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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 31, 2014

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 17:35

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 31, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:34 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Halloween. I know it’s late today and it’s Halloween, so we can try to get through this rather quickly.

I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry will travel to Paris, Beijing, and Muscat from November 4th through the 12th. He will travel to Paris, France on November 4th through the 6th to meet with French Foreign Minister Fabius.

On November 7th through the 8th, he will lead the Department of State’s delegation to the APEC Ministerial Meeting. While in Beijing, Secretary Kerry will participate in a broad range of multilateral and bilateral meetings with officials from APEC-member countries in advance of President Obama’s visit to Beijing for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting. APEC is the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the Asia Pacific region. Promoting trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region remains a key component of the U.S. rebalance policy.

On November 9th and 10th, Secretary Kerry will travel to Muscat, Oman to participate in a trilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton as part of the EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Secretary will be accompanied by the former Deputy Secretary of State Ambassador Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, and the U.S. negotiating team.

On November 10th through 12th, Secretary Kerry will return to Beijing to accompany President Obama during his visit to China to participate in bilateral meetings.

Two more items. We welcome news of an EU-brokered gas deal between Russia and Ukraine that will secure gas to Ukraine and ultimately the rest of Europe through the upcoming winter. The agreement is a positive step.

At the same time, we have grave concerns that separatists plan to go ahead with illegitimate and illegal elections in areas of eastern Ukraine on Sunday. The United States will not recognize the results. These elections violate the letter and spirit of the September 5th Minsk ceasefire agreement, which calls for elections in the east in line with the Ukrainian law on special status. Any moves to try to legitimize the results will undermine the Minsk agreement. We call on all nations to similarly reject the illegal effort and instead support the legal December 7th local elections.

We also condemn the burning of a historic movie theater in Kyiv yesterday that was screening an LGBT-focused movie. We call for a swift and transparent investigation into this repulsive act, which may also constitute a hate crime.

As part of the newly – finally, as part of the newly launched comprehensive partnership, the United States and Malaysia held the fourth senior officials dialogue October 30th through the 31st in Washington, D.C. Assistant Secretary Russel welcomed Malaysian MFA Deputy Secretary General Ramlan and an interagency delegation. The United States and Malaysia took the opportunity to discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues and agreed to hold the fifth senior officials dialogue next year in Malaysia.

Very short final one: Secretary Kerry called Ibu Retno Marsudi on her appointment to be the new foreign minister in Indonesia. We look forward to working with the new working cabinet.

With that, Lara.

QUESTION: Thank you. I saw right before we came out the statement about executions in Anbar and wanted to talk a little bit about ISIL, both in Iraq and in Syria. One, what was your reaction to the new reports about the foreign fighter flow coming into Syria and Iraq, that the airstrikes have not seemed to stop these – this flow? And then also, I’m wondering if you saw the reports that some of the Peshmerga who went into Kobani over the last day or two have come out, and they’re saying that Turkey isn’t supporting them – if you have a reaction to that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me take the first one. As you know, cracking down on foreign fighters is one of the most important components of our effort to degrade and defeat ISIL. It’s one of the five elements of the coalition and something that we are working with every member of the coalition on. Over the past year, the Department of State has led interagency delegations to Western Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Gulf to press for greater cooperation on – both bilaterally and regionally – on information sharing, border security, law enforcement, capacity building, and countering violent extremism. This engagement has directly resulted in steps such as stronger counterterrorism laws and arrests through the Balkans region, increased security cooperation in North Africa, terrorist financing reforms in the Gulf, and closer cooperations with Western European counterparts.

But we know that this is a long-term effort. Obviously, there are new laws and new steps that have put in place, but it’s going to continue to take some time. It’s positive that a number of countries in the region have taken steps to put new laws on the books, to take additional steps at their borders, and we’re going to continue to work with them, because we feel this is such a strong and important priority.

QUESTION: Do you have any explanation for why it’s starting to ramp up again now? There is some linkage to the airstrikes, the point being that the airstrikes hadn’t stopped this. I’m wondering if the airstrikes may have actually caused – been kind of a rallying cry for more to go, if there’s any analysis on that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s our analysis. And I don’t think, as far as I read the story, that’s what the story said, but that’s not our analysis. Obviously, what I was getting at here is that there has been additional steps and additional actions by countries in the region to do more to crack down on foreign fighters. And we know that there have been – there has been a history where that has not been the case. That’s a positive step. Does that mean it’s resolved? Obviously, it’s not resolved. But we don’t have a new assessment of the numbers. I expect that’s something we may have soon.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Lara’s question on the foreign fighters, you know the majority of these fighters come through Turkey. Why do you think the Turks are not really cracking down on foreign fighters? They have always – I mean, this is not something that has happened overnight. This is something chronic. It’s been going on for three and a half years.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m not sure there’s evidence – or factual evidence to back that specifically up. I will say that this is one of the topics of discussion that the Secretary has had with his Turkish counterparts, that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk has discussed with them. Turkey has taken additional steps to crack down on foreign fighters. They have made a number of arrests over the course of the last several months. Is there more that needs to be done? Absolutely there’s more that needs to be done. And that’s part of the discussion that we’ll continue to have.

QUESTION: Do you think that Turkey has been looking the other way while these foreign fighters are going in?

MS. PSAKI: I think the fact that they have taken additional steps recently is evidence that they’re beginning to do more.

QUESTION: Like what? What are these steps?

MS. PSAKI: They’ve put laws on the books. They’ve made some arrests. They’ve done more on their borders.

QUESTION: But the border remains quite porous, in fact. And in fact, a lot of people go through – slip through that border.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there – I just said there are additional steps they’ve taken. I pointed you to those. And obviously there’s more that needs to be done.

QUESTION: Do you believe that Turkey has its own agenda in this scheme, in this big – in the scheme of things, I should say?

MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that Turkey is not just a NATO ally, but they’re an important partner in this coalition. They’ve taken a range of steps. We’ll continue to discuss with them what more they can do.

QUESTION: Can you speak to my --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. What was your second question again?

QUESTION: -- second question about Kobani? It was about the Peshmerga fighters who went into Kobani and who have come out. They’re saying that Turkey isn’t supporting them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that there have been ongoing discussions on the ground between – that involve Turkey, of course, about moving the Peshmerga through. I remind you that Turkey is the one – is the country that said that they would be comfortable with having them come through, and they’ve actively talked about facilitating that. As – I think our last assessment of this – sorry, let me just pull this up. One moment.

QUESTION: Do you have any understanding of why – what’s your understanding of why the Peshmerga have come back out?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an independent analysis for you. I think we’ve seen that there has been some progress over the past couple of days in terms of who’s traveling in and out. I would point you to them for more specifics on that.

Do we have any more on this topic?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The French president has said today that he supports the conditions that the Turkish President Erdogan puts to join the coalition. How do you view this statement?

MS. PSAKI: I – can you give a little more context for what he means specifically by that?

QUESTION: We know that the Turkish president asked for the creation of a buffer zone and --

MS. PSAKI: And did the French president say specifically that he wants a buffer zone?

QUESTION: He said that he supports the conditions --

MS. PSAKI: And he said that in the past, too. I’m not sure that’s new.

QUESTION: No, he said it today, with the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know, but I’m just getting that – the fact that France has said that they would support that in the past.

QUESTION: But he said that in the --

MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed on that. Turkey and France are important partners in the coalition. We continue to discuss with them, as we do with all of our partners, what ideas they may have about how to address the threat of ISIL. That’s an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: But you disagree with the both of them?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re familiar with our position.

QUESTION: But the conditions also that Turkey put down calls also for the removal of Assad and actually targeting Syrian forces and air assets, or air defense assets, and so on. So it’s a whole – it’s a package deal. It’s not just one thing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think I’d point to the fact that Turkey has already made a range of contributions in all of the lines of effort. The United States and Turkey have a shared interest in defeating ISIL, seeing a political transition in Syria, and bringing stability to Iraq. Turkey also plays an important role in supporting international peace in many parts of the world. We’re working with them on all those objectives. Obviously, we don’t agree on every component, but they remain an important partner and we have the same – many of the same objectives we want to achieve.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Regarding the foreign fighters in ISIL, from your answer it’s not clear enough that – are you – are you agreeing or not agreeing with what was mentioned today in The Washington Post that their number is increasing or not? I mean, this is like a reality or just news story?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have an assessment from the United States Government on numbers. We’ve given numbers in the past that obviously comes out of other agencies. What I was pointing to is the fact that there are a range of steps that we have worked on diplomatically with a number of these countries on cracking down on foreign fighters, whether it’s putting new laws on the books, whether it’s doing more to crack down on borders. That’s one of the primary topics of discussion as it relates to the coalition.

QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking because at the beginning of the year it was mentioned the number of around five or six thousand, and then by July it reached more than 15,000 people from 80 countries. And when you say additional steps were taken by countries who are really concerned about or they have – they are concerned about the foreign fighters, do you have any assessment of these additional steps block some people from entering there, or it’s just like additional steps on the paper?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I’d say first on your first part, we have talked before in the past publicly about our assessment that ISIL can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria. That’s based on a review of all intelligence reports from May to August. And we saw an increase over the previous assessment, which is consistent with what we’ve been saying, which is that they grew in strength and numbers over the course of the early period of this year. We’ve seen specific impacts and countries – we’re working on an Iraq first strategy, which is something we’ve consistently talked about. We’ve seen the Iraqi Security Forces strengthen in some areas. We’ve seen efforts to try to take back some parts of territories. But this is going to be a long process, so I just don’t have a new assessment for you.

QUESTION: The other thing which is like always when this story or this issue is raised is based on the – one of the front line or the lines that you are fighting, which is propaganda war or what we can say deviating people from being misled by the ISIL message. Do you still believe there is a link between these two thing, I mean that the war of the – let’s say the war of ideas has to be done in order to stop these people from going there?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. The question of what is attracting individuals to join ISIL, to travel across borders is one that is key to us addressing the threat. And that’s why we’ve spent time and energy and the – of high-level State Department officials, including Under Secretary Stengel, to try to coordinate efforts to combat that.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to make the assessment of what you are doing of war of ideas, but generally people are linking between the increasing of the number and the Administration or generally the coalition failure in doing this war, I mean, properly or efficiently. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I would not. I think that there is a recognition that more needs to be done to take on ISIL messaging and that they have been effective in using online tools to recruit and to provide often misleading information out there. This is something – it’s not that the United States is the sole – will not be the sole owner of this. We will work with many countries in the region who have more impactful voices in the region to do that.

QUESTION: Do you think that --

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I go to Anbar?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Your statement about Anbar really quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m just reading over – as you know, this came out right before we --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- came here. And it just reminds me so much of what we saw in Iraq in 2006. And as the propaganda and the message of ISIL is kind of a “you’re either with us or you’re against us” type of thing, and so I wonder if that’s what was the circumstances for these executions of these Sunni militia tribesmen. I’m wondering if there’s anything more that the U.S. can do or plans to do to get the Sunni tribesmen to continue standing against ISIL in Anbar, which as you know – where the Sahwa beginning – the Awakening Council was, and such a turning point of that war.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, as – Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey spoke a little bit to this yesterday, but we know that the Sunni tribes are going to have to be and will be a key part of any effort to defeat ISIL, and it’s also in their interests for the security of their provinces as well. It’s about, sure, what we’re doing, and Secretary – I mean – I’m sorry, Ambassador McGurk and General Allen have made efforts to meet with Iraqi leaders and, certainly, leaders of the Sunni tribes when they’ve been on the ground to engage them in this effort.

But it’s also about what the prime minister is doing, and how Prime Minister Abadi is engaging with officials. Just earlier this week, he met with a number of tribal leaders in Anbar to try to engage them in this effort to take on ISIL. I think we’ve felt from the beginning that unity and work across all of the parties in Iraq is the only way that they will be successful. So yes, you’re right there are, if you look back – although they’re entirely different scenarios. But certainly, we can look back and know that the Sunni tribes will play a key part in the success here. That’s why we’re working with the prime minister on this national guard plan which is beginning to be implemented. It’s going to take some time, and certainly, we recognize that.

QUESTION: How much time do you think it’ll take, and do you think those tribesmen are getting paid yet? Because that’s what a lot of that will come down to, is whether they’re getting paid.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of the time it will take. It’s probably more appropriate at DOD; I can check with them and see if they have any assessment of that. I know that we’ve started to start the implementation process of it – the Iraqis have.

QUESTION: But looking at the urgency of the situation – I mean, it all comes down to payments, because that’s what happened when Maliki stopped paying them after U.S. departure. Basically, they went back (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with the history, and obviously, incorporating them into the overarching work of the Iraqi Security Forces and ensuring they have the resources they need is certainly part of the factors.

QUESTION: And this – I’m sorry, one question on the national guard. Will this national guard include only Sunni – or will it include others, like the – perhaps incorporating the Shia militias?

MS. PSAKI: It will include – it’s about them all working together, Said.

Go ahead, Leslie.

QUESTION: Is your assessment of the situation – I mean, we know over the last few weeks you’ve been raising concerns about Anbar. I mean, is your assessment that this situation is grave now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there have been – “ups and downs” is probably a too low-key way of stating it, but – in Anbar. And we’ve known – this is one of the reasons that there have been numerous airstrikes by the United States, by partner nations in Anbar province. And it’s something – it’s an area where we of course are watching closely, and we’re adapting our strategy as needed. But the province has been under severe threat since the beginning of this year, and the situation remains contested. So we’ve seen it have many ups and downs, and it’s one of the reasons it’s an area we’re especially focused on.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: I think – let’s almost wrap this up so we can move to a new topic, but go ahead.

QUESTION: On Syria too, Secretary Kerry said yesterday answering a question, “In Iraq, if we didn’t get engaged, I don’t know where ISIL would be today – maybe in Baghdad. What would happen then with Assad and deterioration if ISIL commanded even more territory?” What did he mean by that, do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he means that our engagement and work with the Iraqi Government – which, obviously, they were the leaders on – to form a new government, to have leadership that ruled in a more inclusive manner, to assess the Iraqi Security Forces, to build a coalition to take on airstrikes – or to take on ISIL with airstrikes and military action but also other components, has led to helping to push back ISIL from where it could have been. We’ll never – it’s hard to prove it, but I think there’s no question without these efforts, ISIL would’ve made more progress.

QUESTION: But in his words regarding President Assad that “what would happen then with Assad and deterioration if ISIL commanded” – did he mean that the U.S. doesn’t want Assad to fall to the benefit of ISIL and ISIL takes control?

MS. PSAKI: No, I think our position has been consistent. I don’t think he actually said exactly as you’ve said --

QUESTION: Yeah, this is from the transcript.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look at the context, but I have to be honest with you: Our position has continued to be that we don’t see a place for Assad. He’s lost his legitimacy. I don’t think he was inferring that at all. He was making the point that without our effort and without our engagement, things would be far worse than they are today.

QUESTION: And there are news stories today too saying that the U.S. is in discussion with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran on the future of the president, the Syrian president. Can you confirm these reports?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly been engaged with a range of countries to discuss how we can reach a political solution. We’re obviously not there at this point. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, we’re working on an Iraq first strategy. We’ve, of course, begun engaging militarily in Syria and otherwise. We all – we want to get to a political solution there, so it’s only natural we’d be talking to countries in the region about that.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So are you --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- talking to Iran on Assad?

MS. PSAKI: Not more than you’re aware of, Lesley.

QUESTION: I was just – the alarm bells went off.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. First of all, the Secretary Kerry called Abbas today, and can you share with us --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- if there’s a readout?

MS. PSAKI: You want a readout of --

QUESTION: Yes, right.

MS. PSAKI: And he also spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe, it was last night. Let me just make sure.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Here’s my little call cheat sheet. You just caught me. Okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night and discussed the situation in Jerusalem and the importance of de-escalating tensions. The Secretary emphasized the importance of refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserving the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. He also spoke with President Abbas this morning. He expressed his serious concern about the escalating tensions in Jerusalem. He stressed the importance of both sides taking steps to calm the situation, refrain from actions and rhetoric that could enflame the situation, and work cooperatively to lower tensions and discourage violence.

QUESTION: Are you doing anything else to lower tensions, I mean, other than just talking to the leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, talking to the leaders – and given Secretary Kerry’s strong relationship with them – we feel is an important component of what we’re doing. Obviously, on the ground, we’re continuing to encourage that directly with many counterparts in the Israeli Government and with the Palestinians as well.

QUESTION: And let me ask you: A Kuwaiti newspaper is saying that a high-level Palestinian delegation will be here on Monday. Can you tell us anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Secretary Kerry will meet with Saeb Erekat on Monday, November 3rd. They plan to discuss the way forward for the Middle East, the situation in Gaza, and lowering tensions in Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) delegation next week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have additional details on the delegation. I’d certainly ask the Palestinians that.

QUESTION: And finally, I wanted to ask you – I know that it’s not something --

QUESTION: Can we just stay on – is this still on Israel?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. I just want to – on the – the status of Jerusalem is going to be before the Supreme Court on Monday. I know this is just beginning.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wonder if you had a chance to look at this issue and have anything else to add.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an ongoing legal proceeding, as you know, so I’m not going to have --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- additional comment. We have filed – made numerous filings in this case, and certainly would refer you to those briefs for details of our positions. Obviously, the Department of Justice has the lead.

QUESTION: For Israelis that are born in Tel Aviv, does it say Tel Aviv, Israel?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice for --

QUESTION: Or does it say Israel? No, on the passports. This is a --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice --

QUESTION: -- State Department issue, isn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: -- for details on the case.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just back to the phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you say whether the issue of these comments, these un-named U.S. officials with the “chicken bleep” comments that – whether that came up and whether Secretary Kerry expressed any disappointment with them or that they don’t reflect --

MS. PSAKI: Let me check with him. I didn’t have a chance to ask him that question this morning.

QUESTION: Okay. Because there were some reports that, in fact --

QUESTION: Haaretz is reporting.

QUESTION: Yeah, he raised it and that Kerry kind of apologized for that --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry reiterated what he said many times publicly, which is that these don’t represent his views or the President’s views. But I’ll check with him.

QUESTION: But would you be surprised if he apologized to Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: I think he likely reiterated just as I said.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Well, one more on Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Israeli finance minister vetoed today new spending on infrastructure for Jewish settlement in the West Bank. How do you view this step?

MS. PSAKI: I hadn’t seen that report. I’m happy to check on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you again on the issue of someone – if a U.S. citizen was born or naturalized, let’s say, in Bombay, India. Does it say “India” or does it say “Bombay, India”?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Because, I mean, I want to ask about this issue --

MS. PSAKI: Said, I’m sorry. We have to move on because it’s Friday afternoon.

QUESTION: Burkina Faso?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s do Burkina Faso.

QUESTION: Was it a coup that happened today when the head of the armed forces took power?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we spoke about this a little bit yesterday. I don’t have a ton new. Obviously, we’re continuing to assess what’s happening on the ground. So I don’t have a new assessment or label at this point in time.

QUESTION: Well, when the military takes over for a government without a democratic election, is that a coup?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, we look at every situation. We look at every situation and make sure we make an evaluation based on the circumstances on the ground.

QUESTION: Now, how do you anticipate that this will affect your significant security cooperation with Burkina Faso, because it is used as a hub to do counterterrorism activities in the area, particularly against AQIM.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s just too early to assess that. We’re certainly concerned about unfolding events. We regret the violence and the loss of life and certainly call on all parties to avoid further violence and respect the constitutional process. But events are unfolding quickly and we are – continue to track them. I expect we’ll continue to have more to say as we know more.

QUESTION: I mean, is there any way – is there anything that you think needs to be – as they move forward, I mean, obviously whether you would advise or press them to move quickly with elections or to resolve this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we have been in touch with senior officials in Burkina Faso, including with the president. We underscored our commitment to peaceful transitions of power through democratic elections and emphasized neither side should attempt to change the situation through extra-constitutional means. So obviously, we have concerns about what we’re seeing on the ground, but we’ve also spoken in the past and it continues to be our view that there are limitations – term limits in place for reasons. So we expressed both --

QUESTION: So you’re not calling for him to be reinstated?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re calling – we’re conveying exactly as I said, and we’re looking – continuing to assess what’s happening there.

QUESTION: Well, but are you calling for him to be reinstated or not?

MS. PSAKI: I would have said if we were.

QUESTION: So that means no?

MS. PSAKI: I would have said if we were, Elise.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this. Africa? Any more on Africa?

QUESTION: I have one on Africa.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Actually, on Sudan. Was there a readout that you could give us between Secretary Kerry and the foreign minister of Sudan?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything on that, Lara. I actually may. Hold on one second.

QUESTION: That’s what state media is reporting.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I’m not – they did speak, but let me – I just – let me see if I have anything for you in terms of a readout of it. Why don’t we venture to get that to you after the briefing?

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Question on China?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Unrelated to Secretary Kerry’s trip. Sorry if – I don’t know if you already spoke to this; I apologize if you did.

MS. PSAKI: No, no.

QUESTION: Earlier in the week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that there would be an anticorruption treaty or a deal signed at the APEC meeting. I was wondering if you guys have received any details from the Chinese side about that accord, what would be in it, and what would be expected of the U.S. side on such a thing.

MS. PSAKI: I think he’s likely referring to something that might happen at the leader’s meeting, so I would --

QUESTION: Sure, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- refer you to the White House for specifics on that. I don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: So you guys haven’t heard anything from --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re discussing with the White House and with the Chinese every component of the program, the agenda, and the deliverables, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Vice President Biden and to the Secretary of State Kerry asking them to stop the blatant violation by Turkey against Cyprus. Do you agree with Mr. Menendez that what Turkey is doing is a violation of international law?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certain we will reply to Chairman Menendez’s letter, as we always do. You’re familiar with our position on this issue, which certainly hasn’t changed. We continue to recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources and its exclusive economic zones. We continue to support strongly the negotiation process conducted under UN Good Offices to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. But I don’t have anything new to preview for you.

QUESTION: Okay, can I have a follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In August Secretary Kerry asked China to freeze all provocation acts in South China Sea. What China did is – was what Turkey is doing today in Cyprus. He said, and I quote, “We need to work together to manage tension in the South China Sea.” You know the statement that – by Mr. Kerry. Why the State Department does not respond in the same way to the Turkey provocation in Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: Because every --

QUESTION: What is the difference?

MS. PSAKI: -- region and every conflict and every country is different. So I’m not going to have the same talking point for different countries or regions.

QUESTION: Another – different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: India. Quickly, I have two questions, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One: It’s been now one month since Prime Minister Modi was in Washington, and – at the State Department, of course. He made two points when he was here – one in New York when he said that every American will get Indian visa on arrival in India. Any comments on that, if U.S. is going to follow what he said? Because that means he was talking about people-to-people relations, opening the visa, Indian visa for the U.S. citizens.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Goyal, we’re big believers in people-to-people programs, and we’ve been working with India on certainly increasing visas. But I don’t have anything new to preview for you.

QUESTION: And second, when he was in Washington, before he left Washington, he spoke with the 500 Fortune companies at the U.S.-India Business Council, where he said that India will open for these American companies invest in India, and also make in India. So what he said, that he wants to work with the U.S. companies to have their – India’s doors will be open. So anything about that, if any request has come from the U.S. companies to invest in India or, like in the past, there were some problems about --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, I’ll just tell you it’s an ongoing discussion. We think India is a great market and one that we certainly believe is – there are opportunities for U.S. businesses --

QUESTION: And finally, one more quickly.

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on just because we don’t have unlimited time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, on the internal State Department memo about bringing non-U.S. citizens to the U.S. for Ebola treatment, our congressional sources have pushed back on your suggestion that the author of the Ebola memo was some mid-level official. Do you wish to clarify?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay. One more on this: Our sources also insist that the memo was also sent to DHS to begin the interagency decision-making process. So folks on the Hill are saying your comment that it never went anywhere isn’t true. What’s your response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the fact is it wasn’t – as I said the other day, it wasn’t – didn’t go through any of the typical process – internal process to senior decision makers. It wasn’t sent through any official interagency process. I can’t assess whether it was sent over an email or not. I don’t have any more information for you on that. But the bottom line is it’s irrelevant, as are their complaints, because this is not a policy we’re considering; it’s not one that we’re applying; it’s not one that we support. So it’s not a memo that is relevant at this point.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Reports that the Houthis have taken over Sana’a and have given President Hadi ten days to form a government.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team. I hadn’t seen that report before I came out here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But why don’t we get something around to all of you on it.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just a very fast follow-up --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you take it?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I’m happy to take it. We’ll get – we’ll take it and do a TQ.

QUESTION: Thanks. And just very quickly, there’s also – and you may be aware of this --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.

QUESTION: -- some work between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to create kind of a regional quick response force or regional force to respond to militant threats across the Mideast. I’m wondering if this is something that you all are aware of, and how realistic it is to create something like this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think my – I think my counterparts at the Department of Defense spoke to this and the fact that we’re continuing to work with coalition partners, of which they are all members or partners, to determine how to best take on the threat of ISIL. So there’s just an ongoing discussion. I don’t have anything more for you in terms of what --

QUESTION: But this wouldn’t be necessarily ISIL. It’s for – it could be for Yemen, for example --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- or in Libya, for example. It’s just militancy response.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD. They’re the most appropriate outlet for that.

QUESTION: Well, I was just going to say, is that something that you would support without coordination with U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’d have to see what it is. It’s obviously just an initial report, and I’d point you to what my colleague at the Department of Defense said.

QUESTION: Boo.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Jo.

QUESTION: Hi. Sorry for --

QUESTION: No, I’m sorry. Go on.

QUESTION: -- running in and out.

MS. PSAKI: Did you say “boo”?

QUESTION: Yes. I thought we were done. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh. Sorry, I cut off Arshad’s grand moment. (Laughter.)

Just a very quick question. I wanted to ask about an American guy called Robert Alan Black, who apparently has disappeared in Abu Dhabi. They believe he’s being held in jail, possibly for taking photos of the wrong things. Do you have any information about him?

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Abu Dhabi. We take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens overseas seriously. The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is providing all possible consular assistance, but I can’t provide any additional information.

QUESTION: Well, but wait a minute. You’re aware of the report and you’re providing consular assistance? Those two things are inconsistent. Has the gentleman been found and arrested or --

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver, Elise.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: There’s not more I can share with all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more? All right. Happy Halloween, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:09 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 30, 2014

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 17:17

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 30, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:44 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I think we have a quorum. A couple of items for the top: The United States extends its deepest condolences to the Government and the people of Sri Lanka and the families affected by the recent landslides. The United States has received an official request for assistance from the Government of Sri Lanka. The ambassador – our ambassador on the ground has exercised her authority to declare a disaster and request assistance from Washington. The Department of State is currently working with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to respond quickly. We commend the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces for their rapid response and valiant search and rescue efforts.

It has been 100 days that – since Jason Rezaian, a U.S. citizen and reporter for The Washington Post, has been detained in Iran. That is 100 days too long. We echo the appeals of his family and friends and repeat our call for his immediate release so that he can be reunited with his loved ones. We also call for the release of U.S. citizens Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini, and again ask the Iranian authorities for their cooperation in finding Robert Levinson.

Finally, yesterday, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Doha, where they met with Qatari Prime Minister al-Thani, the minister of defense, and assistant foreign minister to discuss cooperation with Qatar across the five lines of coalition effort. They conveyed their appreciation for Qatar’s participation in coalition airstrikes in Syria, noted our support for steps Qatar has taken to counter ISIL’s access to financing, and discussed a number of other ways in which Qatar can continue its contributions to international coalition efforts.

They then traveled to Abu Dhabi, where they met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and other senior Emirati political, military, and national security officials. They also conveyed their appreciation for the UAE role in military airstrikes in Syria, noting important steps that the UAE has taken to tighten their counterterrorism laws and make it illegal for Emiratis to fight abroad. As with other stops, they discussed a number of steps in which the UAE can continue its contributions across the five lines of global coalition efforts.

They then traveled to Muscat for meetings with senior Omani political and military officials. While there, they conveyed their appreciation for the strong and historic partnership with Oman, and found broad agreement on the threat of ISIL and the comprehensive strategy for confronting it.

In all three countries, they also thanked interlocutors for their efforts in confronting ISIL online and countering ISIL’s messaging. Senior Emirati, Qatari, and Omani officials joined the U.S. and Kuwait in making strong statements at the Communicators Conference in Kuwait earlier this week. While there is still work to be done, we are encouraged by the consensus views.

I should also note, just so you’re all aware, that General Allen also did interviews with Al Jazeera, al-Arabiya, and Sky News Arabia, and the – I should say the transcripts of those are up on the website if anyone wants to take a look at them.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Thanks. Let’s start in the Middle East. The situation in and around Jerusalem is tense, to say the least, and getting intenser or more tense. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that, as well as about the shooting of an American citizen last --

MS. PSAKI: I do, and I – you can all expect we’ll send out a written statement from the Secretary about the situation on the ground as well. That should be out later this afternoon.

But let me say we condemn yesterday’s shooting of a U.S. citizen in Jerusalem. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. We’re in touch with authorities as we seek more information.

We’re extremely concerned by escalating tensions across Jerusalem and particularly surrounding the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the status quo in – on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in word and in practice. It must be reopened to Muslim worshippers. The continued commitment by Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to preserve the historic status quo at this holy site is critical. Any decisions or actions to change it would be both provocative and dangerous.

And finally, we’ve been in close touch, as I’ve mentioned or alluded to, with senior Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian officials to try to de-escalate the situation. I expect the Secretary will be speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the next 24 hours as well.

QUESTION: But – so since this shooting happened last night, there hasn’t been any --

MS. PSAKI: No. They’ve been working to schedule a call.

QUESTION: All right. And then you said – any change to which situation would be provocative and dangerous? I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we support the longstanding practices regarding non-Muslim visitors to the site, to Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. And consistent with our respect for the status quo, we would like to see it returned to that.

QUESTION: You would like to see a return to what it was yesterday, before the shooting happened?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And you said it would be – it must be reopened to non-Muslim worshippers – or must be reopened to Muslim worshippers.

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: Should – what is --

MS. PSAKI: The status --

QUESTION: -- the U.S. position on non-Muslim worshippers who might want to go to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s consistently been the case that we believe that Muslim worshippers should be able to worship, that there’s been a consistent --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- position of the United States.

QUESTION: Right. But you condemn the shooting of an American citizen who had advocated for non-Muslim worshippers to be able to go. But you don’t support that --

MS. PSAKI: Our position has not changed. It doesn’t mean we don’t condemn, of course, the shooting --

QUESTION: No, I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: -- and the death of an American citizen.

QUESTION: I get that. But he advocated something that you don’t necessarily support. That’s – or he advocated --

MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed on this issue. That’s true.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s it for me.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) can I bring up what – so the Secretary has not spoken to Netanyahu since the slur, the U.S. slur – and I won’t repeat it.

QUESTION: Come on. Let’s have some fun.

MS. PSAKI: Matt called it chicken salad yesterday, I think.

QUESTION: Chicken salad?

QUESTION: Yes. We can say chicken scratch. How’s that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So there’s not been a discussion over the last few hours?

MS. PSAKI: They’ve been working to schedule a call. We’ve reiterated that that is not the position of the United States. You’ve heard Secretary Kerry say that himself this morning. So --

QUESTION: One of the things that he also said this morning was that on the idea of getting the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the table and getting an agreement – he said we still think it’s doable. How on Earth can he think that it’s still doable, given the situation as it is today, and given the – whether or not chicken scratch is appropriate or whether or not it was said or whether or not – whatever, with the tensions that have built up between Washington and the prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: How is it possible?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what the Secretary was referring to in response to a question was the fact that, of course, we’re always going to keep the door open to a peace process and one that would achieve a two-state solution. We feel that’s the only way to have final, lasting peace in the region.

QUESTION: Right. I mean, you can’t – your business is to not close off an option. But I just don’t understand how he can say that he thinks that it’s still doable in the current --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he didn’t indicate it was starting tomorrow. Obviously --

QUESTION: He was kind of forward -- I mean, he was kind of optimistic, in a climate where – I mean, the name-calling and the back and forth notwithstanding, there is some – I mean, wouldn’t you acknowledge there’s some serious tensions in the relationship right now, not only because of this thing that happened the other day, but over comments that the defense minister have made about Secretary Kerry --

MS. PSAKI: Which were months and months ago.

QUESTION: Which were months and months ago, but did result in a little bit of snubbing last week, no matter – I mean, I think it’s been pretty acknowledged.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise --

QUESTION: Let me finish.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: And then the settlement construction and all of that stuff – I mean, obviously the security relationship is going to remain sacrosanct, but you provide a lot of political support to Israel right now that I don’t think necessarily they should take for granted, maybe.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, where we have deep concerns about highly contentious planning and construction, we make our views heard, as you’ve heard us talk about over the last couple of days. We’ve certainly also expressed publicly but also privately that taking steps like that are counterproductive to what their stated goal is, which is peace in the region.

QUESTION: Exactly, so how does the Secretary come out and say that restarting peace talks and getting back to the table right now is feasible when you have this – Israelis taking those type of actions, the Palestinians are looking to go to the United Nations – I mean, don’t you think it’s a little bit rosy assessment of where things are right now?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that was his intention. He was making clear that – and reiterating what we’ve said many times and what he believes, which is that this is the only way to resolve this cycle of tensions that we’ve seen in the region. And that’s why he will keep the door open and remain available as long as he is in this position.

QUESTION: So he was saying that it’s possible, as opposed to saying that it looks like they could do it at any – I mean, imminently.

MS. PSAKI: Well, he also said and has said many times that, of course, it’s up to the parties to make those choices, and certainly, we can’t do that for them, and that’s his belief as well.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry – is this still on Israel?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: In your opening when you talked about – you said it must be reopened to Muslim worshippers, you’ve seen the Palestinian spokesman or – spokesman for the Palestinian president say that the closure of it was a declaration of war. What do you make of that?

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t characterize it in that way or echo that.

QUESTION: Well, is that the kind of language that you’re looking for?

MS. PSAKI: We didn’t characterize it that way, so I don’t think it’s --

QUESTION: Well, okay, fair enough. The Israelis have been accusing President Abbas of inciting this kind of behavior. Do you believe that that is the case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly have been encouraging the leaders of all parties to exercise not only decisive leadership, but to work cooperatively together and lower tensions, and obviously, lowering tensions means lowering rhetoric and also taking actions that reflect that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, you said you’re extremely concerned with the situation in Jerusalem. In terms of the security operation that you’ve seen so far, are you concerned with that or are you so far satisfied; you just don’t want an escalation?

MS. PSAKI: Do you mean by the Israeli authorities?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t speaking to that. I was speaking to the tensions that obviously we’re all aware are happening on the ground right now.

QUESTION: Right, but so far, you haven’t seen anything that you’ve found to be disturbing --

MS. PSAKI: I don't know if there’s – if you want to be more specific, what – might be more helpful.

QUESTION: I’m going to move on, actually --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- just to the slur. There seems to be a sense in Jerusalem that there are folks in the Administration that are holding back open, public, coordinated and – criticism of Netanyahu and his government until the midterms. I just wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to that because that’s something that’s come up frequently in this room.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure anybody who thinks that that the President and the Secretary of State don’t feel – feel that those comments were inappropriate and counterproductive, and they’ll feel that way next Wednesday as well.

QUESTION: Sorry, they “do” feel it was --

MS. PSAKI: They do feel, yes --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- and they will feel that way next Wednesday as well.

QUESTION: One point of language that was authorized that I saw from one of your colleagues at NSC was that the U.S. Government is deeply concerned about Israel’s future, and that was a criticism that I thought was – that I hadn’t seen before and that it was particularly broad and piercing. Has that been the case for some time? Why --

MS. PSAKI: Do you have more context of what was said? I’m not sure what else was said around that specific comment.

QUESTION: It was from one of the spokespeople at the National Security Council, and they said – were saying that we’re deeply concerned about Israel’s future and we’re going to continue expressing our concerns, we’re not going to paper over our differences. But there’s a difference between, like, individual policy differences and being deeply concerned about Israel’s general future.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, obviously, we’ve been speaking about tensions in the region. I would point you to them to ask more specifics on that question.

QUESTION: Well, can I ask about Sweden?

QUESTION: Wait – oh, okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. Israel recalled the ambassador in Sweden in protest of the recognition of a Palestinian state. Now, I mean, are you concerned that this is not a one-off? There’s a lot of talk in Europe about other countries accepting a de facto Palestinian state. And so I’m just wondering when you talk about – kind of concerned about the future, it doesn’t seem like Israel will just continue to be able to call ambassadors around the world. I mean, do you think this is the right way to be dealing with this instead of addressing the issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly believe that the status quo is not sustainable and have long believed that. And obviously, no one wants to see a situation where there’s a cycle after cycle of violence and tensions and that the Israeli people are concerned about their safety and security, the Palestinian people have concerns. That’s why we support a peace process and a resolution.

As it relates to Sweden – and let me just reiterate this just so we can get it out there – as you know, we support Palestinian statehood, but it is – it can only come through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve final status issues and end the conflict. Certainly, it doesn’t require our view. It requires the facts out there of what we’ve seen from some countries responding to the lack of a resolution of a peace process out there, and I think that speaks for itself.

QUESTION: Jen, sorry for being late. On this very point, it can only come about through direct negotiations. Direct negotiations have been going on for a very long time, for the better part of these last 23 years, and we really have not seen a state for the Palestinians let alone sort of the end of settlement activities and so on. In the absence of a – at least on the horizon, in the absence of any kind of breakthrough in the near future, what would you advise the Palestinians to do in order to sustain a place where they can build a state and at the same time not cross you, so to speak?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, it’s a fair point you’ve raised, in the sense that it’s not just negotiations. It’s obviously a direct – a final status agreement between the parties that will resolve the tensions over the long term. So that certainly is what our goal and our objective is. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, certainly both sides can take steps to reduce the tensions, and that relates to rhetoric and actions, and that’s what we would encourage them to do.

QUESTION: Does the idea of, let’s say, the United States that has been really this sort of husbander or the shepherder of this whole peace process all throughout – doesn’t it become more palatable, the idea that the U.S. should sort of propose its own, knowing that we know where the state is going to be? It’s not going to be on the moon. It’s going to be on the West Bank and Gaza, right? Roughly ’67 borders. Knowing that, wouldn’t it be prudent for the U.S. to actually take a step and it would not – it would be in conformity with the international law and what you guys agree on, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, it remains the case that it will – would require the parties to agree on every issue --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- whether that’s security issues or borders, as you referenced. So that may feel satisfying for one day of a news story, but we obviously have to factor in a range of factors as we determine what the next steps should be.

QUESTION: But let me just, if you’ll allow me a follow – to follow up – this is like the Hatfields and the McCoys. I mean, both parties are not going to agree or see eye-to-eye on every issue on every detail, and so on. So they’re --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s why they need to compromise.

QUESTION: They need to compromise. But don’t --

MS. PSAKI: That’s part of a negotiation.

QUESTION: I mean, don’t you feel that the United States ought to be coaxing them into compromising?

MS. PSAKI: The United States remains ready, willing, available to play a facilitating role and contribute in any way we can. But the parties need to make the choices necessary.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally --

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on here, Said, because there are other issues.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, I know you probably addressed the tensions --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and I’m sure you probably --

MS. PSAKI: I gave a – I spoke about it at the top, yes.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to know if there’s any update on the investigations into the two cases of American citizens being killed.

MS. PSAKI: No, there are no updates that I have.

QUESTION: All right. And have you – it’s been some time now. It’s been a week --

MS. PSAKI: It’s been a couple of days, yes.

QUESTION: It’s been about a week.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s been --

MS. PSAKI: It’s been about a week.

QUESTION: -- almost a week or more than a – what’s today? Thursday. So one was Wednesday and one was Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, it’s been a week.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you not at all concerned that the investigations are --

MS. PSAKI: We continue to press for a speedy resolution of the investigations.

QUESTION: But would you call this speedy, though?

MS. PSAKI: Elise, it’s been a week. We discuss this in every – almost every conversation we have, but there hasn’t been a resolution yet.

QUESTION: Right, but – right, but there was a resolution to the – a very speedy resolution, apparently, to the – what happened last night.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: That investigation appears to be closed now with the death of the alleged assailant. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on the status of the investigation. So –

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) were you able (inaudible) independent sources that he was, in fact, the alleged assassin or would-be assassin? The Palestinians (inaudible) themselves?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on it than I shared at the top.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, sorry to return to this --

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- but I got the context that you were asking for, and I assume, naturally, that this position is the same as your colleagues at the NSA: “We raise our concerns as a partner who is deeply concerned about Israel’s future and want to see it living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors.” Again, maybe I’m harping on it too much, but the language seems to be such that it’s broader – it’s a broader critique. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I think that statement is pretty clear and consistent with what we’ve said, which is that when you look at recent announcements of settlement activity that clearly are going to raise some tensions in the region, that those type of steps are counterproductive to the stated goal of having a two-state solution. And that’s what it’s referring to.

QUESTION: Jen, I have one more on Sweden’s overture today.

MS. PSAKI: On Sweden? Sure.

QUESTION: Yes. Do these recognitions – and we’ve had several others, several other countries do the same – ultimately, do they weaken the hands of negotiators in that they give the Palestinians a sense that perhaps there are other options, other ways to get the recognition that they are seeking? Will these types of overtures ultimately work against the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t had that specific concern expressed by our team who does negotiations. I think, obviously, finding a – coming to a conclusion of negotiations – which we’re certainly not at that point – is – there are a great number of motivations for that, including the fact that the international community would like to see two states living side-by-side, and certainly Israel wants to have not just – Palestinians not just want to have a Palestinian state, but the Israelis want to continue to have productive and constructive relationships with countries around the world. I’d have to talk to them and see if that’s a specific concern they have, not one that I’ve heard them express.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You were going to get back to us on the reaction to the UN report, which kind of looked for new action against North Korea, possibly recommending a referral to the International Criminal Court.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you know, that recommendation was included in the Commission of Inquiry’s final report. As you also know, we’re not a party to the ICC, and we typically don’t make specific recommendations. But we do support the recommendations included in the report, and we’ll work with the Security Council on that.

QUESTION: But I mean, just in a more general, without talking about, like, referral to the international court, I mean, do you think it’s time for more international action, in general, to be taken against North Korea for its well-documented human rights violations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, this is something that the UN and our special rapporteur of the UN has done quite a bit of work on. We’re continuing to work with them. There are a range of recommendations in there that include additional action. So we’ll see what happens with those recommendations.

QUESTION: But I mean, do you think that enough has been done to address North Korea’s human rights record without talking about --

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, North Korea continues to have one of the worst human rights records in the world. So that’s one of the reasons the Secretary did the event, to highlight these issues when we were at the UN – or sorry, at the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. And clearly, there’s more that can be done. What is that and what form it takes is something we’ll have to continue to work with our UN partners on.

QUESTION: Now, thank you to my colleague Matt for asking yesterday about those soap operas. But I mean, on a more general sense, there is a – there are several reports and widespread belief that the regime is continuing to purge party officials. Can you speak to that? Is that a concern of yours? And what does it say about the --

MS. PSAKI: I spoke to it yesterday. I don’t have any more information. I mean – but what I said is that, while I can’t confirm it independently, of course, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime, if true. And certainly if there is more information to be shared, we’ll have more to say.

QUESTION: The regime put out some photos today of North Korea – of the leader, King Jong-un, inspecting fighter planes and the such, kind of trying to portray this image of North Korean military might. And there’s been a lot of rhetoric coming from North Korea, but there’s also been a lot of mixed messages about this charm offensive. So what do you think’s going on, and is there a concern that North Korea could be planning something?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that we have much more analysis other than to convey that, clearly, they have their own audience to portray and project who their leader is and what their leader is doing. While I don’t have more details on where he was for quite some time, obviously there were questions raised about that. So beyond that, I don’t have any other predictions of what it means or what the photos might mean.

QUESTION: And just one more. Now that Jeffrey Fowle has been released, is there any optimism that Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller will be released? Or do you think that that was just a one-off and you have a ways to go on these others?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly continue to press for that. I don’t have anything publicly I can share. Obviously, we’re working on that every single day. But I wouldn’t go so far as expressing optimism. I don’t think we’re quite at that point yet.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up question?

MS. PSAKI: On North Korea? Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to a statement by North Korean foreign ministry a few hours ago that there will be unpredictable consequences --

MS. PSAKI: The North Korean foreign ministry?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: If the resolution on human rights is adopted at the United Nations. Do you have any response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think without having taken a look at the statement, I would say, as we’ve long said, that that type of rhetoric and threats is unproductive and does nothing to help North Korea take steps to show the international community they want to abide by their obligations.

QUESTION: One more on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a report – AP report from Pyongyang that North Korea has decided to quarantine all foreigners regardless of where they are coming from to – because of Ebola fears. Do you have a – what do you think of that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that there are travelers flowing into North Korea that would be impacted by that, but – and I don’t have any confirmation of that specifically. Obviously, we’ve taken steps here to put in place new guidelines through the CDC that we think are the right approach. Beyond that, I don’t think I have much more.

QUESTION: Well, if you’re taking steps, I mean, don’t you think that all countries should be taking steps?

MS. PSAKI: Well –

QUESTION: Including North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Every country is going to make decisions as it relates to their travelers, how it impacts them. I don’t have any more specifics or details on North Korea’s guidelines, I should say.

QUESTION: Egypt?

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s do Turkey and then we can do – just because we haven’t gone to him yet, if that’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey and Syria, a couple questions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One on Turkey. Today, Washington Post was reporting that Turkey and U.S. alliance in crumble, there are some serious problems between the countries. Is there any way you can give us your assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that – don’t believe everything you read because Turkey remains not only an important NATO ally but a partner in these efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. You’re aware and I’m sure have been reporting the progress being made with the Peshmerga moving in to help push back on ISIL in Kobani. We continue to have an active dialogue with Turkey about additional steps they can take. And as you know, we work with Turkey on a range of issues, so I don’t think that is the view or experience of this building in any way.

QUESTION: On Kobani, I think that there are different numbers regarding Peshmergas. What’s your understanding? How many Peshmergas do you think entered Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: I understand why you’re asking. We’re just not going to be confirming numbers from here. I would certainly encourage you to make that request of Turkish authorities.

QUESTION: Would you encourage more Peshmergas to move? Are you in touch with Turkey or KRG on --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the reports. We certainly, as you know, welcome the steps that are – have been taken and are being implemented right now. And we’ll continue to discuss with them what additional role they may play.

QUESTION: Some suggested these Peshmergas, whatever the number is, will be taken care of by the U.S. or the coalition in terms of salaries or other necessities. Do you know anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that. Not that I’m aware of. Our role, as you know, is the airstrikes, and you’re familiar with the drops we’ve done, et cetera.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you issued a statement regarding Syrian regime --

MS. PSAKI: Barrel bombs.

QUESTION: -- bombardment on camp. Do you have any channels to channel your condemnation to directly Syrian regime? How do you coordinate or --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not quite sure what your question is.

QUESTION: You do this condemnation publicly.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: My question is: Is there another way you also convey your strong condemnation directly with the Syrian regime?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve long had a means of communicating. We obviously don’t outline that. We talked about how we did that in advance of the airstrikes, but I don’t have any more for you on that.

QUESTION: One more. Saudi Prince Turki just yesterday stated that ISIS wouldn’t be threat if the U.S. had armed Syrian moderate rebels in the past. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Said if – say that one more time.

QUESTION: ISIS – ISIL wouldn’t be threat if U.S. had armed in the past Syrian moderate rebels.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first remind you that, obviously, we increased the scale and scope of our assistance more than a year ago, and we’ve continued to do more to support the moderate opposition, including the train and equip program that you’re familiar with. But I would also remind you that the impact of ISIL or the threat of ISIL is not just to Syria; it’s also to countries in the region. We’ve seen the growth in Iraq. Obviously, we saw the – we’ve seen the growth of safe havens in Syria, but there are a range of ways that the threat of ISIL grew, and I don’t think we would view that as an accurate depiction of what happened.

QUESTION: Conversely, was it unwise, perhaps, to flood the Syrian opposition with so much aid in the past, seeing that, how they morphed into ISIS today?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure – are you suggesting --

QUESTION: Well, I mean many of these elements, many of these moderate elements, sort of morphed, developed into ISIS and have joined ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that notion.

QUESTION: And perhaps maybe --

MS. PSAKI: Said, that’s not accurate. But go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s not accurate? You don’t think that much of you aid went actually to elements that may have grown to be ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are times when we would look into this if we feel it’s happened, but making a sweeping statement like that is simply just not accurate.

QUESTION: Do you feel that at least part of your aid may have found its way to groups that are now ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken, as you know, as it relates to even the recent airdrops about the one parcel that did go, but I would caution anyone from making sweeping statements like that. They’re not accurate.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m not talking about recent, but let me ask you this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Syrian regime said today – complained today about the sort of breaching its sovereignty by Turkey, by ferrying Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraq into Syria. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those comments, Said. We’ll let you know if we have anything more to say.

QUESTION: Do you feel that Syria can assert or should complain about its sovereignty?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, obviously, the threat that we’re seeing in Kobani is also a threat to Turkey; that’s over the border, as you know. But beyond that, I don’t have anything else to add.

QUESTION: So that – it transcends Syria’s --

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

QUESTION: Just one more follow-up. Two days ago, I asked about FSA groups fighting with the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusrah and whether you plan to coordinate with the FSA. There are a number of reports that the U.S.-vetted FSA commanders are asking more help to be able to fight with the al-Qaida in Idlib province. Do you have anything new on this front?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to provide from here.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt – or go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: I have one on this.

QUESTION: I have one on Burkina Faso.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the Obama Administration has expressed concern about a proposed plan for the president to stay on, even though he’s been ruling for 27 years. Today there’s been further protest over this. Has the U.S. directly told the president or his advisers that he should – the best is for him to step down?

MS. PSAKI: We have been directly in touch with the Government of Burkina Faso. In terms of specifics of the readout, I’d have to check with our team on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that they backed down on this plan to allow him to run for another term?

MS. PSAKI: That the government has backed down?

QUESTION: That the government has. There were reports to that effect earlier. Do you – are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: That is not my understanding from our team on the ground.

QUESTION: That they still intend to try to go through with this.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen a change to the concerns that we’ve expressed, no.

QUESTION: Has there been any change in your view of what’s going on in Egypt and the Sinai and their efforts to create a buffer zone? Do you feel that the regime is conducting itself in a very heavy-handed way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke --

QUESTION: Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I spoke – no, no --

QUESTION: In the last 24 hours.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I understand. I understand, Said. I spoke to this a little bit yesterday, but I would say certainly we believe that Egypt has the right to take steps to maintain their own security. And we understand the threat that they are facing from the Sinai. That’s why we have provided the Apache helicopters. We also continue to encourage them to take into account those that would be internally displaced by this, but they’re working through the plan and we’re continuing to support their efforts to take steps to defend their own borders.

QUESTION: The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner gave a very strong statement that Egypt was really abusing or disregarding the human rights of the population of the areas in question. Do you agree with her?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the reasons why we continue to reiterate publicly but – and privately as well is that we believe that the impact on the internally displaced would be – is an important factor. But we also believe that they should be able to make decisions about their own security.

I have to go in a couple of minutes, so let’s get around to everybody. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: I have one on ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication of ISIS spreading its wings in countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan? There were some media reports, but do you have any indication of them having base in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: So the last time I talked with our team about this was about a week or so ago, and we’ve seen reports that there are individuals who have said that they are supportive of the objectives of ISIL, but we had not seen anything more widespread than that. I’m happy to check and see if anything has changed on that front.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, you don’t see the IS leaders targeting people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or other parts of India --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we know that there are --

QUESTION: -- other parts of the world besides (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: ISIL is – obviously continues to take broad steps to recruit, but in terms of a presence growing or a successful recruitment effort, the last time I spoke with our team about this, that was not something that they were concerned about at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, I have a question.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Ebola. We – earlier in the week, you mentioned that Ambassador Power, while in West Africa, when she returned, she and her delegation would abide by whatever state guidelines were in place. I know that tomorrow she has a public event in New York. That state at this point is requiring twice-day monitoring by a health official. Is she going to take part in that? Is she taking part in that? And is she doing anything beyond that, considering she’s just back from this affected region and she’s still within that 21-day period?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, she’s on her way back. As we have said from the beginning of her trip, she will abide by whatever state and local authorities require of her and her team in addition to adhering to CDC recommendations. Based on the CDC classification system and her itinerary, we anticipate the trip will be considered low-risk, but obviously, that will be evaluated by the proper authorities. Her itinerary was also reviewed by CDC officials prior to her departure and was not deemed to pose a significant health risk to the traveling party.

As – now that she’s concluding her trip or on her way back, it remains the case that she and her delegation did not have contact with those with Ebola. She did not enter any Ebola treatment units. They observed all hand-washing protocols and conducted temperature screenings, and the delegation was accompanied by health control officers. But in light of that, obviously, determinations will be made based – when she enters the United States, and she’ll certainly respect whatever the recommendations are.

QUESTION: She’s not going to be making any trips to New Jersey. The governor of New Jersey will not abide by the CDC.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said, she’ll abide by whatever state and federal regulations are.

QUESTION: Just three quick ones --

QUESTION: Well, hold on. Just on that, I mean – I believe that she and her delegation left from Andrews. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t recall what airport she left from.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering what – if the airport that they’re returning to is one of the airports that’s been identified as --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to her team. I know they may be on a plane, but we’ll check and see if there’s more information we can provide.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just three quick ones on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Three weeks out from the 24th, roughly, do you have any substantive status report?

MS. PSAKI: I would --

QUESTION: Has there ever been substantive status reports? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I didn’t just say status reports.

MS. PSAKI: For the first time today, I’m going to break down for you what the points of disagreement are. (Laughter.)

The Secretary spoke to this this morning, and I would certainly point you to that. Obviously, this – the latest was that technical experts returned from Vienna last week to brief their capitals. The P5+1 political experts are remaining in close touch and hopefully we’ll have more by the end of this week to tell you about when they’ll be meeting next. We have been clear since the talks started and before – from before that engagement that before they start – or I should say we’ve been clear since they started that this would be difficult. We’re obviously at a pivotal point. We believe we can conclude these by the deadline. I don’t have much more of a substantive update for you. But the Secretary spoke to this this morning, too.

QUESTION: Sure. Just one more, Said.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There are Democratic aides on the Hill, lawmakers on the Hill, who were saying they don’t want to be surprised – not just by the substance of a deal, but even if there is a deal at all. And obviously, you say that you’re in like unprecedented, close coordination with the Israelis. They also seem to be relatively clueless whether there’s going to be a deal at all. Do you think there’s going to be any sort of sense – will you be saying that you’re optimistic or pessimistic, or will we have a sense before the 24th, or is this going to be a surprise to everybody?

MS. PSAKI: I think if we do our job right, members of Congress will have a better sense than you may --

QUESTION: Yeah. Fair enough. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: -- since we will have those conversations privately, since that’s the best way to pursue a negotiation. Obviously, in any negotiation it’s tough to predict several weeks out, which is often the pivotal point, where things will land. We know it’s tough, we’re working at it, and we continue to believe we can get this done by the 24th.

QUESTION: You said “if we do our job right” – is there a question that you might not do your job right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I was raising a question. I think I was just pointing out --

QUESTION: You said if --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: -- we wouldn’t be discussing it publicly.

QUESTION: And it’s whether we do our job right, right?

QUESTION: I see.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I just can do a couple more here. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: I came late. In the beginning of the briefing --

MS. PSAKI: That’s okay.

QUESTION: -- did you give a readout about the – on the Secretary’s meeting with the IAEA director general?

MS. PSAKI: I did not. I believe I have one. Hold on one moment. Let me check. And if not, we’ll send it to you right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we send it to you, Samir. We have it all – it’s done. So I may just not have grabbed it and put it in my book. So we’ll send it out to all of you right after the briefing.

Let’s just do --

QUESTION: Can I ask a quick question on the Secretary?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because Marriv, an Israeli newspaper, is quoting sources – and from The New York Times – that there’s going to be a major shuffle right after the elections that will include Secretary Kerry, perhaps, and Secretary Hagel. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t actually believe that’s what the story stated, and the Secretary spoke to this this morning.

QUESTION: Right. I’m sorry, I missed it, so --

MS. PSAKI: No, it’s okay. I would point you to those comments.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on U.S. citizen Stacey Addison, who was just rearrested in East Timor?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The charges have not been spelled out.

MS. PSAKI: One moment. I think I do have something on this. We can confirm that U.S. citizen Stacey – Dr. Stacey Addison was originally detained on a drug charge on September 5th. She was conditionally released on September 9th, but was not allowed to leave the country. She was detained again on October 29th when she appeared in court to retrieve her U.S. passport and was sent to a prison in Dili. A consular officer visited her in prison on October 29th. As you know, we take seriously our obligation to assist United States citizens abroad. We remain in close contact with her and we’re providing all consular assistance. We’ve seen reports indicating that the prosecution filed an appeal to the original decision, allowing her to be released on her own recognizance, leading to her detainment again. Obviously, this is a case we are working very closely with her on.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:27 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 29, 2014

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 18:01

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 29, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:11 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: This is the first time in history I think the briefing has ever been moved up.

QUESTION: Just made it.

QUESTION: Is there a reason for that?

MS. PSAKI: No, actually there’s a group of journalists from around the world here for the Edward R. Murrow Program.

QUESTION: We just spoke with them.

MS. PSAKI: So I’m going to a lunch with them, and I wanted to see if I could attend it, and I know you – none of you ever mind an early briefing.

QUESTION: All right, so conspiracy theorists should stand down. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Conspiracy theorists should stand down, yes.

QUESTION: Why are you willing to be on time for them but not for us? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re here, aren’t we, Arshad?

QUESTION: Today, yes, but what about all the other days?

MS. PSAKI: We want to make sure we’re as prepared as we can be for the questions you’re going to ask, to be honest.

Okay, a couple of items for all of you at the top. The – I know there is a statement or there will be a statement from the White House, but I want to just reiterate from here the United States Government expresses its deep condolences on the passing of Zambian President Michael Chilufya Sata. Our sympathies are with the president’s family and with the people of Zambia during this time of mourning. We anticipate a peaceful and constitutional transition and welcome Vice President Scott’s appointment as acting president in line with the Zambian constitution. We note that the passing of President Sata came just days after Zambia celebrated 50 years of independence. As President Obama wrote President Sata on October 21st, the U.S. Government is proud to count Zambia as a partner through its first 50 years.

Also, on Russia and Ukraine, we’re deeply concerned about new criminal charges expected to be filed against Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, who’s currently undergoing a forced psychiatric evaluation in Russia’s infamous psychiatric hospital, the Serbsky Center. These new charges that she illegally crossed the border into Russia defy logic. Ms. Savchenko was abducted in eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists and smuggled to Russia against her will. Her detention, which earlier this week was extended through February 13th, is an outrage and a violation of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk Agreement. We urge Russia to release her immediately.

Finally, Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel and Vietnamese Vice Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son will lead the U.S. and Vietnamese delegations today for the fifth U.S.-Vietnam Asia-Pacific Dialogue at the State Department. The two delegations will discuss a range of regional and global issues, including preparations for the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, the East Asia Summit, and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in November. Vice minister – Vietnamese vice foreign minister, sorry, also met with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman today to review U.S.-Vietnam relations ahead of the 20th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2015 and discuss – and to discuss regional and global issues.

Matt.

QUESTION: Twenty years already?

MS. PSAKI: Already.

QUESTION: It seemed like just yesterday that --

MS. PSAKI: Time flies.

QUESTION: Yes, indeed. All right, so I want to get back to Russia and Ukraine, but that can wait for a little while into the briefing. So let’s start – well, I wanted to start by just saying the state of relations between the U.S. and Israel – discuss. But since that will leave you with far too much room to maneuver, how about this, and I’ll try and keep this family-friendly by using the phrase “chicken salad” rather than the other word: What is going on here? Why are there senior Administration officials running around trashing the prime minister of Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say on your first question, even though it wasn’t a real question, the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong, our security bonds have never been greater, and the ties between our nations are unshakeable. We remain fully and firmly committed to Israel’s security. On the comments, we think such comments are inappropriate and counterproductive. I spoke with Secretary – the Secretary about this this morning, and he certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side. Obviously, we believe that moving forward, it’s in the best interests of both sides to address any issues that may arise appropriately and respectfully and not through personal attacks.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, just because they’re counterproductive and unhelpful, or whatever it was that you said, doesn’t necessarily mean that whoever said them doesn’t think that, doesn’t agree with the sentiment – with the “chicken salad” sentiment itself. So are there those in the Administration who believe that this is an accurate depiction of or an accurate description of Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, as you know, the article was sourced to anonymous sources in the Administration. So does that individual, whomever they are, think that? Perhaps. But the Secretary of State, the President of the United States, people who are leading our relationship don’t view that language and those words as appropriate or accurate.

QUESTION: All right. And you said that this – you – when you spoke to the Secretary about it this morning, he said – or you said as a result of your conversation with him that you don’t think name-calling or whatever, a war of words, between either side – by either side is appropriate.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So that suggests that you think that some on the Israeli side have been doing similar if not the same. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re all familiar with not just public record but media reports over the last several months. Certainly, we don’t think that is productive or constructive in our relationship at any point in time.

QUESTION: Do you think it says anything about the fact that when the Israeli – when Israeli Government officials have criticized the Secretary or the President or whoever, they have actually done so by name or their names have been attached to it, and this Administration, when it seems to want to vent frustration or irritation with the Israelis, does it under cover of anonymity. Do you see --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think also these comments, as you know, were from an anonymous source. I don’t know who that individual was and what level they were at. So I’d also certainly take them with a grain of salt.

QUESTION: Do you have suspicions?

MS. PSAKI: I do not.

QUESTION: Are you trying to figure out – is the Administration trying to figure out who made these inappropriate and counterproductive comments?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: There are anonymous sources in all of your stories every single day. If we spent all of our time focused on that effort, we wouldn’t be working on diplomacy.

QUESTION: Well, that’s true, but a lot of anonymous sources are speaking on background and they are authorized to speak on background, correct?

MS. PSAKI: And many are not --

QUESTION: This one – are you --

MS. PSAKI: -- as I don’t have to tell all of you, who are reporters.

QUESTION: Well, that – yes, true. But so you’re saying that – you’re not disputing that an official in the Administration said this, but you’re saying that they were not – that if they did say this, they were speaking only for their – on their personal view. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s more accurate to convey that it’s – I’m not disputing the accuracy of the reporting of the reporter. I don’t have any other information beyond that.

QUESTION: Right. But you’re saying that if someone in the Administration said this, it’s a personal view rather than a --

MS. PSAKI: I just said it’s not representative of the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that the comments attributed to the anonymous U.S. official were authorized?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. No.

QUESTION: Okay. And did you see Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response, and in particular his reference to the security of – I think he said the Israeli people and Jerusalem, although he may have said Israel and Jerusalem. But implicit in his comment was that Jerusalem is theirs, which, of course, is not a position that the United States – belongs to Israel – which is not a position that the United States --

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to his comments from yesterday or --

QUESTION: I saw them today.

MS. PSAKI: I think – I didn’t – I know he made comments like that yesterday, I believe. I don’t think they were in response to this article, but --

QUESTION: I think – let me see if I can find it during the course of the briefing.

QUESTION: He made other statements today too.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, we’ll take a look at those. I spoke to the comments from yesterday, but you can continue if there’s another question on that, or if you want to find them we can go back to this.

QUESTION: Well, given your disavowal of this official or these officials’ comments made anonymously, is the Administration giving any thought to granting Israel an apology, as one official suggested today to Haaretz?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ll be clear, as the Secretary speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu pretty frequently, as all of you know. And if this issue comes up, he would make clear this isn’t the position of the Administration.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about something that --

QUESTION: Have they – hold on. Just – sorry. Just very brief.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have they spoken since yesterday afternoon?

MS. PSAKI: No. They have not since yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION: Well, let’s talk about something that was brought up in Jeffrey Goldberg’s article near the end – the suggestion that because of the Administration’s deep frustration with the Netanyahu government, that next year at the United Nations it would remove its cover, it would not run interference for Israel on contentious issues – everything from the Palestinians’ status to questions of human rights. Is that accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, Roz, our position hasn’t changed. We’re not going to get ahead of, obviously, actions that have not yet been taken, but we strongly believe that the preferred course of action is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly. We’ve long made clear that negotiations are the means to do that. I don’t think that has changed for quite some time.

QUESTION: But no – but his point was --

QUESTION: Can I go back to my question? Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. But his point was not so much on a specific policy issue but just on the fact of whenever Israel comes up for criticism at the United Nations, the U.S. has been pretty much lockstep in voting to protect it, to issue – yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Right. I just – I think I just addressed it by conveying our position hasn’t changed. I’m not going to get ahead of actions that have not been taken or laid out.

QUESTION: Can I just ask on the basic premise of Roz’s question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is there frustration within the U.S. Administration about what the positions that Israeli prime minister or Israel as a country has been taking in recent months?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as in any diplomatic relationship, if there are points of frustration, we’ll raise those through appropriate channels. I think the point is that doing that publicly is not constructive or productive.

QUESTION: But do – is there a feeling that, perhaps within the Administration, that you’ve run your course, that there’s nothing much more you – you tried to start – restart talks and those collapsed for the reasons we know. The settlement building is still going on; something that you condemn as incompatible with any pursuit of peace. So is there a feeling within this Administration that, basically, you have run your course of what you feel you can do with Israel?

MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not how we view it. The Secretary and his team continue to look at various options to push forward objectives and, obviously, the objective of reaching a two-state solution. But as we’ve made clear, it’s ultimately up to the parties. And if they’re willing to go down that track, then we’ll be there to support them. But obviously, it’s not currently on that path.

QUESTION: Have you any reason to believe that Israel is willing to go down that track?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they’ve stated that they’d like to see a two-state solution. Obviously, actions, as I’ve said – as I said yesterday, like the announcement of new settlements are counterproductive to that.

QUESTION: So the --

MS. PSAKI: Or contradictory, I should say.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Just – can I follow up on Jo’s question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you – is there a feeling that while the Secretary of State wants to keep pushing the two-state solution that this – that Netanyahu is not the leader who will do it? I mean, it was very strongly stated in the article – it called him a coward, couldn’t take the political decisions necessary, only looking after his political future, whatever. But is there a sense in the State Department, a sort of unease, about Netanyahu not being the one to deliver on this?

MS. PSAKI: No. The – Prime Minister Netanyahu is the leader of Israel. The Secretary speaks to him on a regular basis. That doesn’t change the fact that neither have sides – neither side has made the choices necessary in order to move towards a two-state solution. Obviously, you know what happened this spring. So that remains the facts.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: So the exact quote from today from Prime Minister Netanyahu is, “Our supreme interests, chiefly the security and unity of Jerusalem, are not the main concern of those anonymous officials who attack us and me personally, as the assault on me comes only because I defend the state of Israel.” It’s that phrase that the prime minister of Israel says, that Israel’s “supreme interests” are the security – are “chiefly the security and unity of Jerusalem.” Does it dismay you to hear that formulation, particularly the one on the unity of Jerusalem, given your position stated not two minutes ago that these are all matters, including Jerusalem, that should be subject to negotiation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I don’t know that that’s a new view by Israel or the prime minister, and you’re certainly well aware that, obviously, the status of Jerusalem is a final status issue that would need to be discussed and addressed. I think our issue with the recent construction building is that it’s prejudging an outcome, and it’s not one that certainly the other side has agreed to. So I think that’s why we expressed such a strong concern about that issue and those announcements, I should say.

QUESTION: Jen, just back to one of Roz’s questions. You do not – the Administration does not intend to apologize to the prime minister for those comments of the --

MS. PSAKI: I think I conveyed --

QUESTION: But is that --

MS. PSAKI: -- we intend to make clear that it’s not representative of --

QUESTION: But do you feel – you don’t feel the need for an apology because this was said by an anonymous official rather than, let’s say, the Vice President saying something about Turkey, in which – or Saudi Arabia – in which he makes a phone call to apologize for?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously every circumstance is different. I think I’ve been clear and the Secretary will be clear when he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu next that it doesn’t --

QUESTION: Do you know --

MS. PSAKI: -- represent our views.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know when that might be? They have the call planned?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, though they speak every couple of days, so --

QUESTION: Okay. And then I think my last one on this is: It is being widely opined that this whole kerfuffle marks a low point in U.S.-Israel relations and that the relationship is in crisis. Do you feel – does the Administration think that the relationship with Israel is in crisis?

MS. PSAKI: We do not. We do think that there are moments where we disagree. We obviously disagree with the settlements that they announced earlier this week.

QUESTION: Well, is this --

MS. PSAKI: We expressed that.

QUESTION: Is this one of those moments? Because I mean, I think people in this town are probably the only ones who think it isn’t in crisis.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I’m – what I’m conveying is that there are issues where we express concern and there’s disagreement. But that doesn’t change the fact that we have an unshakable bond with Israel – the United States does – and that will continue.

QUESTION: And that doesn’t – I mean, and you think that those – it’s the position of the Administration that when there are differences they should not be aired in a rude, insulting, or otherwise impolite way. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So why isn’t – there are certain people – Senator Cruz, your favorite senator, one of them – saying that the President and the Secretary of State should find out who said this and fire them. Why not make an effort if this is – you think that this is unhelpful and destructive to the relationship, these kinds of comments? Why not make the effort to find out?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, our focus is on continuing to work closely with Israel on their security, continuing to work through any areas of disagreement.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And that’s where it will remain.

QUESTION: But this Administration also has a history of trying to force reporters into revealing their sources, does it not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think you’re talking about some specific incidents that are different than this one.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Should we move on to a new topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: No questions today? Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yes, I have one.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. I thought a lot was in the news this morning.

QUESTION: I have a related – a somewhat related Israel --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s not Israel. It’s Egypt, actually. You were asked yesterday about Gaza buffer zone in Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I was. I talked to our team about this. There’s still a bit we don’t quite know about how it would be set up or how it would look. We’re talking to the Egyptians about that. We certainly share their concern about security in the area, but we also expect the Government of Egypt to ensure that the rights of those being displaced are respected. So we’re having an ongoing discussion with them.

QUESTION: How exactly do you go about protecting the rights of people you’re forcibly evicting from --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re trying to determine more information on how this would look, what it would be. Obviously, we understand they have security concerns. We respect that. We help them quite a bit, as you know. But – all right, in the back. Egypt or --

QUESTION: But in general, do you support such a move such as that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ll leave it as what I just said. Obviously, we understand they have security concerns. We are – believe that the rights of those being displaced need to be respected. So we’ll keep having that conversation.

Any more on Egypt, or we can move on? Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: In your talks, were there any indications from Egypt on about how many people, families, would be affected?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I can see with our team, but I doubt we have that level of detail here.

Egypt or --

QUESTION: Azerbaijan.

MS. PSAKI: Azerbaijan, okay.

QUESTION: This week, you know Azerbaijan, Armenian, and French president meet in Paris. I would like to know what’s the Washington viewpoint about this meeting, and how is Azerbaijan and Armenian – is close for big name peace agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to encourage the sides to take constructive steps to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The sides can build on the momentum generated during the President’s three meetings this year by adopting measures that builds trust and confidence, and certainly that can be done through dialogue. Secretary Kerry also had meetings, as you may know, in Wales. And they can also enter into a genuine negotiation process to advance a peaceful and lasting settlement to the conflict. So certainly, we would encourage that through dialogue.

Arshad, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Israel for a moment?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And I apologize; I wasn’t here yesterday, but at least from a quick glance at the index of yesterday’s briefing it’s not clear to me whether these topics came up. On Monday, you were asked if you had any sense of where the – you had called for a speedy and transparent investigation into the death --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I did talk about this yesterday --

QUESTION: Did you?

MS. PSAKI: -- or the day before. Yeah.

QUESTION: It was the day before, but I think we had asked for a follow-up, because the day before, on Monday, you did not know kind of where that investigation stood.

MS. PSAKI: I did talk about it yesterday a little bit. I mean, I talked about how the Israeli national police is handling the investigation on the death of the three-month-old, talked about the 14-year-old. We continue to press for --

QUESTION: Okay, I’ll go back and look at it. Apologies.

MS. PSAKI: And we can talk, of course, more.

QUESTION: And then there’s nothing new on --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new today.

QUESTION: So you’re still waiting for the Israelis to complete the investigation. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. And we continue to press them for a speedy resolution in every conversation.

QUESTION: And there was --

QUESTION: And finally, is there any involvement of the Palestinians in the investigation or Palestinian authorities?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Israelis on that question. They’re leading.

QUESTION: But – yeah, but you guys asked for – I’m asking you because you asked for a speedy and transparent investigation. Surely one aspect of transparency would be that you would actually know who’s doing the investigating. And I guess I’m interested in --

MS. PSAKI: The Israeli authorities are leading it, so that’s why I would refer you to them for who’s participating in it.

QUESTION: But in terms of the other comments that were made that raised eyebrows, caused a little bit of kerfuffle, it’s still the opinion of the Administration that this – that the Palestinian American teenager should not be identified as a terrorist? Is that – I wasn’t here yesterday either.

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed. We’re talking about a 14-year-old’s death, which is tragic under any circumstances. Obviously, there’s an investigation that’s ongoing. We don’t condone violence, but we’ll let that play itself out.

QUESTION: And do you yet – since I presume you’re in touch with the Israeli authorities about their investigation, do you yet have clarity on the question of whether the 14-year-old Palestinian American was indeed throwing a Molotov cocktail before his death?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on that. We’ll let the process see itself through.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But I’m more than happy to see --

MS. PSAKI: Are there any more on Israel? Okay.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So another story that was published yesterday, this one in The Wall Street Journal, talks about how the Administration is seeking detente or a detente with Iran. There was a lot of stuff in there that I think has been public knowledge and we already knew, i.e. the negotiation not with Hamas but through Turkey and Qatar with Hamas. But there was another part of it about intelligence sharing with the Lebanese and helping Hezbollah. Is that accurate?

MS. PSAKI: I will check with our team on the specific component. Let me say about the story in general that, as we’ve been clear since the beginning of the P5+1 talks and our – kind of any engagement with Iran, our focus is on the nuclear issue. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t changed our concerns about other issues with Iran as it relates to human rights, state sponsorship of terrorism, and we’ve consistently raised those concerns and will continue to.

So – and on Hezbollah, obviously, our positions on Hezbollah – and Hamas, of course, since it was also mentioned in there, I believe – haven’t changed. We continue to believe they’re both designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. We are concerned about Iran’s support for both groups. I can check if there are any other specific --

QUESTION: But you’re not helping them out in any way?

MS. PSAKI: I would be shocked, yes.

QUESTION: Well, there’s shocked and then there’s Claude Rains shocked.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And also on Iran, in The Atlantic story, this – or one of these unnamed officials talks with some apparent pride about how you, the Administration, was able to forestall an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Is that part of what the official said the Administration’s view, or is that again just a personal --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of comments in that story about Iran, as you know because you’ve read it. I will say that obviously, it’s been no secret that our objective is a diplomatic – is continuing on a diplomatic path and taking a diplomatic approach. And that’s why we are pursuing the JPOA or we’re implementing it, and why we’re pursuing a comprehensive agreement. So clearly we want to prevent military action. I don’t think we’ve made a secret of that.

QUESTION: Right. But are you proud of the fact that the – is the Administration proud of the fact that it, quote/unquote, “boxed” Israel in or out of conducting some kind of military operation against the Iranians?

MS. PSAKI: No. We are proud of the fact that we reached an agreement that was credible and that was able to stall and roll back the program. Obviously, there’s more work to be done. That’s why we prevented additional action.

QUESTION: Well, that’s one side of looking at it. The other side is that you’re proud that you managed to forestall a military attack on Iran, which Israel believes to be an existential threat to its --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think the objective here – which we share with Israel, even if we don’t agree on every component of how to get there – is preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Okay. So in other – right.

MS. PSAKI: And that is why anybody is talking about military action.

QUESTION: But – okay, so it’s just a way of looking – it’s just a different way of looking at the same thing. It wasn’t – you’re not proud of boxing – you say you’re not – the Administration isn’t proud of boxing Israel out of an attack, but yet you are proud of what you did that had that effect.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been consulting, as you know, with Israel very closely at very high levels throughout the course of the Iran negotiations.

QUESTION: Right. And how’s that going?

MS. PSAKI: I would say we have an open dialogue, Matt, and we talk with them about where the status of the negotiations are, and we hear their concerns, and we have through the process.

QUESTION: The Israeli officials, from the prime minister on down, are dead-set and publicly vocal about their opposition to this. So this ongoing dialogue doesn’t seem to have done anything in terms of bringing the Israelis on board, if that’s the right way to put it. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we are continuing to work on this. Obviously, we don’t have a comprehensive deal at this point in time. The proof is in the pudding, the details matter, and we’ll continue to consult with Israel as we pursue that.

QUESTION: All right. So my last one, then, on this is that – one often uses the phrase “glass half-empty, glass half-full.” Is it not possible for people or is it not logical for people to look at what you just said, that you’re proud of the JPOA and the fact that that managed to stall at least in the short term the – and roll back the Iranian nuclear program – is not another way of looking at that, or is it illogical to look at that and say you’re also happy that you prevented a military attack on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the – I think what I’m getting at here, Matt, and what I tried to get at was that we have been very open and forward about the fact that we would prefer a diplomatic option and a diplomatic path to resolving this to a military option. That’s why, in part, we’ve been pursuing this – these diplomatic negotiations. So I don’t think --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, look, I’m not trying to make an argument either way. I just want to know if you think that it is not logical to look at what has happened and conclude that the Administration is happy or glad, proud, that it managed to do something or negotiate something with the Iranians that prevented a military strike.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we are going to see where the comprehensive negotiations lead. Certainly, we’d prefer for that to continue and proceed than a military outcome. I don’t think we’ve made any secret of that.

QUESTION: Did you see the – there was a report yesterday that – or this morning that the Iranian Government had to deny publicly to its parliament that a deal has been reached, which, according to one MP, crosses Iran’s redlines. I wondered if you had a reaction on that.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that means. Can you tell me a little bit more about what they --

QUESTION: Well, I think it means more that they’ve obviously set what they believe their parameters will be on what is acceptable, and according to one parliamentarian who was talking in the parliament, he said that there was a deal that’s been reached that – “the redline’s been crossed in an implicit agreement which will no doubt weaken the rights of the nation and trample upon all our nuclear achievements.” And so the Iranian Government had to come out and say no, we haven’t reached a deal yet. And apparently the foreign ministry’s actually thinking of prosecuting this guy now.

So I wondered if you had any reaction to that, and whether you – and what it signals in your efforts to try and reach this deal with – before November 24th.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it is accurate. Otherwise, you would all know that we haven’t reached a deal. But we’re continuing to work on it. Obviously, we’re at a pivotal point in time. I don’t know that I have much more of a reaction than to convey that we’ve known from the beginning that there are political audiences and different political challenges for each country, including Iran. And so perhaps that component is not a surprise.

QUESTION: Is your deal – what the P5+1 is prepared to offer, is that on the table and it’s now up to the Iranians to accept or not --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not --

QUESTION: -- or is it still to be tweaked?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of detail, other than to convey that even the technical experts are continuing to meet. There’s many – there’s much more work that needs to be done, so I would assume there’s more work that needs to be done.

QUESTION: And Secretary Kerry’s meeting with Cathy Ashton today at a dinner – what’s that – what’s the purpose of that?

MS. PSAKI: He is, but she’s – he’s hosting the dinner in her honor given that her term is ending. And so, as you know, he’s worked very closely with her over the last two years, wanted to have a chance to thank her and – for her leadership on many issues that we work together on. It’s not a working dinner, but certainly, we wouldn’t be surprised if Iran was discussed.

Okay, I’m almost getting the hook, but let’s do some more here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The hook?

MS. PSAKI: It’s been about 30 minutes. I have to go to this lunch.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Hagel made some remarks this morning, and --

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Hagel, did you say?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And he said we’re not going to get everything right, but we – there’s some big things we’ve got to get right, and he talked about China and climate change. Do you think the State Department has the same idea of what big things have to be gotten right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would absolutely agree. If you spend any time with Secretary Kerry – and anyone who has, they would know that he brings up climate change in almost every opportunity, every meeting, every dinner, every discussion. And he’s certainly been leading the charge on this front within the Administration. So his discussions with the Chinese – a part of the agenda has continued to be climate change and standards. And he discussed that with State Counselor Yang just a few weeks ago when he hosted him at his house in Boston, and we certainly expect that will be a prominent topic of discussion next week when there are APEC and EAS meetings.

QUESTION: Can we talk about something else that Secretary Hagel raised?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The fact that he’s accepted the Joint Chiefs’ recommendation that all U.S. troops who are working on the Ebola response will be spending 21 days, at least, in isolation once they return from their assignment – is there now any thought in this building of having a similar requirement for those in the State Department who have been helping out with the Ebola response? And if so, why; if not, why not?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you know, any State Department Official would certainly abide by regulations, whether they’re federal regulations, state regulations, et cetera. And obviously, there were some that were just announced by the CDC two days ago, so I’d point you to that.

I would just highlight the fact that there is a difference between military troops – thousands that may be returning – and the diplomatic corps, which is a smaller number, as you know. And our view at this point in time is that that can continue to be managed through the regulations that have been put forward.

QUESTION: But does – consider the fact that the troops that have been deployed – and not all 3,000 have been deployed – are not supposed to be working with any infected persons. They’re at most setting up facilities that others would be using.

MS. PSAKI: I was touching on the numbers.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: The numbers.

QUESTION: But still, they’re saying that even though there’s still a very small risk that any U.S. forces would possibly be exposed, they’re doing this out of an abundance of caution and out of an effort to try to reassure the families of those who are serving.

MS. PSAKI: I understand that.

QUESTION: So what’s the difference?

MS. PSAKI: I saw Secretary Hagel’s comments. The difference is what I just outlined about the numbers and how we manage it.

QUESTION: I’m curious, though, Jen. I mean, it only takes one person to infect several. As we saw in Dallas, it was one person with it who infected two.

MS. PSAKI: Which is why the CDC put in place new regulations.

QUESTION: Right, I understand that. But I don’t understand why the difference – how many – I mean, there’s got to be a couple hundred American diplomats in these three countries and --

MS. PSAKI: Not who travel back to the United States and – on that regular basis.

QUESTION: They don’t ever come home?

MS. PSAKI: Not in one day, no.

QUESTION: All right. Well, on – I’ve got two more on Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One is on – do you know anything about the CDC or you guys being involved in a conference in Cuba about how to deal with Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: I can check on that for you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’d heard of.

QUESTION: And then the last one on this is: There was a report last night and again this morning about this memo that was – the State Department memo --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me address that.

QUESTION: -- about bringing --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. One, just factually, the document referenced was drafted by a midlevel official but not cleared by senior leaders. It never came to senior officials for approval. And any assertion that the memo was cleared by decision-makers is inaccurate. There are no plans to medevac non-Americans who become ill with Ebola to the United States. We have discussed allowing other countries to use our medevac capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or third countries subject to reimbursement and availability. But we’re not contemplating bringing them back to the United States for treatment.

QUESTION: So the – but essentially, what you’re saying is that one guy somewhere in this building came up with this idea and put it on paper, but it never went anywhere? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. It’s also weeks old and the memo isn’t current because European – our European partners --

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- have addressed this matter by providing their own guarantees, but go ahead.

QUESTION: One problem that – I mean, that I see is that a week ago, the Pentagon and the White House was insisting that, no, no, no, there is no overall quarantine order and it’s just this one commander, or these guys who are in Italy. And now all of a sudden, today we have Secretary Hagel saying no, it’s going to be – it’s Pentagon-wide and it’s going to go to all of the troops that are there. What is there to prevent this memo from coming back to life, as it were --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think with this --

QUESTION: -- and becoming policy? Has it been flat out rejected or is it just kind of sitting on a shelf someplace and maybe could be implemented at some point?

MS. PSAKI: It’s sitting on a shelf or on a computer – since we use computers nowadays – by the individual who wrote it, I suppose. I think the important point here is that our European partners, since several weeks ago when that was written, have addressed this by providing a guarantee to international health workers that they would either be flown to Europe or receive high-quality treatment on the spot. So it’s not applicable at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, in general, why was this never approved? I mean, it seems – I mean, you could make the argument that the U.S. has great healthcare facilities, that no one who has contracted the disease in the United States has actually died. So I think there might be some who could make the argument that why not bring people?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, but many countries have decided to make that decision to deal with it themselves, and we’ve certainly been discussing with them how to do that.

QUESTION: So this has been discarded as unnecessary rather that rejected --

MS. PSAKI: It was never discussed at any levels, in any serious level with decision-makers. So I don’t – wouldn’t say it was discarded, but --

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Along the lines of what Matt was saying, on page 5 of the memo, it says that it was approved by Nancy Powell, the head of the Ebola Coordination Unit. Doesn’t that suggest it was fairly further along in the process?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look at the approval memo. As I understand, and just so you know, sometimes there are people listed. It doesn’t mean they cleared it. It just means there are people who need to clear a memo. So I will check and see if there was anybody who actually cleared it.

QUESTION: Do you know if the memo was being circulated to other agencies like Homeland Security?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on who it was circulated to.

QUESTION: Can we switch to Russia-Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin is quoted as saying that Russia has been invited to take delivery of a Mistral helicopter landing ship on November the 14th. Is that your understanding?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have more information other than to point you to the fact that the French would have to actually deliver those in order for that to be accurate. President Hollande said just a couple of weeks ago that the ceasefire needs to be entirely respected in Ukraine and that the Minsk accord needs to be fully implemented in order for France to proceed with delivery of the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier to Russia. So I would point you to the French to see what they would say about that.

QUESTION: Absent those circumstances obtaining regarding the Minsk plan and the full respect of the ceasefire, et cetera, would you want the Mistral to be delivered?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to believe that his comments and their decision was a wise decision. So we certainly support it.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about your opening --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- or your second one, just on the --

MS. PSAKI: Savchenko?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What do you mean by expected to be – charges expected to be filed? Is there – have there been reports to that effect?

MS. PSAKI: There have been reports to that effect, yes.

QUESTION: And what – so you believe that she is covered by the Minsk agreement on releasing prisoners?

MS. PSAKI: Prisoners. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that – and what makes you say – and I don’t know, but you’ve described this place that she’s being held as an “infamous Russian psychiatric facility.” Is this --

MS. PSAKI: It’s well known on the ground is what my understanding is, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Infamous or famous?

MS. PSAKI: Well, infamous has a --

QUESTION: I know.

MS. PSAKI: -- more negative undertone, as you know.

QUESTION: Right. Didn’t you say “infamous?”

MS. PSAKI: I did.

QUESTION: You did. Okay. So this --

QUESTION: On Kobani?

QUESTION: Is it not infamous from the Soviet era?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I believe that’s the case. You two can get together after the briefing and discuss it.

QUESTION: All right. But anyway – but you’re – so you’re deeply concerned that they’re going to file these charges, but you don’t know that they are. It’s just that --

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have more information than what I just outlined, obviously. We’re just concerned about her --

QUESTION: Gotcha.

MS. PSAKI: -- treatment and ongoing detainment.

QUESTION: On Kobani. Do you have any update on the passage of Peshmerga members and FSA members to Kobani today from Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the reports that Peshmerga forces are crossing into Kobani. We welcome the support they would provide to Kobani’s defense. We’ll certainly let officials on the ground confirm when that’s done, completed, or the status, I should say.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Russia just for one second? Sorry. You can finish.

QUESTION: About FSA members, do you have any idea how many members have crossed the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen reports that a group from the Free Syrian Army have crossed into Kobani, and we’d welcome their support. But I would point you to Turkey and the FSA for more specifics.

QUESTION: You have no numbers?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more numbers. I’d point you to them for that.

QUESTION: My apologies --

MS. PSAKI: One, and then we’ll go to you, Lalit.

QUESTION: -- if this came up yesterday. Did it – I don’t know if it did or not. The Russian foreign ministry or the Russian embassy has responded to what you said the other day about – did that – did this come up yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Okay, all right. So they say that not only are they not harassing U.S. diplomats in Moscow, but that you guys are breaking all sorts of traffic rules and that their diplomats here, or Russian officials here, are being harassed as well with these incessant phone calls and attempts at recruiting. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said the other day, but it’s worth repeating, the safety and well-being of our diplomatic and consular personnel abroad and their family members is something we take very seriously. We also take very seriously the safety and well-being of foreign diplomats and consular officials, and we take our commitments under the Vienna Convention very seriously. Personnel at U.S. embassies and consulates respect local traffic laws, as they are required to do by the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, and we – they are expected to pay fines for traffic violations such as parking and other issues. I know there was a reference in the story which you just referenced, or referenced in the comments, I should say.

I’m not going to, obviously, get into intelligence matters, but we regularly engage and continue to work and will continue to work with our Russian counterparts on a variety of issues, including this, of course.

QUESTION: Including when you say that, “engage,” that means you’re trying to recruit them to be spies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, no. I’m talking about any concerns --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- they would like to express or discuss.

QUESTION: And I just have to – I mean, I realize that the situation in New York with parking tickets and all that kind of thing with the UN is one thing. But I’m not sure how you can say that you guys respect all local traffic laws when the city of London has been complaining for years that you’re refusing to pay the congestion fees, which amount to millions and millions and millions of dollars. So how do you square that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I would put the two in the same category, Matt. Obviously, I’m referring to Washington – we do around the world. I don’t know all the circumstances around that, Matt, but --

QUESTION: All right. But you would deny or you say that it is not correct that Russian officials in Washington are subjected to harassment like these incessant phone calls and such?

MS. PSAKI: I would say we take our commitments under the Vienna Convention very seriously.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t mean they’re always respected. Just taking them seriously doesn’t mean they’re always respected. And I’m not suggesting that this is not – this is only a one-way street. It’s clearly there’s a two – clearly, both sides are doing things that are – have annoyed the other side. Is that not accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ll – you have seen our reports on our views.

All right. Let’s just do a few more here. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: On Bangladesh. The U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership meeting is going on in this building. Do you have a readout of it, what being discussed – what has been discussed? I think it concluded today.

MS. PSAKI: I think it did convene today. Under Secretary Sherman, I think, was involved in this.

QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a readout. Let me check with our team and see if we can get you one after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. And one more: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is traveling to the region, and then he’s going to China for – attending the Istanbul conference.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know what U.S. wants to achieve in this conference in Beijing this week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I – this is another topic I can get you a little more on, but I would just say that part of our engagement is talking to partners around the world who have had a role in Afghanistan and working with the security forces there as we plan for our wind-down of our troop presence. And certainly, there are a range of countries that can play a role, so I would expect that will be the focus of the discussion.

QUESTION: I have --

QUESTION: Can we just go back to Bangladesh?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, but --

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: -- could we do one more Lalit, and then we’ll go to you? Okay.

QUESTION: It’s on India. The Vietnam’s foreign minister is traveling to India, and India has announced to help Vietnam in training its forces and also supplies some of its missiles – BrahMos missiles – to Vietnam. How do you see India’s move in this? China is obviously irate about it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly encourage strong relationships in the region. I don’t have more details than that, so I’d point you to those countries to speak to that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A Bangladesh court today imposed a death sentence on an Islamist leader for war crimes during the 1971 war of independence. Some of his supporters have already protested the sentence. Does the United States believe that the – there have been fears expressed that these trials are not very transparent and they’re kind of a political ramification from the tensions that have been going on for decades in Bangladesh. Does the United States believe that the trial was fair and transparent, and do you have any kind of concerns about any further violence breaking out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, as we have said since the time of the first verdict in Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal, we support bringing to justice those who committed atrocities in the 1971 war. We understand the importance of this process in closing a painful chapter in Bangladesh’s – Bangladeshi history.

We also believe – as you touched on, Jo – that trials should be fair and transparent, and in accordance with international standards Bangladesh has agreed to to uphold through its ratification of international agreements, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp has said, countries that impose a death penalty must do so with great care in accordance with very high standards of due process and respect for fair trial guarantees. I’m not in a position to evaluate the trial, other than to convey that those are values and standards that we expect countries to abide by.

QUESTION: What about the fears of more violence, possible – because it’s a very divided society? Do you believe that there could be further violence on the streets of other cities outside of the capital?

MS. PSAKI: I have not talked to our team about that specifically. I haven’t heard predictions of that, but let me talk to them and see if there’s more to convey.

QUESTION: Very quickly --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- a colleague has asked me to ask about North Korea and reports that Kim Jong-un had 10 more people executed.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

We’ve seen the press reports regarding the execution of North Korean officials. We don’t have independent confirmation from here, of course, but if confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. Otherwise, we’d refer you to the Republic of Korea for any additional information if they have it.

QUESTION: The Republic of Korea, not the DPRK?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, although I think you --

QUESTION: Because --

MS. PSAKI: I think you have a reporter there, but --

QUESTION: They’re not exactly the most forthcoming.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I would guess that. Most opaque and – one of the most opaque.

Okay, let’s just do a few here.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I just ask very briefly – there was a landslide in Sri Lanka today --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- in some tea plantation area. I believe there were earlier this morning around 300 people missing. Has your Embassy on the ground been in touch with the local authorities, is there any help being asked for, and are there any American citizens involved, as far as you know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, our heart goes out to the people of Bangladesh, the Government of Bangladesh. I’m not aware of specific --

QUESTION: Sri Lanka.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, Sri Lanka. Let me say that again.

Our heart goes out to the Government of Sri Lanka and the people of Sri Lanka. I’m not aware of specific requests that have been issued – I can check and see if that has changed – nor am I aware of American citizens involved. But obviously, these events are just happening, so we can keep you abreast if any new information becomes available.

All right, let’s just do one more, and then --

QUESTION: Okay, one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: The minister of public order of Greece was here yesterday at the State Department. As I understand, he have several meetings with officials from the State Department, the CIA, et cetera.

MS. PSAKI: Which minister was this? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The public order. He’s responsible for terrorist and --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can you give us a readout, and if you can’t right now, can you send us one?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check and see if we have more to offer on that front.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 28, 2014

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:37

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 28, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:18 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hi.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: I have a couple of items for you at the top. And the Secretary has a press avail scheduled right before 2:00, so let’s get through as many as we can. They’ll give me a signal when he’s about to start.

Secretary Kerry is on travel in Ottawa, Canada today for a series of bilateral meetings and to convey condolences to senior Canadian officials following last week’s attacks. The Secretary will meet with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and they will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial. He will also meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as members of parliament. Obviously, this is ongoing, so some of these events have taken place.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Bahrain today, where they met with the King, the Crown Prince, and senior Bahraini Government and military officials to discuss our shared efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. The delegation thanked Bahraini interlocutors for Bahrain’s participation in coalition airstrikes in Syria. They also noted important steps Bahrain has taken to halt the flow of foreign fighters, including monitoring ISIL sympathizers and declaring it illegal for Bahraini citizens to fight abroad.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also discussed planning for the counterterrorist financing conference to be held on November 9th in Manama. Countering ISIL’s finances is a key line of effort in our comprehensive strategy, and we’re grateful for Bahrain’s leadership in bringing the coalition together to discuss areas of cooperation on this critical issue, including the full implementation of recent UN Security Council resolutions.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also visited U.S. Naval facilities in Manama, thanking the personnel there for who make – for their work of making coalition air missions possible. In their bilateral meetings with Bahraini officials, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our gratitude for Bahrain’s hosting of those facilities. They’re now en route to Doha and will continue to Abu Dhabi tomorrow and Muscat on Thursday.

With that, hello Lara. Let’s go to what’s on your mind.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Just quickly – I wasn’t going to bring this up at the top, but since we’re talking about Bahrain, I’m wondering if you all had any reaction to the court decision today shutting down the main Shia opposition group and if that came up during the conversations with General Allen and Ambassador McGurk.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with his team on that specific question. I didn’t have a chance to talk with them this morning. Broadly speaking, we are concerned by today’s decision of the administrative court in Bahrain to suspend the activities of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society for three months on technical grounds. Such a move runs contrary to fostering an environment of political inclusion. We’re following the case closely and understand that the society plans to appeal the decision.

QUESTION: That puts the U.S. in kind of an awkward position, doesn’t it, if you’re trying to work with Bahrain on one hand to get support to fight ISIS, and on the other hand Bahrain is shutting down a democratic process in the country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Lara, there are many countries, including Bahrain, where we have differences with. We’ve spoken out about human rights issues and others, and we certainly will continue to do that as we see fit. We were also – let me just note while I have the opportunity – disappointed by the opposition’s decision to boycott the elections. We’ve brought – we’ve urged broad participation in Bahrain’s upcoming parliamentary elections as an important and public means of demonstrating inclusiveness.

But with any relationship, strength is shown by being able and willing to express concerns and differences where you have them, both through private, diplomatic channels when appropriate and at times through public channels when appropriate.

QUESTION: Jen, how do you view the timing, especially that General Allen was there when they took the decision or announced it?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make any connection on the timing. I don’t have any particular analysis on that.

Do we have any more on Bahrain, or should we move on?

QUESTION: I wanted to also ask you about this new video out by the British photojournalist John Cantlie, what the U.S. makes of this, what the assessment has been, and any conversations you all have had with the British Government about this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware, of course, of the video, which the intelligence community is reviewing. We, of course, remain in close touch with our UK counterparts. But we’d refer you to them for any specific comment, given it’s related to one of their citizens.

QUESTION: Does this have any kind of implication for any American citizens who might be held by ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I certainly understand the question. I think we, though, are doing analysis, so I don’t want to get ahead of where we are or where, most importantly, the British are on their analysis.

QUESTION: On Kobani, the Peshmerga have left Kurdistan to Kobani and they are in Turkey. Do you have any information when they will be going to Kobani, and are you playing any role in facilitating their arrival there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think those reports just came out right before I came out here – or that’s when I saw them, I should say. As you know, we’ve been supportive and been discussing with appropriate authorities, whether it’s – including Turkey, of course, specifically, the facilitation of Peshmerga forces across the border. We certainly encourage that. We had heard – or understood earlier today that they would be deployed soon. I don’t have any independent confirmation at this point, aside from the reports, about where the Peshmerga forces are at this point in time. We can see if there’s more to convey to all of you after the briefing.

But as you know, we have worked closely with Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government authorities on a sustainable way forward to support forces in Kobani and over the long term to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. So that certainly has been our role in this effort.

QUESTION: There’s been a lot of back and forth –

QUESTION: Just one more on Kobani --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Jo. Oh, let’s do – go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: And on this issue – on this issue, I don’t know if you saw that there was an interview with Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu with the BBC today in which he suggested that he believes that talk of a no-fly zone is gaining traction. There’s very intense diplomatic and military conversations going on, and he seemed to hint that he believes it’s a question of time, not if but when this is going to happen. Is that your understanding of a no-fly zone, where you are?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we continue, as we have been for several weeks now, to discuss with Turkish authorities what their proposals are, what they’d like to see happen. We have the same concerns that we’ve had in the past, so our position hasn’t changed. I don’t have anything otherwise to preview for you on that front.

QUESTION: Jen, how are --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I was – meant to go to Roz, and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Going back to the deployment of the Peshmerga, we’ve been showing video of them in a convoy and they’re on their way. But as recently as three days ago, the head of the PYD said what they really need isn’t just people going in to fight but what they still need are heavy weapons. Are the U.S. and other countries persuaded that giving the Peshmerga heavy weapons, as opposed to the small arms that were dropped into the region last week, will make a difference in their ability to hold Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed on our view, Roz.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You know Jen, there are only 160 Peshmerga fighters that are going to Kobani today, and that’s the number that Turkish Government has approved of. But how can that really make a difference against thousands of ISIS fighters who are reportedly besieging the city?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this is not the only component of the effort to degrade and defeat ISIL and push back on them in Kobani. We have done a range of airstrikes that have increased over the past couple of weeks that have helped push back on this effort on the ground. Turkey has continued to allow refugees in across their border. So this is one component. It’s certainly one that we felt would be impactful and be important to have a partner on the ground to work with.

QUESTION: But what kind of – like do you really expect a major – like do you expect the tide of the conflict to be turned?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make predictions about the impact on the military component of this. Obviously, we’ve advocated and been discussing the importance of allowing the Peshmerga across the border and the facilitation of that. We believe that will happen soon, or perhaps it’s already happening. I’m checking with our team to see what we can confirm, if anything, from this --

QUESTION: Just one more question. If we – you know this happened shortly after the air drops. There are conflicting reports on what – how did this come about in the first place. Some believe that the Turkish Government did it on its own. Some other reports – I’m talking about local media reports in the region – they say the United States pressured Turkey to do this, to allow Peshmerga forces to go to Kobani. Can you clarify which one is true?

MS. PSAKI: Well, ultimately, it’s the decision of Turkey to help facilitate. They made that decision, as they’ve spoken publicly about. Certainly, it’s been a part of our discussion with Turkey over the course of the last few weeks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Just very quickly. I believe it was the same interview with the prime minister regarding the extent – there were some comments that I believe he made saying that we are not going to send any troops to Syria or Kobani if no other coalition has done this or nobody else in the coalition will. Well, the Pesh are, in fact, sending troops to Kobani to fight. So do you think this is kind of a convenient excuse for the Turks to not send troops, or is that something that the U.S. doesn’t even expect Turkey to do this at this point?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t see it that way. The – for the first – the former just description that you made of. Obviously, there’s an ongoing discussion happening with Turkey and with countries in the region about what role they’ll play. Turkey’s role has increased over the past couple of weeks. We know this is going to be a long-term effort, but every country will make a decision about what role they’ll play. And there are a range of other steps that Turkey has already taken to be supportive of the coalition.

QUESTION: What sorts of --

QUESTION: Can you say if you have asked Turkey to send troops?

MS. PSAKI: It’s more of a discussion about what role they are prepared to play and what role they’re willing to play. And obviously, we’ll let them make any decisions and announcements about what their engagement will be.

QUESTION: But on the other hand, they’re also asking again for reassurances from the – from Washington that you are prepared to sort of step up training and equipping and fighting, that you have a strategy, a military strategy for the eventual – for aiding the Free Syrian Army and the eventual kind of ousting of President Assad. What kind of assurances are you giving them on this line?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we agree that we don’t want to see ISIL take more territory. We agree that we want to boost the capacity and the military credibility and capability of the Syrian opposition. Those steps are in the interest of the United States as well. So I don’t know that on that particular piece there’s a disagreement.

QUESTION: But they actually – I mean, they want a kind of commitment, so it seems or sounds, that they want a commitment that you are ready to engage militarily to oust Assad.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have done hundreds of airstrikes and we’ve been very clear that our focus is on degrading and defeating ISIL given the threat it poses to the United States. There’s no secret about our position on that front. We’ve said it publicly and we’ve discussed it, certainly, privately with any country who wants to discuss it.

QUESTION: But they want you to go beyond that. They want you to go beyond the ISIL to the FSA and the --

MS. PSAKI: I understand what their view is, but we have been – we just passed a train and equip program. We’ve been increasing the scale and scope of our assistance to the opposition. The United States has been doing as much or more than almost any country in the region in that regard. But our focus in this effort strategically is on degrading and defeating ISIL, and that’s what it will remain.

QUESTION: So no change in that even though the Turks would like --

MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed, and that’s something they’ve been talking about for some time, as you know.

QUESTION: Jen, on this issue, he said clearly that Turkey will not join the coalition if the coalition won’t fight the Assad regime.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think these are new comments. There are – they’ve said – I know – realize these particular quotes are, but these are comments that have been made for several weeks now. They’ve been increasing their engagement in the coalition, not just in the military component but in other components, including counter-financing, tracking – cracking down on foreign fighters, anti-ISIL messaging. We’re working with Turkey on all these components. We’ll continue to discuss with them their role moving forward.

QUESTION: Did you mean that they already joined the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: They have been making a range of contributions over the course of time.

QUESTION: But how do you measure the train and equip program that is ongoing now? I mean, it’s – these kind of trainings take a very long time for the Syrian opposition to become an effective fighting force. Is there any way that you can measure how they are doing, when will they be participating, where are they going to be participating and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I would certainly point you to my colleagues at the Department of Defense for that. They obviously oversee the implementation of train and equip programs.

QUESTION: But you’re also working directly with them and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we are.

QUESTION: -- I’m sure that the envoy is working with this opposition and he’s getting – somehow, he’s getting a feel or he’s getting something on how they are doing, how effective they are, what is their likely participation in the future.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what your question is.

QUESTION: My question is: How do you assess the ability of the Syrian opposition? Because you keep saying “the moderate opposition.” We never really have a clear picture on who’s this moderate opposition. It could be the Free Syrian Army; but if we take the Free Syrian Army, for instance, how do you gauge their effectiveness, their ability to sort of be cohesive and work together? Because in the past, the track record shows that they have been fragmented.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, one of the reasons why we’re putting in place this train and equip program, why Congress passed it, is because of the important role that capacity building militarily will play in strengthening the opposition. We still believe there is only a political solution; there is not a military solution here.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, part of that is certainly that assessment you referenced. But again, I’m not going to do that from here. That’s more appropriate from the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Okay. And my last question on this issue --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Who among your allies is taking a more active role in training and equipping? Is it Jordan, is it Saudi Arabia? Who is really taking the lead?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of countries who are participating and will play a role in the train and equip program but also contribute militarily and – for the other lines of effort.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one more question like generally speaking on the Kurds.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, we know the Kurds have been a crucial player in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, both the Iraqi Kurdish forces and the Syrian Kurds. But I want to know how you characterize U.S. relationship with the Kurds. We know the Kurds are not – they don’t have their own state. Do you call it an alliance with the Kurds? What do you call this relationship that the United States enjoys with the Kurds?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as you know, we work, obviously, with a range of groups. Iraqi Kurds have been among our closest partners in the region going back decades. That continues to be the case. Obviously, there are a range of groups and different groups are characterized differently, so I’m not sure there’s an overarching – there isn’t an overarching, sweeping characterization. We work with different groups, and some groups we don’t work with.

QUESTION: But is it like an alliance? Can you call it an alliance with Iraqi Kurds, for example?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t – I’d qualify it exactly as I just characterized it.

Do we have any more on Iraq or Turkey?

QUESTION: Jen – yeah, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the program, the training and equip program?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s the same question Said asked.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update. It would be more appropriate to ask that question at the Department of Defense, who is implementing that program.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to follow up earlier question, U.S.-Kurdish relationship – how would you characterize the relationship with the PKK right now?

MS. PSAKI: PKK remains a designated terrorist organization. That hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Is there any discussion regarding de-listing the PKK at this point from --

MS. PSAKI: If there was, I wouldn’t get into it from the podium.

QUESTION: You just talk about Turkey’s role in the coalition, and you said that Turkey’s contribution is increasing. And the Prime Minister Davutoglu says Turkey’s not in the coalition. Just to clear the air, can we say Turkey is not partner but contributor? Is there any way you can define us --

MS. PSAKI: I will leave it to you to editorialize how you choose, but Turkey has been an important partner. They’re a NATO ally, and they have been an important contributor to the coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL.

QUESTION: And one question in Syria: Free Syrian Army has been fighting with the al-Nusrah and al-Qaida group in Idlib for the last two days. It looks like the clashes are increasing and intense. Al-Nusrah pushed back the FSA brigades today. Is there any plan by the U.S. to help the FSA groups in Idlib, since this fight is increasing between the al-Qaida and the moderate --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any military plans to outline for you or predict for you from here. Obviously, you know what our focus remains on. We have continued to increase airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. That will continue, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.

Scott, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go elsewhere? Are you going to stay --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay, let’s just do a couple more on Syria.

QUESTION: Very quick question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- on Syrians that are stranded in places like Turkey – journalists, doctors, and so on. They have no passports. The government refuses to renew their passports. Do they have any recourse here? Are you aware of anything that they --

MS. PSAKI: U.S. citizen? I’m not sure who you’re referring to.

QUESTION: No, no, they’re not U.S. citizens. Syrian citizens. Is there anything that they could do – I know you may not know this, but what should they be doing? What should they do to obtain any kind of travel documents?

MS. PSAKI: Syrian citizens --

QUESTION: Right --

MS. PSAKI: -- in Syria?

QUESTION: -- Syrian citizens who have been disallowed the benefit of passport renewal because --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I don’t think the U.S. Government is probably the right source to ask that question. I will check and see if there’s any more we can offer.

QUESTION: I mean, can they – okay, let me rephrase the question: Can they go to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and seek asylum?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, as you know, there’s an application process for that. Typically individuals are within countries.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: The State Department doesn’t --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: -- run that process fully --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: -- so I would point you to DHS and others if you have a specific question on that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a very quick status check.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any assessment on whether ISIS is in custody of chemical weapons or MANPADS at this point?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update to what I said yesterday on MANPADS or a couple days ago on chemical weapons.

QUESTION: Which – I’m sorry – was what? I missed it.

MS. PSAKI: You’re talking about specifically the reports about Iraq?

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: I think it was that we were assessing it. I don’t have any new update on --

QUESTION: Okay. But you haven’t confirmed either at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Jen, a news report said that officials in Kurdistan, Iraq are involved in smuggling oil for the benefit of ISIL. Are you aware of these reports, and what do you think about them?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports. I can check with our team and see if there’s anything more to offer.

Scott, go ahead.

QUESTION: Indonesia.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have an answer to yesterday’s taken question --

MS. PSAKI: I do.

QUESTION: -- regarding the human rights allegations about the new defense minister?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Thank you for bringing it up again.

So, as you know, we raise human rights around the world and we certainly never hesitate to do that. With this specific case, we are certainly aware of the allegations of human rights violations committed by the Indonesian army while the general served as army chief of staff. We are not, however, aware of any allegation that ties the defense minister explicitly to a specific human rights violation. Obviously, this is something that we track and watch closely.

And I would also just note that Indonesia’s military, like the country as a whole, has reformed in significant ways over the past 16 years in line with Indonesia’s democratic transition. This is something the United States has obviously pushed for, and we expect that reform trend to continue from here.

QUESTION: A question about another member of the new cabinet: The minister of state enterprises was born in Maryland. Do you know the – there’s no dual nationality allowed, so can you take that question of citizenship?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to take it. And what was your specific question, just so I make sure – whether he was born – whether he’s a --

QUESTION: Or whether this individual has renounced U.S. citizenship.

MS. PSAKI: Let me check and see on that one, Scott. Sure.

Should we move to a new topic?

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: North Korea, sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations met with the UN rights investigator on talks about – I think there’s a report that’s being presented tomorrow which could push for North Korea to face war crimes. Were you aware of the meeting? What is your take on it? And what do you expect it to come out of the talk – the discussion tomorrow at the UN General Assembly?

MS. PSAKI: I was not aware of the meeting. I’m happy to talk to our team about it. And I’m not going to make a prediction about tomorrow. Obviously, as you know, we have raised concerns and supported the efforts of the commission of inquiry. The Secretary did an event raising awareness for these issues when we were in New York, given our concern – the United States concern. But in terms of the outcome tomorrow, I would point you to USUN on that.

QUESTION: Is the United States behind the idea of referring North Korea to the ICC for war crimes?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team on that, Jo.

QUESTION: One more on this?

QUESTION: Have you seen the reports that North Korea may have developed a viable missile testing facility? And if the U.S. has been able to confirm it, how does that change the U.S.’s concern about North Korea’s role?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen the article. I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters. As you know, broadly speaking, North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and continued development of its ballistic missile program and related activities constitute clear violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and have been condemned by the international community and the UN Security Council. We continue to urge North Korea to comply with its UN Security Council obligations, as required by multiple resolutions. North Korea must suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, stop conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology, and abandon its ballistic missile program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up: Given the sanctions regime already in place against North Korea, where is it getting the equipment to build this facility? Where is it getting the materials to build this facility? Where is it getting the scientific know-how? Is it dealing with other pariah states in order to make this facility a reality?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given I haven’t confirmed any details of the article, I don’t think there’s much more I can say on this particular topic.

North Korea?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I go to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead, Nicole.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: I want to go to a new country, so --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. North Korea? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with Japan about the delegations over there right now? And have you been receiving reports about them or have any reaction to that delegation over there?

MS. PSAKI: We are in regular touch with Japan. I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of recent calls or meetings over the past 24 hours.

QUESTION: Any update on Mr. Seiler’s trip over there?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do believe I have one on that. One moment. Oh, sorry.

Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks Sydney Seiler held a series of wide-ranging and constructive discussions on October 29th with Director General for North Korean Nuclear Affairs Shin Chae-hyun and with other Korean officials on a wide range of issues related to North Korea. These discussions are the latest in a series of regular ongoing consultations with our five-party partners, all of whom remain united in pursuit of their shared objective: a denuclearized North Korea.

He also delivered remarks as the U.S. representative at the first high-level meeting of the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative. He’ll travel to Beijing later this week on October 30th to meet with senior Chinese Government officials and then he’ll travel to Japan on November 1st to meet with senior Japanese Government officials, and he’ll return to Washington early next week.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Has Mr. Fowle’s release had an impact on his trip?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no. And I would just reiterate that the release of Mr. Fowle, which we certainly welcomed and celebrated, does not change the fact that we have existing concerns, ongoing concerns along with the international community about North Korea’s nuclear program.

Should we – new topic? Go ahead, Nicole.

QUESTION: I’d like to go to Israel-Palestine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There have been media reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected criticism of Israel’s settlement policy saying that criticism was the impediment to peace. I was wondering if I could get this building’s reaction to that.

And secondly, I’m just wondering if there’s discussion or interest in going back to or trying to rekindle talks, perhaps after the midterm election is over or in the next few months.

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first question, we’ve seen the prime minister’s remarks. I think that’s what you’re referring to – his remarks earlier today?

QUESTION: Right. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Our policy has been clear for many administrations. The policy continues to oppose unilateral steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on Jerusalem. Certainly, Secretary Kerry – I mentioned this a little bit yesterday – but he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Saturday. He conveyed very clearly what our view is on settlements. And the fact remains that if actions are taken that are not conducive to peace, it makes it very difficult to not only return to a negotiation but to obviously reach a two-state solution.

In terms of the reconvening, that is going to be up in any scenario to the parties to determine whether they’re willing to take the steps necessary to do that. Obviously, we will continue to be available and advocate for the benefits of a two-state solution for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and for the region. But certainly we can’t do it for them.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: But he dismissed your criticism, and he basically said that building in Jerusalem is like building in London or Paris or any of the other capitals. Do you agree with them? Do you agree that they have the right to build as they wish in Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view on construction is longstanding, Said. And we’ve stated it many times here. We’ll continue to express those views. We’ve – as I mentioned yesterday, we continue to urge both sides to take steps that are conducive to what they state they want to achieve, which is peace in the region and a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. He also said that if you keep criticizing the settlement, that is likely to give the Palestinians unwarranted hopes that they may not realize. Are you aware of his statement?

MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said – I would just leave it with what I said. I think clearly there are a range of issues that would need to be discussed. Obviously, there are a range of difficult choices that both sides would need to make. As you know, we’re not – there aren’t ongoing peace negotiations. And as you also know, we believe that’s the only way to achieve peace in the region.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, the Security Council just announced that they will meet tomorrow to discuss the settlement expansion and the settlement activities. It was done at the request of Jordan, which is a member of the Security Council. Now, will you call on the Israelis to call back or to nullify their earlier announcement about the expansion of settlement?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve already conveyed our views; I did yesterday, I did today. In terms of the meeting tomorrow, obviously, those reports are – were just coming out this morning. I don’t have any more information on what the agenda is or what the plans are for tomorrow, and I expect we can talk more about it tomorrow when we know more.

QUESTION: Okay. But if the Security Council calls on Israel to withdraw its plans, will you support such a request or such a demand in this case?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically get ahead of actions that have not yet been taken and haven’t even been laid out.

QUESTION: Do you think that any action in the Security Council will sort of engender the kind of veto that we have experienced in the past from the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a sweeping generalization, Said. We don’t have information yet on what the plan is.

QUESTION: The European Union also condemned the plans, saying that it calls into question Israel’s commitment to negotiate a solution. But they actually went a step further than the United States has been prepared to go, saying that if it does go ahead, there’s going to be consequences for EU-Israel ties, some of which we’ve already seen in the past with previous announcements. Again, I guess this goes back to Matt’s question of yesterday. I mean, is the United States prepared to put in place consequences if these settlements go ahead?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what I’ve stated about our view.

QUESTION: But why not? I mean, wouldn’t – if – you can say that you condemn the settlements, that they’re contrary to peace. I think you said it was, yesterday, “incompatible” with any peace plans. But if you don’t back it up with any kind of action, then the Israelis surely can just go ahead and do it for as long as they like.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I would disagree with that. Obviously, there are a range of countries you just referenced that have indicated their plans to put in place consequences. Israel cares deeply about their place and role in the world. That’s obviously something they factor in. They’ve stated they want to see a peaceful society for their people. If they want to achieve that, then there are steps that they should take themselves. So --

QUESTION: But the United States is the biggest backer – single backer of Israel. If the United States moved to do even halfway what some of the European countries are doing, would that not lend more weight to your cause to stop the settlement building?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I think I’m going to leave it with what I said.

QUESTION: Would there have come a moment when the United States will say you must stop settlements or we’re going to do X, Y, and Z? Or is this going to remain at the level --

MS. PSAKI: I think Jo asked the same question. Let’s just try to get a couple of others, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Let me just – okay. Just very quickly, a follow-up to that: Have you found out anything about the teenage Palestinian American boy that was shot?

MS. PSAKI: I have a little bit more in terms of the specific technical answers that all of you were asking.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So let me run through a little bit of that.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: The Israeli National Police is handling the investigation on the death of the three-month-old American in the light rail attack incident. We’re in close touch with the INP and understand the investigation is ongoing. We’ve asked for a speedy, transparent, and thorough investigation.

For the teenager who was killed in the West Bank during a confrontation with Israeli forces, Israeli authorities are conducting the investigation. We have stressed to a number of Israeli Government officials our expectation that there will be a speedy, transparent, and thorough investigation, and they have indicated to us that that will be the case. That is the update I have at this point in time.

\New topic?

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: Africa.

MS. PSAKI: Africa, and then we’ll go to Scott. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There are reports this morning from a contingent of U.S. military personnel who apparently are quarantined in Italy, including a two-star general.

MS. PSAKI: I think we addressed this yesterday. Go ahead, sorry.

QUESTION: I just wanted --

MS. PSAKI: Continue. Maybe that wasn’t your question.

QUESTION: Yeah. I want – the general or the spokesperson for the group referred to – we want to make sure we don’t bring back any gunk from Africa to the United States. So I’d like an explanation of – I assume “gunk” is referring to Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I know they addressed this yesterday, and I’m sure they’re – they’d be happy to --

QUESTION: The second question is: Is it – are there a series of bilaterals being negotiated with various countries in terms of where military personnel will be quarantined if they are coming out of Africa?

MS. PSAKI: I would again point you to the Department of Defense. Obviously, there were guidelines announced yesterday by the CDC that impact --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- the return of American citizens or individuals who come to the United States. They did an extensive briefing on that. Otherwise, I know the Department of Defense has explained that this was an individual, not a sweeping decision. But I would point you to them for more specifics about military personnel.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Just on that --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Could you update us on where Ambassador Power is at the moment, which country?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have that, Jo. I know USUN --

QUESTION: She started in Guinea, but I’m just wondering if she’s moved on now to one of the other countries.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that in front of me. I’m sure we can quickly get that to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: You just want to know which country she’s in right now?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And I guess where the tour is going to wrap up.

MS. PSAKI: I think perhaps Sierra Leone, but let me check and make sure that’s --

QUESTION: And I guess when the tour is going to wrap up or when she might start becoming susceptible to the – any kind of rules that --

MS. PSAKI: I know she’s returning later this week. I’ll see if there’s more on – in terms of a specific day or time.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: Armenia.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: There are two Azerbaijani citizens who are on trial or facing charges of sabotage in the self-declared capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku is demanding the return of their citizens. Are you aware, monitoring the situation, and have expressed your concerns to either the Armenians or the Azerbaijanis?

MS. PSAKI: I do have something on this. One moment. On these specific cases, we really don’t have a great deal of information on it. Obviously, they are the experts. We have continued to convey that it’s important for the sides to take the necessary steps to lay the basis for a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We call on all sides to redouble their efforts at the negotiation table to focus on the benefits that peace will bring to people across the region.

In terms of our engagement in this specific incident, not that I am aware of. Let me double-check and make sure that that’s the case.

QUESTION: Is it your opinion that putting on trial Azerbaijani in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh capital is in line with taking those moves?

MS. PSAKI: Taking the moves to --

QUESTION: That you’re calling on both sides to take.

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s just a broad point we make. We don’t have the – all the specifics, so I think we just haven’t weighed in more than that.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Before Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in, I remember Brett McGurk, your colleague, had a hearing on the Capitol Hill.

MS. PSAKI: He’s above me in the food chain, but keep going. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, he told senators that, quote/unquote, “it was unacceptable” for Baghdad to stop sending the revenue share of the Kurdistan region. He said it was unacceptable. But months have passed since he made that statement, and the Kurds don’t receive their budget yet from Baghdad. I mean, one could wonder whether the United States has done anything concrete to make sure that that decision by Baghdad would be reversed, or you just made that promise in order to make sure that you had a government in place to fight ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would completely disagree with the premise of your question, which I’m sure you’re not surprised by. This is an issue we have raised many times publicly. It comes up in meetings that we have on the ground. And our position hasn’t changed on this; we’re continuing to press on that. But obviously, it’s up to the officials on the ground to make progress.

QUESTION: But why hasn’t Baghdad done anything? Is Baghdad not willing to listen to what you are telling them?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, there are a range of steps that the central government is working to implement. I’d point you to them for more answers on that question.

QUESTION: Considering that this is 17 percent of the budget, why, in your opinion, is the Baghdad government withholding all that for so many months?

MS. PSAKI: Said, you’re familiar with the history here. I would point you to the government there. I don’t have any more analysis for you.

QUESTION: Could I return to Africa please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the U.S. Government has long criticized as un-democratic the rule of Robert Mugabe, who’s now enjoying his 34th year in power. I’m wondering if the United States had any view on First Lady Grace Mugabe’s indication that she may be the next ruler of Zimbabwe, in part by describing the sitting Vice President Joice Mujuru as ungrateful, power-hungry, daft, corrupt, foolish, divisive, and a disgrace.

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first part of your question, our view continues to be that internal rules and party – and a party constitution govern Zimbabwe’s political parties, and party members should hold their leaders accountable for those rules. We value a democratic process and a result that is credible – a credible reflection of the will of the people. Obviously, it will be up to the people of Zimbabwe to pick their next leader and not the United States, and we’re certain they’ll weigh all the factors.

QUESTION: Could I just stay on a similar vein --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- not Zimbabwe. In Sudan – I don’t know if you’ve seen the notice earlier this week that the Sudanese President Bashir, who’s wanted for war crimes – just go back to an earlier theme – is planning to stand again in the next elections. Does the United States take a position on whether this is a good idea or not?

MS. PSAKI: I had seen that report, though I haven’t talked to our team. So why don’t we get something for you, Jo?

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: On Egypt very quickly, does the United States support this buffer zone that’s being built on the border with Gaza? It’s forcing the evacuation of many people there.

MS. PSAKI: I really had not talked to them about the --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- specific details on there. I’m happy to do that. Obviously, we know – understand Egypt’s concern about their security. That’s why we have done – taken steps like delivering the Apaches and things along those lines, but let me check on the specific border question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: All right, anyone else?

QUESTION: One more, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Just one very quick one: Hong Kong, the pro-democracy students who’ve – now marking one month of their protests have decided that they’re going to go above the heads of the Hong Kong authorities and call for direct talks with Beijing. I guess they’re not getting any traction with Hong Kong authorities. Given that you’ve stood behind the protests, saying that you support universal suffrage, do you think this is a good idea, that they should go and talk directly to Berlin – Beijing? Would you support that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve also said that we believe dialogue between students and the authorities is the right step to take. I hadn’t seen that report, so we’ll put that on the list of things we’ll follow up with you on.

Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)

DPB # 183

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 27, 2014

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 17:33

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 27, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:37 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: That was a long two minutes.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: My apologies. I apologize.

I have a couple of items for you at the top. We’ve seen in recent days fighting in Tripoli and Akkar and other areas of Lebanon as terrorists attacked the Lebanese Armed Forces and tried to divide the Lebanese people. The United States commends the bravery of the personnel of the Lebanese Armed Forces who are working to keep Tripoli and Akkar safe for all residents, and we join with Lebanon as it mourns the loss of the soldiers and officers who died defending Lebanon from terrorist groups.

We’re encouraged by the strong stand of the prime minister in this regard, and that of other leaders. We condemn those who seek to sow chaos in Lebanon and are confident that the Lebanese people will persevere if they stand united in the face of this threat. The army and the state security institutions alone have the legitimate role of defending Lebanon under the direction of the government. We remain very confident in their abilities and we will continue to support it and the Lebanese Government as they battle to keep Lebanon safe and secure.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Riyadh yesterday, where they had constructive meetings with Foreign Minister Saud and other senior Saudi royal and government officials to discuss shared efforts to combat ISIL. The delegation thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their participation in airstrikes in Syria, their agreement to support train-and-equip efforts for the moderate Syrian opposition, for important steps they have taken to prevent Saudi citizens from traveling to join ISIL’s ranks, and the Kingdom’s efforts to encourage moderate Muslim voices decrying ISIL’s violence and un-Islamic message.

From Riyadh, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk went to Kuwait, where General Allen delivered remarks at a conference of coalition partners confronting and contesting ISIL’s messaging, especially in the online space. In his speech, General Allen called for coalition partners to coordinate their efforts to expose ISIL’s true – true message, yes, noting this “line of effort is vital, perhaps central to defeating ISIL and ensuring that it can longer threaten the region and the global community.” They also had productive meetings with the amir of Kuwait, as well as the prime minister. They conveyed our thanks for Kuwait’s support of coalition military efforts and our encouragement for further action on steps Kuwait has taken to monitor ISIL sympathizers, increase oversight of charitable donations. They are next – they are now in Bahrain and they will then travel to Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Muscat in that order.

Finally, Secretary Kerry will travel to Ottawa, Canada tomorrow, October 28th, for a series of bilateral meetings and to convey condolences to senior Canadian officials following last week’s attacks in Canada. He will also express America’s solidarity with the Canadian people, reaffirming the close friendship and alliance between our countries. The Secretary will emphasize steadfast U.S. support for our Canadian partners, continued close cooperation in our shared approach to countering violent extremism, and our commitment to stand beside our Canadian neighbors and friends.

With that --

QUESTION: Can I start with a different trip? And I realize --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that this isn’t your exact area. But since Ambassador Power does – is part of the State Department family, perhaps you can --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- enlighten us as to the answers on a couple questions I have.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, has there been or are you aware of any contact that USUN had or that this building had with authorities in New York state about this trip and whether or not the people who are on this trip would be subject to quarantine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Power and the traveling party were obviously aware of the discussions of potential quarantines by state and local officials prior to departure, and will, of course, be prepared to abide by requirements upon return. That said, they are also in close contact with the CDC, with medical experts, and are taking absolutely every precaution to stay safe and to avoid contracting the disease, a risk that pales in comparison to the risk we take if the international community does not take further action.

QUESTION: Is it this building or USUN’s understanding that they would be covered by the quarantine orders that are in effect, at least in New York and New Jersey?

MS. PSAKI: They would abide by the requirements state by state, or any other requirements.

QUESTION: Do you believe that they – if they do what they say they’re going to do on this trip and don’t deviate from the norm, would they be covered by the existing --

MS. PSAKI: When you say “would they be covered,” what do you mean by that exactly?

QUESTION: Would they be covered by the existing quarantine order? My understanding is that at least in some cases, these quarantine orders only apply to health care workers who have had direct contact with Ebola patients in these countries. I don’t know that that’s the case with Ambassador Power or her traveling party.

MS. PSAKI: Well, they will not have contact with individuals infected with Ebola. She’s not visiting any Ebola treatment units. They’re observing all hand-washing protocols and doing temperature screenings multiple times a day. So the point is it’s different state to state; depending on where she is and where she lands, she’ll abide by whatever the requirements are.

QUESTION: Okay. She’s not visiting any Ebola treatment center? Why is she there then? I mean, what’s the point of the – if she’s not going to show support for the specific facilities or the people working in them, why is she there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, while she’s there – and I know they have put out information on this – she’ll be receiving briefings on the ground, she’ll be meeting with officials in the countries. And certainly, she is a prominent U.S. official making a trip to not only raise awareness but talk to experts on the ground as well.

QUESTION: And then one last one on this. You have embassies that are open in all of these countries.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Returning diplomats from these countries, is it the same standard that you just said that – for Ambassador Power and her party that they are prepared to comply with all laws or regulations? That applies to U.S. diplomats who are returning home on – for leave or whatever? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. If it applies to them, sure.

QUESTION: Are you aware that any of them have?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any specific application.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Jen, can I follow up on one aspect of this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You’re talking about her having briefings and meeting officials and raising the profile. Do you really believe that the threat from Ebola needs a higher profile?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, first I think she’s gaining a better understanding of the international response and the dire needs on the ground. And obviously, that can be done meeting with experts. That can be done meeting with officials. And as you know, one of the cases she’s already made on the ground is that there’s more the international community needs to do. So it’s not a question of whether the news media is covering it enough. I certainly think the media is around the world covering it quite a bit. But there are a number of countries that can do more, and she certainly can shed some light or bring some attention to why those needs are so dire.

QUESTION: Are you now in a position where you’re willing to identify the countries that aren’t doing enough? Because you’ve been talking about other countries that need to do more --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- for quite a while now. If they still aren’t doing more, then why not identify them and maybe shame them into doing more?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has done that in the past. Obviously, you are aware of the amounts that countries have given. I think you can draw your own conclusions.

QUESTION: Jen, can you tell us how many people are accompanying Ambassador Power? What’s the size of her party?

MS. PSAKI: How many individuals in her party?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I can check with their team, or you certainly can. I’m happy to, though, and let you know.

QUESTION: So they would – so basically then, they would all be subject to adhering to whatever kind of quarantine requirements that are --

MS. PSAKI: Whatever applies to them they would adhere to.

QUESTION: Meaning it applies to their home state? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Whatever states they travel through.

QUESTION: On the service men and women that are back, I think from Liberia, are they being quarantined now? Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Defense Department has spoken to this. I know – I believe they’re the appropriate entity to speak to it. I would say that I would expect you’ll hear more from the CDC later today on new guidelines which will – which, of course, they’re working closely with states to implement. I don’t want to get ahead of their announcement, but I would certainly point you to that.

QUESTION: Did – I heard some of the White House briefing in which they said that this DOD quarantine/non-quarantine, whatever it is you want to call it, was the work of not – it was not a policy of the Pentagon but it was one specific commander.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. I believe they’ve spoken to it, yeah.

QUESTION: Right. But I wanted – but State has no plan to do the same with those people that we’re talking about who are serving, the diplomats who are serving in these countries?

MS. PSAKI: No. As I mentioned, they’ll abide by any regulations that apply to them.

QUESTION: But there is no State Department policy on this?

MS. PSAKI: No, we would abide by any federal policy.

Do we have any more on Ebola? Ebola? Okay, let’s --

QUESTION: One more.

MS. PSAKI: One more, okay.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. Madam, my question is that as far as this disease is concerned, many countries have not had the kind of health care system like in the U.S., like in, let’s say in India and South Asia. All those countries are involved now as a part of this U.S. effort to stop this Ebola? I mean, are you in touch with the India, let’s say?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of countries that are contributing, Goyal, to this effort, to this international effort. And we certainly will continue to encourage every country to do more, as we will.

Should we move on to a new topic?

QUESTION: Kuwait?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo. Kuwait?

QUESTION: The meeting in Kuwait --

MS. PSAKI: The meeting today? Sure.

QUESTION: -- attended by General Allen. What are you actually hoping concretely will come out of this? Are you expecting some kind of framework to be drawn up or are you expecting further commitments from countries? What exactly concretely will happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they read a joint statement at the meeting which we’ll put out and provide to all of you, which may be useful, Jo. But during the meeting, they – part of the emphasis was on the need for coalition partners to work individually and collectively to expose ISIL’s true destructive and barbaric nature. They discussed steps that their governments are taking individually and cooperatively to strengthen the resistance of communities to ISIL’s extremist message. This involves – and they discussed intensifying our engagement to address significant events, enhancing exchanges, training and other cooperative programs for government leaders and spokespersons, actively opposing the recruitment of foreign fighters and encouraging important religious and social leaders, opinion makers and the millions of young people who oppose violent extremism to raise their voices through traditional and social media.

So this was an important coordinating mechanism from here, and I haven’t had the chance to speak with Under Secretary Stengel about this but believe from here there’ll be more coordination and there’ll be calls and additional meetings, and a discussion of how to implement this country by country and certainly do more to get the – get our – their voices out, I should say.

QUESTION: Do you think there’ll be more religious leaders, for instance, who now come out and sort of voice support for moderate Islam and against the sort of extremism we’ve seen from ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: That certainly is our hope, and as you know, some have spoken out. But certainly part of their discussion was about how impactful certain individuals, including important religious leaders, can be in this space, so certainly that’s our hope from here.

QUESTION: Did Under Secretary Stengel express sentiments of welcoming Iran’s participation in the anti-ISIS coalition?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that was part of the discussion, no.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the days that – you said that he’ll be going on to (inaudible), Abu Dhabi. Can you tell us what days he’ll be in each country, as apparently that seems to be a big secret?

MS. PSAKI: I believe he’ll be back Thursday night, so I assume, Elise, and I’m happy to check this, that --

QUESTION: Yeah, if you can take that question that would be really great --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- because apparently it’s a big secret or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think probably, as I mentioned in the opening, that he’s – they’ve already been in Kuwait, so they’re going to Doha next. We’ll check days for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Kuwait or ISIL?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: ISIL? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. So General Allen made some comments to Asharq al-Awsat that were published on their English-language website over the weekend. I don’t know if he was speaking in English or in Arabic, and then in English and translated back, but the gist of what he said is, in one aspect, when he was asked whether the forces that the United States hopes to train once it has vetted them and built the facilities to train them in, would ultimately go on to fight Syrian Government forces. He replied, “No, what we would like is to see for the FSA and the forces that we’ll ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize.” There’s a thing I don’t understand here. I know the President’s been quite clear that the purpose of training these forces is to go after the Islamic State. And I heard General Allen here, two weeks ago, be very clear – or 12 days ago – that he hopes they’ll someday be part of a political solution.

What I don’t understand, though, is two things: One, those forces are to some degree already fighting Assad’s forces, right? So it’s hard to imagine that they’re not going to keep fighting them, particularly if they have fended off Islamic State. And then secondly, why on Earth would Assad take them seriously, recognize them, see them as something to reckon – a group to reckon with if they’re not fighting?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well --

QUESTION: So I don’t get it.

MS. PSAKI: -- I’ve spoken with General Allen about this many times. I didn’t speak with him today about this; I did speak with his team about it. I saw the same report you did. And his view is what the view of the President is, which is that – and it’s hard to explain exactly how the question was posed and if there was a language barrier. I’m not quite clear on that, Arshad – but is that they’ve been fighting a two-pronged war, as you mentioned, against Assad and against ISIL. Even as we increase our support in the form of airstrikes against ISIL, which, as you acknowledge, is our focus, we fully expect the opposition will fight Assad as well, and that’s part of the effort.

What I have had him – heard him describe, which he did in the interview as well and I think is a clearer way of describing how we see this transpiring, is that part of this is increasing the military credibility of the opposition so that they can get back to the negotiating table. And while we don’t believe there’s a military solution, we are not advocating for that to be how this is ended, we believe that getting back to the negotiating table will need to increase their military credibility.

QUESTION: So – but military credibility isn’t just a matter of saying, “Ooh, I’m big and tough.”

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Presumably, it comes out of fighting.

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: So, in fact, unlike the – and I don’t know if there are translation issues here, but in fact you do expect the forces that you are helping to train and equip, whenever you get that done, to actually fight Assad’s forces to some degree.

MS. PSAKI: To continue to fight. Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: And I’m not acknowledging – I don’t know that there were translation issues.

QUESTION: I don’t know either. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just saying that I’ve discussed with General Allen many times and that’s consistently been his view. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Jen, to follow up on this, to fight the regime forces, the opposition needs anti-aircraft missiles in this war. Are you ready to support them with this kind of weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on that has not changed. We’ve expressed concerns about that particular type of weapons system in the past due to the proliferations risks that do not serve our interests. That’s a position that’s well-known, including by the opposition.

QUESTION: How can they be able to fight the regime without this kind of arms do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you asserted that was something they needed. We did not. So our view continues to be as it has been for some time.

QUESTION: Jen, I want to just follow up --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the ISIL are actually using anti-aircraft missiles now as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware – I think it was claims by ISIL --

QUESTION: Claims.

MS. PSAKI: -- that they possess MANPADS and have used them to target Iraqi aircraft. We’re assessing these claims. There’s clearly significant potential threat to aviation operating in Iraqi and Syrian airspace due to ongoing fighting. But – and of particular concern is our advanced conventional weapons like MANPADS, but we don’t have confirmation of this at that time – at this time.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to go back to something that you said about the – going back to the negotiating table. You’re saying – so are you saying that any diplomatic effort is now completely on hold until there’s some sort of a military outcome to this thing?

MS. PSAKI: Not exactly, Said. What I was getting at is you know – you would know if there was a negotiation going on right now between representatives of the regime and representatives of the opposition. Obviously, there’s not. And in order for us – them to get back to the table, it’s clear that they need to have a stronger political standing, and certainly stronger military standing will help them get there.

QUESTION: So knowing that ISIS – ISIL creates an enemy in common to all these groups, wouldn’t some sort of reigniting the negotiating in Geneva or elsewhere would actually help accelerate the – to sort of defeat ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to have talks just to have talks, and certainly they need to be in a position where they have a strong negotiating position at the table. And that’s where we’re trying to get to.

QUESTION: And you believe that they – after this fight is over, they will have a stronger negotiating position than they do now?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not after this fight is over as much as they are – we – our train and equip program moves forward, as they increase their military capabilities, that will help strengthen their political positioning as well.

Is this on ISIL?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: But on ISIL in Kobani.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So we know, like, it’s been more than a week since president of Turkey said that he will allow Peshmerga forces to be deployed to Kobani, but that hasn’t happened yet. It was supposed to happen last week just – and then it was delayed to yesterday and then today didn’t happen. Peshmerga sources tell us – they say it’s because of technical reasons. I just want to know what’s your understanding of the situation there.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly, again, would welcome Turkish efforts to facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga into Kobani. We continue to work closely with Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government authorities on a sustainable way forward to support forces in Kobani, and over the longer term, efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. I would refer you otherwise to Turkish authorities on this, but it’s an ongoing effort and certainly we support the fact that they’re open to and willing to facilitate it.

QUESTION: Do you believe it should happen? Peshmerga forces should be deployed to Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: We support it, yes.

QUESTION: One more question about the – yesterday – I think it was yesterday, Peshmerga forces recaptured a key town on the border, and now people are talking about the collapse of the economy in Mosul; I think Guardian reported that as a result of another strategic town they captured on the Syrian border. So what is your understanding of Mosul’s economy? And also, how strategic was Zumar, the town that was captured yesterday – from a U.S. perspective?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an analysis of the economy there. I’m happy to check with our team and see. Obviously, given the – not just tensions; that would be an understatement of it – but given the fighting and what’s happened around there, it’s not a surprise it’s had an impact on the economy. But I don’t have an analysis. I can check and see if we have one from here.

We’ve seen reports that the Iraqi Security Forces made some advances south of Baghdad and in northern Iraq. These are positive developments, but as we’ve said, this is a long-term effort and there are going to be good days and bad days, and we – and victories and setbacks. So we don’t want to overstate what it means. If there’s a town, obviously that would be a good step, but there’s a long way to go, and we’re certainly aware of that.

The first step is having the security forces move from a defensive to an offensive posture. We’ve begun to see that over the last several days, but this will, of course, take some time.

QUESTION: Just one more question, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Haider al-Abadi, he was in Jordan, and according to some Jordanian media outlets, he told his counterparts or his – Jordanian officials that he’s going to arm the tribes in Anbar province. Is that something you will support? That’s pretty much similar to what the United States doing – did in 2007 with the surge.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure if this is what it’s a reference to. As you know, we’ve been working with the national – I mean, we’ve been supportive of his efforts to implement a national guard program, and part of that is empowering the local tribes, certainly including in Anbar province, and this is an effort that they’ve been implementing. We would certainly welcome the visit by Prime Minister Abadi to Jordan to promote relations between the countries. He did meet with an Anbar tribal delegation residing in Amman and stressed the importance of Iraqi unity and discussed the government’s desire for greater cooperation.

The important piece here is that they’re working under the umbrella of coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces and creating a longer-term line of defense.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: ISIL, sure.

QUESTION: You just stated a couple questions ago, I believe, that your fight against ISIL helps moderate opposition to fight against ISIL, but according to reports, which – over the weekend from Washington Post and New York Times, it’s saying that the Assad regime actually was taking advantage of the campaign against the Islamic State to concentrate its forces against the moderate opposition. And we have not seen Syrian regime is taking fight against ISIL recently, and we have seen the Assad regime taking advantage in Hama, Damascus suburbs, and Aleppo against the moderate opposition.

So the argument is your fight against ISIL is kind of – became de facto alliance with the Assad regime, even though you don’t want to admit that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve answered this many times, but I am happy to reiterate that before our engagement here and before our engagement with airstrikes and the military actions we’ve taken, now we’ve conducted more than 700 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, including four airstrikes yesterday and today against ISIL in Kobani, which destroyed five ISIL vehicles in an ISIL-occupied building. Before that, the opposition, I should say, was fighting on their own against both the regime and against ISIL. And now, we are working to degrade and defeat ISIL. We are helping to take on one of their enemies. And certainly, as I mentioned in response to Arshad’s question, we know that obviously, the materials that are being provided by a range of sources, the training that will be provided, that also – they will also use that to fight against the Assad regime. So it’s hard to see how they are worse off than they would have been had we not engaged in this effort.

QUESTION: The arguments goes that the Assad regime increased its barrel bombs and other attacks on the locations that the Syrian moderate oppositions are taking. This is the argument. They stop fighting with ISIL, which they weren’t much anyway, but now they increase their attacks on the moderate opposition.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are of course concerned about any attempt by the regime to seek to exploit the coalition campaign. We watch closely, of course, what they are doing. But at the end of the day, we’re taking on a threat that poses – that poses a threat to Western interests, that is one that we were concerned about – the United States – that also was a threat to the opposition. And we feel that taking on ISIL will strengthen the opposition.

QUESTION: Also, the Institute of the Study of War compiled 18 allegations of the chemical attacks. The first one is the August 19, which was the same day supposedly Syrian regime was – handed over its chemical weapons. And the same day --

MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about new allegations?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: From --

QUESTION: So according to this, again, study for – Institute of the Study of War group, between the – August 19 and now, they – there have been 18 chemical weapon attacks on the Syrian opposition forces, and the civilians, obviously, through barrel bombs. Would you concur with these allegations?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, would I what?

QUESTION: Your findings also concur with these allegations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, these are allegations that would be looked into – and I think we’ve spoken to this recently over the past couple of weeks – by the OPCW, and we’d certainly support that. But let’s be clear about the United States response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. In less in a year since the regime launched a deadly chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburbs, the United States and the international community removed and destroyed the Syrian regime’s declared stockpiles. Now, we never said that that meant that the job was done. The OPCW is working to complete three remaining tasks: resolving discrepancies in emissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration to the OPCW, destroying Syria’s remaining chemical weapons production facilities, and addressing continued reports of the use of chlorine gas in opposition areas, as described by the OPCW fact-finding mission. That’s an ongoing process. They would not be monitored if they were not a part of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which they joined as a part of this agreement reached a little over a year ago.

QUESTION: Jen, very quickly. I know it’s been over a month since the bombings started in Syria, and you informed the Syrians on that day. Do you inform them regularly every time you have an airstrike?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on contacts with the regime.

QUESTION: Can you tell us something about the protocol or the protocol that you follow to inform the Syrians?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more updates for you.

QUESTION: I still --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on Syria or should we move on?

QUESTION: I still have one.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Syria I got one.

MS. PSAKI: Syria? Syria?

QUESTION: I still --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I have one on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Syria. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There are reports, Jennifer, saying that Islamic State open an office or something like that in Ankara. Do you have anything to say or tell us on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Islamic – ISIL, or Daesh, as it’s called in the region, is not --

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. It’s your (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: It’s not a state, so they would not be in a position to open an embassy. So I would be very doubtful that those reports would be true.

QUESTION: ISIL – one more, please?

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on, Goyal, but we’ll get to you around the next round. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Israel, could you talk about Israel accelerating new settlement units that was just announced today, and if you – we could just follow on last week. It just seems that there’s a little bit of acrimony between the U.S. and Israel right now surrounding the defense minister’s visit, Israel now with these settlements and what’s going on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen – they’ve been reports. There haven’t been an official announcement at this point in time. We’re certainly deeply concerned by the reports. We are engaging at the highest levels with the Israeli Government from our Embassy on the ground to get --

QUESTION: Does that mean the President’s called?

MS. PSAKI: No. We’re – I said on the ground – from our Embassy on the ground to get more information. And we continue to make our position absolutely clear that we view settlement activity as illegitimate and unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem. Israel’s leaders have said they would support a pathway to a two-state solution, but moving forward with this type of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace, and that is certainly a message that we are conveying directly.

In terms of our relationship, the defense relationship, as you know, remains as strong as ever and the ties between us are unshakable. There are times when we disagree with actions of the Israeli Government, including settlements, the issue of settlements, where we have deep concerns about some of the steps the government is taking. We express those, but it does not mean that we don’t have a strong and formidable relationship that continues.

QUESTION: Sorry, do – have there – has there been any contact outside of the Embassy with the Israelis since the defense minister left?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary spoke with the prime minister this weekend.

QUESTION: Could you read it out so we can --

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. About what?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll check and see if there’s more to read out from the call. It was not about the visit of the defense minister, obviously.

QUESTION: It wasn’t?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: But – okay. So it had to do with your concerns about settlements, or it had to do with the two American children who were --

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to read out for you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. So in terms of you making your point clear on settlements when you’re speaking with the Israelis, have they been told that you’re actually going to do anything if they go ahead, or is it just that you’re going to say that you’re upset?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve expressed our view exactly as I just expressed it, Matt.

QUESTION: So there isn’t – so there is no consequence, then, beyond you just saying that you think it’s --

MS. PSAKI: This is often your question when we have a discussion on this issue.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if this time it would be different --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we said --

QUESTION: -- because what --

MS. PSAKI: -- many times before, there obviously is – you’ve seen reactions from the international community. You’ve seen our strong reactions from here. And I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but those strong reactions don’t actually – it doesn’t stop them from doing anything, though.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering if this time – if they go ahead with what you were just talking about, that you’re deeply concerned, I’m wondering if it will actually draw a consequence --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the key --

QUESTION: -- other than you getting angry from the podium.

MS. PSAKI: The key challenge, Matt, I think, is if Israel wants to see – wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps to reduce tensions and to avoid steps that are going to be incompatible with peace. And that’s consequences that they would – they would – that would impact them directly.

QUESTION: Are you saying that – I mean, do you think now that, basically, Israel is kind of giving up on that and is just going ahead with its own unilateral plans?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that. I would leave it at what I just said, which is that it’s incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.

QUESTION: You called – late on Friday you issued a fairly strong statement in your name calling for a speedy and transparent investigation into the killing of a U.S. citizen apparently by – or your statement said by the Israeli Defense Forces. It’s been 48 hours since – more than that, actually – 60 hours, say, since you issued that statement. Have you yet seen a speedy and transparent or speedy or transparent investigation by the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I don’t have a day-to-day evaluation of the investigation. We remain closely engaged with authorities. Our consulate-general in Jerusalem is in contact with the family, but obviously, we want to see that investigation rapidly concluded.

QUESTION: Is the FBI involved in that?

QUESTION: Could you ask – can I keep going on this? Forgive me. You asked for it to be fast. Has it been fast?

MS. PSAKI: It’s been moving forward. I don’t have an evaluation of the investigation timeline.

QUESTION: Could you take that one for us? Because you asked --

MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if there’s more that we can convey.

QUESTION: -- publicly for a speedy investigation. More than two days has gone by. A U.S. citizen is dead, and it --

MS. PSAKI: I’m well aware. That’s why we put out the statement on Friday.

QUESTION: And that’s exactly why I’m asking if you’ve actually seen whether or not there has been a speedy investigation.

MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if there’s more we want to convey from the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government involved in the investigation? Have any – is the FBI involved in any way, or if this is the Israeli Defense Force --

MS. PSAKI: Local authorities have the lead, Elise. Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Well – but, I mean, usually in the killing of an American citizen – I mean, usually the FBI or some other kind of U.S. law enforcement agency would be involved in the investigation. You’re just leaving it up to the Israelis to investigate these – supposed Israeli killing of an American citizen?

MS. PSAKI: I will check to see if there are any U.S. officials involved.

QUESTION: Jen, there was another U.S. citizen who was killed in – last week as well, a child. And you put out a statement --

MS. PSAKI: We did.

QUESTION: -- about that as well, Actually, a baby, I guess, is the correct --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. A three-month-old baby.

QUESTION: Yes. How is the investigation into that going?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on the investigations. I would encourage you all to ask the Israeli authorities that question.

QUESTION: Okay. Several --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Hold on, Elise. Several months ago, there was a shooting – there was an incident involving a shooting of some Palestinian youths. They weren’t Americans, but you called at that time for an – this was the video, the one that was captured on videotape. Are you aware of the results of that Israeli investigation?

MS. PSAKI: I would encourage you to ask the Israeli authorities for --

QUESTION: All right. And then --

MS. PSAKI: -- any outcomes they would like to share with you.

QUESTION: In the case of the Palestinian American teenager who was killed on Friday, are you – do you know the circumstances under which he was shot?

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

QUESTION: There are – okay. The reason I ask is because there are reports out there that he was throwing Molotov cocktails at cars on a highway. And I’m wondering, if that is the case, would you have still been so speedy in putting out a statement and offering your condolences to the family? The argument that is being made by some in Israel is that this kid was essentially a terrorist. And you don’t agree with that, I assume, but I don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, we don’t. I don’t have any more details on the circumstances now.

QUESTION: So you – does that – that would apply even if he was throwing Molotov cocktails?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate. I don’t have details to share.

QUESTION: All right. The other thing --

QUESTION: Back to the baby – back to the --

QUESTION: Well, I’ve got – I’ve got to get one more on this and then I’m done. There is a photograph of this teenager’s – this teenager being buried today, and he’s wearing a Hamas headband. It was put on him, obviously. Is that of concern at all to you guys?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more on this particular case.

QUESTION: Back to the baby. Can you – I mean, supposedly it was by Palestinian militants or whomever, not by the Israelis. Could you say or check whether – that the U.S. is involved in the investigation into the killing, into that car accident?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there is U.S. involvement in either of the cases.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, you said that Israeli leaders are committed to the two-state solution. Have you read the interview with the Israeli defense minister this weekend?

MS. PSAKI: I said they have stated that, but obviously --

QUESTION: Okay. But he actually --

MS. PSAKI: -- actions like settlement activity are inconsistent with that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me get your reaction to what he said. He actually – he says that no, not a two-state solution, that the Palestinians basically will not give more than some sort of an autonomy, that both Abbas, as his predecessor Arafat, are not committed to peace, they don’t accept Israel, and so on. I mean, he said some strong stuff.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I have not looked at the interview. But as you know, there are some who are not supporters of a two-state solution or a peaceful outcome.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: So I don’t think that’s --

QUESTION: So you find yourself in a sort of a different position, an opposing position, if you will, to the Israeli defense minister? You think that Abbas is --

MS. PSAKI: Said, I have not looked --

QUESTION: -- is a partner for peace?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I have not looked at the interview. I’m happy to do that. I would just state there have been comments made in the past that are not supportive of a two-state solution by individuals. Obviously, we have been working with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the past when we’ve been pursuing this process.

QUESTION: But – hold on a second.

QUESTION: Let me ask you this.

QUESTION: If – hold on, Said. If you’re talking about people in the Israeli Government or Israeli politicians who are not in favor of a two-state solution, presumably these are the people who are pushing for new settlement activity. Is that your understanding, that the consequence of that then is that they get what they want, which is they – there is no two-state solution?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I don’t understand how you expect to change Israel’s behavior as it relates to settlements if all you’re prepared to do is to verbally criticize it and not impose any consequence on it when the very people who are doing it – you’re saying the consequence is they don’t get a two-state solution. Well, that’s exactly what the people who are pushing the settlements want.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we’ve in the past --

QUESTION: Not a two-state solution.

MS. PSAKI: -- obviously, the international community is watching closely what they do. I’m going to leave it at that.

Do we have more on this topic?

QUESTION: I’ve got one more.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: To go back to Matt’s question about – were you aware when you put out the statement on Friday night that there were allegations that the Palestinian American teenager had been throwing – our story said a Molotov cocktail and it was – it had run before your statement came out. So didn’t you – did you know at the time when you put out the statement that there were allegations that he was engaged in violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were media reports, Arshad.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Beyond that, I don’t have anything to read out for you.

QUESTION: Right, no. But I just wanted to get on the record that you knew about those reports when you put out the call for the speedy investigation.

QUESTION: Matt – I mean Arshad, I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s more --

QUESTION: But just to clarify what Matt was saying, and you said – you kind of said something but it was just very short --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- you do not believe that this teenager was throwing Molotov cocktails. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: That’s – I don’t have any more to outline or confirm for you in terms of the circumstances.

QUESTION: No, he said that you don’t believe that to be the case.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I said.

QUESTION: Do you? And you said no, you – no.

MS. PSAKI: He asked me if we thought he was a terrorist, and I said no.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Is that no longer the case? Do you think you were too precipitous, perhaps, in issuing that statement condemning --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re going to have to move on now.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have a new topic? Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah. The bilateral talks --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. One at a time. Go ahead.

QUESTION: In terms of the bilateral talks to – or meetings to be held between Secretary of State John Kerry in Ottawa tomorrow, what more detail can you tell us about what those discussions will entail? Will it be enhanced cooperation in terms of the investigation into those terrorist attacks in Ottawa, in Quebec as well?

And also, has there been any increased security in light of those as the investigations are ongoing into what exactly transpired last week? Is there any enhanced security here at any government buildings, at any embassies, in terms of that in light of those attacks, again? And in terms of cooperation between law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada, is it primarily on a law enforcement basis, or is there investigations that are being cooperated with as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the purpose of the trip is to certainly pay our respects given the events in Canada last week. Canada has long been an important partner. They will continue to be. I expect we’ll do some previewing on the way to the trip tomorrow. But the purpose of the trip is more to offer condolences and to continue to work closely as partners, as we long have.

QUESTION: Has there been any heightened security, though, here as a result of that or any --

MS. PSAKI: We don’t discuss security measures publicly, and certainly not from the podium. As you know, we issue through our typical system Travel Warnings. We issued an updated Worldwide Caution, I believe it was a couple of weeks ago, and that outlined potential attacks on Western interests. And certainly everybody observes that, reads it, and takes steps accordingly.

QUESTION: And is there cooperation also in terms of the ongoing investigation into what happened in that respect?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Canada has the lead on that, so certainly, I’m sure that will be discussed, but I don’t have anything else more for you on that.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, Ukraine.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, lots of Ukraine. Roz, you want to start to kick us off?

QUESTION: What’s – yeah, what’s the U.S.’s reading of the elections? And also, what is the U.S.’s reading of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s seeming approval of the election outcome on Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’ll be a statement from Secretary Kerry that should go out shortly, perhaps even while I’m up here, but let me reiterate some points from there. We congratulate Ukraine on the successful parliamentary elections held October 26. The people of Ukraine made a bold and clear choice for democracy, reform, and European integration, showing enthusiasm and support for parties with strong pro-reform agendas. The United States stands with Ukrainians as they forge a brighter future for their nation and succeeding generations, and we applaud their commitment to an inclusive and transparent political process that strengthens national unity, particularly in the face of numerous challenges, most notably the conflict in eastern Ukraine. So look for that statement.

Certainly – sorry, what was your second question? I’m sorry, Roz.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov basically said – and I’m paraphrasing – this is a government with which we can work and it seems to be a legitimately chosen government. Again, I’m paraphrasing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, there are a number of steps that – 12 specifically – that Russia and Russian-backed separatists need to abide by as it relates to the Minsk protocols. Certainly, this election is an important step. We saw – and as we looked at the results, and more importantly, as international organizations looked at the results, ODIHR’s preliminary conclusions were that the elections marked an important step in Ukraine’s aspirations to consolidate democratic elections. They also noted that the elections were characterized by the general absence of violence, by adherence to established procedures and by lower levels of electoral violations than in previous years. So certainly, we feel the vote was an affirmation of Ukraine’s commitment to the democratic process and occurred despite the efforts of Russia-backed separatists to disenfranchise many voters in eastern Ukraine. But obviously, there’s more work that needs to be done in terms of the implementation of the Minsk protocols.

Ukraine?

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Yes, Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Ukraine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: In context of the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, do you have an assessment on the structure of new Ukrainian parliament, which most probably will consist of seven parties?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can give you a little bit of our assessment. According to the Central
Election Commission, with 65 percent of polling results tabulated, three pro-reform and pro-European parties received the most votes, clearly showing the Ukrainian people’s determination to see Ukraine take its rightful place in Europe’s whole, free society. In terms of the – how the parliament, I should say, will be composed, I believe that it requires 450 – is that right? – seats to move forward or a certain percentage of that. I think I have something on this. And we believe that they’ll be able to reach that point.

But in terms of the breakdown of party by party, I know that will be put out by the election commission. That’s just kind of a summary view, and maybe we can talk about it more tomorrow as election results come in.

QUESTION: I just need to go back to Israel for one second --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and I don’t expect you to necessarily know the answer to this --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but maybe if you could take it. It does have to do with the two Americans who were killed --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- last week and the statements that were put out by you, by this building in your name. One is that you said that now, the investigations – the Israeli investigations into both incidents are still going on, correct? And so you don’t want to draw any conclusions, so --

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding. Unless they’ve put out any specifics --

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: -- from Israel, they’re led by the Israelis.

QUESTION: But your statement on Wednesday about the baby being killed talked about the incident being a terrorist attack, okay?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So that is based on what the Israelis told you? Because the family of the guy who was driving the car say that he just lost control. Well, I don’t know whether that’s true or not.

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s based on our evaluation of the events on the ground, but --

QUESTION: Okay. But the investigation is still ongoing, and – but now, you’re – but you are not – you are sure or you don’t think that the Palestinian American teenager was a terrorist or engaged in a violent act, even though the investigation --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear. I don’t have an assessment of the events.

QUESTION: -- isn’t over?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of the events that happened last Friday. Obviously, we put out the statement because of – obviously, it’s a tragedy when a young teenager is killed, but there’s an investigation that will go on that’s not led by us. We’ll wait to see how that proceeds.

QUESTION: Could I – what about the two other elections?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just from the nature of the – you said local authorities and then you said Israeli-led. I mean, to your knowledge, does the investigation of the death of the Palestinian American teenager on Friday have any Palestinian involvement, or is it entirely run by the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the local authorities there for more of a breakdown of who is running the investigation.

QUESTION: So you don’t know? When you’re calling for an expedient, transparent investigation, you’re not sure who you’re asking for it from?

MS. PSAKI: Arshad, I said local authorities. Obviously, the Israelis lead most of these. Let me see if there’s more we can provide to you to make it more clear to you.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just interested to know – yeah, if the Palestinians are also involved or not.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll check and see if there’s more we can provide to you. Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Tunisian elections?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean, there were two other major elections --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, we put out a statement this morning. Did you see it?

QUESTION: --Tunisia – yeah, I’ve got it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I can go ahead (inaudible) the statement, right?

MS. PSAKI: No. I mean, if – I don’t know if there’s a specific question.

QUESTION: Good. How about Uruguay? They had an election too.

MS. PSAKI: You – I can talk about that if you’d like. Where should we start?

QUESTION: And Brazil, but Brazil has already been commented on, I believe.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, Brazil has been commented on. Where should we go?

QUESTION: Well, it does appear that the pro-Islamist party in Tunisia is conceding defeat. What is the U.S.’s reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we put out a statement, Roz. I’m not sure if we have much more to add to that. Did you see the --

QUESTION: Well, just in general, I mean, it does seem that the kind of political Islamic experiment in the wake of the Arab Spring and the elections that happened in the region seems to have gone to the wayside. Was it, like, a quick – the movement towards political Islam a kind of quick blip?

MS. PSAKI: Is it a quick what?

QUESTION: Like a blip? I mean, did it – is it something that wasn’t sustainable? Is – did the Islamists prove --

QUESTION: Were they incapable of ruling?

QUESTION: -- incapable of ruling?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of it. I’ll check with our team and see if there’s more to provide.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: So in retrospect, should it not have been the case in Egypt, for instance? I mean, if Morsy would have been – should have been allowed to continue on, then perhaps we could have seen his demise politically without any bloodshed.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve addressed that topic many, many times in the briefing room.

Should we go to a new topic? Or --

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: China?

QUESTION: Yeah, China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I was wondering – I think we’ve talked about this a few times before, but there was the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Now that that’s officially happened, do you have any comment or statement on it?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I think, one, as it relates to the Asian Infrastructure Bank, as we’ve said in here before, our view is that it would need to be done in a transparent manner with a high level of – high standards, and that’s something that we’ve conveyed to countries in the region, that we’ve conveyed as well to the Chinese. Beyond that, I don’t know that we have a new assessment of it.

QUESTION: If the – assuming those standards are met, in general, do you welcome the addition of this new partner for other investment banks in the region?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that we have enough information to assess that at this point in time.

QUESTION: And then --

MS. PSAKI: I can check and see if we do.

QUESTION: And then is there any truth to the report that Secretary Kerry personally asked Prime Minister Abbott that Australia not join the bank, at least in its early stages?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve been in all of these meetings with the Secretary, including the one last week, and he simply restates what we’ve stated many times publicly, is that we believe that it needs to be – it would need to be done in a transparent manner with the highest level of standards, and that’s something that we’d want to see, and certainly that’s what he’s conveyed to countries in the region.

QUESTION: So – but there was never any instance of the U.S. asking or encouraging countries not to join the bank?

MS. PSAKI: That’s how we’ve conveyed it. That’s how he’s conveyed it.

Do we have any more on China?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: China? China. Okay.

QUESTION: China. China’s Communist Party had a meeting last week, 4th Plenary of the 18th Central Committee. As you know, the leaders promised a legal reform, but it seems like it is clear that the Communist Party remain the ultimate authority in the country. So my question is: What is the assessment of the United States of this important meeting, particularly in terms of the rule of law or political reform?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have an assessment. I can check and see or we can connect you with our EAP team and see if there’s anything they want to offer.

QUESTION: And then Hong Kong.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. As you know, the Hong Kong protest leader decided to cancel the vote a couple days ago, yesterday or the day before yesterday. They tried to ask what is the next step, but then they canceled. What is – what do you think? What is the – do you have some comment? And according to the pro-China organization, 50,000 people signed against occupation on the street. So what is --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our position continues to be that we believe that the government and protesters should address their differences through dialogue, and we understand the debate over universal suffrage and electoral reform in Hong Kong is one that is ongoing. And we believe the best way to address it is through peaceful dialogue.

New – any more on Asia before I move on? Okay.

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey?

QUESTION: How is Turkey in Asia?

QUESTION: Are we supposed to expect General Allen --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, Turkey is not exactly – but we’re moving on to Turkey. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- General Allen and Ambassador McGurk to visit Turkey --

MS. PSAKI: Moving back to Turkey, I should say.

QUESTION: -- any time soon?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry? Can you say that one more time?

QUESTION: General Allen and Ambassador McGurk to visit Turkey any time soon? Are we expecting --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, they were just there about two weeks ago.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I think – I expect they’ll spend quite a bit of time in the region, but I don’t have any new trips to announce for all of you.

QUESTION: So as far as we can see, the disagreements or differences between the U.S. and Turkey have not been able to overcome over Incirlik Air Base and no-fly zone. It’s still the impasse goes on?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I’m sure you’d not be surprised by that. I think we believe Turkey continues to be an important partner. They’ve increased their participation in the coalition efforts. They’ve indicated an openness with – and helping to facilitate the Peshmerga traveling through to Syria to help in Kobani. They have indicated an openness to doing more to support our military efforts there and to do more as it relates to taking on the ISIL message. So we are – will continue to talk with them, and obviously this is going to be an ongoing effort and an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking, Defense Minister Mr. Hagel a couple days – a couple weeks ago was stating that Incirlik Air Base is a key and very important place for coalition forces to combat ISIL. But the difference over it cannot be resolved. Is that the result?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think – obviously, we know it’s an important base. We’re continuing to discuss with Turkey an increasing role, and I don’t have anything more to preview for you at this point in time.

Scott. Can we do --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Turkey question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey sent two more troops – warships this time. I’m sorry – sent more ships to the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. And this time they sent warships. Do you have any comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything new to offer in terms of our position on Cyprus.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thank you for asking though.

Scott.

QUESTION: Indonesia. The new president in Indonesia has chosen as his defense minister a former army chief of staff, against whom there are allegations of human rights abuses, specifically in Aceh. Is the United States aware of those abuses, concerned about those allegations, and if so, has that concern been expressed to the new president?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Scott, I might have to check on that specific question for you. And I apologize I don’t have anything for you on it at this point in time. We have seen, obviously, the announcement of the new cabinet. In general, we think that’s a positive step, because he was just inaugurated a week ago, as well all know. The Secretary had a great, warm meeting with him when he was there, but let me check on this specific question and see if there’s any concerns here.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Is he a current or former U.S. citizen – the president of Indonesia --

MS. PSAKI: The president of Indonesia?

QUESTION: Right. No?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Madam --

QUESTION: Jen, you may have seen a report this morning out of Moscow by our former bullpen colleague, Kirit, on ABC News about – talking about harassment – Russian harassment of U.S. diplomats reaching levels not seen since the height of the Cold War. I’m wondering, do you have any specific concerns about that? And whether you do or not, are Russian diplomats in the United States harassed in the same way that you seem to be saying that they are in Moscow?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have raised and will continue to raise at the highest level any incidents inconsistent with protections guaranteed by international law. Obviously, we wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t have concerns. I certainly hope that we are treating – and I believe and I can confirm we are treating any Russian officials here with the utmost respect and – consistent with international law, of course. And as you know, but it’s worth repeating, the responsibility of – the safety and well-being of our personnel and their dependents is one we take very seriously.

QUESTION: But you are not – you can confirm, then, that Russian diplomats or other officials in the United States have not been subjected to harassment.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if you’re referring to any reports; none that I have ever heard of.

QUESTION: No, I’m just – I just understood that during the history – during the Cold War, it was kind of frequent that both sides did this to each other, and it was kind of – it was seen as kind of part of the game as it were.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But you’re asking about recently.

QUESTION: I’m asking about recently contemporaneous with the harassment that you guys say you’re being subjected to in Moscow.

MS. PSAKI: No, Matt. If there’s a specific incident, not one that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: One more on that?

QUESTION: On India.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Just so we’re clear on language, you said at the highest level again. Does that mean the President has raised this with Putin, or does that mean the highest level at the embassy or some other --

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has raised this.

QUESTION: The Secretary’s raised it. Thank you.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. India.

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: On Egypt.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: We’ve just got just over four weeks now until the deadline for reaching a comprehensive treaty. Could you update us with any talks that are going on this week at different levels, who’s meeting whom? I assume there must be some work going on. You’re not just going to be leaving it a week with nothing happening considering this deadline’s looming.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there was some confusion that we created, unfortunately, by a schedule – an inaccurate schedule that went out. So I would just note there was not – Under Secretary Sherman is here. I’ve seen her this morning. She’s not traveling to anywhere tomorrow. Obviously, we remain in close touch. As you know, there’s ongoing work on the experts level. I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point in terms of political director meetings.

QUESTION: But those expert-level talks are taking place between the teams involved?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check and see if – obviously, they remain in touch in a range of ways, not just in person. But I can see if there’s anything upcoming as it relates to in-person meetings.

QUESTION: On the negotiations and a potential deal, there are many members of Congress who are actively opposed to this, as is Israel and senior officials including Defense Minister Ya’alon, who have spoken about how bad they think such a deal would be. The Israeli ambassador to the United States gave a speech over the weekend in which he kind of ridiculed the idea of a deal and then the UN inspectors making sure that the deal was – that it was enforced. He called – he said something like, I’m sure we’ll all feel safe with a bunch of UN Inspector Clouseaus running around. I’m not sure if it’s – the plural is Inspectors Clouseau or Inspector Clouseaus, but I’m wondering: Do you have --

MS. PSAKI: Can you take that question, Matt?

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Do you have confidence in any UN or other inspection team that would take responsibility for making sure the Iranians live up to an agreement if one is reached?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, ensuring there’s a monitoring mechanism that can make sure that any deal is implemented and overseen and monitored, of course, it would be an important component of any agreement. And we certainly need to be confident and we would be confident in the --

QUESTION: Okay. Is it your understanding at the moment that if it gets to that stage where there is an agreement that the IAEA would be in charge of doing any monitoring, or would there be some new group that is created to do that? Or are we just so far away from a deal that no one’s even contemplated how it will be monitored?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the role the IAEA has played. Obviously, we have five weeks to go – or four weeks to go before the deadline. I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of an outcome of a deal.

QUESTION: Right, right. But you don’t expect that some new group will be created to monitor a deal if there is one, right? It would be done with existing – the existing institutions?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you.

QUESTION: And have you determined yet when the next political director-level talks will be?

MS. PSAKI: Not quite yet. It’s being discussed. I don’t have anything to announce for you at this point.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if you saw the comments this morning from the deputy chief negotiator from Iran, Araghchi, who said that he was – he was referring back to comments that Under Secretary Sherman had made in her speech last week in which she said it was – the status quo was unacceptable – words she’s actually said before in the past. But he said that’s backwards, we’re going backwards, and we’re not going to go backwards on these talks. Do you have any comment on what he had to say about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, so I would point you to Under Secretary Sherman’s speech where she outlined where we are last week.

QUESTION: But he was referring to that. He was saying that what she was saying was actually going backwards from a position he must believe is on the table.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s – what we’ve been clear about in terms of our objective is cutting off all of the lines of – that Iran would have to acquire a nuclear weapon. So certainly, that may require step – taking steps back, I guess, if they refer to it that way. But I don’t think I have more of an assessment of it.

Go ahead. Do we have more on --

QUESTION: On India.

QUESTION: On Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – Egypt. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the sentencing over the weekend of 23 activists to jail terms?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sorry. We are deeply troubled by the harsh prison sentence issued yesterday against 23 Egyptians for organizing an unauthorized protest. The defendants were sentenced to three years in prison under Egypt’s highly restrictive demonstration law. We understand that they will appeal. Our concern extends to the reports about Mr. Abdel Fattah, whose sentence, which was eventually vacated, we have previously commented on. We urge Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstration law and to release an amended version that will enable full freedom of expression and association.

QUESTION: Just on a related – or maybe you would say unrelated – have those helicopters arrived?

MS. PSAKI: I can get you – I know Said asked about this.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I can point you – we released them, so I would point you to the Egyptians and see if --

QUESTION: Okay. So they got them and then the totally independent judiciary issued these harsh sentences to these activists? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we said at the time, Matt, that this was unrelated to whether we thought that they had taken all of the steps necessary. Obviously, we haven’t done the certifications – the additional certifications as it relates to human rights issues and media freedoms. You would be aware if we had, but we have not.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Also, have you seen the statement that was put out by a group of news editors basically saying to the effect that they would wholeheartedly support the government’s policies against fighting terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen that. Media freedom is a cornerstone of a democratic society. It’s the responsibility of a free press to guarantee the public’s access to information, including holding state institutions accountable for their actions. And so journalists in Egypt must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs without the pressure of self-censorship.

QUESTION: Is it your assessment, though, that this statement was made sort of due to pressure from the government or due to fear of retaliation for critical reporting?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them to make that assessment.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. We have to wrap it up. Thanks, Goyal.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 24, 2014

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 15:09

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 24, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:24 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hi. Happy Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Friday. I have a couple of items for the top. The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack that targeted a military checkpoint in the Sinai near al-Arish and killed tens of Egyptian soldiers and injured dozens. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and hope for the quick and full recovery of the wounded. A prosperous and dynamic Egypt requires an environment of security and stability, and the United States continues to support the Egyptian Government’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitment to the strategic partnership between our two countries.

A little update on General Allen and Ambassador McGurk: They are in Paris today where they met with Foreign Minister Fabius, General Benoit Puga, and other senior French Government officials to discuss our cooperation through coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk welcomed the French airstrikes yesterday in Iraq that struck an ISIL training camp near Baiji and hit ISIL targets near the Mosul dam. The success of these strikes reaffirms France’s important role in the military fight against ISIL. They also welcomed continued French support for the Iraqi forces and moderate Syrian opposition forces that will be the ground forces fighting against ISIL. They are – also praised the ongoing French humanitarian assistance to both the Iraqi and Syrian people and thanked officials for their diplomatic support of coalition efforts, including hosting the September 15th Paris meeting at which 30 international delegations met to build up coalition efforts and affirm their support for an inclusive, united, and sovereign Iraq.

And finally, this week, as many of you know, has been a week at Foggy Bottom to say goodbye to Deputy Secretary Bill Burns. Even though he will be staying on on the Iran negotiations, I just want to talk about him briefly. He has been in the Foreign Service for 33 years. He originally planned to retire in 2013, but Secretary Kerry and actually President Obama as well asked him to stay through the first week of November. He’s been Deputy Secretary of State since July 2011.

He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, a career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary. He, as many of you know, has served in a range of incredible roles, obviously his current role. He was also the ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 to 2005, Ambassador to Jordan prior to that. And I think what most people take away from him is that he’s somebody who has really been a model to many young men and women who have not only grown up in the Foreign Service, but other people who have had the pleasure of serving in this building, other political appointees or career servants to – about how a diplomat should be and behave and lead, and he will be greatly missed in this building.

I will tell you a brief anecdote that yesterday at the last ever weekly large staff meeting he would be at, Secretary Kerry gave him a basketball autographed by the – Coach K of Duke. He’s a big Duke basketball fan.

QUESTION: We won’t hold that against him.

MS. PSAKI: You – okay, you won’t hold that against him. And the handwritten inscription said, “To Bill, in the world of diplomacy you have never missed a shot.” So that was yesterday.

But anyway, we are all going to be sad to see him leave. With that, I will – yes.

QUESTION: Can I just ask about something that you just said that President Obama asked him to serve through the first week of November? So he said, no, I’m leaving a week early? I’m going to leave on –

MS. PSAKI: He asked him to extend his stay when he was going to leave earlier, so yes. I realize he’s – we’re – it’s not quite November. It’s late October, so he’s staying through late October, Matt.

QUESTION: So today isn’t his last day? Or it is?

MS. PSAKI: Today is his last day. I did not mean to be confusing.

QUESTION: Why till then, the first week of November?

MS. PSAKI: Today is his last day. I did not mean to be confusing. It should have been written in a different way.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: The point was to emphasize his incredible career.

QUESTION: Gotcha.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Sorry, just what role will he continue to play with the Iran negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s already been previously announced, but I just wanted to reiterate that he’ll continue to serve on the negotiating team.

QUESTION: Right. I have a very –

QUESTION: Excuse me. On this –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Till November 24th or –

MS. PSAKI: I think obviously, that’s our focus. We’re not having a discussion about an extension. So beyond that, I don’t have any updates for you.

QUESTION: I just have a brief logistical –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- thing and then something that I don’t think you’ll have too much information about.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: But earlier today when you met with Elton John, the Secretary talked about this $7 million partnership. Is there any additional information that either – that you guys are planning?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, there’s a media note that should be going out.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. I haven’t seen it yet.

MS. PSAKI: If you haven’t seen it, we’ll check on that.

QUESTION: And then the other thing is: Are you aware of or do you know anything about this – reports of a bombing in Kabul, explosions in Kabul near the Embassy? They’re very recent.

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen those reports. We can check on those, Matt, for you --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and get you a comment after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. And then there are reports in Israel and elsewhere that Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon was denied meetings or the Administration rejected requests from the Israelis for him to meet with, among other people, Secretary Kerry but also Susan Rice at the White House and Vice President Biden. And I’m just wondering, realizing you don’t speak for the White House, can you say if a meeting was sought with Secretary Kerry, who I believe was out of the country until – I know was out of the country until Wednesday night. Was there a meeting sought and denied?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything in terms of internal discussions about meetings to parlay to you, but he did meet with Defense Secretary Hagel, which – who is his counterpart, which is a natural standard procedure.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the Administration and particularly this building and then particularly Secretary Kerry are still a bit peeved with Defense Minister Ya’alon’s criticisms?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, as you know, Secretary Kerry has spoken to this himself shortly after the comments made by Defense Minister Ya’alon and made clear that he’d been the target of much worse than words. And I think obviously, he works closely with a range of Israeli officials and he didn’t meet with him this time. He’s met with him in the past and he met with Secretary Hagel, who is his counterpart.

QUESTION: He didn’t meet with any U.S. officials other than the defense secretary?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a list of his – the rest of his agenda. But he’s his natural counterpart and he’s a high-ranking official, as you know, and he did meet with him while he was here.

Should we go to a new topic?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, before that, I mean just the first thing related to what you said at the beginning of this briefing. Was there any kind of contact with the Egyptians or officials regarding this – what happened this morning? Any phone call from the Secretary to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’re in very close touch on the ground. I don’t have any additional calls from here to read out for you. As you know, the Secretary was – spent the morning with the South Koreans. He is in regular touch with officials in Egypt. He speaks with Foreign Minister Shoukry quite frequently but hasn’t spoken with him this morning.

QUESTION: And regarding Under Secretary – Deputy Secretary Burns, is there a transition period, somebody is going to fill his shoes, or it’s like empty till somebody is appointed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there hasn’t been a personnel announcement about who will fill his shoes at this point in time.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: I think he’s asking if there’s someone going to be serving in an acting --

MS. PSAKI: An acting deputy? I will --

QUESTION: I think.

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if that is the plan.

QUESTION: Why the National Security Council meeting will be held at the State Department today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you saw – as you may have seen a couple of weeks ago, the NSC meeting was held at the Department of Defense about two weeks ago. I think this is an opportunity for the President to come visit the key national security agencies and the agencies that are running point on this important strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL. So he is hosting the meeting here today. It’s nothing more complicated than that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Not because of Deputy Burns’s leaving, is it?

MS. PSAKI: Not because of Deputy Burns’s leaving?

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean to just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was at the Defense Department just about two weeks ago, so there was a decision made that it would make a great deal of sense to have – host these meetings at a couple of different agencies.

QUESTION: I think Samir’s question is: Is the President, who’s going to be in the building this afternoon, going to attend deputy secretary’s – something for deputy secretary --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details about the President’s schedule to outline for all of you.

QUESTION: No, no, I meant if the President is coming here to participate in the farewell to Deputy Burns.

MS. PSAKI: He’s coming here for the NSC meeting. I don’t have anything more to preview for you.

QUESTION: Thanks. Okay.

QUESTION: What kind of readout are you going to have on this meeting? Will you be able to explain, for example, who exactly is attending? Will the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I expect that would come from the White House. They typically put out a list of attendees, so I would expect that will come from them.

QUESTION: On --

MS. PSAKI: And any other details they want to read out, of course. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Kobani, Turkish President Erdogan said today that PYD has agreed to the passage of 1,300 fighters from Free Syrian Army to Kobani. Are you aware of this statement, and what do you think about it?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the statement. We don’t have any confirmation of plans for that number of FSA fighters to travel there. We’re certainly looking for more details but don’t have any confirmation from here at this point.

QUESTION: And do you support such a move from the --

MS. PSAKI: Would we support the FSA helping to --

QUESTION: From the FSA, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- on the – with the fight in Kobani? Is that what you’re asking?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, we would.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. And do – will you play any facilitating role to let them go to Kobani, or you leave it to the Turks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it’s for the United States to play a role there. I think it’s – and I’m not quite clear on what Turkey’s role would be either, given we’re talking about movement within Syria, but certainly that’s a question you should ask the Turkish authorities.

QUESTION: And one more on Syria. The Syrian opposition is saying that the lack of support from the U.S. to the opposition benefits the Assad regime, especially this appeared in Hama today after the Syrian forces captured a strategic village there. What do you think about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the facts are that the United States has continued to increase the scale and scope of our assistance over the course of the last year. We are not only the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance, we have passed a train and equip program that obviously the Department of Defense is implementing; we are not only strong supporters of the Syrian opposition, we are, I would say, leading the effort in the international community to help get them the training and equipment that they need. So we work very closely with them. Obviously, we know that this is a challenging fight on the ground, but we continue to believe that taking on the threat of ISIL and weakening ISIL will help the opposition and also, of course the decision was made in part because of the threat that it poses to Western interest.

QUESTION: And they are asking why the United States doesn’t take any – or doesn’t attack the regime’s jets who are firing the opposition lands in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken about this pretty extensively, about our strategy and our focus on ISIL. That remains what our military components are focused on. Beyond that, I don’t think I have anything new to add.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Germany will be hosting a conference to help Syrian refugees at the ministerial level on the 28th this month. Will anybody from the U.S. attend this?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check. I would be surprised if we didn’t have someone attend. The Secretary spoke with the foreign minister about this when he met with him earlier this week, and spoke with him actually previously about the conference. It’s certainly something we support. But let me check and see if we have someone attending.

Any more on Syria or Turkey?

QUESTION: Different topic? I have a different topic.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Palestinian sources said today that the – President Abbas reach an agreement with the U.S. for postponing their going to the Security Council to ask for a resolution to end the Israeli occupation. Is this true?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position has been well known. I mean, we’ve conveyed it certainly to the Palestinians, to other partners in the region, and publicly as well, and – that we’ve long made clear that negotiations are the means by which the conflict will be resolved and that a resolution to it cannot be imposed on the parties. And we think that’s the appropriate way for it to take place. In terms of what actions the Palestinians may or may not take, that’s certainly for them to decide and them to announce. But our position has been fairly clear on this.

QUESTION: But will – you don’t know if they reach an agreement with you about this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure quite what that means, because our position has been very clear publicly about our view on what the best way to pursue a two-state solution would be. We think that’s through direct negotiations, not through a third party. And we’ve been clear about that publicly and privately, so I think the question is more about what decisions they’re making about what they’ll do moving forward.

Do we have any more on this topic, or since we just touched on Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, any more on those before we go to something else?

QUESTION: I know that the --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: -- Secretary was asked about the reported chlorine attack against Iraqi forces in the past month. Is there any thinking in this building or in consultation with the Pentagon about how this affects the way that the coalition tries to deal with ISIL fighters? Does this change the strategy? Does this change the training of Iraqi forces to deal with any sort of NBC attack – nuclear, biological, chemical?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question, Roz. I think the most appropriate place to pose it is probably to the Pentagon. Not that I have been briefed on. As you – the Secretary noted this morning, we’re certainly aware of the alleged attacks. We take them very seriously, as we do any allegations. We can’t confirm the details. We’re seeking additional information. Obviously, the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon is an abhorrent act. In terms of what it would in term – of training, I would point you to my colleagues at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Did you have another, Nicole, (inaudible)?

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Just curious as to whether this building has a response to comments he made this morning about the U.S. acting like a Big Brother and --

MS. PSAKI: President Putin?

QUESTION: -- President Putin, yeah – dismantling international law and blackmailing world leaders. He was saying that U.S. leadership is leading to greater world anarchy. I’m just curious about your thoughts on that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen the comments. The United States does not seek confrontation with Russia, but we cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which security in Europe and North America rest. We’ve said repeatedly we would be firm about principles at stake. There may be a disagreement on them, but we remain committed to upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We’ve consistently pointed out from here that the United States and Russia have been able to work together on a range of issues, whether that’s destroying nuclear stockpiles to cooperating to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. So our focus is on continuing to engage with Russia on areas of mutual concern, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to continue to do that, while we still certainly have disagreements on some issues, and we’re going to stand by our principles.

QUESTION: Okay, there’s – in the Russian press there was a short readout about a call between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov. Can you give us your readout?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I actually don’t have a readout quite yet, but we will get you one. I saw that right before I came out to do the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: But let us do that after the briefing.

QUESTION: Can you run through any other calls that the Secretary has had?

MS. PSAKI: He spoke with Foreign Minister Judeh this morning as well. Let me see if there are any others here, Arshad. I think that was the only other one today.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: What did they discuss?

MS. PSAKI: With Foreign Minister Judeh? I think he’s discussed, of course, the ongoing effort to degrade and defeat ISIL. They discussed the ongoing – of course, the situation in Syria – recent violence there. I’ll see if there’s more to read out for all of you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Any more discussion on humanitarian assistance to Jordan because of, first, the Syrian refugees who were fleeing the civil war, and now those who may be escaping ISIL’s advances?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Roz, and the Secretary reiterates this almost every time he’s there, if not every time, we remain a stalwart supporter of Jordan and their efforts and their openness to welcoming in refugees. It’s certainly an incredibly important contribution. We’ve contributed tens of millions of dollars to this effort. I can check and see if there’s any more on that specific topic.

QUESTION: Okay. Can we talk about Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The little girl from Guinea who is now in Mali being treated for Ebola, is there a – has there been any discussion between the U.S. and the Malian Government on how it’s responding to this little girl’s illness?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I can check and see with our African team if we have been in touch. Is that what you’re asking? If we’ve been in touch?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Because I’m not --

MS. PSAKI: With the Government of Mali?

QUESTION: Yeah. Correct. Because I’m not sure whether they’re capable of dealing with an Ebola outbreak, whether they have the facilities. It’s just country number six – well, what does that mean? And --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will check on our contacts, and I’m sure you’re also inquiring probably with the CDC --

QUESTION: Right. Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- about contacts along that line as well.

QUESTION: And if that means that it’s going to affect how the U.S. is responding to the crisis, that would be good to know as well.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t think – I don’t – not – I don’t think that is an impact. But I will check and see if --

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve been in touch with the government.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: On the Ebola, did you see that North Korea apparently yesterday has closed its borders, citing fears of Ebola. I just wondered – the Secretary was asked this at the press conference this morning, but I just wondered if there was any confirmation in this building that those borders have been closed to foreign tourists. Is that something that you would monitor?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a confirmation of that from here. I can check with our team and see if that’s something we have independently confirmed.

QUESTION: Regarding Ebola, I mean – this building, are you planning to make a kind of travel warning, because already a lot of people are canceling trips to African countries in general, not -- I mean, South Africa even, because of the fear and the hysteria of what’s going on about Ebola. Is there any kind of travel warning taking place, or are you planning to have a – this kind of travel warning for Americans to go to Africa or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve put out travel warnings for the countries that have been most impacted, and we did that several weeks ago. And certainly, as information becomes available we update that. I don’t have any predictions of changes to that, but certainly that’s something that we have an entire team that evaluates and takes a close look at. We’re also in close touch with these countries about steps they’re taking as well.

QUESTION: But if let’s say usually America sometimes be in touch with the embassies or whatever, and they are trying to figure out if it’s safe to go there – there is not any kind of precautions measures to go there or not?

MS. PSAKI: There have been travel warnings that we’ve put out for these specific countries --

QUESTION: Those three countries?

MS. PSAKI: -- in Western Africa that have been impacted. Yes.

QUESTION: That’s it.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, were the U.S. embassy or consulates in Turkey affected today by the yellow powder that they found in some embassies?

MS. PSAKI: I do have something on that. One moment.

So the facts are that the U.S. consulate general in Istanbul received an envelope containing a suspicious powder. The envelope was handled in accordance with established protocols, and appropriate U.S. and Turkish authorities are investigating. The consulate is otherwise operating normally.

QUESTION: And that’s it? There is – nobody got affected by this powder, or --

MS. PSAKI: It’s operating normally. I’m not aware of any specific impact.

QUESTION: You don’t have any kind of – let’s say any people claim that they are sending this or whatever? No?

MS. PSAKI: I think this just happened, and as I mentioned, we’re working with Turkish authorities to investigate. But I don’t have any new information on what the outcome would be.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thank – oh, do you want to do one more?

QUESTION: Yeah, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay.

QUESTION: Just – Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield is in Africa at the moment.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is any of her itinerary focused on anything new regarding U.S. policy with respect to assisting and dealing with the Ebola outbreak?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, this is one of the topics that we’re not only discussing in Africa, but globally, so I would expect that the response and the needs of countries impacted would be a part of her travel discussion. But let me talk to our team and see if there’s more specifics that we can provide to you about her itinerary, the countries, and what she’ll be discussing in each of them.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m.)

DPB #181


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 23, 2014

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 15:53

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 23, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:42 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Just a reminder that tonight at 5:00 pm at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington, Under Secretary Sherman will deliver a keynote address on the EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. The under secretary’s remarks are part of a two-day symposium on Iranian strategy and State decision making organized by Syracuse University’s Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. The remarks will be streamed live at State.gov starting at 5:00 pm.

On Sunday, the people of Ukraine will go to the polls to select their new legislative representatives in Parliament. This is another milestone for a nation that is again demonstrating its commitment to an enduring democratic process, despite the political upheaval of the past year and considerable security challenges that remain in some parts of the country. We commend the Ukrainian Government on its continuing preparations for free, fair, and inclusive elections, and look to authorities in all political parties to ensure the vote is in line with the international democratic norms.

We hope to see wide participation in the elections by all Ukrainians, including in Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk, and strongly condemn any interference in this legitimate democratic process and the ability of the people of Ukraine to peacefully choose their own leaders. The only legitimate elections in Ukraine are the Rada elections on October 26th and the December 7th elections of local leaders in the Donbas special status zone. The United States stands ready to work with Ukraine’s new parliament to fight corruption, promote reforms, and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the east of the country.

Just two more items. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel will travel to Kuwait to lead the U.S. delegation for the October 27th conference of coalition partners focused on countering ISIL messaging and combating violent extremism in the region. The Government of Kuwait is hosting the conference, and senior officials from Bahrain, Egypt, France, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom and the UAE have been invited to participate. The conference will present an opportunity for an in-depth exchange of ideas for increasing cooperation among coalition partners. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL General John Allen will open the conference. While in Kuwait, Under Secretary Stengel will also meet with U.S. exchange program alumni and young entrepreneurs.

And finally, I’d like to welcome our visitors in the back. Hello, everyone. These are Afghans who are here as part of a diplomat training program, so welcome to all of you.

Lara.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to start back today with North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This came up yesterday. I’m wondering if you all have another answer, and then I have a follow. The North Korean state media said that leader Kim Jong-un had said that the reason why Jeffrey Fowle was released was because of, quote, “repeated requests from President Barack Obama.” I’m wondering what he means, if you know what those requests were. Were they – how – were they from a U.S. official directly, how they were carried?

And then, also, I’d like to know if you could talk a little bit about this idea that’s coming out of Pyongyang today that the U.S. Government needs to formally apologize to the Government of North Korea in order to secure the releases of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first, Lara, I really don’t have much more new insight to offer for you. As you know, President Obama, Secretary Kerry, many officials have spoken about the work that we do to bring our American citizens who are detained home, have made many calls publicly. I’d certainly let the North Koreans speak for themselves, as – I will just take this as an opportunity to remind everyone there are two – still two American citizens who are there, and we’re working and doing everything we can to secure their release.

On the second question, I’m not – I’m unclear – I have not seen the ask for an apology, I will say. I have not talked to our team about it, but I can assure anyone that I don’t believe there’s an apology forthcoming, so I don’t think anyone needs to wait on that.

QUESTION: You said you’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves, but actually, they’re speaking about an – a request that they say that President Obama made. So I think the question is: Did an official request come from the President of the United States via the State Department to the North Koreans, or do you think that they’re just talking about numerous public statements and efforts by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly – I understand the question. I don’t have any analysis for you on what exactly they mean by that. It’s been no secret that we want to see our American citizens returned home. But I don’t have any additional details to share.

QUESTION: By saying that this is something – that they’re fulfilling a request by the President of the United States, do you see this as an overture by North Korea to get back in the good graces of the U.S. and start up some kind of dialogue again? Do you see the release of Jeffrey Fowle as a predicated on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, I think we’re certainly very pleased that Jeffery Fowle has been returned to his family, and you all saw that he’s been returned to Ohio and he’s with his family, has asked certainly for privacy from the public, I should say. But we’re not going to allow North Korea to change the conversation or change the topic of discussion as it relates to their nuclear program. We have concerns about their nuclear efforts and aspirations. We – those have not changed. They’ve not shown a willingness or an indication that they’re going to abide by their international obligations or the 2005 Joint Statement. And those remain the criteria for reconvening any sort of discussion.

QUESTION: But can I clarify? Was there – because I don’t know the answer to this. Was there any kind of direct request from President Obama to the North Korean Government to release Fowle or the other two?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House, Lara. I have no additional information on that.

Do we have any more on North Korea?

QUESTION: Sorry. You don’t know, or you just can’t talk about that because it’s a White House thing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more additional information on that, Arshad.

QUESTION: But does that mean --

MS. PSAKI: You’re welcome to talk to the White House, of course.

QUESTION: But you don’t know, in other – I don’t understand. When you say – so you don’t have any additional information? It’s you just don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information about the circumstances to share with all of you.

QUESTION: To share, that’s different. So you know --

QUESTION: Well, wait a minute. To share, that’s different than not having additional information.

MS. PSAKI: There are many details I’m aware of that we’re not talking about publicly. I don’t have anything more to comment or speak to on that particular question. I’d point you to the White House about anything related to the President.

Do we have anything more on North Korea? Okay. Should we go to a new topic? Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: Canada?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There have been some reports that – by several news organizations that the shooter was found to be dealing in radical Islamist, jihadist websites. Is there anything you can talk about that, any connections to any type of jihadists here in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Canada is, naturally, leading any investigation or process. I will say that at this time there’s no specific reporting to indicate ongoing events in Canada pose a threat to the United States. I will just – if you don’t mind, Elise – take this as an opportunity to update you that the Embassy is open today. As you know, it was on lockdown for most of yesterday, but it’s open. All Embassy personnel are certainly accounted for.

QUESTION: On that note, I understand that in recent weeks, not in any way – or maybe it – you’ll find out someday that it is, but it doesn’t seem to be related to the events yesterday or on Monday – that there was some concern, some chatter out there about potential attacks to the U.S. Embassy or another consulate in the country by jihadists and security was heightened as a result at the Embassy and one of the consulates. Can you speak to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our Embassy issued an emergency message to U.S. citizens registered with the Embassy in Canada, given the events on the ground yesterday. I’m not aware of any other changes to our status in Canada --

QUESTION: No, I’m talking pre-dating the attacks this week, that there was a concern, some possible threats out there to the U.S. Embassy in Canada – again, unrelated to this, but some type of threats from jihadist groups.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our team. Obviously, if a threat warranted a need to change our status or change information that we provide, we would have done that. We didn’t do that.

QUESTION: I understand. But I also understand that you heightened security at the facilities --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll check and see if there’s more to share on that particular question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- post yesterday’s incident in Ottawa, is there – are there any – and post the lockdown at the U.S. Embassy yesterday, are there – without asking what specifically they are – have you taken additional security precautions since the problem and incident for the Embassy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we obviously don’t typically speak to those, Arshad. I can check and see if there’s anything that changed that we can make publicly available for all of you.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m just wondering if it’s been increased --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- at all, not specifically what may have been done.

MS. PSAKI: Understand, understand. Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Border controls or anything like that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will check and see if there’s more on that particular front. Some of it’s DHS, but I’ll check with our team and see.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government aware of – the individuals who traveled between the United States and Canada, was there any coordination between the United States and Canada in tracking this person? He reportedly visited the United States in the past.

MS. PSAKI: Ali, of course we work closely with Canada, as we do with a number of our partners. I don’t think I have anything on that particular question to read out for you. I can check and see if there’s more we can convey.

QUESTION: And given the fact that Canada is our neighbor to the north and people travel between the two countries all the time, is there any concern in this building that the – what seems to be a problem in Canada when it comes to homegrown terrorism might, in fact, exacerbate the problem that we experience within our borders with lone wolf attacks and other forms of homegrown terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted a few minutes ago, at this time, we don’t see that recent reporting indicates a threat here. Obviously, we are all concerned about the threat of homegrown terrorism, about individuals who have sought to travel overseas. Obviously, there are still a lot of details we don’t quite know yet. I know there’s been a lot of reporting, but the Canadian authorities are working on that and I don’t want to get ahead of that. But this is one of the issues, certainly, that we’ve been discussing with our partners around the world. Canada is certainly one of them, but I’m not going to jump to conclusions about what it means at this point in time given it just happened yesterday.

Any more on Canada?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Canadians are monitoring a bunch of high-risk individuals. What happens when they get to the border? Do you think there’s enough information-sharing between the U.S. and Canada to --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, Canada is one of our closest partners. They’re not just our neighbor. They’re a close friend and ally and partner. Some of this obviously is done through DHS, but I don’t think we have any concerns about the level of coordination or cooperation with Canada.

QUESTION: Can I go to Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you could clear up from yesterday the car ramming, the incident that happened in Jerusalem yesterday. I saw the statement you put out last night. You said that the child was reportedly an American citizen. Are you able to confirm or definitively say that the baby wasn’t American or that anybody in the attack was --

MS. PSAKI: The baby was an American citizen, yes.

QUESTION: Was?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Was, okay.

QUESTION: And the parents?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check and see. One moment here. I just want to make sure I have all the information in front of me. Let me see, Lara. We just don’t have Privacy Act waivers, so let me just check and see what more we can provide publicly.

Do we have any more on the – on Israel or --

QUESTION: Do you have any more – well, do you have any more information about the circumstances of what happened and --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, other than to say that our officials in Jerusalem and our consulate there are in close touch with the family. They’re providing consular assistance. Out of respect for and privacy certainly for those who are affected, we’re not going to be sharing much more publicly.

QUESTION: Are you involved at all in the investigation?

MS. PSAKI: That would certainly be an investigation led on the ground, not by the United States.

QUESTION: I’m not making any relation, but there’s been some concern over the last week or two about comments by President Abbas that believe to have incurred incitement. And are you concerned about that? You haven’t really spoken out about that. Do you in any way feel that this is inciting Palestinians to take actions into their own hands?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Elise, one, I mean, we obviously believe that the act last night warrants condemnation evidence by the statement we released last night. I’m not going to characterize the comments made or not made by President – Prime Minister Netanyahu or the response from President Abbas.

QUESTION: Well, if you haven’t really received a condemnation from President Abbas, then don’t you think you should offer one?

MS. PSAKI: I think our view of it is clear by – evidenced by our statement last night. I would point you to him on any comments that they would like to make.

QUESTION: But what about his comments, like, over the past – I mean, there has just been several comments that people have remarked about that seem to be incurring incitement. Is that not concerning?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s – as you know, President Abbas has renounced violence and consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states. I don’t have any other analysis for you to offer.

Any on this topic, or should we – any more on this topic? Okay. Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: Georgia?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A Georgian court sentenced former senior government officials, including those in the interior and defense ministers – ministries, for murder, torture, obstructing justice. Do you have any views on those sentences?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re closely following the investigations, and have long been, of current and former officials. We continue to stress to the Georgian Government the importance of due process and rule of law and of conducting investigations with transparency to avoid even the perception that the judicial system is being used for political retribution.

We continue to support Georgia’s democratic development, which must include respect for political pluralism and open debate. As you know, because we’ve expressed it in the past there – we have expressed some concerns about the way some cases have been handled, and those concerns remain.

QUESTION: So these gentlemen have been convicted and sentenced. In their cases, do you express those concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get into specific cases. Obviously, as you know, each incident is different. But broadly speaking, as you know, there have been a range of convictions, and as we look over the course of time we’ve had concern which we’ve expressed.

QUESTION: The action follows a decision by the European Court of Human Rights that has concluded that the former government obstructed justice in these cases. Is that an opinion shared by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think when I reference the need to abide by the rule of law and allow the judicial system to work its way through an acceptable manner by international norms and standards, that’s a reference to the fact that we believe in some cases that hasn’t been followed.

QUESTION: I have a question on the Khorasan Group. Can you provide us with the assessment of the level of threat posed by the organization and think – I’m asking this question because it seems the conversational statements about the group ended as – in a sudden way, similar to when these statements surfaced when it was targeted by the U.S. in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know but it’s worth repeating, the Khorasan Group is a term that refers to a network of Nusrah Front and AQ core extremists and their associates who share a history of training operatives, facilitating fighters, and money and planning attacks against U.S. and Western targets. The reason why they were a target and have continued to be of our efforts and our military action is because of the threat that this group posed to the United States. As we said in the beginning, we didn’t believe that one strike or one week would address all of the threats. We know this will be an ongoing effort. We remain relentlessly – well, we’re committed to relentless pursuing this group, as we are any threat to the United States. But I don’t have a day-by-day evaluation. But – go ahead.

QUESTION: So – but the group remains a threat?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, do you have on this question or --

QUESTION: All Syria, generally. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Is yours on Syria? Okay, why don’t you go ahead and then we’ll go to you, Jo.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please, regarding General Allen trip. I mean, do you have any update today? Yesterday he was in London, I think.

MS. PSAKI: He was. He’s traveling to Paris today, and he’ll have meetings with some officials on the ground there.

QUESTION: The same topic. I mean, regarding this Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs visit to Kuwait and the meeting, what level of participation is the other sides – I mean, the other countries are from foreign affairs ministry or foreign ministry or other levels?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it’s organized differently in every country where officials work and sit every day, but we – of course, we’ve been working with the Government of Kuwait and other countries that I mentioned on participation, and certainly we expect that to be at a high level, but I would point you to --

QUESTION: The reason I am asking --

MS. PSAKI: -- the Government of Kuwait for a list of attendees.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking is because the issue is somehow mixed between preaching and security measures, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the way that we view it is that one of the five lines of effort of the anti-ISIL coalition that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk is overseeing is delegitimizing ISIL. And for us, Under Secretary Stengel is running point on that effort. Obviously, it’s different country to country, but this is all a part of the same effort. And for many countries, that is the most important component and contribution that they can play is speaking out against and voicing concerns about the actions of ISIL.

QUESTION: The other --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I mean but --

QUESTION: Sorry. I mean, it’s – there is a (inaudible) question because I noticed that some countries are not participating in this meeting. Are this – I mean, this participation – is their own will or it – they were asked to join it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve mentioned the list of countries that were invited and that doesn’t mean – as you know, there are about 60 countries and entities involved in the coalition --

QUESTION: Yeah. That’s why --

MS. PSAKI: -- and we’re in touch with those countries as well and many of them will play and continue to play a role. But this is the first meeting of this kind, so I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions by that.

QUESTION: What evidence do you have that this campaign to delegitimize is working? Because, I mean, since – I’d say a – when we spoke with Under Secretary Stengel a few weeks ago, he said that there was evidence that it was working, but since then there have been several Americans that have tried to go over to Syria to fight with ISIS. You have a lot of groups being inspired around the world. We don’t know if what’s going on in Canada is a direct relation to ISIS, but certainly it’s inspired by the jihadist mentality out there. So what evidence do you have that you’re really getting people to rebel against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, at least no one expected, nor would it be realistic to think that this was a three-week undertaking. This is an effort that is just in the beginning stages. Obviously, this conference is an opportunity to coordinate and work together. We believe this is going to be a long-term effort.

QUESTION: But he said that there was evidence, though. So what evidence is there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think what he’s referring to is the fact that we’re increasing our coordination. There are efforts on the ground in countries to put new laws in place, to speak out more vocally. We think that is having an impact. That doesn’t mean that we’re eliminating the threat everywhere in the world in three weeks. It’s an ongoing effort that will take some time to implement.

QUESTION: What --

QUESTION: Is this mostly about making sure that everybody is on the same message, kind of an anti-propaganda forum, if you will? Or is this mostly about tubes and trying to get other governments to ramp up on the internet or social media or something with putting the message out – or imams, as was noted?

MS. PSAKI: I would say it’s about a range of agenda items, including the ones you mentioned. Obviously, there’s a role that religious leaders can play, speaking out against how – the fact that ISIL is not Islam. There is a role that governments can play, making clear to their people what ISIL is and what it is not. There’s a role that they can play to outline the alternative and what young people should look to and what other aspirations they can have. We know that the United States is not the most effective voice on these issues, and that’s why it’s so important to coordinate with all these countries. But – and we’re open to the ideas that they have as well about the best way to communicate with the public.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any nations who could be doing more to put this message, this anti-ISIL message out? Or are you – are any nations coming that will be asked to do more, or in fact that are not coming that need to do more?

MS. PSAKI: I think every country coming will be asked to do more. Some have started to take steps. There are muftis in many of these countries who have spoken out. There are governments that have taken steps. There are media outlets that have done a little bit. But this is a nascent effort and there’s a lot more that needs to happen to effectively communicate with the public in these countries.

QUESTION: Who hasn’t done enough at this point?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to name-check countries. But the fact is that every country in the region can do more, and we’re asking them to do more. But it’s not just about our ask; it’s about doing it in an effective way that will help them communicate with their public using social media, using a range of tools that they have at their disposal, and that’s something hopefully we can help advise on.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about some – the casualty figures. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that’s been tracking since the beginning of the civil war in Syria says that in the past month, U.S.-led airstrikes led to the deaths of about 500 members of ISIL. Is that – does that something that tracks with your own accounting of it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, we of course take civilian casualties or reports of them extremely seriously.

QUESTION: No, these were – sorry, this was the 500 --

MS. PSAKI: And there were some civilian casualties listed in there as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, there were some civilian casualties, yes, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We are evaluating them. To date, we’ve not been able to verify those specific numbers.

QUESTION: But on the other hand, the civilian casualties, although tragic, obviously – I mean, I think it was about 46 or something civilian casualties – 500, though. Is that a figure that you generally also agree with, about 500 Islamic State --

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t verified the specific numbers in this report.

Syria?

QUESTION: Different topic? Different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Syria and then we can go to – does anyone have anything else on Syria or ISIL or Iraq?

Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about today’s front-page story of Washington Post regarding USAID money and paid for bailing the Americans when they were involved in the NGO’s trial or whatever was it?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Let me provide you with an accurate rundown of the events here. Oh, sorry about that. One moment.

So I know what the story noted and many of you may have seen that. It referenced allegations that USAID paid bail money, but the facts are that with the support of the Department of State, USAID approved the use of grant funds by our implementing partners for legal expenses, including bail money. The U.S. Government’s connection to the bail payments was made clearly public by my predecessor Toria Nuland in the briefing on March 2nd of 2012, and details were also included in both the OIG audit report and a subsequent GAO report dated July 2014.

QUESTION: Can I ask you something? Because how it was described in The Washington Post that it was paid to alter reports to shield the agency. Is this characterization right or wrong?

MS. PSAKI: It is not accurate. Ambassador Patterson, which was referenced, of course, in the report, met with the OIG team in her capacity as the head of the U.S. mission in Cairo at the time, which is standard practice and certainly something we do on a regular basis with OIG reports. The meeting helped clarify inaccuracies in the draft OIG report which inaccurately characterized U.S. policy decisions taken at the highest levels of our government and which could have put Americans at risk. But that is a standard practice to meet with officials when there’s an OIG report (inaudible).

QUESTION: And I’m not sure – I mean, correct me if I’m wrong. It was not a trial already or there was no judge – judgment to say that it is bailed. I mean, it’s – looks like a ransom even somehow paid, but still it’s not clear for me who asked whom to pay this money.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned just a couple of minutes ago, this was money that was used for legal expenses and it was factored into the funding of the programs.

QUESTION: So the – but when you say that it was, according to what I read in Washington Post – I don’t have the report to 22 pages or 9 pages even. So it was mentioned that it was paid to the Egyptian Government, but it’s not clear paid to whom and how – who was paying whom. You know what I mean?

MS. PSAKI: I believe the details are in the report, but this was money that was paid for legal expenses. So --

QUESTION: Jen, you said that the report – Ambassador Patterson met to get rid of some inaccuracies. The report went from 22 pages to 9. That sounds like – was it just a lot of inaccuracies to make it, I mean, get reduced by more than half?

MS. PSAKI: Ali, I think it’s pretty standard practice for officials who are experts on the issue and who are living in the country to meet with OIG officials. They do the reports; they decide what to include but to provide information about what is accurate and inaccurate. I don’t have any other analysis on the length of the report. Obviously, they often go through many drafts.

QUESTION: So they have a question which was raised when people were discussing this report of – I mean, news report, not the report itself. I didn’t see it. It was paid – it kept – it was the first time that something – a payment like this happened, or it was other payments were similar? I’m not trying to ask the question in a way that – okay, if now is like another American case is there, are you ready to pay for him as a bail?

MS. PSAKI: I think every case is different. In this particular program that was funded by the U.S. Government, the legal expenses were factored into the funding. That was something that was worked through USAID and the State Department.

QUESTION: And there was five or six people, right?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that’s correct, but I don’t have the report in front of me either.

Any more on this topic?

QUESTION: Staying in Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What do you know of the health of Mohamed Soltan and the status of discussions between the United States Government and Egyptian authorities regarding his case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Mr. Soltan’s most recent hearing took place on October 22nd. A consular official attended the hearing, just as Embassy Cairo attempted to hear – attempted to attend, I should say, every court hearing for Mr. Soltan that he has had. The next hearing is November 5th. We’ve continued to ask for – request his release on humanitarian grounds. The – during the President’s meeting with President Sisi, he raised our continuing concerns about the – about Egypt’s political trajectory, including the status of those who have been imprisoned. The Secretary has raised this specific case as well. So we continue to monitor it closely, we continue to call for his release on humanitarian grounds, we remain concerned about his deteriorating health, and we understand he is still on a hunger strike.

QUESTION: How would you gauge the progress of those American calls with Egyptian authorities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we won’t be – I think what we want to see is him returned home to his – to the United States, to his family. And obviously, we’ll continue to press from the highest level until we reach that point.

QUESTION: Can I ask –

QUESTION: Is this about Egypt?

QUESTION: Egypt, yes.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wondered – you talked about the President’s meeting with President Sisi, but that was at UNGA, right? That was a month ago, or has there been a more recent one that I missed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, my point is, Arshad, that it’s been raised at the highest levels in --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as recently as there have been meetings. So that was the only reason I mentioned it.

QUESTION: Okay. No, no, I just wanted to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- make sure there wasn’t some other contact.

MS. PSAKI: No, there wasn’t a more recent one. No.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the Huangs?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Have there been any discussions with Qatari officials about the postponement of the ruling of the hearing of the Huangs? And have you personally or has this building communicated your public urgings for the government to release them as soon as possible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly – that’s exactly where we stand, and we’ve continued to reiterate that. And obviously, we have a very well-staffed embassy on the ground in Qatar. I don’t have any new conversations to read out. I can check and see with our team if there’s anything new.

QUESTION: I mean, what is the basis that you’re asking them to lift the travel ban and release? Because you have voiced concern about the trial and the evidence presented that perhaps it’s – was not a fair trial, or because you think they should be released on humanitarian grounds? Or what – why are you feeling that the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, one of our concerns is ensuring that U.S. citizens are afforded due process. We’ve been following --

QUESTION: Do you feel that they haven’t been?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. We’ve been following, as you know, this case closely. We’ve been concerned by indications that not all of the evidence was weighed by the court and that cultural misunderstandings may have led to an unfair trial. So there are a range of reasons, and certainly, we want to see them overturned.

QUESTION: Jen, just to go back to Egypt because I was supposed --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: I was trying to ask a question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I thought that she’s asking a question about Egypt. It was reported yesterday in some of the newspaper that the foreign ministry already rejected the idea, I mean, or at least transferred to you the idea that they are rejecting the idea of the – of – to release the Egyptian American prisoned. Is that referred to – I mean, that transferred to you or not? Not yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he hasn’t been released yet, as we know.

QUESTION: Yes, I know that.

MS. PSAKI: But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to press for his release.

QUESTION: No, I mean, it’s the principle itself. It was reported that the principle itself to ask for it, it’s rejected. I am just trying to check if this transferred to you or not? I’m not --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those specific comments, nor do I have anything to read out in terms of private diplomatic discussions. But obviously, he hasn’t been released at this point, so we’ll continue to press for his release.

Any more on Egypt? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have Cyprus again.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Jennifer, the Cyprus Government consider Turkish actions in its exclusive economic zone as an invasion. What is your position on this matter? And I’m not asking your position on Cyprus in general; on this matter, if you have a position.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know you’re not asking for our position in general, but I just want to repeat for the record we recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to support strongly the negotiation process conducted under UN Good Offices to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between communities in the context of an overall settlement. It’s important to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region, and certainly, we’ve conveyed that as well.

QUESTION: You asked them to avoid action, you asked Turkey? Which one, which – or Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: We are continuing to convey that broadly, and certainly, we believe that’s how things should proceed from here.

QUESTION: Can I ask you something else? The Government of Cyprus said that the president of Cyprus asked the United States to intervene to Turkey and asked them to stop its provocative actions. Can you tell us if the Secretary of State spoke, for example, with Mr. Davutoglu on this matter?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to read out in terms of Secretary’s conversations. We remain engaged at a senior level with, of course, the government. We also support the UN special advisor’s efforts to bring the parties back to the table and are in close touch with him as well.

QUESTION: Can I ask one question --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Related to Turkey, and I apologize if you addressed this yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: No, no, it’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: But the Israeli defense minister was here yesterday, and he accused Turkey at an appearance at the Pentagon of supporting Hamas and being a second headquarters for terrorist organizations trying to destroy Israel. I just wanted to know if the United States has any view on his remarks, given that Turkey is such an important part of the anti-ISIS coalition and other diplomatic efforts. But do you see this as detrimental to any efforts here to get Turkey on board with things the international community is doing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I haven’t – I don’t have any specific comment on his comments, but I will say that our conversations with Turkey are, of course, ongoing. And obviously, they have taken steps and indicated an openness to having the Peshmerga travel through. They have taken steps over the course of the last week or so to increase their participation in the coalition. This is an ongoing effort, but we don’t see an impact from those comments.

QUESTION: Well, what is it – what is Turkey supporting the coalition have to do with its support for Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: Well, she was asking me if we thought that comments by the Israeli defense minister impacted Turkey’s participation.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: No, no.

QUESTION: But do you think that they should be housing Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comments on the comments of the Israeli defense minister.

QUESTION: Can I go to Pakistan, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a series of attacks in Pakistan today, including a suicide bombing in which, I believe, about 11 people were killed and I saw 30 people injured or so. I just wondered if there was a reaction from this building.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get a comment around to all of you, Jo. Obviously, as in any case, we would – our heartfelt condolences to the families of those impacted. I don’t have details on it. I’m not sure if they’ve been out there yet, but I can check and see if there are details on the cause or what occurred in this case.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Pakistan?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI. Okay. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iraq for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports or do you have any comment on the fact that Yezidis are once again trapped on Mount Sinjar and requesting help, expecting an assault again by ISIS fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, as you know, we had taken recent action, relatively recently I should say, over the course of the summer. I don’t have anything new to predict for you. We remain committed to addressing humanitarian crises as we see them and to continuing to assist those who are impacted by the threat of ISIL. But operationally, I would point you to DOD to see if there’s anything they would want to preview about anything they’re planning.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, the Administration has said repeatedly that, for example, Kobani in a city of itself doesn’t have a lot of strategic import in the overall fight. I’m wondering if you have any idea what ISIS’s – what their aim is in trying to get Sinjar. Why? Do you have any idea why Sinjar is such a prize? They keep going back to it, so --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think – I know this is not what you asked, but even on Kobani I can’t tell you why – we can’t tell you why, aside from their desire to have a propaganda victory, that they are focusing there either. The reason --

QUESTION: Well, the border. They could control the border there.

MS. PSAKI: But in terms of their focus on Sinjar, I don’t know that I have analysis on why strategically ISIL is going after it more.

QUESTION: But the reason that you undertook the action in the first place is because you thought that ISIS was trying to launch a genocide against the Yezidis.

MS. PSAKI: Right. That’s right.

QUESTION: So aren’t you still concerned about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly remain concerned about any group that’s threatened by ISIL, and we’ve taken action in the past. I have nothing to preview for you in terms of future operations, as would be typically the case.

QUESTION: You saw, I’m sure, that ISIS took another hill close to Kobani. This was seen as another, even if medium-sized, victory for ISIS in the battle area. Any readout or comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have – I would point you to DOD for any specific, on-the-ground analysis of the battle.

QUESTION: Can I go to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry, sorry. South Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I saw that you all announced the 2+2 here tomorrow. What’s the agenda? Can you give us some kind of readout?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you know, we have done the Strategic Dialogue, 2+2 dialogues with a range of countries. We did it with Australia over the summer. We’ve done it with Japan as recently as last year. We find it’s a very effective way of talking about issues where there’s a great deal of overlap between our diplomatic efforts and our defense efforts.

In the meetings tomorrow, certainly we’ll talk about issues ranging from the threats and rhetoric of the DPRK to regional issues to economic issues like the TPP. We expect it to be a wide-ranging conversation. And I know that Secretary Hagel is also meeting with his counterpart today, and I believe they’ll have a press conference later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Right. Do you expect the issue about wartime control to come up at tomorrow’s meeting?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly expect it will be part of the discussion this afternoon too, and I would expect they may have more to say about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: More on South Korea?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Scott?

QUESTION: Just broadly, in July you and the Secretary spoke out about the backlog of ambassadorial appointments held up in the Senate. Can you give us an update on that and your thoughts about a move to try to get that logjam cleared after the midterm elections?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, just a quick update on the numbers. There are 60 total nominees who are unconfirmed: 39 are on the Senate floor, 21 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 39 of 60 are career diplomats, 44 of them are bilateral ambassadors, seven are UN or multilateral ambassadors, eight are domestic officials, one is a special envoy. Of those who are on the floor – and as you know, Congress is returning, so our view is when they return next week they have every capability of taking action to voice vote, as happens with the military nominees, career ambassadors, of which there are 27 career diplomats who have been – who are on the Senate floor.

So this is a – I can promise you the Secretary brings this issue up in basically every morning meeting I attend with him. He is committed to doing everything possible to get these officials through. And certainly as we’ve seen with crises like Ebola, ISIL, when you don’t have an ambassador on the ground it is tying the arms of the United States in countries where we need to have that senior leadership. And that’s why we’re pressing so hard to have these officials confirmed.

Any more questions. Oh, go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: You mentioned something – not a career Foreign Service officer, but certainly a diplomat, our longtime colleague George Gedda --

QUESTION: You’re stealing my thunder.

QUESTION: But you didn’t say anything.

QUESTION: Because I’m letting everybody else ask questions.

QUESTION: Oh, is there anybody else who has a question?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We can both say something.

QUESTION: I’ll say something and then you say something.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: He’s going to speak at AFSA on Monday on his new book, which is entitled “The State Department – More than Just Diplomacy: The Personalities, Turf Battles, Danger Zones for Diplomats, Exotic Datelines, Miscast Appointees, the Laughs – And, Sadly, the Occasional Homicide.”

MS. PSAKI: How does that fit on a cover? I’m impressed.

QUESTION: I have no idea, but --

MS. PSAKI: Could be like an interesting book.

QUESTION: But he’s a lovely guy, and to listeners and readers of the briefing, they might want to check out his book.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Do you want to say something else on that?

QUESTION: I was just going to offer to you or to others in the room, since he is a friend and colleague of all of ours, that if anybody wants to order his book I can take that order to him. I will see him on Monday. He’s giving a speech or a talk to his colleagues at AP, and I’m sure he would love to hear from all of you and all of you.

MS. PSAKI: Great. I’m very impressed. He must be a fabulous individual that he gets all this pumping for his book. So --

QUESTION: He’s a lovely, lovely guy.

MS. PSAKI: Good to hear. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:23 p.m.)

DPB #180


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 22, 2014

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 15:10

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 22, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:14 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily briefing, everyone. I have just two items at the top, and then we will get to your questions.

First, we are following the active shooter situation in Ottawa near the National War Memorial and parliament. Canadian Parliament Hill and our Embassy in Ottawa are on lockdown. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We have full confidence in Canadian law enforcement officials. Secretary Kerry, who’s on his plane on the way back from Berlin, has been briefed on the situation and is following it closely. Again, I know this is an ongoing situation that everyone’s following. Don’t have more details about that right now.

Second topper: Today General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are in London, where they met with UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, Lieutenant General Mayall, National Security Advisor Darroch, and FCO officials to discuss joint U.S.-UK efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. The United Kingdom is a valued partner in the fight against ISIL and continues to make vital contributions to coalition efforts. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our appreciation for the Royal Air Force’s strikes against ISIL elements in Iraq, and for the more than $36 million the United Kingdom has provided in humanitarian supplies in Iraq.

In their meetings, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk discussed coalition support for an inclusive Iraqi Government and military structure, including support for the Iraqi National Guard program. They also reviewed our shared efforts to support moderate Syrian opposition in the fight against ISIL and over the longer term in creating the conditions necessary for a political transition in Syria.

With that, Lara.

QUESTION: Yes, I apologize for being late.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: I didn’t hear the two-minute warning. I don’t know if you said this up top, but is the American Embassy in Ottawa on lockdown?

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: The embassy’s on lockdown. And I also – the other thing I said at the top was the Secretary has been briefed on the situation on his plane and is following it closely.

QUESTION: And do you have any idea of what the motive of this attack is, or --

MS. HARF: Not yet. I know the situation’s unfolding. Obviously, Canadian officials have the lead here. Don’t have any more information to share at this time.

QUESTION: Possibly tied to the Islamic State or --

MS. HARF: I don’t even want to speculate. It’s way too early.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just two things on that. In addition to the embassy being on lockdown, are all embassy personnel safe and accounted for?

MS. HARF: Yes, 100 percent accountability of all embassy personnel. We are currently restricting the movement of embassy personnel as a precautionary measure at the moment.

QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, have the Canadian authorities reached out to the State Department or to other U.S. agencies through the State Department for any kind of assistance here?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know. Obviously, this is unfolding as we speak.

QUESTION: Does it affect any of the other U.S. embassy – official buildings in Canada, or is just in Ottawa?

MS. HARF: Not that I’ve heard. I know that our embassy’s in lockdown, but not that I’ve heard about anything else.

QUESTION: Marie, question from the U.S. Embassy Ottawa Twitter account. They had retweeted some statements from NORAD and NORTHCOM, and because they were retweeted by the embassy, it got some extra attention because, of course, it suggests a security response – it was specifically about aviation threats in Canada. Do you have anything you can explain as to why the embassy would be --

MS. HARF: I do not. I’m happy to check with them.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we switch back to North Korea – from yesterday?

MS. HARF: Yep. We can.

QUESTION: Yesterday you were not able to provide any details regarding the circumstances that led to Mr. Fowle’s release. Can you now share any of those circumstances, either regarding direct U.S.-North Korean contacts or indirect contacts through the Swedish protecting power?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any further details to share with you and I won’t.

QUESTION: Okay. So on – as you well know, Secretary Kerry commented on this in Berlin today, and there was a particular line in which he talked about how North Korea knows what it wants to do and that if it were willing to engage in nuclear negotiations that the United States would be willing to start the process of perhaps – and I can read you the quote, I have it here if you want – but to perhaps adjust its security posture in the region because the reasoning for the security posture would no longer obtain. Was that meant to float a new effort to get them back into talks or was it rather a reiteration of the longstanding U.S. position that over the very, very long term, if North Korea were to, as it were, change its spots, then the United States could take another look at its security posture on the peninsula.

MS. HARF: The latter.

QUESTION: Who is the – I’m not sure if you saw the comments that were made by the KCNA today that Mr. Fowle’s release had come about as a direct result of an intervention by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who said he was – replied to repeated requests from President Obama. Is that your understanding of the events?

MS. HARF: As I said, we’re not going to have any more details to confirm, not confirm, discuss in any way about how this happened.

QUESTION: Can you explain why, by the way, that you feel it’s so important not to?

MS. HARF: Because there’s two Americans that are still in detention in North Korea, and we don’t want to take any options off the table or do anything that would limit our ability publicly or privately to get them home.

QUESTION: So without confirming Kim Jong-un’s or KCNA’s statement about what – this was a decision by Kim Jong-un, you feel that could compromise the safety of the two Americans?

MS. HARF: We’re just not going to get into the business of confirming these rumors one way or the other.

QUESTION: Do you have plans to debrief Mr. Fowle?

MS. HARF: As you know, he’s home with his family in Ohio. They landed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base this morning. I don’t – I haven’t heard of any, but I’m happy to check with our team.

QUESTION: Would it be surprising if he were not debriefed?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I just don’t have any details on that for you. I don’t want to speculate.

QUESTION: Could you check?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: A follow-up question: Has President Obama ever gone beyond calling publicly for the release of these Americans and made in private specific request directly to North Korea, like sending a letter or something?

MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, I don’t think I’m going to confirm one way or the other any of those rumors that are out there.

QUESTION: One more on Kerry – Secretary Kerry’s remarks: He said if North Korea denuclearizes, U.S. is prepared to begin the process of reducing the need for American force and presence in the region. Can we take this as one of the long-term benefits North Korea can take from giving up its nuclear program?

MS. HARF: Well, he was restating our longstanding policy that we are focused on denuclearization of the peninsula. And obviously, as Arshad said, over the long term, is this part of the discussion? Yes, but he was not in any way going beyond what we’ve said for a very long time about what has the potential to happen here, was not indicating anything new.

QUESTION: Marie, so I understand, are there – is there a diplomatic outreach underway to get the remaining Americans out?

MS. HARF: We have many ways publicly and privately to actively work for their release.

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: We don’t always outline the details of those publicly, if ever.

QUESTION: Right, but we know that the Swedes act as intermediaries for the United States.

MS. HARF: They’re our protecting power there, correct.

QUESTION: Right, so they are relaying any requests or diplomatic outreach on behalf of the United States.

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into more specifics than that. They serve as our protecting power there. You know what that means in terms of trying to get consular access to these people. Beyond that, I’m just not going to get into the details.

QUESTION: I understand there were several countries who were involved with the release for Mr. Fowle. Is it – without going into the details, is it fair to assume that those same countries or others – actually, is it just fair to assume that those same countries would be involved in negotiations for releasing the other two?

MS. HARF: I am not going to confirm that anyone else was involved and not going to speculate on what might be involved in a future case.

QUESTION: Can you say --

QUESTION: The Fowle family --

MS. HARF: I’m probably not going to have much more to say on this.

QUESTION: The Fowle family, in a statement this morning that was read out for them when he arrived back in Ohio, thanked former U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall. What was his role in this?

MS. HARF: I saw those. I think he might have been serving as an informal advisor to the family, but let – I was checking on this. Let me double-check on that, but I think that may have been the role he was playing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I just finish what I was asking --

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: -- which was: Did this come up when Secretary Kerry and the Chinese foreign minister, when they spent the day together on Friday, specifically the case of Jeffrey Fowle and the other prisoners?

MS. HARF: I can check. I know the – I know DPRK was a huge topic of conversation during their meetings, primarily the denuclearization issue. We always talk about the American citizens. I can check if this case specifically did. I’m guessing it did.

QUESTION: How do you define “informal advisor”?

MS. HARF: I can check, guys. I don’t have more details on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And just one more, just slightly stepping out of it a little bit: I don’t know if you saw also that Japanese diplomats are going to go visit Pyongyang and that will be the first time within about a decade, I believe, that such a delegation has gone across. Do you have a reaction to it? Is it a good idea? What would you hope would come out of such a contact?

MS. HARF: Well, I think they’re going to talk about the abductee issue and certainly support their – the Japanese Government’s efforts to resolve this issue in a manner that takes into account the interests of the abductees’ family and the security interests of Japan, also its diplomatic partners in the international community. We have regular contact with Japan on DPRK-related issues, and they can probably speak more to the actual visit.

QUESTION: Would you ask them to intercede on your behalf also for the release of the other two Americans?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to speculate on that.

QUESTION: In an interview today, former Ambassador Hall said that this signals that North Korea may want to open relations with the United States and other countries. He cited the recent trip to South Korea for example. Jo’s asking about – the others were asking about the trip to Japan. Would you agree with that, that you believe --

MS. HARF: Well, he’s a former government official, so – and obviously, he’s entitled to his own analysis. What we’re focused on is the other two Americans. Look, we said this is a positive development that they did allow Jeffrey Fowle to return home. But we’re focused on the other two Americans, bringing them home to be reunited with their families, and our top priority is on the denuclearization issue. We have been very clear how important that is in our policy. As I said today, the Secretary was reiterating what we’ve said for a long time, that the Six-Party Talks, as we know, have been not active since 2008. The DPRK has made a lot of promises in that regard, but they haven’t lived up to them. So the ball is in their court in terms of that, and we’ll see what they choose to do.

QUESTION: But is it fair to say that the view of policy officials here at State is that there could be an opportunity to renew relations with Pyongyang?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to go that far, no. What I think this is is a positive development on one case. But we need to see positive developments on the other cases, we need to see any steps towards denuclearization, which we haven’t seen. So I don’t want to go that far. I wouldn’t go that far.

QUESTION: Let me put it this way: What is the official view of relations between the U.S. and DPRK right now?

MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, we are very focused on the issue of denuclearization, working with our Six-Party Talks partners to see if we can get DPRK to take a different path. They are in violation of numerous international community obligations, international obligations. They are in violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. They need to live up to their own obligations. We will keep working with our partners, whether it’s China, others, to help get them back in line here.

QUESTION: Kobani?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Turkish President Erdogan said today on Kobani and the airdrop operations, “It has emerged that what was done was wrong,” referring to airdropping the weapons by U.S. And he said only some of the weapons that reached to PYD, while some ended up in the hands of ISIL. So do you think what was done was wrong?

MS. HARF: Not at all. And in his call with President Erdogan on Saturday, President Obama made very clear why we consider it urgent and essential to resupply the fighters in Kobani who are in a desperate situation. They are responding to repeated ISIL attacks on their city. And we’ll let the Turkish Government speak for itself, but allowing ISIL to seize more territory along the border with Turkey could endanger more Syrian communities and threaten our shared interest with Turkey in defeating ISIL and strengthening the moderate opposition. So this is in all of our interests here. We believe and the President made clear to President Erdogan to make sure these people fighting ISIL on the ground have the supplies they need.

QUESTION: Can we assume that U.S. will keep doing these airdrops?

MS. HARF: No. I said we don’t take any option off the table. We may, we may not. We just don’t know if there’ll be a need at this point.

QUESTION: Let’s go back – let’s look at it this way. The Pentagon confirmed today that not one bundle went astray, but two bundles went astray.

MS. HARF: They did.

QUESTION: And while they were able to destroy one, the other one did end up in ISIL hands.

MS. HARF: Could.

QUESTION: It did. This is what they’re --

MS. HARF: No, I actually have their statement in front of me, Roz, and I can read it for you. “A second resupply bundle was not recovered and may have been seized by ISIL. It is therefore possible that the video yesterday could be that missing bundle. The allegations, though, that were made that there were American-made weapons here that were recovered is not true, because we did not drop any American-made weapons.”

QUESTION: Well, that said, does that give any pause to the idea of reconsidering doing more drops on behalf of the Kurds in Iraq --

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: -- to assist the fighters?

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. HARF: And all military missions incur some risk. But the alternative of doing nothing, of not making sure the fighters pushing back ISIL on the ground in and around Kobani have the weapons and the ammunition they need and the medical supplies they need, we don’t think is a viable option. And this is a small amount of risk in this case. Obviously, this was a very small amount that may have fallen into the hands of someone else. But we believe that the overriding national security imperative to take the step is important enough.

QUESTION: Marie, can I --

QUESTION: On a related point regarding the land bridge, the Kurdish parliament voted to basically deploy some of its Peshmerga to Kobani. But we are also hearing that there is extreme reluctance to actually carry out the deployment, one, because they’re needed to try to protect Kirkuk, to try to help defend Sinjar, and that they don’t feel that there is enough, and there is a real sense that Turkey, once again, ought to be doing more to actually try to protect Kobani and the border. What is the U.S.’s view of the situation?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll let the Kurds answer for where they deployed their forces from Iraq. Obviously, that’s their decision strategically to make. We had welcomed Turkey’s announcement that it would allow these fighters to transition through Turkey to go fight in Kobani. So I know we’re having conversations with the Turks about when this can start happening, with the Kurds as well, so those conversations are ongoing. But we do know, I will say, that they face a number of challenges on many fronts, and there are some resource challenges here.

QUESTION: How ironclad is Turkey’s decision to create this land bridge? What kind of assistance are they going to be providing to any Peshmerga who do deploy? And do you anticipate that the U.S. will be involved in that deployment assistance as well?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team and see if we would have any role to play, and they’ll – the Turks will have more information on those specifics.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Said, yes.

QUESTION: -- do you think that Turkey is speaking out of both sides of its mouth? On the one hand, they say --

MS. HARF: Am I going to get asked this question every day?

QUESTION: No, because – well, because we’re getting all these contradictory statements coming out of the president of Turkey. I mean, one day they’re cooperative and so on. The next day, as today, they expressed that they are quite upset with your efforts and so on. So what is their policy?

MS. HARF: Well, they are a valuable partner in this coalition, Said. They have agreed to take numerous steps along various lines of effort here. They’re a strategic ally. We share the same goal of ultimately defeating ISIL. We are continuing to have discussions with them about tactically and strategically what that looks like and what role they are willing to play and what role we will play. Those conversations are ongoing. They don’t have to commit to do every single thing on a checklist to cross some sort of threshold. They are taking valuable steps that are very significant.

QUESTION: One gets the feeling that they harbor the same kind of enmity, at least, if not even more, toward the Kurds than they do towards ISIS. Do you agree?

MS. HARF: I’ll let them speak for their own feelings.

QUESTION: What are the valuable steps?

MS. HARF: They’ve agreed to host part of the train and equip program on their territory, which is a significant step. They’ve allowed to open this land bridge to allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to transition through their territory to go fight in Kobani. They’re cracking down on foreign fighters. They’re cracking down on terrorist financing. They’re playing a very key role here.

QUESTION: Marie, do you think – are they getting anything in return? They stated four – sort of four conditions to participate. Are they getting anything in return --

MS. HARF: It’s like Groundhog Day in here.

QUESTION: -- like a promise maybe to have a safe haven where they can train the opposition?

MS. HARF: We are in constant discussions with them about what role they can play.

QUESTION: Okay. There’s also – The Washington Post today wrote about a plan in Iraq to – that will gradually sort of --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: -- up the ante, so to speak and --

MS. HARF: Let’s just stay with ISIL, then we’ll get – I’ll get to all of your questions, I promise.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. I just wanted to ask you if you would comment on that plan.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into any possible future operations. Obviously, we’re committed to working with the Iraqi Security Forces through our joint operation centers, through our advise and assist teams to degrade and defeat ISIL. What that will look like in the future, I’m just not going to speculate on.

QUESTION: I guess my question is: Is the strategy to confront ISIL in Syria independent than the one that you would conduct in Iraq, or are they together?

MS. HARF: No. Well, they’re – they – they’re not exactly the same, as we’ve talked about many times, but we believe it’s important to confront them in both places, and that’s why that’s what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Okay, so – but they would – well, let’s say the Peshmerga going to fight in Kobani and perhaps at one point maybe the Sunni tribe would go on to fight in Syria. Is that a likelihood? Is that a possible scenario?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to speculate, Said.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Would you characterize the result of this air drop operation as successful?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And will you coordinate these efforts in the future, this – the supply efforts to Kobani fighters – will you coordinate these efforts with Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know if we’ll do any more of these.

QUESTION: Sorry?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to speculate. But we obviously made very clear to them, to the Turkish Government before we took this action, that we were going to.

QUESTION: That corridor will be helpful to reach these supplies to Kobani fighters?

MS. HARF: We – to get additional fighters into Kobani from Iraq.

QUESTION: How about supplies?

MS. HARF: I’m assuming supplies would move along the same route, but I don’t really know the specifics.

QUESTION: Supply – do you mean the air drops?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. What are you asking? I think you’re conflating a couple different things, Tolga.

QUESTION: These air drops, will you follow these air drops, or will you replace this air drops operation with the corridor?

MS. HARF: Oh, sorry. You’re conflating two things. The corridor is for Iraqi Kurdish fighters to go fight in Kobani. In terms of U.S. air drops, I don’t have anything to predict. We may, we may not need to do them in the future.

QUESTION: Because it was – these weapons and ammunitions was belonging to Kurdish authorities and the – to Peshmerga.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So if the Peshmerga fighters will use this route, would it be possible to reach these supplies through the same route?

MS. HARF: I can check. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on the bundles?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand, and maybe one has to ask this at DOD, but the – in the conference call on Sunday night, one of the briefers on the White House call said that 27 bundles had been dropped. Yesterday, the Pentagon said that one of those had gone astray and been destroyed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What I don’t understand is whether 27 is indeed the correct number of bundles that was dropped and in fact it was 25 that got to the Syrian Kurds and then a 26th that may have gone to ISIS and then a 27th that was destroyed. Is that correct, or was it 28 bundles?

MS. HARF: Let me double-check. I remember the numbers, too. Let me double-check on that. But it was – you’re right – one that was destroyed and then this was an additional one that we think that could have ended up with someone else.

QUESTION: Okay. If you could check on the numbers, that would be helpful. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, I will.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports that the IS has used some toxic gas in parts of Kobani to sicken the Kurdish fighters?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. I’ll check on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Obviously, we would take any accusation of that very seriously.

QUESTION: Marie, your comment on the three teenage girls that were sent back?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The three teenage American girls that --

MS. HARF: I think the FBI is probably best equipped to speak to that.

QUESTION: But you have no comment on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: Yes, please. The first question regarding this when you say the Turkey participation in the coalition, and you mentioned they would allow the corridor to pass. Is this principally or let’s say agreed about it between U.S. and Turks, or it’s just your – what you want to be done?

MS. HARF: Well, the Turkish Government has publicly said they would do this.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: They’ve come out and said this. It’s not about what we want. It’s about them deciding to do this.

QUESTION: Okay. And the other thing which is related to training forces that you are talking about, you are talking about training forces for – Syrian forces, right?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, the Syrian opposition.

QUESTION: Opposition forces.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So when you are talking about the coalition, you mentioned before or other people mentioned and from this podium, that at least from what I remember, that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are ready to train Syrian opposition --

MS. HARF: Correct, to host part of the train and equip program. That’s correct.

QUESTION: And it seems that at least from the Turkish side yesterday published article from presidential advisor, he was like saying about that those forces are not to fight ISIL, just ISIL.

MS. HARF: That’s correct.

QUESTION: They are to fight --

MS. HARF: Assad.

QUESTION: -- Assad.

MS. HARF: That is correct.

QUESTION: So do you agree with that principle?

MS. HARF: We do. We’ve always said the Syrian opposition is not just fighting a war on one front against ISIL; they’re also fighting against the regime.

QUESTION: So regarding the issue of – I know it’s FBI answered about some details about those three girls, but if you see the itinerary is like going to Europe to go Turkey and then through to Syria. Is still the issue is neighboring countries, are they allowing foreigners to come in Syria to join ISIL?

MS. HARF: Well, without speaking about that specific case, we know there’s a foreign fighter challenge in the region. And there are a variety of ways they can transit from places in the West, Europe, or here, to end up in Syria or Iraq. So obviously, we know there are a number of different corridors we need to help get people to work to shut down, so there are a number of different ways. The countries know they need to do more and they’ve started doing more, but it’s a tough challenge.

QUESTION: To those who are really not experts in understanding map and understanding details of this coming in Syria, from your understanding, what are those countries, I mean, neighboring countries allowing people after all this?

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t use the term “allowing.” Neighboring – these borders are very long, some of them are very porous in places. It’s a challenge to secure an entire border. So the neighboring countries, I wouldn’t say they’re allowing people, but they need to do more to crack down on their borders, to close their borders, and they know that that needs to happen.

QUESTION: So do these people ask United States – I don’t know if you have the answer or not – to cooperate with them in safe or safeguarding or guarding their borders (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly working with countries in the region on that line of effort, yes.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Syrian opposition is upset with the U.S. because you provided arms to the PYD in Kobani when they were in need, and they’ve been calling – the opposition has been calling for arms from the U.S. since the beginning of the uprising and you didn’t provide them with the arms that they have asked for. What’s your answer?

MS. HARF: Well, we have been providing them. We have a train and equip program for the Syrian opposition, so we are providing them with this assistance. We have consistently increased the scale and scope of our assistance to them consistently over this entire effort.

QUESTION: That means you answered their calls and you provided them what they’ve called for?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re in a constant discussion with them about what’s most appropriate at what point in time to provide, as we are in any situation. So we have continued to increase our support to them. We will continue to do so. And we are right now, as I just mentioned, leading a train and equip program for the Syrian opposition.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: But that program – the program hasn’t started yet in Saudi or Turkey, has it?

MS. HARF: It’s the – it’s ongoing. The Department of Defense can speak best to where that actually is in the process.

QUESTION: But for four years you didn’t answer their calls for arms.

MS. HARF: You’re expanding this timeline. As I said, as we said last summer, we significantly expanded the scale and scope of what we were providing them last summer. That’s continued. So we have worked with them as they have grown, as they have come together and become more cohesive. That will continue.

QUESTION: And now they are calling for help from the international community because they are in a bad situation in Aleppo. Are you ready to intervene to help them?

MS. HARF: What does that mean?

QUESTION: To provide them with arms as you did with Kobani?

MS. HARF: We are currently participating in a train and equip program. We can check with the Defense Department --

QUESTION: For the long term, but now they are in need for arms.

MS. HARF: And we are working with them now to see if we can get them what they need.

QUESTION: Conversely, was it, in retrospect, a bad policy or a failed policy to arm any of the Syrian rebel group, seeing how most of them have morphed into ISIS?

MS. HARF: I think you just said a couple things in that statement that aren’t true. I would not say most of them have morphed into ISIS. The Syrian --

QUESTION: A number of them.

MS. HARF: -- moderate opposition that we work with is very opposed to ISIS, certainly. So our support for them is a very important part of our strategy here.

QUESTION: Who are these groups that are moderate?

MS. HARF: Well, primarily we work with the FSA, as you know; on the political side with the SOC. These are groups leading moderate opposition forces in Syria right now. They have been continuing to grow, continuing to coalesce. They have very significant challenges on the ground, but I think you’re well aware of who these guys are.

QUESTION: You agree that your allies, whether from the Gulf Cooperation Council or Turkey, have basically armed and financed and equipped and allowed fighters to go through the borders that morphed into ISIS?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said for a very long time, we have not had evidence that any country or government was supporting ISIS. That’s been a very long-standing line from this podium. We know there are challenges in the region with financing, with foreign fighters. We know countries believe they need to do more and it’s not a challenge that any of us can do on our own, and they certainly feel the same way.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Regarding the corridor to Turkey to go to Syria and fight for Kobani, is agreement or this, whatever, principally agreed does include any number of people or a timeline, or it’s up in the air?

MS. HARF: I’ll let the Turks speak to those specifics.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can we stay on (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, hold on. Can I go to someone who hasn’t had one?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: On the same subject?

QUESTION: Yeah, same subject --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- about Erdogan’s remarks. Actually, today President Erdogan said that, “I presented a proposal to President Obama for Peshmerga forces to pass through Turkey.” Do you confirm that?

MS. HARF: I am not going to confirm any discussions we may have had, but we certainly support their announcement that they would do this.

QUESTION: Also, one more question about Erdogan’s remarks. He also said ISIL took some of the U.S.-dropped weapons. “It is now clear who the support was for and why it was lent.” What do you think about this one?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those comments and I’m not really sure what to make of them, so I don’t want to comment on them.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, I have some questions on Cyprus if --

MS. HARF: Is there anything else on ISIL before we go to Cyprus?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: And then we can go to Cyprus. Go ahead, you’re up.

QUESTION: Thank you. Okay, the prime minister of Turkey Davutoglu said, and I quote, “Turkey would continue its seismic surveys in order to search for oil and gas in Cyprus continental shelf. We have the right and we can use that right any time we want.” I wanted to know, what is the U.S. position on this issue?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s exactly what I said yesterday and what we’ve always said: that we continue to recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone; continues to support strongly the negotiation process to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation; and continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement.

QUESTION: So you don’t agree with Mr. Davutoglu that Turkey has the right to go to the Cyprus exclusive economic zone and to find oil or gas?

MS. HARF: I think I just made clear our position. I don’t have more to add to that.

Said.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Palestinian and Israeli conflict?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Kerry said that the current situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis is not sustainable. Could you explain to us --

MS. HARF: We’ve all said that. That’s been said by many people many times.

QUESTION: I understand. Well, let me ask you, what does that mean? What does it mean that it’s not sustainable?

MS. HARF: It means that the best outcome for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is two states living side by side in peace and security, this is – through a negotiated settlement. The current status quo is not sustainable. Multiple Administration officials have said that.

QUESTION: But the Israelis probably beg to differ because they have sustained an occupation since 1967. Would you disagree?

MS. HARF: Well, we would obviously say, Said, that under some sort of negotiated settlement, that would provide more security to Israel. That’s the point here.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me – the Palestinians are planning to go to the Security Council. They claim to have seven votes already. They are working to get two more so they can submit the proposal to the Security Council about mid-month or right after the election. Are you aware of that or you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I had – obviously, I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals, Said. I know there’s been some rumors about this, but I would reiterate that we strongly believe that the preferred course of action here is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly, and have long made clear the negotiations are the means by which this conflict will need to be resolved.

QUESTION: And in response, it seems that the Israelis have a plan to actually annex Area C, which is 60 percent of the West Bank. It’s a plan that was submitted by the Minister of Economics Naftali Bennett last year, and it seems now they have agreed to it, whereby they give some Palestinians in that area some citizenship and so on. Are you aware of that in response to --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that. I don’t have any comment on it.

Yes, Jo.

QUESTION: Just to get back to the UN Security Council --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- resolution, I believe the Palestinians need nine out of 15 members for it to go through. Are you working actively, as the United States, as an Administration, to try and dissuade people from backing the Palestinian move?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been engaging with the Israelis and the Palestinians on this, as well as with other parties in the Security Council, and we’ll continue to do so. I don’t have a readout of those conversations to give you, but we’ve made clear what our position is, and believe the best way forward here is direct negotiations.

QUESTION: And I wanted to ask, last week when we were traveling, there was an article that came out in Haaretz about a phone conversation that the Secretary had with Prime Minister Netanyahu – I believe it was a very lengthy phone conversation – during which apparently, according to the author’s sources, the Secretary asked Prime Minister Netanyahu whether he would be, in any shape or form, prepared to go back to negotiations based on the 1967 borders. Is that something that’s correct? Was the basic premise of this article correct?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see the article. I’m happy to take a look at it. Obviously, we’re not going to read out the conversations the Secretary has with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he hasn’t been shy about saying – the Secretary hasn’t been shy about saying that eventually, if we can get back to the table, we’d like to.

QUESTION: But are there any active moves to try and get back to the table --

MS. HARF: I think --

QUESTION: -- rather than just the sort of “We want to do it,” but are you actively trying to --

MS. HARF: I can check with our team, but we can’t want it more than they do.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding this description or diagnosis of that the status quo is not sustainable, is U.S., as honest broker, mediator, peace partner, whatever you can describe yourself, planning to do anything, or just describing that the status quo is sustain – is not sustainable?

MS. HARF: I think you’ve seen what – the activity in this building over the past year aimed at trying to see if we can bring these two parties together and eventually get to a negotiated settlement here. I think that we can be accused of a lot of things. One of them is not inaction, though. So on this, we are very committed to it. We can’t want it more than they do. But this remains a top priority of the Secretary’s and of this Administration’s.

QUESTION: I’m trying to figure out, I mean, to – just to know an – have an idea. It’s – I’m not talking about the past, of the last year. I’m talking about, from now on, I mean the coming weeks, is there any intention or planning or at least wish to start something? And how you are trying to do something which is diplomatically acceptable or palatable to both sides?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, what we’ve been focused on most recently is trying to get a long-term sustainable ceasefire in place in Gaza, given the recent conflict there. So that’s been what we’ve been most focused on. But at the same time, as you heard the Secretary say in Cairo, long term, the way to resolve this is through a negotiated settlement.

QUESTION: Can I ask (inaudible), do you have any information about this car ramming that happened in Jerusalem today?

MS. HARF: We’ve seen the reports. We’re concerned about them, obviously condemn any such acts. The Israelis are currently looking into the incident. We are in touch with them and we’ll see what more information we can get, also urge all sides to exercise restraint and maintain calm. But we don’t have more details on it.

QUESTION: Are you aware of – there are reports that apparently, the three people who were injured were Americans?

MS. HARF: I was not aware of that.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you check?

MS. HARF: I can.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie, on Libya, I’ve asked you yesterday about the Libyan Government decision or orders to the army to retake the capital after their advances in Benghazi today. Do you have anything on this?

MS. HARF: Well, we would reiterate that there’s no military solution to Libya’s problems here. And their problems are political, mainly, and violence won’t solve them. As I said yesterday, to end the current crisis Libyans must immediately rein in militias, cease violence, and engage in the productive political dialogue led by their UN special representative. So that’s the path forward here. That’s what we believe needs to happen.

QUESTION: But the government says that it’s fighting terrorism in Benghazi first, and then the militia in the capital second. Don’t you support them?

MS. HARF: I think I’ve just made clear our position.

Yes.

QUESTION: Regarding Libya, what is U.S. level of contact with Libya? I mean, it’s like – is there ambassador there or not? Is – for a while --

MS. HARF: Our ambassador is not in Libya. Ambassador Jones is based out of Malta.

QUESTION: Malta.

MS. HARF: She remains in many, many conversations with the Libyans from there. We have a whole team still focused on Libya, of course, there and in this building. The Secretary – Secretary Kerry met with the Libyans when we were in Paris last week as well.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and the last war? Four former workers for Blackwater were --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- convicted today, three of manslaughter, one of murder. What message does this send to those in Iraq, those across the greater Middle East, about the U.S. being able to hold people accountable for their bad behavior overseas?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly respect the court’s decision in this case. And as you all probably know, but following the tragedy there, the Department took a number of steps to strengthen oversight of private security contractors, such as moving quickly to improve investigative policies and strengthening procedures for use of force and less-than-lethal force by security contractors. So again, aren’t going to have more comment on the court’s decision other than we respect it.

QUESTION: But in terms of the U.S.’s reputation, obviously, Nisour Square was a huge hit for the U.S.’s reputation. Is this verdict something that this building can point to when engaging with other countries on – look, if people do something wrong, they can and will be held accountable?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think the verdict per se, but the process and the judicial process we have in this country that we believe gives everyone access to a fair trial; they are innocent until proven guilty. And without speaking to the specific outcome in this trial, I do think that that is a very important tenet of what we do here.

QUESTION: Has anyone from this building spoken to anyone in the Iraqi Government about the verdict?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: In the aftermath of that attack, the Iraqi parliament passed laws that limited the number of foreign PSDs that were allowed in Iraq and limited their weapons access, permits, all of that. Now that this verdict has come back, do you envision a scenario where the State Department could ask the Government of Iraq to loosen some of those restrictions?

MS. HARF: I can check, but obviously, it’s a very, very different situation today.

QUESTION: It is, but I mean, there are still all sorts of NGOs, journalists who need PSDs and weapons --

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Scott, yes.

QUESTION: Do you know anything more than the maybe ceasefire in Nigeria with Boko Haram?

MS. HARF: Nothing new on that. No updates from our team.

QUESTION: You’ve explained that U.S. officials had no role in bringing about what might be a ceasefire. Is there any role now in trying to push it forward, like talking to authorities in Chad as a convening authority?

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I’m not sure about. Let me check for you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) readout or give us, rather, the list of Secretary Kerry’s phone calls?

MS. HARF: At the moment, I have none on the list from today.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But I can check when I get back to my desk and see if any have happened while I was in prep or out here. Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.

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

DPB #179


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 20, 2014

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:04

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 20, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:32 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: I have a couple items at the top, and then I will be happy to open it up for all of your questions. A trip update for the Secretary: Today he is in Jakarta, Indonesia for the inauguration of its seventh president. We congratulate Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, and its largest Muslim majority country on the inauguration today. The delegation was headed by Secretary Kerry. He also held a round of bilateral meetings with Asian leaders during his time in Jakarta. He goes onto Berlin tomorrow for an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and bilateral meetings as well.

Second, another travel related topper: Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL John Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk will travel to the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman from October 21st through 31st to meet with a wide range of government officials, regional partners and multilateral institutions in support of the international coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. We’ll provide further information about those stops in the coming days.

And I think we have two groups of visitors in the back if I’m correct. The first is students from Cedarville University in Ohio. Am I correct? Wave. I’m from Columbus, so always good to see fellow Buckeyes here. They’re interning in Washington, D.C. And also a group of Afghans are here as part of a diplomat training program who I think are in the row in front of you. So welcome. I hope the briefing is interesting and everyone’s nice today, given that it’s Monday.

Lara, get us started.

QUESTION: So let’s start with Turkey.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m hoping you’ll shed a little light on some of the diplomatic conversations this weekend with Turkey, especially in light of the weapons and ammunition drops that are being provided. As you know, as recently as last week, Turkey said that it would oppose any kind of weapons being transferred to the Kurdish fighters that are allied with the PKK, as those who are fighting in Kobani are. What is it now that was said or offered or discussed in any way that is – that would have given Turkey – basically made Turkey say, “Okay, this is fine with us,” after so many days of it – oppose it.

MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let the Turkish Government speak for itself. It’s fully capable of doing that. President Obama did speak to President Erdogan on the 18th – that was Saturday, I believe – to discuss the situation in Kobani, to discuss steps that could be taken to counter ISIL advances there. Also expressed appreciation for Turkey hosting over an a million refugees, including approximately 180,000 from Kobani; discussed, of course, also the air drops that we would be taking. Secretary Kerry spoke with the foreign minister on October 17th to discuss this issue as well. So we made clear why we believed it was important to take these air drops to support the fighters pushing back against ISIL in and around Kobani, made clear why that was important to us, and don’t have much more readout for you than that.

QUESTION: Let me ask you this way: Did they need convincing, or did they just say, “That’s fine, go ahead”?

MS. HARF: I’m not probably going to read out more specifics to the conversation.

QUESTION: What about this idea of a land route through Turkey. There was some discussion over this was still under negotiation. Can you bring us up to speed on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we continue to discuss with the Turks on a variety of levels ways we can work together on fighting ISIL. Broadly speaking, we made clear in these conversations why we believed it was important, beyond the airstrikes we had already taken – over 135 now in and around Kobani – to support the fighters on the ground with these air drops. I know there were also some announcements out of the Turkish foreign ministry today about steps they were willing to take as well which we welcomed. So those conversations are ongoing.

QUESTION: So going to those steps today –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Turkish side, one of them was to say that they would allow Peshmerga fighters now to go into Kobani –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- crossing the Turkish border.

MS. HARF: That’s – and we welcome those statements from the foreign ministry.

QUESTION: What do you think has persuaded them to change their strategy? Because, of course, before they weren’t allowing the Kurds to do that.

MS. HARF: This is an ongoing conversation with them. I think as we’ve all seen ISIL pour more resources, more fighters into Kobani, this situation has become increasingly serious. Obviously, it’s been serious for a while, but as we’ve seen ISIL really focus on it, focus its resources on it, we believed we needed to take additional steps, and I’ll let the Turks speak for themselves.

QUESTION: But can I just –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- kind of to put a finer point on it, I mean it seems as if the kind of back-and-forth that’s made it into the public domain between you and Turkey would suggest some kind of major disagreement on how this can be –

MS. HARF: And that is – it’s no surprise that the public account of these discussions often doesn’t match the reality. I would disagree with that notion very strongly.

QUESTION: But it’s not public account. The –

MS. HARF: The public discussion as you just mentioned.

QUESTION: Right, but Erdogan basically said that he would – he does not support the U.S. giving aid to the Kurds inside Syria. He said don’t expect him to support it at any time.

MS. HARF: I think –

QUESTION: And Secretary Kerry said it’s irresponsible not to support them.

MS. HARF: And I think the president and the Secretary both had productive conversations with their Turkish counterparts over the weekend, and again, we welcome the statement out of the foreign ministry today, and we’ll keep having the conversation with them. But I would disagree with the notion that there’s some split between us on how to fight this threat. Overarching goals here are exactly the same. We have constant conversations about tactics and strategy and how we should go about that.

QUESTION: But I mean, it does seem – while I agree that the strategic goal may be the same, but certainly there’s a big difference on tactics. And how do you overcome that given that what you need – feel that you need to do right now in Kobani, for whatever reason, is contingent upon helping the Kurds?

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I think we continue to have conversations where we have different ideas about tactics. But I would disagree that there’s sort of a big split in terms of that area. I just don’t think that’s the case in our discussions with them.

QUESTION: So one of the things – a DOD team had been in Turkey --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Had a lot of that planning been during – I mean, just coming back to Lara’s questions about the stuff that evolved over the weekend, was that the planning of this? I mean, were they – was that the discussion that was going on with their team?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t have a full readout of their meetings.

QUESTION: And is Turkey still against using the bases – for the U.S. using their bases?

MS. HARF: Aren’t going to get into operational details about those kinds of discussions.

QUESTION: Can you say how long the Obama-Erdogan call was?

MS. HARF: I’d leave it to the White House to do that.

QUESTION: Can you talk about --

QUESTION: What about Kerry’s with the foreign minister?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I’m sorry, I don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the --

MS. HARF: I can check for you though.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the weapons? I know the Defense Department put out a statement saying that they were Iraqi-Kurdish weapons.

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

QUESTION: But like, can you talk more like how and why did --

MS. HARF: More specific?

QUESTION: -- why did you send your own weapons?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any analysis of that. These were resources from the Iraqi Kurds. It included medical supplies, weapons, and ammunition. I don’t have much more detail on it than that for you.

QUESTION: And for that, did you need to talk to Baghdad to get their, kind of, consent, coordination? Or you just went ahead and --

MS. HARF: I would leave it to the Pentagon to discuss that – I don’t have those details – but it was Kurdish equipment and supplies. The U.S. forces provided the ability to airlift it to these forces on the ground.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) weapons you’re talking about?

MS. HARF: We aren’t, for operational reasons.

QUESTION: Can you also talk about – I mean, we know Turkey had a demand before agreeing for any sort of, like – to participate in the fight against ISIS, one of the major demands was a buffer zone to be created in Syria. Did the United States make any promise to the Turks that that could be a possibility --

MS. HARF: Our position --

QUESTION: -- at some point?

MS. HARF: -- on that has not changed. We are not considering implementing that at this time. That’s not part of the military strategy here. We know this has been an ask of the Turkish Government for some time. We consider asks they make and we talk about them with them, but this has been an ongoing conversation and will continue to be.

QUESTION: So can you say that the United States went ahead with arming the rebels in Syria without seeking the consent of the Turks?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not about consent. We notified them – the President and the Secretary did – of our intent to do this and had discussions with them about why we believe this is an important thing to do in this fight against ISIL around Kobani.

QUESTION: They might --

QUESTION: Well, do you feel that you are – I don’t want to say forced; I don’t mean forced – but do you think that the Turkish reluctance to aid the Kurds themselves has kind of caused a need for you to increase your support to the Kurds inside Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, I think this is a place where we had the ability to airlift these weapons and ammunition and medical supplies, especially given our ongoing relationship with the Kurds in Iraq who supplied this equipment, so it was a place where we could help. We saw a way we could do that, and that’s what we did.

QUESTION: But if the Turks were doing it themselves, you may not have had to do that.

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a lot of hypotheticals we could go down, but this is a place where we saw we could assist and we thought there was a need on the ground given how many resources ISIL was putting into Kobani.

QUESTION: Just one more question. I know Secretary Kerry said that the PYD – the political party in Kobani and other Kurdish cities in Syria is an offshoot of the PKK, which is designated --

MS. HARF: That’s not what he said.

QUESTION: He said it.

MS. HARF: That’s not what he said. I have his transcript --

QUESTION: He said it’s one and the same.

MS. HARF: I have his transcript in front of me. The PYD is a different group than the PKK legally, under United States law.

QUESTION: But he said that he saw them as one and the same.

MS. HARF: He said he’s aware of the history and the sensitivities.

QUESTION: Actually --

MS. HARF: Do you have a question. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure if I – I think I saw that saying --

MS. HARF: I can check on – I have his transcript in front of me --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- and I can check on the specifics, but what’s your question?

QUESTION: So you believe the PYD is not the same as the PKK?

MS. HARF: They are not the same under United States law. No.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: That’s a fact.

QUESTION: When did you inform the Turks to do that?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The – when did the U.S. side inform the Turks to --

MS. HARF: When?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: They President spoke to President Erdogan on Saturday, and Secretary Kerry spoke to the foreign minister on Friday.

QUESTION: Did Secretary inform the Turks on Friday when he talk?

MS. HARF: They discussed in general the issue. I don’t have more details for you than that.

QUESTION: He said that – help us to get the Peshmerga or the other groups in there who will continue this, and we don’t need to do that. During his conversation with the Turkish foreign minister on Friday, Secretary Kerry gave any option to Turks to either open a corridor or U.S. will --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to read out the call any more than I already have.

QUESTION: No, I’m just trying to clarify the remarks of Mr. Secretary actually.

MS. HARF: Okay, sorry. Maybe I misunderstood your question.

QUESTION: No, was that option for U.S. that they gave the Turks, before this operation, either you will open the corridor or you will drop the – the people drop this --

MS. HARF: As I said, I’m not going to read out the conversations we had with them. We’ve been talking to them about a range of options that we could all help around Kobani, given that ISIL has put so many resources there. But I don’t have specifics for you on exactly what that conversation looked like.

QUESTION: What about the --

QUESTION: Since the Turks opened that corridor today, do you think there will --

MS. HARF: Well, we saw the announcement --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- from the foreign ministry, and we welcome those statements, certainly, that they intend to facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga into Kobani. We’ll keep working with them on this.

QUESTION: If this corridor will be opened, do you think there will be need any air operation such that – such an air operation in the future?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to predict for you on that.

QUESTION: I want to go back to Erdogan’s comments.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He said, “There has been talk of arming the PYD to form a front here against the Islamic State. For us, the PYD is the same as the” --

MS. HARF: This is Erdogan, though.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: No, this is Kerry.

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: No, you said Kerry --

QUESTION: No, you said --

QUESTION: No, I said Erdogan.

MS. HARF: No, you didn’t.

QUESTION: No, you said Kerry.

MS. HARF: You said – that’s why I’m like, I don’t think he said that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, you said Kerry here.

MS. HARF: You did.

QUESTION: Oh. I’m sorry. (Laughter.) I meant Erdogan.

QUESTION: But he’s basically --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: It’s one and the same. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I’m like, did I miss what the Secretary said?

QUESTION: It’s one and the same.

MS. HARF: Because I don’t think I heard that.

QUESTION: But he – but basically, Erdogan is saying that it’s one and the same --

MS. HARF: Well, as the Secretary himself said today in Jakarta before his meeting with the Philippine foreign Secretary, that we, of course, understand the fundamentals of their opposition to this, we understand the challenges they have faced with the PKK, and we understand the history and the sensitivities. So he made that clear. We also, though, made clear to the Turks that we believe it’s incredibly important to support groups like the PYD, these Kurdish fighters and a small number of non-Kurdish fighters on the ground pushing back against ISIL.

QUESTION: So you make the distinction between the PYD and the PKK?

MS. HARF: Well, their distinction – there is a distinction, yes.

QUESTION: Can I go back to --

MS. HARF: Sorry, you scared me there, Elise. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I get back --

QUESTION: I was following up on him, and he --

MS. HARF: I know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’ll blame it on him, okay?

MS. HARF: Gets you in trouble. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: If you can’t tell us for operational reasons what kind of weapons you were dropping, are you able at least to give us an indication of the amount, the extent, tonnage, something like that?

QUESTION: And the length of how long this will go on?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to preview in terms of that whether there will be additional strikes – excuse me, drops. There will be additional strikes, I’m sure. I don’t want to rule anything in and out there. Let me check with our Pentagon colleagues and see if they have more details about that.

QUESTION: And obviously, I mean, I know you guys have incredible intelligence, but I’m just wondering if there’s any kind of concern that some of these drops could have landed in the wrong side of this conflict and could actually get into the hands of the ISIL fighters, the very people you’re trying to defeat?

MS. HARF: I think that’s always a possibility, certainly, but the United States military is pretty good at doing this. And I know they’re doing an assessment right now of where the bundles landed and who they might have ended up with.

QUESTION: Let me clarify something that you said a few minutes ago.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said that the President called President Erdogan to inform him of the United States intent to do this. In other words, it was not a, hey, are you okay with this? It was not asking permission?

MS. HARF: Well, it was a discussion. I’ll let the White House read out the call further if they’d like to, but it was a discussion about it.

QUESTION: Can you characterize the discussion in any way?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to. I leave it to the White House to do that.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: Well, what about the one with Kerry and the foreign minister?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything more from that one. Obviously, the key call here was the President’s. But if there’s any more details, I’m happy to get them for you.


QUESTION: How can you balk, citing operational imperatives, at describing even vaguely the nature of the weaponry being provided when the same Administration has been so detailed in showing us the kinds of weaponry that has been brought to bear in airstrikes and throughout this campaign? Why suddenly can we not --

MS. HARF: I don’t think they’re the same thing. And what do you – what detail about airstrikes are you talking about? What kind of aircraft we use?

QUESTION: We’ve known the kind of airplanes. We’ve --

MS. HARF: That’s totally different.

QUESTION: We’re releasing the videotapes where there’s a ton of data associated with the use of the weaponry.

MS. HARF: But James, that’s categorically different from airstrikes being taken by airplanes in the air than weapons that are being used on the ground by these forces. They’re just different types of things.

QUESTION: Is part of the caution because these are not weapons that came from the Iraqi Kurds as opposed to your own weapons?

MS. HARF: That could be. I know there are just operational reasons that we will not be doing so.

QUESTION: And just broadly, what do you understand to be the state of Kobani right now as we stand here?

MS. HARF: Well, it is still under very serious threat. That’s why we believed it was necessary to take additional action. Coalition airstrikes have been successful in eliminating hundreds of ISIL terrorists, destroying ISIL military equipment, and disrupting supply lines and communications. We have had success against ISIL’s stronghold in Kobani; and as we’ve had that success, the less able they are to focus also on other areas of Iraq and Syria. But it did become clear recently that the forces on the ground were running low on supplies necessary to continue this fight. That’s why we decided now to authorize this. And our support will continue to help them repel ISIL. That said, there’s still a possibility that Kobani will fall.

QUESTION: Is it possible that some of the weapons that the Pesh are giving to the Kurdish fighters in Syria are actually weapons that the U.S. transferred or gave or sold to --

MS. HARF: To them?

QUESTION: -- to the Pesh initially?

MS. HARF: It could be. I can check. I’m not sure exactly the historical chain on some of these or all of these weapons.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It could be possible. I’ll check.

QUESTION: And it would be a misapprehension on the part of anyone, any citizen anywhere who were to assume that Kobani is the only active theater in this campaign right now, correct?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. We have repeatedly said this despite the intense media attention on Kobani. ISIL is active in many parts of Iraq and Syria. We’re focused on many parts. We’ve taken strikes in many parts.

QUESTION: Is there – are there ground battles involving allied forces presently outside of Kobani?

MS. HARF: Well, we are – in terms of allied forces, the United States has been taking airstrikes in support of the Iraqi forces on the ground in other places in Iraq, if that’s what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Right. And – but are there any other cities that are being actively contested right now the way we see in Kobani?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team and get a battlefield update, if I can share one.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what’s happening in Anbar, since we’re talking about Iraq?

MS. HARF: Not much new on Anbar right now. The situation remains very fluid. They are – there is a severe threat there. Our assessment of Baghdad has not changed at this point, as we’ve talked about several times in here. But in terms of Anbar, it remains challenging. CENTCOM announced earlier today, I think, that near Fallujah they struck a large ISIL unit, destroyed three ISIL vehicles. So we are continuing active engagement with airstrikes in Anbar to help the forces on the ground.

QUESTION: Do you have an assessment on --

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Kobani for one question?

MS. HARF: Let’s just work our way around.

QUESTION: Just very quickly --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- and I also want to go back there. But do you have an assessment on Abu Ghraib and the presence of the threat there, whether it’s widespread, or if its sleeper cells or --

MS. HARF: I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh?

QUESTION: Turkey has a long border with Kobani. And when you see the United States kind of having to pick up the weapons from KRG from Erbil and then airdropping them through a parachute, that’s like – that shows how Turkey was not willing to cooperate. Why didn’t you just deliver through land, like through Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, we have a very close relationship with Turkey and we are talking to them about a variety of ways they can assist in this coalition. Their participation in the coalition is not defined by any one action they are or aren’t taking. That’s just not how we view this.

In this case specifically, we had a capability we could bring to bear with weapons that were provided by the Iraqi Kurds, and we had the airdrop capability to do so, and that’s why we did.

QUESTION: Why did you – okay. Why did you reach out to the Kurds? Or did you talk to the Kurds about their weapons to Kobani? Why not your other allies?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been --

QUESTION: Is it just because, like, also Iraqi Kurds are ethnically the same as Syrian Kurds?

MS. HARF: I’d have no idea why we reached out to them. Obviously, they have weapon supplies.

QUESTION: They are a non-state actor. You have Turkey, which is a state actor. It’s international – an international (inaudible) --

MS. HARF: I understand that you’re trying to ask why everyone is doing things and Turkey is not; I understand that’s your line of questioning. But what I have said overall, on all of your questions, is Turkey is playing a key role in this coalition. They are taking --

QUESTION: What is their key role?

MS. HARF: They are taking a number of steps. They’ve cracked down on foreign fighters, they’re looking at anti-financing, and they’ve agreed to host part of the train and equip program. So that’s a pretty significant number of steps they’ve taken, and we constantly talk to them about what more they could do. So I don’t think it’s fair to look at any one thing they are or are not doing and judge their participation in this coalition. In this case, the Iraqi Kurds had weapons that could be used by the Kurds and others fighting around Kobani. We had the ability to airdrop them. And that’s what happened.

QUESTION: Can you say you have one coherent policy towards the Kurds in general regardless where they are?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any idea what that question is in reference to.

QUESTION: Like --

QUESTION: On --

QUESTION: Marie --

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just coming back to the weapons, I don’t understand. Why did you not want to use U.S. weapons?

MS. HARF: I can check with the Pentagon and see if there’s a specific reason. I actually don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. done this before where it’s flown other people’s weapons into a war zone? I don’t --

QUESTION: Mali, I think.

MS. HARF: I can check on the history.

QUESTION: Mali?

QUESTION: Didn’t they do something like --

MS. HARF: I can check on the history. That seems like an excellent question for our historians.

QUESTION: Can I ask you --

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have another one?

QUESTION: No, go for it.

QUESTION: There was an interesting CBS report about Americans that have gone to Syria and maybe Iraq to join the anti-ISIS movement, to fight against ISIS. I’m wondering, given all you’ve done about foreign fighters and the UN resolution, I mean, what is your position on Americans going to combat ISIS?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. Private citizens, you mean?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: I mean, is that --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure if we have one, though.

QUESTION: Would you – I mean, I understand the Travel Warnings in effect. Those notwithstanding, is this --

MS. HARF: Right. It’s clearly a very serious, dangerous place to go.

QUESTION: Yeah, yes. But, like, is that something you would frown upon? Do you consider that akin – because some of these groups that they’re working with, like, in particular, Nusrah maybe, are --

MS. HARF: Well, certainly anyone fighting with al-Nusrah would be fighting with a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Okay, but if – could you check if your kind of rules and regulations regarding foreign fighters --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- does that apply to Americans that are going to fight against ISIS?

MS. HARF: Or if we even have a policy on it. Yep, I’m --

QUESTION: If you even have a policy on that. Yeah, thank you.

MS. HARF: I’m taking a lot of questions today.

QUESTION: Turkey, Kobani?

MS. HARF: Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: You said they dropped also medical supplies?

MS. HARF: They did.

QUESTION: Were these from the U.S. or from the Iraqi Kurdistan?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I have that in front of me. I’m not sure I do. If those are ours or theirs, I’m not sure about that. I can check on that piece with the Defense Department for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: No. Turkey.

QUESTION: Turkey, Kobani.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have couple of questions. The first one is: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu today stated that, quote, unquote, “We agreed with the U.S. to only arm FSA groups,” so saying that the --

MS. HARF: I didn’t see that comment. I’m not going to comment on something I didn’t see.

QUESTION: Well, then, is it true?

MS. HARF: I have no idea what he’s referring to.

QUESTION: Well, what he – I think what he’s getting at is what – that’s the reason that you’re not actually funding Syrian groups. You’re just helping facilitate the transfer of someone else’s weapons, which would mean that you’re not really aiding Syrian Kurds; your aid specifically is only going to FSA.

MS. HARF: Well, technically, that’s true. But I am not going to confirm, (a) because I don’t know, and (b) because I’m not sure that’s the full quote. I didn’t see it in context that that was part of the discussion between the Secretary and the foreign minister.

QUESTION: Do you – okay. But you facilitated the transfer of these Peshmerga weapons to --

MS. HARF: Correct. We airdropped them, correct.

QUESTION: Do you have a blanket policy against not giving U.S. aid to these Syrian Kurds? Do you foresee a situation where that – are you ruling it out that you won’t give U.S. aid to them?

MS. HARF: I can check. I can check.

QUESTION: Can I – new topic?

QUESTION: Military team from CENTCOM and EUROCOM last week finished their meetings in Turkey, and it looked like they did not have announced any kind of agreement, further agreement. And they --

MS. HARF: They had very productive discussions about how we can work together going forward.

QUESTION: President Erdogan also said that U.S. has not asked anything specific regarding Incirlik Air Base and, “We don’t know what exactly they want. If they let us know what exactly they want, we can respond.” This is what Erdogan --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into those kinds of discussions from the podium.

QUESTION: So you are claiming that you have told Turkey what exactly you want about Incirlik?

MS. HARF: No, I said I am not going to get into those kinds of discussions from the podium. I don’t think I just said anything, actually.

QUESTION: One last one on Syria --

MS. HARF: To be frank. (Laughter.) Yes?

QUESTION: In the meantime, as the U.S. airstrikes and the coalition airstrikes have been protecting Kobani, as you know, Assad’s forces have pulled back not only from that area but other parts of northern Syria that are under Islamic State control. Just wondering – I assume this is an unintended consequence of this battle, and I’m wondering if the State Department views this as a positive development.

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen all the specifics of those reports. Let me check with our team and see how we view that.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: Just one last one?

MS. HARF: Taking a lot of questions today.

QUESTION: Turkey didn’t play any role in this airdrop operation, right?

MS. HARF: I will let the Turks speak for themselves, but this was a U.S. airdrop operation using Iraqi Kurdish materials.

QUESTION: There are some press reports that some of these aids passed through Kobani – to Kobani through Turkey. Can it be true?

MS. HARF: I don’t think it’ll be surprising to say that not all press reports about this are accurate. This was a U.S. airdrop operation.

QUESTION: On that, I find it interesting or hard to believe that the U.S. hasn’t told Ankara that it wants to use Incirlik as a launching pad for attacks.

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into the details of those kinds of operational conversations.

QUESTION: It’s just been widely reported that that’s what the U.S. has wanted.

MS. HARF: Well, sometimes that’s what happens. But I’m not going to confirm or deny or any way those kinds of details.

QUESTION: Marie, a new topic?

QUESTION: One last one. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: One last – we can’t just go back and forth. One last one.

QUESTION: Sorry about that.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: President Erdogan, again, on the way back from Afghanistan, he said that there are four condition now, not three conditions, to join the anti-ISIL coalition, and the extra one is that now Assad regime may be toppled. So according to President Erdogan, right now Turkey’s not joining ISIL coalition. Is that a fair assessment? Turkey’s not --

MS. HARF: Well, I think I was just very clear that they’ve played a role in this coalition. They are a close NATO ally and partner. They are taking steps to fight ISIL in a variety of ways, and we view them as a very, very close partner. That’s why the President’s had conversations, the Secretary, General Allen, our military planners who were just there last week.

New topic. Margaret. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: New topic. Thanks, Marie.

There was, as I’m sure you know, a big conference in Havana today about Ebola, and Raul Castro publicly said that Cuba is ready to cooperate with any country in the world, including the U.S. I’m wondering if this is a comment that you welcome, and if there is a response that the U.S. is indeed willing to work with Cuba on this.

MS. HARF: Well, you heard Secretary Kerry last Friday in his comments about Ebola recognize that Cuba has dispatched hundreds of health care workers to the region as part of the UN mission for the emergency response here, and said that this is a significant contribution to the overall international response. We have recognized and appreciate this contribution, as we do from other countries as well. But the fact that such a small country is providing so many resources – more than many other countries, quite frankly – is a significant contribution.

I saw some of those comments. I don’t have more analysis of how we might have discussions with them in the future. You know we do have discussions with them from time to time on certain issues, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.

QUESTION: But does that – in recognizing what they’ve done, that doesn’t seem the same thing as saying you’re willing to cooperate. Are you ruling that out?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying we’re not. I’m just saying I don’t have any more for you on those comments and I can check with our folks and see if we have more to say tomorrow.

QUESTION: On a policy clarification – like you said, I mean, there are a lot of countries who aren’t sort of shouldering the burden here.

MS. HARF: Pulling their weight, yeah. That’s right.

QUESTION: Right. But Cuba is actually sending doctors into the field.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: They’re one of the few countries besides the U.S. that’s doing it.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: I mean, only other NGOs are. So is there anything that would prevent the cooperation policy-wise in the field --

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to --

QUESTION: -- in such an unusual circumstance?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to speculate without checking with our folks and make sure I know where our policy is on this. But I will say that this is a global issue that countries need to step up and help confront in any way they can. And the Secretary very publicly and openly said that we thought this is a significant contribution by the Cubans to do this.

QUESTION: Should we interpret those comments as saying we’re not closing the door to cooperation?

MS. HARF: I think you should interpret them as they were written and said, and we can see if there’s more to share with you. I just don’t know what the facts are.

QUESTION: The Secretary said that every country has a role to play.

MS. HARF: He is absolutely right.

QUESTION: So, I mean, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t – I mean, why is, like, Cuba such a political issue that you can’t welcome those comments --

MS. HARF: Is that a --

QUESTION: -- and say that we look forward to further --

MS. HARF: I just welcomed their contributions.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, why can’t you say that you look forward to as much – if you need, like, worldwide help on this, like, what does it matter where it comes from?

MS. HARF: Well, no, absolutely, and I would of course welcome additional support and resources and contributions from the Cubans. The question, I think, was about whether we will work together, and I just don’t know the facts. But of course, we would welcome them doing more, absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, if the --

QUESTION: Will you announce policy-wise if there anything that would prevent --

MS. HARF: I can’t --

QUESTION: -- because we have personnel and they have personnel – can they help each other?

MS. HARF: Absolutely, and we talk on issues like migration --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- we have postal talks. So I know that – I understand the question, and I just don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: I just feel as if the U.S. wants to be the leader in this worldwide effort and is the leader, that why would it not work with Cuba?

MS. HARF: I don’t disagree with you, but I need to check with our team.

QUESTION: Perhaps just a different construct on this would be to ask you: Is it possible that Mr. Castro’s remarks can provide the opening for some improvement of ties between the United States and Cuba at this juncture?

MS. HARF: Well, let me check with my team on that, James, but what we have always said is that we have taken steps under this Administration to do things like increase family remittances and increase family travel, do things to help people-to-people contact, to help communications, family ties. Those things are important to us. We’ve always at the same time, said, though, that the Cuban Government needs to take certain steps in order for the relationship to improve, while we talk about other issues like migration as well.

QUESTION: Different subject --

MS. HARF: So I’m certainly not ruling it out. I just want to check with our experts.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MS. HARF: Different subject?

QUESTION: I have one more on Ebola, I’m sorry.

MS. HARF: Okay. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: For countries that are constrained for one reason or another by – from actually putting personnel on the ground, what are some ways in which you could see countries being able to contribute? Is it providing protective gear?

MS. HARF: Money.

QUESTION: Money?

MS. HARF: Let’s start with money. There’s a huge UN appeal for this that is woefully underfunded. When you have heads of private companies giving more than some countries have given, I think that shows we have a way to go – a ways to go here. So let’s start there.

QUESTION: Anything else?

MS. HARF: There are doctor – there are other ways you can contribute with experts if they can’t, for some reason, be forward-deployed, but doctors, health workers – there are a variety of ways we can here have other countries help.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – there’s been – so Mr. Duncan’s family is mostly out of quarantine now. They’ve passed their 21-day period. There hasn’t been any reporting of new cases or new potential cases for several days now. Is there a feeling perhaps among the Administration that some of the measures that you’ve put into place could be working and that the United States might be spared any additional kind of isolated cases or potentially more cases?

MS. HARF: Well – right. I don’t want to predict that. Obviously, that would be a prediction I would have no way of making, but we – what we do know is that based on the science, there are ways with certain procedures, with certain policies that are put in place to contain this disease. Now obviously, it’s a challenge, right. Even here, it’s a challenge, but we know there are ways to do this, and that’s why we’ve – the President and the team there and the CDC have put in place procedures to try and really contain this disease here in the United States.

QUESTION: And I guess you – maybe it’s not – you’re not the right person to ask on this, but since the screening was put into place at the airports, the five airports in the United States, have you heard of any cases of anybody who’s been turned away?

MS. HARF: I’m probably not. It’s probably either DHS or CDC.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: P5+1. Thanks to the unregulated ministrations of our friend and colleague David Sanger, the policy of the Obama Administration may, to many eyes, appear to be somewhat uncertain right now, so we would appreciate your help in clearing this up. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Always happy to help, James.

QUESTION: To wit, does the Obama Administration regard that it requires congressional approval in order to be able to lift or temporarily suspend some of the U.S. --

MS. HARF: Those are two different things, though. Suspend and lift are – we use those terms differently.

QUESTION: Okay, good.

MS. HARF: So let me --

QUESTION: Let’s take them in turn.

MS. HARF: Can I just say a little bit about the story? Let me just say a little about the story and then you can follow up.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: So I would say first, the premise, starting with the headline of the story, was not correct; it was, in fact, wrong. The Administration believes Congress has a very important role to play on Iran’s nuclear issue. The story conflated two separate issues, when and how congressional action will be needed to suspend and/or lift. So when we say “suspend,” we mean suspend temporarily; lift – you could say also “terminate.” You can use those words interchangeably – and whether we believe they should take an up-or-down vote on the deal. So the story really conflated those two ideas. They’re really separate.

On sanctions, we have made absolutely clear publicly in testimony and in private discussions on the Hill that in the first instance, we would look to suspend sanctions. And then only if and after Iran has upheld its end of the arrangement would we look to lift or terminate sanctions, and this is for a very good policy reason that the Hill, I think, agrees with: that suspension makes it easier to snap back the sanctions into place if the deal isn’t upheld.

It’s obviously way too early, I think, to speculate on which sanctions would require legislative versus executive action to suspend or to lift. But suffice to say, if we get a comprehensive agreement, it is absolutely true that the sanctions regime we put in place cannot be undone without congressional action. Now what – which requires congressional, which requires executive, it’s too early to tell, right. There are many, many sanctions on the books. But the notion that we are somehow trying to avoid congressional input and consultation is, I think, just preposterous. This is probably the topic that we have talked to and consulted with Congress more on than any other one since I’ve been here.

QUESTION: There was a suggestion that you wouldn’t want Congress to have to vote the deal up or down.

MS. HARF: Right, and that – we have been very clear for months now, which is why I was a little surprised this was news, that we don’t think that that’s necessary, given the kind of agreement we’re talking about, given what’s at play here. There are many ways Congress can play a role in these negotiations and discussions. We have had multiple, countless briefings with experts and negotiators; hearings, phone calls with members of Congress. So we’ve been clear that we don’t believe they should take an up-or-down vote, but there are many, many other ways. And that’s why I wanted to tease out the two.

Congress will – in the final agreement, at the end of the day, to ultimately terminate these sanctions, if everyone upholds their end of the bargain – have to take some action, and we’ve said that very publicly.

QUESTION: But that’s years away in your view --

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t know yet.

QUESTION: -- at best. At best.

MS. HARF: Well, those are details that’re being worked out in the negotiating room.

QUESTION: Marie, as far as I understand here from what we were – when we were talking in Vienna last week around the talks between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif, there are plans being drawn up with annexes attached to each political decision that needs to be made --

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: -- and one of the issues is sanctions.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And I believe a senior State Department official said that there have been some movement in isolating which sanctions are nuclear-related and which are human-rights-related.

MS. HARF: Right, we’ve – because we’ve always said that in any comprehensive agreement, nuclear-related sanctions would be on the table, but obviously, human rights, terrorism – those sanctions would remain on the books.

QUESTION: But our understanding is that the paperwork, if it ever comes to fruition, is incredibly detailed. So --

MS. HARF: It is. That is correct.

QUESTION: -- are you not saying here that the sanctions that will be suspended in the first instance will not be identified in that document?

MS. HARF: No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying it’s too early at this point to say in the first instance, when we suspend, which – what requires what kind of action to suspend that and then ultimately to lift. They’re just very complicated.

And quite frankly, in the conversations we’ve had with Congress, they agree that we need to make sure Iran lives up to its obligations if we get to a comprehensive agreement. And in a suspension situation, you can snap those back in much more quickly than if you’ve terminated sanctions.

QUESTION: So is it your --

QUESTION: You will be laying out – sorry, James.

QUESTION: Please.

QUESTION: You will be laying out which of the sanctions you intend to suspend in the document that’s made finally.

MS. HARF: If we get to that point, yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: So I could understand why some in Congress could say if you’re saying which ones you’re going to suspend, then you’re committing them to ultimately lifting them, aren’t you? In an agreement – this is an agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.

MS. HARF: In an agreement – well, obviously, in an agreement, yes. Yes, if we get – this is a high-class problem. If we get to a comprehensive agreement where we all agree on all of these issues, yes, we will be very clear about what nuclear-related sanctions – how that relief will look.

QUESTION: So are you not tying Congress’ hands by that, then?

MS. HARF: I don’t know how we would be.

QUESTION: Because you’re saying which of the sanctions will be suspended then, ultimately, lifted.

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: And so you’re saying to Congress if they have to have a – if they have to play the role in lifting these sanctions, this regime that you’ve put in place painstakingly over the years --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and you’re laying it down in paper this is what --

MS. HARF: Congressional action will be required at the end of the day.

QUESTION: But aren’t you saying they’ll have to take the action that you’ve committed them to?

MS. HARF: Well, yes, but under the agreement we reach with – if we can reach one --

QUESTION: If you reach one.

MS. HARF: Well, yes, that is true. But that’s why, throughout this entire process, we have had multiple conversations with them at the staff level, at the member level, with our experts, with our negotiators, to talk through these issues. And all of these, I think probably down to a Senator, have been on the record saying sanctions are not an end in and of themselves. They were intended to get Iran to the negotiating table to get a diplomatic agreement. So we’re having the conversation, but I guess if you tease it out --

QUESTION: It will be a fait accompli though, wouldn’t it?

MS. HARF: -- down the road.

Well, we’re having a conversation. And Congress, obviously, has the prerogative to act as it will. But that’s why we are having these conversations with them now, because we know it’s important to do so. But the notion that somehow we aren’t having them or that there won’t, at the end of the day, be some Congressional action needed – I can’t give you a breakdown of what that will have to look like.

QUESTION: It sounds like --

MS. HARF: It’s just preposterous.

QUESTION: It sounds like you already have in mind a breakdown of those sanctions that can be temporarily suspended without congressional ratification of some kind.

MS. HARF: Those are all issues we’re – there’s so many sanctions. Those are all issues we’re working through right now.

QUESTION: Can I change --

QUESTION: Wait. But no --

MS. HARF: All of those are issues we’re working through right now.

QUESTION: Please. So but in other words, if I’m correct, if I understand your rebuttal to David Sanger correctly, you’re telling us that you have the power without congressional involvement to negotiate to have some sanctions suspended, correct?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I think you’re conflating a couple of things. As the Executive Branch, we obviously are the negotiators in the room to negotiate an agreement. That is a true statement. What was the second half of that?

QUESTION: Okay. And part of the things you’re negotiating is which sanctions will be suspended temporarily in an early, sort of, confidence-building stage --

MS. HARF: Well, part of what we’re negotiating is --

QUESTION: --and you have the ability to --

MS. HARF: -- the schedule and the timing for suspension and lifting and when – what happens in response to what actions the Iranians take. Those are all things that are being negotiated.

QUESTION: All right. But you’re telling us that Congress only really gets involved once it’s time to lift sanctions, correct?

MS. HARF: That’s not – no, that’s when I said congressional action will be needed.

QUESTION: At all points along the way.

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t know that yet. It’s too early to – that’s why I said it’s too early to say what that package will look like of sanctions relief if and when we get to a comprehensive agreement and when executive action will be needed, when legislative action will be needed. So that’s – it’s too early to say that, James.

My point was that separate and apart from that issue, which was wrong in the story – but separate and apart from that, we are having consultations with the Hill as the negotiating team on this issue because they play such a key role in it, and we value their opinions in it.

QUESTION: So it is conceivable that the Congress could be called upon to play some formal role prior to November 24?

MS. HARF: Prior to November 24th?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I don’t – in terms of what?

QUESTION: Well, agreeing that certain sanctions could be --

MS. HARF: If we were to get a comprehensive agreement next week? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, it’s your time frame, not mine. But --

MS. HARF: But no – I mean, I – we are having constant consultations with Congress about this issue. Those have been going on for months. Those are ongoing now. I’m sure there are some happening today.

QUESTION: What we’re talking about is your – is the Administration’s authority to agree to certain terms with Iran, along with its negotiating partners, right?

MS. HARF: Right. As the Executive Branch responsible for foreign policy and under the commander-in-chief, that is our authority. However, we believe it’s important to consult with Congress, who played a key role in putting the sanctions architecture in place.

By the way, I would remind people in a comprehensive agreement there aren’t just U.S. sanctions. There are EU sanctions. There are UN Security Council sanctions. There are a number of sanctions that are being negotiated inside the P5+1 as part of a comprehensive sanctions relief package.

QUESTION: Okay. And to follow-up on that and as the last line of inquiry on this subject matter, Director Amano of the IAEA indicated to his agency today that he still cannot confirm that Iran’s nuclear activities are purely peaceful in nature. And all along, briefers at this podium have emphasized that there cannot be any P5+1 deal unless IAEA is satisfied that its piece of these negotiations are also resolved satisfactorily about the possible military dimension.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah. They must be resolved as part of any long-term comprehensive agreement.

QUESTION: And so should we infer from the director’s statement today that IAEA now regards that that’s not going to be possible by November 24th?

MS. HARF: No, not at all, and there was nothing new in Director General Amano’s statement today. We’ve urged Iran for some time to cooperate fully and without delay with the IAEA to resolve these issues. That process is going on at the same time the P5+1 negotiations are ongoing. They’re obviously related in many ways, but this is nothing new. We still believe there is time before November 24th to get to a comprehensive agreement. That’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: So – can I change the subject?

QUESTION: Can I ask a quick question on Iran, unrelated to P5?

MS. HARF: You can, and then Elise can change the subject.

QUESTION: Great. Today, Iran’s defense minister said that it was ready to shift defensive materials to the Lebanese army.

MS. HARF: I saw that, yes.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you know what kind of materials we’re talking about and if you have any comment.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve seen those reports. We are not aware of any further details at this point that would lead us to believe that Lebanon has accepted the offer. We will continue to monitor the situation. Obviously, continue to view Iran’s support for Lebanese Hezbollah as unacceptable. We have been very supportive of the Lebanese Armed Forces, but again, nothing to indicate this is actually going to happen. We’ll keep monitoring it, though.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep. Elise.

QUESTION: This is on the Huangs in Qatar. Today, they were – continued to be remanded to the country. It seems as if the defense was not able to cross-examine witnesses, there was certain evidence that they weren’t allowed to present, and what you think of the fact that they’re still being held in Qatar.

MS. HARF: Well, today was the final court hearing, and a final verdict, we understand, will be issued on November 30th. We were disappointed that the court had delayed judgment and set the final hearing date for October 20th, four months after the first appeals hearing on June 16th, and have strongly urged the Qatari Government to immediately lift the travel ban and allow them to return to the United States on a humanitarian basis to be reunited with their children and family. We’ve continued to monitor this case closely. We’ve called on them to bring it to an expeditious and just conclusion, and we continue to raise it at high levels with the Qatari Government.

QUESTION: Do you feel that due process has been afforded in this case? Because it seems as if continually throughout the trial and now again at the hearing, there’s been a kind of preponderance of evidence that has been questionable --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the defense has not been able to question witnesses.

MS. HARF: We have been concerned that not all of the evidence was weighed by the court, and as we’ve said in the past, have been concerned that cultural misunderstandings may have led to an unfair trial.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that evidence was fabricated?

MS. HARF: Not in front of me, but I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: The family today said that they have absolutely no hope in the Qatari court system and are saying that they feel that the only recourse now is for the U.S. Government to get directly involved in negotiations or pressure --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been directly involved, and we’ve been talking --

QUESTION: Well, they feel the court --

MS. HARF: -- and raising this with the Qatari Government.

QUESTION: They put no faith that the court will release them. They’re almost certain that the Huangs will be wrongly convicted and are asking for direct intervention beforehand.

MS. HARF: Well, we have raised this at the highest levels on multiple occasions with the Government of Qatar. We will continue to engage Qatari officials on this, and I don’t have much more for you on that. But we have raised it and will continue to very directly.

QUESTION: Do you have any faith that the Qatari court system will overturn their conviction that they believe is wrongful?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a prediction for you, but we’ve made clear our concerns with this case and the way it’s been handled.

QUESTION: Do you think that if the Huangs are not released, that this would impact the relationship between the U.S. and Qatar?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any analysis of that for you.

QUESTION: Marie, can I go to Nigeria?

MS. HARF: Yes, and then we’ll go to Elliot. Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I go to Nigeria?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Given the fact that the United States has had military advisors on the ground in the hunt for the girls who were kidnapped early this year by Boko Haram, I wondered if you might be able to give us your understanding of the reports that there’s been some kind of ceasefire deal over the weekend, which included the release of these girls. It’s a little bit – obviously, they haven’t reappeared yet.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So could you tell us what you understanding is?

MS. HARF: We can confirm reports that a ceasefire has been announced, appears to have been put into place. We would welcome that ceasefire, call on all parties both to implement and maintain such a ceasefire, and hope that such a ceasefire would herald the return of peace to the northeast. This is a region that has had far too little of that. It’s our understanding that negotiations about a deal to release the girls continue. Obviously, would join the world, I think, in hoping that these girls would be reunited with their families as soon as possible, but it’s our understanding those negotiations do continue.

QUESTION: So you can confirm that there’s been a ceasefire deal, but you said the negotiations for the girls are still continuing?

MS. HARF: Correct. That’s our understanding. That’s the latest from the ground.

QUESTION: Was there any kind of American involvement in the talks, in the discussions?

MS. HARF: I don’t believe so, but let me check. Not that I know of. But never say never; I’ll check.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that two senior Taliban members, Anas Haqqani and Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari, have met with the Taliban Five in Qatar?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. Who has met with them?

QUESTION: Two senior Taliban members, Anas Haqqani and Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari --

MS. HARF: These are the two that are in Afghan custody? Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid are in Afghan custody.

QUESTION: The Long War Journal first reported that the Taliban has released a statement that these two individuals recently met with the Taliban Five, and, yes, they are now being held by the Afghans.

MS. HARF: I had not heard that about the Taliban Five, as you called them. I had not heard that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I know they’re in Afghan custody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: But I had not – I honestly hadn’t heard that.

QUESTION: And it is still your understanding that the so-called Taliban Five are under Qatari custody?

MS. HARF: That they are in Qatar under the procedures put in place from their release from Guantanamo Bay, yes. I would remind you that they were not all, as you called them, members of the Taliban.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Yes, yes. Elliot, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Is there any truth to this New York Times report that the Administration is considering reverting back to a policy on torture that views U.S. facilities overseas as exempt from the UN Convention?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t even seen that report. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I think it came out over the weekend.

MS. HARF: But I think the President has made crystal clear his feelings about interrogation techniques. One of his first executive orders when he came into office was ending some of those techniques he felt were not in line with U.S. values. So he’s made very, very clear his thoughts on that.

QUESTION: Can you say categorically that the U.S. will continue to interpret the UN Convention Against Torture as applying to all U.S. facilities, including those overseas?

MS. HARF: I’m not a lawyer. I just was trying to listen and follow what you just said. I’m happy to check with our legal team.

QUESTION: All right. Thanks.

MS. HARF: But again, he’s made his views on this very, very well known.

Let’s go to Scott who hasn’t had one yet. Sorry.

QUESTION: On Bahrain.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: On Thursday, Jen called on authorities in Bahrain to drop charges against the activist Nabeel Rajab.

MS. HARF: I would echo those calls.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any reaction to judicial authorities yesterday ignoring those calls and carrying on with the case?

MS. HARF: Yes, the trial did begin yesterday. An Embassy Manama official did attend the hearing. We do not agree with the prosecution of individuals for crimes of peaceful political expression and again urge the Government of Bahrain to drop the charges and release Mr. Rajab. Obviously, we believe he has the right to freedom of expression. It doesn’t mean we agree with everything he tweeted, but certainly agree he has the right to do it.

QUESTION: Do those concerns also extend to Zainab al-Khawaja?

MS. HARF: Yes. We obviously follow the reports of the continued detention, have called on the Bahraini officials here to ensure equal treatment under the law, advance justice in a fair and transparent way. It’s something we’ve continued to follow and are also concerned, as you know, about the health of her father as well.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: This is on Japan.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So Prime Minister Abe reshuffled his cabinet last month and had appointed five females to minister-level positions. But of the five, two have just resigned. So is the State Department worried about this in any way?

MS. HARF: I saw those reports. I haven’t heard that we are, but let me check again with our team.

QUESTION: Is this – do you have any comments on whether maybe the State Department is worried that this could be a sign the government isn’t pushing a more gender-equal country?

MS. HARF: I can check and see if we have any analysis on it.

Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: There’s an Associated Press investigation that looks at former --

QUESTION: Nazis.

QUESTION: -- Nazis, very good.

QUESTION: Everybody loves a Nazi --

QUESTION: Everyone loves a – (laughter) --

MS. HARF: The first row is full of teamwork today.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I just want to point that out to everyone.

QUESTION: Every – that basically, it was dozens of expelled Nazis from the United States are – throughout Europe and are receiving Social Security report – Social Security checks --

MS. HARF: From the U.S. Government?

QUESTION: -- from the U.S. Government --

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and --

MS. HARF: I would probably refer you to the Social Security Administration. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah – no, but part of the report was that the State Department had serious problems with the Justice Department’s kind of Nazi-hunting and felt that that should be – and actually encouraged them to leave the country so that --

MS. HARF: I have not seen that report. Let me check. I’m taking a lot of questions today.

QUESTION: Could I – yeah, and so we have – I have a couple of questions about this.

MS. HARF: So let’s just pile on here.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I mean, if you’re going to take the questions --

MS. HARF: Yeah, on this story.

QUESTION: -- you might as well.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So basically, we – the AP reported that if a person is expelled from the U.S., they can still collect Social Security benefits as long as they are not deported. And so for example, if they are told to leave and they do so voluntarily or they flee from the country, for example --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- as long as they’re not deported, they can still --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- receive Social Security benefits.

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: So wondering if this – what is being described as a loophole has ever been used in cases for people who are not Nazis, wondering if we notify the receiving country in advance. In other words, does the United States say, “We want this person to leave but we’re not deporting; they’re fleeing,” or “they’re voluntarily going back”?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you please check on that?

MS. HARF: I will take this.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can I go to Hungary?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I know we don’t talk about Hungary very often, but apparently, the U.S. has issued entry bans on several Hungarian Government officials.

MS. HARF: We have.

QUESTION: We reported this over the weekend. And it comes, I believe, just as the foreign minister, whose name I’m afraid I can’t really pronounce – Szijjarto – is due to travel to Washington on Tuesday. He’s going to be having several high-level talks. And I just wondered if you could confirm (a) who he’s meeting, and (b) why these entry bans were put into force, if they were put into force, and against whom.

MS. HARF: They were. This was – I think happened last week. It happened a few days ago. We have applied Presidential Proclamation 7750 to certain current and former Hungarian officials. It provides authority to deny visas to current or former government officials who have engaged in public official corruption. We don’t comment on the specifics on who are on these, as you remember, probably, from visa bans in other places as well.

QUESTION: So we could assume that this doesn’t apply to the foreign minister, since he’s --

MS. HARF: I think that’s a fair --

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So basically, you’re denying them because they are accused of corruption?

MS. HARF: Corruption, correct. And look, Hungary is a close friend, ally. We have an ongoing dialogue with its government about democratic principles addressing corruption, so I’m sure that will be a topic of conversation on --

QUESTION: Have they protested the visa ban?

MS. HARF: I do not know. Let me check. And I don’t know who’s meeting.

QUESTION: You don’t know. Could you find out who he’s meeting?

MS. HARF: I can, yes.

QUESTION: I would assume that perhaps he’s going to meet with Victoria Nuland, but --

MS. HARF: I would guess, but I will check.

QUESTION: Or the Secretary?

QUESTION: -- who apparently has been highly critical of Hungary and the corruption level, so --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s certainly something we’re very concerned about.

QUESTION: So if you could give to us who he’s meeting with, that’d be --

MS. HARF: Yes, yes. Thank you. What else? James --

QUESTION: Another --

MS. HARF: -- and then I am going to go around the room.

QUESTION: Another visa question on Ebola.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Very quickly, has the State Department been tasked with developing a legal opinion as to the President’s authorities to restrict visas for citizens who come from a country that is having a public health emergency?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know if we’ve been tasked with a legal opinion. What I can say is there are no plans to suspend visa operations at this time. We can’t control this epidemic through the visa process. If you end legitimate means of travel out of West Africa, it could result in people-smuggling and illicit ways of people traveling, which would just make it harder for us to track sick people, to prevent them from crossing borders. That would actually be much less effective, according to the experts on this.

QUESTION: The White House made clear on Friday that they are keeping an open mind about this kind of policy and --

MS. HARF: We don’t rule things out --

QUESTION: Right, and --

MS. HARF: -- but there are no plans at this point.

QUESTION: -- that if the President felt that it would be the most effective approach, he would employ it.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. He has no philosophical objection to it.

QUESTION: That’s what they said, and --

MS. HARF: Remarkably on message.

QUESTION: -- the question I raise, therefore, is that there’s no perceived lack of presidential authority in this realm, correct?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if it would be presidential or if it would be at the State Department, because a visa – because we issue visas. I don’t know who would have the authority statutorily to do that.

QUESTION: Any idea?

MS. HARF: I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: I mean, you’re assuming it’s presidential authority. For example, if someone wants to revoke a U.S. citizen’s passport who’s gone to fight with a terrorist group, that’s a Secretary of State authority. So I just don’t want to assume it’s a presidential authority.

QUESTION: So are you saying to me that no exploration in this building has been made of the question of authority to restrict visas of --

MS. HARF: Not at all. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying from a – I don’t know. The answer is I don’t know. But from a policy perspective, at this point right now, we are not planning to suspend visa operations. There are other ways, while permitting legal travel – legitimate travel – to screen for this, things that can be put in place, procedures, ways to keep sick people from not traveling.

QUESTION: Last in this line of questioning – and from me for the briefing, I promise – is --

MS. HARF: It’s okay. I wore flats today.

QUESTION: -- is the fact that a foreign national hails from a country that is experiencing a public health emergency one of the standard categories on which basis a visa can be denied or revoked?

MS. HARF: I do not know that answer, but I – the answer to that question. But two other points, though, that I think are relevant: One is visa issuances in these West – small West African countries are very few, just to put it into some context here. And then I do have one other point on this: The State Department has the legal authority to revoke a visa when there is evidence the holder is no longer eligible for one under the provisions of the INA that they received it, but there is no authority to, quote, “temporarily invalidate” a visa, which I think has also been talked about publicly as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: -- Yemen. The Houthis are gaining more ground in Yemen, and today they are controlling most of the crossing points with Saudi Arabia. How do you view this development?

MS. HARF: Well, we know there’s substantial Houthi presence and military activity in certain parts of Yemen. We’ve, as I have many times, called on all parties to abide by the terms of the September 21st agreement that they came to and cease efforts to take territory by force. We continue to watch it closely.

QUESTION: Do you view any Iranian hands in what’s going on in Yemen?

MS. HARF: Well, I know we’re all aware of the reports of Iranian possible activity or support to the Houthi, but not much more analysis for you than the reports we’ve all seen.

QUESTION: And do you think that these gains threat Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well – I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The gaining on the ground poses a (inaudible) threat?

MS. HARF: I think this is primarily an internal Yemeni security challenge, and we’ve stood very closely by them in helping them.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have one quick question on – do you have anything on the upcoming schedule for U.S. and South Korea 2+2 ministerial meeting?

MS. HARF: We are in discussions with the ROK on holding a 2+2 later this week, possibly on October 23rd. We’ll have more information for you later in the week. Nothing is finalized on the schedule yet.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Two questions on Turkey. One of them is, more than a year ago, there were Gezi protests in Turkey, and tomorrow there will be another trial for 26 people being accused of overthrowing government via these protests. And there is another trial, actually, against 35 people. It is the – one of the country’s footballs team’s fan club. So do you have any reaction to these trials?

MS. HARF: Well, I think you’ve probably heard me say this before, but – look, we’ve looked to Turkey to uphold fundamental freedoms of expression, of assembly, including the right to peaceful protest, and don’t have much more comment on this than that.

QUESTION: So during the protests, repeatedly you defined these protestors as – majority of these protestors are peaceful and asking for freedoms and all that. After more than year and half later, this building has very valuable analysis on Turkey. Do you detect any kind of coup? Because the accusation is coup, overthrowing government. It is not any kind of lightly --

MS. HARF: I don’t – our position has not changed in any way on this. I have nothing more to add.

QUESTION: And other question is there is a draft bill right now with the parliament. This gives Turkish police sweeping new authorities. Some call it as police state. Have you had a chance to look at this draft bill?

MS. HARF: Well, I – we understand the proposed bill has yet to be discussed in the Turkish parliament. We don’t have the full details on it yet. We’ve made clear in the past we remain concerned about due process and effective access to justice in Turkey.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Sounds like you --

MS. HARF: Let’s go to Abigail first, who hasn’t had one yet.

QUESTION: Just to follow on Turkey, it just seems like more and more like you and Turkey don’t espouse the same values. I mean, I understand that Turkey is an important military ally, but politically, it definitely seems as if, whether it’s the protests or whether it’s the situation in Syria – I mean, more and more I think people are questioning whether the U.S. and Turkey share similar interests and values.

MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree with that notion that we don’t. I think one of the great things about an alliance like this is there are all these places where you work together and you agree – and right now when we’re talking about fighting ISIL, that’s certainly one of them – but that when you have disagreements about things, you can raise them openly and honestly like friends do. And that’s, I think, what has defined our relationship with Turkey: that we are close allies, we are close friends, and when we have disagreements, we will make very clear that we do.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the --

MS. HARF: Last one, and then I’m moving on.

QUESTION: -- notion that Turkey is becoming more authoritarian lately?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have anything for you on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any comment on reports the death of U.S. citizen Serena Shim in Turkey may be more than just a car crash, following her reports that ISIS militants are being smuggled across the Syrian border?

MS. HARF: Yes. We can confirm that she died in Turkey on October 19th and extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends. Officials from the U.S. Consulate General in Adana are in contact with her family and providing all possible consular assistance. For any details or information about the investigation, I think local authorities in Turkey are handling that.

QUESTION: But I mean, the question was whether you believe that her death had anything other than to do than a car crash.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything further for you than that.

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MS. HARF: I can, but I don’t think I’m going to have anything further.

Yes.

QUESTION: I needed just a clarification about this Kobani thing. Sorry for going back to Kobani, but you – the CENTCOM press release also didn’t name any group in the press release on these airdrops.

MS. HARF: Right. This isn’t about any one group. This is about a group of Kurdish fighters and a small number of non-Kurdish fighters pushing back on ISIL in and around Kobani.

QUESTION: But you didn’t coordinate these airdrops with anyone on the ground, any groups on the ground?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details for you on the logistics of the airdrops. I’m sure the Pentagon would be happy to answer your questions.

QUESTION: And (inaudible) – I mean, the quote of the Secretary, actually, that no one mentioned, there are – they are a offshoot group of the folks that our friends, the Turks, oppose. This exact quote what Secretary said about --

MS. HARF: Yes, and he said we are – also said we are aware of the history, we’re aware of the sensitivities. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you believe PYD is the offshoot of PKK?

MS. HARF: We’re aware that they have had ties. We’re aware of the history and some of the linkages. Yes.

QUESTION: But they are not designated?

MS. HARF: PYD is not a designated terrorist organization. That is correct.

Elliot.

QUESTION: Can I ask on Ukraine?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Have you seen the Amnesty International report that finds both sides in the conflict responsible for extra-judicial killings?

MS. HARF: Well, we have seen the report. We have called on both sides to respect international human rights norms. Obviously, if there’s ever an incident that we believe we need to speak out about, we will. We haven’t had a chance to look over it in a detailed way yet, though.

QUESTION: So do you – I mean, you keep in very close contact with Ukrainian authorities, obviously.

MS. HARF: We do. We do.

QUESTION: What has been their response from them on this issue?

MS. HARF: I can check with our folks. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: Can I ask just on that as well? There was a report in Der Spiegel over the weekend that German intelligence believes that the passenger jet, the Malaysian Air jet that was downed, was shot down by weapons or a missile that had been captured by the pro-Russian rebels from the Ukrainian army. Do you have any – not from the Russian – it wasn’t supplied by the Russians. It was captured from the Ukrainian army.

MS. HARF: Okay. I can look into that. We made clear at the time where we believed it came from, how we believe it got there, and where we believe it was fired from. But I can check.

QUESTION: This is a German intelligence apparently to Der Spiegel, and I just wondered if you had any kind of --

MS. HARF: Okay. I can check. We believe we know what happened, though.

Yes.

QUESTION: Two on Iraq.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: One, Mount Sinjar again seems to be under siege, or at least the IS is starting to advance on it again.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that your assessment as well?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard that, actually. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And then secondly, more of a political question with Baghdad.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The new minister of interior --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- is somebody who is linked to the Badr Brigades. I’m sure you’re familiar with that – what that is.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: In the past, the United States has been – has refused to work with or give weapons to the Sadrists, for example, for fear that they could be used against other Iraqis or even U.S. forces at the time. I’m wondering if that same kind of prohibition is going to be viewed in light of the MOI Badr Brigade minister.

MS. HARF: Well, I think just a couple points on this issue: that it’s important to note that the cabinet positions filled over the weekend – defense, interior, and finance – reflect a broad range of the Iraqi political system; and that the prime minister worked with a variety of Iraqi leaders to ensure that these appointments enjoyed the broadest possible base of support to assure the effectiveness of their ministries. We look forward, as we said in the statement this weekend, to working with the Iraqi Government. We have been obviously, but now this is, I think, the first time in some time that they have a full cabinet that has been approved by the parliament in place. So we think that’s a good thing.

QUESTION: Are you concerned, though, that the emergence of a --

MS. HARF: First time since 2010.

QUESTION: Are you concerned, though, that the emergence of a minister from the Badr Brigades might see a resurgence of these Shiite militias? There have been several reports in the last few weeks about how Shia militias are --

MS. HARF: Yes --

QUESTION: -- actually working against the kind of reconciliation in the country --

MS. HARF: And we have been concerned about those reports. But I would really de-link the two. We’re looking forward to working with all of the ministers in this new government.

QUESTION: Well, wait. So just to clarify, the U.S. would consider giving weapons to ministry security forces that are headed by a member of the Badr Brigades?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t – I have heard nothing to indicate that our assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces writ large will change based on this in any way. But I also don’t know exactly what, if anything, we give to the ministry of – I just would need to check. But I have heard nothing will change.

QUESTION: Would it include – the CT services are under MOI, I believe?

MS. HARF: I can check. But I have heard no indications that this position – the appointment of this position in any way changes our plans.

QUESTION: Okay. So if that is the case, then the question has to be: Why not?

MS. HARF: Okay. I can check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Because we support the Iraqi Government. No, I mean, but --

QUESTION: This guy was an – he was part of a group that was a death squad.

MS. HARF: Okay, but – okay. Prime Minister Abadi has gone to great lengths to put together a cabinet that reflects all parts of Iraqi society across the political spectrum. He’s done so in a way for the first time since 2010 to have a full cabinet approved by the parliament. He’s done so in a way that has been inclusive. So I understand there’s some history here with some people, but we think this is a good thing.

QUESTION: But you really don’t think that like a minister that’s associated with the Badr Brigade would alienate --

MS. HARF: I have no idea if he is still is though.

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: I’ll check --

QUESTION: -- who was at one point --

QUESTION: He is associated with the Badr Organization, which is the political wing --

QUESTION: -- would – who would --

MS. HARF: Right. No, I understand that, yes.

QUESTION: -- the one thing you’re trying to do in all this – the main thing you’re trying to do in terms of repel ISIS is bring over the disaffected Sunnis. How does this appointment do that?

MS. HARF: I think that – I think that all of the appointments and the way that Prime Minister Abadi has put his cabinet together lead to the fact that this is a government that will govern inclusively.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns about his appointment?

MS. HARF: And it’s not about people’s history. It’s not about people’s affiliations. It’s how they govern in office, and it’s how they bring all parts of Iraqi society together to fight this threat.

QUESTION: Does it raise any red flags?

MS. HARF: Let’s see what he does when he’s in office.

QUESTION: Did you raise any red flags?

MS. HARF: I don’t know, Elise. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Were you aware of this appointment ahead of time?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details for you on this appointment. I’m sure the Iraqis can speak about it more.

Last question.

QUESTION: Are you concerned --

MS. HARF: Second to last question.

QUESTION: -- about the prime minister’s visit to Iran today?

MS. HARF: No. Are we concerned about it? No. There’s, obviously, a very long border that Iran and Iraq share. They’ve long had relations, and I think this is a routine visit by the prime minister to a neighboring country. Should not be surprised that Iraq has relationships with its neighbors.

Okay. Two more, guys. Seriously.

QUESTION: Marie, can you share anything --

MS. HARF: Abigail will get the last question.

QUESTION: -- in terms of an update as to the deployment of the 3,000-plus U.S. military personnel to Africa --

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything --

QUESTION: -- in terms of the building of the medical facilities.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything new on that. Let me check with my colleagues at DOD and see if there’s an update. They will have the most up-to-date information.

Last question.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. be at all concerned about the participation of a cousin and former aid of Muammar Qadhafi in the discussions with Libyan groups, as facilitated by the UN?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team. I have no idea who you’re referring to, but I will check.

Anything else, everyone? You made our guests sit through a very long briefing today.

QUESTION: It feels long every day.

MS. HARF: It felt longer today. I think because it’s a Monday.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)

DPB # 177

         


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 21, 2014

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 18:06

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 21, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:17 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello. Welcome to the daily briefing. I am very, very sorry for the crazy time changes this week. It’s – I don’t like doing it either, but thank you for your patience and understanding. I have two items at the top, and then Lara, you will kick us off.

A travel update: Secretary Kerry has landed in Berlin, where tonight he will have a working dinner with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier to discuss a range of regional and international issues. Tomorrow he will participate in an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And as you have seen, I am sure, from the statement I released just a few minutes ago, we can confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to rejoin his family. We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him. While this is a positive decision by the DPRK, we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them. And the U.S. Government will continue to work actively on both of their cases.

We thank the Government of Sweden for their tireless efforts. As you know, they are our protecting power in the DPRK. And we’ll provide additional details about his return home when we are able to do so. We won’t be able to provide a lot today, given he’s still en route back, but I will attempt to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So what more can you tell us about how this came about? What kind of tick-tock can you provide? Can you specify what Sweden did to facilitate this process? And also, is he going straight home to his family or is he going to a hospital? Is he going somewhere to be debriefed, or do you expect him to be in Dayton, your hometown, shortly?

MS. HARF: Close to my hometown. I’m from Columbus. Close.

QUESTION: Well, Ohio.

MS. HARF: Ohio. I know. It is some good news for the Buckeye State today. I don't have a lot more details I can share at this point. I’ll tell you what I can. We’ll probably be able to provide additional details over the coming days.

As you know, we’ve been actively working for the release of all of the American citizens being detained in North Korea. We don’t always go into details about our efforts. We say it from this podium a lot that we are actively engaged in this, but we can’t talk about what that looks like. I think I can probably leave it at that for now.

He has been evaluated by a doctor and appears to be in good health. He has, however, been in detention in North Korea. We will continue to provide any necessary consular assistance to him. We obviously have been providing it to his family. We will continue to provide it to him in the coming days and weeks if he requires that.

I think we’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves about why they decided to do this, why now. But again, we are pleased that he was able to leave and urge the immediate release of the other two.

QUESTION: Is it fair to assume that the reason – one of the reasons why he was released and the other two have not been is that he has not been convicted of a crime at this point?

MS. HARF: I would let the DPRK speak to that.

QUESTION: Can you talk at all about how that might have played in some of the negotiations?

MS. HARF: I am not going to, at all, get into our efforts here or outline those --

QUESTION: And then to clarify, there were no U.S. envoys on the ground here, right? This was mostly facilitated by the Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to give more details in general. But as we said, I think in the statement, this was a Department of Defense plane at the request of the State Department flew to Pyongyang to meet Mr. Fowle, left Pyongyang with him. This, again, was a DOD plane at the request of us. They have those resources.

QUESTION: Okay. So if I’m reading between the line, then I’m understanding that North Korea kind of arbitrarily or for whatever reasons decided to release Mr. Fowle, and that this was not a product of negotiators, whether from the United States or other countries, being on the ground pressing for this.

MS. HARF: I’m not telling you to read between the lines or indicating that. What I am saying is we are actively working to have the Americans returned home who are detained in North Korea, and we’re not going to outline what that looks like.

QUESTION: Can you maybe tell us who made the first contact? Or was this done through – you thanked the Swedes, but was Japan involved as well?

MS. HARF: I don't have any more details to share with you about this, probably to any of the questions. I’m sorry, guys. This is obviously happening very fast, and if we do have any more details to share we will try to.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that he’s in Guam at the moment and that he’s en route?

MS. HARF: I can confirm that that is where the plane flew from Pyongyang. I don’t know exactly if they’re still on the ground or if they’re on their way back. But we won’t have additional details to share about his return to the United States today.

QUESTION: Can you talk about this window --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) how unusual it is for a DOD plane to be involved? I know there have been other captives released.

MS. HARF: Sometimes people fly commercial. This is – this was – as I said in my statement, there was a time issue that – let me just go to it here. The Defense Department was able to provide transportation for Mr. Fowle in the timeframe specified by the DPRK. I think it was a timing issue.

QUESTION: So they didn’t specifically ask for a government plane? They just said he needs to leave by – in this time?

MS. HARF: As a condition of his release, as I said in the statement, the DPRK authorities asked the United States Government to transport him out of the country. And again, in this timeframe, the Department of Defense was able to offer a plane.

QUESTION: Can you talk more --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: One quick question. So from what we understand, Pyongyang reached out to the U.S. on this one?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to give more details about the discussions. In part – I would remind people that there are two Americans still detained in North Korea, and obviously we want to preserve our ability to work actively to get them home as well.

QUESTION: Has any message been sent from Pyongyang about those two?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the North Korean Government to speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Are they next? Is anyone else next?

MS. HARF: Obviously, we hope they both are next.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the time period, one, for actually getting Mr. Fowle off North Korean territory? How long a window was that? 24 hours? 48 hours?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Roz. Let me take --

QUESTION: 72 hours?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. Let me take that question.

QUESTION: And how long were the discussions between the North Koreans, the Swedes – I’m assuming that they were acting as the interlocutors – and the U.S. on actually securing Mr. Fowle’s release?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to confirm any details about the discussions or the ways we try to get our American citizens home.

QUESTION: Did the North Koreans ask the U.S. to provide something in exchange for releasing Mr. Fowle without his having to set foot into a courtroom and possibly be punished?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to confirm or get into any more of the details of our efforts to get him or any American home.

QUESTION: When was --

QUESTION: Can you say whether these efforts accelerated after the three of them appeared on U.S. media last month?

MS. HARF: I think our efforts are always intense to try and get our Americans home.

QUESTION: Was there any change, though, in terms of the negotiations?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into any more discussions on that.

QUESTION: What was the time period that the North Koreans asked for? You were --

MS. HARF: I said to Roz I would check on that. What I referred to in my statement?

QUESTION: The one that – right, exactly.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. I can check on that. I don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Were you – was the United States Government surprised that the North Koreans had alerted them – you all – to say send a plane, he’s coming out?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that we think this is a positive step, but that does not change the fact that we remain concerned about Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. We work very hard in a variety of ways that we don’t publicly outline to get these Americans home.

QUESTION: You say you work very hard on ways to --

MS. HARF: We do.

QUESTION: -- have American citizens released. Why can’t you say we have worked directly or indirectly with the North Koreans on this particular case?

MS. HARF: Because we’re not going to detail our efforts to get them home, in part because there are still --

QUESTION: But you are acknowledging that you are doing everything that you can --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- to have U.S. citizens released.

MS. HARF: But I am not going to get into the details about what that looks like, in part, Said, because there are still two Americans there that we feel need to be immediately released and returned home.

QUESTION: Did you have a reaction when Matthew Miller was sentenced to six years hard labor? Did you put out a statement?

MS. HARF: I think I have the statement. When I was asked about it at the briefing, I believe I said at the time that we have seen those reports and would urge the DPRK to immediately release him and return him home to his family.

QUESTION: Is it reasonable to assume that because the Pentagon was asked to remove Mr. Fowle from North Korean territory that he is going to stop first at a U.S. military installation in South Korea?

MS. HARF: I think – no, they went to Guam from Pyongyang, as I just said, where there is an American military installation, and then he will return home. I’m not going to detail the specifics of that travel, give him some time to get home and be reunited with his family.

QUESTION: And when was his family notified? And were they notified so quickly that they’re still here in the United States and weren’t able to travel to meet him part way, if not all the way?

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into discussions about the discussions we have with the families. We have ongoing discussions with them. They were, of course, made aware of the fact that he would be coming home.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to get a sense of how sudden was this decision by North Korea to release him. I mean, ostensibly, if it looks as if something is in place, people are sometimes given the ability to move from where they start --

MS. HARF: You also, hypothetically, want to make sure that it’s real and you don’t want to get the hopes of families up in case it’s not. So obviously, when we talk about consular assistance in these kinds of cases, broadly speaking, you want to make sure that, before you actually notify a family that their loved one will be coming home, that that is, in fact, the case.

QUESTION: But in this case --

QUESTION: When did you actually do the notification? Because the lawyer said today that they had not received official notification that he was on his way home. So when did --

MS. HARF: Well, he wasn’t on his way home until today.

QUESTION: Right. And I’m saying --

MS. HARF: Right. So we --

QUESTION: -- within the last hour --

MS. HARF: --in general --

QUESTION: -- the lawyer put out a statement saying we’re hearing it in the media but we haven’t gotten official notification.

MS. HARF: In general – I’m not going to get into specifics about notification here for privacy considerations and personal considerations, obviously. But in general, we want to wait to make sure that, in fact, he – the loved one is returning home. We did that in this case and the proper notifications were made.

QUESTION: He had been in detention since, according to North Korean authorities, April 29th. And even though he was married to a woman who ostensibly needed his assistance to basically translate for her because she’s not a native U.S. citizen, he was over there by himself as a tourist and supposedly not proselytizing. Do you believe his story?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not about whether or not we believe his story. And I would remind people that we have a very strict Travel Warning in place telling Americans not to travel to North Korea for a variety of reasons. But no, it’s not – I think today it’s not about whether or not we believe his story. We believe, as we did today, we did yesterday, that he should be immediately released, as he has been, that he should be returned home. I just don’t have more analysis on his time there to give you.

QUESTION: Is Pyongyang willing for the U.S. to send envoys to North Korea now for the other two people who are being detained?

MS. HARF: I will let them speak for that willingness. We’ve seen in the past that often happen, and we have said we are ready to send one if they invite them to return. But to my knowledge, their position hasn’t changed on that. But again, I’d refer you to them.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: ISIS.

QUESTION: No, no.

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: Okay. I probably don’t have much more to add, so let’s just do a few more.

QUESTION: Well, North Korea, but a different issue.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to comments made by North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador on a couple of fronts? One, he said that the U.S. has been masterminding international criticism of North Korea’s human rights record. Basically in a VOA interview, he accused the U.S. of a smear campaign and said if this continued that North Korea will review its policy towards America. He also stated that there is a new policy in North Korea and it will result in an expansion of nuclear weapons.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the specifics in that interview, but I’d say a few points. The first is on the human rights situation in North Korea. We call it how we see it, and we are deeply concerned – and remain deeply concerned – about the ongoing, systematic, and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK. They are clearly documented by the UN’s Commission of Inquiry. This isn’t about the United States. This is about the world standing up and saying there’s a very serious human rights situation in North Korea.

So that’s how I would respond on the human rights side, but on the nuclear side, we and our parties in the Six-Party Talks have been very clear that our goal is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That is what we are working towards. That is what – if you talk about these talks in the past and what North Korea has said they were willing to do, we obviously believe that that needs to be the ultimate goal.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: Yes, can we --

QUESTION: Just very, very quickly, can you just clarify – you’ve said that you wanted to send an envoy and the North Koreans have refused. Have you offered to send anybody other than Robert King, or is it Robert King that you have said --

MS. HARF: Well, in the past, the invitation has been for him, and that offer stands on the table, if the invitation were to be re-extended. That’s what we’ve been focused on here.

QUESTION: But you haven’t put anybody else forward?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details about these discussions for you.

Said.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you – first of all, if you have an update on the situation in Kobani, can you share that with us?

MS. HARF: I don’t have much of an update. The situation, to my knowledge, hasn’t changed. Obviously, we did the resupply --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- over the weekend, remains a serious fighting situation and contested area.

QUESTION: So is that like a one-day situation, or have we had airdrops since then on a continuous basis?

MS. HARF: We haven’t had airdrops since then, no.

QUESTION: So you haven’t?

MS. HARF: We have not.

QUESTION: You have not?

MS. HARF: We have not.

QUESTION: Is that because the Turks expressed displeasure with that?

MS. HARF: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It’s because we – this was something we decided to do over the weekend, and as I said yesterday and as my Defense Department colleagues have said, we have the option to do this again if we feel it’s necessary. I don’t know if we will or not.

QUESTION: Today, President Erdogan said that Kobani was a strategic – of strategic importance for Turkey but not for the United States of America. Have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see his comments, but we have talked very closely to Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, about our overall shared goal – a strategy we share – of taking the fight to ISIL. Obviously, when we told the Turkish Government that we would be taking this resupply near Kobani, it was because we believe it’s a very important location, that ISIL has increasingly put weapons and fighters and money and resources into. So we obviously believe it’s important or we wouldn’t be dropping weapons to the people fighting on the ground.

QUESTION: But the Turkish Government is doing everything it can to show that they don’t – you don’t have their shared goals and – because --

MS. HARF: I would strongly disagree with that, Said. Turkey’s announcement that it will facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga into Kobani --

QUESTION: Have you seen any of that (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: -- is an important contribution to coalition efforts to support forces there. That is a very significant step that they said they would take yesterday, and I think there’s a hesitancy to overlook those kind – or a tendency, excuse me, to overlook those kinds of announcements and just focus on what they’re not doing. But I think they’re doing some fairly significant things.

QUESTION: I know you addressed this, but the president of Turkey made it very clear that they have four goals: They want a no-fly zone; they want a safe haven; they want to topple the regime; and they want to target Syrian forces and Syrian air assets and so on, which at least for now, in conflict with your immediate goals.

MS. HARF: Well, Turkey is a strategic ally and a valuable part of this coalition, and they are taking a number of steps as part of it, including their announcement that they would facilitate this crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. So we’ll continue to talk to them about what this looks like on the ground.

QUESTION: And the last question from me on this issue: During the campaign in Libya, some 26,000 air raids were conducted in Libya. Do you feel that what is going on or what has taken place since August 8th until now – and again, I’m trying to – at least in Iraq on August 8th it began – until now, had --

QUESTION: Syria. No, I was --

QUESTION: -- in Iraq August 8th, but then last month it was in Syria. Since then, have they been able to, let’s say, deplete or to decrease the assets of ISIS on the way to their defeat?

MS. HARF: On the way what? What was that last one?

QUESTION: To their total defeat, as the stated goal is?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, we know the coalition airstrikes have been successful in hitting their targets. They’ve eliminated hundreds of ISIL terrorists, they’ve destroyed ISIL military equipment, and disrupted supply lines and communications. And the more we address ISIL directly, the more resources they have to put into the fight, and the less they’re able to focus on other parts of Iraq and Syria, particularly.

So we know we’ve had an impact, but we also know this is going to be a long fight, and this is not about any one day or one week or one month of action; this is a sustained campaign. We feel we’ve made progress, but this is going to be a long campaign with ups and downs and ebbs and flows.

QUESTION: On the issue of --

QUESTION: Can we go back to the air drops?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday the Pentagon said that it had tried to deliver 28 bundles of weapons from the Iraqi Kurds to the fighters in Kobani. Twenty-seven made it; the twenty-eighth went off course. They destroyed it so that it wouldn’t fall into people’s hands.

MS. HARF: And – yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now there’s YouTube video of ISIL fighters claiming that they, in fact, did recover that wayward bundle, and they have grenades and RPGs and other small weapons. Given that the Pentagon says no, we took that out because we did not want that to happen, how prepared is the U.S. and its allies to deal with the propaganda value of whatever it is ISIL will do to try to change what the coalition says are the facts?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points: The first is we’ve seen that video, and we can’t confirm that what is in it is actually accurate. There’s obviously a lot of false information, particularly propaganda on the internet, and this may fall into that category. We’re seeking more information at this point, though. So can’t confirm it; seeking more information.

We know that part of ISIL’s strategy here is to wage a propaganda campaign. And that’s why one of our lines of efforts has been delegitimizing ISIL’s propaganda. And so that is something other countries can do; it’s something religious leaders can do. But that’s why, if you look at our five lines of effort, that’s one of them, which I think is pretty extraordinary.

QUESTION: So on the issue of the Peshmerga crossing the borders, it seems time is of the essence when it comes to Kobani. Are you in any kind of discussions with the Turkish Government about timeframe for this to happen, for the operation?

MS. HARF: Those discussions are continuing.

QUESTION: And who’s – and how is it going to happen? Who’s going to facilitate the movement of the Kurdish forces?

MS. HARF: I’d refer you to the Turkish Government. They may have more details on that. I – the answer is I don’t know what the timeframe is. I know we’re in discussions with them about it broadly.

QUESTION: But did you express any time preference?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. But again, I’m not the one having the discussions, so let me see if there’s more to share with you on that.

Anything else on ISIS?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Peshmerga: That – just the Peshmerga from Iraq. It would not include, let’s say, Kurdish fighters that could conceivably come from Turkey, could it --

MS. HARF: It’s – I’ll let the --

QUESTION: -- that might include the PKK?

MS. HARF: I’ll let the Turks speak for themselves, but it is my understanding that it will facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga.

QUESTION: Okay. So – and there are – even among the Peshmerga, there are some commanders that may be wanted by Turkey. Do they have immunity, to the best of your knowledge?

MS. HARF: From who?

QUESTION: From the Turks --

MS. HARF: Well, ask the Turks.

QUESTION: -- that they would not arrest them as they cross?

MS. HARF: I would ask the Turks, Said.

QUESTION: But this is since a coalition effort.

MS. HARF: This is a coalition effort, but I would ask the Turks.

QUESTION: Would that be one of the conditions that you would say – tell the Turks, like --

MS. HARF: I don’t think we’re giving them conditions. This is an effort they’ve said they will undertake. They’ll have more details about it.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Any details on the deal with the Iraqi military to send 46,000 tanks?

MS. HARF: Yes, let me see what I have on that. Just give me one second.

On October 20th, the State Department approved a possible foreign military sale to Iraq for up to 46,000 rounds of M1A1 Abrams tank ammunition and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support for an estimated cost of $600 million. This is part of our effort to expedite defense material to the Government of Iraq in support of the fight against ISIL. The proposed sale will contribute, obviously, to the foreign policy and national security of the U.S. by helping improve the security of Iraq, a strategic partner. Obviously, the sale is subject to a 30-day congressional notification period, after which the Department and the Government of Iraq will conclude final administrative and technical details.

QUESTION: And when do you expect to deliver these tanks?

MS. HARF: When?

QUESTION: When, yeah.

MS. HARF: Well, I just said that it’s subject to a 30-day congressional notification period, after which we will finalize the sale.

QUESTION: Do you have any --

QUESTION: Is it tanks or just equipment and ammo?

MS. HARF: It is tank ammunition and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And how many tanks do you expect?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not tanks.

QUESTION: It’s tank ammunition.

MS. HARF: It’s 46 – up to 46,000 rounds of ammunition and associated equipment and parts.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on --

MS. HARF: I don’t know how many tanks that goes into.

QUESTION: -- on the visit and statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi? In Tehran, he met with Rouhani and met with (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, Iran and Iraq share a long border. They have had long relations. I think this is a routine visit by the prime minister of Iraq to Iran. I think he’ll be doing similar visits around the region to other neighbors as well. And we’ve urged Iran to send a message to the Iraqi Government that they need to govern inclusively; that’s key. We’ve obviously said that for months now.

QUESTION: But in the fight against ISIS, obviously Iran is willing and probably is taking place in the fight against ISIS, but you still consider that to be not a good thing.

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say that. I’ve said from this podium that every country has a role to play --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- that Iran, if they encourage the Government of Iraq to govern inclusively, if they – the Iraqi Security Forces, support them as the ones who should be taking this fight – not militias, not anyone else on the ground. That would be a way they could contribute.

QUESTION: So let me ask you straightforward: Do you object to having Al-Quds Brigade, which is an Iranian fighting force that is in Iraq, fighting ISIS?

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is the people on the ground that need to fight ISIL are the Iraqi Security Forces, not militias.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Prime Minister Abadi has talked about regulating militias, understands the historical challenges with Shia militia groups. We believe it should be the government security forces fighting ISIL.

QUESTION: But the Peshmerga is fighting them.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, the Peshmerga is not – at least is not technically part of the Iraqi army.

MS. HARF: Right. But – you’re right. But the Kurdish Regional Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces, who are working at an unprecedented level together, like we haven’t seen in the past.

QUESTION: What’s the status of the Sinjar?

MS. HARF: Sinjar? There has been some renewed fighting there, and we are deeply concerned about reports of their increasingly intense attacks against communities near and on Mount Sinjar, including against Yezidis who are there trying to protect their main civilian population. We’re continuing to assess the situation and assess what assistance we may be able to provide to those in need.

QUESTION: Did you get a response to or an answer to my question yesterday about whether the U.S. would send weapons or supplies to the ministry of interior?

MS. HARF: I – you – whether there was going to be a change.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: I did and there is no change. There is not going to be any change – has no plans to change our security relationship with the Government of Iraq. And I think there were a lot of questions yesterday about certain ministers and who was aligned with what groups. I think a couple other points in response to that, one, we worked with members of Badr Organization who were part of the government in the previous government, and we will continue to do so here. I think it’s significant that these ministers, including this one, was approved by a majority of the Sunnis as well. So this is really all of the different parts of Iraq coming together, and if they’re willing to put their support behind these new ministers, I think that’s a pretty significant sign.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: To Vietnam?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the prominent dissident bloggers in Vietnam, Nguyen Van Hai – also known as Dieu Cay – has been released and is on his way to the U.S.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: Just wanted to know if you had a statement on that and what is the reason for his release, and why now, and is he going to be living here permanently?

MS. HARF: And welcome back, by the way.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Good to have you back in the briefing room.

QUESTION: Good to be back.

MS. HARF: We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release this prisoner of conscience. He decided to travel to the United States after his release from prison, will arrive on Tuesday October 21st – so today. He decided himself to travel to the U.S. We have consistently called for his release and the release of all other political prisoners in Vietnam.

QUESTION: Do you think there will be more releases soon?

MS. HARF: We hope there will be.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that he was forced to leave the country --

MS. HARF: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: -- after he – can you confirm reports that he was forced to leave the country after he was released?

MS. HARF: I would check with the Vietnamese authorities on that. We know that he decided to come to the United States after his release.

QUESTION: Is he coming here for medical attention? Because there were reports that he was ill.

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

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, I have a question on Cyprus and Turkey. As you maybe know, Cyprus says it will block any progress in Turkey’s talk to join the European Union in response to the Turkish illegal gas search in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. My question is that – did the Government of Cyprus ask for your help to stop Turkey’s aggression in – against Cyprus?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve --

QUESTION: If you cannot answer, can you take --

MS. HARF: I can’t tell if you had a follow-up.

QUESTION: Can you take the question to --

MS. HARF: Well, I can just say a little bit about Cyprus.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: As we’ve always said, the United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to strongly support the negotiation process conducted under UN good offices to reunify the island into a bizonal and bicommunal federation. That’s obviously been our policy for a long time.

QUESTION: The government spokesman said that what is happening actually Cyprus is another Turkey invasion against the island. What is your comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those comments, but we continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. And it’s important, I think, to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the attack in Quebec by a radicalized man who killed a police officer?

MS. HARF: I do.

QUESTION: And how concerned are you with the monitoring of extremists by the RCMP?

MS. HARF: Well, we condemn this attack and extend our sympathies to the family and friends of the Canadian Forces soldiers. We have been in touch with Canadian officials and understand they are investigating the incident. Obviously, we deplore acts of violence towards military and law enforcement officials particularly, and stand ready to assist our Canadian partners as they investigate this act. I don’t have more details on it than that. They’ll probably have the latest on the investigation.

QUESTION: But is it a concern as it hits so close to home?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll see what the investigation shows.

QUESTION: And about the monitoring of the extremists by the Canadian police? Is there –

MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let them speak to their efforts here. But obviously, we know that one of the challenges is fighters who will go overseas to fight with some sort of extremist group, a terrorist group, return home to Europe, to the West, to Canada, to the United States. We know it’s a shared challenge, so it’s obviously something we’re very focused on.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yep. And then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Libyan Government gave orders to the Libyan forces to advance toward Tripoli and liberate it, as the government statement said. Do you support the government in this decision?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. I can check on that. I hadn’t seen them.

QUESTION: But the --

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen --

QUESTION: Anyway, do you support any move that the Libyan Government takes towards the militia and the gaining or getting back the capital?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve called on the Libyans to engage constructively in the UN-led political dialogue to resolve the ongoing crisis, to abstain from confrontation. But I hadn’t seen those reports, so let me check into those.

Yes, let’s go to Pam.

QUESTION: The ceasefire talks between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that were due to start today, of course, did not start. We have the team of military advisors that is still in the region. Can you shed light on whether the U.S. advisors are going to play any – have played or will play any kind of role in these negotiations?

MS. HARF: They have not. They have not. I don’t have a prediction going forward, but they have not up until this point.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the calls that Kerry has made with regard to – in the last day or two – developments on Turkey? And what about North Korea?

MS. HARF: I can --

QUESTION: Not that he called Pyongyang, but --

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) I don’t think he did. (Laughter.) That would be breaking news that I could make. I do not have the call list from today. Let me check after the briefing.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Ukraine.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports that the Ukraine army had launched cluster bombs in Donetsk and other places?

MS. HARF: We did. We’ve seen the report. We are not in a position to confirm the use of cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine. I’d note the Ukrainian authorities have denied use of such munitions, but have called again on all sides to take steps to protect civilian lives.

QUESTION: What’s the level of conversation between the U.S. and Ukraine regarding these allegations?

MS. HARF: Regarding these specifically?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know the specifics.

QUESTION: Do you have comment on the apparent agreement between Russia and the Ukraine on the gas supply for the winter?

MS. HARF: We saw some of that coming out of the meetings in Milan that happened a few days ago. We obviously support the European Commission in its efforts to broker a commercially competitive compromise on gas sales that includes market pricing and payment of arrears. We have urged Russia to continue engaging with Ukraine and the EU on this issue. We hope a deal can be completed at the EC-brokered talks that are taking place in Berlin today. I don’t have the latest readout from Berlin, but we’ll get it.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any comment on the resumption of indirect talks between Hamas and Israel regarding the ceasefire?

MS. HARF: We have seen those reports. I’d refer you to the parties to confirm their participation. Our teams in the region have continued to engage with the parties on the way forward in Gaza; of course, support efforts to reach a durable and sustainable long-term ceasefire.

QUESTION: Okay. So that would be my next question. Would the United States have any representative in these talks?

MS. HARF: I can check, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ebola?

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: The Dominican --

MS. HARF: Did you have another on --

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to follow very quickly with a couple things.

MS. HARF: Okay. And then we’ll go to Ebola.

QUESTION: The Israeli authorities demolished three homes in Jerusalem today. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I’ll get one for you. I didn’t see that. Sorry.

Ebola.

QUESTION: The Dominican Republic has joined other countries in banning entry to foreigners who’ve visited Ebola-affected countries. We know what the Obama Administration’s feel is, but is this in any way swaying you? There’s also new polls out today in which Americans are saying that they feel that there needs to be this travel ban.

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We are not considering implementing visa bans at this time, but the Department of Homeland Security did today announce additional efforts and protective measures to prevent the spread of Ebola to the United States. And I’d refer you to them for the details, but just to give you a few of the top lines here, these measures go into effect tomorrow. They are that passengers arriving in the United States whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea will be required to fly into one of the five airports that have the enhanced screening and additional resources in place. So we’re already working with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption – we – that’s the Department of Homeland Security.

And also, passengers flying into one of these airports – and to remind people, this is JFK, Newark, Dulles, Atlanta, and Chicago – flying into these airports from flights originating in any of these three countries will be subject to secondary screening and added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States. These airports account for about 94 percent of travelers flying to the U.S. from these countries, so --

QUESTION: Was the State Department consulted on this decision?

MS. HARF: Absolutely we were.

QUESTION: And did – and was this building supportive of it, given this building’s previous opposition to any sort of visa ban or visa restriction?

MS. HARF: Well, this is not a visa ban or a visa restriction. This is an additional procedure, a screening procedure that the Department of Homeland Security will do, so absolutely we were supportive of it.

Our position on visa bans hasn’t changed. You can’t control this epidemic through visas. And if you prevent people from traveling in legitimate ways, you’ll drive them underground, you’ll push them to illicit ways of traveling, which is even harder to track them and contain this. So our position on visa bans has not changed. The President said he’s not philosophically opposed to it, but our experts at this point have said it’s not the way to contain it. But we do support, certainly, the additional measures taken to protect us here in the United States.

QUESTION: My understanding is that these are flights that are coming directly from these West African countries.

MS. HARF: No. There are no direct, non-stop --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- commercial flights from any of these countries to any airport in the United States.

QUESTION: Right. So they would be flights from any of these countries that might route through London or Paris or Frankfurt or something.

MS. HARF: Route through other places.

QUESTION: Right, got it.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Marie, the forces – the U.S. forces, the military forces that were dispatched to sort of contain the – or to prevent the spread of the epidemic and so on – where are they, and what is their number? Could you update us on where they are now and what they are doing?

MS. HARF: I can – I don’t know if I have the latest on that. I’m happy to check with our team and my colleagues at the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Yeah, so – yeah, which countries and their number and so on, and what is exactly that they’re doing.

MS. HARF: Let me see if – I don’t think I have – let me check with our DOD colleagues. I know I got asked this earlier this week, but for some reason it is not in my book. It’s amazing that there’s something that’s not in this book.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the dispatching of Cuban aid workers --

MS. HARF: The Secretary spoke about it publicly last Friday --

QUESTION: He did?

MS. HARF: -- when he said every country has a role to play, and --

QUESTION: Well, it seems that they have already – they sent more. They sent like 51 --

MS. HARF: Well, he’s spoken about the fact that they have provided a large number of resources, particularly given how small the country is, especially compared to other countries who have many more resources that they could be providing.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out whether there are any legal restrictions on the U.S. working with Cuba in something such as this health crisis?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t able to get an answer for you all on that. Let me see if I can keep pushing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:51 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 17, 2014

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 17:39

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 17, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:29 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, welcome to Friday’s briefing. I just have one item at the top, and then we will get started. And apologies for the delay, especially because it’s Friday.

You saw Secretary Kerry this morning brief the Washington Diplomatic Corps on our efforts against Ebola, speaking more about what the international community can do to help contain this disease. I just wanted to give people a few statistics to update on the Secretary’s engagement on the issue, and then I will open it up for questions in a moment.

Just in the last three weeks, since the UN General Assembly, the Secretary has had approximately 25 bilateral or multilateral meetings where Ebola has been a topic of conversation. This included, just on this recent trip, meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the French Foreign Minister Fabius, the Egyptian President al-Sisi, and Foreign Minister Shoukry, pull-asides with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Cairo conference on Gaza reconstruction, as well as some other pull-asides, and with the Austrian foreign minister during our stop in Vienna.

Just this month he has made at least 15 calls with foreign interlocutors, approximately 15 calls where this has been a topic. Obviously, we know this is an incredibly important priority for the Secretary, for the State Department, working with the rest of the U.S. Government on this. I’d also remind people of the conference call he had with the Liberian president, the Sierra Leonean president, and the Ghanaian president on October 7th, just to remind people of that.

You probably saw today that President Obama has asked Ron Klain to coordinate the government’s comprehensive response to Ebola. He will report to the President’s Homeland Security Advisor, Lisa Monaco, and the National Security Advisor, Susan Rice. As you may have seen from Secretary Kerry’s Twitter feed, he has known Ron for many years, thinks he’s brilliant, tough, no-nonsense, the perfect person for a very tough job. Personally, I’ve known him for a while, as well, think he’s fantastic, and bringing management skills to this very tough challenge.

So, with that --

QUESTION: I will stay with Ebola, since you started with it. The Secretary, in his comments to the diplomatic corps this morning said that the UN has, so far, been unable to raise more than just a third of what – the one billion asked for. I’m wondering, do you all have any idea why the fundraising appeal is not going as well as it could?

MS. HARF: I don’t know why, Lara, and I’m happy to check with our folks to see if there is more behind why they haven’t been able to raise as much money. But I think the point here is that people need to do more.

The Secretary was clear, I think, speaking directly to other countries in these phone calls that I talked about, these meetings, imploring other countries not just to give funds, but also to give expertise, people to send to the region. We know that countries can and need to do more.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because, I mean, you think about it and there have been so many fundraising appeals over the last couple of years. This new coalition to fight ISIS is draining a lot of nations, as well. The economy across the world is not fantastic. Wondering how that is being measured into the context of how to fight Ebola, if the money and the resources can’t be distributed.

MS. HARF: Well, I think what he was getting at – and I know what all of us believe – is that we can find resources here, and we have to, that this is a disease that is containable. If you put the right resources, right procedures, right practices in place – and a lot of those require money -- and that’s what we’ve implored other countries to do.

So I know there are a lot of competing priorities, but this is an incredibly important one, and we believe other countries should do more.

QUESTION: Would you rank this as the highest priority in terms?

MS. HARF: I don’t think we’re going to get in the business of ranking. There is a number of top priorities. This is certainly among them.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, do you have any more information on an alert this morning at the Pentagon? Apparently a woman who recently arrived in the United States from Africa was vomiting on a Metro bus, or a tour bus --

MS. HARF: I have not seen that.

QUESTION: -- excuse me.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, I had not seen that.

QUESTION: Okay. I think Arlington County’s hazmat team closed the area down. So --

MS. HARF: Okay, let me check, check with our team and see.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes?

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: To the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I’d like to come back to, return to the remarks Secretary Kerry made yesterday. He said that it’s imperative to re-launch the peace process, something he did in Cairo two, three days ago. But I think, for the first time, he made the connection, a link between the conflict and the rise of extremism and the rise of ISIL. And this morning the Israeli officials are pretty upset and angered against the Secretary.

So I would like to know if the Secretary --

MS. HARF: Well, yeah.

QUESTION: -- went a little bit too far.

MS. HARF: A couple comments. First, he did not make any linkage between Israel and the growth of ISIL, period. And we can go back over what he actually said, which I have in front of me. He did not make that linkage. What he was saying is in the course of his work, do leaders in Europe and in the Middle East tell him that they like that the U.S. wants to try to achieve peace? Of course they do. Do the leaders think peace would help create a more stable region? Of course they do. That is in no way a news flash. It’s something that presidents of both parties for decades have said, that if we could make progress on Middle East peace, that would help create a more stable region, and the Secretary was agreeing with what has been said publicly.

And I would take issue with the part of your question that Israeli leaders, plural, have disagreed with what they thought the Secretary said. I saw one in particular. And we would say to that that we know passions run high, politics are intense, but either this specific minister did not actually read what the Secretary said, or someone is engaging in the politics of distortion here. By any means it is an inaccurate reading of what the Secretary said. He did not make a linkage between Israel and the growth of ISIL, period.

QUESTION: But you do see where there is actually the lack of resolving this issue, and it drags on and it goes on almost indefinitely, does, in fact, create a great deal of frustration that may lead to extremism. Don’t you agree with that notion?

MS. HARF: Well, I mean, Said, has the Israeli-Palestinian issue been exploited over the decades by extremists who hate Israel and the United States, who hate both of us? Of course it has. Various presidents, including the previous President, George W. Bush, spoke out about this, saying that if we could achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, that would create a more stable region writ large, in general.

QUESTION: So you think that those leaders that told the Secretary of State there is a linkage, in fact, they’re expressing a sentiment of hate toward --

MS. HARF: Well, that’s not what he was saying. He was saying that as he travels around the world --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. HARF: Well, can I finish my sentence, Said?

QUESTION: He was saying that that’s what – oh, sure.

MS. HARF: And then you can follow up. Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: That as he travels around the world building a global coalition to defeat ISIL, which is an avowed enemy of Israel – the Secretary, helping to put together this coalition to defeat an enemy that has said they’re an avowed enemy of Israel, that he hears from people in conversations, as we have for many years, that if we could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that would help create a more stable region. In no way was he directly linking Israel and the growth of ISIL, at all.

QUESTION: But you know, this is a story that goes way back. And I remember in the ‘70s, let’s say, with your close allies, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its foreign minister, or the king at the time, King Faisal, was always saying that not resolving this issue may lead to extremism or people will exploit it, as you said.

MS. HARF: Absolutely, and American presidents --

QUESTION: So there is a connection.

MS. HARF: Well, American presidents and secretaries of state of both parties have said that if we can achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it would be a blow to the region’s extremists. Yes, they’ve said that. But in terms of this specific Israeli minister’s comments, I think, and I think the Secretary thinks, and everyone thinks that what you say actually matters and not just how someone tries to distort it for their own political purposes.

QUESTION: Can I just – can I go back to Ebola for one second?

MS. HARF: Let’s finish this and then, Elise.

QUESTION: One more on this?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary planning to propose a new peace plan this – at this time?

MS. HARF: I think you heard the Secretary speak about the state of this issue in his press availability in Cairo, that we cannot want it more than the parties want it. We obviously believe there needs to be a path forward in the best interests of both people, but nothing else new to share at this point.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary --

MS. HARF: And then I’ll go to you, Elise.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. Has the Secretary talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu since these comments and the flap?

MS. HARF: I can double check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: They talk frequently. I will check.

QUESTION: Just one more on Ebola.

MS. HARF: Yeah, uh-huh.

QUESTION: The prime minister of Belize, I believe, said something along the lines that Secretary Kerry called him and asked him to help evacuate a potential Ebola victim from one of – from the Carnival cruise ship, and that he refused to do that. Could you speak to this?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So just on this specific issue --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- the State Department was informed about the cruise ship passenger early in the morning of October 16th. We’ve been working with the CDC and other U.S. Government agencies obviously as well, with other governments, as I said at the top, to implement appropriate public health measures. We do believe that all nations must work together here. Our understanding from the cruise line was that the ship was scheduled to stop in Cozumel today. This passenger was not allowed to disembark in Belize, as they said publicly yesterday. The ship now has decided to set sail for Galveston, Texas, is en route to Texas, and is due to dock on Sunday.

I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of fear about this disease, much of it not rooted in actual fact. So the Secretary did speak last night with our counterparts. Obviously, we had hoped --

QUESTION: The prime minister of Belize?

MS. HARF: That is correct. We had hoped that there might be a path forward here for this passenger to disembark there and come home, but that unfortunately was not the case. They are now back – on their way back on the ship.

QUESTION: And so given the fact that the Secretary, for the second time in a week, kind of went out there and said, look, no country is exempt from playing their part --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- I mean, what does that say about a country like Belize? Like even though – he was praising some countries like East Timor and Cuba that --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- they’re small but they were trying to play their part even greater. I mean, this is something that Belize could’ve done and didn’t, right?

MS. HARF: Could’ve handled differently, I think is fair to say. But what he was saying applies to many countries, that --

QUESTION: I’m talking particularly --

MS. HARF: I know, but his comments were general this morning --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. HARF: -- more countries need to do more, and we have to be driven here by the actual facts and by science and by information, which he said. The science is there, and we cannot let the misinformation and the fear prevent us from taking steps to ensure that people get proper care.

QUESTION: So are you saying that in this case, that you believe that the Government of Belize acted out of disinformation and fear?

MS. HARF: I – they can speak for why they did what they did. I would not venture to speak for them.

QUESTION: Well, when you were speaking – when I asked you the question about what happened, you – your preamble to what actually happened between the Secretary and the prime minister said that some countries are acting out of kind of fear and disinformation and not based on science.

MS. HARF: Right. But I don’t know why they made that decision, and I’ll let them speak – I’ll let any country speak for why they make any specific decision. But broadly speaking, we want people as they respond to both do more but also make sure that everything they’re doing is being driven by the actual facts of how to contain this disease.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. disappointed that Belize did not allow this employee to fly out of their country?

MS. HARF: Employee?

QUESTION: Well, the passenger.

MS. HARF: The passenger on the --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- ship.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: As I just said, I think we probably feel it could have been handled differently. But what we’re focused on now is this ship is en route back to Galveston. Obviously, we will provide any medical care we can – we – not the State Department – inside the United States when they return.

QUESTION: Jen, can I --

MS. HARF: Yeah. You had a question –

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Palestinian issues? Because --

QUESTION: I had one on just Ebola.

MS. HARF: On Ebola?

QUESTION: Yeah. In terms of like a media campaign to get people to donate, have you guys thought about anything like the ALS ice bucket challenge, to how that was very successful and were able – people donated a bunch of money, in terms of getting the public involved in that? I mean, it doesn’t seem that a lot of people are actually donating to fight Ebola.

MS. HARF: Well, I think what we’re focused on here is what governments can provide, both in the form of donations, large donations, but also in the form of expertise, whether it’s doctors, nurses, equipment, gear that can be sent to the region to really help contain it in West Africa, which is what the experts have said is the way – the best way to really do this. So we’re focused from the State Department on what governments can do, certainly in that regard.

QUESTION: But you’re not starting a media campaign on --

MS. HARF: Again, what we’re focused on here --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- is talking to other governments.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Do you want to go back to the Israeli-Palestinian issue briefly?

QUESTION: Yeah, if we can.

MS. HARF: Yeah. And then we can go on to the next topic.

QUESTION: I just – because yesterday I asked about the Israeli ordnance disallowing Palestinians under 50 to pray at the mosque. And as a result, tensions and violence has occurred. And in fact, today Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, called on the Palestinian to protect or guard the Haram Sharif, which is Al-Aqsa Mosque. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we are – Said, we are very concerned about recent tensions there and have urged all sides to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and respect the status quo. So we’re following what’s happening and that remains our position.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, the Israelis – I’m sorry, also the Israelis killed a 13-year-old boy yesterday. I wonder if you have any comment on that.

MS. HARF: We have seen those reports – of course, deeply regret the loss of life here, extend our condolences to his family. We understand and have urged the Government of Israel to conduct an investigation – we are understanding that they are doing that – to determine the facts surrounding the incident.

QUESTION: And finally, this weekend there is a conference or convention for the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation. It’s a Palestinian Christian organization, and Palestinian Christians say that you guys are not reaching out to them, or in fact they try to reach out to you, but they get nowhere. And in fact, the Palestinian patriarch --

MS. HARF: Do you mean the State Department?

QUESTION: Huh? Because --

MS. HARF: Are you talking about the U.S. Government or the State Department?

QUESTION: I think the State Department.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I think they tried to reach out to the State Department. They are not finding ways, because Palestinian Christians are really shrinking, and they – in fact, the repression is multilayered. It’s not only one layer. And there is – the head of the Roman Orthodox Christians – Palestinian Christians is in town, Father Atallah, and I’m sure he would probably welcome an opportunity to meet with the State Department. Would you --

MS. HARF: Let me check, Said. I wasn’t aware of those specifics, in terms of the visit or what’s happening. Let me check and see.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: New subject.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Nigeria. Apparently, the Nigerian Government has reached a deal with the – with Boko Haram – two deals. The one is a ceasefire and the other one is the release of the young girls. Can you independently verify this?

MS. HARF: We cannot, at this point. We obviously are aware of reports about a possible announcement by the Nigerian Government of a ceasefire. Obviously, we would welcome an end to hostilities, a restoration of security, and I think it should go without saying would welcome the release of those girls that have been gone far too long. But we cannot independently confirm that, at this point.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: What information are you getting from the --

MS. HARF: Then we’ll go to you.

QUESTION: -- U.S. team that is there trying to assist the Nigerians in recovering the girls and helping them deal indirectly with the threat from Boko Haram?

MS. HARF: I don’t have the latest from them. I think, again, these are just reports that are coming out. I know they’re looking to get more information, so as soon as we have anything to confirm we will do so.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. On the announcement that Secretary Kerry is going to meet Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. It’s a two-days meeting --

MS. HARF: In Boston, yes.

QUESTION: In Boston, yes.

MS. HARF: His hometown.

QUESTION: Yes. So I’m just curious, what would be the specific topics that will – that they will discuss? And also is this part of a preparation for the President’s trip to China?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ll have a readout, actually, at the end of the day of what they have discussed. So I think we’ll look to get that out. We talk about a wide range of issues together. I know the Secretary’s looking forward to hosting the Chinese delegation again in his hometown, and we’ll be talking about a number of issues. I don’t have anything specific to preview for you, but obviously this is part of our engagement on regional security issues, on global security issues. I’m sure ISIL, I’m sure Ebola, all of those topics will come up.

QUESTION: And so is this part of preparation for President Obama’s trip to China?

MS. HARF: I would imagine so, but I don’t have more details.

QUESTION: Are the Chinese helping in the coalition against ISIL?

MS. HARF: I can check and see what specifics are there for you on that. They are obviously a part of the Security Council, which has taken some steps, including during the UN General Assembly week, on this, spoken out very strongly about it. But let me check specifically on what --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: -- if they’re doing anything.

QUESTION: ISIS?

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MS. HARF: Oh, wait, do you – uh, sure. Yeah. And then we’ll go to ISIS.

QUESTION: It’ll be very quick. So Prime Minister Abe sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine for the Autumn festival, and some suggest that this means that he won’t be visiting the shrine. Do you have any comments about that? Do you think that this is an encouraging step to mend ties with Beijing and Seoul or not? Do you think that he should do more, such as not even give an offering?

MS. HARF: Well, we know there are a lot of sensitivities, of course. We’ve talked about this issue a number of times in here, and as we’ve indicated many times, encouraged Japan to continue to work with its neighbors to resolve the concerns over history in an amicable way through dialogue. I don’t have much more analysis of this for you than that, but again, no prediction about what else may happen, but that’s where we are.

QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Kerry will be encouraging the Chinese to have a Xi-Abe summit?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more?

MS. HARF: Yeah, go ahead. And then I’m coming to you, Said.

QUESTION: Yes, so Prime Minister Abe had – and Chines premier had exchanged a greeting in Milan, in Italy, so what’s the reaction of the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen that specifically, but obviously we think the countries in the region should have good relationships with their neighbors, should work to make them better, and if that was one step in that process, then that would be a good thing.

Said. Yes.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Today, the Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said in a radio interview – in fact, it was with MSNBC, I think, or CNBC radio that was carried on Russian radio – he’s claiming that the United States is no longer insisting on the removal of Bashar al-Assad. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Our position has not changed. We believe, and as the President has said repeatedly, Assad has lost all legitimacy a long time ago. There cannot be a stable, inclusive Syria under his leadership. There is not a role for him in the future of Syria.

QUESTION: The context of what he said is the following, that now the priority is really to fight ISIS and not to worry so much about Assad, who’s actually on the same side --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- in fighting ISIS.

MS. HARF: -- that’s a simplistic reading of the situation. We can go after ISIL, as we are doing in Iraq and Syria, and also make very clear that there needs to be a political, negotiated, transitional governing body going forward that is in the best interests of Syria, that gets to a government without Assad.

QUESTION: And finally for me on this issue, the ISIS is claiming to have fighter jets. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Yes, that is – we do not have anything to confirm that. Let me just pull this up right here for you. Just give me one second. And General Austin did a briefing this morning where he also spoke to this as well, but let me just – just give me one second.

QUESTION: I don’t think he spoke very much to it.

MS. HARF: That we don’t have any operational reporting of ISIL flying jets in support of ISIL’s activity on the ground. We cannot confirm those reports in terms of that.

QUESTION: But do you think that they have fighter jets or not?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I have more. The answer is no, but let me see if I have more on this. We are not aware of ISIL capturing any fighter jets from Iraq, have nothing to confirm those reports.

QUESTION: If the – if ISIL were confirmed to have fighter jets or other aircraft, would that strengthen the argument for establishing a no-fly zone as Turkey has been requesting?

MS. HARF: There are a lot of hypothetical ifs that if – were they to become true, I’m sure would be looked at by our military planners and we would have that conversation then. But again, nothing to confirm they have them, and at this point nothing’s changed on the no-fly zone or the buffer zone – are not considering implementing that. That’s not part of our military plans at this time.

QUESTION: I know this is technically a question for the Pentagon, but because the State Department is very much involved in this, is there any more that can be said about what the U.S. and Turkey have agreed that can be done to try to push back ISIL, particularly inside Syria?

MS. HARF: Nothing more than we’ve already said. Obviously, it was a welcome step that they have agreed to train and equip the Syrian opposition. Nothing further. We’re having continued conversations with them.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the U.S. has received permission from Turkey to fly drones for intelligence gathering purposes out of Turkish military installations?

MS. HARF: I’ll let Turkey make any announcements they want about how they’re going to contribute here. I don’t have anything to confirm for you.

QUESTION: Can you confirm where the U.S. made that request?

MS. HARF: Nothing else to confirm for you, Roz.

Yes, Lara.

QUESTION: Pursuant to Assad, can you discuss to any degree the extent that the U.S. might be de-conflicting with the regime over the airstrikes? I mean, it’s been noted, and I think you all have agreed – I think Austin today said that the Syrian Government hasn’t prevented any of the airstrikes from happening --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And we confirmed when we first began them that we had, through our UN ambassador, given them a heads-up that we were going to --

QUESTION: Okay. So there is some kind of --

MS. HARF: -- if you remember at the time.

QUESTION: It wasn’t a coordination. There was discussion, or --

MS. HARF: There was at the time – I’m not sure that that’s been ongoing. As we said at the time, we confirmed that, that we had done so to give them a heads-up, not to coordinate. I don’t know if that’s ongoing. But General Austin is correct. They have not attempted to interfere.

QUESTION: Okay. And can you talk a little bit about the – a little more about the meeting in Paris on Sunday between Mr. Rubinstein and the YPG – I’m sorry, the PYD, Salih Muslim?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. I don’t have many more details for you, I think. Confirming that it happened on Sunday.

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.) Today the YPG spokesman – actually, was it the – I’m sorry, the PYD, since they’re kind of the same group --

MS. HARF: The same thing, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. He said that Kurdish fighters are sharing information with the coalition and they are coordinating strikes, and that the successes in Kobani are due in part because of this coordination. Is that true?

MS. HARF: We do get intelligence from, get information from a wide range of people – obviously, look for it anywhere we can get it. So yes, there is some intelligence and information sharing going on. That’s not something you replicate everywhere, of course, but in this case that is correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: But the fact that they are close to the PKK – this group – will not deter you from meeting with them?

MS. HARF: Will not, no.

QUESTION: Would the United States at this point rule out any arms transfers to the YDP – PYD?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to rule anything in or out, but obviously, that’s not something we’re doing.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. United States Government was refused the request of visa of Salih Muslim, the head of PYD, before. Did you reconsider this decision after this first contact – re-contact with PYD?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t familiar with the first case. That may have been before my time, but I’m happy to check.

Again, conversations don’t equal coordination. We talk to a wide range of officials, of actors, of people involved here across the board – a large swath of Syrian society – but does not mean we’re always coordinating.

QUESTION: And you trust them now, and their intelligence?

MS. HARF: Well, none of this is about trust. This is about seeing if we can work with others who want to defeat ISIS – ISIL in the same way that we do. So obviously, there’s a wide range of actors we talk to. That doesn’t mean we’re coordinating, but – one conversation does not coordination make.

QUESTION: One more on Syria, Marie --

MS. HARF: Well, I think – hold on, I think Tolga had one more.

QUESTION: Actually, I’m going to ask on Turkey. Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: I’m just going to be up here for a few hours.

QUESTION: No, no, about the air raid --

MS. HARF: Glad I have on flats.

QUESTION: About the air raids. Now, you were saying that you let the Syrians know the first time you did this, correct?

MS. HARF: Well, not when, or – not exacts – specifics.

QUESTION: But it would be logical or prudent to do this every time there is a raid, wouldn’t it?

MS. HARF: Not necessarily, no.

QUESTION: Because you don’t --

MS. HARF: We’ve taken a number of strikes, and I don’t think that necessarily has to happen, and I think it would be a mistake --

QUESTION: So you told them that this one --

MS. HARF: -- for the Assad regime, too.

QUESTION: You told them that that one time, we are going to do this --

MS. HARF: We told them before --

QUESTION: -- stay out of our way. Is that what you said?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to pass along the specifics of the conversation, but we did give them, as we said weeks ago, a heads-up.

QUESTION: The reason I ask this is because Syria is known to have the S-300 surface-to-air missile which is supplied by Russia, which can bring down U.S. jets. So you want to avoid that situation, correct?

MS. HARF: I think that would be fairly common sense, yes.

QUESTION: So that would – the common sense would call for some sort of at least informing them every time there is a --

MS. HARF: Not necessarily, not necessarily.

QUESTION: Marie, are you aware of an Iranian plan to solve the crisis in Syria and the fight between the regime and the opposition through a ceasefire first and then an election – presidential and parliament elections?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those specifics. I know there are – lots of ideas have been floated out there since we’ve been trying to resolve this diplomatically, but not aware of those specifics.

QUESTION: Have you discussed this issue with the Iranians in Vienna?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: Are you aware of Staffan de Mistura’s efforts in that regard? Because he’s met with the clerics of Hezbollah, he’s met – he’s also formulating some ideas to restart the Geneva talks. Are you aware of that?

MS. HARF: Well, we would like to restart the diplomatic talks, and what that looks like going forward, obviously, will need to be worked out, because we know this is the only path forward here. But as we said, we will not go back to the negotiating table until the Assad regime is willing to come to that table, talking about a transitional government.

QUESTION: Is there any effort to – for the Syrian fighters in Kobani to coordinate with the Syrian rebels against Assad? Are you aware of any?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie, just to clarify, the first contact was made between Salih Muslim and Mr. Rubinstein, right?

MS. HARF: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And after this contact, Salih Muslim went to Dohuk to join in Kurdish conference. And according to the Kurdish sources, that Mr. Rubinstein convinced him to join this conference. Do you have any --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to give a readout of their discussion from here.

QUESTION: Did Mr. Rubinstein go to Dohuk too with Salih Muslim? He – did he attend the meeting in Dohuk?

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not even aware of that meeting, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: And are you encouraging the Kurds, especially PYD and other Kurds, to unify in terms of this ISIL threat in the region?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more specifics to share from our discussions. Obviously, we believe that where there are people who can help push back ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, the moderate opposition, particularly in Syria, and the Iraqi Security Forces – they should help. But I don’t have any more details on our specific conversations.

QUESTION: We know that the U.S. Administration is providing weapons or equipment, aid to KRG, the --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, that is true.

QUESTION: If there will be a consensus between PYD and KRG given the – some differences between the two, would it be acceptable for you in the future to cooperate in these weapons and to share --

MS. HARF: I’m not --

QUESTION: -- these equipment and weapon transfers?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to venture to guess about that hypothetical.

QUESTION: Can I go to Turkey?

MS. HARF: Anything else on --

QUESTION: Marie, can I follow up --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- on this issue? Do you want to go ahead?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Do you have – okay. So just a quick follow-up on this. The PYD spokesman today said that the meeting in Paris was not the first time that the group had sat down with a U.S. envoy. He said the contact isn’t new, but the admission of it is.

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I’m just not aware of the history.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: On Turkey, can you give us a readout after Deputy Burns meet with the Turkish under secretary of foreign affairs?

MS. HARF: Let me check with him and see if we can get one.

QUESTION: It’s a closed meeting.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I don’t have any details about that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but after the meeting, like, can you give us a readout?

MS. HARF: I will check and endeavor to.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: And on Turkey?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Today is massive corruption case was dropped after the prosecutor’s decision because of the lack of grounds to take any legal action. And U.S. Administration has characterized – had characterized this incident, actually, as a scandal at the annual Human Rights Report. Do you have any reaction to this decision?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that decision. Let me check with our team and see if we have a reaction.

Yes, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Yes. Can we move to Ukraine?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: What is your understanding about the intense diplomatic activity which is happening in Milan, in Italy? And apparently, there are plenty of deals which have been agreed on gas, on exchange of prisoners, on drone flights. And do you think that the things are moving, broadly speaking, into the right direction?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen some of the reports coming out. I think we’re still waiting to get some more details from the different participants that were there. We, I think, will look forward to hearing those and may have more to say as we get those. We’ve seen reports that there was progress on the gas issue. We do hope to see a negotiated agreement soon, hope that continues moving forward. And we have continued to emphasize the need for full implementation of all of the 12 points of the September 5th Minsk Agreement, including the shooting around Donetsk airport. It has to stop. The hostages have to be released. Sovereignty has to be restored along the Ukrainian-Russian international border. That border has to be closed, has to be held accountable. Foreign forces and weapons need to be withdrawn. So these are all things that still have to happen, and we’ll get a readout from Milan and see if there has been any progress in those areas. But I do believe that President Poroshenko and Putin did meet in Milan. I don’t have a readout of that yet.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: And then we can go to (inaudible).

QUESTION: Carrying on with the Russia question, there was no – there has been not very much talked about Crimea in these Milan talks, and what do you think? Should that be part of the discussions in terms of between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents as well?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have a full readout yet of the discussions in Milan, so let me see if I can get more of that, and we can talk about this a little probably on Monday. Obviously, our position on Crimea has not changed.

QUESTION: Another one --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with Russia and actually Estonia. Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland yesterday met with the Estonian minister of the interior, and there’s a question about Russian authorities holding an Estonian police officer who was abducted. Did that come up?

MS. HARF: A while ago. That’s the – yeah.

QUESTION: That was in beginning of September.

MS. HARF: I think – yeah.

QUESTION: Did they talk about this?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. Let me check and see if we can get that for you.

QUESTION: And maybe just a different version of the same question. Secretary Kerry was talking to Foreign Minister Lavrov in Paris --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- a couple of days ago. Did they discuss the question of the Estonian officer being held in Russia?

MS. HARF: They did not.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Russia?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I can’t remember if this has ever come up in here, but do you have any comment on the number of McDonald’s that have been closed in Russia since –

MS. HARF: No, that happened a while ago, and I had something on that then. I can double-check with our --

QUESTION: All right, I can go back in that case.

MS. HARF: -- with our team. What I remember from that is – do you remember when that McDonald’s opened and people would line up –

QUESTION: I was there.

MS. HARF: You were there?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Really?

QUESTION: (Inaudible), yes. I was in Moscow.

MS. HARF: Well, see, there you go.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Hmm?

MS. HARF: Did the food taste the same?

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.) Exactly, but I remember Yeltsin standing there with his grandson right in line. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Really? But there were huge lines, and it was this great symbol of what was happening in the world and the fact that McDonald’s was opening in Russia. Obviously, things are different now, but let me see if there’s anything new to update you on there.

QUESTION: Yeah, just like whether you see it as like a coordinated kind of retaliation to U.S. sanctions.

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to Saudi Arabia?

MS. HARF: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: The Saudis --

MS. HARF: That’s my new favorite fact about you, though – (laughter) – that you were there. I like that.

QUESTION: I’ve been in a lot of places. (Laughter.) Anyway, so the Saudis – a Saudi court sentenced a Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, to death for disobeying the guardians, which in this case, the monarchy. That’s what it means. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, Said, I hadn’t seen that.

QUESTION: Would that something --

MS. HARF: I’ll get you a comment after the briefing.

QUESTION: Would that – something that would cause you to have comment?

MS. HARF: Without knowing the specifics, I don’t want to comment one way or the other, but I’ll get you something after the briefing.

QUESTION: Because it is likely to stir up a lot of trouble, especially in the eastern sector where the oil is.

MS. HARF: Where many of the Shia are.

QUESTION: Where the Shias are.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And where the oil is and so on.

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: But don’t you think that this – for – to sentence him to death for incitement and not obeying the guardians, which is in Arabic – those who are – who rule you. That’s what it means. Is that a bit excessive?

MS. HARF: I really would like to see the details before I comment.

QUESTION: But you would consider that sentencing someone to death for what he says is basically excessive?

MS. HARF: Well, let me look at the details of the case, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Philippines?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A Marine is in custody for killing a transgender Filipino.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Assuming charges will be filed, if they are, is the U.S. prepared to hand over the Marine to Philippine custody?

MS. HARF: Well, there has been no indictment yet – just to make sure people were on the same page here. My understanding is that under Philippine law, a person is considered charged upon the filing of indictment in court. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet. There has been superb coordination between the U.S. and Philippine authorities on this case. We can confirm that a criminal complaint in the Philippines has been filed. A number of subpoenas have been issued, so we will continue to cooperate on this. Obviously, we’ll coordinate closely on this with them going forward. I don’t have any more specifics, though, before an indictment is issued.

QUESTION: Okay. So you couldn’t say if the U.S. is prepared to hand him over to Philippine custody --

MS. HARF: Well, any --

QUESTION: -- if he is indicted?

MS. HARF: Any offenses would be handled in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which I know is a DOD thing, and I don’t want to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: Does he have immunity?

MS. HARF: I can check, Lara, but I --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I think anything will have to be in accordance with the agreement we have with them to have our folks there.

QUESTION: How do you expect this to affect some of the U.S.-Philippine military agreements? I know there’s been some tensions recently and some questions. The U.S. is trying to step up some troop rotations through the country.

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly share a long history of close security cooperation, bilaterally; do not want this in any way to affect that; will continue to coordinate closely with the Philippines, which, as you all know, is a treaty ally, to determine the schedule of future military exercises, and how we will continue working together. But we are very committed to this relationship.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Anything else?

QUESTION: One more on Japan?

MS. HARF: One more on Japan and one more on Yemen, and then everyone can begin their weekends. Yes.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe had a meeting with President Putin in Milan. So what’s the reaction of U.S.? And also, they agreed to have another meeting in Beijing at the occasion of APEC.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, I think, to a related or similar question, we believe the countries in the region should talk, and work together, and have better relationships, if they can. I don’t have more comment than that.

Yes, Yemen.

QUESTION: Yeah. President spoke with President Hadi today expressing the U.S.’s support for his continued governance. What more is the Obama Administration prepared to do to help the Hadi government against what seems to be this relentless push by the Houthis to, essentially, take power?

MS. HARF: Well, since the beginning of their transition in 2011, we have taken a number of steps to help the government: more than $800 million in assistance to Yemen to help with their transition, including things like the National Dialogue, including humanitarian assistance, economic reform assistance, things that can help them with governance.

We know there are continued challenges, certainly, when it comes to the Houthis. There is a substantial Houthi presence in parts of the country, but have again called on all parties to abide by their agreements, the Peace and National Partnership Agreement and to work together peacefully to resolve those issues.

QUESTION: And are there any specific forms of assistance regarding AQAP?

MS. HARF: Anything new? I mean we’ve certainly worked very closely in the counterterrorism realm on AQAP, 275 million to help build their CT capacity of their security forces. This is a threat we’ve worked together on very closely, and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Do you have a clearer idea now about the Houthis’ intentions in Yemen?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I’m the one to probably comment on what their intentions are. That’s probably not my place. But they’ve clearly continued to advance. That advancement violates the agreement they signed on to on September 21st. So we, of course, want them to get back in line with that agreement.

QUESTION: And despite the aids that the U.S. has provided to the Yemeni army, the army didn’t resist to the Houthis’ advance. How do you view that?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a challenging environment, and we continue to help them build their capacity, and we’ll keep working with them.

QUESTION: President Hadi, or people close to President Hadi, are saying that the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is actually working very closely with the Houthis. Do you have any idea --

MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:08 p.m.)

DPB # 176


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 16, 2014

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 18:07

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 16, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

Joint Daily Press Briefing with Spokesperson Jen Psaki and Rear Admiral John Kirby

1:16 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. So, happy Thursday. First, I want to, of course, welcome Rear Admiral John Kirby to the State Department. We don’t think this has been done before, although many of you have been a part of this much longer.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, look, Matt, the historian. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It’s unprecedented, actually.

MS. PSAKI: And some of you have asked --

QUESTION: With these two, maybe.

MS. PSAKI: With us.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the idea.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Before – and some of you have asked why we’re doing this jointly today, so I thought I would touch on that first. We actually had a conversation about doing a joint briefing --

QUESTION: Sign of the times.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a sign of the times, Said. Thank you. We had a conversation about doing a joint briefing a couple of months ago. We work together on so many issues, whether it’s ISIL or Ebola, through the interagency, but we also work very closely together, and there was a great deal of overlap, so we also actually thought it would be pretty useful to you guys, and if it’s helpful and if you treat him well, maybe he’ll come back. We’ll see.

So – and I have one other item just at the top for all of you. Secretary Kerry will travel on October 20th to Jakarta, Indonesia, to attend the inauguration of His Excellency Joko Widodo, President-elect of Indonesia. While in Jakarta, the Secretary will also hold several bilateral meetings with foreign counterparts. He will then travel to Berlin, Germany, where he will meet with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier to discuss regional and international issues, and in advance of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

With that, I think you have one item at the top as well.

RADM KIRBY: Thanks. Thank you. Thanks, Jen. Thanks for welcoming me over here. As Jen said, this is something we’ve been talking about for a long time. We just work together so closely every single day that we thought this was a good idea. And now I’m going to beg her to come over to the Pentagon and do it in our briefing room as well. So that’ll be the next iteration of this.

I just want to update you on – quickly on two military operations that the Defense Department has been focused on in recent weeks: our efforts against ISIL, of course, and our efforts in the Ebola response in West Africa.

With regard to the counter-ISIL effort, Operation Inherent Resolve – we just officially unveiled that name yesterday – U.S. forces conducted 14 airstrikes near the town of Kobani yesterday and today. Initial reports that we’re getting from Central Command indicate that those strikes successfully hit 19 ISIL buildings, two command posts, three fighting positions, three sniper positions, one staging location, and one heavy machine gun. Very precise targeting. With these airstrikes, we took advantage of the opportunity to hit ISIL as they attempt to mass their forces and combat power on the Kurdish-held positions – or portions, I’m sorry, of Kobani. While the security situation there does remain tenuous, ISIL’s advances appear to have slowed and we know that we have inflicted damage upon them.

On our response to Ebola in West Africa, Operation United Assistance, our forces on the ground in Liberia continue to make progress in setting up infrastructure and facilities to support the international response. Setup has been complete on the 25-bed hospital, and we expect it to be fully operational, with U.S. public health service medical workers taking responsibility for that unit next week. Meanwhile, personnel from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center continue to operate three mobile medical labs, which provide 24-hour turnaround results on samples. To date, they have processed more than 1,200 total samples. And lastly, construction continues on the Ebola treatment facilities with the first expected to be completed by the end of the month.

And I want to emphasize, again, that no U.S. military personnel will be providing direct patient care to the local population. As my Pentagon colleagues have heard me say many times, we’re focused on four lines of effort and only four lines of effort: command and control, logistics support, training, and engineering.

With that --

MS. PSAKI: All right. Well, as we typically do, we’ll stay with one topic. We talked about this, so let’s try to do that if we can. I know yesterday was a little wild and wooly.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m looking forward to this. Double the pleasure, double the information, I hope. Right?

MS. PSAKI: Double the fun.

QUESTION: Double the fun.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I just have one logistic question about this briefing. Are you, Admiral, going to be staying for the whole thing or are you going to leave?

RADM KIRBY: That depends on how --

QUESTION: All right, because I have a question that’s not related to either Ebola or ISIL for you.

RADM KIRBY: No, I’ll be here.

QUESTION: Okay.

RADM KIRBY: I’ll be here the whole time.

QUESTION: All right. So let’s start with Kobani then. So in your comments just now in talking about the progress that the operation has made --

RADM KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- does this mean that saving Kobani from falling has now become a priority in the campaign?

RADM KIRBY: Well, we’ve been focused on Kobani for a long time. This isn’t the first day that we’ve done strikes there. We’ve been doing them for a long time. What makes Kobani significant is the fact that ISIL wants it. And the more they want it, the more forces and resources they apply to it, the more targets that are available for us to hit there. I said it yesterday, keep saying it: Kobani could still fall. Our military participation is from the air and the air only right now, and we’ve all been honest about the fact that air power alone is not going to be able to save any town in particular.

QUESTION: Right. But you and other officials, including Jen, have said in the past that – or indicated, and Secretary Kerry has as well, that losing Kobani or Kobani falling to ISIL is not a huge strategic loss, and now it seems like you’re really ramping up the effort to keep it – to prevent it – to prevent it from falling. And I’m just wondering, has the decision been made within the Administration that the propaganda or other symbolic – a symbolic victory in Kobani would be too much to stomach, from your – an ISIL victory in Kobani would be too much?

RADM KIRBY: I think we’ve been pretty consistent about the fact that we need to all be prepared for other towns and other cities to fall too. This group wants ground. They want territory, they want infrastructure. We all need to be prepared for them to continue to try to grab that, and succeed in taking it. There’s been no strategic shift here as far as I know, at least from the military perspective, about Kobani or any other town. What we’re trying to do in Syria – and this is an important point, Matt – in Syria we’re trying to deny safe haven and sanctuary. They want safe haven and sanctuary in Kobani; we’re trying to help not let that happen.

So Kobani matters from that perspective. It also matters tactically because, as I said, they’re putting more resources to the fight, so there are more targets. We’ve killed several hundred of their fighters in just these strikes in and around Kobani. It would be irresponsible for us not to try to target them in a more aggressive way as they become more aggressive around Kobani itself.

And the last thing is, frankly, it’s an issue of balancing resources. One of the reasons you’ve seen additional strikes in the last couple of days is because we haven’t been able to strike quite as much, quite as aggressively inside Iraq. There’s been terrible weather there, sandstorms this time of year. It’s made it very hard for us to get intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms up over to see what we’re trying to do in Iraq. So we’ve had resources available that we might not have otherwise had available to strike them there in Kobani. Does that answer your question?

QUESTION: Yeah, I think so.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I follow on that? Elise Labott with CNN. Welcome.

RADM KIRBY: Hi.

QUESTION: Yesterday, General Allen said that the increase in airstrikes in Kobani was for humanitarian purposes, and it sounds like now you’re saying that there’s more of a target. Rather than humanitarian aspects along the lines of what you did with the Yezidis, it sounds like this is more – you have more targets of opportunity.

RADM KIRBY: It is that. There’s a humanitarian component to it, no question about it.

QUESTION: Well, there wasn’t last week. I mean, it didn’t seem last week that there was.

RADM KIRBY: No, there’s a – there was a humanitarian component to it. But we don’t estimate that – right now, we think there’s hundreds, not thousands, of citizens remaining in Kobani. It fluctuates and it changed, but we believe most of the population is out of there. That doesn’t mean they’re out of danger, though, and so there is a humanitarian component to this. If we can help the Kurdish militia keep Kobani – keep ISIL out of Kobani, then you by default are helping protect the population that remains there. And so there is a component to it.

QUESTION: So is it more now that you feel that as long as you have targets, you’ll continue to strike them, or is it now you’ve made the decision that come hell or high water you’re going to make sure that this town doesn’t fall?

RADM KIRBY: We are going to continue – I think it’s a great question. We are on the offense against these guys. There’s this narrative out there that they’re opportunistic and they’re adaptive and they’re agile. Nobody is more opportunistic or agile or adaptive than the United States military, and so we’re going to continue to go after them wherever they are and wherever we can.

There’s going to be a limit, though. You can’t just hit every place you know them to be, because we do – unlike them, we have to be discreet and discriminant about collateral damage and civilian casualties. So we’re going to hit them where we can, where we can do it effectively, have an effect on their ability to sustain themselves and to operate, but without having a bad effect – a negative effect – on the surrounding population.

QUESTION: But it’s – but you said it still could fall and that --

RADM KIRBY: Yeah --

QUESTION: -- wouldn’t mean that your goals weren’t achieved.

RADM KIRBY: That’s – our goals have not changed with respect to going after ISIL in Syria or in and around Kobani. And I said it yesterday, I’ll say it again: That town could still fall. We all need to be prepared for that possibility.

QUESTION: So how much have you actually stepped up airstrikes over the last week?

RADM KIRBY: Around Kobani?

QUESTION: Yeah.

RADM KIRBY: Well, I mean, it’s been – there has been an increase. And I couldn’t give you a percentage right – number right now, but there has been an increase, again, because they have massed their sources – their resources around Kobani. They have presented more targets. I mean, just look at some of the targets I read off: a machine gun position, a sniper position. They – that tells you a couple of things. One, they’re getting very tactical themselves in terms of the resources they’re applying to trying to take that town, which know they want and we think it’s – a lot of it has to do with propaganda value.

But it also tells you how precise we can be with these airstrikes and how effective that we can be. So there has been – the math bears out: There has definitely been an increase over the last couple of days, but it has been more a function of the targets that they have presented and our ability to go get them.

QUESTION: Does any of this --

MS. PSAKI: Can I – let’s just do one at a time --

QUESTION: No, I just want to finish this questioning.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: How much of this has got to do in that you’re filling in for Turkey, for example, that hasn’t stepped up to help on this? Number two, you’ve got a group in Turkey at the moment working on trying to bring the Turks into this. How far have you got on that process?

RADM KIRBY: Let me answer the second one first, and that may actually help me with the – with your first one. The team is wrapping up now. It was a joint team from U.S.-European Command and Central Command. Today was the last day in their – I think they’ve left already. I haven’t got a complete readout, but from what I understand before I came over here that the discussions went very, very well, and it did – they did center around looking for other ways and other contributions that Turkey can commit to this.

There’s no question that Turkey – first of all, it’s an ally. There’s no question that they are going to be a partner in this effort. But as we’ve done with every other country – and there’s more than 60 of them involved – they have to determine what those contributions are going to be. They have to announce them, they have to decide them, and we’re going to respect that. But the discussions were positive, we think, and our team’s coming away with, I think, a general good report here. But I wouldn’t get ahead of anything Turkey may or may not do.

To your first question, this isn’t about substituting for Turkey. We’ve been – again, we’ve been flying airstrikes now in Syria for over a month, and they have been, again, designed to get at this group’s ability to sustain itself, to get at the sanctuary. With or without Turkey flying airstrikes, I think you can expect the U.S. military to continue to do that.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go one at a time. Jim, go ahead.

QUESTION: Admiral Kirby, I just wanted help with the math, because we’ve done the math, and Kobani’s now had 122 total strikes since the start of the air campaign, and that’s more than any other target in Iraq or in Syria. Second most for some time had been the Mosul Dam, which was a key strategic target and a key victory, in your words and the words of other U.S. officials. But you and other U.S. officials have said Kobani is not strategic – a humanitarian target, as described by General Allen yesterday. What are the strategic targets, then, in Iraq and Syria? And why isn’t the U.S.-led coalition striking them more, if – particularly as you’re focusing so much air power now on what has been repeatedly described as not essential to victory?

RADM KIRBY: Well, I don’t think we’ve ever said it was not essential to victory, and I don’t think I ever said it didn’t have any value.

QUESTION: You have said it’s not strategic.

RADM KIRBY: It is not --

QUESTION: I said “other U.S. officials.”

RADM KIRBY: It is – it matters to us for two reasons, and I’ve said this before: One, because it matters to them and they want it, and there is a humanitarian component to that. There’s still a population that lives there, small though it may be. And number two, it matters because that’s where they are. And so I think it’s important, Jim, to remind everybody about sort of how this strategy has taken form. It is, as Chairman Dempsey described, an Iraq-first strategy – not Iraq only, but Iraq first. And so most of the strikes you’ve seen – and there’s been nearly 300 of them – of the 500-plus that we’ve conducted have been inside Iraq, not in Syria.

They have been largely getting at their ability to operate, because Iraq is where they’re operating. Iraq is – that’s the ground they want to hold. And so when you see us strike targets there, it’s largely in support of the Iraqi Security Forces who are going after them inside Iraq – more tactical strikes. In Syria, if you take a look – and you’re right, there’s been a lot of strikes in Kobani, dynamic tactical strikes – but there’s also been almost an equal number of total strikes against fixed facilities, command and control, finance centers, oil refineries, fixed sites. I mean, just these – the ones I just announced where 19 buildings got hit. So it’s not just about going after sniper positions. It’s a combination of what we would call dynamic targeting and more strategic targeting inside Syria, because the goal inside Syria is to get at their ability to sustain themselves.

So the strategy – you have to take a look at this writ large. I know the implication of the question: “You got a hundred-plus strikes in Kobani and yet you’re saying it doesn’t matter.” We never said Kobani didn’t matter. What – again, what makes Kobani matter for us from an airstrike perspective is that they are there and that they want it.

QUESTION: The question is not just about the focus on Kobani, because it’s also about the quality of targets elsewhere. Because if Kobani – strategic or not because I have had Administration officials tell me it’s not a strategic priority – but let’s separate that for – just for a moment, because it’s not just about “Why Kobani?” It’s “Why not more elsewhere,” where – particularly if it’s Iraq first.

And there are strategic targets. Why all the air power there and – because it gets too – are you – you’re running out of targets. Is target quality declining? Is it hard to find the right targets? Have they changed their behavior?

RADM KIRBY: Well, it’s not declining around Kobani. I mean, the – your question gets at what we would consider or we’d call strategic patience. That’s what needs to happen here. Everybody needs to have a sense of strategic patience. Airstrikes are dynamic, they’re exciting, you can count them, you can get great video of them. I understand the drama around airstrikes, but we’ve said (a) airstrikes alone are not going to do this, military power alone is not going to do this, and it’s going to take some time.

So I think there’s this heavy demand for “Why aren’t you doing it elsewhere?” Well, give us time and I think you’ll see we’re going to continue to put pressure on these guys. I’m not going to – I can’t, from the podium, sort of preview future operations, but I can assure you that Kobani’s not the end here. There will be more strikes in more places against more targets.

Now, to your other question, I just want to address this issue of numbers of targets. They change. Targeting is – every day it changes, and it’s – there are days when there – it is a more target-rich environment. The last couple of days in particular around Kobani have been. There are days when it’s not so much a target-rich environment. In Iraq, they have definitely changed the way they operate in the ground. They’re dispersing more, they’re hiding more inside the population, they’re making it harder for us to find them, they’re also changing their communications.

That’s not altogether a bad thing, though, Jim, because if they’re not operating as freely, then they’re not as free to achieve the goals they’re trying to get at. So this isn’t – I hate to use this phrase, but it’s not whack-a-mole. We’re not going after this – the idea isn’t to just put a warhead on a forehead every single day. The idea is to try to get at their ability to sustain themselves and to disrupt their strategy.

QUESTION: Admiral?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s go one more time. Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Admiral, you cited very specific targets. Now, are you reliant to – in determining these targets, are you reliant on air intelligence, or do you have assets on the ground in terms of determining where these facilities or targets are?

RADM KIRBY: One of the --

QUESTION: How do you go about determining?

RADM KIRBY: One of the things I never do is talk about intelligence matters from --

QUESTION: I guess that leads me to my next question.

RADM KIRBY: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there – do you foresee any time in the future in Syria – not in Iraq – where U.S. personnel, advisor personnel, are actually on the ground, they can call in these airstrikes and perhaps have better, more precise targets in Syria?

RADM KIRBY: We don’t foresee that need right now.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t see any kind of ground interference in Syria, at least on the part of the United States of America --

RADM KIRBY: The President --

QUESTION: -- whether in coordination with the Syrian forces or not?

RADM KIRBY: All right. The commander-in-chief’s been pretty clear there’s not going to be a return to U.S. ground forces in a combat role in this effort. That said, we do have 12 advisor teams that are working with the Iraqi Security Forces at a very high level, brigade or division level, inside Iraq. They are not going out into the field. They are not accompanying Iraqi troops. They are simply offering advice and assistance at a headquarters level – seven in Baghdad and the other five are up near Erbil. I do not foresee any instance in which we would put ground troops inside Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Ali.

QUESTION: Can we ask about – going back to the joint military group that just left, what is the state of the discussions about the uses the United States can employ for the bases in Turkey that the U.S. has control over such as Incirlik? Where do those discussions stand? Have they decided to allow the United States to launch military strikes? Can you explain where that stands?

RADM KIRBY: I really can’t go much further than I did before. The team just wrapped up. We expect we’ll get a readout here today on how it went. I’m just told that the discussions were positive, but I don’t have anything to announce from today – or here today. And again, we would defer to the Turkish Government to make whatever announcements they would make on decisions they might make.

MS. PSAKI: And I will just add there are other uses than airstrikes for some of these facilities as well, so I would just keep that in mind.

QUESTION: Sure, and there seems to – there is some reporting that says that the discrepancy may be between airstrikes and unmanned aircraft. Anything you can say to whether that’s under discussion as well and whether that’s something that the United States and Turkey came to an agreement on?

RADM KIRBY: I just wouldn’t go beyond what I’ve gone – what I’ve said so far.

MS. PSAKI: Margaret, and then we’ll go to Ellen in the back.

QUESTION: A quick follow-on on that and then a different question. When you say “very, very well” in terms of these meetings, does that mean there’s a timeline now since Turkey has already committed to train and equip? When you say “positive,” does that mean there actually has been progress there – using perhaps some of these facilities?

RADM KIRBY: Well, again, I don’t want to get ahead of this group in what they’re going to say when they finish or the Turks. I just – I wouldn’t get ahead of that right now.

QUESTION: The other question is about the security of Baghdad. There were four suicide bombings today. There was also a mortar strike in a Shiite neighborhood. I mean, suicide bombings are signature ISIS moves. Do we have any U.S. assessment as to whether these attacks were carried out by ISIS and what, generally speaking, the U.S. view is in terms of the security and stability of Baghdad right now?

RADM KIRBY: I don’t have any claims of responsibility for those attacks. We’re certainly aware of those. It’s not the first time in recent weeks or even months that there’s been IED attacks inside Baghdad. That said, and I said this yesterday, we do not assess that the capital city is under imminent threat right now. There are not masses of formations of ISIL forces outside the – Baghdad about to come in. The other thing that we’ve been very clear about is the Iraqi Security Forces continue to stiffen their defensive positions in and around the capital in a very competent, capable way. And so right now we believe that Baghdad is safe from imminent threat. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be acts of violence every now and then. I mean, that happens in any major city. But we don’t believe that Baghdad is under imminent threat.

QUESTION: Suicide bombings are a step beyond acts of violence.

RADM KIRBY: I understand that. I wasn’t trying to minimize it. I’m just saying that we don’t anticipate that – we don’t believe – we don’t assess that Baghdad’s under imminent threat.

QUESTION: Can I just do a quick – a very quick follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, but I’d like to finish Turkey, too. So do you have one on this or --

QUESTION: Yeah. No, specifically on what – Margaret’s question: Are you concerned that these increased suicide attacks are an effort to sow the kind of sectarian tensions that al-Qaida in Iraq, or whatever you wanted to call it at the time, which was the seeds of ISIS, were doing in 2006, 2007? Because that’s exactly what you’re trying to prevent with this new Iraqi Government and you’re trying to improve sectarian tensions.

RADM KIRBY: Do you want to take it?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’ll start. I mean, I think what we’ve seen over the course of the last several months is that ISIL has certainly tried to sow sectarian tensions by doing things like attacks and threatening certain areas and communities, and trying to, of course, garner the support from Sunnis and others. And obviously, what the prime minister is focused on now and has been for the past several months is trying to reach out, and he’s actually done a number of things to reach out to not only Sunni tribes but leaders in different areas to kind of push back and offer a different alternative to the sort of sectarian tension that ISIL is trying to create. But certainly, that’s been one of their strategic objectives from the beginning.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, if they continue these attacks against Shiite targets, it’s – I wonder how long the Shia militias are going to be patient and hold back?

RADM KIRBY: Well, there’s no question that they – that sectarianism is a part of their strategy here, and sowing those tensions is certainly something they’re after. There’s no question about that. But we’re working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces; they understand that threat. They said they are stiffening their defenses of the capital city, and I might add – Jim and I have talked I don’t know how many times this week about Anbar – they are operating, they are fighting hard inside Anbar, in what is a very contested environment. But they understand the sectarian element of this. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to get easier, but they understand it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just – okay, let’s finish Turkey, Said. Said. Let’s finish Turkey.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Good to see you here, Admiral. The Prime Minister Davutoglu clarified today about the proposal of Turkish Government on the safe zones in – within Syria, and he gave seven major areas: Latakia, Idlib, Aleppo, Jarabulus, Kobani, Tel Abyad, and al-Hasakah. I know that I don’t – you don’t have any readout yet on the joint team on the ground, but do you have anything to share with us on the Prime Minister Davutoglu’s proposal, specifically on the safe zones?

RADM KIRBY: No, I don’t. Now, I don’t with respect to those areas you just talked about. But if you’re talking a buffer zone – is that what you’re referring to? We’ve long said that we continue to be willing to discuss the issue of a buffer zone with the Turks and we mean that. That said, there are no active military plans right now – U.S. military plans to enact one. Doesn’t mean it’s – doesn’t mean that we’re not still willing and open to talking about it.

QUESTION: Just on the terminology: Turks are using the term of safe zones, but the U.S. side is always using the buffer zone. Is there any difference between the two?

RADM KIRBY: I can’t – all I can tell you – all I can do is speak for what we say. In the Pentagon, we say buffer zone. I --

QUESTION: And --

RADM KIRBY: I don’t know that there’s a big difference.

QUESTION: And you gave two reasons on the increased – at the airstrikes in Kobani. First one is presented targets and the second one the ability to get in of U.S. forces. On the first one, do you have any estimate about the ISIL forces on Kobani right now?

RADM KIRBY: How many that are there?

QUESTION: Yeah.

RADM KIRBY: No, we don’t have a good estimate.

QUESTION: And on the second one, what change at the ability of U.S. forces to conduct these airstrikes in Kobani? Do you have, for example, more cooperation with the ground forces there?

RADM KIRBY: I’m not going to get into the – as I got asked before, I’m not going to talk about intelligence matters or any specifics with respect to the information that leads us to do good targeting. But they have presented more targets, and we have had, due to other conditions, including the weather, we’ve had more resources that we can apply. But again, they are presenting more targets. They are there in more – with more force and in more numbers, and therefore they are more vulnerable and we’re taking advantage of that.

QUESTION: General Allen said yesterday there is no informal relations with SS – FSA. Is that the case with the PYD, too?

MS. PSAKI: I think, one, on the FSA, I would – that’s not exactly what he said. What he said yesterday is that our effort is focused on improving and increasing the military capabilities of the opposition in Syria, and certainly, there’s the train and equip program, we’ve provided them a range of assistance; that’s a priority. Obviously, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in that regard, and ultimately they’re going to be the troops on the ground and the forces on the ground. But if we do that and if we’re successful at that, ultimately we share an objective with Turkey and many other countries, which is a political solution. So increasing that will help them have a seat at the table and be able to negotiate through a political process.

So actually he met with many Syrian opposition officials when he was just there, so certainly we have an ongoing dialogue with them.

QUESTION: Okay. I asked this question because it’s sensitive in terms of the Turkish Government’s policy, because the PYD and YPG is in difficult position in terms of the relations with Turkey, and you guys – you were a little reluctant to establish this kind of direct --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a separate question. I’m happy to address that as well.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: So as you know, we have for some time had conversations through intermediaries with the PYD. We have engaged over the course of just last weekend directly with the PYD.

QUESTION: First time?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So on this question, they are – they would be eligible, the PYD, for the train and equip program? Or is that --

MS. PSAKI: That was not at all what I was conveying.

QUESTION: No – well, will they --

MS. PSAKI: We have just communicated --

QUESTION: I mean, they’re begging for weapons right now.

QUESTION: Well, and they’re the ones that are really in the lead fighting ISIS.

QUESTION: And I want to know if – is that something that you’re willing to entertain, or is that just out because the Turks would oppose it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that we’re at that point yet, Matt. This has just been a brief conversation with them over the course of this weekend. Obviously, any entity would be vetted. There could be entities that could be vetted through. But beyond that, that process has not --

QUESTION: General Allen --

QUESTION: Hold on, hold. So on the direct contact with the PYD, when and where was it, with whom?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of with whom. It was over the weekend and outside of the region.

QUESTION: But General Allen had said and others have said that this train and equip program could start relatively soon because you know – you have a general idea of who you’re vetting and who you want to give these weapons to. So I mean, you said any group could be vetted. Are you specifically looking at these Kurds that are really right now, specifically in Kobani where you seem to be very interested in, are the ones leading the fight against ISIS? Would they be considered – are they currently being considered?

MS. PSAKI: I should have said members of groups can be vetted. But I don’t know if there’s any more you want to say on the vetting.

RADM KIRBY: No. We’re just at the very beginning of this. It would be --

QUESTION: All these years and you’ve been considering, like, arming the Syrian opposition, and President Obama when he spoke at – was it at West Point or something? I don’t remember what speech specifically it was several months ago that he talked about training and equipping, and right now you’re at the beginning of considering who you would want to arm?

RADM KIRBY: We’re at the beginning of a recruiting and vetting process, and we’ve been very honest about the fact that that’s going to take months. And --

QUESTION: But why is it only starting now, Admiral? I mean --

RADM KIRBY: We didn’t have the authorities from Congress until about a month or so ago to begin a train and equip program, so we just didn’t have the authorities to do it from a Title 10 perspective. So we now have those authorities. We’ve got a team that’s working with the Saudis to try to get a facility up and running, and determine for our own – from our own perspective what resources we need to apply to it in terms of numbers of trainers and that kind of thing. So we’re just at the beginning of this, and it’s going to take some time. Chairman Dempsey said three to --

QUESTION: Well, do you think the Kurds would be eligible?

RADM KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of decisions that we haven’t --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if they’re the ones on the ground with the guns and fighting, do you think that if they’re the ones that are helping going to beat back ISIS, that when the day comes, that they’re – if they’re not part of this train and equip program, that they’re going to just fall into line if you don’t --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, you’re talking about one part of Syria, as we know. We just --

QUESTION: Well, it seems to be a part of Syria that you’re very interested in.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. We just began our – we just began our conversations with the PYD. I’m not – we have – they have not gone that far, and our policy hasn’t changed in this regard. We certainly are aware it’s a question.

QUESTION: Who – was it State or Pentagon? Who met with the PYD?

MS. PSAKI: A State official, yes.

QUESTION: Just – so there was no military component of this meeting. And can you be more specific when you say “this weekend”?

MS. PSAKI: I can check for you which day --

QUESTION: Saturday or Sunday or Monday, since Monday was a holiday.

QUESTION: Do you know who it was?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: And also --

MS. PSAKI: I’m – we’re not getting into who it was, but I can check which day of the weekend it was.

QUESTION: Right. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: And can I also say that I look forward --

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

QUESTION: -- look forward to a briefing with you alone, Jen, where you use the phrase, “Put a warhead on the forehead.” (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I’m now taking that down as a point that we’re just going to start using.

QUESTION: It’s very diplomatic. We’re not used to hearing that kind of thing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s just finish Turkey. Go ahead. Go ahead in the --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: No, there’s no reason to scream. Let’s just go right over here, and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Just to clarify, Prime Minister Davutoglu stated very clearly that in order to let the Incirlik base be used, a no-fly zone and a safe zone needs to be established. This is the understanding. Is this what’s your understanding?

RADM KIRBY: I have not seen the prime minister’s comments, so it’d be premature for me to try to talk to them. Again, we’ve got a team. They just finished up. We’re going to get a readout from them, and we’ll go forward from there. I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

MS. PSAKI: Can I just add one more thing? I think that some – one point that people are missing is the fact that this isn’t just a military conversation with Turkey. They have taken steps. They have let over 170,000 refugees in. They’ve provided access for humanitarian assistance. That’s something General Allen talked about yesterday. That’s significant. Obviously, they’ve agreed to host the train and equip program. So this is an ongoing conversation, but I would just remind you that they’re taking a number of steps that are very useful and productive to the coalition.

QUESTION: One more. Have you asked from Turkey any kind of ground troops for your coalition efforts going forward?

RADM KIRBY: I won’t --

QUESTION: Is this a part of the --

RADM KIRBY: I’m just not going to talk about the details of the discussions that we just had and just wrapped up with. I just – I won’t do that.

QUESTION: And finally, do you expect any kind of military help or aid in terms of Kobani from Turkey? You expect from Turkey any kind of help, military help, regarding that?

RADM KIRBY: We’ve long said that Turkey can be helpful in many ways against ISIL, and it’s up to the Turks to determine what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to say about what they’re doing. We don’t go into these discussions with our coalition partners with a laundry list of specific asks or demands. That’s not what a coalition of the willing is all about. We – Turkey has indicated, long before this – these discussions about exactly what they’ll do and the use of what base, they long ago said they understood they were going to contribute to this. It’s on their border. As Jen said very clearly, they not only have a stake, they’ve been playing a role and have been forced to play a role simply by dint of their geography and their borders. And so we know they’re going to participate. It’s really up to them to determine and characterize what that participation looks like.

MS. PSAKI: They’re – let me just add two quick things. There are reports – and you’d have to check this with Turkey – that they shot back at ISIL targets in Kobani. You should check with them on that and the accuracy of that.

The other thing I would just highlight for you – and you can do your own analysis – is that it may – it’s the case that everybody may not want Turkish troops in that area. So you’re well of that – well aware of that issue.

QUESTION: Just to clarify this direct contact, it is a major policy change, actually. Have you coordinated this direct contact with the Turks?

MS. PSAKI: We have regular conversations with Turkey. I’m not going to get into the specifics of those. I would remind you that we’ve been talking to them through intermediaries for some time now.

QUESTION: But the direct contact was in Syria or in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: It was outside of the region.

QUESTION: And also, the result that you gave regarding these airstrikes, it’s very precise. Should we assume that the result – this precise results, like, for example, even two sniper locations, is a result of this direct contact?

RADM KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to talk about the way in which we do targeting and the information streams that we use to do that. I’m not – I won’t going to talk about that.

QUESTION: And this is for Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Turkey is planning to expel a group of Syrian Kurds who are detained in Turkey right now and who fled the Kobani region and who don’t want to return. Do you have any reaction to this reports?

MS. PSAKI: I actually haven’t seen that report. I’m happy to check into it and see what we have to say about it for you.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. On Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Because General Allen, from this podium --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- said no formal coordination with Syrian Kurds, but seemed to open the door to informal coordination of some sort. What are we talking about here? Is there some target data getting from the Kurds on the ground there to the Pentagon?

RADM KIRBY: Well, Jim, I’m just not going to go into that. I’m just not.

MS. PSAKI: And beyond the targeting piece, which I understand why that’s your area of interest, but this was just one conversation over the weekend. So it doesn’t represent coordination; it represents one conversation.

QUESTION: What would you call it? The opening of a dialogue? Or would you just call it one isolated conversation?

MS. PSAKI: I think that we’ll continue to engage. I don’t have any prediction on the frequency of that at this point in time.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) not YPG. Just to --

MS. PSAKI: PYD, yeah.

QUESTION: Not YPG.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I wanted to go to Anbar. Admiral, you --

QUESTION: I have a question --

QUESTION: One more --

MS. PSAKI: On Turkey? On Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Matt. We’ll go to Matt.

QUESTION: This is a diplomatic question. Are you concerned that Turkey not making it to the UN Security Council is going to have any effect on their willingness to help?

MS. PSAKI: I would say, Matt, that Turkey, obviously, is a member of NATO. They have taken a number of --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. They’ve taken a number of steps over the course of just the last week to advance their --

QUESTION: So you’re not concerned that --

MS. PSAKI: -- cooperation in the coalition.

QUESTION: You’re not concerned that their defeat and their – because they really wanted to be on the Security Council --

MS. PSAKI: I would --

QUESTION: -- and now they’re not on it, having lost to fellow --

MS. PSAKI: I have not --

QUESTION: -- NATO member Spain.

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen Turkey make any comments to confirm your question or to confirm the belief that they’re going to --

QUESTION: Well, there was a vote at the UN.

MS. PSAKI: I understand what you’re asking. I’m saying I have not seen Turkey convey this has – will have an impact on the coalition. I could have been more clear.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Given that U.S. warplanes are dropping bombs on ISIS in Kobani in support of Syrian Kurds, isn’t it time to de-list the PKK as a terrorist organization, since in essence we are fighting with them and their Syrian allies in Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly aware of the connection – some of the connections between some PYD members and the PKK. We have the same concerns we’ve had for a long time about the PKK. There’s no change to our position on listing them as a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Just one quick – quick one on this.

MS. PSAKI: On Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: And nice to see you, Admiral, here.

RADM KIRBY: Good to see you again. You guys are tough. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I have been waiting for you to say something about the role the European Union is playing in this whole setup. And is it true – can you confirm or deny – that the wish list of the Turks, one of them is membership of the European Union?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in – as it relates to the coalition or in general?

QUESTION: Yeah. Where is the role the EU is playing, first of all?

MS. PSAKI: In the coalition?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Do you want to talk --

RADM KIRBY: The EU? I don’t know of a specific EU role, but there are many, many European nations that are joining us in this effort. In fact, some of the earliest partners were European partners, the French in particular, both in terms of conducting airstrikes but also in helping resupply the Kurdish forces up in the north and helping us with humanitarian drops. So I can’t speak to the EU, but I can tell you that so, so many of our partners in this effort from very early on have been European.

MS. PSAKI: And I’ll just echo – just not – again, not just the military piece, but on many --

RADM KIRBY: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- components. They have put in place new laws as it relates to foreign fighters. They’ve given a range of humanitarian assistance. We’re working with European leaders and our counterparts on de-legitimizing ISIL, so they are playing a role in all five lines of effort.

Do we have any more on Turkey? Iraq? Any more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Iraq. Said, do you mind if we give a few others, and then we’ll come back to you?

QUESTION: Sure, yeah. Absolutely.

MS. PSAKI: You’re always very chivalrous. Go ahead, right there. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: On discovery of old abandoned chemical weapons, yesterday Pentagon acknowledged some information. Can you tell us why U.S. Government kept it secret?

RADM KIRBY: Yeah. I appreciate the question, and I can’t state this emphatically enough: There was no effort by the Pentagon or the Defense Department leadership at any time to deliberately suppress or withhold information about these chemical munitions. As far back as 2006, we very openly in Congressional testimony acknowledged the finds of hundreds of rounds of these chemical munitions inside Iraq. And then subsequent to that, 2007 and on, we continued to disclose additional finds as needed.

Now, there were some initial delays between ‘6 and ‘7 – 2006 and 2007 – just in terms of process problems that we had. But there was no intent not to disclose or no intent to suppress information. I think – and I don’t think if you – reading that New York Times story, I don’t think that that was the intent of the reporter who wrote the piece. It was – I think it was more about the issue of the care that these soldiers experienced and the degree to which they might have been told by unit commanders not to talk about it. But there was no effort by the Pentagon, no intent – and in practice, no deed to try to suppress information from the public.

QUESTION: But how do you respond to those who said this finding could prove – serve as a proof to justify the – to invade Iraq? Why did they keep it secret? Maybe they --

RADM KIRBY: But you miss my point altogether. It was never kept secret. As far back as 2006, we acknowledged to the Congress of the United States that we had found chemical munitions. And we also in that same testimony in 2006 made it clear that we believed there would be more, and sure enough, there were more. There were thousands more that were found. And each time they were found and catalogued and collected, we made those disclosures.

Now, since 2009 it’s up to the Government of Iraq to do that, and they have. But thousands and thousands of these munitions were found and destroyed or removed, so there was no – never any nondisclosure of what we were finding with respect to that.

MS. PSAKI: Are these on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s regarding ISIL. Admiral, it’s good to see you here. ISIL – about ISIL capabilities and numbers. Are the numbers increasing or decreasing after all this operation of last few weeks? Because I can see that they are expanding their territory and you are saying they are moving and dynamic. Can you tell us about their – because a few weeks ago, it was a few thousands, and then now is it increasing? And if it’s increasing, how they are crossing borders and from where? This is my first question.

The second question: Finally, you named the operation name yesterday. But it seems that already there are two or three versions of Arabic, as in translation of – what – if you have a official translation of the term that you use for the operation or not.

RADM KIRBY: An official version in Arabic?

MS. PSAKI: This is your opportunity to use your Arabic, so – (laughter).

RADM KIRBY: I have trouble with English. (Laughter.) I don’t know if there’s a – one – I didn’t know there were more than one versions of that.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m just asking. Because already with – you put, of course, the English version.

RADM KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But when they translate it in different Arabic media --

RADM KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- they already have, like, at least two – I read it – different expressions, which is, of course --

RADM KIRBY: What are the differences?

QUESTION: The meaning are different.

QUESTION: The meaning difference. I mean, the --

RADM KIRBY: Do one of --

QUESTION: I mean, one of them is “Ala’zm al Salb” –

RADM KIRBY: Which means?

QUESTION: Which is “complete determination”.

QUESTION: -- and the other, “Ala’zm al Ta’am” which is “complete determination,” whatever, whatever –

RADM KIRBY: Okay.

QUESTION: “Determined resolve” versus “complete resolve.” (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I mean, I’m just asking because --

RADM KIRBY: I learn something every single day in this job. (Laughter.) This is an amazing experience. I don’t know. I don’t know --

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking, by the way, because it was one of the last 10 years problems that face – I was in this town and I know that it was mistranslated or mis-presented or mis --

RADM KIRBY: Yeah. I think – I don’t know the answer to your question, because I just don’t know Arabic.

QUESTION: The second one, I mean.

RADM KIRBY: But right. Actually, I don’t think I know the answer to your first one either, but we’ll get back to you. (Laughter.)

But I can tell you that General Austin and his staff coordinated that name with the coalition partners. I mean, he didn’t need to do that, but he did let them know that this was the name he was thinking about. And they specifically did consider Arabic translation when they developed the name, so this is news to me and I’ll take that back to the Pentagon and we’ll see if we can get you a better answer from Tampa on that.

On your first question, this is not an army in the classic sense, so it is very difficult for us – and we’ve been saying this since the beginning – for us to give precise numbers of their resources in terms of manpower. It fluctuates. They don’t – there’s no conscription. They don’t have service records for these guys, so people come and go from the fight at will. We know that we have had an impact on their ability to man and resource themselves in that respect. We’ve hit training camps inside Syria. I just talked about killing several hundred that we know of in and around Kobani, and that’s just Kobani. So I can tell you that ISIL members – that the career path for an ISIL member is fairly short, and that we’re going to continue to try to make it shorter. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t reconstitute. This radical ideology that they profess is attractive to many, many young men throughout that region – in fact, many young men elsewhere around the world, the whole foreign fighter threat. And we suspect that they will continue to be able to attract recruits. But I couldn’t give you – beyond saying thousands, I couldn’t give you a specific number about how many they’re putting into the field.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. It’s – I’m not looking for numbers more than if still the flow of the people, especially foreign fighters --

RADM KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- are still on or --

RADM KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- it is blocked by Turkey or other countries?

RADM KIRBY: We believe that the foreign fighter threat is very real, very pervasive, and still exists. And I want to just pivot to another larger point here is that that’s one of the reasons why we believe this is going to be a long effort. Over at the Pentagon we’re preparing to be at this for years. This isn’t going to get solved through 18 airstrikes around a particular town and a particular place of Syria. It’s going to take a long time.

MS. PSAKI: But we’ve seen – one thing we have seen is that over the course of the last several months as this threat has increased to the region, a number of countries in the region that maybe perhaps weren’t previously taking steps have put in place laws, have done more to crack down on foreign fighters. That’s a positive. It doesn’t mean that the flow isn’t continuing.

So we don’t have unlimited time, so I’m wondering if we should move on to a new topic.

QUESTION: Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: Ebola?

QUESTION: Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Majority rules. Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) increasing calls for a travel ban from countries affected by Ebola. Is the State Department even considering or talking about this?

MS. PSAKI: We are not. I would – I would remind everybody that all of the medical authorities and experts – WHO, IATA, the CDC – have strongly recommended against bans on international travel and trade because the risk of infection spreading through travel is low and because when balanced with the needs of the world community and the needs to – the need of allowing people to come in and be trained, to get resources overseas, it’s important that we keep a steady level of travel through the process that we have going to date.

QUESTION: Can I follow up there?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The statements that have been made on the Ebola, right, over the last week or so have all proven to be false. There’s been a tendency to try and play things down; there won’t be anybody here who gets it; there won’t be any of the nurses who get it. And we’re seeing that this thing is kind of getting a little bit out of control. Now, there was a conference at Johns Hopkins just a few days ago and there was a lot of different opinions on that. One person, Dr. Osterholm, who’s a well-known expert in the area, said that when you’ve got a concentration – people say that Ebola, you can’t get it through the aerosols; that’s what we know, to the extent that we know anything.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t mean to cut you off, but do you have a specific question?

QUESTION: Yeah. But he --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: He said that when it’s concentrated in that way in Africa, perhaps it will become aerosol transmitted. Now, we’re – it looks like we’re facing a situation that possibly can become something like the Black Death in the 14th century. Why is that not on the top of the agenda for the U.S. State Department, something that’s threatening all of mankind, to bring the countries of the world together, many of whom are not capable of dealing with this thing, in order to have a Manhattan-style project of dealing with that?

MS. PSAKI: I’d appreciate the opportunity to respond, but I’m not entirely sure what your specific question is.

QUESTION: I’m asking about why is this not on the top agenda of the State Department. Why isn’t this going to be the top agenda of the APEC meeting coming up? And why is it not an issue in all our relations with Russia and other countries?

MS. PSAKI: Let me address your question. It is on the top of the agenda for the State Department and for the Secretary of State, for the President of the United States, I would suggest for Secretary Hagel as well. Obviously, there are a range of health officials that we rely on for their recommendations and for their data and for their views on what we should do to update and change things as needed.

And as you’ve seen over the past several weeks, we have put in place additional screening measures. We’ve obviously put in place a range of steps at our embassies. We’ve put travel warnings out to specific countries to American citizens. We’ve provided a range of assistance to countries across Africa. And obviously – I don’t know if you want to talk about some of the things DOD has been doing as well, but --

RADM KIRBY: We’ve been very active. As I said, more than 500 troops down in Liberia right now. We’ve set up an air bridge in Senegal to help logistics flow. We now have Ospreys that are helping speed the delivery of resources, supplies, and troops to some of these very remote areas where these labs are being set up. I mean, there’s places there where there’s not even roads, and where there are roads, it’s mud. So the military has – and we’re going to – we’ve got 540 on the ground now. We could potentially get up to 4,000, and more keep coming every week. So there’s been a lot of effort at the Pentagon on this.

MS. PSAKI: And let me – let us finish. Also, I think – I don’t know if you were here last week, but Secretary Kerry did an entire presentation about how the world community needs to do more. The United States is playing a leading role, providing a great deal of assistance and taking steps to address this as an international community. And we’re leading that effort. So I would refute, basically, the notion of your questioning.

But we also need to provide accurate information and make sure people know how to prevent it, how it is actually passed on. And we have a responsibility to do that as the U.S. Government and not provide a – to start a fear campaign.

I think we have to move on --

QUESTION: Admiral Kirby mentioned --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the very good deployments in Africa. But apparently, you’re working on the basis that this is a level three contagion, and some people are saying – including Dr. Osterholm – this might be level four. So maybe some of the things that you’re doing is not enough, and also would endanger the people because of an underestimate of the seriousness of the situation.

And I’d just like to add, Jen, on this: What if the experts happen to be proven wrong? They’ve said a number of things now over the last few weeks, and those have been contradicted by reality. Are we going to take that as the basis as this thing moves forward? Because I think this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, and somehow more action, and not just nice words and not just addressing the situation, but a lot more action on the ground and coordination, I think, is going to be needed on this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just say I would hardly call the efforts of the United States “just words.” We have been leading the actions as well, and you’ve also seen that we’ve adjusted and changed policies and procedures. The health care community has done that, we’ve done that, the Department of Defense has done that when needed, and certainly, we will continue to do that.

RADM KIRBY: I would just like to add one thing, and that – we know and we are being very careful in the support that we’re providing not to overburden already-burdened infrastructure in Liberia. So when we – and I’ve gotten this question before: “Why aren’t you there in greater numbers and faster?” One of the reasons why is there’s a – there’s only so much impact that Liberia and the infrastructure can take from the United States military. We just can’t go in there lock, stock, and barrel without thinking about the impact on their own infrastructure. So we have to do this carefully, in a measured, deliberate way. But we believe that the kinds of capabilities that we’re contributing in terms of engineering, logistics, and training are exactly the kinds of things we’re really good at doing in an expeditionary environment.

QUESTION: Jen, I just want to --

MS. PSAKI: I just want to make – go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure that I understood your answer to Lesley right.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you say that not only are you not considering and opposed to a travel ban, but the call on the visas – on stopping visa issuance, you’re also opposed to that and you’re not going to change? Is that what – is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And --

QUESTION: Same answer that you gave yesterday when I asked? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Nothing has changed.

Can I just provide one more little element of data on the visa issuance question? There have been reports out there that we are – we issue thousands and thousands of visas in some of these countries in the part of – the West African countries. That’s not correct. Less than 20 people come to each of the consular sections of the embassies in Freetown, Conakry, and less than 50 to Monrovia. These small numbers, combined with the pre-screening in place at each post --

QUESTION: How often? Twenty people how often?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s in about – let’s see – a day, I think. But people are reporting – there are reports out there that there are thousands and thousands of visas. That’s inaccurate. I’m not suggesting anyone in here has, but it’s important information to get out there.

QUESTION: 20 people a day is not nothing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, but I think it’s – that combined --

QUESTION: I mean, if you – but if it’s 20 a day in Freetown and 50 a day in the other two places and you multiply that by every workday, that is thousands of people. Not all of them get a visa, of course, but – I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, the numbers that have been out there have suggested – I will make sure and check it’s by day – but have been far larger than that, and so I wanted to just provide a more accurate accounting of it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Venezuela?

QUESTION: Can we just do one more on Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: Can we just do one more on Ebola?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask why this situation and the discussion of a travel ban is so different from the travel ban that was issued by the FAA a few months ago, when there were bombs raining down on the Tel Aviv airport and there were concerns about the safety of Americans. I – understanding that one was a war zone, one is a medical crisis, but there were similar questions raised at that time about the economic consequences to Israel that a ban on travel could have. So I’m just wondering if you can explain why the situation is so different that a travel ban would not be considered.

MS. PSAKI: They could not be more different, the two situations. I’m not even sure where to start. I mean, the FAA ban, which obviously was decided by the FAA and was in place for a short period of time, related to safety and security issues, is separate from – the view of the health care community or the medical community, which we certainly abide by and lean on, is that it would be counterproductive to put a visa ban in place and that our effort needs to be about allowing for and ensuring the ability for people to fly back and forth to places, with the necessary precautions in place, with the necessary screenings in place, of which we’ve put many new precautions in place over the course of time. I’m not sure we’re talking about an economic impact here. We’re talking about what would be counterproductive to this – what the President has called a national security issue because the health issue is so significant.

QUESTION: But just to put a fine point on it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- what I meant by economic is just the idea that these countries would be isolated so much if we cut down travel. So kind of --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that certainly would be an impact, but the isolation piece is also about being able to provide supplies, being able to train people, being able to track and ensure that we’re going – we’re allowing for a global response to this effort.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you --

QUESTION: Last one on Ebola.

QUESTION: -- if the numbers are so small of visa applicants, how is it going to have such a profound impact if you stop issuing them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we think there’s not – it would be counterproductive even to allow those individuals not to be able to apply. We don’t see a medical benefit to it, so that’s why we haven’t made the decision.

QUESTION: I don’t think it’s on applications. It’s on processing them and giving them.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, anyone can apply for a visa at any time, but --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, you’re right.

QUESTION: -- but if the numbers are so small, as you say, and it’s not the thousands that have been reported, if the – why – I mean, one of these people, if they’re infected, could – has the potential to infect a lot of other people either en route or in the United – en route to or in the United States. So if you have an area of these three countries where there isn’t going to be an economic impact that you just talked about, why not stop the issuance of visas, at least until the situation has gotten better?

MS. PSAKI: Because we think it would be counterproductive to do that. I would pose the question a different way.

QUESTION: Well, you --

MS. PSAKI: If it’s a lower number, why focus on that particular issue as the way to solve the crisis?

QUESTION: Because that’s where it’s coming from. That’s where it came from, right? I mean, I --

QUESTION: It just takes one.

QUESTION: -- I mean, I don’t get it. If it’s not an economic issue, if it’s not going to stop American health workers, American military guys from going there, but it could prevent even a single Ebola-infected person from coming into the – from getting into the United States, why not do it?

MS. PSAKI: Because we rely on the advice and the views of the medical community and we don’t think that that is a productive step to take at this point in time.

QUESTION: Well, you think it’s punitive?

MS. PSAKI: I said “productive.”

QUESTION: I know. You think it’s counterproductive, but I don’t understand how it is that preventing someone with Ebola from coming to the United States is counterproductive.

MS. PSAKI: We’re not talking about preventing individuals with Ebola. We’re talking about if individuals are asymptomatic, they go through a range of screening measures regardless, in addition to the visa process. So it’s not just you get a visa and then you’re allowed into the United States, as you well know. There are screening processes that were announced just a couple of weeks ago that were also put in place as another layer.

QUESTION: It just seems to me that it couldn’t hurt to do this, whereas the – and it might help. Is that wrong?

MS. PSAKI: I think the view of the experts is that it would not be helpful, it would be counterproductive.

QUESTION: Well, Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- one of the reasons that Ebola has worsened was because they shut down that air travel and workers couldn’t get in. Would these --

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. That’s why I touched on that in the beginning.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t – but that – there’s no impact from a visa issue – a ban on issuing visas does not affect flights in and out.

MS. PSAKI: No, but it impacts individuals being able to get back and forth.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So, I mean, if you have to impose even a temporary ban, would that affect health workers – not the military, because the military has its own planes – but other health workers and aid groups getting in and out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no authority. I mean, it’s an interesting question you raise. There’s actually no authority to temporarily invalidate a visa. So there hasn’t been a decision made, as I mentioned, for the reasons you’ve outlined, to change our policies. Obviously, in any scenario, we take steps to protect American citizens, to ensure we’re addressing global – national security crises like this, but for all the reasons I’ve outlined we haven’t changed our policy.

QUESTION: Jen, can you – since you told us the number of people applying per day, can you tell us anything on the number of visas actually issued?

MS. PSAKI: I can check and see if there’s more specifics on that, Margaret. I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And we have not – a limited amount of time, so go ahead. Venezuela?

QUESTION: Venezuela, as you know, was just voted for a seat on the UN Security Council. It wasn’t moments later that the jousting began. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power gave a very tough and critical statement of Venezuela, doesn’t really seem to be encouraging cooperation. So can you say what is your reaction to the vote? And I mean, don’t you think as they’re coming on to the council that it might be wise to encourage their cooperation, as opposed to antagonizing them on the first day?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to note that Venezuela ran unopposed, so I don’t know that it was a --

QUESTION: I don’t think it makes a difference. They’re on the council now.

MS. PSAKI: -- anyone was bracing for the results. But we believe, broadly speaking, that all Security Council members and countries aspiring to be members should support the principles of the UN Charter, contribute to the Security Council’s role in maintaining international peace and security, and uphold and advance human rights. Our concerns with regards to Venezuela’s record on human rights and democratic governance are well known. They’ve been communicated directly to them. That doesn’t change because they are now a member of the Security Council.

QUESTION: But I mean, don’t you think maybe it’s – you should work in the spirit of cooperation? You are going to need them for two years on the Council to support your objectives. Or do you just think it’s like a waste of time and you can just already count on not getting their vote for the next two years?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, look, there are a range of – to your point, there are a range of initiatives and policies that the council will take on, and certainly, we may work with them as we work with a range of countries. But I don’t think it changes our concerns about their record, and I don’t think they expect us to change our views either on them.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Admiral Kirby, I want to ask you about some remarks that the Russian defense minister said today. I guess he was responding to a speech that Secretary Hagel gave and he said – I’ll read you the quote – “Chuck Hagel’s thesis on the necessity for the American Army to deal with modern and capable Russian armed forces on NATO’s doorstep is of grave concern,” and he said, “It’s proof that the Pentagon is working on scenarios for operations at the borders of our country.”

He thinks the U.S. military is planning some sort of aggressive action there. Do you want to respond or give some context there? I mean, were those comments made as any kind of threat?

RADM KIRBY: I had – I have not had a chance to see the minister’s comments. But what I – rather than say what it isn’t, let me tell you what the Secretary’s point was yesterday when he gave his speech at the AUSA conference. And that is that the Army, just like the rest of the military, have to deal with two really important environments right now. One is fiscal, the other is security. The fiscal environment is very perilous now. Sequestration is still being held over our heads. And if it remains the law of the land, we don’t believe – and the Secretary said this yesterday – that we’re going to be able to meet the needs of the defense strategy, the President’s defense strategy. It’s that severe, particularly to our readiness accounts.

The other environment is the strategic environment, and that is also extremely dynamic and uncertain right now. And that uncertainty is fed by what President Putin is doing inside and outside Ukraine, and it would be imprudent for us not to be thinking about the kinds of readiness capabilities we need to have throughout Europe, because we have significant treaty commitments through NATO to our allies there. So what the Secretary was referring to was not about – it was not about any – there was no threatening comments in that speech aimed at any one country, but he was speaking very candidly about the threats that we’re facing around the world from a fiscal perspective and from a security perspective, and our need to be ready for it.

And all the services – not just the Army – have got to adapt to this environment. And that’s going to – it takes a little bit of belt-tightening for sure, actually more than a little bit, but it’s also going to take a lot of innovative thinking – and this is what the Secretary was referring to – about how we posture the military going forward. That’s what he was calling for in that speech.

QUESTION: Can I ask you what he meant by calling it “revisionist Russia”?

RADM KIRBY: “Revisionist Russia”?

QUESTION: Yeah. What does that mean?

RADM KIRBY: Well – the Secretary?

QUESTION: Yeah, Secretary Hagel.

RADM KIRBY: I think what he’s referring to there is that there appears to be in their intentions and their motives a calling back to the glory days of the Soviet Union.

QUESTION: All right. He also used the phrase “its army,” meaning Russia’s army, “on NATO’s doorstep.” Why is that? Is it not logical to look at this and say the reason that the Russian army is on NATO – the Russian army is at NATO’s doorstep is because NATO has expanded rather than the Russians expanding? That in other words, NATO has moved closer to Russia rather than Russia moving closer to NATO? Is that not an accurate way to look at this?

RADM KIRBY: I think that’s the way President Putin probably looks at it. It’s certainly not the way that we look at it.

QUESTION: But you don’t think that NATO has expanded eastward toward Russia?

RADM KIRBY: NATO has expanded --

QUESTION: Okay.

RADM KIRBY: -- and the expansion has been a good thing for --

QUESTION: So the reason that the Russian army is at NATO’s doorstep is not the fault of the Russian – or not the – it’s not the Russian army that’s done it. It’s – NATO has moved closer to – moved east.

RADM KIRBY: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t NATO who was ordering upwards of 15 battalion tactical groups to within 10 kilometers of the border with Ukraine, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t NATO who put little green men inside Ukraine to destabilize eastern cities.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m pretty sure that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so unless that’s changed --

RADM KIRBY: It’s not changed --

QUESTION: Okay. So --

RADM KIRBY: -- but I’m pretty sure the movement by Russia is Russia’s decision.

QUESTION: Has NATO – if NATO has moved east, the reason that the Russian army is closer or on NATO’s doorstep is because NATO moved, not because --

RADM KIRBY: NATO is not an anti-Russia alliance. NATO is a security alliance.

QUESTION: For 50 years, it was an anti-Soviet alliance. So do you not understand that --

RADM KIRBY: Where’s the Soviet Union now?

QUESTION: So – well, do you not understand how, or can you not even see how the Russians would perceive it as a threat, and the fact that it keeps getting closer to their border while their troops – I mean, the places where their troops are – you say their troops are, and they may have been in Ukraine and Georgia – are not NATO members?

RADM KIRBY: I don’t have – I’m not going to pretend to know what goes in President Putin’s mind or Russian military commanders.

QUESTION: Okay.

RADM KIRBY: I mean, I barely got a history degree at the University of South Florida.

QUESTION: All right. (Laughter.)

RADM KIRBY: What I can tell you is that NATO is a defensive alliance. It remains a defensive alliance.

QUESTION: Fair enough, but it has moved east, correct? I mean, that’s just a fact.

RADM KIRBY: It has expanded, absolutely.

QUESTION: Right, exactly, and so the reason --

RADM KIRBY: But there’s no reason for anybody to think the expansion is a hostile or threatening move, and we’ve been saying that throughout the last 15 years, Matt.

QUESTION: But no – this is like getting – you’re moving closer to Russia, yet you’re blaming the Russians for being close to NATO.

RADM KIRBY: No, no, no, no.

QUESTION: That’s exactly what Hagel said.

RADM KIRBY: What we’re blaming the Russians for are violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine --

QUESTION: Of Ukraine --

RADM KIRBY: -- and destabilizing the security situation inside Europe.

QUESTION: Okay, which is not a NATO member – which is not a NATO member.

RADM KIRBY: I cede to you on that point.

MS. PSAKI: Other countries feel threatened --

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: -- that are NATO members. But we can just do a couple more.

Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Russian leader Putin today, of course, was in Serbia where he attended a military parade that was recognizing Belgrade’s liberation. In some circles, this is – was deemed as a controversial visit because of Serbia’s EU integration plans. What’s your reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: I hate to disappoint you. I don’t have much of a reaction. We’re aware that he was there. Obviously, there are a range of countries that played a prominent role during World War II. We’re well aware of that. You’re aware, certainly, that Putin – President Putin participated in the D-Day celebration in Normandy earlier this summer as well. It doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements on issues, but on this one, I don’t have much more to add.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: On Palestine --

QUESTION: On India?

MS. PSAKI: India, go ahead.

QUESTION: You must have seen the interview by the Indian diplomat Khobragade on an Indian television channel, in which she nearly accused the U.S. Administration during her arrest and all that. Have you received anything from the Indian Government about it? Because it seems the ministry of external affairs is looking at some disciplinary action because she was not given the permission to – et cetera. Anything that has – is going on between the two countries?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of anything recently or anything through official channels. Obviously, this is a topic that had been discussed, as you know, late last year and early this year. Our focus has been on moving our relationship forward, and Secretary Kerry was there this summer. I think Secretary Kerry was also – I mean Secretary Hagel, I’m sorry, was also in India this summer. We hosted Prime Minister Modi here. So our focus here, through diplomatic channels, is on moving the relationship forward.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do a couple more here. Said, we’ll definitely get to you. Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. North Korea and Syria. It is reported that North Korea has been supported and export chemical weapons to Syria. Can you confirm on that, sir?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports and I don’t have any confirmation of those reports.

RADM KIRBY: Nor do I.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I ask on China, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you, John, for being here for this. Hopefully, it won’t be the last time, but --

MS. PSAKI: Why doesn’t anyone ever thank me for being here? (Laughter.) As if I’m --

QUESTION: But you’re here every day, so --

QUESTION: I’m sitting here --

MS. PSAKI: I am just joking, I’m just joking. I’m glad he’s here, too. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, my question is on the report that the FBI issued a warning to tech companies regarding this new Chinese Government cyber hacking group. I was wondering if either of you have anything you can share on that, to what extent you assess this to be a new threat.

RADM KIRBY: I don’t on that particular case, but as you know, cyber is something that we take very, very seriously over there. We’re constantly looking at that environment and trying to improve our capabilities inside it. It is a significant threat. We have an entire combatant command dedicated just to cyber issues, so it’s not something we ever take our mind off. But I don’t have anything.

MS. PSAKI: And Elliot, I think – and I know you follow this closely, just for others – we, of course, the United States Government has a responsibility to notify victims and potential victims of threats to their networks to enable them to take appropriate defensive actions. That’s something we do on a regular basis. In this case, the United States Government was able to determine that the attackers using the identified malware were affiliated with the Government of China. And so we put out a release yesterday – or I should say not the State Department; the Administration put out a release yesterday that specifically highlighted those issues to make sure that individuals who could have been impacted were aware of the issue.

As you know, on cyber issues broadly we raised – that’s one of the prominent topics of discussion every time we have the opportunity to meet with the Chinese.

QUESTION: Has the – has this new group – the concerns – you mention that it – you know that they’re affiliated with the government, but has concerns been relayed directly to the government about this particular group?

MS. PSAKI: Has this concern been relayed directly to the government?

QUESTION: Of China, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We have a regular dialogue with them. I can check if this specific report was relayed to them.

QUESTION: Jen, is there any indication that – because the FBI release is only for the U.S. companies, business, is there any indication that State Department or DOD or any U.S. Government is compromised?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no. They – obviously, the FBI has the lead on this.

Okay, let’s just do --

QUESTION: Do you know, would that be a topic for the APEC, President Obama’s meeting with the Chinese president?

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly point you to the White House on that. But cybersecurity in general is an issue that we discuss with the Chinese, and I would be surprised if it wasn’t a topic of discussion.

QUESTION: President Obama said he’s going to deal with Ebola with a more aggressive way. So how do you put “aggressive”? And does it mean Pentagon’s going to send in more troops or building more laboratory in Africa?

MS. PSAKI: I think what he means is not just with military assets, but also with doing more to recruit more international support and assistance. You saw Secretary Kerry talk about this last week. It means providing other kinds of assistance from here as well. It means recruiting more doctors. So there’s a range of meanings of that, and certainly, as you know, and I know the White House has or will speak to this, I know the President canceled his trip so that he could be briefed by his necessary officials on this as well.

QUESTION: So at the moment, we know there are two nurses get Ebola – I mean, disease – and we still don’t know why they got that from the patient. And from New York Times, they say infection control experts say many American hospitals have improperly trained their staff to deal with Ebola patients because of – I mean, federal guidelines that were too lax. So how confident or how does the United States, from Pentagon to State Department, really prepare to deal with this situation right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think your question is most appropriately directed toward the CDC. I know Dr. Frieden is testifying today and is probably speaking directly to this. So I would point you to that, unless you have anything to add.

RADM KIRBY: No. The only thing I’d say is – as I said, we’ve got authority to send right now up to 4,000, and we’ve been very honest that that number could grow. It’s possible. We’re committed to supporting the effort from a military perspective with our unique capabilities as much as we can, and that’s a dynamic, fluid situation. And I could not rule out that there could be additional military resources applied or additional capabilities sent forth.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, I just have two really --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I have two – just two really brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this off quickly here. Said, you can do the last one. Go ahead.

QUESTION: One is a non-NATO Russia question, which is about – are you aware of these two American journalists who apparently have been detained in Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I actually have something on that, one moment.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Let me just get their names in here.

QUESTION: And then I have a Bahrain question, but also brief.

MS. PSAKI: Of course you do.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: I told him you might ask about that.

Two American professors of journalism, Joe Bergantino and Randy Covington, were detained for several hours in St. Petersburg today and brought before a judge to answer questions about potential violations of their visas. Both were released with warnings and have returned to their hotel. The two are in Russia for a weeklong series of U.S. embassy-sponsored media training workshops which were scheduled to end tomorrow, and officials from the consulate in St. Petersburg were present at the courtroom and have been assisting the professors.

QUESTION: Was there – does this raise any concerns with you? Are you disturbed by the fact that they were detained, or --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- was there anything – other than – I mean, well, is it problematic for the government, for the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, I think, Matt, obviously they were there to do a training that we sponsored, so I think our preference would have been for them not to be detained, I think it’s fair to say. But they’ve been released. I think we’re ready to move forward.

QUESTION: Are they allowed to leave the country?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: You think it’s – that it’s case closed? So --

MS. PSAKI: We’re ready to move forward.

QUESTION: And then – okay. And then in Bahrain, there are two activists now, human rights activists, including this woman who today ripped up a picture of the king in court, Zainab --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about her or the other guy, the guy --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. We’ve seen reports of Ms. Khawaja’s arrest and detention. We’re following the case closely, and as in any countries, we call on – any country, we call on Bahrain to ensure equal treatment under the law and to advance justice in a fair way. We again urge the Government of Bahrain to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society and to create an environment conducive to dialogue. I think – were you referring to Nabeel Rajab?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: So we understand that his trial will begin on October 19th, so on Sunday. An embassy official plans to attend. As we consistently say around the world, we do not agree with prosecution of individuals for crimes of peaceful political expression. We continue to call on the government of Bahrain to abide by its commitment to be fair – to have fair and transparent judicial proceedings, and we urge the government to drop the charges and resolve the case as expeditiously as possible.

QUESTION: Can I ask a quick one on the Huangs?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: But we have to wrap this up.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And I promised Said the last one, so two – one, two.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. The Huangs’ case is – they have – appeal hearing on Monday.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: What are – are you hoping that they’ll be released at that time?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: What are you expecting out of that, out of that hearing?

MS. PSAKI: I, unfortunately, don’t have any predictions to make. Obviously, we’re following this case closely. We expect an embassy official to attend. We’ve been in touch with the government about this particular issue. We certainly encourage and continue to call on fair treatment and abiding by judicial processes, but I don’t have an update.

QUESTION: And you’ve raised some questions about the case, so do you expect --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, we have.

QUESTION: -- that they should be released because of lack of evidence or --

MS. PSAKI: I can’t make a prediction.

QUESTION: -- lack of fairness in the trial?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t make a prediction of that, Elise. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have any new updates. Those same concerns, of course, remain.

Said, last one.

QUESTION: Very quickly, the Israelis issued an order prohibiting all Palestinian men under 50 from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque, which exacerbated tensions and violence and so on. I wondered if you have any comments. I have many questions on the Palestinian issue, but I’ll keep them till tomorrow. So --

MS. PSAKI: I know you do. We can do this again tomorrow.

QUESTION: Yeah, we will do this again tomorrow. But on this issue, do you have a statement or a comment or anything?

MS. PSAKI: I will check with our team and I’m happy to get you a comment after the briefing.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Admiral Kirby, for joining us.

RADM KIRBY: Thanks for having me.

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

DPB # 175

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 15, 2014

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 19:21

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 15, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:39 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: So we needed a break because I, of course, need a step because I’m particularly short.

Anyway, Matt. I don’t have anything at the top.

QUESTION: You have nothing to start with?

MS. PSAKI: I do not. General Allen provided an extensive topper.

QUESTION: Yes, okay. So really briefly, just – do you have any update on the shooting in Saudi yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have an extensive update beyond what I said yesterday. We have no reason to question the comments, of course, by Saudi authorities. They’ve spoken to what their view is of what happened. In this case, they’re leading the investigation.

QUESTION: Okay. And was it deemed necessary? Did this incident make – did you decide, based on this incident, to do anything – take any specific or – not that you would get – you don’t have to get into the detail, but has there been any change in the security posture in Saudi as a result of this (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: No. All Embassy personnel, including local staff, are safe and accounted for. Of course, we always evaluate, but there isn’t any change in that regard.

QUESTION: Okay. So unless someone else has something on that --

MS. PSAKI: On Saudi?

QUESTION: -- If you want to go on.

MS. PSAKI: On Saudi Arabia? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No? All right. I just want to ask you about – there are reports out of Egypt that Egyptian planes are flying and attacking Islamist militants in Libya, and I’m wondering if you know if this is true. And whether or not you know if it’s true or not, is this something that you think is a good thing or a bad thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen those same reports. You have, Matt. I’m not in a position to confirm reports about airstrikes by foreign governments in Libya. The international community, I would remind everyone, issued a joint statement – or joint statements, I should say – emphasizing that outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition. Libya’s challenges are political and violence will not resolve them, but I’m not in a position to confirm these reports.

QUESTION: Well, it’s fair to say that you would look disparagingly at foreign planes taking military action inside Libya. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, not just the United States, but 13 partners --

QUESTION: Right, but I’m just asking --

MS. PSAKI: -- signed on to a communique.

QUESTION: Right, but you know that the Secretary met with the president of Egypt last – just a couple days ago as well as the Libyan prime minister. These statements have come out, but I just – speaking for the United States, you think that this would be a bad idea if it was happening and you would – would you caution or warn countries against taking such action?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, we would be concerned about outside interference in Libya, which is consistent with the communiques we’ve signed onto.

QUESTION: All right. And then just finally on this, the – one of the people that our story quotes says that they are Egyptian planes but being flown by Libyan pilots. Is that – would that constitute outside interference in the mind of the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think outside interference is outside countries, but I don’t have any other confirmation of what the specific details are.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: So the only – sorry, I know I said it was the last one, but I’m just trying to make sure – I mean, if there were – if this was Libyan pilots flying an Egyptian plane or planes, plural, that would or would not be foreign or outside interference?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any confirmation of it, Matt. If those end up being the details, I’m happy to talk to our team, but obviously, outside interference means outside interference by any country in any capacity.

QUESTION: Right. Well, someone is dropping bombs there, and I don’t think the Libyans have an air force that can do it. So someone is doing it, and you think no matter who is doing it, it’s bad unless it’s the Libyans themselves?

MS. PSAKI: As we’ve said, outside interference we’d be concerned about.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: Just to kind of broaden that out, I mean, while the focus is on ISIL right now, I mean, you have this situation in Libya which is growing more dire by the day. You have a very weak government also in Yemen. I mean, isn’t there a concern that while – that it’s – you’re too closely focused on ISIS and not kind of looking at the broader kind of terrorism problem growing in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I think it’s important for everybody to understand that while we are certainly focused on ISIL and our efforts with the international coalition, look at Secretary Kerry’s schedule over the last couple of days and look at the work by a number of officials that aren’t even at that level but still at a high level. Secretary Kerry had a meeting to discuss Libya. He met with Foreign Minister Lavrov to discuss Ukraine and other issues. We are continuing to work on a range of other issues at the same time while still working with the international coalition. That’s why it was so important to have General Allen and Ambassador McGurk in charge of the coalition on a day-to-day basis.

QUESTION: On the --

QUESTION: But – no, but I mean, isn’t there a concern that, like, things are getting out of control in both countries? I mean, can you talk to the – you just put out another Rewards for Justice for 45 million for eight people in Yemen. I mean, it seems as if there is just as much of a concern there.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we are taking our eye – just because we are focused on ISIL, it doesn’t mean we are taking our eye off on the ball – off the ball as it relates to other terrorist organizations and presences in other parts of the world. Look at al-Shabaab. We just put out a warning in Ethiopia. We are tracking – wherever terrorists are and they threat our interests or the interests – Western interests, we are tracking them and we’re going to go after terrorists where they pose a threat to us.

QUESTION: Can you also – can you just speak to this Rewards for Justice and why now for these eight individuals?

MS. PSAKI: I think we put out some details about this yesterday. Did you have – why now, specifically?

QUESTION: Yeah. Why now, specifically?

MS. PSAKI: There’s a constant --

QUESTION: I mean, is there growing concern about AQAP’s capacity to be able to launch attacks against the United States?

MS. PSAKI: There’s a constant review. I’m not aware of a new threat, Elise. I’m happy to take it and talk to our team and see if there’s anything recently.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah, Jen, on the Libya issue, the Egyptian airplanes are bombing on the side of General Hiftar. Whose side are you on? I mean, how do you figure out who is fighting who in Libya and who are the good guys and the bad guys, in your own terminology?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think, as we’ve said in the past, one, let me just reiterate I don’t have any confirmation or not in a position to confirm details in the reports. We continue to believe there’s only a political solution in Libya. We call on all parties to accept an immediate comprehensive ceasefire and engage constructively in a peaceful political dialogue to resolve the ongoing crisis, abstaining from confrontational acts. But again, I’m not going to go further with you because we don’t have confirmation of details.

QUESTION: I guess my question: Is there a – like a legal standard or is there like a legitimate standard that you recognize as these are the entity that we recognize as the representatives of Libya that you can be on their side?

MS. PSAKI: There are certainly officials from Libya that we speak to, that our ambassador speaks to, the Secretary speaks to, absolutely.

Did you have – do you --

QUESTION: I have one on Libya --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because we had a story yesterday about the self-declared government setting up and taking over the websites of the state administration and the national oil company. Do you have anything on this one?

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that. I’m happy to check into it. Was there a specific question about it or there is --

QUESTION: Well, yeah, I was wondering if you had also – if you can confirm that this is – because it’s – it’s getting – there’s confusion about who’s running the country now. So my specific thing was: Do you also have – I mean, have you figured out what this group is doing? I mean, they did take over in August, as far as we can tell. But in taking over the websites, as – what does this mean?

MS. PSAKI: Let me take a look at the story and I’ll check with our Libya team.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Libya?

QUESTION: Well, just – is it your – I mean – (laughter) – she raises an interesting question. Do you think that anyone is actually running Libya right now?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly do.

QUESTION: You do?

MS. PSAKI: I just want to check on her question about the websites question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yemen.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they’re taking over the national oil company.

QUESTION: I have one on Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Libya related.

QUESTION: It might be a big deal.

QUESTION: He’s talking about (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There was a recent report of a group declaring its allegiance to ISIL in Derna, I believe, in Libya. I mean, what’s your level of concern about the possibility for the spread of ISIS along – in Libya or maybe North Africa, generally?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in one of – not one of your colleagues – I should say another reporter asked yesterday about Morocco. And there are certainly countries that have spoken about their concerns about the threat of ISIL. Many of them are part of the coalition. And so there’s more than 60 countries and entities, as you know, who are part of the coalition, some from Northern Africa. So I think that speaks to the concern about the threat not just to countries directly right next to Iraq and Syria, but certainly throughout the region.

QUESTION: Well, you got the instability in Libya, which is distinct from other parts of North Africa.

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct. But I would point you to the government to speak more about their specific concerns there.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Iran.

QUESTION: On Yemen, Jen, the Houthis have made more progress on the ground in the last couple of days, and they’ve got more provinces without any resistance from the Yemeni army. How do you see these developments?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we spoke about this a little bit yesterday. We’ve, of course, seen the reports about the Houthi presence in areas around the port. We’re not clear on their intentions, and the status in Ibb remains unclear. We do – of course, seizing control of state institutions and territory by the use of force, broadly speaking, is inconsistent with the agreement – the national partnership agreement and must cease. And that’s certainly the message that we are communicating.

QUESTION: And how do you view the Houthis? How are you dealing with them?

MS. PSAKI: How are we dealing with them?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: Because now they are controlling a big part of Yemen and they are part of the government.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned, we don’t have a clear understanding at this point about their intentions. Obviously, we continue to encourage all parties to implement fully all of the provisions of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement. That’s what we’re communicating.

QUESTION: And do you think that the agreement is still there after the military developments during the last week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we still think it is there, but there are pieces of it that have certainly not been implemented, including giving up checkpoints and weapons and pieces that still need to be implemented.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned that President Hadi’s government may fall?

MS. PSAKI: Not – that’s not a concern I expressed, Roz.

QUESTION: Just back to Libya for one second.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who – am I correct in thinking that when you say you certainly do think that someone is running the show in Libya, that that is the person that Secretary Kerry met with --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and his people around him?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: This is the – this is the --

MS. PSAKI: Earlier this weekend, I believe it was.

QUESTION: Right. This is the group that had set up shop in Tobruk?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah? And you think that they actually have control?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we think there are a range of government officials we are in close contact with. It’s a difficult situation in Libya. There needs to be more effort on the political front, and that’s part of what the Secretary is communicating.

QUESTION: All right. And then last on Libya, just the status of reopening the Embassy. Nothing in sight?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. I don’t believe there’s been a change in that status.

QUESTION: I have a question on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: On – let’s just finish Libya. Any more on Libya? Okay, on Iran. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Khalid Azizi – he’s the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran; he’s an Iranian opposition figure. He said that he met with a State Department official form the Near East desk for more than one hour. So my question is: While you are negotiating with Iran over a nuclear program, what level of, like, relationship do you keep with the Iranian opposition figures such as Mr. Azizi?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that meeting. I’m happy to check and see if that took place.

QUESTION: Do you have – broadly speaking, do you have any sort of relationship with the Iranian opposition figures at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see. Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: On Russia?

MS. PSAKI: On – let’s just finish Iran.

QUESTION: On Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Iran and then we can go – we’ll go to Pam and then we’ll go to you, if that’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, is it correct that – and I realize that Marie in Vienna is probably a better person to speak to this – but there’s some indication that there might be another meeting tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: There is another meeting tomorrow that’s happening at the political directors level.

QUESTION: Not – okay. So it’s not – so this thing tomorrow is the political directors and Secretary Kerry still plans to come back --

MS. PSAKI: He’s coming home.

QUESTION: -- tonight?

MS. PSAKI: But they’ll be – I believe there will be – they’ll be reconvening later this evening.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: At his level.

QUESTION: At Secretary Kerry’s level?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you provide – I mean, where things are right now, recognizing that they’re going to be meeting again tonight --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- why is it that – or do you think that there is any progress? Do you think that you’re still on track for November 24th to meet the deadline?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as the Secretary said just yesterday, I believe it was --

QUESTION: Yeah, but that was before the meeting today, so --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We continue to have – I don’t have an update from the meeting. They’ve obviously reconvening this evening because it’s an opportunity to talk through these issues. We still have some tough issues to resolve. That hasn’t changed. But we remain focused on the 24th and our intent is to get a comprehensive agreement by the 24th.

Any more on Iran? Okay, we’ll move on. I promised Pam we’d go next. Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Two questions on Syria. The first one deals with Kobani. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said while the U.S. does not want Kobani to fall, airstrikes alone can only do so much. So my question is: This comes at a time when we have Syrian Kurds that have been begging for international coalition help and providing heavy weapons to help them protect the border town. Does the United States have the authority under its own laws to arm the Kurdish fighters? And if so, will the U.S. move in the direction to do so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our policy hasn’t changed in that regard. Our focus continues to be on airstrikes, which we’ve increased, as you know, over the course of the last several days. And I think what Josh was referring to is the fact that, obviously, there needs to be action on the ground in order to work with the airstrikes or complement the airstrikes and to push back on ISIL. We’ve seen some of that, but clearly more needs to be done. So I’m not going to speculate on legal authority when we haven’t made the decision to do that.

QUESTION: On that topic, Jen. Today, deputy – the prime minister, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that Kobani was empty of civilians – there were no civilians in Kobani, only fighters, about 1,000 fighters. Is that true? Can you confirm that? And if that is true, how does that figure in terms of sort of the bombardment strategy? Would that give the U.S. more latitude to bomb more and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think that’s a reflection of the fact that Turkey continues to – and General Allen spoke to this – continues to allow refugees across the border. And we’ve seen over the course of the last several days more and more refugees continuing to go across the border. I said a couple of days ago that we believe there were very few civilians who were left. I don’t have any confirmation of the number zero or any specific number for you.

QUESTION: But can you confirm that most of the civilian population has already took – has taken refuge in Turkey, (inaudible) Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: I think as we’ve been saying, there were very few left as of a couple days ago.

Any more – let’s finish --

QUESTION: Kobani.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Turkey. Go ahead. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I actually – I have a question about ISIS in Iraq.

QUESTION: Kobani.

MS. PSAKI: Okay – go ahead, go ahead. Sorry, you’re sitting in a different place. It’s throwing me off. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

QUESTION: You just stated that in addition to airstrikes also there needs to be an action on the ground in Kobani. What do you mean by there needs to be action on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not referring to, obviously, U.S. forces. I’m referring to – obviously, there are – there’s work on the ground by the PYD and others to push back on the ISIL threat in that part of Syria. That’s what I’m referring to.

QUESTION: So they are – I think they are doing what they can, but they say they need heavy weapons, and I think that’s the dilemma or the problem now. Are – you are saying that action needs to be done, and PYD says they do what they can but they need heavy weapon.

MS. PSAKI: Our focus remains on airstrikes. We think that is a step that helps push back. As has been noted, there are very few civilians left. I don’t think I have any other update on Kobani than that.

QUESTION: On Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: On Turkey, go ahead.

QUESTION: The Turkish air force conduct airstrikes against the Kurds at the same time they operate in an area closer to what the coalition is conducting airstrike. Are those airstrikes from the Turkish air force coordinated with the coalition? Does United States have a previous knowledge of those airstrikes that occurred in the past and any future airstrikes?

And one more thing about training the opposition. Now, it’s been divided now between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Who’s going to take the lead in training those? Is it going to be a rivalry, going to be competition? What’s the situation?

MS. PSAKI: It’s unlikely, I think, that Saudi Arabia or Turkey would put it that way. As General Allen mentioned, the discussion with Turkey about this, specifically how this will work and the role they’ll play, is ongoing. So I don’t have an exact breakdown and I expect to the degree we give that, it would come from the military.

And relate – as it relates to your first question, I addressed this a bit yesterday. I’m not going to get into any specifics of what we – our conversations with Turkey. Certainly, if they partake in airstrikes or more military action as it relates to the coalition, we would be engaged in that, and that would be coordinated through our military counterparts.

QUESTION: But can I follow up on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Isn’t it odd that you’re having airstrike around Kobani to help the Kurdish while the Turkish air force is hitting the people who are attempting to help the Kurdish.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, where these strikes went from Turkey, as I understand it, is more than 100 miles away from Kobani. We’re talking about – there were reports that – which I still don’t have confirmation of, and you certainly all could seek those – from Turkish officials that they had been struck by the PKK into Turkey, and they were responding to that. That in my – in our view is a separate issue from the coalition and the effort to go after ISIL.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Turkey first?

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Turkey? Any more on Turkey? Go ahead. Ali.

QUESTION: Well, I just have a logistics question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I don’t believe General – he mentioned it, General Allen did, but I may have missed it. Did he say how long that joint CENTCOM, EUCOM team has been in Turkey and how long they will be there, and where exactly are they? Are they in Ankara? Are they in Istanbul?

MS. PSAKI: He did not say. I’m happy to check with DOD and see how long they have been, will be there. Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. And he mentioned also that he was going back out to the region --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- next week?

MS. PSAKI: Later this month. I’m not sure when his exact departure date is.

QUESTION: Okay. So he did not talk about specifics of where and when?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he gave an exact date.

QUESTION: No, he said he’s going next week.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: The Gulf next – did he say next week?

QUESTION: Next week? And do you know – do you have details of --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the details in front of me. I think this trip is still coming together.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on something?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You had said about a week ago that while what was going on with Kobani was horrible and terrible to see, that you were striking strategic targets in Kobani, going after the leaders, and this was more of a kind of strategic operation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, in general, that’s our approach. I don’t think I said that specific to Kobani. Yes, part of it was we were getting convoys and trucks that were in that area, yes.

QUESTION: But today, General Allen seemed to be emphasizing the humanitarian reason that you were going after, which seems kind of – a kind of change in focus as to last week, where Kobani was seen as more kind of trying to tick off Syrian leaders – ISIS leaders in Syria kind of thing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I am not going to get too much into military strategy, but I think, one, our focus in Syria has always been on military leaders, on convoys, on oil refineries, on specific targets that will degrade their capabilities.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So a lot of those haven’t been – they’re all over the place, I should say.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, my DOD counterparts can speak more efficiently to this. In terms of the specifics, of Kobani, I mean, obviously, there is a – there has been a humanitarian challenge there. I don't know that I have anything more to particularly answer it.

QUESTION: But I mean, like, he seemed to be kind of emphasizing the humanitarian nature of the operation similar to the way that the Yezidis and what you did on the mountain was more of a humanitarian operation, not any kind of strategic targeting.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – I don’t – I mean, I think – obviously, I think we can all look at the situation in Kobani and see that the suffering of the people there and the video that we’ve seen has certainly raised humanitarian concerns, but I don’t think I have much more to add to what he said.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. You said that the Turks bombing the PKK was a separate thing from what’s happening in Kobani in terms of military action, but they are obviously related because the conflict is stirring up again because of the PKK’s anger about Turkey’s position on Kobani. How much of a concern is there that the action in Syria is going to destabilize Turkey because of the Kurdish issue?

And then a small follow-up to General Allen’s briefing: Could you clarify the meaning of white space?

MS. PSAKI: The first question, I think – just to clarify a little bit the first question, can you spell that out or can you --

QUESTION: Well, you said they weren’t directly related, right? The Turks were going after the PKK a hundred miles or whatever away from the front line, and that was a different conflict in Kobani. But I mean, there is – they are related to a degree because the PKK is active in Kobani. It’s angry that the Turks aren’t allowing fighters to come across, and so it’s resumed its attacks. So there is a connection of some kind, and how concerned are you that the military action in Syria, especially along the border there, is going to --

MS. PSAKI: In Kobani, in that area?

QUESTION: -- in Kobani, yeah – is going to contribute to destabilization in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I have not heard that concern raised specifically by our people who are working on that issue. Obviously, we’re all seeing what’s happening in Kobani, but there will be – as we’ve said before and as my counterparts at DOD have said, there will be towns that fall as a part of this. I can’t predict for you what’s going to happen there. But this is a larger effort that relates to going after ISIL wherever we face it, and it’s bigger than one town.

And sorry, your second question on white space. As I heard and understood what he said, I think he was referring to – he talked about it in the context of gaining back area. I’d have to check with him and see exactly what he meant. I’m happy to clarify that for you.

QUESTION: Could you? Because white space sounds a lot like a buffer zone, and if that’s – if he’s referring only to Iraq, that might be one thing. But if he’s also referring to what’s going on in Syria, I mean, it would seem to be a concession or a concession – at least a nod in the direction of what the Turks are looking for.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Margaret asked a specific question about the buffer zone or a --

QUESTION: Yeah. White space would – seems to imply an area where there is – there’s nothing, right? Is that not a buffer? Is that not a --

MS. PSAKI: That is, but --

QUESTION: That’s creating a buffer zone.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he was intending to say that we are --

QUESTION: Right. Which is why I think it would --

MS. PSAKI: -- considering that our policy has changed.

QUESTION: Right. But I think that it would be interesting to know exactly what --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But I can confirm for you that that was not the intention of his comment.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish Turkey.

QUESTION: Can we just do one more on Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I want to go back to what Pam asked a few minutes ago about the United States arming, or not arming in this case, the Kurds. Some members of the coalition have, in fact, provided some arms to Kurdish fighters. So I’m just wondering if, as part of the coalition, does the United States view it as contradictory to the policy of the broader coalition if you guys are saying we’re not doing that right now and some other countries are? Is there a – is that a problem? Is that problematic if some countries are doing that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our team, Ali. I don’t believe we see it as an issue, to my awareness. As a policy, we have not changed our position as the United States. But as you know, there are different countries doing different things. There are some countries doing airstrikes in Syria and not Iraq, or Iraq and not Syria. And so there are different decisions that different countries have made.

QUESTION: Right. It just seems like this could be, because it’s an active act, rather than not doing airstrikes in one country versus the other, that you guys might have – take a position on this particular --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not aware of a concern that we have, but I’ll – I’m happy to check with our team on that.

Turkey?

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Turkey. Any more on Turkey?

Okay, Iraq.

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: One thing --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Roz. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. One thing I noticed in the Secretary’s comments overnight was the discussion he had with secretary – with Foreign Minister Lavrov about helping to train Iraqi Security Forces. What more details do you have about this – what appears to be the first time Russia has offered to actually provide some concrete help in the fight against ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: I think – obviously, the Secretary read this out quite extensively yesterday during his press conference. I really don’t have additional details to brief from here. Certainly, as is the case with many countries, there’ll be an ongoing discussion with Russia about their contributions and what role they may play.

QUESTION: Just one --

QUESTION: Is it significant, though, that even though the U.S. and Russia have had many disagreements about the civil war inside Syria, that in the U.S.’s view, Russia sees ISIL enough of a threat to be willing to come into this coalition at least in this part of the ongoing campaign?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I would remind you and everybody that there are certainly areas where we have disagreed, and clearly there have been areas where we have very firm principles as it relates to Ukraine and other issues that Russia doesn’t agree with us on. But we’ve also worked with them on a range of issues in the past, whether it’s reducing our nuclear stockpiles, cooperating on Syria chemical weapons, and certainly we view it as a relationship where we can work together on issues where we do have agreement, and this certainly seems to be one of them.

QUESTION: Just on --

QUESTION: Did the Russians indicate in any way to the Secretary and his team any concerns that they have about any radicalization of Muslims within Russia and any potential security threats that they themselves might be seeing?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I have heard as a readout from our team. I’d point you really to the Russians to ask them that specific question, if that’s a concern they have.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: This is kind of off the wall. I’m just wondering, since everyone and their mother, it seems, is saying that this is not just a military operation, that the coalition is involved in all sorts of things and there is a big diplomatic component to it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did you guys have any say in the name that has been given to this operation? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Inherent --

QUESTION: -- Resolve.

MS. PSAKI: I think we – we are aware of it, but I believe it was chosen by the Pentagon.

QUESTION: You wouldn’t have preferred something different? “Negotiated Compromise” or something like that? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: We are the diplomats over here, Matt. But we will allow our DOD colleagues to name their projects.

QUESTION: So you’re okay with Inherent Resolve, even as it covers the diplomatic portion of it?

MS. PSAKI: We support the naming rights of our colleagues at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: On Iraq, can you --

MS. PSAKI: Hold on. We’re getting a little out of order here. Said, I promise I’ll get to you, but I just want to get to these two because they’ve been raising their hand. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: On Russia. Yesterday after talks was --

QUESTION: Can we talk about Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we kind of jumped around because we went to Russia and then Iraq. But we’ll – we can come back to Iraq. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday after talks with Minister Lavrov, to me it seemed that Kerry – Secretary Kerry was sounding, like, a bit different from what he was previously in terms that he never mentioned any word “isolation” of Russia, for example. But he talked a lot with – about cooperation with Russia on other issues, like ISIS, Iran, and others. So obviously, differences on Ukraine are still there, but they don’t seem to be an obstacle for cooperation on those areas anymore. So would that be correct to say that U.S. is no longer seeking, like, isolation of Russia? I mean political – not economic sense, but political isolation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I noted in response to, I think, Roz’s question – and now I’ve forgotten who asked the Russian question --

QUESTION: I did.

MS. PSAKI: -- there are still – Ukraine was an issue that was discussed at length during the meeting, and Secretary Kerry pressed in particular on the need for the full implementation of all of the 12 points of the September 5th Minsk Agreement. And he also emphasized that the only legitimate – that only through legitimate elections in Ukraine and through additional steps that Russia needs to take can we return to a place where we have some agreement on the issue.

The fact is, though, we have disagreement on that and we’re hoping to get to an area of more agreement, but there are still areas where we can work together. There was – there have been a range of conversations with Russia over the course of the last eight months to a year, even while we’ve had disagreement on Ukraine, and we think we can work together on issues even when there are some we disagree on.

QUESTION: Okay. And just to follow up on her question, was – did Russia offer the help on ISIS, or was that United States who asked for help?

MS. PSAKI: Of course, ISIL was a discussion during the meeting, but certainly, it’s Russia’s decision to make about what their contributions would be.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, can we finish – do we have any more on Russia? I’ve sort of lost control in here a little bit today. Let’s go back to Iraq. Is that right? Okay.

QUESTION: I have a quick question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the plan to arm the Sunni tribes, the Anbar Sunni tribes, there is apparently a plan to arm and equip about six divisions. Would that be akin to the Awakening Councils that General Petraeus began back in 2007? Would it fall under General Allen or would it fall under a different group, since it is in the fight against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, what you’re referring to is our effort to create a national guard, which is slightly different from the Sunni Awakening. Certainly, it’s working with Sunni tribes, but there’d be some slight differences in the sense that we want this to be a part of the Iraqi Security Forces and something that is – I shouldn’t say “we.” The Iraqi Government does, and it certainly is something we support and think is a wise way of going about it, so that there’s a longer-term strategy here and it’s not just a temporary though effective approach.

Any more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq, okay. Barbara, Iraq? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Amnesty International has released a report documenting Shiite militias abducting and killing Sunni civilians in retaliation for Islamic State attacks without any response from the government. Is this something that you’ve raised with Baghdad? And also, how do you see this playing into these efforts to reform what is the Shiite-dominated army? How much of an obstacle is that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we are deeply concerned by these reports. It’s clear that terrorist attacks by ISIL in Iraq have aimed at sowing divisions among Iraqis, and certainly, part of the effort of the new government was to govern in a more inclusive manner and bring in all of the political factions as a part of one effort to unite as a government but also oppose ISIL. So we believe and agree that it’s critically important that the Government of Iraq regulate volunteers under the security structure of the state to ensure that there is accountability in the fight against ISIL. And certainly, Prime Minister Abadi has also noted this importance.

So broadly speaking, we’ve raised the issue of the importance of governing in an inclusive manner and having accountability. In terms of this specific report, Barbara, I’d have to check and see if this specific report has been raised.

QUESTION: But this issue itself, which has been around for a while – to what – how much concern is there about how that affects the reform of the security forces and how much of an obstacle it is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as we saw with the last government with Prime Minister Maliki, one of the deep challenges there was certainly the inability or the unwillingness to govern in an inclusive manner and what we saw as divisions among many of the different groups in Iraq. And certainly, ISIL was able to come in and take advantage of that. So --

QUESTION: But it’s still going on.

MS. PSAKI: Well – but my point is that in all of the discussions we’ve had with Prime Minister Abadi, the issue of inclusiveness, the issue of governing in an inclusive manner, the issue of creating a national guard to include the Sunni tribes, the issue of doing things differently than how it was done last time – has certainly been a prominent topic of discussion.

Iraq? Iraq. Any more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. So the Kurdish forces in Iraq have been very slow in regaining – basically have been very slow in regaining the territories they lost to ISIS, such as the predominantly Yezidi town of Sinjar, which is – which continues to be under the control of ISIS. So when you ask the Kurdish officials, why haven’t you been able to control those lost areas, they say because they have not received the heavy weapons they have demanded the United States and other Western allies. What’s your take on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, not just the United States but a range of countries have been providing a range of resources, including military resources, in coordination with the central government to the Kurds. I’d have to check and see if there’s an update we can provide to you, but I know that we have been sending a vast array of materials.

QUESTION: Just one more question on the – General Allen said that he had met Prime Minister Abadi and he believes that he wants to lead an inclusive government.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I want to know why he believes that, because, like – I mean, is there any concrete evidence that really Abadi – that you have in Abadi? For example, the Sunnis continue most largely to be without – outside the government. Large parts of Sunni areas, including Anbar and Mosul, are still under ISIS control. And the Kurdish – the Iraqi – the Kurdistan Regional Government says the outstanding issues, such as oil, remain unresolved. Like, what are the things that make him believe so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re combining a couple things into one. I think what we’re referring to is the fact that Prime Minister Abadi came in with the desire to govern more inclusively. Now, with any case of governing around the world, we have to see what happens. But he announced a national plan; that’s being implemented. There have been efforts to reach out to a range of groups across the country. Obviously, there are unresolved issues that need to be resolved, but there’s a long history here, as you know, from how things were occurring in the previous government, and that’s something that will take some time to repair.

Any more on Iraq? Okay, new topic.

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: On Iraq, okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the New York Times report that abandoned chemical weapons has been kept secret by the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense on that. I think they have a comment that they have put out today, and they’re most appropriate to speak to that question.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish Iraq. Any more on Iraq? Okay. Elliot.

QUESTION: I was wondering what your reaction is to the most recent police crackdown in Hong Kong. There have been some rather disturbing images and videos coming out over the past 24 hours or so.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we are deeply concerned by reports of police beating a protester in Hong Kong, and encourage Hong Kong authorities to carry out a swift, transparent, and complete investigation into the incident. Hong Kong’s well-established tradition of respect for the rule of law and internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly, remains crucial to Hong Kong’s longstanding success and reputation as a leading center of global commerce. We renew our calls for the Hong Kong Government to show restraint, and for protesters to continue to express their views peacefully.

QUESTION: I believe they – the Hong Kong authorities did say they would be investigating the police officers involved and that they would be removed from the protests, but were – are you encouraged by that? Do you think that’s – that investigation will be credible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we support a complete investigation, so yes, we’d be encouraged by that moving forward.

QUESTION: And then more broadly, do you – are you concerned that this will more – re-galvanize the protests and cause them to drag out longer and strain further the patience of authorities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our hope is certainly that it will not. And obviously, that will require restraint by authorities and restraint and action as it relates to an investigation, and we’ll certainly see what happens from there.

QUESTION: Jen, on this, do you think – you just mentioned how Hong Kong has well-established traditions of rule of law and as a center for global commerce. Do you think that that’s been compromised at all, if not its status as a safe place for and center for global commerce and a place where rule of law is established and followed all the time? Has that been compromised at all in the thinking of the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Not in the thinking of the Administration, no, but it certainly is in the interests of everyone to see the current situation resolved peacefully.

QUESTION: And if – but you believe that it’s possible that that could be compromised should this continue to go on, or is that – am I --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get ahead of where we are or where this could go. Certainly, our hope is that it can be resolved peacefully.

QUESTION: Where is this discussion right now? I mean, how – after the foreign minister was here, where have you taken this discussion on Hong Kong?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly maintained close contact with relevant authorities in Hong Kong as well as Chinese authorities, and we’ve been conveying the same message that we’ve been conveying publicly.

Any more on Hong Kong? Hong Kong? Okay, new topic.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt, yes, sorry. Go ahead, Egypt.

QUESTION: Thank you. It goes without saying Egypt is an important country. What role are they, the Egyptians, currently playing in the fight against ISIS? What role do you expect them to continue to play in the future specifically?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Egypt certainly is, and obviously General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were meeting with Egyptian authorities just last week. One of the significant steps that the Egyptians have taken is to increase their military-to-military coordination and work with the Iraqi Security Forces. We think that’s an incredibly positive step. There’s also a voice that many authorities in Egypt can play effectively to speak out against the actions of ISIL, and that’s a discussion that we’ve been having with them, but also something they’ve already taken actions on.

QUESTION: And in terms of the issue that General Allen addressed about inclusiveness, is Egypt a good example to tout to the rest of the Middle East in terms of countering ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are concerns, as we’ve – and we express them, including yesterday, I did, about cracking down on protesters, freedom of the press. And we obviously put out an annual report in that regard, but that’s – there – we raise those issues when I’m talking about ISIL and speaking out against the brutality of a terrorist organization. There are a range of officials in Egypt who have spoken out against that, and we do think that’s effective and important.

QUESTION: Just a final follow-up, if I may. Now in terms of the repressive course that President Sisi is currently pursuing as has been described by at least two major U.S. newspapers following John Kerry’s visit to Egypt, their concern is that by pursuing that course, President Sisi is actually fanning terrorism in the region because he’s telling young people the only way to get empowered is the gun. Do you share those concerns?

MS. PSAKI: I addressed this question yesterday.

QUESTION: Could I --

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Egypt?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: A quick – yeah, I have a – on Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: On Egypt. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t know whether you clarified it or not, the confusion on the issue of the helicopters, the Apaches. There was – the Government of Egypt said that they received them. Apparently you said that they have not been delivered. Could you please clarify that for us? Have they received them, or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there should be any confusion. I think we announced a couple of weeks ago that they were being delivered.

QUESTION: So the statement by the Egyptian Government that they are in possession of the Apaches is true?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: We announced several weeks ago that we were delivering them, so --

QUESTION: Because there was this – the other day, I think, there was a statement saying that you had not delivered them yet.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we announced – I believe it was – let me finish, Said. I believe it was the end of August where we – when we announced that we would be delivering the Apaches. In terms of whether they were physically delivered, I think the Egyptians would certainly know that. But we announced that they were going to be delivered.

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: Does the U.S. play --

MS. PSAKI: On Egypt?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: On Egypt. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. play any role to reconcile Egypt and Qatar, especially both of them are members of the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Are we – well, I think I’d point you to the fact that there have been a range of meetings, including one the Secretary was in Jeddah when we were in New York at UNGA, where officials from both countries, including other countries where there have been disagreements about a range of issues, have stood together, sat at the same table, and talked about their agreement about the fight against ISIL. So certainly in that regard we’re working with all of them, but we encourage them to have dialogues with each other.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there evidence that ISIS and its followers have surfaced in North Africa?

MS. PSAKI: I think James asked the question about Morocco yesterday. I have a little bit of something --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- on that. And somebody else asked this sort of a little bit earlier. There are a range of countries that obviously are a part of our coalition – some in northern Africa – that have concerns. Each country is certainly the expert on where this threat is posed as it relates to Morocco. Let me just pull up – what we’ve seen is that Moroccan authorities have taken legal, judicial, and law enforcement steps to stem the flow of Moroccans traveling to Syria and Iraq to volunteer as foreign fighters. Morocco has since at least July issued statements and alerts indicating concerns about the possibility of terrorist attacks and has a variety of security and law enforcement measures in place to prevent attacks.

So ISIL poses a threat to the broader region, our international partners, and the United States. And we have specifically – and they have specifically, I should say, ISIL has specifically threatened Morocco and other members of the anti-ISIL coalition. So – hence they’ve taken steps.

QUESTION: Well, what are you telling American interests abroad there, like businesses and citizens, about this particular threat from Morocco or just anything that you’ve seen from ISIS in that part of the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we have information that we should provide to travelers or citizens in Morocco or any country in Northern Africa, we’ll certainly provide that. I’m sure we can get you the latest Travel Warning from Morocco if that’s helpful.

QUESTION: And on the Rewards for Justice program, why did you wait four years when they had been leaders of AQAP since --

MS. PSAKI: Elise asked a question about why now. I’m happy to check with our CT team --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- and see if there are some more specifics that we can get to all of you on that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Ebola. Ebola. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Not a country, but – Jen, Secretary Kerry – I believe it was just a little over a week ago – made an impassioned what he called “urgent plea” for more help and made the point that the U.S. is lifting a lot of the burden in the fight. Has he been pleased with the response so far? I mean, has that plea led to any significant changes, more ponying up cash or help, that the U.S. has seen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Margaret, I think, one, we’ll – we’re venturing to update our numbers that we put out last week as more countries contribute more. But certainly what the Secretary felt and President Obama felt as well was that it was important to raise public awareness of this issue internationally, and the fact that we do need more from the international community. So that has been a point of discussion.

Since, the Secretary also has made a range of calls to officials from around the world, including Japan, including South Korea, a range of countries about what role and what contributions they can play. But there is more that needs to be done, and no single UN agency, no single country or NGO can meet the rapidly increasing demands alone. So we will continue to raise this issue, and that’s why we did it last week.

QUESTION: And you’re putting out those numbers when?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll venture to update them, and we’ll see when we can complete that and get an update around to all of you.

QUESTION: You just mentioned Japan and South Korea. The Secretary himself mentioned China. Should we assume from that these three particularly wealthy countries are ones that you do not think are shouldering – are carrying their share of the burden?

MS. PSAKI: I actually didn’t mention it for that purpose at all. I just know that he had spoken with them recently.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: He’s been doing a range of calls with countries about what we’re doing.

QUESTION: But he’s not calling people who are – right. But he’s not calling out people who are already contributing and saying, “Thanks.” Has he made – I mean, maybe he is. Does he --

MS. PSAKI: He is calling – sure he is. He’s calling a range of countries to --

QUESTION: But is it --

MS. PSAKI: -- even who have contributed a great deal.

QUESTION: All right. But isn’t his – his priority isn’t calling up other countries to get them to do more?

MS. PSAKI: That’s part of it. But it’s also about updating on our efforts and what we’re seeing as the emerging threat and our tracking from here.

QUESTION: Also on this, there are calls that are growing on the Hill for travel bans, that kind of thing. I understand that the White House has already spoken to that saying no, you’re opposed to it. But apart from that, and this is a State Department issue, there are also calls for visa operations to be at least temporarily suspended in the most affected countries. I – you said before, I think earlier this week, that they’re still operating as normal. Is that going to continue? They will continue operating as normal? You don’t plan to reduce or even suspend visa issuance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re constantly evaluating, Matt. So we’ll see if anything is – required to happen in the future. But the reason why is the same reason why our health officials have recommended against a travel ban and said it would be counter-productive. And that’s because affecting – or closing the borders, in the view of health officials, would make it much harder to stop the epidemic or preventing individuals from traveling.

QUESTION: But – well, but stop – if you halt visa issuance in these countries, it doesn’t stop anyone from going there to help and it doesn’t stop anyone who already has a visa from coming in. But it would prevent new people who are newly getting visas from leaving the country. And I’m not – so it’s a separate issue than closing off the border.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. There is no planned changes at this point in time that I’m aware of, Matt, to that. And we obviously work with health officials to determine what steps need to be taken and we constantly evaluate that.

QUESTION: Jen, a quick question on the Palestine-Israel issue.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ebola question.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish Ebola.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: How much of this appeal or discussion that the Secretary’s having with countries on giving more money towards this is about new funding and not repackaging aid, taking away from money that’s already been allocated in these countries?

MS. PSAKI: A big part of it is about new funding and the need for more resources and more equipment and more personnel, and that’s certainly a part of the discussion he’s having.

But I think it’s important to note there are a range of countries that are helping. And just because he’s calling countries, it doesn’t mean it’s because they’re not helping. Oftentimes, they’re countries that have been very involved that have asked to stay abreast and updated on what we’re doing from here.

QUESTION: No, but a lot of people are helping, but a lot of them are repackaging the aid, including the EU. So that has become a huge concern within the development community about where the aid is coming from, because once you’ve got – you take from already committed aid, who’s going to pay for those projects in these countries, which have – you’ve got huge needs? So that --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. You’ve raised a valid point. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, well, what’s your answer? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, no, I think as I said before, I think obviously additional aid and more assistance and more equipment and personnel, we’re doing that from the United States. We feel this is a national security issue and one that many countries can do more to assist on.

QUESTION: And then can I just ask: Are you proposing that the money go into the UN Trust Fund? Or where is this – where is all this money going into? Because as far as I can see from a list of countries, only Colombia has actually – stumped up cash, about $100,000.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve given, through a range of ways – let me check on that, Lesley. It’s a good question what we’re recommending in terms of where people send their contributions.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary also asking other countries how many doctors, nurses, sanitation specialists, those types of folks, can actually be deployed to these countries? Because groups such as Doctors Without Borders say the money is nice, but what’s really needed are people to actually provide services.

MS. PSAKI: Personnel is certainly a part of the discussion, Roz.

QUESTION: And on that note, the Cubans have actually stepped up with – do you have anything --

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen that.

QUESTION: -- to say? Anything nice to say about Cuba – (laughter) – for its response to the Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: There are some countries that are larger than Cuba that have not contributed as much as Cuba.

QUESTION: That’s the nicest thing you can say about Cuba? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I would say we would welcome the support from a range of countries and obviously their contribution.

QUESTION: Why can’t --

QUESTION: Including --

QUESTION: I mean, seriously, all joking aside, why can’t you just say --

QUESTION: I wasn’t joking.

QUESTION: No, but I mean, it’s not a laughing matter. Why you --

MS. PSAKI: I used it as an opportunity to highlight our point here, which is that Cuba is a smaller country; there are larger countries that have not given as much.

QUESTION: I understand. But can you say that you welcome Cuba’s support?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We welcome their support.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.) Should we – are we – do we have any more on Ebola?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: One just general question. How – what is the situation of the Americans living there? Are they to stay there, to leave, or to cooperate? Or what is your policy regarding this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s travel --

QUESTION: In these three countries.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I understand. We’ve put out information to American citizens in each of those countries. It’s available on our website. We certainly continue to evaluate that and monitor that; and if we need to change it, we’ll do that.

QUESTION: And you are advising Americans not to go to these three countries?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, we’ve put out travel warning and – warnings and information in these countries.

QUESTION: Yes, Dallas. Can I ask you --

MS. PSAKI: There’s actually – in all seriousness, there is a fake travel warning about Dallas that is not accurate and is not coming from the State Department. (Laughter.) You may have – not have seen, but I’m just going to take it as an opportunity to convey to you that was not from the State Department.

QUESTION: Do you – I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve never seen the State Department put out a warning for something --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- inside the U.S.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, Matt. But everybody doesn’t follow travel warnings as closely as you do.

QUESTION: As closely as I do? All right.

MS. PSAKI: So we wanted to make sure people were aware of that.

QUESTION: Depends if they see it as (inaudible).

QUESTION: Many people have more exciting lives than I do.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I – I have a – I don’t expect you to have an answer to this, but I’m wondering if you can take it. This has to do with the sale of the Waldorf to the Chinese --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the review that you guys are looking into the details of the specifics of the sale. And I just want to know: Have you started with Hilton – have you gotten in touch with them? Do you – are you aware of what’s the status of the – of your looking into the terms of the sale?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any – any update on the status, I should say. But with any sale of a hotel or any similar circumstance, any future decisions about the nature of our relationship or our – the fact that our UN ambassador has a residence there would factor in costs, the company’s plans for the facility, the needs of the United States Government, and of course, in this case, the U.S. Mission to the UN, regardless of who purchased. So that’s certainly part of the review.

QUESTION: Right. But I just – right. Well, I’m just wanting to know if you have any update about whether you’ve gotten in touch with Hilton. Have they given you the details that you’re looking for to make a decision on whether you want to continue the relationship with the hotel?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that particular piece at this point in time.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Back to the --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian-Israeli issue, the Israeli press is saying that Secretary Kerry pressed Prime Minister Netanyahu to go back into the negotiations. Can you comment on this? Is this true? Can you confirm that the Secretary has urged the Israeli prime minister to go back to the negotiating table?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think as the Secretary has said many times publicly, the only way that there will be a lasting peace is to have a two-state solution that would come through direct negotiations. And certainly, that’s a message he talks about publicly and privately.

QUESTION: I understand. But did he do this in the last 24 hours? Did he call --

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see if there’s anything specifically on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally on this issue --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- President Hollande of France said that if negotiations prove to be not – a nonstarter, then they will recognize a Palestinian state. Is that something that you welcome or you understand or --

MS. PSAKI: Our position is as I said yesterday: We feel the only way to – we support the Palestinian state – we would support a Palestinian state, but we believe it needs to be achieved through a two-state solution. We believe otherwise it’s premature to be discussing it.

QUESTION: So are you discouraging the EU – the European Union and other countries not to recognize a Palestinian state at this stage?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’re familiar with what our position is.

Let’s do a couple more here. Okay.

QUESTION: Coalition member question.

MS. PSAKI: Coalition question. Okay, go ahead --

QUESTION: Okay. There’s a perception out there --

MS. PSAKI: -- and then I’ll go to Pam.

QUESTION: -- perception out there in New Zealand that because it’s listed as one of the 60 nations that are partner countries and it was participating as the 21 nations --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- at a military level that met with the President yesterday, that maybe it’s part of this military coalition. And so I’ve got a – the question is, essentially, how does the State Department see New Zealand’s contribution? Do you foresee potentially asking for military capabilities, or is it – does its role fall in other areas as you see it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, with any country, it’s a discussion and one where we determine through conversations with a country – like New Zealand – what role they’re willing to play, what role they’re capable of playing. And certainly, there are many countries that will play a military role, many that will not. And certainly, the discussion with New Zealand, as it is with any other country, is about all of the five lines of effort and not just military contributions. So I have nothing to preview for you more than that. I would point you to our colleagues in New Zealand for that.

Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: The Holocaust Museum has opened an exhibit that shows photos of torture victims in Syria. It’s my understanding these photos are a subset of a larger collection that the State Department has in its possession that were obtained by a Syrian official who defected. The Syrian Government has said the photos are fake.

Two questions. First of all, what is the State Department’s reaction to the public display of these photos? And then, secondly, is there concern that – about the timing of this, considering the U.S. is involved in airstrikes over Syria, that this might further raise tensions between the U.S. and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to remind everyone that the State Department initiated the process to bring Caesar to the United States so that senior administration officials, members of Congress, and the American public could hear directly from him about the horrific abuses committed by the Assad regime. As you know, because you asked the question, he was able to smuggle out of Syria 55,000 images that appear to depict the torture, starvation, and death of over 11,000 civilians held in regime detention centers.

I don’t have any comment or analysis of the photos. We’ve seen hundreds of these gruesome photos, and beyond that, I think obviously our efforts in Syria and our effort to defeat ISIL, as you know, is separate from the atrocities of the Assad regime, as much as, as General Allen spoke to, we don’t recognize his legitimacy and we believe a political solution that would not see Assad retain power is what our focus remains on.

QUESTION: What was your involvement in the --

QUESTION: Jen, I’m curious about – hold on. The – your choice of language – sorry. Your choice of language – “that appear to depict”?

MS. PSAKI: That depict. I mean, that the photos depict.

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t have any doubt that these photographs are real, do you?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly --

QUESTION: I mean, you – if you – otherwise I’m not sure why you’d be providing them to anyone to show – to put up as evidence of genocide.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the photos are still being analyzed, Matt. I don’t have anything new on – in that regard.

QUESTION: Right, but they don’t appear to depict. They actually do depict, correct? Or are you being careful and hedging it --

MS. PSAKI: I’m being careful, because they will be looked at. They’re still being looked at. But, obviously, we facilitated Caesar coming here to talk about the photos.

QUESTION: So you believe that they are authentic?

MS. PSAKI: They appear to, but I’m not going to get ahead of the conclusion of the analysis process.

QUESTION: So if you’re still in an analysis project, why would you facilitate them being shown at this museum, and what is your involvement in the project?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that specifically, Elise. I’m not sure what our involvement is with the museum specifically, if there is an involvement by the State Department.

QUESTION: Okay. If you --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do a couple more. Go ahead. Go ahead. Right there, go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. All right. Japan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: President Obama spoke yesterday with Prime Minister Abe, and he – President Obama underscored the importance of enhancing communication and the cooperation among U.S. allies, which means – I think it’s Japan and South Korea --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in Northeast Asia in order to ensure stable relation over the long term, which means that the United States still have a concern about both countries’ relationship, or you see no progress in these couple – last couple months?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we continue to believe that productive relationships between countries in the region is good for regional stability and peace and security, and having a discussion about that is not something you have one time. You have an ongoing discussion about that. So it’s not reflecting a new concern as much as an ongoing commitment to the region and wanting to see security and stability in the region.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. So – which means – this statement means – is it correct – you mean the United States Government encouraging both countries to have summit meeting sometime, both leaders meeting in APEC in November?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t – I’d point you to their – to those countries, and I’d certainly point you to the White House beyond what I just stated in terms of the specifics of the conversations.

Go ahead. Let’s just do a couple more.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- were such a meeting to take place, you would welcome it, given that you always call for these kinds of exchanges to take place?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, but I’m not aware of it being scheduled, and obviously, we wouldn’t announce that meeting on their behalf if that were to be scheduled.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: There seems to be confusion about the language that the State Department is using in what is being listed in the indictment on Khattala. Can you explain why the State Department is insisting classified information was not compromised in Benghazi when the new indictment states computers were stolen containing location information from the CIA annex?

MS. PSAKI: I honestly would point you to the Department of Justice. I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s more we would convey from here in that regard.

QUESTION: I have one more on East Asia. So today – the senior-ranking military officials from the North and South Korean militaries met today. I wanted to know if you had any comments on that and if you continue to encourage this type of dialogue.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly continue to encourage dialogue. I’m not sure I have much to add there. But as we’ve long said, we support improved inter-Korean relations and welcome steps by both sides to take – both sides take in that regard. So this is certainly an example of that.

Let’s just do two more. Hello in the back. Welcome back. We haven’t seen you in a while.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. It’s about the mass graves found near Donetsk at the end of September. Kyiv just – Kyiv started an investigation. Do you have any information about how that investigation is going? Do you ask for information about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support an investigation. I don’t have any particular update on how that is going. It’s not the United States, obviously, who is involved or leading that investigation. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to report on that front.

QUESTION: The investigation into the fire that killed 40 people in Odessa in May has stalled. The Rada commission has closed the investigation without any result. Do you have a concern that this mass graves investigation too could hit a dead end?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly want to see the investigation move forward. I understand there’s been some challenges that were in the past about access to the area that was being blocked by separatists. I’d have to get an update on that and see if that continues to be the case. But as we’ve said before, we support the investigation.

QUESTION: Actually, on access, what’s your understanding of the MH17 – that site and the investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand that yesterday, the Dutch were able to visit the site and – actually, sorry, two days ago – and they’re working with Ukrainian authorities and combing the crash site for personal belongings and human remains.

QUESTION: Okay. And – but you don’t have any updates on where it’s going?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates beyond their access to the crash site.

Let’s just do a couple more here. Go ahead. One, two, three, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: These days, there was some protests in Kyiv that turned violent and there were clashes between police and protesters. Do you have any particular concerns on that (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen reports of the protests. I’m happy to look into it and see if there are more specifics. Can you give me a little bit more detail, or maybe we can talk after and we’ll get back to you?

QUESTION: Supposedly there were nationalist protestors who were against the policies of current government and they clashed with police, so --

MS. PSAKI: We will take a look at that and see if there’s more. We saw – and I don’t know if this is – I mean, we had seen reports a couple of days ago. I don't know if this is the same protest.

QUESTION: Maybe.

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we talk after and we’ll see if we can get you more – something more specific.

Pam.

QUESTION: Serbia has accused Albania of what it’s calling a deliberate political provocation, and this involves an Albanian banner flying during a soccer match with Serbia. It led to a confrontation during the match. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s very unfortunate that this football match was interrupted by violence. Sports have such a vast and proven potential to unite people across multiple boundaries. And when violence and intolerance intrude upon such potential, it’s disappointing to all involved – the athletes, the spectators, the fans, and their nations. The U.S. Embassy, of course, did not have any role on anything that may have taken place last night.

QUESTION: So was it your drone flying the flag?

MS. PSAKI: We did not have any involvement, Matt.

QUESTION: Countries have fought war, or at least one war, over a football match before.

MS. PSAKI: Sports creates a lot of emotions.

QUESTION: Do you know if there has been any – has there been any contact with either the Albanians or the Serbs from the U.S. – from U.S. officials about this?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. We can check and see if there has been.

Go ahead. Last one in the back.

QUESTION: Do you remember when was the last time Secretary Kerry spoke with South Korean officials about Ebola?

MS. PSAKI: He spoke with the foreign minister – one moment, I can get you the day – I think it was earlier this week, actually. Yes, it looks like he spoke with Foreign Minister Yun on October 13th as a part of, certainly, his regular consultations with him. They talked about bilateral, regional, and global issues, including Ebola as well as North Korea.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone. Oh, one more?

QUESTION: One more. Yeah. One more question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: This is about South Korean activities sending propaganda leaflets to North Korea aboard large balloons. And North Korea has very strongly protest against this campaign, and even try to shoot down some balloons last week, which led to an exchange of gunfire between the two sides. I’m wondering if you have any concern this campaign could lead to another military conflict that could develop into a bigger clash.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we understand it, since then, obviously, there have been discussions between both sides. We certainly support improved inter-Korean relations and we welcome steps to address through dialogue.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:46 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 14, 2014

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 17:09

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 14, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:17 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: I know we’re late today, but we wanted to wait until the Secretary’s press conference was done.

QUESTION: Well, since he’s answered every question there is, this can be very short. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Happy Monday. He was so thorough.

QUESTION: Tuesday, Tuesday.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, Tuesday. I apologize.

Well, I think you’re all aware of what he has been doing, but let me just quickly reiterate that while he was in Paris, Secretary Kerry had meetings with Libyan – the Libyan foreign minister, as well as, of course, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Tomorrow he will continue his travels to Vienna, where he will have a trilateral meeting with EU High Representative Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on the nuclear negotiations, which is a continuation of the two trilateral meetings they recently had in New York.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: That’s it? All – that’s all you have to start with?

MS. PSAKI: That is all. I thought we’d go straight to questions. I have a time issue on the back end.

QUESTION: Sounds good. Yeah, we do.

On – I realize Secretary Kerry just spoke to this. I’m just wondering if you have anything you might be able to add to what he said about the incident in – outside of Riyadh.

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. You probably also saw the on-the-record statement we put out. We don’t have any additional updates. Obviously, we’re looking into it; we’re in close touch with our team on the ground. If we have additional updates, we will make those available to all of you.

QUESTION: All right. That’s all I have.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Hello.

QUESTION: Hello. Follow-up on that (inaudible). So can you rule out the terrorist possibility? Is it – I mean, some news report put out that it’s probably a disgruntled former employee of Vinnell Arabia – sorry.

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of news reports. We’ve seen the same ones. Obviously, this just happened this morning, so I just don’t want to get ahead of where we are. We could know more this afternoon. I’m not sure we will, but as we have more information we’ll make it more available. But I don’t want to rule anything in or out at this point in time.

QUESTION: So you don’t whether it’s criminal or terrorist in nature at this --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it just happened this morning. And as Nicolas mentioned, there are reports that Secretary Kerry also mentioned about it being a former employee. We don’t have confirmation of the details at this point in time.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any measure that the U.S. is planning, let’s say to restrict the movement of Americans and American employees of places like Aramco and other companies as a result of this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as we mentioned in the statement that we put out to all of you, obviously, we evaluate our security posture when incidents occur. Certainly, we’re in the process of evaluating our security posture. We’ll take appropriate steps to ensure that all of U.S. mission personnel are safe, of course. We typically issue – our embassy is issuing, I should say, a security message to U.S. citizens to advise them on the situation and any safety precautions. As you know, we typically do that when information becomes available or there are incidents we want to make American citizens aware of.

QUESTION: Okay. And when an incident like this occurs, it’s the FBI that investigates?

MS. PSAKI: Said, this just happened this morning, so as more information becomes available, we’ll make that available to all of you.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Do we have any more on Saudi Arabia?

QUESTION: Yeah, one more. So is the --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- message you’re talking about just – concerns only Saudi Arabia, or more countries maybe involved in the coalition against ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re talking about two separate issues.

QUESTION: No, I’m talking about the attack, because it might be within a broader context that might unfold in the future. Well, we don’t know, because we still don’t know if it’s criminal or terrorist. But what I’m saying – is the message about the safety of American citizens only concerning Saudi Arabia, or more countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, typically, in any country when an incident like this occurs, we put out a security message which just provides details about the incident. So that’s what I’m referring to, not a larger message.

QUESTION: So you’re not concerned that something like this might happen elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s a concern we’ve expressed. Obviously, this is an incident that just happened this morning, so as more information becomes available, we’ll make that available.

QUESTION: I think what he’s getting at is that this is a security message that’s going out from the embassy in Riyadh to Americans in Saudi Arabia. It’s not a message that’s going out from any other embassy --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and it has nothing to do with the worldwide caution that was released on Friday.

MS. PSAKI: No. That’s updated on a regular basis. Sorry, I was – thank you for that assist. There was a regular six-month update that went out. These are separate issues.

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand, but my question is – so you don’t have any concerns that this might be part of a broader campaign? It’s – you still think it’s an isolated incident, and just within Saudi borders?

MS. PSAKI: It just happened this morning. We will provide information that becomes – as it becomes available, but I’m not going to get ahead of where we are at this point in time.

Do you want to go to Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry just addressed some of the questions, and he said that there is no difference between Turkey and U.S. positions over what is agreed. But is there any way you can give us a little more detail? First of all, has Turkey given authority or agreed – let U.S. to use U.S. facilities and bases in Turkey against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were there just last week. As part of their discussions, they talked about the important role that Turkey can play in the fight against ISIL. There are already measures that Turkey has taken, including efforts to counter the flow of foreign fighters. They’ve also been hosting more than 170,000 refugees who’ve crossed into the border. But part of what they discussed last week was also a range of military issues. Turkey agreed to host a train-and-equip program and to allow for use of some of the facilities for the coalition. Secretary Kerry just mentioned that as well. There are also, naturally, going to be discussions at the mil-to-mil level, which is only appropriate. A DOD, Department of Defense, team has just arrived on the ground in Turkey to discuss how to operationalize these efforts. I’m not going to get ahead of that. Obviously, there’ll be a lot of discussions about how this will be implemented and what will happen from here.

QUESTION: So the – National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that Turkey actually gave authority about the bases. It is not correct? Turkey hasn’t – has not given --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s what she said exactly in her quote. I know there were some background quotes from unnamed officials – so you always have to caution against some of those – that didn’t have information that was consistent with the agreement. But what I just outlined is what we have agreed to and, of course, going from here, the consultations between military – between Department of Defense officials and their military counterparts is an important next step from here.

QUESTION: When you say “facilities,” do they include the use – assist to the use of air force?

MS. PSAKI: Well, which specific facilities and how they’ll be used is part of the discussion that we’re having with Turkey and we’ll have over the coming days.

QUESTION: So there’s no – still no confirmation of the kind of facilities you can use?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, hosting a train-and-equip program will require certain facilities, but which and how and where is part of the discussion that’s ongoing at this point in time.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean outside of that, the equipping and training. I’m talking about the coalition effort and – against ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s part of the coalition effort, in our view. Are you talking – I mean, the fact is there are a range of important functions that support our coalition operation that don’t involve airstrikes. I’m just not going to outline that much further than that.

QUESTION: So you’re not talking about the use of the Incirlik Air Base, for instance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, some of this is there will be discussions about specific facilities and how they’ll be used. And as those discussions continue, perhaps we’ll have more to say, or more importantly Turkey will have more to say.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the attacks that Turkey conducted against the PKK?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Well, one, I think I would encourage everybody to note that, obviously, this – these are attacks that – or these are – yes, these are attacks that happened far from Kobani. I know there’s been a focus on looping the two together. Obviously, there’s a complex situation on the ground, but there’s a long history between Turkey and the PKK. There are reports – we’ve seen remarks from Turkish Government officials that the PKK fired on Turkish military installations in Turkey. I don’t have any independent confirmation of that. But obviously, there are – I would just encourage everybody to look at these as separate circumstances.

QUESTION: But don’t you look at this as, perhaps, a negative sign that – or signal that Turkey is conveying, at a time when Kobani is besieged and everybody is looking for Turkey to come to its aid, it goes out and strikes Turks who are really in close sort of coordination, if not alliance, with the people in Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think – I would encourage all of you to look at the exact mileage, but I believe we’re talking about more than a hundred miles from Kobani. So over the border, where Kobani is, is a separate circumstance; that’s the point I’m making.

Now, regardless of that, we want to see all parties continue working towards a lasting peace, and that’s something we’ve certainly encouraged over the course of time. But it wouldn’t be accurate to loop the two incidents together.

QUESTION: Well, sure. Sorry, James.

QUESTION: That’s okay.

QUESTION: This’ll be quick.

QUESTION: Please, please.

QUESTION: I mean, yes, they are separate circumstances, but they – the separate circumstances don’t take place in their own vacuum. Are you disappointed at all that the first time the Turks have gotten militarily involved has been to bomb their own country against people – no matter how bad the history is between the PKK and the Turkish Government is, the PKK is still fighting ISIL, and they’re linked to the people who are in Kobani trying to defend it. Is that not at all disappointing to you that the Turks would choose for their first military action during the current campaign their own country and enemies of the people that you’re trying to defeat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this situation is obviously not without a great deal of complexity. And certainly, the situation in Kobani, one we have been talking about for some time, is one we’ve increased airstrikes ourself over the course of the weekend, as you may know. I think there were more than 30 over the course of the weekend to deal with that circumstance. Again, I don’t have confirmation of reports that – of government officials’ statements about the PKK firing onto Turkish military installations, but that is – would be relevant information.

QUESTION: Well, it would be. But are you concerned at all that the Turks look at the PKK or the Kurds in general as their primary enemy here, not ISIL, which is your primary enemy here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, one, Turkey has obviously agreed to take steps to join the coalition and take additional steps, military commitments over the course of the last several days, which shows their commitment to the coalition.

James.

QUESTION: Sorry, James.

QUESTION: First, I want to note for the record the precedent that appears to be set today by a reference of the briefer citing press reports that she openly states she can’t confirm. I mean, I’m not sure why you’re telling us about press reports that you can’t confirm and suggesting that they may be significant to what you’re talking about. Normally, when we bring up press reports, if they haven’t been confirmed, you have nothing to say about them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason I brought it up, and then we’ll go to your next question --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- is that while I don’t have confirmation of it, there are certain reports that could provide relevant information. And I don’t have confirmation of them, but still, I thought they were worth nothing.

QUESTION: Okay. That doctrinal throat-clearing having been accomplished, here was the question I intended to ask, which is: In exchange for the Turkish Government agreeing to host this train and equip mission, the train and equip mission, did the United States have to agree to do anything?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of what specifically, Matt?

QUESTION: Payments to the Turkish Government or any other measures.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, James.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I think Turkey is – certainly has a role to play, not just because they’re an important NATO ally, an important partner, but I think we all recognize the place – their location and the fact that this poses a real threat to Turkey.

QUESTION: But you can confirm that the Turkish Government did not seek to extract any reciprocal measures of any kind from the United States in exchange for agreeing to host this train and equip mission?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’d be referring to, James. Do you have anything more specific --

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: -- you want to ask about?

QUESTION: I’m just asking if they sought to extract any reciprocal measures of any kind.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to, so if you have more information we can certainly talk about it.

Okay. Do we have more on Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said that he’s confident Turkey will make its position even more clear. What do you exact – what does he exactly mean by that? Is there, like, anything that you want Turkey to be more clear about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he was referring to is what I mentioned a few minutes ago, which is that clearly they’ve committed to host a train and equip program. There are other commitments they’ve made that there need to be discussions at the mil-to-mil level, which is only appropriate, and certainly, we expect their role in the coalition to only expand from here. So I think he was pointing out the fact that we could hear more from them about that in the coming days or weeks, depending on what they decide.

QUESTION: But I remember last week, you said that there were – like, quote-unquote, there were no questions on your mind that Turkey was committed to take on ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has anything changed since, I think, August 3rd that you made that statement?

MS. PSAKI: In fact, I think they’ve committed to more since I made those comments, so that is backup for what we’ve --

QUESTION: Can you still say that there are no questions on your mind that Turkey is committed to take on ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: I would stand by that statement, yes.

Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Still on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Today --

MS. PSAKI: Or there may be some other more Turkey, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure. Today, President of France Hollande called on Turkey to open borders for Kurdish fighters and all the aid to go to Kobani. Would you endorse this call?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as – our reports or our understanding is that refugees fleeing violence are still able to enter Turkey and Turkey has allowed huge numbers of refugees from Syria in need of urgent assistance to seek protection on its territory. There are some numbers, I think, the Turkish Government recently put out in terms of those who were able to pass through recently, I think, in the couple hundred as recently as late last week.

QUESTION: So I think calls that Turkey should let fighters from other --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry. I misheard your question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Fighters from KRG or other cantons, they’re called, to go to Kobani via Turkish soil. Would you endorse that call?

MS. PSAKI: Our view is that that’s a decision that Turkey would need to make and we’re not going to make that on their behalf.

QUESTION: One more question. Secretary Kerry made a phone call with President Masoud Barzani of Kurdistan, I think last week. Do you have anything on that? And shortly after that meeting, according to a statement first of all put out by President Barzani’s office, they discussed the situation in Kobani. That was all it said. And after that, just today actually, President Barzani hosted the Kurdish – the Syrian Kurdish leader in Erbil. I just want to see what – do you have anything on that phone call?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I think it’s not at all out of the ordinary for Secretary Kerry or any Secretary of State to have calls touching base with officials in the region when they’re facing the threat that they do, and it was simply, as I understand it, a check-in call. I can see if there’s anything more we can provide in terms of a readout.

QUESTION: So just one more thing. Some media outlets in Kurdistan, they have said from anonymous officials again that Secretary Kerry promised Barzani if the Syrian Kurds unite then there will be more U.S. support. Is that something that you can confirm?

MS. PSAKI: I – that is not our position, so it seems unlikely that’s an accurate report.

QUESTION: Just one more on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean, although you’re trying to encourage us not to link the situation in Kobani with the bombardment of PKK positions, that might not be the interpretation of ISIS. So my question is: Do you think that targeting PKK, which is fighting ISIS, Turkey is maybe risking sending the wrong message to ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed this question. I don’t think I have more to add to what I said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: There has been some frustration from some quarters in Washington about Turkey’s involvement here, and some would say that it’s time to send the ally a message, and that one thing that would send them a message would be to take the PKK off the terror list. Is that something that’s being thought about?

MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed on that issue.

QUESTION: Can we go to the donor conference in Cairo?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, can we just finish Turkey? Does anyone have anything more on Turkey?

QUESTION: There is one I’d like to --

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead. And then we’ll go to you, Said. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- address. President Erdogan just yesterday said, this is quote, “Those who are participating in airstrikes in the Middle East are not aiming for peace but for oil.” This is quote by President Erdogan yesterday. So apparently they are on strikes being done by the coalition forces. Are you aiming for oil, to get oil or for --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve made the intention of our airstrikes clear, which is to take on the threat of ISIL, as is true of our other coalition partners.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But what do you think about President Erdogan’s statement on this regard?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m – I’m going to leave it at what I just said.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you on the money that the United States is giving in aid to the Palestinians, now part of it or half of it will go through USAID. Will others go in terms of equipment, like hospital equipment or perhaps something to aid in health care directly? And how – what is the process in which something like this can go through?

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring --

QUESTION: Or has to go through.

MS. PSAKI: -- to the 220 --

QUESTION: I’m talking about the --

MS. PSAKI: -- 212 million?

QUESTION: -- the U.S. Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. So this money is going to relief for reconstruction --

QUESTION: Sorry, because I think there was 400 and something, 12, 10 million dollars.

MS. PSAKI: I think there was 212 this weekend.

QUESTION: 212 that goes through USAID. Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Let me – so spell out for me a little bit more your specific question.

QUESTION: I’m trying to get – to see how will you give that. In direct funds or you give it in equipment? Do you give in aid? How do you do it?

MS. PSAKI: I can check for you, see if we can get a more technical breakdown of how it’s transferred. Sometimes it goes through organizations on the ground. We can get that for you, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. As part of the discussion, I mean, many people made the statement that we have to ensure that this does not get destroyed over and over again every time that there is a vicious cycle of rebuilding and destruction and so on. Is there anything behind the scene that may have taken place that you can share with us, or anything that is a common ground that may have been arrived at?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a recognition by many of the donor countries and the international community that there needs to be a durable ceasefire, and that is certainly the focus of the efforts going from here. And unless we have that, it’s hard to get out of this cycle of destruction and reconstruction.

QUESTION: Is this ceasefire in terms of like an armistice, or is it part of a larger, let’s say, peace settlement? I mean, is this gaining stock again, especially with efforts like the British parliament, which has voted symbolically but overwhelmingly for the creation of a Palestinian state and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Said, what do you mean by that?

QUESTION: I’m saying – I’m saying is this part of a perhaps a hope to reignite the peace process or some sort of talks and so on where there’s so much – let’s say in Sweden and England and so on, it’s back on the front burner, so to speak, the effort to restart negotiation or to reach a peace settlement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think what we’re talking about is what we’ve been talking about for some months now, which is a discussion to address the core issues that can create a long-term, lasting ceasefire between the parties and provide the kind of security that everybody is looking for. The process of a peace process is a much larger question, and certainly, we haven’t seen a change in the parties’ willingness to engage in that.

QUESTION: Now – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have one on this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Sorry, because I wasn’t paying enough --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- close enough attention over the weekend. But this 212 that the Secretary pledged, does that need congressional approval still?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, Matt. It’s a reconfiguration of some money that’s now going towards specifically the reconstruction effort.

QUESTION: Does that mean – does that – to the best of your knowledge, or can you check --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to see if there are still any congressional holds on assistance to the – apart from this, but because of the UN – moves at the UN on --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we will check for you. Sure.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: And just more broadly on this, do you intend to release this money – if it does not need congressional approval, do you intend to release it regardless of whether or not you’re convinced that the ceasefire is durable? And the reason I ask is because if it’s not, is there not a concern – I mean, if you’re going to do that, if you’re going to give them the money without a guarantee of – that hostilities aren’t going to start again, I’m wondering why you just don’t throw it on a bonfire or something.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, one, we want to see Gaza reconstructed, and we believe that the people of Gaza have a vast array of needs, including water, including food, including health needs. And so – let me finish, and then we’ll get – and then you can, of course, follow up, which is fine.

QUESTION: Well, there’s no doubt – I have no doubt that there are needs in Gaza.

MS. PSAKI: But I think what we’ll see from here is clearly there’s a desire in the international community to see a serious approach to a lasting ceasefire. And obviously, the money we’re giving and that others have pledged is not going to fully reconstruct Gaza, so there’ll need to be an incentive for the international community to keep pledging.

QUESTION: Okay. I understand that. I just – this money is going to go to Gaza to help reconstruct Gaza regardless of whether there is a more formal or your assurance that the ceasefire will be durable and that this isn’t just throwing money into something that is going to get blown up two months from now?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, because we believe the --

QUESTION: So to – you’re going to go --

MS. PSAKI: -- people of Gaza have needs that must be met.

QUESTION: And is it your understanding that the other money that was pledged, like from Qatar --

MS. PSAKI: From other countries?

QUESTION: -- is the same, that it’s going to – or you don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: I – you’d have to check with those countries.

James. Did you --

QUESTION: Different subject.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just had one more on this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, one more and we’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Beginning tomorrow and the day after and so on in the West Bank, there is – [cellphone ringing] --

MS. PSAKI: Sounds like a Superman interlude or something. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- the olive harvest season begins, and the settlers have a habit of attacking the harvester, of attacking the olive trees, burning them, and so on. Can you call on – I mean, I asked this to Marie last week. Would you call on, let’s say, the Israelis, or is the U.S. Government willing to call on the Israelis to hold back the settlers and allow the Palestinians to collect and harvest their olives?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’ve seen reports that the olive harvest in the West Bank has again been disrupted by vandalism. If true, these actions are very concerning, and we condemn acts of vandalism. The olive harvest, as you noted, Said, is important to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian economy, and we urge all parties to make sure it is a successful harvest. We look to local authorities to make sure that the perpetrators of attacks and vandalism are held to account and that they take steps to prevent future attacks from occurring.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: P5+1?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I heard the Secretary’s comments in Paris; I read closely the transcript of the State Department briefing of October 10 with Marie Harf; and it seems to me the question that has been put repeatedly to State Department officials has not been explicitly addressed, and that is whether the United States will rule out a second extension of these talks. I know you’re focused on November 24. I know you regard there’s still time for a deal to come together. But the issues are tough and the gaps remains. The question is whether you will rule out a second extension, and that seems a fairly simple thing to address.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the reason we say things the way we say them, as you know, James, is because we want to send a strong message that our focus remains on the November 24th deadline, and that is where our focus remains. So I certainly understand your question and why you’re asking, but we’re just not going to get into ruling in or out things at this point in time. With every meeting that passes – and certainly, as the Secretary mentioned, he’s going to have a meeting in Vienna tomorrow – we’ll know more, and perhaps we’ll keep discussing this as the weeks proceed. But we certainly expect that we have – we believe, continue to believe we have the time needed to get a deal done.

QUESTION: So you’re not ruling out another extension?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not entertaining your question, I guess is what I’m saying, James. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, that was honest. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, I suppose so. I’m thrown for a loop there.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are there other questions that you’re not going to entertain?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I tried to lay out why we’re just not going to get into the game of ruling things in or out. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Which is not ruling it out. You can say, “I’m not ruling it in and I’m not ruling it out,” but that means you’re not ruling it out. It’s – logic dictates the answer there.

But in any case, why should any more time be necessary beyond November 24? As Wendy Sherman has made clear a number of times, as the background briefings have made clear a number of times, the issues are well known to all concerned and it is simply a matter of the political will to get there. So it seems to me you should be able to rule out an extension, because a year’s worth of this kind of negotiation should be sufficient to determine whether the will is there.

MS. PSAKI: Well, James, our focus remains on determining whether it’s possible to reach an agreement by November 24th. And certainly, I expect we’ll have time in the briefing room together over the next couple days and weeks, and we can keep discussing this issue.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary reached out to U.S. lawmakers about the prospect of a potential second extension?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has regular conversations about a range of issues with officials, but I’m not going to get into those more specifically.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the Administration would have the support it needs from the Congress?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.

QUESTION: The Ayatollah over the weekend posted on Twitter a fairly elaborate diagram setting forth what he explicitly called Tehran’s redlines in these negotiations. First, I presume the Department is familiar with this diagram?

MS. PSAKI: I’m aware of the Twitter activity of some officials in Iran, yes.

QUESTION: First, do you have any response to that diagram?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific response, mainly because we’re going to keep these discussions about these difficult issues private through diplomatic channels, because we feel that’s the most appropriate way to get a deal done – most effective way, I should say.

QUESTION: Without asking you to disclose the classified contents of these negotiations, has it been your observation that the redlines that were promulgated in this diagram have indeed been set by the Iranians and their delegation in the context of the talks, or are those redlines something that’s just on Twitter and elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say there are a range of comments that have been made by Iranian officials. They have their own political audience, as we all know. Beyond that, I’m not going to speak to specifics of what’s going on behind the scenes, whether there – it’s on Twitter or not on Twitter or how consistent it is.

QUESTION: Do you think that a Tweet in English from the Iranian leader is aimed at an Iranian audience? I mean, maybe it is, but --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, there’s a range of audiences that they speak to.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Iran? And then we’ll go on to the next – go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary said something to the effect that – he was, I think, being facetious – that the pundits knew more than he did about the failure or success of the meeting he’s going to have with Zarif. Isn’t that in a way saying that we are open, perhaps, to extended talks or anything like this?

MS. PSAKI: I think what he was speaking to is public comments out there by many who watch this closely that it’s possible or not possible – the prognosticators. So that’s what he was speaking to, Said. It wasn’t making a prediction one way or the other.

Do we have any more on Iran, or should we move on? Nicole, go ahead.

QUESTION: I was wondering if we could talk about the Philippines --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and this U.S. serviceman who is accused of murdering a transgender person there, if you guys have comment.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I do have something on this. Let me just find it.

Well, first, let me say we express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeffrey Laude, also known as Jennifer. A U.S. Marine has been identified as a possible suspect. The U.S. Marine is assigned to the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is being held on board the U.S.S. Peleliu while a joint investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Philippine National Police. We will continue to cooperate fully with the Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation.

QUESTION: Egypt?

QUESTION: Can we stay in this – stay in roughly the same area?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Would you entertain a question on Hong Kong?

MS. PSAKI: I would.

QUESTION: You would? Okay. So on Friday, Marie was asked about this Chinese newspaper, the People’s Daily, their allegation that the U.S. Government was behind the – or had played a role in stirring the pot in the Hong Kong protest. She denied it categorically and said – my question, though, is: Is it not correct that the U.S. Government does fund the National Endowment for Democracy, and is it not correct that the National Endowment for Democracy, or at least officials affiliated with the National Endowment – the Endowment – have had contact with some of the protest leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me clarify a few things of information that’s been out there. One is USAID does – I know this wasn’t your question, but still I felt worth sharing – does not fund any programs in Hong Kong. The NED and its core institutes, as you all know and are familiar with, such as NDI, are well known, independent NGOs that have worked transparently worldwide for more than 30 years. Congress authorizes funds for the NED, a portion of which is allocated to NDI. However, NED and NDI allocate their budgets and initiate their programs independently, and so for specifics of what they use their funding for, I would certainly point you to them.

QUESTION: Okay. So – but they were not – do you – is there no direction given to any of these groups by the government in terms of don’t you – doesn’t USAID or the State Department or someone say, “Hey, we’d like” – I mean, they apply for grants, right --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- from the government, and presumably, those grants are for things that you want to see happen, or do you want to see --

MS. PSAKI: The specifics of the funding and how it’s allocated, they determine. They are funded, as you know, on an annual basis by Congress.

QUESTION: Right, but don’t you put out contracts saying, “Look, we want – we have Program X that we want to see done in Country Y,” and then people – then these groups say, “Okay, we’ll do it,” and --

MS. PSAKI: But --

QUESTION: -- there is an end – the end – the intention of whatever program it is is set by the federal government, is it not? Not by --

MS. PSAKI: Well, but that’s a separate question, Matt, from the question of programs they run and that they use a pot of funding that Congress authorizes for.

QUESTION: So there was – so the U.S. Government writ large, in terms of the Executive Branch, had – doesn’t and did not, in this case with Hong Kong, tell any group what it wanted to see done with its money?

MS. PSAKI: That’s how the funding works, so yes.

QUESTION: North Korea --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on this issue or – oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: On North Korea, sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, North Korea released their great leader, Kim Jong-un’s picture. What is the United States view of their leader’s picture? It shows up after 40 days in his hiding?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the same reports and images. We don’t have any reason to doubt authenticity at this time. But of course, given the North Korean regime is one of the most opaque on Earth, there’s always a question about reliable information and what’s – about what’s publicly available, I should say. We’re obviously watching very carefully what’s happening in North Korea, and it certainly is a country we monitor with great attention. But beyond that, I don’t have anything new to report for you.

QUESTION: Have you seen the – have you seen that picture carefully? The North Korea expert is saying that the picture taken at the nighttime, at the – and the missing two shadows, but other two shadows (inaudible). So it’s still mystery, but --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I said, we don’t have any reason to doubt their authenticity, but I don’t have anything to confirm for you independently from here.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sort of back to --

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, we’ll go to you in the back. I apologize. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This’ll be quick, I think.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Just sort of back to the other region, is there any evidence that ISIS and its followers have now surfaced in North Africa?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team, James. Were you – is there a specific country or a specific report you want us to look into?

QUESTION: Specifically Morocco.

MS. PSAKI: Let me check with our team and see. Not that I’d heard, but I will check with our Moroccan team just to make sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Why don’t we go to this young woman back here just because she’s been waving her hand. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) That is how I usually get attention. Switching to Ebola for just a minute?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Last week, President Obama released a video message to countries in West Africa that have been experiencing outbreaks of Ebola. And in the video message, he stated that you cannot get Ebola through casual contact like sitting next to a person on a bus.

My question for the State Department would be twofold: Firstly, did the CDC vet the President’s video message before it was posted to a number of State Department websites, including U.S. Embassy websites? And then, does the State Department stand by the President’s statement that you cannot get this disease by sitting next to an infected person on a bus?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important for everybody to understand the role of the State Department. We certainly – in this particular case. We work closely with countries, we work closely with American citizens who are in countries, we provide information, we provide materials. But we are not the evaluator of health information. I’d point you to the CDC; I’d point you to the White House for your specific question.

QUESTION: But do you know if the CDC vetted this video before it was posted to y’all’s website?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the CDC and the White House for that.

QUESTION: Just one question on ISIS advance towards Baghdad.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are really some credible reports that they are in within miles’ reach from Baghdad. Are you concerned that ISIS might at some point take over Baghdad?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think first it’s important to note that the Iraqi Security Forces certainly well understand the importance of Baghdad and have stiffened their defenses in and around the capital. We do not see an imminent threat to Baghdad at this time, but we are committed to working with the Government of Iraq to end this terrorist threat and to strengthen the capability of its security forces. The Embassy remains open, continues to conduct business essential to our national security mission in Iraq. We’ve deployed also a significant number of our own military personnel to Iraq and to the region for the protection of American personnel and to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces. So we continue to monitor it very closely.

QUESTION: Recently have you deployed more, or just you are talking about the ones that you have deployed --

MS. PSAKI: The ones that we have deployed. I don’t have any new personnel to announce for you at this point in time.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on Matt’s question on Hong Kong. To clarify, do you mean the U.S. Department and the USAID has no position in the decision making with the budget to NDI or NED?

MS. PSAKI: I’m talking about this specific pot of money and how that specifically works.

QUESTION: So what – their activities in Hong Kong does not reflect your position or your endorsement to their activities?

MS. PSAKI: I think I provided all of the information I can on specifically how the funding works. I think, as Marie did on Friday, we would reject the notion that we have any involvement or engagement, and USAID does not provide any funding.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I try again on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Following James’s questions.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: When you said “I’m not ruling in or out,” does it mean that this date of November 24 is not an absolute deadline as it was --

MS. PSAKI: It is the --

QUESTION: -- and that the U.S. would be --

MS. PSAKI: Let me be clear: November 24th is our deadline. That’s where our focus remains, and what all of our efforts are --

QUESTION: But would it be acceptable for the U.S. side to extend the talks?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that at this point. We have six weeks until the deadline. Our focus is on reaching that deadline. The Secretary is having a trilateral meeting tomorrow to continue to take steps forward.

QUESTION: Are we talking about the P5+1 or the Mideast peace process here?

QUESTION: The P5+1.

MS. PSAKI: He’s talking about the P5+1.

QUESTION: On the --

QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m so old, I remember when the end of May was the deadline for reaching an agreement or a framework agreement.

MS. PSAKI: You’re so old? Matt, that wasn’t that long ago.

QUESTION: I know. It was only last year. But it was – that was your target; that was your target until it wasn’t your target anymore, so --

MS. PSAKI: November 24th is the deadline.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: That’s our focus. Nothing has changed.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, on Yemen, how do you view the advance that the Houthis is making, or are making in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I think I have a little bit of something. Well, we have seen reports of the Houthi presence and activity at the port. And we once again call on all parties to abide by the terms of the September 21st Peace and National Partnership Agreement. I don’t think I have much of a – more of an assessment than that. We can check and see. Is there a specific question you want me to follow up on?

QUESTION: They reach the – a port or seaport in a strategic area in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen reports. I don’t have any additional information on it or confirmation of it. I can check with our team and see if there’s more we can provide to you or anyone who’s interested.

QUESTION: And I have one more question. Before he took off from Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday, Secretary Kerry was holding a plastic bag. And this bag raised too many questions in Egypt on Twitter, and they were asking about: What’s in the bag? What was in the bag?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret. He does have a sweet tooth. So I don’t know if it had cookies in it. I can check and see.

QUESTION: It was a Safeway bag.

MS. PSAKI: It was a Safeway bag. (Laughter.) It could’ve been cookies or cupcakes. I will see if there is anything to confirm for you, but I would not suspect it’s anything more interesting than that.

QUESTION: In addition to cookies and cupcakes, did the Secretary get a chance to discuss the issue of the detained Al Jazeera journalist with President Sisi?

MS. PSAKI: With President – yeah. Let me give you just a little bit more on that. Well, one, Secretary Kerry – as all of you know, because I think we put out a readout – he raised specific cases over which we have consistently expressed concerns. Certainly that includes the detained journalist and others. I’m not going to specify too much about what he raised because these were sensitive discussions. There were sensitive discussions going on about a number of cases. We’ve addressed them publicly. We’ve addressed them privately. We’ll continue to address them and he does on every occasion of him meetings.

QUESTION: But did you have a sense that there’s some progress on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new assessment, unfortunately, to provide. We continue to urge the Egyptian Government to repeal or otherwise amend the highly restrictive demonstration law, and urge Egypt’s leadership to ensure due process and human rights protection for all Egyptians, but I don’t have any new assessment.

QUESTION: Part of the strategy to combat ISIS is to counter its extremist ideology.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you think that what has been described as a, like, continuous crackdown on peaceful political dissent in Egypt would eventually lead to radicalizing more sectors of youth in Egypt and would eventually be counterproductive to your strategy.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, I would point out that there are a number of officials in Egypt who have spoken out against the fact that ISIL is not Islam and spoken out against the brutality of ISIL. And that’s something we’ve had many conversations with the Egyptian Government about. That doesn’t change the fact that we have had concerns about some of the laws and some of the crackdown that we’ve seen on journalists and others exercising freedom of speech. We’ve expressed that when warranted, but I don’t want to draw a conclusion or make any predictions at this point in time.

QUESTION: What about the latest wave of crackdown on student protests? Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve had concerns in the past. We’ve expressed them. These are issues that are raised when the Secretary meets with officials, and he certainly did when he was there just last weekend. I have to wrap this up.

QUESTION: Jen, did you – sorry. Did you have anything specific – a specific reaction to the parliament vote on the Palestinian – the UK parliament?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we understand that this vote was primarily symbolic and that the United Kingdom Government – the government’s position, I should say, on this issue has not changed. We know our position has been clear and consistent for some time. We believe it’s premature. While we still support the Palestinian statehood, we believe that process needs to be reached through a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Well, through negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Through negotiations --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) two-state solution.

MS. PSAKI: -- that ultimately lead to --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry. I got ahead of the process. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, on Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: There’s been increased polling with regard to Americans’ perception of the danger of Ebola spreading in the United States. And about 35 percent-plus of Americans are indicating that they are very concerned that the measures taken to date are not sufficient to stop the inward spread of potential infected people to the United States. Does the U.S. have any change coming in terms of its policy beyond the five airports and the measures that have been put in place in the last two or three days?

MS. PSAKI: Well, CDC Director Dr. Frieden has spoken to this as recently as the weekend, and made clear that we’ll continue to evaluate, and certainly the appropriate entities, the CDC, will continue to evaluate what measures need to be put in place in coordination and cooperation with other government agencies where applicable. The point you just raised – or the new policy you just raised we just put in place last week. As we need to put in place new measures, we’ll certainly do those. But we certainly are guided by the advice and counsel and view of our health – top health officials. And that’s why we – the CDC typically are the appropriate officials to speak to it.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:02 p.m.)

DPB # 173


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

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

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 17:01

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 10, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

12:18 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Packed crowd today. Happy Friday, everyone. It’s been a while. And I’m on a little bit – I’m warning you at the top, on a little bit of a tight time schedule today, so let me just do one topper and then we’ll hop into questions.

Just a travel update. General Allen and Deputy Envoy Brett McGurk today, in Ankara, met with Turkish Deputy Chief of Defense General Guler. They also met with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg in Ankara. This was a natural conclusion to their meetings earlier this week in Brussels. They had not had the opportunity to meet with the secretary-general while they were there. They then had further meetings with moderate Syrian opposition leaders before departing Ankara. General Allen is currently en route to Washington; Ambassador McGurk is staying in the region for some further consultations.

As we noted in our statement last night reading out the Ankara meetings, the U.S. delegation and all of their Turkish interlocutors had detailed discussion on all five lines of effort to degrade and defeat ISIL.

Excuse me – take a sip of water before I finish this. It’s been a while. I’m out of practice.

We discussed areas where we think Turkey can contribute more, especially along the military line of effort. And coming out of the last two days of meetings with General Allen and Deputy Envoy McGurk, we understand that Turkey has agreed to support train and equip efforts for the moderate Syrian opposition. We are looking forward to a DOD planning team traveling to Ankara next week to continue planning through military channels. Also I want to note that, as Jen previewed yesterday, humanitarian support was an important theme throughout their conversations in Ankara. Both sides committed to continued humanitarian partnership in support of the more than one million Syrian and Iraqi civilians sheltering in Turkey.

This concludes a productive first trip for General Allen and Ambassador – or excuse me, Deputy Envoy McGurk in their new roles. This followed, obviously, on the President and the Secretary’s meetings at NATO, in Jeddah, and at the UN General Assembly. I think this really shows the breadth of our coalition, and I would remind people that since UNGA, which is the last time we sort of took stock of where we were, the Belgians have signed up and taken their first bombing runs; the Netherlands has taken airstrikes; the Australians took their first airstrikes; the Canadians have now signed up to do so as well. So just since we were all in New York – during which, I will remind people, five Arab partners joined us to take strikes in Syria – we have gotten specific kinetic military commitments from a number of countries and they’ve begun taking action.

I also want to emphasize, in closing this topper, that this is going to be a long campaign; as the President and Secretary have said, multiple lines of effort coordinated globally. In that spirit, General Allen and Deputy Envoy McGurk will travel to the Gulf states later this month for discussions with regional partners. We will provide details on those consultations in the days ahead.

Sorry, that was a long one.

QUESTION: That’s okay.

MS. HARF: Get us started, Lara.

QUESTION: That’s okay. Let’s stay on Turkey, if we could.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Going back to the lines of effort that are being discussed with the Turks, I think Jen touched a little bit yesterday on the issue of whether the U.S. is seeking Turkey to commit ground troops, but I’m not clear on what the answer is. So is the U.S. seeking troops from Turkey to contribute to this fight? And also, what’s your reaction to the reports that Turkey won’t commit troops unless the U.S. agrees to a buffer zone?

MS. HARF: A couple points, starting with the ways they can be helpful. Obviously, Turkey can be helpful in a number of ways, not just with direct military action. As I just mentioned, supporting the training and equip program for the moderate opposition. They could also provide some basing rights. I know Secretary Hagel made some comments about the specifics on this yesterday. I won’t repeat them, but certainly are in line with our thoughts on that. So we’re not going to get into specifics about what we’re exactly asking them to do militarily. Obviously, they’ve talked publicly about ground troops.

When it comes to the so-called buffer zone, no-fly zone, they’ve proposed these for some time. We are not considering the implementation of this option at this time. I know Jen has said this, as have other people, but we are continuing discussions about a range of options and working with the Turks to clarify their objectives and intentions and to identify and undertake actions that support our shared objectives in Syria and in Iraq. Those conversations continued over the past few days, and they will continue with the Turks, but again, at this point, we’re not considering the implementation of this option at this time.

QUESTION: Okay. But going back to the troops bit, and I don’t want to belabor this point, but --

MS. HARF: But we will for a few more minutes.

QUESTION: For a few more minutes, why not?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: When you and others in the Pentagon, for example, go through this list of what might be expected, the omission of troops makes it sound like the U.S. is not expecting or does not want Turkey to commit ground troops. So --

MS. HARF: I’m not trying to indicate that. I was mentioning a few things that we think they could do and that the Secretary of Defense mentioned yesterday in some interviews. I know they’ve talked about ground troops. We’re having a conversation with them about what that might look like and what role they can play broadly, including that, but don’t have much more on ground troops to offer.

QUESTION: Let me put it this way: Has it been ruled out among the things that the U.S. is not going to seek? Or --

MS. HARF: There were two negatives there, sorry. Has it been ruled out that we will not --

QUESTION: Would the United States like to see Turkey commit ground troops to this fight?

MS. HARF: We’re having a conversation with them about what that might look like. I’m not indicating that we would not be open to it. We’re just having a conversation with them.

QUESTION: You just gave me a double negative there.

MS. HARF: I know. It’s Friday, guys.

What else?

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- I was wondering, I mean, do you – was there progress made in those talks? Or was it --

MS. HARF: With the Turks?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: There was. As I just said – and I’m sorry, I started a few minutes early because I wanted to get out here, given I have short time today – that they did discuss – General Allen and Brett McGurk discussed how Turkey can play a role; understand, coming from those discussions, that Turkey has agreed to support train and equip efforts for the moderate Syrian opposition. There will be a DOD planning team traveling to Ankara next week to continue planning that through military channels. Obviously, this is a DOD program, but that was certainly one thing that came out of it. I also think that we’ll hear more announcements and more coming as the discussions continue.

QUESTION: So the issue of training and equipping is all about bringing down Assad, isn’t it, really? Because that’s what Turkey --

MS. HARF: No, it’s about supporting the moderate opposition. It’s about supporting the Syrian moderate opposition in their fight against ISIL, Nusrah, and Assad.

QUESTION: But isn’t Turkey’s wish that they really want to focus on bringing down Assad, rather than – I mean, that’s their focus. Like, you’ve got your strategic focuses, but that’s what they want to do.

MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let them speak to their strategic objectives. We agree that Assad has lost all legitimacy in Syria. But when it comes to the train and equip and supporting the moderate Syrian opposition, those are our partners on the ground in Syria. That is the opposition group we want to continue supporting, we want to grow even stronger so they can be a counterweight here. They are fighting on a number of different fronts, though. You’re right.

QUESTION: And when – I believe there was a nine-week timeline given on the training and equipping, as to when that’s going to start. I think a briefing --

MS. HARF: Let me check on that with DOD. They’d have more specifics on the operationalizing of that. I can check on that.

QUESTION: And then while this has been going on, it seems like the population is caught in the middle. The UN has said today that thousands of people will most likely be massacred in Kobani. What is the U.S. doing to stop that other than the strikes?

MS. HARF: Just a couple points on Kobani and on the numbers. I know we’ve had a couple of conversations about this over the past week now. We have undertaken multiple airstrikes in the Kobani area – 16 strikes north and south of Kobani yesterday and today, on top of the strikes we’ve taken earlier in the week. So I just want to make sure people have some of that specificity. These most recent airstrikes destroyed two ISIL training facilities, three ISIL vehicles, four ISIL-held buildings, one ISIL tank, and one ISIL heavy machine gun. They hit four ISIL units and damaged an ISIL fighting position. So we are taking strikes around Kobani, obviously, because we understand the situation is very serious there.

As Jen has said, I know that it’s extremely difficult to obtain accurate numbers on civilians in areas of active conflict. Our partners have indicated that the number of civilians in and around Kobani remains low. I don’t have more specifics than that. Most of those needing protection have already entered Turkey over the last three weeks. That’s a huge number of people. Obviously, we are incredibly concerned about the situation around – in and around Kobani. We know there’s a very dire situation there, but we think the number remains low. It’s difficult to ascertain.

QUESTION: Low as in you’re thinking --

MS. HARF: It’s – honestly, it’s really hard.

QUESTION: I know, you don’t know.

MS. HARF: And I don’t want to give – indicate a specificity when we just don’t have it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Turkey?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little bit on this joint military team which will be visiting Ankara next week? What will be specifically discussed? And broadly speaking, what do you expect from the Turks? Because despite all your efforts and you are trying to convince them, they seem to be – to remain very reluctant to get involved.

MS. HARF: Well, today they said they would support the train and equip program – A, I’d start there. B, I think DOD can give more specifics about the military team that will be heading out to talk about the operational piece of this. Secretary Hagel said yesterday that they could do things like provide some basing rights. We’ve laid out a few things they can do. The conversation’s ongoing. We think we had good meetings over the last two days. We’re looking forward to having those continuing, and to see what else they’re committed to do.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think that General Allen succeeded in convincing the Turks with the U.S. strategy against Assad? Because their priority is to remove Assad.

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. It’s not just General Allen. Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Davutoglu twice this week regarding the situation in Kobani specifically. We’ve had a number of conversations with our Turkish counterparts. As I said, this military team will be going out next week. The Turks understand the severity of the situation. They do. And they’re – they are affected by it more than almost any of the neighboring countries. So the conversation has been what specific role they can play on the five lines of effort. This is a long fight, and just because allies didn’t come out two weeks ago and say they would do something, that doesn’t mean we won’t continue the conversations and welcome support from them going forward. We’re going to need support for the long haul here. It’s not about one day or one week or one month.

QUESTION: Jen, the –

MS. HARF: Marie. It’s okay.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. It’s Friday.

MS. HARF: It’s okay. I could dye my hair red. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Blonde hair, red hair, glasses, no glasses.

MS. HARF: More people do that than you think, though, actually. It’s a –

QUESTION: Clearly, my prescription needs to be checked.

MS. HARF: You’ve done it.

QUESTION: What? I never did.

MS. HARF: No, called me Jen. Called me Jen. (Laughter.) I think it’s just a natural --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Anyways, go ahead, Roz. Sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Not that the criticism hasn’t been there almost from the beginning of the airstrikes back on August 8th, but there seems to be a cresting of criticism of the Administration’s strategy on confronting ISIL, primarily focused on the airstrikes from quarters as varied as David Ignatius in The Washington Post, Frederick Kagan writing in The LA Times, Congressman Buck McKeon speaking on one of the cable channels in the past couple of days, a former top advisor to General David Petraeus who was with him in Iraq, all suggesting that the airstrikes really need to be backed up at this point by U.S. ground forces.

And my question to you is: Are these people coming from different perspectives wrong? Is the criticism misplaced? What are they and the American public not understanding about the Obama Administration’s strategy?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple of points, Roz. I think, first, it’s easy to sort of try to be an armchair general and look at a very surface level of the strategic picture in Iraq and Syria and offer suggestions. I think that what we are confident in is the strategy as outlined by this President is being implemented by the Department of Defense, by other agencies working on the different five lines of effort, has a very comprehensive and clear path forward here. This is going to be a long fight. No one phase of it will be decisive. That’s how these fights happen. We only – how long ago was it that we started airstrikes? Not that long ago.

As of this week, the Defense Department and our coalition – the U.S. and our coalition partners have conducted a total of 398 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. We have continued to say that we will make every effort to degrade ISIL’s capabilities, to take out their command and control, to go after their sources of financing with the oil facilities, and to really push them back out of parts of Iraq. This is a long-term fight, and looking at any one day or any one week or any one town by no means gives a comprehensive picture of (a) what the fight looks like or how we’re going to take it on.

So I appreciate some of the commentary and understand where it comes from, but it’s just not a comprehensive look of what we’re facing, how we’re facing it, and how we’re fighting it. That’s what the Pentagon is doing. We’re obviously playing a role in some of the other lines of effort. And if you look at other conflicts we’ve faced, these are long-term efforts here. They can’t be driven by any one cable news cycle; that’s just not how it works.

QUESTION: But it’s not just the focus on what’s happening with the status of Kobani. There’s also concern about what is happening in Iraq, which some could argue isn’t getting as much headline attention because of the fighting in Kobani.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But there is concern in particular about the status of Anbar province –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- where ISIL has been quite aggressive in its –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- efforts to take large parts of that province.

MS. HARF: And you’re not wrong, Roz, in that ISIL is going to be aggressive. We didn’t think that as soon as we started airstrikes and taking out their fighters and their positions and their tanks that they would just stop fighting. They’ve shown themselves to be brutal, aggressive. That’s why we’re taking the fight to them. But nobody thought as soon as we would take airstrikes they would stop fighting. We know there will be intense fights as part of this conflict in the days and months ahead. We should all be prepared for that. This is a tough fight.

But I will say when it comes to the fact that we are taking direct U.S. military action in Iraq and in Syria with our coalition partners, I just named at the top of the briefing all of the countries even since UNGA that have signed up to take strikes. This is a global effort here to do so. We don’t see an imminent threat to Baghdad at this time. I know there’s been speculation in the press about this.

Iraqi Security Forces in and around Baghdad are strong. They’re under constant assessment. The Embassy remains open and we continue to conduct business. We’ve deployed a significant number of our own military personnel to Iraq and to the region for the protection of American personnel and to advise and assist Iraqi forces.

When it comes to Anbar, it’s difficult to speculate as it has been under severe threat – you are absolutely right – since the beginning of this year. The situation remains very fluid. I’m probably not going to be providing battlefield updates from the State Department podium. But we continue to support efforts by Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with the tribal fighters, directed against ISIL in Anbar. So this is going to be a tough fight. We are committed to it. Our partners are committed to it. You’ve seen us take almost – what did I say? – 400 strikes now. Those are going to continue.

Yes, Pam. Let’s go – and then Lara, you can follow up. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, there was a protest that involved Syrian Kurdish demonstrators. They were protesting near the border with Turkey and they were protesting against what they view as Turkey’s inaction in helping Kurdish residents in Kobani. A VOA cameraman who was there said he saw Turkish soldiers firing at the protestors --

MS. HARF: On the Turkish side of the border --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: -- or the Syrian side? Okay.

QUESTION: And he said that a teenage boy was killed in the incident. My question is: In light of this incident, have Turkish officials given – did they give General Allen or any other U.S. officials any kind of assurances that – regarding concerns that Turkey is not going to use this fight against the Islamic State as a pretext to go after Kurdish opponents in Turkey and in Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, we are concerned about reports of deaths, I think resulting from those clashes during demonstrations that you mentioned. We urge all sides though, all sides, to exercise restraint and avoid violence. We, of course, support freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in Turkey, as we do everywhere. I think there are still some facts that need to be gathered here but would urge all sides here, again, to exercise restraints.

Lara, yes.

QUESTION: But what about --

QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to Roz’s question about Anbar. Does the State Department or the Obama Administration writ large believe that Anbar is about to fall? Do you have any idea of who’s in control of Ramadi right now, for example?

MS. HARF: I can check on the latest update from the battlefield on Ramadi. I mean, Anbar writ large, as you know, is a fairly big place, so I don’t know if we would ever say Anbar is about – right? Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow in this fight here. I can check with my counterparts to see if there’s any update there.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: But we know the situation is fluid. It’s been under severe strain. We are very engaged with the Iraqis there.

Let’s go back to Pam. I think she had a follow-up. Sorry.

QUESTION: Right. Did he get any assurances – General Allen or other officials – any assurances from Turkey --

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I don’t know that answer.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, I’ll check for you. Let’s go to Roz. I think she had a follow-up, and then I’ll – hi, Said.

QUESTION: Hi there.

MS. HARF: And then I’ll work my way around the room. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just one more follow-up. How vigorous is the discussion within the Administration about whether airstrikes are still the preferred way for the U.S. to engage militarily?

MS. HARF: Well, our strategy hasn’t changed and it’s not just airstrikes. If you – I mean, we have said there will be no American boots on the ground in combat roles in Iraq or Syria. That has not changed, period.

QUESTION: But –

MS. HARF: But it’s not --

QUESTION: But General Dempsey did allow a few weeks ago during congressional testimony that if he felt that ground troops could help make a difference, he would make that recommendation to the President.

MS. HARF: There are a lot of – he wasn’t saying that he had made that determination.

QUESTION: No, he did not.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: But he said that if he felt that --

MS. HARF: And the President’s been clear about the strategy.

QUESTION: And what I’m simply asking is: What is the focus of the discussion? Is there still agreement within the Administration that the airstrikes are achieving their intended goal? Does something else need to be done, namely ground forces?

MS. HARF: Well, there is more – it’s not just airstrikes and ground troops and nothing in between, so let’s talk a little bit about this. We know – and the Defense Department has spoken to this more and they should speak to this more – that the airstrikes are hitting the targets they are intended to hit. That’s how you judge the effectiveness of any one airstrike. This is part of a longer strategic, comprehensive way we are going after ISIL though. The airstrikes have been effective. They take our ISIL positions. They take out ISIL tanks. They take out ISIL weapons. That’s obviously helping. And if you looked at some of the airstrikes going back months now to retake – to help the Iraqis retake the dams, to help relieve the pressure on Mount Sinjar – they have had an impact. So we can start there.

But the President has been clear that we are not going to put combat troops into these roles. What we are doing is assisting and advising the Iraqi forces, obviously training and equipping the Syrian opposition forces, to help them grow in strength, to help them fight better, to help them reconstitute when it comes to the Iraqis, and push back on ISIL. So our military is engaged in helping advise and assist, which is more than just airstrikes, right? But everyone remains in agreement that we will not, as part of this strategy, put combat troops in.

Yes.

QUESTION: One more since you brought up train and assist.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Spanish said that they would be sending in two to three hundred advisors to help with the training of Iraqi forces. Are they the only other country that has offered to do this at this point?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, Roz, but let me check after the briefing and get some specifics for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Hi Marie --

MS. HARF: And then I’m going to you, Said.

QUESTION: Does ISIS’s gains in the Anbar province raise the prospect of more intense fighting later to push them back?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I would defer to my Pentagon colleagues for sort of that kind of battlefield assessment. That’s more their lane in the road than mine. We know this will be an intense fight at times. We are very clear-eyed about that. But I don’t have any more specifics for you.

QUESTION: And then one more: Has Iraq’s new government reached out to the majority Sunni population of Anbar?

MS. HARF: It’s my – to my knowledge, they have had preliminary discussions. They’ve been engaging with tribal leaders. I can get more specifics from our team. I know Brett McGurk has been very engaged in this issue, as have others. I can get some more for you on that.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Marie, sorry for being late. Good to see you behind the podium again.

MS. HARF: I know. It’s been a while. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. So you may have talked about this, but let me take you back – indulge me if you would. Do you find yourself in conflict with your allies, the Turks, on what are the goals of this mission that, in fact, they are now moving because they have conflicting goals with you regarding Kobani?

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: Let me explain further. Do you --

MS. HARF: But explain further, and then I can maybe answer further.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll explain further. Do you find that the inaction by the Turks, the military inaction by the Turks, is because you don’t see eye to eye on what the endgame should be?

MS. HARF: Well, as – and I know you were running a few minutes late – at the beginning, I said that the Turks in our conversations over the past few days have agreed to support the train and equip program for the Syrian moderate opposition. They are taking additional steps. The Secretary of Defense yesterday talked about even more steps they could take, including basing rights. Obviously, they have a role to play in all of the five different efforts here.

We agree with the Turks about the fact that ISIL needs to be defeated. We all agree on that.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: We also all agree that Assad has lost legitimacy to lead. We have said in this military campaign we are focused on the former: going after ISIL. But we agree on the fact of what the Syrian future should look like.

QUESTION: But that is the point. I mean, they – what you call the moderate opposition, or what they call the moderate opposition, you don’t see as moderate – for instance, Jabhat al-Nusrah, Ahrar ash-Sham. The Turks seem to be determined to train these people that you have placed on the terror list – or the terrorist list. So they want to train these people and give them basically safe haven so they can go about bringing down the regime.

MS. HARF: Well, I think, Said, that what I was speaking to today about their support for the train and equip program is for the moderate vetted opposition that we work with in Syria.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And that’s what we’re focused on. Obviously, you’re right, Jabhat al-Nusrah is a designated terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Right. So you agree that what you consider the moderate opposition – or what you consider terrorists, they consider to be moderate opposition.

MS. HARF: Not at all. No, I’m not speaking for the Turkish Government. They can speak for what they – who they support inside Syria. What we have said is what we are focused on, working with them on now, is supporting the vetted moderate opposition that we work with.

QUESTION: Okay. And one last thing: The Turks say that they don’t want to – they don’t see defeating ISIS or dislodging ISIS from Kobani at this point as a priority because they don’t want to see regime forces filling the void or the gap or the vacuum. Do you agree with their assessment?

MS. HARF: Well, they are free to make their own assessments. As I said, we’ve taken an additional 16 strikes north and south of Kobani yesterday and today, multiple air strikes. We understand the severity of the situation there. Obviously, the strategic objectives aren’t limited to any one town or any one fight; it’s much bigger than that. But we have taken strikes around this area for this exact reason. Because we’re concerned about it.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned that --

MS. HARF: Oh – and then I’ll go to you. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is the U.S. concerned that Turkey is basically trying to upend what is already a difficult mission? I’m just rephrasing Said’s question.

MS. HARF: No, I don’t know what you’re referring to exactly.

QUESTION: By repeatedly talking about the need to get rid of Bashar al-Assad, which the U.S. decided a year ago it could not do because it didn’t have either the political support in this country or the support from key allies, namely the UK, to launch air strikes after the --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- chemical weapons mission.

MS. HARF: That’s not an exact accurate reading of history.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS. HARF: If we go back there, we’ve always said there’s no military solution to the – what needs to be a transitional governing body in Syria. The reason we set our objectives of the potential strikes last year was not to dislodge the Assad regime because we wanted to keep them very focused on the use of chemical weapons. So --

QUESTION: Right. But because of that, there was a discussion about using chemical weapons because of something that the Assad government had done. The U.S. has really dialed back from trying to deal with that whole issue beyond OPCW. Is --

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s true at all, Roz. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, but is there – no, but is – but – right.

MS. HARF: Well, I disagree with the premise of what you just said though.

QUESTION: Well, but the basic question is: Is the U.S. worried that Turkey is trying to basically expand this conflict into something that could be unmanageable?

MS. HARF: What we are focused on in the conversations with the Turks as a NATO ally, as someone more directly affected by this than anyone, is what role they can play in the five lines of effort against ISIL. Obviously, we have conversations with them in general about the path forward in Syria, how we believe there’s no military solution, how Assad has lost legitimacy. Look, that’s part of the reason they’re supporting the moderate opposition in Syria that we support. So – but what we are focused on is these five lines of effort and how they can fit into those different pieces of them.

QUESTION: But it seems as if the Turks are trying to change the conversation – and I use that word in quotes – about what military action and what the other four lines of engagement ought to be focused on. It seems as if they’re trying to change this from dealing with ISIL into dealing with Assad. Is the U.S. worried about that?

MS. HARF: Well, the – well, no, because the conversations we’re having with them are focused on how to deal with ISIL.

QUESTION: Marie, just a quick follow-up.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today, the envoy to Syria – the UN Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura called on Turkey basically to allow fighters to go in and help the Kobani residents. Now, these fighters are basically PKK, which you also place on the terror list. Do you support his call for that?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see him say that specifically, Said.

QUESTION: Well, he doesn’t say that specifically --

MS. HARF: The PKK is a designated terrorist --

QUESTION: -- but they’re the – they are the ones that really have the capability to do that. And basically, implicitly --

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see him call on the PKK to do anything. Obviously, they’re a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: He – okay. He called on Turkey to allow volunteers to go – to Kurdish fighting – or fighter volunteers to go into Kobani and fight, but Turkey is not allowing them.

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Do you agree with him?

MS. HARF: Again, I didn’t see his comments, and I want to make sure you’re characterizing them in the right way. The situation is horrific in Kobani to watch in real time. We all know this.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And obviously, we – that’s why we’ve taken airstrikes around Kobani. That’s why we’re talking to the Turks about what more everyone can do, including the Secretary having two conversations with Prime Minister Davutoglu about Kobani just this week.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you go to Hong Kong?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then you can go to Hong Kong, I promise.

QUESTION: You just said the conversation with the Turks is about ISIL --

MS. HARF: Well, we have broader conversations, too. But when it comes to the – what they can contribute to the coalition, it’s about the fight against ISIL.

QUESTION: So have they raised the issue of Assad?

MS. HARF: I would venture to guess in one of our conversations, I’m sure they have raised the issue of Assad.

QUESTION: And is it still the U.S. position that you are not going after anything Assad, that you believe that that’s a political --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- solution?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Given that, how soon – I mean, I know this is – I mean, is there a parallel system going on – conversation going on about that?

MS. HARF: About the political path forward?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: There is, and there has been. And the challenge, as we all know, is that we had two rounds of talks in Geneva. The regime came unwilling to discuss a transitional governing body framework or how to get there, and we’re not going to hold a third until they’re willing to. And they’re not willing to at the moment. So part of what we’re doing writ large in Syria with our support of the moderate opposition is trying to change the regime’s calculation. That doesn’t mean we’re going after them directly with this effort, because we’re not, but it’s trying to get them to change their calculation. That’s, as we know, very difficult and a long-term challenge.

Hong Kong? Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: You can change the subject.

QUESTION: A few questions on Hong Kong.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: There is this research report titled “Hong Kong Occupy Central protest was scripted in Washington, D.C.,” in which the report pointed out two organizations, which is National Endowment for Democracy and the National Democratic Institute. They have backed, funded, and support the organizers in Hong Kong.

First of all, I would like to know what’s the State Department role in this Occupy movement, and what’s your connection with these two organizations.

MS. HARF: We do not have a role here. We categorically reject accusations that we are manipulating the activities of any person, group, or political party in Hong Kong. What is happening there is about the people of Hong Kong, and any assertion otherwise is an attempt to distract from the issue at hand, which is the people expressing their desire for universal suffrage and an election that provides a meaningful choice of candidates representative of their own voters’ will. So I would categorically reject those kinds of accusations.

QUESTION: But on public records we find online, these two organizations are mentioned. They are funded within the budget of USAID. So would you say they are part of the State Department because they are receiving funding from the State Department’s --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking at. I’m happy to look at it more closely and provide some explanation for what you are looking at, but again, categorically reject any accusations that the U.S. Government – that we are manipulating the activities in any way of any person, any group, or any political party there. Categorically reject. Again, I can take a look at what you’re looking at. I don’t know what that refers to, but I know what the facts are here and reject that accusation.

QUESTION: So you are rejecting any role of the State Department --

MS. HARF: Categorically reject.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I would just ask – yeah – the follow-up. The conversation between Hong Kong Government and the student has canceled, as you know.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: And more than 10,000 people – or student, again, continue to protest on the street. So how do you see this situation, and do you have a comment about the cancellation by the Hong Kong Government?

MS. HARF: Well, we obviously continue to encourage all parties here to address their differences peacefully through dialogue. That’s what we have said needs to be the path forward here. Obviously, that could include talks between – that should include between the two sides here. That’s what we’ll continue to call for.

I am very unnerved by Matt being in third row, by the way. (Laughter.) I just want everyone to see this.

QUESTION: It’s a different perspective --

MS. HARF: I know, I know. It’s like my whole universe is off. I’m going to call on Matt in the third row.

QUESTION: I apologize for being late.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: I don’t – did you talk about the Nobel Peace Prize at all?

MS. HARF: I did not.

QUESTION: You did not.

MS. HARF: I did not.

QUESTION: Could you now?

MS. HARF: I can.

QUESTION: I presume that you’re – you will congratulate the two recipients. You’re not upset about the choice, are you?

MS. HARF: We extend our warmest congratulations to the recipients of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to promote the rights of children and young people, including the right to education. We’ve all talked a lot, particularly about Malala’s case. She served as an inspiration for children everywhere, demonstrated extraordinary courage throughout her campaign for universal education. I think we’ll probably be putting out a statement later today as well.

QUESTION: Are you at all hopeful that this, because India and Pakistan are essentially sharing this prize, that this might offer a moment – an opportunity for broader rapprochement, especially considering the two recipients have invited the leaders of the two countries to join them in the ceremony?

MS. HARF: Well, Matt, we certainly join Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi and the people of Pakistan and India in celebrating the achievements of these two global leaders who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today. So obviously, anything that leads to greater understanding, greater conversation, greater dialogue is a good thing.

QUESTION: Okay. And last one on this: Are you – do you have any thoughts at all about Malala, at least her comments about the policies of a previous Peace Prize winner, as it relates to drone strikes?

MS. HARF: Are you referring to the President --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: -- as the previous Peace Prize winner?

MS. HARF: I am. And not Roosevelt. I don’t have --

QUESTION: Teddy.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything on that.

QUESTION: You don’t – that doesn’t bother --

MS. HARF: I don’t have any comment on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Don’t have any comment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I can just do a couple more guys. I’m sorry. I warned you at the beginning that I was on a tight time.

QUESTION: On the same subject.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yes.

QUESTION: The – with all these talks and statements and – where do we stand actually? Have you reached out to India and Pakistan, because the fighting on (inaudible), the line of actual control is increasing now that India has taken a tough stand and the Pakistanis are (inaudible). So where do we stand, like, today?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re concerned about any violence on the line of control, as we’ve said. Continue to encourage both the governments of India and Pakistan to engage in further dialogue to address these issues, and believe that they – those two countries should determine the pace, the scope, the character of the dialogue on Kashmir.

Let’s just do two more. Said.

QUESTION: Could I go to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict real quick?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Okay. We have two things. We have the donor conference and --

MS. HARF: Yes, we are heading there tomorrow.

QUESTION: Is there likely to be any kind of meeting between Secretary Kerry and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas --

MS. HARF: We don’t --

QUESTION: -- independent of the conference on the --

MS. HARF: We don’t have a full schedule for the conference yet, but I expect they probably will. We don’t have a full schedule.

QUESTION: Okay. And this being the olive harvest, every year Palestinian farmers that farm olives are subject to a tax by settlers. Today --

MS. HARF: You’ve asked about this before.

QUESTION: Yes, I have.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Every year it’s the same thing.

MS. HARF: I remember.

QUESTION: Okay. So the – yesterday, there was an attack where they uprooted the trees in Yusuf, in the northern West Bank, and so on. Can you call on the – while the soldiers were standing around watching this happen – can you call on the Israel Government to do all it can to prevent some marauding settlers or whatever from uprooting or burning the trees?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports, Said, and I don’t want to comment without having seen them.

QUESTION: Okay, if --

MS. HARF: So let me get you something after the briefing if we have anything to say.

QUESTION: If you do see these reports and you can authenticate these reports, will you call on the Israel Government to do all it can to stop these actions?

MS. HARF: We’ll get you a comment if I can confirm them.

Yes. I’m going to do two more, and then, unfortunately, I’m really sorry guys, I have to --

QUESTION: Brief one on Ebola.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: There is a kind of hysteria spreading across Europe and the U.S. about Ebola. Do you agree with the CDC chief, Dr. Frieden, who said yesterday that it could be the next AIDS epidemic?

MS. HARF: Well, I think what the CDC chief has also said is that with the proper procedures, Ebola can be contained. So he’s a doctor. I’m going to refer to him.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. HARF: Two more – because I have an Iran meeting I can’t be late to.

Yes.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Hong Kong.

MS. HARF: And then I’ll do Iran --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- and then we’ll end with that. Yes.

QUESTION: A follow up on Hong Kong and the protest. Do you know if there has been any fresh dialogue on – with – from U.S. officials following the decision by authorities to break off holding talks with (inaudible) students?

MS. HARF: Today, I can – I don’t know. I can check. Obviously, we discussed this when the Chinese were in town last week. Let me see if there’s anything new to share on that, and then we’re going to end with Iran.

QUESTION: There was a suggestion that perhaps the P5+1 talks might be extended past November 24th.

MS. HARF: I saw that. By the Iranians, you mean?

QUESTION: Yeah, by the Iranians.

MS. HARF: Yes, I saw that.

QUESTION: So what does the U.S. think of this?

MS. HARF: We believe there is sufficient time in the time that remains – adequate, sufficient, enough time – to work through the issues we have, to arrive at a comprehensive agreement by November 24th. It’s in everyone’s interest to get to a comprehensive agreement that assures the international community that Iran’s program is entirely for peaceful purposes, that they cannot get a nuclear weapon by the 24th.

Next week, we’ll be going – as you know, the Secretary will have a trilateral meeting with Cathy Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif. There will be a bilateral U.S.-Iran meeting the day before. There’s enough time. We know what the issues are. There’s a path forward here, but we all need to take it.

QUESTION: But you’re not ruling out extending if that presents itself?

MS. HARF: We’re focused on the 24th. We’re focused on the 24th.

QUESTION: Well, of course, there was enough time and you knew what the issues were a year ago too, right?

MS. HARF: Okay. Is there a question?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if you did – I mean, I don’t know why – do you have any confidence that you’ll meet the 24th, the deadline?

MS. HARF: This is a tough challenge, right, and these are tough negotiations. If it were easy, it would have been done a very long time ago, as I’m fond of saying from this podium.

QUESTION: About many different --

MS. HARF: About many different – I can use it a lot, about many different issues. But I will say there has been some progress in these talks, but these are tough issues. There are still fairly wide gaps on certain critical issues, and that’s what we’ll be talking about next week. The conversations next week, I will say – the trilat will follow on the two trilateral meetings the three had in New York, at the UN General Assembly, will follow on those conversations. And coming out of that I think we’ll talk a little bit more about what happens between now and the 24th.

QUESTION: But despite what you say about there – you believe there is enough time, you’re not necessarily confident that (inaudible).

MS. HARF: I don’t think I would ever use that term about something that’s so complicated and difficult.

QUESTION: Do you expect --

QUESTION: But you wouldn’t close the door, having said that there’s been some progress made?

MS. HARF: Not at all. Absolutely. We believe there is sufficient time to resolve the remaining issues and to get to a comprehensive agreement by the 24th. Absolutely. I will repeat that again.

QUESTION: And do you expect the Secretary to talk with the Iranian foreign minister other issues beside the nuclear program?

MS. HARF: I know this is – this trilateral meeting is – and the bilat is not with the Secretary, it’s with Deputy Secretary Burns and that negotiating team. This is a meeting focused on the nuclear negotiations. As we’ve said, sometimes other issues come up, including last time in New York – ISIL came up. It would be sort of odd if three leaders of that level met and didn’t talk about what else was going on in the world. But these talks, these negotiations, this trilateral is focused on the nuclear issue.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you, guys. Everyone have a good, long holiday weekend.

QUESTION: You too.

MS. HARF: We will see you – Jeff will see you on Tuesday.

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

DPB #172

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

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

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 18:15

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:07 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: All right. Hello, good afternoon.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MS. PSAKI: I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk met today with His Majesty King Abdullah II and other Jordanian Government officials, commending Jordan’s critical role in countering ISIL and Jordanian leadership on regional and global security issues. The Government and people of Jordan have shown great compassion and generosity in receiving and hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. We recognize this is a tremendous challenge for Jordan’s economy and public services. In their meetings, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our continued commitment to supporting Jordan through this crisis.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk then traveled to Cairo, where they will meet tomorrow with Foreign Minister Shoukry and Arab League Secretary General Elaraby. They will next travel to Ankara on October 9th and 10th, which is, of course, tomorrow and Friday. We’ll have further readouts of those meetings there as the week continues.

I wanted to also note we certainly echo the sentiments made in the statement put out by the White House welcoming Canada’s – the Canadian Government’s deployment of fighter and refueling aircraft, as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, to participate – excuse me – in the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL.

Also, we’ve already confirmed or mentioned to all of you the Secretary’s travel to Cairo to participate in an international conference for Gaza reconstruction. There he will join the EU, the UN, the Arab League, and other foreign leaders in support of a major humanitarian assistance and reconstruction effort to benefit Palestinians living in Gaza. This will build on the commitment of the $118 million from the United States in humanitarian assistance to Gaza announced in September.

He will also travel to Vienna, Austria on October 15th for a trilateral meeting with EU High Representative Lady Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the comprehensive nuclear negotiations with Iran. This meeting will follow on the two trilateral meetings held in New York recently during the UN General Assembly and is part of the EU-led P5+1 negotiations with Iran.

In preparation for the trilateral meeting, on October 14th, Deputy Secretary Burns, Under Secretary Sherman, and Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, with the U.S. negotiating team, will meet bilaterally with Iran in Vienna. Deputy EU Secretary General for the External Action Service Helga Schmid, along with their expert team, will join this meeting as well. We will be releasing a full U.S. delegation list soon.

Two other quick items. In the back, we have journalism students in the red jackets, I believe, who are here visiting us from Santiago, Chile. They’re in the United States to visit government agencies, media outlets, and historic sites in New York and Washington, so welcome to all of you.

And let me also welcome – where is she – Adelaide? Where is she? You gotta wave your hand. Okay, hello. Adelaide Cope, a seventh grader from Falls Church, Virginia. She is also a child of a Foreign Service officer and maybe an aspiring future spokesperson. So Matt will probably still be here. Maybe some of you will be as well. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh, God. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: But welcome to her. We’re glad to have her plans.

QUESTION: I never make plans that far in advance. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Yes. And I hope she’ll let me come back and visit when she – if she one day has this job.

Okay, Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, let’s start with McGurk/Allen/ISIS, ISIL/what is going on, because I gotta say I’m completely mystified. You’re going last today, at least in terms of briefings. The Secretary has spoken, the Pentagon has spoken, the White House has spoken, now you’re going to speak. So --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. What can I add?

QUESTION: Do you or do you – is a buffer zone something that is worthy to be examined, or is it something that is flat out not under consideration? Because I don’t know, it’s mind-boggling to me how the messages – maybe I’m just not understanding it correctly, but I thought I heard the Secretary say that it was worth a very, very close look, worth examining – all right, sorry. “It’s worth looking at very, very closely.” “It’s worth examining.” And then I hear the Pentagon say no and the White House say no, this is not something that’s under consideration. Aren’t these things mutually exclusive?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, but let me do my best to clarify or just explain to all of you --

QUESTION: Good luck.

MS. PSAKI: -- what our position is. This is a proposal, as all of you know, that Turkey and other countries have raised for some time – for years, in fact – and we’ve discussed with them over the course of time. These conversations are continuing. As I noted in the beginning, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will be there Thursday and Friday. Secretary Kerry also spoke with Prime Minister Davutoglu over the last two days.

So while we are not considering the implementation of this at this time, it doesn’t mean we are not continuing discussions about a range of options, including proposals and ideas that a range of countries out there. So – or out there have proposed. So we’re working with the Turks to identify and undertake actions that support our shared objectives in Syria and Iraq, and when they have ideas they raise them. And we’re open to discussing this. We’ve never ruled it out. We’re just not considering the implementation at this time.

QUESTION: Well, if you think it’s a bad idea, why even bother to discuss it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think --

QUESTION: I mean, it just sounds like a waste of time then.

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. I think it’s not without challenges, as we all know. Secretary Kerry said in his response there would have to be safety guarantees, would have to have guarantees there wouldn’t be attacks by the government. So those are issues that would have to be thoroughly examined. They’re not easy to address, but we’re happy to hear out our partners and allies out there about their ideas and what they think would be most effective.

QUESTION: But if you’re just – but if the Pentagon and the White House are dismissing it out of hand, why even – I mean, it sounds like it’s like a tease. I mean, why tell Erdogan that you’re – that this – that you think that this is a worthwhile – at least it’s worthwhile to examine, while you have the executive – you have the White House saying it’s not a consideration and the Pentagon, who would be involved in actually enforcing such a thing, saying that it’s not under consideration. It’s just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it’s not without challenges to implement. And certainly, the Pentagon would be – have primary responsibility for that. And we’re not naive about that fact. We’ve never ruled it out. We’re open to hearing from our partners. And that’s what I expect we’ll continue to do.

QUESTION: But you – you’re open to hearing – you’re open to talking about it, but you’re not open to implementing it. So why waste everyone’s time with talking about it and getting people’s hopes up if --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not considering implementation of it at this time. We’re going to talk about the issues --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- what the challenges are. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.

QUESTION: Well, the French president came out today and said that he supported the idea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So are you opposed to someone else trying to do this, to someone else trying to enforce it, or does this have to be – do you think that you need to be involved if it’s going to – if something like this is going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: I saw the comments of the French president. I’m not sure if they indicated that they would be open to enforcing it or if they just supported the idea.

QUESTION: But you can’t even say that you support the idea.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not – we’re open to discussing it. We haven’t made a decision to do it, obviously, or you’d know.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: If you --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Have there been any conversations today with the Turks about this?

MS. PSAKI: There haven’t been new conversations at the Secretary’s level. Certainly at the local level, sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: In terms of implementation – sorry, Jo. Can I just ask, just to follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If it’s something that you are discussing or considering, it is something that you think you can do within the authorities you have right now from Congress to strike ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure --

QUESTION: Or is it something that would require going back to Congress to do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Nicole, I think it’s a good question. I’m not a lawyer, as you know. So I think if we made a decision that there were – that this was something worth continuing a discussion on or we were open to implementing it, we’d have to ensure that we were abiding by all legal authorities, of course. But I’d have to talk to them about if there’s any specifics there – our legal team, that is.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, Said. Let’s go to Jo first and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I just want to go back on what Matt was saying. I mean, this is the first time that Secretary Kerry has actually seemed to indicate that it’s worth looking at the idea. Before you’ve always taken the position that you’re not considering it and therefore it’s not even going to be discussed. Whereas now he’s sort of saying that it’s – as Matt said, it’s worth looking at very, very closely, and he said if Syrian citizens can return to Syria and be protected in an area across the border, there’s a lot that would commend that. So he’s actually going a step further than you have done in the past.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but, Jo, also in his answer he talked about how there are many challenges to implementing this, including safety guarantees, including assurances there wouldn’t be attacks by the government, resources. And many from the military have talked about those. Those have been challenges that have been around for some period of time. Obviously, this is an active – or an active debate out there now because Turkey and other countries have renewed their interest in having a discussion about this. And we’re certainly open to having that discussion with them. It doesn’t change the fact that there are challenges. And that certainly is – are some of the prominent reasons why we’re not considering the implementation of it at this time.

QUESTION: So has he really spoken out of turn? I mean, he said, “We are all in favor of looking at this very closely.” “We are all in favor.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re open to discussing. We’re open to hearing from our partners and allies. That’s his role as the chief diplomat of the United States. It doesn’t mean our policy has changed as the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, on this point of we are all being in favor, it’s even more mystifying and dumbfounding because the purpose of a no-fly zone is to sort of disallow your enemy from the benefit of using their air assets. To the best of your knowledge, does ISIS have airplanes and helicopters and so on, so you can impose a no-fly zone?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think when he said that he was referring to we’re all in favor of hearing out our partners and allies who want to talk about this proposal. That’s what he was referring to.

QUESTION: But you do agree that the purpose of a no-fly zone is to prevent your enemy from using their air assets, correct? Airplanes, attack planes, and things of that nature.

MS. PSAKI: In that area where there’s a no-fly zone, technically, broadly speaking, sure, yes.

QUESTION: Right. But you can’t confirm that ISIS, until now, does not have any kind of airplanes or attack planes or anything like this. So why would you have a no-fly zone in that particular area?

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a range of reasons a number of countries have outlined and advocated for why they think it would be beneficial. That isn’t our position, but I would point you to the other countries’ comments.

Roz, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on this.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could that be the reason why the Pentagon is saying no, we don’t need it?

MS. PSAKI: I think that our position as an Administration, across the Administration, is that we’re not considering the implementation of this at this time. That is consistent across the Administration. It is not without challenges, as I have mentioned, and as the Secretary mentioned as well, and certainly as the implementing part of the Administration – the Pentagon – is well aware of what those challenges are. Certainly.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One of the key points that Rear Admiral Kirby made during his briefing today was that from the Pentagon’s perspective, the mission is denying safe haven to ISIL fighters.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How would --

MS. PSAKI: I think I said that yesterday too, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But how would a buffer zone even be compatible with that larger mission, which he kept saying has to be the primary focus right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I said we’re not considering the implementation of it, so I’m not going to speculate on what it would achieve.

QUESTION: But it’s not a matter of speculation. I mean, if there were an active discussion and then decision by the U.S. and others in the coalition that some sort of buffer zone and/or no-fly zone should be implemented, how does that affect the offensive mission of going after the enemy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, there has not been, and if there’s a decision to, we’ll outline why we’re doing it. But obviously those are discussions that will take place with our partners about this in the coming days.

QUESTION: But it just seems really incongruous. And then obviously the thing that’s not being talked about is that when you establish a buffer zone or when you establish a no-fly zone, that requires more personnel, more equipment, more money, more of a robust coordinating commitment --

MS. PSAKI: I think I just talked about the challenges, and we’re certainly aware of those, Roz. And you’re right, there are many challenges to implementing a buffer zone. We have not been the country advocating for that. There are other countries who have been advocating for why this would be an effective tool.

QUESTION: But there does seem to be reluctance on the Pentagon’s part to want to bring in more of those elements in order to conduct something when they’re still looking at making certain, as Admiral Kirby said, that Baghdad doesn’t fall, that ISIL does not have the ability to retake any of the territory that it has lost to the Iraqi military in coordination with the coalition airstrikes.

MS. PSAKI: There’s agreement on the challenges across the Administration about this. That’s obviously why it’s been discussed for years. It’s not been something that’s been implemented.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. So this no-fly zone and buffer zone, first time it came out, December of 2011.

MS. PSAKI: First time Turkey --

QUESTION: By Turkey, yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- mentioned it? Okay.

QUESTION: Yes, put forward. And every single year, Turkey has been talking about this for about three years. And you are saying now that you are open to discuss the idea. I don’t get it. You have not discussed this idea with Turkey for the last three years?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly been hearing Turkey and other countries out about their ideas over the course of time. Obviously, I think Turkey and other countries have raised it – I’ll let them speak for themselves – recently because of the events on the ground, the growth of ISIL, the increasing threat that they’ve seen to their border. So I don’t think anybody should be surprised about their renewed focus on this option.

QUESTION: So you – that means that you have not discussed this idea before, you have not gotten any concrete proposal?

MS. PSAKI: It’s certainly been raised by Turkey, as they have said, in private discussions for some time now.

QUESTION: Today, there was a story in New York Times and it was an unnamed official, U.S. official, and he was saying that, or she was saying that, there is de facto no-fly zone in northern Syria anyway, so asking Turkey, why do you need no-fly zone? Would you agree with this assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve seen those same reports. I think I don’t have any military confirmation. I’m not sure if my colleague over at the Pentagon was asked and addressed that particular question. I’d point you to Turkey for their reasons on why they think it’s an effective tool.

QUESTION: Do you suspect that Turkey is using this as a ploy really to target the Syrian Government and the Assad regime, and not really ISIS? I mean, seeing how the way they have been maneuvering around Kobani and others and so on, really allowing sort of the Kurds to be attacked and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, look, Said, I think Turkey is an important coalition partner, an important ally, an important NATO ally. They’ve felt this threat, the threat of ISIL, as much or more than most countries around the world. And certainly they have their own concerns to be focused on, and that’s one of the reasons why they need to play a pivotal role here, and that’s the discussion we’re having.

QUESTION: But if you look at the rhetoric coming out of Ankara, you find that the anti-Assad rhetoric far exceeds whatever they’re saying about ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a recognition ISIL poses a direct threat and a neighboring threat to Turkey. The Secretary has been in close touch with them, General Allen has been – will be there in the next couple of days, and clearly we think they can do more.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Jen, in the article – sorry, Matt – in the article in The New York Times, there was a quote from an unnamed Administration official saying there’s a lot of angst in Washington about Turkey’s reluctance to step into the fight. Is that the way that you would characterize it?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I think, Jo, we understand weeks ago that they had some sensitivities, which is why they couldn’t join up earlier. They’ve indicated they want to be a part of it. We’re in active discussions with them about what role they’ll play, and that’s what our focus is on.

QUESTION: Rear Admiral Kirby also allowed that, quote, “We can’t make them do anything,” meaning the Turkish military.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true of any country.

QUESTION: And that seems to really just underscore this whole idea of even trying to engage with the Turks if we – if we, meaning the United States, can’t make them do anything, then who’s going to do it? And it seems as if, by default, it’s going to fall back on the Pentagon to conduct this fight.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, there are more than 50 countries that are a part of this coalition, many of them taking military action or contributing militarily. We don’t need every country to contribute militarily. But what I think my colleague over at the Pentagon was saying is that they have to make the decision about what choices they’re going to make and what contributions they’re going to make on their own. Certainly, we’re encouraging them to do more, and that’s the reason General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are going there.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: You said in response to an earlier question that the Turks need to play a, quote, “pivotal role here.” Are you concerned that they are not stepping up to the plate, have not stepped up to the plate to play a pivotal role thus far?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we all know, Matt, that they are still determining what role they’ll play in the coalition. So obviously, there’s more that they will do over the course of time --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and that is what we are discussing with them.

QUESTION: And recognizing that it was several weeks ago that the hostage – their diplomatic hostage situation was resolved, and it was less time than since the parliament voted, it’s still been some time during which they have had the sensitivities removed, ostensibly --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- and they haven’t done anything, and in fact, not just not doing anything, they’re – instead of just sort of only just having their military lined up on the border watching what’s going on in Kobani, they’re actively preventing Kurds from inside Turkey, who are trying to go to help in Kobani, from going in.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: How is that – how is that the action --

MS. PSAKI: -- it’s clear, Matt, that we’re having discussions with them about what more they can do military. There are other contributions they’ve made that are not military contributions in participating in this. The parliament voted just a week ago.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So they knew that Ambassador McGurk and General Allen were coming there. It’s an opportunity to have a discussion, and we’ll see where things go from there.

QUESTION: Well, so what exactly have they done?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve taken steps to crack down on foreign fighters. They’ve --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I went through some of the outline of this the other day.

QUESTION: So – right. But in terms of actual – so doing what they should’ve been doing in the first place years ago, i.e., not letting extremists into Syria in the first place, whether it was inadvertent or intentional, doing what they’re supposed to be doing, doesn’t make them – I mean, does that make them a full and active member of the coalition with a pivotal role? Or do they actually have to do something?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, they’ve taken steps that are in many of our lines of effort to crack down on foreign fighters, to do more on counter-financing, to do more on delegitimizing ISIL. Obviously, there is a discussion about their military role. That’s an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: So the question is what more would you like them to do? Do you want them to put boots on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to outline that from here. It’s not appropriate to do that. There’s a discussion between our CENTCOM leaders – General Allen and Ambassador McGurk and others – about what role they’ll play.

Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Jen, how many civilians are trapped or in Kobani and the surrounding villages? And are any of them able to move to a safer place across the border in Turkey? How many people are there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any assessment of that, Michael, in front of me.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: We can get you more if possible. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ll just – a follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry and you have made the case that you have strategic objectives going after command control and the like, but not all of the military operations in Iraq have – in that area have been based on strategic considerations alone. There was the intervention on Mount Sinjar for the Yezidis. How does – why does the plight of the Kurds in Kobani differ from the case of the Yezidis? How do you decide on what basis to launch a humanitarian intervention for the Yezidis but not on behalf of the people in and around Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, as you know, Michael – I know you follow this closely – we have been doing airstrikes into the area around Kobani for the past several days. They’ve increased overnight. I think there’s different strategic objectives when it comes to Syria and when it comes to Iraq. And with Iraq – let me actually say with Syria, we are focused on disrupting ISIL’s command and control centers, destroying ISIL’s critical infrastructure, attacking sources of ISIL fuel and financing. That’s where our military – what our military objectives are focused on.

In Iraq, obviously, Iraq has been a partner and one that we have been working closely with the government on. We’ve been boosting up the Iraqi Security Forces. And our objectives there have been different. It’s not that we don’t watch with deep concern about what is happening in Kobani; that’s one of the reasons we’ve taken military action. And also, certainly, there have been on-the-ground efforts between forces on the ground to work to push back on this as well. We’ll continue to do more. But there are different objectives for different components of this effort.

QUESTION: Can you just – not just for my benefit, but for everyone here – by the end of the day give us your estimate of the number of civilians there? Because I don’t understand how you can say that the fall of Kobani would basically not be a strategic setback if you can’t even tell us how many people are there and how many people might, in fact, be in danger of losing their lives. I think – can you give us your best estimate by the end of the day and the number of civilians at risk there --

MS. PSAKI: We certainly – certainly --

QUESTION: -- in the city and in the surrounding villages?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, Michael, we can look into what estimate we can provide on that front.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Jen, one question. I want to follow up, just a follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Just – go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up: You said that because Iraq is your partner, the strategic goals are different from the ones you have in Syria. To me, it sounds like saying if you – if I put it bluntly, saying that saving Erbil is more strategic for you than saving the people in Kobani.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all how I put it. I was outlining what our military objectives are. I think the United States has clearly done more than, I would say, any other country in the world to date to take on the threat of ISIL. We’ve done more strikes in the area of Kobani. We’ve provided more humanitarian assistance in the region writ large. But our focus in Syria is on taking on the threat of ISIL and going after areas where there are safe havens and trying to reduce their ability to train, equip, and sustain this fight, and that’s what our objective focus is on.

QUESTION: Okay. But why – like, just overnight you were able to stop the advance of ISIS on Erbil because of, like, really intensive air campaign, but why haven’t you been able to stop the advance of ISIS on Kobani for three weeks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think every fight is different. There are different forces on the ground. I’m not in a position to give you military analysis from here.

QUESTION: Jen, I think the point is that – it is an interesting point. You said that there are different strategic objectives in Iraq than there are in Syria, and it would seem to me that the translation of that, if you’re on the ground in Kobani and being threatened by this, is that the U.S. is not going to do that much to help me because they don’t like the Government of Syria, the Assad regime. Whereas if you’re a Yezidi on Mount Sinjar, you got help and protection from the U.S. because you guys are – because the American Government is friendly with the Iraqi Government.

Part of this was supposed to be a humanitarian operation, especially in Iraq. I mean, that was the authorization, right, was to help --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And that does not exist in Syria? Is that what you’re saying? You’re --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, first of all, as I just said in a response to his question, there’s no country that’s done as much as the United States --

QUESTION: I’m not suggesting that --

MS. PSAKI: -- let me finish – on humanitarian issues, on providing more humanitarian access. But this is a long-term fight. This is one where we have to be focused on what our objectives are. Our objectives here are going after the threat of ISIL, the safe havens where ISIL has in Syria. There will be other towns and cities that we know will be threatened in Syria, but we have to focus on our strategic components here, which are command and control centers, which are oil refineries, which are other pieces where we’ve done our precision strikes over the past several weeks.

QUESTION: So saving people – saving innocent lives from this – from ISIL, which you’ve called barbaric and evil and everything else under the sun, is not as – is just not a priority?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: The reason why the United States is leading this coalition is to take on the threat of ISIL and prevent them from doing as much harm across the region and to other parts of the world that they’ve done.

QUESTION: Okay. But can you understand how in the immediate term, in the short – very short – the now term, people are – large numbers of people are threatened and you are doing some things --

MS. PSAKI: And as I mentioned, we’ve done a range of strikes over the past couple of days in this exact region.

QUESTION: So we should --

MS. PSAKI: And we’ve provided a range of assistance.

QUESTION: Okay. So we should expect to see more and there --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to be – there to be a concerted coalition effort to keep Kobani from falling?

MS. PSAKI: I – that – I think, Matt, my colleague already addressed this at the Pentagon. We – I can’t predict for you if Kobani will fall or not. There will be other towns and cities that are going to be threatened. We will continue this effort, which will be a long-term effort, to take on the threat of ISIL.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: But Rear Admiral Kirby also said – sorry, let me jump in here – Rear Admiral Kirby also said it’s not just that other towns and villages will be threatened; some of these towns and villages, possibly including Kobani, will fall. And he said that the military has to look at the larger picture of trying to deal with the effort of taking out ISIL. Basically, in so many words --

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s what I just aid.

QUESTION: No, but he put it much more bluntly than you just did, which is basically that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s speaking on behalf of the military.

QUESTION: -- there may be some communities that are lost to ISIL, but that’s not going to be the measure of actually winning. What’s going to be the measure of winning is actually degrading and taking out ISIL fighters. Is the U.S. prepared to just let Kobani and any other number of cities fall to ISIL for the larger goal over a longer fight to defeat this organization?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think the fact is we’ve undertaken multiple airstrikes in the Kobani area over the course of the last several days.

QUESTION: And yet ISIL fighters keep pushing back and keep coming in.

MS. PSAKI: I understand that. There’s also an effort on the ground to push back. I don’t think I have anything to add to what my colleague at the Pentagon said.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, would you say the priority is to go after the leadership of ISIL and not really to save whatever ground they gain?

MS. PSAKI: The priorities are as I just outlined them.

Go ahead. Go ahead, one more.

QUESTION: One more question. Foreign Policy has reported that – it’s quoted Robert Ford --

MS. PSAKI: I answered this yesterday. I’m happy to reiterate it. Are you asking about contacts through intermediaries?

QUESTION: Yeah, the rebels. Did – I mean, did you have direct contacts with the YPJ rebels in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what the story says. The story talks about being in touch through intermediaries, which is correct, and I confirmed that yesterday.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one?

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the buffer zone idea. Are you not concerned that there are mixed messages now coming out of the Administration today about what exactly your intention is?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t see it that way at all. We’re not considering the implementation of a buffer zone. We’re happy to hear from our partners and listen to them and talk to them about a range of options that they are putting out there and they’re proposing.

QUESTION: So I mean, to go back to the question, which I don’t think you actually answered: Did the Secretary misspeak?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think we were – are – consistently have been open to hearing from our partners about their ideas and their proposals. We – they’ve proposed this and been talking about this for some time now, certainly as the diplomats and representing the diplomatic community. That’s what we would do here. But --

QUESTION: But to go back to Matt’s earlier question, I mean, it is a one-sided conversation. They’re talking to you, and you’ve already said “nyet.”

MS. PSAKI: We’ve never ruled it out, Jo. That continues to be the case.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not without challenges.

QUESTION: But it’s like the --

QUESTION: But if you’re not considering implementing it, then you’re not considering implementing it – in other words --

MS. PSAKI: We’re not considering implementing it at this time.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: How is it not the diplomatic equivalent of “talk to the hand”? I mean, it just – I don’t know, I don’t understand how it’s not – unless you’re just being duplicitous and feigning potential interest by agreeing to discuss it, I don’t – not sure --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think --

QUESTION: I guess I’m not sure where they gets you.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we see it that way --

QUESTION: Do you think that you could lure the Turks into --

MS. PSAKI: -- and I would encourage you to ask other countries to see if they’d like us to hear from them on their ideas and proposals. And I think the answer would be yes.

QUESTION: Right. But I think those countries would also like you to take them seriously, and if you say you’re going to discuss then not to have already ruled them out by the time you get to the conservation.

MS. PSAKI: I just said we’ve never ruled it out.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: If you’re not considering it at this time – sorry, just one more follow-up. If you’re not considering it at this time, do you envisage a time when you will be considering implementing it?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict that, Jo. I think it’s not without challenges. Those would have to be addressed. But obviously, we don’t have answers for how they’d be addressed at this point in time.

QUESTION: Jen, has the Secretary received any call from the White House after his statement on the buffer zone?

MS. PSAKI: No. In fact, we’re in agreement on our position on this.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Did you ask Turkey or did you put any pressure on Turkey to at least let reinforcement cross the border to that city, to that town, so the people running out of ammunition --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been discussing --

QUESTION: And they’re not letting the reinforcement --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We’ve been discussing a range of options. I’m not going to outline those here for you, though. Those conversations are ongoing.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, along those lines.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Kirby kept saying that airstrikes alone wasn’t enough and that the solution usually came from an indigenous ground force --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which he acknowledged wasn’t possible in that area and won’t be possible for a while, because it’s going to take a while to train and equip these forces. So what’s the solution in the meantime, if airstrikes alone aren’t enough and the best solution is an indigenous ground force, which we don’t have?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I hope that somebody asked that question. That’s an appropriate question to pose at the Pentagon. It’s a military question. As I mentioned yesterday, there are de facto coalitions in some of these towns, including those near the Turkish border. Obviously, they’re making an effort to push back. It’s true that there’s obviously more work that needs to be done with the Syrian opposition in order to push back. These are all efforts that are underway, but certainly, this is a challenging issue and we’re discussing what the options are with Turkey and other countries.

QUESTION: But why can’t – I mean, it looks as if you’re kind of dancing around the idea that you think that this is coming up against Turkey’s border, it’s creeping up against their border, and that they should step up and do some more, and whether it’s artillery or sending troops across the border, that you are looking for Turkey to take a more active role here.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a range of steps that Turkey could take. We’re in discussions with them about that, but we just don’t think it’s appropriate to outline that on their behalf publicly. So it’s as simple as that.

QUESTION: Are you expecting, Jen, that the meeting tomorrow and Friday with – between McGurk and General Allen and the Turks will – that we’ll know something, or you’ll know something at least, before the weekend?

MS. PSAKI: I would --

QUESTION: In terms of what the Turks are willing and able to do.

MS. PSAKI: I certainly think we hope that we’ll be able to further the discussion, but I don’t think we expect every piece will be concluded.

QUESTION: Okay. So you can’t say where in the discussion you are with the Turks in terms of them coming to a decision on what they’re going to do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is sort of in their decision-making pool.

QUESTION: Exactly.

MS. PSAKI: So we’ll have a better sense, perhaps tomorrow, on where they are. I’m not sure how much we’ll be able to outline of that publicly, but we’ll see.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if the Secretary plans to have any meetings face-to – on the trip that you just talked about with any of the Turks? Is that something that’s being considered?

MS. PSAKI: Not currently planned. I should’ve added, actually – there’s more on the trip that is still being finalized. We’ll put out a media note hopefully later today, if not tomorrow.

QUESTION: But is it something that is possible?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not currently planned. I’m not aware of a plan to add that to the schedule, but --

QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying necessarily go to Turkey, but --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. No, no, I understand what you’re saying.

QUESTION: -- meet at some point in Europe with --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not under consideration that I’m aware of. Certainly sometimes, as you all know, these trips come together and things are added at --

QUESTION: Right. Well, I presume that the Turks will be present at the Gaza conference in Cairo. I don’t know who, but – I mean, it’s something – it is possible that the Secretary would have some kind of face-to-face discussion.

MS. PSAKI: If they are participating – I don’t have a list, but if they are participating, certainly, I expect he’ll have a lot of sidebar conversations.

QUESTION: Jen, the discussions with the – these discussions that General Allen will be having – I’m sorry if you went over this already, but --

MS. PSAKI: No, no, it’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- would you say that they were more general about what Turkey specifically can do for the coalition, or do you – I mean, could you kind of flesh out what the Secretary was saying about Kobani being part of the things that they’ll discuss? Do you anticipate some action items on Kobani in particular, or are you just looking at what their general role will be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the purpose of their trip --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- I mean, we’re still in the early stages, but – is to have the first kind of big trip of General Allen and Ambassador McGurk to the region. So it’s more broad, is the objective of the meetings. But certainly, given the circumstances in Kobani, we fully expect that will be discussed.

QUESTION: I know it’ll be discussed, but are you looking – I mean, obviously you’re looking to flesh out what their general role will be going forward, whether it’s Incirlik Air Base or any of those things. But are you hoping that General Allen will come away with a specific action plan for Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make any predictions, Elise. I think we’re going to wait for the meetings --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to predict whether he’ll get it.

MS. PSAKI: That is a prediction.

QUESTION: I’m saying is that a specific goal?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – they’ll discuss it. I don’t have any predictions that I’m going to make from here about what will be concluded from the meetings.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, do you consider the fact that the population of Kobani or Ayn al-Arab are regime-friendly and they were close to the regime is basically what lies behind the Turkish position?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Turkey to ask them that question.

QUESTION: Just one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the brutal crackdown by the Turkish police on pro-Kobani protestors in Turkey? More than 12 people have died.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – I addressed this a little bit yesterday, but it’s worth reiterating. We are concerned about the reports of deaths resulting from clashes during demonstrations. It’s very concerning to us. We support freedom of expression, freedom of assembly in Turkey, as we do around the world. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence.

QUESTION: Just one more on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and then I think we’ll move on, because I --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- there’s probably other topics, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Just couple days ago, President Erdogan said – which is affiliated with the PKK – he said that he sees PKK and ISIL are the same thing, and it’s wrong to think these are different. Would you agree with this assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I think others have made comments along these lines. They’re both designated terrorist organizations. Obviously, they’re different. ISIL poses a direct threat, if left unchecked, to the United States. That’s why it’s a focus of ours. So I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: And one more statement: Would you agree that Turkey’s inventing reason not to act against ISIL, as quoted by the same story in New York Times?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Turkey to ask them that question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. PSAKI: One more on Turkey?

QUESTION: On ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Are we done with Turkey or are we – okay. Go ahead, Nicolas. We’ll go to you in a second. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to move on to Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Move on.

QUESTION: So during the press conference, the two secretar