Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 5, 2012.
- P-5+1 Talks / Venue / U.S. Representation
- Rewards for Justice / Lashkar-e Tayyiba / Deputy Secretary Nides’ Visit
- UN Presidential Statement / April 10 Deadline / Humanitarian Assistance
- American NGOs / Interpol Request
- IAEA Mission
- David Hale’s Visit
- Ongoing Violence
- Sanctions / ECOWAS
- Assistant Secretary Carson Meeting
- NDI Detentions
1:04 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. You guys are the only thing between me and a long weekend. No, I’m just kidding. (Laughter.) I love being here. I look forward to these constructive exchanges with the members of the press corps.
QUESTION: You have nothing to start with?
MR. TONER: I have nothing to start with.
QUESTION: How goes your search for a venue to meet the Iranians?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we talked about this a little bit – well, actually, not a little bit – at length yesterday. And that’s a question best directed to High Representative Ashton’s office. They are our point of contact on these discussions, and, as I at least attempted to make the case yesterday, it’s very important, we feel, when we’ve got four other members of the – or five other members of the P-5+1 as well as Iran, as we’ve noted yesterday, speaking with many voices on this issue, that there just be two points of contact on it.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s – now it’s eight days away.
MR. TONER: We are —
QUESTION: If this – is the date in question now because the venue hasn’t been decided, or is it still your —
MR. TONER: I would say that we are still expecting this to take place next week, but there’s certainly some degree of urgency.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, is it the U.S. position – does – is the U.S. position still what the Secretary said it was over the weekend, that this meeting will be on the 13th in Istanbul?
MR. TONER: That’s what I said. It’s still our expectation, but I agree we need to nail down the venue.
QUESTION: So – but it is still the U.S. position that the meeting will be in Istanbul on the 13th?
MR. TONER: It is – that was our expectation when the Secretary spoke those words. It was our expectation up until we heard some other venues tossed about by the Iranians.
QUESTION: But it does not remain —
MR. TONER: High Representative Ashton’s office is trying to clarify and nail down the venue, but the dates – we’re still expecting to meet the Iranians on the 13th and 14th.
MR. TONER: Again —
QUESTION: So in other words, it’s —
MR. TONER: — we were ready to meet in Istanbul. We’re trying to clarify that right now.
QUESTION: So it’s no longer your expectation that it will be – that it will necessarily be in Istanbul on the 13th?
MR. TONER: Again, let’s let High Representative Ashton deal with the Iranians and nail that down.
QUESTION: Are you happy? I mean, does it – it doesn’t have to be in Istanbul as far as you’re concerned? I mean, it does – some of these proposals for wherever, Baghdad or Beijing, I mean, if the point of these is to sit down and talk with them, why not sit down and talk with them wherever they want to do it?
MR. TONER: Agree. Again, we talked about this at length yesterday. We’re just one part of this group, the P-5+1, so there’s logistical aspects to this that go without saying, really, on any one of these venues or locations. As we noted, it was our expectation that this was going to be in Istanbul. It’s not for us to say one place over another, but it’s important that we start to nail this down, working through Catherine Ashton, so that we do have a place to meet next week.
Yeah. Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. TONER: Sure.
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: — has he actually been indicted?
MR. TONER: Has he been indicted in a U.S. court?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure of that. I’ll take the question. I don’t believe he has, but we certainly want to see him brought to justice. I mean, as everyone and their mother know at this point, he’s hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, so what we’re – again, just to clarify what we talked about yesterday, which is that we’re not seeking his whereabouts. We certainly know that. But we’re seeking information that can be used to prosecute him.
QUESTION: But the Pakistanis would say there really is no evidence. Let’s say that he hasn’t been indicted. Then it’s really just an allegation, correct?
MR. TONER: An allegation based on our conviction that he is, in fact, guilty of these crimes, but again – we talked a little bit about this yesterday; obviously, can’t get into the detail – we’re – our belief is based on intelligence. But what we’re looking for is evidence that can be used to prosecute him in a court of law in Pakistan or elsewhere, and the $10 million is that sweetener, if you will, to encourage people to come forward.
QUESTION: But doesn’t this appear to have been backfired, really, when you look at it? Because here’s the United States putting a reward on a man’s head and he’s now a celebrity, he’s on talk shows, he’s having a news conference, and thumbing his nose at the United States.
MR. TONER: Well, Jill, I think he can do what he wants to, certainly, and he’s clearly trying to bask in the media attention. We just hope that and reiterate that our offer is very real, that if anybody knows or can produce evidence that ties him to the Mumbai bombings and other terrorist attacks that they step forward.
Go ahead in the back.
MR. TONER: In the back and then over to you.
QUESTION: First question, President Zardari is due to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next week in India, and there are now conservative groups in Pakistan, like the Defy Pakistan Council, that have asked him not to visit India at all. Do you feel that by issuing this notice at this time, it may have had an adverse effect on India-Pakistan relations?
MR. TONER: Well, look, we’ve talked about this upcoming visit. We’ve talked about the fact that we’ve had some high-level U.S. officials in Pakistan, Deputy Secretary Nides, for example. And I was very clear that none of this is related to any of those visits, any of those interactions. As I tried to clarify yesterday, our Rewards for Justice program is a separate process, if you will, and takes place in our Diplomatic Security channels and that it is indeed a long process to evaluate these individuals and indeed designate them. So there’s no relation here. We certainly don’t want it to impact on his visit to India. We think his visit to India actually is very constructive, and we’re all for it.
QUESTION: I have a follow question. By issuing this notice, are you trying to create a split in the Lashkar-e Tayyiba again, as well, by asking someone to come forward? And you just mentioned – you said 26 – the Mumbai attacks and other terrorist attacks. Can you specify what other attacks that the U.S. believes Lashkar-e Tayyiba is responsible for in India or other parts of the world?
MR. TONER: Well, there’s numerous incidents in the region. They are, obviously, an active terrorist organization. In terms of your first question, it’s a – we’re not – we’re asking for an individual to step forward, who can have evidence – who can produce evidence that ties into these attacks. Whether that we’re trying – we’re not playing some sort of strategic game here. We’re just trying to prosecute this individual.
QUESTION: Follow up. As far as (inaudible) are concerned, India had charged him. Have you asked India for the evidence against him, since he had open press conferences and all that? Everybody knows where he is who he is, including the Pakistan Government. Is India with you on the evidence?
MR. TONER: You’re asking if – you’re asking me to – about the Indian evidence against him? Again, that’s a question for the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan to answer.
QUESTION: The kind of evidence you are seeking, are you in touch with the Indian Government?
MR. TONER: We’re in very close contact with the Indian Government on this, yes.
QUESTION: And second, as far as – what kind of message are you sending to Pakistan, one because of this – just to follow what Yuma said – is this some kind of message that you are sending to Pakistan as far as this $10 million bounty is concerned? And also at the same time, you’re asking Pakistan to open their doors of U.S.-Pakistan relations as far as supply route to Afghanistan is concerned.
MR. TONER: Goyal, I talked about this yesterday. There’s no connection here, whatsoever. In answer to your first question, we’re trying to give the Pakistani authorities the information, the evidence that they can use to prosecute this individual.
In terms of your second question, Deputy Secretary Nides is concluding a very productive visit to Pakistan. He’s had high-level contacts during his time there. It’s been very productive, very constructive. And we’re obviously waiting for the end of the parliamentary review process so that we can engage with Pakistan on our way forward.
QUESTION: And finally, Mr. Zardari’s – President Zardari’s visit to India. This is the first visit, I understand, official visit to India. What role do you think U.S. is playing as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned in connection with his visit?
MR. TONER: What role is —
QUESTION: U.S. playing. Any role U.S. playing?
MR. TONER: On whose visit?
QUESTION: About his visit to India. And U.S. – Pakistan —
MR. TONER: No role. I just said, in answer to a previous question, we’re certainly – we want to see – to us, it’s a win-win situation when Pakistan and India are engaging in dialogue, are talking to each other, and are building better cooperation.
I did want to – I’m sorry, I did want to get back to you on that. I know I had it somewhere, which is why I was leafing through my paper as I was answering Goyal. But there’s several attacks that Lashkar-e Tayyiba has claimed responsibility for, been implicated in. January 2010 attack on Srinagar airport that killed five Indians; December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament building; the July 2006 train attack in Mumbai; and a February 2010 attack against hotels in Kabul that we’re all aware of that killed nine Indians, four Afghans, and one French citizens.
QUESTION: And through all —
MR. TONER: Sorry.
QUESTION: And through all this, the Indian Government hasn’t seen fit to offer a reward for any information, so it’s up to the U.S. taxpayer to foot the bill, correct?
MR. TONER: Matt, I don’t know what they’ve offered.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. TONER: I’d refer you to the Indian Government.
QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick – just a couple —
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — things on this. I mean, you say, yes, this is a separate process, the Rewards for Justice, but it certainly doesn’t operate in a vacuum. And with all the things going on this week – Under Secretary Sherman’s visit to India, Deputy Secretary Nides’ visit to Pakistan, the Zardari visit to India – if you didn’t want to have an impact on any of these things, you sure really picked a bad time to do this. Because whether you want it to impact these things or not, it does, particularly in the Pakistani public’s view.
So can you take the question as to whether anyone at DS or who was involved in this actually paid attention to the schedules of things that were coming up diplomatically when they decided to put this out on late Monday night – apparently accidently put onto the website late Monday night before it was announced here formally the next day?
MR. TONER: Well, the process was completed. This was – look, these kind – this kind of counterterrorism cooperation —
QUESTION: If it took – it’s been more than three years. The thing took months to do. Why did you pick this week, when it had the best chance of screwing up diplomacy, to put it out?
MR. TONER: All right. I would argue against the fact that it screwed up any —
QUESTION: Well, can you take the question.
MR. TONER: — diplomacy. In fact, Deputy Secretary Nides had very effective discussions —
QUESTION: Right. That was the second part of my question.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Prove it. What was so productive —
MR. TONER: Prove it?
QUESTION: — and what was so constructive about Deputy Secretary Nides’–
MR. TONER: Well, first of all they were —
QUESTION: — visit to Pakistan?
MR. TONER: He engaged at a very senior level. He met with Prime Minister Gillani, President Zardari, Foreign Minister Carr, Finance Minister Shaikh, as well as Pakistani business leaders. And I would refer you to Foreign Minister Carr’s press release about his visit that’s very positive in tone. They had real substantive discussions, and overall the message was that – and of course, I can refer you to Deputy Secretary Nides’ public remarks – is that we value our relationship with Pakistan and we respect their parliamentary process and we’re looking, once that’s completed, to engage with them.
QUESTION: That’s it?
MR. TONER: But we believe the visit —
QUESTION: I mean, one could go and have a ton of meetings —
MR. TONER: Matt.
QUESTION: — with a ton of people —
QUESTION: And that —
QUESTION: And they say no to everything you ask for.
MR. TONER: And I’m – I think I’m —
QUESTION: And I wouldn’t say that that’s very constructive or productive.
MR. TONER: — implying without getting into the substance of our private diplomatic exchanges, that these were constructive in material.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you say what’s different now about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship than it was before Deputy Secretary Nides visited?
MR. TONER: Well, I think we have seen a pivot in the last weeks that is tangible, that we are trying to move behind the very tragic events —
QUESTION: I thought everything was hold until – after the parliamentary review?
MR. TONER: Again, Matt, I’m talking about diplomatic engagement, and it’s not about making widgets necessarily and having a product to display at the end of the day. It’s about the hard spadework of engaging with a key ally in the region and rebuilding the relationship that was seriously damaged November 26th.
QUESTION: I’m – right. But didn’t the President meet with —
MR. TONER: He did.
QUESTION: — the head – yeah. Well, wasn’t that, like, last week or 10 days ago?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I think I’ve addressed your question. Any other questions?
QUESTION: I’d just like to know why you think that Deputy Secretary Nides’ trip was so productive and so constructive if you can’t point to anything that’s resulted from it. I mean, you could say he had a great trip because he had a nice meeting and enjoyed tea with whoever he met with and they were all cordial and shook hands and smiled at each other, but that doesn’t necessarily – that’s not necessarily productive and constructive. So I want to know why you’re using those two terms.
MR. TONER: Well, Matt, I think I answered your question in the sense that he had high-level meetings – senior Pakistani officials. He delivered our message that we value this relationship and that we want to see us move forward in the relationship. Again, I’d refer you to Foreign Minister Khar’s press release that she put out that also called these substantive and constructive discussions.
MR. TONER: And I can’t —
QUESTION: So your argument is the very fact that the meetings happened is what makes it —
MR. TONER: That’s not what I’m saying at all. Anyway, next question.
Yeah. Go ahead.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: I know there was a lot of activity at the UN today, but I mean, in listening to the speeches at the UN, it seems like everyone’s as pessimistic as ever. I mean, realistically, what hope does the U.S. have that Assad is going to abide by this deadline?
MR. TONER: Well, you’re right, Cami. The 10th is approaching and you saw, of course, the UN released its presidential statement today that once again called on the Syrian Government to adhere to the commitments it has agreed to. And you are also correct in that, thus far, we haven’t seen, either from press reports or activists on the ground, any suggestions that the regime is carrying out any withdrawal from these city centers and retreating to barracks as the Annan plan calls for them to do.
So it’s not surprising; certainly discouraging. It is clear that the Assad regime appears to be using this window to continue to carry out its horrible assault on the Syrian people. And in the event, as I think Ambassador Rice has said, that we don’t – that he does not comply by April 10th, then we’re going to be consulting with the Security Council on next steps.
QUESTION: Was the U.S. satisfied with the strength of the presidential statement coming out of the Security Council? I mean, it’s urging them; it’s not – it didn’t have any demands in it.
MR. TONER: Well, look, it’s very clear what Assad needs to do. So it was a strong message of unity on this issue. And I don’t think it’s a message that we can convey enough to Assad and his regime that time is running out. They need to comply with the April 10th deadline.
QUESTION: Are you guys confident that that unity will continue when and if it becomes a discussion of whether he’s – how much he’s complying with this? You have a non-spokesperson saying that the Syrian Government has told them that they’re withdrawing forces from several cities and saying that this is going to be verified but not saying how. Are you persuaded that the Security Council, as a body, will have the same information, will all agree that either it’s happening or it won’t – it isn’t happening?
MR. TONER: I mean, that’s really a question for Kofi Annan to answer, or his spokesperson, which is how we’re going to coordinate to verify any withdrawal. So far, we’re getting out ahead of ourselves. We haven’t seen any signs that that’s happening.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about the U.S. assistance, the non-lethal assistance?
MR. TONER: You’re talking about the —
QUESTION: The status of that. Right.
MR. TONER: – the humanitarian assistance or —
QUESTION: Is it being delivered? The assistance that you couldn’t say what it was?
MR. TONER: Oh. I don’t have any updates for you. I’ll try to get it. You’re talking about the – to the Syrian opposition.
MR. TONER: Yeah. No, I don’t have any updates for you on that. I’ll take the question.
QUESTION: How about the Syrian Government’s reported agreement to allow the ICRC access? Is that an important step? Or do you think that’s a serious step?
MR. TONER: Well, it certainly is, and we saw press reports, and indeed the ICRC confirmed that one of the two main Syrian/Arab Red Crescents warehouse facilities containing stocked goods intended for distribution to people in need was destroyed on April 4th. And some distributions have been canceled as a result. So obviously, that underscores the urgent need for safe and secure access for these humanitarian organizations.
QUESTION: Mark, I just want to make sure I got this right. You said that if Assad doesn’t comply by the April 10th deadline, the U.S. – you guys and your allies are going to consult –
MR. TONER: We’re going to consult on next steps, yeah.
QUESTION: I’m sure he’s shaking in his boots. That’s really what the “or else” is? You do this or else we’re going to consult?
MR. TONER: Matt, our approach to Syria is on several fronts. We have the Friends of Syria group that, as you saw over the weekend, took additional steps to provide support to the opposition, as well as increase humanitarian assistance to people in need in Syria. We’ve got this sanctions group that’s look at how to more effectively implement sanctions against Assad. We’re – this is something we’re working on multiple fronts. We’re going to continue to use the UN where we believe it’s going to be effective. We’re going to go back and consult on next steps.
QUESTION: So does that mean that if he does comply with – by April 10th – if he does comply with this, that those sanctions will be lifted? You won’t be going for any more sanctions?
MR. TONER: It does not mean that.
QUESTION: So – I’m sorry. What does he get out of this deal?
MR. TONER: Again, it’s not so much what he gets out of this deal except that what there needs to be, first and foremost in Syria, is an end to the violence. This is a country that, as we said, is going down a very dangerous path.
MR. TONER: We have the opposition, or members of the opposition, now defending themselves, as we’ve talked about. The violence is expanding, and we need to stop that.
QUESTION: Why is not an accurate assessment – because I’m sure you’ll say it’s not an accurate assessment – that there is no reward for compliance and there’s no punishment for non-compliance? How does that work?
MR. TONER: Punishment for noncompliance – the punishment for non-compliance —
QUESTION: Yes. The punishment is that you’re going to consult.
MR. TONER: The punishment for noncompliance is going to be increased pressure on Assad, on his regime, and a clear message to those around him that they’re on the wrong side of history.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Let me – one more on Syria?
MR. TONER: Sure. Finish up Syria.
QUESTION: So what kind of strong consequences Secretary Clinton talk about if he doesn’t —
MR. TONER: I think I just talked about that. We’ve – this is not just about the Security Council, just about the UN. We’ve said before that we’re going to consult with the Security Council on next steps when appropriate. But we’re also applying pressure through sanctions, political pressure through the Friends of Syria group.
Yeah, go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: In Egypt, there now are reports that the Obama Administration is asking Interpol to turn down, deny that request for the arrest of the American NGO people. Can you tell us – give us some more details about that?
MR. TONER: I can’t. I mean, first of all, it would be a Department of Justice issue. But secondly —
QUESTION: I think the State Department actually is involved.
MR. TONER: — we don’t really talk about Interpol arrest warrants.
QUESTION: Right. But we do have State Department —
MR. TONER: I mean, what I can tell – what I can say to you, Jill, is what we’re – what we would convey both privately and publicly, which is that we’re making this message very clear in every available forum that we believe these charges against these individuals are politically motivated and therefore without any legal merit.
QUESTION: But tangential to that, there is apparently an Egyptian request for you to notify the people who have been charged that they – there is a court date coming up, and that they are expected to attend. Considering that you fronted the bail – or not fronted it, you actually paid it – are you going to comply with the Egyptians’ request, which I understand is your – is a treaty obligation for you to do so, and notify these people whether or not they go or not? Are you going to tell them that they are expected to pass on the – are you going to pass on the Egyptians’ notice to them that they are expected to appear in court, or are you really forfeiting the taxpayers’ $5 million in bail?
MR. TONER: You are correct that it’s these individuals’ own decision to make whether they’re going to return. I’ll – I mean, I – we’re in communication, obviously, with their lawyers. I don’t know if we’ve conveyed anything on the part of the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: But will you pass on that, as you are obligated to do?
MR. TONER: I’ll take the question, but —
QUESTION: Similar to that, also on Egypt, just – I was wondering if there is a fuller readout of the meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in particular about the substance of meetings, whether there’s any talk about democratic principles, types of things that might be raised as concerns, if there is a fuller readout of the meetings that you had.
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, I think – I’ll try to get one for you, but certainly, the deputy secretary met with members of this Carnegie Group that’s visiting that included a broad range of individuals from across the – not just Egypt, but obviously in other countries, Tunisia and elsewhere. I can’t get into the substance of his private discussions. I’m sure they talked about the transitions going on in all of their countries, and certainly the challenges in those democratic transitions.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. So who from the Muslim Brotherhood was in this delegation?
MR. TONER: I don’t know if we’ve got a – we don’t have a strict list of —
QUESTION: Are you sure that there was anyone from —
MR. TONER: Yeah. I’ll get you the information.
QUESTION: Well, can you – can I – and is it now – it’s now your stand, or it’s now your position that any conversation that a State Department official has, even if it’s in a private – even if it’s to a private citizen, i.e. not another government official, that that is – that’s somehow secret now?
MR. TONER: I didn’t say it was secret.
QUESTION: Well, you said we’re not going to get into the private discussion.
MR. TONER: Yeah, but I didn’t say it was secret.
QUESTION: Well —
MR. TONER: I mean, what do you – I mean, I just said we’re not going to —
QUESTION: Well, I’m just saying – so everything that is said —
MR. TONER: Yes, I’m not going to – I mean, I will give you an appropriate readout, but I’m not going to detail every x, y, and z of the conversation.
QUESTION: But you said you would look into this, but my suspicion is that you are going to come back to show the readout that you get is going to be that they talked about matters of mutual interest and regional concern. Would be that an appropriate readout for the most transparent administration since – in the history of the United States?
MR. TONER: Matt, don’t prejudge.
QUESTION: I’ll wait.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: North Korea —
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: What’s your position —
MR. TONER: Oh. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: So even if the Egyptians’ request to Interpol were to through, the U.S. would not be obligated to arrest anyone on U.S. soil if they were subjects of the Red Notice. We were just referring to what Jill was talking about, my report from —
MR. TONER: Right. I’m sorry. The first part of your question that —
QUESTION: The U.S. would not necessarily be obligated to – would not be obligated to arrest anyone who’s subject to a Red Notice under Interpol on their soil, but are you concerned that the Egyptians might follow up with extradition papers? And what’s the recourse for U.S. if that’s the case?
MR. TONER: You’re getting way out in front on this. I’m not going to talk about this legal process, what it may turn into two or three steps down the road. We’re very clear that we believe these are politically motivated charges.
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. You did actually ask first.
QUESTION: Yeah. What’s your position on the possible IAEA mission to Yongbyon? Do you think that IAEA should decline the invitation from North Koreans if they go ahead with missile launch? Have you discussed this matter with IAEA?
MR. TONER: Well, I’m sure we have discussed it with the IAEA. I can tell you on the part of the U.S. that we have no intention on observing the launch. But I’ll have to refer you to the —
QUESTION: No. Not talking about observing the launch, but did North Koreans send an invitation to IAEA about monitoring?
MR. TONER: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were talking about invitations. They have been sending out invitations to —
QUESTION: Yeah, but about monitoring facilities, nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, as after the —
MR. TONER: We are consulting with them on this. I’d refer you to them for what their position is.
QUESTION: So just to follow up on that, you said the U.S. has no intention of observing the launch, which doesn’t surprise me.
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: But has there been a formal communication or was there a formal invitation? Has there been a communication with Pyongyang?
MR. TONER: I was told shortly before coming down here that it would go to NASA apparently – that we have not received any invitation.
QUESTION: Have not?
MR. TONER: Have not.
QUESTION: Do you know if NASA has? Obviously, that’s —
MR. TONER: That’s what I meant. I said we’d check with NASA. I’m aware – so yeah, no.
QUESTION: That they have not sent anything to NASA?
QUESTION: Announcement in – North Korea has announced yesterday if the United States sanctions against North Korea, then North Korea would held to another nuclear test soon. How do you respond, sir?
MR. TONER: My response is: What we said very clearly is that we don’t want to see the satellite launch. I’m not going to speculate down the road. We believe that this satellite launch would be in violation of UN Security – existing UN Security Council resolutions, so let’s deal with the issue at hand here.
Yeah, in the back.
QUESTION: I don’t know if this subject came under discussion. Can you tell us something about Nides’ visit to Pakistan and what kind of economic cooperation –
MR. TONER: Did you just come here, or did you just arrive?
QUESTION: I’m – I had —
MR. TONER: I apologize. Let me give you a readout afterwards. I don’t want to rankle Matt again.
QUESTION: And –
MR. TONER: Yeah. He was obviously – it was in Ramallah yesterday. He met with Prime Minister Fayyad and President Abbas, and then he was meeting with his Israeli counterparts today. I don’t have a readout from those meetings. But obviously, all of this is done as – in preparation for leading up to next week’s Quartet meeting.
MR. TONER: Tibet?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about ongoing violence in Tibet? And one after another, they are putting themselves on fire or (inaudible). What they are saying is that China is destroying their culture and history and their livelihoods, and now time has come for the international community to intervene.
MR. TONER: Well, certainly we’ve been very vocal. And I would refer you to the numerous public statements we’ve made about our concerns about increasing these self-immolations and China’s actions vis-a-vis Tibet.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a statement just a short while ago by the Foreign Minister Burkina Faso saying that Captain Sanogo, the coup leader, has a proper attitude, a right attitude, and as a result of that he thinks that the sanctions should be lifted, the sanctions that were just imposed. I mean, does the U.S. see any progress in Mali so far? Any progress that would warrant that type of thing?
MR. TONER: We know that the ECOWAS chiefs of defense are meeting in Abidjan today, and they’re in fact discussing next steps concerning the situation in Mali. And they have issued these sanctions. We do expect them to have a strong impact. But the choice is clear, that Sanogo and his compatriots need to reinstitute civilian rule with an eye towards near-term elections.
QUESTION: So, and then maybe —
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Maybe it’s just something that came out from Burkina Faso, but do you think it would be a premature step to ease the pressure?
MR. TONER: Not at all. I mean, we’ve seen very little in the way – on the part of the —
QUESTION: The question was —
QUESTION: To ease the pressure.
QUESTION: To ease the pressure, and you said not at all. You mean to —
MR. TONER: I mean —
QUESTION: Sorry I mumbled.
QUESTION: You shouldn’t ease the pressure.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: That’s what you —
MR. TONER: Clearly. We’re not easing sanctions on Mali, not at all. We’re not looking to ease sanctions in any way on Mali right now.
QUESTION: And just —
MR. TONER: We want to keep the pressure up.
QUESTION: Just briefly on that, just to follow up from the question yesterday – but the talks Assistant Secretary Carson had in Algeria, is there anything more on that, just particularly as it relates to Mali?
MR. TONER: Yes, I do. He was in, indeed, Algeria, so thanks for calling that to my attention. He was there, obviously, with General Ham of AFRICOM, and they did meet with President Bouteflika as well as Algeria’s African affairs minister yesterday and precisely there to discuss the situation in Mali, as well as our concerns about the Sahel and the activities of AQIM.
QUESTION: Is there anything specific you’d like to see from Algeria on Mali as a neighboring country?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, obviously we’re looking to cooperate closely with them. This is an issue that touches their borders, and so it’s of great concern to them. So – and especially, as I said, the activities of AQIM in the region and the fact that they are, as al-Qaida often does, trying to exploit the current situation.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on any potential ongoing communication or diplomacy with the Emirates about the NDI case? Have that – has that – I mean, I know the Secretary remarked on it over the weekend, but has there been anything more on that? And there’s also a report that a couple of NDI folks have been prevented from leaving, although one was later allowed to leave. Can you confirm that? Do you have any —
MR. TONER: Right. My understanding to your second question is that they were – there were two individuals briefly detained and then released. One was allowed to, in fact – or I think departed the country and the other remains. But I – and the Secretary obviously spoke to this over the weekend. And we continue to be in close contact with the Government of the UAE, trying to find a resolution to this.
QUESTION: Did the State Department – was the State Department involved at all in discussions with them while these two folks were being held, particularly the American citizen?
MR. TONER: You know what? I’m not – I don’t know, frankly. I don’t know how long the detention was, but —
QUESTION: Are you saying —
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — one of them was an American citizen?
MR. TONER: I believe so.
QUESTION: I didn’t hear that and —
MR. TONER: I’ll double check, Matt.
QUESTION: –what you said. That is your understanding, though, yeah?
MR. TONER: I believe so.
That it? Great. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)