Daily Press Briefing, November 21, 2012
Mark C. Toner
Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
November 21, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
U.S. Diplomatic Engagements / Secretary's Discussions
Situation in Gaza / De-escalate / End of Rocket Attacks
Bus Bombing in Tel Aviv
Prime Minister Erdogan's Comments on Situation in Gaza
Mumbai Attacks / Terrorists Brought to Justice
Under Secretary Wendy Sherman's Meetings / P-5+1 / Iran's Nuclear Program
Memorandum of Understanding on Detentions
Condemn Killing of Benghazi Police Chief Faraj al-Deirsy
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
M23 Actions / Withdrawal from Goma
Today's briefing was held off-camera, so no video is available.
11:37 a.m. EST
MR. TONER: I don’t have anything for you at the top. Happy day before Thanksgiving, and I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: Why no camera?
MR. TONER: Hmm?
QUESTION: How come no camera today?
MR. TONER: Look, everybody’s dark today. We’re out here gaggling to try to give you an update on the hot issues, but we just decided to do it off camera.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any changes or potential changes to the Secretary’s schedule today?
MR. TONER: Well, I did just get an update, which is one of the reasons I’m a little bit delayed getting out here. In terms of her schedule today, obviously, you all know that she met – she went to Ramallah earlier today, where she met with President Abbas. She then, I believe, met again with Prime Minister Netanyahu before traveling on to Cairo. She has met with President Morsi. She is, I believe, now getting ready to meet with Foreign Minister Amr.
QUESTION: Well, that’s great, but that doesn’t answer – that’s totally not what my question was.
MR. TONER: Which is?
QUESTION: Are you aware of any changes to the schedule that – her schedule?
MR. TONER: I’m not aware of any changes to the schedule.
QUESTION: So she still plans to meet with Morsi and then the Arab League --
MR. TONER: I’m not sure, actually, about whether she plans to meet with Elaraby. I’m not sure where that meeting stands. She’s obviously meeting with Amr, I think, next.
QUESTION: And then she plans to come home?
MR. TONER: That’s my understanding. Of course, if there are any updates to the schedule, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Mark, the Secretary spent 30 minute with Abbas and his team. Is that an indication that – how marginal he has become in this whole --
MR. TONER: Look, Said, I wouldn’t put too much stock into the amount of time that we discuss these issues with the various individuals and players. She’s obviously been engaged with all of the players on a continuing basis. Obviously, that was a face-to-face meeting today, but we’re going to remain in touch with all the players going forward.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it --
MR. TONER: So I wouldn’t read too much into how long they met for.
QUESTION: Is it the feeling of the Administration or the Secretary that at least in this particular case, in the Gaza violence, Abbas is not that important?
MR. TONER: She met with President Abbas this morning. I think that speaks to our belief in Fatah’s relevance --
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly --
MR. TONER: -- as the legitimate authority in Palestine*.
*the Palestinian Authority
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, it seems that the holdup on this thing is the demand by Hamas that the siege be lifted. Are you also opposed to lifting the siege under any circumstance?
MR. TONER: You tried with Toria yesterday, again today. I’m not going to get into discussing --
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into discussing the various details. Negotiations are ongoing. Obviously, the Secretary is very much involved in these discussions. And I’ll just say we want to see, as she has made so abundantly clear, de-escalation of the violence.
QUESTION: I mean, last night, there seemed to be a deal in the works. Everybody was saying a deal was imminent. What happened overnight? Why aren’t we – why don’t we have the deal this morning?
MR. TONER: Well, again, discussions are ongoing. These are difficult issues. The Secretary is fully engaged. I just went through her meetings, but I’m not going to get into the details of the state of play. It doesn’t help at all for me to discuss – to get into our negotiations from the podium.
MR. TONER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: You just called Abbas the legitimate authority – head of the legitimate authority in Palestine. Is that Palestine with a capital P or a small p?
MR. TONER: Sorry, sorry. They are – he is the legitimate authority.
MR. TONER: In the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re not quite yet --
MR. TONER: Yes, sorry.
QUESTION: -- ready to make the snafu Palestine?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Thank you for correcting me.
QUESTION: Could I --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Could I ask you about Erin Pelton’s statement? She issued a statement saying that they reject a proposal to – that calls against the escalation of fighting in Gaza because it failed to stipulate that the onus falls on Hamas in this situation.
MR. TONER: Well, I think we’ve been very clear, and indeed, you’re referring to the press statement put out by her yesterday --
MR. TONER: -- that the draft press statement is what you’re referring to?
MR. TONER: Well, it failed to address what we believe is the root cause of the current escalation, which are rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel.
QUESTION: So the root cause is not really the assassination of Ahmed Jabari but rather the response in which Hamas --
MR. TONER: We’ve said all along that Israel has a right to self-defense.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Whose statement was it?
MR. TONER: I believe it – there was a statement issued by USUN last night. I guess it was in Erin Pelton’s name.
QUESTION: Why did the Secretary talk to Abbas about the statehood push, the non-member state push at the UN? What does that have to do with the present conflict?
MR. TONER: Well, again, she’d obviously – they obviously spent the majority of the meeting discussing the current situation. But this was – this is something we clearly feel strongly about, that any push for greater recognition within the UN detracts from where all of our attention should be, which is getting the two parties back to the negotiating table. She made that point clear.
QUESTION: Yeah. But at a time when Hamas is kind of gaining some legitimacy with Palestinian people, maybe not internationally, is that really the message you want to send, that all your efforts are doing nothing while at the same time these guys are fighting a war? I don’t see how that reinforces the peace push, as it were.
MR. TONER: Well, look --
QUESTION: I’m happy to hear how it does.
MR. TONER: Well, I’m just – it’s just – it was an issue that we have discussed with the Palestinian Authority in the past. We continue to make our points to them that we believe that it is a distraction, that it is not going to lead to the outcome that we’re all looking for, including the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Yeah. But I mean --
MR. TONER: In the context of the current crisis, obviously, the emphasis here is on de-escalation of the current conflict. And that was the majority of the meeting – the focus of the majority of the meeting.
QUESTION: Right. As you look for a durable solution, which is what the Secretary said, isn’t this a time you’d be wanting to build up Abbas? While the other side, which is Hamas, is firing rockets, he’s not firing rockets. Isn’t this – you would want to be helping him further his cause or further his claims to --
MR. TONER: Look, again, she traveled to Ramallah today. She met with President Abbas to talk about the current situation. He is the individual with whom we engage on this issue. We very much strongly believe in his relevancy and in the Fatah’s relevancy, and we’re going to continue to work through him. This other issue is still important, though.
QUESTION: But what is the role that the U.S. sees for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, an area that they don’t govern but do have a presence within? What is the role that the Secretary talked about?
MR. TONER: Well, obviously the onus in all of this, Margaret, is clearly on Hamas. Hamas needs to exercise control over the various groups that are behind the current rocket attacks on Israel. They need to stop those rocket attacks. They need to exercise control over these various organizations on the ground. But we’re going to continue to work with the Palestinian Authority both on a long, durable – or a long-term durable solution to this, but ultimately, and the goal that we’re all seeking, which is direct negotiations and a two-state solution.
QUESTION: But what is the role in Gaza? Is it actually coming up with some governance role, policing of things? I mean, they do have the ability to have some kind of infrastructure, right?
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: Is there a role for him in Gaza?
MR. TONER: Well, again, obviously, these are all issues to be addressed as we move forward. I think the most important thing now is to put pressure on Hamas for them to stop the rocket attacks.
QUESTION: For the Palestinian Authority to do that?
MR. TONER: For the various players in the region to do that.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary talking to Egypt about stopping the resupply of Hamas through tunnels and preventing rearming and smuggling? And also, what has Israel told the Secretary it’s willing to do about allowing access to Gaza?
MR. TONER: Well, I’m not going to get into any details, obviously, of our bilateral discussion with Egypt. I would just say that our longstanding security partnership with Egypt has proven instrumental in meeting a shared – a host of shared security challenges, including, as you said, weapons proliferation. So we do believe that they have an important role to play as a security partner, but I’m not going to get into any of the specifics.
QUESTION: About talking to them specifically? You haven’t asked them to stop the resupply?
MR. TONER: Again, these are all issues that we raise, but again, they have an important role as a security partner. We believe that they’re fulfilling that role.
QUESTION: And again with Israel, what are they willing to do?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. In terms of --
QUESTION: What is Israel willing to do in terms of allowing access for humanitarian goods?
MR. TONER: Again, these are all issues that are on the table being discussed. I’m not going to get into them here.
QUESTION: Can we --
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: With the bus bombing that we’ve seen today in Tel Aviv, I just wondered if you could speak to concerns that the conflict’s actually widening beyond Gaza.
MR. TONER: Well, you saw the strong condemnation out of the White House. You obviously saw the Secretary’s statement again condemning this terrorist attack. It’s vitally important that all the parties get together and agree to de-escalate the situation. We don’t want to see a widening of the violence.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m just a bit confused after your answer to Margaret’s question. So are you saying that the United States believes that the Palestinian Authority could put pressure on Hamas, and that’s why Secretary Clinton talked to them today?
MR. TONER: Look, we’re obviously engaged with the Palestinian Authority, but I’m talking about all regional players. She’s in Cairo now talking with President Morsi to exercise their influence in the region to put pressure on Hamas.
MR. TONER: So if I was speaking too specifically about that, I apologize.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MR. TONER: Yeah, Said.
QUESTION: No, but you still didn’t really answer the – so you’re saying --
MR. TONER: And I’m not going to get into – again, I’m not going to get into specifics about what we’re discussing or what we want to see each party do beyond I’ve said.
QUESTION: But then why did she --
QUESTION: She just asked you why she even spoke to Abbas if you can’t even say he has any influence on Gaza.
MR. TONER: We do believe that they have influence and relevancy in this process, yes.
QUESTION: In what way? Sorry.
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into it.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Secret influence?
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait --
QUESTION: I mean, I just – like this is sort of like a basic question.
QUESTION: Seems to me that if Abbas is the elected leader of the Palestinian Authority, he would have – and presumably there are still supporters of Fatah in Gaza – that he would have some influence with them. I think the answer is --
MR. TONER: I’ve said that he has influence, but I’m not going to get into details about what we’re expecting him to do.
QUESTION: I mean, it’s fairly --
MR. TONER: I realize that, but --
QUESTION: I missed – well, you carry on with that.
MR. TONER: Look, Dana, I don’t want to get as – we’re trying to not get into too much of the nitty-gritty details on the ground, the negotiations that are underway. Of course, we’ve said that Fatah has relevancy in this process. We certainly want to see them exercise influence, just as we want to see all the regional players exercise their influence to de-escalate the situation. But I’m not going to get into what we’re asking for in great detail.
QUESTION: And well, he continues to pay their salaries – Hamas’ salaries. Okay. But I wanted to ask you that this stubbornness on part of Abbas, they are determined to come next week, next Wednesday and go to the UN on Thursday and ask for a vote. Do you think that he is missing the point in this whole process?
MR. TONER: It – again – Brad raised the point earlier – it’s a point that we felt was important to make, again, as we made clear in the read out that we provided of the meeting, that this is not the time for these kinds of sideshows.
QUESTION: Mark --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Matt. And then I’ll get – sorry.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Me? Oh. So I’m sorry. I missed this whole thing – missed this thing with the statement from the U.S. Mission to the UN, which may have been a function of a basketball game last night rather than anything else. What exactly happened? There was – a statement was released and then withdrawn?
MR. TONER: Actually, I think it was yesterday day that it happened --
MR. TONER: -- but I would just refer you to USUN for details.
QUESTION: Well, and your – but it was withdrawn.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: But it actually wasn’t a draft. It was --
MR. TONER: It was a draft press statement, yes.
QUESTION: -- that was then released, which makes it no longer a draft, correct?
MR. TONER: It was not released.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, it was a statement drafted by the Arab group that calls not to escalate and so on, but that was rejected (inaudible).
MR. TONER: It was rejected, right. Exactly.
QUESTION: Oh. So it was not a statement by the U.S. Mission to the UN.
MR. TONER: No, no. What he was referring to --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) he said something came out under Erin Pelton--
MR. TONER: --was Erin Pelton’s --
QUESTION: Oh. Explanation for why --
MR. TONER: Thank you. Yes. Exactly.
QUESTION: All right. Okay.
MR. TONER: That’s it. Sorry about that. I misunderstood.
Then over to you.
QUESTION: She explained why they were in support --
QUESTION: Yeah. I just wanted to follow-up on one of Brad’s questions. I’m sorry if I’m flogging a dead horse here, but --
MR. TONER: That’s okay. Beat away. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I guess I just wonder, by reiterating when there’s sort of this attempt to try and bring about a ceasefire, and you’re reiterating – the U.S. is reiterating its opposition to Palestinians getting observer status, how does that in some way sort of – how does that make the U.S. look that it’s in some way objective? Doesn’t it sort of give the appearance that it’s favoring one side over the other?
MR. TONER: Well, I’m not sure I understand the point of your question or the crux of your question.
QUESTION: Well, do you think it makes the U.S. look objective?
MR. TONER: Well, again, there’s no surprise in the fact that – or in how we feel about Palestinian efforts to seek observer status or to upgrade their status in the UN.
QUESTION: I know. And since there is no surprise, it seems kind of unusual to inject this into discussions about bringing about this ceasefire.
MR. TONER: Well, I think, I refer to what Said said, which is at this point it doesn’t make sense to pursue this kind of action in New York when there’s so much going on on the ground that needs to take place.
QUESTION: Seems like it would be a better time, actually, if you had everyone focusing in the pacific halls of the United Nations on a debate instead of firing rockets at each other. Isn’t that a step in the right direction?
MR. TONER: Look, we’re very clear on where we stand on this issue. We want to see a two-state solution, but one that’s achieved at the negotiating table. The Secretary made that clear in her meeting again today. The urgency here is to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.
Go ahead, Anne.
QUESTION: This also might be in the dead horse department – (laughter) – but how does the Secretary define success in this mission? Neither de-escalation nor durable solution gives us much metric here.
MR. TONER: Well, I think we want to see – call it how you will, but a de-escalation. We want to see an end to Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel in the immediate term, but then in the longer term, as she said following her meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, from there we can move on to a more durable solution. But we first need to see that de-escalation. We need to see an end to the rocket attacks so that we can walk this back, if you will.
QUESTION: So as a gateway, a pause in the rocket fire would be success?
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going to define success in – because we’re getting into negotiations that are still ongoing. So I can’t get into too great detail here. We don’t want to constrict in any way those discussions that are still going on in the region. The Secretary’s been very clear what we’re seeking, what everyone is seeking who’s concerned with this, which is a de-escalation of the violence.
QUESTION: Is the larger goal a ceasefire, a formal ceasefire that’s written and signed?
MR. TONER: Let’s get to the immediate goal first, and then we’ll talk about, as she said, a more durable solution.
Yeah. Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Actually, I wanted to clarify one thing --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- just to be sure there isn’t a slight change in your position here. When --
MR. TONER: There’s not a slight change in our position. I can assure you of that.
QUESTION: Really? You don’t even know what the question is.
MR. TONER: But go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to recognize China as – no. (Laughter.) I mean, how can you say there’s no change in position when you don’t even know what the question is?
MR. TONER: Because I know that there’s no change in our position --
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MR. TONER: -- on anything today.
QUESTION: On anything at all?
MR. TONER: Yeah, absolutely.
QUESTION: All right. Nothing. But when you were – on the Palestinian state, UN statehood bid or recognition bid, you said that now is not the best time to do be doing this. Well, are you saying – you’re not suggesting that --
MR. TONER: We’ve never believed it was a good time, no. Thank you for clarifying.
QUESTION: -- once there is a ceasefire --
MR. TONER: No. Thank you for clarifying, no.
QUESTION: -- and this is done, then it’s a good time?
MR. TONER: We think it’s a bad idea. We think it’s a bad idea.
MR. TONER: Always. Until we can get them back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Even after there’s a two-state solution, that’s still a bad idea for them --
MR. TONER: No, I said until we can get them back –
QUESTION: All right.
MR. TONER: Look. As we’ve said many times --
QUESTION: So the best time or the only time you think that the Palestinians should ask for UN recognition is after they actually have a peace deal with Israel. Is that correct?
MR. TONER: We want to see --
QUESTION: So you’re right. Your position has not changed.
MR. TONER: -- two states living side-by-side after direct negations that settle all of these issues.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Now would be an especially bad time, right?
MR. TONER: Thank you.
QUESTION: I want to follow-up on the humanitarian situation, okay. I mean, Gaza has been under a blockade for five years. It gets six hours of electricity a day, even before this latest onslaught. They have 40% unemployment; 95 percent of groundwater is undrinkable. Why can’t you take the lead in lifting the siege and basically resolve this humanitarian catastrophe?
MR. TONER: Said, we are aware of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We’re aware of those concerns. Toria spoke yesterday about some of the efforts to, through established channels, to provide relief and assistance. I’m just not going to get into any of these issues that are in a state of play right now as they negotiate on the ground.
QUESTION: Why is out of the realm of the reasonable to ask for lifting the siege as part of any deal?
MR. TONER: Again, these are all issues that are on the table right now. I’m not going to discuss them in detail.
In the back. Are you – you want to switch the subject?
QUESTION: Just a comment. You keep talking about this table. We have – we’ve never seen that table. How that table’s going to come up? I mean, the siege on the table, the negotiation on the table, the final solution on the table. We haven’t seen that table. Do you have any – (laughter) --
MR. TONER: It’s a beautiful table, let me assure you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I mean, no, I’m serious. I mean, do you have any idea how that table is going to come up?
MR. TONER: No, a serious answer to your question is that – we’ve said it in the past week or so, what Hamas is doing right now is not in the long-term interests of the Palestinian people. They’re getting them further away rather than closer to that table, if you will. And certainly what President Abbas and others have talked about doing in New York gets them further away from that negotiating table. We ultimately want to see – and ultimately here, the only solution is through both sides sitting down at the negotiating table and working through all of these issues towards a comprehensive settlement.
Go ahead, Margaret.
QUESTION: Is there any U.S. personnel in Gaza? And then with the Secretary, can you give us a sense of who is with her, who’s inside these negotiating – these negotiations. Is it just her (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Right. I think we talked about, in the readout that we gave of her meeting this morning in Tel Aviv --
QUESTION: You said who was with (inaudible.)
MR. TONER: We talked about – let me find it in my notes. I believe all of our personnel, in answer to your first question, are out of Gaza. Is that correct?
QUESTION: No American personnel in Gaza?
MR. TONER: No American personnel.
QUESTION: Well, there aren’t American personnel in Gaza.
QUESTION: USAID was there.
MR. TONER: USAID.
QUESTION: They were there --
MR. TONER: They’ve been gone.
QUESTION: -- until the – when this started, they were there? I’m – don’t think so.
MR. TONER: Right. We understand all USAID staff are safe and accounted for, and all ex-patriot staff working for USAID implementing partners have departed Gaza, just in answer to that question.
QUESTION: When did that happen?
MR. TONER: I don’t have a precise date on that. I would say in the last week or so.
QUESTION: Did it happen --
MR. TONER: No, it wasn’t – it’s not news, if you’re looking for that. In terms of who was with her today when she met with President Abbas, as we have noted, she was joined by Consulate General Mike Ratney as well as Special Envoy David Hale and Vice Admiral Harry Harris. In terms of her team that are with her, I think you know Jake Sullivan’s with her on this. I don’t know – I imagine in Cairo she’s also joined by our Ambassador, Anne Patterson. But I don’t have any more details beyond that. Obviously it’s a pretty skeleton crew.
QUESTION: Right. It would seem that some of the journalists working out of Gaza were also coming increasingly under danger as well. AFP’s office was in a building that was targeted last night and this morning by a rocket attack. None of our staff were harmed, but a Palestinian (inaudible) in an adjacent building was killed. And then there were a couple of rockets that struck near the hotels that are housing the – many of the journalists who flooded in. Is there a feeling that perhaps there’s some intimidation going on on the Israeli side to try and stop journalists doing their work?
MR. TONER: We’ve been very clear, and in fact we’ve issued a Travel Warning or updated Travel Warning that just says we’re concerned about the safety and security of American citizens, but all civilians in both Israel and Gaza. Obviously, these are – this is a very tense situation, and we would just advise everyone to exercise abundant caution in that kind of environment.
QUESTION: I think the Israelis, in a Twitter exchange, said that we should get out of the offices because we were being used as Hamas shields. To my knowledge, we’ve been in that office for 10, 15 years. I’ve been there myself.
MR. TONER: Jo, I haven’t seen those particular tweets, so I can’t really comment on that.
QUESTION: But I mean, the issue about Hamas using people as human shields? How credible do you think that is?
MR. TONER: Again, we’ve said that Israel has a right to defend itself. But I’m not aware of those particular tweets, so I can’t really comment on that.
QUESTION: It’s --
QUESTION: You mentioned that you have this Travel Warning out there, though.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But have you – in the conversations with the Israelis, when you talk about urging them to minimize the possibility of civilian casualties --
MR. TONER: Indeed.
QUESTION: -- does that go to include journalists?
MR. TONER: I would think it would include journalists, yes.
QUESTION: So you have talked to the Israelis about this?
MR. TONER: We’ve talked to them about --
QUESTION: Maybe not this specific incident --
MR. TONER: I don’t know if we specifically mentioned journalists. We have mentioned the need to mitigate civilian casualties.
QUESTION: Including reporters?
MR. TONER: I don’t know if we specifically added that clause, no. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it possible to find that out?
MR. TONER: I can check.
QUESTION: And then also, are you aware of – same – it’s the same question.
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: So if – could you – if you could find that out, that would be --
MR. TONER: Sure. Yeah.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, in case you were looking for the tweets, it’s from the IDF spokesperson --
MR. TONER: Okay, good.
QUESTION: -- who actually tweeted, “We warn all journalists to stay away from Hamas and all operatives, as they’re being used for human shields.” And many journalists have responded by saying, “Then how do we cover the story?” It would be great if you could get back to us about whether you have spoken to the Israelis specifically about protecting reporters.
MR. TONER: Okay. I’ll look into that. I’ll look into it, thanks.
QUESTION: On (inaudible) Mark, I wanted to ask you – there were three Palestinian journalists that were killed. Now, they work for the television station that belonged to Hamas. But it is a television station. I mean, these guys do journalism. Do you condemn that?
MR. TONER: Again, I think we’ve talked about our deep concern for the safety of civilian on all sides of this conflict.
QUESTION: Mark, just to clarify the concern that you mentioned yesterday about – that you – the concern you (inaudible) to Turkey’s side about the rhetoric of Turkish Government. What is exactly the content of this concern? Because there are two different things. The Turkish Prime Minister, first, has criticized Israel for their act and they’ve labeled Israel’s act as a terrorist state. And also, he criticized President Obama for his approach, characterizing this – Israel’s act as a self-defense. What is exactly the content of the concerns that you convey to Turkish --
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into it beyond what Toria said yesterday. We’ve seen reports of comments by leaders in the region that we believe are not conducive to everyone’s goal here, which is de-escalating the conflict.
QUESTION: I mean, I’m – what I’m trying to --
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into the specifics. I’m not going to address --
QUESTION: Yeah. What I’m trying to understand: Is this crisis at Gaza affecting the bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.S.?
MR. TONER: Is – I didn’t hear the first part of your question.
QUESTION: Is this crisis in Gaza – is affecting the bilateral relations between U.S. and Turkey?
MR. TONER: Turkey is our ally and close partner. We obviously look for them to play a constructive role in the region, as they so often do. We’re just saying that these particular comments made by some leaders are not helpful.
QUESTION: Can we stay in Turkey if --
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: They made the request today to NATO, the Patriots. I assume that you’re all in favor of this?
MR. TONER: I am aware. You’ve all probably seen the Secretary General’s statement out of Brussels regarding the request by Turkey for the deployment of Patriot missiles. My understanding too is that the North Atlantic Council will meet later today in Brussels. We obviously, as we’ve said many times from this podium already, that we take the security of our NATO ally Turkey very seriously, and we would be favorably disposed to this.
QUESTION: You’ll be --
QUESTION: So in other words, yes?
MR. TONER: Yes. Yeah, yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You’ll be able to provide Turkey with the deployment of these missiles?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear your --
QUESTION: There are three – the three countries who can help Turkey for the (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Again, they’re meeting in Brussels now to discuss all of this.
QUESTION: What is your stand on this issue? I mean --
MR. TONER: I said we’d be favorably disposed to it. Obviously, we want to do all we can to protect our close ally, Turkey.
QUESTION: Under what conditions?
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get in – that’s all to be discussed in Brussels, okay?
QUESTION: A different --
QUESTION: A different issue.
MR. TONER: Oh, okay. Let’s go with Lalit and I’ll get to you.
QUESTION: Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman off the Mumbai terrorist attack, was hanged till death in India today. You know six American citizens were killed in that terrorist attack. Do you have anything to say on this? And were you informed by the Indian Government before the --
MR. TONER: Were we informed?
QUESTION: Were you informed by the Indian Government?
MR. TONER: I’m not aware that we would have been informed prior to this execution. We’ve said before that we welcome steps toward justice in these – in the Mumbai attacks. We’ve said many times before that we want to see the terrorists behind these attacks brought to justice. My understanding is that he received due process in a full and transparent trial and the sentence was carried out.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. TONER: Margaret had a new topic and then to you.
QUESTION: The other meeting in Brussels, Wendy Sherman and the P-5+1, any readout from that?
MR. TONER: I mean, Wendy’s on her way back, obviously, from those meetings. I – forgive me, looking here – I know that they did put out a brief statement in Brussels. Cathy Ashton’s office did. Obviously, the meeting took place yesterday – or, rather, today. And as we said prior, that this was part of an ongoing coordination effort to move the process forward, a chance for us to connect with our other P-5+1 partners on how to best move forward in the process of addressing the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. There was obviously a strong commitment by all of the members to having another round of talks with Iran as soon as possible, but I don’t have anything to announce specific.
QUESTION: What has changed on the ground that’s allowed this to go forward now? What has changed?
MR. TONER: Again, this was just a consultation between the P-5+1 partners, so there’s – I don’t have anything to announce in terms of a next meeting with Iran.
QUESTION: No, but I mean there was the – these talks have dragged on for some time now and there’s been a bit of a stalemate for a few months. Why are you now --
MR. TONER: But I think you’re talking about – between the P-5+1 and Iran is what I think you’re talking about. I’m just saying this was a chance for the P-5+1 members to get and consult on the next steps forward.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, the statement – sorry, I was --
MR. TONER: Yeah, that’s okay.
QUESTION: The statement that’s coming out of the meeting is that you guys are ready to resume talks with Iran as soon as possible. So I’m --
MR. TONER: We’ve always been willing to resume talks with Iran as soon as possible.
QUESTION: But there was a point at which you weren’t. You were sort of saying, “We have to go back, we have to reconsider, we have to see what Iran’s got to bring to the table.”
MR. TONER: No. I think we’ve pretty much said that the ball’s in Iran’s court on next steps. But I could be wrong.
QUESTION: I mean, I think wasn’t – there was --
QUESTION: I think you’re right.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Anyway --
QUESTION: Excuse me.
MR. TONER: No, that’s okay. Sure.
QUESTION: Toria took a question yesterday about the Tunisians who died in custody in Tunisia.
MR. TONER: I’m still looking into it. The specific question is whether we had contact with them --
QUESTION: Yeah, or do you --
MR. TONER: -- and/or had access to them, and I don’t have the answer for that. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: And do you know anything about the circumstances of the --
MR. TONER: I don’t. We’re looking into it still. Sorry. We’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Any update on the other Tunisian and U.S. access, the --
MR. TONER: Sorry, Anne. Refresh my memory.
QUESTION: The guy – the ones picked – the one picked up in Turkey. Has the U.S. been (inaudible) on that?
MR. TONER: I’ll have to check on that as well. I apologize. I don’t have any updates.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, a follow-up on the question asked yesterday: In the last two days, 14 Afghans have been executed by the government. Do you have to say anything on that?
MR. TONER: You’re talking about executions by the Afghan Government?
MR. TONER: Decisions regarding the sentencing of Afghan citizens are obviously a matter for the Afghan courts and ruling in accordance with Afghan law as well as, obviously, Afghanistan’s international obligations. We, of course, urge the Government of Afghanistan, as we do with countries around the world, to uphold its international human rights obligations, including the protection of due process and fair courts – fair trial in courts of law.
QUESTION: Do you think the 14 – figure of 14 is a bit high, very high?
MR. TONER: I mean, again, I think we’re more concerned with the fact that – whether the process was transparent, was fair, and consistent with international norms.
QUESTION: So are you satisfied with the process that they followed?
MR. TONER: Sorry?
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the process that they followed? No, you are not.
MR. TONER: Again, I think we’re – those are the kinds of questions that we ask when we look at these kinds of things. But obviously, these were decisions carried out by Afghan courts consistent with their own legal process.
Yeah. Go ahead, Samir.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the assassination of the head of intelligence – security intelligence in Benghazi last night?
MR. TONER: Yes. The United States strongly condemns the killing of Benghazi police chief Faraj al-Deirsy. We extend our condolences to his family and we call for those responsible to be brought to justice. We’re obviously consulting closely with the Libyan Government regarding this matter, but also security efforts writ large, and we’re looking for a full and transparent investigation.
QUESTION: Mark, this just happened --
MR. TONER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: -- since you came out here, but maybe you heard something about it in your phone call with the party in the update, which is that Israeli television is reporting that the Secretary’s going to announce a Gaza ceasefire in about 45 minutes from now.
MR. TONER: I did not get that update, but as we – you know we’ve been --
QUESTION: So you were not in the loop, as it --
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) They were in a meeting.
QUESTION: Oh, I thought you talked to them. Didn’t you say that you had spoke --
MR. TONER: I talked with members of the party, but I didn’t talk with those who were actually in the meeting, so --
QUESTION: So you don’t know anything? I mean, we’re getting (inaudible) reports here, so --
MR. TONER: Let’s – yeah, I mean, I don’t have any response beyond what I’ve already said.
QUESTION: That’s the goal, though, so it wouldn’t be --
MR. TONER: Obviously, that’s the goal, yeah. No, it would be good news indeed.
QUESTION: Is --
MR. TONER: Yeah, Jo.
QUESTION: Is around – can I change topic?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Also happening today, we’ve got the --
MR. TONER: Just in terms of that, I’ll try to seek greater clarity on that when I get out of here.
QUESTION: DR Congo --
MR. TONER: And of course, we’ll update as necessary.
Sorry. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Sorry, no, a big news day. DR Congo; the leaders of the DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda have come out and said that – in a joint statement – that the M23 rebels have to pull out of Goma immediately. Could I ask for a U.S. reaction on that, please?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, this is a joint statement by the presidents?
QUESTION: A joint statement from Kabila, Kagame --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and Museveni, yeah.
MR. TONER: That the M23 needs to pull out?
QUESTION: Of Goma immediately.
MR. TONER: I have not actually seen that statement. I’m aware that they were obviously continuing this – their trilateral dialogue today in Kampala. Obviously, we supported that dialogue. We said as much yesterday and I believe we said as much in our statement that was issued last night. We have been very clear and vocal about our condemnation of M23’s actions in the previous few days. We want to see them immediately withdraw from Goma and cease any further advances and permanently disband. I’d just have to see the body of that statement before I gave a detailed endorsement of it.
QUESTION: As a follow-up to Jo’s question, have you had any discussions with Rwanda about possible suspension of military aid in regards to M23 if they don’t withdraw?
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not aware that we’ve had those specific discussions. I think we said in the past that we condemn any and all outside support of M23. Any military assistance to the rebels is in violation of a UN arms embargo. And we would urge, as we’ve been saying, the presidents, the three presidents, to continue to hold a dialogue in this. It sounds like there was a statement issued, so wait and see that.
QUESTION: Yes. This was half an hour ago, yeah.
MR. TONER: It’s always difficult to react to real-time reports in here.
QUESTION: It is, yes.
MR. TONER: Go ahead, Anne.
QUESTION: Well, I know. I mean, I’m --
MR. TONER: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- asking you to do the same thing. I mean --
MR. TONER: Everybody seems to have Blackberry coverage except for me.
QUESTION: The estimable Associated Press is quoting a Palestinian official saying that it – that there’ll be an announcement within hours.
MR. TONER: Yeah, let me --
QUESTION: Can – I mean --
MR. TONER: The sooner I break free of this, the sooner we can, hopefully, get you a --
QUESTION: But, no, I mean, can we actually, like, get you to respond? I mean, in – obviously, you’re going to have to go back and figure this out and come back or something.
MR. TONER: Yes. I haven’t seen this – I’ll do my best, and will certainly respond.
QUESTION: Is there any way – I mean, should we reconvene? Can we do another off-camera gaggle after?
MR. TONER: I will – we’ll either reconvene or I will – we’ll make sure we get you a statement or a message.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just send us a message?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
MR. TONER: In any case, in some fashion, if we have news to report, we will get it to you.
QUESTION: And if there’s a ceasefire (inaudible) --
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) What’s --
QUESTION: I need a sound bite.
MR. TONER: Don’t ask me to speculate on something that – we all want to see a de-escalation to the violence. That’s obviously the goal of the Secretary’s trip to the region. It’s obviously the goal of everyone involved in this effort. And so ultimately, that’s what we need to see on the ground.
Is that it, guys?
QUESTION: No. Wait. You promised me yesterday --
MR. TONER: On Honduras, is that what you’re going to ask me?
MR. TONER: And I will get that to you.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:14 p.m.)
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