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Daily Press Briefing

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 5, 2016

Index for Today's Briefing




1:53 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Welcome, everyone, to the State Department on this fine, though chilly, Tuesday. I don't have anything at the top, so over to you, Mr. Lee.

QUESTION: I don't really have anything huge, but I did want to ask about – since the Secretary is headed to Bahrain – right? This week --

MR TONER: That's right. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes. Are – do you know what his plans are for meetings in Bahrain? Not the Gulf – not the GCC meetings, but does he have meetings planned with civil society and opposition types there, or is he just meeting with Bahraini officials?

MR TONER: It's a fair question. I don't have the details of his schedule yet. We'll try to get that for you. I just don't – beyond, as you said, the meetings with the GCC --

QUESTION: All right. Do you --

MR TONER: -- I can imagine we'll have follow-on meetings, but I just don't have the details yet.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the current situation in Bahrain, as it relates to the treatment of activists and others?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, nothing particularly new. I mean, we've long spoken about our concerns about the political climate in – the democratic or political environment in Bahrain and our concerns about continued actions against civil society.

QUESTION: And you would expect the Secretary to raise those continued concerns?

MR TONER: I would expect him to raise those, just as he would --

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: -- in any – with any government around the world. If we do have concerns, we do raise them.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I just wanted to – I don't know if the United – if the U.S. or the department has spoken to this, but in Japan the Japanese have announced that the Secretary will be going to the Hiroshima memorial. And I'm just wondering if that is correct from your – I think they said he would be going as part of the broader group to pay their respects --

MR TONER: That is correct. So he will participate, obviously, in the G7 foreign ministers meeting and then he will – he intends to join Foreign Minister Kishida, rather, as well as other G7 foreign ministers in visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

QUESTION: All right. And does he have anything special planned to do, other than just to go and – does he --

MR TONER: I mean – I mean, as --

QUESTION: I mean, would he speak?

MR TONER: No, I mean as – no, I don't believe he has any plans to speak or do a separate event, other than to join the other ministers. If that changes, we'll, of course, let you know. I think it's just – it's an effort to honor the memory of all those who died during World War II and underscore President Obama's vision of a nuclear-free – or a world, rather, without nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: All right. That's all.


QUESTION: Do you have any --

MR TONER: Hi, Lesley.


MR TONER: Been a long time.

QUESTION: Yep. Do you have --

MR TONER: Did you miss me? Come on. It's okay. (Laughter.) Sorry, I'm just teasing. Anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any – and it feels like deja vu.

MR TONER: It does, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation that the Syrian peace talks are going to resume on the 11th?

MR TONER: I do. Well, I mean, we do – we have seen that the UN plans to resume talks in Geneva next Monday, on April 11th. And certainly we recognize Special Envoy de Mistura's leadership. We also understand that he is actually in Moscow today for preparatory discussions, prior to resuming negotiations.


QUESTION: Any phone call today – sorry.

QUESTION: Go for it.

MR TONER: That's okay.

QUESTION: Any phone call between Kerry and Lavrov today?

MR TONER: Well, he's – Secretary Kerry's had a pretty busy morning. No. Wait, I'm sorry, I'm looking at the wrong date. I apologize. No, nothing today.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) did he have a pretty busy morning on the day that you were looking at too? (Laughter.)

MR TONER: No, there's no phone calls.

QUESTION: Every morning is pretty busy.

MR TONER: Every morning. But as you saw, he was quite busy up in New York.

QUESTION: And given that de Mistura is – the envoy is in Moscow, are you making any headway as far as the political transition and specifically the issue of Assad being one of the main topics now going into the next – the second round?

MR TONER: Well, as you know, we've been very clear that our expectation is that these upcoming negotiations will address or take up the core issue of this political transition – excuse me. You know where we stand on it. You know we don't believe that Assad has the legitimacy to be any kind of leader of his people going forward. We, however, respect the process and the right of the HNC as well as the regime to negotiate what this political transition and its modalities and its timeline look like going forward. But we're going to continue to stand by and support the HNC in Geneva in support of its demands.

QUESTION: Is anyone from the State Department or the U.S. going to these discussions?

MR TONER: I would imagine that Special Envoy Ratney would be there. He's – I think he's been at every one, at least for some portion of the negotiations.

QUESTION: Okay. That --

MR TONER: If that's incorrect, I'll correct it.

I'm sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: That – yeah, I just wanted to --

MR TONER: Yeah, Matt.

QUESTION: -- what you said just then, that you respect the right of the HNC and the – and of the regime --

MR TONER: I'm just saying – sorry, let me --

QUESTION: I mean, if this is a guy whose government --

MR TONER: Let me --

QUESTION: -- who has lost all legitimacy and lost all credibility to run, how does he have a right to negotiate?

MR TONER: I'm saying the regime. And this is – what we're saying – let me rephrase that and just say --

QUESTION: So you don't --

MR TONER: -- we respect – let me finish – we respect these talks and their goal of creating a political transition and a timeline for that transition. So all I'm simply stating is our position on Assad and his legitimacy to lead – be a future leader of Syria is well known, that notwithstanding we do believe that this is to be negotiated by the parties in Geneva. And we respect that process. That's all I'm saying.

QUESTION: But has there been some – you guys have come to the conclusion that the regime no longer represents Assad the person, the man?

MR TONER: Not at all, Matt. But I'm – but I am recognizing that this is a process set up by the UN --

QUESTION: Right, fair enough. I just was curious --

MR TONER: -- and Staffan de Mistura. Okay, got it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: -- about the right of the regime.

MR TONER: No, sorry, that was – sorry if that came out --

QUESTION: Previous rounds of talks have often involved a parallel meeting of the ISSG. You may not have travel to announce, but is there – are there plans in the near future to --

MR TONER: Not at this time, no. I don't have anything to announce.

QUESTION: On Assad's future --


QUESTION: -- the Kremlin has said today that the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be decided by the Syrian people, and conditions for such a decision should be created. Are you on the same page now with the Kremlin on the future of President Assad?

MR TONER: This is what the Kremlin said?


MR TONER: Look, I mean, I – yes, in the sense that we agree and have been very clear about this that one of the goals of these negotiations – these proximity talks, whatever you want to refer to them as – is to create the modalities for this political transition. We've been very clear about that. All I simply was saying to Matt is we respect that that's something that these – the parties involved in those negotiations need to work out. Ultimately it is something for the Syrian people to decide, the future of their country. Certainly we support that.

Please, Pam.

QUESTION: That means you agree on the Kremlin statement on the – on Assad's future.

MR TONER: In essence, we believe that – yes, we believe that a political process that reflects the desires and will of the Syrian people is what should ultimately decide the future leadership and the future government of Syria.


QUESTION: And this is the --

MR TONER: Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- first time that you are on the same page with Russia on the future of President Assad?

MR TONER: Look, I mean, we've been – we have agreed broadly with Russia on a number of aspects of resolving the Syrian conflict. Otherwise we wouldn't be where we are today. We have differed, certainly, on Assad's future. That hasn't changed. We believe he is not legitimate – or he's not a legitimate future leader for the country. All that said, and our position notwithstanding, we do believe that the process set up by the ISSG, by the UN, to create a political transition is valid and should be respected.

Please, Pam.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the upcoming round will again be proximity talks? And then if so, what is the U.S. position in the framework of the ISSG on when the transition needs to take place to direct talks?

MR TONER: Both good questions. I don't have clarity on whether these would actually begin as or transition to – away from proximity talks. My sense is that they would at least begin as proximity talks again. But again, we want the focus of this next round of talks to be on the details of what a political transition would look like, certainly under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva communique. And that's something Secretary Kerry spoke about when he met with Foreign Minister Lavrov last month. But as to whether we – we can't predict, frankly, whether they would be direct talks at this point. I'd refer you to de Mistura for that.

QUESTION: Will the Kurds participate this time?

MR TONER: I think it's just the members of the HNC, is my understanding at this point. It's the same grouping, the same members of the HNC who participated in the previous round.


QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the call between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Kishida that took place I think yesterday?

MR TONER: I think I do. It was from a couple days ago, right? Let me check really quickly.

So this is from Sunday evening, April 3rd. He did speak with Foreign Minister Kishida. They exchanged opinions on the full range of bilateral and global issues in advance of the upcoming Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Hiroshima. I don't have any more details beyond that.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that Secretary Kerry's visit to Hiroshima and the peace memorials would – there would be opposition here in the U.S. for that visit?

MR TONER: No, I don't think so. Look, I mean, his intention on visiting this, as I just explained to Matt, is to recognize the huge loss of life that took place during World War II. But I think it's also an acknowledgment that since the end of World War II that the United States and Japan have become the closest of friends and strong allies. So, I mean, as we – as much as we acknowledge the past, we look to the future, and the fact that since World War II, we've seen, frankly, an era of peace and prosperity in the Pacific region and Asia that was unheralded. And so that's what we want to build on going forward.

QUESTION: Did Secretary Kerry discuss the possibility of President Obama making a visit?

MR TONER: I'm not aware of that and I wouldn't speak to that. That's really the White House's domain.

QUESTION: Okay. And then finally – sorry --

MR TONER: Sure, no worries.

QUESTION: -- Foreign Minister Kishida said that one of the outcomes that he'd like to see from the foreign ministers' meeting in Hiroshima would be the development of a Hiroshima declaration calling for the end of – or a nuclear weapon-free world. Is that something that Secretary Kerry would support?

MR TONER: I mean, I can't speak to that specific proposal or deliverable, but as you saw from last week's NSS, certainly this Administration, President Obama, have clearly laid out a vision of a nuclear-free world, and it's something that, throughout this Administration, they've been working towards. It's not obviously something that's easily attained, but as the President laid out last week, there has been progress.


QUESTION: Yes, a follow-up on Nagorno-Karabakh.

MR TONER: Sure thing. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that the United States supports a fair and just resolution with the principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity, and self-determination. Now my question for you today is: Armenia president has threatened to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state. In the estimation of the United States, do you think it's counterproductive or productive to a peaceful settlement?

MR TONER: So a couple of things. First of all, I want to just give all of you a brief update, and then I'll try to answer your question. So the United States does welcome both sides' confirmation of a ceasefire. It's a very nascent ceasefire, but we're encouraged that it does seem to have taken hold. And we are actively engaging with both sides and – to urge them to strictly adhere to the ceasefire.

I can say that the Minsk Group co-chairs were all in Vienna today, and they briefed the OSCE Permanent Council there. And then these co-chairs, with the support of the Minsk Group, obviously, and the German OSCE chairmanship, are going to travel to the region later today – again, to meet with both sides and encourage them to adhere to the ceasefire and to enter into negotiations and a comprehensive settlement.

So as to what that settlement looks like and to what – speaking to the president of Armenia's comments, I'm not going to wade into that, other than to say both leaders, both governments, need to come back into the Minsk process. There is an established process here to negotiate a peaceful settlement to Nagorno-Karabakh. We've had a clear breakdown, a violation of the existing ceasefire. We now have a new one in place that needs to be adhered to; it needs to be solidified and strengthened. But then, obviously, what's most urgent is for both sides to get back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Yesterday, during Secretary Kerry's phone call with Lavrov, did he ask his Russian counterpart to use Russia's influence over Armenia to dissuade Armenia from doing certain things?

MR TONER: Well – so, Russia is a co-chair of the Minsk Group, so we consult with them constantly on how to resolve this and how to get negotiations moving forward. Certainly in any kind of situation like this we would ask any government to use whatever sway it has or whatever influence it may have over another government. I'm not sure and I cannot confirm that it – that Secretary Kerry specifically raised this point with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday, though.

QUESTION: Can I ask on this?

MR TONER: Yeah. Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: When was the last time the Minsk Group actually met in Minsk? (Laughter.) Do you know offhand?

MR TONER: I do not. I don't. I think it's like a --

QUESTION: I mean, do they ever meet in Minsk?

MR TONER: I think what it probably reflects, like the – it's the Minsk commitments with Ukraine. I think it's just where the – it was the birthplace of the group. But I'm not sure that they often go back to Minsk.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But I mean, it just seems odd. Maybe they should give it a different name.

MR TONER: Valid point, Matt.

QUESTION: The Vienna Group or something.

MR TONER: I'll take it up with – (laughter) --

QUESTION: Please do.

MR TONER: -- Victoria Nuland.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on Nagorno-Karabakh?

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. Yeah, please.

QUESTION: The – obviously, as you say, Moscow and Washington have been pretty much on the same hymn sheet, saying both sides should calm down. But President Erdogan of Turkey, a different position. He said that the Azeris should win and will win. Do you have any comment on your NATO ally's stance in this conflict? Is it helpful?

MR TONER: I'll just say that we strongly support the Minsk Group process to mediate a fair and just resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and that does not include picking sides or picking one side over another. Again, what I just tried to explain to Nike is that what we need are both governments, both leaders to come back to the negotiating table. So I'm not going to comment on President Erdogan's comments.

QUESTION: Can I move to Iran for a second?

MR TONER: Yeah, of course.

QUESTION: Up on the Hill this morning, Under Secretary Shannon was asked about the – Russia's sales of the S-300 and also proposed sales of the Sukhoi fighters and some tanks. He said that the S-3 – as you guys have been saying for some time, you frown on the S-300 sale, but it's not against the rules because it's a defensive system. But he then on – as it related to the fighters and the tanks, he said that that would be a violation and that you would veto this at the Security Council. The Russians have said since then – they've come back and said that no, it's not a violation. I just wonder what's your – his – Under Secretary Shannon's response to the question about whether the U.S. would veto was very brief. I think he just said yes, we would. Can you offer any more detail about why it is that you – or how it is that you think that it's a violation and that it should be vetoed or it should be stopped?

MR TONER: Well, as you started off, you said that the S-300 is a defensive missile system.

QUESTION: So the question is not really about that. The question is about --

MR TONER: Right. No, no, I understand that. So I haven't seen Russia's response to what Ambassador Shannon said up on the Hill today at the SFRC. And I'd have to look in and get you a more detailed response on what we believe – why we believe these particular weapons systems would be in violation of existing sanctions.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don't --

MR TONER: I don't have an answer for you.

QUESTION: But he was correct, actually, that you would move to stop such sales if they --

MR TONER: If he said yes, then he was correct, yes.


MR TONER: I'm not going to second-guess him.

QUESTION: On Lebanon.

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The security forces have arrested a trafficking-in-persons ring. Are you aware of this and do you have any comment?

MR TONER: Sure. I am aware of it. It's actually a pretty horrific story. It's – you're talking about this human trafficking ring that was broken up, yeah, in Beirut which had imprisoned dozens of Syrian women who were rescued.

First of all, commend the Lebanese security services for rescuing these women and girls and referring them to appropriate nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian services there in Beirut. We encourage, of course, Lebanese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and all the perpetrators involved in the case and prosecute and convict the offenders as appropriate under Lebanese law. And we are going to continue to monitor closely the vulnerabilities of the Syrian refugee population in the countries to which they flee, which obviously includes Lebanon.

I know I can just say that our Trafficking in Persons Office here in 2014 did fund the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, which is conducting research into the – on the impact of the Syrian war on trafficking in persons in Syria as well as neighboring countries. So it's something we've been watching closely. It's just a horrific story. We applaud the Lebanese authorities' quick response.


MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Still in the region.

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I've got a couple different subjects but still in the region. Egypt. You may have seen that the Egyptian authorities moved today to shut down a center that treats torture victims. I presume you have.

MR TONER: I have not.

QUESTION: You have not. Can you look into that and see if you guys have anything to say about that?

MR TONER: I will, certainly. I will. Yes, absolutely take the question.

QUESTION: And then just in terms of as it relates to Egypt and the Secretary's trip – I realize he's not going there and Egypt isn't part of the GCC.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: But do you expect that the situation in Egypt will come up with any of his interlocutors, even if they are not Egyptian?

MR TONER: Are you talking about the --

QUESTION: On his trip to the region.

MR TONER: -- political – no, but I'm just wondering what aspect of Egypt, I mean --

QUESTION: Well, you've put out this --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: He, himself, put out a statement that was highly – that expressed very deep concern about the situation there. And I'm just wondering if that's the kind of thing that he would bring up with --

MR TONER: I can't exclude that it would come up on the margins or in some of his bilats on the ground. I don't know that there's any plan to discuss it amongst all the members of the GCC.

QUESTION: Okay. And then on Israel.

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Two things, two separate things.

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: One is you might be aware that there's an exhibit going on at the United Nations right now and the Israelis are complaining that the UN has barred two panels from this exhibit, one dealing with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and another one on Arab Israelis and their role in the life of the country of Israel. I'm wondering – I know this doesn't directly relate to the United States, but I'm wondering if you have taken any position or view on this decision and if you're doing anything about it.

MR TONER: We haven't yet. I mean, we're aware of the issue that you raise. Obviously, we weren't involved in the decision to pull any of these panels.


MR TONER: So that's a UN issue. I'd have to refer you to them. I have not seen the exhibit. So we weren't involved in the decision. I mean, in speaking broadly about whether we have any opinion, our position on Jerusalem hasn't changed, obviously, the status of Jerusalem. But I can't speak to the specific panels. I just haven't seen them. If we have anything to comment on them, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: I've heard – I don't know if this is true – but the Israelis have approached you for some kind of help or assistance or – and I was just wondering if that is --

MR TONER: I'll double-check that, Matt. I don't have any knowledge of it.

QUESTION: This question may be better directed to USUN, but anyway --

MR TONER: Sure. But we will follow up as well.

QUESTION: The next one, which is related --

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: My question, which is semi-related to this, has to do – well, doesn't have to do with the UN. It doesn't – but it does have to do with the U.S. diplomatic mission in Saudi.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: And this book fair.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: I meant to ask about this yesterday, but we were running short of time.


QUESTION: So were you guys aware of the content of what was in all of the stalls at this book fair? And if so, why was that okay?

MR TONER: So, first of all, this is a – actually, first of all, we condemn anti-Semitism in all of its forms, as well as any other hate speech. Second is representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh have participated in the International Riyadh Book Fair for multiple years as part of an effort to essentially distribute books to Saudi citizens that include books about democracy, tolerance, diversity, human rights, et cetera. The book fair itself is run by the Saudi Government's Ministry of Culture and Information. So what I want to clearly state is we were just a participant. We weren't aware that these books were going to be featured in this book fair. So we're not a partner, we're not a funder, we're not a sponsor. We're just simply a participant and we obviously, as I said, condemn any kind of anti-Semitic literature.

QUESTION: Well, do you know if there was any complaint made to the organizers – to the Saudis about this?

MR TONER: That I don't know. You mean on our part? I don't know that. I'll check. I mean, I just did, but --

QUESTION: Yeah. Or if you even regard this as something that is – well, yeah, but you --

MR TONER: Sure. No, I understand. I'm not trying to be facetious.

QUESTION: You said you condemn it in general, but I mean --

MR TONER: Yeah. No, no, no.

QUESTION: -- this has been – and I remember that --

MR TONER: Well, I get --

QUESTION: -- this has been a problem in the past --

MR TONER: But --

QUESTION: -- or an issue in the past.

MR TONER: But – sorry, I don't mean to cut you off.

QUESTION: And as you say that you participated in this event for multiple years. I can remember this happening before. I mean, does – do you think that this is something that the U.S. Government, through the State Department, should make an issue of, make – take it to the Saudis?

MR TONER: Well, I do. And I can say that – I can – just to further clarify, we condemn any anti-Semitic literature that may have been present at this event, as I said, just as we would broadly condemn any anti-Semitic literature or anti-Semitism in all its forms around the world. Again, I'm not aware of the history here. My understanding is that we were not aware that these books were going to be featured at the fair. And I can also check on whether we raised this directly, our concerns, with the Saudi Government.



QUESTION: Will you return to the fair next year?

MR TONER: I think we would weigh this very heavily, considering this incident.

QUESTION: Well, okay, but I mean, I –

MR TONER: I mean, look, this is – yeah.

QUESTION: I get that answer, but I can remember asking this question in previous years, because it seems to be something that happens like every single --

MR TONER: Was it last year?


MR TONER: I'm not – sorry.

QUESTION: I mean, it's not something that has just popped up out of the blue. It seems to be --

MR TONER: No, I understand. I understand that. I would --

QUESTION: -- a recurrent theme here.

MR TONER: Yeah. No, I understand that. Again, our intention – the embassy's intention for participating in this was to use it as a venue to --

QUESTION: I -- do you believe, other than these books or this literature that you condemn that, in fact, the fair does bring books about democracy and pluralism and --

MR TONER: Well, sure, because we bring them.

QUESTION: Oh, you bring them.

MR TONER: I can't speak to the broader --

QUESTION: What are the sales of that, I wonder.

MR TONER: No, I really can't speak to the broader content. I'd have to check on that as well.

QUESTION: Do people buy them?

MR TONER: I'd have to check on that as well. I mean, I think, yes. I mean, I – look, we wouldn't do it if we weren't – if it wasn't a productive engagement with Saudi society.

QUESTION: So that's --

MR TONER: There was no return, frankly --


MR TONER: -- to our investment of time, whatever. We probably wouldn't do it, so – yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. I don't want to dwell on this, but when you say, "You bring those kinds of books," does that mean that the embassy has its own stall that it's also --

MR TONER: Well, we do have – that's – again, we have participated in the Riyadh book fair --

QUESTION: Yeah, right.

MR TONER: -- and I believe that includes --


MR TONER: So we do have --

QUESTION: So you bring the books on, say --

MR TONER: We have a booth at the fair, sell a wide assortment of American books, biography, children books, other materials, study in the U.S., and we do pay a fee for just that space.

QUESTION: Right. Guides to women's rights; that kind of thing?

MR TONER: I can imagine all those things. Matt, I – that's all I got.

QUESTION: Now, in terms of (inaudible) --

QUESTION: It would be interesting to – it would actually be interesting to see what kind of a sample of what it is that the U.S. --

MR TONER: We can try to get that for you.

QUESTION: -- Embassy promotes --

MR TONER: We can try to get that for you.

QUESTION: -- what kind of books they promote and so on.

MR TONER: We can try to get that for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mark, on Yemen?

MR TONER: Yes, sir. On Yemen?

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the government shakeup? President Hadi has replaced former deputy president and prime minister --

MR TONER: Yeah. No, I'd refer you to the Government of Yemen on that for any questions within – changes within the government. Our focus right now is clearly we continue to support this planned nationwide cessation of hostilities. I think it's set for April 10th. And that's in advance of the next round of peace talks. That's where our focus is.

QUESTION: But Mr. Bahah has refused these decisions and said that they are unconstitutional.

MR TONER: I don't have any more clarity on that. I can check and see if we have any response to that. But again, we're not – I don't think we're going to comment directly on internal processes within the Yemeni Government. As I said, our focus is getting the cessation of hostilities into place, delivery of humanitarian assistance, and then peace talks.

QUESTION: Speaking of the --

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: -- internal processes of government, do you have anything – I doubt you do – but do you have anything to say about the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland?

MR TONER: Well, I do, in fact.

QUESTION: You do? Oh.

MR TONER: Well, I mean, I don't want to over-promise. (Laughter)

QUESTION: What's happened to --

QUESTION: What exactly --

MR TONER: I feel like I --

QUESTION: What exactly do you have to say?

MR TONER: I don't know. I feel like I'm going to let you down now. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you ready to convict him of wrongdoing?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR TONER: Not at all. No, I mean, just to say we obviously have seen reports. We're closely following political developments in Iceland. We would refer you obviously to the Government of Iceland for further details.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR TONER: But Iceland is a valued NATO ally. It's a global partner of the United States. We recognize their strong contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan --

QUESTION: That's with the --

MR TONER: -- and their partnership in the counter-ISIL coalition. And Iceland does have a strong commitment to democratic values. We have full confidence that this matter will be handled transparently --

QUESTION: I am not trying to pick on Iceland here.

MR TONER: -- and in strict accordance with the rule of law. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I'm not trying to pick on Iceland here.

MR TONER: That's okay.

QUESTION: But as a valued NATO ally, can you recall – do you – what's the size of the Icelandic military?

MR TONER: It's not always a matter of size; it's capabilities, Matt.

QUESTION: It's – right, but I don't think they have one.

QUESTION: I met an --

QUESTION: They have police.

QUESTION: I met an Icelandic soldier in Iraq and when I --

MR TONER: God bless you for bringing that up. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Next time – next time I saw the spokeswoman for the Government of Iceland I said, "I met one of your soldiers in Iraq." She said, "Oh, Steinmar?" I said, "Yeah, that was him." (Laughter.)

QUESTION: All right, well, there you have it.

MR TONER: Again – again, each NATO member brings unique capabilities, and that's what about – that's --

QUESTION: That certainly is unique, that's for sure. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Doesn't --

QUESTION: One is very unique.

QUESTION: Mark, do you expect --

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: -- other resignations elsewhere?

MR TONER: I can't predict.

QUESTION: You refrain?

MR TONER: Obviously – look, I mean, we're going to refrain from commenting on some of the specific details of these papers – leaked documents as we do, beyond what I said yesterday.

QUESTION: Well, actually, on this – this is kind of --

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You have in the past, in terms of similar --

MR TONER: Have we?

QUESTION: -- things like – well, with WikiLeaks and with the Snowden stuff --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- you have said that this is not really leaks, this is stolen – do you believe that these documents were stolen and that whoever did it should be prosecuted under the Panamanian law?

MR TONER: I think that's a question – frankly, we – I don't have the visibility on that.

QUESTION: You don't?

MR TONER: I think it's a question for the Panamanian Government to answer.

QUESTION: The French Government just added Panama back to its blacklist of countries which are seen as tax havens, right?

MR TONER: Oh, is that right? I thought you were – I thought this was --

QUESTION: I didn't know they'd taken them off it, but they've put it back on now saying that it's a blacklisted business. Maybe it's a question for Treasury, but do you have any plans to review financial relations with Panama?

MR TONER: It is mostly a question for president – for president – it is a question for Treasury. However – and I did talk about this a little bit yesterday, saying while we're not going to comment on specific findings, we do – and it's the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control would look at this. It's part of their mission to detect and respond to potential sanctions violations. But of course, we would also look at any credible allegations of corruption and take action accordingly.

All right, guys? Is that it?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Thanks. Yeah, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)

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