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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

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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

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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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

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

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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 secretaries, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hammond, made an urgent call to – for countries to do more.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m wondering which countries were targeted by the two secretaries.

MS. PSAKI: Well, without naming names today, I think one of the things the Secretary said is there are some bigger countries that have contributed less. There are some smaller countries that have contributed more. So obviously, if you look at the contributions that were in some of the charts that we provided to all of you, then you can draw your own conclusions.

QUESTION: Okay, right. Because --

MS. PSAKI: The point is --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, let me just – the point is a third of what is needed is not being filled, as you saw the Secretary say. And the fact is there are countries with tremendous resources that can do more. The United States has already contributed more than 113 million, will continue to do more, but other countries need to really step up to the plate. I will see if there’s more we can give you on the specific countries.

QUESTION: Why not? Why not call these countries out?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to do that today, but --

QUESTION: No, no, no. Well, I’m not asking you to do it. I’m asking you, why not? I mean, this is an urgent – apparently, according to the Secretary, I mean – and both secretaries, and according to pretty much everybody, this is an extremely urgent public – international public health crisis.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It is.

QUESTION: So why not say, “Hey, Country C,” for example, “why aren’t you stepping up to the plate? Hey, Country R, why -- ” why not call them out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as of now, we think these countries know who they are and that they can do more, and all of you are reporters who can delve into who should do more.

QUESTION: Okay, a follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When we look at your interesting slides, one big country – or middle-size country is missing, the former colonial power in West Africa, France. So is Country F missing and – I mean, does the U.S. call France to do more or to do a little bit to fight Ebola in West Africa?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we call any country – on any country that is – has a large number of resources to do more, and we’ll let you draw your own conclusions about which countries are included in that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jennifer, I have a question on Cyprus and Turkey again.

MS. PSAKI: Would you – do we have any more on Ebola, just before we finish?

Okay. Cyprus.

QUESTION: Again, yes. The threats by Turkey against Cyprus led to the breakdown of the talks, and there are some people in Nicosia that – they believe that Turkey wants to start a new war against Cyprus. Do you have any comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, 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. And certainly, we believe it’s important to avoid actions that may intensify, increase region – tensions, I should say, in the region.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So do you --

QUESTION: Cyprus president withdrew from the talks. Do you have any comment on this specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome the arrival of the UN Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide to the island. We continue to support the negotiation process. We encourage the parties to show the necessary commitment and courage to reach a just and lasting comprehensive settlement. We hope that settlement talks can progress successfully.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary or somebody else from this building call in Ankara or Nicosia about the threats by Turkey against Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls to read out in terms of calls about this issue. Let me check on that and we can see if there’s something we can get you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli?

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

QUESTION: Thank you. Very quickly, I know the Administration expressed its sort of dismay at being called – criticizing the settlements as not – as un-American, which, of course, the Israelis criticized. But today, also the Israelis announced new settlements. Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that every time you make such a strong statement, the Israelis react by announcing more settlements?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that, Said. But I think you are familiar with our position. I’m happy to take a look at that and happy to reiterate that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I am fully familiar with your position. Did you follow up on your expression of the other day with the Israelis saying that we do stand by what we say and we urge you to stop the settlement activity, or you just left it at your statement?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we make that point through private diplomatic conversations all the time, absolutely.

Scott.

QUESTION: On the Gaza conference --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- how much are the expectations of the United States that this will also talk about implementing the terms of the ceasefire as well, since it’s somewhat fruitless to spend a bunch of money reconstructing Gaza if it’s just going to be knocked down again?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we expect this conference will certainly focus on Gaza’s reconstruction, and that’s the objective of it and the hosts – the Egyptian and Norwegian co-hosts are certainly focused on that and a discussion of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts.

To your point, of course, ideally, we’d like to see an agreement on a way forward for a sustainable ceasefire that addresses the long-term issues so we don’t have the recurring conflict. Will there be opportunities to discuss that at this conference? Certainly, there could be, and I expect the Secretary will have some sidebar conversations, but it’s not the primary focus. They’ll have to reconvene the parties to have that discussion separately from this conference.

QUESTION: I understand that it would be up to the hosts, but is the – does the United States believe that Iran might be involved in this conversation as well, given its support for Hamas both in the reconstruction and in implementing the terms of the ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware, Scott, of plans to involve them or invite them. I can certainly check and see if anything has changed, but not that I have heard of.

QUESTION: Jen, whether or not the ceasefire implementation is part of – a main part or a side issue at this conference, is there any thought to making at least a U.S. contribution to this contingent on a ceasefire holding? It seems like just throwing money away if you’re – if what you’re going to contribute to is, as Scott said, just going to get knocked down again.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned in the opening, I think we’ve contributed --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t remember the exact number. I don’t have any new contributions or new announcements that I’m aware of that are planned for this from the United States.

QUESTION: Well, I understand. But I mean, the whole point is to get more money, right?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly.

QUESTION: Do you know if there’s an estimate of the amount of aid, assistance that the U.S. has poured into Gaza over the last several years that have gone into projects that have been destroyed?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure there is an estimate. We can see if there is, Matt. Obviously, there’s a great deal of devastation and a great deal of reconstruction that’s needed, and obviously, the United States is the biggest donor to the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So --

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: And could – if and when you could find that out, I’d be curious to know who the blame – who you apportion the blame for that to – to Hamas, who were firing rockets into Israel, or to the Israelis and their response – or is it both?

MS. PSAKI: Elise, go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you going to answer his question, or no?

QUESTION: No, no, at the same time as you come back with an answer on whether you have --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to be playing the blame game. I think we have talked about concerns we’ve had about Hamas and their indiscriminate rockets --

QUESTION: And you’ve also --

MS. PSAKI: We have – we have also raised concerns about the fact that at times there was more Israel could do to avoid civilian casualties.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during the whole conflict that this was the last time that the international community was going to rebuild Gaza only to have it torn down again. I mean, how do you make sure that those are not empty words? Because I mean, this is like the sixth or seventh time. And I know particularly the Europeans have been very upset that they’re one of the largest – or if not the largest contributor to Gaza reconstruction and the Palestinians, and this money is just basically thrown down the drain.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that just gives you a sense of the frustration we’ve seen in the international community about the failure to reach a lasting ceasefire agreement that addresses the core issues. Obviously, that needs to be between the parties. In terms of guarantees, obviously, what we’re trying to achieve here is that lasting agreement between the parties that will bringing an end to this cycle of violence that continues to devastate communities and lead to civilian casualties and also leads to these reconstruction efforts.

QUESTION: Well, I understand. But I mean, while recognizing that the Palestinians are in desperate need in Gaza, are in desperate need of aid and reconstruction, to Matt’s point, how do you give them the humanitarian and reconstruction aid that they need and not – make sure that this doesn’t happen again? I mean, you really don’t have any assurance that this is not money that’s going to be --

MS. PSAKI: Well, countries have to decide if they’re willing to give more, how much they’re willing – more they’re willing to give, what they want to see happen. And obviously, there’s a great deal of interest from the international community – the UN, the United States, and others – to see a lasting agreement here. And we’re going to continue to work toward that.

QUESTION: Do you think that Israel should take a greater role in the reconstruction of Gaza?

MS. PSAKI: We do think that Israel will need to play a role in Gaza reconstruction. We were pleased to see that the UN, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority agreed on procedures aimed at expediting the passage of relief materials into Gaza while taking into account Israel’s security needs. We encourage the organizers to include all governments who can play a role, and certainly in the past there have been contributions, and we’re hopeful there will be more.

QUESTION: Do you think that Israel’s role should be one more of facilitating the logistical hurdles of this, or should they also take a part in the actual reconstruction, financial in-kind services --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they have contributed materials in the past, and we certainly hope they’ll do the same again.

QUESTION: Well, without a ceasefire, why would you tell the Israelis that you want them to give material and/or money to Gaza reconstruction without a ceasefire when it – very possible that it could then be used against them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a ceasefire now, Matt.

QUESTION: I understand that, but --

MS. PSAKI: But we’re working towards a lasting ceasefire --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and we certainly think there will be a reconvening of that effort to move that forward. So – but we – at the same time, we believe that there needs to be a reconstruction of Gaza.

QUESTION: So – but even without a long-term security assurance, you think that the Israelis should be – should assist and --

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of countries who are contributing, and we certainly hope Israel does the same.

QUESTION: What steps have been taken --

QUESTION: Jen, I asked – midway through the conflict, I recall very clearly – I asked you midway through the conflict: Why not make the parties to the conflict pay for the damage that they have incurred on the other?

MS. PSAKI: I think there are --

QUESTION: Why not – I mean, wouldn’t that be some sort of a guarantee --

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your suggestion, Said, but there --

QUESTION: I’m being – I’m not being facetious.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There are a range of countries in the international community who are going to be contributing. That’s what our focus is on at this point in time.

QUESTION: No, I’m saying why not hold the parties to the conflict accountable?

MS. PSAKI: We will take your proposal and note it. (Laughter.)

Go ahead, Nicole.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I actually wanted to just go back very quickly to Ebola. I just wanted to ask you if the Secretary’s remarks, the slides, the presentation this morning reflect an increased level of concern. Has something changed in the Administration’s analysis of the way the epidemic is spreading?

MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t reflect that. I think if you saw the first – I know you couldn’t see it, I’m sorry, in the bullpen. So I apologize for that. But if you look at the first slide of the slides we sent you that has the list of all of the needs, it just outlines how much more is needed. And I think as there have been more discussions and meetings in the Administration, there’s just a recognition that there’s a lot that’s unfilled, and the international community has outlined that. So it really is a concern that we need to fill these needs now and we need to raise attention to why and who can help fill them.

QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to the ceasefire. What steps have been taken in the weeks since it was reached to actually deepen it? I know that Mr. Rubenstein’s been on the road and meeting with people, but what level --

MS. PSAKI: The ceasefire in Gaza, or --

QUESTION: In Gaza, right.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. So you mean Lowenstein?

QUESTION: Lowenstein. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry. I was thinking, which ceasefire are we talking about?

QUESTION: Right. Right.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Lowenstein.

QUESTION: Right. But what more has been done in the interim? And why wouldn’t this conference be an opportunity for the U.S. to use its potential contributions as leverage to get the people of Gaza and the Israelis to actually firm up this ceasefire so that we don’t have another short-term war?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, we expect other countries will come to the conference with donations. I’m not aware of a new donation the United States will be making. We’ll see. But as far as I’m aware, there is not one coming this weekend. Otherwise, certainly there’s been a discussion and the Egyptians are – have been the – are going to be the hosts and will be the hosts of hosting the parties to have a discussion about the ceasefire.

My point is that the focus of this conference, which is cohosted by the Norwegians, is on reconstruction efforts. Certainly there will be conversations on the side. The Secretary has, as you know, been engaged in conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, and with others pretty consistently, as has our envoy, Frank Lowenstein. So that will continue. We have been engaged in this, as have the Egyptians, as have a number of other countries. I was just making the point about what the purpose of this conference, as outlined by the host, is.

QUESTION: But to go back to Matt’s point, isn’t this an opportunity for the U.S. to try to move the ball down the field, as it were, and not just have this very tenuous status quo?

MS. PSAKI: And so what would you – be your suggestion and how that would be done?

QUESTION: Well, the question is: Shouldn’t the U.S. make contingent whatever contributions it’s going to make on a good-faith effort between Hamas dealing through intermediaries with the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States is and continues to be the largest donor to the Palestinians. As I just noted a few minutes ago, we’re not – there’s not new contributions that are planned that I’m aware of for this weekend. We believe that Gaza should be reconstructed. Obviously, we’re very supportive of this effort. We also have been very focused and spent most of our time talking with these parties about reconvening the ceasefire talks. Obviously, Egypt will be the host of that, but the focus of this conference is a noble and good purpose, and that’s why the Secretary is attending.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the nuclear talks?

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Sure.

QUESTION: The nuclear talks. So on October the 15th, I believe – I counted this morning – there will be five weeks and five days before the November 24th deadline.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, that has a nice ring to it, Jo.

QUESTION: Yes. So could you – I wondered why it was decided to hold these trilateral talks at ministerial level. I noted that you said there was going to be some expert – there was going to be a lower-level meeting on the 14th, excuse me. But why is it going to be bilateral? Is the suggestion that the EU is basically, to a certain extent – the other five ministers, the other ministers are sidelined, and it’s just come down to a more narrower meeting between the Secretary, the foreign minister from Iran, and Cathy Ashton? And do you believe within the five weeks and five days that it’s actually feasible to reach a comprehensive agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Okay, let me see if I get all of these – five and five. This is an EU-led process, so it’s only natural that they’d be a part of the trilateral meeting. Virtually all of the countries in the P5+1 have had bilateral meetings with Iran over the course of time. Many of them happened at UNGA in New York, so this is just a follow-up for us. Other countries may do the same thing on their own time and terms.

In terms of when the next P5+1 round will be – full P5+1, which there certainly will be – I don’t have anything further on that. Obviously, the EU would announce that. Our focus, and certainly the focus of the Secretary’s meetings, will be – and Under Secretary Sherman and Deputy Secretary Burns – is determining whether it’s possible to reach an agreement by November 24th that effectively closes down Iran’s pathways to nuclear materials for a nuclear weapon. We believe – continue to believe that there’s still adequate time to work through these issues and arrive at a comprehensive agreement that will give the international community assurances that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. But we don’t yet have an understanding of all the major issues, and we continue to look for Iran to make the decisions necessary to get to a comprehensive agreement. So as they did when we were in New York, I expect the conversation will continue, and certainly there will be many more meetings from here.

QUESTION: But what you just outlined is almost exactly what was told to us at the end of the last meeting in UNGA, between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif. It would seem that there’s a stalemate. Is that a correct assessment?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think we still don’t have an understanding of the major issues, so that’s what the purpose of the discussion is on. We expect there will be many more meetings, and certainly there will be meetings at the experts level, and those will continue. And we have – feel we have adequate time to work through these issues.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Are you on Iran in the back, or no?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday at the UN, you are probably aware that a North Korean official acknowledged the fact that they have reform through labor camps, and I’m just wondering if you have any response to that acknowledgment.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve continued to urge, and urge again, North Korea to take concrete steps to – as outlined by the UN Commission of Inquiry – to dismantle the prison camps. Secretary Kerry spoke to this issue just maybe two weeks ago when he was at UNGA, where he called on North Korea to close all of its prison camps – a specific recommendation, again, of the Commission of Inquiry. This includes both its prison labor camps, which North Korea is apparently acknowledging now, and its notorious political prison camps, which – such as Yodok, the existence of which they continue to deny. So they acknowledge some camps, not all, but certainly we continue to call on them to close.

QUESTION: Well, do you see this acknowledgment as any kind of – as there being a glint of hope, and then actually doing anything? Or is it – do think it’s just a one-off?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, taking action is what we’re looking for them to do, so --

QUESTION: But you don’t see any sign of them taking action in making this admission?

MS. PSAKI: Not that we have seen.

QUESTION: No? All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On a different topic, back to ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do – North Korea? Or --

QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: North Korea. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any further insight – I know it’s a very closed government, but any further insight into Kim Jong-un and his location, or whether or not the capital city has been locked down?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve, of course, seen those same reports. I really don’t have anything new for you given how opaque the government – the North Korean regime is. It’s probably not surprising that there’s very little reliable information out there. But I don’t have anything new for you on it or any confirmation of anything.

QUESTION: And in terms of the high-level – their high-level visit to the South and the discussions there, which I think you talked about earlier in the week, does the – does your request or offer to send Ambassador King still stand?

MS. PSAKI: It has long stood. Yeah, it still stands; it’s my understanding, yeah.

QUESTION: It’s not been rescinded or anything?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Korea?

MS. PSAKI: North Korea?

QUESTION: South.

QUESTION: I have one on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you say even whether you’ve noticed anything unusual, I mean, about the North that might suggest some leadership change or issues? Or does it just look the way it normally does to you guys?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more than what I offered, Arshad. It’s one of those – most opaque countries in the world, as you know.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: South Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In South Korea, former Seoul bureau chief of the Sankei Shimbun, the Japan’s daily newspaper, was indicted on charge with defamation of President Park. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the reports that the Seoul prosecutor’s office today indicted the Sankei Shimbun Seoul bureau chief – bureau editor for defamation. We’ve been following the investigation by the Seoul prosecutor since its initiation. We certainly don’t have additional details. As you know, we broadly support freedom of speech and expression, and we have outlined in the past, and including in our recent reports that we issue annually from the State Department, about our concerns about the law on the books in South Korea.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you tell us your efforts in identifying Americans fighting for ISIS in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: Like, are --

MS. PSAKI: Or what are you – sorry, can you add a little more to what you’re asking?

QUESTION: Yeah, like how are – what are you doing to identify particular Americans believed to be fighting for ISIS in Syria. What has the State Department been doing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s – obviously, we work closely with our partners in the intelligence community. We work closely with law enforcement agencies. There are certain capabilities the State Department has, including revoking visas and travel documents. Obviously, we’re not going to outline everything we’re doing, but clearly our focus or one of our objectives of the coalition is on cracking down on foreign fighters, including those who are with Western passports, and we certainly recognize that as one of the greatest threats that we face and something that we’re encouraging other countries to do more on as well.

QUESTION: Are you seeing a lot of progress in your efforts?

MS. PSAKI: In what – I’m sorry. In what capacity are you --

QUESTION: On identifying these people who have traveled there or who are going to stop traveling – or to prevent them from getting there. Is there progress since --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you saw the announcement made by the FBI just about two days ago. Obviously, our law enforcement partners and members of the intelligence community work most closely on this issue. There’s certainly a role that many in the interagency, including the State Department, play, but I would really point you to them for any analysis of specific progress.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: What kind of cooperation are you getting from people on the ground then? Are you in contact with people there that can help you point them to these American – or potential U.S. citizens fighting there?

MS. PSAKI: The Syrian opposition or others?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see what about that we can discuss more publicly.

QUESTION: Do you know if anyone’s passport has been revoked because of this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we don’t – actually there have been. I think I’ve spoken about this in the past. Recently?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically confirm --

QUESTION: I know. I’m not asking for the names. I’m just wondering if any --

MS. PSAKI: I understand, Matt. I will --

QUESTION: Because, as we understand from the FBI, there are about a dozen or so --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- who are actually fighting with ISIL. Do you know if any of those 12, approximately, have had their passports revoked?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check and see if there’s more I can confirm on that specific question.

QUESTION: So the figure is around 12, 15, 20, under 20?

MS. PSAKI: I think he’s referring to the comments of the FBI director, but – it more broadly beyond ISIL it’s more around a hundred.

QUESTION: Okay.

Ms. PSAKI: But I mean, if you – if he’s confident enough to give a number of about 12, presumably you have a good idea of who those 12 people are.

MS. PSAKI: Which is, I think, what he said during his interview.

QUESTION: Right, right. And so it’d be – have all or any of them have had their passport revoked?

MS. PSAKI: I understand your question. I will see if there’s more we can confirm. Just abiding by the letter of the law here.

QUESTION: I mean, the fact that --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know if this is pointed to you, but the fact that the FBI is asking Americans for help to figure out who the person could be in the latest propaganda video, does it appear that – it appears that it could be that they are fighting a dead end and they don’t have any more leads in this case to find these foreign fighters.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them on their process. I just don’t want to speak on their behalf.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: New topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, Egypt?

QUESTION: Libya’s Prime Minister al-Thinni was in Cairo today for talks with his counterpart and he also met with President al-Sisi. After the meeting, he said that Egypt would be helping to train Libya’s army. Obviously, in Libya there are competing government factions. Do you find this a positive step or a positive – is there a positive role for Egypt to play in training Libya’s army?

MS. PSAKI: There’s a positive role for a number of countries to play. The United States works with a number of countries on helping Libya build up their capacity. We believe that their current challenges require political solutions. The international community has also made that clear on numerous occasions, and that outside intervention is not useful.

In terms of this specific report, I hadn’t seen it before I came out here, so let me get a little more detail on it and we can see if we can get you a more specific response.

QUESTION: I’m not sure if you’ve been asked about this in recent weeks, which is there’s still U.S. Government military assistance to Egypt that’s on hold, waiting for the Secretary to certify if Egypt’s taken positive steps on democratic principles, et cetera. Is there an update? Are you seeing positive signs on the ground in Egypt? What’s the latest assessment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. There’s no update to provide. They’re – you’re referring to two of the remaining certifications, I think, that haven’t been confirmed --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that are holding on aid that’s left over. There’s still more that we think that Egypt can do, so obviously, those certifications have not been certified. There’s probably a better way of saying that, but there you go.

QUESTION: Can I just ask on – because we’re going to a new budget year now, did you put in a request based on this – on past years for the 2015 Fiscal Year?

MS. PSAKI: For what our funding is – our Egypt funding?

QUESTION: For Egypt, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Let me take it, Jo, and I’ll see if there’s more on funding requests that we can get out to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Let’s just do a couple more here. Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Before I go to my question to India, thank you, quickly on ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Who is buying the stolen oil from the ISIL (inaudible)? Are you going to go after those who are buying the oil from these terrorists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the transfer of oil or the ability of ISIL to gain funding and increased strength from oil revenues is of great concern. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve gone after the refineries, and that’s one of the objectives of our efforts.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just my question on India quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, I think we’ve got to go to the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just – India.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. One more on India, and then we’ll go to the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Are you aware or concerned about the ceasefire violations on the border? India is blaming Pakistan because Pakistan is targeting civilians on the border, India side. And also, when Prime Minister Modi was here, he made two points. One, as far India’s United Nations Security Council seat, what’s the future of that UN Security Council seat? And finally, as far as U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, what is the future of that now?

MS. PSAKI: I unfortunately don’t have many updates for you. I spoke yesterday a little bit about the violence along the line of control. We’re concerned about any violence along the line of control. We continue to encourage the governments of India and Pakistan to engage in further dialogue to address these issues. Our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for these two countries to determine.

Obviously, those issues were all discussed while the prime minister was here, but I don’t have any additional updates for you.

QUESTION: Did anybody ask --

QUESTION: Okay, I think we’ve got to move on. I’m sorry, Goyal.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’d like to ask about Russia. The State Department expressed regret that – by the decision made by the Russian Government to end the student exchange program called FLEX. And the Russian foreign ministry said that it was because of a political asylum case. A participant in this program has applied for political asylum in the United States, and they say that they took issue with a particular aspect of this case – that he was underage. So in Russia, for example, under Russian law, he wouldn’t be – he wouldn’t be able to ask for political asylum. Could you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything specific on that reported case. But I can say that the reason that we regretted this decision to end this program is because it provided an opportunity for more than 8,000 Russian students to build the kinds of bonds between young Russians and Americans that we need in order to overcome the challenges in our bilateral relations. And we think many people – thousands, in fact – have benefited from these programs, and that’s why we feel it’s unfortunate that it was canceled --

QUESTION: Are you aware whether this particular case was discussed with the Russian side before the program was closed?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more on that particular report, but thank you for your question.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry acknowledged today there were some setbacks and some successes with the Iraqi Security Forces. You were going to discuss yesterday some of the successes that --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I talked about a few of them. And I think, obviously, there have been – as he said today, there have been some successes and there have been some areas where we know more work needs to be done. And we’re continuing to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to strengthen them. As you know from the assessment that we’ve done, we’ve assessed that there are certainly some that need more training, there are some that are fully prepared to fight. And so we’re working within those constraints. But let me just give you a few.

I think I mentioned these yesterday, but just in case you weren’t there for it, we’ve already seen Iraqi Security Forces retake and hold land at the Mosul Dam, Amirli, and push back ISIL forces around the Haditha Dam. They’ve also refortified around Baghdad. We’ve seen reports, as I mentioned yesterday, that Kurdish forces, with the support of Sunni tribes, retook the Iraq-Syria border crossing at Rabia last week, which fell to ISIL in June. This is an encouraging development as it will make it harder for ISIL to operate across the border.

And there were also reports within the last week that Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with Sunni tribes, have pushed back ISIL in the town of Dhuliya. And so those are some of the areas where we’ve seen some successes. But obviously, we’re not naive of – about this and there’s much more work that needs to be done, which is why we’re working closely with them.

All right.

QUESTION: Did you get an answer to my Bahrain question from yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: I think I did. It was about the – whether we would have an official attending – yes. An embassy official plans to attend the hearing tomorrow.

QUESTION: Right. But --

QUESTION: Well, that’s the Qatar – are you talking about Qatar?

QUESTION: No, not Qatar. Bahrain. So what – there’s – isn’t there more to it?

MS. PSAKI: Sorry. What was your other question?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, just what are your thoughts in general about this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain concerned by the Government of Bahrain’s detention of Mr. Rajab reportedly for tweets alleged to be denigrating to a public institution. We continue to call on the government to abide by its commitment to fair and transparent judicial proceedings and to resolve the case as expeditiously as possible.

QUESTION: Okay. And any progress on getting Tom Malinowski back over there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any trips to announce at this time. We’ll keep you all updated.

QUESTION: I believe you were going to check and see if there was going to be a consular officer at the hearing for the Huangs.

MS. PSAKI: I did say I would check on that. Let me – I don’t think I have an update, but we’ll get you one right after the briefing, Elise.

Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:14 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

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

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 17:24

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:41 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Happy Thursday.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Thursday.

QUESTION: Happy Thursday.

QUESTION: One day left.

MS. PSAKI: One day – well, two days, Matt. Count today. The day is young.

We’ve sent out a statement on the Yemen bombings, and I wanted to just highlight that for all of you and make sure you all had seen it. Also, just an update on General Allen and Ambassador McGurk’s meetings. Actually, Special Envoy Rubinstein also joined them today. They met today in Cairo with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Shoukry to discuss ongoing global coalition efforts and Egyptian contributions to the fight against ISIL, including the positive role Egypt is already playing, countering violent extremist ideology.

They also met with Arab League Secretary-General al-Araby and several Arab League ambassadors to discuss how Arab League states can continue to counter ISIL across the five lines of global coalition efforts, especially on delegitimizing ISIL’s messaging in the Muslim world and supporting the new Government of Iraq and its program for an inclusive, united, and sovereign Iraq, as defined in the Iraqi constitution.

From Cairo, General Allen, Ambassador McGurk, and Special Envoy Rubinstein traveled to Ankara, where they met with Syrian Opposition Coalition leadership and members to review how the United States and coalition partners can continue to support the moderate Syrian opposition in the fight against ISIL. The delegation reiterated that the United States has not and will not coordinate with Assad, and encouraged the SOC to further strengthen their organization, given the central role of the moderate opposition in advancing the political solution that will be necessary to ending the Syrian crisis. The delegation also discussed the essential role the moderate opposition can play as a counterweight to ISIL in Syria, and how the U.S. plan to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition can support that role.

Later today, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will meet – or perhaps they are – have already met, depending on the time difference – with Prime Minister Davutoglu and other Turkish officials to discuss the situation in Kobani and how Turkey can contribute to ongoing coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. We’ll have further readouts for you today after those meetings conclude.

Let’s see. It’s fair to say that the delegation will have very detailed conversations about the humanitarian situation in Kobani, and more broadly, the security situation across the Syria-Turkey border, while also identifying specific contributions in areas of cooperation across the five lines of effort on which we can agree right now. While we’re still in the early stages of consolidating a broad coalition for a long-term campaign, the events of last week have made it clear that urgent and rapid steps are needed to halt ISIL military capabilities, and General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will make that clear in their meetings with Turkish officials.

One more item for you: General Allen and – let’s see, no, I’m sorry, that is old. All right. We’re done. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Really?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not done. Go ahead with your questions – (laughter) – unless you have no questions, and then we are done.

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: No, you’re not so lucky. It’s not just me who has questions, other people.

MS. PSAKI: I know. I enjoy it. Go ahead. I meant everyone. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. You said that one of the things they’re talking about is how Turkey can contribute to the ongoing coalition efforts, that urgent steps are needed after seeing what happened last week and what’s going on right now in Kobani. So from the U.S. point of view, how can Turkey contribute to the ongoing coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this is a conversation. It’s not a situation where we are making demands. It’s one where we are having a discussion with Turkey that’s been ongoing, but certainly will continue today, about what role they’re willing to play in the coalition efforts, also as it relates to the situation in Kobani.

Now, with all that being said, there’s no question that Turkey is well positioned to contribute to the broad-based coalition effort to defeat ISIL through military cooperation, stopping terrorist financing, countering foreign fighter flows into the region, providing humanitarian assistance, and delegitimizing ISIL’s extremist ideology. They have the capability to contribute in all of those areas, and we’ll be discussing all of them with Turkey.

QUESTION: Right, but the second part of your opening talked about how it’s – there is a need for urgent and rapid steps.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So clearly – I mean, I think your – the argument has been from you and other people in the Administration that the Turks have been doing – or at least stepping up --

MS. PSAKI: Many of those areas, yes.

QUESTION: -- in the areas that you’ve mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The – when you talk about how urgent and rapid steps are now needed given the events of the last two weeks, it suggests that you – that more needs to be done. And so the question is: What is the conversation that you talked about – not demands – what is the conversation actually about? How can Turkey – or what do you think it is that Turkey can do to help improve or bolster the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you are right. There are areas where they are already contributing, but we’re also talking about a longer-term effort. Certainly, part of the discussion will be on military contributions and, as I mentioned, the situation in Kobani. But I’m not going to outline the specifics publicly. We’ll have that discussion through private diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got two more brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One, who else are they meeting, aside from Davutoglu? Are they meeting with the defense minister, or are they meeting with Erdogan himself?

MS. PSAKI: I can check if there are more meetings scheduled. They’ll obviously be there tomorrow as well.

QUESTION: Just to follow up --

QUESTION: All right. And then, secondly, it seems that – it seems from comments made by Secretary Kerry and others from this podium, and from the podium at the Pentagon and the White House, that the Administration does not regard Kobani as a huge pillar or a huge – I don’t want to use the word “strategic.” The loss – the Administration doesn’t believe that the fall of Kobani would create a – would be a major disaster. It would be bad, but you’re looking at – there’s bigger fish to fry here, and you’re looking in the long game. The sense that I’ve gotten, and I think others have as well, is that the Administration looks at Kobani as bad but thinks that it’s getting so much attention simply because it’s so close to the Turkish border, where there are a lot of people who can watch it – watch the combat in real time. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of what our view is on why it’s getting so much attention, or --

QUESTION: No, in terms of – that it’s not – it’s just not that important. The impression has been left by officials that it’s just not – that you don’t regard it as being that important.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, as you mentioned, Secretary Kerry addressed this earlier today. We have addressed this. I have addressed this. My colleagues at the Pentagon have addressed this --

QUESTION: I know.

MS. PSAKI: -- in terms of what our strategic objectives are in Syria and what our focus is on in Syria.

QUESTION: One of the strategic objectives that you’ve talked about for the coalition has been the – countering the ISIL propaganda that’s going on. Does the Administration not think that the fall of Kobani would be a serious propaganda – PR victory for ISIS, and even if it’s not – even if you think that it’s not particularly strategic?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I have an analysis of that, Matt, on whether it would be a propaganda victory or not. I think the point is that we have strategic objectives that we’re following through on militarily. We’re keeping our focus on the long term. We’ve still – as you know, we’ve done – we did 13 strikes, I believe, overnight in the neighborhood of Kobani. So it’s not that we are taking our feet off the gas pedal in terms of doing more to have an impact, but we still have to maintain our overarching strategic objectives.

QUESTION: So you’re not concerned that – and I understand that you’re doing the airstrikes, but as we’ve talked about, the Turks aren’t doing anything. You have people there in Ankara talking to the Turks now about what more they can do. Do – I mean, it seems as though if Kobani falls, that not only is it a major propaganda victory for ISIS – ISIL, but it also alienates the Kurds, who you are looking for help not just in Syria but even more so in Iraq itself.

MS. PSAKI: Well, and certainly --

QUESTION: Are you --

MS. PSAKI: We’re looking for help, but we’re also working with them to help them help themselves too, because they’re also concerned about the threat that ISIL poses. So this isn’t the – a situation where anyone’s doing a favor to the United States. We are trying to assist these different communities in fighting back against this threat.

QUESTION: Jen, just to follow up on that point.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you agree that Kobani is not that strategic in terms of the fight against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve outlined this extensively over the last couple of days, Said, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Let me rephrase this question: Are you concerned that Kobani actually sits on a very strategic geographical area, where it can – it will allow more flow of arms and volunteers and so on from Turkey, because it will control a large strip of border? Do you agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: I think my colleague addressed this yesterday at the Pentagon, but --

QUESTION: Okay, okay. Let me just follow up on the issue of fighting ISIS. If you are committed to the fight against ISIS, as we – as everybody has, and to defeat them, first to deplete their resources and forces and then ultimately defeat them, and there seems to be an agreement – it’s a stated agreement; it’s not even tacit – that you could not do this from the air, that you must do it with ground forces. But on the other hand, you are committed to non-sending – to the not – to not sending any troops on the ground, American troops on the ground. Are you working with any of the countries in the region to send their troops on the ground so they can fight ISIS on their own territory?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working certainly with many countries. But the Syrian opposition in Syria we’re working with on a train-and-equip program to boost their capabilities, to increase their military credibility, and that we think will help increase their political credibility. As you know, we’re working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces. There’s also a difference here in there are some areas where, say, for example, the Iraqi Security Forces or the Peshmerga had been fighting back against ISIL, and our airstrikes and air power did help, because there already was a force on the ground fighting. So we have seen airstrikes have a strong impact where there was partnership on the ground.

QUESTION: Well, airstrikes really have effect on, let’s say, large conveys or fixed positions. Isn’t this particular case – everybody agrees that you need ground forces. You’re saying that you’re having a conversation with the Turks. But the longer this conversation goes on the more territories ISIS seems to garner. And --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, the coalition is a few weeks old. Turkey has indicated they want to play a more substantial role. We’re having discussions with them. We’ll see what comes out of those discussions.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just go back, just one last – one last one on this issue. Okay. I mean, let’s look at precedents in this case. Back in 1990 there were – the Arab League was able to take a decision to go into Kuwait along with the American forces. Can you imagine a situation where the Arab League can, in fact, go into Syria without bringing the Syrian regime into the fold and rehabilitating them into the Arab League and --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to draw comparisons to past conflicts, Said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. The – a follow-up on the role that Turkey can play. The U.S. – this is the President’s strategy, and all officials, we’ve heard them say that they will ask each country that has expressed its willingness to help in this war on ISIS. They will specify what role they can help in after they study that. What is it that you’re asking the Turks specifically at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, with --

QUESTION: Because the U.S. is the one who’s assigning --

MS. PSAKI: No, I think you have it a little – not quite right. It’s not a – it’s not the United States assigning responsibilities. It’s the United States having conversations with our Arab partners, with countries in the region about what their capabilities are, what role they’re willing to play, and then making a determination about how that fits into the coalition efforts. So that’s exactly what we’re doing with Turkey right now.

QUESTION: And what is it that you think Turkey is most capable of providing?

MS. PSAKI: I think, as I outlined, Turkey’s well positioned to contribute in all of the five lines of effort. So we’re having a discussion with them about what their specific contributions can be.

QUESTION: And also on Kobani, please. It is – it sits on a very close point to the Turkish border. And not only there is a fear that Kobani will completely fall in the hands of ISIS but also other neighboring cities or villages on the Turkish border. Aren’t you concerned that this whole area could be the new safe haven for ISIS? They will rebuild there and then launch new strikes against Turkey or inside Syria or Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re a bit ahead of where we are, where anything is on the ground. Obviously, we’ve had – we’ve undergone dozens of – I think almost 400, if not more than 400 –strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, including many in the eastern portion of Syria. And certainly, taking on ISIL and going after safe havens wherever we have a concern they may build is part of our stated objective. And that’s why we’re focused on command and control centers, oil refineries, places where we can really go at where their strength has built.

Go ahead, Margaret.

QUESTION: Jen, you said General Allen’s conversations are going to be partly about how Turkey can contribute to degrading ISIL. The Turks have been very clear that they want to take the fight to Assad. Is that part of this conversation as well? Is that on or off the table at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Turkey has made a range of public comments, including their interest in being – playing a more prominent role in the coalition, including taking military action as it relates to ISIL. So what we want to have a conversation with them about in person is what specifically they’re willing to do. Our objectives and the focus of the coalition haven’t changed. It’s focused on ISIL, and that’s the discussion we’re having with countries in the region, including Turkey.

QUESTION: So in other words, you view these as sort of separate portfolios, separate missions?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you mean by that. Or can you explain it a little further?

QUESTION: Sure. Well, from these public comments by Turkish leaders, they make clear that they see the issues as directly linked, that you have to --

MS. PSAKI: They’ve made a range of different comments, though. Some say that. Some say other things. So we want to have a conversation with them about what specifically their intentions are.

QUESTION: Is part of that conversation taking the fight to Assad, to the regime?

MS. PSAKI: That is not the focus of our international coalition and not the focus of our efforts by the United States.

QUESTION: And that won’t be part of this conversation? I mean, it’s just not on the U.S. (inaudible) at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, Turkey and any country may bring up whatever they choose to. And certainly, we all are taking part in an effort to boost the capabilities of the Syrian opposition, and including through our train and equip program, including through a range of assistance we and many countries in the region are providing. And I – certainly, they could expect that. And as I noted, they could – we could discuss that, I should say. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also met with the Syrian opposition. So that would certainly be a natural point of discussion.

QUESTION: And so Turkey would be part of this train and equip conversation?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t state that. I think we’ll let Turkey announce what role they will or won’t play and make that decision. But I’m talking about what efforts the United States is committed to and the fact that there are a range of steps that we’re taking, there are a range of steps our international partners are taking, as it relates to boosting the opposition. So we’ll talk about that with them, too.

I have a limited amount of time, so let’s just do a couple more on this. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Today, foreign minister – Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that it is not realistic to expect from Turkey to do ground operation by itself. So you – I believe you clearly expect or coalition expects Turkey to do ground operation. So how you are going to convince Turkey to ground operation if they --

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s actually not at all what I said. We don’t expect any one country to resolve the crisis in Kobani or to take on this overarching threat. That’s why we’re working together. Certainly, Turkey has a role to play, as I noted, given their proximity, given their stake in the outcome of the threat of ISIL. But we want to discuss with them what their intentions are, what their capabilities are, and what they’re willing to do.

QUESTION: But the ground force – Turkish ground forces will be part of this discussion in Ankara, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are past statements that Turkey has made about their openness to that. So we want to discuss with them what they’re willing to do.

QUESTION: Jen, I’m very confused about something you said before. You said this is not about the United States assigning responsibilities to various countries. But the President and Secretary Kerry and the Pentagon have said that they have assembled this coalition and say that they’re leading it. Isn’t that what the leader of the coalition does, to assign responsibilities or to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the leader coordinates, the leader has discussions, the leader --

QUESTION: Exactly. But don’t you have to make it clear what you want from these countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first we have to make clear what they’re willing to do. We’ve outlined what the focuses are. We’ve outlined the five lines of focus. We want to talk to countries about what they’re willing to do. It’s a discussion.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean – but, right. But I mean, the very nature of leadership and leading the coalition would mean that you go and you tell a country, look, we would like this, this, and this; what can you give us? Not --

MS. PSAKI: It’s a discussion, Matt. It’s not an assignment. I think there’s a difference between the two.

QUESTION: It is a discussion, but you – the strategy – this is a U.S. strategy. This is President Obama’s strategy, and his generals know what the strategy needs in order to be --

MS. PSAKI: And generals are in touch with their military --

QUESTION: And they’re telling the countries --

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Our generals are in touch with their military counterparts. But it is about discussing with countries what they’re capable of, what they’re willing to do, and determining what role that can play in a coalition.

Let’s --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: ISIL in general.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, General Allen, you mentioned that he was in Cairo. And I assume it was – there was a conversation with Egyptian officials. What were the fields or the fronts of the outlined five fields or fronts that they discussed regarding this anti-ISIL confrontation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in all of the discussions we talk about are the five --

QUESTION: The five --

MS. PSAKI: -- five lines of effort. Obviously, there have been increased mil-to-mil cooperation between Egypt and Iraq. And certainly, Egypt has an important role to play and important proximity to the challenges on the ground.

QUESTION: There is another question. I think it – you mentioned this – I mean, it’s a term that it’s a little bit hard to pronounce it. It’s delegitimizing ISIL extremist ideology. It’s good that I say it.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a mouthful, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. And you said that this was discussed with Egyptian officials. What is your understanding of this role?

MS. PSAKI: That means speaking out that ISIL is not Islam and that there are the actions of these individuals, the beheading of Americans, the violence against women and children – all of these are not representative of Islam. And the voices in the region are certainly far more powerful than the voices from the West, and we recognize that.

QUESTION: So this – I mean, you assume the Egyptian officials are going to say this, or --

MS. PSAKI: Many already have.

QUESTION: -- or institutions, or who?

MS. PSAKI: Both.

QUESTION: Okay. There is another thing. Regarding this strategic objective, there is a lot of talk in this town about that although it’s, like, both sides – I mean, Iraq and Iran are targeted, ISIL is targeting both places, but it seems that it’s Iraq first, right? I am right or wrong?

MS. PSAKI: In what --

QUESTION: That Iraq first. I mean priority is to Iraq, not to Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Our priority is Iraq – the Iraqi Government is a partner with the United States. They’re certainly different circumstances. But we’re at the – we’re undergoing airstrikes and military action in both countries at the same time.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: More on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Turkey. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Were you able to check that current population of Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: I did. It’s actually – it’s – in areas of active conflict, as many of you know, it’s extremely difficult to obtain accurate numbers on civilians. But that said, our partners have indicated the number of civilians in and around Kobani remain very low. Most of those needing protections have already entered Turkey over the last three weeks.

QUESTION: What do you mean, very low?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: What do you mean, very low?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t put a number on it because there’s a range, and – but we’ve been in close touch with partners in the area who have given us --

QUESTION: Initial --

MS. PSAKI: I can’t – I’m not going to be able to give you a range.

QUESTION: Initial population was 200,000. And after the civil war, according to the expectations, one million people went to Kobani, according to the sources (inaudible). So your estimation will be – actually will be very useful.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to be able to provide you a specific number. What I’m indicating to you is that most of those needing protection have already entered Turkey over the last three weeks and that the number still there is low.

QUESTION: And the second one --

QUESTION: Do you have a range? You said there’s a range.

MS. PSAKI: Internally, yes. But I’m not going to outline them publicly.

QUESTION: And why not?

MS. PSAKI: Because we don’t think that would be productive to do.

QUESTION: No, no. But why – is it that you are afraid that you will then be accused of essentially abandoning that range of people?

MS. PSAKI: No, Arshad. I think we want to be responsible about what information we provide as a U.S. Government. And we just don’t – because there’s been a range of numbers, we just don’t feel we have a number that we’re prepared to give at this point in time.

QUESTION: But you said it was – you felt that it wouldn’t be productive, not that it wouldn’t be accurate. So you have a range.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you believe it’s an accurate range?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe it’s inaccurate. But again, as a – the United States Government, we have a responsibility to provide information that we can – that is effective and that we feel we

can stand behind. And there’s a broad range – I’m not going to get into it. I think we’re done here.

QUESTION: Well, no, no, but just can I – I want to ask one more thing about this. Is your reluctance – it doesn’t sound like your reluctance is related to questions of accuracy or inaccuracy.

MS. PSAKI: No, it’s not.

QUESTION: So then what does it boil down to, your reluctance? What would be the harm in disclosing what you believe to be the range of civilians at risk?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve made a decision not to.

QUESTION: And if you say --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- can I just finish? If you say that the population is very low, the concern of the Turkish Government in terms of the Kobani, the influx of the refugee --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- so if the population is very low, there is no such a concern.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. Can you say that one more time?

QUESTION: So the concern for the Turkish Government in terms of Kobani, influx of the refugees.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the international community who is pressing Turkey to do something in Kobani, the people who are leaving there and the influx of the refugees – if the current population is very low and if the people already left Kobani, there is no such a concern.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Turkey has allowed huge numbers of refugees --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- you’re right, from Syria in need of urgent assistance to come across their borders. They’re – obviously, that was the case long before the events in Kobani. So they’ve long been letting refugees across the border. They certainly have the right and obligation to control their own border, but from this specific area, I think there are lower numbers of civilians still left there than most public reports are assuming.

QUESTION: Yeah. The second one – can I finish it? In the first 15 days, the U.S. airstrikes, the number of U.S. airstrikes in Kobani was 12. But over the last 72 hours, it’s 16.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So it seems that it’s much more effective, the airstrikes. Have you find any partner on the ground to conduct these airstrikes? The FSA – can you – should we assume that FSA is much more efficient on Kobani in terms of this airstrike operation? Who is doing this laser tactic?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of anything that’s changing in that regard. I think it’s just decisions made by our military.

QUESTION: Last question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: This no-fly zone issue. Impose a no-fly zone in Syria would target Assad’s regime? What is your approach of the U.S. Government on the legal consequences of no-fly zone? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not something – as I talked about yesterday, while we’re certainly going to be talking to and hearing from our Turkish partners, and that is happening on the ground now, I’m not going to get ahead of where we are, because it’s not --

QUESTION: No, the legal consequences of no-fly zone.

MS. PSAKI: The --

QUESTION: So what will be the legal consequences? It will be targeted --

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t made a decision to do one, so I’m not going to get into legal consequences.

QUESTION: Just really briefly, are you expecting that we’ll have some kind of a readout from this briefing today --

MS. PSAKI: I would expect --

QUESTION: -- or is it – is – they’re having meetings tomorrow as well, correct?

MS. PSAKI: They’re both --

QUESTION: If there is --

MS. PSAKI: I believe the plan is for another readout tonight.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We can check and make sure you all know what to expect.

QUESTION: But if there is to be a “deliverable,” would you expect it not until tomorrow, or would you expect it potentially today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if there’s more of an update, I would expect at the conclusion of the meetings. But again, I’m not – I’d – I don’t want to make a prediction --

QUESTION: Well, that gets into who they’re going to meet with. I mean, do they have to go see – if their meeting with Davutoglu goes well and – are they going to then go see Erdogan?

MS. PSAKI: How about this? After the briefing, we’ll let you guys know --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- if there’s anything to expect tonight on a readout, just so you know what will be coming to your inboxes.

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Didn’t you say that he’s also meeting with his military counterparts, General Allen, in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I think whatever I outlined in the beginning is his list of meetings.

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: What’s the latest on Iran’s role? Are they playing a constructive role against ISIL or negative? I mean, because I’m reading what – Turkey’s demands to play an important role to fight ISIL are very provocative to Iran’s interests in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a new update in terms of Iran’s role in what they are or aren’t playing as we’ve – doing. As we’ve said, there’s a role for almost every country to play. We’ve expressed our concern in the past about military engagement. That hasn’t changed. But I’d – I really don’t have a new update for you on what they are doing.

QUESTION: And what’s the last – the old update, was it good or bad?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update since the last time we discussed this. I’ll say it like that.

QUESTION: So there is --

QUESTION: Since the last time you’ve given an update. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Nicolas.

QUESTION: -- no stand on Iran.

QUESTION: Yes. One more on Turkey, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Apparently, the head of the national Turkey agency, the spy chief of Turkey is in Washington. Does he have meetings at the State Department? And more broadly, you said yesterday Turkey can do more, you said again today more steps, urgent steps are needed. So is there a sign of frustration, anger from the U.S. with your Turkish ally?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t describe it that way at all. We’re in discussions with Turkey. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are there today. We believe they’re positioned to contribute in all five area – lines of effort, and we’ll see where we are at the end of the next couple of days.

And your first question, I’d have to check on that. I wasn’t aware of their visit. We can see if there’s any meetings scheduled here at the State Department.

Do we have any more on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes, one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So for last few days, you have been talking about how – needs to be done by Turkey, a lot more. And there are a series of editorials by the Western newspapers also slam Turkish Government. But when we come to this briefing and we ask what exactly you want from Turkey, you really don’t tell us what exactly you need is.

MS. PSAKI: To be absolutely clear, we want them to contribute in all five lines of effort. We want them to play more of a military role. We want them to do more as it relates to stopping terrorist financing. We want to do more on countering foreign fighters. There are a range of ways they can contribute, but we’re not going to have that discussion publicly because we’re having that discussion privately. And when there’s an update about decisions that have been made, we’ll make that information available.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: One more on ISIL?

QUESTION: I know you can’t get into specifics in terms of what’s happening in the talks in terms of Turkish commitment. But considering the urgency of the situation in Kobani, can you say in general whether or not General Allen is going to press upon Turkey the urgency of the situation and a need to make some sort of commitment in whatever form, whatever avenue it’s going to be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the situation in Kobani and the urgency of that, as I mentioned at the top, will be a part of the discussion. But we want to see what their capabilities are, what their intentions are, and I think that’s going to be the tone and tenor of the discussion.

QUESTION: One more on ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish – do we have any more on Turkey?

QUESTION: ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey.

QUESTION: The NATO secretary general is also there today, and they have said that – NATO has said that they would act if they were to come across the Turkish border. Is there any further discussion about NATO ground troops being involved?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update beyond what they have stated – what the NATO secretary general has stated. I know they spoke to this a couple of days ago as well.

Turkey or a new topic? Turkey?

QUESTION: Related to Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So in these meetings and these conversations that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are having, what’s your understanding or what are they coming back with? Are they coming back with a set of commitments from the countries they’ve been to, or is this just the start of a conversation and they have to go back and do more?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is their first trip to the region since they were announced in these roles. And certainly, we expect that even if there are some commitments, this will be just the beginning of their travel and their plans to visit these countries, have discussions with these leaders about what more can be done. And this is a longer-term effort.

QUESTION: So but then next week, there’s an – Martin – General Dempsey from the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is assembling a meeting of all 25-plus military chiefs from different countries. And so do you expect any decisions as a result of these conversations that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are having, or is it still in the very early stages? Because I mean, going back to the previous point you made, it’s an urgent – rapid steps are needed. So if it’s a long, drawn-out process --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been many decisions that have already been made and acted on, right. There are many countries that have taken airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. There are many countries that have taken steps to do more to crack down on terrorist financing. This will be an ongoing effort. So obviously, as there are new announcements or new commitments by countries, I expect – we expect they will continue to make them.

But the coordination that is happening with General Dempsey in the Pentagon is, of course, military implementation and military action, as you all know. That’s certainly – the military component is part of what General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are focused on, though they are not making the active decisions about it, but they are also focused on the broader coalition effort. So it’s more of a rolling, ongoing effort and process. And as there are new decisions made and new commitments made, we expect those will be announced by individual countries.

QUESTION: So there’s no sort of an urgent need or a brief to them – to these two gentlemen saying they have to come back with a set of commitments and promises from countries?

MS. PSAKI: Of course, there’s an urgency to every aspect of this, but the point I was trying to get at is that there – almost every day there’s a new country that announces that they are contributing – contributing – excuse me – militarily, that they are doing more on counterfinancing. This is an ongoing effort that is stemming from the conversations and meetings that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are having, that Secretary Kerry is having, that a range of officials in the Administration are having.

QUESTION: Just on the – following about this General Dempsey’s invitation to the coalition partners, he invited, for example, Turkish chairman joint of staff, but the Turkish chairman joint of staff said that he cannot attend the meeting because of busy schedule, et cetera. So do you think Turkey is still remaining reluctant to do more in terms of the military contribution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are spending two days there meeting with them and discussing with them their role. So they’re welcoming them in. They’ve – they’re having the meetings, they’re hosting them for the meetings, so I think that tells you what you need to know.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: More on Turkey?

QUESTION: Turkey, yes.

MS. PSAKI: No – on Turkey. Okay, move on.

QUESTION: Turkey, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey. Okay, one more on Turkey. Go ahead.

QUESTION: While mentioning the buffer zone proposal by Turkey, Secretary Kerry yesterday said that – and of course, he referred to the challenges of implementing this buffer zone and no-fly zone in Turkish border. He said you would have guaranteed safety, guaranteed that there would not be attacks by the government, referring to Assad regime. So he raised the concern about Assad regime rather than ISIL, but can we say that the drawback for the U.S. in implementing or considering the buffer zone for Syrian refugees is because it is targeting or the main target of the – this proposal is Assad regime or protection against Assad regime so that the United States is reluctant to get --

MS. PSAKI: Are you asking – just to make sure I understand what you’re asking, are you asking what the main focus of a buffer zone proposal would be, or are you asking something different?

QUESTION: No, the drawback of U.S. against this proposal is because several U.S. officials said that they are not – it’s not on table. So is it because that Assad regime is targeted by the proposal instead of Assad --

MS. PSAKI: I think my --

QUESTION: Instead of ISIL. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: My counterparts at the Department of Defense and many people who are much higher than my counterparts have spoken to the implementation challenges of any no-fly or buffer zone, so I would point you to those. They’ve made many comments on them.

Let’s move on to – I think we have to move on because we have a limited amount of time. Do you have one more? Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. The challenges of the implementation, that’s why I ask the population, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Beyond the implementation difficulties, challenges, if there is no – any significant population left in Kobani, is it still needed, this kind of buffer zone?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to Turkey – and I know you have contacts there – to ask them the question of what – this is their proposal. It is not a United States proposal. So I know there are a range of reasons why they have put it out there.

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s move on to a new topic. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: China and India.

MS. PSAKI: India and China?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we ask one more --

QUESTION: Gaza.

QUESTION: -- on ISIS in general?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. And then we’ll move, Lalit. Is that okay? Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ve seen the tweets by Paula Kassig, who’s the mother of Abdul-Rahman Kassig who’s captured by ISIS. She has started a Twitter feed and has made a direct appeal to al-Baghdadi about finding some way of communication or help. And in it she mentions that – she says, “My husband and I are on our own with no help from the U.S. Government.” I’m wondering if, as a representative of the U.S. Government, you have a response to that, and is that a correct assessment of the situation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, of course, that we can’t imagine the pain that the Kassig family has been going through over the last year. While we’re not, of course, going to discuss the details of our discussions with the families, we have reached out to the Kassig family. It remains true that we are using all of our military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Peter home. Those efforts continue every day, and we certainly have been in touch from this building but certainly other buildings as well.

QUESTION: I know you’re not going to get into specifics, but is it correct to say that the Kassigs are aware of what is going on within the government on behalf of their family and their son?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me – I don’t know if this helps you, but let me outline sort of what each – and I think somebody asked this yesterday – what the efforts are from different agencies. So the FBI has the lead on investigations and liaison with the families while the White House coordinates interagency efforts to ensure that all U.S. tools are being brought to bear to try to bring hostages home to their families, including the military-intelligence community, law enforcement, diplomacy, counterfinance, et cetera, all of our efforts. The mechanism for that coordination is the Hostage and Personnel Recovery Working Group, which has existed for many years and has brought interagency participation.

From here, from the State Department, we are engaged predominantly in the diplomacy efforts. And Secretary Kerry himself has personally made dozens of phone calls to dozens of countries about the hostages and seeking information or seeking help from any country that can play a role. This has been a personal priority for him. He’s put it on the agenda at a range of international meetings. He had a personal connection to the Foley family and actually helped assist when James Foley was held previously.

But this is an issue that every agency in the government plays a role on, and there are a range of officials from different agencies that are in touch with the families, depending on what their responsibilities are from the different agencies.

But go ahead.

QUESTION: Two quick follow-ups. Has – I know that he had a longstanding relationship with the Foley – members of the Foley family, but has there been any communication with members of the Kassig family from the Secretary to any of them?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has, but he’s also asked his chief of staff to help run point and be available to the families, and he’s met with a number of these families. The Secretary also has – saw many of the families over at the White House when they had that meeting – I think it was several weeks ago. And he has expressed to them, whenever given the opportunity, that – and through his chief of staff as well that there are certainly no words to express what they’ve been going through, and as a father himself he can’t imagine what they’ve been going through.

QUESTION: And you mentioned that the FBI has the lead on the investigation. Would you be in any position to say to what extent they’ve been coordinating with the family or whether they’ve been keeping them apprised of what the government is doing?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the FBI, but I think it’s safe to assume that in any of these cases the FBI is in touch with the families.

I can just do a couple more here, so let’s move on.

QUESTION: And that guidance was prepared in response to potential questions about a particular news report? Do you --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think she was asking me about a specific tweet from the family.

QUESTION: Right. But there was a story that was very critical that appeared in the last two days about the Administration’s overall effort as it relates to hostages, American hostages.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so we venture to --

QUESTION: So you would --

MS. PSAKI: -- venture to provide the accurate information.

QUESTION: Right. So you would dispute the – what the criticism in the article that said it’s discombobulated, that people aren’t working, coordinating together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just outlined what role every agency plays.

QUESTION: Right. But you – so you don’t – that criticism you think is not valid?

MS. PSAKI: I think the facts speak for themselves.

Okay. Let’s just do a couple more here. Let’s go to India, because we haven’t. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: China is expressing --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. China, China.

QUESTION: China is expressing resentment and displeasure of India and U.S. in the joint statement mentioning South China Sea. And China is saying that there’s no role for third country to play any role in resolving the dispute of South China Sea. What do you have to say on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our position hasn’t changed on this issue. You’re familiar with it. But we certainly work with countries in the region to address maritime issues. And certainly, India is an important partner, and it’s only natural that this was a topic of discussion but also of topic of output from our meetings when the prime minister was here just a few weeks ago.

QUESTION: So you stand by the joint statement?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly would. Yes. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Follow – India?

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On the revision of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense guidelines, Chinese media actually showing concerns over that and say that the U.S. may not be able to control Japan’s military development in the future effectively; it’s the act of inviting trouble. So I just want to make sure, how can the U.S. make sure that Japan’s military buildup won’t be out of control and cause miscalculation in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, that the reason – and we outlined this – and the Secretary was in Tokyo last October, so a year ago – and that’s where we talked about reviewing these defense guidelines. And the fact is that was done because the world has changed quite a bit since 1997, when the guidelines were last written, and there are longstanding threats, such as North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, such as cyber security, space security, freedom of navigation that present new challenges. So certainly, updating the guidelines provides a framework for addressing those challenges. And we think that also provides security and it’s being done in a transparent manner, so it promotes regional peace and stability as well by doing that. So we not only – of course, we’re working with them, so we certainly support these efforts, but we think this is a win-win for the region.

QUESTION: And will the U.S. try to alleviate the Japan’s neighbors’ concern?

MS. PSAKI: I think by explaining what exactly this is and what it isn’t hopefully will help alleviate that.

So let’s just do two more here. Elliot, go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea, yesterday you were asked a little bit about – you talked a little bit about North Korean human rights violations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are reports that the UN is considering a resolution to refer Kim Jong-un to the ICC. I was wondering if you have any stance on that, if you can confirm it. Would the U.S. support that move?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check with my UN – USUN counterparts, I should say. I hadn’t seen that before I came down there, so why don’t we do that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks. Sorry, one more on South Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday you were asked about the Japanese Sankei reporter who’s being prosecuted there.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I was wondering to what extent that has been a subject of conversation between U.S. officials and their Korean counterparts, whether it’s been raised. I know you stated your concern yesterday, but on that front --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve certainly been in touch, Elliot. I don’t have any more readout in terms of the extent of that, but certainly in touch on the ground.

QUESTION: Can you say at what level that --

MS. PSAKI: Not from Washington.

QUESTION: -- conversation is taking place? Not from Washington.

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Go to India?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s do – sorry, let’s do two here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a question about the Ebola policy.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday Secretary Kerry said that the U.S. would like to see airlines continue to fly in and out of the three countries in Africa that have been stricken by the virus and want borders to remain open. At the same time, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, said that about 150 people per day are entering the United States from those countries and that the policy going forward is to check them when they arrive to see if they’re asymptomatic and to question them to see whether they’ll admit that they had contact with someone with Ebola. If they’re asymptomatic and they didn’t – they don’t say they had contact, then they’ll be allowed into the country. And of course, Mr. Duncan did not admit to having contact with a person with Ebola and he was asymptomatic when he arrived.

Dr. Frieden’s explanation of that policy seemed to be a sort of cost-benefit analysis, that the American people were getting a greater benefit both in financial terms and also in terms of our ability to fight the virus --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. Do you have a question? I just have to go in a second.

QUESTION: Yeah. Fight the virus at its source than the price that we might pay by letting people into this country without going through an incubation period from those countries where people are suffering from Ebola.

So my question for the State Department is: When measured in terms of American lives that might be affected by this, American lives lost or permanently altered by Ebola, is there a point at which that cost-benefit analysis tips and it would be seen as a mistake to have let people to travel here without a quarantine period? Is it one American contracting Ebola? Is it five? Is it ten? At what point would the policy have to be reexamined and seen as imprudent?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think what you’re referring to in part is some of the new announcements that were made by the White House or are in the process of being made about measures that are being put into place to screen over 94 percent of passengers arriving from Ebola-affected Western African countries. We continue to take steps and evaluate what steps that can be taken to, of course, not only protect American citizens but continue to treat – do everything we can to address this outbreak.

And I would also note that Dr. Frieden has also made comments that by isolating these countries, it would make it harder to help them. It will spread more there, and we’d be likely to be exposed more here. So there are reasons for finding ways to address this and address it in ways that are – don’t intervene as – with passengers, while still allowing these countries to travel.

QUESTION: But --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, we have to continue.

QUESTION: But wait, if the policy --

MS. PSAKI: We have to move on because --

QUESTION: -- if the policy is to allow people who have been in Ebola-stricken regions to enter the United States without a quarantine period, is there an acceptable number of Americans that could be exposed to the Ebola virus for that reason? Is there an acceptable number?

MS. PSAKI: I think the CDC has addressed this, as have I. I’m going to move on because I just have another moment.

QUESTION: I just have – this is very brief.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know – are the embassies in the three countries that are most affected still processing all visa applications?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, they are.

QUESTION: So non-immigrant as well as --

MS. PSAKI: They go through the process that they’ve typically gone through with all of the screening that is naturally part of this.

QUESTION: Okay. But there hasn’t been any – other than a question to be asked, hopefully responded to truthfully, there isn’t any other – there has been no additional procedures put in place.

MS. PSAKI: Has been no – not in that process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Gaza --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just --

QUESTION: -- on the national – the Palestinian national unity meeting in Gaza today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Did you have a question? Or do you want me to just --

QUESTION: Do you have anything on it – the fact that it was held there? And also the donors conference, is there a number – what is it that you’re hoping to be achieved – the Gaza donors conference?

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first question, as we’ve said all along, the only way to have a long-term sustainable solution for Gaza is for the Palestinian Authority to assume full authority in Gaza. So we support this interim technocratic government in its efforts, and we view this meeting as a positive step in that direction.

As it relates to the conference – and I spoke to this a little bit the other day, but I’m happy to certainly reiterate that – certainly, we know that the people of Gaza have felt – are in great need of many, many things: housing, they’re in need of water, they’re in need of very basic necessities. And this conference, which will be hosted, as you know, by the Egyptians and the Norwegians, is an opportunity for countries to contribute and talk about ways to help rebuild Gaza. And certainly, the United States is very committed to that effort as well.

QUESTION: Rebuilding before having a permanent – a cessation of war? The war is not – there is no cessation of war there.

MS. PSAKI: There is a ceasefire right now, as you know. But obviously --

QUESTION: Not permanent.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. The conference is very important because it’s setting those – it’s in addition to a top-down agreement about where – about how the countries will – or how the entities – the parties will agree, I should say. There also needs to be a bottom-up agreement, in our view, about how we can help rebuild. And there’s no question that having a ceasefire agreement that addresses these core issues is essential over the long term. And countries around the world – this is just one conference – are going to look at what progress is being made in that regard as they make decisions moving forward.

So I think everybody should look at it through that – those eyes, and we’re certainly telling countries that.

I’m sorry. I have to go because I have to the PAO conference. Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:29 p.m.)

DPB #171


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

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

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 11:55

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

1:05 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hi.

QUESTION: Hello.

QUESTION: Good Tuesday.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Tuesday. Hi, Samir.

Okay. I have two items for all of you at the top. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are in Amman today, where they met with tribal leaders and sheikhs who have bravely resisted ISIL in Iraq. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk praised their courage and affirmed that those who stand against ISIL will continue to be supported by the international coalition. They also discussed our support for Prime Minister Abadi’s vision of a united Iraq and a united Iraqi National Guard that both empowers local populations to protect their communities and incorporates those forces within the formal national security structure.

Tomorrow, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will meet with the King of Jordan and other Jordanian Government officials. They will also travel tomorrow to Cairo and then will be in Ankara October 9th and 10th. And we’ll have, of course, further readouts of their meetings there as the week continues.

I’d also like to welcome our visitors in the back, who join us today from Serbia as part of our – hello, everyone – as part of a professional development program sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This is a group of senior-level public affairs officers for the recently elected government, and we’re happy to have you here, of course.

With that, Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. I was distracted for a second. When did you say they were going to Cairo? Tomorrow --

MS. PSAKI: Tomorrow. They’ll fly there tomorrow.

QUESTION: -- or today?

MS. PSAKI: They’ll fly – they’ll travel to Cairo tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay. So looking ahead to their visit to Ankara, I’m wondering if you can update us on what the diplomacy has been, or if there has been any, in terms of trying or trying not to get the Kurds – I mean, the Turks involved in the Kobani situation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Davutoglu last night and again briefly this morning. Obviously, their conversation is – was broadly about the challenges we’re all facing with the threat of ISIL, and also, certainly, the situation in Kobani. As I mentioned, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will be there later this week and expect the conversation will continue when they’re there.

QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about what it was that they talked about, as it relates to the situation in Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they’re certainly – it’s horrific for everyone to watch in real time what’s happening in Kobani, and they talked about that. But beyond that, I’m not going to get into other specifics, certainly about – let me add a little bit more about the role – what the United States has been undertaking, what other Arab countries have been undertaking, and certainly discussion about what role Turkey can play. But we’re not going to discuss that publicly much further than that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you satisfied with the current role that Turkey is playing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Turkey is determining what larger role they’ll play broadly as a part of the coalition moving forward, and that conversation’s ongoing.

QUESTION: And you would encourage them to play a larger role, what you just said?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’ve indicated their openness to doing that, so there’s an active conversation about that.

QUESTION: And you would like to see that?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary – he didn’t try to impersonate Vice President Biden, did he, on the phone call? Did --

MS. PSAKI: I think you are all familiar with the Secretary’s long, long history and relationship – friendship, I should say, with the prime minister.

QUESTION: Did that subject come up at all?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.

QUESTION: No? All right.

QUESTION: So also on Turkey, the Turkish president said bombing was not enough. So therefore, what other – if Turkey doesn’t think they’re bombing enough, what steps should it be taking, then, to make sure that then what it does is more effective?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a couple of steps that are – let me just give you an update on the airstrikes. I know my colleague over at the Pentagon is also briefing today, who will have more details, certainly, I would expect.

We’ve undertaken multiple airstrikes in the Kobani area, including multiple strikes again last night. One airstrike south of Kobani destroyed three ISIL-armed vehicles and damaged another. Another strike southeast of Kobani destroyed an ISIL-armed vehicle carrying anti-aircraft artillery. Two airstrikes southwest of Kobani damaged an ISIL tank. Another airstrike south of Kobani destroyed an ISIL unit, so just a brief update on that piece.

There are also – there’s also – on the ground, several individual opposition groups have formed de facto coalitions in some of these towns, including those near the Turkish border. And they’re working together to push back and hold back, to the degree they can, ISIL and their efforts that have been underway on the ground.

One other piece and then we’ll get to your next question. I think as it relates to this, as I mentioned earlier, it’s obviously horrific to watch what’s going on on the ground. But it’s important for the United States, for us, to also step back and remember our strategic objectives as it relates to our efforts and our engagement in Syria. As you all saw, the President laid out a clear and comprehensive strategy for degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL. Our goal is to deny ISIL a safe haven from which they can stage attacks in Iraq and possibly plan attacks against U.S. interests.

And so our focus is on undertaking – militarily, I should say – is undertaking a deliberate, well thought out campaign in Syria to destroy ISIL, specifically their command and control structures, destroy ISIL’s critical infrastructure, attack sources of ISIL fuel and financing. And you’ve seen militarily that those are – that has been the focus of our actions to date.

QUESTION: Is Kobani not just an example that there are limits to just doing airstrikes; that perhaps boots on the ground by the Turks or anyone else is probably necessary in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed about our view. I just think that’s worth repeating in terms of the United States engagement. Obviously, we’re having a discussion that’s ongoing with Turkey about what role they may or may not be willing to play and certainly how that works into the overall coalition efforts.

QUESTION: Can I ask – you said that --

QUESTION: Just following --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo. And then we’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said that some of the local groups have formed together as a coalition. Are you in touch with them? Are you helping them practically on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re assisting them by doing the airstrikes that we have undergone over the past several days. And certainly we’ve seen that that has been useful, not only there but in Iraq and other places where we’ve done that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just the previous question, to follow up, President Erdogan’s remarks. He also stated that there needs to be ground operation and airstrikes would not be enough. So my question is: Is there any plan – beside this 5,000 Syrian opposition, is there any plan to organize or coordinate ground forces for Syria as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, our train and equip program is not the totality of our assistance to the Syrian opposition. We have been providing a range of assistance that I still can’t outline from here. We are working with other partners in the region to also provide different types of assistance and training. And certainly, boosting up the opposition and increasing their military capabilities, their military credibility, we feel is not only important tactically but also strategically as we look to how we’re going to bring an end to this politically.

QUESTION: So beside this Syrian opposition you are training and equipping, there is no other work to organize ground troops that’s (inaudible) because President Erdogan references that somehow there is some ground forces being organized.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States, as you know, is not playing that role. We’ll have a discussion with other countries about what role they may or may not be willing to play and what would be most effective as it relates to the coalition.

Do we have any more on Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just one. President Barzani of Kurdistan has asked – as news reports have said, has asked Turkish president to send Peshmerga troops to Kobani. Are you aware of this request?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that specifically. I’m happy to talk to our team about that. I think it’s important for everyone to remember that there’s still an ongoing fight happening in Iraq, one that we’re very engaged in, against ISIL. So I’d have to talk to them about whether tactically that’s something we would advocate for.

QUESTION: And is there any update regarding the U.S. position towards creating a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed. It’s still not an active part of our consideration.

QUESTION: And what’s the U.S. position or – in principle towards creating buffer zone and no-fly zone?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not – nothing has changed since General Dempsey spoke to it about a week ago.

QUESTION: Jen, you said that the President had laid out a clear and comprehensive strategy for dealing with this. Is it not at all distressing to the Administration that this clear and comprehensive strategy thus far has seen ISIL make gains rather than driving – than retreat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in fact, I would disagree with that, Matt. There have been certainly gains made by the Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq. I can go through some of those for you if that would be useful.

We’ve said from the beginning and the President has said from the beginning that this would be a – an – would not be overnight, that this would be a long-term effort. And certainly, I outlined – as I just outlined, there are some strategy objectives that we’re focused on. We’ve gone after refineries. We’re going after strategic locations. And let me just tick through these and then we can go to your next question – some of our successes we’ve seen on the ground by the Iraqi Security Forces. One moment. Sorry. Well, I’ll find these.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, I wanted to highlight them --

QUESTION: Does that mean there aren’t any? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That does not at all mean that, Matt. There have been – the Iraqi Security Forces have pushed back and regained territory, and I just wanted to list through those. But I’ll find them before we end the briefing.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. But you say, clearly it’s – this isn’t going to be an overnight campaign, regardless of whether it’s clear and comprehensive or not. But overnight Kobani almost fell and by tomorrow may be in ISIL’s hands. And so I just don’t know how – is there not any concern at all that you’re not doing – that the clear and comprehensive strategy the President has laid down is not – isn’t working yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think --

QUESTION: Or do you think that the successes --

MS. PSAKI: -- the reason why I outlined our objectives here and what are the deliberate and focused campaign is, is to outline and highlight the fact that it’s been focused militarily on command and control structures, destroying ISIL’s critical infrastructure, and attacking sources of ISIL’s fuel and financing. And certainly, we’re undergoing airstrikes in a range of places, including in the neighborhood.

QUESTION: The Turks said a couple days ago – various Turkish leaders said that they would not allow Kobani to fall or that they would prevent it would from falling. Is that – is this a strategic goal of the United States in this situation to keep Kobani out of ISIL’s hands?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly no one wants to see Kobani fall, but our primary objective here is preventing ISIL from gaining a safe haven, and we’re going after those specific structures that I mentioned.

QUESTION: So does that mean that the Administration believes that the fall – if Kobani falls it wouldn’t be – it wouldn’t be a disaster? I mean, it would – you could live with it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certainly not saying that, Matt. But I’m saying that obviously our objectives and our focus strategically is on, as I outlined, command and control structures, oil refineries, and that’s where we’re taking our military action. But we would not have taken the range of military strikes we have taken, including overnight, if we did not want to support and defend the area.

Let me just outline now the specific.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So, one, as we all know and many of you reported, Kurdish forces with the support of Sunni tribes retook the Iraq-Syria border crossing at Rabia last week, which fell to ISIL in June. This is, of course, an encouraging development as it will make it harder for ISIL to operate across the border. There were also reports within the last week that Iraqi Security Forces working in conjunction with Sunni tribes have pushed back against ISIL in the town of Dhuliya. I don’t know how to say that name, but I will have you all --

QUESTION: I’ll take your word for it.

MS. PSAKI: -- pronounce it as you report it. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ll take your word for it. But they’re also getting close to Baghdad.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, nothing is new about their focus on Baghdad, about their desire to go after Baghdad. And we’ve seen, certainly, they have been adjusting their tactics, as has the United States. But we also have been strengthening the resolve of the Iraqi Security Forces. They have taken additional actions to defend not only that area but others, as I just outlined. And we don’t feel that the – their desire to go after Baghdad is particularly new.

QUESTION: Well, but you’re – presumably, if you’re not okay with ISIL taking Kobani, you’re not okay with them even – you shouldn’t – you wouldn’t be okay with them even approaching Baghdad, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think that it’s clear that we’ve taken a range of actions in Iraq to push back on and go after --

QUESTION: The Administration won’t let Baghdad fall or be infiltrated?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been clear we’re going to do everything possible to defend.

QUESTION: All right. And then just one – last one, and I realize this is probably --

QUESTION: And sorry, excuse me. On this one, why don’t you say the same thing on Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just outlined our tactics and our focus, and I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but it doesn’t actually – your tactics are – it doesn’t actually say that maintaining control of Kobani is a strategic objective at the moment in this ongoing campaign.

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m going to leave it at what I outlined as our strategic goals in Syria.

QUESTION: So Kobani could be collateral damage?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: What’s the difference between Kobani --

QUESTION: But it’s what you can infer from what you’re saying. You’re saying that your strategic goal at the moment is oil refineries and the financing and borders and these lines, not this town where 200,000 people have already fled.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I would also remind you, as I did before, that we also have done a range of airstrikes in the neighborhood of Kobani specifically to push back. But I think it’s important also for people to understand what our objectives are.

QUESTION: Do you think --

QUESTION: But it does sound, though, as though you’re not willing to – or you’re – that’s not the right word. It sounds as though the defense of Kobani is not a super high priority.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we wouldn’t be taking airstrikes if we didn’t want to take action in order to push back on the threat ISIL is posing.

QUESTION: But Jen, do you think that Kobani can be – the issue around Kobani can be resolved without the Turkish getting more involved? Is that an absolute requirement on this one to have that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not in a position to give military analysis. Obviously --

QUESTION: I’m thinking more political --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – but we’re talking about tactically militarily whether they can. Obviously, we’re having a discussion, as is evidenced by the prime minister’s discussion with Secretary Kerry and the fact that Ambassador McGurk and General Allen are going there later this week. But certainly, we also communicate with them via mil-to-mil channels as well.

QUESTION: And just on this rebel coalition, are they operating with the support of the U.S. or with the Turks, or --

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: Support, as in military support or any other support. I mean, are they – I mean, they haven’t just come together and said, well, we’re going to – we’re going to help free Kobani, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they have been forming – opposition groups have been working together in the neighborhood. I’m not sure what you mean. Are we providing military assistance, or what particular piece?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I mean, our position hasn’t changed as it relates to who we are and aren’t providing military assistance to. I can see if there’s more we can convey on that specifically.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just two --

QUESTION: Did the Secretary say to the prime minister that if more needs to be done to try to save Kobani that it’s up to the Turkish Government and the military to do it because the President, President Obama, has been adamant that ground forces from the U.S. would not be used in any part of this conflict?

MS. PSAKI: I think I will leave it at how I read out the call. And it was more of a discussion about how we can work together and what role they’re going to be able to play.

QUESTION: But it sounds as if based on the reports coming out of the Turkish media that there’s this expectation on the part of the Turkish Government that the U.S. ought to be doing more. And I’m wondering how forcefully is the U.S. pushing back against this perception in its diplomatic conversations, not just in what the President is saying to the American public.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’m just not going to read out private diplomatic conversations any further. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Without getting into the substance of the call though, can – would it be correct to infer that two phone calls in 12 hours or something like that implies that there is a sense of urgency here?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, as is the fact that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are heading there this week as well.

QUESTION: And have U.S. officials on – non-military officials, State Department officials, made the case to the Turks that Kobani is actually on their border, not ours, not the U.S. border, and they pose – ISIL taking it poses a more immediate threat to Turkey than to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s an understanding – I would point you to the --

QUESTION: Do they get it?

MS. PSAKI: -- their public comments about the threat that --

QUESTION: This is a country that has the second largest army in NATO and it’s not doing anything.

MS. PSAKI: We’re in a discussion about what more that can be done.

QUESTION: All right. And then --

MS. PSAKI: What more can be done, I should say.

QUESTION: And then I realize this is probably better asked at the Pentagon because they have the video and whatever, but when you went through that list --

MS. PSAKI: They have all the toys.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Wonderful toys. You went through that list of strikes, what was destroyed – ISIL vehicles, armed vehicles, ISIL tanks. To the best of your knowledge, or do you know, were all of those vehicles and tanks made here? Are they American?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on the origin, Matt. I would point you to the – to them, to the DOD Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Is it at all problematic for this building that much of the equipment that you’re destroying now is actually American?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, Matt, obviously, when we know – we understand that battle losses can do and will occur, and we take into account when we make arms transfers decisions in Iraq and around the world about that and factor that in. Obviously, we don’t want to see equipment in the hands of terrorist organizations, but we certainly are aware of what happens on the battlefield.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You just talk about the Turkish officials’ public comments regarding urgency in Kobani. Just today President Erdogan said Kobani either has fallen or is about to fall. Is this the remarks you’re talking about regarding urgency that public officials --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any – I think there have been a range of comments that have emphasized the recognition of the urgency of the situation.

Do we have more Turkey? Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) what was going on in Kobani. And yesterday you were asked if you could confirm the reports that ISIS had been moving into the town. I mean, are you in a position now from the podium to be able to say what the U.S. assessment of the situation on the ground in Kobani is?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other military assessment from here. Obviously, as we know, there have been a range of television cameras and journalists who have certainly been broadcasting what’s happening. But I don’t have any other analysis to share from here.

QUESTION: And just to get back again on the question about your engagement with the Kurdish --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has – what is the U.S. engagement with the Kurdish people inside Syria at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Do you – sorry. Are you talking about a specific group, or are you talking about a --

QUESTION: Well, I think generally, and then specifically, there was also – I don’t know if you’re aware of a report in Foreign Policy today about --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I wondered if you could give the reaction to that, that there’s been secret talks going on between the United States and the PYD, which is actually an ally to the PKK.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s exactly what it said. It said that we’ve not engaged – that we have engaged through intermediaries.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true. We have not engaged directly with the PYD for reasons that are well known. We of course, as you know, broadly speaking, talked to a wide range of officials within the Syrian opposition throughout Syria, of course. But yes, we have spoken in the past through intermediaries.

QUESTION: And is the Kurdish – are the Kurdish groups key, do you think, to the fights both against ISIL and also long-term against Assad?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen – and you’re talking about specifically the Kurdish groups in Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Look, I think we’ve seen efforts to push back on the ground the threat from ISIL. And certainly there are certain parts of Syria, just as separately there are certain parts of Iraq where there’s a broad presence. So certainly we think those efforts are important.

QUESTION: So with what’s happening in Kobani at the moment, does that presuppose that there could be more direct engagement between the United States and the PYD, which has been running Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Our policy hasn’t changed in that regard. We continue to engage through intermediaries.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you, on that report --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- the way it was characterized, “secret talks” – do you agree with that? I mean, it’s been pretty well known for years that you’ve been dealing with all sorts of people in Syria – some directly, some through intermediaries. Would you agree with that characterization?

MS. PSAKI: I probably wouldn’t state it that way. Whether everybody was aware through intermediaries I think is a separate question, but --

QUESTION: Special --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: U.S. special envoy to Syria is in Turkey. Do you have any readout for his meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Daniel Rubenstein.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to get you one after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. And the – what’s the difference for you between Kobani and Baghdad in defending these two places?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’re different countries and different cities. And obviously, as you know, in Iraq our airstrikes provide close air support for Iraqi Security Forces who are countering ISIL on the ground. We have a long partnership, obviously. The Iraqi Government invited us in to play a role here. So they’re entirely different circumstances and situations.

QUESTION: But in fighting ISIL, it’s not the same, do you think?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve answered it all I can.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have one Syria, one Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Turkey, we have seen dozens of protests across Turkey now, mostly in southeast of Turkey, which is Kurdish cities. Do you have any comment on those protests? Or how do you view – assess those?

MS. PSAKI: We do. I mean, certainly we – of course, as you know, broadly value freedom of expression and freedom of speech. We encourage people to do that peacefully, and certainly encourage authorities to respect protests when they’re done peacefully as well.

QUESTION: These protests called by PYD leader as well as PKK leaders just for Kobani rather than any other democratic demands. But these are for Kobani. Do you --

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

QUESTION: Okay. One last one on Syria. Last week, you were asked about whether after the U.S. strikes into Syria some of the Syrian opposition groups such as al-Nusrah Front or Ahrar al-Sham now – reports are coming out that they are actually uniting with the ISIL groups against the U.S. strikes. So the argument goes U.S. strikes do more damage on the ground rather than to weaken ISIL --

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered this. I don’t think I have anything new to what I said yesterday.

QUESTION: So you don’t see any evidence that this kind of --

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered it yesterday.

Go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Can we move to another hot spot?

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

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Do you know if the people of Kobani, the city of Kobani – are they supporters of the Assad regime, or opponents?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, there are a range of – and I don’t have any analysis of that, to be honest.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the EU’s criticism of the independence of Turkish courts in any way complicate the request from Turkey to participate in this international coalition?

MS. PSAKI: I think for us, even, Turkey is, of course, an incredibly important NATO ally. It’s – they’re an important counterterrorism partner. There are times when we’ve spoken out about steps that have been taken regarding freedom of speech or freedom of the media, and the sign of a strong relationship is when you’re able to do that, but I’ll let the EU speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Just one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that by letting Kobani fall, if it were to fall, that the Kurds would not continue to play the role that they are playing within the coalition in fighting ISIS in Iraq and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, clearly, there are parts of Iraq and certainly the work of the – the efforts that the Peshmerga have been undergoing, and they’ve continued to strengthen over time, are also for their own – the survival of Iraq and the survival of their own communities. We’re certainly supporting that, but ultimately it’s for the Iraqi Security Forces, working with the Peshmerga and the Kurds, to have a long-term plan and a long-term strategy to keep terrorists at bay. And so it is not that they are fighting back to do a favor to the United States; it’s to protect their own interests as well.

Do we have any more on this issue, or should we – okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there a role here for Iran to play? Yesterday Foreign Minister Zarif denounced the role certain countries were playing in Syria, saying it makes things more complicated. Specifically, he addressed the view that extremists and the Assad regime are two problems that would take care of each other. He said that this was an incorrect view that caused complications in Syria. Is there a role here that Iran can play?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken pretty extensively to this issue, the Secretary of State has, and said there’s a role for nearly every country to play. So that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: What about the general criticism that these airstrikes are somehow helping the Assad regime have its – maintain its grip on power, something that you’ve obviously stated is not your policy? How do you address that view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, we’re undergoing military action and building this coalition because of the threat, if left unchecked, that ISIL could pose to the United States, and we have to worry about and focus on our own interests as well.

The second is ISIL was growing in not only in the region, but certainly the safe haven was growing – was gaining strength in Syria. And for several years now, the opposition has been fighting ISIL. They haven’t – the regime has not – has been kind of turning a blind eye to that. So we had to address both what’s in the interest of the United States, what’s in the interest of the region, and certainly a number of our programs, including the train-and-equip program and the aid and assistance we’re providing to the opposition, can also be used to fight against the Assad regime. And certainly we believe that strengthening the credibility, the military capability of the opposition will help them politically as it comes to working through a conclusion here.

QUESTION: Sorry, I just have one more on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s unrelated to this. For the last year, the Administration has held up the agreement that it reached with the Russians on Syria’s chemical weapons facilities as a big success. It now emerges that Syria has declared another four chemical weapons facilities. And I’m just wondering, in light of that, was this such a success after all? It certainly did get rid of some or even one could argue a lot of the chemical weapons that they had, but it clearly wasn’t all. They clearly lied or hid some facilities. So what does that say about the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, without this agreement, the great – large amount of chemical weapons that were in many locations across Syria would still be in Syria, and there would be an availability to the regime to use those chemical weapons against their own people. And we have always said that part of this and part of the agreement originally was joining the Chemical Weapons Convention so that it would not just be resolved when we removed all declared chemical weapons, which we have done, but there would be continued checks on what Syria still has or may or may not have still in the country. So I think without this agreement, there would – all of those chemical weapons that were removed through a cooperative effort by many countries in the international community would still be there, and I don’t see how that’s a better option.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you have any reaction to the declaration of four additional ones, just on its face?

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to the briefing that happened up at the --

QUESTION: Yes, at the UN.

MS. PSAKI: -- at USUN today? I know that they’ve spoken to this up there. Obviously, the Secretary put out a statement just a week or so ago about our ongoing concerns and efforts to look into this and our support for the OPCW.

QUESTION: You’ve long called – said that Assad has lost credibility and has to go, but I’m just wondering – I mean, given this and this latest admission, is there any reason to think that they will negotiate – Assad or his people – in good faith? Because clearly, they weren’t – they didn’t join the OPCW in good faith and they didn’t do what they were supposed to do in good faith.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this has never been about trust. And certainly, that’s why we have to boost up the opposition and empower them and increase their strength, so that they can pose a viable alternative here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we move to --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, are we done with this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Could I just (inaudible) on a slightly separate issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Oh, okay, sorry. Can we – well, if we’re – it’s a separate issue, let’s go to Nicolas in the front and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you provide a readout of the meeting Assistant Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Victoria Nuland had with President Poroshenko? Apparently they had extensive conversation about economic aid and security at the Russian border.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, Assistant Secretary Nuland is in Kyiv this week from October 6th through 8th to reaffirm the United States’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and ongoing reform efforts, including today’s historic votes to move forward new anti-corruption laws. She’s already met with President Poroshenko, as you mentioned; Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and members of various political parties and civil society.

Earlier today she gave a speech to students where she spoke about those Ukrainians who inspired the world during the Maidan protest. She also acknowledged the immense sacrifices of the Ukrainian people, thousands of whom died while fighting for their sovereignty and freedom in eastern Ukraine. She noted that the Ukrainian Government has fulfilled its commitments under the September 5th Minsk Agreement and called on Russia and Russian-backed separatists to fulfill their own commitments, including by ending the ceasefire violations, restoring Ukrainian control to its side of the international border, withdrawing all foreign forces and equipment, and returning all hostages.

And certainly, as you said, the economic prosperity of Ukraine and issues like their access to natural – to gas and their need to be well supplied for the winter are certainly issues that we continue to discuss with Ukraine at a variety of levels – not just through Assistant Secretary Nuland, but certainly through a variety of experts within the State Department and other bodies in the Administration.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Do you think you’re coming to any kind of conclusion about how to meet those gas needs? I mean, that is a gaping hole at the moment, and it’s already mid-October. It’s already getting cold there.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this has been, obviously, as you know, an ongoing discussion. It’s one where our Assistant Secretary Amos Hochstein has been very involved. A number of officials in the Administration have been very involved. We too want to see this resolved, and certainly recognize the seasonal changes that are approaching here. I don’t have any update for you, unfortunately, Jo, but just something that is a priority and that we’re working closely to see how we can assist.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) freezing outside. Can I --

MS. PSAKI: You grew up in Buffalo. You’re a little tougher.

QUESTION: Exactly. Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Did Assistant Secretary Nuland – I saw some report. I just want to know if it’s true. Did she tell Poroshenko that the spots that were in the FLEX program that the Russians suspended would go to Ukrainian students, do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I saw the report. I’d have to check on the specifics of the FLEX program. That’s my understanding, that we will be, of course, utilizing those spots, but I would have to check on the details.

QUESTION: So they weren’t – they weren’t Russia-specific? They’re just spots?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they certainly originally were, but --

QUESTION: I know, but they can be moved around without any changes?

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding, but why don’t we check and see kind of what will be done with the spots, if that’s useful to you.

QUESTION: Can I just go to --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- ISIS and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jim Foley’s parents went on British radio this morning and said that the U.S. Government hadn’t done enough to negotiate their son’s release, and maybe paying a ransom was appropriate. I wonder what you’d say to them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, that we can’t imagine the pain and the heartache that Jim Foley’s parents have been going through, and that’s something I don't think anyone can understand unless they’ve, unfortunately, been faced with similar challenges. The United States Government was involved – and closely involved – at a range – from a range of departments, working with the family.

Our United States policy of not paying ransoms is in place because we think it – if we did, it would further put Westerners at risk, and that’s not something – we don’t want to make more Westerners targets. And that’s the reason we have that ongoing policy. But the fact is, as you know, we underwent a rescue operation that, unfortunately, wasn’t successful this summer. And this is – doing everything we can to see the safe return of individuals who are still being held is a primary focus of not just our Department but individuals across the government.

QUESTION: And do you try to follow up with those other European countries that apparently do pay ransoms?

MS. PSAKI: Do we follow up with them?

QUESTION: Well, do you try to persuade them not to?

MS. PSAKI: I think our policy is well known. There are a number of other governments who have a similar policy. Some don’t. We certainly explain why our policy is as it is.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mexico?

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Can I just go – on Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Russia and then we’ll go to Mexico. Does that work? Okay. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: It’s President Putin’s 62nd birthday today. I wondered if you wanted to take the occasion to wish him happy birthday from the podium. But more seriously, he was given as one of his presents an art exhibit called “The 12 Labors of Hercules” which shows him in a toga armed with a sword taking over the Crimea. I’ve wondered if there was any U.S. reaction to that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have not had time to take a look at the art exhibit, Jo, so I don't know that I have much of a comment on that, other than the fact that we continue to believe that that was an illegal intervention and certainly we don’t celebrate that here. I will also note on his birthday is also Desmond Tutu’s birthday. It’s also Yo-Yo Ma’s birthday. So we celebrate the birth of all born today.

QUESTION: Tutu, Yo-Yo, and Putin. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. There’s more. I can keep going.

QUESTION: Are any of the other ones have repetitive phrases in them like Yo-Yo and Tutu? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That’s – I didn’t even notice that. It’s a little alliteration there for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. I just wondering you have any comments with regard to the recent massacres committed in the state of Guerrero by the police, state police, and what the government is doing about it, trying to cover up some incidents and trying to be quiet in order to stop the criticism over the President Enrique Pena Nieto?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been following reports from Guerrero on the troubling disappearance of up to 43 students as well as reports over the weekend that authorities in Guerrero were investigating a mass grave near Iguala. Our thoughts and sympathies are with families and friends of those missing. This is a troubling crime that demands a full, transparent investigation and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

We understand that Mexican authorities have begun an investigation, so we’d certainly refer you to them otherwise for more information on the investigation.

QUESTION: But the office of Senator Patrick Leahy – I just told that he asked the State Department to investigate if some of those police members and Mexican military who killed people in Tixtla were trained by the U.S. under the Merida Initiative and if some arms has been used in those crimes. When you’re going to respond to Senator Leahy?

MS. PSAKI: Did he send us a letter or --

QUESTION: I don't know. His office just said he already asked the State Department to provide this information to him.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look into that. If he sent us a letter, we typically reply to that in kind. So why don’t I check on that and see. Obviously, there’s an investigation that Mexican authorities are undergoing at this point in time.

QUESTION: And another thing – why U.S. Government keep kind of quiet with the massacre in Tixtla in June 30. And it was three months after that when the State Department made a comment. And I used to come every day to this briefing. I remember when somebody kills someone in Mexico immediately there was a reaction by the U.S. Government. Why in this case not?

MS. PSAKI: On this particular case?

QUESTION: Talking about Tixtla in the state of Mexico.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see if we put out a statement or made a comment. Often times it’s in response to questions, so we can check on that for you.

QUESTION: Lebanon?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the tension between Lebanon and Israel, especially after the – some military actions today between Hezbollah and Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. One moment. I can just do a few more here, because Ambassador Bass is being confirmed, so I just don’t want to miss that.

QUESTION: So he’ll get to Turkey too.

MS. PSAKI: He will soon be in Turkey as well.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: Lots of people in Turkey. So you were asking, I think, about – sorry, say your question one more time.

QUESTION: The tension on the border between Lebanon and Israel after a military operation made by Hezbollah against the Israeli troops.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly seen that. I have some comments on it. I just have to get it to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: I have one on --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- a follow-up on your question – answer yesterday on India-Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You talked about LOC and your concerns. Is the U.S. in touch with either India and Pakistan to calm down the situation along the LOC?

MS. PSAKI: We have large embassy presences in both countries, so I’m certain we’re in touch, and we encourage ongoing dialogue. But I don’t have anything new to read out for you.

QUESTION: But not from this building, right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new calls to read out from you – from the Secretary or anyone else at this point, no.

QUESTION: I’ve got three that’ll be extremely brief.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. And then we’ll go to you, Michele.

QUESTION: One, do you know anything about this – the explosion in Parchin?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that I have anything new, Matt, but let me see if I have anything --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- to convey to you.

QUESTION: Second, yesterday evening, I think, or early afternoon – or late afternoon, you put out a statement about the Huang case and --

MS. PSAKI: We did, we did. And actually, I meant to flag that at the beginning because I know we put it out late last night.

QUESTION: Yeah. Why – what was the occasion for this, and why now? Or why is it only now that you’re calling on the Qataris to allow them to return to the States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, this is an issue that we have discussed and we recently discussed with the Qataris, and so certainly, we just felt it was appropriate to remind people of this particular case. Let me just see if there’s anything --

QUESTION: But do you know if there was a specific reason?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I realize the appeal is coming up on the 20th or something.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. The next hearing date is set for October 20th, so that’s in, let’s see, about two weeks.

QUESTION: Right, but this has been going on for some time.

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct.

QUESTION: Why is it now only that you’re telling the Qataris, or at least making it public, that you want the Qataris to let them go?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ve spoken to this in the past, Matt, but we just wanted to --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- raise awareness for this issue and make sure we highlighted it for people.

QUESTION: And nearby in Bahrain, the case of this rights activist who was arrested for tweets is still going on. I’m wondering what your – if you have anything new to say about that, and if you know whether there will be any diplomatic presence at his hearings, if that’s being allowed.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to offer. I can check and see if we’ll have a presence there from our consular office, sure.

Let’s just do two more here. Go ahead, Michele, and then we’ll go --

QUESTION: On Ebola, if Thomas Duncan survives, will the U.S. send him back to Liberia to face prosecution?

MS. PSAKI: To face prosecution?

QUESTION: For the – the Liberian officials had said that they would prosecute him for getting on the plane and lying about the questionnaire saying that he had Ebola or had been in touch with someone with Ebola. And so I’m wondering, would he, in fact, face extradition for that if he ends up surviving?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, as you know, we don’t talk about extradition. I’m not aware of any plans to do that, no, though.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Two very quick one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One on Burma or Myanmar --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- depending on who is speaking. They have decided to free 3,000 prisoners including former intelligence, military figures. Is it a good thing? Is it a sign of goodwill before the visit of President Obama in November?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome reports that the Government of Burma has released a number of prisoners during – on amnesty – with amnesty, I should say, today. We don’t have all of the details yet on those who have been released. We urge the government to continue to work expeditiously through the political prisoner review committee to release all political prisoners unconditionally and to remove conditions placed on those already released.

So since reform has passed – or began, I should say – approximately 1,300 political prisoners have been freed. While most recognized political prisoners have been released, an estimated 30 to 40 more remain incarcerated, and the presidential – I should say the political prisoner review committee was established in 2013 to discuss this, and certainly, we’re encouraging them to continue to move forward.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One last one on Haiti.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you had a reaction about the death of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Since then, it seems that the election which were already long delayed will be – might be postponed again. So is the Secretary planning to phone again President Martelly? And if the election are postponed, who would be to blame? Is it President Martelly or the opposition which is dragging its feet to implement the electoral reforms?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not aware of another call planned. This – Haiti and the issue of working with – on this diplomatically falls under our counselor, Tom Shannon. So he’ll continue to be certainly engaged in this issue. I’m sure we can keep you abreast if there’s any call planned in the future.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

DPB #169


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 6, 2014

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 16:09

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 6, 2014

1:14 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I have a couple of items at the top. Secretary Kerry will travel to his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts with the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on October 9th – so this Thursday – for a joint public event on global climate change and to discuss the important role of new technology and clean energy in mitigating climate change and creating economic opportunity.

Today, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are in Brussels. They’ve had – their trip has been ongoing, as all of you know, since last week. They briefed an informal session of the North Atlantic Council on coordination by NATO-allied states across the five lines of coalition efforts. They also briefed EU officials on the five lines of coalition effort, focusing on stemming the flow of foreign fighters and cutting access to terrorist financing. EU member states have already shown strong leadership on both of these issues, and we look forward to further cooperation.

They met with the Government of Belgium – officials from the Government of Belgium to discuss bilateral coordination, also congratulating them on Belgium’s first airstrike in Iraq last night that successfully neutralized ISIL targets.

Over the weekend, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk traveled to Erbil where they met with Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Barzani, other senior KRG officials, provincial leaders, and tribal sheiks. Noting important recent victories by joint Sunni-Shiite tribal fighters and with Peshmerga forces – excuse me -- and Arab tribes joining to retake the vital border crossing at Rabia. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our strong support for all Iraqis coming together as a national front to defeat ISIL, including through the formation of integrated national guard units that would work in concert with a restructured Iraqi army.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk confirmed that the United States and other international partners are prepared to support these security reforms in a manner consistent with Iraq’s constitution, sovereignty, and independence. They also discussed the urgent need for the coalition to support the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, which is a critical line of effort in the comprehensive campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL.

In their meetings with KRG officials, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk affirmed the historic relationship with the Kurdistan region of Iraq and its people and underscored our full commitment to that relationship.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Happy Monday.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Monday.

QUESTION: Can you – I realize some of this has been talked about at the White House briefing already, but can you explain from the State Department point of view why the Administration felt it was necessary for the Vice President to apologize to Turkey and semi-apologize to the UAE, and whether he has plans to apologize to anybody else? There’s a long list of countries out there that I think may feel may have – may have felt slighted.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think my White House colleagues have already addressed this, as you noted in your question. And as you also I’m sure have seen, there have been readouts of those calls describing the specifics of the conversations. I think they described it more as clarifying recent remarks. Obviously, we have important relationships with a number of these countries and want to work on how we can work together moving forward on the international coalition, and I think that’s probably why that decision was made.

QUESTION: So follow-up number one is: He doesn’t plan to apologize to the other countries he mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think his readouts of his calls spoke broadly to his comments. For anything more, I’d point you to the White House.

QUESTION: Would the State Department like to see the Vice President apologize to all of the countries that he mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, the Vice President and his team made decisions about the calls he made. They put out readouts. Obviously, we’re in close consultation --

QUESTION: So there was --

MS. PSAKI: -- with them.

QUESTION: So there was no State Department involvement in this?

MS. PSAKI: We’re in close consultation with them about issues moving forward as it relates to the coalition.

QUESTION: Can you describe what the reaction was, what Secretary Kerry’s reaction was or the reaction of other people in this building, to the comments that the Vice President made?

MS. PSAKI: I think everybody --

QUESTION: Were you aghast? And if you weren’t, can you say what it was – what the reaction was? And can you – is it not the case that the Administration believes that what the Vice President said is, in fact, correct and truthful?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, Secretary Kerry has spoken in the past, recently even a couple of weeks ago, about concerns we’ve had about past actions and past support for some of these organizations. We don’t have any evidence of any country supporting ISIL. We’re obviously focused on moving forward and what we can do from here. There have been a number of steps that have been taken even over the past couple of weeks by a number of these countries to do more to crack down on foreign fighters and crack down on counterfinancing. That’s where our focus is.

QUESTION: Does the Administration believe that in the past, until the last couple weeks, the Turks have not been doing enough to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq, regardless of whether it was intentional?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, Secretary Kerry spoke to this a couple of weeks ago about past actions, but we’re focused on moving forward so I’m just not going to --

QUESTION: So you do believe that the Turks, until recently, were not doing as much as they could or they should to stop foreign fighters from getting into the – getting into Iraq and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, over the course of time over the last several years, we have expressed the need to do more. When warranted, more has been done, and we’re focused on moving forward.

QUESTION: All right. Well, so why apologize?

MS. PSAKI: I think I addressed that. And if I have anything to add to that--

QUESTION: I mean, if Turkey is a great friend and ally, you’re always going on especially as it relates to Israel – and I realize that that’s a completely different subject – but you’re always talking about how good friends are honest with each other and frank and you can have these good discussions. And so it seems to me that when criticism is truthful or warranted and the facts behind the comment are correct factually that there shouldn’t be any need to apologize. Is --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again --

QUESTION: Are you that concerned about --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think the White House referred – addressed this. I don’t think I’m going to add anything else to it.

QUESTION: All right. And then just on the UAE, does the Administration believe that the UAE and the Saudis, who I think the Vice President also mentioned, hadn’t done enough until recently, or maybe still aren’t doing enough, to stem the flow of finance, of money to ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you an update on some of the things that have been happening. Many of you may know some of these, but I’m not sure.

In the coming weeks, Bahrain will host an international conference focusing – focused on identifying counterterror financing best practices and developing an implementation action plan. Many of the Gulf states have taken steps to crack down on terrorist financing. Several have taken steps to enforce their counterterrorism laws more effectively, including Kuwait’s newly created financial intelligence unit and Qatar’s new law regulating charities that includes the establishment of a board to oversee all charity work and contributions in Qatar.

Since July, the Kuwaiti minister of social affairs and labor has closed charity branches, issued new regulations that increased oversight of fundraising for MFA-coordinated projects in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, and reinstated an inter-ministerial committee that monitors domestic charity. And the UAE also passed a new CT law in August which tightens AML/CTF restrictions and more clearly defines terror-related crimes and penalties.

If we didn’t think that cracking down on counter – or doing more on counterfinancing was important, if we didn’t think that doing more to crack down on foreign fighters was important, especially for countries in the region but everybody in the world, they wouldn’t be two lines of our five lines of effort. And certainly they’re a prominent part of our discussion.

QUESTION: So prior to July, these countries – none of these countries were doing enough? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I stated. I was giving an update on what’s happened recently.

QUESTION: All right. And then just on the Bahrain conference, do you think that will be before or after Assistant Secretary Malinowski gets his invitation to go back?

MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, I don’t have anything to announce for you in terms of his travel, but we’re working --

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: -- actively with the Government of Bahrain on scheduling that.

QUESTION: On scheduling the Malinowski visit?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could I do one follow-up on --

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Or – okay.

QUESTION: Biden.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Vice President Biden. Are you currently satisfied with Turkey’s policies regarding financing to – either financing to groups, extreme groups in Syria, and the fighters – with the fighters, and the border policy currently implemented right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of steps that have been taken. Obviously, we’re going to continue to have a conversation about these issues with all of our partners in the region. They’ll be some of the topics that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will discuss during their trip next week.

QUESTION: Can I do – go with General Allen’s visit?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: Just yesterday or the day before, President Erdogan put forward three conditions openly, and he said if these conditions are not met Turkey won’t be part of this coalition. And one of those is buffer zone, or he calls safe havens.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And second is no-fly zone. Third one is train and equip. But these two – no-fly zone and safe havens – if they are not being implemented, Turkey won’t be part of the coalition. What’s your response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen President Erdogan’s comments. Obviously, part of our focus right now is on having a discussion with our coalition partners, including Turkey, about what the needs are, what roles they can play moving forward. Nothing has changed since I addressed this question last week in terms of a no-fly zone or a buffer zone and what is and isn’t under consideration.

QUESTION: Can I stay with Turkey as well?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Today, the NATO – the new NATO secretary-general is talking about Turkey, saying that it’s – Turkey’s a NATO ally, which we know, and our main responsibility is to protect the integrity of the borders of Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has any request – additional requests been made from Turkey for any additional help? And what do you think that could look like? You already have Patriot missiles that have been on the border now for well over a year. I just wondered if you had any updates on what further assistance --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update from here. I’d certainly refer you to NATO for any further clarification. I know – or further – I should say adds or further comments. I know they were the ones who made the statements originally, and we certainly support our NATO allies.

QUESTION: You don’t envisage sending, I don’t know, U.S. forces or any support to the Turkish borders at the moment when they’re under pressure with the --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates or predictions to make for you. Obviously, you know where our focus is militarily. Nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: My question is about the advance of ISIS towards Kobani. My – this question might be more for your colleagues at the Pentagon, but it’s related to the broader Obama strategy.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Over the past 24 hours, we’ve seen only one strike, according to the Central Command, around Kobani. I don’t really understand why there hasn’t been more attacks while large numbers of ISIS fighters are closing in on Kobani. And according to CNN and some other American media reports, they have raised the American flag – the – sorry, Islamic flag over some buildings inside Kobani. Why hasn’t been there more strikes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we have this exchange kind of every single day, which is absolutely fine, but you’re talking about one strike in the last 24 hours. That was the update, you’re right, that came from CENTCOM. There were – that strike destroyed two ISIL fighting positions south of Kobani. Other recent strikes have hit two modular oil refineries, an ISIL training camp, an ISIL-occupied building. So this is an ongoing effort.

QUESTION: They’re not around Kobani, those refineries.

MS. PSAKI: It’s an ongoing effort around – in the same part of the country. I would refer you to DOD for more about their military strategy, but obviously this is something where we’ve long said from the beginning that this would take some time. We’re working closely to do everything we can to help push back ISIL in this part of the country, but again, I don’t have any other military updates from here.

QUESTION: When I talked to – on a daily basis I talk to Kurdish people, Kurdish rebels even, Kurdish politicians on the ground in Syria. They have a different perspective. They say, well, Turkey is now trying to do America’s bid in the country when it comes to ISIS attacks on Kobani, and Turkey yesterday invited Salih Muslim, who is the leader of the Kurdish party, to reach some sort of deal with Turkish intelligence. So are you waiting for Turkey to reach a deal with the Kurdish rebels? That’s why you’re not --

MS. PSAKI: I think we haven’t – clearly we haven’t held back from our own military airstrikes in this regard. There are a range of other countries who have also participated in the last couple of days in strikes in Syria. I don’t have any other update for you.

QUESTION: Just one more thing, Jen. It’s clearly, like, obvious that – I mean, President Obama on the eve of 9/11 said the strategy was to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. We’ve seen ISIS been degraded in Iraq, but we’ve seen ISIS advancing in Syria. Can we say there are flaws in President Obama’s strategy?

MS. PSAKI: I would not say that. You’re right that the Iraqi Security Forces have certainly pushed back and they have been able to hold and even regain some areas. The efforts that have been underway in Syria have been not – have not been happening as long. I think DOD has addressed some of our strategy, so let me reiterate some of what they’ve said – that the initial round of strikes in Syria had fixed targets, such as command and control nodes, finance centers, training camps and oil refineries. Those kind of strikes will continue. Targeting in Syria is also evolving beyond fixed facilities and also includes more dynamic targeting of a tactical nature, such as vehicles, armored vehicles, convoys.

So obviously there’s certainly a strategy that’s being implemented by our Defense Department.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So your response to his question, can you – are there flaws in the Obama strategy, and you said, “I would not say that.” You’re saying that the President and the U.S. strategy is flawless as it comes to --

MS. PSAKI: I think I was making a point --

QUESTION: Or is that not what you meant?

MS. PSAKI: -- about what our approach and our military approach is.

QUESTION: But if something is without flaws, it is flawless.

MS. PSAKI: I was refuting his question, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. So you think that the strategy that you’re using right now, that the Administration’s using right now, is flawless.

MS. PSAKI: That is not what I said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, no, no.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to – on Kobani in particular. Have you, has the Administration asked the Turks to lift even a finger to defend this city? Or are you okay with seeing it fall? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly --

QUESTION: -- my understanding of the strategy that you say is without flaw is that it is intended to first halt ISIS’s advance and then degrade it and destroy it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But in this case, it seems that they’re gaining ground, so is that not problematic to you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, we are closely engaged in a conversation with Turkey. As you know, Ambassador McGurk and General Allen are traveling there this week. We’re in touch closely with them about what role they can play.

The --

QUESTION: But as it relates to Kobani, you’re not aware of any direct request to the Turks to actually do something?

MS. PSAKI: There are no other details I’m going to get into about our discussions with them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the country --

QUESTION: Can I ask whether you are actually talking --

QUESTION: Could we please stick with Kobani?

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m Kobani too.

Are you in touch with the Kurdish people inside Kobani at all? We’re reporting today that there’s some ISIS flags that are now flying in part of the town, two ISIS flags. That would suggest that they’re already in – creeping into the city. So is – if you haven’t got the Turks on the ground as yet, how are you getting information in terms of trying to halt that advance, which would seem that it’s not working at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: We have a range of ways of acquiring information. I just don’t have anything more to detail for you.

QUESTION: Are you coordinating at all with the Kurdish people in the town?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more on that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, if the President’s strategy is fundamentally for the United States to selectively provide air power and for local forces on the ground to do the ground fighting, if in this case the Kurdish fighters are not capable of fending off the ISIL forces, does it not suggest to you that you perhaps should rethink your strategy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think, one, we’ve been clear that the airstrikes actually can have and do have and have had an impact on helping forces on the ground. And we’ve seen that in Iraq, certainly, which has been ongoing a bit longer. I just don’t have anything more to detail for you or predict in terms of military strategy. Obviously, we are working with a range of partners in the region to do everything we can in this case.

QUESTION: And have you actually – far from encouraging or requesting the Turks to seek to protect Kobani and engage ISIL forces, are you concerned that a – such an effort by the Turks could, in fact, worsen the fighting and the situation by pulling yet another actor into the fray?

MS. PSAKI: There’s just nothing more I’m going to be able to outline from here in terms of our conversations diplomatically on military strategy.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, in light of the question about there only being one operation presently, I think that Pentagon commanders themselves have made clear that the operational tempo might slow after some period of time simply because certain targets are destroyed or rendered useless, and simply because, as they have repeatedly made clear, ISIS has a certain adaptivity in response to prolonged military attack. I wonder if you are seeing the same adaptivity on the part of ISIS in the non-military arenas in which you are pressing the fight and the allies are pressing the fight with the --

MS. PSAKI: In terms of financing and other areas?

QUESTION: Financing, cyber, public diplomacy. Is there an adaptivity in those realms that can be observed as well, or just in the military sphere?

MS. PSAKI: I think there – certainly we’ve seen an adaptivity by ISIL in a range of areas. Obviously, they’ve increased their public diplomacy. I think that’s one example. Rick Stengel just came back from a trip to discuss with our partners how to address this. And we’ve seen them be very adaptable. Obviously, we and our partners need to continue to be more and more adaptable in response. I don’t have any specific examples for you, James. I don’t know if there’s something specific you are seeing or you’re curious about.

QUESTION: Just that it makes sense if we’re going to understand that the fight against ISIS is going to be waged along several lines, of which military is only one, then as an organization we should expect certain adaptivity in the various spheres. Since you mentioned Under Secretary Stengel, can you tell us just a bit about his role broadly, how he sees his mission? Is his mission now utterly consumed by this or is it just one aspect of many in his portfolio, et cetera?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. This is one aspect of his portfolio. I think it’s natural to have the Under Secretary of State run point or help oversee an effort, one of the five lines of effort, to organize and utilize all of the resources we and the Administration has to counter ideology and counter messaging. And part of his role will be not certainly what the United States is doing, but to help coordinate what countries in the region are doing. And we certainly know that the best and most effective voices are in all likelihood – without a doubt, I should say – from the region. And so that’s why he had this trip last week and what he’ll be engaging in moving forward.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, one more question about Prime Minister Davutoglu of Turkey’s interview with --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He had an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN. He said – he basically demanded the West, the United States to be more empathetic when it comes to the movements of foreign fighters from Turkey to Syria. Do you show – like, do you feel that the United States does not understand Turkey’s situation?

MS. PSAKI: I think we certainly understand, one, Turkey remains a close NATO ally, as you know. We certainly understand the sensitivity that they live under with the fact that their diplomats were just detained for several days, weeks, longer than that. And we’re in close touch with them about all of these issues, but we’ll have those discussions through private diplomatic channels, which is most appropriate.

QUESTION: Jen, those diplomats were released --

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: -- more than a week ago. Surely this is --

QUESTION: I thought it was a couple weeks ago.

MS. PSAKI: Couple weeks ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, right. And this is still a sensitive issue for --

MS. PSAKI: I’m saying historically over the last several months. We understand that Turkey, being a neighboring country and one that has felt this perhaps more than many other countries with what happened to them over the course of the last several months --

QUESTION: Well, right, but the particular sensitivity relating to the – its diplomats being held hostage is over, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, sure, but it’s still relevant to --

QUESTION: Why is it still being – but why is it – why are you still mentioning it as something that might keep Turkey from becoming more active in the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: I think the question was broadly about empathy to what they – their challenges are.

QUESTION: Okay. But let’s talk about now, today, not while – not three weeks --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the question was that. That’s what I was addressing. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, right, okay. Well, so – okay. But let me ask --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- re-ask this. Not the empathy question, but why today should the situation with the diplomats be raised as an issue of sensitivity for Turkey when they’ve been released for weeks?

MS. PSAKI: I was answering a question about --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- what they have experienced over the course of the last several months. And certainly, as a country that’s a neighboring country in the region, they have different sensitivities.

QUESTION: And as a neighboring country in the region, where you can stand on the Turkish side of the border and actually see the fighting going on, does it not follow that Turkey has a special responsibility to perhaps do more than other members of the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: I think Turkey has said many times that they’re interested in being engaged in this. We’ll have that conversation. When there’s more to say publicly, all of you will know.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So do – first of all, Kobani. Do you have any confirmation that Kobani – in the east and the west part of Kobani, ISIS forces penetrated in the city and the street fights are going on?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation. I’ve seen the reports, certainly, but I don’t have any independent confirmation from here.

QUESTION: And do you think that Turkey has some special mission or task to do in terms of Kobani fight, comparing to other allies?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll – we are having ongoing discussions. I don’t have anything to read out for you at this point.

QUESTION: Today, Prime Minister Davutoglu talked to a Amanpour interview, and he said that if the U.S. targets Assad regime, goes after it, we can send ground troops into Syria. Do you have Assad regime in your target list?

MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed. Our focus is on ISIL. We certainly are continuing to support the Syrian opposition, but I don’t have anything new on that regard.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey is reluctant. One reason that it’s been reluctant – another reason, in addition to the hostages – has been that the PYD, the Kurdish party there, has been neutral towards Assad. Does that – is that your own – your concern as well?

MS. PSAKI: Reluctance as it relates to --

QUESTION: Reluctance to help – to join the anti-Assad – anti-ISIS coalition to fight ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – let me just say that, obviously, Turkey and their leaders – the leaders of Turkey have indicated over the past several weeks they want to play a more prominent, active role in the coalition. We’re having discussions with them about what that role is, what ideas they have. Beyond that, I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: But to – that was just – like, I know we’ve heard Turkey upping the rhetoric against ISIS, but, like, when it comes to action, like, they --

MS. PSAKI: And they had a vote in parliament, and we’ll see what happens.

Go – let’s finish Turkey before we go on. Turkey? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, Turkey. Prime Minister Davutoglu said Turkey will do whatever possible, and I quote, “to make sure that Kobani will not fall.” Do you think it’s doing whatever possible to prevent Kobani from falling?

MS. PSAKI: I just – I’m not going to have any more on this particular question.

QUESTION: Okay. No, one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Why – did you convey to Turkey – why not saying we will not allow Kobani to fall? Why didn’t he say, though --

MS. PSAKI: I think my colleagues at the Department of Defense have indicated we’re taking a range of steps and – including airstrikes, and we certainly want --

QUESTION: No, Turkey, Turkey. About Turkey. Why Turkey didn’t say we will not allow Kobani to fall? Why did they say --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No, he said “whatever possible.” He didn’t say --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Turkish leaders on that particular question.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Should we – Turkey, or a new --

QUESTION: In ISIL in general.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah, because first of all, the General Allen trip to Brussels and then to the Middle East, do you have anything to say about it? Because once you are – when we are talking about Brussels you mention a lot of issues that were discussed, but I think the – I assume the priority is to degrade and defeat ISIL, or it’s not just that?

MS. PSAKI: That is the focus of their meetings, and certainly – and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Their entire trip is focused on that. Obviously, there are several components of that. We have five major lines of effort, so doing more to crack down on foreign fighters, counter-financing – those are part of that effort, and certainly there are roles each country and each organization can play.

QUESTION: And few day – recently, he was quoted that this may take – it may – at least one year to – Iraqi force to be able to get – retake Mosul. Do you have anything that it’s – to establish the Iraqi forces to be able to do that? I mean, it’s like – it’s a long-term process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I – it’s not exactly. I know the headline suggested that. It’s not exactly what he said. I will – I don’t have it in front of me.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I can get it to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I’d certainly point kind of the goals of a military operation to my Defense colleagues on their comments on that.

QUESTION: Talking about the different fronts of fronting – confronting ISIL, the idea of this – the war of the ideas or the public diplomacy, you are outlining the under secretary mission or at least what he’s trying to do in general terms. What exactly you are trying to do?

MS. PSAKI: What exactly are we trying to do?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: We’re trying to create coordination among countries that are impacted by ISIL, that have concerns about the growing threat of ISIL to de-legitimize their messaging. They’re out there talking about – recruiting. They’re out there talking about how this is an effective or a great alternative for young people. And we want to work with powerful voices in the region to combat that. And so that is what the focus of this effort is. Now, that will take many forms. We’re in the relatively early stages of it, so it’s still coming together.

QUESTION: Do you think that what is going on now in this field, specifically with the experience that was done in the last years – it was like preaching to believers. It’s more than confronting the nonbelievers. Do you think that that’s what is going on? I mean, it’s like the last two weeks, what was heard, it was heard that all the world, or the – that part world of believers of Islam are against it or whatever. Do you think that this is the proper way to do it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – I’m not sure if this is answering your question, so you tell me, but I think part of the effort here is there have been a range of voices out there who are – have not typically spoken out about these sorts of issues. So making clear that ISIL is not Islam, that their recruitment tactics and their public diplomacy efforts are hiding terrorist tactics is something that I think a range of people can play an effective role in.

Obviously, ISIL has been growing in strength and capacity and recruiting, and so this is an important time to do this.

QUESTION: One of the mention – one of the issues that you mentioned regarding Gulf countries, and you mentioned those related to charities --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are you following what kind of laws are these? Because what was done before, it was full of loopholes, and it was like looking great to uphold monies, but in the same time, the monies were going somewhere, even – and then they said, “We don’t know. We don’t – how did this happen?”

MS. PSAKI: Well, part of the effort, as much as we don’t have information that a government was – has been – has supported or given money to ISIL, there are certainly individuals. And we have put in sanctions in place, but cracking down and doing more to crack down on those individuals is part of our effort, and obviously a range of countries can play a role in that.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just ask, when you’re talking about one of the functions of what you’re doing is trying to undermine the message from ISIL, I’m not sure if you saw over the weekend the Pakistani Taliban released a statement saying that they would support the Islamic State, and that they’d already been sending fighters and they were going to send more fighters. There have been similar moves from other of the groups, like al-Nusrah. Are you worried that on – actually the effect its having is to harden those groups that are already out there and that you could see a banding together, perhaps, more of the more extremist Islamic militant groups?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we’ve certainly seen the reports that you referenced related to the TPP, where they – expression of support or praise for ISIL. We’ve also seen conflicting reports refuting this, so we’re looking into it and what it means and what – moving forward. We’ll see if there’s an update on that. I’m not sure if and when there will be.

Otherwise, I think our view is that ISIL has had success in growing and building capacity, recruiting, growing and financing. And so the alternative is not to do nothing. The alternative is to use every capacity we have, whether it’s taking on the ideology, doing more to track – crack down on foreign fighters, counter financing, and that’s what we’re doing. Because over the course of the last six to eight months, they’ve really gained strength, as we all know.

QUESTION: But there is a danger, is there not, that by unleashing American airstrikes, you could actually harden the resolve of some of the other groups? I mean, the Pakistani Taliban, initially on paper, would seem to have very little in common with the ISIL, apart from their extremist form of Islam.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we don’t have full confirmation of that. There’s conflicting reports and we’ll see what it means. I think our view otherwise is that it was necessary to take the military action and also take the other steps that we’ve taken in order to protect not only our interests, but interests in the region, and we did that with a range of factors in mind.

QUESTION: Can I ask the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- broader question, though?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And perhaps you feel like you’ve already gotten to this, but one of the problems with the United States getting involved militarily in Muslim countries is indeed exactly the possibility that it creates even more fighters, even more opposition, even more animus of a sort that neither this nor any other administration that I’m aware of has been particularly successful at countering or undermining. So did you anticipate that military action might generate this kind of a response of galvanizing additional opposition to the United States of America simply because it was starting to bomb in two Muslim-majority countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, aside from the TP – TTP, sorry, which isn’t confirmed – I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to – but I would say one of the reasons why the President did not want to go it alone, the Secretary did not want to go it alone, we needed the support of Arab countries and Arab partners, is because this is a fight for the region to lead and be prominent – play prominent roles in. And certainly, the United States has interests here. We have – if left unchecked, as you’ve heard us say before, we have concerns about the threat ISIL could pose to the United States, about the Khorasan Group, about other terrorists we’ve addressed before.

But the reason we are building this coalition and we want to hear – and we think Arab voices should be in the lead and countries in the region should be in the lead is because it’s not the United States’s fight to fight.

QUESTION: But surely, you would not say that any – I mean, can you point to a country in the Arab world that is actually leading this? I mean, the impression that I’ve had is that the United States is leading it; that you had to cajole, persuade, convince, entreat your regional allies to do this.

QUESTION: One more.

QUESTION: I was trying. I couldn’t think of a fifth one. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Beg. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Nudge.

MS. PSAKI: A group of reporters, a word game. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Implore, implore. I mean, can you point to a single country in the region where you say, “Well, they’re leading it?” I mean, you’re leading it, aren’t you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, but Arshad, I think what I’m getting at here is that the reason why it’s not just about military action, which – the United States has a military second to none. We have a range of capabilities. We all understand that. But there are other components and other elements of this, and this is a long-term effort, and one where a lot of these countries are going to continue to play increasing roles. And I would say that I wouldn’t agree with the notion that we had to – I’ll use all your adjectives – cajole, beg, or whatever --

QUESTION: Verbs.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, verbs.

QUESTION: “Beg” was not mine. Mine was “implore,” which was my last one.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, okay, fair enough. I’ll give credit where credit is due. A range of these – a lot of these countries, this has been a unifying moment for these countries, and they have concerns about ISIL and the threat it poses, and they want to play a proactive and engaged role.

Now, are there agreements on every point about how everything should be dealt with? No. You’re all aware of that. But this is an ongoing effort and one we think these countries will continue to build the role that they’re playing over the course of time.

QUESTION: Former Secretary Panetta in his book stated that this will be a 30-year effort. Does that sound about right?

MS. PSAKI: I think, James – I know we spoke to the book quite a bit on Friday. I’m not going to put a timeline on it. I would say that we know that this is going to be a long-term effort. Our focus, as you know, is degrading and defeating ISIL. There’s going to be a range of steps that are required to do that, and it’s not easy. But --

QUESTION: After 9/11, President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld, and probably Secretary Powell at that time, were all quite explicit in saying that this was going to be a multigenerational challenge, as was embodied in the act of 9/11. Would you say that we are in not just for a long-term challenge but a generational one?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not going to put a new timeframe on things. Obviously, as you know, terrorism is not new. It’s unfortunately not something that is necessarily going away. We go after it wherever the threat of terrorism – wherever it lives. And I think that will be our approach moving forward.

QUESTION: And last one. Since this, again, is identified as a multipronged effort, is it assumed by the Administration that some lines of confrontation against ISIS will be resolved more swiftly than others? For example, the military piece could be resolved more swiftly than say, the effort to combat their ideology? Or is one of these going to take a lot longer than the other, or we expect they’re all going to come to fruition at roughly the same time?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question, James. I mean, we’ve only had this effort underway for a couple of months, so I just don’t have any predictions of what particular line of effort we’ll be able to accomplish. Obviously, defeating the ideology – if you can’t defeat the ideology, it’s hard to accomplish the other particular pieces. That’s one of the most important components. I mean, they all are important, but I think expect they’ll all take some time.

So go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to move on if I may.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: But before moving on, were you relieved that over the weekend there wasn’t another former senior official coming out criticizing the President’s strategy?

MS. PSAKI: I’m always happy to answer your questions about books or other issues that come out, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. So this is a different topic. I know that your colleague at the White House was also asked about this and gave an answer, but I want to get your response, although I’m sure it’s probably very similar. You already know what I’m going to ask, don’t you?

MS. PSAKI: I do.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu over the weekend talking about how the criticism of his country, or at least of his government, is – conflicts with American values. What’s your response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, American policy has been clear and unchanged under several administrations, both Democratic and Republican: We oppose any unilateral actions that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. These can only be legitimately determined through direct negotiation between the parties. So I have to say it was a bit odd to use American values when clearly we’ve had a consistent view and a consistent position on this particular issue.

QUESTION: Do you – Secretary Kerry got into trouble and had to apologize when he made this reference to the possibility that Israel could become an apartheid state. Is it your view that that – that this is in the similar vein? And by that I mean is it okay for Americans, American citizens, to talk about the possibility of something being un-American and not okay for a foreigner to do so, much in the same way a lot of the people who criticized the Secretary for his comment about Israel acknowledged that Israelis themselves talk about this all the time? Is this, to your way of thinking, to the Administration – is that the Administration’s view?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it exactly that way. I think we just don’t think it’s consistent given we’ve had the same viewpoint and point of view on this issue. It didn’t seem like the right use of phrase.

QUESTION: All right. Have you asked – much in the same way as the Turks demanded an apology from the Vice President, have you asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to revisit, clarify, or apologize for his comments, which you clearly disagree with?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of Matt, no.

QUESTION: And can I ask why not?

MS. PSAKI: I think we clearly stated our view. There’s – he did an interview. I don’t think – I think we have other issues that we’re ready to keep engaging with Israel on.

QUESTION: All right. And since the criticism to which he referred was issued by both yourself and the White House last week, shortly after the prime minister had left town, have you seen any steps, any moves by the Israeli Government to address your criticism, your concerns about these East Jerusalem projects?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates from events on the ground, no.

QUESTION: So that means – no. So are you disappointed that they have not moved to address your complaints?

MS. PSAKI: Our concerns haven’t changed. It remains the case that we view these actions as contrary to Israel’s goal of – stated goal of a negotiated two-party – sorry, two-state solution.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: So that hasn’t changed. I don’t have any update of events on the ground though.

QUESTION: All right. I’m just wondering, I mean, every time the Israelis do something like this or announce projects like this, as every time the Palestinians do something that you don’t like, you come out and you say this is bad, we’re opposed to unilateral actions. You criticize or otherwise condemn/abhor or whatever --

QUESTION: Beg and cajole.

QUESTION: You say – express deep concern or great concern or you’re troubled. And nothing happens. Nothing is ever addressed. These – the construction continues. The Palestinians continue to do things that you say are counterproductive.

When is the Administration – and this has been going on for – across administrations. But when is an American administration going to actually do something? When are there actually going to be consequences for either side completely disregarding everything that you say?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as you know, we have an important security relationship with Israel and they’re an important partner. We still voice our views and concerns when we have them.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But ultimately, this is about what is the stated goal of Israel itself, and that is to achieve a two-state solution.

QUESTION: I’ve been very – I’m trying to be very clear that it’s both sides, not just the Israelis who are --

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough. You were asking me --

QUESTION: -- who are ignoring this.

MS. PSAKI: That’s right.

QUESTION: But I’m just wondering, I mean, when are you going to get to the point where you actually do something other than say you’re concerned about it to get a result? Because the results of it – there are no results from you concern.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, what we’ve seen, as I referenced last week I think, is some of the response from the international community, and that’s one of the things that we think will continue to build as well.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on this topic?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: No – nope? Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, a very high-level delegation from North Korea visited the South for the Asian Games and also meetings with government officials. What’s your reaction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we support improved inter-Korean relations. We were in close consultation with the Government of the Republic of Korea as the visit was happening. But I don’t have any other updates from here.

QUESTION: When you say “close consultation,” were you informed ahead of time that they would be having this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I can check on that for you, Elliot. I’m not sure off the top of my head if we were.

QUESTION: Okay, great. And then one more just on this while we’re on the topic. Any updates on the three detained Americans? Any new consular visits or things of that nature?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new updates as of today. We can – I can take it and see if there’s anything that happened over the course of the last several days – not that I’m aware of, but we’ll check and seen.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: And one more on this topic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Assistant Secretary Danny Russel met with South Korean counterparts?

MS. PSAKI: He has been on a trip, as you know. He met – let’s see. I think he did a short press avail while he was there where he outlined some of the meetings, so let me just see if I have this in front of me.

QUESTION: One more on this?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you confirm or – can you confirm the reports suggesting that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is ill or can you confirm the denials of those reports?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything on that. I don’t have any information on it.

In terms of Assistant Secretary Russel’s trip, I know we put out a media announcement. Obviously, he’s been on the trip and he did a press avail with his DOD counterpart, which you may have seen – we can also get that around to you after the briefing – to talk about the meetings.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) readout of those meetings as well?

MS. PSAKI: They did, I think, a readout in their short press avail afterwards.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Hong Kong, three ex-U.S. consul generals to Hong Kong has issued an open letter to the chief executive, saying that the Chinese Government’s decision to prescreen Hong Kong’s candidates, quote --

(Sneeze.)

QUESTION: Bless you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: “Fails to advance Hong Kong’s system toward being more broadly representative or democratic.”

MS. PSAKI: Who was the letter from? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Three – I can read the name to you. They are Richard Boucher, once a spokesperson, and Stephen Young and Richard Williams. They are former U.S. consul generals to Hong Kong.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I just wonder if you have any comments on the letter, and does that reflect the official view through – or law delivered through the private capacity.

MS. PSAKI: I believe all the individuals you mentioned are private citizens, and as we know, private citizens can certainly say what they like and send letters. I haven’t seen the letter. We can check and see if there’s more to say from here on it. We’ve stated what our view is on this particular issue.

QUESTION: Now, a few days ago you mentioned that there’s no discussion to review the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, in section 202, it indicates that if – should the United States determine that Hong Kong is insufficient – is not sufficiently autonomous, the United States President may issue an executive order which may change the law – the way the law is implied. Is there any discussion on the determination and the way it’s --

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since I spoke to this last week.

I can just do a couple more here. Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Jen, one more on Hong Kong.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has there been any fresh dialogue between the United States and China now that the deadline has passed – the deadline that had been imposed by authorities for protestors to clear the square? Obviously, things seem to be peaceful so far. But has the U.S. been in touch with its counterparts, urging restraint, or has anything taken place?

MS. PSAKI: We remain in regular contact, but our focus has been on encouraging the differences between Hong Kong authorities and protestors to be addressed peacefully. I understand – I think there were reports about the chief security officer, I believe. Is that the correct title? Carrie Lam plans to meet with some of the protestors. So obviously, continuing to encourage dialogue is what our focus remains, and we certainly remain in close touch with our Chinese counterparts.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask you on this – what is your impression of Britain’s role so far through these whole protests? There’s been some anger among Hong Kong Chinese that, in fact, the United States has been much more vociferous in its support of the demonstrations than Britain. And they’ve even – a lot of demonstrators are actually going as far as to saying that Britain’s betrayed the Hong Kong Chinese and the tenets of the Basic Law under which the territory was handed back to China in 1997. Has Britain betrayed its – the Basic Law? Is it not --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think --

QUESTION: Is it failing to live up to its role as a sort of overseer, to a certain extent, of the – that the Basic Law is implemented correctly?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not our view, but our focus, again, remains on encouraging dialogue between the parties, so I don’t have any other analysis for you.

QUESTION: I have four extremely brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, Ukraine: Is there anything new in terms of dialogue with the Russians over the situation in Ukraine? I noticed that Ambassador Tefft was into the Russian Foreign Ministry today.

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if there’s anything new.

I don’t think I have anything new, Matt, in terms of dialogue. Let me just make a quick check on calls here. One second. Let’s see here.

No, you’re aware of the call from Friday with the Secretary.

QUESTION: All right. Two, do you have any comment to – reaction to the – to Iran releasing the wife of the Washington Post reporter?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is this a good sign, or do you have any indication that he too will be released?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we welcome the release of Yeganeh Salehi, the Iranian wife of detained U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian – Rezaian, sorry. Out of respect for the privacy of her and her family, we’re not going to comment further on her release. I don’t have any other predictions for you. We of course continue to call on the Iranian authority – Government to immediately release all of our detained U.S. citizens in Iran, including, of course, Mr. Amir Hekmati and Mr. Saeed Abedini. Our focus is doing everything possible to secure their return, but I don’t have any updates, unfortunately.

QUESTION: Okay. Three, you may have seen that the Hilton hotel chain has sold the Waldorf to a Chinese insurance company for close to $2 billion. I’m wondering if this raises any concerns in the U.S. as it regards the large amount of money that the U.S. Government spends in the Waldorf every year during the UN General Assembly, and if it has any implications for the apartment of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which is in the Waldorf Towers. Is that rented, owned by the U.S. Government? Are you comfortable paying rent or even hotel fees to the Chinese?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know this information just came out this morning. I mean, broadly speaking, we have had a long-term relationship with the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, as all of you know, because many of you have stayed there for years for UNGA. In particular, as you mentioned, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations has maintained a residence there for some time. There have been several analyses done through Democratic and Republican administrations about cost effectiveness, and this has been concluded to be cost effective. There’s a lot of requirements that are needed for the residence, to include reception space, security, proximity to the U.S. mission in UN headquarters. I don’t have any analysis at this point in terms of anything changing – not that I’m aware of, but --

QUESTION: Do you have any security concerns?

QUESTION: Does the government own or rent that apartment?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, Matt.

QUESTION: And then – I’ll let Arshad ask --

QUESTION: Just security concerns. I mean, do you have any security concerns about the possibility that a foreign government, particularly one that, well, is – about a foreign government owning the hotel, and therefore potentially being in a – well, a foreign-owned company owning the hotel, and therefore possibly being at – the hotel being at greater risk of bugging or other kinds of --

MS. PSAKI: Not that have been expressed to me in the last couple of hours.

QUESTION: And then my last one is just whether you have any thoughts – positive, negative, or neutral – about the death over the weekend of Baby Doc.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe – let’s see. I may have something on this, one moment.

The United States notes the death on October 4th of former Haitian president – of the former Haitian president and extend condolences to his family. Haiti continues to come to terms with the challenging impact of this period in its history and as the Haitian people work to build a more democratic and prosperous country. We encourage the people and Government of Haiti to continue their ongoing pursuit of justice and reconciliation. As you know, we also support accountability for crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations regardless of the perpetrator.

I can do about two more here, so go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a very short one on Turkey and Cyprus.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: As you may know, Turkey sent the ships again in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. In Nicosia, Jennifer, they consider this act as another invasion. And do you have any comments since the Secretary and the Vice President are involved in these efforts to convince Turkey to stop the provocations against Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to believe 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. It’s important to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region, and we certainly support – continue to support, under UN auspices, efforts to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

Let’s just do one more in the back here.

QUESTION: Regarding flare-up of tensions between Pakistan and India in the disputed Kashmir region.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was heavy shelling, as a result of which four people, including two children, were killed in – on the – in the Azad Kashmir in Pakistani side. There were similar reports from the Indian side. What is the U.S. doing to help the two countries to find a solution to this longstanding Kashmir dispute?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are concerned about any violence along the line of control. We continue to encourage the governments of India and Pakistan to engage in further dialogue to address these issues. Our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine.

Do you have more?

QUESTION: But – may I follow it?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the peace efforts have not taken off. As you know, the foreign secretary’s talks, which were scheduled to be held in August, they were canceled. And Prime Minister Modi was here. What did you – did you talk about the Pakistan-India relations during that visit? And what are you doing to make new efforts to encourage the two countries towards beginning and resuming that dialogue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, relationships in the region was a part of the discussion during the two days that the prime minister was here. I don’t have any other updates for you, though.

Jo, last one.

QUESTION: I just had a question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You might want to take this, I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There’s a reconstruction conference on Gaza coming up at the weekend.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And I just wondered if you could tell us what the U.S. expectations were for that conference and whether there’s going to be any U.S. monies put up for it and the level of representation.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I can confirm that Secretary Kerry will be attending the conference. In terms of expectations from the United States, let me talk to our team and see if there’s anything more we’ll preview in advance of the conference. We may wait till this weekend if there’s more to say.

QUESTION: Do you know, does the Administration have a position as to whether Israel should contribute to this?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll talk to our team and see. I’m not sure what the discussions have been in that regard.

Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 3, 2014

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 09:18

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 3, 2014

12:54 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, earliest briefing of the week for you and others.

QUESTION: For anybody who wants to go to the Nats game, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It’s at 3 o’clock. So unless --

QUESTION: I know. We all --

MS. PSAKI: -- we do a tour around the world, I think we’ll be done.

A couple of items for all of you at the top. Today the State Department launched the website state.gov/counteringisil. This webpage has the most up-to-date public information about the coalition, including the latest stats on members and their public support for coalition efforts. Our colleagues at DOD have today also launched their website, defense.gov/counter-ISIL, which has up-to-the-minute information about the military line of this coalition effort, targeting – targeted operations against ISIL terrorists and infrastructure.

Lots of you have asked important questions about the specifics – what are its ultimate goals, how many countries and entities are part of it, what their contributions entail – as well as many of our partners around the world, and this is a place where we’ll be providing as much information about this coalition and our shared efforts not just to journalists, but of course to the general public. And these, of course, are part of our effort to be as transparent as possible about our coalition building and what role they will play – what role the coalition will play.

One other item --

QUESTION: Can I just ask you about one very brief thing about that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything that’s on this website now that is – is there any new – anything that we didn’t already know on it?

MS. PSAKI: There isn’t breaking news information. We may put information and updates on there, and many of you who have been following this closely are well aware of the information on there. But we wanted to have a gathering place so people could go there on a regular basis.

QUESTION: Fair enough. I just want to make sure you’re not, like, inaugurating this with a splash of new big news or something.

MS. PSAKI: There’s not a new announcement on there.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Also, as you all know, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are on a trip overseas right now. They met yesterday with Prime Minister Abadi and with National Security Advisor al-Fayyad in Baghdad where they conveyed the strong ongoing U.S. support for Iraq in the shared fight against ISIL.

Prime Minister Abadi has committed his government to addressing the issues that led to past failures in the security ranks and has already begun replacing commanders and reaching out to all of Iraq’s diverse communities. The United States, like Prime Minister Abadi, believes in a vision of an inclusive Iraq in which Sunni, Shia, and Kurds are all able to come together to peacefully iron out their differences and to achieve prosperity and peace for all Iraqis.

General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our great respect for the prime minister’s vision of necessary reforms and our support for his efforts to reach out to Iraq’s neighbors and work with them on the shared challenges of degrading and defeating ISIL. They also discussed the best methods for U.S. military advisors to work with and train ISF forces. They are continuing to meet with a broad range of actors from across the Iraqi political and military spheres, and we’ll have, of course, further readouts as the weekend continues which we’ll provide to all of you.

Also, on Ukraine in the last 24 hours, shelling and attacks have intensified in eastern Ukraine, most notably in the city and airport of Donetsk. Since the ceasefire was signed on September 5th, continued violence has killed well over 200 people, many of them innocent men, women, and children. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the victims, including Red Cross worker Laurent DuPasquier. We call on all parties to take all feasible precautions to prevent the loss of innocent life, comply with international humanitarian law, and respect the facilities of humanitarian organizations.

Almost a month ago, Russia and the separatists it backs made a commitment to end the violence and seek a political solution. Instead, shells, rockets, and bullets continue to fly; innocent people continue to suffer and die. These attacks also destroy infrastructure and wreak havoc with lighting, heating, and water supplies in homes around the region. Russia must use its influence with the separatists to end these attacks immediately and stop the flow of weapons, equipment, and militants into Ukraine. Russia must also withdraw all of its military forces and equipment, including the Russian fighters it is supporting from inside Ukraine.

Secretary Kerry also spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. They had about a ten-minute phone call. He called to express his concern about intensifying violence in eastern Ukraine that I just mentioned. He also underscored that Russia and the separatists they back must immediately implement their obligations under the September 5th ceasefire agreement and September 9th implementing agreement they signed in Minsk, including a secure Russian-Ukrainian border. They agreed to stay in close touch.

Finally, we have – I have some good friends from the great state of Kentucky in the back.

QUESTION: The commonwealth.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Commonwealth.

MS. PSAKI: I think they can call it – they would appreciate “the great state of Kentucky.” But Nathan Smith --

QUESTION: I believe it’s a commonwealth.

MS. PSAKI: -- and his son Griffin Smith, and their friend Creighton Wright. So maybe after this Griffin and Creighton will either want to be reporters or diplomats, depending on how this all goes. We’ll see.

QUESTION: Or maybe they’ll want to steer clear of both professions. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Or maybe they’ll steer clear and become professional athletes instead. (Laughter.) Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, that’s where the money is.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s not here. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I was going to start with Hong Kong, but since you did that Ukraine thing, let’s start there. I’m curious about your call on all parties to take – was it feasible actions?

MS. PSAKI: Feasible precautions to prevent --

QUESTION: Precautions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, so you’re stopping short of saying they should cease firing? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we believe, Matt, that the ceasefire should be abided by. But we also want to reiterate that they should abide by international humanitarian law, allow for access for humanitarian organizations, respect facilities. So it’s just reiterating the overall point.

QUESTION: Okay. But when you say all feasible precautions, it suggests that you’re saying that something less than an all-out 100 percent ceasefire would be acceptable to you. But that’s not the case? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly what we’d like to see, as I think the Ukrainians would like to see since they are abiding by the ceasefire, is for this to be respected. Clearly, the recent events have put a strain on the ceasefire; but at the same time, there are additional steps we can emphasize, and that’s what I was doing.

QUESTION: Okay. Ukraine – you’re saying that Ukraine is abiding by the ceasefire? It’s only the rebels who are – and the Russian-backed separatists who are not complying with it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly --

QUESTION: I was under the impression that there was --

MS. PSAKI: There are.

QUESTION: -- violations on both sides.

MS. PSAKI: But I would remind you that Ukraine is a sovereign country, which the Russian separatists have been – have invaded and been on the ground in, and so it’s a little different defending yourself than taking aggressive action.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Administration’s position then is that the Ukraine – what might be called violations of the ceasefire on Ukraine are being – are only in response to violations from the other side, from the rebels? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: It remains the case, Matt, that when there’s a case of civilian casualties or when aggression results in the deaths of innocent civilians, that we of course want all sides to take precautions. So that’s important to emphasize. But certainly, we think the majority of the blame belongs on the Russian separatist side.

QUESTION: Okay. And then you mentioned the Kerry-Lavrov call, 10 minutes. The Secretary called him?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And as a result of that call, do you have any greater hope or expectation that things are going to calm down? Or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see, Matt. They agreed to stay in touch. I expect they’ll either talk or be in touch in the coming days. But again, I think it was – the Secretary felt it was important to reach out given the violence we’ve seen at this point in time on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Syria, Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Any Ukraine? Ukraine? Okay, Syria, Turkey. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Turkish prime minister has said today that Turkey won’t allow Kobani to fall in the hands of ISIL. Do you expect any military action in Syria to protect Kobani?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a little bit of an update on what’s happening in Syria. And you may have seen some of the updates from my military colleagues. So they put out a release – I believe it was today – referring to additional strikes that they have put out that we were joined by the Kingdom – they have done, I should say, completed – we were joined by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE for.

In terms of what’s happening on the ground in Kobani, obviously we – ISIL is clearly, as you noted, trying to gain control of the border crossings with Turkey by taking the opposition-held towns between Aleppo and the border. We’ve seen, of course, the comments of the Turkish leaders. As you also may know, several individual opposition groups have formed de facto coalitions which include both Kurds and Sunnis in some of these towns, including near the Turkish border, to kind of unite and work together to fight this.

We are also assisting in this. We – coalition airstrikes, some in predominantly Kurdish areas that are ongoing, we feel are helping Kurdish and opposition fighters as they exert pressure on ISIL. So this week alone, we note that CENTCOM did strikes in Kobani that hit an ISIL – hit on ISIL tanks, artillery, and armor. And obviously, this is an ongoing effort.

QUESTION: But you didn’t answer my question. Do you expect any military action from Turkey to protect Kobani, especially that they got the green light yesterday from the parliament?

MS. PSAKI: I think I did exactly answer your question. I just said that groups are aligning on the ground, opposition groups, including Kurds and Sunnis, to fight this on the ground. And we are also assisting from the United States with military airstrikes. So there’s a range of steps that are being taken militarily to push back on the attacks from ISIL in the area.

QUESTION: And one of these steps is military action from Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, yesterday the parliament in Turkey voted to authorize military action. What they decide to do with that is not yet determined. That will be a part of the discussion that Secretary – I’m sorry, not Secretary Kerry, that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will have when they’re on the ground in Turkey next week.

QUESTION: And any new discussions regarding creating a buffer zone in that area?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since I answered that question about two days ago, so nothing new on that front.

QUESTION: What’s your position on the (inaudible) decision by the Turkish parliament to send ground troops to Turkey and – to Syria and Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, because I know you’re well versed in what’s happening in Turkey, what they authorized was a broad range of options. Obviously, there will be a discussion now about what military role they will play along with other components. So that actually is farther than things have gone on the ground.

QUESTION: But hours ago it was reported, actually, that Turkey – Turkish jets started bombing ISIL around Kobani.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of those specific reports. I’m happy to talk to our military counterparts and see if we can confirm anything more.

QUESTION: Stay on Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Robert Ford had a New York Times editorial today in which he criticized the Administration’s policy for not really doing an adequate job of communicating to what extent the U.S. would support moderate opposition groups in Syria. And he specifically said that attempts to target the Khorasan Group made it seem like the U.S. was fighting groups that are targeting the Assad regime, which the opposition sees as its greatest target. So I guess what will you be doing going forward to address this – well, first how do you respond to that criticism? And also how do you – what will you be doing going forward to ameliorate that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first, of course, say that Ambassador Ford had an incredible career in public service, and he was one of the people who was – and certainly invaluable to me personally when I started here and for the months that we overlapped. And he is incredibly well-respected not just here but in many parts of the world. He’s a private citizen now, as all of you know. The fact is we are coordinating very closely strategically and politically with the Syrian opposition. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will be meeting with the opposition in Turkey during their current trip, so later next week. And senior officials meet with them – I believe frequently. Daniel Rubinstein is going to head back on the road.

The fact is the Khorasan Group posed a threat to the United States, and we also have a responsibility to defend our own interests, and that’s why we included them in the airstrikes we took. I think that’s completely justifiable, certainly to the American public. I’m trying to think and make sure I answer all your questions. What else?

QUESTION: Well, I guess the question is not whether it was justified to the American public, but whether it was coordinated and justified to the Syrian opposition. It seems like there is still this widespread perception that you guys don’t really have their back completely when it comes to targeting the Assad regime.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think first of all, we’ve just passed a train and equip program that was – is going to provide –and we’ve also already provided a range of and a broad scale and scope of assistance to the opposition. We’ve been clear that this train and equip program is not just about fighting ISIL. It’s also about – they may use it and they certainly expect – will use it to fight the Assad regime. But our immediate threat right now is ISIL. That’s why we’re taking them on. They have also been fighting ISIL at the same time they have been fighting – let me just finish this, and then we’ll get to you. They’ve been fighting ISIL at the same time that they have been fighting the Assad regime. Weakening ISIL will help strengthen the moderate opposition. That’s our view. The fact is we are in close touch about a range of issues. We don’t necessarily need to coordinate with the Syrian opposition to hit the targets that we’re going to hit. While that’s the case militarily, we’re still in close touch with them about their needs and what our efforts are.

QUESTION: So that was quite a testament that you gave to Ambassador Ford’s long service. I presume you’ll say the same about Gates, Panetta, Crocker, and now Chris Hill, who is the latest to join this ever-growing – seemingly ever-growing parade of former officials who are taking the Administration to task for really screwing up in Iraq. And I’m just wondering if you’ve read this excerpt of Chris Hill’s book and what you think of it.

MS. PSAKI: I have read some of the excerpts. I think they’ve been published in the media. Is there a specific part that you’re asking about?

QUESTION: Well, they – he is, as I mentioned, just the latest in a growing string of former officials, and I’m just – I mean, how is it possible that all of them are wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, we should talk about the specifics of what happened at the time. I will certainly say that any individual who has spent decades in the Foreign Service and served in high-threat posts, including war zones around the world, deserves, of course, all of our respect, and I think there’s no question about that. I will say, as it relates to Iraq and what happened at the time, a lot of these same officials were part of the strategy and supported the strategy at the time, which included the fact that we were not going to allow our troops to stay on the ground without the protections they needed. The political situation on the ground was that the Iraqis did not want to have a big troop presence on the ground. There was political challenges to getting it through, but it was clear they did not want that. So that was what we were dealing with at the time. And that’s the – go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t – I understand that’s what you were dealing with at the time, and I don’t think any of these four people disagree with that. I don’t think anyone – any of them wanted to keep troops in there, and I don’t think anyone on the Hill who’s been particularly critical would have wanted to keep – or did want to keep troops there without the protections.

The criticism is that again, now from Chris Hill, is that Iraq became kind of a backburner issue for the Administration in the President’s first term --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I --

QUESTION: -- and that the reason that you didn’t get the protection that you needed, that everyone agrees was needed for keeping troops there, is because you weren’t engaged, you weren’t involved. And it was – and so that’s the criticism. The – and I’m just wondering how it is that you’re right and all of their criticism is wrong.

MS. PSAKI: Well look, Matt, I’m not going to get into an argument with individuals who have proud, long public service records. But --

QUESTION: So then you agree with them?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. The fact is the Vice President of the United States, who is higher ranking than the Secretary of State, had the Iraq portfolio and ran point on Iraq, and went to Iraq --

QUESTION: So it’s his fault.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Went to Iraq – I don’t know the number the times, I’d certainly defer to my colleagues at the White House – and was closely engaged with this issue. There were a range of officials who were working on this within the government – including Secretary Panetta, including Vice President Biden, including Secretary Clinton – who agreed that we could have a residual force there if we could have protections from troops. But we know we couldn’t force the Iraqi Government, a sovereign country, to agree to that.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: They didn’t.

QUESTION: But the criticism is that you didn’t use the leverage that you could have had, or that you did have, to get there. And from what you’re just saying, I mean, so this is – this was the Vice President’s portfolio, so that everything that’s gone wrong --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that --

QUESTION: -- in Iraq since is his fault?

MS. PSAKI: No. I was saying, actually making the point – and it’s well known – that the Vice President had this portfolio --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that we elevated it to the Vice President. That was who was running point on Iraq. It just – those criticisms just don’t bear out the facts from the ground. We could not force the Iraqi Government to agree to have a troop presence and – when they did not want to have a troop presence there. And obviously, they didn’t want to give us the protections we needed to have a troop presence there.

QUESTION: But that – I – fair enough. But the criticism is that you didn’t do enough to get the Iraqis to agree to the protection. And it sounds as if that the reason why is everyone’s fault – it’s Gates’s fault, Biden’s fault, Panetta’s fault, maybe not Crocker’s fault, Chris Hill’s fault too.

MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. I actually didn’t say that at all. It is – the Iraqis did not want to have a troop presence. They were not going to allow us to have a troop presence. They were not willing to take the necessary steps to have the – ensure the troops had the protections they needed.

QUESTION: All right. Well, when the next former senior official writes his book, I guess we can have the same conversation again.

MS. PSAKI: I look forward to it.

QUESTION: And Secretary Panetta is blaming the Administration on the situation in Syria too, not only Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Do you have something specific you want to ask about?

QUESTION: Nothing specific. I didn’t see the book, but that’s what I read as a headline --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- that he’s blaming the --

MS. PSAKI: Do you have a specific question about our Syria policy?

QUESTION: Yeah. He’s blaming the Administration that the – that the Administration made the situation worse in Syria. What do you think about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s exactly what it is, so you maybe should go back and take a look at what was in the book.

QUESTION: I think what Panetta said that in 2012, like, Bill Gates, former secretary, that the U.S. Administration did not make a decision to arm the rebels, and that was a huge missed opportunity.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s been a lot of discussion about this particular issue. I don’t think it’s to the benefit of anyone to look back, so we’re not going to focus on doing that. I think there were some who supported it, some who didn’t. Ultimately, the decision was not to at the time. The opposition was in an entirely different place than it is today. We are going to be training and equipping them now, so we’re focused on moving forward.

The fact is the Assad regime allowed ISIL to grow and prosper in Syria. They did not effectively fight back on them, and that also contributed to the growth of ISIL in Syria.

QUESTION: Jen, you mentioned the opposition is in an incredibly different position than it was – well, today it’s a mess. And it wasn’t so much of a mess – they had a unified command, they had a – they were – they had more territory --

MS. PSAKI: Two and a half years ago, Matt?

QUESTION: Two years.

QUESTION: Well, two years. Yes. I mean, there was a cohesive fighting group, allegedly, according to what we were hearing at the time, and now it’s kind of these little pockets, these little cells that you’re hoping can somehow morph or gel together.

MS. PSAKI: Well, some of them have several thousand fighters. We’re just working with a range of different groups on the ground, all moderate opposition groups.

QUESTION: But you don’t think that it would’ve been better to have given them more support, military – on the military side, when they were more cohesive as opposed to now? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s disputable whether they were more cohesive. They obviously have elected leadership since then. They’ve expanded their membership.

QUESTION: But that’s on the political side.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I don’t know, maybe these are questions better directed to the Pentagon, but it seems to me that if you’re going to ramp up military support to a rebel army or a group that you hope will become an army, it’s better to do it when they’re together and united and strong, rather than when they’re fragmented and relatively weak, as compared to where – what they were two years ago.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that most people would characterize that as being their status, two years ago. So --

QUESTION: Jen, on the opposition, news reports said that there is a meeting being held in Saudi Arabia between the U.S., Saudis, and the FSA military leaders. Do you have any information about this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to check on it. It’s not on General Allen’s agenda. I’ll check and see if Daniel Rubinstein or someone from his team are participating in that. Sure.

QUESTION: Can I just ask --

MS. PSAKI: Do you know when it – do you know when the meeting is?

QUESTION: Today, I think.

MS. PSAKI: Today. Okay.

QUESTION: Just one more question about Turkey. I know it’s too early to say, but don’t you think that Turkish participation in the conflict in Syria, because it’s a NATO member, would drag the United States deeper into the conflict? What if Turkey comes under attack from Assad, because Assad’s government warned Turkey today that it shouldn’t intrude?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve previewed this, but I’m certainly not going to entertain a hypothetical. Obviously, Turkey’s engagement in this and the fact that they have felt the impact of this more than almost any country is certainly an important factor, and I think one of the reasons clearly they have indicated that they want to play a prominent role here.

QUESTION: And one more question on – there is an American citizen fighting with the Kurdish – Syrian-Kurdish rebels against ISIS. His name is Jordan Matson, I think, and there was a video of him on social media websites, as well. So I want to know what your position is on Americans volunteering to fight against ISIS?

QUESTION: Is this --

MS. PSAKI: I think I addressed this yesterday.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we move to the Israeli-Palestinian --

QUESTION: I have a couple more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, we’ll do a couple more and then we’ll go – okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Kobani, going back to the – there are reports keep coming from Kobani that there are clearly ISIL forces around the Kobani and where their position can be easily seen, but still the coalition forces’ attack on ISIS forces are just not enough to push them away. Do you have a response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as my colleagues over at the Pentagon have said, this is not a one-day effort. This is an ongoing effort and one where strikes will continue, and obviously there’s a range of steps that are taken before a strike is made. We’re still working with our coalition partners. Certainly, this is an area that we’re focused on, as is evidenced by the fact that we’ve announced strikes we’ve done in this particular part of Syria.

QUESTION: Maybe there’s – one of the reasons I think people keep criticizing, that because the ISIL forces are so close to the center of the city that you argue that this is not one-day campaign, but this can – it might be too late once you decide to go full force against ISIL, anyway.

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it – and I would point most of your specific military questions to my colleagues at the Pentagon, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a, “We’re deciding to go full-force.” We are going full-force. It’s an ongoing effort and one that – where strikes will be continuing, but they’re more appropriate to answer specific military targeting questions.

QUESTION: And you argued that coalition forces’ strike on ISIL – to weaken ISIL, but many reports coming out from on the ground that al-Nusrah Front, al-Qaida-affiliated group, been fighting with ISIL for almost a year, but recently, since the coalition forces tried – started, these al-Qaida, al-Nusrah mini-forces are now joining ISIL against the alliance or this coalition group. So you actually – this argument is helping ISIL to unite the other forces that were fighting before.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any confirmation of the uniting aspect. It’s hard to see how when half a dozen or more countries are doing airstrikes on them that we’ve helped them, so I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Do you have one more? And then we’ll go on to the next --

QUESTION: Yes. This parliamentary motion passed in Turkey yesterday. In the motion it doesn’t even talk about ISIS; it talks about the threat as Assad’s regime and other terrorist organizations, which is known as the PKK, PYD – according to Turkey – and the ISIS. Is this something that you are satisfied with? It doesn’t even talk about ISIS, but Assad regime.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, President Erdogan has spoken about their desire to play a more active role in the coalition that is taking on the threat of ISIL. This parliamentary – this act in parliament, I should say, yesterday, which we certainly welcomed, provided broad authorization for a range of options. So we’ll discuss with them, as will our coalition partners, what options will be used, but there’s no question in our minds that they are committed to this effort to take on ISIL.

QUESTION: Jen, just – excuse me, on this (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: President Erdogan talked to – on assisting in toppling President Assad or --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry – President Erdogan?

QUESTION: Yes. Talked about assisting in toppling President Assad in Syria. Do you support this effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not – as you know because we’ve stated it many times, our focus is on a political solution to bringing about change in Syria and the leadership there. Certainly, part of our effort and our focus now is strengthening the military and political credibility of the opposition in order for them to have an engagement through a political process to do that. But certainly, the opposition and all of the assistance we’ve been providing them and other coalition partners are providing to them – they will continue to take on this threat and take on Assad.

QUESTION: Does this mean that you’re against the Turkish effort to topple President Assad?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look more at the comments. I think I’ve stated our position.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: To get back to the – in your answer to my question earlier, you said that you don’t need to coordinate with the opposition militarily. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you won’t. But given that you’re embarking on this deeper strategic relationship with them through the training program and whatnot, do you not see any value to coordinating more with them for the sake of giving them more legitimacy and addressing this perception gap that Robert Ford was talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m talking about on the technical level.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: And obviously, what I’m referring to is what we need militarily in order to strike targets. Beyond that, we are coordinating very closely with them about a range of aspects of this coalition effort, about our efforts in Syria – that’s ongoing and through a range of high-level officials, both here and across the government.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t bother you that they don’t seem to feel the same way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s more work we have to do to make sure they understand that we support their effort;that we’re working with them. I think we remain one of their biggest donors across the board, so hopefully we’ll just be able to continue to convince them of our commitment.

Do you want to go to – do we have any more on Syria, or --

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You talk about it, this coordinating with the FSA forces, but the one group that you talk about yesterday, Harakat Hazzm, which U.S. talks about it a lot. And their spokesman came out yesterday in interview, and they said they were not informed at all about strikes. Why would you not let them know where --

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I was referring to is our effort to engage with them and work with them on meeting what their needs are. Obviously, we’ve provided a range of assistance to the opposition, including that group. That will continue. We were talking about the train and equip program. We’ll continue to coordinate with them moving forward. I’m not going to get into other specificity about when we informed whom about the strikes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You were asked yesterday that Assad regime is still bombing – continues its bombing campaign on civilian areas, and you refrained commenting on that. Do you have any more on that? According to human rights groups, actually Assad regime bombs even more recently as you do your own campaign and they do their own campaign now.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I think one of the pieces to look at here is that while we are taking every step possible to avoid civilian casualties and we look into reports with – very seriously, the Assad regime continues to indiscriminately use barrel bombs and bombard their own people. There are reports of women and children waiting in line for bread and they’re striking areas where they are standing around. So this is – there’s a distinct difference between our approach to taking on ISIL and their military efforts.

QUESTION: So this kind of leads many people – or on the ground that you almost okay with Assad regime continuing its own bombing campaign. This is the perception we keep getting from the ground.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re certainly not okay with the fact that they continue to strike their own people in areas where their own people are. Beyond that, we’re not coordinating militarily with them, and we have no plans to.

QUESTION: And finally, President Erdogan – you are saying that you are helping refugees and Syrians and all that. And President Erdogan just yesterday or the day before, he slammed international community for not helping enough for the recent refugee waves which is over 100,000, maybe 150,000. Do you have any new task or help you are providing, going to provide for these latest waves?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe that Turkey certainly – and any country in the region that is taking in refugees should be – should have the necessary assistance, all the assistance that can be provided. We have provided over $2.9 billion in humanitarian assistance inside Syria and throughout the region. That’s – we’re the largest humanitarian donor in the world, including $209 million to Turkey to help blunt the impact. But there are more countries that can do more that have pledged to do and haven’t delivered, and obviously, that’s something that we need to see more of in the coming weeks and months.

QUESTION: Sorry, could you just say those numbers again? Did you say 2.9 million and then Turkey’s --

MS. PSAKI: Billion.

QUESTION: Oh, billion?

MS. PSAKI: Billion. Mm-hmm, yes. Otherwise, the math didn’t work out.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The foreign minister of Germany said recently that they are going to host a donors conference for the Syrian refugees. Are you aware of this?

MS. PSAKI: That is something that the foreign minister brought up with Secretary Kerry when they met – I believe it may have been around NATO. I’m not – I think it may be later this month. I’m not sure of the exact details, but we’re aware of their plans.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: On this issue or --

QUESTION: Related.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there anything new on the Yezidi women taken hostage, captive, whatever you want? There have been some reports over the last couple of days of some of those women sending messages through relatives and elsewhere saying, “Please go ahead, bomb the area where we are because it will help at least some of us to escape.” What is the latest from you guys on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update in front of me. I’m happy to check with our team. Are you asking whether we’ve received messages from them or whether --

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, is this something that’s under discussion now of – with the Sinjar model in mind, of concentrating your efforts around that policy goal of helping them?

MS. PSAKI: It has been in some capacity, but let me check on the specific issue and see if that’s part of what the Department of Defense is specifically thinking about in terms of next targets.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So can we move to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Who would have thought that would be a relief? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I love every topic equally, Matt. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So the prime minister of Sweden has said that his country would recognize the state of Palestine. I think this is the first European country to do so. So from the U.S. point of view, it’s a good thing? I guess it’s not but – and did your – did Sweden tell you in advance that they were going to do so? And do you have, broadly, conversation with European countries about early possible unilateral recognitions of state of Palestine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, since you gave me the opportunity, that we look forward to working with the new Swedish Government announced earlier today. Sweden is a close partner to the United States on a range of issues, including humanitarian and development aid to Africa, Afghanistan, and of course, on countering ISIL.

We believe international recognition of a Palestinian state is premature. We certainly support Palestinian statehood, but it can only come through a negotiated outcome, a resolution of final status issues, and mutual recognition by both parties. And certainly, the Secretary’s record of the last year and a half speaks to how committed he is to that process, but it needs to be the parties who are, of course, willing and able to move forward.

In terms of whether we knew in advance, I’d have to check on that specific question.

QUESTION: Why is it premature?

MS. PSAKI: Because we believe that the process is one that has to be worked out through the parties to agree on the terms of how they’ll live in the future of two states living side by side.

QUESTION: But this process didn’t work for 20 years, I think.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't know that there’s an option of just declaring it that’s going to work either.

QUESTION: You mentioned the two sides have to be willing and able. Yesterday, you – or two days ago, you questioned or said that a new project in East Jerusalem or new moves in East Jerusalem by the Israelis called into question the willingness of the Israeli Government to – does that remain the case?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And does it – is it also the case that you’re not convinced the Palestinians are willing and able to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we’ve seen evidence that they’re willing and able either at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay. So it’s still both sides who are the problem here?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You can’t want it more than they do?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But you do want it more than they do, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think --

QUESTION: Isn’t that pretty clear?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think not just the United States but many countries would like to see a peaceful – peace in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Right, but the problem is that the people who want to see peace in the Middle East apparently – you would agree, right – want it more than both the Israelis and the Palestinians do?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if I’d characterize it that way, but sure, that’s probably accurate.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Changing topic.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On U.S. visa requirements, there are questions that are starting to emerge on whether Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who is in the U.S. with Ebola, should have been granted a visa to come to the United States or should have been perhaps flagged as high risk, because he’s unemployed, because he’s single and coming from Liberia, a county that has a high overstay rate. Did he slip through the cracks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think some of the most important points that have been made to address your question were made earlier this week by the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Frieden. He explained that the individual diagnosed with the Ebola virus disease in Dallas did not exhibit any symptoms of Ebola until after four days after he arrived in the United States. A person with Ebola is not infectious until they exhibit visible symptoms of the disease, but this man left Liberia on a commercial flight on September 19th. He had no symptoms. Therefore, he was not infectious at the time, nor when he landed in Dallas on September 20th.

Now, in terms of visas, they’re adjudicated, of course, on a case-by-case basis. Obviously we don’t speak to individual cases, but broadly speaking. And certainly the safety and security of the United States is our top priority. There are, of course, a range of questions that are asked, and certainly that protocol was followed in this case.

QUESTION: Are there any efforts under consideration to perhaps strengthen requirements – entry requirements for people coming from the West Africa countries that are affected most?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of steps that we’re taking, and I think it’s not just about visas. It’s about educating people and ensuring that they have the information that they need in order to provide medical assistance, to educate the public on how they should handle things, and contrary actually, it actually would be counterproductive, in our view, to put that type of limitation on, because people – one, the WHO and CDC have not recommended that we cut off travel from these countries, because it remains essential that the world community engage in order to help the affected countries address and contain this ongoing health crisis.

So some nationals of all three Ebola-affected countries are now or will soon be traveling to the United States soon for training on how to treat Ebola patients, an essential measure, and of course, we have foreign nationals going there as well. There are a range of requirements, but in our view, addressing this Ebola situation is going to require education, it’s going to require the provision of materials, it’s going to require mitigating second-order impacts. So we’re focusing on many different areas.

Ebola?

QUESTION: Well, just on the broader visa question, I mean, this guy in Texas now presumably would have had his visa long before he contracted – regardless of whether he was symptomatic or not when he actually did travel, he would have gotten – and given the time it takes to get a visa, he would have gotten it presumably even before he contracted the disease, even though he didn’t know he had the disease. So the questions is: You’re saying that it would be counterproductive to put in additional requirements for visa applicants from these countries because why?

MS. PSAKI: We need to enable individuals to travel to the United States to be trained, to receive medical equipment.

QUESTION: Isn’t that what the Pentagon is sending all these people over there to do, to train them there?

MS. PSAKI: We’re doing both. We’re doing --

QUESTION: I mean, I suppose the argument could be made that why bring people who are at risk of having the disease here when they could be trained there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, medical professionals. Also I think there are certain questions that are asked and requirements that happen under any process for adjudicating a visa. This individual also did not feel sick. I know you --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- until about four days after arriving in the United States.

QUESTION: Right. But right now there isn’t any kind of a medical provision to the visa application procedure, is there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are certain questions --

QUESTION: Other than --

MS. PSAKI: -- that are asked about contact and things along those lines, certainly.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they’re just – I mean, you don’t have to bring, like, a doctor’s note or something like that?

MS. PSAKI: No, they’re verbal questions.

QUESTION: Right. No, no. Right, but are they – there isn’t, like, a blood test or anything like that that one has to do. That’s not in the – not now and it is not in the cards?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: More on Ebola, or should we move on?

QUESTION: Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Ebola? Ebola.

QUESTION: Please.

QUESTION: I asked a few weeks ago, and then Matt brought it up yesterday in the briefing about did the State Department buy $160,000 hazmat suits to – for Ebola. Did you respond?

MS. PSAKI: We did. We can get you the specifics on it --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- after the briefing. I don’t have them in front of me.

QUESTION: You don’t have anything? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But we did, and we were providing them, I think, to countries in – impacted, but –

QUESTION: Was it correct that it was actually – I mean, it was State, but it was USAID, right?

MS. PSAKI: Right, which is, of course, under State.

QUESTION: And I was under the impression from the – what I heard yesterday that AID had spoken to this. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: They may have, but we can get you more information on it. Sure. No problem.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Still on Ebola.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So do you know how many American citizens have now contracted Ebola in West Africa and have returned to the United States? And what is the latest on this American doctor who was admitted on Sunday at the NIH in Bethesda?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The State Department has facilitated the medical evacuation of five U.S. citizens with confirmed cases of Ebola to the United States and one citizen with a high-risk exposure. I don’t have any other details on individuals in country.

QUESTION: Do you know if that five includes this cameraman?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Burma.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the State Department or the U.S. Government have any response to the draft Rakhine State Action Plan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Sorry, Burma is in the front of the book.

QUESTION: It wouldn’t be if you called it Myanmar.

MS. PSAKI: Fair point.

QUESTION: It’d be in the middle of the book.

MS. PSAKI: We exist in the world we live in, Matt.

The Burmese Government has shared a draft copy of its Rakhine Action Plan with our embassy and other members of the diplomatic community for review and comment. We welcome the union government’s efforts to develop a comprehensive plan that seeks to address the complex challenges. The embassy and other members of the international community submitted collective feedback, namely to ensure the plan is designed and implemented in a transparent, consultative, and voluntary manner and in accordance with international standard – standards.

We jointly expressed some concern over some components of the draft plan, such as the provision stating that those who do not receive citizenship will be held in temporary camps. We encourage the Burmese Government to incorporate the input and feedback of the international community into the revision and implementation of the Action Plan, and we welcome further opportunities to provide input to the government’s refinement of the draft.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do you have another question on this or some – another Asia?

QUESTION: No, not on this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hong Kong.

MS. PSAKI: Hong Kong.

QUESTION: So you may have seen that it looks like the talks have broken down, the talks that the chief executive had promised have broken down because what the protestors say are organized pro-China mobs attacking them in the streets. I’m wondering if you share that assessment that that’s who is doing this, or if it’s just regular Hong Kongers who are fed up with the disruption and that’s what’s causing it – what’s causing this.

MS. PSAKI: Who the protestors are? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: No, the people – well, I mean, there’s been clashes not involving the police between people.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you have concerns that China is perhaps pulling strings, getting – encouraging some kind of pushback against the protestors with – by sending in or having pro-China types attack them.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I have had expressed to me internally by anyone. But I’m happy to check with them and see if that’s an area of concern.

QUESTION: Okay. And I presume your view of the situation overall has not changed since we talked about it yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: No, it has not changed.

QUESTION: Is there anything where you – did you have any response, reaction to the chief executive’s decisions to have talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly have been encouraging dialogue. We think that’s the most productive path forward, and so we’re hopeful that they will be able to resume.

Do we have any more? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Still on China.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: After your announcement yesterday about the partial lifting of arms sale to Vietnam, I would like to know if the Chinese had a private conversation with you to express their concerns.

And you always said that the U.S. doesn’t take position in the South China Sea conflict, but in selling weapons to Vietnam for security matters, for maritime security matters, I mean, don’t you think that it would be seen from the Chinese point of view as taking sides?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I am not aware of contact we’ve had about this particular issue. We can see if there’s more to be read out. This is an issue – Vietnam is an important partner of ours. They – this allows us to – applies to maritime-security-related articles only, so it won’t allow any lethal defense article transfers that could be used for internal security purposes.

This is an issue that we’ve been in discussions with the Vietnamese about for some time. As you know, there have been – there’s been a ban in place for some time that certainly has been – over the course of time, there’s been various pieces lifted. In 2006, then-Secretary Rice amended the ban on all defense article sales to Vietnam to permit the sale, lease, export, or other transfer of nonlethal defense articles.

So this is about our relationship with Vietnam. Our position on the South China Sea certainly hasn’t changed. But this is an issue where Secretary Kerry announced our desire to help build up Vietnam’s maritime capacity building when he was in Vietnam last December, and we’re following up on that commitment.

Matt, did you have – any last --

QUESTION: Yeah, I got two really brief and kind of off-the-wall ones. Well, one was --

MS. PSAKI: All right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, they’re not really off the wall. They are serious in some respects.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you if you were aware of this conference that’s going on in Tehran about – basically saying that the U.S. and Israel were behind 9/11 and all sorts of other conspiracy theory-type stuff. I’m just wondering, given the fact that this appears to have the support and is being promoted by the Iranian Government, if you have any particular concern about it, especially during the middle of the nuclear negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of the conference. We don’t believe, broadly speaking, it’s worth commenting on. But clearly, you’re familiar with our positions on a range of issues that have been raised by the discussion.

QUESTION: Well, presumably you would disagree with the hypotheses being evinced by participants and panelists at this --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I think that’s a fair assumption.

QUESTION: Yes. Okay. All right. And then the second one is – and I don’t know if – I got this in late. I don’t know, and I – because I had just seen it. But apparently in Bosnia – there’s an election coming up in Bosnia. And there are some Bosnians who are concerned – Bosniaks, I should say. No, no. That means (inaudible) – there are some in Bosnia who have concerns that a group of Russian Cossacks, 150 of them, who are the – who the – are allegedly there for a cultural show are in fact pro-Kremlin thugs who have come into the country to stir up unrest. Do you have any reason to believe that that might be actually the case?

MS. PSAKI: I have not discussed this issue with anyone, Matt, but I will check with them. I have no reason to believe right now because I’m not aware of it, but we’ll check with our Russia, European experts.

QUESTION: The Cossack experts.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly. We have those in the State Department, as you know.

QUESTION: I know.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)

DPB # 167


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 2, 2014

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 17:10

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 2, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:24 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: I promise we will do an earlier briefing tomorrow. So I know it’s been late all week.

QUESTION: How about like 10:00 A.M?

MS. PSAKI: All right, Matt. That’s fine.

QUESTION: Since it’s Friday --

MS. PSAKI: That’s fine.

QUESTION: -- and we can all go home and watch the Nats game. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Perfect. I think there’s a direct relationship between Nationals baseball and diplomacy, so I think that should work out fine.

Okay. A couple of items for all of you at the top. As you know, Secretary Kerry met with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Minh this morning to discuss progress on implementing the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership launched by President Obama and President Sang in July of 2013. Secretary Kerry highlighted the conclusion of the U.S.-Vietnam Civil Nuclear Cooperation 123 Agreement and expanding maritime security cooperation as examples of the strength of bilateral ties in keeping with U.S. efforts to integrate Vietnam fully into regional maritime security initiatives. The Secretary informed Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Minh that the State Department has taken steps to allow for the future transfer of maritime security-related defense articles to Vietnam. This policy supports Vietnam’s efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities.

They also discussed the importance of concluding the TPP negotiations and expanding bilateral trade and investment. The Secretary noted that achieving further progress on human rights is integral to our bilateral relationship and is necessary for a further deepening of bilateral ties, including in security cooperation. They also discussed regional issues and recent developments in the South China Sea. Following discussions at the ASEAN Regional Forum in August, the Secretary welcomed efforts to defuse recent tensions, and they agreed on the importance of claimants implementing Article 5 of the Declaration of Conduct and avoiding actions that threaten to escalate disputes and cause instability. They both noted the importance of the upcoming 20th anniversary of bilateral relations next year and expressed their desire to mark this milestone with high-level visits.

The Secretary also met this morning with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to discuss U.S.-India security cooperation and other topics of regional and bilateral interest. The meeting today builds on discussions held during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United States and will cover issues – and covered issues, I should say, such as defense cooperation, international terrorism and terrorism finance, and law enforcement cooperation. This meeting was an important step in reinforcing our shared resolve. Recent U.S.-India – the recent U.S.-India joint statements of expanding our cooperation to bolster national, regional, and global security.

Finally, as you may all have seen, Special President – Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL General John Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk arrived in Iraq today for intensive consultations with Iraqi Government officials and regional Iraqi leaders on how the United States can support Iraq in the fight against ISIL. That Special Envoy Allen went to Iraq for his first international trip in his new capacity speaks to the importance of – the United States places on coordination with and support for Iraq as we build this global coalition to degrade and defeat ISIL. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk’s discussions in Iraq and elsewhere will follow on the coalition-building efforts that President Obama and Secretary Kerry led at the NATO summit in Wales, during meetings in Jeddah and in Cairo, and most recently in New York at UNGA.

From Iraq, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will travel on to Brussels for meetings with NATO and EU leadership, where the focus will be cracking down on ISIL’s foreign fighter pipeline and countering its financing streams. Then they will travel on to Amman for consultations with Jordanian officials and key regional players. From Amman they will travel to Cairo to meet with Egyptian Government officials and the Arab League ambassadors. Their conversations there will follow on President Obama’s recent meeting with President Sisi in New York and Secretary Kerry’s discussions during his last trip to Cairo. They will finally conclude their visit in Turkey, a key NATO ally, where they will meet with Turkish military and political leaders to discuss their potential contributions to the international coalition, including combating the threat from foreign fighters. In Turkey, they will also meet with Syrian opposition leaders, both affirming our continued support for their brave efforts in the fight against ISIL and continuing our ongoing dialogue about the best ways to support these efforts.

In conversations with General Allen and Ambassador McGurk – in these conversations they will have they will discuss coalition cooperation across the five lines of effort – not just military support for our partners, but also – with our partners, I should say, but also stopping foreign fighters, slashing ISIL’s access to financing, maximizing humanitarian assistance and protection for vulnerable victims of the conflict, and exposing ISIL’s extremist, nihilistic message for what it really is. There’s been lots of attention paid to the military component, as we’ve discussed in here, but this trip is about more than that. It’s about expanding this coalition and about building on the five lines of effort that they’re focused on. They will also finally return to the region later this month to meet with other key coalition partners as well, so this will be the first of a number of trips.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Hey, Matt, can I ask one real quick one? Can you repeat the phrase on Vietnam? You said that the Secretary had told the Vietnamese official that the United States has taken steps to provide for the future transfer of defense-related --

QUESTION: To allow for.

MS. PSAKI: Of maritime-security-related defense articles to Vietnam.

QUESTION: Does that mean arms?

MS. PSAKI: It – it’s – let me see if I have a little bit more on this, Arshad. And I’m sure for anyone who’s interested we can get you a more intensive briefing, too.

QUESTION: They’re --

MS. PSAKI: It’s --

QUESTION: I think all will be clear before --

MS. PSAKI: Let me see, Arshad, if I can get you a more specific --

QUESTION: I mean, maritime security could be --

MS. PSAKI: Surveillance – let’s see. Maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities. We can see, Arshad, if we can get you a more specific breakdown after the briefing.

QUESTION: I was going to get back to Vietnam later on --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but I want – but I want to start with the trip, but particularly Turkey, which you will have seen – at least I hope you will have seen – that the parliament voted today to authorize them to – do you have any reaction to that? And – well, start with that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you know, we’ve been closely engaged with Turkey. We welcome the Turkish parliament’s vote to authorize Turkish military action. We’ve had numerous high-level discussions with Turkish officials to discuss how to advance our cooperation in countering the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Those will continue, and we look forward to strengthening that cooperation. There’s – sorry – a fly up here. (Laughter.) There’s a fly up here. Sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: A bee.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it’s a bee.

Special presidential envoy mentioned, of course, will be traveling there. As I mentioned yesterday, of course, Turkey has experienced directly the impact of this crisis. And we’ll continue our conversations over the course of the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Is there anything in particular that you would like to see them do, now that they’ve – now that they have this authorization?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it provided broad authority. So the phase we’re in now is discussing what particular role they’ll play.

QUESTION: So then if they’ve done this today, why is it that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk aren’t going there until the end of this bizarrely constructed trip? Which I also want to ask why fly to Brussels from Baghdad and then back to the Middle East? It doesn’t seem very climate change friendly.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you’ve experienced, Matt, and others have, sometimes you work with the schedules of your counterparts.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, this trip’s been in the works for some time. And certainly we’ll be engaged with Turkey over the coming days, not just – we’re not going to wait for that engagement for their trip, but --

QUESTION: Okay. But so – but so they will be, once they get there, discussing the coordination? Or are you saying that the coordination can happen outside of a face-to-face meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ll discuss it when they’re there, but certainly we’ll be engaged through our officials – high-level officials on the ground, as well as high-level officials in Washington between now and then as well.

QUESTION: Do you see there is a greater urgency now in particular areas right along the Turkish border for there to be military action but from coalition members with boots on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know and you’ve seen from the daily updates, we, along with coalition partners, have been partaking in airstrikes in that area near Turkey because of the threat posed by ISIL there. Or sorry, I’m not sure if you --

QUESTION: Well, I was asking about boots on the ground, not about airstrikes.

MS. PSAKI: I think there are, obviously, a range of options that can be under consideration, but I’m not going to get ahead of those discussions with Turkey about what role they should play.

QUESTION: When he will be arriving to Ankara, Ambassador McGurk and General Allen?

MS. PSAKI: Next week. But again, we’re still finalizing some specifics about the trip. So I think we’ll have more technical updates with each day about who’ll they be meeting with and what day they’ll arrive, et cetera.

QUESTION: Should we assume that each city one day? I mean, Iraq, Baghdad, Brussels, Amman, Cairo, and Ankara (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: About that, but some may spend more than one day. So again, I said the end of the trip is Turkey, so I would assume the end of next week.

QUESTION: And – but the meetings with the president, the prime minister, is there any --

MS. PSAKI: Again, as I just said, because we’re talking about a week and a half from now or near the end of next week, I think we’ll have more updates on specific meetings as we get a little bit closer, and as soon as we have that information, we’ll make it available.

QUESTION: So it’s almost one month that – when President Obama started to discuss this issue with the Turkish side since the Wales summit. So how do you see right now the – where we are in terms of the fight against the ISIL in terms of the contribution coming from Ankara?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we welcome the Turkish parliament’s vote to authorize Turkish military action, as I mentioned. Turkey has – and their leaders – have indicated they want to play a more prominent role with the coalition. We welcome that. They’re an important counterterrorism partner, an important NATO ally, so we understand the sensitivity that they had for several weeks with – the country had with their diplomats, and now we’re ready to move forward. And they’ve indicated they want to be an active partner.

QUESTION: Do you believe that – are you on the same page with the Turkish leadership in terms of the priorities in this fight? I mean, ISIS is obviously the priority for U.S. side, but do you think that the Turks also are seeing ISIS as a priority while --

MS. PSAKI: I think Turkey, from all of our discussions with them, certainly understands the threat posed by ISIL. But I would point you to them for more on that particular question.

Do we have more on Turkey or should we move on to a new topic?

QUESTION: Can we just – can we go to Vietnam?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you have now – as I believe U.S. officials elsewhere in the building may have said – that you have now lifted the ban on the provision of defense materiel to Vietnam solely for maritime security-related items?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Sorry if I wasn’t clear in the beginning. I should note also, Arshad, that obviously, we remain – our security relationship remains under constant review. Clearly, there’s more work that needs to be done in areas like human rights, and that’s one thing that the Secretary conveyed during the meeting, and this is, of course, a partial lifting.

QUESTION: And would it be fair to understand this partial lifting as very much a function of the United States desire to offer support to countries such as Vietnam in their maritime disputes with China?

MS. PSAKI: I would look at it more, Arshad, as a response to the fact that they’ve made progress in some areas like human rights that we’ve talked to them about, that President Obama spoke with them about in 2013 and Secretary Kerry spoke with them about when he was there in December. And they’re an important partner and this is responsive to their request.

QUESTION: So it has nothing to do with the fact that a Chinese – if I’m not mistaken – towed an oil rig into disputed waters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted in my readout of the meeting, certainly they discussed maritime security, and that is a prominent part of our discussion every time we meet with them.

QUESTION: But the – you can’t say that the removal of the longstanding ban with regard to maritime security items is related to that specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in part, in order to fully integrate Vietnam into maritime security initiatives that we have partnerships on throughout the region. But there are also components of steps in progress on reforms that they made in the country that prompted the action.

QUESTION: But one shouldn’t view it as China-related at all?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: Or go ahead – I’m sorry, are we Vietnam here?

QUESTION: No, Vietnam.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, did – was the Chinese foreign minister yesterday informed about this decision? Because as much as you want to say it doesn’t – it’s not related to Vietnam, it is to anyone who can – has – (laughter) – to anyone with any kind of vision, I think. Was the Chinese foreign minister told about --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I recall, Matt.

QUESTION: Not that you know? Okay. And the other thing is that I – you have to forgive my influence, I mean – influence – ignorance on this. This only applies to maritime security? It’s not like you’re going to sell them tanks or anything, right?

MS. PSAKI: That is right. It applies to partial lifting of defense articles.

QUESTION: And when it – when he says that – or you say that you have – you are taking or you have taken steps to allow for the future transfer, does that mean that you could go ahead and just sell them, or does it have to go – does there have to be some kind of congressional notification or approval or anything? Does – what’s the process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding is that Congress has been notified, of course, about this decision. So in terms of the technical pieces of what needs to happen, is that what you’re asking? Or --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Let me check if there’s more that needs to happen --

QUESTION: I mean, is there --

MS. PSAKI: -- or if it can move forward from here.

QUESTION: Does there – I mean, basically, I’m asking you: Does there need to – does it still have to be signed off on by someone, whether it’s the Hill or whether it’s the Pentagon or whether – whoever it is? Or is this kind of a blank – blanket you can have whatever you want as long as it is in this maritime security box?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – why don’t we get you all a list of what this is applicable to. My understanding is that now this is at a point where it can move forward, but we will make sure there are not additional steps that need to be taken.

QUESTION: And then – and I should know this, but unfortunately I don’t, and maybe you don’t have it up there either, but how – has this ban – how long has this ban on all lethal arms sales been in place? Has it been since 1975?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that, Matt, but I’m happy to take that with the other couple of questions about the issue.

QUESTION: Right, I’m just --

QUESTION: It was all defense materiel, though. It wasn’t just lethal, right, the ban?

MS. PSAKI: I – we will check the ban and how long it’s been --

QUESTION: Well from whenever it is, is this the first time you’re going to be selling or sending weapons, lethal or otherwise, military kind of stuff that’s covered by this ban since --

QUESTION: The war.

QUESTION: -- 1975, since you were sending stuff to South Vietnam? That’s the question.

MS. PSAKI: My bet is that is accurate, but why don’t we --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- double-check on that. Should we move to a new issue? Go ahead.

QUESTION: To Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What was the thinking behind the appropriateness of making the comments that you did yesterday while hosting the prime minister of Israel on housing, on settlements?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it was responsive to actions that were happening on the ground that we were asked about. And so we were responsive to those.

QUESTION: Right. But in all the time you reviewed situations, you choose to hold comment.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we choose to hold comment on this particular issue at all.

QUESTION: Okay. So you considered it completely diplomatically appropriate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we were responding to events on the ground, and I obviously spoke to it yesterday, as did my colleague at the White House. So I think we’ll leave it with those comments.

QUESTION: Okay. In terms of the content of the criticism, the prime minister responded in various different interviews. He said that he’s not going to tell Jews where to buy and not buy property. He said that it’s private property. What is the proposal of the – is there some sort of alternative proposal of the Administration? What are they suggesting the prime minister do? Because obviously, the criticism was pretty sharp and pretty specific.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, because you’re well versed in this issue, it requires the building and several stages of building of these buildings and apartments in order for there to be places for individuals to buy. So we’re talking about settlement activity and the fact that there are multiple stages in the process and the fact that it continued, and that’s why we expressed our concern.

Do we have any more on this, or should I move on to a new --

QUESTION: Well, just – yeah, I do --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because you just said the phrase “settlement activities.” My understanding, this was stuff in East Jerusalem, which is technically not settlement. Is there – are you – you’re not implying --

MS. PSAKI: Our position is not changing. I was answering the question broadly. Obviously, as we stated yesterday, we’re also referring to provocative actions that can make it more difficult to move forward in a peaceful manner in the region.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you think that the Administration’s point was taken, well taken, by Prime Minister Netanyahu, considering his reaction that was just mentioned, his --

MS. PSAKI: Well taken and --

QUESTION: Well taken, understood, or that he – that it’s accepted. Because he didn’t – he basically rejected it and said you guys didn’t know what you were talking about.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have our information clear, and we responded to the facts on the ground.

QUESTION: But now I asked yesterday if there is any consequence to this criticism.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we voiced our views, Matt, and I think that’s an important step to take and is warranted in these particular cases.

QUESTION: Okay, but there is a – you’re not going to do anything else if they continue to go ahead with this, this specific --

MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t – Israel remains an important partner, a security partner, a friend and ally. That has not changed.

QUESTION: Unless – because the comment was actually saying that should they proceed, it will put space between them and their closest allies.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re talking about what the – what we’ve already seen to be the response from the international community to ongoing activities such as these.

QUESTION: Right. I don’t want to harp on the point, but you say they’re taking provocative actions. Surely from a diplomatic perspective, this building sees that hosting a head of state and criticizing that government while you are hosting him --

QUESTION: Head of government.

QUESTION: Head of – what did I say?

QUESTION: I believe Israel has a president, doesn’t it?

QUESTION: That’s true. That’s true. Is a provocative action, is it not?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m going to leave it where my comments were yesterday.

QUESTION: I have a very tangential question to this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But have you seen this conference that the Iranians are putting on right now which is all about how Israel and the CIA conspired to – for 9/11 and all this --

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen reports of this conference. Where is the conference?

QUESTION: It’s in Tehran, I think. But there’s --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you guys had any --

MS. PSAKI: We will look into that.

QUESTION: -- thoughts about this. I mean, it’s sponsored by the government, clearly, so it – the Iranian Government. So it’s --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: In the same interview responding to P5+1 agreements, Netanyahu said he wants zero enrichment capability, and if President Obama agrees to a deal with Iran that he finds unacceptable, Israel always has the right to defend itself. Do you have any response to that? Are you willing --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been clear that we’re not going to accept a deal that we would find doesn’t meet our threshold, doesn’t meet the threshold of the global community. And we’re not going to accept a bad deal. We are keeping the Israelis and others partners fully abreast of the progress being made and the discussions that are happening, and that was part of the readout from the President’s meeting yesterday.

QUESTION: In that same interview with Andrea Mitchell, she asked him if they share the same standards for a bad deal. And he said, “I hope so.” Now, this is after countless meetings between them and their staffs. Can you not say confidently that they share the same standard for --

MS. PSAKI: I think we both believe Iran should not acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it’s in the interest of the global community that Iran not acquire a nuclear weapon. So we’re working through the process with our P5+1 partners to prevent them from doing so.

More on Iran or a new topic? Okay. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Hong Kong?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The student deadline, of course, has passed. The chief executive did not resign but did offer to hold talks with some of the protestors. Going forward, of course, Hong Kong has threatened to use force if these students do try to occupy the buildings. The U.S. has been clear in its support of the students’ rights for democracy. If this confrontation does take place, what kind of effect will it have on U.S. policy toward China? Will there be any change? And then also, are the talks continuing between the U.S. and China? Is there ongoing dialogue today in the wake of these new developments?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, not only the meeting yesterday morning but the Secretary had another meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi last night as well. They discussed – they really focused their conversation on global issues, and I – let me give you a quick readout of that just while I have – while I have the opportunity.

They spent – because of the limited time remaining before the President’s upcoming trip, they focused a fair amount of the meeting on the President’s upcoming trip to China for the APEC summit. Both sides, of course, reaffirmed the importance of his trip. They also discussed Iraq, the dangers of ISIL and the spread of extremism, North Korea – they spent a bit of time on that issue and the nuclear threat, Iran, our concerns about U.S. citizens being detained in North Korea, which the Secretary also raised, and cooperation on Afghanistan.

Our focus is on continuing – there is, of course, an open line of communication with China. They are familiar, certainly, with where we stand on this issue. The Secretary spoke to it yesterday. You saw that it was raised by the President as well as the Secretary during meetings yesterday, and we certainly have a large presence on the ground in China, as you know. We continue to urge dialogue between the authorities and protestors. We would certainly be concerned if there was an escalation by authorities. We will see what happens. But we continue to encourage that and urge restraint in all of our conversations.

QUESTION: Would an escalation by authorities perhaps result in a shift in U.S. policy toward China?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get ahead of where we are. Certainly, we hope that is not the case, and that’s why we’re continuing to urge restraint both publicly and privately.

Any more on China or Hong Kong? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey, sure.

QUESTION: About the charity organization. Turkish charity, Kimse Yok Mu. Kimse Yok Mu’s right to collect charity donations has been withheld by the Turkish Cabinet of Ministers, despite a report prepared by inspector assigned by the interior ministry, not a single irregularity was discovered. The Kimse Yok Mu’s charity is the only aid organization in Turkey that holds UN Economic and Social Council status. I just would like to ask that do you have any comment on?

MS. PSAKI: I do not. We would refer you to the Turkish Government.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Can we actually – can we stay in the --

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Sure.

QUESTION: Turkey. Yeah. So there were reports that a U.S. citizen named Jordan Matson has joined the Syrian Kurdish group, the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit. It’s also known as YPG.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that this is true, that this U.S. citizen has joined that group? And second, is there – does the United States have any concerns about American citizens not joining foreign terrorist organizations or U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIL, but joining other foreign military groups or militant groups that are fighting ISIL? Does that worry you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, first, we’re certainly aware of these reports. Because of privacy concerns we can’t speak to it further. On your second question, we have warned, as you know, U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Syria. We recommend any U.S. citizens remaining depart immediately. We also, of course, remain concerned of – about any citizen traveling to take part in military operations regardless, and certainly we have a concern about ISIL, but we are warning any citizen from traveling there for any purpose.

QUESTION: And your concern about any U.S. citizen traveling to take part in military operations of any sort, including operations against ISIL, which might actually be something that the U.S. Government might find useful – but what is the concern? Just that they’re putting themselves at risk or that they could be kidnapped, or what is the fundamental concern there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve long had a Travel Warning in place about travel to Syria. We can’t provide protection for U.S. citizens in Syria or routine consular services. And so certainly, we provide that information to everybody.

QUESTION: But there’s no law barring this, correct?

MS. PSAKI: A law?

QUESTION: Yeah. There’s no law barring somebody from going abroad to join a non-FTO military organization, a U.S. citizen?

MS. PSAKI: I can check, but not that I’m aware of, Arshad, a specific law.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a press report saying that the Assad regime is intensifying its airstrikes against provinces – against rebel forces in the west of Syria, provinces like Aleppo and these areas there, while the U.S. allies are focusing on the north. Is this going to be okay for the coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we – I don’t have any conformation of the Assad regime’s military plans or what they’ve implemented. As you know, we provide information of our own airstrikes and what steps that we’re taking. And we’ve seen that ISIL is trying to take control of the border crossings with Turkey by taking opposition-held towns, which you may have seen, of course, between Aleppo and the border, including numerous Kurdish villages. We’ve done quite a few airstrikes in that area over the past couple of days. I’m not sure what you mean by “is it okay with the coalition”.

QUESTION: The Kurdish villages are in the north --

MS. PSAKI: Right, and that’s part of our --

QUESTION: -- but the Assad regime is bomb – intensifying this recently – bombings in provinces in the west.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of what the Assad regime is doing in Syria at this point in time.

QUESTION: I know, but is it – will this be okay for the coalition, Assad to be free to operate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we’re not coordinating with them. They’re not a part of the coalition, so I don’t think I have any further add.

QUESTION: I forgot to ask you one --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: YPG, just for the record, is it designated as an FTO or is it designated under any of the other authorities as a terrorist group?

MS. PSAKI: It is not. PYD[1] – well, let’s see. PKK, as you know, is designated. I don’t believe YPD[2] is, no.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: I’ve got a couple very brief ones --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sure.

QUESTION: -- just to run through. First, Ukraine. Anything more on this mass grave --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are confident that the Ukrainian Government will continue to investigate these claims in conjunction with international experts, as they did when at least eight bodies were discovered in Slovyansk after the town was liberated from separatist control earlier this summer. The issue remains what we talked about yesterday: They don’t have access to this area because it’s separatist controlled, so they can’t get in to do an investigation partnered with international experts.

QUESTION: You don’t – it’s not your understanding that the OSCE monitors have already been there?

MS. PSAKI: They were alerted – OSCE monitors were alerted in late September to the location of unmarked graves, but this would be – any investigation would be under the authority of the Ukrainian Government.

QUESTION: Okay. And the situation in terms of the airport in Donetsk?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, the Donetsk – let’s see – anything new on this --

QUESTION: You may not have anything new from yesterday, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything in particular new, Matt, from yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. My – and I have – the second of my three very brief ones: Your friends in Bahrain, while being a member of the coalition and everything, still have a lot – or seem to have a lot to – leave a lot to be desired on the human rights front that – although they did release or allowed the one activist to go, it now seems they’ve arrested a guy for a tweet. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We are concerned by the Government of Bahrain’s detention of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, reportedly for tweets alleged to be “denigrating to a public institution.” We urge the Government of Bahrain to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression and assembly and to reconsider charges against citizens accused of peaceful expression of opinion. We also continue to call on the Government of Bahrain to abide by its commitment to fair and transparent judicial proceedings, and to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible.

QUESTION: Now, since they expelled your Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, you all have said that you’re working to reschedule that meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s the progress on that rescheduling?

MS. PSAKI: I talked to him about it this morning. We’re still working on rescheduling it, and he’s looking forward to heading there.

QUESTION: Before the end of this – before the end of 2016 --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a --

QUESTION: -- while he still is in this job?

MS. PSAKI: -- timing update. I think part of it is that that would be a part of probably a trip to the region.

QUESTION: And is there any prospect of that in a near horizon frame – timeframe?

MS. PSAKI: I think there could be. It’s not yet scheduled.

QUESTION: All right. And my last one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a move – or there is a move on the Hill by some members of Congress, particularly in the House, to get the U.S. to suspend the Visa Waiver Program for countries – European countries or for members of the Visa Waiver Program who have large numbers of passport holders who are fighting or believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria. The three countries most often named are Britain, France, and Germany. Do you – I presume that the Administration would be opposed to this kind of legislation, but I’m just wondering if you have a formal response to it. Do you think this is a good idea? Is it a bad idea?

MS. PSAKI: I cannot imagine we support that, but let me check and see if there’s any --

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t have any – you don’t – no.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything updated on it, no.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: One more small one.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There is a report that I have seen from a Sri Lankan newspaper suggesting that when Secretary Kerry met with the Sri Lankan president, I think it was during UNGA, that he had – that Secretary Kerry had indicated or suggested a softening in the U.S. position on Sri Lanka. The piece I saw didn’t specify what, but I think the inference was that it was a softening on human rights concerns in Sri Lanka. Is there any truth to that? Did he signal that he would take human rights less seriously there?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. I saw the same story. The only thing that was right was that the Secretary did speak with the Sri Lankan president on the margins of the UN General Assembly. He did so with the express purpose of conveying that U.S. policy with regard to Sri Lanka has not changed and it certainly has not softened. We would, of course, like our relationship with Sri Lanka to achieve its full potential, but that will only happen if Sri Lanka builds enduring peace and prosperity for all of its diverse ethnic and religious communities. And that’s why the Secretary, in no uncertain terms, made clear to the president that Sri Lanka needed to take meaningful steps to act like a country that is no longer at war and instead is now building a future that includes all of its citizens. So certainly it had the opposite purpose.

QUESTION: Sorry, I had one more.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And that was about a week or so ago, I think it was Marie, maybe it was you, was asked about a report about the State Department buying 160,000 protective suits, Ebola-resistant or preventative suits. And the company that makes these things has now put out some kind of a statement saying that yes, indeed, you did buy them. I’m wondering if you – I’m assuming it’s true. So why, and why 160,000?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that, Matt. As you know, we, of course, have been undertaking with – through the interagency a number of steps to help prevent the spread of the – of Ebola. But we’ll check and see what those suits will be used for.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. I can just do a few more here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, this is backtracking a little bit. But I was wondering if you had any response to Leon Panetta’s recently published comments saying that he argued for a residual force to be left behind to train and secure Iraq’s military and that we had the leverage to make it happen.

MS. PSAKI: I think Secretary Panetta had a long, long career of public service and certainly has played many prominent roles. I think factually or historically, what happened with Iraq was that we weren’t – we didn’t have the requirements needed to leave our troops there. And that simply is what happened at the time. We were certainly open to having a residual force. And so I don’t – I’m not going to get into who fought for what, which I know is part of what it – was described in the article.

QUESTION: Well, but that addresses the most interesting part of the question, which was his assertion that the United States had the leverage to make it happen. Do you not believe that was the case, that the United States did not have the leverage to persuade Iraq to give U.S. troops the protections you felt you needed?

MS. PSAKI: I think all I’m going to say here is that the United States and leadership at the time was certainly committed to doing everything we could to secure the requirements needed to have forces there. Obviously, we were unable to do that.

QUESTION: The way you phrased it just a little while ago, “We were open to it,” that’s kind of the same thing that you’re telling Congress right now about whether you need an authorization for use of force: We’re open to it but we’re not really going to push very hard for it because we don’t think we need it.

MS. PSAKI: I think that --

QUESTION: Is that not the – I realize it’s two completely different circumstances here, but the phrasing seems to be the same. Is it – would you take issue with this – someone saying that you were open to leaving a residual force in Iraq but you really weren’t going to push on it because you didn’t think it was particularly necessary or because the President really wanted to, quote/unquote, “end the war”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure that my colleagues over at the White House are answering this question, and I will leave the majority of the answer to them, Matt. But we certainly supported having a residual force. I did not mean to be less enthusiastic about it. So --

QUESTION: Right. But you also support a new authorization for military force, but you don’t really need it so you’re not – or you say you don’t think you really need it, so you’re not pushing very hard to get it.

MS. PSAKI: I think they’re two different things.

QUESTION: Well, I know they’re two different things, but this is broader than that. I suppose it goes to the whole kind of – when the Administration decides it wants to go down one track or another, you’re open to it but you’re not going to really push very hard for something that might enhance that track, no?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, now we have the legal authority in order to take action. We certainly would welcome the support of Congress. You’re talking about whether we had the requirements needed for our troops to be safe from harm if we left a residual force there. I think it’s two different categories. We didn’t. I think I’m going to leave it at that.

Go ahead. Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Do you have any new information about the Ethiopian Embassy incident investigation?

MS. PSAKI: I do have a little bit of new information. Let’s see here. So obviously, the Secret Service and other divisions of government remain the point, but in general, where diplomats are involved in alleged criminal acts and the prosecutor’s office informs the State Department that it would prosecute but for immunity, the Department requests that the government of the diplomat waive his or her diplomatic immunity to permit prosecution in U.S. courts. If the government declines to waive immunity, the State Department requires the diplomat to depart the United States.

In this case, we requested a waiver of immunity to permit prosecution of the individual involved in that incident. The request was declined, and the individual involved has now left the country.

QUESTION: And can you just – because I don’t think you had the details the day that the incident actually happened. Although it’s been widely reported, it would be nice if you could actually confirm that the incident for which you requested the waiver of immunity so as to enable prosecution involved an Ethiopian national with diplomatic immunity discharging his firearm. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: It did involve an Ethiopian diplomat. I don’t have any other details on the specifics of the case.

QUESTION: You can’t even say it involved firing a gun?

MS. PSAKI: It’s been widely reported, and I think law enforcement agencies are confirming some of the details.

QUESTION: Technically, does that mean that this person has been PNG’d, or is it just that they – you asked them to leave and they will leave and they are leaving --

MS. PSAKI: They have left. They’re gone.

QUESTION: Have they been PNG’d? Are they allowed back into the country for any reason, other than to face the charge?

MS. PSAKI: Typically not.

QUESTION: Do you know in this case?

MS. PSAKI: I will double-check, but typically not.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there also an investigation concerning the protestors who are out near the embassy, trespassing, or anything along that line?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the U.S. Secret Service on that. That would not be the State Department.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:11 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 1, 2014

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 20:19

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 1, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:52 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hello. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top that hopefully will proactively address some of your questions. We regret the decision by the Government of Russia to cancel Russia’s participation in the Future Leaders Exchange, or FLEX program. FLEX brings high school students to the United States to live with American host families, attend high school, and experience community life for an academic year. It was the largest U.S.-Russia cultural exchange program, and over the past 21 years, more than 8,000 Russian students have participated. The public outcry we’ve seen among Russians who either participated in the program or wanted to participate speaks to the powerful and lasting positive impact these kinds of exchanges can have on people’s lives. The FLEX program was vital in building those kinds of bonds between young Russians and Americans that we need in order to overcome challenges in our bilateral relations.

There were some who were asking for a readout of Deputy Secretary Burns’ meeting with the UN special envoy. Deputy – they had a productive meeting on – obviously, Staffan de Mistura – sorry, that was who you asked for – hosted – they had a productive meeting on future UN engagement to resolve the crisis in Syria. The Deputy Secretary expressed our strong support for Special Envoy de Mistura as he works to achieve a negotiated political solution, which we believe is the best way to address all dimensions of this crisis and to end the conflict sustainably.

As Secretary Kerry reaffirmed at last week’s Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial, the only way forward is a negotiated political solution based on the Geneva communique that would result in a government capable of serving the interests of all Syrian people.

While in Washington the special envoy also met with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein and Assistant Secretary Sheba Crocker.

As you all know, the Secretary also met today with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They had a productive, in-depth, and wide-ranging discussion. The discussion focused this morning on bilateral issues, including the President’s upcoming visit to China. They discussed that in depth. They also discussed our comprehensive cooperation on climate change and the need to take bold steps to boost clean energy, cut carbon pollution, and help ensure a successful ambitious global climate deal in Paris next year.

They discussed our cooperation to address international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and the importance of degrading and destroying ISIL and the danger of foreign terrorist fighters. Both countries agree that the United States and China must coordinate closely and play a leadership role to support the UN-coordinated response to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Secretary also raised U.S. concerns over the human rights situation in China, and underscored that progress on human rights is important for the overall bilateral relationship.

As you heard him say publicly before the meeting, they also discussed Hong Kong, and the Secretary expressed our hope that authorities will exercise restraint. He also reiterated our support for universal suffrage and the high level of autonomy provided for in Hong Kong’s basic law and for respect for internationally recognized fundamental freedoms such as freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression that have Hong Kong – have made Hong Kong a success.

Finally, tomorrow Secretary Kerry will meet with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Minh to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including progress on implementing the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership launched by President Obama and President Sang in July of 2013, expanding bilateral trade and investment, and recent developments in the South China Sea.

Sorry, I have one more. We congratulate and welcome new NATO Secretary-General Jens – sorry – Stoltenberg, who took up his post today. Secretary-General – the Secretary-General is a proven leader, experienced diplomat, and a committed transatlanticist, and we look forward to working with him to ensure NATO continues to be strong and effective in the face of any and all challenges posed to our common security.

With that, go ahead.

QUESTION: Right. Well, let’s start with what happened here today.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry. Can I add one more thing on China?

QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: They – before you get started – before you all get started – they agreed this morning, actually in advance of today, that they wanted to have more time to talk, so they’ll be meeting again this evening at 6 p.m. and they’ll continue their discussion.

QUESTION: Who --

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Any particular subject? They’re going to be bringing all of them again or --

MS. PSAKI: We expect – they will likely continue the discussion about the President’s upcoming trip. They’ll spend probably more time on regional issues and when they meet later this evening.

QUESTION: So it won’t be the whole smorgasbord that we saw – that you just outlined --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they touched on those.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: I – we expect they’ll delve more deeply into some of those issues, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. You mentioned that we heard the Secretary say --

MS. PSAKI: Sorry. What?

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just a small detail. Is it a dinner meeting? Is it just a meeting?

MS. PSAKI: It’s just a meeting. They did have lunch earlier today. Yes, here.

QUESTION: At the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: At 6 p.m., yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: And you don’t expect them to talk afterwards?

MS. PSAKI: I do not know.

QUESTION: All right. So as you mentioned, the Secretary said publicly that you – that you have high hopes this Hong Kong authorities will exercise restraint, allow people to protest, that you believe in universal suffrage and all this. And the foreign minister’s response in public was basically, yeah, okay, so what, mind your own business. Can you say whether that was pretty much – that was the tone of the – of his response in the private meeting? In other words, did the line “Hong Kong’s affairs are China’s internal affairs” and basically – and “everyone should respect China’s sovereignty” – was that the Chinese line in private in the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: That was – I’m not going to read out, obviously, what the foreign minister said in a private meeting, but I think those statements publicly have consistently been what they’ve said about the issue.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t believe that there has been – that your message has been received with a willingness to actually do what you would like them to do.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to characterize it that way. Obviously, Matt, we’re continuing to urge dialogue between the authorities and protesters. We believe, as I mentioned in what – the overview I already offered – that human rights issues and resolving those are ones that can help strengthen China, and that certainly is a point the Secretary reiterated during the meeting.

QUESTION: Okay, well based on their meeting and recognizing that they’re going to meet again tonight, but based on the meeting that just happened, do you think that there are – the chances are good for an improvement in relations, as it relates to the human rights situation, and, as particularly, the situation in Hong Kong?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re – our hope is that authorities will exercise restraint. That was what was expressed and we’ll see what happens from here.

QUESTION: No, no. You said that he – progress on human rights is important to improving the U.S.-China relationship, but I assume that doing what – that doing what you think is the right thing to do in Hong Kong is also important to improving the relationship. And I’m wondering if after the conversation that they had this afternoon that you believe – you have anything more than hope that the relationship will improve based on those two things.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, to be clear, there were a range of issues that were discussed that we have broad agreement on. Obviously, we’ve made some progress on climate change. We work together on a range of economic issues. They had a great deal of agreement on Iran and the need to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon; on the threat of terrorism. So this is certainly an issue that we raise at every opportunity, but I’m not going to make a prediction. We’re hopeful that, obviously, authorities will exercise restraint on the ground.

QUESTION: I’ll stop after this. But you just mentioned areas of agreement. There are clearly areas of disagreement.

MS. PSAKI: Sure there are, of course.

QUESTION: And on those areas of disagreement, did you get – do you have anything more than hope that the relationship will improve?

MS. PSAKI: I think there was agreement, one, they’re going to come back and continue the discussion later this evening. The President has an important trip to China later this month. And clearly, there are some steps and actions that are in their hands to take.

QUESTION: Jen, can I --

QUESTION: Jen, does Secretary Kerry believe that China should vet Hong Kong’s political candidates?

MS. PSAKI: I think I have expressed our view pretty consistently on this and that we support universal suffrage and we believe that the people of Hong Kong should have the choice of a range of candidates.

QUESTION: So they should – so there should be no vetting by Beijing? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I think that our position has been consistent on this issue.

QUESTION: Can I ask, do you agree with the --

QUESTION: But why can’t you address that specific issue? Because you could – your answer doesn’t necessarily preclude the Beijing authorities vetting candidates who wish to run in Hong Kong.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned in my readout, the high level of autonomy that it would be – that we think should be a part of it does speak to that.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I ask whether you agree with the Foreign Minister Wang’s contention that, as Matt mentioned, that Hong Kong affairs and China’s affairs – basically he was telling you guys to butt out.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, to be clear, the United States – and this is one of the things the Secretary said during the meeting – we express universal values we have. We believe human rights and the freedom of expression is something that’s important not just in China but countries around the world. And so that’s why we express those views. It’s not that we are engaged in this effort. I know there have been different reports that are inaccurate pointing to that, but I think we have – we believe we have the right to express our views.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, there’s reports today that in Taiwan there’ve been demonstrations on the streets in support of the Hong Kong protests. Is United States generally worried that there could be, for want of a word, better word, a kind of contagion of these protests, and we could actually sort of see a kind of destabilization in a pretty fragile relationship which China has with some of its other – with some of the other territories or countries in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I know you mentioned Taiwan. I have not heard that concern expressed in terms of a trend or a contagion, as you referred to it. Obviously, we’re – we encouraged in the meeting today authorities to exercise restraint, but we also want to ensure that protesters – we encourage protesters to express their views peacefully at the same time.

QUESTION: What would be the best outcome for you of this situation for the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I think in terms of a next step in the process, maybe we could start there. We’re certainly urging dialogue between authorities and protesters. We feel that’s the next appropriate step.

QUESTION: So that’s your hope for the next step. How do you see this whole thing playing out? I mean, do you expect, let’s say, or anyone expects a Chinese Spring, perhaps, much like we have seen in the Arab world?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s what we’re predicting, no, Said. I think, obviously --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Respect for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, allowing the people of Hong Kong to be able to express peacefully their views, being able to have a range of candidates and vote through that process – that’s obviously an outcome we would support. But clearly, there are steps in the process, including a dialogue between the protestors and the authorities, that will probably be necessary.

QUESTION: So you agree with the notion that Hong Kong’s affairs are China’s affairs. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Said, we’re expressing our strong view that we express in many parts of the world about the right for people to peacefully protest.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The protestors are threatening to occupy government buildings if the current chief executive does not resign. Is that a helpful position for them to be taking, in the U.S.’s view? Why or why not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – Roz, as I mentioned, I think our focus is on encouraging both the authorities and the protestors to engage in dialogue.

QUESTION: So yesterday --

QUESTION: So would you caution them against making these sorts of threats?

MS. PSAKI: I’m going to leave it where I just said it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you got a question to the – I mean, an answer to the question I asked yesterday about --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- whether you think the Chinese are actually reneging on their promises to the Brits that they made in the agreement to – the handover.

MS. PSAKI: I mean, I think – as I said yesterday, I don’t think that’s an accusation we’re making. Obviously, we think that there are steps that can be taken in order to respect the right of the protestors, and certainly we’re watching closely.

QUESTION: Well, as it relates to the handover – the agreement, the handover agreement, does the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: I’m aware.

QUESTION: -- have a position on whether or not your ally --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to add and we’re not suggesting that there was a violation of the agreement.

QUESTION: Do you know – okay. Do you know if the Brits have been in touch with you, or you guys about this? Or is this something that you think is – this specific subject, not the general rights of protestors or whatever, but this specific subject is something that is just a bilateral thing between the UK and China?

MS. PSAKI: I know that the UK has spoken about this issue themselves. I can check and see if they have been in touch with us about this particular issue.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just on the statement you made just now in answer to Roz’s question about having – being able to have a range of candidates. Again, is – those candidates to be able to choose from. Are those candidates candidates that should be put up with – which should be drawn from the whole Hong Kong pool, or should Beijing have the right just to say who the candidates are?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s clear that we want the people of Hong Kong to have a broad choice of candidates.

QUESTION: I want to move on to the meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this and then, Said, we can go to you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. Did the, like, regional territorial disputes – South China Sea and East China Sea – come up in the meeting today?

MS. PSAKI: They did discuss – and sorry, they also discussed – let’s see, I touched on Ebola. They discussed APEC, they discussed North Korea, Afghanistan. Obviously, there were a range of topics that came up as they were having discussions back and forth. They did briefly discuss the South China Sea and those historic disputes as well.

QUESTION: You said that they’d go back to – they discussed regional topics in their second meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Will those include the tensions in the South China and East China Seas, and also North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I think they certainly could, and they – what I meant by that, too, is also issues like Iran and the P5+1 negotiations and other kind of broad global issues that they’re involved in.

QUESTION: Okay, so it’s global, not just regional, as it were.

MS. PSAKI: It’s both, really. And the truth is they talked about a lot of those issues during – briefly during this meeting as well.

QUESTION: And is there any particular reason why – I mean, you have had a line regarding how the legitimacy of the Hong Kong chief executive would be enhanced by a – I forget the rest of it exactly, but a fully democratic and open process. Is there any reason the Secretary did not use that language today?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think that’s something that continues to be our position, and obviously, he was standing there next to the – his Chinese counterpart, so he spoke specifically to their role.

QUESTION: Did North Korea come up during the discussion, especially --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Did they talk in particular about North Korea’s detention of the three Americans and the current frustration that Glyn Davies expressed earlier this week about getting nowhere in terms of even a conversation with the North Koreans?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as some of you noted, they obviously discussed about a dozen topics during this meeting. So they didn’t dive too deeply into too many of them. We will do a readout after the meeting this evening, and we can certainly note if that’s an issue that they discuss more in-depth.

QUESTION: And along with that, the – any insight the Chinese might have into the condition or whereabouts of North Koreans – North Korea’s leader.

MS. PSAKI: We will see if there’s more to add on that topic.

QUESTION: I’m sure there won’t be, but I just want to get it out there.

MS. PSAKI: Elliot, do you want to finish this issue, or --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- can we go – go ahead.

QUESTION: I did have one more. On the foreign fighter part of what they discussed, what is the U.S. Administration’s stance in terms – given that – China’s history of cracking down and suppressing members of the Uighur community under cover of suppressing terrorism, what is the U.S. asking of China – what kind of restraint are you asking of them, if any, as you also ask them to prevent the flow of foreign fighters to other countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t combine the two. Obviously, we have spoken out about our concerns about the treatment of Uighurs, as you know, and often in response to questions you and others have. What we’re focused on here is this effort – this effort to coordinate and cooperate on defeating ISIL. And that is something where certainly the Chinese will be supportive of. They indicated they’d be supportive of an international effort. They want to cooperate on this effort. That doesn’t change the fact that we have concerns about the treatment of Uighurs.

QUESTION: Would you not say that the two are linked, though, given that – I mean, there have been concerns raised from those who have been following the UN resolution that was passed last week noting that it does require kind of broad crackdowns on terrorists, and it leaves it up to individual countries to decide what terrorism means.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me speak to the UN Security Council resolution. I think it’s an important question. In crafting UNSCR 2178, we were careful to ensure it did not contain any provisions that were incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, particularly far-reaching speech protections in the First Amendment. Although most council members, including European democracies, would have been comfortable with tougher language on fighting internet radicalization, we insisted that the UNSCR not go beyond the extremely broad protections enjoyed under U.S. law. It specifically is not authorized. That behavior is not authorized in the UNSCR. It doesn’t allow for cracking down within your country. It’s specifically targeted on the need to fight terrorism in line with international human rights obligations and efforts that we also have as values to promote social inclusion, empowering local communities, et cetera.

QUESTION: So you’re saying it’s not a concern that the Chinese authorities would take this as further encouragement to further suppress minority communities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, if that were to happen, that would be a concern. But I think we’ve been very clear on what the focus of both the UNSCR is and what our international coalition effort is on.

QUESTION: So I want to go to a new topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I – one more on --

MS. PSAKI: Do you have one on China? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. It sounded as though when Kerry was making his remarks that the audio dropped out during the Chinese translation when he started speaking about Hong Kong. Was that a technical issue, or --

MS. PSAKI: To be honest, we had a lot of technical issues during the meeting, and the translation was going in and out on both sides. The equipment that’s used is U.S. equipment, and obviously, we’re the hosts here. And unfortunately, during the meeting we had some technical difficulties as well. The translators came in and out.

QUESTION: You should’ve used Chinese equipment. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: It happens from time to time.

QUESTION: Or maybe this is Chinese equipment, made in China.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, you’re --

QUESTION: I don’t know. Maybe it is.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. Do you want to --

QUESTION: Can we go to the meeting between Deputy Secretary Burns and Staffan de Mistura --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- my former boss?

MS. PSAKI: Your former boss?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Said, I’m learning a little bio. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Exactly so. But he’s the – this is the point. I mean, he’s well-versed in the Iraq issue. He spent forty years in Iraq. He brings with him a great deal of experience on how to work out conciliation. Will this usher in sort of the revisiting, perhaps, of a diplomatic process, as we had in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: In Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, ultimately, Said, that our focus here – and I spoke with General Allen about this too yesterday – is on getting to a point where the opposition has the military and the political credibility to be able to participate in a political dialogue. We don’t see a political negotiation; we don’t see a military conclusion to the events in Syria. I can’t predict for you when we’ll be at that point, but obviously, that’s how we feel this will be concluded.

QUESTION: So for the time being, there’s absolutely nothing going on on the diplomatic track?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think, first of all – and I know somebody asked about this yesterday – or two days ago, sorry – about what we’re engaged in. Let me see if I can get you, just while I have the opportunity, a little more of an update on that.

So earlier this month, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein was meeting with key allies and partners in a range of countries to coordinate on what more the international community can do to support the moderate Syrian opposition as it fights against both the Assad regime and violent extremists. We also, as you know – he had a range of meetings when he was in – at UNGA last week. The Secretary participated in the Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial. So this is an ongoing engagement and dialogue about how to resolve this politically, but obviously, there’s some immediate challenges happening on the ground that we’re also dealing with at the same time.

QUESTION: But a year ago, we were all waiting for Geneva II to happen, so there was something on the horizon. Is there nothing on the horizon right now for a – something like this, akin to what happened in Geneva and perhaps in an international conference, maybe at the UN? Something to get the diplomatic, political track going again.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’re not going to have a conference just to have a conference, but we’ve had a range of dialogues. Last week there was a meeting the Secretary participated in with a range of important countries. Special – our Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein remains very closely engaged on this. He continues to travel around the region, and it certainly – this is related to our international coalition efforts as well. So I’m certain that when General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are traveling, they’ll talk about this as well.

QUESTION: You know when they’re traveling?

QUESTION: So on the – on the Syria diplomacy, that’s the diplomacy of diplomacy. On the diplomacy of war, as one might put it, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are leaving tonight, is it – very soon?

MS. PSAKI: They’ll be leaving soon.

QUESTION: And where are they going, and are they going to be trying – I mean, what’s the purpose of their mission? Is it more to cement the coalition as it exists, or are they actually going to actively be trying to broaden it?

MS. PSAKI: It’s more on the broadening, but they will have more, I expect, in the next 24 hours about the stops on their trip. One of the stops they’ll be making is in Turkey. Clearly, we’re at a pivotal time there. Their other stops we’ll have, I expect, Matt, by tomorrow – by the briefing tomorrow, if not sooner.

QUESTION: Can you say, even just – I mean, so Turkey – it would be that region. Is there anywhere else they’re going?

MS. PSAKI: I expect it will be --

QUESTION: I know you don’t want to say specifics right now, but I mean, are they going to Europe? Are they stopping anywhere in Asia? I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: I will wait. We will not be more than 24 hours. I expect it will be countries from a couple different regions. They’ll also be traveling again later in the month, so expect they’ll spend a bit of time on the road.

Their objective is – we’ve been in this phase of recruiting countries and encouraging countries to be a part of this international coalition. Now it’s really the phase of determining what roles they’ll play and expanding beyond the military role. We already – there are already countries who are engaged and committed to doing more on counterfinancing or foreign fighters, but they want to build on that, and that’s going to be the focus of their trip over the next several days.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: Can you address Turkey, the one country that you did cite by name?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Why is it pivotal now, and what is it exactly that you want from the Turks if it’s not military stuff?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think everybody is aware of the fact that just a few weeks ago their hostages were returned, and that was an important moment, so that’s what I was referring to. President Erdogan spoke publicly earlier this week about their desire to be more engaged in the coalition, and they’ve had – they’ll have a range of votes in their parliament.

So this is a country, clearly, that has a stake in the outcome here. There are few countries that have felt the ripple effect of the crisis in Syria and Iraq as much as Turkey has. And so as part of the discussion and the essential partnership, I think it’s an important country to visit this – on their first big trip.

QUESTION: Is it mostly the border control?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not, actually. I think it’s not just – it’s certainly the influx of foreign fighters or individuals across the border is something that we have been raising and the Secretary raised the last time he was there. But there are also – there’s also a role they can play as it relates to humanitarian issues. As we know they are – they have accepted, I think, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of refugees. They can play a role in counter-ISIL, de-legitimizing ISIL. They can play a role in a number of areas. Clearly, there’ll be a discussion about countering the flow of foreign fighters, but it will also be about terrorist financing, about certainly what their military engagement will be, as well as the countering their extremist ideology.

QUESTION: And on the military engagement, would you like to have – is it that you are seeking access to Incirlik – or Incirlik, excuse me, for lethal attacks on Syrian or Iraqi territory?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the proposal that is – was sent to parliament includes a wide range of options, and I will leave it to General Allen and Amb