1:38 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everybody. Where – the President is about to speak, so I’d like to make this as quick as possible. I don’t know if you’ll comply, but just a few things at the top, and then I’ll take your questions.
The United States – rather, the U.S. Department of State has assisted the ministry of defense of Ukraine in safely eliminating the SCUD missile system in Ukraine. SCUDs are a Soviet-era short-range tactical ballistic surface-to-surface missile categorized by Missile Technology Control Regime as a Category I system. The project was concluded on April 11th, 2011. Over 185 SCUD missile airframes and 50 transporter erector launchers were destroyed or demilitarized. Support equipment was also eliminated, including refueling trucks, warhead transport vans, command and control trucks, and other items associated with the SCUD system. In addition, 1,441 tons of SCUD missile liquid oxidizer fuel that posed an environmental and safety threat to Ukraine’s population is also being eliminated.
And also, I just wanted to give you guys a readout. As you’re all aware, the Libya contact group met earlier today in Doha. The meeting built on last month’s meeting in London and was an opportunity for the international community to discuss and build consensus as we move forward in Libya. The Libya contact group meeting chairs issued a statement that highlighted the following -- international progress and implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 73, and it also reiterated the demand for a halt of attacks on civilians, including the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks and abuses on civilians.
They also highlighted the call for a political process that allows Libyans to choose their own future, stressing the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis that responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people. They discussed support for the Libyan people, including support to the opposition consistent with UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 73, as well as a delivery of humanitarian aid to agencies able to deliver it effectively, including the UN, humanitarian agencies, and the opposition. And they also talked about the serious humanitarian situation in Libya. Participants urged all relevant parties to grant immediately safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian agencies to provide urgently needed assistance, including evacuation of the wounded.
Finally, participants stood firm in their position that Qadhafi and his regime have lost all legitimacy and must leave power allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future. With that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: There’s a report out that Libya suggested at the contact group meeting to supply defensive weapons to the opposition in Libya. Would the U.S. support that?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. Who discussed – or who?
QUESTION: There’s a report. I don’t know if it’s AP or Reuters that the Italians suggested –
MR. TONER: Oh, the Italians. Okay. I didn’t hear that. Look, we’ve said all along that all options remain on the table. And we’re not going to – I’m not going exclude anything at this point. Chris Stephens is on the ground in Benghazi. He remains there. He’s talking to the opposition, and certainly today in Doha was another opportunity to discuss with them primarily what would be effective and what kind of assistance they need.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Senator Kerry, during a plenary session on the U.S. Islamic Forum suggested Egypt was far more important than anything else. So whether Qadhafi stays or does not -- is toppled or not toppled really is not a priority, that ultimately he will go down. Is that no longer a priority? Is the U.S. focused on removing Qadhafi from power – consistent with a statement that he must go?
MR. TONER: Well, look, I think at the State Department and elsewhere in the U.S. Government, we need to be able to keep our eyes focused on several different balls at once –
MR. TONER: -- and certainly the Secretary and others have spoken about the fact that Libya is important because – not just for what we’ve been seeing in terms of humanitarian assistance and crises and the fact that the Libyan people have expressed their legitimate aspirations and been met with violence and repression, but also the fact that what happens in Libya has effects elsewhere in the region, including Egypt. So they’re all interconnected, and we need to be able to focus on many different fronts simultaneously. We need to obviously work with the Egyptian authorities as they manage this difficult transition. They’re facing a lot of challenges, and certainly, part of our assistance, at least along the border area with Libya, has been focused on alleviating that pressure on Egypt. We’ve also been working to get Egyptian civilians who were – who fled the fighting in Libya back home to Egypt. So again, it’s – they’re all – there’s an interconnectedness here.
QUESTION: So just a quick follow-up. So, that does remain a goal of the United States of America that Qadhafi must leave office?
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And a quick follow-up. Arab diplomats are saying that the lack of identity of who the rebels are is actually what’s causing all this reluctance –
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. Who said this?
QUESTION: It’s causing all this equivocation by the Administration in terms of aiding the rebels.
MR. TONER: But who said that? I’m –
QUESTION: Arab diplomats.
MR. TONER: Oh, Arab diplomats.
QUESTION: Arab diplomats are saying that the United States is unaware of the identity or remains unaware of the identity of the rebels, and that causes them to be reluctant in aiding them. Could you confirm or deny that?
MR. TONER: Well, what I think we’re trying to do is to evaluate both what their needs are and that’s why we sent one of our most seasoned diplomats to Benghazi to talk to them firsthand and to assess what their needs are in the field and how we can be most effective. We want to make our assistance count and help them in the best way we can. But also, it is true that we have been trying to all along better assess the opposition. Concurrent with our assessment is the fact that they’re evolving as an opposition. They’re becoming more organized and more coherent as an organization, as a political organization. We’re finding out more about them as this happens, so I – we’re keenly aware that there’s an urgency to all of this, but we’re also trying to take an approach that allows us to understand both their needs as well as who they are.
Yeah, go ahead, Brad. We’ll get to you, Jill. Sorry.
QUESTION: We’ve heard more appeals today from the opposition for the U.S. to play a larger role in the aerial campaign. Will this be done? Why or why not?
MR. TONER: Well, NATO’s set to meet, obviously, in the next couple of days in Berlin, and obviously, Libya and the establishment of the no-fly zone and maintenance of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo and the humanitarian assistance operation that NATO’s overseeing will be one of the topics of conversation, if not the topic of conversation. There will be other elements to the meeting, obviously. But we believe NATO is fully capable of carrying out this mission.
We’ve seen broad participation, both on the part of European countries – certainly the UK and France have played a leading role, but other European countries – as well as Arab countries, UAE and Qatar. So we believe that this operation’s been successful and that NATO – led by NATO, it can continue to be successful in fulfilling UN Security Council Resolution 1973. We’re --
QUESTION: So you don’t see it --
MR. TONER: Well, again, Brad, just to finish my thought, we’ve never said we’re – the U.S. role was clearly defined from the very beginning. We brought capabilities to the implementation of 1973 and we continue to play a supportive role in its ongoing fulfillment.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And then just on the current kind of stalemate in the fighting, is the United States comfortable with the kind of partitioning – de facto partitioning of the country as it is now?
MR. TONER: Again, I – it’s a very fluid situation and it’s going to remain fluid for some time to come. We have said all along that our goal was to implement 1973. We believe that’s been done. We’re now calling on, in a very unified fashion through the contact group, for Qadhafi to ceasefire and to withdraw his forces. That message was clear from Doha today, earlier today. And we’re going to continue to apply political pressure.
Ambassador Rice said this doesn’t need to be -- the second phase of this, which is urging Qadhafi to step away from power and then trying to allow a democratic transition to take place. It doesn’t need to be done at the barrel of a gun; it can be done through diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, and other means. Thanks.
Yeah, Jill. Yeah.
QUESTION: What’s the view of the United States on the detention of Mr. Mubarak and his sons?
MR. TONER: Well, again, this is – I think is something – as I said earlier, Egypt is navigating a very difficult transition. It’s trying to set in place democratic processes. But it’s really a matter for the Egyptian Government to address.
QUESTION: Do -- no viewpoint whatsoever?
MR. TONER: I mean, insofar as – Egypt is addressing the Mubarak regime and/or Mubarak rule over Egypt and trying to move forward into a democratic transition. But that’s their – this is their action, this is – it’s their country and we don’t have any comment on it.
MR. TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: -- there is a conference going on here, more than dozens of Muslim and Arab leaders are here in Washington as far as World Muslim Forum is concerned. Are they going to discuss as far as a wave in the Middle East and also Libya if --
MR. TONER: You’re talking about the Organization of Islamic Conference?
MR. TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: And are they going to discuss all these issues? And what do you think the outcome when Secretary also going to address this forum – what’s the outcome?
MR. TONER: She did last night, and she did address the --
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean --
MR. TONER: Yeah, and talked about – echoed some of the themes in her – in – that she raised first in Doha, and the fact that it’s important for Arab leaders to address the legitimate aspirations of their people, and to implement reforms that speak to some of the inequities that exist in the region. She also said that we’re going to remain committed to comprehensive peace in the Middle East. So she raised a lot of these issues, obviously taking advantage, as you said, of this gathering of leaders from the Islamic and Arab world.
QUESTION: What I’m asking you – one more thing on – just to follow, as far as this gathering is concerned, mainly, basically, the Arabs and Muslim leaders are there. Whether she had discussed with them individually or bilaterally or in a group that – if U.S. and NATO both are same – on the same line as far as Qadhafi’s departure is concerned? Or you still have some kind of concessions with his son, or he can depart and his son can stay or – I mean --
MR. TONER: Look, Goyal, our public statements and our private statements are the same on this, and there’s no gap between what NATO’s saying or – in fact, NATO is running the command and control of the unified protector. And we’ve been clear that we want Qadhafi to step away. He’s delegitimized as a leader and needs to leave.
QUESTION: Because there is also a problem of flow of oil. Oil is – that’s the –
MR. TONER: I know. Let’s give some other – we’ll get back to that. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just moving back to the meeting in Doha, the Libya group has agreed to set up a trust fund to support the rebels. Is the U.S. supportive of this fund, and does it want to see it help provide arms or humanitarian assistance like electricity?
And then a follow-up to that is a spokesman for the regime reacted to this, saying that he hopes the American Government doesn’t buy into Qatari schemes.
MR. TONER: Well, we very much appreciate the Qatari Government’s efforts to host this event. And certainly, they’ve been playing a leading role in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. And I think I said yesterday that we’re deeply appreciative of those efforts and that leadership.
Speaking to the idea of a trust fund, look, I think there was broad consensus on a number of issues, and one of them was we need to find ways to assist the TNC, the Transitional National Council, and to make sure that they have funds and they have the wherewithal to continue to operate. There have been a number of ideas floated. That was one of them. But certainly, we’re supportive of – overall of assisting them financially and otherwise.
Yeah. Go ahead, Cami.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about Mahmoud Jibril’s visit to the U.S.? Is he planning to meet with anybody here?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Thanks, Cami. He is going to be in Washington later this week, and he’s going to meet with various members of Congress as well as officials at Department of Defense. And he’ll also meet here with Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg. I don’t have the date; Thursday or Friday, obviously. These meetings will allow us to continue to get a better sense of the opposition in the Transitional National Council and its vision for Libya.
Yes. Go ahead, Brad, and then –
QUESTION: Sorry –
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: -- but do you know when he arrives, by any chance?
MR. TONER: I don’t, actually. I’ll try to find out. I mean, it’s got to be most likely tomorrow.
QUESTION: Back to the Mideast – well, not that; we’re still there – but the Secretary made a reference last night in her speech about a renewed pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, a two-state solution. Does this signal that there will be some sort of new proposal, new parameters, new element coming forward from the United States? Or is it simply the same old process but maybe with new energy or –
MR. TONER: Well, I would say that there’s not – it’s not necessarily a new push or specifically a new push, but rather a redoubling of our efforts. And obviously, we’re aware that at this moment, there’s – some wonder whether there’s any hope for progress. There’s a lot going on in the region, and it was just a moment for the Secretary to reinforce the message that we are committed to this process and that we’re going to make sure we commit the energy necessary to see it fulfilled.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up --
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: -- to this. Earlier in the day, Senator Kerry, again in the same forum, expressed confidence that the resolution of this conflict, based on the two-state solution, can be attained by September, in accordance with the declaration made by the Secretary of State at that podium and the speech made by President Obama to the General Assembly. Is that – so, is there anything new, I mean, just to follow up on that? Or something is going on?
MR. TONER: Well, we continue to meet with both parties. I believe Hale was in the – David Hale was in the region just last week. And our goal is to get them back to the negotiating table. And we do recognize that September is inexorably approaching here and that it’s important for us to keep the momentum – or rejuvenate this process, rather – and to get both parties back to the negotiating table because, as we’ve said many times here, that’s ultimately the only way that we’re going to resolve these issues.
Yeah. Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: On that, didn’t the Secretary, if I’m not mistaken, indicate that the President would be speaking about this sometime soon?
MR. TONER: I think she did. I don’t have her speech in front of me, but –
QUESTION: Do you know any –
MR. TONER: -- I don’t know any more details. I’ll just have to refer you to the White House on that.
QUESTION: Because you said “redoubling our efforts,” but that almost made it sound like there was something more. Maybe new ideas or not?
MR. TONER: Well, I – look, we’re always open to new ideas and new approaches. But fundamentally, we know what needs to be done, which is to get the parties together, to get them talking about these core issues so that they can resolve them in a fashion that’s sustainable and appropriate to both sides. I mean, that’s the core thing here, is to get them back under direct negotiations. We’re open to new ideas and new approaches how to do that, but that’s our goal.
QUESTION: Mark, in the speech she mentioned that this would happen in the coming weeks. Is that – when you talk about redoubling efforts and that bit, is that going to be something that will happen in that couple weeks? Are we going to start seeing some of that now? Or give us some sense of the timeline if you could.
MR. TONER: Well, again, in terms of the President, I’d refer you to the White House. I don’t have details about his speaking on the issue. But as I said, we continue to meet with both sides. I don’t know that there’s ever been a slackening in our approach to Middle East peace, but certainly there’s been a lot of other issues that have come to the fore in recent months. There’s a lot of change sweeping the region. And so I think you’re going to see in the weeks ahead, as I said, a better focus on the Middle East peace process and how we can push it forward. I don’t have a sense of a timeline. I’ll try to get you more details on that.
QUESTION: And the one thing that was unclear was that it seemed from the remarks that it would be maybe a broader speech about kind of wrapping up everything that we’ve seen over the last several months. Is that what we should expect, or should we expect it to focus mainly on the Middle East peace process?
MR. TONER: You’re talking again about the President’s speech?
QUESTION: About the speech or any of this kind of redoubling of efforts or --
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to --
QUESTION: Well, I know, but it --
MR. TONER: -- talk about the President’s speech. I mean --
QUESTION: -- it was still unclear from her remarks, so --
MR. TONER: Right. But as I said, there is a tremendous amount of change taking place in the region, and I think all of us are aware – the President, obviously, as well, as the Secretary of State – that all of this is interconnected and we need to take advantage of this opportunity to pursue peace in the Middle East as well.
QUESTION: Is the speech likely to coincide or precede the visit by Mr. Netanyahu?
MR. TONER: I don’t have any details.
QUESTION: You don’t have that --
MR. TONER: I really don’t.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more on George – or any update on George Mitchell’s activities?
MR. TONER: I don’t. I know he’s – I believe he’s in New York. I don’t know what his – if he has any plans to travel. I know he remains in contact by phone and with both parties, but I don’t have any travel plans for him.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Just one more.
MR. TONER: Oh.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) is saying that the United States pressured to have the Quartet meeting postponed again. Is that – could you confirm that?
MR. TONER: There was nothing ever announced. I don’t have any details.
QUESTION: But did the U.S. Administration push to have the meeting postponed?
MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think – believe anything was ever announced. But we’re open to meeting with the Quartet when there’s – when that meeting has value.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Jill.
MR. TONER: There’s not. I’m aware that there was a Warden Message issued by, I believe, one of our consulates, and that talked about a specific threat to American citizens in the area. But I believe that that was not – that was deemed not credible and withdrawn from the website. So frequently, if we have that kind of assessment, we’ll certainly notify Americans in the area. And I believe in this instance, it was – they were notified. It was then – I believed that that information was not credible, so the information was taken down.
QUESTION: The Warden Message?
QUESTION: So – but does that actually happen where the – they would put a Warden Message out that is not credible?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I mean, this is always – not in the sense you’re talking about. We just don’t willy-nilly issue Warden Messages. I believe we thought it was credible information and then it was later deemed that it was not credible enough to warrant it remaining on the website.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, it’s not the ones from last Friday? You’re talking about something different, right? There were ones from Friday talking about threats to law enforcement at three of your consulates.
MR. TONER: I don’t think – I think we’re talking about a new Warden Message, but I’ll have to double-check on that. I’m not sure the date it was issued.
QUESTION: It was the one from last Friday.
MR. TONER: It was? Thanks.
QUESTION: Yes. And there was a document that had come out from the consulate.
MR. TONER: Right, right, right. In Juarez, I believe; right?
QUESTION: There were three of them, right?
MR. TONER: Right.
MR. TONER: I believe so.
QUESTION: But --
MR. TONER: I just – I’m not certain of the date, but she is.
QUESTION: But the fact that there was the document, that it came out, I mean, do you have intelligence over there since they’re saying that the Americans are in danger over there in Tamaulipas?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we’re always gathering information. And when we receive credible information about a threat to American citizens, we share that with the American public that’s – that might be living in the region or might be somehow affected. That’s the purpose of a Warden Message is to make sure that the Americans living in the area know. That was shared, and now it’s – it was deemed that it was not credible, so it’s been taken down.
QUESTION: Are there any steps that you’re taking to protect Americans living in Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi and Nuevo Leon?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we always – one of the major ways we do that is through the Warden system, which is not just a way to get information, although it is that, but it’s also a way to reach out to Americans very quickly and efficiently, both to let them know when the threat level has changed but also if they need help or assistance to reach them in that way, too.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: In Bahrain, do you know about the case of Karim Fakhrawi, a businessman in the opposition? He went to the police to complain about something and he died in the police custody and this case is the fourth death of its kind in police custody of people in the opposition.
MR. TONER: Right. Yeah. No. We do have – we are aware of the death and we’re obviously – we are deeply concerned by the deaths of both him and several other individuals while in custody of Bahraini authorities, and we extend our condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives. We strongly urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure the security of all persons of all arrests – rather, the security of all arrestees and abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations. And we would call on the Government of Bahrain to conduct complete and transparent investigations into all these deaths.
MR. TONER: I haven’t – we haven’t – I haven’t reached out to him or to the mission. Obviously, the President issued the statement on Friday. We’re still concerned about reports of violence there. And we ask President Asad and the Syrian Government to respect the human rights of the protestors.
QUESTION: Mark, it’s a question about human rights and ongoing religious persecution in Malaysia. And human rights activist was here in Washington on behalf of a Indo-American Foundation, and his passport was revoked by the Malaysian authorities because he was outspoken on human rights and ongoing religious persecution against the minorities and Hindus in Malaysia. Now he’s asking the Secretary and the State Department that Hindus temples are being destroyed and also persecution going on on a regular basis, and peaceful demonstrations are either killed or – many of them have been killed and also --
MR. TONER: Goyal, I’m going to jump in just because I’m not aware of this particular situation but will certainly ask and see if we have any response to it. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
MR. TONER: I don't have anything new to say, nothing to offer than what we said yesterday.
QUESTION: What about Pakistan? Did Pakistan’s foreign minister lodge a complaint with the Ambassador today about the latest missile strikes?
MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of, no.
QUESTION: Well, they said they did in their statement, so --
MR. TONER: I’ll check with the Embassy. I mean, I haven’t – I didn’t see the statement, but I’m aware of those news reports.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MR. TONER: Why don’t you go, and then in back. Go ahead first.
QUESTION: Okay. Just is there any U.S. reaction to the Ivory Coast president vowing to prosecute Laurent Gbagbo? And also any concern that Amnesty International saying that, in fact, Gbagbo supporters are facing reprisals?
MR. TONER: Well, to both your questions, first, we’ve said all along that Laurent Gbagbo and anyone who has been involved in possible human rights abuses should be held accountable for their actions. And so we would urge for a transparent and legal mechanism for that to take place.
And to your second question, we’ve been appealing for calm in Cote d’Ivoire. Finally, the presidential election that took place in November has been decided, and now it’s time for Ivoirians to turn the page and to move forward under the leadership of President Ouattara. And we believe he has a good plan for the country to – both to help it rejuvenate economically but also to stabilize politically. And we urge all Ivoirians to get behind him and to support him in his efforts.
Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: The Chinese nuclear envoy, Mr. Wu Dawei, said that China is considering a step-by-step plan to resume Six-Party Talks, which starts with denuclearization talks between the two Koreas. Is this an acceptable idea to the United States?
MR. TONER: Well, again – I think you raised this question the other day. And what I would say is that North Korea needs to take concrete steps to improve North-South relations and needs to demonstrate unequivocally a change in behavior. It needs to cease provocative actions and take steps towards denuclearization. It needs to comply to its commitments under the Joint Statement in 2005. But we want to see it improve its relations with its neighbors, with South Korea, and to really stop some of the belligerent actions to help create a more productive climate moving forward.
QUESTION: Speaking of improving its relationship with South Korea, isn’t it a part of that movement for North Korea to have denuclearization talks with South Korea?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we – look, I think we’re supportive of better relations between the two countries. We want to see a reduction in tensions, obviously. And it’s incumbent on North Korea, really, to take down the temperature and to act in a more constructive fashion.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to send a fact-finding mission to North Korea to assess the food situation?
MR. TONER: On food aid?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, on what? Fact-finding mission --
QUESTION: On the food situation in North Korea.
MR. TONER: I don't think there’s any plans. We obviously are – continue to monitor the humanitarian situation in North Korea. I’m aware the World Food Program did do a needs assessment that we’re looking at. But consistent with our overall practices on food aid, we need a needs assessment, we need an adequate program management monitoring, and we also need access provisions as well in place. And that’s a question in this case.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for what you’re looking for, or do you get to do your own?
MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I think we need to conduct our own.
QUESTION: Mark, just quickly, as far as your government shutdown it – of course, it did not take place, but there was a lot of chaos and confusion among the many people – many missions in all --
MR. TONER: Indeed.
QUESTION: -- especially in India also.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: What I’m asking you: Did you see anything major backlog or major problems?
MR. TONER: I don't think so. We were certainly prepared for it. We were always hopeful that it would be resolved. It was resolved. Certainly, people did put in extra effort to ensure that we were adequately prepared. But I think it also shows, especially in our consular service, how committed to customer service that they are, that they were already looking at ways to make sure that they kept up with visa requests, visa interviews, and that kind of activity.
QUESTION: Just back on Korea. Do you have a readout of the Wi Sung-lac meetings from yesterday?
MR. TONER: I do. Well, he met with Secretary Campbell. They discussed, obviously, regional security issues as well as bilateral cooperation. I can’t get into much of the details. They were constructive consultations and obviously reflect our close cooperation with South Korea.
QUESTION: And the Bosworth and Kim meetings have moved to today?
MR. TONER: Right. I’ll get you something on that. I’ll have something if not today, then tomorrow.
QUESTION: Mark, do you think they discussed the food aid to North Korea? (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: Good try. I don’t have details of the – I don’t have any substance of their discussions, and that’s some – not something we would necessarily share.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)
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