12:57 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. Before we start, I do want to welcome our University of Pittsburgh folks who are in the back of the room. Welcome. I’m from the Philadelphia area, but I have a lot of relatives out in Western Pennsylvania, so a proud – (laughter) – what is your problem?
QUESTION: (Laughter.) You’re a Notre Dame fan.
MR. TONER: But I’m a proud Pennsylvanian. Anyway, welcome. We’re not going to get into a sports --
QUESTION: Flyers or Penguins?
MR. TONER: Flyers, of course.
QUESTION: Well, then don’t – (laughter).
MR. TONER: Thanks, Matt. (Laughter.) We’ve already taken another (inaudible). I also want to welcome the information officers, or outgoing information officers, who are watching us from an undisclosed location. (Laughter.) Anyway, that’s all I got.
QUESTION: I don’t really have any – the only – my only question is about if you’ve figured out how much aid you’ve suspended to Mali.
MR. TONER: We don’t have those figures for you yet, Matt. And, well, I do have a better understanding, though, of why it is so difficult for us to determine these figures.
QUESTION: Because every calculator and computer --
MR. TONER: No, it’s not that at all.
QUESTION: -- in the entire federal government hasn’t worked for four days?
MR. TONER: No, that’s not – (laughter).
QUESTION: Oh. Okay. Well, that --
MR. TONER: That’s a good guess. That’s a good guess, but it’s not the answer. No, I mean, I think Toria touched upon it yesterday, which is that these assistance programs, while we can give you a ballpark figure, obviously, of the total amount of assistance, and I can tell you unequivocally that our military cooperation has been suspended, but the rest of the assistance package that we give to the Malian Government, or to the Malian – to Mali, part of it is – goes to the Malian Government, there are funds within programs that go to the Malian Government, so we need to just de-conflict all of this before we can get you guys a very accurate figure. So it’s partly something we need to do in-house before we can give you a reliable figure on exactly how much of the assistance is affected.
QUESTION: How much – what does the suspension of military aid mean for the regional security initiatives which are so important, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and all of that, when you’ve got Mali sort of as part of a larger regional framework? How do you detach yourself from one element and keep the framework together?
MR. TONER: Well, that’s precisely – again, that’s another piece of this, if you will, and – that we’re looking at. What I’m talking about when I talk about specific military assistance that’s been cut off, I’m talking about FMF funding as well as security assistance. But we are trying to – as you correctly stated, Mali is part of the broader initiatives, counterterrorism initiatives, and we need to de-conflict that as well.
QUESTION: Okay. But that’s something you’re looking at --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- and that’s something that you’re studying on how to do.
MR. TONER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: And just again, on --
MR. TONER: And it is obviously of concern to us because we are concerned, clearly, about AQIM’s presence in the region, and these are valuable programs, so there’s a price to pay.
QUESTION: The ECOWAS mission, which you guys seem to think or hope it was going to get something done in Mali, was prevented from landing in Bamako by pro-junta protestors, what’s your assessment of that? And what’s your state of communication with the coup leadership?
MR. TONER: Well, we’re obviously very disappointed that this chiefs of mission delegation wasn’t able to land in Mali, in Bamako yesterday because, as you said, there were these demonstrations on the ground. We do know that the ECOWAS CHODs, or the chiefs of defense, met with Captain Sanogo in Bamako yesterday. They demanded a return to civilian rule. And we do know that – or we are in close contact, obviously, with ECOWAS as we move forward. But – and we support their efforts to achieve a swift return to civilian rule in Mali, but obviously this is a disappointment that they weren’t able to land and actually talk to the mutineers.
QUESTION: ECOWAS has suggested that part of their response could include a military dimension. Is that something that the United States would support?
MR. TONER: I think we’re still very much of the mindset that there can be a very – we hope very rapid diplomatic solution to this.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: On Cuba, the Pope’s visit, I was wondering the assessment of the comments he made in Cuba. Specifically, he was quite critical of the U.S. embargo. I presume it’s a longstanding position of the Vatican, but he said that it imposes undue hardship on the people of Cuba. Is that – is there a reaction that you have to that, or is there --
MR. TONER: Not really. I mean, we’ve been quite clear why we have the embargo in place. We’ve long said as well that our Cuba policy is focused on improving relations between American people and the Cuban people, and we’ve taken steps to that end to improve that kind of communication and that kind of cooperation. But we obviously welcomed his visit to Cuba. It was a good opportunity for him to deliver a message of religious and human rights – religious freedom, rather, and human rights to the Cuban Government. And we believe that those messages were obviously conveyed in his conversations with Cuban leaders.
QUESTION: Do you know if he raised the case of Alan Gross?
MR. TONER: You know what? I haven’t been able to confirm that. We did, obviously – I think Toria mentioned yesterday that we did raise it. I believe he had just returned to Rome, and I don’t know that we’ve received any kind of readout --
QUESTION: Then how do you --
MR. TONER: -- of Vatican City.
QUESTION: Then how do you have reason to believe that he raised these issues?
MR. TONER: These issues about human rights and religious freedom?
QUESTION: If you haven’t had --
QUESTION: Alan Gross, specifically.
MR. TONER: Oh, Alan Gross.
QUESTION: Well, no. I’m – more broadly than Alan Gross. You said we understand, or something like that; we believe that he conveyed those messages.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Well --
QUESTION: Why do you think that, outside of what his – what he said publicly? Do you have any knowledge --
MR. TONER: Well, I am (inaudible) some of his public statements, and --
QUESTION: But do you have knowledge that the Pope did in fact, with Cuban authorities, raise cases of --
MR. TONER: I don’t have a specific --
QUESTION: -- Alan Gross or anyone else?
MR. TONER: -- readout of his actual meetings with the Cuban leaders, no.
Yeah. Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: On the BRICS summit in Delhi, do you have anything to say on the outcome of the BRICS summit?
MR. TONER: Well, we’ve reviewed the leaders’ Delhi declaration and believe that their efforts to engage in global multilateral institutions productively can only strengthen the international system. We also welcome their commitment to Afghanistan’s future in supporting the global economic recovery.
QUESTION: And on Iran, do you feel that you have differences with the BRICS on Iran issue?
MR. TONER: No. Look, we’re engaged, obviously, with close consultations, as we’ve said many times, with governments on the requirements of our specific law. And in all our consultations, we’re making very clear the importance of reducing reliance on Iranian oil, and also unwinding countries’ business dealings with the Central Bank of Iran, and we’re going to continue those discussions.
QUESTION: But they are opposed to any military options in Iran. They want the diplomatic options to be continued?
MR. TONER: Look, well, the President’s said that no option has been taken off the table. He’s also been very clear that there’s still – we believe there’s still time for a diplomatic solution here.
QUESTION: They are also moving towards developing a joint developmental bank. Do you think this will be a duplicacy of the other multinational institutions that you already have?
MR. TONER: No. I think I spoke to that. I think that we believe that their engagement in multilateral institutions, global multilateral institutions, can only strengthen our international system as well as we appreciated their comments in support of the global economic recovery.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. TONER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: To Syria?
MR. TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: In advance of the conference, I was wondering if there – if – A, if there’s anything you can say about any additional money that Secretary Clinton might be bringing to the SNC. And could you talk about – when we were in Tunis, she announced 10 million for the Syrian people and everything. How much money has the U.S. to date given specifically directly to the opposition?
MR. TONER: Well, first off, I did want to note that the Secretary did have a very good meeting yesterday with Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, who’s the president – as you know, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. That was at the State Department here yesterday, and they did obviously discuss the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the ICRC’s work there. The ICRC, as you know, has been critical in providing much needed humanitarian assistance and protection to the Syrian people under incredibly difficult circumstances, and certainly the Secretary was very supportive of their work.
In answer to your question, in terms of new money, I’m certainly not going to get out in front of what the Secretary may or may not announce when she’s on the ground in Istanbul. In terms of the 10 million – I’m sorry – you were asking how much has actually been – has been disbursed?
QUESTION: Well, I know the U.S. has given, like, a – money to the Syrian people and to humanitarian issues. How much U.S. money has gone specifically to the SNC or directly to the coffers of other – just opposition at large?
MR. TONER: Oh, how much money has been disbursed to actual – to the actual Syrian opposition --
MR. TONER: -- versus through humanitarian assistance and –
MR. TONER: Look, I don’t have an answer for you –
QUESTION: Can you check that, please?
MR. TONER: -- so I'll take the question. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Also, maybe – just, like, can you take a question about whether any materiel has been provided to them, like phones or GPS things or –
MR. TONER: Well, I think we did – we have talked before about some nonlethal assistance.
QUESTION: Have you gone through exactly what it is that you’ve provided?
MR. TONER: We've not, obviously, delineated what that is, but there’s lots of very good reasons not to get into too much detail there.
MR. TONER: So I’m limited in what I can say.
QUESTION: Would that be covered in this dollar figure that you’d be looking for?
MR. TONER: Sure. We can try to (inaudible).
QUESTION: There’s lots of very good reasons not to get into that?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Well, what would –
MR. TONER: For the protection –
QUESTION: -- three of those be?
MR. TONER: For the protection of these opposition leaders. Obviously, they are in-country --
MR. TONER: -- and whenever we're talking about our outreach – and you know this from your discussions with Ambassador Ford throughout this ongoing struggle in Syria – that we’ve been very tight-lipped for obvious reasons about our dealings with the SNC.
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s one reason.
MR. TONER: Okay. That’s the primary reason.
QUESTION: Assad said that –
MR. TONER: It’s an important reason.
QUESTION: -- that he welcomes the basic idea or premise of the Annan proposal, but something has to be done about, his word, “terrorists.” What’s this building’s reaction?
MR. TONER: Our reaction is that we’ve – now day three after the letter sent to Annan that they agreed with his proposal as a way forward, we’ve seen absolutely nothing on the ground that indicates that they’re adhering to its calls for Syrian artillery and heavy weaponry to go back to barracks and for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian assistance to be put in place. To date we’ve seen no steps in that direction. So it’s not surprising, but it’s discouraging and disappointing.
QUESTION: Does this increase the appetite among the U.S. and its allies for some sort of intervention?
MR. TONER: Look, we’ve been very clear where we stand on the prospect of a military intervention. We want to see, and support very much, the efforts of Kofi Annan and give him the time and diplomatic space that he needs to make this work. But again, we’re very clear that we want to see a ceasefire in place, we want to see an end to the violence as soon as possible, so that we can get humanitarian assistance into the beleaguered Syrian people.
QUESTION: But shouldn’t the threat of some sort of outside intervention be raised in order to force the Syrians to comply? I mean, agreements can be reached, nice things can be said, and people are still being attacked.
MR. TONER: Well, what we’ve been very clear about all along here is increasing international pressure on Assad, and you saw out of Baghdad a very strong show of support for Kofi Annan and his plan out of the Arab League summit. We’re going to increase that pressure on him both economically and politically. That’s why these countries are meeting in Istanbul on Sunday. They’re going to discuss new ways that we can apply pressure. But, fundamentally, we want to see an end to the violence, we want to see a political transition, and we want to see dialogue.
Yeah. Go ahead.
MR. TONER: Did you have –
QUESTION: No. No. That was another –
QUESTION: What’s your reaction to the Arab summit in Baghdad? Are you satisfied with the declaration –
MR. TONER: Sorry. I’ll get to you. That’s okay, Scott.
QUESTION: Sorry, Scott.
MR. TONER: No. That’s okay. I guess it’s related, because I did mention the Arab League summit in my last –
QUESTION: You mentioned Baghdad.
MR. TONER: Look, it was obviously, from what we’ve seen, a success. As I said, they did talk about Syria and voiced their very strong support for Kofi Annan’s efforts. We certainly congratulate Iraq on its preparation and convening of the Arab summit. All indications are that it, as I said, had gone well, and Iraq should be proud of what it’s been able to accomplish in recent years, and we believe the hosting of this summit is indicative of its positive role in the region and among the community of nations.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Saudi, I know that Toria yesterday went through some of the things that were going to be on the Secretary’s agenda as far as security and cooperation in the GCC, but I’m wondering: Is the Secretary going with any questions for the Saudis about oil prices, about how they’re going to respond to any potential release of emergency reserves? Is that on the agenda?
MR. TONER: Look, I mean, we’re going to talk – and I think Toria spoke to this at length yesterday about all of the regional issues, including Iran and our bilateral discussions, but I’m not going to get into any great detail from here.
QUESTION: So not even whether or not oil is even going to be a part of that discussion?
MR. TONER: I would say that they’ll talk about regional issues, including our concerns about Iran and our – and as we’ve talked to a number of allies and partners about our legislation pertaining to dealings with Iran over its oil. So –
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: DR Congo. European Union monitors came out with a report about the November elections saying it wasn’t credible, that there are serious allegations of fraud. Does the U.S. have a reaction to that, about how you see the election? And in light of this –
MR. TONER: Sean, I’ll have to see if we have an updated reaction. I know at the time we said that there were – we were concerned about many of the reports of fraud and problems, basically, involving polling. But let me check and see if there’s an update on that.
QUESTION: On Russia, please. Ambassador McFaul has a series of tweets suggesting that someone’s listening to his telephone calls and intercepting his email. Do you believe that your ambassador in Moscow is being spied on?
MR. TONER: Well, I read Mike’s tweets, and I believe he was simply asking a rhetorical question commenting on the fact that wherever he goes in Moscow, he’s finding a presence of – large media presence, some of it hostile, and he’s wondering how they’re getting word about his schedule, so I think it was simply a rhetorical question he was asking.
QUESTION: Was he suggesting that journalists themselves – or is he directing this at the media themselves for perhaps hacking or – his information? Or does he think that the government is giving the journalists this information?
MR. TONER: Well, I don’t think he’s directing it at the journalists or at the media itself. I think he’s asking the question about how details of his personal schedule are getting out to the media.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: Are you asking those questions?
QUESTION: So just to – so just – so, then, if he’s not directing it at the media, he must be directing it at the government.
MR. TONER: I’ll just say he was asking a rhetorical question.
Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, Ambassador Grossman’s trip back home, did he get any commitment from the European countries on supporting the Afghan security forces post-2014? And that, I believe, was the main purpose of his trip.
MR. TONER: It was the main purpose – well, one of the main purposes of his trip was to talk about ongoing support for Afghanistan. I don’t, frankly, have a dollar figure for you. That – it’s really incumbent on these countries that he spoke with about to talk about their own support for Afghanistan transition and Afghan security forces moving forward past 2014. I can just say that they were constructive conversations that he had throughout his trip, and we’ve – we believe there’s broad support moving forward for Afghan security leadership.
QUESTION: I’m not asking about exact dollar figures --
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: -- but did he receive any commitment that Afghan security forces will be receiving money from – or any kind of financial assistance from these European countries after 2014, which they needed?
MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s – I mean, the – part of the intent of this trip was to talk about support for the Afghan Government as we move forward towards 2014. It was also – as we’ve said, it was also in preparation for the NATO Summit in Chicago where many of these issues will be discussed. And I’ll just say that he, throughout, had very constructive conversations.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, did he --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- seek support for Afghanistan post-2014? Post-2014, did he seek support for Afghanistan?
MR. TONER: Well, I think what we’re talking about is the post-2014 scenario and how we could all support Afghanistan as it moves into a security lead throughout the country. So, I mean, that’s certainly among the topics.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Maldives, actually --
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: -- the former President Nasheed, he’s in the U.S. He actually went on Letterman last night.
MR. TONER: I missed that. I didn’t stay up that late.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) But he was voicing disappointment with the position of the State Department regarding the events in February, saying that the U.S. should be more robust in pushing for new elections. Does the U.S. plan to meet him during his visit? And more broadly, what’s the U.S. position going forward on elections in Maldives?
MR. TONER: Well, look, in answer to your first question, I’m not sure. I’ll have to take the question on whether we have any meetings planned with him. I don’t have any update on our basic position towards Maldives. I mean, obviously, our Assistant Secretary Robert Blake’s been very engaged with the – with Maldivian officials, and we’ve been pressing for them to address the concerns about the transfer of power there.
QUESTION: Can I --
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- just return to the Russia question again?
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: I’m wondering – and I apologize because I’m not a big student of Twitter and I don’t follow it that seriously, but --
MR. TONER: You’re talking to somebody who’s also not a big student of Twitter, but --
QUESTION: Well, why is a U.S. ambassador tweeting rhetorical questions about something so sensitive as suggesting that he’s being spied on by his hosts? I mean, does that fall within the bounds of this Department’s official line on what our senior officials should be saying over something like Twitter?
MR. TONER: Well, many of our chiefs of mission have Twitter accounts, and they are allowed to express themselves. We have full confidence in their ability to express themselves on matters of U.S. policy. And also, as you know, Twitter’s also an informal way to communicate with many of these host country populations, whether it be Russia or anywhere else in the world. So we believe it’s an effective communications tool, and we encourage our chiefs of mission to use it.
QUESTION: Sorry, you said he was tweeting in Russian?
MR. TONER: No, I believe it was English.
QUESTION: No, he was tweeting in English. And exactly how many Russians does he think are going to get that message?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have a --
QUESTION: Are they all using Google Translator or something like that to translate it? No?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t know what – whether he also – I believe the --
QUESTION: I mean, who is the rhetorical question intended for?
MR. TONER: I believe the mission also tweets out in Russian as well.
QUESTION: Right, but I guess the question would be: Who was his question – who is the rhetorical question addressed at? Would it be --
MR. TONER: And the rhetorical answer is to his followers on Twitter.
QUESTION: Well, okay, but why?
MR. TONER: Again, I mean, if you followed any – I don’t know if you follow Twitter, the Twittersphere, but it is a form of communication used by many people, whether they’re within the Department of State or outside the Department of State, as a way of informal communication. I don’t know how else to put it.
QUESTION: Well, who was he informally communicating with? Is he trying to send a message to the government that I know what you’re up to?
MR. TONER: I said it best before when he was asking a rhetorical question about --
QUESTION: But you said that it wasn’t --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- directed at the journalists who actually have --
MR. TONER: Precisely.
QUESTION: -- his schedule or his information or whatever. So it must be directed at someone else that he believes is getting that information.
MR. TONER: Sure, but I don’t know – I mean, you’re asking me, was it directed at the Russian Government, and I don’t know that.
QUESTION: You don’t? You don’t know that this was directed at the Russian Government?
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: Have you asked him?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t think – he was asking a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question, in and of itself, is not directed at anyone.
QUESTION: But clearly, it’s becoming an issue, so is the State Department going to clarify with its emissary in Moscow --
MR. TONER: I have --
QUESTION: -- what he meant by this?
MR. TONER: I have spoken to him about it and that’s – and I’ve said it’s a rhetorical question.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, one of these apparently rhetorical tweets asks where are the laws regarding these things in Russia. So who is that directed at?
MR. TONER: Again, these are ways for chiefs of mission to raise issues for discussion. They’re directed at a broad number of followers to air these issues out, if you will. It’s an informal way to communicate. I mean, Matt’s trying to get me to say who his followers are. I can’t tell you off the top of my head who follows Ambassador McFaul in Russia. I would imagine it’s a broad cross-section of both Russian society as well as U.S. and other people – citizens.
QUESTION: Actually, I wasn’t asking you who his Twitter followers are. I can find that out by going on Twitter myself, as you can. Has the Embassy raised this with the Russian Government?
MR. TONER: We have not.
QUESTION: You have not. So this is 21st century diplomacy is now to go on Twitter and launch rhetorical questions into the Twitterverse --
MR. TONER: Let me clarify. Let me clarify. I am not aware that we have. I’m not aware that we have. I can ask if we’ve formally raised it.
QUESTION: I mean, is there a concern? Does the – is the Department concerned that Ambassador McFaul’s personal schedule is being leaked to Russian media outlets?
MR. TONER: Again, I’ve been very clear that he raised a rhetorical question asking about why his schedule was --
QUESTION: And the question is – I understand that. But I’m wondering if this is an issue of concern for the Department or if it’s just his own – if he doesn’t like being mobbed by paparazzi when he goes to The Bolshoi.
MR. TONER: These are not as – necessarily outings to The Bolshoi.
QUESTION: I don’t know. What --
MR. TONER: These are his meetings around town with --
QUESTION: Well, whatever. When he – okay, when he goes to meetings – when he goes to his meetings, I mean, is this a problem – is this a personal problem for him that he’s publicity shy, which I doubt, or is this a problem for the U.S. Government? I guess that’s the question. So if you could take that --
MR. TONER: Yeah, and I’ll take the question of whether we’ve raised it officially.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You just said that he was going to meetings. Those are not private. That’s his public schedule. I’m a little confused now because it keeps rotating. Is he concerned about his own personal --
MR. TONER: Well, again, it wouldn’t necessarily – we don’t put out as we do here with the Secretary, necessarily. Again, I’d have to find out exactly, but it’s not incumbent on any mission anywhere in the world to publicize the ambassador’s schedule for that day, whether they be public meetings or not.
QUESTION: And do you think it’s very smart for an ambassador to be doing this kind of public tweeting when it’s being disrespectful or making some accusations to its host country --
MR. TONER: I wouldn’t characterize it as disrespectful. As I said, it is a new way of communication. It’s a very effective way to reach a broad audience, so – and we support chiefs of mission using Twitter.
QUESTION: Just to follow-up, apparently Ambassador McFaul asked the – there’s video of him on Russian television asking the journalists where they got their information from. And he asked them directly if they’d been reading his emails, Blackberrys, and saying it’s a violation of the Geneva Convention. So when you say it’s – when he says something is a violation of the Geneva Convention --
QUESTION: Geneva or Vienna?
QUESTION: Geneva. That’s what he said.
MR. TONER: I haven’t seen the tweets, so I can’t comment on it. Sorry.
QUESTION: So but does he feel that the host – he must have meant Vienna, but do you think that the Russians are in violation of their treaty obligations to protect the ambassador’s communications?
MR. TONER: Look, as I said to Matt, I will take the question as to whether we have raised our concerns about whether this is in violation of his personal rights or his Vienna Convention rights with the Russian Government.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Would you remind other governments that even though there’s nothing specifically mentioning the Twittersphere or social media in the Vienna conventions that there are norms and practices that the U.S. expects when it comes to the treatment of their diplomatic personnel?
MR. TONER: Ros, I’m not sure I follow the question. Would I --
QUESTION: Well, it’s just as it’s not good form to go snooping through somebody’s garbage can, don’t try to break into their email to find out what their schedule is.
MR. TONER: Well, that goes without saying, that email is, we believe, especially official email, would be protected, yes.
QUESTION: Really. Well, that didn’t stop you from laughing it up about President Assad’s stolen email the other day – other week.
MR. TONER: I don’t know that we laughed it up. I think we said it’s --
QUESTION: Well, yeah, it was pretty --
MR. TONER: I don’t think we laughed it up. I think it was a sad commentary on the --
QUESTION: So it’s okay to steal other people’s email unless it’s a U.S. official?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t think we ever condoned that as well.
QUESTION: You didn’t, but you certainly had a lot to say about President Assad’s email. So did the White House. And yet that was stolen.
MR. TONER: I don’t know how they obtained that. You’re talking about The Guardian? You’ll have to ask The Guardian.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s been reported that North Koreans and Americans will be meeting in Berlin this weekend. Are there any U.S. officials attending, and if so --
MR. TONER: I apologize. Just rewind a little bit. Who’s meeting with who?
QUESTION: North Koreans and Americans will be meeting in Berlin.
MR. TONER: Is this is a track two thing? Is this a --
QUESTION: That’s all I – a diplomat Lee --
MR. TONER: These aren’t American officials --
QUESTION: -- and American officials. Former State Department --
MR. TONER: Okay, former State Department. No, I’m not aware that we have any official Americans going to that meeting.
QUESTION: There’s a story in India’s Telegraph newspaper that the confirmation of – nomination of India’s – U.S. Ambassador to India Powell is being held up in the Senate for more than two months now for some reasons in the Senate. Is that an issue of concern to you, because absence of an ambassador in India --
MR. TONER: Well, look, anytime we don’t have an ambassador at post, it’s always an issue of concern for us. We like to have our ambassadors – our nominees confirmed as quickly as possible and out to their missions, clearly. But we’re also confident that – or hopeful that Congress will move forward in as fast as a manner as possible to confirm all outstanding nominations.
QUESTION: And what is --
MR. TONER: And we’re going to consult with them as we move forward.
QUESTION: What is holding the nomination from being confirmed?
MR. TONER: You’ll have to ask Congress. I’m not – I don’t know.
QUESTION: Are you aware of how many nominees there are who have – or either – that have not – ambassadorial nominees who have not yet had hearings scheduled?
MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll have to check the -- yeah.
QUESTION: I think it’s a rather large number, no? Something that prompted the Secretary to suggest at the chiefs of missions conference that people might want to think about – current ambassadors might want to think about extending their tours? Is it --
MR. TONER: Yeah. I’m not sure. I don’t have a figure for you, Matt. I’d have to take it.
QUESTION: Well, isn’t it – I know she said that in her kind of address. But isn’t it now a kind of regulation or edict in the Department that nobody will move into their onward post till their successor is confirmed?
MR. TONER: Again, I’d have to take the question, Elise. But as I said, it’s always – we always want to – while we have every confidence in our deputy chiefs of mission to act as charges in any mission, we want to see a quick turnover.
QUESTION: Speaking of ambassadors and charges, what’s the status of naming an ambassador to Burma? There’s – obviously, the --
MR. TONER: That’s a White House question.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary meet with the foreign minister from Tunisia on Tuesday, last Tuesday?
MR. TONER: He was here?
QUESTION: I don’t know if it’s the foreign minister or a senior official from the ministry of --
MR. TONER: I’ll take the question. I don’t believe she did meet with any --
QUESTION: Because he met with Under Secretary Hormats. It was on schedule.
MR. TONER: Yeah, I’m not sure who it was. I don’t think it was the foreign minister, but I’ll take the question.
QUESTION: And did she call the Tunisian foreign – prime minister?
MR. TONER: Did she call the Tunisian prime minister?
QUESTION: There’s reports on the wires that she --
MR. TONER: Well, you know we issued – she – we issued a statement earlier about --
QUESTION: Yeah. She might’ve just congratulated him on winning the lottery.
MR. TONER: -- assistance to Tunisia, but I don’t know that she actually spoke with him this week. But obviously she was recently in Tunisia, where they discussed ways that we can help Tunisia as it bridges a very difficult democratic transition as well as economically.
QUESTION: I think there’s a Tunisian media report saying that she spoke with him yesterday.
MR. TONER: Yeah. I’ll have to confirm. I didn’t get a readout of her latest calls.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: That it? Thanks guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)
DPB # 58