Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 30, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • President Announced Intent to Nominate Rick Barton to be Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, CSO
  • IRAN
    • UK Embassy in Iran / Sovereign Decision to Protect Their Own Civilians, Diplomats
    • Violation of Vienna Convention Commitments
    • Two-Track Approach / Door Remains Open / All Options Remain on Table / Protecting Power in Tehran, Swiss
    • Sanctions / UK Decision to Enact Sanctions/ U.S. Wants to See More Democratic, Prosperous, Stable Iran
  • PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN
    • Secretary Clinton Said Incident Between Pakistan and Afghanistan Tragic, Regrettable / Sincere Condolences Expressed When Spoke with Foreign Minister Khar on Sunday / Investigation Underway
    • Still Believe Bonn Going to be Successful Conference / 85 countries, 15 international organizations / U.S Wants to See Pakistan Participating / Ambassador Grossman / Ambassador Munter / President Zardari / Central Command
  • KEYSTONE XL
    • U.S. Continues to Work, Consult Closely with Congress
  • EL SALVADOR
    • Mari Carmen Aponte First Nominated by President to Serve as Ambassador to El Salvador in 2009, Recess-Appointed in August 2010 / Re-Nominated / Think She's Extremely Well Qualified and Will Continue to Consult Closely with Congress to Address Concerns
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • U.S. Welcomes Announcement, Second Tranche of Areas Beginning to Transition to Afghan Security Lead
    • Strategic Partnership Document
  • SYRIA/TURKEY
    • Echo White House Statement Commending Turkish Government for Leadership Both in Receiving Syrian Refugees and Becoming Strong Voice in Region Against Human Rights Abuses / Sanctions
  • NORTH KOREA
    • U.S. Has Concerns, Uranium Enrichment Program and Alleged Construction of Light-Water Reactor / Existing UN Security Council Resolutions and Commitments Under 2005 Joint Statement
  • PALESTINIANS/ISRAEL
    • Regular Transfers of Palestinian-Paid Taxes Important / Vital in Strengthening Palestinian Institutions
  • BURMA
    • Aung San Suu Kyi Powerful and Principal Interlocutor / U.S. Has Wide Range of Contacts / China / India / U.S. Focused on Seeing if Flickers of Progress Are Going to Ignite into Something More Long-Term
    • U.S. Wants to See Release of All Political Prisoners, Opening in Political Environment


TRANSCRIPT:

1:12 p.m. EST

MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. Fairly quickly, before I take your questions, I did want to call your attention to the fact that yesterday the President announced his intent to nominate Rick Barton, a senior advisor to the Secretary of State, to be assistant secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, known by the acronym CSO, and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization. CSO, as you all know, is the new bureau that will elevate conflict prevention and response as a core civilian mission for the State Department. It’s also a part of the Secretary’s broader strategy, laid out in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, to build smarter, more effective U.S. engagement around the world.

And with that, I’ll move to your questions.

QUESTION: Do you need congressional approval to create a new bureau?

MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I’m not sure that we do. I know that we’re consulting with Congress as we move forward on this, but I don’t know if we technically do need that approval.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the British decision to remove all of its staff from Tehran following yesterday’s attack on their Embassy on the residential compound? I know the White House has commented on this. Is this a good thing that they have done this? This removes yet another source of information about a country where the U.S. Government has no presence.

MR. TONER: Well, it’s never a good thing, and especially in the wake of what happened yesterday. It’s their sovereign decision to protect their own civilians, their own diplomats who are on the ground serving very courageously in a very difficult environment. This, we think, speaks to the fact that Tehran’s actions are leading to its increasing isolation in the world.

I would just add the fact that – to the fact that you mentioned that the UK is withdrawing many of its Embassy personnel, Germany also recalled its ambassador, and even China called – I believe China called the action unacceptable yesterday in Tehran. So you’re seeing both a chorus of international condemnation as well as actions on the part of countries around the world that I think, again, reflect Iran’s isolation.

QUESTION: This is – I mean, it’s hard to view this as anything other than a response to the additional sanctions that were imposed last week. And in particular, Britain, if I understood it correctly, took a step that the U.S. Government itself has not yet taken, in that Britain ordered all of its financial institutions not to do business with --

MR. TONER: I’m sorry, rewind. That’s a – you say a step we have not taken?

QUESTION: Correct. Ordered all --

MR. TONER: I believe we have taken that step.

QUESTION: Let me explain?

MR. TONER: Okay. Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. So I mean, they, as I understand it, said all of their financial institutions cannot deal with – well, maybe you’re right. I’m sorry.

MR. TONER: My understanding is that we took this a couple of years ago. Now we’re --

QUESTION: Just – well, anyway --

MR. TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Their financial institutions can’t deal with Iranian financial institutions, including the Iranian Central Bank. Does this make you think twice about the wisdom of the two-track approach that sanctions can have such a – if the two are related, and it’s hard to believe that they’re not – can have such a vivid and immediate impact?

MR. TONER: Well, it’s very, very hard to get into the minds of the Iranians who attacked the British Embassy yesterday or the minds of the government officials who tacitly condoned this attack, to understand the motivations behind it. It was an egregious violation of their Vienna Convention commitments. And as you said, the President, the Secretary, governments around the world have condemned it.

We have – moving to the two-track approach, the door remains open. We have always said that with regards to Iran coming clean about its nuclear program, engaging with the international community in a transparent manner to address its concerns. We have also always said that the second side of this, the other boot, if you will, is going to be the sanctions. And those sanctions are biting. And we certainly did see very significant sanctions by the UK last week. Again, it’s impossible for me to say they were the cause of yesterday’s attack --

QUESTION: It’s impossible for you to say?

MR. TONER: Impossible for me to say. But we have seen previous indications, statements by government officials and other indications, that these sanctions are having an effect and are going to continue to have an effect. But there’s a very clear path out of this for Iran.

QUESTION: Does it – just to get back to --

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one of the things Arshad brought up. Does it hurt your work in any way when there are less trusted third-party interlocutors on the ground in Iran? So when the Germans and then the British start either withdrawing or shrinking their presence in Iran, does that hurt your knowledge of developments on the ground in the country?

MR. TONER: Well, we still, it’s important to note, have our protecting power on – in Tehran, the Swiss. And as far as I know, they intend to remain there. Again, it’s – the other side or the flip side to your question is: Does it hurt Iran to lose increasingly contact with the outside world through its actions? It’s not for us, again, to comment on the sovereign decisions of these countries. They need to protect their diplomatic corps and indeed have taken action to do so. But it does speak to their increasingly – increasing isolation, Iran’s increasing isolation. And in that sense, I think it is concerning.

Yeah. In the back.

QUESTION: Mark, apparently, some of these countries like Britain, Italy, and Germany may be considering a boycott of Iran’s oil. Do you think that would be – that’s a wise decision, maybe, to take? And what are you advising these governments, also following up on the previous questions, if you were to ask – if the U.S. was to be asked about it, what it thinks, whether they should stay in there, keep their relations going, concern that the U.S. is not present inside Iran --

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t think it’s really up to us to advise these governments on what we think they should do. They have to make their own decisions. And always – it’s true with the United States as well as any other government, I assume, that always they place the safety and welfare of their personnel over every other policy decision.

In terms of additional sanctions that you mentioned, we’re looking at new possible sanctions. We’ve always said that that is going to remain an option as we move forward. We’ve already seen significant, as we’ve talked about, biting sanctions in place – put in place. This – we want to make the choice for Iran very clear. And as I said to Arshad, there is a clear way, a clear path forward, out of this situation for them.

QUESTION: But the problem is is that it seems like Iran has provoked this – these developments now, perhaps because they want to isolate themselves and their own citizens. So by pulling out, it seems like it – you say it punishes them by increases their – increasing their isolation. But it seems to actually reward them in a perverse way by delivering what they want, which is less contact between their populations and the Western world and whittling away whatever remaining influence Western countries have on developments there.

MR. TONER: Well, certainly you raise a valid point, Brad. And we have been working to find ways to engage with the Iranian public, because as we’ve long said, our concerns about Iran and about the Iranian Government’s nuclear program, human rights abuses, are not directed at the Iranian people themselves. So we need to continue to look at ways that we can engage with them. Every time you close off an avenue of communication, that certainly hurts, but we’re trying to find different ways to communicate with them.

QUESTION: On sanctions, to follow up?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: You said we’re looking at new possible sanctions. You’re always looking at new possible sanctions, right?

MR. TONER: Precisely. Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s not like there’s something --

MR. TONER: No, I don’t have anything to announce. We’ve got a pretty significant tranche a couple weeks ago, and then followed by the UK’s decision. So – but that – I guess I’m trying to say that always remains on the table.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mark?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Same subject?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: You just did say that you can’t really tell who was behind this attack, but considering that really no shots were fired, nobody was arrested, and there was really no --

MR. TONER: Security? Yeah.

QUESTION: -- security preventing the people from attacking the Embassy, what does that tell you, in comparison with the previous demonstrations where people were opposing the government, they were demanding certain rights?

MR. TONER: I think you’ve answered your own question. I wouldn’t add anything to – it certainly raises the same questions with – in our minds as well.

QUESTION: Mark, to follow along --

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: This brings back the memory – bad memories of 1979 Iranian Revolution, when the U.S. Embassy was attacked and there was also no – they did not protect or care about the Vienna and other diplomatic conventions and so forth. How can you change, one, the Iranian behavior yesterday, today, and even in the future? And as far as sanctions are concerned, many companies and countries are still doing business with Iran as far as oil is concerned. How can you enforce them? Because they still think some countries are with them, just like Saddam Hussein thought?

MR. TONER: Well, a couple of quick thoughts. One is that, as I said to Brad, we’re trying to find ways that we can reach past the government and engage with the Iranian people to convey to them that, again, our – when I say our, not the U.S. but the international community’s concerns about the Iranian Government are not directed at them in any way – we want to see a more democratic, more prosperous, stable Iran.

Second question about sanctions, you’re absolutely right; you can have the most stringent sanctions on the books possible, but unless they’re properly and effectively enforced, they’re not going to bite. And we’ve been very much engaged with governments around the world in trying to strengthen enforcement. We think we’ve had success.

QUESTION: And finally --

MR. TONER: And I guess just – the last question, your first part of your question, which was how do you persuade the Iranian Government, again, I think the idea here is that with the pressure, you do offer that door, and that door does remain open. It always does. There is a way, a path forward, for Iran.

QUESTION: And finally, Mark, pressure and sanctions and all that, and condemnation from around the globe, all the leaders and all that, and the United Nations, so forth, still nothing is working. You think still military option is still on the table?

MR. TONER: We’ve always said all options remain on the table, but right now, our policy is clearly defined by the two-track approach.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Mark, how did you read the attack, as a reaction to the sanction or, as somebody said, it reflects the internal --

MR. TONER: Right. I mean, Arshad asked the same question. It’s hard to say.

QUESTION: I didn’t hear it. Sorry.

MR. TONER: That’s okay. It’s okay. It’s very hard to say. It appears that it was directed at at least anger towards the West. Whether it was orchestrated by the government for internal political matters, it’s impossible for us to say. We did have – as Arshad noted, the UK did enact very strong sanctions, cutting off basically all financial ties with Iran.

Yes. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) subject?

MR. TONER: Sure. I’m ready.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, the Bonn conference, besides making public statements, have you reached out to Pakistan directly, formally, on requesting them to attend to attend the Bonn conference? And at what level it is?

MR. TONER: Yes. And you did see what the Secretary said last night, our morning, early morning in Busan. I get really confused by the time change. (Laughter.) I just said I didn’t like words being put in my mouth; that’s all. (Laughter.) I’m naturally resistant to that.

She did say it was regrettable, and she called the incident that took place between Pakistan and Afghanistan a tragic incident, and then also once again expressed her sincere condolences and also expressed that when she spoke with Foreign Minister Khar on Sunday.

In terms of Bonn, again, the Secretary kind of just laid out how we feel about this. I spoke to this a little bit yesterday. We still believe that this is going to be a successful conference. We’re going to have 85 countries, I think 15 international organizations, all there to show their strong engagement and their strong support for a better future for Afghanistan. But we do want to see Pakistan there participating in this. We believe they’re a part of this process, an important part of this process, and we think it’s in their interest to do so.

QUESTION: So you --

MR. TONER: In terms of engagement, we have – sorry, just to complete your – the question, I do know that Ambassador Munter in Islamabad met with Foreign Minister Khar today. And I believe he met with President Zardari yesterday. I don't know specifically whether they discussed – well, I do know. They discussed – I apologize. Let me rewind. I do know they did discuss the November 26 incident as well as the Bonn conference. I can’t get into details, but I’m sure we conveyed privately what the Secretary conveyed publicly.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility of delaying the conference at all?

MR. TONER: No, no.

QUESTION: Why?

MR. TONER: We don’t see a need to. As I said, we’ve got some 86 countries – 85 countries and 15 international organizations prepared to attend. And again, we’ve talked – Ambassador Grossman has spoken before about the – this continuum that we’re on. This is a building process. Bonn is another step in this progress. We had the Istanbul conference, and Pakistan did attend that, and there’s going to be other opportunities for Pakistan to obviously play a very important role in this.

Lalit, do you want to --

QUESTION: Why do you think it will be a successful conference with Pakistan not attending this conference? It will be – not be party to any of the decisions being taken at the Bonn conference.

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think that I would say that we still think Pakistan is going to play a crucial role, but we think it’s important to build on the momentum that we’ve already – we already have going in terms of talking about and planning for Afghanistan’s future, and so we think it’s important to continue in that process. Again, while Pakistan’s absence would be regrettable, we want to see this progress and this momentum build.

QUESTION: But you do make it sound as if the U.S. does believe that Pakistan will come back into this process to shore up Afghanistan’s infrastructure and political culture, as it were.

MR. TONER: We do. We think that – we – I mean, the Secretary spoke about the November 26th incident very candidly yesterday, spoke about the investigation underway, so that we never have this – we find out (a), what happened, what went wrong, and (b), we fix it so it never happens again, and then (c), that we find a way to move forward, because this is a vital relationship to us, to Afghanistan, to the region.

Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to follow, as far as this incident is concerned --

MR. TONER: As far as this incident --

QUESTION: This incident is concerned, Pakistan’s UN representative, Mr. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain is taking this issue to the United Nations. And second, some commentators are saying in Pakistan that U.S.-Pakistan relations are at a point of breaking, and there will be some kind of consequences of this, what happened, and the community is under pressure in Pakistan.

And finally, at the AEI, American Enterprise Institute, this morning, Mr. Kamran Shafi, who is very well known in Pakistan – he said that the best way for U.S. to have the best relations with Pakistan is not to deal directly with the military, but only deal with the civilian government, because all the cards and treasury key is in their hands, so civilian government.

MR. TONER: Right. Well, we’ve got a – I think we have to maintain robust contacts with all aspects of the Pakistani establishment, both the government – the democratic government as well as the military, as well as the key institutions. And so we’re going to continue. We already have those channels of communication. We’re going to try to make them better.

With regard to your first question of --

QUESTION: UN.

MR. TONER: -- UN, I don’t know anything about that. Our focus right now is on Central Command’s investigation, so --

QUESTION: After Pakistan’s decision to withdraw and to making it public, you said yesterday that you want Pakistan to be there. Then Afghanistan made a statement and Germany also made a statement. And the prime minister today has said that they won’t attend unless they have specific assurances, which probably opens up a window. So my question is that – are you giving any assurances in the discussions that are going on at the moment?

MR. TONER: I’ve seen some of those public comments. I haven’t seen the full context in which they were made. I would just say that we remain engaged with the Pakistani Government, Afghan Government remains engaged, Germany remains engaged. I think we’d like to see them there if we can.

QUESTION: During your conversation with Pakistani (inaudible), have you received a set of conditions which Pakistan wants U.S. to be met before they can attend the Bonn conference? And are you willing to meet those conditions?

MR. TONER: Again, I think I just tried to – we’ve – I’ve seen various comments in the press, but we don’t have any kind of – we don’t have – we have not received any kind of formal communications that to attend the Bonn conference, you have to do X, Y, or Z. We just don’t have those yet.

QUESTION: And what is your reaction to the Pakistani military’s stance that the attack was intentional?

MR. TONER: There’s an investigation underway.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Keystone. Senator Lugar introduced a bill that has a number of cosponsors, including the Senate minority leader, that would force the Administration to issue a building permit for the pipeline within 60 days. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. TONER: Well, I just became aware of the – of that news before coming down here. We continue to work closely and consult closely with Congress as we move forward in our – in conducting our study and our assessment. As any reaction to that particular piece of legislation, I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s a hold in the Senate on your ambassador – nominated ambassador to El Salvador, and there’s some concerns about some of her past relations with people who may or may not have been Cuban intelligence informants, spies, whatever. What is your – why do you feel this Madam Aponte is the right person to be the ambassador, and are you going to provide more information to the Senate to clear up these questions?

MR. TONER: Right. Just to clarify, you’re talking about Mari Carmen Aponte?

QUESTION: That’s right.

MR. TONER: Right, exactly. That’s okay. Well, we do, in fact, believe that she is extremely well qualified to continue serving in the job. As you know, she was first nominated by the President to serve as ambassador to El Salvador about a year – well, in 2009, rather, and was recess-appointed in August of 2010. So now she’s been re-nominated, as you mentioned. Again, we think she’s extremely well qualified, that her on-the-job experience thus far as proven how important she is to our bilateral relationship with El Salvador.

In terms of the allegations that you mention, we believe that they’re simply false and unfounded. I can say that she enjoys the full confidence and support of the President and the Secretary of State, and just to add that in terms of addressing these concerns on the Hill, we’ll certainly continue to consult closely with Congress to address their concerns.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is the State Department – has the State Department completed the review of the Gazette notification by the Indian Government on civilian nuclear liability bill, which is --

MR. TONER: Lalit, it’s a fair question. I’ll take it. I’ve not received any confirmation that we’ve – wait, I’m sorry. You’re talking about the review in term --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. TONER: -- regarding the civilian --

QUESTION: Yes, the November 11th Gazette notification.

MR. TONER: Yeah, I’ll take – right, precisely.

QUESTION: And (inaudible) one more follow-up on --

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: -- the map of India and Pakistan which were taken off from the State Department website.

MR. TONER: Is it back up yet? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Not back.

MR. TONER: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So do you know when it will be --

MR. TONER: I’ll make sure I follow up on that as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And coming to Afghanistan --

MR. TONER: Thanks for holding us to our public comments. (Laughter.) We always appreciate that.

QUESTION: And back to Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Government has announced second round of transition – six, seven provinces. How do you see that development there?

MR. TONER: Right. You’re talking about the announcement made yesterday?

QUESTION: Yes, yeah.

MR. TONER: Well, we welcome the announcement. This is the second tranche of areas that are beginning to transition to an Afghan security lead. This is – shows continuing progress, we think, towards a responsible transfer of security responsibility from NATO-ISAF forces to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. And just to make clear that this doesn’t signal in any way the end of our commitment to Afghanistan or its security. As you know, NATO and the Afghan Government signed the Enduring Partnership Declaration at the 2010 NATO Lisbon Summit. And the United States is also, as you know, working on the strategic partnership document with Afghanistan.

QUESTION: So do you have any time length for the strategic partnership document?

MR. TONER: No. We’re continuing to work at it, make progress. As we said before, we think it’s better to get it right than necessarily get it done fast.

QUESTION: Yes. Secretary Clinton had last month, said that 90 percent of that document is almost over. What are the issues now held up for the last 10 percent?

MR. TONER: Well, I don’t want to get into the substance of the negotiations. You’ve seen comments by the Afghan Government. You saw that they had the loya jirga last week --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. TONER: -- two weeks ago, sorry --

QUESTION: Two weeks.

MR. TONER: -- to talk this out. I mean, it’s an important document. There’s important issues on the table. As I said, we’d rather have a full discussion, both government-to-government as well as the Afghan democratic process – through the Afghan democratic process, to ensure that we’re all comfortable with this relationship going forward. But we’re certainly committed to it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Syria?

MR. TONER: Syria?

QUESTION: Syria. The Turkish foreign minister said that Turkey was hopeful that in – an incursion would be unnecessary and Syria would respond to sanction imposed by the Arab League. But Syria has shown no willingness – this is his word – implictly means that incursion could be necessary, especially he didn’t rule out a buffer zone at the border.

MR. TONER: Well, right, and --

QUESTION: How do you read --

MR. TONER: Sure. Well, you also saw that Turkey – the Government of Turkey did announce a set of sanctions against Syria, and you probably saw that the White House put out a statement about these. We would just echo that – that statement and commending the Turkish Government for its – the leadership it’s shown, both in receiving thousands of Syrian refugees that have fled the violence and becoming a strong voice in the region against the human rights abuses that are being carried out daily by the Asad regime. And now coming forward with tough economic sanctions, this is, we think, good news because it shows, again, that the pressure is mounting on Asad.

QUESTION: But the incursion – you didn’t tell me all of this.

MR. TONER: I’m sorry. What’s --

QUESTION: What he said about the incursion. Implicitly, he meant --

MR. TONER: You mean about this buffer zone?

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s what he said.

MR. TONER: Well, you’re talking about the humanitarian corridor. We just haven’t seen – I just haven’t seen the details of that statement, so I don’t know. I mean, I know that there’s – this kind of talk has been bandied about. I just haven’t seen any details. But I do know that Turkey’s played a very important role in receiving these refugees.

QUESTION: North --

QUESTION: If there were some sort of a barrier created, would that just be the Turkish military doing it? Would it be some sort of --

MR. TONER: I think it’s really premature, Rosalind. We just haven’t seen any – we have seen public comments. I’m not aware of any private discussions to that end.

QUESTION: North Korea has said they are making progress on a light-water reactor and low-grade uranium enrichment, even though they described this as part of their peaceful nuclear energy program. Do you have concerns about this activity, and do you fear it’s a new route toward creating more nuclear weaponry?

MR. TONER: Well, we do have concerns – we’ve said this before – that its uranium enrichment program and alleged construction of a light-water reactor would violate existing UN Security Council resolutions, as well as its own commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement. So our policy or our position hasn’t changed on this. We remain concerned about it.

QUESTION: Mark?

QUESTION: Burma? Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, go ahead. Go ahead.

MR. TONER: Go ahead. Yeah, it’s all right.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on Israel’s announcement that they are going to pay or release the customs revenues to the Palestinian Authority?

MR. TONER: To the Palestinian Authority? Yes, we did see that they approved the transfer of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority. As we’ve said before, this is – these regular transfers of Palestinian-paid taxes are extremely important. We’ve said all along they should continue to be made because they’re so vital in strengthening Palestinian institutions that we believe are vital to eventual statehood.

QUESTION: You’re not (inaudible) they should have done it from the beginning; is that the point?

MR. TONER: We think this should – yeah, we think this should be – we’re – we welcome the news. We’re happy that it was – that they decided to transfer these revenues, but we think it should continue.

QUESTION: Is there any way to avoid this scenario in the future? I mean, it’s happened quite a few times in the past. And since it’s a problem, as you said, is there any talk on developing an alternative mechanism so there wouldn’t be these holdups in tax transfers?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure. I do know that we continue to make the case to the Israeli Government that this is in their interest as well.

QUESTION: It does seem like a --

MR. TONER: Well --

QUESTION: -- fit of pique every time this seems to happen, but then it does call into question the stability of the civil society that the PA has worked to set up.

MR. TONER: Well, certainly, and we’ve made clear to the Israeli Government that we think it’s important that these be done on a regular basis.

QUESTION: Can we ask about Burma, please?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: We know the Secretary has arrived. It is --

MR. TONER: She’s there.

QUESTION: Yeah. It is the middle of the night there.

MR. TONER: It is.

QUESTION: But was there anything that she was able to accomplish before they went to bed?

MR. TONER: Well, because – frankly, because communications to the traveling party are very minimal or difficult, I wasn’t able to get a very full readout of her day and her meetings. I do know that, as you know, they head tomorrow to Rangoon, and where they will meet with – she’ll meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. And I think she said in her comments that she’s very much looking forward to that meeting.

QUESTION: And to follow up on Aung San Suu Kyi, she spoke to a group of experts and reporters this morning at CFR. And in response to one question, she noted that she wasn’t the only opposition --

MR. TONER: Apparently they do it Skype, right? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, there were a few glitches, but the Skype did work.

MR. TONER: After my previous comment.

QUESTION: Yes. But she did note that she’s not the only person who has been talking with the U.S. Government, that the U.S. Government has been dealing with many people in the opposition. Who is the U.S. talking to, in terms of getting a sense of what the changing political climate is like inside Burma?

MR. TONER: I mean, clearly she is – given her stature, given her long struggle for freedom in Burma – she is clearly a powerful and a principal interlocutor. And the fact that the President called her prior to the announcement of the Secretary’s trip there speaks to that – her stature.

But that said, we do – as she said – we do have a wide range of contacts within the civil society, within the political spectrum there, to give us a full picture of what’s going on, as well as our contacts now with the government and the Secretary’s meetings today, to try to gain a better understanding of what’s – what is, in fact, happening in Burma, and whether it’s real transformation.

QUESTION: One more?

QUESTION: One other thing --

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: -- that Suu Kyi pointed out was that Burma and China have had a longstanding friendly relationship, and that she wanted to see that relationship continue. There have been some analysts here who have raised some concerns about whether China might try to exert its influence in ways that might not be favorable to American interests. What is this building’s view of that relationship, and how can it work if, as she hopes, political reforms do continue?

MR. TONER: Well, as we’ve said before, our outreach to Burma is not about China. It’s about Burma. And we do consult with China on the situation in Burma, but we’re – we are focused right now on seeing if the flickers of progress, as the President noted there, that we’ve seen are really going to ignite into something more long-term and, as I said, transformative.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up on Burma?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Aung San Suu Kyi told the group this morning that she intends to run in the elections – in the parliamentary elections upcoming. Any reaction to that?

MR. TONER: I thought we knew that, but I think they did --

QUESTION: She just confirmed it. Yeah.

MR. TONER: -- I think it speaks to – right. I think it speaks to the fact that there is an opening in the political environment there that we would view as constructive. And it’s one of the reasons, as I said, the Secretary – we’ve engaged at such a high level.

QUESTION: Mark, just quick follow. Aung – she had been waiting for the last 20 years about her future. Now she is almost free and still waiting. As for the Secretary’s visit to Burma is concerned, what do you think is going to achieve for her and for the Aung San Suu Kyi and for the people of Burma?

MR. TONER: Well, again, let’s let the Secretary give a fuller readout of her meetings today, or later today. We’ve been very clear that we want to see release of all political prisoners. That we want to see an opening in the political environment there so that people can exercise their basic human rights. But let’s wait and see what we see come out of this.

QUESTION: One other thing that Suu Kyi talked about was her sense that, as you might expect, there are those who would be in favor of more openness and political reforms within the government, and there are those who may not be comfortable with it. What is the U.S.’s sense of those who like the way things used to be under the junta?

MR. TONER: Well --

QUESTION: Do they have any real power?

MR. TONER: I think like everyone else, we’re seeing changes under way. We’re trying to assess how deep those changes are, what’s motivating those changes, and how we can build on those changes. I just would leave it at that. I don’t have any more broader assessment than that.

Yeah, go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Pakistan one more time?

MR. TONER: Sure. Let’s go back to Pakistan. Quickly.

QUESTION: The BBC – cable operators in Pakistan have blocked BBC after BBC apparently showed a documentary in which there were links between the ISI and the terrorist networks. Do you know about it, and how do you view this development there?

MR. TONER: Well, we never want to see access to independent media blocked or hampered in any way.

QUESTION: Mark, just quick one on Burma, please.

MR. TONER: Very quick.

QUESTION: Since you have consulted with China, was there any consultation with India because since India’s relations with Burma are so improved?

MR. TONER: I’m sure we do consult with India.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR. TONER: Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)

DPB #183.

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - November 30, 2011]