Briefing Skipper: Russia, Guantanamo, Lebanon, Hijabs, UAE
In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Wednesday’s briefing by spokesman Mark Toner: Undersecretary Bill Burns met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the State Department Wednesday morning, but Toner would give any details about the potential spy swap that ...
In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Wednesday’s briefing by spokesman Mark Toner:
- Undersecretary Bill Burns met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the State Department Wednesday morning, but Toner would give any details about the potential spy swap that was in the works. "The main purpose of the meeting was really to discuss follow-up on the summit that took place here two weeks ago," Toner said. "Did the spy case come up? Likely, it did. Am I going to get into the details? No."
- German Minister of Interior Thomas de Maiziere announced Wednesday that Germany is willing to resettle two Guantanamo Bay prisoners. "We greatly appreciate Germany’s decision to resettle these two detainees. This humanitarian gesture is a strong signal of Germany’s commitment to assist the United States in closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," said Toner. That’s two more than the U.S. has agreed to house…
- Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun led a delegation to Washington Wednesday for the U.S.-China sub-dialogue on Africa. Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson led the U.S. side of the discussion and Undersecretary Bill Burns made the closing remarks.
- State isn’t taking a position yet on the discussions underway in the U.N. Security Council, initiated by France, to change the rules by which peacekeeping forces operate in Lebanon. Villagers have been attacking the French personnel. "We continue to call on all parties in and around Lebanon to adhere to their obligations under the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and we continue to fully support the efforts of UNIFIL and the Lebanese government to implement those provisions," Toner said.
- Meanwhile, the U.S. official position is still to support Muslim women’s right to wear whatever religious garb they desire. "I think the president addressed it in Cairo. He said freedom, in America, is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab," said Toner.
- Still no decision to designate the Turkish group IHH as a terrorist organization, despite that 87 senators wrote to President Obama last month asking him to do so. "I believe we’re looking at the IHH. But it’s a long process to designate an organization a foreign terrorist organization. And you know, there’s nothing to announce on that," Toner said.
- No comment from Toner on the comments by the UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, who said in Aspen this week that the benefits of a military strike on Iran outweigh the costs.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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