Daily Press Briefing - December 5, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Travel by Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies / Opportunity to Engage with Key Partners on Korean Peninsula Issues
- Secretary's Visit to Brussels
- Ambassador Howard Gutman / Condemn Anti-Semitism in all its Forms / Full Confidence in the Ambassador
- Elections / Report by OSCE and Investigation / Support Free and Fair Elections / U.S. Support to International Observers
- Trilateral Meeting of India, Japan, and the U.S. / Discussions on Range of Pacific Regional Issues
- Bonn Conference / Always in Discussion About Relationship with Afghanistan
- Committed to Working with Pakistan in Future / Vital Relationship / Respect Sovereignty
- Allegations of Money Laundering / Referred to Department of Justice
- U.S. - Syrian Citizen Blogger Arrested / Requested Consular Access
- Draft Legislation on Funding of NGOs / Free and Unfettered Civil Society as Part of Democracy
- ISAF Statement on Drone
- Kimberly Process / Global Witness / Conflict-Free Diamonds
1:08 p.m. EST
MR. TONER: Welcome, everyone, to the State Department. Happy Monday. Hope you all had a good weekend.
I do want to – you probably just saw we did release a few minutes ago – and just mention that Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies, who is now back in Washington but getting ready now to travel to the Republic of Korea, Japan, and China, from December 6th through the 15th. The media note details some of his meetings, but obviously, he’s there to – the purpose of this trip, his first to the region as the special representative, is to exchange views on Korean Peninsula issues.
With that, I’ll take your questions. Matt, welcome back.
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: Let’s start with Ambassador Gutman’s speech from last week. Does the – did the Administration sign off on this, or was it vetted by anyone in EUR or NEA? And does the Administration agree with the sentiments that he expressed in his speech?
MR. TONER: I think you saw – actually, let me start again. I’m not aware that his remarks were cleared back here in Washington. He made very clear in a subsequent statement that they were his thoughts or his remarks. He did condemn and was very vocal about condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, and I believe he expressed regret that his words might have been taken out of context.
QUESTION: But do you think that they were taken out of context?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry? In --
QUESTION: Does the Administration agree with the content of the – of Ambassador Gutman’s speech?
MR. TONER: I think I’d just say – and you’ve seen, obviously, the White House --
QUESTION: Well, no. Actually, I had to get those – they were apparently being only sent to select people. I wasn’t selected, maybe because I was gone, but --
MR. TONER: You’re always selected.
QUESTION: I have seen them, however, but they don’t answer the question about whether the Administration agrees with what Ambassador Gutman said in that speech.
MR. TONER: And the Administration and the State Department says that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.
QUESTION: That’s great, Mark. I’m glad that you do, and I’m sure everyone is glad that you do, but do you agree with the content of Ambassador Gutman’s speech?
MR. TONER: We –
QUESTION: I don’t know; it’s a pretty easy question. Yes or no?
MR. TONER: It is – it was his remarks. It was his opinion. He was not speaking on behalf --
MR. TONER: I think he said as much. He said it was his remarks and he was speaking on his own.
QUESTION: No, he didn’t. He did not say that. He – but he was not speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government?
MR. TONER: I don’t believe so.
QUESTION: So the – okay, the Ambassador to Belgium shows up at a conference in Europe, in Belgium, and he is not speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government. Is that correct?
MR. TONER: The Ambassador was expressing his views on an issue.
QUESTION: They are not the view – so he --
MR. TONER: He subsequently issued a statement clarifying that he was – I don’t know – expressing regret if his remarks were taken out of context. He then said that he does condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and in fact, pointed to his own family history as a testament to that.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but you’re saying that he was speaking as a private citizen, not as the U.S. Ambassador?
MR. TONER: Well, of course, when – anytime an ambassador speaks, he is representing the United States.
QUESTION: So the views that he expressed in his speech do not represent the views of the Administration?
MR. TONER: Matt, let me be very clear.
QUESTION: Mark, I understand that you condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I understand that, okay? I’m asking you if you agree with the content of his speech, which he gave as the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.
MR. TONER: And I would just say that he was sharing his views on an issue. Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States – or Israel has no greater friend or ally than the United States, and we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.
QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine, but I don’t – I’m not hearing in there – unless you’re going to tell me right out he was speaking as a private citizen and not as the Ambassador. Is that – that’s what you’re saying?
MR. TONER: What’s that? I’m sorry. Give me your question again.
QUESTION: That his comments were delivered as a private citizen, not as the representative of the U.S. Government.
MR. TONER: Again, we’ve been very clear that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms --
QUESTION: Do you --
MR. TONER: -- regardless of how you call it --
QUESTION: Do you think that --
MR. TONER: -- or how you characterize it.
QUESTION: Do you – okay. So you do not agree, then, with the contents of the Ambassador’s speech?
MR. TONER: I think I’ll just stop there.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. TONER: I think I just said we condemn –
QUESTION: -- this guy is the --
MR. TONER: -- anti-Semitism in all of its forms. He --
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t draw a distinction between criticism of Israel --
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: -- and all criticism of Israel --
MR. TONER: No. We don’t draw any distinctions. We don’t --
QUESTION: All criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism? Is that what you’re saying?
MR. TONER: Look, I will leave it to the Ambassador to Belgium to clarify what he meant --
QUESTION: Does the --
MR. TONER: -- by his remarks --
QUESTION: Does the --
MR. TONER: -- to this gathering.
QUESTION: Does the –
MR. TONER: I can only speak on behalf of this Administration, and that is that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.
QUESTION: Does the Administration think that Israel is above reproach? In other words, that Israel should not be criticized for anything?
MR. TONER: Speaking largely about the issue that was on the table, which is Middle East peace and the importance of it and, frankly, the stability that it brings to the region, we’ve been very clear that the best way to a lasting peace is through the negotiating table. That remains our focus. We want to get both sides back into direct negotiations.
QUESTION: Surely, though, the Administration has – with the specific example of – I’ll use settlements here --
MR. TONER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- you have been – the Administration has been critical of the Israeli Government, correct?
MR. TONER: If we’re talking now about --
MR. TONER: -- efforts to get both sides back to the negotiating table, we have been very clear when either of the parties, we believe, does actions or takes actions that are not constructive to that process.
QUESTION: This Administration has been critical of the Government of Israel before, correct?
MR. TONER: Of course.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you – is that criticism anti-Semitic?
MR. TONER: Of course not.
QUESTION: So all criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to parse this out. I just simply want to say we condemn --
QUESTION: I know you don’t want to because you’re in a very difficult position.
MR. TONER: -- anti-Semitism in all of its forms. Okay?
QUESTION: You’re saying, though, that you accept a distinction between criticism of Israel and anti – criticism of the government of – the policies of the Government of Israel and anti-Semitism. You draw a distinction between the two things, correct?
MR. TONER: I’d just say that this Administration has consistently stood up against anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel, and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Does the Administration believe that you can be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic?
MR. TONER: I think that when it comes to trying to keep the parties focused on the peace process and in citing behavior that is not constructive to that process, we are certainly able to do that, and have done so in the past.
QUESTION: But does the Administration believe that you can be – that one can be critical of the policies of government – the Government of Israel without being anti-Semitic? Yes or no?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think I just answered the question, that we have been critical --
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re saying that there – you do draw a distinction between criticism of the Government of Israel, of policies of the Government of Israel, and – in other words, not all criticism of Israel – when you come out and you say we think that more settlements are a bad idea, that doesn’t mean the Administration --
MR. TONER: Of course, of course.
QUESTION: -- is anti-Semitic, right?
MR. TONER: Of course.
QUESTION: Okay. So in his speech, Ambassador Gutman draws a distinction between classic anti-Semitism and some kind of new form of hatred toward Jews which is based – what he said, based on the policies of the Government of Israel. Do you – it sounds as though you accept that there is a distinction between the two.
MR. TONER: What Ambassador Gutman was – I believe what he was trying to convey is that there are different forms of anti-Semitism. We condemn them in all their forms.
QUESTION: All right. I’ve got another on Israel, but it’s not on this subject.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up briefly on that, some Republicans have called for the Administration to fire Ambassador Gutman. Is there – does the Administration have a response to that, have a position on –
MR. TONER: We have full confidence in him.
QUESTION: Hi, nice to be here.
MR. TONER: Nice to see you.
MR. TONER: Well, you saw that the Secretary – or you’ll be seeing shortly that – if you haven’t, though – I don’t think we’ve released the transcript yet, but the Secretary did speak to this somewhat in a press availability that she had shortly after the meeting in Bonn. And she did note that we do have serious concerns about the conduct of Russia’s December 4th parliamentary elections. And these concerns are reflected in the preliminary report issued by the OSCE’s International Election Observer Mission, which I believe noted Election Day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists and some other troubling practices during the campaign period.
We’re also concerned, Anjay, about independent Russian election observer efforts, that – rather that independent Russian election observation efforts, including the nationwide Golos network, and independent media outlets encountered harassment of their personnel as well as cyber attacks on their websites.
And finally, we just believe that all Russian voters deserve a full investigation of credible reports of electoral fraud and manipulation.
QUESTION: Do your concerns on all these scores mean that you think that the results of the election are invalid?
MR. TONER: I think what I just said speaks for itself, which is that we would – we think that the Russians deserve – Russian voters deserve an explanation and an investigation.
QUESTION: But I mean, that – so that you think that they won’t be validated until that explanation is forthcoming?
MR. TONER: Well, again, as I said, OSCE has raised these concerns. So we think it’s incumbent on the government to do an investigation.
QUESTION: I have just two subjects. First one is –
QUESTION: Oh, could – one more on Russia.
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure, Russia. We can do --
QUESTION: I just wanted to --
MR. TONER: Sorry, Tejinder. I’ll get to you in a second.
QUESTION: On the intimidation, are you drawing a direct link between the intimidation and the administration of President Medvedev or Prime Minister Putin?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, rewind. The intimidation against Golos network?
QUESTION: Intimidation or the conduct, ballot stuffing, et cetera. Are you drawing a direct connection at this stage?
MR. TONER: Not necessarily. We’re just raising concerns about the conduct, what some of these international observers were able to see when they were out observing the elections and noting incidents, as I said, of fraud and intimidation. Again, we would just say that it’s up to the Government of Russia now to investigate these claims.
QUESTION: Mark, did you have your own observers in place somewhere? Like, what does your Embassy report?
MR. TONER: That’s a very good question. I don’t believe we – but I’ll correct that if it’s wrong – that we had an investigator – observers out present at polling stations.
QUESTION: You don’t know?
MR. TONER: I don’t believe we did.
QUESTION: Oh, you don’t believe you did.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering, I mean, how can the government – you’re calling on the Government of Russia to investigate these claims. The claims are being made essentially against the Government of Russia, so how can they be the right agency to investigate whether or not this fraud occurred?
MR. TONER: Well, we’re asking that Russian authorities, we believe, should take the OSCE’s final report, the recommendations made in it, and the purpose here is to improve the electoral process in Russia. So we believe that – and acting in good faith – that they should investigate these claims.
QUESTION: If they don’t – if there isn’t such an investigation or a report coming, is that going to affect the future of U.S.-Russia relations? I mean, is it something contingent on having this fully explained?
MR. TONER: I think that our focus as we move forward in the electoral process in Russia is going to be on ensuring that the – that this process is free and fair and transparent. And we’re going to continue to fund organizations and – that promote that effort.
QUESTION: So you’ll accept the results of a potentially dirty election if future elections are clean?
MR. TONER: Again, what we think is now that these concerns have been raised by the OSCE in its final report, the OSCE has got – obviously has a follow-up mechanism in place to look at these – as we go forward – these recommendations to see how they are addressed. And that’s the – kind of the proper venue for that process. But we believe that questions that were raised by credible independent observers should be answered by an investigation.
QUESTION: And Mark, just to –
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Just to put it on the record, I mean, some of the comments by Putin about Golos have been – he didn’t use the word “The United States,” but he all but did. He really is accusing the United States of trying to subvert their elections. What do you say to this?
MR. TONER: Well, again, the United States has supported and, as I just said, will continue to support those citizens and non-governmental organizations that are working for free and fair elections in Russia. And we do that globally. It’s not – this obviously isn’t specific to Russia.
MR. TONER: You’re asking about the trilateral between India –
MR. TONER: – Japan and the United States? Well, I can say we’re looking forward to hosting the trilateral dialogue with India and Japan in Washington, and that’ll be on December 19th. And this meeting’s going to be an opportunity to hold comprehensive discussion on a range of Asia Pacific regional issues.
I know what your follow-up question is going to be: What specifically is going to be on the agenda? It’s still being determined, but obviously, as the three leading Pacific democracies, we look forward to productive exchanges with India and Japan.
QUESTION: And what level of participation?
MR. TONER: I think at the assistant secretary level.
QUESTION: Sorry --
QUESTION: And the –
QUESTION: Australia isn’t invited as another leading Pacific democracy?
QUESTION: And when did India get into the Pacific Ocean?
MR. TONER: Again, this is a chance –
QUESTION: Does India actually border the Pacific Ocean at all, or is it the Indian Ocean?
MR. TONER: This is a chance for us to discuss regional issues. I don’t know about Australia’s – we don’t – all these talks don’t have to be completely inclusive. Again, this is a chance for us to meet with three – leading, how about – democracies in the region –
QUESTION: The South Koreans --
MR. TONER: – and a chance for us to discuss issues of --
QUESTION: – they don’t count as a democracy?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: South Korea?
MR. TONER: Again, this isn’t all-inclusive, okay?
QUESTION: Well, can – does it really say Pacific?
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) It does, but that’s okay.
MR. TONER: What was your – the last part of your question?
QUESTION: What is your reaction to Pakistan being there, not being there?
MR. TONER: Not being in the Bonn Conference? Well, again, the Secretary spoke to this, obviously, at length in her post-conference press avail. We’ve said before that Bonn is an important meeting. It’s on a continuum where we had, obviously, Lisbon leading into Istanbul. Now we’ve had Bonn, which, as we said, is a significant chance to look back on what’s been accomplished over the last decade, but also some of the challenges that remain.
And then obviously, going forward, we’re looking to the NATO Summit in Chicago. It’s significant in that it was chaired by Afghanistan. Obviously, we’re grateful to Germany as acting – acting as the hosts. And Afghanistan, as the chair, laid out a vision for its own future, and as we said, we have a significant participation among – international participation, both NGO community as well as nations, and it was a significant event. In terms of Pakistan’s absence, we’ve been pretty clear that we wanted Pakistan to be a part of this conference. They made the decision, I believe, not to attend, but going forward, we’re certainly going to – we’re going to work with Pakistan as an essential partner in that region’s future.
QUESTION: Mark, when you say that you’re going to work with Pakistan, the tango – you cannot do one partner only, so – but Pakistan is refusing to deal, so do you think this is a failure for the State Department to engage Pakistan?
MR. TONER: Well, again, you’ll have to ask Pakistan for the precise reasons why it chose not to attend. Again, we’ve been pretty clear about saying that we thought Pakistan – it was in Pakistan’s interest to participate in Bonn. Obviously, there was this incident of a couple weeks ago now that led to the deaths of Pakistani soldiers. It was a terrible tragedy. There’s an investigation underway. We’ve been very clear all along that we, while expressing our deepest sympathies over this tragedy, are committed to this relationship and working to make it better at every level.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Secretary spoke to their counterparts --
MR. TONER: They did.
QUESTION: -- this weekend, again reiterating condolences and regret, the President notably stressing that this was not a deliberate attack on Pakistani sovereignty. I have a couple of points. Was there a confirmation in either of those phone calls that, one, Pakistan was not going to be at Bonn?
MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into the details of those private conversations other than the readouts that you’ve been given, which is that they were an opportunity, again, for the President and the Secretary to express our condolences and sympathies.
QUESTION: Well, let me try again. Perhaps more significantly for U.S. security interests, was Secretary Clinton apprised of any decision within the Pakistani military to make good on its demand that the U.S. leave Shamsi Air Base, which it is apparently in the process of doing, according to Ambassador Munter.
MR. TONER: Again, I would just refer you to Ambassador Munter’s remarks on that issue. I’m not going to discuss details.
QUESTION: Same subject? Just --
MR. TONER: Yeah, same subject. Yeah, where are we on the – oh, in the back and then to Tejinder. Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Pakistani prime minister today, he indicated that Islamabad would like to rebuild relations with the United States. He was, in fact, seeking a reset of relationship with clearly defined parameters between the two countries. So are you working on those, or are you prepared to renegotiate the relationship with Pakistan?
MR. TONER: Well, I think we also, of course, welcome Prime Minister Gilani’s positive statements on the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. From the very moments after this tragedy, we’ve been clear that this is a relationship that’s vital to U.S. national security interests. It’s vital to Pakistan’s national security interests. It’s vital to the region’s interests that we work together productively. And we’re committed to addressing the issues between us and moving forward.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) actually having bilateral discussions on how Pakistan can help Afghanistan in this period leading up to the NATO conference?
MR. TONER: I think those are always discussions that we’re having. Obviously, we face a shared threat – both Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States – from extremists operating in that region. And so of course, we’re always in discussion about how we can improve coordination.
QUESTION: Did --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) accept the premise that the relationship needs a reset?
MR. TONER: I think – I accept the premise that there’s – most recently, of course, the terrible tragedy of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed in the cross-border incident, that there have been significant challenges in this relationship --
QUESTION: Are you staying away from --
MR. TONER: -- but that we’ve – but that we’re committed to working through them.
QUESTION: Are you staying away from using the word “reset” because it hasn’t worked out so well with the Russians?
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: Are you going to --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Tejinder.
QUESTION: Are you going to deal with the civilian government or the military? Because today, there was a piece --
MR. TONER: Both.
QUESTION: -- which said that State Department --
MR. TONER: I mean, well, of course --
QUESTION: -- fails to reach any results with --
MR. TONER: Of course, the U.S. Government’s always going to have lines of communication to both the Pakistani military and the Pakistani civilian leadership.
Yeah, in the back and then I’ll get – I think you’re – it’s not Pakistan?
QUESTION: No, not Pakistan.
MR. TONER: Is it? Okay.
QUESTION: Afghan president has said just before the Bonn conference that Pakistan is trying this --
MR. TONER: What president?
QUESTION: Afghan President Karzai – he has said just before the Bonn conference that Pakistan is trying to disrupt the peace negotiations in Afghanistan. Do you share the same concern? And if this tragedy is going to strain relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, how the U.S. is going to address this?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I don’t have anything new to offer in terms of reconciliation efforts beyond what we normally say, which is that we do support an Afghan-led effort in that regard. We’ve also said that, obviously, Pakistan can play a role in that effort.
In terms of working to bring these countries back into better coordination, that’s certainly one of the goals of this investigation that we’re conducting into the incident of a couple weeks ago. We want to ensure that such a terrible tragedy doesn’t occur in the future. But more broadly, the goal of conferences like Istanbul is to, obviously, solidify and strengthen that kind of regional cooperation because – I mean, certainly, Pakistan has a very clear role, but all of Afghanistan’s neighbors have an important role to play in Afghanistan’s future development.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to the White House to speak for the timing of the President’s phone call, but what was the judgment behind having the Secretary make another phone call to the prime minister over the weekend? Was there an ongoing sense that perhaps the tension was not getting any better and that only a personal intervention from the Secretary was necessary to try to bring things – try to cool things down?
MR. TONER: Well, I think it was in part a recognition that this was a significant national tragedy for Pakistan and to, again, just convey one more time our sympathies, our condolences, and to express very clearly that the United States both respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, but it’s also very committed to making this relationship work.
QUESTION: Well, wasn’t the purpose of both phone calls to get the Pakistanis to reconsider their boycott of Bonn?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we’ve – we did want Pakistan to be at Bonn.
QUESTION: And isn’t that why the phone calls were made?
MR. TONER: I’m certainly sure that they did discuss Bonn conference and --
QUESTION: And did the Secretary – again, the White House can speak for the President, but did she ask them to reconsider their decision not to attend?
MR. TONER: I’m not aware that she asked them specifically to reconsider their position.
QUESTION: Was she notified that they weren’t going to go to Bonn, that they felt that – what – that it felt that it wasn’t in their best interest?
MR. TONER: That’s – again, I’m not to get into the substance of our – of that conversation, beyond the fact that the Germans, as the host government, would have been notified formally by Pakistan whether they were attending or not.
QUESTION: Mark, actually you said that Glyn Davies is going to Korea, South Korea.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there any sign of additional talks with North Korea?
MR. TONER: No. Nothing to announce on that front.
QUESTION: No progress at all?
MR. TONER: No what, progress?
QUESTION: On additional talks with North Korea?
MR. TONER: Again, I think that the goal of this trip is a chance for him to meet with our other partners and to discuss these issues at length. He’s obviously new on the job, and so he wants to – this is an opportunity for him to engage with our key partners in Korean Peninsula issues.
QUESTION: Actually, one more.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Actually, there was a report that Derek Mitchell, representative for Burma, will travel to South Korea as well. Is that true?
MR. TONER: Let me try to confirm that. Actually, I think he is planning a trip to the region. I don't have the precise details, but again, this would be an opportunity, I think, for him to debrief key allies about the Secretary’s trip to Burma, as well as our ongoing policy.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up briefly. Last week, there was a statement by the North Koreans about uranium, that they’re stepping up their process of uranium enrichment. How does this complicate or how does this affect the visit of the envoys, of Glyn Davies going to – does that complicate things as he goes forward with diplomacy?
MR. TONER: You mean the – well, I mean, I think we’ve – we view those kinds of statements as unconstructive. We would call on North Korea, as we’ve done many times, to live up to its commitments in the 2005 joint statement. And this is really a chance for him to, as I said, sit down with his counterparts and get a – the lay of the land and to discuss possible next steps and the way forward.
QUESTION: Sorry. Same topic.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Beyond just exchanging views, is there a particular deliverable, per se, or an agreed upon action that Davies is hoping to get in his meetings?
MR. TONER: You’re talking about Glyn Davies’ trip?
MR. TONER: No. Again, I think this is just a – he’s obviously several days new on the job, so this is a chance for him to get out and, as I said, to exchange views on the way forward. He was obviously in Geneva with – was in Geneva, right, the last round of talks? Thank you – with Ambassador Bosworth. So he’s obviously up to speed on where we’re at, but a chance for him to talk to his counterparts in other capitals.
QUESTION: After the Geneva meeting last time, I believe the State Department said that the next step was that the U.S. and North Korea had to go back to their respective countries and evaluate what had gone on at the Geneva meetings. So in the State Department’s evaluation, what have you come up with, or what have you thought about?
MR. TONER: Good try. (Laughter.) We generally don’t talk about those processes out in public. I’ll just say that he’s looking forward to exchanging views on possible next steps with the counterparts.
QUESTION: Are you in contact with North Korea through the New York channel by any chance?
MR. TONER: No comment on that.
MR. TONER: Let’s do Mexico, and then Syria.
QUESTION: Okay. So yesterday there was a major story in the New York Times revealing that your U.S. law enforcement agencies have been involved in the laundering of thousands of – sorry – hundreds of thousands of dollars by Mexican drug cartels. Has the U.S. State Department been briefed about these operations, and has the State Department informed the Mexican Government about this?
MR. TONER: I would just refer you to the Department of Justice for any possible investigation into that issue.
QUESTION: So you’re not – you were not briefed?
MR. TONER: We’re not briefed on the – again, I just – I’ll just refer to the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: I know. But this is a question for you. Has the U.S. State Department been briefed of the --
MR. TONER: I accept that it’s a question for me, and I’m referring you to Department of Justice, who has more details on that issue.
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Any information on the bloggers, Syrian American Razan Ghazzawi, who was arrested?
MR. TONER: Right. We are aware of these reports, Jill. This is – you’re talking about a U.S. Syrian citizen blogger --
QUESTION: Yes. Right.
MR. TONER: -- that was apparently arrested by Syrian officials on the Jordanian border. We have – we’ve been in touch and contact with Syrian officials to request access to her. You probably know from the Travel Warning and from past experience that Syrians – Syrian authorities don’t always notify when American citizens are detained. But we – again, based on these reports, we have reached out to them. We’ve not heard anything back yet.
QUESTION: Do you know where she’s being held?
MR. TONER: We do not. And that’s about all I can say, based on the fact we have no Privacy Act waiver.
QUESTION: Mark, I wanted to ask about the Secretary’s plans to travel to Brussels and to meet with the Russians on the NATO-Russia Council, I guess. What’s on the agenda? I think the announcement talked about Afghanistan, but it is exclusively on Afghanistan? Will you be discussing other issues, such as missile defense or even the results of the elections?
MR. TONER: Well, I’m not sure about the latter subject. But we should be putting out more details in the coming days that give a little bit more of a fuller preview of the NATO piece of this trip. But obviously, Afghanistan and cooperation on Afghanistan is an important part of our relationship.
QUESTION: Can I – I need to go back to Israel. And just one – on the last line, you said in answer to Shaun’s question, that you have full confidence in Ambassador Gutman. Is that – that’s correct?
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: So there’s not been any contemplation into bringing him back or at least recalling him for consultation?
MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of. No.
QUESTION: The Secretary’s in Europe right now. Do you know if she’s spoken to him at all?
MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of. No.
QUESTION: Okay. Also on the Secretary and Israel, she had some comments – there were some comments that she made on Saturday about Israel, in which she was quoted as saying that she was concerned about democracy in Israel. Is that – is the United States concerned about the state of democracy in Israel?
MR. TONER: Well, first of all, I’m not going to get into the substance --
QUESTION: Okay. Forgot about that. Is the United States concerned about the state of democracy in --
MR. TONER: -- of off the record --
QUESTION: Is the United States concerned about the state of democracy in Israel?
MR. TONER: Speaking specifically about this draft Knesset legislation about the funding of NGOs, which is one of the elements I think that is fueling this discussion, we’ve obviously spoken – the Secretary has spoken very clearly about the importance of a free and unfettered civil society as a critical component of democracy. And Israel justifiably prides itself on being a vibrant democracy. It does, of course, as we’ve said before, have the kinds of institutions that allow its citizens to address any concerns they may have about a given law. And these – this draft legislation we understand is just that; it’s draft and needs to go through several steps before becoming law. But it – the Secretary and others have raised their concerns about – or that we have concerns about that this might limit that type of civil society.
QUESTION: So you said that Israel prides itself on being a vibrant democracy. Do you agree that Israel is a vibrant democracy?
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: You do? So you don’t really have any concerns about the state of democracy in Israel?
MR. TONER: Again, I think about this specific legislation, we just feel that any type of legislation that might hinder any civil society would raise concern. But again, we’re confident that Israel, as a vibrant democracy, has the types of institutions that can address these concerns.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Panetta give a heads-up to this building about his remarks to the Saban Center? And has anyone from the Israeli Government called here to complain about his comments?
MR. TONER: I’m not aware on the first question, and no on the second.
QUESTION: On the recent reports about the shrinking freedom in Israel for journalists, have you – has the U.S. reacted to this --
MR. TONER: You’re talking about restrictions on Israeli journalists?
QUESTION: Yeah. And journalists in Israel.
MR. TONER: Just journalists in general in Israel?
MR. TONER: I believe that Israel has a free and independent media. I am not aware of these concerns.
MR. TONER: I don’t, other than to point you to the ISAF statement that was issued yesterday that said it may have been an errant Afghanistan drone.
QUESTION: So you’re not confirming it?
MR. TONER: I don't have any details. No. I’d just refer you to ISAF.
QUESTION: Okay. And the second one is: Do you have any reaction to the pullout of Global Witness, which is an NGO, from the Kimberley Process? They’re saying that that basically is so compromised that it’s now just become an accessory to laundering dirty diamonds. And I know the U.S. endorsed their meeting in Kinshasa a couple of weeks ago.
MR. TONER: Well, as the authors of the first report that opened the world’s eyes to the issue of the conflict – of conflict diamonds and one of the most active actors within the Kimberley Process, Global Witness has contributed significant value over nearly 15 years to the Kimberley Process as an initiative and to the goal of conflict-free diamonds in the supply chain. We understand that Global Witness does not find the process to be credible stamp of approval for human rights, and we view this decision as another in a series of challenges that – to the Kimberley Process to demonstrate the capacity to implement reforms and restore its credibility.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to reconsider its own participation in the Kimberly Process in light of Global Witness' move?
MR. TONER: Well – you said were there – as you correctly noted, we're the incoming chair for 2012, and we intend to work with all stakeholders to address these challenges.
QUESTION: But, I mean, the stakeholders now longer include the chief civil society group which is advocating on the --
MR. TONER: Understood but --
QUESTION: So do you feel that you're taking the chairmanship of a hobbled or an ineffective organization?
MR. TONER: Well, I think we've said that there's significant challenges. I'll leave it at that, that we feel that we need the process to address.
QUESTION: Can I come back for a second to the Russian elections --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: -- and in general to the elections that you described as the United States supporting actively the citizens and the organizations that work for this. But you mentioned funding, and my question is about any technical support or training because, as you know, there were publications saying that the U.S. basically develops new technologies such as the, quote unquote, “internet in a suitcase” that such people can use if they meet with resistance from the local governments as far as wherever. Can you talk about that? Can you tell us if that is true or not and if you are --
MR. TONER: I'm sorry. What specifically are you asking about?
QUESTION: Specifically question is the support to the groups that you described. Is it strictly financial or is it also technical support and training? Any other kinds of support?
MR. TONER: My understanding is that it's – it is – it’s both financial but also, I believe, training as well. In terms of other types of assistance, I don't know. We have, I know, spent more than $9 million to support free and transparent processes for Russia's upcoming – or elections. And you know, again, our interest is to support these NGOs that support the process, not necessarily to support – never frankly to support any given political party. And the Secretary laid out the overarching philosophy behind this quite eloquently in her speech to National Democratic Institute a few weeks ago.
QUESTION: And the $9 million throughout the government or specifically through a program?
MR. TONER: Right. And Golos, by the way, is just one of many nongovernmental organizations in Russia that receive this kind of assistance.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
DPB # 186