Daily Press Briefing - May 5, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing:
- U.S. Concerns about the Situation in Abyei
- U.S. Military Contingent Is in Pakistan at Pakistan's Invitation / Not Aware of a Formal Request to Reduce Military Personnel
- Raised Concerns with Government of Pakistan / Awaiting Response / Counterterrorism Cooperation Has Yielded Tangible Success / Continue Cooperation
- U.S Is Committed to Relationship with Pakistan / Congressional Concerns / Ambassador Grossman's Meetings
- Reconciliation Process with Taliban / Afghan-led Process / Opportunity for Taliban to Separate from al-Qaida and Terrorism
- U.S. Urges Syria to End Violence Against Civilians / Sanctions / Continue to Assess the Situation
- Reconciliation / Haven't Seen Details of Agreement / Any Agreement Must Accept Quartet Principles / Position on Hamas Has Not Changed / Foreign Terrorist Organization
- Visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington
Daily Press Briefing
1:41 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Good afternoon. It’s a beautiful day, so --
QUESTION: It is a beautiful day.
MR. TONER: That’s right, for the briefing. We start doing these outside for the summer.
Just at the top, very briefly, I do want to say that the United States remains deeply concerned about the alarming situation in the Abyei region of Sudan. U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Ambassador Princeton Lyman met jointly with African Union High-Level Implementation Panel Member President Pierre Buyoya as well as UN Special Representative for the – of the Secretary General for Sudan Haile Menkerios, and Sudanese First Vice President Salva Kiir this morning on this issue.
Recent actions by both parties to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement run counter to President Bashir and President Kiir’s agreement to resolve the situation peacefully through negotiation and with the assistance of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel. The introduction of armed forces into Abyei by both sides violates the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and recently resulted in a violent clash in which Southern forces apparently killed at least 11 members of the Northern Joint Integrated Unit.
We welcome the May 5th agreement by the National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to immediately implement the Kadugli Agreements and to withdraw illegal troops from Abyei, and urge both sides to act expeditiously to carry out this agreement. We also urge both sides to avoid further escalation that could endanger the peaceful atmosphere of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and ultimately make resolution of the Abyei issue more difficult. We reaffirm our commitment to support a peaceful, negotiated solution to the status of Abyei that is consistent with the Permanent Court of Arbitration decision on the boundaries of Abyei.
And I’ll take your questions. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: On Abyei, just --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering, does the recent events there and your statement just now, does that indicate that the Sudanese, particularly the Khartoum government, is moving away from the track that you had laid out of getting to formal --
MR. TONER: I think --
QUESTION: -- diplomatic ties? Are they kind of moving away from that goal rather than to it?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we’re – we are very concerned about recent developments there and the buildup of forces in Abyei. And our message is quite clear that this is a dangerous standoff, and it’s unacceptable, and we condemn, I would say, the deployment of forces by both sides.
Yeah. Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: Could we change the subject?
MR. TONER: Sure.
MR. TONER: I don't know if it’s our favorite subject, but --
QUESTION: Well, we know. The U.S. apparently is pressing for that chopper to be returned. Can you update us on whether that is indeed the case and --
MR. TONER: I’m aware of those news stories, but I really don’t have any information about the chopper or whether we’ve requested it be returned or not. I’d refer you to the --
QUESTION: No confirmation, nothing?
MR. TONER: I’d refer you to the Department of Defense for details.
QUESTION: Staying on the same subject –
QUESTION: And – wait, I have one more, okay?
MR. TONER: Sure. Go ahead, Jill. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Also, the U.S., we understand, is pressing for access to the wives of some of the people who are being detained after that operation.
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have a lot of information on that kind of follow-up or that kind of requests. I’d refer you to the Government of Pakistan for information about that.
QUESTION: Are you –
QUESTION: On Pakistan --
QUESTION: But you defer to the Government of Pakistan for U.S. requests?
MR. TONER: Well, we haven’t – I’m not aware that we’ve made any requests, but I refer you to their – to the status of these – of the – bin Ladin’s family, I’d refer you to the Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: Staying on the same subject --
MR. TONER: Sure, Tejinder.
QUESTION: -- the Pakistani army has issued a statement with a threat to reduce – asking U.S. to reduce military presence in Pakistan and reduce the CIA personnel. Would you like to comment on that?
MR. TONER: Well, really, the – I believe the Pentagon’s better positioned to comment on that, and I believe Admiral Mullen has already commented on that. Look, the relatively small U.S. military contingent that’s there – that is there is there at the invitation of the Pakistani Government, and they’re there to perform, train, and equip operations for the Pakistani military. I’d refer you to the Pakistani Government for more details on what they’ve said about that.
QUESTION: No, but they’re --
QUESTION: Why would --
QUESTION: But they’re –
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: But why wouldn’t the U.S. ask for access to the women, because – and other people who might be held? Because conceivably, they could have quite a lot of information. Just --
MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s – that’s very much a law enforcement issue as well as an intelligence issue, and it’s not something I necessarily want to talk about up here at the podium.
QUESTION: Yesterday --
MR. TONER: I’m not aware of any requests, but if – even if I were and those requests had been made, I’m not sure we could discuss them here.
QUESTION: Yesterday, more than one senator in Congress – people told me that they are waiting for the update from the State Department about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Do you have any – are you going to send any update to the Hill?
MR. TONER: We’re in a – very much in a dialogue with Congress. I believe there’s hearings this week, and we’ll continue to work with Congress to address their concerns about the U.S. relations with Pakistan. I think John Brennan was very clear the other day when he said this – that the – certain aspects of bin Ladin’s location and this operation and where he was killed raises questions and raises concerns, and we’re obviously asking the Pakistani Government to address those concerns and questions.
QUESTION: But, again, saying --
QUESTION: As far as you’re concerned --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) how those questions are actually being conveyed, who is asking who?
MR. TONER: I don't have specific details on who’s asking these questions, but I can say – we’ve obviously, at various levels and in the relationship, both in our mission and back here at the U.S., we’re – sorry. Within this Administration, those questions are being asked.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on that --
QUESTION: Would you say that the current relations with Pakistan from the – that viewpoint of the State Department is in a crisis at the present time?
MR. TONER: That’s – I think that’s an unfair characterization. Again, everyone has been clear since the announcement of bin Ladin’s death on Sunday night – from the President on down – has been clear that we believe our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan has yielded tangible successes over the years, and we want to see that continue.
QUESTION: What --
MR. TONER: We believe it’s in the best interest of the United States as well as the best interest of Pakistan. I think the Pakistanis have also said as much, that they believe this counterterrorism is fruitful. The Secretary said today in Rome we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue or every – or our approach to every issue, but that said, this has borne results over the years, it’s borne results in specifically – I think the President mentioned – with concern to the operation against bin Ladin, but as well as overall with other successes. We’ve succeeded in putting increased pressure on al-Qaida, and that’s been a good thing for both countries.
QUESTION: Do you feel that there is a disconnect between the military and the intelligence services on the one hand, and the civilian government in Pakistan on the other?
MR. TONER: Well, boy, that’s a question probably better directed to the Pakistani Government. I would just say that it’s a – this is a productive bilateral relationship, and we’re going to continue to cooperate. We recognize that we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue or on every approach to these issues. But we believe this is a relationship that is going to continue to make progress.
QUESTION: On the Pak army threat you are sending us to the Pentagon, but – okay, will you like to comment on that?
MR. TONER: Well, first of all, Tejinder, it’s really – I mean, the Pakistani military, I believe, made some of these comments. I refer you to them to clarify what they mean. We’ve received, as far as I’m aware, no requests. But again, we’ve been quite clear all along that these – this military contingent that’s there to train and equip the Pakistani military is there at the Pakistani Government’s request.
QUESTION: Well, will you like to comment on the veiled threat and everything that was expressed in the press conference by the Pakistani foreign minister today?
MR. TONER: Can you be more specific? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. If you hear him, he said that this was unacceptable and all. They are not at all – they are not apologizing that they were hiding bin Ladin, and instead they are accusing U.S. of unilateral action on their soil.
MR. TONER: Okay. Tejinder, first of all, there was a premise in your question that’s not at all proven. We have been clear all along that his whereabouts have raised concerns about what kind of support network might have existed within Pakistan, and we’re conveying those concerns to the Pakistani Government at a variety of levels. However – what was your second question? Sorry. I’ve lost the thread. Your second question was about the threat?
QUESTION: The --
MR. TONER: We’ve also been very clear that we believed this was well within our legal rights to carry out this operation against an individual who had carried out attacks against the United States, and was very likely in the process of planning to carry out more attacks against the United States.
QUESTION: Just a last quick follow-up. Just --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Tejinder. And then we’ll switch.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up.
MR. TONER: And then – okay.
QUESTION: The Pakistan military –
MR. TONER: And Lalit.
QUESTION: -- I have just received the statement. They made it – they say that any similar action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military intelligence cooperation with the USA. So – and yesterday, in the White House briefing, it was said that we are going to go ahead and carry out another operation if we find the intelligence. So what – how do you see the ties?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we have been quite candid in our conversations with the Pakistani Government. The President – his first call was to President Zardari after this operation to inform him of the operation. But we’ve been clear – I don’t know if I can speak to the broader issues here, but I can just say our position has been quite clear in that we believe this individual was a direct threat to the United States and to United States citizens, as well as the world, I mean, obviously. And when we have that kind of intelligence, actionable intelligence, we’re going to take action.
QUESTION: Have --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Have you asked for or have been provided – has the Pakistani Government provided any proof that they didn’t know Usama bin Ladin was in that house?
MR. TONER: I’m not aware of what, if any, response the Pakistani Government’s given to us so far.
QUESTION: But you have asked them?
MR. TONER: I believe the Pakistani Government said they’re carrying out their own investigation, but we’ve certainly raised these concerns. We said so. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
QUESTION: There was an acknowledgement of shortcomings in, I guess, allowing him to have been there unbeknownst for so many years. Would you agree with that assessment, that the Pakistani Government and military had a number of shortcomings for allowing this to happen?
MR. TONER: I still think we’re too close to the events of last Sunday to really get a clear picture of what happened and how he lived there for that long.
QUESTION: Do you think they’re being too hard on themselves?
MR. TONER: I think they’re asking the right questions, it sounds like.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. TONER: On Pakistan.
QUESTION: After Monday’s incident, have you formally asked any questions (inaudible) questions to Pakistan?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: After Monday’s incident --
MR. TONER: I just didn’t hear the --
QUESTION: -- have you formally asked Pakistan or its leaders if – to – a second set of questions about if they had any knowledge of this business of bin Ladin?
MR. TONER: Yes. I believe we conveyed our concerns – some of the concerns that were raised by the --
QUESTION: And secondly, day before yesterday, Secretary Clinton address to the National Editor Writers meeting, she said she hopes that Taliban would come forward for peace – for peace talks. And today, Ambassador Eikenberry also offered peace talks with Taliban. Is there any change in U.S. policy towards Taliban?
MR. TONER: Not at all.
QUESTION: The three conditions that were there – is it still – does it still exist?
MR. TONER: Well, we talked about this yesterday. Look, we’ve – I would just refer you to the Secretary’s Asia Society speech that she gave, I think, in the beginning of February. And that clearly laid out how we see the reconciliation process moving forward. What I think the Secretary and others have tried to make clear to the Taliban is that there’s a new chapter here, that bin Ladin’s gone, that al-Qaida has now lost its leader, and that they should look to the future being – meaning the Taliban – and pursue a path of reconciliation and be certain that they cannot outwait us and that they need to read the writing on the wall – whatever metaphor you want to use – but recognize that they need to work towards a more peaceful future, renounce violence, renounce ties with al-Qaida, pledge to work within the Afghan constitution, and pursue a role in the political process, an Afghan-led political process.
QUESTION: And finally --
QUESTION: Have you received --
MR. TONER: Yes, sir. Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: And finally, yesterday you talked about the U.S. has the right to self-defense and they get – can again go there inside Pakistan to kill any high-level target. Does this principle or policy applies to other countries like India, like 26/11 perpetrators are still inside Pakistan? Would you support India if it goes there in such a move?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to speculate too broadly about an operation that was clearly unique in the history of the United States and the history of the world, where we had an individual who was possibly the most wanted man in the world and had perpetrated heinous crimes against not only American citizens but citizens around the globe. I don’t want to draw too broadly a picture here. What we’ve said all along is that this was an individual where, when we had actionable intelligence against him, we acted upon that because we believed he was a direct and imminent threat to the United States.
QUESTION: Have you received --
MR. TONER: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: -- certain individuals inside Pakistan who attack Indian parliament, who were responsible for killing hundreds of people in Mumbai in –
MR. TONER: I’m aware of all those cases. And again, we’re not – I don’t – again, in – our counterterrorism cooperation both with India and with Pakistan is ongoing and we believe that it’s directed at exactly these kinds of elements.
QUESTION: Have you received any communiqué – formal, official communication from Islamabad relating to Usama bin Ladin or this event?
And the second, have you received the formal request to reduce the number of U.S. personnel, including, CIA?
MR. TONER: On your second question, I don’t believe we’ve received any kind of formal request to reduce the number of military personnel.
On your second question – or your first question, sorry – on your first question, that’s a fair question. I don’t know that we have. I’ll check. I mean, we have President Zardari’s opinion piece the other day in The Washington Post. That’s obviously not an official communication. I don’t believe we’ve – also, we’ve had SRAP, Ambassador Grossman, who was in Islamabad, and of course, he had discussions there with senior leaders in the Pakistani Government. But I’m not aware we’ve received some kind of formal communication about it. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on Grossman’s movements, and is he back?
MR. TONER: He went to Riyadh and now he’s en route back – (laughter) – as Samir said yesterday.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) his agenda (inaudible)? What (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: I think – I mean, I think he met with government officials there to talk about, obviously, the way forward. Saudi Arabia is an important partner in dealing with that region, and certainly the situation in Afghanistan.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Change of subject? On Syria. The news today from Rome that the United States and the European allies are considering a new set of sanctions against Syria. Can you elaborate a little bit and do you think that’s going to moderate the regime’s behavior at any point?
MR. TONER: I mean, your second question, I don’t really have an answer for that. We continue to --
QUESTION: But you are enforcing the sanctions for a reason.
MR. TONER: We continue to press Asad’s regime to desist in its violent behavior. We’ve obviously said repeatedly from this podium and elsewhere that we abhor the violence there. I think I called it barbaric – the measures that were taken the other day against the citizens of Deraa. And we urge Syria to end these kinds of actions against innocent civilians who are simply expressing their aspirations for a democratic future.
Specifically about the sanctions, we’ve – the question – we do have sanctions that we announced last week. Those are in place. I don’t think we ever closed the door or said that no other option remains on the table. I think we’ll continue to assess the situation moving forward.
QUESTION: But on the news today --
MR. TONER: And if they can be effective, we’ll asses it on that.
QUESTION: So – but the news today that they might even put more names, stopping them, a travel ban against them going to Europe or elsewhere --
MR. TONER: I think, again, we’ll continue to assess the situation as it develops. And if sanctions can be useful, we’ll look at that.
QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation that – sorry.
MR. TONER: That’s okay. Sorry. That’s okay.
QUESTION: Have you had any response from the Syrians about these sanctions? Have they --
MR. TONER: I know Ambassador Ford has met with Syrian officials. I’m not aware that he’s gotten any feedback or response about these specific sanctions. I’ll check on that.
QUESTION: So you have no evidence that they’ve had any effect?
MR. TONER: Well --
QUESTION: Or any indication that anybody --
MR. TONER: Again, sanctions take a little while to bite. But I’m not aware that – I’m not aware that the Syrians have reacted in any way, shape, or form to us about it or responded in any way, shape, or form.
QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation that the Syrians actually have pulled from Daraa as they claimed today?
MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ve seen those press reports. I don’t have any confirmation.
QUESTION: Could I change topics, or are we still on Syria?
MR. TONER: Syria?
QUESTION: On the Taliban --
MR. TONER: Then you’re --
QUESTION: That’s okay. I wanted to ask you about the Palestinian reconciliation --
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: -- that took place in Cairo yesterday. First, what is your first reaction to that?
MR. TONER: Well, I think we’ve given several reactions, so this is about the third or fourth reaction. The Secretary spoke about it today earlier in Rome after her meeting with Foreign Minister Frattini. And I think we’ve said very clearly that we’ll work with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly commits to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and that includes the Roadmap.
This agreement was announced yesterday, but it – we have not seen any specific details about what it means. But those have been our redlines, or our – and the Secretary reiterated them today in Italy, which is as – these are the core principles, the so-called Quartet principles, that we would expect any Palestinian government to adhere to them.
QUESTION: But one of the pillars of the agreement is to form a unity government that will necessarily include Hamas, which you consider to be a terrorist organization. How will that be juxtaposed against the aid or your support for aiding the Palestinian Authority, or are you --
MR. TONER: I agree these are all valid questions. But until we actually see what the details of this agreement look like, it’s hard for me to speculate beyond what I’ve already said, which is that any Hamas role, any Hamas participation, will have to be predicated on an acceptance of those Quartet principles.
QUESTION: But in principle, if there is a government, a Palestinian government, that includes Hamas, a terrorist organization according to your classification, would then the Palestinian cease to be a partner for peace under your auspices?
MR. TONER: Again, I really got to say we just need to watch and see how this develops. We’ve been clear about our – what we’re looking for, what we want to see in any Palestinian Authority government, and our position on Hamas has not changed. We still believe it’s a foreign terrorist organization and that any – we have also been very clear about any role that Hamas might play in the political process would have to be in accordance with those principles.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But unifying the two major factions, Hamas and Fatah, in your opinion, does this increase or decrease the chances in the peace process?
MR. TONER: Again, it depends on what this entity looks like and whether Hamas wants to be a serious player for peace.
QUESTION: And do you have any reaction to the French president’s comments today that if the negotiations don’t start in earnest this summer, France, like Britain, would be ready to accept Palestinian declaration of statehood without Israel’s --
MR. TONER: I don’t have any reaction to that other than to say that – what we’ve said all along, which is that we don’t believe that would be a constructive step to getting – to the essential goal, which is getting them back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: On the Taliban, you said this is a new chapter here. Is there now an effort, either on the part, let’s say, of the United States or in Afghanistan itself, to reach out in a consistent fashion now and say --
MR. TONER: Well, again, we’ve --
QUESTION: -- “New chapter, let’s work”?
MR. TONER: Well again, we – sure. We’ve always been clear that this has to be, at the fundamental level, an Afghan-led process, and – but we’ve been also clear about that this is a reconciliation as long as it’s compliant with those redlines or those principles that we want to see the Taliban adhere to, is in the – would be in the best interests, I think, of the – of Afghanistan’s future.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, right now, is there a concerted effort to go out there and --
MR. TONER: I don’t think – I don’t know that that’s – that this Afghan-led process has ever waned. I think that they continue to move forward on a reconciliation process.
QUESTION: And just one other thing on that, what – why is it in their interest – other than, of course, avoiding being killed, why is it in their interest to come over now? Why has it changed?
MR. TONER: Well, I think the Secretary’s point was that – is that this is an opportunity and that there’s a new – by a new chapter, there’s been a turning of the page that Usama bin Ladin is dead and al-Qaida is on the wane, and if the Taliban want to play a part in the political process, there is a means or a way for them to do that, or there’s a path for them to do that.
Yeah. Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: Just a small follow-up. Do you consider Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization?
MR. TONER: I don’t know what our specific position is. I believe we do. I’d have to check on that, but I believe we do.
QUESTION: Okay. And coming to Burma, last week, several –
MR. TONER: I’m not sure, legally, what their designation is, but I believe so.
MR. TONER: At least I’ll check on that.
MR. TONER: Sorry.
QUESTION: And coming to the Burma –
MR. TONER: Stumped me. But I believe that’s right.
QUESTION: Okay. Last week, several organizations, including Brookings and U.S. Campaign for Burma, wrote a letter to Secretary Clinton that U.S. will take a lead at the UN for establishing a international war crimes against – commission on war crimes against Burmese military junta. What is the U.S. position on this? Do you support that move? How you are campaigning on it?
MR. TONER: This is a letter to establish a war crimes tribunal for Burma is what you’re – was what you were asking?
MR. TONER: I’ll take the question. I’m not aware that – I’d have to look at the letter and see that we’ve responded to it in some way, shape, or form. But I’ll take the question, Lalit.
QUESTION: Okay. And just – yesterday, several congressmen also wrote a similar letter to President Obama on this issue.
MR. TONER: Okay. Yeah, in the back.
QUESTION: Mark, how long after the raid was conducted last Sunday night, and the American people knew learned about the raid, how soon did the major allies of the U.S. government-to-government learn of what was the U.S. part of the raid? And how was it conveyed? For example, was it conveyed by Ambassador Roos in Japan or was it conveyed by the assistant secretary or the Secretary herself to our major allies in Japan, South Korea, China?
MR. TONER: Yeah. That’s actually a fair question. I’ll try to get a better readout for you on that. I’m not aware that Secretary made any specific calls following that event, so I would imagine that it was conveyed both through the White House as well as through our embassies and otherwise. But I’ll try to see if I can get you more details on that.
QUESTION: And the same for India in that, please?
MR. TONER: Sure. I’ll just – what I’ll try to do is just get you guys a picture of how the news was conveyed. I mean, certainly --
QUESTION: Like a timeline.
MR. TONER: Certainly, the international media pushed it out quite quickly once the President made his announcement. I’ll try to find out more. What I think is a valid question is whether – who and how we contacted, as you said, major allies.
QUESTION: Well, while you’re at it, could you also check with the Saudis? I mean, could you check –
MR. TONER: I just --
QUESTION: -- with the Saudis if the Saudis actually received a formal request to have him buried in Saudi Arabia, considering that he’s a Saudi citizen?
QUESTION: He was.
QUESTION: Could you find out? Or was a Saudi citizen.
MR. TONER: Okay. (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: The press office staff will love me for that.
QUESTION: Mark, up on Capitol Hill today, Senator Kerry had a hearing on this entire issue of Pakistan. And both he and Lugar were very strong in saying that the U.S. shouldn’t walk away, even with the problems that are going and the questions that are going on right now. What is the State Department doing, if anything, to try to answer criticism from people on Capitol Hill who are saying let’s stop or freeze the funding for Pakistan?
MR. TONER: Sure. I mean, I think we’re very aware of those concerns, and we’ve been reaching out at a variety of levels to engage with members of Congress and to listen to their concerns and to also, as I think I said earlier, to convey them to the Pakistani Government. These are concerns, frankly, that we share – these concerns about possible support that he may have received. But I also think that our message, as Senator Kerry also articulated, is that this is a valuable relationship, that it has borne fruit over the years, that it has resulted in tangible achievements, including Sunday’s events. And we believe it’s in our best interest of our nation, which is fundamentally how we need to judge any bilateral relationship, and we believe that it is in the fundamental interests of our nation to continue this kind of cooperation.
QUESTION: Mark, just –
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Andy.
QUESTION: -- to follow up on that one, is that sort of bedrock assessment of the importance of the Pakistan relationship, is that going to hold whatever the responses may be to all these questions that you’re asking? I mean, does the question of whether or not or how much backing Usama bin Ladin had from elements in Pakistan, is that a separate issue from the base of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship –
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: -- or is it a central thing?
MR. TONER: Andy, I mean, I think it’s a central tenet in our relations with Pakistan that we believe it’s, frankly, in our long-term national interest, as well as Pakistan’s long-term nationals interest, that this kind of relationship continue. In terms of what may be divulged or come to the fore about the events of last Sunday, it’s still very early, and the Pakistani Government has said they’re going to look into it. We’ve asked them to look into it. And let’s just see what comes of it.
QUESTION: But you’re committed to the relationship, regardless of what comes to light, that’s separate – the event, the circumstances of bin Ladin’s concealment in Pakistan is separate from the relationship moving forward?
MR. TONER: I think we’re committed to this relationship. We’re going to – we believe it’s in our national interest. That said, we’ve raised our concerns quite clearly, and we’re going to wait to hear what – the response.
QUESTION: Is the Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan on schedule? It was later this month or sometime next month. The Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan is on schedule? Is it –
MR. TONER: Is it on schedule, you say?
MR. TONER: I don’t know. I’ll see what I can find out.
QUESTION: Do you sense that the Pakistanis are committed to the relationship in the same way?
MR. TONER: From what we’ve heard from them, yes, we do. Yeah.
QUESTION: The fact that it was a minimum – they called for reducing the forces to a minimum, does that –
MR. TONER: Look, I’ve seen some of these statements. Again, we’ve not received any kind of formal request. I think I talked about it --
QUESTION: Yeah, you did.
MR. TONER: -- when you were outside, but yeah. I mean, they’re there at the invitation of the Pakistani Government. We believe it’s productive cooperation. These guys are there to train and equip the Pakistani military. It’s a small contingent already, but we believe it’s helpful.
QUESTION: These dangerous consequences that the foreign minister, Bashir, mentioned – has that been expressed to the United States in any fora, whether it was through Ambassador Grossman or directly here?
MR. TONER: I’m not sure. I haven’t spoken with Ambassador Grossman. He’s on route back, so I’m not sure if that was conveyed to him. Again, we’ve been very clear in our justification for this operation, so --
QUESTION: Could I go back to the peace process?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Mark, today, the White House confirmed that the President will be meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the 20th. There was also a talk of the President giving a speech before then. Do you know anything about that or the speech?
MR. TONER: I don't know. I was asked about this yesterday. I’d just refer you to the White House for any information about a speech.
QUESTION: But as far as you know, there’s been no development on --
MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of, but I – again, that’d be a White House --
QUESTION: What --
QUESTION: Are you aware of the so-called Netanyahu plan? Has he shared any of that plan or the broad elements of that plan with you?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, we certainly welcome his visit, and we think it’s going to be a fruitful opportunity for us to talk about all of these issues and where we’re at. I don't know that there’s been any discussion of any specific plan, but again, that’s – it’s a White House visit, so --
QUESTION: Is he scheduled to meet with Secretary Clinton?
MR. TONER: I don't know. He may very well. It’s not – there’s nothing on the schedule yet, but I could certainly see that happening, also could see her participating in the meetings at the White House, too.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: That’s it? Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:12 p.m.)