State Department Briefing by Mark C. Toner, January 11, 2011

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–January 11, 2011. 


Secretary Clinton in Yemen Today / Traveling Next to Oman
Commemoration of the First Anniversary of Haiti Earthquake
Acting SRAP Ruggiero Travel to Afghanistan Following His Visit to Pakistan
USAID Administrator Shah Arrived in El Salvador Today
EUR Assistant Secretary Gordon Upcoming Travel to Hungary
Secretary Clinton’s Meeting with Yemeni President Saleh
U.S. Cognizant of the Challenges Yemen Faces / U.S. Partnership with Yemen
USAID Administrator Shah / U.S. Continued Robust Commitment to Rebuilding Haiti
Comments on Extremists / Remarks Stand for Themselves
Secretary Clinton’s Meeting Last Friday in New York / Saudi King Abdullah / Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri
Special Tribunal Lebanon / U.S. Position
Anticipated Visit of Erekat, Molho to Washington Later This Week
Former Iranian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Secretary Gates Comments in Beijing / Cited One Example / North Korea Needs to Live Up to Obligations
Meetings Leading Up to President Hu Jintao’s Trip to the U.S.


1:43 p.m. EST

MR. TONER: Welcome to the State Department, as we wait anxiously for whatever snow is going to fall in Washington later this evening. Just very quickly at the – the Secretary was obviously in Yemen today, as many of you know from news reports, where she held a town hall meeting with civil society leaders including parliamentarian students as well as nongovernmental organization representatives. She had a productive meeting with President Saleh – Saleh rather – covering a range of bilateral issues and also met with opposition leaders. She reiterated the U.S. support for a unified, stable, democratic, and prosperous Yemen and called for a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue between all opposition groups and the ruling party. She’s on her way to Oman, I believe, at present. She also – just to add on, she also met with – I’m going to have difficulty pronouncing the name – Nujood Ali, who was the 2008 Glamour Woman of the Year, while in Yemen as well.

Tomorrow, January 12th, marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti. Over 230,000 lives were lost, and more than 300,000 people were injured, and thousands of homes, offices, and government buildings collapsed. In solemn commemoration of that day, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince held a memorial service today at 11:30 to honor our family members, friends, and colleagues who died. The Government of Haiti has proclaimed a national day of mourning on January 12th. Here in Washington, the Embassy of Haiti has organized a requiem mass at the Shrine of the Basilica at the National Cathedral tomorrow afternoon. The Organization of American States is also holding a commemorative event tomorrow, and in New York at 4:45 p.m., United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be laying a wreath at the General Assembly lobby with a 47-second moment of silence to commemorate the 47-second long earthquake. Also, just to note, Counselor Cheryl Mills is in Port-au-Prince today. She’s attending events related to the one-year anniversary, and earlier today, I believe, participated in an event to mark the opening of an industrial park in Haiti’s North Corridor, and we’ll have a fact sheet later for you on that.

In – now, turning to Afghanistan, acting SRAP Frank Ruggiero and an interagency team traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan following his visit to Pakistan. While in Afghanistan, SRAP – acting SRAP Ruggiero met with President Karzai. They discussed the United States’ long-term commitment to Afghanistan as well as the priorities for 2011. Acting SRAP Ruggiero and his team also met with General Petraeus as well the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura, Afghan Transition Coordinator Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Spanta, Finance Minister Zakhilwal, and Afghan High Peace Council Chairman Rabbani. And just to note, he’s now joined the Vice President’s party in Afghanistan.

A few other things to note is USAID’s Administrator Rajiv Shah arrived in El Salvador today as part of a three-day visit to the region. While there, he’ll meet with President Funes as well and visit development programs supported by USAID. In the last year, the U.S. Government provided $170 million to El Salvador for social and economic development projects, ranging from training programs to improve language and literacy teaching in El Salvador’s public schools, to violence prevention and unemployment programs to help keep Salvadoran youth out of gangs and assist them in finding gainful employment.

While there, he’ll also participate in a signing of additional support to assist in the reconstruction of areas affected by flooding and landslides caused by Tropical Storm Ida in late 2009. This is a $25 million agreement with El Salvador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and continues the long tradition of collaboration and friendship between our two countries.

And finally, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon will visit Budapest, Hungary on January 12th through 14th. While there, he’ll meet with EU political directors, Hungarian Foreign Minister Martony, and nongovernmental associations and civil society groups. Assistant Secretary Gordon will also deliver remarks at the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs in Budapest on U.S.-EU relations and the Hungarian presidency.

I’ll take your questions. I’m done. No questions? Anyone else? Go ahead, (inaudible). Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: When the Secretary of State meets with the President of Yemen Saleh, does she discuss with him possible reforms, the succession of power, and all these issues that are brought to bear on Yemen and that actually cause a great deal of the tension that we can see there?

MR. TONER: Well, sure, Said. I think she said in her public remarks that Yemen has announced a number of reforms, and we in the international community look forward to supporting them in the economic, social, and political sectors. So it’s clear that she’s also raised this in her meetings with the president.


MR. TONER: She says, “I told him that we’re committed to a broad relationship between our two countries.” I think she’s been – she was clear that we are partners with Yemen in building a better stable future for the people of Yemen; that’s our goal. And certainly we’re going to raise reforms in that context.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any concern that the South might split or that Yemen might be headed the way of Sudan?

MR. TONER: Again, I think we’re cognizant of the fact that Yemen faces some serious challenges, not the least of which is the extremists operating on its soil. And – but that just underscores why we need a partnership with Yemen and why we need to focus on building a better, stable future for the country.

QUESTION: If you will allow me one more.

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: I mean, we get the impression here in Washington that the bilateral (inaudible) or the concentration of whatever negotiations take place between the United States and Yemen completely focus on security and fighting the extremists that you – or al-Qaida in Yemen that has found a new home there. But does it go beyond that? Does it go into the other issues?

MR. TONER: Well, it does, and I think the Secretary’s visit reflects that it goes beyond just purely security issues. I mean, obviously that’s of tremendous concern to us, but it’s also of great concern to the Yemeni people and the Government of Yemen. But we also recognize that part of addressing, frankly, that situation is by building a better, stable, more prosperous Yemeni economy by building its infrastructure, by – and by engaging with civil society members there. This is all part, I think, of what I just said, which is building a better future for the Yemeni people and thereby offering alternative to these kinds of extremists operating on their soil.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: First of all, let me wish an early recovery if she’s not badly hurt. What is the physical condition of the Secretary? She — on the steps she tripped while climbing the plane – the plane’s steps she tripped and fell.

MR. TONER: I’m actually —

QUESTION: What is the latest on —

MR. TONER: I don’t have any information to convey. I’m not aware that she tripped or fell. I can look into it.

QUESTION: We got it from the pool.

MR. TONER: Okay. I’ll have to look into it. I didn’t see the latest.


MR. TONER: I only know that she’s en route to Oman in her next stop, so —

QUESTION: Yeah, right on the steps of the plane she fell. Okay, the question is —

MR. TONER: If there’s any update, I can share it. But I don’t believe there is.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. About the question – there are questions being asked in Port-au-Prince in Haiti about the absence of Rajiv Shah, USAID chief, today or tomorrow, that how serious the U.S. is.

MR. TONER: Well, I think I just said he’s in El Salvador today. This was part of a long-planned trip. He was obviously in the briefing room on Friday. Counselor Mills is there on the ground, and obviously there’s going to be commemorative events here in Washington so I wouldn’t read anything into that. And it doesn’t obviously speak to our continued robust commitment to rebuilding Haiti after the earthquake.

Go ahead, Josh.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, Secretary Clinton referred to the alleged shooter in the Gabrielle Gifford’s assassination attempt as an extremist and compared him directly to extremists in Muslim countries who have committed acts of domestic terrorism in that part of the world. Does the Secretary of State believe that domestic extremists like Jared Lee Loughner should be treated in the same way as – that extremists in other countries, parts of the Muslim world, should be treated, and is she advocating equivalency between these two?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure she said that there should be any equivalency in the way they’re treated. But she was making remarks, obviously in the context of the environment she was in, talking about the parallels. And beyond those obvious parallels, I’m not really going to characterize her comments beyond that. But I don’t think she was talking about some kind of equivalency in terms of how we treat them. Obviously, there’s rule of law and due process here in the terms of the Arizona incident, and that’s under investigation. I’m not going to comment further on that. But her remarks stand for themselves.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mark, do you have any readout for the Secretary’s meetings on Friday with King Abdullah and Lebanese prime minister? And did she discuss with them the Saudi-Syrian deal regarding Lebanon?

MR. TONER: I did not get a readout of those meetings. I believe P.J. characterized them as, at least with the Saudi king, as more of a visit as he’s recuperating in New York. But beyond that, I don’t have any firm readout.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea about the deal between Saudi Arabia and Syria regarding Lebanon?

MR. TONER: I don’t have specific information on that regarding the special tribunal, regarding —

QUESTION: The whole situation in Lebanon after the —

MR. TONER: Right. I mean, our position on the special tribunal for Lebanon has been clear and stated repeatedly from this podium. We believe it needs to be able to conduct its business in a free and transparent manner, and outside of any foreign interference. But as to your specific question about the Saudi-Syrian deal, I’d have to look into it. I’ll see if I can get more information for you.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have a clearer picture on the mechanism in which these talks will be conducted?

MR. TONER: You’re talking about —

QUESTION: I’m sorry, the Palestinian – American talks and the Israeli-American talk with Mr. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator —

MR. TONER: Yeah, P.J. mentioned yesterday that Saeb Erekat and Molho are coming here this week. I don’t have any more detail on that. I’ll try to get it for you.

QUESTION: And do you have a clear picture of whether Secretary of State will be back by Friday so she would possibly meet with —

MR. TONER: I believe she’s scheduled to be back. I don’t have any clearer picture of what her schedule looks like that day. There’s certainly nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION: — meet with the Palestinian negotiator?

MR. TONER: Again, I can’t speak to what her schedule looks like on Friday, so when we have something to announce we’ll share it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have an Iran-related question. For about the past month, the – there’s been construction work underway on the former Iranian embassy here in Washington. And as you know, the embassy is one of the assets of the Iranian Government that was frozen after the hostage taking in Tehran. Can you tell us what’s going on there? Why – who’s paying for it, what do you – what the purpose of that renovation is —

MR. TONER: I’m searching my memory. I remember seeing some information about this. I want to say it had something to do with just maintenance of the property, but I’m unclear. I’ll have to check and get to you, frankly. Take the question.

QUESTION: Can you also tell us who’s paying for it and if —

MR. TONER: I’ll take the question. I don’t want to —

QUESTION: — there’s going to be any use made of it by anybody?

MR. TONER: That’s a legitimate question. I’ll get back to you with —

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Yep. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mark, Secretary Gates said in Beijing that North Korea should have a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing before the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. So do you think that’s a precondition for the Six-Party Talks, the moratorium?

MR. TONER: I would just say that Secretary Gates cited that example. But obviously, that example is in the context of what we’ve been saying so far, which is that North Korea needs to cease provocative behavior and it needs to live up to its obligations and commitments, including the 2005 joint statement and both UN Security Council resolutions. So, I mean, he cited one example, but obviously there’s more there. It’s not just about rhetoric. It’s about – for North Korea it’s about changing its behavior, and that goes beyond that specific example. But that’s certainly a relevant example.

QUESTION: So you mean just one of the examples for the preconditions?

MR. TONER: Again, what Secretary Gates, I think, was saying is absolutely legitimate, but it’s in the context of, again, what we’ve been saying all along, which is that North Korea needs to live up to its obligations and commitments as stated in the 2005 joint statement and UN Security Council resolutions.

Tejinder, go ahead.

QUESTION: In the same – Secretary Gates also said that U.S.-China should have more transparent relationship. So was this discussed during the recent trip of the foreign minister? Can we expect something during the Chinese president’s visit to the U.S.?

MR. TONER: In terms of a more transparent relationship?

QUESTION: More transparent – yeah.

MR. TONER: Obviously, well, Tejinder, all this – all of these meetings leading up to President Hu’s trip here is in that context of building a better, stronger, more constructive, and ultimately more transparent relationship with China.

QUESTION: These meetings are scheduled for the 19th with the President, with President Obama, and when does the Chinese president —

MR. TONER: This is – oh, Chinese president, okay, sorry. I’d refer you to the White House for specific dates, schedule. That’s it?


QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)