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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 3, 2015

4 hours 18 min ago

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 3, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:44 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing, and I apologize for the delay. It’s obviously a little bit of a crazy day here, but thank you for your patience. I just have two items at the top and then I am happy to open it up for questions.

First a travel update: Secretary Kerry continued his meetings today in Montreux, Switzerland with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: I’m sorry? Sorry, there was some noise back there. Okay, let’s start over. There’s a little bit of an echo too. Anyone else can hear that?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Can we try and fix that, please? Thank you.

Secretary Kerry continued his meetings today with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and the team and Energy Secretary Moniz joined for parts of these as well. As you know, the Secretary continues on to Riyadh tomorrow for a meeting with the king and a meeting with some of the other GCC partners as well.

As the EU announced earlier, there will be a full P5+1 meeting later in the week at the political director level that Under Secretary Sherman will stay for. I know that was a question yesterday, and I believe that is Thursday. I don’t have anything to read out from the meetings quite yet, but I’m sure there’ll be many questions today.

And then finally, we welcome Australia’s decision to contribute Australian Defense Force personnel to a building partner capacity training mission in Iraq as part of the anti – counter ISIL coalition. The training of Iraqi forces is a vital part of the campaign that seeks to help the Iraqis build a durable security that they can sustain. Australia has contributed significantly to the coalition efforts by providing personnel and aircraft to air combat and support missions, and advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces. Australia has been a strong partner in the counter ISIL coalition. We certainly value the contributions and efforts of all of our partners as we work on this long-term strategy.

With that --

QUESTION: Just logistically, so you said --

MS. HARF: There is a bit of an echo in here still. I can hear it, but that’s okay.

QUESTION: Echo, anyone?

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So you said Wendy Sherman – Under Secretary Sherman will stay --

MS. HARF: For a full --

QUESTION: -- for talks on Thursday?

MS. HARF: Just I think – I believe a one-day P5+1+Iran political director meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. And where is that taking place?

MS. HARF: Either Montreux or Geneva. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. And there’s no chance of the Secretary returning for more negotiations on this trip?

MS. HARF: You know there’s always a chance, Brad, but nothing is certainly planned.

QUESTION: Is the GCC conference for London still planned?

MS. HARF: I believe that’s actually happening in Riyadh now, but let me double-check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And it’s not a full GCC conference. It’s a meeting with some of the GCC partners. But let’s see if we can get some more information.

QUESTION: So that would open up space on this trip that had been previously allocated, correct?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a readout from all of the meetings yet that have happened in Montreux. There will, I am confident, be more negotiating sessions at some point given the end of March that we’re pushing up against.

QUESTION: And then I just had a couple questions before we get into the speech – the speech.

MS. HARF: Which speech are you referring to, Brad?

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Did you get any answer on whether negotiations would take place during the Iranian holiday of Nowruz?

MS. HARF: I did not get an answer on that, but I promise you I asked, and don’t have an answer back for you on that.

QUESTION: So from March 21st onward, we’re in a gray zone?

MS. HARF: I think Nowruz starts on the 20th in the U.S., if my calendar is correct.

QUESTION: Well, negotiations won’t be taking place in the U.S., if I understand correctly.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: That would be highly unprecedented, I think.

MS. HARF: Well, they happened at UNGA last year in New York. The answer is I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We’re very focused, as are the Iranians, on the end of March as the date we’re working towards here.

QUESTION: So to clarify, is London, Friday GCC still happening, or is that now being moved?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that may be happening Riyadh now.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let me check with the traveling folks. I know there are some moving pieces here. Let me check with them.

QUESTION: Friday or Thursday?

MS. HARF: Well, for which meeting?

QUESTION: The GCC.

MS. HARF: Tomorrow the Secretary goes to Riyadh, where I believe that is now happening, but let me triple-check with the team on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So we can move on to the Israeli prime minister’s speech?

MS. HARF: We can move on to the speech. Yes, we can.

QUESTION: So I just wanted to ask you: Did you feel he accurately presented the Iranian nuclear negotiations as they’re happening right now --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- on centrifuges, on timespan, on some of the various things he said he pulled up on Google?

MS. HARF: I think a couple points, and I know my colleagues, including the President, has said some of this. But we didn’t hear any – certainly any new ideas today, but more importantly, didn’t hear one single concrete alternative in today’s speech from the Prime Minister about how we could get to a double-digit duration, push breakout time to a year, and cut off the four pathways Iran could have – use to get to missile – excuse me, fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

So the Prime Minister, I think, kept referring to what a “better deal” could look like in some generic terms but did not lay out at all what that “better deal” might be. It was sort of a hypothetical that he put out there, really all rhetoric and nothing more.

I would say in response to your question, Brad, that there were some sort of perplexing things that the Prime Minister said today, including that all sanctions will eventually be lifted on Iran. That is not the case. As we’ve always said, if we get to a nuclear agreement, sanctions for terrorism, sanctions for human rights, of which there are many sanctions and quite tough sanctions, and other issues, would remain in place.

He also said that at the end of the duration, Iran would have “full international legitimacy,” which is also a little overstated and just not accurate. Iran will be subject to restrictions that outlive any agreement, as we’ve talked about before; and again, sanctions on other issues will remain in place.

And finally, I would say that he didn’t get into specifics about what his ideas were or about how we were attempting to cut off their four pathways. This is very complicated, very technical, very nuanced. There is not just one equation; there are many that can get you to a combination of factors that lead to a year breakout time, which I would remind people he said that setting Iran’s nuclear program back for at least a decade is, quote, “the blink of an eye.”

But to be very clear, this is far longer than any other option that’s been proposed. Military action would set it back by a fraction of that amount of time, at which point Iran would likely begin to rebuild its program, would drive it further underground given that, and there would be none of the transparency that we are looking for in this agreement.

And I think the bottom line here when it comes to the duration – then I will let you ask many more questions – is that no deal means much shorter breakout than under an agreement. Right now, outside experts have said publicly we’re at about two to three months breakout. Our goal is a year – exponentially longer in the lifetime.

QUESTION: It’s six times longer but – or four times longer.

MS. HARF: Yes, which would be accurate what I said then.

QUESTION: Which is not an exponential function, but your point is taken.

MS. HARF: So look, the bottom line is under a comprehensive agreement they will be farther away by a factor that you just mentioned --

QUESTION: A factor of four, yes.

MS. HARF: -- under a double-digit agreement than they are today.

QUESTION: So I think on the full international legitimacy, whether he was referring to Iran as a whole or its nuclear program, you wouldn’t --

MS. HARF: He said it as a whole. He presented it that at the end of it they would have full international legitimacy.

QUESTION: You wouldn’t dispute the fact that the nuclear program, if Iran adheres to the full ledger of obligations under a final deal, if it adheres to those, its program would then have legitimacy and it can be an NPT member with a domestic enrichment program?

MS. HARF: I don’t disagree that it would – that we have always said they would be able to have a domestic enrichment that is peaceful in nature. But to be clear, there will be restrictions that outlive any agreement; and if Iran were to take any provocative steps in terms of not living up to their obligations under a comprehensive agreement, then we have still every tool on the table to act, to act quickly, and we would have the backing of the international community to do so. So I think that’s important to remember as well.

QUESTION: When you’ve talked about restrictions or when you’ve been asked about restrictions, most of the focus in response from the Administration has been about transparency measures.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. That is true.

QUESTION: Will there be restrictions – separate from transparency measures, from the Additional Protocol that – on numbers, on capacity, on fuel levels, et cetera, that would also limit how greatly it expands?

MS. HARF: Well, things like the Additional Protocol, which is an IAEA mechanism, are obviously very important. They do tend to deal with transparency; you are correct. But we will, again, have, for example, sanctions in place on things that still violate certain international regulations and responsibilities.

So people ask a lot about missiles. This is not a missile agreement; this is a nuclear agreement. We obviously have a variety of ways of dealing with and countering their ballistic missile program, but we would continue to sanction – put sanctions on Iran based just on the ballistic missile piece of this if they continued to procure things in that space. So I think if you look at it as a whole, there will be a lot of transparency. And it’s not just eyes on things, but it’s really seeing each part of the cycle here, whether it’s uranium mines and mills, it’s not just looking at a facility where there’s a centrifuge.

QUESTION: Just one more and I’ll yield.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I just ask because of the comment by the Israeli prime minister about post-deal, however long it is, the possibility of 190,000 centrifuges spinning, producing enough nuclear material for an entire arsenal within weeks.

MS. HARF: Well, I think that is --

QUESTION: You’re not disputing that as a possibility --

MS. HARF: I am absolutely disputing that they could go up to 190,000 centrifuges in a matter of weeks, yes.

QUESTION: No, no, no. Not that they could go up --

MS. HARF: I think that is a technical impossibility.

QUESTION: That’s not what he said.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: That’s not what he said and that’s not what I said.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: He said that after the deal expires, they can go up to 190,000, which is what the supreme leader has mentioned publicly --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and that that program with that many centrifuges would have the capacity to produce enough nuclear material for an entire arsenal within several weeks.

MS. HARF: When you are a member, a non-nuclear-weapons member of the NPT – and I’m not an NPT expert – but at the conclusion of the duration of this, in addition to the lasting transparency measures we have, Iran will not be able to do things to get to a nuclear weapon. Now the technical experts – I understand you can throw --

QUESTION: I didn’t talk about weaponization, right.

MS. HARF: No. Well – right, to get to fissile material for a nuclear weapon. You’re right; you did not talk about weaponization. But I think we need to be very clear that after the – after a double-digit duration, they will be much further away from a nuclear weapon than they are today. And you can throw out a lot of very scary hypotheticals, but if we look at the technology and we look at where they are today and where they could be in a double-digit duration, that is further away from a nuclear weapon. And there will be things in place, like the NPT, like other transparency measures, that guard against them moving to break out to get a nuclear weapon. In no way, at the end of the duration of this agreement, will anyone believe that it is okay or acceptable for them to try to get a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: That is in no way what the duration is intended to indicate or to mean.

QUESTION: But the part --

QUESTION: Marie, I was – just – do you have a follow-up on that?

QUESTION: A follow-up on Brad’s point. When the Prime Minister raised the 190,000-centrifuge figure, he essentially said that your boss, the Secretary of State, confirmed that this ambition on the part of the supreme leader, in fact, would come true.

MS. HARF: Absolutely not true. The Secretary did not say that.

QUESTION: How much then do you believe that the Prime Minister’s speech – and you meaning the Administration – believe that the Prime Minister’s speech was a mistake?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that’s a judgment for me to make. I think what I know is this, is that my boss right now did not have a chance to watch the speech because he is trying to negotiate a double-digit duration agreement that will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, that will make Israel safer, that will make the region safer, and that the alternatives do not get you the same duration, they do not get you the same transparency, they are not options that are anywhere nearly as durable or as good, and that anyone who tells you there’s a magic formula that they have in their head that we don’t have is just not looking at the situation realistically. So the Prime Minister obviously feels strongly about this issue, as do we.

We have – I don’t think anyone in the world more acutely feels what might happen in terms of the decisions that have to be made than folks here. Obviously, as we’ve said, if negotiations fall apart or discontinue, Iran’s program will likely move forward again. Every time negotiations have broken down, Iran’s program has steamed forward; they’ve moved closer to a weapon. And then when we get back to negotiations, the facts on the ground have changed, and we start at higher numbers, given that. Or we would have to take – this President of the United States would have to make a decision about a military option. Those are very – I don’t think – that’s a very serious – the most serious decision you make.

So I think we need to be very clear about what we’re trying to achieve and what the alternatives look like, not in a fantasy world, not in a world without specifics, but in the real world. And that’s what we’re doing. I know that’s what the Secretary is doing.

QUESTION: Do you believe – and by you, I mean the Administration – do you believe that the Prime Minister took the Secretary’s comments about Iran’s number of centrifuges, which he made during a Congressional hearing last week, out of context?

MS. HARF: Well, look, I know Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a very close working relationship. They speak quite frequently, including this week. Who knows? I don’t want to ascribe motive to it, but I can assure you that the Secretary was not indicating that.

QUESTION: Marie, did the Secretary speak to the Prime Minister before his speech at all?

MS. HARF: He spoke – on Saturday was the last call he had with him, the one that we put a brief readout on.

QUESTION: And also – so he didn’t give any concrete alternatives, but are you concerned that his speech might make it much more difficult for the Administration to get the deal through Congress?

MS. HARF: The deal through Congress in what way?

QUESTION: Well, surely, it’s got to have some kind of authority from Congress --

MS. HARF: Well, we --

QUESTION: -- or a backing from both sides.

MS. HARF: Well, when it comes to specific legislation that prescribes some of that, we’ve said we don’t support that legislation, certainly while we’re negotiating. But more broadly speaking, we’ve had a number of conversations with members of Congress who have been – I don’t think there’s an issue we’ve talked to them more about than this one, where we are very clearly making the case for why this is the best option, why we will not accept a bad deal – we could have, and we did not – and really having a dialogue with them to hear out their concerns, whether it’s about the so-called sunset, whether it’s about missile, whether it’s about other issues, and to have a dialogue and address their concerns. Because this incredibly important to get right, and we know they have questions as much as anyone else does. But we’ve also heard from some members of Congress, and I think some have said publicly, that they didn’t hear a lot of alternatives from the Prime Minister either. So that conversation’s continuing.

QUESTION: Marie, now you said that there were no new ideas, and your colleague said the same thing. Were there any --

MS. HARF: We’re on message today, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. Were there any ideas? I mean, did you hear from the Prime Minister basically saying this is what we want, other than saying that we want a complete disruption, basically, of the – of Iran nuclear program?

MS. HARF: What are you asking? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Well, I’m asking you: Did you hear any ideas? I mean, we heard him say we want the centrifuges destroyed, we want this. Well, basically, he’s saying we want this program to cease to exist. Under these conditions, what kind of proposal is there in it for Iran to be – to have as an incentive to go forward?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t hear a proposal of Prime Minister Netanyahu put forward. And I think I would put the question back on him. He criticizes one-year breakout time as not being long enough. Well, then what is? What is long enough? Because any country that has the technological knowhow to build and operate centrifuges at some point can get there, right? So how much is enough? I mean, we hear – we heard, quite frankly, Said, from him some of the same things about the Joint Plan of Action, giving speeches saying this was a historic deal for Iran. And even since then, some of Israeli intelligence officials, other Israeli officials have been quite clear that the JPOA has been a success.

So I guess I would put the onus back on him. We believe that the agreement we are working to negotiate – and there is no agreement yet, but the one we’re working towards – would cut off Iran’s four pathways, would give us unprecedented transparency into their program, would push them to a year breakout, and at the same time, would preserve all of the options we have today to take action if they attempt to break the agreement.

QUESTION: So let me just follow up with what the --

MS. HARF: That’s what we’re working towards.

QUESTION: -- if I may just – on this point, because the Prime Minister made very clear that he was saying, look, myself and my neighbors, basically the Arab countries, are in this thing together. Do you see that, let’s say, Saudi Arabia, the GCC countries, and Israel basically are one camp against you in this case?

MS. HARF: Well, we all have the same bottom-line goal here, which is that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon. And the reason – and he also mentioned some of the destabilizing activity that Iran is undertaking in the region and around the world – their support for terrorism, their influence in Syria. We agree that this is a huge and massive problem. That is why it’s even more important that Iran not be able to get a nuclear weapon. So we share the concerns of the Gulf countries. Certainly, that’s why we are working so hard to see if we can prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon through the most durable and longest-lasting way possible.

QUESTION: And lastly, he said that Iran was occupying four countries. Is that your assessment?

MS. HARF: Well, I think he said that they’d taken over four countries or some --

QUESTION: Gobbled up.

QUESTION: Not taken over four countries (inaudible).

MS. HARF: “Gobbled up.” That’s not a technical term I would probably use. Look, we know they have an incredibly destabilizing presence in Lebanon, in Syria. Those are certainly places we’ve spoken out about that. We know there’s a relationship with the Houthis, certainly, although, not to our knowledge, an operational sort of control relationship. And I can’t remember the fourth one he was talking about.

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS. HARF: Iraq. Thank you. Look, I think Prime Minister Abadi has gone to great lengths to bring his country together. Of course there’s a relationship with Iran, but I think that was probably a bit overblown.

QUESTION: Does he --

QUESTION: The presence --

QUESTION: Did the Prime Minister mis-state the relationship between Iran and ISIL?

MS. HARF: I’m trying to remember how he stated it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: He said that --

QUESTION: He basically suggested that they were working together.

MS. HARF: Well, I mean, I think that’s a gross oversimplification. Clearly, ISIL is a serious threat that we are taking on with direct military action. It is a terrorist organization. It is not a state. It is not a country. It has taken over a territory, and we’re working to push it back. Certainly, it poses a threat, but Iran’s destabilizing activities in places are a little bit different and require different tools. Even their support for terrorism with a group like Hizballah, Hizballah is different than ISIL. They’re just different groups, and you deal with them in different ways.

Yes.

QUESTION: On emails – can we talk about emails?

MS. HARF: Are we done with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech?

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Oh. Will there be any calls planned after the speech to either smooth things over or discuss, now that everything’s out in public, where your two positions are?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not sure anything needs to be smoothed over.

QUESTION: No?

MS. HARF: The President made clear what our position is, also made clear our longstanding, deep, unprecedented security relationship with Israel, that that will continue. I know the Secretary speaks frequently with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I don’t have anything to preview for you, but I think he gave his speech and we’re hard at work and that will continue.

QUESTION: And then just you mentioned briefly the legislation. I think, since the speech, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said he’s going to put forward a bipartisan bill to a vote that would have an up or down on any final agreement. Is this something you still oppose? Or maybe since you’re so convinced of the merits of your negotiation, maybe it’s not such a bad idea at all.

MS. HARF: Congress always votes on the merits of things, I’m sure. If it’s the same bill that Senator Corker – is that the same bill you’re referring to or is it a different bill?

QUESTION: I believe it’s the same or a version thereof, yes.

MS. HARF: Well, the one – the Senator Corker bill that I believe was introduced on Friday we spoke to over the weekend, said if that comes to the President’s desk, he will veto it. It’s – we can’t negotiate an agreement while Congress is attempting to legislate either what might be in it or that it can’t be implemented, how it could be implemented, which is part of this as well.

So critically, we don’t support a new – any new legislation like this while we are in this very critical moment of negotiating with the Iranians that could influence those negotiations and in fact hurt our negotiating position, which I think is not what Congress would want to do.

QUESTION: Marie, very quickly --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Former Speaker Pelosi said that the Prime Minister’s speech was an insult to the intelligence of the United States. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I’m going to weigh in on that in any way shape or form, Said.

QUESTION: Marie, just given the way the talks are now, are – is this – is the Secretary and is this Department of State confident you can still make the end of March deadline?

MS. HARF: That’s --

QUESTION: Where does that stand?

MS. HARF: That is certainly what we’re working towards and we believe we can meet that. We are not there. There is much more work to do.

QUESTION: That means that the speech will not affect the negotiations and will not affect the process of reaching a deal with Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, again, inside the room it’s the parties who are actually at the negotiating table working towards this, and that’s what we’re focused on. That focus has certainly not changed because of the speech. Our focus has always been the same. Our bottom lines have always been the same: one year breakout and cutting off the four pathways. That has not changed.

Yes.

QUESTION: But what you just said, actually, was, “We believe we can meet that.” So that’s just in, what, three weeks’ time?

MS. HARF: It’s very soon.

QUESTION: You still believe that you can --

MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely. Do you all remember the end of the Joint Plan of Action negotiations – intense and not that long and we got there and – look, I am hopeful, I am realistic, I understand this might be very difficult, but we certainly still believe we can. Absolutely.

Yes. Yes, Justin.

QUESTION: All right. So do you have any insight, then, on why Secretary Clinton used exclusively a personal email account rather than a State.gov or State account?

MS. HARF: Yep. So I just have a few points on that and then I’m sure you have many follow-ups.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: So you want me to start?

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Great. Unless you had something else.

QUESTION: No, that was – that’s a question. Yeah. That was my question.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) Okay.

QUESTION: Why is she using a personal account?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Well, let’s – I just have a couple points, sort of top lines, and then follow up with many questions, okay?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: First, the notion that the Department didn’t have the content of these emails until she turned them over isn’t accurate. A vast majority of them were to or from State.gov addresses or to addressees. So they were obviously retained and captured in that moment. So that notion is just not accurate and I wanted to put that out there first.

A couple other points: There was no prohibition on using a non-State.gov account for official business as long as it’s preserved. So obviously, that’s an important piece of this. When in the process of updating our records management – this is something that’s sort of ongoing given technology and the changes – we reached out to all of the former secretaries of state to ask them to provide any records they had. Secretary Clinton sent back 55,000 pages of documents to the State Department very shortly after we sent the letter to her. She was the only former Secretary of State who sent documents back in to this request. These 55,000 pages covered her time, the breadth of her time at the State Department.

Secretary Kerry is the first Secretary of State to rely primarily on his State.gov account. So what Secretary Clinton did was by no means unusual. In fact, it had been the practice before Secretary Kerry. So certainly, I know there’s a lot of interest in this. I would also point out that the notion that she had this email account is certainly not news; it’s been reported on for more than two years at this point. So I was a little surprised – although maybe I shouldn’t have been – by some of the breathless reporting coming out last night, but I guess that’s the nature of where we are today.

QUESTION: Okay. So just to address one of the things you said. You said there was no prohibition on using --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Yeah, but on – in June 2011, Jay Carney said from the podium, quote: “We are definitely instructed that we need to conduct all of our work on government accounts as part of the Presidential Records Act.” So how do you square those --

MS. HARF: Well, those are different things. That’s the instruction, but there is no prohibition on using a non-state.gov account for official business as long as it’s preserved. That’s in – yes. Let me finish, Justin, and then you can, I’m sure, disagree with what I’m saying and ask more questions. So there was – I mean, the fact is there was no prohibition on this happening as long as it was preserved. I would point out that she has sent in those 55,000 pages. Those are now all part of the permanent record, a vast majority of which already was, given most of it was to and from state.gov addresses.

QUESTION: I’m not disagreeing with what you’re saying. I’m saying Jay Carney --

MS. HARF: I don’t think Jay Carney is disagreeing.

QUESTION: It – well --

MS. HARF: He didn’t say there is prohibition; he said we are instructed to.

QUESTION: He said we’re instructed to conduct all of work --

MS. HARF: Right. He didn’t say there was a prohibition.

QUESTION: -- as it applies to the Presidential Records Act.

MS. HARF: Right. He did – first of all – well, first, the White House is different than the State Department. So that’s different; so let’s be clear about that. Secondly, he didn’t say there was a prohibition. No, there are different regulations --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- governing the White House and agencies, Justin.

QUESTION: Okay. So there was no prohibition.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: And --

MS. HARF: There wasn’t.

QUESTION: And did she seek any legal counsel on her decision to use a personal email account rather than --

MS. HARF: I mean, you --

QUESTION: -- a government account? Because I guess the question would be: Are there security implications for using a private account? How do you manage security on accounts that you don’t control?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know. You’d have to ask her. I think, without trying to get into her head on this, she was following what had been the practice of previous secretaries. Again, Secretary Kerry is the first to rely primarily on a state.gov account. This was also an unclassified email; no classified business was done on it. So not going to get into specifics about security, but certainly, this was --

QUESTION: Well, just for the record, we reached out to Condi Rice. She – her – she says that she only used a State account and did not use a personal.

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I think --

QUESTION: And so I’m not sure that that’s accurate, unless --

MS. HARF: Secretary Rice has repeatedly said that she did not regularly use email.

QUESTION: Okay. But she didn’t – certainly didn’t use a personal email account. And she says when she did conduct --

MS. HARF: I didn’t say she did. I said Secretary Kerry is the first to rely primarily on a state.gov account. Secretary Rice said she didn’t use email primarily.

QUESTION: You said Clinton’s use was consistent with past secretaries of State.

MS. HARF: That’s true.

QUESTION: It wasn’t with Rice’s --

MS. HARF: Well, she didn’t use email. Past secretaries who had used email.

QUESTION: Well, I think she did use email.

MS. HARF: She has repeatedly said publicly, Justin, that she did not regularly use email. Secretary Powell wrote about this in his book that he had a personal computer – I’m going to pick up my notecard here – he had a personal laptop installed in his office so he could use personal email. He wrote about that in his book. So again, there is some past practice for this.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? So you said one of the claims in this report was wrong because the vast majority went to and from --

MS. HARF: That is correct.

QUESTION: But that still implies that some wouldn’t have.

MS. HARF: That is correct.

QUESTION: And are you confident that all of those are in the records now? Or are there still some that could be floating in the world of dark and unread emails? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Well, again, as soon as we reached out to the former secretary, Secretary Clinton provided the emails covering the breadth of her time at the State Department on a wide variety of issues. It’s my understanding that those were provided in that way.

QUESTION: So that’s everything? That’s – we’re talking about the retention act. It doesn’t say “vast majority.” It basically is about all of them. Are you saying --

MS. HARF: Right. We reached out and asked her to provide them. She provided a large amount, those 55,000.

QUESTION: But just say it’s everything if you think --

MS. HARF: Well, how can I – I mean, Brad, I’m not in her email.

QUESTION: Did she say it was everything when she sent it back?

MS. HARF: When she responded, she said this was what she had – is my understanding – that was pertinent here.

QUESTION: Okay. And then --

MS. HARF: Those aren’t exact words, but that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Is there a prohibition now on using a personal address for government --

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. The rules as they stand now – and let me just pull this up so I have this – and NARA has continually updated their guidance. The September 2013 NARA guidance is that if an employee uses a personal email account to conduct official business, he or she is instructed to take steps to ensure that any records sent or received are preserved – for example, by forwarding it to an official government account. Those rules have been sent to all State Department employees to make sure they knew that. And again, this is an ongoing process to update records management. As you can all imagine, this is a huge undertaking for an organization as large as ours that actually hasn’t had email for – in the grand scheme of things – all that long.

QUESTION: Marie, can I follow up on that?

QUESTION: You said that – just a couple questions.

MS. HARF: Let’s do – let’s go one at a time.

QUESTION: You said there’s --

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: -- no classified material was sent over this email address? Either received or sent? So she --

MS. HARF: Correct. We have no indication that Secretary Clinton used her personal email account for anything but unclassified purposes.

QUESTION: So the Secretary never received a classified email in her entire span of --

MS. HARF: Well, Secretary Clinton did not have a classified email system. She had multiple other ways of communicating in a classified manner, including assistants or staff members printing classified documents for her, secure phone calls, or secure video conferences.

QUESTION: And then --

MS. HARF: So she certainly had a way of communicating in a classified setting.

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And can you say – whether or not things are classified, they can also be very sensitive.

MS. HARF: That’s true.

QUESTION: What can you say about encryption or non-encryption regarding her email correspondence?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think we’re going to get into specifics of security on a former Secretary’s email, but I can say we have no indication that the email was compromised, the account was compromised or hacked in any way. But again, we’re not going to get into specifics.

QUESTION: Can you say what kind of email address she was using?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I’m going to get into that.

QUESTION: Because if, for example, it was a Gmail account or something like that, technically Google would have ownership over all those communications.

MS. HARF: I don’t think I’m going to get into those specifics.

Yes, Nicole.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on that specific about preservation.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So then as now, it’s okay for a U.S. official to use a non-USG email account, as long as the emails --

MS. HARF: As it’s preserved.

QUESTION: -- are preserved. Are there specific instructions on how that should be done?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I have that. And again, a vast majority of State Department business is done on an official system, obviously, so I don’t want to give the idea that State Department employees are regularly not using State Department emails. Let me see if I --

QUESTION: I’m just wondering --

MS. HARF: Go ahead. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Just wondering if she would’ve had to forward every single email to some State account, or whether it was enough that it was going through State servers. I’m just wondering about --

MS. HARF: So I can check on – of how something needs to be preserved today vice when she was here?

QUESTION: No, I’m asking about her.

MS. HARF: When she was here.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I can check. There – I do know, though, relatedly, that there was no real-time preservation requirement. The requirement is just to preserve any records that are part of the official record, which she has done by providing them.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And they are all part of the official record. Many of them – a vast majority of them already were, given that they were to or from a State.gov addressee.

QUESTION: Marie, can you --

MS. HARF: And everything is – I mean, if things go back and forth from State.gov addressees, they’re part of the official record.

QUESTION: So they’re preserved --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and there is no rule against using a personal account?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So that’s why it’s not – I mean, do you believe she’s breached any rule or law or practice known to you or to historians?

MS. HARF: As I said, there’s no prohibition on using this kind of email account as long as it’s preserved. She has taken steps to preserve those records by providing the State Department with the 55,000 pages, so – I’m not a NARA expert, but certainly, it sounds to me like that has been completed.

QUESTION: Except that you wouldn’t really have any way of knowing if she had provided everything, unless you’re just taking her at her word for it, correct?

MS. HARF: I think 55,000 is a pretty big number, and --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I mean, I don’t --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I don’t know how many – I accept that it’s a lot of documents --

MS. HARF: And it covers the time – date – from a date perspective covers the time that she was at the State Department.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Change --

QUESTION: Well, let me follow up.

QUESTION: How do you --

MS. HARF: Who wants to follow up on this?

QUESTION: No, how do you legally verify – I mean, granted, she was the Secretary of State. But as Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Is there any way of corroborating that everything that was provided by her office is in fact everything that she engaged in while she was Secretary of State?

MS. HARF: Look, all I can say is that we reached out to the former secretaries and asked them to provide any records that needed to be preserved. She was the only former Secretary that responded to our request and sent back those tens of thousands of pages of documents. That’s what I can speak to. They cover her time at the State Department. I don’t think I have many more details for you than that.

QUESTION: Are you going to be redoubling efforts with the other secretaries of State, who seem to be remiss in their responsibilities?

MS. HARF: I mean, who knows if some of these secretaries even have records of these things. It’s – this is a – this really is – when it comes to records preservation, this is not something flip to say: The processes have evolved and the regulations have evolved and the guidance has evolved as email has evolved and how technology has evolved, and that’s something we’re constantly trying to do in order to keep up with that.

QUESTION: So – and can you just clarify for – so the Secretary never received a state.gov email, or never used one? I mean --

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: I mean, usually when your first day of work, you show up and you --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure the Secretary’s first day of work is the same as --

QUESTION: The payroll tax, and then the email address, and --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure she had a badge. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I really just don’t know.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Did Clinton’s aides and personal staff also use personal emails to correspond with her?

MS. HARF: About official business?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I know – I can check on that. Let me see. Well, certainly, State Department employees generally use State email addresses. As would be the case for her aides or anyone else if they did use a personal email, they would still be under the same requirements in terms of preserving that for the record. So I can’t speak to specifics.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this? Are you still on this?

QUESTION: Yes. I have a few follow-ups.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So one is: You say there was no – at the time in question, 2009-2013, there was no prohibition.

MS. HARF: There’s still not.

QUESTION: Okay. Was there a policy on this point, beyond the NARA guidance? Did the State Department have a policy that addressed use of personal emails for official purposes?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I know that in August 2013, which is after you’re talking about, NARA issued guidance which included – I’m not sure they had issued it prior to this, but I can check – that email records of designated senior officials are permanent federal records. I’m guessing if they had to clarify that, they hadn’t been clear about it before. I think that’s my understanding. And then in September 2013, they issued guidance on personal email use. So it’s my understanding that’s when NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration that governs this, put the guidelines forward. And then at that point, we sent to all of our employees the guidelines following on that, that they needed to preserve anything that was a record.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: So it’s my understanding that those guidelines came later and were not in place at the time.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t know of any State Department specific policy that was in place prior to September 2013 addressing this issue?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check. I don’t want to speak --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- authoritatively on this, but I’m happy to check. But it is my understanding that because NARA didn’t issue those guidelines until late 2013, that’s when we put guidance forward to our employees.

QUESTION: And you mentioned that most of the 55,000 pages were emails to state.gov accounts belonging to other persons.

MS. HARF: A vast majority, yes – to or from.

QUESTION: So in addition to some possibly not going to those accounts – so perhaps not being captured at the time – wouldn’t there be an issue, depending on what kind of record searches were being done, if somebody asked for a search of the secretary or office of secretary emails, and say, she sent it to some other office, office of administration or something – if that wasn’t covered by the search, wouldn’t it be the case that those other emails wouldn’t have been produced? And is the Department doing anything retrospectively to look at either FOIA requests or litigation or congressional inquiries other than the Benghazi one about whether it actually provided a complete production of documents?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. First, the Department has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records. Emails are only a part of that, whether it’s cables, whether it’s call readouts, other documents. So clearly – and that also included emails between her and Department officials with state.gov accounts. And now we have possession of Secretary Clinton’s emails spanning her time at the State Department. Those are now part of records. So to the extent that FOIA requests come in going forward, if it is determined that Secretary Clinton’s emails may be responsive, if that’s the case, her emails will be searched in connection with those requests. So again, most – we had a large amount of her records to begin with, but yes, all of them will now be searched going forward.

QUESTION: And what about retrospectively?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding that that will not be happening.

QUESTION: Okay. And has any other – it’s correct that there were 300 pages produced to the Benghazi select panel. Were there productions --

MS. HARF: About – fewer than 300, a little fewer than 300 emails. That’s more than 300 pages.

QUESTION: Okay. Have there been productions from these records to any other panels? And can you say just a little bit about the sequence – was there any connection between those congressional document requests and the decision to send this missive to the former secretaries?

MS. HARF: So the letter actually went before we got the request from the select committee. It went in October of 2014 – that was before we had gotten a request from the committee – as part of our records maintenance upgrading and the process we go through. So that was what drove that. I don’t know the first question answer – I don’t think so – that these have been provided in response to any other request, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

QUESTION: And one final question. You said there’s no indication that there was any classified material. Has the Department done a classification review of the 55,000 pages, and is that the result of it? Or is it just something more cursory than that?

MS. HARF: I don’t believe we have. But we have no indication she used it for anything other than unclassified work, as all of us do on our unclassified State accounts.

QUESTION: Follow-up --

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Follow-up this. So does former Secretary Clinton broke the law or not?

MS. HARF: I think I’ve addressed that at length. You can check the transcript for my answer on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on Venezuela?

MS. HARF: I do. And thank you for your patience in waiting for this. I’m apologizing that we did not get this to you yesterday, but I have a little bit of an update.

QUESTION: In the meantime, the Venezuelans have updated significantly as well.

MS. HARF: I know. That’s the challenge, which is the challenge for not getting things out more quickly here. But there was the short meeting yesterday between the charge and the foreign minister. The meeting was just about the size of our mission in Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government asked that in 15 days we discuss with them a plan for reducing the size of our mission in Caracas. We noted in that meeting, and I’m noting now, that the numbers the Venezuelan Government has offered regarding the size of its mission in the United States dramatically understate the number of Venezuelan diplomats in the United States in a bilateral capacity. In addition to their embassy, they have eight consulates in a bilateral capacity, obviously not at the UN or at the OAS.

The Venezuelan Government – we will – the reports, I should say, that the Venezuelan Government said they had to leave immediately are not true. They’ve given us 15 days to give them a plan. We will respond to the Venezuelan Government via diplomatic channels after due consideration of their request.

QUESTION: So does that – you’re going to respond to them, but you won’t say at this point whether you plan to actually --

MS. HARF: Reduce.

QUESTION: -- reduce.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: And do they explain in full why this is an absolute necessity at this point in Venezuelan history?

MS. HARF: Well, in part, what they have argued publicly and privately is that the U.S. is trying to undermine Venezuela, a charge we have repeatedly said is completely baseless. So we had the conversation yesterday. It was a short meeting, and again, it was just about the size of the mission.

QUESTION: And if they indeed – do they have the capacity to force you to reduce numbers? Is that within their purview?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: I mean, they could technically PNG --

MS. HARF: PNG people or --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Will – is the U.S. considering any countermeasures, considering they are trying to dictate to you your diplomatic --

MS. HARF: We’re looking at the request, and we’ll respond. As I pointed out, though, they’ve given numbers publicly for their staffing in the U.S., and again, those are drastically understated, given they have an embassy and eight consulates.

QUESTION: When you say, “drastically understated,” what are the numbers?

QUESTION: What are those actual numbers?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I need to speak for them with their numbers, except to say that what they’ve said publicly is dramatically lower.

QUESTION: Dramatically, so not – but not --

QUESTION: Is it comparable to the U.S. staffing?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Is it comparable to the U.S. staffing?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into numbers.

Sorry, Brad. What?

QUESTION: No, no. It’s fine.

MS. HARF: Okay.

Yes, Lesley.

QUESTION: You say eight consulates.

MS. HARF: Eight consulates in a bilateral capacity --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: -- in addition to the embassy in Washington.

QUESTION: -- is it possible that the U.S. could ask them to draw down their numbers as well?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to predict what might happen here. We’re looking at the request. I was just pointing out that they have a much more robust diplomatic presence than they had said publicly.

QUESTION: And is their number for the U.S., is that correct, 100?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into numbers.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

QUESTION: No. Did anyone make the argument, either in the meeting or in any other conversation, the level of importance that Venezuela has for U.S. foreign policy and the economy of the United States, as opposed to the level of the United States in Venezuela?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specifics on the conversations. I don’t disagree with the premise, but I don’t know if that’s been part of the conversation.

QUESTION: I mean, the notion that Venezuela could push the United States around on this – is this something that you’re going to forcefully push back on? Because it seems kind of strange, at least, for the State Department to be calmly listening to this request without registering complaints --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say that we’re calm.

QUESTION: -- or at least registering strong objections to trying to dictate it.

MS. HARF: We’re certainly registering complaints. And we’re looking at the ask from them for a plan, and I don’t want to project that we don’t think this is a very serious thing. Clearly, we do.

I got a few follow-ups to some of the Venezuela questions yesterday.

QUESTION: Yeah. I was going to ask about the Vienna Conventions, particularly.

QUESTION: And the pilot.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: And the pilot.

MS. HARF: So I’m just going run through the follow-ups I got from yesterday --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: -- and then – someone asked about other long-term U.S. citizen prisoners in Venezuela?

QUESTION: Long-term or short-term, I think.

MS. HARF: So we are aware of several long-term U.S. citizen prisoners in Venezuela. I can see if there are more details on that. We are not aware of any other reports of U.S. citizens who have been detained within the past week, apart from the four missionaries who have since been deported.

And then this alleged report of this U.S. citizen pilot. We have received no formal notification of this alleged arrest from the Government of Venezuela and see no information of any kind about those rumors, beyond the press report. So don’t have anything to confirm those reports.

There is a Travel Warning for Venezuela that was last updated on December 11th, 2014. It’s mostly focused on violent crime in Venezuela, that – the places where it’s prevalent and being aware of your surroundings. Obviously, that’s what the warning has been most focused on.

I think that’s it. What am I missing?

QUESTION: And then the Vienna Conventions --

QUESTION: Vienna Conventions.

QUESTION: -- whether countries can actually tell you how many, where --

MS. HARF: I don’t have an answer to that. Let me check. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: That’s okay.

MS. HARF: I will work on that afterwards.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I very quickly move to another topic?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry was very critical of the United Nations Human Rights Commission --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- saying that it is ganging up on Israel. Is it your judgment that basically, Israel gets a disproportionate amount of criticism --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- than other countries?

MS. HARF: Yes, and I certainly agree with what the Secretary said.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And conversely, do you believe that Israel, as a result of that criticism, has been responsive to its human rights abuses such as releasing children that are still in prison, detainees that go on endlessly in administrative detention and so on?

MS. HARF: If you’re asking about a specific question, I’m happy to check with our team, but --

QUESTION: Yes, I am. You’re saying that they get more than fair – their fair share of criticism, yet on the other hand, we know that Israel conducts these abuses that never really are – are never held accountable. For instance, what have you done for the children that are in prison?

MS. HARF: I think you’re trying to link a couple of things here, Said. If we have issues or the international community has issues with something that’s happening in Israel, we raise it with them. We were very open last summer talking about civilian casualties, for example, during the Gaza conflict.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: The point is that the best way to address those is in a non-biased way, and that when organizations like the Human Rights Council undertake their efforts in a biased away, that that is counterproductive and that we’re not going to stand for that.

QUESTION: With everyone focused on Iran and the nuclear issue and so on, with the Palestinian issue being way back – on the backburner, are we likely to see any kind of kick-start anytime soon in any kind of process?

MS. HARF: I have nothing to predict for you, Said.

Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s been a while since we’ve talked about Mr. Snowden here, but --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- his lawyer made some comments to the effect that he would like to come back again under the right circumstances. I was wondering if there’s been any evolution in the Administration’s thinking about how to get him to come back, what conditions might be amenable.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly happy for him to return to the United States to face a court in the very serious charges he has been charged with. So he absolutely can and should return to the United States to face the justice system that will be fair in its judgment of him, but he is accused of very serious crimes and should return home to face them.

QUESTION: His lawyers have said that a trial under the Espionage Act of 1917 would not be fair. Is there any room for compromise, in your view, on this?

MS. HARF: He’s been charged with very serious crimes, and I think we’ve been very clear that he will get a fair trial if he returns here, but if he didn’t want to be subject to these kinds of charges, then he shouldn’t have done what he did.

QUESTION: Marie, do you know about the report out of Moscow today that he – there is talk from lawyers saying that he’s in discussions about coming back?

MS. HARF: I saw that report. I’m not – “I don’t know” is the answer, but I’m happy to say here very publicly that he is welcome to come back. We will help get him here, and he will face justice when he does.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government involved at all in conversations with these groups of lawyers that seem to be (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: The answer – I really don’t know. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to share on that.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: I have a question regarding the information security and encryption piece, but nothing to do with the Secretary’s emails. Yesterday, President Obama expressed concern over Chinese new rules under a counterterrorism law which would impact U.S. technology companies to do business in China. On the other hand, the Chinese Government has responded, saying that it domestic issue and it’s essential for them to take such measure to counter terrorism. And they also mentioned the International Code of Conduct on Information Security which was renewed this January to United Nations.

I would like to know, what is the U.S. Government’s position on such code of conduct?

MS. HARF: Well, on the code of conduct, we are aware of the new draft of the International Code of Conduct for Information Security and we’re currently reviewing it. We have expressed our concerns with the initial draft of the code of conduct tabled at the UN in 2011, particularly with regard to its attempt to establish international justification for government control over internet resources, and restrictions to fundamental freedoms online. So clearly, this is something we’ve – we are looking at right now, but had expressed concerns about in the past.

In terms of your first question, we are very concerned that many aspects of China’s recent regulatory actions which have been touted as means to bolster cyber security, actually, are neither effective cyber security measures nor consistent with the principles of free and open trade. We’ve urged the Chinese Government to reconsider the restrictive banking regulations and to consult with U.S. Government and industry as they draft their counterterrorism law. And we remain committed to expanding our cooperation with the Chinese Government on cyber matters in areas where our interests align, and to candidly and constructively address issues and areas where they do not.

QUESTION: Would you please give us an update on the bilateral U.S.-China cyber dialogue?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that going to be run this year?

MS. HARF: Well, we regret China’s decision to suspend the activities of the U.S.-China Cyber Working Group. We have continued to engage Chinese cyber experts on area of concern in other places, in other fora, and remain committed to that, certainly discuss relevant cyber issues in all venues, and are looking to continue doing so.

QUESTION: Would you support a multinational mechanism instead of a bilateral dialogue to surface cyber security issues?

MS. HARF: Well, when it comes to issues of internet governance, I think – which I think is a key part of this – we stand strongly behind the existing multi-stakeholder approach that includes a role for civil society, the private sector, and governments, and oppose multilateral efforts at establishing government control over the internet. So that’s something we feel very strongly about.

QUESTION: I have a separate question --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- regarding DPRK.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Netanyahu said today at Congress that up to five years DPRK could produce up to 100 nuclear weapons. The same assessment was also quoted by New York Times editorial, which also criticized this Administration’s policies not matched by experts’ analysis. What’s your response?

MS. HARF: Well, I think they’re just vastly different situations when it comes to the DPRK’s nuclear program and Iran’s. Clearly, there are some very, I think, common sense differences. But again, any comprehensive agreement with Iran would require, at a minimum, implementation of things like the additional protocol, which constitutes a much greater level of monitoring and a wider scope of access than was ever attempted in a place like North Korea. So I think that drawing too many comparisons between the two is pretty misleading, and we’re well aware of the state of North Korea’s nuclear program and certainly are committed to working to denuclearization.

QUESTION: Would you agree with such assessment that in five years, DPRK could produce up to 100 nuclear weapons?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our technical experts, but last time I checked, Prime Minister Netanyahu was not one of them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I think there’s one more in the back.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: One more in back. Actually, one, do you have a readout of the meeting between Danny Russel and the Japanese Director General of North America Tomita?

MS. HARF: I don’t, but I will get you one.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the other one, since you didn’t notice me raising my hand, the – you keep talking about the – focusing on the end of March for the agreement with Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that the 31st, because --

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: It is the 31st?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: It’s not the 23rd or the 24th?

MS. HARF: It is not.

QUESTION: It is the 31st?

MS. HARF: It is the 31st.

QUESTION: Okay. And then if we don’t reach this agreement by that time, what is going to happen? Are you guys going to continue the negotiation until June or --

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s hard to predict.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But as the President and the Secretary have said, we won’t go on negotiating forever. And now is really the time for Iran to make these choices and for us to work very hard on the technical side and the political side to see if we can get to an agreement that meets our bottom lines here. So I think it’s too soon to say, certainly, but I’m sure we’ll be having many more conversations about it in the coming days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you, everyone. And thank you for your patience today.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:40 p.m.)

DPB # 37


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 2, 2015

Mon, 03/02/2015 - 15:55

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 2, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:32 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have just a quick travel update at the top, and then I will open it up to your questions. Secretary Kerry is in Switzerland today, as I’m sure many of you know. He spoke at the Human Rights Council this morning in Geneva. He also met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, where they talked about a host of issues.

He is currently, as we speak, meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the nuclear negotiations. They are joined by Secretary of Energy Moniz, as well as our negotiating team led by Under Secretary Wendy Sherman. And I think they will be meeting tomorrow as well, and I’m sure those meetings will go for multiple hours today and tomorrow. And no other update than that.

Brad, get us started.

QUESTION: Yes, just on Iran.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So the meetings will happen today and tomorrow. No other – they’ll definitely done by tomorrow, and that’s it for this trip?

MS. HARF: I’ve learned to say – never say “definitely” when it comes to meetings as part of the nuclear negotiations. But you know he has a fuller schedule later in the week with onward travel.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But obviously, given the time we’re up against in terms of the end of March, we’re working as hard as we can – his level, also at Wendy Sherman’s level and experts, to see if we can make progress.

QUESTION: Is Wendy Sherman sticking around for longer negotiations with the Iranians?

MS. HARF: I can check and see if she is leaving when the Secretary leaves. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that thread, do you think that the presence of Netanyahu here in Washington and what he has to say could affect those talks in any way? Or has the Secretary decided to isolate himself from what’s going on in Washington?

MS. HARF: I think that what we are focused on inside the negotiating room and Secretary Kerry and the rest of our team is seeing if we can make progress to get to a comprehensive agreement that does what we have always said it needed to do: get to a year breakout time at least, cut off the four pathways Iran could have to get enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. We know that we have a lot of technical work to do. We know that the Iranians have some decisions to make, as do we, and that’s what we’re very focused on.

I think the Secretary, again, cognizant of the fact that we’re pushing up against the end of March, understands that we need to continue making progress and is really pushing to see if we can get this done.

QUESTION: Can I ask you on the timeline? Is the Iranian holiday of Nowruz – I think it’s coming up at the end of March --

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: -- is that playing with the calendar at all?

MS. HARF: I can check. It’s a good question.

QUESTION: Are you expecting – could you check if you’re expecting the Iranians to be negotiating through their festive period?

MS. HARF: I can check with them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: And also they can probably speak to that as well.

QUESTION: Can you talk to the Secretary’s cautioning that people shouldn’t be discussing details about these talks, about what could be in the deal, what’s been agreed upon already, where the differences are? Why is it important for him to be issuing this caution at this point?

MS. HARF: Yeah, but I would note a few points. As he said, there is no deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and there are a lot of rumors out there and reports of people either making flatly incorrect statements or cherry picking bits and pieces of things they may have heard to try and advance an agenda. And I think what we are referring to when we say that is we were incredibly disappointed that some Israeli officials were saying Prime Minister Netanyahu would reveal sensitive information – I think they were saying this when he was on the way over here – would reveal sensitive information about the negotiations. I think that’s what the Secretary was alluding to. We’ve continuously provided detailed classified briefings to Israeli officials to keep them updated and to provide context for how we are approaching getting to a good deal, because we’ve been very clear we will not accept a bad deal. We could have done that on multiple occasions and did not.

So any release of any kind of information like that would, of course, betray that trust, and that’s, I think, what he was referring to. We just saw some reports ahead of the prime minister’s visit that that may indeed happen tomorrow and just wanted to make very clear that we want to keep talking in these settings, of course, but that that would be a problem.

QUESTION: And when you talk about betraying the trust, is that betraying the trust between the U.S. and Israel? Would that represent betraying the trust between Iran and the members of the P5+1 as they’ve been going through these negotiations?

MS. HARF: Well, the negotiations with Iran aren’t about trust; they’re about verification and Iran taking credible steps to back up their words with actions that they are not and cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. So again, this was just based on some press reports coming in advance of the prime minister’s visit. I don’t want anyone to get too spun up quite yet. We’ll see what happens throughout the rest of the visit, but even if some of this information they claim to get from other sources, we find it very useful and want to and have continued having very detailed conversations with Israeli officials about these negotiations given the interest they have in them and, of course, how vital they are to Israel’s security.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a couple more on this issue? Last week, the members of the Iranian opposition that goes by various names --

MS. HARF: The MEK.

QUESTION: The MEK --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- put out some allegations about another secret or undisclosed site.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Now that you’ve had some time to at least look at what they’ve put out, what is your take on this?

MS. HARF: We have examined the report as we said we would and have no information at this time to support that conclusion.

QUESTION: And then on a separate issue, the IAEA – I think the head of the IAEA mentioned some of the questions regarding possible military dimensions that the agency still hasn’t had answered. Is that a troubling aspect ahead of a final deal? And is that something you’d want to be resolved in a final deal?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s not a – this isn’t a new issue. As you know, the IAEA has been working with the Iranians for some time to resolve these issues, so I wouldn’t characterize this as new. We have routinely encouraged the Iranians to work more cooperatively with the IAEA to address some of these issues, of course, that we are very concerned about. And obviously, this is a nuclear agreement – potential nuclear agreement – not a missile agreement, but when it comes to how that might interact with a nuclear weapon, obviously those are questions we’re interested in.

QUESTION: Was this something that was supposed to have been resolved under the JPOA?

MS. HARF: Resolved with the IAEA?

QUESTION: That – was the --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: There was no obligation for the Iranians --

MS. HARF: To fully resolve all these issues?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: No, not under the JPOA. As we’ve said, Iran has continued to fulfill all its obligations under the JPOA. As part of a comprehensive agreement on the nuclear program, obviously, any potential weaponization would be of concern to us, and that’s what we would be focused on in terms of a final agreement.

QUESTION: Why wasn’t this part of the JPOA – I mean, given the significance a lot of people seem to put on it?

MS. HARF: Well, the goal with the JPOA – one of the goals was to freeze Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in some areas to give us space to negotiate the very tough issues that are part of a comprehensive agreement. We’ve done that. I would note the JPOA addressed at least, I think, three of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own redlines, including the picture he brought to the UN General Assembly a few years ago. That’s part of it. So obviously, we believe that the JPOA has enhanced Israel’s security, the region’s security, and given us room to see if we can get to a comprehensive agreement.

QUESTION: Okay, but I don’t think – I mean, we don’t need to speak about the Israeli prime minister, but --

MS. HARF: Really?

QUESTION: -- I don’t think his redline was that “I want it from two months to” – I think, basically, he --

MS. HARF: Well, one of his was the accumulation of 20 percent uranium hexafluoride stockpile --

QUESTION: He’s spoken about enrichment ending.

MS. HARF: -- and Iran no longer enriches or maintains a 20 percent stockpile of that very material he pointed to in his diagram at the 2012 General Assembly.

The other two is the introduction of a plutonium path. Under the JPOA, construction on Arak has been suspended, and then the installation and operation of advanced centrifuges. And under the JPOA, Iran has not installed or operated additional centrifuges. I can go into more detail than that, but of course, we believe that the JPOA has put us in the place we are today with Iran’s program frozen to hopefully get to a final agreement.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. HARF: Anything else on Iran? Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you. Have you seen the reports that ISIS have released nearly two dozen Assyrian Christians, and how do you see that?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly seen reports. I can’t independently confirm them. We’re trying to get more details, but I don’t have any more for you than that.

QUESTION: What about the statements made by Turkish officials that they are willing to help the Iraqi forces militarily to retake Mosul?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those either. Obviously, we are very focused on working with the Iraqi forces to continue training them, to keep getting them better equipped and better trained. Obviously, any operation on Mosul would be drive by Iraqi timing and what makes sense operationally.

QUESTION: Do you welcome any move by Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the comments, so I’m not going to welcome something I haven’t seen details of.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Anything – yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I get into Venezuela, please?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: A few questions here. The one is that the president, Maduro, has said that the U.S. has detained U.S. citizens, including a pilot. According to him, it was – he was in a U.S. plane, captured, of Latin origin, and he had all kinds of documentation. Can you confirm that is an American pilot?

MS. HARF: So just a couple points on Venezuela – and it’s related – and then I’ll get into the specifics. Our charge in Caracas was called to the ministry of foreign affairs today to discuss the latest announcements they made regarding visas and other issues with the foreign minister and government officials. That meeting, which I believe either just shortly ended – I don’t have a readout yet, so I will attempt to get one for you – I think gave – no doubt gave the charge an opportunity to express our concern about some of the announcements that have been made.

On the pilot specifically, prior to that meeting – and again, I don’t have a readout from the meeting yet – prior to that meeting, we had not received formal notification of an alleged arrest from the Government of Venezuela. As we would when there is ever a report that an American citizen may have been detained, we are seeking more information. And again, I don’t have readout from the meeting yet. I think it may have just ended.

QUESTION: Would there be any reason why an American pilot would be flying – or a U.S. plane would be flying around there?

MS. HARF: Who knows? And who knows if it’s true? They haven’t provided us with that notification, so we’ll see if we can get more details here.

QUESTION: Number two, are there any other U.S. citizens that you know of that have been detained?

MS. HARF: By the Venezuelans?

QUESTION: With – over the last weekend or recently?

MS. HARF: Recently? Not that – let me check here. Not that I’m aware of. I’m happy to go back and check with our team.

QUESTION: Well, there were some that we know about that were released, yes?

MS. HARF: Released. The missionaries, correct.

QUESTION: Addition – in addition to them? Because he – because I think the --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Venezuelan officials have spoken of multiple Americans involved in --

MS. HARF: Okay, let me check.

QUESTION: -- conspiratorial, dark arts plots to – yeah.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) The technical term of dark arts. Beyond the missionaries, yes. There have been a lot of anti-American rhetoric again coming out of the Venezuelan Government with a lot of baseless allegations. I’m not aware of any additional, so let me check with our team and see if there’s more, and we’ll get a readout of that meeting that we can share.

QUESTION: Can you clarify – the meeting that the charge had at the foreign ministry, was that also dealing with the Venezuelan desire to cut the number of U.S. personnel at the embassy?

MS. HARF: That was one of the issues I understand was to be discussed. And again, I don’t have a readout of the meeting yet.

QUESTION: But if the U.S. has full diplomatic relations with Venezuela, wouldn’t such a request violate the Vienna conventions on how embassies should be able to function?

MS. HARF: Well, we were clearly concerned about the announcement. I don’t want to give an international legal ruling on it not knowing the details, and let me see if I can get some more from the meeting.

QUESTION: Will we get more details about visa sanctions as well as the --

MS. HARF: That they said they were going to put on us?

QUESTION: Right, including --

MS. HARF: That was one of the issues that was to be discussed.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie, on North Korea?

QUESTION: No, I haven’t finished on Venezuela. You said you expressed concern. Was that specifically with the visa issue or just generally the situation?

MS. HARF: Well, I think both. Again, I haven’t gotten the readout from the meeting yet, but certainly had concern about the announcements that have been made, including the visa issue, also about the baseless anti-American rhetoric and allegations that have been made by the Venezuelan Government, certainly, over the course of not just recently, but many weeks and months now.

QUESTION: So Maduro said --

QUESTION: I wanted to --

QUESTION: Sorry, can I just ask --

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: On the question of diplomats, the Venezuelans say they have 17 members here of the diplomatic – at the embassy, and the one – the Americans reduced to that number, and that the American Embassy has a hundred diplomats. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Is which correct? I’m not going to confirm the numbers of our embassy.

QUESTION: But is a significant difference in terms of --

MS. HARF: I don't know how many people are in their embassy here. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Have you ever let other countries determine how many staff you can have at – I mean, besides the fact that the United States is, what, 10 times as large as Venezuela, is that something other countries generally dictate to you?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I know we work with countries – in terms of getting enough visas for all of our people and where we’ve had issues with diplomats getting visas, we try to work through them. But I can check with our team and see if there are more details about that process. Certainly, we believe it’s important to be able to get our diplomats accredited and get on the ground in places.

QUESTION: Marie, I just want to clarify. So you say the charge d'affaires – was he called in?

MS. HARF: Called in to the MFA today to discuss these issues with the foreign minister and other government officials, yes.

QUESTION: One more question on Turkey?

QUESTION: On Colombia?

QUESTION: No, no. Since – when was the last time that U.S. officials met at the foreign – with a foreign minister of Venezuela?

MS. HARF: I do not know. I will ask.

QUESTION: And then are you putting out any warning to American citizens in Venezuela or planning to go to Venezuela given that the potential, at least, for Americans to be scapegoats or to be rightfully arrested seems to be growing?

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m sure we have travel information online about Venezuela that’s already in existence. We will be putting out additional information to U.S. travelers if there is a change in visa requirements for U.S. travelers. So obviously, we’ll keep people updated on that, and I can check what our current travel information is for Venezuela.

QUESTION: Would you, from this podium, be telling Americans to have second thoughts or to reconsider any imminent travel plans to Venezuela?

MS. HARF: Let me check and see what it already says online. I’m sure we have that.

QUESTION: And what about – sorry, what about the status of the embassy itself? I mean, are you – there’s no move to go – to try to downscale that --

MS. HARF: Not that I’ve heard.

QUESTION: -- on its – the services it provides or anything for security reasons?

MS. HARF: Yeah, of course. Not that I’ve heard.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. HARF: Turkey.

QUESTION: The Kurdish – jailed Kurdish leader in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, has called on the PKK fighters to lay down arms. Have you seen those comments?

MS. HARF: We have, and obviously would welcome all steps in support of a peaceful resolution in this conflict, and commend the efforts of both the government and all parties concerned to work towards a lasting peace. I think there’s still details and more to be fleshed out here that we don’t know, but certainly, we’ll be watching.

QUESTION: How does the United States view Ocalan? Does – do you believe that he has power and and influence over --

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have an assessment of that to do for you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes. North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah. As you already know, that North Korea fires short-range missiles to – into east coast yesterday. What is your comment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly seen those reports that they launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the east sea. If confirmed – which I can’t do independently – such missile launches would represent a threat to regional peace and security and would be a violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions which have required North Korea to suspend all activities related to their ballistic missile program. I’m not sort of going to speak to their intentions, of course, but would encourage them to do just the opposite, to take steps to lower tensions, to not raise them, certainly, as this may have done.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any detail of additional sanctions into the North Korea?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to announce today. Obviously, we already have a large number of sanctions on North Korea, but nothing new for you today.

QUESTION: More on Korea?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Sherman, she said last Friday while talking about the bad relations between Japan and its two neighbors, Korea and China, she said political leaders should not try to, quote-unquote, “earn cheap applause by vilifying a former neighbor.” Many Koreans view those remarks as criticism of their country, and they are now wondering why – how the U.S. could blame victims of Japan’s past wrongdoing for the situation when Tokyo keeps trying to whitewash and deny --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- its responsibility for the wartime – my question is: Was that --

MS. HARF: I think I understand your question, but go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Was that remark targeted at Korea? Was she referring to Korea when she talked about a political leader trying to earn cheap applause? And my – I’m also wondering if this remark represent any change in U.S. position on these historical issues. Thank you.

MS. HARF: It does not represent any change in U.S. policy – her remarks in no way reflect a change in U.S. policy – and were not intended to be about any one person or one country. I think we were, frankly, a little surprised to see that some interpreted her remarks as being directed at any particular leader in the region. They were not. Obviously, we think that constructive relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, our most important allies in East Asia, are helpful to advance peace and prosperity in the region. Obviously, our three countries share a lot in common, and in no way was she speaking about any one person or any one country.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Colombia. President Santos of Colombia offered FARC a possibility of no extradition to U.S. How does the U.S. Government see this offer to the FARC?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, repeat the first sentence. I couldn’t hear you.

QUESTION: President Santos of Colombia offered FARC a possibility of no extradition to U.S. How does the U.S. Government see this offer to the FARC?

MS. HARF: Well, we aren’t – obviously, we’re not a negotiator in the process. We have a special envoy now, as you probably know, to work with the Colombian Government and others to help advance the peace process. I don’t have a comment on that specific offer, but I’m happy to check with our team. Okay?

QUESTION: Excuse me. Is the U.S. Government in this position to pardon or release FARC member now in U.S. jails to support this process, this --

MS. HARF: Well, I think – first, a lot of this is Department of Justice and a law enforcement issue. And the U.S. will continue to request extradition in cases where we believe that’s warranted, generally speaking. But that’s really a Department of Justice issue.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) question on – follow-up on that one?

MS. HARF: Yep, and then we’re going to go in the very back.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Simon Trinidad, who is in U.S. jails now, would – is – has there been an approach to President Biden by the peace negotiators to free him and return him to Colombia?

MS. HARF: To Vice President Biden?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: You gave him a promotion there. I don’t know anything about that. I haven’t heard anything like that. Obviously, the Vice President is traveling to the region to talk to a number of folks about economic issues, I think, coming up. But I don’t have anything on that for you. I’m happy to check.

I’m going in the very back.

QUESTION: A question on Colombia. Just a continuation of the same question.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Was the request for extradition or excarceration presented to Secretary Kerry when President Santos spoke to him about the envoy in Colombia?

MS. HARF: We tend not to confirm one way or the other questions of extradition and whether another country has raised that with us. And I don’t have any information for you on that.

Yes, right here. And then you’re next.

QUESTION: Taiwanese officer just said that China will postpone the launch of a new flight route near Taiwan Strait middle line. What’s your comment on the new development?

MS. HARF: Yes. We welcome the decision to delay the implementation of these new air routes, an announcement of which created tension in the cross-strait relationship. We are again urging China to engage and consult with parties affected by the newly proposed air routes over the Taiwan Strait to again ensure that concerns associated with those routes addressed, but again welcome this decision to delay.

QUESTION: According to Taiwanese authority, they say it’s under two sides negotiation to reach this decision. Is that possibly the message to the region?

MS. HARF: Well, look, again, we welcome this decision to delay – when this was announced it had created, I think, a significant amount of tension in that relationship – and are encouraging China to work with the parties that are affected. I would refer you to them for how that process is going to play out, but it’s certainly something we’re supportive of – the process and them resolving issues by dialogue.

Yes, and then I’ll come up here. Yes.

QUESTION: I saw the foreign minister of Cyprus getting out of the State Department. As I understand, he met with Mrs. Nuland. Can you tell us, do you have any readout from the meeting?

MS. HARF: I don’t have one yet, but I will. I will get it for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Can I ask you another question?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The president of Cyprus visited recently Moscow and he signed some agreements with President Putin. As I understand from the tweets from your ambassador in Nicosia, you are not happy with his meeting and with his visit and with his agreement. Can you tell us why you are so – why you are not happy?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s separate the tweet issue from the general issue of Cyprus and Russia. I think the embassy has clarified the tweets were not meant to link two separate events.

QUESTION: I’m not talking about the tweets.

MS. HARF: That is a cautionary tale for Twitter, everyone; let me tell you that.

QUESTION: No, I’m not asking about the tweets.

MS. HARF: But importantly, with regard to the state of ties between Cyprus and Russia, we’ve been clear this is not the time for business as usual with Russia and have stressed with our European allies and partners the importance of unity and pressing Russia to stop fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine. That’s certainly something we feel very strongly about.

QUESTION: The president of Cyprus believes that you accused Russia for what she did in Crimea, but you didn’t say anything about the invasion, Turkish invasion in Cyprus.

MS. HARF: Well, let’s not try and link those kind of events. We obviously have been very clear about different kinds of events, and I’m not going to try and link them.

Brad.

QUESTION: I thought when they took Crimea you cited international law, you cited 21st century behavior --

MS. HARF: We did. But he compared it to the assassination of --

QUESTION: No, no, no, not the assassination.

MS. HARF: He just did.

QUESTION: No, I didn’t ask about the assassination.

QUESTION: No, he didn’t. He asked about the invasion in the 1970s.

QUESTION: The ambassador said about the assassination --

MS. HARF: No, but what were you trying to compare it to? Crimea?

QUESTION: To the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

MS. HARF: No, on the Russian side.

QUESTION: On the Russian invasion of Crimea, yes.

MS. HARF: Oh, I see. Well, I’m not going to make any more historical parallels.

QUESTION: Yes, but they are both invasions, as you know.

MS. HARF: Every situation is different.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Brad.

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.) On Cuba --

MS. HARF: Let’s move on. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Spanish appearing to reactivate extradition requests for some members of ETA, and will this have any bearing in the U.S. investigation – review of the state sponsor of terrorism --

MS. HARF: Yeah. As I just said to the Colombia questions, we tend to not comment one way or the other on reports of extradition requests or that process, so I probably don’t have a lot for you on that.

QUESTION: This is public comments, not – I’m not asking about the legal process.

MS. HARF: There have been public comments other countries have made about extradition requests. We just don’t tend to comment on them from here.

QUESTION: Will Cuba’s record on adhering to extradition requests regarding ETA be a factor in the review on the state sponsor of terror designation?

MS. HARF: That is a good question. I don’t know. Let me check. The process is ongoing there, but let me check.

QUESTION: Marie, on Yemen?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The U.S. ambassador to Yemen has visited President Hadi today in Aden.

MS. HARF: Yes, he did.

QUESTION: What was the purpose of this visit?

MS. HARF: To speak in person to President Hadi to talk about a range of political issues – obviously, political and security developments that are of concern to both of us. The ambassador did travel to Aden to meet with President Hadi, and again, it was an opportunity to discuss issues that we both care about. As you know, President Hadi is still the legitimate president of Yemen. The situation is obviously very fluid, but we thought this was an important meeting.

QUESTION: And he stays there or --

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to get into the logistics of the trip, given the security situation.

QUESTION: Is there any plan to open any embassy or U.S. embassy there or an office?

MS. HARF: In Aden?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: No plans?

MS. HARF: No. We are currently exploring the option of some embassy staff relocating to another country in the region as we’ve done other places, but no, no plans to relocate to Aden.

QUESTION: And how do you view that some Arab states especially moved their embassies or opened embassies in Aden?

MS. HARF: Well, each country can make its own decisions about where it has its diplomatic representation, and we’ll make ours.

QUESTION: Did you have conversations regarding the security situation and the various channels you speak to regarding U.S.-Yemeni cooperation?

MS. HARF: With President Hadi?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I can check. We talked broadly about the security situation, of course, but I don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion about any military support he wants on a more domestic level regarding internal divisions in his country?

MS. HARF: I can check on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Syria?

MS. HARF: Let’s go here and then we’ll go to Syria. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Extradition treaties are the purview of State, right?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I’m not sure. I know Department of Justice handles extradition in general, and we don’t tend to comment – if diplomatically a country raises extradition through the State Department, we don’t confirm that one way or the other. But I think Department of Justice probably has the lead there, but I will double-check.

Yes.

QUESTION: Special Envoy de Mistura is still in Syria --

MS. HARF: Yes, he is.

QUESTION: -- trying to see if there can be some sort of temporary ceasefire worked out in Aleppo. What is your understanding of the progress he has made or has not made?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on that. We, of course, continue to support the efforts of the special envoy and – in his work in terms of trying to make some progress on the Syrian issue. We’ve seen some initial press reporting on reaction from some Syrian opposition groups. Certainly understand why some groups are skeptical of the regime’s intentions here. The U.S. position on this freeze is that we support arrangements that are genuinely effective in alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people and reduce targeted attacks against civilians. Often, we’ve seen these kinds of freezes before and they’re really empty rhetoric and the Assad regime continues to take horrific action against its own people.

So we’ll see what happens here, but we understand why some people, including on the opposition, are skeptical.

QUESTION: And speaking of people in the opposition, the Hazm Movement, which had been getting support from the U.S. Government, has apparently dissolved because it’s – it says it’s become a distraction from the larger fight against the Assad regime. Does the U.S. have a reaction to this group essentially melting away?

MS. HARF: Well, this was one of the moderate vetted armed units that the State Department had provided nonlethal assistance to, and this will have an impact on the moderate opposition’s capabilities in the north. But I think it’s – look, the battlefield in Syria is fluid and it’s too early to assess the implications of this development, of course, but I think what it also shows is the really serious fight the moderate opposition is taking on two fronts, both against the Assad regime and against ISIL.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, on Syria too, Secretary Kerry has met with Minister Lavrov today --

MS. HARF: He did.

QUESTION: -- and discussed Syria and he talked about Geneva I and – or a hybrid mechanism to solve the problem in Syria. Can you elaborate on that? Is there any plan to hold a new conference, Geneva III or IV?

MS. HARF: Nothing to elaborate yet, of course, at this point. Obviously, we’ve worked closely with the Russians to see if there was a path to get back to diplomatic negotiations here, but I don’t think we’re there – but obviously continuing the conversation and seeing if we can find a way to do so.

QUESTION: Is this the first time that this kind of discussion has come up between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov in recent times?

MS. HARF: The Secretary routinely discusses the political situation in terms of a political transition and how we get to the negotiating table with Foreign Minister Lavrov. It comes up in almost every meeting they have.

Yes, Michele.

QUESTION: There was a report that some Syrian rebel groups were disarming or disbanding and joining ISIS. Have you seen that at all?

MS. HARF: Do you know which one specifically? There’s a lot of opposition groups in Syria. If you can send it to me --

QUESTION: Harakat al-Hazm? I’m not --

MS. HARF: That’s I think what Ros just – what Ros --

QUESTION: Oh, that’s what you were asking. Okay, I just wanted to make sure.

MS. HARF: I don’t think it’s – there – well, at least the reports I’ve seen – and again, there’s – these are groups made up of a lot of different people – isn’t that they’re joining other organizations like Nusrah or ISIL; it’s, in terms of the group you asked about, the al-Nusrah Front – there were reports – had seized their headquarters. So it wasn’t that they were necessarily leaving to join other groups; it’s that they were – their headquarters had been seized. We had been supporting them. I haven’t seen any indication to back up what you said there.

QUESTION: One more on the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the situation in Ukraine. Heard more tough talk from the Secretary after his meeting.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And there had been talk in the past 10 days or so about possible new sanctions against Russian persons, industries, the government. Is there any progress on that? Is the U.S. reassured by what it has seen happening in eastern Ukraine in the past several days?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re continuing to consult with our European partners and inside our own government about what possible additional steps we might take. We have been encouraged by reports of initial steps in heavy weapons withdrawal by both Ukraine and the separatists. I think the OSCE has some limited access – I would stress the word “limited.” But we’re waiting for official confirmation by the OSCE monitors. Their efforts are being hampered by the separatists. So we have seen a decrease in ceasefire violations in the last few days, but violations do continue. So as we’ve always said, there is a diplomatic off-ramp here. Sanctions – we could move to a place where we could lift some of the sanctions. We are very far from that at this moment, but continue to look at all options.

QUESTION: Is there a sense that the U.S. is holding back because it wants to see whether the pullback of forces is gaining momentum, or is there simply a drop-dead moment that we’re just waiting for?

MS. HARF: I don’t think there’s a drop-dead moment. I think we continue to evaluate on a day-by-day basis, and we have many other ways of ratcheting the pressure up through additional sanctions. We’ll make decisions as we think it makes sense.

Yes, Michele.

QUESTION: On Libya?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during a Senate Armed Services Committee – or hearing last week that there was at least half a dozen terrorist groups operating out of Libya, including ISIS. Is the U.S. falling short of its broader policy goal there in creating a stable Libya?

MS. HARF: I’m not – well, those are two very broad issues that I think you’re trying to tie together in a fairly simplistic way, but taking a step back, clearly, we know there’s a significant governance issue in Libya. We know there’s a significant security situation in Libya where there’s a security vacuum that has led groups like ISIL to be able to operate there. So we know that. We’ve been watching it for some time. We’ve been working with the UN, we’ve been working with the Government of Libya and other partners in the region to see if we can make some progress on the security and governance side, because we know where there is a lack of governance, it leads at times to places where terrorist groups can fester. So it’s something we’ve been worried about for a long time, certainly, there.

QUESTION: Would you say the security threat is higher now or prior to U.S. military intervention?

MS. HARF: Well, I would – U.S. military intervention, again, is a little overly simplistic. How the situation started in Libya was the Libyan people themselves rose up, started taking action against the Qadhafi regime, and NATO – including the U.S. – took action to help the Libyan people who had risen up against a brutal dictator. So it’s a little more complicated than that, and you just can’t compare them. They’re very different security situations. I think people – no one’s arguing that we should have supported Muammar Qadhafi in his brutal crackdown on his people. That being said, Libya has significant governance issues today, certainly significant security issues.

QUESTION: It’s not a choice between intervening on behalf of a rebel movement and supporting Qadhafi.

MS. HARF: I understand that.

QUESTION: I mean, if that were the choice --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- that or that, you would be supporting dictators all over the world.

MS. HARF: I understand that, and I remember at the time people criticizing us for not intervening soon enough in Libya when Qadhafi started cracking down on people. So I just think there’s a little historical reinvention when it comes to the Libya situation going on here.

QUESTION: But her broader question – I mean, do you see this --

MS. HARF: Is “Would it have been more stable under Qadhafi than it is now?”

QUESTION: Well, that was the second question.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: But the first question was: Are you guys failing in Libya, where you intervened – what was it – four years ago now, to create a more stable democratic country, and you have terrorists all over the place?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think it’s about the U.S. succeeding or failing. This is a fight ultimately the Libyan people themselves --

QUESTION: Well, the U.S. --

MS. HARF: Well, let me finish and then you can counter me.

QUESTION: Well, I’m asking the U.S. Government. I’m not asking the Libyan people right now --

MS. HARF: No, but I – but the question isn’t did the U.S. --

QUESTION: -- and you are responsible for your policy.

MS. HARF: But we’re not responsible for the entirety of security in Libya.

QUESTION: No, but you’re responsible for --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- your actions that you took in Libya --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- which contributed to a set of scenarios that we’re seeing in place today, correct?

MS. HARF: And these generational shifts and challenges, when you overthrow a dictator that has been in power – in some ways, in a very stable way, although I would disagree in the long term that it’s stable – where there – where you don’t have a lack of governance like you do today. When you go through these shifts in generational, they really are that. They can take years and years and years. When you sort of bring down the state structure that has existed under this kind of autocrat, that can take an incredibly long time, and it is certainly not easy. Are we happy with the situation in Libya from a governance or security perspective? No, absolutely not. However --

QUESTION: But it’s (inaudible).

MS. HARF: No, we aren’t. I think everyone would be --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- completely honest in saying that. Do I think the policy we’ve pursued has been the one driven by our interests, driven by supporting the Libyan people in a very complicated and complex place? I do. And I think that that’s why we’re going to keep working with the UN and we’re going to keep working with the Libyans. At the end of the day, though – this isn’t just a line, it’s true – this is ultimately up to the Libyan people, leaders in Libya, to take the security of their country into their own hands and try to move in a better direction with our help, with the UN and others’ help as well.

QUESTION: Marie --

QUESTION: Can we go back to Venezuela?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: You may not be able to comment on this yet, but apparently the meeting between the charge and the Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez has ended, and the foreign minister has told reporters that Maduro wants parity and is giving the U.S. 15 days – I’m assuming starting today –to cut its number of diplomats from 100 to 17, which is how many they say they have here in the U.S.

MS. HARF: Okay. Ros is breaking news in our briefing room, guys. I like it.

I have no idea what was discussed in the meeting because, as I said, it was ongoing when I came out here, or just ended. I can check on those reports and see if we have a response. In general, we had been concerned by the announcement that there were going to be additional visa requirements and restrictions, so let me check with our team. I don’t want to get ahead of a meeting that may have just ended.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- there are talks in the Middle East about forming a new Sunni alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. President Sisi was in Saudi Arabia and the Turkish president is still there. Do you have anything on this?

MS. HARF: On some random --

QUESTION: A new Sunni coalition to face --

MS. HARF: -- talks along some sort of commentary in the region about Sunni countries working together?

QUESTION: No. There are --

MS. HARF: Is there something more specific?

QUESTION: There are contacts and meetings that Saudi --

MS. HARF: Between countries that are – have – may have overlapping interests in the region? I don’t think that’s unusual or newsworthy necessarily.

QUESTION: But it’s new that Saudi Arabia is trying to reconcile between Egypt and Turkey to form a new Sunni coalition to face Iran in the future, and this is important for the U.S., I think.

MS. HARF: I’m not even sure how to address that kind of – look, there are countries in the region who are concerned about some of Iran’s destabilizing activity; we share a lot of those concerns. There are countries in the region who share concern about ISIL, about a range of other issues.

QUESTION: You wouldn’t have concerns about three U.S. allies coordinating more closely --

MS. HARF: Working together? I don’t think that I probably would – again, not knowing any details.

What else? Yes.

QUESTION: Recently, assistant deputy secretary of State Department has mentioned that THAAD is a defensive system against the North Korea threat. Has he acknowledged to THAAD is – the deployment in South Korea?

MS. HARF: I can check. Are you talking about Deputy Secretary Blinken?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Let me check with him. I can check and see if we have a response from him on that.

Anything else, guys? Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 27, 2015

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 14:24

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 27, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:33 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. We have two from AP again today. Congratulations on the birth of your new child, Brad. Exciting to expand the bullpen family.

Two items for all of you. One update on the Secretary's upcoming travel. In addition to traveling to Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and the UK, the Secretary will also travel to Paris, France on Saturday, March 7th to meet with French Foreign Minister Fabius. They will discuss a wide range of topics, including Ukraine, ISIL, and Iran nuclear negotiations.

On Bangladesh, the United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, which was horrific in its brutality and cowardice. Avijit was a journalist, a humanist, a husband, and a friend, and we extend our condolences to his family and friends. He was taken from us in a shocking act of violence. This was not just an attack against a person, but a cowardly assault on the universal principles enshrined in Bangladesh's constitution and the country's proud tradition of free intellectual and religious discourse.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Well, just on the Bangladesh --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, can I add one more thing?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: We have a couple of friends in the back here – hello – who are visiting with us today. So we have two ladies, Jennifer and Ali, visiting, and Joe, who is one of Ryan’s friends, who is also getting married soon.

Okay. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So on the Bangladesh murder --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- does the – is the Administration at a point where it can ascribe any kind of motive to this? Do you believe that it was anything more than just a murder? It certainly seems that the circumstances surrounding it would indicate that it is.

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have more information at this point. We, of course, will provide consular assistance as is appropriate. We’re also – stand ready to assist in the investigation if asked. Clearly, we know his background, which was why I outlined it, but don’t have anything to ascribe in terms of a motive in this case.

QUESTION: I don’t have anything else.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there anything you can tell us about the U.S.-Cuba talks that are now ongoing? I realize that they’re ongoing, but it struck me that you might have gotten some kind of readout from the morning sessions.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll wait to give the readout when Roberta Jacobson does her press conference or press availability at 4 o’clock this afternoon. As we talked about a little bit in advance, as you all remember, those of you who were there during the talks in Havana last month, the parties identified a set of issues that needed to be addressed as we reestablish diplomatic relations between our countries. They discussed at the time the opening of our embassies in our respective countries, and we certainly expect and hope that today will be an opportunity to build on our previous conversations and begin to find ways to address these issues. But again, there’s an availability in just a few hours.

QUESTION: Same topic? Same topic?

MS. PSAKI: Cuba?

QUESTION: Same --

QUESTION: Cuba, yeah. Could you explain --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll come back to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What – could you explain in your own terms as detailed as possible: What are the benefits of reopening with Cuba, as simple as that?

MS. PSAKI: The benefits of --

QUESTION: The benefits of reopening – reestablishing the relations with Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked about this quite a bit, but I’m happy to take the opportunity to reiterate. Clearly, the United States had a policy for 50 years that was broken, that wasn’t working. It didn’t work for our national security interests, it didn’t work for the people of Cuba and civil society activists in Cuba who wanted to have a greater voice and be able to communicate in a better way. And so the benefits are national security benefits, they’re economic benefits both to the United States as well as to the people of Cuba.

Obviously, we’ve put in place a number of steps through the Commerce Department to start to kind of open up some of our economic relationship. And obviously, there’s a great deal of work to go from here, but certainly we were a country in the region – in the hemisphere, I should say, that had a relationship that was different from most of the other hemispheres. So beyond our relationship with Cuba and the benefits to our national security interests and to the Cuban people, we also think this will be beneficial to our relationships in the region.

Cuba?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Since he just asked about Cuba --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, we’ll go to you, Matt, and Michele next if that works. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary has made a point of saying how the talks on normalization are distinct from the process underway on the state sponsor of terrorism review. The Cubans have noted repeatedly how they can’t do simple things like banking, normal business transactions, until that designation is lifted. While you guys have said that shouldn’t be the case, you haven’t been able to establish a banking client for them or – has that changed or --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- has there been any progress on that front?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. There are a couple of issues at play here. And what the Secretary was referring to was the fact that certainly any process to put a country on or off the state sponsor of terrorism list is a process that’s mandated by Congress. It has specific steps and requirements. We’re seeing that process through. It’s not completed.

Separately on the banking issue, we do continue to help the Cuban interests section find a long-term banking solution. We also encourage them to take action on their own behalf. Banking services, as is evidenced by the fact that Cuban officials have raised this, is an ongoing discussion, a subject of discussion for the parties. We have made amendments to the Cuban assets and control regulations that now provide a general licensing authority for U.S. depository institutions to operate accounts and extend credit to the official missions of the Government of Cuba. That’s a step we took. Since July 2013, which was when we first were informed the mission – that the mission’s then bank would sever its business relationship, this is something that we continue to work on. But of course, it’s up to independent financial institutions in the United States to make decisions about what kind of relationships they will proceed with.

QUESTION: When was that, the revision?

MS. PSAKI: I can check on that, Matt. I think it was – I believe it was late 2013 or early 2014. I’ll check.

QUESTION: Back when it first became a problem.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. But I can check on when we actually put the amendments in place.

QUESTION: Given that the Cubans at this point still don’t have that banking relationship yet with anyone in the United States, and presumably they would need that to be an embassy – I mean, you can’t strap cash to your body and come across the border every time you need to pay a paycheck.

QUESTION: Why not?

QUESTION: Well, you can, but that would hardly be normal relations, I would guess. Do you – don’t you see that these two things are, then, linked, even if the actual process of negotiation versus review are distinct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s separate the state sponsor of terrorism issue and that process, which is ongoing, from the banking question, which is one that we’ve worked on with the Cubans since prior to the announcement by the President in late December. We certainly support and have taken steps to enable them to have access to this financial process. It’s an ongoing discussion. We haven’t, obviously, found a solution quite yet, but we’ve taken a number of steps and we’ll continue to discuss it. And certainly it’s discussed – continues to be discussed with the Cubans.

Oh, Michele, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just a question about the terrorism list.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there – there are members of Congress – Menendez, for instance, wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry about this, telling him to consider the fact that there – that Cuba still houses fugitives from U.S. law – fugitives from the U.S. And I wonder if that is part of the consideration. I mean, do they deserve to be on a terrorism list because they’re harboring people who are criminals here in the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of factors that are taken into account in the process, and the Secretary spoke a little bit to this earlier today. That process is one that has been mandated by Congress, and we certainly respect. In terms of the specific criteria or which components we look at, I don’t believe I can get into that level of detail. But I can certainly check if there’s more specifics.

QUESTION: Can you just confirm this is a decision the State Department makes on its own, there’s no congressional – you just notify Congress about it?

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to --

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Cuba before we continue? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that fighting ISIS was not a priority of Turkey, and basically accused Turkey of allowing thousands of fighters to go in. How is that juxtaposed with the agreement that you signed with Turkey on the 19th of this month?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly refer you to DNI for any specific comments or questions you have about Director Clapper’s comments. I will say that Turkey remains an important partner. They have taken steps on every aspect of our anti-ISIL coalition, which is not just military; it is also cracking down on foreign fighters. It’s also about financing. It’s also about delegitimizing ISIL. From the beginning, we’ve said that there’s more that the global community can do, and we’ve worked with countries, including Turkey, to take those steps. I think you’re referring to the train and equip program that there – an agreement was signed on that. Or which are you referring to?

QUESTION: Well, yeah, I mean, you signed an agreement, presumably all designed so you and they could fight ISIS as a priority. But what he said, he said very clearly – that this was not a priority for Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re making or – I addressed that question, but --

QUESTION: I’m asking you --

MS. PSAKI: -- how are you making a link between the train and equip program and --

QUESTION: I’m making – because, I mean, at the end of the day you are training the Syrian opposition, train and equip and so on. So you’re saying --

MS. PSAKI: Which are heavily vetted through the DOD process.

QUESTION: That’s fine. Let me rephrase that question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So there are two separate issues. Train and equip is one thing, but Turkey is not cooperating in the fight against ISIS is another thing.

MS. PSAKI: I think I just addressed that question. Do we have any more on ISIL?

QUESTION: No – one last one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you disagree with the director of national intelligence?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just addressed it, Said. Any more on ISIL?

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Kind of related, Turkey. How do you define that – you said it’s still (inaudible) Turkey and U.S. relations while the Turkey, they – in a recent visit of Secretary of Defense, he went to Middle East and but – and didn’t visit Turkey, which is part of the coalition, supposedly. And but he didn’t go there. And there’s – and also I think Secretary Kerry is going to the Middle East and that area, but he’s not also going to Turkey. Is that still a normal relation between Turkey and U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey remains an important partner. Turkey’s a NATO ally. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk have been there I’m not sure even how many times. The Secretary speaks with his counterpart on a regular basis, and I think you certainly understand that on every trip, we don’t visit every country; otherwise we’d never return to the United States, right?

QUESTION: Sometimes it feels that way.

MS. PSAKI: It does feel that way sometimes. But that – I wouldn’t make any connection. There’s zero connection there.

Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: One on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The – there are reports suggesting that its first choice for getting a missile defense system – and I may be getting this wrong – trying to strike a deal with China for missiles is running into trouble. Do you have a comment on that and how that’s affecting any negotiations with the U.S. on getting these missiles?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that. I think we talked about this maybe a couple of weeks ago, Roz, or several days ago. Our priority is often that it is NATO operable and that – interoperable – sorry, it’s a Friday afternoon. And so that’s certainly something we convey to Turkey or any other country, but we can certainly check on our involvement in this recently.

QUESTION: That would be good. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On this same question. Said just mentioned but I just want more elaboration on it.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Clapper’s comment he basically said that Turkey – ISIL is not priority for Turkey. As a result they are able to travel into the country, through the country --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add to what I just conveyed.

QUESTION: So don’t you think it’s contradicting, for example, with Allen’s comment or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Related to ISIS. Back in August 2007, then DNI Mike McConnell in an interview with the El Paso Times was asked about terrorist activity on the U.S.-Mexico border. He said, quote, “So are terrorists coming across the southwest border? Not in great numbers,” end quote. He went on to say, quote, “There are some. And would they use it as a path given it was available to them, in time they will,” he said, end quote. Then he went on to say, quote, “There were a significant number of Iraqis who came across last year, smuggled across illegally,” end quote. And speaking about those Iraqis he said, quote, “Now some we caught; some we didn’t. The ones that get in” --

MS. PSAKI: Do you have a question in here?

QUESTION: Yes. I just want to put on the record what he said because it’s a predicate for the question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: He said, “The ones that get in, what are they going to do? They’re going to write home. So it’s not rocket science, word will get around.” So my question is: First of all, does the State Department have any reason to doubt what then-DNI McConnell said about significant number of Iraqis crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States as of 2006?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re asking me about comments made from another agency almost two years ago. So I would suggest you refer your question to DNI.

QUESTION: Actually, he made it in 2007. Does the State Department --

MS. PSAKI: 2007, I’m sorry. Eight years ago.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So you say you don’t have any reason to doubt it.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information about that. I’d refer you to DNI. Do you have any --

QUESTION: All right. Now, if an Iraqi entered the U.S. illegally before 2010 and had a child here, he would be eligible for the Administration’s delayed action program on immigration. Does the State Department have any way to absolutely confirm the identity or check the background of an illegal alien who came in from – who came from a part of Iraq that’s now controlled by ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: You’re asking a purely hypothetical question about a domestic issue, so either you can go send your question to DNI or the White House.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have any reason to --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re moving on. You’re not asking a State Department-related question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. Wendy Sherman was at Carnegie earlier today and she mentioned plans for a three-way ministerial in Korea. I was just wondering if there was anything more you can tell us about that. Does that envision to be Secretary Kerry and his two counterparts or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional details. I think you may have seen that the Secretary referenced an interest in going back to Asia sometime soon. That’s not planned yet. Obviously, there’s also been a number of senior officials who have traveled there recently, including Under Secretary Sherman, including Deputy Secretary Blinken. So no details quite yet, but it’s just an indication of our desire to continue that dialogue.

QUESTION: So there is a desire to have a high-level meeting between the U.S., Japan, and Korea during --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know we’ve had them before.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: And so I think she’s referencing an interest in continuing to do that.

QUESTION: And she said also that there is a vision for a summit to be held after that. Is that also envisioned to be in a trilateral basis with the U.S. and two partner countries?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – we don’t have details yet. Some of this will be an ongoing discussion with the countries involved.

QUESTION: Still on Asia?

MS. PSAKI: On Asia? Go ahead.

QUESTION: So Under Secretary Sherman also mentioned that the U.S. would support China’s proposal for an Asia international investment infrastructure bank. But she just mentioned that provided this – founding documents, included proper standards, based on other international institutions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Which institutions was she referring to?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our team if there’s more specifics we can outline.

QUESTION: And the --

MS. PSAKI: And we’ve talked about this a bit from here in the past.

QUESTION: But she was saying that U.S. support would be conditioned on the founding documents containing certain standards?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll get you a little more information or we can certainly connect you with an expert from our bureau.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. A few days ago you stated that you had advocated through Ambassador Warlick the release of two Azerbaijani hostages held by the separatist authorities. According to Armenian media reports from yesterday, Foreign Minister Nalbandian stated that none of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs have called for the release of these hostages. Can you confirm or clarify if Ambassador Warlick, indeed, made those calls to release the hostages?

MS. PSAKI: I believe I was referencing, I think, public comments that were made. So I would point you to that, and I certainly made those calls from here. So those reflect the position of the Department and everybody up in the senior ranks.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Ukraine. The other day on the Hill the Secretary said that the Russians had been lying and had lied to his face. Presumably, he was referring to Foreign Minister Lavrov, whom he is supposed to meet on Monday in Switzerland, But Foreign Minister Lavrov appears to have taken exception to the suggestion that he is lying to Secretary Kerry’s face, saying it was not – this was not a diplomatic comment, to say the least. I’m wondering if you have any reaction, response, or thought – other thoughts on this little episode.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Secretary was referring to comments made broadly, not as specific as you suggest, but privately and certainly publicly that any claims that we’ve seen publicly many, many times that Russia has not had a hand in or engagement in what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. And that’s certainly a statement of fact. We’ve seen a great deal of evidence that confirms that.

QUESTION: Right. But – so the Secretary is – did not mean to say or imply that Foreign Minister Lavrov had lied to his face?

MS. PSAKI: He wasn’t referring to a specific meeting, but we have seen comments made, countless comments made, consistently made by the Russian – by Russian officials suggesting they have no involvement in Ukraine. We know that’s not factual.

QUESTION: Well, let me just ask this then: Has the Secretary met face-to-face with any other Russian official than Foreign Minister Lavrov?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re taking his comment a little literally. He’s talking about comments that Russia has consistently made. They don’t claim – make different claims privately. But he was making a broad point about their claims about their lack of involvement.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it’s not me that – it’s Foreign Minister Lavrov who had made the comment.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, let me clarify it in that way then.

QUESTION: So you would not say that Foreign Minister Lavrov has lied to Secretary Kerry’s face about Russian involvement in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I think he is conveying that any statement made publicly or privately by any Russian official --

QUESTION: Is a lie.

MS. PSAKI: -- that they have no involvement in Ukraine we know is clearly not --

QUESTION: A lie.

MS. PSAKI: -- inaccurate.

QUESTION: Not a lie?

QUESTION: What’s up with the “to my face” aspect of it though, because that really does imply that it’s – people have said things directly to him that were lies. It doesn’t imply that; it states that.

MS. PSAKI: He sees public comments. He reads the newspaper. He certainly, as I just said, public – privately and publicly, there are the same claims made.

QUESTION: As far as you --

QUESTION: So people have lied to his face then just --

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m – I think I have addressed this question.

QUESTION: But as far as you know, the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov is still on?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and they’ll talk about Ukraine and the Secretary will reiterate our concerns. I expect they’ll also talk about a range of issues. They certainly have had disagreements in the past, and we’ve still worked with them on issues like the Iran negotiations, and that will continue.

QUESTION: I understand that. But I mean, I don’t believe the Secretary of State has ever said publicly that he’s being lied to --

QUESTION: To his face.

QUESTION: -- to his face.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: So as far as you know, the meeting is still on?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And they still have a cordial working relationship?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Did Secretary of State Kerry during his call warn President Abbas not to suspend security cooperation with Israel?

MS. PSAKI: I can give you a readout, Said. As we noted yesterday – and you asked for a readout, so here we are to deliver – he spoke to President Abbas on Wednesday. They discussed current dynamics between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and the importance of ensuring the financial viability of the Palestinian Authority. The Secretary also detailed his efforts with key stakeholders to prevent a crisis in the West Bank and the way ahead in the coming months.

I have a couple of other answers to some of the other questions you asked yesterday, if you’d like me to tick through them.

QUESTION: Right. Please, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. You asked about Israel flooding – reports of Israel flooding. We don’t have confirmation of that. We continue to be concerned, of course, about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and we’re working with our international partners, including the Government of Israel, to support recovery and reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

I believe Michael, who I don’t think is here, asked also yesterday about reports that came out during the briefing about Israel confirming it will supply water and electric power to Rawabi and other Palestinian cities. We’re looking forward to the Rawabi complex receiving the water it needs to function, and that deliberate electricity cuts to Palestinian cities in the West Bank will cease. We support all efforts to improve the investment climate and generate greater prosperity and opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis. And of course, we encourage the continued dialogue on lasting solutions regarding electricity and water supplies.

QUESTION: Okay. Will the --

QUESTION: Do you know – related to Gaza --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- apparently, there’s several thousand, or maybe even more than several thousand Gazans who want to go on the Haj who are not able to leave because the Egyptians have closed the border. Do you know if this is a subject that you’ve raised with Egypt at all or if it is even on your radar?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that, Matt. I don’t know at the top of my head.

QUESTION: If I could just ask --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the same topic --

QUESTION: On the West Bank, yeah. Since last week when you mentioned the urgent financial needs of the Palestinians and then the Secretary repeated it in London on Saturday, firstly, has the U.S. rushed any emergency financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority? And secondly, in that time, has there been – are you aware of any broader financial support that’s been delivered?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on others, Brad. I think our assistance has – is pretty extensive and has been for quite some time. And some of the challenges has been that there are additional needs beyond the assistance that we provide, but I can check if others have provided. And I think the point we’re making and the reason we’re raising this frequently is because it is a dire situation and one that needs a greater deal of financial assistance.

QUESTION: But no new U.S. financial support to meet this new crisis to – since you both have made these calls, there has been no new U.S. financial support to the Palestinians; is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, but we have provided a range of assistance in the past.

QUESTION: Very quickly --

MS. PSAKI: That’s ongoing, obviously, including ongoing projects.

QUESTION: The PA today claims that the Israelis bulldozed Roman ruins between my village, Abu Dis, and the next adjacent village. I wonder if you have any comment on this. Under the pretext that it is a closed military area. Do you have any information on this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check into those reports, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Same topic also, which is --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Why press reports this morning from Palestinian press is headlining, actually – if you could deny that or confirm it – I don’t know, really.

MS. PSAKI: What is the headline? I have to see.

QUESTION: The headline is Kerry – Mr. Kerry threatening Abbas of U.S. sanctions if he even dared to stop the security cooperation with Israel. That’s the headlines from this morning, actually, coming from the local press over there.

MS. PSAKI: I just addressed the question of what they discussed, and I think that certainly isn’t consistent with what I just outlined in terms of their call.

QUESTION: They said during the phone call.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Well, I would – I just gave you a readout of the phone call.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In Kurdistan, there is – a journalist has been arrested by the Kurdish security forces in Dohuk. Are you aware of that? Saba (ph), his name.

MS. PSAKI: A Kurdish journalist has been arrested?

QUESTION: Journalist, yes, few weeks ago.

MS. PSAKI: By Kurdish authorities?

QUESTION: By Kurdish authorities, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s Friday.

MS. PSAKI: It’s Friday.

QUESTION: Happy Friday. So I have to ask you: What color is the dress? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: What dress?

QUESTION: Oh my God. Where have you been?

QUESTION: Where have you been?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve been trying to follow up on questions you guys have. I need to check some social media or something. (Laughter.)

(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 26, 2015

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 17:05

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 26, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:51 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone. Hello. Happy Thursday. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.

QUESTION: Do any of them have to do with the International Women of Courage?

MS. PSAKI: No. But we can come --

QUESTION: I just got a note --

MS. PSAKI: We can come with that tomorrow if you would like.

QUESTION: I just got a note that I have only three hours left to apply for it. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to burst your bubble, Matt, but --

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: -- I don’t think you need to invite friends and family for next week.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Secretary Kerry will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on March 2nd to address the high-level segment of the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. While in Geneva, the Secretary will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to discuss Ukraine and regional issues of common interest.

The Secretary will then travel to Montreux, Switzerland, to met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the ongoing EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations.

From Montreux, the Secretary will travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to meet with King Salman and other senior Saudi officials to discuss the situation in Yemen, ISIL, and other issues of shared concern.

And finally, from Riyadh the Secretary will then travel to London, United Kingdom, where he will meet with Gulf foreign ministers to discuss shared regional priorities.

On Syria, reports today – Tuesday from Human Rights Watch and today from the Syrian Network for Human Rights document the Assad regime’s continued widespread use of barrel bombs. These credible reports highlight the daily horrors facing Syrians and further expose Bashar al-Assad’s insulting and blatant lies to the media and his citizens that regime forces don’t use these weapons.

Echoing the UN Commission of Inquiry’s February 20th findings on the range of regime atrocities against Syrians, Human Rights Watch and the Syrian Network for Human Rights confirmed for the third time in less than one week that the Assad regime inflicts daily terror on the Syrian people with barrel bombs, which have killed an estimated 12,000 people, mainly civilians.

We’ve been clear that there’s no better recruiting tool for ISIL than the brutality of the Assad regime. As we have long said, Bashar al-Assad lost legitimacy long ago and will never be an effective counterterrorism partner.

While the Assad regime continues to massacre the Syrian people, I would also like to highlight, by stark contrast, the moderate opposition’s work this week in Paris, where two major parties, the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the National Coordination Body, met and recorded agreement on a draft roadmap for a political solution that would ultimately stop the bloodshed. The effort reflects the moderate opposition’s ongoing work for a democratic, pluralistic, united Syria that fully respects the state of law and the rights of every citizen through a negotiated process consistent with the principles of the Geneva communique.

With that --

QUESTION: On the trip, just for one – is that what were you going to ask? Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: On the trip. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I just wanted – when did you say the date – did you give the days of the meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the first day in Geneva with the Human Rights Council meeting is Monday.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Then he will travel to Montreux, so he’ll be there Monday evening. Tuesday/ Wednesday he’ll travel to Saudi Arabia. He’ll be there Thursday, and then London Friday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what date his meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif will be? Will they be Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or possibly all of the above --

MS. PSAKI: It’s still being worked through, Arshad, so I’ll expect I’ll have more on that in the next 24 to 48 hours.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let’s get this over with, because I know that you won’t have a lot to say about it, but about the name – the revelation of the name of this Jihadi John guy. I’m – I don’t expect you to say anything more than any of your colleagues have said, but I’m just wondering, the description or – the description of this person, whether or not this is or is not his name, is of a middle-class, college-educated person who had a job, who had employment. And I’m just wondering if the fact – that fact, if it is in fact true, gives you any pause to the idea that it is primarily economic disadvantagement, joblessness, that kind of thing that is fueling this rise in the Islamic extremism.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just reiterate, just for everybody, some on-the-record points here, just so everybody has them. We continue to investigate the murder of American citizens by ISIL. We will not comment on ongoing investigations and, therefore, are not in a position to confirm or deny the identity of this individual. As the President has said, no matter how long it takes, the United States will not rest until we find and hold accountable the terrorists who are responsible for the murders of our citizens. We are working closely with our international partners, including, of course, the British Government, to do everything we can to bring these murderers to justice. Along with our coalition partners, we will continue to lead the fight to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.

Broadly speaking on your question, without addressing the specific reports about the individuals, I think our view is that that is a factor in terms of the lack of opportunity. But we’re not suggesting it’s the only factor. There are a range of tactics that ISIL, of course, takes.

QUESTION: Could I just --

QUESTION: Sorry. Just one more --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) if I may.

QUESTION: Yeah, on the same --

QUESTION: This one is back to the travel. Is --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. For the trip? The --

QUESTION: Yeah. Is it clear that the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov will be on Monday in Switzerland?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: In Geneva, rather.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Good. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead, Barbara. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Sotloff family spokesman said that the family was relieved to have a name of the killer and that they wanted this man to be brought to justice, to be brought to a court, to trial. Is there any – do you think that the fact that he’s known now or been named, is that a step towards bringing him to justice?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would refer you to the British authorities and the British Government, and they have spoken to this and put out their own comments. And I’ve seen those, as I’m sure you have as well and reported on them, and they’ve alluded to their commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

QUESTION: But the Americans are also, you said, committed to that, given that this man has killed American citizens.

MS. PSAKI: Of course. We’re – and as I mentioned, we’re working with our British counterparts as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) argument that this makes it harder to find him?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate. I think obviously we do everything we can to track down individuals working with our partners. And clearly in this case, our partners in the UK have the lead.

QUESTION: And you can’t – I’m sure you can’t, but let me just ask anyway.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: Can you address whether the U.S. Government has – regardless of whether the individual identified is, indeed, the person who killed the U.S. citizens, has that person’s name not been known to U.S. authorities for a long time?

MS. PSAKI: That’s just not something I can add more to.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you on the same topic --

MS. PSAKI: On the same issue that Barbara and Arshad --

QUESTION: Yeah, Mohammed Emwazi, this Daesh – John --

MS. PSAKI: The reported name?

QUESTION: The ISIS – whatever. He was born in Kuwait. Now, Kuwait is also known to – or many Kuwaitis are known to have supported ISIS, both with funds and recruits and so on. Is there any correlation between the two? Or, I mean, are you – do you know his family --

MS. PSAKI: Well, just because I think it’s important to be careful here, as I mentioned, I’m not in a position to confirm or deny the identity of this individual. The United Kingdom has the lead on that. I will say, broadly speaking, as it relates to Kuwait and any country in the region or the coalition, we are certainly aware that the issue of terrorist financing, the issue of support for some of these networks is something that has existed in some of these countries. There are a number of steps that have been taken. This is why these components are an important part of our coalition efforts.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know I asked you this before, on rehabilitation – the people who are British or are Americans and so on who are there. What recourse they have to come back --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to offer to you, Said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So recognizing that you’re not confirming this person’s identity, can I ask what you think of the claims from this Muslim group CAGE and from people who are friends of the individual that say that the fact that he was mistreated at airports and other places by figures of authority contributed to his radicalization? Is that a concern that this Administration --

MS. PSAKI: I just – because our British friends have the lead on this – this is – there’s an ongoing active investigation. I’m just not going to speculate on those reports.

QUESTION: But broadly speaking, is there concern that the way that individuals could be profiled or treated --

MS. PSAKI: But those are related to a specific individual, so it’s just not beneficial for us to entertain or address them.

Go ahead. Justin?

QUESTION: Do you have – is there a reason you won’t confirm or deny his identity? Do you have no intelligence on --

MS. PSAKI: The British authorities have the lead on this, so I would point you to them. And we are deferring to them.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And they have done the same thing.

QUESTION: How long have you had the identity of – how long have you had his identity?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have more information to share, Justin.

QUESTION: Because on the issue of rehabilitation, yesterday or the day before, the Iraqi foreign minister said that “We are willing to talk to ISIS, to bring them back into the fold.” Is that something that he should have said --

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check out his remarks, Said.

Let’s finish this topic, and then I’m happy to move on to a new one. Do we have any more on ISIL or this general area? Go ahead. ISIL? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, ISIL, but in Iraq, in Mosul.

MS. PSAKI: In Mosul?

QUESTION: Yes. Today, they destroyed one of the museums in Mosul. Did you have any reaction to – or have you seen the footage and would you confirm that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation. Obviously, broadly speaking, we’ve seen not just the brutality of ISIL; we’ve seen the horrific acts that they have undertaken around the world, the disrespect for historic sites, and certainly, this seems consistent with that.

QUESTION: Also, in Syrian side, yesterday there were reports that about 100 or 150 Christians were hostages. Do you have an update on the --

MS. PSAKI: Let me see. I don’t think I have too much of an update, but let me give you what I have on that. Let’s see here. Oh. One moment. And I know you probably saw the statements that we put out both from the NSC and from the Department that underscored that the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms ISIL’s brutal attacks in recent days on predominantly Syrian Christian villages in the northeast Syrian province. We’ve seen reported estimates of 100 to 350 civilians captured. Obviously, that’s a broad range. I don’t have any more specifics to confirm for you.

QUESTION: Do you communicate with the Turkish Government in this – on this specific issue whether they can do any kind of assistance for these hostages?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly – and you’re right, there are – ISIL burned and destroyed homes and churches. The violence has reportedly displaced more than 3,000 people. Obviously, we’re talking about the kidnapping of scores of civilians, including women, children, priests, and the elderly. Certainly, we’re in touch with our coalition partners about this horrific act and a determination of what can be done.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we move on to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Syria-Iraq while we’re there? Okay. Go ahead. To Iran, sure.

QUESTION: Yeah, just some – looking for some context on the characterization of the Netanyahu speech. I know we talked about it quite a bit. But at AIPAC’s policy conference last year, the Secretary made the following comment. He said, “No one can question why Israel looks at the Iranian program and sees an existential threat. We understand it. We understand it in our gut.” And you’ve said similar things.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So my first question is: Does the United States still agree with Netanyahu, which is the way he’s justifying his visit, that this poses an existential threat to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me say that a nuclear deal with Iran is not just about our national security interests and the security of our allies, including Israel. It’s about the security of the global community. And certainly, we – the Secretary, the United States, our P5+1 partners – would not be investing as much time and energy as we are in the pursuit of a nuclear deal if we didn’t believe that this was an existential threat, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. And you’ve said previously that you believe that a deal would be good for Israel’s national security interests. But do you see any tension between that and the acknowledgement recently that you are no longer fully briefing the Israelis on what they consider to be a national security issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve addressed this quite a bit in here, I know on some days where you weren’t able to be here, which is fine. And I conveyed that we have provided an unprecedented level of information. We will – we have continued to consult at every level with the Israeli Government. We will continue to do that in the days and weeks ahead. I don’t have anything to add to what I conveyed on that last week.

QUESTION: Okay. I assume you reject the notion that the Administration knows better what’s in Israel’s national security interests than the Israeli Government.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been pretty clear on that point.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do you have any more Iran questions or should we move on?

QUESTION: I do.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. Or do you have another one? Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Why don’t we go to Matt?

MS. PSAKI: You want Matt to go and we’ll go back to you? Okay. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Yesterday when he was testifying on the Hill, the Secretary questioned Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judgment about his opposition to a potential Iran deal, and one of the reasons why he cited for questioning it was because the prime minister – before he was prime minister in his current iteration – was supportive of the 2003 Iraq war. And in fact – well, he just said supported it and vocally – vocal – was a vocal supporter of it. And I’m wondering if you can explain a bit more about what he meant since there were a lot of people, including himself at one point, who were supporters of that war, and why this makes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judgment suspect and does not make anyone else’s judgment suspect.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary was simply stating the fact that as has been recorded, and in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own words, that he was a strong supporter of the Iraq war. He raised this to make the point that no one is infallible, including himself too, and that it’s important to approach international challenges with an open mind and with all of the options in mind.

I think I wouldn’t compare, though, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strong and vocal support for the Iraq war, and I would point you to the fact that the Secretary himself at the time also spoke out quite a bit about the path that the current – the administration at the time took and his opposition to many of those actions. So I wouldn’t put them in the exact same category.

But regardless of that, his point was about where we are with the Iran negotiations, and that we have to look at all of the options, look at all of the information that’s available, to – and have an open mind about how to approach this. And that’s what he’s asking from the prime minister.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, but you do understand why there are people who can’t really understand why he would use that, at least? I mean, I’m sure that there may be other things that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been wrong about, if – what --

MS. PSAKI: He was making more of a forward-looking comment --

QUESTION: Does it have to do --

MS. PSAKI: -- about looking ahead to what we’re debating and what we’re discussing, and that was the point he was making.

QUESTION: And I suppose – I guess it is a relief that he’s willing to concede that no one is infallible, including himself. Does that --

MS. PSAKI: That includes – that is true, right? Even all of us.

QUESTION: Does that include the Pope?

QUESTION: Does that include the President?

QUESTION: Or the Pope?

MS. PSAKI: No one is infallible, Matt. I think that’s true.

QUESTION: But – so, okay. Well, so if no one is infallible, how is it possible that Prime Minister Netanyahu here in his opposition to a potential Iran deal is wrong and you guys are all right?

MS. PSAKI: What – the point the --

QUESTION: There is a – is there not a potential --

MS. PSAKI: Let me be --

QUESTION: -- that you guys are wrong about this?

MS. PSAKI: The point the Secretary was making is that as we look to the Iran deal, let’s look at what the components are, let’s look at what the final details are, let’s look at whether or not it prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which we all agree is in the interests of Israel, it’s in the interests of the global community. Let’s not make a prior judgment.

QUESTION: But it’s the – but what is being opposed here is not that. You set that up as something that – as what is being – what the opposition is for.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think most would argue --

QUESTION: The opposition isn’t for that --

MS. PSAKI: -- that there is an effort to prejudge an outcome when the details are not yet known.

QUESTION: Well, but it’s the approach that the prime minister has an issue with, not the goal that you both – that I think he would say that you share with him, which is to prevent Iran from --

MS. PSAKI: And we’ve said we have a disagreement on that.

QUESTION: But he says that – but he says – yeah, but he says that this is not the way to do that. And if you’re admitting that no one is infallible, or if that’s what the Secretary meant to say, and citing specifically Prime Minister Netanyahu and not any of the other people who perhaps didn’t support the Iraq war but are still opposed to the Iran nuclear --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we look forward to hearing what the alternative is, then. We haven’t seen a proposal on that front, Matt.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just follow up on this point very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Just to understand the context in which this was said.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: When he talked about Netanyahu and the Iraq war. Did he say it in a way saying that look, this was wrong at the time to go into this kind of war, that – the fact that to go on false premise perhaps is very dangerous, is that what he was trying to convey?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m going to leave it at what I conveyed.

Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just – I know you had mentioned that you don’t have – you have a policy of non-interference in Middle East elections including the Israeli election.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you at all fear that accusing the prime minister of politicizing the U.S.-Israel relationship --

MS. PSAKI: Did I just do that?

QUESTION: No, but --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Then what are you referring to?

QUESTION: Are you saying that – are you saying that the Administration has not accused the prime minister of politicizing the U.S.-Israel relationship?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not. But what is your question or your point?

QUESTION: I’m asking, have the comments in recent days that have certainly suggested that the prime minister is responsible for politicizing the relationship, making it a relationship between Likud and the Republicans, as the President said, is --

MS. PSAKI: The – simply a suggestion of the fact that it is – our relationship is not a partisan relationship. It’s a relationship between two countries, and we hope that that will continue.

QUESTION: But do you fear that that – the characterization that has been perpetuated, do you fear it risks leaving some Israeli voters with the slightest impression of interference?

MS. PSAKI: We did not ask or push for the whole process that’s been handled in the way it has been handled to be handled in the way it’s been handled. So I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary disappointed that he’ll be missing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC as well as his speech to Congress for an important meeting in Montreux with the foreign minister of Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the timing of our negotiations are based on what makes sense in the talks, and obviously, we’re just a couple of weeks away, as you all know, from our goal of agreeing on a political framework. So it was the necessity to – to meet next week.

QUESTION: Okay. One other thing that the Secretary was asked about and spoke of in his hearings yesterday, or maybe it was the day before – I think it was yesterday – was the revelation or the alleged revelation by the Mujahedin-e Khalq of this alleged parallel nuclear program run out of this structure. The Secretary, when he was asked about it, said that you guys were – are aware of this.

MS. PSAKI: Of these claims, yes.

QUESTION: No, not of the claims. He specifically said that he was – that you guys were aware of this facility and that it was something that was going to have to be addressed. Does that mean that you’re aware of this and you have concluded that it is not a problem? You are aware of it and concluded that it is a problem, in which case it will have to be addressed? And if it does have to be addressed, does it have to be addressed in this – in these nuclear talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t have any information at this time to support the conclusion of the report.

QUESTION: Well, but he said it would have to be addressed. So what does that – that’s what I – he said the issue with this facility --

MS. PSAKI: That we’d look into the reports and – but obviously, we don’t have any information to suggest that the conclusions in the reports are accurate.

QUESTION: But you can’t say that they’re inaccurate either, right? You don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any information to suggest they are. So I guess it’s --

QUESTION: One way or another. But so is that what he meant when he said that this would – that these – this is one of the questions that has to be addressed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll look into the reports. We don’t have any information at this point in time to suggest the conclusions are accurate.

QUESTION: Well, right, but wouldn’t it make sense to make sure that either the conclusions are inaccurate or accurate before you proceed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, right. But he was asked the question, so he answered the question, just as I am. But --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, does that mean that the talks that are going on – that are ongoing right now and the talks that will resume in Montreux next week don’t depend on the resolution one way or another for this --

MS. PSAKI: No. I mean, if anything changes with our – what information we have, then we’ll address that at the time. But it’s – that’s not the case right now.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, and I know this is a hypothetical but I think it’s an important one, are you saying that you could go ahead and conclude a deal with the Iranians if they agree to (inaudible) without these allegations being disproven?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in our view, they haven’t been proven, so it’s sort of disproving a negative. Obviously, we’ll look into the reports, but we don’t have any information as the U.S. Government to conclude that these are accurate.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you – but you don’t have any information to conclude that they’re inaccurate either. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: I guess we could play this game all day, but --

QUESTION: Well, it’s – well, no, it’s not a game. I just – if you don’t know one way or another, wouldn’t it make sense to find out?

MS. PSAKI: The report came out yesterday or the day before, correct.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any information to support it or conclude it from the United States Government. If that changes, I’m sure we’ll address it.

QUESTION: But it – but the – I – the Secretary said that it was one of many questions that had to be addressed, and I’m wondering if it has to be addressed.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just trying to convey what he meant from here.

QUESTION: Okay. But – so that leads me to believe, and correct me if I’m wrong, that it’s possible for a deal to be done – a framework deal or a full deal, without the answers to these --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s purely a hypothetical. Obviously, we said we’re looking into these reports that came out 24 to 48 hours ago. We don’t have information to support them at this time.

QUESTION: But it suggests – but what he said suggests that you were aware of this facility before these reports came out. Is that wrong? Am I – did I misinterpret what he said?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look at his remarks. I – again --

QUESTION: Well, can you answer? Do you know if you were aware of this facility and the possible – and the possibility that this facility was being used in a nefarious way before the MEK made its announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given we don’t have any information to support the actual report, I would just leave you with what I’ve conveyed on this.

QUESTION: Jen, would it be fair to say that you will find out one way or the other, before you move forward on this process, whether or not the reports are accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’ve said we’d look into the reports. I don’t know what information will be available to support them, if any. So we’ll look into them. If there’s an update, we’ll provide that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) when you said we don’t have any information to support the conclusion of the report. The central conclusion of the report was that this was an undeclared nuclear facility, which of course, would be in violation of their NPT commitments, et cetera. Can you say that that is the central – that is indeed the conclusion that you’re referring to?

MS. PSAKI: That’s, yes, my understanding.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And can I just – I just want to make sure I understand this. You are saying that you have no way to prove or disprove the allegation that was made in – yesterday. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I don’t understand --

MS. PSAKI: To prove. I don’t know about disproving reports from an outside organization that has a record of putting out information that sometimes is inaccurate.

QUESTION: Right. But that is a big “sometimes,” because they did put out in at least one instance that I’m aware of.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, but we’re talking about --

QUESTION: So, pretty – it’s pretty accurate information, so --

MS. PSAKI: If we have information to provide in addition to what I said, we will provide that. I don’t have any more to share at this point in time.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Why don’t we do peace – or Middle East?

QUESTION: Very quickly. The Secretary called Mahmoud Abbas yesterday. Could you --

MS. PSAKI: He did. I don’t have a readout of that, Said. I’m happy to – we can get you one after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Are they taking any measures, because of the – the PA is really on the verge of collapse completely?

MS. PSAKI: As we’ve discussed quite a bit in here.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you if you are aware of the attacks that were conducted – the burning of a mosque and then a church today.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: If you have any comment on that.

MS. PSAKI: We are concerned by recent attacks against Christian and Muslim religious sites, namely the arson and vandalism of a mosque in the Palestinian village of Al-Jaba’ah west of Bethlehem, on February 24th, and today’s arson and vandalism at the Greek Orthodox seminary on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. We condemn these attacks. Such provocative and hateful acts are never justified.

QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, the Israelis have flooded the areas – farm areas of Gaza with some waste water and so on. Do you have any comment on that? Are you aware --

MS. PSAKI: With some waste?

QUESTION: Yeah, waste water, whatever, I don’t know what they call it.

MS. PSAKI: I can check into those reports.

QUESTION: Could you check? Yes.

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

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding that the Secretary is on the Hill meeting Senate Democrats?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is that about?

MS. PSAKI: He has been, obviously, consulting quite a bit with Congress over the last couple of days. And as I understand it, this came about from a conversation with Senator Reid about continuing to have discussions about a range of issues.

QUESTION: But is it – I mean, is it a classified briefing?

MS. PSAKI: I can check. I don’t believe so, though, Arshad. I think it’s just an effort to continue to consult while he’s in town.

QUESTION: Does it have to do with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit and whether or not they attend his speech?

MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. That is a decision that senators will make. I expect it’s more likely they’ll talk about a range of foreign policy issues that we’re all talking about today and he talked about in the briefing yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you check and let us know if that is indeed what it was about?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But it’s not about whether or not they attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s --

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. National Security Advisor Susan Rice met yesterday with State Councilor Yang Jiechi of China in New York City.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on it?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House. They would have a readout of our national security advisor’s meetings.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you. And thank you, Jen, for the last two years bearing asking --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, thanks.

QUESTION: -- Turkey questions and your (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: My pleasure.

QUESTION: On Turkey – this question was asked to you about a week ago, that there is this security bill. Now it’s being passed at parliament one by one. About thirty of them have passed. And leading rights groups across the globe, like Freedom House or Amnesty International – actually, Amnesty International waged a worldwide campaign against the bill. They claim that this bill is going to undermine democracy or threatens “human rights.” What is your comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment on the bill. It’s an internal matter for Turkey. As you know, we speak regularly, including in our annual human rights report, about any concerns we have about media freedoms and freedom to protest and other issues.

QUESTION: So these groups says that this bill must be stopped. And Susan Corke, director of the Freedom House, says it is no exaggeration to say that the future of Turkish democracy hangs in the balance with this law. And you are telling me that it’s internal matter, it is --

MS. PSAKI: I just conveyed what our views are on human rights, on freedom of speech. I don’t have anything to add. If there is, I’m happy to share that with you.

Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Just – sorry, quickly back to --

MS. PSAKI: Israel?

QUESTION: -- Israel and the Palestinian issues.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the prime minister’s office says that Israel will be hooking up the new Palestinian city of Rawabi to Israel’s water grid and would take some of the frozen Palestinian Authority tax revenue to pay part of its massive electricity bill and ensure an uninterrupted flow of electricity to Palestinian cities. It’s just in, but do you have any comment?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to talk to our team about it. I think certainly we’d see that as a positive step, but let me look into the details.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up on a few – two questions last Monday, I think --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Monday of this week, we asked – one is about the – any update – do you have any update about Erbil and Baghdad agreement? Is there anything that --

MS. PSAKI: I think I provided everything I can provide on Monday, but do you have any additional --

QUESTION: No, Monday you --

MS. PSAKI: I provided quite a few details on Monday, but did you have a new question?

QUESTION: No, any update from – because that’s, I said, there was a briefing for the diplomats.

MS. PSAKI: I think I posed to you that you should ask the question of the Government of Iraq as well as Kurdish authorities, given that there are reported payments from last year that they passed payments in their budget, and that they have both committed to continuing with this agreement.

QUESTION: That is --

MS. PSAKI: So I don’t have anything new to add from that.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s – the payment you mentioned last year, it was less than 20 percent of their annual budget anyway – for the last year, but for this year. This is – the agreement is for this year, not for 2014.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: In 2014, they haven’t sent the money, anything. But the other thing is I asked you about the Peshmerga hostages by ISIS. Has KRG government asked (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to offer on that.

QUESTION: Like, did they ask anything (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to read out.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, sometimes there is quite a bit of sensitivity for good reason about hostages held from anywhere around the world, so we don’t typically --

QUESTION: But if they asked your government to help, would you – would the United States help?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t typically even, broadly speaking, outline that from – publicly.

QUESTION: Okay. So one more thing about that. Also still going to Iraq. Since the – anyway, these days the focus is on ISIS and the terrorism thing, but there’s another thing, which is Iraq is also troubling with, is the human rights, also including Kurdistan region of Iraq. In the recent report of the Freedom House, Iraq was characterized as “not free.” Do you have anything on the decline of human rights and also of freedom of speech and media? Because in the recent years, United States fund or support to human rights and also the media declined. Is there any way that you will support – increase your fund to, through the international organization or directly from the – through the Embassy to the media to promote freedom of speech?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, I’m – I just want to make sure I understand your question. Whether we are thinking about increasing our funding --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- for – to civil society groups in Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: We just put out a budget. I would point you to the specifics of what are included in there, which would outline what our proposals are for the next year.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Very quickly. You mentioned the Human Rights Watch report today. They also reported that the Peshmerga and the KRG are preventing Arab residents who have – who fled to their area from going back to their villages into areas that are disputed among them. Are you aware of that report?

MS. PSAKI: I am not. I don’t have any confirmation of that; don’t know if it’s accurate. We can look into it, certainly.

Justin, did you – or were you just scratching your head or --

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m just (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Okay, that’s fine. I understand.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Oh, Michelle, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Washington Post reported that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nonprofit organization received money given by foreign countries during her tenure here at the Department. Any hesitation by the Department of State that this was proper business for the top diplomat to conduct here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think according to The Washington Post article that you referenced and a statement, I believe, that was put out by the Clinton Foundation, they said they received a contribution from the Government of Algeria for Haiti relief efforts soon after the Haiti earthquake devastated that country, which it should have submitted for review by the Department. At the time, as you all may remember, the United States was, of course – the government was supporting worldwide efforts to provide humanitarian relief for Haiti. The commitment by the foundation to provide information about foreign government contributions, broadly, went beyond the requirements of ethics law and regulations. And the purpose is to allow, of course, the Department to identify foreign policy concerns that might arise in connection with a particular donation.

So obviously, we like to review and we have reviewed every donation that has been submitted. But in this case, the fact that the process has – was not followed in this particular incident does not raise concerns with us.

QUESTION: Can you acknowledge, like, the look at impropriety here, especially for the American people that may look at this as this is pay-for-play is going on here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the question there is we’re talking about a contribution to a Haiti relief fund that was an international crisis that the United States broadly supported. So I’m not sure, and maybe you can share more with us, about what exactly the conflict of interest would have been there.

QUESTION: I suppose some people might say that for a – the countries would be getting access to Secretary Clinton.

MS. PSAKI: But what’s the evidence of that?

QUESTION: I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re – that’s the question. So – and I don’t think there’s an answer that’s been provided or is one that suggests there was one.

QUESTION: Are you confident that there will be no other revelations of other donations given in violation of the agreement signed with the Obama Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the foundation put out a statement on this. We obviously review any submission that they present to us. They have shown a commitment. Their commitment has been over and above the letter of the law, so – and that’s been consistently followed.

QUESTION: Are you confident that donations to the foundation and/or – or I should say and the vetting that went into speaking appearances by former President Bill Clinton during Secretary Clinton’s tenure were complete, that they – that you’re confident that there was no impropriety or appearance of impropriety with perhaps this one exception – I understand that you’re saying there wasn’t any, but that the procedure that was outlined and agreed to was followed in all cases, except for this one?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there was a letter that was submitted – I think early, even before the Administration started – in 2009 that covered everything from Secretary Clinton’s financial interests, speaking, writing, and consulting of former President Bill Clinton. In several respects, as I’ve mentioned, the commitments went far beyond applicable laws and regulations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we can’t speak to – we speak to what we – information we have and what’s been reviewed, and that’s certainly what I can address.

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re confident that – in general, you’re pleased? You think that everything went according to the way it was supposed to go? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they went – they submitted – they have committed to something that was above the letter of the law. I can’t speak to information I don’t have access to, but --

QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But you’re satisfied that they kept that commitment? That’s all I’m asking.

MS. PSAKI: As – for all the information I have, absolutely.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: ISIS. At one of the hearings yesterday, the Secretary was asked some questions about the Administration’s proposed AUMF. Specifically he was asked whether groups that pledge allegiance to ISIS could be targeted under it. He said that only if they’re known to be operationally connected. I was wondering if this building or anyone in the Administration has assessed that any of these groups outside of Iraq or Syria are operationally connected to ISIS, and is there some kind of list that – of these groups that would qualify for a targeting --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a new assessment. And that is, as we’ve talked about – actually, you and I have talked about it quite a bit in here – this is something that we continue to review and continue to assess. And the point he’s making, which I think you certainly understand, is that just because a group says we’re with ISIL it doesn’t mean that they are operationally linked to ISIL. And as the President has said and the Secretary also reiterated, we’re not going to be limited geographically even though right now, of course, the President has not made the decision to go beyond Iraq and Syria. I don’t have any new public assessment beyond that, though.

QUESTION: Just because, I mean, if there’s a formal procedure that the Administration is using to make these judgment calls about who is and isn’t, I guess at what point is that determination made? Are they added to a list? Like just procedurally, how is that conducted? And if you’re saying that – are you saying that none of these groups have gone through that full vetting process?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just conveying there’s nothing more I can convey to you publicly. I can certainly check and see if there’s any more we can convey publicly. Sure.

QUESTION: Could I ask you a quick question on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, you would say that – they claim the militants (inaudible) pull back, and the Russians are saying that the ceasefire is holding. Could you confirm or comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the OSCE monitors have observed a decrease in ceasefire violations in the last few days, though violations do continue. And for the second day in a row, the Ukrainians have not experienced any casualties. But there are still violations in some areas, so I wouldn’t say it’s accurate to suggest that there is an abiding by the ceasefire all across eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: But can you confirm that they are pulling their heavy weapons and whatever --

MS. PSAKI: We have seen some reports of that, but we don’t have confirmation of that because the OSCE have been – has been unable to send their monitors into the area to confirm that. So we don’t have eyes on the ground in that regard.

QUESTION: Yesterday during the morning session of testimony, if I’m not mistaken – they tend to run together --

MS. PSAKI: The nine hours or more.

QUESTION: -- the Secretary said that – suggested that additional sanctions on Russia would be contemplated if there were additional actions in eastern Ukraine that merited a significant response. He talked about if there’s another Mariupol or --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why isn’t the separatists driving out of Debaltseve all the Ukrainian troops after the ceasefire was supposed to go into effect sufficient for additional sanctions to be imposed on the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, what the Secretary was conveying is consistent with what our policy has been in this regard, that we obviously watch what’s happening on the ground and that impacts what consequences we may put in place. We obviously continue to consider a range of options, including sanctions. There’s active discussions in the Administration about that which the Secretary was referring to, as well as with our partners. But I’m just not in a position to outline for you the timing of that or what it means in terms of the decision making.

QUESTION: But why doesn’t the gobbling up of a strategic city with rail links that are important for the areas that the rebels have already seized, why isn’t that an action that merits additional sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: We weigh a range of options on the ground and make a determination about the appropriate steps. I don’t have anything more to outline for you in terms of internal deliberations or thinking on that.

QUESTION: But doesn’t it leave the impression that the rebels and what you say are their Russian backers, or in some cases actual Russian troops and equipment, can essentially get away with seizing another city?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it certainly should not. We have not hesitated to put sanctions in place or consider a range of options in the past. We continue to. And just because we have not announced or decided about what we will do or when we will do anything next, it does not mean those discussions are not ongoing.

QUESTION: But his suggestion was that it would require additional events on the ground – another Mariupol – for there to be sanctions that he said were already teed up. And I – the reason I’m asking the question is if part of the point of having sanctions is to eventually shift their policy and part of it, presumably, is to deter the Russians from pursuing what you say has been their policy of aiding the separatists to essentially seize control of chunks of another country, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t act more quickly or decisively in the face of their seizure of another city.

MS. PSAKI: He was simply conveying that we clearly are watching what’s happening on the ground and that will impact our future actions. He wasn’t making – drawing a line that there must be future actions for us to take additional steps. Obviously, if they continue on this path, that will lead us to put more consequences in place. If they take a different path, that will have an impact.

QUESTION: But there are no consequences for Debaltseve?

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t announced or I have nothing to announce for you in terms of any decision-making, Arshad. It doesn’t mean there aren’t ongoing discussions about what we may do.

QUESTION: Right, but I think the question is that you do not support the separatists having control of Debaltseve.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So I think the question is a fair one. If they’ve – that’s something that’s already --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I wasn’t saying it wasn’t.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s something that’s already happened.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If your position is that that’s a bad thing, why is there no action in response to it?

MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t mean it happens four minutes later, Matt. We obviously continue to discuss --

QUESTION: Well, we’re not talking about four minutes.

MS. PSAKI: -- what the appropriate actions are, what the appropriate consequences will be. I have nothing further to predict for you.

QUESTION: Okay. I want to go back to a part of a back-and-forth that happened either earlier this week or last week --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about – you were talking about the separatists in the east and how they were not Ukrainians and that they were not in their own country.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said on the day --

QUESTION: Were you – right.

MS. PSAKI: -- they are supported by Russia. There are Russian materials in there. They are trained by, and that’s what I was referring to.

QUESTION: But are you – so – but is it the position of the United States that Ukrainians – people who have Ukrainian citizenship who are fighting the government of Kyiv, in Kyiv, or forces of the government in Kyiv, are not actually Ukrainians?

MS. PSAKI: No, but I’m conveying, as we all know and we’ve confirmed many times, that there are Russian hands on this effort that’s happening in eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if one accepts that that is true – and it is disputed by some --

MS. PSAKI: I understand who it’s disputed by.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. Well, so do I. But anyway, are you saying that separatists who you – because they are getting this Russian backing that you talk about, this support, are no – have given up their citizenship of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I was not, but --

QUESTION: Okay. I just --

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve also seen that Russia consolidated its control over the separatist movement following its August invasion by removing problematic separatist leaders who did not follow Russian instructions. We’ve seen Russia supply and train separatist militants. We’ve seen that Russia transfer hundreds of pieces of military equipment to pro-Russia separatists. So the point is that they are clearly involved, engaged, and have their hands in this everywhere.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Right. I get what you’re saying there, but I’m just wondering if you believe that separatists, who are Ukrainian, who are fighting the government in Kyiv, have forfeited --

MS. PSAKI: No, I did not intend to suggest that.

QUESTION: Okay. You’re talking – you’re talking about Russians who are there who are not citizens of Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and in a non-sovereign country.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yemen, very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday the Security Council commended, I guess, the return of President Hadi to Aden, his movement to Aden. I just wanted to ask you: Have you been in touch with him in any way or capacity since the last time we asked --

MS. PSAKI: Not as of when we talked about it on Monday. I’m not aware of contact since then. I’m happy to check on it, Said.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I get in one more on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just on the whole ceasefire thing --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and the idea that if they do, the separatists continue to go, there will be more action.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is your view right now that things are improving and that the – or not? I mean, are there – you say there will be more costs to Russia if they continue to go down the road that they were on.

MS. PSAKI: In --

QUESTION: Is it your judgment that they are still on that road, or are they on a better road now?

MS. PSAKI: It depends on how you compare the roads. There are – there is a reduction we’ve seen over the past two days.

QUESTION: Which is a good thing.

MS. PSAKI: Which is a good thing. But there are still violations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So I wouldn’t say that – I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a positive step. It’s just a slight improvement, but obviously, there are still violations across eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the actions that you believe Russia is continuing to take are actions that could draw new sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

Go ahead, Michelle.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Based on information from the U.S. ambassador in Yemen, we were told that the Marines had to give up their weapons curbside at the airport. But what we’re hearing is that the Marines spent a considerable amount of time in the terminal, unable to defend themselves and the diplomats. Are you comfortable with that amount of risk?

MS. PSAKI: The Marines – I would point you to them – they put out an extensive statement about the steps they took, the protocol they followed, the fact that they destroyed their weapons on site. They did that a couple of weeks ago. So I don’t have more information to add to that.

QUESTION: Sorry to go back one more time to Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- but the prime minister’s office says that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have initiated an invitation to the prime minister to meet in a bipartisan fashion after his speech. Do you think that’s positive? Do you think --

MS. PSAKI: Which I think the prime minister declined, if I’m correct.

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, a new invitation.

QUESTION: It’s a new invitation that’s a bipartisan invitation from congressional leadership.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll leave that to congressional leadership and the prime minister to work through.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One more on Iraq. Jen, in the past you’ve provided a lot of informations about the arms and supplies --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to Peshmerga and the Iraqi army forces and even Anbar tribes. But still we are hearing from the KRG officials, including Bayan Sami, the KRG representative in U.S., in Washington, that that’s not enough and we are not getting what we need. What do you – what’s your comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add in terms of the arms we’ve been providing. I think I said tens of thousands of tons. I think any independent individual would evaluate that as quite a bit of assistance, and we’re not the only country providing assistance. So beyond that, I don’t have any further comment.

QUESTION: Is there any hope that that will increase since --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve continued to increase it. I have nothing to outline for the future, but we’ve been very supportive. Obviously, we work through the Government of Iraq. That will continue. That’s our policy. But we’ve continued to be supportive of their efforts.

QUESTION: But why they are keep saying that? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I would ask that question and pose what we’ve provided.

QUESTION: And they said it’s only three brigades, which is not like enough to protect city of Kirkuk, not even Muslim --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Because in the money like you provided it says only for three brigades. Is there any reason for only three brigades?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I would – again, I outlined for you very specifically all of the military equipment we’ve provided. Other countries have done the same. I would recommend you gather that all together and ask them the question on why that’s not enough for what they need right now.

QUESTION: That’s 3 billion with a B?

MS. PSAKI: Hmm? I don’t have the numbers in front of me. I’ve outlined them several times from here, but I can get them to you if you’d like, in terms of the equipment provided.

QUESTION: The Secretary yesterday was asked I think the same kind of question by Kay --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Kay Granger?

QUESTION: Yeah. And he started to go down this what appeared to be an enormous list of weapons and --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Which is – I’ve done that in here as well. I just don’t have it in front of me at this moment.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. But your understanding is that’s $3 billion worth of --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: It said three brigades. That’s --

QUESTION: Oh, three brigades. I’m sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We can get around to all of you, if you’d like, the list of equipment. And as I mentioned, it’s not just the United States that’s provided.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There’s a think tank report that came out recently that says that North Korea could have 100 nuclear weapons by 2020. What’s your reaction to this? Does this square with the Administration’s assessments? And just do you think this warrants more sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: We just don’t get into those assessments from here.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:42 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 23, 2015

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 16:10

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 23, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:01 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. The United States is deeply troubled by the new harsh sentences of three or five years in prison issued yesterday against 20 Egyptian activists, including Alaa Abdel Fatah, for organizing an unauthorized protest under Egypt’s demonstrations law. We urge defendants to pursue all legal avenues to contest this verdict, including the right to appeal. As a matter of principle, the United States believes that a country’s long-term stability is strengthened by protecting the right of its citizens to peacefully express dissent. These sentences and others under the law have had a chilling effect on key freedoms of expression and assembly. We encourage Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstrations law and all court verdicts issued under it and to release an amended version that will enable full freedom of expression and association.

On Libya, the United States Government continues to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations and Special Representative to the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon in Libya to facilitate formation of a national unity government and bring a political solution to the ongoing political, security, and institutional crisis in the country. We reiterate our call for all Libyan stakeholders to participate in the UN-led political dialogue. Those who choose not to participate are excluding themselves from discussions which are critical to combatting terrorism as well as to the overall peace, security – stability and security of Libya.

Only Libyans can resolve their conflict through dialogue, and Libyan stakeholders being convened by Leon will have to choose their own national unity government. The United Nations-led process provides the best hope for Libyans to return to building the strong and representative state institutions that can most effectively address the terrorist threat and to confront all violence and instability that impedes Libya’s political transition and development.

The Secretary is on travel today; he’s on his way back, having spent the weekend in London and Geneva. In London, he met with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, and in Geneva, he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and the negotiating teams. He will return to Washington tonight.

Finally, today the Secretary will announce that Randy Berry will serve as our first-ever special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons. Randy is currently the consul general in Amsterdam, and in his new capacity will lead efforts underway by the White House and the State Department to advance our strategy on the human rights of LGBT persons. Despite the progress made by governments and institutions from all regions to affirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, more than 75 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex activity. Randy brings over 20 years of Foreign Service experience to this new leadership position. The Secretary will host a reception in Randy’s honor later this week. Watch for a notice in the press in the coming days.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, just on that briefly before we get to Iran, two on what you just mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: On Randy Berry?

QUESTION: Well, one on him. You said “progress made in all regions,” and then you said 75 countries still criminalize homosexual behavior – I mean, or acts? How can you possibly claim that there’s been progress in all regions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, that we have seen progress in all regions, but as I mentioned, I’ve highlighted the 75 countries because obviously there’s still a great deal of work to be done and that’s one of the reasons we’re naming someone to this position.

QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. Is it your understanding that these countries are receptive to an envoy coming and telling them that they need to do more to protect human rights?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak for these countries. I’m sure some will be more receptive than others in the world, but part of his role is going to be coordinating and shepherding the implementation of the Department’s strategy on human rights for LGBT persons, adopted in 2011, and the presidential memorandum issued later that year with like-minded countries and working to continue to highlight these issues globally.

QUESTION: Okay. And then on your Egypt statement.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that you urge the defendants to pursue all available avenues, including appeal – I mean, does that mean that you think that these people are not guilty?

MS. PSAKI: We believe, as I noted, that going – the fact that these individuals were arrested and charged, some for speaking out publicly, is something that we think we wanted to highlight. But there’s a legal process that will be seen through. We just wanted to highlight the stories and the cases of these individuals.

QUESTION: Well, but do you believe that the Egyptian judicial system is independent and that --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- they should – that, in fact, their best option is to pursue --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken about our views on the Egyptian legal system, as you know, and – as well as our views on mass arrests and mass sentencing. And certainly, these cases that go after individuals for using freedom of expression and freedom of speech are of concern to us.

QUESTION: Despite all those concerns, though, you’re still sending them Apache helicopters and trying to find ways to get them the aid that’s – so you’re still supporting them. So is this a case where your national security interest has outweighed or trumped your human rights concerns?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, Matt, we have not certified the final tranche of money. That’s still on hold. We obviously watch what happens on the ground. We think there is reason to highlight concerns when we have them. But also, we know Egypt has important strategic and security needs. We have an important strategic relationship with Egypt. That’s why we released the Apache helicopters.

QUESTION: If there’s no more on Egypt, I just want to ask you --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- very briefly on Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- because I’m sure you won’t be able to tell us anything. But there’s all sorts of speculation at the – or not even speculation; I guess it’s confirmed that talks will resume next week. Are these talks that the Secretary would take part of? How close are you to a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we made some progress, as I believe my colleagues on the ground informed reporters traveling. We’re planning for the teams to meet at the political directors’ level starting next Monday to continue these discussions. As has been true and the case all along, the Secretary could certainly participate at some point in those discussions, but I don’t have anything to announce at this point. These talks have been productive. There’s still more work to do. And obviously, I’m not going to outline for you or give an assessment of where things stand at this point.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: Because, as you know, we want to keep these discussions private in order to continue to make progress.

QUESTION: And private from the American people, private from Congress, and private from Israel?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, Matt, we have been briefing both Israel and Congress --

QUESTION: Apparently not --

MS. PSAKI: -- quite consistently.

QUESTION: You would accept, though, that your briefings to both have not been received – they haven’t been well received; is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it depends on the individual you’re talking to.

QUESTION: Can I ask on that --

MS. PSAKI: On Iran?

QUESTION: On Iran, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a report in one organization today that you’re looking at some kind of phased agreement under which if Iran basically could assure the international community that it was abiding by the rules and abiding by the deal that was set out, that at some point in time it would be given a greater uranium enrichment program. I know that the briefers in Geneva have talked about something they mentioned before about a double-digit kind of program, but could you just outline exactly what it is that – or give us a bit more clarity, if you like, on what you mean by that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s unlikely I can give you too much more because we’re – we’ve always said we’re not going to negotiate publicly and I’m not going to change that policy now. I would point out --

QUESTION: Why not, Jen? Why not?

MS. PSAKI: I know. It would be so much more fun for all of us in here. But time – we only have a limited amount of time left here. So I would point out that it’s not news that the final version of what we are seeking, the comprehensive joint plan of action, would have a duration of a number of years. As you mentioned, some of my colleagues on the ground have spoken to that, but we’re not going to speak to where that stands or how long or how that will work. And obviously, that’s part of what’s being discussed.

QUESTION: But if at the end of this double-digit or whatever that double-digit is, whether it’s 10, 20, or whatever, is it the understanding that then you would agree to allow Iran to have a greater uranium enrichment program?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there are a lot of details that are being discussed. As we’ve said before, there are pieces that need to work together like a puzzle, so I’m just not going to outline more about the discussions.

QUESTION: But it is correct – and I believe, actually, your colleague on the ground said this too – that you’re looking at a sort of a year breakout time.

MS. PSAKI: That’s been something the Secretary, I think, has also talked about in open testimony.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But you have a certain, like, percentage that you would allow Iran to have, like 2 percent, 5 percent, under 5 percent --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, enrichment capacity is one of the issues being discussed. I’m not going to talk about it in more detail.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ll remember the contract between Russia and Iran regarding the S-300 missile defense systems. Now today there is news saying that a Russian official has suggested that – they say – he says that they have offered another, a more advanced version of that system to Iran, but there’s no answer from Iran yet. I thought maybe this whole thing was finished, the contract, maybe with the U.S. pressure that was put on the Russians. Any comments on this new --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these reports, the ones you’re referencing. And once we have more details – and as you mentioned, it’s just some reports; I don’t think a lot of it has been confirmed from both sides – we’ll certainly raise this at the appropriate levels as needed. If the reports are true that Russia has decided not to sell the S-300 system to Iran, we would certainly welcome that, but we would have similar objections to a sale of the Antey-2500 system. So we’ll wait for more details and comment on it at that point in time.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary talk to the Russian team on the ground whenever they’re at the talks – for example, today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, without more details, we’ll wait for more details and then we’ll raise it at the appropriate level.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the 2,500 range, whatever? Is that because they have a certain range that these missiles might have?

MS. PSAKI: We’d also object to it for a range of reasons.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A two-part question on the talks: First of all, an official said earlier today that in the talks – that negotiators managed to sharpen up some of the tough issues that need resolving.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know you can’t go too much in the way of details, but can you talk in general about what this entails? And then secondly, can you confirm reports that negotiators are looking at meeting in Geneva, specifically next week on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council meeting?

MS. PSAKI: So on the first question I’m just not going to go farther than what my colleagues on the ground briefed, and that would require me going into details, which we just aren’t going to do from here or publicly. On the second question, I think I answered in the beginning that we are planning for the teams to meet again at the political directors level starting next Monday. In terms of location, that’s still being determined.

QUESTION: Could I ask whether Energy Secretary Moniz will also be included in those next talks next week?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that’s been determined yet, Jo. As you know, he was there this week. He – there’s been an official from the Energy Department participating in these talks all along. Obviously, it’s a reflection of how technical these discussions are, so I think over the coming days we’ll determine who will be in the delegation.

QUESTION: Why was the decision made to ramp it up to the Energy Secretary level? What was it that he could bring that the other people who’ve been involved couldn’t?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it just is – it indicates that this is an incredibly technical nature – there’s an incredibly technical nature of the discussions. Obviously, we all know that we’re working towards a framework, and that’s our goal in the coming weeks. It was necessary and appropriate to have technical people sit with Iran’s technical people at the highest level in order to try to resolve any differences that may exist. While there have certainly been people, colleagues from the Department of Energy with us in the talks from the beginning, the – Secretary Moniz has had several one-on-one meetings with the head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization, and obviously having someone at a higher level enables you to have a discussion at a higher level.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Wait, I still have one more thing. And I apologize if this has been cleared up again --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but I’m – your target date, end of March – is it the 24th or the 31st? Has this been decided?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve said --

QUESTION: Is there an official position on this?

MS. PSAKI: -- the end of March, Matt.

QUESTION: I know, but the --

MS. PSAKI: I think Congress had said the 24th --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but we’re looking to the end of March.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve said the 31st from here.

QUESTION: You said the 31st.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So despite the fact that the last talks in – or the talks in Vienna at which this target was announced finished on the 24th and it was described – the extension, if you will, was described in terms of months --

MS. PSAKI: Four months.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: But not four months and one week; four months.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it got into that level of specificity, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, right. So I want to be – make perfect – understand perfectly clear that when you talk about this target date, it’s March 31st, not March 24th. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve – yes. We’ve referred to it as the end of March, yes.

QUESTION: Can I just ask on that, actually?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Because you’ve also said the technical details, the final technical details, you’re giving yourselves until June the 30th. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the annexes and – yes. But our goal is to achieve a framework by the end of March.

QUESTION: Because it would seem to me that all along – and you’ve mentioned it several times today – that this agreement has hinged on the technical difficulties. So --

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t called it technical. We’ve said obviously there are a lot of technical details that would need to be worked through, and annexes and things along those lines. So a framework is something that would certainly give you a path forward.

QUESTION: Because it seems to me you could have a framework – I mean, you could have a political deal on March 31st which could just be, “We agree we will reach by June 30th a technical, full, comprehensive agreement.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we envision something more than that in terms of a framework. I’m not in a position to outline what that means at this point. Obviously, we have several weeks to go here.

QUESTION: So you do envisage a sort of – a bigger framework deal which would say there will be annexes on this, this, and this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline what it will look like. We’re obviously still talking through that, so – but a framework means agreement on some of the key components, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. First of all, a New York jury just found the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for an attack that took place in Jerusalem some 10 years ago, a decade ago, and so on. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: The – say that again? Who found them --

QUESTION: A jury found the PLO liable for an attack that took place in Jerusalem 10 years ago or so. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I can check with our team and see if we have a comment for you.

QUESTION: Is – now, do you expect that, like, a proliferation of these cases now? Because there were a number of attacks and so on by either the PLO directly or affiliates of the PLO over the past --

MS. PSAKI: I would ask the Government of Israel that question.

QUESTION: Okay. And while staying on the topic, the – everybody is warning that the PA is on the verge of collapse. Even the Secretary of State himself, he has stated --

MS. PSAKI: And I talked about this a bit last week as well.

QUESTION: And I understand. You did. But since then, has there been any steps taken to sort of avert such a disastrous outcome like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve consistently engaged with key stakeholders at a range of levels, including the Israelis, the Palestinians, the EU, UN, Russians, the Arab League, and others over the past few weeks. We will continue to do so, and so that is certainly ongoing.

QUESTION: Why do you think the Israelis are not heeding your advice? Today, they cut off electricity to the West Bank, and in fact, they made an announcement that it will be cut off regularly to the West Bank because they owe back bills.

MS. PSAKI: And we’ve seen those reports. We’re concerned about the impact on the ground of any cuts to basic services, including electricity. We remain very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon, either in terms of the resumption of monthly Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues or additional donor assistance.

QUESTION: Is it expected that the Israelis will release – and I know I asked you this before – will release the tax money before the elections? Do you expect that?

MS. PSAKI: You should ask the Government of Israel that question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just on the jury verdict, can you – because the jury has awarded the plaintiffs in this case $218 million of damages. So it would seem that if you’re out trying to raise money or get other people to give money to the Palestinian Authority to prevent it from collapsing, they’re going to have to – if they decide that they’re going to respect this court – the jury’s decision, they’re going to have to have at least another $218.5 million. Is this – can you find out if it’s – if money that you would like to go to the Palestinian Authority could be used to pay such damages?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on this issue before we continue? Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq, Kurds?

QUESTION: Yeah, absolutely.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Iraqi Kurdish officials have accused Baghdad – I’m not sure if you’ve seen the reports – of having failed to abide by the most recent agreement over oil and budget. Prime Minister Abadi says, because partly of the oil price drop, Iraq has no money to send to the KRG. KRG says why does Iraq – why is Iraq able to pay the salaries of all of the Iraqis, including the residents of Mosul, except for Kurdistan.

Is that your assessment that the agreement between Baghdad and Kurdistan is unraveling?

MS. PSAKI: It is not. We understand that both Baghdad and Erbil remain committed to seeking implementation of the deal that is enshrined in the budget law. We recognize that Iraq writ large is facing financial difficulties due to low oil prices, the large refugee and IDP population, and the need to focus on defense spending because of the fight against ISIL. I would refer you to the Government of Iraq, but I do also recall news reports that Baghdad transferred two payments totaling $1 billion late last year as part of the agreement that was reached. So certainly, it’s not accurate to suggest that --

QUESTION: But this year, they haven’t done it according to the top Kurdish officials. They were just in Baghdad last week. Baghdad said --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Iraqi parliament also just recently passed its $103 billion 2015 budget, which includes payments to the KRG. So I would point you to the Government of Iraq to ask that question.

QUESTION: So would you be concerned as the United States – if that is true, which is really true, that Iraq has not paid or is not going to pay KRG --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t see what you’re presenting as evidence that it’s true.

QUESTION: Why is --

MS. PSAKI: Or do you have more information you want to provide us?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. The prime minister of Kurdistan, he just talked to the media, and he’s --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just referring to the fact that last year there were two payments reportedly made. I would certainly have you confirm that with the relevant authorities. The budget just passed. It includes payment to the KRG – payments to the KRG. Both sides have said they’re committed to the plan. So I’d suggest you pose your questions to the Iraqi Government on this issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a statement on Friday about – from the Department of State talking about the incarceration of the opposition leaders, and also you were urging some other countries to also adhere to the situation and put their claim against the Government of Venezuela. Did you hear any comments from other governments from Latin America that also are following this proposal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to outline private diplomatic discussions, as I’m sure doesn’t surprise you at all. We certainly did raise our concern about these accusations, highlighted the fact that they’re false, they’re ludicrous, and the Government of Venezuela needs to focus more on their own challenges in their own country and this is just an effort to distract. So I’d reiterate those points.

QUESTION: Because also if you see Telesur – that is the state channel of Venezuela that is aired in all Latin America – all the time they are accusing the U.S. 24 hours about this idea to make a plot against the government of Maduro. So I want to know if the U.S. also is working with other countries to explain the situation with them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re making clear in all of our discussions the same points we’re making publicly, which is that these accusations are ludicrous. There absolutely is – the Venezuelan Government should stop trying to blame the United States and other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government needs to deal with the grave situation it faces. So part of what we do is convey that publicly and part of what we do is convey that privately.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. worried that this situation will escalate and also other leaders can be also arrested, or something like that? Is information on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen and unfortunately had to speak about these accusations, but as I spoke about last week, some recent arrests on the ground that are certainly concerning to us. That’s one of the reasons we talk about it publicly and why we raise it with our partners in the region.

QUESTION: Move on to --

QUESTION: Jen, just one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, go ahead. On Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A follow-up to that, because it was part of the discussion we had with you last time. And you then said that the political – that the U.S. does not support coups, but – state coups, and that political transitions must be democratic and constitutional. And I just wanted to ask about Syria. Does that mean that you support a democratic and constitutional transition in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: In Syria we’ve long supported a political transition that would be worked out with the parties on the ground. I don’t – I think we’ve had a pretty consistent position on that.

QUESTION: And it must be democratic and constitutional?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: According to your rules that you said (inaudible), that it was also democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just be clear for you on our position on Syria. We’re talking about a brutal dictator who’s killed tens of thousands of his own people. I’m sure you’re not suggesting that that is similar to what’s happening in other parts of the world. It’s a situation where also thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of refugees have flown into neighboring countries, and we’ve seen the brutality of what’s happening there. We don’t see a future for a brutal dictator who’s killed thousands of his people in Syria, and I think that’s no surprise to the international community. That’s long been our position.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: United States and international coalition provided a lot of support for Peshmerga and Iraqi army to fight ISIS, to defeat ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: Is that correct that this amount of money and also the weapons, ammunitions provided for even the tribals in Anbar to defeat ISIS? This is – is that correct, right? I mean, in the recent.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, through the Government of Iraq has long been our policy, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So that means this is conditioned to any forces, including Peshmerga, to participate in the offense against ISIS. If they said we are not participating in that, will that stop like --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe they’ve said that, and there’s a number of countries --

QUESTION: -- especially in the Sunni areas.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There’s a number of countries that have also provided assistance to the Peshmerga through coordinating with the Government of Iraq. And they have obviously played an important role fighting against ISIL.

QUESTION: What if they stop going offensive on ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: They haven’t, so I’m not going to talk about a hypothetical.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the same issue, could I?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I stay with the coalition, please? There’s a couple of details coming out of France today on various issues to do with the coalition. One is that there’s a French aircraft carrier which has now launched operations in the Gulf alongside of the USS Carl Vinson as part of the operation against the Islamic State. I wondered if I could have your reaction to that.

And then I have another question, actually, as well.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t – obviously, we’ve been working with coalition partners, including France, on specific military operations, several components of the coalition. I would certainly point you to DOD, who would be coordinating that.

QUESTION: Okay. And I just wanted to ask, following up on the counterterrorism conference last week, France today confiscated the passports of six French citizens, and another 40 are also going to be barred from leaving. They were heading out of the country towards the – part of the flock of foreign fighters towards Syria and Iraq. This is the first time France has done this. What would be your reaction to that? And is this something that other countries, including the United States, needs to do more of?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen countries, including France, talk about specific steps they want to take to prevent foreign fighters from leaving their country and coming back, having fought with extremist groups, and putting people in their country in danger. And so they’re taking a number of steps. We support them with – in those endeavors. I’d have to look into this more specifically and talk to our counterterrorism team about their thoughts on this.

QUESTION: Now, have the American authorities – have you actually taken any passports off people who were planning to leave the country to go and join the jihadist fight?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think some of this we don’t typically confirm publicly because we have our own laws in terms of what we do. We have a range of tools at our disposal, including those that are related to travel documents. But I can certainly talk to our – other officials in the interagency about whether there’s more we can share about what we’ve done from here. It’s not something from the State Department necessarily.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

QUESTION: Well, but it would be --

QUESTION: Passports would be also.

QUESTION: Well, not the actual revocation of them.

MS. PSAKI: But you’d work with a range of agencies, a range of other government entities on that. It’s not something we have the lead on.

QUESTION: Can you find out, though – I don’t know that the State Department is actually involved in taking, physically taking a passport off of someone. But you are involved in revoking them or making them invalid so that they can’t be used for travel, so if someone tried to use it if they still had it in their possession --

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: -- they would be stopped, because --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and we’ve talked about this a bit in here and haven’t been able to confirm specifics.

QUESTION: Have you talked – you have or have not?

MS. PSAKI: We have not.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if it’s possible to go back and see if we can find out --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: -- how many, if any, have been.

MS. PSAKI: Unlikely we’ll be able to confirm that, but I’m happy to check with the relevant agencies. Again, it’s not the State Department that has the lead.

QUESTION: Jen, on --

QUESTION: Right. But, I mean, other countries are more than happy to talk about this. It might behoove you to --

MS. PSAKI: Understood. Every country has different laws.

QUESTION: Well, given that also there was a big --

QUESTION: Well, but we’re not talking about specific names or anything like that, but a number.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. We still have different laws and policies.

QUESTION: I mean, given that it was one of the big things at the summit last week --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re all interested. We have different policies and laws. Every country has different policies and laws.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about – have you read or heard about former Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki putting the blame for the creation and the growth of ISIS on the United States of America?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen his comments, so --

QUESTION: Would you look at his comments and see what is your reaction?

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ll take a look and see if there’s something we want to offer.

Go ahead, Laura.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout on UN Envoy’s – de Mistura’s meeting last week with Deputy Secretary Blinken?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Deputy Secretary Blinken met with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria and prospects for implementation of de Mistura’s Aleppo freeze plan ahead of the envoy’s upcoming trip to Damascus. The deputy secretary welcomed de Mistura’s efforts to reduce violence, especially against civilians, and to make credible progress toward a sustainable political solution in Syria, starting with a local freeze proposal for Aleppo.

The special envoy also is scheduled to meet later today with U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein and other U.S. officials. And, as I think you may have seen from the NSC, he met with Susan – National Security Advisor Susan Rice and they put out a readout about that as well.

QUESTION: In light of his freeze proposal and his discussions with the Administration on that, is there any change in policy as far as whether the U.S. could work with President Assad on a solution to the violence there?

MS. PSAKI: No. Our policy has long been that we support his efforts – the UN special envoy’s efforts – to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people. We’ve seen these ceasefires tried around Syria before, and the result has been, unfortunately, that the regime has not abided by these ceasefires, and that has been the issue time and time again. So we support these efforts. We’re clear-eyed about the challenges, and we’ll see what happens when he has his meetings on the ground.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on that very issue in terms of who would represent who among the Syrians and so on. You certainly do agree that Mr. Assad does represent a large portion of the – a large minority, let’s say, in Syria, including Christians and Alawites and others. You do.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let the Syrian people speak for who they think represents them.

QUESTION: How would they speak? I mean, in your estimation --

MS. PSAKI: I would go --

QUESTION: -- how would they do it?

MS. PSAKI: I would encourage you to report on that, Said.

QUESTION: Jen, just --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, the question about Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The – we’ve seen a lot of protests. That’s why I said it is true that Baghdad hasn’t paid the salaries of the KRG residents for at least the past two months, because the teachers and other civil servants were protesting for not having received their salaries this week. And also, the prime minister of Kurdistan reportedly said that he borrowed half a billion dollars from Turkey in order to pay their salaries.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t know if you have a new question here.

QUESTION: So this is the situation.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just encouraging you, given they just passed their budget, to ask the Government of Iraq about that. There are payments to the KRG in their budget and they did two payments, reportedly, last year.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to al-Shabaab’s threats to attack shopping malls in the U.S. and Britain, et cetera?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We are aware of the recent al-Shabaab propaganda video urging its supporters to undertake Westgate-style attacks against shopping centers around the world, to include in the United States. In recent months, the FBI and DHS have worked closely with our state and local public safety counterparts and members of the private sector, to include mall owners and operators, to prevent and mitigate these types of threats. Over the weekend, the FBI and DHS also provided law enforcement and other first responders, as well as our private sector partners, with relevant information regarding the propaganda video. As a general matter, however, we are not aware of any specific credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center.

More on this before we continue? Okay. Go ahead, Laura.

QUESTION: In light of the fact that this is a threat not just against malls in the United States but abroad as well, is there any consideration being put into changing travel warning guidance for Americans that might be going to these sort of soft target locations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t predict that in advance, but obviously, we’re always weighing information, whether the threats are credible and whether it raises our concern enough to change our travel warnings. I don’t have anything to predict for you on that front.

QUESTION: Did you say against Mall of America or any other mall?

MS. PSAKI: Or any other domestic commercial shopping center, so – or any other mall, yes, is a shorter way of saying it, Jo. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sorry, I was writing it down. I wasn’t quick enough. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for the translation.

QUESTION: You said that there is no specific threat?

MS. PSAKI: Not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America.

QUESTION: You don’t regard this video saying – encouraging attackers to go and commit Westgate-type attacks as --

MS. PSAKI: It’s – our view is it’s propaganda. Of course, we need to remain vigilant --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as always is the case, but the point of this video --

QUESTION: In other words, you don’t --

MS. PSAKI: -- was to instill fear.

QUESTION: So you don’t take this video as a credible threat. It is a threat, though, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly there’s a threat in the video, but there’s not a credible threat against malls and --

QUESTION: You don’t have – is what you’re trying to say here is that you don’t have any information to corroborate that someone is out there who has taken them up --

MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: -- who has seen this video and decided to go ahead and do it? All right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First, do you have any new assessment of the status of the ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. While the Ukrainian Government and Russian-backed separatists exchanged some prisoners over the weekend, the United States remains troubled by the continuing violations of the ceasefire around Debaltseve, the coastal city of Mariupol, and other locations in eastern Ukraine, all of which lie beyond the ceasefire line agreed to by all sides in Minsk in September and again in February.

The OSCE has also confirmed that ceasefire violations continue and that the Russia-backed separatists still have not allowed OSCE monitors access to Debaltseve and other areas.

QUESTION: So with the Ukrainians now saying that they cannot withdraw their heavy arms, which would apparently be a violation of the Minsk agreements – well, first, would you consider that a violation of Minsk agreements? They’re saying that it’s because they continue to receive fire.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we need to remember the context here, Elliot. Obviously, in terms of withdrawal of arms and moving back and de-escalating, a large percentage of that and the needs are from the Russian-backed separatist side. They’re in a country that is not their own that is a sovereign country. And so that is where we have the greatest concern.

I would also remind everybody that exactly a year ago on Sunday, the people of Ukraine cast off an authoritarian regime and chose a future based on democracy, free trade, and rule of law. For these actions, Russia occupied and attempted to annex a sovereign country’s territory, and that since then, that’s left more than 5,000 people dead and displaced several hundred thousand times more. There are many times over the course of the last several months where Ukraine has even put in place ceasefires where they’ve abided by it, and the Russian side has not, the Russian-backed separatists have not. And they need to protect themselves. I think their preference certainly is to see both sides abiding by the ceasefire.

QUESTION: I understand all the context that you just raised, but I guess – so you would say that the decision by the Ukrainian Government is justified to maintain the presence of their --

MS. PSAKI: They’re defending their own sovereign country. They have not shown an unwillingness to abide by the ceasefires in the past.

QUESTION: Jen, did you say it overthrew an authoritarian regime? The former regime was authoritarian and not elected?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think you know the history here.

QUESTION: I understand. I have – no, I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Ukraine? We’re moving on, thank you. Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: I have one on --

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry in his weekend comments talked about – raised the possibility of more sanctions against Russia. In light of these latest developments and the fact that it does not appear there has been a satisfactory pullback by pro-Russian forces, is there a stepped-up timeline on when these possible sanctions may come through?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned, the Secretary did talk about this a bit this weekend. As we’ve also talked about, Russia and the separatists are only complying in a few areas selectively – not in Debaltseve, not outside of Mariupol, not in other key strategic areas. This is clearly unacceptable. We have a range of options that remain on the table. If this failure continues there will be further consequences, but I’m not going to put a timeline or a date on that.

QUESTION: Jen, you said the separatists are not in their own country. What did you mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen Russian-backed separatists backed by the country of Russia with equipment, with support, coming in and victimizing people around eastern Ukraine. That’s what I was referring to.

Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: The people --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Libya? Okay, whoa. We have a lot.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. I --

QUESTION: The people there are Ukrainians.

QUESTION: Just – I just want to --

MS. PSAKI: And there are Russians who are supporting them.

QUESTION: It’s your position that the ceasefire, although it is – remains – it is still being violated, can still pave the way for a political resolution to this?

MS. PSAKI: Our focus remains on pursuing a durable solution through diplomatic means. As you know, there’s going to be a meeting – a discussion – a dialogue, I should say, happening tomorrow between France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia in Paris.

QUESTION: But based on this agreement --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and the original Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So it’s not a lost cause, (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go in the back.

QUESTION: Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The foreign minister of Libya was here last week for the CVE summit and had talks with officials here. They’d asked for some arms and some backing and support. I mean, in your statement earlier today, you said that you support the efforts of the UN, but obviously the situation on the ground is not conducive to talks succeeding. Do you foresee the U.S. supporting them with some sort of arms? And what is the point that you would move to supporting them with some sort of military backing or just sending them arms like the government has asked for?

MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed since I spoke about this a bit last week, which is that we continue to support the UN arms embargo approval process currently in place for Libya, which permits transfer, as necessary, to support the Libyan Government while allowing the Security Council to guard against risks that weapons may be diverted to non-state actors. So it’s not a ban on weapons. It is a – it has to go through a process, a process that we continue to support. We continue to believe, no question, it’s a difficult situation; it’s one of the most difficult out there. But we believe that the process that’s being led by Bernardino Leon is one that the international community support, and we believe that’s the right process forward.

QUESTION: The foreign minister said that he doesn’t feel or he hasn’t felt in the talks that Libya is part of the strategy of the war on ISIL or ISIS. Is there a possibility that it might become, considering what’s happening in Libya now with the rise of – with the --

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity a part of the strategy?

QUESTION: In airstrikes or in the military part of the strategy.

MS. PSAKI: Not from the United States, no. That decision has not been made.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Late Saturday, Turkish military crossed the borders of Syria in order to relocate the tomb of Suleyman Shah, and I was wondering your comments on that. And also, was there any information exchanged between Turkey and U.S. during the operation or before the operation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have all known for some time, often through reporting as well, but also through conversations, that the tomb of Suleyman Shah has been a priority for Turkey. Beyond that, I’m not going to get into operational details or discussions. The Secretary spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu over the weekend and discussed Turkey’s successful operation at the tomb. We express our condolences to Turkey and especially to the friends and family to the Turkish soldier who died in an accident in the course of that operation. We’re in close and ongoing coordination on developments on Syria, including intelligence and information sharing, and that will certainly continue.

QUESTION: Sorry, when was the call? What day?

MS. PSAKI: The 22nd, so yesterday.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Not Turkey, right? Okay. Let’s go to you, Lalit.

QUESTION: Okay, I have one – a few questions from South Asia, but first from Maldives.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What is your view on the arrest of the former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges?

MS. PSAKI: We are concerned by reports of the arrest of former President Nasheed this weekend on terrorism charges. Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal spoke to the Maldivian foreign minister this weekend and expressed our concern this arrest – about this arrest, as well as events in recent weeks. She urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the right to peaceful protest and respect for due process.

QUESTION: Have you also seen images and videos that has come out from form Maldives about the former President Nasheed being dragged out, dragged to the court by the police?

MS. PSAKI: Have I seen videos of it?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I have not. I can certainly check with our team on that as well. Obviously, we’re concerned by reports of the arrest.

QUESTION: I have one question on Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah has said that the talks with the Taliban might start soon, and also Pakistan – he’s saying that Pakistan has asked the Taliban for – Pakistan is facilitating direct talks with the Taliban.

MS. PSAKI: We have seen his comments. We certainly remain supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process whereby the Taliban and the Afghans engaged in talks toward a settlement to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. We don’t have confirmation of the talks, and I think even the reporting makes that clear, if I remember correctly.

In terms of the role of Pakistan, we have long encouraged Pakistan to support President Ghani’s reconciliation efforts. We, of course, remain in support and in contact with President Ghani on these matters as well as certainly countries like Pakistan who have a stake in the outcome.

QUESTION: So you are encouraged by Pakistan’s role in this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long encouraged them to support a reconciliation process. And President Ghani spoke about this, I believe, in his inauguration and has shown a commitment to try to move forward.

QUESTION: And there’s no update on U.S. direct talks with the Taliban?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since last week and when I said there are no direct or indirect talks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Two questions on different topics. The first one is authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have refused to consider the release of two Azerbaijani nationals, Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev, who were convicted last year on charges that include the murder of a teenager. But during her recent visit to Baku, Assistant Secretary Nuland urged relevant authorities to make a humanitarian gesture concerning their case. Can you elaborate on what the gesture would be that the U.S. is seeking, and what would justify the move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve previously advocated through Ambassador Warlick and others the release of these two prisoners to the Government of Azerbaijan. We – she also urged relevant authorities to return the two prisoners to the Government of Azerbaijan. The sides have generally found a way in the past to return prisoners as a humanitarian gesture, and such humanitarian gestures have been shown to reduce tensions and build trust between the sides. So that’s what she was referring to.

QUESTION: And a second question on Bahrain. A prominent human rights activist, Hussain Jawad, is on trial. He faces charges of insulting the monarchy. He asked the U.S. Government to send an observer to his trial to verify whether the process meets international legal standards. Does the U.S. intend to do this?

MS. PSAKI: We are closely following the case of Hussain Jawad and continue to gather more information. We do plan to observe his trial, just as we often observe open hearings in Bahrain and other countries.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I go to Yemen, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were a couple of events that happened over the weekend. President Hadi seems to have escaped from house arrest in Sana’a and is now in Aden. First, I wondered if you could speak to that and whether the United States – he remains the president of Yemen and what your position is on that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, technically speaking, it’s our understanding that until President Hadi’s resignation is accepted by the parliament, under the Yemeni constitution he remains the president and his cabinet remains the legitimate cabinet of the Yemeni Government. Now, we all are aware of how fluid and volatile the situation is on the ground, so that’s just the technical analysis.

QUESTION: He’s calling today from Aden for the talks – for any talks on the political crisis to be moved from Sana’a to Aden. Are you involved in any way, given that obviously your embassy has been shuttered for the time being? Are you involved in any way? Is this something that you would support?

MS. PSAKI: These are UN-led talks. He also reiterated this weekend in his public comments his commitment to the political transition process. And we also agree, as we’ve stated many times, that the parties must recommit themselves to the GCC Initiative, the National Dialogue Conference outcomes, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. So I would refer you to the UN for any decision on that.

QUESTION: So if they agreed to move the talks, then you would be broadly supportive of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Jen, how come --

MS. PSAKI: On Yemen or --

QUESTION: On Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Frankly, I had another subject. On Yemen, how come if this president when he left his capital is still technically president in his country?

MS. PSAKI: That’s --

QUESTION: How come the Ukrainian president was not in the same position?

MS. PSAKI: That’s the Yemeni constitution and what the Yemeni constitution says, so I encourage you to take a look at the Yemeni constitution if you’re interested.

QUESTION: And the Ukrainian constitution said the same thing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: Until constitutional proceedings are followed, the president is the president.

MS. PSAKI: I know you like to revise history here in this case, but I’ll just reiterate that president – that Yanukovych left his own country. We all remember what happened here. I’m sure we can provide you with the specific details if you’d like.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Your government has supported the fighters in Kobani – YPG and others – and you also praised them for defeating ISIS in Kobani. And international coalitions, they – some of them, they have received, including France – president of France received one of the commanders there, Asya Abdullah. Is United States also trying to meet with the leaders, especially Asya Abdullah? She was in – commander-in-chief in that area in Kobani. Is there any plan that United States Government dealing with--

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: I have one on India. Two Indian Christian aid workers were released by the Taliban over the weekend. They have reached home. Now did the U.S. play any role in their release or they coordinated – did the U.S. coordinate with the Indians on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take it, Lalit?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t talked to our team about that specific question, but we can see if there was any involvement on our end.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask you about your own plans. That’s the reason for my coming today. Your – the news of your upcoming departure was greeted with a lot of interest and, I would say, some sadness in Russia. (Laughter.) So I guess my first question: Will – where will you be speaking? Will you continue to be speaking publicly on policy issues from now on? When you move --

MS. PSAKI: Does that make you nervous or your foreign minister nervous?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) No, no. We are looking forward from hearing from you.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure you are.

QUESTION: You’re --

MS. PSAKI: You will continue to.

QUESTION: You will. And if I may, how will you define your new role at the White House? My understanding is you will be overseeing the overall information policies. What is the state of those policies? Do you think they need improvement, in what way? What are your plans for that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a very big question. I will just simply say that I worked for the President before and I’m honored to be returning to his team. It’s bittersweet because I’ve really loved my time here at the State Department, and there’s a number of incredible people I get to work with and I learn from every single day. But in terms of their policies and the President’s policies, I’d certainly refer you to the White House for now.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I understand the Secretary’s going to be testifying later this week before --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the House. Can you --

MS. PSAKI: He is testifying – and the Senate.

QUESTION: -- tell us a little bit about that, a schedule?

MS. PSAKI: We can certainly get you a schedule. He is testifying both tomorrow and Wednesday. And we’ll get you a schedule after the briefing. I don’t have it in front of me, but he’ll be testifying both tomorrow and Wednesday. We can get it for you right after the briefing.

QUESTION: I want to just ask a clarification --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on Yemen, sorry. Has anybody from this Administration, or specifically this building, been in touch with President Hadi over the weekend since he arrived in Aden?

MS. PSAKI: No, we have not been.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen, did you about --

MS. PSAKI: I can just do a few more here. Why don’t we go to the back and see – go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Japanese --

QUESTION: You don’t want to take questions from me, but --

MS. PSAKI: I have taken about 10 from you. We’ll take more. I just want to make sure we get to plenty of people. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Japanese Prime Minister Abe has said he wants to speak before Congress when he visits Washington later this year. Would you welcome him doing that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a discussion I’m sure that will happen between officials in Congress and the Administration. We certainly welcome his visit to the United States, but beyond that, I’m sure we’ll talk about that at a later date.

Do we have – go ahead.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s about a report. I’m sure you won’t have anything --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- to say about it, but over the course of the last several years, there have been these persistent reports about the U.S. trying to have backchannel discussions or – having backchannel discussions or talks with Hamas. There’s another report of that today. These reports in the past have all been adamantly denied --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- by both your predecessor --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and your deputy --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- as well as others.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it still the case that no one from the U.S. Government has tried to or initiated backchannel contacts with members of Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: That is certainly my understanding, Matt.

QUESTION: I mean, you can comfortably speak for all agencies of the – all – the entire government or --

MS. PSAKI: I have never heard of a change in policy in that regard, Matt.

QUESTION: So it remains the case that you don’t have contacts with Hamas indirectly or directly, and there has not been such an effort?

MS. PSAKI: Our policy has not changed.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 20, 2015

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 18:51

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 20, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:

12:47 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: All right. I have two items for all of you at the top. The United States Government condemns today’s terrorist attacks in eastern Libya which took the lives of at least 40 innocent victims as well as the other violence and terrorist acts that have been inflicted on Libya, its people, and others living in Libya in recent months. We send our deepest condolences to the victims and their families and to the people of Libya as they continue to fight back against terrorism.

This latest terrorist attack underscores the need for all Libyan parties, including former general and national congress members to participate in the UN-led dialogue convened by Bernardino Leon, the special representative of the UN secretary-general to form a national unity government. Those who choose not to participate are excluding themselves from discussions which are critical to combatting terrorism as well as to the overall peace, stability, and security of Libya. The best way to counter the terrorists who are operating Libya is to have Libyans build the national consensus that they need to fight these groups, not each other.

Also on Ukraine, Russia’s continued support of ongoing separatist attacks in violation of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is undermining international diplomacy and multilateral institutions, the foundations of our modern global order. The Minsk agreements are the basis for a durable resolution in eastern Ukraine, and the OSCE-facilitated trilateral contact group is the appropriate body to facilitate discussion of the implementation of the commitments in Ukraine Russia and the separatists made signing – in signing the September and February Minsk agreements. Ukraine has made clear its intent to honor the ceasefire and has been doing so, responding only when attacked. As the evidence mounts in photos and videos of the enormous human toll Russia and the separatists have inflicted upon the Ukrainian people, we call upon Russia to honor its commitments immediately with decisive action before we see more cities decimated and more lives lost in eastern Ukraine.

I have a time constraint on the backend here, so let’s get to --

QUESTION: Well –

MS. PSAKI: -- as many topics as possible. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, well, I wasn’t going to start with Ukraine, but that was a pretty strong statement that you just – so basically you just said that Russia is undermining “the foundations of our modern global order?”

MS. PSAKI: Well, by not abiding by the agreement they signed, by continuing to support and intervene illegally in Ukraine, yes, they’re violating international norms, and they’re violating international law.

QUESTION: But you’re accusing them of undermining the entire world order, which seems to be a pretty --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think that’s just expressing how concerned we are about what we’re seeing on the ground in Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Or --

QUESTION: Yeah, Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So then is your opinion, given in your statement now, that the ceasefire has collapsed or that – or are you still giving it another go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – the OSCE has also confirmed or continued to confirm – because I know we’ve talked about this quite a bit in here – that ceasefire violations in Ukraine’s east continue. We’re particularly concerned about new attacks near Mariupol, an area well beyond the agreed September 19th ceasefire line. There have been, as the OSCE has spoken to, some reduction in violence in some areas. There have been reports of some pullback of weapons. We remain focused on supporting the implementation of these agreements, but we are watching closely, we are talking not only internally, but also with our partners around the world. And if Russia and the separatists fail to implement the agreements, end the violence, and halt the flow of fighters, there will be additional costs.

QUESTION: I mean how much time does one give Russia to abide by this? Does – I mean it can’t be an ongoing process, a forever process.

MS. PSAKI: I can --

QUESTION: At what stage does one say this isn’t working?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can promise you that discussions about Ukraine, what we’re seeing on the ground are happening every day in the Administration. They’re happening every day with our partners around the world. We continue to believe that supporting the implementation of reminding people, including Russia and Russian-backed separatists, that there is an off-ramp, that there are steps that can be implemented, is the preferred choice here, the preferred option. We still have the same range of options we’ve long had. I’m not going to give a timeframe. I’ll just say there’s concurrent discussions ongoing about what we would do as it relates to consequences.

QUESTION: I wondered – I’m just – to find out, is Ukraine going to be part of the discussions with British Foreign Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: With Foreign Secretary Hammond?

QUESTION: -- Hammond as well as anything – what about – is Lavrov going to Geneva? (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Lesley. I know that some details of bilateral meetings and the P5+1 meetings are still being finalized, as often happens in the days leading up to these meetings. I’m not aware of a – his planned attendance. In terms of the meetings with Foreign Secretary Hammond, I expect as we always do we will preview the trip en route to the trip, but obviously with the United Kingdom, they often talk about a wide range of issues. I certainly expect Ukraine will be one on top of the agenda.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The secretary general of the OSCE is in town, and he says the Minsk agreement has given them the opportunity to use more technology, things like drones and satellite imagery. Is the U.S. planning on providing extra resources to the OSCE?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can tell you what we’ve done to date. The current mandate of the monitoring mission caps the number of international monitors at 500. The mandate runs through March 2015. So we’re working, of course, with the Serbian chair of the OSCE, the Ukrainian Government, our European partners, and others at the OSCE to determine the current and future needs of the special monitoring mission, of which we’ve been very supportive. Our goal is to ensure, of course, that they are well equipped to carry out their tasks, including monitoring implementation of the ceasefire and monitoring the international border between Ukraine and Russia. We have contributed to date about $6.5 million to the OSCE special monitoring mission. We also fund 50 monitors. As discussions continue and consultations continue, we’ll continue to consider what additional assistance and what kinds of assistance we can provide.

QUESTION: And the type of monitors, he said that it started out as a human rights monitoring team, but he said they need more people with military background. Is that something the U.S. is --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re absolutely open to having a discussion with them. They’re going to have meetings, I think, while they’re here – the secretary-general is with Under Secretary Sewall and with some senior officials from the European bureau, and hear what their needs are. And we’ve been receptive to what their needs are. There’s no question they have a big challenge in that they haven’t been able to gain access to the areas where there is a great deal of fighting, which we’ve been talking about quite a bit in here. Obviously, there are a number of ways to deal with that. One would certainly be for the Russian-backed separatists to let them in, but we’ll continue to hear from them and what their needs are, and we haven’t yet made a decision on what kind of additional support we’ll provide.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask that, because they also – they haven’t been able to get into Debaltseve, for instance, to date.

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. And it’s a huge challenge because it’s – they’re – they are the independent monitoring mission. They are the mission that both Ukraine and Russia and the Russian-backed separatists have said or stated that they’re comfortable with monitoring, but yet they have not let them in to monitor. So it certainly is a challenge, and of course we’d all love more visibility into what’s happening on the ground.

Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just coming back to the Colombian – Secretary Kerry announced a special envoy for the Colombian peace process.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do we have anything as far as how soon he could get involved and what his involvement is? Is he – are they – is he immediately traveling to the region? Are there talks scheduled with him? How is it going to pan out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s just being – he was just sworn in this morning. Certainly I think everyone expects him to get – hit the ground running given his background, which I think we were sending some information out to all of you on that, but just a short recap: He was formerly the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, he worked on the peace talks in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He has a long relationship with government officials in Colombia. I don’t have anything at this point to predict in terms of travel and what he’ll be doing. As you know, the United States is not a party to the negotiations. That’s not changing. But we’ve certainly been supportive and a strong supporter of Colombian efforts to reach peace for more than a decade. And certainly this is a reflection of that.

QUESTION: But by naming a special envoy, the U.S. is now taking a deeper role in the process.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve indicated that – and we’ve shown not just through words, but the Secretary has been to Colombia, as you know, and has discussed these issues with the leaders there. This is – was – our engagement in this was part – came through a discussion with the Colombian Government. And they certainly support our engagement with somebody who’s designated to work with them on this issue. But we won’t – aren’t a party to the talks. That’s not going to change. Obviously, his travel will also be driven by the substance of the talks and our consultation with the Colombian Government and what the needs are.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: So given that these talks have been taking place in Cuba, and it also happens that the U.S. has been – is trying to normalize relations with Cuba, is – has this – was this raised with the Cubans at all separately to today’s announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Separately in what way?

QUESTION: As in during the negotiations on normalizing relations with Cuba, was it also discussed about a U.S. involvement in the Colombian process?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check, Lesley. I don’t – I’m happy to check with our team on that.

QUESTION: I’m just a little confused. If his role has not yet been defined, what is the point of having this --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say his role has not yet been defined. We are – have --

QUESTION: You’re just not going to tell us what it is.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been a – playing a supporting role. We’re not a party to the negotiations, but the Colombian Government has supported our engagement and having somebody designated, so we’re doing that, and we’ll determine what is – how he can help moving forward as these talks continue.

QUESTION: But that sounds like his role has not been defined.

MS. PSAKI: That’s incorrect. I think, obviously, when talks move forward, Matt, there – the needs and what is needed from an envoy like this can change, and obviously somebody with a great deal of experience, and he’ll be supportive of these efforts.

QUESTION: But – so is he going to talk to the FARC?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to share with you on his role, Matt.

QUESTION: But the – well, right. Which means that it’s not been defined, right?

MS. PSAKI: He was sworn in today.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let him start his job --

QUESTION: So he’s going to --

MS. PSAKI: -- and I’m sure we’ll have more to brief on his role.

QUESTION: -- play it by ear as (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I did not say that at all.

QUESTION: I mean, the only thing you --

MS. PSAKI: He has an – let me finish. He has an extensive background. The Colombian Government wanted us to have somebody who played this role. We support these efforts. This is certainly an example of that. We’ll let him get started and talk to the Colombians and all of the relevant officials who were involved, and then I’m sure we’ll have more to say about what his role will be moving forward.

QUESTION: He will speak – he will be directly involved with --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll, I’m sure, provide more information once he gets started, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Just – what you’ve been able to tell us about his role, so far, is only that the Colombian Government has expressed an interest in having someone designated in that position. But we don’t know whether the FARC has expressed that same interest, whether the Cubans who are hosting the talks have expressed that same interest, or whether the Norwegians – or whoever it is – yeah, the Norwegians – have expressed an interest in the U.S. I mean, can you assure us that you’re not just butting in here?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure that he’s supporting the efforts of the Colombian Government to achieve peace. He’s the appropriate person for the role. As he takes his role, we’ll have more to brief on what his role is.

QUESTION: I am not suggesting that he is not the appropriate person. I just want to know what he’s going to do.

MS. PSAKI: Well, he hasn’t started yet, so we’ll give him some time to start and then I’m sure we can provide you all in a briefing.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Perhaps you could tell us what his role was in El Salvador and Nicaragua during those talks.

MS. PSAKI: There is an extensive bio that I think should be in your inbox. If it’s not already, we’ll make sure it goes out right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you expect it to be a sort of similar role to whatever – I haven’t seen it yet. It hasn’t arrived yet --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s an envoy not a negotiator. So the negotiations will continue to be between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. His activities will be uniquely and without exception at the request of and coordinated with the Colombian Government. So every situation is different. We certainly can get you more on his background.

QUESTION: So he’s more allied with the Colombian Government and less allied – just if that’s the right word; it probably isn’t – with the FARC?

MS. PSAKI: He is supporting the efforts of the Colombian Government, yes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So it sounds as though you’re coming in on the side of the Colombian Government, which is – and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you should say that he is not really going to be a good offices, neutral negotiator. He is going to be supporting the --

MS. PSAKI: I just said he’s not a negotiator.

QUESTION: I know. So – but he – or an envoy. He’s not like an impartial observer to the process; he is supporting the Colombian Government as it goes into these talks.

MS. PSAKI: He’s supporting their efforts. Yes.

QUESTION: But he also said himself he was going to prod, cajole, and whatever the sides to come. So that sounds like it is a role.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Colombian Government is obviously negotiating with the FARC. That will continue. So he will determine through consultations with the Colombian Government what role he can help play. But he’s not a negotiator. The negotiators – the negotiating continues to be between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. That’s not changing.

QUESTION: One of the issues that seems to have stalled the talks recently – and they just resumed – was the issue of disarmament. Now, is that an area in which perhaps the United States could have a role in trying to help disarm the rebels?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly can help support. You’re right; I mean, I think there are two – there a couple of major issues left: victims’ rights and disarmament, demobilization, reintegration. And certainly, we believe U.S. engagement will help build on the success and the efforts that have been happening between the ongoing negotiations.

QUESTION: So that’s a yes?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, disarmament is an area in which the United States has experience and could help.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I think our engagement can help in that aspect. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have just a technical question.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, FARC is still on the terrorism list. So does that limit Ambassador Aaronson’s ability to even talk to them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we haven’t yet determined – obviously, it’s – he’s supporting and engaging with the Colombian Government – what specific role that is most productive and useful to the talks. I can see if there’s a particular legal issue beyond that, but it’s not an issue at this point.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The UN envoy to Syria, Mr. de Mistura, met this morning with deputy secretary of state.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about his visit?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have one yet, but I asked his team for one and I’m sure we can get you one before the end of the day, Samir.

QUESTION: Are we staying in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you. Yesterday, I asked about the latest IAEA report on Iran and its noncompliance with the PMD investigation.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you ready to talk about the report?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything new to add, Matt.

QUESTION: You have seen Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments, or you may have seen today that the report – the conclusion of the report that Iran is still stalling and not complying with the IAEA on the PMD investigation means essentially, in his words, that Iran is not to be trusted when it comes to the nuclear – when it comes to the nuclear issue, including any negotiations that may or may not be happening in the past or this weekend in Geneva.

I’m assuming that you disagree with him, but can you say – do you – does this – does the conclusion of the last IAEA report that you have talked about, which is the same conclusion, and this current one that you won’t talk about, does that not give you pause?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, Matt, this has never been about trust, as we’ve said many times. And certainly, we have ongoing concerns about these exact issues. This is one of the issue that – issues that’s being worked through in the negotiations. And any agreement would have verification measures that would be an important component of what’s agreed to. We’re not quite there yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you saying that any agreement would have verification measures on the IAEA and the possible military dimensions – a previous possible military dimension?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m saying that the possible military dimensions is one of the issues being discussed. There’s no final agreement yet, so I can’t outline for you what will be in the final agreement.

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you if it was correct – there have been people saying that what you would do is support – or what you might do is support an extension of the investigation into the PMDs as part of a deal, not necessarily demand that the Iranians comply as part of a deal. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: And I said yesterday that we’re not going to outline any discussions, any reports or specifics of negotiations.

Any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: Can I do Somalia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You just voiced your condemnation of the attacks in Libya. I wondered if you could give your reaction to the attacks on a hotel in Mogadishu today, in which I believe around 25 people were killed.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The United States strongly condemns al-Shabaab’s terrorist attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu today. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in the attack and wish the injured a speedy recovery. This murderous attack targeting government ministers and members of parliament once again highlights that al-Shabaab stands only for death and destruction, and is firmly opposed to the Somali people’s efforts to build a secure and prosperous future. We will continue to support the Somali people and their government as they rebuild their country. Those who stand in the way of Somalia’s progress will not succeed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Yemen --

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Yemen, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the reports that the UN special envoy to Yemen says that the opposition parties have agreed to form a legislative body called the People’s Transitional Council. Can we have the U.S. reaction to that and maybe what you think is the way forward at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We have seen these reports. We continue to support the special envoy’s efforts to work with the parties to find a solution to the political crisis, and we’re in regular contact with him and his team regarding the situation on the ground. We also continue to engage Yemenis and the international community to support Yemen’s political transition consistent with the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, UN Security Council resolutions, and Yemeni law. But we are also clear-eyed about the negotiations and are aware that, while participating in the talks, the Houthis continue to take steps to implement their unilateral declaration of February 6 abrogating the constitution.

And so UN is playing an important role. We’ve seen these reports. We don’t have an analysis yet on what it means because we haven’t seen implementation quite yet on it. And we are certainly clear-eyed given the events of the last couple of weeks of how that will be implemented – or how it could be implemented, I should say.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any further with your search for a protecting power or somebody who would --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that today.

QUESTION: Nothing. Okay.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: But what is happening? I mean – yeah, I mean, it’s --

QUESTION: Is there a need for a protecting power, or are there still U.S. Government personnel perhaps from another – from other agencies who are at the embassy and so you don’t need to have --

MS. PSAKI: Well, DOD and others have spoken to that. I think we are still having conversations about a protecting power. As you all know, many, many countries have left Yemen, so that is obviously a factor.

QUESTION: Including Yemen, some might say. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Some might say.

QUESTION: I mean, just on the logistical question, what if people want visas or – if there are any Americans left in Yemen, if they need passports where do they go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our services had to be suspended when our embassy was suspended. So obviously, those aren’t services we’re able to provide at this point in time.

QUESTION: At all? There’s no --

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding. I can check if there’s an alternative that we’ll be able to put together.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Change of subject.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We understand that Senator Feingold is stepping down as special envoy to DRC. Can you confirm this? Is there going to be another envoy named? Has he quit out of disgust, or is he just going somewhere else?

MS. PSAKI: Why does it always have to go there, Lesley?

QUESTION: I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Special --

QUESTION: If we find out from the United States (inaudible).

QUESTION: It wasn’t disgust. It was revulsion.

MS. PSAKI: Special Envoy Feingold is stepping down sometime next month. He will give his final speech as special envoy next Tuesday at the U.S. Institute for Peace. We will continue to devote sustained, high-level attention to the Great Lakes region. There is – while I don’t have any announcement now, there will be a successor named. And let me just take a moment, because obviously, Special Envoy Feingold has been – has played a very important role here. And last technical piece: He – the Secretary asked him to stay for a year when he started in June of 2013, so obviously we’re far past that point or about six to seven or eight months past that point at this point.

But amongst others, Special Envoy Feingold helped lead the international envoys’ participation in the Kampala Talks and their contribution to the resolution of the M23 rebellion. He helped drive the international community’s renewed focus and commitment to ending the threat of the FDLR, which has produced an international and regional consensus that now is the time for the DRC and the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC to neutralize the threat of this group. During his tenure, he also fostered, improved, and expanded U.S. relations with Angola, which, as you know, included a trip by the Secretary there last May. And he launched the Great Lakes to Great Lakes initiative, bringing together regional and international experts, academics, and government officials to discuss environmental concerns, ecoterrorism, and preservation of African Great Lakes. So obviously, he will be missed.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So the UK police have put out an alert for three teenage girls who they believe have left for Syria. They expressed a concern that there is a number recently of these cases of specifically young women and girls who seem to be attracted to this idea of becoming a participant in the ISIS fight. That includes a 19-year-old Colorado woman who was stopped in Denver last year. Does the U.S. share this concern, kind of apart from the foreign fighters going to Syria, that there’s this other ISIS bride phenomenon?

MS. PSAKI: I think we share a concern. Obviously, there are different reasons that individuals go, but many of them do go to join the effort, is how often it is described. And we have a – certainly an ongoing concern about foreign fighters, about the efforts by ISIL to appeal to individuals in the West. Certainly, as we’ve talked about a little bit here, the United States – obviously, we track these numbers, as do Western European countries. It’s something that we talk about in formats like the Countering Violent Extremism Summit that we’ve had the last three days; we talk about in ministerial meetings. And we have ongoing concerns about ISIL’s propaganda techniques and their outreach.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up very quickly – sorry for being late – on this very point --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- regarding foreign fighters? Is there, like, a program through which these fighters that have a change of heart once they get there – like a halfway house or a home, for the lack of better expression and so on, by you or by the Europeans, that they can actually go to, find refuge in, and be rehabilitated back into their societies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, every country has their own laws. This is something that we work with a range of – let me finish my answer before you ask another question. (Laughter.) We have every – we work with a range of countries. As you know, there has been action at the UN. The Secretary hosted a meeting on foreign fighters just two days ago. This is an issue that we’re working to determine the best way to address.

Now, our view is that targeting these individuals and preventing them from going is obviously the most effective and important step, so I would – every country has different laws and different rules they work with.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s say an American young man goes there and has a change of heart. What should they do? What should they do?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak about a hypothetical American man, Said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But there are. I mean, you – someone said, like, there are 150 --

MS. PSAKI: Understood. We have a range of laws we’ve – let me finish – we have a range of laws. We’ve put out a great deal of information I’m more than happy to get to you about what we’ve done, what other countries have done. This remains a primary focus of what we talk about in the anti-ISIL coalition.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got one on Brazil. There are some plans for the President to come at some point this year. Do you have any details on when that might be, or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details. I’ve seen the reports from there but don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Latin America?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In Venezuela once again, another arrest of an official, a mayor was arrested for allegedly trying to – what is it – sow unrest. And the president has accused him as well of taking part in a coup. This is – and – it sparked more protest. It’s a story that seems to be completely repeating itself and sort of escalating, it seems – like, intensifying.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen continued accusations, no question, that are false and baseless. And our view continues to be that political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We do not support a political transition in Venezuela by non-constitutional means. We’re not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government. And this is a continued effort – ongoing, because I do feel like we talk about these incidents once a week at least – about – of the Venezuelan Government to try to distract attention from the country’s economic and political problems and focus and try to distract and make these false accusations. We see that for what it is, but these are baseless and obviously – well, also let me just speak to your report of the mayor.

We’ve also seen reports that the Venezuelan intelligence service detained the Caracas metropolitan mayor and searched his office. We’ve also seen reports that military intelligence officials plan to move opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from his prison cell and transfer him to an unknown location. We are deeply concerned by what appears to be the Venezuelan Government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents by rounding up these prominent leaders of the opposition. Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent. But these are issues, obviously. We continue to work with partners – other partners who have a shared concern. And clearly, many of these accusations are being thrown against the United States, which is often why we have to speak to them.

QUESTION: Of course, Venezuela isn’t the only country that regularly accuses the United States of plotting coups.

MS. PSAKI: That --

QUESTION: It seems to be a widespread phenomenon whether it’s true or not.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to speak to it, Matt.

QUESTION: Anyway, I wanted to ask – you just said in your response to that question – you said “The United States does not support political transitions in Venezuela by non-constitutional means.” Does it just apply to Venezuela, or are there other countries where you do support non-constitutional --

MS. PSAKI: Is there a specific country you want to raise and have a discussion about?

QUESTION: No. Well, I’m just curious because your statement last night and again today, with the exception of the “in Venezuela” – “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.” That’s what you said in the statement last night.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But last week, you said, “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” which I asked about last week when you said it, “How longstanding is this?” It seems to be – have been removed. So is this an admission from the U.S. Government that at some – that this policy is not longstanding, and that in fact you have supported political transitions by non-constitutional means in the past?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I don’t know that we have time today to go through a long history of United States foreign policy, but I’m speaking to our policy as it relates to Venezuela and our policy as it relates to these accusations against us by the Maduro government.

QUESTION: Well, then let me put a sharper point on it. The statement from last – forgetting about just the “in Venezuela” part. The statement, “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” as compared to what you said a week ago, “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” does that mean that you are acknowledging that this is not a longstanding policy?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just happy to hear that you read our statements so closely.

QUESTION: Very closely.

MS. PSAKI: It is.

QUESTION: I – a lot of people do, and I’m just curious, I mean, is – does the removal of “longstanding policy” mean that you are acknowledging that it was not longstanding policy, and that in fact in the past the United States has supported political transitions by --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t over-read into our language here, Matt.

QUESTION: I’m just – I’m not over-reading. I’m just reading.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re speaking to and responding to – I think we’re ready to move on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, I have one on the State Department actually.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This morning in The Wall Street Journal, they reported that a cyber-intrusion that occurred three months ago was still plaguing the State Department. I wanted to see if you could provide us an update about what’s going on with the unclassified email system at the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know we’ve put out a statement on it to those who have asked, but let me just reiterate some of those points. We have robust security to protect our computer systems and our information, which includes access to our unclassified OpenNet system. The recent uptick in news reports regarding cyber incidents demonstrates that the Department is among a growing list of public institutions and private industries facing an increasing number of sophisticated cyber threats. We deal successfully with thousands of attacks every day, and we deal with them in conjunction with other relevant government agencies.

Beyond that, I’m not going to have many additional details to share for clear reasons, but --

QUESTION: Many or any?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see. What are your questions?

QUESTION: So there’s no information about any attribution for this attack that you can release?

MS. PSAKI: No details I’m going to get into from here, no.

QUESTION: But is what the report says correct, that you haven’t managed to evict some of these hackers from the network yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the important point here, Jo, is that we continue to – there are thousands of attacks we deal with every day. These attacks are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, our protections are becoming more sophisticated. And we work every day to fight back on these attacks and take a number of steps.

Now certainly, we have talked a bit in here and outside of the briefing room about the steps we needed to take just a couple of months ago because they were so extensive. And from time to time, we have had to do that. But this is something we deal with on a daily basis.

QUESTION: But are the same people who attacked your system three months ago still managing or inside the system today?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into that level of detail. I think the fact is that there are thousands of attacks from many sources that we deal with every single day, and the reason why there’s been a focus, I think, on this particular incident is because of the extent and how broad it was. And obviously, we took steps to combat that, but it’s something that we work on every day.

QUESTION: Did those steps include taking some of your systems offline?

MS. PSAKI: We talked about that at the time, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sorry. I wasn’t here when that happened.

MS. PSAKI: No, no. I know. And it was some time ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, it wasn’t that long ago.

QUESTION: It was about three months ago, wasn’t it? I don’t --

MS. PSAKI: A couple months.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It’s all relative, I suppose.

QUESTION: Are these attacks done by governments or individuals?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into that level of detail.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On hacking --

QUESTION: Or any level of detail.

MS. PSAKI: Or any level of detail on the specific attribution question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A different kind of hacking?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The European company, Gemalto, allegedly was hacked by the NSA, and European officials are freaking out about it. Is the State Department doing anything to quell concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we have – I don’t have any specific comment on those reports as it relates to any concern any of our partners have around the world. We certainly would have conversations with them, but those would happen through private, diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: With regard to Russia and the summit yesterday, you had the FSB director come here and take part in it. You said in reports that they – we work with Russia to – against combatting ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you give us sort of a readout of who he met with yesterday and what kinds of things were discussed?

MS. PSAKI: There were, as you know, dozens of attendees at this conference, so I don’t have anything to really read out from his particular interactions. Maybe the Russians may be able to provide that. I can see if there are any senior officials who had any interaction with him.

QUESTION: I was going to ask the same question, but – and that answer is kind of what I expected, but more broadly, you opened this briefing by saying that Russia is undermining international diplomacy and by – as a consequence, undermining the foundations of “a modern global order.” Why on Earth would you have – facilitate the entry to and host the head of the Russian spy intelligence service, which presumably is involved in what you say is undermining modern world order --

MS. PSAKI: Should we also ask them not to be a part of the P5+1 Iran negotiations?

QUESTION: I don't know. It just seems to me odd that --

MS. PSAKI: Or not to work on --

QUESTION: -- you’re accusing them of basically shaking the foundations of the globe, and at the same time, you’re perfectly happy to talk to them in other formats, in other scenarios.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, modern-day diplomacy requires that we work with some countries on some issues, even when we have strong disagreements on others.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is not just one issue. You accused them of undermining the modern global order, not just undermining peace in Ukraine or --

MS. PSAKI: As it relates to Ukraine, as it relates to Ukraine. It was a comment on Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the modern global order depends on what happens in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I think the world is looking at what happens in Ukraine --

QUESTION: Well, right, but that --

MS. PSAKI: -- as a reflection of Russians’ actions.

QUESTION: But the problem is that the rhetoric doesn’t match the action. If you really think that the Russians are undermining the modern global order, which is a pretty big thing, then why – (laughter) – on Earth would you be talking to them in the way that you do on issues that you think that they’re trying to --

MS. PSAKI: Because we talk to a range of countries where we have disagreements, and there are still some issues --

QUESTION: But you don’t accuse --

MS. PSAKI: -- where we find agreements.

QUESTION: But you don’t accuse any other country of undermining the modern global order.

MS. PSAKI: There are certainly many countries we have issues with on a range of issues that we still engage with diplomatically, Matt.

QUESTION: But not to this extent. I mean, you basically painted a picture of them as being like, I don't know, Dr. Evil or something, trying to --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you comments we’ve made about other countries’ actions if you’d like that are critical, that we still work with.

QUESTION: I have been doing this for a long time. I’ve never heard anyone accuse any – this building accuse any other country of undermining the foundations of the modern global order ever. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: All right. Well, then you should file an AP story on it.

QUESTION: I think you’ll probably find one. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria just for one second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because today, a group of UN investigators said that they are going to publish the names of war criminals in Syria from all sides, including presumably elements of the regime. How could – will something like this change the game, so to speak, or the rules of the game?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't know that it’s been fully determined yet. We’re still reviewing their proposal and what specifically they want to do. Obviously, we support the work of the commission of inquiry, but I don’t have any other further analysis for you on how that would work.

QUESTION: Just two quick clarifications.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s widely reported in the media that New York-based Ravi Batra, who’s the chair of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, has written a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting a humanitarian visa to the wife of Sureshbhai Patel, who is lying in a hospital in Alabama. Now the question is – first is: Is the building in receipt of the letter? The second is: Understanding you don’t talk about the visa, but this being a very humanitarian issue, would you like to say something about the update on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, unfortunately, we don’t discuss any visa cases regardless, and certainly, as I’ve noted in here before, our hearts go out to the family and to all of those in the community who are, as we are, standing with this man who was attacked in Alabama. I can’t go into specifics. Obviously, case by – each visa is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: Now, being like – I fully agree, but still, I’m just asking because of the humanitarian nature of the --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re asking. I just can’t go into specifics because they’re confidential.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick one. The summit yesterday, was China invited? If not, why? If yes, did they just refuse to come or reject the invitation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m – we can check and see if there is a more extensive list of invites. I know we put out a list of who attended.

Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: Do you have any further information on the second round of Cuba talks next week?

MS. PSAKI: I hope we’ll have a media note out either later today or early next week which will have more specifics. They’re taking place here. They’ll be one day. So we’ll just have more logistical details.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – and I don't know if you’ve been watching these, but the – of course, the Greek Government put forward a new proposal to the EU on how to pay off or not pay off its debts, and that has not been accepted by some of the members of the EU and there is now cause for an emergency summit on Sunday. Do you have a position on what the Greek Government should be doing, how the EU should be handling this?

MS. PSAKI: I would say our role is that we are going to continue to encourage the Greek Government, its European partners and the IMF to work together to chart a way forward that builds on crucial structural reforms and returns Greece to sustainable, long-term growth. We certainly understand there have been many discussions, many reports, and we’re, of course, following it, but we support the ongoing efforts that are happening now.

QUESTION: The EU does – the U.S. does have an interest in the stability of the –

MS. PSAKI: Of course.

QUESTION: -- EU and the Eurozone, does it not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to support the efforts of the Greek Government, the international community to strengthen the foundation of Greek’s long-term prosperity, absolutely.

QUESTION: But is – does the U.S. have concerns about any impact – does the Administration have concerns about any impact that Greece leaving the Eurozone might have in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, believe that – we’ve consistently favored the success of the Eurozone, which you referenced, of course. We’ve encouraged Greece to work cooperatively with its European partners and the IMF to address its structural issues. We believe that needed structural reform and a plan for a return to growth in Greece are best accomplished within the Eurozone, so that certainly is what we’re encouraging.

QUESTION: So you would prefer – the United States as – the U.S. position is that you would prefer to see Greece remain a member of the Eurozone?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly think that their reforms, yes, can be accomplished structurally through the Eurozone, within the Eurozone.

QUESTION: Okay, and given the fact that economies – modern economies, whether or not they’re being – the modern world order is being shaken or not by anyone, but they’re – everything is interconnected. So what – a ripple in Europe is going to affect here somehow, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we saw that in 2009 and --

QUESTION: Exactly.

MS. PSAKI: -- 2010. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So with that in mind, I’m wondering if you, the Administration, shares the opinion of the Germans that the Greek proposal is, in fact, a Trojan horse.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to comment on the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its – and the EU partners and the IMF specifically.

QUESTION: Well – yeah, but I mean do you think that – do you agree with the suggestion from the Germans that this is just a ruse and a delaying game that may ultimately end up as the – what happened with the Trojan horse, allegedly?

MS. PSAKI: We all know the story.

QUESTION: Exactly. I mean, are the Germans just being – I don’t know what – anti-Cassandra here or --

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to weigh in on their discussions.

QUESTION: Okay, so you don’t have a position on what the – how they actually come to an agreement; you just want to see them get there?

MS. PSAKI: There are ongoing negotiations. I’m sure once there is one, perhaps we’ll speak to it at that point in time.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Have a great weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)

DPB # 31

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 19, 2015

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 17:39

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 19, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:54 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thank you for your patience. I know we’ve tried to be on time lately and we didn’t succeed at that today. I have a couple of items for you at the top.

The United States condemns continuing attacks by Russia-backed separatists in and around Debaltseve, Mariupol, and other locations in eastern Ukraine which violate the ceasefire and flout the Minsk agreements. The Ukrainian Government reports that Russia-backed separatists have violated the ceasefire more than 250 times since the ceasefire took effect on February 15th, resulting in more than 10 killed and hundreds wounded. The OSCE confirms that ceasefire violations continue and that the Russia-backed separatists continue to deny OSCE monitors access to Debaltseve and other areas.

These actions are all contrary to what Russia and the separatists agreed to several times in Minsk. We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to stop their attacks immediately, withdraw heavy weapons, halt the flow of fighters and equipment from Russia into Ukraine, allow the OSCE monitors to do their job, and proceed with full implementation of their Minsk commitments. If Russia and the separatists it backs continue to flout the agreements they signed, it will result in more costs and further isolation.

One other item for the top: Secretary Kerry will travel to London to meet with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on February 21st to discuss bilateral and global issues. On February 22nd, the Secretary will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

With that, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So on the – well, first of all, congratulations.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ll consider your promotion to be sitting in the calm of the White House instead of dealing with us every day.

MS. PSAKI: I would --

QUESTION: You will be missed by us and, I’m sure, your legion of fans around the world.

MS. PSAKI: Well – (laughter) --

QUESTION: And late night – that late night show.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Matt. I’m sure we can all rely on you to make the next six weeks really count.

QUESTION: Right, yes. (Laughter.) But since there are six weeks, you’re not rid of us yet. So let’s start with Iran and the Secretary’s meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif. Should we presume from this that you guys think that you’re close to getting a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have always believed that direct bilateral meetings as well as P5+1 meetings with a larger group would be needed to continue to move the process forward. As you know, we have about six weeks here until we’re looking at the – our goal of achieving a political framework. So this is an opportunity to continue to make progress.

QUESTION: So is the six weeks coincidental?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) No, it’s not.

QUESTION: You’re not timing your departure for the --

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Okay. You have seen the IAEA report that came out today, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the IAEA report – excuse me – has not been publicly released yet by the agency. We continue to call – I know this frustrates you, but we don’t comment on the reports before they’ve been publicly released. We continue to call on Iran to cooperate fully and without delay with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues, particularly those that give rise to concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. As we’ve discussed in here, that’s one of the issues that’s part of the negotiations.

QUESTION: Right, but – okay, so let’s not talk about this – today’s IAEA report. Let’s talk about the last one, which is public --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and which says exactly the same thing as the one that was put out today in terms of the PMDs.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So let’s just pretend that we’re talking about the previous report, even though we all really know that we’re talking about today’s report, which says that Iran is still stalling and not cooperating on the investigation into PMDs. Is it correct that the U.S. – you guys have told the Iranians that you’re willing to allow there to be an extension of the investigation into the PMDs – in other words, there doesn’t have to be a resolution to this – if you get your framework agreement at the end of March?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as has been the case for some time now, we’re not going to get into specifics of the negotiations. It is correct, of course, that discussing this issue is one we’re – is an issue that we’re, of course, working to resolve in the negotiations. But there’s nothing I am going to confirm from reports or discussions.

QUESTION: And then I don't know if you’ve seen this, but Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office just put out a statement – or he put out a statement; I’m not sure if it’s his office or him – saying that despite what you and Josh Earnest said yesterday that you’re withholding some classified, sensitive details of the negotiations from Israel, that they know, that he – the prime minister and Israel – knows exactly what’s in the deal and that it’s a bad deal and dangerous for Israel. Do they know exactly what’s in the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there isn’t a deal, so it’s hard for anyone to know.

QUESTION: Or the – what – they know exactly what’s in the proposal that’s being discussed that the Secretary will be talking about with Foreign Minister Zarif?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what I said yesterday, but clearly, we take steps in order to ensure that classified information and information that we don’t want to be publicly discussed is not publicly discussed.

QUESTION: But does that mean that when Prime Minister Netanyahu says or his office says that he knows exactly what’s in the proposal that’s on the table right now, that he doesn’t – that that’s a lie or – maybe “lie” is too strong, but that they don’t know what – exactly what’s in it? Would you say that that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would stick with where I was yesterday in terms of the kind of information that we provide.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on this: Clearly, it doesn’t really matter what you guys say from here or the White House or what is briefed to the Israelis now. It doesn’t – at least it doesn’t appear that it will make any difference, that it will change Prime Minister Netanyahu’s calculus that this is a bad deal for Israel. Is it the Administration’s position that it is more important to have an agreement with Iran than it is to have a good relationship with Israel and its prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we would never put it in those terms, as I’m sure doesn’t surprise you. I would note one piece from the last year and a half. There was certainly a great deal of skepticism from Israel and elsewhere about the JPOA and what it would mean and what would be included and the likelihood or unlikelihood of Iran abiding by the requirements in there. They have. It has halted and reversed many parts of their program.

So we’ve seen this movie before. There’s no deal yet. Obviously, if there’s a deal, we’ll be explaining the deal and explaining why and how it prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And if that’s the case and we come to a deal, it’s hard to see how anyone wouldn’t see that’s to the benefit of the international community.

QUESTION: Well, except for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who says that he knows what’s in the proposal that’s on the table right now, knows what is likely to be approved if it is approved – if it is approved – and he still doesn’t like it and still thinks it’s a bad – it’s bad for Israel and a threat to Israel. So again, the question is: Is it --

MS. PSAKI: Then it sounds like he knows more than the negotiators, since there’s no deal yet.

QUESTION: Is it more important to get – for the Administration to get a deal with Iran than it is to have good relations with Israel and the prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: We think it’s important to get a good deal with Iran and with the P5+1, and that will not only make the United States safer; it will make Israel safer.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, how does the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif dovetail with the trip the day before or the talks the day before, which are going to be led by Wendy Sherman?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. So as you saw in the media note we released yesterday, Under Secretary Sherman and the negotiating team are on the way to Geneva today for bilateral meetings with the Iranian negotiators. They’ll be joined by Helga Schmid, deputy secretary-general for the EU’s External Action Service. As often happens with these negotiations, they’re – often the negotiating team and Under Secretary Sherman are there in advance or they’re there after or both, so this is certainly consistent with how we’ve done meetings in the past.

QUESTION: So the anticipation is that those talks at Wendy Sherman’s level will be on Friday?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ll be putting more – I think some of it’s still being set in terms of the specific meetings and when they’ll take place. They’re on the way – their way there now.

QUESTION: And will they stay on through the meeting on – I think it was the 22nd, you said – Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. I certainly anticipate Under Secretary Sherman and the negotiating team would stay, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So what’s the – what is the purpose of having a high-level meeting with the Secretary? What is it that he hopes he will achieve which Wendy Sherman won’t necessarily achieve?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this isn’t a new part of how we’ve approached these negotiations. And obviously, there are political decisions and discussions that need to be made. Secretary Kerry has spent a great deal of time with Foreign Minister Zarif over the course of time. They’re all cooperative and part of the same effort and process. A lot of these talks are technical, and so oftentimes the negotiating teams when they’re talking are talking about technical issues. But we’ve seen both components, just as we’ve seen bilateral meetings with the United States and Iran, bilateral meetings with other countries, or larger P5+1 meetings as all an important part of the process.

QUESTION: And there was a suggestion that possibly after the meeting between Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary Kerry, there could be a broader P5+1 meeting with everybody involved. Could you talk to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there may be additional bilateral or multilateral meetings with other members of the P5+1. It’s – we’re still finalizing the schedule. I would anticipate you’d hear any announcements of that from the EU, as has been standard process.

QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There’s a report that Zarif shouts at his U.S. interlocutors in the Iran nuclear negotiations. Is there any truth to that? Does Foreign Minister Zarif shout at Secretary Kerry in these meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, as I’m sure will come as no surprise, I’m certainly not going to confirm or speak to the tone of any other foreign minister in a meeting. I will convey that these are difficult issues, there have been tough conversations, and the Secretary has also made clear points when we have limitations when we can’t go farther. And we certainly expect as these continue that – as the issues get more difficult, that that part will be part of it as well.

QUESTION: Did he shout back?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) To be a fly in the room, if only.

QUESTION: Staying on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, I want to add my voice to Matt and my other colleagues. Congratulations. You will be missed.

MS. PSAKI: Very kind of you. Thank you, Said.

QUESTION: And on Iran, is there a likelihood that we actually can’t have a deal or could there be a deal before the 3rd of March, the date scheduled for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, obviously our goal here is to achieve a framework by the end of March, so that’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION: But – yeah, true. But is there a likelihood that we might get to a deal before then, that the fact the machinations are in place where this could happen?

MS. PSAKI: I would say we’re not queuing our work to the visit of the prime minister.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, the prime minister of Israel – has he made what kind of a deal he would like to see public? Are you aware of the kind of deal that Israel or Prime Minister Netanyahu would like to see?

MS. PSAKI: The prime minister has spoken a great deal to his views. I’m sure he will do that when he comes here in a few weeks.

QUESTION: I mean, did he, at one point, say this is the kind of deal that I would sign to, as far as you’re concerned?

MS. PSAKI: He has spoken publicly about that. I would encourage you to ask the Government of Israel that question.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, it seems out of Iran there’s a report that a lawyer who has been contacted by Jason Rezaian’s family and is trying to get in contact with him has not been able to get access to the judge, which apparently he needs to do to get access to Jason Rezaian and have him sign the papers so he can represent him. Do you have any more information on that? And are you aware – is there any way to put some pressure on the court or any way so that the lawyer can get in to see his client?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the reports that a lawyer who was recently retained by the family of Jason Rezaian in Iran has not been able to meet with him yet and reports that there has been pressure on a number of lawyers to not take his case. If true, these reports are very disturbing. Mr. Rezaian should not be prevented from choosing his lawyer or coerced into selecting someone chosen by the Iranian Government. We continue to call for his immediate release and for Iran to respect its own laws governing its judicial process.

New topic. Ukraine.

QUESTION: So you began --

MS. PSAKI: Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to follow on that question yesterday asking about Saman Naseem. Do you have any update of that?

MS. PSAKI: We are deeply concerned by reports of the possible imminent execution of Saman Naseem, an Iran Kurdish man who was arrested when he was 17 and who alleges he was tortured into a confession. In his October report to the UN General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed said that Iran has executed at least eight juvenile offenders since July of 2013. We call on Iran to respect the fair trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran’s own laws and its international obligations.

QUESTION: One more question on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you aware of Qasem Soleimani’s, the commander of the Qods army’s activity in Kurdistan region of Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that to discuss.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You began with – you had another condemnation of the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Arshad, can you speak up a bit?

QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry. You began your statement with – you began the briefing with a statement of – another statement of condemnation of the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, and in particular, you cited the more than 200 instances of violating the ceasefire. Why is it not time to declare that the ceasefire has failed, since there have been so many violations of it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, one, I think as we’ve talked about from the beginning, our focus remains on supporting the implementation where we can see this implemented. And obviously, we continue to call, as our partners do, for Russia and Russian-backed separatists to implement the agreement, an agreement that they signed onto. We continue to believe that a diplomatic solution – that a solution that would include the implementation of everything from moving weapons back to moving separatists back to abiding by – to releasing prisoners is the right path forward. At the same time, we also, while we’re focused on supporting the implementation, we continue to have discussions internally and with our partners about additional costs. And more will be imposed unless Russia and the separatists implement the agreements.

QUESTION: How long are you going to give this? I mean, it’s been since Saturday night now, so a full five days – clearly hasn’t worked. Is this something that you’re going to let run for weeks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a timeline for you. I can assure you that the situation in Ukraine, the violence that we see, the fact that we highlight each day what we’re seeing as violations speaks to how concerned we are about what we’re seeing on the ground, and discussions internally continue.

QUESTION: And are the – is the principal focus of the discussions internally at the moment additional costs in terms of economic sanctions? Or does it include the possibility of lethal assistance?

MS. PSAKI: The same options that were options a couple of weeks ago remain options today.

QUESTION: Jen, I’m trying to --

MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You said that there 250 violations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Were they by the separatists? Or that’s the total violations on both sides?

MS. PSAKI: Separatists. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Did you have a --

QUESTION: Since September?

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: Since September?

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: Since February 15th.

QUESTION: Oh, so February 15th.

QUESTION: You said Saturday.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, since Saturday.

QUESTION: 250?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have – you have said – you have acknowledged before that there had been violations by the other side as well. Do you have a tally of how many times – is it zero? Or do you --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t not. I think one of the challenges we here – have here, Matt – and obviously I referenced the Ukrainian Government because they are the ones who have said 250 violations – is that the OSCE, while they’ve confirmed ceasefire violations by the Russian-backed separatists, they don’t have access to a number of these areas. They are the independent evaluator of these violations.

QUESTION: Well, the OSCE doesn’t have access to Ukrainian-held positions?

MS. PSAKI: To Debaltseve and some other areas where they can get a sense of what’s happening. I have not seen them speak to Ukrainian violations.

QUESTION: Right. But if they’re there to be impartial, and if there --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- have been violations, I mean, on – and you’ve said, perhaps understandable violations because they’re defending what – in your words –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: --they are defending – I mean, wouldn’t it make sense to also have a count of how many --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the OSCE would put out that sort of information. I have not seen them put out that information.

QUESTION: But the information on the 250 is from the OSCE?

MS. PSAKI: No. It’s from the Ukrainian Government.

QUESTION: Well, that’s not the same as the OSCE, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But the Ukrainian --

QUESTION: Has the OSCE --

MS. PSAKI: If the OSCE would have access to a number of these areas they would be able to give their own evaluation. But they don’t, because the separatists are preventing them from having access.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

QUESTION: But – wait, I’m not sure I understand. Is it – it is the OSCE who is supposed to be monitoring the alleged ceasefire, not the Government of Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So the OSCE you see as a neutral party in this, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, as does the international community.

QUESTION: Right. And you see Ukraine as being neutral on this?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t suggest that. Obviously, Ukraine --

QUESTION: But you’re --

MS. PSAKI: -- has a stake in the outcome here.

QUESTION: Right. Exactly. But you’re – but you accept their figure of 250 violations by the rebels --

MS. PSAKI: I cited their figure because I think it’s relevant information.

QUESTION: Okay. I am not suggesting that it’s wrong, I’m just wondering why you don’t have – why you’re accepting it from the Ukrainian Government, who obviously have a stake in this, and not --

MS. PSAKI: If there are violations being thrown out there by the Ukrainian Government then let’s – against them, then let’s talk about that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: What sort of examples of violations were the Ukrainian authorities citing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen a number of them, and we’ve cited a number of them here as well – I mean, around Debaltseve, around Donetsk and Luhansk. So there are a number we’ve talked about over the last couple of days.

QUESTION: But is it a specific shelling incident or a specific shooting incident?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Those are all part of it, absolutely.

QUESTION: Jen, I – are you saying – I mean, there have been occasions when rebel-held areas have been shelled, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Presumably, although we don’t have proof and you called for investigations in doing –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But they presumably were coming from the Ukrainian Government. Are you saying that if the OSCE had access, then they would be – to the rebel-held areas – then they would be able to --

MS. PSAKI: No. I was suggesting that the reason I cited the Ukrainian Government is because the OSCE doesn’t have access to these areas where the separatists are violating. If they had access, then perhaps they could evaluate whether or not these are all violations.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Would you say that the ceasefire is largely holding? I know you mentioned 10 killing, 250 violations and so on, but by and large the ceasefire is holding, right?

MS. PSAKI: As I said yesterday, there are some areas where it is and there are some areas where it is not, and that is our concern.

QUESTION: Would you say that --

QUESTION: I had a new one on Ukraine, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you’d seen the news out this morning from a Russian company, Gazprom, that they started supplying gas directly to the eastern Ukraine areas that are held by the rebels. I wondered what the U.S. reaction to that was.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say that the surest way to ease the suffering of the people of eastern Ukraine is to put an end to the aggression by Russia and the separatists it backs by implementing the Minsk agreements. We have seen reports as – of course, the reports you’re referencing. I don’t have any independent confirmation of those, but we certainly believe that the way to return normalcy here is to implement the Minsk agreements.

QUESTION: Are you opposed to them supplying gas to eastern Ukraine, given that I imagine some it for their supplies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think part of the issue here is there are also reports that the ongoing attacks by Russia-backed separatists have forced Ukraine’s Naftogaz to halt the delivery of natural gas to the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine due to a damaged gas trunk. So this is yet another example of the hardship inflicted on the people of eastern Ukraine by the intervention here.

QUESTION: Do you think – do you not think he’s a little cynical, given the fact that earlier this year, or probably late last year – sorry – there was a whole – there was a big threat from Gazprom to cut off supplies to Ukraine itself, and now they seem to be supplying an area which is passed in the hands of pro-Russian separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, and I think we have to see through what the issue at hand is here. There wouldn’t be an issue, it seems, that eastern Ukraine was dealing with in terms of a lack of access to natural gas if Russia hadn’t illegally intervened into that part of the country. So that’s why we are where we are.

QUESTION: But you’re not fundamentally opposed to them having the supplies as long as they get some supplies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly want, on a humanitarian basis, of course, the people of eastern Ukraine and all across Ukraine, just like we do around the world, to have access to the supplies they need. But I think the context here is incredibly important before we applaud everything.

Ukraine or --

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you’d seen the comments by the British defense secretary in which he said that Russia presented a real and present danger to the Baltic states. Is that something with which the United States agrees?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve seen as a NATO ally that we have taken steps to support a range of our partners in the region through visits, through supplies, through equipment. And that’s something we’ve done not just with words but with actions. I don’t think we’ve put it in exactly those terms, but certainly, we’ve taken steps to support our friends and neighbors in the region.

QUESTION: But do you feel that there – the threat to them is growing? Is there any evidence that you would want to say now that the danger to them is increasing --

MS. PSAKI: There’s no new evidence. I think, though, if you’re a country in the region and you’re seeing what’s happening, it’s understandable if you are concerned about what it means for you.

QUESTION: And one other question, again about Britain. Do you have a response to the increased Russian air activity around Britain? The RAF had to escort two more bombers out of near Russian – British airspace.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly seen that. I don’t have anything new to add from here, though.

QUESTION: Why --

QUESTION: But could you say that increased NATO intercepts of Russian aircraft is worrying? I mean, do you see it as an escalation or just an annoyance?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t call it that. I think the UK has spoken to it. I don’t have anything to add from here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Why isn’t Russia’s direct involvement in carving off pieces of Ukraine, including through the use of its military force as well as by supporting the separatists, additional evidence to suggest that Russia’s other neighbors, such as the Baltics, are under greater threat?

MS. PSAKI: Didn’t I just say that we have taken action not just with words but with supplies, with support, with visits, in light of what’s happening in Ukraine, and that it’s understandable that Ukraine’s neighbors have a concern, given what they’re seeing happen in Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, but the question was whether you concurred with the statement that they’re under greater threat. Is your point, “Yes we do, and that’s why we’ve taken these steps”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think I need to put new terms on it, Arshad. We’ve taken actions to support them. I think that shows what we think.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Where does that leave the intent to supply Ukraine with arms or not supply them with arms? Where does that issue stand now?

MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned in response to one of Arshad’s questions, we have a range of options that have been on the table for some time. No decision has been made.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, just a couple more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Was there – since the Minsk agreements were agreed to, was there ever a time that the United – in the view of the United States that it was fully implemented at any point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are several components of it, as you know, including the release of political prisoners. Obviously, we haven’t seen that done. There have been moments where ceasefires have been abided to in certain parts of the country. So have every component been abided to? No, I think there hasn’t been moments that I recall, but there have been moments where components of it have been. Regardless, we still continue to believe that a diplomatic solution, abiding by these agreements that all of these countries and the separatists have signed is the right path forward.

QUESTION: But you’ve said and the OSCE has said that it’s – it has to be a full – basically an all-or-nothing deal, that it has to be fully --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve also said that a ceasefire needs to be the first step in the process.

QUESTION: Okay. So I mean – but I guess I’m still just wondering, following up on Arshad’s question, if you’ve never really seen the whole thing implemented, then what is it really going to take to see that this is not really viable anymore? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I’ve said, we’ve said a ceasefire needs to be the first step in the process. Obviously, that requires Russia and the Russian-backed separatists abiding by that ceasefire. And certainly, we’ve seen violations – many – over the past couple of days which are greatly concerning. There are some areas, according to the OSCE, where we’ve seen a reduction in violence. I think our view here continues to be that a political solution, a diplomatic solution is the right path forward. We’re not looking for an escalatory path. We want to find a way to reduce the violence, to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and that’s why we continue to pursue these diplomatic options.

QUESTION: President Poroshenko said that he would prefer a UN peacekeeping force in the region. Is that something that you see as desirable or even viable?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen his comments. We have not seen a formal request from the Ukrainian Government. Any formal request would have to be considered in close consultation with our partners, and obviously as part of a UN process.

QUESTION: Jen, just more broadly – and I don’t expect you to have an answer to this, but perhaps you can take it to your --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- legal people and ask them.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As you know, the relations between Russia and the United States and its major European partners were supposed to be governed by the Budapest Memorandum. Does the Administration believe that that memorandum is basically gone and is no more? And if it does, or even if it doesn’t, is there any way to resurrect it, short of an end to the violence and the return of Crimea to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to take it and talk to our legal team about it, Matt.

QUESTION: One more on --

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you feel there’s a – perhaps a greater chance that the ceasefire might be observed now that the separatists have achieved their immediate goal of taking Debaltseve?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s assuming we know what their goals are. And I think --

QUESTION: That was their immediate goal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, fair enough. But I think what we’ve seen is continued aggression and an unwillingness to abide by even agreements that they’ve signed with countries from the international community. Certainly the door is open for them to abide by this agreement, but actions speak louder than words here.

QUESTION: Yes. I have one question, Jen. Yesterday I asked Marie Harf at the Foreign Press Center; she said she was going to check.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just wonder whether you have an answer. Today we didn’t see any representative in the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, any representative of the Kurdish Government in Iraq. I wonder whether they were not invited by the U.S. Government or they didn’t attend. Because I haven’t seen any public complaint from the KRG.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with you. I think, as we’ve talked about many, many times in here, we see the Government of Iraq as the representative of all of Iraq.

QUESTION: Does that mean they were not invited this time again?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s going to be the same, with Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In the result of the counterterrorism summit, there will be next steps for the countries who participated, including Iraq. What are the next steps for Iraq to take on, other than the war that going on there, and also for the Kurdish Government? Because we have a lot of youth from the Kurdish region of Iraq, they joined ISIS. So is there anything specifically for them, like to take --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as you saw, there have been representatives from all over the world who are participating in this summit. It’s not just about Iraq at all; it’s not just about ISIL. It’s about how we counter violent extremism and how we address that not only in the short term but over the long term. We’ve put out several fact sheets; I expect there’ll be more. As you know, the conference is continuing. So I don’t have anything to preview for you at this moment.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the digital hub --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that the President announced this morning?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s the genesis? Why is it based in the UAE? How quickly is it going to be up and running? What’s expected of Special Envoy Hussain to help get it off the ground and operating?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first that – I know the President announced it today – some of the details we’re still working through and we’ll be discussing with our partners. Part of this, Roz, is, as you know, we have been part of the effort – the anti-ISIL coalition effort has been delegitimizing ISIL, and certainly having a hub in the region that can be responsible or play an important role in pushing back on messages with the right voices is something that we think is – could be hugely effective and is an important tool to have in the region. But obviously, talking to our partners about how this will work, which has – we’ve been talking about, but continuing those discussions is part of what will happen from here.

QUESTION: Is it only going to be focused on dealing with the messaging that has been put out by al-Qaida, by ISIL, by Boko Haram, by AQAP, by other affiliated groups? Or is it going to be broader and deal with other types of extremist behavior – for example, Neo Nazis in Western Europe, here in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think part of the reasoning, as you know, for the creation of this is to – is our effort to delegitimize ISIL and delegitimize the violent extremism that we’ve seen out there. But again, there are going to be conversations with our partners in the region. I’m sure we’ll have more to say about it as the details become finalized.

QUESTION: Would that be a State Department-run program?

MS. PSAKI: I think it will be – we will be a partner and we’ll work with many partners in the region.

QUESTION: So in other words, the idea isn’t really – it’s not fully formulated?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that, Matt. I would say that when we have more details to talk about publicly, we will do that.

QUESTION: Here’s something that is done --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- was done just before we came in here, and that is the train and equip deal with the Turks. I’m just wondering if you have anything that you can add to the announcement that was made by the Embassy.

MS. PSAKI: I would just say I know that it was just recently signed, I think, in the last 30 minutes, if not even more recently than that, and I had mentioned the other day that we certainly welcomed our partnership and work with Turkey on this and other issues as a part of the coalition. So certainly, we are looking forward to implementing this plan and we thank them for their efforts and their ongoing part in these discussions.

QUESTION: But do you know – and I have not seen the agreement that was signed or the statement from the Embassy that announced it – but how soon does it take – does it begin?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we – I’m sure there are details that can be released publicly. I just don’t have them in front of me right now.

QUESTION: Are you the right person to be asking, or should these be directed to the Pentagon?

MS. PSAKI: It likely is DOD. It likely is DOD, yes.

QUESTION: Can we come back to the digital hub --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- for one second? The U.S.’s own effort to try to deal or to try to confront ISIL and al-Qaida in the social media realm goes back to 2011. Why has it taken four years to actually reach out to countries in the region where people --

MS. PSAKI: It hasn’t taken four years to reach out to countries in the region, Roz; far from that. I think we’ve seen this growing and evolving threat and see the growth of the propaganda machine, and dealing with that and making sure we’re doing it in the most efficient way, and changing the way we deal with it is something that is what you do when you’re dealing with social media.

QUESTION: But let’s go back to the fact that Inspire Magazine predated this Administration, and certainly there were people who found themselves seduced or challenged to take up arms, as it were, because of core al-Qaida. And so it does kind of raise the question – we’ve been talking about these sorts of groups since 2001. We’re coming up on 14 years. What’s the (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: When was Twitter started, Roz?

QUESTION: I don’t know that, but --

MS. PSAKI: Not 2001.

QUESTION: No, but they were on the internet and you could go online and you could read things that they were publishing and you could see their videos that everyone would download and then put on TV.

MS. PSAKI: And as you know --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- there are a range of efforts that we’ve had underway as a government working with other governments; some we talk about, some we don’t. This is a part of an effort to communicate publicly with the population. That has been ongoing.

QUESTION: But I guess my basic question is this: There was a very militaristic response to al-Qaida after September 11th. And part of the argument that the Bush Administration put forward was that trying to respond to these sorts of groups in a legalistic fashion wasn’t working and the only thing that will get people’s attention is weapons. It appears as if the Obama Administration is moving to something that does not rely on military might. Is there a fundamental philosophical shift in the way that these countries --

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with everything almost you just said. The fact is we believe there’s a military component, but there are also other components. We’ve done thousands of airstrikes; we are starting a train and equip program next month. We believe the military component is a very important component of taking fighters off the battlefield, and that’s something not only the United States but other partners around the world are playing a prominent role in.

But there are other pieces. We are not going to defeat ISIL if we don’t defeat their ideology, and that is the component that this is focused on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just perplexed by your question about Twitter, because – “When was Twitter.” I mean, al-Qaida managed to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon without there being a Twitter. They managed to do attacks around the world.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but I’m referring to what a hub would do and the changing – how social media has changed over time, and how we’ve also had to change the tools we use and how we use them and what we do with them most effectively.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: So the – so it’s an evolution in the strategy that began post-9/11, but is Roz not – is her point not correct that it’s taken quite a long time to evolve for the (inaudible) strategy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would disagree with the premise in the sense that what we’re talking about here is a communications hub to try to deal with the ideology of ISIL. So that is a more recent challenge that we’ve seen in terms of the propaganda machine that we’ve seen out there.

QUESTION: But I think what the – but what the point is – and I – is that that ideology existed prior to Twitter and everything. I mean, that was – that is a vehicle to make it even more easily seen, but the ideology was there before, no?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Correct.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But there’re also ways we addressed it then as well. This is a way we feel is an important component of how we address this threat moving forward.

QUESTION: On Turkey, on this equip and train deal – 400 American soldiers will be training and so on. Let me ask you the other side of this, that Turkey has been lax, to say the least – or some claim that it’s been lax, to say the least – in terms of controlling its border, has been quite porous, fighters go in and out. Is part of this deal for Turkey to control its border perhaps a bit tighter?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I think you and I have had this conversation several times, maybe a half dozen, in the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION: A half dozen times at least.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to reiterate what I’ve said in the past, which is that going – addressing the issue of foreign fighters, which is one that we feel is an incredibly important component of what we’re doing with our anti-ISIL coalition – the Secretary had a meeting just yesterday to talk about exactly that issue. There are steps that Turkey and other countries have taken and put in place to do more in order to address this threat. That’s an important component of what we’re talking about and what we’re doing. The train and equip program is certainly a part of the military component of what we’re doing. They all work together, and these are all part of the umbrella of our anti-ISIL coalition.

QUESTION: Is that really concerning, in fact – maybe terrifying to some people in the region – to see these groups actually move from Syria to Libya, and more than likely through Turkey? I mean, these are – this is happening now as we speak.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we know that’s exactly how anything that happened in the last couple of weeks has happened, Said, so --

Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Question about Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: So – go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. They – Egypt and Libya – have asked for the UN to lift an arms embargo so that people there can battle ISIL and other militant groups. What is the U.S. position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: At this point it’s been – the U.S. has been opposed to it in the past.

MS. PSAKI: That is correct. And I think, just to give everybody – I think most of you are paying attention to this, but I think you’re referring to the draft Security Council resolution that was – has been proposed yesterday following the briefing on – briefing at the Security Council. We’re currently reviewing that resolution. It was only circulated yesterday.

The sanctions measures currently in place do not prohibit the Government of Libya from procuring arms. They merely require a sanctions committee approval for lethal items. Given the instability on the ground, this exemption request provides a measure of oversight to ensure arms are safely and securely delivered to their intended users in Libya.

We have supported, continue to support the UN approval process currently in place for Libya. It permits transfers necessary to support the Libyan Government while allowing the Security Council to seek guard against the high risk that weapons may be diverted to non-state actors. That continues to be our position. We will be engaged with our council colleagues and certainly will be discussing with them and with our partners around the world this Security Council proposal. But again, it was just proposed yesterday, so I don’t have anything conclusive to tell you today.

QUESTION: And how might this be different than providing opposition in Syria with some training and arms?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we see them as entirely different countries with different challenges. As you know, we have determined several months ago that we would train and equip the moderate opposition in order to fight against ISIL on the ground. We know there have been safe havens for ISIL in Syria. Also, it’s a country, as we know, that has been in the midst of a challenging civil war for years. And while we don’t see a military solution there, we do see that the group of moderate opposition members who we’re training and equipping will also play a role in fighting back against that.

We’ve seen in Libya – we continue to believe that in Libya a political solution, one that is non-intervention, is the right path forward. There are ongoing discussions. We support those discussions. And again, we understand that the events of last week have warranted the emergency meeting, a discussion about these resolutions, but we’ll take a look and we’ll review what the proposal is.

QUESTION: Does your list of concerns mean that if those concerns are addressed, you would support the proposed resolution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I was stating what our position continues to be on the arms embargo, which is part of what the resolution is.

QUESTION: So in other words, you would oppose lifting the arms embargo.

MS. PSAKI: That’s what our position is now. We will look at the resolution.

QUESTION: Well, this – but that’s what the resolution says. I mean, I can tell you right now --

MS. PSAKI: There’s more to the --

QUESTION: I haven’t even seen the resolution and I can tell you that it calls for lifting the arms embargo.

MS. PSAKI: There’s more to the resolution, Matt.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll take a look at the resolution. That’s our position. That’s why it’s our position and continues to be.

QUESTION: So as long as the resolution calls for a lifting of the arms embargo, you will not support it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of our consultations with our partners around the world.

QUESTION: Can I go back to ISIL and Syria for a minute?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. I know you spoke about the de Mistura proposal and so on, but I wonder if the past – in the past 24 hours and so, you have, let’s say, developed new positions on his proposal. Are you still in support of his effort to sort of implement ceasefires and so on, and that Assad is part of the solution, not part of the problem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, as I mentioned to you last week, Said, he addressed his own comments on that, so I’ll point you to that.

QUESTION: Right. I saw.

MS. PSAKI: He announced that the Assad regime is willing to suspend aerial attacks and artillery shelling throughout the city of Aleppo – excuse me – for six weeks to allow for a freeze in a district within the city. He will be here tomorrow, and we’ll hear more about his initiative when he visits Washington. He has meetings with Deputy Secretary Blinken, with Daniel Rubinstein, our Special Envoy for Syria, and I – he may have other Administration meetings as well. So we’ll hear more about that tomorrow.

We certainly have long supported his efforts to find a solution that can reduce the suffering of the Syrian people, but we also look at this with our eyes wide open given how, as we’ve seen in Babila, Homs, Moadamiya, Yarmouk, many local truces achieved thus far have closely resembled surrender arrangements and haven’t been abided by by the regime.

QUESTION: But you still support his efforts, de Mistura’s efforts?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we support his efforts, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. By the way, those meetings, you know what time they’ll take place in this building?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have specific times for you, Said.

Go ahead, Barbara.

QUESTION: Just back to Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I know you said that – you outlined how the United States has been supporting the Baltic States and would defend NATO countries. I just – General Dempsey has been quoted as saying that “Putin’s principal aim strategically is to fragment the NATO alliance, and if we allow this issue to fragment the alliance, it will have played into its grand strategy.” Is there a feeling in this building that the conflict is moving slowly more towards a confrontation between NATO and Russia, not just a confrontation over Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t see this as a conflict between NATO and Russia. We know that has been proposed or said by Russia. We believe this is a conflict that is between Russia and Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine. We don’t feel there has to be – and we also believe there is an off-ramp here. Russia has had a long history of a relationship with NATO, but again, I think their illegal intervention into Ukraine has raised not only red flags, but huge concerns among the international community, including many, many members of NATO who are in the surrounding neighborhood.

QUESTION: Can I go to a different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a military court decision that vacated the conviction of David Hicks, who was a former Guantanamo detainee. He said in a – he said that he would like to see some kind of compensation or payment for what he says are bodily harm sustained while – during his time in U.S. custody. I was wondering if you have any response.

MS. PSAKI: Well, given this is a legal case and has been, I’m not going to have anything specific for you. I can reiterate for all of you that Mr. Hicks pled guilty to providing material supported to terrorism based on voluntary admissions; that he trained at al-Qaida camps, al-Qaida complexes in Afghanistan; met with Usama bin Ladin and joined al-Qaida and Taliban forces preparing to fight the United States. He successfully appealed his conviction, as Elliot mentioned, at the United States Court of Military Commission Review on the grounds that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had previously ruled that material support for terrorism was not a viable charge in military commissions for pre-2006 conduct.

The government does not intend to appeal, but in terms of any other questions about legal cases, I would send you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, but it’s not – it’s no longer a pending or ongoing legal case --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- since it’s finished, so --

MS. PSAKI: But you’re talking about seeking damages or seeking things through a legal process, so I don’t have any specific comment for you.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I guess there’s still an open question of whether the U.S. Administration is open to any kind of outreach or apology or any kind of compensation or otherwise --

MS. PSAKI: I just outlined for you why his case was appealed. I don’t have anything more for you on it.

QUESTION: He also suggested --

MS. PSAKI: And why it was overturned, I should say. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, he also suggested that Australia should apologize for the treatment that he received, saying that they knew what condition he was being held in and they did not – and they didn’t do enough to try and get him released. What’s your position on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment. I’d point you to the Government of Australia. I would remind you that he voluntarily admitted he trained at al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan. His conviction was overturned on the grounds that material support for terrorism was not a viable charge in military commissions. But I would point you to the Government of Australia.

QUESTION: In the fight against Boko Haram, there’s some reports that the U.S. is providing some training in some of the nations in that region. I’m wondering if you can outline the different kinds of assistance that is being provided by the U.S., particularly to Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and possibly Nigeria. Is it involve military training or some other kind of aid as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me see what I have here. I know we have quite a bit of information on this, so let me give you what I have, and if I don’t outline it, we can get you something after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We have – let’s see. We have, as you know – this wasn’t exactly your question, but let me just outline it here a little bit. We have – since the beginning of this emergency, we have provided 24.7 million in support of essential humanitarian aid to refugees, internally displaced persons, and other populations of concern impacted by Boko Haram-engendered conflicts in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. These include support for protection, food, agriculture, and livelihoods; health, humanitarian coordination, and water sanitation; and hygiene assistance. We are committed – we continue to assess and are committed to doing more. There is, as you know, a multinational joint task force that we also continue to support. Why don’t I see if I can get you more a specific breakdown of our support just so you have all of the details with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Today the Israelis announced that they have taken over 250 dunams, which is roughly 75 acres or a little less. Do you have any comment on that – for waste dumping area – to dump waste --

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take a look at the report, Said, and I’m sure, if it’s accurate, we can get you a comment.

QUESTION: Okay. And last week I asked you about the – if you were aware that they continue to hold close to 150 minors in prison. I wonder if you’ve checked into that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new on that for you, Said. I think someone from our office got back to you, but we can check and make sure that you have a comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: There has been some concern expressed – well, not some – a lot of concern expressed about the situation in the West Bank, particularly with the continued withholding of tax revenues by Israel. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the Palestinian Authority could collapse, the security services no longer functioning and that Israel would then have to move back in in a way that it had been before. Have you been talking to the Israelis about this tax – about this money, and if so, what are you telling them?

MS. PSAKI: We have been. We have been engaging with key stakeholders, including with Israelis, Palestinians, the EU, UN, Russians, Arab League, and others over the past few weeks. It’s true we’re very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon, either in terms of the resumption of monthly Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues or additional donor assistance. If the Palestinian Authority ceases security coordination or even decides to disband, as they have said they may do as early as the first week of March if they do not receive additional revenues, we could be faced with a crisis that could gravely impact both the Palestinians and the Israelis with potentially serious ripple effects either – elsewhere in the region. So we have certainly raised our concern about what could happen here with a range of partners in the region.

QUESTION: And what has been the response, one, from the Israelis, but two, presumably the other countries that you’re – that you listed – or the other countries and organizations that you listed, you’re asking them to step up assistance to the PA to make up for either the shortfall in what the Israelis are withholding. What’s the response and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to characterize the specifics of the conversations other than to say we’re working with others to try to find a solution that will avoid a crisis that harms all of our interests.

QUESTION: Given the mood on Capitol Hill right now as it relates to the Palestinians since they announced that they were going to go to the ICC, is the United States really in a position to be able to tell or ask or urge other governments, including Israel, to give more money? Obviously, the Israeli – with Israel it’s different because that is Palestinian money that they just hold on to. I mean, do you think that the Administration has a leg to stand on here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that I think it’s known, and we certainly make this information known, that we have provided, as you know, a great deal of assistance to the Palestinian Authority to address some of these challenges on the ground. You are right that it would not seem possible to get any further assistance to the Palestinian Authority through Congress in the near future, but it is a case that we are making to many of the partners I’ve referenced about the importance of stability in the region and the implications that go well beyond security. The fact that hundreds of thousands of students could be without teachers, hospitals could cease to function, food insecurity could grow, the cost to both Palestinians and Israelis could be immense in both financial and human terms. And that’s a case we’re making in our conversations as well.

QUESTION: Is it – is a restoration of the transfer of tax money post the Israeli election too late?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re concerned about them receiving the funds soon. As you know, that election is a month away.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So I’m not going to give a date on it, but we’re certainly encouraging – making people aware of the issue now.

QUESTION: Right. But you said in response to questions about Iran – you said we’ve seen this movie before. Well, the movie of – or the preview of the potential collapse of the Palestinian Authority you have also seen before. It hasn’t happened in the past. What makes you so concerned that it’s actually going to happen this time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen the severity of what is needed on the ground, and as I mentioned, a range of conditions that we’re looking at as it relates to both security and humanitarian issues, and given how dire those are this is why we’re having all these conversations.

QUESTION: And you said that it’s unlikely to get an additional – aid for the Palestinians through Congress in the near future. Why do you think that is?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re obviously engaged with key stakeholders, but I think that’s just an assessment of what’s likely to happen at this point in time.

QUESTION: But I mean, there’s a reason that it is unlikely you’re not going to be able to get any more money for the Palestinians through Congress in the near future.

MS. PSAKI: I think you are all smart assessors of those reasons, so I will let you do your analysis.

QUESTION: So – all right. And yesterday, you were asked – go ahead. Well, this is related but --

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask on Gaza because the situation is so desperate in Gaza. And the – apparently, the aid to reconstruct Gaza that was promised back in October, none of it has gotten through. But also, there is a desperate human situation where people are fleeing into Israel, getting shot and getting arrested and so on, and increasingly so with every passing day. I wonder if, perhaps at this conference, there would be emphasis on the need to infuse some funds into Gaza.

MS. PSAKI: Which conference?

QUESTION: Well, the conference – I mean, we talk about listening to the rhetoric of the Vice President and the President how socioeconomic issues can help stem the kind of violence and so on. Certainly, infusing funds and helping the socioeconomic --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I would say first that, as you know and as I’ve outlined from here, the United States provides quite a great deal of humanitarian assistance that has gone through. So your information on that is not accurate. There are other countries that certainly we continue to encourage to provide assistance given how dire the situation is on the ground. I think our actions show how committed we are to this particular issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is Israel-related. Yesterday, you mentioned that Secretary Kerry would not be able to speak to the AIPAC conference this year because he would be traveling to an as-yet unknown --

MS. PSAKI: Unannounced, I should say.

QUESTION: -- unannounced destination. So coincidentally, I noticed that it is the inauguration of the president of Atlantis as well as the Kyrzbekistan national day ceremony. (Laughter.) Are those options for his travel?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you we are unlikely to appear at either of those events.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you say where the Secretary plans to be?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details to announce yet at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. But he’s definitely going to be unavailable in D.C. to speak to the AIPAC?

MS. PSAKI: It is looking highly likely we will be on a trip. That is still being planned.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So have you decided on what level of representation the State Department might make at the conference?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything to announce quite yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I go to Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So noting that the statement that you put out earlier that the – the reports that there are contacts going on between the U.S. and Taliban to try and have some talks was incorrect and that the White House has also said there are not meetings scheduled. Your statement referred to the fact that you – there are no direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. Are there indirect contacts going on given that the place they might meet is Qatar and --

MS. PSAKI: No. The United States has no meetings, ongoing or scheduled, indirect or direct, with the Taliban in Doha or elsewhere. We remain strongly supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process whereby the Taliban and the Afghans engage in talks toward a settlement to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. That remains the case. I would also note that President Ghani in his inauguration address called on the Taliban to enter political talks and has made reconciliation central to his foreign policy, and we certainly support that effort as well.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you’re privileging the idea of Afghan talks and that you are not actually interested anymore in pursuing any U.S.-Taliban talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it has long been, even when we were talking about this issue a year and a half ago – I believe it was if my math is correct – the goal has always been Afghan-led, Afghans talking to Afghans. We remain committed to enabling or supporting that effort, and obviously President Ghani has spoken to his interest in that effort, but that is not an ongoing or scheduled process.

QUESTION: But there was an interest all those many months ago in trying to get some kind of U.S.-Taliban talks off the ground, which didn’t happen. So are you saying actually --

MS. PSAKI: Well, with the objective of Afghan-Afghan talks. So that’s what we want to achieve.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: So you’re not – sorry, Matt. So you’re not trying any kind of U.S.-Taliban talks at all? You’re just going to leave it to the Afghans?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re committed to enabling the process, but – the progress, and if progress can be made. But again, this is something that the president of Afghanistan has spoken to. We support that. There’s nothing ongoing at this point.

QUESTION: So there’s no way to tease any accuracy out of the reports that surfaced – the reports that had talked about a U.S. involvement, they’re just flat wrong?

MS. PSAKI: That seems correct.

QUESTION: And just – I just wanted – is it, though, not correct that – and I think you might have said this, but I – that you’re encouraging Afghan-Pakistan talks and that you encouraged the Pakistanis to encourage the Afghan-Afghan talks. That is correct, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve encouraged – we believe regional partners have an important role to play.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And that certainly includes – we’ve encouraged Pakistan and China to support President Ghani’s reconciliation efforts.

QUESTION: And do – are you aware, have they actually now done – is there a move or a push from the Pakistanis to the Afghan, both sides, to get them together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, I think they’ve been engaged in some dialogues about a range of issues. But I would point you to them. I don’t have anything to read out for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have indirect talks or communications with the Taliban?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question when Jo asked it.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I said no direct or indirect talks.

QUESTION: No direct or indirect. So how did you – how did the U.S. Government succeed in securing the release of Mr. Bergdahl?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Bergdahl – as you know, we talked about it at the time, that we worked indirectly through the Qataris. So we have not since then, and not since January of 2012 – or I guess it was March of 2012 when the Taliban cut off the other talks.

QUESTION: No, no. I’m sorry. So I didn’t understand that. So what you’re saying is there have been no indirect talks since the indirect talks via the Qataris to secure the release of Bowe Bergdahl in May of 2014?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Well, in fact, there was contact there. I mean, we all saw the video (inaudible). I mean, they --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But in terms of the talks, as we talked about at the time --

QUESTION: They weren’t diplomats; they were special forces.

MS. PSAKI: -- the Qataris played a vital role there. Yes, fair enough.

QUESTION: Is there a Taliban office in Qatar still open? Is it – they had an office at one point established that you worked through.

MS. PSAKI: That was an office – I’m not sure how long that was open, Said, but that was about a year and a half ago. So --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: No, I have one more brief one. I don’t know if you --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I was just wondering, my question about Bahrain yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Oh. Let me see if I have anything on that.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if there’s a Privacy Act waiver or if that’s still an issue, but I was just wondering if you had any --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I – we don’t have anything new on that. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: On that one – and on the other case, there – nothing new on that?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything new on that case, no.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: And also just following up on Victoria Nuland’s trip to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Romania. Anything on that you can offer?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything on here, and if not, I’m sure we can talk to our team who are traveling with her and see – were you looking for just a readout of her meetings --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- or something like that? I don’t believe I have that with you, so why don’t we venture to get that you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Good.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:53 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 18, 2015

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 18:05

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:17 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have two items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. He pressed Foreign Minister Lavrov to stop Russian and separatist attacks on Ukrainian positions in Debaltseve and other violations of the ceasefire. The Secretary urged Russia to secure access to Debaltseve for OSCE monitors who have been blocked from performing their responsibilities according to Minsk agreements Russia signed in February and last September. They also briefly discussed Libya, Syria, and the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism that we are hosting here in Washington.

Deputy Secretary Blinken will host the 10 ASEAN chiefs of mission today at the Department to discuss an array of important issues from economic integration to regional maritime cooperation. The deputy secretary will underscore our commitment to a close relationship with ASEAN and reiterate the importance of ASEAN unity and centrality as ASEAN continues on a path toward economic integration and as its members face difficult regional and global security challenges. The deputy secretary will also discuss his recent trip to Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea, and reinforce the importance of Asia to U.S. foreign policy and our rebalance strategy.

Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m sure we’ll get back to Ukraine, but I want to start with something that your colleague at the White House was just asked about, and it came up over the weekend, about Israel and the Iran negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the Administration is now withholding certain details of the negotiations with Iran from Israel out of concern that members of the Israeli Government have or will leak selective parts of that information in an effort to destroy the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well first let me say, but reiterate, that conversations continue with Israel on Iran nuclear negotiations. Under Secretary Sherman met with Israeli NSA Cohen and Minister for Intelligence Steinitz in Munich and will see NSA Cohen again this week, and Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of discussion. Secretary Kerry, as all of you know, continues his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu about this issue. And as our NSC colleagues have noted, National Security Advisor Rice maintains regular contact with her counterpart.

So we are continuing frequent and routine contact. We continue to consult, as I mentioned, with our Israeli colleagues and we continue to get into specific issues in these consultations, but we have long been mindful not to negotiate in public and we take steps to ensure that classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors in these negotiations. That has long been the case.

QUESTION: Okay. So it is correct, then, that you – that classified negotiating details are not being shared with the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put that fine of a point on it. I think there are some details that obviously we have concern about being in public, to respect and protect the negotiations, and those are details that we take steps to ensure are not – don’t get into the public.

QUESTION: So is one of those steps not telling the Israelis about them?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think we share a great deal. Obviously, there are steps we take, including what we share and how we consult with our counterparts, including the Israelis.

QUESTION: I understand that you share a great deal, but you’re saying that you don’t share everything. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are withholding some details.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So can you say if this – is this a new thing? Has this been in place, this decision been around since the beginning?

MS. PSAKI: We have long taken steps to ensure that these negotiations remain private.

QUESTION: And that would include – so it’s – we’re talking about not just the secret backchannel talks that were in Muscat and other places, but even after the Israelis were informed of the backchannel talks and then of the beginning of the new P5+ round --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- since the very beginning you have been holding back some information from the Israelis about --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to put an exact date on it. Obviously, as time has progressed there are more details and more information, but it is not new.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you assure the Israelis that what is being withheld is not of critical interest to them and what they believe to be the existential threat that Iran poses to them?

MS. PSAKI: We can assure the Israelis that their security interests, that the security of Israel remains a top priority of the United States, and we take every step in order to ensure that, including working on a deal to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Okay. Your colleague at the White House, when asked the same kind of questions that I’m asking right now, said that there was a – the Administration had a problem with people – he didn’t identify them – but cherry picking specific bits of information --

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: -- and releasing them. Can you say --

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli Government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the Israeli Government is lying about the talks. Is that correct? Or they’ve been misinformed because maybe you haven’t been telling them everything?

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a selective sharing of information, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay, but can you be more specific about what bits of information you believe have been cherry picked and selectively released to --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of detail. We obviously make decisions about how to protect the negotiations while also still balancing with how to be as cooperative and inclusive with our partners.

QUESTION: And last one: Is it correct to assume or presume that as the negotiations progressed and there became – and they got more detailed, more details were then being – are – were being withheld than say after the first meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as there are more details there’s more sensitive information.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: So I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, but obviously we work to protect sensitive information in the negotiations.

QUESTION: But so as the negotiations have progressed and gotten to the point where Israel – what Israel believes to be an existential threat to it is getting closer – a deal on – with a country that it believes to be an existential threat, they’re getting less information about what’s going on rather than --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms, Matt. We agree that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. We’re working hard on these negotiations. We’re not going to accept a bad deal. And we’re sharing information that we can share.

QUESTION: When did – can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When last did the Secretary speak to his Israeli counterpart or to Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: He speaks with him pretty regularly. I’m fairly certain he spoke with him last week. He did, last Wednesday.

QUESTION: And when – has he ever raised with Netanyahu exactly this issue of concern, of cherry picking?

MS. PSAKI: I think they regularly discuss the Iran negotiations and our efforts, but I’m not going to get into more specifics of their conversations.

QUESTION: During the last conversation was this raised?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more details of their conversations.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can I check – I was just looking through, because I was trying to be organized, the --

MS. PSAKI: I would just say one more thing. It’s not a new – this isn’t a new concern. It’s not a new issue, so I would just reiterate that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was looking through the list of confirmed speakers at the AiPAC conference, which is actually next weekend --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- not this weekend coming but the one after.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Early March, yes.

QUESTION: March, the first – yeah. And I – so far I didn’t see any indication that the Secretary may be addressing the conference. Is there any plan to? I know in the past he has, or a Secretary has.

MS. PSAKI: He has in the past. I expect we certainly will have representation. I don’t think we’re at a point of announcing who that will be yet.

QUESTION: If the Secretary doesn’t actually take part, is this because of the circumstances surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, which, of course, have been really overtaken by the fact that he’s going to address Congress on March 3rd?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve already been clear that we don’t have to plan – we don’t have plans, I should say, to have a meeting. I think the more likely reason is that the Secretary is probably going to be out of town, which I don’t think surprises any of you, given his overseas travel schedule. We’re still working out the next couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Wait, the Secretary is probably going to be out of town when?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure --

QUESTION: For the entire AiPAC conference?

MS. PSAKI: It’s only a couple of days, Matt. We have a trip we’re working on for early-March, late-February. So --

QUESTION: That’s funny, because the Vice President also had some unspecified travel plans that would prevent him from being at Congress to hear the prime minister’s speech.

MS. PSAKI: Well, given I think --

QUESTION: Is everyone fleeing --

MS. PSAKI: -- we have all spent days if not months on a plane, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that the chief diplomat might be overseas.

QUESTION: Well, right, but – yeah. But it just seems to be a little unusual that both the Secretary of State and the Vice President are – have determined right now that they’re going to be out of town or out of the country. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t look at it in those terms. I believe the Vice President’s attending the inauguration for the new Government of Panama, I believe. I can’t remember the specifics, but it’s a set date. And again, we, as you know, always have a fluid schedule and as we have more information we’ll let you know. I expect we’ll be certainly represented there.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So it wouldn’t be seen – it shouldn’t be seeing it as a snub because the prime minister will be addressing the same conference?

MS. PSAKI: I think, again, the Secretary of State never speaks at this every single year. We’ll – I expect we’ll have a representation there. I would leave it at that.

QUESTION: I just remember being with the Secretary at the inauguration of the Panamanian prime minister a few months ago.

MS. PSAKI: Perhaps that’s not the right information. I’m sure you can check the Vice President’s schedule on his website.

QUESTION: Might you invent a country that he could go to if there isn’t any – (laughter) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think inaugurations for new leaders are invented, Matt.

Do we have more on Israel before we continue? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to your opening statement on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Sure.

QUESTION: Very simple question: Do you consider that the ceasefire and the Minsk agreement are dead?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t consider it as dead, no. We remain gravely concerned by reports that Russia-backed separatists continue to take – to attack – continue to attack Debaltseve and are violating the ceasefire in numerous other locations in Donetsk and Luhansk. The Government of Ukraine also reports that some of its forces were fired upon even as they conducted an orderly withdrawal from Debaltseve. Reports indicate that separatists publicly declared that they refuse to observe the ceasefire in Debaltseve and had a, quote, “right to shell Debaltseve” because it was, quote, “their territory.” The OSCE reports that the Russia-backed separatists continue to deny monitors access to Debaltseve and warns of grave consequences of those in the city if the ceasefire is not implemented there. The OSCE also confirms that ceasefire violations in Ukraine’s east continue, as was the case yesterday, but the quantity and intensity of attacks has decreased, with the dramatic exception, of course, being Debaltseve, as I just outlined.

We’ve also seen reports of the withdrawal of certain types of heavy weapons in various parts of Donetsk and Luhansk by both separatists and Ukrainian Government forces. We can’t confirm these without access by OSCE monitors, some of whom have obviously been trying to gain access. But we remain focused on supporting the implementation of this agreement. Obviously, if the separatist violence continues – if Russia and the separatists do not implement the agreement, if fighters and equipment continue to flow into Ukraine from Russia – more costs will be imposed and there will certainly be a serious discussion within the international community.

QUESTION: Is the – does the taking of or the withdrawal of the Ukrainian army from Debaltseve and the taking of it by the separatists, is that cause in itself for new – for more sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. Obviously, President Poroshenko made a statement that the Ukrainian Government forces are conducting an orderly withdrawal. The Ukrainian Government, as a sovereign government, has the right to make decisions about how to protect their people. The lines that both sides are required to withdraw to still remain part of the agreement, but obviously we look at events on the ground and determine how to proceed from there.

QUESTION: Right. But in and of itself, the fact that the ceasefire – you said the ceasefire was obviously being violated in and around Debaltseve and the Ukrainian military was forced out. You’re not saying that that is necessarily a trigger in itself for additional costs.

MS. PSAKI: I have no sanctions to announce or predict today, no.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Just on Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to clarify: Last Friday, you – in a statement, you noted that Russian military forces, regular forces, were involved in the attack on Debaltseve. In your statement, you said you were pressing Russia and the separatists to stop the fighting. Are Russian military forces, and not merely the separatists, have they been involved in the fighting in recent – last 24 hours?

MS. PSAKI: Over the last few days? Michael, I don’t think our --

QUESTION: Since the ceasefire was supposed to have gone into effect.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I understand your question. I don’t believe our concern has changed. I’m happy to check that level of specificity. As you know, we’ve been concerned about their involvement throughout. Obviously, our statement on Friday was particularly fine-pointed on that, but I can check and see if that’s --

QUESTION: I think it’s important to know if Russian military per se --

MS. PSAKI: I understand.

QUESTION: -- since the ceasefire has been involved in the attacks --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and not just the separatists. Also, you just said you – that you continue to have concerns about Russian military equipment flowing into Ukraine, and the other day you mentioned reports of a Russian – a convoy of Russian equipment heading toward Debaltseve. Is Russian military equipment – has that continued to flow since the ceasefire? And can you confirm now that there was such a convoy?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have new details to confirm today. It’s challenging, as you know, because the OSCE monitors are not able to see what’s happening on the ground. So we’ve seen reports but don’t have new details to confirm.

QUESTION: And lastly, in their readout of the call with Secretary Kerry, the Russian foreign ministry, which put out a version of this --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- earlier today, said that Lavrov had made the point that the Ukrainian Government should be in direct negotiation or dialogue with the separatist leaders. They seem to have in mind a process that would supplant the diplomatic arrangements that have taken place in Minsk that would involve direct negotiations between sort of two equal parties – the Ukrainian Government and the separatist leadership. Is – what is your response to that suggestion on behalf – by Minister Lavrov? Is that an approach the United States would welcome or does it think it’s not really the road you want to go down diplomatically at this juncture?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as you know, the separatists have been a part of, as have the Russians, these negotiations and they’ve also signed off on these agreements. So obviously, we continue to support dialogue. The Ukrainians remain open to and have consistently invited the separatists to be a part of dialogue. But right now, we believe the focus should be on implementing what they just signed a week ago that builds on the agreement they all signed in September.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) any in any area where the violence has subsided since the signing of the ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the areas outside of Debaltseve, and obviously, we’ve seen some violence in Donetsk and Luhansk. But we have seen, though, according to the OSCE, other areas where there has been a reduction in violence.

Any more on Ukraine before we continue?

QUESTION: Yes, still on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Speaking today from Hungary, President Putin, when asked if – about possible consequences if the U.S. provides lethal weapons to Ukraine, responded that, according to his information, that these weapons were already there. Does President Putin --

MS. PSAKI: That’s incorrect.

QUESTION: That’s incorrect?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So his accusation that the U.S. is supplying weapons to – lethal weapons to Ukraine is not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. It is incorrect, yes.

More on Ukraine before we continue? Pam, go ahead.

QUESTION: In yesterday’s briefing when we were talking about ceasefire violations in Ukraine, you mentioned that the international community needed to give the diplomatic process a chance to play out. In light of today’s developments, where are we with that? Is the United States closer to saying perhaps that it’s time to set a deadline for this or a time to look at some other alternatives, considering that the Russian-backed offensive is continuing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain focused on supporting the implementation of this agreement. Obviously, we’re very concerned about the violence that we’ve seen in Debaltseve and some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. We have seen intensity of attacks decrease in some areas, as confirmed by the OSCE. We’ve also seen reports of heavy weapons in various parts of Donetsk and Luhansk be pulled back. So right now we believe we still need to continue to give time for the agreement to work itself through. It doesn’t change the fact that we have a range of options, as does the international community, and those options remain just as they were two weeks ago.

QUESTION: I’m not sure I understand. You want time to set – to allow the agreement to work its way through? But I mean, it seems that the agreement is already done with.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, I think there are some areas where we have seen some action, like a reduction in violence, pullback of weapons – we’ve seen some reports of that. We believe that we need to give it some time to continue to have the agreement implemented. Obviously, there are some violations. And is it perfect? No, but we don’t think the alternative or the right option is to take steps that would hurt the implementation of the agreement.

QUESTION: And those steps meaning the supply of lethal weapons, more sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we haven’t made a decision on lethal – on defensive weapons. We have a range of options on sanctions. That remains the case. I don’t have anything to predict on those. We watch day by day, and I certainly expect we’ll continue to discuss this day by day based on what the events on the ground are.

QUESTION: But, so you think that both sides should continue to implement the details of the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Even though there never was a ceasefire, even in Debaltseve?

MS. PSAKI: There have certainly been violations, Matt. But we continue to be – remain focused on the implementation of the agreement.

QUESTION: All right. I have a Russia-related question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: This came up at the Foreign Press Center earlier.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m just trying to get a specific answer on it. Is the head of the FSB here for the CVE conference, or is he coming?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s see. I do have some details on this. We have been working closely, obviously, with a range of countries on their delegations they’d like to attend. I believe – and just first some details. The Russians asked for assistance with visas and flight clearance last night because they decided to change some of the attendees in their delegation, and I believe that he is one of the attendees.

QUESTION: He is?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So – and so he will be here, he is coming, he has gotten a visa. Does this strike you at all – you’re accusing the Russians on one hand of being behind this whole situation in the east of Ukraine. One would presume that if they were, the FSB would be playing a role in that, and then you’re having this guy, the head of the FSB, come to the CVE conference. Does that strike you as being at all unusual?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, violent extremism and terrorism are serious problems that affect communities around the world, including Russia. As you know, there are a range of issues that we work together on. We certainly have strong disagreements as it relates to Ukraine. As I noted, the Russian Government told us yesterday that they intended to increase the number of participants in their delegation, and we have worked with them on a range of issues, including countering terrorism, in the past.

QUESTION: And your – in the Administration’s opinion, this is a good thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: That they’re increasing – that they’re sending the head of their --

MS. PSAKI: That’s just a factual detail. But certainly, we welcome their participation in the Countering Violent Extremism summit.

QUESTION: Okay. On the summit itself, do you – can you provide any more details on other – who else is coming of the – 65 is the number that’s being talked about.

MS. PSAKI: We will have a fact sheet out later today on the attendees for the foreign fighters meeting the Secretary will be having later this afternoon. I expect tomorrow morning we will have a full list of attendees for the summit. We just wanted to give everybody an opportunity to have final confirmations.

QUESTION: Is the conference the Secretary going to speak at closed session, or can we cover it?

MS. PSAKI: There is a – he’s speaking – he’s holding a meeting on foreign fighters this afternoon. I think there’s going to be a camera spray that there’ll be a pool for. This is logistical details. And there’s a reception later today which I think we’re working to open, and there are some remarks that a range of officials will be doing tomorrow. So we’ll have that out in the advisory we put out later this evening.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Are you still going to be – are the Russians going to attend the foreign fighters section, given that many of the --

MS. PSAKI: Let me see, Jo, if I have the list – I may have it here – of the attendees. And again, as I noted, if you don’t have it in this moment, you will have it later this afternoon. But let’s see. Albania, Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, EU, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, and the UN.

QUESTION: And you can tell us how many Russian delegates there are? When you said they expanded the size --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of specificity.

QUESTION: Is that – that was just for the foreign fighters --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- or that’s for tomorrow as well?

MS. PSAKI: That is for the foreign fighters.

QUESTION: And more --

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly anticipate that these will also be represented tomorrow, and we’ll have the more expansive list tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: But there are more than just what you read that are coming tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, correct. This is just for the foreign fighters meeting today.

QUESTION: All right. On this topic just more generally, and I wasn’t aware – quite aware of how much furor there had been over your colleague’s comments on television on Monday night when you did the telephone briefing yesterday. She’s getting a lot of flak from people for saying what she said, and I’m just wondering if you can say whether the Administration believes that getting jobs for violent extremists is going to fix the problem, or if that’s just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, that’s not at all what she said.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: So let me reiterate what was said, and I would also encourage everybody to not only read what the President’s op-ed said today, what the Secretary’s op-eds have said, which are all consistent. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States to go after ISIL and go after terrorists around the world. We’ve done thousands of airstrikes. ISIL – members of ISIL on the battlefield – we’re going after them and they’ll be killed.

I think what she was addressing, which we’ve all addressed and was in the op-ed today as well, is the fact that we also, in addition to the military component of this, which is very important, need to go after the root causes. And that includes – why are – is ISIL having success recruiting young men in some of these countries? What are the vulnerabilities? Why are young men choosing to join a group like ISIL?

Also, separate from that, there are issues like foreign fighters. Why are individuals from Western countries going over and finding an appeal here? This is obviously a broader conversation, but the CVE summit is not just about ISIL. It’s not just about the military component. It’s about how to address these threats of extremists around the world, and that was what the conversation was about.

QUESTION: So – but that’s a generational kind of thing. You don’t expect that you could rehabilitate a guy who is out there beheading Egyptian Copts or American journalists or Japanese? That’s not for them.

MS. PSAKI: No one is suggesting that. We’re not going – we are not – we’re going after those individuals to take them off the battlefield. What we are suggesting is how do we address this threat over the long term in addition to what we’re doing militarily now.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. When you say “take them off the battlefield,” you mean kill them?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So you would say that what Marie said was taken out of context, was only – I’m not sure that I see --

MS. PSAKI: I would say that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And I would also say that I think there’s no question if you talk to a range of the officials who are here and the different focuses of the different breakout groups and – that are happening even at this summit, that there are many focuses about how to take on extremism. Militarily, that’s an important component. Obviously, that’s focused on individuals who are on the battlefield now. But we also have a group tomorrow that’s going to be talking about messaging and the ideology. We’re talking about foreign fighters this afternoon. So there are several components about how we address this over the long term.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just clarify something you said?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: I thought I heard you say the head of the FSB is en route to the United Sates. He’s not here yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I meant to say that. Maybe that was a little outdated. He may or may not be here. I think they were planning to be here for the start of the summit.

QUESTION: And that you learned of this recently when they changed – they filed different plans --

MS. PSAKI: They updated their --

QUESTION: -- and updated their visas, but prior to that you were not aware that he was coming?

MS. PSAKI: There was a different group that was planning on attending. It was expanded or changed a little bit.

QUESTION: And when did that happen?

MS. PSAKI: Last night.

QUESTION: So last night, the Russian Federation informed the American Government that it was expanding its group and that – to include the head of the FSB?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And prior to that, he was not expected to attend?

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding, Michael.

QUESTION: And what led – that’s an interesting change. What does that signify? Was he previously invited? What was – what’s the significance of that?

MS. PSAKI: Russia was invited to participate. I believe that we left it to each country to determine their delegations.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: About North Korea?

QUESTION: Could I just – sorry, I have one more on the summit.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry. There was a conference call on Monday and then again, I think, just now at the Foreign Press Center, your deputy, Marie, also mentioned again this idea that out of this meeting you want to see an action agenda. Is this something – is this going to come in the form of a written document? Is it something that you’re going to be making publicly available? Or is it going to be more of an informal kind of series of notes that you’re going to keep among yourselves?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly think we will talk at the end of this in coordination with our colleagues at the White House about where we go from here.

QUESTION: So you expect to come up with like a roadmap or an action plan?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a format for you in terms of what format it will take, but I certainly – this is – we hope to be a catalyst for future action and a point of discussion to talk about where we go from here. I mentioned there’ll be a fact sheet out later this afternoon, and I certainly expect there’ll be more paper in the coming days.

QUESTION: Can I just – I just want to make sure --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- I completely understand. It is the Administration’s position that the fighters who are – the violent extremists or however you want to describe them, those who are on the battlefield now --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- committing these atrocities --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- are going to be killed. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is our objective, yes.

QUESTION: It is not – the objective is not to go find them a job or get them a better education or do something like that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Correct, Matt. But we also need to look at the root causes --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that leads the 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds today to be possible candidates in five years.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: You’re not intending to capture them, then, and bring them to justice in front of any kind of courts?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’ve seen what our action has entailed, and I expect that would continue.

QUESTION: Jen, about North Korean human rights issues.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: UN resolution on the North Korean human rights will discussing next month – early next month, yes. What is the United States final destination of North Korean human rights issues? Do you --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – North Korea has one of the most abysmal records on human rights in the world. There is a commission of inquiry that, as you know, looks into this. The report reflects the international community’s consensus view that the human rights situation in North Korea is among the world’s worst. We urge North Korea to take concrete steps, as recommended by the commission of inquiry, to improve the human rights situation. We will continue to work with the international community to sustain international attention on – on the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea. And that is something that we remain committed to.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Honduras?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, go ahead?

QUESTION: Honduras.

MS. PSAKI: Honduras.

QUESTION: The Honduran Government has suspended and is investigating 21 police officers from a special unit that was assigned to the U.S. embassy. Your reaction to that? And do these officers have access to the embassy itself?

MS. PSAKI: Let me take the question. I haven’t talked to our team about that particular issue, but we’ll get you an answer back later today.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Iraq? Sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Yesterday, President Barzani went to Kirkuk and he had a message for the militias around Kirkuk, especially the Shia-Iranian-backed militias. He said no forces will be allowed to enter Kirkuk except Peshmerga. Would you support this, that only Peshmerga can control Kirkuk, not any militias, especially the Shia militias? Because there is a tension between the two are escalating. So what is your position --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen his remarks, so I don’t have anything particular to say about them. I’m happy to talk to our team about it.

QUESTION: What about the human rights violation and other increase of the Shia militias?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken pretty extensively to this over the last couple of weeks, and I’d certainly refer you to that. But I would reiterate the fact that we have raised both in Washington and in Baghdad our concerns about these reports, about these violations by the militia; that Prime Minister Abadi has also spoken about them and has taken steps to be more inclusive and also go after the unregulated militias. We recognize that this is a challenge that needs to continue to be addressed.

QUESTION: How about the situation in Kirkuk that – is that you prefer Peshmerga control the city of Kirkuk for now and --

MS. PSAKI: I will talk to our team about that.

QUESTION: I have one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Regarding the Erbil and Baghdad deal, State Department in the past made a big deal out of it, that the deal was a step forward.

MS. PSAKI: Oil? Oil revenues?

QUESTION: Both. Like oil revenue and also the security that they will give the money to KRG the share that they have, 70 percent. But the deal is not working and that couple days ago, prime minister of Kurdistan was in Baghdad, and he said there’s no money in Baghdad to send it to Kurdistan. And the minister of planning also – of Kurdistan region, of course – he said before Abadi start assuming the position of the prime minister, there were like $60 billion in the Iraq bank account in New York, and then after he came, the money is gone. Do you have any information – like your government has any information what happened to that?

MS. PSAKI: I have no confirmation of the accuracy of what you’re saying, but I can certainly check with our team on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry if you were asked about this previously.

MS. PSAKI: No problem. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The head of Hizballah, Hassan Nasrallah, on Monday revealed that there is a limited Hizballah presence in Iraq fighting against IS. I wondered if – what your reaction would be to that and whether, if Hizballah is fighting the Islamic State, does that make you almost allies?

MS. PSAKI: No is the answer to the second. We have seen, certainly, the comments you’re referencing. We don’t have confirmation about what role they may or may not be playing. We have been clear about our concern regarding Hizballah’s destructive role in Syria and of the same concerns about reports of its involvement in Iraq. And this is involvement – their involvement if – their reported involvement also endangers Lebanon. We continue to believe that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and the Government of Iraq must focus now on strengthening its internal political and security institutions in an inclusive way. So our concerns about Hizballah and their destructive role have certainly not changed.

QUESTION: Are you in touch with the Iraqi authorities about these reports? Have you tried to seek confirmation via them?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we are in touch with the Iraqi authorities. I can check and see if there’s more we can convey about these specific reports and our conversations on them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq or --

QUESTION: Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq? Okay. Go ahead, Yemen.

QUESTION: Thank you. Pardon me for reading off the questions off the phone here.

MS. PSAKI: No problem.

QUESTION: So I have some more questions about the evacuation from Yemen after our chief intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge of Fox News, reviewed some State Department emails. One of her first questions was, “Why was the OpenNet communications link left up and not shut down in the embassy when the staff evacuated, and how is that consistent with safeguarding of sensitive information?”

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we take every precaution necessary to – when we move staff out of an embassy, including addressing classified materials, ensuring that all of our information is secure. I don’t have any confirmation of that particular report. I don’t know what emails you’re referring to. I’m happy to check into it.

QUESTION: And then she also had that, “When the staff evacuated, why didn’t the charter go to a U.S.-controlled airfield that would’ve allowed the Marines to keep their weapons? The Marines destroyed their weapons, but can you explain what happened to all of the ammunition? There were over 100 Marines there.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the Marines – and I would point you and her to this – have put out an extensive statement about what they did and the protocol they followed. Every protocol was followed in this case. We made a decision from a range of options about what the best way was to move our staff out of Yemen, and I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? (Inaudible) a similar question last week.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you sure that all the classified information that you needed to destroy was destroyed or dealt with in your evacuation of the embassy in Sana’a?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I have not heard any concern to contradict that.

QUESTION: And you – but you have no confirmation about whether this link, this secure link, was apparently left up?

MS. PSAKI: An OpenNet link he’s referring to.

QUESTION: An OpenNet link, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that report or the email. I am happy to talk to our team about it.

QUESTION: Is an OpenNet link unclassified or classified?

MS. PSAKI: Typically unclassified, but I can check and see what the specific report is.

QUESTION: So that would be what – how they connect to Google or whatever?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know what the details of this particular report are.

QUESTION: Remind me again: The evacuation was successful or unsuccessful? How many people were wounded, injured, killed?

MS. PSAKI: Successful. Not a single person was. Our team was successfully moved out of the country and is back in Washington. And obviously, we’re determining where they’ll be based.

QUESTION: Okay. So people-wise it may have been successful, but you still did – they did take the vehicles, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Which have been returned.

QUESTION: They have been returned?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: To whom?

MS. PSAKI: To our – I believe our embassy or our local staff. I can check on the specifics of that. Let’s see if I have that specific level of detail. They have been – let’s see – have been secured under the safekeeping of UN personnel at the diplomatic transit facility.

QUESTION: UN personnel?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And is that – that’s the same facility that you were – we were talking about, I think, last week right after?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: And so has that been turned over now to the UN?

MS. PSAKI: We were in the process of that. I believe it’s likely been completed. I can check on that level of specificity.

QUESTION: All right. And presumably, this is a big enough facility so that all the cars that were in the convoy – all the vehicles are there and they’re safe.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And the UN has confirmed that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing on Yemen. Have you decided or found a protecting power yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that. I will talk to our team and see if there is one.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Yemen?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So did the State Department ask for military air clearance into Yemen, and was it denied? Did the State Department ask for seaport clearance, and was it denied?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics of our planning or the movement of our personnel, for obviously reasons. This is something we’ve had to do in places around the world, unfortunately. We often have a range of options and we go with what we think the best option is. Obviously, we had the help of several governments in this case. And as has already been noted, we successfully moved our personnel out, and I think that’s what everybody should be focused on.

QUESTION: And the last one was --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- you said the plan was in place for weeks, but the emails show only days before the evacuation the plan was to use commercial air.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think to be clear, I don’t think it should come as any surprise that only a handful of people on likely a classified network and in classified conversations would be discussing something as sensitive as the movement of personnel. We also had been reducing our personnel there for several weeks. So I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Abby in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is – sorry. The University of Massachusetts said that they are reversing their original decision to not allow Iranian nationals studying engineering and science into their program, citing discussions with the State Department. Can you talk a little bit about what was discussed or what was conveyed to them regarding the policy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we had a conversation with UMass-Amherst about their decision and also conveyed that U.S. law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals coming to the United States for education in science and engineering. We also would offer to provide the necessary guidance for any school that has questions about this or wants to have discussions about the implementation of relevant laws.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, one of the things that they cite is that the Department of Homeland Security was denying re-entry back in to the United States, and that was one of the reason for some of these Iranian nationals – that was one of the reasons why they were implementing this policy. Is that anything that was discussed on your end or --

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly refer you to the Department of Homeland Security. I can just speak to what is required by law or by the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action.

QUESTION: Jen, a follow-up on this issue. Are you saying that the school’s original interpretation of this law was incorrect and this is what led to the reversal?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to UMass-Amherst for them to speak to their decision to reverse it.

QUESTION: Can I move to Libya, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, the UN, actually, and Libya. There’s a lot of activity in the United Nations today and the Security Council around a resolution being put forward by Egypt. I believe they’ve now submitted a resolution, which doesn’t make any mention of any kind of international military intervention but does ask for a lifting of the arms – of the UN embargo and on arms sales to Libya. Could you give us the Administration’s position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have not yet reviewed the proposal. I expect once we do we’ll have more to say about it. As you know, there’s going to be a UN Security Council briefing on Libya this afternoon – I think around 3 o’clock. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations and Special Representative Bernardino to facilitate the formation of a national unity government. Obviously, we will look forward to participating and hearing from attendees at this hearing.

QUESTION: Would you have opposed – if they had gone ahead with the idea of asking for military intervention, would the United States have opposed that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. Obviously, we would have looked at and we will look at whatever the proposals are and hear from the attendees speaking this afternoon.

QUESTION: Is it still the Administration’s position that outside interference in the form of airstrikes or any kind of military action in Libya is unnecessary – is a bad thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you may have seen the P3+3 statement that was put out yesterday as well. Certainly, that remains our belief. We also, though, believe – and that has been our belief and our consistent position, and I spoke about this pretty extensively yesterday as it relates to the internal fighting that’s happening in Libya. We do believe a political solution, one that’s led by the UN, is the best path forward. We also believe that this horrific attack that happened against the Egyptian Copts over the course of the last several days is something that we understand the outcry from the Egyptians. And while we’re not going to confirm their military action, going after ISIL is a different entity than internal divisions or internal battles within Libya.

QUESTION: Okay. So going after ISIL is one thing, but an internal division, a revolt, is different?

MS. PSAKI: I think I spoke to this yesterday, Matt. I don’t have anything else to add.

QUESTION: I know. It’s just that, when you think back – so NATO is the only organization – is the only outside force that’s allowed to conduct military operations in Libya, and everyone else is – shouldn’t?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of countries, as you know, who have signed off on – repeatedly, many times – on what they think the best path forward is given the internal divisions in Libya. That remains our belief. Obviously, the events of this weekend is something we’re also dealing with.

QUESTION: Right. I just – it just seems to be an area of inconsistency that you – that taking a military action in response to or because of an internal spat or internal divisions and fighting in Libya is wrong, and yet you yourselves did exactly that several years ago in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: This is our view on the best path forward, and not just the view of the United States but many other countries in the international community.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the video itself?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has the Administration reached any conclusions as far as analysis of the video? There are some linguists out there who are saying that the man speaking in the video speaks with a dialect that indicates he’s either from North America or has spent significant time here.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new analysis of the video to discuss.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Libya before we continue? Libya?

QUESTION: There was a letter or an article, I guess, obtained showing a ISIL propagandist citing that Libya would become the new ground in which they would attack Europe. So have you seen that? Is there any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the letter. Obviously, we’re not – we’re familiar with threats from ISIL and terrorist organizations. I would say that we certainly take threats seriously. We have not done any – I talked about this a little bit yesterday in terms of the difference between the rhetoric and whether there’s an operational connection. I don’t have any new analysis on that today.

Go ahead. Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah. There are reports that United States finally approved the government and Congress to arm the Syrian moderate rebels starting in March.

MS. PSAKI: That whom? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The Syrian rebels. The moderate --

MS. PSAKI: It’s long been approved.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. So the training is going to start and the vetting and all of that stuff in March?

MS. PSAKI: And DOD has long said it would start in March, yes.

QUESTION: I mean, the question is, though, when they will start in March in – like in Jordan, will that include PYD fighters too?

MS. PSAKI: I would talk to DOD about the specifics of their train and equip program.

QUESTION: You don’t have any information available?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a DOD program, so they’re the appropriate entity.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Syria? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey’s ruling party is pushing through a legislation that will severely restrict freedom to protest and assembly, a so-called security bill. Do you have any comment about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment on internal legislation. I think we’ve spoken in the past about our view and support for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of the media, and that continues to be a value we have around the world, including in Turkey.

QUESTION: And one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In Mexico on Friday, President Erdogan called 80 congressmen, U.S. congressmen, rental people.

MS. PSAKI: He called them, I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Eighty U.S. congressmen rental people.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Who sent a letter to Secretary Kerry early this month – earlier this month urging him to support press freedom in Turkey. Erdogan said, I quote, “Mr. Obama, why are you silent? Biden, why are you silent? Kerry, why are you silent? But you are waging an anti-Turkey campaign as they find 80 rental people and sending you a letter about Turkey.”

MS. PSAKI: I am not familiar with this letter. It sounds like it was sent to the White House, so I would refer you to them. I also don’t – look for more clarification on what exactly you just outlined.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Tunisia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the verdict against the perpetrator of the attack against your Embassy in December 2012? And do you have a clear picture of what happened that day?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I, unfortunately, have anything more on this, but it is something that I think we would definitely like to comment on. So let me work to get you something – and others as well – later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Sure.

QUESTION: Since you have a deal with Iran on negotiations going on, on the Iranian side there are more political activists, including the Kurdish activist, being executed and being imprisoned. The most recent one, Saman, and the Amnesty International was publishing something about his case, that he – the young guy, he was being prosecuted. Do you have anything on that, and specifically about Saman, that he’s been held in a prison in Iran for political activist activities?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific. I would say that, certainly, we have continued to raise issues related to human rights. They’re a state sponsor of terrorism. We have remaining concerns about Iran despite the fact that we are continuing our conversations with them through the P5+1 about how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon because we think that’s in the best interests of the international community.

QUESTION: But with the most recent, like, concerns, like, you had about the Iranian – about the human rights violations in Iran, especially about the Kurdish activist who’s been held in the prison for political reasons. The most recent statement by State Department – anything?

MS. PSAKI: We have consistently voiced our concern about their human rights record, our ongoing and consistent concerns about violations of international human rights protocols, and I don’t think we have strayed from that.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have – regarding Charles – Assistant Secretary Charles Rivkin’s trip to Miami this week, do you have any further information beyond what went out in the advisory earlier? Specifically, do you know if he’ll be talking about Cuba policy while he’s there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, but I’m sure we can connect you with our team and see if we can get you some more details on his trip.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Cuba?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The next round of negotiations are going to be here in the States. Are they going to be in the State Department itself?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm, on February 27th. And I expect we’ll have more specifics, like a media note, in the coming days if not sometime next week.

QUESTION: Is that – those are anticipated just to last just one day?

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: I have a couple --

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- very brief ones. One of the primary foreign policy objectives for the United States for several years now has been energy independence or diversification of energy supplies for Eastern and Central Europe, particularly weaning countries off of an – what you believe to be an overdependence on Russia. That was a prime goal of Secretary Kerry’s visit to Bulgaria, and not a secret either.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was one issue discussed.

QUESTION: Well, it was a main goal. And I’m just wondering, given that and the fact that this is a region-wide push rather than just specific countries, if you have any comment about President Putin’s visit to Hungary which resulted in the completion of a pretty significant natural gas deal and a nuclear deal as well.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, one, appreciate the strong and continuing cooperation of our European partners in implementing sanctions against Russia for its unacceptable violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Hungary, of course, has been an important member – part of the EU consensus on sanctions, including the EU formal announcement this week of new individuals and entities sanctioned for their role in violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do expect – continue to encourage countries to diversify sources of supply as part of – as you referenced, as part of a robust energy security strategy, and we continue to work with a range of countries, including in Europe, about energy diversification. That remains a priority. But again, this is not a violation of any sanctions; this is something that they have worked out through a bilateral channel.

QUESTION: Right. No, I don’t think anyone suggested that it was a violation of sanctions, but it would seem to be that you could put Hungary in the “lost” column here since they have increased their dependence on Russian energy rather than reduced it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, while they have also supported ongoing sanctions, including ones that were announced this week.

QUESTION: But wait, I’m trying to divorce this – I’m trying to – it’s a separate issue completely from Ukraine and the situation in Ukraine and the sanctions. Are you --

MS. PSAKI: We continue to work with countries to --

QUESTION: But are you --

MS. PSAKI: -- diversify their energy resources.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed that despite your attempts to push energy diversification in Central and Eastern Europe, the Hungarians have actually gone the other route and not only not reduced their dependency on Russian energy, but increased it with these deals?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. It’s an effort and commitment that we are going to continue working on.

QUESTION: All right. And my last one is just – in Bahrain, there was an American teenager who was sentenced to several years in prison yesterday. I’m wondering if you have any comment about that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Tagi al-Maidan, right?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe last September --

QUESTION: Oh, no, this is someone different.

MS. PSAKI: Different?

QUESTION: This is Jafar, I believe his name --

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in Bahrain. One of the most important functions of our embassies abroad is to protect and assist U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad. Due to privacy considerations, there aren’t more details we can share at this point in time.

QUESTION: But his family says that there was no one from the embassy present in the court for this hearing or trial or sentencing or whatever it was. Can you at least – do you know if that’s true?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to the case because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: So you can’t say? Were there anyone – was there anyone from the embassy in Manama who happened to be strolling around a courthouse in the city or another city --

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your efforts, but I --

QUESTION: -- yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: -- can’t go into more details.

QUESTION: Well, his family says that they’re disappointed that no one from the embassy went. Are they – do they have --

MS. PSAKI: I understand, and if we have a Privacy Act waiver --

QUESTION: Do they have reason --

MS. PSAKI: -- we can speak to it.

QUESTION: Do they have reason to be disappointed?

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- I have nothing more to offer here.

QUESTION: On the other case, did you have something to say about the other case?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: I believe this is – he’s awaiting --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there’s any new information. I just wanted to – it was another case.

Okay. Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 17, 2015

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 20:05

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 17, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:11 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this snow day, and we thought, as we’ve done in the past, we would do a phone briefing so we can try to address as many questions as possible, and tomorrow we’ll be back at the podium. I don’t have anything at the top, so why don’t we go to our first question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, you may queue up at this time by pressing * 1. Again, for any questions, please queue up by pressing * 1. Please allow just a few moments as questioners queue up.

This question will come from Nicole Gaouette with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Nicole.

QUESTION: Hi, Jen. Apologies for kid sounds in the background and thank you for doing the call.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask if you guys had any comment or reaction to the beheadings in Libya of Coptic Christians.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you may have seen, Nicole, we put out a statement, as did the White House, over the weekend. So I would certainly point you to that. Clearly, there are a number of foreign ministers and officials coming here later this week for the CVE summit, and certainly we expect, given these recent events, that this will be one of many issues discussed while we’re there. But I would point you to the statements we put out this weekend.

QUESTION: All right. Can I follow up with another question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: This is about a report put out by a cyber security firm saying that – it implies that the NSC has been embedding surveillance tools in computers that it sends to other countries, most specifically Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan. I know policy on commenting about these issues, but I’d like to see if you have anything to say.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of the recently released report that you’re referring to. We’re not going to comment publicly on any allegations that the report raises, nor discuss any details. I believe the NSA has put out a few comments, so I would certainly point you to comments from the intel community that they put out over the weekend.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Nicole.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our next question will come from Matthew Lee with the Associated Press. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hello, Matthew.

QUESTION: Hello, Jen. How are you?

MS. PSAKI: Good.

QUESTION: Good. I’ve got a couple here.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) do them all – do you want me to do them all at once, or --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- one by one? On Egypt, have you seen President Sisi’s comments about wanting a UN intervention in Libya, and if you have, what do you think of them?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen his comments about wanting an intervention, I believe is how he referred to it. We don’t have anything specific. As you may have heard, the UN, I believe, is meeting in the next couple of days to discuss some of these issues. So we’ll certainly be in touch with our counterparts on that, but we don’t have anything specific at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t – in general, you don’t have a position on whether this is a good idea or a bad idea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re going to let the discussion play out. Obviously, we all have a concern about the threat of ISIL. I think that there’s no secret about that. There’ll be a discussion and, I’m sure, a range of proposals put out there, but I don’t think we’re going to get ahead of any process.

QUESTION: All right. On the CVE event, do you guys have a list of who’s coming yet?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’re planning to put that out, Matt. I’m happy to take that and make sure that you guys all get a list. I know there was an extensive background briefing yesterday, but I don’t believe it listed the --

QUESTION: No, it didn’t.

MS. PSAKI: So why don’t we follow up on that and see if we can get you guys a more extensive list? It also may, of course, come from the White House, given it’s – the first two days are there. So we’ll check with them and see what we can get out and around to everyone.

QUESTION: Okay. Then on Ukraine, I know there’s a Security Council meeting later today, so I am not sure you are going to want to – or have anything new to say about the situation there, particularly in Debaltseve. But if you do have something that Ambassador Power isn’t going to say, could you slide it to us?

MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: About – well, I mean, I can reiterate – as you may have seen over the weekend, we put out a statement about our grave concern about the deteriorating situation in and around Debaltseve and eastern Ukraine. We’ve seen the OSCE special monitoring mission confirm that attacks continue in this area, as well as other locations, including around Luhansk and Donetsk. We also understand that the OSCE special monitoring mission has been refused access to Debaltseve by the Russia-backed separatists while they have ratchet up the intensity of their attacks on the city. And we’ve also seen reports, as I’m sure you have as well, that the leaders of Russia, Germany, and Ukraine agreed on measures to allow the OSCE to monitor the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, including in the city of Debaltseve, but that has not, of course, yet affected the separatists’ willingness to abide by that. And I’m sure Ambassador Power, as you mentioned, will have more to say, but that’s the picture of where things stand.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you seen (inaudible) literally just come out within the last 20 minutes, the statement from Senators McCain and Graham on Ukraine, which opens with the sentence: “The Chancellor of Germany and the President of France, with the support of the President of the United States, are legitimizing the dismemberment of a sovereign nation in Europe for the first time in seven decades. It is inexcusable.” And then it goes on. Is that what’s going on here? Is the United States, along with Germany and France, legitimizing the dismemberment of a sovereign nation in Europe?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen their statement, and I’m happy to take a look at that, Matt, but I can absolutely assure you that the Secretary, the President, every member of our national security team remains committed to the exact opposite, which is respecting – helping Ukraine and ensuring that their sovereignty, their territorial integrity are respected. We certainly believe that a diplomatic approach and a political approach is the right approach here, but the same options that were on the table a week ago or two weeks ago remain on the table. And so we’ll continue to have internal discussions as we’ve been having about the appropriate assistance.

QUESTION: Interestingly, the second paragraph of their statement says that – says what you just said, that “Western leaders say there is no military solution to the conflict in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin clearly doesn’t think so.” Is that – do you believe that President Putin – is it the Administration’s assessment that President Putin agrees that there is no military solution to the Ukraine conflict and that he wants a diplomatic solution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly am not in the business of explaining what President Putin thinks or means. I think our belief here in the Administration – and I would be surprised if others disagree – is that getting into a proxy war with Russia is not anything that’s in the interest of Ukraine or the interest – in the interest of the international community. And certainly, as we weigh options, we weigh that as one of the factors.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, can I tell you one more thing, because I didn’t – I was not as specific as I meant to be? The UN Security Council announced there will be a meeting on Libya tomorrow, so we expect, certainly, they’ll discuss a range of options then.

QUESTION: I mean, my – okay, thanks. But in terms of – the Administration, though, believes – since you continue to say that there’s no military solution, you continue to believe that the Russians believe that too?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they signed off, as you know, Matt, on not one but the Minsk agreement and then the implementation of the Minsk agreement, which would --

QUESTION: Right, but you’re accusing them of violating not just this latest Minsk agreement but also the September Minsk agreement (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And in our view, they’re all connected – that this agreement is the implementation of the September agreement.

QUESTION: All right. So you’re still hopeful that it will work. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly continue to believe that a diplomatic approach and an approach that has Russia and the Russian-backed separatists abiding by the commitments they’ve made is the best approach forward.

QUESTION: All right. Two more real brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This delegation in Havana today, Senator Warner said that talks will resume – the normalization talks are – will resume next week. Do you have dates for that? Is that – first of all, is that correct? And second of all, do you have the dates?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We’ll have a more extensive media note, I expect, in the coming days, but I can confirm that the talks will be held on the 27th here at the State Department, the 27th of February.

QUESTION: Okay. And last one real quick: Do you have any reaction or thoughts about the Israeli supreme court’s ruling in the Corrie case, the Rachel Corrie case – they’re throwing out the lawsuit?

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I don’t believe I have anything new on that, Matt, though I know – did that happen just today?

QUESTION: I believe it happened yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Yesterday. Let me check with our team on that and I’m sure we can get something around on it. We’ve obviously spoken to that case a number of times, so we’ll get you something updated.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, Matt.

Okay, we’re ready for the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question will come from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just to follow up on two things.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One, on Ukraine: Is the – given that – well, do you take a position on whether the cease-fire has been respected or has not been respected, given the continuing fighting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, we’ve seen reports – and many reports, I should say – that fighting in Ukraine’s east continues but the quantity and intensity of attacks has decreased, with the dramatic exception being Debaltseve. So we’ve also seen some reports of some fighting outside the strategic coastal city of Mariupol. So our view continues to be that Russian separatists, in fact, cannot pick and choose in which areas they want to respect the cease-fire, and the February 12th implementation package agreed to in Minsk calls for a general cease-fire in all areas. The separatists’ offensive underway in Debaltseve is a flagrant breach of the cease-fire, but there remains an opportunity to abide by the cease-fire, to respect it in all areas of Ukraine, and that’s certainly what was agreed to last week as well as in September.

QUESTION: So notwithstanding what you yourself describe as the flagrant breach of the cease-fire around Debaltseve, you feel that you still need to give this diplomatic process time to play out, even though there’s still fighting?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. That – yes, that’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you – given the continued fighting, are you any closer to imposing additional sanctions on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to announce right now, but the United States and our EU partners and allies continue to coordinate closely on sanctions. We welcome the EU’s formal announcement of new individuals and entities sanctioned for their role in violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And again, we’ll continue to coordinate closely, but I have nothing to predict or outline for you today.

QUESTION: Okay, and on Egypt and Libya --

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: -- was it a good idea for the Egyptian Government to unilaterally carry out airstrikes following the killing of the 21 Egyptian Christians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, as you know, but I have to note it, we certainly don’t confirm military action on behalf of other countries. I will say, broadly speaking, obviously ISIL’s – obviously, we’ve seen the reports from the weekend. We put out extensive comments on them. We certainly respect the right of countries to make their own decisions about their own self-defense and defense of their own country. As we noted in a readout this weekend, the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry and offered his condolences, and he indicated in the call that he would be discussing a response with his military, and that was the call from over this weekend.

QUESTION: When you say “he indicated,” you mean Foreign Minister Shoukry?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, that’s right, yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) President Sisi would be discussing it with his military?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that Egypt, the Egyptian Government would be, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So we should take from that that you really don’t fundamentally object to another country bombing a third country after an incident like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, to be clear – and since you gave me the opportunity, as you know, we continue to believe that in Libya the best path forward is a political process, one that’s being led by the UN. And as you know, that is the process that’s trying to work through the disagreements between different parties and entities on the ground. But I think, broadly speaking, without confirming any action, obviously threats from ISIL or countries’ desires to defend themselves is different than that.

QUESTION: And then one more on Argentina.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As I believe you know, the Argentine foreign minister has written to Secretary Kerry. The letter seems to have two components to it. One is what they say is a reiteration of their request that the United States take up the issue of the 1994 bombing in bilateral talks with Iran. The second part of the letter seems to suggest that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to figure out what happened in that bombing, which remains unsolved all these years later.

What is your response to the letter? Do you have any intention of bringing up that bombing in your bilateral nuclear talks with the Iranians? And do you concur with what seems to be the implication of the letter, that it’s the United States or somebody else’s responsibility to discover what happened in Argentina all those years ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that for over 20 years the United States and the international community have worked with the Government of Argentina as well as victims of the bombing and their families in search for justice. And the special prosecutor staff must not stop the pursuit of those responsible for this brutal terrorist attack. This is an ongoing investigation, naturally, as you know, led by the government on the ground, so we’re not going to comment on other specifics. But clearly, we have in the past contributed where we can information and that will continue.

As it relates to the Iran negotiations, the Iran negotiations remain focused on the nuclear issue. That will continue.

QUESTION: So with – but “focused” does not mean that you would exclude the possibility of raising other issues, as you have done in the case of ISIL and Iraq last summer. So the – what I’m trying to get at is not where the focus is. Obviously, the focus of the nuclear negotiations is the nuclear issue. The question is whether you will accept, reject, or consider the possibility of taking up Argentina’s request that you raise the bombing with the Iranians in those talks. Will --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans to do that, Arshad.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Let’s move on to the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. That will come from Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Jen, two topics. The first on Ukraine. I’m wondering how confident the U.S. is now that we are, indeed, seeing the new column of Russian military equipment move towards Debaltseve. In the statement that your office put out yesterday, it said that the U.S. is monitoring reports. Do you have any more confidence in what’s happening on the ground, or conviction, I should say? And has Secretary Kerry spoken to his counterpart or anyone in the Ukrainian Government in the last 24 hours?

Same question in terms of conversations with the Libyans. Has Secretary Kerry spoken to anyone in the Libyan Government?

MS. PSAKI: He – I don't have any Libyan calls to read out for you. As you know, the Secretary spoke over the weekend with Foreign Minister Lavrov. He also spoke with Ukrainian President Poroshenko on Monday about the ongoing efforts to encourage Russia and the Russian-backed separatists to abide by the cease-fire and the agreements of both Minsk and last week. I don't have new information. We are certainly closely monitoring reports of a new column of Russian military equipment moving towards Debaltseve but don’t have any new information beyond what we put out this weekend.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I think – unless Margaret has another, I think we’re ready to move on. Margaret, are you good? Or you want to – are you --

QUESTION: Yeah, no. Any plans to release any more images of what you are seeing on the ground, like you did over the weekend?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are always constantly looking at ways to share more information. I don't have anything to predict at this moment. If we have it, we’ll certainly release it.

QUESTION: Okay.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question in queue will come from Laura Koran with CNN. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hey, Laura.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Hi. Thanks for doing this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I also have a few different topics I wanted to get to --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but I’ll go through them quickly. If I could just go back to these executions in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: This seems to be another indication that ISIS is extending outside of Iraq and Syria. This is something we’ve seen for a while. I just wanted to press again: Is this something that the Administration is concerned about in terms of whether you would advocate for expanded coalition efforts outside of Iraq and Syria? Obviously, the new AUMF proposed language doesn’t limit geographically where those operations could be, so does this kind of prompt more discussions on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, one, it’s clear that there are ISIL-affiliated terrorists in Libya. That’s not new. But that’s something, obviously, the tragic events of the last several days over the – and what happened to the Egyptian Copts – it certainly brings to light and brings to the surface that fact. We’re still assessing the extent of operational and tactical linkages to ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and that is not something we have any new assessment on.

In terms of military action, the President has authorized U.S. military action against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. As you noted, AUMF – the proposed AUMF does not include a geographic limitation, because we believe it would be a mistake to advertise to ISIL that there are safe havens for them outside of Iraq and Syria by limiting the proposed AUMF to specific countries. However, there hasn’t been a decision made to expand it, and that is not something that I anticipate at this moment.

Obviously – and as you also note, so let me just expand it to coalition military activity – that is also focused solely in Iraq and Syria. Obviously, military action is taken by individual countries, and certainly, we’d refer you to them, as I mentioned earlier. But the United States has not made a decision to expand beyond Iraq and Syria.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And if I could switch gears rather dramatically, North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The DPRK has asked, according to reports, the State Department to cancel a private conference at CSIS on human rights issues in North Korea, saying that they are not able to attend and yadda, yadda, yadda. That went forward today. Can you confirm that they, in fact, made this request to the State Department? And do you have any reaction to that request?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a privately organized event by the – by CSIS. It wasn’t something that the State Department organized, so certainly, they would be the ones to speak to it. I think, broadly speaking, the only request that would be made to us would be – as it relates to a private event would be related to the need for diplomats to travel outside of New York. That would require permission from Washington. We don’t speak to those, as a matter of policy. But obviously, this was a private event, so decisions about who they would invite, how they would go about the event, is really their decision.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And then one last one.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sure you saw the reports over the weekend that the Administration is frustrated with the Israeli Government over concern that there are leaks about the Iran talks coming from there. Can you extend – is that a concern that you’re hearing in the State Department, and is this something that’s causing you to consider – reconsider how you approach conversations with your Israeli counterparts?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I think it’s important for everyone to know that conversations continue with Israel on the Iran nuclear negotiations. And just a couple of examples: Under Secretary Sherman met with Israeli NSA Cohen and the Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning Steinitz in Munich, and she’ll also see NSA Cohen again this week. And the Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of negotiations. As you know, Secretary Kerry regularly speaks to the prime minister about this issue, as well as many others. And as our NSC colleagues have noted, NSA – National Security Advisor Rice maintains regular contact with her Israeli counterpart, National Security Advisor Cohen, on the full range of issues, including, of course, this issue – so we’re – with this issue.

So of course, we’re continuing our frequent and routine contact at various professional levels within the intelligence, military, and diplomatic spheres. And reports that that has been cut off or we are no longer consulting are simply inaccurate. I think if anyone knew who leaked information around – that appeared publicly, I think we’d all – that would be great, but that’s a never-ending question that nobody has an answer to as it relates to many topics. But as it relates to our relationship with Israel, our consultations on Iran are ongoing at many levels and many, many high levels, and reports over the weekend are just inaccurate.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks so much.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question in queue will come from Justin Fishel with ABC News.

MS. PSAKI: Hey, Justin.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen. Laura got to my first question, which was just sort of assessing the presence of ISIS in Libya. It sounds like that doesn’t – that’s not a region you’re willing to expand to at this point in terms of airstrikes. Is – are you able to provide any battle damage assessment based on the Egypt strikes, considering it is in your interest to defeat and destroy ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: I am not and I’m still not in a position to confirm the actions of another government.

QUESTION: So if a tree falls in the woods and you’re not there to hear it, does it make a sound?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if that’s the right analogy, but okay. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so can you tell us anything about this – and forgive me if you already previewed this --

MS. PSAKI: That’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- the State Department effort to combat the ISIS propaganda machine – what should we expect to come out of these conferences this week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a pretty extensive backgrounder over – that just happened yesterday, and so I’d certainly point anyone to that. But I would touch – and let me touch on a couple of components.

As many of you know and the White House has already previewed, the first two days are focused on the domestic agenda. The agenda on Wednesday is domestic efforts at the White House. So each of – and cities that are participating – there’s been long been a partner program – will have an opportunity to do a presentation on what they’ve learned to date. But it’s going to be broader than that. It’s not just countries. It’s NGOs. It’s a range of entities that have a role in this important effort.

So the focus of these discussions over the next couple of days will be to explore ways to counter violent extremism by identifying and addressing the conditions that can lead individuals to commit violent actions, as well as ways to prevent and intervene where appropriate. As you know, the final day, the 19th, will take place at the State Department, and the Secretary will be participating, and the President will also be delivering remarks that day. And there’ll also be a meeting to talk about the threat of foreign fighters – that will happen tomorrow – that the Secretary will also be participating in.

So we have a range of different activities that are happening. I think this is – our view on this summit is that this is an opportunity to talk about the path forward and it’s really, hopefully a catalyst for that. We all agree that this is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing – countering violent extremism around the world. That’s probably one of the reasons we have such a strong response from countries and entities who are participating. And this is an opportunity to not just share best practices but talk about where we go from here. So there’s, as I mentioned, partly a domestic focus but also an international focus that we’ll host here on Thursday.

QUESTION: What about making videos?

MS. PSAKI: Ah, okay. Sorry, I --

QUESTION: ISIS is basically making videos.

MS. PSAKI: -- so much to talk about, Justin. Well --

QUESTION: But – and you may have seen – and you probably saw the French video, which was sort of the most – people see that as the most counterweight to the ISIS videos, because it did depict violence, but on the other side of things, like what happens when you join ISIS, this is – this could be your fate. Do you see sort of stepping up the rhetoric in that way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not just about stepping up the rhetoric. The challenge we’re up against, which I think many of you are familiar with, is that there are 90,000 pro-ISIL tweets or other social media responses every day. So we’re definitely beaten by volume, but we don’t believe that ISIL is an invincible force on social media. So what we’re working on now is aggregating and curating and amplifying existing content, so that means utilizing the 300-plus State Department social media accounts run by embassies, consulates, and individuals. It means also coordinating that with the social media accounts of other government agencies. It means expanding and giving more tools to the CSCC. It means determining what the best way to address this is moving forward.

We have a new head of CSCC who will be leading this effort to continue to improve our coordination and make sure we’re approaching this in the smartest, most strategic way. And as you mentioned, there are obviously best practices that we can learn from other countries. And part of this is not only sharing that but also determining who the right voices are. And we certainly are not under the illusion that the United States is the best voice in many of these cases.

There’ll also be – as it relates to the CVE summit, there’ll also be a session that the Secretary will be participating on that focuses on weakening the legitimacy and the resonance of the brand of violent extremism, so that’s going to include a panel on strategic communications and social media; it will include a discussion of how nonviolent religious issues and education can be elevated as a matter of international and local-level concern. And as I mentioned, it will look at best practices.

So this is an issue that we obviously take quite seriously and we work with many countries around the world to address – and entities – and we’re working to make sure that the federal government is as coordinated and efficient and strategic as possible.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, Justin.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question in queue will come from Barbara Usher with the BBC. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. I have two questions just clarifying your answers on Libya, Jen. First of all, previously when you’ve been asked about reported airstrikes in Libya carried out by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, you said clearly that outside intervention is not helpful, which is not something you said on this reported Egyptian strike now. So has the position changed?

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered that earlier, Barbara, that question.

QUESTION: So can you just clarify again, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. What I said was: While I’m not going to confirm the outside military action of another country, we’ve long said that the best path forward for Libya is for a political process led by the UN. As you know, there’s a great deal of internal political and strife among parties in Libya, and that is why we think that effort and no intervention is the right approach there. But I don’t think anyone would put that in the same category as threats the government is feeling or a country is feeling against their own security interests, so – as it relates to ISIL. We see that as a different entity.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. And then just with regard to – you said that you were still assessing the extent of operational and tactical linkages between ISIS and its affiliates – the stated affiliate in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The analysis of the video put out about the Christian killings was that it was the most clearest sign or evidence of ISIS HQ involvement so far, given the content of it and the sophistication of the style. Is that being something – is that something that’s being looked at in terms of a clear linkage between ISIS in Syria and Iraq and ISIS in Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Barbara, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, it’s clear and it has been clear, even before this horrific incident, that there are ISIL-affiliated terrorists in Libya. But that is different from whether there are operational and tactical linkages as it --

QUESTION: Yeah, but this would be an example of a tactical and operational linkage, wouldn’t it, if ISIS in Syria and Iraq is putting out a video on behalf of something happening in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Barbara, obviously there are a range of officials and entities in the United States Government that does assessments. We’re not talking about propaganda; we’re talking about operational linkages, which is different. So my – our assessment is as I outlined it before.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Rosalind Jordan with Al Jazeera English. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Roz.

OPERATOR: Okay, Ms. Jordan, your line is open. Please proceed with your question. Okay, we’re getting no response. We’ll move along to the next question. That will be from Felicia Schwartz with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Felicia.

QUESTION: Quick question for you. Federica Mogherini tweeted that she would meet with Kerry and Choukry and others on Thursday about Libya. Is that a sideline meeting? Do you have any more information about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen that tweet, and we’re looking into it. Obviously, the schedule is still coming together for later this week, but I don’t have any details or plans for a Libya side meeting at this point to announce.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question will be from Lalit Jah with PTI. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Lalit.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. Two questions on south Asia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What’s your take on the agreement which has been signed between India and Sri Lanka on (inaudible) nuclear deal?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. One second, Lalit. Well, we are aware of the announcement. We welcome regional cooperation on nuclear energy that is consistent with IAEA safeguards and other international standards and practices. Beyond that, I don’t have additional details to readout. I’d certainly refer you to those countries for additional information on the agreement.

QUESTION: I have also one question on the business of – visit by the new Pakistani army chief – ISI chief to Kabul today.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you see that development there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long said that we welcome the prospect that we bring deepening cooperation (inaudible) Afghanistan, Pakistan. We know that obviously there’s a one-day meeting, as you referenced today, to discuss security cooperation, so certainly we think that falls into the category of efforts to deepen cooperation, which we would support.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Since you haven’t spoken to this in the past about (inaudible), have you seen the speech given by the Prime Minister Modi in Delhi today on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the speech; we can take a look at it. But did you have a specific question about it or anything that you wanted to ask about?

QUESTION: No. He spoke about the latest spate of intolerance in general. But what’s the U.S. view on that – on this speech?

MS. PSAKI: Say that one more time? He spoke about which piece?

QUESTION: He spoke about religious freedom and religious intolerance in India and how the government is committed to it. Since U.S. – you haven’t spoken from the podium about it, (inaudible) about minorities in India. So how do you see his speech?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t taken a look at the speech. I can say broadly that, certainly, religious tolerance and freedom is something that we support around the world, including in India. And as you know, human rights issues are always a topic of conversation when we meet with counterparts and leaders around the world.

QUESTION: If you can have a look at it and if you have anything to say (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we’re happy to do that, Lalit.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MS. PSAKI: Sure thing.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a follow-up in queue from Matthew Lee.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

OPERATOR: Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to – can you hear me?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to – in response to these repeated questions about the Egyptian – alleged Egyptian bombings in Libya, you said you’re not going to confirm outside military action by a foreign country. Is this is a Libya-specific rule? Because it seems like for the past almost year you’ve been almost daily talking about Russian Government attacks in Ukraine – or at least connections to. I can remember specific examples when you have confirmed foreign military action in third countries. Is this just a Libya thing?

MS. PSAKI: I know you are a stickler for these sorts of things, Matt. I’m not going to confirm reports of actions of the government of Egypt in Libya.

QUESTION: Okay. But the Pentagon has been talking about the actions of foreign governments like the UAE air force and the Jordanians, and that kind of thing, in Syria and (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Correct, which are coordinated with the United States as part of a coalition.

QUESTION: Okay. So if it’s not coordinated then you don’t talk about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you a hard and fast rule here. I think the Government of Egypt and others have spoken to this, so I don’t think you need confirmation from us.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a follow-up as well from Rosalind Jordan. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Roz.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen, can you hear me?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Yep, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi. Okay. Let’s talk about ISIL and Syrian rebels. Turkish media is reporting that apparently the U.S. and Turkey have reached an agreement on training Syrian rebels, upwards of 2,000 members in the province of Kirsehir. I’m not sure if I’m saying that right. That the training will start in March, and that the formal deal will start – will be signed in Turkey in the next two or three days. Can you confirm these reports?

MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that we have reached an agreement in principle with Turkey on training and equipping the Syrian opposition groups. As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train and equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces. We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon. In terms of the reported details, I expect the Department of Defense will have more specifics on those.

QUESTION: Are you able to say, Jen, whether this means that the vetting process for the Syrian rebels has been completed in order to start this training?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would – as the Department of Defense has mentioned, they certainly expect that to start in March, which is very soon, as you know. But I wouldn’t look at them as being a requirement for the other. We’ve long been in a discussion with Turkey about being a – playing a role in the train and equip program, as some other countries are doing. But when you follow up with the Department of Defense, I would ask them that question as well.

QUESTION: What about the longstanding concerns by Turkey that by focusing the training simply on trying to defeat ISIL fighters inside Syria that this is not dealing with what Turkey considers the bigger problem, which is the continued rule of Bashar al-Assad? Is the U.S. still engaging with Prime Minister Davutoglu and President Erdogan on that question?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and we believe, as you know, and we’ve long believed, that there’s no place for Assad in a future Syria. But we continue to believe that the best way to resolve the challenges there is through a political solution. We also fully expect, as we’ve said in the past, that the moderate – members of the moderate opposition who are being trained by the train and equip program, who will be trained by the train and equip program. Obviously, it’s focused on ISIL, but we certainly expect them to use their training and their equipment also to continue the fight against the regime.

QUESTION: Given that the Turkish Government is prepared to have U.S. forces on their soil working with the Turkish military in the training, what does this say about the role of Turkey in the fight against ISIL? Does the U.S. feel that Turkey is finally picking up its share of the load in the fight against ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, we’ve long believed that Turkey is and has been an important partner in the anti-ISIL coalition. They have been a partner not just in – as it relates to military components, like the train and equip program, but also in the other components of the coalition, whether it’s delegitimizing ISIL or going after foreign fighters, going after their financing. So they’ve long been an important partner, and certainly this is a component we’ve been in a discussion with the Government of Turkey about for some time now.

QUESTION: Is there – and this is my final question – is there any sort of compensation or assistance that the U.S. is providing to Turkey in exchange for finally agreeing to help with the training program of the rebels?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that being part of a discussion. As you know, we provide assistance on refugees and a range of needs that Turkey has. But I would certainly point you to the Department of Defense for more specifics of – about this program and the agreement that, as I said, we expect to sign soon.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks so much.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, Roz.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question is from Lisa Janssen with Fox News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey there. Actually, Jen, it’s Ed Henry. I work with Lisa. How are you?

MS. PSAKI: Oh. I was like, this doesn’t sound like a Lisa.

QUESTION: I know. How are you?

MS. PSAKI: Good. How are you?

QUESTION: Good. A couple quick questions.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One, have you seen this BBC report suggesting – they’re quoting a local police chief saying that ISIS has now burned to death 45 people in western Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen the report. The last I talked to our team, Ed, we did not have confirmation of that independently from here.

QUESTION: Got it. Second, the Pope has said that the 21 – that you’ve been talking about the 21 Christians who were killed in Libya, the 21 Christian Egyptians – died as martyrs because of their faith. Does the Administration agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think certainly – I’m not going to put new labels or certainly argue with comments of the Pope, Ed, but I would say that we have spoken in the past about our concerns about the targeting of religious groups. And we’ve seen, unfortunately, this happen in Iraq and other places. ISIL has gone after not just individuals for religious affiliation, but for being a woman, for being – for even people with disabilities. And so we’ve seen the barbarity of their tactics. But beyond that, obviously, this is simply a horrific attack of terrorism and one that we came out this weekend and joined many countries in the world in condemning.

QUESTION: Great. Last one: Marie Harf, your colleague, last night I think it was, was on MSNBC saying that we can’t win this war by killing them – when she was talking about ISIS – we cannot kill our way out of this war; we need a longer-term, medium-long-term get after the root causes. She talked about finding jobs for people in these countries where they see no hope. What was she trying to say there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Ed, she – Marie, my colleague, was saying what we’ve said many times, which is this is not only a military solution. A military solution will not bring an end to ISIL. That’s why there are several components of our coalition. Yes, the military component is important, and we’ve done thousands of strikes in Iraq and Syria. That’s continuing to pick up, as you know, and you’ve covered quite a bit. But we also need to delegitimize ISIL. If the ideology is out there and growing, we – ISIL will continue to grow and thrive. We need to cut off their financing, we need to prevent foreign fighters from moving.

And I – she was also talking about, in her interview, not just ISIL but the CVE summit – and the CVE summit that we’ll be hosting – and I know is happening at the White House over where you are right now – is broad; it’s not just about ISIL – that certainly is a part of it, but it’s about countering violent extremism and how to take on this threat over the long term. And obviously there are several components of that as – and the evidence of that is also all of the different breakout groups that are happening throughout the summit. But again, I think this is something we’ve talked about quite a bit, and the need to make sure we’re working with countries to address some of the root causes that have led to the ability to recruit.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Appreciate your time.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Ed.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Philip Ling with CTV Canadian. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Hi there.

QUESTION: From very cold Ottawa. And I know you guys had a lot of snow in Washington, too, so --

MS. PSAKI: We can compare.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you so much for taking this, taking my call.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So the Kurdish Regional Government told us that images showing Kurdish offensive beheading captured ISIS militants are authentic. The instance took place in Kirkuk on January 30th, and the government have launched its own investigation on Kurdish forces beheading ISIS militants. Does the U.S. have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that. Certainly, we’ll took a look at your report. Obviously, there’s a barbarity that ISIL has shown in their tactics around the world, and certainly we expect that our coalition forces or people who are supporting the anti-ISIL effort will not abide by those same tactics. But I don’t have any confirmation of that specific report.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But on the – on that point with the anti-ISIS, anti-ISIL coalition, if this is true, that they are allegedly committing the same atrocities that are mirroring ISIS’s own tactics, does this point U.S. and Western allies in an uncomfortable position with the ISIS war continuing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we don’t have confirmation of it, so I’m not going to speculate on that. I think we do – obviously, we have a certain kind of standard of abiding by certain international protocols. We know that we’ve seen ISIL not just behead individuals, including American citizens, but go after groups targeting them for their gender, for their religious affiliations, for a range of tactics. And so the barbarity of that group certainly stands head and shoulders above what we’ve seen in some time.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Are you going to be helping the Kurdish Regional Government with their investigation or trying to confirm this yourself? Are you going to be working with that government?

MS. PSAKI: Typically these types of investigations are led by local authorities. I’m happy to check and see – I don’t – I wouldn’t anticipate a U.S. role.

QUESTION: Okay. And what measures are or can the U.S. and other allies be doing to prevent such killings? Human Rights Watch on Sunday issued its own report saying that Shia militias are – have conducted kidnappings, torching of homes, mass execution of Sunni residents. So what measures can or are the U.S. doing to prevent such atrocities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as it relates to Shia militias, we’re certainly deeply concerned by reports of human rights abuses by some of these volunteer militia forces. Before the human rights report, I mean, these – there were reports on the ground, and something that – it’s something that the Government of Iraq is investigating to determine the facts behind these claims. Officials in Washington and Baghdad have raised our concerns with senior officials from the Government of Iraq before regarding these abusive tactics. Such tactics promote fear and division to the detriment of Iraqi security and undermine the hard work by the prime minister to unify the Iraqi people. The prime minister has also stressed – Prime Minister Abadi has also repeatedly stressed that any abuses be investigated and that perpetrators be held accountable. Obviously, part of the objective and what part of his focus in his first year here – or it’s less than that, but we’re in the first year – has been on uniting forces under the Iraqi Security Forces and going – making sure that unregulated militias are kind of pulled back in. And so that’s something that there’s an ongoing effort. It obviously takes some time, but they’re investigating this and it’s something that we raise regularly.

QUESTION: Well, thank you, Jen. Really appreciate your help.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Next in queue is Nike Ching with Voice of America. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi there.

QUESTION: Yes. Hi (inaudible) Jen. Thanks so much for doing this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m hoping – we are hoping the Chinese New Year of Goat will bring the – a new chapter to combating the violent extremism.

First question --

MS. PSAKI: We all hope.

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) First question for you is: Deputy Secretary Blinken just traveled to Japan, China, and Korea. Could you please give us an update on his discussion with those countries on anti-terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned, he was there last week and he’s back now in the United States. I have not had an opportunity to discuss with him more about his trip. Obviously, he was there to discuss a range of regional issues, whether it’s our security and economic cooperation or our ongoing commitment to Asia and the future – and the relationship between the United States and Asia. It certainly speaks to how important we think that relationship is, given this was his first international trip as deputy secretary of state. And our Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was also just in Asia. But we’ve put out, I think, a couple of readouts about his trip while he was on the ground. I don’t have anything new to offer other than what we put out last week.

QUESTION: I did try to read those statements. I don’t recall much information about anti-terrorism. Could there be a readout on that?

MS. PSAKI: I am certainly happy to see if there’s any additional information we’re going to read out from his trip.

QUESTION: Right, now a follow-up. Do you know, on CVE tomorrow and Thursday, is there any delegations from China or from Asia Pacific region?

MS. PSAKI: I know that one of your journalist colleagues asked also about a list of attendees, so we will certainly follow up on that and see when we can make that available.

QUESTION: Now, on foreign fighters from Asia Pacific area, do you have a breakdown on those Asia Pacific foreign fighters, ethnicities and countries of origin?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a breakdown. I would point you to any individual country. Obviously, we have our own breakdowns of U.S., but I would expect any individual country would have their own breakdowns.

QUESTION: And what – so final question on CVE: So specifically, what is your goal to bring countries from Asia Pacific, including China, to contribute to combat the violent extremism? Are they all on the same page with the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the goal of the entire summit is to explore ways to counter violent extremism by identifying and addressing the conditions that can lead individuals to commit violent actions, as well as look for ways to prevent and intervene where appropriate. This is a three-day summit. The first two days are domestically focused. The day at the State Department on Thursday is internationally focused. So there’ll be a range of issues discussed while we’re there, but that’s the overall focus of the summit.

QUESTION: Should we expect a joint communique after the Thursday ministerial --

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything to predict for you. I expect that this – their hope is that this is a catalyst for where we go from here and then the path forward.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a follow-up in queue from Laura Koran.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

OPERATOR: Please go ahead.

QUESTION: I just have one quick one. There were reports this morning that ISIS militants have kidnapped about 120 Iraqi youths from near the city of Tikrit. I was just wondering if you had anything on that, any concerns that that raises or if you’ve been able to confirm those reports?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that, Laura, but we’re happy to look into that and take that and talk to our Iraq team about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s just do a couple more here. Go ahead.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question is from Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Jen, but my question has been addressed, it’s on the summit.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, great. We’ll get around a list of attendees as well.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure thing.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, there’s no additional questions in queue. Please continue.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Well, thank you, everybody, for joining us for this snow day phone briefing, and we’ll look forward to seeing you all in the briefing room tomorrow.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 29

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 13, 2015

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 16:16

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 13, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:57 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone.

QUESTION: Happy Friday the 13th.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Friday the 13th, Valentine’s Day eve.

QUESTION: President’s Day weekend.

MS. PSAKI: President’s Day weekend.

QUESTION: And Friday the 13th.

MS. PSAKI: So many things to say.

QUESTION: All rolled into one.

MS. PSAKI: It is. I have one item for all of you at the top. Yesterday, Pakistan marked its national women’s day, so it's fitting that this afternoon we – or this morning, we opened the first WECREATE center in Islamabad. WECREATE centers are safe spaces for women to access essential resources for starting or growing businesses. We believe that unleashing the potential of half a country’s population is a powerful tool to drive economic growth and prosperity. This is the first of a number of WECREATE centers that the State Department will launch worldwide, including in Africa and Southeast Asia.

With that --

QUESTION: Let’s – there’s a lot going on, but let’s start with Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So the ceasefire is not supposed to take effect until midnight Saturday.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: But it does not appear that the run-up to this is that – since the deal was done and ahead of the ceasefire, it looks like things are just getting worse, and I’m just wondering what the Administration thinks. Is this a harbinger of doom, or do you still think that this is – that this will work, that the agreement will work?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are very concerned about continued fighting along and beyond the line of contact, including in heavily populated civilian areas, and reports of additional resupplies of tanks and missile systems coming across the border from Russia in the past few days, and I have a little more detail of that I just want to go into for a moment here. The Russian military has deployed a large amount of artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems around Debaltseve where it is shelling Ukrainian positions. We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist systems. The Russian military also has air defense systems deployed near Debaltseve. We are also confident these are Russian military, not separatist systems.

Russian units along the border with Ukraine are preparing a large shipment of supplies to pro-Russian forces fighting in eastern Ukraine. This is clearly not in the spirit of this week’s agreement. All parties must show complete restraint in the run-up to the Sunday ceasefire, including an immediate halt to the Russian and separatist assault on Debaltseve and other Ukrainian towns. Clearly, the same options that have been on the table remain on the table, and obviously we’ll be watching closely to see what happens over the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: On those – where the information on the Russian equipment is coming from. It’s not coming from Senator Inhofe’s office I hope.

MS. PSAKI: No, it’s coming from our own internal information we were able to make public.

QUESTION: U.S. information, not Ukrainian information?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And so – but you say clearly it’s not in the spirit of the agreement, which would appear to be the case if it’s true, but what does this tell you about the agreement itself and whether or not it’s even realistic to think that it might produce what it’s supposed to produce?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question, Matt, that actions, not words are what will determine whether the agreement will produce what it’s supposed to produce. So it technically starts --

QUESTION: Well, from what you’ve seen so far --

MS. PSAKI: It technically starts at midnight on Saturday night. We will clearly be watching in the coming days to see whether it’s abided to – by. A ceasefire is the first part of this.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And so obviously, we’re leading up to it, but these actions are certainly concerning and do violate the spirit of the agreement.

QUESTION: Right, but from what you’ve seen so far, do you have – I mean, yesterday people were talking about the glimmer of hope. This is a – it’s a potential step – a potentially significant step forward. What you have seen between when the agreement was signed and now, do you still believe that there’s any chance of it working?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re going to see over the coming days whether it works or not. Obviously, there’s a timeline for the ceasefire officially starting, and so we will give it some time to see if it starts.

QUESTION: Last one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the priorities for you guys and also one of the priorities for Ukraine has been the release of this woman --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, Nadiya Savchenko.

QUESTION: -- Savchenko. You’ve raised her case numerous times from here as have – the Ukrainian authorities have as well. And today – and it was understood, I think at least from your point of view, you believed and the Ukrainians believed that she would be released as part of the release of all the prisoners.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This does not appear that it – it does not appear that this is going to happen from the – the Russians say that it’s not going to happen. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just reiterate that we’ve called for Nadiya Savchenko’s release since she was first illegally spirited across the border and put on trial in Moscow. She’s a hostage of the Russian Government and she must be released immediately. This week’s agreement calls for the exchange of all hostages and illegally held persons taken during the conflict. In our view, this clearly includes Nadiya Savchenko. We’ve seen the comments of some Russian officials. Obviously, this will continue to be a point of discussion in the implementation of this agreement, but we believe that she is part of the agreement.

QUESTION: Okay. So you think – your understanding is then that anyone, regardless of whether they’ve been charged with or accused of crimes, should be – held by either side should be returned.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that she falls into the category of someone who is illegally detained.

QUESTION: Okay, so --

MS. PSAKI: So she would be – and it’s written into the agreement that those people are included.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, (inaudible) the ceasefire to take effect – I mean, it’s like 24 hours from now. You expressed concern, but you still expect that the ceasefire will be implemented?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think that’s the same question that Matt just asked that we just had a dialogue about.

QUESTION: I understand. But you don’t – you still believe that it is --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to what I just answered in response to the same exact question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Back to the Russian equipment coming from Russia into Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You have seen this deployment of military equipment over the last 24 hours, since the agreement has been --

MS. PSAKI: Past couple of days, past couple of days I think is an accurate way --

QUESTION: And not since the agreement has been signed in Minsk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it was signed I guess it was two days ago. This has been a bit of a long week, so I think that’s correct. So yes, the past couple of days this has been happening.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jen. Would you be willing to present the evidence that you have? Because this is what the Russians keep saying, that all of these allegations from the American side are just words. They’ve been asking for evidence to be presented to I don’t know whom – to the international community I guess, to the press.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s quite quaint, because not just the United States but – I’m getting to my point --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- the United States, Ukraine, Europeans, NATO – there are a range of officials around the world who have consistently conveyed; there has been information put out by NATO over the course of time. I am sharing with you information that I am able to share from our own internal analysis. I don’t have more details to provide. We always make efforts to provide as much information as we possibly can.

QUESTION: You know how – Jen, I understand. “We all say the same thing” is not proof. You all say the same things, you are all in the same – yes, in the same camp.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to what the prime minister of Ukraine said when he offered to – he offered his glasses to his Russian colleagues so that they could see what’s happening in Ukraine.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Jen, in your prepared statement a few minutes ago you – at the end of it you said something that I think was also said during briefings yesterday, that the same options are still on the table. Can you drill into that a little bit for us? What are we talking about, sanctions? Or are we still debating the possibility of arming the Ukrainian military? And has the peace agreement, news of it, changed that debate in the last 24 hours?

MS. PSAKI: Well, defensive supplies, which is what you’re referring to, remains on the table, as do additional sanctions. That hasn’t changed. Obviously, our priority or preference, I should say, here is seeing this agreement implemented. We believe that the document signed in Minsk this week is an – it’s called an implementation plan for the Minsk agreement, and that is something that we believe can be implemented. There are specific steps in there that should be implemented, but we will be watching closely, and obviously, we continue to have discussions about appropriate assistance.

QUESTION: Is there still a possibility that those defensive supplies could go to the Ukrainian military even if the peace process and the ceasefire works during the weeks ahead?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if the ceasefire works and it’s being implemented, I think it’s obvious we would calibrate what we would do. But let’s talk about it and see where we are in a couple of days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Jen, I wanted to follow up on another point made by Matt about this Ukrainian lady.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Russian press actually speculates that there may be an exchange in preparation, an exchange between the Americans and the Russians who hold this prisoner. Would this be something that would be interested in?

MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not being considered – never heard it discussed.

Oh, do we have any more on Ukraine before we go?

QUESTION: I just want to go back to the question before. I mean, when you say that you have this information about this – the buildup and the transfer of these weapons systems, and what was it, the air defense systems and other stuff, that – well, one, does the OSCE – is the OSCE aware of this stuff as well? Do you know? I mean, are they – because they’ve been looked to as being the impartial --

MS. PSAKI: We do. Regularly stay in touch with them. I haven’t heard them make comments this morning, but we regularly provide any information we have.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – so assuming that what you say is correct, is that in itself a violation of the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a violation of the Minsk agreement that was signed last September. Technically, is it a violation of the new agreement? Well, that doesn’t officially start until midnight. But regardless of all of that, all of that needs to be implemented. So --

QUESTION: I understand. And you already said it’s – it is not in the spirit of the agreement.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But looking at the agreement just as itself, as this document is, the withdrawal of heavy artillery --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and foreign fighters is not supposed to happen until after the ceasefire takes effect, which is midnight Saturday. Is that – am I correct in thinking that?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. But regardless, Matt, I think again the implementation of the Minsk agreement is still part of what we’re talking about here, and it’s still a violation of that and certainly a violation of the spirit.

QUESTION: Right, but it was – is it – am I not – okay, maybe I’ve gotten – maybe I’m misunderstanding this. So the clock doesn’t start ticking on the timeline contained in Minsk II until Saturday, but you still are expecting Minsk I to be respected now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Minsk I is – the title of this entire agreement is the implementation of.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So Minsk I remains part of what we’re talking about being implemented here.

QUESTION: Right, but – all right. I’m just – you expect all the parties to still abide by Minsk I even though this, Minsk II, which calls for Minsk I to be implemented, doesn’t begin until Saturday night?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’re looking at it with the same level of --

QUESTION: Okay. I --

MS. PSAKI: -- how you’re looking at it. It violates the spirit. We want to see it implemented. We’ll be watching closely over the coming days.

QUESTION: You are sure to be asked by others --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- not just you – I mean, not just you personally being asked on this podium – to provide the evidence that you say that you have. Is that something that --

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we declassify as much information --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as we can. We provide as much information as we can.

QUESTION: Is that something that you can say that the Administration will be forthcoming with?

MS. PSAKI: I – we always make that effort. There’s nothing new there.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: If I may, one last thing on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m listening to you now, and I have a feeling that you are talking with authority, like basically --

MS. PSAKI: I hope so.

QUESTION: -- a party to the process. But then I have to remind myself that you are not, by your own choice maybe, I don’t know – a party to that. So how do you define the American role in making sure that the Minsk – Minsk II is implemented?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it’s not any one country who will implement; it’s the OSCE. We certainly support their efforts. We have seen the paper, we’ve reviewed the paper, we’ve been in close touch with our European partners and a range of officials who are – who have been engaged in the negotiation. So I would say we’re deeply and will continue to be deeply involved in this process.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Today the SRSG de Mistura in Vienna said that Assad must be part of the solution. What kind of comment would you have on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m – we’re aware, of course, of the comments. I can’t speak for Special Envoy de Mistura and would refer you to him for a response. I understand that he also clarified his remarks today with Reuters, so I would point you to his clarification.

QUESTION: Okay. But you said the other day that you do support his effort.

MS. PSAKI: We do.

QUESTION: You do support his effort, but he’s also saying that – in fact, the Austrian foreign minister said the same thing – that we may not like him and so on, but in this fight against ISIS particularly --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, again, I think before you quote him, I would point you to what he said in his clarification back to Reuters.

QUESTION: And how does that clarification work with your position, which still remains – I assume – that Assad cannot be part of any future arrangement?

MS. PSAKI: Our position is that Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. I would refer you to Special Envoy de Mistura and his clarification if you would like to talk about his comments.

QUESTION: So in any peace forum, you would expect the Syrians to be represented, and there are all kinds of figures and all kinds of data that proves that, actually, Assad does represent a sizable minority, including Alawis, Christians, all the different groups and so on that are really quite hefty in Syria. So should they not be presented at the table?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what table you’re referring to, Said.

QUESTION: I’m saying in a – let’s say in a Geneva III forum or another kind of venue where the opposition and the government --

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re talking about a hypothetical that doesn’t exist, so we’re going to move on.

Go ahead, Justin.

QUESTION: Thanks. As you’re aware, the State Department, working with the UN, is undertaking an effort to bring in a large number of Syrian refugees – at least that’s the hope – to the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And then earlier this week on the Hill, House Homeland Security held a hearing where the leadership there said, quote, “It would be a huge mistake to bring in refugees to the U.S. from Syria.” It’s their worry that they – that terrorists or extremists could infiltrate that program and pose a risk to the homeland. So what is your reaction to that type of thinking? What is the U.S. obligation when it comes to these refugees, and how do you respond to that – those fears?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, the United States has a strong tradition, a long tradition of welcoming refugees, many of whom have fled unspeakable horrors and persecution, and there have been long – there has been longstanding bipartisan support for this in Congress. And certainly, I think if we look at the crisis in Syria and the unspeakable horrors that many people in that country have gone through, what many people have called for is support for more refugees, which certainly we are open to.

To answer your question on what we do, they’re – ensuring we admit refugees in a way that is safe and consistent with our national security interests is absolutely a priority. That’s why the process can take months, if not longer. And we have a lot of experience with this with Afghanistan, with Iraq, with Somalia, and other places where the United States has taken refugees in from. Refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the United States. Every refugee under consideration for admission to the United States undergoes the same intensive security screening involving multiple federal intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies. These include the NCTC, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the FBI. This process includes a lengthy overseas in-person refugee determination and security screening interview conducted by specifically trained – specially trained DHS officers. There’s a lengthy process that is every refugee is vetted. But one of our values is bringing in and welcoming refugees who have fled horrors around the world, and that continues to be central to what we believe in.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, may I – may I ask one on Syria?

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Let’s stay with the refugees for just a minute.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you – you said you have a – the government – the Administration as a whole and not just this Administration, previous administrations as well --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- has long experience with admitting refugees. To your knowledge, are you aware of any refugees from Iraq or Somalia or Afghanistan – the countries that you mentioned – who have been admitted and then been discovered or found to have been a terrorist or somehow who is plotting against the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, there are a range of precautions taken into place.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: I can certainly look into that specific question on the history, but obviously, there are precautions taken into place to avoid that.

QUESTION: Right. But the question raised on the Hill --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and here, again, is whether or not bad people have gotten in in the past and been caught. Is there any evidence to suggest that the screening system may not be as rigorous as you hope or believe it is?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen evidence to suggest that the screening system is not as rigorous as it needs to be.

QUESTION: There was one example – just to clarify that – if I’m not mistaken, there was one example where an Iraqi – now, the U.S. has brought in around 120,000 Iraqis, and one was found – when his fingerprints were more thoroughly checked through, matched fingerprints found on an IED in Iraq. Is it safe to say that lessons have been learned from the vetting process for Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we are always learning lessons about how to most efficiently do the process, what questions to ask, how to take things into account. And that is certainly factored into how vigorous our measures are. Additional measures were activated as a result of evidence that came in on two Iraqis after they were admitted to Kentucky. Those measures are now applied to all refugees. So we always evaluate and use information as it becomes available.

QUESTION: So there is evidence that --

MS. PSAKI: Two incidents is what I have information on.

QUESTION: But – and what happened to those people? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I can certainly check. But we certainly apply the lessons learned in the future.

QUESTION: Is that figure correct? Two out of 120,000?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can check, Matt, on the specific statistic.

QUESTION: Because I mean, I think that --

MS. PSAKI: I know. I understand why you’re asking.

QUESTION: Well, right. But I mean, if that’s correct, it suggests that it works pretty well. It’s not 100 percent, but it --

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. I will see if there are any other incidents that we have had concern about.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you on the number of Syrian refugees. Do you have any figure on the number of Syrian refugees and where they are located or relocated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States has admitted 524 Syrians since 2011. We’re likely to admit 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees for permanent resettlement in Fiscal Year 2015 and a somewhat higher number, though still in the low thousands, in Fiscal Year 2016. I don’t have any more details on where. There’s obviously an entire process that is undergone.

QUESTION: 524 or 424?

MS. PSAKI: 524.

QUESTION: On this issue.

QUESTION: Jen, on --

MS. PSAKI: On Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: On this same issue.

MS. PSAKI: On refugees?

QUESTION: On the refugees.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: The congressmen were saying that the difference between the Syrian refugees and the refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, that the U.S. was there in Afghanistan and Iraq and was able to check their – the security clearance, but this is not the case in Syria. The U.S. is not there and they cannot check their status there.

QUESTION: Are there Syrian refugees inside Syria?

QUESTION: Inside Syria or in the region --

QUESTION: No, no, Jen. I’m asking you.

QUESTION: -- but they have to get their (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, the vast majority have moved outside of Syria, as you know.

QUESTION: They wouldn’t be refugees if they were still in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: The United States still has an Embassy in Turkey, it still has an Embassy in Lebanon --

MS. PSAKI: Jordan.

QUESTION: -- and Jordan, right?

QUESTION: That’s what the congressmen were saying yesterday about the refugees issue.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure what they were referencing, because again, refugees are people who have departed the country. I can certainly – and obviously a range of the countries where millions of refugees live, which as you know, is an issue that we work closely with these countries on, are outside of Syria. But I will check if that’s actually an issue. I’m not sure it is.

QUESTION: If I may, I have a question on Syria, but for a second to come back to my previous question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The President, your President, referred to the U.S. as a broker in bringing to power the current government in Kyiv. Would you refer to the U.S. as a broker – an honest broker for the Minsk agreements?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I would.

QUESTION: Okay. And my question on Syria, and I apologize to my colleagues. I see that whenever my foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, speaks about the region, he seems to be laying the blame for ISIS at your door, sort of see what your interference has brought us. And I want to give you an opportunity to respond to that and to explain your position as to how --

MS. PSAKI: I want to give you the opportunity to show me a comment he’s made that suggests that.

QUESTION: Most recently at the Munich conference.

MS. PSAKI: What specifically did he say?

QUESTION: He said that the interference from the outside led to the emergence of ISIS. But even – and obviously, he did not mean Russian interference. But --

MS. PSAKI: How do you know he meant the United States? It seems like you may have a little bit more homework to do.

QUESTION: Well, they do speak very carefully. And I’m not a diplomat. I am a journalist. But even if we leave him out of it, what is your position as to how the ISIS emerged and why, and what role the states in the region played in that process, what role the U.S. played in that process, if any?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve spoken about this quite a bit in here, but I’m happy to reiterate a couple of the points in a shorter form, for the benefit of everybody. I would say that we continue to believe that Bashar al-Assad is the biggest magnet for terrorism in the region, that he allowed ISIL to grow and prosper in his own country and allowed them to have safe havens in his own country. And that has led to the strength that they have built over the past couple of years.

We’ve certainly seen that in Iraq – the other neighboring country, as you know, that has had also some challenges dealing with fighting back on ISIL – that we needed to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to make sure they were better equipped – not just the United States but other countries – to fight back against this. The lack of inclusivity under the past government, the unpreparedness of the past security forces certainly contributed to their growth.

So there were a range of factors, and we obviously are addressing those in our anti-ISIL coalition that takes on not just a military component, but delegitimizing what they’re doing, also going after foreign fighters, their financing that has gone unchecked. And these are all areas that we’re working with a coalition of more than 60 countries and entities to address.

QUESTION: So two specific things about this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, do any of the forces that you support in Syria – do any of those forces, have they joined ISIS, to your knowledge?

MS. PSAKI: Who are you referring to specifically?

QUESTION: As I explained – I’m not an expert on --

MS. PSAKI: The moderate opposition? No, they haven’t.

QUESTION: In the opposition.

MS. PSAKI: What’s your second question?

QUESTION: So you are saying that none of those whom you supported have joined ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have a specific example you want to bring up here?

QUESTION: No, I mean, you know better than I do whom you support.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, why don’t we get to your second question and then we’ll move on to another topic.

QUESTION: And second question I already mentioned: Did any of your friends and allies in the region play a role in the emergence of ISIS – like the Saudis, like the Turks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there are a range of issues, including cracking down on foreign fighters, including cracking down on financing, that we’ve seen the need to do more on, and we have been working with countries in the region that perhaps could have done more in the past to do more now. So these are all issues we’re addressing. I don’t see you taking notes right now on what I’m saying, but --

QUESTION: I’m taping this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Good. (Laughter.) Should we move on to a new topic?

QUESTION: New subject – on Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah. According to reports, yesterday al-Qaida did take over a major military base in, I think, Shabwa province. Now, given the fact that the Houthis are the major power in charge it looks like in Yemen, do you intend or did you try to get in touch with them to confront that major development in – on Yemen – in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the same reports. I don’t have any independent confirmation of it. I would say that, as you know, AQAP has posed a threat to Yemen long before the events of the last couple of days that – and weeks, I should say – that caused us to bring our staff out of Yemen. We’re in touch with a range of officials and parties on the ground. We continue to work on counterterrorism operations. I’m certain that these recent – reported attacks are part of those discussions, but I don’t have any more detail to lay out for you.

QUESTION: But if it is true, do you agree it’s alarming and you have to do something?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that we’ve been alarmed and concerned about the threat of AQAP in Yemen for some time now, and that’s one of the reasons why we would like to continue our counterterrorism operations in coordination on the ground. And obviously, that’s something that has been a priority for our team on the ground – not having embassy staff there certainly makes diplomacy more challenging. That’s why it’s suspended and we want a return. But we still have an ability to communicate and work together.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the embassy specifically.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: It’s been two days now or a little over two days since – and I’m just wondering if the Houthis have responded to your calls to return the embassy vehicles and the disassembled – inoperable weapons.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that and they haven’t been returned.

QUESTION: They have not. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: In the – following the U.S. lead on this, a number of other embassies have closed down – most European embassies, I believe, as well as the Saudi embassy. Are you aware if any of them – any of those embassies encountered the same issue with vehicles and potentially weapons as you guys did?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. I haven’t seen reports of it, but I don’t have any details.

QUESTION: I know you haven’t heard from them – from the Brits – these are countries that area allies – Italy, Netherlands, Britain --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt. Obviously, we remain in touch with all of those countries. So --

QUESTION: And do you know if there has been any direct communication with the Houthi leadership about the property that you say must – that you want returned?

MS. PSAKI: We have conveyed our desire to have those vehicles returned. I’m not going to get into more details on how.

QUESTION: Okay. But can you say if you’ve gotten a response, not – maybe not what the response is, although that would be nice, but has there been a response?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other update beyond that?

Yemen?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said that counterterrorism operations are still going on. Do you have any specifics, given the exit of diplomatic personnel, on whether those conversations or that coordination is going on from personnel in Washington or – this might be kind of a roundabout way to ask this question, but when the embassy compound was closed, was anyone still working out of the compound that’s not U.S. diplomatic personnel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can only confirm for you that State Department personnel and U.S. diplomatic personnel obviously left a couple of days ago. I believe my colleagues at DOD have spoken to their presence. I’m not going to speak about more specifics. Although U.S. staff have been temporarily relocated out of Sana’a, we remain engaged with parties in Yemen and the international community to advance U.S. policy objectives, including counterterrorism. We continue to actively monitor threats emanating from Yemen and have resources and capabilities postured in the area to address them. And obviously, we’re not going to hesitate to protect our interests or the interests of the American people. But we don’t get into intelligence operations from the podium, so I just won’t be able to go into more detail.

QUESTION: Any word on where you’ll relocate that staff?

MS. PSAKI: They’re back in Washington now, Justin. I don’t have any update. I know there’ve been talk about whether some would be relocated more in the region. That certainly remains a possibility, but I don’t have an update at this point.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: No, no --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Yemen. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On this. Two days ago, you said that the UN will be using one of the buildings at the --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it – what building? The main embassy or --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not the embassy building. It’s a former residential building.

QUESTION: And the protecting power is still --

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have an update on that either.

QUESTION: Middle East?

MS. PSAKI: Can we – any more on Yemen? Do you have Yemen, or – okay.

QUESTION: So a militant group in Libya, they claimed in a video the kidnapping of 21 Christian Egyptian.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And do you have any comment or you have any more information about it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a lot of information. We’ve seen photos showing Egyptians kidnapped by terrorists in Libya. We strongly condemn these kidnappings and express our sympathy to the Egyptians who have been involved in this ordeal, and to their families, as well as the Egyptian people. I don’t have confirmation; we have just seen the photos. The Secretary also spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry this morning and reiterated our condemnation of this incident and our commitment to the strategic partnership with Egypt.

But go ahead.

QUESTION: Did the Egyptians or the Government of Libya ask you for any help to rescue these people?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Government of Egypt and the government – and any others to speak to that. I don’t have anything more to update on it from here.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, mainly, these people were kidnapped because they are Christians. Do you have any concerns about the status of the minorities in the Middle East right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would look at this – or the way we look at this, I should say – is more about Libya than it is about Egypt. This happened, reportedly, in Libya, right? And we know that this incident underscores the need for the international community to continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations. And it really, again, reminds us of how volatile the situation is there on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. One last question about Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The French Government, they announced yesterday that the Egyptians will buy 24 fighter jets. Do you have any concerns or any comments or – on this deal? And also, do you feel or do you think that the Sisi regime is trying to replace the United States and this partnership with another countries like Russia and France?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t think we see it that way. Every country has – Egypt is a sovereign country. They have maintained relationships with other countries, as does the United States. We have our own security relationship, so I wouldn’t say there’s a concern from this end.

QUESTION: Madam, India --

QUESTION: Jen, just on – can I just --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I want to – I didn’t hear – I may have missed you say it, but in the answer to the question about when – the last question about the 21 who were kidnapped and them being Christians, did you – in your answer, did you say that you were concerned about ethnic and religious minorities in Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve – I mean, we’ve talked about the volatility on the ground and the issues at play in Libya for some time now. We don’t have even confirmation of this or the details of it, so --

QUESTION: Right. Well, even without this incident, are you concerned about the treatment or the – well, are you concerned about their safety – of ethnic and religious minorities in Libya?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have new concerns, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. Existing --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve long been concerned about the entire circumstance on the ground in Libya.

QUESTION: Gotcha.

QUESTION: Jen, on Egypt, too. Did the Secretary discuss with his Egyptian counterpart the deal, the arm deal with France and President Putin’s visit?

MS. PSAKI: No, he didn’t. The focus was on the reports of the kidnapping of the individuals.

QUESTION: Madam, India?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead, Lalit. I mean go ahead, Goyal. Sorry. I’m looking at Lalit. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Two quick – thank you. Two quick questions, thank you. One, Madam, tomorrow will be the swearing-in ceremony for the landslide victory of a opposition leader in Delhi. How it’s going to affect the U.S.-India relations as far as – because Delhi will have two governments: at the central level, Prime Minister Modi; at the Delhi level, the Kejriwal. And if anybody’s going to attend this swearing-in ceremony from the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, I’m to check and see if anyone on the ground is. Not that I’m aware of, but I will check. Beyond that, I’m not going to weigh in on politics in India. As you know, the Secretary has a great relationship, as does the President, with Prime Minister Modi and his entire cabinet, and we expect that will continue.

QUESTION: And --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: And second, Madam, as far as Alabama case is concerned, it has gone beyond the families in India and the people of India. What – even in the government of ministry at the – at Delhi. My question is that people in India is asking that they thought police brutality is only in India because that’s what they feel, there is police brutality in India.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, I’m not sure if you saw this this morning, but the individual officer – and this is reported, so I’m just speaking to reports; I don’t have any separate confirmation, we don’t deal with that from here from the State Department – but that the individual officer has been fired, the local police chief spoke to it and gave a very strong statement. So I would certainly refer you to that.

QUESTION: So justice has been done. Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, since you’re now on the – commenting on criminal matters in the United States, the Administration has –

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to report – point you to public comments that have been made if useful, but go ahead.

QUESTION: The Administration has been criticized by many in the Muslim community for not – the White House in particular for not commenting on this, the murder of these three Muslims in North Carolina. I realize that this is not generally a State Department issue, but you were – it has echoes of the whole Ferguson thing in terms of this building being involved at least in public diplomacy efforts abroad. President Erdogan of Turkey mentioned this at a stop in Mexico either this morning or yesterday, the fact that the President – this president, President Obama, hasn’t spoken about it, and it’s being used – or the lack of comment from the Administration on this from the federal government is being used by some in ISIS and other jihadi-type groups as alleged evidence that the Administration doesn’t care about Muslims. How do you respond to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe my colleague over at the White House briefly spoke to this a couple of days ago, but let me just say we are saddened, of course, by the senseless acts in Chapel Hill. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased. We’re moved by the way the Chapel Hill community has united and shown its support to the grieving families. This case is, of course, under investigation by the Chapel Hill Police Department, but I don’t think anyone should question how much as a human being the Secretary and anyone in this building sees these reports and feels for the families and the entire community.

QUESTION: And what would you say to President Erdogan?

MS. PSAKI: I think I would point him to the comments I just made.

QUESTION: So in other words, you don’t accept his – you reject his criticism?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Alabama?

MS. PSAKI: You want to go – go ahead. Go ahead. Let’s go back, and then we’ll go to you, Said.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: And then I have a few questions from South Asian countries. First one, is State Department sending any officials to Alabama to meet the victim along with Indian officials? I saw some reports in this. I just wanted to confirm with you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t believe there’s a role for the State Department here. We certainly wish Mr. Patel a full recovery from his injuries. Our thoughts are with his family. As I mentioned, this case is under investigation. The local police have spoken to the behavior of the police officer. I would point you to all of that.

QUESTION: I’m going back to India again. Today the prime minister called – made phone calls to four of the – four South Asian leaders, including Pakistan, on the cricket World Cup which is being inaugurated in Australia. But the question is about the call he made to Prime Minister Sharif about revival of the peace talks. He is sending his foreign secretary to Islamabad. How do you see this development as?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lalit, we believe that India and Pakistan stand to benefit from practical cooperation and are encouraged that they may resume dialogue aimed at reducing tensions. The relationship between India and Pakistan is critical to advancing peace and security in South Asia, so we would certainly welcome any resumption of talks between the two countries.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the chairperson and the ranking member of House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry seeking a new policy on Pakistan, which should – according to them should include sanctions, travel restrictions on Pakistani officials, sanctions on Pakistan, because they argue that the present policies are not – is not working. The Pakistani Government, according to them, continues to shelter Lashkar-e Tayyiba and Haqqani Network. Has – there are two questions related to that. Has the Secretary received the letter? Secondly, does he agree with the statements made by these two congressmen?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the letter. I can’t confirm for you if the Secretary has received it. I’m sure we will respond to the letter as we do from any letter from a member of Congress.

QUESTION: There’s one more related the Pakistan. The former President Musharraf, in an interview to Guardian newspaper today said that it is the ISI which nurtured Taliban. Is that your opinion?

MS. PSAKI: Can you say that one more time?

QUESTION: He said that ISI, which helped establish the Taliban in Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t think I’m going to have any more on that issue for you.

QUESTION: This –

QUESTION: Staying on Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I have one other on Sri Lanka.

MS. PSAKI: On Sri Lanka?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have one on Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: Or Pakistan? Let’s do Pakistan.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on the mosque bombing there.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: It seems like escalation of these bombings that have been claimed – the responsibility has been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. Even after the country said they have this new policy to counter terrorism, what is the reaction on the continuing violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that we’re saddened by the latest attack on a mosque and extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims. We stand in solidarity with the people and Government of Pakistan in confronting this type of extremist violence. We’ve certainly seen the claims. I clearly don’t have any confirmation of that. As you know, the challenge of taking on the threat of terrorism in Pakistan is something that is a big topic of discussion in our bilateral relationship, and was one when the Secretary was there just a couple of weeks ago. And they have talked about wanting to do more and continuing to do more, and we are willing to and prepared to continue to be a partner in those efforts.

QUESTION: You’re more than just saddened by the attack, aren’t you? You would condemn it, right? This is --

MS. PSAKI: We certainly would condemn it, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I move on to something else?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have any more on Pakistan?

QUESTION: I have one on Sri Lanka (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Sri Lanka, sure.

QUESTION: Matt’s question yesterday about --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- the Sri Lankan foreign minister saying earlier this week that the UN sort of delay its report on human rights. You said you will be speaking about it after the meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first do just a quick readout. The Secretary and the foreign minister met yesterday to discuss our bilateral relationship and other regional issues. The Secretary reiterated our commitment to the people of Sri Lanka after the historic January 8th elections and for the ongoing effort to strengthen democratic institutions in Sri Lanka. The Secretary reiterated support for the new government and its 100-day plan. He also underscored the United States and international commitment to accountability and reconciliation after nearly 30 years of war, and expressed ongoing support for a Sri Lanka that is peaceful, democratic, prosperous, inclusive, and unified.

In terms of the topic of the UN report, they discussed during their meeting, as I referenced, a range of bilateral and regional issues, including this issues – this issue. The United States, our focus and the focus of our partners in the international community is supporting accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We’re determining the best way forward to address these issues. Obviously, it was discussed yesterday, but this is a matter for the UN High Commissioner to determine. We have absolute confidence in him and in this process.

QUESTION: But would you like the UN to delay the report?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’re going to keep these conversations with the Sri Lankans and with the UN private.

QUESTION: I believe he has also extended an invitation to the Secretary to visit Colombo. Is the Secretary planning to visit?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any trips to announce.

QUESTION: Has that been accepted?

MS. PSAKI: I know the Secretary would certainly like to, so we’ll see what happens with his schedule.

QUESTION: But he has accepted that invitation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he expressed that he would certainly love to visit Sri Lanka at an appropriate time.

QUESTION: I’ve got two on Latin America.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The first is Cuba: So the new regulations have gone up now. Do you have any – for the allowing imports of Cuban – locally produced Cuban – some goods. Do you have anything to say about that, or --

MS. PSAKI: There is going to be a more extensive media note that goes out with more details and a list later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Okay. And then Argentina.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You will have seen that the guy – that the prosecutor who replaced the prosecutor who was – died under mysterious circumstances is carrying forward with the case against President Kirchner and other senior Argentine officials. I recognize that this is an Argentine case, but because it does have broader implications, particularly with Iran, I’m wondering if the moving forward – if the new prosecutor moving forward with this case has any impact on your contacts or relationship with the Government of Argentina as it currently is constituted under President Kirchner.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe we see this, as you know, as a legal/judicial issue. I’m not aware of any changes, but I’m happy to take the question and talk to our team if there’s anything specific.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t have a – there’s nothing at the moment to suggest that you’re going to have – that this is going to impact the --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- U.S.-Argentine relationship?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: On Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: President Maduro last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?

MS. PSAKI: These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We have seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces.

QUESTION: The U.S. --

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen --

QUESTION: Sorry. The U.S. has – whoa, whoa, whoa. The U.S. has a longstanding practice of not promoting – what did you say? How longstanding is that? I would – in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice.

MS. PSAKI: Well, my point here, Matt, without getting into history --

QUESTION: Not in this case.

MS. PSAKI: -- is that we do not support, we have no involvement with, and these are ludicrous accusations.

QUESTION: In this specific case.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But if you go back not that long ago during your lifetime, even – (laughter) – this is not that long since --

MS. PSAKI: The last 21 years. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well done. Touche. But I mean, does “longstanding” mean 10 years in this case? I mean, what is --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, my intention was to speak to the specific reports.

QUESTION: I understand, but you said it’s a longstanding U.S. practice, and I’m not so sure – it depends on what your definition of “longstanding” is.

MS. PSAKI: We will – okay.

QUESTION: Recently in Kyiv, whatever we say about Ukraine, whatever, the change of government and then the beginning of last year was unconstitutional, and you supported it. The constitution was --

MS. PSAKI: That is also ludicrous, I would say.

QUESTION: -- not observed.

MS. PSAKI: That is not accurate, nor is it with the history of the facts that happened at the time.

QUESTION: Yes, the history of the facts. How was it constitutional?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think I need to go through the history here, but since you gave me the opportunity – as you know, the former leader of Ukraine left of his own accord --

QUESTION: He did not leave his country.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I think we know the facts here, and we’ll certainly give you an article on the facts to take a look at.

QUESTION: Okay. Very good.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Argentina for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The presidential spokesperson – or a spokesperson for the president said that this was a clear maneuver to destabilize democracy, it does not matter, and it has not legal value. Do you – can you say whether the U.S. thinks it has legal value, whether they have the right to prosecute?

MS. PSAKI: Which specific – the legal case that’s happening in Argentina – I’m just not going to have any more comment on the legal case in Argentina.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue, please, for a second?

QUESTION: Stay in the region for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I understand you are having a visit, a cabinet-level visit from a Brazilian minister, a trade minister from Brazil. I wanted to see if you have in your magic book anything to say how it reflects on your bilateral relations.

MS. PSAKI: Well, a trade minister typically would meet with somebody from USTR, who oversees trade issues. So I can check and see if there’s anyone in this building meeting with the Brazilian trade minister.

QUESTION: And secondly, if I may digress here a little bit, I saw an article yesterday, I think, expressing surprise that the U.S. still provides aid to China. Obviously, that was more in the economic – couched in economic terms, but that led me to thinking of a question: Do you still provide any aid to Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Well, perhaps when you get me the list of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s accusations, you can get me that article.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you very quickly, today the Israeli occupation authority released a 14-year-old girl that has been in custody for two months, which is a good thing, but there remains 213 minors in prison. And Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, everybody’s been calling for their immediate release because no charges were filed against them. I wonder if you would call on the Israelis to do the same.

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we look into the facts here and we can get you a comment, Said?

QUESTION: Are you unaware of the fact that there are Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons?

MS. PSAKI: I think sometimes we have to check the facts that are raised, so why don’t we do that, and we’re happy to get you a comment.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just follow up on – yeah. Let me just follow up on the Palestinian issue. Yesterday James Rawley, a UN official, was describing a very difficult situation in Gaza, to say the least, with money not flowing in and so on, despite all the pledges were made, despite what you called for a couple weeks ago and so on. But there are some emergency things that perhaps can be done – something can be done about, such as pushing to allow humanitarian aid to go into Gaza. Why do you think the Israelis are not responding or not opening their entry points into Gaza to allow these --

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we – we’ll check all of these facts when we look into everything you just stated.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’d like to go back to Cuba for just a minute.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on either (a) when the next series of talks will be, or (b) the status of the ongoing review into the state sponsor of terror designation? Anything you can say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on either one. As we – when we announced in December that we would be doing a review, we said we had six months to do that review. So I don’t expect I’ll have an update on that soon, but it’s ongoing.

On the other piece, on the timing for talks, they remain something we’re working to finalize in the next couple of weeks. I don’t have a date to announce for you today.

QUESTION: So when you say you don’t expect an update soon on the review of the state sponsor of terror designation, does that mean that it might be closer to the full six months, as opposed to completing it early?

MS. PSAKI: We see the process through. And just what I’m getting at was just reminding everybody that there’s a six-month process we have here. Obviously, we’ll see that process through.

QUESTION: So it can’t be sped up?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly can, but again, I think it’s been not even two months since we made the announcement.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I have a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Two quick ones?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Have you seen the statement --

MS. PSAKI: They better be good ones. It’s a Friday afternoon. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, it will be a good one. Have you seen the statement issued by the Indian home minster saying that India had designated ISIS as a terrorist organization? What’s --

MS. PSAKI: I had not. You know where we stand, so I’m happy to take a look at that. And if that’s the case --

QUESTION: But do you believe that India is late in declaring ISIS as a terrorist (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I think we believe they are a terrorist organization. We welcome others who also believe they are.

QUESTION: And there’s another one: The Pakistani – former Pakistani national but now U.S. American citizen has been arrested in Portland, Oregon, in connection with the attack on the ISI headquarters in Pakistan in 2009. What do you say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. I can check with our colleagues at --

QUESTION: Have you found --

MS. PSAKI: the Department of Homeland Security and see if they do, and they’re probably the most appropriate resource for you.

QUESTION: Are you sharing --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 12, 2015

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 16:25

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 12, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:43 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Maybe I was a little quick on the two minutes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Perhaps.

MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. I don’t have any toppers today. I do have a time constraint on the other end, so let’s get to as many topics as we can. Go ahead.

QUESTION: A time constraint? I thought that wasn’t until 4:45. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Twitter #AskJen, send me your questions. We can continue this debate over Twitter.

QUESTION: Right. Let’s start with Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’ve seen the – or I’m sure we’ve all seen the White House statement and the Secretary’s statement on this --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- both of which are – well, as you know, they welcome it but say the proof is in the pudding essentially and that it needs to be implemented. I am just wondering, though, if the Administration is comfortable with everything that’s in this agreement, particularly the ceasefire lines, which do not appear to match the previous – the ones in the previous Minsk agreement.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I hope you did all see the Secretary’s statement. It just went out, so if you haven’t seen it, it should be in your inboxes. One of the points he made in his statement is that the parties have a long road ahead before achieving peace and the full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty. And so while the first test and the first step here is the ceasefire, which according to the agreement will be put in place this weekend, there’s a great deal of work to be done.

As you know and has been reported, there are reports of – which we’re still reviewing the agreement, but there are reports of discussions that will be ongoing about addressing the border questions over the course of the coming months. Obviously, we, as the Secretary indicated in his statement, have offered our help and services and our willingness to participate and support these ongoing efforts. But as was also noted in the statements, the proof is in the pudding. I don’t think that’s an exact quote, but our view is that words are words and actions and implementation are what we’re looking for. So a piece of paper is a piece of paper until it’s implemented.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m just – but do you – are you comfortable with everything that’s in this piece of paper right now? In other words, if it is implemented – and I know that’s a big if – if everyone agrees to it, are you okay with it, considering the fact that it appears that it gives the separatists more territory than the previous Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some components in the immediate ceasefire where they’re expected to pull back from certain lines, and the reasoning for that is to have peace, right, as soon as this is implemented, which we certainly support as a first step. There are components of this, which we’ll have to continue to evaluate, that still need to be determined. We’re still studying what it is; we’ll still be discussing it with our partners. So we support the overall effort, and I think we’ll continue to assess in the days ahead.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on the Secretary’s statement is – says, “As we have long said, the U.S. is prepared to consider rolling back sanctions on Russia when the Minsk agreements of September 2014, and now this agreement, are fully implemented.” And then it lays out the conditions for the rolling back of sanctions, “That includes a full ceasefire, withdrawal of all foreign troops, equipment from Ukraine, the full restoration of Ukrainian control of the international border, and the release of all hostages.” I don’t see the word Crimea in there at all. Is that – are you basically conceding Crimea?

MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that Crimea is a part of Ukraine. That remains our policy. We’re talking about our policy as it relates to these sanctions. There’s a long road ahead, and we don’t anticipate that all of these pieces will be implemented in the coming days. We’re certainly hopeful that it will be done rapidly.

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry, I said that was the last, but I have one more --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- and that is: There has been a lot of talk about the possibility or the consideration, the Administration’s consideration, of supplying Kyiv with lethal defensive weapons, and also a lot of talk about pushing – imposing new, more tough, or tougher, sanctions against Russia. Is it fair to say that those two things right now, while they still may be being considered, are on hold until you see what happens with the implementation of this agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have not taken options off the table. Those discussions are ongoing, so a decision hasn’t been made. Certainly, our preference would be to see this agreement and components – including a ceasefire, including the pullback of heavy weapons and a complete withdrawal of foreign fighters – implemented, and obviously, that would impact and we’d correlate our actions accordingly. But discussions are ongoing internally and with our European partners.

QUESTION: Right. But in the – but until the ceasefire comes into place on Sunday, or Saturday – Sunday, I guess – and you have been able to judge whether or not the agreement has been abided by, can we expect to see you take steps – sanctions or a possible decision on weapons – before you know whether or not this is – this agreement is successful?

MS. PSAKI: I think you can expect we’ll see if this agreement can be implemented, but I’m not going to put a timeline or exact criteria on how we’ll evaluate that. Obviously, it will be clear if it’s being implemented or not, specifically with the ceasefire.

QUESTION: So, Jen, was there – I mean, is the U.S. and Europe still prepared to move ahead with sanctions, even though this agreement has been made?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Lesley, we’re going to – we’ve seen the agreement. It was only made in the last few hours. Obviously, we’re continuing to consult and discuss with our European partners the specifics of it. And certainly, as you know, we’ve long supported the diplomatic path as the right path forward.

However, as I just noted but it’s worth repeating, an agreement is a piece of paper unless it’s implemented. And so what we’ve seen to date is that Russia and Russian-backed separatists have not taken the steps to implement. We will see what they do from here. We have had long ongoing conversations with our European partners about additional steps that could be taken. And if it’s not implemented or there’s additional aggression, that’s something we will continue to discuss.

QUESTION: So would it be best to maybe pause on the sanctions while you – to make sure that President Putin keeps to his – I mean, the U.S. was not part of this deal. And will the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: But we supported it, and we were consulted on it, and we continue to consult on it. And we support the effort.

QUESTION: Would sanctions not be a way to continue applying pressure?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we maintain the ability and the resources to put additional sanctions in place, should the situation on the ground warrant it.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask in what ways practically is the United States willing to help? There was some suggestion perhaps that there might be a need for more OSCE monitors, for instance. Is that something the United States would be prepared to do?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, the United States has shown – and we have shown – that we are not just supportive in words but supportive in actions of returning the sovereignty and the respect of the territorial integrity to the people and the Government of Ukraine. I don't have anything to lay out for you specifically. I think that’s a discussion we’ll have with our partners and with the Ukrainians about what their needs are.

QUESTION: And can I just ask why is the United States not involved in the negotiations that were happening in Minsk? Did you not feel that you had a role in those?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, as you know, the Secretary visited Ukraine just last week. He met with Chancellor Merkel. He’s had consultations and conversations with his French and German counterparts as well. We’ve been very closely coordinated and consulted on these ongoing efforts. We have been involved in the past in some negotiations, and some we have not been. It’s not about what our role is. It’s about what is in the best interest of the people of Ukraine, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And we support any diplomatic effort that takes steps forward toward achieving that goal.

QUESTION: But it does seem that the United States, which usually has a quite diplomatic weight in many of these issues around the world, whether it’s from Ukraine to Syria or Iraq – it actually has been sidestepped in this case.

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that, Jo. We haven’t[1] been involved in the Trilateral Contact Group negotiations over the course of the last several months. We’ve closely consulted on them. At the same time, while those have been ongoing, we’ve partnered and worked with our European counterparts to put in place sanctions, to take coordinating steps. And that’s ongoing. It simply doesn’t reflect how we feel about this effort.

QUESTION: Jen, is your understanding that the sanctions will not be lifted until the Russians pull out of Crimea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are specific steps that are laid out that I can – I’m happy to repeat, including the complete withdrawal of all heavy weapons and foreign fighters from Ukraine; the restoration to Kyiv of control of its side of the border with Russia; full and unfettered access by international monitors to separatist-controlled territory. It’s outlined in the Minsk agreement, and it will – it’s outlined in the specifics here. So that’s what we’re looking at. That needs to be implemented. And obviously, that’s our primary focus at this point in time.

QUESTION: So if the Russians don’t pull out of Crimea, no sanctions will be lifted?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question, Said. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you very quickly – you said something about foreign fighters. Are there any other foreign fighters other than Russians?

MS. PSAKI: That’s primarily who we’re talking about here, Said, not U.S.

Let’s finish Ukraine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to make clear that although Crimea is not in this agreement, not – it doesn’t – this agreement doesn’t cover Crimea, the fact of the matter is the Administration put sanctions and the EU put sanctions on Russia after the annexation. And I want to make sure that in Secretary Kerry’s statement that talks about rolling back sanctions if Russia complies with the Minsk agreement, that that does not include the sanctions that were imposed because of the Crimea annexation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we haven’t even made a decision to roll back any sanctions. So I expect if these pieces are implemented, we’ll have a discussion about what sanctions would be rolled back.

QUESTION: Are you saying that it is possible then that you would roll – you would roll back the Crimea sanctions based on this agreement, which does not include Crimea?

MS. PSAKI: I – Matt, I think I’m not going to lay out what sanctions we’re going to roll back on a plan that has not even begun to be implemented.

QUESTION: Well, but the problem is that when you say that you don’t expect – accept Crimea as – the annexation of Crimea by Russia and you impose sanctions on them, are you now opening the door to dropping that?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t drop anything. I’m just not outlining what sanctions --

QUESTION: So the Crimea sanctions – so even if this – if this agreement holds, everyone abides by it, there is peace and stability in eastern Ukraine, the Crimea sanctions will remain in place until that is – until that issue is resolved, or not?

MS. PSAKI: When everything is implemented, I’m happy to have a discussion about what is rolled back and why. We’re far from that point at this point.

QUESTION: And then just – the question was asked, “Has the U.S. been sidestepped?” Was there – back in June in Normandy, was there any serious discussion or serious desire by the Administration to become part of the Normandy format, the Normandy group?

MS. PSAKI: If I recall seven or eight months ago, I guess that that was at this point --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- we were also supportive of those efforts and expected to be consulted and continue our coordination, and we have.

QUESTION: And you would say that you do not have any complaints about how the French and the Germans in particular went about doing this?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve worked with them throughout this process.

QUESTION: But you don’t feel left out?

MS. PSAKI: We do not. We do not. Our objective is about Ukraine and the future of Ukraine.

QUESTION: But I guess he’s not questioning about whether you feel out – is about – left out. It’s about a question about the absence of the weight of U.S. diplomacy being at the table.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would refute the notion that there’s been an absence. We have been – we were in Ukraine – the Secretary was in Ukraine first last week. We have been engaged closely with the Ukrainians and with our European partners in the form of meetings and phone calls up to the highest levels over the past couple days. The President has been engaged with many partners. So I just don’t think that that’s accurate, an accurate depiction of what’s been happening.

QUESTION: There hasn’t been any high-level face-to-face meetings between President Putin and the United States for some time now.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Does that not hamper your diplomacy?

QUESTION: There was a phone call just the other day.

QUESTION: Well, but face-to-face --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President – right, the President spoke with him about two days ago.

QUESTION: Yeah. But there hasn’t been a face-to-face and a sit-down with President Putin for some time between high-level American officials.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Does that – is that – does that not point to the fact that your diplomacy is somehow being stymied with Russia at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it does. We have had, again, phone calls. The Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov about five days ago. We’ve been engaged with the Russians on a range of levels.

QUESTION: Change topic?

QUESTION: Jen, if you – I mean, the Germans and almost every other country said that this offers a glimmer of hope. In your mind, is there anything in this deal that you believe that this one could be the “it,” that it could – this one has more chance of working?

MS. PSAKI: Have the “it” factor?

QUESTION: Have the “it” factor. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that means, even though I repeated it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You knew what I meant.

MS. PSAKI: Do you mean: Does it offer a chance forward?

QUESTION: What makes this one --

MS. PSAKI: Or you tell me what you mean.

QUESTION: Yes, that’s exactly what I meant was that: What is it in this one that you think – is it the timing of it? I mean, have the sides exhausted all options here? What is it that you – I mean, do you believe that this one has a chance of succeeding, or is it too early?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the truth is we will see, and we are clear-eyed about the potential here. We have seen the Russians say one thing and do another over the course of the last several months. The first test of whether this agreement lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive settlement is the run-up to the ceasefire. And I think we’ll all know more after we see what happens this weekend.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Ukraine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just – do you – does the U.S. – does the Administration believe that its public floating of the idea of supplying Kyiv with weapons had anything to do with the rapidity with which this – with which the French and the – which the Russians presented a plan, the French and Germans countered it, there was this flurry of meetings, and now this agreement in Minsk?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t attribute – I think the French and the Germans certainly have been engaged from the beginning, and we all saw the increase in violence and what was happening on the ground in Ukraine. I can assure you I would give yourselves and your colleagues a bit more credit than to suggest it was a public floating, given it was information that got out about internal discussions. So I don’t believe that was --

QUESTION: You’re saying that that wasn’t intentionally put out there by the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Not by those who are making decisions in the Administration.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) But you’re – it’s true, though. (Laughter.) I mean, that’s – I mean, the idea that it is being considered is not wrong.

MS. PSAKI: No, nor was I saying it was wrong. But it wasn’t an intentional public floating.

QUESTION: So it’s a complete coincidence.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, as all of you are reporters and you tell me --

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- you often do reporting and find out information about what’s being discussed.

QUESTION: So it’s not the “bad cop, good cop” decision – the Europeans being the good cop, ready to negotiate; the Americans being the bad cop, ready to send in weapons.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Are we the bad cops now? Well, that’s – (laughter) – I think this is – obviously, there are internal discussions that had been ongoing for some time about what the appropriate steps are. As all of you know, we take into account what happens on the ground. We’ve seen the increase in violence over the last several weeks, the increased aggression. That obviously leads us to consider a range of options, which we’ve talked about a bit in here.

In terms of the French and German efforts, I would suspect they’ve seen the same increase in violence on the ground, and we’ve been engaged with them. We all were recognizing that the Minsk protocols were not being implemented and we needed to see what the diplomatic path forward could be.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Would you say that your position came – became closer to that of the Germans the French through – after the shuttle diplomacy – not the shuttle diplomacy – the high-level diplomacy by Angela Merkel and visiting here so quickly?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you mean.

QUESTION: What I mean that --

MS. PSAKI: Our position on what?

QUESTION: You know that the deal became more real and more within reach right after her trip to Washington.

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that’s an accurate depiction of what happened. We have long supported the Minsk agreement and the principles in the Minsk agreement. These discussions are – were based on that. There was agreement that we needed to find – look for every avenue for a diplomatic path forward. The French and the Germans led that effort; we coordinated with them. It was discussed not just on Monday but over the weekend with Chancellor Merkel, in discussions and meetings in the region in Europe over the weekend. So that’s what happened.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: I just want to --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- come back to the issue of the sanctions --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the lethal weapons. Given that this – there is a ceasefire and you want to give this a chance, is – on the sanctions and – surely you would not be thinking about those things right now while this diplomatic effort is being given a chance.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s always ongoing discussions about what the appropriate assistance is and what the appropriate response is. I would remind you that we’re talking about starting the ceasefire in two days from now. So I don’t have anything to predict for you, but I think it’s safe to assume we’re supporting this effort, we certainly want to see it work, and that’s our priority and our preference. But we have a range of options that we continue to consider.

QUESTION: And then I have a follow-up. You probably saw today was a $40 billion deal – package, including IMF and other money, for Ukraine. Would the – is the U.S. willing to support that additional money within the IMF and the other parts of it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome the news that the Government of Ukraine and the IMF have reached an agreement that will allow the IMF to provide Ukraine with a $17.5 billion – I think that’s the number I had, Lesley, but --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- in financial assistance in support of economic reforms. As IMF Managing Director Lagarde noted, this is ambitious and not without risk. It will require the Ukrainian Government to continue implementation of tough reforms to fight corruption, overhaul the energy sector, cut expenditures, and reduce bureaucracy. We, in coordination with our European partners, will continue our assistance to help Ukraine implement these quickly and build a stronger, more prosperous, democratic future.

Certainly, as you know, because you I think covered the IMF, it was the decision of the IMF. We certainly supported these efforts and will help support efforts toward reform that are required by the agreement.

QUESTION: Yemen?

QUESTION: No. And just you mentioned about the monitoring of this agreement and how you’re willing to help – it’s OSCE-led, I think, right?

MS. PSAKI: The OSCE is, yes.

QUESTION: And it’s going to be monitoring both sides --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- for violations of this.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You’ve made pretty clear – the Administration has made clear that if the Russians and the separatists don’t agree, the costs – there will be consequences for them and the cost to Russia will increase, right? So which is new sanctions basically.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What – is there any consequence or any cost to Ukraine if they’re the ones found to be not complying with the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, first of all, we’ve seen over the last 24 hours even that Russia has continued to take aggressive actions into Ukraine even while this agreement is being discussed. So Ukraine, over the past several months, has not only implemented and taken steps to implement the Minsk protocols, but they have been supportive of efforts to find a peaceful solution here. I don’t think we anticipate that is going to happen over the course of the coming months.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if – since you’re willing to entertain the possibility that the rebels and the Russians aren’t going to agree with it and there’ll be costs for it, can you not also entertain the possibility that there’ll be costs to the government in Kyiv if they are found to be not in – to be in violation of the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s just a little bit ludicrous given Ukraine --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- is a sovereign country, and this is a country that has illegally brought troops, weapons, resources into their country. Certainly, we call on both sides to abide by it.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think – I think that’s a highly unlikely hypothetical.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it may be, but I’m not sure it rises to the level of ludicrous, because if you’re talking about both sides needing to implement it and there’s going to be – but they’re – but now it seems to be – it seems to me that you’re saying that there won’t be consequences if one certain side doesn’t implement.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, over the last six months Ukraine has implemented the Minsk protocols, whereas Russia has not. So --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- I think that’s the record we’re looking at.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Are we – okay, go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: It was confirmed yesterday that ISIS proposed the trade of Kayla Mueller for Pakistani scientist Siddiqui. There are people who are questioning why it is that that would not be considered when Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban prisoners. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say that out of respect – and I believe the White House put out a statement on this last night that we then forwarded – and out of respect to the family of Kayla Mueller, her parents, her brother, we’re simply not going to speak to more details that are reported out there about her case. I will say broadly speaking that, as you know, we – the case of Bowe Bergdahl was an individual who was a member of the military, who was taken by the Taliban. We don’t leave any man or woman behind serving us. We also take every step possible. As you also know, and you all have reported on, last summer the President authorized a military step to try to rescue hostages, including Kayla Mueller. So we’ve taken every step possible. I’m just not going to speak to other reports out there out of respect for her family.

QUESTION: A follow-up question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you think that the proposal of the exchange of prisoners has – that there has been a change in the policy of terrorists wanting to bargain to trade since the Bowe Bergdahl exchange has happened? Has that made the U.S. reconsider their policy in any way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there’s an ongoing review of these issues. But I’m not aware of any change or planned change to that policy.

QUESTION: Jen, and --

QUESTION: If I could – on this topic?

QUESTION: On this topic.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Well, why don’t we go over here to Laura, and then we’ll go to you, Said.

QUESTION: If I could just – because some of the details about these rescue attempts are being confirmed by family spokespeople. So if I could just push a little bit here – are you saying that some of the rescue attempts that they’re talking about – for instance, the raid in July, there are reports now that the U.S. held on to some intelligence from the British that would’ve allowed them to proceed with that raid more quickly. Is that something that you can comment on?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say that as soon as we have information that we can act on, we act on it, and we talked about that at the time.

QUESTION: So when we talk about these rescue missions, we’re talking about one, basically – not a number of missions, not one to, let’s say, rescue Foley and Sotloff and one to rescue Kayla and so on. We’re talking about --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details for you. We talked about this particular mission at the time, Said. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So I just wanted to follow up: Today at the United Nations, the Security Council just adopted a resolution to dry up fund resources to ISIS and so on. It was a resolution, but basically it was drafted and submitted by the Russians, and it also garnered your support. Now, we know that – or at least we read that many of your allies in the Gulf and maybe the Saudis even actually funding these different groups that find – the money finds its way, being fungible, to ISIS. Do you have any comment on that, both on the resolution --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we welcome the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2199. Today’s resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter includes a range of tools, including sanctions and other binding measures, to degrade the ability of ISIL as well as al-Nusrah and other al-Qaida-associated groups subject to UN sanctions, to continue their brutal and destructive agendas. It focuses exclusively on terrorist financial support networks, especially ISIL’s raising of funds through oil smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, and other illicit activities. It also includes a ban on the illicit trade of antiquities from Syria, the first time this element has been included. I think the fact that this was – there was unanimous adoption of this resolution answers the question on how seriously the global community takes these issues and how willing the global community is to take steps to address the funding resources of ISIL and take steps over the course of the future, but also, many have taken steps in the last couple of months to address these issues on their own.

QUESTION: That includes leaning heavily on your allies to stop the funding.

MS. PSAKI: You’re very familiar with the steps we’ve taken, Said --

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just ask you on Turkey, because --

MS. PSAKI: -- and these countries have taken. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly, just to follow up. I know I asked couple days ago --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on the flow of foreign fighters. It was in the number of 20,000. Well, yesterday, an expert testified before Congress --

MS. PSAKI: And somebody asked about it and I answered it yesterday.

QUESTION: I understand, but my question is on your ally, Turkey, that obviously is not keeping a tight lid on its border.

MS. PSAKI: I would say Turkey remains an important partner of our anti-ISIL coalition. They have contributed in all five lines of effort, which includes cracking down on foreign fighters. They’ve put new steps in place. We continue to work with them on these efforts, so that’s my --

QUESTION: To what you attribute, then, this flow of fighters from Turkey into Syria and maybe in the hundreds, maybe in the thousands every month, that has increased over the last couple months?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of your specific numbers.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: No, can we stay with – well, ISIS, ISIL --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the AUMF?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And I recognize that this building is not – I don’t know if you’re the one to really answer this, but I don’t think that the White House briefing (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering – there’s been some concern – I mean, raised on the Hill about some of the language in here, particularly the – one, two, three, four – fifth paragraph: “Whereas ISIL has threatened genocide and committed vicious acts of violence against religious and ethnic minority groups, including Iraqi Christian, Yezidi, and Turkmen populations.” Is there a reason that those are the – that those specific ethnic and religious minorities were mentioned and others that may have been targeted were not mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly, on that particular question – and I may be able to answer others – would point you to my colleagues over at the White House. I think obviously, as we know, there were highly publicized and written about targeting attacks against those populations. It certainly doesn’t eliminate concern for others.

QUESTION: Right. There is at least one member of Congress, I think, who has expressed concern that it doesn’t include Jews in this statement and that somehow, given the conversations that have been had here over the Paris shooting incident, the Administration may not be paying – or may not be as sensitive as it could be or should be to this. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t think it’s a reflection of that or intended to be any reflection of that. And on the other piece, I think I would just reiterate that both Josh Earnest and I tweeted and came out and made clear what our position is on the targeted anti-Semitic attack in Paris.

QUESTION: Is Russia going to be invited to the summit next week on fighting violent extremism?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on the list of invites, Samir. I just don’t have that in front of me. So we can check. I know there’ll be more we’ll say as we get to next week about the specifics.

QUESTION: Just to quickly follow it up, do you know how many countries are participating this conference?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re still finalizing all the specifics. And again, I would anticipate that early next week we’ll do a briefing on the plans for the summit, what we hope to accomplish, et cetera.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: India issue?

QUESTION: No, could I just ask one more question on the funding?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s – the text was – is heavily on the --

MS. PSAKI: The UN?

QUESTION: The UN. UN, sorry. The UN text is heavily on stopping oil smuggling, but I understand the United States believes that oil is not the main source of revenue for IS anymore. So where do you think that the other revenue streams are coming from particularly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked about this a bit in the past, and the resolution does address kidnapping for ransom and other illicit activities. We pointed out oil smuggling as one of them. As you know, we’ve also taken steps to take out a number of their oil refineries, given the funding that we believe that they receive from that. Antiquities, which this does also address, is another stream of funding that they have unfortunately raised illicit funds from, stealing these treasures from around the world. So it does address a range of the concerns we have, and clearly, there’s other actions, including military actions, that we’ve taken to address their sources of funding as well.

QUESTION: Okay. But the back end of last year, I remember going to several briefings by U.S. officials in which it was stressed that the oil revenue was the main source of funding. Are you saying now that this has been overtaken by kidnapping, ransoms, and antiquities?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t saying that. I think this – the resolution references oil smuggling. I also referenced the fact that I think we’ve taken out – I can’t get you the specific numbers, but I think I gave them yesterday, on oil refineries and the number of those. But certainly, that remains a stream of funding.

QUESTION: But part of that resolution is actually – points out to the fact that they are still getting like a million dollars a day, that ISIS is getting about a million dollars a day from oil, from the flow of oil --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I --

QUESTION: -- and selling it on --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. And it addresses oil smuggling --

QUESTION: -- and oil smuggling --

MS. PSAKI: -- and that’s why it includes that information.

QUESTION: One more ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Madam, who is buying their oil in the black market, and also who is supplying the arms to them in exchange to kill the innocent people around the globe?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, that’s an issue that we have serious concern about. That’s why I don’t have any more specifics to lay out for you. That’s why we raise it with our partners in the region. It’s an issue that, again, there was unanimous support for a UN Security Council resolution on, and certainly, we believe that their sources of funding should be cut off.

Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: I mean --

QUESTION: Just back to ISIL --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The parents of Austin Tice were recently interviewed, and Debra Tice, while saying she felt tremendously supported by the State Department, felt that the information exchange was not a two-way street, that she was giving information without receiving any. I was wondering if you had any response to that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say I don’t think anyone can understand or fully relate to the pain or suffering of a family when your child is missing unless you’ve experienced that. And certainly, this is the case of Austin Tice, and his absence is something that the Secretary regularly raises that we remain very concerned about.

I will say there’s also, as I referenced, a review of our policies and our processes, and family engagement and involvement is part of that. And so the families have also been asked to engage in that effort and express their suggestions and concerns, and certainly, we’re hopeful that those who have been impacted will do that.

QUESTION: One more follow-up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: She also stated that she felt the only way, without discussion of ransom or anything else, that their answers could be found is through discussions with the Syrian Government. Even if it was through another channel, is that something that would ever be considered?

MS. PSAKI: Without going into details, we certainly have means of raising concerns about his case, and we have done that in the past.

QUESTION: India?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you received anything from Government of India about that unfortunate incident in which an elderly man, he is lying paralyzed in the hospital after being tackled by the police in Alabama?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that our hearts go out to him and to his family. Obviously, there’ll be an investigation into this case which will be handled by local authorities, so I would certainly send you to them. I don’t have anything more to lay out in terms of our diplomatic discussions.

QUESTION: Because in Delhi they stated that they have reached out – the consulate and all, they have reached out to, so they cannot go directly to the – that it has to go through this building, I suppose protocol. And then what best we can do so that it doesn’t snowball like Khobragade case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would say that the Secretary and the State Department certainly express our strong condolences to the family for everything that he has been through. This is being handled by local authorities, and certainly, we would address any concerns through private diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: And there’s another one on Sri Lanka. Can I --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Sri Lankans have asked for a delay in the U.S.-backed UN report, so – and the Sri Lankan foreign minister is here. He is meeting the – do you have any update on that?

MS. PSAKI: I would just simply say the Secretary is meeting with the foreign minister early this afternoon. I expect we’ll have a readout of that meeting, and I’m sure there’ll be a range of issues and likely including this one discussed.

QUESTION: Well, can we talk about --

QUESTION: What is the position of the Administration on this? Do you agree with the Sri Lankans? Would there – do you think it’s a good idea, or do you – or even if it’s not a good idea, do you have any objection to a delay?

MS. PSAKI: I think this is one of those issues we will get more information from them on and we will discuss it when the Secretary meets with him at 1:30 this afternoon – 2:30.

QUESTION: So prior to this meeting, the U.S. has no position on it? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: We’re going to have – allow them to have the discussion, and then we’re – we’ll likely speak to it.

QUESTION: On Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Going back to India.

QUESTION: Earlier today Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: We’re going to go back to Yemen. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Earlier today Ban Ki-moon said Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. Can you give us the status of the U.S. diplomatic relations with Yemen? And has there been any discussion or any movement toward asking someone to act as our U.S. protecting power for Yemen? And then I have one more question after that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. First, let me just reiterate we remain strongly committed to supporting the Yemeni people, and we’ll explore options for a return to Sana’a as soon as the situation on the ground improves. Of course, recent unilateral military and political actions taken by the Houthis disrupted the political transition in Yemen and created the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community. That’s why we made the decision we did. But our ambassador remains ambassador to Yemen. We’re still having discussions about what will happen with the – our protecting power and how we will handle that, but we remain committed. We will continue to engage with Yemen and with the international community, and certainly remain – want to see our partnership continue.

QUESTION: Okay. And also these reports about the level of involvement and whether there is Iran backing the Houthis in Yemen, what is the U.S. position on how much involvement and the depth of involvement on the part of Iran, if any, whether militarily, financially, or otherwise?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Houthis have concerning relations with Iran, and we are aware of reports of a variety of support provided by Iran to the Houthis, but we have not seen evidence that Iran is exerting command and control over the Houthis activities in Yemen. And we encourage, of course, all parties to support the full implementation of the GCC initiative. We, again, don’t have specifics to confirm about their involvement in the last few weeks.

QUESTION: Can you address reports last night and today about the ambassador, or at least this building, ordering the Marine Embassy guards to turn over their weapons? We talked a little bit about the vehicles yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but this is – I don’t think we – you just said at the time you didn’t know about the weapons.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Marine – the Marines have addressed this. I’m happy to reiterate what they have said about this, which is that the Marine security force left the American Embassy in Yemen for the movement to the airfield, as part of the ordered departure, with only personal weapons. All crew-served weapons were destroyed at the Embassy prior to movement. None of them were handed over in any way to anyone. The destruction of weapons at the Embassy and the airport was carried out in accordance with an approved destruction plan. And upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advanced planning – specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapon’s body and rendered inoperable by smashing the sledgehammers. The weapons’ bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers. All of these destroyed components were left at the airport. So that is the specifics that were put out by the Marines on this – on these false reports.

QUESTION: Well, whether the weapons were inoperable or not, they were still left at the airport, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they were not handed over, nor was anyone – they were not --

QUESTION: Well, what would they do? Just --

MS. PSAKI: -- no one asked them to hand over. They were inoperable weapons that were in the vehicles, yes.

QUESTION: Right. But I don’t think that’s – I mean, that is relevant, clearly, but that is not the point of the complaints.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The criticism is that they were turned over at all, whether they were working or not working or not able to be worked. And when you say they were left at the airport, what does that mean? They just threw them in a pile in a parking lot next to the – I mean, they had – did they just drop them on the ground, threw them in a garbage can?

MS. PSAKI: Well, no, Matt. But there was a plan that was implemented. Obviously, every component did not go as planned. We are requesting the return of the vehicles and all of the materials and components and having discussions about that now.

QUESTION: So you have asked whoever it is, your contacts with the Houthis or how – whatever channel it is – you have asked them to return not just the vehicles but the disabled, inoperable weapons?

MS. PSAKI: All of the materials that have been taken, yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us under whose authority the airport was at the time?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details for that – on that for you.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a reaction today from somebody, Hussein al-Ezzi who describes himself or is called the militia’s foreign relations chief, who says that the decision by all of the Western powers to leave – yourselves, Britain, and France – to close their embassies was unjustified, and he’s sort of suggesting it was designed to put pressure on the Yemeni people, that it was kind of like a – it was an exit which was sort of a ploy to put pressure on the Yemeni people to rise up against or depose the militia. Would you like to answer that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s false. The decision was made for one reason, and it’s the security and safety of our personnel. That’s something we evaluate regularly, and the recent unilateral actions taken by the Houthis created an uncertain security situation in Sana’a. We would like to return; this is a suspension. But again, there need to be steps taken in order for us to be able to do that.

QUESTION: And he suggests --

QUESTION: Sorry, I don’t want to get too into the weeds on this weapons thing, but when you said that there – that everything was done according to the previously arranged plan, whose plan was that? Is that the embassy plan? Is that a Marine plan? Whose --

MS. PSAKI: We coordinate across the interagency.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: We always have contingency plans for any removal of staff.

QUESTION: All right. And then when you said it did not go entirely according to plan, that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s clear.

QUESTION: -- that that means that – the problem I have with the – with your explanation is that if it didn’t go according to plan, that means that just simply leaving the vehicles in the parking lot and the weapons on the ground wherever they were was not part of the plan. So what was the plan?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline that more specifically. As you know, we’ve had to move staff out from a range of embassies, and we’re not going to detail security plans more specifically from the podium.

QUESTION: And do you know, was it a condition of the flight to Muscat or Doha that weapons, even inoperable ones, would not be allowed?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on that, no.

QUESTION: Madam --

MS. PSAKI: I just can do a few more here. I’m sorry, Lalit, we’ve got to get to a few more. Elliot, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. I just wanted to go to East Asia for a couple.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe of Japan made some – made a big policy speech. I was wondering if you had seen it and if you had any reaction.

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen it yet, but is there anything specific in there you’d like me to follow up on?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, he suggested that this could be a really big year for Japan’s constitutional reforms, which we’ve talked about before. Also, he suggested that Japan would be reaching out to China for friendly relations, which was a bit of a change in tone from previous remarks he’s made. Just on those two points.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we support dialogue and we support positive relationships in the region. We think that’s in the interests of the security of the region. I’m happy to take a closer look and talk to our team and see if there’s more of a reaction to --

QUESTION: Okay, thanks. And I had one on Vietnam as well, if that’s all right.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There were two dissident bloggers who were released. I saw Assistant Secretary Malinowski tweeted about it. I was wondering if you had anything to add as well.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do – go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: Pakistan’s former ISI chief in an interview to Al Jazeera has said that ISI probably knew the location of Usama bin Ladin, head of al-Qaida, and probably – do you have any information on that? How do you see it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve stated in the past and the President and Secretary Clinton at the time stated, we don’t have any reason to believe that the Government of Pakistan knew about the location of bin Ladin. That remains our belief.

QUESTION: But now, since he’s trying to give new information, are you trying to reach out to him to find out why he – he must be having some basis of saying this.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of plans to outreach – to reach out to him, no.

QUESTION: So but what he’s saying is entirely wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Very quickly, going back to India, please, quickly.

MS. PSAKI: I think we can do just two more here. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, I want to follow up again. You said that there’s no evidence that Iran has command and control of the Houthis in Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you able – how would you characterize the sort of relationship that they have?

MS. PSAKI: I would say they have had a troubling relationship and they have – in the past. And we’re certainly aware of that and aware of the support that they’ve offered in the past. But as it relates to this situation, we don’t have anything to suggest that that has increased or that’s particularly involved with the last several weeks.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Jen, on South Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Liz is going to be – the last two here. And Laura, you’ll be the last one. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. The South Korean Government announced that South Korea willing to have normalization relationship with Cuba. What is your comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: That South Korea is willing to have normalized relations with Cuba?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’re in our own process right now. Certainly every country makes their own decisions. We thought our policy was outdated for some time; I had not seen their specific comments, but you’ve seen what we – what steps we have taken, so I don’t see why we would have any issue with that.

QUESTION: Do you have a date for the next talks?

MS. PSAKI: Hm?

QUESTION: Any date for the next talks?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have an update yet. Remains to be in the next couple weeks. Hopefully we’ll have that soon.

Go ahead, Laura.

QUESTION: There are some reports that AQAP militants have stormed a Yemeni military base. Is there any concern that with the chaos that’s going on there on the ground, that that might create a void that AQAP could take advantage of? And is this something specifically that you’re in touch with the Houthi leaders about?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have something on this. I don’t believe we have confirmation of those reports. As I have noted in here, we have – we communicate in – with a range of parties in Yemen. That continues, but I don’t believe we have confirmation of those specific reports.

QUESTION: Madam, quickly on India --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, Lalit. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any response or support of the bill that was recently introduced by U.S. senators to lift the embargo on Cuba?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President has talked about our support for legislative action, which would be required. Obviously, I’m not going to speak to the specifics of a bill that’s in draft form, but certainly, we support the overall objective. I just haven’t seen all the details of this particular bill.

Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 11, 2015

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 16:25

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 11, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:15 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

QUESTION: From the top.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: The people of Singapore, Government of Singapore --

MS. PSAKI: To the people of Singapore, thank you for your patience. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Singapore today, where they met with MFA Permanent Secretary Chee and senior intelligence officials to discuss coalition efforts to counter ISIL. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also met with senior representatives from the Religious Council of Singapore and Religious Rehabilitation Group to discuss their well-regarded rehabilitation program. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk welcomed the important role Singapore is already playing in coalition efforts, noting Singapore’s experience in countering violent extremism and reintegrating radicalized individuals. Today’s meetings were an opportunity to brief on the full range of coalition efforts and discuss potential new areas of cooperation.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Got it. So you didn’t begin with the suspension of operations of the Embassy in Yemen because you figured it wasn’t that big a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a statement last night --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- to all of you, and I’m happy to certainly discuss in more detail.

QUESTION: Can you – okay. Can you? What can you tell us about it? Is everyone who is leaving gone? Where do they go? What’s the status of the Embassy and its property? And what is your understanding of the actual situation on the ground with the Houthis and – who is in charge?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me try to address all of your questions here. So let me just reiterate for all of you who may not have seen it or didn’t – were not clicking refresh on your email last evening. We put out a travel warning and a statement last night announcing our decision to suspend our Embassy operations and the fact that our Embassy staff have been temporarily relocated out of Sana’a. We remain strongly committed to supporting the Yemeni people and will explore options for a return to Sana’a as soon as the situation on the ground improves. We also are grateful for the role the Government of Oman played and the Sultan’s leadership in our efforts to secure a swift departure and safe passage for our U.S. Embassy personnel. We deeply appreciate His Majesty’s concern for the safety of our personnel and unwavering friendship. We also thank the UN Special Envoy for his diplomatic engagement and the Government of Qatar for their willingness to facilitate our safe departure from Yemen.

Recent – as this was noted in here, I’m just reiterating it for all of you – or noted in our statement, I should say – recent unilateral military and political actions taken by the Houthis disrupted the political transition in Yemen, as all of you know and have been watching closely, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sana’a. As you know, the safety and security of our men and women serving is one of our top priorities, and we’ve been constantly evaluating.

In terms of how they departed, we worked – as you know, we’ve been working to reduce Embassy staff for some time now. Yesterday the remaining staff departed on an Omani private jet to Muscat. Our Embassy staff have since departed en route to Washington. In terms of where they will be – excuse me. That was a tongue-twister for some reason – where they will be based, that is – we’re still determining some of those details and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days on that.

QUESTION: All right. Is it possible that they could stay – much as what you did in Libya, where some of the people went to – I think it was Malta, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I believe are still there, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there a thought about basing them somewhere close to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: That is possible.

QUESTION: And the extent of the Qatari and Omani assistance was the flight, the plane?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the flight, obviously – I don’t have more specifics than this, but allowing through certain stops en route back to Washington, and I mentioned, obviously, the role of the UN engagement on this effort.

QUESTION: All right. And then you have seen reports that the rebels seized all of the vehicles, the Embassy vehicles that had gone to the airport along with some weapons. One, what’s the status of that? And two, are you confident that the people who left and the local staff completed whatever kind of document destruction, whatever kind of things you’re supposed to do before they – when you’re closing an embassy before they left?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, on the first piece, upon our departure, our vehicles and equipment were seized, reportedly by the Houthis. We are looking into this. Clearly, it is unacceptable and we would reiterate that in order to return to Sana’a, respect for property, respect for our facilities is an essential component of that. So we certainly are requesting they be returned.

QUESTION: So when you say “reportedly,” what do you mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Do you mean you don’t have any --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more --

QUESTION: I mean, I realize you don’t have anyone there on the ground anymore, but where – are you --

MS. PSAKI: They were seized --

QUESTION: They were seized.

MS. PSAKI: -- by – reportedly by the Houthis, which is obviously unacceptable.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there a – do you have some kind of a protecting power arrangement?

MS. PSAKI: We’re still having discussions about that. I don’t have anything to announce for you at this point.

QUESTION: So right now the security of the Embassy compound itself and the property that’s affiliated with it is – who is responsible for that?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Is there anyone guarding – the local guards or --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to discuss our security precautions we take. Obviously, we take them in any of these circumstances. We expect the Houthis to respect international conventions that apply to our facilities and to expect – and to be – and we expect to be able to return to the Embassy in the same condition. There were reports also, I think, that some had entered the compound. We don’t have anything to confirm those reports at this time.

QUESTION: When you say that you expect the Houthis to comply with the international – I mean, why would you expect them to do that, or you just hope that they would?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly hope they would. They’ve made public statements about how they are not – they have no desire to go after our interests, go after our materials. So we expect them to abide by their own statements.

QUESTION: But it sounds as though you’re basically – it’s an honor system because you don’t have anyone – any other country that still has an Embassy there lined up to be – to serve as a protecting power.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not suggesting that. Obviously, we just moved – we just made this announcement about the suspension yesterday. And we take every precaution – I’m not going to outline the security steps we take, but we’re also in discussions about the protecting power question.

QUESTION: Last one: You’re confident that everything that needed to be destroyed inside the Embassy – classified documents or stuff that couldn’t be taken with them – all that was done? The procedures were all followed?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, there’s a procedure that we follow through on. I have not heard any concerns that that was not completed or any issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, so there are no U.S. personnel on the ground at the moment in the capital?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mentioned our Embassy personnel and our Embassy staff. Beyond that, I don’t have anything to confirm for you. I think DOD has spoken to some of their personnel.

QUESTION: And are we talking about the counterintelligence people who do that?

MS. PSAKI: They’ve spoken to what those individuals are on the ground doing, so I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: And then how many people in total were evacuated?

MS. PSAKI: We just don’t get into specific numbers, just for the safety and security of those individuals.

QUESTION: They’re gone now. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I understand, but as a policy, we don’t, Justin. I understand why you’re asking.

QUESTION: Can I just ask to follow up on Matt’s question: It is normal procedure that you would destroy documents and computers, anything that you felt held classified information?

MS. PSAKI: We take every precaution necessary. I’m not going to outline what those are, but obviously, we take those in any facility when needed.

QUESTION: And again just on the security issue, you – your staff left this Embassy locked or in what condition? I mean, how do you secure it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into those details because there’s not a benefit to us in outlining security precautions we take on our own facilities. We take them even when we suspend our operations.

QUESTION: And can I just ask: Is this a suspension? You’re referring to it as a suspension?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, because we hope to return.

QUESTION: Right. So the hope is that at some point you will be able to go back.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly.

QUESTION: And just following up on the issue of the contacts that you addressed yesterday (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- have there been any contacts in the last 24 hours with the Houthi militia or with any other Yemeni officials who might be in a position to negotiate with you or talk to you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything new to update for you in terms of timing. I don’t think that – our ambassador remains the ambassador to Yemen and we have a range of contacts and individuals who we still remain in contact with regardless of the fact that our facility – our operations there have been suspended.

QUESTION: And so – and just on the question of perhaps stationing somebody nearby, are you able to say which country might be prepared to host your ambassador until such time as you can go back to Sana’a?

MS. PSAKI: Well, at this point, my understanding – and he’s on his way back to Washington with the rest of the staff. I don’t want to outline that at this point until we have anything we can confirm.

QUESTION: Jen, the cars that were supposed to stay were supposed to stay at the airport, or who was supposed to take care of them?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, they were going to remain at the airport.

QUESTION: Okay. And who’s taking care of the American interests in Yemen at this time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve answered this a bit: Our ambassador remains our ambassador; we’re working through the question of a protecting power. Obviously, we decided – we suspended operations just yesterday. If we have more information later today, we can share that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: One more. Sorry, Matt. And how this move today will affect the war on terror in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think my DOD colleagues have also spoken to this, but we continue to – we have long coordinated on counterterrorism operations there. We continue to do that. I have not outlined that publicly here in terms of the specifics of who and how and what for obvious reasons.

QUESTION: I’m a little mystified as – you have essentially evacuated the embassy. You drove all these cars to the airport and you expected in the middle of a war zone that no one was going to take these cars? You thought that they would be safe just sitting there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to outline for you on the cars, Matt.

QUESTION: I mean --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Well, I just don’t understand. I mean, what – you didn’t – I mean, there are local embassy staffers who are still on the ground there. Was – could they not have driven them if not back to the embassy compound where they might – but we don’t know – be locked up and safe, at least to their own homes?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure there were a range of options considered. I don’t have anything more to outline for you on the cars at this point.

QUESTION: Do you have --

QUESTION: But they just --

QUESTION: -- a number of how many vehicles?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: So they were just left there with the expectation that if and when the security situation returns to normal they would still be there and --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you on the cars.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Justin.

QUESTION: What about the weapons? There’s also reports that the Houthis seized the Marines’ weapons. Is that accurate? And were the weapons disabled before they were handed over?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on that to outline for you. Obviously, we’re looking into all of these reports. I confirmed for you all that some vehicles were taken. I don’t have numbers. I don’t have specifics on what was in the vehicles at this point in time.

QUESTION: Well, what about the – or do you have anything at all on the weapons? Were weapons handed over?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details at this point in time.

QUESTION: Jen, one more thing.

MS. PSAKI: On Yemen? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. Have you left the local all the local staff inside Yemen, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we wouldn’t move staff that are not American citizens working for the United States outside of Yemen, no.

QUESTION: So they might be in danger? I mean, they might be –like happened in Iraq and elsewhere.

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly there’s an incredibly volatile situation on the ground in Yemen, and I think there’s no question about that.

QUESTION: Jen, more broadly on Yemen, this is the third embassy that you guys have had to uncharitably, perhaps, say, abandon in an Arab Spring country since the first one, which was Syria. Is there a broader concern that you’re being – the U.S. is being run out of town in the Arab world?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly don’t look at it in that way. I would remind you that we were not the only country that moved our staff out of Yemen last night, and we have to take precautions to protect the men and women who are serving on our behalf. There’s no question that in each of the countries you’ve mentioned there’s a great bit of volatility, but that’s – the fact is that that’s what’s happening on the ground. It’s not a reflection of the United States and our engagement. It’s a reflection of the trouble and challenges happening in these countries.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Administration would take issue with people who are suggesting that these – this latest evacuation, combined with the other two, you would take issue with the suggestion that that is reflective of some failure in the Administration’s policy to deal with the aftermath or even the – well, to deal with the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the revolutions throughout the region.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, as you know, the UK and France also moved their staff out of Yemen last night. Clearly, we’ve talked about and the President and others have talked about regrets as it relates to Libya. There’s a civil war happening in Syria. So what I would say is there are challenging circumstances in each of these countries. What the United States leadership is reflected in is the fact that we want to return. We want to be engaged. We want to play a role if we can play a role, as do these other countries. But these are difficult challenges that we need to determine how we can best play a role.

QUESTION: But I think that there is people that would say that wanting to play a role and hoping that you can return is not exactly a leadership role. Is that – I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would --

QUESTION: Hoping that the situation in Yemen, without your – without U.S. diplomats on the ground to report back on and to have communications with all the people – with all the parties involved, doesn’t seem to be a leadership role.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have our own interests in Yemen and we are continuing to implement those.

QUESTION: Clearly, you have less interests in Yemen than you did yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: We are continuing to implement those. One of them is our counterterrorism work which is ongoing. So that is one that is continuing. We think having a diplomatic presence is in our interest and certainly in the interest of the region. But I don’t think that the facts bear out a notion that this is about the United States.

QUESTION: And what’s happening --

QUESTION: So it’s just about the West in general?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that. I think the situation on the ground has obviously been volatile and challenging politically for some time now, and there have been a history here that is not related to the United States or the West.

QUESTION: But does it hamper more generally, perhaps, international efforts to try and resolve the crises in these countries by not having a diplomatic presence? Everything is taking place in the countries, and if you’re going to try and meet have some kind of talks or negotiations, then it has to be almost by definition outside the country.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a different question, right?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: But the fact is that the UN has been leading these efforts, which we fully support and we’ve been engaged with in a supportive way. We’re actually in the process of entering into an interim licensing agreement with the United Nations to allow the United Nations to occupy and use the U.S. diplomatic transit facility in Sana’a, because we don’t have a current need for the property. The UN has expressed an interest in locating some of their personnel at our site, and we agreed to their proposal. But they have been leading the effort and leading these negotiations. It’s something that we and other countries have supported.

QUESTION: But not having eyes --

QUESTION: Which – which site is this? This is the --

MS. PSAKI: The embassy site.

QUESTION: Oh. So there is going to be – so you’re trying to get the UN to be kind of a protecting power?

MS. PSAKI: No. I wouldn’t put it in those terms.

QUESTION: Well, but they --

MS. PSAKI: It’s the use of this – it’s the – well, I’m sorry. It’s the diplomatic transit facility --

QUESTION: What is that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check on the specifics of that --

QUESTION: So it’s not the embassy?

MS. PSAKI: -- and where it’s located exactly. No, it’s not; a different facility. It’s – but I check on specifics.

QUESTION: But not having eyes or ears on the ground – neither yourself, the Brits, or the French – must mean that it’s very difficult to get a handle on the situation of what’s actually going on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our – we still have some on the ground, as has been referenced and confirmed by other colleagues of mine in the United States Government. Obviously, our preference is to always have a diplomatic presence on the ground in these countries. That’s why we invest in not just the facilities, but the staff, and why men and women from the Foreign Service and from the Civil Service go into challenging countries like Yemen. So certainly, that’s our preference. But we do have to weigh the security risks, and certainly that’s what we did in this case. And we also would like to return when we can.

QUESTION: Jen? On this. What was the main fact or the main event that pushed the U.S. and others to evacuate all these embassies? What happened yesterday or before yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it wasn’t about yesterday. We evaluate – and I would encourage you to take a look at the travel warning, which has more details. Clearly, we evaluate our – we re-evaluated, or evaluated our security posture based on the uncertain security situation in Sana’a. That’s something that has been discussed for some time. As you know, we recently pulled down some staff, so this was a next step in that effort.

QUESTION: But the situation has been like this for more than two months now. Why --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve taken steps progressively to do that. It’s not about one event yesterday; there wasn’t. It’s about evaluating what’s in the best interests of our staff and personnel.

QUESTION: Jen, in a follow-up to that question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: -- was there a specific threat that the U.S. received that would’ve affected the embassy that resulted in yesterday’s decision to suspend services?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the travel warning specifically addresses that question. It makes clear that we have remained highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens, U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. This is something that we’ve been watching closely. Obviously, the security threat in Yemen is extremely high. But this was about evaluating what the security needs were and what was in the best interests of our personnel.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: And the threats are coming from al-Qaida or from the Houthis?

MS. PSAKI: Again, there’s a range of factors at play here. I would encourage you to take a look at the travel warning.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, the Secretary met with GCC countries --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in Munich, in which there was concern expressed and they called for a greater role for the international community. What is the next step to try to resolve this issue? I mean, if the U.S. is saying that the United States would like to get back there, what is the next step?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the steps that we’ve been focused on and the GCC has certainly been focused on is these UN-run talks. And that is something that clearly the UN is committed to, given we’ve been talking to them about the use of some of our facilities. That’s something many of the other countries in the region also support, parties talking to parties. In terms of returning, there are a range of factors we evaluate, as you know: the security and safety of our personnel, obviously; the protection of our facilities. So we look at all of those factors as we make decisions.

QUESTION: Is it your feeling that this could be an extended stay away from Yemen? I mean, how quickly can you think that this could be resolved?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to make a prediction of that. Obviously, I don’t think – I think we’re pretty clear-eyed about how challenging the circumstances are on the ground and the fact that there is a great deal of work that needs to be done to return to a more stable environment. But it is something we will constantly evaluate.

QUESTION: One of the issues that was raised at the GCC was Iran’s role, and as far as – the understanding is that nobody has reached out to Iran on what’s going on in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on GCC countries reaching out. I would be surprised.

QUESTION: But --

MS. PSAKI: But that’s not --

QUESTION: Did the Secretary talk about it with Foreign Minister Zarif?

MS. PSAKI: I – not that I’m aware of, Lesley.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, can I take one more stab at this car thing?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You said that you were confident that all the procedures, the normal procedures that you do when you’re going to suspend operations at an embassy, were done, that they did everything that they were required to do under your guidelines. Does that include these vehicles? And the reason I ask is it just seems to me to be very odd, and naive at worst, if you – I mean, if I drove my car into a war zone and just parked it, and not knowing when I would return, I don’t think that I would that it would be still sitting there in perfectly good shape by the time I got back, particularly if it was an expensive armored Chevy Suburban or something like that. I mean, was the procedure followed as it related to the moveable property of the Embassy?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on the procedure as it relates to cars. You asked me originally about materials.

QUESTION: Right. No, no, I know. That’s why --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, our priority here was about moving our personnel safely out of Yemen. I don’t have more details other than to note for you that clearly the cars would not be able to come on the plane. So I’m sure they considered a range of options. I’m happy to check if there’s more specifics about the process.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not – I’m just wondering if the – I mean, no, no one’s saying that they should have gone on the plane. But I mean, some – there could have been some arrangement made for the local staff to drive them back to some protected place instead of just leaving them at the airport. I mean, that just seems like – I don’t know what it seems like. It just seems odd. Anyway, it would be interesting to know if there is some kind of policy on the disposition of vehicles and other moveable property that you – when an embassy is evacuated.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And find out if you’re satisfied that it was followed in this case.

MS. PSAKI: I will check with our team.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Actually, you can put cars on a plane in military transport, and there was, as we know, a plan to put – to do a military evacuation. Can you say why you chose not to in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was never a plan to do a military evacuation. There were ships positioned several weeks ago, but there was a decision made to use these private planes to move our personnel out.

QUESTION: What do you mean there was never a plan to do a military evacuation?

MS. PSAKI: We didn’t make the decision to do that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but there was a plan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: What is your question?

QUESTION: Well, my question was why did – what – but the question is: Why did you decide not to execute the military evacuation over a chartered plane when this whole issue was about --

MS. PSAKI: When we could have put cars on a military ship?

QUESTION: No, I’m not asking why – I’m saying why you didn’t go with the military evacuation over the chartered planes when this was all about a bad security situation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly point you to my colleagues at DOD and elsewhere. We typically don’t get into specifics about why we take certain security steps. But obviously, putting individuals onto a plane and transporting them to the airport was something we felt was possible in this case. It was clearly executed. We take every precaution – you’re right; we plan, we take precautions. It doesn’t make – mean we make decisions to do things. So that’s what I was referring to. So I don’t think I’m going to be able to outline for you why we did one means of moving staff out over another.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You mentioned the British and the French. Did you make your decision in close coordination with the UK and France, and did you cooperate for the evacuation of your personnel and their personnel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we were certainly aware of what each other was doing, and we’re in touch – close touch with our counterparts from the UK and France as well. In terms of whether there was cooperation, do you mean whether we provided assistance or vice versa?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I’m happy to check and see if that was part of our cooperation.

QUESTION: And what would you respond to Iran, who criticized your decision to leave, saying that it was too quickly?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say simply that – without responding to them directly – but we make decisions about what is in the interests of the men and women serving our country overseas, and that was the case here as well. But we certainly hope to return to Sana’a and we recognize the importance of our strategic relationship.

QUESTION: And can I just clarify --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You said earlier it was carried out on an Omani plane, and then you just spoke about planes.

MS. PSAKI: An Omani private jet. I did not mean to be less specific.

QUESTION: So it was just one flight?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, there were personnel who were moving on commercial flights prior to --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- over the course of last week.

QUESTION: That plane did not have representatives from the other embassies that left, right?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but I’ll check that question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: That private plane – did it also take the Marine detachment out of the country? Because our understanding was from the Pentagon that they were required to hand over their weapons because they were getting onto a commercial plane.

MS. PSAKI: I would check with the Pentagon on the specifics of the Marine detachment. I don’t have that information in front of me.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I know you aren’t always able to answer this --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- because people have to register with State, but is there a sense of how many Americans are still there in country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, people don’t – American citizens are not required to register, as you noted, and you obviously have done your homework. So I don’t have any assessment of that for you. And in our travel warning also we certainly encouraged American citizens to depart Yemen and noted that there wasn’t any plan for an evacuation. We encouraged them to take commercial air travel.

QUESTION: Jen, who’s in charge of the Sana’a airport, the Yemeni security forces or the Houthis?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: There was like a warning tone in your statements. You said, “We will also continue to protect the American people, and we will not hesitate to act in Yemen to do so.” Is that like --

MS. PSAKI: That’s a reference to ongoing counterterrorism cooperation. So as we know, there’s been an al-Qaida presence. We’ve had concerns about terrorist threats, and it’s a reference to that.

QUESTION: So it’s not about the Houthis in specific?

MS. PSAKI: It was a reference to our counterterrorism cooperation.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Going back to the logistics of the evacuation --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- those staffers who went on the Omani plane and went to Muscat, are some of them staying there temporarily, or is everyone going on to Washington?

MS. PSAKI: They’re en route – I think most of them are en route back to Washington, if not all.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Yemen before we go on to a new topic?

QUESTION: This all happened yesterday during the day, or was it at night as well?

MS. PSAKI: We – it happened kind of in the evening.

QUESTION: In the evening.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Wednesday or Tuesday?

MS. PSAKI: I guess Tuesday our time.

QUESTION: Tuesday our time. Okay.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Egypt, an Egyptian court’s ordered the retrial of 36 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who had been sentenced to death in a mass trial. The 36 were among 183 that had been sentenced to death. Do you think this is a positive development or shows some progress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve unfortunately been in a position of speaking to our concerns about mass trials over the course of the last couple of weeks, and mass sentences, and that concern remains. We understand the Egyptian law affords an automatic retrial in this case, and so we welcome efforts to ensure the Egyptian Government upholds due process rights for all Egyptians and continue to call on the Egyptian Government to, as I noted, discontinue practices of mass trials and sentences.

Egypt, or a new topic?

QUESTION: Egypt, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So I know you talked yesterday about Russia and Egypt --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- but I’m just trying to get some sense of – into this. So Russia offered no-strings-attached deal with Egypt. You still --

MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about the MOU on nuclear?

QUESTION: Not only in nuclear. There is like cooperation on military weapons and stuff like that with Egypt beside the nuclear MOU. So they’ve been moving a lot into Egypt, and you have, like, security cooperation with Egypt. And you are holding, like, part of the assistance to Egypt. I mean, does not that alarm that Russia is trying to take over, like, your position with Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a couple things that I would say, in our view, are unrelated in what you just said. One is our assistance that we are holding that we haven’t provided – about 650 million, I believe, is the number. That requires evaluation of whether Egypt has met certain requirements and whether it’s in our national security interests. So let’s put that in one category. I don’t have anything – there’s nothing new on that, or a decision that’s been made. We have provided, as I mentioned yesterday, a great deal of security assistance to Egypt. We are concerned about the threats they face in the Sinai; we’re concerned about threats that they face in general from – and that’s one of the reasons we have delivered Apaches and given more assistance.

The only details I have at this point that are confirmed are this MOU, which I spoke to yesterday. I’m sure we can look into more details and see if there are other agreements announced that we have concern about, but not that I have heard of from our team.

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, I’m not arguing here, but I just want to know, because, like, if Russia – if Egypt find that Russia is giving them everything they want with no string attached, nothing – no conditions, you have to do this and that, don’t you think that Egypt will – I mean, they did that before.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that that is accurate or additional details of any deals, and they haven’t made that statement, so I think a lot of that would have to be confirmed in order for us to speak to it.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Well, actually, not Ukraine, Belarus.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So the meetings – today’s meetings, much-anticipated meetings have begun.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know that you’re not there, you’re not participating – the U.S. isn’t participating in them, but I’m just wondering, what is the – what is your hope that comes out – what exactly is it that you – would you like to see come out of this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to set an expectation about this specific meeting. As you know, they’ve had meetings over the past week. They had a call on Sunday. So I wouldn’t predict for you that there will be some conclusive outcome out of this. We don’t know yet. We’ll be consulting, of course, with all of the parties to determine what comes out of it and what it means and where we go from here. We certainly welcome the talks today. We support these efforts. We’ve had some principles that we believe need to be a part of any discussion, which the Secretary outlined last weekend, based on the Minsk protocol. So we continue to believe that that should be a part of this ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: Does the Administration feel like it’s being left out because it is not part of this Normandy format? In retrospect, maybe do – does anyone – does the Administration believe that it should have maybe fought a little bit harder to become part of the Normandy group since the President was there at the time that this whole thing was founded?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. There have been a range of trilateral talks that we haven’t been a part of, and we’ve been in close touch and working in lockstep with our European partners, and we expect that will continue.

Any more on Ukraine before we continue?

QUESTION: On the EU foreign policy chief --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Federica Mogherini said today that it would be a turning point, the Minsk summit, for good or for bad. Do you think that’s perhaps going a little too far? Do you anticipate maybe that there just could be further talks along the line and that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we don’t know yet. I think you saw the President of the United States say two days ago, I think it was, that obviously, we’re waiting to see what happens with this diplomatic effort, and we certainly support a diplomatic process. But if Russia not only refuses to abide by implementation of the Minsk protocols but doesn’t engage in a diplomatic effort here, then certainly, I think the world will take a look at what we do next.

QUESTION: And is the United States open to a – not a renegotiation, exactly, but a buffer zone that goes beyond the ceasefire line that was agreed in September?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we believe the basis should be December. Obviously, the borders is part of the discussion, so I can’t – I’m not in a position to outline for you more specifics about what’s being discussed beyond that at this point.

QUESTION: December or September?

MS. PSAKI: September, sorry. September, yes.

QUESTION: So can you just say that again so that it’s clear for everyone? You believe the basis should be September? What was agreed to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the principles that were outlined and included in the Minsk protocols, as the Secretary repeated last weekend, are the basis of what they’re discussing. Obviously, the borders and how that will work is part of the negotiation, and there are strong feelings on all sides. So let’s see where this ends up and we’ll speak to it at that point in time.

QUESTION: Jen, what do you make of the – some of the worst fighting going on at the moment in the war? What is your assessment that it appears that the Russians want to make as much headwind as they can or take as much ground as they can before the peace process? What do you make of those accusations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we spoke to this – I spoke to this a bit yesterday and expressed concern about the continued Russia-backed separatist assaults in and around Debaltseve which have killed 19 Ukrainian soldiers; in the past 24 hours rocket attacks on the Ukrainian-controlled town of Kramatorsk which have reportedly killed 16 people and injured more than 66, including five children. These attacks are not conducive to a peaceful resolution of this conflict. Clearly, when there is increasing violence and an unwillingness to implement the Minsk protocols, that makes, I would say, the international community question the seriousness of implementing what has – these peace agreements.

But there’s a discussion going on now, a diplomatic discussion. We want to see what comes out of that. Clearly, we’re concerned about violence. A ceasefire would be a natural early part of any agreement, so that’s our hope.

QUESTION: Jen, can we go back to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Why did you chose Oman and Qatar to help in the evacuation of the American staff from Sana’a?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we have strong relationships with both countries. They agreed to play a role in helping us move our diplomats out. I don’t think I have more specifics for you.

QUESTION: Do you think that because of these two states to have good relations with Iran, that’s why they were able to help in this evacuation or not?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think I would leave it at what I already said.

Do we have any more on Yemen before we continue? Okay. A new topic?

QUESTION: A new topic, Somalia.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Several lawmakers have called on this Administration to convene an emergency meeting on the issue of blocked Somali remittances. Is it your intention to be part of the convening of that meeting? Do you have anything on the table at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we talked about a little bit yesterday, obviously we recognize the important role that remittances play in meeting the humanitarian and development needs of Somalis. We, in an effort to promote transparent channels through which legitimate remittances can flow to those in need, the U.S. Government has engaged in ongoing communication with the Somali community in the United States and financial institutions serving that community; will continue our work with the Government of Somalia and remittance companies to build an effective regulatory framework for remittances and to develop safeguards against abuse by money launderers and terrorist financers. This is an issue that we work on already and I’m not aware of the call for an emergency meeting. It’s something the United States Government remains committed to.

QUESTION: The reason that aid groups and also these lawmakers have asked for an emergency meeting is because they firmly believe that if something isn’t done urgently, that there will be a humanitarian crisis in Somalia, because something like 45 percent of Somalis are entirely reliant on remittances, some of which comes from the United States. And the – most of the avenues for that money to go through, which is often $200 here, $50 there, is completely blocked. And so people haven’t got the ability to feed their own families back in Somalia.

MS. PSAKI: I think we certainly understand how dire these challenges are, and that’s why we’re in touch with the community in the United States and why the United States Government continues to work on this issue. Because it’s a remittances issue with banks, the U.S. Treasury Department actually would have the lead on it, so I would refer you to them for more specifics on how we work with financial institutions.

QUESTION: Are you – this is the last question I want to ask on this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about this situation becoming also a major security risk, because of the fact that a lot of this money can’t get through legitimate means now, that some of that money’s going to go underground; and secondly, that individuals in Somalia who’ve run out of money are going to find that al-Shabaab is – particularly young men – is going to be a more attractive option for them going forward, and that essentially what’s now happening is the opposite of what the whole law was intended to do, which was to block terrorists from getting financing and being empowered?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve made quite a few conclusions there that haven’t been concluded policy-wise, so I would say --

QUESTION: I’m sort of paraphrasing what institutions like Oxfam and Adeso and Somali Americans themselves have told me.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first: If this wasn’t a serious issue, then the U.S. Government wouldn’t be engaged in it, and we wouldn’t be engaged with financial institutions and the community. I think the issue of economic opportunity – which I think it’s a bit of a stretch to draw that directly to remittances, but obviously this is an issue we are concerned about – economic opportunity in places like Somalia, places like across Northern Africa, places in the Middle East, and the lack of that is an issue that the Secretary has spoken to extensively, and concerns about how that leads to the appeal of terrorist organizations or terrorist recruiting to young men, as you referenced. And that’s a global problem that I think we all deal with.

So it’s more remittances is certainly an issue that we take seriously, we want to deal with; it’s larger than that, I think we can agree, in terms of the challenges that we’re facing. But again, I would refer you to the Treasury Department for more specifics on the financial institutions and what we’re doing in that regard.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Pam?

QUESTION: South --

MS. PSAKI: Oh. I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: South Sudan.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, State announced that the U.S. was providing an additional 273 million in humanitarian assistance. Can you provide details on how that money is going to be distributed? In particular, will it go directly to the government? Will it be split between the government and NGOs? Does USAID have a role in it?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. USAID – the vast majority is USAID funding; 193.7 million is through Food for Peace, WFP, UNICEF, and NGO partners; approximately 39.8 million is from USAID who is – let’s see – as – and is also funding International Organization for Migration, WHO, WFP, and UNICEF. The remaining 39.4 million is from PRM going to the UN refugee agency in South Sudan. So there is a great deal of funding that comes from USAID; there’s no direct USAID distribution role in this on the ground.

QUESTION: And some will go directly to the government?

MS. PSAKI: No, this – I believe this will go through the UN and these international organizations.

QUESTION: Jen, on Sudan, do you have any update on Ibrahim Ghandour’s meeting – meetings in Washington? I’ve asked you about it yesterday. I didn’t get anything.

MS. PSAKI: I do believe we had a short readout on that. Let me venture to get that to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Myanmar?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The president has approved – the Myanmar president has approved a law allowing a referendum on changes to the constitution.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think this is a positive step, and do you believe that it would allow Aung San Suu Kyi to vie for the presidency?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of efforts by the Government of Burma to hold a constitutional referendum. We believe constitutional reform should reflect the will of the people of Burma while respecting the right of all people living in Burma to participate in the country’s democratic process. We certainly hope the reforms under consideration would facilitate credible, transparent, and inclusive elections that allow the people of Burma to pick the national and local leaders of their choice, address the rights of ethnic minorities and relations between the national government and ethnic majority regions, and increase civilian control of the military, including by removing the military’s veto power over constitutional amendments.

But we don’t want to get ahead of political developments. It’s unclear at this stage whether a referendum will occur and what topics it would cover. And so the specifics we have are really just that there is an intention to do this, but we don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Southeast Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to Malaysia from yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- to see if there’s any – there were some arrests made --

MS. PSAKI: I do have a – oh, go ahead. I have a little bit more on our contact, too, if that’s useful.

QUESTION: Sure. Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: But why don’t you ask your question.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if your concern – if any of your concerns have been alleviated since yesterday. It would appear that they have gone ahead and arrested more people under this new law, so I’m just wondering what the status is of your concerns.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen reports that Malaysia had – has arrested cartoonist Zunar for sedition over a Twitter post that criticized Anwar’s conviction. We are also concerned with the November 27th remarks by prime minister – we were also – remain concerned, I should say, by the prime minister stating that his administration would not only retain the Sedition Act but also strengthen the act and expand its scope. The Malaysian Government’s recent investigations and charges of sedition against critics raise serious concerns about freedom of expression, rule of law, and the independence of the judicial system in Malaysia, and certainly, these recent arrests over the last 24 hours speak to that.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if this has been brought up with --

MS. PSAKI: So a little update from yesterday, and this is – we should have – I should have had this, but we – there was quite a bit going on, so --

QUESTION: Yes, there was.

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry did call the prime minister Sunday evening to discuss a wide range of issues, including the upcoming verdict for Anwar. Washington and our embassy in Kuala Lumpur have raised our concerns at senior levels multiple times, both before and after the verdict, with the Malaysian Government.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ve got one more question --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but I’d like to preface it. It is the position of the Administration – of the State Department and your Human Rights Report – that the Malaysian judiciary is not independent. In other words, it is – there are politically motivated verdicts, trials, et cetera.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken to concerns about political motivation in this case in the past, and I believe others as well. I don’t have the Human Rights Report in front of me.

QUESTION: So what does it say, then, that not only did the prime minister play golf with the President over the holidays in Hawaii, but that the Secretary of State called the foreign minister on Sunday, just two days before this verdict came out, and neither of them were willing or – I presume that you think they’re able, but neither of them were willing to exercise their influence with the court that you don’t – or with a judiciary that you don’t believe is independent to change the way this case ended up?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, that we have strongly expressed our concerns about this case and the handling of this case in statements that we’ve issued over the last 24 to 48 hours. Clearly, we continue to raise our concerns here, because we believe that it’s in Malaysia’s best interests and the interests of its people to address some of these concerns that we have. I don’t think I have more than that, though, for you.

QUESTION: But you’re not concerned at all about having a lack of influence there --

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: -- since the personal entreaty by the Secretary and also, presumably, by the President over – in between holes on a golf course.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any details on the President’s conversations.

QUESTION: But --

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary, obviously, in part called to express our concern about the upcoming verdict in this case, and that’s what he expressed.

QUESTION: Is it the assessment, then, of this building, at least, that the Malaysians just do not agree with you that doing what you think that they – what you think they should do is in the best interests of their own people? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I would pose that question to the Malaysians, Matt.

Michele?

QUESTION: Yeah. I have a couple questions about travel.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Sorry, I’m hearing myself back. When the Secretary adds a stop for personal – for his personal life at the end of a trip, who pays for that, and do you have any estimate of how much, for instance, the layover in Boston cost on Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would say that, as you all know, the Secretary works in Washington and overseas but his home is in Boston, as it was for the 30 years before when he represented Massachusetts in the Senate. At times, for example, when returning from a trip abroad on the weekend, he’ll stop over in Boston before resuming work in Washington on Monday. This is – he’s followed the same precedent set by his predecessors, many of whom also didn’t live in Washington and had homes elsewhere.

As it relates to this weekend, his – as you all know and we’ve discussed from here, his wife has been recovering from her medical emergency in the summer of 2013. She lives in Boston, and it was in Boston where his newest grandchild was born last Friday night. As you also may know from his personal history, he is the last surviving parent of this – of his daughter, and so it was only appropriate that he went to visit his daughter.

There are certainly a number of reasons why a plane stops. To refuel is often one of them, but it’s certainly not uncommon and far from without precedent for secretaries of state or other cabinet officials to return to their hometowns when they’ve been traveling or working overseas for some time.

In terms of specific – there’s a policy and a process. I’m sure we could get you the details on those that there’s long been precedent for --

QUESTION: That’s what I was going to ask, because there is obviously precedent. I know that. But are there any guidelines, like limits on how much a stopover like that can cost, or is it sort of up to the Secretary to make that kind of call?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there’s standard precedent and process that’s been the case for decades. I’m sure we can get you the details on those.

QUESTION: Jen, if I’m not mistaken, up on the Hill the legislation, Keystone legislation, is about to take another step towards being vetoed by the President at the White House. And in light of that, I’m just wondering if there are any updates on the review.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates. I believe unless something has happened since I’ve been up there that there was reports of an expected vote later this afternoon and the White House has spoken to that.

QUESTION: Right, yeah. That was just the context for the question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- which is you’ve got those reports in from the different agencies last Monday, the 2nd, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering where that is. Are they still being reviewed? What’s the --

MS. PSAKI: There’s no update. It’s an ongoing process that doesn’t have a deadline.

QUESTION: All right. At some point, though, they are – the review of those – of the interagency responses is going to be complete, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And even --

MS. PSAKI: And that is factored into the final national interest determination.

QUESTION: Okay. Even after that would – the digestion of the interagency reports is done, then there still is not a deadline or a timeline for completion of the interest statement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, those – those agency – the agency input will be weighed into the national interest determination. That’s part of it, but it’s not the entire process.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m just trying to figure out if – I mean, there are some statutory timelines, right? This appears to be not covered by any of those timelines, and I just want to know if there is an idea of how long it will be once the interagency reports are all assessed, then how long after that would it be reasonable to expect the final decision from the Secretary?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of the timeline for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Foreign fighters in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen gave fresh figures this morning or yesterday, saying that 20,000 foreign fighters are joining the Islamic State and other extremist organization. At the same time, Secretary Kerry and your ambassador in Iraq said a few days ago that thousands of fighters have been killed in Syria and in Iraq, including many foreign fighters.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So does it mean that foreign fighter keep flocking to Syria and that the stock, I would say, is never-ending?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more details. I saw the announcement, obviously. And as you noted, it was announced yesterday that more than 20,000 – we believe more than 20,000 foreign terrorist fighters, at least 3,400 of whom are Westerners, have traveled to Syria from over 90 countries. In terms of the statistics of what that includes, I know for our numbers, which are there are more than 150 U.S. citizens who have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq potentially to fight or otherwise support the conflict, that includes those who are there now or those who have been stopped from traveling and those who have returned. So the 20,000 number I’d have to check in terms of what that specifically includes in terms of the categories.

As you know, the – our concern about foreign fighters is one that we have made a top priority of our anti-ISIL efforts, and we have had some success in working with countries to put in place precautions and steps to crack down more. Foreign terrorist fighter networks have been broken up in Austria and Malaysia and foreign terrorist fighters have been prosecuted in Germany, Australia and the UK. Saudi Arabia has now issued formal decrees criminalizing ISIL and broken up ISIL cells with links to Syria. Kosovo authorities have made a significant number of arrests and are prosecuting persons suspected of facilitating foreign fighter traffic. But obviously, this is an ongoing concern. As you know, there’s also a conference, a summit we’re hosting at the White House and the State Department next week on countering violent extremism, and this will include a ministerial portion hosted at the State Department where we certainly anticipate this being a part of the discussion.

So the challenge is far from solved. We’ve put in place a number of steps that were not in place prior that we hope will help address, but obviously, this continues to be a challenge.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Tina (inaudible) from Al Jazeera America. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Hi.

QUESTION: So can you tell us how much money was appropriated in the fight to contain Ebola in West Africa for fiscal years ’14 and ’15, and how much of that went to USAID and its agencies? And I have a follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have this. If I don’t, I’m sure it’s something we can send to you fairly quickly after the briefing because we’ve put out a range of fact sheets and the White House has as well. So let me just see if I have this handy here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I do, but we’re happy to get that to you and anyone else who would like it. But go ahead.

QUESTION: And then I was just going to add to that if, once we get the numbers, how much of that is left and has any of it been reallocated?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I know that there were some reports today – and I would certainly point you to the White House on them – on plans for our resources on Ebola. But we can get you the fact sheet and the details and see if there’s a breakdown of what money has been spent, if that’s what you’re looking for.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just back to Somalia.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I think the thing that hasn’t been addressed by our back and forth so far is this: That this isn’t money that goes for convenience for families and Somalis --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly wasn’t suggesting it does.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I’m not suggesting you think that as well, but it’s a hand-to-mouth thing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the agencies are saying, and the Somalis are saying, look, something needs to be done urgently now in the interim before a structural change takes place, which you’ve been talking about – the interagency cooperation to get something done that functions. But what they’re saying is they need an interim step, something urgently done now to literally transfer money over to Somalia. Is there thought about any kind of interim step that could be put in place so that this money can get into the hands of Somalis?

MS. PSAKI: So remittances from Somali Americans can make it to the hands of their family members in Somalia?

QUESTION: So some kind of alternative to the current situation where none of the banks will touch it so that that money can get there in a legitimate manner, and it’s not driven underground, and it gets to family members.

MS. PSAKI: I am happy to follow up on your question. I suspect that this is something that lives in the hands of the Treasury Department given we’re talking about financial – finances. But we will talk to our team and see if there’s more to offer you on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On ISIS, there have been reports in recent days that Anonymous has taken down some 800 Twitter and other related sites to – that have been related to ISIS accounts, that is. Would these – would you view this as a positive step in spite of --

MS. PSAKI: That – I’m sorry, who took them --

QUESTION: That Anonymous has taken down some 800 --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- ISIS-related accounts. In spite of their somewhat notorious reputation, would you view this as a positive step in the fight against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details on it, so I’d have to look more specifically into it. Obviously, we’re all aware of the challenge of combatting the propaganda machine of ISIL, but we can talk to our team on that.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there a date for the new Cuba-U.S. talks, please?

MS. PSAKI: Not yet. We still anticipate those being in the coming weeks, but I don’t have a date yet.

QUESTION: Speaking of dates – P5+1?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have any details yet on that either.

Yes.

QUESTION: Speaking of dates --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- the elections in Nigeria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’d like to know if Secretary Kerry has been in contact with President Goodluck Jonathan since his disappointment statement on Saturday. And does the U.S. believe that in delaying the election, it could play in favor of President Goodluck Jonathan?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls from the Secretary to read out. I can check if you’d like on more contacts from the ground, which I suspect have happened. So why don’t I do that? We are deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone the February 14th presidential elections. As you saw in our statement over the weekend, it is important to ensure there are no further delays. The international community will be watching closely and the United States will continue to support the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission as it prepares for elections on the newly-scheduled dates. I don’t have any analysis on what this would mean. It is obviously a concern when we see potential political interference with the independent – the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 10, 2015

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 08:43

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 10, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:19 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. I just have two items for all of you at the top.

We extend our warm congratulations to the prime ministers of Kosovo and of Serbia and to the EU high representative for the success of the high-level dialogue meetings February 9th through 10th, which led to the signing of an agreement on justice arrangements. This agreement marks an important substantive step forward in the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia. It also signals the continuing strong commitment of both parties to full implementation of the April 19th, 2013 Brussels Agreement. The United States will continue to strongly support all the parties in this effort.

The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the rejection of Anwar Ibrahim’s final appeal and his conviction. The United States has followed the trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim closely. The decision to prosecute him and his trial have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts. The United States and Malaysia have a strong partnership, and in the context of this relationship we have regularly raised our serious concerns regarding the Anwar case with Malaysian officials and emphasized that fairness, transparency, and the rule of law are essential to promoting confidence in Malaysia’s judicial system and democracy.

And finally, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Kuala Lumpur today, where they met with the defense minister and the deputy foreign minister. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk made presentations on coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. Malaysia is a close counterterrorism partner of the United States and has already taken important steps to halt flows of foreign fighters and combat ISIL’s messaging.

With that --

QUESTION: Can we stick with Malaysia?

QUESTION: Actually, can we go back to Malaysia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because there’s more urgent --

QUESTION: Wait a minute. Can I – do you mind if I ask a question about Malaysia, Matt? You got a problem with that? So did you actually raise --

MS. PSAKI: We can – you can both ask Malaysia questions.

QUESTION: Did you actually raise your concerns about Malaysia with the Malaysians about the Ibrahim verdict today with the Malaysian Government, or not?

MS. PSAKI: Meaning did General Allen and Ambassador McGurk, or --

QUESTION: No, anybody other than that. Did the Secretary – has there been kind of a --

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not made a call. We’ve consistently raised our concerns about this case. That remains the case. I don’t have any new updates today.

QUESTION: And are there any consequences, or does the U.S. Government, notwithstanding the importance of the U.S.-Malaysian relationship, envisage any consequences for this outcome in what you yourselves have long said was a – appeared to be a politically motivated prosecution?

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct; that has long been our position. Our view is the most important consequence of this verdict will be how it affects the prospects of Malaysia’s own future success. As I mentioned in my opening, we have a broad and complex relationship with Malaysia. This verdict and the expanded use of the sedition law will be one of many factors that influences the course of our relationship going forward. We’re not engaging in quid pro quo actions, but certainly we taken into account actions on the ground.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Did you have a Malaysia question or something – a new topic?

QUESTION: No, I’m a little stunned. But let’s go to – I was going to suggest that we begin with something that’s a little more breaking.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And that would be the situation in Yemen and the Embassy, and if you can tell us anything about that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you all know, because we’ve talked about it quite a bit in here, the safety and security of U.S. personnel in Yemen is our top priority and we are always evaluating the security situation on the ground and taking steps to mitigate risks. We have been reducing staff in Yemen over the past few weeks, as all of you know, given the volatile political and security situation. We have nothing further to announce over and above what we have previously announced. Our focus, of course, remains on what’s in the best interests of the safety and security of our staff.

QUESTION: Okay. What is your impression of the situation on the ground right now in Yemen, considering the --

MS. PSAKI: The political situation or the security?

QUESTION: The continued political problems, also the security situation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, it’s a volatile both political and security situation on the ground. And as you know, that’s why we made the decision a couple of weeks ago to reduce staffing. I don’t have any updates, as I’ve noted, on operational matters.

As it relates to the political situation on the ground, as you know, there were some talks that convened – I believe it was yesterday. We – and those UN-brokered talks continue. There are some parties that have dropped out before but rejoined over the course of negotiations. As you know, we strongly support these efforts. As we talked about a little bit yesterday and is very clear, it’s a very fluid situation on the ground. So we remain engaged with numerous parties in Yemen to find a peaceful way forward, and we’re certainly encouraging dialogue and the efforts to move forward through that path.

QUESTION: All right. When you say that you remain engaged with parties in Yemen, can you be more specific? I mean, when was the last time that the ambassador or anyone from this building met or spoke with any of the parties in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your question. I’m just not going to be more specific than what I have been.

QUESTION: Well, what can we – I mean, remaining engaged with the parties in Yemen is rather – is extremely unspecific. I’m just wondering if you can – I mean, with all sides? With the Houthis? Are you in touch with them? Are you in touch with --

MS. PSAKI: We have means of communicating to the Houthis as well.

QUESTION: So when you say – so your original comment, when you said we remain engaged with all parties, you weren’t including the Houthis there?

MS. PSAKI: I was. I was.

QUESTION: Oh, you were. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I just was trying to provide further clarification to your question.

QUESTION: Jen, what can you say about the reports that said that the Embassy will be closed tomorrow and the ambassador will be leaving Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I just addressed those reports in the answer to Matt’s first question --

QUESTION: That means --

MS. PSAKI: -- and what I can provide at this point in time.

QUESTION: -- you deny them or you confirm them? What --

MS. PSAKI: I just provided all the information I can at this point in time.

QUESTION: Is the ambassador in country today?

MS. PSAKI: He is.

QUESTION: He is? Well, does he have plans to be there tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to provide. As I noted – and I think all of you respect this and you cover these issues very, very closely – obviously, the safety and security of our personnel is one of our top priorities as well as, of course, our national security interests. And we take steps in order to make sure we do everything we can to protect that.

QUESTION: Has the security situation, in your estimation, worsened over the past week significantly? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted – and I think we all watched this closely and you all report – it’s clearly a volatile situation on the ground. We evaluate the situation every single day.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And there are the highest-level officials here evaluating that situation. We don’t outline specifics publicly for good reason, Justin, and I think you all understand why.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: In terms of the contact with --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Barbara.

QUESTION: -- the Houthis – sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And you said you had a means of communicating with them. Is that direct communication?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your question. I’m just not going to be able to get into more details at this point in time.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: The pulling out of the ambassador and the closure of the Embassy, does that mean that you don’t have any hopes in the near future at least to have some sort of normalized relations with Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, I was very clear in providing the information I can provide. I have nothing more to provide at this point in time. As I noted, we remain engaged with a range of parties, so I think that answers your second question.

QUESTION: Okay. Does it – would this reflect negatively or badly on, let’s say the president, who’s under house arrest now, they feel – now that the Houthis may feel that relations with America may be cut off and so on, they could probably move --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think our actions --

QUESTION: -- to consolidate their power.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think our actions reflect that at all, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Yemen?

QUESTION: No, Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Yemen and then we’ll go to Iraq? Okay. Any more on Yemen before we continue?

QUESTION: I think you’ve covered it all.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: There was some reports earlier this morning about gunmen on the street in Sana’a near the Embassy. Is there anything to corroborate that?

MS. PSAKI: The story in its entirety is not – is incorrect. I’m not going to go into more specifics, given we don’t talk about diplomatic security.

Yemen?

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the counterterrorism efforts are continuing? Are you still in touch with the security forces? Has that been affected in any way by the volatile situation on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since I discussed this yesterday. We will continue to take action to disrupt continuing imminent threats to the United States and our citizens. We will continue to apply pressure and work through any – every channel we have access to.

QUESTION: Does that mean that, even though the government has changed, the army hasn’t?

MS. PSAKI: I think yesterday I outlined – and I certainly understand your question as well – that we have a range of contacts that we have coordinated through, even before the volatility on the ground. And that has continued.

Should we go to Iraq? Go ahead.

QUESTION: You know the Vice President Biden and President Barzani from – of Kurdistan region – he – they met in margin of the Munich conference. Do you have any detail on that, what has been discussed, and any new promises? Because President Barzani said that there are more promises from international allies, including United States, to better arm Peshmerga.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I outlined in great detail yesterday how much we have provided, and I would certainly point you to that. I gave a lot of specifics about how – the arms we have provided, shipments we have made, training we have done. So I’d point you to that.

In terms of the Vice President’s meeting, I believe the Vice President did a readout. But for any more specifics, I would point you to his office.

QUESTION: There’s no – nothing changed? Because the reason I ask the question that it’s – in in Kurdish media they said more weapons coming from United States. And I know that there are plan that you provide information last week, and I had that and that was accurate. But is there any new --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I outlined a great level of detail yesterday, and I think the reporting may have come from that. I think most of that may have been out there, but maybe all of it wasn’t. Obviously, we remain committed to supporting the Peshmerga forces. You know how we work with them through the Government of Iraq, and that will continue. And I expect we’ll continue to increase our assistance. I don’t have anything to outline for you specifically.

QUESTION: One last question, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And this – that Senator Ted Cruz, he mentioned the way – the process of arming Peshmerga inadequate and ineffective. What is your response for that? He said that it should go through Baghdad and it’s very slow and takes a lot of time.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, it’s required by U.S. law to go through the central Government of Iraq. We’ve provided, as our partners have, a range of assistance, and I outlined the specifics yesterday.

QUESTION: Can you remind us who decides what U.S. law is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States Congress and the United States Government.

QUESTION: Right. So in other words, if members of Congress have complaints about how the Administration is legally required to send aid to certain people, they’re really complaining about their own legislation, rather than --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are many, many means to change the law --

QUESTION: Is that --

MS. PSAKI: -- that Congress has a role in.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Any more on Iraq before we --

QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go to the Kayla Mueller first?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I just want to know --

MS. PSAKI: Is that okay, Said? And then we’ll go to Syria next.

QUESTION: If you have anything to add to what’s already been said out of the White House or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have anything to add to what my colleague at the White House has already said. But – go ahead.

QUESTION: On that specifically, can you address in any way whether the U.S. Government has any understanding of how Ms. Mueller died or when she died?

MS. PSAKI: Well, while the intelligence community has concluded from the information provided by Kayla’s ISIL captors that Kayla is deceased, at this time they are not able to confirm a cause of death. The U.S. military has indicted that there was no evidence of civilians in the target area prior to any recent coalition airstrikes. Obviously, that’s in reference to the ISIL claims. We don’t have any more details at this point in time.

QUESTION: But nothing would suggest from what you were provided that it happened during the airstrikes? In other words, they weren’t trying to suggest that when providing proof of death?

MS. PSAKI: Well, ISIL claimed that publicly, so --

QUESTION: Right. But did that match their – whatever evidence they provided? Did their claims match whatever proof of death they provided?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think I just mentioned that the U.S. military has been clear that there was no evidence of civilians in the target area prior. I’m not going to, out of respect for the family, get into more specifics about what they provided.

QUESTION: So other than the letter that her family received from ISIS, allegedly, is there any other evidence that she’s actually been killed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as you know, our intelligence community is confident that the message received was from Kayla’s ISIL captors. I am not going to get into more details, out of respect for the family.

QUESTION: Is it safe to assume that she was held and consequently killed in the northern part of Syria, in Raqqa area, area or you don’t know where?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think I just answered this question in response to Arshad’s question.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Did you want to go to Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: If I may. I wonder if you saw or read about the interview that the Syrian president gave, Bashar al-Assad, to BBC. Would you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: We did see the interview that he said – did you have any – there’s a lot to work with. Did you want --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me ask you about --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) questions?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll go Said and then we’ll go to you, Barbara.

QUESTION: Yeah, it was pretty – yeah. He said that he receives information through a third party about the bombings and so on. And who would that third party be? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak to that on his behalf, and I think he said more specifically than that. I can be clear about on what we did, and just as importantly, on what we did not do or do not do.

Before conducting strikes in Syria, we informed the Syrian regime directly of our intent to take action, through our ambassador to the United Nations, to – in her conversation, to the Syrian permanent representative to the United Nations. That has been previously reported. We warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft. We did not request the regime’s permission. We did not coordinate our actions with the Syrian Government. We did not provide advanced notifications to the Syrians at a military level, nor give any indication of our timing on specific targets.

We would not work with the Assad regime which has fostered the environment that ISIL has taken exploited. That has not changed.

QUESTION: What about these comments that – in essentially what he was describing was a backchannel, wasn’t he, with the Iraqis and other countries that he didn’t name, he said, as you just said, there’s no direct coordination, cooperation, military information, but there is general information, general messages from a kind of backchannel, presumably of Arab countries, especially Iraq. Can you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we should not be surprised that Iraq, like other countries, is going to have relations with its neighbors. ISIL is a threat shared by all countries in the region and beyond. And as I stated already, but it’s worth reiterating, we have warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft, but we’re not coordinating with Assad or his government. Obviously, we’re not going to discuss the details of private diplomatic discussions with the Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: Jen, just to follow up on --

QUESTION: So you can’t specifically address the question of whether or not you have used the Iraqis as an intermediary to communicate with the Syrian Government?

MS. PSAKI: I just conveyed we are not coordinating with the Syrian Government --

QUESTION: I know.

MS. PSAKI: -- pretty clearly. I don’t have any more details or specifics I’m going to lay out about our conversations with the Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: Do you discourage the Iraqis from sharing this type of information?

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

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m just a little bit confused. Now, we know that you informed them before the first strikes, which was back in September.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you do this every time?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: So it was just that one time, and you have never told the Syrians after that that there’s going to be bombing?

MS. PSAKI: I just outlined our engagement with the Syrian regime.

QUESTION: Yeah, but how do you – how would you sort of guarantee that there’s no conflagrations between the Syrian forces --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more operational specifics, Said.

QUESTION: A few more questions on the interview?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So he was asked whether he thought that the Americans were softening towards the regime in that the official policy is that Assad has to go, but recently Kerry – Secretary Kerry had not said those words exactly; he had said Assad should change his policies, put the people first, think about the consequences of their action. And then Mr. Assad said that depends what Kerry meant. What did he mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m surprised he has not read the Secretary’s remarks at the Munich Security Conference, which happened two days ago, where he clearly stated Assad must go. So our position hasn’t changed. Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. We’ve said that for – since August of 2011. There cannot be a stable, inclusive Syria under Assad’s leadership. So I’m not sure what would have left him with that impression.

QUESTION: But he’s very much there, isn’t he, looking more secure than any other time since the war started and sort of, in a sideways, credited American policy with that. For example, he admitted that striking ISIS was helping in the regime – in a small way, he said, but – so that policy is reinforcing the regime position. And he also said that the West had personalized the situation, had blamed everything on one person rather than looking beyond that to the possibilities of constituencies of support. So can you respond to whether there was a miscalculation there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would take the fact that – and also in the same speech, he denied the use of barrel bombs, chlorine, and also the indiscriminate killing of his own people. So I would take what he conveyed with a grain of salt.

QUESTION: Jen, would you --

QUESTION: One last question on this --

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: He referred – he sort of dismissed the Syrian moderate – well, he didn’t sort of – he did dismiss the Syrian moderate opposition by quoting President Obama, when President Obama said in August that it was a fantasy to think that the rebels could change the course – that arming the rebels could change the course of the conflict, I think what he said. So isn’t it sort of natural that President Assad can’t take the moderate rebels seriously when President Obama didn’t take them seriously, and then suddenly changed his mind and a few weeks later did take them seriously, but everyone still kind of acknowledges that cultivating them as a fighting force is not happening yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we certainly acknowledge that there’s more work that needs to be done, and obviously that’s why we are working with the Department of Defense and others in the Administration to start the train and equip program next month, and we’re providing a range of assistance that I can’t outline here from the podium.

But this is an issue where we’re not just working with one line of effort. Yes, we are working on better equipping militarily the opposition. We’re also working with every political and diplomatic channel we can, and there are a range – I think 50 or more in the global community who attended the Geneva Conference just over a year ago – more than that, I believe, if I remember correctly – who are in the same page we are. So it’s not just about strengthening them militarily. We are doing that in order to strengthen them diplomatically. That’s something that, again, we’ll continue to step up when we begin the train and equip program next month.

QUESTION: Jen, did you agree --

QUESTION: Jen, on this issue, you said yesterday one of the reasons and the root causes of the growth of ISIL is Bashar al-Assad, who allowed ISIL to grow and prosper in his own country; he allowed terrorists safe havens; he was the biggest magnet for terrorism that we’ve seen – that what you said.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The question is: Why the U.S. and the international community have created an international coalition to fight ISIL and did not do so to fight the Assad regime who, as you said, allowed ISIL to grow?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I would say that we still don’t believe that there is a military solution to the situation in Syria. We believe a diplomatic and political approach is the right approach. And as I mentioned in response to Barbara’s question, even programs like the train and equip program and efforts to better equip the opposition, which are focused on ISIL – we fully expect they’ll use that to go after the regime as well. But those are efforts to strengthen them politically as well.

The situation with ISIL – ISIL poses a threat to countries in the region; it’s a threat that we are concerned about in the United States. And I think we’ve been clear that that’s one that we felt it was necessary for the global community to form not just a coalition but one that included a military component, but also other components to address.

QUESTION: But the Assad regime is killing and injuring and expelling hundreds of people, of Syrian civilians every day.

MS. PSAKI: Well, and Michel, as you know, for years the United States has not only been the largest humanitarian donor in the world; we have helped lead the effort to train and equip the opposition, to get them the type of nonlethal assistance they need, to encourage other countries to do so. We have been conveners of international conferences. This is an issue we remain committed and focused on, and we continue to believe there’s no future in Syria for Bashar al-Assad.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: On the peace – on the peace plan posed by de Mistura some weeks back --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: -- in Aleppo. He’s back in Damascus and apparently he feels that there may be a chance or an opportunity to re-inject life into this process. Would you support these temporary ceasefires?

MS. PSAKI: As we’ve said before, we certainly support efforts, including by de Mistura, that would reduce the suffering of the Syrian people. Now, there’s a troubling history of the Syrian regime and their unwillingness to abide by and respect these type of local ceasefires, but we certainly support these efforts.

QUESTION: Okay. Arab news reports show that al-Nusrah is becoming more and more a very – the strongest or the most robust which you have on your terror list – the most robust, say, military group in Syria. They showed them in training, they showed them in new uniforms and have a lot of funds and so on. Are you concerned that they may be funded by some of your allies in the Gulf region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m not sure what reports you’re looking at. I’m happy to take a look at those.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we have a concern about a range of terrorist organizations. Beyond that, obviously, cracking down on terrorist financing is something that is one of our five lines of effort with our coalition.

Go ahead. Oh, sorry. I thought you had a question, too.

QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: New topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Or --

QUESTION: Can we stay with Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Syria, okay. And then --

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you have any – this will be brief – any reaction to the UAE resuming its airstrikes?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly believe this is a positive step. The foreign minister had indicated to the Secretary and the rest of the GCC on Friday evening during their meetings that there were plans to do that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On the eve of the Minsk summit between President Putin and President Poroshenko, led by the Germans and the French, do you have a better understanding, a better assessment of the European peace plan, and are you confident it will succeed? And what will the U.S. do if it fails?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we support these efforts, as the Secretary himself has said, and I think as the President conveyed yesterday. We can’t predict what will come out of tomorrow. There are a range of parties that we work closely in lockstep with. There are a range of parties where we have disagreements with, including the Russians. We will be coordinating closely and tracking closely what happens tomorrow. I don’t think we know either that there will be a conclusion, because they’ve had ongoing discussions and meetings over the course of the last several days.

Since you gave me the opportunity, let me just convey that we’re very concerned about the reports of increased violence in Ukraine, which is not conducive to a peaceful resolution to this conflict, particularly on the eve of proposed diplomatic discussions at the initiative of France and Germany aimed at de-escalating the conflict. In addition to continued Russia-backed separatist assaults in and around Debaltseve, rocket attacks on the Ukrainian Government-controlled towns – town of Kramatorsk have reportedly killed seven people and injured more than 20. We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to halt the fighting, implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements, and fully engage in the proposed trilateral contact group talks in Minsk. This is the best path forward. As President Obama said yesterday, we encourage a diplomatic resolution, but we will not allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun.

Did you have another question on Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Again, if the summit fails, as many observers and even officials believe, will the U.S. immediately proceed with its plan to deliver defensive weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, there hasn’t been a decision made to provide defensive weapons, as the President stated yesterday and the Secretary stated just two days ago. Obviously, the situation on the ground – increasing violence and the unwillingness of Russians and Russian-backed separatists to abide by and implement the Minsk protocols, of which is the basis for the ongoing discussions now – has resulted in discussions internally and, certainly, with our partners around the world about what the appropriate steps are, whether that’s assistance or additional consequences. And I expect that would continue if there is no result from these discussions.

QUESTION: Did you mean lethal weapons rather than defensive, or defensive lethal weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – they’re defensive weapons. When people say they’re lethal, we think that’s a misunderstanding or misnomer on what they actually are. They’re helping Ukraine defend themselves.

QUESTION: But the point is you’ve given them defensive weapons in the past, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Or defensive items in the past.

MS. PSAKI: Defensive items --

QUESTION: Got it. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- but we’re talking about something slightly different.

QUESTION: Yeah. Got it.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sudan?

QUESTION: Oh, wait --

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine before --

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. There are defense ministry officials quoted in the Russian press – they’re anonymous, but one said – threatens asymmetrical response or retaliation against Washington if any of this aid is eventually provided. I’m wondering if you have any – against you and allies on other fronts, they say. I’m wondering if you have any response to that or thoughts, despite the fact a decision is pending.

MS. PSAKI: Threats against Washington?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: In what way?

QUESTION: They don’t specify. That’s part of my question, I guess. Asymmetrical retaliation is what they are threatening.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any understanding of what that means, so I suggest before I respond accordingly that we get a little more clarification from the Russians about what they intend or if they even stand by those presumably anonymous comments.

QUESTION: Fair enough. Thank you.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead – oh, on Ukraine? Okay. Go ahead, Abbie.

QUESTION: President Poroshenko said that tomorrow’s meeting in Minsk is one of the last chances to declare unconditional ceasefire. Is that something that the U.S. agrees with, it’s one of the last chances?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the last chances, certainly. I think Chancellor Merkel said something similar yesterday, in the sense that we are all – we all believe there’s no military solution. We’re committed to a diplomatic solution and trying to find a path forward. We’ve tried. We have had the Minsk protocols and agreement in place since September, and Russia and the Russian-backed separatists declined to implement that. So we’ll see where we are after tomorrow. One of the last – we will – of course, diplomatic and diplomacy is certainly our preferred option here, but we’ll certainly evaluate what comes out of tomorrow.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any attacks that actually emanate from the eastern part of the Ukraine, let’s say against the other – the rest of the Ukraine, like Kyiv and so on? Are there any, like, maybe guerilla attacks from that part of the country?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to, Said.

QUESTION: I’m referring to – are there operations that are being carried out from the eastern part of Ukraine, that declared itself somewhat independent or whatever, against the rest of the Ukraine, like in Kyiv or big cities and so on, or is it the other way around? Or there are attacks from the central government against the eastern region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve all seen reports on the ground and where the focus of the back-and-forth action is. I don’t have any new attacks to announce for you today.

QUESTION: This is a little bit off --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- the beaten track here, but Russian media, Russian commentators have been making a lot of this chyron thing that was on a certain news network yesterday, saying that the President was considering arming “pro-U.S. troops.” Recognizing that this network does not speak for the --

MS. PSAKI: We don’t write chyrons, yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Exactly. Recognizing that a television network does not represent the views of the U.S. Government, I just want to check to make sure with you: Do you consider – does the Administration consider Ukrainian troops, the Ukrainian army, to be pro-U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: We consider them pro-Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. But you don’t consider them to be fighting on your behalf?

MS. PSAKI: They’re fighting on their own behalf.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Ukraine and Russia, and then we’ll go back to you?

QUESTION: Sure. No problem.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So Russia said to have made deal with Cyprus to use their ports and airstrips. And do you have any input on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. I’m happy to talk to our team. It’s agreement – you’re saying it’s an agreement to use ports at --

QUESTION: Right, between Russia and Cyprus so Russia can use Cyprus ports and airstrips.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let me look into it and I’ll talk to our EUR team and see if we have anything on that.

QUESTION: And also maybe you can talk on Putin’s visit to Egypt. They are coming on agreement, like they can end – they are going to end use of U.S. dollars between these two countries and some arm deal. So what --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that was what announced, nor do I believe that’s what the Government of Egypt would say if asked. I certainly would suggest you ask them that question. As you know, we provide a great deal of security assistance to the Government of Egypt.

We’ve seen reports that the Government of Egypt has signed an MOU about nuclear power. I don’t have more details about that. My understanding is that’s been something under discussion for some time. We support peaceful nuclear power programs as long as obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which Egypt is a signatory and obligations to the IAEA are fully met and the highest international standards regulating security, nonproliferation, export controls, and physical security are strictly followed. But I don’t have additional details on the MOU or what the contents of it may be.

QUESTION: So you wouldn’t oppose a nuclear deal for peaceful purposes between Russia and Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. We don’t have details on it, but I just think I stated that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, related to that. A few weeks ago when President Putin visited India, you said – I don’t quote you exactly, but you said something like it’s not – you told the Indians it’s not time for business with Russia. Would you say the same to your Egyptian ally?

MS. PSAKI: Well, business as usual, sure. I think I said – may have said something like that. That remains the case. At the same time, we certainly understand that countries out there have a range of relationships with one another. So we can certainly speak to what deals or agreements are and whether we have concerns about it. We don’t have concerns about what we know to date about this MOU.

Do you want to do Sudan?

QUESTION: Yeah, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Sudanese official Ibrahim Ghandour is in town. Do you have any readout for his meetings? Did he meet anybody at the State Department? And what’s the purpose of --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was planning to meet with senior U.S. Government officials. I don’t have a readout of that. I know my colleague Marie talked a little bit about the plans for him to come last week. So I can check and see if we have a readout of the meetings or any more details.

QUESTION: Are you considering taking off Sudan from the list of states sponsor of terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t predict that type of thing. Obviously, there are processes in place for some places, but I believe this was an official visit of senior Sudanese Government officials. That’s what it was. I will see if there’s more details we can share from the meetings.

More on this, or a new topic? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Somalia.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Now, a number of congressional figures have written to Secretary Kerry expressing their concerns about the fact that Somalians in America no longer have much of an avenue for sending money back home because of the closure of the bank in California that was doing much of that wire transfer business. They are deeply concerned about the humanitarian and the security aspects of this and what the implications might be, and have called on Secretary Kerry to convene some kind of an emergency meeting.

Two questions: One, do you have a sense of how concerned, how urgent a matter this is within the State Department? And secondly, are there any moves afoot to address these concerns by convening some kind of interagency meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that Somalia is certainly – and the challenges that the people there are facing are certainly an issue of primary importance to our Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who frequently travels to the region. I don’t have any update on this specific issue. I’m happy to take the question and talk to our team and see if there’s any specific action being taken. I can assure you that there are interagency meetings about a range of topics on nearly a daily basis, which we don’t typically outline but I will see and look more into the specifics of the bank and remittances, it sounds like, to family members – is that the particular issue?

QUESTION: That’s correct. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay. I will take it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, why don’t we go just --

QUESTION: Actually, I have one on Somalia.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Somalia?

QUESTION: Somalia, yeah. Is there any update that you can provide on the scheduled opening of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Somalia – the reopening that was announced last year?

MS. PSAKI: I did not – I haven’t talked to our team about that in some time. I don’t know that I have an update, but in the same, I will talk to them about that as well.

QUESTION: India?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The anti-corruption leader Arvind Kejriwal has won the Delhi state elections. He’s won 67 out of 70 seats and Prime Minister Modi has admitted defeat on his behalf. So do you have a reaction to this democratic process? It has significance because after President Obama’s visit, I was there for two days, and the BJP was using the visit, and their chief minister candidate, who has lost now, was saying that India was flying with Obama and now Delhi’s going to fly. Like, so do you have a reaction to this anti-corruption?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me separate the two things. One, I’d first refer you to the Government of India for information about the elections. That is an internal matter for the people and the Government of India. As it relates to our relationship or partnership or the President’s visit, as you know, we certainly see our relationship with India as one that is growing, that has great potential, and that is reflected by the fact that the Secretary and the President of the United States both visited India within the same month – the first month of this year. So that speaks for itself, but I don’t have any particular comment or analysis on the election results.

QUESTION: Just because we are such strong supporters of anti-corruption, anti – so this is a leader who has been doing this anti – his whole platform was on anti-corruption. So won’t the U.S. support such a move by the Indian population to give him a win?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I’m understanding your question, specifically.

QUESTION: The question is that he’s an anti-corruption leader, so don’t you support the people --

MS. PSAKI: And we don’t engage in endorsing individual political candidates, so I would refer you to the Government of India and the people of India.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Today, the Israeli press reported that Israel is planning to expand settlement communities in Emanuel, Kedumim, Neveh Tzuf, Vered Yericho over the Green Line, which is the occupied West Bank. And the Palestinians are saying that it’s an urgent matter; they’re calling on the world not just to condemn but actually to do something. Is there anything that you would do to sort of change the minds of the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I haven’t seen those reports. You know what our position is on settlements. I’m happy to take a closer look at that. It’s an issue we regularly raise, as you know.

QUESTION: Okay. And yesterday, the former Israeli justice minister was in town – Yossi Beilin – and he basically suggested that maybe a confederacy between the Palestinians and the Israelis that would keep, let’s say, the settler population in the West Bank and would have separate seats at the UN, but also would have shared borders, shared water resources, and so on. Is that, like, a novel idea? Is that something that you would support?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on this plan or proposal, Said, so I’m not in a position to comment on that.

QUESTION: Can we stay with Israel and Palestinians --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- or more with Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: First of all, do you have anything new to say about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plans to come to speak to Congress next month, given the fact that he gave a speech last night and just said that despite all the criticism and all the concern that he’s still going to do it, and then this morning said it again publicly through Twitter that he’s going to come? Given that and the fact that you have at least two senators now saying that they’re not going to go, do you have anything new to say about it? Do you have any comment on members of Congress deciding to go or to stay away from it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t on either one.

QUESTION: Okay. So the position on his speech is the same as before --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- which is – remind me because I was away for a while. Is that – it’s okay?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: You don’t have a problem with it?

MS. PSAKI: -- we said at the time that certainly the process that – through which this came about was unusual.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But the prime minister of Israel has come many times in the past and we’re familiar with his positions on Iran.

QUESTION: All right. Secondly, there was a report yesterday about a group of people – Arab-Israeli mayors or Arab-Israeli officials – who are actively promoting the “Anyone but Netanyahu” campaign or involved in it somehow, who were given some kind of a special audience at the consulate and is it – what can you say about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve seen the reports. The article is filled with inaccuracies. We are firmly committed to the principle of nonintervention in Israeli elections. The details on this particular case – or the accurate details, I should say, are that some of the members of this group were coming to the embassy to receive their visas, something that we do on a regular basis. While they were at the embassy, they had a courtesy meeting with some embassy staff members. That kind of meeting is very common for community leaders like mayors as part of normal, ongoing embassy efforts to engage with the widest variety – widest range, I should say, of Israelis possible.

The group invited embassy staff to visit their villages, chatted about life and civil society in America. The embassy officers shared their predictions about the Super Bowl. I mean, it was a pretty informal discussion. We regularly speak with representatives – the embassy, I should say – from a wide range of communities in Israel, and this is unrelated to Israeli elections. This is part of the work that we do in community outreach as an embassy.

QUESTION: All right. Well, but given the sensitivities around the Israeli election and the claims and counterclaims that have gone back and forth, the fact that some people view Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit here as being inappropriate and the White House saying it won’t – senior officials won’t meet with him because the election is so close, I mean, is it a good idea for the consulate or the embassy to be giving – to be having meetings with people who are involved --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- in the Israeli political process right now?

MS. PSAKI: Wouldn’t all of the people in the country potentially be involved? I think we’d have to shut down our operations unnecessarily for months if that was our rule of thumb. We think it’s unfortunate that this has been received as controversial. Our view is that ongoing outreach, providing visas, is part of what we do for government services.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not partisan. It’s not about one party in the country.

QUESTION: So you have been assured, or you can – and so you can assure us that there was nothing political about the conversation or about the meeting that happened at the consulate?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you, unless you think discussion of the Super Bowl is --

QUESTION: Jen, on --

QUESTION: Well, I don't know. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Depends on who you’re a fan of, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On this point of intervention --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- now, I recall very clearly that back in 1996, President Clinton received the Labor Party in the midst of an election, right before the election, so he was giving, like, a clear signal then. In 1999, the same thing with Ehud Barak and so on. So there are – there is precedent.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would encourage you to Google who was critical of that at the time, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I have one more (inaudible).

QUESTION: And --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. On Israel?

QUESTION: No, I’m done.

QUESTION: No – well, it’s Israel-related.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Did you want to finish, Said? I didn’t know if you had a question in there.

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Are you sure? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the President in his news conference raised some eyebrows by saying that the victims of the shooting in Paris at the kosher deli were random. Your colleague at the White House has apparently said something similar today. Is that really – I mean, does the Administration really believe that these people – that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know – I believe if I remember the victims specifically – they were not all victims of one background or one nationality. So I think what they mean by that is – I don't know that they spoke to the targeting of the grocery store or that specifically, but the individuals who were impacted.

QUESTION: Well, I mean – right, but when the Secretary went and paid respects to it, he was with a member of the Jewish community there. Was --

MS. PSAKI: Naturally, given that is – the grocery store is one that --

QUESTION: Well, don’t you think that the target may be – even if all the – even if the victims came from different backgrounds or different religions, different nationalities, wasn’t the – the store itself was the target, was it not? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: But that’s different than the individuals being – I don’t have any more to really --

QUESTION: All right. Well, does the Administration believe that this was an anti-Jewish – or an attack on the Jewish community in Paris?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’re going to speak on behalf of French authorities and what they believe was the situation at play here.

QUESTION: But – yeah, but if a guy goes into a kosher market and starts shooting it up, you don’t – he’s not looking for Buddhists, is he?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, I think it’s relevant that, obviously, the individuals in there who were shopping and working at the store --

QUESTION: Who does one – who does the Administration expect shops at a kosher – I mean, I might, but an attacker going into a store that is clearly identified as being one of – as identified with one specific faith – I’m not sure I can understand how it is that you can’t say that this was a targeted attack on the Jewish --

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have more for you, Matt. It’s an issue for the French Government to address.

QUESTION: Jen, a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the opening of a Palestinian embassy today in Stockholm? There was a big ceremony and so on, and it’s like a full-fledged embassy. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think our view continues to be that we believe that we support the aspirations of the Palestinian people to have their own state. As you know, we’re very supportive of efforts to achieve a two-state solution. But we think it should be done through direct negotiations. I don’t have any further comment than that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. If you recall that Angela Merkel mentioned that foreign fighters are going to Syria mostly from Turkey, and also Prime Minister Abadi said the same thing. A couple weeks ago, some senators from the United States Government also – this – United States Congress, they also – they say the same thing. So – and also, the response from the Prime Minister Davutoglu said that Turkey cannot control its borders with Syria. Do you have any comment on that, or will you have done anything to help Turkey to control its borders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I would say it’s important to emphasize that one of our focuses of the anti-ISIL coalition is going after – cracking down on foreign fighters, working with countries to address challenges at their border, putting in place new laws. Many countries have done that. We’ve certainly been working with Turkey on that. They have a border with Syria; that is a challenging circumstance for any country to work with, but this has been an issue of discussion and one we continue to work with the Government of Turkey on.

QUESTION: How cooperative are they so far? They – are they, like, issuing any new law, anything to ban --

MS. PSAKI: They’ve taken a number of steps I’m sure the Government of Turkey can outline for you. And, as you know, they remain an important coalition partner and one that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk regularly visit with in order to discuss exactly these issues.

Did you have something in the back? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, wrote a letter to Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to express their concerns about the anti-press action in Turkey. Do you have same concerns about that? Did you see that letter?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d certainly refer you to the Committee to Protect Journalists on the specifics of their letter to the Turkish Government. As we’ve said before, we believe media freedom and due process are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution. I’d also remind you that on December 14th, we issued a statement that expressed our concern at the detention – excuse me – of journalists and media representatives following police raids on the offices of media that had been critical of the government. So we continue to urge Turkish authorities to ensure that their actions uphold Turkey’s core values and democratic foundations.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Different subject.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: North Korea. Do you have any --

MS. PSAKI: North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on your review of whether to re-list North Korea under state sponsor of terror?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update.

QUESTION: Okay. And how about their nuclear-related activities? There are some reports about them possibly restarting the five-megawatt nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. Do you have any updates on their --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. We typically don’t get into those type of matters. I know I addressed yesterday the reported missile launch. I still don’t have any confirmation of that from over the weekend.

All right.

QUESTION: No, no. I’ve got --

MS. PSAKI: Oh.

QUESTION: I want to go to Malaysia --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the Anwar verdict.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And as you know – I’m sure you’re aware Malaysia holds the chairmanship of ASEAN this year. Does your concern about this case and about what it says about the human rights situation in Malaysia or the independence of the judiciary – will that have any consequences for U.S. participation in the annual meetings that the ASEAN chair hosts?

MS. PSAKI: Not aware of any plans to change our participation.

QUESTION: So is it accurate to say that the rebalance to Asia – the Administration’s rebalance to Asia trumps any concerns you might have about human rights and rule of law in that region?

MS. PSAKI: I would not say that’s accurate. I just conveyed strongly how we feel about the verdict, as well as the fact that we raise these issues and this specific case – we have raised it regularly. I also conveyed that this will be one of many factors that influences the course of our relationship. I’m just answering the question on whether I think it will impact whether or not we attend the ASEAN conference.

QUESTION: Right, I want – was making it – I was narrowing it to the – their chairmanship of ASEAN. But so the answer is you don’t know or it’s unlikely or you just --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans. I’m happy to check if there’s any changes to that.

QUESTION: All right. As you know, the – Thailand still does not have a civilian-elected government.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The junta is still in power, and yet the United States went ahead and sent Assistant Secretary Russel there.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Cobra Gold exercises went off or are going off as planned. The leader of the junta said today in an interview that – he said that it was possible that the military might step in again and – if the next – if once they get a civilian government it doesn’t like what it sees. I’m wondering if you have any comment about the commitment or lack thereof to democracy in Thailand and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, on the first part of what you conveyed, we did participate in the Cobra Gold exercises, but we also significantly refocused and scaled down it in response to the actions or the events in Thailand. Also --

QUESTION: The coup.

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: The coup.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, which we’ve called it.

QUESTION: Can you say it?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we can.

QUESTION: The coup?

MS. PSAKI: Coup, coup, coup.

QUESTION: There. Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: The second thing I would say is that Assistant Secretary Russel, when he was in town, reiterated the fact that in order for our relationship to be at what it once was, there are steps that the Government of Thailand needs to take. That remains the case.

In terms of those reports, obviously, that would raise significant concerns. We respond to actions, of course, but I can check and see if we’ve raised concerns about those specific comments.

QUESTION: Okay. Since the comments are specifically to ones from the general to the newspaper.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes, understood. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I backtrack real briefly to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Of course.

QUESTION: General Allen was quoted in a Jordanian publication saying that there’s going to be a major counteroffensive on the ground in Iraq very shortly. I just want to confirm with you that he’s referring to a counteroffensive led by Iraqi forces, because there have been some reports that indicate this has something to do with the Jordanian troops moving along the border and --

MS. PSAKI: So I answered this a little bit yesterday, but I’m happy to reiterate that obviously DOD and the Government of Iraq would be the ones running point on operational planning. And that’s not something, as you all know, that we outline or detail publicly, even they don’t, for good reason. Our primary concern here is that any action on Mosul, which is I think what this was a reference to, needs to be done a methodical, coordinated, and planned way. So these are efforts that would certainly be led by the Iraqi Security Forces, and our concern is making sure that an offensive would be ready. So that’s what he’s referring to. But certainly not predicting – that we would leave that to DOD and the Iraqi Security Forces.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Last week, Marie had said that there were still a number of American hostages being held overseas, including some by ISIS. Are there still Americans being held by ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of reports that other U.S. citizens have gone missing in Syria. Due to privacy concerns, we’re not going to – and the safety concerns – we’re not going to further comment or outline them more specifically.

QUESTION: Just a quick clarification.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The question was not about endorsing a candidate. The elections are over and there’s no endorsement. The question was that this election was fought on a platform of anti-corruption. And so do you comment that such a good result came out of anti-corruption?

MS. PSAKI: Again --

QUESTION: Why we talk so much about anti --

MS. PSAKI: -- I don’t have any comment on the outcome of the elections and what it means.

QUESTION: Can I – that’s – you said you were aware of reports that other U.S. citizens have gone missing in Syria. Does that mean that you’re aware of reports that they’ve gone missing and they’ve been somehow abducted or that they – that they’re being held against their will?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some reports of that as well.

QUESTION: And is there – this --

QUESTION: New?

QUESTION: This is plural?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into more specific details.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: So reports of missing and of abductions?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more details.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Is this new, new cases? Or are these --

MS. PSAKI: No. I’m not referring to new reports. I’m referring to in general what reports – there’s not new reports.

QUESTION: But for privacy reasons, I can understand you don’t want to get into a huge amount of detail, but can you – if you can’t say it’s more – is it more than one?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into numbers or more specifics.

QUESTION: Can you get into the number of reports that you’ve seen?

MS. PSAKI: No, I cannot.

Do we have any more topics?

QUESTION: But you haven’t gotten any indication or communication from ISIS specifically about American hostages recently, new reports?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not referring to new reports in that way, no. All right. Oh.

QUESTION: Are you aware of how many Americans that may have joined ISIS, and now they want to come back but they are unable to come back?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, Said.

Do you have one more? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are there American hostages in areas other than Syria, as in --

MS. PSAKI: Are there American hostages in other parts of the world?

QUESTION: Do you have information – in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into more details on hostages.

QUESTION: The question – the way you phrased it leaves it open as to whether the people who have gone missing – the reports that you’ve seen of Americans who have gone missing there are being held or if perhaps they have joined one of the groups who is – that is fighting --

MS. PSAKI: I was not intending to leave that impression.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that – no, no --

MS. PSAKI: We are aware that there are reports of some individuals, but from the western --

QUESTION: But individuals who are there against their will or both individuals that are against --

MS. PSAKI: I apologize. There’s just not more I’m going to get into on this.

QUESTION: Well, because --

MS. PSAKI: I did not mean to create confusion. The question was about hostages. That’s what I was referring to.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)

# # #

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 9, 2015

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 16:53

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 9, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:21 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone, thank you. I just have one item for all of you at the top.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk met with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan today in Amman, where they conveyed our deepest condolences for the murder of their soldier. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk affirmed the vital importance of the U.S.-Jordan partnership and praised the role Jordan is playing in coalition efforts to defeat ISIL, including the successful airstrikes by the Royal Jordanian Air Force against ISIL targets in Syria.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk confirmed our solidarity with the people of Jordan and praised the King’s leadership in strengthening the coalition against ISIL, including in support for the new – support of the new Government of Iraq. They also welcomed the decision by the UAE to base its F-16s in Jordan for future strike missions against ISIL targets. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk finally discussed a variety of ways the U.S. and Jordan can further develop our cooperation across multiple lines of effort, including Jordan’s role in exposing ISIL’s false ideology and supporting Jordan’s – Jordan in its generous hosting of over 600,000 refugees. General Allen also met with Foreign Minister Judeh to discuss counter-ISIL coalition efforts.

Go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: I’m sure we’ll get back into that later. Can we start on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: Without repeating the long – the details of the long press conference with the President and Chancellor Merkel, can you just clear up one thing for me regarding the Minsk talks? The U.S. will not be taking part in any role? It won’t even --

MS. PSAKI: You mean the meeting that’s scheduled for later this week?

QUESTION: For Wednesday, yes.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. We have remained in close coordination and close contact. As all of you or many of you know, the Secretary had participated in meetings this weekend with Chancellor Merkel and with President Poroshenko. The Secretary also was in Ukraine last Thursday. As you also know, there have been times in the last couple of months where there have been talks that the United States has been engaged in. There have been times where we haven’t been in the room. But either way, we share the same objective.

QUESTION: Why are you not at least sending an observer or at least going to monitor firsthand what’s going on there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we feel completely comfortable with the level of coordination we have with our European partners as well as the Ukrainians. And as you know, there have been – the Trilateral Contact Group, which has been ongoing and has not included official representation by the United States, but this is one of those topics we discuss nearly on a daily basis with our partners.

QUESTION: So this was a purely U.S. decision not to show up in any capacity?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I wouldn’t look at it about showing up or not. I think there was comfort with how this was being approached, and we’ve been closely coordinating with our partners.

QUESTION: But so just to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So the U.S. made this decision; it wasn’t that any one party at the talks asked that the U.S. not be invited or not come?

MS. PSAKI: I think there was agreement and support for the way that they were going about the talks, which, as you know, from the beginning was that French President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel were – they came to Ukraine after the Secretary came to Ukraine and they were planning to go to Moscow. The Secretary had spoken with his counterparts about that last Wednesday.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up?

MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Now the German chancellor said that the Russians violated every aspect of the Minsk agreement. Such as? Can you share with us what were those violations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think some of the key components of the Minsk agreements included a ceasefire that would allow Ukraine to control its own international border; the movement of heavy machinery, the heavy weapons of war out to the opposite side of the border; the release of political prisoners. There are several components of it; and what we have seen is that while Ukraine has taken steps to abide by and implement these steps, we have not seen the same from Russia.

So obviously, the Minsk agreement, which was signed by all the parties last September, those principles remain the basis of what we’re talking about. Because those are important principles to the Ukrainians, those are important principles that would help abide by the sovereignty – and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The question is where we go from here.

QUESTION: So just to follow up on Brad’s question: The meeting that is going to take place at the end of this week, will it sort of talk about – would it talk or discuss mechanisms to implement the former Minsk agreement, or is it going to come up with something new?

MS. PSAKI: That’s part of it, and there’s broad agreement that any agreement would need to abide by those principles. And that’s certainly – I think both the French and Germans have spoken to this. Obviously, they’ll be participating in the meetings, so I would certainly refer you to them.

QUESTION: And one last --

QUESTION: And so --

QUESTION: Yeah, one last question on Putin. He’s visiting – President – Russian President Putin is visiting Cairo.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the fact that he is making a visit to Cairo while all this is going on, does it show or indicate that he’s basically not concerned about the Ukrainian crisis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our focus is more on what he’s willing to implement in terms of the principles that I’ve just outlined. Obviously, countries have different relationships with other countries, and that certainly is true in this case. We don’t have details about what will happen on this trip, and I’m sure we can speak to that once we do.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Is a diplomatic solution in which the pro-Russian separatists are able to keep such territory as they have occupied since the previous Minsk agreement acceptable to you, to the United States of America?

MS. PSAKI: Well, can you spell that out a little more clearly?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, the basic question is whether any gains they have been able to make in terms of territory can be consolidated and kept by them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there certainly is a discussion, as you know, about the international border and how that will be monitored. As you know, we also continue to believe that Ukraine not only includes all of these areas in eastern Ukraine that have been debated but Crimea as well. I can’t speak to what a final agreement or outcome will be at this point.

QUESTION: My question isn’t so much about the international border as the practical question of whether they get to remain in practical control, regardless of whether they can claim or you recognize their sovereignty over such areas as they’ve gotten over the last, whatever, five months it is. And the question is really: Do they get to consolidate their gains under a peace agreement, or do they have to roll back under an agreement on Wednesday or whenever?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly I think there’s debate about, as you know, what actually they “control,” quote/unquote. And so that certainly is part of the discussion. I understand why you’re asking. I think we’re discussing and consulting about where this is going and what it looks like, so I don’t have an answer for you at this point in time.

QUESTION: Could they freeze their positions right now? Would that be an acceptable outcome for the implementation --

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’re closely consulting, but I’m not – there are ongoing discussions and negotiations between all of the parties, so I’m not going to get ahead of where those things are.

QUESTION: I have a couple more ins and outs on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: One, there was a chemical explosion today in the east that the rebels blamed on a military/government-ordered strike. Do you have any knowledge of what happened there? Are you in discussions?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have anything on that, Brad. I’m happy to talk to our team and see if we have any specifics. Is your question about the blaming of the --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- Ukrainians and what we think the situation is, or what we know, I suppose?

QUESTION: Yeah, given that hitting a chemical plant in theory – not that I’m substantiating this – could have serious implications for local civilian populations.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will check with our team on that. I had not talked to them about that this morning.

QUESTION: And the second thing: There’s been reports about cluster munitions used by the Ukrainian military. Is this something you’re in discussions with, and would that have implications for U.S. support, military or non-military?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have confirmation of what military equipment or military resources they have or haven’t used. I would remind you that we have encouraged both sides to take every step and every precaution to prevent civilian casualties, and that includes, of course, what kind of systems are being used and how they impact civilian populations. But also, Ukraine is defending their own territory and their own country, and I think there is an equating – I’m not saying you’re doing this, but there is an equating out there of how each side is operating, when really they’re defending their own country.

QUESTION: Given that, cluster munitions are a special case because they are banned by the majority of the world’s countries --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t – I was conveying I don’t have any confirmation of those reports, but I know there have been questions about what equipment is being used and accusations, many of which are inaccurate.

QUESTION: Is the United States asking Ukraine about allegations of cluster munitions use?

MS. PSAKI: I have not even seen those allegations, so I’d have to check and see.

QUESTION: Human Rights Watch is among – I mean, they’re not completely spurious.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, I’m happy to check on them. Sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish Ukraine.

QUESTION: Yeah, can --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Ukraine before we go, and then I’m happy to go to ISIL. Any more on Ukraine before we continue? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to start where you began at the top --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- about General Allen.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: He gave statements yesterday basically suggesting that an assault, a ground assault maybe, is imminent. Could you clarify that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not actually what he said, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to – I believe I have his quote in here somewhere, so let me check on that. One, I think any military action that would be taken in Iraq to address the threat of ISIL would be led by the Iraqi Security Forces. Obviously, they’re – continue to be in the training phase, and it remains our belief that they need to be ready.

Let me just pull up, I believe I have it in here, what exactly General Allen said. He said, “And in the weeks ahead when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that.” So the Arab component will be in action supporting Iraqi Security Forces. We support their efforts. They would be in the lead. We want them to be prepared. I don’t have any other predictions beyond that.

QUESTION: But the message there is that second attack is imminent, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I did not hear it or read it that way, and that is not what he was conveying.

QUESTION: Okay. The reason I’m asking this, because there has been talk about a spring offensive to liberate Mosul, and this has been going on for a long time. But then exactly 10 days ago or so, General Lloyd Austin, commander of the central command, said that that was not the case. He was – basically described that there is no coordination between the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi forces, all of the different forces that need to be involved in any kind of ground assault to liberate Mosul, hence the confusion. So would you say now this confusion has been cleared?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there has been coordination. I don’t know what quote you’re referencing, but that’s inaccurate and not reflective of all of the coordination that’s happening. Obviously, the Department of Defense and the Government of Iraq would be the most appropriate entities to talk about operational planning; they don’t typically outline that publicly. So again, we’re working with them, we want them to be ready. Beyond that, I don’t have any predictions of additional next steps.

QUESTION: And finally from my side, also General Allen said – put the blame squarely on the former government of Nouri al-Maliki for the collapse of the Iraqi army back in June of last year, and then when Mosul fell to ISIS fighter. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we know, Said, and we’ve talked about a bit in here, there were – there was a lack of preparedness, certainly, by the security forces; many were taken by surprise. We talked about that quite extensively last winter. And there’s no question that we have encouraged, many countries in the region have encouraged Prime Minister Abadi to operate in a different way and to be more inclusive of the Sunni tribes, be more inclusive about how he is overseeing the building of the military. So I don’t think anything should come as a surprise in that regard.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Over the past two days, we’ve heard two different statements from Secretary Kerry – one in Germany. He said: If – like I want to quote him – if we don’t take these steps – he outlines the steps in the beginning in his remark – then you can absolutely bet that at this conference or another one, like in five years or ten years from now, our successors will be on this same stage talking about this same very topic. The terror groups may have different acronyms by then, and he goes on. And then also on the – a U.S. television station, he said we are on the road to defeat ISIS. What does he mean by that, by “on the road to defeat ISIS”? Also like the previous paragraph that I --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the previous paragraph, let me take that first. He was asked a question by an attendee at the Munich Security Conference about fears for our grandchildren and whether we could address the threats that we’re facing broadly about terrorism. It wasn’t specific to ISIL necessarily. Obviously, we’re talking about ISIL quite a bit for good reason given the threat that they pose. And his point was we have the ability to address these challenges. We need to work together. We need to invest to do that. But we don’t want to see a future generation or in 10 years from now having the same discussion. And terrorism is certainly one of the biggest threats we face.

I think that’s pretty self-explanatory, so I don’t think there should be any confusion.

QUESTION: And what about – like, doesn’t the two statements seem contradictory? One says we’re on the road to defeat, and the other one says defeating ISIS is almost impossible, unless you take so many steps, multi-dimensional strategy that includes culture, politics, blah, blah, blah – a lot of things that he outlines in his remark, and then we’re on the road to defeat ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I just said in my answer, he wasn’t talking just about ISIL. But there’s no question that we need to remain vigilant, and he said this in his remarks, which I’d certainly encourage you to take a look at. He talked about how we need to remain vigilant about all of the areas, the five lines of effort, which is part military but it’s also de-legitimization, it’s also going after foreign fighters, it’s also going after a range of financing, and those are steps – our work is not done. Yes, we have absolutely seen, and I can certainly give you some examples, which he did in the same interview that you’re quoting from, of what he meant by that.

We have – as you know, we have more than 60 partners contributing to this coalition. It’s a multipronged strategy. To date, the coalition has conducted more than 2,300 airstrikes against ISIL terrorists, over 1,200 in Iraq and over a thousand in Syria. We’re taking ISIL’s fighters, their commanders, over a thousand – we’ve taken out ISIL’s fighters, their commanders, and over a thousands vehicles and tanks, over 200 oil and gas facilities, the infrastructure – a great deal of the infrastructure, as well as over 20 training camps.

So we’ve seen a blunting of some of the momentum. Do we need to remain focused and vigilant and keep our partners committed, which we’ve seen that they are over the last week to this effort? Absolutely. So his point is we’ve seen some progress being made, and there’s specific evidence of that, but we need to continue this fight, and we need to remain focused on it, and that’s what he talked about quite a bit at the conference.

QUESTION: One more question, sorry. There also seems to be a difference between Germany’s position on the United States on supporting the Kurds. German foreign minister, sitting next to Secretary Kerry, said despite public criticism, I’m in favor of supporting the Peshmerga in northern Iraq by way of military equipment and weapons, and we’re going to continue doing that. But the as Senator Ted Cruz criticized the Obama Administration hasn’t been willing to directly arm the Kurds.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear on the facts here and what we have provided. As you know, we provide assistance in coordination with the central Government of Iraq. Our policy remains that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central Government of Iraq. This is a legal requirement under U.S. law.

But we also have a significant part of over – of the over 1,100 airstrikes that have been conducted in Iraq have been in support of Peshmerga operations. As for military equipment and response to Kurdish requests and with the coordination of the Government of Iraq, we have coordination – we have coordinated a coalition effort, including the Germans, to provide weapons. This includes heavy weapons and other equipment, including mortars, T-62 tank rounds for their over 100 existing tanks, vehicles, and counter-IED equipment.

To date, as a part of this effort, more than 3 million pounds of equipment in over 60 cargo flights have been delivered to Erbil – over 15,000 hand grenades, nearly 40 million rounds of light and heavy machine gun ammo, 18,000 assault rifles, 45,000 mortar rounds – I could keep going on and on. We’re also – we’ve also begun training the Peshmerga. So the fact is it just isn’t accurate to say we aren’t supporting. We’re supporting with a range of assistance, we’re coordinating the efforts of the coalition, and we’re doing that through the central Government of Iraq.

Go ahead, Arshad. Or did you have --

QUESTION: Were you specifically asked about the reported atrocities in Barwana in Diyala province in Iraq, and whether you have an opinion – whether the U.S. Government has an opinion as to whether – or an assessment as to whether it was indeed Shiite militias under the Badr Organization that carried these out? Those accounts have been given by local officials and by local residents. Whereas the head of the Badr Organization, who’s a member of parliament, today told us that his people had no involvement in this. Do you have an assessment of that?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have an assessment from here. I will say that, one, these are of course serious allegations. The Government of Iraq is investigating them. U.S. officials from Washington and Baghdad have raised our concerns in the past with senior officials from the Government of Iraq regarding abusive tactics that have been reported and seen by the – some of the Shia militia. That’s been a concern that we’ve had.

We’ve seen, though, Prime Minister Abadi forcefully condemn those who perpetrated these attacks and take efforts to be more inclusive. So the prime minister has said he wants to conclude this investigation quickly. We’re certainly supportive of that. We have been concerned about past reports of these type of actions.

QUESTION: So the U.S. Government has decided, post the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, to try to assist the Government of Iraq in fighting ISIL. And you’ve ramped up your presence, as you suggested, and also airstrikes and so on. What makes the U.S. Government think that it will be better able to promote a nonsectarian state now with a smaller investment of U.S. forces, U.S. bombing, than it was when the United States had much greater leverage in the country because of the tens of thousands of troops and the much more heavy engagement in terms of money and so on that it had in the past?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the reasons, Arshad, is that there’s different leadership at the helm in Iraq. And we have seen efforts by the prime minister to be more inclusive, to bring in the Sunni tribes to implement a national guard, to crack down and condemn these type of actions, as have been reported. Is there more work to be done? Yes. But we know that leadership needs to come from within, and obviously that’s something we’ve been supportive of and advising them on, in terms of how to approach this. But the lack of inclusivity in the last government we see as a big problem as well.

QUESTION: But these are – I mean, in this case the issue is allegations of mass executions, burnings of homes by Shia militiamen --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- who are – I mean, the prime minister is a Shia.

MS. PSAKI: Shia.

QUESTION: We’re not talking about not including the Sunnis here; we’re talking about reining in the Shia militias.

MS. PSAKI: I understand, but you also asked me a broad question about how we’re going to address the division and the sectarian division, which is also a question I just tried to address.

QUESTION: Right, that it depends on the leadership of Prime Minister al-Abadi, who you say has tried to take a more inclusive stance. But the point is however more inclusive his stance may have been vis-a-vis the Sunnis, if he is unable to rein in Shia militias from conducting mass executions of Sunnis and torching their homes after driving out or allegedly driving out ISIL forces, how is he going to be able to promote a nonsectarian society?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I also answered in my answer to you that he has also condemned these reports by the Shia militia. Yes, I’m well aware he’s a Shia, but the fact is he is also working to address what he has seen and perhaps was more allowed under past leadership, these abuses by unregulated militias, and recognizes that this is a problem. That’s why he has put in place major reforms of the Iraqi Security Forces. So that is an effort that is ongoing. Do we think that there needs to be more work done and he needs to continue to work on this effort and make clear to the entire population that he’s committed to it? Yes, absolutely. But we have seen him approach this in a more productive way than in the past.

QUESTION: Do you know, Jen – it’s not only that he’s a Shia, but the al-Badr Brigade that allegedly committed these massacres is very close to the prime minister. They come from the supreme council – Islamic council in Iraq, ISCI, which is a major party that did support all along al-Abadi and his predecessors and so on. So he does have a connection between this group and himself and his background, as a matter of fact.

MS. PSAKI: Well, and the point I was making, Said, is that as the leader of the country, he has taken steps to not only condemn these atrocities, but also take steps to crack down on the unregulated militias – excuse me.

Any more ISIL, or --

QUESTION: Yeah, related – on a question related to ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There are six Bosnians – Bosnian Americans came here and were taken in for shipping material to fighters in Syria and Iraq. That apparently went through Turkey and Saudi Arabia. I was wondering, has there been any coordination with Turkey and Saudi Arabia on these investigations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given this is happening, I believe, in the United States, I would refer you to the Department of Justice. It’s also an ongoing case. I don’t have anything else from here.

QUESTION: Do you know – a quick follow-up to this question. I mean, Turkey’s border remains really porous. I mean, despite all, we have figures that are really astounding – 20,000 that have basically gone through that border: a few thousand from Tunisia, 2,500 that came through Saudi Arabia; even France, 1,200. They all went through this border. So despite this fight that you are leading against ISIS, one of your major allies – certainly a major ally within NATO – is keeping the border open, basically complicated your effort to stamp it out or to defeat it, as the President said today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, Said, I’m not sure where – when your numbers are from or where they’re from, so I don’t have any validation of that. But obviously, as I mentioned --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Part of what I mentioned earlier in response to one of the questions is that our effort to degrade and defeat, destroy ISIL is – has five lines of effort. One of them is combatting foreign fighters. Part of that is working with countries to crack down on the ability to move as freely. We’ve seen actions taken in a range of countries, but that is one of the areas we’ve been working with Turkey and other countries to address.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just going back to Secretary Kerry’s statement that if there is not – if you don’t take the right strategy, we might still face the problem of terrorism 10 years from now. Does that also mean that so far – I mean, al-Qaida has been there at least – let’s say since 9/11. Can you say so far the United States has had the wrong approach, that’s why we have ISIS now?

MS. PSAKI: No, I wouldn’t say that. We’ve talked about this question extensively, and the reasons and the root causes of the growth of ISIL. There are – and the Secretary spoke about this as well this weekend. One is Bashar al-Assad allowed ISIL to grow and prosper in his own country. He allowed terrorist safe havens. He was the biggest magnet for terrorism that we’ve seen. We also saw that the Iraqi Security Forces needed to build up their capabilities – that’s been a process that has been ongoing – to push back. We’ve seen that there haven’t been economic opportunities, an alternative presented to young people who are recruited. So we’re going after every single component in order to address this threat.

On al-Qaida, you know we’ve gone after and had a great deal of success in going after core al-Qaida. There are still remnants of al-Qaida in different countries around the world which we have been concerned about and we said at the time was where our concern sat.

I think there’s no question that, in the world, terrorism is one of the biggest threats that we face. It remains a topic of discussion with our global partners because we want to do everything we can to coordinate to address it.

Okay, let’s – go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on Kayla Mueller, her whereabouts? And what has your communication been like with her family over the weekend?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information to provide. We remain in close touch with her family – and obviously, our thoughts and prayers remain with her family and with her parents, as well as her brother and his family. Out of respect, certainly, for them, there’s just not much more that I’m going to have to offer on it.

QUESTION: Can we change subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Syria, please. After the failure of Moscow talks between the regime and the opposition, is there any new approach to solve the problem or to – where are you moving to after Moscow?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to believe that a diplomatic approach, a diplomatic – a political solution is the only way to bring an end to the suffering for the Syrian people. We’re open to a discussion about a range of mechanisms that that can happen through. I don’t have a next step for you. Obviously, Syria was a topic of discussion in the Secretary’s meetings over the course of the weekend, and we’re working with a range of partners to determine how we can approach this moving forward.

As you know, at the same, we are beginning our train and equip program next month. We’re continuing to provide a range of nonlethal and humanitarian assistance from here as well. As you know, we’re going after ISIL, and I just referenced the numbers in terms of more than 1,000 strikes in Syria. So there are a number of steps we’re taking at the same time.

QUESTION: Meanwhile, Jen, the Syrian regime has been bombing the civilians, and especially in some neighborhoods in Damascus. What can you do at this time to protect the civilians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this remains one of the primary topics, again, of discussion, of – with our global partners and what we’re trying to address through diplomatic channels. It also remains a focus of what our Department of Defense is doing leading up to next month with the train and equip program that they’re beginning next month. So there are a number of steps we’re taking. We have a special envoy, as you know – Daniel Rubinstein – who remains in close touch with the opposition, and this is a topic that we continue to look for a diplomatic path forward on.

Samir?

QUESTION: Did you mean to imply that he had – he discussed Syria with the Iranian foreign minister in Munich?

MS. PSAKI: No. I said with his – with Foreign Minister Lavrov he discussed it with; I believe also with – briefly with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, if I remember correctly, but I’d have to double check on that one, because it was one-on-one.

QUESTION: Yeah. One technical question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you pronounce Daniel Rubinstein or Rubinsteen?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s Rubinstein, but we’ll check on that for you, Samir, so you can talk about him a lot on the air.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about Iran. The supreme leader made some comments to air force officers over the weekend, and he seemed to reject the entire process right now that’s going on, saying that he’s opposed to any agreement of principles that would be followed up with an agreement on details. And he also raised a demand that all sanctions have to be lifted at once, which is against the entire U.S. approach to how it wants to use its leverage of sanctions. Where does that leave negotiations with Iran and how do you hope to convince Ayatollah Khamenei in the weeks that remain that a framework is worth pursuing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to have much analysis of the supreme leader’s comments. We all know from past history and past comments that there’s certainly a political audience in Iran as well that often is the intended audience of comments. I will say that doesn’t reflect the negotiations and what’s ongoing. I think there’s an understanding that while these issues are very difficult, and we’ve been very clear we have – we’re pretty firm about our sanctions regime and what would be required in order to make changes to that. And as you know, these negotiations and discussions are ongoing and they continue.

QUESTION: So you’re not considering lifting the sanctions at once, which in the past, at least, you’ve always been opposed to.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Nothing has change don our position on that, no.

QUESTION: And then just on the process, it’s all well and good to say that the negotiators agree on a process forward since the last extension, but if the supreme leader of the country is expressly ruling out a framework approach, where does that leave you? I mean, that’s the head of the country.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any analysis of what that means in terms of the reality of the impact on the Iranian side of the negotiations. They are negotiating, people know they’re negotiating. So I don’t have any analysis of the meaning of his comments.

QUESTION: But you’re not negotiating with negotiators. You’re negotiating with a government and a country that you want to deliver on an agreement, not negotiators who sign paper and you don’t know what that’s going to mean in that country.

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, Brad, but I don’t have any additional insight for you into the meaning or the reasoning behind his comments.

QUESTION: Are you asking the Iranians for clarification given that this is coming up so late in the game?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not. We’re continuing our negotiations and discussions. There has been a long history of comments that are similar.

QUESTION: And you’ve heard nothing from the Iranian party in the talks that suggest they’re wavering on what they agreed to just two months ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, these talks are ongoing. I’m not sure what you mean in terms of two months ago.

QUESTION: That they – in November when the talks were extended, you guys agreed on a certain path forward that by the end of March you would have a framework or an agreement on principles and the details would be followed up --

MS. PSAKI: That remains our goal. And Foreign Minister Zarif did an entire panel at the Munich Security Conference where he talked about these negotiations, so I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: So you’re convinced that remains the Iranian goal as well?

MS. PSAKI: It remains – we’ve clearly stated this publicly. Obviously, whether or not this is delivered on will be determined by whether decisions are willing to be made.

QUESTION: Can we go to Bahrain?

MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Iran? Is that okay?

QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Please. Yeah, of course.

MS. PSAKI: Any --

QUESTION: Very quickly, yesterday Secretary Kerry on Meet the Press said that there’s not likely to be an extension if the talks fail.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you confirm that?

MS. PSAKI: The President of the United States just said something very similar. He said – the Secretary said, “The only chance I can see of an extension at this point in time would be that you really have the outlines of an agreement.” And the President said something very similar in his press conference.

QUESTION: So what does that mean, “outlines of an agreement”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve talked about several times, Said, our goal here is to come to an agreement on a political framework by the end of March. The extension is through the end of June. But that remains our goal, what we’re focused on.

Do you want to go to Bahrain?

QUESTION: So just to understand that, the extension that if you had an agreement on some sort of – so essentially, you’re not thinking about potentially extending the March deadline, but if you have something by March and the technical details go on, then the June one could be a softer deadline. Is that the way to read it?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think we see the end of June as the – that’s when technically the JPOA is extended until. Our goal remains coming to a political framework by the end of March. And I think what you heard from the Secretary and the President is that the longer time goes on, it doesn’t become easier. And so that remains our goal and our focus, and there are – is a lot of technical work that would need to be done with annexes, et cetera. So that would be what that time would be spent on.

QUESTION: Right. I just asked – I think the President said you couldn’t do it without a basis for an extension, along the lines of you need a reason for it.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But that seems to me that the March is a fixed deadline; there can’t be an extension since the framework is supposed to be the basis, right? You can’t have a basis of a basis, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no – but the JPOA is technically extended through the end of June.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: That doesn’t change the fact that the Secretary and many other senior officials have been very vocal about our goal of achieving a political framework by the end of March, because we need the time to go through the annexes and the very difficult technical details.

QUESTION: So that – so what you just said seems to imply to me that that’s not a fixed hard deadline, the end of March, because that’s not actually part of the JPOA extension. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: No. What I was conveying is --

QUESTION: It’s a goal, but --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. It is a goal, it remains a goal. But – and the Secretary has been very vocal about that. So I don’t – we’ve never called it a deadline; we’ve called it a goal of when we want to achieve the political framework.

QUESTION: Okay. So if it’s March 31st – sorry to beat on this point --

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay.

QUESTION: -- because there’s a lot of discussion about this in this – outside this building.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: If it’s March 31st and you still think there’s scope to reach a deal by the end of June but you don’t have all of the details of your framework or basis or principles agreed upon, that doesn’t mean the talks are over. You can go into April to get a framework.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ll have to discuss that and determine at that point in time. We’re not there yet.

QUESTION: Bahrain?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’d asked you I think a week ago about the closure of the new Saudi-funded television channel. And you took the question; somebody got back to me basically saying you had no comment at that time.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So it’s been a week and the Bahraini Government has now confirmed that they have indeed shut down the TV channel. And in their explanation, one of the things that they’re quoted as saying is that the station did not do enough to fight terrorism. What’s your view on the Bahraini Government shutting down a television broadcaster because it was not sufficiently anti-terrorist?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen the media reports that the Bahrainis suspended the operations of Alarab television station. As you know, media freedom and the larger issue of freedom of speech are cornerstones of an open society and something that we talk about and raise with governments regularly. I don’t have more details on it. We’ve seen the reports, but I don’t have more specifics on the allegations.

QUESTION: Well, have you raised this with the Bahraini Government?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly happy to check and see if our team on the ground has raised --

QUESTION: Can you?

MS. PSAKI: -- this particular issue with the television station.

QUESTION: Thank you. Because if you cite the fact that you have in the past raised such issues and you’re all in favor of freedom of the press, but if you haven’t actually raised it in this instance a week after they shut it down, it suggests maybe your devotion to this concern is not so great in the country of Bahrain.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think our past record confirms that. But I’m happy to check on your question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On this issue. The reason they’re shutting down is because they interviewed an opposition figure. That’s all they did. They shut it down the following day; now it seems to be shut down permanently. So --

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your speculation. I told Arshad I’d check on it; I’m happy to.

QUESTION: No, no; not speculation.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s move on. Go ahead.

QUESTION: It is not a --

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

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: North Korea fires five short-range missiles into East Sea in South Korea. Any comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: We are certainly aware of the reports. I don’t have any confirmation from here that that launch occurred. We’ve seen the reports. We’d certainly – I would reiterate our call on North Korea to immediately cease all threats, reduce tensions, and take the steps toward denuclearization needed to resume credible negotiations, but don’t have confirmation of those reports you referenced.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: After the response to the Taliban Five swap for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, is the Administration planning to swap more detainees in the future?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, that was a specific circumstance with an individual who was detained while he was in a war. And we made a decision that that was an appropriate step at the time. We don’t make predictions, and hopefully we’re not going to be in a circumstance where we have another individual who was serving our country who we have to bring home. So I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Is anyone at Gitmo off the table?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there’s an entire process that we go through to review what level and status individuals are who are at Gitmo and how we address that. We are in touch with a range of countries, but the President and the Secretary and everyone in the Administration wants to shut Gitmo down. So we’re taking steps to address this as best we can.

QUESTION: Are you affected by another case where it looks like a former Gitmo detainee went over to the Islamic State and was recently killed in a drone strike?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, I don’t speak to operational steps or reports, and I don’t have any confirmation of that.

QUESTION: Are you worried about rates of recidivism, given that these seem to be popping up even as you guys always say recidivism goes down?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the statistics on recidivism are pretty clear, Brad. I think detainees – pre-2009, detainees confirmed of re-engaging was 19 percent while detainees suspected of re-engaging was 14.3 percent. Post-2009, detainees confirmed of re-engaging was 6.8 percent while detainees suspected of re-engaging was 1.1 percent. So there is – and I talked about this a little bit, I believe it was a week or so ago, in terms of the precautions and the steps that we put in place to address concerns we have with countries on the ground.

QUESTION: Precautions in theory aren’t supposed to include unmanned aerial vehicles killing them from the sky. That’s a last resort, right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of the reports.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, Yemen. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, could you update us on what’s going on in Yemen? We seem to be in the dark a little bit.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Did you have a specific question or --

QUESTION: Especially with all the – well, I have a specific question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because the Houthis now are claiming that you have basically suggested or pressured the former – the president, Hadi, to resign; that they wanted to work with him but he --

MS. PSAKI: That we have?

QUESTION: Yes, the United States. I mean, that’s what they’re claiming, so I wonder if you have any comment on that. I’m not saying that you have. That’s what they’re --

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that specific claim, Said. I don’t know if anyone else has seen that specific claim he’s referencing.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: But we remain deeply concerned about the Houthis’ February 6th declaration dissolving the Yemeni parliament and establishing the presidential council. We support efforts by the UN Special Representative to bring the parties together to resume an inclusive political dialogue. The political situation on the ground is incredibly fluid. We’re assessing the ramifications of the Houthis’ February 6th declaration as well as ongoing talks between Yemen’s factions on the way forward. So it’s an issue that we remain very closely in touch with. We’ve been clear on our readiness to engage with all sides to help move forward Yemen’s political transition. This was obviously a topic of discussion when the Secretary met with the GCC this weekend. But it’s a fluid situation on the ground, so I don’t have more of an evaluation for you.

But go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah – no, I just wanted to follow up on the GCC aspect, because they issued a statement basically blaming Iran for what’s going on in Yemen. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked in the past about our concerns about their problematic relationship.

QUESTION: I mean recent. The last couple days.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific about their involvement or engagement in recent actions.

QUESTION: Jen, on this, do you still consider President Hadi the president of Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, according to the Yemeni constitution, President Hadi remains president until parliament meets to accept or reject his resignation. But the unilateral declaration – dissolution of parliament by the Houthis – because of that, the constitutional step cannot be taken. So this is what we’re continuing to assess.

QUESTION: Are you still in contact with him?

MS. PSAKI: We are – remain in contact with a range of parties and entities there. I don’t have more specifics to read out for you.

QUESTION: But I mean, that statement on the Yemeni process, I mean, in theory, President Hadi could die and as long as they don’t take that decision, the U.S. would consider Hadi the president of Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s technically what’s in their constitution, Brad.

QUESTION: Right. But --

MS. PSAKI: So that’s just what I’m speaking to. Obviously, as I mentioned, the situation on the ground and the political dynamics are incredibly fluid. So we’re working with the UN, with many partners. I mentioned it was discussed with the GCC to determine where we are and what the path forward is.

QUESTION: Do you know where President Hadi is now?

MS. PSAKI: He’s been under house arrest. I think you’re aware of that.

Any more on Yemen before we go on?

QUESTION: Yeah, on the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Previously on the podium there was a discussion that the U.S. is in touch, is working with security forces in Yemen on counterterrorism. Could you perhaps give us a bit more information on who these – what section of the security forces is this and under whose authority do you understand them to fall under currently in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Whose authority do the Houthis fall under?

QUESTION: No, the security forces with whom you are coordinating and cooperating on the counterterrorism, which was said from this podium that we, the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: I understand, and we certainly stand by that, of course. We have had longstanding partnerships with elements of the Yemeni security forces. Those continue. We don’t discuss the specifics of those, for obvious reasons: because they’re counterterrorism efforts and it’s not productive to outline more details publicly.

QUESTION: I’m just not clear under whose authority they currently fall. Are they under the Houthi authority? Are they under the previous government, which no longer exists, authority?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of officials we’re in touch with. I’m not going to outline those. It’s not productive for the efforts to do that from the podium.

QUESTION: The same security forces that belong, let’s say, to the army in this case – the ones that are – they are giving loyalties to different groups. So how do you coordinate all of this – I mean, they’re taking sides. The security forces are taking sides. Some are with the Houthis and some are against them and so on, so it complicates whatever you are trying to do with them, correct?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no question the situation is complicated, but I’m not going to discuss our CT efforts more publicly.

QUESTION: If they are non-state actors at this point that you are working with, do you need different legal authorities to continue that cooperation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of different legal authorities that are needed. I’m happy to check with our legal team.

QUESTION: Could you check on that, if you --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, are you trying to help President Hadi to get his freedom back through Qatar, through --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to believe that it’s up to the people of Yemen. Of course, we’re in touch with a range of parties. We believe that there should be discussions between the parties. I don’t have anything more to read out for you other than that.

QUESTION: Because you said there is a – he is under arrest now, and there is no constitution, there is nothing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who can help him? The people of Yemen cannot help him.

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more to outline for you.

QUESTION: Was it a mistake to keep the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Yemen? Because now he seems to be wielding the most power in Yemen, working – coordinating --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re aware that we have supported actions taken by the UN Security Council in terms of sanctions, so I think you’re familiar with what our view is on him.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Are we done with Yemen, or – okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m not sure if you’ll have anything on this --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but I wanted to ask about a publisher in Japan. They’re releasing a book on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, and there’s new debate about whether that could lead to further violence or whether that’s harmful. I was just wondering if you had any reaction or thoughts about that topic.

MS. PSAKI: I think I may have something on this.

We believe that freedom of expression is a key element in every healthy democracy. There’s content published around the world every day we might take issue with, but that doesn’t mean we question the right of media outlets to publish that information, and I think that would be our view here as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: We spoke a little bit last week about claims or reports of increased ISIS activity in Libya, and you had said that the U.S. is, I guess, examining the difference with some of these groups between being an ISIS sympathizer versus getting operational support from ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I was wondering whether you’d sort of come to any conclusions on that, because there’s a new ISIS video released by their propaganda arm that highlights activity in Libya. It shows militants in Libya with ISIS flags and banners, and does that sort of change the assessment in this building of whether ISIS is providing tangible operational support to these groups that claim to be part of the Islamic State in Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think anyone questions that ISIL has built up a – effective propaganda machine, and that’s one of the reasons why the de-legitimization of ISIL is one of the five lines of effort of the coalition. I don’t have any new assessment as it relates to the difference between the public statement of support and whether there is operational links between. We continue to monitor; we look very closely at this, but I don’t have any new evaluation today.

QUESTION: Because Libya is not the only place where we’re seeing more and more interest from groups allying themselves with ISIS. And I know this has been asked in this room before, but at what point does the Administration start to consider whether coalition efforts against ISIS need to go outside of Iraq and Syria for them to be effective?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we evaluate broadly where ISIL poses a threat, but we haven’t seen in a lot of these areas – we haven’t seen the claim of support or the claim of connection be accurate in terms of the operational component. So I don’t have anything for you on internal discussions, but that’s something we watch closely. And obviously, in our strategy to take on a terrorist group like ISIL, we will continue to have discussions about what needs to be done.

QUESTION: Because then, also – I mean, just even tying back to the line of questioning that Brad had earlier about this – reports of this Gitmo detainee who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan, he was reportedly there recruiting for ISIS in Afghanistan. So we’re seeing all these kind of reports pop up, and I mean – I know you said you weren’t going to comment on that one, but is there any connection between the U.S. decision to suddenly go after this guy a second time, this time with a drone, and the fact that he was now claiming to be a part of ISIS or to want to help ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more on that particular report. Obviously, as we talked about a little bit last week, we watch very closely, but it’s not something I have a public analysis on for you.

QUESTION: I had a question last week on a report that suggested the EU was funding illegal Palestinian settlements in Area C. I think your colleague said that she would look into it. If you have something, that would be very, very interesting, since I don’t remember the last time this has come up.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s see, Brad. I can follow up with our team on this again. We’ve seen the report, which was produced by an Israeli nongovernmental advocacy organization. We support cooperative efforts by the Government of Israel, the Palestinians, and the international donor community to address the urgent needs of Palestinian communities living in Area C of the West Bank in a way that is consistent with existing agreements. So I’m not aware of a concern. Obviously, as you know, and I’m not sure if this is what it’s inferring, but we provide a range of assistance as well from here. But I can look into it a little more further.

QUESTION: So building dwellings by themselves are not necessarily a concern if they’re on the – if they’re for Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me get a little more detail. I realize – I understand you have a little bit more of a question than what I was able to offer there, so --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)

DPB # 24

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 6, 2015

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 15:25

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 6, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:

12:20 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a couple items at the top, and then we’ll get to your questions.

First, as you know, Secretary Kerry is in Munich for the Security Conference. He has had a number of meetings, including at the moment with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on the nuclear negotiations, along with our team, who’s out there as well.

Second, the United States condemns the recent terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in Cameroon and Niger in the strongest possible terms. Boko Haram has perpetrated countless unprovoked attacks on men, women, and children in their homes, schools, places of worship, and businesses. Their brutality and barbarism know no bounds. We condemn the horrific and barbaric acts of these groups that continue to show total disregard for the sanctity of human life.

Boko Haram must not be allowed to continue brutally terrorizing innocent civilians in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. This unchecked killing must stop. The United States stands firmly with the governments and peoples of the region in the face of this threat. We are responding to requests from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. We continue to provide support to governments in the region, including through intelligence sharing and are increasing our support for these efforts. The U.S. is committed to supporting the efforts of the multinational joint task force and we commend efforts by the African Union and the Lake Chad Basin Commission to bring together the MNJTF, and we will continue to work with our regional and international partners to make it an effective force.

And then finally, on Syria: The United States strongly condemns the Assad regime’s barrel bombing and airstrikes this week in the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta and Duma, where hundreds of civilians, including children, were killed and wounded, as well as its deliberate targeting yesterday of civilians near Aleppo, where victims were simply attempting to go about their day collecting water in a public square, and others were riding a bus. These attacks show an utter disregard for human life.

Syrians on the ground report these are among the Assad regime’s most brutal attacks since its unrelenting campaign of terror began nearly four years ago. We have been clear that all parties must avoid any action that endangers civilians, and we condemn the use of heavy weaponry against civilian areas by combatant forces. Those who commit such crimes must be held accountable. The Assad regime’s daily barrel bombs across the country, ongoing siege tactics, and countless atrocities committed against the Syrian people reaffirm there can be no – there can never be a stable, inclusive Syria under the leadership of this ruthless dictator. As long – as we have long said, Assad had lost all legitimacy and must go.

Brad.

QUESTION: Well, you raised three things, but there’s a lot going on today, so --

MS. HARF: Yeah. Start us off with whatever you want. We can get to all of it.

QUESTION: Firstly on the Islamic State claims that the – an American female was killed in a Jordanian airstrike. Do you have any knowledge of this to be true, false, or what?

MS. HARF: I cannot confirm those reports in any way.

QUESTION: Do you know --

MS. HARF: Obviously, people are looking into them, but cannot confirm them.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if the woman in question is alive still?

MS. HARF: We’re just not going to get into specifics about Americans being held overseas for privacy of them, of their families. Obviously, as you can imagine, these are very sensitive situations, so we’re just not going to get into those details.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the Islamic State was holding an American woman --

MS. HARF: We have said --

QUESTION: -- without identifying whom or --

MS. HARF: We have said that there are a number of Americans being held overseas, including still by the Islamic State. I’m not going to get into further details than that. But I will say broadly that Secretary Kerry, our team in this building, across the U.S. Government, are putting every effort behind finding any Americans being held overseas – every intelligence tool, diplomatic tool. The Secretary has reached out to over four dozen countries about Americans being held overseas writ large to try and bring these people home.

QUESTION: And just lastly, have you asked the Jordanians for any more information about this specific strike?

MS. HARF: I can check, Brad. I’m not sure. We just don’t have any way to corroborate this information. But again, the Secretary throughout his time here has been very heavily engaged diplomatically with our partners around the region, anyone who could possibly help us locate and bring home any American being held.

QUESTION: Would you comment on reports that allege that the Jordanian pilot Kasasbeh was shot down by his wingman, an Emirati pilot, causing them to pull out right away?

MS. HARF: Well, Said, Jordanian authorities continue to investigate this incident and work through their response, obviously, to the savage murder of their pilot. I think it would be inappropriate to discuss certain details of that investigation.

QUESTION: I’m not talking about the murder of the pilot. We know how he was murdered.

MS. HARF: No, investigate the incident of the downing.

QUESTION: The incident, okay.

MS. HARF: The Jordanians continue to investigate that, and I’ll let them speak to that.

QUESTION: Now, there are also reports that he was alive and free and running around loose for about 25, 30 minutes. And basically, it was said the search-and-rescue operations were lacking. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I can tell you on that that some of those reports have not been true. As soon as the plane went down, an intensive airborne search was immediately initiated. Personnel recovery forces were moving towards the pilot’s last known location. For obvious reasons, we don’t discuss specific response timelines for personnel recovery, but that was not a major factor in this case. We were not able to locate the pilot before he was picked up by ISIL forces.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. HARF: But it was launched as soon as the plane went down.

QUESTION: Yesterday there were --

QUESTION: Just that – that means the U.S. was involved in that effort?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday it was reported that the United States has intensified its search-and-rescue operation. But until recently, they were located in Kuwait, which is quite a ways back, now moving it to – maybe to the north of Iraq maybe.

MS. HARF: Well, I think that the Pentagon can probably speak more specifically. They have immense search-and-rescue capabilities, which we’ve discussed with our partners, including some of our partners that are flying alongside of us here. But I don’t have any more specifics for you than that.

QUESTION: And finally, would you say that the international coalition today is basically a duet; it is Jordan and the United States of America and nobody else is --

MS. HARF: Not at all. It’s over 60 countries, Said. I think the other countries would probably not like you discounting their contributions.

QUESTION: Can you name some of the countries that are actually participating in the air raids?

MS. HARF: Said, we’ve been over this many, many times. I mean, let’s start with the Iraqi Security Forces. Let’s start there ---

QUESTION: Right. No, I’m talking about --

MS. HARF: -- which is where --

QUESTION: -- I’m talking about the aerial bombardment that’s ongoing --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- of the ISIS locations.

MS. HARF: There’s – you know the countries that have flown missions alongside of us. You know that. You also know that there are five lines of effort here, only one of which is military, and only part of the military effort is flying bombing runs. So we have over 60 countries, many countries standing up and helping us train, helping us provide weapons, helping us provide assistance. So this is a very broad coalition, Said.

QUESTION: I’m fully aware of the participation of the coalition.

MS. HARF: Well, your question didn’t make that clear.

QUESTION: I’m talking about the aerial bombardment and specifically over Syria. Would you say that it’s only the Jordanians and the Americans that are bombing in Syria?

MS. HARF: I can check with my Defense Department colleagues. But as we’ve said, other countries have flown alongside us there, and I don’t have any updates for you beyond that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Did you get a readout about the meeting between the Secretary and the Iranian foreign minister and if Yemen --

MS. HARF: I believe it’s ongoing.

QUESTION: Still going?

MS. HARF: I believe it’s ongoing, yes.

QUESTION: Do you expect Yemen will be on the agenda of the talks?

MS. HARF: I expect that it will be about the nuclear negotiations. Given that it’s ongoing, I don’t want to guess, but --

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to what’s happening in Yemen?

MS. HARF: Yes, I do. Obviously, it’s a very fluid situation on the ground. We are closely monitoring developments. We have been very clear that any political solution to the current crisis must be based on the broad consensus of all Yemeni stakeholders, that it must adhere to the principles of the GCC initiative and the National Dialogue Outcomes. The unilateral declaration issued today by the Houthis does not meet the standard of a consensus-based solution to Yemen’s political crisis. There is a process under which you can change the government through the constitution. That obviously was not followed today.

Very fluid situation and we’re monitoring it, but what we saw happen today does not meet that standard that we have set for it.

QUESTION: Are you encouraging President Hadi to go back on his resignation?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into what our private diplomatic discussions are. What we have encouraged is a process that under Yemen’s constitution the only legal president, currently President Hadi, can issue a constitution declaration and that, in fact, he remains the president until his resignation is accepted by the parliament. So there’s a process. There’s a UN special representative who has been convening the parties to try to get to this consensus and get a different path forward. Again, that’s not what was followed today.

QUESTION: Do you have any direct contacts now with the Houthis, given that they’ve kind of run roughshod over all the processes?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. Let me get an update on that, Brad. I want to make sure I have the latest information.

QUESTION: And then I asked a couple weeks ago if during any of the previous conversations between the Secretary and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif if Yemen had been discussed, and I think it was unclear at that time.

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. Often, as we’ve said, sometimes news of the day comes up sort of – how could it not, right? – on the margins of conversations. But let me check on the Secretary specifically.

QUESTION: Following up on the --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- on the direct contact, does the – does the U.S. actually have anyone with whom they’re coordinating their counterterrorism operations now?

MS. HARF: The Government of Yemen, and President Hadi remains the president of Yemen.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. then coordinating with a president that has absolutely no power? Is there – they’re not in touch?

MS. HARF: Well, you can feel free to do your own analysis, but there is a process here. It’s a very complicated and fluid situation on the ground. I would also note that the Houthis are engaged in a fight against AQAP as well, so there’s a lot of complications on the ground here. We are working with the Government of Yemen and its security forces, as we have for a very long time, on counterterrorism.

QUESTION: So is the U.S. then working with the current Yemeni government, which is the one that the Houthis have established?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not recognizing that as the current government because they didn’t follow the process by which Yemen can change its government.

QUESTION: So you’re working with a government that doesn’t exist but is recognized by you?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that some people would disagree with your analysis there. There is a process. There are a set of security forces inside Yemen that we are working with, that we have been working with, and that we’re continuing to work with. We’re watching the situation on the ground. Nobody’s naive here, but again, we’ll see what happens in the coming hours and coming days.

QUESTION: Question --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I understand your point on the recognition of a government you don’t recognize, but how do you work with President Hadi if he’s basically cut off from contact with almost anyone?

MS. HARF: Well, I would say a few points. And when it comes to counterterrorism, we are continuing to work with the Yemeni security forces, so that’s a separate piece of this, right? And we’ll see what happens in the coming days. Obviously, counterterrorism is an incredibly important priority for us in Yemen.

We are going to keep watching the situation, keep talking to the folks on the ground. We still have an ambassador there. So we’ll what happens. It really is in the middle of a very, very fluid situation.

QUESTION: I understand. And how do you work with security forces that – these are the same security forces who were unable to hold their own capital.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure those are the counterterrorism forces.

QUESTION: So the counterterrorism --

MS. HARF: I’m not an expert on Yemen security force structure, but I wouldn’t assume that, I guess.

QUESTION: Let me just --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I just wouldn’t assume it. The folks that we work with on counterterrorism may be different.

QUESTION: So they still – so the people you’re working with still have command and control structure throughout the country and can take part in counterterrorism efforts, even though --

MS. HARF: I wasn’t making a broad generalization about all of their forces.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I was saying we maintain a counterterrorism relationship with their security forces. Let me check with our team and see if there are more specifics we can share.

QUESTION: You understand why it’s a question --

MS. HARF: I do.

QUESTION: -- given that the country’s essentially fallen here.

MS. HARF: I understand the question; you understand why there are no easy or simple answers today. And we will attempt to get you as much as we can.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Quick question: What if the Houthis consolidated their power over – all over the country? Would you designate that as a coup, a military coup, and then thereafter cut off whatever arrangements that you might have with them?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s flip it back the other way. What we think needs to happen, regardless of who, is that there needs to be a political solution based on the broad consensus of all Yemeni stakeholders; it has to apply – it has to adhere to the principles of the GCC initiative and of their national dialogue outcomes. So forget about who. Those are the principles that need to guide a political transition. And we will judge whatever happens based on that.

QUESTION: I guess my question is: If what happened – what has taken place is designated as a coup, then you will cut off aid to Yemen or whoever you are dealing with on security matters?

MS. HARF: I appreciate your constant attempts to get me to weigh into hypotheticals, but I’m just not going to here.

QUESTION: South Asia?

MS. HARF: Let’s go here and then I’ll go back to you. Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to your remarks – to your statement about Nigeria, Boko Haram?

MS. HARF: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: Should we read that as a deeper implication of the United States in the region, and that beyond supporting the regional response, that you will – you would provide more assistance to Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said in the statement and as the Secretary said when we were there just recently in Nigeria, that we want to increase our support for these efforts, that we’re looking at a variety of ways to do that – of course, working with the regional actors as well, working with the AU. And we are looking for ways to do that. Of course, in Nigeria that depends in part on the holding of elections. But this is clearly something we’re very focused on and it was, I think, indicative of that. I just wanted to draw some attention to it at the top of the briefing.

QUESTION: And you continue to believe that the elections should take place --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- on time next week?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Going back to the top where you started at the conference in Munich, do you have any comment on the foreign minister of Turkey pulling out because Israel is participating?

MS. HARF: I saw those reports, Said. I think the Government of Turkey is probably the place to give details on their participation. Of course, we have close partnerships with both countries and would support the restoration of positive relations between them. We’ve said that for a long time, but I don’t have more for you than that.

QUESTION: So you’re not annoyed, you’re not upset by the fact that one of your major allies pulls out of a conference that deals with the whole regional security?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I don’t know about the foreign minister’s participation. There may be other officials from the Turkish Government there. Again, I think it’s up to the Turkish Government to explain their participation and why they are there or not there.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s presumptuous of the Turks to expect that people in Germany or a government in Germany, which was responsible for the Holocaust 60 years ago, 70 years ago, would not invite Israel to security discussions?

MS. HARF: I don’t even know how to answer that question. I have no idea what goes into the Turkish Government’s decision-making on their participation there.

QUESTION: But do you think it’s absurd that – the idea that Israel should not be invited?

MS. HARF: I really don’t have more comment on invitations for the Munich Security Conference. I just don’t.

What else? Yes.

QUESTION: South Asia.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Madam, couple of questions on South Asia, starting with India. Let’s talk about U.S.-India relations – of course, the historic visit of President Obama and also earlier by the Secretary.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: My question is now: U.S. has a new ambassador, of course – Ambassador Richard Rahul Verma --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and also new foreign secretary is in Delhi.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: First question is that how – what is the reaction from here that suddenly the Indian ambassador went to welcome the President in India and then Prime Minister Modi kept him there and replaced him from Madam Sujatha Singh, foreign secretary, to – ambassador was made the new foreign secretary?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard any reaction here. Obviously, we work closely with a variety of our counterparts in India. I can check and see if there’s more.

QUESTION: And how these two new – U.S. ambassador, Mr. Verma, and also the new foreign secretary – they have now a new working relationship. So how this team will work and further foster the new relations after the presidential visit?

MS. HARF: Well, I think all of our officials, whether it’s the ambassador or the Secretary or others, are very committed to working with a range of Indian officials. We were very pleased with the visit by the President, by the Secretary, and have a big agenda going forward together no matter who is in any of these positions. So I think that will certainly continue.

QUESTION: And Madam, as far as the presidential visit was concerned, suddenly any or most of the announcements and agreements were denounced by China and Pakistan, one. Two, as far as this addressing the U.S.-India Business Council in Taj Mahal Hotel by the President and prime minister, two agreements were announced: one, UN security seat for India; and also the civil nuclear agreement.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But these two things, Madam, have been going on for the last 10 years during President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Indians – 1.2 billion Indians – still waiting when the U.S. trucks will be moving to bring the electricity that we are promised.

MS. HARF: Well, I think Jen and the whole team that was there addressed this at length during and after the visit. I am happy to see if there’s more to share.

When it comes to our relationships in the region, look, we have relationships with India and with Pakistan. They’re both strong, they’re both vital to our strategic interests, and they both stand on their own. So obviously, we believe the visit to India was a very important one, and we believe that India should have good relationships with its neighbors as well and take steps to improve those relationships. So clearly, there was a good agenda, again, that came out of the visit that we’re looking forward to working on.

QUESTION: One more on India.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment --

MS. HARF: Yeah, let’s do one more on India, then I’ll go to you, Brad.

QUESTION: One more on India, then maybe Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: As far as this visit was concerned and new relationship between new prime minister and now President, how you think that things will move under this prime minister as far as talking about the 10 years of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I will leave the internal Indian political analysis up to people whose job that is to do. That’s certainly not mine. But again, we thought the President’s visit went very well, and I don’t have much more than that to share today.

QUESTION: One on Sri Lanka?

MS. HARF: Let’s go to Brad and then I’ll go to Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Sorry. Moving on, do you have any comment on the subpoenas that the House Special Committee on Benghazi issued to several former and current State Department officials?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t actually seen those, Brad. Let me take that. I’ll get you a comment after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Still in Asia, but a little bit further – Japan.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: We had a Q&A on Twitter with the deputy secretary of State.

MS. HARF: Yes. Did everyone participate, as I asked you to? Yes?

QUESTION: A lot of people --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Would we ever do that? That’s so weird. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: He made some comment about Japan, saying that the U.S. reports of bigger implication of Japan on the world stage and further, bigger contributions to the global security. So will Antony Blinken ask Japan to take part actively to the coalition against the Islamic State?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything specific to preview in terms of his conversations that he’ll have. But certainly, these are decisions for Japan to make. But this will be a key topic of conversation in general during his upcoming trip, and if there’s more to share after the conversations, we will do so.

QUESTION: Do you have – still on Asia, do you have any comment on the impeachment of former Thai prime minister Yingluck after – I guess she wrote a letter to the charge, the U.S. charge.

MS. HARF: Huh. I hadn’t seen that. Let me check.

QUESTION: You hadn’t seen that?

MS. HARF: Sorry. Taking a lot of questions for Brad today.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry.

MS. HARF: No, no. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Quick question on the Palestinian issue?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, on Tuesday, I asked Jen if she was aware that the Israelis have withheld another tranche of the tax dollars that they were supposed to forward to the Palestinians, to the tune of about $100 million. Now the Authority is really cash-strapped. Are you doing anything – are you talking to the Israelis to release those funds?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our team, Said. I don’t know. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you care to comment --

MS. HARF: Let’s go to Sri Lanka and then I’ll go back to you.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: I have a very quick question. Maybe you do or maybe you don’t.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you care to comment on what the deputy foreign minister of Israel said today, or told the Israeli radio, that secretary – I mean that Speaker Boehner basically tricked the prime minister into the – inviting him and so on?

MS. HARF: I do not have any comment on that. I think our views on this are well known.

Yes, let’s go to Sri Lanka, and then I’ll go in the back.

QUESTION: As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, after the historic elections there and so much violence and bloodshed, and all the people of Sri Lanka are hoping that now there will be a new beginning and the U.S. will help further as far as the re-establishment and all the concern.

Next week foreign minister of Sri Lanka will be here in Washington. Is he meeting with the Secretary and what is the agenda if Sri Lanka and U.S. are – now if U.S. is going to help in what way Sri Lanka now to have the new relations?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any schedule announcements to make. I’m happy to check and see who might be on the schedule for meetings next week. We’ve commended steps taken by the new Sri Lankan Government to address things like reconciliation – long-standing issues, right – democratic governance, accountability. Certainly have seen some positive steps here, so I can see if I can get you some more about next week.

QUESTION: Quickly on Bangladesh, please.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So much has been going on there – violence and all that. If the Sri Lankan Government – Bangladesh Government has asked any kind of help from the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Not that I know of. The U.S. – we’re obviously gravely concerned by the ongoing unrest and violence in Bangladesh. There have been unconscionable attacks, like including bus burnings and train derailments that have killed and wounded innocent victims. We have called on all parties to instruct their members to refrain from violence, and also on the government to provide the necessary space for peaceful political activity. I can check with our team but I don’t think that we’ve been providing any sort of assistance.

QUESTION: Do you see this kind of a political violence or some kind of maybe from the government’s blaming that it could be some kind of terrorist activities against the government?

MS. HARF: Well, regardless of what you call it, it needs to stop.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Back on the Mideast, are you aware of this report about EU-funded illegal Palestinian settlements in the West Bank?

MS. HARF: I am not. You’re throwing a lot at me today I wasn’t ready for.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I am not aware of it. Do you want me to take it?

QUESTION: I will send you information after the briefing.

MS. HARF: Please do, yes. And you just want to know our position on it?

QUESTION: Yes, considering --

MS. HARF: I mean, our position on settlements is well-known.

QUESTION: This is a different type of settlement altogether.

MS. HARF: Got it. Okay. Then I will not jump to conclusions.

QUESTION: And then – all right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, and --

MS. HARF: Yes, in the back. Wait. Wait. I – no.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?

QUESTION: On the --

MS. HARF: We’re going to go in order. Yes.

QUESTION: Sorry. On the hacking of Anthem.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: If you have anything on that – or do you have any indication of who would be behind it? There’s some reports, some claims that Chinese state-sponsored hackers could be responsible for that. Do you have any readout?

MS. HARF: There is an active investigation ongoing, so check with the FBI on that.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: No, no. I just wanted to quickly follow up --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because Israel has apparently destroyed the network of underwater pipes and so on that supply the Bedouins in the West Bank that they have been moving out of their location. I wonder if you have any comment on that.

MS. HARF: I’ll check with our team.

What else? Yes, Laura.

QUESTION: So there was a report yesterday that the U.S. is pushing for a restoration of diplomatic relations by April. Is that – does that date carry any significance in this building, as far as why you’d want to --

MS. HARF: Well, the process is ongoing. I don’t have any date or timeline to outline for you. I think it’s important to remember that re-establishing diplomatic relations is a process that takes two governments to do; you can’t just do it on your own. So we’re working through that right now. And we had a good set of productive meetings recently and are looking forward to the next round that will be in the next few weeks, so there’s a process in place here. Obviously, we want this to proceed as quickly as it can, but I don’t have a date to outline for you.

QUESTION: And do you have any update on the progression of the review into the state sponsor of terror designation?

MS. HARF: I don’t. It’s ongoing, as we’ve said, but no update.

QUESTION: And is that – have they expressed that that’s a major sticking point to them?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into our private conversations.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any insight into what’s going on with some congressional delegations that wanted to go to Cuba?

MS. HARF: I – a little bit, a little bit. We understand that the Cuban Government is reviewing some Congressional delegation plans submitted by some U.S. legislators. Look, we’ve had senior officials up on the Hill testifying in the Senate and the House side, and we obviously welcome Congress playing a key role in shaping the implementation of our Administration policy and encourage the opportunity the CODELs provide for our legislators to meet with foreign officials. They’ve – some in the past have gone to Cuba and come back and really understood the ways in which we can change our relationship. So certainly, as we do around the world, our diplomatic mission, our interests section in Havana, is discussing the timing and logistics with the Cuban Government for these CODELs, but it’s certainly something that we support.

QUESTION: So this is just a matter of kind of helping the Cubans capacity-wise to bring them in and actually make it a worthwhile --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure exactly the full details. Obviously, there’s a lot of factors that go into the timing and logistics here. We’re talking to the Cuban Government about how we can help, but we support in general, obviously, the idea that congressional delegations will go to Cuba and --

QUESTION: Learn something?

MS. HARF: -- and participate in the discussion about our policy.

Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Turkey? Yesterday you was asked about the letter to Secretary Kerry.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: It was signed by 88 members of the House. They expressed their concerns about the recent arrests of members of Turkish media and urged Secretary Kerry to support press freedom in Turkey. Any comments on that?

MS. HARF: Yes. We received a letter signed by a number of members of Congress on February 2nd expressing concern about the recent arrests of journalists in Turkey. As is our practice, we will respond. I would note that on December 14th, we issued a statement that expressed our concern about the detention of journalists and media representatives following police raids on the offices of media, and we’ve talked about this for a long time, about the importance of media freedom. So certainly, a lot of the content of the letter we’ve already expressed publicly, but we’ll take a look at it and respond.

Yes.

QUESTION: Madam, I have a general question on global terrorism.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So much is going on – going – have been going on for the last 10 years or – when everybody was talking what Usama bin Ladin was behind everywhere and was caught and killed in Pakistan. My question is: Now Boko Haram and ISIL and (inaudible) and number of groups in Pakistan and so on, and they are killing people, innocent people in the name of Islam, including mosques and people in school in Pakistan and a recent attack in Pakistan.

MS. HARF: Yes, I am familiar, yes.

QUESTION: Who is supporting them? Where are they getting all this arms and money and all that? Somebody – somewhere they’re hiding and somebody is supporting them.

MS. HARF: Well, I think let’s – I’m going to tease out a little bit of what you said and then make two points --

QUESTION: And I’m sorry, why can’t --

MS. HARF: -- and then I’m going to move on.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: No, it’s okay. First, I would say all these – the different groups and the different threats all have different backers and funders and sources of revenue and sources of fighters and sources of support. So in order to combat each of them you need to look at each of them individually, so I certainly don’t want to make a broad generalization.

But I would make two points on this. First, I’m disappointed no one has asked about the National Security Strategy yet that we released today.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: That we released today. It’s all online. You can all read it. Part of what that talks about is, while there are crises around the world and with things like ISIL, there also needs to be a long-term strategic plan, which we have in place, to both counter terrorism when it arises, but also in places to prevent extremism from arising. So that plays into this Countering Violent Extremism conference we’ll be holding in D.C. later this month. But looking at these problems not just as hot-button crises of the moment, but how you combat them over the long term, how you take away some of the drivers that causes this extremism, and that’s a long-term challenge. Certainly, that’s just one part of our strategy, but I think we’re obviously thinking about it in both a strategic and a more tactical short-term way.

QUESTION: Madam, quickly --

QUESTION: So you can say that this strategy is a prelude to the conference on the 18th?

MS. HARF: No. This strategy was timed – this is the second one we’ve released in this Administration. It’s timed around the budget, actually, and it’s a blueprint of our principles, of our policy priorities for the remaining two years in office, and what will really be guiding not just how we respond to crises, but how we respond to longer-term strategic issues.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the conference, I think, around the 20th and so on there. A number of think tanks in the city, the whole --

QUESTION: Can you (inaudible) the strategy itself first?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, let me finish his question and then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: No, no, it’s on the strategy because you have all these events that are taking place that actually fall into that. Are you involved --

MS. HARF: Around the conference.

QUESTION: Around the conference. Are you involved in any way --

MS. HARF: We are --

QUESTION: -- in coordinating with the --

MS. HARF: We are very involved in all aspects of the Countering Violent Extremism conference. I think we’ll be talking a little bit more about the specifics in the coming days. But obviously, we’ll be bringing together – the White House and we and others in town – local community practitioners, civil society, government representatives, companies, everyone who sort of has a role to play with preventing and countering violent extremism, both two sides of the same coin here. I think we’ll be talking about it more in the coming days, though.

QUESTION: But Madam, we have so much technology, and also many countries who are supporting in the name of charity or something, they are not speaking out. Are you going to bring this issue at the international or global level at the United Nations?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple things. First, technology can be both a blessing and a curse, right? It can give terrorist organizations tools it never had to raise money. It can also give us tools to find those fundraising streams that we never had before. So technology can be both good and bad, obviously.

But when it comes to those issues, we’ve talked about it at the General Assembly, we’ve talked about it in the Security Council, we’ve certainly talked about it at the international level, and I am sure we’ll continue to do so with this conference and with others as well.

Yes.

QUESTION: This year, Madam, is going to be 70th --

MS. HARF: Last one and then we have to move on. Yes.

QUESTION: This year is going to be 70th year of the United Nations, and the word – people are asking what we have achieved, if this issue is going to be international level at summit on international terrorism.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think you can judge the effectiveness of any one international body by any one issue. The fact that we can come together in one place – every country around the world – to talk about these issues, I think is important. And I don’t have much more analysis beyond that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On strategy itself, the previous which was issued in 2010 spoke about epicenter of terrorism, which it said was in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But this year, there’s no – there’s no mention of any epicenter of terrorism in the new strategy. Do you think there’s no longer any epicenter, or it has moved towards ISIS, Syria, and Iraq?

MS. HARF: Well, I think part of the goal of the strategy was to really outline the major shifts in the security landscape since 2010. And you’re right; a lot of our counterterrorism effort then was focused on degrading core al-Qaida that had been allowed to flourish in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As we’ve talked about, the terrorism has become much more diffuse, has moved to places like ISIL, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, AQAP, and tragically, we’ve seen in Europe recently as well.

So you’re right in that this is supposed to be representative of the security landscape we face today, the threats we face today, but also a more positive formula for how we’ll handle them in the future, I think.

QUESTION: So you believe that the main threat to the U.S. mainland doesn’t come from Afghanistan-Pakistan region, it comes from ISIS and other parts of --

MS. HARF: Well, when we’re talking about the terrorist threat --

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. HARF: If we want to talk about the terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland, obviously, there are a number of threats. AQ core is still a significant group that has capabilities. Are they as strong as they were on 9/11? No, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have capabilities. AQAP we have seen try to attack the United States homeland, whether in the Christmas Day bombing, the cargo plot, other plots as well. And then also there’s still a huge threat from homegrown or lone-wolf terrorists, for lack of a better term, who may be radicalized online, don’t even ever go to fight or train with someone but may try to perpetrate violence here. So there are threats. There are foreign fighters who may try to return home from Syria and Iraq. I’m not going to get into the business, I think, of ranking them, though. We’re concerned about all of them.

QUESTION: It also talks about the rebalance of Asia Pacific region --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and in that context to talk about China. Which aspect of Chinese military modernization with the statuses you are going to – continue to monitor their modernization effort. Which aspect of Chinese military modernization effort is more threat to you, or is more of concern to you?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specifics than that to share with you on that piece of it.

Yes, Brad.

QUESTION: I have a couple Europe questions.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: One, first: There’s a campaign, there’s going to be a referendum in Slovakia about limiting certain gay rights, like – or issues like gay marriage. Do you have a comment?

MS. HARF: Yes, a couple points. The U.S. doesn’t take a position on the issue of same-sex marriage in other countries. We obviously remain committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, including LGBT rights, which have been a key issue for Secretary Kerry.

I don’t know if you saw some of the press stories yesterday, but the Secretary will be announcing the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons. It will be an openly gay Foreign Service officer. We don’t have a finalized name yet, but we will announce soon, reflecting, again, his commitment and the Administration’s ongoing commitment to advancing the human rights of LGBT persons globally. He’s done a lot of work here already on that, but this, I think, while not directly related to your question, is something important I would – wanted to mention.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the – how the populism involved in this campaign and also the involvement of the Vatican? I think a lot of --

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that.

QUESTION: -- the posters even had the Pope’s face on it.

MS. HARF: Okay. I hadn’t seen that. Let me check on that piece of it.

Separate from this specific case, the Secretary has called heads of state to talk with them about anti-LGBT laws. He’s done that in the past, certainly. So without getting into the specifics here, he’s been very engaged on this issue. Let me look into if there are any more specifics to share on that.

QUESTION: And then following up on yesterday’s conversation, do you have any update on the Franco-German peace plan, how it’s being received by both the Russians and the Ukrainians, what it might entail on issues such as sanctions, or even from the parties themselves?

MS. HARF: I don’t have – yeah, I don’t have a lot of an update. I know the conversations are ongoing. Again, I don’t have a lot of updates. Secretary Kerry will see his counterparts and other leaders in Munich, and then, obviously, in D.C. next week. So if there’s more to share on that, we will.

I think in general, we and our partners have been open about the fact that there are diplomatic paths forward here. And the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough diplomatic possibilities; it’s that Russia hasn’t taken any of them and lived up to its commitments. So if this helps move the ball forward, obviously, that’s a good thing.

QUESTION: Do you think --

MS. HARF: But we’ll see.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I know it’s ongoing and I don’t know all the details of it.

QUESTION: Do you take it as a positive sign that the Russian Government is entertaining this process? It hasn’t ruled it out, it’s listening to what the French and Germans have to say. Do you --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t go that far, Brad. I mean, the Russian Government has entertained the Minsk agreement by signing up to it and then blatantly broken it and not lived up to its obligation. So this isn’t about words from Russia; this is about actions. And they’ve already agreed to a diplomatic proposal – it’s the Minsk agreement – and they have failed to fulfill it. So I’m not going to say it’s a positive that they’re listening. They’ve been listening; they just haven’t been acting.

QUESTION: So would you say you’re skeptical about Russia’s peaceful intent, then?

MS. HARF: I think that’s probably a fair statement to say, both on this effort and probably across the board on Ukraine.

QUESTION: But if that’s the --

MS. HARF: Obviously, I’d like that to change.

QUESTION: But if that is the case, I mean, this is a very high level delegation – Chancellor Merkel and --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the president of France in Moscow. If there was nothing to be hoped for, why such high level --

MS. HARF: I’m not saying there’s nothing to be hoped for. I’m saying there’s a diplomatic path forward here. Secretary Kerry’s been engaged in this, as have the French and the Germans and others and the Ukrainians themselves. So we are hoping to get Russia to change its calculation, to pull back from the brink, and to have a different path forward here.

Yes.

QUESTION: Would you say that there was an agreement between the Europeans and the U.S. about this peace plan, or that there were divisions – there are divisions between the U.S. and Europe and that the U.S. was willing to go ahead with its own plan, including sending defensive weapons?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I would say either. This is their proposal. This isn’t our proposal, obviously. But I would not agreement with the latter half of your statement. I would say that we are talking to them. The Secretary spoke to both of his counterparts the day before yesterday about this specifically. So we believe that any effort that can get Russia on a diplomatic off-ramp here and bring some more stability to Ukraine is a good thing. We’ll see the outcome of these discussions.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have one on India.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: What is your assessment of the situation of religious freedom in India?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, you heard the President speak about this when he was just there. This was part of his message during his trip to India and also part of his message at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday morning that freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom, that every nation is stronger when people of all faiths are free to practice their religion free from persecution and fear and discrimination. So certainly, we encourage all governments around the world to respect and ensure freedom of assembly for individuals who are worshiping or who are doing so for religious reasons, and that’s a universal right we think should be adhered to.

QUESTION: My question was: What is your assessment of the current situation of religious freedom in India?

MS. HARF: I don’t have an assessment of that specifically. Obviously, it’s something we think is very important.

QUESTION: Do you think under the Modi government, has it remained the same or worsened or improved? What’s your assessment?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have an assessment of that.

QUESTION: I’m asking this because State Department --

MS. HARF: I don’t – I’m saying I don’t know the answer. I don’t have an assessment of it.

QUESTION: That --

MS. HARF: I understand why you’re asking.

QUESTION: Yeah, because in the context of the statement that has come from the U.S.

MS. HARF: Yes, I understand completely why you’re asking. Let me see if our team has an assessment I can share with you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, Laura.

QUESTION: Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there’s a top military – Iranian military leader who was quoted in the Iranian media saying that the U.S. is “begging us” – his words – for a nuclear deal. Is that an accurate characterization?

MS. HARF: Certainly strongly disagree with that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I know that the meeting is ongoing now with Foreign Minister Zarif, but can we expect any kind of readout today on that?

MS. HARF: We’ll see what we can get for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else? Everyone?

QUESTION: Thank you. Have a nice weekend.

MS. HARF: Have a nice weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 5, 2015

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 16:25

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 5, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:22 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. It’s been a while.

I have a couple items at the top, and then we will get started. First, a trip update: The Secretary was in Ukraine today to highlight the steadfast – is that strange, by the way? Is there a strange echo in the back?

QUESTION: Yeah.ai

MS. HARF: Can we fix that? Okay. Thank you. Let’s start again. I thought maybe it had changed since I’d last briefed.

The Secretary was in Ukraine today to highlight the steadfast, ongoing support for the people of Ukraine and our commitment to helping Ukraine overcome the economic and security challenges it faces. I’m sure you just saw him give his remarks. He met with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, Foreign Minister Klimkin, and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. He will arrive in Germany tonight, where he will begin meetings tomorrow on the margins of the 51st Munich Security Conference.

A few more items: The report released yesterday by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child further exposes the horrendous and vile tactics that ISIL has used to run its campaign of terror on the Iraqi people. The report – this one specifically outlines how ISIL is systematically killing, torturing, and raping children, and discusses specific cases of mass executions of boys, as well as crucifying and burying children alive. The report also describes ISIL’s use of children as suicide bombers, bomb makers, informants, and human shields. These savage and barbaric acts should once again call into question the humanity of those committing them. We have repeatedly seen that ISIL is nothing but a brutal and vicious cult that inflicts unspeakable horrors on its victims. Obviously, this report only underscores what we already know, but is worth calling attention to.

Thirdly, we would like to express our deep condolences over the recent loss of life caused by the plane crash in Taipei. We send our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy, including the families of the victims, and stand ready to help the Taiwan authorities, as we have in the past.

And finally, we put a media note out yesterday on Deputy Secretary of State Blinken’s travel – upcoming travel to the Republic of Korea, China, and Japan. I would just note that advance of his trip, tomorrow morning at 10:30 A.M., he will hold a Twitter Q&A. So we have information about that in the media note, but it’s the hashtag #AskTony. So feel free to get all your questions in to our new deputy before he embarks on his first trip.

Brad.

QUESTION: Is that a first for a deputy secretary to --

MS. HARF: To do a Twitter? Well, the Secretary’s done some, but I’m not sure that Deputy Burns ever did. It may well be. I can check.

QUESTION: Can we start in Ukraine?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: What can you say about the French-German peace plan that is now going to be presented to the Russians?

MS. HARF: Well, of course, our focus from the onset of this crisis has been supporting Ukraine and pursuing a diplomatic solution that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We’ve worked closely with our allies and partners in Europe on this. The Secretary spoke yesterday to Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Fabius about this proposal, about the trip, about the fact that sort of this diplomatic effort was under way. So they’ve been discussing it, and we understand the two leaders will meet with President Poroshenko and, I believe, also with Mr. Putin as well to discuss a possible plan. So we’ll keep talking to them; we’ll see what comes out of it. Obviously, we believe that a diplomatic solution needs to be what happens here, and the Russians have some choices to make.

QUESTION: Does this diplomatic push affect the reconsideration at all about sending defensive military equipment to the Ukrainians?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know – as we’ve talked about I think a lot over the past few days – we’re constantly assessing our policies on Ukraine, particularly on assistance, to ensure they’re responsive, appropriate, and calibrated to achieve our objectives. We have been increasingly concerned about the escalating separatist violence recently and, of course, are having these discussions with the Ukrainians. There’s a wide variety of factors that go into our decisions about assistance, of course.

QUESTION: Did the – did Secretary Kerry speak about assistance with the Ukrainian president and foreign minister today?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team on the ground. I’m guessing they discussed a wide range of issues, including U.S. assistance, and he spoke to that in his press avail as well.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said that he wasn’t so much interested in new deals as long as the old deals – and I took that to mean the Minsk agreement – was not being observed. What more is being to try to get Russia to uphold its end of the deal?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s absolutely right. Under the Minsk agreement, which Russia agreed to, there are steps they agreed to take that they are not taking. Our choice is diplomacy, the Ukrainians’ choice is diplomacy, but Russia has choices of its own to make. So there is a plan on the table that the parties have agreed to that could get to a place where there is less violence, that could get the Russian troops pulled back, get the Russian support stopped for the separatists, get Ukraine’s sovereignty re-instored – restored, excuse me. But the Russians haven’t done that. So he’s absolutely right; there is a plan on the table that could get us where we need to be. The Russians just have to live up to their end of the bargain.

QUESTION: But is there concern that the French and Germans may be getting ahead of where Ukraine is in terms of trying to resolve this crisis? If everyone is coming up with some sort of plan, and the people at the heart of it think it’s too – it’s just not realistic or relevant, is it even worth the – I’m sorry – worth the German and the French’s time to do this?

MS. HARF: Well, I – we’ve been working very closely with our partners and allies, including the Germans, including the French, but of course with the Ukrainians most of all, to see how we can get Minsk implemented in a way that has everyone live up to their obligations. So there’s a plan on the table – of course, Minsk – that everyone’s agreed to, that they should implement. The question is how it’s implemented now, right? So the Ukrainians have made progress. They’ve completed implementing or are in progress of implementing their side of the Minsk agreement. And we want any effort that can help get us where we need to be to play a role here. And they’re all very closely coordinated. The French and the Germans will be meeting with the Ukrainians. They’ve been in constant communication with them, so --

QUESTION: So you’re saying the French-German plan is an implementation piece --

MS. HARF: I wasn’t saying that. I wasn’t saying that about this specifically.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: In terms of this specific one, the conversations are ongoing. And they haven’t even, I think, had their discussions yet on the ground. So we’ll keep talking to them and see what comes out of this.

QUESTION: And have you determined the sanctions implications of this proposal?

MS. HARF: I don't have any more details about the proposal. I know we’re talking to them about what it might entail, and we’ll keep having those conversations.

QUESTION: And were you aware in advance of this French-German plan? And is the U.S. plan of sending maybe defensive weapons – is it still on the table?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, the Secretary spoke yesterday to Foreign Ministers Steinmeier and Fabius about this specifically. So we’ve been in constant communication with our European allies about Ukraine, obviously about possible plans and what might be on the table.

QUESTION: So the U.S. has not been trumped by the Europeans?

MS. HARF: I would not characterize it that way. We’re all working towards the same goal here, and we’re all working together on this.

QUESTION: Marie, when you say we’re waiting on Russian pullback, are you talking about from the Crimea or are you talking about from Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Both. From all of the sovereign territory of Ukraine that they have made incursions into.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re saying that there are Russian troops and Russian tanks in the Ukraine, right?

MS. HARF: We have been very clear, Said, about all of this. Yes, for many months now.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you say – give us like a number, perhaps, or the number of tanks or number of troops that Russia may have in the Ukraine? Not in the Crimea, but in other parts of Ukraine?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if there are numbers, but for months we’ve said that the Russians have provided expertise and weapons; they’ve provided tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery, rocket systems, other military equipment. They are continuing to provide tactical support for separatist operations. They’re providing advanced heavy weapons that we’ve seen be able to inflict the kind of violence that we’ve seen in terms of civilian populations and on the Ukrainians. So Russia has transferred hundreds of pieces of Russian military equipment to pro-Russia separatists, hundreds of pieces. Those are heavy, advanced weapons that really are what – part of what we know needs to be pulled back.

Yes, Justin.

QUESTION: Yesterday – thank you. Yesterday, Ashton Carter said he’s inclined to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. Is Secretary Kerry not willing to match that?

MS. HARF: Well, the conversations are ongoing. I’m not going to get into our internal discussions beyond that. But we continue to reevaluate and asses what our assistance will look like. We have been concerned recently about the escalating separatist violence. Certainly that plays a role in the internal policy discussions.

What else on Ukraine? Anything? Okay. Let’s move on.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Jen was asked about private bank seizure by the Turkish Government. And she said that she would check. I was wondering if you have any update on that today.

MS. HARF: Well, obviously this is a Turkish issue, so the Turkish authorities are probably best to speak to this specific case. But broadly speaking, we look to governments, including Turkey, to ensure that monitoring of corporate and financial activity is done in accordance with international legal standards. But I don't have anything specific on this case for you.

QUESTION: And today, about 90 congressmen and congresswomen sent a letter to Secretary Kerry. First of all, have you received that letter? Have you looked at it?

MS. HARF: About what? I’m not sure.

QUESTION: About Turkey and the freedom of press, and the letter --

MS. HARF: I can check and see if we’ve received it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly publicly expressed our concerns about the space for freedom of the press in Turkey at times over many, many months now.

QUESTION: In that letter signed by about 90 congressmen and congresswomen, asking Secretary Kerry to urge Turkish Government to stop intimidating Turkish press and journalists.

MS. HARF: I think I’ve been fairly clear from this podium that we don’t think that the space should be limited for journalists, that there should be space for them to do their jobs, and that’s what a free and open society does. So I think we’ve been pretty clear about that.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Europe --

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: -- and NATO?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The secretary-general announced during his meetings today that six command-and-control units are going to be established right away, three in each of the Baltic nations – Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. And they’re doing so in light of the ongoing tensions in both the – along the eastern borders and the southern borders. Is this a way of suggesting that somehow, NATO is putting itself on some sort of war footing?

MS. HARF: No, this is an – part of our ongoing effort to conduct reassurance measures on land, air, and sea, I would say, is probably the term they would use. We have said that we will take steps to assure our allies in NATO that we are on the proper footing to defend NATO and defend the states that make up NATO. This is just a part of that. The defense ministers also announced the establishment of a very high readiness joint task force, which is a new allied force that will be able to deploy within a few days to respond to challenges that arise.

So this has been an ongoing conversation, not just certainly since what we’ve seen in Ukraine, but for many, many years about NATO readiness and reassurance, and this is just part of that process, clearly though driven by what’s happening.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that the decision to establish, essentially, what are local facilities for operating offensive or defensive military operations could be seen as an antagonistic move by Moscow?

MS. HARF: Well, it certainly shouldn’t be. And obviously, NATO has more details about what these command-and-control centers will look like. But everything NATO does is designed to reassure the alliance that we can defend the alliance. That is in stark contrast to what Russia has done, offensively pouring weapons into another country, supporting separatists, taking over parts of territory and annexing them. It is in complete diametric opposition to what we’ve seen from Russia. So in no way should they see this as anything but what it is, which is defensive and reassuring.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication when the Administration might send AUMF language up to Congress? There’s been – I think the House Democrat leader spoke about it today --

MS. HARF: There have been – I don’t have any details on that. The White House is probably the best place to go. If we have details, Brad, on that to share, I’m happy to. I just don’t have an update on that for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, the Pentagon announced, according to CBS News, that they have moved a search-and-rescue mission to northern Iraq. Is that – was that made in response to United Arab Emirates concern?

MS. HARF: I don’t think that the Pentagon announced that yesterday. You may have seen some reports saying that those discussions were ongoing. Obviously, the Pentagon can speak to their efforts when it comes to search and rescue. I would say, in general, that the U.S. military has remarkable procedures for search and rescue. We discuss them with our partners, including specific countries that are part of the coalition. But they would have more specifics on that.

QUESTION: But there was a report yesterday from CBS that they put additional search and rescue in Iraq. Are you – is that true or not?

MS. HARF: We’re obviously not going to get into – first of all, I’m not the Defense Department spokesperson, but --

QUESTION: Right, but it was based upon conflicts with UAE threatening to pull out of --

MS. HARF: So --

QUESTION: -- the coalition because the pilots couldn’t be searched for.

MS. HARF: -- a couple points on that. First, I’m not going to confirm specific operational assets from this podium, and I doubt my Defense Department colleagues are either, but certainly, I would leave it up to them to do so. As I said, the U.S. military has remarkable procedures for this. We have discussed them with our partners, including the UAE, so obviously it’s up to every country to make their own decisions about when they undertake air operations.

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. HARF: Yes?

QUESTION: Do you believe that the UAE has a valid concern when it suspended – had a valid concern when it suspended its airstrikes?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. The UAE is obviously a deeply valued partner. Secretary Kerry has invested significant time in this relationship. As I said, it’s up to every country to make their own decisions about when they undertake air operations. We discuss search and rescue with the UAE. And I would remind everyone, I think, that Jordan, which suffered this horrible loss themselves, is not only clearly comfortable continuing to fly missions, which really shows the strength of the coalition, but has intensified their efforts and doubled down on their commitment to defeat ISIL. So I think that that just demonstrates how strong this coalition is, and we’ll keep having discussions with our partners about the variety of ways they can contribute.

QUESTION: On that point that you just raised --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you independently confirm that Jordan has, in fact, intensified its bombing run?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to probably speak more specifically than I just did. I’m also not the Jordanian Government spokesperson.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’ll let them speak to the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But they’ve said publicly that they were going to, and I would let that speak for itself.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But one would assume that Jordan is not on its own sending its airplanes, that it’s --

MS. HARF: Jordan is a key member of this coalition.

QUESTION: -- they’re probably accompanied by – yeah, members of the other – the other members of the coalition, which is mainly the United States.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into specific operational details, Said.

QUESTION: Okay, okay. That’s fine. Let me ask you on some reports from Jordan alleging or saying that Jordan will conduct sort of special forces operations – hit and run and so on – against ISIS. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics. As I said, Jordan is a key counterterrorism partner, a key member of this coalition. They have spoken to their ongoing commitment, especially in the wake of this horrific murder of their pilot, to continue the fight against ISIL. So I’m probably not going to get into specifics, but they will continue to play a very key role.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking this is because clearly there has to come a point where ground forces must be involved, and Jordan seems to be willing to do that.

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: And in fact – may I finish my question?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday the spokesman or the chief of staff of the Kurdistan region president Fouad Hussein said that really this – all this bombing is not yielding the results that we desire, that the time has come to send in ground forces. How does the U.S. feel about that?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. Our air operations in conjunction with local ground forces, whether Iraqi --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- or Syrian opposition has had an impact in pushing ISIL back, particularly in parts of Iraq. Kobani is a perfect example of that. This is a long fight, but they have had significant success in degrading ISIL’s leadership and some of their fighting positions and indeed in retaking territory. And we would agree that there need to be ground forces that can fight ISIL. Those ground forces need to be the Iraqis, the Kurds, and the Syrian opposition. So that’s what we’re focused on building.

QUESTION: So can you envision a situation – I’m sorry. Can you envision a situation where Jordanian forces can go into Syria, let’s say, alongside the Syrian opposition without coordinating with the Syrian regime?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think my job is to envision scenarios and make judgments on hypotheticals. We know what our strategy is, and we’re going to keep operating along those lines.

Yes, Justin.

QUESTION: Thank you. Also on Jordan, when King Abdullah was on the Hill the other day, he apparently told congressmen that in addition to the additional aid that was signed on, the 1 billion a year for the next three years, they – they’re asking for more, specifically drones, surveillance, bullets, fuel. They want to intensify their efforts and as a result are asking for more now. Is that something that can be considered?

MS. HARF: Well, we obviously want to intensify our efforts. Again, just this week, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Judeh signed this new Memorandum of Understanding that supports providing 1 billion annually in bilateral assistance over a three-year period.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: We already provide over 300 million in security assistance annually. That’s one of our largest security assistance programs in the world. And we do continue to make every effort here certainly to expedite security assistance to Jordan. We’re acting promptly on their requests for military capabilities, of course working with the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: So it’s something we’re very committed to and are working very closely to get that.

QUESTION: So you – yeah, so they could get the drones they’re asking for.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into specific requests, but certainly, we are working very quickly to expedite any of their requests and make decisions on what we think makes sense.

Yes, Laura.

QUESTION: Piggy-backing off of that, I asked Jen yesterday about some comments that Senator McCain made. He attributes the fact that Jordan hasn’t been getting some of the aid that they’ve already been promised to this, quote, “huge bureaucratic bottleneck in the State Department.” Since then, he’s also, along with a number of his other Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary Kerry, and in it, in addition to urging that this aid be promptly provided, he also asks to be – for the committee staff to be briefed on how the State Department is adjudicating for military material related to Jordan and if it could give an estimated timeline for how long this approval process takes and what the steps are in this approval process. I know that there is a process, but maybe you could give us a little more detail.

MS. HARF: There is. And I understand that just today experts from this building are having conversation with our colleagues on the Hill – I’m not sure if it’s the member or the staff level. I can check on that – but explaining how this all works and really reassuring them that we are making every effort to really expedite the security assistance. And I would disagree with the notion that that’s somehow being held up by the bureaucracy inside this building; nothing could be further from the truth. We are pushing forward as quickly as we can, and I think you saw that with what Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Judeh signed just this week. So we will continue having those consultations with the Hill, certainly.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this? Okay, yes. Move on.

QUESTION: Yeah. What’s the U.S. Government reaction to reports that hundreds of Christians were arrested in Delhi today while protesting against this recent spate of attacks on the churches?

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen those reports; I’m happy to check with our team. Obviously, we believe in universal rights of religious tolerance and being able to peacefully make our voices heard. But I don’t know the details on that, so let me check.

QUESTION: And the – it is more important because President during his visit in his speech had specifically mentioned article 25 and religious – and so this has been going on. Like, if you haven’t seen the latest report but it has been going on for few months, and last two month there was like five attacks, and even in the police reports, they have said that this is communal. So is there a strong message you will send?

MS. HARF: Well, I would let – I think the President probably sends the strongest message that any American official could and I would let his words speak for themselves, and I’ll check if there’s more to add.

QUESTION: On a related issue – well, the same issue in another part of the world – do you have a reaction to attacks on Christians in Cameroon by Boko Haram?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if I have anything specifically on that. I can check with our folks and see. Obviously, we’ve seen Boko Haram --

QUESTION: The reports are pretty harrowing.

MS. HARF: Yeah, no, let me see --

QUESTION: Villages, people burnt --

MS. HARF: Brad, I’m just now sure I have anything on that. Let me check on that specific attack. Unfortunately, I’m sure what you’ve read is accurate, and we’ve seen so many horrific attacks by Boko Haram, not just in the past weeks but in the past months, that they’ve really escalated the scale of their attacks. But let me check on that one specifically.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the three-nation offensive that’s underway against Boko Haram?

MS. HARF: Well, we have obviously seen these reports about where certain troops are and who’s fighting who. We do believe that a regional effort is needed to fight Boko Haram. Obviously, Nigeria plays the most important role here. So I can’t confirm reports that Chadian forces have been inside Boko – excuse me, inside Nigeria fighting Boko Haram, but we do think that a regional effort is needed. We’ve talked to the regional partners about it, so I can check and see if there are more details.

QUESTION: Is the United States providing any either logistical or technological support as part of this effort?

MS. HARF: To --

QUESTION: To --

MS. HARF: We certainly provide a great amount of assistance to Nigeria when it comes to the fight against Boko Haram.

QUESTION: Financial, right?

MS. HARF: Other support as well. We’ve talked about information sharing and intelligence support. The Secretary spoke about some of this when he was there in Nigeria recently. We provide a range of assistance to Nigeria, but this is a tough fight for them and certainly more needs to be done.

QUESTION: The Cameroon --

QUESTION: And do you have --

QUESTION: The Cameroonian communications minister told Al Jazeera earlier today that it’s not just a matter of this being dealt with on a regional basis; that just like dealing with ISIL, the international community needs to help these affected countries deal with Boko Haram. Is there anything thinking in this building that a larger global effort to deal with this organization that has no compunction in taking out entire communities is perhaps warranted at this point?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly have, as the United States, provided assistance to help in this fight, and you heard the Secretary was in – when he was in Nigeria say we want to do more to help the Nigerians. Part of that depends upon them going forward with the elections as scheduled, holding them – limiting the violence, having credible and fair elections. So we certainly believe this is a critical challenge. Boko Haram is a little bit of a different threat than ISIL. Obviously, each threat is different, but we’re very committed to helping the countries in the region fight this.

QUESTION: But is there a concern or is there any question that AU member nations simply don’t have all the capacity they need to respond as quickly as the Cameroonian communications minister said that they need to have?

MS. HARF: Well, I clearly think if you just look at the sheer amount of violence that Boko Haram has been able to perpetrate that there needs to be more capacity and more willingness among some of the parties. Some of the – there’ve been some times when people have stepped up and really tried to be aggressive against Boko Haram, but clearly more needs to be done.

QUESTION: Is there a reluctance on the part of Western nations to get more deeply involved in the fight against Boko Haram, given the colonial history of sub-Saharan Africa?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s probably a larger analytical question that I’m not going to delve into from here. I can just speak for the U.S. and what – this building and this government is very committed to helping Nigeria and the countries in the region build their capacity and push them to take on this fight even more seriously.

QUESTION: A question on Iraqi Christians.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: There was a report in, I think, one of the United – U.S. papers that Iraqi Christians in the north have formed a thousand-strong militia group to defend their areas. What’s your – what’s the United States position on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t, I think, seen that report specifically, unless we’re talking about the same thing and don’t realize it. But clearly, in general, when it comes to militias, Prime Minister Abadi has made clear that his goal is to regulate the militias, bring them under government control in general. That’s part of his plan for fighting ISIL and really building the security of the country. So broadly speaking, that’s, I think, where we would --

QUESTION: So you’re not supporting having militias in Iraq for the Christians?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m – well, in general, when it comes – look, many of these volunteer militia forces formed last summer when Baghdad and other major cities were under this imminent threat from ISIL. So the new government really has made one of its primary objectives to bring these all under control of the state. So it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist; we really just need them to be under central control here. We’ve also expressed our concern about human rights abuses, certainly, when it comes to some of these militias. So I think that this is a critical part of what Iraq needs to do going forward, and the Prime Minister has said he’s committed to it.

QUESTION: One more question just on Iraq. There is a security conference in Germany that’s going to kick off tomorrow, I think.

MS. HARF: That the Secretary is participating in. Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah, so --

MS. HARF: The Munich Security Conference.

QUESTION: If you have more details about that, that’d be greatly appreciated. And also, you’ve invited – I’m not sure if you are the key organizer of that conference --

MS. HARF: We are most certainly not.

QUESTION: Okay. The President Barzani of Kurdistan this time has been invited to that conference while he was not invited to the London conference. I would like to ask whether this is a recognition of the critical role or of the mistake that was made last --

MS. HARF: Well, I would leave it up to the conference organizers to speak to how they invite people. This is certainly not our conference, and we don’t invite people. The Secretary will be participating on the sidelines of the conference. He will have a number of bilateral meetings, as Jen has spoken to, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, Foreign Minister Zarif, and others as well. So we’ll talk more in the coming days about his schedule there, but he will look forward to having these conversations once he’s there.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the lifting of the curfew in Baghdad?

MS. HARF: I don’t. This is an internal Iraqi security decision.

QUESTION: It will not – I assume it will not change the way American diplomats and personnel live day to day in Baghdad?

MS. HARF: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: You mentioned – you said something about --

MS. HARF: Last one, Said. Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, last summer it was – the threat was imminent. Does that mean that the threat of ISIS in Iraq today is not imminent?

MS. HARF: No. I was saying these militias were formed when the imminent threat to major cities in Iraq, including Baghdad, really arose. I mean, we remember when they were getting closer to Baghdad; we talked about Mosul a lot. So it was just a historical point.

Yes.

QUESTION: There’s a reports that – citing a Philippine naval commander that China is doing new dredging work at Mischief Reef in the Spratly islands. I was wondering if you have any response to that.

MS. HARF: I do not – no. I can check with our team. I don’t.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Sorry about that.

QUESTION: It’s okay.

QUESTION: Tunisia?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the new government there?

MS. HARF: I don’t. Let me check with our team and see if we can get you one.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s upcoming trip to Asia.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell me if he’s going to talk in the three capitals that he’s arriving at on a possibility or asking for increased cooperation and support in the fight against ISIL?

MS. HARF: I’m sure it will be a topic of conversation. Certainly it’s a topic of conversation, I think, come up in most diplomatic meetings. But as you could see, I think, from the media note we put out, there’s a number of regional and global priorities we want to talk about. I would also encourage you to maybe ask him in his Twitter Q&A tomorrow, and he can answer it directly.

I’m really plugging this. I’m really excited about it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on today’s New York Times major story with respect to this financial connection between the Saudi and al-Qaida?

MS. HARF: Well, I think a lot of this is based on what is an ongoing legal procedure, as Jen spoke to yesterday. So I don’t think we’re going to have much more to say on those kinds of allegations, given they’re made in the context of private litigation.

QUESTION: Is it under any consideration that part of the 9/11 classified part would be declassified?

MS. HARF: Well, that material – is my understanding – is subject to a classification review by the intelligence community, and I don’t have an update on the status of that. That’s for them to speak to.

QUESTION: Any timetable that we --

MS. HARF: That’s for them to speak to.

QUESTION: Would the State Department be opposed to the declassification of this – of these 28 pages?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into our internal discussions. This is a declassification review being done by the intelligence community.

Yes.

QUESTION: In 2003, the Saudis said that they wanted this full report to be declassified. Is that an interest that they’ve expressed more recently?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into the internal discussions. This is a review being done by the intelligence community. I would say the Saudis are a close and continuing counterterrorism partner, as we’ve discussed many times.

Yes, Michele.

QUESTION: Do you know if the Muslim Brotherhood submitted a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing? And do you know who was representing them?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding those filings go to the Department of Justice, so they would be best able to speak to that (inaudible) the State Department.

QUESTION: Okay. And then also, did you have a chance to look at the statement posted on the official Muslim Brotherhood website? I think we talked about this last week.

MS. HARF: It’s not usually part of my morning reading, but maybe. Ask me some specifics.

QUESTION: Well, this was brought up last week and you hadn’t – or I think Jen was --

MS. HARF: Jen, yes.

QUESTION: -- talking about a video, but there was also an official statement that was posted there calling on their supporters to prepare for a jihad. Did you guys have a comment to that?

MS. HARF: Yes, I do have a little bit on that, I think. There was a video message, I think, put out that – of course, we would condemn any calls for violence, including the calls for violence that were included in that video. I think it was attributed to the Revolutionary Punishment Group. And the message contained in the video is certainly disturbing in light of last week’s attacks in the Sinai. We’ve certainly seen the statement specifically on jihad and are seeking more information on that, but again, would condemn any call for violence, and don’t have more than that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Will the statement change the way that you are dealing – or you deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?

MS. HARF: Well, we engage with a variety of parties in Egypt. As you know, the Muslim Brotherhood is not designated as a terrorist organization – the United States, and not much more to share than that.

QUESTION: But if they are calling for jihad now.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re looking into it and obviously would condemn any call for violence, and we’re looking into the specific statement about jihad to get some more information.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: I know that Jen said on Tuesday that in general you don’t support the Human Rights Commission after the stepping down of Judge Schabas. But yesterday, a new person took over the commission, former New York prosecutor Mary McGowan Davis. Do you still have the same position that you don’t support any kind of commission, any kind of an investigatory commission?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if our position has changed.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just ask you a couple of things on the issue of settlements. The Palestinians issued a repor