Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 3, 2011.
- Secretary Clinton Meeting with Syrian and Syrian-American Activists / U.S Continues to Be In Contact With Range of Opposition Figures
- U.S. Continues to Seek Ways to Isolate Asad, Is Looking at Next Round of Sanctions / Strong Action from UN Security Council is Long Overdue / International Opinion Shifting Against Asad / No Indication Asad Has Any Desire to Reform
- Disgust at Violence in Hama / Violent Actions of Regime Will Only Strengthen Resolve of Protestors
- U.S. Remains Committed to Seeing Violence End / Syrian People Will Decide What Democratic Transition Looks Like
- Ambassador Ford Still in Washington for Consultations
- Trial of Hosni Mubarak / U.S. Supports Due Process in a Fair, Transparent Trial
- Confirmation Hearing for Ambassador-Designate Frank Ricciardone
- U.S. Supports UN Process in Cyprus / Encourage Parties to Work Through Differences and Achieve Mutually-Agreeable Solution
- Ambassador Marc Grossman Meetings with President Zardari and Pakistani Government Officials / Reaffirmed U.S. Commitment to Shared Interest in the Region
- American Diplomats in Pakistan Free to Travel and Carry Out Work/ Continue to Work with Pakistani Partners on Regulations
- U.S. Relationship with Pakistan Has Challenges but Remains Vital
- Long-Term Partnership with Mexico is Vital for Both Countries / Together We Face Significant Challenges Including Drug Gangs
- ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
- U.S. Remains Engaged on Getting Parties Back to Negotiating Table
MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. Just so – just as we did the other day with the swearing-in of Ambassador Locke, I’m aware the Secretary does have a camera spray before her meeting with Foreign Minister Moreno of Chile this afternoon, and if any of you need to go upstairs for that or want to sneak out, again, you won’t hurt my feelings.
That’s all I have for the top, so I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: I don’t really have anything worthy enough to start the briefing with, so I’ll pass.
MR. TONER: Okay. Great.
QUESTION: Okay. And —
MR. TONER: Andy seems to.
QUESTION: Yes. The Secretary put out that statement last night about her meeting with the activists. One thing that they said to us was that they had asked her to convey to President Obama their hope that he’s going to come out and state unequivocally that Asad should come down. I’m wondering, do you have any – did she have any reaction to that request on their part? Is she going to convey that to the President?
MR. TONER: Well, again, the Secretary meets regularly with the President and certainly would convey her thoughts and her impressions on Syria. The rhetoric that we’ve seen has been from the President and Secretary – has been strong in the past few days. And we continue to press our message both to Asad, his regime, and to our partners throughout the world that the time for democratic change is already underway in Syria, and Asad has lost legitimacy in the eyes of his people and needs to allow that transition to take place.
QUESTION: Okay. The Secretary also said that the U.S. would continue to support the Syrians in their efforts to realize their democratic aspirations. And I’m wondering, can you tell us how exactly does the U.S. plan to help presumably opposition figures get it together so that they’re in a position to help fill a political vacuum when it —
MR. TONER: Well, it’s certainly difficult given the constraints under which these opposition figures within Syria operate. Certainly, our Embassy is in frequent contact with some of these figures, but the – given the actions of the – Asad and his regime against innocent protestors as well as some of the opposition leaders, then they have to be very careful, and security considerations are paramount.
I would just say, echoing the Secretary’s statement last night, that moving forward, we’re going to continue to seek ways to isolate Asad and to reduce their access to revenue. We’re going to look at further sanctions and actions that can be taken to accomplish those goals. We’re going to continue our discussions in New York, and as the Secretary said, she believes strong action on the part of the council is long overdue on Syria. And we’re going to continue to make that case. And within Syria, we’re going to continue to meet with the opposition and to get a better sense of their direction.
And just in terms of Ambassador Ford, he’s still here for consultations. I expect him to return as soon as those consultations are finished in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: How frustrated —
MR. TONER: Lach and then – go ahead, Lach.
QUESTION: Yeah. How frustrated are you that the UN Security Council has not been able to take the strong action you desire?
MR. TONER: Well, long overdue is the assessment of the Secretary and Ambassador Rice in New York. We continue to have those discussions. We’ve been working with our partners in trying to increase pressure on Syria, and we believe a statement or action from the Security Council would be a step in that direction.
QUESTION: Do you have any signs of progress? Do you sense progress?
MR. TONER: I’d just say discussions continue.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, what’s the —
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: What’s the – excuse me. What’s the —
MR. TONER: You, and then – go ahead.
QUESTION: What’s the endgame here? I mean, you talk about that you’re going to isolate Asad, that he can’t lead the transition, that he’s lost legitimacy, and that you want a transition to democracy. So what’s the endgame in terms of the regime?
MR. TONER: It’s awfully hard to predict the endgame, especially when –
QUESTION: No, what’s your – I mean, what’s your —
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: — ideal endgame? What’s your ideal endgame? I mean, you seem obviously to be reluctant to say the words “Asad should go,” but you’re saying, like, all these things, anything but. I mean, if a leader has lost legitimacy, you’re talking for – about a transition to democracy which he can’t lead, and you’re working to isolate him. I mean, you’re trying to get rid of him.
MR. TONER: Look. We need to focus on what the Syrian people want out of this, and they’re looking for change. They have been out protesting for weeks and months now under tremendous duress facing tanks, facing security forces every day to voice their opposition to the regime. And thus far, the regime’s only met that with continued violence and continued oppression. So what they’re looking for is change, democratic change. That’s their endgame.
QUESTION: What is change? What do you mean —
MR. TONER: That’s their endgame.
QUESTION: What do you take it to mean by change?
MR. TONER: Again, we’ve talked about this transition, we’ve talked about greater democracy. So far, we’ve seen nothing on the part of Asad and his government that leads us to believe that they’re able to meet these concerns in any way, shape, or form.
QUESTION: So I don’t – but I just don’t understand your – like, obviously, so you’re saying, like, this litany of things that, like, could happen —
MR. TONER: But it’s not for us – but certainly, it’s not for us to articulate —
QUESTION: Well, it was, like —
MR. TONER: — what the Syrians want out of their government —
QUESTION: Well, it was your –
MR. TONER: — or what they want for their future.
MR. TONER: I don’t think – see, I don’t think that’s the case. I think we’ve always —
QUESTION: Oh, really? You never called for Qadhafi to go or for Mubarak to go?
MR. TONER: We’ve always said that it’s the Libyan people, the Egyptian people, who have to decide, who – it’s their – it’s them —
QUESTION: Well, you don’t think the Syrian people have decided, though?
MR. TONER: — who are expressing their aspirations. I think they have expressed themselves bravely and courageously in the face of Asad, yes, and his regime.
QUESTION: So, okay. So they’ve obviously said that they feel that he should go, and you’re saying it’s up to them to decide. So they’ve decided. But obviously, as you’ve said, they’re facing tanks, they’re facing —
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: — torture, murder. How are they supposed to get rid of him? I mean, don’t they need international help in doing that?
MR. TONER: Which is why we are both strongly condemning the violence. We’re trying to work within the UN framework to increase pressure on him so that he hears this message internally and externally, and that he heeds the calls of the Syrian people. This is about applying the right kind of pressure externally so that he doesn’t have both the financial wherewithal or the revenue to carry out these kinds of actions against his people, but also that he realizes that he has to address their concerns in one shape – way – in one way or another.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Mark, are you aware that the Security Council just reached a draft language for a resolution on Syria (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: I was aware that discussions were ongoing. I’m not aware that they reached draft language.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you also aware that some opposition groups are saying that in the next few days we are likely to see a whole slew of diplomats throughout the world take sides with the rebellion or the demonstrators and so on, and likewise within the military?
MR. TONER: Well, I certainly think that we’re seeing international opinion shift against Asad. I think that he’s done a very good job at isolating himself through his own actions.
QUESTION: But are you aware of reports that allege that —
MR. TONER: The report that you’re —
QUESTION: — that say that we are likely to see a number of Syrian diplomats and a number of high-ranking officers take sides with the demonstrators?
MR. TONER: I have not seen that report. I can’t comment on it other than to say that through his actions internally he’s only isolating himself both from the international community and from the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Yesterday at his confirmation hearing, Ambassador Ford said that some of the reluctant partners at the UN were considering now adopting a stronger line on Syria. Anything on that?
MR. TONER: Again, I’m going to let those discussions play out in New York. We’ve stated our position that we believe a strong statement, a strong action against – on Syria is long overdue, and we continue to have those discussions.
QUESTION: Okay. And just one more on the – as – following up on that question, what’s the latest – have you guys had any calls to the Syrian ambassador here? Do you know where he’s at?
MR. TONER: No, we’ve not had any conversations with him.
QUESTION: You had a few —
MR. TONER: You, and then the back there.
QUESTION: — also a few weeks ago that Asad could be a reformer. So you don’t see him anymore as a reformer; he has no part in the future of Syria?
MR. TONER: We have seen no indication other than empty rhetoric that he has any desire to reform.
QUESTION: The meeting yesterday with the activists with the Secretary, was this the first of a kind or —
MR. TONER: It was. The first time for her to meet with the Syrian – Syrian-American activists, yes.
QUESTION: Why is this the first time? Have you received demands before and you did not —
MR. TONER: Well, I think it – as I said yesterday and the Secretary voiced in the statement that we released last night, that it was a chance for her to say that we feel solidarity with the Syrian people and to express that solidarity and to express our condolences to the suffering of the Syrian people.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering what your reaction is to the still-escalating violence in Hama.
MR. TONER: It’s hard to find adjectives, new adjectives, to express our disgust. We continue to see a systematic carrying out of violence against innocent protestors. And as we’ve said repeatedly, this is only going to strengthen the resolve of the protestors. We’ve seen that time and again.
Go ahead, Andy.
QUESTION: Sorry, Matt. With that – back on the meeting. Yesterday I asked if you had any clarity on who initiated the meeting, whether it was the Secretary actively inviting them or whether they had requested the meeting. Can – do you have that?
MR. TONER: I owe you an answer on that. I don’t know if we got an answer on that, so I apologize. We’ll get it for you.
QUESTION: Well, haven’t they been asking for a meeting for some time?
MR. TONER: We have, and I’m just not sure who initiated the – there has been a give and take. I’m just not sure who —
QUESTION: But hasn’t there been a longstanding request for such a meeting?
MR. TONER: I believe so, yeah.
QUESTION: The activists that you met yesterday, they formed an executive committee in Antalya a couple of months ago that – when they met in Antalya. Are you planning to meet with – officially to meet the representative from this committee, this executive committee they formed in Antalya, the Syrian opposition leaders?
MR. TONER: Yeah. I can’t speak to a meeting with those individuals per se, but —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) part of the executive committee —
MR. TONER: I know we are in contact with that group and we remain in contact more broadly with a range of opposition figures.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I follow on what Elise was getting at earlier –
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: — which is this idea of an endgame. And I realize it’s up to the Syrian people to decide, but you’re taking active steps to – what you say – to isolate Asad, and you also say that Asad is isolating himself. What – the goal of this isolation, at least from your end, your attempts to isolate him, is it to get him to reform or is that done and it is now basically regime change?
MR. TONER: I think when you look at the situation, first of all, it’s to squeeze him financially and politically —
QUESTION: Right, but —
MR. TONER: — that he – just let me finish – that he feels enough pressure to, at the very least, stop the violence against these protesters, that the international community speaks with a strong enough voice, and followed up by action such as sanctions that send a clear, unequivocal message that he can’t do this. And then secondly, I think that you’re right in that what comes next. I think that he’s shown little desire to enact any kind of real reform. He’s lost nearly all legitimacy with his own people. It’s clear that a democratic transition is already underway in one sense or another in Syria, so what we want to see is him to either allow that to take place or to get out of the way.
QUESTION: Well —
QUESTION: This is —
QUESTION: Well – well, wait. Just let me – so it really, at the moment, is just the short-term goal of sending him a message that he shouldn’t – that he can’t do this. But obviously, he can do this because he is doing it, but that maybe the message is that he shouldn’t do this or he will feel the pain, the pinch. But, I mean, it sounds as though the goal is not just that short-term one and it is a longer-term one of regime change. Is that not correct?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Well, the President said in his speech in May that if he can’t be a part of this transition, he needs to get out of the way.
QUESTION: All right. Well, if that in fact is the goal, has any – the policy of isolation, the history of U.S. isolating foreign countries trying to get them to change, is not exactly one of great success. In fact, the only place where it has – seems to have happened was in Libya, and that has now completely turned upside down. So I guess the question is: How confident are you that this policy of isolation will in fact lead to a goal of the Syrian people reaching their aspirations?
MR. TONER: I think we’re confident in the courage and commitment of the Syrian people to stand up to Asad and his regime, and to not back down. So you’ve already had this sea change underway in Syria. We in the United States, the international community, need, I think, to do two things. One is to do whatever we can to try to stop the violence that he’s carrying out against his people. And then secondly, I think we need to help the Syrian people lead a democratic transition. But really, it’s ultimately for them to decide what that looks like.
QUESTION: The past record, though, is worse than spotty. I mean, just thinking of Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Belarus, Zimbabwe. The only places where you’ve had sanctions on countries that I – you had tried to isolate them and there was actually change, you actually had to invade them. That would be Iraq and Afghanistan, and you did get some change. But in no other place has this actually worked except for Libya back in 2003 or whatever it was. And that, of course, completely failed. And now you’re —
MR. TONER: Well —
QUESTION: — trying to get Qadhafi out.
MR. TONER: Some of these sanctions – I don’t want to get into a big debate about —
QUESTION: No, no. I – but I —
MR. TONER: — the effectiveness of sanctions. I mean, some of those sanctions are still in play. They were effective in places like South Africa during apartheid. I mean, there has been – anyway, that’s a larger debate. And we’ve said all along there’s not a single template that you can apply to all these situations, that A leads to B leads to C. We’re – this is an evolving situation in the Middle East. What our goal is – or our focus is on the Syrian people’s right to peacefully protest the government and for the government to stop the violence against its own people.
QUESTION: So in other words, regime change, then, is up to them?
MR. TONER: I would say that it’s up to them to decide the scope and the breadth of that.
QUESTION: Well, just – I mean, okay. I’m sorry. You said – you’ve been, like – oh, so you’re going on President Obama’s, like, May speech, where he says that he should help lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. I mean, when is the statute of limitations of that up? I mean, has he demonstrated that he’s not leading it, and what —
MR. TONER: I think I just said that he’s – he continues to show through the actions he’s no reformer.
QUESTION: Okay. So – but why aren’t you taking that step? I mean, how long are you going to leave it hanging out there that he has a chance to reform when you continue to say that he hasn’t done so?
MR. TONER: I think we’ve been strong in saying that he’s lost his legitimacy in the eyes of his own people, he’s only carried out violence and enacted no serious reform, and the Syrian people have expressed their desire for a democratic transition.
QUESTION: Right. So I mean, the stronger your rhetoric gets without actually taking the step to say that he should get out of the way, it sounds like empty words because you’re toughening your rhetoric and your disgust is amazing and you can’t be any more disgusted than you already are, but yet you’re not calling for the guy to step down.
MR. TONER: Well, I think what we’re saying is that he needs to allow a democratic transition to take place. He’s – he can’t simply lash out against his own people.
QUESTION: Well, what does that mean? What does that mean, allow a democratic transition to take place? I mean, what do you – what steps does he have to take to – for him to allow a democratic transition to take place?
MR. TONER: Again, I just want to pivot back to the focus here, which is this is about the Syrian people’s aspirations for a democratic change in their own country.
QUESTION: Yeah. They’ve obviously – their aspirations are for him to go.
MR. TONER: Right.
MR. TONER: So he can either – as the President said, he can either lead that, which he’s shown little desire to do, or get out of the way and allow that transition. I can’t say it any better than that.
QUESTION: So he should get out of the way, then, because he hasn’t done it.
MR. TONER: I can’t say it any better than what the President said in May. It still holds.
QUESTION: Mark, what’s – one way —
MR. TONER: Go ahead, Andy.
QUESTION: — back at this. I mean, you keep on tying his lack of – or his losing his legitimacy to this ongoing violence. If the violence stops, does that in some way restore his legitimacy as a leader?
MR. TONER: I think that’s a question ultimately for the Syrian people to decide. I think that’s a hard bridge to cross.
QUESTION: One of the things that we have seen in Libya was that it was a crackdown in the cabinet. And here we are talking all the time about Asad like he, Asad, the only person. What information do you have about inside the cabinet in Syria? Is all the cabinet following what he is doing? Do you see any – is going to be any crackdown?
MR. TONER: It’s a fair question. And it’s a fairly opaque system, so it’s hard to say what we’re seeing within the Syrian Government. I would hope that —
QUESTION: So you are thinking all the government responsible for this at this moment?
MR. TONER: We have – and many of our sanctions have targeted not just Asad but many of the people who we believe responsible carrying these attacks.
QUESTION: A follow-up – just a follow-up on the —
MR. TONER: Right. Yeah. Okay.
QUESTION: Just to clarify – but the status of this executive committee. Do you recognize this executive committee as a representative of the Syrian opposition –
MR. TONER: I’ll have to take that question and get back to you. I know that we – you said that is the representative for the —
QUESTION: Yes. The recognizing official – it is executive – this body as a representative of opposition in Syria. You are talking about the Syrian people.
MR. TONER: Again, as the representative or a representative?
QUESTION: The Syrian people —
MR. TONER: There’s a –
QUESTION: Do you think this executive committee that the opposition leaders has formed in Antalya is representing the Syrian people? Or you – are you – officially recognize them?
MR. TONER: I think we view them as part of the opposition. I’m not sure that we’ve —
QUESTION: Do you —
MR. TONER: — acknowledged that they are the opposition. I think that’s incorrect.
QUESTION: And this meeting with the Syrian activists, is it first step that you contact – you are planning to pursue with the opposition?
MR. TONER: I think that yesterday’s meeting should be taken in the context of the Secretary expressing our solidarity, pledging to do all we can to help this process underway – that’s underway.
QUESTION: Do you plan to meet with them regularly?
MR. TONER: With the Syrian activists?
QUESTION: With the Syrian – like the executive committee or –
MR. TONER: I don’t know if there’s going to be follow-up meetings. I imagine there will be. I’m not sure it’ll be at the Secretary’s level.
Go ahead in the back, David.
QUESTION: So, a last – do you support – and do you give any support to this body, to these activists, Syrian activists, I mean, any logistic support or –
MR. TONER: With?
QUESTION: With these activists, the Syrian activists that you met yesterday, any – they got any support from the State Department?
MR. TONER: Again, we remain in close contact with them as the situation unfolds there. That’s all I’m going to say.
Go ahead, David.
QUESTION: Mark, you’ve talked about targeting the Syrian energy sector, oil and gas. Is that something you’re trying to do on a multilateral basis, and would that explain why the delay in announcement of new sanctions?
MR. TONER: I mean, even on a unilateral basis, you know these things aren’t enacted overnight. But I’m not going to get out too far in front of the process beyond what we said, which is that we’re looking at a next round of actions.
QUESTION: But are you talking to other countries about –
MR. TONER: We closely coordinate with our key partners on this, yes. Is that it?
Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you aware of report that (inaudible) Iran is exerting great deal of pressure on the government – Iraqi Government of Nouri al-Maliki to provide aid to the Syrian regime, including opening the borders and –
MR. TONER: On the Iraqi Government to provide –
QUESTION: Yes. Yes.
MR. TONER: I’m not aware of those reports, but –
QUESTION: On the government directly and through its proxies in Iraq.
MR. TONER: Well, again, we’ve seen Iran emerge as Syria’s best friend in this whole unfolding of events in Syria. And it’s – if they’re your friends, then you’re on the wrong side.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: One more.
MR. TONER: Happy to.
MR. TONER: I think I spoke about Turkey’s role thus far.
QUESTION: Going forward?
MR. TONER: They’ve been very active. They’ve been publicly strong speaking out against the situation in Syria, and they’ve been helpful in dealing with the refugee crisis.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the Hosni Mubarak trial today in Cairo? I mean, do you think that this is a productive exercise or do you think this is a show trial? Is this really going to help the Egyptian people move towards democracy?
MR. TONER: I think ultimately it’s – this is a process for the Egyptian people. We’ve been obviously following the trial. We saw the images today. Our concern would be that we generally would support due process and a fair and transparent trial. But beyond that, this is really something for the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: But I mean, are you – do you think that this is some – are you concerned about due process? Are you – do you think that he’s going to realistically receive a fair trial, and are you concerned that the Egyptians –
MR. TONER: Anytime, anywhere, we’re always concerned about due process and a fair trial, and that’s what I just said. But as I said, we –
QUESTION: No, but I mean –
MR. TONER: We believe that –
QUESTION: — in this particular –
MR. TONER: — the Egyptians are – sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off.
QUESTION: But in this particular instance, do you have confidence that the Egyptian justice system – considering your problems with it in the past – that the Egyptian justice system is going to give this guy a fair trial and –
MR. TONER: I think we –
QUESTION: — restore your faith in the Egyptian justice system?
MR. TONER: Well, I think that they’re carrying out a trial in accordance with Egyptian law, and we’ll obviously follow the trial closely. And as I just said, it’s very important that it be a free – be a transparent and fair process, and we have confidence that they can do that, yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned seeing the images. Do those cause you any concern at all? There’s an old guy lying in a hospital bed behind – in a cage. That doesn’t give you any reason to have – to think twice about the due process or transparency?
MR. TONER: Well —
QUESTION: I mean, he’s not just any old guy in a cage – in bed in a cage. This guy was your main Arab ally for decades.
MR. TONER: Again, it’s not for me –
QUESTION: They don’t – the pictures don’t trouble you?
MR. TONER: It’s not for me – I mean, he’s – clearly has some health issues. As far as the cage, I understand that that’s a normal part of trial proceedings there, or the mesh covering. So I can’t speak to the courtroom other than to say that it’s been carried out in accordance with Egyptian law.
QUESTION: But that – you said it was part of the court proceedings there, and of course, you mean by – before even Mubarak was overthrown. So doesn’t that trouble you that they’re not changing the way they go about things?
MR. TONER: I just would say that we believe that Egyptian authorities are able to carry out a free and – or a fair trial in this case, and it’s really ultimately up to them to do so.
In the back.
QUESTION: It’s a different subject. Yesterday, a bunch of ambassadors were confirmed at the Senate floor. Among them, Tony Wayne was confirmed as Ambassador to Mexico. How soon can you – can we expect a swearing-in ceremony. And considering that Mexico is without an ambassador at this moment, how soon can he arrive in Mexico?
MR. TONER: Well, I was going to say, given the importance of the bilateral relationship, I can expect that’ll take place very soon, but I don’t have a date certain for you yet. I’ll try to get that for you.
QUESTION: Again, from yesterday’s Senate nominations, Ambassador to Turkey Ricciardone was also testifying against – same question, do you expect him to be – first of all, are you hopeful this year that he’ll be confirmed?
MR. TONER: Confirmed. It’s hard for us to decide on the Senate schedule, but we hope that it’ll be done quickly and that he’ll be able to get back to Turkey.
QUESTION: South Korea’s senior presidential aide on foreign affairs in national security, Chun Yung-woo, is scheduled to visit Washington next week. Does anybody from State Department plan to meet him while he’s here?
MR. TONER: Let’s get a little closer to next week and we’ll have a better readout of our meetings with him.
QUESTION: Now in the meeting with Ambassador Grossman yesterday, President Zardari called for clear terms of engagement, if I could quote him. Now given that the U.S. has already made some specific demands to Pakistan, if you could tell us what there has been made on those demands in these meetings and what those clearer terms of engagement are that both countries are working on?
MR. TONER: Well, if you’re talking about Ambassador Grossman’s visit to Pakistan —
MR. TONER: — he met with – you mentioned President Zardari, he met also with Prime Minister Gilani, Foreign Minister Khar, Foreign Secretary Bashir, General Kayani, as well as Lieutenant General Pasha. And then also yesterday, he participated in the fourth core group meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the U.S. In his meetings, in general, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the shared interest of our two countries, and acting on those interests in a joint way.
And as I said he also met with the core group to discuss the process of Afghan-led reconciliation, as well as regional economic development along the vision of the new Silk Road that Secretary Clinton laid out in Chennai. So it was a very productive set of meetings.
We have said all along that we recognize that there are challenges in our relationship with Pakistan, but it’s in both our strategic – both country’s strategic interest to work through those challenges and to build a long-term partnership.
Go ahead. Camille, and then I’ll get to you Matt.
QUESTION: Can we talk drone strikes?
MR. TONER: I’m not going to address that.
QUESTION: Do you know if the problem or the concerns about travel and the restrictions on travel have been resolved?
MR. TONER: He did. Ambassador Grossman mentioned, I think, in a press avail he did yesterday, American diplomats —
QUESTION: What – okay, go ahead.
MR. TONER: No. You go ahead. You seem ready to —
QUESTION: Well, I don’t think he said they were resolved.
MR. TONER: He said that American diplomats are free to travel, that there are certain regulations and requirements that the Pakistani Government has informed us about, and we’ll try to figure out how to meet those. But, in the short term, our diplomats are able to carry out their work and we’re —
QUESTION: Because they’ve gotten these little “get out of jail free” passes.
MR. TONER: And we’re – as he said, we’re certain that we’re going to be able to work through these issues.
QUESTION: Right. Well, but it’s still an issue. So in other words, it’s not been resolved?
MR. TONER: Sure.
MR. TONER: Yes. We’re working at it, yes.
QUESTION: Is the U.S.A. talking with Cuba related about the situation of Alan Gross there? Is there any update on that?
MR. TONER: I don’t have an update except to say that we continue to seek every opportunity to press our case that he should be released.
MR. TONER: Way in the back, and then —
QUESTION: After Mr. Pascual returned to the U.S. and many things have happened in Mexico like Operation Fast and Furious, do you think it’s going to be difficult work to rebuild the relationship with – between U.S. and Mexico? Do you believe there have been any harm or misunderstandings after that?
MR. TONER: Well, I disagree with the premise of your question that Ambassador Pascual was somehow implicated in the Fast and Furious. Okay.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I’m not referring to that.
MR. TONER: Look, it is a – it’s a relationship that’s – that foremost in our national interest, given it’s – the fact that we’re neighbors. And we certainly face some significant challenges, including the scourge of these drug gangs and our responsibility in that problem. And we’re going to work to address them. There have been some successes on the part of Mexico’s law enforcement, including the arrest the other day. And we are going – we are committed to our long-term partnership with Mexico.
QUESTION: Well, there will be any other way of Ambassador Wayne to approach that situation? Maybe he will be going with another agenda looking to —
MR. TONER: Our agenda doesn’t change from ambassador to ambassador with Mexico or with any country.
Actually, next and then there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) there have been two back-to-back sessions of the trilateral dialogue from last month and from this month.
MR. TONER: You’re talking about the core group meeting?
QUESTION: Yeah. Pakistani and U.S. leadership has also been meeting at various levels. Is there any talk of the next session of Strategic Dialogue somewhere?
MR. TONER: No. I don’t have anything to announce on that. No. I mean, I’m sure it will be – it’s regularly scheduled, but nothing formal to announce.
QUESTION: Mark, what are the reasons for this delay? This contact is happening at other levels. Why not the Strategic Dialogue?
MR. TONER: I can’t really speak to why there’s – to why there’s been any delay. I think these are regularly scheduled events. And as we said, we continue to meet with Pakistan on a number of levels from the Secretary on down and work productively with them.
QUESTION: Ambassador Ricciardone has criticized yesterday during his testify in Congress about some statement made by prime minister, Turkish prime minister, on Cyprus. And he said he’s not optimistic about the peace process in Cyprus. And he said also during this visit, Madam Secretary and Philip Gordon has – have raised this issue with their counterparts in Turkey. Could you give some details on – about your position in Cyprus, what (inaudible) —
MR. TONER: Our position on Cyprus remains unchanged. We are committed – we believe that the time for a resolution is now, that we support the UN process and want to see the parties work through their differences to reach a mutually acceptable solution. That hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: And what part of the Turkish Government is taking as a policy in Cyprus that make it’s a problem for U.S. side for State Department?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we talk – we continue to express our views to the Turkish Government as well to officials on Cyprus about the need to move forward.
MR. TONER: Yeah. I tried to get an update for you, Matt. I think we’re still trying to assess. And again, it’s not for us to really to characterize the Israeli Government’s position, other than to say that we remain committed to getting back to the negotiating table. When the Quartet ministers met in July, they continued to – or committed to continuing these efforts. And all the members of the Quartet, including us, have been working with the parties to get their views on how to overcome the obstacles and get back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Well, when you say it’s not for you to characterize the – I mean, you characterize the positions of them there are all the time. Are you saying it’s not for you to lay them – lay out what the – what your understanding is of the —
MR. TONER: Correct. I think it’s up for – it’s – I would leave that to Prime Minister Netanyahu to —
QUESTION: So you have not heard – you’re not aware that anyone in the U.S. Government has actually heard directly from Netanyahu or his aides —
MR. TONER: Correct.
QUESTION: — about what they actually are up to?
MR. TONER: Correct.
QUESTION: Should – I mean, shouldn’t a statement like that evoke agreement or enthusiasm or engender enthusiasm in the Administration, considering that this was the call of the President of the United States?
MR. TONER: Well, again, yeah, we —
QUESTION: When you say – you will not comment on the position of Mr. Netanyahu when, in fact, this is the position of the U.S.
MR. TONER: Said, we’re trying to get clarity on what Prime Minister Netanyahu said, and ultimately it’s up for – up to him and his government to provide that clarity.
QUESTION: Wasn’t it – I mean, he said his comments like, what, 36 hours ago? You – I mean, Israeli is your closest ally and you’re working with them on the peace process and you still don’t have clarity over what he said?
MR. TONER: Again, it’s up to them to state their position.
QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t sound – I mean, okay. But I mean, if you’re continuing to talk about them being a partner in good faith and they make this statement like this, and 36 hours later you have no idea what they said or what they think?
MR. TONER: I’m just going to say we remain engaged —
QUESTION: It doesn’t sound like it.
MR. TONER: — on trying to get the parties back to the table.
QUESTION: It doesn’t sound like you’re very engaged if they make this groundbreaking statement like this and you still —
MR. TONER: I assure you we are very engaged in working through the challenges.
QUESTION: It doesn’t sound like it.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon made a YouTube video recently, and this sparked a huge discussion. And he basically calls West Bank as a disputed area, not occupied area. Which opinion do you have on —
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not aware – I’m not aware of the video, so I’m not going to comment on something I haven’t seen.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:13 p.m.)