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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 10, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

.2:13 p.m. EST

MR TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. I just have one brief thing to speak to at the top and then I’ll take your questions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the U.S. Institute of Peace at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 12th, to deliver a policy speech focused on Syria. The Secretary’s address will be set against the backdrop of diplomatic efforts to achieve a political transition in Syria and the continuing military campaign against the terrorist group ISIL or Daesh.

With that, I’ll go to your questions.

QUESTION: Really? That’s – did you say what time?

MR TONER: I said 2:00 p.m.

QUESTION: 2:00 p.m.?

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And it’s about Syria – it’s to deliver a Syria policy – does that mean that you guys have actually settled on a policy for Syria?

MR TONER: Indeed.

QUESTION: Will he be announcing it?

MR TONER: I think you’re well aware of the various lines of effort that we’re pursuing with respect to Syria.

QUESTION: Do you expect --

MR TONER: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Do you expect him to unveil new policy?

MR TONER: Again, I’m not going to get out in front of what the Secretary may or may not say in this speech, but I think I would just say that it’s an opportunity for him to lay out the efforts that we’re pursuing in Syria, both countering ISIL but also to bring a political resolution to the conflict.

Yes.

QUESTION: But just to set expectations --

MR TONER: Sorry.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m – it’s not a trick or anything --

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. No, no, no, I --

QUESTION: -- but you’re expecting some major new policy announcement, or is this kind of more like --

MR TONER: And I would say that it’s, I think, an effort by the Secretary to lay out in very concrete terms what we’re trying to do, what our strategy is, what we’re looking to accomplish. Now, there may be new elements in that, but that’s, I think, the overarching goal.

QUESTION: Will he wait until Vienna to sort of state some sort of a position on Syria’s Assad or who is going to be on, let’s say, the terror list and so on, or is he going to basically outline that we consider these people that do this as part of the terror camp, we consider these people that do this as part of the opposition – kind of negotiating partner camp?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, good question. I think he’ll – that’s – that will be one of the matters that they’ll discuss in Vienna. And John spoke to this yesterday as – we’re not there yet, but one of the things we need to identify and work towards moving forward is, as we said, who among the opposition are the credible or moderate opposition and who among them are those outliers, if you will, who can’t be a part of the political transition that we’re seeking. And – moving forward – not to say that we’re going to get there necessarily in Vienna, but moving forward, we need to come up with a consensus on who those individuals are. And equally we need to move forward with the Assad regime on this political transition.

QUESTION: So how is it going to be different than what we heard at the Carnegie couple weeks ago or so? I mean, he did allocate a certain portion --

MR TONER: Sure. I think this’ll be a deeper dive, if I could put it that way, on all matters Syria. I – look, there’s obviously – the Secretary has spoken to it himself. There’s an urgency right now to resolving Syria. And without overselling it, there’s also, we feel like, at least some momentum coming out of the last meeting in Vienna, where we had all of the various stakeholders around the table. And we’re looking to continue to make progress on that, but as much as we can, we also want to be transparent in what we’re trying to pursue.

Yeah, Ros.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to assume that the Secretary’s speech is going to be in any way a public effort to persuade those who were at the table a couple of weeks ago to change their position, deepen their commitment, change course, bring new ideas to the table? How much of it is going to be a public lobbying, if I can use that word?

MR TONER: Sure. It’s a fair question. Look, I mean, I think this is – the focus of this speech is to lay out in a public way – obviously, since it’s a speech – what our strategy is going forward and how we’re working with the various stakeholders, what the next steps are. But that being said, these are also the – all these topics, all these issues are a matter of private discussion. As they were last week in Vienna, so will they be again this week in Vienna. So they’re – we’re very clear in those settings about what our expectations are, and the fact that we are looking to share ideas, share ways forward, and find consensus.

Yeah, sure. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: I had to – until you made that announcement, I – the speech, I was going to just start with two very --

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: -- follow-ups on things that have happened already. One is: Do you have any update on the incident in Jordan yesterday?

MR TONER: I really don’t. Obviously, we confirmed yesterday the two American citizen trainers – U.S. citizen trainers – were killed and two additional ones were wounded. I know they’re still hospitalized. I don’t have a lot of details on their condition, to be frank. The investigation’s ongoing. We’re still looking to the Jordanian authorities to conduct that investigation. And I think John might’ve mentioned yesterday we are sending a DS team over to help with that investigation – Diplomatic Security team.

QUESTION: To help the Jordanians with their investigation?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the second one was on this American citizen who seems to have died in custody in Yemen.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about him?

MR TONER: Sure. We – well, we can confirm that U.S. citizen John Hamen did pass away. He died in Yemen. We obviously express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We did provide – we the State Department provided all possible consular assistance to the family, and that included getting his remains back home. Out of respect for Mr. Hamen’s family, we don’t – I don’t want to get – too many more details to provide, but yes, we can confirm that he passed away.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, do you know – the cause of death, was it natural or was he killed by this --

MR TONER: We don’t have a determination yet, to be honest.

QUESTION: And when you say that you provided --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR TONER: Sure thing. It’s – yes, it’s – sorry – H-a-m-e-n.

QUESTION: And John, J-o-h-n?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: When you say that you did provide all possible consular assistance to the family, I mean, you don’t have anyone on the ground in Yemen right now.

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: What does that mean? Does that mean you worked with someone else to get his remains out or what?

MR TONER: We did work with – I’ll say – I’ll leave it at “third parties” to get the remains.

QUESTION: All right. Another – a country in the region that has been helpful in this kind of thing before. Would that be fair enough to say?

MR TONER: Again, I don’t want to name names. That’s for them to respond to if they choose to, but we did work with a third country to help --

QUESTION: Well, in the past, though, you have gone out of your way to thank one particular country for what it has done. Why not do that here?

MR TONER: Fair question, but I’m just not able to at this point.

QUESTION: This doesn’t have to do with the privacy concerns, does it?

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: All right. That would mean --

MR TONER: No, no, I’m sorry, Matt. No, no, it does not.

QUESTION: Are you able to confirm that he was detained on October the 20th at Sana’a airport?

MR TONER: Yes, I believe – I’m not sure the date was right, but I believe he was detained on his arrival in Yemen. That’s accurate.

QUESTION: And was he detained --

MR TONER: That’s accurate according to what we – according to what we understand.

Please, Abby.

QUESTION: There were reports that he was detained with another individual. Was that other individual an American citizen?

MR TONER: I cannot, I think, confirm that there’s another individual involved. I’ll try to get your more information about that.

QUESTION: And was he detained --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- when he died?

MR TONER: Was he in detention, is what you’re trying to ask?

QUESTION: When he died, yes.

MR TONER: When he died? That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: And who was detaining him?

MR TONER: I believe the Houthis.

QUESTION: Continuing with Yemen?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Today or yesterday, I think, General Charles Brown basically praised the Saudi effort and he, I mean --

MR TONER: Who did? I missed the first part.

QUESTION: He – yeah. He lauded the --

MR TONER: Who, who? I’ve been missing the name, I’m sorry, Said.

QUESTION: General from the Central Command, from CENTCOM.

MR TONER: Oh, okay. I just missed it, sorry.

QUESTION: Charles Brown basically said that the Saudis are conducting themselves professionally in bombing Yemen and so on. Do you have any comment on that? I mean, there seems to be a great many or a number of civilian victims that have been killed as a result of Saudi bombardment, but here you are. Are you supporting this effort? Are you supporting the Saudi efforts?

MR TONER: Well, look, let’s remember that it was the Houthis who created the current situation --

QUESTION: I understand.

MR TONER: No, I’m just – let me – and I’ll answer your question – in Yemen, and have exacerbated the violence going forward. And the reason the Saudis are there conducting these airstrikes is because of the ongoing violence stoked by Houthi rebels, but that said, there have been incidents where we’ve seen civilian casualties as a result of these airstrikes. Just like we do in conflicts around the world, we always call for restraint in conducting these kinds of airstrikes and express our concern when there are civilian casualties.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. So considering that this bombardment has gone on since the last week, or the third week of March – last March, so a long time ago.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And so do you see that this bombardment as actually achieving its goals, part of its goals, and so on?

MR TONER: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, is it helping – some claim that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is going back as a result of this bombardment.

MR TONER: Sure. Well, let’s be clear: We don’t see a military solution to this conflict, to be frank. We want – we support the UN-led process, talks in support of a political transition, and that’s what needs to take place going forward.

The other major concern with the current situation in Yemen that we’ve talked to a little bit before is the humanitarian crisis. And so we need to – and call on all sides to allow the provision of humanitarian assistance to those parts of the country that are most in need, and that’s an ongoing situation.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Could I – this is a bit esoteric. It just comes – the phrase again, “no military solution.” Are there any active conflicts in the world right now that the Administration believes there is a military solution to, or are all of the conflicts that it might have seen a – well, can you answer that? Is there any – are you aware --

MR TONER: You’re asking, I think, Matt, that --

QUESTION: Are you aware of one in which – because I just think that it’s rare if not unprecedented for you guys to say that there is a military solution to a conflict --

MR TONER: I could argue – as much as I --

QUESTION: -- and yet it appears that conflicts that have ended recently have had – have ended because there has been a military solution, not because there hasn’t been.

MR TONER: This is probably a conversation best --

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: -- we should best have later. But I would say --

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MR TONER: ISIL would be one suggestion.

QUESTION: Okay, that – there is a military solution to ISIL?

MR TONER: Well, we’re looking to degrade and destroy them.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MR TONER: Yes, please. Thank you.

QUESTION: China’s Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong has said that as far as he knows there are no plans to discuss the South China Sea at the upcoming APEC summit. Does that sound right to you?

MR TONER: I’m aware of those comments, Arshad. I don’t have much to offer in terms of a response other than to say it’s primarily an economic dialogue – or not dialogue, forum rather. That said, I can imagine that South China Sea in the course of those discussions, multilateral discussions, will come up on the margins or in breakout meetings or what have you. So I wouldn’t preclude it from being discussed at all.

QUESTION: So just maybe it’s just not going to be on the formal summit agenda?

MR TONER: Yeah. And I can’t speak to that, but I would say yes, if it’s not on the formal I can imagine it will be a matter of discussion among the various subgroups and discussions that take place.

QUESTION: If it’s not on the formal agenda?

MR TONER: If it’s not on the formal agenda.

QUESTION: Okay. And one other thing on that. The Philippines has said they don’t plan – the host has said they don’t plan to bring it up. Does that square with your understanding?

MR TONER: Again, I mean, they are the hosts. If that’s what they say, that that is their right --

(Sneeze.)

MR TONER: God bless you. That’s their right to say that. And again, I think understanding that this is primarily an economic based discussion or multilateral discussion or forum. But as we often do when we get together with our allies and partners in the region, this is an issue that does come up.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, one of the reasons that the U.S. has taken such an interest in the South China Sea and the disputes is because of --

MR TONER: Is freedom of navigation and --

QUESTION: -- precisely because of the economic importance of it as a commercial – maritime shipping lanes. So I’m – I mean, I wasn’t going to raise the question, but now that you’ve – now you’ve – why wouldn’t you insist that it be part of an economic forum?

MR TONER: Again, it’s not – we’re not the hosts of this meeting. It’s for the Philippine Government to set the agenda and decide on the agenda. But – so I don’t want to – and I don’t have the agenda in front of me.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: I don’t know it yet.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: So I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t exclude it from conversation, but I wouldn’t also rule it out that it won’t be raised.

QUESTION: In Asia just for a second? This will be quick.

MR TONER: Sure thing.

QUESTION: Do you have any – this is about the Burmese election.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: So there’s some – there’s been some concern expressed that the vote results are coming out extremely slowly. Do you share concerns about that? Do you think that the military is trying to slow-walk the results so that there can be some kind of nefarious activity?

MR TONER: I think what we’ve seen so far is that the vote went off with very little violence. It was – attendance or voter turnout was very high. We have also seen those concerns. And one of the things I’m looking for in my copious guidance here, but there is a set – I think it’s like 16 or 17 days until all the results are due in. So it’s day three so I don’t think we’re overly concerned that they haven’t poured in yet, recognizing some of the difficulties in the environment there to get votes counted and get a centralized vote count done. But that said, we want to see them – we want to see the process move forward as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Right. But there’s a little bit of a history here --

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: -- with elections and votes counting or not counting or results counting or not counting. But you think it’s still too early to get too --

MR TONER: We think it’s too early.

QUESTION: -- get alarmed about this?

MR TONER: But we are aware of those concerns.

Please.

QUESTION: Are the observers who were there --

QUESTION: Change – sorry.

MR TONER: Let’s stay on Burma.

QUESTION: Sure. Are the observers who were there still there to watch this slow process of bringing in and tabulating the vote?

MR TONER: Well, certainly, our embassy observation teams, since they’re composed of embassy personnel, are still there. In terms of the outside groups that were there, I’m uncertain whether they’re still there. I would assume some of them are, but I don’t have an exact, precise determination there. So I’ll take – I can take the question.

QUESTION: Okay, that would be great. Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure thing. Yeah.

Please, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah --

QUESTION: Burma?

QUESTION: To stay in Burma, given the fact that you have a lot of observers on the ground, are you now in position to say that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has won, or it’s too early to tell?

MR TONER: Well, you’ve obviously seen some of the reports. The early reports, the early results coming in seem to indicate a landslide for her party. But I think it’s way too early to determine that, and we’re just going to wait and let the process play itself out.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Election monitors from U.S.-based Carter Center noted several problems on Burma election, including barring the minority groups, Rohingya Muslim, from voting. So according to monitors, over one million Rohingya Muslims are not represented in --

MR TONER: Right. And we have actually raised those – we’ve – we have raised our concerns about the removal of voting rights from individuals previously afforded the right to vote, regardless of religion or ethnicity. And we’ll continue to urge the Government of Burma to address the discrimination of – suffered by some of these ethnic groups, including the Rohingya. So that’s something we – going into it we actually flagged. And the other – and I’m sorry, but there was another concern we had about the – concerning some of the parties of some of the candidates for the presidency, that their country of origin or their birthright was – precluded them from running for president, in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi. So – please.

QUESTION: These are concerns you raised ahead of the voting?

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: When you go on to endorse or otherwise, when you go on to react to the more clear results, we should see that still within that context? Nothing that’s happened has removed those concerns?

MR TONER: Not – no. No. I mean, we – exactly.

QUESTION: So when you eventually congratulate Aung San Suu Kyi, that will be with the --

MR TONER: Caveat.

QUESTION: -- with the caveat that it wasn’t entirely --

MR TONER: Yeah. No, we were very clear about that going into it.

Please.

QUESTION: Can we change to Taiwan? So I think Eric Chu, chairman of Taiwan’s KMT, left for the U.S. today. How do you view this visit, and which U.S. officials will he have the chance to meet with?

MR TONER: One more time? The --

QUESTION: Eric Chu, chairman of Taiwan’s KMT, the ruling party, left for --

MR TONER: Is on his way for a visit to the United States.

QUESTION: Yeah, mm-hmm.

MR TONER: We looked forward to the visit. I don’t have anything particular to read out. We’ll let the – any meetings and the visit take place before we – before I give you a readout.

Please. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MR TONER: Sure. I’m sorry --

QUESTION: On Palestinian --

MR TONER: Let’s go back here. Then I swear to God I’ll go back to you, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a quick one on Maldives. I know you have been – on Maldives, in South Asia.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Government of Maldives have lifted the emergency. Do you have any comments on that?

MR TONER: Just that we welcome the lifting of the state of emergency.

Go ahead, Said. Now your turn.

QUESTION: I want to change topics. I want to go to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it your assessment now that the door has been closed completely on any possibility of, first, resumption – resuming the talks between Palestinians and Israelis, and second, reaching any kind of agreement before President Obama’s current term is over?

MR TONER: No. We spoke to this because this obviously came out of this briefing that was done last week, and we spoke to it.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: We – no, by no means are we closing the door. We continue to believe that a two-state solution is absolutely vital and it’s achievable. And we’re going to keep pursuing it, especially I know the Secretary of State intends to do so. What we want to look at or to talk about with the Israelis is: Without peace talks, how do we move forward to prevent a one-state solution? And how do we stabilize the situation on the ground? And also, how do we get towards a process or a commitment to a two-state solution? I think those are all kind of the elements that we’re discussing.

QUESTION: I understand that you’re saying that you continue to believe in the two-state solution and it is achievable, but it is not achievable between now and the 20th of January, 2017. Isn’t that correct?

MR TONER: Again, I’m not going to close the window on any effort to achieve a two-state solution.

QUESTION: But isn’t that an effort, in essence, what came out of the White House? I mean, to my memory I’ve never heard statements attributed to the White House saying that that’s it; we’re not going to do anything until the end of the term of the current president. I mean, and I’ve been around for a very long time.

MR TONER: You’re right, and President Obama did give an assessment last spring, and we talked about this last week, that talked about – that the circumstances for achieving a two-state solution were not optimal. But that said, we continue to believe it’s absolutely vital for the future of the region, and that’s what we’re going to continue to push towards.

Please, yeah.

QUESTION: To be clear, the White House didn’t say they’re not going to do anything --

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: -- on Israeli-Palestinian peace, right?

MR TONER: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: What Rob Malley said, and what I --

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: -- think the President said was that it was unlikely that there would be a two-state solution peace agreement achieved before the end of the President’s term.

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: You don’t disagree with that assessment?

MR TONER: We don’t. And again, what he also said was the main thing the President would – obviously, this is in the future tense – would want to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu is that without peace – and I just mention this – without peace talks, how do we move forward to prevent a one-state solution, stabilize the situation on the ground, and signal that we’re – that he is committed to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up with that.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: I have more questions on the issue. Now, the President and every president and every American official keeps saying that Israel has the right to defend itself and so on.

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: As I checked last, who is threatening Israel’s security presently? I mean, the last I looked, it had relations with Egypt, with Jordan; Syria is engulfed in a war, an internecine war; and the Palestinians are under occupation. Who really threatens Israel?

MR TONER: Well, again --

QUESTION: That it requires --

MR TONER: -- I mean, we’re seeing attacks by Hamas rockets.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: We’ve seen violence perpetrated against Israeli citizens by attackers, knife-wielding attackers. I think that’s largely the context that we’re talking about recently, although obviously the state of Israel has faced threats from a variety of different sources over its history.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, do you believe that the Palestinians under occupation have a right to defend themselves?

MR TONER: Do I believe that --

QUESTION: Do you believe that the Palestinians under occupation, that we see every day footage of young children being hauled to prison, killed, and so on – do they have a right to defend themselves against a military occupation?

MR TONER: Said, I think, looking at the situation – and I know what you’re getting at.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: The other thing that – I know we go to that line, saying we believe in Israel’s right to defend itself.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: And that certainly is a core tenet of our beliefs about our relationship with Israel. But speaking more globally, I guess, about the situation there, what we also are very clear about is that both sides need to take the steps necessary to reduce tensions, take affirmative actions.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: And so I would say this similarly for the Palestinians carrying out violent attacks but also the Palestinians who feel under threat from Israeli security forces. The whole --

QUESTION: Dynamic.

MR TONER: The whole situation needs to be de-escalated.

QUESTION: I understand this in areas under the control of the authority of the Palestinian authorities, but in areas like Jerusalem, where these people are actually Israeli subjects, how do you figure that out? I mean, how do you determine who is who and who needs to be protected in this case?

MR TONER: Well, again, it speaks to – sorry. It speaks to some of the tensions that we see on display every day and the need to de-escalate the situation. And certainly in the same breath that we say that we defend Israel’s right to defend itself, we also call for restraint in its actions against Palestinians or whoever. So I think it’s important just that there’s balance here and that there’s an effort on both sides to de-escalate the current tensions.

QUESTION: And my last question.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The Israeli Government authorized the building of 2,200 housing units, expanding settlements and so on. Do you have any comment on that?

MR TONER: Our position on settlements has not changed.

Please, Michael.

QUESTION: I had a question on Greece and also Cyprus, if I may, Mark. On Greece, a former minister responsible for the police says that members of the Syriza party in the Government of Greece maintain ties to convicted terrorists. Since – I wanted to know if you have any comment, since you warn the government of Syriza many times on their “ties,” quote-unquote the word, with terrorists.

MR TONER: Sorry, one more time, the top of the question. I apologize. I just didn’t hear the --

QUESTION: The former minister in Greece, he was responsible for the police till two months ago. He said that members of the ruling party Syriza in the Greek Government have ties with terrorists. If you don’t have an answer, can you take this question? Because --

MR TONER: I would, Michael, because I’m not aware of those comments. I’d hate to speak to them out of context.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Please take the question, since --

MR TONER: Yeah. Please. No, thanks. We will; we’ll take it.

QUESTION: -- many times you talk about this topic.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: As far as on Cyprus, your colleague said – EUR send me the comment on the dealings between your ambassador in Nicosia and the military leaders of the Turkish occupied forces. I wanted to ask you, Mark, if you change your policy and you recognize the occupation of Cyprus?

MR TONER: If we recognize the occupation of --

QUESTION: The occupation.

MR TONER: You know our position hasn’t changed on Cyprus. We support a process that leads to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

QUESTION: So you don’t recognize the occupation? You don’t recognize occupation?

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: So what is the reason that your people in Cyprus meet with these generals and with these military people that they have patrons in Turkey, that they are Turkish citizens? You have good relations with Turkey. Why you don’t talk with Turkey directly? What is the reason to have ties and dealings with military people in occupied Cyprus?

MR TONER: I think I’m aware of – you’re talking about a specific event --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: -- I think, where some members of the Turkish delegation showed up in uniform --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: -- and that’s something we wouldn’t condone or – and normally isn’t the case. So it was something that --

QUESTION: So it was a mistake?

MR TONER: Again, you’ll have to ask the Turkish military who decided to show up and wearing --

QUESTION: But who invited them? Your ambassador invited them?

MR TONER: Well, but I think we normally do. I mean, I think we do. But anyway, my understanding is that it was a mistake, but I would refer you to the Turkish authorities on that.

QUESTION: Just staying on Cyprus for a moment.

MR TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The British foreign minister this morning said that he – and he suggested Mr. Kerry would be visiting Cyprus soon and that we’re at the best point in 40 years to be hoping for a solution to the dispute that we’ve just been alluding to. Is there anything there you’d like to add from the United States point of view at this stage?

MR TONER: Look, I know the Secretary had to postpone his trip to Cyprus next week, but he certainly does intend to visit in the near future. He did obviously meet with Foreign Secretary Hammond yesterday. They did discuss Cyprus. We continue to be optimistic that we can reach a resolution.

QUESTION: But is there a specific thing that they want – that this trip is meant to coincide with, or is it just like a stage in this process? Foreign Secretary Hammond seemed to be implying it’s – we’re coming to what could be a positive, decisive moment.

MR TONER: A pivotal point. I’d have to --

QUESTION: He said it was tantalizingly close.

MR TONER: I can actually ask about that. I don’t know. I don’t know where we are, but I mean, we obviously – if it is, then we’ll pursue it.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR TONER: Yes, sir. Yeah.

QUESTION: Mark, I don’t know if you heard about Prime Minister Davutoglu’s interview with CNN. He was talking about that it is okay for the United States – and Turkey will support it – to arm Peshmerga, the Iraqi Kurds. But it will be something that Turkey will not be pleased with if you continue to support the YPG. Do you have any comment on that, and have you heard of this interview?

MR TONER: I haven’t heard the interview, but obviously, we do support, supply the Peshmerga. We do that through the Iraqi military command and control, which is an important element there because this is about Iraqi – the Iraqi Government and Iraqi military being able to control its terrain and develop the capacity and capability to effectively fight and destroy ISIL.

In terms of the YPG, I’m not aware of any supply drops that we’ve done for them. We do continue to assist them – and I don’t have anything operational to speak to recently, but we do continue to support their attacks and their efforts to retake those cities controlled by ISIL through airstrikes. And that, to my knowledge, is going to continue. They’ve been an effective fighting force on the ground.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I – yeah.

MR TONER: Please, go ahead. Yeah, finish up. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. But if it’s an effective fighting force and if you want them to retake territories from ISIS by the end of the day, they need ammunition. It’s not only the air power will make them to advance. It’s also the ammunition. So the only way that they get ammunition is either from you or from Russian or any other places. So what is your suggestion? Is it YPG should approach Russia to get the ammunition, or you just give them to continue and take – or taking areas from ISIS?

MR TONER: All I would say is that we’re not providing U.S. arms to the YPD. And if and when that changes we’ll let you know, but right now we continue to support them through airstrikes.

QUESTION: How about --

QUESTION: When that changes you’ll let us know? Are you sure about that? (Laughter.) If that changes you probably won’t let us know. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Point taken.

QUESTION: Have you asked them to stop taking photographs with – next to arms shipments? (Laughter.)

MR TONER: I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Way in the back, please.

QUESTION: Same subject?

MR TONER: Stay on Turkey, yeah.

QUESTION: There were some confusion that some remarks made by the Pentagon that U.S. will not in the future provide any kind of arms or military supply to YPG. Do you rule out any kind of future military support to YPG forces?

MR TONER: I mean, I rule out discussing hypotheticals. I think we’re always – again, we’ve been very clear about our support for the YPD. They’ve been effective. But we also have talked about some of the caveats – that we don’t want them developing some kind of semiautonomous zone. We remain committed to the unity and integrity of Syria, territorial integrity. We’re focused on advancing a genuine negotiated political transition in Syria. So we’ve been very clear about what our concerns would be about the YPD as they liberate territory or as they fight against ISIL.

All that said, they have been an effective fighting force on the ground with our support, and we’re going to continue to provide that support.

QUESTION: Prime Minister --

MR TONER: But I don’t know what your – sorry. You were speaking specifically – I apologize – about the Defense Department --

QUESTION: The Pentagon spokesman a couple – few days ago stated that some remarks – his remarks taken by the media in Turkey as U.S. is ruling out any future military support to the YPG forces. I’m just trying to make sure --

MR TONER: He did or he didn’t rule out? I apologize.

QUESTION: Did rule out.

MR TONER: He did rule out.

QUESTION: Yeah, U.S. Is this the --

MR TONER: Well, look, I mean that’s certainly a question that DOD is probably better equipped to handle or to respond to, so I don’t have any reason to refute that.

QUESTION: One final one: In the same – Prime Minister Davutoglu’s speaking to CNN, he also stated – he talk about the ground forces, Turkish ground forces, in the northern Syria can be used with the integrated strategy by the coalition forces. Do you have any remark, any comment on this? Is anything --

MR TONER: Not specifically to that idea or that thought, but we do continue, obviously, to coordinate closely with Turkey, as we have been, on ways to counter ISIL in northern Syria.

Please.

QUESTION: Mark, it’s interesting – whenever we ask about the army and the YPG in Syria, there is no hesitation about that they are effective and they are retaking territories from ISIS, being the most effective forces there. But it’s always you connect this with the semi-autonomous or separation from Syria without asking any question if that’s – these two are related. This is the concern that Turkey always shared, like if they have arms, they will separate or maybe they will establish the same thing KRG have in Iraq. So is that the same concern you have, that they – maybe that they will establish --

MR TONER: I just think it’s – broadly speaking, it’s a concern that any liberated territory from ISIL is reintegrated into Syria so that displaced --

QUESTION: But you don’t --

MR TONER: And I’m speaking broadly now.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: Whether it’s the YPG, whether it’s Syrian Arab groups, whether it’s Turkmen groups, whoever’s doing the liberating, that there’s not an attempt to kind of seize and hold territory – that the folks who were displaced are allowed to come back and live there and that government is allowed to be restored.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t consider the KRG, which is also integrated into Iraq, but it is a semi-autonomous. So it is also integration in Iraq. Don’t you consider – like, is it going to be the same thing?

MR TONER: I don’t want to speak to any hypotheticals, but I think my point stands.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: On Syria, Mark.

MR TONER: Let’s go here. Ros, and then back to you.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to --

MR TONER: Are you on Syria? Are you on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly on Syria.

QUESTION: Well, I’m bigger than Syria, so --

MR TONER: Okay. Let’s go --

QUESTION: -- he can go first.

MR TONER: Yeah. Let’s go finish Syria and then we’ll go to Ros.

QUESTION: Very quickly, there are reports from Russia that they – the Russians want an 18-month reform process that the Syrian Government should do and so on --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and that will be followed by early elections. I wonder if you have any comment on --

MR TONER: I don’t have – I mean, I’ve seen that proposal and I’ve seen it reported. That’s all going to be a topic for conversation in Vienna, and it’s along the lines of what we’re looking for, which is a political transition. But the details, the specifics, obviously remain to be worked out, both among the various stakeholders but also with the Syrian opposition themselves.

QUESTION: You’ve seen the proposal or you’ve seen reports of it?

MR TONER: I’ve seen the proposal – I’ve seen reports of the proposal. Thank you.

QUESTION: So you’re not saying that it actually is a proposal that you’re aware of.

MR TONER: I’ve seen reports of an eight –

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: What is it, eight point or eighteen --

QUESTION: But you don’t know if it’s real or not.

MR TONER: No. No, I don’t have it in front of me. It’s not in my office.

QUESTION: Eight points over eighteen months.

MR TONER: Correct, that is what I had seen. Thank you.

QUESTION: In terms of the fight against ISIL, with General Allen stepping down on Thursday and Ambassador McGurk taking his place, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. First, how does the Administration assess its progress – and I mean that in the largest sense – in terms of degrading and defeating ISIL?

MR TONER: Well, first of all, you’re right in that General Allen is stepping down and Brett McGurk is stepping into that role, and we certainly deeply appreciate General Allen’s efforts in bringing together a 60-plus member coalition – 65-member-strong coalition, global coalition – to counter ISIL, which he did in a little over a year. And I think that’s an important success.

We’ve got key lines of effort identified: military support, countering ISIL’s finances, countering foreign fighter flows, exposing ISIL’s true nature, and also providing humanitarian support. I think we’ve made progress in all of those efforts. Certainly on the military front, airstrikes have been, we think, successful in liberating large parts of – let me rephrase that. Airstrikes have been effective in helping forces on the ground liberate swathes of northern Syria, but also in Iraq, that have been controlled by ISIL. Has it always been clear progress? No, of course not. And we’ve been very clear about the challenges that would come and the challenges that remain in displacing ISIL and destroying them and driving them out of the – of their – the territory that they took.

But that said, we do believe progress is being made. And that’s just one component, and it’s an important one that we talk about, but certainly there’s a broader effort. There’s building partner capacity within Iraq. There’s advise and assist program with Iraq, and there’s also, as I said, support for the Syrian forces on the ground. And that’s part of the military effort, as I spoke to earlier, this idea of helping Iraq gain the capability that – where it can deal with its own security by itself and is able to do so I think is an important one.

And certainly the situation in Syria is much more challenging, given the ongoing conflict there, but also the lack of any kind of government that can lend its support to the fight. So it’s very complex. But that said, we have seen progress there in liberating large chunks of northern Syria by supporting some of the groups that we were just talking about – the YPD among them, but also Syrian Arabs and Syrian Turks.

More broadly speaking, as I said, we’ve made, I think, good progress on all of the nonmilitary lines of effort – foreign fighters, counterterrorism financing. Just to go back to foreign fighters, we’ve had 45 countries, including the United States, have provided INTERPOL with approximately 4,000 profiles on foreign fighter terrorists. Many of these countries have enacted new legislation to better control the flow of foreign fighters. Counterterrorism in Qatar – we’ve seen an increased commitment by Qatar to partner with the United States on terror finance issues. Kuwait’s enacted steps to strengthen its legal foundation to enable prosecution of terrorist financers. And Saudi Arabia’s also working diligently to disrupt financial activity in the kingdom.

And then finally, the last piece and I’ll shut up, but we’ve seen progress in terms of countering ISIL’s narrative. And that’s something Secretary Kerry’s spoken to many, many times as this kind of nihilistic philosophy that ISIL represents, where they want to destroy history, culture. They want to make systematic rape a part of – a way of life, not even a way of war, is what he says. And it’s true. So how do we confront that, that message, how do we expose its perversion of Islam, is all something that we’re making ongoing efforts to do. It’s difficult, but we feel that we’ve made progress as well in that front.

QUESTION: Given that Ambassador McGurk will have about a year and three months in this role, how confident is the Administration that someone will succeed him and continue this work, given that this Administration has argued rather forcefully this is a war that’s going to take years; we cannot deal with this in weeks or months?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, one thing I would say about Brett McGurk is that he’s going to hit the ground running. He’s already been working hand-in-glove with General Allen on all of these issues, so it’s not a matter of him having to get up to speed on any of it. He’s already up to speed and ready to go and has already been working on a lot of these issues. So --

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: -- there’s that. Look, we’ll make sure we identify and work – continue the progress that we made going forward. There’s lots of good people in the State Department. There’s lots of good people out there who can lead this effort going forward. But we’re certainly appreciate Brett McGurk’s willingness to take this on.

Please.

QUESTION: Right. Oh, and not --

MR TONER: Oh.

QUESTION: -- to suggest that Ambassador McGurk was not up to the task.

MR TONER: No, no, no. Of course, of course. Of course.

QUESTION: He’s more than up to the task.

MR TONER: He’s more than up to -- you’re talking about the continuity.

QUESTION: But the continuity --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- I mean, there – I guess I’ll just say I was just a little worried. We’re in this crazy season now here in the United States, where things that have – that go on and on and on, a new crew comes in --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and decides that they want to do something different. But if this Administration really truly believes that ISIL or Daesh is a fundamental security threat, the U.S. --

MR TONER: But I think there’s broad recognition of that, Ros. That’s not something I think that’s particular to a single administration. And again, Secretary Kerry has spoken to this, about the fact that around the world, people recognize that ISIL needs to be confronted and needs to be destroyed.

So please, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah. No worries.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: So yesterday I asked about this journalist who was picked up and imprisoned, was being held, and John said you guys were looking into it, and the usual standard lines about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. So you – I’m sure you saw he was --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- released this morning.

MR TONER: And we welcome that news.

QUESTION: I’m sure you do. Do you have more to say than that?

MR TONER: Sure, what were you going to ask? Finish your question. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I expected that.

MR TONER: Finish your question. I’m sorry. Finish your question, Matt.

QUESTION: My question was: Are you aware – were – was there any contact between United States, either at the embassy or here, and Egyptian authorities after his arrest before he was released earlier today?

MR TONER: Were there any discussions about his --

QUESTION: I want to know if you guys raised your concerns with the Egyptians.

MR TONER: I know we were closely – sure. We were closely monitoring both cases – his arrest and also Salah Diab.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, I can say I was closely monitoring the case --

MR TONER: Well, I was going to – let me finish.

QUESTION: -- but that means basically --

MR TONER: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Basically that means that I was looking at Twitter to see if he was – so is that – was your close monitoring more than just that?

MR TONER: Generally – I don’t know if they were raised specifically. We have had and continue to have frank discussions with the Egyptian Government about human rights, including freedom of expression, protection of journalists, freedom of speech. I don’t know whether these two individual cases were specifically raised though. I just don’t.

QUESTION: Do you – or are you able to find out if there were any, even if it wasn’t specifically about these individuals, any conversations between U.S. officials and Egyptian officials between yesterday and his release?

MR TONER: Sure. And I’m just checking to see if – I mean, again, I don’t have a readout of the call, but the Secretary did speak with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry on Monday, so yesterday. I don’t know if this was raised in that call though.

QUESTION: Can you check?

MR TONER: We will.

QUESTION: It would seem to be something that would have come up, but I don’t know.

MR TONER: I will – I will check.

QUESTION: He has been released, but it’s not clear whether he will face charges. Would you be disappointed if he did face charges?

MR TONER: Well, it’s like the --

QUESTION: He was released from detention, but the case is not over.

MR TONER: Yeah, I’m aware of that. Let’s – we’re pleased he’s released. Let’s let the process play itself out. What our concern is is that Egypt continue to show respect for freedom of expression and democracy.

QUESTION: All right. And then one other thing unrelated.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: And that is the EU this week or very soon is expected to begin its requirement for products made in settlements to labeled as such. You have – the Administration has opposed this in the past, and I’m just wondering if you guys have made your opposition to it clear recently.

MR TONER: Not sure when the last time – I mean, look, we’re not – there’s – it hasn’t been announced yet, this --

QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s expected to.

MR TONER: It is expected to.

QUESTION: And it’s expected to move on the Hill.

MR TONER: I know. I know that we’re – and we’re aware that it’s going to publish a note soon about its consumer guidelines on product origin labeling, which I believe several countries are already following. It’s my understanding, though, that this issue is still under discussion within the – within European Commission, rather, and I would refer you to the EU for the latest. So I’m not going to speculate about it.

You know where our – where we stand on this --

QUESTION: No, but that’s what I want to know. And I don’t want to be referred to the EU to find out what the U.S. thinks about something.

MR TONER: Oh, what our – okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were – I thought you were asking for --

QUESTION: No, no.

MR TONER: Apologize.

QUESTION: But I want to know, one, if you’re still – I mean, I presume you’re still opposed to it --

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: -- but why it is you are opposed to it or why you are still opposed to it, and whether or not it has been raised by the Administration recently with the EU.

MR TONER: So – okay. First thing is our position on boycotts targeting the state of Israel has not changed. We oppose efforts to isolate to delegitimize the state of Israel. That said, the longstanding bipartisan position on – of the United States on Israeli settlements has also not changed. We believe settlements are illegitimate and are harmful to prospects to peace for peace and to Israel’s long-term security. That said, if Israel continues to expand settlement activity, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to – if some in the international community pursue steps to limit commercial relations with the settlements, and this underscores the urgent need for Israel to change its policies with regard to settlements.

QUESTION: Would you --

QUESTION: So hold on a second. Wait, wait. I’m still struggling to find a coherent position on whether --

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: -- the labeling is a good thing or a bad thing, according to you guys.

MR TONER: So I’m – we’re not going to speak to something that has not taken place yet. A decision has not been made, and that’s what was my point about this is still a matter under discussion in the European Commission.

On boycotts, we’re against boycotts. On settlements, we’re against settlements.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR TONER: But – and my last point is the “but” – that Israel should – that it shouldn’t be a surprise to Israel that some in the international community pursue steps to limit commercial relations with the settlements.

QUESTION: In other words, you think it’s a bad thing, but it’s Israel’s fault?

MR TONER: I think it’s a reality. I mean, I think --

QUESTION: It is a bad thing, but it’s Israel’s fault for this to – I’m trying to find out --

MR TONER: We – yeah, yeah, sure – we disagree with --

QUESTION: Do you think --

MR TONER: -- we disagree with the policy of settlements --

QUESTION: Yes, I understand that.

MR TONER: -- which – you understand that. All I’m saying is, I’m making the observation that it should not come as a surprise that there are others in the international community who pursue steps to limit commercial relations. I’m just laying that out there.

QUESTION: Is it that you regard this --

QUESTION: I know, but --

QUESTION: -- do you regard this as a step to limit commercial relations, the simple labeling?

MR TONER: Well, it’s labeling to differentiate Israeli – Israel products from those from the settlements.

QUESTION: So you think that that’s inevitably going to lead to --

MR TONER: Not inevitably, but it could.

QUESTION: But does that mean that you – that – so you’re not saying that the labeling is a boycott which you would oppose; you’re saying to Israel, don’t be surprised if countries do this? I just – I’m trying to find out if the Administration has a position on the labeling.

MR TONER: Yeah, yeah, that’s okay, that’s okay, that’s okay. That’s okay. That’s okay.

QUESTION: Do you think that it is the same thing as a boycott, which you would oppose?

MR TONER: So current consumer guidelines on product origin labeling is what we’re talking about the EU doing. Issue’s still under discussion. But as I just said to Arshad, it’s not a boycott per se, but could be taken as a boycott since it identifies products from --

QUESTION: So you oppose it?

MR TONER: We oppose boycotts. We --

QUESTION: No, but I’m asking about the labeling.

MR TONER: We oppose any – I would say any action that could be taken – again, this is – action has not been taken yet but we oppose any boycott against Israel. I just said that very clearly.

QUESTION: I know you said that, but you won’t say whether you regard the labeling as a boycott.

MR TONER: Well, we don’t have – it is not a done deal yet. So it’s still under discussion.

QUESTION: Well, it’s also not a done deal that – you don’t want China to nuke Mongolia either, but you’ll say that. I mean --

MR TONER: No, we don’t.

QUESTION: No, exactly, but that’s a hypothetical as well. It’s something that hasn’t --

QUESTION: If you want to influence the EU’s debate, you should tell them what your opinion is before they make their decision --

QUESTION: I mean, have you been in touch with --

MR TONER: Of course we’ve been discussing this with the EU.

QUESTION: So – and you’ve told them that you think it’s a bad idea, or you’ve told them, well, we don’t really care, but we would prefer that you not take it to a boycott?

MR TONER: We’ve been clear about our position --

QUESTION: Well, you haven’t been clear with me. Has that --

MR TONER: -- which is that --

QUESTION: Does anyone else in this room understand what the position is on the labeling?

MR TONER: We have been clear about our position, which is that we consider boycotts to be --

QUESTION: I know. That’s boycotts.

MR TONER: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Do you consider the labeling to be a boycott?

MR TONER: I would say that – and I --

QUESTION: Or if it’s a step on the way to a boycott, would you – would you --

MR TONER: It’s a – it could be – it could be perceived as a step on the way.

QUESTION: So would you – so do you oppose it?

QUESTION: So it could be perceived as a step on the way --

MR TONER: To a boycott.

QUESTION: So would you – so do you oppose it? And are you willing to tell the Europeans that you think this is a bad idea and that you are opposed to it?

MR TONER: And I’ll just leave it at we’re still discussing it with them; they’re aware of our views. And then my final observation was that it shouldn’t be a surprise to Israel or to anyone that countries are looking at steps that could lead to boycotts or other efforts given their policy on settlements.

QUESTION: So just to summarize, you oppose boycotts but you will not say whether or not you oppose steps that could lead to boycotts?

MR TONER: Correct, correct. We just let this process play itself out.

QUESTION: So you said that the Europeans are aware of your position.

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: I hope it was made clear to them because it’s not clear to me at all still whether – what your position is on this. And I doubt that it’s --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: -- I doubt that it’s clear to anyone in this room or anyone watching what your position is.

MR TONER: I just --

QUESTION: What harm is there in saying, “Look, we oppose this?”

MR TONER: There’s no harm, but it’s not – look, I mean, this is still a matter under discussion within the European Commission.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: Let’s let that discussion take place. They’re aware of our views, generally speaking, about boycotts. They’re also aware of our views about settlements. All of that said, let’s let them conduct their own process here and then we’ll give our opinion on it.

QUESTION: But are they aware of your views on labeling?

QUESTION: Yeah, but by then, it’s too late. If they go ahead and do this and you have opposed it, then they’ve done something that you don’t like, and you haven’t weighed in or made your position clear publicly. So what good does it do to complain about it after the fact when you had the opportunity, and you’re being given the opportunity right now, to say whether you think, yeah, this is a good thing, or no, this is a horrible thing and will lead to boycott and de-legitimization?

MR TONER: I’m not – we’re not going to intervene into – in their process.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: I just want – just a quick follow-up on this.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Now, you say the settlements are legitimate, but products from the settlements are not illegitimate, are basically legitimate, right? I mean, as far as you’re concerned --

MR TONER: Wait, I’m sorry. One more time? We said --

QUESTION: You’re saying the settlements are legitimate. Isn’t that what you just said?

MR TONER: Illegitimate, yeah.

QUESTION: Illegitimate, right?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: But products that come out of there are legitimate. Is that what you’re saying? By opposing the labeling and so on, you’re saying the products that come out of --

QUESTION: I missed the bit where he said they oppose the labeling, Said, I’m sorry.

MR TONER: No, we --

QUESTION: When did he say --

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. He didn’t say they oppose or oppose. But you’re saying that you have no position on products that come out of the settlements? Are they legitimate? They should be commercially available in any market?

MR TONER: I’m saying that – first of all, I’m saying we oppose boycotts. And frankly, anything that could be perceived as a boycott – which I think I said to Arshad – could be taken as a de facto by labeling them as such. But again, let’s let this process play itself out, although that clearly upsets Matt, and --

QUESTION: It doesn’t upset me. I’m just trying to find out what the position is. And if you are correct – in fact, what you said to Arshad, that you oppose steps that could lead to boycotts, that would mean then, according to your logic, that you would oppose the labeling. So why don’t you just come out and say that you oppose the labeling? Why pussyfoot around it? Why try to make it as vague as you possibly can? Let the world know what your position is if you think that it’s right, if you think that it’s correct.

MR TONER: I’m not going to speak on behalf of the European Union (inaudible) --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speak on behalf of the European Union. I’m asking you to speak on behalf of the United States.

MR TONER: And I – and we oppose boycotts, and we oppose settlements.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Mark, but the day the trade bill passed, there was very strong language in the bill --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- included against boycotts and so on. And then the Administration issued a statement that we’re saying we don’t – we don’t – this does not cover the settlements. Do you remember that?

MR TONER: Yes, I do.

QUESTION: They said it did not cover the settlements. So you would think that actually is a prelude to basically okaying the labeling of products coming out of the settlements. Wouldn’t it be that way? Wouldn’t it be interpreted that way?

MR TONER: Again, I’m going to stay right where I was. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mark --

QUESTION: On Bangladesh?

QUESTION: Can I stay on Israel?

QUESTION: Bangladesh?

MR TONER: Oh, sure. And then we’ll go to Bangladesh.

QUESTION: This is circling back to something from last week, but we discussed the appointment by Prime Minister Netanyahu of Baratz as spokesperson.

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: But since then, it seems like he’s sort of been walking back what was conveyed that he had said to Kerry in a conversation over the phone, saying he didn’t say he would reconsider the appointment.

MR TONER: Who’s this, Prime Minister Netanyahu?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu. Is there any response to that or any concern upon his --

MR TONER: No, I think we’ve said our piece on that.

Please.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. position on the execution of this Bangladeshi opposition political leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury? He’s facing an imminent execution in Bangladesh and several human rights group – and incidentally he has also expressed concern about it.

MR TONER: I’m sorry, you’re talking about the – human rights in Bangladesh and the imminent execution --

QUESTION: Yes. Opposition leader is facing execution in Bangladesh. And several --

MR TONER: I apologize. I’ll have to look at that and try to get back to you on something – with something. I just don’t know what the situation --

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll send you the question.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: I’ll send you the details.

MR TONER: Yep. Thanks. Is that good? Thanks, guys. Almost – yes.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MR TONER: On Iran?

QUESTION: There are reports – Iran. There’s this – media there is reporting that they’ve stopped the dismantling of centrifuges. Do you know about this? Do you have any concerns about it? And secondly, do you have any update at all on the Americans or permanent residents being held there or missing?

MR TONER: No updates on the lawful permanent residents or Americans being held there, except to say that the Secretary continues to raise it in all of his meetings, discussions with the Iranians.

On the centrifuge dismantling, the JCPOA very clearly spells out the steps that the IAEA must verify Iran has taken in order to reach implementation day, and that includes sanctions relief. So ultimately, it’s up to Iran to manage its own timeline to get those steps completed in order to secure sanctions relief under the JCPOA.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yep.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:12 p.m.)

 



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