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Washington, DC
May 20, 2011

The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.

From the Daily Press Briefing of May 20, 2011

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2:17 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: Do you have any update on what happened in Pakistan with the convoy?

MR. TONER: I do. I’m not sure what information everyone has already, but there was an attack on U.S. consulate personnel in Peshawar earlier today that appeared to be caused by an improvised explosive device. It’s unclear whether that was a vehicle-borne or stationary. No U.S. personnel were seriously injured in the attack, and we certainly appreciate the support of Pakistani authorities who responded immediately and are investigating the attack. Obviously, our Diplomatic Security agents are helping in that investigation, and our thoughts are with all the innocent people who were injured in the attack.

QUESTION: (inaudible), -- following the bin Ladin raid, that the consulate and all the other diplomatic facilities in Pakistan had increased their security. Can you say if that facility was still at heightened security?

MR. TONER: I can’t say for certain, but you’re correct in that most are in a heightened security posture. I know they convened an emergency action committee following the attack and have adjusted their security posture accordingly. I mean, they’re closed for business, obviously, now. It’s nighttime. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, because it’s night, not because of the attack.

MR. TONER: Correct. That’s correct. Sorry, Matt.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Different issue. There was an account in The New York Times today about the phone call that Secretary Clinton placed to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday before the --

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- President’s speech which described a rather tense conversation. Do you have any readout of that conversation and how that played out?

MR. TONER: Well, I can confirm, as we do, that she did speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu before his trip. Obviously, we don’t get into substance, but clearly, they discussed the President’s speech and his upcoming visit, which is now actually in process, in train. I’d just say it was a frank and cordial exchange reflecting their close relationship.

QUESTION: Really?

QUESTION: If you don’t want to get into the substance, do you want to get into the tenor of the conversation?

MR. TONER: I did.

QUESTION: About?

MR. TONER: I just said it was a frank and cordial exchange.

QUESTION: Would you dispute the account that was from the paper?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to get into what press accounts may have been. They talked. They discussed – as I said, they discussed the speech and his upcoming visit.

QUESTION: Because you said it was cordial, and that’s not the report --

QUESTION: Would you be comfortable saying that it was frank and cordial, specifically cordial, if you were under oath?

MR. TONER: Wait. What, Matt?

QUESTION: If you were under oath in a court of law, would you be comfortable describing this conversation as both frank and cordial?

MR. TONER: I feel I am under oath when I’m up here at the podium, thank you.

QUESTION: You do? So you’re going to say you --

MR. TONER: And I conduct myself accordingly.

QUESTION: So you’re going to stick with --

MR. TONER: And I conduct myself accordingly.

QUESTION: And you’ll stick with cordial?

MR. TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us who initiated that call? Did the Secretary place the call?

MR. TONER: I believe it was the Secretary who placed the call, although – do we have confirmation? I can find out.

QUESTION: And any sense on how long it was?

MR. TONER: No.

QUESTION: Was that call specifically to inform the prime minister about the expected change or the planned change in policy regarding ’67 lines?

MR. TONER: Again, it was an opportunity before he boarded a plane to come here to talk about his visit and the speech.

QUESTION: But was that where she first disclosed that to him?

MR. TONER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that?

MR. TONER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if she did, before or after the speech, reach out to President Abbas – or anybody else in the Administration?

MR. TONER: Not – no, she didn’t speak to President Abbas, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is --

QUESTION: Has any – or any other Palestinian official, any official other than the Secretary? I mean, I’m trying to get a sense if there was any contact with the Palestinians since – or before the speech.

MR. TONER: No, she – no, no, there’s no – she didn’t contact the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary has any plans over the weekend to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu? He’s around, but – before the speech?

MR. TONER: Yeah. I don’t. I’ll try to find out more.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Sorry --

QUESTION: I’ve got a couple more here, hold on.

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday in her interview with CBS, the Secretary said that Colonel Qadhafi’s wife and daughter had left for Tunisia. There had been some press accounts about that in the days before, but the interior minister had shot them down. Do you – was she speaking about press reports or was she speaking about --

MR. TONER: She – yes, her comments reflected the news reports that we’ve all seen that they’ve – that they had fled, as well as the oil minister had fled to Tunisia.

QUESTION: And you have no confirmation of those at this point?

MR. TONER: Well, obviously, they’re difficult to confirm. This is a situation in which these individuals may not want to publicize their actions given the possible threat to others that they leave behind, so --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: But we have no confirmation.

QUESTION: And then my last one would be on today being the 60-day mark for the War Powers Act. I was curious if – last week on the Hill, Deputy Secretary Steinberg promised that there would be some – that they would take under advisement – or I can’t remember what exactly he said, but I was curious if there was any follow-up given that today is the deadline.

MR. TONER: Well, I know that the White House is working this issue. I’d refer you to them. But if Deputy Steinberg said that they would be working to conform with the War Powers Act, then would do so.

Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Mark, yesterday Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian and Madam Secretary’s meeting, there were no public statements. Do you have anything on that?

MR. TONER: I don’t. I mean, I know it was, obviously, a cordial meeting. It was a chance to review bilateral and regional issues and talk about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as, obviously, rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia. But I’ll try to get more of a readout for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: Yeah, Sean. In the back. Sorry.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I came late. I don’t know if you already got into details about the food aid.

MR. TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. TONER: Excruciating detail.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: But yeah, we can talk offline.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:34 p.m.)

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