2:10 pm EDT
MR TONER: Matt, I came in the traditional path. I didnt desire to throw you off today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR TONER: (Laughter.) None of this walking back from strolling in through the routine entrance. Anyhow, welcome everybody to the State Department. Pleased Tuesday.
Very quickly, simply one thing I desiredwished to mention at the leading then Ill transfer to your questions. I did wantwish to keep in mind that today marks the start of the trial of Nadiya Savchenko, who is the Ukrainian solider, and now member of Ukraines parliament, who was kidnapped by Russian-backed separatists in June 2014, spirited across the border to Russia versus her will, and after that charged with murder. The United States continues to be deeply disturbed by the Russian Federations choice to progress with this baseless case. We think the just true justice would be to dismiss the charges right away and return Nadiya Savchenko to her Ukrainian home, which is a commitment that Russia made when it signed the Minsk arrangements.
With that, Ill turn it over to your concerns.
QUESTION: Well, wait a 2nd. Just extremely briefly on that–
MR TONER: Yeah.
CONCERN:– is that really I didnt recognize the Minsk dedications mentioned people by name.
MR TONER: Its the release of all Ukrainian hostages it is holding.
MR TONER: So Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Koichenko–
CONCERN: Correct me if Im incorrect, though. Does Russia concern her as a captive or a prisoner whos on trial?
QUESTION: Prisoner of war.
MR TONER: Im sorry?
CONCERN: Detainee of war.
QUESTION: Russia regards her as a detainee of war? What do–
MR TONER: Im uncertain exactly what the Russians describe her as. But I think its thought about that shes–
CONCERN: Well, is it your understanding that is it your understanding that the Russians concur that she is covered under that part of the Minsk agreement?
MR TONER: So weve repeatedly hired it, undoubtedly, to treat her as–
CONCERN: I understand you do.
MR TONER:– treat her humanely and require her release. Im unsure what the Russians describe her as, however I believe shes thought about as one of these detainees captured up in the conflict.
QUESTION: By them?
MR TONER: By them, yeah.
MR TONER: My understanding.
MR TONER: If thats wrong, Ill–
CONCERN: All right. I want to go to something else.
MR TONER: Please.
QUESTION: Last week I think it was Wednesday the 16th, but it may have been Tuesday or Thursday however anyhow, last week, Al- Hayat reported that General Allen was going to be stepping down. And at the time, authorities around town were stating that he has not told any individual that formally or even informally, for that matter I guess perhaps informally, but that he hadnt notified people. Well, theres another report today, same thing, saying hes stepping down. So Im just wondering, has something changed? Has he now educated people in this structure, to whom he directly reports, that he is going to be leaving?
MR TONER: I can say that General Allen remains focused on his duties at the State Department, which is collaborating the coalition efforts against ISIL, and we don’t have any personnel announcements to create concerning his future. He continues to be at work.
CONCERN: Okay. However the answer to my concern has he told people that hes going to be leaving?
MR TONER: Once more, hes still in the job; hes focused on anti-ISIL coalition efforts. Im simply I imply, youre asking me to confirm–
QUESTION: Its a basic yes-or-no concern. I don’t think its–
MR TONER: And I believe it remains in the sense that youre asking me to say what inside might be going on. And Im not going to talk with that. Im just going to state that we have no personnel statements to create.
CONCERN: Well, when does his term end?
MR TONER: Well, hes he took the task initially for 6 months, and hes been continuing in his efforts. But I do not knowhave no idea when his exact period is over. I think its continuous.
QUESTION: Well, since the 13th–
MR TONER: I mean, in other words, theres not a due date to it, is exactly what my understanding.
QUESTION: Hes been on the task for one year on the 13th of this month.
MR TONER: Thats proper.
QUESTION: However so–
MR TONER: Thats right. Yeah. Youre absolutely right.
CONCERN: Okay. So that would be like a year, right?
MR TONER: Thats right.
QUESTION: Okay. Can we move on to something else?
MR TONER: We sure can. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask a couple questions on the Palestinian-Israeli issue?
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Stress are increasing. The Israelis, today, killed a female under the pretext she was wielding a knife, however obviously there was no knife. There was a great deal of videos that showed otherwise and so on. They also closed all doors and they closed the West Bank and Gaza totally since of Yom Kippur. Do you have any remarksdiscuss that?
MR TONER: Im not aware you described the video; Im not aware of that, I have not seen that report so I cant actually talk to that particular occurrence. But certainly, we continue to be, Said, deeply worried by the continuous violence and the intensifying tensions, as you simply stated, surrounding definitely surrounding Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif. We undoubtedly condemn all acts of violence. We want to see tensions minimized. We desire to see both sides all sides, frankly workout restraint, refrain from intriguing actions and rhetoric, and maintain the same the historical status quo.
CONCERN: Does that consist of the non-changing of the status quo, does that include the names of the streets? Since the Israelis today offered Hebrew names to all the Arabic names in East Jerusalem. Do you have are you familiar with that or do you have any remarkdiscuss that?
MR TONER: Im not aware of that. Id need to check out that.
CONCERN: However that would likewise be consisted of in the non-change, best?
MR TONER: Once more, thats where weve stood on this policy-wise. I do not understandhave no idea about specific name-changing that you discuss, so Id have to look into that.
QUESTION: Okay. I have just a couple more on the Palestinian issue.
MR TONER: Please.
CONCERN: Its also reported that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, is going to next Wednesday, when he talks to the General Assembly, is going to discharge the PA from any commitments to the Oslo Accords or to any kind of security plans with Israel. Are you aware of that, or would you advise him against doing such a thing?
MR TONER: Im not aware of that. Definitely, I do not want to not for me to predict what he might or may not state when he speaks at the UN. Overall, we desire to see, as I stated, both sides reveal restraint, a calming in tensions, and both sides pursue actions that we, frankly, feel develop a climate that can lead back towards some sort of worked out settlement.
QUESTION: And lastly, the Israelis likewise stated that if they if he does that, if he thinks about all arrangements null and space, then they may not enable him back into Ramallah. Are you aware of that, or would you advise the Israelis versus such a step?
MR TONER: Also not familiar with that, but well look into all these. But honestly, Said, speaking generally, our position hasn’t changed on any of this. As I stated, we desire to see a decrease in tensions. We desire to see actions by all sides to that develop the type of self-confidence, create the type of environment where we can see a go back to settlement talks.
CONCERN: Can we remain on roughly the exact same subject?
MR TONER: Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: I simply wanted to act on a question that I asked and was answered in a TQ on UNRWA.
MR TONER: Yes, yes.
CONCERN: Have you heard back from UNRWA yet? Because there is more allegations today.
MR TONER: I dont; Ill look into it, Matt. Ill take the concern. I apologize.
CONCERN: Okay. Since Im curious to know if they have let you know given that you are such a significant donor to them if they have let you know a minimum of exactly what the status of the–
MR TONER: Yeah, thats–
QUESTION:– ongoing examination is, if there is one.
CONCERN: Yeah, its a genuine concern. Ill discover out.
CONCERN: And then theres another then another one, which has to do with comments that President Abbas made, obviously a day or so earlier, about inviting blood spilled in Jerusalem. Have you seen those? Do you understand anything about that?
MR TONER: No, and again, I would just chalk that approximately what I simply said, which is those sort of remarks, in basic, are not what we feel are conducive to developing the kind of environment we think is we desirewish to see for a go back to a negotiated settlement.
QUESTION: Okay. And in regards to this certain concern–
MR TONER: Yeah.
CONCERN:– do you know yet what Secretary Kerry has planned for in terms of meetings next week, if or is that just not set yet?
MR TONER: Not set yet. I mean, his schedule is still in flux. Certainly, generally speaking, hell talk about the Middle East and obviously look for to have as numerous meetings as he can on this issue along with others. But I do not have anything to confirm at this point. Well get into that as we get closer to the weekend.
CONCERN: Secretary Kerry simply when he made his remarks after–
MR TONER: Yeah.
CONCERN:– the Indian top said that his understanding is that the Russian forces at Latakia, the new airplane there appear to be postured for force defense for that base itself, but weve been hearing from independent specialists that the nature of the aircrafts that Pentagon authorities state are there appear to be ground attack aircraft in biggreat deals. It would seem the other experts are saying that they might be postured for offending operations. I was wondering if you could talk just to the difference between the or what Secretary Kerry seemed to be implying and exactly what were learning through in other places.
Likewise, Janes Intelligence Review states that Russians seem preparing to occupy 2 more bases just to the north of Latakia, the Istamo weapons storage complex and the Al-Sanobar military complex.
MR TONER: Right. I–
CONCERN: Other military analysis that you can provide would be helpful.
MR TONER: Thats right. Bring up the maps soon. No, undoubtedly Im not going to parse the Secretarys words. I think exactly what he was speaking to was that the level and kind of materiel or devices, consisting of airplane, that weve seen is talking about security for their deployment at an air base. But certainly, whats in that air base and what their function is or exactly what their objective is remains to be figured out. So in a methodin a manner, what weve seen what the Secretary was stating is that weve seen a level thats commensurate with the type wed see for force protection.
However that said, we have actually seen a significant developdevelop, and the Secretary spoke with that just quickly ago. And that is certainly of issue to us.
MR TONER: However regarding the other Im sorry, simply to complete however about the other locations or air bases that you mentioned, I don’t have any more details to provide on that.
QUESTION: Okay. So he was just speaking about the one at Latakia?
MR TONER: Thats my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: So are you verifying or you don’t understand on the variety of airplane. Is it 28?
MR TONER: I dont, and I wouldnt always validate that. Id refer you to the Pentagon on that.
Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: On Libya, the UN completed the agreement and they presented it to the Libyan parties to form a unity federal government. Do you have any response to this development?
MR TONER: Well, I do. Undoubtedly, it was a late nearly a last-minute development. However certainly, we invite the conclusion of the final text of the proposed Libyan political arrangement. And this follows months of extensive negotiations that were brokered by UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon. This final documentation, we believeour company believe, stands for, clearly, very intense efforts of all Libyan parties to reach an option thats inclusive, long lasting, representative.
Now its up to all these parties to accept the agreement so that a federal government of nationwide unity can actually be formed and begin the hard work of bring back peace and security in Libya. So promising, certainly; still much still a lot of hard work to be done. However this is something weve been requiring over lots of months. We wantwish to see that as I stated, the government of nationwide accord to be formed. We thinkOur company believe its in the certainly, the long-term interests, rather, of Libyan individuals.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR TONER: Please, go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.
MR TONER: Saudi Arabia.
CONCERN: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was called to head the Human Rights Council, and today I believe they announced they will behead a 21-year-old Shia lobbyist named Muhammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?
MR TONER: Im not familiar with the trial that you or the verdict death sentence.
QUESTION: Well, apparently, he was arrested when was 17-years-old and kept in juvenile detention, then proceeded. And now, hes been scheduled to be executed.
MR TONER: Right. I imply, weve spoken about our concerns about a few of the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our Human Rights Report, however I do not have any more to includecontribute to it.
CONCERN: So you–
CONCERN: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?
MR TONER: Again, I do not have any remark, do not have any response to it. I indicate, frankly, its we would invite it. Were close allies. If we–
QUESTION: Do you believe that theyre an appropriate choice given I mean, how numerous pages is does Saudi Arabia get in the Person Rights Report every year?
MR TONER: I cant give that off the top of my head, Matt.
QUESTION: I cant either, however lets just say that theres a lot to writediscuss Saudi Arabia and human rights in that report. Im simply questioning if you that its proper for them to have a leadership position.
MR TONER: We have a strong discussion, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that extends, undoubtedly, numerous problems. We discuss human rights issuesinterested in them. About this leadership role, we hope that its an occasion for them to take a look at human rights worldwide however likewise within their own borders.
CONCERN: However you stated that you welcome them in this position. Is it based on improved record? I indicate, can you show or point to anything where there is a sort of raw enhancement in their human rights record?
MR TONER: I imply, we have a continuous conversation with them about all these human rights issues, like we finish with every nation. We make our concerns clear when we do have concerns, but that dialogue continues. However I do not have anything to point to in terms of development.
CONCERN: Would you welcome as a would you welcome a decision to commute the sentence of this young male?
MR TONER: Once more, Im not aware of the case, so its tough for me to comment on it other than that we thinkour team believe that any type of verdict like that need to come at completion of a legal procedure that is simply and in accordance with worldwide legal requirements.
CONCERN: Modification of topic?
MR TONER: Sure.
CONCERN: Do you have any remark on this American female from Texas whos been thought is being investigated in China of spying?
MR TONER: I do. Youre speaking about–
QUESTION: Sandy Phan-Gillis.
MR TONER:– Sandy Phan-Gillis. Yes. Well, shes currently, as you kept in mind, being detained by the ministry of state security in Nanning, Guangxi in southern China. The US consulate in Guangzhou has actually been supplying consular assistance to her since her arrest on March 20th. We, clearly, are monitoring this case extremely carefully. Weve been to see her 6 times given that her arrest, and weve raised her case with Chinese Government officials on multiple occasions at an extremely senior level. And in reality, my coworker at the White Home simply stated that the White Home had actually likewise raised it with the Chinese international ministry and have actually not gotten exactly what we believe to be a sufficient response about the charges versus her.
So were carefully monitoring her circumstance. Were undoubtedly closely monitoring her health in specific. Weve raised concerns concerning her health with Chinese authorities when suitable to see to it shes receiving essential care.
CONCERN: Do you have any remark on reports that she was moved from house arrest into a detention center simply a couple of days prior to President Xis check out to the United States?
MR TONER: No, really. Id actually asked the same concern. My understanding is that she was always kept in that center, but it was its called house arrest, but shes with Chinese officials. But I wasnt aware that that was a current step. So clearly, we have issues about truly the case in general and the realitythat shes being held, and were searching for, frankly, the reasonsreasons.
QUESTION: A couple on Japan, kindly?
MR TONER: Yeah.
CONCERN: Japan their new security costs. Is that going to alter your relationship with Japan, and if so, can you talk about how and how it might affect your interactions with the Japanese Government?
MR TONER: Well, initially of all I indicate, lets start with the obvious. I mean, Japan has demonstrated over the last 70 years that it has an abiding dedication to peace, democracy, and the guideline of law. We would invite or we do welcome Japans ongoing efforts to strengthen the alliance and play a more active function in regional security in addition to international security problems and activities. So we believe this new security legislation and the recently modified standards for US-Japan defense cooperation certainly support that.
CONCERN: Slightly different subject.
MR TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: The foreign minister recently checked out Moscow, and theres talk or reports, a minimum of of President Putin visiting Japan sometime early next year. Do you is that constant with exactly what you stated before about this now not being the time for business as normal with Russia?
MR TONER: Sure. I do not Im not familiar with those reports, so I do not knowhave no idea what this see or travel has to do with. I do not knowhave no idea the reasons behind it. Yeah I mean, weve been really clear in stating that we don’t think that its time for business as usual with Russia provided their behavior in eastern Ukraine, where they still have actually not fulfilled all their Minsk contract dedications. That stated, as weve said before too, there are problems on which we need to coordinate and deal with Russia on, and we do so. So its about specific to a particular extent separating: obviously disagreeing highly where we disagree strongly and preserving that posture; however also, where we do need to seek their cooperation, we doing this and go over things.
Is that it?
QUESTION: Can I back to Syria for a minute?
MR TONER: Please, Said. Yeah.
CONCERN: Yeah. Today, I believe, the envoy the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, revealed the development of four working groups and so on. Is the United States going to be included at any level with these things at the technical level or any–
MR TONER: In the working groups?
QUESTION: Working groups, yeah. The working groups that were announced like a month and a half earlier.
MR TONER: Sure, sure, and I keep in mind the right, when he spoke with, I guess, the UN Security Council about that. Weve supported this process going forward. I do not know what our specific role is within these working groups. Clearly, as you simply saw from the Secretarys remarks, we are very taken with pursuing a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, and I believe were pursuing that goal through a variety of techniques. But certainly, we support de Misturas operate in that regard.
QUESTION: Seeing how these working groups must consist of all Syrians and including all the different opposition groups and so on, is Ambassador Ratney working with the opposition to sort of possibly convince them, cajole them into joining these working groups? Is it safe to presume that you are attemptingaiming to make a case for that?
MR TONER: Sure. Definitely, Michael Ratney is has been on the road fairly a bit, obviously, working with or talking with many of the parties who are included in Syria, however certainly dealing with de Mistura carefully. Were supportive of de Misturas strategy. We clearly I do not I cant speak to what our precise function remains in regards to the working groups, in answer to your concern response to your question. However were undoubtedly looking for and will seek in New york city next week to pursue the potential for moving the peace procedure forward. And were open to, frankly, creative methods to do that.
Is that it, people?
CONCERN: Thank you.
MR TONER: Thank you.
(The rundown was concluded at 2:32 pm)