Daily Archives: August 6, 2015

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – August 6, 2015

1:43 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Hey, guys. Welcome to the State Department. It being Thursday, happy Thursday.

QUESTION: By the way, are there briefings in August, or is like —

MR TONER: Not on Fridays, no.

QUESTION: Fridays you took – okay.

MR TONER: No, but I didn’t want to lead with that because I figured then you would ask me more questions today – (laughter) —

QUESTION: Exactly. We have to be ready for it.

MR TONER: — in anticipation of not having me tomorrow. No, of course. But of course, as things come up and break, we’ll do our best, as we always do, to be responsive to any issues or questions you might need addressed.

I will – I don’t have anything at the top, so I’ll go right into your questions.

QUESTION: Can I go?

MR TONER: Lesley, do you have anything?

QUESTION: Yeah, I do. Can I start off with this report by this – by the think tank looking at the Parchin military site in Iran, which seems to have raised a few questions? And I just wanted to put some of those to you. Some of – the question here is whether you think – so the big thing about the report is that the cleanup of this site by the Iranians, the fear is that it could kind of cover up issues that need to come out in – under the deal. So does this in any way contravene or breach parts of the deal or any part of the deal that was signed last month?

MR TONER: Okay. So first of all, I’m not going to comment on any of our own intelligence that we may have on this particular issue. I think what the report refers to is commercially available satellite imagery. But to speak to your broader question, it’s important to realize that the JCPOA doesn’t – or isn’t implemented until Iran addresses and meets its key nuclear steps, which include an IAEA report that addresses questions about – well, past concerns, questions about its PMD, what we’ve talked about before.

But also, we’ve been very clear all along – the Secretary, Secretary Moniz as well, others – that this isn’t something – you can’t cover up past nuclear activity very easily. It lasts for decades, even longer. And so this isn’t something, I think as the Secretary said, you can simply flush down the toilet. There are traces that remain and we are confident in our ability to be able to fully investigate and to find out if the evidence does remain of these – of previous activities. We and the international community have been very clear about our concerns about Iran’s past activities, and including – this includes its efforts to clean up suspect sites. So while cleanup activities – and again, I’m not confirming this – would always be a cause for concern, particularly at this site, where IAEA has already requested access, but we’re confident in our knowledge of what has actually occurred at Parchin.

QUESTION: So this isn’t – as I said, this isn’t new activity. I mean, they’ve been – made efforts previously to clean this site.

MR TONER: Right. And we’ve made – and we’ve – sorry, just – I don’t mean to interrupt, but yeah, and we’ve been very clear that we understand and believe we have – well, we know what happened at those sites, so —

QUESTION: So even though they’re trying to – I mean, the fact that they’re sanitizing it, does that mean that they’re trying to cover up? Or —

MR TONER: And again, I’m in an awkward position here, because I’m not going to talk to what our intelligence may be telling us is happening at this site. We have this report. This report relies on commercial imagery, stuff that may or may not be happening on the ground. So I’m not trying to confirm that. But all I’m saying is, first of all, the JCPOA isn’t fully implemented, so this is – this couldn’t be a violation if it were the case. I’m dealing with hypotheticals here. But Iran needs to meet its key nuclear steps, and that includes addressing the IAEA’s concerns about its past military dimensions of its program.

QUESTION: But what you’re saying is that even though they’re scrubbing it now and it’s – as I said, it’s not a new thing; it’s been going on for a while – that will not cover up any evidence.

MR TONER: But it – yeah. That’s a separate point that I want to be very clear about: that we’re confident in our ability to detect any kind of previous activity.

QUESTION: But the fact that Iran is actually doing this raises some serious questions.

MR TONER: Again, though, I haven’t confirmed that and I can’t, so I don’t want to – I don’t want to go there, because —

QUESTION: This is a – this think tank is not a fly-by-night thing —

MR TONER: Understood.

QUESTION: — and neither is questions raised with the – I mean, are you questioning the imagery, or is it because it’s made up? Or —

MR TONER: I just don’t want to – well, no, I’m not going to – again, this is commercially available satellite imagery. I just am unable to confirm the findings. But let’s be very clear that this is – that we’re able to detect, as I said, and monitor this kind of activity if it were happening.

And I think the JCPOA is fundamentally focused on ensuring Iran’s nuclear program, as we all know, is exclusively peaceful, and it does have a very rigorous verification regime, one of the most rigorous ever negotiated, and that includes special access that goes beyond what’s called the Additional Protocol in setting a defined time limit to ensure that the IAEA gets access to these – any undeclared locations.

So we’re confident going forward that we’ll be able to have eyes on whatever activity is ongoing or is indeed being covered up.

Said.

QUESTION: On Iran, but not on the cleanup —

MR TONER: That’s okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: — if someone wants to follow up on that.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Why are you guys unable to put to rest this talk or this rumor or these allegations that there indeed have been some parallel agreements or agreement done either with the IAEA and Iran and so on? Why are you unable to put that to rest?

MR TONER: Well, it’s a fair question, and I would note that the director general of the IAEA actually gave a closed-door briefing with – to Congress yesterday in an effort to address some of these ongoing questions that we’ve had. The bottom line – and I’ve said this and others have said it repeatedly – there’s no secret deals here. The IAEA has special arrangements with Iran, but they have special arrangements with I think over 180 countries, including the U.S. That is the way the IAEA works; that’s how it functions. And these are considered confidential arrangements between the IAEA, which is a credible international organization with an enormous amount of expertise and the ability and skill set to carry out these kinds of arrangements and to carry out inspections as needed on these programs. But there’s a reason why these are confidential agreements that other countries don’t want this information shared broadly and even publicly.

So there’s no special – as you said, there’s no – as you questioned or your question pointed to, there’s no secret arrangements, no secret agreements here. This is standard IAEA practice. And again, Director General Amano was here yesterday, he spoke to members, tried to clarify this. As we said before, Wendy Sherman, other members of the Iran negotiating team, or the P5+1 team, were also briefed on these arrangements. So it persists – I understand that – but it’s just not an accurate characterization.

QUESTION: But the fact that it persists so obviously, so conspicuously, by those who met with Director Amano, does that really – either he is not telling them what has really happened or you’re not telling them what has really happened, or they’re just entrenched in that political position and there’s no way that their minds could be changed.

MR TONER: Well, that’s a very good question and a fair question, and you’ll have to ask them, frankly. I mean, there’s a lot of people – and the President certainly alluded to this yesterday in his speech – there’s a lot of people who have come in with certain preconceptions about this deal even before having read it and absorbed it. Our role – and we’re trying to do our best here, speaking for the State Department, but certainly everyone involved in these negotiations are doing our utmost to try to just give Congress the information it’s – it needs to make an informed decision.

QUESTION: Are you hitting a brick wall? And my last question.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: And maybe you are losing hope to sort of persuade members of Congress who will obviously vote against it?

MR TONER: Not at all. Look, we always knew this was going to be a period of decision and for Congress to weigh the pros and cons of this deal. Again, the President spoke far more eloquently than I could about the reasons why this is a good deal, why this is the best possible path to pursue, one that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But ultimately, these congressmen have to make their own decisions. We’ve seen numerous Democratic senators come out in favor of the deal. Others are still deciding. Certainly on the other side of the aisle, others are considering to – or still considering the deal. But we always knew this was going to be a process, but we’re confident, I think, in – that this JCPOA speaks for itself and it offers, as I said and others have said, the President said yesterday, the best possible solution to this issue, and one, frankly, that – sorry – one, frankly, that avoids a possible war.

Why don’t you go and then to – back to Lesley.

QUESTION: On Iran.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: There was a lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York – families of U.S. victims of Iranian terror, who say they are owed hundreds of millions of unpaid damages by the Islamic Republic of Iran and will never receive their compensation if the funds frozen by the U.S. are released back to the ayatollahs as part of the recently agreed – as part of this deal. Do you have any take on that?

MR TONER: I’m aware of this lawsuit. What I would just say is there’s no connection, absolutely no connection between any sanctions relief that Iran would receive under the JCPOA if it meets – and again, if it meets – the nuclear commitments under the deal and any outstanding court judgments. So the funds that would be released as part of the JCPOA sanctions relief are funds primarily from Iran’s oil sales that have been deposited into restricted accounts, and the U.S. does not hold or control any of this money. So it’s a separate issue.

But again, this is an ongoing court – or a legal matter. I’d just say we continue to work with Congress, the Department of Justice, and other ways to – and others, frankly, to explore ways to compensate the victims of Iran’s past activities, including its support for terrorism.

Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: One more on Iran, if you don’t mind.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Robert Jordan, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he wrote a book called The Desert Diplomat. He was on – I think it was Charlie Rose the other night, had an interesting interview. And at one point he said – he was talking about the Iran deal, and he said – he was asked what he thought of the deal. And he said, “I hate the deal, but it’s the best deal we’re going to get. And I don’t think the snapbacks will work. I think they’re a fantasy.” I wonder if you have any comments on —

MR TONER: I don’t. I mean, we’ve – and again, others have argued much more eloquently or explained than I can that snapbacks would allow us the ability to put sanctions quickly back in place if Iran fails to meet its obligations under the JCPOA. And I’d just refer you to the President’s speech yesterday for why this is a good deal.

Please. I’m sorry. Lesley, do you have another question, or are you okay?

QUESTION: I want to change it to —

QUESTION: Can I just very quickly —

MR TONER: Yeah, let’s finish out Iran and then we’ll – sorry, we’ll get to you.

QUESTION: There was talk that American Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian may be released or something is underway. Are you aware of that, or can you share with us —

MR TONER: I don’t have any new information other than that we continue – and the Secretary has made this clear on many occasions – we continue to call for his, and frankly, the release of all detained Americans in Iran. And it continues to be – whenever we speak with the Iranian Government, we make those —

QUESTION: Sure. Could you confirm that only his family and The Washington Post are involved in any kind of ongoing negotiations with —

MR TONER: I can look into – see if there’s anything new to report on that, but I haven’t heard anything.

Please, you, and then Lesley.

QUESTION: All right. So – thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The first question I have is actually pertaining to the general issues that we’re talking about.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: But kind of shifting a little bit towards Syria. So Russia has apparently invited the main opposition group to Moscow next week, and Iran is apparently poised to present a new peace initiative on Syria. So is there new diplomatic traction with Moscow and Tehran on a Syrian peace initiative, and is there room for common ground with Iran and Russia?

MR TONER: Good question. Certainly, we talked a little bit about this yesterday. The Secretary had another meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in which they did discuss Syria and the situation there. And I did want to – the Secretary spoke to this earlier in a press avail that he had in Malaysia. But it did include a discussion not completely related to your question but certainly related about the draft UN resolution involving chemical weapons use in Syria, which will be voted on tomorrow.

The Secretary said this resolution would create a mechanism that would enable international – the international community to designate accountability for chemical weapons use in Syria, so obviously, an important movement on that very troubling issue. I don’t want to get ahead of tomorrow’s vote, but I did want to cite that.

More broadly speaking, we are consulting closely with Russia, obviously, on next steps in Syria. I think we’ve been very clear we’re seeking a political resolution here, but one that cannot include President Assad. So as much as we can find common ground in ending the fighting, ending the conflict, putting in place a credible political process that leads to an inclusive democratic government in Syria, we support that. But it cannot include President Assad.

So we’re pursuing that, and I don’t have much to say. I would refer you to the Russian Government to speak about this meeting of opposition figures, but certainly, we want to see the continued growth and strengthening of a moderate opposition in Syria. And like I said, given the complexity, fluidity of the situation in Syria, a political solution, a resolution to the conflict couldn’t be more urgent.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: So when we talk about the development of this peace process, can Iran play a part in that initiative?

MR TONER: Again, not – and we’ve been clear on this – not so long as it supports the Assad regime, and that’s really where we fundamentally disagree. The Assad regime has carried out brutal attacks on the civilian population of Syria, and frankly, has been instrumental in creating the kind of lawless area to the north where ISIL has been able to get purchase, and frankly, extend its roots. Now we’re trying to dislodge it, destroy it, defeat it; but let’s be very clear that any process going forward, any kind of peaceful resolution to the conflict, can’t involve the Assad regime.

Please.

QUESTION: Right, and if I could —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — just switch to Russia and the Islamic State —

QUESTION: Can we stay?

QUESTION: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: Let me stay on —

MR TONER: Okay, sure.

QUESTION: — Syria on this point. Staffan de Mistura very clearly said the other day that he cannot imagine a resolution without Iran being involved. Everybody talks about Iran’s role in Syria – it is financing, it is equipping, it is arming, doing all these things – yet you don’t want them to be part of the process, although you claim that they wield so much influence in Syria. Why would you want to do that?

MR TONER: Well, I don’t think I said that. I said what is unacceptable to us is the continued support for the Assad regime, and I think that’s a clear point of difference between us and the Iranians.

QUESTION: But I mean, you accept, on the other hand, GCC countries who have been covertly and overtly, as a matter of fact, supportive of groups like Jabhat Al-Nusrah and others and so on. You accept them into the table. They are supporting these groups and which you disapprove of, but on the other hand you will not accept Iran while it is continuing to support the regime, correct?

MR TONER: All I’m trying to explain to you, Said, is you’re asking me about Iran’s role —

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: We would, I think – if Iran could play a constructive role, it would be one in which it doesn’t support the Assad regime. The Assad regime, frankly, is the root of all evil here. It has created the conditions in which we find ourselves, and frankly, the poor Syrian people find themselves today. So any covert, overt support for that regime is a nonstarter.

QUESTION: So despite the fact that the regime may represent a hefty portion of the population – Christians, Alawites, other minorities, Shias, and many Sunnis as a matter of fact – you think that the regime should not be represented in any way?

MR TONER: We think Assad is not —

QUESTION: So you’re talking about Assad himself and not the regime or his family?

MR TONER: What we want to see is – what we want to see is a process move forward consistent with Geneva, and that’s always been our position.

QUESTION: Mark, can we come back to this —

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: — to the draft? Is tomorrow the vote?

MR TONER: That’s correct. Sorry, I didn’t know what you were – sorry, yes.

QUESTION: So that’s what I want to talk about. But also how does this play into this political resolution that the Russians are trying to put together? Does it play any part in trying to pull together some kind of —

MR TONER: Well, I think one of the areas, frankly, where we have found common ground with Russia on Syria has been on the need to account for and remove all of Syria’s declared chemical weapons. We did accomplish that goal, but indeed, as we’ve seen with the use of chlorine and through barrel bombs in constant – the issue, the problem persists. And so I think, again, there’s an effort, and as I said, a common cause from both sides – us and the Russians – to address this. And we’re – this is a good thing. This is, I think, a positive step, if we can get it through the UNSC.

QUESTION: So other than naming the perpetrators, which would be either government or rebel forces, what happens to the person – the groups responsible?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Is there any kind of consequences?

MR TONER: So again, I don’t want to get out ahead of the process. This resolution would enable the international community to designate accountability for chemical weapons for Syria. It’s a critical first step in trying to get justice for the Syrian people.

As to next steps, that’s a little bit further ahead, and how – but it would establish a mechanism, as I said, that could look at – that would enable the international community to designate accountability, and then from there we can look at possible repercussions.

QUESTION: But what —

MR TONER: And again, I mean, I think that what’s important here is that – sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt you. But what’s important here is that we agree that people need to – the perpetrators of these horrible acts need to be held accountable.

QUESTION: But what would the U.S. like to see as the possible consequence to —

MR TONER: I’m going to leave that – again, these are all —

QUESTION: The ICC?

MR TONER: — all things under discussion. But right now the immediate goal in front of us is to get this resolution voted on tomorrow.

QUESTION: Russia-Ukraine?

MR TONER: Yeah, let’s – do you mind – I’ll get – or we – what was your – let’s finish out with – I apologize.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR TONER: No worries.

QUESTION: On Russia and ISIL yesterday you said that Russian participation in the fight against the Islamic State could be positive. Do you have any additional details on what that might include? How could Russia be involved, and is it at all possible that Moscow would join the air campaign against ISIL?

MR TONER: That’s – we’re jumping way ahead. I mean, to this point, Russia hasn’t, frankly, been very involved with the coalition or with anti-ISIL efforts. We certainly want to see – or would like to see Russia become more involved. But to this point, we’re just – we’re still in discussion.

Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry mentioned a video conference tomorrow between U.S. and Russian officials to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

MR TONER: Oh, right. I’m sorry, I apologize; it just took me a second.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the participants or what time?

MR TONER: I don’t. I believe this is the working groups on Minsk. And I don’t have many details. I know that he – that he addressed it in his remarks earlier that it’s going to, frankly, get into some of the details about the Minsk agreements and then fulfilling those. Sorry – if I have it in front of me, I’ll try to quickly look. But yeah. No, this is – yeah. This is a – I think a conference – I’m not sure what level it’s going to be.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: So I’ll try to get more details for you on that.

QUESTION: He also referenced in his discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov a difference of opinion on the Ukraine elections and constitutional reforms. Can you provide any specifics on that, or what was he referring to more specifically?

MR TONER: On – I’m sorry, one more time – a difference of opinion?

QUESTION: He said there was a difference of opinion, and he specifically mentioned Ukraine elections and constitutional reforms that they’re trying to work through.

MR TONER: Sure. So as I said, we’re still looking for full compliance with Minsk. And as we all know, there’s different categories to fulfilling these agreements. And frankly, we haven’t seen the full implementation on the part of Russia or the separatists that it backs. So – and there’s all these subgroups, as I said, these working groups that are working on these various issues, including the issues that you mentioned. So we’re continuing to work for them. I don’t want to get out ahead of the process that’s ongoing. But the fact is is that we still don’t feel like they’re complying fully with the Minsk commitments.

QUESTION: One more.

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: He did mention they were not far away on rail resumption and the OSCE monitoring, which – is he talking about the withdrawal of weapons with that? And what does he mean by the rail resumption and they’re not far away? What needs to be done to close this issue?

MR TONER: Sure. So with OSCE monitoring – I mean, we’ve been very clear on the need for OSCE monitors to have full access, which means access to all parts of separatist-held territory. And so that’s as plain as it could be. We just want to see these special monitoring missions be able to access all areas and be able to carry out their work, which is —

QUESTION: Do you think they’ve made progress?

MR TONER: — absolutely vital to monitoring the ceasefire.

QUESTION: It sounds like maybe they made progress on that point.

MR TONER: Yeah, I don’t have – again, I’m sorry, I apologize; I don’t have many concrete details. But as much as – if we could make progress on that, it would certainly be – it would be valuable.

You said the second point was the rail resumption.

QUESTION: Yeah, he mentioned rail resumption, rail track, and then he kind of got cut off.

MR TONER: Yeah, I apologize.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) rail service because of the chaos, or —

MR TONER: That I don’t know. And I apologize. I’ll —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR TONER: — try to get a fuller readout for you and get back to you. Thanks.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Syria. I think you’ve seen the reports on different media in U.S. and Europe. They’re talking about the U.S. betrayal of the Kurds. They are referring to the Syrian Kurds, of course. So do you have any comment on that? Then I will ask you some —

MR TONER: Any comment on the?

QUESTION: On the – your agreement with Turkey was something – a betrayal – considered as a betrayal to the Kurds in Syria.

MR TONER: You’re – sorry, you’re talking about —

QUESTION: In Turkey.

MR TONER: I apologize. I’m not – I’m just not getting you clearly.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, you have an agreement or understanding, memorandum of understanding, using Turkish air bases – Incirlik.

MR TONER: Of course, yes, okay. I’m with you.

QUESTION: So it was – I mean, there were so many analyses on that, but most of them —

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: — they were considering this as a betrayal to the Kurds in Syria, especially the YPG.

MR TONER: Oh, a betrayal.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: Okay, okay. I apologize. I just didn’t hear that word. How so? Because what we’re – I mean, we’re actually in support of – I mean, there’s forces that are anti-ISIL forces, including Syrian Kurds, Syrian Arabs, in fact even Syrian Turkoman, who are fighting ISIL in northern Syria. And so once we establish ourselves and are able to conduct airstrikes out of Turkey, then frankly, the air support that we’ll be able to bring to these groups in their fight against ISIL will be quicker, faster, better.

In terms of what you’re thinking about, a betrayal, I mean, we’ve been very clear to the Turks about – the Turkish Government about these forces – not the Kurdish forces, not the – now, I’m being very clear here – not – I’m not talking about PKK, which is a designated foreign terrorist organization. But these forces shouldn’t be harassed or fired upon.

QUESTION: And the YPG shouldn’t —

MR TONER: And the Turkish Government has obviously agreed, so —

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is – I mean, like, there are arguments to support these claims. That is something going on there, because there are reports that United States air campaign is not supporting the YPG fighters to advance toward Jarabulus, which – where the Turkey – Turkish Government wants to establish a safe zone, whatever name is —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — ISIS-free zone. And also, there are other reports – and actually, not the reports, a response from the Pentagon to me when I ask them about the train and equip program. I asked John also on this podium. The YPG, they are not in a train and equip program, and they are not part of this program supported by Pentagon. And the reason is that one of the host country, which is Turkey, they are sensitive about their participation, and they have a role in this program. So this is also two other things that can support this argument that there are – there are other stuff going on, that the YPG’s being undermined; you are helping them in Hasakah and other area, but not in Jarabulus. Do you have a response for that?

MR TONER: Only to say that in terms of the train and equip program, I really would refer you to the Pentagon for specifics about that, but we certainly are appreciative of Turkey agreeing to host that train and equip program. As we’ve discussed numerous times, we’re still working through the kinks and trying to – and that includes a very serious vetting process and trying to choose the best candidates for this train and equip program, but we’re hoping to boost those numbers considerably going forward.

In terms of the YPG, I don’t want to speak to operational details. A lot of that is still being worked out. Again, we’re just – we just reached the agreement with Turkey. Our discussions are ongoing. We talked about this, that we’re still looking to how we’re going to operationalize this agreement going forward, but we’ve been very clear our goal is to support those anti-ISIL forces fighting in northern Syria.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: One more.

QUESTION: Yeah, one more on that. But the question is —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — will you support the air campaign for the rebel groups – YPG, whoever they are – to advance toward Jarabulus or the area considered as the Turkish favorite place to have an anti-ISIS whatever, free-ISIS area? So is it – you will – will you help the rebel groups, including YPG, to go on – take on ISIS, wherever they are, with no restriction to any geographical area inside Syria?

MR TONER: Again, I wouldn’t say – I wouldn’t even pinpoint it to the YPG. I would say, more broadly, we’re seeking to support all the anti-ISIL forces taking the fight to ISIL in northern Syria, but I’m not going to speak to that specific case.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On —

MR TONER: Please, Said, yeah, and then back to you.

QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to move to the Palestinian issue.

MR TONER: Sorry, I’ll get to you (inaudible). To the Palestinian issue?

QUESTION: Are we done? Yes, yes.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you: Today, there is a Palestinian man named Siam Nawara meeting here in the Department about – it’s about the killing of his son, a 16-year-old, a year ago. It was raised in this room with the spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — on the 20th of May last year. So – and it was also mentioned in your Human Rights Report and so on. You, at the time, said that you were waiting for the Israelis to disclose all the facts that happened. Have you been advised of all that happened in the killing of these two young men?

MR TONER: You know what? I don’t have any details about the meeting, so I’ll have to check on that and get back to you whether we’re – yeah.

QUESTION: No, not the meeting, but it’s also —

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: I sent you an email. I don’t know if you —

MR TONER: No, I apologize, I did see —

QUESTION: It’s okay.

MR TONER: Sorry, it was —

QUESTION: That’s okay, no —

MR TONER: — a crazy morning. I’ll look into it, Said. I apologize.

QUESTION: I understand, yeah. Look into it, because at the time, these two young boys were – or 16-year-old teenagers that were shot —

MR TONER: Yeah, no, I’m aware of the case. I just don’t have any new information to add, so I’ll check up on it.

QUESTION: Okay, all right. Let me then follow up on another issue —

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: — that Matt raised, I think it was last week, about a Palestinian American complaining upon entry into Tel Aviv airport – Ben Gurion airport – being harassed and deported, as a matter of fact. Last week they deported a Palestinian deacon, Father George Khoury. They kept him waiting, languishing for 12 hours, and under the pretext of digging into whether they have or don’t have a permit to stay in the West Bank. Now, these are Americans. They have no residence or anything in the West Bank. Many of them, like Father Khoury, was – had not been there for decades and so on. Are you aware of that?

MR TONER: We’re aware of the reports. I can’t speak in any great detail because we – I don’t think we have Privacy Act waivers for any of these individuals, but obviously we are concerned for any American citizen who might be detained or otherwise questioned, and certainly we’re ready to offer support as needed. So —

QUESTION: One Palestinian American —

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: — novelist, writer, who was held up, she said that she went to Amman and she tried to speak to the consulate, the American consulate or the chancery in Amman, and was not able to talk to anyone. Are you aware of that?

MR TONER: I’m not aware of that case, no.

Please, and then I’ll get to you, Lesley. I apologize. These guys have been waiting.

QUESTION: On Japan.

MR TONER: On Japan, please.

QUESTION: So today obviously marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ambassador Kennedy, Under Secretary Gottemoeller attended the ceremonies. Secretary Kerry spoke about it in Malaysia. I was wondering if there were any other steps that the State Department was taking to commemorate the day, or any concrete steps to push for further decrease of nuclear weapons.

MR TONER: Well, I don’t really have anything to add to – as you said, the Secretary spoke to this earlier today in Kuala Lumpur, spoke to the impact, the continuing impact that this – that war and then indeed this event has on people, on countries; underscores the importance, frankly, of the agreement that we’ve reached with Iran to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. As you know, it’s been a major initiative of this Administration to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, something we’ve been working hard at and with other countries and partners as well. This – it’s an important day, as I said, for not only to remember the terrible events, but also, as I said, to look towards – or as others have said, to look towards what has been built out of the ashes of that war: indeed, a strong partnership with Asia, certainly a strong bilateral relationship and alliance with Japan, unprecedented secure – era of security and prosperity. All of these are tremendous positives. We need to be – continue to seek to bring greater security to the region, and as I said, to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: Also on Japan?

QUESTION: I had a follow-up.

QUESTION: Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s also been reported that Secretary Kerry will likely be going to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial that is being considered for April of next year, along with the G7 meeting in Japan.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that?

MR TONER: I can’t, and I’m – appreciate the question, but I just can’t speak to the Secretary’s schedule nine months in advance. Obviously we’re aware of the dates of the foreign ministers meeting of the G7, but I don’t have anything to announce now at this point.

QUESTION: Also on Japan?

MR TONER: Please, and then I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: In regards to the advisory panel report that was released with recommendations for Prime Minister Abe’s statement next week, how does the State Department view this report?

MR TONER: We’re aware of the report. It was issued by the advisory panel. We welcome Prime Minister Abe’s positive comments this past year on history issues and – as well as Japan’s postwar contributions to peace. We took note of his remarks in Washington about upholding the views expressed by previous prime ministers in regard to the past. And we believe, finally, that strong, constructive relations between countries in the region promote peace and stability and are in the – their interests as well as the interests of the United States.

QUESTION: And sorry, also —

MR TONER: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: — the – does the State Department believe that it is necessary for Prime Minister Abe to issue an apology, or is it sufficient to express remorse? Secretary – Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel stated something to that effect on July 21st.

MR TONER: Stated something to what effect?

QUESTION: To the effect that it was sufficient to express remorse.

MR TONER: Again, I don’t have his remarks in front of me. I’ll – we’re – as I said, we’re – we welcome Prime Minister Abe’s positive remarks this past year and I’m not going to project on what he may or may not say.

Please.

QUESTION: Mark, I have two questions regarding Congress. The one is today Senator Corker said that he would – demanded that the State Department hand over documents used to rank countries in the human trafficking report and said that if it didn’t hand it over, he would subpoena them. Would the State Department have any issues handing over those documents and emails, including those from Secretary Kerry?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, first of all, you’re talking about the Trafficking in Persons Report —

QUESTION: Correct.

MR TONER: — and the hearing that was held in the Senate earlier today. We certainly appreciate Congress’s concern about the integrity of this report. It’s frankly something we share. You heard the Secretary speak to this from Malaysia earlier today – very strong comments about the process and – as well as speaking to the situation in Malaysia and while noting progress there, also noting the need for increased progress. And we continue to stand by the process for determining the rankings that go into the report.

In terms of what – Congress’s request, we’re still waiting for a formal request. And I don’t mean to be procedural here, but we do – I know there was a back-and-forth during the hearing today, and at the end of it they were discussing what in fact they would ask for and how they would ask for it. So we really need to wait to receive that formal request, but speaking generally, of course we try to be responsive to Congress.

QUESTION: And then a follow-up on something else.

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Senator Grassley – did you see this today? – has said that he is going to put new holds on 20 nominees for the Foreign Service officer positions, saying that the State Department had not been responsive to letters and phone calls.

MR TONER: You’re talking specifically about?

QUESTION: Well, he’s got 20. He says – it’s a very long email.

MR TONER: Okay. But you’re talking about the holds? Okay, yeah, these held – I’m aware of at least one nominee that he’s put a hold on.

QUESTION: Well, he said he’s – he said the new holds are on 20 nominees.

MR TONER: I haven’t seen that additional add. I mean, look, we’ve received nearly a dozen letters and requests from Senator Grassley in recent months, and just in – as recently as July 1st we responded to him and then told him that a response that includes a document production was in process, and this response also included substantial responses to his queries on – specific queries on records retention at the State Department. These – as we’ve discussed at length here, these kind of document productions take time, and the Department will be providing information to Senator Grassley in response to the requests in the very near future. And in terms of – I think he sent a letter yesterday. We’re working on a response to his requests from the most recent letter.

QUESTION: It’s kind of maybe a follow-on, but —

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: But you talked briefly about this yesterday. The Secretary Clinton emails situation, the ones that are at Kendall’s office, that thumb drive – I didn’t quite get what you said yesterday, where they go next. I mean, the idea that Congress was also asking for them, so there were some orders for preservation – does that mean they just stay with him, or do they somehow end up going to you or going to the Benghazi committee or where?

MR TONER: Right. So fair question, and I agree it’s a very complex situation. So my understanding is that the counsel for former Secretary Clinton has advised the department that it was subject to separate document preservation requests from the select committee on Benghazi as well as from the inspectors general for the department, the Department of State, and obviously the IC, the intelligence committee – or community. So department officials in that – so they said they have to retain those documents on site. So what we did in response to that is provided them with instructions regarding how to properly store, physically secure these documents. We also have provided Secretary Clinton’s lawyers with instructions regarding appropriate measure for physically securing documents as we’ve made – identified material that needed to be upgraded. We’ve talked about this to a great extent as we review these things and we say this – we would now classify this portion or that portion.

As to what would happen next to these, I don’t know. My understanding, at least for the time being, is that they’re going to be retained by the law firm. We’ve sent our security people out there; they’ve checked. They’re confident that it is a secure site, and that her lawyer does have the proper security clearances. I don’t know as to what – how this is going to be resolved down the road or what’s going to happen to the documents.

QUESTION: And then it is – it is your stance that you have all those documents anyways? These are —

MR TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: — basically duplicates?

MR TONER: That’s correct.

QUESTION: I have just a follow-up on the Grassley thing.

MR TONER: And I did follow up on that, because you had asked me and I was a little fuzzy on it, but no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mark, I have a question on – a follow-up on this Grassley thing.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: So the fact that he says he’s going to block it – does that actually mean that you don’t – you can’t hire these officials, or does it mean that despite that you can hire them anyway?

MR TONER: Well, again, I mean, what I – I mean, my understanding – I haven’t seen the latest, but is – there’s – on a specific nominee. So I mean, they can always put a hold on a nominee confirmation to an individual.

QUESTION: So that stops them coming to work or joining the State Department?

MR TONER: No. My understanding, again, is that this is a nominee for something that needs to be confirmed by the Senate or position —

QUESTION: Oh, so it’s —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — to do with the confirmations. That’s —

MR TONER: Yeah. That’s my – yeah, exactly.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR TONER: Well, can I just – I’m sorry, Said. I —

QUESTION: Sure. Take your time.

MR TONER: Just in the back, and then I’ll get back to you. I promise. I apologize.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I was wondering – so about U.S. engagement in the ASEAN Regional Forum, trying to move that from more of a confidence-building institution to a preventive diplomacy institution. I was wondering, what is the difference between confidence building and preventive diplomacy, and what are sort of like specific measures that are considered preventive diplomacy?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, I mean, obviously, it’s important – it’s an important forum, and it’s an important forum for a variety of reasons, one of which is to talk about – and we talked a little bit about this the other day – the need – or the venue, that the venue offers a chance for all member states to raise concerns and really to put forward ideas for how to resolve those concerns. And one – frankly, one good example of this would be the South China Sea. So as much as we see – we always want to share our concerns, share our viewpoints, we’d also like to see processes or mechanisms put in place that help to resolve these issues going forward.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I follow up?

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: So the Chinese foreign minister stated that all building has stopped in the South China Sea. How does the U.S. respond to these claims?

MR TONER: Again, we’ve been very clear that we want to see all building stop in that area. We want to see a reciprocal halt among claimants to land reclamation, new construction, further militarization of outposts, and we want to see, basically, an overall easing of tensions that create space for diplomatic solutions to many of these claims. So as much as China’s willing to take those steps, we would welcome it. But I don’t know that we can confirm that.

QUESTION: Yemen.

MR TONER: Please, and then – yeah, Yemen? Sure.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you’ve seen reports that Yemen’s al-Qaida branch – or al-Qaida’s Yemen branch, I’m sorry – has seized three towns near Aden, and if you have any reaction or can confirm the reports.

MR TONER: I did. I mean, I don’t know that we can confirm those reports yet. Obviously, it’s of concern to us any time that al-Qaida seizes territory and claims it, but – we’re watching the situation closely, but I don’t have anything specific. I’ll see if I have anything for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Please go ahead, and then back to Said.

QUESTION: Yemen.

MR TONER: Yemen too? Okay, let’s start on Yemen.

QUESTION: Today there are reports that Saudi ground troops have actually entered Yemen. Are you aware of that?

MR TONER: I’m aware of the reports. I can’t confirm details. I would refer you to the Saudi military to confirm that.

QUESTION: Would you caution the Saudis not to do that?

MR TONER: Well, again, I think – and we’ve talked a lot about this – it’s been – so the Saudi-led coalition has undertaken military operations at the request of the Government of Yemen to stop Houthi efforts to take over Yemen by force. So again, it’s finding the – what’s the root cause here. And that is since the Houthis and their allies have conducted repeated armed infiltrations into Saudi territory and fired mortar rockets across the Saudi border that have killed both Saudi civilians and security personnel, it’s within Saudi’s – Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself. But it’s important also to say that we need a political solution in Yemen. So we continue to support the United Nations and the UN special envoy for Yemen in their efforts to mediate a peaceful solution that will return all parties to the political dialogue process.

And also while we’re on the topic, I mean, there’s a looming humanitarian crisis, and we’ve talked a lot about that and the fact that we’ve wanted to see a ceasefire or a pause in the fighting take place, and so that vital food assistance and aid can be delivered to these vulnerable populations. So I mean, there’s a really – obviously, the violence, the fighting needs to stop. We need to get access to some of these vulnerable populations and get them the food assistance that they need, and then we want to see a political resolution there.

QUESTION: And related, are you aware of the terrorist attack in Abha, Saudi Arabia that – today claimed by ISIS, ISIL?

MR TONER: Yeah. I mean, I don’t – I am aware of it. It’s – you’re talking about the mosque attack?

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: Yeah. I mean, we obviously condemn the attack. I think it took place in the southern town of —

QUESTION: Abha.

MR TONER: — Abha, yeah. Deplore the brutality of the terrorists. It was an unprovoked attack, obviously, on Muslims who were peacefully worshipping and praying. We express our condolences to the victims. As to the identity and motives of the attackers, I don’t have any further information to add.

Have I exhausted you yet? Or no, one more.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Turkey.

MR TONER: I’ve got to run after this. I apologize, I – and I’m on a timeline – or a deadline this week. I apologize.

QUESTION: In the past couple weeks or couple days maybe, I asked you, I think, about the PKK and Turkey conflict, and United States position was that both sides should come back, return back to the negotiation table. And the big – the larger concern for United States is to take on ISIS, not the – the conflict between the two sides.

So the PKK leaders, KCK, and also the HDP leader, Selahattin Demirtas, and others and also the Kurdish activists, they have also supported your – this argument that the – both sides should come back to the negotiation table, but they are suggesting a third party involvement, especially United States. And yesterday there was an official statement from the HDP and the PKK that they are asking for United States involvement in the conflict between Turkey and PKK. So is – United States will be willing to be playing a role in that —

MR TONER: No, our position hasn’t changed. We want to see PKK violence stop against Turkey, we want to see them return to the peace process, and we would look to the Turkish Government to respond proportionately, but no change in that.

I did want to – sorry – you had raised a question about Russia and Ukraine, and I – it brings up a broader point and I apologize to – I failed to raise this earlier, but Foreign Minister Lavrov made some comments about missile defense yesterday. It speaks to a lot of different things and it didn’t come up, but I – you probably saw my colleague, John Kirby, put out a tweet about this. But he made a comment about the President, frankly, not telling the truth about missile defense, and that’s at best a selective reading of the President’s statements, and at worse a willful ignoring of the facts. The President has consistently said since 2009 that the European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense system is necessary to protect the U.S. and our allies from the threat posed by ballistic missiles from the Middle East. And the agreement with Iran, if it is fully implemented, will only address the issue of nuclear weapons but does not resolve the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles. So I just wanted to clarify that point. I didn’t want the perception to be out there that somehow the JCPOA and ending Iran’s nuclear program, which we obviously all agree is of the utmost importance and a huge priority, but does not necessarily end the need for a missile defense system to defend against ballistic missiles.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up on —

QUESTION: Just the threat from Iran, right?

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: What’s that?

QUESTION: Because —

MR TONER: From Iran. Thank you, yes. For – yes.

QUESTION: And no one else?

MR TONER: Thank you for clarifying.

QUESTION: No one else.

MR TONER: Yes, yeah, from the region, yeah.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up on this.

MR TONER: Yeah, please. Thank you.

QUESTION: I mean, this evening 10 presidential hopefuls are going to debate this issue and they just might make a very compelling case, probably refutable evidence, as to why this deal is foolish. Are you prepared to counter that or deal with this eventuality?

MR TONER: I mean, look, I mean, we’re going to continue to make the case from this podium, from the White House, from our Secretary, from the President himself on why this is a good deal and answer the questions as they come to the best of our ability. But this is the democratic process at work. They have every right to debate the pros and cons of this deal. We believe it’s the best possible way forward to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)

DPB #135

Suicide bombing in Saudi mosque for securit…

NNA – A suicide bomb attack inside a mosque in a local security forces headquarters in Abha city in south-west Saudi Arabia killed 13 people and wounded nine on Thursday, the Saudi state news agency reported, citing an interior ministry spokesman.
State television had earlier reported a death toll of 17.

The mosque in Abha was part of the local headquarters of a state security unit called the Special Emergency Force, the spokesman was cited as saying.
Of those killed, 10 were members of the force, while three were workers in the compound. They were praying when the bomber struck within their ranks, he said. — REUTERS

========D.K.

AccessKenya Chooses Procera Networks’ PacketLogic Platform for Next Generation IT Services

FREMONT, California, Aug. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Procera Networks, Inc., the global Subscriber Experience company and XON, the Pan-African ICT group, today announced AccessKenya, the leading and most reliable converged Communication and IT infrastructure service provider in East Africa, has selected Procera’s subscriber management solution to replace an incumbent installation and deliver next generation subscriber experience management solutions to meet the region’s growing demand for high-touch IT services.

Procera%20Networks AccessKenya Chooses Procera Networks PacketLogic Platform for Next Generation IT Services

Procera Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ: PKT), the global Subscriber Experience company, is revolutionizing the way operators and vendors monitor, manage and monetize their network traffic. Elevate your business value and improve customer experience with Procera’s sophisticated analytics solutions. For more information, visit http://www.proceranetworks.com or follow Procera on Twitter at @ProceraNetworks.

Logo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150604/220972LOGO

The PacketLogic™ 8000 series offers a mid-range Intelligence Delivery Platform, designed to meet the needs of growing network operators and enterprise customers. The PacketLogic 8820 supports up to 30 Gbps of traffic, all in a compact 2RU form factor. Powered by the PacketLogic software suite, the platforms are designed to enable network operators to gain insights and take action on broadband traffic to enhance the subscriber experience.

Due to an antiquated system becoming un-operational, AccessKenya needed to source a replacement for their subscriber management and provisioning system. The PL8820 was a natural fit meeting several key criteria which where critical to AccessKenya’s needs, including:

  • Multi-tenant support for enterprise clients, providing an enhanced interface to manage their own bandwidth and filtering specific services
  • Replacement of current subscriber statistical interface with an extended statistical interface and information
  • Provisioning mechanism to allow easy provisioning of new subscribers to subscriber manager and support their corporate customer management processes

“Procera’s leading subscriber management capabilities enable us to develop and deploy new packages for our customers in ways that were previously not achievable,” said Raymond Macharia, CTO of AccessKenya. “Our customers will benefit from an enhanced experience made possible by more granular network quality and utilization data, and the PL8820′s 10G interfaces fully support our upgraded 10G backbone. We are proud to be associated with Procera Networks, through XON’s market-leading customer solutions.”

“As network operators in developing regions start to experience rapidly growing demand for IT services and provisioning, they are quickly realizing the importance of having a next-generation network intelligence platform — not only to handle the additional traffic load from today’s bandwidth-intensive services, but to bring to market new enterprise IT service offerings,” said Anthony Vimal, Vice President of EMEA Sales at Procera Networks.

“Whether your network needs to support a thousand subscribers or millions, Procera’s PacketLogic and virtualized PacketLogic/V subscriber management and provisioning platforms are increasingly seen as the solutions of choice for operators who want to gain intelligence and take action to improve the customer experience. Without the expertise and support of our partner XON, we would not have been able to deliver this market leading solution to AccessKenya.”

About Procera Networks, Inc.
Procera Networks, Inc., the global Subscriber Experience company, is revolutionizing the way operators and vendors monitor, manage and monetize their network traffic. Elevate your business value and improve customer experience with Procera’s sophisticated intelligence solutions. For more information, visit http://www.proceranetworks.com or follow Procera on Twitter at @ProceraNetworks.

About XON
Established in 1996, XON is a leading systems integrator covering sub-Saharan Africa specialising in solutions for Carriers, Mobile Operators, Service Providers, Large Enterprise and Education. Our capabilities include turn-key design and consultancy, build and integration, network operations and training. Our solutions are based on world leading vendors (Juniper, Procera, PeerApp, F5, NEC, ADVA and Symantec) enabling our customers to deliver and make use of rich and relevant services at scale whilst maximising profits and minimising operational costs. For more information, visit www.xon.co.za

About AccessKenya Group
Started in 1995 as Communication Solutions Ltd (Commsol), the company rebranded to AccessKenya Limited in 2000 to become the leading Corporate ISP in Kenya and later the holding company AccessKenya Group in 2006.

With a long history in providing unbeatable solutions, our focus is to deliver business value to our clients in all sectors of the economy by remaining true to our vision of providing new and innovative products and services at affordable and competitive prices. In 2013, AccessKenya Group was acquired by the Dimension Data Group and is now part of the global Internet Solutions business.

Press Contact
Mike Tomlinson, Engage PR for Procera Networks, 510-748-8200 x209, mtomlinson@engagepr.com

 

Taliban kill six in first major attack since power transition

NNA – A Taliban truck bomber killed up to six people in a province south of Kabul Thursday in the first major attack since the insurgents confirmed the death of their leader Mullah Omar.

“Three members of the quick reaction force (police) and three civilians were killed” in Logar province, said deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Qari Wara.–AFP

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