Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox Mark Toner, Dec 22, 2011, Press Briefing

Mr. Dabi, the head of the Arab League Mission
QUESTION:  Have you got a chance to see who is the head of the mission, Mr. Dabi who has been (inaudible) in the Sudan work with the – al-Bashir for decades.  What’s your understanding, whether his profile fits into the --

MR. TONER:  Well, we are aware of the individual, that he was appointed by Bashir as an advisor on Darfur.  Certainly, Sudanese armed forces and national intelligence and security service have a disturbing human rights record over the last 20 years of Bashir’s rule.  I’m not aware of those – of individual allegations against him or his actions.  I think our concern right now is getting this monitor mission up and running on the ground in Syria in the hopes that it can help stem this recent violence.  I mean, it’s ongoing violence, but the recent uptick in violence that has really grown to atrocious proportions over the last several days. 

We’ve got a seven-member team on the ground from the Arab League now; we just hope they can get more monitors in and get set up.  As I said, and our hope is that they will end the violence and that will a – will be able to stop the killing.

International Contact Group for Syria
QUESTION:  Again on Syria.  Is there a plan for to create international contact group like you did in the Libyan case?  A few weeks ago, Mr. Feltman at the – on the Hill mentioned something like this is floating around.  I’m just wondering whether --

MR. TONER:  Yeah.  I mean, it’s a fair question.  We’ve had such frequent contacts, obviously, with the Arab League, with Turkey, with our other likeminded partners in the EU.  So I don’t know that there’s a real need.  We’ve already got good communications, frequent communications; we’re trying to coordinate as best as possible.  Whether going forward that might be an idea we’ll entertain to kind of improve coordination remains to be seen.


QUESTION:  Do you have anything to say about the arrival of the advance team from the Arab League.

MR. TONER:  Just that we expect that – I’m sorry, rather.  We’ve seen reports that the advanced team of seven Arab League officials are currently on the ground in Syria, and our understanding is that these people are going to lay the groundwork for more observers to begin work in the near future – should grow to about 30 to 50, not including administration – administrative support and that kind of staff.

But – and I would just add that we’re all aware of the outbreak of violence in Syria over the last couple of days since they’ve signed the protocol on Arab League observers.  And again, it just speaks to fact that this regime – actions speak for themselves.  We’ve seen, to date, no real attempt on the part of the regime to end its campaign of violence, incitement, and intimidation.

QUESTION:  Vice President Hashimi, today, told Washington Times, that, quote, Iran definitely involved in move to arrest him.  Do you have any evidence to support that?

MR. TONER:  We do not.  We continue to call on any legal or judicial process that goes forward with respects to Vice President Hashimi to be done in full accordance with the rule of law and full transparency.  And we do note that Prime Minister Maliki did speak about the need to observe rule of law in judicial proceedings, and also that he’s called for a meeting of the various political blocs.  That’s exactly what we want to see happen.  We want to see all of the political blocs get together in an effort to – through dialogue to resolve their difference.

France/Genocide denial law/
QUESTION:  Today in France --

MR. TONER:  Yes, sorry.

QUESTION:  Today in France, lower house passed this – make illegal to recognize --

MR. TONER:  This is the genocide bill?

QUESTION:  Genocide bill.  Yeah.

MR. TONER:  Just very quickly.  Yeah.  Our views on this issue have been expressed before.  They haven’t changed.  We continue to support normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. 

The latest arrests in Turkey
QUESTION:  And one more.  Within this week there are scores of Turkish intellectuals – and about 40 of them journalists – being arrested.  It has been few days.  I just want to ask if you --

MR. TONER:  Right.  We are aware of these arrests.  I think up to 38 people were arrested, many of whom are prominent academics, journalists, intellectuals, political activists.  We’re certainly monitoring the case very closely, and we would urge that any investigations and prosecutions proceed in a very transparent manner given the sensitivity.

QUESTION:  Have you been able to talk to Turkish Government?

MR. TONER:  I’ll find out if we have. 

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