Mark C. Toner
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 7, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Bombing of Sufi Shrine in Karachi
    • PRM Assistant Secretary Schwartz Travel/Switzerland, Pakistan, Afghanistan
    • Special Envoy Mitchell/ Continuing to Engage the Parties/Arab League
    • MOU to Resume Direct Flights
    • Iran Sanctions
    • U.S. - Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership
    • Participation with International Organizations
    • U.S. Relationship with Pakistan
    • Human Rights


2:14 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Well, as someone who spent a significant amount of time in sub-Saharan Africa, I actually found that pretty fascinating. Are we ready to start? Charlie? Good.

Just very quickly at the top, I just wanted to make a few brief remarks about the bombing in the – of the Sufi shrine in Karachi. Obviously, our thoughts and deep sympathies are with the affected families and the people of Pakistan. There’s obviously no political justification for killing innocent people, and we strongly condemn any deliberate targeting of civilians. While terrorists continue to target innocent Pakistanis, the United States continues to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Pakistan in its struggle against terrorism as well as its recovery from the floods.

And also just a note about travel: Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartz will visit Pakistan and Afghanistan this week. He’s actually traveling from Geneva, Switzerland, where he just met with senior government officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan who were attending the Executive Committee of the United Nation’s Commissioner for Refugees.

In Pakistan, Assistant Secretary Schwartz will meet with officials and representatives of international agencies, including UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other international and nongovernmental officials engaged in the humanitarian flood relief effort.

And in Afghanistan, Assistant Secretary Schwartz will meet with Afghanistan officials, international agencies, again, nongovernmental organizations to discuss how the international community can better support the return of Afghan refugees with a particular focus on improving land allocation schemes.

That’s all I have for the top. I’ll take your questions.


QUESTION: Mideast. What’s the latest update?

MR. TONER: Well, obviously, we continue to reach out to the parties. I believe Senator Mitchell is still in New York and continues to engage with the parties. I don’t have a list of who he’s talked to on the phone. I can certainly try to get that to you. And I also believe that the Secretary is supposed to call President Abbas or have called – or has perhaps called. We’ll try to get a readout for you on that.

QUESTION: What is Senator Mitchell doing in New York?

MR. TONER: Well, I mean, he’s back from the region. He was obviously there last week and I think he’s just – I think he’s still in New York. I think he’s based in New York.

Yes. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Other subject?

MR. TONER: Middle East, anyone?

QUESTION: Do you have anything on President Abbas threatening to step down if the peace talks fail?

MR. TONER: I’ve not seen anything related to that.

Anything else on Middle East? Arshad, you --

QUESTION: I do have a Middle East question.

MR. TONER: Why don’t we do Samir and then – well, sure, go ahead --

QUESTION: Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: -- while you settle in.

QUESTION: Yes. Egypt had an agreement last week with Iran to start civil aviation, a direct flight between Tehran and Cairo as a gesture of strengthening economic relations between the two countries. Is this something that bothers the U.S.?

MR. TONER: Well, we’re aware of the reports that they’ve signed a memorandum of understanding to resume direct flights, and we continue to urge all countries, including Egypt, not to pursue any new business deals until Iran complies with its international obligations.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, any new business deals?

MR. TONER: Any new business deals?

QUESTION: And this is an open skies agreement?

MR. TONER: It’s essentially – I mean, it’s a memorandum of understanding to resume direct flights. But obviously it has implications in terms of business, obviously, economic implications.

QUESTION: You mean for the airlines?


QUESTION: For Iranian airlines?

MR. TONER: I would assume so.

QUESTION: So you’re going after Iranian civilian – Iranian civilian airlines now?

MR. TONER: I think what we’re trying to say is that given the current atmosphere, it’s – we’re trying to discourage this kind of engagement with Iran until it owns up to its international obligations.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Iran?

MR. TONER: Sure, go ahead. And then – sorry, I haven’t forgotten you.

QUESTION: A few weeks ago, Mr. Stuart Levey from the Treasury went to Ankara, actually, and talked to Ankara administration and wanted Ankara administration to go forward with the extra additional sanctions that were passed at the U.S. Congress and the – by the EU. But Ankara administration is not going forward with the extra sanctions. What’s your view? How do you see the Ankara administration’s role in the sanctions, and also do you see it helpful, hurtful, how much helpful?

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

QUESTION: How much helpful or hurtful do you see Ankara administration?

MR. TONER: Well, obviously, we were successful in getting quite strong sanctions through the UN Security Council, 1929, and then those have been followed by additional sanction regimes announced by the EU, the United States, and other countries. I’m aware of Mr. Levey’s trip. I don’t have anything to add. I don’t – I’m not aware of whether Turkey has declined or whether they’re – but as a UN member, obviously, they would have to uphold 1929.

QUESTION: Just to refresh my memory, how did Turkey vote on Resolution 1929?

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) It’s a matter of public record.

QUESTION: You said you were successful in getting that, but Turkey did, in fact, vote against that resolution.

MR. TONER: Well, look, that said, Turkey has played a constructive role in, I think, sending the international community’s message to Iran that it needs to live up to its international obligations. In that role, they have been constructive, I think, and they can play a constructive role.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: What does the U.S. Government want the Arab League to say tomorrow insofar as any statement it issues touches on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

MR. TONER: I think that we want to see a positive signal come out tomorrow that talks about keeping negotiations on track. That is our goal fundamentally. We want to see negotiations continue. Because it’s only through direct negotiations that any of these issues are going to ultimately be resolved. So we’re in direct negotiations now. We hope that they continue and we want to see that the best outcome is continued support, I guess, in the region for direct negotiations.

QUESTION: When you say you want a positive signal, does that mean you want an affirmative statement that they are in favor of continuing these negotiations?

MR. TONER: I think we want to see continued support. I’d just put it that way. That direct negotiations should continue.

QUESTION: And are you at all confident of getting that, or at this point are you simply trying to stave off a negative statement?

MR. TONER: I can’t speak to whether we’re confident or not. I think we’re fully engaged with all the parties in these negotiations. As I said, Senator Mitchell is. Secretary Clinton’s reaching out. And ultimately, it’s a decision that they’re going to have to make. But obviously, we have been quite clear in that we view it as a decision that’s in the interests of everyone in the region. Comprehensive peace benefits everyone in the region, so keeping these negotiations on track towards an ultimate goal of settling all of these issues is in everyone’s interest.

QUESTION: And who – I heard you say that Senator Mitchell had been making calls as I was walking over here. Do you have a list?

MR. TONER: I don’t have a list. I’ll try to get that to you. I know he talked to some Arab leaders yesterday. I’ll try to get a more comprehensive list for you.

QUESTION: Okay. That would be helpful.

MR. TONER: Yep. Questions? In the back.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton met with Georgian prime minister yesterday. I was wondering if you could give us some details about the meeting, please.

MR. TONER: Well, it was part of the Strategic Dialogue that was continuing or that took place here yesterday. I don’t have a readout with me. Obviously, we talked about all the issues that are important to the U.S.-Georgian relationship. We expressed our strong support for Georgian sovereignty and continued to work with them. I believe the Strategic Dialogue touches on a broad range of issues, both security as well as economic development. But I can get – try to get a fuller readout for you.

QUESTION: Because I remember hearing some statement about the occupation of Georgia and it was called to Russia to withdraw Russian military forces from Georgia’s territory?

MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, I think it was, we reiterated what we have often said, or said since the ceasefire in 19 – in 2008, excuse me, which is that we would like Russian forces to return to the status quo ante.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The International Civil Aviation Organization known as ICAO is now holding at least once every three years a meeting in Canada discussing the international flight safety. Taiwan cannot attend that meeting because it is not – it’s – ICAO member, although it is handling a big – a large flight information volume which total 49 air companies are flying more than 1 million flights over that zone a year. Taiwan is now seeking ICAO’s membership as an observer, arguing that with – it’s being excluded from that organization, it represents a huge standing not only for itself but also for the whole world, especially after 9/11 terror attack.

I’d like to know what is your position, I mean, the U.S. Government position on Taiwan seeking membership on that (inaudible).

MR. TONER: On international organizations in general, I believe we talk about Taiwan should have meaningful participation. But as to what that entails, that’s for those international organizations to decide.

Go ahead. Any other questions? Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Can you comment on a report that says the ISI is actually pushing the Taliban to continue its fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan?

MR. TONER: These are not new allegations. We’ve heard these before. I’m aware of the story. I believe it was quoting a lot of – or quoting U.S. officials off the record. But again, these are not new allegations.

Look, we’ve spent a lot of time in the past several years really ramping up our relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is touched by terrorism, as I said at the top of the briefing, more than many countries. We believe that the Government of Pakistan recognizes it’s engaged in an existential struggle against extremism and terrorism, and we support and believe we’ve had some success in supporting their efforts to combat it. I’ll leave it there.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, there have been a series of reports lately talking about the – essentially the enormous difficulty that the U.S. Government has had in securing cooperation from the Pakistani Government, and then the one that was just cited clearly would suggest directly undermining U.S. policies. Is the relationship with Pakistan good?

MR. TONER: We believe it’s on solid footing. As I said, Secretary Clinton herself, as well as this Administration, has expended, I think, extraordinary effort in trying to get that relationship back on solid footing. There’s a ways to go, obviously. These are not new allegations. But as I said, many, many Pakistani lives have been lost to terrorism. We believe the current government understands that it’s an existential struggle. We’re working with them. And I think P.J. talked yesterday about some of their offenses in Swat and in South Waziristan that have had some success. Obviously, they’re focused as well on flood relief, but we believe we are making progress.

Sir, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes. There is a story – I mean, a rumor that a Chinese human rights activist may receive the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow. And could you explain the United States Government’s stance on the Chinese human rights policy?

MR. TONER: Human rights is obviously a topic that’s part of our broad Strategic Dialogue with China, and it’s one that’s a frank and open discussion. We make it clear when we have concerns about human rights in China, but I’m not sure about this individual and what our reaction would be to that. It’s speculation at this point. But just more broadly, it’s part of our bilateral dialogue.

QUESTION: Well, what’s the U.S. position on the Nobel Peace Prize in general? (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: It’s well known.

QUESTION: And do you remember who won it last year?

MR. TONER: It’s well known, yes. (Laughter.)


MR. TONER: We believe it’s a wonderful thing. President Obama.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Sure. Is that it?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)

DPB # 163