUESTION: You don’t know that --
MR. TONER: We’re certainly concerned, and we have been in the past, and said that we’re concerned about proliferation efforts by North Korea. I don’t know about the specific incident – instance you’re citing. I’ll take the question and see if we have anything specific to say.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I want to ask you a question because I was surprised how fast, yesterday, the United Nations Security Council met, based on the situation in Gaza. And China, Russia agreed very quickly to have this meeting. I’m comparing with what’s going on with Syria – that we could not have a security meeting for many, many months. And then this situation pop up, and in three hours we have a Security Council meeting. How it plays? Or how did you – did the U.S. move to call the other partners to have a quickly security meeting? Or how this move on?
MR. TONER: Well, I’d direct your questions to our mission in New York as to the details of how this meeting took place. Obviously, we’re very concerned about, as I said previously, we’re very concerned about the escalation of violence in Gaza, and Ambassador Rice spoke to that in her statement last night. But obviously, we’ve been pushing hard for UN Security Council action on Syria for many, many months, you’re absolutely right.
QUESTION: But that’s what surprised me, because it seems that it’s very quick to have a quick security meeting when it is called against Israel, but we don’t have a security meeting for Syria.
MR. TONER: We believe the Security Council needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. It needs to be able to convincingly address the situation in Syria as well as handle Hamas. So it’s a good point.
QUESTION: Going back to China, if I may, quickly, please.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: My question is that in the past, China was worried about recent changes in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and also ASEANs, and Japan, and other in the region. And they were worried and also accused the U.S. presence there will be harming the relations in the Chinese with the neighboring countries. My question is now here that new leadership – one, do you think, are they going to make some changes inside China or in the region? And also upcoming visit of the President to Burma and also to ASEAN and other countries, now do you think Secretary and President will have a new approach there or new --
MR. TONER: We do have a new approach to the Pacific region. We’ve talked a lot about it.
QUESTION: And are they going to announce during this visit there --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Goyal, without getting into too much detail, I’d just refer you to the Secretary’s remarks that she’s made thus far in Australia with her Australian counterparts, as well as with Secretary of Defense Panetta about our Asia pivot, about our strong engagement with the Asia region, that this isn’t a zero-sum game, that we can work constructively with China and engage with our other Asian partners and allies. There’s been much said, more articulately, than I can put it.
QUESTION: Are you in touch with India, because India is worried about that as far as Chinese aggression is concerned?
MR. TONER: We are in touch with India. In fact, we consult with them closely on these issues.
MR. TONER: Syria.
QUESTION: Yeah. Is there anything new that you care to share with us in the aftermath of the President’s comments yesterday?
MR. TONER: Just that – obviously, we’ve, as I said earlier this week – yes, tomorrow, Bill Taylor is – will be in London leading our delegation at that meeting to talk about emergency aid to Syria’s civilians – civilian population. Obviously, as I said the other day, we’re looking for the Syrian opposition coalition to quickly organize itself so that there’s the organizational structure in place to distribute this aid effectively.
QUESTION: The President put quite a daylight between him and the French President on recognizing the coalition. So are we likely to see this situation remain as it is, at least for the foreseeable future?
MR. TONER: Again, we’re looking for – I think the President was very clear yesterday in saying that we do believe that this is a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We want to see it continue to develop, to organize itself. I mean, we’re only several days out from Doha. There was an agreement reached there that’s important, but this, as a political entity, this organization needs to establish technical committees, really, if you will, develop the kind of organizational structure that will allow it do what we have said we’d like it to do, which is become a very important advocate for the Syrian cause internationally, but also be able to reach within Syria to help the Syrian people and to put additional pressure on Assad and his regime within Syria. So these are all kinds of things we need to see as this organization develops.
QUESTION: They’re not the government?
QUESTION: But you do discourage them from forming a government in exile, correct?
MR. TONER: I think we want to see it organize itself in a way that makes it more effective – or effective.
QUESTION: Including becoming a government? (Inaudible.)
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going to speculate on how it’s going to organize itself. I think I’ll leave it there.
QUESTION: But you have nothing against it.
MR. TONER: I think – no, we want to see this organization, as I said – and Ambassador Ford’s talked about this before, there’s an international component to it, it needs to be able to go out, persuade those countries that perhaps are still on the fence that this is a group that’s representative of the Syrian people, and to garner more support for its cause. And certainly we’ll continue to help in that vein. But also, even within Syria, it needs to effectively distribute assistance and nonlethal aid to the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Is there a minimal level --
QUESTION: Governments do.
MR. TONER: Sorry?
QUESTION: That’s what governments do, no?
MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, those are – exactly. Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there a minimal level of organization for the U.S. to consider providing it weapons?
MR. TONER: We’ve – that – our position has not changed on that.
QUESTION: Yeah. This weekend the Secretary is going to be accompanying the President to Burma. I just wanted –
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- I’ve been asked to ask you if there’s any movement on political prisoners.
MR. TONER: Yeah. We’ve seen, obviously, reports about the prisoner release. We don’t know, frankly, at this point how many and whether they are, in fact, political prisoners that were released. So I just don’t have any details. I mean, obviously, the unconditional release of all political prisoners has been a longstanding goal of the United States, but we just don’t have any specific details on this latest tranche.
MR. TONER: In the back.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Goyal’s question, but this time in East China Sea, Senkaku. Former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman was speaking at OSAC event Tuesday at the State Department, and he said that it’s up to the United States to play a strong role, an honest broker, and the forward deploying of Seventh Fleet is a good thing for the regional stability. I wonder if you have any comments on his proposal.
MR. TONER: I don’t, beyond what our position has been all along. We don’t take sides on competing sovereignty claims over the – in the South China Sea.
Is that it?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:48 p.m.)
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