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Updated: 3 hours 43 min ago

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: July 10, 2014

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 15:44

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 10, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Visit to Beijing
  • GERMANY
    • U.S. Security and Intelligence Relationship with Germany
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Secretary Calls with Abbas, Netanyahu
    • Rocket Fire
    • Part of the Secretary's Effort Has Been Reaching out to Countries in Region
  • INDONESIA
    • Congratulate Indonesian People for Demonstrating Commitment to Strengthening Democracy through Free and Fair Elections
  • CHINA
    • Cyber Security Issues / OPM / DHS / Possible Intrusion / No Reason to Believe Any Personally Identifiable Information Was Compromised
    • S&ED / U.S. Eager to Reengage through the Cyber Working Group We Have Recently Established with the Chinese
  • IRAQ
    • Letter Iraqi Permanent Representative to the UN to UN Secretary General / Seizure of University of Mosul Facilities Containing Nuclear Materials / IAEA
    • Social Media / Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications
  • LIBYA / BENGHAZI
    • Investigation Ongoing / ARB / FBI
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • U.S. Wants to See a Unified Afghanistan
    • SIVs / Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom
  • CHINA / DPRK
    • China Important Partner in Implementation of Sanctions
  • PAKISTAN
    • Counterterrorism and Range of Issues
  • INDIA
    • Export-Import Bank


TRANSCRIPT:

1:10 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone. Hi, Matt. It’s good to see you.

QUESTION: Good to see you.

MS. PSAKI: And everyone else, of course. I just haven’t seen him in a while.

I have one item at the top for all of you, and I should also note I have a hard stop at about 1:45, so let’s try to get to as many issues as we can.

Secretary Kerry yesterday continued his visit – I should say today – continued his visit to Beijing for the Sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the Fifth U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. The CPE aims to enhance and strengthen ties between the citizens of the United States and China, and has done so over the past four years in the areas of culture, education, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues. This year the two sides agreed to add a sixth area of people-to-people exchange: health, and the additional of a health pillar, starting with the 2015 CPE in Washington, D.C. So next year we’ll strengthen existing health collaboration, encourage more people-to-people collaboration in this important area.

During sessions at the S&ED, the Secretary continued discussions on the full range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. He reiterated to his Chinese counterparts that we seek a relationship defined not by strategic rivalry but by practical cooperation on common challenges and constructive management of differences where our interests diverge. With regard to human rights, the Secretary raised our concerns in a direct, candid, and constructive way. He also continued our conversations on cybersecurity and cyber threat. And you probably have all seen the press conference he did on the ground earlier this morning our time, so I’d certainly point you to that.

And with that, Matt, let’s go to you.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much. I have a question about the German expulsion of the top U.S. intelligence official there. Chancellor Merkel says that spying on allies is a waste of time and energy and that allies should focus on other things. And does the Administration agree or disagree with that? Is there – and do they believe Germany is overreacting or handling this properly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there are, obviously, recently reports this morning, which I’m sure prompted your question. We’ve seen those reports, and let me first get out of the way: We don’t have any specific comment on that. Our security and intelligence relationship with Germany is a very important one. It’s one that helps keep Germans and Americans safe.

I would also say that, as you know, last year the President underwent a review of all of our intelligence gathering. The Secretary was engaged in that, as were Administration officials across the board. There are, of course, a range of factors that are taken into account and were taken into account in that – keeping Americans safe, keeping allies in other countries safe, as well as taking steps to reform and revise some of our systems when needed. And he did just that.

Clearly, we’re going to continue to have conversations with a range of our allies and partners around the world. We’re certainly open to that, but we’ll let those happen through diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When you say you have seen the German reports or the media reports saying – what do you mean by that? Are you denying the German allegations about there was a spy operation going on?

MS. PSAKI: All I meant by it was that we’ve seen the reports, we’ve read the reports. I’m not going to – I don’t have any specific comment on it, given its purported intelligence matter.

QUESTION: So do you think those reports are true?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to have anything more to add on that front.

Said?

QUESTION: Will you have --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish this topic. Do we have any more on this topic? Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: So Germany really took an unusual step today. And they’ve been patient all along and secretly kind of expressing their anger, and this is a more unusual outward expression of their anger. Is the United States going to have any sort of reaction to them or just any signal to send to them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve had a range of discussions with Germany over the course of the last several months, and I expect those will continue. But those will happen through diplomatic channels, and we think those are often – we’re better served, our relationship is better served by having those take place through those channels. I would expect that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Steinmeier will have an opportunity to speak sometime in the coming days, and I would just reiterate that our relationship with Germany is extremely important. We have many areas we work together on. We have areas, certainly, where we may disagree, and – but the sign of a strong relationship is being able to work through those disagreements or challenges, and we’ll continue to do that through proper channels.

QUESTION: Is the Administration considering* expelling somebody from the German embassy?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add on this particular topic.

QUESTION: Jen, how come after the United States Government was caught spying on Chancellor Merkel, the effort was made to clean up the spying, and then this happens? How do you reconcile that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to have anything more to add, Lucas, on this particular topic. I think, as you know, we’ve spoken to those reports. The White House has spoken to those reports. The President undertook – laid out a series of reforms that we believe should not only give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protective – protected, but also allowing us to preserve the tools to keep Americans safe and secure. And I would point you to those range of reforms that the President announced earlier this year.

QUESTION: But can this government control its intelligence gathering capability?

MS. PSAKI: Can the United States of America?

QUESTION: Control its spy network.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I, again, would point you to the fact that we just underwent just last year an intensive review led by the President, led by the White House, that the Secretary was engaged in to take a look at all of these programs and put in place new principles. And that’s exactly what he announced earlier this year.

QUESTION: But the result is more spying and more spying on our allies.

MS. PSAKI: I think I would refute that notion, Lucas. We’ve – I would point you to the specific details that have already been put out.

Do we have a new topic?

QUESTION: Oh, no. One more. Some German news reports suggest that the Germans may have taken this action now as much for domestic political consumption as well as to express their anger with the U.S. over past infractions, including the tapping of the Chancellor’s cellphone. Is there any credence to some of those suggestions, or is this simply a basic concern about how these two countries share intelligence and how they – how much they trust each other?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not appropriate for me to speak to motivations or decisions. I would just reiterate that our relationship is vitally important. We’ll continue our dialogue through senior officials in the days and the weeks ahead.

QUESTION: Has anyone from the German embassy requested a meeting with anyone here about these latest revelations?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more to add on this topic.

QUESTION: And how soon do you think the Secretary will speak with the foreign minister?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction for you, other than to say that they speak regularly, and I’m sure that will happen in the near term.

QUESTION: Do you expect them to meet in Vienna this week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to announce in terms of the Secretary’s planned travel schedule. But again, there are a range of ways to communicate with our allies and foreign ministers – the foreign ministers of our allies, and I’m certain they’ll find a way to do just that.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. Just to clarify --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- you were referring to this as reports, but the spokesman for Chancellor Merkel said – announced that the government had expelled – had ordered the expulsion of the top U.S. intelligence official from the embassy. So you all, I assume, have that confirmed?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have anything more to add. I’ve seen what they’ve said, but this is a U.S. intelligence matter, so we’re not going to have anything more to add from this end.

QUESTION: But what are the Americans willing to do to satisfy the concerns the German Government has about privacy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned, we’ve had an ongoing dialogue about intelligence gathering, something a range of countries around the world certainly do, not just the United States. The President has put in place a range of reforms that – which we’re continuing to implement, and we’ll continue that dialogue with German officials through the appropriate channels.

QUESTION: Why is it appropriate to spy on one’s allies?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed this question. Let’s move on to a new topic.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- fighting? Is it the position of the Government of the United States that Israel is conducting itself in this bombardment, the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, within the constraints and rules of international law for its self-defense?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first, Said, just so I don’t forget to do this, just update you all that the Secretary spoke with President Abbas this morning. I know I mentioned to all of you that he had planned to do that. He, as you know, had already spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu just yesterday. During both of those calls, the Secretary reiterated our concern over the escalating tensions and restated his own willingness and the willingness of the United States to engage robustly in helping to stop the rocket fire so we can restore calm as soon as possible.

And Said, to answer your question, that is really what our focus is on, is using all tools at our disposal to bring an end to the rocket fire that is threatening the innocent lives of civilians in Israel and that is certainly posing a threat in the region.

QUESTION: So his effort would be focused on stopping the rocket fire from Gaza, but not to stop Israeli bombardment of Gaza?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to note here that no country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians. That’s what we’re looking at here. I think it’s important context here that Hamas is a terrorist organization. They have been launching indiscriminate number of attacks against Israel. Israel, we – of course, as I had mentioned yesterday, but it’s worth repeating, we are – it’s clear that civilians have been killed, that – including children. This is deeply tragic and we have been continuing to call on both sides to take steps to protect civilians. I would note that while the Israelis have taken steps to try to prevent civilian casualties by warning – providing warning in advance, that is not what, of course, Hamas is doing, and they have continued their indiscriminate attacks against – including civilian areas in Israel.

QUESTION: So you consider that Israel dropping leaflets of calling – or calling people on the phone and so on to terrify them, basically, to leave their home is a great humanitarian gesture?

MS. PSAKI: I think warning that there may be a response attack to the indiscriminate attacks of Hamas, a terrorist organization, is different and certainly important to point out in comparison with the attacks that are coming into parts of Israel, yes.

QUESTION: So do you believe that the utility of an F-16 to bomb a home and kill five civilians was appropriately done in accordance with the laws governing the transfer of weapons to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, first – and let me just repeat, because it’s important to note here, that it’s clear that civilians have been killed, and certainly that’s of concern to us, and that’s one of the reasons that we have been certainly calling for all sides to de-escalate tensions on the ground. It’s tragic and our condolences go out to the families, but I would remind you who is at fault here, and that is Hamas and the indiscriminate attacks that they have launched against Israel.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the Secretary General of the United Nations who just called for an immediate ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: I think our focus, Said, is the – is on using all tools at our disposal to stop rocket fire so that we can restore calm, and that’s what we feel that the immediate focus should be on.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are not calling for a ceasefire; you’re calling for the rockets to stop from being launched from Gaza, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly that would contribute to a reduction in violence.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: And let’s just keep going. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: That’s not – let me just – excuse me. Let me just --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go one at a time. Go ahead next.

QUESTION: -- follow up with that.

MS. PSAKI: So go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. I want to follow up. So does that also call for the Israelis to stop their immediate – to stop their bombardment of Gaza, or no?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, again, as I’ve stated several times in here from the briefing room in response to your questions, there’s a difference between Hamas, a terrorist organization that’s indiscriminately attacking innocent civilians in areas where there are innocent civilians in Israel, and the right of Israel to respond and protect their own civilians. And that’s what we’re seeing on the ground take place.

QUESTION: Are you keeping count of the innocent civilians on both sides that have been lost in this latest (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: The death of any innocent civilian is a tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to those families. And certainly a reduction of civilian casualties preventing that, ending that, is in everyone’s interests.

QUESTION: You said --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the same topic, in the same topic, given the complexity of the situation between Israel and Gaza, do you think Egypt could play a role, a mediation role to ease the tension? And as you may know, in the past, Washington reached out to Qatar and –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Egypt to help the Israelis and the Palestinian ease the tensions between them. Do you think now Egypt can play a role? Would the State Department ask Egypt – the Egyptian Government to do that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, part of the Secretary’s effort has been reaching out to countries in the region, including Qatar, including Egypt. I would note, as you know, historically there’s a difference between the relationship between the prior government to Hamas and the current government to Hamas. So I will leave that to others to analyze on how we can influence and who is most influential.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the Egyptian military has been always in good relationship with Hamas. So why not now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, any country in the region that can play a role in bringing an end to the rocket fire from Hamas we’re certainly going to be engaged with. But I think it’s important to note the difference between the governments and their relationship with Hamas. And I leave it to others to analyze whether they’ll be able to influence them.

QUESTION: What specifically was the Secretary meaning by his willingness to engage? What is the Administration prepared to do to help stop the rocket fire and to perhaps persuade the Israelis not to launch any sort of ground offensive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s clearly engaging with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, as evidenced by his calls, but he’s also referring to discussions with other countries in the region. And again, I would note that the goals we’re looking at here – and the Secretary mentioned this earlier today, so you can certainly quote him, but our focus right now is on saving innocent lives, trying to de-escalate in a way that accomplishes that while allowing Israel to exercise its right of self-defense and protecting as many civilians and, of course, those in the region as best as we can. But engaging with the parties as well as having discussions with countries in the region is something we’re already doing, and the Secretary is – was reiterating his commitment to continuing that level of engagement.

QUESTION: What kind of – what did he tell President Abbas specifically? Did he give him advice on how to engage, given that Abbas technically does not have any legal authority over Gaza? I mean, what can he do and what did – what does this Administration believe that Abbas can do given the complex legal situation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to go into greater detail on their discussion, but clearly the discussions that the Secretary is having with any leader in the region is about how we can de-escalate and we are open to discussing and using all avenues to do that. So certainly the Secretary discusses the conversations that he has having with other leaders in the region, as well as what steps can be taken to bring an end to the rocket fire from Gaza.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Another topic?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this and then we can go to you, Elliot, if that works.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up very quickly --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because I don’t understand. You keep saying, “We want to put an end to the rocket firing.” Are you calling for a simultaneous ceasefire that should take place from both sides at the same time? Or do you just want the Palestinians to stop firing their rockets?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear.

QUESTION: It’s very simple.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not accurate to say it’s quote/unquote “the Palestinians.” This is Hamas, a terrorist organization that is launching --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish – that is launching these rockets. Obviously, if the rockets are – if the rocket fire is brought to an end, I don’t think anybody’s preference, including the Israelis, is an escalation of this. Nobody wants to see a ground invasion. That’s why it’s so important for Hamas to stop the rocket fire against Israeli citizens immediately. That step will reduce tension, will de-escalate, and that’s why we’re having discussions with a range of leaders in the region.

QUESTION: Is the United States counseling against a ground invasion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Israelis themselves have said that that is not – that they don’t want to see a ground invasion. Nobody wants to see that. And so de-escalating and taking steps to de-escalate is certainly what our focus is on.

QUESTION: Nonetheless they are amassing troops around Gaza and getting ready for a land invasion.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, as I’ve mentioned, because of the indiscriminate attacks from Hamas and the rocket fire that’s coming in, Israel is exercising its right to self-defense. I think it’s in everyone’s interest to de-escalate the situation, to prevent a ground invasion or a ground component of this, and to save the lives of innocent civilians. And those are the – that’s our focus at this important point in time.

QUESTION: What can Abbas then do to influence Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re having that discussion with him, and he’s the expert on that and what he has the ability to do and not do. But certainly he’s an important player in this, and that’s one of the reasons the Secretary spoke with him.

QUESTION: Is the – has the Secretary or is it the Administration urging the Israelis against a ground offensive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re – we’re having a discussion with them on how to de-escalate. And clearly, our focus remains on steps that we can take, steps that other countries can take to influence Hamas and bring an end to the rocket fire, and that’s really what we’re counseling at this point in time.

QUESTION: And can you say what discussions the U.S. has had with Egypt in particular about trying to de-escalate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has been in touch with the foreign minister, and certainly any country and any leader who can play a role in influencing Hamas and bringing an end to the rocket fire we’ll remain engaged with.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary phone the Egyptian foreign minister?

MS. PSAKI: He was in touch with him over the last couple of days, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Oh.

QUESTION: Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a couple – one on Indonesian elections. I wanted to get your take on what you think of the opposing sides declaring victory based on unofficial quick-vote counts?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, Elliot. Give me one moment.

Well, let me first say, just since I haven’t had the opportunity, that we congratulate the Indonesian people for, again, demonstrating their commitment to strengthening their democracy through free and fair elections. As the world’s second and largest – the second and third largest democracies, we remain committed to close relations based on common interests and values, and we expect that will continue.

As you know, Elliot, and I’m sure others know, the official vote count continues. The Indonesian General Election Commission is expected to announce the official winner by July 22nd. We look forward to that official result and we’ll wait for the official announcement, and we’d certainly encourage others to do so as well.

QUESTION: So you are not – you are discouraging any candidates from prematurely declaring victory before that happens?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s in everyone’s interests to wait until the official announcement or official vote tally is completed.

QUESTION: Okay. And then unless anyone else has something on this, I wanted to go to China, if I may.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Indonesia, or no?

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s just go to China and then we’ll go to Iraq.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Does that work?

QUESTION: Yeah. That’s fine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. China.

QUESTION: On this report that a hacking attack penetrated OPM databases, I was wondering if you have any confirmation that any State Department employees’ records may have been stolen.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say – not that I’m aware of, Elliot. Let me first say that OPM and, of course, DHS are the lead regarding this incident, as you know. As soon as they learned of the possible intrusion, they took steps to assess and mitigate it. We have no reason to believe that any personally identifiable information was compromised from anywhere, so to answer that specific question.

QUESTION: Are you seeking clarification from the Chinese side on whether there was any government involvement in this attack? Because at the moment, it seems that’s unclear.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we routinely raise cyber security issues. But DHS is in the lead, so I’d point you to them for any specific questions about this.

QUESTION: But it hasn’t come up with Secretary Kerry’s – as far as you know – his discussions?

MS. PSAKI: I think he said earlier today that he just learned about it right before the press conference or right before the meeting, so it wasn’t raised today.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on this. Given the timing of this story broke out, do you think it will help your conversation with Chinese and put more pressure on them on this cyber intrusion issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we are eager to reengage through the Cyber Working Group that we have recently established with the Chinese, and that’s been long the case before today and before opening any newspapers. And we hope that that is something that we can reconvene in the near future.

QUESTION: But it seems to me it’s odd, because it’s second day of S&ED, and this incident actually happened – took place in March. So I just wonder, do you have any thought on the timing of this story?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to The New York Times for their decision to put a relevant news story in the news during the S&ED.

QUESTION: But this – do you think it’s helpful to help your stance in --

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any analysis on that. I would just reiterate to you that the cyber issues and cyber security came up during the discussion, as you’ve seen from reporting on the ground. It’s a big priority for us; it’s a priority for the Chinese, and that’s why we’re – we’d really like re-engage through the working group.

QUESTION: But as you mentioned, the working group has been suspended.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: So what are other channels? And --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the other channels are it can be raised through a range of levels. And it was obviously raised over the last couple of days, even though the working group was not a part of what took place at the S&ED.

QUESTION: So that didn’t bother you, getting --

MS. PSAKI: I think we expressed our preference that that issue and that working group would be a part of the S&ED. But we still took the opportunity to raise the issues during the last couple of days.

QUESTION: Do you blame the Chinese in this particular instance of spying on the OPM?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – we’re not going to discuss attribution. And again, the State Department is not the lead on this particular case.

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: I want to go to Iraq if I can.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: ISIS recently said that it has acquired a chemical weapons facility and 2,500 degraded weapons. Does the State Department have a comment on that, and what is the potential fallout over acquiring those weapons and this chemical facility?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do have something on this. Give me one moment.

Well, first, let me note that there was a copy of a letter – and I know you’re aware of this, but just so everybody is aware – of a letter that the Iraqi permanent representative to the United Nations sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon which was circulated yesterday to members of the Security Council, which outlined this. The purpose of the letter was to notify the international community of the seizure of University of Mosul facilities containing nuclear materials in June and to request international assistance.

In typical fashion, these requests are sent just directly to the IAEA and they look into them. And that is, of course, the natural process at this point. I would point you to the comments and the statement made by the IAEA today, that they believe the material involved to be low-grade and not presenting a significant safety, security, or nuclear proliferation risk. Of course, they’re the appropriate identity to make any decision about whether there is a risk or concern, but it doesn’t seem that is the case at this point in time.

QUESTION: But what do you say that – if you see the letter – in that it says that – from the Iraqis – that “threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad.” So how – what do the Iraqis say about it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they sent the letter that was referenced and the – they took responsible action by informing the UN Secretary General and the international community and it’s been referred, of course, to the IAEA. They, of course, made initial comments. I would leave it to them if they have more to say about it. I would point out that the letter also notes that this is material used for scientific and medical purposes, which is an important contextual point on our level of concern or their level of concern.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: Oh. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So are you worried that some other kind of materials that – weapons that can go into these hands. And they were also – in the letter they say it can be used in Iraq or it can be taken abroad. So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would just highlight the fact that the Iraqi Government and the United States Government are not the experts like the IAEA is on this type of material and what risk it may or may not pose. So it’s in their hands. They’ve made an initial statement. I would point you to that and I would refer to them if there’s more they plan to say on this.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there any update on cutting off funding for ISIS or maybe working with Twitter to get ISIS’s Twitter handles cut off?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think that is not at this moment in the works, to my knowledge. But I do have a little bit of an update from what you asked about yesterday, which was interesting to learn about, to be frank. One moment.

So you asked yesterday about our plans to counter ISIS’s social media presence. And the Department for – the Department Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications specifically and aggressively counters ISIL propaganda in social media on a daily basis, working closely with other bureaus and offices here in the Department, as well as interagency partners. For the most part, this campaign is conducted in Arabic, as most ISIL social media efforts are in that language. But broadly speaking, they also conduct social media engagement in a range of languages in order to reach a range of audiences. And they’ve been doing this messaging for some time now, but it has increased over the past month or so as it’s also increased from ISIL.

QUESTION: Do you know which platforms this messaging is being done?

MS. PSAKI: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a range of social media platforms is where they engage.

QUESTION: Yes, please. From what I understand from your answer is that you are debating with them or you are arguing with what they are saying, or you are blocking it?

MS. PSAKI: Not exactly, but let me try to explain a little bit better. I think the question Lucas asked yesterday was about – there’s a – the broad engagement of ISIL on social media. And I did a little research and talked to our team and learned a little bit more about what we do here. And what we do here, it may be engagement, but it may be just putting out information or a different kind of propaganda that combats the messages that are be put – that are put out, because nowadays, there’s so much focus on social media and it’s an international tool of communicating.

QUESTION: But the reason I’m asking because that the – I’m just not sure what the – what pushed Lucas to ask this question. Because there is a concern about using the social media as a tool of terrorism, anyway, or a message of terrorism. And in order to confront it, there are some suggestions that to block it or at least to follow it instead of putting in a debate. Because in social media, as you know, is like those who – they are following something, they don’t follow the other thing.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true. And the truth is we’re not targeting the hardliners through this messaging. It’s targeting more of the folks in the middle, so to speak. So – but an interesting thing to note about the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications is that it was created by an executive order just a couple of years ago. It’s only about three years old. And their mandate is countering actively violent extremist propaganda across multiple countries and regions.

So I understand what you’re saying, but there also is an effort that is only a couple years old that this Department has a prominent role in to combat these messages and communicate our own messages.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have a reaction to recently released testimony from retired General Carter Ham, the AFRICOM commander?

MS. PSAKI: Is there a specific question you have about it?

QUESTION: Yeah. He said yesterday that – written in this transcript – that the assault was probably the work of a new team of militants, the attack on the annex is part of a third wave, the attack was not spontaneous, the mortar crew was well-trained, they probably had an observer.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does this kind of go against this notion of a spontaneous attack or attacks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, first let me say that obviously, the release of these transcripts is an additional effort to be as transparent as possible in this ongoing investigation. The investigation is ongoing. There’s a range of information. I would caution anyone from taking just one sliver from an interview at one point to determine a final outcome. It’s been clear all along that the second phase of the attack was more sophisticated with the use of mortars, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s January 2014 report concluded that it remains unclear if any person or group exercised overall command and control of the attacks.

But again, because this is an ongoing investigation, we’re going to let that conclude before we draw any conclusions.

QUESTION: But I thought the ARB investigated this attack.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the ARB certainly did, but there’s also a separate investigation, as you know. The ARB looked into a range of questions, but there’s also a separate investigation that’s led by the FBI.

QUESTION: But how come a year and a half after the attacks, we’re still hearing about reports? And this wasn’t testimony to Congress, this wasn’t General Ham being interviewed by members of the State Department or members of the Administration.

MS. PSAKI: Well, these were interviews that were released that were closed-door interviews. But just like any different reports or different individual accounts, you have to take those as one of many. And obviously, assessments are made about – through investigations and through an overall review about what actually happened, but it’s ongoing.

QUESTION: Are you ready to finally acknowledge that the attacks were not spontaneous?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I think we’ve been pretty clear or we’ve stated many times and very consistently that we believe it was an opportunistic attack on our mission that did not involve significant preplanning. It still doesn’t change the fact that at the time, there were known protests all around the region dominating the news at the time. There were a range of reports on those that probably every outlet in this room reported on. So we’re not in a position to make any conclusive confirmation today of anything. We’ll let the investigation conclude.

QUESTION: And I noticed you didn’t mention the video this time. Have you guys dropped that one?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve referred to the video before. Nothing has changed on that particular point.

More on this or a new topic?

QUESTION: A new topic.

MS. PSAKI: New topic, okay.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Can we go to the back and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So James Dobbins said yesterday that a winner-take-all system in Afghanistan is not workable, and he called for a government of national unity that includes all elements. Is that the view of the U.S. State Department?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question that the United States Government wants to see a unified Afghanistan and wants to bring unity to the people of Afghanistan. It’s for the next president of Afghanistan to determine the composition of the government, which will need to be broad-based and inclusive to lead to a unified Afghanistan. Obviously, we’re encouraging a range of steps in the process so we can get closer to that conclusion.

QUESTION: So is it – so he was calling for something specific, a government of national unity. So is this – is it the State Department’s view that it’s something more general than that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, national unity, I would say, means unified – leading a united Afghanistan. Right now, what we’re – what we don’t want to see is a divided Afghanistan. We don’t want to see any candidate or entity in Afghanistan continue down any path that would lead to a divided Afghanistan. So I think it’s – he was making the point about the contrast to that.

QUESTION: But should it be a coalition government or is it up to the president?

MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the president to determine the composition of his government. But certainly – I know there’s a lot of use of “unified,” “unity,” and what that all means, but I think what we’re focused on as the United States Government is continuing to encourage all candidates and entities in Afghanistan to work towards bringing unity to the country and to the Afghan people.

QUESTION: Sticking with Afghanistan --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I wanted to ask – VICE News recently put out three different investigations that were looking into interpreters being denied visas into the United States. Is the State Department working on that? And what kind of steps are they taking in order to help these people that helped the U.S. who are now being potentially attacked by the Taliban get out of a hostile situation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, SIVs and our effort to address that and to improve and increase the review of that has been a priority of the Secretary’s. Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom has been running point on this issue, and there have been significant increases and improvements over the last several months, and I’m sure we can get that directly to you and anyone else who is interested in that.

Obviously, each of these cases is considered on a case by case basis. We don’t speak to that as a matter of policy, but we can get you some more information and statistics on that if that’s helpful.

I just have time for a couple more here. Let’s go to Scott.

QUESTION: Several times this week you’ve spoken of the need for Afghan candidates to refrain from counter-production – counterproductive efforts in declaring victory.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it your assessment that Afghan politicians are following that advice?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve expressed concern a couple of days ago about some of the comments that we had seen happen on the ground, including rumors of calls for parallel governments and declaration of victory. You can tell me or you all can tell me if there have been new calls for that, but obviously we’re continuing to communicate our concerns about any candidate or party going down that path. And to be very crystal clear about it – and we’ve talked this a little bit in here – but any extra constitutional actions which would impact the unity of Afghanistan would result in the immediate end of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. That’s not our preference. That’s not what we want to do, but that has certainly been communicated to the candidates.

QUESTION: Madam, India?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s just go to the back and then we can go to you, Goyal.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said in Beijing that he discussed the importance of enforcing sanctions on North Korea, and China has a huge role to play in this regard, and China understands this obligation. Does this mean that China has agreed to carry out those sanctions more vigorously than before?

MS. PSAKI: Well, China has been an important partner in the implementation of sanctions, and even as recently as last year they took a number of important steps. I will leave it to them to announce whether there are additional steps that they plan on taking. But I think the Secretary was just referring to the important role they play and the relationship that they have with North Korea.

QUESTION: India?

MS. PSAKI: India? Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: How do you address the fears that are raised in the Indian subcontinent about the Pakistani nuclear weapons after this Iraq incident?

MS. PSAKI: After the Iraq incident?

QUESTION: Yes, the insurgents --

MS. PSAKI: Can you play this out a little bit more for me? What are the --

QUESTION: Yeah. You just answered that the Iraqi insurgents took the nuclear material, but that was not --

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any confirmation of who the source of taking the material was.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in Pakistan, there – which is nearly a failed state, are you confident of the security of their nuclear weapons?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve obviously been – we have a range of dialogues with Pakistan. We work closely with them on counterterrorism issues and a range of issues. I’m not aware of any new concern in this case.

Matt, do you have anything else? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just two quick questions. One, just follow on Pakistan. How much concern this building has as far as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered the military throughout Pakistan in major cities, say, this is something to maybe do with Afghanistan also?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not familiar with what you’re referring to, but maybe we can connect you with the right person after to get more details.

QUESTION: And finally just another subject. What is the future of, madam, 80-year old Import – Export-Import Bank, which is they are trying to close down? And it’s supposed to help the small businesses, including it was playing a great role between the U.S. and India trade and business and other economic issues.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, it’s a little out of my lane, but I will certainly say that the Export-Import Bank plays an important role in not just partnering with foreign governments and countries and working with them on business development and economic growth, but it plays an important role in economic growth in the United States and job creation in the United States. And in fact, a little known fact is that it turns a profit every year. Can’t say that about many entities.

QUESTION: And you do not want – and you do not want to close this down?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think anyone in the United States Government wants to see the Export-Import Bank close down.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam.


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: July 9, 2014

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 18:13

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 9, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel Update / S&ED
    • Treasury Department / Syrian Regime / Sanctions
    • Pending Nominees / U.S. Senate
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Rocket Attacks / Diplomatic Engagement / Secretary Kerry's Efforts / Humanitarian Issues / Continuing Peace Process / Call for Restraint / Path Forward / Regional Concern
    • Iran Involvement
  • IRAQ
    • Government Formation / Inclusivity / Political Process / Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk
    • Efforts on the Ground / ISIL / Accurate Communication / Turkish Diplomats
  • CHINA
    • International Woman of Courage Award Winner / Tsering Woeser
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Election / Reconciliation / Discussions with Afghan Leaders / Audit Process / Foreign Assistance
  • BAHRAIN
    • Assistant Secretary Malinowski's Visit / Formal Complaint Registered
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Pending Nominees / U.S. Senate / Secretary Kerry's Op-Ed / Working through Process
  • VENEZUELA
    • Exchange of Chargés / Bilateral Relationship
  • SYRIA
    • Syrian Opposition Coalition / Election / Assistance
  • NORTH KOREA
    • North Korean Launches / U.S. Concern / International Obligations / Chinese Concerns / Japanese Concern


TRANSCRIPT:

12:59 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hi there.

MS. PSAKI: I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry continues his visit to Beijing for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the fifth U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People to People Exchanges. On July 9th, which is of course today, he opened the S&ED and reiterated our commitment to cooperate in areas of common interest and to constructively manage our differences.

As the Secretary said, we welcome the emergence of a peaceful, stable, prosperous China that contributes to the stability and the development of the region and plays a responsible role in world affairs. Secretary Kerry co-chaired the S&ED strategic track session and a special joint session on climate change and clean energy, where the two sides reviewed and strengthened efforts to tackle climate change. He also attended an event to highlight the importance of combating wildlife trafficking and to outline areas of cooperation to stop this transnational crime.

I just have a couple of other quick items at the top. As the Treasury Department announced this morning, I wanted to highlight that the United States took action to increase pressure on the Syrian regime by sanctioning three entities contributing to its repression of the Syrian people and literally fueling its war machine. Treasury designated the Pangates International Corporation for providing material support for and goods and services to the regime, including a Syrian state oil company already sanctioned by us. Pangates International is based in the U.A.E.

Treasury also designated two Syria-based front companies – the Expert Partners and Megatrade – for acting for or on behalf of the regime agency responsible for developing and producing nonconventional weapons and ballistic missiles, which we’ve also sanctioned. Today’s actions build on our robust multilateral sanctions coalition against the Assad regime. We’ve worked with more than 60 countries and international organizations to impose targeted sanctions against nearly 200 individuals and entities.

And just one more item, and then we’ll get to your questions.

You all may have seen the Secretary’s editorial piece this morning calling on the Senate to confirm our pending nominees. As he noted in this piece, the United States continues to operate without a complete diplomatic toolbox to exert our leadership, advance our security and economic interests, and address global crises because we are without ambassadors in nearly 40 countries while their nominations await Senate confirmation. Just to go through a couple of the numbers for all of you, 53 Department nominees are pending before the Senate, 35 of whom are noncontroversial career diplomats. Thirty-seven have been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and could be confirmed immediately with a simple vote. Not only do the vacancies in so many world capitals send a dangerous message to allies and adversaries alike about America’s engagement, but the length and number of these vacancies compromises U.S. national and economic security.

And just to give you a few examples that were highlighted in the Secretary’s opinion piece: In the Middle East, it’s critical that we have leaders on the ground in a region where we have extensive economic and security interests. Countries like Qatar, Algeria, and Kuwait all are pending – all have nominees pending in the Senate. In Africa, nearly a full 25 percent of our total ambassadorial presence on the continent is pending before the Senate and has been for over eight months. Vital roles that ambassadors would play in coordination in the fight against Boko Haram and al-Qaida affiliates remain vacant. And to highlight something we’ve been talking about over the last week or so, we need ambassadors in the Western Hemisphere to help find ways to prevent the crush of unaccompanied minors along our southwestern border. Nominees for both Honduras and Guatemala await Senate action right now.

As noted in the piece, but just to highlight for all of you, the Secretary proposed a unique solution to combat the nominations backlog and prevent such a logjam in the future – that the Senate carve out State’s career nominees and expedite their confirmation, just as it does for military promotions. And just to not to put too fine a point on it, obviously for America to continue to play a strong role in the world, we need equal treatment for diplomats, we need to have ambassadors and our representatives on the front lines in these countries around the world.

So with that, let’s get to who’s first. I knew it would be you, Said. Go ahead.

israelpalestinians">QUESTION: Jen, thank you. So can we start with the Palestinian Israeli --

MS. PSAKI: We certainly can.

QUESTION: -- fight over Gaza? Yesterday you took issue with my number. Today the Israelis acknowledged that they have waged, as of one o’clock this morning our time, they have waged 160 bombing runs over Gaza. Thirty-nine Palestinians have been killed, including a whole family, children and so on. Are you doing anything beyond just calling for restraint to actually bring about some sort of a de-escalation or a quiet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first – I’ll give you a brief update on the Secretary’s diplomatic engagement, as well as the Administration, I should say. Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning and he plans to speak with President Abbas over the next 24 hours. There’s a bit of a time change challenge, as you all know, given he’s in China. White House coordinator Phil Gordon is in Jerusalem and the West Bank today and has been meeting with key decision makers on both sides. He met today with President Abbas. And the Secretary, as I noted yesterday, has been making calls over the past 24 hours to world leaders as we continue to evaluate the situation and look for ways to stop the rocket attacks.

As I mentioned yesterday, and I want to reiterate, certainly no country should be expected to stand by while rocket attacks from a terrorist organization are launching into their country and impacting innocent civilians. At the same time, in the Secretary’s conversations, in the conversations of all of our senior Administration officials, they’ve been encouraging all sides to de-escalate the situation and certainly we don’t want to see any civilian casualties. That is one of the prominent reasons why it’s so important to move forward and de-escalate the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. He also made very clear time and time again Israel’s right to self-defense. And I asked you about the Palestinians’ right to self-defense. Let me ask you this: The population in Gaza, is it largely Hamas operatives or largely innocent civilians? And if there are larger Hamas operatives, then an argument can be made that they could be targets. But if they are largely civilians, then they should have, certainly, the right to self-defense --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I would simply say there’s a --

QUESTION: -- or to protection.

MS. PSAKI: -- strong difference between attacks --

QUESTION: Right, I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- rocket attacks launched by a terrorist organization that is based in Gaza and the right of Israel to defend itself. At the same time, as you know, we work closely with the Palestinians. We work closely with the Israelis. And it’s important at this point in time to see if all sides can take steps to de-escalate.

QUESTION: How could you follow or do you have any means of following what is going on on the ground in Gaza in terms of the humanitarian suffering, people that lack water, lack the – of medical care, lack of food, things of that nature. Do you have anyone --

MS. PSAKI: How do we --

QUESTION: Do you have anyone on the ground in Gaza that can monitor the situation?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I think we are concerned about any humanitarian suffering around the world. As you know, that isn’t about sides. That’s about what’s right morally. But I think – do you have any more questions on this issue?

QUESTION: But – yes, I do. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: You also mentioned that Mr. Gordon – Phil Gordon said yesterday in a speech at the peace conference, he said that the current Israeli Government is not committed to peace. Those were his words. Do you agree?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s been clear that both sides haven’t taken the – made the difficult choices needed to continue the peace process. And when there’s an absence of peace or a peace process, there’s a vacuum left that, at times, is filled by violence. So that’s the circumstance we’re looking at right now.

QUESTION: But he didn’t say both sides. He said the current Israeli Government is not committed to peace, and he went on to say --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to parse his words --

QUESTION: -- and he went on to say --

MS. PSAKI: -- but we’ve – let me finish. We’ve consistently said that both sides didn’t make the necessary choices needed to continue the process.

QUESTION: Do --

MS. PSAKI: I think we have one more for you and then we’ve got to move on.

QUESTION: Okay. One more, I promise, yeah. And he also said that Israel continues to deny the Palestinians sovereignty, security, and dignity. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to parse his words. As you know, there are difficult issues with --

QUESTION: But he --

MS. PSAKI: -- let me finish, Said – with strong emotional feelings when it relates to these tough choices that need to be made around the peace process. Certainly, the Secretary, the President still believe, as is – as the President wrote in his op-ed, that that is the right path towards a stable and secure long-term Middle East. And that’s why we’re keeping the door open to a peace process in the future.

QUESTION: But you agree Mr. Gordon --

MS. PSAKI: I think we need to move on to other questions.

QUESTION: -- Mr. Gordon speaks on behalf of the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Samir, go ahead.

QUESTION: Iraq – Iraq?

QUESTION: No, let’s stay with Palestinian – yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s do this process.

QUESTION: No, this – the Palestinian.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: One more.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Do you know who’s supplying Hamas with these rockets?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information to share on that, Lucas.

QUESTION: Because a few weeks ago the United Nations said that Iran had been fingered in delivery of rockets to Gaza and Sudan, and I was wondering if you had a comment on that.

MS. PSAKI: That is true, and has – those reports have been around for some time, I believe, but I don’t have anything specific or any confirmation from here.

QUESTION: Is this being brought up on the side during the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: Is the issue of --

QUESTION: Iran supplying Hamas with rockets?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. The focus is on the nuclear issue. There’s plenty to discuss on that particular issue.

QUESTION: And how do you discuss just nuclear issues with Iran when all this is going on, them supplying rockets to Hamas or Syria, and also possible destabilizing efforts in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve long said, Lucas, obviously resolving the nuclear issue and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is not the only issue we have with Iran. But it’s such an important issue and it’s one that’s vital to our national security interests and to the security of the region that we feel a focus on that at these discussions is absolutely appropriate.

QUESTION: But would cutting off the supply line help with the conflict currently going on in Gaza?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s clear, Lucas, that our concern and our condemnation of the rocket attacks has been consistent. And of course we’d be concerned about the suppliers, but I don’t have any more information to share on that.

Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: What specifically did the Secretary tell Prime Minister Netanyahu in his call?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve been in close touch over the course of the last several days. They’ve been discussing the circumstances on the ground. Certainly, he commended him for his call for restraint this weekend when he was meeting with his cabinet, and they’re discussing a path forward. I think certainly Prime Minister Netanyahu is concerned about the threat that the rockets from Hamas pose to his own people. He’s spoken about that publicly. The Secretary is concerned as well, and so they’ve discussed that and they’ve had ongoing discussions.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary say to the prime minister that while it’s perfectly appropriate to defend against rocket attacks from Gaza, that any effort to launch an offensive is inflammatory?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put words in his mouth. What he’s conveyed is what I just said. And as you know, we’ve – we’re encouraging all sides to de-escalate the situation on the ground. But again, Israel has every right to defend themselves and take steps to defend themselves, as – and as we know, the aggression is currently coming from Hamas in Gaza.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary raise any concerns that the U.S. might have about Israel’s plans to call up 40,000 reservists? You don’t need 40,000 people to operate Iron Dome.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have anything more to read out from the call, so I think I’ll leave it at what I just said.

QUESTION: And then besides the time difference in trying to reach President Abbas, what would be the thrust of the Secretary’s message to him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s a similar discussion in terms of discussing the path forward and how to de-escalate the situation on the ground. Obviously, as you know, President Abbas has condemned a range of the attacks as well as the recent tragic events with the three Israeli teenagers. And the Secretary will simply have a discussion about the path forward.

QUESTION: President Abbas also noted today that this wasn’t just a matter of the Israeli Government engaged with Hamas, but that this was – and I’m paraphrasing here – an attack on the entire Palestinian people. Is that kind of language coming from Mr. Abbas appropriate?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t see his specific comments, so I don’t have a comment on them.

Do we have more on this issue?

QUESTION: Yes, please. (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Go ahead in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Regarding the Secretary Kerry contacts with the regional leaders, you said --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you didn’t give any details. Do you have something to say today?

MS. PSAKI: I can give you a list of the meetings or the engagements, and certainly it’s a discussion about the circumstances on the ground. He spoke with Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, he spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. I mentioned his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Those are the calls that he’s had today and he’s looking to speak with President Abbas in the next 24 hours.

QUESTION: So you think that regional power or regional countries have a role to play in the escalation of this, or you just asking the two sides?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they – certainly regional countries have a stake in the stability of the region. And so the Secretary’s simply reaching out and having a discussion about the path forward with these regional leaders as well.

QUESTION: So either Prime Minister Netanyahu or Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority president, did they ask for other regional or did they ask their – your – what you call it – being in touch with leaders to be involved in this?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them to answer that question. I think the Secretary feels it’s only natural to have these discussions with countries in the region and their leaders.

QUESTION: So there is another thing. Related to the – just to check with you, it’s like – you said this morning he had a call with Netanyahu --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is the third call in the last four days? I mean, you said before, I think it was Friday and Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. I believe at least three calls in the last several days. And during those calls, he certainly reiterated our concern about escalating tensions and our willingness to -- expressed our willingness to engage and helping to stop the rocket fire and restore the 2012 ceasefire as soon as possible. I mentioned the calls he’s had with foreign leaders.

Let me reiterate, just in response to Said’s earlier question, we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides and – whether that’s the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes and the civilians in Gaza. And that’s why we’ve called on both sides to do all they can to restore calm and to take steps to protect civilians, even as we’re working to resolve the circumstances here.

QUESTION: Yes, please. My last question: Regarding the rocket attacks, in the last two days, the – in relation to Iron Dome statistics, almost that – just 20 percent of those rockets were intercepted. Did Israel ask U.S. for more help to – regarding the rocket attacks?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any additional requests. As you know, we are – we provide a significant amount of security assistance and provisions to the Israelis.

Go ahead, Samir. Can we go to Samir just since he hasn’t had one? Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. Sorry. Go ahead, Said. Let’s do one more on this. You don’t – okay, okay. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Yes. Prime Minister Maliki in a TV address today, he accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of allowing Erbil to become a base for the ISIS and the al-Qaida and terrorists. And he also kind of confirmed that he will not allow them to take over disputed areas like Kirkuk. Do you have any reaction to this kind of a --

MS. PSAKI: Well, without seeing the full context of his comments, let me just reiterate that our view is that the focus in Iraq right now should be on taking steps to urgently move forward with government formation. There have been – there’s a long history here of a lack of inclusivity, and at this pivotal point in time, it’s important for all leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, to act in a way that welcomes in and unites leaders in the country instead of dividing.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that Erbil might become a hotbed for extremists?

MS. PSAKI: Erbil?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re concerned about any threat that ISIL poses to citizens and communities in Iraq.

QUESTION: Okay. And let me just follow up on the advisors on the ground. Their first assessment last week was that the Iraqis may be able to defend Baghdad but are unable to sort of retake territory already conquered by the Islamic State. Has there been any update to the situation? Are they doing anything other than assessment and perhaps talking to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, assessing is certainly a part of --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- what their mandate is. But I would refer you to DOD for any updates on their work on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. But the fact that al-Baghdadi so boldly goes to a mosque that is a well-known mosque in Mosul and within – knowing exactly where he is, his location was well known and so on, is the United States or would the United States be willing to engage militarily to ensure that, like they did back in 2004 and ’05 and ’06 when they targeted Zawahiri, that they would actually target al-Baghdadi?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the options that we always have and the President always has at his disposal, but as has consistently been the case, our focus is on the political process and encouraging that to move forward. And again, we have 300 advisors on the ground. They’re in the process of assessing, but I would refer you to DOD for any more specifics on their work.

QUESTION: How realistic to – is it to assume that if Prime Minister Maliki started acting in a more inclusive way and if the Sunnis and Kurds bought into this inclusive policy of governance, that this would neutralize the threat from the Islamic State group. How realistic is this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think I’m not going to speculate on that. I think there’s no question in anyone’s mind that a unified Iraq and one that – where the leaders are moving forward toward a government formation would strengthen Iraq and strengthen the case and the fight against ISIL and the threat it poses.

Do we have more on --

QUESTION: But does that mean – I mean, it just seems as if the Administration has been creating this impression that if the political climate will change, then magically this threat from the Islamic State group will just --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think --

QUESTION: -- will just be eradicated. And it seems as if, given --

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all – let me stop you there. That’s not at all the impression we’re sending or we’re intending to send, or I don’t think anyone thinks we’re sending. We’re – our focus here is on the reality on the ground, which is that this is – there’s a grave security situation on the ground. There’s a threat that’s being posed to all Iraqi people, as well as to leaders in the region, and right now the focus should not be on political disagreements. It should be on unifying against the threat that they all face. And so what we’re talking about is how to strengthen the Iraqi leadership, Iraqi security forces, in order to take on the threat they face. And I think there’s no question that in order to work towards a long-term sustainable Iraq, that that is an essential step toward that process.

QUESTION: But given the widespread criticism of Maliki’s leadership in the past eight years, it’s going to take time to build trust among Sunnis and among Kurds. And so it just seems as if it’s going to take a while to get that political structure right-sized. In the meantime, Islamic State is going to be doing what it’s doing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, they’re meeting – let me disagree with you. They’re meeting on Sunday, as you know, to move forward with the political process. We’re encouraging them to do that rapidly. It’s up to the Iraqi people to determine who their future leadership will be, but there’s no question they have it in their capacity to move forward. And once they’ve put a new parliament – speaker of the parliament, a new president, a new prime minister in place, that will begin the path, or – be an important step on the path towards unity and towards strengthening their fight on the ground.

More on Iraq? Samir, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is Assistant Secretary McGurk still in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: He is. Deputy assistant secretary. Yes, he’s still in Iraq.

QUESTION: He’s deputy secretary.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is he doing?

MS. PSAKI: He’s been working closely with a range of Iraqi leaders. He’s been working closely with Ambassador Beecroft, and they’re working to see how they can assist in moving this political process forward.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Now, the Iraqis claim that they have deployed the Sukhoi fighters that they have received from the Russians. If they can deploy these Sukhois that were apparently purchased, paid for, delivered, and deployed in the last month, why is it so difficult for them, at a time when they have been – or being trained for the past 10 years or so on to fly American fighter jets, why is it so difficult for them to receive those jets?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first let me say there’ve been a range of reports about what’s happening on the ground and whether they’re Russian-made aircraft, whether they’re – what country they’re coming from, and I don’t have any confirmation of those specifics. We’ve seen all the reports. We’re aware there are Iranian operatives inside Iraq, that Iran has provided some supplies for Iraq’s armed forces.

But again, we take steps as the United States Government to ensure that any country – Iraq included, of course – is prepared to and equipped to accept and utilize the equipment that we’re providing. And that’s a natural part of the process, and one certainly, I think, that’s supported broadly by the United States Congress.

QUESTION: So do you suspect that Iran may be conducting these aerial bombardments?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that, Said. I don’t have any confirmation of those I can offer from here.

Do we have any more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam. Madam, my question is that – do you consider – I mean, U.S. – does U.S. consider Abu Baghdadi the next or similar to Usama bin Ladin, as he claims himself? And he has put a number of countries on alert, including U.S., India, and western countries, among others.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, I certainly spoke extensively to this the other day, but let me just reiterate. We’ve seen these type of videos and messages from ISIL and terrorist groups like ISIL in the past, and the goal here is to divide along sectarian lines the people of Iraq and to control people through terrorist means based in repressive ideology. And certainly, we have great concern about that and we have – that’s why it’s so important to express the fact that these are ruthless – this is a ruthless terrorist organization that’s only serving to divide. I’m not going to make any comparisons other than to say that you certainly know where we stand on ISIL and the fact that it is a ruthless terrorist organization, and I think that speaks to how we feel about one of its leaders.

QUESTION: And finally, on Saudi, one more quickly. One, where are they getting all this financial help to get all these weapons and all these threats? I’m sure somebody big must be behind them. And second, finally, can you confirm if there is a $10 million or more reward on him or his organization?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on their financial backing. I would point you to the Iraqis for that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry, Lucas. On Iraq or --

QUESTION: ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh. Go ahead. Okay, we’ll go to you next. Sorry about that. Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Okay, no problem.

QUESTION: Have you seen reports that ISIS has issued its own passports?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve not seen those reports.

QUESTION: Is there a plan from the State Department and U.S. Government to counter ISIS’ social media presence?

MS. PSAKI: To counter ISIS’ social media presence?

QUESTION: Social media. Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think first one of the – we use every tool in our toolbox to communicate what’s accurate, and that’s something the Iraqi Government does and we work with them to do as well. And obviously, speaking from the podium and the Secretary speaking out about the circumstances on the ground, the President speaking out, sends a powerful message to people in Iraq and people in the region.

QUESTION: Would it just be working with the Iraqi Government, because the Islamic State now covers a broad swath of territory?

MS. PSAKI: Well, no. Obviously, it’s working with countries in the region, and it’s vitally important to make sure that we continue to communicate and countries in the region continue to communicate that ISIL is a terrorist organization, that they are – their goal is to divide the Iraqi people, divide people in the region among sectarian lines. There’s a long history of fighting against that and uniting against that, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so engaged in encouraging countries in the region and their leadership to send that message as well.

QUESTION: And would the U.S. Government recognize an ISIL passport should someone come to the airport?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s highly unlikely, Lucas.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: It has been about a month now there are 49 Turkish consulate staff and diplomats still being held hostage by the ISIS. Do you have any update on any of those?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have an update. We remain in regular touch through our team on the ground with Turkish officials, and of course, we remain concerned about those who are being held, as we do about Americans who have been held, as we do about any international citizens who are being held by ISIL.

QUESTION: Have Turkish officials asked you any kind of help to --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update to offer for you on this case.

QUESTION: Last time you said that a door is – door remains open if there is any need by Ankara. The door is still open?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. And we are engaged in continued discussions.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on Lucas’ question. Do you know whether there is any Rewards for Justice program for al-Baghdadi or anyone else in --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that information in front of me. I’m sure we can check. I believe there are some for some of these officials, but we can get that around to all of you and it’s available on our website as well, of course.

QUESTION: Right, okay. And if it hasn’t been done, can you let us know whether it’s being considered?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly don’t get into what’s being considered or isn’t being considered. But if there’s publicly available information on our website, we will pull that together and send that to all of you about anyone who has a Rewards for Justice – is linked to the program.

Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: On China?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The two writers who are under house arrest in Beijing, can you confirm that the International Women of Courage Award winner was invited previously to the U.S. Embassy?

MS. PSAKI: I have some information on this and some of it we’re still gathering, Scott. But we are concerned – there were two Chinese recipients of the Secretary’s International Women of Courage Awards who were invited to a private dinner focused on women’s issues. We are concerned that Tsering Woeser was placed under house arrest and prevented from attending – I believe the other recipient as well – and we’re looking into the matter to determine more details about what happened here and, of course, the reasons.

QUESTION: Has that been communicated with Chinese officials at the highest level, since some of the highest levels are in Beijing right now?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check and see if this is an issue that came up in the dialogue in those discussions. And why don’t I do that, and we’ll let you know.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has Secretary made additional phone calls to the Afghan leaders?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – there have not been new, additional calls today, no.

QUESTION: So what is the assessment of the situation in Afghanistan right now? Do you believe that the two candidates are heading towards any kind of reconciliation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in all of the discussions, whether it’s the Secretary or Ambassador Cunningham or Ambassador Dobbins, in all of the conversations we’re continuing to urge both candidates and their campaigns to refrain from statements and actions that could jeopardize the electoral process. As we’ve said, we expect allegations of fraud to be reported and investigated by the relevant commissions. And so we continue to talk to the parties involved and deliver our message that both sides need to remain engaged with the electoral institutions to avoid violence or threats of violence, and to avoid any move towards or call for extra-constitutional measures, and also to engage with each other. So these are messages that we’re consistently sending through our senior leadership on the ground, and I expect that will continue in the coming days.

QUESTION: So what kind of action do you plan to take if they go ahead with the extra-constitutional measures which they have announced --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t --

QUESTION: -- like announcing a cabinet or --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I don’t want to speculate on that, other than to say it certainly is not our preference. Our preference is to continue providing the type of support and assistance that we have been to Afghanistan. Our preference is to continue to move forward, and we fully expect we can with the planned presence that the President announced just a few weeks ago.

I stated this yesterday, but we have – we remain confident – and I spoke with our team this morning about this – that the audit process can be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president. And in the meantime, the fact is that there have been reports – really, not new this morning but over the last couple of days – of plans to declare victory or create a parallel government. And those are steps that we don’t think would be productive or beneficial to the Afghan people or the future of Afghanistan. And we won’t be able to provide the type of support that we would like to if things continue down that path. But that’s certainly not our preference.

QUESTION: And finally, given the current situation right now that Afghanistan is in, is the Administration considering it to review the policies that it has in Afghanistan regarding post-2014 presence, number of troops that you’re planning to draw?

MS. PSAKI: As I noted, we have every confidence that an audit process can be concluded in plenty of time for the presidential inauguration that’s scheduled for August 2nd. And as you know, both candidates have committed to signing the BSA, so we’ll look forward to hopefully moving this process forward.

QUESTION: And one more. If the U.S. is in talks with the regional countries like India, Pakistan, possibly Iran, too, on bringing the situation under control in Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any contacts along those lines to read out for you. I’m happy to check and see if I think – if we’re in – if we’ve been in touch on the ground with India and Pakistan about these issues. Not that I’m aware of at this point in time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) aid message? At first blush, it looks like a threat: If you don’t do this the right way, the U.S. is not going to provide aid. But I’m wondering whether there are – what the legal restrictions are on providing foreign aid when there is a disputed election and there are questions about what is the legitimate government in country X.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not a threat. I wasn’t trying to make a legal point. I think the fact is that if they’re not abiding by their constitution, it makes it difficult for us to continue to provide the kind of support that we have been and we would like to. But that certainly is not our preference and not what our focus is on at this point in time.

QUESTION: How does it make – what is it that makes it difficult? Is it U.S. law that a government has to be properly constituted in order for the U.S. to provide foreign aid?

MS. PSAKI: It’s our policy, Roz. But if there’s a legal component, I’m happy to check on that as well for all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So this is not a threat. This is soft warning kind of thing?

MS. PSAKI: It’s neither. It’s a statement of fact.

QUESTION: All right. (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Madam, just quickly. Just – is Secretary planning to visit the region, including Afghanistan, any time soon?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any travel to outline for or announce for all of you today.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

 

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Ambassador Dobbins is still doing his special envoy message or is --

MS. PSAKI: He is. We expect he’ll be here until about the end of the month, and Dan Feldman will be transitioning in over the course of that time.

QUESTION: Bahrain.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Afghanistan? Okay, Bahrain.

QUESTION: Bahrain. You were being criticized for mishandling this whole issue with the Assistant Secretary Malinowski.

MS. PSAKI: Who’s criticizing?

QUESTION: It’s in the newspapers and there are editorials.

MS. PSAKI: Do you have any specific names or just --

QUESTION: The Washington Post today had --

MS. PSAKI: -- unnamed sources?

QUESTION: No, the Washington Post today was – had an editorial that is not quite complimentary to the way you handled the issue.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think we were very clear that we found some of the requests issued by the Government of Bahrain to be inappropriate and contravening international diplomatic norms and conventions. We also have an important relationship with the Government of Bahrain. We’ve made our concerns known. We’ve voiced those both publicly and privately, and so I would point you to that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And I can also confirm for all of you that we registered a formal complaint with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in D.C. in the last 24 hours. We’ll have probably more of an update on that later today.

QUESTION: If you were to counteraction, so to speak – if you take a counteraction, what would you do in this case? I mean, Bahrain is a small country that the United States protects in many ways. You have a major fleet out there to protect the country from any imagined aggression or possible aggression. So why do you think Bahrain has done this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re considering our response to the government’s decision and I’m not going to speculate on that further.

Do we have more on Bahrain or a new topic?

Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Just going back to the Secretary’s editorial piece, I was wondering, out of the 53 nominees that are awaiting confirmation, does one of them include a nominee to be the new special ambassador for international religious freedom?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re familiar with the publicly announced nominations and who has made it through the committee and made it onto the Senate floor. And as you know, that position is a priority for the Administration and one that we intend to fill soon.

QUESTION: But Jen, you’ve said that a number of times. The President asked for it during the prayer breakfast in February. How long does it take just to make a nomination? I assume it’s a few phone calls.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first assure you that we have a team of people who work on issues of international religious freedom. Certainly, having an ambassador in place is always our preference, as is evidenced by the Secretary’s op-ed. But we have a team working every day on these issues. We raise them at the highest level every day. But we’re looking, as with any position, to find the right person for the job. And I think in the meantime, as the Secretary’s op-ed said, the Senate can move forward with confirming dozens of nominees who are sitting and waiting.

QUESTION: But the Secretary said he wanted those positions filled, the ambassador post, because it’s a critical time and it sends a bad message when you don’t fill the positions. If this is a position that’s maybe largely ceremonial, what message is that sending? Is it saying that the United States doesn’t care about religion?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t state that at all. In fact, the United States cares deeply about human rights issues, including freedom of religion, and that’s one of the reasons that we’re working hard to find the right person and fill it with the right person for the job.

QUESTION: Yes, please. This editorial piece by the Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in Politico.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned that nearly 40 countries, they don’t have ambassadors, and then you mentioned too that it’s – although some of them were even approved by the Committee for Foreign Relation, yet the Senate didn’t approve them – I mean, or at least confirm them. And we know that the Senate is majority Democratic. So how do you explain? Because the Secretary just highlight an issue, but he didn’t explain why these people are approved or not approved and what is this process not going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re dealing with a logjam Congress, logjam Senate and House right now, and a big part of that is that there is opposition to moving forward with anything, whether it is legislation or the approval of nominees, and one party can’t do it on their own. So in this case, there are options that the Senate has at their disposal, and that includes a voice vote on dozens of noncontroversial nominees. These are officials who have served their country as Foreign Service officers for decades, many of them. There’s nothing controversial about them. They have decades of experience and they would play vital roles on the ground. And that’s why it’s – we’re pushing this so strongly. They can voice vote them through. And many of them receive approval of 93 to1 or 97 to1 anyway, while at the same time they’re waiting. Of the 37 floor nominees, they’ve waited an average of 245 days. That’s over eight months to be confirmed while there’s no ambassador in many of these pivotal countries.

The other option that’s mentioned in the op-ed is expediting confirmations for career employees, as it does – I mentioned that a little bit – for military – that happens with the military as well. So there are a range of options that the Senate can move forward with and we’re urging them to do so.

QUESTION: So the other question related – because this was – this issue was raised over the last – many times and – whether it was the case with having an ambassador in Moscow or whether in India or in Egypt for months. And the answer was coming from this podium, there are a lot of capable people and they are doing – we don’t need the – I mean, it’s not – we didn’t – you didn’t say you don’t need, but it’s like whether the ambassador is there or not, the job is done. What happened in the last few weeks or months that change your --

MS. PSAKI: The two are not contradictory, and I would go back to Lucas’s question. We have capable mid to senior-level employees and staff, whether they’re career staff or Foreign Service officers or political staff, serving at our posts and embassies around the world. But there is no question that it would be helpful and it’s vitally important to have ambassadors and leaders at the helm in some of these important countries around the world where they’re facing some of the biggest global challenges we face. And so we’re looking to move things forward quickly.

QUESTION: Somehow related to this issue is the issue of perception, which is always either, like, appreciated or ignored here. Because it’s how others are looking to United States, especially with – regarding the ambassadors. Do you think this perception is right, when people – they don’t have ambassadors – U.S. ambassadors there, they feel that it is not – somehow their issues are not handled enough?

MS. PSAKI: Are – sorry, can you --

QUESTION: I mean, are you considering that it’s an issue, the impression that if U.S. doesn’t have an ambassador, as Ambassador Kerry – Secretary Kerry was raising the issue, the necessity of having the leadership role, so the presence of ambassadors are important or not?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, vitally important to have the individual at the helm of any post or embassy in these countries around the world. And when you have dozens that are vacant, that leaves a void of leadership at the top that we think needs to be avoided, because there’s a real national security issue at stake here.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that question?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is this the reason why the Administration has not announced a new – nomination for new ambassador to India?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, the last ambassador just left her post and served there for the last – over a year. And obviously, it’s a vitally important position, and with many you just have to work through the process and find the right person for the position. What I’m talking about here is slightly different, which is individuals who have been nominated who have waited an average of 245 days, over 8 months, to be confirmed. So there are people who have been sitting waiting to go to these countries to serve proudly in these countries who haven’t been confirmed on the Senate floor.

QUESTION: So even if you nominate an ambassador to India now, it would take – it will be early next year that you have a new ambassador --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly hope not.

QUESTION: You’re concerned even by these --

MS. PSAKI: And that’s a great example. I think everybody agrees that we should have an ambassador to India in place. And as soon as one is nominated, we’re hopeful that the Senate will move forward as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that, Madam, since India has now a new prime minister, a new government, it’s taking time because it had to find the right person for India, the U.S’s next ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: No, it – not at all. It’s not taking a great deal of time at all. We’re – we have to work through the process of finding the right person for these pivotal positions.

QUESTION: But sometime it’s consultations between the two governments, right?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, that’s a part of any process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Going back to the Senate, Senate Democrats have been putting the blame on Senate Republicans for holding up these nominations, but you have Senate Republicans saying look, Senator Reid, who’s a Democrat, controls the schedule on these votes and he’s been prioritizing judicial nominees over State Department nominees, perhaps because that’s the Administration’s priority. Do you feel that the White House is prioritizing State Department nominees and that Senate Democrats are as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of important points here. One is there has been a logjam in the Senate on the Senate floor about nominations and legislation long before Senator – Majority Leader Reid moved forward with the nuclear option several months ago. That was put in place because there was a complete deadlock on getting anything done in the Senate at all. And I think the point you raised is an important one and that there – all you need for a voice vote is unanimous consent. And when you’re talking about a vote that could be 97 to 1 or 90 to 1 or 80 to 1 or 80 to 5, whatever it may be, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a voice vote for the majority of these nominees. That’s an easy thing that the Senate can do on the Senate floor, and we encourage them to do that.

QUESTION: And then going back to what the Secretary said in this op-ed and what you actually just said earlier from the podium, he said that the length and number of these vacancies compromise national security, citing a few examples, as you did, of places where maybe greater capacity or presence would strengthen the partnership or help maintain the partnership in these countries.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But are there specific cases where the State Department feels U.S. national security has been compromised by a nomination being held up in the Senate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in any case there are nominations – and I think I listed a bunch of the specific examples of individuals who have been waiting for months, if not longer. I don’t want to parse it further than what the Secretary did in his op-ed.

Go ahead. Scott? Oh. Scott.

QUESTION: Venezuela.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything else that you can tell us about the circumstances surrounding the exchange of chiefs of mission?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. One, there’s nothing out of the norm about this at all. We – let me just get a quick update and see where we are on this. It’s customary practice, diplomatic practice, to put in place a charge when we do not have ambassadors at the mission. This is not a new practice. There was an acting charge there previously, and Lee McClenny’s arrival is part of a routine personnel rotation.

QUESTION: Well, it might not be unusual logistically, but relations between the United States and Venezuela are unusual.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I mean, what about the circumstances between the United States and Venezuela, as reflected by this move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it doesn’t change the fact that there are a range of reasons why we have a diplomatic presence in countries, even where we don’t agree on every issue. And certainly, in this case, as I mentioned the other day, the Venezuelan Government has tried repeatedly over the last couple of months to shift focus from its mistakes and Venezuela’s problems to the bilateral relationship. But again, it’s still, in our view, productive to have a presence where we can. There are American citizens that we can provide services to, we can voice concerns where we have them, and those are some of the important tools that our diplomatic embassies and posts serve as well.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. The Syrian Opposition Coalition elected Hadi al Bahra. And other than the statement that you issued, has there been any conversations with him?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary looks forward to congratulating him. He hasn’t had a chance to do that yet. As you know, it’s the middle of night in China.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. Who is the point person that is conducting affairs with the Syrian opposition at the present time? I mean, it was – in the past it was Ambassador Ford, then it was --

MS. PSAKI: Daniel Rubinstein?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Continues to be.

QUESTION: He continues to be?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there any – what is the latest on their – whatever negotiations or talks? What is the likelihood of having a Geneva III or anything like that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think you’re familiar with the range of steps we’ve taken over the course of the last several weeks, even. The President announced additional assistance and additional funding to the moderate opposition. We remain in close touch with the opposition, obviously, working to elect new leadership at this time. And obviously, there are specific restrictions on how many consecutive terms that leaders can serve in the SOC is an important part of what took place in this case. They elected, in addition to the new president – and let me just note this – they also elected three new vice presidents and a new secretary general. And we understand the new president is planning a press conference later today, so I’d point you to that for any specific update.

But again, this is a group that has given – the coalition has given a voice to all Syrians who have been oppressed by the regime for decades. We remain committed to supporting them, and obviously, the President’s announcement from a few weeks ago is evidence of that. And we remain – continue – committed to continuing to support them in their effort to work on behalf of the Syrian people. So there are a range of steps we take every day to work toward that.

QUESTION: The Syrian air force bombarded bases or convoys of ISIL right at the border, the Syria and Iraq border. And do you welcome that kind of activity?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of those specifics, Said.

Do we have any more on Syria? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that the UN Secretary-General is going to appoint today Ambassador de Mistura as a – to replace Brahimi as an envoy to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen those reports. I would point you to the UN to – for confirmation.

Do we have a few in the back? Go ahead. Oh, go ahead. In the front, in the middle. Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: North Korea, sure.

QUESTION: So it launched two missiles last night again. So how does the U.S. analyze the purpose of it and intention on why they chose this timing?

MS. PSAKI: The United States is concerned by reports of yet another round of North Korean launches, the fourth in less than two weeks. As we have emphasized, such provocative actions unilaterally heighten tensions in the region, and they will not provide North Korea with the prosperity and security it claims to seek. We once again note with concern North Korea’s apparent failure to provide prior notification to merchant ships, fishing vessels, and passenger and cargo aircraft in the vicinity, despite international provisions to do so. And we once again urge North Korea to refrain from taking provocative actions, and instead fulfill its international obligations and commitment.

QUESTION: A follow-up question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Pentagon has just confirmed that these missiles were Scud ballistic missiles and this launch is a violation of a number of UN Security Council resolutions. Do you have any plan to take action against the North at the Security Council? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of those specific details or reports when I came down here. I can circle back with our team. Obviously, we take any violation seriously and have in the past certainly encouraged the UN Security Council to move forward with steps.

QUESTION: Do you believe Hollywood movies are to blame for the North Korean launch, Scud launches?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’ve been around long before this – recent Hollywood movies about these issues.

QUESTION: Jen, is it related to the S&ED held in Beijing?

MS. PSAKI: Are the launches related to?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I can’t speculate or make a prediction of what the cause of their launches are. As you know, this is the fourth in less than two weeks, and so it’s merely provocative actions that they’re taking from their end. Certainly, we’re concerned, as are countries in the region concerned about these steps.

QUESTION: And a follow-up. But the fact that they did choose to fire this missile during this meeting, S&ED, does it affect in any way the U.S. and China interacting in Beijing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – certainly, North Korea and the threat from North Korea is a part of the agenda at the S&ED and has long been planned to be a part of the agenda. And I know that they discussed and will continue to discuss these issues over the next remaining day of the meetings there.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. view --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. view on Japanese Government still are going to keep contacting with North Korea on the abduction issue, and they are going to carefully watch the procedure of the discussion?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we have spoken to this a bit in the past, but I’m happy to reiterate what our statements have been on this.

We continue to support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issues in a transparent manner. We are closely coordinating with our allies and partners, including Japan, taking – in an effort to take appropriate measures to address the threat to global security posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but would refer you to the Government of Japan for any additional information about these discussions.

Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: But is it right for the Japanese to include the possibility of unilaterally lifting some of their sanctions as part of these negotiations, given what you have termed these provocative actions by North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as far as I’m last aware, I don’t believe there’s been any public announcements in that regard. There have been a range of reports and rumors, but I’m not going to speculate on proposals that haven’t been announced.

Great. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)

DPB #120


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: July 8, 2014

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 18:08

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 8, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • CHINA
    • Secretary's Visit to Beijing for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Continued Attacks / Israel's Right to Defend Itself / Call for De-Escalation
  • BAHRAIN
    • Assistant Secretary Malinowski's Visit
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Elections / Allegations of Fraud / Commitment to Resolution
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 Talks
  • CHINA
    • Reports of Discrimination against Ethnic and Religious Minorities during Ramadan
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Focus on Need for De-Escalation
  • CHINA
    • U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
    • International Development Financial Institution Proposal
    • North Korea / Ongoing Dialogue with Partners
  • IRAQ
    • Congressional Briefings
    • Government Formation Process
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk's Engagement
    • U.S. Support
  • MEXICO/CENTRAL AMERICA
    • Asylum Claims / Process / UN Role
  • IRAQ
    • Formation of New Government / Process Ongoing
  • SYRIA
    • Chemical Weapons Removed
    • Concern about Situation on the Ground
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA
    • Concerns about Russian Separatists
    • Encourage All Sides to Minimize Civilian Casualties


TRANSCRIPT:

1:50 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

QUESTION: I just have one item at the top. Secretary Kerry arrived in Beijing, China to take part in the sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the fifth U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. He had a small working dinner with State Councilor Yang Jiechi. And tomorrow, the S&ED and the CPE will begin.

As you know, the S&ED is a central forum for the United States and China to take stock of progress, set new goals for the relationship, develop habits of cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and to manage areas of difference through candid, high-level discussions. The S&ED remains an important component of our efforts with China to build relations between our countries, and the CPE provides a high-level forum for government, civil society, and private sector representatives to discuss cooperation in various areas of common interest. Secretary Kerry will also co-chair this year’s forum and call for closer and expanded people-to-people ties.

With that, Matt, let’s get to what’s on your mind.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: As you are aware no doubt, the Israeli Air Force is conducting operations over in Gaza right now, and I’m wondering what you make of that. Also, the rockets have been – are being fired into southern Israel. Tel Aviv was – there were air raid sirens in Tel Aviv. What’s your take on the situation? Do you believe that this is the kind of restraint that you’ve been calling for from both sides for the past week or so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza. No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. We appreciate – we’re concerned, of course, about the safety and security of civilians, as you mentioned. I know there’s been a range of reported attacks that have gone directly on both sides, the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes, the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas’s action.

The Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu Friday and again on Sunday. He’s been in regular contact. Let me just make sure he hasn’t had a call today as well. Not today, but he’s been in close contact and he’s reiterated our concern, as our teams have on the ground, to both sides about the need to de-escalate the tensions on the ground. We’ve also – he’s also been in touch with leaders in the region about our concerns about what’s happening on the ground.

So in terms of what’s happening specifically today, our hope is certainly that by sending a strong message that Israel will be able to deter some of the attacks that have been happening that have been coming at them from Gaza. And again, I would just reiterate our view that they have the right to defend themselves.

QUESTION: Do you believe that this is – that the Israeli actions are “sending a strong message”? That’s what you were referring to?

MS. PSAKI: Sending – well, I’m referring to --

QUESTION: The air strikes --

MS. PSAKI: -- the calls this morning. I’m not referring to specific air strikes. But I would reiterate just that they’re defending themself. They have rocket attacks coming into their own country.

QUESTION: Right. I just – well, I don’t have an ulterior motive here.

MS. PSAKI: No, go ahead. Keep going.

QUESTION: I’m just trying to figure out when you say that you think that Israel is sending a strong message – by sending a strong message Israel will be able to deter future rocket attacks from Gaza, is what the Israelis are doing now, do you consider that to be sending a strong message, or is it something else?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not referring to specific action. I’m referring to their statements that they are prepared – they’re preparing themselves to respond to the attacks. Certainly, our preference, which is what the Secretary and others have been conveying to both sides, is to de-escalate the tensions, to bring an end to the violence. But we certainly believe they have the right to defend themselves as well.

QUESTION: They’ve – the government has authorized to call up 40,000 troops, which would appear to be paving the way for a potential ground operation. Is that something that you would oppose, something that you would think is fully within Israel’s right to do? What’s your – what are your thoughts about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to get ahead of where we are. I’m not going to get ahead of where we are now. I would remind you that just this past weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu called for acting responsibly, called for all sides acting responsibly. We’re continuing to convey the need to de-escalate to both sides. Again, it is not a surprise that they are taking steps to prepare themself, but certainly, our preference is to de-escalate the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: Do you believe that all sides are acting responsibly at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think certainly, we’ve been calling for de-escalation because, obviously, the rocket attacks coming into Gaza, the recent violence on the ground --

QUESTION: So that’s no?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian side, they are not – or on the Hamas side, they are not acting responsibly, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – we think all sides should act responsibly, all sides should take steps to de-escalate. But again, it’s important to note where the rocket attacks are coming from. But obviously, there are a lot of circumstances on the ground now, as you know.

QUESTION: I understand that. I’m just trying to get at – I’m trying to find out what the Administration’s position is on whether the sides are acting responsibly, whether they are showing the kind of restraint that you think is necessary to de-escalate the situation, or not. And it’s very possible that one side is and the other side isn’t, or that that’s your opinion, but I’m just trying to find out if – what is the – what does the Administration believe? Is its – are its calls for restraint being heeded by one side, both sides, or either side?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of specificity, Matt, other than to say that we’re conveying through diplomatic channels the importance to both sides of acting responsibly and with restraint.

QUESTION: Okay. And then my last one is you said that the Secretary had been – in addition to calling Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday and Sunday – was it Friday --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, correct, Friday and Sunday.

QUESTION: -- that he had also been in touch with leaders in the region to pass along the same message, I guess.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you be more specific about who in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m specifically – let me see if there are more specific calls to read out for you. What I’m referring to is any leader in the region, any countries in the region that can send a strong message to Hamas as well.

QUESTION: But that would be – so, like the Egyptians, the Saudis, the – who, Turks? The --

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. Those are all applicable. I don’t have any more specifics to read out for you, though, on that.

QUESTION: Well, what about the – what about Palestinian President Abbas sending a strong message to Hamas? I mean, you are recognizing his government, of which Hamas is a part. I mean, doesn’t he bear some responsibility for reining in Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t recognize governments. Hamas is not a part of the technocratic government. We certainly expect --

QUESTION: It’s a unity government of which Hamas is --

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. We certainly expect President Abbas to do everything in his power to prevent rocket attacks and to condemn violence, and he has made a range of those calls. But we’re conveying the same message to him as well about the need to exercise restraint and de-escalate the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: But do you think that he bears some responsibility here? I mean, I just – it’s like at one point, yes, it was a conflict between just the U.S. and Hamas, and Abbas had no real kind of skin in the game because it was between these two parties, even though it was affecting the Palestinian people directly. But now, he’s part of a unity government and has some influence with Hamas now, wouldn’t you say?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have no evidence that Hamas plays any role in the interim technocratic government. And as far as we know, there have also been no steps taken for the implementation of the reconciliation. And obviously, as I mentioned yesterday, given the situation on the ground, it’s difficult to see how the reconciliation process can move forward in the current atmosphere.

I think, yes, we want President Abbas to do everything in his power to prevent rocket attacks and to condemn violence. But I would remind you, as you know, Hamas control – continues to control Gaza. The Palestinian Authority security forces only operate in the West Bank and don’t operate in Gaza. So there are certainly limitations to what is possible, though we want him to do everything in his power to prevent and condemn these type of attacks.

QUESTION: Remaining on the message theme, so you think that all Israel is doing is sending a strong deterrent message and that’s all there is, and that remains within the accepted proportion or whatever, proportionality?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s what I stated, Said. There is obviously a range of circumstances on the ground right now, as you all know. There are the unfortunate recent deaths of the three teenagers. There are – there is the kidnapping and then the beating of the other teenager.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: There is violence and back-and-forth. I don’t have to repeat for you. You know exactly what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: I know. I understand and you don’t have to repeat for me. But you feel that sort of the Israeli air raids, like maybe hundreds of them so far this day, are proportionate to the rockets?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not – I wouldn’t validate the accuracy of that number, but I would say, Said --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the sorties – there are hundreds of sorties.

MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said, that I don’t think any country would be expected to allow rockets to come in and threaten the lives and health and well-being of the citizens in their country, and Israel has the right to defend themselves.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that the Palestinians in Gaza have the right to defend themselves?

MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Said.

QUESTION: I am asking you: Do they have the right to defend themselves against Israeli aggression?

MS. PSAKI: What are you specifically referring to? Is there a specific event or a specific occurrence?

QUESTION: Do they have the right to respond to Israeli rocketing and bombing their homes, their houses, their areas, their schools?

MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about attacks from a terrorist organization, Said. I don’t think you’re --

QUESTION: No, but there is also a population --

MS. PSAKI: -- we’re having a conversation about what’s happening here.

QUESTION: I mean, you agree that there is a civilian population in Gaza that is also subject to --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, and the threat, as I mentioned earlier, to civilian populations is of great concern to us. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so focused on encouraging all sides to de-escalate.

QUESTION: Are you calling on someone like Egypt to intervene, perhaps, that can bring about some sort of quiet?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve, again, been in touch with countries from the region. I’m not going to get into any greater level of specificity.

QUESTION: Have you gotten a response from the Egyptians that they are willing to intervene or perhaps broker --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let countries speak for themselves.

Do we have more on this issue? Okay. Should we move on to a new topic?

QUESTION: Bahrain?

MS. PSAKI: Bahrain.

QUESTION: I don’t – can you update us on the l’affaire Malinowski?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I believe we sent this out, but in case you didn’t all see it, I just wanted to give a quick overview of the meetings that he had on the ground. He arrived on July 6th. On that evening, he briefly attended the Wefaq Ramadan gathering, which was open to the public. Throughout his visit he was also scheduled to attend the Ramadan gatherings of a broad spectrum of society, as is traditional. He also met with the minister of interior and police chief; with the National Institution for Human Rights. He had meetings scheduled over the coming days with the crown prince, first deputy prime minister and director general of his office, the foreign minister, the minister of justice and Islamic affairs, the minister of interior, ombudsman, the commission on prisoner and detainee rights, and the chief of the public prosecutor special investigative unit.

So as was noted in the statement we sent last night, this was a trip that was prior planned, that we’d worked with the government on. He held meetings internally at the Embassy today, and he’s scheduled to leave today as well. To our knowledge, the Government of Bahrain has not changed its position.

QUESTION: How long had he planned to be there?

MS. PSAKI: He had planned to be there about through the end of the week – or through later this week.

QUESTION: Okay. And he will leave today, or has – it’s getting late there. I don’t know --

MS. PSAKI: He’s scheduled to leave today.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure exactly with the time change if he’s departed yet.

QUESTION: But will he have had all the meetings that he planned, or --

MS. PSAKI: No, he will not have.

QUESTION: The Bahrainis complained – and you had rejected this, but the Bahrainis complained that he was only meeting with one sect or one sector – wasn’t meeting with everyone, and that’s not conducive to their attempt at dialogue. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the head of that in Saudi Arabia has also – has expressed the same thing. Are you concerned that this incident is going to affect not just your relations with Bahrain, but also with the broader Gulf including Saudi, where you’ve already had a somewhat strained relationship?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not. Obviously, we remain and will be in close touch with both the Government of Bahrain and any other country that expresses a concern, as would be normal protocol and process. As you mentioned, but it’s worth noting, he was scheduled to meet with high-level government officials and had some of those meetings before all of these events happened just yesterday. But no, that’s not a concern that we have at this moment.

QUESTION: Okay. Assistant Secretary Malinowski in a tweet, which was then retweeted by the State Department, said that this was not about him; this was rather about the Bahraini authorities trying to undermine dialogue and national reconciliation. Is that the position of the Administration, of the State Department, that the Bahraini Government is not interested in a dialogue and national reconciliation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we spoke at great length and detail about this yesterday, Matt. Obviously, it’s important for all sides, including the Government of Bahrain, to move forward on the reconciliation process. But I don’t think I’m going to have anything to add to the tweet you referenced.

QUESTION: So did the retweet by the State Department constitute an endorsement of Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s stance?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t take it that way.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Have there been any conversations between the U.S. ambassador and the Bahraini Government about something which this building considers highly irregular?

MS. PSAKI: We have been in close touch with the Government of Bahrain. I don’t have any other specific meetings to detail for you.

QUESTION: How will you respond to this move, to this type --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re considering our response to the government’s decision. But again, obviously, this is new yesterday. So I don’t have anything to outline in that regard.

QUESTION: When can we expect this response?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict that for you, unfortunately.

QUESTION: When he leaves, is he coming back here, or does he have other stops in the region?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. I believe he’s coming back to Washington, but we can double-check and make sure that’s the case.

Said.

QUESTION: Will he respond to it?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or is he out?

MS. PSAKI: He was scheduled to leave today. I’m not sure with the time change if he’s departed yet.

QUESTION: So his last meeting, just so I’m checking – his last meeting was this – with this group that they said that it’s not desirable to meet them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he had meetings yesterday also with the minister of interior and police chief and the National Institution for Human Rights, as well as the Wefaq leaders. But he had meetings with the government as well as, obviously, members of the opposition.

QUESTION: And if you can clarify – I’m not sure if it’s clear or not. The reason that it was the meeting, or that they ask for somebody to attend the meeting and you refused to let them in?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was scheduled – there are a couple of reasons, and we outlined this a bit in our statement, but the Government of Bahrain did request to have an MFA representative in all of his private meetings with civil and political society leaders, including inside the U.S. Embassy. And that’s not typical, it’s not appropriate in our view, and it contravenes international diplomatic norms. But there have been a range of meetings that officials have had within the country where that wasn’t requested, so that certainly isn’t even consistent with what is standard there.

QUESTION: You said --

QUESTION: What --

QUESTION: -- “request.” The statement last night, I believe, said that they demanded, they insisted. It was more than a request, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Or – did the interior or foreign ministries have someone present in these meetings, or were they rejected?

MS. PSAKI: Well, not that I’m aware of, Matt. Obviously, there are some meetings where it’s appropriate and some where it’s inappropriate. I don’t have a list of who was at each of the meetings, but certainly having – requiring it or insisting or demanding, whatever you want to use as an adjective, that they be in meetings is something we didn’t feel --

QUESTION: Verb.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, verb. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: It’s hot up here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There is another question related to the same issue. Usually these meetings, I think it’s prescheduled and prearranged and preorganized with the authorities, wherever they are going. Is that – was the case here, or that meeting was like at the last moment was scheduled and then took place?

MS. PSAKI: This is a visit that was highly coordinated with the government and it certainly --

QUESTION: With all the details, including the meeting of this group?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s certainly pretty standard. The Secretary does, and a range of high level officials meet with a range of groups, civil society leaders, when they go to almost any country. So it was very – highly coordinated with the government.

QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking is like just to be sure that the Bahraini Government was aware that the assistant secretary is going to meet this group, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there was a discussion about his agenda. I don’t have the list of exactly the meetings they were aware of, and some of these come together on the ground, but certainly we’ve had government officials meet with these groups before, so there’s a long precedent.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

QUESTION: I would refer to Matt’s wisdom on this, but how unusual is it to have --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: How unusual is it to have a host government insist – and that’s the language in the statement from last night – that one of its representatives be allowed to attend private meetings that a visiting U.S. official would be carrying out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s highly unusual, and in our view it’s also inappropriate and contravenes international diplomatic norms.

QUESTION: So given that Assistant Secretary Malinowski was simply visiting, how does the U.S. respond in this sort of situation? I mean, you don’t normally when there’s a PNG situation – there’s usually a diplomat or two in residence who was then told, pack your bags, you have 48 hours, or whatever. How do you respond in something like this to make it clear to the Emirate that this is not permissible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re considering our response to the government. Obviously, this just happened in the last 24 hours, so I don’t have a prediction of the timing or the outcome of that at this point in time.

QUESTION: Is there a concern that the U.S. has to proceed carefully because of the presence of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly our strong relationship with Bahrain is something that we would like to maintain, but obviously we’re considering a range of options with that in mind.

QUESTION: Jen, how do --

QUESTION: Really? Does the range of options include not maintaining a strong relationship with Bahrain?

MS. PSAKI: No. I don’t think I said that it did, Matt.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: But obviously, there are, of course – our response, there’s a range of options we can consider with that in mind.

QUESTION: Do any of those options have to do with moving the Fifth Fleet?

MS. PSAKI: No. That’s not what I said, Matt. I know you --

QUESTION: I know. I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: You have an obsession with the Fifth Fleet, I know, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m not --

MS. PSAKI: You need to visit.

QUESTION: I’m not saying that you said it. I’m asking if --

MS. PSAKI: I was actually trying to convey quite the opposite, that our strong relationship with Bahrain is, of course, something that we consider and something we want to maintain, and that’s one of the reasons that we’re having these conversations through diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: So in other words, maintaining your strong relationship with the Government of Bahrain is equal to or more important than them respecting human rights and working towards national reconciliation?

MS. PSAKI: It’s all a factor, Matt. Obviously, we raised human rights issues as – at every opportunity, and certainly we’ve expressed our strong concern about the events of the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to consider the presence of the Fifth Fleet as a bargaining tool --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: -- or as any sort of leverage?

MS. PSAKI: No. I’m not speculating on that. Obviously, we – considering our response, this just happened in the last 24 hours, but I wouldn’t go down that direction, Roz.

QUESTION: So expressing your concerns about – the limit of your language and sort of expressing this – your displeasure with this act? Can’t you say that we are outraged, we are --

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: -- annoyed, we are --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if you saw our statement last night, Said --

QUESTION: I saw your statement.

MS. PSAKI: -- but it was a pretty strong statement in terms of our view of the circumstances over the last 24 hours. That remains the case and we’ve conveyed that privately and we’ll continue those discussions privately, and we’ll continue to consider our response otherwise.

QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: Well, let’s say it – hold on. It was a pretty strong statement when it comes to statements about Bahrain, that’s for sure. But “deeply concerned” is a far bit different than “we condemn” or “we are mortified” or “we are horrified” or whatever. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, I take your point; it was a strong statement, but it was a strong statement as related to other statements about Bahrain.

MS. PSAKI: I would also point you to the fact that I just said that their requests were inappropriate and contravene international norms.

QUESTION: Fair enough, fair enough.

MS. PSAKI: So Margaret, do you want to go to Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Afghanistan, if we could.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: With other statements that came out yesterday, beyond expressing “gravest concern,” which I think was the phrase in the statement last evening, can you tell us what the U.S. is doing to try to resolve the standoff on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first – and I know you’ve seen some of these readouts, but President Obama, Secretary Kerry, as well as S-Rep Dobbins, Ambassador Cunningham have been speaking with the candidates, the electoral bodies and Afghanistan’s political leadership over the past couple of days to try to come to a resolution. And Secretary Kerry has been in touch with both candidates, President Karzai over the course of the weekend, and I expect that will continue. And we’ve been – and as was noted in our statement last night or some we’ve issued over the last couple of days, we’re calling on both campaigns and their supporters to work towards a resolution which will produce a president who can bring Afghanistan together and govern effectively and avoid steps that undermine Afghan national unity. And clearly our engagement shows our level of commitment to not just the future of Afghanistan, but to a resolution to this issue.

QUESTION: In the – one of the statements yesterday there was also the – I mean, threat is what it appeared to be, but the mention that at risk here is a tremendous amount of aid and potential other forms of U.S. support. What exactly was that referencing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not our preference. It’s not the preference of the United States; it’s certainly not the preference of the Afghan people. That statement was in response to the fact that there have been reports on the ground of plans to declare victory, to create a parallel government. Both of those steps would be illegal, and it’s not a threat, it’s a fact that certainly we wouldn’t be able to provide the kind of support that is our preference to provide if those type of steps were taken. So it was conveying that.

QUESTION: Because it would be a coup, essentially?

MS. PSAKI: Well, those are illegal steps, and obviously we’re talking about a broad range of assistance that we provide.

QUESTION: Senator --

QUESTION: So if there were illegal steps taken to form a new government in Afghanistan, they would lose aid, but not in Egypt, huh?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, every circumstance is different --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and you know where we stand on that particular issue.

QUESTION: Do you know – do you regard – does the Administration regard the steps that candidate Abdullah has taken already just by declaring himself the winner of the election, even though he didn’t name a – hasn’t tried to form a government – are those – isn’t that a step that undermines the – what you called the – what you called Afghan national unity and what one might say – one might ask if Afghan national unity actually exists, given the situation – but is that the kind of step that you think is bad? Just the (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly – I want to say acting on that step, yes. And one of the reasons the Secretary has been in close touch and we issued the statement last night is to convey that that is not acceptable.

QUESTION: That what – sorry --

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: -- which is unacceptable? The proclaiming oneself the winner --

MS. PSAKI: Correct. There are proper entities and bodies in Afghanistan who will --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- who can determine that. And this also – the rumors or reports that there were plans to create a --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- parallel government.

QUESTION: But what is – is that – that is a strike against Abdullah Abdullah in your – now, I’m not saying that there are three strikes; I’m not saying anything like that. But that is a checkmark on him; he’s done something that you think crosses the line?

MS. PSAKI: No, I wouldn’t say it that way at all, Matt. Obviously, we’re concerned about having – about the fact that Afghanistan has made tremendous progress. We want to preserve that. Any of these steps, the implementation of them would not be good for the future of Afghanistan, the future of the Afghan people. We’re not doing a day-by-day grading system here, but certainly we don’t think that would be a productive step moving forward.

QUESTION: Is the – Ghani agreeing to the audit of, I think, it was 3 million votes or something. Is that something that’s a step in the right direction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we think there are two things that need to happen here that need to – that the candidate – that needs to happen on the ground, I should say, moving forward. The electoral commission and the complaints commission need to examine all of the allegations of fraud. There are serious allegations. They need to be looked into. There needs to be a review of all the ballots that may or may not be legitimate. There are – were the proposal of the couple of options, Margaret, that you reference, but there are also some UN proposals that we think the electoral bodies should be working with them on. And at the same time, the candidates and their supporters need to be in conversations with each other about the formation of a government of national unity and a government that includes all of the relevant parties and important groups, and we feel both of those steps are important moving forward.

QUESTION: Has anyone been in touch with Ashraf Ghani?

QUESTION: Senator Inhofe said --

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Sorry. Has anyone been in touch with --

MS. PSAKI: Ladies first, Said.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: You’re normally so polite. Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Jen just said that he had called him.

QUESTION: He called – okay. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Senator Inhofe told reporters a short time ago that he’s very concerned about these allegations of fraud and he started reading off some numbers about vote disparities between the first round and the second round – 10 times, 12 times the gap in the first election to the second election.

He’s also very concerned that efforts to hew to the July 22nd final declaration may be stacking the victory in Ghani’s favor, and he wants to see more time so that these allegations of fraud can be fully explored. Otherwise, Inhofe is arguing, whoever becomes the new president won’t be considered credible. Does this building – does this Administration – share his concern about a rush to declaring someone the president?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, one, feel there are serious allegations that – of fraud that need to be looked into, and we were disappointed. And I know that Matt asked this question yesterday, that the IEC went ahead with yesterday’s announcement – serious – because these serious allegations were not sufficiently investigated and we would have preferred that the announcement be postponed until there was agreement on further audit measures that need to be taken to address the substantial allegations.

All of that being said, there are proposals on the table that would help to address that. Our view remains that the audit process can be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president to proceed as scheduled on August 2nd.

QUESTION: Is there concern – and maybe this came up yesterday – is there concern that a resolution on the BSA could be in jeopardy because of this dispute over who was the actual victor?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we view – we feel that an audit can be completed by – an audit process can be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president. As you know, both candidates have made clear that they would sign the BSA. We are proceeding with our planning accordingly.

QUESTION: Is it – you say that you were disappointed that the IEC went ahead with this and that you would have preferred that they had waited.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was that conveyed to the IEC itself?

MS. PSAKI: I believe not through the Secretary, but I believe on the ground in some capacity, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So in fact you – the U.S. has been involved in this process.

MS. PSAKI: Well, not exactly. I mean, I think obviously there’s – we’re not involved in the process of considering allegations or considering – or counting ballots. That’s what I’m referring to. But certainly, when there’s a partial result announced, which we’ve expressed a concern about --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- because it doesn’t represent or doesn’t necessarily represent the outcome, that can cause confusion. And that was one of our concerns.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. But I’m just trying to get it – so if you expressed your concern about that to the IEC, they clearly didn’t listen to you. They clearly didn’t buy – it’s a bit like calling for restraint from people who never show restraint. So I’m just wondering: Are you – when you say that you’re disappointed, are you – you’re disappointed that they didn’t heed your advice? You’re disappointed that – disappointed at what?

MS. PSAKI: That they went forward with yesterday’s announcement when there was serious allegations of fraud that remained on the table that hadn’t been properly investigated.

QUESTION: Okay. But you still think, as you said before – I just want to make sure – that there is time enough to resolve all the fraud complaints, inaugurate a new president, get the BSA signed by the time you all and NATO have to figure out what you’re going to do.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m trying to understand who is – both sides are ready to make this count or recount process? Because one of them is declaring that he’s the victor, and the other one is saying that I’m going to make a parallel government. Who in those two sides or other sides is ready to continue the process until they come to the 2nd of August?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll let them speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But obviously, the – not the candidates, but the election commission and the complaints commission are the ones who would look in – the complaints commission specifically is the entity that would look into the allegations of fraud and examine those allegations.

QUESTION: So you believe – as United States believe that they want – you want them to recount the process, right? Recount the votes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are serious allegations, and we think that more can be done to examine the allegations.

QUESTION: Keeping in line with this country’s own special experience with the 2000 election, what would be an acceptable audit – and I’m using your word – for reviewing these allegations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a number of proposals put out there. There have been some that the complaints commission and the electoral commission have referenced; Margaret referenced those a little bit earlier. But there are also some proposals put forward by the UN. We think they should all talk about the best way to move the process forward.

QUESTION: So just to be clarified: So U.S. and UN and others believe that this process has to be done, right? Is – am I correct or wrong?

MS. PSAKI: We think there are serious allegations of fraud. They need to review all of the ballots that may or may not be legitimate.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Is two weeks really enough time? Two weeks from today?

MS. PSAKI: I would stand by what I just said. We feel there is enough time to conclude an audit process by that time.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: P5+1.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: France foreign minister said today the differences in approach between some of the world powers and Russia had appeared in the last few days during negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Do you feel the same, or do you have the same feeling as France?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there – this is a long process that’s been ongoing for more than six months now, and there have been concerns expressed in the past – actually, the last round we had – by France, and the P5+1 remains united through the process. We certainly believe that that will be the case here.

That doesn’t change the fact that significant gaps remain with Iran. Everyone is working very hard to see if we can get to an agreement here, and we have put on the table a reasonable, verifiable, and easily achievable proposal that can show the world that Iran is committed to what it means. And that means a peaceful program and preventing them from acquiring a nuclear weapon. So we’re in the middle of it right now, so I don’t have much more to speculate on.

QUESTION: Did you mean that the U.S., Europe, and Russia are still on the same page?

MS. PSAKI: And China, yes.

QUESTION: And China?

MS. PSAKI: The talks are continuing. Obviously, we never said this would be easy, and that certainly is the case now where gaps remain in the discussions.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary planning to attend the meetings in Geneva – in Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary is always happy to get on a plane, as you all know and many of you have experienced it. But there hasn’t been a decision made at this point in time for him to travel to Vienna.

QUESTION: Because the French foreign minister has said that the United States wanted foreign minister to join the negotiations in Vienna. That means maybe he talked to the Secretary, and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a lot of rumors on the ground, as there always are, around negotiations like these. But we evaluate day to day. I have nothing to announce for you, and there hasn’t been a decision made at this point in time.

QUESTION: So I suspect – and I’m only – I know what your answer’s going to be, but I would be remiss not to ask it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And that is: Would you expect the Secretary to bring his case for and on Afghanistan to the candidates in person any time in the near future?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to announce in regard to upcoming travel beyond his trip in China that’s ongoing.

QUESTION: Somalia. There was an attack today on the presidential election – on the president’s – presidential palace. Do you have any information about this attack?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new information. I know it just happened, I believe, this morning or overnight.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we would condemn that attack, but let me circle back with our team post-briefing and see if we have more details. I’m not sure if there’s been any claims or anything along those lines.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

Scott.

QUESTION: Does the United States have – on China. Does the United States have a view on Chinese authorities preventing some Uighur civil servants and students from observing the Ramadan fast?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are deeply concerned by reports of discrimination against and restrictions on ethnic and religious minorities in China, including Uighurs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. We urge Chinese authorities to take steps to reduce tensions, uphold China’s international commitments to protect religious freedom and other universal human rights – and certainly, observation of religion is one of them – and reassess counterproductive policies in the region and other ethnic areas.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that this is not the first time that this has happened in that area?

MS. PSAKI: I believe there is some history here. I don’t have that in front of me. But certainly, we’ve been – expressed concern about discrimination against Uighurs in China, and I know that’s been related to religious observations as well.

QUESTION: I meant to ask you if you have – if you can clarify what the Russian foreign ministry is saying, that one of its citizen was kidnapped by the Americans. Can you clarify that --

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re referring to reports --

QUESTION: -- rumor?

MS. PSAKI: -- of allegations of --

QUESTION: Allegations, yes, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a --

QUESTION: They’re saying that he was kidnapped from the Maldives.

MS. PSAKI: It’s – I just want to make sure I’m referring to the same person. Hopefully, there’s only one incident you’re talking about. You’re talking about the Department of Justice case that’s been raised?

QUESTION: No, they’re – they said that one of their citizens, Roman Seleznyov, was kidnapped from the Maldives by American agents.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there have been – obviously, there’s been a recent case that I would point you to the Department of Justice on. I’m not sure if this is exactly the same case or not, Said, in terms of allegations that have been issued. Certainly, no kidnapping took place.

QUESTION: Oh, you mean that there’s more than one incident of a Russian citizen being taken --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure exactly --

QUESTION: -- by U.S. officials from the Maldives?

MS. PSAKI: -- what he’s referring --

QUESTION: I was referring --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what he’s referring to specifically.

QUESTION: The issue (inaudible).

QUESTION: That’s the issue.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The son of a member of parliament --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, from the Maldives.

QUESTION: -- has been taken to Guam.

QUESTION: Right, yes.

QUESTION: Have you gotten a official or any kind of a protest from the Russians about this? They’ve been speaking about it publicly.

MS. PSAKI: I know they’ve spoken a great deal about it publicly. I don’t have anything privately to lay out for all of you.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you know how it works in terms of consular access when you’re – when someone is in Guam? I mean, you’re still obligated to – it’s not like Guantanamo, right? Even though the first three --

MS. PSAKI: It is a U.S. territory, yes.

QUESTION: -- first three letters are the same, but I think – (laughter) –

MS. PSAKI: That’s good.

QUESTION: -- the airport code is probably different, so --

MS. PSAKI: It may be. We can look that up.

QUESTION: But is there some kind of – one of the things that the Russians say or the father of this guy says is that he suspects that his son was taken to Guam because people in Guam may not be – may not enjoy the full legal protections of – and I’m just wondering if you know if that – I don’t expect you to know if that’s a case. I know it’s a DOJ thing. But in terms of consular access, I would expect the State Department, even if you don’t know off the top of your head, or the State Department might know, is there some difference in terms of consular access versus someone who’s being detained in Guam as opposed to someplace that’s a state?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt. And let me just reiterate – and I think part of the confusion is Said also referred to a woman, so I just wanted to make sure we’re talking about --

QUESTION: I didn’t say a woman.

MS. PSAKI: -- we’re talking about the same individual, but --

QUESTION: I said his name was Roman.

QUESTION: I think we are, right? We’re talking about the same --

MS. PSAKI: This is – yes, I believe so.

QUESTION: I did not --

QUESTION: This is a computer fraud --

MS. PSAKI: This is a – yes, there were accusations made. It’s a Department of Justice case. Certainly, there was no kidnapping involved. I believe that certainly a U.S. territory would abide by the same consular access obligations.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We can check and confirm for you that that is the case.

QUESTION: But I’m not sure – all right, maybe “kidnapping” is a bit too strong. But if someone is in the capital of the Maldives trying to get on a flight to – back to Russia, and somehow they’re spirited away and they end up in Guam charged with a crime, how is that not abduction?

QUESTION: Napping.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have much more on this case to offer, Matt.

Do we have a new topic?

QUESTION: Yeah. With your indulgence and my colleagues, of course --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- I just wanted to go back to the Gaza issue for a minute.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, okay.

QUESTION: Because the Israelis said this will take – it will take days, not hours. So this may go on for a long time. Is that okay with you? I mean, is Israel within its right to conduct this operation for as many days as it deems appropriate or necessary?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I’m happy to indulge you, as always, but I’m not going to speculate. Obviously, our focus is on communicating the need to de-escalate the situation on the ground, but I would reiterate that we believe Israel has every right to defend itself. And certainly, no country would – should be expected to stand by while rockets are impacting and threatening their citizens.

QUESTION: In light of calling 40,000 reservists to duty, are you concerned that there may be a ground invasion in Gaza?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve already addressed and exhausted this topic.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: My name is Jason Chong with Yonhap News Agency from South Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Hello.

QUESTION: Hi. My question is: You said yesterday that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be one of the key topics for the strategic --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- talks with China. And what kind of specific outcome do you hope to see from the meeting with regard to this issue?

And my second question is: U.S. has been negative about Chinese plan to set up regional development bank AIIB.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And do you think this will also come up during the strategic talks? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of topics, certainly, that will be discussed that may or may not be at the top of the agenda. In terms of the AIIB, we believe that there is a need for additional public, private, and multilateral development bank to support infrastructure development. But we also believe any proposal for a new international development financial institution should clearly explain how it will complement and add value to existing institutions. As you know, there’s already an existing institution that does some of the same work.

And additionally, we believe that any international institution involved in infrastructure investment and development should incorporate high standards of governance, environmental and social safeguards, procurement, and debt sustainability that have been established over decades of experience at multilateral development banks.

And as you know, there’s already the ADB, which plays a critical role in regional infrastructure development, so the AIIB – excuse me – hasn’t – doesn’t exist yet, and obviously, those are the bar – that’s the bar we believe it should pass.

In terms of North Korea, there’s been an ongoing dialogue between the United States and China as well as all of our partners in the Six-Party process about how to best work together to put the necessary pressure on North Korea, but the ball remains in their court to take the necessary steps to abide by their international obligations. But certainly, we expect the threat from North Korea, our concerns about North Korea to be a part of the discussion ongoing on the ground now.

Lucas.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Anne Patterson is leading a delegation on Capitol Hill today at 5 o’clock to brief the House. I was wondering if you had anything more on that.

MS. PSAKI: I believe it’s a part of our standard efforts to make sure members of Congress are up to date on our thinking and policy and what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: So this is just a routine update?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: Was there any coordination with the Pentagon, given the Secretary of Defense’s briefing this morning?

MS. PSAKI: Frequently, we have briefings the same day as the Pentagon and – or other officials throughout the Administration. So that certainly is not uncommon. And as you know, all of these senior officials are in regular meetings together about our policy, so I can assure you there’s coordination.

QUESTION: Now, granted that this was closed door and classified, but Senator McCain told reporters afterwards that from his perspective, this Administration does not have a coherent policy on dealing with the Islamic State group. Is that a fair criticism?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s a common refrain from Senator McCain no matter what the issue is. But I would say, look, every member of Congress has every right to express their view of what our policies are and what they should be and where they see frustrations or where they support us. And that’s the case for Senator McCain or any member of Congress.

In this case, I think our policy is fairly clear. The President has been clear, the Secretary has been clear, that we’re going to take – go after threats where they face us. That includes ISIL and includes other terrorist organizations. But in Iraq, our focus is also on the political process, and that is the only way to have a long-term, sustainable, and successful Iraq. So hopefully, the continued briefings will help shed some light.

QUESTION: Two follow-ups on that. One, has this Administration seen any change in Nuri al-Maliki’s political posture? Is he doing the work that this Administration believes needs to be done in order to make his government more inclusive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our concerns haven’t changed. But obviously, we continue to encourage all parties to move forward with the government formation process. I think you’ve seen overnight that they have announced that they’ll be meeting on Sunday instead of August. So that was a positive step forward. Obviously, we’d like to see that happen and see the rapid – the – all parties move forward with the rapid creation of a government.

QUESTION: And then in terms of confronting the Islamic State group, Senator Graham said that he could not see any scenario in which the Iraqi security forces, Syrian opposition, even the Syrian Government, would be capable of confronting this organization without the assistance of the U.S. military. In particular, he said he couldn’t see this happening without the use of air strikes. Is this Administration in any way contemplating some sort of very active engagement to confront this organization?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline from here what our options may or may not be. Obviously, we have a – always have a range of options at our disposal. Those are decisions for the President to make in consultation with the national security team. Our focus remains on continuing to encourage the rapid formation of the government.

QUESTION: Sorry. So you say it was a positive step forward for them to move up the resumption of --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly --

QUESTION: -- I mean, surely --

MS. PSAKI: -- welcome the announcement. But I won’t stop there. We – it will require --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- a prompt agreement on a new parliamentary speaker, and following that candidates for president and prime minister in order to have a successful creation or formation of a government.

QUESTION: All right. In response to one of Roz’s earlier questions, I mean, what are the odds of you ever agreeing with critics who say that the Administration’s policy is incoherent on any issue?

MS. PSAKI: That’s probably unlikely, but we certainly support freedom of speech here in the United States.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Because there are people that – Iraqis who have accused Mr. McGurk of being one of Maliki’s staunchest allies and that, in fact, his position may have in any way hamstrung your position, so to speak, the Administration’s position in Iraq in pushing forward some sort of reconciliation type of government. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I would not, and I’m not sure who the unnamed critics are. There are certainly a lot of unnamed critics out there. I would say that Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk has been on the ground for weeks now. There’s almost no one in the government who knows Iraq and the political parties and all the leaders better than he does, and he’s been working day and night to move the political process forward. And I’d remind you he’s been meeting with leaders from all – from all sects and it hasn’t been just Prime Minister Maliki and his government. Far from it. He’s had a diversity of meetings, and that, I expect, will continue.

QUESTION: Would you say that he’s a strong advocate of Mr. Maliki?

MS. PSAKI: I would say he’s a strong advocate of a stable Iraq, and he cares deeply about the future of the – for the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: When you are asking all these parties to be part of this process of, let’s say, stable Iraq, what these people are expecting from U.S.? I mean, guarantor is like what – how do you – is – what is the U.S. role in the coming future? I mean, it’s going to be like guaranteeing that these people are sitting together or secure the borders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s up to the Iraqi people to make the political choices that they need to to move forward. At the same time, we have provided a great deal of assistance. We’ve only expedited that, and we’ve increased that in recent months. That is part of our effort to support Iraq, but we have a stake in a stable Iraq just like we have a stake in a stable region, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so committed to the future of what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: But let’s say when we are – U.S. is providing to the Iraqi army things, people looking to it as if it’s – you are supporting Maliki against the others, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve provided also some support to the Peshmerga. We’ve advocated for a united security force that works with all parties that is united against the shared threat they all face with just ISIL, and that’s the message we’ve been sending.

QUESTION: So there is no U.S. role in the coming future – I mean, the coming Iraq? Or there is a role for it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

QUESTION: I mean like in 2011 or end of 2012, I mean, it’s like it was decided to leave Iraq and come out of it. Now, it’s getting another involvement, or I assume it’s involvement. Am I wrong?

MS. PSAKI: A little bit. I think we’re not considering putting combat troops back on the ground. That’s not what is under consideration. We do have a stake in a stable and secure Iraq just like we have a stake in the stable and secure region, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve increased our assistance. Iraq will remain a partner, and we’re working to address the short-term threat so we can have a long-term successful Iraq.

QUESTION: Jen, yesterday – this is a new subject.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On the Central America and the migrants. Yesterday in exchange with Elise, you were talking about – the question about a potential UN role and whether or not these people could be considered refugees or not. There are people with UNHCR now who are saying that at least some of these people should be identified as refugees and be made eligible for resettlement. Is the Administration’s – does the Administration believe that a UN role in this situation is appropriate or needed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the UN plays a role. I know you know this, but they play a different role depending on the countries around the world. Obviously, we’re – we have a far different circumstance than, say, Syria. And in this case, the UN – UNHCR has previously conducted monitoring trips to the U.S. border in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. That should come as no surprise. In terms of how you label what an individual may or may not be, that’s determined through a process run by the Department of Homeland Security where they conduct interviews, and there’s an entire process I would point you to them to get more details on.

Typically, the UNHCR conducts these interviews in countries where the host government is not capable or willing to conduct these interviews. And obviously, the United States – that’s a process that we undergo ourselves.

QUESTION: So you do not – you believe that DHS – the Administration believes that it is capable of doing this itself and that the United Nations is not needed --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- to do the screening and the classifying of whether people are refugees or not? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DHS to see if there are needs that they have, but that’s typically how the process works as a standard operating procedure in the United States.

QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m – so there is no Administration position? It’s only a DHS position on whether they need help? I’m – I guess I’m --

MS. PSAKI: DHS oversees a process in the United States – obviously, in the United States.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them for more detail on how they work with the UNHCR.

QUESTION: But you don’t – but – yeah, but you’re the main – the State Department is the main --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- interlocutor with all --

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: -- almost all these UN agencies.

MS. PSAKI: But specifically on individuals coming into the United States, as you know, DHS is the point for that specifically.

QUESTION: Right. But what I’m getting at is that – I’m trying to find out if the Administration broadly thinks that it’s appropriate or necessary for the UN to involve itself in this. I’ll take it and I’ll go to DHS and ask them if that’s – if they’re the ones who decide whether that’s the case or not. Are they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, DHS screens children to determine the validity of their asylum claims, consistent with our domestic law and international obligations. I’m not aware of a role needed --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- for UNHCR, but I just was pointing to you DHS because they are better versed on this specific issue.

Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Going back to Iraq. Is it realistic or was it ever realistic to expect the Iraqis to form a new government during the holy month of Ramadan?

MS. PSAKI: The process, as you know, Lucas, is ongoing on the ground, and they’re going to be meeting on Sunday, so I think that answers your question.

QUESTION: But isn’t it a little insensitive on the part of the U.S. Government based on the religious obligations of the Iraqi Government and Muslims everywhere?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s up to the Iraqis to determine their process. They have determined the timing of their process, and we’re simply urging them to move forward as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: But I mean, if someone asks the U.S. Government to do something over Christmas, wouldn’t it be a little unrealistic?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Lucas – I think you’re forgetting the fact that this is a Iraqi process that the Iraqis run, and we are certainly just here to support them and encourage them to move forward as quickly as possible?

QUESTION: You should ask the same thing about Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: A question on Syria.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

QUESTION: On Syria real quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that all chemical weapons are now out of Syria and in the process of being destroyed?

MS. PSAKI: Said, the declaration --

QUESTION: I mean, today there was --

MS. PSAKI: -- is on declared weapons.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: The OPCW remains --

QUESTION: I mean the declared weapons.

MS. PSAKI: -- let me finish – they remain a member of the CWC, so obviously the OPCW will continue to take steps to verify that the declared weapons represent the stockpile in Syria.

QUESTION: So all the declared weapons have been accounted for?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. They’ve – 100 percent have been removed.

QUESTION: Now, on this issue of the SOC is holding elections, presidential elections in Turkey. Is there any U.S. representative there, or not?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. I will check and see. Obviously, we’re not – these are internal SOC meetings, so no U.S. officials will attend. So there – we don’t have any officials on the ground.

QUESTION: And the situation in Aleppo is deteriorating and the opposition is warning about the situation there. Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not in a position to give any ground updates. Obviously, you know we remain concerned about the situation on the ground. And that’s one of the reasons we’re so focused on doing everything we can to address it.

QUESTION: Does that concern extend to the fact that the opposition might lose Aleppo and then they might really have essentially lost the battle, lost the war?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speculate. Obviously, we’re not there at this point. So – go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering what – it looks like people – the separatists in Donetsk are gearing up for a big – a last stand, and that the Ukrainian authorities are doing the same around these last little enclaves in the east, and I’m wondering what the – if the Administration believes that its – once again, its calls for restraint and for minimization of civilian casualties are being heeded by either or both or neither sides.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have remaining concerns about the actions of the Russian separatists. I’d also note that President Poroshenko proposed to hold ceasefire talks with the separatists today in the Donetsk region. They have not responded yet. And certainly a peaceful outcome is what would be in the best interests of everyone, in our view. Ukraine, again, has the right to defend their country and their people and maintain calm and order to the degree they can. So we certainly support them in that effort. And there are – continue to be steps that Russia and the Russian separatists can take to de-escalate the situation.

QUESTION: In terms of either side or any of the three sides, two sides, however we want to call this --

MS. PSAKI: It could – it has three-side potential.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Go back to a triangle.

QUESTION: Right. But let’s talk the two sides at the moment, Ukraine and the separatists. Do you have concerns about reports of large – widespread civilian casualties --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, and --

QUESTION: -- on --

MS. PSAKI: We would have concerns, of course, about reports of widespread civilian casualties. And obviously de-escalating the situation and bringing an end to the violence is the step that could end civilian casualties. That’s where the – one of the reasons we’re so supportive of the ceasefire effort.

QUESTION: Okay. But to date, do you believe that either or both or neither side has shown any inclination to heed the call for restraint and for trying to minimize or prevent at all civilian casualties? You were presented here at the briefing yesterday with some graphic photos. I don’t know if they could be authenticated or not, but I mean, have you expressed concern to authorities in Kyiv and also to the Russians for whatever influence they can have with the separatists about things like that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I mean, we – in general, the Ukrainian security forces have sought to minimize casualties among the Ukrainian population during their security operation. There have been numerous reports on the contrary to Russian – the Russian-backed separatists using privately owned buildings as firing positions. We’ve also seen a great deal of exaggerated and outright false claims from Russian sources throughout the crisis in Ukraine. So certainly we would encourage all sides to minimize civilian casualties, and we’ve also seen the Ukrainian Government make effort to do just that themselves.

QUESTION: And you have not – but you have not yet seen the Russians use their influence with the separatists to do the same. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: And then one more thing on this. The Russian foreign ministry has said that the proposal you mentioned just now for Poroshenko was not – the venue is not good. And in fact, I believe some of the separatists or one of the separatist leaders said that venue is no good because it’s under the control of Kyiv, which would seem to be a bit of a stumbling block. When you referred to that offer to meet, are you referring to that specific offer or do you not know? I mean, I’m trying to figure out this --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure which offer they’re referring to.

QUESTION: You think it’s appropriate – you think his offer should be acted – should be taken up by the separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about discussions about the Government of Ukraine – what’s happening in the country of Ukraine, I should say. So certainly, I think it’s appropriate that it could be held in a government building run by the Government of Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone. Oh, sorry in the back. One more.

QUESTION: Sorry, guys. I had asked this question before but haven’t gotten a response.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s about the European Court of Human Rights which had upheld a French ban on burkas. Did you get that question?

MS. PSAKI: I think we have something on that. I’m happy to send that you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Great, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)

DPB # 119


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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: July 7, 2014

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 18:07

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 7, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • U.S.-Chinese Strategic and Economic Dialogue
    • Sentencing of Saudi Human Rights Lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair
    • Sentencing of Pastor Zhang Shaojie
  • BAHRAIN
    • Assistant Secretary Malinowski's Visit
  • IRAQ
    • Government Formation / ISIL
    • Security Assistance / U.S. Engagement
    • Reports of Video / ISIL
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Preliminary Election Results / Proposed UN Audits
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir / Investigation
    • Secretary Kerry's Call with Prime Minister Netanyahu
    • Palestinian Technocratic Government / Reconciliation Process
    • Rocket Attacks / Economic Assistance
  • SUDAN
    • Meriam Ibrahim
  • JAPAN
    • Collective Self-Defense
  • SAUDI ARABIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with King Abdullah / Human Rights
  • VENEZUELA
    • Charge d'Affaires / U.S.-Venezuela Relationship
  • GERMANY
    • U.S.-German Relationship
  • CHINA
    • Human Rights
  • MEXICO / CENTRAL AMERICA
    • Unaccompanied Minors and Repatriation / U.S. Engagement
  • UKRAINE
    • Expulsion of Russian-Backed Separatists / Ceasefire
    • Quad Discussions
    • Refugees


TRANSCRIPT:

1:23 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello, ma’am.

MS. PSAKI: I hope everybody enjoyed your long weekend. I have a couple of items at the top.

As you all know, the Secretary is en route to Beijing to take part in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The Strategic and Economic Dialogue is a central forum for the United States and China to take stock of progress, set new goals for the relationship, develop habits of cooperation and areas of mutual interest, and manage areas of difference through candid high-level discussions. The S&ED remains an important component of our efforts with China to build relations between our countries, and the 2014 S&ED brings dozens of high-level U.S. Government officials to Beijing to discuss nearly every issue – every major issue in our bilateral relationship, from issues like food security and human rights to combatting wildlife trafficking.

Our two countries will exchange views and forge progress on global, regional, and bilateral challenges, including pressing issues related to Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and maritime disputes. We expect to have high-level discussions on climate change and clean energy, including how expanding cooperation under the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group and the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships will allow us to make significant strides toward addressing the pressing global challenge.

I would also like to start by highlighting the recent sentencing of a Saudi human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. The United States is troubled by the 15-year prison sentence, travel ban, and steep fine handed down to human rights lawyer and activist Waleed abu al-Khair. Mr. al-Khair’s situation is discussed in our most recent Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia. We urge the Saudi Government to respect international human rights norms, a point we have made to them regularly.

And finally, I want to express deep concern by the United States by reports that Zhang Shaojie, pastor of the government-sanctioned Nanle County Christian Church, was convicted July 4th and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in retaliation for his peaceful advocacy on behalf of his church community. We call on Chinese authorities to release Pastor Zhang and we urge China to cease harassment of his family members and congregants. We call on the Chinese authorities to allow citizens to worship freely in accordance with China’s own laws and its international human rights commitments. Freedom of religion is a critical – is critical to a peaceful, inclusive, stable, and thriving society.

With that, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Was there a reason that – well, first, happy Fourth of July.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Fourth of July.

QUESTION: Was there a reason that you separated the two China things by the Saudi thing? Are you --

MS. PSAKI: There was not.

QUESTION: Is there – do you expect that this guy’s case is going to come up in the Secretary’s conversations --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as --

QUESTION: -- or in any of the conversations that --

MS. PSAKI: As you know, there are a range of officials on the ground. We raise human rights issues at every opportunity and we always welcome a direct and candid dialogue.

QUESTION: All right. One thing that I noticed that you didn’t say was on the agenda was cyber issues. Does that mean that there is not going to be any discussion of this issue, which you and others think is a very big deal, with the Chinese?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it continues to be – cyber continues to be an incredibly important issue to the United States and to China. And we are – have a range of means of communicating on cyber issues. Was – that was not meant to be inclusive of every topic discussed by every official on the ground. As you know, we have quite an extensive delegation who will be there.

QUESTION: Right. But in terms of the actual formal cyber talks that you had been going on that the Chinese canceled after the indictments of the PLA guys, that’s not happening. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But again, there’ll be a great deal of time for dialogue. There are many meals involved, so I’m certain there’ll be a range of issues that will be discussed.

QUESTION: So they’re going to be chatting about cyber-crime over their --

MS. PSAKI: Stay tuned, Matt. There’s quite a bit of time our team has on the ground.

QUESTION: -- orange chicken, lemon chicken? Okay. Can we start with just this, quickly – Bahrain.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The expulsion of Tom Malinowski. What is the status? Have you guys accepted this? Are you protesting to the Bahrainis? Has he left the country? And what’s your understanding of what he did wrong that would warrant – or not warrant, as the case may be – this kind of a move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that Assistant Secretary Malinowski is in Bahrain. He remains in Bahrain; he’s still in Bahrain today. He was – he’s on a visit to reaffirm and strengthen our bilateral ties and to support His Royal Majesty King Hamad’s reform and reconciliation efforts at an important time, particularly given events elsewhere in the region. Our team – we’ve, of course, seen the statements, and our team is in close touch on the ground to figure out – with the government to figure out exactly what’s happened here. I expect we’ll have more later once we have more of an update on the ground. As you know, these reports or these statements just came out in the last hour or so.

QUESTION: Right. Well, does him going there and then becoming – being declared persona non grata, how does that reaffirm and strengthen U.S.-Bahrain bilateral ties?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, what I was stating is the purpose of his visit and why he was on the ground.

QUESTION: Would you say that at this moment that it succeeded?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this visit is not complete yet. He is still on the ground --

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- and we’re in close touch with the government officials. So we’ll see what transpires.

QUESTION: Or how does it express Bahrainis’ commitment to human rights and democratic reforms through the reconciliation process that you are talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a statement made – as I mentioned, our officials are in close touch with Bahraini Government officials on the ground, and we’ll see what transpires over the next several hours.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Over the weekend, former Ambassador Ryan Crocker told --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Said. I just have one. Do you have any details of his schedule in Bahrain, what he was doing there?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of his --

QUESTION: Other than --

MS. PSAKI: -- his specific meetings?

QUESTION: Yeah, other than – no. Yeah, in terms of his specific meetings, but not necessarily specific, but as specific as you can get.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have his specific schedule in front of me. I can see if there’s – that’s something we can provide.

QUESTION: Do you know, did he meet with government officials today?

MS. PSAKI: Did he – did Assistant Secretary Malinowski meet --

QUESTION: Tom. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- with government officials today? Not that I’m aware of, but why don’t we check and see what the specific details are of the schedule.

QUESTION: Is it correct that he met with the Al Wifaq people yesterday and again today?

MS. PSAKI: I know he did yesterday. I don’t have confirmation of another meeting today.

Iraq?

QUESTION: One more. Are you planning to consider any Bahraini diplomatic persona non grata too, or how will --

MS. PSAKI: Again, our team is in close touch on the ground with government officials. Assistant Secretary Malinowski remains on the ground, so let’s see what happens through the course of the day.

Iraq?

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes. Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN – I know he’s a former official but he probably knows Iraq better than many people. He said that, “The Islamic State may have done us a favor by publicly erasing the Iraqi-Syrian border. If they have, I think we should too and go after their targets wherever they are.”

Is that the kind of thinking that may be germinating in this building that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said --

QUESTION: -- because the Iraqis recognize their borders and the Syrians recognize their borders. Only the Islamic State that recognizes this fungible border, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Ambassador Crocker is a private citizen and doesn’t speak for the United States Government. We’ve also talked quite a bit in here about the fact that our focus remains on encouraging urgent steps toward a government formation, and we have a range of options at our disposal to take on the threat that Iraq and the region is facing from ISIL. That’s long been the case for weeks now, long before these comments were made.

QUESTION: But as they expand their territory – and obviously they are – I mean, what is the United States doing actually on the ground to sort of reverse the tide?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think a range of steps. One, we’re consulting closely on the ground with a range of government officials from all parties. We also have increased, expedited our security assistance. You’re familiar with the steps we’ve taken in that regard. And we remain in close consultations. And again, we have a range of options at our disposal. But our focus remains on encouraging political steps forward and a unified front against ISIL and the threat that all people --

QUESTION: You said that --

MS. PSAKI: -- of Iraq face.

QUESTION: You said that your kind of first priority is a government.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, the parliament wrapped up and kind of delayed its next meeting until August 12th without any kind of judgment or new government or anything. And I mean, do you have – given, like, if you think back to the last time the Iraqi Government tried to form a government, that took months.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have that kind of time to kind of wait for a government to form and hope that that gels and will fight ISIS? I mean, it seems like they’ll probably be pretty close to overrunning the country before the Iraqi – if that’s like what needs to happen before any meaningful action is taken.

MS. PSAKI: Elise, there’s no question that sooner is better than later and that we’re in a dire – we’re looking at a dire situation on the ground, which is why it’s so important that things move forward urgently on the ground. We’ve seen the statements. Our view is that’s not set in stone, that they still have the ability to move forward more quickly than what they outlined this morning.

QUESTION: I understand. But I mean, if history is any indicator, that doesn’t really seem like it’s going to – that – like that’s going to happen. And I mean, can you afford really to wait until a new government is formed, regardless of how long that takes? It could take a week. It could take six weeks or six months. And so, can you really afford to wait, given that ISIS is continuing to gain territory with astonishing speed, as you admit?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the circumstances are different than they were the last time we went through this. And certainly, you’ve seen us increase and expedite our – a range of assistance that we’re providing to the security forces on the ground, as a result of the circumstances on the ground. Our view is that government formation and the steps that the Iraqis need to take themselves is essential to a long term – the long term success in Iraq; that’s why we’re encouraging it. But the President has the prerogative to take any steps he chooses. But I don’t want to get ahead of any decision-making process.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on the government and the formation. In your opinion, what is really the hold up? Is it the Sunni bloc in the parliament or is it Maliki, who insists on being the prime minister once again or – what is it? What is the hold up?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do analysis along those lines from here, Said. At – bottom line is it’s urgent that all parties in Iraq take concrete steps to form a new government as quickly as possible under the constitution. That’s what we’re encouraging; that’s what we’re conveying to all parties on the ground.

QUESTION: But you would think that after such investment in blood and treasure – of American blood and treasure in Iraq, you would be more engaged in this process. Or you would be --

MS. PSAKI: We would be more engaged?

QUESTION: Yes. You would be more engaged, perhaps a bit more forceful on what kind of outcome Iraq --

MS. PSAKI: Well Said, just to refute your point – and I’m not sure – how – what are you referring to when you say we’re not engaged?

QUESTION: I’m referring that – I don’t know. Are you engaged in this parliamentary, sort of little, whatever, ballet that is going on now to choose the three presidencies, as they call it – the president to the parliament, the president of the country, and the prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Well Said, the Secretary was just there two weeks ago. We’ve had Ambassador Beecroft, we’ve had Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk engaged every single day with a range of Iraqi officials. We’ve expedited our assistance. We’ve been in – probably as engaged or more engaged than any other country in what’s happening on the ground. So I think your point is not backed up by facts.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you this: Are you still sort of sticking to Maliki, or do you prefer to see someone else? Because the Iranians said today that while they support Maliki, they are not really – they could see working with someone else like Adil Abd al-Mahdi, who is the former vice president of the country.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve consistently said it’s up to the Iraqi people and only the Iraqi people to determine their future leadership. Moving forward in the process is what our focus is on now.

QUESTION: Jen, do you have a specific reaction of whether it’s discouragement or anger or whatever to the parliament just taking off and not doing anything?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think specifically, as we’ve said in the past, we hope that Iraq’s leaders will move forward with extreme urgency, and that’s what we’ve been calling for.

QUESTION: Have you --

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s not – in our view, the reports and what they called for this morning is not set in stone. They have every ability to move forward more quickly, and we’re encouraging them to do so.

QUESTION: Well, do you think they’re demonstrating great – or the urgency with which you think that this situation needs to be treated?

MS. PSAKI: We think there could be greater urgency in moving forward, yes.

QUESTION: All right. And then you had also said that the United States has been engaged perhaps more than any other country? Would you put Iran in that category?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m referring to, Matt, is the fact that we’ve been engaged on the political front. We’ve been engaged on providing assistance. We’ve been working closely with the Iraqi Government. The Secretary was just there.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So I think there’s no question I was refuting the point that Said was making.

QUESTION: I understand that. But do you think that – or is it you think that the United States has been as engaged and active in Iraq over the course of the last three years as Iran has been?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think I wasn’t meaning to draw a comparison --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but bottom line, I don’t have all the details on their engagement either.

QUESTION: Jen, I stand refuted, but let me just take you to what, let’s say, Martin Dempsey said – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now, he said that the Iraqis may be able to defend Baghdad, but they will not be able to, sort of, liberate territory already (inaudible) – or taken, and now under the power of control of ISIS. Is that something that you want to see go on? I mean, this is – where is --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the full --

QUESTION: Where is the sort of the more, let’s say, more engaged – engagement by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve answered this question. Let’s go on to another Iraq.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Jen. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Do you have --

QUESTION: Yes. Just a follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Over the weekend on Friday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave a sermon. Can you confirm the authenticity of the video?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen, of course, the reports of the video. We have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video.

QUESTION: And do you think the Islamic State is the number-one threat to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I know you always like to do this, Lucas, but I’m not going to give rank order. We have annual reports we issue that go through where we view the threats are and where our concerns are. There’s no question we have been – our concern has grown about the threat of ISIL to the region, to Iraq, and that’s why we’ve increased our assistance and why we’ve been so engaged in the last several months on this issue.

QUESTION: I ask because some critics have said that the ISIS is more of a regional threat, that this is a Sunni-Shia battle and they’re not a threat to the homeland; they’re akin more to the Taliban.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view, Lucas, is that there are threats that are relevant to the United States, and we’re concerned that these threats and what’s happening in the region could pose a threat to the United States. And you heard the Secretary say that, you’ve heard the President say that, and so I would point you to their comments.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was actually in U.S. custody some years back?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to confirm for you, Said; just about the relevance of the video.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Iraq and then we can go to Afghanistan if that works for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq? All right. There you go, Lalit. Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Following up your statement you issued on Afghanistan elections, have you been in touch with the two presidential candidates officially, both Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani?

MS. PSAKI: We have been in touch with both candidates, but I don’t have more details I’m going to share beyond that.

QUESTION: But do you worry that the way there have been resistance to the Independent Election Commission by these two candidates is leading to some kind of political strike inside the country – strong differences, ethnic conflicts inside the country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted in my statement, but just in case other people haven’t seen that, we want to – I want to reiterate that today’s announcement is of preliminary results. These results are not final or authoritative and may not predict the final outcome. There are serious allegations of fraud, which I think you referenced there and they’ve been raised, and in our view, they haven’t been sufficiently investigated. So right now, our focus is on encouraging a full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities. We think that’s essential to ensuring that the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

There have – also noted in the statement were four additional measures that have been accepted by both camps, and we certainly encourage movement forward on those. But there have also been a range of steps proposed by the UN. The UN has proposed a series of additional audits of suspected – suspect ballots, and it’s essential that the IEC and the ICC and the UN – work with the UN to execute these additional audits.

QUESTION: There were some reports earlier today that the ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador, had gone to the Electoral Commission. Those were refuted by the Embassy. I’m wondering if there was – did the U.S. have a position on whether the head of the commission should come out and announce these results given the fact that they are so preliminary, they’re subject to change, and don’t really settle anything?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to outline for you, Matt. I would obviously stand by the refuting by the Embassy of where their ambassador – where our ambassador was at the time.

QUESTION: But you don’t know if the U.S. took a position on whether they should go ahead and make the announcement of these?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details to share.

QUESTION: So right now, Ghani is leading by a million vote, so it looks like he will be the next president. Are you willing to work with him, he’s a good --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me reiterate what I just said. These are preliminary results. These results are not final or authoritative. We don’t support any individual candidate, as you know, because we state it frequently. But we have long stated our support for a credible, transparent, and thorough process, and obviously, there are additional steps that need to be taken in that regard.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just to follow quickly, Madam, U.S. had played a great role as far as the democracy and previous elections are concerned also. Isn’t this also a threat to the foreigners living there and working under constructions and plus also to the future of the Afghanistan democracy if these things doesn’t get resolved because of international relations and so forth? But finally, what role you think UN can play that U.S. cannot play?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the UN has proposed a series of additional audits of suspect ballots, and we encourage the IEC and the ICC to move forward and working closely with them. And in terms of the long-term impact, we believe that the audit process can be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president to proceed as scheduled, which is on August 2nd.

And certainly, both candidates have made clear that they would sign the BSA. Obviously, there are a range of steps we would take or we’re planning on taking, and beyond that we’re going to let this process play itself through.

QUESTION: Can we go to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Did you want an update now?

QUESTION: First, do you have any update on the American citizen who was detained and that was then put under house arrest?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if I have much of an update since yesterday, Matt, but let me provide you --

QUESTION: Well, has he been – has anyone gone to visit him? Have you looked at his – has he – is his health okay?

MS. PSAKI: Well first, our – we visited him in the – an official from the U.S. Consulate General visited him on July 5th and attended his hearing on July 6th. We’ve also seen the family. I don’t have anything else to read out for you in terms of his health.

Obviously, this is a case where we remain deeply concerned about the reports. In fact, we remain shocked that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly have condemned that, and any use of excessive force, of course. We’re calling – and I would reiterate our call for a speedy and transparent and credible investigation. As I understand it, he’s been interviewed for that, and so that’s moving forward.

QUESTION: You remain shocked?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are shocked.

QUESTION: You’re shocked --

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like --

QUESTION: You’re shocked when a --

MS. PSAKI: We continue to be shocked.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: What you were saying, I think on Thursday or in your statements over the weekend, that you remain concerned about reports that he was apparently beaten. And now you’re saying that you’re shocked that he was beaten. So it seems as if like – it doesn’t seem as if there’s any doubt, really, now. I mean, there might be a doubt as to how it happened, or the extent of it, or whether what he did – the Israeli Ambassador said that he was provoking, that he wasn’t an innocent bystander, that kind of implied that he asked for it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, a couple things, as you know, happened over the weekend. One, of course, we – our consulate – a representative from our Consulate General was able to see him. And obviously, he’s been released and is with his family now at this time. And of course, I’ve seen the comments, and our view is an arrest is justified for anyone who is guilty of committing a crime. And obviously, there’s an investigation; there’ll be a process to review that. But beating an arrestee after they are subdued and in custody is never justified. So we will let the process see itself through. But certainly, we’ve all seen him and we’ve been in touch with him, and we are continuing to call for a credible investigation.

QUESTION: Have you formally demarched the Israeli Government about it?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been in close touch with the government, but I’m not aware of a specific demarche.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns about the – an Israeli investigation into this incident?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen Prime Minister Netanyahu and other officials express strong concern about a range of these reports, and they’ve expressed a commitment to seeing through an investigation.

QUESTION: All right. Now meanwhile, in southern Israel --

QUESTION: Well, can we just stay on this for one second?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I understand that Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the weekend. Was this case in particular brought up, or was it about the larger kind of escalating violence?

MS. PSAKI: He reiterated – the Secretary did speak with the prime minister about a range of incidents that are happening on the ground, Elise. And certainly, the focus was on reiterating our concern about escalating tensions. And the Secretary, of course, urged Prime Minister Netanyahu – as he’s urged both parties – to exercise restraint and avoid steps that could further destabilize the situation.

QUESTION: Did he speak to prime – President Abbas?

MS. PSAKI: He has spoken with him over the course of the last several days or week. I don’t – let me see if I have anything specific over the last – he spoke with him – let’s see – I know last Tuesday. He’s been in – I think it’s important to reiterate here we’ve been in touch on the ground very closely with both parties.

QUESTION: Well, but you’ve seen the comments that are coming out of Hamas. And now that the U.S. has, in effect, kind of accepted the fact that Hamas is now in this unity government, you would think that as leader of this unity government it would be incumbent on President Abbas to rein in or take – try and maintain some kind of control over the activities of Hamas. Isn’t that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right. I mean, we’ve stated – you’re right in the sense that we have stated from the beginning that we would judge the interim government by its actions, composition, and policies. And based on what we know now, this hasn’t changed. We don’t believe that Hamas plays a role in the government. However, to your point, it is difficult to see how other aspects of the reconciliation process can move forward in this current atmosphere, and we’ve conveyed that as well.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I understand that you – that maybe it’s a technicality that Hamas doesn’t play a part in this government, but it is a unity government that includes Hamas. And I’m just wondering, now does President Abbas more so than ever bear responsibility for the actions of Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: No. But we have – President Abbas himself has suggested that there would be serious consequences for whatever party carried out the crimes that we’ve been talking about over the last several weeks. And as I mentioned, it’s difficult for us to see, given this current atmosphere, how other aspects of the reconciliation process could continue.

QUESTION: Just one quick last one. Did Secretary Kerry mention the specific case of this Israeli – Palestinian teen that was beaten?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other further details, but I think it’s safe to assume when he’s talking about the escalating tensions on the ground, he’s talking about all of the reports that you’ve seen in the news that we’ve all been discussing.

QUESTION: Did you have a response, reaction – and forgive me if I missed it – to the Palestinian teenager who was killed, the cousin of this – or did that happen over the --

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ve put out something over the weekend. I can double-check that and certainly --

QUESTION: Okay. Thus far, have you seen both sides exercising the kind of restraint that you think is necessary?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, typically you convey that to parties when you feel there’s more that needs to be done.

QUESTION: All right. On the --

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: On the – you say it’s difficult to see how other aspects of the reconciliation can go ahead. Can you be more specific about that? What other aspects?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there’s – obviously there’s the formation of the interim technocratic government, but there’s also the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, and we feel that obviously, there are a range of circumstances on the ground that make it difficult to see how things can move forward at this time.

QUESTION: So you think that he should stop the reconciliation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll leave that up to him, but obviously, there are a range of circumstances on the ground that we feel make it difficult.

QUESTION: Okay. In those circumstances, have you gotten 100 definitive evidence or proof that the – that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and the – of the three Israeli youths?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since we discussed this last week when we talked about the patterns and --

QUESTION: So you’re still not convinced that Hamas was behind it?

MS. PSAKI: That wasn’t what we said – what we’ve stated. We’ve obviously pointed to the patterns --

QUESTION: No, I understand that, but --

MS. PSAKI: -- but I don’t have – there’s an ongoing investigation, as you know, that hasn’t concluded.

QUESTION: So when you talk about the situation on the ground making it difficult to see – making it difficult for you to see how the other aspects – that refers not to the kidnapping specifically but to the rocket attacks? There have been almost 80, I think, just today. Do you have anything to say about the rocket attacks into southern Israel from --

MS. PSAKI: Well, and I’d also point you, Matt, to the raising tensions and the increasing violence on the ground, as those are all aspects that certainly impact what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Well, wait. Do you have any reaction to the – anything to say about the rockets? I mean, the Israelis say that this is really ramping up the tensions.

MS. PSAKI: Well, correct. As you know, I mean, anytime there are rocket attacks into Israel, we certainly condemn those and we would do so in this case as well. And there’s no place for violence and increasing tension as we’re seeing on the ground. We don’t feel that’s productive to a peaceful society.

QUESTION: Jen, the small cabinet, the security cabinet, just finished a meeting like an hour or so ago, and they decided to continue with their – with targeting targets in Gaza. Are you talking to anyone – like perhaps the Egyptians – to see if they could somehow broker a quieting period or a quiet-down period? Because it seems this thing is really escalating out of control, isn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we – as I mentioned, we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel, but we also support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. I think the Secretary’s calls have also reiterated the need to reduce tensions and decrease violence, and that’s part of the discussion that we’re having with both parties at this time.

QUESTION: What about the area of bombardment by the Israeli Air Force of Gaza? I mean, they killed nine yesterday, today they killed a woman and injured a child, and in fact it’s ongoing as we speak now. Are you calling on the Israelis to sort of hold back or restrain themselves at this point?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered the question on the Israelis.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about the teenage boy. He – you said he was released, but in fact, he was sentenced to 10 days under house arrest.

MS. PSAKI: Said he was released --

QUESTION: Is that satisfactory to you?

MS. PSAKI: He’s under house arrest with his family, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And that is fine with you that he was sentenced to 10 days under house arrest?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think we’ve been – pretty strongly conveyed how we feel. Circumstances around this case are not fine, but that’s an update on where things stand. His – he was asked to post bail. He’s restricted to his uncle’s home. He’s permitted to visit medical facilities. And if the investigation is concluded properly, as we expect, he should be able to return to Florida as planned with his family later this month.

QUESTION: Well, when you say that you want it to be conducted properly, what are you saying? That if a fair – free and fair investigation that’s unimpeded will probably illustrate that he had no wrongdoing and will be able to leave on his own reconnaissance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to prejudge the outcome, but I think obviously, as we see these things move forward, we feel that if they move forward adequately, that he’ll be able to return with his family to the United States.

QUESTION: Did the Palestinian raise with you the fact that they are suffering from a deficit, a reduction of 62 percent in their budget? Have they spoken to you about their financial conditions?

MS. PSAKI: We have regular conversations with the Palestinians about their economic needs. As you know, we provide a great deal of assistance, and we’re in close touch through our consulate on the ground.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: To follow --

QUESTION: But as far as you’re concerned, it’s – you’re not aware that any U.S. funds are being held up at the present time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to this before. Obviously, we constantly review these, and Congress is in the position to make decisions about what funds will and won’t move forward. But beyond that, I don’t have any other update.

QUESTION: Can I change the topic?

QUESTION: Wait, one more?

QUESTION: The last time before this that you called for an investigation – an Israeli investigation into something – at least I think it was the last time – one of the last times – was the shooting of the – shooting deaths of the two Palestinian teenagers. Do you recall what the outcome of the Israeli investigation was into that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that in front of me, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m just – okay. Could someone take a look at what the results of that investigation was and see if the results were acceptable, if you thought that they were an accurate representation of what happened?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s also important to note here, Matt, that Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials have pointed to their desire to hold those accountable who are guilty of excessive --

QUESTION: I’m not saying that I don’t – that – I’m not casting doubt on that.

MS. PSAKI: The context is --

QUESTION: I’m just wondering what the --

MS. PSAKI: The context is important. That’s why I mentioned it.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on this? Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Senior Hamas officials have said the rocket attacks will continue from Gaza until Israel’s siege of Gaza ends. Do you think Gaza is under siege by the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to echo names or terms used by Hamas or anyone else. Our view is that Israel has the right to defend itself, and we certainly support that.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: More on this topic --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- or a new topic? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, this topic. President Abbas has called on yesterday UN Secretary General to form an international committee to monitor and investigate what he referred to as crimes by Israeli settlers. Do you support the formation of such a committee? Or what’s your position?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to offer on that. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have a view on that specific call.

QUESTION: And today, he mentioned that he will be applying or going to have the Palestinian Authority attending more UN organizations. Do you have any position toward this too?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on what he outlined specifically, so why don’t we take a closer look at that and we can see if there’s more to say.

More on this topic or a new issue? Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: A new topic?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we go over the latest on the case of Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.

QUESTION: The last you had said was that the – she does have documents to travel to the U.S. Does that mean that she has documents to come here on a tourist visa? Can she apply for citizenship, asylum? Because her husband, I believe, is an American citizen. So I’m just wondering, would you allow her to live here permanently? Anything you could say about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of where we stand, and obviously, part of that is State Department, but part of it is DHS and other entities. So I’m not going to have a lot to update you on, and that – obviously, that process would have to play itself out, whatever the outcome is.

Where things stand now is she was released on June 26th by Sudanese police on bail. The family remains in a safe location, as has been the case all along. In order to ensure their safety, we aren’t discussing their specific location.

Our view, as you mentioned, continues to be that she and her children have all the necessary documents to travel and enter the United States as soon as she is able to fulfill the Government of Sudan’s exit requirements. We remain in close touch with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure she and her family will be able to travel as quickly as possible. But as of now, she remains in Sudan.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, she was for – at some point in the American Embassy in Sudan. I mean, are you treating her as the wife of an American citizen – kind of what is your particular interest in this woman other than the case – the fact that she did have a kind of horrible experience and all? It seems as if you’re treating her as a quasi-American citizen.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re – again, I’m not going to confirm specifics of her location. I think we’ve all seen the details of her story and circumstances around her story. And we’re taking steps to assist her, as I mentioned.

QUESTION: But in what capacity? I mean, are you – she’s receiving this special attention because of the ordeal she went through, and this is a humanitarian gesture? Or is it because – is she being afforded some kind of assistance as the wife of an American citizen? I’m just – and when you say that she has documents to travel to the United States, are you saying that she has an American passport?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of the documents she has. She has the documents she needs to enter the United States. Obviously, there are steps that need to be taken on the other side in Sudan in order to ensure that she can.

QUESTION: Do you consider her an American citizen right now?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no, Elise.

QUESTION: Jen, you said that she was released on bail. So is it your understanding that she’s going to have to go back and go back to court and be tried on something --

MS. PSAKI: That was not what I was conveying.

QUESTION: -- for some --

MS. PSAKI: That was how she was released. We’re obviously in close touch with the Sudanese authorities about how to make sure she has the documents needed to leave Sudan.

QUESTION: But does that mean that the charges that they said that she had – that those charges about her allegedly trying to travel on fake documents, that those stand? They still exist and that needs to be resolved before she can leave?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think – they haven’t been resolved, otherwise she would be able to leave, because we’ve provided – she has the necessary documents from our end in order to leave Sudan.

QUESTION: Right. But your understanding is that because she’s only out on bail, she wasn’t like she was just released and they said, “You can go do anything you want.” She was released on bail, which implies that there’s some kind of an obligation on her part to go back to the Sudanese justice system.

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if that’s the specific case or if that’s just the legal terminology.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: She has travel documents to travel to the U.S. in what capacity? As a tourist, as a – someone with a green card with --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into other details of her travel documents.

QUESTION: Would she have to be on U.S. soil to apply for asylum?

MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, that’s how people – where people would need to be.

QUESTION: May I move to Japan?

QUESTION: Just one more on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But you’re not saying that that’s the case here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, any individual who’s applying would have to be typically on U.S. soil.

QUESTION: But is the --

MS. PSAKI: The Embassy is not U.S. soil.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is this the type of issue that a special ambassador for international and religious freedom could help with in the future?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you know how strongly we feel about having someone in that position. And obviously, there are a range of officials at the highest levels who’ve been involved in this case. But obviously, having more senior officials who can advocate in cases like these is vitally important.

QUESTION: Is there any update --

QUESTION: Why don’t you send Tom Malinowski? He’s nearby.

QUESTION: Is there any update on the nomination process?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you, Lucas.

QUESTION: Did you just say in response that the U.S. Embassy is not American soil?

MS. PSAKI: Not technically, no.

QUESTION: Can I move to Japan?

QUESTION: Really?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Despite what you’ve seen in movies and television. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, it’s sovereign soil --

MS. PSAKI: Not U.S. soil.

QUESTION: It’s not U.S. territory?

QUESTION: It’s American territory.

QUESTION: It’s American territory.

QUESTION: Well, tell that to the Brits and Julian Assange and the Ecuadorians.

QUESTION: Going back to --

QUESTION: On Japan – okay. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Japan.

QUESTION: Japan. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera visiting the United States this week. So do you have more information on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, visited the United States?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: The defense minister?

QUESTION: Defense minister.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense for more details.

QUESTION: And recently we know the Japanese cabinet approved the collective self-defense resolution, and there was a fairly large demonstration outside the prime minister’s office, and arrested . Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: You know where we stand on the recent announcements by Japan, and we certainly support their efforts and the announcements that they made. Otherwise, I would point you to Japanese authorities --

QUESTION: But --

MS. PSAKI: -- since that’s a domestic issue.

QUESTION: You realize there are some people also against this kind of resolution.

MS. PSAKI: As there often are in any country. But I would point you to Japan and the Japanese authorities for any reaction.

QUESTION: And by the way --

QUESTION: On Japan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- China and South Korea, which suffered, I mean, from Japan’s aggression in the past, and also worry about how Japan might exercise this kind of resolution. So – and also, we know since 1947 that Japan’s constitution was written by the United States. So how the United States make sure that Japan will not abuse this kind of authority?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – again, when the announcement was made, we welcomed – Secretary of Defense welcomed, we welcomed the Government of Japan’s new policy regarding collective self-defense. Obviously, in order for it to be successful, it’s important they move forward in a transparent manner. But we have an open dialogue with Japan about a range of issues, including our security cooperation and partnerships, and so we expect that to be the case.

QUESTION: Can I stay on Japan?

QUESTION: The U.S. also suffered from Japanese aggression as well.

MS. PSAKI: History.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of Secretary Kerry’s phone conversation with Japanese foreign minister today?

MS. PSAKI: He did speak with Foreign Minister Kishida today. Let me see if I have anything specific on that. If not, I’m sure we can get you something after the briefing. I think it happened late this morning.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Back to Saudi Arabia.

MS. PSAKI: Saudi Arabia, sure.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia’s one of the few countries in the world in which homosexuality still remains criminalized, and the kingdom’s LGBT rights record aside from that has come under scrutiny by Amnesty International and many other groups. Yet the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, in an op-ed that The Washington Blade last week published, said that this record was “regretfully absent” during the President’s meeting with King Abdullah back in March, and I know the Secretary recently met with him as well. Do you have any specifics as to whether LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia was discussed during that meeting in Jeddah, and if so, any readouts you have?

MS. PSAKI: The focus of the meeting with King Abdullah was really about the dire situation in Iraq, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t raise human rights issues, including LGBT issues, with a range of countries at many opportunities. And as you know, we have a very active embassy on the ground with a range of senior officials on the ground, but I don’t have any other specific readout from the meeting.

QUESTION: Do you have any specific statements, perhaps, that the State Department has sent out in the last year or so on Saudi Arabia’s LGBT rights record specifically, or can somebody maybe follow up with me on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re all available on our website.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All statements we issue. So I’m sure you can find everything you need there.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go back to China, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

And I would also – just one more thing. We also issue an annual report on human rights, where we outline any concerns we have about every country, and we don’t hold back in that regard.

QUESTION: But actually – the second thing that you mentioned at today’s – at the top of the briefing was a statement about the jailing of a Saudi human rights lawyer.

MS. PSAKI: That is true.

QUESTION: At the end of that statement, you said you urge the Saudi Government to respect all human – international human rights standards. What do you – all this urging, what has it gotten you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s important to continue to highlight issues where we have concerns, and that’s why we issue statements and why we talk about them from the briefing and why the Secretary raises them.

Let’s go to the back. Scott.

QUESTION: Venezuela.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the exchange of chiefs of mission last week? It was on a day when there wasn’t a briefing.

MS. PSAKI: I believe there was a report that we will have a new charge starting soon in Venezuela, but I don’t have an exact timeline at this point.

QUESTION: So does that – is that an opening for improving ties between the U.S. and Venezuela, then?

MS. PSAKI: There’s always – we remain open to a long-term relationship with Venezuela. We have existing concerns, as you know, about circumstances on the ground and accusations they’ve made against the United States. Those haven’t changed, but it’s an – it’s just somebody who will be there, of course, with other officials on the ground representing our – the needs of the United States.

QUESTION: Is there something that has happened to make this opportunity an opportunity?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing specific that I’m aware of, Scott.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yes. Regarding Germany and allegations of U.S. spying, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the United States is going to work with the Germans to resolve the situation appropriately. Can you comment on how that work is happening?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will say, of course, that we work with Germans – with Germany – Germany is an extremely important partner. We work together on a range of vital issues, including many in the news today: the P5+1 negotiations that are ongoing in Vienna now; we have an important economic dialogue with Germany; the Secretary’s been there several times. Ambassador Emerson did meet with the MFA on Friday on these recent reports, and our dialogue will continue on this and every other issue we work together on. But I’m not going to outline that publicly.

QUESTION: Will there be conversations upcoming between the United States and Germany from here?

MS. PSAKI: We have an ongoing dialogue with Germany about a range of issues, and as with any case, we’re happy to discuss these issues if they plan to raise them.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: How damaging are – you talk about all the discussions and work you have with the Germans. How damaging are these continuing spying allegations to the relationship? And how do you quell the uproar, really, that’s coming out of Germany over them?

MS. PSAKI: We have a strong friendship and partnership with Germany built on respect and built on decades of cooperation and common values and interests. And we expect that to continue.

QUESTION: Was it also based on listening in to the chancellor’s phone calls? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, you’re familiar with --

QUESTION: -- that’s the extent of the strong --

MS. PSAKI: -- the steps we’ve taken to address concerns --

QUESTION: -- depth of friendship?

MS. PSAKI: -- in that regard, and we’re continuing to implement those. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The White House – Josh Earnest at the White House suggested that you were going to do everything you could – or the government was going to do everything it could to resolve this situation.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything to resolve?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I --

QUESTION: By saying – well, the reason I’m asking is: By saying that and by saying that you are willing to talk to the Germans about this, it suggests that there is some – there is a valid complaint that they have here, or at least that there is some validity to the reports that have come out about this person spying for the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think without seeing the full context of Josh’s briefing, I will – I believe what he was referring to is our openness to continuing the discussion and engagement about a range of issues with Germany that’s been ongoing for decades.

QUESTION: Are you under the impression that – or is it your impression that the Germans are as open to this discussion as you are, given the fact that they’ve now been burned two or three times by revelations like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve had an open dialogue with Germany for some time, including in recent months, where there have been more difficult issues to discuss, so we expect that will continue.

QUESTION: Chancellor Merkel said in Beijing today that this was – this was a serious case, and that if it’s true, if what’s alleged is true, it would be – it would compromise or it would – I can’t remember the exact word – but it would hurt the relationship of trust. Is that your – is that – does this government feel the same way? Does the Administration feel the same way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a pending German law enforcement case, as she may have mentioned as well. So I’m not going to speak to it much further than to say that we have had decades of a partnership on tough issues, complicated issues, and we hope and expect that will continue.

QUESTION: Did you know what she was going to say in advance?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.

QUESTION: Just quickly going back to China, please.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as Secretary’s visit to China is concerned, you have been talking to the Chinese about these recent tens of thousands of Chinese demonstrating against the Communist rule in China for human rights and also China is against democracy. Do you support democracy in China?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we support – we, of course, raise human rights issues with China at every opportunity. I’m sure that will be a part of the dialogue here.

QUESTION: But Madam, what message will you have for the --

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on, Goyal, because we’ve – we’ll have a briefing on the ground, then we’ll send that transcript out to everybody.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Last week, Chinese president visited South Korea and held a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. And you – last week, you said that you were going to see the outcome of this summit and the two leaders shared the view on – and they had showed some concern over Japan’s remilitarization, including exercising the collective self-defense, while not resolving historical issues. What is the reactions to this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view on Japan’s recent announcement is as I stated a few minutes ago, so that hasn’t changed. We obviously, as I stated I think last week, we certainly encourage dialogue between countries in the region and strong relationships between countries in the region. We feel that’s the best – in the best interests of the region itself. So obviously, there were a range of issues discussed over the course of the weekend. I don’t have any other further readout since we weren’t involved in them, but if you have anything more specific, perhaps I can address that.

QUESTION: South Korean president was very critical of the Japan’s exercises – collective self-defense.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I stated our view. Our view hasn’t changed.

Go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: Following up on my question, I guess, from Wednesday about the unaccompanied minors and teenagers and families that are crossing the southern border of the United States, thank you for the information on refugees and asylum seekers. But the second part of my question was: What does the Administration view the people who are crossing the border as? Are they refugees or are they asylum seekers?

MS. PSAKI: Well, those definitions, I think as we stated in the taken question, are done by the Department of Homeland Security for individuals who are coming into the United States. I think our focus from here and Administration-wide is not on how we define, but what we do to address the problem.

I have a few updates I can give to all of you on what we’ve been working on. As you know, the Secretary was in Panama last Tuesday and we talked about that a little bit. On July 3rd, Counselor Tom Shannon and Assistant Secretaries Jacobson and Richard, and representatives from DHS, DOJ, USAID, and the NSC met with the ministers and ambassadors of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to discuss issues relating to unaccompanied children and repatriations, and to follow up on Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry’s meetings in Central America the day before and a couple of weeks before.

Before that – and Secretary Kerry spoke about this on Tuesday in Panama – but before that, Ambassador Shannon and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visited the southern border of the United States in order to take a firsthand look and work with authorities on the ground on how to address the issues at hand. And President Obama also announced that he’ll be making a request of Congress for $2 billion to immediately apply. And upcoming, Counselor Tom Shannon will travel to Guatemala with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson tomorrow, July 8th, and he also plans to visit Mexico July 14th to continue the conversation.

And our view is that working – we need to continue the pace of close work with these governments – Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico – to find a solution to the humanitarian situation taking place in our – on the border. And we must do whatever we can to stem the tide and address the core issues at hand, and we have an appropriate – of course, an important obligation to care for the children and adults and adults with children who are apprehended at our border. But from the State Department, we’re working to – with – closely with the countries to see how we can address and stem the tide.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why do you say that DHS should be the one to determine whether these people are classified as refugees or not? Because if I remember correctly, in all other instances where there’s an influx of refugees around the world – and I think maybe even in the case when Haitians and Cubans were coming into the United States many years ago – the United Nations was the one that you look to to determine the classification of these people.

MS. PSAKI: Well, from the U.S. Government is what I was referring to, Elise.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: In terms of individuals coming and crossing the border.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with UNHCR about these people and whether there should – there is a role for the UN to play?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certain we’ve been in touch with the UN. I don’t have any other specifics in terms of the --

QUESTION: Can you take that question --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- what the discussions are with the UN on this? Because I mean, obviously, if the United Nations classifies them as refugees, then it would make it more difficult to return them to their home countries because they would be facing some type of – whether it’s persecution or violence or something.

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of definitions, right --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- as you know and as was in the information. But we are working to repatriate the children with their families back to their countries.

QUESTION: But if the United Nations classified them as refugees, it would be harder to repatriate.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not aware of that being in the pipeline, but I can check and see if there is something specific in regards to our work with the UN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I’m – do you know for a fact that the Administration has sought to get the UN involved in this, which is a --

MS. PSAKI: No, I said whether we’ve been in touch with the UN or not, I can check on that. Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. I would – right. And when the answer comes back no, to save yourself a lot of hassle, get it out to us quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we certainly will.

QUESTION: Well, and if not, why not? Because you want to repatriate them and you don’t like the answer that the United Nations --

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t intending to speculate, but as you know, we are in touch with the UN about a range of issues. I’m not --

QUESTION: There are --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any request we’ve made.

QUESTION: Well, there’s a difference between you calling the UN and saying, “Hey, we could really use your help in classifying these people or helping deal with the problem,” or hearing from the United Nations, “Hey, you should really let us come down to the border and meet these folks and take a look at them.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear. Our focus is not on that. Our focus is on working with these countries to address the core issues. Our focus is on, as the President has outlined, requesting additional assistance to address both security and necessary funding we need to repatriate the children and their families back. That’s where our focus is. So --

QUESTION: I understand where that’s where your focus is, but that might not necessarily be where the focus of the United Nations would be if they classified those people as refugees.

MS. PSAKI: I have not heard them say anything about this, but I will check and see if there’s more to report.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just one more, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You said it’s not how you define the problem but how you address the problem. Don’t you have to define a problem before you can go about solving it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, when I said “define” I was referring to asylum seekers versus refugees. And what I was conveying is that our focus is on how to address the influx of unaccompanied minors that are coming across the border and the dangerous journey that they’ve taken to reach the United States.

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, sure.

QUESTION: There were some significant developments over the weekend.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I believe the Ukrainian Government took back one town, and it looks like the separatists are steeling themselves for a defense of Donetsk, I think. What’s your understanding of the situation? Do you think that both sides are – that the government is still showing restraint and that the separatists are still not?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a few updates. As you noted, over the weekend we all saw reports that the Ukrainian Government was able to expel Russian-supported separatists from the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. The government immediately moved to begin restoring public services and to providing assistance to residents in need in those areas.

Fighting does continue in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the option of a cease-fire remains on the table. But it takes two to participate in a cease-fire, and President Poroshenko had that cease-fire for 10 days and didn’t see reciprocal participation or engagement from the other side. So there are still remaining steps that we have called on the Russian-backed separatists and the Russians to take. Those remain on the table.

QUESTION: You say that it’s two sides, but it would seem that all your discussion is three sides.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Russian-backed separatists and the Russians are on the same side.

QUESTION: So they – so you equate the separatists with Russia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m equating, but in terms of --

QUESTION: For the purposes of – for the purposes of this, you think that the – Russia saying yes to a cease-fire is the same thing as the separatists saying yes to a cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long felt that they have a strong influence with the actions of the Russian separatists, and there’s more they can do to influence.

QUESTION: Right. Right, but the thing is – is that they had said yes, had they not? I mean, the Russians had supported it; Putin had supported it. But you don’t think that that message – or that they did enough to rein in the separatists in fighting the Ukrainian Government, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Is that – so that would mean that it’s three sides to the ceasefire, because you need the separatists to go along with it, and you think that that won’t happen unless Moscow says “do it,” right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I still – my view is two sides. We can disagree on the shape of the --

QUESTION: I’m just – whether it’s a triangle or a line, I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Triangle or a line, yes.

QUESTION: But in your view, the Russians still have not done what they should or what you think they should do to --

MS. PSAKI: No. They can allow the OSCE monitors to do their jobs; they can call – they can stop the flow of weapons across the border; they can call on Russian-backed separatists to lay down their arms. There’s certainly more steps they can take.

QUESTION: Okay. And have there been any conversations between the Secretary or any senior officials on this issue since Thursday?

MS. PSAKI: With senior Russian officials, or senior --

QUESTION: Ukrainian officials, anyone – just on this subject that you’re aware of.

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not. Of course, our team on the ground remains in close contact about these issues, and there are ongoing discussions through the Quad meetings – or Quad discussions as well.

QUESTION: But that seems to have, unless I’m mistaken, broken down, right? That – they haven’t met since last Thursday or Wednesday.

MS. PSAKI: But they can – they could meet again, certainly, if there isn’t a --

QUESTION: The Russians have been calling for another meeting of that group no later than Saturday. You’re aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: No later than next Saturday?

QUESTION: No, this past Saturday – than the 5th.

MS. PSAKI: Than last Saturday? Well, they can still convene again.

QUESTION: Right. You would like to see another meeting of the Quad soon. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly support dialogue between all of the parties, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just --

QUESTION: -- to the statement --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to you next.


Go ahead.

QUESTION: President Putin’s statement about the Fourth of July and his willingness to work together, and they can resolve all the issues. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Our view remains that actions speak louder than words, and there are specific steps that can be taken.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Last week, your colleague Marie Harf doubted the sources of a UN report that talks about a sharp increase in the number of people fleeing Ukraine into Russia. Well, I’m with RT; you don’t like RT. What about other news sources, U.S. news sources? And here’s The Wall Street Journal writing about the horrors that people face and why they flee to Russia. Are all these sources exaggerating the scale of the crisis there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s clearly a significant movement of people due to the violence caused by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, though the vast majority have not sought refugee status. That hasn’t changed. There are a few – and I think Matt asked last week what the difference is between here and Syria, and one of the differences is that there are a range of international organizations on the ground in Syria and NGOs who are calculating or validating the number of asylum seekers or refugees crossing the border.

And so this is single-source reporting strictly from the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Government, and that’s one of the reasons that we expressed doubt about the numbers or the range of numbers that were reported in this case.

QUESTION: But it seems that you are downplaying the – honestly, downplaying the scale of the crisis there. These are just – that’s the reason why I would show these pictures. These are shots of civilians blown to pieces in their homes and their backyards, in the village of – in the village in eastern Ukraine last week. And Kyiv ordered these killings, nobody else.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: What does the U.S. do to stop Kyiv from doing it --

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: -- from the village of Kondrashovka. It’s --

MS. PSAKI: Well, you finished – go ahead. I’m letting you finish your question.

QUESTION: Yes, I’m sorry. These are gruesome pictures, but it seems --

MS. PSAKI: I think to be clear, on the ground, the reports that we’ve seen and the vast majority of people who are reporting from the ground report that the Russian-backed separatists are the ones who are not only engaged in violence and efforts to take over buildings and attack people and innocent civilians. They have no place doing that in a country that’s a sovereign country like Ukraine, so that’s our issue.

QUESTION: These people died in air strikes ordered by Kyiv – not by Russia, not by the separatist.

MS. PSAKI: The Government of Ukraine is defending the country of Ukraine, and I think they have every right to do that, as does the international community.

QUESTION: Do the people – and these people have right to live, don’t they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the people of Ukraine have the right to live in peace and security without Russian-backed separatists attacking their homes and going into buildings. And I think that’s where the root cause of this is and we shouldn’t forget that fact.

QUESTION: Jen, on the numbers. Are you now – when you say there’s been substantial movement across the border, whether or not these people are technically classified by the UN as refugees or not, are you still saying that you don’t think 110,000 is accurate? That’s the number that the UN gave last week. Do you still take issue with that number, or do you now accept that even though they’re not refugees, there are – and maybe not all classified as refugees – there are a hundred – that the numbers could be as high as 110,000?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the context of what I was trying to explain, Matt, is that there’s single-source reporting here just from the Federal Migration Services of Russia. It’s not independent international organizations and NGOs reporting, as it is in Syria and some other places, because they’re not on the ground. So we don’t have any validation of those numbers, though there’s certainly no question that there are a range – a large number of people who are crossing the border because of the violence they’re seeing on the ground.

QUESTION: So who is it that you’re saying is on the ground in Syria that are collecting these – are you talking about Turkey and --

MS. PSAKI: There are international organizations, NGOs.

QUESTION: But that would be the UN mainly, right?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who was the same person that’s saying 110,000.

MS. PSAKI: But they’re getting reporting from a single source in this case, whereas in other – in Syria, they’re getting reporting from a range of international organizations.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the UNHCR is being credulous or they’re not looking at these numbers with enough skepticism?

MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not trying to overstate it. That’s just the reason why we see the circumstances differently.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, when you say you acknowledge that there is substantial movement or substantial migration, whether it’s actual migration or whether it’s refugees or whatever, could that include – I mean, could that – could the number 110,000 – is that a feasible figure?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to guess at the specific numbers, Matt. I’m just expressing what our skepticism is about some of the numbers we’ve seen reported.

QUESTION: All right. And there are no NGOs, no international organizations that --

MS. PSAKI: Not that are reporting numbers on numbers of refugees on the ground to our – that we’re aware of.

QUESTION: In Russia --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- or in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly, in the – what’s happening on the ground on the border there.

Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:27 p.m.)

DPB # 118


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: July 2, 2014

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 17:01

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 2, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Abduction and Murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir / Secretary's Statement
    • Investigation / Hamas
    • Palestinian Technocratic Government
  • INDIA
    • Alleged Intelligence Activities
    • U.S.-Indian Relationship
  • IRAQ
    • Readout of Secretary's Meetings and Calls
    • ISIL / Kurdistan
    • Iran / Region
    • Military Assistance / Government Formation
  • SYRIA
    • Foreign Fighters
  • CHINA / ROK / REGION
    • Dialogue
  • DPRK / REGION
    • Charges against American Citizens
    • Weapons Launches
    • China / Japan
  • AZERBAIJAN / ARMENIA
    • Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
  • SYRIA
    • U.S. Support for Opposition
    • Chemical Weapons
    • Refugee Crisis
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 Negotiations
  • SYRIA / IRAQ / REGION
    • ISIL's Regional Threat / Government Formation
  • MEXICO / REGION
    • Unaccompanied Minors
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA
    • Detention of Journalists
    • Events on the Ground / General Breedlove's Comments / Ceasefire
    • Secretary Kerry's Phone Call with Foreign Minister Lavrov / Four-Way Talks
  • MOLDOVA
    • Ratification of Association Agreement
  • CHINA / HONG KONG
    • Traditions and Basic Law Protections
  • SUDAN
    • Meriam Ibrahim


TRANSCRIPT:

1:24 p.m. EDT

israelpalestinians">MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thank you for your patience. I know everybody is probably eager to spend a little time with their families over the holiday. I don’t have anything at the top, so Lara, why don’t we go straight to you?

QUESTION: Great. Thank you. I noted the Secretary’s statement earlier today about the abduction and murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. I’m wondering if you can give us a little more information on what the Obama Administration knows about the circumstances or the motive of this killing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Lara, there is an investigation that authorities are looking into this tragedy. A number of Israeli and Palestinian officials have condemned it. Prime Minister Netanyahu has called today for sides not to take the law into their own hands. The Secretary has also been in touch today with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I expect he’ll continue to be in touch with both sides, as our teams on the ground are as well. So I don’t have anything to convey to you, and I don’t want to prejudge the investigation.

QUESTION: But it seems that this is being linked to the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. And so I’m wondering what makes anyone think – or is there any evidence that suggests that they are linked?

MS. PSAKI: Well again, Lara, that’s the reason why there is an investigation. And what we’re – what we’ve conveyed from here – and obviously, the Secretary’s statement did this strongly – is the need to refrain from violence, the need for all sides to find an alternative path forward. Clearly, our hearts go out to the families of those who have suffered with recent events, including the deaths of the three teenagers. But we’re going to let the investigation play itself out, and certainly, we would condemn in the strongest terms these despicable acts of violence.

QUESTION: But even the use of the phrase – you’re urging people to not take the law into their own hands. That seems to indicate that there is some kind of linkage. So does the U.S. have any independent evidence that they are linked?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent evidence here. Obviously, there’s an independent – there is an investigation going on on the ground. That’s the appropriate place for this to take place. We will continue to remain in touch with our counterparts from the Israeli – the Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. And again, clearly, we’re deeply concerned about the violence on the ground, and that’s why the Secretary issued a statement this morning.

QUESTION: And also, following up from a question that was asked yesterday about whether or not Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens, I think there was a question taken about how the U.S. knows that, what kind of evidence was being relied on for that case. I think it was said that that was mostly Israeli and some Palestinian evidence. Is there any independent U.S. evidence about Hamas’ involvement in that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, right now – and again, I think it’s important to note in all of these cases that any investigation is going on on the ground, it’s not – there’s not an independent United States investigation. We are in close touch with both Israeli and Palestinian officials. We have been for weeks, and that will certainly continue.

Right now there are many indications pointing to Hamas’ involvement. It’s also important to note that Hamas’ leadership publicly praised the kidnappings, and we’ve seen a pattern of events over the course of quite some time that we would also point to. But there’s an ongoing investigation; that has not been concluded. Clearly, many officials have spoken to their views of what happened here, but we will remain in touch with officials on the ground, and we’re not going to prejudge the outcome.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: But Jen, this is a criminal case. I mean, it’s okay for Hamas leader to welcome the killing or whatever they say publicly, but is this good enough evidence for them to link them directly to the killing?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m – I just made very clear that we are going to let the investigation play itself out. I think there’s no question there are some patterns that we’ve seen in the past. There are many indications pointing to Hamas’ involvement, but we’re going – there’s an investigation that’s ongoing. It has not yet been concluded.

QUESTION: Are you aware that there is an organization called Jamaat Ansar as-Dawla al-Islamiya, which is a group that link itself to the Islamic state that declared responsibility yesterday, and Palestinian news agency ran the story that they – actually they are the one who kidnapped the three teens and killed them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of reports. That’s exactly why there’s an investigation ongoing. We’ll let that play itself out.

QUESTION: Okay. Just one last thing: You are aware that the Israelis demolished the house of one of the suspect of – they said they were involved in the killing. It was five-story house. The family lost their house. It’s a – do you see this as a collective punishment against the family? And in addition to that, they arrested the father and four of the brothers, and they already in Israeli jail.

MS. PSAKI: Well again, I think the Secretary’s statement this morning sent a very strong message from the United States that there has to be an alternative path forward, that violence is not the answer. And we’ve been in touch with both sides to convey that strongly, as well. There’s no question there are strong emotions on the ground. That’s understandable, given the circumstances, but we’re encouraging parties to continue to cooperate on security measures and continue the dialogue as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the idea of collective punishment, I wanted to ask you about the notion of collective responsibility of governments, specifically of this Palestinian unity government. The Hamas/Fatah government is responsible for security and law enforcement in all the Palestinian territories. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s cooperation, as you know, on security front with the Israeli authorities as well. It depends on the part that you’re referring to.

QUESTION: Well, so when the unity government was announced, you said: “Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government. We will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government, and if needed, we will recalibrate our approach.” Is this a time to recalibrate? Are you re-evaluating? And if not, why not, given, obviously, this government has no control over the fact that dozens of rockets are falling on southern Israel, and not to mention these kidnappings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point out as well that President Abbas has publicly condemned the kidnappings, and security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has remained and has continued. It remains the case that we will continue to assess – that’s been ongoing – our – the interim government based on its composition, its policies, and its actions. That’s ongoing. And we evaluate that on a regular basis, and nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: But what does it mean for Hamas to have any part in this government and then turn around and fire – I mean, just now there was a red alert --

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to note here, Michael, that they don’t have – they’re not a part of the technocratic government. Obviously, the technocratic government is different from the reconciliation process. Obviously, everything’s linked. It’s all – but it’s different. They’re not a part of the technocratic government. We’ve seen President Abbas condemn the violence. Obviously, any incidents of violence we would condemn. We look at all of these circumstances as we evaluate our relationship moving forward.

QUESTION: And – but what are the technocrats doing? Do you have faith in the technocrats that are in this interim government that they have control over the situation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question it’s a difficult circumstance on the ground. And over the long term, yes, of course, preventing and ending this violence is a primary objective. And President Abbas, who is head of the Palestinian Authority, an important part of the technocratic process here, has strongly condemned these actions. And we expect and hope that that will continue.

QUESTION: Last one from me. Do you have a response to the members of the Palestinian leadership and the PA that are saying that the killing of these three teens is a vast Israeli conspiracy or that in some way the Israelis were involved in the kidnapping and killing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say I think the Secretary has not only spoken publicly about this, but he’s been in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu and a range of other officials, and certainly we don’t see validity in that claim.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Do we have any more on this topic before we – go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday, The Washington Post put out a story and based on some documents it also put out on its website, according to which U.S. has been spying on several political organizations across the world, five or six. One of them is BJP from India, which is now the main ruling party in India. What do you have to say on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as has been the case consistently, we’re not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity. As you know, since January 17th, the President has made clear that he’s instructed his national security team as well as the intelligence community to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust moving forward. I can confirm that diplomats from our embassy have met with their MEA counterparts on this issue, but I’m not going to get into the substance of our private conversations.

QUESTION: But can you say what’s the status right now? Is BJP still in that list or is off the list?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have any more details I can lay out for you, other than to convey that we have a deep and broad partnership with India. We will discuss any concerns that are – we need to discuss through our private diplomatic channels. And obviously, that is already ongoing, including as it relates to these specific reports.

QUESTION: But I believe the State Department is always consulted on these issues by NSC and the White House. What is the need for such kind of activities within political parties in India? You always have a robust engagement with the BJP. I have seen several of its leaders coming here, diplomats from here going and having regular meetings with the BJP. So what is the need for that?

MS. PSAKI: What is the need for the meetings or --

QUESTION: No, not – for the activities that the U.S. was doing in 2010.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we’ve spoken to this extensively as it relates to reports from around the world. I would point you to the President’s speeches and remarks on this issue and steps we’ve taken to change our policies. And beyond that, I’m not going to have a further comment on these reports.

QUESTION: Do you think this would have an impact on your relationship with India now since that the prime minister is from that party?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly hope not. We look forward to continuing discussion on a full range of bilateral and regional issues. As you know, there’s been an invitation issued for a visit, and we’re looking forward to that, hopefully in the fall.

QUESTION: Following the meetings that your diplomats had in New Delhi yesterday on this particular issue, have they given any assurance to the Indians that this will be not be done in the future?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have anything else to read out. There’ll be continuation of private diplomatic conversations, and I’m not going to read out those out publicly.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Same? The same?

MS. PSAKI: In India? Sure. Or go ahead, in the region.

QUESTION: Not in India.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, okay.

QUESTION: Thanks. While Pakistan is carrying out a big operation in North Waziristan to flush out TTP and foreign militants, Pakistan has also demanded of Kabul to hand over Mullah Fazlullah, who is the leader of TPP and is carrying out and directing operations and bombings in Pakistan. But Kabul has declined to respond positively to Pakistan’s request to hand over Mullah Fazlullah to Pakistan. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe we will. I’m happy to circle back with our team and see if there’s anything we’d like to add. As you know, the separation you’re referring to is strictly a Pakistan operation run by the government – or the officials in Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan, and they are the best source for additional information.

QUESTION: I mean, it was not in the – not too distant past that U.S. plucked one of the lieutenants of Mullah Fazlullah TTP leaders from Afghanistan – last year probably. And what is the U.S. doing there to help the two countries to cooperate on the cross-border militancy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t think those are details that we’re going to get into from the podium.

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with the Iraqi Kurdish delegation today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm. He also spoke with President Barzani this morning, so let me just give you kind of an overview of those two. During his – following on meetings that the Secretary had in Erbil just last week, he met this morning with a Kurdish delegation led by KRG President Barzani’s chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, to discuss the crisis in Iraq and the important role that Kurds have to play in assisting the efforts of the central government to manage this current security and political crisis in a way that is beneficial to all Iraqis. The Secretary emphasized to the delegation the critical role that the Kurds play in the government formation process, and with the new Iraqi parliament convened, the need for their full participation to move the process forward to forge an inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations, and legitimate concerns of all of Iraqis – of Iraq’s communities. He also further stressed that formation of an inclusive government in Iraq was vital to uniting the Iraqi people and ridding the nation of the threat from ISIL, including in the Kurdish region. And finally, he underscored the historic relationship the United States shares with the Kurdistan Regional Government and its people, and emphasized our full commitment to that relationship.

The discussion he had with President Barzani was along the same lines in terms of encouraging the urgency – emphasizing the urgency of their participation in the government formation process, the important role the Kurds played moving forward – he raised the important role the Kurds play moving forward, and also emphasized that the focus should be on the existential threat that they all face, and that’s where their focus should be at this important time.

QUESTION: I assumed Dr. Fuad was scheduled to come here for some time, but the call of President Barzani was somewhat – can we assume it was precipitated by the fact that the Kurds walked out of the parliament meeting yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: He’s been in touch with a range of officials, as you know, throughout the last several weeks. So certainly we are aware of those events and encouraging them to participate in the process is part of that, and emphasizing the importance of the plan to reconvene next week is a part of that. But I don’t have any additional information on the timing or the reasoning of the call beyond that.

QUESTION: Did – I mean, I ask about the timing, because, as you noted, he met with President Barzani last week. I’m just wondering what different message he might have had from a week ago to today that would have necessitated a call.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not a different message, but I think consistency, especially in times of crisis, is part of his approach to diplomacy. So that’s what this was a part of.

QUESTION: And did President Barzani or Dr. Fuad commit to attending the July 8th parliament session?

MS. PSAKI: We --

QUESTION: Not themselves personally, but the delegations.

MS. PSAKI: We certainly expect they will, but I’ll let them speak for themselves in terms of their own commitments.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Kurds, meanwhile, are working on their own country or own state, drawing the borders of this country and preparing for the referendum. Have you discussed this issue with them and what was their reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve heard the Secretary say publicly, but his message privately is exactly the same – that a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq, and the focus should be on the existential threat that all Iraqis face and that people in the region face, which is the threat of ISIL. And we should not give an opening to a horrific terrorist group by being divided at this critical moment. So that’s part of the message that he certainly has conveyed broadly on these issues.

Now, there have been statements made in the past, as you know, for quite some time about their desire for an independent Kurdistan. It’s not new as of the last week. I know you’re aware of that, but it’s important context here.

QUESTION: Today, was prime minister – sorry. Today Prime Minister Maliki and the Iranians saying that they oppose to any kind of secession by the Kurds. So you’re in agreement with them on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been very consistent and clear about our view that a stronger Iraq is a united Iraq, a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq.

QUESTION: And do you believe that Kirkuk is still disputed?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Do you believe that Kirkuk is still a disputed area?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly aware that the Kurdish – the Peshmerga are there, the Kurdish forces are there. But again, we have been encouraging all parties in Iraq to remain focused on the existential threat they face.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: One more on Iraq. There are news reports saying that the Iraqi air force appears to be using Sukhoi fighter jets camouflaged to hide the fact that they were sent from Iran. And in an image analysis, it showed that the same exact markings on these planes in Iran’s fleet minus the country’s flag and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard logo, which appear to have been painted over. Do you have any idea about this, and do you think that the Iraqis have received fighter jets from Iran?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen the same reports that you have. I don’t have any independent information to share with you at this time. We’ve been very clear to all in the region that anything that might exacerbate sectarian tensions would fuel extremism in Iraq. That’s the reason we have expressed concerns about the type of help Iran may or may not want to supply, so those concerns remain.

QUESTION: Have you asked for any information from the Iraqi Government to confirm these reports?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re in touch with Iraqi officials about a range of issues, but I don’t have anything to read out on that front.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

QUESTION: And if true – sorry – what would be your position?

MS. PSAKI: If true – if the --

QUESTION: If they have really received these kind of jets from Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve been pretty clear on this that we have had concerns, and we have remaining concerns, about any effort to spark sectarian tensions in Iraq. And I think, broadly speaking, without having confirmation or providing confirmation from here of these specific details, that it would be a violation of the UN Security Council resolution regarding Iran’s sanctions if they provided – a violation to Iraq – Iraq would be violating if they were receiving this type of material and equipment from Iran.

QUESTION: Will this affect the U.S. aid to the Iraqi Government, the military aid especially?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, our consideration is regarding a range of factors, including the best way to see a stable and secure Iraq over the long term. The political process is an essential part of that, the government formation. Obviously, we’re committed to taking on the threat of ISIL, which is why we’ve taken steps we’ve taken. But I’m not going to go further down the hypothetical rabbit hole with you.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have more in Iraq?

QUESTION: On that.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The same analysis says that the five or seven Sukhoi 25s, whichever is true, are part of the Iraqi aircraft that were transferred to Iran during the desert operation in 1991. Now, if that is true, and this whole transfer – this report turns out to be correct, would still this be a violation of the sanctions? It’s Iraqi aircraft to begin with.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me lay out for you what a violation technically speaking and broadly speaking would be. It’s – the short version is: it’s the sale or transfer of equipment from Iran. The specific language is that, “Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.”

So I’m not going to speculate on whether or not it would be a violation. That’s what a violation is technically. I don’t have any other confirmation for you of these specific reports, of which there are a range.

QUESTION: The Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. yesterday was at Carnegie Endowment, I believe, and he said – he referred to – he said that Iraq is going to turn to Russia, Syria, and Iran for military assistance. Has anybody from this building been in touch with them regarding all, and especially with all these reports, different reports coming out, that Iran has been transferring and then Russia as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Mika, I will say first that we have been in touch with Iraqi officials over the course of time about any concerns about violating UN Security Council sanctions. In terms of assistance – and I think my colleague Marie addressed this yesterday, and we have a little bit over the course of days – but we have always been supportive of efforts by Iraq to work with a range of countries, and to be clear they work with a range of countries and have for some time, in terms of the military assistance and equipment needs and how to meet – meeting those, I should say.

We also provide and have increased this over the course of the last several months as well, as you know, because we’ve talked about it a great deal in here. So it’s not a surprise to us, nor have we expressed a concern about Iraq working with a range of countries that they’ve long worked with to meet their needs.

QUESTION: Marie said the other day that the U.S. wouldn’t be opposed to any legitimate transfers. Would this constitute a legitimate transfer of arms should it be proven that these are actually Iraqi --

MS. PSAKI: I think I just outlined pretty clearly what a violation would be. We’ve communicated that to the Government of Iraq. I’m not going to speculate further until we have any confirmation of the specific details here.

QUESTION: Have you seen any moves on part of Baghdad to work with regional countries?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, the part of --

QUESTION: Have you – on part of Baghdad, the Iraqi Government, to work with other countries as well to control the situation?

MS. PSAKI: To – on – to address to threat of ISIL?

QUESTION: Yes. With the Arab countries, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they’ve been in touch with a range of countries. You saw the announcement yesterday by Saudi Arabia, the humanitarian announcement that obviously Marie outlined, would go through the UN. One of the tasks that the Secretary was engaged with last week was working with these countries to focus on the existential threat that countries in the region face. So certainly there has been outreach and discussions, and we’ve been engaged in that as well.

Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: More on Iraq. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you think that after two weeks the ISIL threat is lessening or – I mean, getting less or is getting more?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to do a day-to-day evaluation of that. Certainly our concern remains about the existential threat that Iraq and the countries in the region face from ISIL. We have seen reports of government forces fighting back, but our concern remains. And that’s why we’ve continued to increase our assistance and why we remain closely engaged with government officials on the ground.

QUESTION: So the other thing which we – when you talk about the readout with the talks with the Kurdish leaders, you are talking about process or something to form at the end unified government and parliament and all these things, because they are not attending. What kind of contacts you have with the Sunni leadership? Do you have any contact with Sunni leadership?

MS. PSAKI: We’re in touch – of course. We’re in touch with Sunnis, with Shia, with Kurds. We’re in touch with a range of officials on the ground in Iraq.

QUESTION: Do you believe, still believe that the unified government minimized the threat of ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: We do.

QUESTION: Why?

MS. PSAKI: Because the focus should be on standing together and facing the existential threat that they all face and not on political infighting.

QUESTION: Jen, one more on the jets. Do you have any information if Russia has delivered the Sukhoi fighter jets to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details to confirm for you on what they may or may not have delivered, no.

QUESTION: One on India?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish Iraq, and then --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: -- Iraq, or – okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any contact with Iran regarding this Iraq issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we spoke about the contact that Deputy Secretary Burns had just about 10 days ago, but I don’t have any other contact to read out for --

QUESTION: Nothing updated? Nothing update --

MS. PSAKI: Nothing to update you on, no.

QUESTION: Can we just stay in the region with Iran?

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: A follow-up on --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry about that. But there was a meeting today between Under Secretary Burns and Minister Zarif in Vienna. Have they discussed Iraq or not?

MS. PSAKI: I think Marie addressed this yesterday that there was --

QUESTION: No, but today, the --

MS. PSAKI: -- no plans for that to be addressed. And I’m not aware of any reports of it being brought up.

QUESTION: I see that the Secretary is meeting at the White House with the National Security Advisor and the SecDef. I assume Iraq is on that agenda and the meetings should have – at least the first one should have already ended.

MS. PSAKI: They have an almost weekly lunch, so this is a part of that. And obviously a range of topics will be discussed, but we’re not going to read out the content of the meeting.

More on Iraq, or should we – okay, new topic. Let’s go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a small quick one on India.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The news reports from India are saying that the Secretary will be traveling to New Delhi for the next round of strategic dialogue with India on July 30th. Do you confirm this date?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any trips to announce and I’m not aware of plans at this point to travel in the coming weeks to India --

QUESTION: And also --

MS. PSAKI: -- but we look forward to going at some point.

QUESTION: But is it going to be late this month or next month?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of plans to travel this month.

QUESTION: The same news report is saying that Deputy Secretary Burns will travel into India next week. Do you have --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on his schedule in front of me. We can check, and as you know, we will put out an announcement whenever he was travel planned.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay? Ali.

QUESTION: We understand that the U.S. is supposed to announce today new security directives for foreign airlines and airports in response to threats from Syrian terrorists staging attacks, especially the foreign-born terrorists who have European and American passports. So I just wanted to know: Have you been in – has the State Department been in touch with foreign governments alerting them to this change? And what are your thoughts on the directive itself?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this – any announcement hasn’t been quite made yet. I’d have to check on what our specific involvement would be. I would say, broadly speaking, that the threat of foreign fighters is a concern that we share with many counterparts in the world, whether that’s Europeans or others in the Western world, where we’ve seen an increase in foreign fighters who have traveled to Syria and other countries in the region and returning. So we have been discussing a range of steps we can take in a coordinated fashion for some time, but I don’t have anything on this specific announcement. But we can check and see if there’s more to share.

QUESTION: Sure. But it’s fair to say that the State Department has been involved in those discussions with other bureaus – DHS --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been in discussion about, of course, a range of issues as it relates to taking on the threat of foreign fighters and what we can do more. In terms of this specific case, I don’t have any details on it. I’m happy to check about our level of engagement on it, sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

In the back? Go ahead. Oh, and – he’s just been raising his hand aggressively in the back, so go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. PSAKI: Or ladies first. Either way.

QUESTION: Ladies first, sure.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, all right. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. I just have a few quick questions about the China-South Korea summit tomorrow.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. expectation for the outcome of the summit generally, and do you have any concerns for any part of the summit – the agenda or the signing of any new diplomatic documents that they could sign?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not sure that this is an event – or you tell me – that we are involved in at any senior level or --

QUESTION: No, it’s between China and South Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. So I would just say, broadly speaking, that we’ll see what the outcome is. Obviously, we remain in touch with both countries. I think we put out a readout of a call the Secretary did with one of his Chinese counterparts, and we’re in close touch with South Korean officials as well. But they’re both important partners, whether it’s in the Six-Party process or on other issues in the region. So we’ll see what comes out of it and if there’s anything we need to speak to.

QUESTION: Okay. And China is reportedly going to ask South Korea to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the U.S. has reportedly warned South Korea against joining it. Do you have any position on the development bank itself, or your expectations for what South Korea might decide whether to join or not?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s any concerns or issues raised that we’d like to express publicly, though.

QUESTION: Okay. And then in general, do – is there any concern at all that South Korea is perhaps becoming too close to China, given the fact that President Obama emphasized on his Asia trip that the U.S. should be South Korea’s main security ally?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we also encourage dialogue between countries in the region, and we’ve long encouraged the strong and peaceful rise and prosperity of China. So we’ll see what comes out of the dialogue tomorrow, and certainly we’ll encourage meetings moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region with North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Sort of as these meetings are happening, North Korea’s been sort of demonstrating increased aggressive posturing with this – these small missile tests, and also with the decision earlier this week to charge the two Americans that they currently detain. First of all, do you have any update on the status of those two Americans? Any more on what their health was the last time the Swedes were able to meet with them, or whether they’ve been – if they’ve been able to meet with them this week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been no new meetings, so the last meetings by our Swedish protecting power were ones I think we updated on a couple of days ago. That was with Mr. Fowle on June 20th and Mr. Miller on June 21st. It’s important to note that those meetings were prior to these reports of the charges. So to my knowledge, there hasn’t been an opportunity to discuss this with them specifically by our Swedish protecting power.

In terms of their health, obviously, we’re always concerned about the health and welfare and safety of U.S. citizens. That’s one of the reasons we seek to have close contacts and have consular access, but I don’t have any specific updates or new concerns to express related to their health.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication why these charges are happening now? Because it seems the one man was in custody since April.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, again, have seen reports of the charges, but I don’t have any separate confirmation or additional details on them at this point in time.

QUESTION: And then also, between that and the missile tests, some experts are coming forward saying that they indicate that North Korea is frustrated by not being sort of more on the U.S.’s radar, more on other countries’ radars, that it’s not a priority in people’s foreign policies. Does that – is that an analysis that this building shares, and is it affecting the way you kind of go forward in your policy towards North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a shared concern by the United States, by other countries in the region about the bellicose rhetoric and the threats posed by North Korea. And we’re certainly concerned by the reports of yet another round of provocative weapons launches, the third in a week. These launches are intended to unilaterally heighten tensions in the region. They’ll not provide North Korea or the North Korean people with the prosperity and security it claims to seek. And it’s long been the case that the ball is in North Korea’s court to change their relationship with the international community. It’s not in ours; it’s in their court. But clearly, actions like those of this past week don’t help them take steps forward in that regard.

QUESTION: Can I, Jen, just follow up on that? In the case of Mr. Miller, the reports are that he sought asylum in North Korea or he – that he tore up his visa to the country upon entering and said he wanted to stay there. Is it your understanding that he wants to come back here or that he wants – doesn’t want to, or do you have any details on that?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details to share in either of these cases.

QUESTION: But you are still seeking – your official position is that you’re seeking him to be returned to the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, and we’re also seeking additional consular visits --

QUESTION: Okay. And then --

MS. PSAKI: -- through our protecting power.

QUESTION: Okay, great. And then one more on the summit: A lot of people are noting that this is the first time a Chinese president has visited the president of South Korea before visiting – paying an official visit to North Korea. Are you encouraged by this as a sign that China is sort of moving away from North Korea and perhaps a little bit more willing to put diplomatic pressure on them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve had a range of conversations with China over the course of the last several months or even years, I should say at this point, that we have been here, that the Secretary has been here. And they have played a role in pushing North Korea to take more helpful steps forward. But I don’t want to analyze further the order of visits. I’ll leave that to others to analyze.

QUESTION: Sure. I guess what I’m trying to get at is: Do you detect a shift in the Chinese position toward a greater willingness to work with you and other partners in the region to put pressure on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has spoken to this in the past about conversations that he has had with Chinese leaders about the threat we face and the concerns we have about North Korea’s rhetoric. But I think that’s – I would point to that more than the order of visits.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, sorry, (inaudible). Is the United States seeking China’s help to get the detainees out of the DPRK?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything else to read out for you in terms of our efforts.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Regarding the talk between Japanese Government and North Korea, did the U.S. have any report from Japanese Government? And how does the U.S. think about the possibility of Japanese Government is going to – lifting of the sanctions in North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly been in close touch with our Japanese counterparts on this and a range of other issues. Certainly, they are the experts on the discussions that are ongoing. I know there have been many reports about what they may or may not do. We don’t have any independent confirmation of that. I don’t believe any public announcement has been made. So we would refer you to the Government of Japan for more information. We continue to support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner.

And as I noted at the top, we of course maintain regular consultations with Japan on issues related to North Korea, security in the region, and a range of issues we have shared concern about.

QUESTION: And what do you think about the possibility of lifting of the Japanese original sanction on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical. There hasn’t been any announcement made. Obviously, I don’t have any independent information here about that particular report.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. There is a noticeable escalation of anti-Armenian rhetoric in Azerbaijan recently. Ilham Aliyev personally called Armenia a historic Azerbaijan land this time, which analysts qualified as territorial claim. The main question is about the violation of ceasefire recent weeks. Azerbaijan violated ceasefire not only in line of contact with Karabakh, but also across the state border with Armenia, severely shelling civilian rural settlements in northeastern part of Armenia. Some local authorities already have reported that full-scale war has already broken out.

So as a co-chair of OSCE Minsk Group, do you follow the situation and any actions to put – do you put any efforts to restrain Azerbaijan from belligerent statements and action? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are committed – as a co-chair, we’re committed to helping both sides reach a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It’s our hope that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will accept French President Hollande’s invitation to hold a summit in Paris as soon as possible, and that they will agree to structured negotiations that will lead to a peace agreement. And we call on both sides to redouble their efforts at the negotiation table and to focus on the benefits that peace will bring to people across the region. Obviously, inflammatory rhetoric and statements run counter to the principle of reducing tensions, and so we certainly think that that damages the peace process, and that’s why we’re encouraging them to redouble their efforts.

QUESTION: Jen, have you seen the reports that (inaudible) civilian settlements this time has been bombarded by Azerbaijan in Armenia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of those specific reports, but clearly, a peaceful settlement is in the interests of both countries.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Some Syrian opposition groups in Aleppo issued a statement today asking the SOC to provide them with more arms to fight ISIS that getting stronger in Syria, and they threatened to desert their position in one week – or their positions in one week if they did not receive the military aids that they are asking for.

MS. PSAKI: Who was this? I’m sorry, this statement was issued --

QUESTION: Some military opposition groups in Aleppo especially. Do you have anything on this, and will the U.S. accelerate the military aids to the opposition to fight the regime and ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you saw the President’s announcement just earlier this week, or last week – it’s all running together – last week. And clearly, we’ve taken steps here to continue to boost support for the opposition, whether that is political support or military assistance. I have not seen that specific statement you’re referring to. Clearly, our view is that the opposition needs to continue to strengthen their membership and work together to take on the threat that they face, both from the brutality of the Assad regime as well as, certainly, some extremists who are present in Syria. So I’d have to check and see that specific statement and what groups it was coming from. I don’t know if you have more information on it. We can talk about it afterwards.

QUESTION: I will forward it to you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sounds good.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we say now that the issue or the files of chemical weapons are closed now, or still you have some concerns about the chemical weapon of mass destruction that is in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, part of what Syria committed to last September was joining the Chemical Weapons Convention. So while we made the announcement last week about – or OPCW did, I should say – about the removal of 100 percent of declared chemicals, there are – of course we’re going to keep our effort going here in terms of ensuring that that covers all chemical weapons that would pose a threat. And that’s an ongoing effort that the OPCW will be seeing through in the months ahead.

QUESTION: Some people, already they are saying that what was done regarding the chemical weapon was done based on what was provided as a stockpile, as an information, so more weapons are there. What is your understanding of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have never taken the Assad regime at their word. That’s why we refer to it as the declared chemical weapons. But I think it’s important to note here that a significant amount of toxic chemicals of the worst kind, who had been used by the Assad regime to kill their own people, has now been removed from Syria. Those are chemicals that they can never again use against their own people. But we will continue, through the OPCW, to take every step necessary to ensure that all is verified and that we prevent this from happening again.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes please, more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: And – please. Regarding refugees.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. In Syria.

QUESTION: In Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, with the – what was going on in the last two weeks, it seems that more disturbance happening with the ISIL movements and regarding the refugees. Do you have any update about refugee status there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new update. Obviously, we’ve been concerned about the growing number of refugees, the impact that this has had on countries in the region. I would point you to the Secretary’s visit just a couple of weeks ago to Lebanon, where they talked about this issue and what a strain it is on the Government of Lebanon. We know it’s a strain on the Government of Jordan. That’s why we’ve increased our assistance over the course of the last several months in this regard, but our efforts are continuing on that. And as it relates to this, we remain the world’s largest donor, but obviously, end – bringing an end to the suffering and the bloodshed is the best way to address the refugee crisis.

QUESTION: Few days ago there was concern or reports saying that ISIL already infiltrated in some of the refugee camps in Jordan. Is that – this is just rumors, reports? Did you check it? Are you sure about --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that. I’m happy to see if there’s more we can say on that from here. Obviously, we’d be greatly concerned about that.

Michael, go ahead.

QUESTION: The chemical weapons deal. Two proponents of the deal that you helped forge are Shimon Peres and Bibi Netanyahu. They have come out and called it a good deal multiple times, but then they said that your negotiations with Iran with the other P5+1 members in Vienna should model the deal that you reached on Syria’s chemical weapons. Do you think that’s an apt comparison? Do you think that’s a fair model?

MS. PSAKI: Well, without knowing the full context I’m not sure what the comparison is, and so I’d point you to them on describing exactly what they mean by that.

QUESTION: Well, they say – they call it the Audi model and they say zero, zero, zero, zero in terms of capability, infrastructure, and the like. What they say is that the deal on Syrian chemical weapons managed to remove all of the most dangerous materials and therefore all of the most dangerous materials in Iran in its nuclear program should be dismantled or removed, and that should be the model. So do you think it’s an apt model?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Michael, there’s an ongoing negotiation that started today. I can update you that there was a trilateral meeting today that’s still ongoing between the U.S., the EU, and Iran. It may have concluded now, actually. I know it’s late there. The delegations, as you all know, are led by Deputy Secretary Burns, Lady Ashton, and Foreign Minister Zarif respectively. The opening plenary will be tomorrow morning, chaired by Lady Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif.

We’re certainly familiar with the concerns by the Israelis. We remain in touch with them and have done a range of briefings. Our goal – we’re not – no deal is better than a bad deal. That’s something that remains the case and remains the bar. But we also believe that this is a process that could lead to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which we feel is in the interests of all countries, including Israel. But beyond that I’m not going to speculate or comment on those reports.

QUESTION: And just one more on this. With the Secretary’s op-ed in The Washington Post, he said that the parties would be working tirelessly until July 20th. The plan is for the U.S. delegation to be on the ground until July 20th in Vienna.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. They’re – we’re committed to the 20th, we’re working toward the 20th. Again, we don’t – I’m not going to predict what’s going to happen every day between now and then, but that remains our focus.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the issue about potentially ISIL infiltrating some of the refugee camps outside of Syria and Iraq? I mean, I’m sure you saw yesterday Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s call for Muslims to --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- join the fight in the territories that ISIL controls. And I’m just wondering if there are steps being planned now or taken now beyond the military aid that’s going to Syria and Iraq to prevent the spread of ISIL into other areas or states that would present even greater threats to the West or to Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Were there specific steps you’re – that are on your mind, or what are you referring to exactly?

QUESTION: Well, I’m no military expert, so I leave it to you.

MS. PSAKI: Give yourself more credit, Lara. (Laughter.) Are you referring to military steps, or are you referring to political steps, or what specific --

QUESTION: Well, more military because I assume that a group like ISIL doesn’t care as much about political steps as they would respond to actual force.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: But if you’ve got ideas, I’m --

MS. PSAKI: No, the – I think the reason I ask that question is because, clearly, part of the effort, the diplomatic effort that is underway that the Secretary is a leading member of, is communicating with the governments of neighboring countries about the importance of conveying to their public the threat that ISIL poses. And that is certainly part of our education effort. In terms of military steps, I can check with our team and see if there’s anything more specific in that regard.

QUESTION: For example, it’s been suggested that Jordan is really a redline in the Mideast, that if ISIL starts coming into Jordan, which is so vulnerable right now anyway with regard to refugees and the economic crisis there, that that could really be the thing that spurs more U.S. or Israeli aid, and a more robust aid to the region.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – and I would point you to the President’s remarks, which were carefully crafted, of course, in the sense that we are concerned about the threat of ISIL not just to Iraq but to the region. We are talking about how we can combat that threat to not just Iraq but to the region. I don’t want to get ahead of where we are because, obviously, as it relates to the events in Iraq you know where we are with the need to – the urgency of moving forward on government formation and the important role we think that plays. But even prior to this crisis I’d point you also to the President’s West Point speech, where he talked about the changing threat we face and how we need to be – dedicate time and resources and energy to taking that on in the right way and how that’s changed over the course of time. So that relates how we address needs in the region as well.

QUESTION: Did you all – I didn’t ask yesterday, but I meant to. Did you all have any kind of reaction to al-Baghdadi’s call to arms other than – I’m sure you’ll say – it’s bad?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we would say it’s bad, but I hope I can be a little more eloquent than that. But our view is that these calls only further expose the true nature of this organization, its desire to control people by its fear and – by fear and edicts, and anyone who is aligned with ISIL is aligning with a terrorist organization. The Iraqis have a long history of fighting against extremism, and people from all – Sunnis, Shia and Kurds all have that long history, and so we are hopeful that will be the case here as well.

QUESTION: Prime Minister al-Maliki today made kind of a “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” sort of statement regarding Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq. It wasn’t that blunt, but it was if you don’t admonish ISIL, then we will see you as the enemy. Do you think that that’s an appropriate way of addressing the situation in Iraq, and do you think that that will do much to encourage Sunnis to feel like they are part of the government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve been pretty clear that Prime Minister Maliki has not been the model of inclusivity in the past, and perhaps there are different ways to portray the need for inclusivity moving forward. I haven’t seen the full context of the comments, but I think the broad point that whether you’re a Sunni, whether you’re Shia, whether you’re a Kurd, you all face this same threat is a point, broadly speaking, that we certainly agree with. And that’s why we’re encouraging everyone to focus on government formation and focus on unifying against the shared threat that they face.

QUESTION: Jen, new topic?

MS. PSAKI: On Iraq or --

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, one more on Iraq. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned the word “educational.” I mean, I don’t understand what – who is educating whom in this process of the fights going on in that region.

MS. PSAKI: The point I was making is that while there are strong emotions and history about division and lack of inclusivity in the past, the fact is that whether you’re in Iraq and you’re a Sunni or you’re a Kurd or you’re Shia, you are all facing the same threat, same with people from other countries in the region. So communicating that both to leaders in the region as well as to people in the region is what I was referring to.

QUESTION: The other question – I mean, two days ago it was you were asked about the Islamic caliphate that – which is like – because ISIL, till two days ago or three days ago or maybe a week ago, it was almost like characterized as terrorist and all these things. But they put this ideological approach two or three days ago. Whether it’s true or not, that’s not the issue. What’s your understanding of what they are saying? Is it – because it seems that there are – some people are believing in it. Do you have anything to say about it? You’re trying to understand what they are saying?

MS. PSAKI: I think I spoke to this the other day, so I would point you to those comments that I made.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, on the border issue, some experts are saying this is beginning to look like a refugee situation. Does the U.S. see the families and unaccompanied children coming across the border as refugees?

MS. PSAKI: Coming across the border from Iraq?

QUESTION: No, I’m talking about the southern border of the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, no. Switching, different topic.

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t sure what you were talking about. (Laughter.) There are different ways to characterize, and I don’t mean characterize their specific qualifications, whether an individual is a refugee or an asylum seeker, and there are definitions of that which I’m happy to get to you. As you saw the Secretary say yesterday, part of our focus and our diplomatic effort here is on working with countries where these unaccompanied minors are coming from to change the root causes, and that is not a short-term process but it’s something that we’re dedicating resources to. That was a big part of the discussion and conversation he had with these leaders yesterday. And you saw the President also speak to this issue and the challenge of communicating to parents of these unaccompanied minors within the countries that this is a dangerous journey, one that they should not send their children on.

So in terms of how they’re characterized, I’m happy to get around to everyone the technical differences between an asylum seeker, a refugee, and how that works. Obviously, we are trying to take on this challenge through many avenues, and that’s what our focus is on and one of the reasons the Secretary had the meetings he did yesterday.

QUESTION: If you could send that around, that’d be great. But do you see these people as one or the other at this point, or a mixture of both, or --

MS. PSAKI: There are different ways that individuals are characterized, and it relates to a range of factors, so why don’t I get that around to you. I wouldn’t group everybody into the same category.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: One more. So the American Court of Human Rights upheld the French ban on the burqas, and I was wondering if you had any comments about that. Do you think that this is discriminatory towards Muslims? And do you think that this is an example of a normalization of racism in Europe?

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that, so – but we’re happy to get a comment around to all of you as well.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Yes. I apologize, I came in very late.

MS. PSAKI: It’s fine.

QUESTION: I was having lunch.

MS. PSAKI: Good to know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m sure that you – yes. I’m sure that you’ve covered all the main topics of the day. Have you covered Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: No, we have not talked about Ukraine.

QUESTION: Really? Okay. Well, I’m wondering if you have any comment on what’s going on in terms of the military operations in the east and the attacks by the separatists, as well as the abductions of journalists.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first speak to the abductions of journalists. We, of course – and I think you’re referring to the report from the – of the two detained in Luhansk.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we condemn the unlawful detention of the two journalists in Luhansk and call for their immediate release, along with that of all the other hostages. We further call on all parties to ensure the safety of media. In terms of events of what’s happening on the ground, our view is that the Ukrainian security forces’ operations have been moderate and measured; they’ve been taking steps to maintain calm within their own country. Our belief is that while President Poroshenko said he’s ready to implement a bilateral ceasefire, any ceasefire must be mutual, and there are steps that the Russians have not taken that they need to continue to take.

In terms of specific events on the ground – and let me just see, I have a quick update on this for you – you may have seen, Matt, but I’ll just reiterate it here, that General Breedlove made some comments earlier this week about Russian regular forces actively facilitating the movement of forces, equipment, and finances across the border. He also noted that Russian irregular forces are very active in Luhansk and Donetsk and are receiving Russian financing. And finally, he noted that we – that he – they see – we see about seven or more battalion task groups on the Russian side of the border, plus numerous special operation forces. Obviously, that type of troop buildup is certainly of great concern to us.

And as you know, the discussions, the four-way talks, are ongoing. They may have broken for the day, but those are ongoing. And certainly, we support that effort.

QUESTION: But you assess the Ukrainian Government’s actions to this point since the end of the ceasefire to today as moderate and measured?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That’s – you don’t have any concerns about what they’re doing or what either side --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s not forget that we’re talking about Russian-backed separatists and Russians moving troops near the border, moving equipment across the border.

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No? If you didn’t – I didn’t mean to --

MS. PSAKI: And efforts that have been underway to invade, occupy, and attempt to annex part of a sovereign country, which is Ukraine. So they have – they instituted a 10-day ceasefire. They did not have a partner in that effort to institute the ceasefire. But they have a responsibility to maintain calm and order when possible within their own country.

QUESTION: So you see what the Russians are doing now as an attempt to invade, occupy, and annex --

MS. PSAKI: I’m talking about what’s happened over the last several months, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. But it sounds like – and I didn’t see the comments from General Breedlove. But you are saying that the Russians actually have moved troops into eastern Ukraine, so there --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wasn’t --

QUESTION: So there is an invasion of a sort?

MS. PSAKI: What he was referring to on – is a buildup on the Russian side of the border that we’ve been seeing, but decreased and kind of seemed to come back.

QUESTION: Well, ahead of – before you – before that, you said something about them – the Russians facilitating separatists in eastern Ukraine. I mean, are you saying that there are Russian troops --

MS. PSAKI: Irregular forces, so Russian-backed separatists, are very active, as we know, in Luhansk and Donetsk.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: That’s what he was speaking to. But he was also speaking to a troop buildup on the border that we know – pulled back, but we’ve seen it build up again.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any – you don’t say that there are actually Russian troops in eastern Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I was referring to his update. I don’t believe that we’ve seen that in terms of a massive influx into eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov by phone.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: The two readouts, yours – or the U.S. version’s – the U.S. side’s and the Russian side, I mean, are pretty diametrically opposed. Given the fact that the message conveyed from Secretary Kerry to Foreign Minister Lavrov and the message from Foreign Minister Lavrov to Secretary Kerry seemed to be at complete odds with each other, are these phone calls – are these conversations worthwhile at all?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, we certainly believe they’re worthwhile because it’s an opportunity to discuss where you have disagreements and differences. And as you know, readouts are often a portrayal of one side’s message to the other side, since we don’t typically read out the other side’s views. There’s no – it’s also no secret that we have some ongoing differences of opinion with Russia --

QUESTION: Some?

MS. PSAKI: -- on Ukraine. And certainly, part of the discussion was, in part, focused on that. They also talked about the P5+1 negotiations as well as Iraq.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if you could come to – is there any narrowing of – any narrowing of the gaps between the two sides on the issue of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are talks ongoing. The four-way talks are ongoing. Obviously, keeping a line of communication open, in our view, is important. That’s a part of that, and we think that’s true as well for our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: Somewhat related, the Russians have come out – you will have seen – maybe you already talked about Moldova and the --

MS. PSAKI: I have not.

QUESTION: Okay. So they went ahead and ratified this EU agreement today, and some Russian officials are saying that this is a violation of the rights of the people of Transnistria. Do you agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. We congratulate Moldova on ratifying the association agreement.

QUESTION: Okay. I was going to ask you, has Hong Kong come up?

QUESTION: No, but can I stay on this topic for just a bit?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: May I just ask – maybe I’ve missed it --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but why is the United States not a part of the four-way talks?

MS. PSAKI: I – again, we have a range of ways of communicating with all of the countries involved, and I think we’ve been in touch with all of them throughout these talks as well. But --

QUESTION: Well, right, which is why I find it surprising that it’s – the United States isn’t in the room. I mean, it has been quite a major player in this entire – since going back to February and prior to. So I was just wondering if it was seen that it would be more productive for these talks to go on without active involvement by the United States.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s our view. We’re in close touch with all of the parties involved, and where we can play a useful role, we’re happy to play a useful role.

QUESTION: And also, it’d be five-way talks. There’s a four-person limit to the conference call.

MS. PSAKI: It may be. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: They’re not going to --

MS. PSAKI: Hong Kong.

QUESTION: Hong Kong. Yeah, do you have any reaction to the crackdown on these pro-democracy – or I’m not sure “crackdown” is the right word, but the arrests of large numbers of pro-democracy demonstrators?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and basic law protections of internationally-recognized fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression. And we support democracy in accordance with the basic law and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. We believe that, of course, an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, and that as they look at events, they should certainly respect and behave in that manner as well.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any particular concern with those mass arrests?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly seen the report, and we believe that they should abide by their own declarations of how they feel they should govern.

QUESTION: Sorry, who – the Hong Kong authorities or the demonstrators?

MS. PSAKI: The Hong Kong authorities.

QUESTION: And then I’m presuming that you, in your discussion of the Middle East, talked about Israeli-Palestinian stuff --

MS. PSAKI: We did.

QUESTION: -- talked about Secretary Kerry’s phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MS. PSAKI: I just mentioned that they had spoken, but I didn’t have an additional readout to share.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing, back in Asia: Do you have – oh, first, did you get to Sudan?

QUESTION: No, but if you’d like to ask --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no. Listen, I defer.

QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask first about this Lao – this Hmong guerilla leader who was – the Thais had thrown back into Laos. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, but I’m happy to take it and we can get you something.

QUESTION: All right. And then the last one is Sudan and Meriam Ibrahim, and whether or not she – what’s your understanding of her current status? Is she still there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on her location, and as has been the case, we’re just not going to be providing specific details on that.

QUESTION: Well, is she still in Sudan?

MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed. She still has the documentation, as do her children, that would be needed to travel to the United States. And as you know, she – there are others who don’t feel that she does have that documentation.

QUESTION: Right, but she’s still in Sudan, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: She hasn’t --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Great. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:28 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: July 1, 2014

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 18:06

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 1, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel to Panama
  • IRAQ / REGION
    • Government Formation / Parliament
    • Close Partnership
    • F-16s / Assistance
    • Iran
    • Embassy / Additional Security
    • ISIL
    • Secretary's Meetings with Kurdish Leaders
    • Israel / Jordan / Counterterrorism
  • IRAN / REGION
    • Secretary's Op-Ed in Washington Post
    • Vienna / Plenary Sessions / Bilateral Meetings / Expert Sessions
    • Joint Plan of Action
    • Deputy Secretary Burns / Under Secretary Sherman / White House, Jake Sullivan
  • JAPAN / REGION
    • Collective Self-Defense and Related Security Matters
    • Abductions Issue
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Encouraging Restraint from Both Sides
    • U.S. Condemns Despicable Terrorist Attack
    • Settlements
  • LIBYA / BENGHAZI
    • Investigation Ongoing Led by the FBI
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA / REGION
    • Ceasefire
    • Sanctions
    • Secretary's Calls
    • Humanitarian Situation / UNHCR
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Urged Both Sides to Remain Engaged with Electoral Institutions
  • DPRK / JAPAN / REGION
    • Sanctions
  • CHINA / HONG KONG
    • U.S. Supports Hong Kong's Well-Established Traditions and Basic Law Protections


TRANSCRIPT:

12:52 p.m. EDT   MS. HARF: Welcome to the briefing, my last one for a while as we leave for Vienna this evening for several weeks, so a very large suitcase packed.   Just a quick item at the top in terms of the Secretary’s travel and then happy to open it up for questions.   As you know, Secretary Kerry is in Panama today to attend the inauguration of Panama’s president-elect. He will – he has also today already had a number of meetings with other Central American leaders to discuss the issue of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the border to the United States. He had a meeting on this issue with the presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala and with the Honduran foreign minister. That meeting already took place. He also in his meetings discussed the Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Panama in 2015, and will be having a meeting with the president of Costa Rica where they will talk about a number of issues, but environmental issues as well.   With that, get us started.   QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to start in Iraq. I’m sure you saw that Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the parliament today; so much for hoping to start the creation of a government by July 1st. Wondering what if any steps you’ve seen since then that would give the Obama Administration any kind of hope that this process will move quickly.   MS. HARF: Well, we never said they should put a deadline so they should form a new government entirely by July 1st. The Secretary used that date in terms of when they should begin government formation. But let’s be clear – this needs to happen as soon as possible. It was important that Iraq’s new parliament convene today, as they pledged to do. That was a good thing. But we do hope that Iraq’s leaders will move forward with the extreme urgency that the current situation deserves. The acting speaker did ask the parliament to meet again in one week on July 8th to present candidates for the speakership and two deputy speakers, followed by candidates for the prime minister and – president and prime minister.   And look, time is not on Iraq’s side here. They need to do this as quickly as possible. They could do it before the 8th. It would be better if they did it before the 8th. But certainly need to live up to their commitments here to continue meeting to get a government in place as soon as possible.   QUESTION: So I guess my question is more: Have you seen anything since the walkout which was several hours ago?   MS. HARF: In the last few hours. Yeah.   QUESTION: Yeah, well, I mean, that’s not nothing. I’m sure there are U.S. officials there --   MS. HARF: Absolutely, yes.   QUESTION: -- at parliament or involved in the – not involved in the process, but on the sidelines --   MS. HARF: Talking to the different parties.   QUESTION: Exactly.   MS. HARF: Yep.   QUESTION: So what kind of assurances or words or thoughts have those people heard from the Iraqis that this is going --   MS. HARF: Well --   QUESTION: -- that even if they wait until July 8th, that anything will happen on July 8th?   MS. HARF: Well, I think there is a broad sense that Iraq’s leaders understand the urgency here. Now, I think we will know very soon whether they really understand it and whether they’re willing to back up that sentiment with actions. And as we said, it was an important step that the parliament did convene today, as they said they would. But we need to see a government formed as soon as possible, and ideally, that would happen before the 8th.   Conversations are ongoing. I don’t have any specifics to read out for you, but needless to say, with everyone we are very much making clear that this needs to happen very, very quickly.   QUESTION: I’m not sure if you saw some of the comments that the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. made today --   MS. HARF: I did.   QUESTION: -- at Carnegie. He basically described starting looking to the governments of Syria, Russia, and Iran for additional help, even if just advice, even if just trying to solidify the borders. Wondering if this is a signal that the United States is losing its influence in this region, and also what you think of the fact that these are at best unreliable, uneasy allies; at worst, flat-out enemies.   MS. HARF: Well, I think a few points. The first is, I mean, all you have to do is look at what we’re doing with the Iraqis today to demonstrate that we have a very close partnership with them. Whether it’s the assessment and advisory teams that have gone in that the President announced several weeks ago, whether it’s our diplomatic folks on the ground working with the different parties, I mean, clearly, we play an important role here, and the Iraqi leaders have asked the United States in a number of different ways to help them get out of this crisis, to fight the threat, and to help push the parties towards a better government, quite frankly.   But look, we have said any country who is willing to assist the Iraqis in this fight in a nonsectarian, inclusive way towards an inclusive process, that’s what all the countries need to do. Look, when it comes to Syria, we’ve been very clear that Iraq’s security problem cannot be solved by the Assad regime, who, in large part, is responsible for the security situation that spilled over into Iraq and has led us to where we are today.   QUESTION: Just following up on that point --   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: -- do you have any kind of explanation for why Secretary Kerry’s message seems to have gone so unheeded? It wasn’t just that the parliament sort of broke up without a decision, but there was actual chaos.   MS. HARF: Well, they agreed to meet in a week.   QUESTION: But there was chaos. There was one of the Shiite lawmakers --   MS. HARF: Democracy is messy at times. It is. And I would disagree with the notion that his message went unheeded. He – the three different parties in Iraq said they were committed to the process. He had conversations with the Kurds, with the Sunni, with the Shia leaders, who said they were committed to forming a government as soon as possible.   As I’ve said, we now need to see actions back up those words. But the parliament did meet, as complicated and messy as this process is at times, and committed to meeting again in a week. But they need to move very quickly, and I think we will see in the coming days whether they are willing to do so.   QUESTION: But what he did say --   MS. HARF: And we also can’t make decisions for them. This is about them stepping up and making decisions for their country. This is not about anybody else making decisions for them.   QUESTION: But it puts the timetable back a bit, and they were supposed to meet today and hopefully get to a speaker, and then as set out under the constitution, those --   MS. HARF: Well, they did --   QUESTION: -- 30-day periods.   MS. HARF: They met today. Today was the day we wanted them to meet. They met. They committed to meeting again in a week. And as I said, ideally they would do this before the 8th. So I think we’re making clear that they don’t need to wait a week, but this is a complicated process. There are a number of different moving pieces here in terms of picking – and it’s important, quite frankly, to pick leaders that are going to govern inclusively, to make sure you take the time to do that, but to do that very quickly.   QUESTION: But – and I don’t have his transcript in front of me, but what he did say at his press conference in Baghdad was that the fate of Iraq hangs in the next couple of days, within the week. And so now we’re seeing it go beyond the week, and I think that’s the point that we’re trying to make.   MS. HARF: Well, I think the point he was trying to make is that the fate of Iraq is very much hanging in the balance right now, that Iraq’s leaders have a fundamental choice about the future of their country: Do they come together? Do they form a government? Do they say, “We are going to fight this threat together, we are going to figure out how to do that”? Or do they continue governing and working together in a sectarian way and alienating each other and sowing the sectarian divisions that have led to so much of the violence we’ve seen in Iraq?   So look, the Secretary can talk to them, and he has and he will. So are our diplomats on the ground. But they have to make the tough decisions now.   QUESTION: No, I understand that. But what he specifically said is that he wanted to see some steps towards progressive action within the week. Now --   MS. HARF: He did. And he said he wanted the government formation to begin on the 1st, which it has. The process started today.   QUESTION: But that’s not because he wants it. That’s because the constitution requires it. And yet they came together and absolutely nothing happened. There was a major walk-out.   MS. HARF: They came together – okay. If they – look, I feel like anything that happened today people would have talked about in a negative way. They met.   QUESTION: Because it’s a negative thing.   MS. HARF: They agreed to meet again. Well, convening of a parliament when – as they pledged to do, is something that we think is important. They pledged to meet again. They did not make – as we’ve said, they didn’t make progress in terms of moving towards government formation, and they need to do so quickly.   QUESTION: But --   QUESTION: There was the assumption that this was going to lead to at least the choosing of a speaker, which would have triggered the timeline for filling the other spots. And that wasn’t met.   MS. HARF: Well, that certainly is the first part of the process.   QUESTION: As Lara indicated, that wasn’t met.   QUESTION: That’s what the constitution requires.   MS. HARF: I understand what the constitution requires, and we want that to happen as soon as possible. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. But look, it would have been better if they chose a speaker today. I agree with you. It would be better if they did it before the 8th. But we also understand this is a difficult process. It has a lot of moving parts. We want them to do so in a way, while showing urgency, that would get to an inclusive government that puts Iraq on the right path. We think that can be done quickly. We think it should be done quickly. Again, today was an important step, but there is clearly a huge amount of work that still needs to be done.   QUESTION: How does this delay affect what the U.S. is willing to do to assist the Iraqi Government in trying to fight the group formerly known as ISIL?   MS. HARF: It – I mean, it doesn’t affect it in any specific way. We have said, broadly speaking, that Iraq’s leaders must form a government that’s an inclusive government and, in fact, going forward, govern in an inclusive way. But we are today providing assistance. We’re continuing – we’re ramping up our assistance because the threat is so serious. So nothing specific in terms of today’s actions that would affect what we’re doing.   QUESTION: And this may be a self-evident question, but is it important for the government to form in such a way that all sides feel that they have a piece of the government, as it were, really in essence to try to draw some of the steam out of this group’s ability to take over communities, to not get tacit support from some members across Iraq?   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: Is that the underlying goal here?   MS. HARF: Well, it’s certainly part of it, right? It’s to make all Iraqis feels invested in their security forces and their government in protecting their country from this terrorist group that has so far caused so much violence. And partly that’s done by the different parties feeling like they’re part of the process and feeling like they have a stake in the government, feeling like they have a stake in the success of the armed forces. I think that’s been a large part of what we saw when some of the units basically laid down their arms and walked away. They didn’t feel like they had a stake in the success or failure of the Iraqi armed forces. That needs to change.   And again, nothing we say to them can change that. They need to make a conscious decision to do that.   QUESTION: Marie, Iraqi sources say that the inflexibility of Maliki, that he is so dead-set on his own agenda – in fact, going forth for a third term – that there was – I mean, it was useless for them to meet and agree on the speaker, deputy speaker, and to move forward. Do you agree with that assessment?   MS. HARF: Well, we --   QUESTION: Do you find that Maliki is so stubborn that he’s actually sort of pre-empting the political process?   MS. HARF: We have said, Said, that we’re not taking sides here. We don’t support or not support any candidate or person. But we’ve also said that all of Iraq’s leaders need to act in an inclusive way and act with urgency.   QUESTION: Okay. So he has the votes on his side. You don’t oppose --   MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t done a whip count in the interim parliament yet.   QUESTION: He has 93 – yeah, I mean he has the coalitions, he has 93 members in parliament and so on.   MS. HARF: Well, coalition politics are complicated. Parliamentary systems are complicated. That’s why this is a process that does have a lot of moving parts to it.   QUESTION: Okay. I don’t know if you are following the identity of the other candidates, but one of the primary candidates that is emerging now is Ahmed Chalabi --   MS. HARF: I have seen that.   QUESTION: -- someone who is – the United States basically has labeled a traitor when he betrayed the trust of the United States way back then. But he’s gathering momentum because he’s getting Sistani’s support. He’s getting the Iranian support. Will you support someone like Ahmed Chalabi if sort of all the stars are lined up and he would emerge as a leader?   MS. HARF: We don’t support any one person or any one candidate, Said. What we’ve said is we will work with the Government of Iraq when it’s formed if they govern in an inclusive way, no matter who it is.   QUESTION: Let me go back to a question that we asked yesterday about the status of the air fighter jets – the status of the American fighter jets. First of all --   MS. HARF: The F-16s?   QUESTION: The F-16s.   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: But this was announced yesterday that by the end of the month they will receive five Sukhoy bombers from Russia.   QUESTION: They already received --   QUESTION: I’m sorry?   QUESTION: They already received them.   QUESTION: They already received – I’m sorry. I stand corrected. They already received five bombers. But in case of the American fighters, they are on hold, and I understand, because you don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands. Does that remain your position?   MS. HARF: That’s not actually why it’s been delayed. That’s not why it’s been delayed, Said.   QUESTION: Why is it delayed?   MS. HARF: Okay. So first of all, we are committed to delivering the F-16s as quickly as possible. The delivery of the first two had long been scheduled for this fall, pending final preparations for housing and securing the aircraft, completion of pilot training, and completion of required financial and administrative details. Our goal was to have had these steps nearly done by this point, but Iraqi actions have been slow to move them forward. So there are a number of steps the Iraqis have to take to move the process forward, which they had been slow in doing and had not done.   So right now we’re working as quickly as possible but some of the steps that needed to be taken that I just outlined are made more difficult due to the violence. So because of some of the Iraqi steps to slow this down, we’re in a place now where it’s a little more challenging. We’re committed to doing it as quickly as possible, but there are some logistical challenges.   QUESTION: Why is it taking so long to train Iraqi pilots, whom I understand have been – or some have been – are being trained since 2005 and 2006?   MS. HARF: Well, training of pilots isn’t the only piece here. There’s financial details that were slow to happen; there’s preparations for housing and securing the aircraft. Those things happen in Iraq. The Iraqi Government has to do those. They’ve been slow in doing some of that, so we’re working with them now to do this as quickly as possible.   QUESTION: All right.   MS. HARF: But there’s logistical challenges given the ongoing security situation.   QUESTION: So you’re saying financial details that are – are you saying that the Iraqis are paying in cash or lump sum for the --   MS. HARF: I’m not – I don’t have the details --   QUESTION: -- Russian equipment – let me just get my question --   MS. HARF: I don’t have the details for you on how they’re paying.   QUESTION: And they are not paying for the American equipment? Is that what is going on?   MS. HARF: I’m saying that there are details that need to – worked out broadly – that need to get worked out, broadly speaking, before equipment like this can be delivered including payment, including financial details, including securing housing for the pilots, including securing the aircraft, where they’ll be secured in the country. These have been ongoing, but again, the Iraqis have been slow in terms of moving that part of the process forward. Now we’re in a place where some of those things are made more challenging by the security situation, so we will continue to work, move these as quickly as possible. They’ve long been scheduled for the fall. And again, if other countries want to provide assistance, given that it’s under the rules Iraq has in place for doing so and it’s supporting an inclusive government, then we don’t see a big problem with that.   QUESTION: Does that extend to Iran, which today said that they’ll provide weaponry but not troops?   MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that any assistance needs to go to the Iraqi army, to the Iraqi Government security forces itself. So assistance shouldn’t go to militias or other groups, broadly speaking, and we’ve also said that any assistance should be in support of an inclusive government. So I haven’t seen that announcement by the Iranians, but including the Iranians, if they would like to support in that way towards those ends, anybody should feel free to.   QUESTION: (Inaudible.)   QUESTION: If I may ask you a question on the assistance --   MS. HARF: Hold on.   QUESTION: -- the $500 million that the Saudis giving. I mean, considering that, really, Iraq does not need a great deal of money – I mean, they have the money – are you concerned that this kind – this amount of money --   MS. HARF: We do think it’s a good thing, though.   QUESTION: -- can go to the groups that you disapprove of?   MS. HARF: It’s giving to the – it’s being given to the Iraqi Government, I believe, through the UN. Let me check --   QUESTION: Is it to the Iraqi Government through the UN?   MS. HARF: It’s to the UN --   QUESTION: I thought it was to the UN.   MS. HARF: Yeah. So it’s --   QUESTION: Not to the Iraqi people. Yeah.   QUESTION: The Iraqi people --   MS. HARF: It’s to the UN. It’s to the United Nations. So the Saudis are donating money to the United Nations in support of humanitarian efforts to assist all Iraqis in need. We obviously welcome this generous contribution. The humanitarian situation is growing worse by the day. We are in close contact with the UN and other international humanitarian partners who are responding here. The UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Turkey, and others have also announced additional funding for the humanitarian response inside Iraq.   QUESTION: So following up on some of Said’s questions, and also on one on Jo’s, first off, would – if Iran is going to be giving or selling weapons to Iraq to help this insurgency, would that violate any UN sanctions or other sanctions?   MS. HARF: I’d have to take a look at any specifics.   QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, I’m just curious about this new or renewed relationship with Ahmed Chalabi. Do you know when and why this relationship was renewed after so many years, as Said said --   MS. HARF: Well --   QUESTION: -- he was considered a traitor? Is this something that’s recent or --   MS. HARF: Given that he’s a member of parliament, we engage with a broad brush of government officials in Iraq. I can try and find out when our conversations with him started, but it’s my understanding that it was part of our normal outreach to different Iraqi leaders.   QUESTION: And you don’t deal with a lot of members of the Sadrists, and they’re members of parliament as well.   MS. HARF: I can check and see if there are details.   QUESTION: Okay, thank you.   MS. HARF: Yes.   QUESTION: Marie.   MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: On the Iran aspect of giving military aid possibly to Iraq --   MS. HARF: And I – well, to be clear, I wasn’t saying that I would think that’s a good thing. I was just saying that if people want to help, there are certain ways they should do it, and we would take a look at any specifics and comment on that specifically.   QUESTION: Sure, exactly. It’s probably the number two man at the Iranian foreign ministry, who, in Moscow today, of all places, said that they haven’t received a request yet, but they would be open, they would be willing to help. However, as we know, there’s an arms embargo against Iran. Would the U.S. be supportive of an idea of possibly allowing Iran to, should they request --   MS. HARF: To my knowledge, we are certainly not supportive of flouting any sort of restrictions on Iran or other countries providing arms. Again, I would have to take a look at the details, but we believe these restrictions are in place for a reason, because Iran has done things that have necessitated them being in place. So I don’t think that the solution here is Iran providing arms to the Iraqis. I think that it is all of Iraq’s neighbors supporting political leaders inside Iraq who want to govern in an inclusive way, supporting the Iraqi army in assistance, in advising, in assessing, to help them fight ISIL, and also to help with the flow of fighters there. So I think there are ways countries can help towards the ends we all want to see happen here.   QUESTION: Can you talk about the additional U.S. troops that were deployed in recent days?   MS. HARF: Yes, we can. I think there was a little confusion about this yesterday. So yes, let’s chat a little bit about it.   QUESTION: Just in – just to clarify, because some of the military personnel who had been assigned to Embassy security have been moved over to these joint intelligence centers, are some of the people who are being deployed now essentially back-filling them at the Embassy in their security roles?   MS. HARF: That’s a good question. Let me check on that, Roz. I don’t know that. What I can – I wanted to make a couple points clear here, because I think there was some confusion yesterday.   This new group of 200 – up to 200 personnel that that the President notified to Congress yesterday is a mission that’s separate and distinct – totally separate and distinct from the assess and advise mission that the President announced, I think it was several weeks ago now. Obviously, the Embassy is still functioning. It’s a very busy Embassy. We’re continually re-evaluating our security needs and always planning for a variety of contingencies, and as such thought it was prudent at this time to provide authorization for up to 200. But this is a functioning embassy that’s very busy, and it’s actually because we want to keep working that we have provided a little additional security. A substantial majority of folks remain at the Embassy, but I want to be clear about missions here because I think some people were trying to lump together the 300 and the 200. These are really distinct missions. This is just for security at the Embassy at the airport to provide reinforcement of our facilities. Very separate from the assessing and advising mission that we talked about a few weeks ago with the special operators.   QUESTION: Were there U.S. military personnel at Baghdad airport before now? Because it was my understanding it was only for the Embassy, for the consulates --   MS. HARF: I can check and see what the – obviously there – I can check and see what the security looks like there.   QUESTION: Because there are now some reports suggesting that if Americans needed to be removed from Iraq that these military personnel would be there in case the State Department said we need you to help us evacuate people.   MS. HARF: I know there are a lot of sort of – four or five steps down the road here and hypotheticals about what these guys could be used for, but I – that’s why I wanted to make very clear they’re actually there to do the opposite, right, to make sure we can remain up and running, and that we have all this work that people in our Embassy are doing right now. They’re very busy, engaged with the leaders, talking to people, that we just at this point thought we needed a little bit extra security to make sure they can continue their work. And there’s work going on at the airport as well, a couple of different facilities. So I think that’s – I know there are hypotheticals here, but would stay away from that.   QUESTION: Right. Is it anticipated that more U.S. personnel will be needed for security? Do you think that this is it?   MS. HARF: I never want to say “this is it,” right. But we constantly re-evaluate and look at the security picture on the ground and plan for a number of contingencies, security-wise. So I don’t have anything to predict for you on that.   QUESTION: Marie, I wonder if you could comment on the interview that President Masoud Barzani gave today to the BBC.   MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: And he said that he’s going to organize or conduct a referendum to gage whether the people of Kurdistan want to remain as part of Iraq or have a country of their own. Would you support such an effort?   MS. HARF: Well, Said, as we’ve said I think many times over the past few weeks, we believe that a unified Iraq is a stronger Iraq. And when the Secretary was there during his trip to Erbil, Kurdish leaders indicated they would participate in the government formation process and that they would help find a means of having a unity government that can bring people together to deal with both the political crisis but also the crisis that ISIL has caused with security.   So look, our goals remain the same here. I think we’ve heard comments like this before, but what we’re focused on right now is bringing a government together.   QUESTION: Well, I mean, within Iraq the closest allies of the United States are the Kurds. So are you persuading him not to conduct such a referendum, especially that probably the results are – it’s just a foregone conclusion?   MS. HARF: Well, as I said, when he met with the Secretary, when the Kurdish leaders did, they assured the Secretary that they would participate in the government formation process. I don’t have more specific details about what they discussed.   Lucas? Anything else on Iraq? Still Iraq?   QUESTION: Yeah.   MS. HARF: Okay.   QUESTION: Yesterday Israel’s minister of intelligence said that if the Jordanians asked for support in combating ISIS that Israel would aid them. Does the United States feel the same way?   MS. HARF: That we would support the Jordanians? I think we support the Jordanians on a number of shared counterterrorism sites, absolutely.   QUESTION: But does that include military assistance, military strikes?   MS. HARF: I don’t know all the details of what our assistance looks like. We’ve provided a great amount of monetary assistance and advising the Jordanians and how to deal with this threat. I don’t have anything to preview for you, but obviously we’ve worked very closely with the Jordanians.   QUESTION: So would you support the Israelis supporting the Jordanians in fighting ISIL?   MS. HARF: I think we would support --   QUESTION: (Off-mike.)   MS. HARF: -- countries in the region – I know, this – I like this teamwork here. Look, we support countries in the region, broadly speaking, working together to fight ISIL. Yes, it’s a threat to all countries in the region. Now, what that looks like on a case-by-case basis, I can’t comment on specifically, but in general, yes.   QUESTION: If Jordan requested military assistance from the United States in combating ISIL, would you agree to that?   MS. HARF: I think we’d take a look at what that request looked like.   QUESTION: Marie, can we go back to the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq?   MS. HARF: Uh-huh.   QUESTION: What’s the total number?   MS. HARF: So --   QUESTION: And how many are providing security for the embassy, and --   MS. HARF: Yep. It’s a good question, and actually I know you hate when I do this, but my colleague at the Defense Department, I think, is briefing at two today and is going to do a little bit going into the numbers of military personnel in Iraq. So I’m going to defer to him to go into some of the details about numbers and what their missions are and what they’re doing. I’m happy to answer questions after that, but I know he’s going to be addressing that in his briefing at two. He’s best to speak to that. But hopefully we’ll get some specific numbers.   Yes. Iraq?   QUESTION: Yeah. Any chance that Iraq is going to come up during the talks in Vienna tomorrow? Is --   MS. HARF: We don’t expect it to. We don’t think that’s necessarily the best venue. If that changes, we’ll of course let folks know. As you know, we discussed it briefly on the sidelines last time. I think it was more of a timing issue more than anything we were there, but this is not the focus. We don’t expect it to, but if that changes, I’ll let folks know.   QUESTION: So you aren’t expecting any financial talks? Because I saw that --   MS. HARF: No, we’re not expecting Iraq to come up.   QUESTION: Okay. So --   MS. HARF: Oh, yeah. We certainly – so we leave tonight, land tomorrow. The talks – this round begins tomorrow, and we expect to be working through the 20th. You saw the Secretary’s op-ed on Iran today, I’m sure, in The Washington Post. This round will consist of a combination of plenary sessions chaired by Cathy Ashton and with all of the P5+1, the political directors, and Foreign Minister Zarif. It will consist of a number of bilateral meetings with us and the Iranians and also us and our other P5+1 partners; a number of expert sessions, where experts from the P5+1 and Iran work on the details of the nuclear side, the sanctions side; will really be a constant flurry of meetings, I think, over the next few weeks working toward the 20th.   QUESTION: But you would – but you would expect within that at some point --   MS. HARF: To have a bilateral --   QUESTION: -- since this is a flurry of meetings --   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: -- at one of these bilaterals you could mention Iraq, Syria, or --   MS. HARF: So we tended to not have – the bilaterals on the nuke talks – nuclear talks, sorry – up until this point have focused on the nuclear issue. We, of course, always discuss the American citizens as well. Last time was something a little bit new because of the severity of what was happening, the emergency in Iraq. We did discuss it on the sidelines of a meeting, but these meetings haven’t been focused on anything else. Of course, we’ll let folks know if that changes, but I don’t expect it to.   QUESTION: Can I ask --   MS. HARF: It’s just not the right forum for it.   QUESTION: Can I ask you on the choice of words? It says “Iranian nuclear deal still possible.”   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: Why the word “still”? Because --   MS. HARF: Because time is running short.   QUESTION: Because – yeah, but these --   MS. HARF: And because as --   QUESTION: -- things are going according to calendar, aren’t they?   MS. HARF: Well, because as the Secretary said – let me pull up the exact words too, Said – “significant gaps still remain.” And as he said, we do not yet know what Iran will choose, if they will choose – assuming what they’ve said is true that they don’t want a nuclear weapon, it’s not a hard proposition to prove. What we are asking for are reasonable, verifiable, and easily achievable measures. So – but we have not yet seen what choice the Iranians will make. This isn’t one of capacity; it’s one of will, and we will see what we can get done.   QUESTION: Time may be running out, but he does – he lauds the Iranians for not only meeting, but exceeding, actually, some of your expectations, correct?   MS. HARF: Well, for being serious at the negotiating table. And I think – and this is an important point – I stood up here six months ago now, and there were many skeptics about the Joint Plan of Action, many skeptics about whether Iran would adhere to it, whether they would live up to their commitments, and they have. And Iran’s nuclear program is frozen today as a result of that.   So as we go forward, I’m sure there will be many skeptics over these next few weeks. But I would remind people that there were a lot of skeptics back in November and then in January when we implemented it. And it’s gone according to plan, which I think has been a significant step, and as we’ve negotiated a comprehensive agreement has provided something to base those negotiations on, that we have put in place an agreement that has been adhered to by both sides.   QUESTION: How likely is it that the Secretary will show up if it appears that some sort of deal is imminent?   MS. HARF: Well, you know the Secretary is always happy to get on an airplane, and particularly on this issue. Look, we’ve always said that the Secretary and the other foreign ministers will come if there’s a need in the negotiations at an appropriate time to do so.   And quite frankly, in all honesty, we have no idea what the schedule over the next few weeks will look like. We know what the meeting setups will be in general, but this is a negotiation, and it will be happening right before our eyes and we will all play things by ear.   QUESTION: Marie, when you said that --   MS. HARF: But I know you like 5 a.m. press conferences, which was really fun in Geneva the last time.   QUESTION: When you said that you won’t expect to negotiate or to discuss Iraq with the Iranians in Vienna, did you mean that there is another channel with the Iranians that you (inaudible)?   MS. HARF: We haven’t had other discussions. We’ve said we’re open to it. I don’t have anything to announce on that. We just don’t think this is probably the right forum. If we have something – some specifics about that at some point to say, I’m happy to.   QUESTION: But do you have another channel with the Iranians regarding Iraq?   MS. HARF: Well, there’re other venues through which we could talk to them, and places. But those discussions aren’t happening right now. But in theory, they could. We’ve said we’re open to them. There’s a number of ways it could happen. We just don’t think that on the sidelines of the nuclear talks that’s necessarily the right place to do it.   QUESTION: Is there any discussion with the Iranians about Iraq in Baghdad between American and Iranian diplomats?   MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I know that’s been an issue that’s – a question that’s been floated out there. I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s an update there.   QUESTION: Marie, can I just ask – in the Secretary’s op-ed is in The Washington Post, he calls on Iran to choose, he says Iran must choose, but he’s not very specific about what it is exactly that you guys want them to choose. He mentions that there are substantial gaps, but he doesn’t really go into specifics. Are you able to outline some of the specifics still dividing the P5+1 and MS. HARF: Well, I mean – and I’m looking in his op-ed right here in front of me. I think one of the things – and this is not specific, but starting generally – is that they’ve been publicly very optimistic about the potential outcome of these negotiations, which hasn’t been matched by date, as he said, with the positions they’ve articulated behind closed doors. So again, we’re talking about all of the issues in a technical sense, right? But up until this point, we haven’t seen a decision, really, of will, of political will, to make the tough choices that we think that they have to make.   So again, I think one of the other points he wanted to make is that if they can, the benefits for Iran’s economy, for Iran’s people, are very clear. There’s a clear path forward here. And if they can’t, there’s also a pretty clear path.   QUESTION: But are we talking about the dismantling of the centrifuges, the complete elimination of highly-enriched uranium? What exactly are the choices that you feel that – or the P5+1 feels that Iran really hasn’t yet made the political – taken the political decision to do?   MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to get into specifics about where the biggest gaps remain or sort of what the technical decisions they need to make are. As we’ve always said, it really is sort of a puzzle how all of this fits together. So we all know the issues, right? They’re all laid out in the JPOA: centrifuges, enrichment, Arak, Fordow. They’re all laid out there. And we know that to get the right combination so they can’t get a nuclear weapon and their program can only be used for peaceful purposes, you have to fit them together in a way that gets you technically to that outcome. There are a couple of different ways they can fit together, and that’s what we’re working on right now, to find that combination. But there will be some tough choices that have to be made, and we haven’t yet seen the same optimism behind closed doors from the Iranians that we’ve seen publicly.   QUESTION: So the Iranians have come out, and they say that you’re asking them for the impossible, that they can’t do it.   MS. HARF: I think that’s why the Secretary said, and I’m quoting, “Assuming that’s true,” which is what they’ve said, “it’s not a hard proposition to prove. We have, over the past several months, proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable, and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.” And again, this isn’t just because we feel like doing this. It’s because, as the op-ed later went on to say, there’s a history of Iran with the IAEA of not being in compliance with its nonproliferation requirements, and the UN Security Council therefore imposed a number of steps on them as a result.   So there’s a history here. We think there’s a different future available, a different path forward, and I think we’ll all see in the next few weeks whether that’s possible.   QUESTION: Are you able to just give us one of the steps that you’d like us to – like them to do?   MS. HARF: Believe me, I know it’s tempting. But look, to give these negotiations the best chance of success – it’s not just that I don’t want to talk about it – it’s that we need to keep the details in the room. And I’m sure we will talk a lot about it over the next three weeks.   QUESTION: Marie --   QUESTION: Marie --   QUESTION: -- do you expect Deputy Burns to stay on the ground or --   MS. HARF: So we did put out a Media Note this morning. Deputy Secretary Burns, Under Secretary Sherman, Jake Sullivan from the White House, and a whole team of experts – a great group of people – we’re all leaving tonight. I think we’ll just see what the schedule looks like. There may have to be a couple people who have to leave for other meetings and come back. We’ll just update people as that happens.   QUESTION: Iran?   QUESTION: Different region?   MS. HARF: Iran?   QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.   MS. HARF: Uh-huh. And then we’re going to you.   QUESTION: Yeah. In his op-ed, the Secretary said – he sounded as if he is a little uneasy that the Iranian may ask for extension. In the meantime, he sounded like he – the goal --   MS. HARF: The Iranians have publicly said they’re open to an extension. They very publicly said that.   QUESTION: Yeah, but the Secretary sounded uneasy about it. In the meantime, he left the door open. Would you agree about extension if the Iranian requested?   MS. HARF: Well, I think what he wanted to get across in this paragraph – and again, I’m looking at it – is there might be pressure. I mean, some people have talked about it publicly. But he was making a factual statement that no extension is possible unless all sides agree. That’s written into the Joint Plan of Action. I think it says by mutual consent. And also making the point that the United States and our partners will not consent to an extension merely to drag out negotiations, that we need to see a genuine willingness in the time that remains.   We’re committed to the 20th. We are working towards the 20th. That – this was in no way indicating a change in policy on that. So look, we’ll see what they come to the table with.   QUESTION: But he’s not sure about the 20. He didn’t sound firm.   MS. HARF: We are – well, I will tell you we are firm about the fact that the 20th is the date we put in the JPOA here. And look, we’ll see how the negotiations go over the next three weeks.   QUESTION: So you’re saying, though, if an extension is deemed valuable to all sides, you would not oppose that?   MS. HARF: I’m not changing our position on extension. We’ve always said throughout this process that we are focused on the 20th. I know there’s a lot of hypotheticals here, but the point we wanted to make clear is some people, I think, assume it’s a foregone conclusion. And we were trying to make very clear that it’s not, actually, that it has to be agreed to by everyone, and who knows if everyone would agree?   Yes.   QUESTION: Yes. Going a little bit further east to Japan. The Japanese Government today took a very significant step by amending its interpretation of its policy on collective self-defense.   MS. HARF: Yes.   QUESTION: I wanted to know if the State Department welcomes this new reinterpretation.   MS. HARF: We do. So we have followed with interest the extensive discussion within Japan on the issue of exercising its right under the UN Charter to collective self-defense. We’ve talked about it in this room quite a bit. We welcome the Government of Japan’s new policy regarding collective self-defense and related security matters. As you know, the U.S.-Japan alliance is one of our most important partnerships, security partnerships, and we value efforts by Japan to strengthen that security cooperation, and also value Japan’s efforts to maintain openness and transparency throughout this decision-making process that’s led up to this new policy.   QUESTION: And there are some concerns that this new policy stops short of full collective defense. Are there any – does the State Department share those concerns that this new policy stops just short of a full collective defense policy?   MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those concerns and I don’t have, I think, more in-depth analysis. As I said, we welcome the new policy and I think probably is pretty clear that we think it’s a good thing.   QUESTION: And lastly there are also concerns that this new policy might raise tensions, particularly with Japan’s neighbors of Korea and China. Does the State Department have any concerns that this new policy may affect Japan’s relations with its neighbors?   MS. HARF: Well, as I said – as I noted that Japan has done quite a bit of outreach to explain its security policies, including by sending officials to foreign capitals. We have appreciated these efforts by Japan. We think this has been a good thing in terms of being very open with their neighbors about what this policy does and doesn’t mean.   QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, Marie?   MS. HARF: Uh-huh.   QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe said in his comments that one of the reasons he was doing this was that it was the only way that Japan could maintain the close security relationship with the United States. Now the question is: Was the United States – has it been supportive of this from the beginning? Has it placed it as something that they wanted or is it something Japanese wanted and were supporting? It seemed that Prime Minister Abe’s comments indicate the former rather than the latter.   MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see his comments, but look, there has been an extensive discussion within Japan on this issue for some time now. That’s not about what the United States thinks; it’s about what the people of Japan and the Japanese security establishment has been discussing for some time. As I said, we value our very close alliance with Japan on security issues. That has been the case prior to this announcement and will be the case after. So I think this was a decision for the Japanese to make. We have certainly said we welcome the way in which they’ve done so and do welcome today’s policy, but I think this is pretty clear it was a decision the government made.   QUESTION: If it hadn’t gone through, would this, in the U.S. opinion, have endangered the U.S.-Japan security relationship in any way?   MS. HARF: Not at all. It’s an incredibly close relationship.   QUESTION: I have one more on this, if I may.   MS. HARF: Uh-huh.   QUESTION: You will – you probably also saw that there was a fairly large demonstration in front of the prime minister’s residence against the move on the evening of the decision. I was wondering if the United States is satisfied with the level of inclusivity with which Japan has conducted the process domestically.   MS. HARF: I actually hadn’t seen that, Elliot, and I’m sorry. Let me check with our folks and see if we have a comment.   QUESTION: (Off-mike.)   MS. HARF: Uh-huh.   QUESTION: This is actually related more towards Japan and North Korea. They recently wrapped up their talks on the abductions issue in Beijing.   MS. HARF: Yep.   QUESTION: And I wanted to know: To what level has the State Department been communicating with Japan about these discussions in Beijing?   MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked to the Japanese about it. We continue to support their efforts to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner and closely coordinate with them and our other allies on DPRK generally speaking. I don’t have any specifics in terms of how we’ve talked to them about this.   QUESTION: Does the State Department assess that they’ve been transparent up to this point?   MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there’s an assessment.   QUESTION: Can we go to a new topic?   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli tensions.   MS. HARF: Yes.   QUESTION: Yesterday, after the discovery of the bodies of the three teenagers, the Palestinian Authority – President Abbas called a number of world leaders to urge them, to urge Israel to sort of rein in whatever response they might have. Has he spoken to Secretary of State Kerry or has he --   MS. HARF: No, he has not.   QUESTION: -- spoken to anyone? All right. Has the Secretary spoken to anyone, to the Israeli prime minister and so on?   MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know about calls today. Let me check.   QUESTION: Are you aware of --   MS. HARF: He may – I don’t know about any calls today, so let me double-check.   QUESTION: I understand. Are you aware of any requests that the United States may have had – may have made to the Israelis to sort of restrain or refrain from, let’s say, a disproportionate response?   MS. HARF: Well, Said, as we said yesterday and have said for many days, we are encouraging restraint from both sides, from the parties, to avoid steps that now could destabilize the situation. From the outset we have offered our full support to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to find the perpetrator to this crime and bring them to justice. And we encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together in that effort. As you heard the President and the Secretary both say yesterday that we condemn this despicable terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms. As you know, there was one American citizen killed, and it’s really outrageous. And again, we’ll talk – keep talking to the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority about it.   QUESTION: Okay. The Israelis conducted 34 air raids on Gaza. Do you expect them to do more? Do you expect them to do --   MS. HARF: I’ll let them speak for themselves.   QUESTION: Do you like them to say – what is your position on this? Do you believe that this will only exacerbate tensions between Palestinians and the Israelis?   MS. HARF: I don’t have any specific comment on those actions, Said.   QUESTION: Marie, I raised this question yesterday, and in light of what you just said, calling this a terrorist attack, the old crime reporter in me is always skeptical when governments, police agencies are quick to point out this is the suspect, these are the suspects. What is the Israeli Government’s evidence that two members of Hamas are responsible for these three murders? What is the U.S. Government’s evidence that Hamas members are responsible for this murder?   MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say Hamas was responsible.   QUESTION: No, but it is --   MS. HARF: So let me talk a little bit about culpability.   QUESTION: Yeah, but – no, but it’s implied when you use the word “terrorist” that it’s not --   MS. HARF: Well, “terrorist” can mean a number – terrorism is a form of violence.   QUESTION: Right.   MS. HARF: It doesn’t necessarily indicate a specific group. Let me talk to you a little about responsibility and then if there are follow-ups. Right now there are many indications pointing to Hamas’s involvement, and it is also important to note that Hamas’s leadership has publicly praised the kidnappings. The investigation is ongoing. We are still seeking additional details. Again, we’ve offered our full support to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to help in this effort.   QUESTION: Okay. On the second point first, just because Khaled Meshaal praises the murders of these three young men does not necessarily mean that they had anything – they meaning Hamas – had anything to do with it.   MS. HARF: The investigation’s still --   QUESTION: Right, right.   MS. HARF: -- as I said, there are many indications pointing to Hamas’s involvement.   QUESTION: Yeah. But let me finish. Because as we saw with many incidents in the past decade, al-Qaida was very quick to claim responsibility for things for which it had no responsibility. Going back to the point that Said was raising about restraint, is the U.S. concerned or satisfied with how the Israeli Government has been responding in the wake of the discovery of these young men’s bodies?   MS. HARF: I’m just not going to characterize it in any way other than to say we’re calling on both sides to show restraint. And again, there are indications, many indications at this point, pointing to Hamas’s involvement. I wasn’t – the investigation is still ongoing, and we want to get to the bottom of what happened here.   QUESTION: What is the evidence that – what is the evidence that indicates that it was Hamas and not some serial killer who likes to prey on young men?   MS. HARF: Well, again, we’re not going to outline the details of that investigation that’s ongoing publicly given the fact that it’s still ongoing. I am indicating for you what many indications have shown about Hamas’s involvement, and as we get more information, we’ll share it.   QUESTION: Well, I guess – not to beat a dead horse, but --   MS. HARF: That’s probably not the right choice of words here.   QUESTION: Not the right choice of words, but I covered too many cases where children, for example, would disappear, there would be massive community outcry, and then it would turn out that a parent or another relative was responsible. I covered too many cases of women who disappeared and it turned out that their husbands were responsible for their murders. And so on.   And so to be skeptical, particularly when we’re talking about the Israelis and the Palestinians and the amount of mistrust that there is for both sides, why should the general public believe the Israeli Government and the U.S. Government when they say we have reason to believe, ample reason to believe that it was Hamas and not some other horrible incident that led to these young men’s deaths?   MS. HARF: Well, you can choose to believe or not believe me, but what I am saying is that we have many indications as part of this investigation – which, by the way, we take very seriously, just for the fact that these are three teenagers that’ve been killed but also given that one’s an American. So there are many indications as part of this investigation that Hamas may have been involved. I am not at this point saying they were responsible. I am not putting a specific name out there. I’m saying the investigation’s ongoing. If it leads somewhere different, if those indications turn out to be wrong, we will update you with that information as well.   QUESTION: Marie, can I just ask – are these many indications that your own people, that American people, investigators have gathered? Or are these indications that have been given to you by the Israeli Government, who obviously is the lead investigator in this?   MS. HARF: I’ll check and see if there are more details to share here. The Palestinian Authority is also working with the Israeli Government on the investigation as well. This is not just an Israeli investigation.   QUESTION: I mean, I guess the question is: Is it your own evidence or is it --   MS. HARF: Yep. I’m happy to check, Jo. I just don’t know the facts here.   QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the settlement activity that – an announcement was made that the Israelis are building a new 60-unit housing and settlement expansion.   MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that announcement, Said. But you know our policy on settlements hasn’t changed.   QUESTION: Okay. And also the Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that new settlements should be established to commemorate these three young men. Do you have any comment?   MS. HARF: Our position on settlements hasn’t changed.   QUESTION: Going back to something we discussed last week – Benghazi?   MS. HARF: Uh-huh.   QUESTION: Is there an update on the status of the unclassified consulate computers and whether they are accounted for?   MS. HARF: Yeah. So on that, as you know there’s an investigation ongoing, led by the FBI, to determine what, if any, material, documents, computers, anything went missing or was taken during the attacks. That investigation’s ongoing. I don’t have an update for you, given that it’s ongoing. I wanted to be very clear about the fact that we knew no classified computers have been, but the other piece is still being looked into.   QUESTION: Also, then could you help deconflict something? You just said – mentioned classified computers. Last week, you said information about our computers is largely classified, yet in her book, Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Benghazi mission had less security because it did not handle classified mission – classified information --   MS. HARF: Right.   QUESTION: -- quote, “because there is no classified processing at the diplomatic compound, there were no Marines posted there.”   MS. HARF: Yep.   QUESTION: But you just said there are classified material at the compound.   MS. HARF: Well, no, I said that information about security on our computers is generally classified. So set that aside. And then I said no classified computers had gone missing in Benghazi.   QUESTION: But Secretary Clinton – former Secretary Clinton is saying that there were classified computers there.   MS. HARF: I’m sorry – go back to her quote, Lucas --   QUESTION: Former – excuse me – yeah --   MS. HARF: -- I think we’re talking past each other here.   QUESTION: Former Secretary Clinton is saying that there were no classified computers there.   MS. HARF: I’m going to sneeze. Excuse me. Okay. So I think where the – a little bit of confusion lies here is there were not – when we talk about classified information, there weren’t classified documents, classified safes like we have here, like we had in Tripoli, in Benghazi.   If there were small classified computers, that’s different than handling classified documents or material. I think from a security perspective, we look at those a little differently, and I – my understanding is what she said is accurate. I’d have to go take a look at the book again, but --   QUESTION: She said that no classified processing at the diplomatic --   MS. HARF: Yeah.   QUESTION: -- compound in Benghazi.   MS. HARF: I think – and I’m not an expert here – but I think that refers to things like classified files. If you think about an embassy overseas, when you have to destroy things, classified files, classified safes, those things did not exist in Benghazi.   QUESTION: But isn’t classified material classified material, whether it’s in a file or a computer?   MS. HARF: Well, it depends. It depends on – I mean, again, I’d have to look at exactly what she said, but if it’s a laptop that’s not connected to anything, that can be moved around and isn’t necessarily based there, isn’t there all the time, that’s a little different than having a facility that’s dedicated to hosting classified material.   QUESTION: Secretary Clinton was saying there was less security at the compound, and she blamed it on the lack --   MS. HARF: Not less. She just said there weren’t Marines there. There’s just different kind of security.   QUESTION: But she said that because there was no classified material.   MS. HARF: Right. That was explaining the reason that the Marines were not there.   QUESTION: But you’re saying there was classified material there.   MS. HARF: No, what I’m saying is there – to my understanding, there were no classified safes, no classified documents. There may at times have been the presence of classified laptops that we secured coming in and out of there, but it wasn’t a location that was built to hold classified material is my understanding. Let me double-check on this one and see if I can parse the former secretary’s words a little more for you.   QUESTION: Is there anything new with Abu Khatallah status here?   MS. HARF: Nope. DOJ has spoken to this. Nothing new.   QUESTION: Okay. I mean, similar trials took place, I think, in New York. But this time it is in Washington. Is there any --   MS. HARF: I’m not sure what --   QUESTION: -- will there be any State Department participation or --   MS. HARF: I can check. I have no idea.   QUESTION: So the choice of venue has nothing to do --   QUESTION: It’s jurisdiction.   MS. HARF: Yeah, I think it’s where --   QUESTION: (Off-mike.)   MS. HARF: I think it’s where the indictment was unsealed.   QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?   MS. HARF: Sure.   QUESTION: I think we’re done. So overnight, President Poroshenko decided not to renew the ceasefire. Yesterday, Jen Psaki said that the Americans would support the decision either way.   MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: And today we’ve seen a renewed assault by Ukrainian forces in the east against the pro-Russian separatists. Are you still supporting the Ukrainian decision not to resume?   MS. HARF: Yes, we are. And look, it takes two to keep a ceasefire, right. So President Poroshenko put in place a seven-day ceasefire. He abided by it. He extended it for three days, but the fact remained that the separatists, many of them weren’t adhering to it, and he has a right to defend his country. So he, at the same time, though, and the Secretary did speak with him yesterday, I believe. He did say he was still committed to a peace plan. So the ultimate goal here is to get back to a ceasefire, get back to a peace plan, but it takes two parties to put that in place and to keep it in place.   QUESTION: And are you worried the situation might degrade even further than it has done in the past?   MS. HARF: I mean, certainly that’s a concern, but we are encouraged that President Poroshenko has put forward a path here, a plan to get back to a ceasefire, to get back on track, and now we need to see the separatists doing the same thing.   QUESTION: And is it still the – America’s contention that the Ukrainians are showing admirable restraint in their actions in the east?   MS. HARF: It is, yes.   QUESTION: You’re not at all worried about what you’re seeing, the fighting or --   MS. HARF: Well, look, this is – the Ukrainian forces have a responsibility to defend their territory and their people. And what they’re seeing is aggression by Russion-backed separatists that they have an obligation to respond to. We’ll look at every situation individually, obviously, but --   QUESTION: What’s your response to President Putin’s comments today? He said Russia is involved in a historic effort to defend itself. He compared Ukraine to Iraq, Syria, and Libya.   MS. HARF: I don’t know what to do with that second part – comparing it to Iraq, Syria, and Libya – so I’m probably not even going to touch it. But I mean, historic in the sense that it’s illegal under international law? I mean, sure, under one definition of historic.   QUESTION: So last week --   MS. HARF: I’ll give him that.   QUESTION: Last week it seemed like there was time being given to Russia before sanctions were going to be imposed.   MS. HARF: Well, we wanted to see how the ceasefire played out.   QUESTION: And so now that it’s over and President Putin’s saying things like this, where are we on sanctions?   MS. HARF: We still have the ability to do them – put them in place very quickly. We are talking to the Europeans about them every day. I don’t have anything to announce, but we are looking very closely at what we might do next.   QUESTION: President Poroshenko said that the pro-Russian militias are also infiltrated or manned or they have a great many members that are in the Russian secret service. Do you agree with that? Or Russian intelligence.   MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have the details on that in front of me, but suffice to say I think we’ve made pretty clear that we think the Russian Government is involved very closely in backing these separatists, so – no details on that, though.   QUESTION: Was the Secretary’s phone call with President Poroshenko just about the end of the ceasefire?   MS. HARF: It was about the situation in Ukraine, the ceasefire – let’s see. Expressed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and for the Ukrainian Government’s effort to maintain public order; welcomed his continued commitment to pursue his peace plan, including the offer of amnesty, decentralization of power to the region’s political dialogue, and the economic revitalization of the eastern part of the country; also talked to him a little bit about how we and our European partners are willing to do more to press Russia to end support to the separatists; and said we are continually preparing more costs for Russia if it does not take further steps.   QUESTION: Was there any discussion there about the humanitarian situation in the east? I know President Putin had talked to President Poroshenko about this. They’re trying to open up a corridor for some kind of humanitarian relief. You have people who are trying to leave the country, there are a lot of refugees there. It’s kind of an awful situation and it’s also something that the President of Ukraine should also be concerned about. Has anything been done with regard to that?   MS. HARF: Well, certainly the President of Ukraine is concerned about it, but this humanitarian situation there is a direct result of Russian-backed incursions there. There was not a humanitarian situation there before the separatists started killing people. So let’s be clear about the cause of this.   In terms of the numbers, I don’t know if Jen got this yesterday in detail, but we talked a little bit about the UNHCR’s numbers. In many – we don’t question the UNHCR’s credibility. We obviously think they’re an important organization. In many cases such as in Syria, data comes from multiple independent sources. We think that’s important to back up the data. In this situation, UNHCR’s estimate of the number of people moving across the Ukrainian border comes directly from Russian Government sources who, suffice to say, have not always been entirely accurate here. And – just a couple more points on this because I know there have been some questions – UNHCR’s statement did not say that 110,000 refugees fled Ukraine into Russia. What it said is that number of people had crossed the border at some point. That could be to go visit their grandmother and come back. The – only 9,600 people have actually applied for asylum in Russia. And I just want to be very clear when we talk about numbers because there have been some confusion here. And we continue to support the work of UNHCR and attempt to get alternative sources of information for them.   QUESTION: When was the last time the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov?   MS. HARF: I believe they were supposed to talk today. Let me check and see if that happened.   QUESTION: Do you know what’s on the agenda for the call?   MS. HARF: I’m sure there’s a whole host of topics. I’m sure Ukraine is at the top, probably other topics as well – probably Iraq, probably Syria, probably Iran. But I don’t know, so I can check.   QUESTION: Will there be a paper readout also?   MS. HARF: I will endeavor to get one. I’ll talk to Jen, who’s with them on the road.   QUESTION: Okay.   QUESTION: I’ve got two quick questions.   MS. HARF: Yep. Wait, let – oh, okay.   QUESTION: I’m sorry.   MS. HARF: No, no. Go ahead. Go ahead.   QUESTION: One is Afghanistan.   MS. HARF: Yes.   QUESTION: Today they delayed the release of the election results because of the allegations primarily by Abdullah Abdullah about fraud.   MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: Is this of concern to you, that we’re seeing these results being delayed? And how seriously does the United States take his allegations of fraud?   MS. HARF: Well look, we know there’s a process here, and we have urged both sides to remain engaged with the electoral institutions who can ensure that all allegations of fraud are – brought to them are given careful and impartial review and adjudication. There are legal mechanisms for going through, receiving, investigating, and adjudicating these complaints, and we think that’s an important process, even if it takes some time. So what we’ve said is throughout this process, we want both sides to remain engaged with it, to be talking to the electoral institutions to help work this out. We know it may take some time, though.   QUESTION: Do you have any evidence yourself to back the allegations of fraud?   MS. HARF: I don’t want to make a judgment one way or the other. It’s really up to their electoral institutions to go through all of that.   QUESTION: And how does this tarnish the hopes that you had for a very – a relatively smooth handover and the installation of a president pretty quickly in the country?   MS. HARF: Well, as I said, democracy is complicated and at times messy. But it’s important, and I think we are still – what we’re focused on is the electoral institutions doing their jobs, looking at fraud allegation, having both sides remain engaged in the process, and eventually getting to an outcome here.   As I would remind people, both candidates have committed – said they would sign the BSA, which we think is a good thing. And so we’ll just keep working with them and hope the process can continue moving forward.   Yes, Lucas.   QUESTION: Last one on Benghazi. So who’s right here, you or Mrs. Clinton, about the computers?   MS. HARF: I don’t think there’s a discrepancy between what we said, so I think your question is a false premise.   QUESTION: Well, she’s saying --   MS. HARF: And I will defer to the former Secretary of State on this one. I just don’t have any more details, Lucas. Let me see if I can get any and share them with you. I understand the discrepancy, but I think there’s a difference between a facility with permanent, classified capabilities like safes, like documents, and between maybe having a classified laptop that may come in and out of it. I think there’s a difference, but let me check with our experts.   QUESTION: Taiwan?   QUESTION: One North Korea question.   MS. HARF: Let’s do just a few more. Yes.   QUESTION: Yeah. It is expected that the Japanese Government will lift its bilateral – unilateral sanctions against North Korea as early as Thursday. So --   MS. HARF: Okay. I hadn’t heard that. I’m happy to check.   QUESTION: Do you have any concern that it would impact on your efforts to isolate North Korea?   MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been very clear about our – the international community’s efforts to isolate North Korea. If you just look at the UN sanctions alone, incredibly biting sanctions on North Korea right now, and ours as well. So I will take a look and see if there’s more to share.   QUESTION: So you are – are you confident that the Japanese Government lift up sanctions but not harm the sanction regime?   MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen that detail, so let me just check and see if there’s more to share.   QUESTION: Right.   MS. HARF: Yes.   QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Kerry is going to meet with Taiwanese President Ma in Panama today?   MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.   QUESTION: One about Hong Kong.   MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: Half a million people turned out in the streets of Hong Kong last night despite the huge tropical rainstorm. It’s the largest demonstration – pro-democracy demonstration since the handover in 1997.   MS. HARF: Yeah. And this happens, I think, every year on July 1st, yeah.   QUESTION: It happens every on an annual basis, but this is the largest since 1997. What comment does America have on this, what reaction?   MS. HARF: Well yeah, look, we support Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and basic law protections that include internationally-recognized freedoms such as freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. We do support democracy in Hong Kong in accordance with the basic law. We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is really essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. I know details about the election process for the chief executive in 2017 are still being worked out, but we believe that the legitimacy of this person will be enhanced if the – if universal suffrage is fulfilled and if the election provides a genuine choice of candidates that are representative of the voters’ will.   QUESTION: Should Beijing be listening to what’s happening in Hong Kong? Should they be taking note of these cries for greater democracy?   MS. HARF: Well, I’m sure they are.   QUESTION: You think they are?   MS. HARF: Not for me whether to say if they should or not.   QUESTION: But do you think they are taking note in the sense that they’re going to become more democratic in China, or do you think they’re taking note thinking this is something that we have to crack down on?   MS. HARF: As I said, we are very clear about what our position is. We support democracy in Hong Kong. We’ll continue talking to them about it, but I don’t have any more predictions for you to make about what this might look like going forward.   (The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)   DPB #116


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 30, 2014

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 10:32

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 30, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel to Panama
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES / REGION
    • Kidnapped Teenagers
    • Violence
    • Palestinian Technocratic Government
  • IRAQ / SYRIA / REGION
    • Security Situation / ISIL
    • Secretary Kerry's Meetings in the Region / Iraqi Government Formation
    • Iraqi Military Requirements / Iraqi Security Forces
    • Export and Import of Oil
    • Contract Reviews
  • D.P.R.K. / REGION
    • Reports of U.S. Citizens Facing Trial / Privacy Act Waivers / Travel Warning
    • Reports of Launched Projectiles
    • Six-Party Talks
    • Support Improved Inter-Korean Relations
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA
    • Cease-fire / Russian-Backed Separatists / Sanctions
    • UN Refugee Agency Claims
  • NIGERIA
    • Kidnapped Girls
    • Boko Haram
    • Reported Attacks
    • U.S. Assistance
  • PANAMA / TAIWAN
    • Unofficial Relationship with Taiwan
  • JAPAN
    • Japanese Right to Equip Themselves in Way They Deem Necessary


TRANSCRIPT:

1:38 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday. So I just have one item at the top. Secretary Kerry – as the White House announced, Secretary Kerry will be visiting Panama July 1st, which is tomorrow, to attend the inauguration of Panama’s president-elect, Juan Carlos Varela. We congratulate President Varela on his victory and Panama’s history of peaceful democratic transfer of power. We have a growing trade relationship, excellent security cooperation, and share many of the same concerns on regional and multilateral issues. Panama is also an important partner of the United States, and we look forward to continuing our close relationship.

During the inauguration, Secretary Kerry will also meet with other Central American leaders to discuss the issue of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the border to the United States. A sustainable solution to this urgent situation requires a comprehensive approach to address issues of security, prosperity, and governance, all of which play a role in migration, especially the migration of unaccompanied minors. We hope to continue working with the Central American and Mexican Governments to address the complex root causes of migration and identify ways the United States and countries in the region can more effectively contribute to the effort.

Secretary – I’m sorry, Vice President Biden was in Guatemala just a few weeks ago where he announced a U.S. assistance to increase the capacity of these countries, and I know the President will have an announcement later this afternoon. But the Secretary’s meetings will be part of our effort to engage with these governments and discuss the root causes of these issues.

QUESTION: Sorry. The President will have an announcement on what?

MS. PSAKI: I think you saw on the news or in the newspapers earlier today the President would have more to say on assistance they’re announcing.

QUESTION: Oh, on immigration.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Right. So before – this is --

MS. PSAKI: Did you get a haircut, Matt?

QUESTION: I did.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.) Noted. Noted for the transcript. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I notice you haven’t said anything of it. Anyway – (laughter) – when you talk about Panama’s peaceful – tradition of peaceful transfers of democratic power, I assume you’re talking about recent tradition, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I was not making --

QUESTION: Not U.S.-assisted --

MS. PSAKI: -- a large, sweeping, historic claim there.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.

QUESTION: Before we get back to that and other things, the breaking news just from the last 20 minutes or so about the Israelis finding the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers, I’m wondering, one, are you aware of it? And if you are, what do you have to say about it? And two, have you been in contact with the Israelis, or the Palestinians for that matter?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen – we have seen the reports. I don’t have anything to confirm from here. I would point you to the Government of Israel. Certainly as we’ve said many times throughout the course of the last several weeks, the kidnapping, and of course any harm that has been done to these teenagers is a tragedy. We’ve been in close touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians over the course of the last several weeks. I don’t have any new calls to update you on as of this morning.

QUESTION: Okay. If there are any, can you expedite --

MS. PSAKI: Can we send them up? Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: -- letting us know?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In – since this began, you and the Administration in general have been urging restraint, calling on both sides to show restraint. Does that remain your message even with this new development?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly does. We have, as you noted, been in touch with both sides and have been urging continued security cooperation, that the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to work with one another on that, and we certainly would continue to urge that despite – in spite of, obviously, the tragedy and the enormous pain on the ground as a result.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Wait, I just have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go one at a time. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: The Israelis have all along said that Hamas was behind this. You have said that signs indicate that Hamas was involved, but you have stopped short of saying that you’re 100 percent certain of it. Presuming that the Israelis do provide you or you come up with your own 100 percent confirmation that it was involved, would that change – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but would Hamas’s involvement in something like this be cause for the Administration to rethink its support for the Palestinian – the new Palestinian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, let me first say there’s nothing new as it relates to our view in this specific case, and as we’ve noted in the past – but it’s worth noting again – there are some similar circumstances that we have seen. I’m not going to make a prediction, of course. We do look at all kinds of information as it relates to our relationship with the Palestinians, our relationship with any entity that we work with. So I’m not going to make a prediction. I don’t know what the outcome will be of the final findings.

QUESTION: There were also, I think, fourteen – more than a dozen rockets that were fired into southern Israel from Gaza today. Is that something that would make you rethink your position as it relates to the Palestinian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, renouncing violence is one of the requirements, according to the Quartet, and one of the United States requirements. And as we said in the beginning when the first announcement of the technocratic government was made, we’re going to continue to review and take a look at the circumstances on the ground on a daily basis if needed.

QUESTION: All right. But I mean, quite apart from whether they played any role in the killing of the three teenagers, there were these rocket attacks today. Is that – does that comport with a renunciation of violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we would condemn any type of violence along those lines against the Israelis. And we expect, and President Abbas has on many occasions also renounced this type of action. And there’s a certain responsibility in conveying that to any entities that the Palestinians are tied with.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I shoot you at the same time as saying I renounce violence, that doesn’t really make much sense. So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the point --

QUESTION: -- what you’re saying, though, is that apart from the teenagers – because we don’t – you don’t know – you’re not sure of the circumstances – just the rocket attacks themselves are not cause to have you rethink your relationship with the government.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we have stated from the beginning, and the point I was trying to make, is that we would be constantly reviewing as it relates to action on the ground, whether they are abiding by the components that they have – the pledges that they made at the beginning. So I don’t have anything new to predict for you or outline, but we look at all of the circumstances that happen on the ground as we evaluate our relationship.

QUESTION: I’ll stop after this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You think right now that they are abiding by the requirements?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and the technocratic government that doesn’t involve members of Hamas, yes, they are making every effort to. Obviously, when there are incidents of violence, when there are rocket attacks, those are certainly cause for concern and we take every incident into consideration.

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I would’ve stopped after that, but I – you are sure, you’re convinced that the Palestinian Government is making – what you just said, “making every effort” to abide by its commitments? That’s the U.S. position?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m --

QUESTION: I --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m conveying is President Abbas has, as you know, renounced violence. He has condemned attacks. He has been a cooperative partner in an effort even with as it relates to the three teenagers over the last several weeks. Does that change the fact that we are concerned and could certainly condemn these rocket attacks and other incidents that occur? Certainly it doesn’t change that, but again, this is not a black-and-white issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that, Jen, if I may. The technocratic government that you spoke of, as far as you’re concerned, they have not – they are doing everything possible to refrain from the use of violence, rhetoric or otherwise. Right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you are convinced that they are doing all they can to sort of keep the lid on as far as violence is concerned?

MS. PSAKI: President Abbas and --

QUESTION: And his technocratic government that is a national unity government.

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated it a few times, Said, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just go back to the breaking news. As far as – you have not heard anything yourself about the – to confirm the murder of the three teenagers?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the reports. I don’t have anything to confirm from here.

QUESTION: Okay. Now as far as you know, the Israelis have not informed you that these bodies were found and therefore we’re going to do one, two, three, four; have they?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything else to update you on.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the total closure of Hebron and its environ?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to update you on.

New topic?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu --

MS. PSAKI: Or go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Yeah. Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that the government had been able to identify two members of Hamas as being responsible. I know that you can’t confirm the discovery of the bodies. Do you know whether they shared this information with their U.S. counterparts either in Tel Aviv or here in Washington over the weekend about these two suspects?

MS. PSAKI: We have regular consultations and discussions. I don’t have anything further to outline for you in this regard.

QUESTION: Something else related to Israel also.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday called for an independent Kurdish state. Do you – what’s your position, what’s your reaction to his comment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the view of the United States is that a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq, and especially at this challenging and grave security – at a time of a grave security situation on the ground, we think it’s even more important that all parties – the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds – remain united against the threat they face, and all countries should support that effort.

QUESTION: Does that mean your position is at odds with Israel’s position on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but that’s the position of the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, but I just want to go back to the kidnapping.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the three teenagers is a U.S. citizen, or dual citizen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, have any demands been made like ransom demands or anything to the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything new to update you on on this particular incident.

Well, could we – or go ahead --

QUESTION: Just --

MS. PSAKI: -- and we’ll go to Jo. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one more thing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s clearly that the U.S. position now is at odds with not only Israel, but also Turkey, which has recently said that it will welcome an independent Kurdistan in Iraq. On the other hand, many other people actually see America as being more on the side – like, in alliance with Iran over Iraq, as both countries have stepped up their military and political support for the al-Maliki government to combat the insurgency, the Sunni insurgency. Is that true?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure – can you – what is your specific question? Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Like, the specific question is that are the United States and Iran unlikely allies in Iraq to combat the Islamic – Sunni Islamic militants?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it in those terms. We’ve stated before from this podium and the Secretary has stated that certainly ISIL is a threat to the region, including Iran. There is a – it is a threat, ISIL is a threat to all of the people of Iraq, whether they’re Sunni, whether they’re Shia, whether they’re Kurds. And that’s why we’ve been so – been such strong advocates of moving the political process forward urgently to form a government, and of all parties to be united.

We’re all certainly familiar with the aspirations of the Kurdish people, and that hasn’t changed and has been the case for many years now. But the threat they’re facing requires unity and that’s why we’ve been emphasizing it so strongly.

QUESTION: What do you mean you are – you understand the aspiration of the Kurdish people?

MS. PSAKI: I think we all have seen the comments that have been made over the course of not just last week, but long before that.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I just stay with ISIL --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- which have renamed themselves today the Islamic State, just IS, I believe. Does this mark a change in their offensive? Does it make the ground conditions more difficult for the Iraqi people and the Syrian people? What is your reaction to the news that they’re trying to establish this caliphate over Iraq and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these types of words or comparable claims from ISIL before. This declaration has no meaning to the people in Iraq and Syria. It only further exposes the true nature of this organization and its desire to control people by fear and edicts. It emphasizes even more so that this is a critical moment for the international community, for countries in the region, for all of the Iraqi people to unite against the threat that they face.

QUESTION: Does it show that in some ways, the group believes – is assuming more confidence that they believe that they are on a winning track here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s, again, their strategy of using a repressive ideology and of conducting acts of ruthless terrorism against their people, against people across the region, has been consistent for some time now. So in our view, this claim, these words, this declaration is consistent with that and not a new – not providing new information.

QUESTION: And – sorry.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Tomorrow the Iraqi parliament is due to meet.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Following the visit by Secretary Kerry to Iraq and Erbil, do you believe in this building that there will be an outcome which will start paving the way towards a new Iraqi Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted, that was a big focus of the Secretary’s meetings last week, not just in Iraq but in – with leaders in the region, and in fact even with his European counterparts. And tomorrow in – we are continuing to urge, I should say, Iraqis, Iraqi leaders to come to an agreement on the three critical posts that are key to forming Iraq’s next government – the speaker, the president and prime minister – so that government formation can move forward as quickly as possible. We don’t want to predict how quickly the outcome will occur. We will leave that to them, but they have – during meetings with Secretary Kerry have committed to moving forward quickly, have committed to abiding by the process. So we will see what happens in the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: Given this announcement, how urgently is the U.S. viewing this development, especially in light of the fact that it just put in what many would argue is a small number of military advisors to help the Iraqi military figure out what it can or can’t do to stop these fighters from continuing their march onto Baghdad?

MS. PSAKI: And Roz, I’m sorry, which – are you – which announcement?

QUESTION: About the ISIL, IS, whatever they call themselves.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What are they – what are officials doing about it? How does this change what the U.S. is trying to do, for example, to help Baghdad defend itself against these fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I stated, but I’m happy to reiterate, these words – we’ve seen these types of words come from ISIL before. It’s consistent with their claims in the past. It doesn’t mean anything to the people of Iraq and the people of Syria. We remain both committed to a diplomatic process, and obviously, as you noted, military advisors have started arriving on the ground. We’ve continued to expedite our assistance and equipment as well, and we’re taking every step in that regard.

So I wouldn’t overemphasize the impact of the claim. We’re continuing to take steps, including the discussions the Secretary had all of last week, on the political front to encourage the government to move forward with formation, but also to consider how we can best help address the threat on the ground.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense of what consultations are being held at the Secretary’s level, at the under secretary level with their counterparts, not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary – I think it was read out on Friday that he spoke with President Barzani. He also spoke with Foreign Minister Davutoglu over the weekend. I think it’s safe for all of you to assume that he’ll be in – closely engaged in diplomatic conversations with both counterparts in the Middle East as well as Europe over the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: Jen, did you have any comment or did you comment on the Iraqis receiving four or five Sukhoi fighters, Russian fighters --

MS. PSAKI: I think Marie may have spoken to this --

QUESTION: -- a couple days ago?

MS. PSAKI: -- on Friday, but I’m happy to speak to it as well.

QUESTION: Could you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We understand and have certainly seen reports about the purchase of equipment. I would remind you that Iraq has purchased military equipment from a range of countries in the past, including Russia, including the Czech Republic, South Korea, and others to fulfill their legitimate defense needs. We have a robust FMS program that will continue and we’ve expedited in recent days. And certainly, we are not surprised that Iraq would take steps to work with other countries in the region as they have for some time to gain the equipment that they need.

QUESTION: And you don’t have any problem with them receiving these Russian fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t --

QUESTION: I mean, because you’re holding your deliveries for fear of falling in the wrong hands --

MS. PSAKI: We’re not holding our --

QUESTION: -- and this could --

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s incorrect information.

QUESTION: Sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But in terms of the first question, we don’t oppose legal Iraqi efforts to meet their urgent military requirements. In fact, as you know, we’re expediting our own assistance, and they have purchased military equipment from a variety of countries in the past, and so it’s not a surprise that that has continued.

QUESTION: Can I ask you if you – on the caliphate and Kurdistan questions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you oppose a caliphate idea in general? And if you do not – because you actually recognized one and had an ambassador to the last one, the last Ottoman – the Ottoman empire – why you would, if you are opposed – or sorry, if you’re not opposed to a caliphate in – is it just – let me rephrase this completely.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is it just this group forming a caliphate that you’re opposed to, or an al-Qaida-like group, a repressive group? Or is it the whole idea in general that you don’t like, of Muslims coming together under one person?

MS. PSAKI: I think the concern I’m expressing is about this specific group --

QUESTION: This specific – okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- this extremist terrorist group, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So then on the Kurdistan question, and about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said, there are a lot of people who think that this – that an independent Kurdistan is basically inevitable, especially – and it – and its being – its potential statehood is being accelerated by what’s going on on the ground now. Why is the United States so wedded to the post-World War I borders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, it’s up to the Iraqi people to determine what their future will be, not the United States.

QUESTION: So it’s --

MS. PSAKI: I think our specific concern right now is that the largest threat they face is the threat of ISIL and that they should be united and focused on that and working together and continuing to work together. As you know, the Peshmerga and the Iraqi security forces have been working closely together over the last several weeks.

QUESTION: So in the end, in the long run, though, if all of Iraq was to agree to split, you would not be opposed if they were to do that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what the future will hold. What we’re looking at right now is the immediate threat that is posing a threat to the very security and stability of Iraq.

QUESTION: But you do agree that Kurdistan is basically conducting itself as a sovereign nation? I mean, it imports, exports goods, including the export of oil to Israel and so on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar, Said --

QUESTION: I know, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- because we’ve talked about it quite a bit, what our position is on the export and import of oil as well, and we believe that should go through the central Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: I’ve got another Iraq-related question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- which has to do with the --

QUESTION: You’re saying because ISIL is the bigger threat and they all need to confront this threat together. But the Kurdish forces have said it publicly that they’re not going to fight ISIL unless they fight – attack them. So they are going to just look and see the conflict and --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- they don’t want to be dragged into a sectarian war. That’s what they phrase – how they phrase it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, have been working closely with the ISF over the past several weeks to confront this threat. And one of the points the Secretary made when he was there meeting with leaders was the fact that they do need to be united, they need to continue to band together against this threat. And it’s not just a threat to Baghdad; it’s a threat to all of Iraq and it’s a threat to all of the region.

QUESTION: So you’ve seen the story – you will have seen the story in The New York Times today about Blackwater --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the State Department calling off an investigation into its activities after your lead investigator was allegedly threatened. I’m wondering what you have to say about that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a great deal to say about it, and I’m happy to take any questions that you have. I certainly understand the interest. I will note that the story referenced this as an investigation. This was not an investigation. These were ongoing contract reviews that we do on a regular basis. That’s what the individuals were on the ground doing.

Obviously, as you all know, this is an ongoing legal case, so there’s very little we can say. But again, I know there are specific questions here, so I’m happy to take them if I can.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, an ongoing legal case has to do only with Nisour Square.

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct.

QUESTION: This apparently happened before that --

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: -- so it would not be part of the ongoing legal case, correct?

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It is --

QUESTION: Unless, of course, you have – there is another case that we don’t know about which involves the State Department against Blackwater.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not referencing a different legal case.

QUESTION: All right. So --

MS. PSAKI: I’m just referencing the context here, which I think is relevant.

QUESTION: All right. So was the internal review – or, sorry, the – what did you say – it was the something – contract review. Was the contract review halted because of a threat?

MS. PSAKI: As I understand, there were steps taken at the time given threats that were – people faced. But I don’t have any additional information on it.

QUESTION: So you’re saying – so that part of the story you’re confirming? You’re saying that the – that someone employed by Blackwater in Iraq threatened a State Department auditor – however you want to call it – who was conducting a contract review, and that resulted in the review being called off?

MS. PSAKI: No. I apologize.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I understand that there were reports of threats. Obviously, we take any of that seriously. I don’t have any additional information beyond what I just shared.

QUESTION: Do you know what the result of the contract review was in question here? Was there a result or was it – or did it end? Did the review not come to an end?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information. Again, I understand the interest.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: This was seven years ago, so we’re looking to track down more.

QUESTION: I understand this predates your time and even this Administration, but this building stays the same pretty much as it goes through --

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I’m not – I’m certainly validating your questions. I just don’t have more information than what I’ve provided.

QUESTION: Do you know whether --

QUESTION: Are you aware that --

QUESTION: Do you know whether because of this incident that any steps were taken to essentially keep the contractors in their place? The story suggested that the contractors felt that they were above the authority of the U.S. Government and had undue sway over certain Embassy personnel. Are there policies in place that basically say to contractors, “You are here under the good graces of the U.S. Government and you need to know what your place is”?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure how to address your question, Roz. I’m not sure exactly what your question is. Maybe you can repeat it.

QUESTION: Well, essentially, if someone comes in, whether from the IG’s office, Inspector General’s office, or from some other auditing firm that’s supposed to have the ability to talk to people, to look at records, to figure out if everything is being done according to rules and regulations – if that person’s ability to do his or her job is proscribed because someone feels that he and his colleagues are above review, what’s done to keep that from happening?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason – let me just say, broadly speaking, the reason why contract reviews or any reviews are done are to take a look at circumstances on the ground and make sure they are happening to – with all – taking all of the precautions and taking the appropriate process and pursuing the appropriate process. When there are findings that they are not, certainly those are reviewed and taken into account. I don’t have anything more specific in this case, but that’s why reviews, broadly speaking, are done – to look at the information and ensure that contractors or any individuals are operating at the top capacity.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let me try one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Certainly in places that are warzones, and Iraq in 2007 was clearly still a warzone as far as the U.S. Government was concerned, it is understandable that in the middle of a crisis that people’s relationships will stray beyond normally accepted bounds of behavior. Are there rules in place today for people who are serving for the State Department in high-risk zones and the contractors with whom they work? Are there rules clearly spelling out what the extent of their professional relationship can be?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, broadly speaking; let me take it and see what information we can provide.

QUESTION: Can you also take the question as to whether there – this contract review was undertaken either because of any concern that this company was operating somehow outside of the bounds that it should have been, or if that kind of concern arose during the review?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: New topic?

QUESTION: I have just a – very quickly. This happened, of course, in 2007, but there are allegations at the time that in fact higher-ups in the State Department took the side of Blackwater against the State Department auditor. Could you find out if that is the case?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more information. I’m happy to take the --

QUESTION: Because right after that --

MS. PSAKI: Said, let me finish. I’m happy to take the questions that have been addressed. I don’t think I have anything more, so let’s move on to a new subject.

QUESTION: Because this just --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lesley. We’re moving on. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: North Korea says they’re going to try the two detained Americans. Have you had any notice on this, and any comment from you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are aware of reports that U.S. citizens Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle will face trial in North Korea. There’s no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. Out of humanitarian concern for Mr. Fowle and Mr. Miller and their families, we request North Korea release them so they may return home. We also request North Korea pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.

Beyond the reports, Lesley, I don’t have any other official independent information, I guess I should say. I can also convey that the embassy of Sweden in North Korea visited Mr. Fowle on June 20th and Mr. Miller on May 9th and June 21st. And the embassy, of course, regularly requests consular access to all U.S. citizens in North Korean custody.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Do you know, are they being held in the same place?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on that. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Presumably, because you are now able to give their names, they’ve signed these privacy waiver things?

MS. PSAKI: They have.

QUESTION: So can you tell us under what circumstances they were both arrested and what charges they might be facing?

MS. PSAKI: There isn’t information – additional information we’re going to share. They – yes, they did sign a Privacy Act waiver, but it doesn’t obligate the Department to share all information about each case and each circumstances, especially when it comes to ensuring or taking every step we need to to help return them home.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

QUESTION: So you cannot give us any indication of the charges they could be facing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information to provide.

QUESTION: Quite apart – this is a new one on me, and I’ve been – quite apart from this case, are you saying that if someone signs a Privacy Act waiver, if we ask a question, you don’t have – you still don’t have to answer it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Privacy Act waiver gives us the ability to provide more information, and we do that as often as we possibly can. And there are some cases where it’s not in the benefit of the case or the individuals to provide more information.

QUESTION: But you make that decision, not the person?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are cases – there are processes that we undergo to ensure we can provide as much information as possible, and there are times when it’s not appropriate to. This is one of those times.

QUESTION: Well, let’s not talk – forget about this case. Just in general, I don’t get it. So if I sign a Privacy Act waiver saying I want you to tell the world about my case someplace, and one of my colleagues here asks you a question about it, you can say, “Well, he signed the waiver but we just don’t feel like telling you what the information is, so we’re not going to?”

MS. PSAKI: That’s not exactly how it works, Matt. But --

QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand. If I --

MS. PSAKI: -- we provide as much information as we can.

QUESTION: If I – as you can? But if I’ve authorized you to go out and speak and tell – and say what happened to me and what my condition is and everything, you can still decide to say no, we’re not going to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if --

QUESTION: You can say nothing?

MS. PSAKI: -- if you were detained, you would want us to take steps that are in the best interests of your safety and security, wouldn’t you?

QUESTION: Well, yeah – if I’ve signed the waiver saying I want my story to be told, I would expect you to tell my story if I’m – if you were asked about it, not to say – to tell people --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure you’ve seen a Privacy Act waiver and what they look like.

QUESTION: I have.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not exactly stating that. So we make decisions about what information is appropriate to provide in the best interests of citizens who are detained overseas. And we will --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: For that matter, you could say that you’re not going to release any information ever, no matter what – no matter whether the thing – whether it’s signed or not.

MS. PSAKI: I think we try – make every effort to release as much information as we can.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So in this case, you can’t confirm that they’re facing trial? Even if you’re not going to tell us what the charges are, you cannot confirm independently that they’re facing trial?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t. And that’s not related to the Privacy Act waiver; that’s related to the fact that these are reports. We don’t have additional information to provide.

QUESTION: So the Swedish Embassy hasn’t been able to convey that information to you, or they haven’t been given that information?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more information to provide.

QUESTION: And can you give us an idea of what the Embassy might have told you about their state of health when they saw them on June 20th and 21st?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to check with them and see if there’s more to provide. Obviously, we’re requesting their release for humanitarian purposes. I will see if there’s more on their health that we are able to provide to all of you.

QUESTION: I imagine that you’ve been in touch with the families of both these men?

MS. PSAKI: We have been over the course of time. I don’t have any new timing on that, but I can also check on that question as well.

QUESTION: Did the families make any request of this building to not release certain information about their loved ones, in particular why they chose to go to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to be able to provide any more information.

QUESTION: Can you just say in general, because we have these cases coming up every so often involving U.S. citizens – the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea. I assume that if I just decided I wanted to go, it would be very difficult for me to go without facing some sort of repercussion. What can be done to dissuade people from trying to go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t track the travel of United States citizens. But obviously, we put Travel Warnings out, Roz --

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I --

MS. PSAKI: -- to make sure people understand the circumstances they’re walking into.

QUESTION: But certainly if I’m coming back through Dulles and I’m going through border control, I’m going to get the once-over – maybe the once-over when they see that I have a visa from D.P.R.K. in my passport. What can be done to dissuade people from going and almost certainly getting themselves into trouble every time an American steps foot on North Korean soil?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s one of the reasons that we provide regular updates that are available on the State Department website, that we talk about frequently. All of you report about these cases as well. So I would encourage you to continue to do that.

QUESTION: I think one of the – the older man, if I’m not mistaken, apparently was arrested after people found a Bible in his hotel room. And we all know how the D.P.R.K. feels about Christianity. Is it an unnecessarily provocative act for those who think that they’re trying to spread the gospel to try to go to North Korea, knowing that they’re running the risk of being arrested, being treated however the North Koreans are able to cover up whatever they do to them, and then expecting the U.S. Government to come to their rescue even though, if you have a blue passport, you expect your government to come save you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think we are focused on the health and safety and well-being of United States citizens wherever they are in the world, and we take every step to ensure they either are returned home or they are safe. We have consular access. You know how we feel about freedom of religion and freedom of – and being able to express that. But certainly, the reason we provide information about a range of countries is to ensure people know what circumstances they’re walking into. And I don’t have the North Korea Travel Warning in front of me, but I can assure you that it suggests strongly not to travel at all to North Korea.

Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: Well, I had just two quick questions on that. Do you have any more on at what level the communication between the State Department officials and the families of the men who have been detained have been taking place?

MS. PSAKI: I do not. I can take that in the list of questions as well.

QUESTION: Sure. And then in the Travel Warning, there’s plenty of caveats about the fact that these travel companies can’t provide for safety of individual Americans. But I’m wondering, does this Department take a position on these companies actually doing these tours and seemingly, at times, willfully pulling – putting American citizens in danger? Do you take a position on the – just the merits in general of these tours being conducted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get that specific. But clearly, any tour company or any individual can access the information that we make available about travel and the warnings of travel to North Korea as well as other countries. And so I think that states pretty clearly where we stand about any type of travel.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: North Korea? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. North Korea, as you know, has launched the SCUD missile last September – no, no, last Saturday. Sorry. And then Marie – your colleague Marie told us that we are always concerned whenever they launch anything. So what about this time? Do you have some readout, or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of reports that North Korea launched two projectiles from its east coast on June 29th, so just yesterday. We’re continuing to closely monitor North Korean activities and the situation on the peninsula. We urge North Korea to refrain from taking provocative actions and instead fulfill its international obligations and commitments, but I don’t have any further information on the type or specific details of the projectiles launched in this case.

QUESTION: As you know, President Park and Xi Jinping of China is going to meet this week. Does the United States ask something of both China or South Korea to send a message to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as two of our vital partners in the Six-Party Talks that we engage with closely on the threat from North Korea, I’m certain – and I would refer you to them, but I would bet that this will be a part of their discussion and we’ll continue to engage closely with both China and Japan as it – or, sorry, China and South Korea as it relates to their discussions. And certainly, as you know, we also encourage dialogue and restraint as it relates to relationships in the region as well.

QUESTION: One more thing. Japan will also continue to talk to North Korea about abduction issues after this. Are you consulting with Japan with regard to this timing and with the sanction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issues, and we encourage them to do so in a transparent manner, and we’d refer you to them for more information about their talks.

QUESTION: Can I just stay on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea this morning proposed that the two Koreas should halt hostile military activities later on this week. This appears to be ahead of the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. What is your reaction to this? Is this something that’s welcome or is it just a cynical ploy by Pyongyang to try and have some kind of image of being peace-loving ahead of the visit?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, we certainly support improved inter-Korean relations. But with these specific exercises, these are defense-oriented and they’re designed to enhance the ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise. They’re designed to increase readiness to defend South Korea and protect the region, and they occur around the same time every year and are a regular part of what happens in the region. So we’ve seen these calls before, and we certainly see the value in these exercises and the value in them continuing.

QUESTION: So you’re not going to halt the exercises ahead of the visit by Xi Jinping to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Defense, but I’m not aware of any plans to do that.

QUESTION: One more (inaudible). Under Six-Party Talks, does the U.S. have any optimistic plan to resumption of Six-Party Talks future or near – within this year?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the – it remains in the ball – the ball remains in North Korea’s court to take steps to abide by their international obligations in the 2005 Joint Statement. They haven’t shown an indication of their plans to do that, so I don’t have any prediction of a resumption.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In an hour or so, or less than an hour – 40 minutes from now – the cease-fire is supposed to expire. I noticed that there was another four-way phone call today between President Putin, Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, President Poroshenko. And I’m wondering – and out of that, it looks like everyone kind of agreed that it should be extended with the exception of maybe Poroshenko, because I’m not sure that it has been extended yet.

Do you support an extension of the cease-fire and do you think that the Russians have met the – or taken steps to meet the criteria that was laid out by the EU on Friday to do by today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, whether to extend the cease-fire is a decision that Ukraine and only Ukraine will make, and we’d certainly support the decision, whatever decision that they make. But it takes two to implement a cease-fire, and to answer your second question, there are still ongoing reports of fighters from Russia and Russia-backed separatists continuing to attack Ukrainian Government positions. There are still troops on the border. There are still armed militants in Ukraine with – who are posing a threat to the Ukrainian people. So there are steps that we’ve long been calling for that are a part of what President Poroshenko has been calling for that Russia has not done.

Now they have taken some steps that have been positive steps moving forward, but there’s a great deal more that they need to do in order to de-escalate the situation.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the – well, first of all, how – this cease-fire doesn’t seem to have been much of a cease-fire at all from the very beginning. But I’m wondering what you – because there have been a lot of reports of violations on both sides. But I’m wondering if you – if the U.S. Government’s understanding or the U.S. Government’s position is that the Ukrainian Government’s violations of the cease-fire have come in response – only in response to them being attacked themselves in self-defense. Is that your understanding?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding of what’s happening on the ground, and the Ukrainians were the ones who called for the cease-fire and exhibited admirable restraint in trying to implement the cease-fire, but there were steps that were taken from Russian-backed separatists that certainly didn’t abide by it.

QUESTION: So the Administration’s position is that the Ukrainian Government has and still is taking – is still showing admirable restraint in trying to keep the cease-fire alive and that violations are the fault of the Russian – of the separatists. Is that – that’s correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and certainly we’d be concerned about any violations, but I’m not – don’t know if there were specific ones you’re speaking to or reports or anything.

QUESTION: No, just in general. Just what – not anything specific. And then on the sanctions issue, you are not – the Administration is not yet prepared to pull the trigger on new sanctions? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain prepared to impose additional sanctions, including sectoral sanctions should circumstances warrant, in coordination with our allies and partners. But I don’t have anything to announce for all of you today.

QUESTION: And my last one on Ukraine has to do with the refugee numbers. I asked Marie about this last week.

MS. PSAKI: I know you had a --

QUESTION: Yes, we had a bit of an exchange.

MS. PSAKI: An active debate.

QUESTION: Well, I wouldn’t say debate.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, discussion.

QUESTION: An active exchange. Is it still your position that the numbers offered by the UN last week of 110,000 are inaccurate or not credible, as she said?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they certainly – the context here is incredibly important because the UN Refugee Agency claims less than 10 percent of the 110,000 that they have given as a number. 9,600 people have applied for asylum. That is a significantly lower number. So by noting that 110,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Russia, which we don’t have a validation of that either, it doesn’t give context of in what capacity or how. And it certainly doesn’t give validity to Russian claims that hundreds of thousands of people are pouring over the border seeking asylum in Russia.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it seems to be a bit – I don’t know – disingenuous to say that because only a small number of these people have actually applied for refugee – for asylum and refugee status in Russia that – it seems to be disingenuous to say that 110,000 people haven’t fled. You --

MS. PSAKI: We’re still looking into – I know Marie said this on Friday --

QUESTION: But your argument – your position is not based on – it’s – tell me this: Is your position based on the fact that only – that less than 10 percent of 110,000 people have actually applied for – formally applied for refugee status?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s part of the context here. We’re still talking to the UN agency about how they arrived at these numbers, but I think that’s an important component of the context.

QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t – that doesn’t mean that 100,000 people didn’t flee. Just because they haven’t formally applied doesn’t mean that 100,000 haven’t fled, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it doesn’t mean that they have either, so I think we’re --

QUESTION: Well, I – yeah, but – I know, but the UN is starting from the position or telling you or telling the world that 110,000 people have fled, and it just seems a bit odd if you’re – if your argument is, well, only 10,000 of them actually applied for refugee status, that means that the whole figure if is wrong --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think part of it is it’s unclear if they’re relying on Russian claims. And so we’re just in discussions with them about how they arrived at these numbers, and I think there’s some context that we felt was important to provide.

QUESTION: Okay, well, do you – and I had this – Marie and I had this exchange as well. I mean, is this the only case where you are not sure of the UN High Commissioner for Refugee’s numbers? I mean, why do you take their word – the numbers in Syria or outside of Syria, the numbers who have fled Syria if you’re not willing to take them on their – not willing to accept them in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certain if we had a question about the validity of the numbers there, we would have raised it as well. But I – again, we’re in conversations with them, and if there’s more to say, we’ll say it.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, they have not responded with – what are you actually asking them? How did you get your numbers? And then --

MS. PSAKI: Where did you arrive at – how did you arrive at the numbers, exactly.

QUESTION: And are you going to tell them that they have to prove it once they tell you? I mean what do you – I just – I’m not sure what you’re looking for. It seems to me that in almost every other situation, you guys accept the information that’s given by the UNHCR, and this case is somehow different, and I don’t understand – I’m not exactly sure why. That’s – why is this case different than Syria where you also don’t have people on the – eyes on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: We’re just looking for more context and information on the numbers, and we’ll be in touch with them about how they arrived at them.

QUESTION: Question about the cease-fire in Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: About – I’m sorry, which piece?

QUESTION: Because it was unilateral, the cease-fire that was announced, I guess, unilaterally by Poroshenko, correct – by the president of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So in this conversation today where they asked him to extend the cease-fire, it would be up to him to declare that since it is only one-sided?

MS. PSAKI: Up to President Poroshenko?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you sort of leaning on him or are you asking him to extend the cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve – it’s a decision for Ukraine and Ukraine --

QUESTION: I understand, but the --

MS. PSAKI: -- only to make. Obviously, we’re in close consultations.

QUESTION: Are you encouraging him to extend the cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s for – it’s a decision for Ukraine to make.

Let’s just do a few more. Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: On Nigeria. Is the United States still working with Nigeria on the abducted schoolgirls? There’s been really nothing in recent weeks. And are you guys still working with officials on this?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly are. The search for the kidnapped girls is ongoing. The Nigerians remain in the lead. We have a team that’s been on the ground for several weeks now. We’ll continue to evaluate additional resources, what additional resources we can provide. I wish I did have an update on it, but unfortunately there’s not one at this point to provide.

QUESTION: There’s been reporting over the weekend that some residents in northeastern Nigeria have basically formed their own militias because the Nigerian military can’t or won’t come into their areas to protect them from Boko Haram attacks. What has the U.S. been saying to Goodluck Jonathan and to his government about the need to mobilize their military and to be more proactive rather than having small groups of people who don’t have firearms going up against people with semiautomatic rifles?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, our discussions with Nigeria about addressing the threat of Boko Haram have been ongoing for months now. There’s no doubt there are challenges – challenges the Nigerian Government faces and those who are taking on this threat on the ground. And we’re certainly working with them to boost their capacity and advise them on how best to address it. But I’m not going to outline it further than that.

QUESTION: But doesn’t it worry people in this building that the security situation inside what is arguably the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa – that people don’t feel they can trust their own security apparatus and that they have to take up weapons themselves to try to protect themselves from a vital security threat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I’d remind you that we, the United States, has boosted our resources that we’re providing to the Nigerian Government in order to help them take on the threat of Boko Haram because of our rising concern about that threat. So we too feel that there needs to be increased capacity, and our resources and our efforts have also backed that up.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: There are reports that there were a series of attacks yesterday in Borno State in four villages outside of the area where the girls were kidnapped. Explosives were thrown into churches and around 50 people were hurt – or killed. Do you have any reaction to that? Any information you can share?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have new information. I know there are similarities. It fits the – Boko Haram’s recent pattern in terms of target attacks and methods of attack. They haven’t seen – unless it’s happened in the last hour, I don’t think they have come out and claimed responsibility, but regardless of that, we condemn the reported attacks on four villages near Chibok. Our sympathies go out to the victims and their families. We remain committed to helping the Government of Nigeria address the threat posed by the criminal terrorist group. Our Embassy continues to support Nigerian efforts to bring about the safe recovery of the abductees and to advise the Government of Nigeria on its response.

And as I noted in response to Roz’s question, certainly, we all are concerned about the rising threat of Boko Haram, and we are – have been increasing our assistance as a result of that.

QUESTION: But to Roz’s point, we’ve got some leaders from the Chibok area who said that the military didn’t even bother to go and try and – attempt to try and go to the scene of this latest attack, which would – again, would suggest that they’re in completely – in complete disarray despite any efforts that the Americans might be offering them on the ground.

I mean, are you finding that they’re responsive to what you’re trying to aid them with, or are they just not listening at all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t – I don’t have any validation of all of those reports, and what I know is that because of our concern about the threat that’s risen over the course of the last several months – obviously, the kidnapping, other attacks that have happened since then have prompted us to increase our assistance, to do more training, to do more to boost the capacity of the Nigerian military and of the Nigerian Government. So I don’t have anything to speak to as it relates to reports of whether or not they went to the villages because I don’t have any additional information on that.

QUESTION: Can you take the question on what additional assistance has been provided to the Nigerian military, in particular whether it’s lethal aid, nonlethal aid, whether it’s training, whether it’s advising, whether it’s working in teams? Can you provide a – some more detail on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can --

QUESTION: Because my --

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to outline it, Roz --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- as we’ve done many times before from here. But we maintain a significant level of military cooperation that includes increasing counterterrorism capabilities to counter IEDs and enhance civilian-military operations. We’re providing additional equipment for Nigeria’s intelligence fusion center. We’re also providing military training and other assistance to help professionalize the Nigerian military and increase its maritime security and peacekeeping capabilities.

We also work with the Special Boat Service and other Leahy-cleared conventional and special operations unit. We’re providing law enforcement assistance, including by training Nigerian law enforcement officials on CT investigations, basic forensics, border security, counter-IED and post-blast investigations, and crisis management. We also support programs and initiatives to combat violent extremist ideology, including job training and education. And we’re working with civil society nongovernmental organizations in various levels of government to provide humanitarian and development assistance.

So as you can see, our assistance is – it’s a broad breadth, and we feel that working with all of those areas is vital to continuing to counter the threat.

Let’s just do a few more here.

QUESTION: Panama?

MS. PSAKI: Panama, go ahead.

QUESTION: Panama. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As you probably know, President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan will also visit Panama to attend the ceremony. Does Secretary Kerry has any plan to talk to him officially or unofficially?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no plans at this point in time.

Do we have one more in the back?

QUESTION: (Off-mike), it’s quite hard to meet him. What is your position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar with our position on Taiwan as it relates to our unofficial relationship. I don’t have any – there’s no meeting planned.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Regarding Japanese collective self-defense, so Japanese cabinet seems to approve the use of collective self-defense tomorrow. So what does the U.S. Government expect from it and what’s going to be the reaction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken about this in the past, I believe, and our view that Japan has every right to conduct them – to provide the necessary – to equip themselves, I should say – sorry, it’s a tongue twister – to equip themselves in the way they deem necessary. We encourage them to do that in a transparent manner, and we remain in touch with them about these important issues.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)

DPB # 115


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 27, 2014

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 20:40

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 27, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel Update / Meetings in Saudi Arabia
    • Welcome to Visiting Pakistani Journalists / ECA Exchange Program
  • SUDAN
    • Meriam Ibrahim Released on Bail
  • SYRIA/SAUDI ARABIA
    • Meeting with President Jarba / Syria / ISIL Threat
    • Meeting with King Abdullah / Syria
  • SYRIA
    • U.S. Assistance to Syrian Opposition / Request for Additional Assistance from Congress / Lethal Assistance / Complementary Efforts
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Street Name Change in Front of Chinese Embassy
  • SYRIA
    • U.S. Assistance to Syrian Opposition / Complicated Situation
  • UKRAINE
    • EU Accession Agreements
    • European Council / Russia Sanctions
    • Reports of Border Crossings into Russia / UNHCR
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Ambassador Indyk Resignation / Pause in Negotiations / Commitment to Making Progress
  • IRAQ
    • ISIL Threat in Iraq / ISIL and the Assad Regime / U.S. Assistance / Reports of Airstrikes
    • Maliki's Comments / Electoral Process / New Parliament / Inclusive Government
    • Iran's Role / Russia's Role
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Hariri in Paris
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia
    • ISIL Funding
  • BENGHAZI
    • Benghazi / Consulate Computers
    • Abu Khattala
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Landmines / Ottawa Convention
  • INDIA
    • U.S.-India Partnership
  • R.O.K./CHINA
    • Regional Relations / China
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Street Name Change in Front of Chinese Embassy
  • IRAQ
    • Iran's Role in Iraq
    • Iraq's Future
    • Military Needs / Assistance / F-16s
    • Grand Ayatollah Sistani / Next Leadership


TRANSCRIPT:

1:35 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Look at this full house on a Friday. Hello. Welcome to the briefing.

QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MS. HARF: Happy Friday, everyone. I have just two quick items at the top. First, a quick travel update. The Secretary, as you know, is in Saudi Arabia where he met with King Abdullah, also met with President Jarba of the SOC, of course, and is on his way back to Washington – I think en route to Shannon right now and then will be on his way back.

And would like to welcome the group in the back of the room. We’re welcomed today by 20 Pakistani broadcast journalists who have spent the past month working in newsrooms across the country – wave hi. (Laughter.) They’ve spent the past month working in newsrooms across the country as participants in the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism. Since 2010, more than 180 Pakistani journalists have come to the U.S. on this exchange; 30 Americans have traveled to Pakistan for reciprocal programming. This is one of the many exchange programs sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that support the Department’s commitment to promoting free and open press around the world. And thank you so much for being here today. Hopefully we’ll have instructive and lively briefing.

So with that, Matt.

QUESTION: I am sure that we will be able to produce that.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Before we get into other things, I got two really quick that may or may not be breaking. One, are you aware of a shooting incident with Mexican law enforcement authorities shooting into Arizona?

MS. HARF: I am not.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you – maybe somebody – it happened earlier today.

MS. HARF: Yeah. We can check, but --

QUESTION: And then the second thing is, is there any update on Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan?

MS. HARF: I just have a quick update, and I know we sent around one last night as well. She was released yesterday by the Sudanese police on bail. The family has been taken to a safe location. For their safety, we won’t be discussing the family’s location from here. We are in communication with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible. And again, we believe that she and her children have all the necessary travel documents to allow them to enter the United States.

QUESTION: And – okay. Well, her lawyer says that she – that they’re at the embassy. You cannot --

MS. HARF: For safety reasons, we won’t --

QUESTION: You can’t confirm that? Okay.

MS. HARF: -- be commenting on specifics from here.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. I’ll let someone else go before we get back into Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Cede the ground. Who’s next?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Said, I’m looking at you.

QUESTION: Okay. On Saudi Arabia, can you at least update us on what possibly they may have agreed to? Is it – did they focus on Iraq or did they focus on Syria? I mean, things seem to be mixed up because he met with Jarba, they announced the $500 million in aid and so on.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So if you’d just bring us up to date, up to speed on that.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, in terms of the meeting with SOC President Jarba, just a quick readout. Talked about our ongoing efforts to strengthen the moderate opposition. President Jarba thanked Secretary Kerry for the President’s recent request yesterday to Congress for additional funding to train and equip vetted members of the armed opposition. Secretary Kerry encouraged President Jarba to continue to take steps to reach out to people within Syria, to continue to expand the leadership of the opposition. Finally, they also discussed the threat from ISIL, of course, not just to Iraq and Syria but to all countries in the region. Secretary Kerry provided President Jarba with an update on his meetings in Paris, the ones he had with the foreign ministers from the region, and reiterated the shared commitment to a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

With King Abdullah, I don’t have a fuller readout yet, but know they talked about Iraq certainly, our efforts against ISIL, and to support the Iraqis as they form an inclusive government; also talked a little bit about Syria and the recent request as well.

QUESTION: Seeing how these groups, these militant groups, moderate or otherwise, find – morph into something like ISIL, or potentially morph into something like ISIL, is it really wise to provide them with $500 million worth of aid and equipment? I mean, because that is – these are fungible groups. They go from one to the other.

MS. HARF: That’s true. So a few points on that. To mitigate the risk of assistance falling into the wrong hands, all of the moderate units that are receiving or will be receiving our assistance are vetted through our formal process – we have a process in place – and are coordinated with the Supreme Military Council as well. So this is one of the things we’ve always talked about, right, vetting who we give this to, and we’ve – that’s also why we said, look, we need to be very careful and deliberate as we decide who to give assistance to. So we give it to the moderate opposition and are very clear about the fact that ISIL and Nusrah are of course terrorist organizations and we don’t want anything to fall into their hands.

QUESTION: And just yesterday, the Free Syrian Army handed over, without a fight, without firing a shot, a town called Albu Kamal, Bukamal, which is al-Qaim on the Iraqi border, without firing a shot to ISIS. So do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to give, I think, a battleground update.

QUESTION: Isn’t that the moderate opposition that you talk about?

MS. HARF: Well, we know the situation is complicated on the ground, and that’s exactly why we have said we are going to provide additional assistance to train and equip the moderate, vetted, Syrian opposition. We know they need more resources. We have been steadily increasing – excuse me – our resources to them. As you know, last year we increased our assistance both in the scale and scope. The President at West Point said we’d be doing more, and you’ve seen with the announcement last night or yesterday afternoon that, indeed, we are going to be doing more.

QUESTION: The $500 million is part of that $5 billion that the President spoke about in West Point?

MS. HARF: It is. So yesterday we provided Congress with an amendment to the President’s FY 2015 request. This is $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip. That falls under a request for 1.5 billion, which will be dedicated to a regional stabilization initiative. There’s a lot of numbers we’re throwing out here. Of the 5 billion that we are requesting for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, State will receive 1 billion of it, and the Defense Department will receive 4 billion of it.

QUESTION: Marie, a few points on this.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: One, there have been many critics who have been saying for at least two years, not leaving out members of Congress, who have said --

MS. HARF: Why would we leave them out?

QUESTION: -- yeah – who have said that the U.S. should have been providing lethal assistance to the opposition then and that the only reason why this money is being provided now is because of the intensity with which ISIL is wreaking havoc in neighboring Iraq. Is it because of ISIL that this Administration has decided to provide aid that before now it had said, for the same reason, we don’t know who’s going to actually control this equipment and we don’t want to take the risk of it having – having it fall into the wrong hands?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. First, ISIL is only one part of the decision to provide this assistance. So overall, we have a number of goals with this assistance: of course building the Syrians’ capacity to help secure and stabilize Syria; also helping the moderate opposition defend civilians against attacks by the regime and by extremists, so by both, really the threat is clearly coming from both; to counter terrorist threats to stabilize areas under opposition control – that’s obviously an important component of this – and help facilitate the provision of essential services. So also when we talk about things like humanitarian, when we talk about things like getting other kinds of assistance, nonlethal, to the opposition, this can help secure areas to do that.

And I think what we’ve also said is last year we did announce that we had expanded the scale and scope of our assistance. We don’t detail all of that. But we have continued to ramp it up and we do believe this new effort is really complementary to what we’ve already done and will just build on the work that we’ve already done.

QUESTION: A number of military analysts have been looking at the situation inside Syria, and they suggest that the Syrian Government has regained enough control where it really does have the advantage at this point. So another way of asking the question: Is this money coming too late for the Syrian opposition to engage in a fair fight?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve been – this assistance does not come in a vacuum, right? We’ve been continuing to increase our assistance. Again, last year we made a fairly significant announcement when we announced that we had upped the scale and scope of our assistance, and we’ve been doing that continuously.

But we know the situation on the battlefield is a challenging one for the moderate opposition, again not just because of the regime, but because of the terrorist element that is also wreaking havoc with so much of the security. So this is an ongoing fight. We’ve been committed to standing by the Syrian opposition as they’ve engaged in it, but we know that they need some more assistance, which is exactly why we’re doing it now.

QUESTION: This money is going up in a supplemental appropriation, to use the colloquial term. Given that Congress is out for at least the next week, and given that there is growing sentiment about U.S. involvement in any sort of conflict in the region, how confident is this Administration that it’s going to get this funding approved without too many strings attached?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, it – just to do a little history on this funding, the language in this request builds on a provision that Senator Levin introduced with overwhelming support from his committee during the Senate Armed Services markup of the NDAA in May. Again, that amendment had gotten a large amount of bipartisan support from the committee, so we’ll keep working with Congress. But this is something I think they’ve been interested in doing and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: So is it reasonable confidence, strong confidence that this money will be appropriated so that --

MS. HARF: Well, we --

QUESTION: -- people aren’t waiting another six months to find out?

MS. HARF: Right. No, no. We – and we certainly have – are working with them. They’ve indicated support for this kind of support in the amendment they had passed to the NDAA in May. So, look, we’ll work with them, but we think this is something we should be able to get done fairly quickly.

QUESTION: So you know what I’m going to ask you, right?

MS. HARF: I have no idea. Are you going to ask me about the Chinese street right now? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, yeah, since you’re willing to comment on pending legislation having to do with this, I’m wondering why – what’s the deal here?

MS. HARF: Because very often, more often than not, we don’t comment on pending legislation.

QUESTION: Except that you just did.

MS. HARF: Right. Sometimes we do.

QUESTION: So if it’s something you want, then you’ll talk about it. If it’s something you don’t want --

MS. HARF: Your analysis on this, while entertaining this week --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- has, I think, gotten to a point where you’re going to get the same answer every time.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: But I am going to bring the street up again later.

MS. HARF: Okay. I’ll make sure to --

QUESTION: If – but I want to go to Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Well, is there anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: On Syria.

MS. HARF: Okay, and then we’ll go to Ukraine, Matt.

QUESTION: Just a couple days ago, President Obama was interviewed and asked why the Administration didn’t help the opposition. And he actually said that the challenge is if you have former farmers, teachers, and pharmacists who are taking up opposition against a battle-hardened regime, it’s difficult. It is just a couple days ago he stated this.

MS. HARF: Well, it’s still difficult. That doesn’t change the fact that we believe it’s important to provide this additional assistance at this time. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

QUESTION: So a couple days later, White House stated that $500 million are going to the moderate opposition.

MS. HARF: As part of a broader package with some more money. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So many people are confused to reconcile these two statement or the policies --

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think there’s any confusion about those two statements. The President has made very clear that the situation in Syria is a complicated one, and that as we make decisions about providing assistance, we need to take a look at all of the factors, including how it could affect the situation on the ground, making sure the folks that we’re giving it to are vetted. Those all play into our decision making.

So what the President said is true. It is complicated. And when you have a regime with the – both the will and the ability to use barrel bombs, to use chemical weapons as they have in the past, that’s a really tough fight. But that’s why we’re committed to helping the opposition, and indeed, why yesterday you saw an announcement of additional assistance.

QUESTION: So the --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- just follow-up on same statement.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Since the President stated this, there have been a lot of reactions to this. And just yesterday, Washington Post publish another piece and saying that founding fathers of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson was a former farmer, John Adams was teacher, and Benjamin Franklin was pharmacist. So --

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I didn’t see that entertaining piece from The Washington Post, but look, the President has been clear that we support the moderate opposition, which is made up of a whole range of Syrians who stood up and said they want a better future. And that’s why we’ve consistently increased the funding to them. But again, this is a tough fight. I think what the President was saying and was underscoring is that the regime has a number of tools they have shown themselves willing to use to put this down forcefully, and that’s why we need to keep increasing the support to the opposition; this is just the latest step in that. We think it’s an important step. But I don’t have much more analysis to do on what The Washington Post may have said, which, of course, I didn’t see.

QUESTION: One – go ahead.

QUESTION: When do you expect this money to be available to the opposition?

MS. HARF: We don’t have a specific timeline. As you know, we – I think we have to obviously get it approved by Congress and there’s some logistical issues that still need to be worked out, but I don’t have a – obviously, as soon as possible, but no specific time.

QUESTION: Months? Years?

MS. HARF: I don’t have even – no, well, hopefully not years. No, no. But I don’t have a guess on specifics.

QUESTION: Just one more on this.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: The Pentagon said last night that it needs to figure out plans for spending most of the money that’s going to be appropriated for this aid and training. What is the State Department going to do with its share of the money?

MS. HARF: We’re still looking into that. Obviously, how it will specifically be broken down I think is still TBD at this point. Our portion of the money will – then this is, again, a billion dollars – will help mitigate in general the spillover effects on the neighbors by helping to curb violent extremists – extremism, limit the flow of foreign fighters, will also enable us to bolster our partners’ civilian counterterrorism capabilities, including law enforcement, prosecution, judicial as well. So we will be working with countries in the region with our bucket of money. I’m not sure that we know yet how it will be broken down.

QUESTION: But there’s no rough plan, knowing that this was coming?

MS. HARF: I mean, there are rough thoughts on it, but we don’t have specifics to share at this point.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yep. Okay.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Ukraine.

QUESTION: You have seen and the Secretary put a statement out on the EU accession partnership deal – accession.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I’m not – so I’m not asking about that because we already know what you think about that. I’m wondering more specifically about this giving – them giving Russia until Monday to prove that it’s willing to honor the – or – and support the ceasefire. Is that something that the Administration agrees with? And are you also going to wait until Monday before possibly doing any new sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, just a few points, and just very briefly. One sentence on the association agreements, you saw the Secretary’s statement – I think it is noteworthy that exactly what President Putin was trying to prevent from his interfering in Ukraine has now happened, and he has on top of that a lot of baggage to go with it – and with Georgia and Moldova, happen more quickly than it would’ve otherwise. So what he was trying to prevent, exactly the opposite happened today.

QUESTION: All right. So you would agree, then, with, perhaps – tell me, would you agree with your former predecessor of yours, PJ Crowley, who said that this – these accession agreements are a big win for the West?

MS. HARF: I think that we absolutely think – look, this isn’t about a win for the West; it’s about a win for these countries who were able to decide who they wanted to partner with.

QUESTION: Right, so you don’t --

MS. HARF: But yeah, we do think this is a very good thing.

QUESTION: But you don’t – you would not say from the podium that this is a big win for the West, as he said?

MS. HARF: As much as I would like to always repeat what PJ has said. No, look, I agree with the sentiment, certainly.

QUESTION: You do. Okay. Well, then --

MS. HARF: Yeah, I think this is a good thing.

QUESTION: -- how can you guys claim, then, that this is a zero-sum game – that it’s not a zero-sum game, that there isn’t a Cold War, that if you guys are --

MS. HARF: I love these questions that you tee up like this.

QUESTION: -- cheering up?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t cheering anything; you teed it up that way. I said I agreed with the sentiment. But what I said first --

QUESTION: Well, exactly.

MS. HARF: -- wait, what I said first --

QUESTION: And then you said it was a big deal.

MS. HARF: -- what I said first was that this is a win for the people of these countries --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- who were able to choose who they could trade with more freely, who they wanted to partner with. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not at all.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds as though people are reacting to it like that.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to use those words --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- and I’m not going to repeat what PJ said.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MS. HARF: So, yep.

QUESTION: Okay. So let’s go to the three days, the Monday thing.

MS. HARF: Okay. So, yes. So the European Council did make it clear. They – I think they laid out some conditions. We have never outlined a deadline for sanctions, as I said yesterday. We are in very close consultation with them, but obviously, we can make decisions at the time of our choosing on sanctions, and we have done so and will continue to do so. But look, Russia has standards now it can live up to, right. They’ve said these are three things you can do --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- and we’re going to see if they do them.

QUESTION: But you agree with those things? I mean, you --

MS. HARF: That they need to do them.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.

MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely. Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, you – so you are on board with the European Council giving them until Monday to --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly agree with the steps they’ve been asked to take. Again, this is a time the European Council decided on. We also note that President Poroshenko has extended the unilateral ceasefire by three days. So some of this timing does match up.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But you are in basic agreement even though you’re not going to be bound – like, you could act tomorrow on sanctions if you wanted to, but --

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Absolutely. And also note that the four of the OSCE monitors were released, which we also do believe is a good thing. There are still four being held. Obviously, we want them to be released.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any comment on the former prime minister’s case being thrown – or Tymoshenko’s being cleared --

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m happy to see if there’s anything we want to say to that.

QUESTION: Now last week and again this week, both you and Jen were very dismissive of these reports of thousands of people fleeing --

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: -- Ukraine into Russia.

MS. HARF: And I’m going to be again today, but let’s talk about it a little bit.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, last Friday, in response to my saying my question, which was have – you have seen nothing like this, that there is no mass exodus or even close to thousands that are crossing the border from Ukraine into Russia, fleeing their homes, and Jen replied, “Correct.” And then I asked again on Monday – you – and I said it’s still your understanding that reports in Russia of enormous amounts of refugee flows are incorrect, and you said, “Incorrect, yes.”

Well, today the UN refugee agency comes out in Geneva and says that 110,000 Ukrainians have fled this year for Russia – fled Ukraine to Russia – and that 54,000 have fled their homes in Ukraine but have stayed in Ukraine. I’m wondering, were you guys just completely misled by the Ukrainians and by --

MS. HARF: We don’t think those numbers are credible.

QUESTION: You think that the UN refugee agency is wrong?

MS. HARF: Right. So let’s talk about this a little bit. Let’s talk about this a little bit. There – look, it is certainly likely and probable, right, that some thousands may have crossed the border. There’s been quite a bit of border crossing both ways, we should note. So there’s been a – people go back and forth quite frequently. This is a – as we’ve now seen – fairly porous border. So the notion that there may be some thousands that have crossed is certainly probable. What we’re saying is not credible is the notion that there’s 90,000, hundreds of thousands that are fleeing from Ukraine to Russia. We just have seen no evidence to support that. We don’t believe they’re credible. We’re watching; we’re monitoring the situation. And obviously, this is – this isn’t a science. This is an art in some respects, because you can’t have people all along the border. But we just don’t think that the hundreds of thousands number is credible. We don’t have anything to corroborate it.

QUESTION: But it’s not hundreds of thousands, it’s 110,000.

MS. HARF: Or that 100,000. We don’t – we just don’t have anything to corroborate that or show that it’s credible.

QUESTION: But I mean – okay, so you --

MS. HARF: We don’t have our own evidence.

QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. But then you – that’s understandable, but this is the UN. This isn’t the Russians saying this. This is the United Nations --

MS. HARF: Right. I’m not saying there’s any --

QUESTION: This is an agency that you guys give millions and millions of dollars to --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- and they’re now no longer credible?

MS. HARF: We don’t have anything to back up that number, Matt.

QUESTION: Well – but you cite UNHCR and you cite the UN Human Rights Commission --

MS. HARF: We do.

QUESTION: -- upon plenty of things that you have no – don’t have your own evidence to back up.

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. HARF: When we use numbers from people – outside agencies, I think we tend to back them up with our own analysis as well. But on this we just don’t have anything to corroborate the --

QUESTION: You do? So that when they say something about North Korea, where you have absolutely no idea what’s going on, you don’t have anyone on the ground --

MS. HARF: I would take issue with that a little bit, “have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”

QUESTION: Well – yeah, but there’s no way that you can back up World Food Program statistics on hunger or malnutrition in North Korea on your own. You just take them and you accept them as credible, because they come from the UN.

MS. HARF: I think you’re making some sweeping generalizations about how we do analysis.

QUESTION: I’m wondering why – is it something with the UN refugee agency that you don’t believe? What --

MS. HARF: No. No. Again, we’ve seen numbers thrown around by a number of people, including the Russians. We don’t have any – we don’t think that those huge numbers are credible. We don’t have information to back it up. So until we do, I’m not going to stand up here and make assumptions without having facts. So we’ll keep looking at it.

QUESTION: I mean --

MS. HARF: And again --

QUESTION: -- some would argue that you – that by – that you’re doing that already.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m happy to have that argument with someone, whoever that someone might be. But my point is, look, as I said, I can see that – the fact that there are numbers of people who do travel back and forth.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: It’s a very porous border. There are families that have contacts on both sides. So I can’t rule out the possibility that even up to thousands of people have crossed one way or the other.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But this notion that there’s 100,000 Ukrainians who have fled en masse to Russia we just don’t believe is credible at this point. We’re looking into it. I’m not ruling it out entirely for eternity that we ever could get to that assessment, but we just don’t have anything to back it up.

QUESTION: Okay. But I – is there anything – can I ask: Do you have doubts about the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on other --

MS. HARF: We don’t.

QUESTION: -- another situation?

MS. HARF: Look, this is a credible organization.

QUESTION: This is the only one?

MS. HARF: Right. It’s a credible organization, and we’re looking into these reports and seeing if we can confirm them.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s a credible organization with incredible figures.

MS. HARF: We just can’t confirm their data on this one issue, Matt. I think you can understand that.

QUESTION: So do you think that they have the wrong data, or --

MS. HARF: We don’t know.

QUESTION: -- they have some sort of a hidden agenda?

MS. HARF: I don’t think they have an agenda. At least, I haven’t heard of one. We just don’t know, and we can’t back it up. And we want to be precise before we come out with our own assessment about what we have information on and what we don’t.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you believe that what happened today will give Russia cause to become more belligerent?

MS. HARF: What happened today in terms of what?

QUESTION: In terms of joining the – trading with the Europeans and all the – the decision to do that.

MS. HARF: Well no, because as we’ve said, look, it’s up to the people in these countries to decide their futures. Russia has a path forward here the European Council and others have laid out for them, steps they need to take, and we hope that they take some of them.

QUESTION: So you think this will give them pause to sort of take a look back and maybe --

MS. HARF: We certainly hope it does.

QUESTION: -- be – okay.

MS. HARF: We certainly hope it does.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ambassador Indyk resignation.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: We saw the Secretary’s statement. We didn’t see the word “resignation” or “resign.” Why?

MS. HARF: Right, because you all like to use words that aren’t always accurate.

QUESTION: Why? He didn’t resign today?

MS. HARF: Well, he will technically, I think, probably – no, yeah. Yeah. The AP had a line particularly – the term “quit” I think is a little negative in tone. But yes --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Huh?

QUESTION: Well one, I don’t write headlines. (Laughter.) But two --

MS. HARF: I know you don’t, I know you don’t.

Wait, just going back to that, he will be --

QUESTION: “Quit” also means “to leave.”

MS. HARF: Well, it has a negative connotation.

QUESTION: Well, it isn’t intended to be negative.

MS. HARF: Okay.

He will be leaving his post here. I’m not sure bureaucratically, technically what he has to do, whether that’s submit a letter of resignation. It probably is. But he will be returning to the Brookings Institute. Frank Lowenstein, who many of you know, who has worked for the Secretary for a decade now – was his chief of staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been very involved in these negotiations – will be serving as the acting special envoy. Ambassador Indyk will continue to work closely with the Secretary on these issues from his position at Brookings.

QUESTION: But as a paid --

QUESTION: So what was the reason why?

QUESTION: As a paid advisor, or just --

MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge is he – I don’t believe he’s going to be paid.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So then he did – I mean --

MS. HARF: I think he probably will technically have to, yes.

QUESTION: He didn’t --

QUESTION: Why are you using --

MS. HARF: He’s not taking a leave of absence. Let me check on the bureaucratic paperwork here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Why do you think he stayed long time after the failure of the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re in a pause right now.

QUESTION: No. It took him more than two months to resign or to leave this position.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: Why is that?

MS. HARF: But that’s why I said we’re in a pause in the negotiations right now. And I think he’s been working intensively with the parties to see if they could come back to the table in a meaningful way, and we haven’t been able to get there yet. So he will continue advising the Secretary on this, but will be going back to Brookings for the time being.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can we assume that this was his decision?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: That --

MS. HARF: That yes, it was his decision.

QUESTION: Okay, so --

QUESTION: I just want to clarify --

QUESTION: -- what was the justification?

MS. HARF: Wait, wait, wait, Said. Let me do Roz first.

QUESTION: So what was his justification when he told the Secretary that he would be returning to Brookings? Did he say --

MS. HARF: Well, it was a decision they made together.

QUESTION: Well, did he say, for example, I keep talking to both sides and neither side is willing to even come back into the same room --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- to acknowledge each other’s existence?

MS. HARF: In general, I’m not going to get into the specific language he used, but it, since the negotiations have been suspended, seemed to be an appropriate time for him to return to his job at Brookings. At this point, there are no current plans to find a permanent replacement for him. As I said, Frank Lowenstein will continue as acting special envoy.

QUESTION: Well, if there’s no plan --

QUESTION: But is he --

QUESTION: If there’s no plan to find a permanent representative, does that mean that for all intents and purposes the talks are dead, and not in a pause?

MS. HARF: No. No, I wouldn’t say that. Look, the Secretary and the President, certainly, are still committed to trying to make progress here. We’re still deeply engaged with both of the parties to see if they can get back to the table. That process is ongoing, it will continue. But again, this seemed like an appropriate time for him to return to Brookings.

QUESTION: So is that – well, so why would Frank Lowenstein, if he – how can he be acting if there are no plans to find a permanent – you’re going to just have a permanent acting person? Why not just give Frank Lowenstein the job or just not have a special envoy?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything to preview in terms of what might happen down the road. But obviously, if folks remember, Frank was also a senior advisor to the Secretary last summer when the talks got restarted. So he’s been very involved in the process.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: So I don’t understand what the point of having an acting is. Why not either give him the job or not have a job?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll make decisions about what that job will look like in the coming days and weeks, I think.

QUESTION: Marie --

QUESTION: The title of “acting” is --

MS. HARF: Hold on, Roz. Let me go to Said.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Could you clarify for us if the team’s still – is here?

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: I mean, David Makovsky, Phil Gordon. I mean, all the others that are members of the team.

MS. HARF: Phil Gordon works at the White House.

QUESTION: I understand, but he was sort of --

MS. HARF: Yeah. He certainly works on this issue.

QUESTION: -- loaned out to work. Right.

MS. HARF: Yeah. A lot of the folks you all are familiar with are still part of the team. They’re all still working. This is just Ambassador Indyk going back to Brookings.

QUESTION: Okay. So although the talks are suspended, the team is still in place.

MS. HARF: The team is still in place.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: They’re still engaged with both parties. That’s why, look, this is a pause. It is a tough time. We’ve said that since the talks did go on a pause, but they’re still very deeply engaged.

QUESTION: Are there – is there any engagement ongoing now by the team --

MS. HARF: There is.

QUESTION: -- and the Palestinians and the Israelis?

MS. HARF: There absolutely is. We’re not going to outline all of it, but there is.

Yes, Roz. Sorry.

QUESTION: Is there – how much credibility can Mr. Lowenstein have if he is an acting person? How much authority can he convey as the interlocutor during this period?

MS. HARF: As I just, he was a senior advisor to the Secretary when we got talks restarted last summer before Ambassador Indyk came on. So Frank has been deeply engaged with both parties, has very good relationships with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I don’t think our interlocutors always look at the title. I think they look at the person and the relationship they’ve built with them, and they’ve certainly built a very strong one with Frank.

QUESTION: But certainly, wouldn’t that – having the formal job as Elise was suggesting – make it easier for one negotiator to return to his or her government, as the case may be, and say the Americans are suggesting that we take a look at the issue this way? Doesn’t it come with more weight?

MS. HARF: I don’t think the presence of that word in his title affects his credibility or his influence in any way, shape, or form. He’s been deeply engaged with both sides, has a lot of credibility with both sides. Again, he was playing the key role with the Secretary when the talks got restarted, so I think he absolutely – people know that when he speaks on this issue, he has the full confidence and backing and is speaking for the Secretary.

QUESTION: This is the second run at trying to broker some sort of peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Is the Administration going to try for a third time?

MS. HARF: Well, the second effort at this is still ongoing. While the direct negotiations have taken a pause, our efforts behind the scenes to work with both parties to get them back to the table are ongoing. It’s challenging, certainly, but we’re still in discussions and we’re still in negotiations talking to them about how they could do that.

QUESTION: And one more. The Secretary’s statement alluded to the progress that was made while Ambassador Indyk was in the position. What are they?

MS. HARF: Well, in general, we were able to define the gaps between the two parties on all the core issues in a fairly detailed and significant way. That’s something that we broadly knew before that, but I think was one of the things we would say was important. You can’t bridge gaps until you’ve defined them.

Also, American bridging ideas were developed in negotiations with the different parties to try and make progress on some of those gaps. Now again, we are in a pause. We haven’t been able to move forward with that. But these are key parts and components of the process that need to happen in order to eventually get to a deal.

QUESTION: That’s a pretty low bar for saying “progress.”

MS. HARF: Well, you’re happy to do your own analysis on this, Matt.

QUESTION: Really? Defining the gaps? You didn’t know them before?

MS. HARF: I don’t think for the two – specifically defining them. Specific areas, really drilling down on what those might look like. I do think that for those two parties, sitting down and talking about that directly is significant progress.

QUESTION: Really? Okay. So you didn’t realize before --

MS. HARF: Again, you can do your own analysis on it, but I would say that that is progress.

QUESTION: Well, let’s just take one of the issues: right of return, right?

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into specifics on any of the issues.

QUESTION: The Israelis say no way, no right of return; the Palestinians say we have to have it. There’s the gap right there.

MS. HARF: Well, they say something --

QUESTION: And you learned more?

MS. HARF: They say certain things publicly, Matt. But privately, when you drill down on specifics on all the issues and where the gaps actually lie – those are broad gaps. We’re talking about specifics. It’s very different. We think there was progress made, but clearly much more work to do.

QUESTION: So you think that you define – so you think that there was some – you got more information that you were able to --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- about every single one of the points of contention.

MS. HARF: About all of the gaps, yes. We do.

QUESTION: And – but – and you call that progress? Isn’t progress --

MS. HARF: I think more information on gaps is progress, yes.

QUESTION: Well isn’t – no, isn’t progress actually narrowing the gaps?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s part of what progress will look like. But in any negotiation, you have to define the problem specifically before you can go about narrowing those gaps, and that’s certainly what we did here.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know, but it just seems to me that – and I think to most of the world that the problem is obvious.

MS. HARF: Well, but within each of those issues, Matt, it’s – it may be obvious to you, but what those gaps actually look like is quite complicated. If it were as obvious to you as you seem to make it seem, we would’ve done this a long time ago. So while I appreciate your analysis of how simple the situation is, when you get in that room and you say, “Let’s look at these issues; let’s look at all of them in detail,” those specific gaps in where we cannot come to agreement are what will define the negotiation progress going forward.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. HARF: And we hadn’t done that in the current situation until this last round.

QUESTION: But that’s not – I mean, I’m not the one who’s saying that progress was made. You guys are.

MS. HARF: No, I am. Exactly.

QUESTION: Exactly. So --

MS. HARF: You’re disagreeing with my analysis here.

QUESTION: I’m saying – I’m not. I’m just saying that I don’t see how you can call defining the gaps that you already knew progress.

MS. HARF: We didn’t know them at this level at --

QUESTION: The bar is very low, Matt.

MS. HARF: We didn’t --

QUESTION: Apparently so. Or non-existent.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I mean, just --

MS. HARF: We didn’t --

QUESTION: I’ll drop it. I just --

MS. HARF: We didn’t know the specificities --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Wait. Wait. We didn’t know the specificities at this level in all of the issues. No, we had not had those specific-level conversations with the two parties in the same room for a long time.

QUESTION: Since Camp David?

QUESTION: Let me ask you a question on this.

MS. HARF: Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: Not to belabor the issue, but if the talks – should the talks restart --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- any time soon, will you have to start all over again, or will you begin from where you ended?

MS. HARF: Well, the goal certainly is always to build on the progress you’ve already made.

QUESTION: I – no, I mean, what is the perception? That you will begin from where the talks ended, or will you begin anew?

MS. HARF: That’s – well, again, those discussions are going on right now, what it might look like if the parties come back to the table.

QUESTION: Because every time there seems to be a round of talks, they start all over again. I mean, are you closer, let’s say, on Jerusalem? Are you closer on the issue of asylum?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into any of the specifics on the issues. I think we’ve exhausted this topic.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: In his statement, Secretary Kerry has said that the United States remain – or remains committed not just to the case of peace, but to resuming the process when the parties find a path back to serious negotiations.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Does this mean that Mr. Lowenstein will be waiting for the two parties to find a path forward --

MS. HARF: Well, we’re working with him to find that region.

QUESTION: -- to call him back to the region? Or he will initiate a plan or --

MS. HARF: Well – oh, in terms of his travel. Well, we’re engaged with the parties, whether it’s from here or on the ground, to try and get them back to the table. Beyond that, I don’t have any more specifics.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Just on Frank’s position, you said that he’s acting. Is he going to be dealing with other issues as well? Is he going to be given --

MS. HARF: Than Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Than Middle East peace.

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Just full time on --

MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. HARF: I think that’s enough for one person.

QUESTION: Can I ask about – this is a little off topic – about Qatar, about the case of Matthew and Grace Huang. A few months ago, you said – when they were convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, you said you were surprised and disappointed by the trial court’s decision. You had concerns throughout the trial that not all the evidence was weighed by the court. And I was wondering if you have an update on this case, what you’re doing to try and make sure that they receive any --

MS. HARF: I have no update on it. I’m happy to check. That was several months ago. I’m happy to check and see what the latest is.

QUESTION: Well, I mean --

MS. HARF: I just don’t know what the latest information --

QUESTION: I understand. But this Department and the building has kind of spoken out on unfair trials around the world, about people that are --

MS. HARF: And we spoke out on this one.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t think it’s fully maybe as --

MS. HARF: I think that statement you read from me was pretty full.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if you’re so – these are American citizens now.

MS. HARF: Yes. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: These aren’t people from another country.

MS. HARF: And we said we had concerns with the trial. We were working with the Government of Qatar to express our concerns.

QUESTION: Okay. If you could take the question what you’re doing with – to address the concerns with the Government of Qatar --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to see if there’s an update.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes. Can I go to North Korea?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I wanted to know if you can today offer any independent confirmation of the projectiles launched by North Korea.

MS. HARF: We don’t have anything new on that, still looking into what those may have been.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Nothing new.

QUESTION: Another issue?

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Stay on North Korea, please. Today, maybe you can try again to comment on --

MS. HARF: Nothing new on the video.

QUESTION: No?

MS. HARF: On the movie.

QUESTION: On the movie?

MS. HARF: Sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Pakistan.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Question for our colleagues in the back. Since they have left Pakistan, a lot has happened there back home, and they may be aware of this Pakistan – what some people in Pakistan are saying that Pakistan is burning today, politically, civil unrest, and counterterrorism – terrorism is going on, Taliban and so forth. And hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are refugees in their own hometown because of this fatwa, and they’re running around the country, and they are saying that not much has been going on as for taking care of their food, shelter, and medicine and so forth. My question is: What message do you have for our colleagues back home here and also for the Pakistanis back home? And finally, if U.S. has been asked for any help to help these people through this?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on that. First, as I talked about yesterday, in terms of the clearing operations in north Waziristan, the fatwa, it’s entirely a Pakistani-led and executed operation. We’ve long supported Pakistani efforts to extend their writ of government throughout their country and to increase internal stability.

In terms of the displaced persons issue, we are closely monitoring the situation, in coordination with the humanitarian community. We do understand that the Government of Pakistan is working with the appropriate international and donor organizations to ensure that assistance is in place for displaced peoples and their families. The USG is a major contributor to such organization – organizations, excuse me, and we stand ready to assist the IDPs in any way we can.

QUESTION: And madam, is U.S. worried about the instability, political instability going on and civil unrest and so forth because of the old jobs and electricity and other basics are not there for the people?

MS. HARF: Well, look, broadly speaking, we’ve said that we are working with the Government of Pakistan not just on security issues like our shared counterterrorism interests but also on education and economic issues and energy issues. We work together on a whole host of topics. We know that Pakistan has challenges, but are also committed to working with them.

QUESTION: And I have one on Iraq, please.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: At least two Indian nurses were beheaded by the ISIL and they were serving (inaudible) and the sick and needy in hospitals and around the country. And at least 40 Indians are still being held, and if Indian Government has asked any help from the U.S. or what’s --

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I don’t know the answer to that. Obviously, both of the incidents you just mentioned really underscore the brutality of ISIL. This is a group that al-Qaida has even deemed to be too brutal for it, which I think is saying something.

So clearly we know there’s huge challenges here. I can check on that specifically.

QUESTION: Marie, on Iraq, this has – we haven’t asked this for a while – but are you aware, since Vienna, I mean – yeah, Vienna and Deputy Secretary Burns’s meeting with the Iranians on the Iraq issue. Are you aware if there have been any more contacts?

MS. HARF: I am not. But let me double-check. I am not, but --

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because the Pentagon now says that, yes, it is flying drones --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the Iranians are also flying drones. And I’m just wondering what the mechanism is to prevent these drones from flying into each other.

MS. HARF: I am happy to check and see if there is anything we can share on that.

QUESTION: Okay. I would be --

QUESTION: Any coordination with the Iranians?

MS. HARF: No. None.

QUESTION: Right. But in terms of contacts in Baghdad and --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Okay.

QUESTION: Just follow-up on hostages. There are still eight hostages – Turkish hostages in Mosul as well. Do you have any update on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on those as well.

QUESTION: And on Kurdistan region, last couple of days both the Israel officials and today Turkish spokesman – administration spokesman – again talk about the independence of the Kurdistan region. And they would support or – it’s inevitable. Do you have any change of analysis on the Kurdistan?

MS. HARF: No change of policy here. We’ve said that a unified Iraq is the strongest Iraq, and have said that an inclusive government that includes Sunni, Shia, and Kurds needs to be formed as soon as possible to help deal with this crisis.

QUESTION: It looks like ISIL’s forces are gaining some more momentum around the borders. Do you have any assessment on the --

MS. HARF: We don’t have a detailed battleground assessment to share. Obviously, the threat from ISIL is very serious and we know that it’s very challenging on the ground. We know that units are trying to fight back, but that’s why we’re trying to provide more assistance to help them do that.

QUESTION: One more on this.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is this announcement of the increased funding to the Syrian moderate opposition part of a larger deal with the Gulf states?

MS. HARF: A larger deal?

QUESTION: If the --

MS. HARF: I mean, we certainly talk to them about our efforts. But --

QUESTION: So if we – if the United States kicks in more money to fund the moderate opposition and this is what the Gulf states had supported, is the deal for them to take out – take care of some of the financing to some of these groups?

MS. HARF: Well, that – we’re not talking about a deal here, obviously. What we’ve said is we believe this is in our interest to do, separate and apart from any concerns we have about funding from private citizens that may go to these groups. That is also a topic of conversation with our Gulf partners.

QUESTION: Was that part of the conversation with the king today?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a full readout yet. Let me check on that.

QUESTION: And also just moving over back to Benghazi. I just wanted to follow up.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on a question I asked a few days ago confirming that consulate computers were taken during the attacks in 2012?

MS. HARF: Yes, so I have a little bit, Lucas. Information about our computers – excuse me – is largely classified, but I can say that during the evacuation of the special mission compound to the annex, all classified computers were safely removed by the DS agents. No classified information was compromised. Obviously, we have procedures for safeguarding or destroying equipment and information during emergencies. Despite the suddenness and lack of forewarning of the attack, because of the actions of the people on the ground, no classified information, again, was compromised.

QUESTION: And what about any computers at the special mission compound?

MS. HARF: Well, I just said all of our classified computers were safely removed by the DS agents.

QUESTION: But you said the annex.

MS. HARF: I said the special mission compound to the annex.

QUESTION: Oh, excuse me.

MS. HARF: Sorry.

QUESTION: But the --

QUESTION: Hold on. Is that – but does that mean that some unclassified might have been?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I think his question had been about classified information that’s --

QUESTION: Or both – or unclass, just computers.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on that as well.

QUESTION: And because – also, do you have any confirmation that locally employed staff were threatened via text message after the theft of the computers?

MS. HARF: We are not aware of any specific threats in this instance. Obviously, unfortunately local employed staff do face threats from time to time overseas, but again, not aware of anything related to this.

QUESTION: And also, sources in the region have said – insist that Abu Khatallah, who is on the U.S.S. New York right now awaiting extradition back to the United States, is a small-time operator. Can you comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think some of those same people for the last two years have been asking us why we hadn’t brought him to justice yet. So he clearly is a significant figure. We have been committed to bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks in Benghazi. There’s been a great amount of media attention paid to him, and I just would categorically deny any assertion that he is anything other than significant here.

QUESTION: And Abu bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo suspect – or Guantanamo detainee, trained in Usama bin Ladin’s camps. He has been named also as a suspect in Benghazi attacks. Are there any updates on the investigation to bring him to justice?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have anything new on that. I’m happy to check, Lucas. I don’t think I have anything new on that. I don’t.

QUESTION: Finally, the Libyan landlord that rented out the consulate and the annex to the Americans says the United States owes him money. Is the United States planning on making any kind of payments?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard that. I hadn’t seen that report, so don’t --

QUESTION: Is he a suspect at all in the attacks?

MS. HARF: I’m not familiar with this. Let me check.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Landmines.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Just with the U.S. announcement today --

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: -- I was wondering whether there was an expectation or a hope that other countries would follow through, notably India, Pakistan, Russia, China.

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly share the goals of the Ottawa Convention, which is what this is all sort of falling under that rubric, and have encouraged other countries to do the same. We know this is a complicated issue. We were glad that we could announce today that we will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines in the future, and that includes not replacing existing stockpiles as they expire. Again, we’ve been working with a number of countries on this. I don’t have anything specific for you on those countries you asked about.

QUESTION: Is there a reason why it was made today? I mean, obviously, it’s because the conference is going on in Mozambique, but --

MS. HARF: I think the timing is largely tied to the conference.

QUESTION: But in terms of the strategy, I mean, some have argued in the past that the North Korean border, that that was an issue for the United States. Have those concerns been alleviated?

MS. HARF: Well, we know the situation on the Korean Peninsula does present unique challenges when it comes to this topic. We have pursued other solutions that would be compliant with the convention and that would ultimately allow us to accede to the convention. We’ve been working very closely with our South Korean ally on this. This announcement does not in any way affect the defense of the Korean Peninsula. But again, we understand that in this particular place there are some challenges we were working through and do believe that the announcement today is a good step forward.

QUESTION: But if you’re pledging that you’re not going to replace existing stocks --

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: -- which means what, if one mine is used --

MS. HARF: As they expire, not use.

QUESTION: Right – well, okay. Or --

MS. HARF: We don’t --

QUESTION: -- used or expire because you can’t use them more than once, right. They only blow up once.

MS. HARF: Right. But I also – I mean, we’re not using new ones.

QUESTION: Well, I know. Well, but you --

MS. HARF: As they expire.

QUESTION: They are – you are using landmines. You use them on the – you just said, they’re in between the North – in the DMZ, right?

MS. HARF: Well, no.

QUESTION: That’s using them, right?

MS. HARF: No, you talk – most people tend to talk about operational employment of them, which is different.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, that’s – “operational employment”?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Really? That doesn’t equate to “use”?

MS. HARF: No, it does. That’s what I’m saying.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. HARF: But that’s not what you’re talking about.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Anyways, ask your question.

QUESTION: Well anyway, do those expire? Do those have a limited shelf life?

MS. HARF: I’m assuming they do, but I’m not an expert on this.

QUESTION: Well, if they do, and you’re not going to replace existing stocks, what are – I mean, are you hoping that there’s going to be a unification of Korea in the next – I mean, the next couple of years or something?

MS. HARF: We have many tools at our disposal --

QUESTION: They haven’t been (inaudible) years.

MS. HARF: -- to defend our South Korean allies. Obviously, we’ve been talking to them about this. I --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I just --

MS. HARF: You look dubious.

QUESTION: I guess the question is better asked to the Pentagon because --

MS. HARF: Probably.

QUESTION: -- I don’t know how long the shelf life or the --

QUESTION: Well, are you going to redouble efforts to, in the next 20 years, to --

MS. HARF: To defend our South Korean ally?

QUESTION: -- to unify the Korean Peninsula?

MS. HARF: No, we’ve stood – look, we stand by our South Korean allies. We have many tools at our disposable to help defend them.

QUESTION: I realize it might be more of a Pentagon question, but the – is there still a use for mines on – in the DMZ area?

MS. HARF: Check with the Pentagon on that. I don’t have more details on this.

QUESTION: Marie, and I just want to go back – this “operational employment.”

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is that – that’s a Pentagon phrase, or is that a --

MS. HARF: I think it’s a technical term. There’ve been some questions about whether we have operationally employed any of these landmines. And since the Ottawa Convention came into force in 1999, we are – or since 1991, excuse me – we are aware of only one confirmed operational employment by U.S. military forces, a single munition in Afghanistan in 2002.

QUESTION: One?

MS. HARF: We are only --

QUESTION: One mine?

MS. HARF: We are aware of one.

QUESTION: Okay. But – I’m just curious about “operational employment.”

MS. HARF: Check with the Pentagon.

QUESTION: How about “plant”?

MS. HARF: I’m sure they have more details about the difference in phraseology here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yep. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A quick question on India. Today is the 30 days, first one month the new Government of India --

MS. HARF: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- finishes. And Prime Minister Modi said that his government has accomplished more than what the congress did in last 60 years. What my question is: What do you think about this one month, if anything has been accomplished between the U.S. and India?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I have any political analysis about comparing his tenure to anyone else’s. Look, the Indians are close partners no matter who’s in charge.

Yes.

QUESTION: China.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: The South Korean Government announced today, the 27th, that President Xi Jinping will visit South Korea officially. It’s a state visit on July 3rd and 4th. But historically speaking, Chinese president have visit – not visited North Korea before visiting South Korea. It is – today at this time, it’s kind of unusual. So my question is: Do you think in President Xi Jinping’s visit leads to the change of the political power balance in peninsula?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that China needs to have good relationships with all the countries in the region, including South Korea. I haven’t seen the specifics about the announcement, but I’m happy to see if there’s more details we have to share.

QUESTION: And then how the United States expect that both leader are talking about the peninsula issues, North Korean issues?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly share concerns that both countries have about the nuclearization of North Korea and share the commitment to denuclearizing the peninsula. So I don’t have any predictions for conversations we’re not going to be a part of, but clearly we’ve worked very closely with both on this issue.

Yes.

QUESTION: A quick question on Iraq.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can we stay on China?

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: I got to get in my street-renaming question here. Have you received from the Chinese a formal complaint about this proposal? And if you have, what’s been your response?

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of one, but again, I can’t rule it out. We’re still checking with our folks to see if we have.

QUESTION: Would you reply to them that you don’t comment on pending legislation?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into private diplomatic communications with them, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: To use another one of your favorite lines.

QUESTION: But would you --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to tell you how we would reply to them, if we had received one, because that’s a private diplomatic communication.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. Yeah.

MS. HARF: Just driving you crazy today.

Yes, Iraq.

QUESTION: No, you drive me crazy every day. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: It’s not limited to today. Well, the feeling is certainly mutual.

Yes.

QUESTION: Since it’s confirmed that Iran is also flying drones over --

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t confirm that, but I know there have been reports to that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Matt confirmed it for you earlier. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you have any issue – are you taking any issue with Iran is flying drones over --

MS. HARF: Well, we had this – Matt and I have had this conversation this week a few times in this room. Look, what we’ve said is any actions that Iran or any other country in the region should take should all be used towards promoting an inclusive government to helping the Iraqi army shore up and be able to fight ISIL. It shouldn’t be about promoting sectarianism or promoting militias. So I’m not going to comment specifically on some of the reports about Iran, what Iran may or may not be doing, other than to say that anything they would do should – we would push them and encourage them to play into this overall strategical*.

QUESTION: Have you been also able to ask the questions regarding U.S. Treasury’s findings, recent year’s findings, that many operatives in Tehran funding and transferring fighters and funds to Syria and to create --

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything on that specific issue. Again, if it’s a Treasury issue, I’d point you to them.

QUESTION: And one last question. I couldn’t find this quote earlier. A key Turkish administration spokesman, *Huseyin Celik*, today said about the U.S. when he was asked about Kurdistan that U.S. did not bring peace, stability, unity, they just left widows, orphans in Iraq, and they created a Shia bloc to the south of our country.

MS. HARF: Well, this is not our countries’ future to decide. This is the Iraqis. It’s the Iraqi leaders who needed to step up after we ended our mission there and give their country a better future. We gave them the opportunity to do so. We haven’t seen that take place yet. And what needs to happen now is not blame on any outside forces but looking at the Iraqi leaders and saying this is very serious time, you need to come together, and you need to give your country a better future. It’s not up to us, the United States or Turkey or Iran or any other country to fix this for the Iraqis.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: One more. Last one.

QUESTION: Apparently Maliki in his interview with the BBC said that they’re considering buying fighter jets from Russia and Belarus, and I wondered if you had anything about that.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: I think they may have already did so.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But we have said that we don’t oppose legal Iraqi efforts to meet their urgent military requirements. Obviously, we’re expediting our own assistance and understand that Iraq has pursued military equipment from a variety of countries, including Russia – and I think they’ve actually purchased some of that – the Czech Republic, South Korea, and others. Again, we share a goal here of helping them fight this threat.

QUESTION: How do you criticize the bureaucracy in the United States that delayed the delivery of the Apache --

MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, look, we understand the grave situation that Iraq faces, but blaming others is, in part, what created this crisis. So they need to stop looking at others and start looking in the mirror a little bit more and make the tough decisions they need to.

QUESTION: How do you feel that the Russians are trying to kind of usurp you as a provider of weapons to your allies?

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do.

QUESTION: Really? They’re doing it in Egypt; they’re doing it in Iraq.

MS. HARF: No, I wouldn’t --

QUESTION: You don’t think so?

MS. HARF: That’s not – I think a lot of countries are trying to help Iraq. We certainly are trying to do so, and --

QUESTION: It doesn’t bother you that the Russians are selling them at all?

MS. HARF: To Iraq? Not to my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: But do you have any concern that this hardware might end up in the hands of ISIL, given your lack of confidence in the Iraqi military?

MS. HARF: Any of our hardware?

QUESTION: No. Well, the hardware that the Russians --

MS. HARF: Well obviously, any --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: -- country who provides assistance, military assistance to the Iraqis needs to take proper precautions to make sure that it doesn’t. Obviously, we’re doing that with our assistance that we’re providing.

QUESTION: How do – how --

MS. HARF: There’s a variety of ways. Depends on who you give it to and who you sell it to and --

QUESTION: Like a remote control off switch that --

MS. HARF: -- the restrictions --

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you --

QUESTION: I mean, what --

MS. HARF: There’s just – there’s a variety of ways to do that, Matt.

QUESTION: Like an – but something beyond just like an end user kind of agreement?

MS. HARF: I mean, you can check with the Russians on what they’re doing, but obviously, we don’t want any munitions to fall into the hands of ISIL.

QUESTION: Okay. But are you confident that the people who are selling this to countries that are going to be selling this stuff are taking those precautions to --

MS. HARF: We’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis, but I have no indication that they’re not concerned about it. I think we all share the same concerns here and are taking steps to mitigate that.

QUESTION: Okay. So you --

MS. HARF: I just don’t have specifics.

QUESTION: All right. I mean, I just – I just want to make sure you don’t have a problem with this because you think that they are taking the proper precautions to --

MS. HARF: Well, there are legal mechanisms for the Iraqi Government to purchase military assistance. And as long as it falls in those categories and goes towards the goal of promoting – not promoting sectarianism, then broadly speaking, we don’t have a problem with that.

QUESTION: I guess what I’m saying is you’re not concerned that they’re just going to like dump all this weaponry into Iraq --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen any indication of that.

QUESTION: -- and then it might get taken over by – might be stolen by ISIL.

MS. HARF: I mean, I haven’t seen any indication of that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean the same concerns that you have about your own weaponry.

MS. HARF: Yeah, right. And I don’t have any indications that the Russians aren’t --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- taking steps to mitigate that.

QUESTION: Just one on this phase, Marie.

MS. HARF: I think we have a few more.

QUESTION: Will there be any delay on the delivery of the F-16 next fall to Iraq, or not?

MS. HARF: So – no. We’re committed – let me make a few points on this. We’re committed to delivering F-16s to Iraq as soon as possible. The delivery of the first two has long been scheduled for this fall, pending a number of final preparations on logistics, mostly for housing, securing the aircraft, completion of pilot training. The current situation makes some of those steps a little more challenging, so it’s possible that it could be delayed. But we’re committed to moving it forward as soon as possible.

QUESTION: By “the current situation,” you mean the fact that --

MS. HARF: By the crisis.

QUESTION: -- Balad has been taken over by --

MS. HARF: Right. I mean --

QUESTION: The place where they – these jets were going to be based is now in the control of --

MS. HARF: There are some significant logistical challenges.

QUESTION: Yeah. “Significant” is an understatement, so --

MS. HARF: Yeah. But we’re committed to doing it as quickly as possible, but we have to deal with some of these logistical challenges.

QUESTION: But there is a possibility for a delay?

MS. HARF: It could be – the timelines could be affected.

QUESTION: Well I mean, is the plan still to send them there when they go?

MS. HARF: I can check with our folks. I don’t have the details.

QUESTION: Is that something that you do, or is that something the Pentagon --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure, because it’s FMS. Let me check.

QUESTION: Marie, any --

MS. HARF: Probably a combination, but --

QUESTION: Any comments on Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s calling for a new – or a new prime minister in the next four days, new government?

MS. HARF: Yes. So we echo today’s call by Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s representative in Najaf for Iraqi leaders to agree on the country’s next leadership without delay as they prepare to convene the first session of their new parliament on July 1st. It’s my understanding he was calling for a process that’s part of the – that’s in line with the constitution, just to do it very quickly, which we certainly agree with, because we think the situation has – is so serious that they need to move with urgency.

QUESTION: My understanding of what he said was that he actually said that Maliki had to go. Are you --

MS. HARF: I didn’t see that comment.

QUESTION: Okay. So when you say --

MS. HARF: I’m not echoing that comment.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. So when you --

MS. HARF: I think I was very clear about what comments I was echoing of the Grand Ayatollah’s.

QUESTION: And so you are still not prepared to say, or you still won’t say that you – the U.S. wants Maliki out. It’s up for the Iraqis --

MS. HARF: It’s up for the Iraqis, not up for us to decide.

QUESTION: But Sistani is an Iraqi. And if he --

MS. HARF: Correct. And I’m happy for the Iraqis to weigh in on who they would like to lead their own country. It’s not up to us to weigh in on that specifically.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Finally, one more: There’s a new Pew research poll out that says 44 percent of Americans are not proud to be an American, and 56 percent are proud to – only 56 percent of Americans are proud to be from this country. Any --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that poll. And I would strongly disagree with any of those people who would’ve voted that way, clearly.

So with that --

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: -- happy Friday, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:32 p.m.)

DPB # 114


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 26, 2014

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 14:22

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 26, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • LIBYA
    • Elections / Libyan Human Rights Activist Salwa Bugaighis
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA
    • OSCE Special Monitoring Mission Observers
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with French FM Fabius
    • Ceasefire Expires Tomorrow
    • Sanctions
    • U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers Ads
  • IRAQ / SAUDI ARABIA / IRAN
    • Security Situation / Work Closely with Saudis / Inclusive Government / Iran's Role
    • ISIL
    • Execution-style Killings
  • SUDAN / SOUTH SUDAN
    • Meriam Ibrahim and Family
  • DPRK / SOUTH KOREA
    • Projectiles Launched
    • The Film, "The Interview"
  • ISRAEL
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry's Meeting with FM Lieberman
  • IRAQ
    • Inclusive Government
  • INDIA / AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN
    • Taliban Threat / Operations in North Waziristan
  • SAUDI ARABIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with King Abdullah
  • INDIA / PAKISTAN
    • Economic Discussions
    • LET
    • Attack in Herat
  • EGYPT
    • Contact with Egyptians
  • CHINA
    • Nobel Laureate and Writer Liu Xiaobo / Street Name Change in Front of Chinese Embassy / Pending Legislation
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Sports Diplomacy / Team USA / U.S. Plays Germany at World Cup in Brazil


TRANSCRIPT:

11:32 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Welcome to the daily briefing. Two quick items at the top and then happy to open it up to your questions.

First, on Libya, as we congratulate the Libyan people on yesterday’s elections and taking an important steps towards advancing a free, prosperous, democratic, and secure Libya, we also condemn in the strongest terms the senseless and brutal murder of Libyan human rights activists Salwa Bugaighis, as we condemn all terror, violence, and intimidation in Libya. We mourn Salwa’s death with her family and with all Libyans. She was a courageous woman and a true Libyan patriot. She was an advocate for political prisoners during the Qadhafi regime; an organizer of demonstrations against the regime during the February 17th, 2011 revolution; a political activist; and an original member of the transitional national council after the uprising began.

Salwa resigned in protest over the absence of women’s voices in the council, but continued to play an active and powerful role supporting democracy, human rights, and the participation of women in Libyan politics, until she was murdered on the day she and other Libyans went to the polls to elect a new government. Her voice will live on fighting for the causes that inspired her and will mean so much for all Libyans as well.

ukrainerussia">Second item at the top on Ukraine. Today marks one month since Russia based backed – excuse me – Russia-backed separatists kidnapped four OSCE special monitoring mission observers in eastern Ukraine. Three days later, separatists abducted another four OSCE observers. These eight international observers continue to be held hostage. OSCE monitors are in Ukraine to observe and report the facts impartially. We condemn these abductions and call on Russia, indeed itself a member of the OSCE, to use its influence with the separatists to secure the immediate release of the monitors and to guarantee the security of the OSCE monitoring teams.

With that, kick us off.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s try and make this one quick.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: On Ukraine, earlier today, as you are well aware, the Secretary met with French Foreign Minister --

MS. HARF: Fabius. He did. Yes.

QUESTION: -- Fabius. And he – I’m curious if you can extrapolate a little bit or elaborate a little bit on his – what he meant when he said that Russia has hours, literally hours --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- to basically show goodwill to move to disarm the separatists. What – hours is less than days, clearly. What exactly happens if they don’t meet this “hours, literally” deadline?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on timing. The weeklong ceasefire expires tomorrow, so that’s partly what was driving the Secretary when he was talking about timing. Also, the European Council is meeting tomorrow to discuss among other things possible additional sanctions against Russia. We’ve been very clear that we remain prepared to impose additional sanctions, including sectoral, should circumstances warrant. I think there were some questions about this the other day, but the March 20th executive order authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to sanction any individual or entity determined to operate in such sectors as – of the Russian economy that we would want to sanction. So we have in place the infrastructure to do this very quickly if we want to.

The Secretary wasn’t outlining specific timing for additional sanctions but underscoring the need that this needs to happen quickly.

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: Including partly because of the ceasefire expiring tomorrow.

QUESTION: Right. But there has been discussion on both sides about extending the ceasefire.

MS. HARF: There has been.

QUESTION: That’s still something you’re supportive of, correct?

MS. HARF: As long as the parties that have signed up to it abide by it.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So yes, if – of course, if we could get an extension that people abide by, that would be a good thing.

QUESTION: Have the parties, to date, abided by the ceasefire?

MS. HARF: Some of them have and some of them haven’t. Some of the separatists have, some of the separatists have not.

QUESTION: Would – but the Ukrainian Government?

MS. HARF: The Ukrainian Government has abided by the terms of the ceasefire. The only time they have taken action is after they have themselves been attacked.

QUESTION: All right. And – but given what the Secretary said in terms of “hours, literally,” is it not more likely that sanctions would come later today or tomorrow, given the fact that the ceasefire expires in --

MS. HARF: I don’t have any predictions for you on timing.

QUESTION: But he wasn’t (inaudible) discuss the timing of sanctions with that comment.

MS. HARF: He was not. He was not. No. I mean, in general, we’ve said we could do it very quickly. But no, he was not talking about anything specifically.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a couple of follow-ups on this?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is the United States, as it has done in the past, willing to move forward on additional sanctions on Russia, without the European Union if they do not vote for such sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, in general, as you know, we’ve remained very coordinated with them on the sanctions. We think that’s important to do. But we make sanctions decisions on our own based on our own economy and our own interests, but again, believe that they’re strongest when they’re in partnership with each other.

QUESTION: But you reserve the right to do it on your own if you feel necessary?

MS. HARF: Certainly, but obviously we’ve remained coordinated with them because we think it’s important to do them together.

QUESTION: The authorities under the previous – under the executive order that you referenced I think are – and as you read them – are targeting individuals and companies, correct?

MS. HARF: So they authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to sanction any individual or entity determined to operate in such sectors of the Russian Federation economy as may be determined by, again, the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of State. These sectors include financial services, energy, metals and mining, engineering, or defense or related materiel.

QUESTION: Okay. And the pings are from Europe that they’re not going to go forward tomorrow, although obviously --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve obviously been talking to them and I think we would just need to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Change topic. Iraq?

QUESTION: I have one more on Ukraine, actually.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Today the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers took out a full page ad in three leading U.S. publications. I wanted to know if you had any comment on that.

MS. HARF: They did. So since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, we have had frequent conversations with business leaders and the business community on this issue to explain exactly our policy and understand their concerns. And in general, our sanctions policy towards Russia has been designed to maximize the pressure and the impact on Russia while minimizing the impact on the West and the United States economy as well. So we’re trying to do things to change Russia’s decision making, obviously, in a very strategic and targeted way that increases the pressure on them while, again, not doing so in a way that doesn’t come back on us. We’ve had those conversations with the business community since the beginning of this crisis.

QUESTION: And you’re still continuing to have those conversations with them?

MS. HARF: We are. We are. Yes.

QUESTION: And so does that mean that the business community is aware of the sanction – of what the sanctions are?

MS. HARF: That have already been put in place?

QUESTION: No, the ones that are potentially coming.

MS. HARF: We don’t discuss with anyone outside of the government what sanctions might be coming for obvious reasons in the future. What I’ve said, in our discussions we’ve talked to the business community about what we’ve already put in place and our overall strategic goal for how we decide on sanctions.

QUESTION: Well, that doesn’t seem to make – if you’re trying to minimize the impact on American companies, it would seem to be – it would not seem to make sense not to tell them what you’re thinking about for this in the future.

MS. HARF: There’s plenty of people inside this government that do the calculations about minimizing the risk to our companies and our economy. Obviously, there are good reasons not to tell people outside of the government what sanctions might be coming, because if someone were to find out they might be coming, they could take steps to move their assets around. So that’s why we keep that private and internal. But we have the discussions with the business community in general about this issue.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I’m not talking about sanctions that you would impose on Russian individuals, but sectoral sanctions that might limit U.S. companies’ ability to do business in Russia.

MS. HARF: Well, we talk in general about the concept and how it might impact our economy. That’s certainly true. But we don’t specifically talk about new sanctions that might be coming specifically in terms of what individuals or what companies with folks outside of the government.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding that some of the sanctions that are in the --

MS. HARF: Pipeline.

QUESTION: -- ready to go if and when a decision’s made would impact U.S. companies doing business in Russia.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re considering a wide range of sanctions and don’t have any comment on the specifics of what they might impact.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m not – but I’m not even talking about the specifics. I just – but if you don’t consult with businesses --

MS. HARF: We’re consulting with them, obviously --

QUESTION: Well, but --

MS. HARF: -- in general, about the concept, Matt. But there are very good reasons not to tell people outside of the government what specific sanctions we’re going to put in place.

QUESTION: Well, then I don’t see how that minimizes the impact on U.S. companies.

MS. HARF: There are a lot people inside this government who can do very good calculations about how potential sanctions might impact U.S. companies or U.S. – the U.S. economy.

QUESTION: Well then, why don’t --

MS. HARF: And they do those calculations, and we take them into account when we’re deciding what additional sanctions to put in place.

QUESTION: Right. Well, yeah. But who knows better how a specific sanction is going to affect a U.S. company than that company itself?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we have people who are very good at looking at that inside the Department of the Treasury.

QUESTION: And I’m --

MS. HARF: And we have good reasons not to discuss specifics with people outside.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m sure that Fortune --

MS. HARF: Do you want Russian oligarchs moving assets around because they might accidentally find out it’s coming?

QUESTION: No. No, no, no. I’m not talking about – no. I’m not talking about the impact on Russians or telling them that person X in Russia is going to be affected. But if there are sanctions that are going to impact U.S. companies’ ability to do business in Russia, which I am led to believe there are in the pipeline, it strikes me as a bit unusual that you wouldn’t talk to the companies about what could possibly be coming so that they could protect themselves.

MS. HARF: We talk in general about what possibly might be coming.

QUESTION: I understand, but you’re saying that there are people in the government who know – you’re suggesting that people in government know better about --

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that, Matt. Look, you’re taking us down a rabbit hole here.

QUESTION: I don’t want to, especially today, but --

MS. HARF: I know, but you are. But wait, let me finish up with one point. We talk to them in general. I just read a bunch of sectors, right?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: We talk to them in general about what those might look like and how they might impact the American economy and American companies. Those discussions can be very robust without saying on X date we’re going to sanction X company, because there are very good reason we don’t give that information out to people. But we are very – we have very robust discussions about ways to minimize the impact. We really do.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Ma’am, as far as sanctions against Russia is concerned, are you in touch with other countries other than the NATO or Europeans, like China and India and other countries?

MS. HARF: We’ve been in touch with a wide range of countries on this issue. I don’t have a full list in front of me, but I’m happy to see if there’s more specifics.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

MS. HARF: Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Today Prime Minister Maliki claimed that his government forces are taking back the initiative. First of all, do you agree? And second, is this attributable to, let’s say, U.S. advisors on the ground, Iranian boots on the ground, or the Syrian air strikes, or all three, in your opinion?

MS. HARF: Well, Said, the situation on the ground remains very fluid. And to be very clear, Iraq’s security situation cannot and should not be resolved by the Assad regime, by air strikes from the Assad regime, or by militias funded and supported by other countries in the region stepping in. What we really need to see is the army get back on its feet. We have folks there trying to help these elite units do that and start to retake territory. But the situation on the ground is still very serious.

QUESTION: So you agree that these elements coming together may have affected the situation on the ground?

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said actually the opposite, that it’s – the security situation can’t be resolved by the Assad regime.

QUESTION: Cannot be?

MS. HARF: Cannot, correct. That that’s not the situation that we need to see here in Iraq; that what we need to see is political leaders step up and military leaders step up, bring the army back together, push back – with help from us, of course.

But look, the situation on the ground remains very serious, very fluid, and there are still huge security challenges for the Iraqi forces.

QUESTION: Seeing how the meeting, the planned meeting between Secretary Kerry and the King of Saudi Arabia --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- after he met with the Saudi foreign minister, is it – are we likely to see an American request or an American demand that the Saudis cease their support to ISIL?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said yesterday, we don’t have evidence that any government is supporting ISIL in the region, so I want to be very clear about that when we’re talking about funding. We’ve worked very closely with the Saudis and other partners in the region who are very concerned about the security situation in Iraq. They don’t want to see what’s happening in Iraq. They understand the terrorist threat as well; the Saudis have suffered at the hands of terrorists for many years. So we’ll have the conversation – the Secretary will tomorrow with King Abdullah. The President asked him to go update him on his meetings there. And again, we’re in this fight together for the sake of Iraq and encouraging Saudis and other regional partners to use their influence with different parts of the Iraqi leadership to push them to all come together to form an inclusive government as soon as possible and help Iraq get back on its feet.

QUESTION: When you mentioned “with help from us” --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- the Iraqi Government, so – but you don’t want anyone else to help them or --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- is there --

MS. HARF: -- any kind of assistance that anyone could give here needs to be towards the goal of a inclusive government.

QUESTION: And are you specifically referring to Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, any assistance, and we have said that --

QUESTION: So you’re not necessarily opposed to Assad helping them as long as it meets your criteria for not inflaming the sectarian tensions?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure how anything the Assad regime could do could be anything other than inflaming sectarian tensions, to be clear. So --

QUESTION: Okay. But you don’t feel the same way about Iran?

MS. HARF: No, look --

QUESTION: That Iran could play a positive role, but Syria – Assad’s Syria cannot?

MS. HARF: Well, anything that Iran or anyone else should be doing in Iraq should not be sectarian in any nature, and anything that were to be sectarian would be very problematic. So we’re watching right now certainly what the Iranians are doing there. We’ve all seen the reports, and I can’t confirm them, but we’ve seen the reports and we would not support anything that was sectarian in nature. So while we may have a common enemy, we don’t always have the same strategic interests.

QUESTION: I understand that --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- but you don’t think that Assad at all, regardless of what he says he’s doing or regardless of what he actually does, is able to play a helpful role here, but Iran is? I’m just trying to make a distinction if --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m --

QUESTION: I’m trying to find out if you make --

MS. HARF: You’re trying to make it very black and white.

QUESTION: Well, I’m trying to find out if you, if the United States believes there’s a distinction between Iranian help and Syrian help.

MS. HARF: I think there’s a distinction, and let me see if I can explain this in the right way. Iran could play a constructive role if it did things to promote an inclusive government. I’m not saying they have done those things, but they could.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: That is very different than an Assad regime who is responsible in large part for the rise and strength of ISIL, who has created a security situation where ISIL could flourish, and now may be taking some action – I have no reason to believe that they’re not. That’s not in any way helpful to Iraq’s security.

QUESTION: Okay. But you could not repeat that sentence: Iran could play a helpful role with – replace Iran with Syria, saying Syria under Assad could --

MS. HARF: I mean, I guess everything’s possible in a hypothetical, Matt, but --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- they’re very different situations.

QUESTION: Got it.

QUESTION: Could you repeat something that you said? You said we have – we share a common enemy, but we don’t share --

MS. HARF: But we may not --

QUESTION: -- a common purpose. Is that what you – no?

MS. HARF: No. You got to listen, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m --

MS. HARF: I said --

QUESTION: That’s why I asked.

MS. HARF: I know you are. No, I said we may share a common enemy. Look, we all understand the threat from ISIL, including the Iranians. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have a shared strategic interest. We would like everyone to, because we think that’s what’s in the best interests of Iraq.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. And I know you’re listening. You listen better than most in this room. So, yes.

QUESTION: Maliki confirmed to BBC that the Syrian air forces bombed the area in Iraq. Can you confirm that today?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said yesterday, I don’t have reason to believe it’s not the case. I think Prime Minister Maliki probably has the most up-to-date information on that. But again, this isn’t what we need to see for Iraq going forward. We know, look, any action that hinders ISIL’s ability to move is tactically maybe a good thing, but strategically this is not what needs to happen to get Iraq back in a better place.

QUESTION: There --

MS. HARF: Yeah, Elliot.

QUESTION: Sorry. There were reports from Baghdad that reprisal killings against Sunnis are becoming more and more frequent. Is the U.S. doing anything at this time to try and prevent this from becoming more of an issue than it already is?

MS. HARF: Well, we are following the reports closely, certainly. We’ve seen execution-style killings of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, policemen, government leaders, also some of the ethnic minorities and religious minority populations as well. So we are working with our international partners very closely to see how we can deal with this sort of what I would call an even worse than humanitarian situation. We’re working with the Iraqi Government to help on this, also with the UN as well. So we’re monitoring it, and obviously that’s – I think just underscores the notion that Iraq’s political leaders needs a form of government as soon as possible, bring the country together, and use their influence to try and stop some of this.

QUESTION: This might be better addressed to DOD, but do you have any – are you aware of any specific role that U.S. special forces are playing in that regard as they try to train and --

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. Let me check with – you can check with them, I can check with them as well and see if they are. I know that the folks they’ve sent in are in, at the moment, an assessment role working with the army about the ISIL threat. But let me see if there’s more I can share.

Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

MS. HARF: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sudan? So the reports are that Ms. Ibrahim has been released. Do you know – do you have any details on this ?

MS. HARF: So before I came out --

QUESTION: Oh, rereleased.

MS. HARF: -- again, this is a very fluid situation, and things are happening every minute here, but before I came out, it was our understanding that she was still at the police station, which was where she was being held this morning D.C. time. Again, very fluid situation, so I can’t confirm these reports that she has been released. We are in communication with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible. Again, she had been detained while issues related to her travel and identification documents were sorted out. And from our perspective, Meriam has all of the documents she needs to travel to and enter the United States. It’s up to the Government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country. As I said, we’re working with them on that right now.

QUESTION: Okay. “From our perspective?” Can you just – can you eliminate that and just say she has the travel – valid travel documents and --

MS. HARF: Again, we’re working with the Government of Sudan on that.

QUESTION: Can you – would – are you hopeful that she’ll be able to get out today?

MS. HARF: We’re hopeful that she’ll be able to get out soon. I just don’t want to predict.

QUESTION: And would you expect her destination, when she does leave, to be the United States?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything specific, but as I just said, we – in terms of our perspective, she has the necessary documents she needs to travel to the United States.

QUESTION: Does that mean she has a visa to enter the United States?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specifics for you on what documents – what those documents might look like.

QUESTION: Why not? Just out of curiosity, why not?

MS. HARF: Because we don’t always give out those specific details for a variety of reasons, some of which are privacy, some of which are bureaucratic. Just don’t always share those. But I gave you a new line today on travel documents.

QUESTION: I did notice that.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: A new topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So the South Korean military today said that North Korea launched four projectiles into the Sea of Japan --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- today. Does this raise concerns that North Korea’s increasing its provocations?

MS. HARF: I think we’re always concerned whenever North Korea launches anything. I think that’s probably fair to say. And we are aware of, I think, three projectiles. Did you say three or four? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I believe it’s being reported as three.

MS. HARF: Okay, right. So that North Korea launched three projectiles from its southeast coast. We’re monitoring the situation, and we’re still evaluating the available information to identify the exact type of projectile that may have been launched.

QUESTION: And assuming that they did launch these projectiles, would this be a violation of UN resolutions?

MS. HARF: It depends. It depends on what they were. Technically, obviously any launch of anything is problematic, is escalatory in nature, is threatening. So obviously, we wouldn’t agree with any launch, but in terms of the technicality, it depends on what they were.

QUESTION: Israel?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Quick question for --

MS. HARF: Oh, yeah. Uh-huh?

QUESTION: One more on North Korea. One question – I realize that North Korea has a very different system of freedom of speech and different ideas on that than the United States. But the North Koreans --

MS. HARF: That’s the understatement of the day, I think. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The North Koreans called on the United States to ban the film, “The Interview.”

MS. HARF: I was wondering why I didn’t get this yesterday. I was surprised.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to that?

QUESTION: Great film.

MS. HARF: I really don’t. They, I think, had a fairly strong reaction to it, and really I think I’m going to steer clear of commenting on it, so --

QUESTION: Do you see a connection between the movie and the projectile launch?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check. I just – I don’t think I have any analysis to do on that.

QUESTION: A quick question --

QUESTION: Are there any observations of why the North Koreans might be so upset about this? Does it show that more outside information is seeping in?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I’m happy to check with our folks. I just don’t know the answer.

Yes.

QUESTION: Quick question on Israel.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Apparently, today Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during his meeting with Secretary Kerry suggested that Israel would help moderate Arab countries to fight ISIL. Is this something that the United States would look kindly on, or would encourage Israel to do --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- or would advise against?

MS. HARF: Just a quick little readout of that meeting. They talked about the long-term relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They obviously talked about the missing Israeli teenagers, and the Secretary reiterated his concern over the missing teenagers. They also talked about Iraq and ISIL, as you mentioned, and they had really a discussion about the longer-term threat coming from some of these groups.

And we welcome anyone in the region who is willing to stand up and help fight the threat that ISIL poses. Again, really when it comes to Iraq, though, this is a fight the Iraqis need to take on themselves through their army and through their capabilities.

QUESTION: Well, how can you say that you welcome anyone in the region and then tell Assad that he can’t?

MS. HARF: Assad – when you brutally massacre --

QUESTION: Anyone but Assad?

QUESTION: Anyone else?

QUESTION: Anyone other than Assad is welcome to help, then?

MS. HARF: Look, if Assad were to stop killing his own people, to stop using barrel bombs, to lay down his weapons and agree to a transitional governing body, sure. We can have that discussion. I’ll – I will wait for that to happen.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I ask you --

QUESTION: One question on Iraq.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You said any help is welcome as long as it is not based on sectarian considerations.

MS. HARF: Right. It needs to all be in the service of an inclusive government.

QUESTION: Is any Iranian help – could it be anything else but sectarian?

MS. HARF: Well, we judge actions by each one specifically. And again, I don’t have all the details on what may or may not be going on, but we know the history there. But again, I don’t have more details to share with you on what Iran is doing.

Yes.

QUESTION: Another --

MS. HARF: Go to you next.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Madam, as far as security in South Asia is concerned, it depends on all stability in Pakistan. Innocent Pakistanis are being killed every day, and there is civil and political unrest going on in the country. And also now jihadists, al-Qaida and Talibans are now standing up against the innocent Pakistanis, that they will wage war against Pakistan if the military operation continues against them in Waziristan and all that.

My question is that India is also worried, and also because you have a strategic interest in next-door neighbor in Afghanistan. So how U.S. is helping, or has Pakistan asked for U.S. help?

MS. HARF: Well, you asked a lot about a lot there, so let me just address a few quick points and then I’m going to Arshad next.

Look, we’ve worked very closely with the Pakistanis. The threat from the Taliban and other terrorist groups is not new. We’ve worked with them very closely. It doesn’t just threaten the Pakistanis; it threatens Afghanistan and India, and has the United States in the past as well.

In terms of the current operations Pakistan is undertaking in North Waziristan, this is an entirely led – Pakistani-led and executed operation. Obviously, we have long supported their efforts to extend the writ of government throughout their country and to increase internal stability and security. But again, these are – these current operations are an entire Pakistani-led event.

Thank you. Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah, just a quick one. Can you give us just a succinct, simple description of the main issues that you expect the Secretary and King Abdullah to discuss tomorrow?

MS. HARF: Iraq, Syria. Clean and succinct enough for you?

QUESTION: Oil?

MS. HARF: I’m sure.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’m sure they will as well. So obviously, the ISIL threat in Iraq, how we’re working with the Iraqis on this, what the conversations the Secretary had in Iraq were like. When it comes to Syria, we’ve said we will continue increasing our support to the opposition. I think we’ll have conversations about that. Next week we start the next round of the P5+1 talks with Iran over its nuclear program. I’m sure there will be mention of that. Oil is always a topic of conversation, but I can’t predict whether it will come up, but frequently does.

QUESTION: And lastly, would you expect, regardless of what the Secretary might say about this, that the issue of ISIL financing will come up?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I don’t want to predict. As I said, we don’t have any information that the government is – has supported from a funding perspective. We’ll see if it does. I don’t want to predict. Obviously, it’s something we’re worried about.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Last one.

QUESTION: India.

QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief ones.

MS. HARF: Okay, okay. All right.

QUESTION: India. Thank you.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: Madam, yesterday the Carnegie experts were discussing about the new government of Narendra Modi in India and the U.S.-India relations. What they were discussing was that India and the new government now needs a massive investment to go forward and move forward the country because the 60 years, corruption and all those things were going on.

My question is here: So many things going on between the two countries; official visits to India and all that. During these visits, have you been discussing about the massive investment in India?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly – and I think this is what you’re asking about. We certainly talk quite a bit about the economic relationship with India, whether it’s investing in certain parts of its economy; whether it’s increasing exports and imports and private sector trade. That’s certainly been a key part of our discussions with the Government of India, not just since Mr. Modi has been in office, but before that for a long time as well.

Yeah – two, yeah.

QUESTION: Making good --

QUESTION: Staying on India.

MS. HARF: Okay, stay on India.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Today in Lahore, JUD chief Hafiz Saeed said that if U.S. can do whatever it wants, don’t care, they should prove if they have proof. And then the foreign – Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said that Pakistan is not under any obligation, because it’s from U.S. and not from UN.

MS. HARF: Are you referring to the --

QUESTION: Yesterday’s --

MS. HARF: Yesterday’s – well, the – or the designations that we’ve had on LET have been in place for some time now, for years. And yesterday what we did was add additional aliases to make sure that we can increasingly cut off the funding and support to LET through other – these other aliases that they use for their activities as well. And look, we’ve been very clear about the threat LET poses.

QUESTION: I know, but --

MS. HARF: And we have shared information from our assessment about the attack in Herat with the Indian Government.

QUESTION: No, but --

QUESTION: Marie, the UN has also imposed sanction on LET and Hafiz Saeed.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: So Pakistan is under obligation to implement --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our UN team about those specifics.

QUESTION: No, but when the foreign – foreign office spokesperson says that no obligation from the U.S., it’s a partner state. So what have you spoken --

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those comments, and I don’t want to get into a tit-for-tat with my counterpart in Pakistan without seeing them. So let me check. Obviously, we’ve made very clear our concern about LET. That’s why we put them on our designation list; that’s why we try to cut off funding and support to them. Let me check on those comments, and I’m happy to see if there’s more to share.

QUESTION: Oh, and if – I know – two very brief --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- on Egypt. If there’s anything new on – in terms of contacts with the Egyptians about --

MS. HARF: Nothing new. We’ve been in continual contact with them, but nothing new to highlight.

QUESTION: And then --

QUESTION: Any more deliveries? No deliveries of additional material?

MS. HARF: No, nothing has changed there. No.

QUESTION: And then, making good on my promise from yesterday, you have anything to say --

MS. HARF: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: -- about your position on the renaming of the street?

MS. HARF: Excuse me. Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah?

MS. HARF: So let’s see. Well, much to your dismay, I am not going to take a position on the naming of the street. But I will say a few things about this gentleman. The Secretary put out a statement – I believe it was December 9th, 2013 – marking the 5th anniversary of this Nobel laureate and writer’s detention; have called very clearly for his release from the Chinese authorities, to end his wife’s house arrest, and to guarantee him and his family members all internationally-recognized human rights protections and freedoms.

So clearly, we think this gentleman has played an important role in advancing dialogue. And I think we’ll probably leave it at that.

QUESTION: Which gentleman? Which --

MS. HARF: So the person they want to name the street after – you want me to try and pronounce it? Is that what you’re trying to get me to do?

QUESTION: I’m just trying to – I’m wondering if you’re not willing to say the name.

MS. HARF: No, I – oh, no, no, no. I just didn’t want to mispronounce it.

QUESTION: Okay. Oh, okay. Okay, that --

MS. HARF: It’s Liu Xiaobo.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: So --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: My pronunciations aren’t always the best, though, so --

QUESTION: I didn’t --

MS. HARF: So in general, what I’m saying is, look, I’m not taking a position on the legislation. Clearly, we think that he – this person has been a voice, should be released from prison. His wife’s house arrest should end – making very clear our feelings on him. I don’t want that to be caught up in the confusion of the fact that we won’t take a position on this legislation.

QUESTION: So you won’t take a position on the legislation?

MS. HARF: I will not from here at this time, no.

QUESTION: But the Administration will and has?

MS. HARF: Publicly, we’re not taking a position on it at this time.

QUESTION: Well, it – will there come a time when you --

MS. HARF: There may.

QUESTION: -- will take a public – given the fact that this street is --

MS. HARF: There may. Often, as you know, with legislation we don’t take positions for some time, and then we eventually do.

QUESTION: Right. But given the fact that this is – this street is under federal – it’s the federal government’s street --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and you have jurisdiction over it, I would think that you would have an interest in – an interest that shouldn’t – there’s no reason for it to be a private position.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re having those conversations with Congress. Again, I’m happy to take your advice about the fact that we should make those public back to them.

QUESTION: So you believe that this guy should be released --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- but you’re not – but you won’t say whether you think he should be – whether it’s appropriate to --

MS. HARF: For a street to be named after him, yeah.

QUESTION: Any street anywhere?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any more on this street.

QUESTION: I mean, look --

QUESTION: So it sounds like you don’t support.

MS. HARF: That’s not what I said. I did not at all say that.

QUESTION: Well, if you’re questioning the appropriateness of a street being named after him --

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I didn’t question it. I said I’m taking no position on whether or not this street should be named after him at all.

QUESTION: So do you know if the Chinese have made their public complaint to you guys in private?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Well, without taking a position on the legislation, do you think that such a move could aggravate your relationship with the Chinese?

MS. HARF: Well, I think by definition that would mean I was taking a position on the legislation if I did any analysis on it. So as I said, we think we’ve made very clear that he should be released. We’ve made very clear that we think he’s played an important role in advancing dialogue in China, but again, nothing – no position on the proposed legislation.

QUESTION: I think we’ll take that as a “No.”

QUESTION: Right, but either the Administration thinks that it’s --

MS. HARF: I think you can assume what you want, but you might be wrong.

QUESTION: The – I don’t understand this at all. The Administration either thinks it’s a good idea or an appropriate idea to honor him with – by renaming the street in front of the embassy or it thinks it is not appropriate or it takes no position. You say --

MS. HARF: I said publicly we are not taking a position, which happens all the time with proposed legislation. All the time, Matt. This is not breaking news.

QUESTION: Forget about the --

QUESTION: Well, it isn’t all the time because sometimes you take a very public position on legislation.

MS. HARF: Actually, it – much more often, we don’t take a position than we do. Much more often. It is the – actually the exception to the rule that we will take a position on pending legislation.

QUESTION: Marie, do you know who owns the street in front of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: Do you know who owns the street in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington?

MS. HARF: As you noted, I think it’s been widely reported that it is the property of the federal government.

QUESTION: Would you object to the Chinese – if it is that the Chinese who own the street in front of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, would you object to them doing the same thing?

MS. HARF: I am not even going to entertain that hypothetical.

QUESTION: Really? If the Chinese decided they wanted to come out and rename the street in front of the --

QUESTION: Edward Snowden Way. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- Edward Snowden Avenue or --

QUESTION: Benedict Arnold Boulevard? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I’d be happy to have that conversation.

QUESTION: -- or something like that?

QUESTION: Robert Hanson Way. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I’m sure the Chinese Government is taking all of your suggestions on board right now.

QUESTION: I’m sure that they had them – they were in their minds before.

MS. HARF: We’re just not, at this point, look, going to take a public position on this.

QUESTION: I just can’t see how it’s helpful to your diplomacy with the Chinese not to take a position.

MS. HARF: I will take your advice on board, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Let’s go watch the soccer game.

QUESTION: Game time?

MS. HARF: Yes, thank you.

QUESTION: Game time.

MS. HARF: Yes, thank you. And you saw the note. We’re going to – in case people want, we’re going to have it on the big screens here --

QUESTION: Well, can we ask you about your attire today?

MS. HARF: -- so people can watch the game. Yeah.

QUESTION: She’s ready.

QUESTION: Well, tell us about why you --

MS. HARF: About my Team USA shirt?

QUESTION: Well, tell us about why you’re not in your regular professional garb.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) This isn’t professional? Look, all joking aside, we’ve talked a lot about the fact that, look, I get – we stand up here and represent the United States and the World Cup is a huge international event, and it’s all about sports diplomacy and bringing people together. And where else can you get all these countries in one place to do something that’s positive, right? And that’s kind of amazing. And I’ve become a pretty big fan, so I think – thank you for giving the pleasure of briefing early today.

QUESTION: There is a potential that the results of today’s matches could result in the United States playing Russia --

MS. HARF: Well, there you go. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: -- in the next round. (Laughter.) Would you like to comment on that probability or is that a hypothetical question at the moment that you do not --

MS. HARF: It is a – but I do think it’s cool, when we’re at the P5+1s, I mean, the one thing that brings people together often is sports, and is soccer, and is the World Cup. And what better way to talk about something positive than for me to wear my Team USA colors. And I’m surprised Matt’s not wearing a scarf today.

QUESTION: It’s too hot.

MS. HARF: I know. Anyway, if you guys want to stay, we’re going to show the games up – the game up here. So grab a soda and lunch and come back, and thanks for coming to today’s briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:08 p.m.)

DPB #113


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 25, 2014

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 17:22

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 25, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel Update / NATO Meetings in Brussels / Meetings in Paris on Iraq and Syria
  • SRI LANKA
    • UN High Commissioner Human Rights Announcement / Human Rights Violations
  • IRAQ
    • ISIL Threat in Iraq / ISIL and the Assad Regime / U.S. Assistance / Reports of Airstrikes
    • Maliki's Comments / Electoral Process / New Parliament / Inclusive Government
    • Iran's Role / Russia's Role
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Hariri in Paris
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia
    • ISIL Funding
  • SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN
    • Meriam Ibrahim Rearrest at Airport / Travel Documents / Assurances of Family's Safety / Chargé Meeting with Sudanese Officials
  • AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN/INDIA
    • Designation of Aliases of LET / Review Process / List of Attacks / Herat Attack /
    • Mumbai Attacks / U.S.-India Cooperation
  • MIDDLE EAST
    • Terrorism / Threats in the Region / ISIS
  • LIBYA
    • Parliamentary Elections / Security Situation / U.S. Support
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Secretary Kerry's Meetings in Saudi Arabia / Tensions in the West Bank
  • JAPAN
    • Cooperating on Regional Issues
  • HONG KONG/CHINA
    • Elections / One Country-Two Systems
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Street Name Change in Front of Chinese Embassy / DC City Council / Pending Legislation
  • BANGLADESH
    • Statements by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association / Sedition
  • EGYPT
    • FMF Funding Update / Schiff Amendment
  • UKRAINE
    • Phone Call with President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, President Poroshenko and President Putin
    • EU Summit / EU Council / Sanctions
    • Federation Council Decision / Revoking Resolution
    • Decentralization of Authorities
    • NATO


TRANSCRIPT:

1:21 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I just have two quick items at the top and then happy to open it up to your questions.

So first, a trip update. The Secretary attended NATO foreign ministerial meetings in Brussels today. I’m sure many of you saw his press avail. He also participated in bilateral meetings with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. Tomorrow in Paris, where I think he’s en route there on the train right now because of a strike in Brussels --

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Who’s on this – who’s going on a train?

MS. HARF: The Secretary is taking the train from Brussels to Paris because of, I think, a transportation related strike in Brussels.

QUESTION: Why not --

QUESTION: That doesn’t affect the trains?

MS. HARF: Apparently not.

QUESTION: No, it’s an air controller strike.

MS. HARF: Apparently, it’s an air related --

QUESTION: I see. Is it a private train, or is it the regular Eurostar?

MS. HARF: I will endeavor to get you all the details of his train travel.

Tomorrow in Paris, Secretary Kerry will be meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh to brief them on his trip to Iraq and to discuss the grave security situation on the ground there, as well as the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Secretary Kerry will also meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman and Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri tomorrow as well. He will then travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday to brief King Abdullah on his discussions in Iraq.

QUESTION: By train? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I’d like to see that one. It’d take a few days.

QUESTION: Well, how’s he going to get the plane from --

MS. HARF: I have – I will check, Matt. I have no idea how the plane will get from Brussels to Paris.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Well, okay, so I mean --

MS. HARF: I will check.

QUESTION: Isn’t there supposed to be --

QUESTION: Won’t he be flying to a military airport?

MS. HARF: Guys, I really don’t have any more details on the plane or the train or how he is moving around.

QUESTION: Is he going first-class on the train?

MS. HARF: I will check.

QUESTION: Did he get a Eurail pass? (Laughter.) I don’t even know if they have those anymore actually.

MS. HARF: I do love trains in Europe, though, I will say – and trains here for that matter.

QUESTION: Is it a fast one or the scenic one?

MS. HARF: So, second item on Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: Matt doesn’t want to talk about anything if it doesn’t have to do with trains. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Exactly.

MS. HARF: Me either, actually.

QUESTION: Or Belgian air controllers.

MS. HARF: Or Belgian air controller strikes.

The United States welcomes UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s – excuse me – announcement of the distinguished experts who will advise the panel conducting the international investigation into the alleged human rights violations and related crimes in Sri Lanka, as called for in the March 2014 Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka. We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner and its investigation. We continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its obligations to its own people and to take meaningful, concrete steps to address outstanding concerns related to democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, justice, and accountability. The United States stands ready to assist Sri Lanka in facilitating progress on these issues.

With that, Matt, train or other related questions.

QUESTION: Well, actually, I was just thinking. I mean, a propos of that, I suppose it is possible that you could get --

MS. HARF: Are you actually looking at that map? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. He could get on like the Orient Express or something and get to Istanbul and then go south. But of course, he’d have to go through Lebanon and maybe – and Syria, which would be a bit of a problem. Anyway.

MS. HARF: It’d be a bit of a travel problem.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay, so apart from the train I want to talk about Iraq for – quickly.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it at all concerning to you that you seem to be on the same side now as not only the Iranians --

QUESTION: And the Syrians.

QUESTION: -- but President Assad?

MS. HARF: In what way?

QUESTION: In terms of all of you – you are helping Maliki to defend and to push back ISIL.

MS. HARF: We’re helping the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: Well, correct. Maliki is shorthand for the Iraqi Government. So are the Syrians apparently, militarily, with these air strikes, and so are the Iranians. Is this a – is this problematic at all?

MS. HARF: Well, I think there’s a couple issues all tied up in that question. First, we know that ISIL is a threat to the entire region, including to Iran. We know that – we’ve talked about that over the past few weeks in this room and elsewhere on that front. But to be clear, one of the, if not the main, reason ISIL has been allowed to grow in strength is because of the Assad regime, because of the climate they’ve created in Syria. And it’s been a direct result of that.

So look, our interests in Iraq are to have as quickly as possible an inclusive government formed that can create a path forward and to help the Iraqi Government push back on ISIL.

In terms of these strikes, we obviously are aware of these reports. I don’t have any reason to dispute them at this point and, more broadly though, underscore the point that the solution to the threat confronting Iraq is not the intervention of the Assad regime, which, again, really allowed ISIL to drive into Iraq in the first place. But it’s the kind of solutions we’ve been talking about over the past few days.

QUESTION: But he’s actually doing something that might have a – that may have an immediate impact on the ground in Iraq.

MS. HARF: Well, everything he’s done over the past several years has led to this point where we are where ISIL is threatening Iraq.

QUESTION: All right. Well, two things --

MS. HARF: So again, I can’t underscore enough the culpability lying with the Assad regime for creating this climate that could allow ISIL to flourish.

QUESTION: Well, two things about – well, two things. One is that for the past several years, as you have pointed out, the Assad regime as well as the Russians have been saying that this is a fight against terrorism. Is that what it is?

MS. HARF: Well, I think the Assad --

QUESTION: Were they right the whole time?

MS. HARF: I think the Assad regime has used that term very loosely to define a whole number of opposition members, including the moderate opposition that we support. So we’ve been very clear there’s a terrorist element, Nusrah and ISIS, inside Syria that we think is a threat and we have been working to help other countries in the region confront. But when the Assad regime uses the word terrorist, it’s been my understanding that they’ve used it very differently.

QUESTION: You --

MS. HARF: They’ve used it as an excuse to crack down on their own people and indeed the moderate opposition.

QUESTION: And one more thing is that you – the Secretary was obviously there talking to Maliki. The U.S. and others have been very forthright and public about calling for there to be governmental change.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: You’ve been looking at July 1st. But today, Maliki came out and said that he is opposed to and won’t create a national salvation government.

MS. HARF: He --

QUESTION: Is this --

MS. HARF: I think that’s been misreported a little bit, so let me clear that up.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And then we can talk about that a little more.

What Prime Minister Maliki was referring to and what he said today was that he rejected this notion of an emergency government, some sort of imposition of an interim government that’s outside of the constitutional process that the Iraqis have in place. In his remarks today, he clearly committed to completing the electoral process, to convening the new parliament – excuse me, hiccups – to convening the new parliament, and to moving forward with the constitutional process for government formation. And we think these commitments are very much in line with those that he made to the Secretary during the visit. I think there’s just been a little confusion about what he was ruling out here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So these aren’t problematic comments to you?

MS. HARF: No, no, very much in line with the commitments he made to the Secretary.

QUESTION: But is it not the case that this is an emergency?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s why we’ve said they need to move forward with government formation as soon as possible. But they need to do so under the constitutional process they have set up, which he’s committed to. What he was ruling out is doing some extra-constitutional emergency government separate from that process,

QUESTION: You don’t believe then that the situation is dire enough that there needs to be some kind of extra-constitutional move?

MS. HARF: Well, we believe it’s dire enough that they need to move as quickly as possible – and we believe they can – to form a government, but they should not do things outside of their own constitution. The parties have committed to that constitutional process that’s in place.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And they can do it quickly enough.

QUESTION: They can?

MS. HARF: We believe they can. The question is whether or not they will choose to.

QUESTION: The constitution does allow for emergency situation, including, I presume, the formation of an actual salvation government.

MS. HARF: Again, Said, there is a constitutional process in place. That kind of suggestion is outside of that process, and we believe they can use the process they have in place to form a government that’s in line with the commitments he made to the Secretary and in line with what we’re calling for.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it your understanding that Maliki actually rejected an idea that was presented to him by anyone?

QUESTION: By Ayad Allawi.

QUESTION: Ayad Allawi.

MS. HARF: I’m not in a position to comment on internal Iraqi deliberations or discussions. Again, the prime minister, what he said today was in line with the commitments he made to the Secretary.

QUESTION: Okay. And I have one question on the Syrians pursuing ISIL.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Now, you’re saying that the Syrian regime was culpable in the creating of ISIL?

MS. HARF: In creating the climate that has led to ISIL to flourish and indeed to cross over from Syria into Iraq.

QUESTION: How so? Could you explain that?

MS. HARF: I mean they’ve created a huge security vacuum. They’ve instigated a civil war in their own country, attacked their own people, led to a breakdown in security where groups like Nusrah and groups like ISIS and ISIL have been able to flourish.

QUESTION: But they have been – to my understanding, they have been at the receiving end of the regime of these groups that have infiltrated into Syria many times through the support of some neighboring countries.

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of some of – in terms of ISIL, what we’ve said in their support is we don’t have any evidence that foreign governments are supporting them. We know there’s some possibility of funding from private citizens in other countries, and obviously, we take that very seriously.

QUESTION: And lastly, can you confirm that actually the Syrian air force did strike?

MS. HARF: As I’ve said, I’m aware of those reports.

QUESTION: Okay. They denied it.

MS. HARF: We have – I have no reason to dispute them, but I can’t confirm them.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yeah, Lucas.

QUESTION: If the State Department is open to Russian and Iranian intervention in Iraq in a nonsectarian manner, why not open to --

MS. HARF: I definitely didn’t say that. I don’t think I said we’re open to Iranian intervention in Iraq. I said that – I have said that Iran could play a constructive role in promoting an inclusive government in Iraq, as all of its neighbors should do.

QUESTION: Okay. Now how about Russia?

MS. HARF: Any – look, anyone who has leverage with the different parties in Iraq should use it to push for an inclusive government to be formed very quickly.

QUESTION: So that includes Iran?

MS. HARF: Look, if they’re willing to act constructively here, all of the neighbors.

QUESTION: So why not Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, again, everything we’ve seen from the Assad regime over the past several years has been pointed towards the fact that they have led to the security situation where this group could flourish. They have killed their own people. They have allowed groups like ISIL to perpetrate attacks in Syria and now cross over into Iraq. So I think Syria’s a very different situation.

QUESTION: Marie, do you have any guidance on why the Secretary is going to meet with Hariri in Paris?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have anything specific. I’m happy to check. Obviously, we’ve been talking to a number of our partners in the region about the security situation. Obviously, Lebanon has its own security challenges. I think just another bomb went off fairly recently in Beirut today. So I’m sure that will be a topic of conversation.

QUESTION: And since he’s meeting with the Saudi foreign minister in Paris, why is he going to Saudi Arabia?

MS. HARF: Because he’s going to meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: And on Iraq, and what’s the difference between the national emergency government and inclusive government?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So when we say – talk about forming an inclusive government, there is an electoral process that’s in place. They had elections. What happens next is they will convene a parliament and then move forward with the constitutional process for government formation. It starts with a COR speaker and then I think president and then prime minister. So that’s laid out in the constitution. They’ve already had the election, so they’ve committed to moving along that process.


I think what you’re referring to would be the imposition of an interim government, separate from that process, which, of course, isn’t something we would support and was not what Prime Minister Maliki – was what he was saying he would not support either.

QUESTION: And I know that they’ve asked Secretary Kerry this question about Iran, that it is directing surveillance drones over Iraq and sending military equipment and supplies to Baghdad. Can you confirm these reports, especially that New York Times quoted a U.S. official on this?

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t confirm the specifics in those reports. What we’ve said is what I just said, that anyone in the region shouldn’t do anything that might exacerbate sectarian divisions, that would fuel extremism inside Iraq. And look, we know Iran and Iraq are neighbors with close ties, and again, believe Iran could play a constructive role if it’s helping to send the same message to the Iraqi Government that we’re sending. So I think --

QUESTION: Well, wait, that doesn’t – I mean, the question would be: Do you think that the provision of military equipment by Iran and their flying surveillance drones over, does that exacerbate sectarian – would that exacerbate sectarian tensions?

MS. HARF: Again, I can’t confirm those reports, one way or the other.

QUESTION: I’m not – well, I’m not asking you to confirm them.

MS. HARF: Right. And so I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical. What I’ve said --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: -- or whether one thing would exacerbate tensions or not. As I’ve said, no country in the region should do anything to exacerbate those tensions.

QUESTION: Well, but if you don’t explain – and this is the same thing we had an exchange about yesterday. If you don’t explain what would be bad in your view, how are people supposed – how do you expect people to know what it is they shouldn’t do?

MS. HARF: Again, Matt, I just don’t have anything more for you on what Iran is or isn’t doing inside Iraq.

QUESTION: But do you think that Iran delivering – doing the same thing that the United States is doing would be – would exacerbate sectarian tensions?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to do any more analysis on what Iran might be doing.

QUESTION: So it’s – so you’re saying it’s okay --

MS. HARF: I’m not saying anything. You’re trying to put words in my mouth.

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to comment on this one any further.

QUESTION: I’m trying to find out what the U.S. position is, in terms of Iranian intervention in Iraq.

MS. HARF: If there’s more to share with you, Matt, I’m happy to see if we can share it.

QUESTION: Well, it’s happening, and you --

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t confirm those reports.

QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t matter whether you can confirm them or not. It’s happening.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: And I want to know if the U.S. thinks that what Iran is doing – not asking you what they’re doing – but if the U.S. thinks that Iran – whatever it is they’re doing – is helpful or harmful. And I don’t know why it is that you guys can’t come out and say that. How are the Iranians supposed to know – not that they would listen to you in the first place, but how are they supposed to know that if you think that flying – helping them by flying surveillance drones is a bad thing?

MS. HARF: Matt, I just don’t have any more analysis to do on what Iran may or may not be doing inside Iraq. If there’s more to share at some point, I’m happy to.

Yes, let’s go to – or – no. Iraq.

QUESTION: Excuse me, one more on Iraq, please.

MS. HARF: Let’s finish Iraq.

QUESTION: Yeah, please, please.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: One more on Iraq and Syria. Is the U.S. in contact or in communication with the Syrian regime about the situation in Iraq?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check.

Yes. On Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. ask the Iraqi Government if they asked the Syrian regime to do – to launch the air strikes against the terrorists?

MS. HARF: I’m sure there are conversations happening on the ground. I think the Government of Iraq is probably best positioned to speak about this, but let me see if there’s more we can get you on that.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on the Secretary’s travel.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: If he’s already meeting with his Saudi counterpart in Paris, why does have to go to Saudi Arabia to meet the King?

MS. HARF: I think that was what Michel just asked.

QUESTION: Right, he did.

MS. HARF: I think he thinks it’s important to brief King Abdullah on his visit to Iraq, on what he saw on the ground, on the conversations he had. Obviously, King Abdullah is a leader of incredible importance when it comes to regional issues and cares very deeply about the situation in Iraq. They share the concerns we have about ISIL and the threat it poses to the region, so looking to engage with the King in addition to the foreign minister.

QUESTION: Back a little while ago, you mentioned something about funding.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Or you said there was no evidence the governments in the Gulf – the Arab --

MS. HARF: Are funding ISIL?

QUESTION: Right. That there’s no evidence – I think that’s what you said – no evidence that they were --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But you said you were aware that there was funding from some private people.

MS. HARF: We said we’re aware of reports that there is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But on the funding piece, much of ISIL’s funding actually comes from criminal activity – kidnappings, stealing money from banks – things like we’ve seen in Iraq. So much of their funding actually comes from that kind of activity.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. at any point express concern to Gulf countries that they were – they may have been encouraging or allowing money from private citizens – of their private citizens to flow to --

MS. HARF: Certainly we discuss terrorist financing and funding with partners in the region all the time. I’m not familiar with specific conversations we’ve had, but again, no evidence that governments are doing this kind of thing.

QUESTION: Right, right. Apart from governments.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up. You agree that you have one enemy in common – you, the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Iranians – in ISIL. Do you agree with that?

MS. HARF: I agree that ISIL is a threat to the entire region.

QUESTION: But you do --

MS. HARF: That doesn’t mean we have overlap --

QUESTION: -- share enmity, overlapping.

MS. HARF: That doesn’t mean, Said, we have overlapping strategic interests just because we have a common enemy. Those are two different things.

Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah, Sudan.

QUESTION: One more, Arshad.

QUESTION: Please. No, please.

QUESTION: Do you think that Prime Minister Maliki’s statement today on the government helps the process of forming a new government?

MS. HARF: Well, again, in his comments today, he committed clearly to completing the electoral process, to convening a new parliament, and to moving forward with the process for government formation. That’s what we’ve called on them to do. It’s what he committed to doing. So that’s certainly what we need to see happen here. That’s why I wanted to clear up some of the confusion about his comments.

QUESTION: Have you got clarification from him in --

MS. HARF: I don’t think we were looking for clarification. His comments were quite clear. I think they’ve been misreported a little bit in some outlets, and then that sort of spread. And so I wanted to make very clear what he actually did say.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Sudan. Yesterday you told us the Sudanese Government had told you that – Ms. Ibrahim had been briefly detained but subsequently released --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and that she had not been arrested.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He lawyer told us that she had been arrested, that he was at the prison – that he was at the police station with her. We quote him today as saying that she’s been charged with forging a South Sudanese passport or producing a forged document.

MS. HARF: So I do have an update for you --

QUESTION: Great. And --

MS. HARF: -- that explains the discrepancy in the statements.

QUESTION: And I’m particularly keen to know whether the U.S. and South Sudanese – but you may only be able to speak for the U.S. – ambassadors or envoys had been summoned by the Sudanese foreign ministry over this.

MS. HARF: Yeah. So midday yesterday when we talked, she had not been arrested at the airport. Subsequent to the briefing – timing is often very important here – the family was taken to a police station for further questioning, where police subsequently rearrested her on charges related to her travel documents. She has been held since then at the police station. Her family is with her. She is in the custody of the Sudanese police while the issues related to her travel – their travel documents, excuse me, are sorted out.

Embassy staff have been in frequent contact with the family, our lawyer – and it’s lawyers – excuse me – and have provided needed supplies to the family while she’s been in the custody of the police, so have been able to visit her and give her some things she needs. The Government of Sudan has assured us of their – the family’s – safety. Obviously, that’s of utmost importance to us. We will continue monitoring the situation and discussing it with them.

Finally, at the request of the Government of Sudan, our charge de affaires met today with the Sudanese foreign ministry to discuss the case. He reaffirmed our concern that the family should be allowed to depart swiftly from Sudan, that we would work on that with them. You are right; I cannot speak for the South Sudanese Government. Let me see if I have any other updates.

And to the best of our knowledge, these charges aren’t related in any way to the previous case. They are related to her travel documents. I think that’s --

QUESTION: Do you have any --

MS. HARF: -- my update I have.

QUESTION: According to our reporting, she had – or the allegation is that she had a South Sudanese passport with a visa for the United States in it. If that were the case, you would’ve – the U.S. Government would’ve granted her a visa. So can you address whether the U.S. Government gave her a visa to come to the United States? And then secondly, if you did, did you have any concerns about the authenticity of her travel document?

MS. HARF: Can’t comment a lot more on the specifics of her travel documents. Obviously, we’re working with her and her family and the Government of Sudan to try and get everything in proper order so she can, and her family, depart swiftly.

QUESTION: But what about – did you give her a visa?

MS. HARF: We can’t comment any further on the specifics of her travel documents.

QUESTION: But I’m not asking about her travel documents; I’m asking about a visa.

MS. HARF: Well, a visa is technically a travel document, Arshad, so --

QUESTION: Is it really? I thought a visa – a travel document referred to a passport.

MS. HARF: A visa to give you entry to a country, we consider that as part of a travel document colloquially when I’m answering your question. We have nothing else to say about passports, visas, anything. We’ll continue working with the family and with the Government of Sudan.

QUESTION: I think there’s a concern – the reason why this question is coming up, there’s a concern that this might have been some bungled attempt to get her out of the country. Do you --

MS. HARF: Bungled by who?

QUESTION: By – I don’t know. By the South Sudanese, by you guys. I don’t know.

MS. HARF: There are processes in place for people to leave certain countries. We have been working with the family to ensure that they can swiftly depart from Sudan. We know there are a number of documents needed. We want to make sure everything’s in order. We’re working with them right now to see if we can help in any way.

QUESTION: Your understanding is that this woman is a citizen of South Sudan?

MS. HARF: I don’t have much more to comment on in terms of her specific travel documents or citizenship or which – how she may have been attempting to leave the country.

QUESTION: All right. And then just given the interest that there was on this at yesterday’s briefing, was there some reason why we couldn’t get an update, like, off-camera? When did this information about their re-arrest come out? Was it, like, 8 o’clock at night or something?

MS. HARF: It was coming out overnight and this morning, actually. I think the details were still a little murky and we were trying to confirm them, quite frankly.

QUESTION: So – okay.

MS. HARF: So --

QUESTION: I’m not complaining. I’m just kind of curious. Did – and you’re – but you’re satisfied that this new account from the Sudanese authorities is correct as far as it goes?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a new account; it’s an updated account.

QUESTION: All right. Well, that’s what I’m --

MS. HARF: What I said yesterday was the situation at the time.

QUESTION: Right. But you’re confident that this is accurate now?

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes. I mean, we’ve met with her in the prison, or in the custody of the Sudanese police. I wouldn’t refer to it as a prison. I don’t have all the specifics on that.

QUESTION: Okay, but --

MS. HARF: We’ve met with her and given her some items she needs. And they’ve said they will keep them safe, and we are absolutely going to make sure they do so.

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, as far as you know, as of when you got up here to the podium, what you have just --

MS. HARF: This is the problem with news happening while – in real time.

QUESTION: All right, well, no one’s expecting you to know what’s happened between when you got up here and – or even ten minutes before you got up here. But as far as you know, this is 100 percent accurate, as far as you know?

MS. HARF: Correct, yes, that she is in the custody of the Sudanese police; her family is with her; this is related to an issue with travel documents; we’re trying to help work that out.

QUESTION: And when the charge met with the Sudanese foreign ministry, I presume he – well, I mean, what was his message to the Sudanese, or was he not there to deliver a message, he was there to – I mean, why did the Sudanese say they wanted him?

MS. HARF: His message was that she – well, I’d let them speak for themselves. But his message was that they need to be able to depart as swiftly as possible from Sudan and that we are happy to help in any way we can, but obviously, that’s our bottom line here with the Government of Sudan, and that they should be kept safe.

QUESTION: Same topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So you are still confident to make the family leaving the country, and you are satisfied with the cooperation you have with the Sudanese officials?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: You are not accusing them of kind of harassment or --

MS. HARF: I’m certainly not going to at this point. What we’re focused on is getting her and her family swiftly out of the country – that’s certainly our goal – and keeping them safe until they’re able to.

QUESTION: When you say “her family,” do you mean her U.S. citizen husband their two children?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: What --

QUESTION: And to your knowledge, have they been – are they under any charges, or are they just staying with her out of solidarity?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that her husband has not been arrested. Obviously, I don’t think her children have been either. I do believe they’re staying with her to be with her. But again, this is moving very quickly.

QUESTION: As the spouse of a U.S. citizen, is she eligible for what they call a safe, let’s say, or re-entry travel document?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have any more details to share with you about travel documents.

QUESTION: Regardless of – I know that you can’t talk about travel documents, but – this specific here. But in general – I’m presuming; please tell me if this is correct – a U.S. consular officer in an embassy abroad would not issue a – would not put a valid visa into a fake passport, correct?

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: So you would have to --

MS. HARF: In general, yes, of course. We would not --

QUESTION: So are there exceptions to that rule?

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: No. So you would never – if there was --

MS. HARF: To put a U.S. visa into a falsified passport?

QUESTION: Right. To put a genuine visa into a fake passport or a --

MS. HARF: Nope. We don’t do that.

QUESTION: Okay. So that – if she did have a visa, it was not obtained by some kind of subterfuge involving --

MS. HARF: Our consular officers do very good work all over the world --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- making sure they’re using the correct documents, yes.

QUESTION: Since Ms. Ibrahim possess now U.S. travel documents and a visa, does the United States bear responsibility for bringing her home?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I confirmed what travel documents she has, but what I said is it’s very much our position that they need to be able to depart Sudan swiftly. I don’t have any more details on what their travel will look like. But we clearly care about this very deeply and have raised it at the highest levels, and are working very hard to resolve it.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s on the report that the State Department had given out upgrading or whatever – changing the status of LET.

MS. HARF: There’s no change in the status, but yeah.

QUESTION: The change of status means you have got all these new names, Jama’at --

MS. HARF: We’ve added some aliases.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And so – and you have given a list of attacks which are – you’re saying that Mumbai attack, this, and then the recent attack in Afghanistan --

MS. HARF: In Herat?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So how are – is the U.S. going to deal with it now?

MS. HARF: Well, just to give everyone else the background, what we did today was add – designate a number of aliases for LET under the Foreign – FTO designation, and also amend the EO to add some to that as well. We also did the mandatory every-five-year review process and re – continued to have them designated as well. So those two things happened today.

And we did, as you note, list a number of attacks that they were responsible for. In terms of the Herat attack, we have said this now: Based on credible information – can’t get into more specifics about what that means – the U.S. Government has assessed that LET was responsible for the attack in Herat on May 23rd, 2014. This is the attack on the Indian consulate.

QUESTION: Now the question, right, is that in – with respect to the Benghazi, the repeated thing that is coming out, that if somebody harms an American citizen we don’t leave them scot – go scot-free.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So if you remember, in the Mumbai 2008 attacks there was a number of U.S. citizens who were killed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So – and we have identified LET. So how are we going to get these people --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- and bring them to book?

MS. HARF: Yeah, a couple points. First, the designations help us cut off support and funding to LET so they can’t undertake future attacks. Also, cooperation between the United States and India has already led to several Mumbai terrorists – including David Headley, if folks remember him – being brought to justice. So to date, the Department of Justice and FBI have provided extensive assistance to the Government of India in their investigations into the Mumbai attacks, including access to interview David Headley and substantial additional evidentiary evidence as well. The President and everyone have been very clear that we will continue working to bring other perpetrators of this attack to justice.

QUESTION: On that same thing?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: The credible thing that was said, is it based on your own assessment of the (inaudible) information, or based on information received from (inaudible) that you gained after the attack (inaudible) and LET (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, we make our assessments based on a wide range of all-source information. In this case we believe, based on this information, it’s credible. We look at number of different sources that we gather on our own. We have assessed that LET did perpetrate this attack.

QUESTION: And have you shared that information with India?

MS. HARF: We share information with them all the time. I’m not sure about this specifically, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Just to --

QUESTION: On the Mumbai terrorist attack, India has sought for the second time access to David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. Is U.S. considering giving them another round of access to --

MS. HARF: I don’t have – DOJ would probably be better able to speak to that, and the FBI. But I know we have given them access in the past.

QUESTION: One quick one on that.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have anything – any update on what you are going to do with (inaudible) --

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on that.

QUESTION: -- who is going around --

MS. HARF: No, I know we’ve – you asked about it before and we’ve talked about it a little bit, but no update on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, let’s go to the back here. You haven’t had one yet.

QUESTION: Yes. About ISIS, I want to go back to ISIS for this one.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yeah. So now, like, we have Iraq and we have Syria, and now there are terrorism in Lebanon. So --

MS. HARF: Well, terrorism in Lebanon is, tragically, not a new thing.

QUESTION: Yeah, no, no, it’s like three countries that have Sunni and Shia, the same combination that have conflicting in Iraq and Syria. And it seems like their approaching Israel. I mean, terrorism in general – do you --

MS. HARF: Well, again, the terrorist threat to Israel is also not a new thing, unfortunately.

QUESTION: I know, but if, like, those three areas, like, conflicted all at one time, then it’s like kind of like have a nuclear bomb near Israel --

MS. HARF: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- and it might spill over.

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Have you heard anything about – and I’m real sorry to interrupt you, but have you heard anything about --

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: -- connection, contacts, possible contacts between Hamas and any of the terrorism organizations that is actually, like, active in the area?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on that. I don’t have all the background on that. Look, as we’ve said, though, our position on Hamas is not changed. They’re a terrorist organization. That’s why we’ve helped and stood by Israel to fight that threat. If you look at all the funding and security assistance we’ve given Israel, if you look at Iron Dome or other ways we’ve assisted Israel by helping them fight this threat, we’ve certainly understood how serious it is.

And look, the terrorist threat is not new in the region. But I think what you heard the President speak about at West Point is how it’s evolving and how it’s changing and how we’re going to confront that. Part of that is through this new counterterrorism fund where we’re helping countries like Lebanon and Jordan and others build their capacity to fight this threat together and on their own. And that’s certainly something I think you’ll see more of going forward.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking, because there is some fear that was, like, told to me, like, by some expert in insurgents group, and he suggested that ISIS is actually – is following Abu Musab al-Suri, like, theories about like that Qaida or whatever. Like, I believe that ISIS is replacing Qaida now in the region, but, like, Qaida has to have cells in every country surrounding Israel. And so, like --

MS. HARF: Well, al-Qaida, actually, I think, if we remember the history here, rejected ISIS as too brutal --

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS. HARF: -- which, I think, says a whole lot about ISIS and the kind of tactics they’ve used. Nusrah, we know, has ties to al-Qaida. But again, this is a threat that’s evolving. And we certainly know there’s a threat to Israel, to other partners in the region as well. All we have to do is look at what’s happened over the past month in Iraq to know that that’s the case.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask one about Libya?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So General Hiftar kicked out the Qatari and Turkish citizens from Libya. That’s what I have here. Do you have anything about that? Do you know --

MS. HARF: I’m not familiar with those reports. I’m happy to check and see if there’s something we can say.

QUESTION: I would be happy if you could do that.

MS. HARF: Okay, great. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Said.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Libya.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Any – do you have anything on the elections in Libya?

MS. HARF: I do. So we welcome today’s parliamentary elections in Libya. They were organized by the High National Electoral Council, which announced that 1.5 million registered voters have the chance today to cast their ballots. There are 1,600 polling centers around the country. They’ll be electing 200 members of the new council of representatives. Obviously, credible elections are an important part of any country’s transition here, and this is – would be an important step for Libyans as well. I don’t believe there’s any results yet, but we will keep following them, and if there’s more comment, are happy to make it.

QUESTION: There’s only 1.5 million registered voters in all of Libya?

MS. HARF: That’s my – who registered to vote in this election, that’s my understanding. Yes.

QUESTION: Is that it? Is that a disappointing number? I mean, I don’t frankly know what the population is.

MS. HARF: Quite frankly, the number --

QUESTION: Six-point-two million.

QUESTION: People?

MS. HARF: The number didn’t jump out at me.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know what the voting eligibility is. Anyway.

QUESTION: Do you think that --

MS. HARF: We’ll see if they’re higher or lower than U.S. congressional elections.

QUESTION: -- the security situation in Libya allows the Libyans to vote in a fair --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll see how today’s election goes. It’s ongoing or just ended is my understanding, so we’ll see if there’s more to say. We know the security situation is challenging. We have supported the electoral process through support in this instance to Libyan civil society organizations that have fielded domestic observers, also have funded technical support for the electoral council in coordination with the UN and other international partners as well. So we’re trying to help them go forward with these elections that seem to have happened today, and if there’s more to say tomorrow, we will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s a report that Charlene Lamb is retiring from the State Department. Can you confirm that?

MS. HARF: I will check with her.

QUESTION: And also in Benghazi, there’s a report that – on the attacks in 2012 – that – from three sources, two in Washington and one on the ground – that State Department computers were stolen. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Lucas. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay. And that because these computers – reports of these computers being stolen led to locally employed staff receiving death threats. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: I’m happy – I’m not familiar with that. I’m just – I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: And did the special mission compound in Benghazi have SIPRNet access?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I will take all of the computer-related questions and see and what I can get you for tomorrow.

Said.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the Secretary’s meetings tomorrow?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. He’s meeting with the Saudi, with the Jordanians, with the --

MS. HARF: And the Emiratis.

QUESTION: -- and the Emiratis. And then with the Israeli – Lieberman. Is it – is he meeting with any --

MS. HARF: And the Lebanese.

QUESTION: -- Palestinians? And the Lebanese. Is he meeting --

MS. HARF: He spoke yesterday on the phone with Palestinian President Abbas. I know I’ve been asked that yesterday and I just wanted to confirm it took place.

QUESTION: Okay. Because I think Abbas is visiting Russia today or Moscow. So is he likely to --

MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary is not in Moscow.

QUESTION: Okay. I know. But is he likely to speak to him --

MS. HARF: But was happy to speak to him yesterday. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- tomorrow? Okay. Is it safe to assume that the Secretary of State will raise with Mr. Lieberman to sort of lighten up on their heavy hand in the West Bank and --

MS. HARF: Well, Said, as we’ve said, we’ve called on both sides – all parties – to exercise restraint, to show restraint. In the call with President Abbas yesterday, Secretary Kerry thanked him for his efforts to find the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers and also emphasized the need for restraint from all sides during this difficult time. He also agreed to stay in touch in the days ahead.

QUESTION: Israel launched a couple of air raids on Gaza yesterday. Although Hamas, the head of the politburo, basically said we have nothing to do with the kidnapping. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of those reports. I’m happy to check.

Yes. Elliot.

QUESTION: The foreign minister of Japan announced that they were holding talks with North Korea next week to dig in – dig more into the abduction issue and North Korean efforts to resolve that. First, just on that, do you have any comment or response?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I have anything on that. I know we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past in terms of how they handle the abductions issue. I don’t think I have anything new on that. I’m happy to see if there’s anything to say.

QUESTION: Okay. More broadly, do you have a concern that progress between the D.P.R.K. and Japan on a purely bilateral issue might complicate efforts to coordinate on issues that are of mutual concern with the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re very closely coordinated with Japan on issues when it comes to North Korea, but on other issues as well. And we know these are very important issues for the Japanese, and again, happy to check and see if there’s anything more to say on that.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes. I got answers for you. Are you going to ask the same --

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: I’ll wait to see if you ask the same questions. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, I ask the --

MS. HARF: On Hong Kong?

QUESTION: On Hong Kong, yeah. Could you just --

MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have. Okay. So you asked a couple, and let me see if I answer them. And if I don’t, please follow up. That we, in terms of elections, support Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and basic law protections of internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as, of course, freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. The details of the election process for the chief executive in 2017 have yet to be worked out, is my understanding. But we do believe that the legitimacy of the chief executive will be greatly enhanced if the promise of universal suffrage is fulfilled and if the election provides the people of Hong Kong a genuine choice of candidates representative of the voters’ will.

So I know there’s still some details that need to be worked out, but in general, that’s still our position. Of course, our longstanding policy – and I think this was part of your first question yesterday – is supportive of the principle of one country, two systems, and the high degree of autonomy maintained by the basic law, that that, of course, has not changed, and I think that – maybe that answered all of your questions.

QUESTION: Okay. So have you communicated these opinions to the Chinese Government? Or is --

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve certainly been very clear publicly and privately about this. I don’t have any specifics to share with you.

QUESTION: On China, you were asked yesterday about the move in Congress and also in DC city council to change the name of the road.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: You’ve seen, not surprisingly, the Chinese are not very happy about this. Do you – or do you guys take a position on kind of needling foreign governments with steps like this? Do you think it’s appropriate?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Do you think that it’s helpful to your broader foreign policy aims?

MS. HARF: In terms of this pending legislation, at this point, aren’t going to have any comment on it – any position to share with you all. But if that changes, happy to let you know.

QUESTION: Can I ask why? The Administration routinely takes positions --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- and puts out statements of --

MS. HARF: And we routinely don’t. In some cases we do, in some case we don’t.

QUESTION: Well, this was one that seems to – that seems like it would have – it has a direct foreign policy element to it. It certainly intended to send a message. Do you think that renaming streets in this kind of way, that are designed to be provocative, in general is a good idea?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have a general comment on this, because you’re trying to get me to weigh in on a specific issue, and we just aren’t going to comment on this kind of pending legislation.

QUESTION: Okay. So that means that you --

MS. HARF: It doesn’t mean we don’t have a position, it just means I don’t have one to share.

QUESTION: Oh, so you do have a position?

MS. HARF: I didn’t say we did. I said it doesn’t mean we don’t, doesn’t mean we do. I just don’t have one to share.

QUESTION: But it’s a secret position --

MS. HARF: Sometimes we make our --

QUESTION: -- from the most transparent Administration in history.

MS. HARF: Sometimes we don’t – most of the time, actually, we don’t comment publicly on our positions on pending legislation. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t.

QUESTION: Well, but this is more than just pending legislation.

MS. HARF: But we clearly communicate – no, it’s not. It is by definition pending legislation.

QUESTION: This is – but this is the renaming --

MS. HARF: I think by definition, that’s accurate.

QUESTION: This is the renaming of a street --

MS. HARF: Okay. I will take your suggestion --

QUESTION: -- that is intended to provoke and annoy --

MS. HARF: -- on board.

QUESTION: -- a foreign government.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to have any comment on it.

QUESTION: And I’m just wanting to know of the State Department thinks that that’s a good thing – a good way to practice foreign policy.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to have any comment on this pending legislation.

QUESTION: You’re going to – I’m going to bring this up every day --

MS. HARF: Fine.

QUESTION: -- until you do.

MS. HARF: Happy for you to waste everyone’s time in doing that when you know the answer.

QUESTION: No. It’s not a waste of time.

MS. HARF: I’ll let you know if the answer changes.

QUESTION: It is intended to get EAP or someone at your congressional liaison people – me raising it every day – to get a straight answer on what seems to be a pretty easy question.

MS. HARF: Matt, we don’t always communicate our position on pending legislation publicly for a variety of reasons that you are very well aware with.

QUESTION: Marie, can I get this – try maybe a different way. Without asking you to comment on the legislation --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the Chinese embassy has said that it’s an attempt driven by some personal interests and it runs counter to the efforts by an interest of the vast majority of people in both China and the U.S. to pursue a win-win cooperative partnership between the two countries. Do you have a comment – would you like to assuage the Chinese embassy that their concerns are unfounded?

MS. HARF: I’m just – I’m not going to comment on the pending legislation. We’ve been very clear about the fact that we would like to have and do have a constructive and productive relationship with China. You’ve seen that from a variety of senior officials, including, of course, the President’s conversations with his counterpart. So --

QUESTION: So you would communicate to the Chinese that this shouldn’t impact the relationship --

MS. HARF: I am not commenting on this one way or the other.

QUESTION: No, I’m not asking you to comment on the legislation itself.

MS. HARF: On just what they should think of it?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Right. So I’m not going to comment on that either. But good try.

QUESTION: So you still expect the S&ED in Beijing to go along just swimmingly after the indictment of the PLA guys who will never, ever be tried in the United States and efforts like this in --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly expect the S&ED will – is an important forum. We’re looking forward to it, as are the Chinese. Look, that doesn’t change the fact that when we disagree on things, including cyber issues, we won’t make that clear.

QUESTION: Right. Well, it’s just a question of whether you agree or disagree with Congress, which seems to want to annoy, intentionally provoke a response from the Chinese. And if you’re fine with that, okay.

MS. HARF: I didn’t say we were or weren’t.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Bangladesh. Have you seen this statement issued by the head of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association --

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: -- BGMEA?

MS. HARF: I have.

QUESTION: Yeah. He says that anyone from Bangladesh who contacts the U.S. Government and the Congress directly should be tried for sedition. Do you have anything --

MS. HARF: It’s Congress hour here in our briefing. Yes. Thank you for the question. We have grave concerns about these statements that have been attributed to the head of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association that individuals and labor rights activists who directly contact the U.S. Government or Congress should be prosecuted for sedition. These statements, if true, are outrageous and unacceptable. Bangladesh enjoys a rich tradition of parliamentary democracy, free speech, free association, and any attempt to muzzle civil society, including through these kinds of means, would be to the determinant of all Bangladeshis.

QUESTION: One on Egypt.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, yesterday you said that no aid was being withheld from the Egyptian Government.

MS. HARF: No. I don't think I said that. Let me just – let’s go back to the aid numbers here. I know there were some questions. So for 2014 FMF, $650 million has been appropriated. We recently obligated $572 million of that in FY 2014. And we went into these numbers a little bit yesterday, Lucas. They were notified in late April. So 78 million of that, of the notified overall 650, two missile systems and 10 Apache helicopters remain on hold pending further discussions with Congress. Just clearing up the numbers there. I know – I’m sorry there was some confusion on this over the last few days.

QUESTION: So none of the Apaches that were suspended – whose delivery was suspended last year have yet been delivered, correct?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: All 10 remain in storage in Fort Hood, Texas.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you for that detail.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: And have there been any conversations in the last 24 hours between – at a high level about the journalists issue?

MS. HARF: I can check. Not – from the Secretary? Let me check --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, you are continuing to raise this with the Egyptians, right?

MS. HARF: Of course. Yeah. Let me see if there’s any details about that.

QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Just one more question on Egypt. Yesterday at the White House, Josh Earnest said that additional assistance remains on hold. Is this the additional assistance?

MS. HARF: Yeah. That’s what he’s referring to.

Yeah.

QUESTION: But you know in the Congress they are trying to propose legislation to reduce the aid package by 30 percent. Are you aware?

MS. HARF: Is this the Schiff Amendment?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: So here I’m going to comment on something with Congress.

QUESTION: On pending legislation, my God.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: How surprising. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: So this amendment, if we’re referring to the same one, would have limited our --

QUESTION: Yes, we are.

MS. HARF: -- would have limited our ability – I don’t think it actually passed. I think it was pulled down, but let me double-check on that – to respond to emerging needs in Egypt and divert it from the focus of our request for Egypt. And we were already supporting many of the areas addressed in the amendment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks. What else?

QUESTION: So just before I get to Ukraine, can I just say, why is it that you’re willing to talk about that and not the other one? Will you – can you just --

MS. HARF: Because every --

QUESTION: Can – will you acknowledge the fact that you are willing to talk about legislation pending or otherwise --

MS. HARF: Sometimes.

QUESTION: -- when you think that it serves your interests?

MS. HARF: No. Look, Matt --

QUESTION: No?

MS. HARF: There are some times we think it’s in our best interest to communicate privately to Congress how we feel about legislation, and sometimes we believe it’s important to do so publicly.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the Chinese foreign ministry says that this move to on the street is a farce and a sham and intended to hurt – harm relations. What do you think about their – what do you think about those comments from the Chinese foreign ministry on the record from them?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to comment on this pending legislation or what it might do. I – we made very clear the importance of our relationship with China. And you know very well that there are times we comment on legislation and times we don’t, period. You are well aware of that history. You can disagree with it --

QUESTION: I’m aware that you comment on legislation --

MS. HARF: -- but it should not be surprising to you.

QUESTION: -- when you think that it’s in your – I just don’t understand why you think not commenting on this legislation or this move in general is detrimental.

MS. HARF: I will certainly take your advice on board, Matt.

QUESTION: All right, fine. I don’t expect anything, but thank you for doing that. Anyway you --

MS. HARF: It’s good to keep your expectations low.

QUESTION: I always do. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: So do I.

QUESTION: Good. Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: You will have seen that the – there was a four-way phone call this afternoon --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- between President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, President Poroshenko --

MS. HARF: Poroshenko.

QUESTION: -- and President Putin.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I don’t presume that you were listening in on the call, although since Chancellor Merkel was on it, maybe you were. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I think we made very clear we don’t do that.

QUESTION: What do you make --

MS. HARF: I just want to know what language they all spoke. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What do you make of it, because there –

MS. HARF: I actually --

QUESTION: -- have been various readouts of it from each government. I’m just wondering if you can give us --

MS. HARF: So I haven’t – our folks are still looking at them. We don’t have any analysis to do on it now, but we will shortly.

QUESTION: But the mere fact that this call took place --

MS. HARF: We said dialogue is important.

QUESTION: You think that it’s a good thing?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We do think dialogue, particularly between Poroshenko and President Putin, is important.

QUESTION: There are numerous – well, at least two, probably more by now – about new sanctions being prepared by both the Administration and your – the European Union --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- ahead of this EU summit that’s coming up tomorrow and --

MS. HARF: The EU Council, I think, meets Friday.

QUESTION: Friday.

MS. HARF: And sanctions will be one topic discussed among many there.

QUESTION: Right. Can you say – are you close to an agreement with the Europeans on doing this, and are you concerned at all that President Putin’s announcement yesterday and then the move today by the state council, or whatever it’s called, to revoke --

MS. HARF: The upper chamber.

QUESTION: -- the upper chamber to revoke --

MS. HARF: Yes, which is not the Duma. I was incorrect yesterday when I said that.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: It is the Russian Federation Council.

QUESTION: -- the Federation Council to revoke the use of force authorization, that that would have an effect on whether or not the Europeans would be more of less enthusiastic about going for new sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, we are working intensively with our European partners. As I said, they have a meeting on Friday where this will be one of the topics discussed. And we are judging every single day on a daily basis progress or backsliding. Yes, this was a good step in terms of the revocation of the law, but as you heard the Secretary say, it could be put back on very quickly. What we have said is we need to see Russia secure its border, stop the flow of fighters and weapons into Ukraine, and call on separatists to lay down their arms and release the OSCE hostages.

So those are the important actions we’re looking for, and we will continue to judge Russia by those actions. We have additional sanctions ready to go. We’re continuing to talk to the Europeans, and if we’re going to impose them at some point, we will do so.

QUESTION: Like ready to go, like they could be done in --

MS. HARF: They can be done very quickly.

QUESTION: With a signature?

Can I --

QUESTION: Just on this?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I just want to --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: When you say that you’re judging every single day --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your judgment today?

MS. HARF: You want me to do another analogy yesterday with steps forward and backwards?

QUESTION: Well, you said --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, in response --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) fighters crossing --

MS. HARF: Yes. So again, we welcome the Federation Council’s decision to repeal the resolution authorizing the use of military – Russian military force in Ukraine. The repeal is a step in the right direction. We, though, are aware that a number of Russian combat units have deployed to locations close to the Ukrainian border. This is not in keeping with the intent – with the Russian intent to de-escalate the situation. We have seen Russia take some steps, again, including by revoking the resolution. But we really need Russia to do more.

So today we’ve seen some tiny steps, but much, much more needs to be done.

QUESTION: So you do think that the Russian intent is to de-escalate?

MS. HARF: Well, they’ve said it is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But their actions have not backed up those words.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just so we’re clear --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- you said we have seen a number of Russian combat forces deployed near the border with Ukraine. Is that in the last 24 hours, or is that in reference to the massing over the last --

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that that’s ongoing, but let me check with our folks and see.

QUESTION: Okay. And any more – sorry. Any more on materiel either being readied to cross the border or crossing the border?

MS. HARF: Nothing new. Nothing new on that.

QUESTION: Is it – so is it continuing?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday I think that in my – one of my questions I misstated what the U.S. position might be regarding – we were talking about Iraq, and then I tried to segue into Ukraine, talking about --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- what kind of government that you would like to see in Ukraine. What --

MS. HARF: I think I may have misspoke here a little bit.

QUESTION: If – well, I misspoke as well, because I was the one that kind of said – but I just want to know, what is the Administration’s position on what an acceptable, inclusive, fair, representative-of-everyone government would be in Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yes, yes. And I think we both got tangled up over words.

So what we understand is that President Poroshenko has offered greater decentralization of authorities, and that’s the word I should’ve used. He’s not talking about creating what we would call a federal structure. So what that looks like is obviously up to the people of Ukraine to decide, but as part of his peace plan he’s talked about decentralization. What that looks like they’re talking about internally right now.

But I think there was some confusion, particularly in the Russian press, about what I said in terms of the word “federal” --

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: -- which has a very different context in Iraq and a very different context in the United States. So I want to be very clear that’s not what he’s offering or what we would support in Ukraine.

QUESTION: What – right. Well, I’m – I mean, I’m interested in what he’s offering, but I also want to know what the U.S. would think is a good idea. So you think that a --

MS. HARF: We support greater decentralization that all of the Ukrainian people agree to.

QUESTION: Can you explain, though, what – or is that for the Ukrainians to decide, how much decentralization --

MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s for the Ukrainians to decide.

QUESTION: But you’re not looking for – it could be its own model. It’s not something that’s modeled on, say, what we have, or what Brazil has, or what Iraq had or may have in the future.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: It’s --

MS. HARF: It’s up to them to decide what that looks like --

QUESTION: It’s a Ukrainian model, all right.

MS. HARF: -- but I know that the – particularly the word “federal” is a particularly loaded one in the Russia-Ukraine context, and I want to make clear that’s not what we support there.

QUESTION: All right. And then you will be familiar – I think, maybe – with the comments that the NATO secretary general made today. Are you familiar with them?

MS. HARF: I – which ones specifically?

QUESTION: At one point he said that NATO has tried for the past 20 years to work with Russia, but they have broken the rules and eroded trust. I’m wondering if – that was Rasmussen. Does the United States – does the Administration agree with that?

MS. HARF: I think we would certainly agree with that. We’ve said very clearly that what they have done in Ukraine is in violation of international law, they have broken the rules, and that it has eroded trust. When they’re sending tanks and RPGs over a border into a sovereign state, I don’t know how it could do anything but, quite frankly.

QUESTION: Okay. But this – he seemed to be talking about the last two decades, that they’ve been doing this the entire time. Are you just --

MS. HARF: Oh, I --

QUESTION: Are you agreeing with him over – in the course of the – just in terms of Georgia and Ukraine?

MS. HARF: I’m talking about recently. I’m talking about recently.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Look, more broadly speaking – I guess I can speak for this Administration – it has been a complicated relationship. There have been times we’ve been able to work together, whether it’s on New START, whether it’s on the resupply lines into Afghanistan, other issues – Iran being one, the nuclear issue – but there have been places where it’s been much more challenging.

QUESTION: Well, I’m wondering if you think it is – if you could – if you can – if you agree with what the secretary general said.

MS. HARF: And I didn’t see them in context, so I don’t want to --

QUESTION: Right. Well, I mean, that was pretty much a – it was a context about – talking about Ukraine and talking about the strained relations between NATO specifically and Russia.

MS. HARF: Russia, over Ukraine.

QUESTION: Well, not just over Ukraine. I mean, he’s talking about 20 years. So I assume he’s talking about Georgia as well; I’m assuming he’s talking about other things.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I mean, we’re all aware of the tough history here.

QUESTION: But what I’m wondering is if you agree with that, if it’s not – if you can’t also see Russian complaints that NATO may have acted in the same way, you – would you reject that?

MS. HARF: Reject out of hand, absolutely. What – the difference here is that any activity we’ve done to shore up our NATO partners, any actions we’ve taken have been to defend our partners and to defend sovereign countries. What Russia did was very different. Invading neighboring countries, sovereign states – there’s just not an equivalence here.

QUESTION: Right. But from their perspective, going back many years, NATO and the United States in particular as the main ally in NATO, has done equally – well, maybe not equally, but has done provocative things, at least provocative to them. It’s expanded into their backyard, it’s --

MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear that expansion is not intended at all to be a provocative step.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So we would disagree with their characterization of it.

QUESTION: But just because you say so doesn’t mean that that’s the way they see it, right? And so, I mean, if you’re trying to find a common understanding here, I’m not sure – you say you’re trying to find a common understanding and to cooperate with them, but at the same time you completely reject out of hand all of their arguments that are very similar to what the NATO secretary general said about them.

MS. HARF: Well, no, I think they’re just – they’re drastically different situations. But that’s why, as we’ve expanded NATO, we’ve talked to the Russians about it. When we’ve talked about other issues like missile defense, we have talked to them about it. We know their position, but we have consistently tried to make it very clear to them that it’s not directed at them.

QUESTION: Yeah, but – see, every time you’ve done a NATO expansion or done a missile defense, they’ve said no, no, no, don’t do it, it’s a bad idea, and you say, well, sorry, thanks for telling us, but --

MS. HARF: Right. We’re not going to not do things that are in our national security interest because the Russians don’t like them. But we do think it’s important to make clear to them what our intentions are, and that’s very different – talking about missile defense is very different than invading a sovereign country.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m not going to argue, but --

MS. HARF: Right. So I think if they see them equally in some way, that’s just delusional.

QUESTION: So everything that you say and do is right and everything that they --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- say and do is wrong? I mean --

MS. HARF: I’m saying everything we do in terms of NATO reinforcement and reassurance, including missile defense, we make very clear to them, transparently, is not aimed at being provocative at Russia.

QUESTION: Right. I understand that you tell them that, but they clearly --

MS. HARF: Whether or not they choose to believe that is their decision. I think the world can see --

QUESTION: So it’s their fault, then. Right?

MS. HARF: Well, I think the world can see the blatant differences between missile defense designed to not confront Russia and invading a sovereign country.

QUESTION: Can you think of one time where you have gone to the Russians and said, okay, we want to do X, Y, and Z, and you have actually taken their concerns on board?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly take their concerns on board and have discussions with them. That doesn’t mean we’re going to change --

QUESTION: Before rejecting them.

MS. HARF: It doesn’t mean we’re going to change what we think is in our national security interest to do.

QUESTION: Okay. So your argument is that the United States and NATO do what is in the national interests of its members and NATO’s interests, and what Russia does that they think are in their – is in their interest – that what NATO does is good and that what Russia does --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- in pursuit of what it thinks --

MS. HARF: What NATO does to protect its own sovereign territory is in our interest. What Russia has done is invade another sovereign territory.

QUESTION: Okay, you don’t --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure how that could be in Russia’s interest.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Anything else? Good? Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)

DPB # 112


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 24, 2014

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 05:30

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 24, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel Update
    • Welcome to Visiting Class of FSOs
  • EGYPT
    • Al Jazeera Journalists / Apaches / FMF
  • IRAQ
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversations with Kurdish Leaders
    • Oil
    • Support for Unified Federal Iraq
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA / REGION
    • Separatists Aren't All on Same Page / Welcome Decision by Some Separatist Leaders to Accept Cease-fire; Some Separatists Shooting Down Ukrainian Helicopter
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS / JORDAN / REGION
    • ISIL / Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Jordanian FM Judeh
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA / REGION
    • Sanctions
  • SUDAN
    • Meriam Ibrahim and Family
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Urged All Parties to Exercise Restraint
  • CHINA / HONG KONG
    • DC Street Name / White Paper
  • SYRIA
    • Chemical Weapons / OPCW / International Community
  • LEBANON
    • U.S. Condemns Suicide Terrorist Bombing Near a Lebanese Armed Forces Checkpoint in Beirut
  • ISRAEL / SYRIA
    • U.S. Support Israel's Legitimate Right to Self-Defense
  • EGYPT
    • Continuously Reevaluating Our Policy
    • Secretary Kerry's Condemnation of Sentences
  • SOUTH KOREA
    • Deputy Secretary Burns' Meeting with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister


TRANSCRIPT:

1:22 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Sorry for the delay. I have just a few quick things at the top and then we’ll open it up for questions.

Travel update: As you know, Secretary Kerry was in Erbil this morning, where he met with Kurdish leaders, including Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Barzani and a host of other officials as well. The Secretary is now in Brussels for the NATO ministerial summit and related engagements. Today, he is participating in a Quint meeting followed by a working dinner with fellow NATO foreign ministers.

And I’d like to welcome the group in the back we have visiting today from FSI. These are Foreign Service officers who will soon head out to serve as information officers at our various posts around the world, dealing with all of you, I’m sure. Today’s class will be serving in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Paraguay, Slovakia, Mexico, Israel, Vietnam, Germany, Djibouti, Laos, Malaysia, and elsewhere, I think, as well, including my friend Monica Cummings, who many of you may remember from the Geneva talks we had last fall. She’s taking on, I think, a tougher assignment in Kabul. So we wish all of you luck and happy to have you here. I hope we provide some entertainment for you today.

With that --

QUESTION: Entertainment?

MS. HARF: -- not to turn to you, Matt, but get us started.

QUESTION: Well, let’s start – there’s so many things that we could start with. Let’s start with Egypt --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- simply because we started with that yesterday. And I’m aware that the White House has spoken about this today already, but I want to get your take on al-Sisi’s comments this morning, or this morning our time, I guess, that he would not take any step to interfere with – is the way he termed it – to interfere with the court’s decision. What do you make of that? And if it wasn’t a slap in the face yesterday, the sentence, what is this today after the repeated calls from you, from the Secretary, from National Security Advisor Rice, for a pardon or a commutation?

MS. HARF: Well, again, as we said yesterday, the Egyptian Government should review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years, including these last ones with the journalists, and consider all remedies, including pardons. I think, look, this obviously makes it harder to move forward on things they want. As I said yesterday, we will continue reevaluating our relationship. I know there’s things in the pipeline. But again, we’ve been very clear about the steps Egypt needs to take – excuse me – and this is, I think quite frankly, as you saw the Secretary say yesterday, not the direction we need to see.

QUESTION: You spoke of things that are in the pipeline. Can you be more specific?

MS. HARF: Well, as – we’ve talked about it a little bit. As you know, there’s Apaches. We talked about those. We’ve talked --

QUESTION: Are – but I guess I’m trying to --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: One, can you be more specific about what’s in the pipeline other than the Apaches? And two, are you suggesting that somehow that now those are in danger and in jeopardy of not going through?

MS. HARF: I’m not suggesting anything specific. As I said, this – look, clearly this will make it harder to move forward with things they want. There are some things in train. I don’t have anything more to add than we had yesterday. You know that we recently obligated $572 million as part of our overall FY14 FMF that we notified to Congress in April. So there’s a process that’s ongoing, but this has clearly been a difficult time, I would say – what we’ve seen particularly over the last few days, but over the last few years in terms of these arrests and sentences.

QUESTION: Are you saying that some or all of the 572 million could be pulled back?

MS. HARF: I’m not suggesting anything specific. I know you want me to get into specifics. As I said --

QUESTION: Well, no, I just --

MS. HARF: -- in general, this will make it harder. Nothing specific to report in terms of what that might mean.

QUESTION: Right. But is that based – that 572 million is gone? There’s no way to get it back?

MS. HARF: Let me see on that. So we’ve recently obligated it, 572 million of the 650 million in FY14; 78 million of that FMF request and 10 Apache helicopters have not gone forward, obviously pending further discussions with Congress, as I said yesterday, and have continued to consult closely with Congress. So it’s my understanding that it’s not all out the door.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So in fact --

MS. HARF: And I can check with our numbers folks as well.

QUESTION: But from what you just said, it sounds to me as though about half, plus the 10 – of the FMF, plus the 10 helicopters, have not yet been delivered. Are you saying --

MS. HARF: Not about – I said 78 million of that FMF request of 650 --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry, not – sorry --

MS. HARF: Seventy-eight.

QUESTION: Of 650, sorry.

MS. HARF: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: But anyway, that 78 --

MS. HARF: But that hasn’t changed. Just to be clear, where the process is hasn’t changed since these latest convictions. That’s just where it’s been. Nothing there has changed.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But again, going forward, could this make it harder? Of course it could.

QUESTION: Well, so I just want to – I want to make sure – absolutely sure I understand this, and I’m sorry about that confusion.

MS. HARF: No, no, no, it’s okay.

QUESTION: Seventy-eight --

MS. HARF: And I can see if I can get some more specifics.

QUESTION: Seventy-eight million and the Apaches have not yet been delivered.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: And thus --

MS. HARF: Pending further discussions with Congress, which was the process that’s been going on.

QUESTION: So those could, in theory, be – that could – that amount of money and the helicopters could be held back?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about how this could obviously make it harder. I mean, you could certainly – doing your own analysis, you could say that.

QUESTION: Right, no, no, but --

MS. HARF: But I am not saying that from here specifically.

QUESTION: I understand. But the argument has been made that you gave up all your leverage basically with the Egyptians. I’m not saying that you --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- this is true. I’m just saying that that’s the argument that has been made. But in fact, just from this 572 million, there is still leverage that you have that you could apply.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. And we’ve said, look, we have a broad range of tools we use in terms of leverage with the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the Administration was opposed to the amendment that was defeated today on the Hill, in committee on the Hill, that would restructure the Egypt aid?

MS. HARF: Let me check. I’m not sure what our position was on that.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you said that these trials were politically motivated. So you dismiss the Egyptian assertion that they’re, in fact, not politically motivated and these guys were somehow involved in some subversive activities, right?

MS. HARF: Well, as we said yesterday in the Secretary’s statement, I’m not sure how much clearer he could be that these are trials that departed from the norms of due process in a deeply disturbing setback to Egypt’s transition. These are journalists doing their jobs, folks like you. There’s no place in a democracy for these kinds of sentences and these kinds of convictions.

QUESTION: And in response to – you didn’t comment whether it was a slap or – coming immediately almost after meeting with the Secretary of State, that these sentences and then the claim by the president that he had nothing to do with the judicial process – you dismiss that as just not true, correct?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to make a statement on what he said. What we have said is the Egyptian Government, all of it, all the way up to the top, should look at all available remedies, including pardons, to rectify the situation that’s happened here.

QUESTION: Do you think President Sisi is posturing to get some political mileage out of it so he will end up pardoning these people? Is that what you want him to do?

MS. HARF: Well, I’ve clearly said that the government should consider pardons, right? So I’ve been very clear we think that should be an option on the table. I don’t know why President Sisi says things or does things. I’m not in the business of doing analysis about what motivates him. But he made very clear to Secretary Kerry in Cairo that he was committed to certain principles that underlie in a democracy, so what we need to see now is actions backing up those words.

QUESTION: And finally, when the topic of these journalists came up in their discussion, what did Sisi say?

MS. HARF: Yes, and I did clarify that for folks after the briefing yesterday. Sorry about that.

QUESTION: Okay, and so please clarify that and see what – what did Secretary say – what did he promise the Secretary of State?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to speak for President al-Sisi. He can speak for himself. What the Secretary made clear was our deep concern with these kind of convictions, with these kinds of sentences, with the arrests of journalists and people just looking to express themselves freely in Egypt. We’ve said that publicly and privately. And I think you could see from the Secretary’s statement yesterday how seriously he took this issue, particularly coming on the heels of his visit there.

QUESTION: Same topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But at what point could you say with – regarding the Egyptian authorities and the latest on Al Jazeera journalists, at what time will we say the United States would change course and probably use all the tools it has?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Because so far there has been – other than Al Jazeera, there have been hundred of others.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: And State Department always witness it, but we’ve not seen any concrete action to really change course.

MS. HARF: Well, I think if you look at our policy on Egypt starting last July 4th, there have been extraordinary changes in our policy at times. We went through a time when we suspended aid, when we did a full review of all of our assistance, when we started some back up after that review and then when we’ve moved forward with other pieces as well. So I just think it’s not accurate to say that in the last year we haven’t fundamentally reevaluated our relationship with Egypt. That process continues. It’s ongoing and will continue in the coming days and weeks in response, quite frankly, to what the Egyptian Government does or doesn’t do.

QUESTION: Were you surprised for the Al Jazeera for – as an example, did it surprise you that three professional reporters have been sentenced to such harsh --

MS. HARF: Well, look, a lot of what we’ve seen out of Egypt’s judicial system over the past months has been horrific, including, as I said yesterday, the death sentences of, I think, 900 or more people, many in absentia. So unfortunately, this is the latest in a pattern of crackdowns on space for expression in Egypt. And again, the Secretary was very clear yesterday about our concern with this.

QUESTION: But there was – there will be a breaking point where we will see probably the United States just coming forward and probably trying to change course, events? Probably this is what the people in the area also are waiting for. Public opinions, I mean.

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is we are constantly reevaluating our policy. And at the same time though – and I spoke about this yesterday a little bit – we do have a strategic relationship with Egypt. It’s a long relationship based on a number of shared interests that are in our national security. We believe it’s important to continue that relationship and to continue engaging, that it’s in our interest to do so. That hasn’t changed. It’s just finding the right balance and looking at all of our interests and how we can best promote all of them.

QUESTION: What is the Administration’s policy on Egypt?

MS. HARF: As I – go ahead. No.

QUESTION: And how exactly – because I remember a year ago it wasn’t that you had – that there was no policy on Egypt, basically, and you guys contorted --

MS. HARF: No, I think probably you just didn’t like what our policy was.

QUESTION: No, no, it’s not a question of me liking it or not. It’s a question – I mean, I remember the contortions that you guys went into to try to avoid calling what happened a coup. So I’m just curious. You say that --

MS. HARF: One word does not make a policy, Matt. We were very clear about our --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- our strong concern about what happened last July 4th.

QUESTION: That’s – you’re right, one word does not make a policy. Perhaps you could – what is the policy?

MS. HARF: Look, Egypt remains an important strategic partner. We share a number of transnational threats, whether you look at terrorism, whether you look at weapons proliferation. It’s a key player in the region, quite frankly, for a whole host of reasons – again, whether it’s fighting the counterterrorism threat in Sinai, whether it’s maintaining the peace treaty with Israel. We have a number of shared interests, so we believe it’s important to maintain a relationship with Egypt. They play a key role in the Arab world as well, if we’re looking at Middle East peace or other issues.

QUESTION: Those are --

MS. HARF: But that being said, when we have disagreements, we raise them, like we do with any country.

QUESTION: Right. But everything you just said are reasons to have a policy. They don’t say what the – they don’t actually describe what the policy is.

MS. HARF: That we will continue working with Egypt on these shared interests --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- like on counterterrorism --

QUESTION: And then --

MS. HARF: -- when it’s in our national security interest to do so, at the same time making clear our deep disagreement with things like we’ve seen over the past few days.

QUESTION: And then why not be specific about what the cost will be to Egypt if they don’t address your concerns?

MS. HARF: Again, we’re constantly re-evaluating the policy, and if at some point we have more specifics, we’re happy to share them. We’re talking to the Egyptian Government. As you know, the Secretary spoke to the foreign minister right after he heard the sentences and the convictions, and we hope the Egyptian Government does the right thing here.

QUESTION: Has there been any more contact since then?

MS. HARF: No. Not since yesterday.

QUESTION: But all of the things that you said, Marie, sort of can be summed in one word in this relationship between the United States and Egypt, and that is security. Do you see anything other than security that really involves the United States in Egypt?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a lot wrapped up in security, Said.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Obviously, the economic relationship plays into the security relationship, right, because we believe that Egypt, in order to give its people economic security and stability in the long term, needs to undertake certain reforms. We’ve worked with them very closely on that in part because it helps us do things like fight extremism and the terrorist threat. If people have other opportunities, it helps toward a shared security goal. So, so many of these issues are all wrapped up together. Human rights is a key interest that we have there as well.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What role do you think that the Egyptian president can play in the view of these verdicts?

MS. HARF: Well, without getting too specifically into the process, I know there is a judicial process in Egypt. We have made very clear that everyone in the Egyptian Government up to the highest levels need to consider all available remedies, including pardons. So I’m not going to do a legal analysis of their judicial system, but we believe that there is way forward here where the Egyptian Government could do the right thing.

QUESTION: But do you think that the president has a role that he can play in the judicial system?

MS. HARF: The president is a – quite a powerful figure inside Egypt. Without getting into specifics, I think all members of the Egyptian Government should look to get the Egyptian Government’s decision to a better place here.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change subject?

MS. HARF: Moving on, yes.

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: In today’s meeting, the words said by President Barzani saying that whatever resolution should be forthcoming should take into consideration the new realities on the ground. And this was interpreted by many experts to mean some sort of a loose confederation or maybe semi-independent Kurdistan. Do you agree?

MS. HARF: Well, we have said repeatedly our position has not changed. We continue to support a unified Iraq. We continue to support a government formation process that I think could begin as soon as July 1st that includes all parts of Iraq and all parties in Iraq.

QUESTION: So – but a loose confederation between, let’s say, Kurdistan in the north, a super Shia region in the south, and the western Sunni can be a united Iraq (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Well, look, the Secretary emphasized in his meetings today that a united Iraq – whatever that looks like, a united Iraq – is a stronger Iraq, and that our policy is to respect the territorial integrity of Iraq as a whole. And the Secretary did feel that Kurdish leaders understood that, particularly given the situation and the crisis that Iraq, again, as a whole, is facing today. Kurdish leaders indicated to the Secretary that they would participate in the government formation process; they would help find a means of having a unity government that can bring people together – again, from all of the different parties in Iraq; and deal with both the crisis that we’ve seen on the political side with political sectarian division, and also, of course, the security challenges.

QUESTION: The Kurds seem to think that some sort of a loose confederation between these three regions is likely to mitigate the violence and the tensions and so on. You don’t agree?

MS. HARF: Again, the Kurdish leaders that spoke with the Secretary today made clear that they would participate in the government formation process for a federal government of Iraq. Look, we’ve continued to support Kurdish leaders, of course, as part of their development of a strong and vibrant Kurdistan region, as a component to the overall stability and security of Iraq as a whole.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: One way to interpret taking into account the new realities on the ground would be taking into account the Peshmerga’s seizure of Kirkuk. Does the U.S. Government believe that Kirkuk and its oil reserves now belong to the Kurdish Regional Government?

MS. HARF: Well, look, our position on the export or sale of oil inside Iraq, anywhere inside Iraq, is the – has to happen with the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi Government, that it is, indeed, owned by the Iraqi Government. Obviously, there are – we talked about this in here – whether the – when other people, including the Kurds, have tried to export it absent that approval, and we’ve said, obviously, we don’t support that. But look, the situation on the ground is fluid. Many people, including the Security Council, have called on Baghdad and Erbil to reach an accord on oil – on all pending subjects, including energy.

QUESTION: But that’s been happening for 11 years. I mean – but they’ve been – there have been calls for that for 11 years. It has --

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

QUESTION: It hasn’t happened, and the change on the ground that one would guess the Kurdish leader is talking about is a big one, which is that they now hold what they regard as their historic capital and its oil reserves. And so it sounds like your answer is, no, it doesn’t belong to the KRG, it belongs to a federal Iraqi state for as long as there is one. Is that fair?

MS. HARF: It’s that our position hasn’t changed.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie?

QUESTION: Are you aware that today – I think they either kidnapped or killed the governor of Kirkuk.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware, Said.

QUESTION: And they have --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look into that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) is only a week – it’s a week away.

MS. HARF: That’s when the process --

QUESTION: I know.

MS. HARF: I think for – to start the process --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- forming the core, and then after that is speaker, a president, and then a prime minister, I think.

QUESTION: Yeah. I just --

MS. HARF: But we think that this should happen as quickly as possible given the crisis they’re facing.

QUESTION: But you’re – I mean, do you – is there no concern that they might not have a week to do this?

MS. HARF: What do you mean by that?

QUESTION: Well, ISIL – ISIS has run over – run across huge swaths of the country in less than --

MS. HARF: We think they should do this as soon as possible, yes.

QUESTION: So you think they should do it before July 1st?

MS. HARF: We think they should do it as soon as possible, Matt. And given the severity of the situation, I think the leaders understand that.

QUESTION: Do they share your sense of urgency?

MS. HARF: I think – look, time – we will see very quickly whether Iraqi leaders share our sense of urgency. That’s one of the things we’re looking for right now.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, if the Iraqis want Iraq to be divided into three countries – the Kurdish state, Sunni state, and the Shia state – how can you prevent them in doing so? And the Vice President, before he became a vice president, talked about dividing – or the partition of Iraq into three countries.

MS. HARF: We’ve addressed this at length. Our position on this has not changed. We support a unified federal Iraq. Again, that’s been the position of this Administration since the beginning of this Administration, for all of the members of the Administration, and it continues to be our position today.

QUESTION: So you also support a unified federal Ukraine, right?

MS. HARF: The situation’s completely different.

QUESTION: Minus Crimea.

MS. HARF: Are you comparing ISIL to Russia?

QUESTION: No, no. No, I’m not. I’m just talking – I was trying to make a --

MS. HARF: Be careful when you make comparisons, Matt.

QUESTION: I was trying to make a segue to a different subject, of Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Oh, I see. Is – anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION: On Iraq.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the --

MS. HARF: Okay. Let’s just do two more on Iraq, and then Matt can segue us into Ukraine.

QUESTION: Could you explain the immunity clause for the American --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yes. And I did get a little – just a little more. We did receive the diplomatic note from the Government of Iraq on June 22nd, 2014. That was a question I took yesterday. This arrangement will remain in place as long as we and the Iraqis agree to keep it in place. I don’t have much more detail than what I gave yesterday, Said. These protections, we believe, are adequate to the short-term assessment and advisory mission our troops will be performing. Again, we wanted to make sure we had this in place.

I think the Department of Defense in about an hour or so will be talking a little bit about the first assessment teams that will be arriving or may already have arrived in country. So we are moving fairly rapidly on this.

QUESTION: And let me just follow up very quickly. Does that – is that restricted to the 300, or could it be for more troops in the future?

MS. HARF: I can check --

QUESTION: Does it have a figure, this immunity?

MS. HARF: Let me – Said, I don’t know the answer. Let me see if I can share that. And normally we don’t make these kind of diplomatic notes public, and I don’t think we’ll be doing so now.

QUESTION: Different topic?

QUESTION: No, one more on Iraq.

MS. HARF: One more on Iraq and then we’re going to Ukraine. I promised Matt could --

QUESTION: Yeah. News reports have said today that Syrian jets have bombed a marketplace in Qaim region in Iraq, killed 20 people and injured 25. Can you confirm these reports? Do you have any --

MS. HARF: We’ve seen them. We can’t confirm them. I mean, look, it wouldn’t be surprising. The Syrian regime has bombed marketplaces and civilians many, many times. We just don’t have confirmation. We’re still looking into it.

QUESTION: But if true, how do you view this Syrian role in Iraq?

MS. HARF: We’re still seeing if it’s true. And if we can confirm it, I’ll probably have more to say then.

QUESTION: Right. So it is correct that you support a united federal Ukraine too, right?

MS. HARF: That is correct, Matt.

QUESTION: It is correct. Okay.

So on that – based on that, what do you make of President Putin’s comments today about the cease-fire, his decision to go to --

MS. HARF: To the Duma.

QUESTION: -- to the Duma to have the force authorization removed?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, a couple points on this. Look, we welcome – there was also a decision today by some separatist leaders to accept the cease-fire. At the same time, we also saw some separatists shooting down a Ukrainian helicopter, so clearly – not surprisingly, the separatists all aren’t on the same page.

President Putin did ask the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament to repeal – I think it was the March 1st resolution authorizing the use of Russian military force in Ukraine. This resolution had raised tensions, and its removal would be a step in the right direction. Obviously, we need to see other steps, like ending its occupation of Crimea as well.

QUESTION: Was this something that you guys had sought – specifically sought from or asked of Putin? When you say in numerous conversations that the Secretary has had with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and less numerous but still several conversations that the President has had --

MS. HARF: President Putin --

QUESTION: -- with President Putin --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: When you talk in general terms about de-escalation, is this one of the things that --

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- has come up?

MS. HARF: If it’s been brought up before, I’m – specifically – I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: And in terms of the shootdown of the --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The downing of the helicopter, do you – is this the end of the cease-fire, despite the words from everyone for --

MS. HARF: No. No, I wouldn’t say that. Look, this cease-fire and the negotiations surrounding it are really Ukraine’s best chance for peace. And we do welcome the fact that some separatists have said they will accept it and abide by it. But clearly, more negotiations need to happen, and we have called on President Putin to use his influence with these separatists to get them to also accept the cease-fire.

QUESTION: And you – but you have not yet seen that except for the several that have said they would respect the cease-fire? Have you seen that more broadly? Are you still seeing movement of – what you’ve said is movement of tanks --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and heavy armaments?

MS. HARF: Yes. None of that has changed, and continue to see a number of Russian combat units being deployed to locations close to the Ukrainian border as well.

QUESTION: The buildup is continuing.

MS. HARF: My understanding --

QUESTION: Does the fact that the building is – buildup is continuing, and you’ve now said this a couple days – I mean, you certainly said it yesterday, and Jen was saying it last week. Does that make you take any less seriously President Putin’s request that the Duma remove the authorization?

MS. HARF: As I said, taken by itself, the request to remove the authorization would be a good step in the right direction. But again, words need to be matched by actions. And this is a situation where you take two steps forward and one step back. Some separatists accept a cease-fire, some don’t. A helicopter gets shot down. So we’ve seen some steps out of President Putin that we do think are a move in the right direction, but there are actions that need to be taken that we haven’t seen taken.

QUESTION: Any more – do you have any more evidence of Russian materiel either being prepared for transit or actually crossing into Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Not any new evidence. I think we’ve laid out over the past week a fairly robust case of those tanks and rocket-propelled grenades.

QUESTION: Sorry. Do you – when you said that it’s two steps forward, one step back, is that how you see this situation, or was that just kind of a rhetorical --

MS. HARF: Well, I think both can be true.

QUESTION: Both?

MS. HARF: I mean, it’s a rhetorical example of how we do see some positive signs on the ground.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: The cease-fire, some separatists have accepted it, but the same day some other separatists shot down a helicopter. The – President Putin says he’ll go to the Duma, that’s good, but then they continue the military buildup.

QUESTION: Right. But two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward, right? So that’s --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t be too precise – read into the numbers. It was a rhetorical device. I think --

QUESTION: Oh, okay. All right. I just wanted to make --

MS. HARF: -- to be clear, that – look, there has been some progress, but at the same time, it often feels like we are taking steps backward from where we need to be.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, the fact that you used that --

MS. HARF: Not a precise mathematical calculation.

QUESTION: I know, but the fact that you said --

MS. HARF: Then why do you ask if you know?

QUESTION: Because you said – no, no, because the fact that you said “two steps forward, one step back” instead of “one step forward and two steps back” suggests that there is --

MS. HARF: I was quoting a popular ‘80s song I used to listen to on the radio.

QUESTION: Fine, but it --

MS. HARF: If anyone knows who that’s by, I’ll buy you dinner.

QUESTION: But you’re not saying that you see things going in a positive trajectory.

MS. HARF: No, I wasn’t saying that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Well, there are positive signs, but in terms of the trajectory there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Israel-Palestinian (inaudible) or --

MS. HARF: Sure. I love how you just ask permission from people.

QUESTION: Yeah, I didn’t want to interrupt --

MS. HARF: You guys are being very polite today.

QUESTION: -- my colleagues to – maybe they want to follow up on it.

MS. HARF: Why don’t – go ahead. Let’s go to Israeli-Palestinian and then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Is the – the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike going on for a while now. Is this on your radar? The Knesset now is working on force-feeding by tube. It’s a big debate in Israel, but on the State Department – but at least from the human rights point of view, is this on the radar so far? It’s been going on for a while.

MS. HARF: I’m sure it’s on someone’s radar. I don’t have anything on it for you, but let me check with our team and I can get you something.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up --

MS. HARF: I promised I was going to him.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: So polite. I love this.

QUESTION: This is – it’s a Middle East question, but it’s more ISIS-related.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: There’s a former analyst for General Petraeus by the name of Colonel Derek Harvey. He says he has information that ISIS militants have crossed the border into Jordan and are infiltrating some of the refugee camps out there possibly to recruit members, that sort of thing. I was curious if you’ve heard of that. And on a more broader question, what sort of conversations Secretary Kerry and others in this building might have had with the Jordanian Government over fears of possible infiltration into the refugee camps there?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly talk to the Jordanians all the time about a number of issues, including the threat to the region from ISIL. I’m not familiar with those specific reports. Doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re credible. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more detail there. But we know ISIL has looked to the region to recruit, to undertake the kind of criminal activity that funds it, often is a large source of funding. And so it wouldn’t surprise me, but I’m happy to see if there’s more details.

In terms of the last conversation he had with Foreign Minister Judeh, I believe it was last Tuesday, so a week ago today. I can double-check and make sure that’s right, but obviously we have a number of conversations with the Jordanians.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: On the phone, the last conversation was on Tuesday. I am happy to check for you and see what the latest – what the last meeting in person was.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Ukraine for one second?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And this has to do with sanctions.

MS. HARF: It has to do with sanctions?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: On the sanctions that you guys have put on Russia. Am I correct in thinking that if the situation doesn’t improve, there will be more sanctions but it – if it does improve there possibly won’t be; however, the existing sanctions that were put in place because of the Crimea annexation won’t be taken away? Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not obviously going to – into our specific sanction strategy publicly. I think that’s probably not advisable for the people on the sanctions list or who might be sanctioned. In general, what we’ve said is we put sanctions on place in response to specific activities and actions by the Russian Government. The potential for those to come off would only happen after the Russian Government undertook certain steps to rectify the situation and that we have more in place ready to go if they don’t de-escalate, and indeed, of course, if they take further steps.

QUESTION: Well, maybe I can rephrase it to get a --

MS. HARF: You want me to outline when we’re going to put more sanctions on and when we’ll take them off.

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. I’m trying to find out if, in fact, the sanctions that were imposed immediately after the annexation of Crimea – are – will stay in place as long as the Russians stay in Crimea.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if there’s more detail we can share.

QUESTION: To get rid of those, and do you – and --

MS. HARF: We generally don’t outline what people need to do specifically to get rid of sanctions publicly.

QUESTION: That may be one reason why you never get what you’re looking for from these people, because you don’t tell them what they have to do, so they’re left to guess.

MS. HARF: I think we’ve privately been very clear. It just doesn’t make sense to outline them publicly.

QUESTION: Why?

MS. HARF: Because giving the world insight into your sanction strategy – part of what – how sanctions are imposed and how they’re effective is if people don’t know they’re coming and don’t know when they’ll come off.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: Can we go back --

QUESTION: What?

MS. HARF: If you think about how – that’s why we don’t make sanctions public or the names public before we impose them.

QUESTION: But you – yeah, but they have to know --

MS. HARF: And we don’t tell people when they’re going to come off necessarily.

QUESTION: Well, but you have to tell them what they --

MS. HARF: Or what they need – right. We have those conversations privately, just not publicly.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: But is it incorrect that the sanctions that were imposed for Crimea, for the Crimea annexation --

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specifics for you.

QUESTION: -- will remain in place as long as Crimea is occupied?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check if we can say yes or no to that one way or the other, Matt. I’m happy to check on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we --

MS. HARF: Yes. Wait, I’m coming --

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sudan?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have information about this – the status of this woman, Christian woman who has been --

MS. HARF: I have a little bit.

QUESTION: -- has been rearrested, apparently? And since you welcomed yesterday a release, were you in contact with the Sudanese authorities?

MS. HARF: So the State Department has been informed by the Sudanese Government that the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning over issues related to their travel and I think travel documents. They have not been arrested. The government has assured us of their safety. The Embassy has been and will remain highly involved in working with the family and the government. We are engaging directly with Sudanese officials to secure their safe and swift departure from Sudan, and of course, we’ll provide more information as we get it.

QUESTION: Were they traveling to the U.S.?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details for you on their travel.

QUESTION: You said temporarily detained.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding --

MS. HARF: For several hours.

QUESTION: -- that they were released?

MS. HARF: Yes. They were temporarily detained for several hours over questions relating to their documents. They have not been arrested, have since been released.

QUESTION: Do you know where they are?

MS. HARF: We, obviously, aren’t going to get into specific details about their location.

QUESTION: Well, no. I don’t want to know the address, but --

MS. HARF: And --

QUESTION: They’re still in Khartoum?

MS. HARF: And the Sudanese Government has assured us of their safety, and we are working with the government to assure their safe passage out of the country.

QUESTION: Are they being prevented from leaving the country?

MS. HARF: Again, we’re working with the government on this. They today were not able to, I think, because of some travel document issues, but we’re working with the government to resolve those issues.

QUESTION: Do you – well, do you buy this explanation from the Sudanese and do you think it’s just another example of harassment, or do you think it was some legitimate concern?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any details to make that kind of judgment, Matt. I think what we’re focused on is working with the government to get them out of the country, and they said they’ll work with us.

QUESTION: Do you know – okay. Well, so you would consider that to be positive even though this is not a good thing that --

MS. HARF: We just want the right outcome here.

QUESTION: Okay. Were there people from the Embassy with them when they were detained?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Because there is – the husband is an American citizen. Correct? And so presumably, you would be offering or the Embassy would be offering assistance to --

MS. HARF: Right. We have been assisting. I’m happy – I don’t know the specifics, though. It’s, I think, a fairly fast-moving and fluid situation.

QUESTION: Okay. But – and – but do you know enough to be able to say – the Sudanese say that they weren’t mistreated or that they’re safe. Do you know enough to be able to confirm that independently that they weren’t --

MS. HARF: The government has assured us of their safety. I don’t – I don’t have anything to indicate that’s not the case. But again --

QUESTION: Okay. But --

MS. HARF: -- what we’re focused on is getting them as quickly as possible out of Sudan.

QUESTION: Right. But I just – you don’t know at the moment if someone from the Embassy had eyes on them to --

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, I just don’t. I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: Are you helping them with the documents that they need or --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into more specifics about their travel. As I said, we are committed to helping them in general.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you know if there’s been a formal application for asylum with the U.S. Government on her (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I think for any of those questions you need to check in with Homeland Security and Customs and Immigration. I think they’re best able to answer those.

QUESTION: Marie, can I go back to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

QUESTION: Hold on, one more thing.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding that under the immigration law and the asylum law that they actually have to be on U.S. territory to apply, which makes it relevant as to whether they are in the Embassy, which would be U.S. territory, or not. So just to add some urgent – add some fodder to the taken question on whether there’s been contact.

MS. HARF: I understand. Yeah.

QUESTION: Have they gone to the Embassy --

MS. HARF: So I’m not, obviously, going to get into details about their location. I’m happy to see if there are more details, and by tomorrow, hopefully, we’ll have more details to share.

Yes, and then I’m going to Elliot.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back very quickly to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: First of all, has the Secretary spoke – has he spoken to President Abbas in the last 24 hours?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I believe they were supposed to, but I’m happy to check and see if that actually happened, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you. Do you know that if the – also the Secretary of State spoke with any Israeli officials about sort of lightening up their heavy hand in what can be interpreted as collective punishment of the Palestinians?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if he’s had conversations. As we’ve said very publicly, we’ve urged all parties to exercise restraint. We have commended efforts by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work together here, but nothing new to update you on, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. And some Israeli officials are calling to cut off electricity to both Gaza and the West Bank. Would you dissuade them from doing so?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those. I’m happy to check with our folks.

Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION: On a different topic?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to the House Appropriations Committee decision to approve an amendment that would rename the street in front of the Chinese Embassy after Liu Xiaobo?

MS. HARF: I saw that. I don’t have anything from our folks on that one way or the other. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to share. I did see that happened. That finally passed today?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that it could lead to – so the Chinese Embassy said that it doesn’t think that citizens of DC would react kindly to a street in their city being named after a criminal, or some statement to that effect.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if we have a position on this. I’m just not aware.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions regarding Hong Kong.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Because recently, China published the white paper on Hong Kong, and many people are concerned that it’s reneging China’s pledge of high degree of autonomy Hong Kong, and also renunciation of the one-country/two-system policy. So I’m wondering if you have any stance on --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. I’m happy to check and see if we have any further comment on them.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Because the white paper was released about two weeks ago --

MS. HARF: Yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t have that. Let me just check and see if we can share something.

QUESTION: Okay. Just another related question, because so far 730,000 Hong Kong people have already cast their votes in this Occupy Central referendum, and they are asking for public nomination of chief executive candidates of Hong Kong for 2017 universal suffrage election. Chinese Government called the referendum invalid and illegal. So do you take any position on --

MS. HARF: Again, I’m sorry, I don’t have the details on that in front of me. I’m happy to take all of your questions and get you an answer after the briefing and get more details if we can share them.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Let me go over here. He hasn’t had one yet, and then I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Yeah. I want to ask a question about Syrian chemical weapons --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- that were removed yesterday. Yesterday, during the press briefing, you said that there is still a possibility that the Syrian Government has chemicals which have not been declared yet. What will the U.S. do to be sure that there remain no chemicals in Syria? And what kinds of tools will the U.S. use to determine or check whether there are chemicals in Syria or not?

MS. HARF: Well, as this process continues, the OPCW and the international community really has the lead here on reviewing and verifying both the accuracy and also the completeness of Syria’s declarations on its chemical weapons. We really need to undertake some further review here to achieve really confidence that we’ve been able to get all the weapons out, because, of course, we never take the Assad regime at its word given its history of deception and violence. One of the ways we do this, of course, is undertaking our own efforts. We gather intelligence and information, which, of course, we share with our partners as we attempt to evaluate the accuracy and the completeness of their declarations, and we’ll continue with the inspection and verification work. The removal of the chemicals is only part of the OPCW mission. There’s also a part of it that includes inspection and verification inside Syria after you’ve removed the weapons and the chemicals. So that’s what they’ll be doing going forward, again, to check the accuracy.

QUESTION: Yeah. But you know that from both in the remarks of the Secretary of State Kerry and your remarks yesterday, it seems that there is a suspicion over there. So do you have any evidence or any reports or intelligence about these kinds of – a presence of chemical weapons in Syria now?

MS. HARF: I don’t think it would be breaking news that any of us have suspicions about the Assad regime’s intentions or honesty, quite frankly.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: But look, even so, we have removed now a huge number of chemical weapons from Syria that can no longer be used to threaten the Syrian people. But we don’t take what they say at their word. That’s why we’re constantly checking and reevaluating what we have on the ground there.

QUESTION: And these suspicions, you suspect that they keep 2 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent?

MS. HARF: I have no number to give you and I’m not --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- and I’m not aware of specific information. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; just means I’m not aware. But we just want to be vigilant as we undertake this effort.

QUESTION: And you don’t take the word of Bashar al-Assad, of course, but what about the word of the United Nations?

MS. HARF: Well, the United Nations and the OPCW have --

QUESTION: They certified --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: They certified that the Syrians have handed all their chemical weapons.

MS. HARF: Of their declared weapons over.

QUESTION: Declared weapons, okay.

MS. HARF: Right, declared --

QUESTION: So you suspect --

MS. HARF: Declared is the key word there.

QUESTION: -- that there may be undeclared stockpile?

MS. HARF: There may be. We can’t rule it out. But again, the fact that we’ve gotten such a huge amount of chemical weapons of that stockpile out of Syria is a good thing.

QUESTION: But that’s the kind of suspicion that you can never be sure of, correct?

MS. HARF: I think we will continue evaluating and we will continue looking at the information. If there is anything else, we’ll get it out of the country.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the suicide bomb in Beirut yesterday?

MS. HARF: Yes. The United States, as you won’t be surprised, strongly condemns the suicide terrorist bombing near a Lebanese armed forces checkpoint in Beirut, extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, wish a full recovery to those wounded as well. We, the United States, will continue to stand firmly with Lebanon’s leaders and its state institutions, including the armed forces and the internal security forces. They are working very hard to combat terrorism and work to provide their people with calm and security. And we’ll continue to work with them as they do so.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just to --

QUESTION: I had a question close to the Lebanese one.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: On Monday, Israeli jets carried out an airstrike against nine military points in Syria. And what would be your assessment in this – on this event?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that. Well, as we have said – let me just get it up right here. No one asked this yesterday. I was actually surprised. That we support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense in response to unprovoked assaults, and that we, of course, believe that countries have the right to defend themselves, and beyond that don’t have much more comment. Recent attacks we’ve seen from Syria are unacceptable and have been clear about our concerns about that as well.

QUESTION: And you suspect that these attacks were conducted by government forces, correct? The Syrian attack.

MS. HARF: I have no information otherwise.

QUESTION: Egypt again, maybe?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. End where we started.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) But just based on what happened yesterday, and this is really addressing what we read coming from the Middle East public opinion. At what time and point when the United States dealing with Egypt would the United States say to the Egyptian authorities, “Enough is enough”?

MS. HARF: I don’t know what “enough is enough” means from a policy --

QUESTION: Of those --

MS. HARF: -- practical perspective.

QUESTION: Of those daily practices regarding human rights, without being specific on an issue.

MS. HARF: What does that mean? Look, I’ve said we’re continuously reevaluating our policy, and how we deal with the Egyptian Government and the kinds of assistance we give it. We’re constantly going through that process. We have been now for many months, indeed longer than that. So that process is ongoing and I think the Secretary was very clear yesterday in his strong condemnation of these sentences.

QUESTION: Sure, right.

MS. HARF: And I think they hopefully got the message and hopefully will do the right thing here.

Yes.

QUESTION: So I think that Deputy Secretary Burns met today with the South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong.

MS. HARF: He either already did or is about to. I forget and I’m not sure what time it is. But yes, he will meet or has met – I’ll check when I get off of the podium here – with the South Korean Vice Foreign Minister here to discuss North Korea and a broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual concern.

QUESTION: So you don’t yet have a readout of that meeting?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I think it was scheduled to happen around the time I came out here, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 111


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 23, 2014

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 12:47

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 23, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Update on Secretary's Travel
    • Secretary's Statement on Syria Chemical Weapons
    • Sudan Appeals Court Decision on Meriam Ibrahim Apostasy Case
  • EGYPT
    • Verdict on Al Jazeera Journalists / Secretary Call to Officials
    • U.S.-Egypt Relations / FMF Funding Update / Apache Helicopter Delivery
    • Counterterrorism in Sinai / Secretary's Helicopter Remarks / Shared U.S.-Egypt Strategic Interests
  • IRAQ
    • Secretary Kerry's Meetings with Officials
    • Role of Military Advisers / Diplomatic Status of Military Advisers / Security Plan for Peshmerga Army
  • POLAND
    • U.S.-Poland Relations
  • IRAQ
    • History of ISIL Threat
  • POLAND
    • U.S.-Poland Cooperation on Ukraine and Regional Security
  • BANGLADESH
    • U.S.-Bangladesh Dialogue
  • SYRIA
    • Chemical Weapons Update
  • UKRAINE
    • Cease-fire Claims / Movement of Military Equipment


TRANSCRIPT:

1:51 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. It’s a busy Monday. Just a few quick updates at the top. I’m sure you’ve seen the plethora of statements from the Secretary today, as well as his press avail. As you know, in terms of a travel update, he’s in Baghdad today meeting with a variety of Iraqi leaders, underscoring our support for the Iraqis as they’re going through this very difficult period, having a variety of conversations with a variety of people. So we’ve had that out today.

One more thing at the top, or two quick things. The Secretary released a statement on the remaining removal of chemical weapons from Syria. All of the declared chemical weapons now are out of Syria. Obviously there’s still a process that we need to continue here, but that was the other statement.

And then finally one more quick item at the top. And we will be releasing a statement on this as well, but we welcome the decision by the Sudanese appeals court today to release Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag from a Sudanese jail. Ms. Ibrahim was sentenced on May 15th to be flogged for adultery and to be hanged to death for apostasy because of her religious conversion to Christianity. As you know, the case has drawn the attention of the world, has been a deep concern to the United States Government and to many Americans.

We also at this point continue to urge Sudan to repeal its laws that are inconsistent with its 2005 interim constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These actions would help demonstrate to the Sudanese people that their government intends to respect their fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. And as you know, this is a case we raised quite frequently with the government there and welcome today’s news.

Matt.

QUESTION: I’m sure we’ll get back to the Sudan situation in a minute, but I want to start with the one thing that you didn’t mention, which is in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And the Secretary had some words about that.

MS. HARF: Yes, we also --

QUESTION: The White House --

MS. HARF: -- did release his statement on that as well.

QUESTION: The White House also has some – I’m curious, though. Did the Secretary, in fact, raise these cases yesterday in – raise this – the case yesterday while he was in Egypt? And if he did, what did he say and how did the Egyptians respond?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. I think the Secretary made very clear today our feelings on the case. As you know, this is a judicial process. But in his statement, he called on the Egyptian Government to review the political sentences and verdicts pronounced and consider all available remedies, including, of course, pardons. As he said today, immediately upon hearing about the sentences, he called the foreign minister of Egypt to express our deep concerns. Yesterday, the topic of course came up in the context of our concerns about human rights, rule of law, these kind of sentences and convictions of course. We know there’s a judicial process here, but that’s all put in place in the context of our larger concerns about human rights, and the Secretary made that very clear in his call today.

QUESTION: Right. But the human rights – the most recent Human Rights Report says that Egyptian – your human rights – the State Department’s Human Rights Report says that Egyptian courts are susceptible to government influence. And I’m just wondering if the Secretary made clear his concerns about this case yesterday in his discussions.

MS. HARF: We’ve made clear for months our concerns about this case.

QUESTION: Right, right. But I mean – but most recently, before the --

MS. HARF: And I’ll double check on the conversations yesterday.

QUESTION: -- before the – right. But before the most – before the verdict, the most recent communication with the Egyptians about this case was yesterday, right, with the Secretary?

MS. HARF: I will double check on that to see what the conversations looked like.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m just wondering. I mean, it seems like if he did raise the case and express concerns about it, and given the fact that you guys do not believe that the Egyptian judiciary is free and independent of government influence, how is this anything other than just a slap in the face to you guys, particularly after you’ve given them – you went ahead and released additional assistance?

MS. HARF: Well, let me double check again on the level of detail of conversations yesterday. I know the issue was broadly broached in terms of human rights and convictions, but let me check on that from yesterday.

QUESTION: All right. Yeah.

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: But setting that aside – hold on, let me finish. Setting that aside, I think you saw from the Secretary’s statement today very strong language about how this process lacked fundamental norms of due process, is a deeply disturbing setback to Egypt’s transition. So I think he made very clear that injustices like this can’t stand if Egypt has any chance of moving forward.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: That being said, we do have a strategic partnership with Egypt that we think is important, but we will be very clear when we have deep concerns about what they’ve done.

QUESTION: So does that mean that there is no consequence for this?

MS. HARF: Look, I think the Secretary made very clear our concerns about it, and we are constantly reevaluating our policy towards Egypt based on what they do. Look, and what we’ve said is we need to see steps taken moving forward and that as decisions are made by this government, we will evaluate them based on those decisions.

QUESTION: So there’s no – but there isn’t anything in the short term that you’re aware of that you’re going to do to express your displeasure, other than the statements that the Secretary made at the --

MS. HARF: Look, we’re constantly reevaluating our policy, but to my knowledge, there’s nothing specific that’s being done today. But again, this all plays into the broader context of the space that we’ve seen, quite frankly, the shrinking space in Egypt for freedom of expression, for freedom of the press, which we’ve been very concerned about.

QUESTION: What is the status of the transfer of the 10 Apache helicopters that were supposed to go to the Egyptian military? Related to that, what is the overall status of the release of the $575 million in FMF funding?

MS. HARF: The 572 I think is what you’re referring to. So that was recently obligated, as folks know. It was the result of continuing consultations with Congress. Those consultations are ongoing. Obviously it wasn’t timed to coincide with anything other than our consultations with Congress. No updates on the Apaches. We’re still working with the Hill. As you know, money’s obligated, but obviously we have to keep working with Congress to get things moving, so I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: Would it be --

QUESTION: On the journalists, please.

QUESTION: Would it be too – wouldn’t it be reasonable to consider perhaps slowing down the process of transferring the delivery of the Apaches or of actually making the funds available to the Egyptians for their military operations to show the U.S.’s displeasure with the verdict?

MS. HARF: I think we were very clear about our displeasure with the verdict today. And as I said, we continually look at our policy towards Egypt and what our assistance will look like. There are many competing factors here. You heard the Secretary speak about them yesterday in his press avail. So we’re – again, we’re constantly evaluating this, and we will make our displeasure known, as we did today.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. trust Egypt in light of these meetings which the Secretary had on Sunday? And he was rather voluble, to use a word, about his conversations with both President Sisi and with Foreign Minister Shoukry on Sunday. Does the U.S. feel that it can trust this new government?

MS. HARF: Look, it’s not about trust, Roz. It’s not about trust in any relationship. It’s about actions and what we see happening. And I think the Secretary made very clear in his statement today our concern – our deep concerns and how we view these sentences and these convictions. I think that came through crystal-clear today in his statement. Certainly, again, I think for him coming on the heels of his visit there, this was, I think, particularly tough news to take today. And we’ll continue to make our displeasure known.

QUESTION: And one more --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Wait. She’s been waiting.

QUESTION: -- and one more --

MS. HARF: One more on this.

QUESTION: Yeah. And then I’ll yield to Lena.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Would it be fair to say that the Egyptian Government is damaging its own credibility, not just with the American Government but with the international community, because President Sisi has promised a new start?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that, again, going back to what the Secretary said, these kind of sentences, these kind of convictions, fly in the face of everything that President Sisi told him yesterday that he wanted to govern – the way in which he wanted to govern. The Secretary said that today. I think that it’s hard for people around the world to look at these sentences and these convictions and see that there’s anything just about them, see that there’s anything about them that is the kind of Egypt President al-Sisi has talked about going forward. So again, it’s about action, it’s not about words.


The Secretary had good meetings yesterday. These are important meetings. These are important discussions. We have a broad relationship with Egypt. But again, they’ve said they want – that they aspire to see their country advance in a certain way. Okay, we need to see actions back up those words. And again, we’ve called on the Egyptian Government to review the sentences, to look at potential avenues, including pardons, in this case.

Yes.

QUESTION: These journalists were brought into the court for more than 12 times. Each time they go there, their trial gets postponed. Only hours after Secretary Kerry meets with Sisi and the foreign minister – although you’ve said you’ve always expressed concern regarding the freedom of press and what’s happening in Egypt, this verdict came only hours after the Secretary left the country. What do you make of this, the timing? It’s --

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about the timing. As you know, there is a judicial process here. And as Matt mentioned, we have had concerns about the judicial process being politicized in the past. Certainly we’ve expressed that. I don’t want to jump to conclusions about timing. Again, I think the Secretary made very clear that he had conversation yesterday with senior Egyptian leaders who talked about the kind of Egypt they want to build. Okay, this latest action, regardless of the timing or the reason, flies in the face of that. And it needs to not happen in the future, and we need – they need to take steps to remedy it.

QUESTION: Why are you still considering increasing aid to Egypt? Or – we understand that the aid that has been provided throughout the last year is the military aid that’s necessary to guarantee the Camp David deal. And --

MS. HARF: Well, let’s talk about – when we talk about counterterrorism --

QUESTION: You’re talking about an act in Congress to increase the aid to Egypt --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- and approve that budget while you’re just expressing concerns about all these major issues happening there.

MS. HARF: Again, we have shared interests when it comes to counterterrorism, particular in the Sinai. A lot of what we’ve provided in terms of assistance is for the counterterrorism fight in the Sinai, which also benefits the people of Egypt. Let’s be clear about that.

Also assistance that doesn’t go to the government, that benefits democracy programs in Egypt, that benefits average Egyptians trying to make their voices heard. So we have a broad, strategic relationship with Egypt. We will make very clear when they have done things that we disagree with. And I think all you have to do is look at the last year – almost year now – since July 4th and look at how our policy evolves in response to what the Egyptian Government itself has done. We’ve been very clear that we’re willing to take steps in response to what they do.

QUESTION: Let me clarify again – just again on the Apache question. You say that the delivery is still being reviewed, it’s still in process. Can you specify exactly what the status of those helicopters is?

MS. HARF: I believe at this point in the process it’s been obligated, but we’re working with the Hill in terms of releasing funds and timing and all of that. I can check and see if there’s more specifics, though, Roz.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iraq?

QUESTION: On Egypt, please.

QUESTION: Can I – no, I want to follow up on Egypt. Is it fair to say that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is of such strategic importance to the United States – both because of the peace treaty with Israel, privileged access for the U.S. military to the Suez Canal, and of course, Egypt’s status as the most populous Arab nation – that it really doesn’t ultimately matter in terms of consequences what Egypt does on human rights, that the United States will continue to maintain the relationship for those three fairly significant strategic regions – reasons?

MS. HARF: I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive. I do not think that (a) we will maintain a relationship with Egypt. Even when we suspended our assistance, because of what happened last July, we maintained a relationship. It’s really the nature of that relationship and the character of it and what it looks like. And that does change in response to the actions the government does or doesn’t take. And that does include human rights.

QUESTION: And do you think it likely that the U.S. Government will suspend additional aid deliveries or reduce amounts of aid given to Egypt in response to this particular instance, or in response to the broader pattern of human rights abuses since July 4th?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to guess, Arshad. I know – we again, we constantly look at our policy. I have no updates on that front or nothing to predict in terms of what we may or may not do.

QUESTION: So the Secretary said when he was there yesterday that he was hopeful that the helicopters would arrive very soon. That suggests that the Administration believes that it is a good idea and that you’re – for them to have the helicopters --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and that you are trying, working --

MS. HARF: With Congress.

QUESTION: -- with Congress – encouraging Congress to allow them to be transferred.

MS. HARF: Yes. That’s my – it’s my understanding our position on that has not changed.

QUESTION: Okay. So even after something as egregious as this and in the pattern – in fitting with the pattern that you say is horrible, you are still lobbying Congress to ramp up assistance to the Egyptian Government. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Matt – well, take a step back, though.

QUESTION: But that’s correct, isn’t it?

MS. HARF: Our relationship – well, no. Let me --

QUESTION: No?

MS. HARF: Well, let me put it into context. Our relationship with Egypt is a complicated one and it’s a broad one. And quite frankly, this is an egregious step. You saw the Secretary make a comment on it today. We’ve also seen egregious steps over the past few months, right, with the hundreds of people sentenced to death, in absentia most of them, without even having trials. There is a pattern here. We are working with the Egyptians to try and break it not that there’s a new government in place, but again these things aren’t mutually exclusive.

We can on the one hand express our displeasure, express our concern about human rights, and also say but there is, at times, a shared interest to provide some assistance. It’s not black and white.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, I mean, I understand where you’re – what you’re saying. I don’t – I’m not sure it makes --

MS. HARF: You just don’t agree with it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I – I’m not sure – I just don’t think it makes any sense. This is a government that has been doing everything wrong in terms of one of your – allegedly, one of your top, highest priorities, which is the protection of human rights --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- and instead of punishing them or taking some step to show your displeasure other than just saying angry words, you’re actually trying to get them more assistance.

MS. HARF: Well, we do believe --

QUESTION: I mean, you’re trying to reward them.

MS. HARF: No, this isn’t about a reward. This is about the fact that we have shared strategic interests, that the assistance we provide to them – all of that is done in service of those shared strategic interests. It’s all where the United States national security interests lie.

QUESTION: So national security --

MS. HARF: So they’re a competing national security interest. Human rights is one of them, counterterrorism – there are all these competing interests, and what we do in Egypt and everywhere else is balance those interests.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, why isn’t it then fair for someone to take a look at this and say, “Well, in the battle of competing national security interests, human rights loses?”

MS. HARF: Because I think that’s a very simplistic and black-and-white reading of the situation.

QUESTION: Well, but that’s what it is.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: That’s the – I mean that’s --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) be accurate.

MS. HARF: Again, I would fundamentally disagree with it. This is a complicated relationship, Matt. To be fair, over the past year we have changed our relationship with Egypt at times to a large extent, as you saw after July 4th.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So I think we’ve been very clear that we’re willing to take steps. But you have to look at it from the broader perspective, what serves U.S. national security interests. And we do believe at this time the – our interests are served by maintaining an assistance relationship with Egypt while also pressing on human rights, while making clear that if they don’t take certain steps we will take further action.

QUESTION: Okay, but it’s not as if since July 4th the bar graph has gone flat or down. If – you’re – the U.S. assistance to Egypt after the initial penalties, since July 4th, has gone up.

MS. HARF: And we have. We suspended assistance for quite a bit. And it’s – I’m not sure – let me double-check on that --

QUESTION: But as they --

MS. HARF: -- but it’s my understanding this was all pre-obligated.

QUESTION: Right, right. Right.

MS. HARF: This wasn’t we decided to do new things.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- the assistance is going up to Egypt as they --

MS. HARF: Well, no. It’s been steady, as we had --

QUESTION: It’s flat-lined?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s – again, there’s no new assistance, right. It’s just issues that we – or assistance that we have put on hold to look at after what happened last July 4th, and then moving forward with assistance as we deemed it in our security interests to do so.

QUESTION: Right. I guess I just don’t understand what the – I mean, there seems to be no consequence at all here. I mean --

MS. HARF: Again, this is a broad relationship, Matt, and there are a variety of levers we have in terms of tools we can use to push the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: Okay, what – sorry, so – and now – and one of those would be aid, right?

MS. HARF: One of them, but it’s not the only one.

QUESTION: Okay, well --

MS. HARF: And I think you saw the Secretary very strongly come out and say – and I don’t have any predictions for what might happen next. There’s a process in place, we’ve called on the Egyptian Government to review these sentences, we’ve called them to do things like considering pardons.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have any more --

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that they’re at least willing to consider those steps?

MS. HARF: I’m quite frankly – am not sure. We would encourage them to, obviously.

QUESTION: What was the Secretary’s understanding of the legal process once he finished his meeting with President Sisi? Did President Sisi spell out for him this is --

MS. HARF: In terms of this case?

QUESTION: In terms of this case and of --

MS. HARF: Let me check and --

QUESTION: -- yeah.

MS. HARF: -- see if this case specifically came up in their meeting.

QUESTION: Yeah --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure that it did.

QUESTION: -- because --

MS. HARF: I’m happy – obviously, the broader issue came up of convictions and sentences and detentions.

QUESTION: And I’m asking because I’m wondering --

QUESTION: It didn’t come up in --

MS. HARF: I said I’m not sure. I’m going to check, Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, because I --

QUESTION: Okay, no, no. I thought you had told Matt that it did come up earlier.

MS. HARF: I said I know the issue generally came up yesterday, but let me check what meetings. He had a number of meetings and I just need to check.

QUESTION: I’m asking in the context of the Secretary’s statement and his comments at the press avail suggesting look at all venues available to you --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- including pardons. And I’m wondering, did it come out of that conversation? Was that briefing that the Secretary might have had just about the judicial process?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check, guys, about what more happened on the ground, what meetings it came up in specifically, if any. I know again the broad issue came up, but I just want to get some facts from the team that’s been on the ground. As you know, they’ve been working on Iraq today as well, so let me just see what I can get you.

Let’s just do one more on this.

QUESTION: One more on Egypt. Okay, well, actually it’s about Al Azouli prison. It seems like the Egyptian Government has this hidden prison where they torture the disappeared individuals. They are hundreds of them. There were – there was – they’re being subjected to torture. It’s a military jail called Al Azouli. Do you have anything on this?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have anything.

QUESTION: Iraq, please?

MS. HARF: Yes, let’s move on. Yes.

QUESTION: If we start with John Kerry’s visit to Baghdad.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: If you can just confirm if he is going to Kurdistan as well to meet the Kurdish leaders?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional updates in terms of his travel. He did meet with Iraqi leaders today from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Maliki, Speaker Nujaifi, and Foreign Minister Zebari. If we have updates in the future I’m happy to pass them on.

QUESTION: So I just got back from Iraq yesterday. I went to Kurdistan, I went to Mosul –near Mosul. Like one thing that most really people if you talk to, whether they’re Kurds or – if they don’t understand what the United States is doing now. For example – okay, if you can tell me what John – Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to achieve --

MS. HARF: Yep, so --

QUESTION: -- from meeting with Nouri Maliki.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. So – yep. In all of these meetings, he stressed the need for Iraqi leaders to understand the urgency of the situation and that the responsibility is on their shoulders to act in a unified way. He emphasized that defending Iraq against ISIL in large part depends on their ability to form a government and to do it quickly. So that was one of the key takeaways that came from his meetings. You also saw the President, as we talked about last week, announcing some additional assistance as well.

QUESTION: Specifically, like, he stated with – in his meeting with Egyptian foreign minister yesterday that Iraq needs a leader that represents all Iraq’s communities.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean you believe or the United States Government believes Maliki does not represent all the communities?

MS. HARF: That’s not what he’s saying. He also said, I believe, that we don’t pick sides, we don’t pick a leader; it’s up for the Iraqi people to do that. As you know, there is a process for government formation now --

QUESTION: But he also said that – he notes that --

MS. HARF: So any leader needs to represent all Iraqis.

QUESTION: But he also said that he notes that the Kurds are dissatisfied, the Sunnis are dissatisfied, and some of the Shias are also dissatisfied.

MS. HARF: That’s right.

QUESTION: That means that he wants Maliki replaced.

MS. HARF: That’s not what he said at all. I think you’re putting words in the Secretary’s mouth. What we have said is that Iraq needs a leader – all of its leaders, quite frankly – that represent all Iraqis, and that it’s up for the process to play itself out here, as you know. And all of the parties, I think, have committed to the timetable to start government formation, I think, I on the first when the Council of Representatives convenes. And the process will play itself out, but we don’t support any one person.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But do you think Maliki – like, I mean, it seems to many people that the only way to solve this problem, if it can be solved, is to replace Maliki, because nobody wants him --

MS. HARF: Again --

QUESTION: -- the Sunnis, the Kurds --

MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear. Whoever the leader is, they need to represent all parties. I know that you’re trying to push on this and I know there’s a lot of commentary out there about this, but we’ve been very clear that we will work with the leadership of Iraq, and all of Iraq’s leaders need to govern in an inclusive way.

QUESTION: Just a couple more questions.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What about the, like, 300 military advisors and experts you have sent to Iraq? What is their job? What are they trying to achieve?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple things. First, they’re going to be advisors working with the Iraqis to help shore up their ability to fight ISIL. We’re also going to be enhancing our intelligence sharing, including through joint operation centers to fuse information. We’re going to continue to supply a steady stream of sophisticated munitions, and the advisors really be working with some of Iraq’s best units to help them fight ISIL. Our support, I think, will be intense and sustained. And again, none of this will work if Iraq’s leaders don’t step up to the plate and realize this is a key moment to govern in a different way going forward.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: You --

QUESTION: Last one.

QUESTION: Sorry, sorry.

MS. HARF: Wait, let’s go to Matt.

QUESTION: Last one.

QUESTION: Wait. Just one more –

MS. HARF: One more, and then I’m going to Matt.

QUESTION: -- because I want to really be clear about this. Like, everybody knows that the United States military had been training Iraq for years with a lot – a much larger number of U.S. forces.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Like, really, nobody expects that with 300 people training for --

MS. HARF: It’s a very different time.

QUESTION: -- like, I mean, yeah. But what can they achieve?

MS. HARF: It’s a very different time.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: A very different threat.

QUESTION: What couldn’t they achieve then, why can they achieve it now --

MS. HARF: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- from training Iraqi --

MS. HARF: -- a lot happened after the United States left Iraq. And as the President spoke to, I think now two weeks ago, maybe a week and a half ago, so much of what we’ve seen in terms of the lack of cohesion in the Iraqi armed forces has been because its leaders have failed to govern in an inclusive way and have really fomented sectarian divisions instead of doing the opposite. So these 300 advisors will be providing assistance, serving in an advisory role to some --

QUESTION: But will it be different from the kind of --

MS. HARF: -- to some of Iraq’s best units.

QUESTION: Will it be any different from the kind of, like, assistance? Will it be any better in any way, if you can concretely speaking about it?

MS. HARF: It’s a very different time. For more specifics on that, I’m happy to have my colleagues at the Defense Department help you out.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- last week, there were a bunch of questions posed to Jen about the immunity issue.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding, and I can’t remember if this was said at the Pentagon or at the White House earlier, but that immunity for the 300, who are not there yet, correct --

MS. HARF: Correct, that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: -- is going – is covered in a diplomatic note? Is that --

MS. HARF: Yep. So I have a little bit on this. Let me give you what I have, and then I am sure there will be follow-ups.

So obviously, the President has made clear that we need to address the status of any military personnel sent into Iraq. We can confirm that Iraq has provided acceptable assurances on the issue of protections for these personnel via the exchange of diplomatic note. Specifically, Iraq has committed itself to providing protections for our personnel equivalent to those provided to personnel who were in country before the crisis. And we believe these protections are adequate to the short-term assessment and advisory mission that our troops will be performing there.

QUESTION: Okay. Is this something – do you know when that arrived?

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: Was it --

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Was it like last week or just over the weekend?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: I mean, what – in other words, was this an issue – was this something that the Secretary would have been raising today?

MS. HARF: The Secretary was really focused on --

QUESTION: Not –

MS. HARF: -- the political steps forward and CT.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know how long it lasts?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Does that mean that there – this is it? You guys are satisfied with this and you’re not going to seek anything more in the way of legal immunities?

MS. HARF: We believe that these protections are adequate to what these 300 advisors will be doing.

Yes.

QUESTION: Does this mean that any of those advisors could fall under the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts, or are they all kept outside of the Iraqi judicial system?

MS. HARF: So the – without going into every specific in the dip note, the protections are akin to those extended to diplomatic personnel. Our troops will have the legal protections they need to perform their mission. And again, they would, were something to arise, face due process for violations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Who provided these protections?

MS. HARF: The Iraqi Government --

QUESTION: Yeah, but the prime minister --

MS. HARF: -- through a dip note.

QUESTION: The prime minister, the government, the foreign minister?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure who signs diplomatic notes. I’m happy to see if there are more details. It’s an official exchange of communications between our two governments, though.

QUESTION: A question on Kurdistan, please.

MS. HARF: Can we – is there anything else on this? Okay, yeah.

QUESTION: One more on this.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: But does it need a parliamental decision, or a vote on this issue?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, the parliament I think won’t be convening until the 1st. We are working with the Iraqis to determine whether, when a new COR is seated, its approval will be necessary. For now we do believe we have the assurances we need, though.

QUESTION: Just a quick -- on this. That means essentially that these 300 advisors, even though they don’t have any diplomatic role – they’re military advisors – are essentially covered under the Vienna Conventions?

MS. HARF: Again --

QUESTION: Is that --

MS. HARF: Well, they’re covered under the assurances given to us in a diplomatic note between our two governments.

QUESTION: Right. But you said “akin to.”

MS. HARF: I said they’re akin to what diplomatic – I’m not going to go into all of the specifics in the diplomatic note that we exchanged, but again, akin to those.

QUESTION: Well – okay.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Maybe we can talk about the – maybe we can get someone from the legal office to – I’m just – I’m a little confused as to how --

MS. HARF: I don’t need someone to explain to me what it says. There’s just not a lot more we can share.

QUESTION: No, to explain to me.

MS. HARF: Yeah. There’s just not going to be a lot more we can share about this. We are confident in the assurances we’ve been given that our folks will have the legal protections they need.

QUESTION: But did you think that those – the assurances that they’ve given now could not have been extended in 2011?

MS. HARF: Well again, the situation now is different in character and kind than it was in 2011. This is a much smaller number of advisors, a clear Iraqi request for us, and appropriate assurances from the government. So it’s just a very different situation. And again, the diplomatic note is what’s covering this.

QUESTION: Okay. And did you guys specifically ask for this, or did they offer it?

MS. HARF: We certainly asked – well, I don’t know where it originated, but we certainly needed assurances that our folks would have protections.

QUESTION: Why not make the nature of the assurances public? What is the – why not do that?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: What is the harm in that?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure there’s – I don’t know if there’s harm in it. Again, this is a private diplomatic communication between our Government and the Government of Iraq. We and the United States military believe that these are – assurances are enough for our folks to be there. I’m happy to see if there’s more details we can share. Again, I think this is just coming about fairly recently in terms of timing.

QUESTION: Sure. Again, if you could ask the question of it – whether it could be made public so that people could actually see it and understand what it is, and --

MS. HARF: I’ll see if there’s more we can share.

QUESTION: -- therefore get the reassurance that one might get from actually looking at a document.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I don’t give that reassurance standing up here, Arshad?

Yes.

QUESTION: I didn’t say that.

MS. HARF: Going to you.

QUESTION: I know the U.S. has recently stepped up its --

MS. HARF: And then I’m going back there.

QUESTION: -- its military assistance to Iraq. You just delivered the first F-16 jets and a lot of Hellfire missiles, rocket-firing helicopters. But you just – you’ve sent all of these to the Iraqi army, Iraqi Government.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, in Iraq there are two armies: the Peshmerga, which protects Kurdistan, and the Iraqi army. And the Peshmerga has increasingly come under attacks from ISIS recently. And I talked to the commanders there on the ground; they were telling me that they feel that they might be outgunned by the ISIS fighters because they have reportedly gotten their hands on American weaponry from Mosul and other parts of Iraq they belonged – that had belonged to the Iraqi army.

So is there any plan that you might consider also arming the Peshmerga --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- to protect Kurdistan? Because there is no Iraqi soldier, there is no Iraqi police in Kurdistan.

MS. HARF: Well, let me make a few points here. We do support the steps that have been taken between the federal government and the Kurdish Regional Government to cooperate on a security plan that will enhance both the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga’s ability to hold positions and to confront ISIL. So they are actually working together on a common security plan here. We support --

QUESTION: They don’t work together in Kurdistan.

MS. HARF: Can I finish before you follow up?

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Thanks.

We support the federal Government of Iraq. That’s who we have a relationship with; that’s who we give assistance to. But again, we’ve encouraged the Kurds – particularly the Peshmerga – to work with the Iraqi army to fight this threat together.

QUESTION: But Peshmerga is, as you know, recognized by the Iraqi constitution as a regional guard, regional whatever – army. And can’t you work through that Iraqi constitution, respecting that constitution? Can’t you also provide them with arms?

MS. HARF: Again, we provide assistance to the Government of Iraq and have been encouraged that the government is working with the Peshmerga to fight this threat together, and we think that’s appropriate.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Poland.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: If I had to guess.

QUESTION: Marie, one of the weekly magazines in Poland published audio tapes with conversations of high-ranking government officials, and on one of the tapes a person identified as Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is saying the Polish-American alliance isn’t worth anything, is even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland. So is this true? What’s your comment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t comment on alleged tapes. I can’t confirm their authenticity or background. I’m just not in a position to verify that. But more broadly, the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship. You saw recently the Secretary certainly has been there, has been meeting, including with the foreign minister. And this is a relationship based on shared values. It remains strong. It’s a key part of our alliances in that part of the world. And the crisis in Ukraine, I think, has made that even more the case, where we’re confronting a shared threat together. So I can’t comment on the authenticity of the tapes, but I know that the Secretary and the foreign minister have a very good relationship and we’ll continue to have one with Poland.

QUESTION: Are you still willing to work with Mr. Sikorski --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- after comments like this?

MS. HARF: Again, I can’t verify the authenticity of these comments – excuse me. But absolutely, we have a very strong relationship with the foreign minister.

QUESTION: In addition to the Secretary’s visit, I believe the President --

MS. HARF: President, yes, yes, yes.

QUESTION: -- was actually there not so long ago.

MS. HARF: At the same time.

QUESTION: Yeah, indeed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The question, though, is: Have – are you aware of hearing – of people hearing this kind of sentiment in conversations with Polish officials?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. As I said, I mean, quite frankly, we have a very strong relationship with Poland, had a really good visit there with the President, as you mentioned, and the Secretary.

QUESTION: Regardless of whether it was Mr. Sikorski saying this on the tape or not, you would disagree with the comments whoever was --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- whoever was speaking?

MS. HARF: Whoever said those comments.

QUESTION: Whoever said it was wrong, right? Can I ask you --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- why?

MS. HARF: Because we have a very strong relationship that’s based on shared values. Again, I mentioned Ukraine. All you have to do is look at the crisis in Ukraine and how we’re consulting and working with all of our allies, including Poland, to confront this threat together. So I think that just underscores how important NATO is, how important all of our partners are there.

QUESTION: So you would – better go to someone else because I can’t --

MS. HARF: Okay, Lucas.

QUESTION: -- I can’t frame this question correctly.

QUESTION: Going back to ISIS for a second. Earlier today in Baghdad, Secretary Kerry said that ISIL can’t be tolerated in the region. And I was wondering why he didn’t feel that way three years ago.

MS. HARF: I don’t know what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: If he’s saying that now ISIL cannot be tolerated in the region now that ISIL has gone into Iraq, why didn’t he feel the same way when they were operating freely in Syria?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure what you’re basing your comment that he didn’t feel that way on. Do you have anything specific to ask about?

QUESTION: Well, he’s saying that this is essentially al-Qaida in Iraq, and did he not think that there was al-Qaida in Syria as well?

MS. HARF: Look, the Secretary and everybody has been very clear about the threat that’s being posed by terrorists that has mostly started in Syria and have now bled over into Iraq. And the Administration has been very clear about the threat posed by ISIL for years – for months and years. It was a key topic of conversation with Prime Minister Maliki when he was here last November. So I think any notion that the Secretary or anyone else here did not understand the threat is just false.

I would say, though, we have seen the threat evolve. And what you’ve seen over the past few months is really ISIL gaining strength, ISIL gaining territory, which is why it’s so imperative to get more assistance to Iraq.

QUESTION: Is there any regrets supporting Prime Minister Maliki these past few years?

MS. HARF: Again, we work with the elected leader of Iraq. And we’ve been very clear that we will work with him, but we’ve also been clear when we have concerns about how he’s governed. So again, it’s a relationship that we have had for some time now, and it’s up to the Iraqis to pick their next leader.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary voice some of these concerns a few years ago when --

MS. HARF: I think it’s safe to say that many members of this Administration – and of course the Secretary was in the Senate then – have voiced these concerns and have had concerns about how the Government of Iraq is governing. Yes.

QUESTION: So, wait, can I go back to my Poland question?

MS. HARF: Oh, yeah. And then I’m going to you next. Yes.

QUESTION: Unless they want to stay on Iraq.

MS. HARF: No, no, no, no. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, it’s just that you say that Ukraine is the – is why --

MS. HARF: Just one example.

QUESTION: -- one – is one example of this, but --

MS. HARF: Afghanistan is another.

QUESTION: But using Ukraine as an example would seem to be problematic because the Russians have actually annexed Crimea. They take --

MS. HARF: But you asked what our relationship was based on, and I said shared values --

QUESTION: No, I know.

MS. HARF: -- and shared interests --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- and finding a better path forward for Ukraine where Russia is not able to do the kind of things we see them do is a shared challenge we are confronting together.

QUESTION: Well, right. But my question wasn’t about what the relationship with Poland is based on. It is why --

MS. HARF: That’s exactly what you asked.

QUESTION: No, it’s not. I was asking why the person, whoever said these things, is wrong. And the person who said these things said that the relationship between Poland and the U.S. is worthless and that it, in fact, can hurt, because it creates a false sense of security. I didn’t ask about whether there were shared values. I don’t think --

MS. HARF: Well, but that’s why he’s wrong about the first part, whoever this was on this tape, that it’s useless --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- because we have shared interests, and we are working to confront them together.

QUESTION: But shared interests doesn’t – that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s – that the relationship is worth anything, does it? I mean, that’s the reason that there is a relationship. It doesn’t add value to it. So --

MS. HARF: Well, I think you’ve also seen the President and the Secretary talk quite a bit about reassurance of our allies since the situation in Ukraine, and we’ve taken steps to shore them up. So that’s – when we talk about security of countries like Poland, we’ve taken concrete steps to say we will stand by our allies in the face of Russian aggression in this region. So that would seem to be worth something.

QUESTION: Well, right. Except that – well, yeah. But what you have done in response to what you claim is – what you say is Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- is sanctions, which may or may not be having the – they certainly don’t – they haven’t --

MS. HARF: I think most economists would disagree with that notion. I think they’ve been pretty clear they are having an effect --

QUESTION: Well, I’m --

MS. HARF: -- on the Russian economy, at least.

QUESTION: Yeah. But they haven’t had any effect on who runs Crimea.

MS. HARF: Well, look --

QUESTION: Russia hasn’t said, “Okay. Uncle. Enough. We’re going to pull out of Crimea,” because of them.

MS. HARF: Again, Russia has a decision to make. They can continue running their economy into the ground and hurting their own people, or they can take steps to uphold their obligations under international law.

QUESTION: But that’s not my question, Marie. Marie, I’m trying to figure out why it is that the Poles should take heart from policy – from Ukraine being an example of the great value of a relationship with the United States and NATO, when the United States and NATO haven’t done anything, at least effectively, to get the Russians out of Crimea.

MS. HARF: I think we’ve done – taken a number of steps to reassure allies like Poland, including deploying detachments of U.S. planners to augment their capabilities, to reassure them of their security in the face of Russian aggression. I think we’ve taken a number of concrete steps in Poland and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Isn’t one big difference between Poland and Ukraine --

QUESTION: Well, it’s a NATO ally, yes. But --

QUESTION: -- is that Poland is a member of NATO and Ukraine is not?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, but no --

MS. HARF: But we are confronting Russian aggression in Ukraine in part by reassuring our NATO allies and taking concrete steps to show them we will stand by them.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know, just is anyone from the Embassy or this building trying to follow up to find out if, in fact, Mr. Sikorski said this stuff?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Syria?

MS. HARF: Just a little bit. I’m – yes, yes. We’ll do one here, and then we’ll do a couple on Syria.

QUESTION: Well, thank you, Marie. This is Arshad, the other Arshad --

MS. HARF: The other Arshad.

QUESTION: Both of them. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- with a question on Bangladesh. Recently the UN chief called for a dialogue between the two contending major parties, BNP and the Awami League. And this has been a matter of concern, because things are going downhill as far as law and order situation is concerned. And the minority issue came up. So under the backdrop of this, and since assistant secretary of state last visit was in November, and since then she never paid a visit, so what is the current position of the United States on this situation? Are they still sticking for a dialogue?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Our position hasn’t changed. I think the assistant secretary that you mentioned most recently spoke about this April 30th in a hearing up on the Hill, where she talked about the fact that Bangladesh continues to be an important partner to the United States, that we are encouraging dialogue between the parties, that we have consistently said this is the path forward here, and nothing about that has changed.

QUESTION: So is there any fresh election, specifically the dialogue would lead to a fresh election?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything I think more to say on what we think should come of the dialogue. Obviously it’s up to all the parties to decide together.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, Syria.

QUESTION: Regarding the Secretary’s statement on the removal of the last of the chemical materials --

MS. HARF: Yes. Eight percent, the last 8 percent. Yes.

QUESTION: The last declared.

MS. HARF: Declared. Yeah.

QUESTION: The last declared.

MS. HARF: And we made clear that point in the statement.

QUESTION: So what happens next? Is the priority trying to destroy the production facilities? Is the focus on trying to get back to some sort of peace talks, if that’s even feasible? Is it about simply trying to figure out another way or stopping the civil war? What’s the priority for this Administration?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a number of priorities. One of them is destroying the chemicals that are now out of the country and that are on the ships. So obviously that’s a process that will be done in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. So that’s what comes next in terms of those chemicals.

As you mentioned, yes, there are other things we still have to do, including destroying the – some of the production facilities. And again, everything is out of those facilities; it’s just about destroying them. And also to continue to make sure that there are no other chemical weapons out there. So in terms of CW, that’s sort of where we are right now. But again, this is a milestone, and I think a lot of people doubted whether we would ever get here, so I think it’s significant to note.

Look, in terms of the diplomatic side, we are where we have been in that we believe there is no military solution, that we need the parties to get back to the table, but the Assad regime has shown itself wholly unwilling to do so. We’re not just going to have talks to have talks. So we will continue to support the opposition, to ramp up our support, as you heard the President talk about recently, and evaluate what happens next.

QUESTION: Are you providing military support to the Syrian opposition?

MS. HARF: We’ve said we provide a wide range of support to both the Free Syrian Army and to the political side of the house as well, and that support will continue.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said that the U.S. is providing military support.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details on what he said, but we are providing a wide range of support.

QUESTION: Yeah. But why don’t you confirm it?

MS. HARF: I don’t – he can confirm it for us. I don’t have anything to add to what he said.

QUESTION: One more. Do you think it is possible that Syria has any chemical weapons or chemical weapon precursors that it did not – that it failed to declare?

MS. HARF: I think it’s certainly possible. I think you saw that in the Secretary’s statement today.

QUESTION: What, if anything, are you doing to try to neutralize the – or to prevent Syria from using those weapons, if they exist?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we don’t know that they exist. And the OPCW has the lead on reviewing and verifying the accuracy of its declaration. So we’ll continue supporting them, whether that’s with intelligence or information. We will continue supporting them in that regard. But I think we’ve made very clear that there are consequences to use, and I think if you just look at the last however many months we’ve been working on getting these weapons out of the country, that that is a significant milestone that we were able to get what they’ve declared out of the country.

QUESTION: What consequence did Syria suffer for its having used chemical weapons?

MS. HARF: That they have lost their entire declared stockpile of them.

QUESTION: Right. They voluntarily chose to give those up.

MS. HARF: Under great international pressure brought on by the threat of American military strikes.

QUESTION: So your view is that their choice to give them up is a consequence?

MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely, I do. Yes. Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah, a lot. I’m kind of confused by that last answer, though, because I mean, this is a --

MS. HARF: The Syrians had to forfeit a stockpile of weapons that, quite frankly, I think they had shown themselves absolutely willing and able to use.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But under great international pressure, including the threat of American air power, they had to be brought to the table to surrender them. So yes, I do think that getting rid of those chemical weapons is a good thing.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I don’t think anyone could argue that it’s not a good thing.

MS. HARF: I’m sure there are people willing to make that argument out there.

QUESTION: You think?

MS. HARF: You know.

QUESTION: Really?

MS. HARF: The arguments people make, the depths to which they will go, Matt --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- never ceases to amaze me.

QUESTION: All right. Assad is no closer to leaving power now than he was before August – before the chemical weapons were used, right?

MS. HARF: But that was never going to be the goal of any military action at the time, regardless.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, can we go to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Can I make one analogy here, though? Your suggestion that suffering – that Syria voluntarily, albeit under pressure, choosing to give up its chemical weapons is a consequence that it suffered as a result of the use of chemical weapons is kind of like saying somebody takes a gun, shoots and kills somebody, and then under pressure gives up their gun. But the point is it’s, yeah, they’ve given up their gun, but is that a punishment for --

MS. HARF: And that gun can never be used ever again to harm anyone else.

QUESTION: Yeah. But nobody’s arguing that. So you think it is a consequence?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I actually – yes, I think that the Syrians gave up a weapon that they liked having in their arsenal and clearly showed themselves willing to use. It doesn’t mean that don’t have really other terrible weapons in their arsenal as well.

QUESTION: Can I go to --

MS. HARF: I have time just for a couple more --

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: -- and then I have to run. Sorry.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yes, let’s do a few on Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the President and President Putin spoke today, according to the White House and according to the Kremlin. I won't ask you about that call, unless you want to say more than what the White House already said about it.

MS. HARF: I think I’ll punt to the White House.

QUESTION: Okay. You’ve seen that the Russian – the separatists, the rebels in the east, have said that they will respect or that they plan to respect the ceasefire. I presume you think this is --

MS. HARF: We’ve seen those claims. But again, actions have to back up the words.

QUESTION: Okay. Have --

QUESTION: Will four days make a difference?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Will four days make a difference?

MS. HARF: Look, we would support any side taking steps to work towards a cease-fire. Obviously, we need to see those steps taken to support the words that we’ve now seen from President Putin and others.

QUESTION: But not – I’m not talking about what President Putin – I mean, President Putin has come out and said that he supports the cease-fire as well --

MS. HARF: Yes. No, I was responding to your question.

QUESTION: -- but he’s also said that – okay, so you’re – I’m talking about the separatists.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. As I said, there are words out there people have spoken about supporting the cease-fire --

QUESTION: Right. Okay.

MS. HARF: -- but we haven’t seen actions taken to back that up yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you seen any – in terms of actions, what have you seen? Has it gotten worse?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Has it gotten --

MS. HARF: It has, in some respects. We have seen evidence of continued Russian military support to the separatists, and a new ongoing build-up of Russian forces on the border.

QUESTION: Okay. On Friday, there was discussion in here and in a conference call with a senior official about Russian tanks moving or having left – they were being prepared at a site --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- in southwest Russia and then there were indications that some of them might have left that site. Is that still the case?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So --

QUESTION: Do you – have they – are you aware that they have gone into Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Right. And as we said, I think, last week on June 13th, Russia sent tanks from a deployment site in southwest Russia into eastern Ukraine. And we have information that additional tanks have been prepared for departure from the same site. On June 20th the OSCE reported eyewitness accounts seeing a military convoy of unknown origin driving through Luhansk city. This convoy included tanks and armored personnel carriers. We also have ground photos from the destroyed BM-21 multiple rocket launchers in Luhansk, that the launcher originally belonged to a Russian motorized rifle brigade. So there’s a host of information that tanks, rocket launchers are crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine.

QUESTION: And all of this is post-Friday?

MS. HARF: I can check on the timing.

QUESTION: There was one thing – yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I had basically the same question, which was the briefer on the call couldn’t confirm that any of the tanks that the U.S. Government has information had left --

MS. HARF: Have crossed?

QUESTION: -- had actually crossed.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see what the status of that is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And is it still your understanding that reports in Russia of enormous amounts of refugee flows are incorrect?

MS. HARF: Incorrect. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Still our understanding. Sorry for the fire drill today, guys. That’s it. See you all --

QUESTION: Fire drill? Is there a fire drill?

MS. HARF: It was a quick fire drill.

QUESTION: Is there?

MS. HARF: No, I said I did a quick briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:38 p.m.)

DPB # 110


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 20, 2014

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 19:26

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 20, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • LEBANON
    • Terrorist Bombing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Travel to Middle East & Europe
  • IRAQ
    • Comments by Sistani and McGurk
    • Immunities for Non-combat and Advisory Forces / Chief of Missions Protections
    • U.S. Calls for Cohesion and Unity / U.S. Outreach with Iraqi Leadership
    • Formation of Government / Maliki Must Take Additional Steps / Beecroft and McGurk Meetings
    • U.S. Support for United Sovereign Iraq vs Breakup of Iraq
  • TURKEY
    • Hostage Crisis
  • IRAQ / FRANCE
    • Secretary Kerry Discussions with Foreign Minister Fabius
  • EGYPT / JORDAN
    • Media Restrictions
  • UGANDA
    • Anti-LGBT Concerns / U.S. Funding and Sanctions Outlined
  • NIGERIA
    • U.S. Support for LGBT Rights
  • KENYA
    • New Travel Warning / Embassy Personnel
  • EGYPT
    • Secretary Kerry's Trip Details
  • JAPAN
    • Resolving Issues with Republic of Korea / Kono Statement
  • CHINA/VIETNAM
    • Reports of Oil Rig in Disputed Waters
  • INDIA
    • Civil Nuclear Agreement Update
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. Outreach to All Parties
    • Two Palestinian Fatalities in West Bank
    • U.S. Calls for Restraint / #BringBackOurBoys
  • UKRAINE
    • Russian Deployments / Russian Refugee Claims
    • U.S. Calls for Laying Down of Arms
    • Latest U.S. Sanctions of Individuals
    • Personal Attacks
  • IRAQ / RUSSIA
    • Maliki Call to Putin
  • IRAN
    • Foreign Minister Zarif Comments on P5+1 Talks
  • IRAQ
    • ISIL Seizure of Degraded Chemical Remnants at Weapons Facility


TRANSCRIPT:

1:35 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone. Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MS. PSAKI: I have a couple of items for you at the top. First, the United States strongly condemns today’s suicide terrorist bombing at the Internal Security Forces checkpoint on the Damascus-Beirut Highway, where at least one ISF officer was killed and many others injured. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and we wish a full recovery to those wounded in the bombing.

The United States stands firmly with Lebanon’s leaders and its state institutions, including the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Internal Security Forces as they combat terrorism and work to provide the Lebanese people with calm and security, and we support the authorities’ efforts to bring those responsible for the attack to justice. These attacks threaten the principles of stability, freedom, and safety that the people of Lebanon are working hard to uphold, and we urge all parties to refrain from retaliatory acts that contribute to the cycle of violence. We remain committed to our strong partnership with the Lebanese people and the Lebanese security forces to advance the goals of peace and stability.

Also, I have a trip announcement. Secretary Kerry, at the President’s direction, will be traveling from June 22nd through the 27th to the Middle East and Europe to consult with partners and allies on how we can support security, stability, and the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq, to discuss Middle East security challenges and to attend the NATO foreign ministerial meeting in Brussels.

In Amman, Jordan, Secretary Kerry will hold consultations with Foreign Minister Judeh. The Secretary will also travel to Brussels, Belgium, as I mentioned, to the NATO foreign ministerial, which will discuss preparations for the NATO summit in September, as well as the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. In Paris, France, the Secretary will meet with regional partners and with allies on Middle East security challenges, including Iraq and Syria.

With that, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask something on the – just on the travel thing?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Ha ha. On the regional partners, that means European regional partners, or that means Middle Eastern/Gulf regional partners?

MS. PSAKI: Both.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Please.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You will have seen, I’m sure, the comments, the speech made today by Ayatollah Sistani. I’m wondering what you all make of it. I noticed that Brett McGurk seems to have thought it was important enough to call attention to social media.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will echo his comments and of course let the comments of His Eminence speak for themselves, as in Sistani, not Brett McGurk. But I also note that beyond his comments on government formation, he asked that the Iraqi people form more cohesion towards each other and for all Iraqis to work to reduce the suffering of displaced families caused by violence. Obviously, as you know, one of our primary messages, both publicly and privately, to Iraqi leaders is that now is the time to be unified against the shared threat that they face.

QUESTION: Okay, and while I’m sure you don’t mean to take away from Brett McGurk’s eminence –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- why are you calling Sistani “His Eminence” now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is the title that he has and we’re using properly.

QUESTION: But Grand Ayatollah is his title. Is there some reason that you now have decided to elevate him to --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t overanalyze, Matt.

QUESTION: Really?

MS. PSAKI: We were just using it in a respectful manner.

QUESTION: Okay. And then this question came up over at the Pentagon a little while ago, and the answer was not really – I mean, I’m not sure they had a specific answer to it. And that is: What is the agreement under which these advisors are going into Iraq under in terms of immunity? Are they like the security guys who went in – or I assume the security guys who went in to help with the Embassy are under chief of mission authority. What is the – is there a temporary SOFA or something like that that’s in place for these 300?

MS. PSAKI: It does not require a SOFA. I’m not sure what my colleagues over at the Pentagon said, and of course, they’re their personnel --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- so they would be the appropriate entity to answer.

QUESTION: The answer was – I think the answer was like, don’t worry about it, it’s taken care of, something like that, which has not met, I think, with great – did not meet a great response. I’m just wondering if you have details --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we currently have, as you know, and before these announcements, have had military advisory personnel in Iraq. They have the necessary protections they need. We’re confident these forces will as well.

QUESTION: Do they have diplomatic immunity? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the – I had thought that the military – the U.S. military personnel who are in Iraq in an advisory capacity since the withdrawal of U.S. forces were at the Embassy and under chief of mission authority and had diplomatic immunity. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: There are some that have been. I’m just not going to have more details on this. These are DOD personnel and so I would point you to them for any explanation they’d like to offer.

QUESTION: But our – my colleagues have been told to ask at the State Department to find out what are the immunities and what are the circumstances under which the forces are going to operate there. And I think it’s a reasonable question to ask because as the President himself pointed out, the Iraqis didn’t grant the immunities that you wanted for U.S. forces to remain such as --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s an entirely different circumstance. We were talking about a couple thousand of military noncombat forces at the time. I’m not saying it’s not a completely justifiable question. There aren’t other details to share. I can huddle with my Pentagon colleagues and see if there’s more of a clear explanation we can give all of you.

QUESTION: I just don’t --

QUESTION: Why --

QUESTION: Just one more on this from me.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Doesn’t every single American soldier who is going to a foreign country deserve the immunities that you would have wanted if you had left several thousand? I mean, just because it’s 300 and not 10,000 --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I would first reject the tone and tenor of your question. Of course the United States Government wants to protect the rights and the immunity of any soldier, man or woman, proudly serving us overseas. But again, there are a range of means that that can be under. I don’t have more details to share with all of you. I will – I’m happy to go back to my DOD colleagues and see if there’s more clarity that we can provide.

QUESTION: Just to put a fine point on it, the question is: Why – what is it that makes you confident that they will enjoy the immunities that you think that they should? Because it is a question that’s made relevant by the fact that there was no SOFA in the first place and that’s why a residual force was not left there. So it – but if you’re saying that these 300 can go in and enjoy the immunity under some kind of agreement that would apply to a visiting general or something like that as someone who is just coming in, then I mean, that’s one possible explanation, I would think.

MS. PSAKI: It – mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the question is: Why do you have the confidence now that a group of 300 Special Forces will have the immunity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I again don’t want to speak out of turn here.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I want to get the exact legal understanding for all of you. But I would remind that you that in this – in 2011, there was agreement that they would not stay and there wasn’t agreement on what – on the circumstances needed for them to stay. Now there is desire for support and help from --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- Iraq – from the United States.

QUESTION: Right. Well, but that doesn’t mean that they – that there is something that you have in writing, which I would assume that you would want, that they --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your question.

QUESTION: And then --

MS. PSAKI: I will venture to see if there’s more clarity we can obtain.

QUESTION: And then I just want to make sure that I am correct in thinking that the people that went there earlier before this 300, before the Embassy – they are covered by chief of mission, right?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to get that level of clarity. They have the protections that are needed. I can see if there’s more we can spell out on that front.

QUESTION: Follow-up on the Sistani?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But before that, I think it’s our understanding, that the Marine detachment that protects U.S. diplomatic facilities have immunity. The others, they must have some sort of special arrangements. So special arrangement --

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re asking the same question Matt and Arshad asked, and --

QUESTION: And that’s just – that’s my understanding. I want to ask you on --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- Sistani: Did you sense in his speech or in his words and so on incitement or sort of sectarian incitement that can – is kind of balancing the rhetoric coming from the Sunnis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we sensed exactly as we stated, Said. So I’m not sure I have much more to add to my comments.

QUESTION: But do you see that his speech came sort of in many ways to echo what the President Rouhani said the other day at the border of Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t compare the two. What I’m – what we – what I conveyed very clearly, I think, about his comments is that he called for more cohesion among the Iraqi people, and certainly that’s a message we also support.

QUESTION: Well, Imam Sistani has always held to the notion that Iraq should be united and should fight foreign fighters and so on. But he also wields a great deal of power. If he wants to sort of recruit volunteers, for instance, they would flock in the tens of thousands. Are you concerned that this speech could be a watershed event in terms of mobilizing and perhaps really igniting full-blown civil war?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been pretty clear in the supporting what he said, which was calling for more cohesion and unity from all sectors, all sects of the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: And on the issue of Iraq and the partition of Iraq, because for all practical purposes it seems like it has been partitioned in three parts. Today, the Israelis received their first oil shipment from Kurdistan. Do you have any comment on that – without going through the central government?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with our view here, Said – which has not changed – that these sales and exports need to go through the central government. There’s been an ongoing negotiation over that that hasn’t been resolved.

Elise.

QUESTION: Can I just (inaudible) for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Because now the Pentagon says that the U.S. is seeking a written agreement with the Iraqis. So if – anything more you can add to that would be much appreciated.

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. I think the answer will likely come from the Pentagon, but I will circle back with them after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: Just back to the whole Sistani idea. I mean, in the past, the U.S. really hasn’t had much conversations with Sistani. Do you see this – as you’re sending your advisors in and as the U.S. will certainly be involved in not dictating but helping the Iraqis with their political process, do you see this as part of a potential working together? I mean, for the first time it does seem maybe that your interests align with Ayatollah Sistani.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wasn’t predicting a change in that aspect.

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. PSAKI: I just – I was asked about the specific comments, and so I was answering that specific question.

QUESTION: But do you anticipate any – have you reached out to him to any of his representatives or anything to try and have a dialogue as Brett McGurk has been meeting with politicians from across the political spectrum?

MS. PSAKI: We have reached out across the spectrum. I’m not aware of specific outreach here. I’m happy to check and see.

QUESTION: Can you check? Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry. Not aware of specific outreach to Sistani? How about to Chalabi?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our officials have met with a wide range of Iraqi officials and community leaders, including Dr. Chalabi, who is, as you know, an elected member of Iraq’s parliament. That should come as no surprise. Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk has been on the ground now I think for about two weeks and has met with officials across the spectrum.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did --

QUESTION: Is that --

QUESTION: Sorry. Did he meet specifically with Chalabi?

MS. PSAKI: He – Chalabi – yes, he did. Chalabi requested – recently requested a meeting with him and the ambassador, and they met with him as they have with other Iraqis to discuss the current situation in the country.

QUESTION: Can you address the persistent reports and suggestions that the U.S. Government is trying to find a way or is encouraging or would like to see the Iraqi political establishment ease Maliki from power?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m happy to, and I’d also point to the fact that the President and the Secretary addressed it yesterday. It’s up to the Iraqi people, not the United States, to determine the future of their leadership. They’ve had an election. Certainly, in these meetings Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk and Ambassador Beecroft have been encouraging the quick formation, the urgency of the formation of a government. But they’ve made clear it’s not our role or our choice to make in terms of who the future leaders will be.

QUESTION: But certainly – can I – but certainly, while that’s true, you certainly have made no bones about the fact that you don’t think that Maliki has fulfilled his kind of responsibilities to form an inclusive government. So implicit in what you’re saying is, you are kind of sending the message to Iraqis that maybe you should think about some new leadership – while, of course, the U.S. wouldn’t dictate who the Iraqis – who the Iraqis choose.

MS. PSAKI: Implicit in those comments – which are right, we’ve consistently made – is that Prime Minister Maliki needs to take additional steps to be more inclusive, to rule in a non-sectarian manner. We’ve been encouraging him to do that publicly and privately, but again it remains up to the people of Iraq to determine their future leadership, and that’s part of our message as well.

QUESTION: But you are kind of sending the message to Iraqis – not so subtly – that you feel that they deserve better than the leadership that they’ve had.

MS. PSAKI: It is not about specific individuals, Elise. It’s about the way that we believe Iraq should be governed. And --

QUESTION: And it’s not being governed the way you feel – or the Iraqis – you feel the Iraqis deserve it to be going.

MS. PSAKI: And we’ve made no secret of the fact that we think more needs to be done to be more inclusive and acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the Sunni and Kurdish populations.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on Ahmed Chalabi. The meeting with Chalabi, does that mean that he’s been rehabilitated into the good graces of the United States, considering that almost a warrant for his arrest was issued by the American army?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as we’ve been reading out periodically, Ambassador Beecroft and Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk have been meeting with a range of officials across the board over the course of the last several weeks.

QUESTION: Okay. Would you support Ahmed Chalabi, because he threw his hat in the ring apparently for the premiership. Ahmed Chalabi or Bayan Jabr, both of whom are very, very close to Iran – would you support either one of them to replace Maliki?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not the role of the United States to support any candidate. We’ve been --

QUESTION: Would you oppose – would you oppose – suppose that --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not the role to support or oppose, Said, so we’ll let --

QUESTION: Except in Syria, of course.

MS. PSAKI: I know you – well, I think we’re talking there about a brutal dictator --

QUESTION: Or in Iraq, (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: -- who’s killed tens of thousands of his own people.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Or in Ukraine.

QUESTION: To follow up on Elise’s questions, are you saying – is the Administration saying that strikes in Iraq are contingent on the Iraqi Government changing?

MS. PSAKI: I think we made very clear yesterday when we announced – when the President laid out his plans moving forward that the factors we’re looking at are what we believe are in our national security interests; threats that may face our personnel, our facilities; threats coming from ISIL; and whether targeted action would support the stability of Iraq and prevent a descent into sectarian conflict. There are a range of factors. Now, at the same time, while it’s not contingent upon the success of Iraq, the stability of Iraq is very much dependent on the Iraqi leaders taking steps to be inclusive, rule in a nonsectarian manner, and support and boost up the security forces.

QUESTION: But haven’t you told the people of Iraq that we won’t help you unless you change your government?

MS. PSAKI: I think the President’s speech yesterday was pretty clear that we’re not talking about contingency. We’re talking about steps that are necessary in order to have a successful outcome.

QUESTION: In September 2012, President Obama said, “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did.” Yesterday, President Obama said, “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me; that was a decision made by the Iraqi Government.” How do you reconcile that?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s pretty easy to reconcile, Lucas. In 2011, we did not have the requirements we needed to protect our men and women serving; that was a decision made by the Iraqis at the time. The President has made no secret, as have a number of other current Administration officials, about their views on the decisions made to go into Iraq. That hasn’t changed. But we’re at the point we’re at because we have a national security interest here in the stability of Iraq, in the success of its people, and the stability of the region. So that’s why we’re talking about our engagement at this point in time.

QUESTION: But in 2011, I mean, the Administration was quite proud to say that you ended the war in Iraq and that’s what the President meant by saying, “We did.” He did end the war in Iraq, and now yesterday he seemed to put the blame solely on Prime Minister Maliki.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I think there’s a difference between bringing combat troops home and whether you have the protections you need to keep a small contingency on the ground. And so there’s a difference between the two. Regardless, we’re ending the war in Afghanistan as well. But we’ll have – given candidates have – have both said that they would support a BSA, we’re in a slightly different circumstance.

QUESTION: But if – in Afghanistan, this Administration has been trying very hard to get a bilateral security agreement signed. Why wasn’t there the same impetus in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: There was. There’s a different circumstance; different countries are different. But again, at the time we didn’t have the security – I mean, the requirements we needed in order to protect the men and women serving.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: Can we, Said, go, just because we haven’t gone to a couple of these other guys.

QUESTION: Sure, sure. (Inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Thanks. So the President – just following up on Lucas – has said multiple times that al-Qaida is on the run due to proactive counterterrorism operations led by his Administration. Is the Administration’s priority the – is to preserve the integrity of the Iraqi Government, or is the priority to diminish the operational capacity of ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Because if it were the latter, surely you would be considering strikes in Syrian territory, and this goes to comments yesterday by a senior Administration official speaking on geographic space not being a factor here.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that Administration official, if I remember correctly, made clear that we don’t restrict potential U.S. action to a specific geographic area. We’re talking about going after ISIL. Obviously, there hasn’t been a decision made yet, so we’re getting a little ahead of where we are on strikes, but our focus here is – and I would point you to before a couple of weeks ago, when the President gave his speech and he talked about going after the threat that we face, which has certainly changed over the course of time – yes, we have taken steps to decimate core al-Qaida, but there are affiliates, as you know, that we’re concerned about. We’re concerned about the growth of terrorism in various parts of the world, including this part of the world, and it’s about going after the threat where we face it and taking an approach that’s effective in that capacity.

QUESTION: Right. So that’s why I ask if you’re prioritizing one over the other, the preservation of the integrity of the Iraqi Government versus an active – a proactive policy diminishing the operational capacity of ISIS. Because if that was the priority, how long as the President been considering strikes against ISIS in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear here. We’re not talking about one leader or even the government. We’re talking about the Iraqi people and the stability of Iraq and the stability of the region. And that’s the prism through which the President and leaders in the Administration look at this. Syria, as you know, we’ve been increasing our assistance over the course of time. We expanded the scale and scope over a year ago. We have taken steps to support legislation that includes – that would include the authorization of the Department of Defense to train and arm the opposition, so there are a range of steps that we’ve taken to increase our capacity and our focus there as well.

QUESTION: So you’re not – you’re – it doesn’t sound like you’re saying that a goal that any – the goal is really to preserve the integrity of the government. It’s just to preserve the stability and security of the country for the Iraqi people.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s the sovereignty of the government, certainly, but I – when you say “integrity of the government” --

QUESTION: No. But the sovereignty of the institution of government, but not necessarily – basically, the question is: Are you – are the steps you’re taking trying to help further Prime Minister Maliki assert control over his country, personally?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary addressed this during an interview earlier this week, where he said it wasn’t about Prime Minister Maliki. This is about the Iraqi people, the stability of the country, the sovereignty of the country, and the national security interests of the United States.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on the issue of integrity. I know that the Administration makes repeated pronouncements about its commitment to the unity of Iraq. But if partition is amicably arrived at by all three different groups to have three different countries, would you support it, considering that there are actually real champions in this Administration, no less than the Vice President of the United States of America, who actually advocated an independent Kurdistan?

MS. PSAKI: Said, that was quite a long time ago. As you know, that’s not a focus or the policy of the Administration. So our focus here is on a unified, sovereign Iraq.

QUESTION: But if such an outcome would lead to this violence and people living --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on a hypothetical.

QUESTION: What was a long time ago?

MS. PSAKI: The Vice President’s --

QUESTION: Oh. It was even longer that the border was drawn.

QUESTION: When he was senator.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, it was before he was vice president. So he even had a different title at the time.

QUESTION: Right, but it was --

QUESTION: Well, he was in a different branch of government at the time.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So this government does not think federalism is the way to go in Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: We – that’s never been our position.

QUESTION: Right, but --

QUESTION: But there’s a lot of talk about it now, given what’s happening in the country, that – and even to overcome the sectarian tension there would need to be more autonomy given to the various regions of the country.

MS. PSAKI: Our focus right now is on the threat that they all face. I’m not going to speculate on what would happen --

QUESTION: So you believe – so you’re going to double-down on the – what some call the anachronistic British imperialist-imposed border that now exists? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure if I would put it in those terms, Matt, but --

QUESTION: Post-World War I border of Iraq, the existing – that’s what you are intent on keeping. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re --

QUESTION: Not – maybe not you, but that’s what you support. You do not support any revision to the current borders of the – Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed in our view. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Well, I was going to say the same thing. I was going to ask it very simply. I mean, would you oppose a breakup of Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. It’s never been our position, so I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical that we’re not currently looking at.

QUESTION: It’s not a hypothetical. People are generally inside the country talking about it too. I mean, it’s not totally hypothetical. I mean, there are moves for people to move in that direction.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not the position or the view or the support of the United States Government.

QUESTION: So you disagree with --

QUESTION: Can you say no? Can you say you don’t want Iraq to break up?

QUESTION: -- the notion that --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re done with this question.

Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Just what --

MS. PSAKI: Said, we’re going to go on to the next.

Michael, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m just following up back on the geographic space issue, because the President said yesterday that ISIL could potentially be a threat to the United States. He said “potentially.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is – would the Administration only consider a strike on ISIL targets in Syria if it were a – if they came to the conclusion that they posed a direct threat to the United States, or --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to box the President in or out here. I think I outlined what the factors are that we’re considering.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Turkish hostage crisis, do you have any kind of update on those hostages?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have any update for you. Obviously, our – we remain concerned about these hostages as we have been. We’ve been in touch, of course, consistently with the Government of Turkey, but I don’t have any specific update for you.

QUESTION: Has the Turkish Government asked any kind of help? Last time you said you would check for it.

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any update for you on it.

QUESTION: It looks like the first Kurdish oil, I think, is waiting at Israel via Turkey, is about to be delivered as far as we see from the reports. Do you have any --

QUESTION: It already has.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I think I addressed this one. Said asked the --

QUESTION: To Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Same question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to turn to Africa, a human rights issue --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, do you want – let’s just finish Iraq. And then we’ll go on to a new topic, if that works.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Samir, go ahead.

QUESTION: Any update on any contacts you have – you may have with the Iranians about Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: No, no new contacts.

QUESTION: And maybe we can wrap this up with – ahead of his trip to the Middle East and Europe, has the Secretary been in contact with anyone regarding the Iraq situation?

MS. PSAKI: He did speak with Foreign Minister Fabius this morning. Let me just pull up the quick readout of that. One moment.

And I expect he’ll continue with calls over the course of the weekend. They talked about the – our shared concern about the threat from ISIL. The Secretary talked about his plans to return to the Middle East and Europe to consult with partners next week. They also talked about Ukraine and President Poroshenko’s peace plan and declaration of a ceasefire today. So that was the thrust of their conversation.

QUESTION: Okay. Can we – well, you can go to Africa first, but – then Ukraine.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on readouts. Has the Secretary spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone on --

MS. PSAKI: He has not spoken with him today, no.

QUESTION: I have one more on Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You have been encouraging Turkish Government and Iraqi Government – Maliki government to cooperate on regional issues, as well as this crisis in Mosul. Do you know of any kind of cooperation or any kind of phone talk between these two allies?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates for you. I’d point you to the Turkish Government. Do we have any more on Iraq? Iraq? Go ahead.

QUESTION: One last question. The – have you heard the reports that Iraqi television channels that have – reportedly critical to Maliki – being taken off the air in Egypt or Jordan?

MS. PSAKI: I have not actually seen that report. I spoke a couple of days ago just to some concerns we’d seen about social media being pulled back, but I’m happy to check and see – you said Jordan and where was the other country? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: In Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: In Egypt. Okay. We’ll check into that. Do we have any more on Iraq?

Ukraine? Or a new topic.

QUESTION: Well, I was going to – but let’s go to Africa.

MS. PSAKI: Or you guys can pick the topic. Sorry.

QUESTION: No, someone had an Africa question, I believe.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Daniel from Feature Story, by the way. So there was a response to the signing of the law in Uganda called the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you, first of all, do you describe that as a set of sanctions? Or is it just a set of actions? And secondly, what motivated the actions at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we announced several months ago when this legislation was enacted that we would be undergoing a review. So this is the conclusion of that review. I think we would categorize it accurately as a set of actions, because while there were visa bans included in there, there were additional steps taken related to – including related to funding for the Ugandan – discontinuing funding, I should say, for the Ugandan police force, and shifting of certain funding that supports salaries, travel expenses, and other health-related items at the Ugandan ministry of health. And also relocating a planned public health institute, which we were providing $3 million for to another country in Africa, and also canceling plans. So it was a range of actions that were taken after a review that the Administration underwent.

QUESTION: And there were a number of individuals who will be subject to a travel ban. I don’t know the legal ins and outs of it, but why can’t you name those individuals to sort of send a message that you do with other more sanctionable individuals.

MS. PSAKI: It’s just a policy that we don’t, so in this case, I don’t have any names or numbers for you.

QUESTION: And another follow-up. Nigeria’s often been named by human rights groups as being particularly pernicious in the way that it treats LGBT individuals.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And there are several other African countries where there are laws and actions against gay rights. Is there a case for saying why is Uganda the focus when there are so many other problems in Africa, not least in Nigeria? And are there plans to follow-up with more action to try to send that message to those countries?

MS. PSAKI: To be clear, this isn’t just a Uganda problem; it’s not just an Africa problem. Anywhere where we see LGBT rights being trampled on, we are – we often speak out about our concerns there. So in Nigeria, we’ve spoken out against the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition act and engaged – and we’ve also engaged extensively at the highest levels of government with the police and with regional and local officials to press the message of nonviolence. We are also providing technical assistance to civil society, and we’re monitoring closely the implementation of SSMP and its impact on the LGBT population in Nigeria and community. We’ll take appropriate actions as needed. We evaluate country by country and take steps when they’re warranted.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just on the visa ban – have there actually been Ugandan officials who have been notified that either their existing visa will be revoked or has been revoked or that they will be denied if they apply for a new one? Or is this just something that is coming down the pike, as it were?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re taking steps to restrict entry. I’d have to check, Matt, on the exact steps.

QUESTION: But you don’t know if anyone – if it’s actually had any effect on any Ugandan official who was planning or was already in the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we just announced these steps yesterday.

QUESTION: I know.

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s anything more specific. I know some of this is subject to confidentiality laws, of course.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t think that would be – if it, in fact, it’s actually had an effect on someone.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but typically we wouldn’t give names or numbers. So I would check and see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Well, you have given numbers in the past. I know that you haven’t given names unless or until someone affected speaks out publicly or complains about it, in which case you have had a history --

MS. PSAKI: And that has happened. Yes.

QUESTION: -- of confirming it. But I’m just – I’m not even asking for the number. I just want to know if --

MS. PSAKI: You’re asking if it’s been implemented yet.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: If anyone has actually gotten told --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- they have to leave because their visa has been revoked or whatever.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. You got it.

Uganda or a new topic?

QUESTION: Oh, no, no, no.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we stay just next door, Kenya?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Yes.

QUESTION: The new Travel Warning, the relocation of some staff from the Embassy, can you be at all more specific about who these people are, where they’re going?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me just pull this up so I have the language in front of me. One moment. Let’s see where this is at. I think the Travel Warning noted that (1) it’s important to clarify that this has been a long review of our security measures and steps that need to be taken in Kenya. We’re all familiar with the Westgate attack, and obviously there have been a range of attacks over the course of time. This is applicable at this point to individuals who have regional responsibilities, so it’s unlikely to impact our bilateral responsibilities that we have.

QUESTION: So the Somalia office?

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: When you say regional responsibilities, do you mean that these are people that are working on Somalia?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re working on a range of regional issues. I don’t have that level of specificity, and some of it is still being – we’re still working through the details of these changes. And they’ll just be moved to a different area. It doesn’t mean that these responsibilities will discontinue, if that makes sense.

QUESTION: Are they going elsewhere in the region or are some of them being brought back to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that. I’m fairly certain elsewhere in the region, Arshad. Obviously, there’s (inaudible) important priorities, so it’s elsewhere in the region is my understanding.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Kenya? Africa?

Okay. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Related to the Secretary Kerry trip to the Middle East and Europe, I mean, it was reported today in Egyptian – some of the newspapers that Secretary Kerry may go to Egypt on Sunday. Is it something expected or it’s just a rumor?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any trip details beyond those I announced to announce at this point in time.

QUESTION: So the other question related to the trip: When the Secretary yesterday mentioned he was going to meet the Gulf states people, is he going to met – to meet them in Paris or where?

MS. PSAKI: He’ll be meeting, I think --

QUESTION: Or in Amman?

MS. PSAKI: -- a range of officials in Paris at the end of the week.

QUESTION: And so it’s – Amman is just for Judeh?

MS. PSAKI: And as more details of his trip become available, we’ll make those available as well.

Go ahead. Let’s just tick around here a little bit. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On the Japanese Government issue, your review on the Kono statement, I wonder, do you agree with the conclusion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that the apologies extended by the previous prime minister and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono marked an important chapter in Japan, improving relations with its neighbors. We take note of chief cabinet secretary – the chief cabinet secretary’s statement on June 20th that the position of the Abe government is to uphold the Kono statement. As you know, we’ve consistently encouraged Japan to approach this and other issues arising from the past in a manner that is conducive to building stronger relations with its neighbors, and that remains our focus.

QUESTION: But do you think it’s necessary for Japanese Government to take this review? Because this is a very sensitive topic to South Korea and China.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as President Obama said during his visit to Asia, because Korea and Japan – South Korea and Japan have so many common interests, it’s important that they find a way to resolve the past in the most productive manner and look to the future and how they can work together on issues they share.

QUESTION: And when President Obama – when he was in Japan, he has been calling Japan to take more proactive steps to address this issue. So do you think Japanese Government has been following his advice?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he said when he was there is that they need to look to the past and look to the future, and obviously part of looking to the future is determining a way to work together and put events of the past behind you.

QUESTION: But it seems Japanese Government is looking back, not the future.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re encouraging them to look forward.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the same topic --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- so you don’t believe that the review itself undermines the Kono statement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’d point you to the cabinet – chief cabinet secretary’s statement that the position of the Abe government is to uphold the Kono statement, so --

QUESTION: But if you look at --

MS. PSAKI: -- I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: If you look at the conclusion, which is that the South Koreans and the Japanese have cooperated, some people believe that that in and of itself creates doubt about the Kono statement. Do you agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d point you to the position of the Japanese Government, which they’ve clearly stated.

QUESTION: Do you believe that this is an unhelpful step?

MS. PSAKI: I think our focus is on encouraging them to work with South Korea on the issues that they share concern about.

Go ahead. Or – still in the region? Or --

QUESTION: Still in the region.

QUESTION: Sorry, one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh, go ahead. I’d like to move on.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So – sorry.

MS. PSAKI: So polite all around. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So South Korea says that it’s going to do --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: South Korea says that it’s going to do its own assessment of the review’s outcome and take action with the international community. Is this something that you would support?

MS. PSAKI: I think I would point you to what I’ve just stated – that we believe South Korea and Japan have a range of issues and concerns they share and we encourage them to focus on those moving forward.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, on China, I just wanted to see if you have a reaction to their decision to move now, it seems, multiple other oil rigs off the coast of Vietnam.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen those reports.

QUESTION: I think two were near Taiwan. One I think is just outside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. And the third one – the fourth one, I can’t remember right now. But --

MS. PSAKI: Right. In our – we are of course aware of the reports that China’s towing additional oil rigs to different locations in the South China Sea. As Arshad mentioned, there’s – I think there’s not a great deal of information at this point as to where they’re headed. If a rig were placed in disputed waters, that would be a concern. And we certainly have a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. So at this point we don’t have enough information about the intended destinations of these rigs, so we’ll hold back judgment until we know more.

QUESTION: I think they have posted the latitude and longitude locations.

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that before I came down, and I’m happy to see if there’s more we want to convey on this issue.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: But it’s okay with you if the oil rigs are within the Chinese continental shelf?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our concern all along here has been when it travels into disputed waters and some of the aggressive actions that have been taken. So we will be watching closely, and if we need to speak out further about it, I’m certain that we will.

QUESTION: And I wondered, do you have any reaction, given that the Chinese Councilor State Yang Jiechi just visit Vietnam, but it seems there was – no progress has been made between China and Vietnam on the oil rig issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we support diplomatic means of resolving these issues, and we certainly hope they will continue until they’re resolved.

QUESTION: Jen, when the first – sorry, when you – the first Chinese oil rig was deployed off the coast of Vietnam, you said it was – I can’t remember if it was you or Marie – but you said it was a provocative and destabilizing move.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Would you say that these most recent actions – would you use those same words to characterize these most recent actions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I want to know more about where they are and what they’re doing, and we stand by the comments we’ve made and I think we’ve both repeated those. So we’re certainly encouraging Chinese and both sides to refrain from provocative actions.

Arshad, do you have another in the region?

QUESTION: Well, yeah. Just a quick one on India. There are reports that India is significantly expanding the capacity of a covert nuclear facility. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the article. But we’re not – it’s one report, I believe – we’re not in a position to speculate on its conclusions. We remain fully committed to the terms of the 123 Agreement and to enhancing our strategic relationship. Nothing to be provided – nothing we provide to India, under the civ-nuke agreement, may be used to enhance India’s military capability or add to its military stockpile. But we don’t have enough information or confirmation of the report to speak to that.

QUESTION: Great. And I’m sorry, you’re right. It was one report, the Jane’s report, that I was referring to.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Am I not correct though in understanding that such military facilities were explicitly excluded from the Indian civil nuclear agreement? So in other words you have no right or ability to – the Indian civil nuclear agreement doesn’t apply to such military facilities, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding of it, Arshad, is that nothing provided to India can be used to enhance their military capability. I’m not certain – obviously, that would be high speculative about this, given there’s only one external report that’s not --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- a reflection of a U.S. Government report. So --

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli tensions?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Since we spoke last, has anything changed to sort of convince you that what Israel is doing is collective punishment?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to add to what I’ve stated over the last couple of days.

QUESTION: Okay. And you’re aware that maybe 200 more have been arrested since then? Homes been demolished, they raided the university, they raided a refugee camp, they destroyed a nursery today, they killed a 16-year-old Palestinian, injured many others. That does not, as far as you’re concerned, fall under collective punishment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as I’ve said over a couple of times, but it certainly worth repeating, we have been in touch with both parties. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and avoid steps that could destabilize the situation. We’re concerned by the death today of two Palestinians in the West Bank, and seeking additional information on the incidents that took their lives. And we’ll continue to offer our full support to the efforts by Israel and Palestinian Authority to find the three missing teenagers.

QUESTION: So do you consider what they – what Israel is doing to be proportionate to the search for the three missing young --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve made our position clear here, Said. I’m not going to have more to add to the comments I’ve made.

QUESTION: I have one last question on Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Israel was elected to head the committee on decolonization at the UN. Do you advise the Israelis to begin by decolonizing the West Bank?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t even seen that report, Said. If there’s more to say, I’m – I’ll happy to check.

QUESTION: Just on this, and realizing that you’re not going to go into – or I don’t think you’re going to go into whether or not you think that either side is showing restraint, but do you think that either side is listening to you and heeding your calls for restraint?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I’m not going to do a day-by-day analysis. We continue to call for it because obviously more restraint is needed.

QUESTION: And – more restraint is needed from both sides or just from one side?

MS. PSAKI: It’s important that they continue to keep that in mind as they deal with this difficult situation on the ground.

QUESTION: All right. And you said you were seeking more information about the deaths of two Palestinians from --

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Just happened today.

QUESTION: Right. From who –

MS. PSAKI: From the Israelis, I believe.

QUESTION: From the Israelis. But are you also seeking it from the Palestinian side?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, from any side that has information. I believe any investigation would likely be run by the Israeli side.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. And then there are some Israeli officials who are pointing their finger at a Hamas operative who lives in Turkey as being the mastermind of this incident. Do you have any reason to suspect that – to think this is correct or this is incorrect, or do you have any reason yet to be 100 percent confident that, in fact, Hamas is behind this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new information beyond what we have stated over the last couple of days.

Michael.

QUESTION: I’ve – I know what you’ve said over the last couple days, but do you consider, just holistically, Israel’s actions justified, as you’ve seen them play out thus far?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to characterize it further. We’ve continued to call for restraint, and obviously we have conversations through our own diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: Okay. And I’m not sure if you’ve put out anything on this or if you’ve been asked about this. If you have, I apologize, but --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. It’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- the hashtag, #BringBackOurBoys, is there any – have you tweeted that out? Do you plan on it, do you support it, do you sympathize with it?

MS. PSAKI: I have not personally, but --

QUESTION: Would you --

MS. PSAKI: -- certainly the effort to take every step to bring the three missing teenagers home I would support, we would all support, and we’ve offered our assistance to do everything we can.

QUESTION: Ukraine --

QUESTION: Has there been – has anyone asked for the assistance that you offered?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of, but we’ve just offered to be helpful if we can be helpful.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Earlier today the Russian ambassador to the United Nations denied that Russian armed vehicles were crossing into Ukraine. How do you respond to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have a couple of updated details here, so let me run through those for you.

We are confident, as we said last Friday, that Russia last week sent takes and rocket launchers from a deployment site in southwest Russia into eastern Ukraine. We have information that additional tanks have been prepared for departure from this same deployment site, and that’s more recently. We also have information that Russia has accumulated artillery at a deployment site in southwest Russia, including a type of artillery utilized by Ukrainian forces but no longer in Russia’s active forces, and believe Russia may soon provide this equipment to separatist fighters.

And we are obviously closely watching what we are seeing on the ground. I would also point you to the comments of NATO Secretary General Rasmussen yesterday, who said we are seeing a new Russian military buildup of at least a few thousand more troops deployed at the Ukrainian border, and there are troop maneuvers near the border with Ukraine.

And separately, we have our own information that Russia has redeployed military forces to its border with Ukraine. This is the closest Russian troops have come to the Ukrainian territory since their invasion of Crimea.

So that is our view from the United States.

QUESTION: The Russians say that the troop buildup that you and NATO have spoken about is simply a border guard reinforcing and that they need to have – they need to be reinforced because of the flow of – in some places, the flow of people – refugees, some of them – across the border. You don’t buy that? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I think one step we’ve been asking President Putin and the Russians to be supportive of is securing the border, and what we’re seeing is a flow of individuals into Ukraine with materials and equipment and tanks, as we’ve been speaking about. In terms of the refugee numbers, we’ve looked into Russian reports of large numbers of refugees fleeing Russia and have seen no evidence to --

QUESTION: No, no, no. Fleeing Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Fleeing for – fleeing to Russia, sorry, fleeing to Russia, and have seen no evidence to substantiate them. According to the Russian Federal Migration Service itself, just over 5,000 people from Ukraine have applied for asylum in Russia since January. And the numbers – some Russian sources are claiming numbers more like 100,000. So we’re talking about the last six months, I guess, since January. And many ethnic Russians from Ukraine have family in Russia. Some may be staying with them, but neither Ukrainian border guards nor international organizations operating in the area have reported any large outflows of refugees to Russia to substantiate their claim.

QUESTION: Okay. So but – excuse me – apparently there was a meeting this morning of their – whatever the Russian Government committee is that deals with refugees, and they’re talking – I think they – unless I’m wrong, I think they were talking about 9,000 or something like that. But to the best of your knowledge, you’re saying that you have seen the only – you’ve seen nothing like this, that there is no mass exodus or even close to thousands that are crossing the border from Ukraine into Russia, fleeing their homes or fighting? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And it’s not – obviously, just to clarify, though, it’s not the – we’re not monitoring this ourselves, obviously. But the Ukrainian border guards are as well as international organizations who are in the area.

QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that you don’t have any concern about the situation in terms of what it means for civilians in the east right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think certainly we have concern, and – but we think the most effective and powerful step the Russians can take is to call on separatists to lay down their arms and to help secure the border. And obviously those are the steps that we think would reduce the violence and tension in the east.

QUESTION: Okay. Earlier today a senior official was telling people that in addition to what you just said about more tanks, additional tanks being prepared for – to be transferred to the separatists, that some, in fact, as of yesterday had actually moved away from this – from the site in southwest Russia. Do you know (1) how many, and (2) in what direction they were moving – I mean, and moving toward Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, we have information about – which I referred to specifically – about preparing for departure from the same deployment site. We’ve seen reports about additional Russian tanks, rocket launchers, and other military equipment crossing the border into Luhansk. I don’t have specific numbers, and those are reports. The other details are more confirmed internally.

QUESTION: But – okay, I’m a little confused now. So you don’t know that there are – that the tanks have actually left this site in southwest Russia?

MS. PSAKI: There are reports that they have. We know that they are preparing to depart, so – but the reports are reports. I don’t have anything in --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- confirmation of those. There are reports out there that we’ve seen.

QUESTION: In his conversation with Foreign Minister Fabius, you said that Secretary Kerry talked about the Poroshenko ceasefire, which he has now ordered a start of. The Russians have come back just within the last half hour or so and said that this looks like an ultimatum and doesn’t really look like a ceasefire. Can you be more – can you elaborate on – more on what you think, what you – what the Administration thinks of the ceasefire proposal, whether it’s an ultimatum or it’s a challenge and not really a ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a unilateral ceasefire, and certainly they need a partner in order to – for it to be effective. But these are steps taken by President Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Government to provide a path to de-escalation. Obviously, the Russian separatists – or Russian-backed separatists – would need to be a partner in that, as would the Russians, in order to – for it to be effective on both sides.

QUESTION: Okay. And then have you seen since – recognizing it’s only a couple hours old now – but have you seen any indication from the Russians that they’re willing to now take steps to – that you think would de-escalate the situation?

MS. PSAKI: We have not seen new steps, and, in fact, I’ve pointed to some escalatory steps.

QUESTION: So in fact, they’re doing the opposite of what you say they should be doing?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. And still – there’s still no trigger, though, for these sectoral sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we announced the sanctioning of seven new individuals this morning. Early next week, as I noted, the Secretary will be at the NATO ministerial meeting where Ukraine will be a big part of that conversation, and there will also be a range of meetings among Europeans next week, so we certainly expect these issues to be a big topic of conversation.

QUESTION: So is this ambassador – this Russian ambassador to the United Nations, is he lying?

MS. PSAKI: I will let you put labels out there, Lucas, but I conveyed to you what we know as the United States.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I don’t know that you’ll be able to answer this, and you may want to just --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- refer it to Treasury, where I’ve already asked the question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and not gotten an answer. The seven individuals who were identified in the Treasury release and in a separate kind of fact sheet about them, and it has information like dates of birth, in some cases places of birth. Only one of the seven – for only one of the seven is the citizenship of the individual specified. That person is Russian. Who are the other – what is the nationality of the other six?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question. I don’t know it off the top of my head. I will follow up with them and see if that’s information that we can provide. As was noted in there with the details in the press release, it’s more related to the actions, and some of them are Russian-backed, so – but I will see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Jen, who’s taking escalatory measures, the Russians or the Russian separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly the Russian separatists. But again, there’s no question in our view that Russia has the ability to call on them to lay down their arms and to secure the border, and there’s more that they can do to promote a de-escalatory process.

QUESTION: Could I --

QUESTION: On Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Oh --

QUESTION: I have one more on Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: In Russia, in the region, there was sort of the latest example of Russia’s fabrication of stories. I would also defer to Matt on this line of questioning, because it involved him, but –

QUESTION: I just wanted to stay clear of it, but go ahead.

QUESTION: But I just want to get your take on it, and what do you make of that story that was out there today.

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, and I used social media to tweet about this earlier today, but there was a report about comments I made that were comments I never made, and so I would first clarify that. But I would say broadly speaking that the tactics of fabricated news stories and a range of vicious personal attacks that I and others have been a victim of are not steps you take when you’re operating from a position of strength. And there’s no question that the more we talk about our support for a strong, sovereign Ukraine, the greater the attacks become, so I will leave it to others to draw their own conclusions on that front.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One more on Russia (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that there’s a readout from the Kremlin today that Prime Minister Maliki called and had a conversation with President Putin, and President Putin offered his support to the country of Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen some of those reports. I obviously am not in a position to provide details of their conversation.

QUESTION: But would you support Russia’s efforts to help stabilize Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: To help stabilize Iraq and support the governing in a nonsectarian, unified manner? Certainly, but I don’t have any more details of their call.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So just one question on – sort of an update on Vienna and then another question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on the sanctions legislation that’s been passed --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- from Congress. On the Vienna aspect of this, Zarif had some pretty harsh words today. He used the words “unreasonable” and “unacceptable” for the Western demands going into the talks. He said there were indications that the P5 is not serious. He said that Iran is planning to maintain a resistance economy in the expectation that sanctions won’t be lifted, so on and so forth. He said that the U.S. has some difficult decisions to make. Do you have a response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, I know there was a background briefing that was provided on the ground, which answered a range of questions. Our view is that if Iran is open to having a peaceful program and they are as concerned about their – the impact of their sanctions as they’ve said, then it should be easy for them to make some of these tough decisions. I think as was noted in this briefing, we’re at a crucial moment in these negotiations, and while this week was constructive it was also tough, and the discussions were long, they were intense, and obviously we have more gaps to narrow here. Our team will be working around the clock. I believe the next round has been announced with political directors meeting in Brussels next week and the talks resuming July 2nd. But again, we’re focused on the July 20th timeline, and we’ll be working around the clock leading up to that point.

QUESTION: And the second question on sanctions legislation, there was a letter sent by members – the leaders of the House Foreign Relations Committee Engel and Royce – that was open for signatures. And what they were saying to the President was that there is no such thing as nuclear-related sanctions in U.S. law, and that this idea that we have demarcated nuclear-related sanctions from drug trafficking, terrorism, human rights, and the like, is simply not a part of the legislation. So is that something that the Treasury Department has done? Is that a different reading of the law by the State Department? What – how do you respond to this bipartisan letter?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the letter. Did it come to the State Department or just to the White House?

QUESTION: It went to the President.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House, and I can circle back with our team and see if we’ve analyzed the letter, if there’s more of a response we can offer.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the IAEA report that was revised today, that showed Iran is actually moving forward on getting rid of all its enriched uranium?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the new report. I’m sure I should’ve taken a look at that. A lot going on today, but we can look at that as well.

QUESTION: But that – you wouldn’t consider that to be a step in the right --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take a look at the report and see exactly what it says.

Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Back to Iraq.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to congressional correspondence.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you gotten a reply to the letter that was sent to the select – the Benghazi select committee? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a reply back. I can check on that, too. I think we just sent the letter --

QUESTION: Yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: -- two days ago, so --

QUESTION: Two days ago. Okay.

QUESTION: Back to Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any comment about the discovery of Sunni extremists taking over Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons facility?

MS. PSAKI: So I know there’s been a lot of confusing information about this. Let me speak to that if I can. One moment. We’re certainly concerned about ISIL seizing this complex. But let me be clear on what this is: This material that is there dates from the 1980s. It’s been stored in the bunker since the dismantlement efforts in the 1990s, and reinforced by the UN Monitoring, Inspection, and Verification commitment in the 2000s. And it contains two bunkers that hold degraded chemical remnants, which don’t include intact chemical weapons – and there certainly is a difference – and would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely use this for military purposes or, frankly, to move it.

So we’re certainly concerned, but I think the context of what this is and what this is not is incredibly important here as we assess the concern.

QUESTION: I thought Saddam Hussein didn’t have chemical weapons.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a complex that has some remnants from back in the ’80s that we’ve known about for some time, so it wasn’t a new piece of information.

QUESTION: Yes, please. The same issue. I mean, so you think – your assessment or you understand that this is – it is not harmful?

MS. PSAKI: It is – it poses serious health hazards to anyone attempting to access the bunkers and that is certainly the case, but these are not intact chemical weapons, and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to use them in a military capacity.

QUESTION: Well, if it were to pose severe health hazards, maybe you should be encouraging ISIL to go into them, no? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That’s a military tactical approach. We’ll know where the letter comes from.

QUESTION: Can we go to Libya very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Libya.

QUESTION: Can you update us on the status of Ahmed Abu Katallah? Is he in transit?

MS. PSAKI: He --

QUESTION: Is he heading towards Washington, D.C.?

MS. PSAKI: He has been. I don’t have any specific updates on arrival. He’s been aboard a ship, so I don’t have any new details to provide to you.

QUESTION: Now, the story that apparently he told was really a story that almost – it goes along with what was initially stated by the Administration that it was – the whole thing was ignited by the burning of the Qu’ran and whatever, that is – or the video, actually – that it was in response to the video. So do you think that once he’s in a court setting that this story will be sort of taking stock again?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll have to see what happens in a court setting, Said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Quick question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there no one in this room who has nothing better to do on this lovely Friday afternoon?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, good question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 18, 2014

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 20:31

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 18, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing
  • SAUDI ARABIA
    • Secretary's Discussions with Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Meeting with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Members
  • IRAQ/IRAN/REGION
    • U.S. Embassy Security
    • Overflow of Violence from Syria
    • Chairman Dempsey Testimony on ISIL
    • No U.S. Troops into Combat
    • U.S. Will Not Connect P5+1 Talks with Iraq
    • U.S. View of Maliki as Leader
    • National Unity Meeting in Baghdad
    • Refinery Update
    • Iran Nuclear Negotiations and Economic Conditions
    • P5+1 Negotiations / Iran's Terrorism Role
    • Turkish Hostages and U.S. Offers of Assistance
  • SYRIA
    • OPCW Probe on Chemical Weapons / Secretary's Discussions with Lavrov
    • OPCW Investigation of Chlorine Gas / Preliminary Report Summary Under Review
  • UKRAINE
    • U.S. Welcomes Ceasefire Announcement and Good Faith Efforts
    • Secretary Discussions with Russians and Ukrainians
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Kidnapped Teens / Abbas Comments
    • Privacy Waiver Signed
  • CUBA
    • Condolences to Alan Gross and Family
    • Furlough Requested by U.S.
  • LIBYA
    • Arrest of Ahmed Abu Khatallah


TRANSCRIPT:

1:18 p.m. EDT   MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.   QUESTION: Hello.   MS. PSAKI: Hello. I have just --   QUESTION: Thank you for waiting.   MS. PSAKI: Sure, my please. A couple of items at the top upon your request. The Secretary met this morning with Ambassador Al-Jabeir. They reaffirmed the strong and enduring partnership between our countries. They discussed a range of shared concerns including recent developments in Iraq and our shared support for the Syrian opposition, and how we can best move forward in the process to end the war and the suffering of the Syrian people.   The Secretary also hosted a – met this morning with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of our ongoing effort to consult with Congress. They discussed a broad range of foreign policy challenges, including Iraq, including Iran, Ukraine, Africa, and the pending State Department nominations. And of course, a number of members will, of course, be meeting with the President later this afternoon as well.   With that, Matt.   QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about his meeting with the Saudi ambassador? Did they discuss questions like the – about the accusations of Saudi funding ISIL?   MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more readout than that. As you know, we’ve expressed concerns in the past, but I’m not aware of that being a new issue raised today.   QUESTION: Okay. Did you get an answer to the question that was posed yesterday about whose authority or under whose authority the additional security troops that went to Iraq are under, under chief of mission or under some other agreement with the Iraqis?   MS. PSAKI: I – as I said yesterday, certainly understand your interest. I’m still working through the final details of that and we’ll venture to get you all an answer by the end of the day.   As I mentioned yesterday, the Department’s – and I don’t know if I did, so maybe this is new information. The RSO, of course, in the Embassy Baghdad is charged with the security and protection of mission personnel and facilities, and the DOD security teams have been integrated with the State security team. But we will get you a final answer on that by the end of the day, Matt.   QUESTION: All right. And then just back to the broader picture for a second. Are you familiar or have you seen the comments that Mr. Jarba made today in Jeddah?   MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those comments, but I’m sure you can inform me of them.   QUESTION: Well, I can tell you a little bit what I’ve seen. That he basically accused everyone in the room – this was at an Organization of the Islamic Conference. It used to be conference. It is still conference?   QUESTION: Organization of Islamic Cooperation.   QUESTION: Basically accused everyone in the room of being responsible for – everyone else in the room of being responsible for the situation not just in Syria but in Iraq. Would you have any reaction to that?   MS. PSAKI: Well, without knowing the details of who else was in the room, we --   QUESTION: Well, it’s 57 countries that are all predominantly Islamic nations.   MS. PSAKI: Well, you are familiar with our view, which is that all of the countries in the region and their leaders need to focus on supporting Iraq and the Iraqi Government and the broad range of Iraqi officials at this difficult time, and it’s not a time for a blame game. We are certainly concerned about the events in Syria and the overflow of violence that has – we feel is a predominant factor that’s led us to where we are in Iraq.   QUESTION: At the same conference, Foreign Minister Zebari said that they have submitted a official request to the United States to actually commence strikes, airstrikes against ISIL. Are you aware of that?   MS. PSAKI: I believe that Chairman Dempsey also spoke about this during his testimony today, and I would point you to his comments.   QUESTION: But as far as you know, are we about to take a decision in that direction?   MS. PSAKI: There --   QUESTION: Is that something that the Secretary supports?   MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Said, I know you’re aware – as you’re aware, there are a range of options the President is considering, not all military options. At this stage, the only thing that the President has ruled out is sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq. But as we’ve noted many times, the solution is not – needed is not an Iraqi one – is an Iraqi one – I’m sorry – and any U.S. action, including any possible military action, would be in support of a comprehensive strategy to build the capacity of the Iraqis. So I have no new update to provide to you at this point in terms of the President’s decision making.   Kim.   QUESTION: Any more discussions planned with the Iranians about Iraq? Because they are – I know you said no yesterday, but I was wondering whether things have changed because they are today making noises about the fact that they’re willing to discuss Iraq with you and help if they get to a nuclear deal. So it sounds like they have quite a bit of leverage at the moment. Who wants the nuclear deal more?   MS. PSAKI: I would dispute that. There are still no more discussions planned in Vienna, as I mentioned yesterday. Further discussions would likely take place at a lower level, but I don’t have any update on that front. Our view is that any discussion with Iran regarding Iraq would be entirely separate from the P5+1 negotiations, and any effort to connect the two is a nonstarter for the United States.   QUESTION: But it sounds as though they’re going to play even more hardball in the nuclear negotiations to get you to talk to them about Iraq.   MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no plans to have further conversations about Iraq at the P5+1 negotiations.   QUESTION: And that’s what I want to follow-up. You say there’s no more discussions in Vienna, but what about elsewhere?   MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we are open to engagement or discussions on these issues. I don't have anything to predict for you, but it would happen at a lower level.   QUESTION: But – and not in Vienna, but could be in --   MS. PSAKI: Correct. That hasn’t changed since yesterday.   QUESTION: And then I have a follow-up. Do you still have confidence in Maliki as the head of state in Iraq?   MS. PSAKI: Well, Lesley, as you know, he’s the democratically elected leader of Iraq. Obviously, they’re working through their elections process now. It’s up to the people of Iraq to determine who their leadership is. We have expressed and continue to have concerns about the lack of inclusivity and the way of governing in a sectarian manner. There have been some steps taken over the last couple of days that have been encouraging, but clearly there’s more that needs to be done, and we certainly don’t expect that a couple of steps will solve months, if not years, of concern.   QUESTION: And then today they called for – they’ve asked the U.S. for airstrikes to occur, to – kind of formally. Was that done to the White House? Was Secretary Kerry involved in that? When was it done? How was it done?   MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to share. Again, Chairman Dempsey spoke to this today during his testimony, so I would point – certainly point you to that. Obviously, military requests typically go through the military channels.   QUESTION: Did you see the prime minister was on the major televised appeal with Sunni and Kurdish leaders for unity?   MS. PSAKI: I did. There were actually a range of steps, so let me go through a couple of them. Yesterday, there was a national unity meeting in Baghdad at the initiative of former Prime Minister Jafari. We were encouraged to see that Iraqi leaders from all across the political and ethno-sectarian spectrum were a part of that. They met and issued a statement, including a joint call to defend the state of Iraq and protect its sovereignty and dignity. We also welcome, as I have before, but worth noting again, the Iraqi federal supreme court’s ratification of the April 30th election results, and we support Iraqi political and religious leaders’ call for national unity to confront the ISIL terrorist threat. I would also note that Iraqi national security advisor has announced the formation of a public mobilization effort to regulate the thousands of volunteers who have stepped forward to assist Iraq’s security forces. And Prime Minister Maliki also announced that he had dismissed four senior military commanders as they continue to address issues that led to a security breakdown. So these are a couple of steps. Obviously, there needs to be a continuity of this effort.   QUESTION: I just wonder if in this this building the thinking might be that these are steps that should’ve been taken perhaps months ago. As you said repeatedly, we’re calling for unity for the last few months. Is it a question that this is too late now to stop the march of ISIL as they try and capture more parts of Iraq?   MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that Iraq needs to be unified, including all of its political leaders across the spectrum in order to take on that fight. Whether that is efforts to take it on with – through the security forces and in coordination and cooperation that’s happening on that front, or the need to be more politically united over the long term. And as I mentioned a little bit earlier, even if there is assistance from the United States or other countries, this is up to the Iraqi leaders to take steps to make this sustainable over the long term.   QUESTION: But I guess the question is: Why would the Sunni Iraqis, who feel they’ve been so badly marginalized over the last few years, now trust a televised appeal and some of these steps that you’ve outlined to be reflective of what will happen going forward in the future? Why should they believe the message now coming from the Iraqi leadership?   MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly any leaders have to earn the trust of their people, but these are a range of steps that have been taken to show unity and the need to take on the threat of ISIL with a united front. And they have a common enemy, and that is these terrorists – this terrorist group that is killing and terrorizing people across the country. And that should be incentive.   QUESTION: And did you have anything to say about the reports of fighting around the oil refinery near Baghdad?   MS. PSAKI: Sure.   QUESTION: Any concerns about what would happen if that were to fall into ISIL’s hands?   MS. PSAKI: Well, the refinery produces for domestic consumption, and production had already stopped for several days due to a combination of technical and security reasons. Iraqi authorities may need to import domestic fuel from neighboring countries. There’s no impact on Iraq’s crude oil exports, and we haven’t seen any major disruptions in oil supplies in Iraq. But we’re certainly constantly monitoring the global oil supply and demand situation.   QUESTION: Have you – and I understand there seems to be maybe at even the White House that any intervention, any American intervention should be conditioned or predicated on Maliki having a more inclusive government. Does the Secretary also subscribe to that?   MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve heard the Secretary speak about the steps that we feel Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in Iraq need to take. But this is not a quid pro quo. We’re talking about what is – what will – what – regardless of the decision made by the President, Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in Iraq must take additional steps to unite the country and govern in a non-sectarian manner in order to be successful over the long term.   QUESTION: So you would discourage Maliki from taking the election results and feel free to form a government of his own coalition here?   MS. PSAKI: Well again, I think the process of forming a government will work itself through the natural process in Iraq.   QUESTION: Jen --   MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Kim. And then we’ll go to Lucas. Go ahead.   QUESTION: Can I just go back to the Iran thing? I understand you don’t want to link the nuclear negotiations with Iran to any of the other issues.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: But clearly they are. So how do you handle that in your nuclear negotiations with them? Aren’t you worried that the talks are going to stall until the Iranians get what they want, which is cooperation with you in Iraq?   MS. PSAKI: Well, we shouldn’t forget Iran has a significant incentive here, and cooperating and negotiating on the nuclear – their nuclear program, which is the impact that sanctions has had on their economy and the fact that President Rouhani ran on a platform of improving the economy. So I don’t think anyone is engaging in this effort as a favor to us or to the other P5+1 countries. That doesn’t change the fact that gaps remain. Significant gaps remain. It’s difficult, but our team will make – take every effort to keep them focused on that nuclear program.   QUESTION: Can I just clarify one thing?   MS. PSAKI: Yeah.   QUESTION: On – you keep saying that there won’t be another talks in Vienna, but – on Iraq.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: But it is possible that there could be talks at a lower level in Vienna, isn’t that right? I mean, not related to --   MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m referring to these ongoing negotiations.   QUESTION: Yeah, but are you ruling out Vienna completely as a venue for lower-level talks unrelated --   MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t speaking to Vienna as in the city. I was speaking to these P5+1 negotiations that are happening now.   QUESTION: Yeah. So, I mean, there could be, at some point next week or whatever – unrelated to P5+1, Vienna could be – is not ruled out as a venue for U.S.-Iran talks on Iraq, right?   MS. PSAKI: It’s not ruled in either, Matt.   QUESTION: I know, but I just want to make sure I – just want to --   MS. PSAKI: Just -- I was not implying city --   QUESTION: It sounded like you think Vienna (inaudible) --   MS. PSAKI: What I was – I perhaps shorthanded it. What I was meaning – what I meant was the talks that are ongoing right now on the nuclear program.   Samir.   QUESTION: Were the Iranian officials in Vienna authorized to discuss Iraq?   MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to this, and I think they’ve spoken to this. So I think you can assume that they were to the degree the conversation was – briefly took place the other day.   QUESTION: Did you talk about Syria too in Vienna?   MS. PSAKI: No.   Go ahead, Nicolas.   QUESTION: I have a follow-up on Iran.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: I think the question was asked yesterday, but I don’t remember your response on that. Was Syria discussed between the Iranians and the American officials yesterday in Vienna?   MS. PSAKI: No. Samir just asked the same question.   QUESTION: Okay. Sorry.   MS. PSAKI: No, no.   QUESTION: He came back.   MS. PSAKI: It’s Wednesday, it’s okay.   QUESTION: And --   MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.   QUESTION: Yeah. And since ISIL is your common enemy with Iraq, with Iran and Syria, would you consider any contact with the Syrian regime on the fight against ISIL?   MS. PSAKI: As you know, we’ve had a means of communicating in the past, but I’m not aware of that being a part of our calculation at this point.   QUESTION: Is ISIS your common enemy with Iran?   MS. PSAKI: Is it our common enemy? I think we both have concerns about the impact of their – the steps they’ve taken in Iraq and how they’ve terrorized the people in Iraq, yes.   QUESTION: Because earlier in the briefing you said that Secretary Kerry, when he met with the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, expressed concerns about the past. Have you ever been concerned about Iran’s support of ISIL or AQI in the past?   MS. PSAKI: Well certainly, Lucas, we’ve been concerned about the role Iran has played in supporting terrorists in Syria and supporting the regime in Syria. But again, what I’m making a point about here is our shared concern about the impact of what’s been happening over the last week on stability in Iraq.   QUESTION: But like, is it – the Treasury Department in 2012 said that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security had been funding and supporting AQI, which has now morphed into ISIS or ISIL. And I was curious how you intend to negotiate or have talks with a country who has supported two years ago a terrorist organization in Iraq; that it’s not just Saudi Arabia, it’s Iran as well.   MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not talking about negotiations. We’re not talking about military cooperation. We’re talking about a discussion, a brief discussion that took place earlier this week about concerns about the stability of Iraq, the need for the leaders to be more unified, and that was the thrust of the conversation.   QUESTION: By the way --   MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.   QUESTION: -- is it ISIL or ISIS?   MS. PSAKI: Oh --   QUESTION: Is there like a standard operating procedure?   MS. PSAKI: Well, I know different organizations and different individuals use different terms, but yes.   QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted to follow up on Iran.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: President Rouhani today vowed to protect the Shia holy places, and he spoke from a place nearby the border. Do you have any comment on that?   MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen, of course, those comments. As I mentioned in response to Lucas’s question, ISIL is clearly a common threat to the entire region, including Iran. But Iraq will only successfully overcome this threat by governing in a nonsectarian manner. We’ve made concerns clear regarding Iranian fighters joining the fight in Syria. We’ve made – we would view this as much the same.   QUESTION: So you – what he said about volunteers and so on, you look negatively on that aspect?   MS. PSAKI: Volunteers in what capacity?   QUESTION: Well, he said that there are basically thousands of – I’m paraphrasing – of volunteers who are ready to go and protect these holy places. You would --   MS. PSAKI: I said that?   QUESTION: No, not you. He said that. He said there are Iranian volunteers who --   MS. PSAKI: Correct, we believe that --   QUESTION: -- are ready to go in and protect --   MS. PSAKI: -- our focus should be on encouraging nonsectarian governance.   QUESTION: And would you call on Maliki to reject such an offer by Iran?   MS. PSAKI: We’ve called on Maliki – Prime Minister Maliki and any Iraqi leader to not be pulled into efforts to divide the country along sectarian lines.   QUESTION: Do you have proof that Iran is no longer supporting ISIS?   MS. PSAKI: Do we have proof?   QUESTION: Yes.   MS. PSAKI: I --   QUESTION: Because your own Treasury Department in the past said that Iran was supporting al-Qaida in Iraq, which has morphed into ISIS.   MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it was as simple as that, Lucas, but I don’t think I have anything more to add to your question.   Go ahead.   QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you also had any information or evidence of Iranian forces on the ground in Iraq. This was a question that was raised last week.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: You said you didn’t have any information on that. Has there been --   MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new information on that, no.   QUESTION: So do you believe that there are Iranian forces on the ground in Iraq?   MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen those reports, but I don’t have any independent confirmation from here.   QUESTION: Do you have any embassy update?   MS. PSAKI: The process is ongoing of relocating staff, but other than that there hasn’t been any additional steps taken.   Go ahead.   QUESTION: Was there any contact between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Davutoglu recently, Jen?   MS. PSAKI: As you know, there was just a couple of days ago, but not since then.   QUESTION: There was a phone call, another phone call – it was the third phone call, actually, over the last week – between Prime Minister Erdogan and Vice President Biden.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: Do you have anything that you can share with us?   MS. PSAKI: I believe the Vice President’s office would have any readout of that.   QUESTION: Turkish officials told recently that the Turkish side requested from U.S. not to take any military action until ISIL releases the hostages. Do you have any comment on that?   MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Again, we’re – the President has a range of options, not all of them military, that he’s considering. There’s a range of factors that are being considered. But I don’t have anything else to read out on that.   QUESTION: Are the Turkish hostages a concern for the Administration?   MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been very clear about our concern about the hostages. We’ve offered our support and our assistance to Turkish authorities, and that door remains open.   QUESTION: Syria?   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: Jen, yesterday the OPCW, the Ambassador Mikulak – I’m not sure if I’m saying his name properly --   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: -- had issued that statement which was then posted on the website in regards to the OPCW probe that found there was very credible evidence of chemical weapons use in a systematic form in Syria, suggesting that perhaps that body should do a little bit more given that we’re three weeks out from the deadline, June 30th.   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.   QUESTION: Has anything happened in this building? I mean, what are we exactly asking them to do?   MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re continuing to ask the regime to --   QUESTION: The OPCW, I meant. Sorry.   MS. PSAKI: The OPCW? Well, our focus is on continuing to encourage the Syrian regime to meet its obligation to remove the remaining 8 percent of chemical weapons materials. As you know, the OPCW – and officials who are involved in it – remains committed to delivering on their part, and they have confirmed that packaging has been completed at the site where the last 8 percent remains. So we just join the international community on urging the Assad regime to uphold its obligations to remove the remaining chemicals, fully destroy the 12 production facilities that remain intact, and respond substantively – substantially to questions from the OPCW about the completeness and accuracy of Syria’s declaration.   QUESTION: But the ambassador said it doesn’t look like that deadline is going to be met. We’re three weeks out and none of the destruction has even begun on the 12 production facilities that we have concerns about and this remaining 8 percent that you mentioned there. So what’s happening actively on the ground? I mean, is it more calls to Lavrov or has there been any conversations with the – outreach to the Syrian regime?   MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an issue, Margaret, that the Secretary raises with Foreign Minister Lavrov virtually every time they speak. The international community and many other countries are very focused on encouraging them to keep making progress. We’ve removed 92 percent of the most toxic chemicals, but obviously we want to see the remaining 8 percent removed, so we will use every diplomatic lever possible in order to encourage them to keep making progress on that effort.   QUESTION: Because broadly speaking, I mean, some argue that by allowing the Syrian Government to continue to, what it looks like, flout this deadline, not comply, hold on to the weapons which some would say is a tool to stay in power, that it feeds support of extremist groups, because you’re going to go to the guys who have movement been on the ground, whether it’s ISIS or others, and that failing to follow through with this diplomatic agreement in a more forceful way doesn’t serve the U.S.’s own purposes in terms of undercutting the extremist forces who are gaining support.   MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t limit our concerns about Syria to just the – removing the remainder of the 8 percent of chemical weapons. Obviously as long Assad remains in power, we have concerns about the role he plays as a magnet for terror. So it’s much broader than that.   But I don’t think we should lose sight of the fact that we’ve removed 92 percent. We have every mechanism and every tool available and ready to remove the remaining 8 percent. If they don’t abide by that, then I’m sure the international community and the OPCW will take a close look at what to do from there.   QUESTION: So – but what is that mechanism that you just referenced?   MS. PSAKI: In terms of what?   QUESTION: To make them follow through.   MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not just – obviously there is a UN Security Council resolution, as you know. There’s – there are consequences that are included in there. But our focus now is on continuing to press them to make additional progress. We believe that there is every tool possible on the ground to get this job done.   QUESTION: When the OPCW called on Syria to redouble its efforts – I think they call on them to redouble their effort – what does that mean? I mean, does that mean that Syria is not complying and not doing anything, that it’s lagging behind doing part of its job?   MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve missed a number of target dates, to include the timeline it proposed for the removal of all declared weapons by April 27th. So we have expressed concern about the delay. We’ve expressed concern about the fact that they have blamed it on a variety of reasons that we don’t feel are valid. There have been some security issues on the ground that the OPCW and others have made every effort to address, but our focus remains on providing any support necessary to finish the job and get this done.   Anne. Syria or --   QUESTION: Yeah, also on Syria. Is there any update on where the investigation into the possible use of chlorine gas stands? And what is your expectation for when that investigation will be complete, and you and the international bodies looking at it will have something to say?   MS. PSAKI: Well, the OPCW Technical Secretariat released a summary report – I believe it was just yesterday – on the fact-finding mission in Syria. We will be reviewing that. We feel it warrants serious consideration and we’ll study it carefully. The findings included in this summary offer credence ascribed to the systematic use – systemic use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine, and this underscores, of course, the importance as we’ve been discussing to – and the urgency of removing the remaining chemical weapons in Syria.   This fact-finding mission is an important first step. Obviously, there’ll be a final report released which we’ll also review when that is released.   QUESTION: Will there be a separate U.S. finding or declaration about what – either in conjunction with the OPCW or on your own?   MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that is in the works. I’m happy to check and see if that’s something we have access to information about. Obviously, the OPCW, with support of the United States and other countries, is the mechanism that has access on the ground and kind of the information needed to make an evaluation.   QUESTION: But you’ve been participating in some sort of --   MS. PSAKI: Certainly we have been, but they’ve obviously been on the ground. The United States doesn’t have a separate investigative mission on the ground.   QUESTION: No, but why is this different than last summer when you did actually kind of run your – you didn’t have U.S. investigators there, but did sort of run a separate U.S. analysis of the evidence available and make your own pronouncement…   MS. PSAKI: Well, there obviously was – it was a different circumstance, certainly, in terms of the level and the horrific acts that happened. I mean, any of these is horrible, but I think last August certainly stands out to all of us. I can check and see if there’s any plan – not that I’m aware of at this moment – to do a separate U.S. report on these findings.   QUESTION: And lastly, would you consider the – if this bears out from credible evidence to actually OPCW saying that chlorine gas was used, that that also crosses President Obama’s redline?   MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make any pronouncements about future redlines. We’ll evaluate the report when it comes out and make a determination about what that means from the United States.   QUESTION: I’m just curious about the – their use of the word “credence,” which is not confirmation. And what do you think needs to come next? Are you interested in getting 100 percent – the United States Government – are you interested in the OPCW getting 100 percent confirmation --   MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re --   QUESTION: -- that chlorine was used?   MS. PSAKI: We’re absolutely interested in as much certainty as possible, and this is a preliminary report. So again, we’ll review a final report when that is concluded.   QUESTION: So your – you would support the OPCW fact-finding team going back and doing what it needs to do to get 100 percent?   MS. PSAKI: I’m not --   QUESTION: I’m just not sure I understand what it means that their preliminary mission finds credence to reports that chemical --   MS. PSAKI: Well, they released --   QUESTION: -- I mean, that chlorine was --   MS. PSAKI: -- a summary report, Matt.   QUESTION: I know. I read it --   MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’m not certain --   QUESTION: -- when it came out yesterday.   MS. PSAKI: -- what is required to release a final report.   QUESTION: But it seems just kind of – it’s kind of wishy-washy. It doesn’t – not kind of, it is. I mean it doesn’t say – doesn’t give a definitive answer one way or another whether chlorine was used or not, correct?   MS. PSAKI: Well, it states exactly as you read and I stated.   QUESTION: Right. I mean, it says “gives credence to.” So what was the point of it? I mean, it was credible. There was credence to these reports when people started showing up in hospitals with lung abrasions and problems, pulmonary --   MS. PSAKI: Well, they evaluate the information that’s available on the ground, Matt. They’re not going to obviously provide an evaluation or a conclusion that they don’t find. So I would --   QUESTION: So --   MS. PSAKI: -- point you to the OPCW for more specifics on --   QUESTION: But --   MS. PSAKI: -- what they have and the information they have available.   QUESTION: Right. But I’m less interested in what the OPCW thinks about it than what the U.S. Government thinks about – does the U.S. Government think that this preliminary report is worthwhile – I mean, you said it warrants serious consideration, but I’m wondering: Why?   MS. PSAKI: Because we review any report that is issued by a body like the OPCW. We’ll take a look at that and see if there’s more conclusions we can draw from it.   QUESTION: But does the U.S. Government believe that there is credence to the reports of chemical – of chlorine gas use?   MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve expressed before, Matt, concerns about the reports that we’ve seen. I don’t have more information than what was available in the OPCW report.   QUESTION: But you would endorse this report? The government – the U.S. Government backs the findings of this report?   MS. PSAKI: Well, we obviously are reviewing it, and if we have any more to add I’m sure we’ll do that.   QUESTION: But, Jen, I think you’ve used the term “systemic use” of – that there’s been use of chemical weapons systemically.   MS. PSAKI: Systematic use.   QUESTION: Systematically, okay. So is that like every – was there a pattern or --   MS. PSAKI: Said, I’m sure that --   QUESTION: Every month?   MS. PSAKI: -- the OPCW can give you a more conclusive briefing on the findings of their preliminary report.   QUESTION: But I’m saying that the evidence was gathered apparently by people showing up at the hospitals and so on, and showing symptoms and so on – do you have any other evidence?   MS. PSAKI: Again, I – the OPCW has had the lead as the appropriate international body here, and I’m sure if they’re going to provide a briefing, you can participate in that.   QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine?   QUESTION: Just --   MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, and then we’ll go to Ukraine.   QUESTION: Just I wanted to clarify your previous answer --   MS. PSAKI: Okay.   QUESTION: -- about the Turkish hostages. When you said that the door is still open for the Turks – for helping the Turks to release these hostages, does it mean that Turks haven’t yet asked your help on this issue?   MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that. I’m happy to check and see if there’s been any change to what we discussed last week.   Go ahead, Jo.   QUESTION: I’d like to go to Ukraine. And today, President Poroshenko announced plans to order a unilateral ceasefire in the east, which would allow the pro-separatists – the pro-Russian separatists to lay down their arms. Is this something you would welcome? Is this a good step?   MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly welcome President Poroshenko’s announcement that Ukraine would implement a ceasefire as a first step of a peace plan, a plan he discussed with President Putin during a phone call last night. President Poroshenko reiterated that amnesty would be offered to those who lay down arms voluntarily and who are not guilty of capital crimes.   He also committed to providing a safe corridor for Russian fighters to return to Russia. He’s been clear that he will continue discussions about decentralization and constitutional reform to also address the legitimate concerns, but this was a unilateral step. So these steps were taken by the Ukrainian Government, which we certainly commend them for these good-faith efforts, but naturally they need a partner in this effort.   QUESTION: Did they consult – did the – did President Poroshenko and his team consult with the United States before making this offer?   MS. PSAKI: Well --   QUESTION: Was it something that you put together with them?   MS. PSAKI: This was a plan put together by the Ukrainians. As you know, we and the European Union have been in consultations and discussions with them for months about the best way to de-escalate the situation on the ground.   QUESTION: Have you seen any reciprocal good-faith efforts from either Russia or the separatists?   MS. PSAKI: Nothing to update you on today, Matt. I think that’s one of the reasons why a partner is needed. And Russia, of course, must support the peace plan instead of continuing to support the separatists on the ground.   QUESTION: So as far as you’re concerned, they – there has not been any reciprocal good-faith action?   MS. PSAKI: Well, it just --   QUESTION: I know it’s – but so far, you haven’t seen anything, and so far what you have seen is a continuation of Russia being a bad actor? Is that --   MS. PSAKI: Well, there isn’t any specific thing I’m pointing to at this moment. But I don’t – I have not seen them speak out in support of this ceasefire either.   QUESTION: Okay. Would you also – would you be supportive of investigations into what has happened in the east specifically, I mean, what has been going on in the fighting, in the clashes, the bombings, the killings of journalists, et cetera?   MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I believe I spoke to this yesterday and said we would --   QUESTION: Little bit.   MS. PSAKI: -- certainly support an effort to look into what happened.   QUESTION: Not just with the journalists. I’m talking about everything writ large, not just the actions of the Ukrainian authorities and the Ukrainian security forces but also the separatists. I mean, is there any kind of a call for an investigation into what – would the U.S. be prepared to support an investigation by whatever body might be appropriate into the actual what happened on the – in the --   MS. PSAKI: Into – I’m not sure which specific --   QUESTION: Well, there’s been a lot of fighting. There’s been a number of civilian casualties on both sides. And I’m just wondering if this is something the U.S. feels should be investigated.   MS. PSAKI: Again, I mean, every day we make every effort, as do the Ukrainians and others, to obtain the most information we can in these circumstances. I’m not aware of a plan for or desire to call for a broad, sweeping investigation.   QUESTION: All right. Do you – yesterday you talked about how you were concerned about the movements of Russian troops inside Russia near the border. Is that still a concern, or is that gone away?   MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe anything has changed on that front.   QUESTION: All right. And on the transfer of heavy weaponry and vehicles like tanks, still – you still haven’t seen anything new since that one incident with the three tanks?   MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.   QUESTION: But it remains – but you still – as you said yesterday, you still believe there is a lot of cross-border traffic and --   MS. PSAKI: Yes.   QUESTION: Just to go back to the ceasefire, I wondered what the thinking was behind not giving an immediate order for the unilateral ceasefire, one? He said that he could – or the Ukrainian officials are saying it could take place in a few days. Why not do it immediately?   MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of steps I think they likely needed to prepare in order to implement it effectively from their end, so a couple of days is – obviously whatever they think is appropriate and possible is, of course – we support that – that process.   QUESTION: You don’t have a timeline from here?   MS. PSAKI: No, I would point to them on what the specific implementation timeline is on their end.   Ukraine or any --   QUESTION: Sorry, just have there been – have there been any disc