State Department Briefing by Mark C. Toner, November 23, 2011

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 23, 2011. 

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Agreement for Transfer of Power in Yemen / Commend Gulf Cooperation Council
    • Not able to Confirm Reports that Saleh will Travel to U.S. for Medical Treatment
    • U.S. Contact with Yemini Government and Opposition
    • Path Forward for Yemeni People / Urge Peaceful, Cooperative Implementation of Agreement / Yemen still Faces Significant Challenges
    • Welcome Release of Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report
    • U.S. is Studying Findings and Recommendations of the Report
    • Encouraged by Steps King of Bahrain has Announced to Implement Recommendations of Report
    • U.S. Arms Sales to Bahrain Based in Part on Human Rights
    • Appointment of New Pakistani Ambassador to the United States
    • Ambassador Haqqani’s Meetings with U.S. Officials before Departing
    • Appreciation for Ambassador Haqqani’s Strong Support for U.S.-Pakistan Relations throughout his Tenure
    • No Diplomatic Note on Change of Ambassador Received
    • Multiple Channels of Communication between the U.S. and Pakistan
    • Media Reports of Investigation of Ambassador Haqqani
    • Consular Access / Three Detained U.S. Citizens Visited
    • Message to U.S. Citizens to Avoid Protests, Certain Areas
    • Violence in Egypt / Excessive Force Used against Protesters / Call on Security Forces to Exercise Restraint
    • Parliamentary Elections
    • Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi’s Remarks
    • International Election Observers / Elections must be seen as Credible by the Egyptian People
    • Situation in Tahrir Square
    • Foreign Minister Juppe’s Comments on Syrian National Council, Humanitarian Corridor
    • National Syrian National Council is one of Several Credible Interlocutors
    • Monitors and Assistance
    • Upcoming Meetings of International Organizations / Human Rights Council Meeting / Continuing to Apply Pressure / Security Council Remains an Option
    • Arab League’s Leadership in Confronting Assad and Human Rights Abuses
    • Security Council Remains an Option, but it must be an Effective Venue
    • Assad has Lost All Credibility, Needs to Allow for Democratic Transition RUSSIA
    • President Medvedev’s Comments on Missile Defense Program
    • U.S. has been Open and Transparent with Russia Regarding Missile Defense Plans
    • U.S. System not directed Against Russia / System Does Not Threaten Russia’s Strategic Deterrent
    • No Reason for Russia to Take Countermeasures / Missile Defense Program Does not Target Russia
    • U.S. will Continue to Try to Effectively Engage Russia on Missile Defense
    • Remain Focused on working productively and Constructively with Russia on Missile Defense INDIA
    • Governor Martin O’Malley Trade Mission to India LIBYA
    • Holding Saif al-Islam Accountable
    • Accountable, Transparent and in Accordance with International Legal Standards


12:57 p.m. EST

MR. TONER: Welcome to the State Department. It is Wednesday, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So bearing that in mind, let me just quickly address one breaking issue at the top and then I’ll take your questions and hopefully folks can get on their way. And whether you’re traveling or staying here, I wish you a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

I did want to address the situation in Yemen. The United States applauds the Yemeni Government and the opposition for agreeing to a peaceful and orderly transition of power that is responsive to the aspirations of the Yemeni people. This agreement marks a significant step forward for the Yemeni people in their quest for a unified democratic, secure, and prosperous country.

We commend the Gulf Cooperation Council for its role in leading efforts to broker this agreement and to support the Yemeni people. The international community must continue to stand with the Yemeni people and support their transition toward democratic governance as the United Nations did with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2014.

We urge all parties within Yemen to refrain from violence and to move swiftly to implement the terms of the agreement in good faith and with transparency, including credible presidential elections within 90 days. The United States, in coordination with our international partners, will continue to closely monitor and support Yemen’s political transition.

The United States looks forward to strengthening its partnership with Yemen, the Yemeni people, and their new government as they address the political, economic, and humanitarian and security challenges they face.

I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: What’s your – your understanding is that Saleh would stay in power until the elections, is that correct?

MR. TONER: It’s – there’s my understanding is that there’s – as you said, there’s this 90 day window that begins ticking for credible – for presidential elections. I’ve seen various reports, and frankly it’s unclear to me whether he’ll be traveling to the United States to receive medical treatment. We’ve not been able to confirm those reports.

QUESTION: You took – well, that’s what he told Ban Ki-moon, apparently.

MR. TONER: I’m aware of the – again, I’m aware of the reports. I just – we just haven’t been able to confirm it independently. We’ve not received any formal travel request.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. TONER: So in answer to your question, I’m not sure right now.

QUESTION: All right. When was the last time you had some senior U.S. official having contact with President Saleh?

MR. TONER: Well, we did have our Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who was – who attended the signing ceremony. I’m not sure whether he actually spoke to the —

QUESTION: No, no no. Prior to him – prior to him going to Saudi.

MR. TONER: I’ll have to take the question, I’m – I know we were in close consultation with the government and the opposition in the days and weeks leading up to this, but I’m not – I can’t confirm the last contact with President Saleh.

QUESTION: Mark, if he requests to come to the United States for medical treatment, he will not be denied a visa, will he?

MR. TONER: Again, let’s wait until we get the request, and we don’t talk about visa requests, but —

QUESTION: Okay. And just to follow up on Matt’s question, aside from the signing ceremony, what kind of U.S. role was there behind the scene in the last few days?

MR. TONER: Well, let’s be clear that this was an initiative that was led by the Gulf Cooperation Council, and we provided support throughout the processes. As I said, we were in regular consultations with the opposition as well as with the government and – but, this is the result of their leadership.

QUESTION: But you were kept abreast of all development as they occurred?

MR. TONER: I think that’s safe to say. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Yeah, Pete.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Yeah, Pete.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense of what finally made him sign the document on the fourth try?

MR. TONER: I’d like to think it’s our exhortations that we made from the podium. Just kidding. But it’s unclear why he chose today to sign it. We’re happy that he did sign it. As we’ve said many, many times from this podium and from the Secretary on down that this is long overdue, and that this GCC agreement does provide, we believe, a path forward for the Yemeni people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you help us to understand what this event, this historic event, means within the regional context?

MR. TONER: I’m sorry. Are you talking about Yemen still?


MR. TONER: Well, again, this is a path forward for the Yemeni people. We’ve said that the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement sets up, as we said, a 90 day period for presidential elections to take place. Now, the important factor moving forward is the implementation of this agreement. We want that to happen peacefully and with good cooperation on all sides by all parties.

But we believe that this provides a way for Yemen out of this crisis. It’s an important beginning, but we’re under no illusions Yemen still faces significant challenges and can’t – cannot achieve security, stability, and unity before there’s a full transfer of power.

QUESTION: Would any of the staffers who were moved out of Sana’a for their safety earlier in the year, are there any plans to repatriate them for their assignments?

MR. TONER: Not – you’re talking about Embassy officers who were —

QUESTION: Yeah those – right – who were considered nonessential and they were brought back here – or, in the interim – can they go back?

MR. TONER: Rosalind, I’m not sure what their status is. I’ll have to take the question. I mean I think we’ll always – if the security situation improves on the ground, then we’ll take action based on that.


MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) move on to (inaudible). Are we still on Yemen?

MR. TONER: Yeah, we’re still on Yemen.

QUESTION: And though – can you possibly, can you say anything more about Yemen? Is it worth asking questions – more questions?

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) I don’t know; let me try.


QUESTION: Just one last question. But would his presence in the United States spare him from any possible war crime charges that might be brought against him?

MR. TONER: Again, we haven’t received a visa request or travel request by President Saleh. My understanding is that the agreement does provide a provision of immunity between him and Yemen.

Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Bahrain.

MR. TONER: Bahrain?

QUESTION: You’ve seen the report, I take it? What do you think of it?

MR. TONER: We’ve seen the report and let me just say with that, I think we’ll have more to say later via statements. But we have seen the report; it is a lengthy report. I think it’s 500-plus pages, so we’re in fact studying it, but we do welcome its release and we commend King Hamad’s initiative and leadership in giving the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry a broad mandate as well as a free hand to conduct its investigation.

We’re also encouraged by the steps that the king has announced to implement the recommendations of the committees – or the commission’s report. And we believe it does offer Bahrain an historic opportunity to join together the people of Bahrain – and the king – to join together to find a path to implement these recommendations and to undertake other necessary reforms.

As I said, it’s a 500 page-plus long report. We’ll be studying its specific findings and recommendations in the days ahead. But again, we commend the king for his initiative in allowing this commission to work in a free and unfettered atmosphere.

QUESTION: So does this have any bearing on the arms sales?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve always said, leading up to this report, that we were going to make decisions about arms sales based, in part, on human rights concerns. We’re going to provide sufficient time for the Bahrain Government’s follow-on committee to take concrete action in response to the report’s recommendation. And as we – as they take these actions, we’ll continue to assess ongoing arms sales.

QUESTION: Where is the process on revealing the —

MR. TONER: The arms sales?

QUESTION: — the arms sales deal?

MR. TONER: Yeah, I mean, it’s also important to get a perspective here. It did – it was notified that Congress, but important to note that there’s many steps that remain before this arms sales would be completed. So it’s a rather long timeline. This isn’t something that’s going to happen in weeks or days ahead, or months ahead. And as I said, we’re going to monitor the Bahraini Government’s follow-on committee’s actions, with respect to the commission’s report, and we’re going to weigh human rights concerns as we make decisions on arms sales going forward.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments – according to the press reports, now Pakistan has appointed a new ambassador, which she was a journalist and also a think tank or – Ms. Sherry Rehman? And also, in the same question, before Ambassador Haqqani left Washington, he was at the State Department. Did he ever said anything that his government or his country needs democracy to be strengthened and he ask for the U.S. help? Or, in another way, what U.S. is doing to strengthen the democracy in Pakistan?

MR. TONER: Well first of all, Goyal, I’m not going to talk about – he was indeed here, he did meet with officials here at the State Department before he returned to Islamabad. I’m not going to discuss the substance of that meeting. We are aware of the Government of Pakistan’s announcement that it intends to appoint Sherry Rehman as the new Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, and we certainly look forward to working together with her as we continue to build a strong, cooperative relationship between our two countries.

I also do want to note that we have appreciated Ambassador Haqqani’s strong support for U.S.-Pakistan relations throughout these – his tenure. It’s important also to stress that we have not yet received formal notification from the Government of Pakistan with respect to Ambassador Haqqani’s resignation and the appointment of Ms. Rehman. The normal process here is for the Pakistani Embassy or ministry of foreign affairs to send a diplomatic note informing us —

QUESTION: And one more, just quick —

QUESTION: So you have not received —

MR. TONER: We have not received that.

QUESTION: You have not yet given —

MR. TONER: So we’re based on – we are aware that they have the announcement —

QUESTION: So you have not yet given agreement to this —

MR. TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Now, and just as a practical thing, does it really matter who the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States is? I mean, I just – I don’t understand why – Master Haqqani certainly was a public figure and he talked a lot, and he was no stranger to journalists, being one – a former one himself. But you deal with the Government of Pakistan as a government, you don’t deal with people as individuals, correct?

MR. TONER: You are right to say that we have many – multiple channels through which we communicate with the Pakistani Government. But the ambassador here is an important interlocutor, as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, but does it matter who it is?

MR. TONER: Well, I mean —

QUESTION: Whether it’s him or whether it’s her?

MR. TONER: Well —

QUESTION: Does that change the nature of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan? I just – I don’t understand why people – why this is such a huge —

MR. TONER: Well, in any case, we very much valued our relationship with Ambassador Haqqani and look forward to working with —

QUESTION: So the answer to my question is no, it doesn’t matter, really —

MR. TONER: — with Sherry Rehman.

QUESTION: Correct? Doesn’t matter who the ambassador is as long as they’re ably representing their government, correct?

MR. TONER: Well, you’re questioning the whole nature – individuals who are ambassadors —

QUESTION: I’m questioning whether you guys have relationships with governments or whether you have relationships with specific ambassadors.

MR. TONER: We do have relationships with governments. Yeah, anyway, point taken.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Really quick. Was Ambassador Haqqani – is he a dual citizen? I mean, he’s been here for a very long time.

MR. TONER: You’ll have to ask him. I don’t believe so.

QUESTION: But you don’t know.

QUESTION: Just one more quick one.

MR. TONER: Sure. And then we’ll move.

QUESTION: Mark, just quick one. There’s so much going on in Pakistan because of that memo, so now, as far as Pakistanis are concerned, they are favoring Imran Khan, the former sportsman. And now he’s visiting the U.S. next week – or in the next two weeks. Is he going to meet anybody here in the State Department since ambassador met him in Pakistan?

MR. TONER: Yeah, let’s let his travel get a little bit closer before we attempt to answer that.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR. TONER: Still on Pakistan?


MR. TONER: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Okay, just following up on his question, Senator Kerry has said that Haqqani was a friend of the United States and he will be missed here. Do you share the sentiment?

MR. TONER: I think I just said that we did appreciate his strong support for U.S.-Pakistan relations.

QUESTION: But do you think that this transition will now be (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: We also have a strong relationship with Ms. Rehman, so we expect it to be seamless.

Yeah, sure. All you, sorry.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on the three American students being held in Egypt?

MR. TONER: I do. I have a very brief update, but an update nonetheless. We did – we were able to visit the three detained U.S. citizens earlier today, I believe, and our officials in Cairo do remain in close contact with Egyptian authorities regarding their cases. We’re also in close contact with the families of the three detained U.S. citizens. And I don’t have a lot more information beyond that.

QUESTION: That’s it?

MR. TONER: That’s it.

QUESTION: Not even – did you confirm their names or where they were from, yesterday?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure we have —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) have Privacy Act waivers?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: They are students at the American University of Cairo, though?

MR. TONER: But indeed, they’re – we’ve seen their names in – reported —

QUESTION: They’re studying what? Immersion in revolutionary tactics of the Arab Spring? What – are they students at the American University?

MR. TONER: Again, I can’t speak to their status. You’ve seen press reports about these individuals. Our concern right now is to provide them with necessary consular support as well as act as an intermediary between the families and the Egyptian authorities.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) out by Thanksgiving? Are you looking for a goal to get them out? Any plans and —

MR. TONER: Again, let’s – they are – they – we did have consular access today, which is an important first step, and let’s see how this goes forward.

QUESTION: Well, did you get a readout from that meeting?

MR. TONER: I’m sorry, a readout in terms of?

QUESTION: The consular’s meeting with them, did they tell you how they were doing? Were they scared? Were they looking for —

MR. TONER: Again, I’m very limited in characterizing these meetings, but speaking broadly, it’s a chance for us to check on the welfare of these individuals, whether they be in Egypt or elsewhere, but – and a chance to make sure that they’re being kept safely and are healthy, and –

QUESTION: And can you say that they are?

MR. TONER: I can’t really get into that. Sorry.

QUESTION: You don’t know?

QUESTION: Mark, (inaudible) suggested that one of his students had been using Twitter and was making some incriminating statements about his behavior during the moments before his detention. With that in mind, is there any reminder to universities that are sending students overseas that they need to be on their best behavior because —

MR. TONER: Well —

QUESTION: — this does pose diplomatic issues for the U.S.?

MR. TONER: Well, Rosalind, it’s important to note that we do urge all U.S. citizens to avoid the demonstrations in Egypt. We did issue an Emergency Message for U.S. citizens urging them to avoid Tahrir Square and the immediate surrounding area, and to remind them about local laws as well.

QUESTION: Mark, in determining their status, did the Egyptian Government share with you what kind of evidence they hold against these three kids?

MR. TONER: Again, they’re – right now, they’re being detained. My understanding is that no formal charges have been brought against them, so we’ll continue to monitor it closely.

QUESTION: As far as we can see, the protests are going on in Tahrir. What’s your understanding as of today? It looks like this continues. Why do you think? And do you support the cause?

MR. TONER: Why do?

QUESTION: Why do you think still the crowd is in Tahrir, even though it looks like there is now some concessions made?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we spoke yesterday about our concern about the violence that did occur in Egypt, and Toria condemned the excessive force used against protestors. We call and continue to call on Egyptian security forces to exercise maximum restraint and behave in a disciplined manner that protects the universal rights of these Egyptian citizens to peacefully express themselves.

What we’ve said all along here, though, is that we do have parliamentary elections slated to take place on Monday, and we need to – that needs to be where Egyptians express themselves and their desire for a democratic future for their country, through the ballot box.

QUESTION: And you remain confident that this election will go on on time?

MR. TONER: We continue to believe that it can go on, yeah.

QUESTION: Are you still —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) boycott the vote given the amount of violence and their distrust of the military?

MR. TONER: Again, as Field Marshal Tantawi said yesterday, this is – he provided a path that talked about these elections, talked about a newly appointed civilian government, as well as a full transition to – or presidential elections by next summer. And this is the way that Egyptians can create the kind of democracy for which they’re protesting in Tahrir Square. It’s extremely important that they exercise their right to vote.

QUESTION: Mark, are you still satisfied according to what was said yesterday with the assurances of General Tantawi?

MR. TONER: Well, we – it’s really up to the Egyptian people to evaluate what he said and to make their judgments based on the timetable that he laid out. He did pledge to appoint a new cabinet and to hold presidential elections, as I talked – as I said, and proceed with parliamentary elections as planned. We believe that’s important. We also believe that it’s important that the SCAF ensure that free and fair elections proceed expeditiously, and that their security of these elections is ensured, and that – in an environment that’s free from any intimidation, and that this newly appointed civilian government be able to exercise real executive power immediately.

QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, you are repeating and saying again and again fair and free elections. And there are some concerns about the presence of international observers, which was even defined by the SCAF and other people that they don’t want international intervention. They want “witnesses,” as they call it, quote-un-quote. What do you think? I mean, is there any American official or nongovernmental organization are going to participate as observers or witnesses to these elections in order to guarantee that this is fair and free election?

MR. TONER: Well, we – as I think you know, we have offered that kind of support to the Egyptian Government. We have organizations such as the National Democratic Institute that conduct these kinds of operations on a regular basis and do so in a very objective manner. And indeed, their mandate is to simply act as international observers. What’s important, as I said, is that these elections be seen by the Egyptian people as credible and transparent. That’s the responsibility of the SCAF, to create that kind of atmosphere and that kind of environment, so that they’re – that these elections can be taken seriously by the Egyptian people, and again, building towards eventual presidential elections, a new constitution, et cetera, that will result in a true democracy for Egypt.

QUESTION: How these concerns of, let’s say, the total ideas or, let’s say, attitudes are transferred besides the ambassador? Through Ambassador Feltman, or who is – I mean —

MR. TONER: Well, we’re in regular discussions with the Egyptian authorities, and that’s often at a variety of levels from the Secretary on down to Ambassador Patterson in Cairo.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Yeah. And so we’re engaged with the Egyptian authorities. Again, our goal here is to provide whatever support we can so that credible, transparent elections can take place. But ultimately, this is something that the Egyptian people need to see done.

QUESTION: Can we move to Syria?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: The French —

MR. TONER: Are were done with Egypt, or —

QUESTION: I have one more on that.

MR. TONER: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Clashes have been still going on four or five days, even today, according to activists and on these social network sites. I know you began blaming the – or you began telling to Egyptian media reports openly that they should stop. But is this going to trigger or already triggered any kind of reconsideration on your part in terms of your aid to military – Egyptian military or, in general, in your relations?

MR. TONER: Well, again, our focus right now in the immediate – is the immediate situation on the ground in Tahrir Square. And we believe that the security forces, Egyptian security forces, need to show more restraint, that they did use excessive force against protestors. We’ve made that very clear in our public – as I’m saying right now – but also in our private conversations with them.

QUESTION: So – Syria?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: So Foreign Minister Juppe spoke today of the Syrian National Council as being a legitimate interlocutor, which, as you know, is the same old phrase used with the Libya – with the TNC or the NTC or whatever you want to call it in Libya. They went from being a – kind of just a nebulous group to a legitimate interlocutor to then being the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people. Is the same thing happening in Syria? And also, could you address Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments about possibly providing some kind of a humanitarian corridor?

MR. TONER: Yeah. In answer to your second question first, I just saw his public comments about humanitarian corridor. I haven’t seen the full context and any of the details surrounding it. What we’ve been saying is that we do want to see, as the Arab League has asked Syria to —

QUESTION: Can you clarify that point again? I didn’t —

MR. TONER: Oh, I just said that we – I’ve just seen Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments expressed in the press. I haven’t seen any details about this humanitarian corridor, so – corridor, so it’s hard for me to react to it. I think we’ll be reaching out through the French to find out more information. But what we’ve said all along is that we want to see humanitarian assistance provided, we want to see human rights monitors on the ground, and we want to see the violence end.

In terms of – I’m sorry – his first point about the Syrian National Council, we’ve also said that it’s a – it is a credible interlocutor. It’s one of several right now. And we’re in touch, in contact, with all of these groups. We do think that the Syrian National Council has been a leading force, but it’s, as I said, one of several opposition groups, all of whom are, we believe, taking steps to become more cohesive and more representative of the Syrian people.

QUESTION: So how does the situation is influenced today after the UN vote?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve got the Arab League meeting, I think, tomorrow. There’s a ministerial committee on Syria today in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting of the foreign ministers. We’ll look to that. There was some discussion of sanctions being put in place, economic sanctions. But we’re going to continue to apply pressure. We’re very pleased and gratified that the Arab League has shown leadership in this regard, and especially in the past couple of weeks, in confronting Asad and his human rights abuses, and now it appears on the cusp of taking real action.

QUESTION: Okay. Will there be, as a result of this, a renewed effort of the Security Council to introduce another resolution?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve always said that the Security Council remains an option, but we want to make sure that it’s going to be an effective venue for action against Syria.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Tejinder. Go ahead. And then back there.

QUESTION: Can you foresee or support any solutions similar to what happened in Yemen that may take place in Syria – political solution?

MR. TONER: It’s time for Asad to step down. He has lost all credibility with the Syrian people. He needs to allow for a democratic transition to take place. First and foremost, we want the violence to end. Every day, it’s scores of innocent civilians killed. The latest count was 33, with – which included six children. So our immediate goal here is to see that kind of daily violence end. And then next steps are that we need to see Asad step down and allow for a democratic transition to take place. I don’t want to predict how that transition will look, but it’s absolutely paramount that it happen.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. TONER: Yeah. In back, Tejinder, and then to you, Peter.

QUESTION: There are reports in Pakistan that Ambassador Haqqani will be investigated, prosecuted. So have you contacted the Pakistani Government, or has Islamabad contacted you for any clarifications or any —

MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of, no.

QUESTION: So what will be the U.S. stand if he’s investigated and prosecuted?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think this is a Pakistani issue. I’m not aware of these reports, but it sounds like an internal matter.

Yeah. Go ahead, Peter.

QUESTION: Yes, onto a different subject. Today, the Russian president said that Russia may pull out of the START if U.S. will develop missile defense in Europe, and may – and Russia may place Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Oblast. Do you have any reaction to this statement?

MR. TONER: Sure. As you well know, as someone who’s followed this issue over many years, Peter, we’ve been open and transparent with Russia on our plans for missile defense for a long time. We believe our missile defense reflects a growing threat to our allies from Iran that we’re committed to deterring. We’ve been clear all along, for many years now, that this system is not directed against Russia. In multiple channels, we’ve explained to Russian officials that the missile defense systems being deployed in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent. And just speaking to – about the START Treaty, the New START Treaty benefits the security and stability of both our countries, and its implementation is going well, and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it.

QUESTION: Well, so what do you think of his threat to target missile defense sites in Europe?

MR. TONER: Well, I just would say that we don’t see any reason for Russia to take any military countermeasures to missile defenses that won’t affect the strategic balance between the U.S. and Russia.

QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But, I mean, isn’t it kind of annoying, worrisome?

MR. TONER: I think —

QUESTION: I mean, it just seems like we’re heading back into a little bit of a Cold War here.

MR. TONER: Unfortunately, this is – the rhetoric from Russia hasn’t changed, even though we’ve seen for many years – we’ve tried for many years to engage with them constructively on missile defense. We’re going to continue to try to engage with them constructively on missile defense. We want that kind of cooperation because we believe it’s in both our interests, Europe’s interests, and Russia’s interests.

QUESTION: And you don’t think threats like this hurt that – hurt chances of cooperation or —

MR. TONER: I think it’s —

MR. TONER: — and you’re not going to take a different tack, now that he’s come out and said something like this?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think our focus and commitment remains on how to work productively and constructively with Russia on a cooperation on missile defense.

QUESTION: Well, are these comments productive and constructive towards – in dealing with the United States on this issue?

MR. TONER: Again, we don’t see any basis for them, because there’s no —

QUESTION: No, I understand that, but when the president of Russia comes out and says he’s going to target these missile defense sites with his own missiles, surely that can’t be productive and constructive.

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think I just said that —

QUESTION: Or is it? I mean, is – or is that – does reset mean that that —

MR. TONER: I think I just said we’ve seen these comments before. It’s – again, it – our focus is on cooperation, is on making clear to Russian authorities that this is in no way a system that’s directed at Russia. It’s directed, as I said, from a threat to our allies in Europe, and in Russia, in fact, from Iran.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they obviously don’t believe you. So I want to know if you think that President Medvedev’s comments are constructive and productive and helpful as you go about trying to convince them of something that they clearly do not believe, and haven’t believed for the last 10 years.

MR. TONER: And I’ll just respond by saying that we’re going to remain committed to working with them and trying to engage them on missile defense.

QUESTION: So reset means even if they threaten you with something like this, that you’re still going to try and talk to them?

MR. TONER: Reset, as you know, means working constructively with Russia in the areas where we have common cause.

QUESTION: Has anyone from this building —

MR. TONER: Yeah, Goyal – oh, sorry. Go ahead, Rosalind.

QUESTION: Has anyone from this building or from New York talked to their Russian counterparts about the president’s comments?

MR. TONER: I’m not aware.


MR. TONER: Sure, but let’s go – Goyal had a question. Then I’ll move over to you.

QUESTION: It’s on India. Governor O’Malley’s leading a large trade delegation to India – week long. And recent – just this week, the prime minister and President met in Indonesia and also on trade. So much going on between the U.S. and India as far as trade is concerned. What I’m asking as far as governor’s – mission – trade missions is concerned to India, and diplomacy here – is he telling any kind of special message, or was he in touch with the State Department for his mission leaving today?

MR. TONER: It wouldn’t – I don’t think it would be uncommon for a trade delegation to meet with people here at the State Department, officials to understand the political environment that they’re going into, and talk about opportunities for trade and economic development. But their focus is, in fact, on trade and economic development between our two countries, which is an area that’s going well.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Mark, very quickly —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — do you have any comment on the Zintan rebels’ refusal – continued refusal to hand over Saif al-Islam? And they think that they could try him properly in their area?

MR. TONER: Except – nothing new on that, except to say that this is a matter for the Libyan authorities, and it’s up to the Libyan people to decide how to deal with Saif, but we would ask that all these militias cooperate with the interim government.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. TONER: Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, do you know what happened to the former servant of Hannibal Qadhafi? He’s a local employee of the Swiss embassy here in D.C., and he is supposed to have American citizenship, and is he being on trial —

MR. TONER: I’m aware of the case and I’ll have to take the question. I do know what you’re talking about, the case you’re referring to, where there was a – is this an accident that took place?

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. He ran over an old lady and killed her.

MR. TONER: Well, yeah. There was an investigation. Let me take the question and get back to you. I’m not sure how that was resolved.


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Russian Foreign Ministry statement on conventional armed forces in Europe, that they actually said that the decision by the United States to seize the agreement is a threat to the disarmament?

MR. TONER: Is a?

QUESTION: Is a threat to the disarmament – to the very purpose of disarmament.

MR. TONER: You’re talking about the Conventional Armed Forces Agreement Treaty?

QUESTION: Yeah. That’s right.

MR. TONER: Well, Toria spoke at length about this yesterday. We issued a statement on this, our position remains the same.


QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up. You just said in the Libya question it’s up to Libyan people to deal with Saif al-Qadhafi. Does it mean if the Libyan people think that they should just kill –

MR. TONER: Well, let me just be clear, these individuals need to be held accountable. It needs to be done in a transparent, credible way that’s in accordance with international legal standards. My understanding is that interim government has, in fact, been in touch with the ICC and they’re discussing the future of this case. And then I just would say that these militias need to cooperate with the interim government and respect its authority.

QUESTION: Thank you.


(The briefing was concluded at 1:32 p.m.)