Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox Mark Toner, November 23, 2011, Press Briefing

Yemen power transition aggrement
QUESTION:  Can you help us to understand what this event, this historic event, means within the regional context?
MR. TONER:  Well, again, this is a path forward for the Yemeni people.  We’ve said that the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement sets up, as we said, a 90 day period for presidential elections to take place.  Now, the important factor moving forward is the implementation of this agreement.  We want that to happen peacefully and with good cooperation on all sides by all parties.   But we believe that this provides a way for Yemen out of this crisis.  It’s an important beginning, but we’re under no illusions Yemen still faces significant challenges and can’t – cannot achieve security, stability, and unity before there’s a full transfer of power.

Egypt/Tahrir clashes/
QUESTION:  As far as we can see, the protests are going on in Tahrir.  What’s your understanding as of today?  It looks like this continues.  Why do you think?  And do you support the cause? MR. TONER:  Why do?
QUESTION:  Why do you think still the crowd is in Tahrir, even though it looks like there is now some concessions made?
MR. TONER:  Well, again, we spoke yesterday about our concern about the violence that did occur in Egypt, and Toria condemned the excessive force used against protestors.  We call and continue to call on Egyptian security forces to exercise maximum restraint and behave in a disciplined manner that protects the universal rights of these Egyptian citizens to peacefully express themselves. What we’ve said all along here, though, is that we do have parliamentary elections slated to take place on Monday, and we need to – that needs to be where Egyptians express themselves and their desire for a democratic future for their country, through the ballot box.

QUESTION:  And you remain confident that this election will go on on time?
MR. TONER:  We continue to believe that it can go on, yeah.

US-SCAF relations
QUESTION:  Clashes have been still going on four or five days, even today, according to activists and on these social network sites.  I know you began blaming the – or you began telling to Egyptian media reports openly that they should stop.  But is this going to trigger or already triggered any kind of reconsideration on your part in terms of your aid to military – Egyptian military or, in general, in your relations?    
MR. TONER:  Well, again, our focus right now in the immediate – is the immediate situation on the ground in Tahrir Square.  And we believe that the security forces, Egyptian security forces, need to show more restraint, that they did use excessive force against protestors.  We’ve made that very clear in our public – as I’m saying right now – but also in our private conversations with them. 

"Juppe Humanitarian corridor"
QUESTION:  So Foreign Minister Juppe spoke today of the Syrian National Council as being a legitimate interlocutor, which, as you know, is the same old phrase used with the Libya – with the TNC or the NTC or whatever you want to call it in Libya.  They went from being a – kind of just a nebulous group to a legitimate interlocutor to then being the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people.  Is the same thing happening in Syria?  And also, could you address Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments about possibly providing some kind of a humanitarian corridor?
MR. TONER:  Oh, I just said that we – I’ve just seen Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments expressed in the press.  I haven’t seen any details about this humanitarian corridor, so – corridor, so it’s hard for me to react to it.  I think we’ll be reaching out through the French to find out more information.  But what we’ve said all along is that we want to see humanitarian assistance provided, we want to see human rights monitors on the ground, and we want to see the violence end.   In terms of – I’m sorry – his first point about the Syrian National Council, we’ve also said that it’s a – it is a credible interlocutor.  It’s one of several right now.  And we’re in touch, in contact, with all of these groups.  We do think that the Syrian National Council has been a leading force, but it’s, as I said, one of several opposition groups, all of whom are, we believe, taking steps to become more cohesive and more representative of the Syrian people.

Saif al-Qaddafi dealing
QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up. You just said in the Libya question it’s up to Libyan people to deal with Saif al-Qadhafi. Does it mean if the Libyan people think that they should just kill –
MR. TONER: Well, let me just be clear, these individuals need to be held accountable. It needs to be done in a transparent, credible way that’s in accordance with international legal standards. My understanding is that interim government has, in fact, been in touch with the ICC and they’re discussing the future of this case. And then I just would say that these militias need to cooperate with the interim government and respect its authority.

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