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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 24, 2014

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 14:57

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 24, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:19 p.m. EST

MR. RATHKE: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: Hello.

MR. RATHKE: So I have one thing to mention at the top. You probably have seen the Secretary’s press conference in Vienna where he spoke about the next steps in the P5+1 negotiations. The Secretary is departing Vienna and headed back to Washington. Our negotiating team is still there working through all the details, so I don’t want to get ahead of that work. And as you heard the Secretary mention, I think he is very keen not to get involved in the substantive details that are happening inside the room in the negotiations, but certainly happy to address questions to the extent I can.

And with that, over to you, Lara.

QUESTION: Great, thank you. Already Republicans in Congress are saying that the extension should be coupled with new sanctions and also allow Congress to give a final vote, an up or down vote on whether or not a final agreement would be approved. I’m wondering how the State Department plans to deal with this. I believe I heard Secretary Kerry implore Congress to not impose new sanctions while the negotiations were ongoing.

MR. RATHKE: Right. The Secretary did speak to this in his press availability, and certainly our position on this hasn’t changed. We certainly believe Congress has a role to play, and just as one – to mention one factor, that is sanctions, there is no question that we have reached the point where we are now because of the impact that sanctions have had. On the other hand, sanctions are not going to – alone going to get us the comprehensive deal. That’s why we’re negotiating.

And I think the Secretary indicated that he has been in contact with members of Congress and the leadership as well have – as members of our negotiating team have been, even over the weekend while they’ve been going through the negotiations. He will certainly be coming back to Washington to speak with the President. We will remain in consultation with Congress. So that’s certainly the way he views it, and our position on the question of additional sanctions hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Let me put it this way: Is there anything that the State Department can do to prevent Congress from imposing new sanctions as the negotiations are ongoing?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: Sort of a veto or something like that?

MR. RATHKE: I think that question was also asked. I think we’re way – it’s way too early to be talking about any kind of a situation like that. The Secretary reminded that our team is going to come back. We will continue the very intensive consultations we’ve been having with Congress over the last few days, and we will – and I think the Secretary also mentioned that there are certain things that are only – are best discussed in closed setting so that they can be more open about the content. And so that, of course, can only happen once they’ve come back from Vienna and had the chance to have those discussions.

QUESTION: Okay. But you already have members of Congress putting out public press releases saying that they are looking to do this. So why is it too early to talk about it? And are these the types of things that are being brought up in the consultations with Congress? I mean, clearly they’re talking about it not behind closed doors.

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I don’t want to read out the Secretary’s conversations with leaders of Congress which he’s had in private, but he and the members of the team have been in close touch with the leadership in both houses. And they’ve remained in contact on the substance, and they will come back and have further discussions as well.

QUESTION: With current leadership – is that fair to say – as opposed to next year’s leadership or to committee chairmans in next year’s Congress?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to get into the list of every single person he’s spoken with. But he’s been speaking with the congressional leadership and ranking members as well. So this has been a bipartisan effort to engage with congressional leaders.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Jeff, if I’m – if I understood things correctly, the JPOA in effect is going to be extended until July of next year. Correct?

MR. RATHKE: Right. The idea is that the terms of the JPOA remain in effect.

QUESTION: So one of the terms of the JPOA was – specifically had to do with the imposition of additional sanctions. And in it there was very careful language that said something like, “bearing in mind the differing responsibilities of the legislative and executive branches in the U.S. system.” And as I understood that and as it was subsequently, I believe, publicly stated by the Administration, that meant that President Obama was committing himself to veto any additional sanctions that might be imposed by any Congress while the negotiations were going on. Is that not – is that provision not still – do you not plan to have that provision in the extension --

MR. RATHKE: Well, nothing --

QUESTION: -- and therefore you’re – the President is committed to vetoing additional sanctions?

MR. RATHKE: Well, nothing has changed in the JPOA. And as we were just discussing, it’s the Secretary’s view – and he expressed it pretty clearly just about an hour or so ago – that he is confident that the same way that we do not negotiate in public we also don’t brief Congress in public, so that when he and his team have had the opportunity to come back and to continue their discussions with Congress that Congress will see the reasoning behind the positions that we’ve taken, including the decision to prolong the negotiations.

QUESTION: I’m not talking so much about briefing in private or in public. I mean, I’m talking about the public provisions of the JPOA --

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: -- which, of course, was published a year ago.

MR. RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: And I just want to make sure that since nothing has changed in that document, that indeed the Administration is still committed to veto – even, I mean, it may not be politically convenient to mention it right now, but you guys have said before that that meant that you were committed to vetoing sanctions if there were any during the period of applicability of the JPOA. I mean, you’re not willing to repeat that now?

MR. RATHKE: No, I’m simply saying that nothing has changed in the JPOA and our position on that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: What is the danger – I mean, members of Congress have made the argument in public many, many times, including last week at deputy – at the confirmation hearing for Tony Blinken to be Deputy Secretary of State that they believe that the pressure engendered by U.S. sanctions, particularly the central bank sanctions, are what got Iran to this point. Why are they wrong that additional pressure would not be a good idea?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: Why is that wrong? Why shouldn’t they pass more sanctions? Why shouldn’t the President not veto them? And why shouldn’t – why doesn’t that send you to into the negotiating room over the next seven months with a stronger hand?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the Secretary, when he was in the Senate, played a central role in putting into place the sanctions regime that exists now and that – as I discussed with Lara – that has been essential to bringing Iran to the negotiating table. Now the factors that went into the JPOA that you outlined, those remain the case. We are committed to the negotiating process not for negotiation’s sake but because we believe progress is being made. And that’s why we have on the one hand the four-month deadline for a political agreement and then three months after that to do the technical work. The Secretary outlined all that in detail. And our reasoning about the efficacy of additional sanctions during that period also remains the same as it has been throughout the period when the JPOA has been in effect.

QUESTION: And what is that? That the Iranians won’t want to talk to you if you – if additional sanctions – I mean, what is – why isn’t more pressure useful?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think it’s important to remember that the pressure that has been brought to bear thus far has gotten us a JPOA which has made the world safer both with respect to the 20 percent enriched uranium and access and inspections and a whole host of other factors. So we continue to believe that keeping the JPOA in effect during this additional period serves the security interests of the United States and our negotiating partners and our partners and allies in the region and indeed the whole world.

QUESTION: I still – I still don’t feel like there’s a clear answer --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- to what was originally Lara’s point and is now the question that I’m asking, which is you are being criticized by some members of Congress. There are people already out there making the case for additional sanctions. And I don’t feel like you’ve properly or fully or directly addressed the question of: Why isn’t additional pressure useful? I mean, there are potential answers. One answer would be, well, we committed that we wouldn’t under the JPOA a year ago and we have to keep to our commitment. Another might be, well, we think that the Iranians won’t negotiate with us if they feel that we’ve broken a commitment. Or I mean, there are potential answers, but I don’t feel like I understand what is your point of view on why you shouldn’t pressure them more.

MR. RATHKE: Well, with respect I’ll say it again, but the JPOA envisions those steps by both sides which – one of which was the – not imposing additional sanctions. And we have agreed to extend the JPOA throughout the additional period of negotiation. So I think that’s --

QUESTION: You need to keep your word.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think that’s an essential part of the negotiation, the same way that we expect Iran to keep its word with respect to all of the requirements of the JPOA, on which the Secretary spoke at length.

Elliot.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. Could I ask you to address why in this extension there was like a two-step process laid out with the political agreement reached by end of March and the whole comprehensive agreement with the I’s dotted and T’s crossed reached by the end of July? Why was that approach taken this time?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think as you heard the Secretary describe it, we have made progress, we believe, and narrowed some gaps, while, of course, important significant gaps remain. And it was our judgment that four months is sufficient time to achieve political agreement, and that’s why there was a decision to extend the talks for that period. As the Secretary also said, if after four months there’s no progress and no clear path to a comprehensive agreement, then we’ll revisit how to proceed.

QUESTION: I guess I’m not clear why you’re now separating the political agreement and the comprehensive agreement, whereas previously that didn’t take place. Was it – is it some kind of lesson learned that you took away from previous negotiating rounds that led you to this approach?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t want to draw that conclusion, but I think the Secretary was pretty clear in saying that we will – if we see a path to a final comprehensive agreement, then that will be clear and that there would then be some technical work that would be required to outline all the specific details. But that the – in four months we’ll look at what progress we’ve made, and if the way isn’t clear then we would revisit.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that those – that four months is meant to put a little bit more pressure on the negotiators to try to get them to reach an agreement a little bit sooner than the whole time period?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would say that we’ve always – that the negotiators have been meeting at technical, at political directors, and at times at ministerial level throughout the period since the JPOA was originally concluded, and we expect that to continue. Certainly, the Secretary – you heard him say that we expect the next meetings to happen in December. And so we intend to keep up the pace – the pace of work and to keep working toward an agreement.

Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: And who decided on the time – like seven months, four months, and three months?

MR. RATHKE: Well, that was an agreement of the – of all the parties to the negotiation.

QUESTION: Didn’t Iran push for that – the lengthy period of time? Tried to buy time?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the agreement on the extension was mutually agreed among all the participants in the negotiation.

QUESTION: Is this the final extension?

MR. RATHKE: Well, this is an extension. I’m not going to get into characterizing it. The Secretary described why we thought an extension now was in the interests of the United States and our negotiating partners in the P5+1. I would leave it at that.

QUESTION: Doesn’t the original JPOA only allow for two extensions though, or did they – or did I not read that right?

MR. RATHKE: I’d have to check the text. I don’t have it.

QUESTION: To be extended by mutual consent.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: What about the March deadline for the political agreement? Is that open to an extension, that specific part?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the Secretary was pretty clear, I think, in saying that we – if we aren’t able to reach political agreement in four months then we’ll revisit, but that’s the time that they fixed for reaching that understanding.

All right. Anything --

QUESTION: Not on Iran.

MR. RATHKE: No? Okay. New topic?

QUESTION: I just have --

MR. RATHKE: Or same topic?

QUESTION: -- one more question.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. Please, Abigail.

QUESTION: Was the extension something that was agreed to earlier in the weekend? Was that conclusion arrived at or was it a last-minute decision to --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to characterize the ebb and flow of negotiations inside the room. I think we have been pushing for a comprehensive agreement as long as possible and because we thought that was in our best interest and in our partner’s best interest. But it turned out gaps remained, and so this was the arrangement arrived at. I’m not going to put a specific timeline though on when that was reached.

Same topic, Ilhan?

QUESTION: Turkey/Syria.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Vice President Biden’s visit concluded yesterday. Is there any way you can tell us what has issued during the visit?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think, of course, for the Vice President’s meetings and the particulars, you should start with the White House and his staff. I would give them the opportunity to comment. But clearly, the Vice President’s visit was an opportunity to – again, to compare notes and to talk about the many ways in which we and Turkey are helping to address the conflict in Syria. Turkey is a key partner for all the reasons that we’ve discussed in recent days, both on the humanitarian side, on the humanitarian corridors, on foreign terrorist fighters, on financial flows, and indeed through the hosting of the train and equip program. But for any additional characterization of the Secretary – of the Vice President’s, sorry – of the Vice President’s conversations with President Erdogan, I’d refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: Is there any way you can confirm that this train and equip program is indeed finalized, and the terrain or camp of these 2,000 fighters – Syrian opposition fighters location is also now clear (inaudible) --

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s a DOD-led program, as I think we’ve said a number of times in recent days. So for details about those kinds of particulars, I’d refer you to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Is there any way you can tell us whether the no-fly zone – how the no-fly zone and buffer zone discussions --

MR. RATHKE: Again, for specifics of the Vice President’s discussions with President Erdogan, I’d refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: Were you just asked about the reports about Turkey to train 2,000 Syrian opposition forces in a particular town that --

MR. RATHKE: I think that’s what Ilhan was --

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sorry. Yeah, yeah.

MR. RATHKE: -- referring to, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So you can’t confirm that?

MR. RATHKE: Again, Pentagon-led program. They will --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: -- have the details about those kinds of particulars.

Yes.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. reaction to Israel’s nationality law approved by the government?

MR. RATHKE: Well, this is the beginning of a process, and so I don’t want to speculate on the outcome. It would be our general view, though, that we would expect any final legislation to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.

QUESTION: That means that every person should have a vote, not just Jewish people?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the United States position, which is unchanged, has been clear for years – and the President and the Secretary have also reiterated it – is that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state in which all citizens should enjoy equal rights.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re not sort of – when you – I mean, you’re saying it should – and I’m sorry, I forget the verb now, but you stressed the importance of any final outcome on the legislation being one which strengthens or is in line with --

MR. RATHKE: Or continues.

QUESTION: Continues the --

MR. RATHKE: “Continues” was the verb, if that’s --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- democratic principles. That means you’re worried that it won’t continue democratic principles, and it suggests that you’re worried that Israeli Arabs may be disenfranchised. Is that your concern here?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would say also that this is a process that is underway. It is not final. And naturally, it has aroused quite a bit of interest, so I think it’s not strange that we would be expected – that we would be asked and that we would offer our view.

QUESTION: And is it fair, then, to say that your concern is that it will not continue – that it’s possible it won’t continue democratic principles?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speculate about the shape and final outcome of the legislation, but simply to point out that we would expect it to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.

Something on the same topic? Same topic? No? Okay, you first.

QUESTION: Thank you. On Cuba, the Spanish foreign minister arrived last night in Cuba and – which has – officially, it has been labeled from Spain with very concrete messages from the U.S. Government to Havana. And this also – all comes ahead of – days ahead of Alan Gross’s fifth anniversary of imprisonment and also amidst the talks about the Summit of the Americas. I was wondering if you can confirm that there’s been any kind of messaging or talks that Spain might deliver a message from the U.S. to the Cuban authorities.

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry. What sort of a message are you referring to?

QUESTION: If – Spain is saying that he comes with very concrete messages from the U.S. to the Cuban authorities.

MR. RATHKE: And this was said by whom?

QUESTION: The official source is from the Spanish foreign ministry.

MR. RATHKE: No, I have nothing to confirm about that.

A new topic? Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: This is a follow-up, actually, from a question on Friday concerning the GAO report that came out earlier this month on human trafficking.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: The report indicated that there is still the potential for trafficking in persons on State Department contractors involved – contracts involving foreign workers, in some cases in high-risk environments. What – first of all, what concrete steps is State taking to address these concerns?

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Well, yes, the GAO did release a report last week which discussed agency oversight of contractors that employ foreign workers. The State Department concurs with the GAO’s two recommendations to improve contract oversight: first, to develop a more precise definition of recruitment fees, of permissible components and amounts; and second, to ensure that there are trafficking monitoring plans, a process for auditing efforts, and also enhanced monitoring in any case where a risk of trafficking might be heightened.

But I think it’s also pointed out in the GAO report that the Department of State already forbids charging any recruitment fees to the recruited individual. And I think the GAO report also recognizes that we are providing training on contract monitoring to prevent and mitigate the risk of trafficking in persons. So in short, it’s certainly a situation we take seriously. We welcome the report, and we agree with its recommendations.

QUESTION: Can you go a little bit more into the particulars of what State is doing to address the potential abuse in terms of the recruitment fees, which could, of course, open the way for the possibility of debt bondage?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we, of course, on the one hand provide training to our contracting officials, as well as we’ve implemented – there are new federal acquisition regulations, which implement the relevant executive order on this, which is 13627, if you want the number. And these will be published soon and they will prohibit charging employees recruiting fees on a government-wide basis.

Lara, yes.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MR. RATHKE: Please.

QUESTION: There are reports out today that there was a Yemini national working at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a who provided visas to 50 other people to go travel to the United States to visit some bogus oil thing – an industry conference in Texas, apparently. Do you have any comment on that? And apparently, only the one person has been tracked down in Brooklyn, according to court-sealed – or court documents that had been unsealed in Brooklyn.

Do you know anything about the whereabouts of the other 49 people who were given visas or who obtained visas illegally and what their interest was in coming to the United States, if it wasn’t for this oil conference?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re aware of the – of these reports, and we are looking into this matter with the appropriate authorities. Of course, we take any allegation of visa fraud seriously. Ensuring the integrity of the visa process is really essential. We have, of course, extensive programs to combat visa fraud and investigate any allegations. I don’t have further comment, though, on current cases. We don’t comment on ongoing investigations.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, the court documents have already been unsealed in Brooklyn, like I said. I’m just wondering, is there any cause for alarm here in terms of security breaches or mishaps of – since we don’t know or it’s not clear, at least, where these other people are?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are working closely with our law enforcement partners, as we always do, to investigate all allegations of visa fraud. But I don’t have anything further to report.

QUESTION: Okay. But aside from visa fraud, is there any reason to believe that these people are dangerous to the United States?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we are working with our law enforcement colleagues. I don’t have any further information to share publicly. And – but naturally, we take these cases seriously.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know why or how this worker in Sana’a was able to obtain these visas and issue them illegally?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to be able to comment on an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION: There was a report last week out of IHS in London that new satellite imagery shows that China is constructing basically a new island in the Spratly Islands that would eventually be capable of hosting an airstrip and a harbor. Do you have confirmation or any comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would go back to the Declaration of Conduct, which goes back to 2002. Under Article 5 of the Declaration of Conduct among China and the members of ASEAN, the parties committed themselves to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. Large-scale construction or major steps to militarize or expand law enforcement operations at outposts, such as dramatically expanding the size of a feature through land reclamation, would seem to complicate or escalate the situation in our view. So we believe that an announcement by the claimants that they would avoid certain actions during the negotiating process for the code of conduct would create a conducive and positive environment and dramatically lower the risk of a dangerous incident.

QUESTION: But clearly in this case, they’re proceeding in – not in that direction. I mean, their foreign ministry has already said that the project is intended for humanitarian and public service reasons, and that essentially that they have – they’re within their full rights to build it.

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: “Indisputable sovereignty” is what the spokeswoman said.

MR. RATHKE: -- the Chinese Government can speak for themselves, but we would urge China, as well as all of the claimants in the South China Sea, to be transparent about their activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

So yes, you had a question earlier.

QUESTION: Yeah, it was about China as well. So do you have any comments to – a comment on the claims of a Chinese general that China’s the only one that doesn’t have an airstrip in this region? I mean, balance seems like it would help prevent conflict, right?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I would go back to the declaration of conduct, which has been in effect for about 12 years and which China and all of the ASEAN countries committed to, and in which the parties committed themselves to self-restraint. So I think this is also something that the President spoke to in his press availability with President Xi on his recent visit to Beijing. While the United States does not take a position on competing claims in the East and South China Seas, it’s clear that we have a fundamental – we, the United States – have a fundamental interest in freedom of navigation and that the territorial disputes in the region should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law.

New topic?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Would there be any way that China could demonstrate that its construction is purely humanitarian, or is any construction escalatory?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to issue a blanket statement of that sort. But again, the declaration of conduct is pretty clear in our view. And, of course, there is an ongoing process to negotiate a code of conduct between China and the ASEAN countries, and it’s the United States point of view that avoiding certain actions during the negotiating process would create a conducive and positive environment.

Pam.

QUESTION: Armenia. OSCE monitors have still been unable to visit the site of the Armenian helicopter that was shot down by Azerbaijani forces earlier this month. Is the U.S. doing anything to try to get the monitors in?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are of course following the operation to recover the bodies of three crew members killed in the November 12th downing of a military helicopter along the line of contact. This incident and the subsequent violence underscores once again the need to find a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and we urge all sides to show restraint and avoid actions that would increase tensions along the line of contact. And we also urge the sides to refocus their efforts to negotiate a peaceful and lasting settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the United States remains ready to assist.

Now, as far as the OSCE, we do understand that an OSCE representative may have been refused access to the site. We would refer you to them for further details, but clearly, we see a need to find a peaceful resolution in Nagorno-Karabakh.

New topic? Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 21, 2014

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 16:38

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 21, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

12:54 p.m. EST

MR. RATHKE: Good afternoon. So I have three items to mention at the top and then we’ll get started.

First, with respect to the travel of the Secretary: Since arriving in Vienna last night, Secretary Kerry has had a variety of meetings and consultations with Baroness Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, French Foreign Minister Fabius, UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, and German Political Director Lucas. Those meetings are still ongoing. He continues to stay in close touch with his interagency colleagues in Washington. The situation on the ground remains fluid, so any updates to the itinerary will come from the Secretary’s team on the ground.

Second item: The United States is deeply disappointed that Chinese authorities upheld the separatism conviction and life sentence for prominent Uighur professor Ilham Tohti in a closed jailhouse hearing today. His detention silenced an important Uighur voice that peacefully promoted understanding among China’s ethnic groups. We will continue to call for Chinese authorities to release professor Tohti.

The United States is also deeply concerned about reports that veteran journalist Gao Yu is being tried on a charge of leaking state secrets to a foreign news outlet. The United States remains concerned by the ongoing detention and prosecution of public interest lawyers, journalists, bloggers, religious leaders, and others who challenge official Chinese policies and actions. We urge Chinese authorities to differentiate between peaceful dissent and violent extremism. And we continue to call on Chinese authorities to release all persons detained for peacefully expressing their views, to remove restrictions on their freedom of movement, and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

And the last item: I would like to welcome a group of young Palestinian journalists to the daily briefing in the back. They are here today as part of an UNRWA-sponsored program which brings young people to the United States to learn how journalists here engage on foreign policy and interact with the State Department, of which you all are a model.

So please, Lara, why don’t you lead off.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Nice job.

QUESTION: Thanks. Let’s start with Iran if we could.

MR. RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: The last update we got from Vienna was that Secretary Kerry was planning on traveling back to Paris tonight. Is that still the case?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, I don’t have any update to his travel schedule.

QUESTION: Okay, but he’s meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif and Baroness Ashton right now. Is that right?

MR. RATHKE: Well, he’s had a variety of meetings. I can’t tell you with certainty exactly whom he’s sitting down with now. It’s been, as I said, a very fluid situation with a number of meetings in bilateral, in multilateral settings. But those meetings continue as we speak.

QUESTION: Right. And so it’s getting kind of late in Vienna, hence the question about what his travel plans are. I mean, the point, I suppose, of this is that since it’s so fluid and since it’s been going back and forth and some of these meetings seem like they have arisen at last-minute notice, what does that suggest in terms of the prospect of a deal and the state of the negotiations right now?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I wouldn’t draw a particular conclusion from it. This is a fluid situation and we’re staying flexible in terms of the logistics and travel arrangements as to what is needed on the ground. The United States intends to keep working hard to resolve the differences and to do everything in our power to try to get across the finish line. But with respect to the fact that meetings are continuing intensively, I think that shouldn’t be a surprise given that we’re nearing the November 24th deadline.

QUESTION: And does Secretary Kerry plan on staying in the region through the deadline, I mean until the 24th?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I don’t have anything to update as far as his travel plans. I have no changes to announce.

QUESTION: Why – can I ask something directly on the travel? Why is it that – I mean, if – I don’t understand why it might be necessary for him to leave and then come back. I mean, if his presence there is of utility, why doesn’t he just stay there and hang out at a hotel or do whatever and step in as necessary? And if his presence isn’t necessary, why doesn’t he just come back to Washington? I don’t fully understand the need to hop to a new European city every couple of days here.

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, his travel schedule is driven by how he sees his time best used, and he’s had a variety of consultations this week in advance of arriving in Vienna. He’s there now. I don’t have further announcements to make, but clearly he remains in close touch with his counterparts both within the P5+1 as well as internationally, and with the team in Washington.

QUESTION: Are all other members of the team, notably Acting Deputy Secretary Sherman, former Deputy Secretary Burns, former National Security Council official Jake Sullivan – are all of them staying?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I don’t have anything to announce about their travel. They’re in Vienna now. I don’t have any announcements to make about that.

QUESTION: And can you offer any characterization beyond what you already have on the nature of the talks given that you are now three days to the deadline?

MR. RATHKE: Well, given where we are in the negotiations, I’m not going to give readouts of those meetings.

QUESTION: Earlier this week, you told us that – you said, “We’re not talking about an extension.” Are – I think that was on Wednesday.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you now talking about an extension given how close to the deadline you are?

MR. RATHKE: The situation on that hasn’t changed either. We’re focused on the 24th of November. That’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: And the statement, “We are not talking about an extension,” is still true?

MR. RATHKE: Right. We’re not talking about an extension with the Iranians. We’re not focused on that.

QUESTION: What are you talking --

QUESTION: Are you talking to your own partners about it?

MR. RATHKE: It’s not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on the 24th.

QUESTION: But can you make the same statement with regard to the Iranians with – about your five other negotiating partners, that, “We are not talking about an extension”?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I don’t have readouts of the meetings that are ongoing as we speak. What I’ve said is that we are focused on the 24th. We’re not focused on an extension.

QUESTION: Would you dissuade us from concluding from your series of answers to these questions that you are, in fact, discussing the possibility of an extension with the other five, just not with Iran?

MR. RATHKE: Again, the meetings are ongoing on the ground. I am not going to persuade you or dissuade you beyond what I’ve said. Again, it’s a fluid situation.

QUESTION: Is it conceivable to you that you could – and I’m not talking about a formal extension to some significant – to some date in the future. Is it conceivable to you that, as was the case a year ago, that you might – that the negotiations might slide an extra few hours or 12 hours or day or two days? I mean, is it conceivable to you without a formal extension that you guys could – that all the parties could just keep talking through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, maybe even Thursday?

MR. RATHKE: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on a hypothetical, but I’m not going to. We’re focused on the 24th. That’s where our energies are directed.

QUESTION: I don’t think technically it’s a hypothetical. I asked if something was conceivable to you.

MR. RATHKE: Again, we’re focused on November 24th.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on this topic? No? Please, Elise.

QUESTION: I’d like to return to the case of Taqi Maidan. You said yesterday – was it yesterday --

QUESTION: Or Wednesday.

QUESTION: -- Wednesday, sorry – that you were aware of the recent report published by the Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and you said you share many of the concerns related to his detention and you take its work very seriously.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Could you say what areas of that report that you share their concerns about?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to get into a further characterization of the content of the report. But I will say --

QUESTION: Well, I can – I mean, there are reports that the detention was arbitrary. There are reports that – about his alleged abuse in prison. There are allegations that the confession was forced. I mean, which of the confessions – which of the allegations in the report do you share the concerns of, or just the general nature that his detention has been arbitrary and that he should be released?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, this is a case that we’ve taken very seriously. We’ve raised this at the highest levels of the Government of Bahrain. And we continue; we remain in contact with them about it. And our concerns relate to Mr. Al-Maidan’s safety and welfare, his treatment in prison – including his medical and nutritional needs – and the Bahraini court system’s judicial proceedings.

QUESTION: When you say “the Bahraini court system’s judicial proceedings,” are you suggesting that you feel that he did not get due process and didn’t receive a fair trial?

MR. RATHKE: Well, first I would also note in that respect that Mr. Al-Maidan’s attorney has informed us that they plan to appeal the verdict. Of course, we’d refer you to them for any additional information on those steps on their part. But in our discussions with the Government of Bahrain about this case, we continue to emphasize the importance of Bahrain’s commitment to fair trial guarantees required by international law.

QUESTION: When you say that, that would indicate that you feel that the initial trial was not fair.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would say, again, that we continue to raise our concerns with the Government of Bahrain about a fair trial.

QUESTION: Is there – do you – are you concerned that there’s evidence to support the claim that the confession for what he was actually convicted of, which is – I think there’s a recognition that he was caught up in the protest, so maybe that would be unlawful assembly, but intent to kill police, destruction of police vehicles, and possession of Molotov cocktails, that that was all a forced confession? Because he says he just threw rocks. Is there evidence to support all of these other claims?

MR. RATHKE: Well, with respect to the evidence, I would refer you to Bahraini authorities. I would --

QUESTION: Are you concerned that there was a forced confession, I guess is my --

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we’ve – I’ve discussed that we have raised our concerns at high levels of the Government of Bahrain regarding his safety and welfare and his treatment in prison, including medical and nutritional needs. I’m not going to specify that further.

QUESTION: Were there --

MR. RATHKE: If I could also, though, mention, because we’ve – we have visited Mr. Al-Maidan several times. We are in regular contact with him and with his family. So since his detention, we visited him five times, most recently --

QUESTION: In two years?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, five times. The most recent was September 30th, 2014. And in addition to that, staff from our Embassy in Bahrain have attended six separate court hearings that concerned Mr. Al-Maidan’s case.

QUESTION: Is that common that in two – like, that in two years, your basic – that a year, when there’s an American citizen in detention on cases that you have a concern about, is kind of two and a half times a year really a sufficient, do you think, amount of time to visit someone in jail --

MR. RATHKE: Well, we --

QUESTION: -- when you have – when you do have concerns and claims of abuse in prison?

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, I don’t have further details to share about the general approach of the Government of Bahrain in terms of access to prisoners, but certainly, we always seek regular access to Americans who are imprisoned overseas.

QUESTION: Okay. And just one more on this: You said that – you mentioned the appeal.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding that it’s not guaranteed that the Bahrainis will accept another appeal. I think that this is, like, their one last chance of recourse for a possible appeal, and it’s not guaranteed that the government accepts it. Are you urging the government to allow the case to go forward for appeal?

MR. RATHKE: Well, if my understanding is correct, there is a plan to appeal. I don’t believe that that appeal has actually been filed yet, so it would be premature to say how that will go. But I would revert to the statement I made at the start, which is we remain in contact with the Bahraini Government, including at the highest levels, and we continue to consult with Bahraini officials on this case.

QUESTION: Without getting into the kind of specific question – diplomatic discussions, if there was – this was just a case of an American who broke the law, I don’t think you would be raising this case with the Bahrainis at the highest levels of the government. So why is this case being raised with Bahrainis at the highest level of government? Is it about your concern about lack of due process? Is it concern about the potential abuse in prison? Is it all of it? Do you think that this was a disproportionate sentence for --

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we have a variety of concerns which I’ve listed, and as a result of those --

QUESTION: But the highest levels of the government would indicate that you feel that something needs to be done about – do you think he should be released?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we have a number of concerns about his treatment and about the judicial proceedings, which is why we continue to raise this. We take it seriously, which is why it’s been a topic of discussion at the highest levels.

QUESTION: And you’ll continue to raise it at the highest levels?

MR. RATHKE: Well, yes, we continue to consult with government officials.

QUESTION: And Jeff?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On this – actually, just quickly, in this time that you’ve been consulting with the government and raising these concerns at the highest levels, has the State Department or the Embassy there or the U.S. Government as a whole seen any indication whatsoever in that time that the government has acknowledged these concerns and is willing to address them?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we take seriously any allegation of abuse, mistreatment, or torture, and that’s why we’ve raised our concerns about the conditions of his custody. We understand that in response to our concerns, he has been given appropriate medical access and treatment. So I would highlight that. But again, this is a matter of ongoing concern. I would not want to suggest that that is the – that that would suggest an endpoint to our concern.

QUESTION: When was that? Do you happen to know?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have specific details to share on that.

QUESTION: Just one more: Are you also raising the kind of length of the sentence? Because my understanding is that when the government – or the court, rather, handed down the 10-year sentence, the consular officer, who I won’t name, expressed shock to the – to Mr. Maidan about the sentence and said that she thought it was a disproportionate sentence.

MR. RATHKE: I don’t – I simply don’t have the basis to make a judgment about that. I lack the information to compare.

QUESTION: And just one other question: If you could clear up why, the last two years, you’ve been saying that you don’t have a Privacy Act waiver? I understand now that one has come to light, you’re talking out about the case and that’s great, but it’s my understanding that the family signed a Privacy Act waiver some time ago.

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry, but you’re suggesting --

QUESTION: I’m suggesting that for the last two years you haven’t talked about the case, claiming a Privacy Act waiver.

MR. RATHKE: I’m not aware – but perhaps I’m simply not familiar – I’m not aware that it’s been raised in the briefing over the last couple of years.

QUESTION: This is not the first time the case has been raised.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Well, that’s – I don’t – I’m not aware. Again, I think there may have been a mistake in locating the Privacy Act waiver, but clearly we’ve had a lengthy discussion.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. RATHKE: We’re – we’ve got the authorization to speak about it and therefore we’re doing so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Anything on this topic? Okay, we can move on. Elliot.

QUESTION: Yeah, can I go to Ukraine?

MR. RATHKE: Please.

QUESTION: I know the Vice President already spoke to this, but do you have any reaction to the new Ukrainian legislative coalition being agreed to?

MR. RATHKE: Right. We welcome today’s signing of an agreement among all five participating political parties in Ukraine to form a coalition government. This is an important and transparent step in the formation of a new government as a result of last month’s parliamentary elections. And we will continue to support the Government of Ukraine in its efforts to build a more prosperous, unified, and democratic society. Of course, the Vice President is there and he’s – his presence certainly underscores that at the highest levels.

QUESTION: And then the coalition has also laid out its major sort of policy and political goals, including – and that includes aiming to join NATO and returning Crimea to Ukrainian control. Does the U.S. support this agenda?

MR. RATHKE: Well, first of all, nobody aside from Russia recognizes the illegal occupation and attempt to annex Crimea. So that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I would also say that the people of Ukraine and in – through their commitment to democratic values and principles and the elections have supported politicians who are focused on reform in a wide variety of areas. So reform, anticorruption, and those sorts of issues are extremely important to them, and we think that emphasis is important.

Now, with respect to their security policy and their calls for ties with NATO, our policy is that the door remains open, and the countries that are willing to contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic alliance, in the Euro-Atlantic space are welcome to apply for membership. Each application is considered on its merits. Ultimately, that’s a Ukrainian decision to make.

QUESTION: Russians have already said that they would need a 100 percent guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO. Given that statement, do you think that this is a positive step toward reconciling with Russia, or do you see it as something that could possibly make tensions even worse?

MR. RATHKE: Which step do you mean?

QUESTION: The step of moving toward joining NATO.

MR. RATHKE: I thought you might have meant the Russian call for veto over Ukraine’s own sovereign decisions.

QUESTION: Well – (laughter) --

MR. RATHKE: Anyway, the United States remains committed to NATO’s open door policy and to previous decisions by the alliance. Again, Ukrainians have the right to make their own decisions about what policies they want to pursue. That’s really their responsibility.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, I’ve got --

MR. RATHKE: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Just given the amount of – the number of deaths in Eastern Ukraine in the last several months, does the United States still recognize or believe that a ceasefire is in place?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the – unfortunately, the root of the problem in eastern Ukraine remains the same: Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and its support to separatists who are fighting against Ukrainian authorities. Time and again, Russia has made commitments, has failed to live up to them, and then later offered explanations that it knows and the rest of us know are untrue.

So we think that the ceasefire needs to be observed and that Russia and the separatists need to abide by the Minsk agreements, and that’s essential for a peaceful way forward.

QUESTION: But you just laid out a very good argument for why the ceasefire is really no longer in place, given all of the movements.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to draw that conclusion. We think that this – of course, there is activity of concern, and that’s why we call on Russia and the separatists to abide by their commitments in the Minsk protocols. And that’s essential. There are – the Ukrainian authorities have done what’s been expected of them under the Minsk agreements. That hasn’t been reciprocated.

QUESTION: So would there be any kind of policy adjustment by the United States if the ceasefire were to be called off?

MR. RATHKE: That’s – I’d put that in the hypothetical category.

QUESTION: Probably, but I mean, it’s – goes back to the question of why not just call it as it is. I mean, there is violence happening on both sides. Whether one is instigated and one is in defense – I mean, there’s – it’s undeniable that both sides have suffered attacks and losses.

MR. RATHKE: Well, the loss of life in eastern Ukraine is truly regrettable, all the more so because it didn’t have to happen. It doesn’t – and it doesn’t need to continue. Our policy --

QUESTION: And it wouldn’t have happened if the ceasefire was really in place.

MR. RATHKE: Well, our policy hasn’t changed. We’ve stated that we will increase the costs to Russia if it doesn’t take steps to – on its own and through the proxy separatists to abide by the Minsk agreements.

QUESTION: And on that, do you think that the response to Russia or to the separatists – would that – is the United States still willing to take unilateral action against Russia and the separatists, or would that be only in conjunction with the EU partners?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve had broad agreement with our European partners. Of course, those kinds of steps are always better if taken in harmony and in concert, and that’s our preference and that’s where we remain. And we remain on the same page, so --

QUESTION: So you’d be unwilling to take unilateral steps.

MR. RATHKE: No, I didn’t say that. I --

QUESTION: Would you be willing to take unilateral steps?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re not in a situation where we need to contemplate that, because we have a broad understanding and a similar point of view with our European partners with respect to the steps Russia needs to take and the ways in which the costs to Russia should increase if they fail to abide by the agreements.

Yes.

QUESTION: Not only have they not abided by the agreements, but by the assessments of senior NATO officials and senior U.S. government officials, they have blatantly violated them. I mean, Deputy Secretary Blinken – Deputy Secretary-designate or nominee Blinken said that you have very strong evidence that they have sent troops and materiel into eastern Ukraine. Why haven’t you already, given the harmony with the Europeans – why haven’t you already broadened the scope of the sanctions, given that Russia is not merely not abiding by but is just – in your telling, is flagrantly violating the agreement?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we have continued systematically, in conjunction with our European partners, to increase those – increase the costs to Russia. We remain in contact with the European partners and continue discussions to that end. I don’t have further description to offer.

QUESTION: Are there any kind of discussions ongoing, either just in Washington or with our – the United States European partners as to how long Russia can continue to violate these terms before there is action taken?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would dispute the notion that no action has been taken. I think we’ve just been talking about --

QUESTION: Before additional action is taken.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to put a specific timeframe or deadline on it. This is a matter that we remain actively discussing with our European and international partners.

QUESTION: Sure, but it’s ongoing, as you’ve said.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: So at some point --

MR. RATHKE: Well, it was just about a week, week and a half ago that the European Union took certain measures. They – at the end of a European Foreign Affairs Council meeting. So again, there is a continuing ratcheting of the pressure and raising of the costs. And until Russia and the separatists change course, that’s going to continue.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. RATHKE: Anything on this topic, or --

QUESTION: Yeah, still on this topic.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Just on the issue of Crimea, I understand what you said before about nobody recognizing the Russian annexation, but this is – I mean, what they’re calling for as a top-priority policy goal is a little different. It’s actually restoration of Ukrainian control over Crimea, which, in the absence of any kind of Russian action to relinquish Crimea, would presumably require some kind of military action into Crimea. But is that – like, to what extent is the U.S. prepared to support something like that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, in the first instance, I’d ask you to ask the Ukrainian authorities how to interpret the statement in the program that was concluded by the five political parties.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: I’m not certain that it necessarily means what you said it implies. We, the United States, have – we believe and we continue to believe that there’s no military resolution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine or, indeed, in Crimea. Our focus from the outset of the crisis has been on supporting Ukraine and pursuing a diplomatic solution.

QUESTION: So what – let me ask you this then: What steps is the U.S. prepared to take in order to assist in that goal of returning Crimea to Ukrainian control?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything – any further details to outline now. We don’t recognize the illegal incorporation of Crimea into Russia, but I don’t have any further steps, other than what we’ve already discussed in this briefing room before.

Yes, just – Pam, on the same topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RATHKE: Please.

QUESTION: Are there any new developments on the diplomatic front in talks in terms of whether or not the U.S. should move toward providing Ukraine with lethal aid?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think you will have seen the fact sheet released by the White House today, which outlines more than $23 million in new assistance to help support comprehensive reform in the Ukrainian law enforcement and justice sectors, and also to support the UN World Food Program’s humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The fact sheet is quite detailed, and indeed, it outlines the full spectrum of areas where the Ukrainian Government has committed to reform, whether that’s in energy security, in economic reform, and so forth.

And I think with regard to the question of lethal assistance, we spoke to this yesterday, and indeed, Tony Blinken in his hearing in the foreign relations committee spoke to it as well. And I don’t have anything to add beyond our discussion yesterday, that this is something that remains an option. I don’t have an announcement to make though.

QUESTION: Over to Iraq?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. Anything else on Ukraine? Okay, we’ll go to Iraq and then we’ll come to you, Tejinder.

QUESTION: The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Baghdad and Erbil over the past two days. How do you view Turkey’s attempts to mend ties with Baghdad?

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course, we support good relations between Iraq and Turkey. That’s – and indeed, Turkish – the Turkish Government has played a very important role in recent weeks and months in dealing not only with the threat that comes from ISIL in Syria but also ISIL in Iraq. And so we’re, of course, supportive of anything that improves relations between Turkey and Iraq.

QUESTION: And we know that happens at a time when Joe Biden is expected to arrive in Turkey today. I think he arrived, right? Do you think that the two events are related? Is Turkey trying to be a better partner in the anti-ISIS coalition ahead of the visit?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not sure I’d characterize it that way because Turkey has been doing a lot. We talked about this yesterday and the day before. Turkey is – hosts the largest refugee population, people fleeing the fighting in --

QUESTION: That has nothing to do with the coalition. I mean, it’s been hosting a refugee population since the civil war began because refugees been streaming across its border. That is not related to the coalition.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I wasn’t – I hadn’t finished my sentence.

QUESTION: Okay, please.

MR. RATHKE: That’s not all that Turkey has done.

QUESTION: That has nothing to do with the coalition, right?

MR. RATHKE: Well, but we’re not talking about – purely about the coalition. He was talking about Turkey as a partner.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought he was asking about --

QUESTION: As a part of the anti-ISIS coalition.

MR. RATHKE: Fine. Turkey has also taken steps to impede foreign terrorist financing and also the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. And on the humanitarian side, they have contributed and have helped keep humanitarian corridors open. So these are – in addition to that, they have agreed to host part of the train and equip program for the Syrian opposition. So Turkey is doing quite a lot, and we value greatly the Turkish contribution, which I think is one reason why the Vice President is going there. Turkey is a strategic NATO ally and a valuable partner.

QUESTION: Just one more --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- question on Iraq – on Kurdistan specifically. Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce, he introduced a bill yesterday authorizing the President to directly provide advanced conventional arms to the Kurdish Peshmerga. Have you seen that bill? What do you think of the bill?

MR. RATHKE: I think we talked about this yesterday, but I’m happy to --

QUESTION: Well, the bill came out yesterday. I mean, specifically --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m happy to talk about – I haven’t read the bill, and I’m not going to comment directly on the provisions of the bill that is in Congress. But we have enormous respect for the courage that the Kurds have shown and the fight that they’ve already taken to ISIL. And that’s why, in coordination with the Government of Iraq, the United States and the coalition have been very supportive of Iraqi Kurdish forces. Since the crisis began, the United States and members of the coalition have worked with the Iraqi central government to send 46 plane loads of needed equipment to the Kurdish Regional Government, and we continue our support.

QUESTION: Can you conclude that top lawmakers of this country – I mean, they’re at odds with the Administration on a lot of domestic issues, but also on this matter, which is very crucial for U.S. national interest, like fighting ISIS, you are, like, on opposite sides? They want you to work with non-state actors such the Kurds more closely than what you are already (inaudible).

MR. RATHKE: Well, our policy remains as we’ve discussed it over the last few days, and as it has been indeed for months and years, that all arms transfers must be coordinated through the sovereign central government of Iraq. That’s our policy. It’s also a legal requirement under current U.S. law. And we think this is – this policy is the most effective way to support the effort to combat ISIL and to promote our policy of a unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic state as envisioned in the Iraqi constitution.

QUESTION: So one more: You said on Wednesday that the Kurdish delegation was going to meet State Department officials on Thursday, yesterday. Do you think that --

MR. RATHKE: Well, they had a variety of meetings throughout the entire week, but yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any update, any --

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a readout of those meetings. Anything more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I follow up on that?

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, it doesn’t really answer the question of whether the policy that you maintain of supplying arms directly to the central government of Iraq would exist if it wasn’t for the legal requirement that binds you to that. Can you address that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I think I said, our policy is to promote a unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic state, as indeed is outlined in the Iraqi constitution. And so our policy with respect to arms and the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish forces is a natural result of that policy.

QUESTION: So freed from the legal requirement of having to supply arms and equipment to the government in Baghdad, you wouldn’t necessarily shift to directly supplying the Kurds?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not going to get into commenting on a bill that has been introduced, but which hasn’t been passed. So our policy is as I described it for those reasons.

QUESTION: But it has the support of both the chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, so it’s --

MR. RATHKE: I’ll decline the opportunity to comment on who supports or has spoken out in Congress on the bill.

On Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just kind of want to take a step back if I may and --

MR. RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: -- since some things seem to change and some things stay the same, but if you could just remind me, regarding the United States involvement in Iraq and Syria, is it fair still to say that defeating ISIS is still the main effort? I think General Allen said that the other day, that it’s still an “Iraq first” policy, right?

MR. RATHKE: But let me make sure I understand your question correctly. You mean with respect to the fight against ISIL and where our focus is in that regard, or do you mean our policy toward Iraq overall?

QUESTION: Iraq and Syria overall.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. So the – well, I think the – as General Allen has said and as others have said, we’re focused on fighting ISIL in Iraq. We are cooperating with Iraqi authorities to that end, both Kurdish authorities as well as the central government.

QUESTION: And Syria as well.

MR. RATHKE: And at the same time in Syria, so – but the circumstances in both places are quite different, and therefore the approaches need to be different.

QUESTION: Well – okay.

MR. RATHKE: So I don’t have anything to add or change in what General Allen and others have said about this.

QUESTION: Let me just put it this way. I mean, I’m not trying to – I’m honestly trying to understand --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- a larger point here. I’m not trying to back you into a corner.

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: But we do have people saying that what’s happening there is an “Iraq first” policy of defeating ISIS that will also spill over into Syria. At the same time, we have a policy of all of this must be solved politically, which means Assad must go. So I’m just wondering if you can explain the U.S. position on how these two things or where these two things come together, because from the outside, they’re two separate tracks.

MR. RATHKE: Well, but again, are you talking about our policy toward ISIL in Iraq and Syria, or are you talking about our – of course, our position on Assad is well known.

QUESTION: But how does your position --

QUESTION: That is the crux of the problem.

QUESTION: The crux of the problem --

QUESTION: That’s our question too.

QUESTION: The unanswerable question that no one seems to be able to answer, which would make it unanswerable – (laughter) – is that – how does your policy of a political transition in Syria fit into your overall strategy for ISIS?

QUESTION: Or how does the policy for defeating ISIS fit in --

QUESTION: That’s – yes, that’s a better way of putting it. Thank you.

QUESTION: -- with the overall strategy of a political solution that includes removing Assad?

QUESTION: Thank you, yes.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve been clear that our goal --

QUESTION: No, you haven’t been clear. Okay. (Laughter.)

MR. RATHKE: You have, Elise. Let me tell you that. So our goal is helping the Syrian people reach a negotiated political transition that fulfills their aspirations. Now this means a future without Assad or ISIL, and as President Obama has said repeatedly, Assad has lost his legitimacy, and there can’t be a stable and inclusive Syria under his leadership. So we’re taking action against ISIL in Syria because the Assad regime has shown that it can’t and won’t confront terrorist groups effectively.

So remember, of course, as I’m sure you know but it’s worth repeating, that Assad’s own actions have fueled the rise of extremism. And so therefore we are working to support the opposition in Syria. We have been supporting the opposition for years. We’re stepping up that, especially through the train and equip program, and that is to help them defend themselves from Assad but also to defend and fight back against ISIL.

QUESTION: Right, but if Assad’s own actions have fueled extremism, can you really, truly put an end to extremism in Syria without getting rid of Assad?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, our overall goal with respect to Syria is that the Syrian people are able to reach a negotiated political transition that fulfills their aspirations. So – and we’ve also been clear that we don’t see a stable and inclusive Syria under the leadership of Assad.

QUESTION: Are these two separate tracks or are they related?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: Defeat ISIL, unseat Assad, or is it related? I mean --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think it’s been clear that ISIL represents a threat not only in Iraq and Syria, but the neighboring countries in the region see a clear threat from ISIL and that’s where the international effort is focused as a result.

QUESTION: Is it fair to assume that the U.S. priority is defeating Iraq since – I mean, obvious and --

MR. RATHKE: Defeating Iraq? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, defeating ISIL. Sorry, not defeating Iraq, but defeating the Islamic State, given that there has been overt and repeated action by the United States to fight ISIL?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think it’s clear from our actions, as you say, that we’re devoting enormous energies – energy and resources to the fight against ISIL, both supporting Iraqi forces as they do so as well as in Syria.

QUESTION: Let me put it this way: If and when Assad ever leaves, who takes his place under the current environment?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have a prediction or a prescription for that to offer at this point. We believe there needs to be a political solution that embodies the aspirations of all of Syria’s people, but we are unfortunately far from that right now. So I don’t have any further details to offer on (inaudible).

QUESTION: Is it not a concern that elements of ISIL and Khorasan and other extremist groups could step into that vacuum if Assad leaves?

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course we are concerned about Khorasan and ISIL and other extremist groups. That’s indeed why we’ve carried out, I think, over 400 strikes in Syria in recent weeks and months, including most recently just a day or so ago.

QUESTION: Well, but what – I mean, there’s some lip service that’s paid to kind of boosting up the – I mean, train and equip program aside, how are you ever going to get to the day for an Assad-free Syria if your efforts at the – to help not only effect a political transition in Syria, but get the opposition to a place where it can fill a vacuum left by Assad in the event that he leaves? And how is that – is ISIL – are you ever going to truly defeat ISIL and see a political transition if you’re not working with the opposition?

MR. RATHKE: We are. I’m sorry, I --

QUESTION: What are you – do you have in your book, like, recently what has been done to help get the Syrian opposition together? We haven’t heard for months about kind of meetings with the Syrian opposition or any programs that have been done to help the – again, I’m not saying the train and equip program, which is great, but the political opposition. I mean, we haven’t really heard much about that in a very long time.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we remain in close contact with the political opposition, and I think in recent weeks we’ve talked from here about the consultations that Daniel Rubinstein has had. He’s, of course, the envoy who’s most actively engaged on this. So we remain in close contact. We’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars in support of the Syrian opposition, and of course that’s without even speaking about the train and equip program, which is getting underway. So I would dispute the notion that we’ve been inactive.

QUESTION: But for your hundreds of millions of dollars, can you say that the political Syrian opposition is in any more shape to fill a vacuum filled by Assad than it was when you started?

MR. RATHKE: Well, they’re clearly under a --

QUESTION: If he were to go tomorrow, I’m saying.

MR. RATHKE: The political opposition is clearly under pressure both from ISIL and from Assad. That’s why we are committed to supporting them. That’s – I don’t have more to say beyond that.

Anything else on this topic?

QUESTION: Do you have --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- any more details – just to quickly follow up on Elise’s – do you have any more details on the training and equip program in --

MR. RATHKE: Not beyond what we talked about earlier this week.

QUESTION: Which was just that it was maybe happening.

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, it’s a Department of Defense-led program, so I’d refer you to them for details about the specifics – excuse me – of implementation.

QUESTION: Did it start? Did the program start?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense. They’re working with our partners who have agreed to host the elements of the train and equip program. But I’d refer you to them for the details.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you don’t know yourself if the program ever started?

MR. RATHKE: I think they are putting in place all of the arrangements necessary to commence, but again, as far as the details, I’d refer you to them.

Thomas.

QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned the train and equip program for the opposition, but it seems that the train and equip program is to fight ISIL, or to replace Assad?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think we’ve talked about this already a couple of times this week. We are training and equipping appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition through the Department of Defense, and this will help them defend the Syrian people from attacks by ISIL and the Syrian regime, will stabilize areas under opposition control, and empower those trainees also to go on the offensive against ISIL.

QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking this question, because opposition people, most of them are talking about getting rid of Assad and not – they are not just fighting ISIL. And the second thing, which is: Do you believe that Assad and his army, whatever, his security system, are fighting ISIL, or he doesn’t do anything to them?

MR. RATHKE: I think I’ve said already at the start that the reason that you’ve seen the rise of ISIL in Syria is because the Assad regime has shown no interest and no ability to deal with extremist elements and that it’s fueled the fire.

Arshad, did you want to add something on this?

QUESTION: I – no, I wanted to shift to Sudan. So --

MR. RATHKE: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, I – can I just finish the thought?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Why do you think that is? Because he sees that ISIL is going after the opposition and that’s doing his work for him? Or --

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going --

QUESTION: -- is he cooperating with ISIL in any way, do you think?

MR. RATHKE: Well, clearly, the Assad regime has not gone after ISIL in the ways that it could have. I’m not going to speculate about the reasons why they might do that from this podium, though.

So Tejinder, go ahead.

QUESTION: Two. First is that Secretary Biswal is leaving for India day after tomorrow --

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: -- for – and you say internal consultations, bilat meetings. Can you tell us how long she will be in India, how many hours, how many days?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t think I have that level of detail about her schedule. We put out an announcement about her travel, and she’ll be making a trip to a number of places, including India, also to Nepal, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and to Switzerland. And that’s a long trip. It’s going to start November 23rd, go until December 5th.

I don’t have additional detail about her itinerary or her scheduled meetings at each of those stops at this point.

QUESTION: And is it --

QUESTION: Just a follow-up?

QUESTION: -- is it connected with President Obama’s visit to India in January?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to connect it to the President’s trip. Of course, you will have seen that the White House put out an announcement that the President will be traveling to India. But I think this is a – I think Assistant Secretary Biswal’s trip is a long-planned trip for a variety of reasons. Of course, it gives her the opportunity, though, to contribute to developing the agenda for the President’s visit. But that’s led by the White House, naturally.

QUESTION: And how does this building, the people here, look at the trip of Mr. Obama? Like, it came to light through a tweet from Indian prime minister. So was it already – yes, already there was something going on?

MR. RATHKE: I think if you’ve got a question about the President’s travel, this is not the right room in which to be asking it. I’d refer you to the White House for details.

QUESTION: No. I’m talking about the diplomatic part of it. What is the diplomatic --

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course we’re excited that the President’s going to India. We’ve had a great visit by Prime Minister Modi to the United States, and we have a number of areas where we’re cooperating, some of which I outlined I believe yesterday or two days ago, through high-level visits. So we look forward to that continuing.

QUESTION: So do you feel that this was a – will put a final nail in the coffin of the subject of Khobragade and then other visa issues, other – all these issues that have been really souring the relations?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything to add on those. I think we’ve got a vibrant and productive bilateral partnership that we look forward to developing further.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. RATHKE: On that? Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: As I ask other day, so much going on between the two countries as far as trade, economics, and other diplomacy and other relations are concerned. And a number of agreements were signed by the high level officials in Delhi during this – last week visits. And as far as President’s visits are concerned, of course, he was invited by the Prime Minister Modi in – when he visited the White House and also in Burma and at the G20. My question is: Secretary is going to join him on this trip in January 26 when the President will be at the Republic Day of India, guest of honors?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything to announce about the Secretary’s travel at this time, so I simply don’t have anything to add.

QUESTION: And anything on this ongoing agreements signed and ongoing --

MR. RATHKE: I have nothing to add to what we discussed on Wednesday.

Arshad?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: So there is a report that the Sudanese Government has asked UNAMID, the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in western Darfur, to prepare plans to leave, to prepare an exit strategy. That doesn’t mean that they’ve been asked to leave immediately, but they’ve been asked to draw up plans to leave. Do you have any view on that request, particularly in the light of the difficulty that UNAMID had in first gaining access to investigate mass rape allegations, then in getting into the town to investigate them but there being a very heavy Sudanese Government presence when they tried to interview people, and lastly their renewed request to continue investigations in that – into that?

MR. RATHKE: Right. Well, I’m aware of the reports. I became aware of it just before coming out here, so I’m not in a position to verify it or confirm it in any way. But I would refer you and others to the statement that we put out about two weeks ago which still is pertinent, I think, in this regard.

The United States has been deeply concerned by allegations of mass rape by Sudanese military forces in north Darfur. And we took note then of – that the Government of Sudan allowed access to UNAMID to investigate those allegations, but we expressed our regret that the initial access was denied and that access to potential witnesses and victims was only allowed after significant delays and under close observation of Sudanese security officials.

So we urge the Government of Sudan to fulfill its obligation to grant immediate, unhindered, and full access to UNAMID and other UN agencies. That was our position just a week ago, and it remains our point of view now. But I don’t have further reaction yet to those comments.

QUESTION: Okay. A simple question – and I don’t know if you’re in a position to answer it or not.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: But given your belief that UNAMID should be allowed to investigate these allegations, does the U.S. Government believe that it would be bad if UNAMID were to leave at the request of the Sudanese Government before it has had an opportunity to conduct further investigations into the allegations?

MR. RATHKE: Well, UNAMID plays a key role. We think it should be able to carry out its role. That’s – I think that’s clear.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: A General Accounting Office report on human trafficking states that oversight of contractors’ use of foreign workers in high-risk environments needs to be strengthened because without consistent monitoring of contractors’ labor practices, the U.S. Government is unable to send a clear signal to contractors, to sub-contractors, and foreign workers. My question is: What concrete steps is the State Department taking to address concerns raised by the GAO on the potential for abuse of foreign workers, particularly the payment of recruitment fees, which opens the way to debt bondage for those contracted to work with the Department of State in high-risk environments such as Iraq or Afghanistan?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we take human trafficking extremely seriously. Of course, you’re familiar with our annual report on human trafficking throughout the world. And our embassies devote a lot of energy to trying to ascertain and improve the human trafficking situation in all countries where we have embassies.

With respect to that particular report, I have to admit I’m not familiar with its recommendations. I’m happy to talk with folks here who are experts in that area and get back to you with more detail, but I apologize I don’t have more at this time.

Ali?

QUESTION: Can I actually follow up on that?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know if there’s any kind of standard for pay parity or conditions parity for third-country nationals as what – working as subcontractors or contractors in security situations on behalf of the United States Government overseas?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t happen to know that. I’m happy, though, in looking into that question, to see if we have something on that. That sounds like a pretty broad question --

QUESTION: Well, I mean --

MR. RATHKE: -- but happy to see what we can say about that.

QUESTION: -- there should be some kind of standard of living and security situation for these people who are in these high-risk environments --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: -- one would think, so --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, I understand. No, we’re happy to look – I just don’t know that offhand.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Ali?

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about a report today that details some of the reckless driving violations that various foreign diplomats have been cited for over the past few years, and obviously, as the State Department is the de facto DMV for these folks, these questions apply to you guys. This report said that the State Department has dismissed foreign diplomats 45 times in the past two years because of reckless driving – repeated offenses. I just want to ask, first, is there is a threshold for which – that these diplomats would have to meet that they would be dismissed by the State Department? What is the standard there?

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Well, let me start off by saying that it is important to emphasize that the vast majority of foreign diplomats and their family members operate motor vehicles responsibly and in compliance with local traffic laws. However, the Department, as you say – our Office of Foreign Missions – issues driver’s licenses to eligible members of foreign missions, and we maintain driver histories on those individuals. We have a points system that we use and similar to those used by departments of motor vehicles elsewhere. And if an individual accumulates 12 or more points over a 24-month period, then we will suspend driving privileges for three months. And if there is a pattern of bad driving habits or egregious offenses such as driving while intoxicated – just one example – then those drivers would be subject to having their licenses suspended or revoked. So this of course depends on the infractions being reported to the Department so we can keep track of them, but if – in cases of repeat offenses or especially egregious offenses, certainly, we take action.

QUESTION: Sure. And notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of diplomatic officials and their families are responsible drivers, there have been hundreds of cases of reckless driving in the past few years. So I’m just wondering, has there been any efforts by the State Department to issue some sort of general alert or guidelines to these embassies for folks who work here, expressing the importance that while they’re not party to the traffic laws here, that it’s important that they abide by the laws that are in place when that --

MR. RATHKE: Oh, it’s absolutely essential that, irrespective of any individual’s entitlement to diplomatic or consular immunity, that they – that there be consequences when they fail to abide by the laws. And so we of course make all missions aware of this, and we keep them updated. I don’t have further details about specific programs that we do.

QUESTION: Yeah, if you --

QUESTION: Do you have the same standards for your own diplomats overseas?

MR. RATHKE: How do you mean?

QUESTION: I mean, like, if there’s reckless driving, or – do you – the same standards that you provide for diplomats, do you have them for your own?

MR. RATHKE: Well, certainly, we expect all of our diplomats overseas to follow local traffic laws, and --

QUESTION: Because there have been numerous, repeated cases of U.S. diplomats not doing that.

MR. RATHKE: Well, and then – and when appropriate, we take action. I know I’ve had to pay one or two speeding tickets to places where I’ve been posted overseas, and it was understood that if you --

QUESTION: Where and when was that, Jeff? (Laughter.)

MR. RATHKE: We’ll talk about that afterwards.

So certainly, we hold our people to that standard too.

QUESTION: I just --

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. I just have a couple more questions on this line --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- then I’ll stop.

I wanted to ask specifically about Saudi Arabia, which, according to this report, has more than four times the number of reckless driving citations than any other foreign country. And I’m just wondering: Have any – has there been any communication between the State Department and the Saudi Embassy specifically on what seems to be a specifically high number of reckless driving incidents that have been happening there?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything on that. I’d – I’m happy to look and see if there’s more to say.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And two more --

MR. RATHKE: I simply don’t know.

QUESTION: -- really quick. The reporter who FOIA-ed the document said that she didn’t receive all of them because some were listed under an exemption for foreign relations, which is typically something that’s used for national security concerns. And I’m just wondering what national security concern does the State Department believe applies to the reckless driving records of foreign diplomats.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we have responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act, and I’m aware that there were some issues highlighted in that story. We’re actively reviewing those issues. So I don’t have further comment beyond that.

QUESTION: And one of the efforts to impose more transparency on the whole process has been some people suggesting that it might be advisable to kind of name and shame those who have repeatedly violated these laws, but may not fall under the 12-point – they might not be at that threshold yet. What’s the State Department’s position on listing --

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to pin down specific measures, but certainly we take this seriously and we continue to keep it under advisement.

Time for just one more. Michelle.

QUESTION: The UN Security Council added two branches of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya to its al-Qaida sanctions list. Do you agree with the UN’s report linking the groups to al-Qaida?

MR. RATHKE: So there – you are – you highlighted the decision by the UN Sanctions Committee. We certainly welcome the designation of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, and Ansar al-Sharia in Derna as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council. The Department of State in January of this year, we announced our designations of both organizations as separate foreign terrorist organizations. So this brings the international view on these two organizations in line with the view that the United States had expressed before.

Now, the – it is not the U.S. Government’s assessment that these groups are affiliates of core al-Qaida under Ayman al-Zawahiri, and therefore we don’t recognize them as affiliates of core al-Qaida, but that doesn’t diminish in any way how – our grave concern about both these organizations and their activities.

QUESTION: So you’re not linking them to al-Qaida --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think the document that the UN Security Council has release, it does not connect – it – that these groups are associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, but they are not arms of core al-Qaida, if you look at the report. So certainly we take these groups seriously, and that’s why we acted 11 months ago to designate them. But that’s separate from I think what you were suggesting.

QUESTION: So they’re like a second degree of al-Qaida or something. Al-Qaida-lite --

MR. RATHKE: They are --

QUESTION: The JV team.

MR. RATHKE: -- they have been associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. But in our assessment --

QUESTION: Which in itself is associated with al-Qaida core.

MR. RATHKE: Which is an affiliate. But we don’t see them as being subordinate to or a subsidiary of AQIM. There has been an association --

QUESTION: You mean, like, franchises, like at McDonalds?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t think I can put it in those kind of terms.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 20, 2014

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 15:43

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 20, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:29 p.m. EST

MR. RATHKE: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: Afternoon.

MR. RATHKE: Sorry for the delay. Two things to mention at the top before we get started. Secretary Kerry was in Paris earlier today, where he met separately with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud and French Foreign Minister Fabius. He is now in Vienna to check in on the Iran nuclear negotiations. And this afternoon, he will meet with the U.S. delegation before having a trilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Baroness Ashton. His date of departure from Vienna has not yet been determined.

And second item at the top – you’ve heard me address this twice already this week, but that I bring this up again today should be an indication of Secretary Kerry’s focus on this issue. Today, we still have 49 nominees who are waiting for the Senate to confirm them, and half of them – 24 of these nominees – are career Foreign Service officers. We need the Senate to act on these nominations as quickly as possible. It’s in the best interest of our foreign policy and it’s the right thing to do for career professionals who have dedicated their lives to working to make our country stronger and safer. We welcome the strong support of Leaders Reid and McConnell and that of Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker in cutting into this backlog before the Senate goes into Thanksgiving recess. The progress made this week in confirming several career diplomats is a very positive development, but we’re still facing a very significant backlog, and the clock is ticking.

I spoke yesterday about Ambassador Arnold Chacon, our nominee for director general of the Foreign Service and director of human resources. Ambassador Chacon, a career diplomat, who served with distinction as chief of mission in Guatemala – after being nominated in October 2013, over a year ago, and approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 2014 – is still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate. Not one senator has expressed anything but support for his nomination, but for nine months he’s waited to be confirmed on the Senate floor. He has now been waiting for nearly 400 days since nominated, even though he has broad support, including from officials who served in senior positions under the George W. Bush Administration, like Deputy Secretary John Negroponte and Ambassador Cresencio Arcos.

It has been since August of 2013 that the Department has gone without a head of personnel. This is the office that plays a central role in recruiting, developing, and retaining our diplomatic personnel who help the Secretary carry out the President’s foreign policy goals. The director general is a critical member of the Secretary’s domestic team in bringing about necessary reform, innovation, and expanded benefits for all members of the Department of State family.

We’ve asked the united – that the Senate confirm these nominations en bloc or by unanimous consent, as we’ve seen in some cases this week, particularly because there’s no objection to these highly qualified and dedicated nominees. We urge the Senate to confirm them quickly and put them to work for the country. We need it desperately.

And with that, let’s go to questions. Ali, please.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jeff. Welcome to the briefing room.

MR. RATHKE: Thanks.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the Iran talks, obviously. Secretary Kerry just arrived in Vienna. What should we interpret his arriving now, five days out – how should we interpret that in terms of where the talks are right now?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I – you probably have seen, but it’s worth referring to, the Secretary’s comments just before leaving Paris from – for Vienna. He is going there to check in on the talks. He has had conversations over the last few days with many of his international counterparts, including during stops in London and in Paris. And so he’s there to consult with the U.S. delegation, to check in. I’m not going to draw any further conclusion than that, though.

QUESTION: “Check in” seems to be a sort of static verb to use to describe the nature of his arriving there. Is that how you – it should be characterized?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I expressed, he’s meeting with the U.S. delegation. Of course, our delegation has been on the ground there for several days now. So he’s going to discuss with them, and then he has a trilateral afterwards with Baroness Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. After that, then we’ll see where things stand.

QUESTION: And in his remarks today, he mentioned the potential for an alternative to ending these talks on November 24th. He didn’t use the word “extension,” but he did talk about there being an opening for an alternative way forward. What – to what extent does that represent a willingness on the part of the Americans and the rest of the negotiators to extend these talks past November 24th?

MR. RATHKE: Well, you skipped over the part that he said before that, though. When he was asked about this, his answer was, to my mind, quite clear. He said we’re not talking about an extension, not among ourselves. We have not talked about the ingredients of an extension. We are negotiating to try to get an agreement. That’s his focus and that’s the reason he’s gone to Vienna.

QUESTION: But at the same time, you had the UK foreign minister say he was not optimistic that a deal could be reached. You had, in fact, the nominee to the Deputy Secretary of State saying it doesn’t look like a deal is possible to be reached by Monday. So where are we?

MR. RATHKE: That’s also not what he said. He said difficult, but it’s doable.

QUESTION: Okay. Fair enough.

MR. RATHKE: So let’s be clear about what they’ve said and what they haven’t said.

QUESTION: Okay. So – yeah.

MR. RATHKE: So – now, of course, the – our partners have expressed views. We’re – as the Secretary also said after his meeting with Foreign Minister Fabius, we share the principles and we’re focused on achieving an agreement. That – I think he couldn’t have been clearer.

Okay. Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah? Okay. Samir and then Abigail.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iran – I mean, did Jen put a readout about his – the Secretary’s meeting with the Saudi foreign minister in Paris?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t believe I’ve seen one.

QUESTION: He didn’t mention anything about it.

MR. RATHKE: I don’t believe I’ve seen one. I’m happy to see if there’s more we can say, but I haven’t seen one yet.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: Abigail.

QUESTION: That was my question.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. All right. Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: He mentioned in his press availability, “We are driving towards what we believe is the outline of an agreement.” Are you, like, looking for a framework agreement, or a complete agreement?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I would refer you to his comment, which is, “We are negotiating to try to get an agreement.” It’s that simple. That’s a direct quote, and I think that’s pretty clear.

Iran?

QUESTION: No.

MR. RATHKE: No. Okay. Change the topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s about the journalist Serena Shim, who died in Turkey under very suspicious circumstances. Did her death raise suspicions here at the State Department?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think we’ve spoken to this in the briefing room several weeks ago, after it happened. I don’t have anything to add to what the spokesperson said at the time, though.

QUESTION: But then she died several days after she claimed she had been threatened by the Turkish intelligence. Have you inquired about this? Have you asked questions? Is there really nothing new about this?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I just don’t have any update to share with you. Again, this was raised shortly after her death. The spokesperson addressed it. I don’t have an update to share with you at this time.

Next topic? Yes. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Do you have an update or can you confirm reports that the Iraqi Security Forces ended the siege by ISIL on the Baiji oil refinery in Iraq?

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Yes, we are aware and we congratulate the Iraqi Security Forces on breaking the siege at Baiji refinery. Iraqi forces have started deliberate clearing and cleanup in the oil refinery compound. They are also no longer besieged and are able to resupply over land. So isolated fighting is ongoing in the area near the refinery, as we understand, but we also understand there is steady progress by Iraqi forces fighting ISIL house to house in Baiji city. The Iraqi Security Forces are removing improvised explosive devices and other explosives emplaced by ISIL and returning the city to its citizens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Elliot.

QUESTION: Yeah, a related topic. Tony Blinken had some back-and-forth during his hearing yesterday with members of Congress about what a potential AUMF could look like. Could you update us on what the Administration would like to see in that AUMF, given that they discussed a little bit of – a few specifics in the hearing?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it – you’re familiar with what he said during his hearing. The – there were suggestions from members of the Senate about the nature and scope of a new AUMF. The Administration has not taken any formal position on specific elements, but as Tony Blinken stated yesterday, those are the types of elements and the sorts of specifics – as far as timing, duration, scope of a potential AUMF – that the Administration is interested in discussing with Congress. So I don’t have anything to announce about that, but that’s, indeed, our understanding.

QUESTION: Will the Administration be proposing concrete language, if not specific – if not language, then any kind of specific items that you’d like to see to Congress for this AUMF?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we continue to engage with Congress on the elements, again, with the goal of ensuring that they are appropriately tailored and preserving the authorities that the President needs to execute the counter-ISIL strategy. But I don’t have an announcement to make about particular details from here today.

QUESTION: Does that mean you haven’t decided whether you would be proposing anything, or --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think if there is to be a proposal for the particulars of a new AUMF, it will probably come from the White House, not from this podium.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Can we stay with Blinken? Two more questions regarding his testimony from yesterday. First of all, he said that the U.S. should consider giving Ukraine lethal aid. Russia, the foreign ministry, has had reaction to that, saying it would be destabilizing. What is your reaction? And then also, is this a possible policy shift that is under consideration?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think if we’re talking about destabilization, we have to start with Russia’s actions and the separatists that are backed by Russia. So I think that’s a starting point for any discussion about the situation in Ukraine.

Now the United States continues to believe that there’s no military resolution to the crisis. Our focus from the outset has been to support Ukraine and to pursue a diplomatic solution that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And we’ve worked closely with our partners in Europe and around the world to help accomplish this. But at the same time, Ukraine has a right to defend itself against this continued aggression, and the United States, as you’re no doubt aware, is providing about $116 million in security assistance to help Ukraine in this effort.

This assistance also includes advising and training, and the United States will continue to send advisory teams to Kyiv to help improve Ukraine’s combat medical care and to identify areas for additional security assistance. The situation in Ukraine remains very fluid and we are very concerned by the continuing violations by Russia and its separatist proxies of the commitments that they made in Minsk. Therefore, we are continuing to assess how best to support Ukraine.

Of course, our focus remains on pursuing a solution, and we will continue to support Ukrainian authorities to that end.

QUESTION: When you say “continuing to assess,” does that mean that the prospect of stepping up to lethal aid may be under consideration?

MR. RATHKE: Well, our position on lethal aid hasn’t changed. Nothing is off the table, and we continue to believe there’s no military solution. But we, in light of Russia’s actions, as the nominee mentioned yesterday in his testimony, this is – as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at.

QUESTION: And on a different – with Blinken also --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- but he said that he would not be opposed to additional sanctions against Venezuela. Is this something that is currently under consideration?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the Administration shares the concerns of Congress as well as those of regional and other international actors about the situation in Venezuela. We have not remained and we will not remain silent in the face of Venezuelan Government actions that violate human rights and fundamental freedoms. And as we have said before, we continue to monitor closely the situation in Venezuela, and all diplomatic options remain on the table. And we look forward to staying closely engaged with Congress on this issue. We also continue to work closely with others in the region to support greater political space in Venezuela, and to ensure the government lives up to its shared commitment to the collective defense of democracy, as articulated, among other places, in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

New topic?

QUESTION: I just want to --

MR. RATHKE: Said, we’ll go to you, then we’ll come back. Said.

QUESTION: I wanted to go to Syria, ISIS.

MR. RATHKE: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. Last night, I ran into the chief of staff of the Kurdistan president’s – Barzani, he’s the chief of staff of Barzani. And he talks about perhaps 100,000 – upward of 100,000 ISIL members in Iraq and Syria. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any update on numbers that --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: We’ve spoken to numbers in the past --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. RATHKE: -- and the general estimates, but I don’t have an updated number to share.

QUESTION: Do you think these kind of figures that are staggering, I mean, would they, let’s say, influence U.S. policy in terms of having boots on the ground or having forces on the ground, at least in Iraq or in the near future?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not going to comment on that particular number. I’m just not familiar with it. And I think also, the President and the entire Administration have been quite clear about our policy with respect to troops in combat roles.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean – okay. In view of the additions that took place last week – we’re talking about maybe an additional 1,500 whatever, advisors, military advisors and so on, and perhaps a discussion, as was done with General Dempsey last week, there is an indication that these forces might be involved in combat. Is there a likelihood that these forces might be involved in combat, if not directly, in an advisory kind of capacity?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I think the President has spoken to this quite clearly in just recent days. I don’t have anything to add to his words. There’s – we do not envision U.S. forces in combat roles.

QUESTION: Now, also, there are reports that the Iraqi forces, with American advisors, are getting ready to recapture Heet. It’s a town, a township called Heet or a city that’s called Heet. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a specific comment on that particular location. I did comment at the start about the success of Iraqi forces in breaking the siege at Baiji refinery, but I don’t have operational comments on every particular location.

Anything staying – wait, staying with Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Chairman Royce today introduced legislation that would provide the President with authority to give arms directly to the Kurds. Do you have any comment or reaction on that?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not familiar with the legislation that you have referred to, so I don’t want to comment on that. But we have spoken on several occasions about the matter of arms for Kurdish security forces and overall to the Iraqi Security Forces. Our position on that hasn’t changed. We continue to be supporters of Iraq’s Security Forces, of the Kurdish security forces as well.

And it’s our understanding that there was some discussion yesterday, which you may recall, about whether there were delays in shipments. I’d just like to point out, to kind of close that loop from yesterday, that the Government of Iraq has cleared and inspected incoming aircraft carrying weapons deliveries, but we are not aware that it has constrained or delayed the emergency supply of weapons to the Kurdistan Regional Government. That was a point made or a question raised yesterday.

And as well, the Government of Iraq itself has delivered over 300 tons of supplies in Iraqi air force aircraft to the KRG. We are committed to helping the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish security forces. Also, many of our coalition partners have been very supportive of Iraqi Kurdish forces. So we plan to continue that kind of support going forward.

QUESTION: Okay. So I guess the question is: Are you happy with the way things are currently going, with the current state of affairs, and thus do you not see any need for a change, any need for what’s contained in this legislation as a general proposition?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it remains the U.S. Government policy that all arms transfers should be coordinated through the sovereign, central Government of Iraq. We have no plans that I’m aware of to change that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the legislation calls for direct supplies to the Kurds without the --

MR. RATHKE: I understand that question, but again, I’m not familiar with that legislation, so I don’t want to comment on it. But I simply want to indicate that our policy remains the same. Now, are we happy with the overall situation in Iraq? Of course not. That’s why we are leading a global coalition to disrupt and defeat ISIL. But that’s – we are very supportive of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in that effort.

On the same topic?

QUESTION: Yeah – no, on the same – very quickly. Are there any meetings planned with Dr. Hussein, Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of President Barzani, in the Department? Because he normally, when he comes here, he meets with --

MR. RATHKE: Oh, yes, we’ve had – yes. This came up yesterday also. There is a delegation from the Kurdish Regional Government led by Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to KRG President Barzani, and other members as well. On Monday, they had meetings with our Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Anne Richard. They also met with the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, Gerry Feierstein. And today, they are expected to meet with the Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Puneet Talwar.

QUESTION: Jeff, can I ask, as a related --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- question, you mentioned in your statement that the Government of Iraq has not delayed the emergency – delivery of emergency weapons. I’m just wondering what constitutes an emergency shipment of weapons. Does that – is that a blanket for all of the weapons that are being delivered in the context of the fight against ISIS, or --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think you – since the crisis began, especially in northern Iraq, we’ve had a number of emergency deliveries. I believe that refers to the deliveries that have taken place since then. That’s --

QUESTION: And then --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Could I just ask – so you’re not aware of any delay. Are you aware of equipment being siphoned off and sold to other – to third parties, including ISIS, for profit by ISF forces? So like, kind of corrupt requisitioning of U.S. supplies that have then been sold off elsewhere?

MR. RATHKE: No, I’m not. Of course, there have been some instances where equipment has been captured by ISIL. That’s – that happened some time ago and we’ve spoken to that. But I don’t have any information of the sort you describe.

QUESTION: Well, the reason I ask is because there have been some reports in the last few weeks based on seized document – internal ISIS documents that are saying that they’ve bought night-vision goggles that are in like-new condition for certain amounts, and these are the same types of supplies that would be presumably supplied to the ISF from the U.S. So if you could look into it, that would be --

MR. RATHKE: Happy to look into that and see if there’s more.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. RATHKE: Anything on the same topic?

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s on the Kurds.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: The Kurdish delegation brought up another aspect of what they are kind of looking for from the United States, which was cooperation on training Peshmerga forces. I wanted to know if that came up in the context of any of the meetings that have happened at the State Department thus far, and whether there – they’ve said that there really haven’t been any movement on discussions about a training program for these forces. Just like – where do these discussions stand?

MR. RATHKE: Well, from the very start of our concerted response we’ve had a joint operations center in Erbil with the Kurdish security forces, in addition to the one we’ve established in Baghdad. So clearly our liaison with the Kurdish security forces has been at the forefront of our response. And in coordination with the Iraqi central government, with our coalition members, the United States has been supportive of the Kurdish forces, and in particular, training and advising the Kurdish forces as part of the broader plan to support Iraqi military forces.

I’m – I don’t have a detailed readout of the meetings described, but certainly the training and advising of Kurdish security forces is a key element of our approach in Iraq to fighting ISIL.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jeff.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: On the same topic, on Syria: There is a high-level delegation headed by Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, in Moscow meeting with officials there – likely to meet with President Putin next week to launch a new peace initiative, and so on. Is that along the ideas that were proposed by Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, and will you support that or is this a topic that has been discussed with Foreign Minister Lavrov?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not familiar with that particular visit that you described, and so I don’t have any detail to offer. Just have nothing to add on that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to Serena Shim. You rightly said the State Department commented on her death several weeks ago, and you say there is no update. Why is there no update? A U.S. citizen dies days after she said she’d been threatened by the Turkish intelligence.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I simply don’t have any information to share at this time. I’m happy to check and see if there’s anything additional. We spoke out about it, as I said, at the very start several weeks ago after her death, so I – but I don’t have anything with me right now to offer. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more that we can share.

Yes, Taurean.

QUESTION: Thanks. I have one on North Korea. So as you know, the – a draft resolution on North Korean human rights passed a UN committee a couple days ago. And North Korean central media criticized the efforts of the European Union and Japan for drafting this resolution, saying that it’s not motivated out of a genuine promotion and protection of human rights, but is simply for subservience and sycophancy to the U.S. I wanted to know if you had any comment on that.

MR. RATHKE: This is about the UN General Assembly third committee human rights resolution --

QUESTION: Yes, it is.

MR. RATHKE: -- just to be clear? Well, as we discussed yesterday, we welcome the passage of the resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. As I said yesterday, this sends a clear message from the international community that the egregious human rights record of the DPRK is noticed and taken seriously by the international community. So we would reject any suggestion that any country is motivated by anything other than a sincere concern about the human rights situation inside North Korea. The United States has been a co-sponsor of this resolution ever since it was first passed back in 2003, and we continue to be supportive.

The Commission of Inquiry, which has also recently issued its final report, is extremely important in this international effort. We support that final report and we especially support its calls for accountability, and we commend the jurists who served on the commission. Their findings are compelling and they deserve the full attention of the Security Council and of all members of the United Nations.

Anything on the same topic?

QUESTION: Yes. Yes.

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: What is your response to North Korea’s threat to carry out another nuclear test in response to the UN condemnation of its human rights record?

MR. RATHKE: Well, on the – we certainly remain committed to denuclearization in North Korea. And as I mentioned yesterday, the fact that the DPRK would respond to the legitimate international interest in the human rights situation there by threatening to resume nuclear testing is something that is cause of great concern. And it only underscores that there is a necessity for North Korea to take steps, the steps that are called for under the 2005 joint statement, to come into compliance with the applicable Security Council resolutions through irreversible steps leading to denuclearization. It’s – the burden is on North Korea to take meaningful actions.

Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION: What’s your response to Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments that referring North Korean leadership to the ICC would be counterproductive and that he doesn’t support any types of these country-level human rights investigations by the UN bodies?

MR. RATHKE: Well, with respect to the particular question of the ICC – well, first let me just say the position on country-specific resolutions. We think it’s extremely important as a vehicle for the international community to express its concern about human rights situations wherever they are in need of attention.

Now, with regard to the ICC, that is – we are in the process of discussing with our Security Council colleagues the possible next steps regarding the human rights situation in the DPRK. But I don’t have anything further to add in specifics on that.

QUESTION: Would you disagree with Mr. Lavrov that it’s counterproductive?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m just not going to comment on the particulars related to ICC referral in that context.

QUESTION: He made these comments after meeting with an envoy from North Korea who also met with President Putin. Does it concern you at all that North Korea is making this kind of diplomatic overture to a country that the U.S. has seen declining ties with in the last two or three years?

MR. RATHKE: Well, Russia has been a key part of the international effort on denuclearization. And so we certainly would refer you to the Russian Government for their point of view on that, but we continue to cooperate with Russia to counter the threat to global security that the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs present.

QUESTION: I understand that you cooperate with them on the nuclear issue, but the way most people are looking at this trip is that the North Koreans are trying to bolster support for eventually rejecting a move in the Security Council, should it come about, to bring their leadership to the ICC. It doesn’t concern you at all that this type of activity is taking place?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, North Korea is a neighbor of Russia. They have diplomatic relations and remain in contact. I’m not going to comment further on that. I would simply stress that Russia remains an important part of the international effort to deal with denuclearization in respect to North Korea.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: This is a follow-up to a question that was raised yesterday, Burkina Faso. In particular, does the country having a military officer as prime minister fit into the U.S. view of democracy, and also of the country returning military authority to civilian rule?

MR. RATHKE: Right. Let me just start off by saying once again that there is a transition charter that was agreed in Burkina Faso, and it was supported by representatives of civil society, political parties, religious and traditional leaders, and the military. The United States welcomed that transition charter. We also congratulated Michel Kafando when he was appointed as the interim president of Burkina Faso.

Now you’re asking more specifically about the selection of Lieutenant Colonel Zida as the new prime minister, and we understand that Lieutenant Colonel Zida was selected by interim President Kafando in accordance with the transition charter. We have urged interim President Kafando and all parties in Burkina Faso to respect and follow the principles of civilian-led democratic government in the formation of the transition government. It’s also our understanding that according to the terms of the transitional charter, neither Michel Kafando, the interim president, nor Zida will be allowed to stand in next year’s presidential election. Of course, we continue to keep – pay attention carefully to the situation in Burkina Faso. We are supportive of the transition to civilian-led rule, and that remains an area of attention for us.

Yes.

QUESTION: I asked you yesterday about the statement by your ambassador to Nicosia. I wanted to know if you have any answer on the – on his statement that Barbaros – and I quote, of course – “is in violation of the United Nations Law of the Sea and international conventions.”

MR. RATHKE: I really have nothing to add to what I said yesterday in the briefing.

QUESTION: You don’t – you didn’t see the statement or you don’t agree with the statement? That’s --

MR. RATHKE: I’m saying neither of those things. I have nothing to add to the statement of U.S. policy which I gave yesterday in response to the question.

QUESTION: And I have a follow-up. Can any of your ambassadors express an opinion or a position, a different position from the one that you expressed from this podium?

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry, what’s – what are you getting at?

QUESTION: Can any of your ambassadors express a position that is different from the position that you express from this podium? Because your ambassador to Nicosia says something else, and – because you have a different– as I understand, you have a different position.

MR. RATHKE: Again, I think we’ve talked about this multiple times over the last few weeks in response to your questions. I’ve stated our policy with respect to this issue. That’s our policy.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware that the Israelis announced plans to build 200 new housing units in East Jerusalem?

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead. What’s your question?

QUESTION: The Israelis announced plans for expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem, 200 housing units. Are you aware of that?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t know if I’m aware of that specific report, but our position on that issue hasn’t changed and remains clear.

QUESTION: Okay. They also confiscated in the neighborhood of maybe a hundred – 1,500 acres in the occupied West Bank in the area of Tulkarm and Jenin and so on, saying that this is government land; that’s not Palestinian land. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: I’m – again, I’m not familiar with that specific report, but again, I think our policy and our position on that issue also remains clear and hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: On the content of the conversation between Secretary of State Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a couple days ago, it is said that the Secretary of State emphasized that the Palestinians should roll back whatever efforts they have at the United Nations. Is that – could you confirm that statement? Did he tell him not to go forward with any efforts at the UN?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the conversation that the Secretary had with President Abbas a couple of days ago after the attack in Jerusalem, the Secretary – he was quite clear in talking about the need for leadership and the need to calm tensions on all sides, and that this requires leadership by – at all levels and on all sides. I’m not going to get into further details about his conversation.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any comment on a statement attributed to President Abbas saying that we are going to go to the United Nations come what may? What do you --

MR. RATHKE: I think our position on that is also clear.

QUESTION: I really appreciate you indulging me, but I have more questions on this.

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Spanish parliament, of course, voted to recognize symbolically a Palestinian state. French parliamentarians are set to do the same thing on the 2nd of December. The French senate is set for the same – do the same thing on the 11th of December and so on. So this is, like, snowballing, so to speak, among European countries, among your allies and so on. Are you doing anything in particular to dissuade them from doing that, although that is symbolic?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think our position on this issue is clear and it’s well understood by our partners in the region, as well as other partners around the world. We are supportive of a two-state solution as agreed through negotiations by the parties, and we’ll let our partner governments speak for themselves.

QUESTION: And finally, we discussed last week, as we did early this week, aspects of incitement that is done by Palestinian Authority President Abbas. Now, conversely, there are incitements by the Israeli Government. They’re calling him responsible for this latest cycle of violence. In fact, some of the cabinet members like Naftali Bennett or even the Defense Minister Ya’alon. They said very strong statements. Do you consider that also as incitement?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to put a label on particular comments that – the exact quotation of which I’m not familiar with. What I would say, as we have said especially since the attack in Jerusalem but that we’ve been saying for weeks and months, indeed, is that we urge all sides to do all they can, and we believe that both sides can do more to reduce tensions and preserve or try to restore calm.

QUESTION: So you assign blame for incitement to both sides, correct?

MR. RATHKE: That is not what I said.

QUESTION: Would you say that you assign incitement to both sides? Are both sides actually practice incitement against one another?

MR. RATHKE: Again, you’re trying to put words into my mouth, and I’m not going to go that route.

Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary contact the Israeli prime minister recently about the Iran negotiations?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any recent calls to read out. I don’t have anything recent since we talked about it the other day in respect to the Jerusalem attack.

Yes, Abigail.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran for one moment?

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: I know that this has been talked about in various different ways, but I was wondering if you had any clarity on what would happen to the sanctions if another joint plan of action is not reached.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re focused on getting to an agreement. We’re focused on completing a joint comprehensive plan of action, so I’m not going to prejudge that outcome. But that’s where our focus is. That’s why the Secretary’s in Vienna.

Yes.

QUESTION: On sanctions, you said you will suspend the sanctions, right, if there’s an agreement?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the agreement is not done.

QUESTION: In case --

MR. RATHKE: That’s what we’re working towards.

QUESTION: In case --

MR. RATHKE: So I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of the agreement.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I’m trying to ask: Will – the suspension of any sanctions will be limited to only to – from the U.S. – U.S. sanctions will be limited only to nuclear activities, or will they cover also other things like the central bank? There are U.S. sanctions on the central bank for money laundering and the support of terrorism. Will this be under the whole thing, or will be --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything new to add to our position on sanctions. Again, we’re focused on completing a joint comprehensive plan of action. I don’t have any further detail about it to share that would prejudge its outcome.

QUESTION: But are the sanctions that are imposed for supporting terrorism will be separate from sanctions imposed on nuclear activities?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I don’t have anything new to say. I know this is a topic that’s been discussed from this podium throughout the process of the negotiations. I don’t have anything new to add on that.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. In the event there is an agreement – now, the suspension of sanctions – we understand that only Congress can lift and nullify the sanctions altogether, but the President has the authority to suspend the sanctions. Are we likely to see this happen right away, or will the, like, probation period or the grace period – how would that work in the --

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, this is similar to Samir’s question. I’m not going to prejudge the content of an agreement that hasn’t been achieved yet.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Yes, I have question. I know that they asked this yesterday, but I wonder if you have any updates about the enlisting of CAIR and Muslim American Society as terrorist organization in the United Emirates. Problem is like – seems like the United States is really, like, not very concerned about the issue when it actually said that – I mean, there are legal procedures that’s supposed to be taken against those organizations if the United – if the Emirates, like, implemented those – I mean, put those in action, so --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have an update to offer since this was raised yesterday. The – as I said then, we’ve seen this list from the United Arab Emirates – this list of organizations – and we are seeking more information from the Emirati authorities about the background and the reasons for that listing. So we remain engaged, but I don’t have an update to provide.

I also said, with respect to the question about those two American organizations, that the U.S. does not consider them to be terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: Are you cooperating with them, like, in a matter of – like knowing if they have – I mean, this come, like, during a campaign that the United States is trying to disrupt funding for ISIS and other stuff, and it seems like the United – the Emirates, like, were – like (inaudible) part of their activity and such prospects. Are you wondering if there were any funds coming from those organizations going to ISIS or any other terrorist organization? I mean, there got to be a reason for --

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I said, we are engaging Emirati authorities, seeking more information about the justification behind their listing. I don’t have anything additional to add, though, at this point.

QUESTION: You haven’t got anything from the Emiratis, so --

MR. RATHKE: I just don’t have anything to add to that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Pam. Please.

QUESTION: President Obama tonight is expected to announce measures that could ease restrictions on illegal immigrants in the United States. I know you’re not going to get ahead of the President’s announcements, but can you talk in general about what you anticipate would be the State Department’s role in terms of outreach and diplomacy?

MR. RATHKE: Right. Well, it may not surprise you, and you seem to have foreshadowed my answer, but I’m not going to comment in any way on any announcement that hasn’t been made. I think the President has made clear that while nothing replaces Congress acting on comprehensive immigration reform, that he will use his executive authority to take significant steps to reform our broken immigration system. The President wants to fix the system in a way that is sustainable for the long term, that is most effective and good for the country. But as far as impact on current programs, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s announcement.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up?

MR. RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: The majority of immigrants here are coming from Mexico. More specifically, are you looking at any kind of new engagement with that country?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I – if you mean that – do you mean that in an immigration context?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not – again, I’m not going to comment on anything that might be related to the President’s announcement tonight. We’ll let the President make his announcement and then we’ll – but, of course, we have a broad and deep partnership with Mexico that encompasses a vast area of policy, economic cooperation, and so forth. So I don’t in any way mean to suggest that – anything to the contrary.

QUESTION: Jeff, I had another question.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you heard the statement. Mr. Erdogan said that the Turks, not Christopher Columbus, discovered America. And I wonder if you have any comment to say about this statement by the president of Turkey.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t really have any comment on those reports. I’d let you talk to President Erdogan’s office about that.

QUESTION: But he said --

MR. RATHKE: We’re aware of the reports, but I think I’ll let you consult with them about that.

QUESTION: What is the State Department position on who discovered America?

MR. RATHKE: Thankfully, we don’t have a position on that. (Laughter.)

So thanks very much, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)

   


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 18, 2014

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:15

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 18, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:23 p.m. EST

MR. RATHKE: Hi. Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Hello.

MR. RATHKE: So I have three things to mention at the top – first of all, with respect to nominations. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed four State Department nominees, each a career Foreign Service officer: Karen Stanton to Timor-Leste, Ted Osius to Vietnam, Erica Barks Ruggles to Rwanda, and Barbara Leaf to the United Arab Emirates. This is welcome progress. We’re grateful to Leader Reid and Leader McConnell, and of course, the Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker.

We desperately need all of America’s team on the field of diplomacy, and these are all spectacularly qualified career nominees. This is exactly how our remaining nominations should be considered and confirmed. There are 19 career Foreign Service officers awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor. They were all carefully considered in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and approved. The full Senate can consider each of these nominees quickly. Certainly, our career nominees could be confirmed en bloc, they’re well-qualified, and they’re experienced.

A total of 58 State Department nominees, including 35 career diplomats, are still waiting. One example, our nominee to head the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, Frank Rose, has been waiting nearly 500 days since July 2013. Career Foreign Service officer Arnold Chacon, the nominee for director general of the Foreign Service, who would head the State Department’s Bureau for Human Resources, has waited nearly 400 days. And each day waited is a day lost which would be better spent engaging our international partners and promoting U.S. interests overseas. That includes security matters, but it also means that we aren’t using every tool we have to promote U.S. businesses overseas and creating jobs here at home.

Nominees on the floor have waited for more than eight and a half months on average, 258 days. It’s critical, in the Department’s view, that we get these nominees confirmed before the Senate adjourns for the year to prevent further delay in meeting our foreign policy objectives, and while we appreciate the progress just made, we know that America is stronger if the backlog is cleared and our nominees are confirmed before Thanksgiving. The Secretary has made a personal plea to his former colleagues in the Senate, and we would ask again for their help.

Second item: Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL John Allen will travel to Ankara November 18th and 19th to meet with Turkish Government officials to discuss international coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. On November 19th, General Allen will then travel to Brussels for a meeting at NATO headquarters, where he will provide an update on coalition efforts. General Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Ambassador McGurk will also visit Rome on November 21st to meet with Italian Government officials on global coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL.

And my last item is the Secretary’s trip. The Secretary is in London. Today, he met with British Foreign Secretary Hammond, Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, and Omani Foreign Minister Alawi. In his meetings, Secretary Kerry provided an update on his meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Baroness Ashton last week. He also discussed the tension on the ground in Israel and the West Bank, and specifically the attack this morning. He also spoke with his counterparts about the ongoing effort to degrade and defeat ISIL and the ongoing cooperation in this effort. Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to express condolences and offer support, and following the meetings with Foreign Secretary Hammond, he spoke with President Abbas and expressed support for President Abbas’s statement condemning the attacks and urged him to do everything possible to de-escalate tension. And he agreed to stay in close touch with both leaders.

So with that, over to you, Lara.

QUESTION: Great, thanks. I actually wanted to ask you about President Abbas’s condemnation of the attack. He also took the opportunity, as you probably saw, to criticize Israel for some of what he called provocations at the Holy Site in Jerusalem. I’m wondering if the State Department thinks that that was an appropriate time to bring that up.

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I mentioned, you heard the Secretary condemn this act of terror within hours of the attack, and he spoke with President Abbas. And in that conversation, he expressed support for the condemnation of attacks and he urged him to do everything possible to de-escalate tension. President Abbas agreed. The Secretary’s going to stay in touch with both leaders. I would say President Abbas has condemned this attack. Clearly, more needs to be done at all levels, and the – you’ve heard the president’s statement, certainly, and it’s clear that extremists cannot be allowed to prevail. So the United States is going to stand with those who reject violence and seek a path toward peace.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask --

QUESTION: May I just ask --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- a couple of more on this? Specifically, regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement as well, he said that Israel would respond in the harshest way possible, including the demolition of some of the homes of people who were involved either in this attack or previous attacks. Does the State Department think that’s appropriate?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speak to all of the steps that each individual leader has outlined. I think it’s – as I mentioned, Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He will speak with him again, possibly today. They’ve spoken a number of times in recent days and remain in frequent contact. So he expressed our condolences and offered our support.

I can confirm, as you have probably heard elsewhere, but three U.S. citizens were killed in this attack. So today, families in the United States are mourning side-by-side with Israel. And so clearly, in those circumstances, we express our condolences to the families, and the Secretary did to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well, and I’d leave it at that.

QUESTION: Last week in Amman --

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Just on the home demolitions, I thought it was the U.S. Government’s position that you were opposed to home demolitions as a counterproductive activity. Is that not the case?

MR. RATHKE: Well, with respect to that, our position hasn’t changed, so I don’t have anything new to say in that regard.

QUESTION: Well, would you say that that is – I mean, while not justifying in any way the attack or the horrific nature of it, it sounds like if you’re saying that the position on demolition hasn’t changed, then you would think that that is a kind of disproportionate response to what happened.

MR. RATHKE: Well, look, I’m not going to characterize – the reference was to a statement, so I’m not going to jump forward to that, to an action that hasn’t taken place.

QUESTION: I understand, but clearly – I mean, again, not justifying in any way the attack, but is the – was the tone of the Secretary’s conversation with the prime minister, “We understand you need to respond to this, but keep in mind not to do anything and use restraint so as not to further exacerbate tensions in the region”?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the Secretary urged both sides to do everything possible to de-escalate tension, but again, let’s keep in mind the horrific attack which just happened and --

QUESTION: I did keep it in mind in my question.

MR. RATHKE: -- we – our view is that punitive home demolitions are counterproductive to the cause of peace, especially in an already tense situation. I would refer you to the Israelis for any more details, but our view on that remains the same.

QUESTION: Did he – just one follow-up on the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning. Did the Secretary – in that conversation, beyond offering his condolences and his support following the attack, did he privately ask the prime minister to do everything he could to de-escalate or to reduce tensions?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not sure what you mean by privately. I mean, the United States Government and the Secretary have long urged both sides to do everything possible to de-escalate tensions. The Secretary was just in Jordan, and I don’t need to recount all of that. So --

QUESTION: No, the question is whether he said that to the prime minister in private, just as you have just said, and he said it in public. I’m wondering if that was a feature of his private conversation with the prime minister.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we continue to urge all sides to work to lower tensions, but I’m not going to get into more detail from their conversation.

QUESTION: Well, if you’re saying publicly that you believe that punitive home demolitions are against peace, then one would stand to reason that the Secretary also reiterated that.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m just not going to characterize every single thing that the Secretary said and recount the entire conversation. I think I’ve conveyed the essentials of the conversation.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Do you know if that came up in their conversation?

MR. RATHKE: The Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu very soon after the attack to express his condolences. I don’t have further detail on --

QUESTION: And that’s it, just to express condolences and not in the realm of “Let’s make sure that this doesn’t completely further – again, exacerbate further”?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the Secretary has spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu numerous times just in the last few days, so he’s made our views on that question quite clear.

QUESTION: One other factual matter: Three of the four people who died, you said, were U.S. citizens. Are they – were they dual U.S. and Israeli citizens?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have information to confirm about other nationalities. I’d refer you to the Israeli authorities for anything they want to say on that.

QUESTION: Last week in Jordan when the Secretary finished his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Abdullah, he was asked specifically on what steps might have been taken in that meeting. And as you know, he didn’t announce what steps they were going to take --

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: -- to de-escalate tensions, but how this could prevent or how either side could prevent hardliners from coming forward and continuing to raise escalations, not to mention horrific attacks such as this. I’m wondering, if the State Department or the U.S. Government is now willing to say, “Hey, this is what we tried to do, this is what our intent was,” or are doing anything more to try to prevent hardliners – to help both sides from keeping hardliners from lashing out like this.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t think that the Secretary’s – that there’s any change to the Secretary’s posture on this as he expressed it in Jordan. He had conversations with the parties. He made it clear how important it is to take affirmative steps to restore calm and implement practical measures to prevent further escalation of tensions and --

QUESTION: But clearly, it’s not working, right? I mean --

MR. RATHKE: Well, certainly, we’ve witnessed a horrific attack today, and all leaders in their discussions in Jordan agreed on the importance of de-escalating tensions. The Secretary reiterated that in his conversation with President Abbas today, and President Abbas agreed that everything needed to be done to reduce tensions. So – but I’m not going to go back and then read out more details of those conversations from Jordan.

QUESTION: Okay. Aside from agreeing that tensions need to be reduced, is it still fair to assume that whatever deal that was worked out or whatever steps were discussed and agreed upon in Jordan are still enacted today, are still being followed today? I mean, it kinds of seems “no” if President Abbas is out there saying that – or criticizing Israel for provocations.

MR. RATHKE: Well, this is unfortunately not the first tragic loss of innocent life in recent months. There have been too many Israelis and too many Palestinians who have died. So clearly, more needs to be done. That’s --

QUESTION: But I mean since those talks last week in Jordan. I mean, steps were agreed on to de-escalate tensions.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Kerry was asked, how will this keep hardliners from striking out? Clearly, hardliners are continuing to strike out. So is it fair to assume that these steps are no longer being followed by both sides?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t think we would look at it that way, as some sort of a snapshot. The Secretary, in talking to both President Abbas and to Prime Minister Netanyahu, stressed that this is a time for leadership. And as the President said, extremists can’t be allowed to prevail. So we’re committed to remaining in contact with both leaders and continue working with both the Israelis and Palestinians to that end. I don’t have more to say than that.

QUESTION: Let me ask it one more way.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In his conversations with the Secretary today, or the conversations, did both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas agree to continue implementing and embracing those steps that they agreed to last week?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not – I think we’ve already seen the step undertaken by Israel with respect to access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and I don’t have anything further to add on that. In his discussion with President Abbas, President Abbas agreed with the Secretary’s urging to do everything possible to de-escalate tensions. I’m not going to characterize it further.

QUESTION: Can I branch that out just a bit? I mean --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- beyond the steps in the last few weeks and the violence that we’ve seen at the Temple Mount, I mean, you have seen in recent months a kind of increase in tensions for a multitude of reasons, whether it’s settlements or the Temple Mount or – an increase in violence and tensions. Do you in any way see the lack of a ongoing peace process as contributing to a kind of vacuum where this type of extremism on both sides has a kind of climate to flourish? And would you say that this underscores the need to get back to the peace table?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think that’s – we’ve always said that depends on both parties and their readiness to do so. So I don’t have anything new to report in that respect. Of course, the United States has invested great energy not just in recent months but over decades in support of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

QUESTION: I understand. But do you see the climate of tensions and violence over the last several months a product of the lack of a peace process?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to characterize it in those terms. We condemn violence in the strongest terms. I’m not going to do an analysis here --

QUESTION: I’m not saying you don’t condemn it. That has nothing to do --

MR. RATHKE: I understand. But I’m not going to do an analysis here from the podium about factors that contribute to it.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that all this increase in – like, there was virtually no violence in the period where Secretary Kerry was engaged in a peace process, and now there is no peace process. Again, I understand what you’re saying, that it’s the parties that want it, but since the peace process has broke down, there’s been a steady increase in violence and tension, so you don’t --

MR. RATHKE: Well, but there’s been a number of – there have been a number of things, including the attacks, the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. So I’m not going to try to affix --

QUESTION: Also since the breakdown of the peace process.

MR. RATHKE: Right, but Elise, I’m not going to try to affix a specific single cause to it. Further on this topic?

QUESTION: Any plans to change your Travel Warning for Israel given the multiple deaths of U.S. citizens in Jerusalem?

MR. RATHKE: Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of. If there is a change, then of course, we would notify that broadly as soon as it happens, but not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. RATHKE: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Bahrain.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you can talk about continued political detentions in Bahrain, and also the case of an American citizen, Tagi Madu, who – UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention cited his case as an arbitrary detention and criticized the Bahraini’s continued detention of this individual.

MR. RATHKE: Right. Well, we’re aware of reports that a U.S. citizen is being detained in Bahrain.

QUESTION: He’s been detained for over a year.

MR. RATHKE: Well, for privacy considerations, I’m just not able to comment further on the specifics of that case. But we’re certainly aware --

QUESTION: Not even on the UN report of it?

QUESTION: What do you think about the UN report?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re certainly familiar with the report of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group. That’s – we’re certainly familiar with it. I don’t have a judgment or an assessment of that report to offer to you.

Lara, I know you had asked the question yesterday about the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: -- pre-election --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. RATHKE: -- situation, and I don’t have an answer to provide. But we’re working on that and we’ll be able to --

QUESTION: Actually, I think it’s closer to two years that this gentleman has been in detention. I mean, without getting into the specifics of what you’re doing, can you say whether you’re providing consular access to this gentleman, or providing any type of discussions with the Bahraini Government about his detention, or doing – can you assure the American people that you’re doing everything you can to make sure that his case is resolved with fairness and due process?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we certainly take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad extremely seriously and provide all appropriate consular services. But again, in this case, privacy considerations prevent me from offering any further detail.

QUESTION: Why would privacy considerations prevent you from talking about the UN report on this?

MR. RATHKE: No, that isn’t what I said. That’s --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything – I don’t have any analysis to offer on the UN report. If I have more, I’m happy to share that. But --

QUESTION: Okay. Do you think you will have analysis on the report?

MR. RATHKE: I’m happy to check and see what --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: So again, you asked a question that is in some ways probably related, so I – we anticipate coming back with more --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: -- detail in response to your question from yesterday.

QUESTION: Can we talk --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we follow up on yesterday’s question about the Council for American-Islamic Relations --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and its being designated as a terrorist organization?

MR. RATHKE: That’s right. There was a question yesterday about this. So just to pick back up where we were, we have seen the report of the United Arab Emirates of a list of terrorist organizations that they have published, and we are aware that two U.S.-based groups were included on that list. The United States does not consider these U.S. organizations to be terrorist organizations. And – but we are seeking more information from the Government of the UAE about why that designation was made by them and what their background – what their information is.

QUESTION: On this point --

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: -- I know you said that you are – you’re following up with the Government of UAE. But the head of the organization is someone who really does frequent the State Department and gets invited to the White House and so on. So that basically puts them in a very difficult situation. So are you asking for an immediate kind of response as to why they were placed?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are approaching Emirati authorities, asking for more information. I’m not going to put a timeline on it, but clearly we’ve seen this report and we’re engaging. Now, as part of our routine engagement with a broad spectrum of faith-based organizations, a range of U.S. Government officials have met with officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society. We at the State Department regularly meet with a wide range of faith-based groups to hear their views, even if some of their views expressed are at times controversial.

QUESTION: Okay. So I know from reports that the head of the organization, or the director of the organization, has actually traveled overseas. Is he likely to face any kind of difficulties getting back into the country because of the designation? No?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the United States Government does not consider these organizations to be terrorist organizations.

On the same topic?

QUESTION: No, Afghanistan.

MR. RATHKE: No. So, anything else on this topic? Okay. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Yes. For Afghanistan, London conference will come soon. Do you think that U.S. has a role and what topic will discuss on it? And this --

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry, did I – I didn’t hear the first part.

QUESTION: London conference --

MR. RATHKE: Right, at the London conference.

QUESTION: -- regarding Afghanistan.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes. What will be the U.S. role, and what topic will discuss on it? And the second question: The new cabinet in Afghanistan hasn’t announced yet. Do you think that United States concerned about it and it has negative effect between two countries’ relationship?

MR. RATHKE: Well, on the second question, President Ghani and CEO Abdullah share a common vision and are working effectively together during the first months – the first month, excuse me, of the new administration. The nomination of cabinet ministers is a process that takes some time. We understand that President Ghani and CEO Abdullah and their teams have been working together with the goal of putting key ministers in place soon. So I think they’ve stated the goal of the London conference; that’s their goal, and we’re supportive of that. But naturally, forming a cabinet remains a complicated process.

With respect to the London conference, I don’t have any specific details to announce. But of course, we see this as an important opportunity for the Afghan leadership and the international community to reaffirm and address the international support for Afghanistan going forward, also for the Afghan Government’s policy priorities and programs. So as we get closer to the conference, I’m sure we’ll have more detail to offer in that respect.

Different topic, Said, or same topic?

QUESTION: Different topic.

MR. RATHKE: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m sorry for being late. I’m sure that you discussed the Jerusalem attacks.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, we did.

QUESTION: I wonder if I could ask you a question. You may have even addressed this. Has anyone contacted Palestinian Authority President Abbas?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Secretary Kerry spoke with him.

QUESTION: He spoke with him. Now, today, in the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his foreign minister accused Abbas of being behind the incitement that we have seen lately, although the head of the Shin Bet, chief Cohen, came out and said there’s no evidence that Abbas is actually doing the incitement; quite the contrary, he’s also blaming a great deal of the tension on some extremist elements within Israeli society. Are you aware of that report?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to – you’re asking me to analyze and discuss views of different Israeli politicians in a cabinet meeting, which I’m not going to do.

QUESTION: Okay. Your view of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an interlocutor for peace has not changed, has it?

MR. RATHKE: No. No, it hasn’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: Scott.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the political development in Burkina Faso?

MR. RATHKE: Can you be a little more specific?

QUESTION: Well, you’ve called for some time since the coup for the military to appoint a transitional authority. So, such moves have been made.

MR. RATHKE: That’s right. Just a moment. So the United States congratulates the people of Burkina Faso and their leaders on the signing of the transition charter by representatives of civil society, political parties, religious and traditional leaders, and the military. This will guide the transition to full civilian rule. And we congratulate Mr. Michel Kafando on his selection as interim president of Burkina Faso.

We also urge the men and women of Burkina Faso’s armed forces to return to their primary mission, safeguarding the territorial integrity of Burkina Faso and the security of its citizens. And at the same time, we firmly hope that the central mission of the transitional government will be to ensure effective preparation for national elections in November 2015.

QUESTION: Can I stay in Africa, if nobody else wants to go to Burkina Faso?

MR. RATHKE: You may.

QUESTION: Human Rights Watch today has a report on the Democratic Republic of Congo, alleging that authorities there have killed more than 50 young people and are responsible for the enforced disappearance of some 30 others as part of an anti-gang-related program. Are you aware of that report, and do you share the concerns expressed by Human Rights Watch of these alleged extrajudicial actions by Congolese security forces in the capital?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re reviewing the Human Rights Watch Report and we call on the Congolese Government to conduct a prompt, thorough, and transparent investigation of these alleged serious human rights violations and to hold accountable any individuals who are found responsible. Further, we remain disappointed that with the October release of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office report on Operation Likofi, the Congolese Government has chosen to dismiss the report’s findings and instead call for the expulsion of the Human Rights Office director. And so we are concerned that impunity for human rights violations remains a grave problem. We call on the Congolese Government to take robust and decisive action on reports of abuses, as detailed in the Human Rights Watch report, in the UN Joint Human Rights Office report and others in order to achieve their stated commitment of ending the cycle of impunity.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Go ahead, Lara.

QUESTION: You brought up General Allen’s trip to Ankara and elsewhere at the top of this briefing.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Wondering if you can bring us up to speed with training missions that are sanctioned or supported by the United States that are being housed or based in Turkey.

MR. RATHKE: More specifically, you’re talking about the Syrian train-and-equip program?

QUESTION: Yes. You’re probably aware there’s reports out there that the U.S. will be training 2,000 troops, I believe, at a Turkey base.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are going to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition. And this is a program, as you know, that runs through the Department of Defense and this is going to help moderate Syrian fighters defend the Syrian people from attacks by ISIL and the Syrian regime, stabilize areas under opposition control, and empower a subset of the trainees to go on the offensive against ISIL. So we see this as a key component in our strategy, in addition to the political, financial, and other support to the moderate opposition that we’ve been providing for some time. Our partners in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have offered strong support to host and to quickly stand up the program. But nonetheless, it requires some time at the front end to develop infrastructure and to plan that action. So as far as specific details of that, I would refer you to the Department of Defense, but clearly we see this as a critical element in our strategy.

QUESTION: Well, I ask here because General Allen is based here, and it’s a State-led component of the coalition to combat ISIL. So I was just wondering who – if that number is right, if it’s 2,000 troops, SOC troops or moderate Syrians who will be trained. And also, who’s doing the training? Is it U.S. forces or U.S. civilians? And if it’s U.S. forces, is it special forces?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the Department – the train and equip element of that, of the strategy is a Department of Defense-led program, authorized by Congress. So again, they would have the more detailed information about it, including the numbers.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. RATHKE: Sorry. Same topic?

QUESTION: Same topic.

MR. RATHKE: Syria. Okay. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: You said they’ll be trained to go on the offensive against ISIL.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: What about the regime forces? Will they go offensive against the regime forces?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we have – as we’ve said, we see this as a program that will help moderate Syrian fighters defend the Syrian people from attacks by ISIL and the Syrian regime and empower a subset of the trainees to go on the offensive against ISIL. That’s --

QUESTION: Only?

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s the way we envision the program.

QUESTION: Not the regime?

MR. RATHKE: Again, that’s – we see the role of the Syrian opposition defending against attacks by the regime to be also important. The Syrian opposition is between in some – in many cases the Syrian regime and ISIL, subjected to attacks by both. So clearly there is that need.

Yeah.

QUESTION: But that’s defending against the regime, not attacking the regime. Correct?

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s the way I put it, yes.

QUESTION: So not attacking the regime, not forces against the regime, attacking the regime?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the – I’m not going to get into the specific, on-the-battlefield actions.

QUESTION: Well, there’s a difference.

MR. RATHKE: Again, they’ve got to defend themselves, and they’re under serious attack, for sure, by the regime.

Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. But they’re also trying to oust Assad, so they’re on the offensive.

MR. RATHKE: I understand.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: There are reports that the Syrian forces, Syrian regime forces are slowly but surely regaining territory in the environment of Aleppo. How does that fit in with the proposal by the UN Special Envoy de Mistura to have local ceasefires in the area? Is there any – do you have any view on that? I mean, does the Administration have a position on these proposed ceasefires, local ceasefires?

MR. RATHKE: But is your question about de Mistura’s proposal or is your question about something else?

QUESTION: Well – okay. No, because they are connected. As the forces gain in Aleppo, and his proposal was to have ceasefires in Aleppo, would you demand or would you request that a ceasefire would take place, or this plan to have a ceasefire in Aleppo take place immediately?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we remain committed to a political solution in Syria and we support – we would support any local arrangements that would alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, the – and Staffan de Mistura has made some proposals in that regard. This includes ceasefires that could provide relief to Syrian civilians and be consistent with humanitarian principles.

As we’ve seen in previous cases, many local truces have been much more akin to surrender arrangements. So we think there would need to be the appropriate assurances that humanitarian assistance would reach those in need. But in ceasefire arrangements to date, there has been no enforcement mechanism, so that’s – we would be supportive of ceasefires that provide genuine relief, but I’m not going to get – I’m not going to characterize --

QUESTION: I want to understand you correctly. So you would support ceasefires that actually would keep both forces in place? In other words, the regime forces and the opposition forces in place in Aleppo, correct?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I didn’t say that. What I said is that with respect to some of the ideas that have been raised by Mr. de Mistura, we would be supportive of local arrangements that met those criteria that I outlined. So I’m not going to characterize that, though, in this specific context. I think this was also raised yesterday, and I would just highlight that with – the United States, along with out coalition partners, have conducted nearly 400 airstrikes in Syria and we continue to target areas around Kobani as ISIL is concentrating its fighters and materiel there, and we’re focused on degrading ISIL and its sanctuary.

Now, these strikes in Syria hit fixed targets – command and control, for example, finance centers, training camps, oil infrastructure. Those kinds of strikes are going to continue and – but the targeting in Syria is also evolving beyond fixed facilities and also includes more dynamic targeting of a more tactical nature, such as vehicles, armor vehicles, convoys. So the destruction and degradation of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq will further limit their ability to lead, control, and project power and conduct operations.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the resolution of North Korean human rights issues? They had final discussions today.

MR. RATHKE: Well, the resolution is before the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. It’s expected to be voted on today. As we have said before, we support the Commission of Inquiry’s final report and its calls for accountability. The commission’s findings and recommendations are compelling, and we feel they deserve the full attention of the Security Council and the General Assembly. We’ve been a co-sponsor of this resolution on DPRK in the Third Committee every year, including this year, so of course we are supportive. As of the time I came out to brief, though, the vote had not been held.

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria to round out that --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- part of the world. In light of the killing of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, there’s talk of a review of the U.S. policy on hostages, specifically with ransoms. I’m wondering if it’s still the State Department’s view that ransoms should not be paid to terrorist organizations for the release of hostages.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I know there’s been some attention to this in the last couple of days as a result of a report about a letter to Congress. The Administration’s goal has always been to use all of our resources, within the bounds of law, to assist families and to bring loved ones home. In light of the increasing number of U.S. citizens taken hostage by terrorist groups overseas and the extraordinary nature of recent hostage cases, this past summer, President Obama directed relevant departments and agencies – which includes the State Department as well as the FBI, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community – to conduct a comprehensive review of how the U.S. Government addresses these matters.

Now, we’re not going to be able to detail every effort or every tool we use to try to bring American hostages home, but we continue to use all appropriate capabilities – military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic – to recover American hostages, and those efforts continue.

QUESTION: Okay. So you said within the bounds of law. Paying ransoms to a known terrorist group would constitute material support to terrorism. So would that still be illegal?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it’s a matter of longstanding policy that we don’t grant concessions to hostage-takers. We feel that doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive.

QUESTION: Is that policy under review as part of this broader review?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I say, the President directed all of the agencies involved to conduct a comprehensive review of how we address these matters. I’m not going to get into any more detail.

QUESTION: I mean, “these matters” is vague, and I guess what we’re asking is a reasonable question, which is whether or not the United States’ longstanding policy of not paying ransoms or providing other concessions to hostage-takers is, itself, being reviewed. If you say that it’s being reviewed, it seems to me that you are then potentially giving an incentive to hostage-takers, maybe you’ll change the policy and then they can hope to get paid off. So – but I still think it’s a reasonable question: Are you reviewing that policy or not? “These matters” is completely vague. I have no idea what’s in that. So are you reviewing it or not?

MR. RATHKE: Well, no, it’s – our policy – our longstanding policy on granting concessions to hostage-takers remains. I’m not going to characterize further the nature of an ongoing review.

QUESTION: Is that for government ransoms as well as private ransoms?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I’m not going to characterize the scope of the review.

Yes.

QUESTION: Short of her identity, do you have anything to share with us about the 26-year-old woman hostage that is with the group? Do you have anything to say?

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry. I don’t have any additional thing to say about – what is it you’re --

QUESTION: My question is: Can you confirm that there is another American hostage, a woman hostage, with the group? (Inaudible) they don’t want to identify her, but at least can you confirm --

MR. RATHKE: We’ve – as we’ve said in the past, there is a small number of hostages being held by ISIL. We’re not discussing specific numbers or other details.

QUESTION: A small number of hostages or American hostages?

MR. RATHKE: U.S. citizens.

QUESTION: Okay. Is that still true? Because you’ve said in the past that there were a small number, but three or four of them have been killed to this point, so --

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to discuss a specific number or other details.

QUESTION: Can you say multiples or --

MR. RATHKE: No. I’m not going to discuss a specific number or other details or characterize it in any other way.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on Colombia.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: President Santos suspended the peace talks with the FARC guerrilla after a general was abducted or kidnapped. Do you have a comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we condemn the kidnapping of Brigadier General Alzate and his travel companions on November 16th, particularly given the ongoing peace efforts by the Colombian Government. We’re a longtime supporter of Colombia and the Colombian Government’s efforts to bring peace to the Colombian people. That’s where I would leave it at this stage.

QUESTION: And – well, considering you’ve been like a longstanding supporter of the peace talks, do you find that the suspension is a smart move? Would you characterize it --

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to characterize the Colombian Government’s reaction. We certainly condemn the kidnapping, especially because of the efforts the Colombian Government had been making.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Also on North Korea. Does the U.S. view China as a partner in addressing the human rights condition in North Korea?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we talk regularly with China about issues related to North Korea. That’s – they are, of course, one of the parties to the Six-Party Talks, and an important partner in addressing the threats that come from North Korea. So it’s certainly an issue on which we have an ongoing dialogue.

QUESTION: Well, we’ve seen China become more proactive about the nuclear issue with North Korea. Is it your hope that they’ll become more proactive on the human rights issue as well?

MR. RATHKE: Again, this is a matter of ongoing international concern. I’ll let the Chinese Government speak for themselves about how they view these issues, but clearly the United States places high importance on the human rights situation in North Korea, along with our goal of denuclearization.

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on North Korea? No, okay. We’ll come to you in a second, Said.

Please.

QUESTION: Well, I had a question about Japan, actually, so --

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was wondering about if you have any reaction to Abe’s announcement that he’s going to dissolve parliament and hold elections in December.

MR. RATHKE: So we look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the Government of Japan across the broad range of regional and global issues. We’ve got an alliance that’s based on a shared commitment to democratic values, and that alliance has broad support across the political spectrum in Japan and the United States. So that’s the way we view the relationship with Japan. I don’t have a comment on his move to dissolve parliament.

QUESTION: Yeah, one more about North Korea.

MR. RATHKE: Okay.

QUESTION: North Korean’s second (inaudible) and Choe Ryong-hae visit to Russia yesterday, and he meet with Putin. How do you feel about – between – North Korea and Russia’s relationship is very close right now. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, I think we spoke to this last week. We’re certainly aware of the travel of the DPRK official to Russia. We maintain regular contact and consultations with Russia on issues related to the DPRK, and we closely coordinate with our partners, including Russia, to counter the threat to global security posed by the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. I don’t have anything further on that visit.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah, P5+1 talks. I know the meetings are ongoing as we speak now, or as we discuss, but are you aware of any split right down the middle among the (inaudible), which is the clerics headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and him being on the side of reaching a deal? Are you aware of that?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to analyze Iranian internal politics from here.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you expect that if there is such a deal and in fact that the supreme leader agrees to it, gives his blessing to Zarif and the government of President Rouhani, do you expect that Iran could teeter on the verge of chaos and internal dispute?

MR. RATHKE: Again, as I – I think as I said, I’m not going to analyze Iranian internal politics from here.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you can share with us about the meetings that are ongoing?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as you know, our team is in Vienna. They’re engaged in bilateral, in plenary, and in expert and a variety of other meetings – this is a sort of complicated, multilayered mechanism – along with the EU, our P5+1 partners, and Iran. Our delegation includes acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, former Deputy Secretary Bill Burns, and a number of other experts who’ve been engaged in these talks over the past year.

So they’re in Vienna now. Discussions have commenced, but I don’t have further readout to share.

QUESTION: During the press call by the senior Administration official yesterday, the issue of suspending the sanctions and not lifting them altogether came up, and the question. Do you have any comment on that? Is there a likelihood that the sanctions may, in fact, get suspended while not being lifted altogether?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think you were on the call, so you probably heard in detail.

QUESTION: Are you getting any kind of pressure from, let’s say, Senator Menendez and Senator Kirk, I believe, who issued a statement last week saying that the sanctions should not be lifted?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve said, given our past concerns, also that this Administration has and previous administrations and our partners in Congress have had about Iran’s nuclear programs and its intentions – we’ve said that it would not be logical or good policy to simply terminate sanctions immediately. So if the talks – P5+1 talks with Iran come to an arrangement, we’ve taken the view that it would be better to suspend – rather than terminate – sanctions at first, and only once we are confident that Iran had lived up to its commitments would we look to terminate the sanctions. Suspension makes it easier to snap sanctions back into – suspension makes it easier to snap sanctions back into place if Iran were not to hold up its end of the deal, so --

QUESTION: That is the thinking now, that if we reach --

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s been our thinking all along.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. RATHKE: There’s no change in that.

QUESTION: Isn’t that (inaudible), actually, that the sanctions are approved by Congress and only Congress can lift or keep them in place, but by executive order the President can suspend them?

MR. RATHKE: Well, there are a number of different sanctions, so – all of which --

QUESTION: But the vast majority, right?

MR. RATHKE: So again, our point of view on this has been that there would be suspension first before any termination, and in our conversations with Congress we’ve always agreed (inaudible) that we need to make sure Iran would live up to its commitments if we get to a comprehensive arrangement. So nothing --

QUESTION: One thing that I see is referring to it – and this was the case with the senior Administration official on the call yesterday – where you’re no longer talking about it as an agreement and you just use the word “arrangement.” And the official on the call was very careful to avoid the word “agreement” and said that it was because of a legal technicality. Do you know why it’s no longer an agreement but something else that you seem to be seeking?

MR. RATHKE: I’d have to check. I don’t have a vocabulary – I don’t have a glossary to share on that at this point.

QUESTION: Can you take that?

MR. RATHKE: I’m happy to (inaudible) look into that, yeah.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Hacking?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Lara, please.

QUESTION: Everybody’s favorite topic. You had talked yesterday from the podium about how the – it’s only the unclassified email systems at the State Department that was affected by this most recent data breach that prompted the suspension of – sorry, I’ve got suspended on my mind – (laughter) – but that prompted the shutdown over the weekend. But there’s been some suggestions that some of the missions and embassies and consulates have had some problems or could have some problems with processing passports or visas.

MR. RATHKE: No.

QUESTION: No? Not at all?

MR. RATHKE: No, no. These are unconnected. I mean, we have a separate system that deals with those types of consular issues – passports, visas, and so forth. Now there may be other technical issues that have arisen in one place or another. Is there a specific --

QUESTION: Yeah. Embassy Beirut, I think, had to --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. No, that’s unrelated to the outage that we’ve had here.

QUESTION: Well, what’s going on in Embassy Beirut, then?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have the specifics, but it’s a separate issue. And I – from what I understand, they were able to continue doing their operations today, so it was not any major impediment.

I can give you an update, though, on the outage. I can report that our external email services from our main unclassified system are now operating normally, and for those who feel they are tethered to their Blackberries, they are once again, because the Blackberry service is working. So our unclassified external email traffic is now normal, so we’ve had some progress since yesterday’s discussion. So much of it is now operational. Much of our systems that had connectivity to the internet are now operational. We have a few more steps that’ll be taken soon to reach full restoration of our connectivity.

QUESTION: But just to clarify, no consular services, no client-based services --

MR. RATHKE: That’s a separate --

QUESTION: -- have been affected by this outage?

MR. RATHKE: No, not to my knowledge. That’s – those are separate.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have internet access from the unclassified system now?

MR. RATHKE: No, we are not – we do not have internet access at this stage. That will be restored soon, we expect. Sorry, yes?

QUESTION: Anything else major that you don’t have now?

MR. RATHKE: No. No, I think that’s mainly it. But it – this has not stopped us from doing our work, so --

QUESTION: The classified system never went down, correct?

MR. RATHKE: No, it was never affected at any point. So as mentioned yesterday, that hasn’t changed. It was not affected.

QUESTION: And you still – you don’t want to hint who was behind this hacking?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything further to say on attribution.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Really quick – Oliver Cox, NBC. I just wondered if you guys have an update on the permit review process for the Keystone. I might’ve missed this at the top; I came in a little late. Do you have anything – updates on that?

MR. RATHKE: No, you didn’t miss anything at the top, but --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: -- I can say a word about that. Just give me a second.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. RATHKE: (Laughter.) I don’t think so. I mean, we – do you have a more specific question?

QUESTION: Just more on like the timing of when the permit review – I don’t know exactly the inner workings of how it all works, but just when the State Department is expected to give out more information on where that review process stands.

MR. RATHKE: Well, our review process continues. We have a well-established process. We are reviewing many factors. This includes energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant law and policy. This is also being conducted in consultation with eight other federal agencies, so as you can imagine, it’s quite a complex process, and that process is ongoing.

QUESTION: Is there any update on when – timing – when --

MR. RATHKE: No, I don’t have a deadline to provide.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on that topic?

Said, one last?

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you quickly about the meeting between Sameh Shoukry, the foreign minister of Egypt, and Secretary of State John Kerry.

MR. RATHKE: Meeting took place. I don’t have any details to share at this point. May have more to share later.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:16 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 19, 2014

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:43

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 19, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:37 p.m. EST

MR. RATHKE: Good afternoon, everybody.

QUESTION: Hello.

MR. RATHKE: All right. As you know, I’m sure, Tony Blinken will be having his confirmation hearing today, so I’ll try to be quick and then we’ll leave the field to him for the afternoon.

Two things at the top: First of all, Secretary Kerry is in London today. He had a brief follow-up meeting with Omani Foreign Minister bin Alawi to congratulate – to continue, sorry – to continue the discussion they had yesterday about the foreign minister’s recent trip to Tehran. The Secretary also participated in a discussion with entry and midlevel Foreign Service officers at Embassy London. He continues to stay in close touch with the team in Vienna and with interagency colleagues in Washington. Tomorrow, he will depart for Paris, where he will have separate meetings with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud and French Foreign Minister Fabius on the Iran nuclear negotiations.

Acting Deputy Secretary Sherman is in Vienna for the EU/P5+1 talks, which began with a series of meetings, including U.S.-Iran bilateral discussions, P5+1 internal coordination sessions, and experts meetings. The Secretary will travel to Vienna later this week, but we haven’t determined the day yet. More will come on that later.

And the second item at the top: Yesterday, I began the briefing with a pitch for my fellow Foreign Service officers who have been waiting for Senate confirmation. Secretary Kerry called in from London to his chief of staff, David Wade, and he asked me to come out here again this afternoon and do the same. The Secretary has been in continued contact with his former colleagues on Capitol Hill about this. It’s very important to him. He needs to have his team and he also feels it’s important that these non-controversial nominees be confirmed before Thanksgiving as well. It’s the right thing to do for them, for their families, and for America’s interests.

We’re making some headway and we’re grateful for that. Again, yesterday, the Senate confirmed five more ambassadors, all career diplomats, including Marcia Bernicat to Bangladesh, Leslie Bassett to Paraguay, James Zumwalt to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Craig Allen to Brunei, and William Roebuck to Bahrain. We appreciate the efforts of Leaders Reid and McConnell, and of course, the work of Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker in getting these ambassadors to work for the American people.

But let me just highlight one of the most important positions for the State Department that is yet to be confirmed. Ambassador Arnold Chacon is our nominee for director general of the Foreign Service and director of human resources. He would be responsible for strengthening our workforce and the Foreign Service through professional development and recruitment and increasing diversity, as well as for the welfare of our people here and those staffing some of the highest-risk posts across the world. He is greatly qualified to do so, serving in the Foreign Service since 1983, over 30 years. And he’s served in Western Hemisphere posts and here in Washington. He is a real star. He also happens to be the first Hispanic ever elevated to this position, which is important particularly for a Secretary who wants a State Department that reflects all of our country. This matters for many reasons. Let’s get Ambassador Chacon confirmed.

Again, we’re making progress. There are 55 State Department nominees waiting, 30 of whom are career Foreign Service officers. The vast majority of these remaining nominees could be confirmed quickly en bloc. We will look forward to continuing to working with the Senate to get this done. The Secretary has always said there are great public servants up there in the Senate, and he knows that none of them want to see this gridlock continues at the expense of career Foreign Service professionals.

With that, Lara, over to you.

QUESTION: Thanks. I have two – one very quick question up top, and then on a different topic, I will switch.

MR. RATHKE: Please.

QUESTION: But unfortunately, I need to leave shortly, so I wanted to see first off if you had any update on the detention of American citizen Taqi Al-Maidan in Bahrain.

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Yes, I do. Last September, U.S. citizen Taqi Al-Maidan was sentenced to 10 years in prison following his conviction for unlawful assembly, intent to kill police, destruction of police vehicles, and possession of Molotov cocktails. The U.S. Embassy in Manama has been providing all appropriate consular services to Mr. Al-Maidan since it became aware of his detention on October 7th, 2012. We are in regular contact with him and his family. We continue to consult with officials of the Government of Bahrain regarding Mr. Al-Maidan’s safety and welfare, his treatment in prison, including his medical and nutritional needs, and the Bahraini court system’s judicial proceedings.

Since Mr. Al-Maidan’s arrest, we have continued to follow his case very closely. We are aware of a recent report which – to which you made reference, Lara, published by the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We share many of its concerns related to Mr. Al-Maidan’s detention and we take its work very seriously.

QUESTION: And so is that something that you’ve raised specifically with the Government of Bahrain in terms of whether or not he should continue to be detained?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I said, we continue to consult with officials of the Government of Bahrain regarding Mr. Al-Maidan’s case, including all those aspects that I mentioned.

QUESTION: Okay. And then if I may, on the P5+1 – unless anybody else has something on Bahrain.

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on Bahrain? No. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, great. So just quickly, there seems to be increasing talk of an extension in these negotiations. That’s something that the State Department has said that there would only be a small possibility in very limited cases. Is it fair to assume that the State Department or the Obama Administration would be more flexible now with an extension of the negotiations than it has been previously?

MR. RATHKE: No. I don’t have anything new to say about that. We remain focused on November 24th and don’t have anything further to say about that.

QUESTION: Some of your allies, including the British foreign minister, with whom the Secretary met earlier this week, however, are saying things in public. He was just quoted, I think in Riga, as saying that he is not optimistic about getting a complete or a comprehensive agreement by the deadline, and therefore evoking the possibility of an extension of the prior JPOA or some version of it. Are you dismayed that your closest ally is publicly airing his doubts about getting this done in the next five days?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to express judgment on whatever the UK says for itself. Our hope remains to try to achieve an agreement by November 24th. We’re not talking about an extension.

QUESTION: Do you – when you say we’re not talking about an extension, do you mean that your negotiators are literally not discussing the possibility of an extension with their Iranian or other counterparts, that there’s no discussion of that whatsoever?

MR. RATHKE: As I said, we’re focused on November 24th. We’re not discussing an extension.

QUESTION: Including in the negotiating room?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to discuss what’s happening in the negotiating room. That’s been our position --

QUESTION: I just want to make sure – I want to make sure it’s not a – I want to make sure it’s not a deliberately ambiguous statement. In other words, I want to understand if when you say, “We’re not talking about an extension,” that that applies to the actual negotiations.

QUESTION: Or if you’re just saying you’re not talking about it from the podium or publicly.

MR. RATHKE: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed. It’s – so I’m repeating what I’ve had – what my predecessors at the podium, before they left on their travels, have said, and that is we are focused on November 24th as the deadline. We’re not having discussions about an extension. So there’s no change. There’s no difference to parse there.

QUESTION: Can I move to Iraq?

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: But are you hopeful that you will be able to meet the November 24 deadline?

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s our hope. We’re focused on the November 24th deadline. If there – of course, our team is on the ground. They are in active discussions bilaterally, multilaterally. But the readouts of that will come from them. I don’t have anything to add.

QUESTION: How much percentage we have reached, 90 percent or 95 percent?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to affix any kind of percentage number. We’ll know it’s done if we reach an agreement, but I’m not going to go beyond that.

QUESTION: Do you still believe it is possible to reach a comprehensive – excuse me – arrangement by the deadline?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. That’s why our team is there. Yes.

QUESTION: Well, it could be there to – even if you no longer believe it to be possible.

MR. RATHKE: But no, that’s – no, we consider that as achievable.

QUESTION: And you just made reference to it as an agreement, whereas the senior Administration official who briefed, I think, on Monday pointedly avoided using that word. Yesterday, we had asked if you could check on why legally there’s some technicality that means that a joint plan of action or a comprehensive joint plan of action maybe should not be called an agreement. Did you get an answer on that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I did check into that after the discussion yesterday. There are a lot of words that senior U.S. officials have used to describe what we’re trying to achieve here – agreement, arrangement, deal, set of understandings, you name it. Officials are using these words colloquially, and they’re all referring to the same document. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not completed. But if we do end up getting it done, we expect that the proper name for this will be the joint comprehensive plan of action, and that’s the way we view this --

QUESTION: And why isn’t it --

MR. RATHKE: -- these different nouns.

QUESTION: Why isn’t it – and I understand the colloquial use of varying terms to describe that document, if one is ultimately embraced by all sides. My question is: Why isn’t it an agreement?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it is because at the – what we have right now is the Joint Plan of Action, and the end goal of that was a comprehensive – joint comprehensive plan of action. So that’s –

QUESTION: But that’s not my question.

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, my question is the same as from yesterday, and I’m not trying to belabor this, but I would like an answer to it, because I think it’s reasonable for us to understand the legal terminology here. Why isn’t it legally an agreement? Is it that it’s not binding, for example? Is it that you haven’t actually signed anything at the end of it? I mean, I feel like there is a legal nicety here which L ought to be able to explain to you to explain to us.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m happy to check, but I’m not going to be able to guarantee you I’m going to have more to say on that topic. Happy to research that further.

QUESTION: Well, why wouldn’t you want people to understand the difference between a joint plan of action and an agreement? I mean, it seems like a very reasonable thing to want your citizens and the people who need to – who will – in Congress who are ultimately going to have to agree to any termination of sanctions to understand the difference. So, I mean, I don’t understand why that would be something you would be reluctant to air publicly.

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I say, the document itself is not completed, and that’s why our team is in Vienna working on it. I’m happy to see if there’s something more to say.

On the same topic?

QUESTION: Yeah, on the Vienna talks.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Did Deputy Sherman meet with the Iranian foreign minister in the bilateral or with his deputy?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t know have information about who was a participant on the Iranian side. There was a bilateral discussion with Iran today. We can check and see if there’s more information, but I don’t have the names of the lineup.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Same topic?

QUESTION: Iraq.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, anything else on Iran? Okay, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. First of all, there was a deadly explosion today in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, killing five people. And it was probably the first most serious attack this year – and injuring more than two dozens of people. Do you have anything on that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we just released a statement, I believe, or we will be releasing it shortly. The United States strongly condemns the continued terrorist attacks in Iraq, including the suicide car bomb attacks today in Basrah and in the Iraqi Kurdistan region in front of the Erbil Provincial Council Building that took a number of innocent lives. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.

The Iraqi people are determined to stand against the violence and the horrific ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and have successfully reclaimed their territory from ISIL at Mosul Dam, Rabia, Zumar, and other areas, including in recent days Bayji. So as Iraqi Security Forces continue to gain strength and ISIL loses territory, it may resort to cowardly attacks and killing civilians and other desperate measures to try to maintain its reign of fear and prove its relevance.

QUESTION: I mean, that happens at a time when a delegation of Kurdish officials, a high-ranking delegation, is here in Washington. They include Kurdistan president’s chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, and they have met with State Department officials. So yesterday I talked to Fuad Hussein. He said they are here because they want heavy weapons from the United States. He said they want Apache helicopters, they want all sorts of weapons that the United States is reluctant to provide to them. That’s why they have been very slow in recapturing the towns they lost to ISIS. Why is the United States so reluctant to arm the Kurds?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are committed to helping the Iraqi security forces, including the Kurdish security forces, achieve victory over ISIL, and I think our recent actions clearly demonstrate that commitment. We are continuing to evaluate the needs of all of Iraq’s security forces to ensure they have the necessary weapons to defeat ISIL. We also have enormous respect for the courage that the Kurds have shown and the fight that they already have taken to ISIL. Now as you know, because we’ve talked about it quite a bit in this room, in coordination with the Government of Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have been very supportive of the Iraqi Kurdish forces. The U.S. and other coalition members are also training and advising Kurdish forces as part of the broader plan to advise Iraqi military forces.

I would also note that Kurdish forces already have significant numbers of heavy weapons, including over a hundred tanks and hundreds of other armored vehicles and artillery systems that they are currently using in the fight against ISIL. So that’s --

QUESTION: But none of those weapons have come from the U.S. (Inaudible) yesterday was saying that the United States doesn’t give us, like, the weapons we need that are essential to basically implement President Obama’s degrade and defeat strategy against ISIS. And he said, “We’re not sure why they’re so reluctant to arm us. Are they waiting for the Iraqi Government forces to go and protect Kurdistan” – something which is really not quite reasonable at the moment.

And he was also saying, like, “While they are afraid about arming some rebels in Syria because they might – afraid those weapons might fall in the wrong hands, well, we wonder whether they have the same fear about us.”

MR. RATHKE: Well, the President has pledged to expand our efforts to support the Iraqi forces, including the Iraqi Kurdish forces. We are continuing to coordinate with the international community to provide the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish forces what is needed, and our policy in that respect hasn’t changed. As I say, we have provided a large amount of support, weapons, materiel to Kurdish forces. We’ve detailed that in previous briefings here, and that remains our position.

Anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah. I’ve got two quick follow-ups – I’m sorry – and then I have to run.

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead, Lara, and then we’ll go to Ilhan.

QUESTION: Yeah, just two quick follow-ups on Iraq. Further to my colleague’s point, there was some discussion some months ago in this room about whether the United States would provide military aid directly to the Kurdish Peshmerga or whether it’d go through Baghdad and it would be the Government of Iraq in Baghdad that would allocate those resources. Do you know what stream is currently underway now, if it’s a direct aid to Erbil or if it is routed through Baghdad?

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: Because that has a lot of weight on when those weapons are delivered and how often.

MR. RATHKE: Well, our policy remains that all arms transfers have to be coordinated through the sovereign central government of Iraq. As far as the exact pathway, I’d refer you to colleagues at the Defense Department, but the central point for us – that is, the sovereign central government of Iraq – these have to be coordinated through them.

QUESTION: Right, so – and the point being that it could be that the central government is holding up some of the delivery of this aid to the regional authorities.

MR. RATHKE: Not that I’m aware of, but again, that’s – if you’re asking about the logistical route followed, then --

QUESTION: No, no, no. It’s the political route, basically, that’s important here.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So my other question is: You mentioned the Basrah attack up top --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in conjunction with the Islamic State. Basrah is really far down south. Are you meaning to make those attacks – or attribute those attacks to the Islamic State? That would be a weird place --

MR. RATHKE: No, I didn’t mean to give that impression.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: I think, with respect to the – I was speaking to the fact that there were two attacks today which we were condemning. I’m not speaking about attribution in particular in the case of Basrah. I think that has just happened recently. We’re trying to gather more information, but we don’t have anything conclusive to state about the source of that at this point that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: It would be pretty newsworthy if the Islamic State was down in Basrah, so --

MR. RATHKE: Well, naturally.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay, thanks.

MR. RATHKE: So – okay. Ilhan.

QUESTION: On Iraq. Today, Turkish President Erdogan stated that no-fly zone and buffer zone need to be established in Iraq as well, since 40 percent of Iraq is invaded by ISIL, I believe. Do you have any kind of planning for no-fly zone and buffer zone in Iraq?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything new to announce. We are in constant discussion with our Turkish allies. Let me highlight, first of all, that the Special Presidential Envoy to Counter ISIL, General John Allen, had productive and positive discussions with senior Turkish officials today in Ankara about our shared efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. General Allen also expressed our appreciation for Turkey’s contribution to the efforts thus far, including generous humanitarian support for over 1.3 million Syrian refugees, maintaining corridors for humanitarian support to the Syrian opposition, agreeing to host the train and equip program for the moderate Syrian opposition, as well as taking measures to restrict the flow of foreign fighters and oil smuggling. So we look forward to further conversations with Turkey about what more we and our partners can do to degrade and defeat ISIL. I would also highlight that Vice President Biden will be in Turkey on Friday and Saturday.

The White House put out an announcement about that, I believe, yesterday. And so he will be meeting with President Erdogan as well as the prime minister. So we anticipate that those meetings, of course, will also focus on our cooperation.

With regard to the question you asked about no-fly zone, this is --

QUESTION: In Iraq.

MR. RATHKE: Excuse me?

QUESTION: In Iraq. No-fly zone in Iraq.

QUESTION: In Iraq, not Syria.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Well, that’s something I don’t have – I’m not aware of that statement, so I don’t have anything new to say on that. Our views on a no-fly zone in Syria have been clear, I think, for the past months – not part of our current plans, but it’s something we realize that others, including Turkey, have felt strongly about, and so we’ve continued conversations about that.

Yes.

QUESTION: So if we are talking about Syria, yesterday there was a conference call by the White House, and one of the officials stated that Turkey is already an active member of the anti-ISIL coalition. And today the President Erdogan again put forward a no-fly zone and buffer zone with regards to Syria. And he said that until these conditions are met, Turkey’s position regarding the coalition will not change. So I’m just trying to – many people are just trying to understand that – whether Turkey is part of the coalition, or as Ankara leadership seems to be saying, that Turkey will be part of the coalition if these conditions are met. Is there any way you can some – shed some lights onto this?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would let the Turkish Government speak for themselves about how they want to describe their efforts. I will simply state, as I mentioned at the start of my response to your question, that General Allen was just in Ankara, that we have had ongoing discussions with Turkey, and we have expressed on many occasions our appreciation for Turkey’s contribution to the efforts thus far, which have been in the humanitarian realm, also in stopping the flow of foreign fighters, in dealing with financing and so forth. So these are areas where Turkey is playing an important role – also in its readiness to host train and equip efforts. So these are all topics where we continue to work with Turkey and will continue to work with them.

QUESTION: Train and equip program. Do we have any kind of a calendar when this program will start?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think this was raised yesterday as well, and we spoke to this in a little bit of detail. Now, the – of course, this is a DOD-implemented program, so if you were looking for a lot of detail about it, I would refer you there. But our partners in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have offered a strong support to host and quickly stand up the program. The program is a long-term investment and one that takes some time on the front end for infrastructure, planning, logistics, and so forth, so I would refer you to the Department of Defense for more specific information.

QUESTION: Do you have any update --

MR. RATHKE: One more, and then we’re going to have to move on.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any update on Kobani? Some of the reports saying that the local forces are gaining some grounds against the ISIL.

MR. RATHKE: Right. We’re aware of those reports. We continue to target our air power around Kobani because ISIL is concentrating its fighters and materiel in that area, so we’re focused on degrading ISIL in that sanctuary. But as far as battlefield analysis, I don’t have anything new to share on particular movements.

Anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah, one more. The Kurdish delegation – are they meeting with anyone from this building, something you can tell us about what they’re doing?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, just a second. They are. The Kurdish delegation is in town, of course, from the Kurdish Regional Government. And on Monday, the delegation had meetings here at the State Department with our Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard, and also the acting Assistant Secretary of our Near Eastern Affairs Bureau Jerry Feierstein. And today they are expected to meet with the Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar.

Samir.

QUESTION: I was going to ask about the visit of the Vice President to Turkey. Does it have anything to do with the negotiations with Iran, the expected deal, the timing?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would refer you to the White House for the particular details of his program and goals and outcomes on that.

QUESTION: The timing of the visit, because the briefing in the White House yesterday, they didn’t mention Iran as an issue on the agenda.

MR. RATHKE: Right. Well, again, you’d have to ask the White House about that. They put out a lengthy release yesterday, and – but I don’t have anything to add on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian issues?

MR. RATHKE: Sure.

QUESTION: I presume you saw the announcement by a municipal authority that it had approved the construction of an additional 78 housing units in settlements that the Israeli Government regards as having been annexed to Jerusalem, part of greater Jerusalem. Does the U.S. Government have any view on this settlement announcement, or this housing construction announcement? And do you think that it is in consonance with your call yesterday for all sides to do what they could to reduce, rather than raise, tensions?

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, let me start with one sentence of context, which will be clear to, I think, most, but at any rate: The President and the Secretary strongly condemned yesterday’s attack on worshippers at the synagogue in Jerusalem – we talked about that in some detail yesterday – which killed five innocent people and injured several more.

With regard to the plan for construction activity in East Jerusalem, we would reiterate our clear and consistent opposition to construction activity in East Jerusalem. During this sensitive time in Jerusalem, we would see such activity as inconsistent with the goal of lowering tensions and seeking a path towards peace. That’s – and our concerns are well known to Israel’s leaders, and we continue to make those concerns known.

QUESTION: To ask what is typically Matt’s question: Are there any consequences --

MR. RATHKE: His spirit is in the room? Is that what you’re saying, Arshad?

QUESTION: His – are there any consequences to the Israeli Government for acting directly in contravention of your publicly stated position and in a manner that you regard as inconsistent with your goal of reducing tensions? Do they – are there any consequences for the Israeli Government, or not particularly?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we remain in close contact with the Israeli leadership. And we mentioned yesterday the Secretary, in particular, was in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we continue to call on President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, leaders on all sides to reduce tensions. I’m not going to get to more – get further down the road.

QUESTION: Do you regard being in contact with the Israeli Government as punitive for them?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think our position on this is well known. It hasn’t changed, and we continue to make that position known.

QUESTION: Have you reiterated it to them today? And if so, at what level?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to get into the level of diplomatic discussions, but we continue to make our concerns about this issue known.

QUESTION: Okay, but does that mean that you’ve made your concerns known about the latest announcement of these 78 units, or not?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to give a tick-tock of every single diplomatic conversation we have with the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: I don’t want that.

MR. RATHKE: If we haven’t, we will. I just can’t say with certainty that a meeting happened today; the announcement was made today. But certainly our view is known and we will continue to make it known.

Yes, Scott. Sorry, anything else on this topic?

QUESTION: Same.

MR. RATHKE: Same topic? Please.

QUESTION: Yes. You talked at length about house demolitions yesterday, so at the risk of making you repeat yourself – there was a demolition today. Netanyahu promised further demolitions. He also said, with a “heavy hand, we will restore security to Jerusalem.” Do you see those actions and those words as escalatory, or at this point, what we should expect?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to put a label on it, but as I’ve said in response to Arshad’s question, we’ve made it clear that all sides have to work together to lower tensions. And we believe that punitive home demolitions are counterproductive in an already tense situation. This is a practice I would remind that the Israeli Government itself discontinued in the past, recognizing its effects. I – so I would say, once again, that we believe this is a time for leadership and for all sides to take steps to calm tensions.

QUESTION: Have they conveyed to you at all why they are resurrecting that practice then?

MR. RATHKE: I think that they can speak for themselves about that.

Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: At a government (inaudible) hearing in the state Duma today, Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed President Obama calling Russia a principal threat to the world. He said, quote, “The first time I took note of the listing of the threats that President Obama took the liberty of doing was when I spoke at the UN General Assembly. Sometime later, talking to John Kerry not so long ago, I asked him what it was supposed to mean. He said, ‘Forget about it,’” end quote. Foreign Minister Lavrov went on to say that Secretary Kerry suggested that the Russians forget about it, principally because the Secretary was interested in discussing the P5+1 nuclear deal and North Korea. Is that the opinion of the State Department?

MR. RATHKE: Well, that is an incorrect characterization. And we’ve seen, naturally, the reports of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments. It’s unfortunate that these reports indicate the foreign minister has incorrectly characterized the private diplomatic discussions between himself and Secretary Kerry. As we’ve said repeatedly, we will continue to work with Russia on areas where we agree while standing firmly against Russia’s violations of international principles and the sovereignty of other nations. But that characterization is incorrect.

QUESTION: So Secretary Kerry believes that Russia is a principal threat to the world?

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course the Secretary supports the President’s statements regarding Russia, and he didn’t indicate otherwise in his conversation.

Anything else on this topic?

QUESTION: No, different.

MR. RATHKE: No. Go ahead please.

QUESTION: On North Korea, on the human rights issue of North Korea. Yesterday, you said that United States have cosponsored North Korean human rights UN resolutions.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: What is the United States final destination of North Korean human right issues?

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry. What is our final --

QUESTION: Final destinations of human rights, North Korean human right issue?

MR. RATHKE: Well, you will have noticed that the United Nations General Assembly – yesterday, Third Committee passed a resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. We think this resolution sends a clear message from the international community that the DPRK’s egregious violations of human rights are not going unnoticed by the international community and that those most responsible must be held accountable. So we’ve cosponsored this resolution in the Third Committee every year since 2003 and we did so again this year. So we continue to work with the international community to sustain attention, international attention, on the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea and to seek to find ways to advance accountability for the serious violations that have been and that continue to be committed. So --

QUESTION: Will the United States bring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to International Criminal Court?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything to say on that. We are in the process of discussing with Security Council colleagues possible next steps in the council. But again, this is a vote in the Third Committee of the General Assembly. Presumably, it then goes to the full General Assembly. But I don’t have anything further to announce with respect to action beyond that. So we’ll let the UN General Assembly do its work at this stage.

QUESTION: So you said the court – not has been (inaudible), so that means will be taken to the court, like International Criminal Court.

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry. What --

QUESTION: So you said yesterday court not – not been (inaudible). That doesn’t mean anything.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speak to issues related to the International Criminal Court. That’s – what I’m saying is that the General Assembly – the Third Committee of the General Assembly has voted on this resolution. My understanding is then the full General Assembly would address it. So what would go – what would happen after that is something that we’ll wait to see once the General Assembly has completed its work.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Michael.

QUESTION: Jeff, I have a question on Cyprus. Your ambassador to Nicosia, Mr. John Koenig, addressed last Friday the provocations by Turkey. He gave an interview to the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, and he said, and I quote, okay, Barbaros – as we know, Barbaros is the ship that the Turks sent to the Cyprus exclusive economic zone – “Barbaros is in violation of the UN’s Law of the Sea international conventions.” This is what your ambassador to Nicosia said. Do you share this statement? Do you agree with this statement?

MR. RATHKE: I haven’t seen the statement you’re talking about, so I’m not going to --

QUESTION: Can you take the question and speak with him and ask --

MR. RATHKE: Well, look, we’ve talked about this at some length in this room. The United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. The United States continues to support strongly the negotiation process conducted under UN Good Offices to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. And 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 statement – settlement, excuse me. I don’t have anything further to say.

QUESTION: Okay. But just please take this question because --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not --

QUESTION: -- he’s saying something else this time. He’s --

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I’ve – what I’ve stated here is our view on this. I don’t have anything further to add at this point.

Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I take it back to North Korea for a second?

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: I believe that they responded to the resolution yesterday by saying that they’re threatening more nuclear tests. Do you have any response to that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we take very seriously the human rights situation in North Korea. That is not the only issue related to North Korea and its activity, unfortunately. Naturally, denuclearization is the top priority with respect to North Korea. So I’m not familiar with that statement, but it would certainly be unfortunate to threaten with that kind of activity in response to the legitimate focus on North Korea’s human rights situation by the international community.

Anything else on North Korea?

QUESTION: So when you --

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. RATHKE: One more.

QUESTION: When you resume the Six-Party Talks, your link is with North Korean human right issues. Is the same category or different, separated talk?

MR. RATHKE: Well, our view on the Six-Party Talks remains the same. We – North Korea knows what it has to do in order to – for the talks to be reinitiated. We’re not interested in talks for talks’ sake only. North Korea has to take steps, and those are clear.

Arshad, you wanted to ask about Burkina Faso.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you will have seen that the military officer has now been named prime minister. Is that a good move?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I don’t want to put a label on that. I think I would stand by what we said yesterday about the transition in Burkina Faso. We congratulate the people of Burkina Faso and their leaders on signing the transition charter. We also congratulated Michel Kafando on his selection as interim president. We urge the men and women of Burkina Faso’s armed forces to return to their primary mission, which is safeguarding the territorial integrity of Burkina Faso and the security of its citizens. And the central mission of the transitional government, we firmly hope, will be to ensure the effective preparation for national elections in November of 2015.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t give you any pause that the army colonel who had declared himself head of state following the departure of Compaore is going to be the prime minister? Does that not strike you as perhaps not leading in the direction of democracy --

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: -- nor necessarily leading in the direction of the armed forces returning to their primary goal of protecting the territorial integrity of the country?

MR. RATHKE: Well, this is something we keep a close eye on. Of course, we’re watching this carefully, and there’s been not only attention from the United States, but the international community on the transition there. So this is something we continue to keep under scrutiny. I simply don’t have a further statement on it today. But naturally, this is something we are focused on and will remain focused on.

Scott.

QUESTION: The U.S. ambassador to Yeravan discussed the downing of the Armenian helicopter by Azeri forces in a meeting with the Armenian defense minister. The Armenian defense ministry, in a readout of that meeting, said they spoke of the need to recover the bodies of the helicopter crew. Do you have a readout of that meeting?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a readout of that meeting.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: What is – what’s the nature of your question?

QUESTION: Well – okay, that was the nature of my first question. The OSCE monitors along that border have been unable to visit the crash site of the Armenian helicopter that was shot down. Is that something that the United States is working to encourage?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we understand that there are – there may have been a refusal of access to an OSCE representative; would refer you to the OSCE for further details on that.

We – our position on the helicopter shoot-down remains, though. We think that it’s a reminder of the need for all sides to redouble efforts on a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I don’t have anything beyond that.

Yes, Goyal.

QUESTION: Two questions, sir. One on India: As far as U.S.-India relations are concerned, many high-level visits are taking place from the U.S. to India. Could you talk about those visits now?

MR. RATHKE: Well, on November 17th, Under Secretary Rick Stengel participated in the U.S.-India Higher Education Dialogue, an annual bilateral event that identifies areas for exchange and strategies for partnership in the field of education. This provided a platform for collaboration among academics, the private sector, and government.

On November 18th, Under Secretary Stengel and Assistant Secretary Charles Rivkin participated in the India-U.S. Technology Summit. This is India’s 20th annual technology summit and the first time that the United States has participated as a partner country. The summit convened representatives of several hundred Indian and U.S. companies as well as senior leaders from industry, government, and academia to build partnerships and encourage bilateral trade and investment.

And today and tomorrow – that is, November 19th and 20th – Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller is in India to co-chair the U.S.-India Strategic Security Dialogue with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh. The under secretary will also meet with other Indian counterparts on matters of international security. So clearly, there is a lot happening in our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: And second, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, foreign workers especially – the Indian workers there are being targeted, and somebody somehow wants them to be out of Afghanistan. Because India has invested billions of dollars in rebuilding Afghanistan. Now, under the new government in Afghanistan, how can you show that those workers – not only India’s, but foreign workers – will be protected?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have any particular information about the situation that you described. Naturally, that would seem to be a bilateral issue for the Afghan and Indian leadership to address in the first instance.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking – I’m sorry. Two days ago, the bombings in Afghanistan, and several foreign workers were injured or killed and targeted as well.

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course, we continue to support Afghan security forces in their mandate to provide security for the Afghan population, and they have been fighting their own battles against the insurgency. They’ve been holding gains previously made by ISAF, so we continue to work with and support the Afghan security forces.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, go ahead, and we’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Follow-up of the question we asked on Monday on TAPI about Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India gas pipeline – do you have anything on that?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything new to say. I’m happy to get back to you afterwards.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday there were reports that Islamic State is now in complete control of the town of Derna in Libya. So this is only a little over 300 kilometers from Italy. Will General Allen be discussing Islamic State in the Mediterranean coast when he travels to Italy?

MR. RATHKE: Well, let me mention a couple of things with regard to Libya. First, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Bernardino Leon, announced this morning that a ceasefire had been negotiated in Benghazi. We welcome this announcement and the reports that the parties are adhering to the ceasefire. We call on all Libyans to support the ceasefire, to allow the Red Crescent to evacuate civilians from affected areas, and to allow affected civilians the opportunity to address their immediate humanitarian needs. Libya’s problems are political in nature and require a political solution, so we fully support the efforts of the UN special representative and urge all parties to cooperate with him.

Now with regard to Derna, we are closely monitoring the situation and are concerned by the destabilizing threat that militias and terrorist groups pose to the Libyan people and government. We have seen reports that some violent extremist factions have pledged allegiance to ISIL and sought to associate themselves with it. We continue to watch for signs that these statements amount to something more than purely rhetorical support.

All right. Anything else? Thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: About – I know yesterday you were talking about promoting dialogue between the protestors in Hong Kong and the Government of China, but it seems like the news from the last week hasn’t been very positive in terms of dialogue, and I was wondering how confident you are that dialogue will bring a viable solution to the situation.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are aware of reports that a small group of protestors attempted to break into the Hong Kong legislative council. We note that legislators of all political stripes and protest leaders condemn these actions. We continue to call for protestors to express their views peacefully and for Hong Kong’s authorities to exercise restraint.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:23 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 17, 2014

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 11:48

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 17, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:32 p.m. ET

MR. RATHKE: Hello. Good afternoon, everybody. So I just have on item to mention at the top, and then we can get started. As you’ve probably seen, Secretary Kerry is traveling to London today for consultation with his European counterparts and to brief government officials from the Middle East on the ongoing EU and P5+1 negotiations with Iran. He will later travel to Vienna, Austria this week, but the date and time of that arrival is still being determined. And you will also perhaps have seen – I think we just put out a note or will shortly put out a note about our delegation to the P5+1 talks. So you’ll see that shortly if you haven’t already.

And with that, Lara, please.

QUESTION: I’m sure people have a lot of P5 questions to ask, but I wanted to quickly ask about Ebola. My understanding is that the doctor who died wasn’t brought to the United States from Sierra Leone as quickly as he might have. I’m wondering if you can explain why.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have any details to share about the timing. The Department was asked by a U.S. citizen to provide medical evacuation assistance to the lawful permanent resident family member, and we carried out the evacuation in accordance with that request. I don’t have details about the timing.

QUESTION: You don’t know when that request came in?

MR. RATHKE: I’d have to check on that. I don’t have that.

QUESTION: Okay. If you could, please.

QUESTION: Can we go to cyber security?

MR. RATHKE: Okay, just – any other questions on Ebola or that evacuation? Okay. Please, Arshad.

QUESTION: So it’s fairly widely disseminated that the State Department unclassified email system was hacked, for want of a better term, several weeks ago, and that the Department chose to shutdown portions, I think, rather than all of that system over the weekend, to try to improve its security. To start with, who do you believe is responsible for the hacking, for the breach of the system?

MR. RATHKE: Well, first of all, let me start – as we mentioned to some over the weekend in response to queries, the State Department, like any other large organization that has a global span is a constant target of cyber attacks, and we closely monitor cyber security. And we detected activity of concern several weeks ago, and as a result, we immediately formed a team to develop and implement a response plan, in coordination with cyber security experts from DHS and from other agencies. And we are implementing carefully planned improvements to the security of our main unclassified network, taking advantage of a scheduled outage. Let me also highlight that no classified systems have been affected by this incident.

And so with regard to attribution, I don’t have anything to share at this point on the origins of the intrusion. It’s something that remains under investigation.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you don’t know or does it mean that you – does it mean that you don’t know and you’re still investigating it, or that you know but it’s just not something that you feel you can share?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are still investigating it. I don’t have anything further to share right now.

QUESTION: So you may know, but you’re just not willing to say.

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s all I’m going to say at this point on that.

QUESTION: Just a couple more ones on this.

MR. RATHKE: Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Regardless, I understand your statement that no classified systems were breached. Do you believe that any classified information might have been compromised as a result of its being aired on the unclassified email system, presumably in contravention of your policies?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we take our responsibility seriously to safeguard information, and we do not send classified information over our unclassified systems. So in that respect, and also because no classified systems were affected by this incident, then no, we have no reason to believe classified information would have been affected.

QUESTION: And are you going back to check or to spot-check in any way, because it is – even if it is the rule that classified information should never be transmitted over an unclassified email system, we know, for example, from the mobile phone conversation that was recorded and broadcast of one of your assistant secretaries, that sensitive diplomatic communications are sometimes conducted over non-secure systems. And so I’m wondering if the Department is making an effort to ascertain whether there might have been any breaches of classified information from the untoward activity on the unclassified system.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we take cyber security very seriously, and we are well aware of the difficulties that cyber threats present. And so we are careful about that. I don’t have anything more to say though beyond what I already said on that.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t know if you’re actually looking into whether there may have been breaches via the unclassified system?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to go into all the details of our response and to technical issues, but again, I stand by what I said, that is we have no reason to believe classified information was compromised.

QUESTION: But that’s different from what you – you said no classified systems had been compromised, not that no --

MR. RATHKE: Well, that’s correct as well.

QUESTION: So both are true. Okay.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Great. And just last one for me on this: A senior official said that this was part of the same incident previously disclosed by the Executive Office of the President. Were multiple U.S. agencies targeted as part of that wider incident of several weeks ago? Or was it just those two – the State Department and EOP?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it’s – we believe that this activity was linked to the incidents – connected with the Executive Office of the President a few weeks ago. I don’t have a broader conclusion to draw than that --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: -- at this time. Anything else on this topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t have anything to do with the Secretary’s travels over the last two weeks? There’s no indication --

MR. RATHKE: No.

QUESTION: -- that any of the information was compromised either in the countries or by the countries where he was traveling?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, this is similar to Arshad’s question. I’m not going to get into all of the technical aspects and all the details of our investigation. We became aware of this intrusion a few weeks ago, and we immediately began working with other agencies in order to come up with a plan to mitigate it. But I’m not going to get into any further details than that.

QUESTION: Why do you think it’s linked?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the technical details of our network security.

QUESTION: What --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that you immediately formed a team to look at this. Why not immediately shutdown the system?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we reached a judgment that that was the best way to deal comprehensively with the situation that we had to deal with. This was – we are regularly upgrading our security, and in this case the response to this specific incident needed to be more comprehensive than our regular updates. And so we took the opportunity of this scheduled outage to do so.

QUESTION: And just so we’re clear, when you say “scheduled outage,” the outage was previously scheduled. It was already expected to happen during the period of time that it happened. It was not something that was scheduled after you realized the attack on your unclassified system?

MR. RATHKE: No, the former. That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Lalit.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) attack origin was from inside the U.S. or outside the U.S.?

MR. RATHKE: As I’d said in response to Arshad’s question, I don’t have anything to share, at this point, about the origins.

QUESTION: Did at any point of time it also compromised the non-classified network which the Secretary himself uses?

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry. Repeat the question.

QUESTION: Did this attack also compromise at any point of time the unclassified network being used by the Secretary of State or his office?

MR. RATHKE: Well, this – as I said, this is a – this was an attack that affected our unclassified email system. And in order to address that, we’ve used this scheduled outage in the connectivity of our main unclassified network to implement enhancements to our security measures.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary use an unclassified system?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to get into the Secretary’s --

QUESTION: To what extent was the damage? What is the assessment of the damage caused by --

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to get into those details at this stage.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. RATHKE: Just a moment. Anything else on this topic?

QUESTION: So this has – this has stopped? There’s no longer a cyber-attack on this unclassified network right now? It has stopped?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve – our email systems operate on a worldwide platform. We have our internal – our internal connectivity remains in place. It’s connectivity to the internet that has been affected. None of our classified systems have been affected, and we are doing right now – implementing the security upgrades that I described.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Nazira Karimi. I’m correspondent for Ariana Television from Afghanistan, and I’m from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, now it is the Taliban increase their activity again. And the day before yesterday was big suicide bomber accident and one of the congresswomen also get injured. Do you have any concern?

And also the other question: Comedian John Oliver described about interpreter in Afghanistan who worked for U.S. authority that their visa process take a long time, and they are – and their family there under arrest. Do you know that there is some U.S. authority work to expedite their visa process?

MR. RATHKE: Well, with respect to your first question, we strongly condemn the November 16th attack that targeted member of parliament Shukria Barakzai. We offer our sincere condolences to those affected by the attack, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. At this time, we’re not aware of claims of responsibility, but that does not diminish in any way our strong condemnation of the attack.

Now, with respect to the Special Immigrant Visa Program to which you referred, the State Department and the United States Government are committed to supporting those who have helped the United States, often at great personal risk, and we have been working to improve our process for the so-called Special Immigrant Visas. I would point out that this year we’ve issued more than 7,900 Special Immigrant Visas to Afghans, and those are principal applicants. That overall benefits more than 11,000 Afghans and their family members who have benefitted from this program.

Now, in August, Congress raised the ceiling, authorizing an additional 1,000 visas for the SIV Program, and this allows us to keep issuing visas into Fiscal Year 2015, but there may be a need for additional action if we approach that ceiling. So this is something we take quite seriously and we take every step we can to expedite the process in these kinds of visas.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Lalit.

QUESTION: So this figure of 7,900 or 11,000 is up to the fiscal year ending September 30th?

MR. RATHKE: That’s right. That was in the Fiscal Year 2014.

QUESTION: And what’s the quota for the next year?

MR. RATHKE: That I’d have to check. I don’t have those data in front of me.

Yes.

QUESTION: And (inaudible) the SIV program is for Iraqis? I believe it was supposed to expire, and if that’s the case, I’m wondering if there will be any move to extend it given all the unrest in Iraq of this year.

MR. RATHKE: Well, in Iraq also there is in addition to the Special Immigrant Visa Program, there are also people who are eligible for refugee resettlement processing, so there it becomes – it looks like a more complicated --

QUESTION: Right, but anybody can apply for ION.

MR. RATHKE: Well, yes, but --

QUESTION: But it was – SIVs were given to Afghans and Iraqis specifically --

MR. RATHKE: Right, correct.

QUESTION: -- especially those who were helping American soldiers --

MR. RATHKE: So in Fiscal Year 2014 we issued over 1,400 Special Immigrant Visas to principal applicants and family members from Iraq.

QUESTION: But could you take the question? I’m more interested in whether or not that might be extended for future years.

MR. RATHKE: Happy to look into the Fiscal Year 2015 situation.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

QUESTION: Jeff, is the difficulty with people who had helped the U.S. Government – what is it a function of, from your point of view? Is it a function of not having sufficient spots to be able to offer, and hence one that can and was addressed by congressional action, or is it some other issue?

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry, your question is about the numbers or about the --

QUESTION: The question began with talking about the comedian John Oliver’s piece on this, which I think basically talked about the difficulty that people have had from these countries taking advantage of this program. And I don’t understand why that’s been (a) a problem and (b) a problem for so long. I mean, I think it was first brought to light in an op-ed piece by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, who talked about what a shame it was that people who had helped the United States were not able to get visas to escape or to leave. And so I just don’t understand why this isn’t kind of a well-oiled machine at this point. Now, it may be that there were limitations on the number of people who were permitted to be granted those visas, and therefore it’s a matter for congressional action because the Executive can’t just by fiat, I think, increase that program, right?

MR. RATHKE: Correct.

QUESTION: Or if there’s something more intrinsic in the process, that the process doesn’t work efficiently or smoothly as it should.

MR. RATHKE: Well, let me just start off by saying again we have the highest respect for men and women who take risks in supporting our military and civilian personnel, and we’re committed to helping those people who’ve helped us. So in general, the visa application process, it takes some time, and all visa applicants are thoroughly vetted to ensure they do not pose a threat to the security of the United States.

Now, as far as the numbers, the issuance of Special Immigrant Visas in Afghanistan has ramped up over the past year because we’ve made a number of improvements to the processing times at every stage. And we’ve also expanded our outreach to current employees to former employees who might be eligible, and we remain focused on expediting the processing time. But it’s an interagency process that takes a bit of time to complete.

As far as the numbers go, then there was – we were in the situation at the end of last fiscal year where we were approaching the ceiling, Congress raised that ceiling for Fiscal Year 2014. I’ll have to get back with more details about the 2015 situation.

QUESTION: And one more on this. What is the processing time, or what was it before you began instituting the improvements, and sort of what is it now from A to Z? And I understand that there are multiple agencies and multiple levels that are involved in this, but for an ordinary person who is trying to take it – well, I guess none of them is ordinary, but someone in this category who’s applying for such a visa, how long was it taking before your improvements, and how long is it taking now?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t know what – I don’t have data for before the improvements, but the current average processing time, and this is roughly consistent both with respect to Afghanistan as well as Iraq, is about eight months from start to finish. Of course, that depends on a number of factors; that’s average – the average processing time.

QUESTION: Could I go back to cyber if that’s okay?

QUESTION: I have one (inaudible).

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Okay, Lalit. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know how many – the number of pending applications for these visas, or what’s the estimated number of people who require the visas?

MR. RATHKE: I do not have any information here about number of people in the pipeline, so we’ll have to look into that and get back to you.

QUESTION: And is this the highest number so far, the last several years – 7,900 or 11,000?

MR. RATHKE: I believe so, but we’d have to check. I don’t want to --

QUESTION: Two quick ones on cyber. You said that you have no reason that any classified information was compromised. How can you know that without having done some kind of a check on the unclassified system to see whether classified information was, in fact, being transmitted using that system in violation of your normal rules?

MR. RATHKE: Well, you will appreciate, I’m sure, that I’m not going to get into the details of exactly how we are responding to this particular incident. And I’m also not going to get into details of how we are analyzing the effect of the intrusion. But it’s our view that there has not been –that our classified systems have not been affected and that we have not had a breach of classified information.

QUESTION: And what harm would it cause to disclose, “Yeah, we’re taking a look at some tiny fraction of unclassified emails to make sure that classified material isn’t disseminated on them”? I mean, why is it hard to admit that? I understand you don’t want to let the people who are trying to attack your systems have any information that might make it easier for them to attack your systems. I don’t see how letting people know, “Yeah, we’re going back to check to make sure that there are no problems here in terms of using the unclassified system as it’s properly meant to be used” – which is to say, not putting classified information on it – I don’t see how that would help a potential hacker, as it were.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m just not going to get into more detail about the security measures we’re taking.

QUESTION: And then – okay. Last one from me on this: When – I know that you’ve said that you expect your unclassified system to be back up soon. Is it back up yet? Do you think it’ll be today, or is this a matter of days?

MR. RATHKE: It’s not up right – well, let me be more precise. So it’s our connectivity to the internet. So our internal systems – that is, people emailing from one state.gov address to another – that functions, both in Washington and overseas.

QUESTION: Unclassified.

MR. RATHKE: Unclassified.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: As well as classified, in which there’s been --

QUESTION: Of course. Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: -- no effect. It’s internet-connected systems that have been taken down while we implement these security measures. So that remains down.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: But I’m not going to give a specific deadline or prognosis.

QUESTION: That includes, however, emails from people like me to people’s unclassified email systems at State. I mean, I got bounce-backs even this morning.

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: And you don’t have any kind of an estimate on when that may be?

MR. RATHKE: I’m just not going to give an estimate. We’re working on it as fast as we can, but I’m not going to give a specific estimate.

Anything else on this topic?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: On this topic?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Go ahead (inaudible).

QUESTION: I’m sorry for being late – traffic. How much assurance can you give to people in India and other countries that their information that they have submitted to you electronically is safe and has not been stolen?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would go back to what I said, which is this has affected our email system; it has not affected our business systems. So that’s, I think, worth noting.

New topic?

QUESTION: Iran?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Who exactly is the Secretary going to be briefing about the Iran negotiations while he’s in London?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the schedule is coming together. We’ll have more to say on that soon. He’ll be meeting with European counterparts, also with counterparts from the Middle East. But this is coming together on short notice, so I don’t have details to share right now.

QUESTION: And in signaling that he will be going to Vienna at the appropriate time, does that not almost guarantee that there’ll be no headway until he shows up? I mean, isn’t that often the way negotiations work, that the lower-level negotiators don’t – if you know that a more senior one is coming in, you might as well just wait until they show up before showing your hand?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction about these talks. And certainly we have a team that is going out to Vienna. They’re leaving today, as I mentioned. A note will be going out shortly with the composition of our team, which will look very familiar, I think, to those of you who have been following the P5+1 talks – a very senior team, very experienced team. So they will be getting to work right away. And the Secretary will go to Vienna at the appropriate moment, but we’re not going to suggest exactly when that will be.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: Will there be a bilateral meeting, or it’s going to be a ministerial? Because I read the French foreign minister is planning to go to Vienna, too.

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any details about the particular format of the discussions, but again, these are P5+1 discussions. So we would expect them to go ahead in that format. But then, of course, during each of the sessions, there have usually been meetings in smaller formats, whether they’re bilaterals or trilaterals. So those have happened in the past. I don’t have any scheduling information, though, to give right now about the talks coming up later this week.

Yes, go ahead. Same topic?

QUESTION: Same topic, yeah. I want to take a step back to the Amman meeting between Secretary Kerry, Javad Zarif, and Catherine Ashton. Is it fair to say that that meeting not only didn’t resolve anything, get their views any – bring their views any closer, but that maybe Iran presented demands beyond what had already been – was being discussed and made things even more complicated?

MR. RATHKE: No, that’s not a fair statement. We’ve said all along we’re not going to do a day-to-day tick-tock readout of what is happening inside the room for very sensitive negotiations. We’ve been direct in our negotiations, but I’m not going to characterize – and we’ve also been clear about the overall objective, which is ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and closing down the pathways to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and reminding Iran that it has to find – that it has to demonstrate that its assurances about the purely civilian nature of its nuclear program can be verified and proven. Those things are all clear, but I’m not going to get into characterizing individual conversations such as you’ve described.

QUESTION: Because it’s not a fair characterization, you said. So are you in fact saying that things did not move backwards?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to characterize that conversation.

QUESTION: That’s fine. If you don’t want to characterize it, that’s fine. But what you said was it wasn’t a fair statement. So that’s characterizing it in some way, no?

MR. RATHKE: No. I was saying that I thought the question was unfair because it seeks to reach a conclusion about a specific meeting and its outcome, which is not what we’re going to get into.

Yes, Lalit.

QUESTION: I have one on Afghanistan-Pakistan. Last week --

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry, just a moment. Anything else on Iran before we move? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Last week, four countries – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India – established a joint venture company for transportation of gas from Turkmenistan to India, passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Do you have anything to say on that, on that four-countries gas pipeline?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything to – on that. I’m happy to look and see if there’s something I can share, but I just don’t have anything in front of me.

QUESTION: I have one more small thing. The Pakistan’s army chief is visiting.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Is anyone from this building meeting him? And --

MR. RATHKE: So General Raheel Sharif began his first visit to the United States as chief of the army staff with a series of high-level meetings with U.S. officials and a visit to Central Command headquarters in Florida. Senior State Department officials will continue to engage with General Raheel Sharif, and the State Department will participate in the general’s visit. But at the moment, I don’t have further details to announce about exactly whom he would meet with and when and that kind of scheduling information.

QUESTION: From the State Department’s perspective, what are the issues that you plan to – that you’re planning to discuss with him?

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course, we have a broad relationship with Pakistan, and the chief of the army staff is a key figure. So we’ve been having – already he’s been having productive and positive meetings. They’ve focused on a range of issues, from the situation in North Waziristan to border security and so forth.

QUESTION: He is coming to this – to the city after (inaudible) you said and the actions against terrorists in North Waziristan for the past several months. Are you satisfied by the actions that the Pakistan army has taken against terrorist groups?

MR. RATHKE: Well, of course, we consider it extremely important to, the fight against extremist groups and we’ve offered at every stage to be supportive, and we remain in dialogue with our Pakistani counterparts about that. I don’t have anything new to read out about that. Of course, the general will be meeting with a range of high-level Administration and congressional officials this week, which is an opportunity to continue that conversation.

Samir, and then we’ll go to Ilhan.

QUESTION: The Saudi minister for the National Guards, who is the son of the king, also visiting tomorrow Washington and expected to meet with the President. Is there – is he coming here part of this military – the meetings with military people from the --

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything to – any meetings to announce with respect to that. If there is a meeting at the White House, I’d refer you to them for details of that.

Ilhan.

QUESTION: Thank you. I had couple for Turkey. Prime Minister Davutoglu, during – over the weekend, he had a press meeting. And he said that he had this lunch meeting with the President Obama, and he was stating that Turkey and U.S. agreed that the ISIS could not be defeated unless President Assad is toppled. Is there any way you can speak to this? Is there some kind of a consensus emerging between --

MR. RATHKE: If I understand correctly, you’re asking about a conversation the President had --

QUESTION: In general.

MR. RATHKE: -- with President Erdogan, so I’d encourage you to --

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. RATHKE: -- ask that question at the White House about the content of that conversation.

QUESTION: In general, would you be able to tell us that there is some kind of a consensus emerging between the U.S. and Turkey in terms of strategy in Syria, that Assad must be defeated in order to defeat ISIS?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would refer you to the speech that the Secretary gave this morning, where he went to – at the Open Forum on Transformational Trends. He gave an update on Operation Inherent Resolve. He talked about the five lines of effort. Our strategy has not changed, and he recounted where we stand now, what progress has been made. I don’t have anything further to add on that.

QUESTION: I am sorry. I have not seen that particular speech, and I will check it. Is there any way you can tell us that – do you think that in order to defeat ISIS, first – or at the same time – Assad must be toppled?

MR. RATHKE: I really don’t have anything further to add on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, he – I saw the speech. He didn’t make that link directly, so it’s not this building’s belief that --

MR. RATHKE: Well, our strategy remains as – it remains the same.

QUESTION: But the strategy has been Iraq first, so – I mean, heretofore, anyway. So is that the case, then? Is it still Iraq first? Is it not that Assad must go before ISIS can be defeated?

MR. RATHKE: Well, our focus is on defeating ISIL, and that of course takes different forms in Iraq as opposed to in Syria because the situations in each country are quite different. Again, there’s – we’ve spoken to this in some detail. The strategy remains the same, though, and I don’t have any change in it to announce.

QUESTION: So in other words, you think that ISIS can be defeated without toppling Assad first or at the same time?

MR. RATHKE: No, I’m not going to have words put in my mouth, Ilhan. What – do you have something particular to ask?

QUESTION: Yes. Yeah, for the last couple of days, a couple of deputy prime ministers in Turkey were talking about whether U.S. leadership has been talking to PKK leadership at Qandil Mountain, northern Iraq, regarding the peace process between the PKK and Turkish administration. Is there any way you can confirm --

MR. RATHKE: We have – I have no information about any meetings with PKK representatives. The PKK remains a designated foreign terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Okay. I can move to Syria if --

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on that topic? Okay, one more, and then we’ll – go ahead.

QUESTION: On Syria, just in – generally, the U.S. started its airstrikes in Syria for about two months now. Do you think the Assad regime forces on the ground got stronger since the U.S. began its airstrikes? Is there any way you can give us some kind of assessment?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we have – as you say, we’ve been taking strikes against ISIL and other targets in Syria. Those have been part of our comprehensive strategy, and of course, there have been attempts by the Syrian regime to give the impression that they are gaining. Frankly, we see ISIL – halting ISIL’s momentum as our focus right now, and that’s why we have been dedicating the effort to the strikes in Syria. And we’ve been – I think we’ve shared a vast amount of detail about those strikes, where and what their targets have been, and we see that as the focus of our effort. I’m not going to characterize on a – give a day-to-day battlefield readout, though, of where the regime might be focusing its efforts.

QUESTION: Final question: It looks like the Aleppo – regime forces, Assad regime forces are gaining or becoming even more stronger in Aleppo. Do you have any update on Aleppo situation, whether Aleppo is going to fall to the regime anytime soon?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think we spoke to this on Friday last week. We talked about Staffan de Mistura’s proposals and his ideas of local freezes and so forth. I don’t have any update on the precise battlefield arrangements around the region of Aleppo, so – yes, Lara, go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to go to a different topic, if that’s all right.

MR. RATHKE: Please.

QUESTION: On Bahrain --

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- there are parliamentary elections coming up this weekend, and yet there are reports of a crackdown on women protesters. I’m wondering if this is something that the U.S. has brought up with the kingdom and what their reaction is.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. I’ll have to look into that and get back to you.

Scott.

QUESTION: Nigeria.

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: We spoke briefly on Friday about Boko Haram capturing the town of Chibok, from which those 200 girls were kidnapped. The military says that it retook that town over the weekend. Do you believe that to be the case, and do you have any more knowledge about the state of the potential ceasefire talks between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram?

MR. RATHKE: So we’re aware of the reports, and as with the reports on Friday, we are not in a position to confirm details. We condemn Boko Haram’s attacks on Chibok, a community that has suffered far too much already, and we extend our condolences to the families of the victims.

Now with respect to the fight against Boko Haram, the United States remains committed to helping the Government of Nigeria address the threat that Boko Haram poses and to find and free those who have been abducted in Chibok and elsewhere. So we continue to support Nigerian efforts to bring them home, and we are providing assistance, both through humanitarian programs, through sharing of intelligence, and advising on strategic communications and other issues. We also continue to encourage Nigerian authorities to adopt a comprehensive approach to violent extremists.

With respect to the – any talks that might be ongoing, I’d refer you to the Government of Nigeria for any detail.

QUESTION: Could I go back to Bahrain? I had another question. Is there more on Boko Haram?

MR. RATHKE: Sure. Anything else on this topic? On this topic? Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jeff. With regard to Boko Haram and bringing back our girls, nine months ago these 285 young women were abducted. There was an international task force assembled to locate them. Very little has been said beyond – there’s been a recent bombing in the last four or five days, 47 students killed, lots more injured. It’s obvious that the Nigerian Government does not have the capability of conducting this search and find operation on their own, although they’ve announced two weeks ago that they had reached a deal with Boko Haram and that the girls would be returned. Now there’s been reports over the weekend about all of the girls having been converted to Islam, many of them forced into arranged marriages, others given as gifts to soldiers for use for sex and rape abuse. So where does this thing stand? I mean, what is the current status today of the international task force efforts to locate these young women who’ve been gone now for nine months?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I said in response to Scott’s question, this is a Nigerian-led effort, and the United States is providing support to Nigerian authorities. And this support covers a range of possibility – a range of aspects, including humanitarian programs, including sharing of certain intelligence information, and we have also provided and approved sales of military equipment to the armed forces after careful scrutiny. So we have a multifaceted approach to this Nigerian-led effort and we – our hearts certainly go out to the families of the victims and to the girls themselves and all of those who have been abducted.

And this is an endeavor that we continue to support. We have devoted approximately $19 million in fiscal year 2014 for vulnerable and conflict-affected households in Nigeria. Some of that goes through USAID, some of it through other channels. But we have been providing in addition to that about $54 million in humanitarian assistance to neighboring countries where there are significant refugee populations. So this is something to which we remain committed, and we’ll continue that support.

QUESTION: Jeff, if I may, just one follow-up statement. It’s obvious that the Government of Nigeria is not competent enough to handle this operation domestically, so what is the status with respect to the U.S. policy position on this with the surveillance capabilities that the United States has, with the special forces capabilities that they have, with the international willingness of people in a coalition to come together to try and merge their assets to find these girls? Why is it proving so difficult to locate a very large group of young people who’ve been hijacked?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it is an enormous challenge and we continue to support the Nigerian-led efforts, but it’s our view this has to be a Nigerian-led effort. So we’ll continue to provide the support that I outlined because we consider this an important opportunity to help Nigeria achieve success, but it’s a Nigerian-led operation.

Lara, you wanted to go back to Bahrain.

QUESTION: Yes, I did. Yes. There’s --

MR. RATHKE: Sorry. Same topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RATHKE: All right, just one there.

QUESTION: I was just wondering, when you say that the United States Government has spent $19 million in helping people who are being internally displaced in Nigeria, a lot of reports that’s coming out from the northeast of Nigeria indicates that there’s virtually no presence and no indication that there is anything that is being sent in terms of food and other things to help people in that part of the country. So I really don’t know where that money is going.

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I mentioned, in fiscal year 2014 the United States has provided more than $19 million for vulnerable and conflict-affected households; $7 million from USAID for health, water, and sanitation services, emergency relief supplies, and protection activities for women and children in northeastern Nigeria. We have also provided about $7 million in emergency food assistance and the State Department has provided more than $5 million to fund protection activities. So this is clearly something we are taking – making efforts in and taking seriously.

QUESTION: May I just also ask about the issue of intelligence that United States is sharing with Nigerian Government? We have had a chance of speaking with some people in government in Nigeria, and they’re saying that there’s not much coming out from United States and that United States is not really helping. And there was an allegation that United States said they’re not going to help with anything because of the issue of – how did they put it – from Nigerian Government perspective, they said that United States Government is actually turning their back on Nigeria because of the issue of human rights. This is the statement from the chief of defense staff from Nigeria.

MR. RATHKE: Well, we have a longstanding and important relationship with Nigeria and we value that highly. We are standing with the government and the people of Nigeria in the face of the lethal and inhumane attacks that Boko Haram has unleashed, and we’re working closely with the Nigerian Government and with the governments of neighboring states to counter these threats. We have existing programs to fight terrorism and we also have new programs such as the Security Governance Initiative, also a Global Security Contingency Fund.

So we are increasing our efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions. We have begun over the last six months to share intelligence with Nigeria. We’ve begun training a new army battalion. We have held numerous high-level discussions with Nigerian authorities on ways to meet the Boko Haram threat. So I think that record is clear and we are – we have stepped up our support and our cooperation with Nigerian authorities in the face of this threat.

QUESTION: Will the United State Government debunk any statement by any Nigerian Government agency or personnel saying that United States is turning its back on helping Nigeria --

MR. RATHKE: I think I just outlined all the ways in which we are supporting both on the humanitarian side as well as the more specific assistance to Nigerian security forces. And I’m going to leave it at that.

Lara, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. There’s a U.S. citizen who’s being detained in Bahrain, name of Taqi Al-Maidan. And a UN working group recently concluded that he was being detained arbitrarily, which is to say, I would assume, illegally or improperly. Is there any response from the U.S. government on this?

MR. RATHKE: That one I don’t have anything on here, so apologies. We’ll look into that and get back --

QUESTION: Okay, if you could take it.

MR. RATHKE: -- and get back to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. Yes, Michelle.

QUESTION: I just wanted to see if you had any reaction to the United Arab Emirates decision to designate the Council on Islamic American Relations as a terrorist organization.

MR. RATHKE: So we’ve seen the United Arab Emirates list of organizations that they published just a few days ago. We are aware that two U.S.-based groups were listed on that there and we’re – we are seeking to gain more information on why. We’re engaging the UAE Government on this list. That’s what I’ve got at this stage.

QUESTION: What’s the other one?

MR. RATHKE: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do you know what the other one is? If one is the Council on American Islamic Relations, do you know what the name of the other one is?

MR. RATHKE: We’re aware that two U.S.-based groups, the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society, were included on the list. And we’re engaging UAE authorities.

QUESTION: The State Department works with CA – with CAIR all the time, no? I mean, there’s all sorts of outreach programs between the government and CAIR, right?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t know offhand whether we have particular --

QUESTION: I know the FBI works with them frequently and they --

QUESTION: Their officials may also have been invited to Iftars by the Secretary of State in years past.

QUESTION: That’s right.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, I don’t have that information at my fingertips. But at any rate, we are engaging UAE officials. These are U.S.-based groups, so of course, our – we’re not in the lead then for domestically based groups generally.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I was just hoping to get your reaction to a couple things going on in East Asia. First of all, are you aware of the gubernatorial elections that took place in Okinawa (inaudible)?

MR. RATHKE: So I’m not going to comment on a local election. Regardless of the outcome, we are committed to working with the Government of Japan to follow through on our alliance agreements and to fulfill our treaty commitments to the defense of Japan as well as to the peace and security of the Asia and Pacific region.

QUESTION: So you have no concern about the fact that the person that was elected has voiced pretty clearly that he will veto any – the relocation plan of the Futenma Air Base?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I’m not going to comment on the specific election outcome. We’re committed to working with the Government of Japan to follow through on our agreements.

QUESTION: Okay. I also just wanted to ask for your reaction on what’s been going on in Hong Kong recently. Students over the weekend were prevented from traveling to Beijing, and then today there was reports that the police will start clearing the protests. Do you have any reaction to the reports?

MR. RATHKE: So we are aware of reports that protest leaders were unable to travel to Beijing. We continue to encourage differences between Hong Kong authorities and the protesters to be addressed peacefully through dialogue. And that’s the call we’ve made over the last several weeks and that remains our point of view.

New topic? Nothing else. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 14, 2014

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 16:11

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 14, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:12 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Friday. I actually do not have anything at the top for you.

QUESTION: Really?

MS. PSAKI: So why don’t we get straight to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Okay. I just have a brief one. I realize that the President has already spoken to this, but that was before the House actually passed this legislation, and of course, we all know that it is the State Department where this review of Keystone resides now. So my question is: Does this vote and a potential similar vote in the Senate have any effect on the review that is currently underway?

MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. We are continuing to move ahead with our thorough, transparent, and objective review of the Keystone pipeline application. And in accordance with the executive order, this review includes consideration of many factors, including energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy and compliance with review, law, and policy.

As you know, there were a couple of factors including the Nebraska court case as well as the number of public comments that led us to make a decision about delaying that earlier this spring. Certainly, on any decision about legislation, we’d refer to the White House.

QUESTION: Right. But is it the Administration’s view that the State Department process, this review process, can be circumvented by the Congress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the State Department process is continuing. Obviously, if there’s a decision made by the President on legislation, we’ll proceed from there.

QUESTION: No, but as a general principle, do you think that they – that Congress can legislate approval of something like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a process in place for a reason, but I’m not going to parse the legislation and what may or may not be done about it any further.

QUESTION: But – okay. My frustration with this is that I’m not asking you to parse the legislation. I’m asking for the Administration’s view of whether Congress can legislate approval of something like this.

MS. PSAKI: And I’m pointing you to the White House for any further comment on the legislation.

QUESTION: But – okay. And the review stands where?

MS. PSAKI: It’s ongoing, as I mentioned.

QUESTION: And with still no anticipated --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I – as you know, but – I pointed to this, but since we haven’t talked about this in a while, there’s, as you know, litigation pending in the Nebraska Supreme Court that could ultimately impact the pipeline route in that state, and that in turn could affect the assessment of the permit application. So we’ve been monitoring those developments. We’ve also been using additional time allotted to agencies to continue reviewing and considering the unprecedented number of new public comments. Obviously, the court case and the findings of a court case which we don’t have any control over could impact the timing.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Are you still getting public comments (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: No, there’s no --

QUESTION: That’s finished, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, correct. But we’ve obviously taken the time to continue to review those. The permit process will conclude once factors that could have a significant impact on the Department’s national security – national interest determination regarding the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents, but obviously, the court case has an impact on that. We don’t have any control over the timing of that.

QUESTION: And have you been in contact with your counterparts in Canada about this legislation, or are you just waiting to see how it plays out in the Congress?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to read out from here. I think that would take place in the White House if that did --

QUESTION: In the Administration’s view, is it wise for a legislative body to try to interrupt or to supersede the review that the State Department is doing now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think my colleague over at the White House spoke to this a couple of days ago before the vote, which is fair, and said that in the past we haven’t looked fondly on efforts to circumvent the process in place.

QUESTION: Fondly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Dim view?

MS. PSAKI: A dim view.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: That wasn’t an exact quote.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: It was a paraphrase.

QUESTION: I guess --

MS. PSAKI: Do you have any more on Keystone?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Israel, sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the meetings that the Secretary held yesterday. There was a press conference afterwards at which he said that there have been – they had agreed to some steps to de-escalate the tensions in the region. Today out of the region, they’re saying that the Palestinians have – all restrictions have been lifted on men wanting to go and pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I just wondered what it was – first off, if the – your reaction to the news that today seems to be free movement into the mosque for Palestinian worshippers – or Arab worshippers, I guess; and then secondly, what it is that you’re asking the Palestinians to do to de-escalate tensions.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me talk about this a little bit, and as you mentioned, the Secretary spoke about it. I will mention one thing at the top just to manage expectations. One of the discussions they had was the fact that we were not going to announce on their behalf any steps, specific steps, they were going to take. And we feel it’s much more important that they take steps than it is that it’s publicly announced. But I can talk a little bit more about the meetings.

As you mentioned, last night the Secretary had the opportunity to sit down with leaders, have these discussions in person. The parties – as he mentioned, the parties agreed to take affirmative steps to restore calm and implement practical measures to prevent further escalation of tensions.

Obviously, you saw the lift on age limit restrictions for Muslim men entering the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. This is an important development, one we certainly welcome, and a positive step toward maintaining the status quo of the site. Forty thousand Muslims were able to visit the site today, and although tensions remain high, this is a positive step.

They also – during these meetings, President – Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo, and you’ve seen some of those actions. And President Abbas restated his firm commitment on – to nonviolence and made it clear that he will do everything possible to restore calm.

Now, the situation is still very tense. We have our eyes open. We will remain engaged and in touch with the leaders. And of course, actions by the parties going forward are the key to restoring and maintaining calm.

QUESTION: So on the Palestinian side, one of the issues that we’ve seen has been this spate of sort of lone attacks either by car rammings or stabbings or the instance of such ilk. Could you tell us what it is you are hoping that the Palestinians will be able to do to avoid those kind of actions taking place in the future?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, as I just mentioned, President Abbas made it clear that he is willing to do everything possible to restore calm. Broadly in the discussion they talked about a range of areas, including access to holy sites, security for holy sites, coordination among security forces and authorities, regional security architecture, incitement, and settlements. Those are a number of the pool of areas that obviously need to be addressed.

And I think the fact that there was a commitment to take affirmative steps we obviously feel is positive. Now, of course, the proof is not in the words. The proof is in the actions. So we’ll see what happens over the next couple of days. But we’re just not going to get into more specific details.

QUESTION: Jen, you mentioned that the proof is in the actions, clearly, but you’ve only cited one action and that was on the part of the Israelis to open up – to drop the age restriction. Have you seen any affirmative action from the Palestinians to do what President Abbas said that he was going to be doing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, these discussions happened last night, and we certainly anticipate that there will be in the coming days.

QUESTION: Right. But there was – I mean, there was pretty quick and demonstrable action taken by the Israelis. I’m just wondering if you saw any quick and demonstrable action taken --

MS. PSAKI: There’s public and private actions, but I don’t have anything more specific.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Is it – I’m not sure I understand why you think that it is wise to announce that the two sides have – or that three sides have agreed to steps to calm things down and then to keep them secret. It seems to me that this is exactly the way the peace talks collapsed by you and them trying to keep everything secret, which only leads to all sorts of speculation and tempers flaring based on inaccurate speculation and information and flat-out erroneous reports that are driven by people with agendas that you – with the – I don’t want to use the word “extremist,” but people with agendas to try and disrupt or continue the – continue the conflict.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --

QUESTION: I just – it doesn’t make any sense to me that you wouldn’t want them – that you would want these alleged steps that were agreed to to become public. That way, people know what to expect.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we sent a strong message that there were – there was an agreement to take affirmative steps in order to hopefully generate some calm in the region. There was an evaluation and discussion made by all the parties involved that this was the best way to proceed.

QUESTION: Right. But there was an evaluation and discussion made by all parties involved when they agreed over a year ago that they would get a deal by – within a year’s time or within nine months’ time. And look where that is – nowhere.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we still have no regrets about how we handled or how we managed the process last year either.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up very quickly. What would be demonstrable and quick action by the Palestinians that you would like to see?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to spell it out further, Said, other than to convey that President Abbas made clear that he’ll do everything possible to restore calm. He restated his firm commitment to nonviolence. They talked about a range of issues that both sides can work on, including regional security structure, coordination among security forces, incitement, settlements – a lot of the issues that have been causing tensions in the region.

QUESTION: But really, when you go through it, you’ll find that he’s only able to sort of demonstrably and quickly sort of lower the level of incitement. Because the Palestinians have no control over East Jerusalem or any part to sort of dissuade the public from going out and demonstrating and burning tires and throwing stones and so on – so you’re expecting --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, he committed to the Secretary he was going to do everything he could to restore calm.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more details.

QUESTION: Now, I know that you, from this podium – and, of course, the Secretary in his press conference – emphasized that it was really most – they were focused, as you suggested, on what’s going on in Jerusalem. But also he mentioned at the end of one statement or one question that – the talks and restarting the talks and going back to the talks. Could you give us a broader picture or maybe a clearer picture on what future is there for these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it remains the case that there won’t be long-term peace and stability without a two-state solution. But I can – there’s no plans to restart the peace talks. Right now we’re focused on reducing tensions and creating a climate where it may be possible to address the underlying causes of the conflict in the future. That was the focus of their discussion.

QUESTION: Okay. And also the Foreign Minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh, said or suggested that they will not send back their ambassador until they see on the ground. So would the action today – the Israelis allowing 40,000 worshipers of all ages, as a matter of fact, to go into al-Aqsa Mosque – is the kind of action that should give incentive to the Jordanians now to send their ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let Jordan make that decision, but I certainly can convey to you that, of course, diplomatic relations between Israel and Jordan are critical, given the two nations share security challenges and economic opportunities, and the importance, of course, of the Jordan-Israel Treaty of Peace and Jordan’s special role in Jerusalem’s Muslim holy places. The Secretary spoke with King Abdullah about this yesterday and about Jordan’s decision to withdraw its ambassador to Tel Aviv and how tensions can be reduced going forward. But we’ll let them make decisions moving forward.

QUESTION: And finally, anything new or an update regarding the Palestinian efforts in the UN?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to report on that front.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So have you raised the issue of the continuing settlement activities, and do you think that any freeze of this activity will actually be helpful in maintaining calm and stability for a while?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned, that was one of the topics that was discussed. Obviously, as we’ve also stated here before, we believe that ongoing settlement activity or construction in East Jerusalem is contrary to the stated goal of achieving a two-state solution. And that continues to be our view. But there are a range of factors at play here; that’s not the only factor.

QUESTION: So what was – did you get a clear reaction or commitment from the Israeli side on this?

MS. PSAKI: I think as I stated earlier, I’m not going to lay out more – further what – where they’ll go from here.

QUESTION: Jen, just a couple brief things on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A lot has been made about the incitement or alleged incitement coming from the Palestinian side, and the – I’m just wondering, in view of the last questions about settlement activity and construction in East Jerusalem, does the Administration regard Israeli announcements of these kinds of things as incitement?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to put a new label on it other than to convey it’s contrary to the stated goal of achieving a two-state solution --

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. PSAKI: -- and contrary to what they want to achieve.

QUESTION: But do you believe that contributes to the --

MS. PSAKI: Tension?

QUESTION: -- to the tension, and also can spark protests, some of which turn violent?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly contributes to the tension, yes.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there are a range of factors at the same time that are in play contributing to the tension.

QUESTION: Secondly, are you disappointed that you didn’t get a firm commitment from the Jordanians to return their ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary felt they had a good discussion about it. Obviously, Jordan will make their own decision. I think the --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- foreign minister spoke to this yesterday a little bit, too.

QUESTION: Right. He said that it would depend on whether Israel actually does what it says it’s going to do. But is it your understanding that if Israel – that if the Israelis actually follow through on whatever it was the secret steps that Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to take, that the Jordanians will return their ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see, Matt.

QUESTION: Is that your understanding? You don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the foreign minister’s comments.

QUESTION: All right.

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

QUESTION: And then lastly, I’ve got two brief ones on something you said yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You were asked about the home demolitions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And – well, you had a brief line that – you said “punitive demolitions are counterproductive to the cause of peace and exacerbate an already tense situation.” I’m wondering, the – do you regard that, these home demolitions, as – you didn’t say this, but some have interpreted it to mean that you believe that these home demolitions constitute collective punishment?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t convey that. I think --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- they’re one of the factors that contribute to tension.

QUESTION: So there are some in Israel who read that – who took what you said yesterday and said flat out that you had condemned what – collective punishment and that these – you condemned the housing demolitions as collective punishment. That is incorrect?

MS. PSAKI: We said – I said, as you just quoted, they were counterproductive.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just --

QUESTION: Meanwhile – hold on. I just – because I want to ask now about Egypt and home demolitions, because yesterday or earlier this week, there were – the Egyptian Government demolished several hundred homes in the Sinai. Do you take the same view of those home demolitions as you do of the Israeli demolitions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, every – as we often – as I often like to say, every situation is different, Matt. And as you know, there have been some serious security challenges in the Sinai. We respect Egypt’s concern about their security in the area and support its right to self-defense. We also expect that they will ensure the rights of those being displaced are respected and that they are adequately compensated. That continues to be what we have conveyed to the Egyptians.

QUESTION: So you don’t regard that as being counterproductive to the cause of peace or fighting extremism, these home demolitions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s an entirely different scenario, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. But you would not argue that – I mean, you say that there are serious security problems in the Sinai for the Egyptians. Are there not also serious security concerns and security problems for the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re not – Egypt is not predetermining what borders would be by taking these steps. It’s a different scenario.

QUESTION: Oh, I understand it’s a different scenario, but it’s the same tactic, as it were, to fight what is believed to be by a government to be terrorism or extremism.

MS. PSAKI: With entirely different context.

QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s not okay for the Israelis to demolish homes, but it’s okay for the Egyptians to demolish homes?

MS. PSAKI: We believe it’s counterproductive to their stated goals. In Egypt, we understand their concerns about their security. We’ve seen recent threats to that in the Sinai, as you all have reported on. I think I’m going to leave it at that. They’re different scenarios.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up on something that Matt said?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: On the issue of the settlements, you may not consider it incitement, but you do consider it provocations, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I said there are a range of factors that contribute to the tension, Said.

QUESTION: But you – you consider it to be a provocative action, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. I’m not going to have you put words in my mouth. I’m going to leave it at what I just conveyed.

QUESTION: Okay. I wonder if you would consider – would, let’s say, statements by Naftali Bennett, a cabinet member, yesterday – only made yesterday, that he actually killed many Arabs and there was no problem with that. Is that an incitement?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to put further labels on it, Said. We speak out against issues when we have concerns.

QUESTION: And finally, on --

MS. PSAKI: I just mentioned – let me finish – that settlements is one of the discussions – one of the topics that was discussed.

QUESTION: And on the home demolitions, since Israel, if it says someone is a terrorist they’d kill him or whatever, do they go afterwards to demolish the home, which is really punishing the family, and these families are quite large. That wouldn’t be considered collective punishment?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just gave an answer to that question.

Go ahead, Samir. On this topic or a new topic?

QUESTION: On the meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu about his meetings with the Iranian foreign minister in Oman and the talks with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: They did talk about Iran, as well – and of course, the ongoing discussions that are happening, and we’ll reconvene next week. The Secretary made it clear that our position has not changed and that we are working to close off all possible pathways to a nuclear weapon for Iran, in order to ensure the peace and security of the international community, including Israel. And we will continue to keep all of our friends and allies informed of what we are going to be doing in the days ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on this topic, or --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: On this? Oh, on this topic. Okay, and Jo, you too? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: When you were talking about the issues discussed this, you mentioned the expression: pool of ideas need to be addressed – need to be addressed. I mean, you mean the regional security and different issues related to the conflict – Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Are these issues part of the deal or an agreement or there is a mechanism to do it, or the first thing is to – is just to lower the tense between the two parties?

MS. PSAKI: So just so I make sure I understand your question, are you talking about the topics I referenced that were discussed?

QUESTION: Yes. Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Those are the topics that we’ve all seen have contributed to the tensions on the ground. So it’s natural they were discussed as a part of the meetings.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, it’s important that both sides agree to take affirmative steps. We’ll see, though. It’s not words, it’s actions that matter. I wouldn’t call it a deal. I would call it an agreement by both sides to take positive steps to reduce tensions. And that certainly is separate from, as I mentioned, any effort to restart a peace process.

QUESTION: So it’s – so there is – first to handle the situation now, and then to take care of these issues, and then peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our focus is on reducing tensions.

QUESTION: You’re focused on.

MS. PSAKI: There’s no plans to restart the peace talks at this point in time.

QUESTION: On another issue, the Baghdadi message – alleged – the one. First, can you confirm the authenticity of the message? And second, do you have any reaction to the threats he made in his message in general?

MS. PSAKI: I spoke to this yesterday in terms of his message in general. I don’t have any confirmation or – I can’t authenticate the calls or the comments, just like I couldn’t yesterday. And just to reiterate what I said yesterday, it should come as no surprise that an organization like ISIL would be putting out these type of threatening rhetoric that’s conveying and calling for more brutality, and it’s just a reminder of the threat that the group poses to the region. But I don’t have any --

QUESTION: But – so you take these threats seriously?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not new. I don’t know about taking seriously – as you know, we’re implementing an aggressive military campaign with a number of other components to go after ISIL. That hasn’t changed since yesterday, regardless of whether we can authenticate these comments.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to --

QUESTION: ISIS and Iraq?

QUESTION: Sorry. I just wanted to go back to Israel just very briefly.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Sorry, Jo. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, that’s okay. I just wondered, very quickly, you keep saying that – or you said that we will see where these steps were implemented. Did – was there any kind of understanding about a timeframe within which these steps would be implemented? Was that something that you discussed with the leaders?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, it’s important that they happen soon in the coming days. We’ll see what happens, but some of these pieces will be up to them to, of course, implement.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s just that it goes back to sort of Matt’s question about why not lay out what it was that you agreed? For instance, I know it’s a different situation, but when we had the Syria chemical weapons, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov came out and laid out a plan and a timeline, and in some ways that was kind of helpful, I guess, for the international community to sort of see --

MS. PSAKI: Because there’s always a decision made through diplomatic channels on what’s most appropriate. At that – for that scenario, we felt it would be effective to communicate publicly. We certainly understand the appetite for that. It’s not a misunderstanding of that. We’ve already seen one step taken. We’ll see how things proceed from here.

QUESTION: But it’s just a question of accountability, of holding two sides to their commitments that they made. If you know what they are but nobody else does – nobody in the wider – and I’m not even talking about the press; I’m talking about the Israeli and Palestinian community know what they are. How do those communities and the Arab world in general hold – how they – how can they hold the leaders accountable for what you say happened?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s clear what’s happening on the ground now and the level of tensions, the level of violence, the level of rhetoric is something that needs to change. I think we’ll be able to evaluate, as will people in the region, whether there’s a change to that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they can’t – this is the problem, and I get back to – you say you understand there’s an appetite for it. The appetite is not particularly for us wanting to know just so we can know; it’s for the people whose lives are affected by this. If they don’t know, if I’m a Palestinian who wants to go to al-Aqsa and worship, I want to know if I’m going to be able to get in there. I want to know if – and if I’m an Israeli --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the 40,000 Muslims who went to the site today certainly know, don’t they?

QUESTION: Well, right. But if I’m an Israeli, I want to know what President Abbas said that he was going to do about incitement. I want to know – if I’m a Palestinian, I want to know what the Israelis are going to do about checkpoints and things like that. Keeping it secret means that they don’t – there’s no – they don’t have to do it. It’s a question of accountability. If you keep – if someone --

MS. PSAKI: They just took a step. It doesn’t mean they don’t have to do it.

QUESTION: That’s one step. But --

MS. PSAKI: And as I said, they’ll be taking additional steps.

QUESTION: But we don’t know what they are, so we can’t know if they don’t follow through on them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’ll just have to see in the coming days.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: And can I just ask one more? Sorry. This is just to clear it up, I guess. There was some reporting that during the meetings there was a phone call in from Sisi or a phone call to President Sisi. Can you just clarify if that was the case, and which meeting and what was said?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a very good question. I didn’t have a chance to talk about that level of specificity.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I know there have been different versions of the report, so let me get a little more clarity for you on kind of when that call happened, which I believe it did.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. Very quickly – you always talked about maintaining the status quo ante, things as they were, but the Israelis are introducing metal detectors that each worshiper has to go through. Do you have any comment on that? Was that something that was discussed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we stressed, it’s obviously absolutely critical in our view that all sides uphold the status quo regarding the administration of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and take affirmative steps to prevent provocations and incitement. We appreciate the prime minister’s commitment to uphold the status quo. We’ll see what happens. I know that step was referenced and reported, but obviously it hasn’t happened at this point in time, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. So you would discourage them from doing so?

MS. PSAKI: I think – obviously, the status quo does not include that.

Did we – on this topic or a new topic?

QUESTION: On this topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, I’m from Northern Ireland. I have firsthand experience of construction being used to advance a political agenda. Your verbatim quote yesterday from this podium was “punitive demolitions are counterproductive.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, if punitive demolitions are counterproductive, are punitive settlements counterproductive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that we’d call them punitive. But settlements are counterproductive to the goal of achieving a two-state solution, absolutely, because it prejudges the borders, it creates tension, and that’s one of the reasons we speak out every time, unfortunately, there are announcements about it.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on this, or should we move on?

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to ISIL? We were talking --

MS. PSAKI: Go to – to where?

QUESTION: You were – in the middle we talked about ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we can go back to ISIL.

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Sorry.

QUESTION: So – because we stopped in midstream.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Bring us back to ISIL, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m going to bring you back to ISIL. I have a very quick question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday Chairman Dempsey said – he was talking about the cost of the fight against ISIL and so on, but he said something very interesting about Iraq. He said that we expect them to have an inclusive government and inclusive participation of all parties, otherwise you are going to leave them – I’m paraphrasing – to their own volition, so to speak. Is there like a time limit to see how inclusive the Iraqi Government is and is functioning and so on before you say, “That’s it, we give up on you”?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t – I don’t think that’s exactly what he said. I know you’re paraphrasing in your own way --

QUESTION: I’m paraphrasing.

MS. PSAKI: -- but I think, one, we do think, absolutely, that it’s very important that not only they govern in an inclusive way but that the Iraqi Security Forces are inclusive and the way that they fight back against ISIL is inclusive. Now, Prime Minister Abadi has done a great deal of outreach to the Sunni tribes. He’s visited a number of regions to do that outreach. There was even an event just a couple of days ago earlier this week at the Al Asad Air Base where the speaker made reference to weapons and supplies that tribal fighters will be provided.

So certainly, just – the proof is in what happens, of course, as is true in any scenario. But we have seen them attempt to do a great deal of outreach. We’ve been doing a great deal of outreach through General Allen, through Ambassador McGurk, and we do feel that’s an important part of how things will be effective moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Seeing how the Sunni tribes were – felt alienated or felt abandoned, as a matter of fact, after the Americans left Iraq and their pay was cut off and so on, and everybody’s talking about some sort of a national guard that will bring in the Sunni tribes, is there any movement in that direction? Has any – has there been any progress, let’s say, in that area?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just mentioned the fact that Prime Minister Abadi – he visited Sunni tribal leaders in Amman and Baghdad and stressed in public remarks that he will advocate for all Iraqis. We’re in the implementation stage – they are – of the national guard program, but obviously, beyond that it’s also about incorporating and including people from many different backgrounds into the ISF forces.

QUESTION: Yes, please --

QUESTION: So you are satisfied with his efforts so far on bringing the leaders of the --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen him take a number of – make a number of steps – take a number of steps, I should say – as well as people within the Iraqi Government to be more inclusive. Obviously, this is something that they’ll have to continue to work hard at implementing. There’s a great deal of mistrust, as we all know, and it’s going to take some time to incorporate everyone back in together.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: General Allen yesterday – I think today he’s in Europe, and then tomorrow is going to Abu Dhabi. Do you have any readout of what his – what is the purpose of his visit?

MS. PSAKI: I believe he was just flying there yesterday and may have had some internal meetings in France. I expect I’ll have more either over the weekend or on Monday.

QUESTION: So the other question related to – somehow to Syria, because it’s this ISIL issue – not the case that it’s the Administration is reviewing the policy towards ISIL and Syria and the presence of Assad. The issue of – at UN commissioner to Syria, he kind of – the media in the region is talking about a plan or an action plan that he is trying to put in place in Aleppo. And consequently, it’s going to be a transitional period. So it’s a political solution for what’s going on in Syria. Do you have anything --

MS. PSAKI: You’re referring to de Mistura’s proposal --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- about the local ceasefires?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I spoke to this a little bit over the past couple of days, and what we conveyed is that obviously, if this is something that President Assad agrees to or actually takes real steps toward, that that would be a completely different approach from the months and months of brutality that he’s instilled upon his people. We’ve seen local ceasefires be attempted in the past. They have not worked out in quite the way that they had been planned at the outset of them. We’ll see what happens. We certainly commend Minister de Mistura for his efforts and we support his effort to achieve a political solution.

QUESTION: So you support his effort. Do you – how do you react to this? I mean, you are – in your mentioning you are talking about the past that Assad – or he was acting different, the same way but with the same result. So do you really, let’s say, not appreciate, at least give a hand to the de Mistura or the UN --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the reason I mentioned the past and why it’s relevant in this particular case is because there have been attempts at local ceasefires before, and we would need to see – the international community would need to see considerably more than just words to demonstrate a genuine interest on the regime’s part in moving this forward in a productive way.

QUESTION: So the idea why I’m asking, because it seems that the UN commissioner is visiting Cairo and other places and meeting people, and some media reports saying that there is some different capitals in the region they are presenting or, let’s say, reacting to this proposal or whatever action plan – I don’t know how to call it. Do you consider it’s a good step or a positive step or – I’m not trying to evaluate it more than to see if you are going --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We, of course, support ceasefires that would provide genuine relief to Syrian civilians and are consistent with humanitarian principles. But obviously, everybody needs to go into this with their eyes wide open.

QUESTION: So my last question regarding this. So do you still – do you believe that there is a still possibility for a political solution, or it has to be solved militarily?

MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that the only solution is a political solution.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think Ambassador de Mistura is wasting his time?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that at all. I said we support his efforts. He’s been running point and working quite hard, as we’ve seen him travel all around the region. And we certainly support his efforts to pursue a political process, to pursue the ceasefires and any effort that would bring relief to the Syrian people. We just all are aware of what has happened in the past when these ceasefires have been attempted.

QUESTION: Do you think there’s --

QUESTION: Can I ask a very basic question? Why is there a political solution – why is – Syria has to – why is there only a political solution to Syria when there is only a military solution to ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t believe there’s only a military solution to ISIS either. So --

QUESTION: So you’re willing to negotiate with them?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Well, right. So --

MS. PSAKI: But we believe there’s many other important components and that it’s hardly just a military approach to ISIS.

QUESTION: All right. Can I ask a tangential question to Iraq and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And that is – it has to do with Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The – I just want to know if there was any – if you are aware of any conversations you had with the Turks about the incident involving the sailors and whether you’re satisfied with the Turkish response. Is there anything that you would like them to see? Do you think that these – what the Navy called thugs should be prosecuted? And if you do, has it – have you seen any movement toward that end since they were all caught on film?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We are satisfied that the Turkish Government is taking this incident seriously. The Turkish foreign ministry, the Turkish interior minister, and the Turkish ambassador to the United States have all issued statements condemning the incident, and prosecutors are currently pursuing a criminal investigation of those suspected in the assault. We’ve certainly been very close touch – in very close touch with Turkish authorities on the ground through our embassy.

QUESTION: And do you know – have you – because these sailors were targeted because they were Americans for this abuse and attack, has there been any – have you increased security or told your diplomats who are stationed in Istanbul and Ankara and at your other consulate, which – Adana, I think – to be extra vigilant?

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t put out a new travel advisory, which, as you know, we typically do if there’s new information that needs to be --

QUESTION: No, but I mean, these guys were – I mean, they were – they’re military and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and they were official American people as – unlike a tourist, say, who might be there, but – and your diplomats are officials as well.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So you’re not aware of any --

MS. PSAKI: -- changes to our instructions?

QUESTION: -- caution to diplomats and others who work at the embassies?

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

QUESTION: All right. Thanks.

QUESTION: Can I stay on ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Chairman Dempsey’s comments yesterday that he can envision – I’m paraphrasing – that he can envision contingencies in which U.S. troops would accompany Iraqi troops. Is there a disconnect at all between the DOD’s desire to preserve options for the battle and the Administration’s stance that no ground troops will be sent at all to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Chairman Dempsey also made clear in his testimony that he has not made that recommendation. And he also stated that he does not see a scenario when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent. So it was obviously a large hearing, but he was consistent with our view, which is that yes, there are challenges on the ground; yes, there’s a need to continue to train and support and build up the Iraqi Security Forces; but obviously, the President will make any decision, and the chairman hasn’t even made a recommendation to him.

QUESTION: Sure. And he was talking about the future, but he didn’t explicitly rule it out. And he did say that for example, the fight to retake Mosul could be a situation where the Iraqi army would have difficulty on their own, which might require some close support from the U.S. But do you not agree that that is any – that there’s any kind of gap there between what you and Josh Earnest have said?

MS. PSAKI: If you look at the full context of his entire remarks, he also made clear that he doesn’t see a scenario where we would get more engaged with a larger military contingent. So yes, he was having a dialogue with members of Congress, and certainly, that’s part of what happens in any testimony, but the fact is the President makes the decision anyway. So --

QUESTION: Can I ask you, please, about the Justice – the Department of Justice said yesterday they’re sending prosecutors to Balkans and North Africa and Mideast to deal with the people who are coming from Syria, the part of the ISIL they are now coming to home countries. And the Mr. Holder said that they are doing that in cooperation with the State Department, your bureau of counterterrorism. They mentioned for Balkans countries, and do you have any comment on that, and how do that, and what is behind that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what Secretary Holder said. Obviously, part – sorry, Attorney General Holder – thank you, it’s a Friday afternoon – Attorney General Holder said yesterday. Obviously, part of our efforts is to crack down on foreign fighters from Western countries, including the United States. That’s something we’re working not only with other countries in the world on, but also through the interagency. And there’s certainly a role Justice plays in that.

QUESTION: But how come that any embassy here from Balkans countries and anybody in those countries – I don’t know, justice departments in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo – they have no idea what is going on? They never heard of that action.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working with a range of countries who are part of the coalition and talking about all five lines of effort, of which cracking down on foreign fighters is one of them. But I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of why individuals at embassies would be informed or not.

QUESTION: But those governments in those countries, they don’t know anything about that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on this.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So based on what Attorney General Holder said yesterday, did the State Department get in touch with the governments of the four Balkan countries on this initiative?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on it. I can check and see if there’s more we can --

QUESTION: So you don’t know if or not?

MS. PSAKI: I said I don’t have any more details on it. I will let you know if there’s more we can share.

QUESTION: I have a somewhat Balkan-related one.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you took a dim view of the Russian announcement that they were going to be flying long-range patrols into – around here. But I’m wondering if you have – and you said that you didn’t think the security situation warranted it. I’m wondering if you have any comment, if you have any objections to the Russians who are now having a military drill with the Serbs in Serbia. Do you have anything on that, or is that something that you don’t have anything on?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific on that, Matt.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: I can follow up with our European team if you’d like.

QUESTION: All right. So keeping on the Russia and Ukraine theme, one, have you seen anything new in terms of evidence of the – of a Russian incursion or Russians sending troops and tanks into --

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

QUESTION: There is a photograph that Russian television news is putting out – apparently it’s been all over the place today, in Moscow and elsewhere – that purports to show a Ukrainian fighter jet firing a missile at MH-17. Do you have any reason to believe that this is a faked picture, a fake satellite photo? Or have you seen it at all, and if not, can you look into it?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the photo. I can check with our team and see if we have any analysis of that, and certainly I would point you to those who are leading the investigation, of course, as well.

QUESTION: All right. And another thing somewhat related to this is the Russians say the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov again today. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: He was supposed to, and I didn’t get a readout of that. I believe – and we can get you one after the briefing. The plan was certainly to talk about the Iran – ongoing P5+1 negotiations as well as the situation in Ukraine, but --

QUESTION: Right. Okay. The --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Russian readout of the call, presuming that it is – I mean, it’s dated today so I assume the call --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- was today and that this did happen, but it did mention all of those things – the Iran talks, Ukraine – but it also mentioned that Foreign Minister Lavrov is upset at – or that Russia – that he expressed to the Secretary that Russia unhappy with the pace of the MH-17 investigation, which the Russians say is not proceeding according to the Security Council resolution and the ICAO guidelines. Do you share that view or do you have anything more to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe we share that view. I would also think it’s important to note that it was delayed for quite some time in the beginning because of the fact that the Russian-backed separatists not allow access to the site to the investigators to gather the information and the proof that they needed.

QUESTION: Okay. And then on – well, I’ll let someone else go.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: I have one on Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Afghanistan president is currently visiting Pakistan. Do you have anything on this? How do you see --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome the prospect of improved cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and certainly, a trip there, a visit, an opportunity to have a dialogue is a good opportunity for that.

QUESTION: Also, the Pakistan army chief is visiting the city next week. Is anyone from the --

MS. PSAKI: Visiting the – Washington, D.C.?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: The Pakistan army chief, you said?

QUESTION: Yes, yeah. Is --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

QUESTION: Is anyone from the building planning to meet him?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we check for you and see if there’s any meetings scheduled next week.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow on Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Madam, what do – what will – what U.S. wants India’s role in the new Afghanistan, since India has invested billions of dollars there in the past as far as construction and other things, and security. What will be the role, you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, India has been an important partner in Afghanistan. We’ve been in close touch over the course – not just of the last few months but over the course of the last few years, and we’ll certainly continue to coordinate with them as we work to help Afghanistan maintain the progress they’ve made on certain areas moving forward after we remove our troops.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you seen the reports that North Korea will be sending a senior official to Russia for a week-long visit, and do you have any comment on it?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen those reports. We of course maintain regular contact and have consultations with Russia on issues related to North Korea. We closely coordinate with Russia, as well as many partners, to address the global threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. I don’t have any other further details on the visit, but we don’t have a concern from our end.

QUESTION: No concern, though, that closer ties between North Korea and Russia could make it difficult for the U.S. and other countries to pressure North Korea in the UN Security Council.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have that concern. We’re in close contact with Russia about our concerns and their concerns about North Korea’s aspirations.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Nigeria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you saw the reports today that Boko Haram has apparently seized the town in the north of Chibok where these girls were from. I wondered if you had a reaction to that. And it sort of further shows how difficult or – the situation is and how really the Nigerian army really isn’t managing to take control of it at all.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of the report. And while we’re closely monitoring it, we don’t have confirmation of all the specifics that have been out there. We condemn these attacks in Chibok, a community that has already suffered too much. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims. We remain committed to helping the Government of Nigeria address the threat posed by extremist organizations and to assist – assisting Nigeria and its neighbors – Cameroon and Chad – to address critical security needs.

We have provided, as you know, a range of assistance to the government over the course that I outlined, I think, just a couple of days ago, in the form of everything from military equipment to ISR. We continue to work very closely with them on addressing this threat.

QUESTION: Are the American military advisors still on the ground? They were sent out in the back end of April to – specifically to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- try and find these girls. Given that the girls haven’t been found, are they still there?

MS. PSAKI: I believe there is still a presence there. I don’t have the exact specifics on the numbers on that front.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Africa?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There are officials in Somalia that are saying that you – that the Administration has threatened to withhold aid, several millions of dollars worth of aid, unless basically, they get their act together politically. I’m just wondering if that’s correct. I know you put a statement out earlier in the week talking about – well, expressing your unhappiness with the fact that they can’t seem to get along and also saying that you did not see the utility in this conference that’s happening and that you’re not going to go. But I’m just wondering if that was accompanied by – have they been told that they risk losing U.S. assistance unless they play nice?

MS. PSAKI: Shape up? Let me talk to our Africa team. Beyond the statement we put out a couple of days ago, I haven’t received an update on this particular issue.

QUESTION: Can I – I had another Africa question, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This time about Equatorial Guinea and what I would call football --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and you would call soccer. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. Football/soccer, we’ll call it.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. So the Africa Cup of Nations has been moved from Morocco, which asked for a postponement due to the Ebola situation and was not granted it. So it’s now going to be held in Equatorial Guinea next year sometime. I just wondered if, from this building, you had a view about how appropriate it would be to hold what is quite a premier football event in a country where there have been serious concerns about corruption and human rights abuses.

MS. PSAKI: It’s – I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to. I’ve seen the reports, but I haven’t discussed with our team whether there’s a particular view, concerns, et cetera, from our end about where they’ll host the soccer/football.

QUESTION: Your role in the Confederation – the African Federation Football is what?

QUESTION: None.

MS. PSAKI: There is not one.

QUESTION: None.

QUESTION: None? Is it – does the State Department or the United States Government have any interest at all in where this event is held? And it’s a serious question because you do have sometimes concerns or views about certain events.

MS. PSAKI: We --

QUESTION: And if you’re going to take the question, I’d like to ask you about the World Cup in Qatar.

MS. PSAKI: All right, Matt. We’ve spoken to that one --

QUESTION: Can you take that one?

MS. PSAKI: -- quite extensively. To the degree we have a desire to speak to it, but --

QUESTION: Well, you actually have a team --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that plays sometimes in the World Cup, which is a bit different than – unless you have a team in the African Cup that would be --

MS. PSAKI: We do not, but I believe what Jo was asking --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- and we may or may not have a comment on this – was about particularly reports of corruption and concerns --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- about that as it relates to --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- them hosting a major sporting event.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any – no, never mind.

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have a team to announce for this. That’s not changing. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I mean, maybe you have an idea of where the Asian games should take place next time they have it or --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see, Matt. We try to be responsive when we can.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, a question again on Nigeria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Goodluck Jonathan announced a few days ago his intention to seek re-election. Was there any U.S. response to that? And secondly, on the subject of locating the missing girls who have been missing now for a very long time, is the U.S. still actively involved in the search to locate those girls?

MS. PSAKI: We are actively involved. We – I talked about a little – a couple of days ago – obviously, we’re very closely involved with the Government of Nigeria in taking on the threat of Boko Haram.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: We had shared surveillance capabilities several months ago. We’ve also provided a range of military equipment that I talked about a few days ago. In terms of the – tell me again your first question. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Any comment on the statement that President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking re-election?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have any particular comment from here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: East Timor?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I believe Monday was the last time you talked about the Stacey Addison case. Do you have any update on that? And have you been given any clarification on what the evidence is against her, when charges might be filed?

MS. PSAKI: I have a little bit of an update on this, so let me just talk through that. One, we saw Dr. Addison three times on the week of her re-arrest and visited her most recently on November 10th, so just earlier this week. Our understanding is that Dr. Addison is currently being detained as a witness to a crime. We’re currently trying to verify if charges have been filed against Dr. Addison by the government. We understand there are questions as to whether there’s any evidence linking her to these allegations, and we have requested that the legal process be expedited.

QUESTION: So you also said on Monday that State officials had raised the case in meetings with the East Timorese ambassador last Friday, that you received assurances that U.S. concerns would be raised at the highest level. Have you received any word that they had been raised at those levels? Do you get the sense that the government there is addressing those concerns? And then also, is it – are you –have you expressed further concerns about the fact that if she’s being detained as a witness, as opposed to necessarily as somebody who’s committed a crime, is that something that you’ve raised separately?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have raised questions about whether there’s any evidence linking her to these allegations. So we’ve certainly raised that, and that’s a more recent development. And we had that meeting a couple of days ago that I spoke to. I don’t have any new updates for you other than to convey that we remain in a dialogue with officials on the ground there about this particular case and we, of course, remain in close touch with her as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, no, no. Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: All right, thanks. I wanted to know if you had the answer to my question yesterday about Russia’s decision to limit its effort in securing (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of updates on this. On a programmatic – sorry, tongue-twister – on a programmatic level we’re still working closely together. We believe that there is still very important work to do for the United States, for Russia, and for the world, and we remain ready to work with Russia. We haven’t received any official notification from Russia about canceling nuclear security cooperation. And of course, we continue to believe that we have a shared interest and a shared responsibility in promoting nuclear security, and we have a long-established partnership with Russia on a broad range of activities designed to prevent the spread of WMD by securing and eliminating WMD-related materials and technology.

We also have agreed and have in place a new framework for a nuclear security cooperation, which replaced the Nunn-Lugar CTR umbrella agreement as a mechanism for continuing to conduct nuclear security activities of mutual interest. That’s a kind of – takes place in a third country. So there’s a range of work that’s continuing on the working level, and again, we haven’t received official notification in this regard.

QUESTION: But wait, wait. You haven’t received official notification in what regard?

MS. PSAKI: Related to – she was asking about reports about cancelling nuclear security cooperation for 2015.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. But you have gotten an official notification that they’re not going to take place – take part in the Nuclear Security Summit, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s one component --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but that’s not the entire component of work that’s done behind the scenes.

QUESTION: Understood. I understand that. But you have gotten formal notice that they are not going to participate in the summit, so it’s not entirely true, is it, that you haven’t gotten any formal notification that they’re not --

MS. PSAKI: Well, a formal notification related to them not participating at all in any effort to --

QUESTION: Right. I think the question, though – the question that was raised yesterday, and that you’re answering today, refers to one specific program.

MS. PSAKI: No, I think it refers to cooperation and the general effort, and it was a new story that published yesterday.

QUESTION: It refers to a story in The New York Times, right?

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: Which was about a program. But you say that you haven’t gotten any formal notification, but in fact, the Russians have formally notified you that they’re not going to take part in the summit, which, writ large, is nuclear security related, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and is one component --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, so that context is important.

QUESTION: So you’re saying – okay. So you’re saying that you haven’t gotten any formal notification that the Russians are not going to cooperate on – across the board?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead. Elliot, did you have something, or did I --

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: You were kind of dancing or moving your arms.

QUESTION: Just pondering. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay, pondering.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I have one more on Hungary, and I don’t know – you may want to take this. The Hungarian prime minister today, Viktor Orban, is saying that his government has received a document from the United States which sets out what he calls a loose collection of accusations. This relates to the visa lifting, which goes back to last month. And apparently, it raises concerns about VAT fraud, institutionalized corruption, whistleblower protection, and so on. I just wondered if you could confirm that the United States has handed over such a document, and if so, what’s in it?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to speak to or comment on private diplomatic communication. We, of course, have a dialogue with the Hungarian Government at many levels on a wide range of issues, including the fight against corruption. And obviously, as you know, we’ve spoken to the recent decision to apply Presidential Proclamation 7750 to current and former Hungarian officials, which, of course, is related to the visa ban, et cetera.

QUESTION: So there was a document that was handed over; you just did not – you confirm that? You’re not – just not going to tell us what’s in it? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to confirm details of how we communicated or what we communicated, but obviously, we have a dialogue about corruption and our concerns about that issue, among others, with the Hungarian Government. We’re just not going to speak to it in more detail.

QUESTION: Well, when this came up last week, or the last time it came up, I thought you said that you were going to – that the Hungarian Government had raised – had asked questions about it and that you were going to respond through diplomatic channels. Is that not – is my memory wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Well, but that can happen through dialogue, that can happen through a means of communication. I don’t – I will see if there’s more to confirm. I doubt there’s more we have to say on this.

QUESTION: Well, I guess I just don’t understand. What do you mean, it can happen through dialogue or a means of communication? You mean --

QUESTION: A letter?

MS. PSAKI: There’s a range of ways we can answer questions.

QUESTION: What --

MS. PSAKI: That’s what I was getting at.

QUESTION: So the head of the tax office – the Hungarian tax office who is called Ildiko Vida has actually outed herself as one of these people who’s on the list. Could you confirm that, since she’s said that she is?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and she’s put her name out there, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Last one on --

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to wrap this up. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:08 p.m.)

DPB # 194


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 13, 2014

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 18:07

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 13, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:08 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: I hope everyone visited the Chili Cook-off.

QUESTION: Yeah, I did.

MS. PSAKI: I know Said did.

QUESTION: I sure did.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: You bet.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. On a serious note, a couple of items for the top. The Secretary is in Amman, Jordan today, where he participated in bilateral meetings with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, and Jordanian King Abdullah II. Right now he’s also in a trilateral meeting with King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The meeting will focus on ways to restore calm and de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem. The Secretary will be doing a press availability after the meeting, so we will point all of you – the readouts of those meetings to his comments there.

With that – oh, actually, one more to list at the top. We put this out publicly, but just wanted to note for all of you that Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL John Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk will travel to Paris November 13th through 14th to meet with the French Government and military officials to discuss international coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. Over the past six days, Ambassador McGurk has also traveled to the UAE, Iraq, Turkey, and Denmark to meet with a range of government and security officials to review coalition cooperation across several lines of effort, including the next phase of the global campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL.

On November 14th General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will travel to the UAE to participate in the Sir Bani Yas Forum, an annual high-level gathering for world leaders and thinkers to discuss critical issues of peace and security. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will hold – will also hold a series of bilateral meetings and consultations with other leaders in attendance on global coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Recognizing that you’re going to punt all the – or punt is the wrong word – you’re going to refer most questions or almost all questions about the situation in Israel and the PA to the traveling party and the Secretary, I just want to – this meeting that’s going on right now that you mentioned, was there any thought or idea of having President Abbas join this meeting? Because it seems to me that if you’re trying to reduce the tensions and calm the situation and stop the incitement that everyone has talked about so much, that you – it would be natural or advisable to have the president of the Palestinian Authority there. Does that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, obviously, the leaders would certainly decide if they would engage in a meeting together. That wasn’t on the planning on our front-- It wasn’t in the planning on our front and wasn’t the purpose of the visit. It was for the Secretary to meet, certainly, with President Abbas, with King Abdullah of Jordan. Obviously, we added the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, given his relationships with the leaders.

QUESTION: Right. But wouldn’t it make sense, if you’re trying to de-escalate the tensions, to get the leaders of all – well, at least the two main leaders here, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, into a meeting with the King and the Secretary, given all of their roles? No?

MS. PSAKI: That was not in the plans.

QUESTION: But I guess the question is then: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, as I mentioned in the first answer I gave to you, is that they would decide if they were interested in meeting together. Obviously they haven’t made that decision, but we did not engage in a discussion about having a meeting like that either.

QUESTION: And is that because the relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas right now is not in a good state?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, clearly, there are increasing tensions on the ground. I would point you to them and their staffs to answer questions on whether or not they would meet, why they wouldn’t, et cetera.

QUESTION: Can I just ask --

QUESTION: Jen, can I --

QUESTION: Jo, let me just --

QUESTION: Could I just ask it this way, then --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: It was – so you – it was never raised? You guys never raised the idea?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of it being raised.

QUESTION: That was my question, whether you actually directly asked, because President Abbas, obviously, as you mentioned yesterday, has a home in Amman.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That’s where he met with the Secretary. And the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu was added at fairly short notice, I believe. So did you actually ask the Prime Minister and the President if they were interested in meeting together?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of it being raised.

QUESTION: So just to follow up on Jo’s question --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- what has transpired? I mean, as of yesterday, when I asked you, you said there were no plans to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu for the --

MS. PSAKI: I said yesterday, Said, just to be clear – let me finish, and then you can go to your next question – that obviously the decision to go to Amman took place just in the last 48 to 72 hours. As you know, President Abbas has a home there. Obviously, King Abdullah lives there. And I said there’s, obviously, other options or possibilities that could be added to the schedule. That ended up being the case.

QUESTION: Right. But my question is: Is anything happened in the last, let’s say, 12 or 24 hours that warranted bringing Prime Minister Netanyahu to Amman to meet with the Secretary of State and with the King of Jordan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain extremely concerned about escalating tensions recently across Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank. And obviously, having an opportunity to discuss these issues in person, discuss how tensions could be reduced, is certainly the purpose of the discussions and the meetings.

QUESTION: So just to be sure, these discussions will focus on the situation in Jerusalem and in the area of al-Haram Sharif, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, there’s particularly been tensions surrounding Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and so we would expect that would be a part of the discussion.

QUESTION: And the reason I ask this is because also Frank Lowenstein is with them, who is trying to play – or perhaps reignite some sort of talks or peace talks and so on. He was the envoy to the talks. So is there any potential for these talks? I mean, just to get outside the --

MS. PSAKI: I think, Said, we’ll let the Secretary read out the meetings --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: -- when he does his press availability. But the focus is really on the escalating tensions in the region. Could other topics come up? Sure.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just go back and finish what I was going to ask? I wanted to ask, more broadly – I don’t know if you’d seen today that there was some suggestion that the Israeli side might be thinking of reinstalling metal detectors at al-Aqsa, outside the entrances of al-Aqsa Mosque. Have you seen that? What’s --

MS. PSAKI: I had not actually seen that report. I mean, our view is – continues to be that we believe it should go back to the status quo of the – of what had been observed from both sides.

QUESTION: Is --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, that would be a new component, but I’m happy to talk to our team --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- about any particularly concerns we have about that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: The status quo ante.

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough. Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just to follow up very quickly, also on the violence in Jerusalem and so on, Israel has taken a step further, going back to a policy that has not been implemented in eight years, which is to demolish the homes of suspected terrorists and so on. I wonder if you have a comment on that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe that punitive demolitions are counterproductive to the cause of peace and exacerbate an already tense situation. Beyond that, I don’t have any additional details on their plans.

QUESTION: Do you think this is something that may come up in the discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see.

QUESTION: Or that are going on now?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let the Secretary read out the meetings.

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

QUESTION: Mexico?

MS. PSAKI: Mexico?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, you were concerned about Mexico yesterday, and a couple of questions: Has the U.S. offered – or Mexico requested – any help in addressing the disappearance of the 43 students?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just – since you gave me the opportunity, let me just reiterate that we extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victims. The heinous and barbaric crime must be thoroughly and transparently investigated and those responsible be brought to justice without delay and punishment – without delay and punished, sorry – consistent with due process and respect for the rule of law. We urge all parties to remain calm through the process.

I’m not aware of any specific requests from the Mexican Government for U.S. assistance. I can certainly check with our team and see if anything has changed on that front since yesterday.

QUESTION: Please. Also, the – is there a concern by the U.S. Government – I know that Mr. Shannon met with Ambassador Wayne this morning. Is there any concern about the stability of the Mexican Government, given the violence, the lack of confidence on state and federal government, that maybe Mexico is sliding towards a failed state situation?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s a concern we’ve expressed. Obviously, we’re concerned about tensions on the ground. That’s why we’re continuing to urge all parties to remain calm through the process, and obviously why we’re engaged, also, closely with officials there. We have recently put out a new travel advisory to U.S. citizens who are living there, and, obviously, we continue to provide them updated information.

QUESTION: Can we go to the – General Allen’s trip, ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. There were reports earlier today that the President is reconsidering his strategy, and people include as part of that strategy to bring down the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And then we heard Ben Rhodes from the White House say there has actually been no change in the strategy. Could you sort of set us straight on where the strategy is? Has there been any change, or has there been reconsideration on how to move forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a number of my colleagues have spoken to this, but I can certainly reiterate that there’s no formal review of strategy for our Syria policy. Are there hard questions being asked? Yes. Is there a discussion internally about how we should continue to adjust and consider a range of options? Of course. Syria is one of the most challenging crises we face, and it should come as no surprise that we’re engaged in an ongoing discussion and debate about a range of options. But of course, frequent meetings and discussion doesn’t warrant a – doesn’t – is not equated to a new review. There’s not a new review.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary of State been under increased pressure from countries in the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia, to sort of target Assad forces, and especially their air assets or air defense assets and so on, as some Arab diplomats are claiming?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, it doesn’t require me conveying what’s been communicated by many countries in the region. They’ve spoken publicly and on the record about their views. We’ve also been clear about our view, which is that our focus is on ISIL. We are obviously working to boost the capacity of the Syrian opposition through a train and equip program, through providing them with a range of assistance. We fully expect that the materials and the training we provide to them will be used to counter Assad. There’s no question about that. And as we discuss our strategy and internal discussions which the Secretary participates in, certainly we have to adjust to what happens when the opposition is trained and they have a greater capacity, and how does that work into our strategy of our airstrikes that we’ve been undergoing for the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION: And finally, Senator Bob Corker said yesterday that any strategy, he hopes that it would include an Assad compound. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: An Assad compound, similar to, I mean, other compounds. Basically a place of residence.

MS. PSAKI: An Assad compound?

QUESTION: Yes. He said that strategy ought to include – in other words, the message conveyed is that that strategy ought to include targeting Assad personally.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry, I hadn’t seen Senator Corker’s comments. As you know – and our view as an Administration is – continues to be that there’s no military solution, there is only a political solution. Certainly, we continue to discuss ways to get to a political solution.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: But did --

QUESTION: I’m sorry. You said that there’s no formal review – there is no formal review of our Syria strategy. Can I ask you one question? Why not?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no new – there’s no new formal review.

QUESTION: Right. Why not?

MS. PSAKI: Because there’s an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: Is everything going the way --

MS. PSAKI: No, Matt --

QUESTION: -- you want it to?

MS. PSAKI: -- but I think there’s a difference between conveying that there’s a new formal review and the President has asked for a new range of – launched a new formal review, and the fact that this is an ongoing discussion for months and we will continue to adjust and make decisions about any additional options we’ll consider.

QUESTION: Right, but – fair enough. But I mean, if there is no – if the President has not asked for a new formal review, I won’t ask you to speak for him. But if he has not asked for a review, why hasn’t he asked for a review unless he thinks that everything is going along just fine as planned? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, no one is satisfied with where things stand. I think that’s clear.

QUESTION: Okay. So why not ask for a formal review?

MS. PSAKI: Because there’s a difference between conveying, as you all know because obviously no one would be asking about it if it wasn’t stated in the way it was – asking about or announcing there’s a new formal review in an ongoing process that we have had in the Administration – meetings multiple in a week that the Secretary participates in about our ISIL strategy, about our Syria strategy. That’s been ongoing.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: There have been a range of decisions that have been made along the way.

QUESTION: So when you say ongoing, is this going back three years, four years now --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly.

QUESTION: -- since the beginning of the conflict?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. But also, of course, with our new airstrikes that we started doing several weeks ago, of course, we believe we have more leverage. We’re also engaged in a different way. There’s a different discussion we’ve having than we were having six months ago.

QUESTION: So the bottom line is you’re saying that there hasn’t been a decision made by the President or the Secretary or anyone that you report to that what you’re doing needs to be – is wrong or is bad or not effective and needs to be fixed? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not – our view, Matt, is that it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about continuing to discussed and adjust to the situation on the ground, which has been ongoing. It’s not a new process.

QUESTION: But is it correct to say that there is a new push, perhaps, by the Secretary to find some kind of political solution, that he’s been talking in his travels over the past week, 10 days that he’s been talking with leaders particularly in the Gulf about ways of trying to find some kind of political solution, a transition government in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: It wouldn’t be correct to say that is a new process. He’s been having those discussions for months and months now, even before we started doing airstrikes in Syria.

QUESTION: Perhaps not a new process, but a new focus on trying to get some kind of political situation (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not a new focus.

QUESTION: It’s not a new focus. Does the – wouldn’t the outcome on November the 24th with the Iran nuclear deal perhaps pave the way for a different kind of focus involving Iran in this process?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have plans to coordinate militarily with Iran. That’s not going to change. Obviously, our focus remains on the nuclear process.

QUESTION: But not militarily, but on the political side would you be looking perhaps to Iran to try and exert some pressure on President Assad to move aside or allow some kind of transitional process to start?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, with any political process – and this is true in our efforts to work with Russia as well – we know that we and a number of the countries in the Gulf don’t have influence over the regime. We’re very clear-eyed about that. And so there will certainly need to be pressure exerted on the regime by those who have influence. What form that will take, we’re just not at that point yet.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the tape that allegedly made by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that he’s alive and well? Have you --

MS. PSAKI: I’ve certainly seen the reports. I don’t have any new information about his status.

QUESTION: On more on --

QUESTION: On Syria, I’m sorry --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the tape which is attributed to him. The voice says a lot of things, including that the so-called caliphate has now extended to substantial additional countries, including Saudi Arabia. It calls for Sunnis to attack, I think, both the royal family and Shia citizens in Saudi Arabia. It calls for Yemeni Sunnis to attack Houthis. It is, in effect, incitement to violence. Do you have any comment on the substance of what is said?

MS. PSAKI: Well, without – which I know you’re not asking me for, but without being able to confirm the validity or confirm the voice – the authenticity of it – clearly, there – the brutality, the rhetoric, the efforts to incite by any leaders of ISIL has not – is not a new phenomenon. It certainly is a reminder to everyone in the region and around the world of what their intentions are.

Fortunately, we have been working with countries in the region to combat this effort, to fight back against their claims that they represent Islam, that they represent people throughout the region. And I expect we will continue to increase those efforts over the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, you can’t confirm that this audio recording is authentic?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t confirm it, no. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: On Syria, so did the sources in the Administration lie to CNN? Because the report says that President Obama decided Assad’s removal is key to defeating ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak to anonymous sources. As you know, there are thousands of people who work for the United States Government. Many speak to the media. That’s what happens in a society where there’s a free press. But I can just convey to you what our strategy is and what’s accurate, and I think I just did that in response to Said’s question.

QUESTION: Just a more general question: In what way Assad’s removal would help in the fight against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s an interesting question in the sense that we continue to believe that Assad is a – the chief magnet for terrorism in Syria, and that, obviously, a political transition would contribute significantly to greater stability in the region. But we don’t believe that there’s anything but a political solution to that. And obviously, there needs to be a process by working with a number of countries in the region to get there, and we’re just not there at this point in time.

QUESTION: But you do think that his removal would help in the fight against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve said from the beginning, we continue to feel, that he continues to be the chief magnet for terrorism. And if you don’t have the chief magnet for terrorism, we think that certainly would help. We’ve long believed that he’s lost his legitimacy in the region, and – but we believe there needs to be a political process that plays out, and we’re certainly just not at that point right now.

QUESTION: Well, it is an interesting way of turning things around, though, because a couple of weeks ago you were talking more about the U.S. strategy was first to get rid of ISIL and deal with that threat and Syria will come later. So what has changed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that hasn’t changed and – actually, at all. And I didn’t contradict that, I don’t believe, in any way, shape or form. Ultimately, since we believe that President Assad is a magnet for terrorism, obviously a political transition that would change the leadership in Syria would be a positive step. But we continue to support, back, and believe that an Iraq-first strategy is absolutely the right way to go about defeating and degrading ISIL, because in Iraq we have a partner. We don’t have a partner in Syria, because in Syria we can – we’ve obviously taken steps to target certain strongholds or – and take advantage of opportunities like in Kobani. But in Iraq, we have a partner that we can boost up so that they can be the ones fighting back against --

QUESTION: I thought you did have partners in Syria, just not the Assad regime.

MS. PSAKI: Not in the government we don’t.

QUESTION: Right. But --

MS. PSAKI: It’s a difference.

QUESTION: Right. Now – so Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey were on the Hill. And they’re saying that you’re looking at finding 15,000 moderate Syrians to fight?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new beyond what they conveyed.

QUESTION: My question is: Do you think that there are 15,000 moderate Syrians that you could --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think our Secretary of Defense and chairman would state that if they didn’t think we could find 15,000 moderate Syrians to train and equip, yes.

QUESTION: So you think that that’s a realistic – that that is realistic?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I take it back to the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- proposal by the envoy – the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- about the ceasefire in certain areas of Aleppo or perhaps in all of Aleppo? Is that something that you support? Is that – was that something that you would actually support and encourage and perhaps sort of rally support for?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I said this a little bit the other day, but let me just repeat it because I think it’s worth repeating. Certainly we support the efforts of Minister de Mistura to find a political solution, and certainly he’s been working very, very hard at that. We have had concerns about the way, in the past, these ceasefires have been managed or dealt with, and specifically they have led to – they’ve more closely resembled surrender arrangements as opposed to genuine sustainable ceasefire agreements. So what we need – I think the international community, not just the United States, would need to see considerably more than a few words to demonstrate genuine regime interest in implementing this proposal, because support for any effort to save human life would represent a shift in the Assad regime’s approach.

QUESTION: So from your point of view, such a proposal is doable?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see. There isn’t a history that conveys that, Said. But we’re certainly supportive of de Mistura’s efforts.

Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: One more on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you issued a – or the State Department issued a Travel Warning which warned of the potential use of chemical warfare against civilian populations. Is there a new cause for concern in that area, or what was the reason for including --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe – and I’m happy to check with our team that issues those, but – that we update it every six months or so when we provide relevant information from what’s been – what’s happened in the interim. There isn’t a new report or a new concern. Obviously, you’re aware of both what happened over a year ago as well as concerns about the use of chlorine that the OPCW continues to look into.

QUESTION: Just somewhat related to – well, not related to this at all, but in Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you seen reports that the Kurds and the Iraqis – or the government in Baghdad have reached an oil agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes, I have.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: We welcome the announcement that an agreement has been reached between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to take initial steps at finding a fair and comprehensive solution on the management of Iraq’s hydrocarbon resources. We urge that these steps be taken as soon as possible to build trust as Iraqi leaders continue to discuss remaining issues in the coming days toward a just and constitutional solution that will allow all Iraqis to benefit fairly and equitably from Iraq’s hydrocarbon sector.

We are encouraged by this development and the willingness of officials in Baghdad and Erbil to address these complex issues directly and earnestly. We understand that this is the first of many steps that will be required to reach a comprehensive agreement, and the United States will continue to serve as a neutral broker and facilitator to the extent desired by the leadership of both Iraq and the KRG.

QUESTION: Do you know or can you speak to what the U.S. involvement as a neutral facilitator was in getting to this point? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I – that’s a great question. I’d have to talk to our team about our involvement in the last couple of days. Obviously, we’ve been encouraging both sides for some time to resolve this issue, but I can see if there’s more on that front to report.

QUESTION: Ambassador McGurk was in Iraq. Did he play any role to facilitate this agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Say that one more time?

QUESTION: Ambassador Brett McGurk was in Iraq a few days ago.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, he was. It’s a great question. I don’t have any details on his involvement. Obviously, this was largely negotiated between the KRG and the Government of Iraq. We’ve certainly been encouraging them to resolve this for some time. I can see if there’s any more to read out about his involvement.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: May we move on Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish Iraq and Syria, if that’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. One more in ISIL. David Cohen, the Under Secretary from the Treasury, was on the Hill this morning and he said basically that thanks to the strikes against the oil refineries in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. has seen a decrease of oil revenues from ISIL. So can you elaborate on that so without giving us a balance sheet? I presume that at least some accurate figures to back up what he said. And given the fact that the oil revenues from ISIL are part of the black economy, how the U.S. could be so sure that the revenues have decreased?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, it’s a great question. Obviously, Under Secretary Cohen is the one in his team who tracks this most closely, so why don’t we follow up with Treasury and see if they have any specific statistics on this? Obviously, when we made our initial targeting decisions, part of it was, of course, going after the refineries because of this specific issue, and there’s, I think, a calculation about how much oil from each of the refineries they’re able to use and sell. But we can see if there’s more specifics on numbers.

Do we have any more on Iraq or Syria before we move on? Okay. Why don’t we go to the back? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. So today the Russian military defense minister – they told that Russia plans long-range bomber flights near U.S. shores in Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. So – and previously in September, we had this incident in Alaska when the United States intercepted Russian aircrafts and we saw a lot of rumors about Russian ships around Australia. So any comments about this military activity Russia?

MS. PSAKI: I do have something on this. Let me see if I can find it while we’re here in the briefing and I will answer your question hopefully before we complete the briefing, if that works.

QUESTION: India.

QUESTION: Russia.

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

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s about the nuclear security. So I wondered if you had any comment about Russia’s decision to limit its participation in the joint effort with the United States to secure nuclear materials (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: We have seen that report, which I think came out just right before the briefing.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’ve been cooperating with Russia on this issue for some time now. In terms of a specific response or a reaction as to the impact, I will have to get you something after the briefing since it just posted before we came out, but we’re already pursuing it.

Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Yeah, quickly. Madam, as far as U.S.-India trades are concerned, both countries were locked at the WTO, but finally yesterday, the recent agreement in Geneva – World Trade Organization. And also later this month, U.S.-India trade forum summit will be held in New Delhi, India. Any comment on these two issues, please?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, we feel that trade and economic engagement with India is an important part of our strategic relationship, and certainly we look forward to what can be achieved there.

Let me get to your question. Sorry about the delay on that.

As you may know, Russia frequently engages in out-of-area air activities, and these activities trend up and down periodically depending on a variety of factors. While we recognize the need for routine military training activity, we have noticed an increase in the number of these flights near North America in recent months. Any such activity must be consistent with international law and conducted with due regard for the rights of other nations and the safety of other aircraft and of vessels.

We note the defense minister’s comment that “In the current situation, we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.” We don’t see security environment as warranting such activity.

Do we have any more on Russia?

QUESTION: They are complying with international law. You said that they should comply with international law. So you’re – at the moment, you believe that these flights do comply with international law?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct, is my understanding.

QUESTION: So you’re not overly concerned about them; you just don’t see a need for them?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And obviously, out-of-area activities is something that we certainly look at and make evaluations about.

QUESTION: Can I ask why you don’t see the need?

MS. PSAKI: About which?

QUESTION: Why do you not see the need for Russia to do this? I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t think that there is a current situation in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific or the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico that warrants additional flights in out-of-area territory.

QUESTION: By the Russians or by anybody?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think there’s a military situation there, Matt.

QUESTION: No, I know. I mean, you don’t see the – I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Depends on --

QUESTION: -- what is it that you – you don’t like this idea, clearly, right? I’m just wondering what you object to about it. There’s nothing – it doesn’t seem like there’s anything you can do to stop it because it’s perfectly legal, right?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t convey otherwise.

QUESTION: I know. So your objection is that you just don’t – you think it’s not necessary because there’s no reason for it?

MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t seem necessary, that’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Did – you conduct flights, surveillance flights of the – and the like around areas that the, say, the Chinese don’t particularly like. But you see a need for that, right, even though there’s no active conflict going on there?

MS. PSAKI: It depends on where it is, Matt, and whether there’s a need. And every country can certainly justify their needs.

QUESTION: Okay, but it’s just like if someone else does it it’s not okay, but if we do it is okay. That’s what --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make that generalization.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: No, no, wait – but that’s what it sounds like. So do you know is this a mil to mil thing that you do with the Russians? Or is it a diplomatic thing?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of what? Engagement on it?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I presume you’ve told the Russians that you think that this isn’t unnecessary.

MS. PSAKI: It would be mil to mil, I would expect.

QUESTION: It’s not like --

QUESTION: And so you have raised it with the Russians, have you?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD on that.

Yeah. Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: This may be something that you’ve addressed a while ago. It’s an older news item, I think, but there were reports out that in the upcoming – or in next month’s Russian military doctrine, a new military doctrine, that they were going to change the designation of the United States and NATO from external military dangers to threats or adversaries. Is – do you have a response to that or is --

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that. We can check with our team and see if we have any particular response to it. Do we have any more on Russia?

Okay. Go ahead, Scott. And we’ll go to you next. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Azerbaijan --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- says that it shot down an Armenian helicopter that it claims had attacked Azeri position. Are you aware of this report? Does that concern you? Have you had any communication with either or both of those governments?

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the report and we regret the loss of life as a result of yesterday’s, I should say, downing of a helicopter along the line of contact. We extend our condolences to the families of those killed or injured. These events – this event is yet another reminder of the need to redouble efforts on peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including reducing tension and respecting the ceasefire.

In terms of – we obviously are engaged, certainly, with both countries and, as you know, have a diplomatic presence in both, but I don’t have any updates on whether we’ve been engaged over this specific incident.

QUESTION: Both this and these two Azeris who are held in Nagorno-Karabakh seem to indicate that the direction of this conflict is not moving toward reducing tensions. So anything that the Obama Administration thinks that it can do to help push that in the direction you’d like to see it go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, we certainly remain committed to helping both sides. Obviously, we are engaged through diplomatic channels with both sides about our belief that they need to redouble efforts to get back to a peaceful negotiation. And naturally, retaliation, further violence, escalating tensions certainly does not help that effort, but we will continue to work through our contacts on the ground to see if we can move closer to a resolution.

QUESTION: On this, I just wanted to know if you – is what you just read the same thing that you said at the Foreign Press Center yesterday? Has there been any --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. There’s no new update.

QUESTION: No change to it?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you acknowledge that it was Azerbaijan which violated the ceasefire yesterday, and also violated one of the main principles of peaceful settlement of the conflict, which is no use of force? Do you acknowledge this part?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis of the exact events on the ground. We’ve seen the same reports. There are obviously comments and claims from both sides, but I don’t have any analysis beyond that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Azerbaijan shooting an Armenian vessel, then it’s pretty clear which party is violating the ceasefire.

MS. PSAKI: We understand there are views by both sides, but I don’t have any comment from the U.S. Government on it.

QUESTION: You keep eye on this and then maybe come back with any updates later on?

MS. PSAKI: If we have an update, you can – we can keep having this dialogue. That’s fine.

QUESTION: Let me go back one quickly on Russia, please.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, Goyal.

QUESTION: Any comments on Russia and China big $900 billion oil deal, despite all these sanctions against Russia? Any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we expect every country to abide by the sanctions that are in place. I don’t have all the specific details of that. Certainly, countries have a range of relationships with one another, including Russia and China.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Do we do a new topic? Is everyone all questioned out?

All right.

QUESTION: Thank you

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Well, I had a question on --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know if there’s any update on this situation in Ukraine from your point of view.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Samantha Power made some comments about this yesterday. I would certainly point you to those. But there’s no new specific update beyond that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 12, 2014

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 18:22

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 12, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:15 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. All right, just a couple of things for all of you at the top. On Tuesday evening and for most of the day yesterday, Secretary Kerry joined President Obama and other senior U.S. officials in bilateral meetings with the Chinese. On Tuesday evening, he joined President Obama for dinner with President Xi. This was followed by further meetings and a state luncheon earlier today in China, so much before we are meeting here right now. These meetings resulted in the U.S.-China joint announcement on climate change; an agreement on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, ITA; an agreement on military-to-military confidence-building mechanisms – CBMs – to increase transparency and predictability and to reduce risk of unplanned encounters.

Security Kerry also handed back the first 10-year validity visas to a group of Chinese businesspeople and five-year validity visas to students at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing earlier today. When meeting with the visa recipients and with members of the U.S. Embassy consular team, Secretary Kerry highlighted the many ways the reciprocal visa validity extension will benefit the people and economies of the United States and China.

As you know, Secretary Kerry is on his way right now to Amman. President Obama is continuing his trip in Asia, and he’ll be arriving – he arrived, I should say, Wednesday evening in Nay Pyi Daw, Burma, where he attended the gala dinner at the East Asia Summit.

With that --

QUESTION: Wait, I’m sorry, I was – I thought he – where is the Secretary right now?

MS. PSAKI: On his way to Amman, Jordan.

QUESTION: Okay. And he’s going to be doing what there?

MS. PSAKI: While he’s in Amman, he will have – the schedule – this was just added over the last 48 hours given the events on the ground and the tensions on the ground in the region. So he’ll be meeting with King Abdullah. He’ll have a private dinner with him. He’ll also be meeting with President Abbas. Obviously, the schedule is still being finalized, but that’s what we have at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that there’s a possibility that he might meet Prime Minister Netanyahu or some Israeli official?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again – I mean, if there’s something added to the schedule, we will certainly let you all know. But I would remind you that he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu probably almost every other day, and he’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: Right, but I mean, you guys have made a big point out of – for the – over – since the tensions began --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that – saying that all sides need to exercise restraint, all sides need to do more.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: And so if he’s only meeting with the king of Jordan and the president of the Palestinian Authority, that would suggest that you think that they are the ones that need to do more.

MS. PSAKI: It’s actually not suggesting that. That’s why I mentioned the calls, because he doesn’t speak with President Abbas as frequently on the phone. He and Prime Minister Netanyahu tend to speak frequently on the phone. As you know, President Abbas has a home in Amman, Jordan, so it’s pretty easy to reach him there. But if anything changes in the schedule, we’ll let you all know.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you --

QUESTION: What’s the timing of the meeting with Abbas? Is it today, tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: It’s still being scheduled. They don’t land for a few hours there. It’s later there, so tomorrow is the most likely option.

QUESTION: Can I just ask if – you probably saw the announcement in Jerusalem today of 200 new housing units in East Jerusalem. I’m – I assume that your position has not changed on this kind of activity, but could you remind us of what your position is? And also, does that have anything to do with why there isn’t any – yet any meeting with an Israeli official on the Secretary’s agenda?

MS. PSAKI: No. Just to address the meeting question first, this just came together in the last few days given tensions on the ground. And I’ll just reiterate again that he speaks frequently – almost every other day – with Prime Minister Netanyahu. So – and President Abbas has a home in Amman. That’s the reason where the – for why the schedule stands where it does.

In terms of the settlements, we – or the announcement, I should say, of new housing units in East Jerusalem – we are deeply concerned by this decision, particularly given the tense situation in Jerusalem as well as the unequivocal and unanimous position of the United States and others in the international community opposing such construction in East Jerusalem. These decisions to expand construction have the potential to exacerbate this difficult situation on the ground, and they will not contribute to efforts to reduce the tensions. So we will certainly continue to emphasize privately, as I just said publicly, our concerns.

QUESTION: Okay. That was an interesting semi-slip of the – are you exasperated with the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: I said “exacerbate,” the potential to --

QUESTION: I know, but you started to – sounded like you started to say “exasperate.” But anyway, I’m just wondering if you – are you exasperated with the Israelis for continuing to make these announcements when you say that they will cause the tension or have the potential to cause the tension to rise?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we feel they will exacerbate the difficult situation – the announcement of this construction, building will. That’s our concern about them. So certainly, we will continue to express to both the Israelis and the Palestinians our concerns and the need to do more.

QUESTION: Leaving aside whether you are exasperated or not – forgive me – are you not frustrated that the current Israeli Government repeatedly, continually, consistently flouts your advice on this, flouts your calls to cease this kind of activity, ignores or flouts your --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not just our view, Arshad. It’s the view of the --

QUESTION: I know, but I’m not talking --

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. It’s our --

QUESTION: Well, wait. But I’m not talking to the whole international community here. I’m asking you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, but I think that’s relevant context.

QUESTION: But I’m not – I don’t care whether other people are frustrated about it.

MS. PSAKI: But it’s relevant.

QUESTION: I’m interested in whether the U.S. Government is frustrated about it. I can ask other people what they think. Are you frustrated that the Israeli Government repeatedly flouts your request that they cease this activity?

MS. PSAKI: As I stated, we’re deeply concerned by these announcements. I would – I referenced the international community not about who is exacerbate – like, you know what I’m saying; I’m not even going to try that anymore – who is --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: -- frustrated or not, but to make the point that this is a view held by many in the international community, not just the United States. That’s important context. Of course, we continue to raise these issues, but most importantly, they’re contrary to Israel’s own stated goal of achieving a two-state solution because they make it more difficult to do that.

QUESTION: I think, Jen, one of the reasons why Arshad and I are directing this question to you is because unlike other members of the international community, who you cite many of who agree with you, the United States Government has leverage with the Israelis in a way that the Europeans, for example, do not.

MS. PSAKI: We also have an important security relationship with Israel --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and we are one of the greatest providers of security assistance to them as well.

QUESTION: So – right. Exactly. So – and no amount of announcements of new housing units or new settlements in the West Bank is going to have any impact on that security relationship, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So you basically cede your leverage.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t suggest that. I think our word means a great deal in the international community.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Quickly follow on this, do you agree that --

QUESTION: Do you think it means much to the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: I think it does, Arshad. And I think that’s why we have an ongoing dialogue with them and why the Secretary’s speaking with them regularly.

QUESTION: If it means something to the Israeli Government, why do they continually not do what you ask them to do?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t you ask the Israeli Government that question.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you, do you agree that this year has seen really accelerated settlement activities that, in fact, threatens the future of whatever initiative that you might have in terms of achieving or restarting the peace negotiations, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I just stated in response to Arshad’s question, obviously the ongoing construction announcements do fly in the face of the stated goal of achieving a two-state solution, because it predetermines or pre-decides where construction should be, where buildings should be, in other areas where settlements should be.

QUESTION: Okay. So the extent of your concern would basically be the statements that you just made, correct? We are not likely to see any action from the United States that can actually impact Israel’s decisions. Are we likely to see that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – Said, I think every country is going to make their own decisions. But obviously, I don’t think the Israelis want to see the tensions and the violence on the ground right now. They’ve stated they want to see a two-state solution, and certainly there are steps that need to be taken to achieve that.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Matt’s question, that you have leverage. Now other countries such as France, other European countries, where – they are recognizing the Palestinians. Will you follow suit? Ultimately, if they – if all the community in which you agree with – as you stated, this is an international position – if they one by one, if they go ahead and recognize the Palestinian state, will you do the same thing? Or will you sort of not counter any effort at the United Nations to pursue --

MS. PSAKI: Said, as you know, we support Palestinian statehood. We believe that it should be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues and end the conflict.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: That has consistently been our position.

QUESTION: I understand. But you support a Palestinian state within certain boundaries, correct? Within certain – on certain territories (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: We believe it should be negotiated, Said, between the parties.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Regarding Secretary Kerry trip, I think it was mentioned yesterday he’s going to UAE after this Amman trip.

MS. PSAKI: He is no longer – he’s not going to the UAE.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s canceled now?

MS. PSAKI: It was never – it was --

QUESTION: It was announced as a --

MS. PSAKI: I understand that, but he’s not going.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I follow up just to --

MS. PSAKI: I believe it was a note that went to the traveling press and may have been sent --

QUESTION: Or it was statement that maybe --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. He’s no longer going. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: There’s a difference Oman and Amman, but they can kind of get confused sometimes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I just ask you, in terms of – and I realize --

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t think that was the issue. I think there was a note that went that he was going to the UAE. He’s not going to the UAE.

QUESTION: Ah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just --

QUESTION: So when is he – sorry. Sorry, Matt. When is he planning to be home? Or does that depend on the talks in Amman?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that, Jo. Obviously, he’ll be in Amman tomorrow and I’ll refer to the traveling team to update – the team traveling with him on what his plans will be.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just – and I realize that the traveling people – the people traveling are a better place and the Secretary himself better place to get this, but would you expect the Secretary in his meeting with President Abbas to raise the issue of incitement that the Israelis have complained about – about the letter, the condolence letter that he sent to the family of the alleged (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll focus on de-escalating tensions, particularly surrounding Haram al-Sharif, the Temple Mount and the importance of maintaining calm. They’ll also likely discuss developments in Gaza, including reconstruction efforts. So I expect they’ll discuss a range of issues, including the increasing tensions on the ground.

QUESTION: Is it still the case that you’re not satisfied with what the Palestinians have done to try – or what the Palestinian leadership has done to try --

MS. PSAKI: We believe both sides can do more and continue to believe that.

QUESTION: And he would make the same case with Prime Minister Netanyahu --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- or other Israelis --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- if he had the opportunity?

MS. PSAKI: And he will because he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu practically every other day.

QUESTION: I know. But there’s a difference between a phone call and/or a secure video call and actually being there on the ground and, say, coming out for a photo op or a press availability and saying directly to the leader’s face, whether that is President Abbas or Prime Minister Netanyahu, “Look, we think you need to do more.” There is a difference.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that point has been made to both sides and we’ll continue to make it.

QUESTION: Did you agree that – yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of Arafat’s death, and on that occasion, many Israeli politicians and ministers issued statements saying that Abbas is much worse than Arafat, that he was really a clever embodiment of evil, he incites all the time. Do you agree with any of these assessments? Do you believe that Yasser – I mean, Abbas intentionally provokes and incites against the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary continues to believe that President Abbas is not only a close friend – he doesn’t just believe that, he actively partakes in that friendship – but also he believes he is – continues to be an important partner for peace.

QUESTION: He actively partakes – (laughter) – okay. That’s --

MS. PSAKI: He doesn’t just believe they’re friends; he is a friend.

QUESTION: And by extension, he also believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu is?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay. But the – with – the two sides don’t see each other that way. You acknowledge that that’s a problem?

MS. PSAKI: Agreed. But we continue to believe that they both can be partners for peace.

QUESTION: But does the Secretary believe that his personal friendship with each person can somehow bridge the divide?

MS. PSAKI: That is not at all what I said and wasn’t what Said’s question was.

QUESTION: I know. But that’s what I’m asking you.

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary believes it’s up to both leaders, it’s up to both the Palestinians and the Israelis to make choices needed to get back to the table.

QUESTION: Did you see there was some --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) negotiations are so hopelessly frozen – sorry, Jo. Is there any effort or any new initiative that – or we are likely to see, let’s say, in the next few weeks, in the next months?

MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll continue when the Secretary has meetings with King Abdullah and with President Abbas. They’ll certainly discuss broadly the need for a two-state solution and the importance of that path. But no, I don’t have any new initiatives to preview for you.

QUESTION: I wondered if you had a reaction to the torching of a mosque in the West Bank today by some Jewish extremists.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s see. The United States condemns the attack against a mosque in the West Bank. We believe that such hateful and provocative actions against a place of worship are never justified. We look to law enforcement officials to quickly investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. We encourage local authorities to work together with the community to reduce tension, to defend religious freedom, and to work against incitement.

Do we have any more on this topic?

QUESTION: Well, this is related to Israel, but it’s not on this issue.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And I realize that this had a confidentiality, whatever, privacy written all over it, but it has become an issue.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are reports that the State Department denied the renewal of an Israeli basketball player who was – the Indiana Pacers were trying to sign or to – I understand that that’s not correct, that it wasn’t denied, but I’m wondering if you can explain what the problem was that led to him being not allowed to play for the Pacers.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as is true of almost – most of these cases, which you referred to in your question, I can’t speak to specifics. I can convey, though, that the Department of Homeland Security handles, among other responsibilities, requests for petitions and extensions and adjustments of status. And often when individuals are requesting for an extension of a stay, that is where their case would go. So that would not be the State Department.

QUESTION: Okay, but – so in other words, the State Department had nothing to do with this case? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding is that this case – cases like these sit in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: And that is – even just an extension of a visa is with DHS? Or is it only a change in status if the applicant is changing – a change in their status?

MS. PSAKI: Well, extensions, adjustments of status, requests for petitions, which I believe these particular reports pertain to, are applicable, too.

QUESTION: Well, okay. So are you saying, then, that in this case, the State Department didn’t have anything to do with it? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: My understanding, Matt, is this is in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.

QUESTION: Okay. And there is nothing – this case is not being handled – or let’s say: Is it correct that this case is being handled the same way other similar cases of foreign athletes are being handled and there is not any difference simply because this guy is Israeli?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Obviously, every case is adjudicated individually, just like when we handle visas, but --

QUESTION: Right. But his citizenship to a particular country is not involved in it?

MS. PSAKI: No. But I would --

QUESTION: Because – but you remember earlier this year there was a lot of concern on the Hill about tourist visas and other things for Israeli citizens being delayed or rejected. This has nothing to do with that?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DHS, Matt, but there’s – I don’t have any more information on this particular case.

More? In the front.

QUESTION: Change the topic, perhaps?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There – so the NATO chief has come out today and sort of also backed up what you were saying yesterday about more convoys of trucks and so on, and they’re going into eastern Ukraine from Russia. And the Ukrainian defense minister now is warning about there might be possible new fighting, and that they’re gearing up their forces for combat operations and preparing their reserves as well. Is there a fear in this building that we’re on the brink of some kind of all-out fighting again in Eastern Europe – in eastern – sorry, in eastern Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been concerned for months now, as you know, since the beginning of this conflict about the impact of the illegal actions of Russian-backed separatists and those who are going into cities and towns around Ukraine. I would note, as you noted, General Breedlove – I think who you were referring to – has indicated a NATO – that NATO has seen the same developments reported by the OSCE, that large military convoys of Russia-supplied heavy weapons and tanks have moved to the front lines of the conflict in recent days.

Obviously, our preference would be to see a ceasefire continue. And what we’ve seen is ongoing, continuous, blatant violations of the Minsk protocol by Russia and its proxies. Now, it remains the case that Ukraine has the right to defend itself and its territory, but certainly the reason we supported the Minsk protocol is because we wanted to see a peaceful resolution. I’m not going to get ahead of where we are now because, obviously, we’ve seen these reports. I don’t have anything new from the U.S. Government in terms of confirmation, though we certainly stand by what the OSCE and NATO have said about where the convoys are.

QUESTION: What is the United States actively trying to do to de-escalate the tensions in that region? There was a meeting in Beijing between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. And Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov today as well. They talked about Iran and the P5+1 negotiations, but they also talked about Ukraine and our ongoing concerns about escalating tensions there, the need to abide by the Minsk protocols, and we’ll continue to press these issues and discuss with other counterparts in the world what our concerns are.

QUESTION: But is there any kind – is there any move to try and bring the sides together in a negotiation at the moment? I mean, it’s all well and good to say that you’re concerned about it, but it does seem that there’s no diplomatic --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Jo, in the past that hasn’t – the United States hasn’t been a party to those. In terms of how it would proceed in the future, obviously, handling things diplomatically is always our preference. I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of the OSCE and what they may or may not be doing or working on, but obviously our objective is to get back to the ceasefire and the agreements made under the Minsk protocol.

QUESTION: Jen, it seems as though both sides – both the U.S. and Russia, or at least through what you just said about Secretary Kerry and then what the Russians are saying about Foreign Minister Lavrov – both – you’re both saying the Minsk agreements needed to be abided by. And yet, you’re saying that the Ukrainians are abiding by it and the Russians aren’t, while the Russians say the exact opposite. I mean, is there a point to these conversations when they’re just talking past each other?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: You can’t even agree on this – you can’t agree on the facts.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, the challenge with the account of the Russians is that NATO and the OSCE both conveyed that a large military – that large military convoys of Russian-supplied heavy weapons and tanks have moved to the front lines of the conflict in recent days. That’s a clear violation of the Minsk protocols. So we’re talking about actions and what’s happening on the ground. We certainly agree that the Minsk protocols need to be abided by, but the actions of the Russians and their proxies is not backing up their rhetoric. That’s our concern.

QUESTION: Well – but do you think that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding by one party or another as to what the Minsk agreements actually call for?

MS. PSAKI: There should certainly not be. We’ve been pretty clear they include everything from the release of political prisoners to moving back military to moving back from the border. And obviously these are things – these actions that have been taken are contrary to it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: They’re very clearly stated out.

QUESTION: But you don’t – and you don’t see anything that the Kyiv government is doing as being in violation of Minsk? Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what the Russians are referring to. Did they get specific about what they convey as the violation?

QUESTION: Well, they’re talking – I mean, they talk about shelling of civilian buildings in Donetsk and other places in the east. I mean, if the Ukrainians are doing that, isn’t that a violation of Minsk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Russian-backed separatists – there’s been intensified shelling around the Donetsk airport as well as Debaltseve where separatists appear intent on moving forces well beyond the lines agreed in Minsk. So again, this is a case where there are Russian-backed separatists aggressively going into land that is owned by Ukraine and is Ukrainian land and conveying that the Ukrainians can’t take steps to defend themselves. And we just don’t agree with that.

QUESTION: Okay. But you – so you don’t – do you see no validity at all to Russian arguments that the Ukrainian army is also violating Minsk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have not heard any specifics that warrant – that would qualify as a violation.

QUESTION: Could you say anything about the Security Council this afternoon? There is a call for the Security Council to move --

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. Samantha Power – Ambassador Samantha Power will be speaking later this afternoon. I believe the meeting starts around 2:30.

QUESTION: 2:30?

MS. PSAKI: So she’ll speak shortly after that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a few questions about that one?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why did you feel the need to call for a Security Council meeting on this? And second, did the Secretary convey to Foreign Minister Lavrov in private what you from the podium and many other U.S. Government officials had publicly that further Russian violations of the ceasefire agreement would lead to Russia paying an increasing – would raise the cost to Russia of its behavior?

MS. PSAKI: We have definitely conveyed that privately to the Russians just as we’ve conveyed that publicly.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary do that? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: On their recent call it was certainly expressing our concerns about the situation in Ukraine. I think it’s – they know what the consequences will be should they proceed down this path.

What was your second question?

QUESTION: The other one was why you felt it – why you felt it necessary to call for the Security Council meeting for Ambassador Power to speak at on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we’re concerned about continuous blatant violations of the Minsk Protocol and we’re certainly concerned about tensions on the ground and reports over the past couple of days about the developments seen by NATO and the OSCE. As you know, there have been meetings in the past – several over the past several months about this – and I expect Ambassador Power will speak to this in the next hour or so, if I’m doing my time right.

QUESTION: Can I start a new topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: One more on Ukraine? Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. I mean, it just seems like an appropriate day, Jen, given the statements from NATO today and whatnot – could you remind us a little bit about what these consequences will be beyond just saying we don’t agree, we don’t agree? Is there actually something being seriously discussed in this building with regard to perhaps increasing sanctions, leveling new sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that, one, we continue to work closely with the EU to look at how we can jointly impose more costs on Russia for its unacceptable behavior. We and our allies and partners would be prepared to broaden and deepen existing sanctions. But I would also remind you that because there are so many executive orders or the European versions of that in place, I think Chancellor Merkel referenced the openness to adding people or entitles. So that’s really what we’d be talking about. I don’t have anything further to preview other than to convey that’s – continues to be where we stand and we’ll continue to coordinate and discuss exactly those issues.

QUESTION: Does it feel more likely today than, say, three days ago before there were Russian heavy armor and troops moving across the border that we might be moving closer to what you just described, adding individuals? Does this move closer today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Guy, with every additional aggressive action it increases our focus and increases our level of discussion.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to ask you a couple of questions on Iran on the prospect of a nuclear deal.

MS. PSAKI: On Iran? Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday we heard that Russia signed a nuclear deal with Iran and to build nuclear reactors. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, just broadly speaking, civilian nuclear cooperation is not prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions. As you know, Russia has in the past built or had similar deals, and this is separate, technically speaking, from our negotiations with the P5+1, of which Russia continues to be a part.

I can assure you that through our work with the P5+1, including Russia, we take into account all the possible pathways to a bomb, including any possible enrichment pathway.

QUESTION: So are you saying it will have no impact whatsoever on the nuclear deal (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s separate. We look – it’s technically separate from the negotiations over a nuclear deal.

QUESTION: But it will, like, make Iran’s hand stronger in the negotiations Iran with the West?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – we don’t believe it will make their heads --

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Did you say heads stronger?

QUESTION: Hand.

MS. PSAKI: Hand stronger. Hand stronger. No.

QUESTION: Sorry for that pronunciation. It’s --

MS. PSAKI: No, no, not a problem. Just wanted to state what you said correctly.

QUESTION: So one more question on – like while everybody, like, agrees that President Rouhani doesn’t have the final say on any nuclear deal with the West – it’s, rather, Ayatollah Khamenei – but many people in the Middle East, or at least in Iran, believe that it’s kind of the same here in America as well, that President Obama doesn’t have all the power that he should have on this issue. It’s the Congress that constrains him hugely. Do you --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure Congress would appreciate that comparison – (laughter) – but go ahead.

QUESTION: And do you also believe that, like, we can say that it – it’s the same here, President Obama is equally constrained by other institutions?

MS. PSAKI: No, I would disagree with that. I think every country has their own politics. Iran certainly has their own, and you’ve seen some of the public comments they’ve made over the last several months that speaks to that. Obviously, for us, we’ve been working closely with Congress to keep them abreast of these discussions and negotiations, and we continue to encourage any member of Congress to look closely at whatever final contents of a deal are before they make judgments. But there is certainly a different relationship, and I don’t think there’s a comparison to be made.

QUESTION: Can Congress kill a deal with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Can Congress kill a deal with Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we believe that the negotiators are the ones who need to have the freedom to make the decision. We’ve been – our position on whether or not there should be new sanctions legislation put in place has been consistent throughout this process because we feel that would be damaging to the negotiations.

QUESTION: Congress has the last say-so.

QUESTION: Then I’m curious. If you say that you encourage any member of Congress to look at the final deal but wait for the final deal, isn’t – I mean, isn’t that too late? Are you saying that if you do reach an agreement, you won’t actually sign it until after you weigh in with members of Congress?

MS. PSAKI: Not what I was suggesting. We’ve been keeping Congress abreast throughout. I’m certain we will do that in the final weeks as well.

QUESTION: Right, but if you’ve been keeping them abreast throughout, including up to this point right now, today, and they’re still opposed to it and still think it’s a bad deal, aren’t you suggesting, then, that by saying that you encourage members to look at a final deal, before they take --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there isn’t a deal yet, Matt, so they haven’t been briefed on a deal since there isn’t a deal yet.

QUESTION: Well, okay, but what you’ve briefed them on so far, they don’t like. Is that inaccurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think some – there are some members who have some views and some who have other views, but they haven’t seen the content of what a final agreement would look like because there isn’t a final agreement yet.

QUESTION: Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen anyone in Congress saying, “Wow, I think this is a great deal,” or that this is going in the right direction.

MS. PSAKI: Well, they --

QUESTION: Maybe there are, but I haven’t seen them. Certainly --

MS. PSAKI: There are some who are making evaluations without having all the details, because the details aren’t knowable yet.

QUESTION: Right, okay. But you’re saying that they – before they weigh in, they should wait for a final agreement. Doesn’t that mean that if – that it’s too late at that point if they’re not – I mean, it’s too late for --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I will – without giving you the exact briefing schedule of how we will keep Congress abreast, I can assure you that throughout the coming weeks, we will be keeping key committee members, key members of Congress, key individuals who have a stake in this abreast of how the progress is proceeding.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, do you understand what I’m getting at? I mean, if – you’re saying that they should hold off on any comments until they see what the final deal is.

MS. PSAKI: I said hold off on making a judgment.

QUESTION: Right. If they should hold off on making a judgment until they see what the final deal is, doesn’t that mean that they’re going to be presented with a fait accompli? Or are you --

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

QUESTION: Or are you saying – okay, then explain – then are you saying that once you get a deal – if you get a deal with Iran in Vienna or wherever else it might be, that you will not sign it, that you will come back here, brief --

MS. PSAKI: Not what I said either, and that’s – no.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I said we will be keeping Congress abreast throughout this process with briefings.

QUESTION: So if --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we don’t have a deal yet. When we have a deal, we’ll continue those discussions. I’m not going to lay it out more further than that.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. But you’re saying that you would go ahead – even though you’re telling Congress that they can’t make a judgment because they won’t know all the details until a final deal is reached, you’re saying that a final deal is going to be signed off on and then you’re going to brief Congress about the results?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more details about our briefing of Congress.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: But you know any deal will finally involve lifting all the sanctions, all of the sanctions. And Congress can only do that, correct? So – and in fact, they do have --

MS. PSAKI: That is not correct, Said.

QUESTION: That is incorrect? Congress would not – Congress would --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Samir. No, that’s not correct. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did Deputy Sherman leave Muscat, or are they still there?

MS. PSAKI: She did. She’s on her way back.

QUESTION: To Washington, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: To Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Can you describe us or, let’s say, let us understand what was achieved in the last three days in Muscat, at least in your words? What was achieved?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re in the final weeks here, as you know. The deadline is two – in about a week and a half, so this is obviously a key time in the negotiations. Typically with negotiations, the key decisions, the key moments happen in the final days, and we believe that will be the case here as well. Technically speaking, the meetings in Oman have concluded. There were two full days of trilateral meetings, with Secretary Kerry meeting with Baroness Ashton and Foreign Minister Zarif, followed by a day of meetings among the P5+1 political directors. They’ll be reconvening next week, as has already been previously announced. So we’re continuing to chip away and have tough discussions about these challenging issues. We can’t read out and tick-tock exact progress and exact moments because that would be harmful to the negotiations.

QUESTION: So the next step is Vienna 18th, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And without going in details or talking about the steps that you are taking with the Congress, just like if – are you updating the Congress now – at least it’s something going on from now till 18, or it’s going to be updated later after 18 or after 26?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve had ongoing discussions with a range of members of Congress for months now.

QUESTION: So Jen, just – Senators Kirk and Menendez put a statement out. You might have seen it. It was a little while ago, but it’s been sent to me again here. They say – and they are no slouches on this issue, having been the sponsors of the legislation that the Administration eventually supported that put these tough sanctions into place --

MS. PSAKI: That President Obama and Secretary Kerry were the driving forces on – but go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, right, but I mean, they supported it in – on the Hill.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But anyway --

MS. PSAKI: They supported it.

QUESTION: -- this statement says, “We believe that a good deal will dismantle, not just stall Iran’s illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state. This will require stringent limits on nuclear-related research, development, and procurement; coming clean on all possible military dimension issues; and a robust inspection and verification regime for decades to prevent Iran from breaking out or covertly sneaking out.” Is that the Administration’s position as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Do you – does the Administration agree with that as --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, our position is we are negotiating with Iran about preventing them from acquiring a nuclear weapon by cutting off all of the pathways for them to acquire that. There are a range of steps that need to be included in there, including stringent monitoring, stringent verification, but I’m going to leave what our view is as that.

More on Iran or should we move on?

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: Back to Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Russia? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: There was an announcement this morning by Foreign Minister Lavrov that Russia was going to be extending the range of its long-range heavy duty bombers, of which they’ve got 150 in their fleet going as far as the Gulf of Mexico, and certainly, in the other direction, a very significant shift in policy with regard to surveillance on the defense side. Have you any comment on that from State?

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I haven’t had a chance to talk to our team about this. I’ve seen the reports on it. But why don’t we – I’ll do that after the briefing. We’ll get you something more substantive and around to others who are interested.

Go ahead, Abby, and we’ll go you, Nicolas, next.

QUESTION: Sorry, I just wanted clarification.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Were you saying, when you were speaking about Ukraine, that there were just – you had just seen troops – just seen Russia building up along the border and not crossing over the border?

MS. PSAKI: So NATO and the OSCE have spoken to this and they’ve spoken about proceeding past the border. We don’t have any reason to question that, but we don’t have any independent, new information from the United States.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And General Breedlove spoke a little bit to this earlier today, and the OSCE did over the last couple of days.

Go ahead. Oh, go ahead. I said you could go next, sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can we move to Iraq/Syria and slash --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any independent information about the fate of Baghdadi since Monday?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new information.

QUESTION: Okay. One U.S. lawmaker, Mr. McCaul, said this morning in Time Magazine that – he criticized the security gaps, security shortcomings in Europe, saying that Europe has the risk of becoming a super – a jihadi superhighway because of lacks of – lack of controls of foreign fighters. So do you agree with him and do you think that European countries are not doing enough to control the flow of foreign fighters coming back from Syria and from Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve all seen European countries, the United States, and others as well in the region – that the growth of ISIL and the increase in foreign fighters we’ve seen over the last year or so has been a wakeup call to everybody about the need to do more to crack down on foreign fighters, to make it more difficult, to do better tracking, to coordinate along those fronts. Over the last several months, Europe and many European countries have taken steps to do more on that front. It takes a while to implement, and obviously, there are still aggressive recruitment tactics that are happening from ISIL at the same time. But I would say that our view is that the efforts of the EU and Europeans have increased over the last several months, as has the efforts of the United States, as has the efforts of Arab countries in the region. There have been new laws put in place, there have been new restrictions put in place. Obviously, this isn’t a challenge or a problem that we can address within just a couple of months.

QUESTION: Jen, there is a meeting that will take place tomorrow here in Washington by 200 military experts from 30 countries that will be discussing the next phase in the fight against ISIL. That might also include some ground troops. Are you aware of that or could you share with us any information that you might --

MS. PSAKI: Is the Department of Defense – I assume is engaged in this event or hosting it in some capacity. Or do you have more details on it?

QUESTION: Okay. I don’t have more details. Let me ask you about a poll that was conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Study in Doha. They have a satellite office here in Washington that held a press conference today. And it shows that while a majority of Arabs support the fight against ISIS itself, they remain suspicious of U.S. intentions. Now, they also say that you don’t take into consideration Arab opinion in – when formulating U.S. policy, whether military or just policy. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t seen that poll and I’m not going to speak to a poll, but let me convey, though, that obviously, from the beginning we felt it was important for Arab countries to be partners militarily when we did our first airstrikes. We’ve been partnering and working closely with Arab countries and Arab leaders because we feel specifically that the voices of those leaders, the voices of religious leaders, of faith leaders, of government leaders in many of those countries is far more effective than the voice of the United States. So I think our actions just contradict the findings of that report.

QUESTION: Well, that’s the fact – that’s why they’re angry. Their beef is on this point, that you do consult with the leaders, but you don’t – you dismiss totally the sentiments of the so-called “Arab street,” the sentiments of the public, how they view your interventions and so on in the region.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our view, Said – and we’re not just talking to leaders; we’re talking to a range of civil society leaders, of religious leaders, of faith leaders, we’re communicating via social media. And a lot of this is done, though, through partnering with many high-level officials in these countries. We certainly feel that there is a view that ISIL poses a threat to the region. We’re taking on that threat with these countries, and I don’t know that there’s much disagreement about that particular challenge.

QUESTION: On the political dimension of your strategy against ISIS in Iraq, can we – have you made any progress in, for example, vis-a-vis Iraq’s Government’s efforts to reach out to the Sunni communities in Anbar?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been – Prime Minister Abadi has spoken to this, but he’s also taken a range of steps to meet with leaders, Sunni leaders and Sunni tribal leaders. He’s ramped up outreach to Sunni tribal leaders in Amman and Baghdad and stressed in public remarks that he is an advocate and will continue to be an advocate for all Iraqis regardless of ethnicity or religion. We know there’s quite a bit of history here and hard feelings given some of the events over the last several months prior to Prime Minister Abadi taking over, and we know it’s going to take some time to repair some of those relationships. But we’ve seen him take some steps to address them and we’ve seen him make efforts to both encourage the security forces to operate in a more inclusive manner, in a regulated manner, including the Shia militia, to reach out himself personally, which is what I just referenced.

QUESTION: What about the relationship between Baghdad and the KRG, Kurdistan Regional Government? Yesterday – or it was this weekend, actually, prime minister of Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, slammed the Iraqi Government for failing to deliver on promises that it had made before forming the government in Baghdad.

MS. PSAKI: Well, are you --

QUESTION: It seems that people like the Kurds are frustrated with Baghdad, with Prime Minister Abadi’s new government, the same way that they were with al-Maliki’s government.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it’s been put specifically in those terms. Obviously, there are discussions about everything from oil revenues to payments that are ongoing. And we’re certainly encouraging those to be – the Iraqi Government to resolve those issues, but those are negotiations that are ongoing. And there have been some back and forth on it between the Kurdish government and the central government. And we hope it will be resolved soon.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) In your response to the question earlier about this public opinion poll and the Arab street, you talked about how you’re – you are making an effort to engage with the regular people and not just the leadership, and I’m sure you are. The – but you also agree that actions speak louder than words, correct? I mean, you constantly say that as it relates to all sorts of governments, including the Russians and Ukraine elsewhere. So with that in mind, the fact that actions do speak louder than words, I’m wondering if we could talk for a short – a little bit about this huge business delegation that a senior State Department official led to Egypt. Your concerns about the human rights situation in Egypt, the political situation in Egypt, remain and so – as far as I know, unless something has changed. So in light of those concerns and your unhappiness with the Egyptian Government, what kind of signal does it send to have a senior official lead the largest-ever U.S. business delegation to Egypt with the goal of promoting U.S. investment there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, our concerns regarding Egypt and human rights and restrictions on civil society are well known; they haven’t changed. But we also know that one of the challenges that the people of Egypt have been experiencing over the past couple of years is the lack of economic development, of economic growth, of economic opportunity. And international investment in Egypt’s economy supports the Egyptian people, and so we believe that by bringing companies there Egypt’s economic and work force development is something that can help the people of Egypt. It’s vital to their long-term stability. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to have at the diplomatic level a conversation about our concerns about their human rights record and the steps they’ve taken to crack down on protesters, et cetera. And obviously, we haven’t moved forward with the additional certifications, as you know.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean in the past foreign investment in Egypt and to be – bring it home, U.S. investment in Egypt has benefited a relatively small number of Egyptians. Certainly, not the ones who are coming out and voted for the president who was then overthrown in the coup/non-coup. So I’m just wondering if you are of the opinion now that the benefits of specifically – of generally foreign investment, but specifically U.S. investment, will benefit the majority or the vast majority of the Egyptian people rather than the scattered elites.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly that would be the objective of any investment/trade initiative --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- would be to impact and help the economy and help the people of Egypt.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, the objective – good intentions are one thing. But being able to be sure that you’re – what you’re doing is promoting the kind of thing that – or is going to end up promoting and help the kind of thing that you’re talking about is something else. So you’re confident that this --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, look, the alternative would be not to help with economic investment and bringing U.S. companies, some of the most prosperous in the world, to try to help boost up the Egyptian economy. And the many people who have been suffering without jobs, without opportunities --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- and we don’t feel that’s the right alternative.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a follow-up on that?

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Isn’t that, in a sense, just what the Administration has chosen to do by not yet – as I understand it – disbursing all of the $1.55 billion in annual assistance that it gives Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: You mean the additional certifications or --

QUESTION: Yes. And I mean you’re making a choice there to not make all that money available. At least some of that money would presumably help prop up the Egyptian economy.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but much of --

QUESTION: It’s not all military.

MS. PSAKI: -- some. But much of it is tied to, one, Egypt making progress on their human rights record and concerns we have about crackdowns over the last year-plus.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So there are specific requirements --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as you know, that work through Congress on --

QUESTION: That were imposed by Congress.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, you didn’t ask for them, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But we support them.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But – that have been imposed by Congress, so we haven’t – they have not yet been certified.

QUESTION: So why not – I mean, just adopting the same logic, why not hold off on leading teams of American business people to Egypt until they start getting their human rights and democratic processes more in line with international norms and what you would like to see?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – like any relationship, Arshad, there are complications to it. But we want to see Egypt’s economy thrive. We want to see Egypt be stable over the long term. We want the Egyptian people to thrive. This is an opportunity to bring U.S. businesses there, to encourage them to invest. There are still concerns we have, and that is noted by the fact that we have not certified, based on their human rights record or progress that hasn’t been made, additional funding. Some of it is military funding. Some of it is for other programs. But --

QUESTION: Could you take a question for me on this one? It’s a difficult one.

MS. PSAKI: What specifically is the question?

QUESTION: Well, I’d be interested in knowing, of the 1.55 billion that was appropriated for Egypt for fiscal 2014, how much has actually been obligated, and how much has not, and what are the reasons for the portions that have not been obligated. Is it simply the lack of certifications or is it something else?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we will check on that for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I just don’t understand how you’re not concerned you’re sending a mixed message. I mean, the money that Arshad’s talking about, $1.55 million --

QUESTION: Billion.

QUESTION: Billion.

QUESTION: Billion dollars, sorry – is presumably far less than a group of several dozen enormous U.S. multinationals will invest there. Do you not – are you not concerned that the people of Egypt, the very people who you hope to see benefit from foreign investment there, are getting what – are getting a mixed message from you when you are withholding aid – direct aid to the government at the same time as telling American businesses that they should go and pump their money into Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a difference between direct assistance to the government and promoting economic opportunity and business investment that we believe will benefit the people of Egypt, and that’s why we supported this mission and why we led it.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. President Sisi gave himself or was extended the authority to turn over any fugitives that might be in Egypt and wanted by their home countries and so on. I wonder if you have any comment on that. Are you aware of this?

MS. PSAKI: The – tell me again?

QUESTION: The president of Egypt has assumed executive authority to turn anyone that may have taken refuge in Egypt for political reasons over to their countries if they are wanted by these countries.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll have to check on the specifics of that, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to do that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on a different front?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A few days ago, you said you didn’t have the chance to discuss with the team the link between Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Daesh – ISIL, which was like the ones that were working in Sinai and ISIL. Do you have a chance to – possibility of link, because --

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

QUESTION: -- there was a reported story in New York Times --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- related to the killing of an American citizen in Sinai, what is somehow related to this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I – what I conveyed at the time, I believe, if I recall correctly, is that there is a difference between publicly stating or publicly claiming support for a group and specifically taking actions that are linked and coordinated with the group. So that I don’t have any additional assessment on.

QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking this – because almost a week ago or so, the American Embassy in Cairo, there was kind of warning to the people, especially those who are going to the American school in Cairo, to be worried about – have precautionary steps regarding the possibility of a terrorist attack.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. You’re saying that a travel – a travel advisory that went out.

QUESTION: The travel advisory. Beside that, there was like a warning for the Americans who are living in Cairo and their kids are Americans --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. A couple of weeks ago, I believe. Yeah.

QUESTION: Maybe 10 days.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to – have you – I mean, like come to more details about this threat? Or it’s like whatever was done, done?

MS. PSAKI: We provide – and this is standard across the world. When there’s information that we believe the public needs to know, we provide that. And this was a case of that. I don’t believe that’s ongoing, but --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I wonder if you would comment on a Russian report that Egypt received surface-to-air missiles – 300 – S-300 ballistic missiles. Do you have any comment on that?

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

QUESTION: Can we go to Yemen? I just wanted to ask you --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- after Monday’s announcement of the drawdown in Embassy staffing, if there are any – if concerns are – have eased, if the situation is still the same. And I’m asking because a report that says that you guys are getting ready or preparing for the possibility of an evacuation.

MS. PSAKI: I have no new changes to report, despite public reports out there, beyond what we announced on Monday. Obviously, Yemen is a high-threat post, and we always have contingency options. But there’s nothing new to report on that front.

QUESTION: Would you say that the – given the situation in Yemen now, the contingency option is more in play there than it is, say, in Paris?

MS. PSAKI: I would say in any high-threat post, it’s – we certainly always have contingency options. Paris, not a high-threat post. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Not yet.

QUESTION: I just wonder why you still have the Embassy open, given that there’s quite a lot of dangers. Today we saw another suicide bombing, not in Sana’a but in the center of Yemen. Why are you still keeping the Embassy open? Is it not a case that you should be actually closing it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, obviously, in Yemen – anywhere in the world – we constantly assess the security needs of the men and women who serve in our posts there, as well as locally hired employees. We made the decision that an ordered departure was warranted. We obviously did that just a couple of days ago. If we need to make a new, additional assessment, we will do that. Typically we don’t preview those in advance, but I can assure you that we take every precaution we believe is necessary to keep our people safe. But right now, we feel that we can keep the Embassy open. It’s operating normally and continues to be.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Going back to Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m not sure if you were asked about this question, but in this latest round in Oman nuclear talks --

MS. PSAKI: In Oman, yeah.

QUESTION: -- was Syria or the fight with the ISIL was in of the topics discussed with the Iranians?

MS. PSAKI: In the past that’s been raised on the margins, just given it’s a prominent issue not just in the news but of concern to many of the attendees. That was the case here, but there was no new development on that front.

QUESTION: Today former State --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, can I just update one thing? Because somebody asked the other day whether he raised the concerns about the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader’s comments, and he did raise them directly with Foreign Minister Zarif.

QUESTION: Today former State official Fred Hof wrote piece and he was asking whether U.S. in this alleged (inaudible) letter to Khamenei from President Obama – whether the U.S. assured Iran that U.S. is not going to target Syrian regime in Syria. Would you be able to give us any kind of refusal or refute to this claim?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak to – I’m still not going to speak to a reported letter from the President of the United States to anyone, and I would certainly point you to the White House for that. I will convey that in no conversations or communications have we made a link between the nuclear negotiations and the threat of ISIL, so I would take that and – go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t have anything else to say. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So can we say that you have not given any kind of assurances to Iran regarding Syrian regime being targeted or not?

MS. PSAKI: Our discussions have been exactly how I’ve described them.

QUESTION: Just on this, a senior Iranian official is saying that there have been responses to correspondence, and I’m just wondering if you are aware – not being specific, not talking about any specific letter that may or may not have been written by the President – but are you aware of a – discussions between the United States Government or the – between the Administration or exchanges of correspondence between the Administration and the office of the Supreme Leader in Iran?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, no.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Hi, Mary Alice Salinas with Voice of America.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Mary Alice.

QUESTION: Hi there. With regard to Ferguson, the parents of Michael Brown, the teenager killed by a police officer in Ferguson, appeared yesterday before the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva. They’ve said they want justice for Michael Brown, and they also believe that what happened there was a – represents a violation of the Convention Against Torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. And they say they want the world to know what is happening in Ferguson. Any response from the U.S. Government, especially now that it’s in – on this global stage?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will let my colleagues at the White House speak to events, even as difficult as events like those in Ferguson and what that means. I can speak specifically to the fact that we stand by our record here in the United States as it relates to everything from freedom of speech, freedom of protest, freedom of media, and we would put that up against any countries in the world.

I will say – let me give you a brief update about – I know – as many of you know, there’s a meeting today in Geneva. And you may have seen that there have been comments from our legal advisor – one of our legal advisors as well. But since some have asked about that: During that meeting, the U.S. delegation has articulated a number of changes and clarifications to its legal positions with respect to the convention. In contrast to positions previously taken by the U.S. Government, we are affirming that U.S. obligations under Article 16, which prohibits cruel, inhumane – inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment apply in places outside the United States that the U.S. Government controls as a governmental authority. This position, which applies equally to other provisions of the convention with the same jurisdictional language, is consistent with the text of the convention, its negotiating history, and the Senate ratification process. Legal Advisor Mary McLeod spoke to this as well while she was there, and I’d certainly point you to her comments, but since you referenced the meeting I thought I would take the opportunity to speak to that as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) meeting today, just going back to what you said, that you’d put your record up against any others in the world, I don’t think it was Mary McLeod, but another one of the U.S. legal advisors said that – admitted that when it came to Guantanamo and some of the other things that happened under the previous administrations, that the United States had moved – had – outside of its boundaries.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right, and that’s an important point, too. The delegation also acknowledged that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values, including those reflected in the convention. And as President Obama has said and others have said, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that. Obviously, part of the focus here is where we are moving forward, and we’ve engaged since then in ongoing efforts to determine why lapses occurred and we’ve taken concrete measures to prevent them from happening again. And they restated what our position is at this point in time.

QUESTION: Did they specifically say it was the Bush Administration that crossed the line and we’re sorry? Is that what they said?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the text of her remarks or the remarks of the delegation, but they acknowledged that in the wake of 9/11, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values.

QUESTION: So does that mean that when you say you put up – you’ll put the U.S. record up against anyone else’s in the world, it’s with the exception of the seven and a half years that followed 9/11?

MS. PSAKI: I’m referring, Matt, to how we operate and how it compares to the world on a number of these issues.

QUESTION: But not during that timeframe?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we acknowledged, as I mentioned, during this meeting what we regret about what’s happened in the past.

QUESTION: When you say you take responsibility for the lapses during that timeframe, what does that mean?

MS. PSAKI: That means that we’ve taken measures to prevent them from happening again; that we have established laws and procedures to strengthen the safeguards against torture and cruel treatment; that we’ve made changes; and obviously, we’ve stated how applicable we believe the convention is and our own laws are.

QUESTION: Does it mean offering compensation or an apology to the people who have been detained without trial or charge for years, or an apology or compensation to people, for example, who have been the victim of waterboarding?

MS. PSAKI: It means that we conveyed we regrettably did not live to – up to our values. I don’t have anything else for you in terms of other issues, but I don’t believe that was a part of the discussion, no.

QUESTION: India?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Abby, and then we’ll go to you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Sorry, another thread along those lines. I know that they’ll actually be speaking to this tomorrow, but does the U.S. agree with the UN’s interpretation of when solitary confinement constitutes torture? And is the U.S. currently in compliance with that interpretation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe I’d have to check with our lawyers and the team working on this on the specifics. Obviously, we reiterated clearly our commitment to abiding by the convention. In terms of the specifics of it, I’m happy to take the question and we can get you back some specifics.

QUESTION: Turkey (inaudible) question?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we go to Goyal and then we can go to you. Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. I’ve been talking about this issue for the last 10 years – corruption in India and black money. Now this issue became escalated during Prime Minister Modi’s campaign, and now he’s taking this action to bring back $1.4 trillion, according to New York Times, sitting outside of India from the corrupt ministers from India.

Now my question is: Now since G20 is taking place in Australia and Prime Minister Modi will be there and so will be President Obama – so is – how U.S. is going to help? Because Prime Minister Modi and Indians are seeking U.S. help to bring that money back to India.

MS. PSAKI: Goyal, in terms of the specifics on the agenda that are happening in Australia, I’d really refer you to the White House on that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But in generally --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. We have to move on just because --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: -- I have to go to something else. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Today in Turkey in Istanbul, a few of American sailors had some bags placed over their heads. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a statement put out by the U.S. Navy as well, which I’d point you to, but we’re deeply troubled by today’s assault against sailors of the USS Ross in Istanbul. The USS Ross is visiting Istanbul as a sign of the longstanding cooperation and friendship between the United States and Turkey. While we support the right to peaceful protest, this event clearly crossed the line from peaceful protest to violence and threats. We’re working – U.S. officials, I should say, are working with Turkish authorities to investigate this incident.

QUESTION: Do you see this incident as an isolated incident or part of trend about anti-Americanism in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure what other incidents you’re comparing it to, so we believe that Turkey remains an important NATO ally. We work closely with them on a range of issues. Obviously, we’re looking at this specific incident.

QUESTION: Recognizing that you – the Pentagon and the Navy have already spoken to this, as has the Embassy in Turkey, do you consider this case closed now, at least in terms of any conversation that you might have with Turkish authorities? Or is it something that you intend to raise beyond just the local police (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re continuing to work with Turkish authorities. I don’t believe there’s a plan to raise it at a different level than that. But this is – we’re continuing to work with them now.

QUESTION: Okay. So that would suggest – and correct me if I’m wrong – that you don’t think that this is symptomatic of some – that you think that this was an isolated incident and it’s not something that --

MS. PSAKI: I think I conveyed we’re speaking to this specific incident, yeah.

QUESTION: Right. But it’s not something that you feel the need to take up with the foreign minister or senior members in the – senior members of --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of plans to raise it at that level, no.

QUESTION: Can I go to Nigeria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I just have probably time for one or two more questions.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll try not to take up too much time.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There was – the Nigerian ambassador here in Washington, D.C. invited some members of the Council on Foreign Relations to the Embassy on Monday. And basically, he gave a speech in which he said that Nigeria is not very happy with the United States at the moment, that he feels that you guys are not giving them the weapons that they need to really deal with Boko Haram, and that this statement that you have that it’s because you’re concerned about human rights allegations by the Nigerian army are just half-truths, hearsays put out by the opponents of President Jonathan and human rights groups.

I wondered if I could have your reaction to the comments that he made.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we first value our – highly value our longstanding and important relationship with Nigeria. Let me just lay out the facts of our assistance. Over the past six months, the United States has started sharing intelligence with Nigeria, began training a new army battalion and held numerous high-level discussions with Nigerian authorities on additional measures to best address the Boko Haram threat. We have also provided and approved sales of military equipment to its armed forces. These decisions are made, of course, after careful scrutiny to ensure they conform with United States law.

Earlier this year, we denied the transfer of some Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria due to concerns about Nigeria’s ability to use and maintain this type of helicopter in its effort against Boko Haram and ongoing concerns about the Nigerian military’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations. We shared those concerns with Nigeria before this decision and subsequent to it.

Nigeria has purchased helicopters that originated in countries other than the United States, and nothing in our decision prevents Nigeria from obtaining weapons and equipment from other sources. We’ll continue to look for ways to deepen our cooperation with Nigeria to help it acquire the systems and skills needed to restore peace and security. But obviously, we’ve provided a great deal of assistance over the past several months.

QUESTION: So other than the Cobra helicopters, is there any request from the Nigerian Government that hasn’t been met by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I would ask them that specific question, but we’ve obviously provided them with a range of assistance, including intelligence sharing as well as military equipment.

QUESTION: And what about their response that the allegations of human rights abuses by the Nigerian army are just – are not substantiated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to urge Nigeria to investigate allegations of abuses perpetrated by Nigerian security forces, as well as offer Nigeria assistance in developing the doctrine and training needed to improve the military’s effectiveness. We wouldn’t be raising that concern if we didn’t feel and others didn’t feel that they were warranted.

QUESTION: So were you surprised by – was this building surprised by the ambassador’s comments on Monday?

MS. PSAKI: We did not review the comments in advance, no.

QUESTION: But so you were surprised, then, to – by the depth – I mean, it was a pretty angry statement that he made.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll leave it at what I conveyed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)

DPB # 192


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 10, 2014

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 17:41

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:23 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry was in Beijing this weekend participating in the APEC Ministerial Meetings. He met with his Indonesian and Australian counterparts, where they discussed a full range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. He met briefly with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and pressed Russia to implement fully its commitments under the Minsk agreements, including securing and monitoring Ukraine’s international border.

Secretary Kerry also attended several public events before departing Beijing to travel to Muscat, Oman. He will return to Beijing later this evening to join President Obama in meetings with President Xi Jinping.

As you all know, President Obama arrived in Beijing today – or yesterday, I believe. He participated in a leaders meeting with TPP member states and a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The President delivered a speech at the APEC CEO summit, attended APEC’s opening festivities hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and will join the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting that I believe is underway or soon to be underway.

He also announced the United States will increase the validity of short-term business and tourist visas and student and exchange visas for eligible Chinese travelers. This step will make it easier for Chinese travelers and students to visit the United States. As a result of this arrangement, we hope to welcome a growing share of eligible Chinese travelers, inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, and support hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs.

Second item for the top: We condemn Russia’s increased militarization of the Donbas region through the provision of tanks and other heavy equipment to separatists. The OSCE SMM monitors have reported the movement of large military convoys of Russia-supplied heavy weapons and tanks to the front lines of the conflict in recent days, and greatly intensified shelling around the Donetsk airport in Debaltseve, where separatists appear intent on making territorial gains well beyond the lines agreed in Minsk.

There are no excuses for these ongoing and continuous blatant violations of the Minsk protocol by Russia and its proxies. If Russia is truly committed to Minsk and peace in Ukraine, it will stop fueling the fire with new weapons and support for separatists and withdraw all Russian military personnel and equipment from Ukraine, and it will call on its proxies to stop ceasefire violations, release hostages, and close the international border. As the White House made clear on November 3rd, should Moscow continue to ignore the commitments that it made in Minsk and continue its destabilizing and dangerous actions, the costs to Russia will rise.

We also call to your attention to press reports that the Russian Government has thrown a blanket of state secrecy over what happened to its paratroopers from Pskov that were killed fighting in the Donbas – in Donbas this summer. We note that the families of those killed in action may never have the comfort of knowing from their own government what truly happened to their sons now that their fate has been declared a state secret.

Finally, I’d like to welcome Ian Clements in the back, a 7th-grade from Swanson Middle School in Arlington. So we’re glad you’re visiting today as well.

All right. Matt.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I want to go to Ukraine, but we can do that --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and get back to that a little bit later. I wanted to start with these developments with USAID, which I think you’re familiar with.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I’ve seen the AP report.

QUESTION: Right. Well, not just the report on it, but the statement from AID about how it’s changing its work in politically restrictive environments. And I’m wondering a couple things on this. One, what is going to be the State Department’s role in these pro-democracy programs since now, apparently, the work in politically restrictive environments is going to come under State’s rubric rather than AID’s?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke with our team right before we came down here. These reports of new regulations or a change in policy is something that we’re still reviewing or discussing internally. So I don’t have a – I don’t believe any final decision has been made at this point in time. Obviously, we continue to review our programs and how to best implement them, how we should implement them, who should be responsible for them. And that certainly is applicable here. We continue to believe we need to find creative ways to promote positive change in Cuba; but beyond that, we’re still assessing what any change or what any impact would be.

QUESTION: Well, but you’re not denying that you’re considering changes or that you’re reviewing your programs in – democracy programs in restrictive countries, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re constantly reviewing all of our programs. Obviously, USAID – obviously, they’re a part of the State Department, but I believe this is a reference to some internal discussion and deliberations that haven’t yet been finalized.

QUESTION: Yeah. But does that – is this an acknowledgment that there was an – a higher-than-acceptable risk for some of – in some of – in the people who were carrying out or promoting or actually working for these programs?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, obviously, USAID has the lead on looking at any of these programs and evaluating what is effective and what’s worth continuing. So it’s just – it reflects that that’s an ongoing process, and we’ll have a discussion with them about what to do moving forward.

QUESTION: You understand, and I presume AID understands, that some of the work – at least some of it, maybe a good percentage of it – is illegal, actually, in certain countries that you would consider to be politically restrictive, including Cuba. If you’re going to be transparent about them, how are you going to continue to do them if they’re actually against the law in countries where you’re operating?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s just premature at this point to – for me to read out for you or brief for you how these programs will be continued moving forward or implemented moving forward. Obviously, with any program, we continue to evaluate its effectiveness and whether it should continue.

QUESTION: But you’re – so you’re saying that you objected to the use of the word “clandestine” or “secret” before --

MS. PSAKI: We continue to.

QUESTION: -- but you did say “discreet.” That’s been the word.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that this – any changes in policy will not mean an end to the discreet operations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, all I’m saying, Matt, is that, obviously, there’s an ongoing internal deliberation about any big program by USAID or one – or some that the State Department runs. This is a reflection of that. It doesn’t mean that a final decision has been made about how it will be implemented or if it will be implemented moving forward.

QUESTION: But it does mean that there are concerns within the Department and within USAID that some of these programs may have over-reached?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you may recall --

QUESTION: Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: -- that several months ago, I believe it was, when some stories came out about some of these programs, they made clear that they would be evaluating them. So this is a reflection of that.

QUESTION: All right. Well, do you anticipate – or is it just too early to say – do you anticipate any reduction in the number of discreet programs that you’re doing – that you’re funding and carrying out in politically restrictive environments?

MS. PSAKI: It’s too early to say at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll --

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

QUESTION: Going to a new topic?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you following up on the statements by the special envoy, the UN special envoy, by perhaps having some sort of a ceasefire or at least stopping the fighting in Aleppo? And do you support such a thing, or was that discussed when he was here in Washington?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support ceasefires that would provide genuine relief to Syrian civilians and are consistent with humanitarian principles. But, however, we’ve seen in some cities – Babila, Homs, Yarmouk – unfortunately, many local truces achieved thus far have more closely resembled surrender arrangements as opposed to genuine, sustainable ceasefire arrangements that are consistent with best – with humanitarian best practices.

So we certainly support the efforts of Minister de Mistura. We support any effort to save human life. That would represent a shift in the Assad regime’s approach. But we are also cognizant of the Assad regime’s record on ceasefires.

QUESTION: So you don’t take – Assad issued a statement after his meeting with de Mistura basically saying they support his idea. First of all, can you give us perhaps, if you do know, sort of an outline of those ideas? I mean, how would this – such a ceasefire work? Will it sort of declare an area that is noncombat area? I mean, how does it work? Because he said I support such a proposal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, there are – have been reports related to local ceasefires. That’s what I can address at this point in time. In terms of other components of de Mistura’s proposals, I would certainly point you to him. I will just reiterate that our view is that the Assad regime bears overwhelming – continues to be that the Assad regime bears overwhelming responsibility for this humanitarian disaster and the daily suffering of the Syrian people, that as we must not – as – even as ISIL exploits this vacuum, we must not lose sight of the Assad regime’s ongoing crimes against the Syrian people that have nurtured ISIL’s growth in Syria. That continues to be our belief. And we’re just cognizant of the history on some of these local ceasefires.

QUESTION: Do you see this as perhaps a prelude for re-energized activities on the political front, perhaps a Geneva III, especially after it’s been sort of put aside for a number of months due to the rise of ISIS and the rise of fighting? Do you see now there is an opportunity perhaps with this new envoy or sort of a renewed interest by the UN to organize such an effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States continues to believe that there’s only a political solution here. The United Nations does. De Mistura does. But in terms of a mechanism for that, we’re obviously not at the place right now where both sides are going to be back at the table.

QUESTION: Okay. And my final question on this. Yesterday the President when asked if – what are the priorities, he said the priority is – I’m paraphrasing – is to defeat ISIS. And when he was asked about Assad, whether – he said that Assad continues to be someone who lost his legitimacy to rule. But the implicit message was this is not our priority at the present time. So is that no longer the priority?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President – what the President said is entirely consistent with what we’ve said from the beginning of when we first started doing airstrikes several months ago.

QUESTION: Can I go – stick with Assad?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: There was a series of strikes Friday night, over the weekend, on Mosul by the U.S. coalition. And there have been reports, which are unsubstantiated as yet, that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was either wounded or killed in those reports. Do you have any up-to-date information you can share with us today on his fate on what happened?

MS. PSAKI: Not much, Jo, but let me tell you what I can convey. And obviously, as – if information becomes available we’ll make that available to all of you. As you know, we assess these things through our partners in the intel community and others. But as Jo noted, there were coalition – coalition aircraft conducted a series of airstrikes November 7th in Iraq against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL leaders near Mosul, destroying a vehicle convoy consisting of 10 ISIL armed trucks. We cannot confirm if ISIL leader Baghdadi was among those present. We have no further information to provide regarding those strikes at this point.

It clearly demonstrates that we’re continuing to keep the pressure on. We’re continuing to target and go after the ISIL terrorist network. But we don’t have any new information at this point.

QUESTION: Do you have information on other leaders or other senior figures within ISIL who may have been in the convoy?

MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. We’re continuing to assess the impact.

QUESTION: And there were some reports today out of Egypt that one of the Egyptian jihadi movements, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – excuse my pronunciation – has sworn allegiance to ISIL. Do you have any comment on that? Does that kind of perhaps undermine what you’re trying to do in terms of delegitimizing the message of ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would say that what we have to assess and what we assess in cases like this or others where individual terrorist leaders or extremist leaders, depending on the case, have sworn allegiances, whether the sworn allegiance means affiliation, whether it means action, whether it means they’re joining the effort. We don’t have an assessment of that at this point in time. That doesn’t change the fact that we remain concerned about ISIL’s strength that they’ve developed over the last several months, and obviously, that’s why we’re – we have the coalition and why we’re doing what we’re doing in Iraq and Syria.

QUESTION: And I just wondered if you’d also seen a report out of Tehran today that the vice president – or one of the vice presidents has said that Iran would be ready to help to all of its abilities in Iraq, to help the Iraqi Government with all its abilities to fight ISIL. I know that there’s been some discussion about Iran’s role here, but would that be something that you would welcome?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what exactly the minister meant by his comments. Our concerns haven’t changed. Obviously, while there’s a role every country can play, and the Secretary himself has said that, we have expressed concern and our concerns remain about Iran’s activities in Iraq. We believe that Iran’s leaders can choose to continue to contribute to the current – we believe they continue to contribute to the current instability by backing unregulated militias in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. We believe these actions have contributed significantly to the sectarian conflict. And we are aware that some Iranian active – or operatives are inside Iraq training and advising. We remain concerned about this, and it’s certainly not something that we are encouraging.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: By now, I presume your experts have had a chance to look at the IAEA report from Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it wasn’t the formal release of the report, Matt, so we don’t have any additional comment on it. That’s standard how we handle these releases.

QUESTION: All right, then let’s talk about the one prior to this, which found that the Iranians, as we talked about on Friday, had not been complying with the IAEA on looking into past – any possible military dimension of their nuclear program in the past. Given the fact that they’ve said that in the last report, not this one – they also say it in this one – does that play any – does that have any impact or play any factor in the P5+1 negotiations that were going on until just an hour, couple of hours ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the IAEA will, of course, play a critical role, as they already have played, in the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. They would continue to play that if there’s a deal or an agreement. Obviously, there isn’t a deal or an agreement yet. And implementation of that and the monitoring mechanism of that will be pivotal to whether Iran is abiding by their agreement.

QUESTION: Yeah, but don’t you see what the problem is here? If the Iranians are not cooperating with the IAEA on monitoring of its previous – allegations of previous military dimensions, how in the world can you trust them to be able to effectively and to credibly monitor an agreement that you might come to in the future? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we had a similar conversation last Thursday or Friday.

QUESTION: I know, but I thought that – I was under the impression that today, you would have been able – or people would have looked at the report and you’d be able to speak to it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it hasn’t been publicly released by the agency yet, so we don’t --

QUESTION: Okay. But the last one says the same thing, the one that – and that has been public for more than a month.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the point is, Matt, that the IAEA will continue to play an important role. Obviously, abiding by any monitoring mechanism would be essential to Iran abiding by any agreement.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the point is that they haven’t been abiding by the monitoring system that’s been in place for quite some time now.

MS. PSAKI: And we’re in the pivotal stages of a negotiation about a comprehensive agreement.

QUESTION: So does that mean that the negotiations now will take into account the fact that the Iranians haven’t been complying with the previous monitoring order? And will it – will you demand that Iran does comply with that now as part of an agreement that you might reach?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, they’ll be required to abide by any part of the agreement that is agreed to, but I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: Right, but Jen, they agreed to it before and they’re not complying with it. So why should anyone think that they’re going to comply with it now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about a comprehensive agreement where there would be benefits to Iran if they agree --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and commit to it. There would be benefits to the United States. Obviously, the monitoring component of that is a pivotal part of that.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Would that include the military dimension?

MS. PSAKI: Will that include the military dimension? There’s two and a half weeks left before we have a deadline on the agreement.

QUESTION: No, but what I’m saying is, would a verification include the – basically, in this report, the IAEA is saying that Iran is not giving us enough access – giving them enough access to sites that would prove it.

MS. PSAKI: Being able to have access to adequately monitor would certainly be part of what would be required.

QUESTION: Two weeks.

QUESTION: So them complying --

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, you’re right – two weeks, not two and a half weeks.

QUESTION: So them complying with the previous IAEA – complying with the previous inspection demands is a part of these negotiations, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, the history here and what they have or haven’t abided by is a part of the discussion. Beyond that, I don’t have anything more for you on what will be a part of any agreement.

QUESTION: All right. There is just from this report – and I realize that you say that it’s not final so you don’t want to comment on it – but there are some who look at this report and say that Iran is in violation of the JPOA right now.

MS. PSAKI: Based on what specifically?

QUESTION: Because they have increased their stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we raised – I believe you’re referring to the IR-5 issue. We raised that issue with Iran as soon as the IAEA reported it, and it was resolved immediately. The Iranians have confirmed that they will not continue that activity as cited in the IAEA report, so it’s been resolved.

QUESTION: Okay. This is from --

QUESTION: Can I ask, when was that resolved?

QUESTION: When was it? Yeah, when?

MS. PSAKI: Over the course of the last few days, I believe.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: And one other one on this. I mean, there’s some people who read the JPOA and who argue that the R&D activities that are permissible under the JPOA would allow for the introduction of gas into the IR-5.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it’s a very technically complex agreement, and it provides a framework. But when there are questions that need to be raised, we raise them. This was an example of that.

QUESTION: So, wait. Could I just make sure I understand this correctly?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you – based on the report that you refuse to talk about because it’s not final, you went to the Iranians and said, “You’re in violation, fix this,” and they did? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: This was an issue. When there are issues that need to be raised, we still raise them, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. But they were – you believe that they were in violation of the JPOA?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t convey that. I conveyed that as soon as the IAEA reported it, then we raised it, and it’s been fixed.

QUESTION: But – right, okay, so they were in violation of the JPOA?

MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not what I said.

QUESTION: Well, why can’t you talk about –

QUESTION: Well, then why was it – why did it need to be fixed, then?

MS. PSAKI: Because we felt that it was a violation of what the IAEA requirements were.

QUESTION: Why can you talk about this aspect of the report, but not the other one that Matt has been (inaudible) you about?

MS. PSAKI: Because this was a specific report – in general, as a policy, Arshad, we don’t comment on reports before the final has been released. When there are issues that are raised that are in the news that all of you report, we try to be as responsive as we can.

QUESTION: Could I ask you --

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

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Okay.

QUESTION: Could I ask you about the meeting in Muscat, Oman?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What does it hope to achieve? And how is it – how does it fit into, let’s say, the meeting on the 24th? How is it juxtaposed against it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there – this was – these were important meetings, of course. And we’re still very focused on making progress and seeing if we can get a deal done before the deadline in all of our meetings. There’s still time to do so. This was an opportunity to have follow-on discussions with Secretary Kerry, EU High Representative Ashton, Foreign Minister Zarif. They had two lengthy meetings yesterday; two today as well. The discussions have been tough, direct, and serious. And as you know, the political directors will continue to stay in Oman for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. They’ll be reconvening, of course, for the already-announced round of meetings that are next week in Europe.

QUESTION: Do you think it’ll become any clearer after this set of talks whether a deal is actually achievable in the next two weeks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we continue to assess that, obviously, with every meeting we have. But there continue to be – it’s pieces of a puzzle, so it’s hard to assess exactly what it will mean. It’s just continuing to chip away at a very challenging issue.

QUESTION: The talks went into a second day today, which had been unscheduled.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Why did the – all sides decide that those were necessary, these meetings today were necessary?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was always an option in our internal planning for the Secretary to stay longer, given there was room in his schedule before heading to Beijing. So it was always possible if we thought there was a reason for him to stay a little bit longer. It doesn’t mean that any major development changed. It just meant that he felt it would be and we felt it would be productive to continue the discussions.

QUESTION: Because there was enough progress in the talks that it made sense to keep going, or – I mean, it doesn’t – just because he had a little time to kill doesn’t --

MS. PSAKI: He wouldn’t have stayed had he felt it wasn’t productive to continue to stay, and that’s why he remained in a little bit of extra – an extra day, I guess.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: And there was – sorry, Matt – there was plans for – it was staged in the hotel while these talks were going on for a press conference possibly between – three or four-way press conference, including the Omanis, and that was – that didn’t happen. Was there any reason why it didn’t happen?

MS. PSAKI: There was never – we plan for every contingency everywhere we go, and often there are press conference setups that don’t actually happen because that’s how we prepare for things. But there wasn’t a plan at any point for a press conference.

QUESTION: Do you plan for every contingency?

MS. PSAKI: Almost every, Matt.

QUESTION: How about an attack of giant spiders?

MS. PSAKI: We plan as best as we can.

QUESTION: Is that – what’s the – no, I have a serious question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Israelis, as you know, are extremely concerned about what the – what’s happening in the negotiations, and extremely worried that you guys are going to accept a deal that is a bad deal in spite of the fact – despite the fact that you say that no deal is better than a bad deal. The Vice President today repeated this in his speech, and yet Prime Minister Netanyahu is still under the impression – I don’t know why – that the Israelis are going to get the shaft here, they’re going to get the short end of the stick, that this existential threat that they believe is going to come out on top as a victor in these negotiations.

One, Prime Minister Netanyahu says that Israel will not accept any deal that allows Iran to stay on the pathway. Does – do you believe that Israel has a vote?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Since it’s not part of the negotiations, does the – do the Israeli concerns have merit, one; and two, do they get to veto it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, technically, Israel is not a part of the P5+1. However, because we feel their view and their voice is important, we have continued to brief them as much or more than any other country outside of the P5+1. And those discussions are ongoing. And what we convey to them privately is that this is a deal that’s still in the discussion process --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and obviously you haven’t seen the final product yet.

QUESTION: Right. But given the fact that you – well, the – if you say that you’ve been briefing them more than any country outside of the P5+1 and their concerns are getting higher rather than lower, like, is there still something problematic?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if that’s an accurate – they’ve been expressing similar concerns from the beginning. But our view continues to be that Israel – there’s no question Israel will be safer if Iran does not – is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Okay, all right. So – and then just apropos of what you just said but also the letter, non-letter – the “Dear Supreme Leader” letter – have you seen the plan that Khamenei put out or people close to him put out for the destruction – eventual destruction of the state of Israel?

QUESTION: Which he tweeted about today, by the way.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I saw that. I saw it.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We did see it. We strongly condemn the hateful remarks made about Israel on Twitter from an account linked to the supreme leader. The remarks are offensive and reprehensible, and the entire international community should condemn such rhetoric. This rhetoric is, unfortunately, not new, but it’s not conducive to regional security either.

QUESTION: Would you – would any kind of communication with the Iranians, whether it be in email or paper or conversations between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif, include a – expressions of concern about things like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I – there isn’t one I have to read out for you, Matt, from their last two days of meetings.

QUESTION: All right. So can you see how from the Israeli point of view – I’ll stop and you can go – from the Israeli point of view, if you’re not bringing these things up, this – which pose, I mean, literally an existential threat to Israel, that that’s a problem for them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just publicly conveyed it strongly.

QUESTION: I understand that. But if leader to leader, Kerry to Zarif, or president to supreme leader or whatever – I mean, can you say that you’re bringing this kind of thing to their attention and condemning it to them personally, rather than just to us here?

MS. PSAKI: We’re condemning it publicly. I don’t have any more condemning to read out for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to pick up on that – I mean, this is coming at a time where you’re working towards a nuclear deal. The President is making overtures to the supreme leader. I mean, what kind of – yes, vitriolic comments by Iran are nothing new, but they come amid this kind of sensitive time right now where the nuclear deadline is approaching, you are looking for their cooperation in the region. And what does that say about their intentions to have some kind of broader positive role in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think this is about their broader positive role in the region or trusting with them. This is about their – them agreeing to take steps to change their nuclear weapons capability.

QUESTION: I understand. But even if you have a nuclear weapon, they’re still looking to wipe – annihilate, in the quote – in the words of the supreme leader, to annihilate Israel, and are explaining how they feel that that could be done.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, if we prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which is the purpose of the entire negotiation, we certainly make that much more challenging to even pursue.

QUESTION: Well, he seems to have a whole other bunch of ways that you can annihilate Israel, though.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think their ability or their path toward acquiring a nuclear weapon is the biggest threat to the international community.

QUESTION: So even – so let’s say that you get a nuclear deal and it does, obviously, eliminate a big threat to Israel. Is it okay that they’re continuing the – on this --

MS. PSAKI: I think I just clearly conveyed it wasn’t okay.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you – you said that you share with Israel more than any other country. Does that mean that the Gulf countries or Saudi Arabia are less of a --

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your question, Said. I did not intend to do a ranking. I just intended --

QUESTION: No, no, I – no, I’m – it’s a serious question. I want --

MS. PSAKI: I just intended to convey there are a number of countries, included the ones you just referenced, that we have regular conversations and briefings and discussions with.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MS. PSAKI: But there are – Israel is one of the countries that we have stayed in very, very close contact with about the process of these nuclear negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, to be fair – I mean, Iran does not threaten Saudia Arabia with annihilation, unlike what it does Israel. So we understand that.

And the other point is: Do you that Mr. Zarif or even President Rouhani has some sort of influence on the supreme leader that they can tell him, actually, that you are complicating our negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of Iranian politics, Said, I would certainly point you to them.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: Oh, can we just stay on --

MS. PSAKI: Finish Iran?

QUESTION: On Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Israel. Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just the latest developments in Jerusalem --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the stabbing in the West Bank.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure, sure.

QUESTION: Or Tel Aviv and – Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are, unfortunately, a couple of events.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: So let me just speak to all of them. We strongly condemn the stabbings – the stabbing today in the West Bank and we deeply regret the loss of life. Our condolences go out to the victim’s family. It is absolutely critical that parties take every possible measure to protect civilians and de-escalate tensions.

We are also seeking additional information surrounding the incident of the Israeli Arab who was shot with – who was shot as well with a live bullet. We’re looking for information surrounding this incident. We’re in touch – close touch with the ministry of justice. And of course, we urge all parties to exercise restraint. Obviously, these events happened over the course of the last 12 to 24 hours, so I don’t have more details than what’s been out there at this point.

QUESTION: All right. I’m just going to assume – but correct me if I’m wrong – that when you say all parties’ restraint, you’re talking about the – who are you talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about the Israelis, the Palestinians – any who are involved in these tension-raising, rhetoric-raising incidents.

QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, if you’re standing at a bus stop or something and someone runs a car into you or comes up and stabs you, I don't know how – I mean, those people aren’t – don’t need to exercise restraint, do they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think I’m referring to the fact that we know that there have been – there’s been rising tensions in the region --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that has led to some of these incidents. I think we all are aware of that, so --

QUESTION: All right. In terms of the restraint and the rhetoric, are you seeing any – I mean, last week, you were pretty down on both sides, or you were up on – you were pleased with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s calls and the stuff that he did with the Jordanians about getting the tensions around the Temple Mount down, but you weren’t particularly happy with President Abbas. Has that changed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as I also said last week, I was speaking to one incident --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there have been a range of issues and events that have led to the rising tensions in the region that both sides need to do more to fix.

QUESTION: Still?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Still. And can you point to anything significant along those lines over the course of the – over the weekend?

MS. PSAKI: Positive steps?

QUESTION: Positive or negative.

MS. PSAKI: There aren’t any positive steps I have to --

QUESTION: There are no positive steps, correct?

MS. PSAKI: No additional, no.

QUESTION: Let me ask you, though – this area, like, in Hebron is not under the authority of the Palestinian Authority. So basically, it’s – it is the Israeli occupation forces that are responsible for that area. Would you call for the Palestinians perhaps to exercise more authority and perhaps they can stop these incidents from happening, to make sure they look after the bus stops and other places where Israeli settlers may be exposed to danger or to attacks?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Would you call for a more --

MS. PSAKI: Said, I think we don’t have a lot of details at this point in terms of why these events happened, who’s responsible. So it’s hard to assess what the solution should be without having more details.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Could you talk about the case of Stacey Addison?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a meeting on Friday between the East Timorese ambassador and U.S. officials.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. There was a meeting, as you referenced, on Friday. We aren’t going to go into too many details about our diplomatic discussions, but obviously, we expressed concern about – that Dr. Addison receive due process, and our hope for a prompt and transparent resolution to the case. We were assured that our concerns would be raised at the highest levels in East Timor by the ambassador as well.

QUESTION: Could you say who from this building went?

MS. PSAKI: A senior official from our EAP bureau.

QUESTION: Where are you on what – you say – are you saying that you’re concerned that she was not afforded due process by the kind of re-arrest, her re-arrest?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the fact that we didn’t have any information leading – that I spoke about this a bit on Friday --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- about which – what the specific charges were. Obviously, she was rearrested without indication in advance as to why or what that was about, and obviously, those do raise concerns, and we’ve raised those as well with them.

QUESTION: Now --

QUESTION: Did you get clarification on the charges?

MS. PSAKI: This was simply a meeting to discuss the issue and to raise it at higher levels.

QUESTION: Now, apparently, this cab driver or whatever and also the person that was arrested said that she had no connection to any of this. I mean, do you think she should be released?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a case, obviously, where we’re working closely with the government officials. We are in close contact with her. There’s a process that’s playing out there. But beyond that, I don’t have any updates from her.

QUESTION: But do you see any – that she broke any East Timorese laws, or do you think that she should --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there haven’t been charges issued at this point in time --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that we’re aware of.

QUESTION: Right. And are you saying that you don’t think that there’s enough to warrant charges and she should be released? When you call for a prompt and transparent resolution to this case, does – are you suggesting that you think that she should be released as soon as possible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, she was conditionally released earlier in September and then she was rearrested. Obviously, we have significant concerns about this case which we have expressed.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I go to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First off, I wonder if you could answer some queries from the – over the weekend.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were suggestions that ISIL had laid some bombs or planned to attack the embassy in Sana’a. Obviously, that attack didn’t go ahead, I guess, because we would have heard of it by now. But is that something that you’re aware of? Do you know the details of that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have specific details on that. I will say – and we put this out earlier today – that in response to changing security – the changing security situation in Yemen, we have further reduced our American personnel working in Yemen. And this ordered departure refers solely to the reduction in staff numbers due to unstable conditions in the host country. Obviously, we’ve all been watching what’s been happening on the ground there, but I don’t believe it was related to a specific threat.

QUESTION: If you’re reducing the staffing, you’d already reduced it once. Who was left to reduce? Who does it – who does this order cover?

MS. PSAKI: Well, for – let me be clear on one thing we – before I get to that point. We are operating on – we reduced it and then we returned staff.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So we’re operating with reduced staffing until conditions warrant a return, but we still – our consular services are continuing to run, the embassy’s continuing to operate normally, and even consular services have not been affected by implementation of ordered departure.

QUESTION: So it remains open?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: It is open?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Today --

QUESTION: And I wondered if I could ask also about – the U.S. Treasury unveiled some kind of sanctions against former President Saleh and two commanders from the Houthi.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that in response to the UN resolution or the UN move that was brought in on Friday? Or is it something that’s separate?

MS. PSAKI: It was, as you know, as a member country of the UN Security Council when they put in place sanctions. And obviously, as a member country, we would do that as well. So the Treasury release, which outlines the specifics of it, of course, makes clear that the action was taken in conjunction with the unanimous UN Security Council action that happened on Friday.

QUESTION: What practical effect will it have on --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, do they have assets in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically assess that in a public manner. I can go back to Treasury and see if there’s more. But it means that all assets of those designated that are located in the United States or in control of U.S. persons are frozen and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. But the fact that this was a UN Security Council resolution and these were names, of course, that were approved, means other member countries would likely be implementing this as well. So it’s not just the United States.

QUESTION: What was it that prompted this action particularly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d long, I think, in the UN Security Council resolution – or I should say information they put out, they made clear that this was about individuals who were undermining the political process in Yemen, obstructing the implementation of its political transition as outlined by agreements from November of 2011. So there had been the UN Security Council Resolution 2140 that had been passed to allow for this, and this was just that names were added to that list.

QUESTION: But that – that information that came out on Friday from the – at the UN was pretty specific and quite damning in suggesting that ex-President Saleh conspired with AQAP. Is that – I’m presuming, but I want to make sure, that that is the view of the entire Administration that this guy who Secretary Clinton went and met in Sana’a is actually actively conspiring with one of your – one of the top al-Qaida affiliates.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think if we look at the last couple of months in Yemen, we’re talking about specific actions that were taken by those who were designated over the course of that time that have prohibited the implementation of some of these transitions that had been approved some time ago. So we’re talking about recent actions, not actions from a couple of years ago.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the formation of the new government?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. We welcome the formation of a new cabinet in Yemen and commend the efforts of President Hadi, Prime Minister Baha, the country’s political leadership, and Yemen’s diverse communities to come together to form an inclusive government that can better meet the aspirations of the Yemeni people. We remain fully committed – firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis as they work to implement the September 21st Peace and National Partnership Agreement, the National Dialogue outcomes, and the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, which collectively form the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Yemen.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Yemen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I think the Treasury also calls Saleh one of the bigger advocates of violence and so on. But let me ask you, since this – the agreement that saw the transition way back then was brokered by the GC – yeah, the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC – do you expect them also to impose the same kind of sanctions on Saleh?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, individual countries make their decisions, but typically member countries of the UN will follow the UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: Because he has – I mean, he has investments and so on in all of these countries and personal loss of money and so on. So this – it’s an area where it can actually have a real bite.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is the impact of sanctions and why they’re serious when they come from the Security Council.

Go ahead. On Yemen or a new topic?

QUESTION: A new topic, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday Catalonia held a referendum to decide its independence or not from Spain. The Spanish Government has deemed that referendum is illegal and doesn’t recognize it. Does the U.S. Administration have any view regarding (a) the referendum, (b) the possible independent Catalonia?

MS. PSAKI: This is an internal matter for Spain.

QUESTION: Is it binding? I mean, I thought the referendum --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not – no, it’s not binding, actually.

QUESTION: China trip?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Two questions.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, as far as Secretary’s and President’s visit to China is concerned, many groups, including the religious freedoms and Committee to Protect Journalists and democracy and religious freedom and freedom of the press, they’re calling on the President and the Secretary to bring this issue before the Chinese because – and now, of course, there are Hong Kong democracy groups. Are – these issues are going to come up or has come up during those meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Human rights issues are always a part of the discussion we have with the Chinese.

Scott.

QUESTION: Do you have a statement on --

QUESTION: Can I stick with China?

MS. PSAKI: On China?

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Is yours on China, Scott, or can we go to China? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wondered if there was any reaction from this building on the meeting today between the Chinese president and the Japanese prime minister.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as we said last week when they put out their four-point statement, obviously, dialogue between the two countries and a positive relationship is something that we feel is important for not only relations between the countries, but peace and prosperity for the region and the world. So we certainly welcome the meeting between the Chinese president and the Japanese prime minister. I know they’ve done a little bit of readouts on their end about the specifics of it, so I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: I mean, obviously, we won’t know, but it did look like the handshake was particularly icy. Does it suggest that perhaps the talks have a long way to go yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think any one – and I think they stated this as well, the different leaders, that obviously there is – there are some issues where they agree on and some they don’t. But certainly, sitting down and meeting is still a positive step forward.

QUESTION: Just one more follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any reactions about the coral poaching in the region?

MS. PSAKI: The coral poaching in the region?

QUESTION: Right. Last week there had been a lot of news reports emerging about the Chinese vessels in Japanese waters poaching coral.

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that one for you, so why don’t you make sure we have all of your information and we can get you something right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Red coral.

QUESTION: Sorry --

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks for clarification. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This was about the Abe-Putin meeting, and apparently they agreed that there was going to be preparation for Putin’s visit to Tokyo. And I wondered if you had any reaction to that considering that the United States and the West is trying to isolate Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we continue to convey that we believe that the actions taken by Russia as it relates to Ukraine are illegal and they violate international norms. Certainly, Japan has been a partner in that. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have meetings and dialogue. As you know, we have meetings and dialogue with the Russians as well. So perhaps they’ll bring up and raise issues related to Ukraine during their discussion. We’ll see.

QUESTION: Sorry. Does that mean that if they do have a dialogue, but if they don’t raise Ukraine, that you might find that problematic?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t conveying that. I was just more conveying that Japan has been a partner of ours as it relates to our concerns, the international community’s concerns about Russia’s incursions into Ukraine. But obviously, we have a dialogue with Russia about a range of issues, whether it’s the P5+1 talks or a range of chemical weapons or Syria, so we expect other countries will do the same.

QUESTION: So do you think that it’s a good thing that they’re going to have a meeting that is focused solely on the northern territory side?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on their meeting, so let’s see what they talk about. But basically, we understand that countries around the world engage with each other. That’s part of diplomacy, so --

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about the nomination of Tony Blinken?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. And what do you expect? When do you expect this to happen, confirmation and all of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t predict that, Said. Obviously --

QUESTION: Okay, and in the interim?

MS. PSAKI: -- as is true of --

QUESTION: In the interim?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as is true of any important nomination, we certainly would like to see it happen as quickly as possible. I would remind you that while he was just nominated on Friday, and obviously to a very important position in the Department, we also have 60 ambassadors, some of whom have been waiting for hundreds of days to be confirmed.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, that’s exactly the point. Do you expect that he would have to wait until all the 70s are either confirmed or not confirmed?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis of that at this point in time.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Why don’t we go to Scott in the back? Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: Nigeria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on today’s attack?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And you’re referring, of course, to the one on the students, I assume.

QUESTION: Correct. Yes.

MS. PSAKI: We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific attack on Nigerian students by a suicide bomber, which has reportedly killed dozens of students and wounded countless others at a school assembly in the northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, as well as other attacks on defenseless civilians this past week in Nigeria. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the victims and their families of these latest egregious assault on innocent civilians by those bent on fomenting violent extremism and insecurity in northeastern Nigeria and the region. We urge the Government of Nigeria to investigate these and other attacks to bring the perpetrators to justice.

QUESTION: So it’s evident that this talk of a ceasefire with Boko Haram over the past few weeks is just talk. Do you have any insight into whether there was a deal that fell apart or whether this was never actually ever going to happen and no one was ever going to N’Djamena?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of reports over the course of time, and certainly some ups and downs in these discussions. As far as I heard earlier today, I think it’s fairly obvious where things stand at this point in time. It doesn’t mean that those negotiations and discussions won’t continue. I can see, Scott, if there is more of an assessment about where things stand on that front.

Okay. Let’s do a couple more here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t you go ahead? Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: When Director of National Intelligence Clapper, he – when he traveled to North Korea, were there any support officials from this building, State Department, who traveled together with him, such as Korean language speaker Sydney Seiler?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, the State Department has worked very closely with a range of other officials in the government on this – these cases, and we’ve used every diplomatic tool at our disposal to see how we could bring them home. Director Clapper went specifically because it was – we knew that there would be a greater chance of bringing these two individuals home if we had a high-level, Cabinet-level official who was sent. But we did not want to indicate that this was the opening of any negotiations on nuclear issues. So it was appropriate that it was somebody with security credentials and not somebody who was – had been a negotiator or was working with other countries on nuclear issues or on human rights issues, because it is not an opening for a dialogue on those issues.

QUESTION: So no State Department official traveled --

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So after the release of all three Americans from North Korea, are you going to continue to seek the UN Resolution on Human Rights that calls for referring North Korea to the ICC?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed about our concerns about North Korea’s human record – abysmal human rights record. Nothing has changed about our concerns about their nuclear aspirations and capabilities. Those issues remain ones that we will continue to work with the international community on.

QUESTION: May I go to --

QUESTION: Is it correct that DNI Clapper’s plane had troubles that delayed his mission?

MS. PSAKI: That is correct.

QUESTION: What happened?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you. I’d point you to DNI for more technical details on the technical issues.

QUESTION: But there was – I mean, it was our friend Matt’s scoop that the plane broke down in Hawaii. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on exactly where in the process it was en route, so it delayed the visit.

QUESTION: So it was on a refueling stop, though?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And is this – do you happen to know if it was the same plane that broke down in Vienna when Secretary Kerry was on his way back?

MS. PSAKI: Well, technically speaking, there are a couple of planes that are in rotation. I don’t have information as to whether it was exactly the same plane, no.

QUESTION: Apart from the specifics of that incident, is there a concern in this building or with your boss about the reliability of this fleet of aircraft?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve had – obviously, many of you have experienced the fact that I think four times this year we’ve had delays, the Secretary has, on our diplomatic travel, which obviously has an impact. So now we’re seeing it have impacts in other places as well.

QUESTION: Right. To the best of your knowledge, though, there wasn’t a problem with the North Koreans and the fact that they had – and DNI Clapper, presumably – or someone had to call up North Korea and say, sorry, we’re going to be a little late?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly he returned home with the two American citizens. So --

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, is there --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) told them that he was going to be late because the plane broke down?

MS. PSAKI: I was not engaged in any communications about his arrival time.

QUESTION: But is there any broader concern that this kind of thing happening so frequently now – or apparently more frequently – is affecting the ability of the U.S. to do business overseas – diplomacy and rescue missions, whatever?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question it presents technical logistical challenges, Matt. But obviously, we do the best we can to make adjustments where needed. Obviously, DNI Clapper did that, the Secretary does that, and we thank all of you for doing that from time to time as well.

QUESTION: If you were wanting to request a new plane, would that come from the State Department, in that – your budget, or how would you go about doing that?

QUESTION: I think you’d have to ask Congress for --

QUESTION: Well, yes, I know you’d have to go to Congress.

MS. PSAKI: I believe Congress would have to approve new funding for new planes.

QUESTION: But would it be a request from the State Department, I guess, is my question.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, Jo. They’re DOD planes --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- so I would have to check and see where that – any such request, not that I’m aware that one is coming from, but broadly speaking, would come from.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: If you do, a jumbo jet would be nice.

MS. PSAKI: I will take note. We will give you --

QUESTION: Does it have to be American-made?

QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: We will attribute to all of you.

QUESTION: Can I go to – change the subject a little bit --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to – back to Ukraine, from your opening statement?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You condemn Russia’s increased militarization of Donbas, you said. Is this from – is this something new that’s happened over the weekend, or is this the stuff you were talking about last week? Or is it all --

MS. PSAKI: There are no – there’s no new assessment from my end – from our end.

QUESTION: And the – you mean since Friday?

MS. PSAKI: Since Friday when I spoke about it, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And so this is just – this is the stuff that you were talking about last week?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Do you – are you able to offer any substantial evidence that this stuff is actually Russian material and Russian --

MS. PSAKI: On the border?

QUESTION: No, that’s gone into Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted on Friday – and I don’t think I changed what I said today --

QUESTION: Right. You said if confirmed.

MS. PSAKI: -- if true, I don’t have any new information to provide for all of you.

QUESTION: All right. And then your comment about the Russian soldiers --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the state secret, are you saying here from the podium that these guys were killed in Ukraine and their families are being misled or lied to by the Russian authorities and so – is that --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Information is not being provided to the families.

QUESTION: So you are --

QUESTION: But that’s different from lying. The absence of the provision of information is different from lying about something, isn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if they don’t have information and they don’t know where they are, some of them are, or don’t know why they – where they went, I think you can define it many different ways.

QUESTION: No, no. But you choose not to provide information 20 times a briefing, but nobody would not accuse you – would accuse you – nobody would accuse you of lying because you’re not providing information. Matt’s question --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think there’s a difference between me not providing, say, classified information or information about sensitive negotiations to you during a press briefing, and families who have lost a loved one not being provided with information about their lost son.

QUESTION: So you have no problem with answering Matt’s question whether you regard this as lying in the affirmative – yes, you regard it as lying, the Russians are lying to their own people about the fate of these soldiers?

MS. PSAKI: I think information is not being provided. You can define that however you would like to define it.

QUESTION: But – okay. But are – is it your intent by standing there and saying this to inform the families of these Russian --

MS. PSAKI: We’re --

QUESTION: -- missing Russian soldiers that their loved ones were lost in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: -- intending to raise our concern that this is unacceptable; not to inform anyone, to raise a concern that this is unacceptable.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, they would be informed by the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Are you familiar at all with any time that the U.S. has done something similar about troops that have – or where things have been masked in a shroud of secrecy in terms of the whereabouts or the deaths of American troops?

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to something specific, Matt?

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if this – if the – this is something that the United States would never do – what you’re accusing the Russians of doing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, without referring to something specific, I don’t know what you’re referring to. But obviously, this is a concern we felt was worthy of raising.

QUESTION: What about (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Okay. Have you – do you know if you’re making this same kind of statement in other venues, or is it just here? I mean, is the embassy doing anything, are you doing anything with – I don’t know, online, or --

MS. PSAKI: Typically, when we raise things, they’re being raised through private channels as well. I can check if this specifically has been raised through private channels.

QUESTION: Do you know, though, if the Secretary, for example, raised this with Foreign Minister Lavrov and said, “Hey, this is not good?”

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of him raising this in his recent conversations, no.

QUESTION: And just --

MS. PSAKI: But this is from kind of earlier this summer, so --

QUESTION: Just where are you getting the reports from? I mean, are the families – are these Russian families in direct contact with you or with the embassy? I mean, where are you hearing that they’re not being told?

MS. PSAKI: We’re – we have a range of sources for information. I’m not – I don’t think I have anything more to read out from it – from that.

QUESTION: But they haven’t come to the embassy directly or to you guys directly, to --

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details on it.

QUESTION: On Russia --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, warned that maybe a new Cold War is underway. Do you have any comment on what he said? Are you concerned that there may be a new Cold War with Russia?

MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not. And the Secretary has spoken to this as well.

I can just do a couple more. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Staying on Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Russian central bank issued its annual economic forecast today and predicted that sanctions from the West would remain in effect until 2017. Do you see that as a generally accurate prediction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it may be their assessment in order to do their economic reporting. Obviously, that will be determined by Russia’s own actions.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: So beyond that, I don’t have any other assessment.

QUESTION: But does it trouble you that a central organ of Russian policymaking is predicting such a dim outlook for the possibility that actions might work in the favor of removing sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it troubles me that instead of taking actions to remove – or to prompt a removal of the sanctions, there seems to be a doubling down on some of the problematic actions that Russia has been taking, leading to negative growth predictions and record capital flight departure from Russia having a huge impact, obviously, as was assessed in this report on the Russian economy.

QUESTION: And then the EU – well, Chancellor Merkel made some comments last week hinting that sanctions might be expanded against rebel leaders in the Ukraine. Can you provide us with any update about coordination that you’re doing with them or how imminent that kind of expansion might be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – as I stated at the beginning, if Russia continues on the path to aggressive behavior as it relates to Ukraine, then there will be additional consequences. We continue to discuss that with the Europeans. That’s ongoing, but I don’t have an assessment at this point in terms of what, if anything, will result from that.

QUESTION: Would those consequences apply to Russian officials or Ukrainian separatists or both?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see. We’ll see.

I think – I have to wrap this up, Goyal. I’m sorry. Do we have any more in the front here? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got just one more. Could you --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: -- update us on the investigation into Robin Raphel? Is there anything more you can say about it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new beyond what I said on Friday.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 7, 2014

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 18:39

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:55 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: It’s Friday.

MS. PSAKI: It is Friday. Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: A couple of items at the top for all of you. We are appalled by reports that ISIL has shut down schools in territory it has seized in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor and will force teachers to endure its empty indoctrination and propaganda, contrary to Syrians’ aspirations for freedom, tolerance, and dignity. ISIL represents no faith or religion and has demonstrated that it will target any group that might disagree with its goals or policies by committing atrocities, violations of international human law, human rights abuses, and other violent acts. ISIL’s use of coercion and grotesque violence to impose its repressive ideology and false narratives only reinforces that it has no place in a future Syria or anywhere else in the region.

On Ukraine, yesterday we saw battle tanks, armored vehicles, and cargo trucks amass at a rail yard approximately 25 kilometers inside the Russian border. Today, as we see Ukrainian reports that Russia has moved heavy artillery, including T-64 tanks and Howitzer artillery systems into Ukraine – if confirmed, the United States condemns this most recent incursion into Ukrainian territory. It would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement signed by Russia and the separatists. We continue to emphasize the need for full and immediate implementation by the separatists and Russia of all their commitments under the September 5th Minsk Protocol. Russian forces and weapons must be withdrawn from Ukraine. Ukrainian sovereignty must be restored along the Ukrainian side of the international border, and that border needs to be monitored by the OSCE, and all hostages must be released immediately.

Just two more quick items for all of you. The Secretary, together with USTR Froman, is leading the U.S. delegation at the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Beijing. In the afternoon, they attended the opening session of the AMM at the China National Convention Center. On the margins of the AMM today, the Secretary held separate bilateral meetings with his counterparts from New Zealand, China, and Japan. On Saturday, the Secretary will again participate in AMM events, including the foreign ministers breakfast, the plenary in the afternoon, and on the margins he is expected to hold additional bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, and Australia. Also on Saturday, the Secretary is expected to meet with the American Chamber of Commerce reps and make remarks at two National Center for APEC events – the 20th anniversary luncheon and a women-for-economy event.

Finally, we welcome Japan’s announcement on November 7th of an additional $100 million contribution to the international response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The new pledge, which is on top of earlier commitments from Japan of $45 million and in-kind donations, demonstrates important leadership in the global response to this crisis and is another example of Japan’s longstanding support for humanitarian assistance and long-term development projects in Africa.

With Matt, let’s – with that, Matt, let’s go to you.

QUESTION: Wow, okay. So there’s a lot going on today. I’ll get to Iran, Ukraine, all that stuff in a bit. But I want to begin with – in the Middle East with Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the ICC made its decision that there was no case to prosecute for war crimes in Gaza. But also yesterday – and you spoke about that very briefly here. But also yesterday, General Dempsey, who is no slouch when it comes to military things, told an audience in New York that the Israelis went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage during the Gaza war.

And I’m puzzled, because I thought it was the position of the Administration – or maybe it was just the position of the State Department and the White House – that Israel was not doing enough to live up to its – what you called its own high standards. Back on August 3rd, there was the statement you put out after the UNRWA school incident, saying that the U.S. “is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling.” And that was some pretty fierce criticism.

How do you reconcile these two apparent divergent points of view? When this statement came out, the United States was appalled? Did that just mean the State Department was appalled?

MS. PSAKI: No, that is the position of the Administration; it remains the position of the Administration. As we made clear throughout the summer’s conflict, we supported Israel’s right to self-defense and strongly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, and the use of tunnels, of course, of attacks into Israel. However, we also expressed deep concern and heartbreak for the civilian death toll in Gaza and made clear, as you noted in the statement you pointed to, that we believed that Israel could have done more to prevent civilian casualties, and it was important that they held their selves to a high standard. So that remains our view and position about this summer’s events.

QUESTION: Okay. But I’m still confused as to how you can reconcile the fact that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who knows a bit about how military operations work, I would venture to guess; I don’t know him, but I assume that he wouldn’t be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff if he was – if he didn’t --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- says that the Israelis essentially did the best that they could and lived up to – by extension lived up to their high standards by taking – by going to, quote, “extraordinary lengths” to limit the collateral damage.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the chairman’s team for his – more specifics on his comments. But it remains the broad view of the entire Administration that they could have done more and they should have taken more – all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties.

QUESTION: All right. Now – same issue. Well, same area. Do you have any update, anything new to say about the situation in Jerusalem today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we obviously continue to urge calm and condemn any resurgence of violence. Obviously, we’re watching this closely. The Secretary remains in close touch, as do senior officials, I should say, at our embassies and here in Washington, with officials in Israel, and as well as Palestinian leaders and Jordanian leaders as well.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- General Dempsey? I mean, to his credit, he also said that the number of casualties was large. But you do – just to re-emphasize, you do acknowledge that the situation in Gaza did not allow for those who are in authority in Gaza, in this case Hamas, to really provide viable protection for the population, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: Because of the density --

MS. PSAKI: I just --

QUESTION: Because of --

MS. PSAKI: I just reiterated the statement we made this summer and indicated we stand by that statement that we made.

QUESTION: Okay. Because this flare-up may likely to happen again. And you have one of the highest concentrations of populations in the world, so it could conceivably happen one more time. What would you do in terms of – in the absence of any kind of threat to take someone to the ICC or accuse them of war crimes, wouldn’t that be – they would feel that there is no deterrence to continue to do something like this again?

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

QUESTION: My question is that, obviously, you oppose any efforts with the ICC. But barring that effort or barring that threat or that someone may be taken before an international court and accused of war crimes, if that is absent wouldn’t that be a disincentive for them to take any kind of, like, guidelines or --

MS. PSAKI: We think the incentive is that Israel is a country just like the United States and many other countries around the world that should do everything within their power to hold themselves to the standard that a modern-day democracy should hold itself to.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it possible that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is basically also trying to cover military action by the United States by saying that?

MS. PSAKI: No. I don’t think I have anything more to add.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, Ukraine.

QUESTION: I’m a little perplexed by your opening statement --

QUESTION: I want to go back --

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. Did you have more?

QUESTION: No, it’s okay. No, that’s all right.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, did you have more on that?

QUESTION: Just a few more questions. Yeah, I’ll go back to the --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Well, why don’t we finish this topic and then we can go to Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to clarify first on the AID thing, the USAID. And it says there’s a hundred million --

MS. PSAKI: The assistance you referenced yesterday?

QUESTION: Right, right. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It was something that the Secretary actually announced in Cairo, so posted on the website yesterday.

QUESTION: Right, so that’s not – okay. So that’s not a new thing but it’s part of the same --

MS. PSAKI: We announced it just a couple of weeks ago.

QUESTION: Okay. And it goes for development. It goes for education, health care, and things of that nature.

MS. PSAKI: There’s a press release on our website.

QUESTION: It is not --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m perplexed by your statement about Ukraine because you started out by talking about all the materiel that you had seen massing inside Russia near the border, and then you went on to note the Ukrainian reports that heavy armor, including tanks or heavy artillery and tanks have crossed into its territory. And you said if confirmed, you would condemn it. Can you not – why can’t you confirm it? If you can see them 20 kilometers away, why can’t you see them having crossed an international border?

MS. PSAKI: I think – because obviously we take a range of steps to confirm things internally before we confirm them publicly. I’m not going to outline that from here. But there have been a range of reports. I’m not suggesting we’re questioning them. I’m just suggesting that we don’t have independent confirmation.

QUESTION: Really? You don’t have independent confirmation?

MS. PSAKI: If we did, I would convey it to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On that line, I’m just curious. You said yesterday we saw battle tanks, et cetera, mass at the border. You saw, how?

MS. PSAKI: We have a range of means of evaluating and viewing what is happening, Matt. I’m not going to outline those further.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, could you – I mean, one of the problems or one of the issues that’s been going on in this battle – in the war of words that’s been going back and forth between the Russians and the United States and the Europeans to a certain extent has been that there hasn’t been evidence presented to back up these claims. So can you – if you can’t confirm the – if you can’t confirm that these tanks and the other things have actually gone into Ukraine, can you offer us any evidence to show that the – of the build-up on the Russian side of the border?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, when we have information that is declassified we will provide that and can provide that. We have information that Russia has moved, as I mentioned during the topper, military forces, vehicles, armored personnel carriers, within several kilometers of the border. Obviously, to Arshad’s questions, we’re just waiting for – we’ll continue to look and analyze.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: If there’s more to share, we will provide that.

QUESTION: Right. But --

MS. PSAKI: And I don’t actually – I would disagree with the notion that that has been an issue when we have provided a range of information over the course of time when it’s available and when we can.

QUESTION: Right. But when you say something like, well, the Russians have massed up all these troops and tanks on the border, and you say, “We saw it happen,” and then you don’t have any – I mean, they come back and say, “Prove it.”

MS. PSAKI: We have information that leads us to believe that. I wouldn’t be stating it if there wasn’t confidence from the United States Government in our information.

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re not willing – or could you see if someone in the government is willing to provide some kind of this --

MS. PSAKI: If there is information to provide, we will provide it.

QUESTION: -- satellites or whatever kind of information it is that you have?

QUESTION: What conversations have there been between the U.S. and Russia about --

QUESTION: Sorry, could I just --

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Could you endeavor to have --

MS. PSAKI: If there is information to provide, we’ll provide it, Matt.

Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Have there been conversations between this building, for example, and the Russian foreign ministry about the continued troop presence along the Ukrainian-Russian border?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has a bilateral meeting, I believe tomorrow, with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And certainly, they’ll discuss the situation in Ukraine. He’s been speaking with him fairly regularly.

QUESTION: Well, when was the last time that the two of them spoke directly about the tensions in that region?

MS. PSAKI: I can check, Roz. I mean, I believe it was in the last week or so. And obviously, we have a range of means of being in contact with Russians at several levels. So I don’t think it’s an issue of not conveying our concerns. There’s an opportunity to talk about Ukraine when the Secretary meets with the Foreign Minister tomorrow.

QUESTION: What is the analysis from the experts in this building about Russia’s long game regarding eastern Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to Russia on that question. I’m not going to outline for you what we view as their long game. Obviously, we believe they’ve taken illegal actions. They’ve taken aggressive actions that violate international protocol, and obviously, the international community has spoken out against that. In terms of their long game, I’m not going to do analysis on that from here.

QUESTION: So are you – if – are you saying that if in fact these troop – the tanks and other stuff has gone into Ukraine that there will be a further consequence?

MS. PSAKI: We always have a range of options at our disposal. I’m not going to preview that. We’ll have to see what it is and what it looks like and have a discussion internally and with our counterparts around the world.

QUESTION: Sorry. What what is? Have to see what it is --

MS. PSAKI: What the details if – if they did cross over into Russia.

QUESTION: Okay. But if they didn’t? If the report from Kyiv is incorrect and these tanks that you say you saw on the Russian side of the border did not cross into Ukraine, it’s okay – is it okay for the Russians to put tanks and troops on their side of the border?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it’s an aggressive action. Obviously, I’m not going to predict what that may or may not mean. We will have those discussions internally, but I have nothing to preview at this point in time.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Just – obviously, you tend to think that the – you said you weren’t doubting or questioning the Ukrainian reports, you’re just not in a position to confirm them now from the podium.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does – do these reports make you now think again about imposing additional sanctions on Russia? U.S. officials have always said that this was a matter of behavior in part – on the part of the Russians, and depending on what they did or didn’t see, the next round of sanctions might or might not happen. If this proves to be true – or do even just the reports of it, which you don’t doubt, make you think that you need to take a look at additional sanctions on Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think, one, as you know, we work and consider that sort of thing in lockstep with our counterparts around the world. You’ve seen comments from everyone from the new EU High Representative Mogherini, you’ve seen comments from Chancellor Merkel. Obviously, we have a range of tools at our disposal should we choose to move forward with additional consequences. I’m not going to preview that at this point in time.

Do we have any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Can we move to ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Okay, ISIS. Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Today, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that there was no cooperation with Iran, at least militarily --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- on the ground in Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly stand by the comments of – I can talk a little bit more, and I know there were a couple of questions about this yesterday. So let me do that --

QUESTION: Right. Yeah, go ahead, sure.

MS. PSAKI: -- then we’ll go to your next question.

Obviously, we don’t have anything to confirm in terms of specific commands or commanders; there have been a range of reports on the ground. We are, of course, aware that Iran has sent some operatives inside Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi Security Forces and, of greater concern, working with Shia militia. We also know that Iran has provided some supplies, arms, ammunition, and aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces. We appreciate, of course, the seriousness of the security situation in Iraq and the brutal acts of ISIL, but we have expressed our concerns about Iranian activities and reports of Iranian flow of arms into Iraq previously, and that would certainly apply here as well. I would note also that, on Shia militias, Prime Minister Abadi has noted on several occasions the importance of ensuring that all militias are regulated under government control. And obviously, that continues to be an ongoing challenge.

QUESTION: But you wouldn’t be totally opposed to Iraq receiving military equipment or arms from Iran, would you?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just expressed our concern about that. Did you listen to what I said?

QUESTION: No – okay. I am listening to what you said, but --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- they continue to receive this illicit equipment, and --

MS. PSAKI: I just expressed a concern about the flow of arms and --

QUESTION: Okay. When you say we expressed our concern, would you sort of give the Iraqis ultimatum on receiving Iranian arms?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve conveyed our concerns, certainly, to the Iraqis as well.

QUESTION: Okay, but I mean, concern – what is your concern? Don’t you tell them that we totally oppose this thing?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just conveyed that we do.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, let me ask you a little bit about --

QUESTION: Did the President say that in his letter to the Supreme Leader?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing new on reports of a letter, Matt.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Okay, just to follow up on ISIS --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, apparently, despite all the – the five points that – they were discussed here on Monday, and one of them is really to sort of dry up funds and prevent oil. But apparently ISIS is really flush in cash from oil. They’re selling it despite the low prices and so on, and in fact, they’re seeking executive director to run their oil operations and so on, advertising much like other companies do and so on. My point to you – or my question to you is: It seems that this oil is being smuggled through countries that may be your allies and friends. What is happening in terms of a commitment that, let’s say, countries like Turkey is giving you to stop the flow of oil?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think, as I’ve noted in the past – one, let me just say I’m – there have actually been a range of reports refuting what you just conveyed about increasing financial support and actually conveying quite the opposite. Obviously --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Obviously, part of our effort has been to do everything we can to impact and cut off their finances. As you know, we’ve gone after oil refineries from which they get a great deal of funding, and we’ve done that over the course of time with strikes.

Also, you’re right: There are a range of countries that we have been discussing with the need to do more to crack down on the sale of oil. Obviously, if there’s not a buyer it’s hard to sell it, so we certainly convey that. And part of our discussion with countries is about the impact this has on their financing and the impact increased financing has on their ability to function.

QUESTION: A couple things, still on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You will have seen the IAEA director general’s report that came out today in Vienna. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Was it the final report, Matt, or was it an initial draft report? I’m not sure which – I believe it was a draft, which we typically don’t comment on, but I can go back and see if there’s something more specific we would convey.

QUESTION: Well, whether it’s a draft or the final, it says that Iran is still not complying with the efforts of the agency to determine whether or not there is a – there was or is a military component of its nuclear program. Is that – does that enter at all into the P5+1 negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to agree on something unless there’s a means of monitoring, right? And obviously, abiding by the IAEA role in monitoring is certainly part of what we discuss.

QUESTION: So does that mean that if Iran continues to stall or continues to not cooperate with the IAEA on this investigation into what it may have done in the past, that you will not agree to a deal with the Iranians?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of where we are with a deal, Matt, or discuss it further, other than to convey that, obviously, the IAEA plays an important role in monitoring what is happening within Iran.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We recognize that. That will continue. We support their role, continue to call on Iran to abide by it. But obviously, the ability to monitor whatever would be agreed to is certainly part of the discussion.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the point of this report – again, whether it’s the draft or final – is that they don’t have the ability to do it because the Iranians aren’t letting them.

MS. PSAKI: We continue to call on them to abide by it, Matt. That continues to be the message they’re sending.

QUESTION: But that’s not – but you’re saying that’s not a deal-breaker? In other words, you’re saying that even if Iran continues to stonewall on this – this one part of the IAEA investigation, that that is not a deal-breaker, that you could still reach an agreement?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I said. I’m not getting into what’s going to be a deal-breaker or not. I’m conveying that, obviously, we have repeatedly said, consistently said that the IAEA has an important role. We’ve consistently said that monitoring of what any deal would be --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- is an important part of any deal, and that we wouldn’t agree to it without the verification mechanism.

QUESTION: But – so you see these two things as being entirely distinct and separate? The --

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s a draft report. If we have more to convey on it, we will.

QUESTION: But it says the same thing as the last final report, right?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t looked at the report. Neither has our team.

QUESTION: Okay. But it says --

MS. PSAKI: We have had – we have been – continued to call on the IA – I mean, on Iran to abide by the IAEA, give – provide them access, because we think it’s important.

QUESTION: But they’re not. Don’t you see that as problematic and doesn’t that --

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t be calling for them to abide by it if we didn’t think it was problematic.

QUESTION: But at the same time, the Secretary is going to meet the Iranian foreign minister. Wendy Sherman is in wherever she is right now in the political directors talks. So you – clearly, it’s not a prerequisite for you to have the negotiations because they’re ongoing and there have been very high-level meetings so far. The question is whether it will be an obstacle to reaching an agreement if the Iranians don’t come clean on what their past activities were with the IAEA.

MS. PSAKI: The bar has long been that any agreement would need to be enforceable and verifiable. Beyond that, I’m not going to outline further.

QUESTION: All right. And then the other thing on Iran is that the NCRI, the Iranian – the National Council of Resistance of Iran, they are the ones who exposed parts of the Iranian nuclear program years ago – came out today with another report claiming that the facility at Parchin is still being used for nuclear weapons development and that the regime remains – despite what it says publicly, remains committed to seeking a nuclear arsenal. What do you – do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: We’re aware of the claims that were made, but we don’t have any comment on the substance.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the letter?

MS. PSAKI: The – sure.

QUESTION: Yeah, because a Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff from California, said that the letter or the substance of the letter should be the last thing that the United States could offer Iran to come up on a deal. How does that work into the upcoming negotiations on the 24th of this month?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I don’t think anyone has confirmed the letter or the existence of the letter. Obviously, it’s a report about a letter from the President --

QUESTION: The national security advisor did.

MS. PSAKI: -- so I would point you to them.

QUESTION: The national security advisor did. She said that the letter was sent out and – didn’t she?

MS. PSAKI: No. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Do we have any more on Iran? Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I just want to go --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Then we’ll go to you, Abby.

QUESTION: Did your comment about what the NCRI report – does that – that includes the whole thing? You’ve seen it or people are looking at it right now? There are other allegations in there aside from the Parchin ones about – well, they’re related to the Parchin ones, but they have to do with Ukrainian scientists being involved in --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t anticipate we’ll have a comment on it. But obviously, it was just coming out this morning, so I will check back on that particular piece as well and see if we expect we’ll say anything

QUESTION: All right. And more broadly, though, when you see these kinds of reports – both the IAEA report and the NCRI report – and I’m not suggesting that the two are – should be taken with equal weight or anything like that – doesn’t that give you pause about the Iranians’ credibility as a negotiating partner in the P5+1 talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it’s never been about trust. It’s been about why Iran would want to convince the world or show the world that they are capable of having a peaceful program. And it’s about the United States and other countries who are a part of this feeling that the verifiable – that this is verifiable, that this can be monitored, that this can prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We’re obviously not there yet.

QUESTION: The problem that I have in my head trying to get over this is they have demonstrated that they are not reliable when it comes to verification, as evidenced by the IAEA’s latest report, which repeats the same thing that it said in previous reports, which are definitely final and which you have definitely seen, about obfuscating and about stonewalling them on this look into – the investigation into what they – the possible military ramifications of or possible military aspect of --

MS. PSAKI: That’s why there would be a process by which any deal would be verifiable and it would include monitoring. And if that’s not abided by, then obviously, that’s not a deal. So we’re not at that point yet, but obviously, the details are important, and certainly, the implementation of it is important.

Roz, did you have a question on Iran or --

QUESTION: Yeah, on Iran. Is there – does the U.S. consider the NCRI a valid interlocutor on issues involving Iran’s nuclear program?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have a comment on the report or the group.

Iran? Any more on Iran? Okay, Scott. Let’s go to you.

QUESTION: Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you had an opportunity to assess --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry. Can we do Iran and Abby?

QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Sure.

MS. PSAKI: I forgot her. And then we’ll go to Libya. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is just a follow-up on Said’s previous question about Iran militias.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a profile out of Hadi al-Amiri which suggested that his pro-Iranian Shiite militia was indispensable in the fight against ISIS and that Baghdad would fall without Iran’s help. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I think what I just conveyed about our concerns haven’t changed. Obviously, there are a range of countries – and I’ll just add to it – there are a range of countries, including the United States and Arab partners in the region, who have done military airstrikes, who have been boosting the Iraqi Security Forces, who have been helping them build their capacity to take on ISIL. And I would put much more credibility into that than the comments of one commander.

Go ahead, Scott. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: It’s a follow-up to yesterday’s question on Libya --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the supreme court decision that appeared to annul a lot of what was going on there. Have you had an opportunity to look at that and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we do have – it is publicly available as well, as I’m sure you’ve seen it. We’re studying carefully the decision of the supreme court, its context and consequences. We would note again the challenges that face Libya remain – require political solutions. Beyond that, we don’t have analysis at this point in time. If it’s not out yet, I think it may be. There’s a joint statement from a number of countries that should be out as well that express a similar concern to the one of the United States.

QUESTION: On this, though, I’m having – does that mean that you’re still looking at the supreme court decision? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: It just became public yesterday, last night.

QUESTION: Well, I know. But how long does it take? I mean, there are some who --

MS. PSAKI: Maybe we’ll have more to say next week. We’ll see.

QUESTION: Well, how about --

MS. PSAKI: Bring you back to the briefing.

QUESTION: How about later today? I mean, are there some ace translators out there --

MS. PSAKI: If there’s more to convey, Matt, we will convey it later today, or over the weekend if you’d like.

QUESTION: Right, okay. Let’s do it very late Saturday night. How’s that? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That’s my plan. How’s 7 o’clock for you on Saturday?

QUESTION: No, no, no. That’s too early.

QUESTION: Too early.

MS. PSAKI: Too early, sorry. 10 p.m.

QUESTION: How about 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, you got it. Deal.

Do we have any more on Libya?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: I got some on Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Libya. Libya? Okay.

QUESTION: Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Libya? Go ahead.

QUESTION: The past couple joint – or joint statements suggested that there would be individual sanctions, or sanctions against individuals, and that a military solution was not the best option. Are those still the position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a resolution in the UN that was passed – I’m not sure exactly when, but some time ago – that allowed for sanctions. Obviously, as is true with Yemen, for example, there are individual names that can be agreed to between the countries. That’s how the process works. So we are certainly – we’ll continue to work with our UN partners, and while we don’t, of course, comment on – specifically on the deliberations of the Libya sanctions committee, we would reiterate that our focus, as is the focus of many other countries, remains on holding accountable the spoilers who are undermining the fundamental security of Libya. So we’ll work – we’re continuing to work with our partners, and if and when action is taken at the UN, the United States would of course also be prepared to act.

QUESTION: Since you mentioned Yemen, could I follow up on Yemen, the --

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Hold on. Undermining the what? The fundamental stability of Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Security.

QUESTION: Security? Is there any? I mean, it doesn’t seem like --

MS. PSAKI: Well, if it’s being under – fundamentally undermined, it means it’s being challenged.

QUESTION: The argument is made by many that what undermined security in Libya was NATO involvement in – is that – I assume that you would reject that idea.

MS. PSAKI: We would. Obviously, you know there’s many militias fighting on the ground now, and the fact that we’re looking at the meaning of the supreme court. But obviously, the inability to have a functioning government is a challenge as well.

QUESTION: Right. But the inability to have a functioning government followed the collapse of the old government, which you assisted. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we’re looking at the situation as it stands. I don’t think anyone would question the impact of fighting militias at this point in time on security within the country.

Libya?

QUESTION: General Haftar, should he be worried about possibly facing UN sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of any process. Obviously, as I mentioned, for the UN process – and you know this, Roz – when there’s a resolution that’s been passed that allows for the names to be considered, those names would be considered between member countries.

QUESTION: Today there were massive demonstrations in Sana’a, and they all – in fact, the former president came and spoke to them. They’re demanding the ouster of the U.S. ambassador, the ouster of the UN Envoy Jamal Benomar. They’re calling to basically topple the government. Do you have any comment on that, in anticipation of the Security Council sanctions that are --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we of course – one, let me say first, we continue to monitor the situation on the ground to make sure that our personnel are safe and secure, and we evaluate that on a daily basis. Obviously, when it comes to the situation on the ground in Yemen and the sanctions you referenced, that is in response to the fact that there are certain elements seeking to exploit the certain – the current security situation to further enflame matters for their own personal gain. So obviously, it’s in response to the challenging security situation that’s happening on the ground. Obviously, we continue to support and want to see a stable – stability and security in the country, and that’s why we have such a large presence on the ground as well.

I think we had one on Libya. Did you have one on Libya?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, he’s presumably in jail in Zintan. His trial has been postponed several times, and reportedly, nobody has seen him for five months. Do you have any information about his whereabouts?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have more information. I’m happy to check and see if there’s anything from the United States that we can offer on that front.

Any more on Libya? Yemen? Okay. Japan? Okay.

QUESTION: Obviously, you can say – you can see there’s some change between China and Japan relationship. On Friday, China and Japan had reached agreement to improve relations, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi announced the four-point agreement on getting the relationship back on track. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: We would welcome the statement between China and Japan that outlines agreed steps to improve relations. As two of the three largest economies in the world, relations between the two countries affect the peace and prosperity of not only the region, but the world. I know that they talked about a couple of steps that you mentioned. For more details, we’d certainly point you to them.

QUESTION: Someone else has said the four-point agreement set up a platform for the two leaders to meet next week. We know this APEC time now. So some also now say it’s a signal, a potential thaw in their long frozen relations. Do you think it – do you think it’s kind of way – like that? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we saw the statement was a positive step. Whether or not the leaders will meet, I would certainly point you to the governments of those countries.

QUESTION: But is – but now it’s still unclear whether the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Yasukuni Shrine again. Do you think the Japanese Government will contact the United States regarding this issue?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve expressed our views on that in the past and nothing has changed on that front. We have a regular dialogue, as you know, with the Government of Japan, and I don’t expect that will change.

QUESTION: Jen, could I ask you if – this is a vocabulary question, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And it can be confusing. It’s not that tricky --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but you say we would welcome such a statement in the – in the – as a conditional. Can you not say – I mean, does that mean that you’re not sure that this agreement exists? Or is it possible – can you actually come out and just say “we welcome”?

MS. PSAKI: We welcome.

QUESTION: Okay, because in other instances --

MS. PSAKI: I did not mean to be confusing.

QUESTION: Okay, because maybe you could just drop the --

MS. PSAKI: The statement has happened. We welcome it.

QUESTION: Right. Maybe we could just drop the “would welcome” from things that you know are true, yeah? Would – get rid of the “would”?

MS. PSAKI: I did not intentionally convey it that way, Matt.

QUESTION: As for the Yasukuni thing --

QUESTION: Understood.

QUESTION: -- so the United States will not agree that Japan or the Japanese prime minister will visit again. So that’s --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen reports of that. We’ve had – expressed our views in the past. Those haven’t changed, but we’re talking, it sounds like, about a hypothetical at this point in time.

QUESTION: By the way --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- do you have a readout on the Secretary’s meeting with the Japanese foreign minister regarding this issue and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me see if I have anything. I know they just met earlier today and I know they may be saying more on the ground, so why don’t I see if there’s more? I’ll talk to our team on the ground after the briefing. I know it’s late there, but we can see what we can get from them before tomorrow their time.

QUESTION: And one of – one more follow-up on that. As she just questioned, the Japanese prime minister and the Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to be agreed to meet on the margin of APEC. It’s the first time in two years and five months or so and one year after you expressed officially the disappointment to the Japanese prime minister not listening to the Chinese. How do you evaluate this one year’s progress – development between the two countries?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen a confirmation of that meeting, and obviously, I would never announce such a meeting from the United States if that were confirmed. But obviously, we felt the statement was a positive step. We’ll see what happens as it relates to increased dialogue. We think relations between two of the largest economies is certainly a positive step forward.

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Change of topic. FBI agents have apparently searched the home and office of Robin Raphel, who’s a former Foreign Service officer and who was recently working under contract as an adviser for the State Department. They also searched her office at the State Department. Do you have any more on that investigation?

MS. PSAKI: It’s really – I would punt you mostly to the Department of Justice. I can say that we are aware of this law enforcement matter. The State Department has been cooperating with our law enforcement colleagues on this matter. I can also confirm that Ms. Raphel’s appointment expired and she is no longer a Department employee.

QUESTION: Can you say – she was placed on administrative leave last month and her security clearance was revoked. Can you say when the State Department learned about this investigation and what you can say?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into any more details from the podium. I would point you to the Department of Justice and see what they’d like to share with you.

QUESTION: On this, are you – does the State Department have any concerns that this – the investigation could compromise any ongoing diplomacy with South Asia or in South Asia or elsewhere? I’m – well, can you answer that? I’m just wondering about the broader – is there concern in this building that the investigation is – will affect the conduct of your policy towards countries in that region or anywhere else for that matter?

MS. PSAKI: We have a range of high-level officials who work with a range of countries and – in this region and others every single day. We don’t feel that will be impacted.

QUESTION: Oh, well, that’s not really what I’m asking. I realize there are other people who can do the job that she was doing. I’m wondering if the – if you are concerned at all --

MS. PSAKI: If our work on diplomacy will be impacted? No.

QUESTION: You’re concerned at all --

QUESTION: Compromised?

QUESTION: Compromised if the investigation is such that you’re – there is concern in the building that the work you’re doing in this region of the world could be affected? And I think your answer is no, but I’m not sure. I want to make sure that I understand it.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt. I’m just not going to have anything more to add on this particular case.

QUESTION: As far as you know, is the scope of the investigation related at all to her work at the State Department?

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

QUESTION: India?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: I have two quick questions. As far as ISIL is concerned, India is still under threat, and recently, a number of Indian cities were on high alert during the Diwali and also concern about the cross-border terrorism. Is there any conversation between U.S. and India on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our – we have a large embassy, many – in India, and many, many officials who work there. We also have an assistant secretary who works closely with the government and they discuss a range of issues, and I’m sure that if the issues related to security or recent events came up, that we’d be happy to discuss those with India.

QUESTION: And Madam, second – second one, just --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve got to move on just to get to a couple of other questions. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Can we go back to Israel and Palestine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So there are reports about Prime Minister Netanyahu, like, ordered to demolish the houses of any person, like, conducting an attack in Jerusalem. And I was wondering if you consider that, like, part of self-defense that Israel can use, because it sounds like a collective punishment, because they’re punishing --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of those reports nor can I validate them. I’d direct you to the Government of Israel on that question.

QUESTION: Okay. How about Israel, like, preventing people who’s below 35 years old, like from – pray inside the al --

QUESTION: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: -- al-Aqsa Mosque?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a status quo that I think everybody supports the policy going back to, including the Israelis.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve got to move on. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Pakistan’s army chief was in Afghanistan this week, and according to reports, he has offered to Afghanistan to train Afghans’ army inside Pakistan. Is the U.S. supportive of this move, this offer?

MS. PSAKI: Lalit, let me talk to our SRAP team about the specifics and see if we can get more details on it.

QUESTION: I have one more. As you know, the Republicans have taken over the Senate, and that’s where more than 40 ambassadorial nominations are pending. Since Secretary was a senator himself, serving for more than three decades, is he talk – planning to talk to the new Republican leadership to get those cleared as soon as possible?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary will certainly continue to raise the need to move forward with the confirmation of the 60 waiting nominees, including 39 career ambassadors. And we’ve continued to call for Congress to do a voice vote, as does happen in the military with the career ambassadors.

Go ahead, Scott, in the back, and then --

QUESTION: Can we go back to the – yesterday’s line of questioning about Burkina Faso?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First off, have you come to a conclusion about whether the change of government there was a coup?

MS. PSAKI: We’re continuing to evaluate events on the ground, Scott, so I don’t have anything new on that front. Obviously, our focus is on encouraging the government or officials there to move as quickly as possible to put not just a civilian government in place through elections, but also a civilian-led transition.

QUESTION: So the current military rulers at Burkina Faso have rejected the African Union call for a handover to civilian government within two weeks. The threat from the African Union is economic sanctions. Would the United States join that threat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly have been – as you know, ECOWAS and the African Union and the UN have had the lead on this and we’ve been working closely with them, and we certainly supported their call for a two-week plan. We thought that was not only viable, but it would be productive and constructive for the people of Burkina Faso. In terms of additional steps, I think we have to see, and we’ll continue to evaluate what happens on the ground. And obviously, actions will determine what we’ll do, but we’ve typically followed the lead of ECOWAS and the African Union on this front.

QUESTION: Jen, one very quick one?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I know you were asked about something that may be or may not be related to this yesterday. There are – Syrian activists have released photographs of what they say are two children who they claim were killed by U.S. airstrikes. Do you – and it’s not clear to me whether this is the same as what was raised in the briefing yesterday. Do you have any comment on those images, whether you believe them to be bona fide, whether you think that they might be, as the Syrian activists claim, the result of a U.S. bombing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we take civilian casualties – reports of civilian casualties extremely seriously, and we would evaluate them. That is led by the Department of Defense, but certainly -- and therefore I’m not in any position to evaluate those photos or any others from here. We, of course, strive to avoid civilian casualties, even in this extremely complex operating environment, and we recognize the continued risk inherent with strikes. But in any case or in any – when any accusations are made or information is brought forward, we would certainly look into that and take it seriously.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: General Austin said – just a quick follow-up on that – said on Thursday that part of the problem of trying to investigate these reports is that, obviously, there aren’t any American forces on the ground inside Syria. Are there members of the FSA or other opposition figures inside Syria that could be relied upon to investigate these claims of civilian deaths because of the U.S. airstrikes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s right, there’s a challenge, Roz. And I’m not going to get into who we receive information from, but we determine the credibility of each allegation based on information available, including information provided by third parties and information such as the proximity of the location to the airstrike, any corroborating evidence that’s presented. So that is what the Department of Defense takes a look at in these cases.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: East Timor?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on Stacey Addison, the Oregon woman who’s in the jail there?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me walk you through what we have. Well, just to repeat – I know some of have been following closely; some others have not as much – but she was originally detained on a drug charge on September 5th. We understand that there are questions as to whether there is evidence leaking – linking Dr. Addison to this alleged crime. She was conditionally released on September 9th and her U.S. passport retained to prevent her from leaving the court’s jurisdiction. She was detained again on October 29th when she appeared in court to retrieve her U.S. passport and sent to a block – a prison. It is not clear she was given notice that she would be arrested at that time, and we don’t have information on what those specific charges are. While she reports that she is being treated well by the prison – by prison officials, we seek a prompt and transparent resolution to this case, and that Dr. Addison be afforded all due process in accordance with Timorese law.

QUESTION: And then the meeting today between State officials and the East Timorese ambassador, can you tell us anything about this meeting and whether this case is expected to come up?

MS. PSAKI: I expect it will. I think it was happening this afternoon, so let me touch base and see if there’s more we can convey on what came out of the meeting.

QUESTION: What was her most recent consular access? Do you have that?

MS. PSAKI: On November 4th, so earlier this week.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have anymore? All right. Oh, do you have one more, Abby? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Interdisciplinary Center in Israel released a report saying that ISIS militants were able to get a hold of chemical weapons buried in Iraq that were previously aware of by the United States military. Do you have any comment on that report, or --

MS. PSAKI: Let me look at – I’ll have our team look at the report. There have been a range of reports about chemical weapons in Iraq, and many of them have been false. So let me check with our team and see what the facts are in this case.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 6, 2014

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 18:55

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:00 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Couple of updates for all of you: Yesterday, the Secretary held several meetings in Paris. Highlights of the day included meetings with French Foreign Minister Fabius as well as Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. In his conversations, the Secretary discussed the coalition taking the fight to ISIL, concerns about recent tensions in Jerusalem, and the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran, among other issues.

During his refueling stop in Abu Dhabi en route to China, the Secretary held a meeting with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayid to discuss a range of regional issues. Tomorrow, the Secretary will arrive in Beijing, China, where he will lead the Department of State’s delegation to the APEC ministerial meeting and participate in a broad range of multilateral and bilateral meetings with officials from APEC member countries in advance of President Obama’s visit to Beijing.

Second item for the top: On November 5th, Australia announced that it will contribute $20.5 million toward a 100-bed Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone, including funding to the RedR, an organization that will arrange for the deployment of Australian specialists to the affected region in support of the World Health Organization and additional efforts to strengthen preparedness in the Asia Pacific region. We welcome these important additional contributions from Australia. Certainly, this was a part of the Secretary’s conversation he had with the prime minister when he met with him just about a week and a half ago. We will continue to work with Australia, the UN, other international partners, and affected countries to contain the Ebola outbreak at its source.

QUESTION: Sorry, do you know, is that Australian dollars or U.S. dollars?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question, Matt. I will check on what the contribution is.

QUESTION: Are there any bad ones?

MS. PSAKI: Are there any bad dollars towards – toward --

QUESTION: No, bad questions.

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: Are there any bad questions?

MS. PSAKI: There are sometimes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t point it out, though.

QUESTION: Well, here, let me try one of them, then. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: How exactly do you address a letter to the Iranian Supreme Leader?

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

QUESTION: No, this is apropos of nothing. I’m just curious, if you were going to write a letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran, how would you address it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have never written a letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran, so I don’t have a good answer for you to that question.

QUESTION: Has there been any communication between the senior people in this Government, including elected leaders, and the Supreme Leader – correspondence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think you’re referring to reports about a letter from the President, which I’d certainly refer you to the White House on. I don’t have anything more for you on that.

QUESTION: Do you know, has there been communication – we know and it’s been pretty – you’ve been pretty open about, at least since last November, contact between the President and the Iranian president, as well as --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, the Secretary and the foreign minister.

QUESTION: -- the Secretary and the foreign minister have been meeting quite openly, not in secret at all for a year now. Are you aware of any attempt to correspond with or communicate with the Supreme Leader other than the letters – the previous letters that the President has sent to him, which apparently have gotten – not gotten any response?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information, no.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: You’re not aware of any correspondence between Secretary Kerry or people more senior than him in the Government and the Iranian Supreme Leader?

MS. PSAKI: No, I think you asked me about specific reports of a recent letter. Anything related to the --

QUESTION: No, you brought that up. I didn’t bring that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, anything related to the President, I would refer you to the White House on.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: Anyone above the Secretary, I assume you’re referring to the President, so certainly, I’m not going to answer or address questions on that.

QUESTION: Well, I don't know, it could be the Vice President, right?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of the Secretary, I think you’re familiar with his interlocutors.

QUESTION: So his – okay, so in terms of the Secretary, who you speak for, he has not had any communication that you’re aware – he has not had any communication with the Supreme Leader, only with the foreign minister?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: Is it the position of the Administration that getting a nuclear deal with Iran is a prerequisite for cooperation against ISIL/ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I think there’s no question, which we’ve made no secret of, that our focus remains on coming to a comprehensive agreement with Iran. Obviously, on the outskirts of meetings on that topic, we’ve discussed ISIL. But in terms of working with them, I don’t think – I wouldn’t see it as a prerequisite. We’re not at the point of doing that, and there’s no plans to coordinate with them militarily.

QUESTION: Does the Administration believe that any potential nuclear deal – that any Iranian agreement to a potential nuclear deal would require the approval of the Supreme Leader?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re all familiar with the politics in Iran, but in terms of how that would work in Iran, I would refer you to the Iranians.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to find – I’m trying to discern whether the Administration thinks it’s worthwhile to have a – or to attempt to have a dialogue with the Supreme Leader on ISIL or – but more immediately, on the nuclear negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, the thrust of the discussions – not just the thrust, the vast, vast majority of them are taking place between the negotiators. But beyond that, I don’t have any other assessment other than to point you to the fact that we’re all familiar with the politics in Iran.

QUESTION: Right, but I guess – do people in the Administration think that it will be necessary to secure the approval of the Supreme Leader for Iran to agree to a deal? And if they do, do they think that it would be – that it makes sense to have some kind of dialogue with him?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any assessment of what will be required on that front, Matt.

QUESTION: Jen, could I ask --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- if on November 24th or whenever there is a nuclear deal with Iran, where do you see Iranian-U.S. ties going beyond that? Would that then open the way for further cooperation in different spheres of diplomatic life around the planet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the fact that we – even if you go back to last November, when there was agreement on the interim deal, the JPOA – which, certainly, we believe was a positive step, and it halted and rolled back the program – that didn’t change our concerns about a range of other issues, including on human rights, including on state sponsorship of terrorism. That remains the case now. Obviously, we have a great deal of – I think, obviously, the Iranian people, in our view, are ones that have a great spirit, and we certainly support that. But there are a range of concerns that we continue to have, and we’re certainly not going to get ahead of the nuclear deal and the achievement of that at this point in time.

QUESTION: But you have acknowledged yourself, as Matt said, that on the sidelines of some of the nuclear talks, you have raised the issue of ISIL, I believe --

MS. PSAKI: We have.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We have. And we’ve also ranged – raised the issue of American citizens that remain detained in Iran as well.

QUESTION: Right. So if the nuclear deal is locked down, does that then open the way for further – or for a cooperation, there isn’t any yet – for a cooperation with Iran in fighting ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t look at it as a linked situation. Our concerns about Iran’s engagement are more expansive than that. Obviously, we understand that they have concerns about the threat of ISIL, which they have expressed as well. But I would not look at it as a path to a different type of coordination.

QUESTION: The Secretary has said that every country has a role to play here.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s right.

QUESTION: What would you consider Iran’s role to be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve said many times, and I believe the Secretary has said, we believe they can convey that the government should continue to rule in an inclusive manner. We believe that that is a useful role that can be played.

QUESTION: And militarily?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve expressed concerns about their engagement on that front. That hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Jen, but on Matt’s point --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in the many sessions that the United States have had with Iran, was that a point they had brought up? Was it discussed, let’s say with Foreign Minister Zarif, that if we agree, can you commit to the Supreme Leader agreeing to this so time is not wasted? Was that – was not discussed?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more details about meetings or discussions. I think we’re all familiar with the political influence of the Supreme Leader in Iran, but our negotiations are taking place with the foreign minister, they’re taking place with the political directors, and that’s where they will stay.

QUESTION: But one can assume that this is actually a logical and legitimate kind of issue that must be discussed before you go through the motions of weeks and months and so on of negotiations, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t think of it in that manner.

QUESTION: Let me ask you on ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, the Iraqi army was boasting a few days back about recapturing some towns and so on, only to find out that, actually, it was Suleimani, who is an Iranian militia leader, is – was present, and – although it was all quiet and low-key. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure – can you – what are you specifically asking?

QUESTION: I’m saying that there were actually Iranian militias – groups from Hezbollah and so on – I mean, not Hezbollah – Iranian militias that were actually fighting and retaking these towns under the leadership of the commander of the Al-Quds Brigade.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular comment on that, Said. We’ve expressed our concern in the past. I don’t have confirmation of that either.

QUESTION: You would not object to actually have these kind of accomplishments, although they are done by the Iranians, would you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any confirmation of the version of the events that you just outlined. Obviously, there are – Iraqi Security Forces have retaken and hold land in a number of places, like – including Amirli, the Rabia crossing, other areas. But beyond that, I don’t have anything more for you.

QUESTION: If, Jen, it is correct – and I’d have no reason to believe that it isn’t correct – that we’re all – that what you said – we’re all familiar with the Supreme Leader’s political influence. Wouldn’t it make sense for U.S. officials to be in touch with the Supreme Leader about something as big as a potential nuclear deal? And if it – I mean, can you answer --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that, Matt. Obviously, every --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speculate.

MS. PSAKI: -- participant in these negotiations goes back to their capitals.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: There’s different meetings for that depending on the countries, and we’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Well – and I’m just – if one takes – if one accepts that it might be the responsible thing to do if one is really trying to get the Iranians to agree and then implement an agreement, if it’s a responsible thing or an intelligent thing to do to be in touch with the guy who actually makes the final decisions here, why do it – how does it make sense to do it secretly?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on reports or more on --

QUESTION: I mean, the guy has a Twitter account. You could just fire off a tweet. You could follow him and DM him messages if you wanted it to be secret.

MS. PSAKI: Twitter is typically not how we conduct diplomacy, but it’s a --

QUESTION: But I thought it was.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a tool, but --

QUESTION: I mean, that whole hashtag diplomacy --

MS. PSAKI: -- typically through private conversations, Matt.

QUESTION: -- “Hey, Ayatollah.” Can’t you – I don’t understand why the Administration would think that it is a bad idea or not worthwhile to try to be in touch with the Supreme Leader if he is going to be making the final decision on whether Iran accepts an agreement or not.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t suggest that, Matt. I just suggested I have nothing more for you.

Do we have any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah. One more on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Maybe the White House would be in better position to answer, but maybe you can help with some of that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The President yesterday during his press conference used the word “framework.” I don’t quote him exactly, but he said we presented – the U.S. presented a framework to Iran in order for them to answer to their energy needs. So what did he mean by that? I mean, is there a document, something on the table already?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there have been a range of discussions between technical experts as well as between political directors, and a range of ideas and – between all of the countries involved. I don’t think I’ll spell it out more – much more further than that.

QUESTION: And the last thing on Iran from me – I just want to make sure, in the context of the negotiations that are going on and any possible correspondence there may or may not have been between the President and the Supreme Leader, it remains the U.S. position that Iran still is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: That has not changed. I just – think I just expressed a concern about state sponsorship of terrorism.

QUESTION: And there are some – okay. And that there are serious human rights issues that you have with them.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. That has not changed.

QUESTION: On those human rights issues, are you aware of this signal, some kind of indication that the Washington Post reporter who is being held there may be released soon?

MS. PSAKI: I had not actually – there have been a range of reports, as you know.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any information, new information on this particular case, unfortunately.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: By the way, Jen, do you expect the new makeup of the Senate to impact the way you’re negotiating on the 24th of this month?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. This is not a partisan political decision for us; it shouldn’t be for anyone. This is a substantive decision based on Iran providing sufficient proof that its nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. And obviously, if we have a deal done and we get to that point, we would encourage and we’re hopeful that Congress would wait and assess the package as it’s reached and the components of it before making an assessment.

QUESTION: So you don’t expect it to impact --

QUESTION: But you do believe that it – the – that it is not necessary or that you don’t need congressional approval for the President to ease or suspend some sanctions. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think, as has been true, we wouldn’t simply – there have been a range of reports. But we wouldn’t simply terminate sanctions.

QUESTION: No, I know.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not how it would work. There – obviously, we’ve been consulting with Congress very closely throughout. That will continue. We’ll have to see once there’s a deal, when we have a deal, what that looks like.

QUESTION: Right. But it is still the Administration’s position that you can give Iran sanctions relief, as you have done under the terms of the JPOA – you can give them additional sanctions relief, if there is an agreement and if they comply with it, without going to Congress. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed, and suspension makes it easier to snap back into place if anything – if that’s warranted.

QUESTION: Right. And the Administration’s position is that the only thing that you would need Congress to do – Congress does not need to sign off on any agreement that you might reach with them, but the only thing that they would need to do is to essentially give it – endorse it by repealing the sanctions legislation in the event Iran complies with a potential agreement. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Which would be an extensive period of time.

QUESTION: Right. But – so Congress does – there is no action needed from Congress for you guys to reach and agree to a deal. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say that’s oversimplifying, in our view. Obviously, we have not only been consulting with them; we’ve been briefing them at every stage in the process. Obviously, they need to assess what a deal would look like and assess --

QUESTION: Yeah, but you don’t think that that assessment needs to come in the form of a vote. They can just come out --

MS. PSAKI: It depends on what the deal looks like, Matt --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but our view on this hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: All right, so on your consulting and your – and – with Congress, how is that going? I mean, it seems like nobody in Congress and – and even fewer people, if that’s possible, in the new Congress actually approve of what you’re doing.

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t agree with that, Matt. I think, obviously, members of Congress, as they have from the beginning, are free to voice their views, but I think most members of Congress don’t want to see Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. Obviously, the deal will be judged by the details of the deal.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And so that’s what we encourage members of Congress to wait to assess.

QUESTION: Right, but I – well, you say most members of Congress don’t want to see Iran with a nuclear weapon. I think that it probably applies to all members of Congress, right?

MS. PSAKI: Fair.

QUESTION: But none of them – or I haven’t heard any of them, maybe I’m missing someone in here – none of them, even Democrats, even lawmakers from the President’s own party, are supportive of the way things look like they’re going right now.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there’s no deal until everything is agreed. And obviously, we’re not at that point, so there’s nothing to officially assess.

QUESTION: Okay. And last – but the Administration’s position is that objections from members of Congress to this agreement can’t stop you from doing it, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s an oversimplification. We’re going to be --

QUESTION: But it’s the truth, isn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: No, it’s not the truth. We’re going to be consulting with Congress as we have been about any details and what it looks like --

QUESTION: Right, but at what --

MS. PSAKI: -- and what’s required.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Executive Branch?

QUESTION: But when you come back – you go them – you go and show them the deal – or parts of the deal, because I’m still not sure anyone’s seen the entire JPOA agreement, but – and they say, “Well, we don’t like this,” you’re going to go ahead and do it anyway, right? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the negotiators need to have room. They’ve always needed to have room to negotiate. That remains the case today.

QUESTION: But they can’t stop you. Your position is they can’t stop you from agreeing to a deal with Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the negotiators will agree to the deal, I think, with the objective and the trust of knowing that they will not agree to a deal that doesn’t prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: But your position is that Congress can’t stop you from doing a deal.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to assess it further.

QUESTION: Right? No?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just ask --

QUESTION: Very quickly (inaudible) --

QUESTION: -- going back to the question – your answer to my colleague’s question – to Nicolas’s question is about the framework.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: From the way that the President phrased it yesterday, and I’m not asking you to parse --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- the President’s words, he said that they – that the United States presented a framework to Iran, which – to help – or to help the Iranians meet their peaceful energy needs. Okay?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: So that suggests that there is a – one single document that is now ready – I mean, put forward to the Iranians, which has not been – the case has always been there’s no deal until everything’s agreed. And that – and in your response to Nicolas, you mentioned documents, several documents. So is there one document now that you and the P5+1 have agreed on, which is before the Iranians to decide on?

MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned a little bit earlier, but let me try to make it a little more clearer, from the beginning, the P5+1 has put forth creative and reasonable proposals that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with our own core objectives and consistent with Tehran’s expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program. That’s been ongoing. Beyond that, I’m not going to assess for you how many documents or proposals are being discussed.

QUESTION: Given that we’re now less than three weeks from the November 24th deadline, it would seem perhaps tardy that there isn’t one document that you are now talking about.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not confirming one way or the other how many documents there are, because we want to keep the notion – the nature of the discussions and negotiations private, because we think that’s the most beneficial at this critical point in time, as you just highlighted. Obviously, the technical experts have been working nearly nonstop on many of the technical details here. We feel we definitely have time to come to an agreement before November 24th, and I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: The President’s words suggested, though, that you and your partners in the P5+1 have kind of wrapped up what you’re prepared to offer, and that it’s basically now up to Iran to decide whether to say yes or no. Would that be a correct --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to assess it further.

QUESTION: Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Iran. Do we have any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Iran, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: If a deal is going to be reached, will that be announced after the trilateral meeting in Oman, or after the political directors negotiations in Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would expect that these negotiations will continue through Vienna, so this meeting in Oman is a step in the process. But no, I would not expect a deal to be reached there. That’s a trilateral meeting. Obviously, it would be the P5+1 with Iran discussing the deal.

QUESTION: But the Iranians should bring the political decision to that meeting, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Samir, there’s a reason why there’s a schedule for a week of negotiations in Vienna, because there’ll be more discussion needed. So I would point you to that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, I want to go back to the ISIS part of this subject. There is – U.S. officials have said that every country has a role.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, in light of the report on the letter between President Obama and the Iranian leader, is it the assessment of the United States that the fight against ISIS can be accomplished – ISIS can be defeated without Iran’s help, even?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has said every country has a role to play. I just outlined the role that they could play. We have remaining concerns about their military engagement. That hasn’t changed. Beyond that, I’m not going to assess it further.

QUESTION: So that could be – the letter could be sort of an inducement for them not to – to kind of alleviate your concern about their military engagement, as you just mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to talk about a letter that is reportedly coming from the President of the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Georgia.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister Garibashvili told reporters in Tbilisi today that the departure of his defense and foreign ministers are for purely domestic issues that do not affect Georgia’s foreign relations. How does that square with your statement last night calling on authorities to take steps to dispel perceptions that the judicial system is being used for political purposes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Scott, you pointed to my statement last night where we referenced the fact that at a time of regional turmoil and domestic economic challenge, what Georgia needs most is stability, unity, implementation of due process and rule of law, and public confidence in democratic institutions. Clearly, when there are multiple, simultaneous investigations against former government and current opposition officials happening, that raises strong concerns about political retribution. And it is essential to avoid even the perception that the judicial system is being used in a politicized way and for political purposes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The prime minister in his comments today clearly tried to set those concerns at ease, saying, essentially, there’s nothing to see here, move along. Do you continue to be concerned about what’s going in Georgia, or have his comments today satisfied you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen his comments. Obviously, the fact is investigations against former government officials and current opposition officials continue. So I think actions sometimes speak louder than words in this case.

QUESTION: Jen, one of the concerns has been that this may be an indication that Georgia is kind of moving away from what had been its direction of European integration, NATO integration. One of the things in the comment that Scott mentioned, the prime minister said that European – that Georgia’s European vision or its aspirations have not changed, and this is not an --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- indication of that. Is that your understanding, or does the Administration have concerns that Georgia is kind of drifting away from its – the way it had been going?

MS. PSAKI: No. That is – we certainly – that is our understanding, yes. But obviously, events on the ground pose challenges to that process.

QUESTION: I guess the easier way for me to ask this would be: Are your concerns about the situation limited to the domestic – using investigation improperly to go after opposition figures, or are they broader and they go to the general direction of where the country is going, particularly in light of what’s going on with Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: It’s more specific domestically. And obviously, we want to see Georgia succeed and continue to succeed, and certainly, working together – leaders working together for the future of their country is an important component of that.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, could you confirm that the United States has given the Palestinian Authority one – additional $100 million? Is that true?

MS. PSAKI: I am --

QUESTION: Was there an announcement made by the consul general in Jerusalem that he added to the project?

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly take the consul general at their word. I don’t have any details on that, but I’m sure we can get that around to people.

QUESTION: On the situation in general, do you have any comments on the tensions and on the violence in Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as the Secretary made clear yesterday – and I’m sure you saw his remarks – we condemn the terrorist attack in Jerusalem that killed at least one person when a car was driven into pedestrians. We understand that the Israelis are still gathering information on the second attack and would refer you to them for the most updated information. But we remain extremely concerned by escalating tensions recently across Jerusalem and particularly surrounding Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The confrontation in – at the al-Aqsa Mosque yesterday is also of particular concern, where reports of damage to the mosque are deeply disturbing.

QUESTION: Do you find – the Israelis accused the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of incitement. Do you agree with them? Do you think that – I know we talked about this a couple days ago, like for instance his letter to the person that was killed in trying to assassinate Glick. That was perceived as incitement, but also other things. Do you believe that his statements, his words, what he’s saying add to the tensions and the incitement that is going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think clearly there’s more that both sides can do, including President Abbas, but both sides can do to make clear that these events are unacceptable, that there’s a desire to reduce tensions. And that’s certainly what the Secretary is encouraging them to do in his conversations and our conversations with high-level officials.

QUESTION: In discussion with Foreign Minister Judeh, the Jordanian foreign minister, the Jordanians are claiming today that they have received assurances from Prime Minister Netanyahu that the status will not change in Haram al-Sharif, that Jewish worshippers will not be allowed into that area. Could you confirm that or are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you the Jordanians and the Israelis to confirm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to dispute what the Jordanians are saying?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any reason to dispute, but I’d have you confirm that with the parties you’re speaking about.

QUESTION: Jen, first of all on what you said, you condemned the attack yesterday and you said an investigation was still – the Israelis were still investigating the second attack.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you still regard that as an attack and that there’s been some reports that it was actually a traffic accident, but I wanted --

MS. PSAKI: There have been – yes, there have been some reports to that.

QUESTION: But – so did you mean to say attack or perhaps – are you convinced it was an actual attack – the second – or is it, as far as you know, an incident that may be an attack but it’s – you do not know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, fair enough. It may be more accurate to call it an incident --

QUESTION: Secondly –

MS. PSAKI: -- since it’s still being looked into.

QUESTION: Secondly, you’re aware that Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to King Abdullah of Jordan today, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I presume that – and that’s where the comments that Said was talking about came from.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I presume that you regard that as a positive – a positive thing in terms of trying to calm – tamp down the tensions.

MS. PSAKI: If there was a reiteration of what the status quo has been at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, sure, absolutely.

QUESTION: Right, okay. But that would seem to indicate – and you mentioned two days ago, the last briefing, that Prime Minister Netanyahu had called for calm, and you said that that showed leadership. And now that you’ve seen Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan have both called for calm, what has President Abbas done or what has the Fatah done to ease the tensions?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Can you point to anything?

MS. PSAKI: I was referring, Matt, to specific incidents. I think there’s been obviously, as you know, several months-long tensions --

QUESTION: Right. But --

MS. PSAKI: -- that have been happening in the –

QUESTION: But in response to Said’s question, you said both sides need to do more. And it looks like, from what you just said, that the Israelis are and the Jordanians are doing something. The Israelis are --

MS. PSAKI: Doesn’t mean they don’t need to do more.

QUESTION: Well, fine. But I mean, it doesn’t – are the Palestinians – is the Palestinian side doing anything to tamp down the tensions? Because the Israelis are complaining today that there’s Fatah putting up things on the internet, on Facebook, saying run over settlers, drive a hundred miles an hour into them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen that, Matt. We certainly would strongly condemn any incitement to violence.

QUESTION: But this is Abbas’s political party, essentially. I mean, this is – I don’t understand how you can call on --

MS. PSAKI: And we don’t have any confirmation of official affiliations. I understand the connections, but we’d certainly condemn any incitement to violence. I would say of course we would like to see President Abbas do more.

QUESTION: But do you have any idea what more Prime Minister Netanyahu or the Israeli Government could do to tamp down the tensions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: I – you say that both sides need to do more.

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve talked about investigations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about settlements. We’ve talked about a range of issues that certainly have caused tensions in the region.

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re not specifically calling on the Palestinians to stop with this – to stop with their messaging, which certainly has attracted the ire of the Israelis.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we would certainly call for that. We would strongly condemn any incitement to violent in any of those cartoons you referenced.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – all right. And then on the investigations that you just mentioned, how are those going?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t --

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of the --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update today, Matt.

QUESTION: So the Israeli investigations have not yielded --

MS. PSAKI: Concluded?

QUESTION: -- not – especially as it regards the American citizens?

MS. PSAKI: No, they have not, that we have been informed of.

QUESTION: Okay. And – but you would like to see that done?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And you think that that’s something that could also help lower the tensions --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: -- completion of investigation?

MS. PSAKI: -- that’s obviously an issue that has been, among many others, receiving attention in the region.

QUESTION: All right. Some in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government have said that President Abbas is no longer a viable negotiating partner, that he can’t possibly be a peacemaker. Do you still regard him as a credible and viable person to make a deal with whoever is – with the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: We do. We do.

QUESTION: And you don’t see that any – the alleged incitement or the incitement that people talk about would make him ineligible somehow to --

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to see him to do more to speak out against it.

QUESTION: So just to be sure, you – despite what the Israelis say is this incitement that continues, and despite your – in the face of your calls, he still remains – the person that the Israelis need to talk to if they want to have a two-state solution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – as long been the case, it’s up to the Israelis to determine whether they’re going to take steps toward that. Same with the Palestinians. Obviously, we’re certainly not at that point at this stage in time.

QUESTION: Can you – (inaudible) follow quickly on the Palestinian effort at the United Nations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you foresee a scenario, could you agree to a scenario where the Palestinians actually would water down their proposal so would – that would sort of save you the – to cast a veto or anything at the United Nations? Is there any language they could use, for instance, that is consistent with what you say about a two-state solution and ending the occupation without putting a timeline? Would that – is that conceivable?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, it’s purely a hypothetical. Obviously, we haven’t seen – we’re in discussions with the Security Council. I don’t have any other – anything other further to share, but I’d point you to the – ask the Palestinians that question in terms of the status of their proposals.

QUESTION: Okay. From your point of view, I understand. I mean, there has not been a proposal put forth as of yet. But did you say to the Palestinians, if you put forth a proposal calling for ending the occupation within a certain timetable we will cast a veto?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been clear about what our position is in terms of what is the most productive way of achieving a two-state solution and what is not.

QUESTION: Okay. So you do warn them not to pursue this effort --

MS. PSAKI: We convey clearly --

QUESTION: -- otherwise they will face a U.S. veto.

MS. PSAKI: We convey clearly – we don’t predict that in advance, Said, but we convey clearly what our position is, which they’re certainly familiar with.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Libya. Any reaction to the decision today by the supreme court to dissolve the Tobruk parliament? Do you think this decision will be conducive to stability or tension in Libya in the coming days?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly note today’s supreme court decision declaring a 2014 amendment to the constitutional declaration and subsequent election laws unconstitutional. We and our international partners are seeking to obtain the full text of the decision to understand what the decision implies. As you know, we have long recognized the house of representatives as the legitimate parliamentary representative body. So we will take a look at the text and determine what that will mean. So it’s pending our review of that.

QUESTION: So you don’t --

MS. PSAKI: But our position has not changed.

QUESTION: So you’re not sure what the decision means?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. We haven’t seen the full text of the supreme court decision.

QUESTION: So for you, till this moment, the Tobruk parliament is still the one that you recognize.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, pending a review of the decision.

QUESTION: And will you accept if the decision is what it is, actually, which is to call for the dissolution of the parliament? Will you accept it? And what does this make of your recognition of the parliament in Tobruk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let us assess what it means and what it says, and I think not just the United States but a number of our international partners will certainly have a stake in what this means and what it will mean moving forward, and we’ll go from there. But we had a view and supported the House of Representatives for a reason, and so we will see what this means moving forward.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I go back to Israel just for one second?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It is not related to what we’ve been talking about before. Do you have any response – I realize that you’re not a member of the International Criminal Court, but the prosecutor this morning said that Israel may have committed some kind of offenses during the flotilla incident, but that there were not – whatever offenses that might have been committed were not grave enough to warrant prosecution. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: I would just – we have certainly seen the reports, but I’d refer you to the ICC for the reasons for their determination.

QUESTION: But you don’t disagree or agree with the determination?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand that their decision to dismiss the case – about their decision to dismiss the case, but I don’t think we have much more to add at this point.

QUESTION: So you can’t say whether you – I mean, you had – you’ve been fairly – I mean, you’ve taken the Israeli side and – did you not --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we noted at the time, we regretted the loss of life, and obviously that continues to be the case. But I’d refer you to the ICC on their decision.

QUESTION: Okay, so you can’t say that you’re pleased that the ICC has decided not to move against your ally Israel?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add about the determination.

Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: Burkina Faso.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There appears to be agreement in Ouagadougou between the military, political parties, and civil society to hold new elections in November of 2015. Does that meet your call for moving toward a restoration of full civilian power as quickly as possible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we continue to call for a civilian-led transition as quickly as possible. I’m not going to assess whether a year meets that timeline. Obviously, we’d like to see it move as quickly as it can. If it can move faster, then that’s great, but certainly our focus is on encouraging them to continue moving towards that point and determining what’s feasible in terms of their capabilities in Burkina Faso.

QUESTION: So if the parties in that discussion conclude that a year is as quickly as possible, is that a process that the United States would help advance?

MS. PSAKI: Would help in terms of assistance or --

QUESTION: Support politically, help with election preparation, the sorts of things that you often do.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’d have to determine what the asks are, what capabilities we have. Obviously, we are very supportive of this transition, so I assume that we would be supportive. But I think we’d have to see where things are.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the most recent round of air strikes that CENTCOM announced were against the Khorasan Group, and it mentioned that it targeted some Nusrah Front fighters as well, although it was not in response to the advances made by al-Nusrah last weekend. Can you tell us whether those advances were a part of the reasoning for these strikes, or did they not factor into it at all?

MS. PSAKI: They were not in response to the Nusrah Front’s clashes with the Syrian moderate oppositions. They did not, as you noted, target the Nusrah Front as a whole; they were targeted actions directed at the Khorasan Group. As you know, al-Qaida – an al-Qaida affiliated extremists who are taking advantage of the Syria conflict.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And Syrian opposition groups on the ground have noted that these kinds of strikes may help the Assad regime, which they’re fighting against, given that the Nusrah Front is also fighting against the Assad regime. What have you communicated? What is your response to those concerns? How would you assuage those statements?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our response to – in our conversations with the opposition have long been that before we engaged militarily here, the opposition was fighting basically on their own against ISIL, against the regime. And obviously we’ve taken steps to increase the kind of assistance we’re doing, the kind of training and equipping we’re doing. And we believe if we can degrade ISIL, degrade some of the other threats, extremist threats to the opposition, that will strengthen them. And there’s no question that doing a train and equip program and providing them with a range of assistance is helping them not only fight ISIL, which is posing a threat to them, but certainly we expect they’ll use that against the regime as well.

QUESTION: Do you accept the premise, though, that these kinds of strikes would indirectly aid the Assad regime?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. I mean, our belief is that these are networks that are actively plotting against Western interests, and Europe, the United States, and that’s why we take these decisive types of actions. And again, I think we have to look at what if we weren’t involved here and where would that leave the opposition, and without our engagement they’d just be fighting more fights than they’re fighting currently.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the President said that we are trying to find them in reference to the moderate opposition. So does that mean that – the President --

MS. PSAKI: Say we’re trying to what? Sorry, I didn’t hear you.

QUESTION: He said they are – that we are trying – we are trying to find someone who basically has America’s confidence as a moderate opposition. Does that mean that you have no one at the present time that you can sort of have confidence in among --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s exactly what he said, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we’re trying to – continuing to try to boost the capabilities of the moderate opposition. We believe if we can boost their capabilities, that will also boost their political credibility. And that certainly – if he believed as you just said, we wouldn’t have pushed Congress to pass a train and equip program, we wouldn’t be providing them with a range of assistance.

QUESTION: Okay. Also the President said that he will go to Congress again to ask for more aid and more robust military action, basically, against ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you explain to us what is that likely to entail?

MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about funding, or are you talking about the AUMF, or which specific --

QUESTION: Well, it was funding. And he said that I’m going to go to Congress again in the fight against ISIS, assuming – or we assume – that there will be a more robust U.S. involvement, military involvement against ISIS, whether in Iraq or Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Said, I think I’d have to look again at exactly what he said. I don’t think that was exactly it. Obviously, there needs to be more funding to support our efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, and that is part of what certainly he’ll be discussing with Congress when he meets with them tomorrow.

He also talked about having conversations with members of both parties regarding the AUMF, so I’m not sure which one you’re particularly referring to.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let me ask you another question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Syrians today, or the Syrian foreign minister, said that they are waiting for the S300 surface-to-air missile to counter whatever American fighter jet may be striking outside of, let’s say, the Kobani area. Now they’re talking about near Aleppo or Idlib or any other places. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe, Said, that we’ve – we have confirmation of anything along those lines. Obviously, we’re not going to speculate on something that doesn’t appear to have happened. But we’ve been clear that it would be unconscionable for any country to provide any arms to the Assad regime, which fuels its brutality against the Syrian people, and we’d certainly feel that way about the delivery of S300s as well.

QUESTION: So as far as you’re concerned, the Syrian regime is not in possession currently of these kinds of missiles?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our understanding – I don’t have any confirmation that they are. I don’t believe there has been confirmation out there that they are.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just go back to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Said’s first question, which I think was about the AUMF?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And the President said – did say that he was going to Congress and ask for authorization of military force.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s interesting that for the longest time you guys have said that you believe the existing AUMF allowing you to go after al-Qaida was sufficient for what is now happening in Iraq and Syria. Why does – why do you believe that now needs to be changed or renegotiated or reworded?

MS. PSAKI: It remains sufficient. We have what we need. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’re strongest as a nation when the Executive Branch and Congress work together. You’ve seen over the past couple of months, even though Congress has been basically out of session for the last two months because of the elections, that many have put proposals and ideas forward. So he simply is indicating he’s going to have a conversation with them about it when he meets tomorrow with members, and I expect that will continue.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea what it’s going to look like? Will it be specifically against ISIL or will you include other groups such as al-Nusrah or anything like that?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’ll have a discussion about what the feeling is the needs are.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on the visit or the meetings that Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had with Susan Rice and he apparently had with Under Secretary Crocker.

MS. PSAKI: Sheba Crocker? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Assistant Secretary.

QUESTION: And was – at any time or during these meetings, is there – are we likely to see sort of restart of some sort of a political process, ala Geneva II or anything like this? Is he proposing anything like that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think, clearly – and I’ll certainly let the special envoy speak for himself – but I think there’s broad belief and agreement that there’s not a military solution; there’s only a political solution. Certainly, we continue to discuss that as well as our support for the Syrian opposition, including the train and equip program. So – but we’re not at a point – I mean, part of our effort here is to increase the capacity and the credibility and the capability of the Syrian opposition. Part of that is militarily, and certainly, we think that will help them politically. But we do want to get to a point where they’ll be back at a negotiating table.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, if it is true that, as you say, the nation is stronger when the Executive Branch and the Congress work together, why not work with them on the Iran deal?

MS. PSAKI: We are working with them, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t think they see it that way.

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

QUESTION: Can you --

MS. PSAKI: -- one, we’re assessing a deal that isn’t yet done.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So we don’t have the details yet, and that’s an important part.

QUESTION: Can you recall off the top of your head when the last time the Executive Branch and the Congress worked together on a foreign policy issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’ve worked together on a range of things over the course of time – trade agreements. I can go through a list --

QUESTION: All right. More broadly, do you – has – realizing that the President sets the direction of the foreign policy of the country, but the State Department is largely in charge of carrying that out, are you aware of any instructions being given to the Secretary or to this building from the White House to modify or to change anything about the way – about foreign policy as a result of the midterm elections?

MS. PSAKI: No, absolutely not.

QUESTION: So everything foreign policy-wise – or, sorry, nothing foreign policy-wise is going to change? There aren’t going to be any adjustments, there aren’t going to be any revisions, any change in priority or focus?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think, one, the Secretary speaks with members of both parties pretty frequently. I expect that will continue. He made a range of calls yesterday. I will get you guys the list if that hasn’t already been put out. And I expect on foreign policy, this is an issue that we feel we can continue to work very closely together on.

QUESTION: But seeing how really disagreeable the other side of the aisle – and the Senate, for instance – have been towards your foreign policy, do you expect that they – now that they have gained sort of the majority in the Senate, the Republicans, do you expect them to frustrate your foreign policy in any way, or your foreign policy efforts?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, there are a range of issues that we’ve worked together in a bipartisan manner on, whether it’s agreement on the need to do more to support Ukraine, whether it’s trade agreements and moving those forward, whether it’s agreement to support the train and equip program. And so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to move forward on foreign policy priorities.

QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Kerry called --

QUESTION: Members of Congress, including those who were just elected – so they’re not yet members of Congress – have opposed what you’re doing in Ukraine and in Syria, not necessarily because they think you’re doing too much, but because they think that you’re not doing enough. But you’re saying that there’s no plan to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the benefit of democracy, Matt, is that there are people with all sorts of viewpoints, and you have a discussion about it --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and see what agreement you can reach about how to proceed forward.

QUESTION: Which viewpoint do you think came out on top on Tuesday, though? Was it the viewpoint that everything is fine – speaking strictly about foreign policy, that everything is fine and dandy and should go on as it has been going on for the past two and a half years? Or was it the side that thinks that there are serious problems in foreign policy and that there have – that adjustments should be made?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, without doing political analysis from here, I will convey that our belief, the President’s belief, the Secretary’s belief, is that we will be able to proceed and work together on bipartisan issues as it relates to our foreign policy.

QUESTION: Jen, let me ask you very quickly: Are you – do you know if the Secretary called his former friend, the presumed Senate majority leader-elect, and talked to him about perhaps --

MS. PSAKI: He made a range of calls yesterday, Said. I meant to bring that out with me today. We can get you guys a list of that.

QUESTION: Jen, just going back to AUMF, I’m still not entirely clear why the – if the Administration thinks it’s important for the Executive and Legislative Branches to work together on this, why wait until the day after Election Day to follow through on that effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elliot, Congress was gone for two months, so it would have been challenging to move forward with it over the last couple of months.

QUESTION: Sure. But what about even before that? I mean, as I understand it, the President had said that he would like a new AUMF even a year and a half or so ago.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true. But it’s hard to do that when Congress is out of session. Obviously, the circumstances and what we’re engaged in present an opportunity to have a discussion about it and see if we can agree on something moving forward.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: With the Republicans taking the majority in the Senate, do you believe it’s still possible to close Guantanamo Bay?

MS. PSAKI: It remains a priority of the Administration, as you know. We believe that it’s in the national security interests of the United States. Obviously, there’s also a range of steps that are taken in that regard and a process in place. So we certainly do believe it is possible, yes.

QUESTION: Do you know what that would look like, exactly?

MS. PSAKI: What do you mean by that, exactly?

QUESTION: Like, how – if you – well, you – if you don’t get the support of Congress, how would that process look like in terms of negotiating with other countries for transfer?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly Congress has an important role to play, as you know, in terms of where things stand right now. The Department of Defense announced – I believe it was yesterday – the transfer of a Kuwaiti national. Right now there are 148 detainees left at Guantanamo. I think the case we will continue to make is that it’s in our national security interests to close Guantanamo, and that’s why we believe we should proceed with it, and there should be bipartisan support from both sides.

QUESTION: Will it be harder now?

MS. PSAKI: I – well, I think we certainly hope that there will be bipartisan support for it and that people will recognize why this is in our interest to get it done.

QUESTION: Jen, can we move to Asia?

QUESTION: No. Can I go back --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- very quickly to Syria, to the U.S. strikes in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that this French bomb-maker has been killed by a U.S. strike, as announced by U.S. networks?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the announcements. We don’t have a confirmation of that from here. Obviously, we continue to assess the outcome of our military action. And if that changes, Nicolas, we’ll put something out to all of you.

QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation of reports that any civilians were killed in these – this latest round of strikes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this is – any reports of civilian casualties we take very seriously. The Department of Defense looks into that. We understand that there have been reports from activists alleging that civilian casualties occurred. I’ll just reiterate that no other military in the world works as hard as we do to be precise and avoid civilian casualties. But while we strike to avoid them, when any allegation is presented we investigate it fully and strive to learn from it as to avoid it in the future. So that would, of course, be under the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Asia?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Wait. No other military in the world --

QUESTION: Other than Israel.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. I seem to recall the Israelis saying this – the same thing. You think you’re better at it than the Israelis are?

MS. PSAKI: We think we hold ourselves to a high standard, and we continue – encourage all countries to do the same.

Go ahead. Asia?

QUESTION: Yes. Secretary Kerry is going to China tomorrow for APEC ministerial meeting. Could you please give us a preview of the agenda? And in particular the Sino-U.S. cooperation in anti-corruption seems it would be the – one of the highlights coming from the meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, one, I would point you to the speech he gave on Tuesday where he outlined our relationship, of course, that touched on a number of important components of it – economic, security, strategic. And he highlighted the fact that our relationship has really grown over time. We used to work together on bilateral and regional issues, and now we work together on more global issues, like Ebola and ISIL.

In terms of corruption issues at APEC, I’d have to get back to you on the specifics of how that will fall into the agenda. Obviously, we raise issues when we have concerns. But did you have a specific question about it, or --

QUESTION: Yes, I do. Since there is no extradition treaty between China and United States, what is current United States practice regarding inquiries or requests from China to send back officials suspected of corruption?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in general, with regard to requests from countries with which we do not have an extradition treaty, such requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. So that’s how we would review any request with China.

QUESTION: And then --

QUESTION: Can we just stay on that specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese ever gotten back to you about those six guys who were indicted for – in the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Has there been an update on it?

QUESTION: Yeah. Are they here? They’ve gone to trial? They’re in jail, paying for their crimes?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update for you, Matt. I do not have an update for you.

QUESTION: Or they’re still sitting in China --

MS. PSAKI: You would know if there was any movement or change.

Did you have any more questions on corruption? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. You just mentioned “case by case.” Is one of the case a person, a guy who is a brother – his name is Ling Zhengce and his brother is Ling Jihua, who is a political advisor for former Chinese president Hu Jintao. Reportedly he use a fake name in the visa to try to escape to United States but was returned to China. Is that one of the case – one of case that – where State Department play any role or assist on the return?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as a policy, we don’t confirm requests. But in general, we would review any on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to a specific name or a specific story.

QUESTION: After this weekend, Secretary Kerry is going back to China again to accompany President Obama for more bilateral meetings in Beijing. Do you have any announcement regarding the location and the format of Obama’s meeting? Will that be more like not wearing a tie and more – (laughter) – personal kind of meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I expect this will be formal, but we have enjoyed and think we hope to do again the more informal – I should say without a tie – type of meetings that the Secretary did in Boston.

Let me say one more thing on corruption, on your first question: There is a proposal called ACT-NET that was initially proposed by the United States and APEC with support from then-host Indonesia, China, and other APEC economies. As was agreed to in 2014, China’s project is to encourage more research on anticorruption best practices and lessons learned across economies and legal systems. We remain co-chair of this – of the ACT-NET secretariat – and successfully sought consensus that it not be politicized and that rule of law traditions be respected. So, clearly, that’s a proposal that could be a part of the discussion.

QUESTION: Jen, on China, one of the things that’s been a priority for this Secretary of State, but also the previous Secretary of State in terms of dealing with the Chinese, has been wildlife trafficking, especially related to the ivory trade. You may be familiar with a report that came out today that said that on a recent state visit to Tanzania, the Chinese delegation headed by President Xi bought so much ivory that the price doubled in the Tanzanian market. Is this something that’s of concern to you, given the fact that the Chinese have made noises that they are interested in helping stop this kind of trade?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the reports or the story. I don’t have any confirmation of that. If true, that would be of concern, but I don’t have any confirmation of the report.

QUESTION: Right. Well, is it something that the Secretary plans to raise in his meetings when he gets to --

MS. PSAKI: I think he certainly plans to talk about the issue of wildlife trafficking. That’s an issue that he has discussed with the Chinese in the past, and I think they even did an event on it a year or so ago.

QUESTION: Right. And given that, are – is it particularly – is it disappointing, particularly disappointing, that a report would come out saying something like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any confirmation of the report, Matt. So obviously, they’ll discuss this issue; we’ll see if we learn more details about the report before he has his meetings.

QUESTION: Can we go back to corruption? Jen, you just mentioned ACT-NET.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Would that complicate or duplicate the anticorruption efforts by G20? Because in 2010, G20 in Toronto – they have established an acting plan – acting – action against – for anticorruption, and then we know the G20 summit is going to be held after APEC summit, so --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we wouldn’t see it as contradictory in any way. As I understand it, part of the effort – it will be discussed at the next meeting in the Philippines in August 2015. There was a discussion of developing a permanent training center. So obviously, there are a range of steps that can be taken – anti-corruption steps – and I think, if anything, they would be complementary.

QUESTION: Jen, just staying on the corruption issue – this might be better addressed to Treasury, I don’t know, but maybe you have something on it. In terms of capital flight from China and Chinese officials – allegedly corrupt Chinese officials hiding assets or depositing money in U.S. banks, is there any U.S. policy toward repatriating those assets to China, or is it also a case-by-case basis?

MS. PSAKI: I’d point you to Treasury. I believe it’s likely a case-by-case basis. The Secretary himself has talked about this a little bit in the past, and I’m happy to follow up with him, too, Elliot --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- to see if there’s more specifics.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Let me ask one personnel question. The former Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim, has he taken office as deputy assistant secretary?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I check and see on – I don’t have any personnel announcements to make today, but let me see if there’s been any changes on that front for you.

Scott.

QUESTION: On Nagorno-Karabakh, can you tell me if there’s been any communication by U.S. officials to either Armenian or Azeri officials about these two Azeri guys charged with sabotage who are being tried in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any particular update in this case, Scott. As you know, we continue to encourage both sides to resolve the conflict. We also have been discussing with both of them steps to do that. As you know, the Secretary had meetings. But on this particular case, I don’t have any comment and I’m not aware of specific engagement.

QUESTION: And Jen, do you have any update on the U.S. citizen, Stacey Addison, who was rearrested in East Timor?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything new on that. I know you asked me about this the other day.

Well, you may have this information but let me repeat what we know and we can see if there’s anything that’s changed. I don’t believe there has been. Dr. Addison was detained again on October 29th when she appeared in court to retrieve her U.S. passport and was sent to a prison in Dili. A consular official visited Dr. Addison in prison on October 29th. I’m not aware – we’re not aware of the specific charges. Our understanding, which mirrors that of Dr. Addison in our conversations with her, is that she was treated in a manner consistent with other prisoners at the facility, and of course, we remain in close touch.

I’m sorry, we also visited her – just a quick update – at the prison on November 4th just two – I guess that was two days ago – as well. So we’re in very close touch with her about this case.

QUESTION: Do you know why she was rearrested? Is it the same --

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

QUESTION: Do you have any information on the gentleman in Abu Dhabi, whom you didn’t have a Privacy Act waiver for?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have any new information on that case.

QUESTION: No waiver. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Can I ask you quickly on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The authority – the Ukrainian Government said today that they’re going to launch an investigation into the shelling of a school in Donetsk. I’m wondering if you’re aware of the incident that they’re going to be investigating and if you have any comment about it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of the incident and we condemn the shelling of a school in Donetsk that left at least two children dead and wounded many others. We certainly would support an investigation into this, which they conveyed that they would be carrying forward.

QUESTION: The authorities in Kyiv say that their initial thinking on this is that it was – the shell – whatever hit the school – it was launched or came from separatist-held areas. Do you have any reason to think that that’s true or false or you just don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: No reason to question it, but obviously, there’ll be an investigation. So we’ll see how that investigation’s concluded.

QUESTION: And then yesterday you had – there were – well, yesterday a lot of people – the Secretary and you had the similar comments about the state of the ceasefire. Is there anything new on --

MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing to report on it.

QUESTION: -- or on the political – or on any kind of the – any of the political developments that – or developments, political or nonpolitical, that you’ve seen on the --

MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing new, and obviously the Secretary spoke to this yesterday too.

QUESTION: Can you update us on – the Ukrainians are saying that they closed off the whole eastern area. Do you know anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: That they closed off the eastern area?

QUESTION: Yeah, because of – apparently Russian troops or military are going in or something like this. They closed off the borders of the eastern area, or something to that effect.

MS. PSAKI: I think you may be talking about passport controls, are you, Said?

QUESTION: No, I’m talking about they actually – they closed it off. They cordoned it off.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s accurate. But we can check.

Any more on Ukraine? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have something on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I know Mr. Seiler came back recently. I was wondering if the State Department has changed or updated or considered changing its opinion on the P5+1? I’m sorry, not the P5+1 --

MS. PSAKI: The Six-Party Talks?

QUESTION: Six-Party Talks. Thank you. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: There are so many different details. It’s understandable.

QUESTION: So they both add up to six. Or have you – do you know if he’s discussed updating his – the preconditions for resuming the talks?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed on that front. The ball remains in North Korea’s court. They need to prove to the international community they take the threat of their nuclear program seriously and they’re going to make changes and abide by the 2005 joint statement. So nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: About the Japanese delegation that was there recently, do you – I’m sorry – has – have you talked to them about what they discussed over there, and has that changed at all your opinion on North Korean relations?

MS. PSAKI: We remain in close touch with them, and I’m certain we have talked with them since they – since their visit. But hasn’t changed our view and where we stand on the Six-Party Talks.

Scott. All right.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, one more.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Make it a good one. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: No pressure, go ahead.

QUESTION: No I have one more --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai, he said in a recent interview with Foreign Policy that referring North Korea to the ICC amounts to interfering in North Korean domestic affairs, and U.S. should not do that. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we feel there are times when we need to voice – we’re not a party of the ICC, as you know, so – but in general, as it relates to their human rights abuses, they have one of the most abysmal human rights records of any country out there, and we certainly voice our views on that. They have the opportunity to change the situation and the circumstances in their own country, but we’re just voicing what our principles are.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, just – what’s your understanding of the latest on the French transfer of the Mistral warships to Russia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there’s been a change, Matt. I think that Hollande said that it had not yet met the requirements.

QUESTION: Right. Is that a good thing?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. We think it’s a wise decision.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:06 p.m.)

DPB # 189


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 4, 2014

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 16:42

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 4, 2014

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:27 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have a couple of items at the top.

In recent days, Russia-supported separatists have publicly stated their intention to expand the territory under their control. We strongly condemn ongoing separatist attacks in Mariupol and Debaltseve and around the Donetsk airport. Any attempt to push further into Ukraine would be another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and a gross violation of the Minsk agreements signed by Russia, Ukraine, and the separatists.

There is a path back to the peace process, but only if Russia and its proxies fully implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements, including by immediately implementing the ceasefire; removing all foreign troops, weapons, and equipment from Ukraine; returning control of the Ukrainian border back to Kyiv; and allowing for meaningful monitoring of the ceasefire zone and the international border.

We welcome to the United States some 40 OSCE parliamentarians who are in Washington this week as part of an OSCE parliamentary assembly election observation mission. Part of their time today will be spent observing elections here in D.C. as well as in Northern Virginia and Maryland. We are proud to have these participants in the United States to observe midterm elections.

With that, Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I didn’t want to – the OSCE – these are members of Congress from – I mean, members of parliament from OSCE countries?

MS. PSAKI: Parliamentarians – this includes parliamentarians from more than 20 OSCE participating states, including Portugal, Russia, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Italy, and Serbia, among others.

QUESTION: So there are Russian members of parliament among others that are here observing the U.S. elections?

MS. PSAKI: Well, parliamentarians, so I guess members of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE. Yes.

QUESTION: All right. Well, I mean, because parliamentarian – actually, the definition of it does not necessarily mean a member of parliament. It could be someone --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- who studies the – but anyway. So they’re in D.C. --

MS. PSAKI: Virginia and Maryland.

QUESTION: And do they understand that voters in D.C. do not elect a voting – voting representatives to either the Senate or the House of Representatives? Are they aware --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure if they did not before their arrival, they do now.

QUESTION: -- of the fundamental idea of taxation without representation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as a resident of D.C., Matt, I’m sure you’re aware there’s also a mayoral election today. So --

QUESTION: Right. And they’re observing all of them or just the --

MS. PSAKI: Not all of the – not every election in every state, no. It’s a limited mission with representatives from those countries.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. I wanted to ask about – unless anyone else has questions about this. I wanted to ask about this report that appeared last night that says that the State Department is cutting its entire $500,000 a year funding to this group, CIJA, which is collecting evidence of war crimes, alleged war crimes committed by the Assad regime. Why is the Administration doing this? It seems to be awfully short-sighted and, putting a fine point on it, kind of idiotic because it would work against your stated goal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I look for all of my details on this, of which I have many, let me just say that the report is inaccurate. Our funding level remains at the same level. We don’t provide funding directly to CIJA. We provide it directly to a range of other organizations. As I understand the specifics on this grant that was referred to in the article, about $500,000, as is true of many grants, that was for a specific set of – a specific project. And as is often true with many grants, once that’s concluded the grant is concluded. Obviously, they can apply for additional grants, as any organization does. But we remain committed to funding organizations that do take steps to track and hold accountable Assad and others for war crimes and other things they’re guilty of, and the report is simply inaccurate.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, before – I want to address – ask you to address on the implication of the story, but I’m not – it sounds a little bit confusing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: They were getting money from the State Department but now they’re no longer getting money or they won’t get money in the future from the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: That group has not applied for grants directly to the State – from the --

QUESTION: Never?

MS. PSAKI: -- State Department. Not in recent memory, and certainly this did not, as you may know – but I think the article was a little confusing – did not come from the State Department – the funding.

QUESTION: Right. Well, the article says that the funding – and from what I understand, the funding that CIJA got came from another group called SJAC --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- which you guys do fund directly, and then they use some of the money that they get from you to make sub-grants. So --

MS. PSAKI: Which is a decision that SJAC makes. And SJAC is an organization --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that the United States helped start, a Syrian-led organization.

QUESTION: Right. But the spokeswoman for CIJA says that that is basically a canard, that in fact their grant, the money that they – the 500,000 that they were getting from SJAC was being – basically, SJAC was just kind of a funnel, it didn’t – and that they dealt directly with DRL, with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor here at the State Department. Is that – that’s incorrect?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say the Bureau of Human Rights works with a range of organizations. I’m certain that they are in touch with these organizations and a range of them. But in terms of the specific funding – and all of you know this – there are often sub-grants that go out from different organizations that the State Department funds. Obviously, ultimately, they decide how they’re going to fund other groups.

QUESTION: So if this group CIJA, the group that says that it’s losing the money, applied for a grant from the State Department, you would consider it?

MS. PSAKI: Of course we would.

QUESTION: But they – but they haven’t?

MS. PSAKI: They have not.

QUESTION: You are not aware of?

MS. PSAKI: And they may apply for other grants from CJAC[1] as well.

QUESTION: The implication of – in the story is that as you are stepping up the fight against ISIL/ISIS, the Assad regime’s alleged war crimes have become pushed to the back burner.

MS. PSAKI: That’s absolutely inaccurate. We remain as committed as we were six months ago, a year ago, two weeks ago, to funding organizations that work on those exact issues.

QUESTION: And so the amount of money that you give to SJAC --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- is remaining the same?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And that’s 1.25 million; is that correct?

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

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up on this?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did the group submit its report? Are you aware of any report that they have submitted that documented war crimes and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Did the --

QUESTION: The group that was funded --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- with the $500,000 and which you cut off, right – would the --

MS. PSAKI: No, I think I just outlined exactly --

QUESTION: I understand. I understand.

MS. PSAKI: No, no, no, Said. This is very important. I just outlined --

QUESTION: No, you said this group did not reapply.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. I just outlined why that report is inaccurate, so let’s --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, that’s fine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The report is inaccurate. But did they submit – while they were being funded to the tune of $500,000, did they submit any report that documents and outlines and details war crimes by the Syrian regime?

MS. PSAKI: That’s one of the objectives of their group. I would certainly point you to them. I’m sure they’ve produced a range of documents. But I would point you to them for a specific outline of that.

QUESTION: But since they were funded by --

MS. PSAKI: SJAC.

QUESTION: -- ultimately, the State Department, basically --

MS. PSAKI: They were funded by SJAC.

QUESTION: -- by SJAC, which is --

MS. PSAKI: Is not the State Department, but keep going.

QUESTION: Right. So you are not aware of any reports that may have been --

MS. PSAKI: I would point --

QUESTION: -- published or stated?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I would point you to the group. I would encourage you to read the story --

QUESTION: I did, I did, yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- and I would encourage you to just look back at what I just conveyed about what’s accurate about funding.

QUESTION: I know. I read the story. My interest is: Did they submit any reports while they were being funded?

MS. PSAKI: This is a group that – of many groups that we have a great deal of respect for what they do and what their objectives are, Said. But in terms of the outline of what reports any group provides or produces, I would point you to that group, which is only natural.

Do we have any more on this?

QUESTION: No, I want to change the subject.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: No, on Syria. Can we stay in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: On Syria?

QUESTION: I want to go to Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Do you want --

QUESTION: Can we go – we’ll come back to Syria.

MS. PSAKI: -- rock, paper, scissors? (Laughter.) Just kidding. Do you want to start, Lesley?

QUESTION: Let me just get on Russia --

MS. PSAKI: Then, Michel, we’ll go to you. Russia?

QUESTION: -- because there’s two issues here.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The one is that the – I know you’ve just made comments on – strongly condemning what’s been going on in Ukraine. But any reaction to NATO’s secretary-general’s comments today about Russian troops moving closer to the border of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke to this a little bit yesterday, but let me just reiterate that we remain concerned about reports, though I don’t have independent confirmation of those. Certainly, we often work closely with NATO, as you know, on these types of issues and tracking. But we are concerned about any reports that Russia is taking escalatory actions, of which troop movements would certainly be one of them. And that would certainly be a violation of the Minsk protocols, of which we continue to press all parties to abide by.

QUESTION: And you think that the peace is still holding given all these different movements that have been going on over the last week or more?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question that these type of actions, including the fact that Russia hasn’t implemented and the separatists have not implemented other components of the Minsk protocols, including the release of political prisoners, et cetera, certainly put a strain on the ceasefire. But we believe that the ceasefire is – and the Minsk protocols that have been put in – or have been agreed to is the best mechanism for a path forward. So we will continue to work with both sides. I will note, of course, that the Ukrainian Government has gone to great lengths to hold up its part of the Minsk agreements while Russia and Russia-backed separatists have continually disregarded their own commitments.

QUESTION: And then there’s reports today the White House just said that they regretted Russia’s decision not to attend initial meetings last week for a 2016 nuclear summit. But have there been any indications that Russia is saying it’s not going to attend the actual meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I saw some reports right before I came out here, but I have not been able to confirm those internally, in terms of any communication on that specific front. I can reiterate – I think you have some of the comments that the White House issued --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- but for others who may be interested in this – we regret Russia’s decision not to participate in last week’s preparatory meeting for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the door is opened – remains open to their joining future such meetings. I would remind everyone that, of course, the summit is in 2016, as I just noted. That’s a bit of time away. The Nuclear Security Summit brings together over 50 countries and four international institutions to take concrete action to secure nuclear materials, and the group has made significant progress in the past four and a half years. We hope that Russia still shares the view that securing loose nuclear materials and combating the threat of nuclear terrorism is a priority well worth the personal attention of world leaders and of which this summit provides an opportunity to discuss and coordinate on.

QUESTION: So you say that you hope that Russia still shares the view that it’s important to control loose nukes or to not allow them to --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But does that hope extend to you hoping that they don’t boycott the summit?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: So you would like to see them – it’s not just that the door remains open to them; you want them to participate and you think it would be worthwhile for them to participate?

MS. PSAKI: We do. Now, there are over 50 countries that would be participating and four international institutions. But, certainly, Russia is a country with an important role to play and, certainly, the door remains open. We are hopeful that they would participate.

QUESTION: And just – but just – and just to make sure, even though they – had you been informed that they were intentionally going to skip or snub the preparatory meetings last week?

MS. PSAKI: Had we been informed in advance or --

QUESTION: Or did they just not show up?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that level of specificity, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Because – the reason I ask is that it is – seems to be key to whether they just didn’t show up to this meeting for whatever reason, whether they were boycotting it or whether it was some other reason, or if they have actually – they gave you some indication in advance that they weren’t going to show up and it was because they were unhappy over X, Y, or Z, and also if, in fact, they have said or if you have reason to believe from any communication that you have gotten from the Russians that they are, in fact, intending to boycott the 2016 summit.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So if you could take that, find out if this – whatever communication you’ve had with the Russians on this has led you to believe that they will – that they intend to boycott the 2016 meeting, that would be --

MS. PSAKI: I think – sure. The question I can check on there is certainly whether we were given a heads-up in advance and see what we can provide. In terms of their reasoning, I would certainly point you to them on that specific question.

QUESTION: But are you in touch with your Russian counterparts to try and clarify the situation, as regards to the summit in 2016?

MS. PSAKI: We, the Administration?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I just want to ask, what level was the meeting, the preparatory meetings held at?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that for you, Jo. I can check and see who attended from here, just to give you a better sense.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Any more on Russia? Syria. Okay.

QUESTION: Any update on the fight between al-Nusrah and the FSA groups in the north, and the information that said that al-Nusrah obtained American arms from some groups?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have an update really from what I conveyed yesterday, which is that we are working with our opposition partners to determine what, if any, materials were taken. I don’t have a new assessment on that. Obviously, in any fight such as this, a chaotic conflict happening in a war-torn country, there are major concerns that we always have about weapons or materials getting into the wrong hands. That’s one of the reasons, as all of you know, that this has been a challenging decision over the past couple of years. It’s no different in this case. But I don’t have a new assessment for you.

QUESTION: And do you have any assessment of the situation in Kobani these days or not?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a new battleground assessment. I think my colleague over at Department of Defense is briefing today and may have a better assessment of that.

Syria? Scott, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the status of the U.S. humanitarian assistance?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of how much humanitarian assistance we’ve provided?

QUESTION: And to whom, in Syria and Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We have quite a bit and a great number of fact sheets on these specific points. We remain the largest humanitarian donor. I’d have to get around to you all the specific numbers. But just to make sure I know what you’re looking for, what the United States has given to organizations through the UN as well as to countries in the region?

QUESTION: Yes. It’s one of the five parts of the anti --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes, yes. I will get you an update.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just to follow up to yesterday’s meeting chaired by General Allen for the coalition – I know that you issued a statement late yesterday, but – and so on. So that focuses on maybe like five areas.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of them is – puts emphasis, or that’s what I heard – puts the emphasis on Iraq first. What does that do to, let’s say, your effort in Syria, in terms of training, equipping, and perhaps sending ground forces at one point or another?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, the five lines of effort – I wouldn’t describe Iraq first as one of the five lines of effort. The five lines of effort have been what they’ve always been, so – or they’ve been for some time, so military assistance, foreign fighters, counter-financing, anti-ISIL – delegitimizing ISIL, and humanitarian assistance.

Iraq first means that we knew that the presence and the threat of ISIL posed a direct threat and a strong threat to Iraq. And over the course of the last several months, if we just take a quick step back, we had to proceed with a strategy to help the Iraqi leaders form a new government. That was going to be needed in order to bring other Arab countries and Arab leaders into the fold. And we needed to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to assess what their capabilities were to take on this fight. Those are processes that have been ongoing, as you well know. And we needed to help equip different forces within Iraq – I mean, through the Iraqi Security Forces – to push back on the fight.

That doesn’t change the fact that with Syria we’ve obviously taken a range of steps. We’ve done dozens of airstrikes to take on the threat of ISIL there and go after the safe haven that ISIL has had over the last couple of years.

QUESTION: But the Iraq first formula seems to assign a great deal for Iraq in terms of – everybody talks about the spring offensive or putting the emphasis there. We don’t know what the American role is going to be, other than, let’s say, advisors and – that will accompany the Peshmerga, the Iraqi Security Forces, and so on. But in Syria, what is going on in terms of on the field, so to speak? What is going on in Syria? Is that left out to, let’s say, the Syrian army, regime forces fighting it out, perhaps some elements from the FSA and so on? So what is going on in terms of your effort in sort of emboldening or in making the FSA robust enough to fight?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think you’re very familiar with the steps that we’ve continued to take. Obviously, we’ve increased the scale and scope of our assistance to the moderate opposition. We passed a train-and-equip program that we’ll begin to implement. We’re working with partners in the region to continue to support and boost up the opposition. And, of course, we’re also taking airstrikes in Syria, and we’ve welcomed other countries who’ve done the same. So we’re continuing to build on all of those components.

QUESTION: The reason I ask this is because spokesmen – or alleged spokesmen for the Free Syrian Army are saying they’re not receiving anything from you, that what they hear is a great deal of talk and nothing really tangible that they can say they point to.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s hard to speak to the anecdote of one or a couple of individuals. I know what types of assistance we have provided and other countries have and what we will continue to provide.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there – and this is my last question on this – is the Syrian moderate opposition training in which you are involved – is that taking place in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in other places, in Syria itself, in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with which countries have indicated their willingness to host it. I would point you to them on more specifics on their role.

Samir, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is General Allen going to attend the London 11 Friends of Syria meeting in London next Monday?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll check with General Allen. I think it’s more likely that Daniel Rubinstein would attend that meeting, but let me check with them and see if there’s a plan for him to also attend.

QUESTION: One more question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The UN Envoy for Syria, Mr. – Ambassador de Mistura met today with Under Secretary Crocker and they’re meeting with other officials. Do you have any readout of this?

MS. PSAKI: My understanding, Samir, is that the meeting was delayed. So I will check back and see when it’s happening, and I know you’re interested – and others may be – in a readout of that.

QUESTION: Speaking of meetings --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Secretary saw Mr. Erekat yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Can we finish Syria? Is that okay? And then we’ll go back to it.

QUESTION: Oh, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Syria, one issue people take issue with, that you define U.S. as a largest humanitarian donor, whereas countries like --

MS. PSAKI: Who are people? Who’s taking issue with that?

QUESTION: Well, let me explain my question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The countries like Turkey and Lebanon or Jordan take over million people. And today, deputy prime minister in Turkey stated that Turks spend about $5 billion, humanitarian assistance. I’m not sure if you succeed this number, $5 billion, or how do you define this --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say, when it comes to humanitarian assistance, we’re happy to be beaten, if other countries want to give more than they’ve given, and that’s completely fine. What we’re talking about is financial assistance, of which we’ve provided to not just the UN and different NGOs, but also surrounding countries in the region – I think there’s no question – that have been impacted and taken in, as you mentioned, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of refugees. There’s no question that the contribution of Turkey, the contribution of Lebanon, other countries in the region to take in refugees is one of the biggest contributions, in terms of the humanitarian category, of this conflict. And we applaud them at every opportunity we have. So I don’t think we – if more people want to give and more people want to claim they are the largest donor, then we welcome that race.

QUESTION: Make sure you mention Jordan; otherwise they’ll be upset.

MS. PSAKI: Jordan, of course, of course.

QUESTION: Speaking of refugees, last time we check about couple months ago, U.S. has admitted about 63 Syrians.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there an update on that number? You have more Syrians?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s an ongoing process. I can – I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s an update to the number.

QUESTION: Today, French Foreign Minister Fabius wrote an article, and he’s talking about Aleppo, that the fate of Aleppo is unclear, the regime forces entirely encircled Aleppo. And he’s arguing that Aleppo should not be abandoned. Do you have any plan to start any kind of campaign in – specific to Aleppo?

MS. PSAKI: Our strategy has not changed. I will say that if the French want to take military action in Syria, which they have not to date, we would certainly welcome having the conversation with them about what contributions they’d like to make.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I stay in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Syria?

QUESTION: Staying --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Syria. Let’s go Scott, Syria.

QUESTION: Okay. Related, there are some Yezidi leaders in town who are looking for more help in tracking down women and girls who were kidnapped as sex slaves during the fight over the mountain. Do you – have they had meetings here at State, and/or do you have anything to say about --

MS. PSAKI: I know that they – many of these representatives – I think it’s the same group – had some meetings at the White House at the end of last week. Let me check and see if there were any corresponding meetings with the same group at the State Department. But did you have another question beyond what --

QUESTION: Well, just about that issue, is that something that the – is that part of your anti-ISIS strategy? Is that something that you are continuing to address?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly I think – obviously, as you all know, the first military action that we took in Iraq was in response to the humanitarian crisis that was – and the pre-genocidal situation that was the facing the Yezidis on the mountains. And we continue to closely track what their situation is, what challenges they’re facing, what humanitarian assistance they need. And we would, of course, be happy to have a conversation with them about what additional needs they have, whether it’s missing loved ones, and determining if there’s a role we could play.

Syria?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Aside from the effort you mentioned to ascertain which U.S. materiel was taken by al-Nusrah in the – in their most recent advances, is the U.S. planning any effort to push back against them militarily?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve laid out clearly – and did from the beginning – our focus on ISIL and the Khorasan Group, given the unique threats they pose to Western interests. I’m obviously not going to talk about or speculate about future operations, other than to remind you of what I just conveyed. We’re also concerned – and there’s no question about this – about – that the moderate opposition is being pressed on multiple fronts in northern Syria, including in Idlib and around Aleppo. And so there are a lot of possibilities that are always being discussed in terms of supporting the moderate opposition, but I’m not going to outline that further from here.

QUESTION: For now, would you say that, for example, direct airstrikes – more direct airstrikes on al-Nusrah would not be on the table?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think I’m not going to preview or outline any potential future operations. Obviously, we keep options on the table, but you’re familiar with what our strategy has been to date and who our targets have been to date.

QUESTION: Jen, have you got more information about the alliance that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait are building now?

MS. PSAKI: I did speak with a number of people about this, just because there have been lots of reporting on it and not a great deal of information. We – as you know, we have a close relationship with all of these countries, and we will continue to work with them and all of our partners in the region in the fight against ISIL. But we don’t have anything to substantiate this report that they’re building a military coalition and therefore no specifics on what the objective would be. But certainly our objective remains on fighting ISIL, and so we’d be happy to talk to them about what role they would want to play as it relates to that.

QUESTION: Did you know if this alliance will be part of the international coalition to fight ISIL or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I just conveyed, we don’t have anything to substantiate the reports that they’re planning a specific, unique military coalition. We’d be happy to discuss with them the role and how they could participate more in a coordinated fashion in the anti-ISIL effort.

QUESTION: When you say that you don’t have anything to substantiate the reports, does that mean that you’ve asked and they’ve said no, it’s not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we’re in touch with all of these countries about the role they can play, but we don’t have anything beyond that in terms of a confirmation of these reports. And I think there are some who have actually denied it in the story, so --

QUESTION: Okay. So – yeah. But forget about the news report. Let’s talk about what the Egyptians and the Saudis and the Emiratis and the – whoever --

QUESTION: Kuwaitis.

QUESTION: -- Kuwaitis have told you. Have they said that they’re thinking about starting some kind of a military alliance or forming a --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we have a range of conversations with these countries, as you know, but in terms of a specific plan with details to form a coordinated military coalition between the countries, no.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I think that if you go back and read the story, it doesn’t say – it says that they’re in discussion about that element of it, but that they’re forming this – their own potentially non-military alliance already, or that that’s what’s most advanced. So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, but it’s --

QUESTION: -- quite apart from the military part – the military – forming as a strike force or something like that, have they told you that they are interested – those four countries – in banding together in their own mini-bloc?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have anything more. Just to convey, we have a range of conversations with them, but in terms of the specifics of the planning of a military coalition, there’s not specifics to offer at this point, nor have they provided them publicly.

QUESTION: Would it be kind of strange for these countries, and especially Saudi Arabia that is part of the coalition and conducted air raids against ISIL already – wouldn’t it be strange for them to form a rapid deployment force, in essence, that is for them to pursue ISIS almost on their own, like a new coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Would it be --

QUESTION: Is it – do you --

MS. PSAKI: Would it be --

QUESTION: Would you find that strange if they were to form this?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t categorize it that way, Said, but there aren’t details here, so I’m not going to speculate on a hypothetical.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) conflict with the current --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on a hypothetical.

QUESTION: Jen, are you – just to be clear, you don’t know about the meeting, though?

MS. PSAKI: Which meeting?

QUESTION: The one that they’re referring to.

MS. PSAKI: In the story --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- about a meeting between the countries?

QUESTION: Yeah.

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

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the countries on that.

QUESTION: But in general, do you support such alliance, Jen?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have more details, and we don’t have any substantiation of the reports. We do support their role in the coalition, and we certainly would be happy to discuss with them how they could continue to do that.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday Vice President stated in an interview that actually he did not apologize to President Erdogan. Do you have any – so the statement came out from White House, then it clearly indicated that Vice President apologized, and last night he says he didn’t; there’s a confusion. Is there any way you can clarify this?

MS. PSAKI: I would suspect my colleagues at the White House may be addressing this question. I would point you to them.

QUESTION: So is this non-apology – would cause any kind of diplomatic problems with Turkey at this moment?

MS. PSAKI: No. I don’t expect that it will.

QUESTION: Has the Turkish Government reached out to you and asked about this (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I would again point you to the White House. We’re talking about the Vice President.

QUESTION: Yesterday you were asked about recent trials of the Turkish military officers. Do you have any update on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. As we have previously noted, many observers expressed concerns about the length of previous – the previous trial process, and the manner in which the previous verdicts and sentences were reached. We continue to call on Turkey to meet the highest standards of transparency, timeliness, and fairness in its judicial system. As you know, this new trial is just starting, so we will see and time will tell if those standards are met.

QUESTION: Last question. There is new survey just released, I believe yesterday by Pew, and it says that U.S. favorability in Turkey is like all-time low. Do you have any comment on that, and why do you think U.S. is not perceived --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I saw the article. I don’t have any specific comment on it, although I don’t believe it said that it was at its all-time low. I think there were some graphs and charts in there.

QUESTION: Or one of the lowest.

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: One of the lowest in recent years, going --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment on it.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: How about U.S. approval rating for Turkey? Do you have anything on it?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say that, polls aside, Turkey remains an important partner of the United States, an important partner in our efforts to defeat ISIL, and a country we work together closely on on a range of issues.

QUESTION: Do you think you need to more to reach out to Turkish people to explain yourself better?

MS. PSAKI: I would say we have a strong and broad mission in Turkey --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: -- and one that we continue to put energy, resources, and some of our best people in.

QUESTION: Can I go to the Erekat meeting --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- with the Secretary? Can you – well, first, can you just tell us what it is that they talked about?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, and then I will go to some in the back.

QUESTION: Be as specific as possible.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, no – more specific than possible.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It was a long meeting.

MS. PSAKI: It was a long meeting. They met for several hours.

QUESTION: I know, I waited.

MS. PSAKI: You waited? Said. Sorry, I just want to get all the details here.

Well, they met last night. Faraj was also – Majid Faraj was also in the meeting, just so you’re all aware. They discussed the tensions in Jerusalem and the importance of maintaining calm, the fact that both sides need to do more on that front. The Secretary reiterated the United States opposition to unilateral steps by either party that attempt to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. They also discussed the latest developments in Gaza, next steps in reconstruction, and the possibilities on the way ahead for Middle East peace.

QUESTION: One – I asked you yesterday about the whole calm and incitement issue, and you said that Prime Minister Netanyahu had shown great leadership in having the site reopened and also calling for calm. There are some in Israel – actually many in Israel and their supporters here who are quite upset about this letter that President Abbas sent to the family of the man who was allegedly behind the shooting of the American citizen last week. In this letter, President Abbas says that the – this – the alleged shooter who was killed by the IDF is – was a martyr, assassinated by the terrorists of the Israeli occupation army, and he will go to heaven as a martyr defending the right of our people and our holy places. Is – do you have any reaction to that letter, that language? Is that – I mean, that does not appear to be non-inciteful?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you remember from last week, we obviously condemned the shooting of the U.S. citizen outside – in Jerusalem. We continue, as I just noted, to believe that both sides can do more to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and make clear that violence is unacceptable. That’s the standard we believe both sides should meet, and that is not – was not met at all by this letter.

QUESTION: Okay. So you – your – do you know if this came up with Mr. Erekat yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check.

QUESTION: -- this specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check, Matt, on that specific question.

QUESTION: And when you say that the standard was not met by this letter, that means that while you’re praising Prime Minister Netanyahu for his leadership in this, does that mean that you’re – that you find Abu Mazen – President Abbas – to be lacking in leadership on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t convey it as broadly as that. I’m speaking --

QUESTION: I mean, he signed the letter.

MS. PSAKI: I’m speaking specifically to the letter. I was speaking specifically to some comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made this weekend. But there are actions both sides have taken that have been increasing the rhetoric and increasing the tensions on the ground. And so that’s why both need to do more.

QUESTION: All right, well, let me just get – the overall – you’re disappointed by the letter in general. But specifically, do you believe that the Israeli – the IDF is made up of terrorists?

MS. PSAKI: No, we don’t.

QUESTION: No? And then, do you believe that someone who was accused – I don’t know if this – if it’s beyond – he was never convicted, obviously, but the Israelis certainly believed that he was responsible for the shooting of this American citizen. Do you believe that shooting someone, an Israeli – a rabbi at the Temple Mount – is defending the right of our – meaning Palestinian people – in holy places?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken to this. We condemned the action, and I think that speaks to how we view this – the incident.

QUESTION: All right. The brother of Mr. Glick has complained that the embassy and – or the consulate in Tel Aviv/Jerusalem has not been particularly helpful to them. Do you have any kind of response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I reference this, but it’s important to note that as – when these events happened, we put out – the Secretary himself spoke to this and condemned the actions. As you know, we have no higher priority than the protection of United States citizens living overseas, and we take our obligation very seriously. The U.S. consulate-general in Jerusalem made several attempts to contact Mr. Glick’s family, and only today, Tuesday, were able to make contact with one family member. Obviously, the Privacy Act prevents us from discussing too many details, but those are the facts, and certainly we will continue to provide all consular services that are available.

QUESTION: Has a consular officer visited Mr. Glick in the hospital?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details beyond --

QUESTION: Has he been given --

MS. PSAKI: -- we have reached out for several days now.

QUESTION: Has he been given the opportunity to sign a Privacy Act waiver? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’d have to check on that, Matt.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the circumstances in which, Hijazi, the alleged shooter of Mr. Glick was killed? Are you aware of the circumstances?

MS. PSAKI: There’s obviously, as you know, an investigation into that specifically, Said, but --

QUESTION: Are you aware that he was actually taken to the roof and shot 20 times?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details, and I would caution you from making conclusions before the investigation is concluded.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware that Mr. Glick is one of the most intense provocateurs that keeps leading people into the Haram al-Sharif day after day? Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’re aware of his background, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a U.S. citizen who was killed, in this case, and we certainly condemn the action.

QUESTION: I want to ask about the meeting last night. I saw negotiator Erekat outside, and very briefly --

MS. PSAKI: Good last name. Get it?

QUESTION: -- and he briefly told me that they are intent on pursuing the UN effort. So he apparently told that to Secretary Kerry and Mr. Frank Lowenstein, who was with him out there for a minute. So can you confirm that, that the Palestinians will go forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he conveyed that to you. I have nothing to contradict that. I would just convey that, as I mentioned earlier, the Secretary reiterated the position of the United States, which is opposition to unilateral steps by either party that attempt to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. Also, they didn’t get into a highly detailed discussion, just so you know, on the specifics, and as you know, nothing has been tabled at the UN. So this is a preliminary discussion, and obviously, having a back and forth and hearing from them is part of the reason to have a meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Palestinians are claiming today that they have an eighth country ready from the Security Council to support their effort. So they need one more country. Are you aware of that? Do you think they will be able to get nine members to support their effort?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction of that, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about the settlements. Obviously, an issue was – the issue was discussed and you addressed it yesterday in the briefing. Has there been any development since yesterday for this almost feverish settlement efforts in the last few days?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there’s been new developments since yesterday, no.

QUESTION: All right. And let me ask you just one final – are you aware of a letter that a number of generals, Israeli generals and officers and so on, signed calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu to show flexibility in this effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s an issue to ask the Israeli Government about, not the United States.

QUESTION: Sorry, the – your answer to the penultimate question on – have there been any developments on the construction or settlements, does that mean that the Administration is still contemplating what consequence Israel’s decision to go ahead with this will bring?

MS. PSAKI: It means our – the statements I made yesterday stand today and there’s nothing new to add to that.

QUESTION: Does that mean, Jen, that the Administration has decided that there will not be any consequence for doing what you said flies in the face of their commitment to --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to add for you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. And then I just I have one more. And this is kind of – I don’t know – it’s raised some attention, but it seems to be – it’s a wording issue. There are some people who had noted that you refer to the contested holy site in Jerusalem as Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, whereas in the past it has been referred to by your predecessors as Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif. Is there any reason for the placement order of what you call this bifurcated --

MS. PSAKI: There is not any reason and there is --

QUESTION: Okay, so it’s interchangeable in your --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- even though – the argument that the Israelis make is that they say the Temple Mount was there first. So it should go first.

MS. PSAKI: We use both names for a reason.

QUESTION: That’s their argument. But you were saying that there is no implication in terms of policy of this --

MS. PSAKI: There’s not implication. No.

QUESTION: -- and you can flip them around --

MS. PSAKI: On the policy – no.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. Were there any meetings today between Mr. Lowenstein and Saeb Erekat that you’re --

MS. PSAKI: I can check with Mr. Lowenstein and see.

QUESTION: Okay. And my last question, I promise. He also said that the UN effort does not conflict in any way with any other efforts, just – such as direct negotiations. Do you agree with him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, our view remains that we would oppose any unilateral steps that attempt to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. And as I just noted as well, obviously the discussion of – the discussion last night was not highly detailed and there isn’t currently a proposal tabled at the UN. So there aren’t a lot of specifics out there.

QUESTION: It wasn’t highly detailed? It went on for --

MS. PSAKI: About this particular issue.

QUESTION: Oh, on this --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, it was a multi-hour meeting. So certainly there was --

QUESTION: Hopefully they talked about something other than the weather.

MS. PSAKI: -- a great deal of details about a range of issues.

QUESTION: So what was the main thrust of the discussions then, for -- it was more than three hours?

MS. PSAKI: It was. It covered all of the issues that I just mentioned.

QUESTION: But did you mean that the Secretary didn’t ask Mr. Erekat for not going to the UN Security Council?

MS. PSAKI: He conveyed our well-known view on this particular issue.

QUESTION: But didn’t say do not do it?

MS. PSAKI: I think you are familiar with how we feel about this. Nothing has changed on that front. And obviously, we consider this a unilateral step.

QUESTION: He didn’t say it directly?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you quotes from the meeting, but I can --

QUESTION: Why not? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: -- just convey that our view, which you’re all familiar with, is something the Secretary reiterated during the meeting.

QUESTION: When you say to the Palestinians that they should stop this effort, do you tell them either/or – if you go forward, we’re going to cut off aid?

MS. PSAKI: We conveyed that --

QUESTION: I mean, let me just ask you straight-out.

MS. PSAKI: -- it contradicts their stated goal of a two-state solution and having their own state, an aspiration we support.

QUESTION: So you believe that the UN effort does conflict with any other efforts, such as direct negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: You need two parties to negotiate. It makes it more difficult.

QUESTION: Do you know, Jen, if the Secretary raised the issue with Mr. Erekat about today’s mid-term election and the potential for major change in Congress, that would not be particularly – if predictions hold true – not be particularly amenable to the Palestinian point of view? Do you know if that came up at all, whether or not it was – was it even noted?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there is more we can read out from the meeting.

QUESTION: On this point, Jen, will the elections’ outcomes affect the U.S. foreign policy?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do political analysis from here.

QUESTION: No --

MS. PSAKI: But as you know, the State Department is a non-partisan building and one where we work with Democrats and Republicans, so we will continue to move forward with that in mind.

Now obviously, there are a number of efforts that we’ll continue to work on, and we hope we’ll work with whomever the elected officials are after the election.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen.

QUESTION: Can I stay --

QUESTION: Actually, just on that, when you say that the State Department is a non-partisan building, there have been a couple of reports recently. I know you’ve responded to one of them about the number of political appointees that are over here. Is it really still the case that this building is a non-partisan building, when you have so many partisan – people who are in – occupying senior positions who have been partisan political either politicians or political supporters in the past?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think that, one, I have a range of statistics I’m happy to go through, but the meaning of that, of what I was conveying, is that there is not a agenda that is one party over the other. It is, we are representing the United States overseas. We have thousands of diplomats who work overseas. People may vote, of course, even if they’re a career Foreign – member of the Foreign Service. But political appointees has a different meaning than whether it’s a political building.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean the politicization of – if someone comes from a world of highly partisan politics and then into a building like this, one would – there is some osmosis factor going on, or is that no at all the case? I mean, Madeleine Albright used to say that she’d had her political instincts surgically removed when she got to this building. Would you say the same?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary says something similar, that he’s retired from partisan politics. Let me give you a couple of statistics. The ratio of political to career nominees, approximately 30-70, has been in line with previous administrations. Right now, let me see if there’s some more interesting – we have nearly 25,000 Foreign Service and Civil Service employees serving domestically and overseas. We have just 127 Schedule C employees. The number is capped and has actually gone down under Secretary Kerry. That’s about a half of one percent, by comparison, and we have even fewer Schedule Bs.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting you’re suggesting this, but some are, that anyone should be disqualified because they are a political appointee. Obviously, there are a range of people who come from a range of backgrounds. Also, Secretary Kerry has built his senior team with more Foreign Service officers in leading assistant secretary positions than at any time in recent memory, with regional assistant secretaries for Asia, Africa, Europe, and Near East all being Foreign Service officers. And so I would say statistically and mathematically I’m not sure the criticism stacks up to the facts.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, but you’re talking about the Secretary. I was under the impression that these people who were nominated were nominated by the White House. At least that’s the line we get from the podium every time we ask about personnel decisions.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. Well, I just touched on that a little bit earlier though, in terms of the 30/70 balance in terms of ambassadors. I was speaking separately about employees and the statistics with employees.

QUESTION: Right. But this is not so much – I mean, I think people who are – the people who are criticizing this, if they’re criticizing Secretary Kerry, are perhaps – their criticism is misplaced because it is, in fact, the White House and the President who chooses these people; is it not?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. But in terms of nominated ambassadors.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: What I was --

QUESTION: No, and assistant secretaries.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. There’s --

QUESTION: And under secretaries.

MS. PSAKI: There’s obviously an effort though --

QUESTION: And deputy secretaries --

MS. PSAKI: -- and the Secretary plays a role in helping select people who are his closest advisors, which includes the regional assistant secretaries. So I just wanted to give you as many stats and numbers as I possibly could.

QUESTION: Gotcha.

QUESTION: A very quick follow-up on this. In the event there is a change in the Senate, the likely sort of difficulties that you might face in confirmation, do you have any contingency plan in this case that you’re trying to do right now, perhaps to make sure that the Senate may be more (inaudible) this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me convey to you, Said, since you gave me the opportunity, right now we have 39 career Foreign Service officer nominees stuck in the Senate. They’re languishing, waiting to get a chance to do their job and serve their country. As you may know, it works with the military where there is a voice vote for a group of nominees. This is something we’ve been calling for for career Foreign Service officers and something that we think could happen. And we’re hopeful that that’s something that can move forward when Congress returns after the election.

QUESTION: Would --

QUESTION: How many politicals are waiting, stuck?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that, Matt. I know I have it here somewhere. One moment. There are 60 waiting; 39 of the 60 are career diplomats.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: 21. I know math is not the --

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But I mean, that – that’s a significant number, no?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly is. And many of them have been waiting --

QUESTION: Twenty-one and thirty-nine? And I don’t think that that – does that meet your 70/30, or is that just for ambassadors?

MS. PSAKI: That’s just for ambassadors, and those are just people sitting right now, not overall representing the United States around the world. The 70/30 is the around the world.

QUESTION: Right. But this is the microcosm of the problem that you have identified.

MS. PSAKI: It is a microcosm of the problem in that there’s no reason why 39 career Foreign Service officers can’t have a voice vote to move them forward.

QUESTION: But – so you’re not calling for that for the politicals, though?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: No, we’re calling for it for the – for those who are career Foreign Service officers.

QUESTION: Right. But not for the --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- bundler – or whoever, ambassador nominees, you’re not saying that you would like to have a voice vote?

MS. PSAKI: No, but let me give you an example of a political appointee or a political nominee. Frank Rose, who many of you know, who works on issues that are especially relevant to today, has been waiting for 465 days.

QUESTION: Right. No, I’m not necessarily questioning the qualifications of these people. I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: To be clear, we’re calling for it for the career Foreign Service officers.

QUESTION: Just for the career Foreign Service officers.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So it wouldn’t apply to Mr. Rose.

MS. PSAKI: No. But I just gave that as an example.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

QUESTION: But what about the political appointees then? Don’t you come to – is there not a potential problem that these other 21 people who are awaiting nomination could never be nominated, leaving gaps in your overseas presence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question that people who come from political backgrounds – many of them ran companies, they have had extensive experience in their own right out in the private sector or even internationally, and we believe that there’s no reason any of those individuals is waiting tens, sometimes hundreds of days. But the reason we pulled out the career nominees piece is because, obviously, these are individuals who have been working within the building or the system for decades – many of them – and there’s no reason for the delay.

QUESTION: So I guess going back to Said’s question, if there’s a change today in the control of the Senate, is there a contingency plan to perhaps put up different nominees or --

MS. PSAKI: That would be a question for the White House.

QUESTION: So if it becomes really more daunting to get the people through the Senate, will the President – do you expect the President in the next two years to sort of utilize his executive leverage or latitude to get people through?

MS. PSAKI: I think everybody in the Administration wants to see them move through. In terms of other steps, I would point you to the White House on that.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more midterm-related question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s unlikely I’ll have much to say, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, we’ve seen – over the past campaign, we’ve seen a lot of candidates make statements and air ads about threats that the U.S. faces, like Ebola and ISIS and things like that, often making statements that run counter to what Administration officials have said before. But does the State Department have any view as to the propriety of these types of campaign ads, whether it’s appropriate to bring out these kinds of issues?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comment on campaign ads, no.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Change of subject on North Korea. Do you have anything on the – Kenneth Bae’s family sent letter to a North Korean authority for the release of their son. Do you have anything on that?

MS. PSAKI: I would just convey that we continue to use every resource at our disposal to bring Kenneth Bae home to his family. As you know, we have asked for a release on humanitarian grounds. We remain in close contact with the family, and that remains a top priority for us.

QUESTION: Have you reached any contact with the Swedish ambassador recently?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – they’re, of course, our protecting power, which I know is why you brought them up. So we do maintain a line of contact with them, yes.

QUESTION: Go to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, can we go to the back just – and then we’ll go to Iran. Go ahead.

QUESTION: An Iranian website that is dedicated to the P5+1 talks with Iran --

MS. PSAKI: An Iranian website?

QUESTION: Website.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s not a news agency. It’s totally dedicated to Iran and the nuclear talks and Iran becoming nuclear. It has reported today that the U.S. has announced it’s ready to accept Iran having 6,000 centrifuges. Have you heard of any developments in the technical experts talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, the technical experts talks are ongoing. Obviously, there hasn’t been a conclusion. Nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed. I’m not going to comment on any proposals or reports being discussed out there. Obviously, our view continues to be that we’re not going to accept any arrangement we can’t verify, and we won’t make any promises we can’t keep. So I would just remind everyone that there are a range of audiences, including for Iranian websites or the comments of leaders in Iran, to put out different reports or analysis.

QUESTION: But since this --

QUESTION: It’s still your position that no deal is better than a bad deal, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But since the --

QUESTION: But is it not the case that the criteria or the standard for a bad deal – or, conversely, a good deal – has changed in the negotiating?

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. What do you mean specifically?

QUESTION: Well, the idea of 6- or 4- or 8,000 centrifuges seems to be a concession on your part, and I’m not sure what the concession from the Iranian side would be. And --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I didn’t have any – I didn’t, obviously, confirm any of those reports, Matt. I would just convey that the goal from the beginning has been to block Iran’s potential paths to a nuclear weapon. Obviously, there are a range of ways of doing that, but that remains our objective and our goal. Certainly, centrifuges and the number is part of the discussion.

QUESTION: So you won’t accept anything less than a deal that blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, this means preventing Iran from producing fuel for a weapon with either uranium or plutonium. Obviously, there are a range of factors that are being discussed, but I don’t think the objective has changed.

QUESTION: Okay. So anything that falls short of that – or has the potential to fall short of that – is unacceptable to the U.S. Is that correct?

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

QUESTION: Well, I mean, people who have been watching the negotiations – as much as anyone outside of the negotiations can watch or know about them – suggest that you are, in fact, about to – or you could be about to accept a deal that does not meet your own original standard for what a good deal or what a not-bad deal is.

MS. PSAKI: We’re not accepting – no deal remains better than a bad deal. That hasn’t changed. There are a range of issues that are being discussed that we’re certainly not going to outline from the podium.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask why it was decided to hold the next political directors talks in Muscat, and then go on to meet only a few days later in Vienna? Why – I understand the Secretary’s going to be in Muscat. Was that the only reason, or was it just because Oman’s a kind of out of the way place and you won’t have a lot of world press camping on the doorstep, trying to find out what’s going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Oman has been involved in these talks in the past by hosting a variety of meetings. They’ve played a helpful role, which we greatly appreciate. But I don’t think there’s any more – we’re bringing an entire plane of reporters to Oman, so certainly they will ask questions.

QUESTION: But you’ll be leaving before the political directors talks start. They’re on the following day, on the 11th.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: They’re with the political directors from all the countries involved – the P5+1 or the E3+3.

MS. PSAKI: And obviously, it’s a pivotal time in the negotiations. But clearly, as you know, regardless of where they are, there’s little that is briefed out from the negotiations as they’ve been going on because of the decision to keep these as private as possible so that they can be productive.

QUESTION: So is the plan to have one day or two days in Oman and then a break, and then go to Vienna for the 18th?

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to see how the negotiations go. And obviously, the EU and others leading these will make a determination about whether there will be any further days or technical talks or whatever may need to be required. As you know, they’re – they announced that the P5+1 political directors will be meeting in Vienna from the 18th through the 24th. So that remains, but --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) It just – it still doesn’t make sense why you would have it in Oman. I mean, is there any plan for the directors to go to nearby Iran? I mean, it just makes absolutely – kind of flies in the face of reason, given that you’ve had all of the discussions in Vienna. It just seems --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think any of the participating countries felt that way, and they’re the ones who make the decision, so --

QUESTION: But why was Oman chosen as the – are they party to the talks this time?

MS. PSAKI: They’ve been supportive of the talks and supportive of the effort, and so there was a decision made to have the – this round of talks there.

QUESTION: And can I just ask, did you see – you presumably have seen the scenes out of Tehran this morning, the – it’s the anniversary of the embassy takeover.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And there was a lot of scenes of people with flags and shouting the usual kind of “Death to America” things. Does this – what’s your general reaction to this? Is there a – do you feel that there is an atmosphere in Iran where they’re willing to accept any deal with the Americans, or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’m not in a position to do analysis of the political situation in Iran other than to convey that obviously, as you know, over a year ago, the people elected a president who promised to change the economic situation and the dire straits they all felt they were in economically. Obviously, as we all look back to what happened 34 years ago – did I do my math correctly – 35 years ago, I’m sorry, and the impact that had on badly rupturing American-Iranian bilateral relations and the severance of diplomatic ties that followed, it puts into focus what we’re trying to do now, which is work out a deal where we can prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, from – a nuclear weapon and seeing how the relationship can move forward.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t disturb you, though, to see that some of those feelings --

MS. PSAKI: Of course --

QUESTION: -- are obviously still --

MS. PSAKI: Of course, the memories of what happened and the fact that hostages were held for 444 days, 35 years – disturbs any American who --

QUESTION: No, no, no. It’s not --

QUESTION: But I mean, today --

QUESTION: It’s not the memory --

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s today that --

QUESTION: -- that she’s asking about.

QUESTION: I mean – yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I know, but that brings up the memory, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It brings up the memory.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if you see --

QUESTION: But I mean, today, the --

QUESTION: -- the thousands of people in the – whether it’s larger or smaller than it has been in the past, thousands of people in the streets burning American flags, burning the Israeli flags, screaming “Death to the U.S.” and reprising the Great Satan in the middle of this nuclear negotiation, does that not give you any kind of pause --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- about who it is that you’re dealing with? This is – I mean, the Iranian Government is one that can essentially turn off or turn on this kind of a protest.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think --

QUESTION: And they have chosen to keep it on.

MS. PSAKI: What I was getting at – and I think I was pretty clear about this – is that obviously, the events that happened 35 years ago that led – that there was – these protests were related to today or these events were related to brings up memories and is disturbing to any American. But our focus remains on seeing if there’s an opportunity to reach an agreement on something that’s been an issue in our relationship for – or lack of a relationship for years now, and that’s what our focus remains on.

QUESTION: Yeah, I get that, but I don’t – but you don’t see a problem with the Iranians – at least some in the Iranian leadership or government condoning or allowing this kind of anti-American protest to mark this anniversary? You don’t think that says anything about their credibility as a negotiating partner?

MS. PSAKI: I think this has never been about trust. This is about what we want to see achieved, what the international community wants to see achieved in terms of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned about protests that are happening there today, it doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about human rights violations. We have other concerns that exist.

QUESTION: Right, I understand that, but the Secretary is on his way to go see the foreign minister of Iran, whose government today allowed this kind of a protest to go on with the burning of the flag and the Great Satan and the “Death to America” chants.

MS. PSAKI: Because we have an opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which will make the world safer, and we think that’s a worthwhile endeavor to continue to pursue.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re willing to kind of overlook – I’m not saying you’re overlooking the human rights abuses or support for terrorism or anything like that.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say I was over – we were overlooking --

QUESTION: No, but you’re prepared – you don’t believe that the protests that we saw today, even in the context of the ongoing negotiations and the fact that Kerry – Secretary Kerry is going to meet Foreign Minister Zarif next week, you don’t see any, I don’t know, disconnect there? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I said, but I – we continue to have this – and this is – falls into the same category. Obviously, as you know, we raise American citizens who are detained when we meet with them. We raise other issues where we have concerns. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a worthy and important objective to pursue. We’ll continue to pursue it regardless of events today.

QUESTION: But even – wait, can I just follow up on that? But – okay, so it seems like once again, you’re kind of stovepiping the nuclear issue. You don’t think – I mean, given that what you were seeing on the ground doesn’t indicate that there’s a chance for better relations between Iran and the U.S., I mean, even if you were to get a nuclear deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we didn’t indicate – we’re far from that point, Elise. So we’re focused on the nuclear issue. We’ll see how that works. We’re not having a discussion about other issues at this point in time beyond the ones you’re familiar with.

QUESTION: So you think that the Iranian Government is behind these protests just to sort of exacerbate the situation? Do you believe that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. I think Matt was conveying that.

QUESTION: Or could it be an indication that there may be a schism within Iran itself where the clerics or Khamenei --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said --

QUESTION: -- is trying to stoke the --

MS. PSAKI: -- we’re all familiar with the politics in Iran and the fact that there are some who are more in favor of an agreement on nuclear issues than others. And certainly, there are politics in every country, including Iran.

QUESTION: Can we get back to the – just to the substance of the nuclear talks?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything you can say about this New York Times report that Russia has offered and Iran has tentatively agreed to transfer stockpiles of uranium there to be turned into fuel rods?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think I pointed to the fact that we can’t accept any arrangement we can’t verify. Obviously, the Russians are an important partner in the P5+1 negotiations. They’ve played a helpful role. They’ve worked with all members of the P5+1 to put forward creative and reasonable ideas that advance our objective. But beyond that, I don’t have any other comment on that.

QUESTION: But – so assuming that you can verify it, would you welcome such an offer from the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that while negotiations are ongoing.

Do we have any more on Iran? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jacob Vawter with Yomiuri Shimbun.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Jacob.

QUESTION: I have a question about – hi. I have a question about China and South China Sea. This morning, Secretary Kerry stated that the U.S. hopes to effectuate the completion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea. What specifically does the U.S. plan to do to help the relevant parties agree to a code of conduct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s – as you know, it will be a big topic of discussion, certainly, at the APEC meetings. The Secretary will attend the ministerial meetings at his level, then there’ll be meetings at the leader level after that. So he’ll continue to work with countries in the region to see how that can be achieved.

All right.

QUESTION: Well, wait, I have one more, and I can’t – since we started so long ago, I can’t --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- remember if your opening statement on Ukraine, I don’t – on Russia had anything about the swearing-in of the prime minister of – did you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Other than to convey that we don’t – I can reiterate what I conveyed yesterday in terms of --

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t have anything --

MS. PSAKI: -- not recognizing the new leaders. I don’t have anything new.

QUESTION: There’s nothing specific.

QUESTION: Jen, on Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: Press reports coming from the UN said that the U.S. has provided the sanctions committee with information about the role that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi leader have made to destabilize the situation in Yemen, and maybe asking for sanctions. Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing to add to what I said yesterday about this specific issue.

QUESTION: Do you expect anything today from this committee?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to USUN on that particular question to see if there’s anything forward-moving.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - November 3, 2014

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 17:07

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 3, 2014

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:57 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone.

QUESTION: Hi.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: Hello.

QUESTION: Happy Monday.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Monday. Happy November.

QUESTION: November.

MS. PSAKI: I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. The United States condemns the assassination of Dr. Mohammed Abdulmalik al-Mutawakil, secretary-general of the Union of Popular Forces, and expresses its condolences to his family. We urge the Yemeni Government to conduct a full investigation that brings to justice those responsible for this crime. Yemen’s challenges, particularly now, require moderate voices and a commitment to the rapid and peaceful resolution of differences. Indeed, the challenges facing Yemen today can only be resolved through political dialogue. Violence and intimidation have no place in a civil and democratic society. The United States remains firmly committed to supporting the Yemeni people as they seek to advance their country’s historic transition. We call upon all parties to work together for the good of Yemen and fulfil their obligations under the Peace and National Partnership Agreement in a timely manner.

Following the statement we released on Friday on ISIL executions in Anbar province, we saw additional reports this weekend of ISIL’s brutality, including that they may have massacred hundreds of members of the Albu Nimr tribe, including scores of women and children. This also coincides with reports of indiscriminate killing of other Sunni tribe members and the senseless attack on Shia pilgrims preparing for the commencement of Ashura. This proves once again that ISIL does not represent anything but its warped ideology and provides more evidence, if any were needed, why our coalition partners, including Iraqis from every background, must work together to defeat these terrorists.

And finally, November is National Adoption Month in the United States. For almost 20 years, National Adoption Month has highlighted the importance of family care for children. The Department of State believes that, when conducted in a manner that protects children, birth parents, and adoptive parents, inter-country adoption provides one valuable avenue for eligible children to find permanent homes with loving families. This work is difficult but rewarding, and would not be possible without the support of our partners. We would like to thank prospective adoptive families, advocates, adoption service providers, members of Congress, and our many partner agencies for their commitment and contributions to inter-country adoption. We look forward to our continued collaboration.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. Before we delve into policy substance, let’s talk personnel for a second --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the announcement that was just made about Ambassador Sherman taking over, at least temporarily, as deputy. Does the President or does the Secretary intend to have a permanent – someone nominated and confirmed by the Senate to take over from retired Deputy Burns?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So not necessarily her?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of any process or speak about personnel from here, which should come as no surprise, unless we’re ready to make an announcement.

QUESTION: Okay, I didn’t ask that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just asked if this means that she is going to be eventually nominated, or is anyone going to be eventually nominated to take over that position?

MS. PSAKI: This means that Under Secretary Sherman will be the acting Deputy Secretary of State. There is every intention to nominate a --

QUESTION: Okay. Which may or may not be her?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. And then how long does one stay – I mean, doing two jobs, both of which are pretty big, is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, nor the most efficient, probably. I’m not taking anything away from her skill, but I mean, being the number two and the number three at the same time, it will be taxing, to say the least. So do you have any idea about how long it will be before either she is nominated and someone else takes over as number three, or a new permanent number two is nominated and she can go back to only dealing with the under secretary job?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction on timing. I will just say that the fact that she was named Acting Deputy Secretary of State just reflects the Secretary’s trust in her, the trust of the building, the trust of the President, and obviously, her wealth of experience on a range of issues. So --

QUESTION: Jen, isn’t it just a time-space --

MS. PSAKI: -- of anyone, she can certainly handle it.

QUESTION: But that’s a time – it’s just about a time-space continuum. I mean, Deputy Secretary Burns had a full portfolio and Under Secretary Sherman has a full portfolio. So just to Matt’s point, I mean, how long can this Department run on one person being the kind of Secretary’s second and third in command?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, you all know Under Secretary Sherman. She has superhuman abilities in diplomacy and obviously, I’m not going to get ahead of a personnel process or the timing on that.

QUESTION: Can I ask a process --

QUESTION: She has superhuman abilities? (Laughter.) Does she wear a costume too? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: She does not. She is a very talented and experienced diplomat. That was – I was kidding.

QUESTION: It’s not about her diplomatic skills.

QUESTION: But can you assure us that she is not going to be taking her eye off the Iran nuclear ball?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you. And as you also all know, Deputy Secretary Burns, Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, and there are a couple of others who are very involved in the Iran negotiations as well.

QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand about this, Jen, and I realize this is – that it’s the White House that nominates, but Secretary – Deputy Secretary Burns, his departure, first of all, it came as no secret. The President had to talk him into staying and the Secretary did.

MS. PSAKI: Twice, yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right. Second, you guys put out an announcement, I think it was six months ago, explicitly stating that he was going to be leaving in October. It would be one thing if the Administration had nominated somebody and the Senate was sitting on it, as it has so many other of your nominees. But it just – it doesn’t make sense to me why, when you knew he was leaving, you had at a minimum six months’ public notice about the date that he was leaving, why it was – has not been possible to come up with a plausible candidate and put them forward.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it’s a reflection of not being able to come up with a plausible candidate. In fact, there are many talented candidates, and obviously --

QUESTION: Why haven’t they been nominated then?

MS. PSAKI: -- there is a process that works through the interagency, as you know, that is not just the State Department. I’m not in a position to give you any more details on that process.

QUESTION: I didn’t think that presidential nominations were an interagency process. I thought it was the White House that decided who the President would nominate.

MS. PSAKI: We work with the White House. Obviously, the Secretary has a great deal of input as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean it’s – but it does make – like, why isn’t someone ready to be nominated? I mean, why does – I think Arshad’s question is: Why is the process only starting now? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t take it as a reflection of that. There’s an on – been an ongoing process.

QUESTION: For six months?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not in a position – I’m not going to detail for you when that process started.

QUESTION: My question is, well, why isn’t the process over by now given that you’ve known about this for half a year?

MS. PSAKI: I would just assure you that we have somebody who is very capable who will be in this position as acting deputy, and when we have an announcement to make, we’ll make the announcement.

QUESTION: Would you say that the – not – I won’t – I don’t want to use the word delay, but the reason that a nomination rather than a – the reason that there was a designation as an acting instead of a nomination as a permanent is because vetting of the potential candidates is still going on?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to outline it any further. Should we move to a new topic?

QUESTION: Yeah, can we go to policy substance?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, we can. What would you like to discuss?

QUESTION: Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You have seen the announcement this morning about the new construction in East Jerusalem. I presume that since you were talking last week about how bad this would be, you don’t approve. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is correct. We’ve, of course, seen the reports that you’re referencing. It would be unfortunate at this sensitive time, that after the unequivocal and unanimous position last week of the United States and others in the international community opposing construction in East Jerusalem were clearly vocalized, Israeli authorities would actively seek to move these plans forward. We continue to engage at the highest levels with the Israeli Government about these reports. We continue to make our position absolutely clear about how we view construction in East Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Why do you say it “would” be if they, in the face of all of the opposition, would go ahead with this, when they did?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were reports --

QUESTION: I mean, they made the announcement.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. There were reports about it. We haven’t received more clarity on the specifics.

QUESTION: And the fact that they decided to go ahead and make this announcement even though these – this construction won’t be done for probably years, what does that tell you about your influence with Israel right now?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t draw a conclusion it’s a reflection of that, Matt. Obviously, there are a range of cabinet officials in Israel. We all understand how this works politically in Israel. We still – it doesn’t mean we don’t voice our view, and many in the international community voice their views as well. But --

QUESTION: So you don’t think that this is a slap in your face, you think this is rather a domestic political issue for the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: I think I conveyed it would be a – it’s unfortunate, obviously. It would be unfortunate. It is unfortunate for this to move forward given not just the view of the United States, but the view of many in the international community.

QUESTION: But you made it – just let me pick up on that. You – well, particularly, you said the unequivocal and unanimous position of the United States. So you are kind of making it a little bit about you in terms of, like, despite your or the international community’s objections to it. I mean, what about Israel’s commitment to creating a climate under which a peace deal is – that this is conducive to a peace deal?

MS. PSAKI: Which is a goal they’ve stated. This flies in the face of that.

QUESTION: So I mean – right. So I mean (a) it seems as if – it seems as if you’re insinuating that they did it kind of despite your or to spite your objections.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t imply that, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you think that it has anything to do – like, the announcement, as Matt said, it’s not going to take place for several years.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think that this announcement right now has anything to do with any kind of tit-for-tat in terms of the tensions that we saw over the last week or two?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do analysis on that, Elise. But as you know, this isn’t the first announcement. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the same way about it despite the fact that there are many that have happened in the past over the last year.

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: So I mean, what – I mean, this continued – these continued settlement announcements, you say that that flies in the face of where it’s kind of against what Israel says that it wants. I mean, have you kind of made any conclusions about their commitment to restarting the peace process and working out a peace deal? It seems as if they’ve pretty much kind of given up.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, Elise, that obviously if they were going to restart a peace negotiation, we would be seeing actions and we’d be seeing efforts on their part to do that. And obviously, steps like this are contrary to that objective.

QUESTION: Jen, do you read anything in the timing, especially that the Secretary is meeting today with the Saeb Erekat to de-escalate the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially in Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a follow-up to the announcement, as you know, that they made last week. So it’s, I guess, a continuation of that announcement. The meeting today with Saeb Erekat is a follow-up to the Secretary’s meeting with President Abbas in Cairo. Obviously, we support a two-state solution, as you know, and certainly, they’ll talk about that. But we expect they’ll talk about a range of issues, including Middle East peace, including the situation in Gaza, and of course, on reducing tensions in Jerusalem.

QUESTION: News reports coming from the region saying that the Secretary will present a peace plan to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: There are no current plans to introduce a peace plan.

QUESTION: Why is that?

MS. PSAKI: Because it’s up to the parties, Matt.

QUESTION: Because the two sides have never been farther apart?

MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the parties to take steps. We know what the issues are. We know what the conditions would be. But it’s up to them. So we’re only going to take steps that we think would be productive.

QUESTION: So you’re willing to – the Administration is willing to – or is unwilling to try and force them back into talks like the Secretary did two years ago?

MS. PSAKI: We’re obviously having a range of discussions and conversations with them privately, but there are no plans to introduce a peace plan.

QUESTION: Well, how about this? If – even if it’s not introducing an actual peace plan, are – do you intend to try and push the two back together, even if they are – everything that they’re doing suggests that they’re unwilling to do so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if the two sides indicate they are interested in returning and there’s a willingness, then we’re willing to be a capable partner.

QUESTION: Are you --

MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think we’ve seen evidence that as of late.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary – okay. So the Secretary’s not holding his breath for that to happen.

MS. PSAKI: He’s not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But he continues to have private discussions with both sides. We know that a two-state solution is the only way to address these issues over the long term.

QUESTION: Okay. So is it fair to say then that the meeting this afternoon with Erekat is going to be focused primarily on how the – the Palestinians and the UN, their UN ambitions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they may talk about that. But obviously, they are – there are tensions in Jerusalem, which we’ve been talking about every day. There’s the situation in Gaza. It’s all related, as you know. So I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

QUESTION: Jen, can I just go back? You said that you weren’t going to do anything that you felt was unproductive at the moment. So you believe it’d be unproductive to put forward a peace plan?

MS. PSAKI: If we felt it would be productive, we would do it. Obviously, we’re not – I just indicated we’re not – we have no plans to introduce a peace plan.

QUESTION: Why do you believe it’d be unproductive? I mean, there’s a certain train of thought that if you put forward a plan based on the intensive negotiations held over the nine, ten months that the peace process was still ongoing, that would actually sort of show both sides and the larger world global community how much progress you said was made. You do say that there was some progress that was made.

MS. PSAKI: Well, sure, Jo, and we certainly understand the appetite of the media, and you’re not alone in the media --

QUESTION: No, I mean (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: -- of having an interest in that. But obviously, we put a great deal of thought on what we do and how we do it, and this – there’s no plans at this time.

QUESTION: So why do you believe it’d be unproductive to put forward --

MS. PSAKI: Because we believe that both parties need to make the choices and there need to be willing partners who want to have a negotiation at the table.

QUESTION: Jen, how --

QUESTION: I don’t – sorry, I don’t understand how that was --

MS. PSAKI: If we felt that was productive to doing that, we would do it. There’s no current plans to do it at this point in time.

QUESTION: How will the announcement affect the U.S. position at the Security Council in case the Palestinians --

MS. PSAKI: Which announcement? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The Israeli announcement of new buildings in the – in Jerusalem.

MS. PSAKI: How will it impact which piece of the --

QUESTION: The U.S. position. How will you react at the UN Security Council in case they presented a --

MS. PSAKI: The Palestinians present something?

QUESTION: Yes. Not the Palestinians, the Arab League or someone --

MS. PSAKI: The Arab League? I think I’m not going to predict what our view will be on a resolution or information that doesn’t yet exist. So we’ll see what happens and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Earlier, I think in response to one of Elise’s questions, you said that the announcement flies in the face of Israel’s stated commitment to a two-state solution to peace. And before, last week, you said something about not wanting – their actions suggest they don’t want to live in a peaceful society, I think, if I’m not --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said exactly that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.

QUESTION: Let’s just stick with what you said right then about flies in the --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it your view, is the Administration’s view, that the Israelis are the only ones who are doing – who are doing things that fly in the face of stated commitments to peace and a two-state solution, or do you also find problematic anything that the Palestinians are doing at the current time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we believe that both sides can certainly do more. We appreciate – it’s all related, so I will just convey we appreciate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for responsibility and restraint in Jerusalem, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserving the historic status quo of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We strongly urge all parties to respect this call, which the Palestinian Authority described as a step in the right direction.

But we urge the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan to exercise decisive leadership and work cooperatively to lower tensions. And certainly there’s more that can be done.

QUESTION: So you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu, whatever description people in the Administration might have of him, has actually taken decisive – has shown decisive leadership in this specific instance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we think the call for responsibility --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and restraint was certainly a positive step, yes.

QUESTION: Have you seen similar from the Palestinian leadership?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Palestinians also described it as a step in the right direction or as an opening.

QUESTION: No, no. But has – well, describing something as a step in the right direction is not necessarily showing decisive leadership. Have the Palestinians done – have they done what you think is necessary in terms of trying to calm the --

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: -- calm the tensions or --

MS. PSAKI: -- neither side has done everything that’s necessary. There’s more that needs to be done on both sides.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Okay. Because last week, the spokesman for the Palestinians said that the immediate move after the shooting of the American citizen, the closing of it was an act of war, which doesn’t seem to be toning down the incitement. Now, obviously --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t believe that kind of rhetoric is helpful, no.

QUESTION: Have you seen any change in the Palestinian – in the rhetoric from the Palestinian side?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s been restated, but I don’t have any new analysis.

QUESTION: Okay. So I’ll stop. Okay, I’ll stop after this. But I just – is this something that the Secretary will be talking with Saeb Erekat about later this afternoon?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certain it’s part of their discussion.

QUESTION: The need --

MS. PSAKI: It’ll be part their discussion.

QUESTION: -- to calm things down?

MS. PSAKI: To lower tension. Yes, absolutely.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: And do you -- will the Secretary meet any Israeli official after the meeting with Erekat today?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, he has a range of meetings that are ongoing. He’s leaving tomorrow for China, as you know. So there’s not another meeting tonight, no.

QUESTION: And did he call any official in Israel in the --

MS. PSAKI: He has – he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu every couple of days.

QUESTION: Two things. Can you read out his latest calls either from today or from over the weekend? And then secondly, can you tell us whether you have any update into the investigations of the deaths of the two U.S. citizens in the region?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not going to – there’s not going to be a readout of every meeting he – of every call he does with the prime minister because he speaks with him every couple of days.

QUESTION: I’m not interested – I’m interested in whatever calls the Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. The calls he did this weekend, he spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. He spoke with Chinese State Councilor Yang. He spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He spoke with new EU High Representative Mogherini. Those are the main calls from the weekend. I’ll see if there are any more.

QUESTION: And then any – do you have any update on the results of the investigations into the deaths of the two U.S. citizens?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in all cases – and I spoke with some of our leadership on the ground or communicated with them this weekend about this – we continue to underscore in all of our discussions the need for the Israelis to complete these investigations in a rapid and thorough manner.

Regarding the killing of the 14-year-old American citizen, Israeli Government officials have told us that the IDF is doing a thorough investigation of the incident, will share results with us when it’s completed. We’re awaiting that information. They are well aware of the importance we attached there being a speedy and transparent investigation. I don’t have any other updates for you on the investigations.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: No, wait. I’ve got one more just on this. It has to do with some comments that Susan Rice allegedly made that were published, I guess yesterday or today, about the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. She reportedly told someone that she – that he has – she hasn’t seen him in over a year and that he’s apparently too busy, he hasn’t asked for a meeting, he’s running around with Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas.

Do you know – and if you don’t know, could you take the question – when the last time the Secretary or senior people in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau have met with Ambassador Dermer? I will ask them as well, but --

MS. PSAKI: With Ambassador Dermer?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know the Secretary was at his house a month ago for a holiday, I believe.

QUESTION: Right, yeah. But that’s --

MS. PSAKI: -- I will check and see when the last time the Secretary did.

QUESTION: I mean a substantive policy discussion with the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay, just your reaction to the al-Nusrah Front’s defeating Syrian rebels in the north – isn’t this a huge setback for the U.S. policy, given that they’re now – been kicked out of their bases and territory there? And are you reviewing anything about how to proceed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re concerned by these reports. We continue to gather facts on the ground. I can’t confirm the reports at this time. We have taken extensive measures to mitigate the risk of U.S. assistance from falling into the wrong hands. Also – we also recognize, of course, that forces on the ground face combat conditions. We’re working with our partners and with moderate opposition groups we support to confirm the status of items we have provided them. And I know we’ve seen some reports and photos out there that al-Nusrah likely seized some food baskets that we provided, but I’m not in a position at this point to give a definitive account of what happened. We’re still looking into it.

QUESTION: But in terms of the U.S. strategy, which – the foundation of it in Syria is strengthening the Syrian opposition and having them serve as the ground forces – if they’ve been kicked out of their stronghold in the north, first of all, and secondly, if Nusrah Front, which used to work together with them, now is turning on them, doesn’t this kind of completely cut the strategy off at the knees?

MS. PSAKI: Well, many of them have been fighting al-Nusrah for some time as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) so much.

MS. PSAKI: For some – have been fighting some of them as well. It hasn’t been that they’ve all been working hand in hand. That’s not correct.

In terms of what happened in this specific case, because I’m not in a position to confirm it and our team is still looking into it – obviously, we know that there’s an up and down and fluid, complicated situation on the ground. We are – we have increased our assistance to support the opposition. That’s a process that is ongoing. It’s not – far from being at its end point, and we’ll continue to work toward that. Obviously, we know that they need to be strengthened more militarily. That’s why we and other partners have continued to do more to assist them.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Al-Nusrah also released a video saying it confiscated valuable U.S.-supplied heavy weaponry from one of the FSA depots. Do you have any confirmation of this? Do you know what specific --

MS. PSAKI: I think I just sort of addressed this in the sense that we’re working with our partners on the ground to determine what equipment or --

QUESTION: Well – but specifically on the weapons. I mean, if al-Nusrah is taking weapons from – continuing to take weapons from the rebels, I mean, doesn’t that kind of make you question what kind of weapons you’re talking about training and equipping, even though they’re vetted? I’m not even talking about like who’s a responsible person that you can trust or not. But if they’re going to continue to be overrun by groups like al-Nusrah or who – any type of extremist group, ISIL or not – I mean, doesn’t that make you question the strength of that plan in terms of providing them with weapons if they’re just going to be taken by extremists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, they’re in a combat zone, as you know. We’re well aware that there is that risk. We’re assessing what equipment, whether it’s heavy weaponry or others or none, that was taken. We’re working with our partners on the ground to do that.

QUESTION: Elise’s question is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin would be: Is it not vindication of your decision or indecision early on to supply them with even more weapons two years ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: You can either look at it as being bad now, or you could look at it – I don’t know, and tell us if you do – that this proves the point that you were so worried about two years ago.

QUESTION: But they’re going to be (inaudible) now so that totally cancels it out.

MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think – given both of your questions, I think it’s just a reflection of the fact that, obviously, this is an incredibly difficult and complicated situation. And we made the decision, obviously, recently to do more to train and equip, which Congress passed. We didn’t do that for some time because of exactly – one of the factors was exactly what Matt mentioned. So it just reflects how complicated the situation is and difficult, frankly.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

QUESTION: But Jen, you can’t – so you can’t comment at all on how much of a setback it would be if the Syrian rebels have lost their bases and territory in the north?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical because we want to see what the assessment is of our team on the ground – or not on the ground, but our team working with forces on the ground to assess that.

QUESTION: Jen, just a follow-up on this --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, and then we’ll go to you next. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Not going back to two years ago, but just last week, early last week, you were asked in this podium about these clashes when they start for the first time, and Syrian rebel forces, which were – who were vetted by the U.S., sent their messages and they asked for help in their fight against al-Nusrah Front in that particular – in the (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about the FSA or are you talking about who --

QUESTION: FSA, FSA.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: FSA and Harakat al-Hazm as well.

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: So this question was asked to you, and this help actually asked from you last week. Do you think --

MS. PSAKI: What is the question? I’m sorry. What --

QUESTION: Question is this --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You were asked for help for this particular fight, but you did not provide, neither you provided any kind of strikes on the al-Nusrah Front. Do you think this was a wrong move for you?

MS. PSAKI: In Idlib or --

QUESTION: In Idlib, yes. This particular fight.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense. I’m not going to give an assessment of battlefield and what we did.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just on the gains made by Jabhat al-Nusrah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, this is not the first gains made by those extremist groups in the Arab part of Syria. ISIS, we know, like, is controlling large parts of Syria as well, like Raqqa and other province in other cities. Does that not prove the point that, apart from the Kurds – who are also controversial because of your alliance with Turkey – you don’t really have any real partners on the ground who stand their ground and will refuse to be defeated by the Islamist extremists?

MS. PSAKI: I think you are familiar with our – how closely we work with the Kurds in Iraq to push back on ISIL there. But we continue to believe that the moderate opposition, many groups that are part of the moderate military opposition – and Harakat al-Hazm is one of the groups with a large number of thousands of members – we’ll continue to work with them. So I don’t think it’s a reflection of that, no.

Syria? Go ahead.

QUESTION: On this issue too, some of these groups said that they’ve been waiting for help and military aids from the West for four years and they didn’t get what they wanted. That’s --

MS. PSAKI: Which specific group said that?

QUESTION: Who defected from FSA and joined al-Nusrah. And that’s why they defected and joined al-Nusrah, because they are not getting the help that they promised to get.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just say without knowing specifics, unless you have them, the United States increased the scale and scope of our assistance more than a year ago. Many countries have been providing a range of materials to the moderate opposition during that course of time as well. So without knowing the individuals and what their intentions are, it’s hard for me to make a sweeping comment on that.

QUESTION: Just two more questions.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Iraq’s Kurds have said today – the Kurdish officials – they said they have sent a new convoy of weapons to Kobani. Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: That the Iraqi Kurds have?

QUESTION: They’ve sent a new convoy of weapons.

MS. PSAKI: I would take their word for it.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. Would you support that as well, like more weapons from the Kurds to – from Iraqi Kurds to Syrian Kurds?

MS. PSAKI: We support what they’re – their help in fighting back against ISIL in Kobani, yes.

QUESTION: Now that brings me to, like, really a bigger question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Why has there been no other U.S. ally willing to send fighters to Syria or to Kobani apart from the Iraqi Kurds? I mean, from one’s perspective – because Iraqi Kurds, as you know, are not like – they don’t have their own state. That – I mean, it seems to be, like, very strange. You’re working with, like, little groups from this country to that country, send them --

MS. PSAKI: Are you asking about fighters going into Kobani? Are you asking about support, or – material support?

QUESTION: Support, fighters. Why, for example, none of your real allies – nation-states – are willing to do that? Do you just go --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- talk to --

QUESTION: Particularly your NATO ally, Turkey.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say that, one, I think the preference of the Kurds in Syria, as we saw, was to have the Iraqi Kurds come in and help them. Two, we have provided a great range of – a great deal of assistance to Kurdish forces, including 30 million rounds of light and heavy machine gun ammunition, 12,000 assault rifles, 15,000 hand grenades, 44,000 mortar rounds, and I could go on. And there are many other countries that have provided a great deal of material assistance to them as well.

They also, as you probably know, already have significant numbers of heavy weapons, including over a hundred tanks and hundreds of other armored vehicles and artillery systems. So they’re very well-equipped, and many countries have increased their assistance to the Kurds in Iraq over the course of the last several months.

QUESTION: But, like, openly – that’s – my question is this: Openly, why do you want the Iraqi Kurds to support Syrian Kurds, not the Iraqi Government or Turkish Government or other countries? Does that mean – I mean, what does that say?

MS. PSAKI: Well, individual countries are going to make their own decisions about the type of assistance they’re providing. Obviously, our airstrikes that we have done in Kobani have helped forces on the ground push back on ISIL. There are other countries in the coalition that have also done airstrikes, so it’s not just about forces on the ground.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- related to this, it is emerging that the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Kuwaitis are talking about forming some kind of joint military alliance that – with a – that has a – one part of which might be a kind of a military strike force that could intervene in Middle Eastern crises – Yemen, Libya, the kind of things that they’re talking about. Is this something that the U.S. supports?

MS. PSAKI: So my colleague at the Pentagon spoke to this on Friday.

QUESTION: Already?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I was not here on Friday.

MS. PSAKI: And I did a little bit last week too.

QUESTION: Okay. I was not here on Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. It’s all right. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to follow up an earlier question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do you expect anything more from Turkish Government in terms of Kobani at this moment?

MS. PSAKI: I would – we have ongoing discussions with them. We’ll see what’s happening on the ground. Obviously, that’s not just a one-off. We have regular discussions with them. So in terms of predictions of future assistance, I can’t make that at this point.

QUESTION: Today, President Erdogan once more criticized the U.S. Government for your resupply of the arms to Kobani, to PYD. Have you been talking to Turkish Government on this issue? Have you been able to solve your differences over it?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been discussing this issue with the Turkish Government for weeks.

QUESTION: Jen, just on this – sorry, before we move on – today, the Secretary’s meeting with the Diplomatic Corps in the building, and along with General Allen and Special – Brett McGurk?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Could you please give us a readout on the purpose of this meeting and – because it’s – there’s – he’s giving remarks, but I believe it’s all closed press. Will we get a transcript or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – well, there’s no plans to release a transcript. It’s a private meeting.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: He speaks about ISIL quite frequently, as you know. He’s meeting with 60 Washington-based ambassadors from partner countries in the global coalition. The session was an opportunity – is an opportunity for coalition partners to reaffirm shared efforts in the coalition, discuss ways in which we can integrate our contributions to coalition efforts, and review ways to accelerate and increase our joint operations. Obviously, the representatives of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington are important partners and certainly, diplomacy, as you know, we feel is very important – an important part of this. So it’s just an opportunity for the Secretary to provide an update. General Allen and other senior U.S. officials will also be speaking, and I’m sure there’ll be a back-and-forth.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Turkey for one second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As you know – and I don’t think you’ve been asked about this recently, although if you have, forgive me.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A group of Turkish army officers who were accused of plotting to oust Erdogan fairly soon after his original election as prime minister is now being retried. The original trial was quashed by a court, the – on the grounds that there was mishandling of evidence and it was not conducted properly. Do you believe that the Turkish officers can get a fair trial in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve expressed our concerns in the past, as you know, on certain trials. I’d have to – I’m happy to take it and check with our team and see, given it’s a new trial, it sounds like, or a new --

QUESTION: It’s a new – it’s – they’re being tried again for offensives previously --

MS. PSAKI: They’re being tried again?

QUESTION: Yes, it’s a retrial.

MS. PSAKI: So let me talk to our team and see what our view is on this specific case.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Finish Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Turkey, sure.

QUESTION: Just one more. President Erdogan today said that the statements coming out from State Department spokesman and from Pentagon --

MS. PSAKI: As in me?

QUESTION: Yes, I believe.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: You became very celebrated in Turkey, just so you know. From state of --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: -- State Department, Pentagon.

MS. PSAKI: Right, celebrated in the way I am in Russia? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- White House, National Security Council, all these different spokesmen, President Erdogan says, gives cacophony, which is very different messages, and he’s suggesting that you have to somewhat centralize your message. Do you think you give different messages to the world?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so. I would say that obviously, the questions that come to the Pentagon are often very military-operational. The questions that come here are often more about our relationship. And often, the White House gets questions about politics. So sometimes it reflects the questions that are being asked.

QUESTION: So you would disagree with the idea that Administration spokespeople are cacophonous?

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that, and you know that my friend, John Kirby, was here just a few weeks ago and we did a briefing together.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A senior PKK commander has told an Austrian newspaper that they’re looking for an intermediary between the PKK and the Turkish Government, suggested that the United States might play that role. Is that something that the Obama Administration might be interested in playing?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans to be an intermediary there, given we talked to the PKK through intermediaries until just a few weeks ago. But I’m happy to take that in the group and see where we are on that.

QUESTION: Well, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait.

QUESTION: Yeah, you said you --

QUESTION: You talked to the PKK through mediators or the --

MS. PSAKI: No, we --

QUESTION: -- other group that’s in Kobani through mediators?

MS. PSAKI: We – through intermediaries, we talked a couple weeks ago.

QUESTION: To the PKK?

MS. PSAKI: Well, months ago.

QUESTION: First PYD or PKK?

MS. PSAKI: PYD, I’m sorry. PYD.

QUESTION: Not PKK?

MS. PSAKI: Not PKK.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just making --

MS. PSAKI: I am not aware of plans.

QUESTION: Would you consider any difference between PYD and PKK?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, PKK is a designated terrorist organization. We’ve gone through this many times.

Go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can we move to Burkina Faso?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Now that it’s pretty clear that the military took over in Burkina Faso, would the U.S. consider taking sanctions against Ouagadougou or at least freezing its military-to-military ties?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we put out a couple of statements this weekend, but let me just reiterate a couple of points. I would – we would call again for a civilian-led transition that follows the spirit of the constitution and moves as quickly as possible toward free and fair presidential elections. The situation on the ground now is still very fluid because, as many of you know, there’s a power vacuum left by the departure of President Compaore and key leaders in the government, including leaders of the national assembly.

So right now the precise makeup of Burkina Faso’s transitional government is an outstanding issue. We are certainly encouraging movement to a civilian-led transition, and then, of course, elections. And that is the conversation we’re having. So at this point, we’re still gathering facts. We’re not going to make a policy or legal determination at this point in time. I can give you a little bit of an update or a – not update, but I know some of you have asked about how much assistance we provide. We have allocated approximately $14.8 million of bilateral FY2014 assistance to Burkina Faso; through the Title II Food for Peace program, $5 million; the Global Health Programs, $9.5 million; and IMET, which is 250,000.

QUESTION: What about --

QUESTION: And all of that is suspendable?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to – I asked the same question, Matt. Obviously, as you know, the – it’s – the legal authority is based on kind of what goes directly to the government, and I’d have to check on the specifics.

QUESTION: Can you find out what – if you do make such a determination, how much of what you just said --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And I’m not sure our legal team is quite there yet, Matt, but I will check with them.

QUESTION: How much of that is – do you know how much of that is counterterrorism funds?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check, Elise. Obviously, it’s not the Food for Peace Program --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- or the Global Health Programs, so perhaps part of the 250,000, but I’ll check.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to this Egypt-UAE-Saudi thing?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said that, when I asked first time, that it was discussed at the Pentagon on Friday. So I understand that the Pentagon on Friday said they didn’t know anything about it. Is that what qualifies as a discussion?

MS. PSAKI: I think they also said that, obviously, our coalition partners will work together in a variety of ways. I don’t think there’s much more information we have at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay, but I mean, is this the kind of thing that you think is a good idea, or there could be --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have to see what the details are. We’re obviously having discussions with a range of countries.

QUESTION: Right. But are you in discussion with Egypt, Saudi, UAE, and Kuwait about them, within the alliance that you have crafted, doing their own thing, or even completely separate from it?

MS. PSAKI: I can talk to our – my DOD counterparts to see if there’s more we want to convey on that or if we learned more over the weekend.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Burkina Faso?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The African Union today gave the army two weeks to return the country to civilian rule. Is setting a deadline helpful in that sort of situation? Is that kind of something that the United States would approve of?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we’re appreciative of efforts by countries in the region to encourage officials in Burkina Faso to move forward rapidly. And we’re certainly encouraging that, too. We have not set a deadline, but I don’t have much more evaluation than that.

QUESTION: But are – is this going to be a case – does Burkina Faso – are they in the same league as Egypt, where you would twist yourself into pretzels for not – in not making a determination? Will you make a determination one way or another, or are you – is Burkina Faso such a critical – like Egypt – element of your policy in that region, West Africa, that you will make a determination not to make a determination?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’re still gathering the facts in this case. Obviously, our hope is that they will transition quickly to a civilian-led transitional government. And that’s what we’re pressing on. So --

QUESTION: But that was the hope in Egypt as well.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are slightly --

QUESTION: I know every --

MS. PSAKI: -- I would say not just slightly --

QUESTION: I know every case is different.

MS. PSAKI: -- they’re significantly different scenarios, but --

QUESTION: I understand that. But it seems to me that you contorted your – the Administration contorted itself in such a way that it appeared that it – you never wanted to determine that what happened in Egypt was a coup, even from when it began. And I’m just wondering if you regard what the events – if you’re looking at Burkina Faso in the same way, that you don’t want to have to suspend --

MS. PSAKI: It’s a different scenario for many reasons, including the fact that the president left and there’s a political vacuum left, and it wasn’t initiated in the same way that the events in Egypt were, even though, as you know, we have implemented legally a range of steps in Egypt over the course of the last year.

QUESTION: But I just – you don’t know if a determination has been made at this point whether you want to make a determination that nothing happened?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know yet if a determination will be made.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see what happens over the course of the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly (inaudible) the embassy operations or anything on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: I know, obviously, we issued a travel alert that you may have seen, I mean, broadly to American citizens, which we did given events on the time – at the time. But beyond that, I have not heard of other impacts on the embassy.

QUESTION: Do you have anything – maybe you had this last week and I didn’t ask, but do you have anything about these new satellite images of North Korea’s submarine facilities showing appears – what appears to be technology being developed for future ballistic missiles and submarines?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t remember if I spoke to this last week or not.

QUESTION: You did, but I don’t think you had very much on it.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I have much on this, Elise. I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s anything we want to convey. Obviously, as you know, we don’t get into intelligence, but – do we have any --

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So you made no secret of the fact that you weren’t going to recognize these elections that were held in the east by the separatists. Not only did the Secretary and the President say this, and the Vice President say it, and you, and spokespeople from every other building, but the Europeans joined you, and they went ahead and did it anyway. What are – what do you make of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, as you mentioned, but let me just reiterate since you gave the – me the opportunity – the United States deplores and does not recognize yesterday’s so-called separatist elections in eastern Ukraine, nor do we recognize any of the leaders chosen in this illegal vote. We also welcome statements from the European Union, the United Nations, France, Germany, and others rejecting these illegal and illegitimate actions. If Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only serve to isolate it further. In terms of what it will mean for separatists, obviously we have a range of tools. I don’t have any prediction on that in terms of what it will mean.

QUESTION: Well, how – forget about the people themselves and whether they might be subject to any additional – sanctions or any additional sanctions, but what does this mean in terms of U.S. policy toward the east of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t recognize the leaders. We – it’s --

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- the – they’re part – it’s part of Ukraine, part of the Ukrainian Government.

QUESTION: Well, you say the same thing about Crimea too, and it clearly isn’t part of Ukraine anymore, at least according to the facts on the ground. It is essentially Russian territory. Are you concerned that the same could happen in the east of – in the east of what is – of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we remain closely watching what’s happening on the ground, Matt, and we certainly wanted to make clear that we don’t recognize the legitimacy to show that we would not be working with these leaders, and obviously, we don’t recognize that they are governing these parts of Ukraine. Obviously, we’re concerned about what’s happening in the country given our focus on the issue.

QUESTION: But as a practical thing, what does that mean, that you don’t recognize them? Does it mean the same as Crimea?

MS. PSAKI: It means we’re going to continue to work with the central Government of Ukraine.

QUESTION: And --

MS. PSAKI: And not with these leaders.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I mean, the central Government of Ukraine, the government in Kyiv, doesn’t control anything that’s going on in Crimea now, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it depends on the part of the – part of eastern Ukraine, but --

QUESTION: No, no, I – no, I was just saying that in Crimea, which you do not – which you don’t recognize as being part of Russia now, you still regard it as Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But the central government in Kyiv has nothing to do with governing in Crimea right now, correct? So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an ongoing process, Matt, obviously.

QUESTION: But I’m --

MS. PSAKI: Our – go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious as what the practical – I mean, what are you going to do to stop this if you are – you’re very much opposed to it. You’ve made that clear. But what do you do to stop it or to roll it back?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a range of tools at our disposal, but more importantly than that, we’re going to continue to press for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and all of the specific steps that are included in there.

QUESTION: The run-up to these elections on Sunday was pretty violent – violations of the Minsk ceasefire deal on both sides. Did you have anything to say about that over the – or do you have any thoughts about that – Friday, late Friday and Saturday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there were a couple of incidents over the course of the last several days, including around the Donetsk airport and other territory in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces and weapons have not all been withdrawn. Obviously, as you’ve seen, hostages must be released. These are a range of steps that have not yet been taken. We are – remain concerned about mounting reports that de facto authorities in Russia – I mean in Ukraine, Russian separatists are continuing to take aggressive actions around the country. And so that’s something that we are repeating, we are conveying to Russian authorities in all of our conversations. We’re also alarmed by reports and images of dozens of unmarked military trucks in eastern Ukraine carrying heavy weaponry and ammunition.

QUESTION: These are new --

MS. PSAKI: These are all issues --

QUESTION: - new ones?

MS. PSAKI: New ones, yes, over the course of the last several days.

QUESTION: All right. And then last week – I think it was Thursday – it certainly wasn’t Friday because I wasn’t here, but Thursday, maybe, or Wednesday you had some pretty harsh words about the Russian detainment or continued detention of this Ukrainian pilot.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has anything changed on that, her circumstances?

MS. PSAKI: She remains detained. This detention, obviously, violates Russians – Russia’s commitment to supporting the Minsk agreement.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – you said that if Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only isolate the country even further. But I mean, Russia’s actually said it respects the outcome of the poll and said that those people who’ve been elected in these elections have a mandate to resolve the issues to try and reestablish normal life. So I guess what Moscow’s trying to say is that further negotiations with Kyiv to resolve this political crisis – this crisis – the – those people who’ve been elected in these elections should have a seat at the table.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Russia has made a range of comments, as you know, leading up to this weekend and over the weekend, and their response to the so-called elections has been out of step with both the letter and spirit of the Minsk agreements. I had – unless that came out in the last hour, I had not seen them specifically recognize the outcome of the election. I’d have to look and see if that’s exactly what they did.

QUESTION: But would you object to these elected officials having a role in further negotiations to resolve the political crisis in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there have been times in the past where Ukrainian authorities have invited in separatists to discussions and conversations. Obviously, now they’re implementing the Minsk agreement, and so it’s sort of a different point in time, but that’s a decision for the Ukrainian leadership to make.

QUESTION: Jo’s got an – makes an interesting point. I mean, you can say “so-called elections,” but people did actually vote. Now, it may not have been free and fair, it may not have met your standards, but people did vote. Do you believe that these people that they did elect have any legitimacy to represent the people from that part of the country?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t, no.

QUESTION: So who should be representing the east – Donetsk and Luhansk? Who should --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --

QUESTION: And when you go to the table to talk about the things that the Poroshenko government says that it wants to do in terms of giving greater autonomy, who should represent the people of the east? I mean, are these people who were elected disqualified from representing them simply because you don’t – because that they were not elected in an election --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I mean, there’s a bunch of issues here. Obviously, we continue to believe that any elections need to be done through the central Ukrainian Government and implemented in that way. And there are upcoming elections in December, as you know. But the second piece of it is there’s obviously an agreement that is being implemented right now, the Minsk agreement.

QUESTION: Or not being implemented.

MS. PSAKI: Parts of it are being implemented; more needs to be done. There’s no question about that. But in the past, the Ukrainian Government are actually the ones who have been – who have invited separatists in. It’s not that they haven’t in the past. Whether or not that’s appropriate or there’s a place, that’s a decision for them to make.

QUESTION: Okay. But you don’t believe – the Administration does not necessarily believe that the people who were elected in this so-called election are disqualified from representing the people of that region?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t recognize their legitimacy as being elected. So there’s upcoming elections in December; we’ll rely on that.

QUESTION: Okay. So if these people are reelected in December or are elected in the first place in December – I mean, simply being Mr. X, who got more votes than Mr. Y did in this election that you don’t recognize, doesn’t disqualify you from representing the people of that region, does it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there are a range of individuals who may be guilty of other things who were involved in these elections, Matt, so we’ll see what happens in December.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine, or should we move on?

QUESTION: New subject?

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

QUESTION: Burundi. The travel advisory – Travel Warning that you had last week spoke of the threat from al-Shabaab, which would appear to indicate concern that al-Shabaab has moved beyond Somalia, which we knew, into Kenya and Uganda, but as far as Burundi. So can you speak any more to that or any broader concern about what had previously been heralded from the podium as success against al-Shabaab in Somalia and a greater concern about the spread of that threat?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check with our team, our counterterrorism team, on our concerns about how widespread it is into Burundi, given I know it was mentioned in the Travel Warning, but I haven’t had a chance to talk with them more in-depth about it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: African-related questions, Jen, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Could you provide any sort of status update on U.S. domestic policies concerning mandatory quarantine of U.S. citizens and foreign visitors from Ebola-affected nations, particularly with regard to the conflict between federal and state policies that are being adopted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we view it one – are you referring to DOD? You mean DOD policies?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm, DOD as well as State policies.

MS. PSAKI: There’s not an update to federal policy, which is what the CDC outlined a couple weeks ago. There – so there’s no update to that. You’ve seen the Department of Defense put out their guidelines. Obviously, there are a couple of factors here, including the fact that there are up to 4,000 members of the military who will be over in Western Africa working on these issues. One of the concerns was – and I think Secretary Hagel and others have spoken to this – is that it would place an undue burden on the health system if they were doing individual monitoring and providing updates. So that was one of the reasons, as well as the fact that military families asked for that quarantine to be put in place.

We have a slightly different circumstance with diplomats. There are smaller numbers that are moving back and forth, and so it doesn’t place that undue burden on health workers, although – or on the health system, I should say, although they certainly will be abiding by CDC regulations when they return, just as Samantha Power did when she returned last week.

QUESTION: What enforcement capability do these states have who have been issuing policies or recommendations as to how returning personnel may be – either take a voluntary quarantine, or do what they like, as this lady has been doing? And --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly point you to the White House for state laws. You saw Ambassador Power and her team indicate they would be abiding by state laws when they returned. We certainly would anticipate other diplomats would do the same, but obviously, the White House has spoken to their views on state laws.

QUESTION: But on the subject of Ambassador Powers and Assistant Secretary of State Thomas-Greenfield for African Affairs --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- any status updates that you can share with us about the outcomes of their recent visits to Africa?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Power, as you know – she did some interviews over the course of the weekend, so I’d certainly point you to that, where she spoke to some successes she had seen and some ongoing challenges. And there’ll certainly be ongoing discussions internally. That’s the benefit of having her overseas or in these countries, to kind of bring back what she saw and what she learned.

Assistant Secretary Greenfield obviously has been working on a range of other issues that we’ve discussed. Certainly, she’s also very engaged in the Ebola issue. I don’t have any specific readouts from recent trips. I think she’s been back for quite a while from her last trip.

QUESTION: She’s been back about a week.

MS. PSAKI: About a week, yes.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Pakistan, Taliban.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Madam, dozens of innocent Pakistanis were killed by a suicide bomb, and scores were injured. And this is the group that used to be with the LET, and now this got separated. And according to the reports yesterday, this group has been supported by the ISI. My question is that the whole world, including India, has condemned this attack. Anybody spoke from this building, or any comments, please?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we did put out a statement from our Embassy, I think, just this morning. We certainly condemn the senseless terrorist act at the Wagah border post on November 2nd. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack and wish those injured a quick recovery. We support the Pakistani Government’s efforts to bring all those involved in planning and executing the attack to justice and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance to authorities investigating this tragic attack. We remain steadfast in our commitment to assisting the people of Pakistan in their efforts to counter terrorism, uphold the rule of law, and build a peaceful future for themselves and their children. I’m not aware of a – and I don’t believe there has been a claim in this particular case on who was responsible, or a conclusion on it.

QUESTION: And Madam, this terrorist – terrible incident comes today when Pakistan is going through internal problems also. And do you believe that still there is some – those terrorist groups are still inside Pakistan, and what U.S. is helping or doing to end these terrorism in the country?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Because innocent people are the one who are victims in Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: -- Pakistan remains an important partner on counterterrorism. Obviously, there are remaining concerns, as the Government of Pakistan would certainly convey as well, so we continue to work closely.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I ask on the – last week, we talked a lot about anonymous comments in an article in The Atlantic. But I wanted to ask you about a piece that was in The New York Times the back end of last week as well, in which they talked about a possible shakeup of the national security team. And in that, there was a comment from anonymous White House officials, saying that the Secretary is considered to be like an astronaut in the movie Gravity, somersaulting through space and untethered from the White House. What’s the building’s – your building’s response to those comments?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the fact that the White House chief of staff went out and did an interview on Friday conveying that’s absolutely not how Secretary Kerry is viewed in the building. And I think, also, that quote is sourced not to a White House official, but to a source close to, which obviously has a – quite a different meaning.

I will say that – and the Secretary spoke to this on Thursday as well – certainly, his experience has not been that at all. He’s been working closely with the White House on a range of issues, whether it’s Afghanistan or Iraq or the troubling situation in Gaza, but again, of course it’s more important what the White House conveys on this particular question, and they’ve spoken to this from their building as well.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, she used to have weekly meetings up at the White House, and that’s – doesn’t seem to have been a tradition that has followed into Secretary Kerry’s.

MS. PSAKI: Nope. Actually, the Secretary does have weekly meetings with the President.

QUESTION: Weekly meetings? Yeah?

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Whether he’s here or not?

MS. PSAKI: He has them when he’s here in person, but he participates in – it’s very rare for him to miss an NSC meeting or a DC meeting from the road. He does them at whatever hour they are.

QUESTION: But he doesn’t have – I just wanted to --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- understand whether or not he has a dedicated, like, SVTC call when he’s on the road, just with him and the President? Or no, he just has the weekly meeting when he’s in town?

MS. PSAKI: Not typically, Arshad, but I don’t think that there’s been a tradition of that. So --

QUESTION: Yeah. I was just asking.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Does – I mean, is that enough, to be able to dial into the meetings? Or would his presence be better if he were able to attend in person?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, the way that it typically works, and I’ll give you an example – a recent example. When we were in Afghanistan, obviously, you may remember that that was when we did our first strikes in Iraq, and the Secretary participated in multiple multi-hour meetings from there via SVTC, via video, right? Ambassador Power also participates via video. There are other – obviously, Secretary Hagel travels quite a bit. There are others who participate via video, depending on where they’re traveling. So it’s rare that he misses one, hardly ever. He also does them via phone from the plane, when necessary, but certainly the role of any Secretary of State is to be out there in the world gathering information, talking to their counterparts, and reporting back, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

QUESTION: So he’s not as – he’s not worried that he leaves tomorrow on Tuesday. We obviously – there’s big midterm elections coming up tomorrow night. He’s not worried that by the time he gets back, his job might be --

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’d point you to the White House’s comments on this, making pretty clear he will be here. So --

QUESTION: Although it is interesting to note that the last two – well, this Secretary of State and the previous Secretary of State made a point of being out of the country during the midterms. (Laughter.) Is it not --

MS. PSAKI: Both retired from politics. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But are you sure that the Secretary’s predecessor is retired from politics? Are you? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to that, Matt.

QUESTION: And which part of the White House – the alleged White House joke do you take issue with? The Sandra Bullock comparison? The somersaulting through space comparison? Or the untethered from the White House comparison?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Or all of them?

MS. PSAKI: It was clearly – comment was clearly made by somebody who has more time to go to the movies than Secretary Kerry, Matt, so – (laughter) --

QUESTION: But he has not seen the film?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, as riveting as the film is.

Do we have any more topics?

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just – I understand – again, I’m going to say that I wasn’t here on Friday, because I wasn’t – but you were asked about this American guy who was arrested in Abu Dhabi, and I believe you said you couldn’t say anything because of a Privacy Act. I’m wondering if that’s changed since his family has now spoken out about it.

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything more on that. I don’t believe I do, Matt. I will check and see if anything has changed on his status. It was that issue on Friday with the Privacy Act waiver.

Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the massacre in the Anbar province?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the tribal leaders is saying that he made repeated requests to the Shiite-led government for weapons and they didn’t provide them to them. Is that accurate? Do you think that they should be providing weapons to the Sunni tribal leaders to fight ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard to analyze off of one anecdote, but what I will convey is that obviously we know that there has been a history of ineffective workings between the Iraqi Central Government and the tribal leaders – the Sunni tribal leaders. That’s something that was obviously needed to be addressed with the new leadership in the government. And Prime Minister Abadi just recently – last week – met with tribal leaders. He stressed he took responsibility for the protection of all Iraqis, regardless of religion or sect. He emphasized that ISIL has killed more Sunnis than Shia.

This will – is not the end. This is not – there will be many more meetings and – but this is an effort that will be ongoing. It’s one that the United States is certainly supportive of and involved in to the degree it’s useful. But in terms of what their needs are and what assistance or material will be provided, that’s something that will have to be discussed between the parties.

QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief UN-related things.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, are you seeking new sanctions on Yemen? And if you are, or people in Yemen? And if you are, what are they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we don’t typically comment on potential UN sanctions actions, but the UN Security Council has signaled several times that it’s prepared to pursue designations against specific individuals whose risk – whose actions risk destabilizing Yemen or threaten the transition process.

QUESTION: Do you see --

QUESTION: Hold on. Wait, wait.

QUESTION: -- former President Saleh as one of those individuals?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our concerns about the role former regime officials and Houthi leadership are playing in Yemen are well known. We’ve repeatedly denounced elements seeking to exploit the current security situation. Beyond that, I’m not going to get ahead of who or what the UN Security Council may decide to sanction or do.

QUESTION: But specifically – but, I mean, outside of whether he’s going to be designated by the United Nations, do you see former President Saleh as one of those individuals whose undermining the future?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken to concerns about former officials in the past. I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: So is that the full --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- spiel?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. I’ve done the full spiel.

QUESTION: There wasn’t --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: That’s all you’re --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So you are – but I guess what – I’m trying to interpret what you just said. That means that you are supporting – you would – you’re supporting this in the Council? You’re in favor of it?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see. We’re obviously engaged with the Council, as you know. We have made clear our concerns about the role of former officials in the past; there are sanctions authorities.

QUESTION: Right, but – so you would like to see those authorities used, right?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see what happens, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking who. I’m just asking, in general, are you in favor of imposing more under this – with these authorities.

MS. PSAKI: I understand what you’re asking. I don’t have anything more to add at this point.

QUESTION: All right. And then the other UN question I had was about the landmine resolution vote today that you guys abstained from along with a rogues gallery, as it were, of countries like North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia – all well-known human rights champions. Are you uncomfortable at all that abstaining in a vote like this puts you into the company of countries that you otherwise accuse of horrible human rights abuses, violations?

MS. PSAKI: No, but I can get you a comment on this specific vote, if you’d like.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure, great. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)

DPB # 187


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

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

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 17:35

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:34 p.m. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that, Lara.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Like what? What are these steps?

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Can you speak to my --

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

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

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

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

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

Do we have any more on this topic?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: He said that he supports the conditions --

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

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

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

QUESTION: But he said that in the --

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

QUESTION: But you disagree with the both of them?

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

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

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

Go ahead in the back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Do you think that --

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I go to Anbar?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Your statement about Anbar really quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes.

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead, Leslie.

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

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

QUESTION: Jen --

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Yeah, this is from the transcript.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So are you --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- talking to Iran on Assad?

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

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

QUESTION: Can we go to --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- if there’s a readout?

MS. PSAKI: You want a readout of --

QUESTION: Yes, right.

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay. And finally --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) delegation next week?

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Haaretz is reporting.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Well, one more on Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Burkina Faso?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: So that means no?

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

QUESTION: New topic?

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

QUESTION: I have one on Africa.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: That’s what state media is reporting.

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

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Question on China?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: No, no.

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

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

QUESTION: Sure, yeah.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: Because every --

QUESTION: What is the difference?

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

QUESTION: Another – different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: And finally, one more quickly.

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

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

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

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you take it?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Boo.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Jo.

QUESTION: Hi. Sorry for --

QUESTION: No, I’m sorry. Go on.

QUESTION: -- running in and out.

MS. PSAKI: Did you say “boo”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

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

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 17:17

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

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:44 p.m. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead, Matt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes.

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

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: Should – what is --

MS. PSAKI: The status --

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

QUESTION: No, I understand that.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay. That’s it for me.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Chicken salad?

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: How is it possible?

QUESTION: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Which were months and months ago.

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise --

QUESTION: Let me finish.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry – is this still on Israel?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: They do feel, yes --

QUESTION: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Well, can I ask about Sweden?

QUESTION: Wait – oh, okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay. And finally --

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: It’s been about a week.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s been --

MS. PSAKI: It’s been about a week.

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay, it’s been a week.

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

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

QUESTION: But would you call this speedy, though?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, sorry to return to this --

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay. Go ahead.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: On Sweden? Sure.

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

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

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up question?

MS. PSAKI: On North Korea? Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: The North Korean foreign ministry?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

QUESTION: One more on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: Well, if you’re taking steps, I mean, don’t you