State Department Briefing by Mark C. Toner, November 13, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 13, 2012.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Formation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
    • Syrian Shelling Across the Ceasefire Line in the Golan Heights
    • Capitol Hill Hearings
    • United States Re-Elected to UN Human Rights Council
    • UN General Assembly Vote on U.S. Embargo to Cuba
    • Special Envoy for Middle East Peace David Hale Meeting with President Abbas



1:31 p.m. EST

MR. TONER: Well, I have nothing to announce today, so I’ll open up to your questions. Sorry for being just a – well, actually, a little bit late.

QUESTION: Just a little?

MR. TONER: Okay, all right, all right. My goodness.

QUESTION: I’ve got a lot of stuff but nothing really huge to start with except for perhaps Syria. You guys welcomed the creation of the SOC. Pretty nice?

MR. TONER: You’re talking about the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces?

QUESTION: That would be the one.

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: What do you – what have they done so far? Have they inspired you with confidence so far in their short existence?

MR. TONER: Well, you’re correct, Matt; we did issue a statement the other day congratulating the representatives of the Syrian people who gathered in Doha for their formation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. We look forward, obviously, to supporting the National Coalition as it charts a course for the end of Assad’s bloody rule and marks the start, we believe, of a peaceful, just, and democratic future for the people of Syria.

Obviously, we’re going to work with them in the coming days to ensure that our humanitarian and nonlethal assistance serves the needs of the Syrian people. In answer to your – in direct answer to your question, what happens now or what are you looking for next, I think we now have a structure in place that can prepare for a political transition, but that we’re looking for it to still establish the types of technical committees that will allow us to make sure our assistance gets to the right places, both nonlethal and humanitarian.


QUESTION: Before the meeting happened, the Secretary and you and Toria, as well as countless other officials, were talking about now the – how whatever body emerged from this meeting had to be more broad and more inclusive. Does it do that? Did it meet your —

MR. TONER: We do think this is a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, that it does reflect the Syrian people, as we talked about, that diverse group of Syrian people. We think it meets those needs. I think as we move forward though, we’re going to look to see it, as I said, finalize the establishment of its organizational structures. We also want to see that it has a demonstrated ability to represent Syrians within Syria. I think that’s another aspect we’re going to look at.

QUESTION: You’re not confident of that at the moment?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think what we’ve – we’ve seen a good, positive, constructive step forward with the formation of this group. But I think we’re going to be looking, again, for it to finalize those technical committees to do the kind of work, frankly, we’re looking for, we’re looking for the opposition group to do, which is funnel aid, funnel assistance, to where it’s needed most. But also we do want to see it prove itself as an effective —

QUESTION: Okay. One last one?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: For it to be truly – for whatever this is to be truly representative, doesn’t it need to have some elements of the existing regime in it?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve been very clear where we stand on that, in terms of any kind of dialogue, that anyone with blood on their hands can’t be a part of that political dialogue that’s going to lead to a political transition eventually.

QUESTION: So the answer is no? So you’ve given up on the whole Geneva idea that there was going to be this transitional —

MR. TONER: I think the Geneva idea – look, I think very clearly what we’ve said all along was a political dialogue needs, at some point, to take place, but those with blood on their hands can’t be a part of that process.

Yeah. Jo.

QUESTION: France has just come out and recognized this group as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Are they moving too fast by your calculations then?

MR. TONER: I’m not going to judge the actions or the – that the Government of France has taken. I think we all see this as a very positive sign, a very positive development. For our part, we do view them as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but we’re going to look for —

QUESTION: Just one of many?

MR. TONER: We’re going to look for, again, more concrete action, the establishment of these technical committees going forward, and to see that they have a demonstrated ability to represent the Syrian people.

QUESTION: But Mark —

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: — could you conceivably see this as, like, a government in exile and actually recognize them as such? I mean, the region seems to be moving in that direction.

MR. TONER: I think I just laid out where we are on this. Again, this was – there was a tremendous amount of hard work put into this over the weekend in Doha. We’re in no way trying to downplay the significance of this event. It’s a very important step forward. Going into this, there was no sure thing coming out of it. We’ve got an organization in place. We’re going to look for it to develop in the coming days and weeks. And I might also mention that we are going to send a high-level delegation to this emergency aid meeting that’s going to take place in London on November 16th, and it’s going to be our Ambassador Bill Taylor, who’s our Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions, who’s going to represent us at that meeting.

So look, we’re very much engaged with this national council and very much looking forward to working with them.

Yeah. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Could you tell us – you said one element that’s important is representing Syrians within Syria. Now, does that mean people who are fighting in —

MR. TONER: I think one of the things we talked about – sorry to interrupt you. Are you –

QUESTION: No, that’s okay.

MR. TONER: Okay. One of the things we talked about prior to Doha was the fact that the SNC we felt did not have a legitimate voice or was not legitimately represented – or representing the Syrian people who are, if you will, in the struggle within Syria out there risking their lives, making tremendous sacrifices every day and standing up to the regime. And so we believe that this national council is representative, but we’re looking to see, going forward, a demonstrated ability.

QUESTION: But that’s –

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead. Sorry.

QUESTION: Still I’m not quite sure that I understand, because if you say that it represents – it should represent Syrians who are shedding their blood, et cetera, well, the ones who are on the frontline are shedding their blood. So the question, I guess, would be: If you provide assistance, which could be what you’ve been providing so far or cash, does it go only to civilian groups, or could it actually go to the fighters who are shedding their blood?

MR. TONER: Well, let’s be very clear. What we’re talking about when we talk about assistance is we’re talking about nonlethal aid as well as humanitarian assistance. So that’s – there’s been no movement there. That’s where our own efforts remain focused, and I believe the current total is over 160 million in U.S. assistance, and that’s going to be the focus of Bill Taylor’s trip to London later this week.

But I think what I would just say in response to your question is we do have this structure now set up. What we’re going to look for now is that it can establish the kinds of technical committees, however you want to put it, but the kind of organizational structure that will allow us to effectively funnel aid to where it’s needed. So – but again, that’s humanitarian assistance and nonlethal aid.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Mark, just a quick follow-up now: On the issue with – of blood on their hand, I mean, a lot of these groups really have a lot of blood on their hand. I mean, they explode car bombs and suicide bombings and so on, things – they do things that in any other place would be considered as terrorism.

MR. TONER: I think, Said, we’ve been pretty consistent in condemning —


MR. TONER: — that kind of violence on either side.


MR. TONER: However, we’ve also been very clear all along in saying the preponderance or the greatest responsibility of the burden rests squarely on the shoulders of the regime which instigated this in the first place and has – there’s no comparison between the acts of Syrians in defense of their own citizens and the actions of the regime. But there have been violent extremists within the groups fighting the regime, absolutely.

QUESTION: I fully understand what you’re saying, but I wanted to ask you if there was some sort of vetting process. Were these groups vetted in any way?

MR. TONER: The groups who are in Doha?

QUESTION: The groups that formed this coalition, this –

MR. TONER: Well, again, we were very clear going into this that this wasn’t a U.S.-led process; this was a Syrian-led process. And the Syrians got together, they’ve chosen their leadership going forward, and this is about being responsive to the Syrian people who are engaged in a struggle right now against a violent and brutal regime.

So the short answer to your question is we didn’t play that role. We certainly worked with the Syrians, with the other partners, and Friends of Syria who were there in Doha as best we could, but this was a Syrian-led process.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: Mark, one more. The way you’re describing it —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — you’re going to look to see whether they can create the organizational structures to provide money where it’s needed. So is that what people are referring to as sequencing? In other words, you look at whether they have the structure, whether they live up to the promises they made in Cairo, then you give some money, and then you watch more to see whether – is that how it’s going to work, in tranches?

MR. TONER: I just think that we’re – this is an initial step. It’s a pivotal step, it’s an important step, what took place in Doha, but it’s an initial step. So we need to see in the coming days and weeks, indeed, that kind of follow-up that I’ve discussed, which is the formulation of technical committees, of ways to channel this assistance. And I would just say that Moaz has, in fact, talked about some of this stuff, talked about the need to create these kinds of groups that are able to channel assistance on the ground. So we’ve seen some positive signals out of it.

QUESTION: He’s also called for arms, though, as well. He said that the rebels need more arms if there’s going to be effectively a difference made on the ground.

MR. TONER: Again, that’s – this is – we’re focused on nonlethal assistance and humanitarian assistance.

QUESTION: I don’t really understand what’s changed.

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: Because you say this is a very positive step, but you’re calling on a legitimate representative, which is what you called the Syrian National Council a year ago, and I guess at some point you secretly delegitimized them, because now they no longer were. But now this one is what they were a year ago, and now you’re talking about technical committees for aid that you’re already giving them, over a $100 million, I think, and they don’t seem to be asking for it.

MR. TONER: First off, it’s 160 million in humanitarian assistance, and as we have said previously, some of that’s going through international aid organizations. But I think we all recognize that it needs to be used more effectively, need to be channeled more effectively.

QUESTION: You talk about that. They’re not talking about that.

MR. TONER: Well, indeed they are. I mean, they –

QUESTION: I mean, if it’s a Syrian-led process, they’re talking about –

MR. TONER: They are talking about this.

QUESTION: They’re talking about weapons, and they’re talking about a lot of things that you’re not talking about.

MR. TONER: Well, again, our focus all along here has been on several different fronts, but with our own assistance, it’s been focused on nonlethal assistance, humanitarian assistance. You’re –

QUESTION: Right. But why would they then need to work on these technical committees for money that you’re giving them anyway and which isn’t their priority? That seems to be all about what you want to do.

MR. TONER: Well, again, there’s an emergency aid meeting in London next week, so clearly this is a priority for them as well.

Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: One more, just to clarify for us.

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Which budget does it go on? I mean, is it allocated through the State Department, through – what agency is giving the money?

MR. TONER: It’s through the State Department. Much of it goes – and we haven’t put out a – I don’t know when our last fact sheet was, but we do periodically update our fact sheets on Syrian humanitarian assistance. But much of the humanitarian assistance goes through international organizations.


QUESTION: And just why was this such a positive step forward, in kind of simple terms?

MR. TONER: Well, again, sure. This was – we believe – we had issues, if you will, with the Syrian National Council, that we didn’t believe it was broadly representative, that we didn’t believe it represented the Syrians in Syria who were leading this struggle for freedom and for democracy. So one of the goals of Doha was to see – or one of the outcomes we wanted to see, and certainly the Syrians wanted to see and all the Friends of Syria wanted to see, was the creation of a political body that is more representative of the Syrian people.

We do believe that has been accomplished, but looking – going forward, we wanted to see more action on the ground, as I said, the establishment of an organizational structure that can funnel assistance more effectively to the Syrian people who are in greatest need, and also do the kind of work that Ambassador Ford talked about previously, which is garner more international pressure and bring it to bear on Assad, and also work within Syria to convince those who still may be sitting on the fence, if you will, that they are a truly representative government.

So we’re going to look for more, but we do believe that initially we’ve accomplished – or they’ve accomplished a great deal, rather.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I know you’ve been saying this was a Syrian-led process, but I think actually the perception abroad is it was a – it may have been the Syrians in the room who ultimately chose the body of people they came up with and agreed on on Sunday, but it was very much instigated by the United States. You put forward recommendations of names and people you thought might be useful. And I think certainly the perception abroad is that this is a U.S.-led initiative. So —

MR. TONER: First of all, the U.S. was one of many governments that was represented there, all of whom have been very vocal supporters of the Syrian people’s struggle against the Assad regime. Secondly, and I’ve been remiss in thanking and commending the Government of Qatar, who hosted this event, who provided steadfast leadership throughout this event and support for the conference, and really worked tirelessly on the margins of this conference to make sure there was a successful outcome. So they deserve a lot of credit.

In answer to your question of whether this – this was not some U.S.-orchestrated thing. We’ve been very clear about that. This was a process led by and accomplished by the Syrian people.

QUESTION: So the Obama Administration is accused of showing leadership, and you deny it?

MR. TONER: Matt –

QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry, that’s just the way it sounds. I mean, you’re saying —

MR. TONER: No, I think I said it was not a U.S.-orchestrated event.

QUESTION: Jo said —

MR. TONER: I said it wasn’t a U.S.-orchestrated —

QUESTION: — the perception abroad is that the U.S. showed leadership here, that this was a U.S.-led initiative, and you’re saying, after months and months of being hammered by the Republicans for leading from behind –

MR. TONER: Okay, can I answer your question? Can I answer your question?

QUESTION: — given the opportunity to say that the Administration is showing leadership, you’re saying no, we’re not?

MR. TONER: Can I answer your question? U.S. leadership has been pivotal.


MR. TONER: We’ve obviously been instrumental in the creation of, and the Secretary in fact has been instrumental in this creation of this group, the Friends of the Syrian People. They were obviously there in force in Qatar to help however we could what was essentially a Syrian-led process. And that’s important. It’s important to delineate that this was a Syrian-led process, that the Syrians took charge of this, that they were the ones who worked through the long hours over the weekend and created this national council.

QUESTION: So are there plans to bring Moaz and some of his people here to the United States now to discuss further how you guys might be able to help them?

MR. TONER: It’s a good question. I think we’re looking to London for the next – later this week, and from then, perhaps. I don’t know.

Are we done with Syria?

QUESTION: No, I have one more on Syria.

MR. TONER: One more and then – you’re not Syria are you, Margaret? Okay.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about – I don’t recall there’s been yet a United States reaction to the shelling that happened between Israel and Syria over the weekend because of our long weekend. I just wonder how the United States is viewing this and whether you were concerned by what happened in the Golan Heights.

MR. TONER: Well, right. No, we very much condemn Syrian shelling across the ceasefire line in the Golan Heights and we stand closely with our friend and ally, Israel, and are continuing to consult closely on the path forward.

QUESTION: But you don’t condemn the Israelis firing back then?

MR. TONER: They have a right to self-defense.

QUESTION: So you think that the Syrians are trying to sort of widen this war and provoke a confrontation with Israel to deflect what is going on?

MR. TONER: That’s a fair question, Said. “I don’t know” is my simple answer to you. I think it’s disconcerting, to say the least. We’ve seen, obviously, incidents with Turkey, and now this. We’ve said all along that what’s going on in Syrian is creating tensions along its borders and within the region, and it’s a matter of concern to us.


QUESTION: Toria, on Friday, went through in great detail some of the process and documents that are being shared with members of Congress in regard to the attack in Benghazi. Can you clarify for us whether those documents presented, made available to those committees, are they the only items being referenced or presented by the State Department, by Under Secretary Kennedy, this week?

MR. TONER: I’m sorry, the last part of your question?

QUESTION: Are those things that Toria described for us – the thousands of pages of emails and telegrams and all that – are those the only items that the State Department is putting forth this week? Because there are the series of hearings and Under Secretary Kennedy will be speaking.

MR. TONER: I don’t have a specific answer for you on that question except to say that we continue, obviously, to cooperate closely with Congress and provide them the documents that they request and that they need. I don’t —

QUESTION: So you don’t know that – whether what he’s briefing on in any way differs from just the documents that were made available?

MR. TONER: Again, we continue to provide the documents that Congress is seeking, has asked about. We’re going to continue that cooperation. But in terms of which documents he might be referring to, I don’t know.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: Mark, some members of Congress think that General Petraeus should testify, that he has information that’s very important. Does the State Department agree that it’s important for him to testify?

MR. TONER: Jill, nice try. I don’t have – I’m not going to respond to that. We’re cooperating with these Hill hearings this week. As Toria mentioned, Pat Kennedy, Under Secretary Kennedy, has a number of committee appearances this week, and that’s our contribution.

QUESTION: Do you know if there have been any changes in terms of who is going up to do these —

MR. TONER: I don’t think there’s any changes from what Toria said last week.

QUESTION: Is it exactly the same as what she —

MR. TONER: That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: A different issue?

QUESTION: No. Still the same. One more. Sorry.

MR. TONER: It’s all right. Take your time.

QUESTION: Jill Kelley, who is part of this investigation, has variously been described as somebody who is connected in some way, perhaps on a volunteer basis, with programs that the State Department sponsors. One of them is the International Visitor Leadership Program. Can you just set us straight? What is her role? What, if any – what is she doing? Is it all voluntary? What?

MR. TONER: Well, I can assure that she does not work for the State Department and has no formal affiliation with the State Department. That was made clear, I believe, on Sunday. And certainly appreciate your efforts, Matt, to clarify that. But there was some erroneous reporting that was then corrected.

In terms of your second question, I’m going to have to take that question. I don’t have the information handy.

QUESTION: What is that program, (inaudible) definition?

MR. TONER: I will repeat it. It’s the International Voluntary Visitor —

QUESTION: International Visitor Leadership Program (inaudible).

MR. TONER: Yeah, I mean, it’s our IV program, which we carry out overseas in almost all of our embassies and missions overseas, which focuses on anywhere from young leaders to established professionals within the government and private sector, bring them to America and let them have an experience of American culture and life.


QUESTION: Theme of the week – are you aware of any FBI probe of any State Department employee, official, unofficial liaison – however you describe their relationship?

MR. TONER: I have not, no.



Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: On Venezuela, Venezuela being elected for the UN – I mean, as a human – at the Human Rights Council of the UN. I was wondering if you have some comments. Any reaction?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: What will be the meaning for the U.S. (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Well, you buried the lead, because we’re very pleased to have been elected by the UN General Assembly to a second term on the Human Rights Council. And I believe Ambassador Rice spoke to this yesterday from New York. We certainly thank the countries that have voted for us in what was a very highly competitive race among several well-qualified Western European and Others Group candidates.

QUESTION: What was it, three out of five got elected?

MR. TONER: We received 131 votes, first-place in the WEOG group.

QUESTION: Ooh, first place.

MR. TONER: That’s right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) more winners and losers in this election, correct?

MR. TONER: Keep your comments to yourself, please. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I didn’t —

MR. TONER: In answer to your question, I think Susan also spoke a little bit to that yesterday. It’s – we’re believers in this group. We believe that it allows us to effectively work from the inside and work – and we believe it’s accomplished a great deal since we’ve been a member. But we support competitive elections for the regionally allocated spots on the Human Rights Council, and we’re disappointed that, outside of the WEOG group, which we’re a member of, the West European and Others Group, none of the other slates of candidates were, in our view, competitive.

QUESTION: So, Mark, can we —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: A follow-up —

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s the same thing.

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Matt, and then —

QUESTION: No. Let her finish.

MR. TONER: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: All right. It is: Don’t you think there is like a contradiction because Venezuela has been pointed out at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for not accomplish with human rights? So how do you put this in context, or —

MR. TONER: Well, in creating the Council, member states pledge to take into account the contribution of candidates, the promotion and protection of human rights. We think some countries elected to the Human Rights Council on clean slates have failed to show their commitment.

QUESTION: Aha. That’s what I want to get at. Because quite apart from Venezuela, you’ve got such paragons of human rights protection as Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan —

MR. TONER: I didn’t single out Venezuela.

QUESTION: — Pakistan, Gabon. Are you comfortable sitting on a body that’s supposed to make judgments about other countries’ human rights records when there are serial offenders on it?

MR. TONER: Again, Ambassador Rice in New York spoke to this very effectively yesterday.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. TONER: You know where we stand on this.


MR. TONER: We decided four years ago that we could best improve the Council by working within it rather than criticizing from outside.

QUESTION: All right. Can we stay with the UN just for a second?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: Earlier today, the UN General Assembly, as it has every year for the past several decades, voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. embargo of Cuba. The vote, I’m sure you’re aware of it, was 188-3. You and Israel and Palau voted against, as the same that’s it been for the last several decades. My question is this: When are you guys going to realize that the rest of the world thinks that this is a really crappy policy?

MR. TONER: Matt, your opinion to the contrary, we are —

QUESTION: Not my opinion. It’s the rest of the world. You’re always talking about the international community. The international community has spoken here, yet again.

MR. TONER: Our policy remains in place.

QUESTION: I know. But when – is it the international community speaks and unless you’re part of that – unless you’re part of it, it’s not really the international community? Do you recognize that the international community, all countries in the world except for the three and the three who abstained, say that this policy is bad and should be reversed? Do you take that as the international community speaking as – with a single voice here?

MR. TONER: Look, our Cuba policy is generated towards creating better ties with the Cuban people outside of the government. You know our concerns about the Cuban Government. Our policy remains the same. It’s not going to change.

QUESTION: Can you accept that the international community is speaking out here, and speaking out against a policy that you’ve had in place for five decades?

MR. TONER: I’m just telling you that —

QUESTION: No? You can’t.

MR. TONER: — our Cuban policy remains intact.



MR. TONER: Oh, you want to stay on Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yeah, because I have – no. On Colombia.

MR. TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you have any update on Simon Trinidad, if there is any possibility that he will be at some way part of these peace dialogues between Colombia and the guerilla —

MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll try to get an update for you. I don’t know. I don’t have any information on that.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MR. TONER: Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Despite the President’s direct expression of displeasure to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, it seems that they are going ahead to the General Assembly. So – which will engender reaction, I guess, or then enforcement of the law as on the books. Could you share with us how, mechanically, how this happens? I mean, they go to the UN, they get accepted, then you shut off, let’s say, the PLO office like immediately?

MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into next steps. We’re still at the stage where we’re actively trying to convince them that this is a bad idea, that this is not going to get them the results ultimately that they seek. So we’ve been clear in the past about what some of the consequences that this would generate or engender. I think we put out a taken question about it a couple weeks ago. But in terms of next steps, our focus remains on convincing the Palestinian Authority that the only way to achieve the goals it seeks is through the negotiation table.

QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick follow-up.

QUESTION: Can I ask how much more active can you be than having the President of the United States with an hour-long phone call to the President of the Palestinian Authority?

MR. TONER: Well, I think that shows how active and how serious —

QUESTION: And he still came out —

MR. TONER: — and how seriously we take it.

QUESTION: — in less than 24 hours and said basically I’m not going to listen to you, I’m going to go ahead and do it. What more active trying – what more active are you doing —

MR. TONER: Well, look, I mean —

QUESTION: — to get them to change their mind when it’s clear when an hour-long phone call with the leader of the free world doesn’t do it?

MR. TONER: I think that we’re going to continue to press our case. David Hale is actually going to Europe this week. He’ll be in Bern and he’ll meet with President Abbas there.

QUESTION: And so you think that the Special Envoy for the Middle East – for Middle East Peace efforts has more weight than the President, than the recently reelected President of the United States?

MR. TONER: This is not a question of who has more weight. This is a question of us continuing to pursue —

QUESTION: Well, I’m just – do you —

MR. TONER: — what we believe is the best course of action.

QUESTION: Is it your hope that David Hale’s meeting with President Abbas is going to produce a result that was different than an hour-long phone conversation from the President?

MR. TONER: You know how diplomacy works, right? This is – there’s —

QUESTION: Yeah, I do. And it’s usually when you get to the presidential —

MR. TONER: It’s incremental and it’s —

QUESTION: Yeah, but usually it goes the other way around. You start with the special envoy and get to the President.

MR. TONER: Well, again, our engagement speaks for itself.

Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: Yes. Just a quick follow-up. The money that had been approved, and it would be held, does it go into a trust? What happens to it?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure technically what happens to it.

QUESTION: Could you find out for us what happens?

MR. TONER: I can try to look into it though, sure.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Israel for just a second?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And that is, there have been a bunch more rockets, bombs launched into Israel from Gaza.

MR. TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering —

MR. TONER: And we obviously condemn that as well.

QUESTION: Yes. I’m sure. Are you in contact with the Egyptians, with other countries, to try and get this – to tamp this down?

MR. TONER: Tamp – you’re talking about the Hamas —


MR. TONER: I’m not sure diplomatically if we’re engaged with the Egyptians on this.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, is there any effort being made? Because you don’t have any contacts with Hamas because they’re —

MR. TONER: Right, clearly.

QUESTION: But are you talking to people who talk to Hamas to tell them to cut this out —

MR. TONER: I can take the question. I don’t know what our – I don’t know what our —

QUESTION: — particularly when the situation up north in the Golan is also flaring up?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure if we’ve – I can – what I can find out for you is if we’ve expressed our concerns through other governments, but I’m not sure we would even discuss the – our contents of our diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: You mean you —

MR. TONER: I can – I said I’ll check and see if —

QUESTION: If you were saying – if you were telling countries that have relations –

MR. TONER: That’s what I said to you. But —

QUESTION: — like the Qataris, who just sent their Amir there —

MR. TONER: But I’m not going to – I’m not going to —

QUESTION: You wouldn’t say that if you told the Amir of Qatar to tell Hamas to stop firing rockets?

MR. TONER: I think I just said to you I said I can see if we can talk about it, whether we’ve raised it.

Is that it? Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)


Final 2023 Mayoral Forum with Joe Woods

Final Village Trustee Forum – March 19, 2023