Friday, October 21, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox Toner, October 20, 2011, Press Briefing

Davutoglu Remarks on Assasination Plot

You want to go?  Go ahead, Ilhan.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Today, Iranian foreign minister was in Turkey and there was a press conference.  And today also, the week after Foreign Minister Davutoglu debriefed on the Iran plot – assassination plot.  And Foreign Minister Davutoglu says today basically what needs to be done is that all parties involved share what they have and clear the issue.  Didn’t the foreign minister of Turkey got all the evidence on the Iran plot?

MR. TONER:  We did brief Turkish officials on the Iran plot, yes.

QUESTION:  Basically, Foreign Minister Davutoglu says, “We do not believe,” – this is quote, “We do not believe that Iran would resort to such ways.”

MR. TONER:  I think it is, frankly, unbelievable for many people to consider that such a plot could be hatched by a sovereign nation on the soil of another sovereign nation against another sovereign nation.  So it is unthinkable and unbelievable.  But as we have said in our – in making case last week, and then continuing to make the case to our allies and partners, we believe the evidence supports that there was indeed this plot.

QUESTION:  So at the time when EU goes with the sanctions, you have been putting more pressure on --

MR. TONER:  Well, I think we talked about – we’re going to continue to put pressure on Iran.  And it goes – that goes without saying.  But one of the things we’re talking about as well is ways to strengthen existing sanctions.  And indeed, these are, from what we’ve seen in press reports, that these sanctions are beginning to bite.


Turkey-Iran cooperation against PKK/PJAK, Trilateral aggreement

QUESTION:  Do you have concerns about the Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers pledging closer cooperation against Kurdish rebels?

MR. TONER:  Well, we obviously condemn the PKK as a terrorist organization, and we are working jointly with Turkey as well as with Iraq to combat it.

QUESTION:  This is Iran.

MR. TONER:  I know.  Let me finish.  And we obviously stand with our NATO ally, Turkey, and its fight against the PKK.  In terms of any relationship or what it may have said with cooperation in terms of Iran, I’d just refer you to the Turkish Government.

QUESTION:  But you don’t have – let’s – in context for a second, the Turkish military is inside Iraq right now, and it’s talking about much closer cooperation with Iran.  Does that raise some red flags for you?

MR. TONER:  You’re talking about much closer cooperation with Iran?

QUESTION:  On a military-military level against the Kurdish rebels.

MR. TONER:  Against the PKK.


MR. TONER:  And --

QUESTION:  P – the (inaudible) --

MR. TONER:  Again, I just think where we stand on this is that we are committed to work with Turkey on combating the PKK.  In terms of what they may or may not be talking with Iran about, I’d refer you to them.

QUESTION:  Do you have any update on --

MR. TONER:  I do want to follow up.  Yesterday, I was asked – sorry, I was – just have the information here.  I was asked yesterday about the Trilateral Security Dialogue.  It does meet on a monthly basis, and the last meeting was on October 3rd, 2011, since we’re on the topic.

QUESTION:  So are you considering to extend mechanism after New Year?

MR. TONER:  It’s independent of other agreements, and its work will continue beyond the end of the year.

Syria, Homs, Syrian Army entering Lebanon

QUESTION: I believe a couple days ago, you were asked whether Syrian army entered Lebanon. According to news reports, six, seven times, the army entered Lebanon. Have you been able to confirm these reports?
MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I don't know if we have. I’ll take the question on, whether we’ve confirmed the reports. Obviously, it’s – it would be of concern.

QUESTION: And at Homs in Syria, a fierce battle has been going on for some time. I believe yesterday 41 people got killed, if I am not mistaken. First of all, UN Security Council, is there anything – now do you have any renewed initiative at the UN Security Council?
MR. TONER: Well, we would certainly welcome further action by the UN Security Council on Syria. Unfortunately, that – the resolution of several weeks ago now was rejected, and so we commit ourselves to working, again, on – with likeminded partners and allies, both in the region, in Europe, and elsewhere, on other ways that we can increase the pressure on Asad.
But you’re right; every day that goes by, we see this violence perpetrated by the Syrian Government continue. We see more deaths of protestors. It’s obviously something we’re concerned about. We’re supportive, certainly, of the Arab League and its efforts to mediate a dialogue. We’re not particularly optimistic since the Syrian Government’s shown no interest in pursuing any kind of dialogue. At the same time, as you mentioned in Turkey, we see the Syrian opposition continue to coalesce. We think that’s a positive sign, and certainly as it becomes more broadly representative of the Syrian people, that’s – it offers – it can offer a future vision for these protestors who are out in the street risking their lives every day.

But let’s be completely clear that the onus for these deaths lies on the Syrian Government, on Asad, on his regime, who continue to kill innocent civilians, and it’s appalling.

QUESTION: Reportedly, there is a huge – a military operation is about to set against Homs in coming days, almost --
MR. TONER: Right. We’ve seen continued deaths and violence around Homs. We continue to urge the regime to grant immediate unfettered access to Syria for internationally recognized human rights monitors. This is something the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry has asked about. We also call on access for independent journalists from a variety of media sources to report on what’s going on. It’s something that they’ve rejected thus far, because these are people who could bear witness to their atrocities.

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